Tag Archives: Reinvention

Our Minimalist Epiphany – 6 Reasons We Are Lightening Our Load

About 15 years ago, Jeremy and I purchased a 21-acre parcel of land south of town.  In the time since, we’ve built a storage shed, acquired some farm equipment and have a local farmer using the land just to keep it productive and to keep the weeds down.  Our plan has always been to finish paying for the land, and then to build a custom home, designed by Jeremy, of course. What’s the point of marrying an architect if you don’t use him at least once, don’tcha think?

That’s the preface to this story…About a week ago, we received an e-mail from a friend and his wife, telling us their new address and contact information.  It seems they had sold their five-acre farm for the following reasons:  “The cycle of mowing, irrigating, fertilizing, mowing, fixing fence, paying to have the tractor fixed, mowing, moving pipe, paying for water, replacing pumps, and mowing” had finally gotten the best of them.  They wanted to be able to leave for one, two, even three weeks and travel without worry…

Now, let’s add this moment…In reading Twitter, I ran across this little gem from @joshua_becker at becomingminimalist

We own too much stuff. And it is stealing our joy!

And in an eye-opening moment, my world sort of got rocked.

It could not have become more clear if Joshua Becker had walked up and smacked me in the head!  What would possess us to move toward a life which included more and bigger property, more stuff, more work, more stress and less time for future endeavors?  And in the conversation that ensued, we arrived at several enlightened conclusions and even more questions:


Goals and plans change over time – The plans we made 12 years ago just don’t make sense the way they used to.  And over the next few days we examined our dreams and plans with real intention and honesty. It was an illuminating discussion about why we had wanted the land, the new home, the things we had accumulated…an awakening of sorts.

We are holding on to stuff for no good reason –  On the guest bedroom closet shelf are two brand new sleeping bags (wait for it…) which have been used exactly ONE time!  I don’t know why we have them…Anyone who knows me would realize that it is highly unlikely (read: NOT GONNA HAPPEN) that I will be camping anytime soon – My idea of roughing it is a Holiday Inn with a hard pillow!  I am keeping them because I bought them, and therefore don’t want to fess up to a bad decision!  And then I started going through every closet …Just sayin’…

Some stuff we keep because we think it’s sentimental – It really just isn’t – In that trip through the closets I mentioned above, I came upon a bunch of collectibles that I have acquired over the years- they just aren’t my style anymore.  Or how about the hundreds of LP albums from 30 years ago that grace an entire shelf.  Now I can see perhaps keeping a couple of Beetles albums, but Sheena Easton???  Seriously?  We don’t even OWN a turntable anymore!  This little voyage of ours is causing us to closely examine what we value.

Paring down our stuff is energizing – As it turns out, owning the property and all of that farm equipment was ultimately causing us stress.  And the decision to sell, reduce and donate is lifting a weight off our shoulders.  It is freeing up space, finances, time and emotions.

We have gained a sense of gratitude for the things we have, and an intentionality about how and why we use and keep our possessions.  We are not getting rid of stuff just to be doing it.  It’s not about monetary value.   Instead, we ask, “Is this thing important to me, and why do I need to keep it?”

We have been given an impetus to examine this Encore Voyage and to have a critical conversation about what’s really important – Where do we want to go from here?  What are our dreams and wishes?  What adjustments do we need to make to our current path to live every day with simplicity and to its fullest?  What do we really value?

And so I’m planning to sell or donate four large tubs of children’s books.  They are my personal library, collected over a nearly 30 year career.  I thought I would be sentimental about giving them up – that somehow they represented imparting a love of reading in so many children…and in a way, they do.  But it is much more fitting that I share them with some new teacher, who will use them to continue the tradition.  The joy of those children and their journeys will always be in my heart.  It’s not the books that keep them there.


I Blame Kelly Ripa

Kelly Ripa

Yep, That’s my story…I blame Kelly Ripa for this, or maybe Robin Roberts!  Have you seen the arms on either of these chicks?  They are gorgeous!  I dream of being able to sport sleeveless tops in the summertime showing off the tight cut between my biceps and my shoulders – uh, huh…and then she woke up.
But not being the type to give up without a fight, I headed off to the gym this week with the intention of getting back into lifting some weights.  (I’ve been a bit of a slacker since Christmas.)  So with Kelly and Robin and summertime in the back of my head – weeeellllll, let’s just say I went a bit crazy.  Just for the record, I kept hearing the trainer in my ear, whispering “Finish Strong!”  And strong I was – a little bit too heavy on the weights, a few too many reps and now…

I Can’t Bend My Arms!

