Could I Not Over-plan and Survive?

We had not “traveled” for 5 years. Acquiring a second home and feeling obligated to maximize its use with limited vacation time meant that we spent “vacations” in Florida. Florida is, in most ways, not our traditional vacation mode but more just hanging out at the beach for 2 weeks! (Nothing wrong with that at all.)

So I was worried about returning to our more traditional vacation. It’s been 5 years since I planned one. We had gotten into the habit of doing National Parks out west. And had some amazing trips – southern Utah, Yellowstone & Tetons, Badlands & Mt. Rushmore, Glacier, Yosemite, Mt Ranier. Lots of day hikes – un-populated, stunning vistas, one-with-nature.

So, our first trip in 5 years? New Orleans (NOLA). What?!? Why did I pick a southern CITY to re-start this whole thing? Yes, it is one of the very few places my husband has ever mentioned wanting to visit. But, it’s a city and he hates crowds!

OK, I will plan just a long weekend to get me back in the vacation planning mode.

I worried about over-planning. Would I have us too scheduled and not allow for spontaneity? I’ve in the past been known to over-plan. OK, let’s be honest – I have every day hike pre-planned, every night’s lodging pre-set, every contingency thought through. Hubby is the more spontaneous one; actually he’s just not a planner.

On the other hand, I worried about under-planning. What would we do in the hours I didn’t have us booked on a tour or at a restaurant? Could we find things to do on days when nothing at all was pre-planned? Would we find decent places to eat (that we could get into!) on a holiday weekend?

How did the long weekend turn out? It was OK! I didn’t over schedule us. We survived each other’s company 24/7 in the stress of a city. We walked, we laughed, and we walked some more. We stopped to listen to street music and walked some more. We went to a couple of local festivals/art fairs we heard about (spontaneity!). We took the trolley to the City Park for breakfast (fresh beignet and café au lait on a shaded park bench… oh yeah). We learned that art galleries are closed on Sunday afternoon and an Art District with no art galleries open isn’t very interesting. Sigh. We sat and watched the Mississippi flow by. I used Open Table to snag last minute reservations at a place we heard about – one of our best meals of the trip.

He balanced me out when I got into a feeling-lost mode. I took quick turns off streets when the crowds got too intense. We were in bed every night by 10 PM.

Some things were amazing – oh, the food in NOLA!

Some things were depressing – panhandling and homeless abound.

Will our next trip be another city? Probably not. I’m thinking we have a few more National Parks to explore.

Will I continue to try and not over-schedule? Yes – I really enjoyed the slower pace that we had and the “we’re in this together” discovery feeling.

Should NOLA be on your list? YES! For us it was the food, the history, and the architecture. But the music would be on many people’s lists as well. A truly one-of-a-kind city.

Picture credit: Hubby! Sitting eating beignet’s in the park… the view.

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Living with Asperger’s

Most Living with Asperger’s Syndrome information is about the individual who has it and how they can best function in the world. A great deal is written about children and maximizing developmental growth for someone with AS. But what about the people who live with the adult who has Asperger’s?

Living with the adult who was never officially diagnosed with AS, because they never did that back in the day (Asperger’s diagnosis in the 1960’s? Just didn’t happen.).

Living with the adult who learned via trial and error to survive in a world that didn’t understand what having AS meant – you were just always a bit “different”.

Asperger’s Syndrome is on the autism spectrum. Like much on the spectrum, an individual can have many or few of, and to varying levels, the “common characteristics” of someone with AS. Some of the more common ones are:
– Difficulty understanding social nuances/cues and body language.
– High discomfort/anxiety in crowds.
– Inability to express emotion or empathy.
– Difficulty in forming friendships.
– Love of routine. Anxiety if routines are broken.
– Excessive interest in one or two topics, with those interests often overtaking all aspects of life.
– Excellent pattern recognition and above normal intelligence.
Yes, many people will indicate that they might have one or two of these characteristics to some degree. But few people will have most of these characteristics and at high levels.

Imagine living with somebody who has all of those characteristics. And continues to be that way not because he won’t learn skills to change, but because he truly can’t. You as the one “living with Asperger’s” learn new skills to compensate. You become adaptive, recognize his routines and adjust your own, plan activities what will be within his comfort zone, adjust plans when you sense anxiety starting. Sometimes you don’t even realize it until those moments when you’re walking on eggshells to avoid an anxiety attack.

Retirement transition is about change. Most retirees talk about finding a new life rhythm (new routine). There’s enough research to indicate that multiple activities and social engagement in retirement is key to longevity. Now, imagine going through a retirement transition with someone who has AS. How do you create a new routine with someone who has anxiety with changes in routine?

I realized that part of my retirement transition challenge is fear that my changes will create un-resolvable tension in my relationship with my AS husband. I also realized that I can not impose my beliefs of what is good (multiple activities, social engagement), even if based on a lot of research, on someone else, especially someone with AS. And that is very, very hard when I want longevity for both of us.

