Last week, I was clipping along, happily working in my garden, sun shining, birds chirping, butterflies flitting, fox eating cat food on the back veranda. My life looked and felt like a Disney movie. Then, out of nowhere something goes sideways on me. It wasn’t a train wreck but it was a something, which needed fixing because someone did not handle their customer service to me so well. So, I spent just about 4 hours on Friday trying to resolve this issue instead of being in said garden with said chirping birds (the fox had disappeared by then) and it still wasn’t resolved. By this time I was feeling pretty frustrated leaving me feeling pretty negative about, not just this particular situation, but about the entire world at large. The upshot of this entire exercise is the people who were the creators of the situation were beginning to act like I was a negative minded lunatic sent to make their Friday miserable. Really!?!

After spending another hour on this mess on Saturday, I started thinking about an article I’d recently read about longevity. Can’t remember where I read it but I do remember the author stating how people with a positive attitude outlive the pessimists. No, I can’t remember if a study was involved or how they arrived at this conclusion. But it led me to think about the glass. You know the one I’m talking about. The glass that’s either half full or half empty. There’s no middle road on this one because it’s half and half already. But, you can see where I’m going with this. The positive people see the glass as half full; the negative people see the glass as half empty. In other words, the half full person aka Little Mary Sunshine sees cause for optimism and the half empty person sees nothing redeeming about it. How do the positive people handle the negatives served up by just living? What do they do when, through no fault of their own, somebody picks up their full glass and throws cold water on their day leaving their glass half empty?

Perhaps, it’s my natural cynicism, but I have failed over the weekend to see how this situation has anything redeeming about it. It’s Monday morning. I’ve now spent 5 hours on it and it’s still not resolved. I’m betting the party on the other end does not want to start their Monday out reading the email I sent this morning updating my Saturday endeavors on their website so it’ll just get passed over until I call with the screaming me-me’s. Oh, sorry, that sounds really cynical.

Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not entirely feasible to have a positive outlook 100% of the time. I’ve had an incredible amount of good fortune, blessings, luck, whatever you want to call it, in my life. I’m normally quite smiley, especially when surrounded by chirping birds and flowers. But, stuff happens. Bad stuff. Annoying stuff. Frustrating stuff. Negativity. It just happens. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” With that in mind, I realized despite the half empty aspect of this situation, I’m still happy with my life in general. Most of my happiness these days comes from the full knowledge that, as a PIM, I have choices I didn’t have in my work life. One of the most valuable choices is the choice to walk away from negative situations. If one company isn’t inclined to give me great customer service, I have the time to find a company that is so inclined. Holy moly, I just found the optimist’s, glass is half full side of this equation! In fact, I think I hear birds chirping.


Recently, I’ve had the misfortune of having to see a few doctors to unravel the mystery of what was ailing me. Fortunately, I have health insurance and it’s turned out not to be anything serious. Over this same period of time, I also started seeing more than a few articles about how, as Baby Boomers age and the Affordable Care Act kicks into gear, there is going to be a shortage of good medical care as there will also be a shortage of doctors. I also read about doctors cutting their work hours and selling their practices to larger practices so they didn’t have to manage the business side of being a physician. All this, it seems, translates into worsening health care for we aging persons aka seniors, retirees. The bad news just seems to keep coming. I don’t know if the media has a shortage of negative news to report so they are conjuring up this stuff or there is really cause for concern but…enough already!

Baby Boomers have always been like this huge freight train coming down the track. When I think back over my life to when I first became aware of the numbers, I remember stories predicting doomsday scenarios for our lives even then. Stories like there won’t be enough jobs. Apparently, the authors of those stories didn’t figure on us being creative, inventive and entrepreneurial to the point where we created companies, invented products and made jobs for our generation. I guess they also didn’t think about how we’d spend, spend, spend, demanding more goods, houses and cars, which also created jobs. I remember the stories about our generation creating such a population explosion when we had our own kids there wouldn’t be enough food. Yet, with research and technology better methods of farming were developed so we have fed ourselves. One might even say we’ve overfed ourselves.

