retirement-101 Blog

Let there be discovery & purpose in your new life.

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What should you do when you retire? Go back to work?

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Would you sell your home and travel the world?

Home Sweet Home, How We Sold our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World is the next book I want to read! I just listened to an interview on CBS News this morning with retirees and authors Tim and Lynn Martin who sold their home and traveled the world renting apartments and houses for a month or more at a time. Why sell the house? Susan says they didn’t want it hanging over their head. “I don’t want someone to call and say the water heater is broken. It ruins the romance.”

Gayle King comments about their choice, “Most people live their lives with a vast empty plateau between boredom and routine.” I am thinking about yesterday and how after I potted flowers and went to the grocery store, how utterly bored I felt. Whenever I travel to a new country I feel alive again. I have visited 15 countries around the globe but I want to double this before I die. Susan explains, “The most fun is meeting the people and embracing change. And learning all the time.”

Charlie Rose said, “I hope everyone is watching this. You give new definition to retirement!”

Is it time to have a conversation with your spouse? Do you think you could leave your family and friends? Sell or store all of your belongings? Would you miss feeling connected to a community or create new friends? Their motto is Postpone Nothing. Don’t ninety-nine percent of us just postpone everything?

Charlie Rose asks, “How long will you keep doing this?” Her answer, “Till the wheels fall off!”

I admire their courage. I really think it would be a healthy step toward letting go of material objects. I have too many things. You can’t take it with you. Where do you want to go first? I re commend Phucket, Thailand. Our daughter lived and worked there, teaching English. The snorkeling trip, the cuisine, the open markets, the massages for five dollars… My husband just walked in the door. I need to talk to him now.


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I need all the money I can get!

Here are a few lines from the USA Today article–How much income will you need in retirement? But read on to hear about my experience.
Robert Powell, Special to USA TODAY 6:06 a.m. EDT April 13, 2014

“When planning for retirement, you might be inclined to use an oft-quoted rule of thumb that has you striving to replace 80% of your income in retirement.

Don’t — there is no absolute standard, according to Michael Hurd, a principal senior researcher and director of the Center for the Study of Aging at the RAND Corp., and Susann Rohwedder, a senior economist and associate director of the Center for the Study of Aging at the RAND Corp., in Santa Monica, Calif.

Instead, Hurd and Rohwedder say you really need to customize your income needs in retirement based on highly personal factors…”

You got that right! I remember saying to my financial planner that I would be content to do very little as long as I didn’t have to teach anymore. Boy, was I wrong. When you retire you have loads of time to go out to eat, to take a vacation, to fix up your home, and once those paychecks stop coming in, all of the sudden you might have to choose to do only one of those or at least be mindful about spending it all too quickly. Nobody can help you there but you. If you are like me, you will want it all!

It might help if you talk to your spouse about your expectations. I was so anxious to quit work that I didn’t think about how it would feel to not do everything I wanted to do. And I didn’t count on missing teaching but I did. Luckily I am now teaching writing classes now and writing a column both of which bring in a small paycheck but largely contribute to my self-esteem.
These pictures were taken in Lucerne, Switzerland. I figured we should take one amazing trip at the beginning of our retirement journey in 2010— just in case one of us got sick or we ran out of money. I may not have new carpet but oh did I see a part of the world which will never leave me.IMG_0438IMG_0505

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Borrowing Lessons From a Mom

Once a month members of the Rehoboth Beach Writers Guild are invited to share their work. Each month there is a new theme. The topic was borrowing. Lots of time now in a retired life to reflect on my childhood memories and the gifts given to me by my mom.