No seriously…I’m not exaggerating here!  Not only won’t they bend all the way, they won’t straighten out either!  You can’t even believe the problems this causes!  I struggled to get my makeup on, because my hands couldn’t touch my face!  I couldn’t do my own hair, and had to get the hubs to take out my pony tail!  And just let your imagination run wild while thinking about putting a bra on the sisters!  My triceps are actually swollen!  Puffy elbows – Now there’s a look we all strive for!

It got me wondering if there’s ever a time when a boomer girl should simply give up and accept what the good Lord gave her.  I’ve seen plenty of pretty classy looking retired ladies who seem to be fairly content in their own skin.  Am I being vain because I want to be able to rock those outfits that I see in the mall?  Or am I just afraid of aging and I’m trying (perhaps a bit to hard) to get and stay healthy for as long as possible?  And, of course, there is still the whole dressing question to consider…”When do I have to stop dressing ‘too young’?”  I don’t feel 50+…I feel about 30.  I think I just don’t want to grow up!

So tell me your experiences with this slippery slope of body image, health, fitness and wardrobe.  I’m curious about how others have navigated this part of the voyage!


Wanted – Personal Trainer for Boomers!

Note:  There would be a photo with this post, but I can’t lift my arms to hold the camera!


Throughout my teaching career, I spent a great deal of time on the floor – sitting chris-cross applesauce with a group of littles, reading aloud, or helping fifth graders create some masterful project.  Hopping up and down, running out on the playground, climbing, stretching, lifting, moving…all part of the teacher job description.


How is it that, within a few short years, it has changed so drastically?  I used to be able to hop right up from the floor, but now…not so much!  I used to be able to run with my students in a game of kickball.  Now, the very thought makes me suck wind! As my retired friends and I contemplate this situation, we always come to the same burning question…


When the hell did this happen???


In an attempt to battle the inevitable aging process, I have made (I thought) a reasonable effort to get/stay in some sort of shape.  I don’t work too hard at it, but I joined a gym and I make an effort to keep “old lady status” at bay.   I try to go down there with some regularity, although I am by no means a gym rat.  A little lifting here, a little biking there.  In my mind, I congratulate myself for my efforts to keep up with the younger set.  But since Christmas, I have struggled to get rid of the Christmas candy ass weight gain, so when last week I saw a cardboard display on the gym desk with a sign that said,


“Sign up to win 2 sessions with a personal trainer!”


I thought, “Hell yeah, that’s a good idea!” – and besides, I never win anything!  What I should have been smart enough to realize is that this sign really said, “Please give me your contact information so that I may call you and convince you how badly you need to spend a gazillion dollars on a training package.  Come on down and I’ll show you how.”


Here’s how it went:  I met Jen (the trainer) at the gym at 3:00.  In the interest of full disclosure, I made sure she knew up front that I had no intention of buying a package of training sessions.  Now, I don’t know if this was a good idea or a bad idea.  Perhaps she wanted to show me how much harder I would work with the guidance of a personal trainer, or maybe, I just pissed her off and she was thinking, “I’ll show you………”

In any case, this little twenty-something girl, who didn’t weigh 100 lbs. soaking wet, and who actually wore perfectly drawn on eyeliner to the gym – worked my ass off!  Even after I had tried to explain to her the things at the gym that I like to do, (weights, treadmill, bike) and the things that I’m not doing for anyone (these D cups do not jump rope!) she put me through a workout that turned my legs to Jello.  You know it’s bad when, after hobbling to the car to go home, you cannot lift your leg high enough to clear the car door threshold.


