Celebrate International Women's Day in Canada

Even a Non-Activist Can Celebrate International Women’s Day

I always remember International Women’s Day because it falls on my son’s birthday, March 8th. But, I’ve never taken the time to understand the history and purpose of an event created just to celebrate our fair gender.

Until 2017, my year of outreach and focus.

Am I a Feminist?

Do I label myself a feminist?  Not really.   Am I of a generation that had certain expectations of boys and girls/men and women?  Yep.  Can I shake off those preconceived ideas?  Some yes, some no.

At the end of the day, I am a firm believer that people should be judged on their merits and their character, not on their gender, race, or any other external element.  We can be so superficial, so quick to judge others.

So while I do not label myself as a feminist, I believe women need to support and encourage each other. And we proceed as only women can. We can excel as ourselves, we don’t need to act like men.

Why Women Should Support Women

There are far too many women-haters out there.  I, for one, cannot understand how and why some men think they are superior to women.

Look at the many who resort to cheap misogynist insults on social media.  Some of these anonymous wackos make comments that are deeply disturbing.

Then, there are men like that Polish politician who recently claimed that women should make less money because they are “weaker, smaller and less intelligent”.  If a woman is applying to be a lumberjack, I get that being physically weaker or smaller is a disadvantage. But less intelligent? Ridiculous!  This is the type of man who would suppress educational opportunities for women to ensure that they stayed “less intelligent”.

And of course, the abusive and sometimes fatal situations perpetrated by men.  Not going to list them here.  You all have heard about them.  Not just cultural ones in far away lands, but the ones in our own backyards.  How about that current President who thinks it’s ok to grab women by the crotch?

So this year, even though I am not an activist, I want to celebrate International Women’s day.

History of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is over 100 years old.  The day was first observed in 1909 in NYC to celebrate a garment worker’s strike where women protested for better pay and work hours.  In 1911, it became an internationally recognized event in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland where 1 million men and women demanded the right to vote, hold public office, work and to end discrimination.  Over time, it has become a global event and in 1975, the United Nations declared March 8th as International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day in 2017

The U.N. 2017 theme is Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.   The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186 – 169 years from now.

International Women’s Day marks a call to action to individuals as well as organizations.  There are formal events planned all over the world.  You can see if there is anything in your local community by going here:  https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Events.

The International Women’s Day website tagline is #BeBoldForChange.  They encourage every person to celebrate the achievements of women to drive positive change.  And, they also suggest ways of taking bold actions that will accelerate gender parity not just on March 8th but every day. They include:

  • I’ll challenge bias and inequality
  • I’ll campaign against violence
  • I’ll forget women’s advancement
  • I’ll celebrate women’s achievement
  • I’ll champion women’s education

The US is taking this occasion to participate in A Day Without a Woman.  Participants are being encouraged to take the day off paid and unpaid work and refrain from shopping, to draw attention to the contribution of women in the workplace as well as the inequalities that they face.

In Canada, the 2017 theme is #EqualityMatters. The Canadian government has enshrined equality in the Charter of Rights (which I didn’t know) and is thus, committed to upholding gender equality in Canadian society.  I’m proud of this!  But, in practice, this not the case.  Women continue to be under-represented in politics and senior leadership roles.  They still earn less but are responsible for more.  And, they still often fall victim to gender-based violence.

How I will celebrate

Let me say again that I have never been an activist, nor am I even particularly political.  If anything, I am sadly apathetic.  But, I’m feeling a real need to make a difference in some way, but in a way that is genuine for me.

  1. I will champion Women’s Education in my new volunteer role as Global Program Coordinator (more on this at a later date)
  2. I will attend women’s networking events in my community
  3. I will find at least 2 other ways to personally help women in need

It’s only a start.  I will continue to celebrate women all year.

 

 

Cocktails at a Bar

You Get Asked This Question, Your Response Is…

You’re at a cocktail party full of people you don’t know.  This is not the most comfortable position for you to be in, but you are determined to make an effort.  This is a “make it work moment”.

You look around to see if there is anyone as miserable, I mean as squirmy as you are.   Across the room, you spot a couple of people chatting who are clearly not together.  Slowly, you inch your way over and nonchalantly, join their group.  Eye contact is made, success!   You introduce yourselves and give each other your first names.

The next question is:

What do you do?

Of course it is.  This is always the second question after “what is your name”.

The person in this story is me and probably a lot of other folks.  When I took my early retirement, I gave the following long-winded answer:

I took an early retirement because we lost a huge public sector contract that I was managing.  Of course, this would result in layoffs.  I put my hand up because I knew I was done with the rat race.  Plus, I was old enough to take an early retirement.  I was lucky, they let me go.