When I hear the word borrow I think about the children’s books called the Borrowers and remember my mother. She loved the idea of fantasy little people stealing things that real people misplaced. When you raise six girls, things disappeared on a regular basis and of course we all expected our mother to find them. A maroon knee sock, a Nancy Drew mystery, a hair band, an overdue library book.
My mother gave me my true love of literature—we lived our lives looking forward to borrowing library books. I passed this tradition onto my own two children telling them that they could only check out as many books as they could carry. I can picture them at ages 5 and 7, trying to walk to the car balancing a two foot stack against their slim bodies, their eyes peering out over the top. A stack as high as Caps for Sale.
My mother also gave her children a fondness for butter. There were always Christmas cookies in the freezer beginning with the first week in November: walnut crescents, candy canes, mint surprise. Only it was always her surprise when she would go down to the utility room where the freezer was stored to find half a dozen empty Tupperware containers. Fuming she would rant at the six of us for stealing cookies—cold frozen cookies that we had to purloin one at a time and surreptitiously fold up into our pajama pants or pocket, but all of us vehemently denied wrongdoing. You can only imagine how quickly we could empty those containers. She taught us to bake more.
Stealing was a sin, but borrowing was acceptable as long as you returned it. My mother always wrote her name on the inside cover of every book she owned. “Just make sure you return it when you are done.” A good lesson for everything–no matter what you take. Return it.

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What qualities do you admire in your partner?

LisaRayoregon2011In August I will have been married for 35 years to a wonderful man, but it’s not easy for two people to live together that long and continue to appreciate one another. Recently on a simple excursion to pick blueberries, I was aggravated by his behavior but then happily reminded about why I married him. This is my blueberry love story.

Picking fruit at Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Maryland is a family tradition. Nostalgic memories reside in me like friends who lived in my old neighborhood and never moved away. I was trapped in the past missing my children and the laughter I loved hearing in my house. My husband quite simply wanted a fresh blueberry pie with a scoop of Breyers vanilla ice cream.
We weighed our containers in the store and drove to the fields. Years ago you could drive directly to the bushes but the industry has grown and the popularity such that now customers park their cars and board wagons pulled by tractors. They take you to the rows and rows of ripe blueberries and a young worker waves a red flag to assign you a place to pick fruit.

We got our row and began plopping our bluest berries into the buckets. Immediately, I hear a mom, “Be careful to pick only the blue ones. The green ones aren’t ripe yet.” The children chatter away as do the pickers, “These are bigger than last year.” “Wow, this bush is loaded!” I smile and remember my own children’s chatter and look up to see that my husband is no where in sight. Typical, I think. He probably thought he could find bigger berries if he went out on his own or maybe the children’s chatter got on his nerves. My husband is a rule breaker! Oh well, I shrugged. He will turn up eventually.
I continue to pick berries for about an hour and when my bucket is full and also my bladder, I decide I better look for a familiar T-shirt or ball cap. My husband wears ball caps to protect his bald head form burning and to keep the sun out of his eyes. He began going bald in his late twenties and while this may be tragic for some men, he has handled it with grace but not style. The reason he has so many hats is that whenever we go on trips, he forgets to bring one and so we have one of every color from every state we ever visited. My personal favorites are the bright red one from Tombstone, Arizona or the beige one that used to be white that says Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. If he doesn’t have a hat from a state then he has a t-shirt. He is not attracted to t-shirt with small lettering on the left breast bone but the ones that have huge splashes of color and design or the ones you get for free on family baseball nights. He especially loves to wear free t-shirts. I digress. So I begin to scour the 30 rows of blueberry bushes for a Boulder Colorado cap I think and realize this could take awhile.

So I am getting hot and bothered as they say. Walking up and down rows of bushes and I finally spot him. I begin waving my arms. He spots me too but then resumes his blueberry picking. Now I really have to pee. I am already thinking about the bumpy tractor ride. So I yell his name and he looks up and I pantomime having to pee. I frantically cross my legs in one direction and then the other and then begin holding myself the way a 3 year old does in the middle of a shopping mall. He gets the picture. He begins to walk my way.

