Have you ever stopped to think about what truly makes you happy? Sue Loncaric over at Sizzling At Sixty posed that question on day three of her thirty day journal writing challenge during the month of July. I did not participate every day, but I was intrigued with this question. I feel generally happy and contented with life most of the time, but this month has been especially satisfying. Instead of answering the question with a list, I decided to examine my ‘month in review’ against what I believe makes me happy.
Malcolm has a saying, “watch their feet” which basically translates into ‘actions speak louder than words’. What makes me truly happy is balance, and what creates balance is when my words and actions align. I may profess to value my family and friends, but if I never DO anything that supports that belief, then it must not be so important after all.
July was a fun, busy, and productive month for us and one that covered most aspects of what I consider ‘balanced living’. The distribution of time and energy toward what matters most in my life; family, fitness/health, friends, travel, down time and hobbies felt right and happened naturally.
Belief: Maintaining a healthy relationship and a good family dynamic is important to both of us. The ability to express ourselves confidently and securely has always been central to our success as a strong family. Mutual respect for boundaries and an abundance of love makes that possible.
Action: We saw our precious daughter twice this month, once before her vacation to Italy and again afterward when she came home to share her photographs. Visiting with her and her boyfriend is always easy; throw a steak on the grille, open a bottle of wine and let the conversation flow. It is hard to exhaust the topic of what’s up with their busy lives. We value and appreciate their visits and try to spoil them as much as possible when they are with us.
Their itinerary in Italy covered a lot of territory and I am expecting a guest post from her in the near future. I think it would be of interest to anyone who might want to visit the Amalfi Coast.
Malcolm’s Mother lives in our neighborhood and has always been a constant in our lives. My MIL and I have a great relationship built on mutual respect and genuine love. I know that is not always the case, so I feel fortunate. Malcolm looks in on her several times per week, takes her shopping and does small repairs around the house. She is very independent and mostly self-sufficient.
We have her to our home for dinner and game night at least twice per month and she cooks for us at her place occasionally. This month we’ve managed to get together twice. Food is always simple and Mahjongg is our game of choice most nights. She says it keeps her mind sharp and we couldn’t agree more. She will turn ninety this year.
Belief: Staying fit and healthy has always been important to me, but even more so during retirement. Learning what works for my body at this age is a challenge, but it is one that I am determined to conquer.
Action: Even with the heat of summer, I have managed to play tennis at least twice per week this month, and I have spent a few hours each week in the new exercise room that Malcolm and I created in a spare bedroom.
In an effort to loose a few stubborn pounds, we have been very focused on eating healthy by eliminating sugar and cutting back on alcohol. Lots of fresh fish given to us by a friend and an abundance of summer fruits at our local market have made making light meals easy. We like having breakfast for dinner sometimes, and this Feta Cheese Omelet paired with spicy Mango Salsa is a great source of protein while keeping the calories low.
Belief: Our shared philosophy regarding friends is ‘quality over quantity’ and we enjoy meaningful relationships with fair minded people who contribute positive energy to our lives.
Action: Malcolm and I hosted friends on three separate occasions this month. Spending time with each couple separately meant that we had less time in the kitchen and more time to visit. Malcolm’s ‘go to’ casual supper is typically a double cut pork chop, seared and finished in a very hot oven, a roasted pork tenderloin with some sort of glaze or a simple steak. A veggie, salad and starch complete the meal. Sometimes we serve dessert and sometimes not. Having a husband who cooks makes it easy to have friends over. Yes, I am lucky. You can read more about our love of food and entertaining here.
We also took a chance and met up with some Instagram followers who contacted me through private message. I have met other bloggers in person, but that was after years of on-line interaction. This is a couple that I was completely unaware of until the day they contacted me. After looking at their Instagram account, doing a quick Google search and talking it over with Malcolm, we decided to go for it. Much to our delight, they are lovely people that we have a lot in common with. Conversation was easy and we will see them again soon.
The usual satisfying chit chat over Monday Mahjongg and after tennis with girlfriends rounded out my interaction with friends this month.
