There is never enough time …

Six weeks gone in a flash, leaving very many precious moments etched into my heart.  Many times I felt as if I could not hold them long enough, just one more minute please.  Not enough books to read.  Not enough time at the beach.  Not enough walks to the park.  Just not enough time.  That sweet smile, that warm hug, that soft small hand in mine.  That wicked giggle.  That morning snuggle.  It is never enough.

My blessings are many and I am truly grateful.

Just a short eight months ago I left Julius at 4 months old.  He turned one a few days ago.  And he is the same sweet angel with the biggest smile and warmest cuddle.  He knows what he wants and how to get it pointing excitedly, squealing ‘da da da’.  His wide-mouthed smile of pride when he stands on his own melts your heart.  His eyes alit, his arms outstretched for balance as he looks around for the clapping sounds of praise, quickly dropping to the floor and zipping across on all fours to his next antic.

Wyatt, now two, has started to replace his incoherent sounds with words you can actually understand.  He is non-stop action.  Walking is never an option.  He is either running or riding or running – whichever way gets him from one spot to the next in the shortest space of time.  Talking constantly with an array of facial expressions and complementary sounds that complete his stories that we still can’t easily decipher.  His love of music, the water and food is undeniable and he is up for playtime always.  He is confident, has no fear, is sometimes defiant, as a two-year old is expected to be, but always ready for a hug.

Solomon is quite the chatter box himself.  He has grown up in many ways and having turned three, has adjusted nicely to his big brother role.  He loves his Baby Ju Ju – and more and more his heavy loving is being replaced with gentle caresses and less tight hugs, always ready to comfort him.  His wicked streak however, still lurking in the background.  He always has a ‘flan’ (plan), and quite an intricately interesting plan as well.  His collection of seeds and small insects, dead or alive, is testament to his love of nature and his empathy which sees him trying to save even the smallest creature.  He loves a good adventure whether it be going to the beach or exploring the nearby creeks and waterfalls.  Eating may not be his favourite pastime, but his insatiable love of berries, preferably blue, is unparalleled.

They have all captured a special place in my heart which is full to overflowing.  Full of gratitude.  Full of memories to last a lifetime.  Overflowing with love.

A day in the life of a Retiree…

“So what do you do every day?” – the number one question I receive at least once a week.   I am touched that so many people are interested in my whereabouts now that I am retired and it always brings a smile to my face, especially because I am really not sure if the person is baffled, worried or simply interested in how I am managing this thing called ‘retirement’.

It is an important question, mind you – what you do with your days after 35 years of being consumed with your job, children, hobbies and life in general. There is a major gap to fill when you retire to an empty nest.  And I strongly believe that you need to prepare yourself mentally, physically and financially for this new stage of life.  But I was genuinely never worried about filling my days with ‘busyness’ because quite frankly I wanted them as empty as possible so that I could fill them with what I wanted to fill them with.  That was my goal, and my mantra – nowhere to be and lots of time to get there – continues to guide me.

My answer to this question is oftentimes – ‘Whatever I want to do’.  It really doesn’t answer the question and may sound rude but in essence it simply means that I am free to do as I please, that flexibility rules my day.

Today I thought I’d document my every move – because sometimes I too, am not quite sure what I’ve been up to.  So here goes, for those who are really interested in my sometimes-daily routine.

5.00 – Internal alarms goes off – meaning that my eyes can no longer stay closed which I am told is a mature person’s curse.  I have not set a morning alarm since I’ve retired, and you have no idea how ‘freeing’ this is. I get up and start my day and I’ve chosen to fill my early morning with exercise.  So, I quickly feed the dogs and I am out of the house by 6.00 to take a leisurely 8k run.

The sun is rising, lights are still on in my neighbourhood, the air is cool, the birds are already up and searching for food.  As I stroll down my hill, I take in the lush views of the mountains and begin my run slowly, enjoying the peace and quiet on the roads.  I am smiling.

The route is quiet at first but as the rest of the world begins their daily commute to school and work, the sound of the birds chirping is drowned by the noise of vehicles rushing to get where they need to be.  I am still smiling – I have nothing to rush anywhere for.  I feel at peace even with the hustle and bustle around me.

