These "Tale Spinner" episodes are brought to you courtesy of one of our Canadian friends, Jean Sansum. You can thank her by eMail at
Vol. XVII No. 04
(Click for larger image.)
We walked beside Hot Water Creek and took pictures of steaming Cathedral Rock and Frying Pan Lake, and looked at the acidic Inferno Crater before hiking to meet our first boat on Lake Rotomahana. From the boat we took pictures of multi-coloured steaming cliffs. Once across the lake, we walked up and over the Te Ariki Isthmus to our second boat, on Lake Tarawere. After crossing the lake, we were taken by bus to the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, and then for a scenic drive via the Blue and Green Lakes.
That evening we made a bus trip to the Temaki Maori Village. We saw the haka, the traditional challenge, and the hongi, the pressing of noses as a greeting. T-shirts show that Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand. Seeing Maori activities in a village setting, listening to Maori songs and chants, and sharing a hangi, a Maori feast, provides a base for exploring the culture.
The fifth day we drove to the Agrodome to see sheep shearing. We saw that and more. Nineteen breeds of sheep were paraded onto the stage, where two different types of dogs demonstrated their herding skills. The audience was involved in a sheep auction and cow milking. At the end of the indoor show, we watched the dogs demonstrate herding abilities in a nearby field.
We drove to Huka Falls, which are formed when water is forced through narrow canyon walls, and then on to Napier, the art deco city. An earthquake in 1931 killed 258 people and forced reconstruction. Influenced by the styles modelled by 1925 Paris, Napier buried the tragedies of the past under art deco architecture.
Instead of taking the wine tour in the Hawkes Bay area, we drove to "Windy Wellington" to be ready for our ferry trip to the South Island. We had been told that if the weather was good we would enjoy Wellington, but if the weather was bad, we would hate it. Wellington, the capital city, has a population of 300,000, including the environs. The weather was fairly good.
We enjoyed the Maori displays in the Te Papa Museum and the views from the Botanic Garden at the top of the cable car ride. We heard shrill chirping from cicadas and finally spotted one of them. We also experienced the tourist´s nightmare when we stopped for a pedestrian and the vehicle behind didn´t stop. However, damage to our car was minimal, witnesses came forward quickly to leave their names, and contact with police and insurance was brief - so we made it to the ferry on time.
The ferry crossing was comfortable. The South Island has many one- way bridges, some even shared by trains. If there is a train on the bridge, it would seem wise to "Give Way." For car bridges, a sign with one predominant arrow and one smaller arrow indicates who has the right of way. As we neared Picton, the scenery became green, but after we disembarked and drove toward Kaikoura, the hills were brown; when we arrived at the coast, the view changed to rough rocks, seaweed, and seals sunning. Kaikoura is well known for whale and dolphin watching. We drove to see seals and birds but hadn´t time to go out on a boat - one has to book whale-watching excursions days in advance in any case. For dinner, we had crayfish, a form of lobster, and very good. Across the road from our motel I found a little sailboat with the name "New Zealand", which I thought appropriate.
To be continued.
Mike Yeager tells how he and his wife arranged to live
In order for my wife Katie and me to retire, we had to get rid of a lot of debt and a lot of stuff. Luckily, in a housing market going down in flames, we were able to sell our house in Port Angeles at a profit. Katie searched the internet for inexpensive housing and found the Villas in Green Valley, Arizona. They are one- and two- bedroom condos priced from $48,000 up. We took a week´s vacation from our jobs, flew to Arizona to look them over. We found a two- bedroom unit for $67,000 and paid cash from the profit we had made on the sale of our house. We would not have a mortgage payment.
Living more simply has long been a goal of ours and retirement forced us willingly into it. We thought back to when we first met. We were poor and we were happy. I was a graduate student and Katie was in nursing school. We valued learning, creating, outdoor activity, friends and family. That´s what we wanted to return to in retirement.
At first we had no additional income to supplement our social security. We calculated that by getting rid of the mortgage payment, our second vehicle and a small travel trailer, and by paying off our credit card debt, we would have just about the same amount of money left over as when we were both working. We sold or gave away most of our furniture and much of our personal stuff. We felt lighter and freer.