I don’t want to come across as Goody Two Shoes but I also can’t see, with the crop of doctors on my short list, where I won’t be receiving, not just good care, but, great care. For starters, the doctors I see are not just medical smart, they’re business smart. In the last 6 years I can honestly say my care has improved. And my overall experience with my doctors is better than it’s ever been. The longest I sat in a waiting room was thirty minutes the day after Martin Luther King Day this year. That’s the longest time ever in six years! Normally, I’m taken in by a nurse just about right on schedule. When my doctor opened the door to the examining room where I had sat for about another 5 minutes, the first thing out of her mouth was an apology for my having to wait so long. I’m here to tell you, folks, years ago I sat around in doctors’ waiting rooms for a good hour and then sat around in the exam room for another 30 or 40 minutes, if I was lucky. And, when Doctor “God” entered the room there was no apology for not being on time for my appointment. I was again lucky if I got a ‘Hello’.

That brings me to the new millennium doctor’s bedside manner. One of the doctors I saw recently was a first time visit. When this guy enters the room, he doesn’t say, “I’m Doctor Doe”. No-o-o-o. He says, “Hi, I’m John Doe” and shakes my hand. Then, he proceeds to actually engage in what ails me by attentively listening, asking questions, more listening. This is the same treatment I’ve received from my primary physician. She shows up with her laptop, pulls up all my records and actually has a conversation with me. Last time I saw her, after we put together my game plan, she said, “And, if this isn’t working for you, just call me and say, ‘Suzie, this isn’t working and we’ll go back to the drawing board’.” Really, that’s what she said.

Before this, my experience with doctors was they came in to examine you, told you what you were going to do, looked at you like you had two heads if you questioned anything and might not even answer you if you did have the nerve to question them. This new breed is working with you, the patient, in collaboration. It’s a partnership. Now, do you have to take some accountability for doing your part? You bet you do. I come armed with a list of things I want addressed and any questions.

So, I don’t see the future as being all that bleak on the medical care front. There may be fewer doctors working fewer hours. Or maybe supply and demand will prompt more people to become doctors or maybe some of the Baby Boomer docs will delay retirement. Yeah, that could happen. But, somehow, good old American know-how may find a way to fill the projected gap, maybe with more nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants in the same practice as doctors. I believe the efficiency I’m seeing in today’s medical field will only get better. For example, before going to see the doctor on the first time visit, I was able to download the new patient packet and fill it out prior to my visit. When I called on Good Friday and the office of my primary was closed down, I received a call within 5 minutes from the MD on call. She directed me to a hospital clinic where they were able to access all my records from my doctor’s office so I didn’t have to fill out a boat load of paper work. Everything was already to go meaning I could concentrate on why I was there and they could access everything needed to bring them up to speed in the shortest time possible. Yes, larger practices. Yes, a corporate health system. But, efficiency for the good of the patient!?! OK. You can call me Goody Two Shoes.


This is not the blog I intended to write for today. But, as it was when I worked, so it is in retirement. The unexpected happened as in I got sick. There is no one to call this morning as in a supervisor telling them I won’t be at work. I don’t have a supervisor anymore unless you want to count Martin. Although, I can assure you, he’d say I supervise him. But that’s another post. I don’t have anyplace I have to be today. I don’t have any customers or co-workers I have to see or call. So, another benefit of being retired is if you find yourself feeling not so well, you can stay in your pajamas (we call them relax clothes in this house) laying around on the couch all day without having to answer to anyone but yourself. However, this is not entirely true. Being it’s Monday and thinking of myself as someone who fulfills their commitments, I do have this post to write. I promise you, though, it’s going to be a short one. You see, my eyes are a red, goopy mess.


