Making the decision to retire can be difficult. It’s easy to get excited about the prospect of not working and overlook what a job means to our identity and life purpose. With retirement planning, it can be easy to focus on finances rather than lifestyle. Yes, it is important to plan for maintaining financial responsibilities without a steady paycheck, but equally important questions are: How do I emotionally prepare for retirement? What am I going to do?

“Work structures us and gives us routine in our lives,” says psychologist Louis Primavera, co-author of the 2012 book “The Retirement Maze: What You Should Know Before and After You Retire.”“We plan around work. It is part of our identity. We go to a social gathering and people say, ‘What do you do?’”

When emotionally preparing for retirement, be sure to take into account identity, purpose and relationships.

What will I do with my time?

Lack of activity will often lead to depressed mood, lack of motivation and poorer health. One exercise I often do with my patients is have them plan out activities ahead of time: What brings you pleasure and when do you want to do it?

For example, scheduling a visit to the YMCA or a call with a friend to invite them over for tea. After completing the activity, I encourage them to think about how pleasing that was or how accomplished they feel afterwards.

Sometimes, without structure or routine, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to do an activity, but when you refer back to your activity-planning worksheet, it can encourage you to act even if you don’t feel like it.

How can I still be intentional with my life and set goals?

Before setting goals, it can be helpful to think about your values and creating goals that align with them. What is most important to you?

One of my favorite questions to ask patients is, “If you were receiving a lifetime achievement award, what would you want other people to say about you? Once you’ve identified the values that are most important to you, what type of goals will help you to live out those values?”

How will I share my professional expertise, personal knowledge or legacy?

What professional organizations can you join? Connect with local universities and see if they have a mentoring program to mentor young people in your chosen career. Use your talents for your favorite non-profit. For example, if you are an accounting guru, can you lend your skills to your local house of worship?

How do I make my health a priority?

The best retirement plans mean nothing if you don’t have the health to enjoy it. Exercise and movement is critical.

My spouse and I are accustomed to having our independence during the day, so how can we prepare to be around one another full-time?

It is very common for couples to go through turmoil during transitions like retiring. It’s helpful to talk with your partner about expectations: Who will be responsible for things such as household chores? How often will you do things together/separately?

When things don’t go smoothly, it can also be useful to talk to a therapist to learn how to communicate more effectively.

How do I find identity outside of my career?

Try new things, see if you like it, and be open-minded. Maybe you didn’t like a particular activity when you were younger, but it’s worth trying again. Be open to the idea that you may have changed, and be curious about your interests. Also, just because you have retired doesn’t mean you are a different person. Immerse yourself in things you know and love.

Will I miss the social aspect of being around people all day at work?

Days and weeks can feel daunting when you think that there is no structured time. Some people find it helpful to plan out their weeks, at least at the beginning, to include all kinds of activities: Down/quiet time, time with friends, volunteering, etc. After planning your time, make sure to evaluate how it went.

Life is going to be different after retirement. Your identity will change. Sometimes it will be fun and exhilarating, and other times may be dull and difficult. Have patience while you make the transition.

Heather Carroll, a behavioral health specialist, wrote this article for Iora Primary Care’s blog.

For green thumbs, dahlias come in all shapes, sizes and colors

With hundreds of varieties to choose from in a fabulous array of colors, shapes and flower sizes, dahlias are a must for your 2019 garden.

Not only are dahlias beautiful, but they’re also easy to grow. In the Pacific Northwest, the time to plant is after winter’s last frost, typically between Aprll 15 and June 1, according to Puget Sound Dahlia Association. Just plant the tuberous roots in a sunny, well-drained location, once the soil has warmed to about 60 degrees – or around the same time as you would plant tomatoes. It takes a week or two for the first shoots to emerge, but the plants grow quickly and will be blooming by mid-summer.

Grow dahlias in containers to brighten your balcony, deck or front steps. They combine nicely with other plants in containers as well as in the garden. Mix them with bold, leafy elephant ears, Lacinato kale and Swiss chard, finely textured ornamental grasses and gaura, upright salvias and gladiolus, and trailing plants like calibrachoa, verbena and ivy. Dahlias will add pizzazz to your gardens and landscape, especially in the second half of the summer when many other flowers are starting to wane.

Dinnerplate dahlias are bodacious beauties that command your attention. They include any variety of dahlia with flowers that are at least eight inches in diameter. These extra-large blossoms are produced on bushy plants that grow 3 to 6 feet tall. Favorites include Cafe au Lait, Vancouver, and Thomas Edison. Use stakes to help support the flowers and keep the plants standing upright.

