A Tribute to My Mom

I try to keep this blog fun and positive.  After all, retirement is a wonderful opportunity that we are so fortunate to live out.  However, the reality is that life has difficulties and challenges along the way, whether you are retired or not.  This past year has been a hard one for me and my family.  My mom passed away exactly one year ago last Sunday.   While her health was declining over the previous two years, she still enjoyed life and lived independently with my dad.  She passed away abruptly at the age of 89.  Because of her lasting influence, I want to dedicate this blog post to her. 

I am one of six siblings.  While we took it for granted at the time, I now realize what an idyllic childhood we had.  Not a lot of money in the younger years, but plenty of love and security to go around.  As an adult I now realize that this type of childhood is not always the norm.   Many people grow up in tumultuous homes, at best.  We were blessed.   This means that any issues or idiosyncrasies I have as an adult are on me. 

My 3 older brothers playing outside the home we grew up in.

When I would ask my mom what her favorite years were in her long life, she would always say it was the years raising her family.  As was typical for that era, she was a stay-at-home mom.  When my dad started his own business, she did the record keeping for it, but she always seemed to be available and have time for us.  A well balanced dinner, with homemade dessert, was always on the table at 5:30 p.m. sharp.  You did not miss dinner unless you had a pretty darn good reason.  Now I realize what stability that provided.  Dinner together as a family was one of her many gifts she gave us.    

I learned so much about parenting and creating a loving and welcoming home from my mom.  She did not have any easy home life growing up and she was determined to provide better for her own children.   

Some of the things I learned about parenting from my mom.

Commitment.  My dad and mom were married 72 years when she passed away.  You can’t be married 72 years, build your own business together, raise six kids and not have challenges to your relationship.  As a kid, if you had asked me if my parents ever argued, I would have said no.  They kept their disagreements behind closed doors.  This gave us kids security and the ability to live without fear that our lives would be upended at any given moment.  Of course, as an adult I realize that no relationship is without disagreements.  But they were both committed for the long haul.  They lived out their wedding vows and it has been a great example to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.   

70th Anniversary Party

Unconditional love.  My mom would hold her kids accountable but her love was fierce and strong no matter what mistakes you made in life.   And if you had a disagreement with someone, you could guarantee that she would be on your side.   I have heard it said that no one loves you as unconditionally as your mother.   Mom was able to overlook our faults and sing our praises, even for our most meager accomplishments.  It gave us strength and confidence to try out new challenges; knowing we always had an emotional safety net to fall back on. 

Family traditions.   Traditions ground and bind a family together.  Family was so important to mom and she established numerous family traditions that continue on with her kids and grandkids.  There is something very solid and comforting to be able to say, “in our family, we always do…”  Our extended family continue most of the traditions that mom started.  These include:

  • 4th of July.  Many years ago my grandpa gave my mom and dad some property by a small lake just down the hill from their own place.  Dad built a house there and he and mom raised their six kids in it.  By today’s standards, it was a small house with only one bathroom.  But I think that taught us a lot about sharing and how to give and take.  At that time, all of the “cool” kids lived in town and not out in the country.  However, the lake was a perfect spot to celebrate the 4th of July with a BBQ and fireworks by the water.   Our extended family and friends still gather there every 4th of July.
  • Christmas Eve.  As kids we always celebrated Christmas morning in the traditional way.  But as we grew up, married and had our own kids, it became too difficult to coordinate schedules on Christmas day.  Mom to the rescue!  Instead, she started a tradition of getting everyone together on Christmas Eve.  It has evolved over the years to include a visit from Santa, a cut-throat gift exchange, singing carols off key, someone reading the Christmas story and way too much food.  The evening is capped off by having my mom’s traditional Tom & Jerry’s.  We now carry this tradition on at my sister’s house with over 35 people there this past Christmas.
  • Easter.  Years ago mom initiated the annual Easter brunch and egg hunt at their house.   I think the adults have as much fun hiding the eggs in unique places as the kids have finding them.  She would give out big chocolate bunnies to the grandkids afterwards.   We continue this tradition now at my house and in the summer we always find an egg or two that someone missed.
  • Birthdays.  It was important to my mom that each of her children feel special and loved, particularly on their birthday.  This was a bit of a challenge with four of us having birthdays in December.  My mom still let each of us pick our birthday dinner and a homemade cake of our choice.   (The only thing that was the same was that each cake had the traditional carrousel decoration on top.)  She even did this for my two brothers who had back-to-back birthdays.  No shortcuts for mom.  She made sure each of us had our own special day.   
  • Shopping trips.  When I was little, my dad took my brothers on several backpacking trips in the summer.  Mom decided this was a good time to take her two daughters on their own backpacking trip…to go shopping.  We would go out for lunch, which was a rare treat.  Then she would let my sister and I pick out something to buy.   We both distinctly remember being thrilled to choose a sweater off the sale table at The Crescent.  But more importantly, we shared lots of laughter and had our mom’s undivided attention and love. We continued some version of these special shopping trips up until the year my mom passed away.