Transition challenges resolved. No.
Living everyday with love. Yes

Picture Credit: Pixabay

What’s on Your List?

Janis over at Retirementallychallenged published an interesting life list she had come across. (I wish I had the skill to do that last line with the appropriate link!) Her blog post made me go on-line to explore other people’s life lists to see if there were some new ideas for my own possibilities list. (There were.)

What I’ve ended up with, however, is a list of “things on other people’s life lists that I have already done”. For a list-person, having a list of things checked off is an AMAZING feeling! You should try it! How many of these could you add to your checked-off (been there, done that) list? Or add to your own bucket list, if you are still creating one?

1. Set foot in all 50 US States (feet outside the airport)
2. Visit the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building
3. See a Broadway show on Broadway
4. Visit Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell & run up the “Rocky stars
5. Walk across Golden Gate Bridge, ride the streetcar and visit Alcatraz in San Francisco
6. Visit Las Vegas (for the crazy)
7. Go to MardiGras in New Orleans (also for the crazy)
8. See Mount Rushmore, the Grand Ole Opry, Wall Drug, and Niagara Falls (not on the same trip)
9. Visit Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Grand Canyon, Acadia, Mt Rainier, Denali, and Grand Teton (actually visited 26 of 59 National Parks but those are my favs)
10. Watch a geyser blow, go whale watching, climb to the top of a waterfall (things spewing water!)
11. See a Cirque Du Soleil live
12. Attend a luau
13. Go to Disney World (Orlando) and Disney Land (California)
14. See Neuschwanstein Castle (the real Cinderella castle)
15. Fly first class overseas
16. Step on the Great Wall of China
17. Stand in Red Square Moscow
18. Climb Chichen Itza (Mexico; I don’t think they allow it anymore)
19. See the Swiss Alps (and eat some real fondue)
20. See the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre (Paris)
21. Eat sushi in Japan (and lots of their other amazing food)
22. Have a drink in an Ice Bar (in Sweden)
23. Ride a camel in a desert (in Abu Dhabi)
24. Travel around the world in one trip
25. See a meteor shower, a blood moon, a rain forest, and a glacier
26. Watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and set over the Pacific
27. Practice yoga on the beach
28. Sleep in a log cabin, sleep in a tent, sleep on a sailboat
29. Sail island to island for a full week
30. Hike in a state park when the leaves are in full color in the fall
31. Jet ski, snow ski, and water ski
32. Paddle a canoe, a kayak, and a stand-up paddleboard
33. Visit a water park, an amusement park, and a theme park
34. Ride all the roller coasters at an amusement park (on one visit)
35. Take a Zumba class, a NIA class, a yoga class
36. Play on a recreational sports team
37. Walk in a parade
38. Find shells on the beach and be able to name them!
39. Take a multi-day bike trip
40. Eat snails, alligator, calamari, pho, steamed pork buns, dulce de leche, poutine, pocky sticks, heirloom tomatoes, arepas, oysters, clotted cream, foie gras, venison, elk, plantains, mango & sticky rice, Peeking duck, and a bento box (not at same meal)
41. Eat lobster in Maine, gumbo in NOLA, and clam chowder on the coast of Oregon
42. Try BBQ everywhere you can
43. Try a Sazerac in NOLA, sake in Japan, beer at a craft brewery, and wine at a Sonoma Valley vineyard
44. Go to a drive-in-theater
45. Go skinny dipping
46. Try white water rafting, snorkeling, & riding a Segway
47. Ride a horse
48. Learn the names of all the Florida Shore birds
49. Watch animals in their native habitats
50. Got to college and get a Bachelor of Science degree
51. Drive an exotic car (ex. Lamborgini)
52. Own your dream car (a stick-shift, red Miata Convertible when I was 30!)
53. Go to local art fair, local farmers market, local street festival, local food festival
54. Buy art direct from an artist
55. Go to a rodeo, a demolition derby, and a county fair
56. Got to a professional baseball game
57. Go to an Olympic event
58. Get married, stay married (24 years and counting)
59. Coach a youth sport (volleyball)
60. Drive all night to get somewhere
61. Own a dog
62. Paint a room (or two or three)
63. Design and build a house (with a builder, I am not DIY!)
64. Get a full body massage, a facial and a pedicure all on the same day
65. Climb a mountain (or two or more)
66. Make chocolate chip cookies from scratch
67. Pick a pumpkin from the pumpkin patch, play in a corn maze, and make S’mores over an open fire
68. Sit on Santa’s lap, see the Nutcracker Ballet live, and sing along to a Christmas chorale fest
69. Watch a fireworks display live
70. Go to a Midwest summer church festival and a Lenten Friday fish fry
71. Take cooking classes
72. Shop for and buy something antique
73. Become an antique dealer
74. Attend a murder mystery dinner
75. Attend a traditional English High Tea
76. Attend a pig roast
77. Go to the symphony, the opera and the ballet (at least once)
78. Go to the zoo
79. Play putt-putt golf
80. Plant and tend a garden
81. Do an art walk in a city known for outdoor art (like Portland)
82. Get (really) lost in a foreign city (it was in Germany)
83. Learn to throw pottery
84. Learn to play tennis
85. Be listed on a patent
86. Retire before 55 & start writing a blog

