Making Connections

Early last year I was rather out of sorts.

My husband still works full-time, and no one in my small circle of friends was available for weeks, even for just a cup of coffee.  During the winter months I tend to spend too much time indoors to begin with, and now I was spending more time alone than I wanted.

Inspired by Bridget at the Non-Smoking Ladybug, I began to seek out like-minded groups in my area, and ended up joining one called The Seniors For Nature Outdoor Club.  They are a non-profit organization run by volunteers with the purpose of keeping seniors physically active.

At first I was uncertain that this was going to be a good fit.  I’m not particularly comfortable meeting new people, especially in groups where everyone seems to know everyone else, and I don’t make new friends easily.

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Hiking on the Oak Ridges Moraine near Eaton Hall – Dec 2017

My life philosophy is supposed to be about reaching beyond my comfort zone, so I persevered, even though I would much rather have sat at home moping about how bored I was.

I have a high need “to belong” and decided that the best way to embed myself in a new group was to dive in head first.  As a newbie member, with only a month under my belt, I boldly approached the President of the Club and asked if there might be a role for me.

Timing can be everything, because they had an urgent need for a new Secretary on their Board.  I shrugged my shoulders and thought ‘why not?’ (actually there were many reasons ‘why not?’, but I chose to ignore all of them).

As a result, over the past year I’ve been busy.  Sometimes too busy – this is a very active group.  Their calendar of activities is full, and constantly growing with new outings scheduled on a regular basis.

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Cycling to Frenchman’s Bay – June 2017

I’ve been out hiking and cycling with them on numerous occasions.  They inspired me to learn how to kayak last spring, and put on skates for the first time in 30 years.  At the rate I’m going, it will likely be cross-country skiing next.

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Only 3 of us braved the -20C temperatures to go skating on Jan 2nd. btw – I don’t know how to skate. It’s been an adventure!

This energetic group of both men and women are redefining ‘old’.  These seniors are not moulding away quietly in a comfortable chair.  They travel extensively on multi-day hiking, canoeing, or cycling trips, and our 80-year-old President went downhill skiing last winter for the first time.

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Learning to kayak on the Grand River – July 2017

The secretarial role has turned out to be much larger than I expected, but it has made the monthly meetings much easier for me.  In a group with almost 200 members, I’m constantly meeting new people, but this formal role has given me a purpose for attending these general meetings … meetings for which I would likely have found a reason not to go.  Did I mention the part about needing to belong?

The more time I spend with these people, the more I like them.  I’m slowly starting to think of these strangers as friends, and the best kind of friend – the kind who inspire.

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April 2017 – Humber Bay Park

Sometimes I feel like a slacker in comparison, but if this is the new version of senior-ism, I’m all in.

129 comments

    • It is all about redefining what *old* means. This generation of seniors doesn’t want to be artificially limited and are doing some very inspiring things!
      Thank you for commenting 🙂

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  1. This is fabulous Joanne thank you, I’m so glad I came by it! I am mightily encouraged. I know full well the value of stepping out of my comfort zone but sometimes I just simply don’t … complacency is a killer. Funnily enough, I’m also putting myself a bit out there which for me is not me, but maybe it is … how will I know unless –

    Do you have University of the third age? U3A .. I’ve newly learned that they are all around the world. Here in my neck of the woods, they have a pretty active ongoing programs … I have yet to attend but I will in good time ..

    Your photos are a treat!

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    • Complacency was one thing I was very concerned about when I retired. It’s the reason why I challenge myself every year with my New Things List – pushing myself to try new things, including those that push me outside of my comfort zone. Some stick, others don’t … but it’s the effort that counts.

      Thanks for the heads-up about the U3A. I did a quick search and it appears that there are a few groups within the area. I’ll have to explore it more!

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  2. Good on your Joanne 🙂 this is inspiring. You got out of your comfort zone not knowing what it would bring and it’s brought friendship and new things in abundance. Redefining ageing. I’m all for that. Loved reading this post. I’m smiling a lot!

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  3. Timely post, I just signed on to be treasurer of my neighborhood Women’s Club, after giving up a leadership position in my photography club. For me, it’s about structure and responsibility. I have plenty of things that I like to do, (and lots of excuses for not doing them) but very few that I have to do. Making a commitment keeps me on track.