But I think I was really saying…

I left willingly. I was NOT laid off.  

Why do we ask?

Why do people ask what you do for a living anyway?  This happens all the time at any event or gathering where there are people who don’t know each other.  What are they really asking:

  • What is your socio-economic status?
  • Are you worth talking to?
  • What is your identity tribe?
  • Who are you?

Or, maybe they are just indulging in a lazy and harmless habit that helps us find common ground. In today’s society, especially in North America, so much of our time is spent at work that “what we do” goes beyond being just employment.  It starts to define who we are.

For many years, I’m sure that my role as a Sales Account Manager for a major corporation did impact my identity. But I always knew that it was just a role I played, it wasn’t who I was.  In fact, at the end, playing that the role had become exhausting and I didn’t like who I was.  So I was happy to go; I’ve not looked back since.

The Reaction

When I tell others that I have taken an early retirement, most people react positively and wish me well.  But I’ve also had some rather rude and negative reactions, as in “It must be nice!” in a “how dare you” voice.   I look younger than 56, so sometimes I see a narrowing of the eyes that means they disapprove of my choice.  Or sometimes it’s a look of sympathy that means they assume I’ve been laid off.

I don’t know why this bothers me, but it does.  And, it has happened enough times that I am now  reluctant to tell strangers.

A Better Response

I’ve been thinking about this for a while.  I’ve done some searching on the Internet for input.

Clearly, a lot of other people don’t like this question either.  Doesn’t matter how old they are or what they do.  Well, my favourite piece of advice so far comes from www.lifehacker.com.   The writer suggests that you answer this question by telling people how you solve problems.

This example by a mens’ fashion stylist would break the ice with humour while providing fodder for small talk.

When people ask what I do, I usually flip the question and say, “You know how most guys don’t dress very well?” This usually gets the person nodding along. Then I talk about how I solve that problem. I might mention that I have a 9-year-old, and let’s say I go to take him to the doctor. Now imagine a guy comes in who is wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Am I going to give my kid to this person? Probably not. Now imagine a guy wearing a white lab coat walks in. Everyone can relate to how clothing can make a huge difference.”

If I were to use this method, I just might say:

I write about my personal experience of aging gracefully and try to provide practical tips and tools to help women in my demographic feel inspired and optimistic.  And, I enjoy sharing these stories on social media with a like-minded community.  A long time ago women over 50 were considered “old”.  Not any more, 50 has become the new 40.  Would you not agree?”

This response needs some more work but I think it’s more interesting than just saying that I have become a blogger and am doing some work in social media.

What do you say?  Any other alternative ideas?

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Typewriter keys to blog

Why Do Bloggers Blog? This is Why I Do.

Even though I started to blog 10 months ago, I didn’t actually tell anyone until the end of October.  I started “The Juvenile Retiree” to practice my writing and to acquire a new skill set.   I was very quiet about it because I didn’t want people to see my awkwardness while I was “practicing”.  And honestly, I felt a little embarrassed about putting myself out there on the Internet.  Not having any real skills (I consider myself a master generalist), I chose to blog about being a midlife, “senior-in-training” retired woman.

At the same time, I decided to pursue a certificate in Social Media.  While looking for part-time work, I had noticed a lot of short term, contract jobs that offered the flexibility I was looking for.  At the time, all I knew about social media was how to read and post pictures on Facebook.

So last spring, I started the blog and the Social Media certificate simultaneously.  Were there other reasons why?

  • First of all, I’m way too young to actually retire.  I need to find other purposeful things to do.  Generating income would also be useful!
  • Secondly, #1 on my bucket list  is to travel the world.  I will have to finance this somehow.  It made sense to pursue jobs that could be done virtually.  A travel blog was also a viable option but I had to learn the ins and outs of blogging first.

The Real 3 Top Reasons Why Bloggers Blog

  1. To Share your Knowledge and/or Passion.  Maybe it’s fashion, cooking or photography. Or a personal or political cause.  Or a synopsis of the latest episode of The Bachelor or Keeping Up With the Kardashians.  Maybe you are building awareness, or just sharing your expertise or opinion.   Or all of the above.
  2. To Build a Personal Network and Community.  Blogging allows you to share your content and  connect with like-minded individuals who are interested in learning more about you and your topics.  Your potential online network is massive.
  3. To Make Money.  While this is obviously true of a business marketing products and/or services, it can also apply to an individual blogger.   Blogging can drive more traffic to your site.  It also allows you to hone your brand and establish your authority as a subject matter expert.

