Travelling and Earning Money

I am so intrigued by all the opportunities to work online and to work away.  I have been exploring these possibilities for quite a while now.  I am so inspired by friends who have chosen to work abroad teaching  and others who are house sitting,  pet sitting, renting out their own places, doing home exchanges and more.  I was fortunate to live in the Middle East for 2 years teaching English and writing grants for a few non-governmental organizations.  I also had a chance to work on a project in Greece for 6 months.  These opportunities were private ones that I found but if are considering house or pet sitting you might want to check out TrustedHousesitters.

Did you ever watch the film “The Holiday” with Cameron Diaz and Kate WInslett ?  The lead characters advertise online for a house swap.  Watch the trailer here.  Maybe it will inspire the adventurer inside you?  Check out HomeExchange.

My plan for retirement is to put these many ideas into practice. The list of possibilities is endless.  I am hoping that we will continue to add to the list and share our successes and failures.

I have been teaching English as a second language online for a few years now.  I really enjoy it and find it is quite simple and very satisfying.  Many companies like the one I work for provide the entire lesson plan so that there is minimal preparation.  I have been working as a supply teacher up to now and just this week began with ongoing classes.  Previously (before retirement) my income from teaching was just a supplement to a regular salary but now I am more dependent on it.  Here is a link to many online teaching jobs.

Need to rent out your home?  There are countless ideas from AirBnB to countless Facebook groups and also  SabbaticalHomes .  You will probably find more on Craigslist and Kijiji as well. However, it is important to do your homework, that means research and asking questions.  This is as complicated or even more complicated than online dating.  Be careful, be smart, be diligent.  I suggest asking friends for recommendations and using sites that offer ratings on both the traveller and the advertiser.

It is a good idea to join groups of travellers which you will find on Facebook and other social media platforms.

The ideas are only limited to your imagination.  Dare to dream.  Where would go?  What have you done?

editor’s note:  We are not endorsing any of the mentioned websites.  These are simply ideas to get you started.

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Getting Real About Retirement

 

Ok, time to fess up.  I am not really old enough to retire.  There is no trust fund, no inheritance, no alimony, no lucrative work pension, no brilliantly planned retirement savings account.  Really there is nothing, nada, zero, empty, kaput!  It simply was time to live that life I have been talking about for years….working at what you love so that you never work another day in your life.  How do I plan to do this.

 

I don’t want to go to an office every day.  I don’t want a boss.  I want to be able to travel.  I want time to work at things that just simply bring me joy.  I love writing and that is where this blog comes in.  I get an idea (actually about a million of them swimming around in my head) and then I write and then I am almost euphoric.  When my writing resonates with a reader I am totally euphoric, over the moon, filled with joy!!!  I absolutely love creating ritual and officiating at ceremonies – Weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvah, Baby Namings, even sad occasions like Funerals and UnbindingCeremonies.  This is my happy place…true fulfillment.

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About 20 years ago, I created  a series of workshops to help women explore who they are and who they want to be.  I absolutely loved this work and I dreamed of a time that these workshops and talks would be the centre of life.  Time flies by and dreams sometimes get lost or put on hold.  Now is the time and tomorrow is too late.

Dream pillow workshop 1

So here I am at 61 years old and starting a whole new life plan!  How freaking amazing is that?  I have a busy schedule set up for myself.  Early in the morning I start by teaching English to children in China for a couple of hours.  Then, breakfast and catching up on emails, social media and my website to see what needs to be done.   I work until noon, then lunch and then a healthy activity.  While I am house sitting near the ocean that means walking, swimming and biking everyday for at least an hour.  When I am in Toronto, I am committing to the same schedule.  We have wonderful community centres with swimming pools and gyms that cost very little and there are discounts for seniors, students, unwaged, low income and more.

Does this appeal to you?  You must start with lists – lists of things you cannot live without.  What is the absolute minimum that you could live with satisfactorily?  What is a list with all your wishes and dreams?  Take time to prepare these lists and edit and edit and edit until you know what you want and what you need.  Next, a list of what type of work would make you feel fulfilled and contented.  It might be what you are doing now or something so far away from that it might surprise even you.  What do you know how to do?  What are your skills?  What do you do that fills you with joy? Meditate and dream on your lists.