I found myself thinking that there must be some happy medium.  I understand the concept of calories in-calories out.  I understand that a little bit of muscle soreness is just an indication that you are using your body.  But really???  I almost couldn’t get up off the toilet this morning!  My quads scream when I try to get up from a chair, and I’d love to put a photo with this post, but my arms have the weakies so bad that I can’t hold the camera without wobbling!  In my heart of hearts I know there must be a workout regimen that falls somewhere between

Take a leisurely stroll around the block


Work out so frickin’ hard that the sweat is stinging my eyes, I can feel my pulse in my ears, and I hate your guts!


I don’t blame Jen, the trainer.  How is she to know what 50+ feels like?  Maybe I need to find a 50+ trainer?  I know that I will continue to do something to try to stay physically strong as I add birthday candles.  But I’m just not sure I’m believing “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” right now.  ‘Cause she dang near did!

Retire Like a Shark – 8 Ways to Keep Swimming

Today sort of tied my brain in a knot.  As part of my Encore Voyage, I’ve been doing some contract work as an administrative assistant.  In my What Am I Now post, I talked about finding new ways to use your skills.  Well mine, it turns out, have allowed me to start my own small business doing all sorts of writing, editing, production and organizational types of tasks.  Seems there are some folks out there who really value my teacher’s wicked red pen and my ability to juggle lots of items at once – who knew???


One of my friends is working as a project manager on a grant to assist and encourage high school students to go on to a postsecondary education (now there’s a leap from teaching kindergarteners, huh?)  We met today to discuss a whole bunch of projects that needed to be done.  As I sat there with him taking pages and pages of notes, it occurred to me how exciting it is to be thinking about all of these new things and working in an entirely different realm.  And there was so much to think about that it was just a little overwhelming, but so much fun!  We were finishing up, talking about “retirement” and all of the new things we are exploring, when he made the following observation:

You must be like a shark – 
If you stop swimming, you’ll die!


Wow!  He is exactly right!  The Encore Voyage is about continuing to swim, changing course and moving forward in such a way that your life makes a splash!  Here are 8 strategies to keep in mind when navigating the retirement ocean:

1. Be curious – Take time to pay attention to your mental wanderings, and notice those things that pique your curiosity!  There’s no time like the present to dig deeper and explore things that fascinate you!

2. Read, read, read – As the saying goes, “So many books, so little time…”  Well now you have time to read not only books, but newspapers, blogs, poetry, articles.  Several of my elderly relatives read daily newspapers from cover to cover and stayed mentally sharp well into their nineties!  A coincidence?  I think not…

3. Maintain contact with friends and colleagues – During my teaching years, I would see other adults on a daily basis, and formed lasting friendships.  What I’ve learned is that it takes a deliberate effort to keep those relationships fresh.  Now you must seek out opportunities to stay connected. 

4. Get Unplugged – Especially from the TV, but also from other screened electronics. It would be easy to sit at home playing Candy Crush for hours, or staring at the TV, but really?….Examine your habits – just sayin’!

5. Learn new things – Listen to your heart when you hear yourself saying, “I’ve always wanted to…”  Well now’s the time!  First I learned how to knit, then I learned InDesign, and next I believe I’ll take a crack at Photoshop.  Oh yeah, and I’m going to take up the saxophone!!  So what’s that thing that you’ve always wanted to try – There’s no time like the present!

6. Volunteer – There is nothing that makes you feel more alive than to give of yourself to someone else.  What are your skills and talents?  How can you give them to others?  Or just look around you and pay attention to the needs that you can fill.  Need I say more?

7. Travel – And no, it doesn’t need to be a big expensive trip.  Jeremy and I are trying to find roads in our state that we’ve never traveled on!  We pack a sandwich and take off to go ‘splorin’ – you should try it!

8. Seek out new experiences – The hubs and I have created what we call Our List.  If either of us starts a sentence with “I wanna….”(and it is an activity, not ‘stuff’) then we write it on Our List.  The rules are simple.  It doesn’t matter how big or small the activity – from going to a nearby winery (his wish), to going on a zipline, somewhere where there are monkeys (mine).  We have created a long list of things we’d like to experience and will spend the rest of our lives trying to cross things off the list!

So I’m curious.  Are there other strategies you’ve used to keep swimming after retirement?  I’d love to hear from other sharks!



