During a horse-drawn wagon tour of Charleston last year, our entertaining driver told us a story to highlight the slower paced living of the city. As the story goes, sometime in the first half of the twentieth century, a New Yorker moved to Charleston and, stuck in late afternoon traffic one day, he began to beep his car horn in an apparent effort to move the traffic along. Elizabeth O’Neill Verner, well-known artist and Charleston native, was passing by on the sidewalk. Verner stopped to ask him what all the fuss was about. Finding the man had no place in particular he was required to be and admitting he enjoyed living in Charleston, she responded in true laid back Southern form, “Well, if you’re where you want to be, what’s your rush?” Upon hearing this quote, I whipped out a little note pad I carry with me, wrote down the words, which I typed up when I got home and taped to my bathroom mirror as a reminder to slow my life’s pace.

When I say slow my life’s pace, I’m talking about taking the opportunity to savor life. I’m talking about finding a meaningful life. For those of us with the good fortune to leave the traditional workforce behind, this time in our lives is a gift. Even if we choose to use this time to continue working, whether it’s starting a business we always dreamed of or working part-time at something entirely new to us or working as a volunteer supporting a cause we care about, it is a time when we are living by terms we create. It is a time when we have the space to focus on what really matters to us. The trick is to avoid filling up the space with sheer busyness simply because that’s what we are used to doing. Part of the transition from work life is realizing the frenetic pace, which often accompanies working is unnecessary. And, it probably always was.

Many people live busy, busy lives accomplishing all kinds of things but those lives are often unfulfilled. Their lives appear satisfying on the surface. I have met many people who moved at light speed from one appointment or meeting to the next, often read emails or opened snail mail while “listening” to other people, proud of their multi-tasking abilities. They dashed from work to their kid’s ball game or a community commitment, gobbling dinner on the run. There were public accolades added to their resumes. But, sitting down with them, for a rare moment of introspection, often revealed they were largely unhappy as their success propelled them to just chase after more, leaving them with an empty feeling at the end of the day. One of the challenges when you retire, as in all of life, is stopping this busyness long enough to listen your own heart and head. This is a time for inner focus. So, I made a conscious effort in the last year to slow the pace and think about what I really found important in life. The result has been a much richer, rewarding life.

Firstly, I realized not everything is important. I can let a lot of things go, which in the past would have been a source of annoyance. When I worked, I was highly organized. Everything would be done, every item had a place and was in its place both at home and work. My car was spic and span, my hair always “done” and my outfits put together. I scheduled appointments for everything for the entire year. My life today is much more relaxed, less focused on things, more focused on people, pets and activities I enjoy doing.

Secondly, speaking of people, I realized there are certain people who are the most important people to me. While I was never in the habit of letting someone into my life just because they happened to show up at my door, I did have relationships with people who were no longer in synch with me. Conversely, I also realized I had relationships with people who were not that keen on me. In the last year, I think I’ve had the good grace to let both go. The most important person in my life is my husband, Martin, and that is the relationship I pay the most attention to. It has not always been the case. And, transitioning to being together 24/7 was its own challenge but our relationship has never been better.

Thirdly, I realized I was still acting a bit like I did when I worked, wanting to accomplish as much as I could and try everything on my bucket list all at once. But, at the end of 2013 I looked at my list and said, “What do I want to do this year?” I decided to try something new each year for as long as I can and focus on that one thing. This year is the Year of Drawing, which I first did fall 2013. Yes, I will most likely continue doing art for the rest of my life but this year I’m not muddying the waters by adding this and that on top of it. As a result, I feel more centered, less scattered than ever before. And, I’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed possible with this one activity. I still garden and write, two other activities I enjoy, volunteer with the Master Gardeners Program, hike, walk and do the usual, but by not adding anything else new, I have found balance.

After all, I am where I want to be…retired. So, what is the rush?



After nine months of training including over 3,000 miles of bicycling, we headed for the coast last Friday for Martin to compete in the South Carolina State Time Trial Championships. When he was working, he didn’t have the time to dedicate to rigorous training and the chance to place in the top three. So, the time trial made it onto his retirement bucket list. The championship breaks the riders up into age categories. Even though Martin is only 59, on his next birthday, he’ll be 60 so he is in the 60 – 65 year olds. Weird, but that’s how they do it. Being one of the youngest riders in his age category presents the opportunity to check a gold, silver or bronze medal off his bucket list.

Packed and ready, Friday morning we drive the three and a half hours through the Land of Charles to Charles Town for the race. For you history buffs, Carolina is latin for Charles. The “Merry King” Charles granted the land of the Carolinas to his buddies but named it for himself. Then, his grateful friends, named the sea port Charles Town, which, obviously, eventually became Charleston. A liberal bastion in a conservative state, Charleston is known world wide for its gracious southern hospitality, beautiful historic district, jazz clubs and inspired regional cuisine. However, the area is chosen for the time trial, not for any of the above, but because it’s flat, flat, flat. Oh, yeah, the beaches are gorgeous, too.