The stats on blogging

I can only describe them as mind-boggling

So Why Do YOU Blog?

I find these stats over-whelming and even a little discouraging.  Am I going to experience any success with so many blogs out there on the Internet?   Not gonna lie, I struggle with my identity as a blogger, finding compelling topics and networking.  But I am determined to keep at it.

However, I am curious about how other bloggers feel.

  1. What made you start to blog?
  2. Do you have objectives?
  3. What do you do to stand out from the crowd (if anything)?

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Don’t Judge a Veggie by Its Skin…

Grocery shopping is a chore for me, especially when it’s cold and dark outside.  But on Monday night, we were expecting freezing rain and there was nothing in the fridge.  So I grumbled a bit, bundled up and headed out to my local discount grocer, Fresh Co.  This a no frills store with a limited selection of goods. It’s an industrial looking shop with harsh overhead lighting and no ambience.

Fresh Co. is located between 2 very different neighbourhoods.  To the south, there are mainly single family homes worth a minimum of $800K.  To the north, there are several clusters of low rent high rise apartments, many of which are subsidized by the government.   Therefore, at any given time, you bump into new immigrants as well as well-dressed moms and dads rushing to grab dinner.

Anyway, I digress.

It was busy, others had heard about the freezing rain. So all the cashiers were busy with long lines. And people are buying full buggiesGrocery checkout worth of groceries. Odd for a Monday night, but maybe the threat of freezing rain makes you want to stock up.   Anyway, the man in front of me was in his 30s, longish hair, scruffy beard and wearing earbuds. Someone quite average.  Except that his grocery cart was filled with vegetables and fruit!  Maybe I judge, but I was surprised to see a man buying eggplant, spinach, apples, carrots, mushrooms, leeks, peppers, along with one lonely pack of boneless chicken.  The cashier, an older woman, was also clearly impressed and said:

Let me guess.  Your wife is travelling and is about to return so you’re stocking the fridge before she comes back.  She’s a vegetarian and you are not.  So you’re having a final chicken dinner before she gets back.

He laughed and said that she was almost right except that she was not travelling and didn’t have a problem with him adding chicken to his meals.  I could not help but eavesdrop and I told him that I had also been very impressed by his grocery selection; it was unexpected for a man.  He said that he works at home so does a lot of cooking.

The man waiting behind me was an older, rather “grizzled” guy who looked like he smoked a couple of packs a day.  He also piped up and told us that he was taking the night off cooking so was buying something already prepared.  I proceeded to tell him that I was planning homemade mushroom soup and a lentil dish mixed with brown rice.  He nodded approvingly.

Don't judge a pizza crust made from cauliflower and steel oats!Meanwhile, the cashier rang through my items and while I packed them in a bag, the young man started to describe his latest vegetarian pizza recipe using a grated cauliflower and steel oats crust.  I made a face; he assured me that it was just like a regular pizza crust only better.  The older gentleman praised his creativity and proceeded to say that cooking was like painting, you never quite know what you are going to end up with.  And then he revealed that he was a chef.  We all laughed and I bid them goodnight.

I live in a big city of 2.8 million people.   As city folk, our heads are often down looking at technology when in a crowd.  Or we stare out at nothing, oblivious of the people around us.  If we do see them, sometimes we jPeople waiting in line to pay for groceriesudge them.  We may or may not wish to engage because they look or dress a certain way.  Yet, this 5 minute exchange with 3 strangers was enjoyable and surprisingly memorable.  I left the store smiling and thinking about what I would have missed if I hadn’t gone to the grocery store that night.  Proved yet again, why you shouldn’t judge a veggie by its skin..

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Computer, pen, paper, organized

Stop the Procrastination. Focus and Get S*** Done

Procrastination.  It is one of my most annoying characteristics.  I find all sorts of ways of wasting time or delaying doing something that I don’t really want to do.  Therefore, I have become lazy.  But I am sure that I am not alone.

I have promised myself that I will become more focused in 2017.   When I was in Sales, January was always a time to exhale, review the prior year and plan for future success.   Fresh start.   I need to do this in my personal life.

How?