Belief: We value cultural experiences, that include people, history and food. We always learn something new about ourselves, especially regarding our strengths and limitations, and we look forward to every new adventure. Travel continually gives perspective to the way we view the world.
Action: While our daughter was away, we borrowed her condo in Miami for a couple of nights. The change of pace from our sleepy little town to the excitement of a big city was invigorating. Being there on the 4th of July was a special treat. After dinner, we walked a block to the bay, claimed a spot on the seawall and waited for the fireworks. It was a beautiful evening, with a light tropical breeze and magic in the air. Happy Birthday America!
Belief: I value down time (solitude) and what it contributes to my inner self. It is my time to recharge in whatever way I choose.
Action: This month, I read two thoroughly satisfying and entertaining books. Not exactly book club reads, but exactly what I needed. If you are in the mood for a fantasy escape, or a women supporting women chick book, check out ‘That Month in Tuscany’ by Inglath Cooper and ‘Sweet Tea Tuesdays’ by Ashley Farley. The first is yummy and the second is a bit saccharine, but perfect for a lazy afternoon.
A couple of weeks ago I wanted to see a movie that Malcolm wasn’t interested in and I really wasn’t in the mood for company anyway, so I decided to go alone. If you have not seen ‘Yesterday’, check it out. It is a summer feel good movie that will challenge your imagination and soothe your soul. Be prepared to suspend belief at the beginning of the movie.
During our daughter’s second visit, she and I enjoyed a one hour foot massage at a local spa. It was the best $35 I have spent this month. The atmosphere was soothing and the massage was soooooo relaxing.
My downtime has an obvious theme this month – think not. With all the decision making regarding our home makeover, I needed to slip into idle for a while. It is not always like that, and I do use down time for contemplative thought, relaxation and spiritual growth at times. That is the beauty of down time; it serves whatever needs are present.
Belief: My hobbies are an outlet for creative expression that contribute to my well-being through the joy and satisfaction of having created something worthwhile. If it pleases no one but me, that is enough.
Action: Photography has taken a back seat lately as it is much too hot to shoot my favorite landscape, which is the beach near my home, and visiting a botanical garden to photograph flowers is out of the question. I managed to satisfy my desire to capture beautiful images at least twice this month, and one of them is the picture above which I took while visiting Miami on the 4th of July. I was experimenting with capturing fireworks, with clarity. I did not succeed, but I learned and that is one of the reasons why I love this hobby. It always challenges me.
The other image is below. We took a drive to watch the sunset, hoping against hope that the breeze would be strong on the river and the heat would subside. We stayed five minutes, but I got this shot.
The sunset was a bust, but the sky was amazing. I used a filler flash in the foreground to highlight the flowers just a bit and I tweaked the pink to create some contrast to the heavy clouds and dark water.
Blogging is another hobby that I devote time to. I don’t post according to a schedule, but I read several blogs each week and I enjoy interacting with other bloggers through the comments section. Because of a comment I made on another blog, I was invited to write a guest post this month. The subject, journal writing, is something I know a lot about and I gladly accepted the invitation. Drawing the attention of someone who has excellent content on her blog is humbling. If you are not already a regular at Sizzling At Sixty, please check her out.
Taking Care of Business and What’s Next
Several home improvement projects are either completed or underway, and while most of my physical work has been completed, Malcolm presses on. He has painted all of the downstairs baseboards, doors and frames and is almost ready to move to the upstairs rooms. It is a painstakingly tedious job and I try to stay out of the way until I am summonsed for tape removal and cleanup. It is a division of labor that I willingly accept.
We have met with two kitchen remodel companies and are getting closer to making a decision about what revisions, if any, we want to make to the kitchen. The choices are becoming difficult to narrow. Constantly returning to our objective helps us stay focused.
This past month is reflective of our passion for life, enjoyment of simple pleasures, the excitement of small accomplishments, a desire for meaningful connections and the ability to still do things for ourselves. The pace was slow, easy and exactly how we picture retirement. I’d say all of that adds up to a pretty satisfying and balanced month. Counting our blessings as we move into August.