On a visit last Friday to Caesar’s Head State Park in the beautiful Blue Ridge foothills of South Carolina, I ran into a formidable enemy…tree pollen. You can’t hardly see this stuff it’s so tiny but this time of year it can knock me flat despite all the allergy pills, saline sprays and preventions I adhere to. So, after showing our grandson, KJ, the view of Table Rock Mountain and making the short hike down below through the Devil’s Kitchen to view what either looks like, depending on your imagination, Caesar’s Head or a monkey, my eyes began to swell, water and turn red. By late Friday night I looked like a red-eyed alien out of one of the sci-fi movies Martin likes so much. Friday and Saturday nights were spent tossing and turning, surfing the net for home remedies from warm, wet tea bags placed on my eyes to Thera-tears drops. No longer able to wait out a call to my doctor on Monday morning, Sunday afternoon Martin drove me to a walk-in clinic. Lucky as usual, I didn’t have to wait more than two minutes for the nurse practitioner to see me. Fifteen minutes later I was filling a prescription, waiting with great anticipation for the relief it would bring.

So, this morning, though I’m feeling a little better, my eyes are still red and my vision blurred by a sea of watery discharge. Yuck! Oh, and today was my asparagus planting day. My one-year roots were supposed to arrive to normal temps of about 66 for this time of year. Instead, “Brown” brought them up my drive on a 38 degree day. Though it warmed up to low 40’s, these babies need at least 50 degrees before they’re put into mother earth. Doing what any serious gardener would do, I looked at the forecast, decided today would be the day, wrapped them in damp newspaper and sprayed them with water for as long as I dared.

Well, you guessed it. High winds and 50 degrees today. Not willing to expose myself to another tiny bit of pollen, this morning I had to ask my supervisor (o.k. I’m his supervisor) to plant the dad blamed asparagus for me. Each of us armed with cell phones, I stood in the guest bedroom, watching, as I talked Martin through the planting. This proved a little awkward as he had to keep putting his phone down in order to wield the shovel and rake and spread out the roots. Fortunately, he’d prepared the beds for me a couple of weeks ago (o.k, o.k. I really do supervise him). Never wanting to be a farmer, as he often reminds me, he did a superb job and we can now look forward to fresh asparagus next spring. As for today, it’s a sick day, so, I’m headed back to the couch.


Spring is in the air. A warm front is finally blowing in. After weeks of below normal temperatures, today promises to be a sixty degree day. Daffodils bob about in the breeze. The azaleas are heavy with swelling buds. And the rosemary’s deep blue blooms against their pine green stems call to the honey bees venturing from their winter hive. As life reaches for the warming sun after a long winter’s nap, I make my to do list for the garden. The one chore I don’t have to think about is feeding and eventually mowing a lawn. By design, there’s no greening lawn here.

Wherever we lived, whatever the climate, new home, old home, I created a garden. Where there was grass lawn, I dug it up, making berms and beds in which to plant all kinds of greenery and flowering plants, leaving enough lawn to provide paths and play areas. Where I had a clean palette of bare earth, I made pathways of stone to meander among the trees and shrubs, flowers, herbs and vegetables. Gardens awakened my senses and soothed my work weary soul making a house a home and an otherwise plain landscape an oasis after a hard day’s work. While most people plant a grass lawn, I opted for less of the most expensive landscape. Sometimes, there was a front lawn; sometimes there was no lawn. That’s the case with our current home. Oh, we have a meadow, part of which now supports grape vines, blueberry bushes and blackberry canes. There’s some soysia grass planted between huge expanses of flagstone to form our patio. But the green lawn is not to be found.

Nine raised beds, three of them fenced against marauding deer and rabbits, make up the vegetable garden. There’s plenty of room to grow enough for a family of four. So with just two of us in this household, the overflow goes to my in-laws and daughter’s family. My youngest grandson at three years old loves to seed and water, pick and fill a bag with carrots and cabbage, tomatoes and basil, onions and garlic. Whatever the bounty, he proudly takes it to his Mom along with sweet bouquets of roses or huge armloads of sunflowers and his pants pockets full of herbs. His favorite is Rosemary. In winter, his bag may also include treasured rocks, pinecones and leaves but the impact is clear. He has connected with the Earth and all the gifts it provides. Gardens will do that.

