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Questions and Stories about Empty Nest and Retirement

Listed below is the compilation of all of the questions and stories that retirees and those with an empty nest have asked, shared, or submitted as a response to our national writing contest. Topics range from education, to money, to relationships, to health, and many more in between. Do you have a story to share about your experiences being retired or adjusting to an empty nest? Click the "Share Your Story" button to add your voice to!

Read Empty Nest and Retirement Questions and Stories

Life can be complicated, with trials and tribulations from birth to death, and all the convoluted paths we travel in between. Having a sense of humor helps us smooth the rough edges of life.

When we are annoyed by the neighborhood sound of a loud automobile horn honking and ask at the dinner table, “Who could be doing that!” and the reply from our seven-year-old daughter is “Beeps me!”, all is right in the world again!

When we don’t take ourselves too seriously and

Life can be complicated, with trials and tribulations from birth to death, and all the convoluted paths we travel in between. Having a sense of humor helps us smooth the rough edges of life.

When we are annoyed by the neighborhood sound of a loud automobile horn honking and ask at the dinner table, “Who could be doing that!” and the reply from our seven-year-old daughter is “Beeps me!”, all is right in the world again!

When we don’t take ourselves too seriously and

Only minutes after 2 year old Kevin’s diagnosis as a person with autism (PWA) I questioned: “Who’ll take care of him when we are gone?” We agreed that as soon as the right placement came along for him, we’d accept it. But the likelihood was that there’d be no spot until we were well into old age. We went to work on creating the life he needed.

Following were a stream of stressors: locating a home program for preschool PWA (special education rights run from ag

I moved a year ago from California to North Carolina to be near my only son who is 36 year old. He and his girlfriend have lived together for nine years now. His girlfriend has a daughter
14 and a son 10. I thought when I moved closer that I would be spending most major holidays
with them however that has not been the case. I have spent every holiday alone and most
times not even a phone call. I know they are busy and I understand how difficult it can be
raising yo

There’s a theory (mine) that the seismic activity on Vancouver Island is the result of the accumulated weight of translocated retired Albertans pressing down on the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate, causing it to dive under the North American plate in an imminent and nasty subduction. I think we can expect the whole kit and caboodle to undergo a major shakedown and tsunami rinse in the near future. Yet the retirees continue in their mass migration like le

The last three years the family and most of my friends have been subjected to my husbands insisting that our abuse that was not meant of 24 years Before he was crippled by MRSA, Has left us without any rights to decide he was not participating in family vacations, holidays, and other functions, because he was no longer fit socially to deal with them. Last Christmas I had guests coming to where we live now, its a 1230 mile trip, There were many that voiced concerns that my husband was not going

In our culture, we are conditioned to focus on the major events in life. Consider how elaborate weddings have become. How about birthday parties? When I was a kid, you were lucky if you had a few children over to your house for cake, ice cream and game of musical chairs. Today, extravagant venues and elaborate themes are of the expectation for a child’s birthday party. We live from one big event to the other and in the process often ignore the small, sacred moments that sew together a lif

I do believe in second chances, but sometimes you have to go with your gut instinct. I was a Girl Scout and Brownie leader and a liaison for our troops to the Service Unit.
One year I also volunteered to be the Cookie Chairman.

I was a stay-at-home mom and this was my first job supervising adults. I recruited one of mothers in the Scout Troop to help me out. I was giving her a second chance. She had helped me out previously and it hadn’t turned out well. I don’t remember my

There are numerous factors all seniors should evaluate before choosing a retirement destination. The first element most retirees think about when deciding on an area is usually the climate. However, there are many other factors that should also be considered. Prior to packing up and choosing a destination solely based on the weather, it’s important to assess other factors. Factors such as political stability, healthcare, education, safety, transportation, public services, recreation, environmen

Second Chances, Wrap and Re-new

Empty Nester and House Projects…words that don’t go together, or at least they shouldn’t. I mean afterall, didn’t we raise two kids and make it to the finish line?!
There was just something about the word “foreclosure” and the price that went with it that we couldn’t resist. So Goodbye big house, and hello condo.