    Sounds like you found a great group of folks. Best wishes for many extraordinary outings to come! I know you are up for it.

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    • Isn’t it interesting that the busier we are, the more we seem to get done? I find that when my schedule isn’t jammed with activity, I seem to fritter the time away.

      Congrats on your new role with your Women’s Club. Although my club is geared towards outdoor activities, I’m enjoying the intellectual stimulation that goes with being bright, like-minded people.
      I admit my attention was piqued by your comment of a photography club. I’m making a mental note to look into one in my area!

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  4. That was an honest post:) Always was very involved in my job, but now I’m at a different point in my life than you, because I have 7 grand children, ranging from 5 to 20 years old. Now for the last 3 years we lived close, and not 7 hrs. away, meaning we could go to their recitals, performances, lunches, etc. and am loving it, because now I have the time, and I do want them to have a Nana (that’s how they call me), because I never had one. But am happy that it seems you have found your niche with the senior club:)

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    • Yes, this is a very full and special time in your life. I have another close friend who retired at the same time as me, and her life post career life sounds very similar to yours. She has only 3 grandchildren, but they fill her life and she’s abundantly happy 🙂

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  5. It’s so great that you found this organization! They are so active!! I could take a tip or two from all of you (especially since I want to hibernate in the winter, even though I know it isn’t good for me.) I haven’t attempted ice skating yet, but we have an indoor arena that offers it. I’ve been contemplating a visit! 🙂

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  6. Love this post! Retirement is hard since many of my ‘friends’ were work related and others live a distance away, so I also can really relate to everything you say about making new friends. I discovered CFUW, a women’s organization, and my involvement coincided with moving to a new city so it has been enormously helpful in getting to know my community. We too are all volunteers, there are various interest groups attached so I belong to two book clubs for the first time in my life, a walking group etc and we can be as involved, or not as we like. We have rotating vs competitive leadership roles (I’ll be President for the next two years) and I’m so happy I found them. So glad you are enjoying your new friends too and thanks for sharing your story.

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    • This is really interesting, Carol. I had never heard of the CFUW and just did a bit of research to discover there are a couple of chapters near me. It’s wonderful to hear that this group helped your transition to a new city. What a clever find! You should be writing about this!

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  7. I agree with everything others have said about your willingness to try a new group, get out, try new experiences. Is there a doctor among the membership? Has anybody gotten hurt doing the amazingly physically demanding outings you undertake? Good for you! But as. much as I wish I had a group like yours, my back hurts just thinking of ice-skating.

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    • Those are actually really good questions, and perhaps it’s wrong that I’ve stopped worrying about something happening on the trail or on bike rides.

      So far, to the best of my knowledge, there haven’t been any incidents on outings with this group … short of a flat tire. I can’t say the same for riding with just a friend. Unfortunately, I’ve had to take a couple of ambulance rides following a crash.

      Several years ago when I undertook to hike the 900 km Bruce Trail, we started to carry emergency supplies in our daypacks because of this risk of unexpected injury – mylar blankets in the winter, matches, basic first aid items … and of course our cell phones and a map!

      Thanks so much for visiting and leaving a comment 🙂

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  8. 80 or not, people this active cannot possibly be old. Old people don’t do these things. Old people sit at home and languish. That’s why you won’t get old, either. You got bored too quickly to sit around and languish. Love this, love the attitude and the adventure and I am deeply impressed y’all went skating in -20. So glad you reached out to fill a gap. Definitely a life lived fully! 😀

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  9. That’s what I had decided to do when I moved from California to Oregon, join groups and meet people so I could stay active. But my daughter followed me here and then came the grandchildren. I’m still trying to find time for me. I’m glad you didn’t waste time!

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  10. wow Joanne- this is so great! So many new things..friends, secretary, skating, getting out there… great alternatives to sitting home alone ! Keep us posted on your upcoming adventures

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    • Thanks 🙂
      In this cold weather I could easily slide into a comfortable little groove and watch the world go by, but I need to constantly fight this urge. This was a very uncomfortable thing for me to do, but this seniors club has now added new tools to my toolbox 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Joanne I think it is fabulous that you went out of your comfort zone and really dove into this. Sounds like an inspiring group and congrats to you for trying new things. I think it is wonderful as we age that doors are opening rather than narrowing. Enjoy!