After a yummy lunch of chicken and pasta in fresh tomato sauce at the Kings Street Grill, Martin and I head north on Highway 17 to find the time trial course. The 25 mile course starts at Seewee Outpost north of Charleston. Driving the highway, the first thing I notice is the lack of buildings and parking lots up against the street. Looking down the road, it appears you’re in the middle of no where, as all you see are towering pines and oaks with an occasional sign announcing a shopping center or business hidden behind the green space. These folks do not want an ugly view of brick, steel and asphalt. Whoever’s in charge of city planning is really in charge. The green space isn’t the usual landscaped facade put up after all the natural vegetation is bull dozed to oblivion, then burned or hauled away. It is the natural vegetation! It’s the green stuff Mother Nature put there. Under mature pines and oaks is what most folks would call scrub brush. Saplings, native grasses, Spanish bayonet, Dogwoods, vines, whatever Mother Nature dictates. And, peeking through the deep expanse of green, I spy the most beautiful Walmart I’ve ever seen. Yes, really. A Walmart in full brick, huge curved front wall and columned portico on its face.

Looking at all this, we somehow can’t find the Seewee Outpost. Well, maybe it’s because the navigator (me) is too busy looking at the great big nursery we pass. But, with all the green space, we zip right by the Outpost. Looking at our map on the iPad (no, we don’t have a GPS…we’re old fashioned that way), I know it should be on the edge of Francis Marion National Park. So, I tell Martin to pull into the Education Center of the park and I hop out to just, quick like a bunny, run in to ask where the Outpost is. Inside, the ranger tells me the Seewee Outpost is about a mile back on the right. As I listen to her I see a table filled with info on native plants, habitat building and attracting butterflies. When she finishes giving directions, I tell her how I’m a Master Gardener with an interest in native plants and ask if I can take some of the flyers. “Oh, I have something for you! Just come with me.” She says. So, I follow her into a back room where we keep chatting as she pulls open long, narrow drawers and starts handing me beautiful posters on slick paper. Posters of South Carolina wild flowers, edible plants, mushrooms and trees. By the time Martin starts worrying about me and comes inside to hunt me down, I have four posters, which the ranger and I are rolling up to secure with a rubber band. Did I mention Charleston is known for it’s southern hospitality? Saying goodbye to my new friend and wishing I had more time to spend at the Education Center, Martin and I drive back to the Seewee Outpost, buy some bottled water and then drive the time trial course so he knows what to expect with the terrain. It’s flat, Baby, flat. Before heading back to our hotel, we stop at the big nursery and, of course, I buy a plant.

Next morning race registration starts at 7 a.m. so we arrive at, you guessed it, 7 a.m. Martin registers. Then, we forage for breakfast. He’s #67. Time trial starts at 9 a.m. with a rider pushing off every minute. That translates into a start time of 10:06 for Martin. The wait begins. Back from breakfast, he wanders around talking to other riders and watching the first ones out of the gate while I start taking photos and log in to Facebook to post the event for our family and friends. The well wishes come rolling in. Finally, shortly after 9 Martin starts getting ready, squeezing into his, well, skintight skin suit. A 76 year old rider, the oldest person in the time trial, holds the bike for Martin as he gets into his shoes, shoe covers and tear drop helmet. Then, off he goes to warm up. I keep shooting photos and posting, family and friends engaged in our event as the “likes” and comments keep coming.

10:06 a.m. and he’s off! I won’t see Martin again for another hour plus a few minutes. So, I stand near the finish line, talking to other waiters as we listen to the officials shouting “rider coming in” and watch as each competitor pedals furiously toward the end. As the riders stop and talk to each other, I overhear comments about a 10-12 mile an hour wind. Headwind in both directions. How is that possible? One after the other, they report not their best times. As 11:10 turns into 11:15 and still no sign of Martin, my heart sags. His time is not what he expected. He probably won’t place. Yet, a part of me holds hope the riders talking about the wind interfering with their times represent all the riders. If everyone’s having slower times, Martin could still place. I remind myself he’s a winner no matter what, just for all the effort he put into training and then, showing up. But, I want him to place. I want him to proudly check this off his bucket list.

Finally, I see him. Even under the helmet and sunglasses, I can tell by the way he’s pedaling, he’s out of energy. Tired. Like every other rider, Martin summons a last ounce of will power and pedals furiously to the end as I snap a photo. Whizzing by me he pedals to the end of the road, turns around and comes back. He can hardly talk. Sweat pours down his red face. Is he shaking? Yes, he’s shaking. I ask if I can get him a water. He mumbles, “Later”, then, s-l-o-w-l-y rides back to the car. I stop at the water tent anyway where one of the officials gives me some type of energy drink. “He’ll like that”, the official tells me. As I hand Martin the drink, I see disappointment on his face. We talk about how his time wasn’t good and I tell him about the other riders’ comments about the wind. “Yes”, he says, “the wind was awful both ways.” I see a gleamer of hope in his eyes.

