Saturday, December 18, 2010


I’ve often wondered if reading my horoscope at the end of the day/month/year would reveal that things actually happened as predicted.  I normally read it at the beginning, then hope (or not) that the horoscope is accurate.

Well, with this curiosity in hand, last December 31, 2009, I copied my horoscope for the upcoming year, planning to assess whether it was remotely accurate.

My horoscope (from Calgary Herald I believe) was:

VIRGO You are still feeling the after-effects of the past 12 months and although January's solar eclipse will herald a respite, you may have to wait until late June for definite signs of progress. Because expansive Jupiter and restrictive Saturn are both focusing on your finances for much of the year, you will need to find a balancing point between parsimony and profligacy. With a friend or loved one relying on you for practical, emotional or moral support, your resources will be sorely stretched, especially around the time of April's Saturn-Uranus opposition. The year will end on a higher note than it began but just how high depends on you.

So…. my skepticism aside, this was vague enough for it to predict some well-timed activities with accuracy:
  •           In late June, the ‘respite’ came in the form of a month-long vacation on Salt Spring Island. So I suppose that was a bit accurate (keeping in mind that it was planned, not accidental).
  •          Of course finances were a focus since I was facing the end of my 25-year employment relationship
  •          The year is ending on quite a ‘high note’ as we (family) are travelling to Malaysia over the Christmas and New Year (again this is planned).

All in all, I’d say that the horoscope provided some highlights with a degree of accuracy. 

I’m looking forward to 2011’s horoscope with a new enthusiasm…  Hmmm, here’s guessing that there will be lots of travel mentioned!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Financial Planning is Kinda Important

So now that reality is setting in, so is the nitty gritty reality of my financial plan.

As part of the severance I got from my ex-employer, there is an offer of services of a Financial Planner.  This is rather normal.  I’ve decided to use these services to the maximum so that 1) I can objectively decide how best to invest these new found funds; 2) I have a plan of which source of income to draw from in which order so as to minimize tax burdens, and 3) I know I’ll be able to eat when I’m 80 years old (ie. Won’t be a bag lady). 

The Financial Plan will include such variables as:  current investments, projected living expenses, estimated inflation rate, estimated rate of return on investment.  As well, we need to include:  vehicle replacements, home upgrades, vacation assumptions, donation assumptions, and anything else that will impact the sources of income and expenses.   Of course, there is always the possibility that I’ll end up working again.. (Say it isn’t so!!!!!!)

We all know this planning thing is the right thing to do…but have we ever really gotten into the details?  I know I started the process a few times, but never really had the concrete plan in my hands.  There were always some things on the periphery that couldn’t be or weren’t included.

There’s great peace of mind that comes when going through this process.  I highly recommend it for everyone, regardless of your financial or employment status.

It’s kinda like knowing that you need to get somewhere you’ve never been before, but you’re too lazy or rushed to stop to buy a map.  You can take a few side roads and detours, hoping like heck you don’t run out of gas.  Had you had a map, you could have gotten there more efficiently, and not had the stress of the unknowns along the way.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Switching to Which Gear?

As you might recall, the purpose of this blog and of my entire self-professed unemployed state was to take a deep breath and ‘smell some roses’. 

Well, I seem to have forgotten how to “stick shift” because I haven’t quite successfully shifted down as much as I’d like.  If there is such a thing as ‘midway gears’, I’ve gone from fifth gear to four and a half.  The goal is to be in first or second gear.

I’m told that such a major transition (from working in high gear to unemployment) takes several months - some say nine months, others say twelve to twenty four.  Regardless, it’s much harder than you think.

I’m slowly unwinding some commitments that I made early in my ‘unemployed-ness’; in particular, those that involved ongoing involvement.  Ideally, I’d like to have ‘selected involvement’, where I can commit to do things, but then not feel guilty when I can’t or no longer want to.  This is a bit tricky once someone or an organization starts perceiving me as a reliable source of support.  For that reason, I’m very reluctant to commit to anything more at this time.

It's not that I don't want to help or provide support, but if I don't take the time to figure out what I really want to do, I'm concerned that I'll end up doing 'stuff', just to fill in time.  I'm really looking for that ultimate work/job/activity that really jazzes me up and that I can envision doing in a bigger way someday.  Whether it's a paying thing of not is not the point...I want to know that what I'm spending my time on is valuable and enjoyable to me ... and hopefully someone else.

With my new awareness and philosophy in hand, I think 2011 will be very different for me.  I predict that I’ll be able to move from high gear to low gear more easily.  For now, I’ll just rev at a higher rate, anticipating the slowdown to the next gear.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Life As A Project

I’ve begun to see everything as a ‘project’.  It’s a very sick way to organize my life I realize, but it means that I do get a lot of things done….perhaps a few too many things.

I break everything into small mini-projects, determining all the intermediate steps to take so that the end is predictable.  The upside is that I have a lot of things going on at any one time because I can juggle a lot of ‘bits’ simultaneously.  The downside is that I have a lot of things going on at any one time, so people think I can manage all that’s going on.  The result:  I’m really not slowing down!!!!

Part of me thinks that this is just my way of dealing with the ambiguity of ‘retirement/unemployment’.  The other part of me thinks I’m a complete loser because I can’t slow down.  Then there’s another part that actually rationalizes this by thinking this is just the way I am. 