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    • The one thing I’ve learned is that we have to be prepared to open our own doors. Sometimes we might not like what we find, but if we don’t try, we’ll never know.

      I can’t believe you are finding time to read and comment on my blog while on vacation! Thank you for your visit!!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. This post is inspiring and you are inspiring me for reaching beyond your comfort zone and doing something that put you in a position of hobnobbing with strangers. Love your honesty in this post too, Joanne. Bravo – for many reasons!

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      • Kinda like when you said “there were many reasons ‘why not?’, but I chose to ignore all of them”. That made me laugh! There are probably always reasons “why not” but sometimes we do have to ignore them and just get on with it / get started! An excellent post!

        And that photo where everyone’s sitting around the table after cycling – everyone looks so happy 😀

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    • Thanks Teagan – it really hasn’t been easy, and I admit there were days I bailed out of an outing because my introverted side took over. I’m looking forward to a smoother 2018!

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  13. Your group sounds wonderful!! How did you go about finding them? Yeah, I too would take a hard push to join something like this (I’d probably wrongly feel like I’m not fit enough) and yes, I too have a strong need to belong. Most of the groups I’ve seen locally are either younger or designed for singles. I’m probably not looking in the right places, using the right search terms!

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    • I started my search with meetup.com which is what Bridget used to start her new group. I was stunned at the number of existing groups available in my area.
      Then I just started to narrow my search based on my interests – ie I wanted activities primarily during the week rather than weekend, for seniors rather than open to all ages, activities that included cycling and hiking rather than just urban walking, etc.

      I hope you have success finding a group that’s a good fit for you. I joined another group at the same time as this one, and it wasn’t a fit. I had a couple of outings with them, but it felt ‘cliquish’ and the emphasis was on social with only a very minor nod to physical activity. I find it easier to bond with people over a common activity rather than just sitting around in a restaurant making small talk.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This makes me so happy. I am so glad you joined this group and I proud of you for taking on the task of being the secretary of the club.
    There will be a time in our lives when we will enjoy the gentle rocking of the rocking chair, but it’s not now. You know how much fun I have with my group and I can’t wait for the winter to be over so our outdoor activities will continue. I applaud your for skating, I tried and failed many, many moons ago. 🙂

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    • I can’t thank you enough for giving me the inspirational nudge I needed. I think it proves the adage that when you’re ready to learn the lesson, the master will be there to teach it.
      In hindsight, good advice is usually obvious. In this case, if you’re not happy, do something about it.

      With any luck, if the older seniors in this group are any indication, my rocking chair days are still very far into the future 🙂

      … and I honestly don’t know how to skate. I shuffle stiff-leggedly praying the entire time I don’t fall. I doubt I will ever get better than that … and that’s ok 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Sounds a great group. I have a similar need for feeling part of a group or team, but also keeping time to myself. I have volunteered with / joined various organisations since retiring and now have not so much a circle of new friends but a series of circlets! The only difference is, after a lifetime of committees and meetings, I vowed that I wouldn’t take on any office – though I did use that technique when working. Being a secretary gave me a concrete reason to speak out without having to screw up courage first. After reading the comments I am surprised how similar most of us sound.

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    • I know exactly what you mean about having a role that gives you ‘permission’ to speak out without having to screw up the courage first. Maybe that’s why I have a need to belong … I need that permission.

      I am not a group kind of person and I’m definitely more comfortable with one-on-one interactions, but right now, this is working for me. I do understand the concept of circlets of friends. Yes, that describes it very well – and the circlets don’t intersect In any way. Each one is distinct and very different.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, what an inspiring group. Thanks for sharing this post. I am definitely a slacker and a coward, there is no way I’d get on ice skates again, let alone in those temperatures. Enjoy 2018 with this group and new friendships.

