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Stage of Life® is a free writing community for Baby Boomers in the Empty Nest and Retirement stages of life.  Get involved with our educational mission:  Share a life experience about your empty nest experience or retirement planning, explore our retirement and empty nest resources, such as information about the Baby Boomer generation, quotes about Retirement, statistics about Baby Boomers, and more.  Plus, save money with our coupons for Baby Boomers.  Whether you're a retiree (or soon-to-be retiree) or "Empty Nester" - we look forward to reading your essays about and helping you save money during the empty nest and retirement years.

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Recent Writing Contest Winners

Winning Essay WritersWinning Writing Contest EssaysBefore you scroll down to read the essays, stories, and blogs being submitted to StageofLife.com, let's celebrate the recent writing contest winners.  We select one essay each month from across all of the non-student life stages to win our monthly blogging contests

Basically...these winning essays are selected from all of you "grown-ups" out there writing on Stage of Life...

Past Writing Contest Winners

Empty Nest & Retirement Stories

I awoke in the middle of the night, and I could hear the torrential pounding of rain on the roof of the hut – I knew we would be in for a rough day. Secretly, I longed to experience the fury of a mountain storm that gave life to the eerie rain forests we had traversed. I rolled over and went back to sleep. The morning greeted us with gale force winds and horizontal rain. We bucked up and donned our foul weather gear for the first time. We wouldn’t be filming much ...
Matt awoke early, a testament to the life altering nature of our experience. He played Routeburn Track angel as he walked back to town to score some venison pies and muffins for the next trek. Sharon and I had a proper breakfast of eggs, bacon, toast and coffee. We were clean, rested, packed and ready for the bush as we boarded the bus for the West trail head at the Divide.Routeburn Track begins in the beech rainforest at the Divide and goes straight up to Key Summit. ...
No words can adequately describe the profound majesty and absolute grandeur of the mountains surrounding the Milford Track, carved out by glaciers that receded to the mountain peaks over 10,000 feet as a testament to the unfathomable, earth altering power inherent in a changing climate. The last day of the trek was no different. Sharon reminded me several times to turn around because the views were as breath taking behind us as those that lay before us. We planned our 11 m...
The trail continued steeply from Mintaro Hut to Mackinnon Pass, and we could see the clouds swirling at the top. As we approached the saddle pinnacle, we passed several glacial tarns and the weather became cold, windy and wet – we were walking in the clouds. Suddenly, the trail flattened and we saw the spectacular mountains before us and behind us – we were surrounded by snow capped peaks in all directions – this was the money shot – we made it. However, the wind and clou...
The great part of waking up on the trail is that there is little preparation left to accomplish – just pack and step out onto the trail. We added film staging of the departure, but we were on our way early. We had played the afternoon before, taking some side trails to view the mountains and to see the river. Matt and Pam jumped into the icy water that was snow yesterday, as they would every day. We met some of our mates in the hut and Matt filmed some of their personal d...
We woke early with high expectations. Milford Track is billed as the “finest walk in the world,” a bucket list trek for hikers worldwide. We shouldered our packs and headed for downtown Queenstown to catch the bus to Te Anau Lake with a stop in Te Anau Downs to score our permits for the huts. To view and appreciate the natural beauty of Fiordland requires bus rides, boat rides and walking. We had it all today.The bus wound through the countryside, providing views of m...
We interrupt this boring travel log to bring you some “Late Breaking News.” The Blizzard of 2015 side stepped New York City, and New Yorkers are grumbling that the officials overreacted to the predictions of an historic weather event. Well, they are after all, New Yorkers. Yogi Berra said it best: “Predicting is hard, especially when it’s the future.”I woke up this morning to find Norwich, CT on top of the leader board with 26 inches of snow already while the storm ha...
We arrived in Queenstown, NZ in the late afternoon after a travel day of packing bags at the hotel and repacking them at the airport to minimize checked baggage fees. We were traveling West out of Sydney, losing hours over the three hour flight, which left us fairly fresh upon arrival. We checked into the Blue Peaks Hotel expecting a rendezvous with my son and his wife who had arrived from Thailand and San Francisco respectively, and kicked around the South Island to exper...
