Monday, December 28, 2009

Moving to Arizona

A quick trip to Prescott, Arizona the second week of December led to a significant life change. After almost thirty years in southern California, we’re moving. A house has been purchased and it’s time to begin our new retirement life.

Well, almost. It was hard to get excited about moving when there is a home full of possession that need to be sorted, discarded, sold and packed for the movers. At first, it felt overwhelming, but a random phone call started the process.

I had lots of coats, winter clothes and blankets that I wanted to give to the homeless. A call from the local rescue mission informing me they’d have a truck in the neighborhood on Dec. 30 started the process. Consolidating the items to be donated didn’t feel too overwhelming and we both jumped into the process. In a few hours, we had three huge garbage bags full of items for the homeless. There was a sense of accomplishment at completing the task. We both felt the job ahead of us was manageable. We can do this!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Did You Talk About at Thanksgiving?

Recently, I heard a story about a newly retired woman exclaiming to her financial planner that completing a will was not only morbid, but something to do when you were ‘old.” It is an important step in creating a satisfying retirement life.

I don’t know of anyone who is excited about estate planning (except lawyers, of course). Similar to getting a colonoscopy, it needs to be done.

Estate planning isn’t just for you. It’s for the people you care about. It forces you to look at the final phase of your life. While that can be scary, it can also be very liberating. It is also lets you control your life and your legacy.

My mother doesn’t have an up-to-date will. A number of years ago, we encouraged her to get a trust, but she didn’t understand it and ultimately refused to sign the papers. She now has a new will, but so far hasn’t gotten it notarized. I think she believes that signing the will eliminates her choices. In reality, not signing the will passes control to the state and hospitals that don’t know her and don’t care about following her wishes.

Estate planning can be confusing. There are a lot of decisions to make. Attorneys Michael and Danielle Mayoras have written a great book,
Trials and Heirs to help you through the process. By using stories of the rich and celebrated, they describe what can happen if you don’t plan adequately. In addition, they offer easy to understand information to help you learn about estate planning for you and your family.

One of the most confusing aspects of estate planning is whether or not you need a living trust. Attorney Michael Pancheri from The Living Trust Network contributed a six-part series about the
Reasons for a Living Trust.

Along with planning all the wonderful things you want to do with your retirement, take the time to talk to an attorney and plan for the end of your life. You’ll be glad you did.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

New on the RLM Website

There are some wonderful things happening on the Retirement Life Matters website.

We recently returned from a Mediterranean Cruise. Without a doubt Mediterranean Cruises was the most help in preparing for time onshore.

Have you had to overcome obstacles in your life? Author Lynne Klippel share tales of tragedy and redemption in her new book
Overcomers, Inc: True Stories of Hope, Courage and Inspiration.

I was born and raised in Colorado. My son is named Zebulon after the man who discovered Pike’s Peak. It’s no surprise that
Colorado Springs has become a top retirement destination.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nutrition Tips for Retirement Life

As we get older and enter retirement life, the idea of taking better care of our body takes on a whole new meaning. I finally occurred to me that sticking around in this life form meant keeping the mode of transportation healthy.

I was recently informed that my LDL (bad) cholesterol was way too high. Clearly, my husband's wonderful French cooking needs to be modified.

My first task was to eliminate chocolate. I love milky chocolate and not the purer chocolate that is the preference of nutritionists. The quest for a sweet, but more healthful alternative is in play.

If you looking for a simple, but comprehensive list of nutritional tips you can implement, this is it. The first suggestion I'm going to implement is drinking a glass of water before I eat. I've always been a fast eater and even if I try, I'm still the first one with an empty plate. A bad habit from childhood is going back for a bit of seconds. Maybe the glass of water will help me. Take a look and let me know which tip you're going to try.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Understanding the Healthcare Crisis

There aren’t too many topics more important to retirement life currently than the healthcare debate. As I was preparing to write about this topic, it occurred to me that much of the volatility we saw last summer was the fear people had of losing what they had. While we may be saddened at the stories about people losing their homes because of medical bills or not being insured, we hold more tightly onto our own benefits, afraid of what we might have to sacrifice in order to help someone else. That tells me how important it is for the debate to continue. Wouldn’t it be tragic to have a ‘civil war’ between those who have coverage and those who don’t?