So what else happened in creating this list?
– I realized my list was more about places I’ve visited and experiences I’ve tried. Not very much about work accomplishments or things I’ve acquired. Others have talked about learning that life is about experiences, not things. I guess I’m learning that, too.
– Even the littlest of risks (trying a new food), can result in a feeling of accomplishment, if you view it that way.
– It’s also a list I’m going to pull out when I compare my life to others and feel inferior. (Yes, this was one of the things on my “stop doing” list – this comparison inferiority habit.) I have actually tried and experienced a lot of things in my life. My guess is you have, too!

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Word of the Year: Joy

When I chose the word “joy” for this year’s word, I wasn’t sure exactly what would happen. I had my new coffee mug imprinted with “Find Joy In Each Day”. I created my daily affirmation. I was not expecting that much. But I was pleasantly surprised, with this heightened awareness, how I could find the little moments of joy in each day.

At the almost midpoint of the year, here are some of my favorites:
– Watching the morning sun filter thru the trees as I journal
– The computer telling me my word was the “best possible” on Scrabble
– Hitting a string of green lights on that road with all the lights
– Freshly shaved legs on cool bed sheets
– Parallel parking on the first try
– A snack in the small clay bowl I made in pottery class
– Having someone invite me to an activity (versus me being the inviter)
– Getting TSA pre-check at the airport
– Waking up to the smell of bacon frying (thanks, Hubby)
– Shopping at a leisurely pace mid-day, mid-week
– McDonald’s French-fries on a road trip (only time we ever do McDonald’s!)
– Having my Zumba-friends say they missed me when I traveled
– Popping bubble wrap
– Remembering my username and password for the site
– A free taste at the deli counter
– Yoga on the beach
– Getting (insightful) comments on my blog
– When the person you’re meeting is even later than you
– Pulling a weed and getting the full root out
– Seeing the full moon on a clear night
– Opening the windows on the first warm day of spring
– Wait-staff that understand what service means
– A scoop of real ice-cream (with real chocolate chips) on a hot afternoon
– A dinner & show for a mid-week date night
– Lounging around all afternoon reading a book
– Hearing early morning birds chirping and snuggling in for another hour of sleep
– Sitting on a park bench, watching the ducks and eating fresh beignets
– Trying a new food or drink and liking it (a lot!)
– Figuring out how to post a selfie (and friends noticing!)

Focusing on joy of the little moments is helping me to slow down and enjoy the freedom of retirement.

What has brought you joy today?

Picture Credit: Pixabay

Start, Stop, Continue

Years ago, one of my MegaCorp annual performance evaluation tools we used was called “Start, Stop, Continue”. I’m not sure how broadly this was used, but it was better than the “accomplishments and weaknesses” of previous years. That was before the Discover Your Strengths phenomenon; I always hated the weaknesses area!

But the start/stop/continue was brought back to my mind as I recently read a few articles about stopping things once you reach a certain age. As I approach my “annual review” of being retired now 2 years, I realized that at this point in my life there are few things I do need to stop doing:

– Stop comparing yourself to others. Between Facebook and blogs, I find myself often thinking “wow, she’s doing that, why aren’t I?” And the tone of that question is not in the positive, you can do it manner. Rather the tone implies that I am, once again, comparing and lacking. I need to recognize that everything in social media is distorted – you only see a one-sided picture. I need to admire what she has done and if it fits in my life vision, then choose to add it in and consciously build it into my life plan. Travel all over Asia? Move into an RV? Become a painter? Probably not. Become more active? Go out and about around town? Yes, that fits me and I can do that.

– Stop eating on autopilot. Besides being a self-professed foodie and a lover of good conversation over a meal, I am also an emotional eater. I eat when I am frustrated or feeling insecure. I eat when I feel guilty about something. I eat when I don’t know what else to do on a Sunday afternoon. I have not figured out how to stop this! I don’t have the will-power to do the “not in the house” sacks approach. I have at least tried to minimize it – I now have a small, beautiful snack bowl – the key word is small. No more single size packages of anything. I also buy healthy snacks, as well as the salty and sweet. So sometimes I am mindlessly munching on carrots instead of chips.

– Stop dwelling on the past. I’ve written before about not living with regrets, but lately I’ve started to wonder if I’ve missed out on some experiences. I never went to prom, never was in a sorority, never did the dating scene (bar hopping with the girls), never became a mom, and never had the close-couple friendships I see others have. (Yes, that last one was a face-book comparison!) I know that the past is the past and I am where I am because of the choices I made. And where I am is a pretty awesome place. I need someone to remind me of that every so often!

What things do you need to stop doing?

Picture Credit: Pixabay