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From the Editor Welcome Letters

Below you'll find the From the Editor archive of welcome letters that have appeared on the Empty Nest and Retirement stage.

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Retirement Editor's Welcome

Freedom... Again!

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor


As per my last Editors piece on the 1st of June, I am glad to report that life here at home has resumed to normal! Just as fast as he materialized, our son is back out on his own again, living in his own home now.  In the past month of his temporary living at home,  I have learned a few things:

* I really have kind of missed him!  At first, it was awkward, but evened thought when he was home he stayed to himself, it was kind of nice knowing he was in the other room!
* I really didn't miss the mess in our guest bathroom.
* I really missed our den; our sanctuary of peace.  And I felt a pain in my gut every time I walked into it the past month!
* He apparently eats less.  There was actually food stocked in our fridge and cupboard.  According to my grandma's logic this means he stopped growing?!
* He's not a party animal... thank God.
* The short term binding verbal agreement was he would live here rent free since every dollar was being spent on re-building the inside of his home.  But he would help around the house.  The chickens were tended to every night by him.   The chickens were tended to every night by him.  Did I mention that the chickens were tended to every night by him?
* Apparently, he must have been playing hookey during the high school business class chapter that discussed binding verbal agreements.
* I am proud of his accomplishments, especially that he has bought his first home at 22 years old. 

Among other things, this is insurance that I will not have to make another one of these lists again!

Yes, it has been an interesting month!  It's funny how 4 years of freedom, can affect a parent in such ways.  Yet, our love for him hasn't changed, and we still feel, barring a few issues as noted, that we brought him up right and he is quit successful.  Did I mention he never cleaned his bathroom or our den upon his departure?  Yeah... about that.  Did I mention he still has no hot water at his house... and that when he comes back for a shower the locks will be changed... hee hee!

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Are You Ready for Retirement?

By Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

My brother just retired from his job of over thirty years and is deliriously happy.  Obviously, he is still in the honeymoon phase and he should be happy.  Retirement was a choice that he planned for and he was both emotionally and financially ready.    He is fortunate to still be married to his childhood sweetheart and he has children and grandchildren to comfort him in his old age. 

He has some other things going for him like having a variety of personal interests and enjoying reasonably good health.  He liked his job and was very good at it, but when the time came to walk away, he was ready.  How is it that some of us just know when it's time, while others struggle with the decision.? 

His Successful Formula:

Financial readiness * Emotional readiness * Varied Interests * Companionship

A friend believes that some of us were" born to be retired."  He thinks that successful workers become successful retirees because of their positive nature and "can do" attitude.   I am not so sure.  I have known a few people who were very happy and satisfied with their jobs that have not adjusted well to retirement.  I think it takes more than a positive attitude.  In fact,  I think it takes balance, like the formula above. 

Not one of the parts of the formula will stand alone to guarantee a successful retirement, but put them together, and we have a very good chance of making this not only a successful time, but quite possibly the time of our lives.

When you add Good Health to the list, the possibilities go through the roof.  There are some situations that are out of our control, but to the extent that we can improve our health, that should be a high priority at any Stage of Life.

What do you think - why do some people seem naturally inclined to enjoy  retirement while others seem to struggle with the concept? 

Retirement Editor's Welcome

A Systematic Glitch

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

There’s an interesting scenario unfolding at my house as of late.  It is testimony to the fact that no matter how solid things may seem, there is always the possibility of it all changing.  Sometimes in rapid succession.  Which in this case had originally sent me into a tailspin.  I can comfortably say I am beginning to stabilize, however, not entirely.

My wife and I went outside to take a much needed road trip down in the lower 48 back in the beginning of May.  Our son, who had a bit of a life change this past fall, had been house sitting for a friend of ours through the winter.  It was a nice set up…live in and take care of their place, rent free!  The timing of their return, his exodus and our parting for vacation couldn’t have been more choreographed even if planned this way!  And, as if not to upset the balance of things, this also occurred on the cusp of our son closing on his first home.  Now stick with me on this because we are going to move in real time here.

Friends coming home to their place on May 10th.  We left for vacation on May 8th. Sons house to close on…somewhere between May 12th and May 17th.  Son moves out of friends’ place and into ours to watch our house while we’re gone, on May 8th. Friends are now free and clear of the story.  Son closes on his own house on May 11th, one day earlier than expected.  We are frolicking on the Central California coast until our expected return of May 24th.  Son is/will stay in our place until then.  Partly because we want him to so as to tend to the dogs and the chickens, and partly because he kind of had no choice at the time.

I’ll get to that detail in a moment.

Here is where it gets weird.  We return on May 24th.  At this point I was going through ‘vacation detox’.  This is a state of denial that you actually are going to have to conform to life standards as usual, primarily because fun time is done and you just don‘t have a choice.  Like most detox programs can do, this put me in a state of discomfort and some irritability.  As we walked in the door, I knew deep down what was coming.  I tried to put it into the back recesses of my mind; another form of impending denial.  The first words to come out of my mouth upon entry, seeing our sons “stuff” scattered about, was, “so…where are you gonna live?”

It’s funny how there are moments in life where a simple question seems to slip into a state of suspended animation.  Like the question is asked, but all time seems to come to a standstill, all but you, who is patiently waiting for an answer!  Such was the case with my question that night.  In fact, the question wasn’t answered until well into the next day.  When I asked it again.

You see, son got one hell of a break.  He was hired to go into this cute little place near us, on 3 acres, to muck it out after a frozen pipe had thawed and flooded the unoccupied dwelling back in spring.  In a moment of clarity, he realized that this would be perfect for him…he wanted to own the place.  So, he talked to the property manager, she spoke to the owner, the owner said in fact they would be interested in selling to him, and with some details and formalities he indeed bought it for literally half of what the market value was!  Not without a hitch though.

The place was gutted while the transaction was being set up.  And, he would inevitably have to put it back together once he owned it, to make it habitable. Thus, the perfect doings with the exodus from our friends’ place…our vacation…and him staying at our house, and.  Yeah.  Him continuing to live at our house until he gets to a point of livability at his own.  Ooof.  Empty nesters now for about 4
years now, this is a huge temporary setback for our independence.  Certain recreational activities have been temporarily suspended, we‘re cooking for three…our sacred space, the den, his former quarters is now off limits to us… Seeing how this time of year it doesn’t get dark out at night, we have even had to resort to closing the curtains in the family room and announce we are going into
the hot tub…”stay in your room”!!  lol

It is a story still unfolding, and I’m sure with much to do in store.  I already had to have ‘the talk’ in the first 24 hours.  You know, the one about the best guests are invisible ones!  “You really need to clean up after yourself and make it like you’ve left no clues to follow, that you are here”.

The silver lining is that we are getting help with household chores in the interim. Nice trade off!  And, since good ol dad is finding time in his slammed schedule to help him renovate the inside of his place….at no charge…he is going to be helping here at home with some big summer projects.  However, I do have to say that I love(d) having my freedom!  Now, wifey is of course happy he is staying here, and if not monitored closely could bend towards a more long term accommodation.  But that is where our relationship has always had some good balance.  I am usually the one to bring back a sense of reality!  Or in this case…our house back!  Stay tuned…

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Get Out There

By Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

In case I have not mentioned it before, I love being retired.   In the past I have talked about the many reasons why, and today I will offer one more.  We no longer have to limit our vacations to one or two weeks in the summer, when the kids are out of school.  Other than costs, there really are no constraints for where and when we will travel.  Lately we tend to choose cruises, and for good reason. 

We just got back from a cruise to the South Pacific that we never could have taken while we were working.  Our ship was filled with retirees.  It was interesting to learn that this was the first cruise for some of them, while it had become "old hat" to others.  We met one couple who cruised for fifty-five days, went home for two weeks and got on our thirty-six day cruise.  Another couple boarded our ship in Ft. Lauderdale, twenty days prior to when we boarded it in San Diego.  That's  fifty-six days of cruising if you are doing the math.  I love to cruise but I don't think I could have done that. 

Cruising appeals to me and apparently to a lot of retirees for a lot of reasons:

It is a great way to get a "taste" of many destinations without the expense and frustration of flying

There is no thought involved, with the exception of what to choose from the menu at dinner

Sight-seeing at each port is made easy through the ship Excursion desk

It does not require a lot of packing - especially if you use the laundry service on board

It is a wonderful way to socialize with people who you might never see again (no strings attached)

Some ships are like a floating "Club Med" and others are more understated - your choice

Staterooms are attended twice a day

Room service is always available

You can dress up or dress down for dinner - formal nights are becoming a thing of the past

You can watch a movie on the big screen, play Team Trivia, listen to a lecture or take a computer class

You can sit in the sun all day and do nothing

Ice cream and chocolate cake is always available

Cruises offer history,  geography and cultural lessons - at no charge  :)

Need I say more? Get out there.  Plan a year in advance or catch a last minute deal.  You are retired and your time is your own.

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Nothin' Left to Do But Smile, Smile, Smile

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Once again it is the time of year for us Alaskans to celebrate the end of another long dark and cold winter, and to lavish in the lengthening hours of daylight, currently around 16 hours, and the fortune of sunshine!  Last summer was a wet, dreary somewhat downer of a time for most of us.  It seemed as if the winter past had drug itself into the summer and several months later we were still dragging on with the next winter.  Like on long winter that never seemed to end!  However, we have had more sun in the past month and a half, than the past year combined, so… woo-hoo!  While most of the country is baking, raining or ‘springing’ away, we still have night time temps dipping into the late teens and early 20’s …and the snow still hanging around… not melting fast enough for those of us eager to get on with the outdoors!

It was a long winter with some pretty interesting hardships, disappointments, a few really sad events and some exciting ones as well.  All in all this winter weighed heavy on me.  I found little to no time to do any of the things I like to do for self fulfillment, and although blessed with the fortune of plenty of work, basically did nothing but work!  Along with work, the long hours and days of plowing snow, what typically is enjoying for me, actually found me tired and lacking the motivation to…push on…pardon the pun.  Many have told me I’m experiencing burnout.  Go figure.

But the summer promises some potential for fun…  Salmon fishing on the river til 2:00AM, a halibut trip or two out into the bay, surely will find me some peace. Along with our projects here at home, I am praying for some sense of accomplishment!  Why, after looking at stacked boxes of  laminate flooring under the counter top and living on plywood for the past two years, I actually made the time this past weekend to install them!  Huh…me, doing my own project for a change… But let me tell you, I am hoping it is the beginning of a summer time trend. Getting my own stuff done!

To boot, both our kids are buying their first houses locally, at 22 years old, with the promise of their growing career paths in front of them!  Talk about proud! Ironically they both close on their homes this week and the other next week. Excited and proud of their accomplishments, the home improvement and honey-do lists are already being put together for handyman dad.  And for handyman husband too! And the battle of whose home of the three will get the most attention from…handyman dad/husband!   I’m kind of getting exhausted just thinking of it!  Yikes!!

The hope is that I will be able to find some balance.  Summer does things to people here.  You really don’t want to sleep much with all of the daylight.  It is common for people here to be working their gardens, firewood, or other outdoor projects into midnight and later.  And, it is common to have to mow the grass two to three times a week as well.  You can literally sit and watch it grow!  Cool thing is you only have to mow for a few months before the cooler temps come and eventually the ground begins to freeze.

That’s my story!  What’s yours?  Everyone depending on their location in this great United States of ours, experiences some kind of shift from winter into summer.  I bet people in Arizona can talk about going form hot…to hotter!  In any event, here’s to all of us that stomached winter with the promise to live for the summer! It ought to be interesting, at least for me, to see how it all pans out!

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Looking Back

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Lately, I’ve been doing some looking back.  Being an empty nester now for about 4 years, I have experienced many different emotions on this subject, through this period.  Overall, the mere fact that we are free to run amuck, naked if we so desire, and not worry about having to behave is so grand…still…even after 4 years! All the way down to the refurbished former bedroom of our son.  It is now a den/music room.  A room of good chi, and a place that is 100% ours, pet free, clutter free, to do and feel as we like, be it listen to or make music, or just sit an have deep meaningful talks and relax.

Above all, and eye opening reality to our son, is the mere success at our ability to survive without him at home!  There was a time in the beginning we both believe….oh hell, we knew for a fact, that he honestly thought we would be unable to do the chores around the compound, and really be able to survive on our own without him around.  He convinced himself that he did everything around here. Really?!  Sitting back and watching his own personal progressions and achievements has made us proud of him and given us both the feeling of accomplishment in the way we raised him.  Especially at making him “do everything around here”…chores.  A simple concept.

Looking back, I have no regrets really.  We provided well for him.  Taught him all we knew about morals, respect, accountability and responsibility.  Most of all we spent time doing things as a family, taking him on trips, and keeping ourselves, as a couple, in check to be able to be there both as sound minded and supportive parents.  Too many times anymore, I see and listen to younger couples we know, and how they comment on wishing their kids were grown up and out of the house.  How they drive them crazy…   They seem too busy to take interest in their kids and it is so much easier to let Facebook and gaming baby sit and raise them.

I have a friend a couple weeks back, who’s wife made him, by executive order, take a couple hours out of his work day to go to their kindergarteners’ parent/teacher ‘roundup’.  He was just so upset and did nothing but whine that he had to take time in the middle of his day to take interest in his boys’ schooling.  It was unbelievable to me, and I had to take advantage of the opportunity to impart some wisdom from personal experience and perspective, on how he really needs to look at it as spending quality time with his family, and be involved while he still can. Some of those times for me were the best!  It all goes by too fast and one day he will wish he had taken the time if he fails to take it now.

Looking back, I can honestly say I wouldn’t have changed too much.  The best part of it all is, lately,  hearing little comments by our son on how he understands “why we did things the way we did”.  Or, how he “really appreciates how we were sometimes hard on him or made him challenge himself”.  He see’s how other kids he grew up with don’t have the benefits of responsibility and common sense because their parents did little parenting and were more of friends to their kids.  These and other little affirmations that we did ok as parents, are so self satisfying. Just the open channels of communication that were developed throughout his childhood into adolescence and still to this day remain in place, is a testimony to success!

Yes, looking back, it was all worth it.  Why is it now that I am taking more of a retrospective look at it all?  Who knows!  Just a period in my life I suppose. Maybe a step of my own personal growth as my role of supporting parent morphs into a new form. But I guess the only thing I can say about it is that at least I am not agonizing on not spending ‘more time’ with him and my wife as a family, or ‘not doing all the things I wish I had done‘.  Because I did, man!  And I’m pretty stoked at it all and what a wonderful, responsible and good hearted man he has become.  And the fact that he aimed his sights on achieving his independence and working his goals.  It made way for his own personal successes, now, so early in his life.  And, the ability for us to…run around naked!!  Woohoo!

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Basic Black

By Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Being retired comes with a lot of benefits, but the one I love most is that my wardrobe has been reduced to a few basic items - shorts, tee shirts, jeans, and sandals.  Most of my shorts are navy, black or beige while my tee shirts are white, navy, ivory, and black.  Having a "uniform" of sorts makes it easy to get dressed in the morning and I tend to wear the same five or six outfits over and over until they wear out, then I replace them with like items.  Most of what I wear on a regular basis fits onto two shelves and a short hanging space in my closet.

I have a few tennis clothes, golf clothes and exercise clothes that correspond to those respective retirement activities.  And,  I have a few "dress up" clothes.  That category is the least important to me these days because we rarely  go anywhere that requires formal attire.  Most invitations we receive state "smart casual" as the dress code.    In Florida that means a pair of black slacks and a nice blouse accessorized with tropical jewelry and sandals with a slight heal for me and a Tommy Bahama shirt with black chinos and loafers for my husband.  

Several months ago  we booked a thirty-five day cruise of the South Pacific as an anniversary gift to us.  We have cruised many times before, but never for this duration so packing is particularly challenging given my current "retiree" wardrobe.  Most of us have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear, (as the saying goes) so I thought I'd start there and see what would turn up.  For the next two hours I played dress up/fashion show in my closet, sorting items into piles labeled YES, NO and WHAT WERE YOU THINKING. 

What I discovered was that I have double the number of pieces needed for those TEN FORMAL NIGHTS (seriously) and enough of what I will need for daytime wear.  My tenth grade Home Economics teacher would be so proud of me.  She always told us to buy quality over quantity - "one really good black dress will serve you better than three inexpensive, trendy ones".   Being consistent with color choices helps a lot too.  All those black, beige and navy shorts will look just fine with the stack of white tees that I unearthed from the depths of things forgotten . 

Everything I found in my closet will pack neatly into one medium suitcase and one carry-on bag.  Packing basic colors makes it easy to coordinate separates and eliminate unnecessary items (ladies, think shoes).

Since flights and the cruise already costs a small fortune I am happy to contribute to the bottom line by eliminating additional clothing expense.  I may have to splurge for laundry service at least once, but at $20 per bag I think it will be worth it. 

An added bonus from this exercise was that I thoroughly cleared my cluttered closet, filled three bags that will be donated,  and can now re-organize everything when I return.  Of course I will continue to wear the same five or six outfits, but oh well.

What about you, has retirement altered your clothing choices or budget?

Retirement Editor's Welcome

The Bookmarks of Hope

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Some years ago, in the fall of 2006 to be exact,  I read a story that absolutely grabbed me.  I can’t describe the feeling of being ‘grabbed’ by something you read about, but I can tell you that my reaction was immediate and of heartfelt urgency. A young girl, 12 at the time, was going through chemo treatment for leukemia at Children’s Hospital in the lower 48, a great distance from her home, familiar surroundings and the friends she knew.  Thousands of lonely and scary miles from her life in Alaska.

Now, the unique thing is that we weren’t even living in Alaska at this point.  We were actually in the process of relocating there, from our cabin high in the Sierra-Nevada mountains of California.  Part of this process for us, was that we received the local paper 3 times a week, from the small community we were moving to.  I remember that upon reading her story, two things went through my mind. First, was that our son was turning 16 that month and the thought of, “oh my God this could be my child” was very present.  Memory serves me correct, that the other, was the heart melting smile of hers from her picture in the paper, and knowing that this had to be one of the most daunting and indescribable moments such a young person should never have to endure.

As I read on, there were two people in her community that were named.  A friend of the family trying to drum up community support, and another, a local community figure that was donating proceeds from book sales at his book store, to a fund set up for her at the local branch of Wells Fargo.  I was inspired by the outreach of support, and  instantly knew I wanted to do something.  My first thought:  Donate cash to the fund set up at the bank.  My second thought:  We’re about to undergo the sale of one home while simultaneously purchasing a home in Alaska.  Move across 2 states, another country and an ocean to get there, and starting at $0.00 income when we land. “Cripes, man!”  “We can’t afford sending cash“…just wasn’t an option.  This is when another more resourceful thought came to mind.

Being an artist, a potter, dabbling in gemstones and native American beading with seed beads, I decided to contact the bookstore owner, and convince him in letting me donate and send a dozen or so beaded gemstone bookmarks to him, with the sales of such going directly to her Wells Fargo fund.   Original thought was some of my pottery, but shipping costs made that idea obscenely difficult.  Besides… bookmarks in a bookstore…a no brainer!  Coincidentally, I was making and selling  these unique bookmarks in local shops in the mountains where we were and they seemed to sell like hotcakes.  Thankfully, he agreed, and I went to work for the next few nights, intricately spinning out bookmarks.  After they were sent off, I decided to make one especially for her personally.  Just a little something to let her know there were people praying for her and hopefully bring her some comfort.  Boxed with a hand painted water color  ‘get well’ card my wife had made for her, I got the room number and address to the hospital she was in and sent our small care package, with the hopes it would bring a little brightness into her world!

I never really knew for sure if she even got our package.  But 2 weeks later, I did get an email that the bookstore had auctioned off a couple of  my bookmarks, at a fundraising dinner being held for her, for $200, to be put directly into her fund. The rest of the bookmarks eventually sold in the bookstore…sales going into her fund.  My urgent act of goodness succeeded!  And I would never to this day forget that mission of support, or that smile of hers.

Months later, we relocated …feet on the ground and running, we went to work reconstructing our lives in a new land.  Through the coming years we would make friends, establish ties and rebuild new lives for ourselves.  From time to time throughout the years, this girl would go through my mind…I never forgot her name or what it stood for to me.  It pains me to say this, but I wondered if she had even survived that horrible ordeal.  Thinking back on it now, maybe that was the reason I never tried to find out.   I was afraid to know.

Two weeks ago, one night while sitting on the couch watching TV with my wife, this girl crossed my mind, yet once again.  For some reason on this night, it dawned on me that a girl who had worked for my wife this past summer, whom we both still had contact with, goes to the same high school that she would have gone to and was what I figured from memory, close to the same age.  I almost didn’t send the text…not sure if I wanted to know or just leave well enough alone.   But I did, and so came back the text of shock.

The next night, almost completely unbelievable to me, not only that it was happening so fast much less it was just happening at all…I had the privilege of actually speaking on the phone to Ericka, the girl whose smile melted my heart, whose story touched me so many years ago.  The girl that so courageously beat that which tried to bring her down!  She is a survivor!

I can’t adequately describe  the warm fuzzies that went through me to actually hear her voice!  What I had done back in 2006 was selfless act.  Never did I think nor expect that I would one day actually be so happy to hear someone’s voice!  We arranged to meet each other, ironically…of all days, on Valentines Day.  My wife and I had an absolute wonderful evening with her that night.  I being the fortunate one.  First time in my life I had two beautiful young ladies for a Valentines date…at the same time!  It indeed was a very special evening!  One thing that I brought home that night, is that I feel as if a circle was made complete, and that a friendship was born.

This fall, she will start her first year of pre-med schooling to become an Oncologist.  We were so impressed to hear of her career path and goals!  Most especially when one considers the relevance of such a choice!  We are proud of her and the decisions she has made for her life, and her motivation to see through her goals.  To know she is very much healthy, successful, and enjoying her life is priceless!  To be a small and simple part of it, is an honor.

And, turns out, she did in fact get our gift while she was in the hospital and still uses that bookmark I made for her, even today.  She mentioned that she remembers how unbelievable it was to her that a couple from California that didn’t even know her, would do such a kind thing for a complete stranger!  Well, Ericka, I guess my response is simply this:  Maybe there never really are ‘strangers’ in our lives in our times of need.  Only caring people...a gift...that God has brought to us.  Having had this experience is a blessing to me.  One that I am very thankful for and will hold close forever! <3  ;-)

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Paint Your Own Sky

By Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

I recall a quote from long ago by a  forgotten author who stated, "don't let anyone else define your world, they will make it too small." That is sort of the way I feel about retirement.  The standard formula for retirement in my area of the country is to buy a house in a gated community and be surrounded by other retired people, play golf three times a week and attend social gatherings within the community.   This is protocol from October through April when everyone will head up north to escape the hot and humid summer months.  Rinse, repeat.

Not having a blueprint to follow for retirement, we tried the predictable  route for a while and finally realized that we were letting someone else define our world.   And, indeed it had become too small. 

After making a "not so graceful" exit from what we considered to be chains by that point, we began to really think about who we are and what makes us happy both separately and as a couple.  We came up with a solid list of things that separate us from the  "one size fits all" retiree.

Curiosity - our natural curiosity broadened to areas that we now have time to pursue. 

Passion - we wake up excited and enthusiastic about our life choices every day.

Confidence - we are confident with our abilities and we welcome new experiences.

When we broke the mold and started living retirement life from our own definition everything changed.  Life "outside the gates" is an interesting place.  Within the first year we made new friends, got involved in several volunteer organizations and added biking, walking, weight lifting and dance classes to our exercise routine.  We started traveling more and found great discount web sites for show tickets, restaurant coupons and hotels.  We found free or almost free community concerts and art shows, made regular visits to our local farmer's market and spent more time beach-combing.   At home we completed woodworking and other home improvement projects and we rekindled our love of cooking together as we prepared everything from simple meals  to elegant six course dinners.   We began to clear clutter and excess from our living spaces.  We connected with other active retirees via the Blogosphere  and on-line writing groups such as Stage of Life.  We joined a community garden project  to learn to grow organic vegetables and attended cooking classes that promote healthy eating.  On the more adventurous side, I  went skydiving and zip lining with our daughter and I have plans to take scuba diving lessons in the near future in preparation for a cruise to the South Pacific. Rarely have we declined to try anything out of our comfort zone.   

We have lived this somewhat free-form  and very satisfying lifestyle  for the past five years and are now ready for a new adventure.  It will be fun to see where the tide takes us next. 

Our brand of retirement won't suit everyone, and it shouldn't.  Just like realizing that restricting our time to playing golf was not right for us long term,  you will sort through options until you find what makes you happiest.  Health issues, finances and changing interests will likely dictate many of your decisions.  The tricky part is in realizing when to make changes.  Not one of us want to wake up ten years from now and feel that we have not fulfilled our dreams of retirement.  If the time feels right, then it must be. 

Life is good- smile at the future.  

Retirement Editor's Welcome

365 Days

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Much like Wile E Coyote, I like many other Americans this morning are waiting to hear that long drawn out whistle that fades into the open void of some canyon, followed by a ‘poof’ of  dust.  Yes, when most of us read this on Wednesday, we will either all have made like lemurs and run off ‘the cliff‘, or barely been saved by the courageous and gallant actions of our leaders, who have somehow gotten us to this point in the first place.  Have you ever stopped to think of just how many cliffs we are facing these days?

2013 will hold hope for most of us.  Hope for a ‘better’ year.  As many of us look back on 2012, or at least for those of you who do, you will relive the triumphs, be thankful you are washing away the failures.  Something about a fresh breath, new start and a new year.

For many Americans, this past year has created a void in their lives that will almost certainly be in their souls forever.  While Newtown was tragic, we must remember also those who have suffered on a smaller scale.  Those that the mainstream media will never tell you about, or if they do will surely be over-ridden by another headline and gone in a day or two.

There was the little boy who was killed in a car turnover on a local isolated back road last year.  He may have lived if his mother had put him in his seat belt.  One of the first responders to that scene, our #2 kid, went through some suffering of her own that day.  My prayers go out to that family and all involved, as we transition into the new year.  What about the many kids killed everyday by drunk drivers?  Have we all become so accustomed to this type of tragedy that we give little thought to it, or it is no longer really a type of story to report on?

Tragedy isn’t something that is left solely to our young ones.  A story which shocked me last week, that many probably have not heard of are the two first responders in New York, who arrived on scene and were killed by the man who had made the emergency call, as they entered the home.  This struck a nerve with me personally.  One of them had only been with the fire department for two years, and was also a 911 dispatcher.  This was a little too much like home for me.

Let us not forget the thousands of young men and women which have given their lives in the name of our freedoms, preservation of our constitutional rights which it seems these days have become more of targets at a political shooting gallery.  This type of loss is one that I will have melted into my soul forever.  Maybe one that just makes each year fold into the other for me, because he is gone.  And oddly, I always felt that he had been here on this earth before…he was wise beyond his young life.  He like many others believed in the freedoms so many Americans, today, are taking for granted and pissing away.

Whatever this new year has in store for you, take time to remember.  In our fast paced, real time society it is so easy to forget.  Our incredible Editor, Suzanne, had made a list of things in her lest piece that she was going to be more aware to do in the name of making a difference, this coming year.  Many people I have spoken with this past year have all stated the same thing; that this has been a hard year levied with many things we would all like to forget.  So it makes sense to try and push the goodness we have to those around us!

To those who use the suffering of another to push their already existing agendas, “shame on you”!

What we all need in this country today is a good dose of  love, togetherness and more of the old family values that many of us on this stage grew up with.  To those fore mentioned tragedies and the many others all around us we must all somehow work towards unity and the kind of change that will make a difference in the longer run. ‘Feel good’ speeches sugar coat the bitterness of the day, but they wont make it go away. Now is the time to remember your neighbor, your friends and to be there in ways you may have never been before.  These types of thoughts and actions will be a good start to a change that will hopefully evolve with every new year.

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Share the Joy

By Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Christmastime is a reflective time of year for me and especially so this year with the most recent tragedy in America vividly reminding us that there are many people in the world who need our love, support, encouragement and acceptance.  Most of us don't have to look very far to see or know someone who falls into the category of "hurting."  Physical needs are easily met with a donation of food, clothing and of course toys,  while emotional needs are much more complicated.   Even though we may feel inadequate to address the ills of society we can still make a difference every day.  You never know when the small kindness you show will change someone's path.   This season I pledge to:

                Smile at everyone as I walk through a crowded mall

                Let someone else take a coveted parking space in front of me

                Drop some change or even a bill or two in an obvious place for someone to find

                Open a door or carry a bag for someone

                Visit an elderly neighbor

                Be kind to a store clerk or busy postal worker

                Say please and thank you more often

                Call or send an encouraging note to a friend who has been hurting

                Seek out those who feel lonely or isolated and show a simple kindness

                Set my own selfish needs on the shelf for a while

                Be patient, slow to anger and quick to forgive

                Love others as I desire to be loved

Tis' the season of peace, love, and joy and those gifts are within all of us to share. How will you share the JOY of the season? 

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Crossroads

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

With life here on the home front in a state of well being, and so many of us asking, “why”?   I decided to choose a rather fitting topic, for my last Editors piece for 2012.  I have opinions, most of which I’m sure are shared by many... so I won’t say them.  Don’t feel I need to!  However, finding myself getting asked a question in a conversation topic that seems to come up often the past few weeks, I find myself growing a little irritated. 

Many of us reading this stage, of life, were raised on the notion that there is no free ride.  You work hard to achieve your goals and you are accountable for your actions.  Your success is measured by what you put into it.  These are qualities my wife and I have lived by and passed on to our son.  He is doing well, basing his young life on these principles!  Now, lately, this all seems to be an arguable topic.  Supposedly, half the country still agrees with this and the other half wants to indulge in their ‘free’ ride.  First off, the ‘half’ notion doesn’t tread water with me.  The winner was named before my states’ polls even closed.  General consensus doesn’t constitute “half”!  A screwed up ‘college’ system does.

