Monthly Archives: June 2014

Lesson Learned: Serving Others

“Every person has a longing to be significant; to make a contribution; to be a part of something noble and purposeful.” John C. Maxwell

My dad contacted polio in 1954 which resulted in paralysis of his arms and legs as well as his lungs. He used a rocking bed at night and a respirator during the day. If he was sitting upright in his wheelchair, he could “frog” breathe for a portion of the day.

From that first day of becoming ill, organizations and individuals stepped up to help. And some of that assistance lasted for over two decades. The Delmar Fire Department, a volunteer nonprofit organization, not only took him to the hospital for the initial emergency, but also brought him by ambulance from the hospital to home and back for weekends when he graduated from the iron lung, and before he was able to live at home. The March of Dimes, not only funded part of his ongoing daily care, but also supplied respiratory equipment such as the rocking bed and chest respirators. And individuals provided babysitting, prepared meals and assisted getting dad up and down steps at church and other venues. There were no handicap ramps, sloping sidewalks or handicap parking spaces in the fifties, sixties and seventies.

Today, volunteering is one of my passions. I have always enjoyed helping others and it gives me great personal satisfaction. I attribute my desire to serve others from watching those terrific individuals and organizations of volunteers give of their time to help our family. Time is a “nonrenewable resource”¹ and I am grateful that others were so willing to give of their time and themselves.

While volunteering the other day, someone called me “noble”. Wow, unexpected and undeserved… what an old-fashioned word. I had to verify the meaning in the dictionary in case there were other or new meanings that I wasn’t aware of. I didn’t think of myself as being noble.

President Obama recently awarded the Medal of Honor to Retired Marine Cpl. William “Kyle” Carpenter who almost died after receiving horrific injuries from falling on a grenade to shield a fellow Marine, going above and beyond the call of duty. That, to me is the definition of noble!!!

On June 6, 2014, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, we remembered the courage and bravery of the 160,000 allied troops that stormed Normandy. Four soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their gallantry, courage and valor above and beyond the call of duty: all of those soldiers were noble.

Having never served in the military, I haven’t personally experienced the comradery that exists between soldiers. But you also hear about courage and bravery in other reports such as the firemen that entered the Twin Towers and died trying to save others on September 11, 2001 and the nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots who died on June 30, 2013 in the Yarnell fire. You read about policemen and ordinary people who perform extraordinary, miraculous rescues of people trapped in cars in highway accidents, floods or underwater. Those are the epitome of the definition of noble.

To have a soldier tell me that my volunteering is noble was humbling. I could only respond, “oh no, your sacrifice for our country is noble”.

Since that day I have spoken with several friends about this comment and was surprised by their responses. Each one saw volunteering as a noble activity. I hadn’t thought of volunteering in that way. When I retired, I wanted to ensure that I had a sense of purpose and followed one of my passions of service to others and giving of my time which had previously been so limited. I certainly did not want the only epitaph on my tombstone to say “workaholic”.

My career in corporate taxation never felt as rewarding as volunteering. Obviously gratification comes from paychecks, benefits and titles. But there was limited praise and thank yous. It was your job. In volunteering there is a “thank you” for showing up, for giving of your time and often giving of your special expertise. And especially gratifying is the exuberance in the appreciation when I am able to provide that little bit extra. I see it as “paying it forward” because when I was growing up volunteers helped our family and especially my dad.

¹ You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) Tammy Strobel

Posted in Not An Ordinary Man.

This Dance Card Is Getting Full

Damn… already my dance card is getting too full. I barely finished writing about finding balance in retirement and realize that every day is scheduled, albeit some dances will last longer and take more energy than others.

Double damn!! This was more than a senior moment or a brain fart!! I feel like some of my brain cells died when I retired and I still have some thirty years of living to do. To my chagrin, I thought I had until the end of December to complete my Continuing Professional Education credits (CPE) in order to maintain my CPA license for another three years and I do; however the online subscription for the self-study courses expires at the end of July. If I don’t want to pay “buku bucks”, I need to take the self-study courses in the next six weeks. I don’t foresee work in my future, but just in case I might need to consult, maintaining my CPA license is an important goal. Don’t ask what made me think about it recently. Now you could say hallelujah… the brain has its synapses firing, I remembered before the subscription expired or what the hell just happened, how could I forget such an important deadline? Why did I keep thinking I had until the end of December versus the end of July?

What else? The day after I retired I started walking as part of “getting fit” and was up to two miles each morning when my knee decided to rebel. Now I have physical therapy three times a week. So all of a sudden I have unexpected time commitments on top of my volunteering which I began in May.

This is a conundrum. The physical therapy is a must as I am already feeling the effects of not walking in my sense of well-being and accomplishment. I was walking each morning as the sun rose. Some days I would get lost in the music, but most days I would spend playing with ideas bouncing around in my head or thinking about a blog or book I had just read. Without this daily jumpstart, I find myself floundering a bit… as if I’d lost what little creativity mojo I had.

On top of which I don’t want to schedule an international trip until I know if the knee will improve. The knee won’t stop me if it remains at status quo, but I’ll need to adjust my expectations such as in climbing the Great Wall in China. I was truly amazed by some of my fellow travelers on my last trip. I lauded the 89-year-old man from Australia who has diabetes and a pace maker and climbed about 150 steps to the Holy Monastery of Varlaam at Meteora in Greece and the 84-year-old woman from Canada who had knee replacement surgery and climbed and traipsed the Pergamon Acropolis in Turkey. They inspired me, not only in my quest for healthier living, but in the thoughts that the future is limitless and what you make of it.

