Balancing Act – July in Review

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. 

Balance

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.

Family

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.

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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.

 

Fitness

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.

 

Friends

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.

Travel

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!

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Our view looking toward Brickell Key and Bayside Park

Down Time

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.

Hobbies

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.

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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.

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22 Responses to Balancing Act – July in Review

  1. Erica/Erika says:

    Hi Suzanne, I am also enjoying Sue’s journaling prompts and I enjoy reading blogger’s responses. The word “balance” is key for me always. I can feel when my life is out of balance and I know what to do to regain balance. I sometimes lose the awareness in the busyness of life.Your MIL looks amazing!

    Solitude continues to appear in my radar from other bloggers this week. Likely a reminder for me.

    Your photos are stunning despite the different sunsets. Thank you for sharing a beautiful, positive post. I have a good feeling about August:) Erica

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Erica, I can’t agree more about the busyness of life clouding our awareness. Paying attention really is the key, but sometimes I just want to play and not think.Thank you for your kind words regarding my photographs. I just got back from the beach and finally have a fresh new batch to process!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi, Suzanne – I love your thoughtful response to Sue’s recent prompts. And I couldn’t agree with you more about the importance of family, fitness, friends, travel, balance and downtown. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Donna, it was a great July and balance happened naturally. August is shaping up for more of the same. Your life and blog is a beautiful example of balance and I always enjoy reading about your adventures, at home or away. Thanks for your encouragement.

      Like

  3. Oops – that was (of course) supposed to read: down time!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jo says:

    I love how you do your wrap-ups as a belief and action. It truly is a case then of living your priorities. I also love that saying “watch their feet”. Here’s to a great August. Visiting from #MLSTL

    Like

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Jo, Belief and Action was part of a journal writing course that I taught many years ago. It was fun to review my July using that exercise. Thanks for visiting and Cheers to August!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. patwdoyle11 says:

    I really enjoyed the belief/action link! I’ve recently done my seasonal action plan a bit like that, although you’ve articulated your beliefs much better than I’ve done mine. As I summarize the season, I might try and reapply your approach! I am a firm believer that what you do is reflective of what’s important to you…and sometimes we need to look at it both ways. Why as I spending so much time doing X?

    Like

    • Suzanne says:

      Thank you Pat, whether I am feeling happy or off-kilter, I like examining the why’s of it all. The problem is usually pretty obvious, but having a pre-determined set of beliefs/values, to measure my actions against makes it easy to spot issues that shift the balance of my life. “Why” is a question I often ask myself 🙂 Thanks for stopping by today. Take care.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Natalie says:

    Hi Suzanne – I’m new to your blog and just selected ‘follow’ 🙂 I really like your photos and how you take actions to achieve the balance that makes you happy. I look forward to reading more. #MLSTL

    Like

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Natlie, thanks for stopping by. Poke around as much as you would like. We are all about living our best retirement life and sharing our story through photo intensive posts. I’ll pop over to your site and take a look around.

      Like

  7. leannelc says:

    Hi Suzanne, I really enjoyed your month’s review and how you broke it all down into components – very balanced indeed. I see that we both went to “Yesterday” and loved it – such a pleasant movie and the world needs more “pleasant” doesn’t it? I also love that you have a good relationship with your MIL. I do with mine too and we have her for dinner most weeks – we find it easier bringing her to our place than trying to fit in a visit to her on the weekend when we usually have other plans. Lovely to read about your month and all you home improvement plans too (I hope we’ll see it all in a future post!)
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    Like

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Leanne, this month was very satisfying. “Yesterday” was a much needed positive message in a world of negative. Doing my part to put a little “pleasant” out there. Thanks for reinforcing the message.

      Like

  8. Hi Suzanne, your post was really interesting and I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying Sue’
    s Journaling July prompts, I have too! I loved the movie Yesterday too as it was light and fun with great music. I liked the way you broke down each part and fleshed it out for us! It sounds like a good month! #mlstl

    Like

  9. Joanne Sisco says:

    You have a strong understanding of what makes you happy and clearly your July was filled with all of those things. I particularly liked your comment to Pat that when you have an established set of beliefs and values, they become a touchstone for evaluating your actions and identifying where there are issues. It’s definitely a powerful tool – which makes me wonder why do so few people seem to do it!

    Like

    • Suzanne says:

      Joanne, years of examining life through journal writing and weighing decisions against values pays dividends. Honestly, I think most people are happy sleep-walking through life rather than living it. they buy into what society tells them happiness is. That may sound harsh, but if we think of the people in our everyday life (discounting blogging friends who seem to get it in spades), who among them truly makes an effort to live an authentic life that is based on the alignment of values and actions? How many times do you hear people parrot something they heard on TV and claim it as their own thought? The short, uncomplicated answer to your question is; it is easier to be a sheep and follow the crowd rather than process information and think for yourself. Love the question, and please forgive me for the ‘soapbox’ response.

      P.S. You wrote that sentence so much better than I did. I like “touchstone for evaluating your actions…” You’d make a great editor! Want a job? 🙂

      Like

      • Joanne Sisco says:

        hahaha!! That’s twice in the same day someone has told me they like the way I write 🙂 It’s been a good day!

        You make a good point about sheep and following the crowd. Not doing something because ‘what would people think’. Conforming to the general opinion rather than following your heart!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I love how you aligned your beliefs with actions. So often, we say we believe in something, yet our actions don’t support it at all. July was a full month for you and you got a lot done – and took a couple of nice photos – despite the heat. I can’t believe that it’s already August but I look forward to another full, yet balanced, month!

    Like

    • Suzanne says:

      Janis, I am missing your posts and hope you will get back to it soon. I suppose living life rather than writing about it gets in the way sometimes. I saw that you took part in a blogger meet-up. I would love to hear your thoughts and insights about that. It must have been a fun and inspiring weekend.

      Doing my month in review as a belief/action post was fun. It feels good to know that I walked the walk this past month. August is shaping up to be more of the same. Off to Cumberland Island next week – camera, bug spray and sunscrean in hand! Be well.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Gilda Baxter says:

    Suzanne, I love your writing style for this post and also to get a snapshot of your month. Finding balance is not always possible, but having clear goals, reassessing your needs and taking action makes it easier/possible. I was nodding with delight to the simple things that make us happy. Family and friends are certainly top of the list.

    Like

    • Thanks Gilda, it was a fun way to capture my month in review and share a little about what makes me truly happy. It’s like you say, balance may not always be possible, but clear goals, assessment and action can bring you closer to the life you want to live. Enjoy the journey!

      Like

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