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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

As I look back over nearly my 75 years, there are parts of my life where I remember feeling out of step with those I thought had it all together. I was so uncoordinated that in the fourth grade I felt humiliated because I thought that I had been targeted during dodge ball. By the time I was a senior in high school, when the popular kickball captain asked me do better for her, I got mad. Her arrogance made me laugh. She wasn’t smart enough to realize that if I could have do...
I perched on the edge of the piano bench, nervously waiting while my teacher ripped open the envelope. Inside were the results from my exam. We’d been waiting for several weeks to find out if I had passed the test.After many years of lessons, and four hours of daily practice, I’d played for the examiner. He was a big man with careless personal hygiene. He smoked throughout my test. His disinterest in listening to a motley collection of young students play was obvious. He fr...
We had a problem here. No one knew where Paul went or what happened to him. If you called, his voicemail greeting wasted no words: I’m trying something different. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be back. I wouldn’t go so far as to say his regulars panicked, but after having Paul cut your hair for years, they were a tad uneasy about offering their heads to a new barber.Finding a BarberWhen my wife Vicki’s father thought his hair couldn’t wait any longer ...
Rangitoto is the largest and most prominent volcano in the Auckland chain. It pushed up out of the sea about 600 years ago and showed signs of activity as recently as 2013, so we were excited to scale the lava fields to the rim and have a look inside. I had lived on the banks of Volcano Solfatara in Pozzuoli, Italy, so I was accustomed to dealing with active volcanoes. Solfatara is linked underground with Vesuvius, and visitors are greeted by bubbling sand, boiling molten ...
For spectacular photos check out http://www.trailexploring.com The lure of a trailhead leading into the wild is overpowering. Captivated by wanderlust and adventure, we set out for one last day surrounded by mountains, rivers, waterfalls, lakes, forests and caves. We had watched the explosion of waterfalls literally crisscrossing themselves as rain poured down the mountain the day before as the drenched and exhausted hikers found the hut one by one. We had dried ou...
I was surprised to hear my daughter comment to a colleague, at a charity dinner, that one of the reasons she became a fundraiser was because of me. I didn’t realize my volunteering had stood out to her. It was just one of the things that I did as a stay-at-home home, along with providing the sparkling white socks that she remembers so vividly (and says she can’t match). After mulling it over a bit, I realize my volunteer activities stood out against the routine of dail...
For spectacular photos check out http://www.trailexploring.comI 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 o...
For spectacular photos check out http://www.trailexploring.comMatt 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...
For spectacular photos check out http://www.trailexploring.comNo 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 breat...
For spectacular photos check out http://www.trailexploring.comThe 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 ...
For spectacular photos check out http://www.trailexploring.comThe 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 s...
For spectacular photos check out http://www.trailexploring.comWe 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 t...
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...

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