As I finish my run in my favourite park, the squawking of the parrots come back into focus, the squirrels are scurrying from tree to tree, and I share the usual morning pleasantries and chats with my morning exercise buddies.  As I pass the school on my way home, mothers are frantically doing last minute homework with their kids, quick hugs and kisses, and they are off to start their day.  I remember those days and I smile.

This particular morning, the traffic is thick.  I slowly walk back home engaging in conversation with at least four drivers who are at a standstill.  I laugh and jokingly thank the traffic for letting me catch up with some friends on the way.

8.00 – I peruse my garden – feeding the wild birds and the pond fish.  There’s nothing like walking through your garden, trimming, pruning, chatting with the flowers and wildlife along the way – picking the fresh produce of the day.  It’s peaceful and rewarding.  As I sit having breakfast, the hummingbirds are darting back and forth from the flowers to their feeders, the wild birds are having a blast with the fresh seeds, the butterflies flitting gracefully from flower to flower.  The morning is cool.  The rest of the day looms ahead.

10.00 – Hobbies are cast aside today as I have some last-minute shopping to do readying for my big trip next week to see my boys.  At the mall I meet up with my sister unexpectedly. With nowhere to be and lots of time to get there, we catch up on the last days’ events, laugh and even reminisce, forgetting that we have anything else to do.  Then, oops, we do have things to do and continue on our merry way, all the better for having met up with each other.

Alas, nothing like a nap when it is raining…

1.00pm – Lunch while catching up with the BBC and some other personal messages. However, a day is never complete without succumbing to the call of the sleep gods.  And it is raining.  YES!!!  A movie and a nap are in order for the afternoon quiet time.  This was always a must on my retirement list of ‘things to do’ – nap time, relax time, meditation time, me time – call it what you will – the only flexibility about this time is its length, but it happens every single day.

3.00 – I thought I had set aside my hobbies for the day, but my sewing machine is clambering for some attention, and I dutifully answer the call – finishing off some projects before my impending vacation next week.  I am still smiling.

But by 6.00, the sun is on the verge of setting and I prepare myself for the end of another beautiful retired day with a glass of wine.

It was a good day.  I am blessed and grateful. Looking forward to tomorrow ….

Blanchisseuse

In my humble opinion, there’s not a bad spot, view or beach on the north coast of Trinidad. Not all beaches are accessible but the views are certainly there for everyone to enjoy. The drive is long and winding but the lush flora and the oceanview makes is all worthwhile.

This is just one little beach with so much beauty to offer. Enjoy the pics.

Hike – Argyle Waterfall, Tobago

I’ve been going to Tobago annually for the past 30+ odd years.  Since my boys were toddlers and infants.  It’s such a lovely place to spend your holidays with your children.  Beach, sun and fun.  That’s all children really need to have a great vacation.  And friends of course.  And we are fortunate enough to belong to a group of friends who have weathered the test of kids, time and growing pains so that our children were surrounded by what they have grown to call their ‘normal friends’.  Friends who have been with them always.

As a form of entertainment, we have toured Tobago by land and sea.  It’s a small island after all.  So that’s an easy feat to accomplish year after year.  But by far the most enjoyable times have been our adventures by boat and of course hiking.

Our kids may no longer be with us as they are grown and growing their own families, but that hasn’t stopped the adults from continuing the exploration of Tobago without them.

Argyle waterfall, located on the northeast side of Tobago just past Roxborough, is one of the highest falls at 54m cascading down 3 levels officially.  And I say officially because that’s what is told to you by, well, the officials let’s say.  But we managed to hike up the sides of the waterfall to seven levels of pools and rocks.  Each level taking you through the lush green woodland that surrounds, and affording you the opportunity to relax and refresh yourself in the cool water of the rock pools that greet you.

The hike begins with a short 20-minute walk through wide paths adorned by huge trees and the lush flora.  The silk cotton trees were in full bloom and we were somewhat mesmerised by the seeds floating across our path.  You can hear the roar of the waterfall in the distance and your first impression upon reaching the falls is that this cannot be it.  But as you climb further you realise that that was just the beginning of what is truly Tobago’s finest waterfall.