There is no doubt that times have changed.  And, there is no arguing that “times have changed” long before now throughout the course of history.  But to suggest to me that the ‘in’ thing is to just quite working and collect some kind of entitlement is not only absurd, but complete ignorance.  First of all, in my world, the day I tried this notion would be the day it would all go away and I would be out on my nose kicking the curb for even thinking so!  But beyond that, it just is not even considered a thought to me.  I may be young by some standards, but I am old enough to not only know right from “wrong”!  But to know how this great country was built, enough so, to get us to the point that someone could even be free enough to consider much less attempt to entertain such a haunting thought!

It is so easy to get swept up in the rhetoric flying so loosely everywhere you turn these days.  While some conversations and suspicions could easily have merit to them, some are based on fear.  Fear of the unknown, fear of change, and, we cant forget that of the selfish needs by the less than half, of this great country.  Oh, some will relate to this piece while others will fume.  But in the end, it is my country too!  The same freedoms that allow the current awkward turn of events are the freedoms that allow me to state what I personally feel is so wrong. 

That said, I pray that we can get it together as a nation.  How a nation strong, after being so brutally attacked just slightly over a decade ago, could become so divided in a time when unity is what the United States Of America needs, is beyond me.  So many countries before us could be looked at in a historic sense, of where it all went wrong.  You would think that so many people that are so blessed and fortunate to live in such a free society would be intelligent enough to see the signs.  Especially when on considers the recent events worldwide just this past year!  Events that were and are, right there in front of our face!

2012 is nearing and end.  If we all make it past Dec 21st…(smirk)…I cant help but wonder where we will be the morning of January 1st, 2013.  See you on the other side!

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Facing a Retirement Reality Check

By Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

We are not getting any younger and the retirement dollars don't stretch as far as they used to.  After much consideration, those two facts compelled us to put our home on the market this past week.  When we retired seven years ago we felt both physically and financially capable of maintaining a big house.  And in fact, we considered that it might be our last home.  What a difference in perspective a few years of wear and tear can make. And I'm not just talking about the house.

In 2005 our home was worth considerably more than it is now, our savings was earning a decent interest rate and the market was still a pretty safe place to earn a little income.  Neither of us had ever considered taking a "joint supplement" and we could still remember where we left our favorite pair of "cheaters."  Everything is breaking down and the care and keeping of us and our home is getting more expensive with each passing year.  It is time for sound, thoughtful, and intelligent decisions to be made.

So, what next?  What do retired "boomers" do when reality sets in?  After doing a little internet research I compiled a short list of ideas that people who've gone before us have had.

Buy a Condo or smaller house

Move into an Over 55 Community

Lease short-term lodging while traveling the world

Get a job and hire help

Live in an RV and travel the country

Become professional Inn Sitters

Open our Home to Boarders

Move to a more affordable area of the country and downsize

Live on a Cruise ship

Share a home with elderly parents or adult children.

There are many interesting options out there for retired boomers and some have more merit than others for us.  Our solution might be on this list or maybe it is still undiscovered.   The good news is that when the house does sell we will be in a position to choose the next step.  Until then, we will be patient.

 What about you?  Is your idea of a satisfying retirement on this list?

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Just Another Day in the Book of Life

By Greg Philips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Things in life sometimes change on the dime.  Often times with no warnings!  I have found myself in thought as of late to this subject on several fronts and it reminds me of how important it is to live life to the fullest.  We are all guilty at one time or the other of acting like our issues or problems are the great headline in life.  I guess that reminds us that we are indeed human?!  No matter the level of our problems, there is something to take away with them that will somehow benefit us in our journey of life.

In the past couple of weeks, I have had some deep conversations with a couple of very important young adults in my life.  It has given me the chance to listen, understand their visions and positions on matters and to be able to impart wisdom based on my own life experiences.  It has reminded me of my own personal growth and journey in life to this stage and has been  fulfilling to be able to be there for them as a pillar of support.

Recently, my family lost a very close loved one to terminal cancer.  I think in a sense we were relieved when he passed.  No longer will he be in the extreme pain he was in and his significant other, my cousin, can now come to terms and move forward as she begins to put her life, which has been in painstaking hold for over a year now, back together again and begin healing.  It has all been just another reminder of how blessed we are.   It comes in a time that our finances are being tested, with my wife starting a new business, and that no matter what the setbacks in our lives, we really have nothing to complain about.  Somebody has it worse.

An unfolding development in relation to stolen retirement benefits of several retiree’s I know and love, has me angered.  It has reiterated to me that no matter how we try to set ourselves up for our future, there is always the risk that plans will fail.  Unfortunately, in this case, of no fault of their own.  Nonetheless, they are all left now on a limb.  In relation to my own life, I take it as reinforcement that despite my earnest efforts to structure our future, there will more than likely be setbacks and you just cant always count on what you thought will be a solid solution.  I have to go with it and live today.  Tomorrow will have enough problems of it’s own.

Just a few thoughts of mine in recent weeks.  Life here is good and evened though this piece may seem like a dim outlook, I take each experience and observation as just another fact of life!  We live, we learn and we grow and somehow we survive. To me it is in reality, pages,  in a chapter of the book of life!  One day I may read it and finally understand!  Until then, each day I can reflect on at days end, is another day to thank my lucky stars.

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Volunteering During Retirement

By Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

All of us have a different definition of a successful retirement.  For me, it includes healthy habits such as diet and exercise, spending time with friends and family, devoting time to personal and  spiritual growth,  and participating in volunteer opportunities.  I have experimented with jobs in a variety of service organizations, from sorting clothing to tutoring children, but to date, nothing has been as rewarding as the work I do with Habitat for Humanity.  It suits me for a variety of reasons and I will forever evaluate new opportunities by the standards I have identified in this organization.  These are my top ten reasons for volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. 

1) The work is physically challenging

2) I learn something new every time I participate

3) I meet positive, interesting and energetic people

4) I always know what is expected of me

5) I am not asked to contribute more than I am comfortable doing

6) The work is well organized and thoroughly explained

7) Supervisors are knowledgeable and patient

8) I am encouraged and respected

9) My work makes a difference in someone's life

10)The organization fosters a sense of belonging  

When I began my work with Habitat I knew little about home construction, but I had a willingness to learn.  In the past two years I have painted interiors and exteriors, created interior framing,  planted landscape materials, and installed roofing panels and hurricane shutters.  The work is hard and I usually come home dirty, but  I would not trade my time on a job site for all the ladies luncheons in the world.    

Construction work might not be your cup of tea, but I'm sure you have a passion for something .  You can make this stage of life immeasurably more enjoyable by discovering that passion and seeking out an organization that will value your efforts. 

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Fall

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing how excited I was that a long cold and snowy winter was finally done and spring was in bloom.  Sadly, it was several months ago and already the temps are dropping to below freezing at night and the first snow has come to the region.  This weekend, taking advantage of the sunshine, we were gearing up for the encroaching cold season and some thoughts came to mind.

The first thought was how I missed the help of our son wrapping up fall chores, what he thought of as slave labor.  The second thought was, how my wife repeatedly states that she wants to be active as all get go at 60.  This was comforting to me, as either of us are anywhere near 60, yet, at least one of us will be eager to carry on the tradition of winter prep around the property!

The third thought was remembering some of the fall traditions that I used to look forward to.  One of which was the scarecrow that my wife and son used to put together about this time, and set up out at the end of the drive.  That was the one thing that symbolized fall for me, was to come home from work and see the timely arrival of the scarecrow!  The little things like this are what sometimes make me miss the days when the nest wasn’t so empty.  The other day I came home and found he had been by to have my wife help him with a few things.  Reason I knew he had been here, was that his rain soaked clothes were spread all over the place to dry....and he was nowhere to be found!

Yep, that is one thing I love about the empty nest no clutter or things thrown all over…ever!!

I don’t know.  I guess, like life, there are give and takes.  I may have to work a little harder here at home…but at least the house stays tidy!  As for the scarecrow, I may have to just make my own!  Just goes to prove that there are certain things that we empty nesters miss and the missed memories that make seasons like fall sometimes seem a little less exciting.  But knowing that he is independent and happy makes it all seem worth it!  Wouldn’t he be shocked pulling in one day this fall and seeing a scarecrow at the end of the drive!

 And don't forget to check out this month's Retirement and Empty Nest essay contest.

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Bargains

by Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Living frugally during your retirement years is necessary for most of us and a very smart thing to do for everyone else. Once you have the fixed costs and incidentals covered, there might not be a lot left over to spend on leisure activities.  But, you can still enjoy an active retirement on a budget if you know where to look for bargains. 

We both love travel, great food, books, movies, playing golf and attending sporting events and live shows. None of these things typically come cheap, so we had to figure out how to get the best possible value for our entertainment dollars and fill in with things that are absolutely free whenever possible.   We did not have to look much further than our own community to find a lot of pleasurable things to do.

Free or Almost Free

Close to Home: Bike rides, picnics on the beach, the library and sharing books with friends, street fairs & art festivals (if you're just looking), walking trails, public tennis and racquetball courts, sunset at the community docks, BYOB meetups, Farmers markets, lecture series and workshops at the local college, pot luck dinners, wine tastings at an upscale market, date nights in the kitchen, pro night tennis exhibition (area tennis pros compete for free several times per year) and Spring training baseball tickets.   Get yourself on everyone’s mailing list and check your community calendar regularly.  Great resources are just a key-stroke away.

Volunteer work:  There are literally hundreds of volunteer opportunities in my community that represent every conceivable interest and commitment level – reading tutors, tax preparers, seamstresses, store clerks, housing construction, swimming instructors, care givers, coaching, community clean up, fundraising, administrative and office work.  We could try something new every week and never run out of opportunities to be productive. 

Bargains

Movies:  A Netflix “instant watch” account is less than $10 per month and Senior Day (over 55) at our local theater is nearly half priced.  Our local community theater offers free movies during the summer months.

Dining Out:  We use dining coupons (Living Social or advertised discounts in our local paper) attend early bird specials and look for really good restaurants that serve half priced appetizers during happy hour.  If we do not have a coupon and want to try a new place we will go for lunch instead of dinner and save about half the cost. 

Hotel Rooms: We check Groupon regularly for deals at resorts within a three to four hour drive and if something peaks our interest we will build a short trip around that location.  Hotwire is also a good source for last-minute hotels at deep discounts.  Last year we had a great four night golf vacation planned completely around a Yanni concert.  We paid full price for the concert but the four night stay and two golf outings cost less than $300.

Golf: I subscribe to an on-line golf community newsletter that promotes some very enticing Stay-n-Play packages each month.  We have taken advantage of several offers during the past few years.  In addition to playing some exciting golf courses, we also get to experience some great neighborhoods.

We play local courses at a discount by using an on-line service that trades internet advertising for golf coupons.  The coupons are generally sold to the public for less than half of what the round would typically cost.  Additionally, all of the courses in our area offer deep discounts during the hot and humid summer months. 

Sporting events and live shows: StubHub is a good source for discount tickets, but if what we want is not available, we will choose a less desirable seat and pay full price.  Last year we traded volunteer hours for a series of tickets at the Delray International Tennis Tournament and saw some outstanding tennis during our off-duty hours.  Serving as an Usher in a Regional Theater or volunteering at a museum are also great ways to enjoy first rate entertainment for free.

Living an active retirement does not have to break the bank, but it does require some imagination and a little planning.  It helps that we live in a community that has a lot of retired residents.  We also live within one hour of a major city.  Even so, most communities have churches, senior citizen groups, schools, parks and organized activities that will provide endless hours of fun and productivity if you take advantage of the opportunities.  Get out there.  Live well.

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Stolen Retirement

by Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

There is something that is just disturbing about working a great deal of your life to be able to have good retirement benefits when the time comes to hang up your hat, just to find that when that time comes those benefits are being taken away! It’s no secret that this country has experienced some serious financial hardships the past 4 years….and for many families, it isn’t getting any better…  But at some point, isn’t ‘enough‘, enough!

The domino effect of our injured economy seems to ripple the waters of friends and family within our social circle as of late.  Several incidents of  retirement pay, and health benefits being tampered with have been brought to my attention the past couple of months, and it is bothersome.  One such case happens to affect my parents as well as a couple we are friends with that were both employed within the same City employment as my father.  Our friends were both employed with this particulars citys’ Police Dept, and my father with Code Enforcement for this city.  And now, this city is going bankrupt!

This misfortune has affected both our friends and my father in the form of losing their retirement health benefits.  This is something that they all worked hard for, for many years, and they are on the brink of losing these benefits and being forced to pay into them instead.  Oh, the story goes deeper.  As is typical, while some will suffer there is always the one or two that will skate away into their retirement completely unaffected by the same plight that is ruining so many others within the bounds of  the same city entity.

Currently, the ones affected have grouped together to tackle this dilemma as a core group and will see it through the court system to fight for what they have rightfully earned.  But the bottom line is what can be done constructively to salvage the system that these folks worked hard for, paid into and will now lose from financial irresponsibility from their own city officials over as period of time?

Another story is with a cousin who has spent a good part of her life working for the United States Postal Service.  Now, it seems like they too are on the verge of bankruptcy.  Budget cuts and closures of offices nationwide have affected many of her fellow Postal workers.  And now, this same scenario is being put before her, as her rural office is on the chopping block and she may have to decide to take a cut in her benefits and retire early  To further this hardship, she has just spent the last year and a half spending quality time and the last days, together, with her significant other who was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in the spring of 2011.  Sadly, he passed on this past week, leaving her in an emotional shamble amidst her looming financial crisis with her uncertain retirement.  Again, one that she worked hard to achieve, for many years.

I am sure this type of story is everywhere these days.  How is your retirement future fairing?  Do you or someone you know have this same type of cuts in benefits to look forward to?  Not exactly a story that one would love to share, but the reality is that somehow in some way, we are all more than likely affected by the downside of an economy that these days, is less than stable.
Retirement Editor's Welcome

Letting Go

by Suzanne, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Realization
Last night my husband went upstairs to take apart the bed that has been in our daughter’s room for the past eleven years and that is when it hit him – our little girl is leaving home.   The sight of empty drawers, her things neatly packed in cardboard boxes, and now, her furniture being dismantled presented a visual reality that he had not yet allowed to enter his thoughts.  Mind you, she has not lived at home for the past four years of college but she spent summers here and visited often during each term.  We have always “grieved” a little when she returned to school, but this time it is different.  She is not taking a few rickety boxes of college junk back to a dorm room.  She is moving to her own home.  In my husband’s mind there is something hauntingly symbolic about the physical removal of one’s things.  He associates it with permanence and that is the profound feeling he experienced last night. 

The busyness of the past few weeks has been a distraction from the inevitable moment when we will deliver her to a place of her own, where she will be the responsible adult in residence.  It sounds so strange to say those words.  She is still just a little girl to us.  
We have micro-managed her entire life but now it is time for us to back away and allow her to experience it on her own terms.  Well, sort of. 

Financial Dependence
The wrinkle in letting go of adult children these days is that many are still financially dependent – which is our case.  That reality will tempt us to run interference with regard to her decisions, but our plan is to establish a modest budget and allow her to administer it until she is able to fully provide for herself.  If all goes well we will stay out of her affairs – if not, we may have to rethink the plan. She has earned our trust and confidence by making good choices to this point.  And, although she is not a commodity, we do have a substantial investment in her well-being and we champion her success.  We fully understand that there is a fine line between “enabling a lifestyle” and offering a hand up and she is grounded in that reality as well. 

A Strong Foundation

We take some satisfaction and find resolve in the fact that she is ready for this transition.  There are many things in her favor and several reasons why we believe she will succeed; most importantly we believe she will rely on lessons learned since childhood of commitment and follow-through, respect for authority, compassion, a sense of responsibility and fairness.  In addition to two loving parents, our daughter has been surrounded by grandparents and other family members who have protected, encouraged and loved her unconditionally since birth.  Her foundation is strong.  

She has witnessed hard work and dedication throughout her lifetime and she has demonstrated countless times the skills, knowledge, patience and persistence needed to achieve success and happiness. Even though she grew up in the most highly consumerist decades in the history of the world, she understands that there really is no such thing as “instant gratification” or “free lunch.” She is grateful for our support and recognizes that it does not come without expectations.  We fully expect her to work hard and be a good steward of our resources.   When she succeeds, we succeed.

Satisfaction

We have no regrets as we reflect on the job we have done as parents and I think that is the single most important factor we can rely on through this transition. We have done our very best – now it is up to her.

This stage of life will bring new challenges, wonderful surprises and a deeper relationship with our daughter as we learn to accept that our little girl has become a capable, confident young woman. 

Today we begin a new journey – letting go. 

What about you – what was your “letting go” experience like and do you think there should be “strings attached” to financially dependent adult children?

Retirement Editor's Welcome

What the Olympics Mean to Me

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The other night I was relaxing on the sofa channel surfing, a rare event these days, and to my surprise as I blew past NBC, there it was….the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics!  Now, it’s not like I didn’t realize that this was the time for the summer games, but honestly, I just forgot with all I have had going on!  And so, my wife and I sat together and watched, happily, as we have so many years now since we got together.

I believe it was the past winter games that we watched for the first time in memory, without our son.  You see, it was always a huge event in our household to catch the different events whenever we could as a family.  There were just as many times that we would find him in front of the tv viewing the games when our hands were full or we were just to busy to sit and watch.  But whatever the case, when we watch the Olympics these days, the many memories of watching with our son come to mind.  Happy times!

What was cool this week was that I asked him excitedly the next day when we spoke briefly, if by chance he had managed to watch the opening games at all.  He had caught the end, but was watching events as we were talking.  This squeezed in between his long and difficult hours on shift with his job.  That really made me feel good inside!  I mean, another family tradition that we had with him growing up.  Unknown or realized to us at the time, this is something he would take with him, even when he was out on his own!  If you’re a parent, especially if your son or daughter has moved out on their own, I think you know that indescribable feeling you get when something like this transpires!  I know I can’t be the only one?!

Tears on my cheek?  Not one  …Are you kidding?!  As I kicked it on the couch in scant threads, I may have had some warm and fuzzy memories….but I love my freedom!! Don’t get me wrong, now that he is back in the area after fighting fires in 3 states down in the lower 48 this past month, I hope he and Jen come over one night for old time sake to watch with us old people!  It would be nice and believe it or not …I think they kind of enjoy us!  I would gladly modify my evening dress code for such an event!
 
All in all, it is just another sweet moment of all the good times we shared, and satisfaction knowing he is happily on his own….and, man, we are free like kids again!   After all, it’s not like he would have never witnessed my tomfoolery in his young life in the past before.  One cold winters night many years ago, he watched in complete disbelief, the most glorious night of my life as I pirouetted flawlessly across the dining room floor in my tight fitting, green, polyester long underwear, right into the coffee table, catching air with hang time before pummeling earthward square on my rear!  But the other night, with me, performing a gymnastic move for my wife across the living room floor...in private...priceless! ;-)

Retirement Editor's Welcome

The Care and Keeping of ME

By Suzanne Vosbikian, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

I have never considered myself a “high maintenance” kind of gal and actually require very little to feel contentment – a clean house, a good workout, a surprise visit from a friend, a meaningful quote to ponder, a good book, a peppy tune, quality time with my husband, a nice meal with a good bottle of wine, laughter, and having something to look forward to.   Once in a while life happens effortlessly, but for the most part mine requires planning.  One of the best things about this stage of life is that the only constraints on our time are the ones we allow.  So, I am careful to check the expiration date of any long-term commitment before getting involved.  Otherwise, my weekly routine is just that – routine. 

Each week I consider the parts of myself that require care – social self, family self, creative self, spiritual self, physical self, fiscal self, and community self.  I try to feed each area consistently to maintain a healthy balance among the parts.  Sometimes needs shift or a situation arises and some parts get overly stressed or overlooked altogether.  When that happens I feel out of balance but I can usually pinpoint where the shift occurred and get back on track in short order by devoting some time to the neglected area.  It is a very simple formula that works for me but I must be diligent to avoid a derailment.

During the past month we have taken ten trips – 2 hours each way to look at condos for our daughter (unsuccessfully), last week the pool sprang a leak and the washer broke.  Two days ago my husband’s computer crashed.  These were all very time consuming and costly projects that occurred during a highly charged emotional period as we sadly awaited the imminent death of a dearly loved uncle.

For three weeks I neglected regular physical activity, omitted my daily quite time, ate too many meals out, and postponed commitments.  I starved every part of myself that desperately needed nourishment.  Consequently, I was unable to put petty problems and frustrations into perspective and I did not cope well.  

Now that I have somewhat recovered from my melt-down, I can look objectively at where I started to derail.   I admit that I failed a valuable test of character and strength this past week but I also learned a valuable lesson. My game plan for maintaining a balanced life keeps me strong, healthy, happy and secure - I just need to stick with it, especially in times of trial.  

What about you – Are you living a balanced retirement life?

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Summer's Here!

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The absolute craziness about today is that it is the longest day of the year which indicates tomorrow, the 22nd, will mean “we go backwards now”, for us Alaskans. Which to most who live in this great place is a big deal! Currently, with nearly 24 hours of energizing daylight, we now will slowly begin to loose our precious lit hours of our days and move closer towards the long, and cold days of winter where darkness will consume the hours we now have of light.  But hey, that is a ways off so now is the time to live it up in the light!

It’s just one sure tell sign of the beginning of summer.  One of many which propels most of us into a different mindset and moves us into a sense of urgency to do all the things we missed during winter and to feel the joy and fun of our summers. Kids are out of school, the beaches are being flocked with sun worshipers.  Not just for the retied anymore, the golf courses invitingly green are crawling with golfers.

Many people seem to be holding off on vacations this year, surprisingly, for many different reasons.  Mostly due to a tightening of the belt or simply lack of funds. Staycations seem to be all the rave this year.  This mindset quite possibly projects a different twist to the season that most of us have remembered since childhood, as the most anticipated season of the year.  As a child, I remember the fun events and activities my parents would plan for the summer, and remember as a young parent myself doing the same with our family.  Keep in mind, that never necessarily meant that we had to ‘go somewhere’ to make summer fun and memorable!

Something just seems a little different about this summer.  Maybe it is the feeling of the overall atmosphere of uncertainty that so many people are feeling and experiencing these days.  My wife and I ourselves haven’t decided whether or not we will take our annual seasonal trip ’outside’ this fall, or whether we will plan a simpler staycation here at home.  But whatever we do decide, there will certainlybe agreement that as long as we are together, it will surely be fun!

How is your summer shaping up so far this year?  Are there big travel plans or a more simplistic approach to the most awaited season of the year?  We would love to hear about your plans or thoughts on a staycation!

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Summer Heat

By Suzanne Vosbikian Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Before we retired and became empty nesters I could not wait for summer.  For nine months out of the year I was busy with household responsibilities, motherhood, volunteering and part-time work.  Then, when summer arrived I got to run “mommy camp” for three whole months.  That meant planning activities and outings that would keep my daughter engaged and fill the hot days of summer with fun for both of us.    We spent hours upon hours of time on arts and crafts projects, trips to the beach, the movies, the library and hosting play dates with friends.  It was hot but we didn’t pay much attention to that and besides, water could remedy heat in an instant – a sprinkler, garden hose or backyard pool – typical summer fun.

Now that I have entered a new stage of life summer just isn’t the same for me.  As I have gotten older my body has become less tolerant of the heat and humidity in South Florida and I have to curtail many of my regular activities such as golf and tennis and of course there is no more demand for “mommy camp.”  So, without sufficient physical activity and mental stimulation I am apt to slip into the summertime blues from time to time. 

One day soon I will wake up and realize that I have not moved past my front door for several days.  I have lived in Florida for my entire life and know that during summer, heat and humidity will reign supreme until November when the snowbirds return bringing cooler air, seasonal festivities and retired life as we live it.  Inevitably though, I am caught off guard when the days of 98 degree heat and 90 percent humidity beset us.

Warding off the summertime blues and avoiding flight takes a lot of effort and most days I’d rather be somewhere else – about 20 degrees cooler, somewhere else.  Since that is not likely to happen this summer, I will remind myself of a simple truth – Bored equals boring and can easily be replaced with curiosity, desire and action.   I am sure I read that somewhere, so I won’t take complete credit.  But, it is true.  Exploring your curiosity and desires is different from being busy and requires that you actually engage a thought process to determine what you want to accomplish and how you will go about it. It is possible to be busy and still be bored, but I challenge you to show me a person who is “engaged” and bored.  So, if you too get beat by the heat this summer and find yourself in a funk ask some questions - what am I curious about and what do I desire?

The first thing I would answer is the Civil War.  That probably sounds strange, but I recently read “Killing Lincoln” by Bill O’Riley and was intrigued by the accounting of the fourteen days leading to President Lincoln’s assignation.  I want to know more about this subject and these historical figures so I will make a point to read on-line articles and visit the library to check out books regarding that period in our nation’s history.

I also want to start biking.  It is a good summer alternative to tennis and since we travel a lot I think it would be fun to take our bikes along so we can explore our surroundings and get a little exercise.  Something between a beach cruiser and a racing bike might do – a bike that is sort of serious, but not so much, which is how I tend to be.  So, during the next couple of weeks I will shop for an adequate bike and start riding.

The third thing I want to accomplish this summer is to improve the quality of the indoor photographs that I regularly post on my blog.  I love sharing recipes so I want the pictures of my food to look as good as the food tastes.  Specifically, I will learn more about lighting and will build a light box and begin experimenting with my photographs.

I realize that planning three activities for the whole summer isn’t much, but it is a place to start.  Did I just reopen “mommy camp?”  How about you?  As a retired person, has your notion of summer changed?

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Birds of a Feather...

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The irony of our empty nest is that we never considered building a new one.  Most especially after discovering the benefits of liberation!  But when one considers the benefits of fresh eggs…..who could resist!  Huh?!

It’s one of those things we have wanted to do for some time, but just never made the time.  Raising chickens!  If you have seen the price of eggs at the market lately, and after knowing what eventually ends up in those expensive eggs, it’s a no brainer.  If you have the space and the time to invest, breakfast will be all the rave from here on!  Our son, of all people, is the one who finally said we need chickens.

He came over the other day and scoped out a small section of our large greenhouse to turn into a coop.  Together, we built a small hinged door for them to be able to roam out into the yard, which a descent sized area will be fenced off and covered over the top for their safety against predators.  We have some solutions to the cold winter and protection for them and before long it should all come together. Yesterday we brought home a handful of chicks, and I believe they already grew a bit overnight!

And so, a nest of a new type is being built…literally, as we prepare for a new segment of life here on the homestead!  It’s interesting this time of year, as the water fowl and the many species of birds come back to our lake for the summer, how we observe the nesting rituals of such species as eagles, artic terns, robins, ducks, trumpeter swans and more, right before our eyes!  We watch closely how the cycle of raising their young evolves, and one day we walk out or peer through binoculars, to find the nest…empty!

Make sure to check out this cool video I found and published in our video resource section.  A natural and simple example of how we are not alone when it comes to the empty nest!

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Our Generation Became a Little Smaller

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

This past weekend, our generation became a little smaller with the loss of Robin Gibb.  I can’t say that I was a profound fan of the Bee Gees necessarily, but as a great appreciator of music, would be in denial if I said that their music, both as a group and as individual solo acts, didn’t contribute at one time or another,  to the overall musical experience of my life.  And as is with every icon of this period, who passes on, it seems to continue to pull apart the fiber that served as memories and of time.  It just feels like parts of our generation as baby boomers is in a sense sadly fading away.

If anything can be found that is enlightening from this loss of life and talent, it could be a reminder to our generation of a disease that unfortunately can rear it’s ugly head far too often, but can be prevented.  The reports of Robins’ death being attributed to complications from colon cancer, raises a level of awareness that we all should take heed to.  Once thought to be invincible, at least in our own minds, we baby boomers are nearing an age where we are realizing that we do need to pay a little more attention to our health.

I know little about the particulars of this disease, but found this article, http://health.yahoo.net/experts/dayinhealth/robin-gibb-dead-colon-cancer, to be informative and felt we should all take a moment to read it and appreciate the depth of it’s meaning.

Our future is most uncertain in many ways it seems these days, but we do have a say in our health and becoming more proactive in caring for ourselves.  Although Robin Gibb will be missed and his memory will be forever remembered in his music; his story, at least in the end years, will hopefully open the eyes of a generation to the seriousness of colon cancer.

“Thanks, Robin, for a lifetime of memories!  Thanks for the music of our lifetime!”

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Future Fix to the Retirement Debacle

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Recently our future to be daughter in law, following her career path, landed a state job dispatching for the Alaska State Troopers!  The other night while we were talking with her and our son, the subject of ‘saving’ came up.  Naturally, in typical father form, I voiced the importance to save while they are young, especially having a good income source as she does now.  I brought up the subject of retirement and how the future of such is so uncertain.

Then entered into the conversation that surely by the time they are of retirement age, certainly there will be some kind of system in place that is more of a stable platform.  How could two or more generations be left to flounder with little or no retirement stability without some kind of system being implemented as the result? I guess where that was going was that while retirement as we have known it may be changing before our eyes, some kind of standard will come out of the ashes.

While there is some sense to that theory, it is never too late to be preparing for the future, no matter what we may think or believe the future may hold in store. My hope is that “by then”, answers will have been found and constructive solutions to the issues and problems we are facing now will have been implemented.  This in the wake of where we are standing today, the uncertainty and situations unfolding all around us are to say the least, frightening!  One can’t help but cringe at what our generation will face.

Personal responsibility is a good first step and important to securing the future no matter what generation you’re in.  Many of us have thought out different ways that will help us financially in the coming years and have begun making certain sacrifices that will help to set ourselves up for an easier ride despite the coming wave.  However, we are also the same generation who not long ago it seems were
riding high on the hog!  Hard times have opened the eyes of many and changed the way we treat ourselves to the spoils.

While our daughter in law to be seems to be in a very goal oriented and responsible mode so soon after graduating high school, we feel confident that she will keep her future in perspective.  But the conversation the other night raised some interesting points to consider in regards to our own kids’ future and retirement!

What kind of attitude do your kids have to the future of retirement?  Do you see a sense of urgency and financial responsibility, or, does something like their future seem far from important to them in current stage of life?  We would love to hear your input!