Hearth and home.  Mom created a warm and welcoming home that was a safe haven from the harsh world.  Every meal was cooked from scratch.  She made bread every week and once in a while she made cinnamon rolls with it.  It was always an argument among us kids to determine who got the coveted gooey center cinnamon roll.  By example, she taught us the impact that a clean, organized and pleasant home environment has on those that live within its walls.   She would emphasize that it is OK if you can’t afford nice things for your home, but there is no excuse for it not being clean.  Mom loved to decorate but it was often the little things that made our house a home, like the fragrant pink and white water lilies she floated in a glass bowl to decorate the dinner table.      

Pray for your children…. a lot.  Mom had a strong faith.  She shared it willingly with others through teaching bible studies and offering prayers and encouragement for those going through rough times. She made sure each of her kids, in-laws and grandkids had their own bible, or two…or three.  We would all laugh with her over the number of bibles she gave away.  However, I am confident that we all benefited from her prayers and I believe that she continues to bend God’s ear on behalf of her family. 


None of us knows the impact that our life will have on others.  Like a pebble tossed in the pond, our actions and decisions have a ripple effect.   The choices, hard work and commitment that my mom and dad lived out in their lives has made all the difference to those of us that were fortunate enough to call them our parents.  Their legacy will continue to impact generations to come.   We miss you mom.   If you are fortunate enough to still have your mom here, be sure to give her a call or hug today.    

Have I Failed Retirement?

When, exactly, does working in retirement become employed and not retired?  That is the question I asked myself when I agreed to teach a class at our local college.  After all, I can’t be “working” when I am writing a blog about retirement, can I?   Why would I agree to do that, even if it is only one evening a week, when I really enjoy the freedom of retirement?   In other words, what in the hell was I thinking?

Many retirees still do some paid work in retirement.  Seniorliving.org states that 27% of retirees said they are retired, even though they still worked some.  According to Eric Weigel, in his book Reimaging Retirement, 2/3’s of retirees go back to work.  If you are receiving Social Security, there are some limits on how much you can earn from work and still receive benefits.  Apparently, they consider working in retirement not fully retired.  So, my question is, are we truly retired if we are still working part-time?  Where is the line? 

First, let’s take a look at what draws people to return to work after retiring; a time of life that most have looked forward to for years.  Why even retire in the first place?  I did a little research about what people missed most about work.  The top six items that show up consistently include:

  • Daily social interactions
  • Paycheck and benefits
  • Being productive
  • Structure
  • Having a purpose
  • Mental stimulation

I would argue that if we plan and prepare (both financially and emotionally) we can incorporate all of the above items into retirement.  We just have to determine how we are going to address them and then transform our career into a retirement lifestyle that we love to live. That is what this blog is about.  Many retirees find volunteering a great avenue to fulfill some aspects of what work provided. However, for purposes of this post, I am just focusing on paid work.

Like most people, I spent a lot of blood sweat and tears on my career. I used up way too many years of my life in college getting my initial degree and then a master’s degree in nursing education. It would be hard to give up my RN license. It feels like a part of my identity. And in order to maintain my license I need to stay engaged in the profession. Therein lies the rub.