Not offering solutions to the problems, I want to make some two suggestions about understanding the situation better. Much of the passion concerning the debate has centered on the socialization of healthcare in this country. T.R. Reid, author of The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care provides excellent information about healthcare in other parts of the world. He also produced a one-hour show, which you can view
online about healthcare in six other countries. His report isn’t as much as an indictment on the system in the US, but a true understanding of the differences with other healthcare systems. He makes sure to point out the challenges that other countries face, without minimizes the problems in the US.
Last week, I listened to two one-hour segments of This American Life concerning the healthcare debate. More is Less and Someone Else’s Money provide a comprehensive summary of the healthcare system in the US. One aspect I’ve been curious is why health insurance is tied to employment. The show provides a history of medicine in the US since the beginning of the twentieth century that is interesting. The show also demonstrates the challenges we all face in changing the system and that no one entity, such as insurance is to blame. I’ll be the first to admit I have a bias in this debate. I thought both the Frontline show and the This American Life segments were effective in coming from a perspective of information and were not pushing a political agenda.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Is there life following being downsized after 50?

Many are facing retirement life after being downsized. Often dreams and expectations are altered from the experience.
The first time I encountered a group of the over 50 set following a downsizing was after the collapse of Russia. I was still working on my masters degree in career counseling when I was asked to make presentation to a group of laid off engineers from the aerospace industry.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. These weren’t men who had just lost their jobs. They had lost their sense of self, as well as a way to earn a living. Their sense of value as human beings had vanished along with their work.

You can imagine my shock when I faced that exact situation five years later myself. With a partner, we had created an amazing career center from scratch. For me, it was the culmination of a lifetime of effort and work. I’ll never forget the day she said, “Cathy, I don’t want to do this any more.” I was absolutely destroyed.

Author, marketing executive and boomer expert, Carol Orsborn recently
shared about her own downsizing that resulted in her writing the book The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul: A Boomer Woman’s Search for Meaning…and a Job.

In those blackest moments, Carol writes, “When you give up the illusion of control, it’s true that you can’t always stop bad things from happening. But you can’t stop good things from happening, either.”

After I left the career center, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t find a job and fell into a deep sorrow that lasted almost two years. I refer to this as the time I lost my soul.

Ultimately, I learned I was solely responsible for my own happiness. The roles I had; mother, business woman, and wife were ways of expressing me, but they weren’t my identity.

There is a saying that the things that don’t hurt us make us stronger. Like Carol and many others, now I look back on the time in the wilderness as a gift. It led me to this work, painting and a psychological and spiritual health I never would have achieved without it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New on the RLM Website

Check out these new articles on the Retirement Life Matters website.

I don’t know anyone over 50 who doesn’t have concerns about memory. LifelongLearning expert Nancy Merz Nordstrom discusses brain research and fun for your brain.

If you’re still thinking about ways to earn extra income, Stan Spector suggests starting a retirement business to help all the stressed out
people who just don’t have enough time.

Charlottesville, Virginia home to Thomas Jefferson is an ideal place to retire, according to expert Warren Bland.

Share my journey as I visit the Hopi nation in NE Arizona.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Would You Have Lunch with a Python?

We have visions about the adventures we’re going to have in our retirement life. There are place to go, people to meet and things to do.

When the day actually arises, it’s easy to let fears and phobias take over, so the challenges and opportunities begin to diminish. There’s always the fear about money. And then there are the concerns about our health – you know we’re not young anymore. It becomes very easy for the walls of options to close around us.

One of my favorite quotes is from author Barbara Sher in It’s Only Too Late if You Don’t Start Now, “Why is it when midlifers talk of fulfilling their lifelong dreams before they’re too old to do them, they’re never talking about dreams like publishing a book or singing at the Met?”

Now is the time to dust off some of those old dreams you’ve shelved because you needed to earn a living and raise a family. What are the adventures you want to have? The biggest obstacle you have is you.

If you’ve started the list of the things you’d love to do, but… I’d like to introduce you to Warren Stortroen. A mild mannered insurance man for his professional career, he has now reached notoriety for having gone on 57 Earthwatch expeditions since retiring twelve years ago.

