‘Tis The Season…To Recap and ReStart

Picture of back of house at Filoli

Back of house at Filoli

‘Tis the Season….
…to catch up and reach out, and I’m overdue. I haven’t been blogging lately… because, well, I’ve been writing and editing and yes, blogging for others, plus doing articles, bios and reviews online. However, as the famous wit, Dorothy Parker, aptly noted, “There are those who enjoy writing and others who enjoy “having written”, and being the latter, I’m not exactly sure how I revved up a new mini-career that calls for a bit of creativity and a lot of typing. The main paybacks are the perks that come with this exciting new territory.

And, oh, the places I’ve seen! Researching an article heralding the Autumn Festival at the fabulous Filoli estate in Woodside, Ca. turned into: lunch and a tour, special gifts and a unique experience. I interviewed a few of the 1,300 dedicated volunteers who tend the heirloom fruit trees, gorgeous gardens and exquisite Renaissance mansion—a must for tourists and locals—and I even “wrote” myself into attending a magic day with my grandchildren! My article, alive! Promise yourself the gift of visiting this gem right in our own backyard.

Welcome feedback came from some of the special people I’ve showcased this year asking for a “tear sheet”—copies of a piece to use for fundraising or promotion—better than a Pulitzer. Our Peninsula is alive in innovative offerings—a pre-school program immersing immigrant kids into main stream education and their grateful parents into grateful volunteers; a “language” signing class aimed at babies and moms to foster early communication, less frustration and better bonding; Mommy’s Coach classes to insure a smooth transition to motherhood—this article picked up by NBC for their evening news! Ta Da!

Ah, retirement! Life is good. Family and friends continue their connections, parties and fun. Old chums hang in—even some from grammar school days which is a looong time ago—and new buddies check in. I’ve considered learning to play Bridge or golf—I think there’s still time—or touring and traveling more—I think there’s still money! But for now, I write on, anticipating a new year of promise and productivity; I wish you the same. And as we move on to 2012, I send holiday hopes to all—to enjoy unexpected surprises and simple pleasures, all magically magnified via the prism of wisdom and age—truly, a gift for all seasons.
Cheers, Evie

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Soup’s On: It’s Never too Late!

Flyer for Evie's soup businessMy friend, Mike Green, recently “trod the boards” acting in a Bay Area hit production.  At 81, Mike never misses a cue and his lines are seamless—in fact he often steals the show. While this may be Mike’s second career, acting was his first love after dabbling in theater in his salad days. I’ll bet he’ll never be upstaged right up to his final curtain call, still many years away.

 I wonder if others feel they may have missed a boat or two along the way and dream of reprising an earlier life. ‘Tho I believe in “no more couldda, shouldda, wouldda” regrets, there are many roads that can lead back to abandoned adventures, and you don’t have to be older. Ten years ago, my son turned his music studio hobby into a thriving business. At any age, it’s as energizing and exciting to move on to the untried as it is to step back and enjoy a magical “second act.” 

We seniors have an advantage. I’ve been retired long enough to reminisce with rose-colored nostalgia on memorable moments from my former careers.  Perusing your own personal itinerary, you’ll find surprising connections and unexpected wisdom as well as high hilarity in hindsight—it’s so often the small stuff that makes big memories.

Or move on and “Go for it.”  My husband used to say that trying new endeavors was truly the spice of life.  However, I’m proof of, “Be careful what you go for!”  I’ve already written about coming full circle back to speaking and writing, and instead of  the teacher I once was, I’m now a “coach!” But rarely do I divulge a manic misstep into the esoteric world of food, starting a…soup business.

Actually there were two of us, twin neophytes with no business plans, no research, trial tests or adequate income needed to wait out those inevitable start-up years. My friend wanted to make a product, something wholesome, fresh. We figured everyone has to eat. No matter that my idea of “homemade” soup was combining two different cans of Campbell’s.  In the late ‘80s, with “organic” just coming out of the pantry, we were apron-ed and ready. This was Silicon Valley—home of the risk taker and innovator.

