How we fill our days in retirement

Volunteering and charity work

Mini-essay on Retirement

How we fill our days in retirement: 
     I play duffer tennis for fun and a nod at fitness, through the summer months;
I play and socialize in a tennis league one evening a week plus additional round robins and ad hoc matches. I have resumed a previous role as house league co-ordinator for our tennis club, where I also used to do the newsletters, and created their original website; and I'll be helping with membership and spring sign-up, email lists, etc.  Deborah has a fitness walking regime, usually with a close neighbour, Marj, who is her friend and walking partner.
     We spend a lot of time maintaining our garden or just inspecting it and watching it grow - and eating the fruits of our labours. We maintain the house, two vehicles and two sailboats
(a never-ending list of chores), stay current with family and a small circle of friends, and go to concerts at least twice a month. I read both fiction and non-fiction a little each day, trying to get through a pile of books I've collected over the past two decades but hadn't found time to read. I play darts at Highland Yacht Club one evening a week, and we participate in many yacht club social events - seasonal parties and "balls". We play bridge with retired teachers on Tuesday afternoons and attend "bridge school" on Wednesdays.  Deborah sings in a teachers' "jazz choir", and I play piano in the rhythm section of a big band - along with five saxes, five trombones, five trumpets, a bass player, a drummer and a conductor.  Having picked up smattering of Spanish during four weeks in Varadero, I've begun attending Friday evening Spanish lessons with Deborah, and I'm planning to revisit my rudimentary understanding of French and German this summer.
     Golly, I'm a busy guy...
     I thought I'd start writing in retirement, but so far I find that I've spent a lot of time through the first year playing music rather than trying to write.
I play my piano and my trumpet, and my recently acquired guitar. I'm developing - albeit rather slowly - a repertoire of "Open Mic" songs to have ready to perform in a bar or around a campfire. 
    Mind you, I do have a part-time job, of sorts: early every morning and at points throughout the day, I manage the investment portfolio that gave me the confidence to retire early, and covers the cost of our travel and indulgences.  It takes up about ten hours of my week, so in essence, I'm still working quarter-time; but it's a mental exercise over coffee that I enjoy, and it is a "job" that doesn't require me to leave the house.  I "earn" by saving what we would otherwise pay to a professional portfolio manager, plus a great deal more than he would garner for us in returns from timely buying and selling, so I earn a good hourly rate for my time.  I'm not a day-trader, though; my holds are usually a year or longer, with a good mix between retirement income supplements, and growth prospects.
    Deborah has resumed learning to play the piano, she reads, and she has become a Sudoku addict. She also spends more time cooking, which she has always loved. She bought "hers'n'his" ukuleles, but I didn't make any progress with mine so she gave it away to my Dad.
    After dark, when we're not out at all these other activities, we transform our living room into our own private cinema, watching our favourite sitcoms and the latest movies from a multi-media computer, on a
10' screen, with big stereo sound, in rocking-chair recliners.  The "snack bar" is just a few steps away from our cinema seats, and it is "licenced".


      We take on numerous "jobs" that we don't get paid for: we spend a lot of time on volunteer positions and charity work, mostly related to sailing, tennis, home-building, Angolan education, musical entertainment for elderly and shut-ins, and animal welfare.  We were Liaison Officers for two of the tall ships that visited Toronto over the Canada Day weekend, the Unicorn and the Playfair.  I served for two years as the Communications Director on the Committee of Management of my yacht club, attending monthly meetings, creating the periodic printed newsletter, the Halyard, and contributing to our club website; I wrapped up the executive position last fall, but continue to do the Halyard and website work.  I manage the investment portfolio for the Angola Memorial Scholarship Fund, building a sum of money that can generate annual disbursements for students and grass-roots educational projects in Angola. 
     For a solid week in September of 2010, we worked on a Habitat for Humanity housing project, framing the first floor walls and ceiling joists of a block of new homes in West Hill, on Kingston Road across from the church my Dad ministered to for seven years. 
     We'll pick this up again from time to time in 2011, now that we are back from Australia.