If there are so many aspects of work that people like, why retire?  Typically, it is not the work itself that pushes people to want to retire.  It is all of the aspects that surround employment.  The top four reasons people decide to retire include: 

  • The commute
  • The hours it takes out of our lives that we want to use doing what we enjoy
  • Having to answer to someone else’s expectations
  • The stress associated with working  

Despite these frustrations associated with work, many people of retirement age continue to work because they don’t have anything else they would rather do.  But what if you could work without any of these constraints that are typically a part of paid employment?   What if you could work for yourself at something you love to do?  This might include being a writer or artist or making crafts that you sell.  You are not doing it because you need the money to survive in retirement; it is something you choose to do to enhance your retirement lifestyle AND it does not interfere with the other things you love about retirement.   Some aspects of retirement that people enjoy the most include: 

  • Slower mornings (no alarm clock or frustrating commute)
  • Freedom of schedule (you can do what you want, when you want)
  • Less stress (not answering to a boss, no performance reviews or reports)
  • More time to stay connected to family and friends
  • Able to be more spontaneous

Things I would rather be doing than working

Maybe the answer has more to do with the intent behind the choice.  Many retirees are working to supplement their retirement lifestyle.  According to a 2022 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, “More than 1 in 4 retirees say they are spending more than they can afford.”  If we follow this philosophy of intent and you are working at something you do not particularly enjoy because you have to support your retirement, then you are really still working and not retired.  Even if it is only part-time.   However, if you happen to get paid for something you really enjoy doing in retirement, and it does not take away from what you love about being retired, then you are honestly retired.  Some examples of this might include:

  • Sitting on a paid board
  • Teaching a college class once a week
  • Substitute teaching
  • Driving a bus or van for a company a couple days/week
  • Starting your own business
  • Selling garden produce at the local summer market
  • Selling your art at a gallery
  • Working at the local library one day/week
  • Writing a book 
  • Opening an Etsy store to sell your crafts
  • An accountant picking up online work during tax season

Back to my dilemma.  I really liked my previous career and I always thought I would do a little paid work in my field to round out my retirement lifestyle.  But, as I was spending my precious time prepping to teach this course, I realized that I would much rather spend that time drafting a new blog post.   I just taught my first class a few days ago.  I was on my feet lecturing for four hours straight.  Afterwards I was exhausted, my voice was strained and my feet hurt. (Can you hear the whining in my words?)  My brain felt sharp and up for the task, but my body… not so much.  The evening class ended at 9:00 p.m.  Afterwards, when I just wanted to go home and put my feet up, some zealous student stayed awhile to visit.  By the time I left the building, it was 9:30 at night and snowing.  Heck, I am seldom out past 9:00 p.m.  (Please tell me I am not alone in this.)

Things I enjoyed about this part-time job:

  1. I enjoyed the students and being engaged with others.
  2. It was satisfying to teach and contribute to the greater good.
  3. I enjoyed being able to use my professional skills again and there is satisfaction in getting paid for that.

Things I did not like about this part-time job, or why it smells suspiciously of work:

  1. It commits me to a schedule that I have to plan my activities and travel around. Or, horror of horrors, have to request time off for a vacation.
  2. It takes a lot more than 4 hours/week when you include prep time and commuting. This is precious time and energy that I would rather spend doing something I enjoy more.
  3. I still don’t like a commute. Especially at night.
  4. It is physically exhausting to teach for 4 hours straight and my body rebels more than it used to.
  5. The small amount of money I made from it did not even come close to compensating for the time investment. But then, I did not choose to do it for the money.

So, there you have it, 3 reasons I enjoyed my part-time work stint and 5 reasons I did not.  Pretty simple math.  However, the verdict is still out for me.  I will finish this course and then decide.  I am curious what other retirees think.  Is there a continuum of work that determines when you are working versus retired?  Where is that line?   

I think that Mr. U. summed it up well after he retired from his position as a Highschool Principal.  People frequently asked him if he missed it and he promptly replied, “Do I miss it?  Yes.  Would I go back to it?  Not a chance.”

Talk Less Tuesday

I can’t do a wordless Wednesday, because, well… it is Tuesday. So, Talk Less Tuesday it is.

All of our immediate family is in town this week to celebrate a late Christmas get together. We have been busy playing so I am not writing a regular post this week. But here are a few pictures from our late Christmas gathering. (The lighting isn’t great but no one seems to want me to take the time to get that just right. Go figure.)

Our late Christmas celebration. Note the guy’s facial hair.

When you have four sons, life can get a little dicey. They are always complaining suggesting that I take too many pictures, of which I kindly remind them that they will be glad later. In an effort to curtail my picture taking last Christmas, they all agreed to shave their facial hair in odd (a.k.a. ugly) shapes. We laughed until tears streamed down our faces when we saw them and then, of course I had to pull out the camera. Apparently, it has become a tradition because…. guess how they showed up again this year?