 The short version is that my partner created and cooked a global menu of tasty, nutritious and always fresh recipes; I marketed, delivered, packaged, as well as chopped, peeled, shopped. We set up a totally inadequate mini-food processor and dangerous 30 gallon pots in a dank warehouse hemmed in by industrial shelving, a dimly lit, shivery cold, walk-in refrigerator lined with roof-high pallets and a separate Siberian freezer. I trotted through the thicket of local delis, off-beat bistros and hidden industrial cafes toting a large basket festooned with gaily colored ribbons around bright wooden vegetables, and heavy with thermos jugs of steaming samples.

“It’s the soup lady,” I trilled to startled waiters and matre d’s; “guess what’s great about this soup?” 

“What?” everyone chorused on cue.

“I don’t make it, you lucky people!” My partner’s concocting delicious brews as we speak!”    

I wrestled an ancient labeling machine, fought early traffic, and promised summertime gazpacho that cost more to make than we could charge, used up more gallons of gas than soup gallons sold and at Halloween stirred pots of samples dressed like McBeth’s witches.  More fiascoes followed until exhausted and overdrawn, we finally parted, friends vs. partners.

Bitten (pardon the expression), by the food biz bug, I failed in bagels when the IRS padlocked the owner’s “factory”—six electric knives and a cream cheese cutting wire.  My seed money melted along with super fast thawing yogurt-popsicles until I finally succumbed to common sense after serving sloppy pre-Costco lasagna “on spec” behind a steam table during a sweltering summer at the Moffett Field enlisted men’s club. Kitchen closed!

Fortunately, my hard-won, hands-on business trials enhanced my financial acumen. Investment clients benefited from my foray into real world balance sheets. Even sad experience pays unique dividends.

I remind readers of a theme from my very first blog posts. Reach out, take a chance. It’s never too late. It’s usually fun. And I firmly believe that you won’t grow old as long as you look forward to a future.

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I’m Dreaming of a Slim Christmas

‘Tis the season….and I bounce between pounds gained and lost as the holiday partying ebbs and flows.  As many of my fellow revelers are the fit ladies from exercise groups who also excel in gourmet cooking and baking, I recalled an article I wrote that described our dilemma.  Having sent copies to a few friends in place of a holiday card, I thought…why not blog a non-caloric ode to the season as a holiday greeting?   And to all, a happy new year!

“’Tis the season to be jolly” comes from the peculiar notion that fat people are happy people. Anyone gaining less than ten pounds during December is seen as an anorexic Scrooge.

However, one Christmas past, I determined to play Tiny Trim, having jogged 1,000 miserable miles to shed three years of annual compounded holiday avoirdupois.  Those same people who regularly veg out with soybean soufflés and tofu burgers, pig out for the holidays.  Their goodwill extends to sharing forbidden—also candied and sugared—fruits, Danish and ice cream egg nog in a gastronomical and ecumenical orgy.

The holiday spirit, along with more potent spirits, started creeping into offices right after Thanksgiving. There were client parties (hot hors d’oeuvres), and staff parties (cold canapés). To avoid the festivities, I offered to man the phones—until I answered one artfully crafted from a cheese ball.

“You can’t stay home for the holidays,” said my friend, Serena, “unless you live out of town. So you’ll hit a few parties, gain a few pounds. For New Year’s you can resolve to start smoking again.”

“In Silicon Valley, Serena? The only thing smoked in the Bay Area is salmon.”

“Yummm. And ham and oysters,” she said, licking her lips.

The Rotary, church groups and charity organizations turned meetings into feedings. My polite, “No thanks, strict diet, you know,” equaled a worldwide hunger crisis to those good folks whose good works came molded, meringued and moussed. It was eat or resign.

Even my house came under siege. Neighbors I hadn’t seen all year mounted surprise sorties with “Ho, ho ho’s” and homemade horrors for weight watching—spritzes, stollens and bonbons. If a praline elf or a marzipan angel breached the front door, I shoved it out the back.  The garbage men must have keeled over from a series of rum-soaked fruit cakes I put out to re-cycle.

The week before Christmas, I was in an acute state of depression, licking the pages of the Harry and David’s gourmet gift catalog. When I started tasting the package ribbons praying they were candy, I decided to test my will power at an open house.

