Folies in the extended family

Extending a family is never easy. But we are always better for it.
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My wife and I wanted to join our extended family together. As my wife’s parents grew older, they needed more help. My mother-in-law, Nana, struggled opening wide mouth pill bottles, of which there were many. Climbing stairs became difficult and soon impossible even with my father-in-law’s help.

The rest of the family included my wife’s and my three children and two large but happy bumbling golden retrievers, Copper and Taffy. Our goldens tried to help, but their support remained limited to the emotional. We needed a home where we could all live with, and get along with, and maybe escape from, each other.

Fortunately, my wife acquired great powers of observation by scouring neighborhoods looking for the right house. She could sense houses that would soon be coming on the market. Fresh paint, or new windows showed that someone intended to sell soon. Like Dorothy from the wizard of oz having to complete an impossible task of collecting that broomstick, my wife focused on minimum standards for the house such as a double driveway for all of the cars and a straight staircase for the wheelchair lift for Nana. And enough square footage that everyone could carve out their own separate space.

We chanced upon a lovely 1912-character home that could accommodate all our needs. The Kelly Brothers constructed the 4600 square foot, red brick, three-story beaux art style home for soon to be senator Benard. The same Kelly Brothers built the Manitoba legislature, defrauded the government, and caused the downfall of the reigning party. So, the house started off with a bit of ‘bad boy’ type of upbringing.

Once we found the home, the love of my life did grab me by the lapels and told me she wanted this house. Since I am lawyer, I immediately did the necessary due diligence and offered cash even though we needed a mortgage. I scoffed at the need for an inspection since with a character home, problems are to be expected and what problem could not be fixed by simply leaving a box of money out on the portico for the endless troop of contractors.

With a character home you retain the exterior and the interior. The wiring, plumbing and the completely random insulation material in between those two walls need replacement. 

Nana and her husband warmed to becoming a hamburger family where they played the bottom bun, the kids took the top bun meaning all of the third floor, while my wife and I essentially formed the meat in the middle. Copper and Taffy became the relish and mustard.

Character homes retain their own nature and personalities, and you ignore them at your peril. The boiler rates its own room along with a moat. Any fixture that comes with a moat deserves extra care and attention.

After joining families and furniture, we joined familiar routines. Grandpa excelled in getting the kids to school and picking them up. My flexible schedule allowed me to do more of the procurement and cooking. Nana’s extensive pill regime required a clocklike 6:15 dinnertime.

My cooking talents aligned with the Swanson’s TV tray style of cooking. I ensured a slot for protein, a slot for carbohydrates, and a slot for vegetables. During one holiday preparation, my father-in-law wheeled Nana backwards through the kitchen to the lift at the back staircase. During that brief 10 second tour, she managed to list 10 different spices and steps to get that perfect turkey. My father-in-law smiled quickly, but he didn’t slow down either and up the lift she went. I picked up my cooking game and incorporated most of her suggestions.

Of course, my wife and mother-in-law had not lived in the same house for the past 22 years, so I quietly observed the power dynamic shift. Except for when I had to step in front of the proverbial unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. I always imagined myself flying through the air, parallel to the ground, arms outstretched, in slow motion while yelling ‘noooooo’! Also, the house provided 4600 square feet of emotional space. Important safety tip for anyone considering this arrangement.  

Copper and Taffy became highly protective of Nana. They would come in and lie down with their heads towards the door and their horse size rears facing Nana. If the dogs had gaseous episodes, her respite involved turning up the fan higher.

Our kids camped on the third floor where the servants used to live. That notion did not rub off on any of the children. But they did regale Nana with all of their latest soccer, football, rugby scores cross country race times. This became the best part of her day.

As kids started to age out of the house, the next one vied to get the largest room and repaint it to claim it as their own. When they boomeranged home, the chagrined returners became relegated to the smaller rooms.

The home’s Tyndall stone front steps finally started to crack, and one smart blow with a sledgehammer collapsed it. We replaced the steps with a comparable pressed concrete. We intended to have our eldest son and daughter-in-law married on the steps that summer. The ceremony started along with the rain, so we pushed everyone inside. We moved two family’s worth of furniture against the oak paneled trim in the living room and squeezed all 60 people somewhere inside. The steps did not have their moment of glory. But we do have two more children.

For the house, there were some firsts, and some lasts. Nana could shuffle slightly to the next room.  I was down the hall when I saw her catch her foot ever so slightly and fall. I held her till the ambulance came. She spent her last days in the hospital then.

My father-in-law still lives with us. He prudently gave up his car a year ago, so now we drive him around. Having a parent give up part of their freedom that they have had for more than 75 years can be tough. Digging through the basement archives, I found a photo of him in his flight suit standing in front of his sabre jet. We keep the photo in the front hall as a reminder that we all came from somewhere.  