Embracing Fearlessness – Mad Scientist or Master Chef

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after 33 years of marriage, it’s that men don’t want to be told (especially by wives), how to do stuff!  But you put a couple of men on a patio with some beers and a barbecue, and sh*t happens!  In this case, an incredible transformation took place – something I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined.


It all started when we were invited to my sister’s country home for steaks on the grill.  As it usually is with these get togethers, gals were in the kitchen visiting, guys were out on the patio gathered around the grill.  I imagine the conversation out there went something like this…


Jeremy:  “So…what’s in that stuff you put on those steaks?”

Sister’s hubs:  “Oh, you just get in the fridge and start digging around.  Put in a little bit of this and a little bit of that.  There’s no recipe.”

Jeremy:  “So you just start makin’ stuff up?”

Sister’s hubs:  “Yup! I use some vinegar, and some ketchup, and maybe some barbecue sauce.  Don’t use any of that girlie premade stuff.  Add whatever spices sound good. Be brave and just start brushin’ that stuff on.”


Now you’ve gotta know, that in our entire working lives, the kitchen was pretty much my domain.  He could get dirty dishes to the sink, but not quite to the dishwasher.  He would stand with the fridge door open, in his underwear at midnight, looking for something upon which to graze.  But with our Encore Voyage – a transformation!!!  (Picture here that cartoon where Bugs Bunny encounters Jekyll and Hyde.)


In just a short evening, my guy fancied himself a regular grill God!  And he did, in fact, start “making stuff up.”  He would get out a bowl and start adding ingredients…stir, add more ingredients, stir some more, go to the pantry and stare for a minute, add something else, stir some more, and then…(holding the bowl out to me)


“Stick your finger in here and taste this!”


Now ladies, let me give you just a little bit of advice…Keep your mouth shut!  Resist at all costs, the urge to advise him that Italian Seasoning and Hoisin Sauce come from two distinctly different styles of cooking!  Do not point out the difference between sweet and savory.  Never start your sentence with, “What did you put in that???”


And the results …


I don’t know what he put in there, or how he came up with the idea, but…Oh My God, that’s good!  I now have a guy who’s a damn good cook! Try to control your twinge of jealousy when I tell you that he’s recently been heard to say things like, “Don’t worry about dinner. I think I’ll do something with a chicken breast,” or “I need you to pick up some feta cheese.” 


In our pre-Voyage life, just figuring out some type of sustenance was a chore.  I had the telephone number for Pizza Hut memorized. But these days, the Encore Voyage has allowed us both the freedom to explore and try new things.  A good friend of mine told me that in order to be a really good cook, you need to be fearless. Jeremy has embraced that fearlessness, and now most evenings find us together in the kitchen, slicing, dicing, and laughing with a glass of wine in hand.  New foods, new flavors, new recipes combined with the opportunity to reinvent how we approach meals and each other.  And for the record…”Stick your finger in here” = YUM!


So what new things have you experimented with recently?  How have you embraced your fearlessness in your own Encore Voyage?  Leave a comment, I’d love to hear your Jekyll and Hyde stories. 

A Different Way to Travel

Prior to the Encore Voyage, it was always rush here, do this, accomplish that, cross things off the list, get very important chores done, GO, GO, GO, RUSH, RUSH, RUSH. The weekends used to be an effort to “catch up” in hope that we would have an easier “normal life” on Monday through Friday.   On more than one occasion, when asked a question by a friend or colleague, I have responded with, “I don’t have time to think about that right now!” 

 I have discovered that one of the greatest gifts of the Encore Voyage is that yes, in fact,

I DO have time to think about that!

I have had many people ask me if I was afraid of becoming bored.  I know plenty of people who spend their days at home, staring at a television or playing computer games.  Now I’m not saying that I have not occasionally spent some time working on Candy Crush, or playing Words With Friends.  But my friend put a post on Pinterest that summed it up perfectly:

bored quote

I call it Mental Wandering – It’s the process of letting your mind wander where it may, and then taking note of the things that you think about and the things that interest you; and then taking those thoughts even further and digging into them a bit deeper with intentionality.  It leads you to read new things, study new things, try new things.  From there, who knows what will happen!  Albert Einstein said it best: 

“I have no special talents.

I am only
passionately curious.”