The first step for me was starting the plan.  I gave my notice to my employer last January (8 months).  I started planning what the next steps would look like.  I read that if you want to be in a new place next year, you must do 365 things toward that goal and so I started.  Step by step, slowly, slowly and you can get there.  The next big move was becoming a client of Women on the Move (WOM) and working closely with Heather Gamble to develop a plan for success. WOM incubates women entrepreneurs.  It is a sisterhood of women who are motivated for change.

 

planning

I invite everyone to evaluate your life – are you doing what makes you happy?  Are you creating a lifestyle that suits you?  Are chasing your dream or are you actually chasing someone else’s?  Are you working to live or living to work?  There are many seasons to our lives….in our 20’s, in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s….different goals and different needs.  What is it you want to change and what will you do every day to get there?

 

Am I Fat?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately (always) about food, about dieting, about weight.  The reality of being 60 means a lot of history to contend with and a lot of struggles to sort out.  I am back on medication for Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension.  For 2 fabulous years, I was able to maintain normal levels with Chinese Medicine but rising levels meant seeing a specialist and mainstream, western medication.  Now I am committed to exercise and losing another 25 pounds to be able to take the least amount of medication possible.

bicyclebicycling

I want to talk about my story with weight, with body image, and with insecurities.  When I was 13 years, I went away to summer camp where the camp nurse weighed each of us.  I stood innocently on the scale and weighed in at 160 pounds.  The nurse reacted with a Wow! Or something similar to that.  I think she told me it was too much.  I was overweight.  That was the only beginning.  I remember being a very lonely child.  My dad was strict and I wasn’t allowed the same freedoms that my brothers had.  I had to come in before dark and sleepovers were not allowed.  I had a friend who lived across the street – Karen.  She always seemed so normal – typical……just what I dreamed of being.  We stopped at the grocery store near our school a couple of times and bought a chocolate bar.  I thought I was so cool!!  I told my Mom and I saw her face fall.  I knew she was thinking that I was too fat to be eating a chocolate bar.  Now I knew I was fat…fatter than the other kids…the fattest….the big one.  Different, the odd one….the fat, Jewish one. D.i.f.f.e.r.e.n.t.  and that was the beginning of a life time of dieting.

chocolate bar

In my teen years I tried a few very weird diets.  One day I ate only bananas and almost fainted in gym class.  Gym class – now that is a whole story in itself.  I always felt fat and awkward and clumsy.  I was sure that all the other girls were athletic.  I do remember thinking I was a great soccer goalie well, until half the girls on the other team came crashing and kicking at me! I dreaded gym from day 1 until I finally could drop it as a course in Grade 10 when it was no longer mandatory.  My favourite teenage diet and one I often did was 500 calories a day eaten in 2 meals.  Each meal allowed a half piece of bread, 1 cup of salad with no dressing, 3 ounces of meat or fish and 1 apple.  Great diet for a growing teenager!  I would usually keep this regime Monday through Friday and eat normally on the weekend.  On this diet you should lose a pound per day they proclaimed.  I usually lost a pound or 2 a week.  I once asked my Mother to show me how big a pound was and she took out a pound of butter from the fridge.  That was my go to image each time I lost some weight.

butter

 

At 19 and madly in love, I ran into some relationship problems.  I couldn’t eat.  I was heartbroken.  My boss used to ask in the morning if I had eaten anything and send me to the cafeteria for tea and toast that I usually threw up after eating.  Lunch was cup-of-soup, an apple or some popcorn and dinner wasn’t much better.  I often had a few crackers with some dip.  The weight was falling off and I was at my lowest weight of 150 pounds.  Only 10 pounds lighter than my normal weight of the past 6 years but of course, everyone said how great I looked and I felt like a super model. 150 pounds was still 30 pounds over the weight the charts told me I should be at. I got married in this time and had some very beautiful photos taken.  I knew that the long white dress hid my curves and the beautiful face shots hid the body.