After COVID struck, we grounded him to the house. After getting his dual vaccinations, he became the typical teenager with a driver’s license wanting to cruise the world. But until that time comes, he cruises the world on his desktop.

We still have two golden retrievers, Maguire and Seamus now, but all of the children moved out. I took over the third floor for my COVID office. My fortress of solitude.

The character home fulfilled our purpose of joining our families physically and emotionally, but the home needs to re-fulfill its own purpose of being full of life.

No one truly ‘owns’ a character home due to the permanent nature of such a home and the ephemeral nature of owners. Some people and pets have now come and gone, but the character home that brought us together remains for the next generation.

We hope one of our kids kept notes for any new potential family joining.

Gary Goodwin

The importance of holidays!

brown-yellow-black-cross-orb-weaver-spider-51394

We started holidays for a couple of weeks and headed off to the cottage to be closer to nature. Job one involved unloading all the stuff at the cottage. Job two involved brushing off all of the spiders from the gazebo. Normally not a problem, but if you haven’t been up for a few weeks, the spiders have baby spiders.

Once you finish removing all of shelob’s webs and carcasses, you start to realize that you have not dealt with all of the microscopic baby shelob spiders climbing around your legs.

One must persevere to be close to nature, but perhaps not have it that close in Steven King sort of way. One can possibly start to miss the relative sterility of the office.

#motivation #inspiration #business.

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Retirement Untethered: National Burnout Vacation; Can Retirement be Better?

woman wearing sunglasses and sun hat
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Clark Griswold:
Despite all the little problems it’s fun isn’t it?

Ellen:
No. But with every new day there’s fresh hope.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

 

Like many people, you may have gone on vacation, or perhaps you plan to go on vacation.  So, what constitutes a vacation? And would retirement be one extended vacation? Webster’s defines vacation as a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation, a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended, a period of exemption from work granted to an employee, a respite or a time of respite from something.

So, did this actually happen? Did you totally go off the grid for that period of time when you had a choice? Probability suggests you checked your email, perhaps late at night or first thing in the morning before the family woke. A little quality time with your iPad perhaps.

 

Why do people go on vacation? Chance of pace? To get away from it all? Family pressure? To de-stress? Perhaps test what retirement might feel like?

 

Perhaps you hope that this de-stress hormone lasts for at least as long as the vacation itself. Or that you can you store the de-stress hormone up as easily as the extra weight you may have put on from the extra consumption of alcohol, fats, carbohydrates that you would have otherwise avoided.

 

In a 2018 American Psychological Association survey of more than 1500 US workers, two-thirds of the respondents said that the mental benefits of vacation disappeared within a few days. So the vacation calmness disappears far before the weight loss does.

 

The reasons for increased après-vacation stress can be obvious. The workload undoubtedly accumulated in your absence, things moved on during your gallivanting. Now you must move double time to catch up and all of that stress filled time you spent before the vacation appears not to have been enough to keep you ahead.

 

If you feel stressed before the vacation, and even more stressed after the vacation, then one starts to wonder about the efficacy of going on vacation in the first place.

 

This becomes a good time to talk about burnout. In the 2015 edition of Acta Psychopathologica, work-related stress occurs when the demands of the work environment exceed the employees’ ability to cope. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5 states that disorders precipitated by specific stressful and potentially traumatic events in the workplaces are included in a new diagnostic category, “Trauma and Stress-related Disorders”. Mind you, this abstract was dealing with the police in Italy.

 

If you sprain your ankle playing tennis for the first time since forever during your vacation, you likely know RICE, rest ice, compression and elevation. The same RICE can identify burnout with Regret, Inefficacy, Cynicism and Exhaustion.
Over 40% of California lawyers would do something different if they had to do it over again. This constitutes a high level of regret. Lack of actualization can lead to a feeling of inefficacy, and difficult as it may seem, burnout indicates even higher levels of cynicism that what you normally have. Exhaustion likely originated during articling and never dissipated.

A number of firms insist upon employees taking vacation. The firm’s rationale could range from an actual concern for employee health or for the ever expanding health benefit costs. If an employee leaves as a result of stress, there comes the extensive cost of locating, rehiring and training new staff. Far better to maintain the mental health of the existing staff.

In addition to vacations, employers should be considering breaks during the work cycle. Standing up and getting that wilted salad to eat in front of the computer does not cut it. An employee requires greater dedicated time to mental breaks along with physical activity on a regular basis. The same APA study found that staff became far more productive and content with their position when employers cared about employee’s mental health.