Victory! I mingled, caroled and merely nibbled. Defeat! The entire buffet was an incredible edible—quiche-crust plates, spun sugar glasses, cappuccino coffee, glazed carrot sticks and spiked water. Even the toothpicks dissolved in my mouth  Serena found me crouched behind the Christmas tree.

“You did it!” she cheered. “Hid out and stuck to your diet! Congratulations.”

“Not quite,” I said sheepishly with a small burp. “I forgot about all those caloric ornaments of gingerbread men, popcorn strings, chocolate Santas and candy canes. Does it look too bare with just the lights left?”

I’m back on the wagon this year. My weight’s down, my kitchen’s clean and my calendar’s empty. But all I really want for Christmas? Two turtle doves under glass and a stuffed partridge in a glazed pear tree!

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What’s in a Word?

Any time I mention even the slightest pain or deviation from my former self, more and more I’m hearing , “Well, you know, it’s age-related.” I suspect that means “age-ing related” as in “You’re getting old, lady” and its unstated corollary, “so just live with it!”

I have, I do. For years, I’ve been ignoring sagging eyes and rusty knees, enduring the deterioration in between as my body slides south and widens east to west. From tingling fingers to a stiff neck, from a brittle lower back to unexplained shin splints… I hurt. But I also cope: I chastise myself for being vain, count my blessings, empathize with friends who have true medical traumas, and continue my donations to cancer drives, heart research, Easter seals.

Although “growing old ain’t for sissies,” what I can do is recognize the advantages as well as the aches and wrinkles that the years can bring. I am not only older but also wiser, having learned and earned along the way. I speak French and financial. I’ve mastered kick-boxing and making gravy. Friends marvel at my string of sunny successes and funny failures. “The only thing I haven’t done,” I joke, “is brain surgery! Maybe there’s still time.” In fact, by now, I’m so super experienced that I’ve made a new career of sharing my hard-won expertise. I’m still The Money Lady, as well as a writer, speaker and “coach.”

Blessed with good genes and a positive attitude, I know I’m lucky. Still, I help luck along: I exercise, eat my veggies, lean toward fish, and (most of the time) drive carefully. Life is good, and mine, from family to finances, is especially rewarding. At this stage in my life, I’m content to enjoy the passing parade and relieved that I no longer have to man the barricades. It’s fun to see my children catching up to me. “That’s a good idea, Mom,” I hear with increasing frequency. And I see them exemplifying many of my values along with a few of my more endearing vices. By the time your children become your friends, you may be  old—but these new relationships feel a lot better than a facelift!

As I read obituaries suggesting that even I will not live forever, I indeed wince. Silently, I beseech the powers-that-be to stop the stampede and slow the process. I’ll go . . . just … at my own pace, grandly, graciously. Until then, when I hear the term “age-related,” inwardly I’ll translate it to mean “ageless”—which, I hope, more accurately describes the real me.

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Evie Speaks Out – on the (blog) radio!

It’s been a long and busy time between blogs, and I’m pleased at this posting to fill you in on my email invite.  Wed., July 14, at 3:30 PM PDT I’ll be interviewed on blog radio.  From your computer, you can hear it live or listen later as each week’s program is archived and easily retrieved.  The host is Sandra Levitin, founder of the online site, Kalon Communities, which reaches out to women over forty.  Goodness knows I’m super qualified after heartily celebrating a milestone birthday in June.

According to the wisdom of the anonymous internet experts, “ the kalon”  is an ancient Greek term for what is good, fine, noble, beautiful. (and here again, Goodness knows I’d like to think I am super qualified). The mission of Kalön Women is to provide answers and raise awareness of the unique issues that affect our generation of women.   The online format offers easy access to ideas and information for those women who will become stronger from the knowledge shared.  This goal is also for the generation of women who follow and who will hopefully find their path less rocky.  Kalon’s online magazine covers the areas of health, finances, relationships, career—even retirement—and dispenses no-nonsense advice—female oriented and practical.  The articles, stories, poetry, essays are created by real women 40+ and written to inspire, help and perhaps provide a few laughs to all “women of a certain age”.  Check out the editorial guidelines—submissions welcome.  Maybe add your own voice and wisdom to this useful online forum.