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    • I was never a skater in my youth and if anyone had suggested that I’d pick them up in my 60s, I’d have laughed. Yet here I am. I am god-awful at it, but I’m all about doing and learning something new 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • hehehe! I’m guessing you wouldn’t be surprised to learn I’ve already been paragliding and I’m a licensed scuba-diver 🙂 …. but it’s something we rarely do. We just don’t live in a part of the world that makes for the kind of diving I enjoy. Yet, we also aren’t the kind of people to take Caribbean-type vacations. It’s a problem 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow, that group sounds amazing Joanne! I hope I can find something similar when I retire. I’d love to pick up cross-country skiing again. It’s a great way to spend a wintery day. And then there’s the apres-ski…;-)

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  18. Wow–they are a pretty remarkable group, Joanne. And you sound really happy so that makes me happy. Our senior group in town plays bridge. What?? Lucky (or unlucky, however you look at it), I still work so my weekdays are full. But I shall not play bridge (or canasta or whatever else these seniors play), when I hang up my working shoes!

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  19. “I’m not particularly comfortable meeting new people, especially in groups where everyone seems to know everyone else, and I don’t make new friends easily.”

    That could be me speaking Jo. Having moved so many times during my life I no longer have any close friends left. I wonder about joining a group, but worry that I won’t fit in. I also don’t actually mind being on my own (well that’s not strictly true as the OH works from home, but we are definitely not joined at the hip) but sometimes I think it would be nice to have someone to walk with or meet for a coffee and a natter. Good for you on getting out there, it really sounds as though you are having a ball and I am surprised you have ANY time left for blogging 🙂

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    • Ooooh – it was cold, but then again not nearly as cold as it was a few days later when I went skating with my husband in a -35C windchill. In spite of our many warm layers, we were frozen after an hour.

      Actually, I’m rather proud that I lasted an hour 🙂

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    • … and you would be very welcomed!!

      You may want to consider looking around your own area for like-minded groups.
      I had a need for getting nudged out of a deepening rut … maybe you don’t though.

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  20. What a great reminder to embrace new experiences… and the new friends that can be made from them. Your decision to volunteer was a smart one… not something that I would think to do right away either, but “reaching beyond comfort zones” and all that. I’d like to find an active “senior” group like that around here.

    And, wow, two posts in two days… a new you?

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    • The 2 posts in 2 days was not planned. I have a part time consulting job and I was supposed to be working on a project due at the end of the month … but I’m in procrastination mode because I’m just not ‘feeling it”. That 2nd post was me avoiding working on my project 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Wow, I think I’m a major slacker compared to the people in your senior group. They are inspiring, like I want to be like them when I’m retired! Glad you dove headfirst into this group and are making new friends and wonderful memories with them. I expect to see several related posts in the coming year of your many adventures.

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  22. As someone who read your opening paragraphs with a “oh boy, I hear you”, I think you’re absolutely awesome. Just the thought of fronting up to a new large group like that makes my stomach tighten. So glad it’s been such a positive experience (busyness notwithstanding). It’s definitely the sort of oldies group I’d want to join. Can’t wait to hear what you get up to this year. 🙂

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    • That tightening in the stomach describes it very well. It was a very spur-of-the-moment, don’t-even-think-about-it action that caused me to ask. I went home from that meeting wondering what on earth I had done … and I’ve had a couple of anxiety attacks since then.

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  23. I think I need to join your group. The seniors group close by is for very old seniors. I’m not ready for cards and colouring book classes. The one thing that I have joined is a ukulele class that meets once a month. In the last class there were 25 People of all ages. I love that group. Does your group meet mostly in the east end of the city?

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    • Unfortunately ice skating requires ice and I’m not particularly a fan of cold …. unless it’s ice in my drink 😉

      However, I am trying to turn over a new leaf and embrace winter in all its glory. After all, I live in Canada and we have a LOT of winter.

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  24. Your post reminded me of the advantage of joining a group even if you shrink at the idea of masses of strangers you have to get to know.

    We walk half a kilometre to the Wollongong University outdoor heated pool for our daily aqua jogging at 7.15 am. This takes place every weekday summer and winter. There is nothing quite like slipping into the warmish water early on a dark winter morning with steam rising all around. I started with two days a week and now it is five unless I am away.

    Our group of 30 plus mainly senior men and women jog, bicycle, ski and ladder climb up and down the pool. We do pendulums, lightning bolts and around the world in the deep water. We tow each other around with torture straps, balance on noodles and punch into the water with foam dumb bells. All the time we talk until our instructor gets mad and tells us to be quiet and concentrate. He punishes us by thinking up exercises so challenging we haven’t time to talk.