Retirement Editor's Welcome

Summer's Here and the Time is Right!

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Summer is on its way and what a great time to start a project!  Be it an outdoor remodel, landscaping the yard, or maybe working on the inside to accomplish maybe… say, transforming that space that once was occupied by your young one before they flew the nest?!  Yes, true, preserving it as a shrine in their memory is an option... but it is time to let it go now and turn it into that space you have secretly desired but maybe been too apprehensive to approach!

There are those who will contend with empty nest syndrome and the emotions which are real, will create an obstacle for moving forward in their lives, and still those who have or are learning to move along with their lives, yet, just can’t seem to allow this sacred space that once housed one of the single most occupation of your time, to be turned into anything but.  But to hang on to it for what it was will not necessarily bring it back!  In fact, maybe a good way to learn to let go is to do just that….let go! 

Maybe your reasoning is, that they will ‘return for visits and will want to feel like it is still their home’.  And what a better way than to let them retro back to their old abode; their old place of residence….their room, their bathroom…their digs!  Truth is, while they are always welcomed and in fact they should know this, they have moved on to a new chapter in their own life and hopefully they realize this as well.  Realistically they are now guests in your home, and while they are still able to feel like they are home, it is on the terms of the ‘now’.  ‘The now’ being that the parents have moved along with their lives absent the kid(s) and the kid(s) have created their own lives absent the parent.  But there is always room to meet in the middle and live and enjoy the time for what it is.

After we moved into our current house, one sacrifice my wife and I made was a space of our own to relax, dwell, create and enjoy our ‘selves’.  We had always had a separate room from our own, to read, listen to or play music, share our innermost desires and dreams….a place to separate ourselves from the rest of the house, or world as it was.  But we had to let it go since our new home just didn’t allow this template.  When our son made the decision to move out on his own, we made sure that he knew and was sure about what he was doing and that this is what he wanted.  The caveat was that once he was gone, he may not have a room to come back to…”are you sure of this?” we asked once more.   Now, some of you may be in shock and horror and others grinning of what happened next!  Two days after his exodus….that room was demolished and stripped from ceiling to floor.  Walls came out, oversized and excessive closets were decimated to open up the room and create more space.  There was now going to be a separate entrance into the bathroom so it could truly be a “guest” bathroom, which made way to a small hallway and the pantry my wife never really had before.  It took many weekends, days off and nights after work, but after a month and a half his old room was transformed into our new den.

Now within this new safe haven is a room of good chi where we can vibrate to crystals and stones, read, sit and chat with each other, play or all out “jam” on the guitar, listen to the stereo….it’s the den!  And let me tell you it was all very liberating!  It was a good release for us both, took our minds off of the “loss” we had incurred and brought us together doing a project we planned, came up with ideas as we went and eventually accomplished, together.  And even our son enjoys the new status of his old quarters. 

Just my story!

Make sure to check out this months essay contest.  It doesn’t matter if you have made that ultimate remodel or are thinking about it.  Even if it has nothing to do with a son or daughter leaving the nest, we all have those ultimate projects, and surely a story or two to share!   

: May 1st-8th, 2012

The Spring Has Sprung

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

For most of us spring has sprung nationwide…. not without the rouge storm or two of course!  Depending on where you are located, spring can take on many different faces and bring to heart a myriad of feelings.  While wildflowers are blooming, birds are abound, and Grey whales making their annual migration along the west coast, the villages on the Tenana River are experiencing record flooding from ice damning and the backed up water.  While the sheer lack of snow in some areas of the U.S. have brought about early yard clean up, the planting of vegetable gardens and turning of beds, the rapidly receding snow which pummeled much of Alaska from early fall up to April is giving way to a bleak, yet common sight, of a dead and dormant moonscape.  The destruction of this past fall’s horrendous winds is becoming apparent as the sheath of white which rapidly camouflaged and covered it early on, begins to fade, revealing it‘s toll.

Yes, depending on where you are, determines the emotion you hold while feeling spring in the air.  

For most of us here, to feel the sun, even if the highs are still in the 40’s by day, is utter divinity.  With the sun rising near 5:00AM and it not setting until 11:00PM, it is easy to forget the harsh and brutal winter we experienced, and the long dark days which will almost always affect you in one way or the other.  All eyes and hearts are on the beginning of the spectacular summers that we enjoy here.  The ultimate sacrifice we make is enduring  the long, cold and dark winters to be able to ‘live‘ for these summers.  Almost as soon as the snow will melt, it is followed by the birth of some form of fauna, grass, buds, the arrival of all types of bird and water fowl, hatching of eggs, and the dropping of life!  Much rebirth, which will soon overtake the current starkness and lackluster which we are watching unfold in the wake of break-up.

The first sea gulls arrived two weeks or so ago and the snow geese can be heard overhead in their splendorous flocks so tightly formed.  It won’t be long before the ice turns on the many lakes and ponds and the tundra swans and trumpeter swans will come in for their splash downs.  The loons will soon arrive with their joyous and familiar cries late into the sunlit nights.  Although not always the most welcomed sight, nonetheless, the grizzly and black bears are pulling up from the winter lairs, hungry and on the prowl.  One unfortunate sight that we are experiencing, a result from the hard winter we had, is the unfortunate death and malnourishment to the moose population.  Many were lost from starvation due to the deep and difficult to navigate snow and lack of edible vegetation buried within the deep white.  And so will the evidence of such continue as May will see the dropping of undernourished moose calves.  Many will fall prey to the larger animals hungrily seeking food and still others will not survive their weakened and sad state of birth.  

Good and bad, we take it all here.  This is what we signed on to.  This is what all Alaskans sign on to!  You hold ground and make due through the bad;  celebrate and relish the good!  Life here is a series of projects in the name of survival and comfort.  Although our springs are short and not as spectacular as maybe in some areas, we live for the few divine summer months we get.  There is nothing like wading arse high in river glacier melt off running past your extremities, under the midnight sun, fishing sockeye salmon to stock your freezer for the winter.  Coming out of the river and pulling in to catch a few hours of sleep at 200AM, which is the crack of dawn actually…. night never really falls in the summer…. before waking at 5:30 to start a new day, is a feeling that cannot be accurately described until you experience it for yourself.  Or not…but at least try it once!

How is your springtime coming along?  The many seasons of each of us within this spectacular springtime is vast and unique to each individual.  Share with us your spring thoughts…. we would love to hear your story!

Editor's Welcome

Where Does the Time Go?

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Born of a time when media was evolving, social changes were rampant, and the ideals of earlier times were being challenged, many baby boomers, ironically, are witnessing the same dynamics in modern times.  Oh sure, maybe on a different scale.  Actually, many of the advancements in technology and media then, have led us to where we are, now.  One thing that seems to continually slip away forever in the tide of  change is the simplicity of time.

Time, was something that many of us had the opportunity of experiencing , once.  Nowadays it seems that along with communication as noted in last weeks Editors piece, ‘time’ is slowly becoming a dieing concept, simply because most of us just don’t seem to have any time for it anymore!  Say that 5 times fast, backwards.  Ok, maybe…just maybe, I am being a little too hard on that whole idea.  After all, with the birth of appointment books & organizers and more recently calendar & organizer ‘widgets’ for hand held devices, there is some hope for the revival of time.  More and more people are taking advantage of such to make time more readily available.  Prioritizing and trade off’s have made time management something that more and more of us are taking advantage of.

One interesting phenomenon is that the shifts in technology that many baby boomers have witnessed and experienced over time, were to supposed to have made ‘time’ more of a tangible commodity, by the saving of it.  Personally, I can’t help but observe the progression and ask myself if this theory has proven itself worthy?  The obtaining of everything we need in the way of information, networking and communication are all at most of our fingertips these days, which in theory should allow us the convenience of more time.  Although in some senses it truly does, it seems that now, the expansion into doing ‘more’ and having ‘faster’ have become an invisible obsession to many people.  The time they may have saved is not being re-invested into true meaning within their lives.

One example of the catatonic suspension of time is what my wife recently did.  She took the regular ‘pump’ type kitchen sink soap dispenser…you know, the one that allows you to soap a sponge, your hands, and dishwater at lightning speed to “save time”…..  She switched it out for a ceramic piece with a pour spout in it, for the soap.  Now, although it looks a lot nicer on the sinks edge….it takes too long to do any kind of washing!  But, right there is the irony in it all.  By sacrificing an object which was strategically developed to save time, being ’the pump’, a more time consuming manual device has now made it possible to appreciate ‘a little more time‘!  Now, I have bought 15 seconds more of time that I didn’t have each time before, every time I wash my hands or the dishes in the sink!!  Woo-hoo!

Although a small step, it has allowed us to slow down enough to enjoy some of the things we were missing, such as:  The 10 feet of snow outside the front of the house all winter.  Usually, it was an effort just to get through it to get in the front door!  Seldom did we ever have any time to really appreciate it….like we do now while washing our hands!  Just think what it will be like to enjoy the view, with this saved time, once summer finally arrives!  Then, there is the sacred act of thought; personally, there really isn’t much I can ponder in 10 to 15 seconds.  But seriously, I do have the leisure of re-gathering my mind each time and as a whole, I suppose it has made some kind of small impact.

The point is, simply, by taking a step backwards and defying the whole “in the name of convenience” theory, we actually made time to appreciate a few brief moments of time we otherwise didn’t have.  Seems silly enough, but it actually is enlightening when you think about it and find ways to expand on it.  One thing I have always been adamant about is the absence of clocks or any other type of time device in places of enjoyment at our home, like, the music room, reading areas or my pottery studio for instance.  These are places that are sacred ‘timeless’ sanctuaries. 

I have to admit that I, like many, am guilty of not making the time I should to do the important things in life like relax, meet or talk with  family and friends more consistently and make time for the things that ‘I‘ truly need.   But possibly, the simple act of becoming more aware and taking small steps towards a better definition of what ‘time’ really is, will help to make more of it in my future.  One can only hope to find the time, as we all ask where has time gone!

Editor's Welcome

Communication

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

My recent transformation into the age of technology brought to mind  thought on a subject which I have watched evolve over recent years.  My choice to upgrade to a smart phone was primarily based on the ability I would have to communicate easier.  To be able to spontaneously correspond with emails, have access to the web in real time when I needed to and a myriad of other abilities it would allow me, all helped me to decide that was a good business tool.  Then, realization set in.

In the age before the modern technological boom, many of us had to rely on smoke signals, messenger service by horseback, paper airplanes, or the good old cups and a string,  Today, we can be in touch with anyone anywhere in the world at any given moment!  The ability to respond and correspond with one another has never in the history of man been so convenient and ever so present.  Be it business or pleasure, we all have the ability to communicate in some form or on some level with people, within seconds of any given time or day.  We receive emails, tweets and feeds on handheld devices, net books, home computers, cell phones and most of us have the opportunity to respond to such at our fingertips.  Yet, the art of communication is somehow being lost in our days, which have seemingly become so much busier, oddly, in lieu of the same technology that is supposed to have made our lives easier!

If your reading this, chances are you are at an age where you can remember the days when someone would call you and you would answer.  It just came natural!  The age of the answering machine made it easier to pass the call if your were busy at the moment but you would always call them back.  If you were contacting a business and a recording told you someone would call you back, you would typically get just that…..a call back!  When email was a pioneering experience most of us couldn’t wait to get home so we could check our emails and correspond to friends and family.  It wasn’t too long ago that you would text someone and actually get a text back at some point!  So I sit and wonder, where has the common respect, courtesy and business ethic gone?

I personally won’t even leave messages anymore when a business suggests such, in order for me to receive a call back and am reluctant when a live person indicates the same.  Primarily because it typically will never happen!  Someone who is working for you such as, say, an insurance agent, says they will get back to you and almost every time it will be ’you’ who has to eventually call them and remind them that they never did get back to you!  I can’t count the times I have sent an email to someone and no matter how urgent or important it is, I never hear boo back or it takes an eternity or two more reminder emails for a response.  I even went so far recently to have the bank mail me an important document via snail mail and actually made a bet with my wife that I wouldn’t get it…..I won!  Even simple networking has become somewhat of an impossible task anymore as people just will not recognize you if they are too busy or feel that you just aren’t important to their daily agendas.  I just cannot describe how frustrated I get when a person or business just doesn’t respond!

Where has simple communication gone?

We are all experiencing a time when simple and mutual correspondence is becoming a lost and forgotten form.  I wonder just how bad it will get?  How far will we continue to allow simple communication to dissipate into a foggy form, such as that of the smoke signals that we one time so often used?

One interesting fact to observe is that the younger generations have grown into a period in time where lack of communication is a norm, or, the only form of communication they know has evolved into the form of social networking.  They have never really been around long enough to know better or to have experienced a time when people actually did respond and really did return a form of summons!  It is those of us who dwell in the present and have been around for the past, that see and experience the utter disappointment of being ‘dissed’ or just forgotten about!  We are the ones that are becoming a lost generation and most certainly will be looked upon one day as the same kind of relic as the past devices of communication itself.

Now more than ever there is technically no reason for the lack of interaction.  Yet, now more than ever before it seems we are losing the simple ethics and morals of finding the time in our busy lives to simply return a call, email or text.  It truly makes me wonder where the future of communication will go and I wish there was someone I could call or email to ask this question.  But even if there was…chances are they just wont get back to me!

Editor's Welcome

How Smart Is 'Smart'?

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Who would have ever thought that technology would be where it is today?!  All of us have been in that space in time when the 8 track player in your car or truck was all the craze.  Forget about the birth of cassette tapes!  What about when a mobile phone was the size of a shoe box, or, you could walk around the house with a cordless phone…remember when we even had home phones?!  The size of the first ‘personal’ computers…they seemed like they had their own weather systems!  But now, today, almost everyone has the world quite literally in the palm of their hands.

Name one place where you can go nowadays where you won’t see people of all ages walking around or sitting about with their latest form of entertainment, information or communication at their fingertips.  It seems that Iphones, Androids and Blackberry’s have become such a common spot in most peoples lives and are here to stay.

Last month, I personally broke down and joined the ranks.  I bought my first smart phone.  But, my ‘smart’ phone has me questioning the intelligence of such!  How smart, is smart?

I suppose I should start by saying that I chose to upgrade to a smart phone because I was finding more and more in my businesses and working endeavors that the flexibility and availability of email, communication and information on the go and on the road could be beneficial to me.  I resisted for a long time believing that I honestly didn't really need such a thing…but made the decision and finally caved. Now, 3 weeks into the deal, I don’t regret it, however, I have lately found myself asking where is the ‘smart’ in this daggummed  gadget, anyway?

First off, my simple flip phone was far easier when it came to making a simple old fashioned phone call.  Flip it open and press a button…your talking!  Now, with this phone…which is smart…there is a procedure or criteria that has to be made in order to place that same call.  Minutes later, after unlocking the screen, finding the dialer icon, browsing my favorites or contacts, and getting my big fingertip to hit the right name…I am lucky if I have my call happening.  Hmmm…just seems a little excessive at times!   But then again, maybe I should read the directions…wait…what are ‘directions’?!  There is a ’Help’ App for that!  I figure what really convinced me, was when my smart phone decided entirely on it’s own to actually dial someone on my contact list without my consent or knowledge. Really!?!  Good thing I wasn’t saying anything incriminating while someone else was lying on the counter listening to my conversation in the kitchen with my wife, completely unknowing to either of us!  It’s going to be an ongoing learning curb and practice of patience.

At the end of the day, I have found more than once that in fact the advantages of this device are worth crying “uncle”.  I see why I resisted for so long though, and haven’t since uttered the thought from my lips, “why didn’t I do this sooner?” Upon the recommendation of a friend I downloaded an…App…that gives me access to thousands of ring tones and wallpapers.  To my amazement, but not to my surprise, I found little interest in most of it.  Although I admit downloading that twisted in nature,“whistle” from “Kill Bill” for a ring tone, why would I want to hear my phone fart every time someone is emailing me??  I also believe that my own pics that I can take and download as my own custom wallpaper, would be a more sufficient form of satisfaction to my eyes than say, a computer generated and somewhat perfect and flawless image referred to as “Psychedelic Groovy”, which really had no ‘groovy’ properties to it at all!

I doubt I will be too interested in the ‘Sims'…real life is quite enough…and ‘Angry Birds’ came and went with my temporary addiction to it, to which I still scratch my head in disbelief at, on my wife’s Iphone, sitting in front of the warm fires on this past winters’ cold nights!  Like most things, I guess it all comes down to individual taste and need.  Personally I am satisfied with my choice, but really don’t feel any smarter about it all.

At least now, when I am amongst other humans out in some public place, I won’t feel so stupid standing around actually enjoying my surroundings, while everyone else has their heads peering down in their hands, tasking on their ‘smart’ devices.  I guess, now, I can pretend that I feel smart too!

Editor's Welcome

Time for a Road Trip

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Guest Writer

Time For A Road Trip

Whether you are married or a single parent, a recent empty nester or about to experience this stage of life for the first time, it is essential to make some realistic plans to offset the blues and bring excitement to the empty nest.  Sure, there are hobbies to explore, maybe the home renovations that you have put off for
so long can finally be considered.  But beyond that, the empty nest is the perfect time to tend to something that has been quite possibly put off for far too long.

Right now is the perfect time for you and your spouse to make plans to get away, with each other, and explore life in a different light.  How many years have you dedicated to sports schedules, homework, entertaining or taxi parent?  It’s all part of raising the family, but during these years there may be something that occurs in a relationship which can create distance with a couple.  Planning time to
get away alone, together, is a great opportunity to re-connect with each other and one another’s needs.  It is a time to begin re-initiating communication that may have been broken, a time to fortify or re-kindle that loving bond or connection.

A single parent may well have put their personal needs on hold for all of these years as they raise their kids.  Although you may have created ways to pull the weight of two parents, by yourself, now you can comfortably begin to learn how to begin putting yourself first.  Personal needs or emotions that may have been subdued while raising your kid(s) can now be brought to the front of your life and explored to better fit your current needs.  Once again, that dream trip by yourself or with a friend is the opportune time to find some serenity and time to reacquaint yourself, with…yourself!  I recently spoke with someone who is far from the complete ‘empty nest’ scenario, who is ready to jump ship for a two week secluded vacation exploring the beaches of Costa Rica or Belize, just to find some much needed peace, quiet and personal time to pull together her life and personal needs!

No matter, married or single, there is so much that now needs to be re-built within yourself or a relationship to begin the rest of ‘your’ life!  Putting this kind of time off is not always recommended.  It is just too easy to allow the emotions that ‘miss those kids‘ to continue to occupy your time.  Soon complacency may lead way to further putting off the importance of re-exploring your relationships and/or ‘self’.  Nowadays we are a society that is constantly on the go and relaxation too often is not on top of our social lives or list of chores.  Oddly, we will still allow time to grieve the absence of our kids but put ourselves and ‘our‘ needs at bay?!

So many people before us have confirmed what we are learning now as empty nesters. That is; it isn’t easy to convert form raising a family to a quiet and empty house! We miss the attention, the demands and needs of our every fiber as a parent.  The feeling of “being important” is now gone!  It is all real and most of us will experience it all in some form, at one time or another.

But consider this:  What if, for example, your husband was feeling a similar emptiness in the absence, say, of his son….his buddy?  He may not feel comfortable, as a male or a strong figure in the family structure, to express his feelings, thus dealing with it quietly and possibly painfully on his own.  The need to be able to
join as spouses and work through all of this is so important to the continued strength and survival of your relationship.  On the flip side, how will you as a single parent ever find the comfort of companionship with the opposite sex that maybe you have put off for so long while raising your child, if you yourself are so
wrapped up in post parent fatigue and empty nest blues, that you fail to see or hear the voice of the one now vying for your attention?!

Now is the opportune time to get away!

With summer coming around the corner, those dream destinations are waiting eagerly to pamper you, intrigue or delight the senses and make space for you to rejuvenate yourself or the love of one another that may have taken some kind of backseat for so many years.

Where would your desire find you vacationing in the coming months of the empty nest?

Editor's Welcome

Retirement of a Different Breed

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Guest Writer

Often times we have somewhat of a preconceived notion of the typical retirement. Last day of work… forever… co-workers throwing a party to send one off, time to do whatever and go wherever the wind blows.  Taking up those hobbies you put off for so many years, visiting old friends, road trips.  We associate retirement with age, status and other symbolism's that constitute this life changing ritual.

This is a short story of  a retiree of a different sort.

A dedication, if you would, to the hard work of one that has served himself well and has been accomplished in everything that he has done and experienced in life. Unlike badges of honor, he has earned himself rank in file in the way of nicknames, such as: The beach bastard.  The campsite creation. The trail-side terror.  One couple, somewhere out there, is actually under the impression that he served honorably with Homeland Security’s Airport Bomb detail…another story for another day, but believe me, the experience is no doubt a conversation piece at many a table with guests!  All of these, badges,  in the name of protecting what he believed in, holding his ground and giving in to nobody.  He never wavered  and seldom “settled”.  Many nights were spent sleeping with the knowledge that somewhere out there,  he was on the guard and constant watch.

He would always be there as a friend and confidante, whenever he sensed a problem he would handle it or let it be known to others that assistance was needed.  He listened diligently, never argued, always had patience and would forgive anything that was said out of line or in haste.  On occasion, like many of us, he let his hair down and pulled knuckle headed antics, or a complete lack of respect for rule and authority.  But then again, this is what made him who he was…and still is…an animal! Then, there was love.  This side of him was absolutely amazing.  With the nicknames he earned, who would ever imagine he could be such a lovey dovey dude, a total Romeo?!  But he was.  Another nickname properly earned; the love whore!

Everyone who met him would flip head over heels.  He has always been a very distinguished and handsome guy, always in good shape and  fine in fit & form.  Very good looking…if I do say so myself!

But those days of youth and his wild side have shifted and nowadays, he finds himself in…well, retirement!  His characteristics may have matured and mellowed but make no mistake, he still periodically feels his oats and will let it be known! However,  he has chosen to enjoy the finer things of life, and you would never know now how he lived out all those earlier mentioned nicknames. Now, most days are spent in his private retirement community, fondly known as ‘Boca del Vista’.

During the cold and frigid months of winter you will find him hanging out inside where it is warm; the cold is no longer as appealing to him as was in his younger years.  Summer will find him lazing around in the sun or serving as an informal referee for impromptu rugby games amongst his constituents.   He has been referred to as a freeloader; as he doesn’t have to work for his meals anymore and does nothing really but enjoy resting, hanging out, and periodically creating some kind of drama…just because he can!  On days when he doesn’t want to come out to the dining room…his meals are served to him in bed.  In fact, he now has a permanent big fluffy pillow next to my bed.  Hmmm, you ask….??

He is my buddy.  He has never let me down and now, after all those years he looked after me, it is I who watches his back and make sure he is safe.  Of our three, Cherokee would be our ‘retired’ dog. 
A beautiful Alaskan Malamute/wolf mix, he is enjoying his older years taking life in stride and leaving the hard work to his sisters, the other two dogs, and looking to his humans for comfort and support and love; “freeloading”, as my wife so jokingly refers!  It is fun for us to coax the jokes and reminisce all we have done through the years with him!  He has been and continues to be a loyal and  true companion to our family.

I guess it goes to say, we “all” will retire some day.  Even if we have four paws, a long bushy tail and a thick soft coat!  Who says retirement isn’t for the dogs?!

Editor's Welcome

Time To Think About Tomorrow

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Guest Writer

The other day, somebody said something about graduation.  I realized that in fact graduations were a bit of a way off for most!  Mind you, I was catching a conversation between two people in the store.  Eavesdropping you say?  Quite possibly so, but then again I was interested at the angle of the conversation.  On the one hand, somebody was terrified that their daughter was close to graduation and nearing flight of the nest to spread her wings out on her own and away to college.  The other side of the chat was somebody who had lost her son to ‘independence’ some years ago.

To the veteran empty nester, it seemed there was complete peace and joy in the fact that the house has been remodeled, there is quiet in the evenings which allowed her to think in depth of her wants and desires and here husband and her have grown closer.  Then, there was the woman who was sounding like life as she knew it was going down the tubes.  Her entire life evolved around her daughter.  Now, the thought of the coming quiet nights seemed like a death sentence to her, and she commented how she would feel useless and would no longer feel needed.  She was definitely not fond of the months that were nearing, and way too soon, according to her.

News flash: You will still be needed!

Speaking primarily from experience, and from the experience of those before me the flight of your young adult does not mean that you are going to be mothballed.  On the contrary, you are just going to have to make adjustments to the fact that your young adult is going to require a different roll from you.  Today, just months to go before graduation, it may be the perfect time to begin looking at your son and/or daughter in a different light.

Offering them the chance to have the space they need for their future plans will open the door for them to feel comfort.  Whether or not they have always been close to you and open about things; come to you for advice or problem solving, now is the time to allow that space for them.  In the long run they will feel a little more comfort.  They may even feel a little scared being?!  But this is where you will still be needed for this transition, only with allowing them to have more of a peek into the world they are about to enter.  Being there for them as an advisor in those scary moments or issues of uncertainty.

As time transitions, this effort you are sewing now, will keep the door ever-opening as time progresses.  You will find an actual appreciation for what they are doing with their lives.  Witnessing them succeed as a result of their own decisions and actions.  This in turn will keep them at ease and comfortable for coming to you with needs or concerns they may have about their new lives as young independent adults.  It’s a circle that will continue to expand and evolve into a beautiful relationship on a whole new level!  At the same time, you yourself will find that the transition wasn’t as hard as you may have feared!

Although it seems like a scenario that is unbearable, the empty nest is a doable thing.  It takes an open mind and a transitional attitude, positive thinking, and, some prayer never hurts!  The good thing is that you are not going through a pioneering experience, rather exploring the path that so many before you have walked. Reaching out to friends and family, specialists, or even resource material is a great way to open this new world to you.

We will always miss the rituals and memories of raising them.  However, there is a whole new life ahead for both you and your young adults!

How ready are you for the jump into the empty nest stage of life?

Editor's Welcome

Hold On To Your Dreams

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Guest Writer

Where I come from is simple 'old school' principles.  Work hard, be honest, dream big, save your money and when that golden day of retirement comes, live out your dreams! Ok, well..... maybe some of these principles aren't so simple anymore.  In fact, they are getting down right difficult to follow.  Sure, honesty is a given, and 'work hard' is engrained in me.  But save for retirement....?  So I won't talk about me today but rather someone from that 'old school' I speak of.

I saw pictures the other day of a dream that has been in the making for the past 48 years or so.  Wait.  Let me step back a few decades.

I have vivid pictures in my head of that ‘dream’ covered in dust, in many different pieces, buried amongst clutter and what not.  This is the picture I can recall for a good part of that 48 years I mentioned.  But the other day, I saw what is becoming quite clearly the end result of those many years.  Those many years of hard work, patience and holding on to that dream are finally paying off.

Life can be about putting away your endeavors, your hobbies, the thing that drove you the most, quite literally, when you were young and had the world by the unspeakables.  Starting a family and spending the next several decades or better with your priorities in sight knowing that one day you will be able to retire so you can once again pick up where those earlier years that helped to make you who you are, left off.  Thus, the dream.

The pictures I received on the smart phone the other day brought it all full circle for me, personally.  To see my dad's 32 Ford coupe that he has hung onto since he was a teenager, finally in the beginning stages of it's new found glory, in his newly built 'mega' shop. It brought about emotion that I have yet to be able to put into words.  Ok, so it was a pile of an unrecognizable dust ball for nearly half of a century.  I mean, touching and smelling dust from 1964....hmmm!  But look at it now!

He has finally finished refurbishing and re-building the frame and brought home the body the other day.  After cold fitting the body for measurements he took some pictures and sat in it for the first time in nearly 48 years.  Mind you, it is far from "done", but to actually see this day that up until now has just been a dream. But a  dream that never wavered and never died.  It just brought it all home for me.

The man dreamed of this day far before it's time.  He knew that one day all his hard work and determination throughout his life would some day make way for his dream to come true.  Way to go dad!  You never gave up and set your goals to come to this. You are an inspiration to our family, and all of this is too exciting to see unfold!  Your example has taught us all, to hold on to our dreams!

Editor's Welcome

Watch Out for Those Piles, Mr. Tax Man!

By NancyMyMoves, Empty Nest & Retirement Guest Writer

I’ll be honest; I don’t fear The Tax Man. Maybe I should, but I pride myself on my superior organizational skills, especially the ones that I’ve adapted for tax-related documents. So if Tax Man comes in the night to audit me, I’ll be ready. I’ll just need to straighten those piles. Are you still cringing because I said “tax man”? Sorry! I’ll give you a bit of background and share my secret tax organization system so you’ll never need fear that figurative knock on the door.

Self-Employment


I’m getting closer to retirement age, but am resolved in the idea that I’ll never really get there. But I do love my work and self-employment does bring with it several positives – freedom from idiot bosses, escape from interminable meetings and the flexibility of making your own schedule. The downsides are – no benefits unless you buy them, unpredictability of your income and the bizarre tax structure for the self-employed. I won’t go into it here so you don’t hyperventilate.

Self-employment does force you to be really obsessive about your tax records. Not long ago, the self-employed and small business owners seemed to be targeted more frequently for audits. Why, because we’re all secretly hoarding stashes of cash from cheating on our taxes? No one I know has any cash, period. So that’s another reason I try to keep track of tax stuff.

Now, of course I’m not an expert or claim to know anything about taxes, but here are some of my tips:

•    Get a good accountant – Yes, of course you can use Roto-Tax and do your own online or visit the Block people. But I’ve found that finding a skilled accountant whom you trust is the key to sleeping at night “on or before April 15th.”
•    Know the basics – Please don’t try to read and understand tax forms. You’ll develop an aneurysm. But do some research online, especially if you’re looking for deductions. Did you know that some moving expenses can be deducted? I didn’t. Don’t get too creative, though. Your new ‘do is NOT a job-search expense.
•    Keep records – Duh, everybody knows that. I use piles, I mean neat folders. I admit I do just stuff the documents and receipts in there and don’t take the time to do it right. But at least sometime in March, I can put my hands on the folders.