Our 4 “boys” with surprise crazy cut facial hair.

However, the joke is on them because this year the women decided to “grow” a little facial hair as well! (Unfortunately, son #3’s wonderful girlfriend was not able to be there that night.)

The girls were not to be outdone with the facial hair this year. Surprise guys!

See you next week!

Two Words to Maintain Your Health

It has to be done.  It is the new year.  I am a nurse.  Therefore, I feel like I would be negligent not to talk about taking care of our health.   After all, health is a key factor in enjoying a happy and fulfilling retirement lifestyle.

I take a little different approach to health than many people.  Only time will tell if it works or not.  I think that part of the reason people do not take care of their health is that it feels like an “all or nothing” life:

  • Either I am a gym rat, or I sit in front of a screen (computer, phone, T.V.) all day. 
  • Either I eat a Paleo diet, or I just give up and eat all the carbs I want.
  • I messed up today and ate a cinnamon roll for breakfast, so I might as well just eat whatever I want today, and I will be better tomorrow.   

All or nothing does not typically work.  Always being healthy is almost impossible to maintain and eating anything you want and not exercising will eventually catch up with you and you will not have a quality retirement life. Somewhere in the middle lies the key to health and pleasure in retirement.  There are two words in the middle that you can lean on to maintain your health in retirement.

The key word for a healthy diet

I am going to propose a very boring approach to eating healthy.  One that will never make the headlines of Prevention Magazine or be the latest diet/exercise plan floating around Instagram.  It is called, drum roll please… moderation.  Yawn.

Webster defines moderation as the avoidance of excess or extremes.   And we all know that the latest media surge is into extremes.   One day eggs are bad for you and the next week they are a great source of protein.  The high protein, low carb diet is the best for you (oh but is also hard on your kidneys).  And don’t even get me started on moderation in portion sizes.

Moderation does not sell, but it works.  How do I know this?  I have come across hundreds of patients that have exercised moderation and were living long, healthy lives.  I have also observed it personally as I watch my dad. 

Let me introduce my dad

My dad is 95 years old and sharp as a tack.  He still lives independently, drives his own car and he has lived his entire life with healthy moderation.   If he is full, he does not eat.  He can have just one cookie and be satisfied.  He would prefer to eat fresh fruits and vegetables out of his garden instead of fast food or prepackaged plastic that is tried to pass off as food.  He has not stepped foot in a gym since high school but has always been physically active running his own business, swimming in the lake in front of his house, hiking on his property or going backpacking with my brothers.  He has never been overweight a day in his life and he is, did I mention, 95 years old.  His attitude, faith, commitment, kindness, integrity and healthy lifestyle are an inspiration and example to me of how to grow old graciously and healthy.  He is a great role model for me (and I hope I inherited his good genes too).

I should add that the only time you don’t want moderation in food and drink is with water.  Go ahead and overdo it on water (unless you have a disease that fluid overload is a concern).  Our bodies are 55-60% water so we need to keep that replenished.   A cosmetologist once told me that drinking enough water was the best way to have fresh, healthy-looking skin too. 

The key word for a physically active body.

What if I told you that there is a pill that will help you lose weight, decrease your blood pressure, improve your mood, increase your energy and lower your stress, but…it is a hard pill to swallow.  Would you take it?  Well, as you have probably guessed, that pill is exercise and the key word to make it effective is also very boring:  routine.  A daily routine with a time for exercise is particularly important in retirement.  There are just too many other wonderful things to do, and it is all too easy to let those things come first and before you know it, it is 9:00 p.m. and who wants to exercise at that time of day.

While gyms are a great way to get exercise with a motivating group of people around you, it takes high wind or ice to cause me to open the gym doors.  I prefer the outdoor gym.  The time goes faster rolling along on my bike looking at the lake, observing wildlife as my kayak glides through the marsh or walking in the beautiful outdoors than it does sitting on a stationary bike, suffering through a rowing machine or walking on a treadmill.  But let’s face it, even if it is an exercise we enjoy, we have to push ourselves to do it (or is that just me).  A routine time of day when you “just do it” helps keep us on track.