As Martin sips the energy drink, he recovers from the stress of the ride and walks down to the officials’ tent where they tell him they’re close to posting everyone’s time. He walks back to the car to tell me. Well, at least the wait will be over. Finally, at the tent, crowding around a board with all the other riders, Martin looks on the sheets of paper for his age category and name. Reading across, he sees it. And, next to his name under state ranking is the number 2! Wahoooooo! A silver medal. All smiles now, he finds me. “It’s official”, he says. “I’m the second fastest old man in the state.” Check.



For those of you who have been following my blog, you already know I live on six acres, a hobby farm of sorts. While I’m not a real farmer by any stretch of the imagination, I grow vegetables 365 days a year (you can do that in South Carolina) and have a home fruit orchard. What you may not realize is gardening is my passion. Not just food gardening but landscapes filled with flowers, shrubs, trees and whimsical garden art. Because spring has sprung and my passion has ignited, I will only be posting weekly during the high gardening seasons of spring and summer through to the first frosts of October. So, lets talk about passions. The kind that makes you want to roll out of bed everyday instead of hitting the snooze button.

Maybe you were one of the extremely fortunate who discovered their life’s passion at an early age, acted upon that knowledge and have lived your life not just making a living but actually living. Most are not so fortunate. I, for one, did not act upon my passion for writing. I did, however, act upon my passion for gardening, but kept it on the back shelf as a hobby instead of a means of earning a living. It’s when you work at whatever your passion in order to also put a roof over your head that you truly live your life. Although the gardening bug bit me in my twenties I couldn’t see myself giving up an established career pattern to start a landscaping business or go back to college to become a landscape architect. That was scary stuff. And, at the time, I was gutless.

A short time later, I came across a man, a doctor as in MD, who gave up his practice to pursue becoming a novelist. He’d always wanted to be a writer but his dad wanted him to be a doctor. So, he pursued his father’s dream, instead of his own dream only to find himself miserable after going to med school, interning, residency and establishing a practice. I have no idea if he was ever successful. I can’t even remember his name. But, I do remember his family was not supportive of his decision. His wife left him. His parents were bitterly disappointed. He pursued his passion anyway. And, that’s what it takes. Ignoring the wants and needs of everyone else, listening instead to your own heart. Selfish, you say? Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Another may be looking at the selfishness of a parent who foisted their own wants upon a child to the point where the parent was so proud to brag about their son, the doctor, while ignoring the misery they visited upon that child.

While most of us don’t live our lives working at something we are passionate about and most of us don’t have the gumption to change course mid-stream, we do have a second chance in retirement to pursue our dreams. Retirement, by definition, is a conclusion, ending, termination of work life. Since most of us don’t work at our passion, maybe a more appropriate definition is the conclusion, ending, termination of the work life you dragged yourself to everyday because you had to make money. With that off the table, you can reignite your passions. Finding your passion, however, may be one of the hardest things for retirees to figure out. We’ve spent so much of our lives doing what we were supposed to do, we’re out of practice at figuring out what it is we want to do.

As mentioned, I pursued my passion for gardening for decades, living for the weekends, turning every yard we owned into a beautiful oasis. To Martin’s satisfaction, some of them were nearly devoid of grass. Translation…no mowing! So, ten years ago, when we started looking for property to build our “retirement home”, I knew turning it into an ever expanding garden would my life’s work. With the warming weather, I jump out of bed at the crack of dawn excited to get out there and dig in the earth. I rejoice at every thunder storm sprinkling nitrogen through the atmosphere into my garden. This spring I have divided every plant I could, spreading the wealth into new beds. I’ve seeded tray after tray of vegetables in anticipation of the warming days, planting seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and cucumbers yesterday along with blue potatoes. I’m also anticipating pulling the onions and garlic I planted last winter. This is what I live for!

For some, what I get excited about is hokey. But, it’s what ignites my soul. And that’s what counts. No matter where you are in life, retired, about to retire or far from it, dig down into the depths of your soul and find yourself and ignite your passion. Who are you really? Not who you think you are but who you feel you are. Not who your parents, partner, friends or society think you are or should be but who you want to be. Do the work to answer that question and I promise you will enjoy a more rewarding, fulfilling life. And you won’t need a snooze button. You won’t even need an alarm clock.


Part II of the post I wrote Monday on “Living Bolder” is not what I expected to write for today but as usual life happens shoving aside the best laid plans of mice and women. Upon waking this morning, along with my latte, Martin handed me the iPad. In our email cache was a message from Santini Maglificio Sportivo, an international bicycle clothing manufacturer out of Italy. The email announced Martin as one of two semi-finalists chosen in Santini’s 2013 Sportswear Design Contest. Wow! An exciting moment, not only for Martin but for me as well. Hence, Part II of “Living Bolder”.