Confession:
Sometimes I open the door to the extra bedroom, which is now my “remote office” because it’s down the hall from my “main office,” and just throw paper through the door, close the door and then run. Well, I don’t run, but you get the point.
•    Spreadsheets – Just yesterday I admitted to a friend that Excel scares me. I don’t know why because I do sort of know how to use it. But in my spreadsheet avoidance, I constructed my own form to record my income/expenses, etc. My accountant even said it was cool.

Okay, that’s all I got. But hopefully your tax season-induced anxiety is a little better. If not, I’d suggest a nice Malbec…

Editor's Welcome

The Art Of Nuthin

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

It’s been so long since I have had nothing to do, that I almost forgot what it was like to do nothing!  Oh, I have spent some time on the road in the past 6 months both in state and down in the lower 48, but it always seems that there is “something to do” or the company I keep can’t stand to sit still long enough to do nothing.  Primarily due in course that my wife’s livelihood requires her to sit a lot where as mine has me constantly on the move both physically and mentally!

So when the snow stopped flying for 36 hours, which seems like it hasn’t done since the beginning of winter back in October, it just seemed appropriate to jump off and go to a super secret location where I/we could do just that….nothing!  Because where we ‘were’, it just never seems like there is ‘nuthin’ to do but too much of ‘always sumthin‘!  This is when I realized, while sitting on the most comfortable sofa couch I can recall sitting on in some time, starring out the window overlooking the snow capped mountains that open up the bay into the Gulf Of Alaska… listening to Phish…that indeed, ‘nuthin’ or to the those who prefer correctness in the English language, “nothing” is in fact an art form.  I mean think about it….how difficult, in today’s world, is it to do, nothing!?

I need not dictate that with social media on everybody’s mind and in everyone’s hands these days, work demanding 120% of ‘you’, the demands of the kids and on and on the story goes….when does anyone have the time to do nothing?

A better and possibly more suited question is, why would anyone want to do nothing?

What was ever accomplished with ‘nothing’ and how does ‘nothing’ get you anywhere in life anyhow?  Very deep and controversial questions indeed.  And as I sit here on this sofa couch, doing nothing and trying to quite frankly think of nothing…..nuthin comes to mind as far as any answers go!  And that is the beauty in it!  Relaxation, time to ponder and contemplate, a place for the mind and soul to dwell in serenity. This will be short lived though, as ‘nothing’ will soon be left behind and I will be back up to something, but at least with a re-charged system!

So where has nuthin got me?

Nothing worth sharing!  Other than a chance to take a breath from a very busy and exhausting winter….and winter isn’t over by a stretch, yet…  However, I do have to say in observance of such stages as an empty nest or retirement, for instance, it is amazing how one thinks that since the hubbub of work or the kids has passed, that one will now have more time to vegetate and do, nothing.  In some senses the absolute lack of ‘nothing’ helps to pass the time, quells boredom and keeps the mind in focus.  Still, there are times that we all wish, want, try and desire to do nuthin at all.  But, it’s always something!

What’s your stance on nothing?  What’s your favorite place to do nothing?  If you have nothing to say about it then maybe it’s time you consider taking some time too yourself and find nothing to do for a while!  It sure gives a different perspective on nuthin at all!

Editor's Welcome

A Traditional 401K Or Roth 401K?

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

If you’re in the season of thinking about the future of your retirement, have you considered two possibilities you can take advantage of, now, while you are still actively employed?   The traditional 401K retirement account or the Roth account are two to consider.  The distinct difference between these two options are whether you will pay taxes on the money now or later on down the line, and with this decision comes a few things to consider.
 
As pointed out in this article from the Morning Star, several factors can help you to gauge which retirement option may benefit you the most.  One of these considerations is how your current tax rate may compare to your tax rate later as you get older.  A higher tax rate in your future may deem the Roth account to be a better option, since you will pay less in tax on the money now, as opposed to later when your tax rate sits higher.  Mind you, this may take some weighing and thought since it is sometimes difficult to know the right answer to this simple principal.
 
Another factor to consider is what the state of financial affairs may be in the future.  Although this is considered an unknown to most, a look at the current situation with our federal debt, as well as the stability on a local level.  The federal debt is currently as large as the entire US economy.  While not exempt from financial instability, many cities and states are facing budget problems as well, which could affect rates down the line.
 
Each individual is unique and carries different circumstances which will determine the best way to save.  The long term scenarios that are relative to each individual’s needs or situation are never certain.  I recommend that you check out this informative article and read up on both of these retirement accounts to help you consider which will be the most beneficial to your retirement.
 
As we age we all would like the comfort of knowing our hard earned money will work for us in the coming years of our retirement.  Now is the time to act and find the best way that suits you to save for your future.  Which of these tow retirement accounts do you prefer, or recommend to those who are not sure?

Editor's Welcome

The Good We Did

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

How much thought do you give to your son and/or daughter after they have moved out on their own?  Most of us can adequately say, “a lot“!  What kind of thoughts do you invest in them?  Worry and concern, planning and considering what you feel is best for them, pride and contentment, the latest news from the family front?  At some period or another, this all is a point of thought for us where our kids are concerned, and I am sure I probably missed about 100 more common thoughts!

But, how many of us give time to think about where we have been with our kids through life?

I don’t mean how many times you took them to Disneyland or where you went on road trips.  I mean, the little things….or big; like the lessons, the sharing, growing and learning together.  All of the things, thoughts, efforts and love you instilled into them throughout their childhood, to better prepare them for this day; the time when they are out on their own, making a life for themselves, carving out a piece of ground and sometimes struggling to fit into this big and often times shaky world we live in.

I don’t know about you, but it is these thoughts that often times help me through my days when I am wrapped up in my own fiasco’s or have trouble finding balance within my own hemispheres.  Sure, there are those times when I give thought to what I feel I didn’t do enough of or wished I had done differently or spent more time with.  How many times do we tend to beat ourselves up for what didn’t happen with raising the kids or what we didn‘t do and wished we had? Reality dictates that it is the past and cannot be taken back.  Yes, reality dictates that what we wished we would have done differently is no longer worth worrying about.

So lets focus on those things that we succeeded with.  I am at the stage of the empty nest where I have found my comfort zone in life.  I can sit back now and watch all of the investment of love, care and lesson I nourished into my sons life, flourish, as he makes his way through his own now.  I also get to sometimes think quietly to myself, things like ‘he is being a knucklehead’ or ‘he didn’t learn that from me’!  But what is the school of hard knocks all about anyways?  It’s all about learning from your mistakes, another thing I believe we did well with teaching him. Being honest with yourself and making things right.  So even when he stumbles, I can giggle and watch him rectify issues with logic and common sense.  We tried to gear him up for these times because we knew there would be many.

Where did all of this thought and question come from you ask?  I think it is always there, whether I realize it or not.  But sometimes in life, out of the strangest of places, you get reminded of all of the things that matter.  One of these greatest things for me is how successfully we raised our son which is evident in how he handles his own life.  All of the good times, hard times, sharing, learning, losses and lessons we all experienced growing together for 18 years as a family, is what brought us all here to this day.  And just as important, is being able to be included and partake in the ever evolving course of his life.  Looking for a day possibly not too far off, when we may see a grandkid or two.  At least that is my hope.

Now that you have more time to yourself to sit and actually hear yourself think in your quiet abode, this may be as good of a time as any to reflect on all that you achieved while raising those kids of yours.  After all, when you think about it, you obviously did something right to be able to sit in a quiet house  in the first place!  Think about it….

Editor's Welcome

The 'Y'

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

This is what I am starting to feel like this week, is the YMCA!  We have been going through a heavy cold snap as of late, with temps well below zero for some time now.
 
When this happens, things begin to stop working!  And what happens when a water line freezes over at your kids’ place?  They start to come over to  shower at your house, they do their wash…. at your house….stay for dinner, at your house!   Pretty soon the family room has the atmosphere and ambiance of Barnes & Noble, as everyone is lounging in front of the wood stove reading and/or clicking about their smart phones or ‘pads’.  What is wrong with this picture?  Absolutely nothing!  It’s beautiful really.

We love when our son and his girlfriend hang out here.  In fact, my wife is a different person when they come around.  You can see and feel the happiness which she glows with, having time not just our son, but our future daughter in law. There is just something about the visits that make her day. Me, you ask?  I’ll just say that their presence means I have to wear clothes…  =)  But I love having them around.  We have both learned to adapt to our empty nest, and so far have been fortunate to be able to have him schooling/training and working locally.  Of course, things could well be a whole lot different for us if he lived farther away.

I may find myself yearning to wear clothes that be the case!

I have said it many times before, and that is that we all have our own emotional thresholds and handle the empty nest differently.  And it is all good, really!  I have always believed that a biggie for most is all of a sudden not having someone to care for, share those loving things and moments that come with raising kids.  No more homework, no more open hearted conversations late at night.  A big house that is not near as full anymore.  In my case, not having the extra hands to help out around the house or on the property.  It took some adjusting to….not just the lack of physical presence but more so the camaraderie.  He was my buddy….the one I always could depend on!

I found this great article, on Hub Pages,  that delves into this subject matter. There are some really good and time proven ideas about how to deal with the aftermath of the kids’ departure.  As with everything, it takes time to adjust, some positive effort, support from your spouse, family or maybe a best friend; someone perhaps who has already been down this road before you.

Make sure to take a look and give the subject some thought!  After all, life doesn’t end with the empty nest…it’s just begun!

Editor's Welcome

Stages And Phases

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

How many of us have ever given thought to the many different stages and phases of our lives?  It seems that in every stage of life, we experience  different seasons or phases.  Accordingly, we find our wants, desires and mind sets to change as we move through these stages and phases.

According to a columnist who writes for Tribune Media Services, these same principles are found in retirement.  She explains, in her article titled “Phases Of Retirement”, that there are three different phases of retirement.  Each phase represents the point in our life, or stage of retirement, and reflects our needs and priorities of that period.  As time moves on, our needs change and the circumstances that we base our desires and wants on, change as well, causing us to re-evaluate where we are and what we want to do.

What may suit a person at age 65 will well quite possibly change say at age 75. Things such as geography or climate, financial standing, and all the way down to the ages and stages of the grandchildren, will all play a part in how we look at our retirement, the places we want to be and the things we desire to do.

For some this is no real new news, as they are probably already well on board.  But for those of us who have not quite found ourselves at the mercy of the final 5 o clock bell, it is something to consider.  As most of us have learned, we all think of things in a different light as we roll through the stages of life and grow older & wiser.  Just when we might have thought that retirement would be the ‘end all’ of the complicated decisions and choices that surrounded us during our earlier years;
this, in fact, is hardly the end of it at all!

Make sure to check out this article, “Phases Of Retirement” and decide for yourself how you might fare when the time comes to set the stage for your retired years!

Make sure to check out our new ‘Generations’ pages and see what memories or déjà vu you may find!

Editor's Welcome

Investing In Memories

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The other night, my wife and I had dinner at our favorite restaurant, in town.  After dinner while paying at the register, we began to have a conversation with our waitress in regards to, of all things, our kids.  She was asking about our son, since she had seen him there with us back before Christmas.  We filled in the blanks for her, that he moved out several years ago and she began to look sad.

You see, we had the conversation with her that one night several weeks back, about taking the time to be with her daughter during her 11th birthday, but she was not going to be able to spend the time she wanted since she had to work that day.  I just plain out quietly blurted to her, “call in sick”!  “You see”, I explained, “the one thing that we learned from raising our son, is how important it is to be there and do the best you can to spend quality time with your kids.  It’s the memories made that will count when they have moved out and on their own”.  Mind you, ‘work’ is an inevitable problematic reason that we cant always spend that time we would sometimes like to with our kids, and since we all need money to raise and support our families, it is a fine line to have to traverse at times!

I just know from first hand experience, that we tried to plan as many family trips as possible.   Be it, for example, a simple day trip or a week long excursion to Disneyland.   Even the simple little barbeques down at the river after work where we could fish, read, or do whatever together.  It all made the difference when he finally moved out on his own.  We had the satisfaction of knowing that we gave him the best of both worlds, teaching him the benefits of hard work and diligence, as well as making ample time for fun & play!  It was a difficult balance at times but we feel that the time we invested with him growing up, made many memories for him to remember and share some day with his family, and for us to hold on to when the house became really quiet, like it is today.  But I have to say, running around naked is grand!

Not sure how we impacted her, the waitress, that night talking.  But I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was listening and applying what she was hearing to her own life with her daughter.  It was obvious that she loved her daughter and at the moment couldn’t conceive how in the near future she would be able to carry on without her at home.  But that was part of the whole point to our conversation! Don’t count away the years, but never take for granted the time.  Making the days
count, realizing early on that some day it will all change.

As empty nesters, it is important to be happy for them and their accomplishments on their own.  How many memories can you look back on and know that the time spent making those memories was a good investment?

Editor's Welcome

A Resolution To Live By

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

With the beginning of 2012 will no less come all of the resolutions that will typically come with the beginning of a new year!  New year…new start!  Makes sense; sometimes they are empty promises with others being something that changes everything in an individuals life.

Me, personally, I have never been a real big ‘resolution’ guy.  My feeling is that if you can commit to change for the better on the first of the new year, why not be able to do it anytime through the year?  I can see where the new year is somewhat of a landmark and I suppose there is some kind of psychological tie to this that makes it all more realistic.  I heard something on the radio the other day, a regular segment that they do each day, and it grabbed me.

There was just something about this segment on this particular day that sounded right to me.  So much so that I contacted the radio station and was able to get the number of the Pastor who presented it.  After contacting him and explaining that this is actually something that coincides with much that I have been giving thought to and has been a point of discussion lately, he was gracious enough to send me a copy of the segment through the good ol’ fashioned, financially strapped, often unreliable U.S. Postal Service!  It was a real change getting a document via snail mail!

My desire was to be able to have a tangible, readable hard copy of this.  Something I could hang on the door or mirror; something I could see everyday and constantly be reminded and motivated to adhere to. These simple and truthful principles; a chance to make this year and potentially every other day after a better and more positively driven experience.  So, I wanted to share this.  Take a look:

  • Travel light.  Shed excess baggage, such as failures, disappointments, worries,  grief’s and resentments of the past.  Stop opening old sores and bad memories.
  • Live one day at a time.  The woman/man of faith refuses to shove into the unknown future the decisions that should be made today.  Present responsibility comes first.
  • If you cannot change your circumstances, change your attitude.  Sometimes you feel you could do a better job with your life if you could start over.  Rather than a new environment, what you need is a new inner life.  You do not need a new job but the insight to see new opportunities in the old work.
  • The secret of relaxation is essential to health.  Stress endangers our dispositions.  Our emotions are frayed and irritation clouds the air about us. Inner quietness must be cultivated.
  •  Resolve to trust God or the deity of your belief for the future.  This higher power supplies strength to carry our load, wisdom to deal with our problems, and grace to enrich every experience.   ~ By Dale Foster and recited by Pastor Ray Arno

To me, this is a perfect example of something that can be followed to change oneself and their perspective on life for the complete better and for the long haul.  The fact that it came to me in the beginning of 2012, and altered my otherwise lack of interest in the whole New Years Resolution gig is something to be considered.  Some may say it is just ironic… I believe there is more to it, personally!  Whatever the case, I hope that maybe this might grab the attention of just one person as it did me, and put things into better perspective for them.

To quote the late Jerry Garcia, “Once in a while you can get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.”  Seems I have been here before!

May your New Year, and any resolutions that will change your life for the better in some profound way, be the guiding light for a better year to come!

Editor's Welcome

Gasoline Will Drop To 1955 Prices In 2012

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

I never really have been one to dwell upon or absorb the full gamut of numbers.  I never really cared for math….go figure.  But simple logic dictates that there is  something wrong with numbers of today.  With the coming of 2012, I am hopeful yet quite doubtful that this somewhat sordid state of affairs will change with the new year.  But one can hope!

Has anyone noticed the price of gas….of food….of everything, lately?  Not that this is any news flash but goods, products and services are outrageous….if you compare them to what they averaged, say, 50 or 60 years ago!  How is this some kind of sudden revelation  to me, you ask?  This past couple of weeks, I have been working on a project here at Stage of Life called ‘Generations’, and in my studies was reminded, constantly, as I sifted through web pages of days past, how cheap a pork
roast was for instance.  45 cents a pound?!  Try and find a deal like that these days for the “other white meat“.  A Sealy mattress only $38?!  Now that is something to ‘sleep on a cloud’ about!  Try Ritz crackers at a mere 32 cents….“mmm, good cracker“!  And, then, let us not forget as I was just reminded by a recent post in this stage; a time when Ethyl was like 25 cents a gallon .  Gasp!

Now I realize that prices and wages are relevant, and both are quite different in comparison between now and then , but when you really sit down, look at the numbers and give it thought, it is just staggering.  But, we accept it and life goes on….what else can you do!  This whole issue is not exclusive to the retired or baby boomers who were witness to a time when you could buy a Ford 2 door Hardtop Mustang for almost the same price that some young people are paying for their mortgage! However, they are the ones who have been on the front lines for the past 45 years
and better, and have seen and experienced it all.  As the recent generation observes, paying a high price is what they have been born into.  They don’t necessarily have to like it, but know little of what it’s like to be able to get "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a
sesame-seed bun" for only 49 cents!  Of course, it is a wonder we all survived as long as we have with the calorie content of a Big Mac!

When it is all done and said, I am sure that the Editor for this stage of life, some 40 years from now, will more than likely echo the same sentiment as I am now in regards to the high cost of living.  But for the time being, I guess it’s time to zap back to present reality and quit dreaming of a time that is past, gone and is only a memory.  I wonder if the Mayans had any clue or incite to the prices of 2012?  Doubtful, since they apparently didn’t have enough resource or foresight to continue their calendar past 2012!

Thankfully, it is still a small price to pay, to be able to reach so many people around the world, and to thank you for all of your support to this site, your contributions that has made Stage Of Life the tremendous success it has been, to extend thanks to all of the staff and founders of  Stage Of Life, and to wish you all a Happy New Year and the best of your dreams to come true in 2012!  Keep the
posts coming and make sure to check out our new Baby Boomer Generations page!

Oh, and don’t hold your breath in regards to this Editors piece title…it was only a dream!

Editor's Welcome

Time

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

How many times have you heard recently, "it's hard to believe the year is almost over"?  Well, your going to hear it again...."it's hard to believe that the year is almost over"!  I think I say this every year the day after Christmas.  There is just something that is awkward with the week after Christmas and before the new year arrives.  It seems that so many businesses are closed and the other half open and good luck figuring out which is what!  I always dreamed of becoming a dentist, so I could take the week before Christmas off, the week during Christmas off and the week after New Years Day off.  They really do this,you know!  I know this because I always seem to have some kind of toothily crisis within this period and out of the 4 dentists I have seen through the years, they all seem to take their 3 week vacations right in this time frame!  Whatever the case, there is something about the last week of the old year that seems so surreal and ever so present for me.  I believe this comes into play to the fact that time s ever moving forward and this is very apparent the week before the year ends.

How well did you spend the time in 2011?

We all have moments of regret that we didn't have time to do more than we wished we would have and what we thought we would have time to do.  We all would love to experience a sense of being satisfied with all we were able to accomplish; to look back on it all is a triumphant moment...when it occurs!  But so soften we never seem to have the time.

Whether you are retired, nearing retirement, experiencing an empty nest or looking to this new year as the year they will fly the coupe, the one thing that plays into all of this is 'time'.  How you spend this time can make or break that last week of 2012, the week of reflection on the year past.

Spending that time with your family, making that one last family vacation or hoorah before the kid(s) are too old or on their own is an investment in time that will someday be looked upon as priceless.  Taking more time to 'check in' on your independent young adult, taking time to listen to their stories of being in college or on their own, or even making trip plans to visit or a lunch date with them can be an incredibly enlightening moment for both parent and child and held within their hearts for many years to come.

It has always seemed important to me in life, not to wish away the years by waiting for a landmark date to arrive, such as retirement for instance.  How many times have we heard, "I can't wait to retire!"  Life is flying past us fast enough.  What kind of time can you take to enjoy these last years before you hang work up?  As tumultuous as work is, life is precious and should never be left in second place.

Take more time to look at all that is around you.....before it has passed you up and moved on.  And, to the one who has already achieved that place in the clubhouse of eternal relaxation, how is it, now, more than ever, you who is retired never seems to have 'the time'?  Hopefully, you are too busy to have time because you are taking the time to do all that you have worked up to this point in life to do!  And if not....it's time to reassess it all!

As a society, we could all use some time to reflect upon what we have accomplished this past year, where we need to further our endeavors or improve for the coming year, and how we can manage to spend more time doing the things that mean more to us than we may realize.

What are some ways to find the time and spend it wisely,
as 2011 comes to an end and 2012 reins in another 12 months....of 'time'?

Editor's Welcome

Holiday Awareness

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

In general, Christmas time means many things to many people.  It comes not only in many celebratory forms according to culture,  but also different personal ways and traditions to celebrate.  There are the shoppers, the decorators, the neighborhood lighting competition.  There are the ones who give themselves selflessly to the needs of others, the ones who go all out to make the holiday memories for their kids, the ones who bake cookies for days on end, just to spread their joy to friends and family.  The church goers, the carolers, the ghosts of Christmas past and of Christmas present.  The reasoning and ways of celebrating goes on.

What happens to the season when the kids have grown up and moved out?  What happens to the celebration when we find ourselves at a sudden loss from the passing of a loved one or spouse?  When we have retired and have more time on our hands than we may know what to do with….or become so busy we have no time?

We each hold a special memory or two of what we remember Christmas standing for in our younger years, or what the best part of Christmas was to us.  And for the most part we have all tried to carry on traditions and make the holiday season something memorable for our kids; as spouses, for each other and as large families a time to share and love with each other.

Whether the house is quiet for the first time this year or not, we all will find some kind of way to make this season memorable.  Some of us will be entertaining our family in our apartment for the first time ever!  Others will make time to volunteer themselves at the food kitchen or homeless shelter for those who are less fortunate or have nobody to celebrate with.  Some will be far away from ‘home’ in the name of visiting family they seldom get to see due to the distance.

I suppose the point to this is that this time of year will affect us all in some way, will be celebrated in  our own ways of choice, and will serve as different meanings to everyone.  But one thing that should be universal is that we all need to recognize the real reason for the season.  To not allow ourselves to get carried away in the stress to make things perfect, the rush to buy those perfect gifts, and forgetting the neighbor who maybe just lost their home and more to a fire.  Or the woman who has spent a good many years alone during Christmas because her husband is not here anymore.  Let us not forget the many people who have lost their jobs or homes due to an upset economy.  And the list goes on.

No matter how you celebrate or what you will do, lets all find a little time to be mindful of those around us.  Lets all take a moment to offer thanks and be grateful for all that we have.  I’ll never forget the woman in line at the box store one Christmas season, who had a conniption over someone taking her rightful place in line because she stepped away briefly. At first reaction I was shocked and it simply added to the reasons that I was growing tired of all of the commercialism of Christmas.

It was the beginning of a change in the way I did things which echo’s into today.  But looking back on it now, I realize that she, like many, was just doing the best she could with whatever she had going on in her life at the time. And I will never know just what kind of burden she may have been carrying to make her the way she was.  But it brought out a shift in thought and the way I carried out the holidays for what I feel is the better for me.

We should all try to make everyday a day to give, to share, to have spirit. Technically, there is only one day out of the year that will always be the real reason for the season, but if only we could all make each day count towards the spirit of giving, togetherness and compassion. 

Whatever your beliefs or celebration, may this holiday season find you mindful, thankful and aware of all and everyone which is around you!

Editor's Welcome

Dinner At Six

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Having dinner with friends who are retired can be a lot of fun….and an incredible lesson in patience!  There is something about defining time, perception, and reality that is altered when you enter retirement.  It’s like entering a rift in the space time continuum;  where what you did a half hour ago will have no impact on what will happen in a half hour, because the action required to initiate the future state never took place as it was intended….or like you thought it did, because the future never really occurred due to how the past was altered...

And so, you, as a guest for dinner, one who appreciates the experience of excellent cuisine quite like that you will always get from this wonderful host, find yourself in a pickle upon walking through the door.  The greetings are given, the chat ensues, and your stomach rumbles.  You didn’t want to squelch the appetite you have worked up anticipating the delights soon to lay upon your pallet, so you didn't snack before you left home….your mistake.  Yes, you have virtually starved yourself for this moment, this night of friends, food, and the after dinner movie.

But then it hits you.  The words that flow out of your hosts mouth strike panic and the hunger you have kept tethered up to this point becomes restless, like a beast pent up, planning his exodus from captivity.

Your host:  “Oh dear, the time seemed to escape me!  I thought I had everything prepped and ready, but  didn’t realize where the time went and still have to peel and boil the potatoes, make the pie and….”  All of a sudden reality kicks in.  You were on time for “dinner at 6:00” and dinner is not to be!  I mean….seriously late!

With no hor devours in sight and no contingency in place but a piece of hard candy out on the truck dashboard, you find yourself spiraling downward as the words you have just heard absorb.

This scenario sound familiar?  If not, consider yourself lucky.  If so….better to eat a snack next time!

Don’t get me wrong; it happens!  Things go wrong, timing is an art that we all flounder with, and it isn’t always about the food.  Thankfully, good friends and the good company they provide make up for the time warp that can put dinner behind.

In the past whenever we have entertained dinner guests, I typically get reminded by my wife that I am going overboard on the pre-dinner menu.  It’s too much food, she says.  But I have always appreciated good food, guests to share it with and making sure that nobody walks away hungry….or arrives starved!  A trait handed down no less from an Italian upbringing!

Typically, dinner guests are forgiving.  But having contingencies in place for these moments that time slips away from you can help!  Something as simple as chips and dip, or French bread slices to dip in some balsamic vinegar and olive oil can help to quell the hunger or anxiety which may accompany a late dinner.  Some people have health issues such as hypoglycemia or diabetes that require them to have a timely meal, especially when they are counting on a specific time frame for dinner.

Keep in mind that certain lifestyles may require people to be home at a certain time for whatever their reason, and dinner that is running hours late may impact a persons time line or limits.  We all like to enjoy each other  for a while after dinner, but a late dinner may create a time snafu for some, that makes it necessary for them to leave following dinner, and as hosts, we have to appreciate this, especially if it’s a late dinner.

Retired or not, with holiday feasts coming up, we will all be entertaining in some form.  It is important as a host to be mindful of providing an experience that will keep them all coming back for more.

What are some of your stories, plans for simple or delicious hor devours, or experiences with dinner at 6:00?

Editor's Welcome

The Meaning Of Traditions

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

As the holiday season is buzzing around us, most of us will soon find ourselves immersed in our own ways of celebrating the holiday season  The one tradition that exists this time of year for all of us is that it is a time that we give to others, share with each other, and gather together. 

It is a time when families gather and the distance that typically separates us is put at bay, as family and friends find themselves together sharing time, food, stories and gifts.  We tend to invest in the spirit of giving to those around us which may be less fortunate.  And whether or not we realize it, we all share those time honored traditions that have been learned, earned, taught and handed down throughout our lives.

As we go through life, we will add a little of ‘this’ take out a little of ‘that’…tailor what we learned as youth from our parents, to fit the lifestyles of our own families or current situations.  As the kids grow up and move out on their own, they too will soon enough find themselves doing the same with their perspective or up and coming families.  As parents new to an empty house, we will begin to make new traditions for ourselves, or may decide that no tradition at all is acceptable!  Enter the grand kids and the evolution continues, and you can only imagine how the cycle will continue as life and all that it stands for changes year to year.

It’s funny, when I was younger I never gave much thought to it all.  Christmas had it’s traditions, and it seemed like every year I always had this to look forward to.  In fact, as I went through life and my own family gave way to the shifting and incorporation of our own traditions it all just seemed natural to me.  I suppose it was a year or two after our son moved out on his own that the whole concept of what holiday traditions are and what they mean to me, actually drew my attention.

The important thing is that we have some kind of traditions to hold, to look forward to no matter how small or big they may be….to be able to pass on to our kids so that they will someday be able to share the same with their families.  It is also important to subtly shift into our own unique traditions as life around us changes.  We will all experience the many emotions and changes that the many stages of life will present us as time moves forward.  Whether it means ‘shaking it up a little’ or just having something to look forward to in this season. Make sure to keep the tradition of ‘traditions’ alive and well!  It is the one thing that all of us will have to hold on to as the Christmas time of year arrives!

Give some thought to the reason for the season this year and make sure to share your most sacred and time honored traditions!

Editor's Welcome

Boomerangers

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

When I recently heard the term, ‘boomerangers’, I thought that the boomerang finally made it in to the Olympics as a competitive sport!  Was I so wrong.  In fact it is a term for an increasingly common trend which reflects the current times.  It seems more and more that when young adults finish college, and/or loose a job that they are gravitating back home, into the nest with their folks.

With this becoming more of a trend, a few things came to my mind almost instantly. The first was….cripes!  Miss him, love him, but….  Bearing witness and falling victim to some of the bad habits our son brings back for extended visits, like house sitting while we‘re gone….and the newly developed ones…?!  This is where my favorite term to practice comes in; time to “set limits“!

While we are quick to want to help out our kids who may be experiencing hard times as a result of the economy, it is not requiring to much of them for us to set limits, and draw clear expectations of their temporary situation, back at home. While even temporary, this scenario can be an enriching experience for all involved if we abide and adhere to each others needs and expectations.  Here are a few that I would feel to be pretty important:
  • Household contribution: While money may be tight and times hard, there are ways for them to contribute financially and otherwise.  Chores for instance to help carry the load.  They make trash and eat and live in the household again, it doesn’t hurt to help keep it up.  Maybe volunteer to make dinner a few nights a week for the household to give mom and dad a break.
  • Privacy:  Now there is a biggie!  For instance, after experiencing 4 years of unlimited privacy while they were away at college, it would be a necessity to have that privacy respected.  And to respect theirs, on the flip side!  Parties are a definite “no no“, but maybe giving them some time to have a friend or two over, would offset the need for them, to maybe bail a few nights a week, to give you and your significant other the time you two need and have earned.
  • Bars may close at 2:00AM, but we close at 10:00PM:  I remember a story of a friend who’s son came home for Christmas vacation.  The absolute annoyance, for the first few nights back home, at him rolling in at 1:00AM, rattling through the refridge and channel surfing with the surround sound on.  They may be temporarily out of work, but the folks are not!  Somewhere in there a concise reality has to be met with revolving schedules.
  • Expectations and goals:  We raised them to set goals and accountability, and although they are young adults, they did come back home for a reason.  It should be fine for them to have realistic goals to get on their feet and back out on their own.  It is improtant to both child and parent(s) for them not to become a fixture in the household.  Remember to make an agreement and understanding that this is a temporary set up and don’t forget the sacred proverb….guests are like fish, they tend to smell after too long!