In Summary

If we do not have our health, it is difficult to fully enjoy retirement.   However, to be healthy, I do not want to give up living life well now. None of us know how many days we have on this earth, and I want to enjoy every single one.   For me, eating is one of the great pleasures in life.  Fortunately, I think healthy foods are delicious, but I also want to enjoy the ice cream cone with my grandkids or buy the fresh pumpkin doughnut and coffee at the fall market.  We just can’t indulge in these foods too frequently because that is what drives up our total cholesterol level and causes the chronic high blood sugar that wears our pancreas out.  So go ahead and thoroughly enjoy it without guilt…  in moderation.   I will never be model thin or run a half marathon with this approach, however, so far I have been able to avoid taking any prescription medications and am able to maintain an active lifestyle so I can keep up with the grandkids (well, sort of). 

There is so much information out there on health that it can be overwhelming.  That is why is helps to choose a couple words to live by that guide your daily choices.  Because it is the daily choices that determine our long-term health.  Of course, mental health is also a key factor in maintaining a healthy retirement lifestyle, but that will have to be another post for another day because this one is already too long.  (Glad you made it this far.)

So, there you have it.   Two boring words to maintain your health:  moderation and routine.  What healthy habits work for you? 

Happy New Year and My WOTY!

I am going to go to the gym every day.  I am going to lose those pesky ten pounds.  I am going to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.  Yada, yada, yada. You have heard them all before.  Probably even said some of them yourself.  I know I have.

This year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions which will probably only last 9 days, I am taking a different approach.  Instead of adding the weight of things I should be doing for the new year, I am lightening my load and giving up a few things for the new year.  I am letting go of some things that weigh me down and get in the way of living a life of wonder and awe.  Things that I have carried over from my pre-retirement years that do not serve me well. So, for 2023: 

  • I am giving up worry.  I have spent way too many hours of my precious life worrying needlessly about what could happen.  As a nurse, you are trained to consider what is the worst thing that could happen with your patient’s particular diagnosis, and then be prepared to watch for it and respond quickly if necessary.  I seem to carry that over into my personal life.  So, I am giving up the unfounded concerns that weigh me down.  Those “what if’s” that usually never occur. 
  • I am giving up rushing.  When I was busy working, raising a family and balancing a multitude of roles, rushing became my normal.  It was the only way to fit everything in.  But I am retired now with less obligations and responsibilities.  It is time to quit rushing and pushing through life.
  • I am giving up caring what other people think.  Let’s face it, when you are working you have to consider what other people think. It is a necessary work skill. But that desire to fit into the norm still carries into retirement. I don’t like to think that I do this, but I do.  What will someone think if I wear this or if I tell them I can’t do something because I already have too much packed into that week?  I want to honor my authentic self a little more and not be concerned if it does not fit into what others expect of me. 

Of course, I cannot give up the above items entirely.  After all, I am only human… and a mother.  But I am going to make a concentrated effort to let go.  To free myself from these things that take up too much of my brain space.  This will allow more room and awareness in my life for my Word of the Year (WOTY).

Living in awe.

Word of the Year

I really enjoy hearing what other people choose for their WOTY.  I particularly like to hear what motivated them to choose that word, among all of the wonderful words that could guide their year ahead.  So, while I am probably a few years behind the eight ball on doing this, I am picking a WOTY for 2023.   It needed to be something that aligned with what I am giving up for the new year. 

I am choosing the word “awe” for my 2023 word of the year. 

Researchers have actually studied awe and the effect it has on people.  People who experience more awe in their daily lives have better immune health, feel more connected to others, are less stressed and anxious and have a greater sense of well-being.

How do I find more awe in my daily life?  Or, as Regan Olsson described it: awe-spotting. 

  • Get out in nature.  Exhale.
  • Experience life in person and not from a screen.  Be present for your one and only precious life.
  • Spend time with a child.  This one goes without saying. 
  • Extend kindness.  Researchers say that you even experience awe when you see someone doing something kind and unexpected for someone else, such as a young person offering their seat to an elderly man. That means, when we experience a moment of awe by extending a small kindness, we are offering the opportunity for someone else to experience awe just by observing it.
  • Travel.  It doesn’t have to be far but it helps us stop and take in the wonder of new sites, sounds and smells.  Things we often don’t notice if we see them every day.

So, 2023 will be my year of awe spotting. 

Do you have any New Year’s resolutions, or un-resolutions? Are you choosing a WOTY to help you stay focused on what is important to you in the upcoming year? I will keep you posted on my “awe spottings” throughout the year ahead.

Happy New Year and cheers to the retirement years!