What does it take? Living bolder takes a willingness to put yourself out there. Despite what others may say about your efforts, your ideas, your abilities, you have to be willing to open yourself up to any criticism as well as any applause. We all like applause but if it’s not guaranteed applause, it can be a little scary. That old specter, Fear of Failure, often rises above any desire to try something new. You know the old adage, “Nothing ventured; nothing gained.” Risk. That’s what it takes to live bolder. It also means having belief in your abilities. Just slap down Fear of Failure. Martin’s always had a very creative side. He’s dabbled in artistic adventures since grade school. He’s also always been willing to take some risk. When taking a chance and using your innate talents come together, the result is, even if you don’t win the race, just by entering the contest, you are a winner. So, today, we’re enjoying this moment of Martin being chosen as a finalist in an international competition sponsored by one of his favorite sportswear manufacturers. Fun!

Living bolder also means persevering when things don’t go your way. You see, we live with a handicap. We live in the boonies, the hinterlands. Though not as back country as you’d expect from my description, it still means no DSL, no cable company running wires down the road. Some of our neighbors have satellite, working or not working depending on the whims of mother nature. That’s just too much money to pay for so much brain damage. Dial-up? Ugh! Even more brain damage. So, no high speed internet translating into no computer connected to the internet. Our lifeline to the the high speed world is an iPad with a MIFI Jetpack. But it has it’s limitations as in it’s just a giant smartphone, not a razzle-dazzle computer where you can do all kinds of wizardry with graphics. Stymied about how Martin would get his design uploaded to Santini, we brainstormed such possibilities as using the library or a relative’s computer. Those were cumbersome at best. Persevering, Martin finally came up with the idea of producing his design on paper, photographing it and submitting the photo image. Obviously, that worked.

So, Martin didn’t see the design contest and tell himself he couldn’t design as well as anyone else. He did nothing to talk himself out of submitting an idea. He didn’t let the obstacle of uploading his graphic to the sponsor stop him. He decided he had a bold life to live and he’s living it. And me? Well, I’m going to shamelessly put myself out there and ask all of my readers to click this link and vote for Team Merlino. While it’s fun to live in the moment of being a semi-finalist, it’ll be even more fun to win the race!



Recently, I stumbled upon a PBS TV show, Growing Bolder. Although it’s a show which certainly can appeal to people of all ages, it’s about shattering the stereotypes of aging, highlighting older people who are pursuing their dreams with a passion and zeal to be envied at any age. There are artists, athletes, entrepreneurs, survivors of disease and trauma, even a ninety year old woman chauffeur. Everyday people who refuse to let age define them. People who realize bold living begins right after leaving the comfort zone. On the most recent episode, a woman turning the milestone age of 60 went to a tattoo parlor, fortified by an entourage of friends, to have a peace symbol placed indelibly on her ankle. The peace symbol because she thought it wouldn’t offend anyone and because it signifies the era during which she came of age. During that same era I got married in a hayfield. However, when I turned the Big 6-0, I didn’t do anything extraordinary. So, having a birthday this week myself, I thought about what I could do to add a bold stroke to my celebration of another year down.

Now, don’t get too excited thinking I’m about off the deep end and wow you all with some fantastic adventure. There won’t be any skydiving or bungee jumping from bridges. My daredevil streak ends at riding on the back of Martin’s motorcycle. I’m also not an athlete. Martin went on a 50 mile ride on Saturday with a small peloton of other similar aged cyclists. The youngest 57; the oldest 70 something. Besides the 50 miles, they did over 4000 feet of climbing, some at a 22% grade. It would take me years of training to accomplish something like that at any age, even if I had the desire. I also have no desire to get a tattoo, although Martin encouraged me by pointing out I could probably find a reputable artist here in the Upstate. I’ve been an entrepreneur, successfully I might add, so I have no desire to start a new business again. So, what can I come up with in the next couple of days to symbolize living bolder?

As I thought about this quandary, I started thinking about what I HAVE done since turning the Big 6-0. I wanted to release my inner artist so I painted a mural on the guest room wall. By the time I did the painting, I had already tried my hand at gourd art…have a long way to go on that one. My mother was an artist with native talent she never really developed because she let age define her limitations. By the time she raised six kids, she thought she was too old to do much else. I don’t want to be my mother so I’ve jumped into finding my creative self with a living bold attitude.


Consequently, I also took up knitting. Ho-hum, you say? Well, I’ve learned knitting takes a ton of concentration, focus and some math ability. There are two stitches. Knit. Purl. But, whoever comes up with these patterns could have been a rocket scientist! Knitting is hard but with perseverance I’m now half way to my first afghan. If you see any mistakes in the picture below, don’t tell me. I already know where they are. Practice will eventually get to perfect…maybe.