In our quest to aid in their adversity, we mustn’t allow our personal feelings of missing them control the reality.  The reality is, they have learned to be independent and there are serious life advantages to continually pursue this, and set themselves up for a future of success!  Although this set up may be a little awkward for both parties, clear and open communication will help to keep lines open, and prevent any misunderstandings that could tarnish relationships.

So, even though the Australian Boomerang team still has a way to go to be recognized internationally, there may just be a ‘boomeranger’ coming to a neighborhood near you!  Remember to ‘duck’ and be mindful of a pending predicament that nobody asked for, but rather, is an unfortunate sign of the times.

We would love to hear input or personal experience on this up and coming subject…maybe some sound suggestions!

Editor's Welcome

Bringing Down The House

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Just when you thought you had it figured out…pay off  the mortgage by retirement and you will skate free… now experts are suggesting we rethink this strategy.  The plan has been that if you have the mortgage paid off, then there is that much more cash in your pocket.  Think about it, other than medical insurance out of your pocket, your mortgage is the most expensive payment you have every month.  Although it seems that groceries and fuel are slowly creeping in for the led!

The suggestion is that people figure on cash flow and returns.  Once you pay off your mortgage, you can’t bring it back unless you refinance, and for many retired folks that wouldn’t be too much of an option due to less qualified income.  Makes sense!  Homeowners approaching retirement must ensure that they have enough cash flow to cover daily expenses and experts suggest paying off the mortgage will jeopardize this.

Other suggestions are to take that money you would use to pay off the mortgage and invest it in a muni fund.  The gain will be better than the percentage saved from paying off the mortgage. Another idea that would have an even better gain is invest in a cheap retirement home or vacation property that is available out there.

With uncertainty in the housing market and speculation that prices may continue to fall within the next couple of years, it may be hard to say what the best guaranteed options may be.  I think that it comes down to the best possible solution according to an individuals’ needs.  My thought has always been to eliminate debt, including mortgage as soon as possible.  Maybe take that money and
invest it in something that will bring in a good gain, let it grow and work for you.  If I am able to narrow down and/or eliminate as many expenses as possible by or before any thought of retirement, then my cost of living has been significantly brought down to a manageable level.  I will always have my hands into something,\ and doubt I will ever be able to actually retire at 65.  To me that whole concept is a thing of the past.

Make sure to check out this article from the NY Times and figure for yourselves what may be a viable solution for you.

As you near retirement or are already there, will your goal be or has it been to pay off your mortgage?

Editor's Welcome

Drink Up The Love

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The satisfaction granted a parent during a visit with their kids is priceless most especially when the distance is so far apart.  The vast miles make it difficult to share the time and love that we hold for our kids.  I have said it before, that even though they may be out on their own, living away from home, we will always be parents, and although our positions and rolls may change the love we have for them is a wealthy investment. While true that with social networks and such technologies as Skype help to bridge the distance there is nothing that compares to the closeness of a hug, and a chance to share and be together.

I love surprises, more so giving them, and especially enjoy a good story about a mother receiving an unexpected treasure such as an air miles ticket, and the chance to share the riches of this gift with a daughter attending school what can seem like another world away.  That kind of distance has a strong effect on the bond between a mom and her daughter and could only make a surprise scenario such as this
a unique opportunity!

This brings to mind the time of the year when moments like these become more abundant as the holiday season approaches and plans are beginning to take shape for holiday travel.

There is no doubt that as the distance that separates us from our kids may be far, that both parent and child alike will experience emotions such as loneliness, separation; in the case of a parent possibly uselessness or questions of self importance, maybe even helplessness.  Whether our kids struggle while away or seem to have life by the horns, stumbling blocks are inevitable.  Times like these only increase the desire of a parent to be able to “be there” and is even more so discouraging when this just isn’t possible due to the distance.

This is where a good visit can  fill an empty cup.  But it’s those surprise moments where a parent can let go of the bounds of distance and give that which parents were born to give…unconditional and limitless love. A moment where a mother can fill her daughters’ cup and and feel comfort as the gem of moms world drinks up the love!

It would be hard to share with us the surprises in store coming near you this coming holiday season….after all, surprises need be kept secrets!  But give some thought to this:

There is a timeless bond between a mom and her daughter; sometimes a good surprise is just what one and the other needs when the road is
long and time together too far between!

Editor's Welcome

Pets For All Ages

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Studies have shown it is a proven fact that a variety of pets can provide a myriad of therapy for us humans. I can comfortably say this from pure experience.  For 25 years, my fish aquarium always gave me a sense of calm, fascination, and creativity as I would be able to customize colors of gravel, plants, fish, etc, and reap the benefits of watching them swim about their watery kingdom.  Our son took it over and found the same senses for many years as his new aquatic adventure thrived..

Then there are the dogs throughout my life.  The rough transition of moving at the young age of 10 to a new home hundreds of miles from where I was born and the friends I was raised with, was smoothed and eased out by the new dog that my parents brought into our family.  He was my best friend and shared many years with my life!  In these later years, as our son left home, our 3 dogs filled in the presence and excitement that was missing in our sons’ absence.  They even offer the missing drama!  It’s amazing how they knew that things changed around here and took the reins to love and comfort and entertain their humans.

At one point in time when hamsters’ short life spans proved to be a little too heartbreaking, our son got his first guinea pig.  This is where mom and dad fell head over heals, and for the next 10 years, we became guinea pig farmers!  Talk about intelligence, love and a 3-ring circus!  They served as great pets and taught us all a little of life lessons through the years.  My wife would correct me….but given the chance I would love to have one or two again!

All the way down to the fish, these guys have personalities, are attentive to detail….know when it’s feeding time like they have their own watch to tell time. These pets always made their presence known….quite like kids do…and added life to our house.  Their little bonds with us would always help through the down or lonely times.  They even could sense when things where wrong and would react.

I’ll never forget the late night I was working under my truck one summer and needed my wife.  I began calling out for her and our male Malamute/Wolf mix came running over to me and crawled under the truck, as if he sensed I was in trouble.  I told him to “go get mama” and he crawled out and ran to the sliding glass door, where she was inside on the phone.  He began to bark at her, and would run back to me, and to the glass door again several times, barking at her, until she came out to see what his problem was.  At that point the ran down to where I was and turned to just stare at her, never leaving my side.  Instead of crawling out myself to go get her early on, I decided to lay there and was in complete amazement watching this all unfold.  Had I really been in trouble, he would have done his best to get attention to my needs.

There was a friend of mine who battled cancer for many years.  She had many cats and loved them all so dearly.  Even up to the day she passed, those cats were her world.  I sometimes wonder if they are the reason she lived such an active and extended life in the shadow of such a deadly and quite often life robbing disease.

As  I write this piece, that same wonderful Malamute/Wolf male of mine is sitting at my left, starring at me. He is telling me to pull down his dish off of the safety of the counter, from the other to chow hounds,  so he can finish his dinner.  How do I know this?  Because as soon as I pulled it down and asked him if he was wanting the rest of dinner….he licked my hand and continued to eat!  Oddly, it is simultaneous with me eating my dinner as I sit here and type this piece!

Pets can serve us humans in so many ways.  Whether your house is too quiet from the lack of kidlets, your retired and need that little something to keep life on the edge, or you are alone and single and just need someone who will listen, love and be a loyal companion;  pets seem to be the ultimate answer to curing those blues…and so much more!

What kind of pets have you had or have in your life that may have filled the void in life?  We would love to hear your stories!

What kind of pets have you had or have in your life that may have filled the void in life? We would love to hear your stories!

Editor's Welcome

Trying On A New Life That Fits

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Last year, a friend of ours graduated high school, and made the decision to leave her native state where she was born and raised, and ventured off to an east coast state to attend college.  This wonderful young lady was beyond her years in wisdom, her handling of herself and her desire to pursue interests.  Although we were proud of her and her decision, we did worry a little.  When your born and raised in a rural, laid back and slow paced place, jumping into the big city can sometimes be a huge shock.  We had every  faith that she would dig in, find her niche and adapt successfully.

After a year, she found herself on the move once again, relocating from the east coast to the northwest.  This fall she began school there in Washington, and will be starting a new job….a new life.

As parents, we want to see our kids find happiness and success when they move out on their own.   But sometimes the best laid plans can hit a wall.  Personal needs may change, or it could simply be a case of ‘the grass is always greener’ syndrome which in my observations are often found in youth that were raised in a small or rural community.  They feel the need to spread their wings and fly into the big time as soon as they graduate….leave the small town blues.  What ever the reason, our young friend was courageous!

She was courageous in two ways.   Making a choice to leave her native state; the community that nurtured her personal growth and supported her socially for so many years, to find an education in a busy new and big world, unlike that which she had previously experienced up to this point in her young life.  “Settling” for something closer or easier was not an option.  If this is not enough of an accomplishment, she gets a new life established, keep in mind relocating in the first place was a new and unique experience for her.  But then, after discovering for her own personal reasons that this new accommodation was not working out for her, she picked herself up and did it all again.  Not a couple hours away, but to the opposite side of the country….again, and still far from what she knew as ‘home’ all of her life!

How common a thing is this in reality?

What she has done is the first step of conditioning herself to this principle of ‘not settling‘, and creating a future that she will be successful and aggressive towards obtaining.  Creating a life that she wants!  I personally feel that this had to be a great experience for her and a building block to future comfort within her life!  I just feel it is important in any stage of life to avoid becoming too complacent or just ‘settling’ for a present or current situation if you desire better goals for your life.

What’s your advice to your son or daughter on trying on a new life that fits?

Editor's Welcome

Retirement And The Volunteer

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Recently on a trip we met up with a friend of ours who is still very active in the work force and not quite near to any kind of retirement.  As of late, due to budget cuts within her company, her job was spared but hours reduced, thus among other things giving her more time to….well, what to do with more time?  When we met up with her, she was putting in time at the local community museum as a volunteer, tending the grounds and reviving the neglected gardens!

What was amazing to me was how happy and content she looked!  When you think about this for a moment, how crazy is that; happier working as a volunteer not making money, than working a day job?!  Don’t get me wrong, the need for money is important to her, and fortunately she is able to financially manage her single life status with the reduced income.

However.

For whatever the reason(s), she found it suited to volunteer and loves it!  Her comment was, how great it would be to just retire early and do volunteer work.  It is just that fulfilling to her.  Regardless if this is only a dream or if she will find a way to become a professional volunteer, it fit’s the need for now.  She found a unique way to fill extra time in her life through service back to the community.  This has definitely left an impression in my mind.  The beautiful thing about this is that there are so many ways to volunteer services to others.  I remember my grandmother putting in many hours as a Red Cross volunteer.

One common denominator that I often hear amongst retirees, is that they have time on their hands.  Despite this, I think we all find that even with all of this proverbial time, we still never seem to find time…kind of a double edged sword, of sort!  In any event, when we think of all of the many ways volunteering could
fulfill our lives and the lives of others, it is something worth thinking about.

If you are currently retired, do you give any of your spare time to volunteering in some way?  What are some of the ways you have served as a volunteer and what kind of personal satisfaction did you receive from such service? 

We would love to hear your stories on this wonderful kind of selfless service!

Editor's Welcome

Dressing Up Never Dies

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

I remember my mom breaking the news to me at the young age of 14, or was it 13…that I was too old to go trick or treating at Halloween.  Talk about bummed!  But, I got over it and when we had our own son and had to break it to him, like my folks did, we also found new and exciting things to do for a couple of hours on that eve that incorporated a friend of his or two.  Then as it turns out years later, it’s funny, how when you get older, in a strange and twisted way, you find yourself dressing up again and pulling out the old tricks….or maybe even a new one?!

It seems more and more that the adults, both boomers, retirees and empty nesters alike are cutting loose and re-discovering the fun of dressing up and going out on Halloween.  And why not!  Since when is age or social status any reason to stop having fun?  All of those earlier years that we loved and lived for helping to design costumes to dress the young ones up, made cookies and cocoa, or sipped apple cider while dishing out candy to the ones who came a knockin, just makes way for knowing how to liven up the later years!  If you no longer have an office to party with due to retirement, there are still ways to group together with like minded friends….the ’big’ kids at heart, put on a scary mask or pretend to costume up as someone or something you always wanted to be but never could be, without being looked at funny.  With it becoming more of a social norm these days, you can even get away with it!

The point is, that you are never too old to have fun.  A night to go out of the ordinary, out of the box, or out of your gourd, is a reasonable way to feel young if your feeling old, look old if your still young,  look great if you feel less of it or look like death worn over if you need a change of pace for a change!  Some of the popular costume themes for 2011 are:
  • Superhero’s
  • The Walking Dead or Zombies
  • Lady Gaga
  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
….Harry Potter?!?  That is the beauty of this hallowed time of year…you can get
away with it all!

If you have a tight budget this year, it may be wise to compare pricing on rental costumes as opposed to say purchasing them.  Those with a creative streak or the ability to sew will surely be able to crawl out from the shadows and come up with ingenious ways to roll out the hit home designs!  Sometimes finding off the wall ways to dress up with things you already may have laying around can come off with a bang, and really save the bucks.  Scanning the aisles at Goodwill, 2nd hand or consignment shops can muster up interesting items that can be utilized for original costume ideas.  No matter what you may decide is going to suit your fancy or fit your budget, getting out and letting loose dressing up for the evening will take your mind off of anything you have impeding your mind or the daily grind and gives you a chance to play like an adult for a change!

Where will you find yourself this Halloween, and just what or who may you find yourself liking to be?

Editor's Welcome

Bridging The Distance

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

We are all well rehearsed on social media outlets and the communication benefits that such provide for so many people.  Generally, they help to keep us connected and up on the latest.   These days, it seems that ‘everyone’ is on Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets throughout each day keeping family and friends tied in the loop.

Then there are those of us who seem to be falling behind the latest crazes, have only a handful of tangible friends instead of ‘friending’ 100 and the only ‘tweet’ heard for the past week was that of a fluttering bird in the brisk fall air!  Yes, for some, technology and the latest social outlets seem to move faster than they can keep up with or particularly care to.

Empty Nest and RetirementThen again, what if you missed a loved one so much that you had to find a cure to the void in your  heart and technology could provide such relief?

Yesterday, I read a post here on Stage of Life, that for lack of better words, excited me!  The author of the post had a brilliant idea which incorporated ingenuity and technology, to bridge the gap of family, during a weekly family night ritual.  Not only did this keep the party hopping for the evening and make it a “real“ experience, but it provided a reasonable and fulfilling compromise to fill the missing presence and the emotional gap that follows, between mother and daughter.

Whether it is Skype, Youtube, a form of social media or another technological advantage; seniors, retirees and empty nesters alike are finding ways to keep up with family and connect with long lost relatives and old friends.  For those who engage in such outlets, they are coming up with innovative ways to bring together
time and distance and filling their need to stay in touch and rekindle old friendships!  It seems that technology is constantly evolving and forever changing the face of social networking, and communication.

What are some of the ways you use technology to your advantage and bring the ones you enjoy and love, closer to the heart?

Editor's Welcome

Touring The Fall Colors

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

This is the time of the year that many kids are returning to school as college freshmen.  ‘Back to school’ has taken on a whole new dimension for you!  No longer do parents have to worry about taking kids out of regular school time for fall vacations.  The trips you may have only dreamed about taking when the kids were at home, now have become the possibility for a reality!  Is this sounding enticing to you?

In the past, trying to plan the precise time to make the show could be difficult, since after all, you had to take into consideration school schedules, fall sports, ect.  However, with these restrictions no longer an issue, this may be the opportune time and the perfect year to let go and tour the fall colors!  A trip together with a spouse,  a friend, or just by yourself to gather your hemispheres may be just what the doctor ordered to let go of so many years of the responsibilities of parenting.

Empty Nest and RetirementThis is also the time of year that in many areas the fall foliage is beginning to turn into vibrant and blazing color spectrums of …well….fall!  I remember when I was younger, my folks took a trip back to the east coast in the fall and absolutely drooled over the east coast fall colors.  Those of you who live in these areas could probably tell some stories of vibrant falls past.

Although there are more than likely places all over that put on best of show during this season, there are a few places that typically stand out the most.  Such as: Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and New York just to name a few.

Fall is the opportune time to find great deals on hotel accommodations and other specials, as it is typically is a down season for vacations as opposed to say, summer.  Take some time to plan someplace that will be ideal for viewing pleasure. Although the east coast may take it hands down, there are other shows happening in places such as; parts of Alaska, the Sierra Nevadas in California, and such places can offer additional benefits.  Besides the limitless beauty of Alaska in the fall, a trip into the interior can make for a light show of a different and phenomenal kind…the Northern Lights!  As well as the spectacular colors of the Sierra’s, there is much to do for the hiker, camper, or nature enthusiast to incorporate into this sight for the senses.  Hitting some of the quaint and humble mountain wineries and hanging out in historic Gold Rush country, such as Calaveras County could well be a great way to top off the experience!

Although this is a time of transition for you, there is no better a time to get away and make this period a kick start to a new tradition, and secure some memories for many years to come.  Re-connecting  with yourself, spouse or a friend who may have taken the back seat to the kids over the years can be an important part of healing any of the hesitation blues that may accompany this period of your life. They say that color therapy can be healing in itself, not to mention being one with nature all around you in her glory! Take this time to plan that tour with the fall colors, that was only a dream up to now!

Where will your fall destination find you as an empty nester?

Editor's Welcome: Sept. 15th- 22nd, 2011

What's In A Boomer?

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

While this stage is geared towards empty nest, and retirement too, a big part of this all is the baby boomer, which may be in you!  In theory, after World War II and the returning of soldiers from the war, the US experienced a huge explosion of babies between the years of 1946 and 1964.  During this period, approximately 76 million Americans were born.  That is a lot of diapers!  Now, today, these booming babies are filing rank as empty nesters, retirees, single women and men over 50 as well as  people with some really good stories of life’s experience to tell!

There are many faces and features that make up the baby boomer.  Chances are good that you meet or interact with several or more daily in passing!  I am fairly sure that there would be no way that I could possibly cover every aspect of  the baby boomer or the pulse of their play in American culture.

That is why, here at Stage Of Life, we encourage you, the baby boomer/retiree/empty nester, to share these stories, facts, thoughts, experiences or viewpoints.  There are so many aspects involved with this sometimes complex and wide spanning stage of life and within these aspects is the potential to share wisdom, inspire, guide through experience or maybe just entertain us all with some shameless stories or one of those “the things we do” moments!

No matter the age of the stage, or which niche you may think that you fall into, we welcome you to the Empty Nest /Retirement stage.  Whether you wear your baby boomer status with pride or prefer to keep it undercover or think the label is just all over rated, you are the voice of this social phenomena!  You are part of a generation that has and will continue to play a big role in where we have been and where this country will continue to go in the near future.

To everyone who has posted and commented here at Stage Of Life’s Empty Nest/Retirement, we thank you and encourage your continued participation and sharing.  To those who have not yet joined but have maybe considered it, we look forward to spending some time and hearing what you have to say! 

What’s in a Boomer, to you?  Make sure to check out our essay contest for September and October. 

Editor's Welcome: Sept. 8th-15th, 2011

Filling The Void Of Time

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Depending on where you are in the world, signs of fall are starting to become apparent all around us.  There is an association that comes synonymous with fall every year.  For many, they will find their homes quiet and empty as this past springs’ graduates have moved out and on with their new lives away from home.

I never really realized the many faces of this period in a parents life.  My wife and I handled our sons independent leap well, and in fact although have missed many aspects of his presence in our home, we started to explore our soon to be new lives as ‘kid-free’ adults in his junior year of high school.  So our transition was anticipated and in the making years before it became a reality for us.  But it doesn’t always work that way for others.  Personal views differ, feelings and emotions run high with some, not so much with others....everyone handles it differently!  And although some people will be fine with the free time to be “adults” and take life up on it’s 'responsible free' offers….others are left stymied, hollow and with too much time on their hands.

All this free time and what to do?

As parents we all have invested many years, 18 or more, raising our kids running them around, entertaining the neighborhood brood, helping with love, homework, advice, disciplining....so many things that we as parents serve as.  And now, they are all grown up and on their own!  Parenting will always be an ongoing task even though, now, it takes on a new and different dynamic.  But what is very apparent is the absence of the whole child rearing/kid raising experience, which for many is a deep and profound part of our lives.

It is so important to find ways to fill this new time as an independent adult! There is so much more to life… as much as that may sound obscene to some, it’s true. Life will go on and we need to find ways to go on with it.  As suggested in this article from Wikihow, “filling your free time with useful pursuits is a way of increasing your creativity, energy, enthusiasm, and sense of fulfillment from life.”  This article gives a great perspective and ideas on how to cope with all of this time and emotion and make it a benefit for yourself and/or your spouse in this important time of change and transition and I encourage you to read it.

This time in our lives is a normal and healthy part of growth as parents and as well for our kids.  We owe it to ourselves to ease into this season of our lives with happiness and contentment.  How will you enter into this time honored tradition, when your kids move on and your lives as independent adults begin?  If you have already experienced this period in your lives, please share with us ways in which you handled the transition and filled the void of time!

Make sure to check out our essay contest for September and October.  What do you feel may become the new trend or norm for the future of retirement?

Editor's Welcome: Sept. 1st- 8th, 2011

The New Face Of Retirement

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

For years we have all heard it.  Much of the younger generations have feared it. No Presidential Administration to present has been able to curb it.  And, with a near busted economy, it seems to be upon us possibly sooner than anyone could have imagined.; the end to Social Security benefits!  Or will it be the end?!  Nobody seems to know for sure, but according to this article from Daily Finance, that day may be here by 2017.

What has always concerned me is how unprepared many of us are for retirement.  It seems almost impossible for most folks to even conceive saving these days with the jobless rate up, the cost of goods constantly on the rise, gas prices so high and unstable….  Yet, after so many of the ‘good years’ where the economy was booming and spending was abundant; in the near-sighted joy of living it up, so many people lost sight of reality and just got blind-sided.  For now, the near future is uncertain.

Empty Nest and RetirementWhere do we go from here?

For some, it’s not too late to be able to change the course.  The prospect of not having Social Security will be a reality for the vast majority of baby boomers soon and empty nesters someday not far off to follow.  Not living beyond your means may be a saving grace for generations to come, and other shifts in budgets and saving strategies could still help.  If your nest is now empty, you may have some income free and clear, since the kids have moved out and on.  The real question is: will we be able to afford retirement at 65, in the sense of taking time to travel, play some rounds of golf, or just veg and enjoy the golden years?

Traditionally, the trend has been to spend a life of hard work while actively saving for retirement.  But not everybody will end up being able to afford the golden life and travels abound or abroad.  Will there someday soon be a new “normal” as far as saving for and living out retirement?  Will most of us even be
able to retire at 65 or will it be necessary to work our golden years away?  Maybe, the answer will be the re-defining of what retirement stands for; the new face of retirement.

Make sure to check out our essay contest for September and October.  The topic is simple; as an empty nester, retiree or soon to be either, what do you feel may become the new trend or norm for the future of retirement?

Editor's Welcome: Aug. 15th - 31st, 2011

3 Days of Peace & Music

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

August 15th 2011, marks the 42nd anniversary of an event that symbolized a generation.  What was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, took place in rural Bethel, New York on a local dairy farmer, Max Yasgur‘s, dairy farm.  Six hundred acres which he graciously gave up to a music festival that would make history!  Woodstock embodied the counterculture of the late 60’s and early 70’s, the hippie era, with the festival slated to be 3 days of peace, love and music which would show the world that “a half a million kids can get together and have 3 days of fun and music, and have nothing but fun and music…” as quoted by Max Yasgur himself.

Thirty-two of the best known musicians and bands of the day, such as: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane, Sha Na Na, the Grateful Dead, Blood Sweat & Tears, Santana, Ravi Shankar,  Richie Havens and far too many more to mention, performed in front of 500,000 concert goers that flooded the area for the show.

With the help of unofficial officials such as Wavy Gravy, "Chief of the Please Force" and other organizations like the ‘Hog Farm', together, they endured a lack of basic resources such as food and water, bad trips and a sometimes rainy weekend. Conditions that some critics would label as a "disaster area".  What started out as a profit making venture soon turned into a free concert after it became obvious that hundreds of thousands more people were showing up than what promoters originally anticipated.  The influx of concert goers created major traffic jams on local highways leading into the area, and at one point prevented the first of the performers from even being able to get to the show, much less on stage to perform!

As a result of all of this, the promoters took a huge loss along with their financial backers, with little hope of recouping the losses.  But despite it all, the concert would go down in history as one of the biggest events of all time, with little success of any other festival up to now to emulate it.

Many of the performers who are still alive today, look back on this time with differing opinions and memories.  Some have chosen to live a less public life and have put it all behind them.  Others still perform today, and reflect back on what this concert; this weekend that exemplified a generation and the love that could come out of a weekend of togetherness and music, stood for in the world they lived in and the memories they hold true to what they stood for.

As many of the concert goers fall into the baby boomer generation, and yet many have retired or will soon be, the perspectives and visions of yesterday sometimes seem far off from the reality of today.  There was a distinct vision in this period of time.  Music, love and togetherness seemed to play a big roll in the contribution of their beliefs and ideals.

Yet, as we look back to that 3 days of the past and try to make sense of it all, what did actually come out of it besides good music, and the time of their lives, held by most in attendance?

Depending on opinion, some would say the vision of a generation failed.  Yet, others would insist that it all stood for something, and did add contribution to the world we live in today.  As retirees, and/or baby boomers that may have been a part of this time and generation, how do you feel about what it all stood for and where it really led?  Whether you were there or wished you had been, share some of your memories, stories, or dreams of this musical moment in time and what it meant to you.  I, personally, would love to hear your stories!

Whether you were there or wished you had been, share some of your memories, stories, or dreams of this musical moment in time and what it meant to you.  I, personally, would love to hear your stories!

Editor's Welcome: Aug. 8th - 15th 2011

When The Best Laid Plans Fall Apart

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Your son or daughter graduated and have been off on their own.  They had big plans! Some maybe were thought out to a flawless “T” while others were a fly by night in the seat of the pants operation.  No matter the success or potential failure which followed, a parent couldn’t help but feel overjoyed for the accomplished goals, or feel sympathy for a miscalculated ‘oops‘!  Some young adults would have too much pride or determination to ask mom and dad for help or the chance to return home to recover or regroup.  But as a parent, has this thought of failure or the possible scenario ever crossed your mind?  Or better, has it become a reality for you or someone you know?

Hey, “life” happens!  From bad break-ups, to unexpected unemployment, or just changes in ones life be it his/her own doing or that of fate and circumstance.  We all falter and stumble at one point or another.  As a parent, I think that personally, my fear was always out of concern for our son.  Maybe I didn’t agree with a decision he was making, or saw potential in how he could have handled something better.  I always was afraid of him falling.  It took some growth and conditioning as a parent to learn to be able to step back and let him make mistakes, out on his own.  Mind you, even today, it still has it’s moments for me. But like anything, it does improve and becomes easier with time  and his continued personal growth.

This brings about a good question though.  At what point do you offer or insist on giving help in times of adversity, or even offer or allow them, say, to move back home?  Some people would insist, that the door is always open no matter what. While this seems only natural for us to say or feel, how can we as parents  expect our kids to learn from their mistakes if we all too easily lay down the welcome mat at every stumble or pothole in the journey?  Obviously, as always, every situation holds it’s own circumstances and perimeters and what works in one instance for some may not be viable in another for others.

Summer is nearing an end, and within the coming weeks we will bid well to our departing kids off to college, or giving our blessings to their new independent endeavors.  I believe it is natural for us to wonder….or worry….at whether we will get that call one day in the near future, that all is not what they thought it would be.  I also believe that we have a parental obligation to not allow our feelings or emotions to get in the way of encouraging our youth to fight the good fight, or re-assess their stance in light of their current dilemmas.  Ultimately we may end up having to open our door for them to return home, and thankfully they have a place to go and feel safe.

Regardless, the parenting process seldom ends upon their departure….it just changes a bit and requires some altering.  To allow acceptance of defeat and a chance to regroup is reasonable.  To encourage your kids’ growth and nurture responsible decisions and responses to their stumbling blocks is allowing them the self satisfaction of continued independence and their personal growth in the real world….where things are seldom all of the glory that they may seem!

How much thought have you given to independent flight of your son or daughter and the successes or failure they will incur? We want to hear your story!

Editor's Welcome: Aug. 1 - 7, 2011

Personal Growth Through The Changes In Life

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

This past week I have been fortunate enough to witness and be a part of the experience of 3 different stories of 3 different people, all whom are dealing with change, recognition of self and new beginnings.

Retirement/Empty NestThe 1st was a woman who had been working for her employer for 7 years, had been loyal, and had given 100% or better for that past 7 years.  She recognized the need to make some changes to better herself.  I saw her this week in the new office, of her own business! 

She told me it was just time to start doing something for herself, and was so glad she took the moves to become self employed!  When I saw her she was glowing, had an incredible energy about her and I have the feeling she will be doing well on her own.