How many times through the years with all of our moves had we been faced with a few good “house projects”. Okay, this move wo

The loss of a loved one can be heartbreaking, and it is so important for our loved one, and for us, that we complete the grieving process from beginning to end. Writing about our relationship with them is one of the most effective ways to grieve, and while it make take months or years, it leads us to the point where we are ready to move on with our lives while maintaining the love we will always have for the one we’ve lost. In addition, and if appropriate, we can also pass along our writing t

As I sit here in the soft glow of twinkle lights emanating from our Christmas tree and the pine boughs on the fireplace mantle above I reflect on a year gone by.
Mixed emotions fill my head as I rejoice in the birth of another Grandchild Jacob whose smile and demeanor even at his tender age brings me joy. A successful year with tours and the association of people from all over the world enlightened me. The loss of a close friend I grew up with saddened the year. It brings to the realizatio

The daily news torments me with a story of a violent, devastated world. Last week, after viewing the documentary film “This Changes Everything”, our audience debated. Is climate change real? How big an impact does human activity have on the coming crisis? Can individuals truly make a difference? Is life on earth, as we know it, -doomed – or is there hope?

When I was young, we caught frogs that leaped in abundance around our feet at the lake’s edge. Fish swarmed around the end of the

Retirement is something everybody looks forward to. It is a time when you can relax, travel, and try things you never had time for before. Many decide to move to a new city after they retire and below is a list perfect for retirement living.

Franklin, Tennessee
Franklin is a city located about 20 miles south of Nashville. The cost of living is relatively low and the tax rate is lower than the national average. This is a safe city as well, having pretty low crime rates.

I have friend whose grown son and his wife set time limits on when my friend can visit her only grandchild. Her son talked her in to moving from her home of 35 years to the town that he ans his family live in. She was an excellent mother to him ans his sister and raised them as a single mother.They were brought up right. She was never abusive in any way and always did the right thing by her children. She has lived in this town for about 2 years now and has only seen her grandson about 5 times

Busyness Is Not a Spiritual Gift

I can easily become overloaded, overburdened, and go overboard with busyness in my daily environment. I get so busy that waiting is not an option. Wait is a tough word to deal with in today's busy world. Being too busy can distract us from the most important things in our lives—people. The most important thing in our environment. Busy is the enemy of peace. Busy steals precious time. Busy robs my blessings.

Waiting Time Is Never Wasti

I hate to be the bearer of bad news folks but I'm afraid the term freedom of speech should probably be changed to the freedom of some speech. It is a little telling of my age but when I was growing up in the sixty's and seventies it was taken very seriously, however today I see a complete reversal. Our parents and teachers used to recite to us from an early age the old “sticks and stones” saying and it was for a reason, it is true. We used to say, “I don't agree with you but I defend your rig

My Father’s Story of Life

The literary world is aware that my father Gunturu Seshendra Sarma, eminent poet, litterateur and scholar-critic, died on 30th may 2007. Ever since he expired, there has been no mention of his parents, family members and other personal details in the news and in the articles about him. Not only this, fictional lies are being spread and using money power one shady lady is being propagated as his wife and so on. This

When you are living in Florida driving is almost a necessity. So I learned to drive and got myself a license in 1975.

Our family vacation was to be in Key West. With much anticipation, the car was inspected a day before and was packed the night before.

“Dad, how much longer to get to Key West?” Greg sounded from the back seat as he was getting bored. “Mom, I’m thirsty. Can I have something to drink?” at Greg’s side Dean followed as if he had to say something, too. “All ri

In 2013 I got a settlement from an accident. The whole thing took over two years; and during that time I teased my family about finding a vacation that we and my two daughters’ families could enjoy. A cruise was out of the question, because one son-in-law got seasick and the other, being a sailor, would want to pilot the ship himself.

While I was thumbing through one of my husband’s fishing magazines I came across what looked like a good compromise. A lodge on a lake with fishing,

The kids in our extended family were reaching high school and college age, and we decided to make one last big family trip with everyone. Twelve of us, aged 14 to 75, traveled to Ireland to keep a promise to my sister, who was making plans for a family trip when she died of cancer. She left the money in her will for all of us to go, and we spent 10 days coming face-to-face with the country that produced our great-grandparents and our grandfather. We rented three cars and three cell phones and k

There’s An APP for that:
Why Not Getting Lost Is A Good Thing

I love technology, and have many APPS on my phone and other devices. So technology is not particularly a problem for me at my age. I taught school for many years so I retired ahead of the game with a comfortable appreciation of the Internet and the all powerful APPS. I love the game, information and productivity APPS I use, but there was no hesitation when I thought about which APP was my favorite. Google Maps…ha

I recently had a group of 10 family members from out of state stay with us for a week. FOUR of them stayed in our garage apartment while the others stayed in our guests room in the main house. When they left the garage apartment was left in a horrible state. Is it wrong to expect guests to clean up after themselves before leaving especially when they were given free room and board for a week?