And CPE is equally important in future earning power if needed. As baby boomers retire, I expect that the cost of travel will increase (supply and demand). And travel, both international and domestic is a major part of my retirement plans for at least the next fifteen years. And who knows what the economy will be… another meltdown and recession similar to 2008? Not unlikely. What a hit to my nest egg that would be!! While I can’t live in fear that I’ll end up impoverished, my plan is to keep my earning potential intact for the immediate future.

That leaves volunteering. Since it currently gives me the most fulfillment, I won’t give it up. It is one of my passions. I spent the first couple of months looking at different volunteer opportunities and decided that I wanted to provide service to our country by supporting our military. I started small with a commitment to send care packages to our deployed servicemen by signing up with “”. This is probably more a commitment of money as than time since buying the snacks and personal items and paying for shipping is an ongoing expense. I also started personal letter writing which I send to “Operation”. Although both of these activities are terrific, I felt I wanted more personal connections and signed up with our local Veterans home and the USO. Twelve or so hours per week is only 10% of my waking hours so not a huge commitment of time.

So where does that leave me in my search for finding balance? I’m taking the stance that it’s only temporary. The physical therapy is hopefully only for four to six weeks and the courses need to be completed by the end of July so I see my dance card being full until mid summer. Then I’ll reassess.

Posted in Reinventing Me.

To Blog Or Not To Blog

Ah… so you’ve poked around my blog and can’t figure out how the tagline fits what’s been written? No worries… it’s a work in progress! When I retired in early January, I’d never read a blog and had no intention of writing one. I’m not on social media and only signed up on Facebook this year in order to see my high school class Facebook page. Actually I was pretty adamant that I wouldn’t blog when one of my coworkers suggested that I write about my travels so she could live vicariously through my adventures.

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a mystery or romance novel and it’s on my retirement “to-dos” in the “Possibilities” category, but that’s not to say it would happen as I’ve never felt I was particularly endowed with literary creativity. And it’s not the same as a blog. But one day shortly after leaving the workforce, I happened upon a blog that excited me. And I have since started following several blogs on the web having read through the archives starting at day one. Then I had a telephone conversation with a forever friend who started talking about a household project and what she had learned from my dad. And I recalled conversations with one of my brother’s friends when we traveled back East last year. I had this epiphany that I needed to record the stories of my dad. It was that quick and I was off on a tangent reading about how to blog, creating domain names and looking for themes on WordPress. And that’s how this blog began.

When I first announced my retirement date, friends and co-workers all asked “what will you do with your time”? Now that question quite astounded me as I have a notebook full of lists and categories of what I want to do. When I was younger I would have made some of the wish list reality while still working, but then as I hit my sixties and kept the same pace at work, I didn’t have the same energy levels to fulfill the wishes. I won’t bore you with the lists, but will give you some of the categories so you get the idea: travel destinations, volunteer opportunities, learning topics (that World Religions class I didn’t take in college), projects to hire, projects for me (scanning family photos) and window shopping/purchases (think new computer as mine’s running on XP)”. I guess when I mentioned my notebook, my exuberance showed in the responses such as “you’ll be fine in retirement” or “wow, you’ll be really busy”!

Now my intention is not to fill my life so full that I am running from one activity to another and losing the enjoyment of being in the moment. I decided I’d “veg” for the first couple of months and not make any big decisions until after I had taken my first trip. I’m pondering blogging about my travels… hence the category “Retired to Go”. So yes, I’ve been spending much of my time reading, but also determining where I wanted to volunteer and writing this blog.

I guess this is the point where I tell you a bit about myself…how I see me. I’d label myself a type A personality. I’m goal oriented, competitive, proactive, self-critical, a multitasker or in one word a “workaholic”. I’m also very compassionate and caring and always want to help others. Working 55-60 hour work weeks was the norm up until the last two years when I decided to downshift to a forty hour work week and take a pay cut. Not that I recommend a voluntary pay cut those last few years when you should be stuffing the mattress with dollars, but I decided my life and sanity were more important than a larger savings account. I may regret that decision in my eighties or nineties when inflation and healthcare costs erode my nest egg.

Why blog? I don’t have an expectation of making money on my blog or that people will necessarily want to hear what I have to say. It’s more that I have a voice, want my kids to have my memories and a blog will keep me honest. For example, if I say I’ll start a decluttering project, I’m more likely to stay on track. Does that sound like a contradiction if I have a type A personality? You bet!! My absolute favorite thing to do is read. When I was young and was told to go outside and play, I’d sneak a book and climb the neighbor’s tree so I could read until called for dinner. The public library was a block away and I would spend hours among the stacks, sitting on the floor reading and choosing which six books I would take home. They knew me so well that I was offered a coveted job as a page. I declined as I would rather read the books than shelve them. I actually started college thinking I would be a librarian which is a far cry from my career as a CPA and tax accountant. I’m saying this because I have a strong inclination to hole up and read for days on end. As much as this appeals to me, I also know that as I age, other items on my lists won’t always be physically possible and I need to keep the “do it now” attitude in the forefront.

So why the tagline “Retirement and the Art of Finding Balance” you ask? I have a tendency to go to the extreme. A case in point… I didn’t register just one domain name, but three. And I didn’t sign up with Bluehost for one year, but three. And for my first overseas travel after retiring, I didn’t go for a two-week vacation. I went for thirty days as well as scheduling two trips within the U.S. I think you’ll agree that I struggle somewhat in finding balance. This is my journey as I find balance in retirement and leave the world of being a workaholic.

Posted in Reinventing Me.