Hell, I don’t know the first thing about blogging.  But allowing myself to wander from thought to thought has led me to a whole new universe of information and talented bloggers who are willing to help me learn new things. Now I make a habit of taking the time (no guilt allowed) to just let ideas run where they may, with no mandate to accomplish anything.  Someday I’ll have to tell you about how I learned to knit just because I saw something beautiful!  Or how I learned InDesign because I was curious.  Maybe next I’ll take on Photoshop because you can teach a “not quite old yet” dog new tricks…and this young dog is loving traveling down the mental highway!



Being More With Less – 6 Things We’ve Learned

The Encore Voyage, and it’s resulting reduction in salary, began as an exercise in cheap. Well, not so much cheap as an effort to figure out ways to reduce our daily spending.  We were drawing on our savings when we first started, and needed to make our cash stretch as far as possible.  Little by little we began whittling things that seemed less than critical in our lives.  I found out that standing at the ironing board, doing Jeremy’s dress shirts, would not, in fact, kill me.  I learned that I can read a recipe, and with the extra time for shopping, I can be a pretty good cook – I have not killed him yet, either!  We don’t need to pay a lawn service, and mowing and digging and planting are something we take pride in.  Early on, I used my extra time to go through every closet in the house, getting rid of unused junk.  The point is that this Encore Voyage is causing us (allowing us) to reevaluate what is really important in our lives, and we’re learning to

Take Control of What’s Important…

  1. We have learned not to squander – It’s not that we were wasteful in the past.  It’s just that we didn’t give as much thought to where it was all going.  We are more selective about how we choose to spend.  Whether it’s lunch out, purchases for our house, travel, or even groceries – it’s now purchased with much more intentionality. We differentiate between what we want, what we need, and “Yeah, it would be nice to have…”
  2. We pay more attention to our health – It’s amazing what happens to you when you no longer have company supplied health care.  That little journey into self-insurance was quite the wild learning experience.  But more importantly, we started looking at our lifestyle and choosing different actions. There’s now time for the gym. We go for more walks.  We eat better. I know it’s hard to believe, but we haven’t eaten a meal in a fast food restaurant in nearly two years!  Ok, we’ve had a taco or two, but you get the idea.
  3. We pay more attention to our home – Pre Voyage, our day looked something like this:  Get up, shower, leave for work.  Get home, dump your stuff, figure out something to eat. Veg out in front of the TV for a while, maybe a little time on a computer, go to bed…Repeat.  Home was just the place where we went when we were not at work.  Now that we’re here most of the time, we are more aware of a sense of space.  We are working on making every inch of our home live in a way that gives us comfort and makes us happy.  It is evolving through paint, rearranging, rededicating spaces and eliminating the unnecessary or unused.  Ahhhhhh…….it’s so peaceful and cozy now!
  4. We choose our leisure activities more carefully – I’m not even certain why it happened.  Perhaps it’s because we are no longer so exhausted.  Maybe it’s because we need to get out of the house sometimes.  It could be that we don’t have the adult contacts that we used to have when we were out in the workplace.  For whatever reason, we now choose more carefully how we spend our free time.  We plan for it.  We make more deliberate arrangements with friends.  We look for events around our city that would be fun.  We read more, we explore more, we dance more – and we’re having a hellova good time!
  5. We pay more attention to each other – Who would have thought that we could learn anything new about each other after being married for nearly 33 years!  Working together has uncovered a bunch of previously unknown quirks.  And who would have thought that, because we are living with more intention, we deliberately plan more quality time together!  Most nights we set the dining room table, turn off the TV and share a glass of wine.  We decide together what the day will bring.
  6. We have a passion to learn and create – One of the best things about the Encore Voyage has been having the time to be curious.  Nearly every day I find myself stumbling upon something  that I want to learn more about.  Sometimes it feels as if my brains will explode because there’s so much out there that I want to learn, so many projects to complete, so many activities I want to try. So much to explore – So little time.

Many of my baby boomer friends who are getting ready to retire have expressed a concern to me that they will have so much less after they retire.  But that’s not the case at all. What we have found is that reducing the clutter, both physical and mental, has allowed us to reinvent a lifestyle that is much, much more!