The lights are dimmer. The print is smaller. The sewing needle manufacturers no longer put thread eyes in needles.

I have my prescription glasses for driving but now I have dollar store glasses for print (and threading needles) along with magnifying glasses. I even found a magnifying glass that has a built-in light. I hold things under my chair side lamp, under my overhead light then under my halogen lamp. I need all of these in an effort to compensate for the conspiracy by pr

Week 1
For months M has been nagging me to attend ballet classes with her. I have a plethora of valid excuses: it’s dinner time, it’s carpool time, it’s TV time, it’s snack time, etc. The truth is; I really don’t have a single legit excuse. So with substantial ambivalence, I anxiously agree to give it a try. Actually, I have pretty much convinced myself I am doing M a friendly favour. After an extended nearly 30 year hiatus, I find myself surrounded by mirrors, standing at the barre next

I first met my favorite teacher when she was nine years old. I was dating her brother, who eventually became my husband. We had been dating awhile and we had to stop by his house for some reason. We entered through the back door into the kitchen and she was wearing an oven mitt and was taking something out of the oven.

I was amazed that her mother thought she was old enough to assume a baking task. In retrospect, I now realize the relegation was a matter of necessity for my futu

Her name is Emily Moxey, and she inspired and transformed the lives of the children in her Life Skills Class. Her students were in the 5th – 8th grade, and all were diagnosed with severe intellectual disabilities. Often, students in her class also had serious physical disabilities. Ms. Moxey opened her classroom door – and the door to the outside world – wide for them.

She worked down the hall from me, and I tried to visit her classroom whenever I could. When the challenges in my job

Fight or Flight
The love story of Jeb and Suzy.

On the first day of kindergarten Jeb & Suzy were seated at the same table when she leaned over, whispered into Jeb’s ear, and said. We are going to be married one day.

After school, Suzy told her mother, who she was going to marry and her mother laughed, just as Jeb’s mother laughed when she was told the news.
What they didn’t know is that Suzy was serious about her prediction and she told h

I am no longer working, and living with renal dialysis. I need to work out what to do with the rest of my life.

One day as I sat reading a book on my comfy couch, I happened to look up and see my three cats growling at each other. Buffy, my long haired grey and white male, sat on the window sill in the living room. He growled and hissed at Terra and Abbey. As I watched them yowling at each other, I could imagine the conversation they were having.

Abbey, who was a regal looking Persian, had a rather commanding demeanour; after all she’d been with me for fifteen years. Buffy had to be more

My husband had a friend who let us use his family’s cabin for fishing weekends. The place came complete with catfish ponds, and a wonderful old rodeo house, that responded to voice commands.

He was the perfect children’s horse and our two daughters were enthralled. Eventually we became owners of the horse. We didn’t have to pay anything for him; he was a gift. But, you know that old saying, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Well, we should have looked this one in the

Animals: My Little Buddy

Niko was a Miniature Schnauzer. He wasn’t pure breed, he was a mix. But you couldn’t tell. He was silver and grey, just like the pedigreed Schnauzers. We got him from the animal shelter when he was about one year old for my daughter, Kamari. Since Kamari was a latch key child my wife and I decided that she should have a companion when she came home from middle school. With both working parents often coming home late it seemed like a good idea. At first I

About four years before my parents' friend, Bill, passed away, I began spending weekends helping him with his beloved herd of Paso Fino horses. Bill was nearly 80, getting more frail every year and struggling to care for the herd that kept growing each year. The market for them had declined as the economy struggled. One stallion ran with the herd and fathered a dozen colts a year. Bill was no longer able to feed them all with the hay produced on his place and money got tighter with each passing

After the children (all 6 of them) moved out, came back and moved out again with their children, I felt it was time for me to indulge myself with some specialized education that I had always wanted, but for which I had never had time.
We are blessed to have a 2-year college in town (Northwest College, Powell, WY), with a top rated photo communications program. After getting my feet wet with an online introduction to digital photography, I registered as a full time student last fall. For me

If I were to write a memoir about the pets in my life, most of the book would be about cats, especially chapters covering the last 25 years. But having endured the antics of 1 to 3 at a time, distinctly different felines, from kitten to cat-hood, I don’t know which chapter to summarize for a 500 word preview. To avoid that decision, I’ll write about my wife Vicki’s tropical fish.