Once you read about Warren, you’ll want to get out there and do something outside of your comfort zone.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

French Cooking and Retirement Life

So, what do French cooking and retirement life have in common?
My husband and I went to see Julie and Julia last Friday night. This is the perfectly poached egg he presented me with on Saturday morning.
What does my husband share with Julia Child? They both value the concept of ‘mastery.’
My husband approaches French cooking with the same methodical precision he approaches building his plane. If it calls for a quart of whipping cream, then off to the store he goes for supplies.
He hurt his leg pushing carts at the grocery store on Saturday. We were both afraid he'd torn a tendon, so I wanted him to stay off his leg.
"I'll cook dinner, " I declared.
I was completely lost. I didn't know where to start. We ended up pulling some frozen crabcakes from the freezer. I totally tanked.
The good news. The delicious smells of French cooking permeate my house with Julia’s signature Boeuf Bourguignon simmering on the stove.
The leg is healing and he's back to cooking.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What Stands in the Way of Your Retirement Dreams?

When I knew we were going to travel to Arizona recently, I contacted RLM Experts, Billy and Akaisha Kaderli to see if we might meet and have breakfast. One of the highlights of my job is meeting the amazing people who are interested in Retirement Life Matters. Billy and Akaisha exemplify the new retirement spirit.

Entrepreneurs’ and restaurant owners, they found themselves with a beautiful home and successful careers, but working up to eighty hours a week with little joy in their lives. They did what many fantasize. They walked away from it all. They retired early and started to live life.

The number one stumbling block people give for not living their dreams is finances. Not only do Billy and Akaisha travel around the world, often staying in a location for months at a time, but they do it on a meager income. They have chosen to live a frugal lifestyle exemplified with the recent
sale of their only vehicle.

There’s a saying that most of us go to the grave with our dreams still inside of us. Entering into retirement is an occasion to revisit, recapture and establish dreams for the next stage of life. When you talk to people years before they plan on retiring they will share visions of travel, learning new skills, connecting with others and making a difference. After retirement, many people feel lost, unfocused and fearful about living the life of their dreams.

Billy and Akasha Kaderli model a retirement that, while frugal is full and complete with worldly travels, rich in experience and relationships.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Work for Those Over 50 – What’s the True Story?

As the boomer generation creeps into retirement life, an interesting phenomenon is starting to emerge. More workers, by choice and otherwise are going to continue to work. While this may appear depressing at first glance, further investigation offers additional insight.

The headline read “Career Changers After Age 50 Are Permanently Worse Off.” In a well crafted article, the author sited numerous statistics about older workers and the challenges they face in getting work after 50.

In fact, studies consistently show that workers who are laid off at mid-life have a difficult finding another job that pays the same or better. In general, people who left a job involuntarily, earn two-thirds what they did in their previous job.

Employees who left a job voluntarily fare much better. People who leave a job on their own earned either the same or more in subsequent positions.

The article continued to share very important information about the mature worker not first apparent by the headline. While workers who change jobs at mid-life do struggle to maintain the pay they had earned, they are much happier in their new work and they like their new jobs better. In fact, ninety-one percent reported they liked their new job, even if they earned less money.

“They are more satisfied and they report less stress because it appears that they have more control over what they are doing and they certainly don’t have a lot of people telling them what to do,” says Susan Reinhard, senior vice president of the AARP Public Policy Institute. In addition to being happy in their work, nearly two-thirds entered into new positions or new industries.

Work is going to continue to be an important aspect of retirement. That doesn’t mean it’s an indictment to a less fulfilling or rewarding third age. Not only providing income, work presents an opportunity to stay connected, provide structure and meaning in life.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Retirement Life Decisions

New retirement life often brings decisions. Where are we going to live? What are we going to do? How are we going to pay for it? How does it integrate into a balanced and complete lifestyle?

My husband and I are currently in Arizona. We spent the weekend in Phoenix with our grandchildren. They recently moved into a new house their parents purchased. For the first time, we’re considering not only moving to the desert, but also moving to the location of our grandchildren. On top of that, we’re researching an adult only community.

The first thing I have to say is be careful what you declare you’ll never do. I often laugh at my husband who said he’d never move to California and has spent the last 27 years here.