Note though that there is a small entrance fee.

The Marianne River – Trinidad…

The mouth of the Marianne River

I constantly boast that there’s not a bad spot, beach or view on the north coast of Trinidad.  And even though I’ve driven along this coast hundreds of times, I am still in awe of its beauty.  The rugged coastline, the small, isolated islands embellishing the ocean view, the lushness of the flora lining the road and cascading down to the beaches.

There are many beaches that are easily accessible and some that take a bit of a hike to get to.  But all are beautiful, peaceful and welcoming.  The Marianne beach and its river mouth are no different.  Frequented by beach lovers daily, this spot has become a much-loved location for weekenders and those seeking a quiet getaway anytime during the week.

We simply intended to take a quick refreshing swim in the river, but lingered on peacefully until the sun set. Highly recommended to relieve stress and put a smile on your face.

Matura River Hiking Trail – Trinidad

Pristine waters of the Matura River, Trinidad

I suddenly felt that I was in the middle of a dream, floating gently down a body of water, not quite sure exactly where I was, for the beauty that surrounded was like no other.  The clear turquoise waters, the lush green forest, the babbling of the water running over the rocks, pool after pool after pool.

Swimming in the Mystic Pool in the Matura River

As a group of avid hikers, we were in search of the Mystic pool – one of the many pools which form the Matura River in the north-eastern part of Trinidad.   The nearby Matura beach is known as one of the best turtle watching sites in Trinidad, but I can assure you that there are other natural resources which make this small village spectacular beyond words – a dream for nature seekers.

The hiking trail is by no means challenging, except maybe for the short decline and ascent to and from the river, but the trek through the river, with its numerous waterfalls, picturesque gorges, and amazing swimming pools will more than make up for any discomfort you may endure.

We had ample time to swim, dive off rocks (mainly the teenagers in our midst), swing from the ropes hanging from the trees (not only the teenagers but the young at heart as well), snack, capture the natural beauty in our heart and mind and cameras, wade through the waters and, of course, loll in the many babbling brooks.

Certainly having fun…

Did we have a great time?  We certainly did.  A must visit for all nature lovers.

Grandparenthood

My father had an insane love for his grandchildren.  They were all perfect, and in his opinion they all looked just like him.  A joke the grandchildren would share to this day.  They were all his favourite, and he told each one just that.  His patience, his gentleness, his special love was felt by each one of them.  And sometimes I wondered just who this man was. As a young child, I knew him as a disciplinarian.  You knew you were the apple of his eye, but yet still you never took the chance to be on his wrong side, and you did all you could to make sure you always did what he wanted you to do.  As an adult, you realised that everything he did was for your benefit.

So, when grandchildren came into the picture, and this guy’s face softened visibly at each birth, visit, hug, you knew that this thing called grandparenthood could change your life forever.  And it certainly has.

Living away from your children is one thing.  Living away from your grandchildren is a totally different ball game. Facetiming as often as you could, smiling from ear to ear with each babble.  And when you finally meet, losing yourself with the slip of a small hand in yours, your heart melting at the sound of your name coming from their lips, you know your life has changed forever.  It feels as if your heart will burst with love, but it only grows and expands to adapt to all the indescribable emotions that come with being a grandparent.

No one can prepare you for this.  And jokingly, I tease my children that I love my grandchildren more than I do my very own.  But it is different.  You’re at a stage of your life when you can easily shake off your adulting duties and once again experience the wonder of the world through their eyes.  Their innocence and awe of life softens you.  And you now begin to truly enjoy the simple things in life.  The beauty of a ‘baby flower’ at the side of the road.  The awesomeness of a tractor cutting grass.  The imagination of fishing with a stick and catching leaves.  The excitement of skating down the driveway laughing a belly-laugh like it’s the best thing in the world.  The deep chuckle at the sound of a stone ‘kplunking’ into the water.  The colours of a rainbow.

It’s a joy bestowed upon many.  And I’m ever so blessed to be one of them.