  1. Make Decisions.  Sounds simple doesn’t it.  My perfectionist soul inhibits my decision-making ability.   Why?  Because I always think that “something better might come along”. It can be anything:  job, trip, an app for this blog, kitchen appliance, etc.   I’m afraid that I will make a poor choice so I stall and do nothing.  So nothing get accomplished.  Procrastination at its finest. I am driving myself crazy.  It has to stop.
  2. Women planning on IphoneGet Organized.  But the only way to do this (for me) is to set goals and log them in a calendar.  I am a scatterbrain.  Not a dumb person, just a distracted one.  I allow myself to wander too much.  Yet since I am actually a goal-oriented person, I should become more focused and be able to increase my productivity if I create daily/weekly objectives.   As a result, I would expect increased satisfaction.
  3. LIMIT screen time.  Playing Ipad games is my dirty little secret.   In the past, this was a way to rest my over-active and exhausted brain.  But now, it’s a procrastination technique.   The one that I play most isHayday Farm Procrastination Hayday.  It’s a game that hooks you in by continually putting forth new objectives.  But the main reason I still play, is that I belong to a community where I can chat with friends and compete in a team “derby” where we complete tasks and win virtual prizes. And I am compelled to feed my virtual animals with virtual feed and harvest my virtual plants.  Plus I am proud of my how pretty my virtual farm is with its virtual decorations.   Weird, I know.
  4. Continue Personal Learning and Development.  I have been taking a social media certificate at a local college which has armed me with basic knowledge and skills.  Taking it to another level requires practice and the acquisition of complementary skills like photography.  One might call these “hobbies” but I see these skills as a means to an end.

My Challenge Words

I am motivated by some of the posts and blogs I am reading.  A key one was posted on BlogShareLearn https://elenaopeters.com/2016/12/29/word-for-2017-simplify-whats-yours/.  Laura E. Paul talks about selecting a challenge along with a word that represents it.   For me, I’m choosing the word  FOCUS and I am borrowing Nike’s motto “JUST DO IT“.

Don’t overthink, don’t over-analyze, don’t worry, stop the procrastination.  Just focus and get “s***” done.

Will I Stop the procrastination?

I have been scouting some tools that can help me move the ball forward.  This is something that I will complete in the next couple of weeks.  In March, I will revisit this post to see if I have made progress.

See, it’s in my calendar.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mhx/16419218393

Are We Still Cranky in Midlife?

I always thought that when I got older, I would mellow out.  Especially when the day-to-day pressure of being an everyday superwoman subsided once I got off the hamster wheel.  While I do think that I am more patient overall, I am sometimes shocked at how certain situations make me really, really cranky.

  1. Slowpoke drivers who insist on staying in the left lane.  This happens ALL the time in my city of over 4 million people.  It makes me unreasonably cranky; my blood pressure skyrockets.  Why?  Our roads are congested, full of cars and trucks.  Slowpokes in the left lane slow down traffic for many kilometres behind them. The left lane is for passing!  If you cannot drive as fast if not faster than the speed limit, stay out!  If you feel fear every time you get on the highway, take alternate routes.  The combination of aggressive speed and slow/fearful drivers on the highway is a lethal mix.

2. The word “like”.  It is a very useful, multi-functional word that can be a verb, preposition, conjunction, noun, adjective and adverb.   But I have noticed that an extraordinary number of young people use it as filler.  For example, “She was like where did you go?  And I was like, I had to go to a doctor’s appointment like at 4 o’clock”.   I swear some people use it in almost every sentence, sometimes multiple times. I grew up across the street from a professor who gently advised me to stop using filler words (I think it was “you know”).  At the time, I was embarrassed but his lesson has served me well as an adult.

3. Bad grocery cart etiquette.  I have a regular shopping list of things I buy at Costco.  It is not a place to dawdle, it is always insanely busy.  Even though I shop on weekdays, I am amazed at the number of people who leave their cart in the middle of the aisle and walk away.  Sometimes they leave their kids in the cart too,  or worse, let their kids run around unsupervised.  The pile-up around the sample stations makes me want to ram other carts or say rude things.  But I don’t.  I grit my teeth, pick up my things and get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

4. Web ads that know what I’ve been looking at.  Even though I have learned that web developers load “pixels” and “cookies” to follow your online activity, I really find it creepy. Companies track your online behaviour and know a lot about you.  For example, if you look at a pair of shoes online, you may see ads for those same shoes on many sites you visit afterwards. Facebook and Google know the most and have the ability to share that data with other companies.   It’s a little frightening.  Do yourself a favour and watch the movie “Snowden”.  It’ll make you think about how little online privacy you actually have.