Neither one of us are big desert people. I never imagined I would consider a retirement in Arizona.

In addition, I often cluck at people who move to be close to their grandchildren. I advise you can’t create a fulfilling life solely around your family and grandchildren.

Finally, I’ve had grave misgivings about moving into an adult community. I always considered them to be golden prisons, isolated from the real world, devoted to a senior life of indulgence.

Stay posted as we explore retirement life doing all the things you said you wouldn’t do.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Life Transitions, Out of Work - Where to Begin

Just want you to know I'm being interviewed by Emily Woodman-Nance on radio on Friday. Millions of people are in transition and not sure what to do next. We're going to discuss the first step to any change involves looking inward. We'll offer specific advice on how to start the process. Please tune in.

There are four ways that people can listen to the show on Friday, July 24, 2009 from 9:00 - 10:00 am:

· Internet Stream
If problems occur go to to listen
· 88.9 FM - Orange County area
· iTunes/Radio/public.kuci

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Your Ideal Day

I was intrigued with the post at The Boomer Chronicles describing our ideal day and how that relates to an ideal retirement life. An ideal day is special that most often involves enjoying food, friends and a favorite activity.

My ideal day:
I thoroughly enjoy getting up with sun, drinking a cup of coffee listening to the birds as they awake to a new day.

My ideal day would involve a leisurely lunch with friends at a quiet outdoor cafe overlooking a pond or stream.

The day would include creating a masterful painting and spending time with my friends at the studio laughing and talking about sex.

It might also include a trip to a great gallery or museum.

The evening would be spent at a secluded B & B overlooking a beach or in the woods, a romantic dinner for two and a special night with the man I love.
My ideal day would be spent enjoying my grandchildren.

Friday, July 17, 2009

New On the RLM Website

As baby boomers start the transition into retirement life, this diversified group shares one thing-the desire for experience. Contrary to popular opinion, this isn't a homogenous group, but one that is varied and complex. The desire to make the most of life is feeling most boomers share

In recent weeks, we’ve been discussing small business you can start in retirement. Meet Judy Jurisich who took the ‘retirement’ business to a whole new level by creating the New Orleans Cooking Experience.

As baby boomers reach retirement age, they want to create their own change in the world. They want to make a positive difference. One of the most successful volunteer organizations is
Earthwatch which has programs on all the continents.

Warren Bland continues his journey through great retirement communities with a look at
Bloomington, Indiana.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Extend Your Retirement Life

How long would you like to live? You can extend your retirement life in some amazingly simple ways according to research. Did you know that laughing daily can extend your life by 8.8 years. Get out the old Laurel and Hardy movies.

There are things you can't control, such as being born more recently. Young people are expected to live 5 years more than people born 25 years ago. Being born a woman is always better for living longer. Where you actually live can affect how long you live.

There are things you can do. You know that not smoking and have a lifetime fitness regiment will extend your life. Did you know how much you sleep and good dental hygiene also contributes to your extended life.

The question might be whether or not you wan to live to 100. But, it's fun to see how what you can do to improve your odds.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Has your life taken a U-Turn?

Every day we hear stories and encounter people whose lives aren’t what they expected. This is especially true with retirement life Recently, I’ve met people who were ‘forced’ to retire two years too early. Many people who are retired have been compelled to look for work as they watch their savings and investments tumble.

Throughout your life, you’ve met with challenges, tragedies and opportunities. They don’t go away as we get older. I heard recently about a friend whose young adult child drowned. I think we make a pact with God, or the universe if you prefer. We say that we’re going to make every intention of living a good life, of being a good person. We’ll work hard and be reasonably kind to those we meet along the way. In exchange, nothing horrible is going to happen to us. It doesn’t happen that way. As Harold Kushner wrote many years ago, bad things do indeed happen to good people.

It was a pleasure to recently talk to author and psychologist Nancy Irwin, who has compiled forty stories about people whose lives took a U-Turn as they reached the midpoint. Like Nancy, who returned to school at age 42 to become a psychologist, many of the stories are dominated by personal choices. Other stories involved people who were assaulted with life-altering situations. Read about
Facing You Turns.