For the most part, the fish were small. Nevertheless, because of their number, they graduated from a bow

Is it a crime to put your loved one in assisted living?

I think this is a question every person living with an older parent or relative asks themselves. We grapple with the thought we can take care of them no matter what…we would never subject anyone to those ghastly homes where all the old people are housed together. Horror stories are reported about the abuse that goes on, leaving a loved one there to rot away. No telling how bad the food is, let alone helping the person get to the

When people reach their Golden Years, have struggled to work to build their character and their reputation, does jealousy cause a barrage of lies, slander and cyberbulling? They have worked all of their lives, enjoyed many good life experiences, maybe been honored and now they are closer to the end of their life than they were 60 years ago, but, some person with jealousy wants to destroy everything they have worked for. Jealousy can cause the most horrible of made up lies from a known or unkno

To be retired is a wonderful thing, I can take a walk on the beach in front of my home, watch beautiful sunsets, go boating, take a cruise, go to the resort, go to dinner with my son and enjoy life without time restraints or schedules. I do not have to get up early and I can go to bed as late as I want. When you are retired you can now relax and really enjoy the blessings that God has given, life is beautiful. Sunsets are beautiful, friends are beautiful, shopping is beautiful. I am happier

Having been born in California, I grew up without worrying much about weather. Now that I’m older, I wonder how we got along without air-conditioning. I don’t remember heat being a problem as a kid. However, the recent snow in California made me remember that in the fifties, when I was around ten, we had a day of light snow. I had never seen snow and it was great fun for a brief time

The first house we bought didn’t have air-conditioning, but the second did; and, by that time we

Elderly auntie's been in Hospice for 2 years. All family goes to Mexico for 4 weeks every year (20 years) to get together with old friends. I'm a very close niece with auntie, and was advised she passed away just after breakfast Christmas Eve morning and would I notify relatives? Everyone thought I was phoning with Happy Holliday stuff, rather than death news. It's too late now, but if this should ever happen again, or to someone else, should I have waited till perhaps the 26th to make the p

Should I have to "ask" to visit?

I am 55, single mom of two great adult children. My son and I seem to butte heads on several matters. Most recently, I wanted to go to VA to visit my son & daughter in law. I texted my son and "I am thinking of coming out end of March spring break". I said I didn't want them taking off work, just wanted to spend some time there and at the beach. That I wanted to get away and relax. It is their anniversary and my son's birthday that week. Well

What if time were not on your side? What if you were running out of months, weeks days? What if your number was up, and you were not long for the planet? Would you reflect and regret, wish for something different; to have seen more, done more, been more? Would you have wanted to live a different truth?

Many are currently quietly fighting battles for which there is no victory, other than peace. Many are living lives that are not full but diminished by illness or by suffering. Some

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 done better, I would

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 frightened

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 Barber

When my wife Vicki’s father thought his hair couldn’t wait any lo

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 rock and pungent st

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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 out a

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 daily life; and

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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

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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 th

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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 takin

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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

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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

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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.

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 has stalled o

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 experience extreme

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 Ingleside, we were ap

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. The concierge, howev

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 extensive waterside

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 enough time to hav

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 Sharon’s backpack

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 experience

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 became aware of

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 kindness. We wished e

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 everything a

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 myself. I was

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.


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,

Iron Man

My ancestors were Norsemen

With genocidal interlopers

From 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 glaciers

Lashed by Arctic tongues of Canada,

No place for French

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 through the ranks to

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, Ohayo” (

We miss you and love you, Pence.
Brutally Beautiful
by Toianna Wika
Anxiety, 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

Savory Associations
by Toianna Wika

Discovery 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,
However, like a first true love, Seattle comes to mind first for food
that has enhan

The manila box that contained a simple pound cake was far from fresh when it arrived

to its destination from across the Pacific Ocean.

Sent almost as an afterthought by his aunt who lived in upstate New York, the cake was

eagerly opened by the tired and dirty hands of the soldier who was taking a mountaintop

break in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, where he served as an infantryman.

The cake was ferried to the mountain, alon

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, s

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 drastic happens. What’

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.”


November maple, chiseled rough by stones

From pastured boulder crops that glaciers bring,

Extending lichened frame like leafless bones

To 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 lost

And deeper cuts that bled and hurt and healed.