Are we doing a good job as parents?

It’s been quite a journey – this thing called parenthood.  Your main purpose is to raise your children to be the adults you wanted them to be – honest, hardworking, loving, gentle, strong, worthy…  You didn’t always get it perfectly right.  There were many mistakes along the way, but at no time did you give up.  At no time did you stop loving them unconditionally, for this is the foundation on which you build their dreams, their hopes, their future.  Plain and simple LOVE.

I remember quite some time ago, discussing with my dad the trials and tribulations of raising my kids.  There were so many frustrations and questions.  None of which he answered, by the way.  He never offered any sage advice. He would just sit and listen.  Nodding the knowing nod.  Shaking his head appropriately and on queue.  As if to say – ‘Well it’s your turn now.  It’s not easy, but you will get there’.

And then one day he said, quietly and unexpectedly – “You’ll know if you’ve done a good job when your kids have their own kids.  I think I did a good job.”  And he continued staring ahead at the view as we always did on his weekly visits with me.  It was enough affirmation for me, that I wasn’t doing such a bad job.

And so, as I too now watch my boys raise their own.  Watch them be the ever-present, ever-loving father, instilling in their sons, the important virtues of honesty, gentleness, love – I too feel proud.  I too believe, finally, that I really didn’t do such a bad job after all.

Your heart is at peace …

It’s still dark at 5 am.  Venus is shining bright straight ahead of you in the dark sky.  The world is silent. And your heart is at peace.

The creatures begin to stir slowly.  At first you hear the Whippet birds calling out to each other.  Then as the sky brightens you see the Magpies scouring the lawn for their first meal of the day.  Their young following them, learning, by example, how to take care of themselves.

First you hear them with their distinctive laughing call, then you see them as the Kookaburras appear in the veggie patch, picking at the moist earth searching for unsuspecting worms as they too start their day hunting for food.

The clouds move slowly to allow for the rising sun and everything is awash with its golden light. And you know that it’s going to be a great day.

You wait patiently for the pitter patter of the little feet you kissed good night looking forward to the early morning smile and hug.  The simple things in life mean the most.

It’s been two years in the making.  The waiting game is over.  You’ve cried enough tears.  Many prayers have been answered. And your reunion with your grandchildren has finally taken place.

Your heart is most certainly at peace.

It is going to be a great year…

Because I said so…

I am tired of the doom and gloom that has pervaded our lives over the past two years. Tired of that one topic that seems to find its way into every single conversation. Tired of keeping my distance from my family and friends. Tired of the sadness. We seem to have lost what little control we thought we had of what tomorrow could possibly bring.

Like everyone else, my 2021 plans were turned upside down. But with my positive thinking-cap on, I have convinced myself that they may not have been the right plans for me at that time anyway. Instead 2021 allowed me the opportunity to spend time delving into some of the things I’ve always wanted to do and never had the time to do (or the will, whichever is the real reason). In my first year of retirement, I was allowed to reconnect with family and friends. To truly R E L A X. To literally sit and and watch the grass grow, as they say – or the waves roll onto the shore. To take the time to rebuild my garden, my sanctuary, my pride and joy. To enjoy my hummingbirds who from time to time awake me from my reverie to remind me to refill their feeders.

I’ve reconnected with my creative side and reacquainted myself with my sewing machine. We have once again become good friends and we are happy together. I have become a student of the University of YouTube where there are no limits to what you can learn to do. And most of all I have learned that the roller coaster that is life can change its speed, and that’s OK.

With your positive thinking-cap on, the world is a much better place. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel as small as that light may be, the good things outshine the bad, and you are able to move forward one step at a time, slowly but surely.

2021 was great and 2022 will be even greater, as I will soon be on my way to meet my three grandsons, two of whom I am yet to meet personally. FaceTime has become an integral part of my relationship with them and as grateful as I am for being able to watch them grow from afar, it is time for that ever important transfer of love through the hugs and kisses I’ve been storing up over the past two years. We will all be overwhelmed when we finally meet, but it will be good.

It is going to be a great year, because I said so…..