The 2nd was somewhat of a humbling experience for a young man who realized some things about himself and his actions….and reactions that they create.  He realized that although he is honest, works hard & diligently and has a good reputation as a responsible person, there are some qualities in how he carries himself in the presence of others that could use some honing.  The wake-up call was a little harsh, yet necessary apparently.  What he takes away with this will help him with future jobs and opportunities that will enhance his future!  When I spoke with him the other day he was positively  upbeat and came across differently than I have ever heard him in the past.  Some revelations will help to guide one throughout his life!

The 3rd is a remarkable story which is way too complicated to convey in such a short piece!  It’s about a man in his mid 20’s who has come to terms that his life for the past 11 years has been great, but is going nowhere.  He discovered that in order to find the things in life which will motivate him and satisfy his dreams and desires he has to let go of what he has held on to, and recently struggled with, for so long; that sometimes status quo is not always comfortable, slows progress, and that only he has the ability to make the necessary changes…by taking the first step towards momentum and change!

As I watched these events unfold this week I witnessed 3 people go through life changes, enter into a new plateau of their lives, and learn something about themselves in the process that will inevitably aid them in personal growth and aspects of their lives to come.  It was beautiful!  It prompted me to look back in years of my own life and times when I was immersed, myself, in similar experiences; where I was then and how far I’ve come.  Where my mind ’was’ and how I perceive those moments ‘now‘.  Kind of like an inventory of emotions through levels of maturity!  Wow, intense!

How many of us have had this profound experience in our own lives?!

Whether you are retired, or soon to be; bearing an empty nest or very soon, about to.  A baby boomer who has watched so much unfold and the changes that have drawn the lines of generations!  All of us will experience personal growth, achieve balance and acquire wisdom during such impactful moments of our lives.  Just a little something to give some thought to in a world that is constantly demanding of us and moving at such a lightning speed rapid pace.

How can you relate change to the current place and time in your life?  How did the most awkward or difficult decisions help you to get to where you are today?  We want to hear your story!

Editor's Welcome: July 22th- 31th, 2011

Your Dreams Of Retirement Or The Empty Nest

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Many of us have been there, and still many are looking forward to the day it comes. Two major life changes, that will inevitably affect us all, is the day our kids take flight leaving an empty nest and a new beginning or the day we can finally take a deep sigh of relief as we find ourselves retired.  Everyone has their wants, dreams and desires of these sacred and enjoyable times!

This month we here at Stage of Life are searching for the reasons that you, the reader,  will look forward to your time of ultimate rest or focus on freedom, in the form of a fun and simple writing contest! 

My thought was to enter a story, myself, and cross my fingers that nobody else enters before the deadline of August 31... I would skate with a cool and easy twenty five bucks! 

…..Huh?!  Not sure that this is what we all  had exactly in mind here, but I was hoping the thought
may stir and encourage you to tell us your story in the form of an original essay, no more than 500 words, with clean and appropriate language.

Retirement/Empty NestThe cool thing is there is no right or wrong entry!  This is a great way for you to express your dreams and share them with the world.  I can tell you this:  the first thing we did when our home became a 2 people abode, was to completely gut, renovate and slightly expand our sons old room.  The reaction from most of our friends and/or family was that we weren’t wasting any time making sure he couldn’t come back home.  Far from the real reason, however, it did get us to thinking! 

We simply wanted a newly renovated room to relax, play music, work out or just hang out and chat together at the end of a long day.  A room that was a ‘dog-free’ zone, where time matters not and clocks don‘t exist.  A den we could love up and enjoy together!

Make sure to take some time and check out our Empty Nest/Retirement contest page and enter your essay, today!  You have to register with StageofLife.com before you can begin, but that is a free and painless process that will actually give you the chance to take advantage of all kinds of deals and discounts, and to be able to have unlimited freedom to write your stories of life anytime you feel the itch to write!  Check it out and we look forward to your entries.

Where will your dreams take you  when your kids move out or you find it time to retire?

Editor's Welcome: July 15th- 22th, 2011

A Shift In Parenting

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

This summer, the role of parenting will change for many, as their kids prepare for college and a new life of independence.  As a result of this up and coming moment in our lives, there are multiple changes that will affect both our kids’ lives and our own as parents.  While true that we will always be the parent, the methods of how we parent and the needs of us as parents must make a transition to accommodate the independence and demands which our kids will face in college and/or on their
own.

One thing that experts suggest, for example, is that we try to ‘relate’ our own experiences at that age with our kids and how we handled difficulties, as opposed to ‘stepping in‘ when we see that they have hit roadblocks or stumbling posts, as we may have been so accustomed to doing for them in the past years.  Effective problem solving is a life skill no matter the generation, and will be an asset to our kids throughout their lives!

Retirement/Empty NestIn this mix of change, we mustn’t forget that we also will be exploring new needs as empty nesters.  Even though their needs and demands of us as parents have changed,   young adults still look to us as examples and role models, and our own continuing personal growth is important.  This simply enforces the theory of learning by example!  I personally believe and have experienced that keeping yourself active and busy in the absence of the kids at home, is a vital part of acceptance and a positive part of this transition.  It’s good nutrition for our minds and bodies in this new and sometimes confusing time!

Check out this supportive article for some inspirational thoughts and ideas on how to effectively make this shift in you and your child’s life during this time of passage and personal growth.
Also, make sure to visit our ‘Must Visit Websites’ section to discover more articles and advice for parents.


How are you handling the shift of parenting with your newly graduated son or daughter this summer?

Editor's Welcome: July 8th- 15th, 2011

Retirement And Vacation Home Investment

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

In the time honored tradition of summer, many families, couples, singles and seniors alike will hit the roads and airways this summer for their vacations to somewhere of their liking.  Although gas prices are still high and slowly coming down, the die hard traveler spares no expense to seek relaxation in the name of fun, fun in the name of relaxation!  No matter if you decided to travel abroad or stay local, most of us will make plans based on what tailors our unabated quest for the ultimate summer vacation.

RetirementWith interest rates and market prices on housing still low, now may be the best time for retirees or those who will soon retire to invest in that vacation property for summer and winter destination getaways.  Click here to read an article, that suggests an opportunity to take advantage of the vacation rental industry to offset the cost of ownership and possibly even make this a positive cash flow situation!

Although this type of investment may come with some effort, planning and upkeep or maintenance management, and may not be for some, it is a unique way to provide that perfect getaway  for a couple who desires to slow down and enjoy their retirement years.  It does offer a unique alternative to retirement communities and planned getaway spots, and, the beauty of it is that you get to pick the place of your fancy!  If you have ever considered a second home to getaway from life when retirement time comes, this may be an interesting idea to ponder.

Have you given thought to a dream getaway destination or second home for your retirement years?

Editor's Welcome: July 1st- 7th, 2011

The Days Of Summer.

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

It's hard to believe that summer is in full swing and half over!  It seems like just yesterday that preparations for graduation ceremonies, plans for senior trips and post grad celebrations were the primary focus of most parents.  With the dust settled, most are now enjoying the summer days focusing on sunshine and fun.

RetirementFor many, this will be the last summer having the kids at home as some will be gearing up for college and travel away from the nest.  For others, the kids may be close to home working and out on their own or still, some, may chose to hang out at home and get their ducks in a row!  Any of these scenario's are a perfectly normal course of life really.

So too is the mental preparation for a potential major transition that is about to come over many families.  I believe that it is a human reaction to put off the inevitable, but it is important to be ready for it as the time nears.  Parents may find themselves 'holding on' this summer as if it may be the last time they will
spend with their kids before they move on in their lives.  But this perception is far from the truth.  It is by no means 'the last time' but rather the beginnings of new and better times!

Now is a time to gather and enjoy the company of the ones we have loved, cared for and brought up in this world and to make sure they know that we will miss them very much, but are also very proud of them and where they are going with their lives. While true, times will change and so will what we have come to be comfortable with as a 'normal' part of life.  It is also important to recognize that this doesn't mean the end!  It is just a time to re-adjust and adapt to new expectations and family rituals with our young adults.

Take the time to relish in their presence this summer!  Maybe take a trip or plan some random day trips to those places you can both enjoy!  They are growing up fast and the future is all theirs, but never does that mean that we as parents aren't a part of that future.  The days to come although scary to some, will be the new beginnings for both parent and son/daughter.


How are you spending the days of summer with your son or daughter as they prepare to jump off into the big world and their new lives?

Editor's Welcome

Let The Good Times Roll.

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

One of the things that sticks in my mind when 'baby boomer' is mentioned or brought up, is the music that came from the 60's generation.  In fact, my personal opinion is that some of the greatest music came out of this era and is much of the roots that laid out the base for modern day music.  Although, I often times feel that there really isn't anything 'today' that can compete with the music of yesterday!  But, someone once said, "let us not forget our roots".  Recently, one of our featured writers did a post on an old familiar song from Zager and Evans, and I have not been able to stop humming it in my head since I read her post!  But then this is nothing new for me and I am sure I speak for many in this type of regard.
 
At times, the music from this era of time signified many things to many people.  Uncertainty, turbulence, a dawning of a new age....it all stood for something.  This generation had a vision to make the world a better place, and part of this vision was conveyed in the music which came out of this time.  However you slice it, memories are abound for most when it comes to good music.
 

Empty Nest and Retirement

I have heard it said before that everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when certain tragic and/or historical events have taken place in the past.  I am sure that many of us can relate the same principal to where we were and what we were doing when the newest hit from a group or musician of this time, hit the airwaves or the TV shows that showcased much of the music of the time. My wife is reminisent of the many Saturday mornings at her aunts house, where her uncles would gather around the TV for Soul Train.  Even today when I hear certain songs come on the radio it brings back memories of something as silly as being in the car when my mom drove up to the bank drive-thru window or what we had for dinner on a typical Saturday night!
 
No matter how silly, trivial, or in some cases embarassing these memories may be for us, they are a big part of who we are, as was the music of this era.  In many ways be it good or bad, it did help to shape us and our positions on many matters that we would and will face throughout our lives.  I often wonder if todays youth will feel the same impact on this current generation of music, when they get to a point in life that they can look back into the past and see where they were and where the world seemed to be going.  Will they be able to see the beauty in the music of their time?  For that matter, will they recognize any social impact that their generation had on society as what we have seen in the 60's and 70's?
 
I am sure as it always is, it all comes down to the person, perspective and opinion as to what the time really stood for.  But for those of us who embrace the music of the 60's, it is hard to see it any less than good memories, simpler times, and a positive view of our future.

What kind of stories, memories, or musical favorites do you have to share in regards to the music that 'shaped a generation'?

Editor's Welcome

A Moment In The Sun.

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Some things in life we do not for profit, nor for recognition but rather we do it out of love and in the name of responsibility as a parent.  Teaching our kids through wisdom, experience and giving our guidance is an important role we as parents serve and most definitely helps to define who and what they become as they turn into young adults.  To me, there is nothing more gratifying than to be told by your son or daughter, some way that you benefited them with talks or actions through their childhood.  Unfortunately, at least for this parent....it doesn't happen often enough!  Which is more of the reason to savor it when it does!

Empty Nest and RetirementWhich is exactly what happened last night when our son and his girlfriend came over for dinner.  He and I were sitting at the table with his girlfriend and he began to speak, in a very serious tone....something I am not used to with him, the jokster. He almost looked like he was trying to find the right words.   For a moment I panicked...  I think out of fatherly sympathy to give some relief for the desperate search for words he seemed to be having, I said something comical, to which he didn't even flinch.  No, this was serious stuff this kid was contemplating on.

Then, he came out and said it.  I was thinking, "your going to be a grandpa".  What came out of his mouth shocked me.  He said, "I am really grateful that you taught me how to use a chainsaw when I was 15 years old."   A wave of relief came over me and instantaneously a moment of absolute pride in what he had just said.  Not so much proud of myself for teaching him to chainsaw at 15 years old, but rather proud of him and what he did with that simple day of chainsaw etiquette and safety and the many days of practice that followed throughout the years of living in the mountains.  There was also a feeling of completion, or satisfaction of what he did with those teachings.

Recently, he achieved a major goal in his career path, as he was hired on to the Alaska Division Of Forestry as a firefighter.  He returned from the Alaska interior last week, after being on the fire line of a large wild land fire that threatened a small town and some local villages.  He had the time of his life and made quite the impression with his commander with his hard work, determination and effort ....another thing that made us shine as all the work ethic and responsibility we instilled in him paid off.  So upon his return, his commander commenced training with him for his Class 'C' chainsaw certification.

What happened next was incredible!  His team leader found out he had prior knowledge and experience with chainsaws, found out that in fact he owned his own, and said he would bypass the training and see what John had in him.  The bottom line is he passed, hands down, felled his trees correctly and precisely, operated the equipment efficiently and safely, and scored his Class 'C' certificate!  This enables him to operate a saw on the fire lines which moves him up the ladder and enhances his resume for his future with the Division Of Forestry or any other agencies!  Kudos, kiddo!!

If I was to take anything out of this moment, I think it would be that sometimes even the smallest things, the simplest talks, and encouraging our kids to think out of the proverbial box that they are subjected to in other social and learning outlets, enhances their chances for success in their future.  I guess in our minds we never realized or thought he would move out just weeks after graduation from High School.  When he did we were concerned and wondered if he was ready for the real world.  He has stumbled and learned and learned and stumbled, but he has achieved some major steps in his few years out of the nest.  To hear from him about  the gratitude he had in me contributing lessons to him that helped with his success, was about the greatest gift a dad could have.  It was a moment in the sun!

What are some of the moments of glory you, as the empty nester parent, have experienced in the form of gratitude straight from the mouths of your young adults?

Editor's Welcome

A Time To Reflect And Offer Thanks.

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

My hope is that this weeks 'From The Editor' piece finds everyone relaxed after a three-day Memorial weekend!  With our sights on summer, the BBQ's and outdoor activities that will be much on our minds, this surely was a great weekend to kick off the summer of 2011!  I also hope that we all took some time to think about what this Memorial Day weekend stands for... 

With so many of our women and men in the armed forces stretched out in so many places around the world, it just seems so important and appropriate to recognize the great duty they are serving, and the immense duty that so many have given in years past.  It is thanks to these great men and women that we are able to enjoy so much of our freedoms that encompassed this past 3 day weekend!

The greatness that has served to protect our country and honor our freedom comes in many forms, many ages, and spans through many generations.  One segment of our society which I have given thought to this weekend was to the retirees and baby boomers that have served in wars or secured our freedom in times of heated conflict.  It made me wonder how our readers, who may fall into the retiree or boomer status, had spent their Memorial Day.  One story I heard over the weekend touched me and I felt compelled to share it.

Years ago, a gentleman chose to honor his father and the service he made back in World War II, when he courageously stormed the beach of Normandy, on what we know as 'D' Day.  He took his father on this particular Memorial Day years ago, back to Normandy, France, right to the beach that so many years ago his father had risked his life to secure against tremendous odds.  As anyone could imagine, it was a very emotional time for the father, and even so much for his son.  On this day, they met up with some of the other men who had been on that beach that morning on June 6th,1944, when 160,000 Allied troops landed there to fight the Nazi's and begin a march of freedom through Europe. 

This possibly was the greatest gift a son could give to his father.

Personally, I couldn't even begin to imagine the feelings that went through these brave men, so many years later as they reunited on the beach, that had to remain one of the single most haunting images to stay in their minds, for the rest of their lives.  But facing the odds that were mounted against them they pulled off a victory that changed the tides of the war and what I believe cemented the freedom that you and I share to this day, in this great country, the United States Of America.

My hope is that this weeks Editors piece finds just one soul that has courageously served to secure my freedom.  Be it retired or not, they made a choice to ensure that future generations would be able to enjoy the freedom of choice that is what America stands for.  And for this, I am honored and privileged to say, "thank you!"

If you have served in the military whether it be during wartime or peace, we would be honored if you could share your story, or just sum up what this Memorial Day meant to you?

Editor's Welcome

Graduation: A Time To Let Grow

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The other day, my wife saw something that reminded her of the day our son graduated, 3 years ago, and how life around our home changed in the following weeks so profoundly.  I had to stop what I was doing at the time and could not help but reflect on that period with her.  An array of emotion swept us both at that moment.  Feelings of uncertainty and uncharted grounds, sadness or emptiness, and feelings of accomplishment and joy overwhelmed us both!

Empty Nest and RetirementLooking back on that period, I remember knowing that things would soon change in his life after graduation, and that quite possibly in the near future we would bear witness to him part from our loving family home.  With him uncertain of his plans after graduation, we both thought he would stick around for a year or so….but several weeks later, he spread his wings and flew, unexpected and with short notice to us.

No preparation can totally absorb the shock and feelings experienced in the onset of the empty nest stage.  However, there are ways that you as a parent can prepare yourself and work through these times to help alleviate the feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and self questioning that can make this time so difficult to cope with.

One of the most important steps we took in our sons’ freshman year, was to look deeper into ourselves.  Mind you, we had always been and still were a strong couple and held a strong bond raising our son as a family.  But we began to look deeper into our individual wants and desires, explored them and acted on them.

We were at a point in life where he was in high school, active with friends, responsible and secure, and we felt comfortable giving to ourselves a little more time to expand into much desired hobbies, career paths and our dreams.  This single impulsive act, we would discover years later, was the best thing we could have ever inadvertently done for ourselves to buffer the transition into the empty nest.  Not to detract from the difficult times or sad moments, because there were many.   But it helped us in building into this time and aided in supplementing the time following his departure.  It helped to better equip us in our ability to stand back at safe distance.  ‘Safe’, to give him space to stumble and grow….and ‘safe’, to be there if we had to intervene in a guiding role, without making him feel less than independent.

During this most important time in our child’s life, we as parents share that important time with them.  After all, it is our long years of patience, diligence, teachings and love that has helped them to shape their morals and character. 

This is the foundation for the rest of their lives. 

But let’s not forget that that this is not a pioneering experience, and that there are things we can do to make this transition easier on ourselves.  Besides that of the experts, the best advice is sometimes found from those who have walked the path before us.  I have included some links I believe you may find beneficial to your journey into the empty nest.  Remember to share them with friends or family you may know of who is possibly experiencing similar times.

You can also find these links in our ‘Must Visit Websites’ section on StageofLife.com

In the coming days and weeks, life will certainly change forever for many parents and as well for their kids.  Remember, it is important to share this time with them but to be aware of the importance to give them their space to grow into their new roles.  The best thing we as parents can do to support them is to take care of
ourselves.  

Congratulations on your accomplishment as parents!  

The job and its title is never over, but the time to make adjustments to change and entrance into a
happy future is upon you now.  Fear not….this too shall pass!

What other resources do you recommend for Empty Nesters?  Please Contact Us and we'll add those sites to StageofLife.com's list of Must Visit Websites for Empty Nest and Retirement.

Editor's Welcome

Fulfillment In A Time Of Change

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

There is much to do this time of year with spring in order and summer on it’s way. For those who play the important role of parent, plans for the up coming graduation are in full swing.  Your home is more than likely abound with activity making arrangements and preparing for one of the most important days in your child’s life, the party that will follow and the guests and relatives that will be visiting for this event.  In busy times like this there really is no time to give thought to much else and it is so important to stay focused and follow the proverbial checklist to the letter!

Empty Nest and RetirementThere is one thing that you may quite possibly have forgotten though.  This task won’t be on your checklist and is something that can’t be delegated to someone else in the household.   Yet, it will be one of the single most important things that will be associated with your son or daughters graduation.  Simply; what will become of “you” when the party is over and the young adult of the house begins the next step in their life?

For some, life will go on as usual.  But for many, if you haven’t already given some thought to the future months and years to come, now is the time to begin.  If you have followed  my thoughts in past posts you know that I have periodically put emphasis on the importance of ‘thinking of yourself’ in the months leading up to the big event and the coming time of the empty nest.  Through personal experience, I believe that this will be an important consideration you will make prior to your son and/or daughters graduation.

It is no secret that once they graduate their lives will begin to change at somewhat of a rapid pace.  In this time of inevitable change, there becomes a void in the lives of the parent(s) as their role changes from one of leadership and provider to more of support and guidance.  You will always be the “parent” but the
role you play will shift to give your son or daughter room to adjust into their new forming lives and gain their independence.

This is a time where symptoms of ‘empty nest syndrome’ can overtake you.  However, thinking and planning for “you” can be the best remedy for the blues and a filler for the down time that used to be dedicated to raising and providing for your kids.

It is said that life begins when the house is empty!  This of course is only an opinion of some, based on their positive experiences, and to those who are feeling less the bliss, this concept could easily be frowned upon.

But what if many of the symptoms of ‘empty nest syndrome’ had much to do with the state of mind?

If you are reading this piece and are currently struggling with this issue, you are probably thinking that there is no sense of someone trying to tell you what you feel is not real.  The good news is that you are absolutely correct!  What you are feeling is very real and nobody can tell you different.  But, how we handle the feelings that come with the empty nest will be the tell tale of how we either allow ourselves to be taken down with emotion, or how we lift ourselves, acceptingly, to a new stage of life.  And one of the most important tools I have found in doing this is to give to yourself the gift of self accomplishment and the rite to move on and expand on your life.

All that you have done for the pat 18 years is a great accomplishment.  Everything you have instilled into their youth will now begin to pay off for them as they make their way into the ‘real’ world.  This is the first great step for you!  Give yourself that pat on the shoulder and begin to make time now to pursue new hobbies, create fun and exciting customs.  A friend of mine mentioned that she likes to always have something on the calendar to look forward to.  This helps to keep her life exciting and pull her through the stressful days.  Replace those ‘play dates’ with real dates.  Make time with friends to get out, have fun and just socialize as an adult. 

There are so many ways to fill the down time that I can’t even begin to word it in a limited space piece.  The important thing to remember though, is that ‘now’ is your time and you should make the most valuable use of it.

A chipper mind leads to a happy heart!  Don’t allow those sometimes overwhelming emotions to take you over.  Take time to find  new ways to enjoy the coming years of your life.  It will entail adapting to new circumstances, being creative, and doing some soul searching of just ‘who’ you really are and pursuing the things that will complete you as an accomplished person.  The empty nest can be an exciting time if we allow ourselves to open up to new surroundings and open our minds to the infinite possibilities once our kids move on.

How are you handling graduation and the potential of the empty nest which will soon affect your life?

Editor's Welcome

Baby Boomers and the coming wave of retirement

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

It has been difficult for me to stay focused lately with all that has been unfolding around me what with talk of the deficit going into the trillions, a concept I have a very difficult time trying to imagine within my humble lifestyle and meager spending habits. 

Then there is the price of gas going through the ceiling, groceries and products going up in price and uncertainties of just where our economy really is heading.  For now we will leave out the unraveling of world events!  Every time I think I have a plan for saving, which I try to keep on track with, something always seems to come around or an event occurs to make me rethink or re-evaluate my strategy.  

Maybe this is a realistic part of planning for such; improvise, adapt and overcome?!

Empty Nest and RetirementWith the Baby Boomer generation hitting the first wave of 65 this year, and the numbers expected to grow rapidly through the coming years, it will be both interesting and maybe a bit scary to see how this will, for the first time in our history, affect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

Is it any wonder many Baby Boomers are not prepared for what’s to come? 

Truth is, in fact, retirement is sadly becoming an option that many Boomers will not have the opportunity to enjoy at all.

For some, it may well be too late in the game for effective and definitive change in this scenario.  I found an interesting article which touches on 401(K) and investment options that could be helpful for those who still have a chance to salvage and maintain the coming years of retirement. 

Many things have changed within recent years and so many of us are just unsure of what the future holds and where to wisely turn our attention when it comes to our finances and savings.  It may be time for many of us to reposition ourselves and adapt new strategies that will further insure the safety net and nest egg’s of our future. 

With so much changing times around us, there is no better a time to make change!

How much consideration have you given to the current statistics of the future of retirement?

Editor's Welcome

Personal Growth Through The Changes In Life

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

This past week I have been fortunate enough to witness and be a part of the experience of 3 different stories of 3 different people, all whom are dealing with change, recognition of self and new beginnings.

Retirement/Empty NestThe 1st was a woman who had been working for her employer for 7 years, had been loyal, and had given 100% or better for that past 7 years.  She recognized the need to make some changes to better herself.  I saw her this week in the new office, of her own business! 

She told me it was just time to start doing something for herself, and was so glad she took the moves to become self employed!  When I saw her she was glowing, had an incredible energy about her and I have the feeling she will be doing well on her own.

The 2nd was somewhat of a humbling experience for a young man who realized some things about himself and his actions….and reactions that they create.  He realized that although he is honest, works hard & diligently and has a good reputation as a responsible person, there are some qualities in how he carries himself in the presence of others that could use some honing.  The wake-up call was a little harsh, yet necessary apparently.  What he takes away with this will help him with future jobs and opportunities that will enhance his future!  When I spoke with him the other day he was positively  upbeat and came across differently than I have ever heard him in the past.  Some revelations will help to guide one throughout his life!

The 3rd is a remarkable story which is way too complicated to convey in such a short piece!  It’s about a man in his mid 20’s who has come to terms that his life for the past 11 years has been great, but is going nowhere.  He discovered that in order to find the things in life which will motivate him and satisfy his dreams and desires he has to let go of what he has held on to, and recently struggled with, for so long; that sometimes status quo is not always comfortable, slows progress, and that only he has the ability to make the necessary changes…by taking the first step towards momentum and change!

As I watched these events unfold this week I witnessed 3 people go through life changes, enter into a new plateau of their lives, and learn something about themselves in the process that will inevitably aid them in personal growth and aspects of their lives to come.  It was beautiful!  It prompted me to look back in years of my own life and times when I was immersed, myself, in similar experiences; where I was then and how far I’ve come.  Where my mind ’was’ and how I perceive those moments ‘now‘.  Kind of like an inventory of emotions through levels of maturity!  Wow, intense!

How many of us have had this profound experience in our own lives?!

Whether you are retired, or soon to be; bearing an empty nest or very soon, about to.  A baby boomer who has watched so much unfold and the changes that have drawn the lines of generations!  All of us will experience personal growth, achieve balance and acquire wisdom during such impactful moments of our lives.  Just a little something to give some thought to in a world that is constantly demanding of us and moving at such a lightning speed rapid pace.

How can you relate change to the current place and time in your life?  How did the most awkward or difficult decisions help you to get to where you are today?  We want to hear your story!

Editor's Welcome

Your Dreams Of Retirement Or The Empty Nest

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Many of us have been there, and still many are looking forward to the day it comes. Two major life changes, that will inevitably affect us all, is the day our kids take flight leaving an empty nest and a new beginning or the day we can finally take a deep sigh of relief as we find ourselves retired.  Everyone has their wants, dreams and desires of these sacred and enjoyable times!

This month we here at Stage of Life are searching for the reasons that you, the reader,  will look forward to your time of ultimate rest or focus on freedom, in the form of a fun and simple writing contest! 

My thought was to enter a story, myself, and cross my fingers that nobody else enters before the deadline of August 31... I would skate with a cool and easy twenty five bucks! 

…..Huh?!  Not sure that this is what we all  had exactly in mind here, but I was hoping the thought
may stir and encourage you to tell us your story in the form of an original essay, no more than 500 words, with clean and appropriate language.

Retirement/Empty NestThe cool thing is there is no right or wrong entry!  This is a great way for you to express your dreams and share them with the world.  I can tell you this:  the first thing we did when our home became a 2 people abode, was to completely gut, renovate and slightly expand our sons old room.  The reaction from most of our friends and/or family was that we weren’t wasting any time making sure he couldn’t come back home.  Far from the real reason, however, it did get us to thinking! 

We simply wanted a newly renovated room to relax, play music, work out or just hang out and chat together at the end of a long day.  A room that was a ‘dog-free’ zone, where time matters not and clocks don‘t exist.  A den we could love up and enjoy together!

Make sure to take some time and check out our Empty Nest/Retirement contest page and enter your essay, today!  You have to register with StageofLife.com before you can begin, but that is a free and painless process that will actually give you the chance to take advantage of all kinds of deals and discounts, and to be able to have unlimited freedom to write your stories of life anytime you feel the itch to write!  Check it out and we look forward to your entries.

Where will your dreams take you  when your kids move out or you find it time to retire?

Editor's Welcome

A Shift In Parenting

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

This summer, the role of parenting will change for many, as their kids prepare for college and a new life of independence.  As a result of this up and coming moment in our lives, there are multiple changes that will affect both our kids’ lives and our own as parents.  While true that we will always be the parent, the methods of how we parent and the needs of us as parents must make a transition to accommodate the independence and demands which our kids will face in college and/or on their
own.

One thing that experts suggest, for example, is that we try to ‘relate’ our own experiences at that age with our kids and how we handled difficulties, as opposed to ‘stepping in‘ when we see that they have hit roadblocks or stumbling posts, as we may have been so accustomed to doing for them in the past years.  Effective problem solving is a life skill no matter the generation, and will be an asset to our kids throughout their lives!

Retirement/Empty NestIn this mix of change, we mustn’t forget that we also will be exploring new needs as empty nesters.  Even though their needs and demands of us as parents have changed,   young adults still look to us as examples and role models, and our own continuing personal growth is important.  This simply enforces the theory of learning by example!  I personally believe and have experienced that keeping yourself active and busy in the absence of the kids at home, is a vital part of acceptance and a positive part of this transition.  It’s good nutrition for our minds and bodies in this new and sometimes confusing time!

Check out this supportive article for some inspirational thoughts and ideas on how to effectively make this shift in you and your child’s life during this time of passage and personal growth.
Also, make sure to visit our ‘Must Visit Websites’ section to discover more articles and advice for parents.


How are you handling the shift of parenting with your newly graduated son or daughter this summer?

Editor's Welcome

Retirement And Vacation Home Investment

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

In the time honored tradition of summer, many families, couples, singles and seniors alike will hit the roads and airways this summer for their vacations to somewhere of their liking.  Although gas prices are still high and slowly coming down, the die hard traveler spares no expense to seek relaxation in the name of fun, fun in the name of relaxation!  No matter if you decided to travel abroad or stay local, most of us will make plans based on what tailors our unabated quest for the ultimate summer vacation.

RetirementWith interest rates and market prices on housing still low, now may be the best time for retirees or those who will soon retire to invest in that vacation property for summer and winter destination getaways.  Click here to read an article, that suggests an opportunity to take advantage of the vacation rental industry to offset the cost of ownership and possibly even make this a positive cash flow situation!