As Nancy declares, change is inevitable; the key is how we deal with it. As I have researched and now live with it, retirement is one of the most significant transitions we face in our lives.

The opportunity for personal growth, new challenges, and experiences is available around every corner as you transition into retirement, regardless of your financial situation. You bring with you many
Tools to ensure your success.

A primary goal of Retirement Life Matters is to help you create a satisfying life, regardless of the circumstances you experience.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New On the Retirement Life Matters Website

Great new articles appear at the Retirment Life Matters website this week. Take a look.

Baby boomers want to find balance in retirement. A life out of whack has led them to want to have it all without feeling out of control. Nancy Merz Nordstrom discusses Creating Balance in our After-50 Years

Learn how taking out the trash as a youngster affected your retirement in Retirement Money and Why There is Never Enough

Stan Spector continues his series with a suggestion you specialize your retirement business.

Warren Bland continues his quest for the perfect retirement community with a review of Bellingham, Washington.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Do You Resist Your Retirement Life Dreams?

Retirement life is a time to explore new options, have new experiences, take on challenges and yet so many people get stuck. Why?

A client left a message on my phone this week. She had taken my retirement workshop and had become interested in finding a meaningful part time job. She had not completed her homework assignment and concluded the phone message with, “Perhaps I don’t really want to do this?”


A few weeks ago, I met with my business partner for Retirement Life Matters. I ranted and railed about how I didn’t have enough time, especially to work on completing the Retirement Life Success Kit. In his irritatingly calm voice, he replied, “Do what you have to do, Cathy.”

So I set aside time- one hour a day- to work on the book, yet still I struggle. When I sit down to begin each of these daily sessions, my mind goes blank. I feel overwhelmed and out of sorts.

What is the problem with my client, with myself?

People work their whole lives to reach retirement. “Now is the time I finally get to do what I want to do,” they declare. Sure, people might take a few trips. But do they push the boundaries and dream grand dreams? Or do they feel stuck?

Why do we struggle to do the things we love? Why do we, at times, resist doing the things we’re passionate about?

Several years ago, I read an essay about resistance, written by Tama Kieves. I pulled it out yesterday, read it, made a copy of it and put it next to my computer monitor. If you struggle with resistance at doing what you love, take a look at
The Only Road to Everything You Want

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Retirement Health: You ARE What you Eat

A key component of a happy retirement life is being healthy. Obviously, anyone can be hit with an ailment at anytime. With that said, research is more conclusive that we have control over our retirement health.

There was a fascinating story on ABC Nightly News last night. A reporter and producer saw the immediate effects of consuming a five thousand calorie meal full of saturated fat. While most seniors don’t consume a vast amount of food at one sitting, the piece clearly demonstrated the toll the body takes from poor eating.

As quickly as you can hurt your body, you can equally improve it. There are Four simple Changes That Can Save Your Life. Unfortunately, many people don’t do them.

Whether you like it or not, a key to a healthy retirement life is a commitment to Lifetime Fitness.

I smoked for almost thirty years. While I can’t ever remove all the damage smoking did, a conscious attempt at eating well and get exercise is helping me live a longer and happier life. It can work for you also.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Best Retirement Life Includes Travel for Boomers

Travel remains the number one goal for retirement life. With such a vast world, limited financial resources, we're all trying to maximize our travel dollars. Check out travel expert Donna Hull's blog, 'My Itchy Travel Feet.' Geared specifically to baby boomers, Donna shares information about the experience of travel, as well as destinations.

No longer content to travel "If It's Tuesday, This Must be Belgium" style, baby boomers want to experience a locations' culture, people and geography.

Follow Donna as she explores locales both near and far. She provides great tips for your own travel plans, but also a way to journey vicariously.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Retirement Life and Thai Green Curry Chicken for Dinner

Retirement life takes on new rhythms and practices. As I've mentioned before, I continue to work, since my husband retired. To a certain degree, I work more than ever. My husband was always a good cook, but very rarely prepared meals beyond taking over the grill.

A year before retiring, he became intrigued with smoking food (don't even email me about the carbon footprint). That has waned since retirement.

He has taken over cooking most of the evening meals. At first we struggled because he likes things hotter (spicier) than me. He tries very hard to please me and has recently ventured into more adventurous meals.