    Still laughing we shower and rush to order coffee. Nursing a flat white in cold hands we continue to talk until it’s time to head off home for breakfast and the rest of our day.

    We refer to our group as “The Bewildered”. We have now started a book club and meet at each other’s houses every six weeks. Now and again we meet at local restaurants for special occasions and celebrations. The possibilities are limitless.

    For someone like me who finds exercise, getting up early and being sociable a challenge, aqua jogging fits the bill. It also gets my husband away from his garden and TV set. People drive 20 kilometres to go to aqua whereas we can walk. That is partly why we can never move.

    I didn’t join this group to make new friends but that has been an important by product. There are no roles although some people are natural organisers who come up with ideas. Now I know that should I ever need help or support there are people who will be there for me.

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    • I LOVE this story and your aquafit class. The fact that it has morphed into so much more is exactly the kind of special connection that makes it worthwhile to get out of bed on the days when you really don’t want to 🙂

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  25. So pleased for you – and, at the risk of repeating myself, I know what you mean! I’ve been happy to take on similar jobs because it gives me a sense of purpose, and a direct line to engaging with other people.

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  26. I hadn’t realized how similar we are until I read this post, Joanne. I too enjoy feeling connected, but I’m also a introvert who likes to be in control at all times. I admire you for walking your talk of a “life lived full” and applaud you for going beyond simply joining to taking on the role of secretary. As well as that being a smart way to get involved, perhaps it too is a part of your personality? You don’t do things by half measures, Joanne. You have big goals and you make them happen. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you didn’t simply join an organization, you immersed in it! I’m not ready for that yet, but maybe it will be on next year’s vision board…inspired by you.

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    • As with anything that pushes us out of our comfort zone, the past year has been both exhilarating and uncomfortable at the same time.
      However, I admit that there were more than a few occasions when I backed out of an activity because my introverted side dominated that day.

      It’s always a challenge to get out the door and face the unknown, but this is how I’ve chosen to live this chapter of my life.

      Someday I think you and I should sit down together. I agree that we are alike in many ways – we just approach it from a different angle. It would be an interesting conversation 🙂

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  27. Good for you my friend! What a great way to meet new & like-minded friends. I commend you for stepping outside your comfort zone although as someone who met you & felt an instant & easy connection with you, I think you sell yourself short. 😘

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  28. Sounds like you’re having fun. I’ve thought of joining a senior group one of these days, but darn, there’s so many old people there. Anyway, my retired life has not yet settled down to the boring, chronically depressed, shut-in-at-home stage yet. But when I sense it’s getting there, maybe I’ll get over my aversion to old people and join the crowd. Hopefully they allow naps during the meetings.

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  29. Joanne, this sounds absolutely wonderful and inspires me to see whether there are groups like this around us or to maybe one day start one. I’m pretty busy right now, but some like-minded (in the outdoor activity sense) people might be a great thing. And kudos to you!

    janet

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    • Once I started looking, I was surprised at the sheer number of groups available in the city that fit just about any personality – not just for outdoor activities.
      What was so inspiring about Bridget’s post, was that when she couldn’t find what she was looking for, she formed her own group!

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  30. This is a very inspiring post, Joanne, and a great reminder to stay active and push ourselves beyond our comfort zone. And….I think you would be a brilliant cross-country skier (please also throw in snowshoeing too….it’s a blast)!

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    • Thanks Donna 🙂 It has been very uncomfortable embracing this group, going on outings with complete strangers. I’m so used to being self-reliant, I’ve developed “control issues” and it’s been a challenge to simply trust the planning, directions, etc of the group leader.
      … but it’s been a welcoming, friendly group – without exception – and it’s getting easier.

      I actually do have snowshoes, but I’ve only used them when hiking in the snow gets too arduous. It just doesn’t satisfy that ‘need for speed’ 😉

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    • Thank you. I’ve been trying to write this post for a while. In the end, I believe we have to take responsibility for fixing what isn’t working in our lives. In my case, I needed more connections – exactly the thing that makes me most uncomfortable :/

      The Club President really is a spitfire. I hope I have some of that energy when I’m her age!

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  31. That sounds great. I am glad for you to have a helpful role, and I am glad to hear that so many folks are taking part and enjoying each other and our beautiful nature.

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