Sandra 1976 Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Sandra at 20 years old and 155 pounds. Indian Rocks Beach, Florida

I don’t remember my husband ever telling me I was beautiful or sexy or openly admiring my body.  I didn’t have a lot of money to buy really trendy clothing.  Clothing is a very important part of this narrative and one I have been thinking of a lot.  When I was around 12 years old, my mother took me shopping Curls in Moncton, N.B. , an independent store for mature women and definitely not for teens.  She bought me several new dresses.  The sales woman was my aunt.  Both my Mom and Aunt were in their 50s by then.  When I got home and we showed the new clothes to my dad, I remember him telling Mom the clothes were too old for me and Mom saying that younger clothes didn’t fit me.  When I was old enough to shop for myself, I remember struggling to find jeans in size 14 and later size 16.  I was a travel consultant at Eaton’s Travel and we wore uniforms from Eatons.  I couldn’t find a suit to fit so I had to have mine custom made.  Fortunately, the Ports’ blouses fit my corpulent size 16 body.  When I was 30 years old and still wearing size 16, I was a manager of a large women’s clothing store, Fairweather, and rarely found clothes that fit me.  We were supposed to wear only Fairweather clothes.  I often had to find something similar in another store.  Although, a solution always was possible, I was always aware that I wasn’t an “average” size.

Over the next 15 years, I gained 50 pounds at 5 pounds per year until I reached 255 and a size 24.  I was fulfilling my self-proclaimed prophecy as a fat woman.  However, I always felt that I looked good.  People always told me that I was beautiful…they loved my clothes….copied my style…told me I flowed when I walked…told me I was sexy….saw me as a trendsetter. I did some plus size modeling.  I dated…I had confidence…turned a few heads when I entered a room but deep down, I knew that I was the fattest one!  At least, that was the old and ugly tape going on in my head.

At 45 years old, after years of weight gain and then years of maintaining my weight, I started dieting again using the Weight Watchers plan.  I couldn’t afford their program so I got their books from my size 0 zero (and lifelong Weight Watcher member) and taught myself the program.

weight watcher books

I don’t remember what motivated me to make that commitment.  After losing 35 pounds, I thought about how my role as a mother was changing.  My daughters were leaving home for university and no longer needed me to be to be 2 parents or needed me to protect them.  I wondered if my subconscious realized that my warrior/protector role was changing and I didn’t need to be so “big and strong”. I got smaller through diet and daily exercise.  I walked the 6 km to work and back.  I then started biking to work and in the first week dropped 7 pounds.  I hit a plateau at 217 pounds and I felt like a little mini.  It was exciting.  I dropped 3 sizes and felt so healthy.  I maintained that weight for the next 10 years.  It took me a long time to realize I was actually no longer a size 24 – I once went in a fitting with size 24 pants that fell off me.  My daughters both told me they thought I had  a touch of body dysmorphia (might be a bit of a stretch) but the truth is, I always subconsciously, saw myself as the biggest one in room.

In the past 2 years, I have dropped another 40 pounds.  I am now 175 pounds.  This was my weight in my 30’s and I have really been working on seeing my body as it really is.  As I mentioned earlier, I have been struggling with health issues – hypertension and type 2 diabetes.  These problems can be genetic – my father, my grandfather, my grandmother, mother and brother have had one or both.  However, all I hear is OBESE, caused by OBESITY….ringing painfully in my head.  I also believe that if I lose another 25 pounds, I will miraculously be cured.  I will be the picture of health.

 

I remember an experience with a OB/Gyn during my first pregnancy.  His “bedside” manner with me was never that good- although he had been recommended by several of my friends.  I was never sure what the problem was but at one of the Jewish holidays, I asked him if I should fast.  He said no, but that didn’t mean I should be eating Cheetos in the synagogue!!  After a few more rude comments, I decided to move on to another physician.  His nurse told me that the only other time a patient complained she also was overweight.  I was 5’3” and weighed 190 pounds.   When I was living in Haifa, I had a knee injury and went to the hospital where the doctor asked me to raise my skirt so she could see the knee.  She literally gasped and said, “I didn’t realize you were obese!!”  Can I just say, Yowza….what the hell was that?