Decorative dahlias offer the widest array of colors and styles. Their petals are flat to slightly rolled, and flower sizes vary from four to eight inches. Growing an assortment of several different varieties, like the Spice Mix Decorative Dahlia Collection (, lets you enjoy a color-coordinated blend of hues that combine well in both the garden and in a vase.

For dahlias with a completely different look, grow cactus and semi-cactus types. Their rolled or partially rolled petals give the flowers a spikey texture. Varieties such as Yellow Star and burgundy-maroon Nuit d’Ete will add style and sophistication to your garden.

Make sure your flower garden also includes a few ball and pompon dahlias. These perfectly round swirls of tightly rolled petals come in vivid colors, and their long vase life make them a favorite with floral designers. Use coppery-orange Mirella or vivid Boom Boom Red to weave shots of color throughout an arrangement.

For contrast, incorporate some single, peony-flowered, anemone and collarette types. Dahlias such as HS Date, Bishop of Dover and Fascination have fewer petals and slightly smaller blooms, which makes them good companions for annuals as well as perennials. Plus, their daisy-like centers are magnets for bees and butterflies.

Bring your dahlias up close with dwarf varieties, commonly known as border dahlias. These plants grow just 12 to 24 inches tall, yet most have big, four to five-inch blooms. Popular varieties include Gallery Pablo, Melody Swing and Gallery Art Nouveau. They are ideal for small spaces, lining a walkway and are a perfect addition to containers.

Make room in your garden for some of these easy-to-grow, easy-to-love, summer-flowering bulbs. You’ll discover why so many gardeners have fallen under their spell.

Melinda Myers, who wrote this article, has written more than 20 gardening books and hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series. Her web site is


For dahlia growers who want to join clubs of like-minded flower fans or visit dahlia gardens, here’s who to contact and where to go:


• Dahlia Trial Garden: One of the largest official trial gardens in the U.S. and Canada is located at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma and is maintained in cooperation with the Washington Dahlia Society. Plants are grown from tubers sent by dahlia growers from throughout America, Canada, England, New Zealand and Australia. Highest-scored plants by official judges are named and become available to the general public. Blooms begin in July; August is the best time for viewing. Information: Metro Parks Tacoma, 253-591-5328.

• Bremerton West Hills Post Office Garden (200 S. National Ave.), Silverdale Garden (10855 Silverdale Way NW.


• Kitsap County Dahlia Society Aug. 3-4, Sun Pavilion at Kitsap County Fairgrounds.


• Puget Sound Dahlia Association,

• Seattle Dahlia Society,

• Kitsap Dahlia Society,

Editor’s note: Measles is highly contagious, and not just for children. As pointed out in the following article from MultiCare Health System, even 50-and-up adults should talk to their healthcare professionals about whether they need a vaccine against the illness.

Measles, a highly contagious respiratory virus that causes a distinctive rash, continues to appear in the news in Washington. Clark County, located in southern Washington, is experiencing a measles outbreak with 53 confirmed cases as of Feb. 14. One case has also been reported in King County.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency Jan. 25.

Despite this outbreak, measles is still rare in the United States thanks to the large number of people who have been vaccinated against the virus and are protected.

Measles is spread through the air and causes fever, a runny nose, cough and a rash all over the body. It’s a serious disease and can also cause problems such as diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia and permanent brain damage.

The measles virus can remain in the air for several hours, and is so contagious, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), that 90 percent of the people close to a person who has it will likely get sick, unless they are immune.

Although often described as a “childhood” disease, anyone can get sick from measles. According to the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC), all adults, including the 50-and-up age group, should talk to their healthcare professional about whether they might need a measles vaccination. CDC recommends that adults 19 years old to 65-plus get the vaccine unless they’re advised otherwise by a doctor.

Complications are more common in children under five and adults older than 20. Measles can be especially severe in people with weak immune systems.

In severe cases, measles can result in pneumonia, or cause other complications requiring hospitalization. Pregnant women who get measles are at a higher risk for premature labor, miscarriage and low-birth-weight babies.

Vaccination is the only way to protect yourself from measles. The measles (MMR) vaccine is safe and effective and provides lifetime protection â€” no booster shots needed.

To be fully protected, you must get two doses of the measles vaccine. The first vaccine is usually given to babies between 12 and 15 months, and the second dose is given when children are between 4 and 6 years old. Babies under a year old can’t get the vaccine, so they are especially vulnerable to infection if exposed.

Getting the measles vaccine within 72 hours after exposure may stop a person who was not fully vaccinated from getting sick. Unvaccinated, high-risk individuals, such as infants who are too young to get the vaccine, may be given another type of medication called immune globulin to help protect them from infection if exposed.