On the Kalon blog radio site http://www.blogtalkradio.com/kalon-women I’ve listened to speakers who are experienced and professional with amazing backgrounds; they are always upbeat, visionary…and especially passionate about their “babies,” business start-ups and careers. Their enthusiasm and excitement is contagious, their accomplishments a tonic for our own efforts whatever our interests.  The various shows archived become a forum for the opportunities and challenges faced by mature and dedicated women.

For listeners tuning in online or later, I’ll be discussing financial issues in particular and life transitions in general.  My goal is to prove to women that they know more than realize about “all this money stuff.”  I’ll try to erase some hang-ups re finances and offer a shorthand for effective planning.  Though not much will be new, it always needs repeating.  There’s something so daunting about dealing with money—especially in this crisis economy!

To that end, I’m still answering questions as the Money Lady columnist for the local seniors magazine which you can now find online: www.ActiveOver50.com .  I’ve received positive feedback on my pragmatic answers.  Do check out this enjoyable local platform for the retirement crowd.  You’ll find short, zippy articles filled with surprises.   

 When I speak to groups, I usually share some of my own journey.  At my advanced age I can look far back and see the looping road I’ve traveled with all its surprising twists and turns, happy accidents and hopeful forks that make up each person’s life.  We tend to overlook the odd fate that feeds into the big chunks of inevitable changes—from graduation to grand-parenting—those “every-person” events of marriage, job, children.  We also bury the false starts, silly mistakes, the unexpected, and even undeserved happenings that color our real persona and craft our final attitudes from risk-taking to home-making.   Some call it luck or chance.  My theory proposes that it’s these small serendipitous swerves that add so much to our real “ME”. 

Also, much comes down to connections!  From the family ties that bind to eclectic new friendships, our readiness to reach out must set the tone for the on-going trip, especially as we age.  Even larger changes loom, but we’ll never be bored or beholden, sad or stuffy, too critical or over-cautious if we keep busy bumping into the small stuff of life that’s waiting just around the corner.  And you can trust this old fud; I follow my own advice—life is good and still so much fun.  Proof?  You can bump into me on the “radio.”

Wait, wait….did you know that you can now “subscribe” to receive my blog automatically? Click on the “subscribe to content” button at the top right of the page. (I promise not to pontificate too often.)

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Buy, Hold and Pray: Financial Model or Pandora’s Box

 I received my final payment this month from the terrific broker who bought my “book of business”—a welcome and regular check that was always tucked inside a Thank You note, so classy and appreciated.  Now a year after my retirement, I hope my former clients have experienced an equally good fortune at arriving at such a safe harbor.

 Although I remain friendly and often chat with many clients, I’ve physically shredded and mentally erased their financial data and investment choices.  It’s taken a year to truly step back and let go—a difficult transition—surprisingly harder than the empty nest void when my kids took off.   Once a mommy, always….  But one’s work persona can swiftly evaporate with a role reversal due to axing or ageing. 

 Along with my sharp transition to jobless and clientless, I’m also shorn of my earnings.  No more do I enjoy that pleasurable sigh as I scanned the lovely blip in my bank account and totted up my monthly direct deposit.  As an independent contractor the jolt of lost income is not as abrupt as the amputation of a salary—my numbers fluctuated until mounting up at year end.  Now, however, it’s all downhill—a phrase that melts into a new mathematical formula; no more money coming in means a minus sign of huge proportions after so many years of small but continuous gains. 

 Fortunately for me, I have cash available for the “near term” as we say in financial-ese.  With the constant market gyrations, this is not the time to tap into my retirement accounts.  Just like that old saw: “Life got in the way while I was making other plans!”  The market went the wrong way as I was planning how best to use the growing “excess” in my net worth… choices I no longer need consider; decisions I don’t expect to have again soon.