This week he made Thai Green Curry Chicken. He must have spent $100 on ingredients, since I've never made a Thai meal in my life. It took him two days and he got every pot in the house dirty. On top of that, he does his own dishes. Am I lucky or what?

I'm telling you this for two reasons. The first reason is to gush about the wonderful new housemate I've acquired in the last six months. More importantly, neither of us could have anticipated this new passion. We don't know how long it's going to last or where it's going to go.

I help people plan their retirement life. A plan is a guide, but not an absolute dictation for the future. You know you're retirement is successful when you have the time, money and opportunity to explore new interests and challenges.

It's fun to see him experiment. AND, it's fun not to have to cook dinner every evening.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New on the Retirement Life Matters Website

One of the goals of Retirement Life Matters is to form a community of people to provide and receive support as they transition through the next phase of life. We’re beta testing the Member Registration (it’s free). You don’t have to be retired to join. A willingness to be part of this community is all that’s needed. I’m looking for brave souls to take a few minutes to fill out the form. Feel free to email me with comments, problems or suggestions.

Family will always be the center for many baby boomers.
How to help adult children is always a concern.

Stan Spector continues his series about starting a
business based on your hobby. Warren Bland continues his quest for the perfect retirement location with a review of Austin, Texas.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where do You Belong After Retirement?

An important aspect of retirement life is feeling connected. It's important to believe you belong.
I was very concerned about my husband’s transition to retirement. He had worked the nightshift most of his adult life. Because of his schedule, we never developed a social circle of friends. Outside of work and family, he didn’t have a place where he had a sense of belonging. People often don’t realize the importance of being connected, feeling you belong.

For most of the history of mankind, a sense of belonging came from your clan and geographic community. As baby boomers who grew up in the suburbs, much of a sense community based on where we lived was lost. Many of us don’t even know our next door neighbors, let alone feel a sense of connection to them.

As baby boomers became adults, work replaced school as a place to belong. For many, a sense of community is formed by the company you work. Or it may come from camaraderie of a particular profession. For many baby boomers, work fulfills many needs beyond just a paycheck.

For people who do not have a large family, strong church ties or other social group they belong, retirement can be very isolating. It can be a challenge for people to find new ways to connect.

For many, finding a sense of belonging will be based on locating a community based on your interests and passions. I’ve been painting for twelve years. I paint at a studio twice a month. It forces me to paint, no matter how busy I am, but more importantly, it gives me an opportunity to be with my friends, to feel connected others. My painting buddies from my tribe. This is a place where I feel accepted.

My husband is building a plane in our garage. Every day, the garage door goes up. People now stop by throughout the week, checking out the plane and talking about flying. A pilot, who lives up the street, invited my husband to go to the airfield recently. The neighbor introduced my husband to the other pilots. He is finding a new community to belong.

Finding a retirement activity is a way to stay challenged. It also is important as a way to stay connected. Finding a place to belong is an important ingredient to creating a fulfilling retirement.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Finding Love for the Boomers Over 50

When I was researching web sites about retirement life, I concluded that the boomers are just as obsessed with love and sex now, as they were forty years ago.

With the divorce rate still high, many women over 50 are interested in senior dating. The Dating Goddess found herself single at 48. She started dating eighteen months later and has been writing about it ever since. While an excellent writer, she's the 'every woman' self described as attractive but overweight who doesn't match the description of what men say they are looking for.

Dubbed the Dating Goddess by her friends she offers solid advice with a touch of humor and real heart.

When asked what are the mistakes women over 50 make when they start dating, she replied:

They either shoot too high or too low. They shoot too high by having grandiose expectations that their next mate will meet all 100 of their criteria, rather than looking for someone who matches their values and who is attractive to them.

By shooting too low they accept selfish, immature behaviors out of loneliness. They are so desperate to have someone to go to the movies with or cuddle with, they accept loutish behaviors.

You can read the full article at the retirement life matters website.

Wanting love doesn't change as we grow older. Finding help and support along the way is great for anyone.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Senior Health, Senior Diet and Lemons

Eating changes as we get older. I’m beginning to believe that many of our health issues in retirement life could be minimized with a shift in diet. Trust me, I’m not there yet, but I try to be more conscious of what I eat.