Although we have plenty of room for a large garden now, even when we lived in an apartment, there were pots of tomatoes and herbs on the patio luring buzzing bees to happily pollinate our small crop. And the pleasure of pulling a sun ripened tomato from the vine for a dinner salad cannot be matched with buying a greenhouse grown, tasteless specimen from the store. Whether you have a big yard or a small space, this spring make room for a few food plants or some fresh herbs or flowers or all the above. Forget the lawn. Make a real connection with the Earth this summer even if it’s only for one juicy tomato plucked from your own vine.


A few years ago I made a gratitude journal listing all the things in life for which I was grateful. My husband, my daughters, grandchildren, extended family, love, friends, our cats, good health, good jobs, financial stability, a comfortable home, food in my garden and on the table. As I counted my blessings, the list grew and grew. For a while, I continued to write down, with each new day, the things for which I was grateful. A beautiful sunrise. Flowers in my garden. A kind smile from a stranger. Then, for whatever reason, life got in the way or I just plain got lazy, I stopped writing about my gratitude for the everyday gifts. This weekend, I pulled open a drawer and there was the journal. On its cover are the words, Inspire, Dream, Hope, Believe, Imagine, Create. Suddenly, I realized, these words describe what I want my retirement journey to be.

It’s been four months since we retired. And, after four months, we’re finally getting the hang of it. We’re finally starting to get into a rhythm of life without the structure of a career, which isn’t a rhythm at all. It’s more of an improvisation. We’re relaxing more. We’re enjoying more. Each day is a fresh chance for a new adventure. A new exploration. We can do nothing at all or we can start a new hobby or work on an old one or read a new book or get in the car or on the motorcycle and drive to wherever we want. It’s been a while in coming, but as I looked at the cover of my gratitude journal, I realized retirement is not a destination. It’s a journey.

Now, as I think about my journey, I open the cover and revisit my gratitude lists. And, I add another item. I am grateful I have the opportunity to make this journey. Many others have died before they had the chance to enjoy this season of life. So, I thank God for giving me each new day at this age, in this way. And, I thank Him for giving me the wisdom to recognize the opportunity. As I continue reading, I feel a certain excitement thinking about the possibilities for my journey.

I know it’s February 18 but resolutions aren’t reserved solely for New Year’s Day. So, I also make a resolution this day to stop complaining about aging. In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen a few news stories about how the baby boom generation is in worse health than their parents’ generation at this age. Our poorer health is due to the way we eat and don’t exercise. So, there are more of us already in wheel chairs or using canes. More of us are diabetics and have heart disease. Really depressing stuff. But, that’s not me. Even with all my health issues, which are truly normal aging issues, my health age is 53 not my biological age of 60. Martin, who bicycles about 100 miles a week, is even better off than I am. With my garden, we eat well, watch our diet and we exercise. So, today I stop whining about getting old! I’m in great shape! Oh, yes, I’m adding this to my gratitude journal along with note to self, “Do not whine about aging!”

Over the past few months, through a combination of writing this blog, research and actually living the transition into retirement, I’ve concluded life in retirement is no different from working life in that we need purpose. Retirees who continue to live their lives with purpose are happier. I’m not sure what my purpose is. Perhaps, it’s simply to carry on with my loving family, my love of gardening and mentoring other gardeners through the Master Gardener Program, painting and making art out of gourds and supporting SAFE Homes/Rape Crisis Coalition. But, whatever my purpose, I know my retirement is a journey, not a destination. This is a season of my life for which I am grateful.