 Instead, I find myself in the last stage of my “buy, hold and pray” strategy that worked for over 30 years.  I watch my “bottom line” slowly round down.  I’m not scared, but I am cautious.  The regular but thin cushion of social security only heightens the knowledge that its slim coverage won’t offset the inevitability of taxes, utilities, insurance, groceries and…. all the other stuff  of daily living.  Yes, my assets are adequate, the market will certainly rebound and I’m excited about possible (paid) part time endeavors.  But I’m paring down costs and considering other options… just in case.

 So many life transitions are unplanned—illness, death, job loss, new baby.  But anticipated or serendipitous, all changes relate to money—the financial component of our personal Pandora’s box of hope, fears, ills and errors.  I meet the single moms who constantly juggle their numbers plugging in child support and subtracting health care.  I hear the dismay of retirees pitting a possible home sale against long term care premiums.  All life changes involve lifestyle choices, and most come with dollar signs.

 The winning equation is to never stop saving—even when we must begin spending.  Now is the time to separate real needs from our usual “wants.” Any new financial model is harder to cope with than outward signs of change from wrinkles to waistlines.  More than we admit, money is at the root of our inner selves; it is a strong judgment of who we are.

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Moving Slowly On

It’s hard to believe that I’m observing the two month anniversary of Oliver’s death.  The feedback from my previous  blog as my husband’s end-of-life caretaker was profound—and helpful. I didn’t feel alone.  However, after all the loving words, floral offerings and special gifts  sent “in memory of…,”  I have yet to complete this transition and embrace the reality that my husband is truly gone.

Every one of the many kind, giving people who contacted me softens the blow and refers to Ollie’s “passing.”   Indeed, that is their reality because no matter how long a friendship or how tied together as colleagues, my husband only “passed” through their lives.  Even my children remind me that I had lived almost a third of my life before we even met, that it should be easier for me.  “We knew “daddy” all our lives,” they say, “he was here as long as we can remember.”  For them, an entire limb of the family is missing, a parent vanished; suddenly they feel like semi-orphans—their first major loss.  For adult children, it’s also a first glimpse of their personal mortality. Nor am I quite ready to admit my own.

For us all, old habits are broken and a strong voice stilled.  So we linger in the past.  We hear Ollie’s tuneless whistle coming down the hall, the crackle of the newspaper he read daily; we can’t decide to keep or give away his chair.  If we are blessed with the solace of independent lives which should enable us to more easily “move on,” we’re all somewhat stranded by the deep loss and obvious change.

As I continue my own slow steps toward a final acceptance, I’m learning an amazing lesson and a corollary to most transitions.  Even when we think we know everything about a spouse or sibling, mom or dad, it often turns out there can be dozens of sincere and eloquent extras.What I’m finding in Ollie’s after-life are so many uncovered memories through personal vignettes that are often a total surprise to me.

One cousin we haven’t seen in years called my husband a role model.  “When I was just a kid,” this young man wrote, “I was absolutely wide-eyed at Ollie’s low slung, classic, Triumph sports car, proof that you can grow older without getting old.  That message stuck fast,” he ended, “and has meant a great deal as I move into middle age.”

My daughter’s former roommate especially remembers my husband’s wit and wisdom that shored up her confidence during her college years.  I never had a clue, which make these recollections all the more meaningful to me now.  Learning how one person’s presence and contact can affect another person’s life flavors those connections like a rare spice.

Other friends refresh the decades telescoped by time.  The poolside get-togethers, the New Year’s Eves and July 4th  parties did create ties that bind.  And quotes!  My new journey  is peppered with Oliver’s jokes and “bon mots” that always light the way.  Oliver said it took man 5,000 years to come indoors to eat and he wasn’t about to go back out, so he always refused to bar-be-que!  We still laugh that Ollie hit the pool only twice in 40 years, once to rescue our toddler within seconds and again when a teenage visitor playfully pushed him in—sharp and welcome snapshots not found in any album.  Maybe we dredge up the old and familiar to further cushion the letting go.

My husband and I were very different from background to personality.  Our shared values, more than anything else, kept us together all these years. For him, life was all good, and his legacy boils down to: “If you can’t find a bright side, make one”—a worthy epitaph.  ‘Though I promised my husband I wouldn’t make a big deal when he died, I promised myself that I couldn’t say goodbye without affirming that he was the most moral, ethical person I have ever met.  He said we’d be rich if I charged a dime for every cup of coffee I gave away to our constant visitors.  I think he would have agreed that along the way we subtly changed each other.