Our condo is 600+ sq. feet with three small closets and a modest storage shed on the back porch. We did not want to rent an additional storage space but we still had a lot of stuff. Katie had the idea to use the space under the bed as storage. We bought a large piece of plywood, cut it in half, and hinged both halves together. This would be the platform of our bed. Being hinged, it would be easily transportable and when folded, could be used as a couch. We placed a thick piece of compact foam on top. The plywood is supported by eight storage bins. Each bin contains stuff like craft materials, photos, grandkids´ stuff, winter jackets, etc. The contents are identified on the end facing out, and each bin can be easily slid out from under the bed. It was cheap, practical, and is comfortable to sleep on.
I missed my study room so the closet in our guest bedroom was converted. We took off the closet door, cut it to size, and it became my desk. We put shelves above it for books, added a chair and voila, a small workspace. We got rid of so many books. The library system down here is great, as it is in many communities. Most books we read we don´t need to own.
The greatest thing about retirement is our increased time and freedom. We needed to figure out how to fill our days, weeks, and months. I decided to cultivate the activities I loved doing but had little time for when I was working. They were writing, teaching Tai Chi, and teaching a writing class. After just over a year of retirement, these activities have now become my work, but without all the pressure that accompanies "real work", like bosses and deadlines and money concerns, etc.
We have made some friends, attend a meditation group, and regularly hike in the desert or mountains. Life feels more balanced.
If I were to give someone advice on how to retire successfully, I would say, live a more simple, yet balanced life. If you are with people a lot, balance it with more alone time; if you are sedentary, balance it with exercise; do activities that stimulate the mind, but also have times to just "let it flow"; be creative and do activities that are enjoyable and have meaning to you. Help others, but don´t lose yourself while doing it. When in doubt, let go and be happy.
Don Henderson reminds us of the
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN BRITISH COLUMBIA
1. Vancouver : 1.5 million people and two bridges. You do the math.
2. Your $400,000 Vancouver home is just five hours from downtown.
3. You can throw a rock and hit three Starbucks locations.
4. There´s always some sort of deforestation protest going on.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN ALBERTA
1. Big rock between you and B.C.
2. Ottawa who?
3. Tax is 5% instead of the approximately 200% it is for the rest
of the country.
4. You can exploit almost any natural resource you can think of.
5. You live in the only province that could actually afford to be
its own country.
6. The Americans below you are all in anti-government militia groups.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN SASKATCHEWAN
1. You never run out of wheat.
2. Your province is really easy to draw.
3. You can watch the dog run away from home for hours.
4. People will assume you live on a farm.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN MANITOBA
1. You wake up one morning to find that you suddenly have a
2. Hundreds of huge, horribly frigid lakes.
3. Nothing compares to a wicked Winnipeg winter.
4. You can be an Easterner or a Westerner depending on your mood.
5. You can pass the time watching trucks and barns float by.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN ONTARIO
1. You live in the centre of the universe.
2. Your $400,000 Toronto home is actually a dump.
3. You and you alone decide who will win the federal election.
4. The only province with hard-core American-style crime.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN QUEBEC
1. Racism is socially acceptable.
2. You can take bets with your friends on which English neighbour
will move out next.
3. Other provinces basically bribe you to stay in Canada .
4. You can blame all your problems on the "les anglais maudits".
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN NEW BRUNSWICK
1. One way or another, the government gets 98% of your income.
2. You´re poor, but not as poor as the Newfies.
3. No one ever blames anything on New Brunswick .
4. Everybody has a grandfather who runs a lighthouse.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN NOVA SCOTIA
1. Everyone can play the fiddle. The ones who can´t, think they can.
2. You can pretend to have Scottish heritage as an excuse to get
drunk and wear a kilt.
3. You are the only reason Anne Murray makes money.
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
1. Even though more people live on Vancouver Island, you still got
the big new bridge.
2. You can walk across the province in half an hour.
3. You can drive across the province in two minutes.
4. Everyone has been an extra on "Road to Avonlea."
5. This is where all those tiny red potatoes come from.
6. You can confuse ships by turning your porch lights on and off at
TOP REASONS TO LIVE IN NEWFOUNDLAND
1. If Quebec separates, you will float off to sea.
2. If you do something stupid, you have a built-in excuse.
3. The workday is about two hours long.
4. It is socially acceptable to wear your hip waders to your wedding.
ED. NOTE: Aren´t you glad we have only 10 provinces?