I looked forward to the day with excitement as I delivered the Sunday morning cappuccino and croissants to my lovely wife for breakfast – we were about to venture Northward out of Sydney, but the trains were replaced by buses due to track work. An early start gave us time to find the temporary bus stop and board the bus bound for Ingleside. The first leg of the journey was simple, but we were confused as to where we should catch the connecting bus. As we disembarked in In...
Hotel Sofitel is swank place located in downtown Sydney and awash with airline pilots, flight attendants, wealthy travelers and an excellent concierge. The grand lobby is adjacent to jewelry shops, and the rooms are nicely appointed. This was the city portion of our adventure, and we wanted to be as citified as possibly could be. It was time to track down Sharon’s missing blue and white backpack, and we were having no luck with the numbers provided to us at the airport. T...
We awoke in Chinatown, Sydney Australia before first light, hungry and eager to see the city. We love to stroll around a new city to have a look at the locals, the culture and the architecture. Our first stop was a sidewalk café named Pie Face where we ordered Kick Your Arse coffee and pastries. The city is clean and vibrant with numerous harbors and waterways. Chinatown is in the Darling Harbor part of town, replete with hundreds of shops and restaurants along the exten...
We boarded the Air Tahiti Nui flight from LAX to Papeete, Tahiti just before midnight on December 30 and received flowers from Tahiti as we boarded. The flight was replete with superb service, hot meals, wine, champagne, and an assortment of movies. I always fly foreign airlines because it is as though you have reached your destination as you step on the plane. After a long, lovely flight that crossed the equator where winter turned to summer, we landed in Tahiti with just...
Sharon and I headed to the Charlotte airport (CLT) for an early flight to Los Angeles to begin our high concept travel plan. Dressed in hiking boots and the heaviest clothing to minimize bag weight, we carried three weeks worth of gear in two backpacks and two small suitcases. Check-in went smoothly as we tagged our backpacks and sent them to LAX where we had a 12 hour layover and plenty of time to organize our overseas flights. After a five hour flight, we found that Sha...
I woke up last night and did not know where I was. After a moment, I realized that I was sleeping in my own bed. It had been so long that it didn’t seem natural.We had just returned that morning from an extended journey that took us thousands of miles across the globe over the equator and the International Dateline. We literally lost track of time for it was too confusing to figure out what day it was where we were and what day it was back home. For the first time, we ...
Having been an English teacher, I always felt--hoped?--that the English teacher had a unique place in every student’s heart. For me, the first enchantress was a supervisor who visited our shabby classroom once a month. Longfellow was the designated grade poet, and she made every word of The Courtship of Miles Standish come alive. I could never forget the drama of “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” Then we read Longfellow’s story of Evangeline and beca...
Christmas brings out the real people inside of us as the following stories illustrate. On the day before Christmas, I donned my backpack and left home on a walk with my dog in preparation for some upcoming hikes. On a busy corner, as we waited for the light, we were approached by a man who walked over from the gas station to offer us $20 because he thought we must be homeless. I had to explain that we were fine, and that surely there were others who needed his act of kin...
My husband and I were driving to Boston and stopped to investigate an area we’d read about. After walking the grounds, we finally found the old stone building we were looking for.I saw them as soon as we walked into the main room. A young mother and her five children looking at the old fashioned displays, laughing and talking quietly. Not buying anything, but enjoying the free historical displays set up like an old fashioned store. (Never mind you could buy replicas of e...
My first encounter with a family meal not overcooked, canned or stewed was in high school. We were Jewish, this was the fifties, and pretty much everything my mother cooked came from a can, from the freezer or the delicatessen. She even put a can of Libby’s mixed vegetables in her meatloaf, instead of freshly chopped onions. Of course, she was a single working mom and never had much time for cooking. And, I wasn’t particularly interested in cooking for her, or for myse...
Chop. Chop. Chop. Bending over the kitchen counter, tears trickle down the hollows in her face.Eyes watering and nose burning from the onions Mom is splicing into miniscule pieces, I cover her trembling hands with mine. “Sit down. I’ll finish up.” I hold her arm to steady my mother’s brittle frame.The Kosher cookbook, frayed and stained with egg yolk, butter, and oil, beckons to tell the stories of Mom and Dad’s journey from Russia to America. The kitchen tabl...