So much can be lost as the times of our lives roll by, an unedited movie peopled with a vast variety of characters.  That’s why we blow out candles, take vows, celebrate, commemorate.  We decide to remember and mark the milestones—transitions tabulated!

I can do no less. I will honor my husband’s Spartan take on dying and plan only a low-key get-together of well-wishers, a “thank you” kind of closure that I need.  “No speeches or accolades,” I tell friends, “just stop by, reminisce a bit.”  We’ll raise a glass and offer a “Give it a bloody go, Mate” Australian style toast to honor Ollie’s roots.  That would be his idea of  a transition accomplished—if not completely mine.

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Coming Full Circle

This last month my husband of  47 plus years received the C-word diagnosis on top of his rapidly deteriorating pulmonary condition, and all to-do lists, book plans, and life plans have been knocked into a cocked hat. In the quiet moments, I think about how common an experience it is these days, moving toward an inevitable end, or as my husband calls it, life’s biggest adventure.

 

It’s amazing how swiftly priorities and schedules change with this turning point.  Although not a “crisis” which implies immediacy, there’s no second guessing or back-pedaling after a final diagnosis.  When doctors suggest hospice care, it’s the corollary to terminal illness, a giant step toward a life altering transition.  For now, every emotion succumbs to pragmatism.  The main concern is how best to get through the worst; health care may be the province of professionals, but home care is the landscape of family.  During 25 years nurturing financial clients, the stress came from so much I couldn’t control.  Now that I’m at home caretaking, the stress is amazingly similar. There is even less control and a totally unpredictable timeframe.

 

However, there is a comforting busyness when I can take charge and handle the down and dirty aspects of daily maintenance.  We moms and wives have been there before and more easily slide into the odd and eclectic demands of sickness.  We hold things together while our other, outside lives remain “on hold.”  My lofty plans for interviews toward a book about other people’s transitions have withered under this new reality.  I still take on different roles, but they’ve narrowed.  I’m able to see myself as an interested bystander at the same time that I’m an active participant.  My life has segued into an on-the-scene player in my husband’s end of life struggle.  Call it “issues” or “illness” but we’re inching toward Death.  The dreaded D word, the final…finality.  

 

My husband says it best.  “I don’t mind dying,” he admits, “I just don’t like the idea of not existing any more.”  That the world may chug along without us at its center is indeed hard to grasp.  

 

Now that things have squarely hit home, though, I realize we’re in this final scene together.  After all, I cavalierly signed on for this part long ago, via public vows and a marriage contract.  I more than happily agreed to abide by the rules.  It’s my time to live them all.  “Well, we’ve done the ‘for better or for worse part,’ I tell my mate, “I guess we’ve moved on to the ‘in sickness and in health’ phase.”  Admitting where we’re at is easier to handle than the frozen fear of the unknown. “It is what it is,” agree some understanding friends.  But it’s more than “what is” actually; much is also “what isn’t.” 

 

This nitty gritty end-of-life stuff certainly isn’t like the movies!  At least at our house.  Neither sentimental, frantic, overly sad or brutally bad, we women of a certain age move forward—that’s our strength.  Others less grounded in a mid-last century, middle class past might more easily pass the buck to paid help, nursing homes, hospitals or other admirable, professional institutions.  Our hospice providers are good, caring and competent.  But they’re not full time. Nor all-day.  Definitely not all night.  No wonder Long Term Care Insurance is the highest cost and commissioned product in the investment pantheon.  It’s indeed a bummer, definitely unromantic and un-relieving to handle death at home.

 

I am able to expand the boundaries of my mini-life with a walk to grocery store, library, park for an hour or so.  I can make exercise class very early in the morning before my spouse wakes up.  It’s good to revert to a schedule of sorts, gift myself some out-of-the-house time.  The kindness of near-by friends, the calls from across country relatives, our caring children, all demolish isolation and diminish aloneness. 