For we baby boomers, you may remember the TV show “Father Knows Best”. Every episode served up a new dilemma for one of the members of a household with dad displaying incredible patience and wisdom as he helped them reach a decision, which was ultimately the right thing to do. Week after week dad led his family members, and their friends, to make the best decision for them. But, most of us don’t live in such a sugar coated world with an all knowing, all seeing dad or advisor. So, oftentimes, we turn to friends or relatives for advice. And, sometimes, we may even want someone else to tell us what to do. Making the hard choices in life is…well…hard.

Recently, I had just such an encounter as someone I’ve known a long time asked me to tell them what to do about a life-changing matter. As I read their email, it reminded me of an epiphany I had as a thirty-something who often turned to spouse, friends or co-workers for answers. At the time, I was working for a company in Seattle, which bought real estate nationally. I was the company’s contracts administrator, drafting contracts, participating in the negotiations and overseeing the due diligence of multi-million dollar deals. My days were filled with excitement as well as high anxiety as one incorrect decision could cost the company a lot of money. So, on a day when a particular deal slowly went sideways, as the saying goes, I anxiously awaited the moment when I could speak with the partners, who were thousands of miles away on business in Hong Kong. When the moment finally came, I laid out the dilemma in detail and asked what I should do. The answer one of the partners gave shocked me. But, ultimately his answer empowered me. Very calmly, he said, “That’s your decision. I’m not there. I can’t read the situation. I can’t see what you see. I can’t feel what you feel. You’re the only one who can make that judgement call.” What? Me? Yikes!!! Eventually, I summoned the courage to make a decision and, as it turned out, a good decision.

Over the next few days, as I pondered the event, I felt empowered professionally. Eventually, I transferred the idea of presence in decision making to my personal life. No one knows what’s best for you like you. Wow! What an epiphany! I’d like to say I held this thought with every personal decision. But, the truth is, we don’t live in a vacuum. Personal decisions affect other people…family, friends, co-workers, even strangers. And, often, we use that fact as a rationale to take their advice. Sometimes, they even give us that reason for foisting their advice upon us. I’ve learned, in an excruciatingly long and painful set of missteps, to listen to advice, but, more importantly in the end analysis, to listen to my gut, my inner voice, my instincts. By reaching into the depths of my own center, I’ve been able to do what’s right for me. Selfish, you say? Hmmm…maybe. But, here’s the catch. Decision making is really problem solving. By reaching into my own center, I’ve taken responsibility for solving the problem and accountability for the outcome. Do I consider how my decision will effect others? Of course, I do. But, as I’ve discovered, taking accountability for my actions is what’s best for my relationships. It puts the responsibility squarely on my shoulders. I’ve also learned through countless mistakes it’s OK to make a mistake. I’ve learned how making no decision, taking no action is really abdicating to time and circumstance, which will eventually make the decision for me. Shudder the thought! I’ve learned to move ahead of any mistakes, ignore the “I told you so’s”, make a correction of direction, chart a new course. But, whatever the outcome, the decision belongs to me.

So, my advice, (and, yes, I do give this particular piece of advice on occasion) to you, my friend, wanting to know what to do…no one knows what’s best for you like you. While I’ll lend a sympathetic ear, point out options you may not have thought about and support your decision, I’m not there. I can’t read the situation. I can’t see what you see. I can’t feel what you feel. So, reach down into the core of your being, feel around your insides and ask yourself what it is which you want. You’re the only one who can make this judgement call.


When sending out an invitation to a party, it’s common practice to add “RSVP Regrets Only”. That, of course, means only let the host know if you’re not attending. Otherwise, you’re expected to be at the party. There is no RSVP for the party of life. We show up and it’s expected we’ll be present and accounted for. But, as I’ve read again and again, all too often we end our life in the ‘Regrets Only’ column, failing to realize our own dreams, attend our own party. In her article for AARP.org, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’, Bronnie Ware places failure to live a life true to ones self at the top of the list. Current wisdom for dying with no regrets advises us to make a bucket list, a list of all we dream of doing while here on earth. Hollywood even made a movie about it. So, young and old alike are making lists of all the things they want to do before they die.