If you’re not sure whether you’re protected from measles, talk to your provider.

If you need a measles vaccination, make an appointment with your primary care provider, pediatric provider or a walk-in clinic that offers the vaccine. Call ahead to confirm availability of the vaccine.

MultiCare Health System is a not-for-profit health care organization with more than 18,000 employees, providers and volunteers.

Oh, Canada! What we can learn about food trends from our northern neighbors

Drink more water, eat more plants and cook more at home, says Canada.

Canada’s new food guidelines have transformed from a food pyramid to an “eat well, live well” infographic, which takes a slightly different spin on our current USDA MyPlate recommendations.

Specific foods and serving sizes are no longer emphasized in the new guidelines. Instead, the goal is to continuously make healthy food decisions and lifestyle choices, such as being active and finding ways to reduce stress.

It is also how we eat that makes a difference. While we eat, we should be mindful and enjoy spending time with others. Eating is a time to be social and celebrate with friends and family.

What Canada recommends consuming less of

Extra emphasis is placed on limiting processed and prepackaged food items high in sugar, salt and saturated fat.

The new guidelines also consider health risks associated with higher alcohol intake. If we do consume alcohol, the guidelines recommend we drink alcoholic beverages in smaller amounts and less frequently.

Fruits and vegetables

Instead of fruits and vegetables being two separate food groups, they are now considered one and should take up half of our plate; high intakes are encouraged.

The Canadian plate has taken it one step further and no longer considers fruit and vegetable juices a serving. Instead, fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables should be consumed to reach your allotted goal of at least five servings daily.

Variety and color is key when it comes to eating produce. Expand your palate by taste-testing new and uncommon items such as persimmon, dragon fruit, pumelo, Brussels sprouts or spaghetti squash.

Whole grains

This group is not any different than our current MyPlate standards in the United States. Canada’s new infographic just reminds us of all the whole grain options out there.

Experiment with different whole grains such as corn tortillas, wild rice, steel cut oatmeal, couscous or whole wheat pita bread.

If you are more accustomed to eating white (or refined) products, consider taking small steps forward by mixing white and brown rice or different pastas together.

If your favorite cereal is low in fiber, mix it with another cereal with at least six grams of fiber per serving.

Protein has expanded

Dairy foods, which include cheese, yogurt and milk, are now considered part of the protein group and are no longer in their own category. Moreover, emerging research is showing higher-fat dairy products are not harmful to our health, but may actually provide health benefits, so the type of dairy products we consume is not as much of a concern anymore.  

The new Canadian guidelines bring an emphasis on embracing many healthy options.  However, it is not as simple as swapping in one protein source for another. Each protein food is packed with a different set of nutrients. While eating animal-based protein provides all essential proteins in one punch, heart-healthy and plant-based proteins should also be consumed in high amounts. Again, this is where variety comes into play.

Reduce your carbon footprint and increase your health by eating beans such as navy, pinto, black, lima and cannellini, or peas. Add whole soy foods to the mix: edamame, tofu and tempeh, and any variety of nuts and seeds, such as almonds, walnuts, pepitas or sunflower seeds. Oh, and don’t forget about those delicious nut butters.

Add some flavorful spice combinations and the options are endless:

Looking for a quick and easy way to get more nutritious foods in and eat more plant-based, high-fiber and nutrient-dense meals? Roast three or four nights’ worth of vegetables and chickpeas with garlic, chili powder, coriander, onion and cumin for a taste of Mexican cuisine.

Feeling something different? Turn it into a Thai dish by mixing together basil, cumin, ginger, turmeric, curry powder and garlic. 

Want a more Mediterranean vibe? Add oregano, rosemary, bay leaves and basil with cloves, ginger and cardamom to your meals.

Add oregano and you’re coming close to French, Middle Eastern or Cajun flavors.

Experiment with spices and make up your own recipes. Spices add antioxidants, nutrients and variety. Cooking is both an art and science — have fun with it.

Where the glass of milk was, water has taken over

Water is a necessity for life, and yet always seems to come in last when we talk about our favorite drinks. Water should be consumed the most, as emphasized in the Canadian food guidelines graphic.

This beverage not only hydrates our bodies, including our skin, but also provides no calories and is free. If you are bored with plain water, add different fruit, vegetables, spices and herb combinations or try sparkling water and unsweetened tea.

The USDA announced in December 2018 that our MyPlate recommendations will be revised again soon. It will be interesting to see how they align with the Canadian food guidelines.

Erica Lewis, who wrote this article, is a dietian with MultiCare Health System.