 

So I amble through the park and see the early budding of our area’s decorative fruit trees—a yearly symbol of spring.  The high school tennis courts are full, someone’s marking the fields for soccer…or is it already baseball?  I also received notice of two recent births… please fill in all the clichés re new life, budding flora, the earth turning and a new day dawning.

 

It is what it is.  And no matter how bound up I am with this “issue”,  I’ll face my own mortality later.  Now I’m changing, for the better, coping with lessons and experiences I will use to advance my own plans, dreams and wishes.  I’m moving forward and re-writing the first chapter in that transitions book with added insight as I live through this most important change.

 
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The Gentle Art

I admit it, I’m an old fud.  I read a daily newspaper, not a newsfeed, I write long hand, not with a voice-to-data recorder and I prefer old fashioned calisthenics over high tech fitness machines. But I am finally coming to an accommodation with my computer and the internet. And I am forging a blend of new approaches with the tried and true.

 

It’s not that my Dell and I don’t carry on a battle of wits (no, I won’t say who wins.)  But when I can get the darn thing to do what I want, I have finally come to believe that the World Wide Web is, indeed, a many splendored thing.  I never quite believed an internet guru guy who kept trying to widen my view of the webby world.  However, my stint as financial columnist for the Bay Area Active Over 50 magazine (a super resource and unique publication for us still young seniors), is handled completely on line.  Also, in my quest for gathering the truths of transitions, I’ve made some contacts not only cross country but across oceans. 

 

In spite of my new appreciation for the power and reach of the computer and the internet, I still get the most satisfaction from meeting people face to face. Perhaps it is the fuddy duddy quirk that is still a part of me, but I feel that there’s a special rapport cemented from across the table smiles, nods of understanding, the eye contact glow of agreement.  Certainly there’s the fun of happy interruption and whoop of delight at staccato give and take that move casual conversation toward true friendship.  It’s amazing how the back and forth pacing of  “talk” equals sound waves of solidarity.  Within the space of a salad or sandwich lunch, I have gone from handshake to hug—a commitment of sorts for amiably “getting the goods” and filling in the blanks of someone’s life change.  

 

I have come to appreciate that there is an evolving etiquette to internet communications; (whoever thought up those goofy emoticons?)  I think it owes a debt to the old rules of genteel face to face communication.  I’m no expert, but I am still trying to improve on what I think are the two most important ones: Listening and Silence.

 

 

Listening skills.  As an added benefit of face to face meetings, I am honing the way I hear.  The best salespeople—and all life is sales to some degree—learn early that people will tell you what they need and want, as long as the seller shuts up long enough to hear it.  Therefore, listening works well to nurture friendships, marriages, parenting…. 

 

Silence.  In the midst of conversation, there are times to be silent. I clamp my teeth together and endure an awkward, unfilled space, when someone (especially my children!) eagerly details recent wins, doubts, promotions, hopes, divorces, conquests, family feuds or personal failings.  I scrunch my mind to capture someone’s personally turned corner or to catch another’s hop scotch journey from there to here.  I stop talking because I want to sweat their small stuff—their almost forgotten missteps and risky runs at the new and different.  I focus harder on the trials and errors they bump into while racking up a resume of transitions.  I don’t want to miss the exact moment of their journey’s start.

 

My computer helps.  An able adjunct, together we reach out to new friends across the city and across the country. Still, don’t be surprised if I resort to picking up the phone, or arranging a chat over coffee whenever I can. I am still practicing the gentle art of conversation and hope that you will join me.

 

I’m especially interested in personal tales of coping with this current financial blow to our bottom lines; the time is now to write an article sharing diverse approaches to dwindling funds and investments.  One person’s strategy on how to handle the stress and surprise of this forced transition can be another person’s start to his/her own solutions.   If you have a transition story that you’d like to share, drop me a note or call. I can be reached at:  650-494-7443… or…

Evierp100@yahoo.com

 

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TRANSITIONS!