Looking at some of the lists posted online, most, if not all, contain dozens and sometimes hundreds of items. Places the writer wants to visit, people the writer wants to meet and things, like skydiving or swimming with dolphins, which the writer wants to do. Thinking this was a great exercise for figuring out how I wanted to occupy my retirement, I made my list. It’s a short list. But, it’s the result of really, and I mean really, looking inside my mind, my spirit and asking what is it which Kathy dreams of doing? And, I found, more importantly, what was it, which I dreamed of long, long ago?

Looking deep inside myself, I admitted, in all honesty, I was not so keen on traveling the globe and scratched that wish off my list. I’ve never yearned for cruises or trips to other countries. My true self likes to be home most of the time, spiked with short jaunts here and there. I’ve also met and socialized with some famous people. They’re really no different than you and me, just famous. I have no desire to skydive or swim with dolphins or bungee jump. It’s enough thrill for me to hop on the back of a motorcycle and ride the tail of the dragon at Deal’s Gap until my own tail needs a hot tub. In short, I began to realize I had spent my life in such a way as to have few unfulfilled dreams. But, there were some.

As I searched inside for the girl I’d been before life got in the way, I recognized a long held regret. Forty-five years ago (yes, that’s a lot of life) I was in journalism classes at my high school. I was copy editor for the Manasquan Blue and Gray. I interviewed a now very famous, but at the time a very young and upcoming, alumnus of my high school, my first famous person, Jack Nicholson. And, after participating in a tri-state tournament, I received an award from Temple University for outstanding high school journalism. I wanted to be a writer. Instead, because I needed a paycheck, I ended up working in banking and real estate, never feeling in sync with those professions even though I excelled in both. Fast forward to today and with the power of the internet, I’m a writer. Some might say, you’re too old or you can’t go home again or people will think you’re crazy at your age, blah, blah, blah. But, think of this. Julia Child didn’t become Julia Child until she was 50. Anna Mary Robertson Moses didn’t become Grandma Moses until her late 70’s.

Regrets are a product of our own actions. Our unfulfilled dreams are choices we made in life or didn’t make along the way. They are a reflection of our own lack of courage or fear of upsetting the apple cart we already built. Maybe you can’t go home again. But, it’s never too late to create a new reality built around an unfulfilled dream. So, my short little bucket list is made up of doing the things I dreamed of doing. It has nothing to do with people’s expectations of me or me thinking I ought to do this or that. It has to do with fulfilling my RSVP…no regrets.


There’s a Spanish proverb which says ‘self-knowledge is the beginning of self-improvement’. We can’t start to improve until we know ourselves. As mentioned in other posts, during the last few months, Martin and I have both received interest and questions from people ages 20 to 60 wanting to know how we pulled this off. So, my next few posts will address this inquiry in greater depth, which, I hope will enable you to move forward with your plan to retire or retire early, depending on where you’re currently situated in life.

Over the years I’ve met many who started out with good intentions to budget, pay off debt and save more. Making a budget is the easy part. Today there are all kinds of computer programs to help you set up a budget. I started out years ago using paper and pencil then graduated to Microsoft Money. Now,there are sites like mint.com to help you keep track of your spending. Whatever you use to set up your budget, know this. Coming up with a budget is the easy part; sticking to it takes WORK! But, that’s another post. Today, I want to talk about what I call ‘the hole in the soul’.

When I talk about the hole in the soul, I’m not talking about going to church, although going to church certainly may help. I’m talking about a life situation, which causes you to spend unnecessarily. Some of us are stress spenders. The more stressed we become, the more our particular button is pushed, the more we spend on things we don’t really need. Instead of addressing our stressor and resolving the issue, we avoid our inner discord and spend money to make ourselves feel better. As you read this, keep in mind, masking our stressor with purchases isn’t usually a conscious decision. So, my question for you is do you have such a stress point? Do you have the hole in the soul? Now, understand, not everyone prevents themselves from being successful with a budget or saving more or carrying less debt because of the hole in the soul. I’m just saying, it’s been my experience, my observation that quite often there is a stress point. So, what I’m asking you to do is take a good, hard look at yourself and your buying habits and honestly assess whether or not you have a particular stressor, which is preventing you from being financially successful.