I furtively peek down the hospital hallway to see if the coast is clear, and then hurry back to Dad’s bedside. I open the top drawer of his bedside table and lift out the carefully disguised wine bottle hidden below the body wipes and diapers. I unscrew the cap, and pour out a small serving of merlot and place it on his food tray.With trembling hands, dad reaches for the tiny paper cup and sips delicately. “Delicious! You made my day.”Dad is a WW11 vet, now spendin...
Iron ManMy ancestors were NorsemenWith genocidal interlopersFrom Slovenia and Montenegro -Vikings with a dark side. They arrived on ships - too many Olsens.Changed their names to something Anglo,Gilbert; something French, Gilbert,Then settled a forsaken place. A land caressed by glaciersLashed by Arctic tongues of Canada,No place for French nor EnglishmenNor Latinos or Africans. We grew up poorPump handle poorHunting, fishing, killing poor...
Dan Tolonen was the patriarch of our family. He was a tough man in a tough part of the country – Northern Minnesota’s iron mining Mesabi Range. He started out as a sailor on the Great Lakes, but his dream was to own a farm in Minnesota. He realized his dream by starting with a small farm and eventually buying a 250 acre farm in Balkan, Minnesota. He worked the farm his entire life, and also became a miner in the iron ore mines. As a miner, he joined the union and rose th...
As Thanksgiving is near, I picture a table with abundance of food, but for me, sweet potatoes have the sweetest taste of nostalgia. Rice had been the most basic part of all Japanese meals; however with the surrender of WWII rice was hard to come by. Hence, we compromised by eating sweet potatoes in lieu of rice. We ate lots of potatoes. Those days are bitter and sweet with post war memories. On Sunday mornings we slept a little later than on school days. “Ba-Chan, Ohay...
We miss you and love you, Pence. Brutally Beautiful by Toianna WikaAnxiety, phobias, and binge eating are daily reminders of my having always been different and awkward in social situations and how many hurdles I have overcome, after having grown up in an alcoholic family, with a violent father.My therapist compared me to a war veteran, forced to learn how to get around on one leg. Having been an advocate for mentally ill clients took all of the steely determinati...
Savory Associations by Toianna WikaDiscovery of cheddar cheese and tomato sandwiches while I was in Dublin, Ireland during college and reading everything I could get my hands on by Oscar Wilde was delightful.My family and I have favorite places for different kinds of food all over America, after having driven from Seattle to Florida and back, twice. However, like a first true love, Seattle comes to mind first for food that has enhanced momentous occasio...
The manila box that contained a simple pound cake was far from fresh when it arrivedto its destination from across the Pacific Ocean. Sent almost as an afterthought by his aunt who lived in upstate New York, the cake waseagerly opened by the tired and dirty hands of the soldier who was taking a mountaintopbreak in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, where he served as an infantryman. The cake was ferried to the mountain, along with other packages, by a supply helico...
The belief that too much of everything is as bad as too little, will depend on who is making that assessment and what the precise excess is?Maintaining any excess that can sustain life, such as food, water, shelter with the ability to help those in need, however not provide assistance to those in need can be considered horribly bad if the person has the necessary resources and ability to help.However, those in need will always look upon those with excesses they desire...
If you watch television these days you’ll see all sorts of commercials about life insurance. The theme is usually the same: a strapping young man just out of college finds a job and buys insurance to secure his future. Or a man in his late 20s has just got married and buys a life insurance policy for his wife’s security, just in case. Or parents in their mid-30s all smiling and happy buy a life insurance policy so that their kid has something to fall back on if something dra...
Every year on April 11, I write “Happy Birthday, 31-5” to my son Jeff. He's always known what it meant because I made sure of it. In fact, whenever I wanted him to do something with me like go shopping or watch a chick-flick, if he balked at all, I’d just say, “31-5.” And he’d have no choice but to do my bidding. Recently, he shared his annual birthday card with his new girlfriend, Rose.“It’s from my mom,” he said. “Every year, the same message.”“How sweet.”...
HardwoodNovember maple, chiseled rough by stonesFrom pastured boulder crops that glaciers bring,Extending lichened frame like leafless bonesTo shelter sapling shoots it spawned last spring. The bark is frayed to grey by killing frost.With blackened base from fires in the field,The trunk is scarred with knots from limbs long lostAnd deeper cuts that bled and hurt and healed. Unmoved as soldier fusillades passed by,Then haunted by impromptu graves the...

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