Scar: My Survivor Badge
It’s not pretty, even with recent scar revision by an excellent plastic surgeon. But it’s my daily reminder that I survived my battle with breast cancer 13 years ago. Other tokens strike me occasionally—partial toenails (a souvenir of a particularly virulent chemo drug), an irregular cardiac rhythm, a still-challenged immune system. But my big, beautiful seven-inch chest scar greets me as I slip my prosthesis over it every day. In the shower, I lovingly lather

Did you see the news about the Great Dane in Portland, Oregon, that ate 43-1/2 socks (the half sock was a mystery)? It made me think of Nike--not the company, the dog.

Nike was a large, sweet, handsome Belgian Shepherd owned by Bob Hoffman, owner of Playland, an amusement park, which recently closed, in Upstate New York. Many moons ago, we often took our daughters there for the arcade, rides or miniature golf; or if we were without the girls, my husband, my hero, sometimes inv

Dear Erik and Matt,

I learned yesterday that a friend of mine, Liam Nevins, was killed in Afghanistan. He was murdered by an Afghan soldier, along with two other American soldiers.

Liam worked for me in Afghanistan on my prior project, and I spent every day that I was in Kuwait with him. We had all meals together, rode to and from the base and worked together every day in the hot sun. At night we smoked Cuban cigars on the beach of the Arabia

We checked the weather all week, and it was going to be a cold overnight hike in the mountains – maybe down below freezing – so we packed for 30 degrees. When we arrived at the Waterrock trailhead , it was 10am, and the temperature was already down to 32 degrees with a stiff wind in the full sun. I had to help the ranger secure the flag line because the wind was whipping the flag all over the place. Hiking up another 1500 feet to sleep in a 3-sided shelter overnight seemed dangerous and irre

As Vietnam Vets, we try to help each other. When one of ours was in real trouble, my brothers stepped up. The following letter is a far better tribute than anything I could write:

Dear Friends,

This has been the hardest letter to write because I know my efforts are doomed to fail to convey my and Gary's gratitude to you fellow Shipmates. He has tried to explain the bond forged at USNA and has spoken so fondly of you over the years of our marriage. Now I am on the cusp of

The best hikes in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park – Mount LeConte and the Jump Off in the same weekend. We took the Alum Cave Bluff Trail to Mount LeConte, and because we were in bear country, Sharon asked if I would wear some bacon on my head – I declined. We experienced 5.5 miles of gorgeous and fascinating trails while ascending over 2700 feet to the third highest mountain in the Park. The first structure of interest is Rock Arch that was cut out of the mountain by Alum Cave Creek

Identify: Retirement Benefits

We stood at the large window in the Miami International Airport and watched our last

child take off for the next step of his life. Who am I now? I asked. I’m still a mother, but I’ve

lost my job of raising kids. What will I do with my life now? Should I cry or celebrate?

Then I discovered a page called, “Now I Think,” in my church periodical, inviting readers to express their opinions on current social issues.

In two of my earliest Stage of Life blog posts, I mentioned physical therapy and breakfast. Although they arose in separate posts--exercise and sleep--the two came together once. I don’t recall what set off the physical therapist--perhaps I was too rigid--but in a rather accusatory tone, she said, “I bet you eat the same breakfast every day.”

Given how vulnerable I was, lying on the table, looking up at her young face through my old eyes, I chose not to respond. There w

I had a complicated history concerning my religion and background. I always knew I was Jewish, but I was not always proud of my heritage. Some of it stemmed from my parents difficult relationship and divorce when I was only four. Some of it came from moving to a Christian
suburb when I was eleven.

My mother had, what they used to call, a nervous breakdown, and ended up hospitalized. She was told that she wouldn’t get well until she got herself out of her toxic situation. She

The word of the day is heedful, reminding me that I must ever be mindful of not only my actions but my words. I must remember that words that slip by the lips fall on ears that may misinterpret my meaning. My words are generated from within me, filtered through my likes, dislikes, beliefs and history then fall on ears that may have other filters and histories. Though I do not intentionally say hurtful things at times I see a reaction in another that surprises me when I see they have taken somet

I have a hunger for life that propels me forward everyday. I'm like my son when he got his first pair of glasses, "Mom, Dad!" his exuberance was uncontained. "There are leaves on the trees."

Our first reaction? Well of course there are but we caught those words before they spilled past our lips.