Most often the hole in the soul is centered around relationships or the lack thereof or life regrets. If you have such an issue, which carries tremendous emotional weight, until it’s addressed and resolved, it’s very difficult to focus on financial health. Some people can soldier through and accomplish their financial goals anyway. But, they are the exception. You may even have a hole in the soul because of your relationship with yourself. That was my particular hole in the soul. I never took time for myself without guilt being attached to it. I’d dance as fast as I could at work, at home, in the community. I thought I could be super woman. It wasn’t until I almost went down in flames that I recognized why I held this misconception about myself. In fact, this is when I coined the term, ‘the hole in the soul’. The lesson I learned was if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re no good to anyone else, least of all you. When I learned to put my own oxygen mask on first and realized it wasn’t being selfish, then I was ready to save instead of spend.

I once read that top CEO’s only make the “right” decision 10% of the time! The trait which put them at the top of their game was their willingness to correct and change course. We often think we are stuck in life circumstances with no alternatives. Or, worse yet, we’ve put our lives on automatic pilot and just keep flying along without taking the controls back to manual. So, if you have the hole in the soul, plug it. See a counselor, if necessary. Have a heart to heart with yourself or whoever you need to talk to be it children, spouse, parents, in-laws, bosses or co-workers. Make peace with your regrets. Take action. Until you do, you may not be able to stop yourself from buying more shoes, jewelry, knick knacks, cars, boats, trips, trips and trips, bigger houses, more furniture, stuff, stuff, stuff while you convince yourself you deserve all this. Once the hole in the soul is plugged, you’ll realize what you deserve is financial independence. Money is nothing more than a tool. Once you harness your money instead of your money harnessing you, you’ll realize what financial freedom is. That is when your spirit will truly soar!


Being a gardener, in past years, most of my New Year’s resolutions revolved around that passion. I usually also threw in something about eating better and exercising more. Like many people, the latter were the resolutions which didn’t always come to fruition. But, my garden flourished. Since I spent most of December 2011 seeing a physical therapist twice weekly for a bum knee, last year neither gardening nor physical betterment made the cut as I entered 2012 sans resolutions. In an off handed way, my desire to strengthen my right leg so the knee would function as normal was a type of resolution and I spent January working on my exercises at home.

But, by February’s end I was down with a cold, which turned into six weeks of bronchitis followed by several more weeks of regaining my stamina. (Bronchitis is tough. It’s even tougher if you’re 60!) By July, however, I was finally feeling better. So, I decided to make a half yearly resolution to walk one mile six times a week. I’ve been pretty successful in meeting that goal, only faltering during an eight day stretch in Michigan at Christmas when frigid temps gave new meaning to the words “brisk walk”. Rewind to August when the specter of skin cancer popped up during a long deferred visit to my dermatologist. Since an old friend passed away last December of metastatic melanoma, I sweated profusely waiting for the biopsy result. The biopsy came back as pre-cancerous…whew!

So, now, as I look back at 2012, I realize how important my health is as I age. I once saw a plaque in an office, which read, “If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?” To be sure, eventually, our bodies will give out. As my MD pointed out to me, “Arthritis is just a fancy word for the parts are wearing out.” At some point, all the parts will wear out or, at the very least, one very important part will wear out and we will leave our mortal home behind. So, if we want to spend as much time as we can in this earthly state, then we need, no, we must take care of our physical health. Not only does care of one’s physical health allow you to maintain your independence longer and keep you mentally fit, it’s also less costly. Getting sick or having even some of the lesser conditions, such as pre-diabetes or high cholesterol, which creep up with age, can set you back financially. The healthier you are physically, the healthier you will be financially.