Dick Chenot forwards
As a bagpiper, I´m often called upon to play at weddings, military events, and funerals. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. The man had no family or friends, so the service was set at the county pauper´s cemetery in the Kentucky backwoods.
I was not familiar with the backwoods and soon found myself lost. Being a typical man, I didn´t stop to ask for directions. I finally arrived an hour late - the staff from the funeral home was long gone and the hearse was nowhere in sight.
There were only the diggers and crew left and they were eating lunch. I felt badly and apologized to the men for being late. I went to the side of the grave and looked down. The vault lid was already in place. I didn´t know what else to do, so I started to play.
The workers put down their lunches and began to gather around. I played out my heart and soul for this man with no family and friends. I played like I´ve never played before for this homeless man.
And as I played ´Amazing Grace,´ the workers began to weep.
They wept. I wept. We all wept together.
When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car.
Though my head hung low my heart was full.
As I opened the door to my car, I heard one of the workers say, "I never seen nothin´ like that before and I´ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."
Gerrit deLeeuw sends the story of
A little boy got on the bus, sat next to a man reading a book, and noticed he had his collar on backwards.
The little boy asked why he wore his collar backwards.
The man, who was a priest, said, "I am a Father."
The little boy replied, "My Daddy doesn´t wear his collar like that."
The priest looked up from his book and answered, "I am the Father of many."
The boy said, "My Dad has four boys, four girls, and two grandchildren, and he doesn´t wear his collar that way!"
The priest, getting impatient, said, "I am the Father of hundreds," and went back to reading his book.
The little boy sat quietly thinking for a while, then leaned over and said, "Maybe you should wear a condom, and put your pants on backwards instead of your collar."
I have long been fascinated by the subject of downsizing, and Mike Yeager´s article this week about their move to smaller and simpler living illustrates it perfectly. Over the years I have gradually rid myself of much of the stuff we had accumulated, and when I get occasional spurts of energy, I weed out more. I just have to be careful I don´t overdo it and give away or throw out things that I still need.
Having lived in houses all my life except for a brief time in an apartment in Edmonton, I did not even think of moving away from houses until after my kids left home and my mother died. Then I realized that I really did not need all that space, with its expenses and cleaning and yard work, and moved into an apartment. Since then I have lived in a variety of apartments, all of which I bought and sold, until I finally sold my condo and moved into this rental building. It is not the best place I have ever lived, but it has one great advantage - location. The library is across the street and the mall is across the street from that. I can walk to stores, the bank, restaurants, and the clinic which has replaced the family doctor I used to have before he gave up his practice.
I no longer own much. I gave up driving a few years ago; my furniture has been whittled down - and is being whittled down even more by my cat; I cleared out much that I had collected over the years. I sold or gave away the hundreds of books I had accumulated, and then gave away the bookcases. Of course I have a computer and a printer and various electronic toys that my kids have given me, and I would be lost without them. There is a limit to how far one can downsize!
I used to look at my sister´s stuffed closets and ask her why she didn´t sort them out and donate the clothes she no longer wore to a charity. She said she was leaving it for someone else to do - and guess who that turned out to be? Yeah - me! With that thought in mind, I am trying to downsize to the point where no-one else will have to get rid of a lot of my stuff. Because let´s face it: once we are gone, our treasures are someone else´s junk.
There is a lot more I should do: drawers, boxes of papers, tools - and perhaps when the weather is better, or I feel a spurt of energy, or I´m looking for something to do, I will tidy them up too. One of these days....
For all those who are weary of winter, Bruce Galway sends a foretaste of spring:
Catherine Green forwards this example of British humour: My Blackberry Is Not Working:
Catherine Nesbitt sends a link to a video of a remarkable basement in Chicago which is like a blast from the past:
Catherine also suggests this site for older people, because most folks under 50 would have no idea what the Statler Brothers are singing about:
Kate Brookfield suggests this very funny video of a group of high school students playing silent monks and "singing" the Halleluiah Chorus:
You will have seen instructions on how to cover your sneezes. This video gives you an idea of what happens when you do not:
Mycologist Paul Stamets believes that mushrooms can save our lives, restore our ecosystems, and transform other worlds"
Any child can tell you that the sole purpose of a middle name is so he can tell when he´s really in trouble.
- Suggested by Anne Rahamut