Case in point. I’ve had a problem recently with heartburn and acid build-up in my digestive system. This is going to sound counterintuitive, but it was suggested I eat more acid. What? I told my husband and he started eating lemons. Low and behold, his heartburn decreased significantly.

I love lemons. When we walk every morning, we pass lemon trees in people’s yards. Many months ago, I knocked on the door of a neighbor and asked if we could pick her lemons. The lady was delighted and we’ve been helping ourselves ever since.

My husband likes to peel the lemon and eat it raw. I can’t do that, but started putting squeezed lemon in my juice drink every morning. I put ½ lemon in the drink. Guess what? I have less heartburn.

This is obviously not going to change senior health by itself, but I’m intrigued. In researching the lemon, I found it acts as a tonic to the liver, stimulating the production of bile to help digest food if taken in the morning. It is high in vitamin C and can relieve symptoms of asthma, and sore throat. It my also help with arthritis and rheumatism because it flushes toxins from the body. I have asthma and I certainly won’t stop taking my medication because I’m consuming more lemon. Please enlist the aid of your healthcare professional before changing medication. I am finding that eating a more natural and healthy diet helps me feel better.

I want to include lemon in more recipes, but I’m having a hard time finding lemon recipes that don’t include a lot of sugar, milk products or eggs. Does anyone have interesting lemon dishes that are also great for a senior diet?
Note: This is a painting I did of a lemon grove.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Helping Your Community, Retirement Best

The last few months have been bogged down with conversations about people not being able to retire. Or those who have retired, being are forced to go back to work. Certainly this blog is not to minimize the impact and fear people are feeling in their lives. But, there are opportunities to explore in a new retirement life.

A lady came to me last week wanting to return to work to supplement her diminished funds. She is looking for work where she believes she's making a contribution. She wants to make a difference. Many retirees need to suppliment their retirement income, but also want to do good in the world.

For people who want to start a business, many are exploring Social Enterprise, the quest to both make money and do good. This is an excellent PowerPoint to learn more, from the Social Enterprise Alliance.

I first learned about David Mills through the blogroll at Boomer Chronicles. David wrote the book 10,000 Days: A Call to Arms for the Baby Boom Generation which he discussed with us recently.

Boomers are exploring ways of doing well and doing good or just plane make the world a better place to live.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Clear The Clutter to Improve Your Retirement

You’ll never guess what my retired husband is doing as I sit down to write this blog. He’s been taking all the loose change we have and is putting it in the paper wrappers to take to the bank. He saves most of his change and we decided years ago to use the money for our grandchildren’s college fund. Of course, when he was working he never had time to wrap it. He also saves aluminum cans and uses the recycle money for the college fund. Yesterday, he took the cans to be recycled and in the process, got motivated to wrap coins. An interesting way to spend your retirement life.

A few years ago, I asked two recently retired friends what they were doing in their retirement. Because I saw both of them in a matter of weeks, I was surprised when they each responded, “Cleaning out closets.”

My first responding thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me?” While I like a clutter free house as much as the next person, I thought cleaning closets was a silly retirement goal.

While it may not make a great retirement goal, there is a cathartic benefit to clearing the clutter that has grown over the years. Many of us have lived in our homes for a long time. No matter how hard you try, the garbage always comes in at a faster rate than it goes out.

Home takes on a new meaning when you retire. Even the most extroverted person spends more time at the house.

If you’re married, it’s important for both of you have a separate space to claim your own. For many couples, that requires cleaning out a garage or a spare room.

Finally, there is a wonderful feeling that comes from getting organized. We all have papers, closets, photos, books, junk drawers and spare rooms turned into storage space that hang around like an albatross needing our attention.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Healthcare Costs for the Over 50 Looking for Work

We've all heard the stories that one of the reasons older workers don't get hired is because of their higher healthcare costs. Did you know that's a complete myth?

Think about it. The people who spend more time seeing doctors are families with young children. Unless you have a serious ailment, most people in over 50 and into their sixties don't go to the doctor nearly has much as people with young children. My husband and I both get our yearly physicals and that's the only time we see a doctor.