As I enter 2013, I have plenty of garden related resolutions. But, this year they’re secondary to the resolutions to keep my health. My goal is to use sunscreen on my face every day. Not the drug store variety but the really good stuff with the zinc oxide sold by my dermatologist. Since it’s moisturizing, I’m replacing my moisturizer with it, which should offset the extra cost. I’m going to keep walking and add another mile, one quarter mile each calendar quarter so by the end of 2012 I should be walking two miles. Not a big lofty goal but certainly doable, which is what counts. Walking requires nothing more than a good pair of shoes and enough love for yourself to set aside the time for your walk every day. And, if I reach my goal of two miles six days a week earlier in the year, I can always tack on a half yearly resolution and start on a third mile for 2012. I’ve also armed myself with hand sanitizer, which I will use religiously, (I promise). No colds this year.

So, whatever your resolutions this year, make them realistic, make them reachable and make them for your health. After all, if you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?


New Year. Clean slate, fresh start, new beginnings. Whatever the start of a new year means to you, it also means saying goodbye to the year now past. The old adage “out with the old, in with the new” applies as always. Although 2012 was a watershed year for me, in retirement I find myself saying goodbye to 2012 in the same way I have said goodbye to many years. Retirement hasn’t changed much where this is concerned. There’s comfort in certain routines, routines which have been followed for so many years, they become tradition. But, there’s also value in following certain steps, not the least of which is the feeling of the just mentioned comfort they offer. There’s also value in the practicality of sticking with that which works for you.

So, the Christmas tree, ornaments and all the holiday decorations have already been taken down, dusted off, boxed up and put away in the attic for another year. You see, I like starting the New Year off by spending New Year’s Day in a de-cluttered house, making an Italian dinner, relaxing with Martin and, on occasion, other family or friends. After a full month or so of enjoying the Christmas spirit, I’m so-o-o-o ready for that clean slate that it just feels natural to me to put my house back in order, so to speak. To this end, yesterday I put my home back to the way it looks 11 months out of the year. Now I feel ready to tackle the other projects I traditionally attend to at year end.

Today I’ll review our 2013 budget. In past years this meant reviewing income and expenses of the past year and projecting what those would look like for the next year. I’d also try to anticipate any large expenditures, bonuses and raises based on old figures and wants and needs. This year is a little different. We’ve been living on our retirement budget for the last 4 months. It works for us. We met with our financial planner in mid-December and reviewed our portfolio so we have a pretty good idea what income that will generate. Our expenses won’t change much. The big unknown is the cost of our health insurance, which will change in March. We made some large purchases prior to retiring, such as a new car for Martin, a necessary purchase since he had a company car while working. We also bought a new mattress to replace our eight year old set. We tried to anticipate and make those types of purchases while still working so our first year in retirement would be without large cash outlays. So, our 2013 budget is really pretty much in place already.

Over the next couple of days I’ll go through our paper files and shred anything which is no longer needed. I keep an income tax file year in and year out, every year, so that’s already underway. But, I’ll also look at what is in that file to be sure I have it as complete as possible. This way, when I receive the missing pieces, I’m ready to turn it over to our CPA. I don’t like surprises. I like having the taxes done way before April 15. That way, if there is something unexpected, and we’ve had somethings in the past, I have time to re-group. I’ve learned over the years that having something unexpected arise at the eleventh hour only adds to the stress. Time affords the luxury of thinking it through and choosing the optimal outcome for your situation.

So, that’s my year end. We don’t go out for New Year’s Eve anymore. We’ve spent many a New Year’s Eve partying to all hours with friends. We’ve even gone the route of spending the night in a hotel, dancing to a live band, toasting way too many toasts and having a late morning brunch on January 1st before going home. The last few years we realized we’d rather hang out at home just the two of us and the cats, of course, watching a rented movie and going to bed at our usual hour. I know…BORING. But, as I mentioned, some routines become traditions, which offer a comfort, a value, a practicality in knowing they are what works for you.