Although this type of investment may come with some effort, planning and upkeep or maintenance management, and may not be for some, it is a unique way to provide that perfect getaway  for a couple who desires to slow down and enjoy their retirement years.  It does offer a unique alternative to retirement communities and planned getaway spots, and, the beauty of it is that you get to pick the place of your fancy!  If you have ever considered a second home to getaway from life when retirement time comes, this may be an interesting idea to ponder.

Have you given thought to a dream getaway destination or second home for your retirement years?

Editor's Welcome

The Days Of Summer.

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

It's hard to believe that summer is in full swing and half over!  It seems like just yesterday that preparations for graduation ceremonies, plans for senior trips and post grad celebrations were the primary focus of most parents.  With the dust settled, most are now enjoying the summer days focusing on sunshine and fun.

RetirementFor many, this will be the last summer having the kids at home as some will be gearing up for college and travel away from the nest.  For others, the kids may be close to home working and out on their own or still, some, may chose to hang out at home and get their ducks in a row!  Any of these scenario's are a perfectly normal course of life really.

So too is the mental preparation for a potential major transition that is about to come over many families.  I believe that it is a human reaction to put off the inevitable, but it is important to be ready for it as the time nears.  Parents may find themselves 'holding on' this summer as if it may be the last time they will
spend with their kids before they move on in their lives.  But this perception is far from the truth.  It is by no means 'the last time' but rather the beginnings of new and better times!

Now is a time to gather and enjoy the company of the ones we have loved, cared for and brought up in this world and to make sure they know that we will miss them very much, but are also very proud of them and where they are going with their lives. While true, times will change and so will what we have come to be comfortable with as a 'normal' part of life.  It is also important to recognize that this doesn't mean the end!  It is just a time to re-adjust and adapt to new expectations and family rituals with our young adults.

Take the time to relish in their presence this summer!  Maybe take a trip or plan some random day trips to those places you can both enjoy!  They are growing up fast and the future is all theirs, but never does that mean that we as parents aren't a part of that future.  The days to come although scary to some, will be the new beginnings for both parent and son/daughter.


How are you spending the days of summer with your son or daughter as they prepare to jump off into the big world and their new lives?

Editor's Welcome

Let The Good Times Roll.

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

One of the things that sticks in my mind when 'baby boomer' is mentioned or brought up, is the music that came from the 60's generation.  In fact, my personal opinion is that some of the greatest music came out of this era and is much of the roots that laid out the base for modern day music.  Although, I often times feel that there really isn't anything 'today' that can compete with the music of yesterday!  But, someone once said, "let us not forget our roots".  Recently, one of our featured writers did a post on an old familiar song from Zager and Evans, and I have not been able to stop humming it in my head since I read her post!  But then this is nothing new for me and I am sure I speak for many in this type of regard.
 
At times, the music from this era of time signified many things to many people.  Uncertainty, turbulence, a dawning of a new age....it all stood for something.  This generation had a vision to make the world a better place, and part of this vision was conveyed in the music which came out of this time.  However you slice it, memories are abound for most when it comes to good music.
 

Empty Nest and Retirement

I have heard it said before that everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when certain tragic and/or historical events have taken place in the past.  I am sure that many of us can relate the same principal to where we were and what we were doing when the newest hit from a group or musician of this time, hit the airwaves or the TV shows that showcased much of the music of the time. My wife is reminiscent of the many Saturday mornings at her aunts house, where her uncles would gather around the TV for Soul Train.  Even today when I hear certain songs come on the radio it brings back memories of something as silly as being in the car when my mom drove up to the bank drive-thru window or what we had for dinner on a typical Saturday night!
 
No matter how silly, trivial, or in some cases embarrassing these memories may be for us, they are a big part of who we are, as was the music of this era.  In many ways be it good or bad, it did help to shape us and our positions on many matters that we would and will face throughout our lives.  I often wonder if today's youth will feel the same impact on this current generation of music, when they get to a point in life that they can look back into the past and see where they were and where the world seemed to be going.  Will they be able to see the beauty in the music of their time?  For that matter, will they recognize any social impact that their generation had on society as what we have seen in the 60's and 70's?
 
I am sure as it always is, it all comes down to the person, perspective and opinion as to what the time really stood for.  But for those of us who embrace the music of the 60's, it is hard to see it any less than good memories, simpler times, and a positive view of our future.

What kind of stories, memories, or musical favorites do you have to share in regards to the music that 'shaped a generation'?

Editor's Welcome

A Moment In The Sun.

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Some things in life we do not for profit, nor for recognition but rather we do it out of love and in the name of responsibility as a parent.  Teaching our kids through wisdom, experience and giving our guidance is an important role we as parents serve and most definitely helps to define who and what they become as they turn into young adults.  To me, there is nothing more gratifying than to be told by your son or daughter, some way that you benefited them with talks or actions through their childhood.  Unfortunately, at least for this parent....it doesn't happen often enough!  Which is more of the reason to savor it when it does!

Empty Nest and RetirementWhich is exactly what happened last night when our son and his girlfriend came over for dinner.  He and I were sitting at the table with his girlfriend and he began to speak, in a very serious tone....something I am not used to with him, the jokster. He almost looked like he was trying to find the right words.   For a moment I panicked...  I think out of fatherly sympathy to give some relief for the desperate search for words he seemed to be having, I said something comical, to which he didn't even flinch.  No, this was serious stuff this kid was contemplating on.

Then, he came out and said it.  I was thinking, "your going to be a grandpa".  What came out of his mouth shocked me.  He said, "I am really grateful that you taught me how to use a chainsaw when I was 15 years old."   A wave of relief came over me and instantaneously a moment of absolute pride in what he had just said.  Not so much proud of myself for teaching him to chainsaw at 15 years old, but rather proud of him and what he did with that simple day of chainsaw etiquette and safety and the many days of practice that followed throughout the years of living in the mountains.  There was also a feeling of completion, or satisfaction of what he did with those teachings.

Recently, he achieved a major goal in his career path, as he was hired on to the Alaska Division Of Forestry as a firefighter.  He returned from the Alaska interior last week, after being on the fire line of a large wild land fire that threatened a small town and some local villages.  He had the time of his life and made quite the impression with his commander with his hard work, determination and effort ....another thing that made us shine as all the work ethic and responsibility we instilled in him paid off.  So upon his return, his commander commenced training with him for his Class 'C' chainsaw certification.

What happened next was incredible!  His team leader found out he had prior knowledge and experience with chainsaws, found out that in fact he owned his own, and said he would bypass the training and see what John had in him.  The bottom line is he passed, hands down, felled his trees correctly and precisely, operated the equipment efficiently and safely, and scored his Class 'C' certificate!  This enables him to operate a saw on the fire lines which moves him up the ladder and enhances his resume for his future with the Division Of Forestry or any other agencies!  Kudos, kiddo!!

If I was to take anything out of this moment, I think it would be that sometimes even the smallest things, the simplest talks, and encouraging our kids to think out of the proverbial box that they are subjected to in other social and learning outlets, enhances their chances for success in their future.  I guess in our minds we never realized or thought he would move out just weeks after graduation from High School.  When he did we were concerned and wondered if he was ready for the real world.  He has stumbled and learned and learned and stumbled, but he has achieved some major steps in his few years out of the nest.  To hear from him about  the gratitude he had in me contributing lessons to him that helped with his success, was about the greatest gift a dad could have.  It was a moment in the sun!

What are some of the moments of glory you, as the empty nester parent, have experienced in the form of gratitude straight from the mouths of your young adults?

Editor's Welcome

A Time To Reflect And Offer Thanks.

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

My hope is that this weeks 'From The Editor' piece finds everyone relaxed after a three-day Memorial weekend!  With our sights on summer, the BBQ's and outdoor activities that will be much on our minds, this surely was a great weekend to kick off the summer of 2011!  I also hope that we all took some time to think about what this Memorial Day weekend stands for... 

With so many of our women and men in the armed forces stretched out in so many places around the world, it just seems so important and appropriate to recognize the great duty they are serving, and the immense duty that so many have given in years past.  It is thanks to these great men and women that we are able to enjoy so much of our freedoms that encompassed this past 3 day weekend!

Empty Nest and RetirementThe greatness that has served to protect our country and honor our freedom comes in many forms, many ages, and spans through many generations.  One segment of our society which I have given thought to this weekend was to the retirees and baby boomers that have served in wars or secured our freedom in times of heated conflict.  It made me wonder how our readers, who may fall into the retiree or boomer status, had spent their Memorial Day.  One story I heard over the weekend touched me and I felt compelled to share it.

Years ago, a gentleman chose to honor his father and the service he made back in World War II, when he courageously stormed the beach of Normandy, on what we know as 'D' Day.  He took his father on this particular Memorial Day years ago, back to Normandy, France, right to the beach that so many years ago his father had risked his life to secure against tremendous odds.  As anyone could imagine, it was a very emotional time for the father, and even so much for his son.  On this day, they met up with some of the other men who had been on that beach that morning on June 6th,1944, when 160,000 Allied troops landed there to fight the Nazi's and begin a march of freedom through Europe. 

This possibly was the greatest gift a son could give to his father.

Personally, I couldn't even begin to imagine the feelings that went through these brave men, so many years later as they reunited on the beach, that had to remain one of the single most haunting images to stay in their minds, for the rest of their lives.  But facing the odds that were mounted against them they pulled off a victory that changed the tides of the war and what I believe cemented the freedom that you and I share to this day, in this great country, the United States Of America.

My hope is that this weeks Editors piece finds just one soul that has courageously served to secure my freedom.  Be it retired or not, they made a choice to ensure that future generations would be able to enjoy the freedom of choice that is what America stands for.  And for this, I am honored and privileged to say, "thank you!"

If you have served in the military whether it be during wartime or peace, we would be honored if you could share your story, or just sum up what this Memorial Day meant to you?

Editor's Welcome

Graduation: A Time To Let Grow

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The other day, my wife saw something that reminded her of the day our son graduated, 3 years ago, and how life around our home changed in the following weeks so profoundly.  I had to stop what I was doing at the time and could not help but reflect on that period with her.  An array of emotion swept us both at that moment.  Feelings of uncertainty and uncharted grounds, sadness or emptiness, and feelings of accomplishment and joy overwhelmed us both!

Empty Nest and RetirementLooking back on that period, I remember knowing that things would soon change in his life after graduation, and that quite possibly in the near future we would bear witness to him part from our loving family home.  With him uncertain of his plans after graduation, we both thought he would stick around for a year or so….but several weeks later, he spread his wings and flew, unexpected and with short notice to us.

No preparation can totally absorb the shock and feelings experienced in the onset of the empty nest stage.  However, there are ways that you as a parent can prepare yourself and work through these times to help alleviate the feelings of loneliness, emptiness, and self questioning that can make this time so difficult to cope with.

One of the most important steps we took in our sons’ freshman year, was to look deeper into ourselves.  Mind you, we had always been and still were a strong couple and held a strong bond raising our son as a family.  But we began to look deeper into our individual wants and desires, explored them and acted on them.

We were at a point in life where he was in high school, active with friends, responsible and secure, and we felt comfortable giving to ourselves a little more time to expand into much desired hobbies, career paths and our dreams.  This single impulsive act, we would discover years later, was the best thing we could have ever inadvertently done for ourselves to buffer the transition into the empty nest.  Not to detract from the difficult times or sad moments, because there were many.   But it helped us in building into this time and aided in supplementing the time following his departure.  It helped to better equip us in our ability to stand back at safe distance.  ‘Safe’, to give him space to stumble and grow….and ‘safe’, to be there if we had to intervene in a guiding role, without making him feel less than independent.

During this most important time in our child’s life, we as parents share that important time with them.  After all, it is our long years of patience, diligence, teachings and love that has helped them to shape their morals and character. 

This is the foundation for the rest of their lives. 

But let’s not forget that that this is not a pioneering experience, and that there are things we can do to make this transition easier on ourselves.  Besides that of the experts, the best advice is sometimes found from those who have walked the path before us.  I have included some links I believe you may find beneficial to your journey into the empty nest.  Remember to share them with friends or family you may know of who is possibly experiencing similar times.

You can also find these links in our ‘Must Visit Websites’ section on StageofLife.com

In the coming days and weeks, life will certainly change forever for many parents and as well for their kids.  Remember, it is important to share this time with them but to be aware of the importance to give them their space to grow into their new roles.  The best thing we as parents can do to support them is to take care of
ourselves.  

Congratulations on your accomplishment as parents!  

The job and its title is never over, but the time to make adjustments to change and entrance into a
happy future is upon you now.  Fear not….this too shall pass!

What other resources do you recommend for Empty Nesters?

Editor's Welcome

Fulfillment In A Time Of Change

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

There is much to do this time of year with spring in order and summer on it’s way. For those who play the important role of parent, plans for the up coming graduation are in full swing.  Your home is more than likely abound with activity making arrangements and preparing for one of the most important days in your child’s life, the party that will follow and the guests and relatives that will be visiting for this event.  In busy times like this there really is no time to give thought to much else and it is so important to stay focused and follow the proverbial checklist to the letter!

Empty Nest and RetirementThere is one thing that you may quite possibly have forgotten though.  This task won’t be on your checklist and is something that can’t be delegated to someone else in the household.   Yet, it will be one of the single most important things that will be associated with your son or daughters graduation.  Simply; what will become of “you” when the party is over and the young adult of the house begins the next step in their life?

For some, life will go on as usual.  But for many, if you haven’t already given some thought to the future months and years to come, now is the time to begin.  If you have followed  my thoughts in past posts you know that I have periodically put emphasis on the importance of ‘thinking of yourself’ in the months leading up to the big event and the coming time of the empty nest.  Through personal experience, I believe that this will be an important consideration you will make prior to your son and/or daughters graduation.

It is no secret that once they graduate their lives will begin to change at somewhat of a rapid pace.  In this time of inevitable change, there becomes a void in the lives of the parent(s) as their role changes from one of leadership and provider to more of support and guidance.  You will always be the “parent” but the
role you play will shift to give your son or daughter room to adjust into their new forming lives and gain their independence.

This is a time where symptoms of ‘empty nest syndrome’ can overtake you.  However, thinking and planning for “you” can be the best remedy for the blues and a filler for the down time that used to be dedicated to raising and providing for your kids.

It is said that life begins when the house is empty!  This of course is only an opinion of some, based on their positive experiences, and to those who are feeling less the bliss, this concept could easily be frowned upon.

But what if many of the symptoms of ‘empty nest syndrome’ had much to do with the state of mind?

If you are reading this piece and are currently struggling with this issue, you are probably thinking that there is no sense of someone trying to tell you what you feel is not real.  The good news is that you are absolutely correct!  What you are feeling is very real and nobody can tell you different.  But, how we handle the feelings that come with the empty nest will be the tell tale of how we either allow ourselves to be taken down with emotion, or how we lift ourselves, acceptingly, to a new stage of life.  And one of the most important tools I have found in doing this is to give to yourself the gift of self accomplishment and the rite to move on and expand on your life.

All that you have done for the pat 18 years is a great accomplishment.  Everything you have instilled into their youth will now begin to pay off for them as they make their way into the ‘real’ world.  This is the first great step for you!  Give yourself that pat on the shoulder and begin to make time now to pursue new hobbies, create fun and exciting customs.  A friend of mine mentioned that she likes to always have something on the calendar to look forward to.  This helps to keep her life exciting and pull her through the stressful days.  Replace those ‘play dates’ with real dates.  Make time with friends to get out, have fun and just socialize as an adult. 

There are so many ways to fill the down time that I can’t even begin to word it in a limited space piece.  The important thing to remember though, is that ‘now’ is your time and you should make the most valuable use of it.

A chipper mind leads to a happy heart!  Don’t allow those sometimes overwhelming emotions to take you over.  Take time to find  new ways to enjoy the coming years of your life.  It will entail adapting to new circumstances, being creative, and doing some soul searching of just ‘who’ you really are and pursuing the things that will complete you as an accomplished person.  The empty nest can be an exciting time if we allow ourselves to open up to new surroundings and open our minds to the infinite possibilities once our kids move on.

How are you handling graduation and the potential of the empty nest which will soon affect your life?

Editor's Welcome

Baby Boomers and the coming wave of retirement

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

It has been difficult for me to stay focused lately with all that has been unfolding around me what with talk of the deficit going into the trillions, a concept I have a very difficult time trying to imagine within my humble lifestyle and meager spending habits. 

Then there is the price of gas going through the ceiling, groceries and products going up in price and uncertainties of just where our economy really is heading.  For now we will leave out the unraveling of world events!  Every time I think I have a plan for saving, which I try to keep on track with, something always seems to come around or an event occurs to make me rethink or re-evaluate my strategy.  

Maybe this is a realistic part of planning for such; improvise, adapt and overcome?!

Empty Nest and RetirementWith the Baby Boomer generation hitting the first wave of 65 this year, and the numbers expected to grow rapidly through the coming years, it will be both interesting and maybe a bit scary to see how this will, for the first time in our history, affect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

Is it any wonder many Baby Boomers are not prepared for what’s to come? 

Truth is, in fact, retirement is sadly becoming an option that many Boomers will not have the opportunity to enjoy at all.

For some, it may well be too late in the game for effective and definitive change in this scenario.  I found an interesting article which touches on 401(K) and investment options that could be helpful for those who still have a chance to salvage and maintain the coming years of retirement. 

Many things have changed within recent years and so many of us are just unsure of what the future holds and where to wisely turn our attention when it comes to our finances and savings.  It may be time for many of us to reposition ourselves and adapt new strategies that will further insure the safety net and nest egg’s of our future. 

With so much changing times around us, there is no better a time to make change!

How much consideration have you given to the current statistics of the future of retirement?

Editor's Welcome

When The Cat Is Away...

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

  Recently my wife and I journeyed off on vacation.  Our primary task was some R&R while house and dog sitting for a friend at her beach bungalow on the central California coast.  What a tough gig….someone has to do it!    In doing so we left behind our own home and dogs which obviously needed the same set of circumstantial attention.  To our rescue came an old familiar presence, here, around the homestead.  Someone the dogs knew and adored, someone who knew the ropes, was rehearsed in keeping the wood stove burning on the still cold days and nights.  Someone who had ‘been there, done that’….someone we could absolutely depend on and trust.
 
Empty Nest and RetirementI can’t speak for all parents, but our own personal experience was that when our son left home to venture out on his own, he would be out to stay.  He had determination despite his inexperience on complete independence, and he had the courage to face the “unexpected” and adapt to make things work in his favor.  Sure, like many parents we had our moments of concern and did at times worry.  But overall we knew he would find the ways and make the moves. 

There was also a time where we were reluctant to ask him to stop by to maybe feed the dogs if we were running late getting back home for the night, or keep an eye out on things if we were away for a couple of days.  It would seem silly that a parent, one who invested so much time and love in raising the boy could feel like this.  But, looking back on it, I think it was because we wanted to give him the space to grow and felt like maybe the last thing he would want to do was revert back to his position in the pack….even if it was only temporary or brief!
 
Imagine our surprise when he can’t wait to house sit for us!  He says, staying here is like being on vacation and staying at an Inn!
 
If you would have asked either of us a couple of years ago if something like this could happen, we would have simply laughed!  But what we discovered are a couple of things that make this arrangement kind of unique.  Although still growing, learning and discovering more of himself everyday, he has come a long way in his nearly 3 years of independence out on his own.  He has had some room to spread his wings and develop his ways without mom and dad at the reins. 

Even though it was difficult at first, as ‘letting go’ always is, it is an accomplished feeling to sit back now and see the changes and to feel the accomplishments.  His is attitude and the way he carries himself is so much better these days.  The responsibility is present and you can see the humble  confidence shine through in his words and actions.
 
It is often said that home is where the heart is and his very small cramped quarter apartment is something he is happy to be in.   But, to be a little more spread out in a home that has taken on some changes since he left it several years ago, being here is apparently a more suitable get away to him!  The first time we heard how he felt about house sitting and watching the dogs we were a little shocked.  Actually, we didn’t think it would go over so well.  But time spent in his old familiar surroundings turned out to be better than we could have anticipated.
 
This is the 3rd time he has taken on the task of looking over things for us and living here while we were away and it has been great.  We don’t worry as much knowing he is here.  And he has found a new appreciation for respecting the way we like things done.  The first time we came home to a little bit of mini surprises and had to tactfully point out a few things that we preferred be done differently. 

The second time was better than the first because he knew what we expected and had more of a plan down as to how to fit his life and needs into our home and ways. 

Now, the third time, the program is down! 

I believe he feels like a major important role as caretaker and responsible adult.  Systems here run as usual without missing too much of a beat and to boot, we can comfortably say that he has had no parties here while we are away!  How do we know this you ask?  Trust me….we know.  Parents always know if they pay attention to key issues and they have a long reaching grasp and can see things from far away!
 
All in all it has worked out wonderfully and we feel blessed to have him still within range to be able to help us out in this capacity.  We realize that this will not always be so.  But the fact is, that it helps us out tremendously and more importantly, the growth and development of a new sense of understanding between parents and young adult has been a magical experience.  As parents, we spend 18 years instilling values, morals, discipline, insight, and direction into their young and blooming lives only to let them go and pray that when they jump from the nest, they will spread wings and fly.  Imagine the satisfaction and joy to see them succeed on their own and to be able to experience their live-in presence, even if brief, once again in the nest that they once called home!  For us, it is a very accomplished feeling!

How have your grown children adapted to the evolving parent/child relationship as adults?

Editor's Welcome

Combined Resources: Benefits For All

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

These economically challenging times have surely created obstacles for many, be it the retired, young start families and everyone in between.  Some stories have been less than triumphant, while others have been testimony to faith and survival.  Many are still hanging in limbo waiting out the storm.  Then there are those who have worked a creative alternative to help get themselves out of difficult times and have done so with a beneficial twist.

Stage of Life - RetirementOne of my aunts and uncle retired long before the housing market and the economy did a belly flop.  They own their home, have remained secure and life continues to be simple for these two retirees, who worked hard all of their lives.  As they have moved along in their retirement years, they began to have different health issues and have had to be more mindful of their living situation.  Those treks up and down the stairs to and from their bedroom each day began to take a toll on their bodies, and other living arrangements were needed within their home to limit the stair climbing activity.

Several years back, one of their daughters, my cousin, and her family found themselves smack in the middle of foreclosure on their home.  Like many who have experienced this unfortunate scenario, they were devastated and had to brush off the dust and start from the bottom again.  As fate would have it, they found a rental just a few houses down from her parents house.  It worked out well being closer to her parents.  The closeness and knit of the family fiber made it a happier time for both families facing their own set of challenges.

What ended up happening from there turned out to be not only a terrific idea, but changed the lives of my aunt and uncle.  The decision was made to add on a large apartment sized room and a spacious bathroom to the back of their house.  This would tie in with the existing family room and back room or office which all became their new living quarters, while the living and dining room as well as the upstairs 3 bedrooms and bathroom became the new home for my cousin and her family.  The kitchen is centrally located in the house and mutually accessible from both newly structured living spaces and is a common area for both families.

A move in like this takes patience, commitment and a willingness to give and take, from both parties, and the end  result brought about a solution to several issues:

  • - There was the chance to help take care of mom and dad with cooking, laundry ect.
  • - The new move could enable my cousins family to save some money for the future.
  • - It brought about the opportunity for a healthier living alternative for the elders.
  • - Above all there is a renewed sense of companionship!

While on vacation this past week in the lower 48, my wife and I stopped in to check out their new ‘pad’ and to visit.  We were amazed at the amount of comfortable and usable living space that was available for my aunt and uncle now, likewise my cousins family, with privacy for both families.

Recently my cousin came in and apologized to my uncle for all of the noise her high school aged son was making with his bass guitar as he practiced upstairs.  My uncle replied with a simple comment; “are you kidding, I love it!  He is fine, don’t worry about it”.  My cousin, alarmed, said, “Who are you and what have you done with my father?!” 

I guess if there is reason to be found in this small instance, it is that with age has come tolerance and appreciation to the noise of two teens, something that apparently wasn’t so abundant when my cousin and her siblings were young!  And, they are just happy to be a part of their daughter and grand kids’lives.  It is obvious by their renewed happiness that it has brought them comfort and as I mentioned earlier, companionship in the retired years knowing that they are not alone.  I haven’t seen them so happy and smile as much in years….it is like new life has been born into them.

The combining of family resources is not a new idea.  In fact many cultures, a long history of immigrants to America, and families caught up in hard economic times of past, have utilized this practice as a way to ‘make it’ through the trying and uncertain times.  What impresses me is the closeness within a family to open the doors to this sort of living arrangement and the practicality it is serving to all involved.  If the slow economy and unemployment rates drag on will something like this become a more common spot of the times?

How many of us have given thought to the benefits or disadvantages of combining family living arrangements in hard times?  If you are in this kind of living arrangement or know of someone who is, tell us about your story.

Editor's Welcome

The Nest Half Full

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The period in which your son or daughter leave the house, the empty nest, is an important time in the lives of both the youth and parent alike.  It is a time when your kids set out to carve their own place in the world, and begin their independence. 

For parents, it is a time to pursue those endeavors that may have been set aside during the family raising years, or to reconnect with yourself or a spouse and carve out the next stage of your lives.  For some…parent and youth alike… this is a much anticipated transition and can go smoothly.  Still for others
it can be difficult to let go, or to find the way.  No matter, the kids are always a welcomed part of your home and as parents, we live for their return visits after they have moved out!

But what of the nest that seems to remain conveniently semi occupied….the nest half full?

Stage of Life - RetirementIt is important that we encourage our kids’ independence when they move out on their own.  It’s ok to be a part of their experience so long as we don’t begin to interject too much of our ideals and desires into their lives.  They should have guidance, but in measured doses and with respect to their needs and ideas of what
independence is to them. They should be allowed to make some mistakes….how else do they learn if they are never exposed to consequences or accountability!

One of the last things we as parents want to do is enable our kids.  One downfall of this is that it could potentially make it easy for them to become unaccountable.  This can inevitably affect their jobs, personal relationships, and damage our relations with them.  Every action has a reaction and so too comes a consequence of such.  To allow this basic concept to be swept under the carpet, it encourages them to set the scale lower than would be if they had to be more aware of their actions.  Gone on unchecked, this sort of enablment could manifest into an environment of stress, and a sense of defeat for both parents and their kids. 

For instance, we as parents could begin to embark on a road of self guilt, blaming ourselves for “where we went wrong raising our kids”.  Our kids may become so reliant on us as parents that they could begin to feel and believe they are not completely capable of seeing things through or maintaining goals by themselves.

The potential sense of frustration or failure created by all of this may tend to make time spent together dicey, and all of a sudden those cherished visits, for example, become less than desired.  I have always believed that it is not the length of the visit so much as the quality of time spent together, so we need to make every moment count!

In unison, visits home should be welcomed and cherished.  Obviously, a visit from a son or daughter who is further away than one say within the same town or city plays a big factor in how often they come around.  But whether they come from near or far, they should recognize and respect limits.  The young adults need to recognize and respect the fact that this is now their parents‘ home.  There is a difference between a visit and a part time live-in!  Coming around with the attitude like they still live there could become disrespectful to the personal and private needs of the parents.  Now, some may say; “but, they are always welcome no matter what….”

This is true!  However, there are limits that must be recognized and respected. This is something they will experience in all facets of life, and now, on their own, is a good time to start.

Our son has a key to the house and is welcomed in whether or not we are there.  But this privilege doesn’t come without responsibility and  a couple of simple rules to assure our privacy, our independence, and his safety.  For example, walking in on mom and dad running amok in the ‘natural’ could be a potential bad scene….likewise, him being mistaken for an intruder could be worse! 

Rule #1: call before you pop in! 

He is welcomed to grab a snack if he is over, but don’t clean us out, and if you dirty any dishes, at very least rinse them and put them in the sink and clean up after yourself.  Typically, he is very helpful when he comes over and respects our ‘home’.  But, this wasn’t always the case and did require setting some limits
or at least making him cognizant that this is now indeed, ‘our home’…our sanctuary.  He is welcome anytime, but as harsh as this may sound to some; “you are a visitor now!”

Our intentions, as parents, are good and arise out of the unconditional love we feel for our kids, but we need to make sure we don’t go overboard or allow ourselves to become too complacent. Just as in the years of raising the family, there are adjustments to be made in order to meet new needs and demands accordingly of both parent and young adult.  It takes time and in some cases some patience and understanding, but the shift into the empty nest process can be a fulfilling experience and a nurturing growth into a new stage of life for both parties!

What are some experiences you have had with a nest half full?

Editor's Welcome

Better Health and a Happier Future

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Within the past decade, my wife and I have become so much more aware of what we eat and how we take care of ourselves.  It is  fact that the more aware we are, the better we continue to feel.  There was a time in our lives that we weren’t so concerned.  I believe that this is probably a natural course for many.  You get a little up in age….you start to compensate as you become more aware of your age.

Stage of Life - RetirementEating better, more exercise….like this is an earth shattering revelation.  Yet it is interesting to me how many people, older or younger, just don’t pay too much attention.  With convenience on all levels of life on the rise these days, and our schedules or daily regimens riding on overload, it is so easy to lose sight of such
an important aspect of life. 

Your health!

My wife has always been the ‘guru’ of healthy eating around the household.  She has become the wizard of perfecting meals with ‘a little less of this….a little bit of that because it is better for you’.  Trust me, I never go hungry and often times find meals not only delicious, but very satisfying with less agony from over indulgence.  It is amazing that a lite meal can be so tasty.  It’s a concept that years ago I would have…could have, never imagined much less wanted to.

She has fine tuned her skills and become so much more educated on just what it is that we as a people are really being fed.  Some of the things I have learned, are to say the least, shocking!  She is taking all that she is learning and using it proactively for our benefit.  I have noticed myself , how much less of certain items we buy when grocery shopping, or for that matter how certain isles have just been cut out of our grocery store mapping. 