While I’m no athlete, I’m also no slouch when it comes to physical activity as well as creativity in my garden. I just finished a stone wall I’ve been working on for the last year. It’s not the Great Wall of China but it entailed a lot of heavy lifting. Not only did it require moving stone, it required removing stone until just the right piece was found for any particular spot. The stone talks to you, you know, telling you if it’s a good fit for the position. Martin helped me with the really heavy pieces but since he couldn’t hear the stone talking (O.K. I already know I’m crazy), I did most of the wall myself. And that path cutting through the bank in the photo below. Well, Martin came home a couple of years ago to find me digging that out with a hand shovel. How many women, or men, for that matter, do you know who can or would dig out a path in hard, red southern clay by hand? At 59? Not many! (My better half, the sane one, laid the stone for me.) In October I also finished the requirements to become a certified Master Gardener. That certificate is my reward for one hundred hours of classroom classroom instruction and hands-on volunteering, not to mention all the reading and studying to pass the exam. Whew!


As you already know, in October Martin and I officially retired from the daily grind. And what did I do with all the questions, angst and transition into retirement? After several weeks of trying to acclimate to a major change in lifestyle, I decided writing about it would not only help me, but help others. So, instead of sitting on my hands growing older, I grew bolder and started this blog. You see, living bolder isn’t reserved for birthdays. Living bolder is for every day of our lives, no matter what our age. So what am I going to do this week to celebrate my birthday in an over-the-top way? I think I’ll just relax, enjoy a piece of cake and think about my bold life.


A few weeks ago I received a jury summons. I’ve been summoned several times before. When I was summoned for federal court a few years ago, the summons came with a four page questionnaire asking all kinds of information about my jobs, Martin’s jobs and life events. After sending back the questionnaire, I received a letter telling me I did not need to report. I was rejected! Apparently, I wasn’t the type of juror they wanted. But this summons was for summary court, which is basically traffic court, so there was little to fill out on the questionnaire. Where it asked for place of employment, I simply answered “retired”.

So, last Tuesday I reported to summary court along with what looked like a hundred other people. By the time I arrived, there was no parking left in the court-house parking lot. Apparently arriving 15 minutes early wasn’t early enough. So, some of us parked at the church next door, flowing over onto their grass. Others parked at the gas station and Subway shop across the street. Still, others filled the side streets. We lined up, signing in when our turn came and then filled the court to standing room only. Along with we perspective jurors, there were attorneys with their clients, the defendants, a prosecutor and other defendants sans attorneys who were representing themselves.

I sat in the first seat I came to…the front row that nobody wants. Looking through the open door to the closed door across the hall, I stared at a poster of Albert Einstein on a big Harley hog of a motorcycle. Not exactly what you’d expect to see in a courthouse. The man seated next to me and I both laughed at the poster, surmising that must be the magistrate’s chambers. Yup! Eventually, the magistrate appeared through another door leading to the same office. He looked very official in his black robe. But, yes, he must be the Harley guy. The long beard almost touching his chest was a dead giveaway. As the buzz in the room quieted down, the magistrate introduced himself and the prosecutor and started to explain the process of jury selection.

There were several trials over the next three days, starting today at 11:30 a.m. They expected jury selection to be over by 11 a.m. Not wasting any time here! He asked each of us to stand up when our name was called. We were to state our name, our occupation, our marital status, our spouse’s occupation, if we had one, and our age. If we were retired or unemployed, we were to state our previous occupation. Ditto for our spouse. I found it interesting that they didn’t want to know if we had a significant other and what did they do with their living. I guess the influences of those close to you only count if you’re married. So, one by one, we stood up during roll call, gave our information in front of the group, as attorneys, defendants and the prosecutor made notes, presumably deciding who was acceptable or not.

Then, the magistrate proceeded to call out the possible exemptions from jury duty. He asked anyone meeting the criteria to raise their hands. There were several teachers, whom he excused with the promise they would be placed on the summer roster. When he came to the 65 years or older exemption, he paused. Then, noting how he was 67, he further noted retirees make excellent jurors because of all the experience they bring to the jury. Hmmm. The subtle guilt tactic. So, the pressure was on not to raise your hand if you were 65 or older. Regardless, one brave woman put up her hand, was excused and made a very quick exit. Next, he went on to ask about anyone convicted of a crime where they were sentenced to one year or more in prison. To my surprise, the man next to me raised his hand and was dismissed. When the magistrate asked who had been charged with DUI (driving under the influence), more surprise. I turned to look at a sea of raised hands. O.K. if they all get dismissed, there’s not going to be but fifty of us left to serve on all the juries needed this week. Alas. While they all had to get up and give their names, no one was dismissed.