Ever since Labor Day, I promised myself to clear the decks for…my next life!  Cleaning the garage!  A new career!  However, my lazy summer transition to celebrate my retirement from 25 years in the financial field…lingers on….and on.  After all, it takes time for me to enjoy the good fortune of missing the market plunge.  ‘Though I’m no longer licensed, habits hang on, and I chat with old clients/friends who still call to commiserate.  Together we mourn our losses and dissect the market mayhem and slam the big time bozos who got us into this mess.  Happily, I need no longer watch every word nor squash my personal take on the money game that are outlawed for financial advisors on fear of losing one’s license. 

Call it a bridge to the future, but I am self-indulgent, non-scheduled, lazy and loving it.  I inch forward as I come full circle–back to speaking and writing which was always my first love.  If not now….?   I’m taking advantage of  this welcome slowdown to slide across my careers that are in many ways linked, and I’m beginning to draw inspiration and information from each in order to share what I’ve learned along the way.  So here goes—what I always knew, and will now practice as I preach:

1.      Do what you love – It’s amazing that 25 years removed from the education field , my enthusiasm for “teaching” hasn’t waned.  I love the group vibe, a team approach, the immediate reaction.  However, other retirees opt for a complete change and choose a total about-face from past endeavors like the nursery school owner turned movie extra and model.  I have another friend who panders to her buried passion for archeology and is out on a desert dig racking up wrinkles and artifacts. She actually found something rare and wonderful at that.  It’s all theirs to grab, a second chance and new beginning.  Look to your roots for inspiration; take time to discover the real you.

 

2.      Plan for the money—if needed.   Especially now, adequate funding forges a strong link to any successful transition.  It’s the bedrock of leisure, the secret to start-up businesses and the ultimate ticket to travel, be it other climes or even inner journeys.  Here’s the really hard part for so many who opt out of the work force—they just can’t feel as meaningful doing “any old thing” as my friend recently complained.  There’s often a crisis of competence for people who are used to being paid; they feel devalued as “mere volunteers.”  Especially for any new undertaking, and if you’re loathe to dip into savings that have lost a lot, plot your finances along with your future.  Money talks, not just to others but keeps a running commentary inside your head.  So…plan ahead…ask questions.  Do you need to work part time, cut back spending, start smaller?  Should you borrow from banks, pensions, family?  Harder now than ever!  Can you afford some down time, and how long can you survive until the finish line?    

 

3.  Reach out—Take time to reconnoiter.  I rejoined the California Writer’s Club and noticed the name of a woman I took classes with in the ‘70s.  She’s now a good working writer… I won’t wallow in regret, but look her up as a role model.  I’ve been meeting people in other careers… with possibilities toward a shared future.  It’s all good.  And it should be fun.  And it could be meaningful as organizations cry out for volunteers.  The best part of my retirement from day one has been reviving and creating amazing connections.  Catching up with old friends and following through on those “let’s keep in touch” promises have spurred fabulous new friendships as well as possible career paths.  We all know that one person, one step, always leads to another….

Here’s how this magic can work.  I helped a young woman as she agonized over her application and personal essay in order to win a place in a competitive three year nursing program.  “I was going crazy waiting for that final letter, so my mom’s friend’s hired me as a gofer at her interior decorator shop to keep me busy,” she told me.  “I started asking questions, and Kathy was nice enough to explain basic elements of design and teach me simple plan layouts.  I found out that I enjoyed the canvas of an empty room, got really good at spatial imaging and decided to forget about nursing in favor of  taking some local courses in graphic design.  The professional classes confirmed that I had talent, and the arty scene spurred me to take off to New York. I’m waitressing and on scholarship in grad school to earn a degree in architecture,” she recently wrote. “I can’t believe a summer job led to the most unexpected career choice and work that I love.”

 

As I plot my own course, I’m working on capturing other people’s mini-transformations that drive their personal choices and act as a bridge to the “next big thing” in their lives. I love to hear from others on the same road.  What series of events “made up your mind, led to your unique choices or was your first baby step to a giant transition?” 

These wondrous routes and divergences will be the stuff my of subsequent twice a month blogs.  Sometime these run-ups to the real thing are easily dismissed or quickly forgotten.  Dig them up and note your small starts and parallel paths on my website…. Or tell all via email.  Looking forward to your forks in the road. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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