 

 

#retirement

 

The Gig Economy

woman playing guitar while singing beside man playing bass guitar near microphone
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Should we embrace the gig economy? Although this seems relatively new, musicians in 1915 called short-term engagements as gigs.

Now days, gigs comprise short-term engagements which allow employers to engage workers for short periods of time. This certainly allows for substantial cost savings. Gig workers can be hired to fill in when demand for the employer services rises. Of course, benefits are rarely payable, and defined benefit plans have gone the way of the polar icecaps. Slowly retreating.

The downside of gigs becomes apparent with the workers. Insecure periods of paid work. Lack of work life balance, which was a major concern just a few years ago. And now the main concern is simply finding work in the first place.

Ultimately the employer suffers too. The culture of the organization slowly melts away, returning to the icecap metaphor. In addition, innovation will eventually suffer. Innovation initially starts with inspiration, which is hard to achieve when you are busy learning what your new ‘gig’ is all about.

Retirement Untethered: Devil’s Playground

clear glass jars on white wooden shelf
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After travelling out of the country, we self-isolated. This is sort of like retirement. Twice the husband and half the income. So of course I organized the pantry.

An idle mind is the devil’s play ground. I thought about organizing items according to ability to open them. Perhaps cardboard on one level, bags on another and cans on a different another. Using mind-mapping, I decided on three levels. The first level would be food regardless of packing material. Salmon and pasta. The next level would be stuff you put on food. Tomato sauces, panko crumbs. The top level would be stuff you put on food, but probably shouldn’t. Things like syrup and jams.

Fortunately, my wife only laughed. Retirement looks positive!

 

Retirement Untethered: The first step

adult adventure beautiful climb
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1.  Alice in Wonderland

Time to be existential

 

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” – Mark Twain

 

If you just recently came back from your vacation, you likely addressed the greatest of all existential questions. When can I retire?

 

Not that we all hate work, but some of us long for something more. Or perhaps just something different.

 

But what does retirement mean? Is this simply stopping work? Most of us stop work while we sleep. Some of us may dream of work, but that requires greater psychotherapy than what we have time for right now.

 

Retirement becomes a transition from one phase to another phase of life. Some consider retirement a transition into leisure, which requires its own definition.

 

Robert Stebbins, a sociologist, wrote a number of books including The Idea of Leisure, First Principles. He describes leisure as an uncoerced, contextually framed activity engaged in during free time, which people want to do and, using their abilities and resources, actually do in either a satisfying or a fulfilling way. Although this seems to suck all of the fun out of it, He suggests taking four different ways to achieve this type of leisure.

 

Firstly, a person requires a good balance of activities. Constant leisure may be a difficult thing to achieve. One must include any number of things one does not want to do. Call them duties.

 

Secondly, leisure also requires positive continuous improvement. Sitting on a beach with an unending supply of tiny umbrella drinks sounds pleasant, and it likely could be for the first hour. Or two. But he suggests continuously improving oneself, even though this sounds exhausting

 

Thirdly and fourthly, he suggests positive relationships and positive interaction with the community. We are better overall interacting with the rest of society. After all, we are all in this together, and no one is getting out of here alive anyway.

 

Retirement then involves leisure hopefully, but it involves much more.

 

 

 

 

Retirement Untethered: Crisis nudge

white paper on a vintage typewriter
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That’s still a long list

 

Never let a good crisis go to waste.
—Winston Churchill

Churchill recognized the basis of good change management. If you needed to get something done but couldn’t under normal circumstances, then a good old-fashioned crisis usually allows you to get the changes you want.

 

Following a new path requires some serious change management thinking. Setting some small achievable goals, getting some quick wins, obtaining buy in from the top amongst others. Getting buy in usually means your significant other. But having a bit of urgency always helps the change management process.

 

Nearing, or entering retirement the sense of urgency should become more apparent. The ride of your life is starting to enter the end game, so it’s time to up your game for what is ahead. This is not the end of times, but you can start to see it from here.

 

That seems a bit morbid, but the time to change what your future might look like begins now. Now is the time to seize what the future can actually look like.

 

 

 

#retirement #motivation #inspiration

Retirement Untethered: List#10 The future

photo of woman wearing turtleneck top
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10. Envision the future since shit happens when you are busy making other plans. Trying to maximize your happiness/contentment/bliss (HCB) requires planning. Although enlightenment requires serendipity, all other forms of actualization can require a bit of planning. You should not expect that going off to the deck with a cup of coffee and the morning paper is going to maximize your HCB. Maximizing your mini umbrella collection will not cut it after a while.

 

#retirement #motivation

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=gary+goodwin+retirement&ref=nb_sb_noss

 

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=gary+goodwin+retirement&ref=nb_sb_noss