Finally. We were at the moment of jury selection. We all received our summons because we are voters. Supposedly, a computer runs through the registered voters and randomly chooses the jury pool for the session. My ever-suspect little mind isn’t sure it quite believes the randomness part as my question, then, becomes, if Martin is also a registered voter, why has he never once received a summons when I receive one about every three years? Well, anyway, that’s how we all got there. Now that we’re all sworn as possible jurors, however, we are not chosen randomly by computer. Instead, our names, typed out on strips of paper, are stuffed into a little wooden box, which the magistrate shakes up, then opens up and starts pulling names from. It’s sort of like pulling names out of the hat. Very scientific.

If your name is called by the magistrate, you stand up. If the prosecutor likes you, then he says, “Present juror”. If he doesn’t like you, he says, “This juror may be excused from this trial”. Then, if the defendant’s attorney, or the defendant representing themselves, likes you, they say, “Please seat this juror”. If they don’t like you, they say, “This juror may be excused from this trial”. All very formal. Six jurors were chosen for each trial. After each jury was filled, a constable handed the selected jurors a paper with the date and time of their jury duty. One man, having already been chosen for one jury, was called a second time. When he indicated to the magistrate how he was already selected, the magistrate said, “Oh, you’re not off the hook. If you get chosen for five trials, well, then, go buy a lottery ticket.” I don’t think anyone was chosen for five trials but several people were chosen for two or more.

As for me, my name was pulled from the box five times. And, each time, either the prosecutor or the defending attorney/defendant said, “This juror may be excused from this trial”. I have no idea if they didn’t agree with the judge about retired people bringing lots of experience to the jury or they didn’t like the kind of experience I was bringing. Whatever the reason, I’ll never know. But, I do know, today, I’m going to buy my lottery ticket.


Recently, fellow blogger, Lynn Daue, wrote a post called “Resistance Is (Not) Futile” (http://lynndaue.com/2013/03/08/resistance-is-not-futile/) in which she writes about being involved in a volunteer organization where she isn’t motivated to do that particular work. Though her post is about far more than volunteering, it reminded me of some advice I received from a retired couple. Referring to my impending retirement from paid work, they cautioned, “You’ll have to guard your time jealously.” “Why?”, asked I. The answer: “Because everyone thinks you have all this free time to volunteer for their cause. If you’re not careful, you’ll become a professional volunteer. You won’t have time for what you intended to do with your retirement.”

Whether retired or not, volunteering is a way to give back, to make the world a better place and, as a volunteer, I have always felt I received more than I gave. The caveat on that last thought is I received great satisfaction when I was volunteering for a cause I felt passionately about. Unfortunately, I’ve also had the experience of volunteering for an organization because a friend, neighbor or co-worker cajoled me into raising my hand and “volunteering”. As a result, I really didn’t enjoy what I was doing. My heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t contribute as much as I was capable of contributing and eventually left on a note of disappointment all around. So, after reading Lynn’s post, I put together my little set of rules for volunteering.

Rule number one for volunteering is to be sure you’re doing it because you feel unequivocally passionate about the cause. Just like the champion race horse who wins the race every time because they have heart, you’ll give your all to the organizations you choose because they touch your heart. Just because you say “no” doesn’t mean it isn’t a good cause. It isn’t a judgement of those who do support it. It’s just not YOUR cause.

Recently, at a class I’m taking, one of my classmates said she was having a tough time keeping up with the assignments. She’s retired so she should have time for doing the work. Right? What was holding her back? She’s the professional volunteer my advisors were talking about! She volunteers for five organizations, including one that takes three hours of her time five days a week. She wants to leave a couple of the organizations but feels guilty because they are already short-handed. Oh, the guilt!

So, rule number two for volunteering is know when to say “no” right up front. Don’t let yourself reach the point where the volunteering controls your life. When that happens, no matter how passionate you are about a cause, it may become a chore in short order. And, as in rule number one, if you’re not even passionate about the cause to begin with, it’s worse than being stuck in a paid job you don’t like because here your efforts are not even rewarded with a paycheck! Which leads me to rule number three. Know when to cash it in and do so without guilt. You gave it a shot. If it’s not YOUR cause, move on. You’ll be doing them a favor.

As I mentioned, I’ve been involved with organizations where things just didn’t work out, even in ones where I thought their cause was my cause. I’d start out all excited to be a part of the good works, all gong ho to show up and make things happen. Then, fizzle. Why? Well, I was just a warm body. I was a warm body to file paperwork. I was a warm body to take tickets at a special event. I was a warm body to type up the newsletter. You know, the one I didn’t write. In other words, they didn’t want my ability. They didn’t want my experience. They didn’t want to hear about any thought in my head. I was just a warm body to do whatever needed to be done that day.

So, rule number four is choose organizations that truly respect you, your experience, your expertise and your time. While this is true for everyone, I believe it’s especially true for retirees who are looking for community. Choose organizations that show their gratitude. I volunteer for an organization where I am routinely thanked for my volunteer activities and my time. I was trained by this organization to do a specific job for them and my brain power is welcomed. Although I’m a volunteer, they make me feel just as important as a paid employee.