Take for instance the veggie and fruit section.  A simple fact that she brought up to me lately was to remember back when we were younger., how certain fruits and vegetables were just not an option in certain seasons.  Now, to the delight of some, this is not the case anymore.  Open trade and vast imports have allowed us to get virtually any veggie at any time of the year.  But we are learning through simple awareness and research that this is not necessarily as healthy a benefit as we would like to think.

Where am I going with all of this?

We are concerned with the future.  Being self employed most of our lives, health insurance has never really been a viable option for us.  About the time we were beginning to pay as much as our mortgage each month for insurance, was about the time we had to make a conscious decision to let it go.  Especially considering the fact that, thank God, we have always been very healthy with very little to no doctor visits.  Besides, insurance doesn’t cover alternative healing, something that we have always believed in and lived by!

My wife figured that prevention had to be the better angle for us.  We are both losing weight, not through diet, pills, or  trendy means, but merely eating better food which equates to filling up more efficiently as opposed to empty carbs for instance.  Eating less portions and just overall being more aware of how and what we consume. 

And it is working. 

Too many diets and other miracle methods will lose the weight but will always seems to find it’s way back with a vengeance.  The earlier mentioned makes you feel better.  When you feel better, you are more motivated and willing to explore exercise options.

Her logic is that we may not be able to rely on health care so we need to keep the weight down, eat better consistently, and get into more exercise.  This winter she has become an exercise lunatic!  Something as simple as multiple yoga sessions weekly since last winter has strengthened muscles, brought out muscles she never knew she had, helped her to drop the weight which has made her so much more active and motivated this winter.  So much so that she made the decision to run a marathon this fall!  Now if you would have asked me if she would ever run a marathon a couple of years ago….

In as little as two years, we have both come such a long way with health conscientiousness.  We can only continue to reap the tremendous benefits of such a wonderful lifestyle modification and hope that in the future it will continue to pay off with excellent health and activeness.  It’s a concept that we gave little
thought to in our youth.

What are some of the ways you are effectively modifying your habits to a healthier way of life?

Editor's Welcome

Value, and the Early Bird Special

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The other night, a controversy took place right here in our kitchen with my son and wife over $5.00.  On the side of the value of $5.00 was my wife, which I silently backed up on her reasoning.  In the other corner, treating the $5.00 as if it were some kind of discardable piece of food packaging was our son.  The principle: Is it worth the extra effort to save $5.00 off a ticket price since he is a student, as opposed to paying the regular ‘adult’ price.

The local performers guild was putting on a musical presentation in town and my wife and I along with our son and his girlfriend decided it would be a fun Saturday night out.  Our sons reasoning was that “it is only $5.00” and it wasn’t worth it to try and prove that he and she were college students since they didn't have their student ID‘s with them. 

Stage of Life - RetirementIn the end, we all bought tickets at the door, and his merely stating that he and his girlfriend were students was enough to get them both the $5.00 discount per ticket.  There are still a few places in this country were
“your word” is good enough for honorable!

This small incident brought up a conversation with my wife and I, or rather, rekindled a frequent discussion that we have on how money and the value of saving sometimes seems to be an issue with our son.  For instance, he will claim that going out to eat is cheaper than making meals at home.  In truth, this is more of a
convenience than a matter of affordability whether he admits it or not.

To catch the ’Rise & Shine special’ at the café or the early bird platter at the dinner house can seem like a really cheap meal in itself.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that a package of bacon, a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, and maybe a package of hash browns as opposed to actual potatoes, for the lazier connoisseur, is about what it costs for that Rise & Shiner for two, and is enough to have breakfast, for two, for the next 5 days!  In context, add up the savings for that 5 days of not eating breakfast out and you have gas for the week.  Dinners may not be as cheap as breakfast, but casserole's, or simple ‘stand-bys’ are again a cheaper bet to eating out more frequently and the money saved, again, my amount to paying a bill or two for the month.

Now it’s not like they eat out daily, in their defense.  But there is a simple point to it.  $5.00 may not seem much in itself, but in today’s economy it all adds up and pinching and scrimping should be a priority to the younger generation in college or out on their own for the first time.  It’s not like we didn’t instill this important value in him when he was at home.  We did, and he was a “saving” fool! 

He worked with us summers and holidays when possible as early as 12 years old, collected aluminum cans and would cash them in.  He had jobs at both the local restaurant and at the ski lodge when he was 15 and 16 years old and did periodic work with a contractor friend of ours.  He has never been afraid of honest and hard work, and has seen first hand what saving your money does.  At age 17 he bought his first truck with his own saved money, which cost him $5500.  It was all a result of those years of hard work and saving.

So, where does the belief that $5.00 isn’t any big deal come from? 

Personally, when I went out on my own, my kitchen was fully equipped, stocked and utilized daily.  A few of us friends would pitch in and buy ingredients for dinners at my place.  One weekly delight, for example, was to make a huge batch of Spanish rice and filling for unlimited tacos and have a ‘taco feed’ once a week.  Eating out wasn’t an option for me.  My wife, she was smart.  She moved to Puget Sound in Washington when she was out for the first time.  Every morning, she would drop her crab pot off of the deck and come home from work to find fresh crab on her dinner plate.  Macaroni & Cheese with crab became a main staple when money was tight!

If nothing else, it all makes for an opportunity to throw in parental virtue when he complains that he is “broke as a joke”.  As he struggles into the world on his own he does make those financial decisions that we can only cringe at and compliment him on the ones that are wise….and hope that the later, one day soon outweighs the other!

What are some of the spending habits you see with your kids who are out on their own?  Sometimes as parents, we want to step in and tell them where they are going wrong, but it is important for us to step back and let them make their mistakes and savor their victories.  It is difficult, but necessary for their growth and
independence."

At what point have you, as a parent, stepped in to help avert financial disaster with your son or daughters?!"

Editor's Welcome

The top 10 destinations for the winter loving retiree

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

With definitive signs of winter still very present throughout the United States, it is sometimes difficult for some to imagine an end to it all and to savor the scents, sounds, sights and sensation of the coming spring.  This winter seems, so far, to have been a hard run for most areas with continued snowstorms and  the excessive cold which is rampant and unforgiving.   What usually accompanies these conditions are the cries and complaints of sun worshipers and folks who would rather be soaking in the beach air in perhaps, Maui!

Stage of Life - RetirementBut what of the segment of society that craves the beauty and subtle peace that comes with ‘old man winter’?  Yes, as hard as it is to believe there are those who would rather enjoy a warm fire, watching the snow flakes flutter to the ground, or, take in some skiing, ice skating, snow shoeing or maybe just a walk in nature amongst the wintry bliss.  And who better to spotlight with this scenario than the ones who have the most time and resolve to commit to such winter wonderland getaways, but the winter warrior retiree!

According to US News, there are 10 top places in the U.S. that retirees seem to flock to for the enjoyment of the cold snowy life, winter sports, and winter relaxation.  The author’s reasoning is simple; for most workers there is the need to keep up on shoveling the driveway, for example, in order to function in day to day necessities.  For the retiree, it is much easier to just stay in and ‘pour that second cup of coffee' and enjoy the day through a window!  In my personal experience, it is difficult to find the elder portion of society who love to endure the winter life.  But, there are a few retired folks out there that enjoy all the
physical drive and emotional sanctity that winter has to offer.

Here are the top 10 winter wonderland getaways:

1.  Juneau, Alaska.
2.  Portland, Maine.
3.  Salt Lake City, Utah.
4.  Burlington, Vermont.
5.  Manchester, New Hampshire.
6.  Minneapolis, Minnesota.
7.  Aurora, Colorado.
8.  Marquette, Michigan.
9.  Syracuse, New York.
10. South Bend, Indiana.

For those who are feint of heart where snow is concerned, these may be some fairly intimidating locations to spend a winter in retirement.  But for the snow bunnies and the cold weather junkies, these may turn out to be all of next winters’ rave and I recommend you check out the information the articles' author took the time to share with us.

Where are some of the cold locations you like to migrate to for the
winter season?  For those of us who appreciate the big chill….we are anxious to find out!

Editor's Welcome

Changes in Tradition

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

In my younger years, I was a little romantic.  The traditional roses and chocolate, a nice dinner out at the type of restaurant a young man could only afford once a year, and essentially took about everything he made in a year's time to pull it all off.  On occasion, a cute cuddly stuffed Teddy Bear or a piece of jewelry may have even been in the equation!  No matter the person, Valentines Day was the day to show love for the one in my life.

These days things are a bit different. 

Mind you, it is still a symbolic day of showing your love.  But the way I see it is that roses are over priced, wilt and die.  The last time I gave chocolate it cost me, in addition, a 3 month membership at the local health club to work off all of the calories I was responsible for creating.  Well, ok…there was no health club membership really, but lets say that metaphorically, this is how I felt every time the box of chocolate was opened and I was reminded of how “we really don’t need these”. 

In lieu of all of this as well as appreciating the smaller and finer points of life these days, I…we, really don’t
need to go all out with traditional gifts and such to celebrate our love for one another.

I know that besides birthday, Christmas, Valentines Day and the like, my incredibly  awesome wife is adorned with gifts and showered with love throughout the year, not exclusively on a given day.  Not only the gifts and such that make a girl flutter with joy, but things of a more intimate nature like random acts of love, thoughts and words that support every facet of our relationship.  Not just one date night a week but sometimes several, like when we were kids.  Things like, the ability to listen.  Not only listen to the problems that she had that day, or issues with her job, but listening to what she is saying; not just with words but her expressions and emotions, a tone in her voice maybe…you can hear a lot when you close your ears and mouth, and open your eyes and mind.

However, a surprise or a treat are essential for keeping the relationship alive.

Last year on Valentines Day, as well as going out for dinner in town, she was given the wood flooring she has wanted since we moved into our current home.  When we moved in, the place needed some serious updating.  It has been and will continue to be an ongoing project for some time, but the one thing she kept stating was how she wished we could scrap the outdated filthy carpet that the previous owner had let her pets have their way with.  Naturally, our 3 dogs on occasion would do their thing on the carpet, mindlessly, because they could smell that other dogs had done the same.  It’s a ‘dog’ thing that we will need Caesar Milan to make sense of.

The night of Valentines Day, and trust me when I tell you this was not staged, we came home from dinner and one of the dogs had gotten sick on the carpet while we were gone.  So, not really wanting to clean it…or worse… up as we had done so many times in the past, I had my wife go out to the garage and get a utility knife for me, and when she returned, thinking I was blowing hot air and wouldn’t do it, I cut the carpet around the puke right there in front of her with her mouth agape, and threw it away….carpet piece and all!  Ironically, I cut it out in the shape of a heart.  The next day we went on a date to go find the wood flooring of her choice.

Unfortunately, due to a very busy year with my business, other projects that needed to be done before the flooring could be put down, as well as other unavoidable circumstances, my gift to her this year may well be to actually install the flooring!  Oops!  In my defense, and she would back me up; the lack of progress has
had nothing to do with laziness.  And, I was just kidding about the installation as a gift.  Reality is that we are right about now ready to install it….ironically one year later, on Valentines Day!  Last years gift was unexpected, and a little untimely but nonetheless went over well.

Please, tell me that I…we, are not the only couple who celebrate our love in such a casual way on this traditional day of  the celebration of love?

We would… love… for you to share some ideas of maybe non traditional ways to share the day.  One suggestion I heard the other day was, sharing the gift of art.  For two artists, this actually sounded like a neat idea!  Take and make a date to an art gallery, do lunch and then buy one another a piece of art that each one finds to their delight and calling.  What ways do you celebrate this day of celebration
of love with your spouse?

What ways do you celebrate this day of love with your spouse?

Editor's Welcome

How does the lack of a good 'challenge' affect you?

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

One of the common qualities of winter is that it’s a time for rest and inactivity.  It’s a time for all life to hibernate and regenerate;  find peace and solace in the chance to rest from the world and life’s stresses and strife.  Nowhere has this been more apparent to me than here in Alaska.  

The long dark cold days of winter provide the perfect ingredients for a time of cessation and deep thought.  But lately, I fear that the thoughts and excessive rest have become a point of indecision for some, in our circle of friends.

Plagued with too much time on his hands and lack of social activity has put one man we know into a bit of a quandary.  As of late, he has began a pro and con list for leaving Alaska, permanently, and going back to his home state of Maine.  His wife works here locally, and he spends his days at home, retired, fixing, maintaining and keeping up on the house and the property they live on.  It’s a good life for him and he has stated his profound love for this state, the area, and the place they reside.  But in the darkest recesses of winter, this past December he found himself just wanting to travel outside and see friends and family back in Maine.

Nothing in his daily rituals and norms seemed to keep him satisfied.

StageofLife.com retirement resourcesAnother couple we know, who both recently retired, decided to part from their California home and spend the majority of the winter here, at their Alaska Igloo. Used to being here only during the summer when the daylight is abundantly long and with plenty of outdoor activities, their quest to live here full time persuaded them to try it out this winter and see how they fare.  Mind you, as a kid he called Alaska “home“ with his family, so it‘s not entirely new to him, just a different stage of life.  But alas, I fear that boredom has began to upset the balance of life for them.  

Besides never knowing what day it is, staying up until the wee hours of the morning and then sleeping in until 11:00AM, for him, there just seems to be a bit of a void in his stride these days.

Then, the other day my wife had a deep discussion with her yoga instructor who, although technically not retired, she could easily say that ‘time is on her side’!  The talk they had that day shed some light on the situation that seems to be creating such a ruckus in the lives of some of our retired friends.  The one thing that seems to be the common denominator in all three scenarios here is….the lack of challenge.  After hearing what my wife relayed back to me on the subject and the conversation with her friend, it makes sense.  However, as in most any situation, I imagine that it all depends on the person and circumstances as to how things affect that person.

The first individual worked much of his life in a mill.  Now, these days find him doing honey-do’s and other chores around home, which occupies his time, but lacks the comradery of fellow workers, cranking out production, deadlines and the like that he has been used to the majority of his working days.

Our other two friends both used to be on a city police force.  He a peace officer and she a crime analyst; both of them no doubt ever had a dull moment from day to day and the routine was never the same.  Now, essentially new to the retirement gig, they are seeking out means of other interests, taking advantage of down time and finding that possibly the lack of challenge may be what they miss the most.

The yoga instructor used to work in the food industry and as well, she was a photographer.  Surely, these two lines of work found her on the go constantly, with high expectations, deadlines and a certain level of stress.  To balance ones self in these kinds of settings takes a person who has incredible patience and  the
ability to create and maintain perimeters to stay on task no matter the immediate circumstances at hand and to be able to multi task.  These days, with her husband working abroad a month on/a month off, her abundance of time finds her lacking what she knew best in her active working years.

For me, personally, I can see where lack of challenge makes me cranky, unsettled and feeling incomplete.  I have worked diligently and hard all of my life, I am methodical when taking on tasks or problem solving and accomplish much with logic and organization.  The challenge for me will be to find ways to occupy my time in both the physical sense as well as socially, to grace my days with….well, challenges!

 Recently, this past summer, this fact was affirmed when I went down to the lower 48 to help out my father with a major undertaking.  There were levels of down time I would experience, due to prevalent circumstances, where I found myself feeling a little useless and at times frustrated.  I felt like I was unable to set a realistic goal, jump in and focus my intent on accomplishing any given portion of the task at hand.  It was not until I was given the green light to cut loose that, I got the ‘eye of the tiger’, put my head down and went full force into accomplishing the major project I set out to do.  The outcome was huge, and a point of self satisfaction to me.  It was a challenge that I met it with determination and eventual resolve.  Yes dad, we did wonders that week, didn‘t we!

How many of us, retired or not, have given thought to how a simple concept like, “challenge“, can drive us and how the lack of challenge may affect us?  From what I have witnessed lately and experienced myself, it may definitely be something worth checking into.  We may find that a good challenge is what drives us and just what the retired life needs.

What challenges have you faced that made you a stronger or better person?

Editor's Welcome

The Household of One

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

The Household Of One.

With February nearly upon us, the time to start thinking of Valentines Day is near.  When most of us think of Valentines Day I believe that we tend to envision couples, dating, roses, love, and all of the romance and mushy stuff that comes with the territory.  And for good reason.  But how many of us associate this day of
love with the empty nest?  To expand on that thought, how many of us will associate this day and what it represents, with an empty nest  household of one?

Empty Nest Editor PieceBeing a single parent takes a very unique individual.  It isn’t always easy for a single parent raising kids on their own.  Typically, many sacrifices are made financially and  family oriented experiences such as vacations, and other extra curricular activities may be forfeited.  I witnessed this first hand when I was younger, with a friend of mine. His mom, a single parent, did her best to provide a good life and opportunities for him, and it was seldom an easy road for either of them.  But we have to give a ‘hats off’ to the single parent and the pride they will experience in seeing their kids take off on their own to meet the challenges of the big world.  The payoff of all of that hard work will be seeing their son or
daughter succeed in their personal endeavors!

So here you are, the single parent, pretty much alone as your son and/or daughter has moved out and began their new lives.  You nurtured them, provided in all ways for their well being, and passed on what ‘life’ skills you could to help them for this day of their new found freedom.  But there is a unique situation born of this day on their departure from home.  Now, as well, you are free!

Gone are the days that may have had a schedule to maintain around your kids for so many years, and had to maybe work long or extra hours to bring home the necessary finances for the families well being along with all of the responsibilities that come with the position of being the sole provider.  Trying to conceive an empty nest household of one could well seem like a lonely time to most people.  But on the contrary, this may well be a time to expand on all of those things you always wanted to do as a single parent but couldn’t.

This newfound freedom with the house empty may prove to allow the chance to do things with that special person that may have otherwise been off limits before, or difficult to pursue, with all of the standard parental obligations.  But what of the single parent that is truly alone?

Being alone isn’t always so bad.  In fact, there are many people who prefer this and may well embrace this status come Valentines Day.  A night out treating yourself to dinner and a movie, catching live music at a coffee house, meeting with a friend who may be in a similar circumstance, or, maybe just a quiet night at home may be just what the doctor ordered for the single parent experiencing the household of one.

The opportunities for this circumstance seem to be vast.  With no strings no commitments and no real responsibilities, a single mom or dad experiencing being alone for the first time can virtually create an array of ways to spend this Valentines Day or any other day for that matter.  It can be a time to explore your inner self or expand on a creative outlet.  Maybe take up the instrument that you always wanted to play but never had the time or finances to do.  That dream tropical vacation that seemed so far from reach may now be a little more realistic. 

The possibilities are vast and the opportunity may be knocking on your door.  This stands to be determined by the unique qualities of each individual and their personal circumstances.  Rest assured, the season is ripe with possibilities and opportunities, and they are all within reach for the household of one, on this first empty nest Valentines Day...

Are you a household of one?

Editor's Welcome

The Retired 'Time' Junkie

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Tonight, shortly after walking in the door from a day of work thus ending a long week, I received a phone call from a friend of ours.  He retired a little less than a year ago, very willingly, and has behaved very similar to a teenager, short of graduating high school, ever since. 

This is how the call went:

  • Me:  “Hey, what are you up to youngster”?
  • Him: “Nothing.”
  • Me: “Well, I’m sorry to hear that.  I just walked in the door and feel that I will be doing the same ’nothing’ here in a few minutes.”
  • Him: “Oh.”
  • Me: “The distinct difference is that…you can!”
  • Him: [boisterous laughter]  “We were wanting to know if you guys want to go see a movie tonight.”
  • Me: “Sure.  What and when?”
  • Him: “I don’t know….what day is it?  Oh, I think it’s Friday…    Uhh…”
  • Me: (thinking quietly to myself, “dude, you need to get a life…again!”)

Empty Nest Editor PieceI think you can see where this is leading.  To appreciate the nature of the beast, or in this case the personality of the character, you would have to know the guy to see the utter humor in it all.  Seldom does he react with much seriousness to any given situation, primarily because he really doesn’t have to!  He takes his retirement for all it’s worth….and makes sure to let you know about it! 

He reminds me of our son not too many years ago when he was constantly “bored”, or, of someone who has way too much time on his hands and far too much relaxation happening!  I suppose that he has earned the right…..but I can still laugh at him!

In fact, I find it comical that from time to time I will get calls through the day from retirees I know just wanting to see what time of day it is, who is President this year, or just shoot the breeze…and usually all while I am working, trying to make my honest dues.   It cracks me up how they will forget that others are still supporting the economy and ‘working like the working man do.’  Yet, it affects them not, because, all they know is that they aren’t working and that is that.  Too funny!

Personally I just humor the calls and the lack of attention to the detail of opposite lifestyles.  Being self employed it is easier to keep them company on the phone for a brief period if I can talk rather than to point out to them their responsibilities under the ‘Handbook For The Recently Retired‘, chapter 12, sub-section B, paragraph 2, which states something to the effect: “…recognize that you no longer share a equivocally balanced existence to those in your circle who are still working class…”  And continues to go something like….”maybe it is best to call after 5:00PM if it is not an earth shattering event you absolutely need to
discuss with the working class living.”

Keep in mind it is all comical to me.  I don’t mention names, but, if you read this you all know who you are.  To me at least, it almost enforces my observation that as we get older, quit possibly we regress as we find more time on our hands.  In this case, laughingly comparing the antics and tomfoolery of a 65 year old retired man to that of a 16 year old teen, would most certainly lead most to believe that some kind of similarity of way too much available time, is most definitely at play….”play” being the key word here!  Oh, the stories could go on, and with several other individuals and personalities that fall into this category.

So why stop here? 

Because I have to go start dinner so we can get out the door on time to drive into town and see a movie at the local movie house with friends.  Other than a good book in front of the fire, there isn’t much else happening on a frigid dark Alaska evening in January.  So, I leave it up to you, the reader, the retiree in training, or the seasoned veteran of time on your side.  We would enjoy hearing any funny stories, or serious issues of how your time is spent and whether or not you recognize ‘the working living’ when retirement is the only life you know. 

What I am dieing to know is:  Do the retired really forget their previous life of work and become oblivious to those who still do?  Feel free to share your tales or, maybe just set straight the truth of the matter!  After all, you're retired…it’s not like you don’t have the time...

Share your pre or post retirement story with us.

Editor's Weclome

Empty Nest New Year Changes

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

With 2010 done and gone…but not forgotten…2011 is here upon us.  Many people are running around making those New Year resolutions to lose weight, work out, be nice not mean and the list goes on.  I heard one youngster the other day state that his “New Yerts restolutingion” was going to be to eat his vegetables at dinner time!  You go boy…make Popeye proud! 

For some, 2011 will be a unique time.  This past fall their son or daughter may have went off to college or a tech school away from home.  For others this may be the beginning of the empty nest because their son or daughter moved out got married and is starting their own life.  I am sure there are well other reasons that many folks may find themselves hearing their own echo in the home due to it being a little less full this time of year!

Empty Nest Editor PieceSo, I thought to myself that it would be a really cool deal if new and seasoned empty nesters alike, took a proactive stance to start the New Year with some beneficial resolutions that may change the way they perceive their now silent abode, or find new ways to curb those feelings that will often overwhelm some people who are experiencing the empty nest for the first time.

Maybe you are a couple who will make a New Years resolution to spend more time with each other and re-acquaint what one anothers' needs are now that your lifestyle has been altered slightly.  Many of our personal needs change as our surroundings change. 

For the single parent, your son or daughter…your BFF… may be gone now and you feel a little lonely or lost emotionally.  Now would be a great time to make a resolution to find social activities with like minded adults to share some of that time with.  My wife recently read about a group of singles that get together once a week and do snowshoeing treks as a group, and sometimes even at night under a full moon!  What a rush, and a chance to make new friends! 

It wasn’t the ‘New Year’ when our son moved out, but we completely renovated and remodeled his large bedroom and turned it into a den/music room/ workout room…a place for my wife and I to share quiet time, spiritual awakenings and some good positive energy.  Right now just may be the time to make a resolution to do those upgrades, remodels or further utilization of  those otherwise hollow rooms.

Many people seem to get pumped about starting the New Year on the right track.  For some, the motivation is life changing.  Still for others, the charge fizzles and “life” once again takes over.  But I would believe that whether you are just now experiencing a new course of life, or maybe you are somewhat of a veteran at it, there may be no better time than the present to add some zest to your relationship, some pep to your stride, or some new energy to a space in your home.  There is just something to be said about the New Year and a new start!  Whatever your situation, now is the time to grab life, make a personal change and replace that time honored energy that may now be missing in your world!

What will you New Year's Resolution be in the empty nest?

Editor's Welcome

The Impending Boom!

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

Just days after the Christmas day feast and festivities subsided I read an article from the Personal Finance Writer of the AP regarding the current trend and impending situation jeopardizing savings and retirement.

According to the writer, starting in January 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65 for the next 19 years.  While being credited to their impact on trends and society early on, they are being discredited for the lack of savings and preparation for the retirement years.  Coupled with bad timing from the recent economy and it’s effects on housing, pensions and stocks, it seems this current situation may redefine retirement.  Once again the boomers are trend setting pioneers?

Aside from the economy and the likes of which we really cannot immediately change to our financial advantage, there is the matter of savings or lack of.  Another potential trend that may have made an impact in this situation is the spending trends of baby boomers experiencing the newly empty nest.  It seems that many baby boomers have tended to change their personal spending and finance practices after the kids leave the nest.  Instead of using this time to re-adjust their finances to savings and/or retirement, many boomers set their sights on shifting this available income to personal spending and lifestyle sprees; a time to spend money on themselves now that the kids have moved on.

The story goes on to say that the coming troubles don’t stop at bad savings and spending habits.  The amount of boomers reaching out to Social Security at the age of 62 locks them into a lower benefit amount than if they could have waited a while longer, but it seems that they really have no choice as a result of bad spending habits and lack of savings to prepare for retirement.  Also at risk is the percentage of boomers and retiree’s that have a large mortgage debt.  Never mind the constant increased costs of medical care! 

So where does this leave us all now?

It certainly does appear to have a very dim outlook on our futures, and the implications will certainly far exceed the here and now.

One thing that my wife and I realized when the nest sounded the ‘all clear’, was that, yes, we indeed seemed to have some extra coin floating around our budget!  A fact that our son still can’t grasp as he is in denial that he ever really cost us any money!  But in reality, he did, and now that he doesn’t we have re-focused our financial priorities.  Not only have we began concentrating some of this saved money into savings, but we have actively attacked our debt with a goal to eliminate it asap. 

In my personal cross-hairs is the mortgage debt.  As we age, my hope is that we will have no mortgage to have to worry about, not only freeing up income to other living expenses, but being able to use the house to our financial advantage should we decide to downsize or relocate.  More immediately, money being used to pay down accrued credit card debt or loans can soon be used, say, to invest in real estate.  Lets face it, real property will make a comeback and I believe it still holds the most stable return for your investment.

On January 1st I will wake up and tune into the Rose Parade, a New Years Day tradition since childhood!  But while I watch the rosy, flowery splendor before me on the TV screen…and I promise you although we could have spent on that new big screen HDTV we chose to stick it out with the old cathode ray in order to save….one thought that will more than likely floor me is that on that day, 10,000 people will be 65 years old….and it won’t stop there! 

Retirement may well be in a state of perpetual change potentially for the worse, but it is never too late for us to re-adapt our strategies to create a future of wise spending and frugal savings.

What are ways that you could start saving come this New Year?

Editor's Welcome: Dec. 15th - 31st, 2010

The Temporary Holiday Retiree

By Greg Phillips, Empty Nest & Retirement Editor

I read a post here on stage Of Life the other night that brought what my focus already was, to this week's Editor segment, to a screaming halt.  After reading this particular post, I began to ponder on one of the subjects that the writer brought forth:  Temporary holiday work and the retiree. 

I remember years ago when one of my favorite aunts, my aunt Mary, had retired from her full time job and later, sought out temp work during the Christmas holiday.  Then I thought back further, several years out of high school, when I was between jobs and actively searching for some kind of full time employment, ironically during the holidays, and was only able to find part time seasonal work that would end after Christmas.  Two things took place in both of these scenarios: my aunts age in comparison with younger applicants, and me, a young applicant that could have taken any number of jobs…for only a month or so, before being laid off.

The beauty of his story was the fact that he was retired, bored and needed some extra coin and sought out temp work at a local large scale distributor.  But he went in on the plan with his grandson in mind, as the two of them got jobs together at the same place!  I thought that was just too cool.  The stories they will have to tell, the bonding and learning about each other through the experience seems a unique scene!  Here you have a retiree, more then likely up on age from the pool of younger workers looking for work, a youth who is taking on his first job even if it is temporary…with his grandfather setting an example of work ethic and responsibility.  To boot, all in a job market and economy that is on shaky ground at best.

Lets face it, many retirees find too much time on their hands and the need for some extra cash and this is a year round situation.  But how has this concept affected retirees this year with the jobless rate high and many Americans hesitant to spend money?  The competition and demand for jobs is greater than it’s ever been.  But then again it is only temporary work we are talking about here.  How is this aspect looked upon by potential applicants of any age?  Does the fact that it is primarily temporary as opposed to full time employment during the holidays discourage the average job seekers from applying for such positions?

Then there is the economy. 

How are people spending their money this year?  I know a guy who works in the food industry full time and has found himself going home early and taking more days off than usual because this year, folks are cutting ‘going out to dinner’ out of their budget.  But could you imagine taking on a job that you know is only temporary in the first place and possibly losing more hours due to lack of sales?  Mind you the upbeat spirit of this mans story leads me to believe that these scenarios are not the basis of this man and his grandson's holiday temp experience, in fact they are serving maximum part time hours as opposed to less.  But it all brought some serious points and questions to my mind in regards to the retiree and holiday temporary employment.

I would honor any stories that people may have to share in regards to this subject, be it retiree or otherwise whether it is a personal experience or one of someone you may know.  This gentleman stated that he would report back to possibly elaborate on this experience, and divulge how it all worked out for he and his grandson.  I can’t wait for the follow up! 

In the meantime I encourage you to take a moment and click the above link to read this man's story.  We here at Stage Of Life appreciate and encourage the sharing of personal experience and life’s stories!

How are you spending your money this year?

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