5. Over-blown holidays.  Don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t love Christmas time with the family?  I’m talking about the unnaturally BIG events that most companies and retailers blow out of proportion.  For example, Valentine’s day.  While it’s lovely to celebrate your love for another, it has become a pressure-filled event with rampant commercialization that starts right after New Years.   The advertising makes you feel like you’re a loser unless you buy the the biggest present, a dozen roses, fine chocolates, expensive jewelry, and a fabulous dinner out.  Spend spend spend! This scenario repeats itself for other events like Mothers’ and Fathers’ days, Easter and Hallowe’en amongst others.  Bah humbug!

So the answer for me, is that I can still get pretty cranky and impatient but I think I hold it in better than I used to.   And some things have actually stopped bothering me (like streetcar travel).  I wonder what it’s like for others?

I Have an Election Hangover

Like millions of other people, I have a massive U.S. election hangostylized-us-flag-hangoverver hampered by a heavy heart.

While I am Canadian and not able to participate, the 24 hour barrage of images and messages have been unavoidable, especially on social media.    I tried to ensure that I read stories that were fact-based that came from unbiased sources.  But there was so much garbage.  Stuff that was so ridiculous that even a hardcore National Enquirer reader would shake his/her head in disbelief.  I won’t even provide examples, they were so ludicrous.

I’m not even sure why I care but I do.   I care that an authoritarian narcissist with little self-control or understanding of the issues showed so many character flaws that were forgiven or glossed over as “locker room talk”.   I care that he is a vulgar man who flamed the fire of hatred and intolerance with his non-truths and exaggerations.   And I care that his fans ate it all up and voted him in over a woman with exceptional credentials.   What does that say about America?    Even though Hilary also had skeletons in her closet, she didn’t deserve the vitriol and disgusting things that his fans said about her on social media.  I was and am repulsed by this.   Many of his fans are no different than the terrorists they proclaim to hate except that they are on the other side of the coin.   And when some call themselves Christian, I have to laugh.  My children went to Catholic school where they were taught to be tolerant and respectful of all beliefs and religions.   I would think that’s how true Christians behave,  not these hooligans who troll.

There, I got it out.  There are many others things that made me angry but I’ll stop here.   I hope that these words are nothing Mourningbut an over-emotional rant.  I hope that he was playing some crazy villainous role and when in office, takes on a moderate, more reasonable tone.  I like to think that I am an optimist and when times are dark, good will still prevail.  Yet part of me is very scared for the future of America and the world that my children and their children will live in.   I hope I’m wrong.

 

What does a Retiree Look Like Anyway?

I started this blog a year after I actually retired.  I didn’t really understand this “new-fangled” thing called blogging until recently.   I lived such a sheltered life for so many years and it’s been a journey going from this over-stressed sales professional and working mom

Time too fast Lady running

 

to a more relaxed, easy-going and natural procrastinator who is figuring out what to do next.

Strangely time goes by just as fast when you are relaxed. That is not something that I expected.

Young is a relative thing. People are quite shocked (OK, surprised maybe) that I have retired at 55.  I am considered a young retiree. If you google “retired” you get images like this:Retired seniors 2Retired SeniorsRetired Seniors 3

And while these people sure look happy to have exited the hamster wheel, they are also all seniors; i.e. 65 years and over. In fact, I’ve come to realize that for most people, retired = senior citizen.

When I exited the corporate machine a year ago, I continued to keep busy with many interesting projects.  One of them was trying to understand how to age.  I worked primarily with younger people and didn’t have a lot of interaction with people older than me.  I didn’t know what a  55-year-old looked like?  How should I act?  What do I wear?  Now what?   I’m healthy, energetic and my sensibilities are intact. I’ve never really thought of myself as old.

So this blog is about my experience of learning how to age gracefully:  embracing the inevitable albeit with some reluctance and trepidation.  I am a “juvenile retiree”.

It was 1 year ago today…

I am 55 years old and last year, I was fortunate enough to take an early retirement.   It was not planned, the opportunity was presented to me and I had to make a decision quickly. Within a month, I was free.  Although most people at my company barely got a handshake upon their departure, I got a glowing e-mail announcement and two farewell parties.  I guess they did value me after 28.5 years of blood, sweat and tears.

I was in Sales the past 15 years.  My last role started out fun and interesting but after 4 years, the responsibility and workload had multiplied exponentially.  I had so many people on my back, crazy deadlines, too much work, ridiculous amounts of conflict and constant pressure.  I was ready to explode into a million pieces.

The first Monday morning after I left, I dropped my daughter off at school and stopped at Starbucks.  I lazily sipped a venti latte while watching people and cars whiz by.  And I thanked God that I didn’t have to participate in the rat race anymore.

My last day was exactly one year ago on March 27th.  I haven’t looked back nor have I regretted the decision, not for one second.