So, do volunteer. But, choose organizations which support your passion, not someone else’s. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with too much volunteering. Be your own good cause. Remember, you have other passions as well. And, this one is really important for retirees, choose organizations where your life experience, expertise and brain power is not only respected but expected. Lastly, if you find yourself in the position of wanting out, but ohhh…the guilt, set them free so they can find someone with the passion to do a spectacular job at volunteering for their cause.


O.K. readers, I owe you an apology. I didn’t write a post with anything insightful or ruminating for today because I’ve spent the last few days running around the countryside and doing garden chores. This is the time of year in the southeast where you seed, feed and weed in anticipation of spring. Also, in anticipation of spring are events like motorcycle shows. So, the last few days have been just a lot of fun and, no matter how hard I try or maybe because I’m trying too hard, I, frankly, haven’t been able to focus my inner muse on writing.

For starters, we went to Charlotte for the Annual Motorcycle Show held at their convention center. That was pretty much for Martin to have the chance to touch, feel, sit on all the latest bikes. Besides watching all the people, I enjoy seeing the custom bikes where someone’s creativity is let loose, especially on the paint jobs. Very artistic. I also enjoy stopping by the travel and tourism booths to pick up maps and info on possible destinations for our spring and summer biking adventures. Haven’t been to Deal’s Gap in a while. Nor have we ever ridden the Dragon’s Claw. Although the weather was rainy and somewhat cold, we also decided to take in a tour of Historic Rosedale Plantation. One of the south’s old plantations not far from downtown Charlotte, I just couldn’t be that close and not stop in for a look at local history. Despite the weather, I braved a quick round through the gardens while Martin waited for me on the back porch. The garden, which features some of the original plants and trees from 1815, was alive with daffodils, camelias and redbuds promising warmer days ahead. Limited to just a few acres today, Rosedale originally was over 900 acres. The 4600 square foot house still stands but the outbuildings, including the slaves’ cabins, are gone. And, this weekend, instead of the usual tour led by a docent, there was an Unheard Voices Tour led by a woman re-enacting the life of slave Agness (no, I didn’t misspell her name) Caldwell. Though much of her story is sad with memories of the sale of her 8-year old son and the death of her first husband, all the visitors got a chuckle out of her story about high cotton.

Then, we returned home to our little plot of earth in time to enjoy a sunny 65 degree day. As I stood in the garden workroom seeding my vegetables for spring planting, I thought about the recent news of yet another spinach recall due to possible E. coli contamination. South Carolina is one of 39 states effected by the recall. I grow our spinach, which isn’t to say a contamination couldn’t occur in my vegetable patch. But, from what I’ve read in the last few years and seen on the news, most of the disease occurs from food sitting in storehouses for lengthy periods of time as well as unclean harvest holding areas. For this reason, I’ve started growing more and more of our vegetables and even some fruits. After seeding a variety of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, I turned my attention to the garden itself. Raking up piles of pine needles throughout our woods, Martin pulled out the tractor for me (no, I can’t back the tractor out without hitting the garage with the bucket loader…sad but true). Filling the bucket again and again, I dumped pine needles around the blueberry bushes (yes, I can drive the tractor and manage the bucket loader without hitting anything). After cleaning up my raised beds, taking the last, spent collard and Asian greens to the compost bin, I called it a day.

I spent this morning trying to kick-start my inner muse by looking at all my ideas for posts. I even began writing a couple of different stories. But, she is determined to continue sleeping today. Hopefully, I can get her butt in gear for Thursday! Until then…


On a warm October day shortly after Martin retired, we headed for North Carolina on Martin’s Kawasaki Versys. Wearing our usual cycling gear of leather jackets, boots, gloves and full-coverage helmets, we sailed along through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains to Shelby, NC. There, we stopped for lunch at Bridges Barbecue. A little diner serving up southern style barbecue with a vinegar based sauce and all the fixin’s, Bridges is one of those places where cyclists like to stop for the casual, friendly atmosphere as well as the good food. When we pull off our helmets and people see our graying hair, there’s sometimes a look of surprise. We’re not what most people expect under all that leather. But, everyone is always friendly and that day was no different.

We made our way inside and through the little diner to the only empty table and chairs, hauling jackets and helmets with us. A server took our orders as the booth next to us emptied out and was quickly filled by two women who looked a little younger than me. They were both dressed very nicely as if for work in an office. As Martin went to make a pit stop, one of the women leaned across the aisle, pointing at my helmet, and asked, “Are you going to or coming from someplace?” One thing led to another and by the time Martin returned to our table, I was talking about cycling, gardening, grandkids and living in South Carolina with my two new friends.