Now when he comes to me I say, “I need to find a bathroom.” These are words that he has heard often in the last 30 years. I have TB—tiny bladder. My husband has been stopping at bathrooms in every state in the union about every 60 miles or so for all of our married life. We quickly board first and take the seat closest to the back so I can get off quickly. Mothers, dads, grandmas, aunts and uncles of various nationalities and sizes all join us with their plethora of colorful buckets and baskets. Soon the wagon is off down the windy country road and everyone is happy and enjoying this family outing, this Americana experience.

Suddenly there is commotion in the front of the car, heads are turning left and right and we all crane our necks to the back of the wagon to see a child’s hat lying dead center on the dirt road. The wagon continues to chug along happily and the hat sits all alone in the middle of the dusty road. All eyes turn to the parents as they stare in vain at the lonely hat and at the back of the innocent driver’s head. The father looks at the driver to signal him to stop, but the driver is wearing headsets to drown out the noise. Next thing you know this middle aged bald man whom I married hops off the back of the moving wagon, surprising us all and disappears from our view. Everyone on board is staring out the back now to see if the nice, old guy can make it. Twenty pairs of eyes all searching for signs of life. And there he is. Running toward the wagon with all his might, clenching the child’s sunhat in his hand and pumping his arms to reach the moving wagon. Now he is within inches of our moving wagon and only has to climb the two steps. With one gallant leap, he is in! I am not a widow!
All eyes are on his Boston POPs t-shirt. I look into the eyes of the man in the Napa Valley Wine cap. His brow and face are filled with perspiration. Everyone claps at this hero, my husband! I laugh so hard that I pee in my pants! (Just slightly, of course) The hat is passed to the front of the wagon by multiple hands and returned to the head of the child who didn’t know it was missing. The parents are grinning ear to ear. I am laughing in total delight. Grateful, they thank him and offer my husband a bottle of water.

Now I need to remind myself about why I married the man that I did. I do wish he cared more about looking stylish. But none of those other handsomely dressed dads were courageous enough to jump off the bandwagon to help a small child. I married my husband because he is considerate. He has been rescuing me and our children with his kind gestures for over thirty years. We didn’t argue about his disappearing act. We have already argued about that a zillion times. I found the porta-potty. The child got his hat back and my husband ate a glorious, mouthwatering blueberry pie! Oh my, but you should have tasted that pie!

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What are you going to do today?

What are you going to do today?



This morning I asked my husband what he was going to do today and his reply, “I don’t know yet.” Spoken by a retired person and yet I am retired too but I always have an agenda. Today it was yoga class, meet a new friend for lunch, blog and attend a fundraiser in the evening to support the prison ministry, The Way Home. Knowing I had fun things planned for today meant I was going to have a good day. When I was teaching, a good day might be measured by how the children behaved, how well my lessons went and whether or not I had to stay late afterschool.


For me retirement has been challenging at times because I don’t look forward to too many days when there is nothing written on the calendar. At least I am not guilty anymore for feeling this way. Some of us need to stay busier than others—so now the challenge isn’t about staying busy but choosing to do what makes me happy.


I am recalling this commercial that used to run constantly. An old woman would look directly in the camera and say, “Today, I choose to be happy.”  I can picture her wrinkled smiling face and white hair right now and I believed she knew the entire secret to a happy fulfilling life. But then I wonder if she thought her adult children should phone more often or if she didn’t sleep well the night before because her husband drank too much. She was a super senior who didn’t mind if the hairs on her neck were long enough to braid or if she couldn’t hear out of one ear. She chose to be happy damn it!


What I hear from all of my retired women friends is that for the first time in their lives they are thinking about their own needs not their children’s or spouse’s or siblings. The friend I met for lunch was going home to paint with water colors. When I got home today I placed the flower pots outside of the garage and saw these two tiny shoots of ivy which had survived the winter. So I did too. I don’t know what my future holds, but there is this feeling in my back and neck and shoulders that however many years I have left they should be spent wisely. I am lifting my head up like a daffodil and looking at positive rays of sunshine.daffodil