"Yes, there are. Didn't you know that?"

"Well I guess I knew it but when I look at a tree without my glasses all I see is a green blur. Now I see LEAVES!"


It's really not about who I think I am but about who I am. I am a bent, twisted, heavy framed women with an oxygen hose in the nose. At least that will be your first impression should we ever meet. But wait, that is only the shell of me.. Look closer, look into my brown eyes with still a sparkle and zest for life. Don't be fooled by the external, that is a mistake we make. We only look at surface, we're in such a hurry to blow through this life, especially when we're young, that we miss so much

Celo Knob (elevation 6327 feet) is the last major peak in the Black Mountains of North Carolina.

The Black Mountains include Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain east of the Rockies, and the hike from Mount Mitchell to Celo Knob is called the Death March because of the rugged terrain and many mountains to summit en route. My wife and I attempted the Black Mountain Crest Trail last year, and it beat us down - we had to turn back one mountain shy of Celo Knob.

So this

Each year on New Year’s Day it is interesting to reflect on the previous year and to recount how many things happened that nobody saw coming. It is astonishing how unpredictable our lives can be and how much change we experience on a regular basis. Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” The question is how can we adapt to changing situations and modify our strategies to handle unforeseen demands and challenges?

Think about trout. Trout love

"I can't believe they are paying me to have this much fun." If this was not my first thought every morning, I moved on to another fun job. Little wonder I am still working at 63, but, alas, times have changed and squeezed the fun out of working.

The nest egg is secure, and the new job is retirement. I began contemplating retirement the last time I got laid off - I took a road trip from the Carolinas to Minnesota to New England. Sadly, I accomplished everything I had planned for m


As I danced my way through my late forties - man-about-town, bon vivant, gay blade, waiting for a casting director to spot me in a coffee shop - I received the first of two ominous mailings that brought my rollicking 18-wheeler to an abrupt halt: THE AARP INVITATION. Remember? We were certain that the mail carrier had made a mistake, but no, our name was clearly visible on the envelope, and as soon as these letters arrived, we began the first shredding and the

On June 30th, I surrendered my computer and my telephone. My desk was already emptied, all the pictures had been stripped from the walls of my office, and I handed in my keys. Before I left the building for the last time, I yanked my nameplate off the door.


For many years, when asked, ‘what do you do?’ I’d talk enthusiastically about my job. The other focus was my children. Now, the kids have flown the nest, and I’ve been kicked off my perch. So, who am I?<

The divisions of the Stages of Life are a good representation of my identity. I don’t fit in any of them. I’m an ‘empty nester’ but I’m not retired. I’m a grandparent but my grandchildren are very far away so I don’t feel like a real grandma. I’m a homeowner, but my home of 24 years is too big for me. I’m widowed so I don’t have a partner to share in any of my life activities. However, like the Apostle Paul, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether wel

Here we are in sunny Florida, the last place I thought I would ever end up and we love our location! We are near Tampa, which has a lot more to offer than one would guess. It has a lovely Theater of the Arts, museums, a large amphitheater for concerts and best of all, the setting is beautiful.

Since retiring to the area (from the Chicago area) my husband and I have also had some serious hardships. We have lost a son to a horrible brain disease and are still trying to cope with th

My daughter started the fourth grade with her normal scholarly shyness. Her new teacher was the popular one that all the kids called Mrs. O; and, who was known for giving hugs. My child was a regular kid at home, always ready to do battle with her younger sister, play with the neighbor children, and have fun with cousins and grandparents; but school and the outside world were a
tad intimidating for her.

Mrs. O wrote on the first report card of the year that my child was

School Daze: Christmas Shopping
One thing I enjoy doing and writing about in my old age is stories of my childhood. I grew up in a small prairie town in South Dakota where the most exciting thing to do was to slide down the fire escape attached to the Grade School building from the 5th grade upstairs classroom. During the summer it was even more fun as we tried to get to the top from the bottom and slide back down. The more we tried the slippery it got – meaning more fun.
But t

As Labor Day approaches, I feel as though I should be getting ready for school despite having retired from teaching decades ago. Most of my memories of teaching revolve around my students. In fact, the first article I ever wrote--"I remember Carol,” published in Datebook, a popular teen magazine in the 1960s--was about a student.

Carol was a sweet, dark-haired, dark-eyed little girl in my study hall. At one point, she asked for my help with Algebra. Although I was (and am) ma

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