Unlike most people contemplating retirement and where they will live, we had the good fortune of discovering one of the most livable areas of the country long before we reached this juncture. One sunny Michigan day about fifteen years ago Martin called me and said, “How would you feel about moving to Greenville, South Carolina?” “Where?” I asked. We’d been to Hilton Head on vacation and loved it but I’d never heard of Greenville. In order to decide if we would make the transfer Martin’s employer was offering, the following Friday we flew down on a look-see. We found warm weather, friendly people and a lively downtown featuring a Main Street jazz concert on Friday nights. By Sunday, we were hooked! The South Carolina slogan of “Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places” described the upstate…well…beautifully. Since then, we’ve discovered it also describes the other Carolina to the north as well.

So, it was no surprise when we encountered such friendliness during our lunch in Shelby. One of the women asked if we’d ever had the hushpuppies at Bridges. “Well, no.” I answered. “Oh, then, you must try some. They’re simply the best.” With that, she offered up a bread basket full of long, brown fingers of crisply cooked dough. When I hesitated, she said with a big smile, “Oh, I insist. You must try these.” Shortly, we were trading french fries and hush puppies and talking some more. This time, them telling me about how the Reverend Billy Graham used to bring his family here for lunch when his kids were young. As we finished our lunch and said our goodbyes, I thought about what a great place the Carolinas are for retirees.

There are websites like AARP.org, moneyrates.com and CNN.Money.com teeming with suggestions to assist those contemplating retirement. You can find the best and worst states to retire, the cities with the lowest or highest cost of living, the states with the most sunshine, the states with the best or worst tax treatment for retirees, the cities with the most affordable housing, least crime, best jobs for retirees or some combination of all the above. Where you live is a very personal decision, which will affect the quality of your retirement. So, taking the time to explore the possibilities is time well spent. Even if you are happy where you live now and think you’ll just stay there, you may owe it to yourself to do a little exploring. We love living in South Carolina but we did a little reading, thinking and looking around just to be sure there wasn’t someplace even better for us. In the process, we discovered many places in this country, which we plan to visit in our retirement journey.

Taking a look around the country verified, for us, the Upstate of South Carolina is one of the best places to live. For the warm climate including lots of sunshine. For the cultural activities in three cities within an easy driving distance. For the outdoor recreation and beautiful vistas in both North and South Carolina. For all the fabulous eateries. For the favorable tax treatment of retirees. For the up to the minute health care facilities with a teaching hospital within 25 minutes of our house. For the affordable housing with relatively low property taxes. For the colleges where we can take courses tuition-free. For the vibrant economy fueled by BMW, Michelin and many other companies big and small. For the friendly, smiling faces.

And, the hushpuppies? Well, they’re simply the best!


Growing up on the New Jersey shore, I learned to swim early on. Since the ocean is often too rough for a little kid, as a pre-schooler my mom took me to calmer inlets and, on occasion, to one of the community pools housed along the board walk. I loved the community pool. Other little kids would be there splashing around, doing the doggie paddle, laughing and just having fun. Going to the community pool expanded my little world, which was limited at the time to my family and neighborhood friends. As I grew and entered school and then work, my community grew along with me. As a teen I even worked one summer at O’Brien’s ice cream parlor at the north end community pool, making friends with some of my co-workers. Being retired is a bit like going back to that time as a little kid before my world expanded to include the community pool.

One of the dilemmas for many retirees is how to replace the community of work. After all, for decades work has provided a sense of identification. One of the first questions asked by any new acquaintance is, “What do you do?” I did my share of asking the same question. Work provides a sense of place and belonging as in the often asked next question, “Where do you work?” Work provides a place to come together with other people where we share connections wrought from common purpose, beliefs and values. Work also provides a place for us to be appreciated and recognized for our contributions to the group effort. Work may even provide us with friends. Some of my most enduring friendships are from earlier work relationships. So, while we work to earn an income, work provides us with much more than a paycheck. Replacing the work community and redefining your sense of self in retirement is actually a quest for connection.

In retirement we can seek community out of a sense of commitment as we are now able to exercise greater choice over what we commit to. Without a paycheck coming into play, our commitment is based on our interests, talents, beliefs and social connections. Volunteer work, civic involvement, part-time or full-time work in a new field, membership in clubs, living in over age 55 communities, being an activist for one cause or another. The choices seem endless and probably are. If you were active in your community before retirement, you may want to increase your commitment to those activities. Or, perhaps, you’ll want to try something new as you discover latent talents or interests. This is the opportunity to jump in feet first to try that something you always wanted to try but never had the time. No excuses now! I know retirees who teach computer classes, belong to knitting, quilting and garden clubs, do woodworking, volunteer for charitable organizations such as hospice, a domestic abuse shelter or, yes, the senior center, are artists or work part-time. The list goes on and on. The common theme with these people is they have remained engaged in life. They have a sense of community, a purpose, which has them looking forward to each day.

If you have identified a purpose for your life, which will give connection and community, embrace it full-throttle ahead. If not, find one. The choices are indeed endless. And finding THE ONE can be half the fun. Think of all the new people you’ll meet and all the new things you’ll learn. But, whatever you do, take a deep breath, hold your nose, jump in feet first and find your community pool!