I really do need some help!  So what if I can take 4 writing courses, guitar lessons, guitar practice, do pro-bono project management work with 2 non-profits, meet friends for coffee, get a bit of exercise in, grocery shopping, laundry, shovel snow, create family calendars, book the side trips for our trip in Malaysia, AND keep some semblance of sanity!?  REALLY!!? 


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Things You Hear In A Coffee Shop

I’ve been spending a lot of time in coffee shops lately.  I tend to hang there between ‘coffee dates’ or meetings rather then going back and forth to home between my appointments.  I just find those that have free wireless networks, crack open the Mac, and tada, I’m doing everything I’d normally be doing in my office at home.  One day I’ll introduce myself to my ‘mobile colleagues’.  There are quite a few of us doing this.    

Last week, I was sitting in a Good Earth coffee shop, sitting just feet from 3 gentlemen.  It appeared that they were doing some sort of roundtable ‘coaching’, where they’d listen to concerns or issues each was having, and then would provide positive feedback and advice. They were discussing everything from employee issues, employer concerns, work/life balance challenges, and some personal health issues.  Nothing too salient, but it was interesting to observe (although not obviously) the support given by the men to their friend/colleague. I had to stop myself from adding my own opinions.  Didn’t think that would be too well received, however, since I wasn’t actually part of the discussion!

In a Starbucks a few hours later, I was sitting next to what appeared to be a brother and sister discussing their parent’s health.  The conversation was in French, so presumably they figured no one would understand their discussion.  Again I was very close to providing them feedback in dealing with elder parent’s health issues.  Apparently the mother is using her illness in the old ‘illness guilt trip’ to get her husband’s, children’s, and generally everyone’s attention.  We all concluded (silently in my case) that mom is responsible for her own health and that not giving her the attention will send the signal to her to get on with it.

I’ve been observing the shop employees as well.  As everywhere, there are those who truly enjoy their jobs and those that are miserably ‘putting in time’; no different that my observations in large corporate offices.  The real difference however, it that these folks can’t go hide in their cubicle and likely aren’t paid very well.  They have to face the public every minute.  I came close to providing my sage advice of: “perhaps you need to find something that suits you better rather than wasting your life doing something you hate”.  But then again, I was just there for tea.

I did get some good stock tips a well.  A company that will remain nameless is in the throws of a significant acquisition which will only be announced in a few weeks.

Then there’s the couple that believes that sitting side-by-side, busily typing/texting on their respective Blackberries, comprises a date.  Very few words are exchanged.  So my cynical self thinks this is ridiculous.  My romantic self thinks that, gee whiz, these guys are so compatible that they know what the other is thinking.  NOT.

So coffee shops are great places to eavesdrop if I want advice, entertainment, or a reminder why I don’t want to get back into the corporate race just yet. The downside is that, so that I don’t feel guilty using up their space, I have to buy something…and it’s not just a tea.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Travel = Change

Travel - it means something different to different people.  Whether it’s a short trip nearby or an adventure farther afield, to a 5-star resort or to a backcountry hut, all can be equally satisfying to the traveler, depending on the expectation of the trip.

My most memorable trips have been those where the person who left is not the same as the one that returns.  That is, the sum of the experiences resulted in a personal change within my spirit which would not otherwise have been possible.  Be it some newfound awareness of a culture or a fresh understanding of my own being, I cannot return to how I was before I left.

I am currently inquiring and narrowing down some options for travel next year.  I use an online Home Exchange site to find travel opportunities across the globe.  Not only does this type of travel reduce travel costs significantly, but it also allows us to live amongst locals who usually contribute greatly to our understanding and enjoyment in the visited locations.

My biggest dilemma is deciding on the purpose of the trip: exploring versus relaxing.  All options are in hot climates because I’d like to get away from our Canadian winter in March or April.  However, some options are a bit more adventurous (Central or South America) than others (a luxurious condo on the beach of Baja, Mexico).

Either way, I sense an adventure in the air…

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So How About That Rock Star Thing…

A while ago I declared that I’m a ‘wannabe-rock-star’.  Thought I’d give a bit of an update on my newfound talent. (NOT!!)

Well, I’ve increased my repertoire from two to four songs, gone from strumming using only major chords to using ‘transition chords’ (also called polychords), and, in some instances, can play, sing and count the beats all at the same time. (equivalent to chewing gum while rubbing you stomach and head simultaneously!!)  I should be ready for a premiere at the Jubilee Auditorium sometime next year…

What I do need to mention, however, is that I’m having a wee bit of difficulty with the transitions (kinda like life don’t you think?).  There are occasionally some lulls between chords while my head and my fingers communicate.  This is also the point in my performance where you might hear some sighs and even curses… because yours truly is rather impatient with her progress.

I spent all of my practice time last week playing five chords over and over and over, trying to smooth out the transitions between them.  How slow can a girl play?  Believe me….VEEERY SLOOOWLY.  Just when I think I have it licked, I realize that at this rate of play, I’ll get through American Pie sometime in 2012 and Stairways To Heaven in 2015.

Transitions… seems like I’m destined to deal with them somehow and sometime!!  Who would have thought that guitar playing was so deep??