     Deborah volunteers with Toronto Animal Services as a foster parent for litters of kittens, which she brings home to the house to raise for a month to six weeks at a time, until they're ready to be spayed and adopted out to new families.
     One of my avenues of volunteerism is playing in bands that perform in retirement homes and hospitals.  The one I'm playing with in 2011 is the Montcrest Big Band, described on my Music page.
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    An enormous - and difficult - project for both of us is downsizing - putting our house on a diet, purging years of collected flotsam, "chatchkis" and treasures, with all the angst-filled choices that process requires - so that we can feel less clogged up with "stuff", and be prepared to sell our house should we decide to become completely nomadic for a decade, or to move south or west.  It will take more than a single year.  The house project includes holding garage sales on sunny weekends, selling larger or more valuable items online, and painting the interior room by room.  We might get to the painting in 2011...
    At the same time, I can't quite escape the feeling that we're now on some endless vacation, living in a strange sort of amazing resort: we reside in a low-maintenance cottage a short distance from a lake where we have a sailboat and a club full of friends; we have tennis courts; we have a garden that feeds us tasty produce all summer, with minimal effort, and I make our own ginger wine; we have easy access to wonderful shopping and recreational facilities, great friends, and friendly neighbours right on our wide, grassy, tree-lined street - all we have to do is walk out our front door and strike up a conversation. We have musical hobbies, concerts, and groups to play with; great medical and dental care within three blocks of our house; and we can take excursions anywhere we want in the world for any part of the winter or summer. We can sleep as late as we like, stay up until we feel like going to bed, and do whatever we want, day in and day out.  It's really difficult to find fault with any of this scenario.  We must be some of the luckiest people in the world.
    We'll continue to sail on Lake Ontario, travel west in the summer and south in the winter.  We spent six weeks last summer driving all the way to Salt Spring Island and back, and spent precious time with my parents, siblings and nieces and nephews in Alberta.  I've enjoyed expanding and updating this web site since the earliest days of creating web pages with basic html code; I maintain a digital diary, including travel reports, with entries posted once every couple of weeks.

"Retired!" What a frightening word it was.  We retired at Christmas, 2009.  It's a weird thing to get used to.  There's a disorienting light-headedness to it.  We keep busy, and as a friend noted, we haven't retired from life; but there is a release from pressures, and a lightness of's like being a teenager again, but without the angst; and with less energy and a few physical aches and pains.  Whatever you don't feel like doing today,you can put off.  I spotted a t-shirt that suddenly amused me:  "Laziness pays off now..."
    On the other hand, there's also a strange grief at being severed from your workplace and professional identity, and all the meaning-of-life actions and interactions that happened there.  It causes a kind of malaise that needs to be fought.  Part of the cause of the malaise might be illustrated by this old metaphor:  "Put your finger in this pail of pull it out, as fast as you can!  See how quickly the water fills in the hole?" 

    Travel is an antidote - perhaps that's why so many people begin retirement by going away on a trip; and some just keep travelling.  I travelled a lot as a young man, and always had butterflies as I started out on a journey, a feeling akin to falling in love; it's easier to avoid being weighed down by thoughts of a past job when you feel like that. 

    A friend who retired said that she was surprised at how much "Catholic guilt" she felt for not going in to work.
    We considered doing supply teaching, and paid the price to renew our College of Teachers cards; but when we reflected on how desperately the large crop of new graduate teachers needed those jobs, we backed away.
It's hard to face the possibility that you might already have become all that you're ever going to become, and that you've done all that you're ever going to do except for travel, perhaps.  Anthony Quinn, playing Zorba the Greek, said, "No man is happy without a mortgage"...a grand pursuit, an achievement to reach for, an accomplishment to dream about.  There is no shortage of choices and possibilities, but most are stymied by our craving to travel, both in summer and winter.  I've seen and done so much when I was younger that my "bucket list" is fairly short; perhaps I'll just play music for people, participate in various volunteer projects, and continue being a diarist in the form of this website, and photo-journal blogs when we go travelling. 

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