I have always loved my body….I like looking in the mirror.  I actually admire my luscious although downward facing breasts, my rounded hips, my full and juicy belly.  I really wish we saw more photos of all body types and I really hope we all continue this conversation.  This isn’t an issue particular to men or women.  It is a struggle all around.  I have loved and enjoyed many body types.

I wanted to share this story today.  We are talking a lot about fat shaming, loving all body types and then the issues around health and wellness. When I openly refer to myself as fat these days, I am reclaiming myself.  I am not shaming myself.  I am saying openly….this is who I am and I like it! I am a voluptuous, big, bold and beautiful womyn!  I am hoping that you will share your stories with me.  I am hoping that you will stand in the mirror and say with passion and love…..I love me!!!!!!!

cartoon sandra

That’s What a Healthy Life Looks Like

Yesterday I retired from my position as the National Coordinator for Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.  I am ready for the change and so excited for the challenge ahead.

Today I am heading to Milford, Connecticut to cat/house sit.  Deb and I met in 2015 when I first visited as a Bed and Breakfast guest.  I love her home – cozy, clean, quaint and a block from the beach.  This will be home for the 2 ½ weeks.

I am back on a very healthy eating and weight loss program.  Although I am satisfied with my weight and how I look these days, I can’t seem to get my health in good order.  Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension (High blood pressure).  Both of these are hereditary on both sides of my family but that shouldn’t have made it inevitable.  I changed my eating habits, lost 20 pounds and worked closely with a practitioner of Chinese medicine.  I take herbs and have monthly treatments.  For 2 years, I was able to lower my blood sugar readings to normal and maintain a healthy blood pressure but then last year my numbers started going up.  No matter how much I restricted what I was eating, I couldn’t do it.  I dropped another 10 pounds but then the weight loss stopped and I have been stuck for several months.  I am seeing an endocrinologist ( a specialist for diabetes) and he has me on 3 different medications and they are all at the maximum  dosage.  I am not feeling any side effects but we are also not getting to the normal numbers that he wants.  The prognosis is that I will need a new mediation but he has given me until December to lose more weight.

That’s where I am today, one week later and magically 3 pounds lighter.   I am using the weight watchers program (pre 2010).  I know it and it has worked for me in the past.  In 2004, I lost 35 pounds and kept it off, and since then I have used it to lose another 35.  At least I have gained any weight in the past 20 years.  I have an ideal weight in mine – my lowest adult weight from when I was 19 years old.  That is another 35 pounds but my goal for now is 20 pounds.   Since my diagnosis a few years ago, I believed that I could beat this if I could reach that weight.

I am inviting you to come on this journey with me – keep me motivated, keep me honest, encourage me and maybe some of you will work at this with me.  When I want a change, I believe in going public!  Go big or go home!!

Here is the plan – stick to the old weight watchers plan, work at things that I love, commit to exercise a minimum of 3 times a week but trying for 5.  The next 17 days I want to kickstart it!  I am going to beach destination in Connecticut, on the beautiful Long Island Sound, a bicycle with flat roads and a state park, miles of beach and quiet.  I am going to bike every day with a goal of 12 kilometres per day.  I want to walk the beach at low tide everyday rain or shine soaking up the healthy salt air and the “negative ions”.  My diet splurges will be fresh lobster and quahogs and a glass or 2 of wine, maybe even a light beer.  Alcohol isn’t something I drink very often but vacation screams “Have a glass or 2.” Of course, it means giving up something else on the weight watchers’ plan.

I need to purchase lunch in the airport today and I know I could have chosen a salad but instead I picked a roasted vegetable sandwich and a coffee.  I ate one half of the bun and through the rest away.  For me, that is important to throw out what I shouldn’t eat otherwise it may find its way into my mouth an hour later.  I am only supposed to have one coffee a day but every now and then, I treat myself to an extra one.  Love the dark roast with a splash of lowfat cream.

An hour until my flight departs.  I feel that my whole life is about to lift off.  Fingers crossed.