Older people, in their seventies and beyond may have more healthcare costs. If you're looking for a job, don't hesitate to bring up that you are healthy, your children are no longer falling out of trees, so healthcare costs for you may be less than for a younger family.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Retirement Life, Boomer Generation and Lifelong Learning

As a generation who grow up during an educational revolution where college was available to most anyone who wanted to go, lifelong learning is at the very fiber of the boomer experience. Retirement life won’t diminish the quest to learn, grow and discover.

When I completed graduated school, I was eager to learn just for the fun of it. After seven (okay, I took the slow route) years to get my degree, I wanted to learn without the pressure of papers and exams. I signed up for a philosophy class at the local community college. Even though I took the class as pass/fail, it was hard. I didn’t take the exams, but if I was going to learn anything, I needed to read all of the books and complete the written assignments. I also took a creative writing class before I gave up on the community college to explore other options for lifelong learning.

I’ve had the honor of engaging Nancy Merz Nordstrom in an exchange recently. Author, consultant, and speaker, Nancy Merz Nordstrom is an expert on the concept, benefits and opportunities of lifelong learning for older adults, and how keeping minds challenged can enrich and enhance our After-50 years. Returning to school at age 51, after the unexpected death of her first husband, she became aware of the opportunities and challenges facing older adults, and has dedicated herself to the belief that lifelong learning is both empowering and life-affirming, regardless of age.
Using her book, "Learning Later, Living Greater: the Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years," Nancy now gives customized presentations, workshops and courses designed to help older adults develop fulfilling later lives. She also directs the Elderhostel Institute Network, North America’s largest educational network for older adults.

Southern California is often considered an intellectual wasteland, but I’m lucky to have two organizations dedicated to senior learning. Osher provides more academic classes taught by professors, while OASIS offers more leisure types of learning. Almost every community has a senior center with classes in everything from dance to fine arts to political awareness.

In addition to schools found locally, there is an abundance of destination lifelong learning centers found around the country. We’re in the process of researching many of them and will share information in the upcoming weeks.

Whether it’s taking classes online, locally or combining travel with learning, new retirees are finding an infinite variety of ways to expand mentally, physically and spiritually.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Retired Volunteers Help Rebuild Cedar Rapids

Recent news articles have discussed retired electricians and plumbers who are volunteering their time to rebuild Cedar Rapids after the devastating flood of last year. This is a demonstration of retirement life at its best.

While every story needs an angle, I was intrigued NBC Nightly News took the stance of “wouldn’t you rather be fishing instead of volunteering your time?” This clearly shows a dated and most likely mythical view of retirement.

While it’s probably true these gentlemen love fishing and golf, it fails to acknowledge that fishing and golf alone make for very sad existence.

My guess is these men loved dusting off their expertise and feeling like mentors to their community. While they may not want to go back to this work on a regular basis, retirees want to feel like they are connected. Being a member of a larger community is an important aspect of that. People like challenges in their lives. What greater challenge can there be than rebuilding a community after a disaster. Finally, people of all ages want to know their lives have meaning. It’s important to have a reason to get up in the morning; to have a sense of purpose.

This story demonstrates how important it is for us to redefine retirement. No longer a stopping place, the new retirement should be a starting point for a creating and fulfilling new dreams and a bigger vision for life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Expore the New Retirement

Despite the drop in home values, Warren Bland still contends ‘there’s gold in them there homes’ in his article
Times are tough: How Can I Retire Now?

While not wanting people to invest their life savings, retirees should consider a small part time business. Stan Spector, business broker discusses the
Mini Business for Retirees.

Change and Transition explores specific factors that can affect a successful move into retirement.

Somewhat off topic, but not necessarily, Kat and Curtis Knecht discuss
Expectation or Intention. While the article is specifically about relationships, understanding our own expectation about retirement can have a great impact on our satisfaction.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Am I Crazy to Retire Now?

Recently, a friend voiced the concern of many. “Am I crazy to think about retiring now?”

With the current economic upheaval, it’s been well documented many baby boomers are going to change their retirement plans.

I’m going to suggest the recession provides an opportunity to reinvent the retirement of the future.

Ken Dychtwald, author of Age Power aptly stated, "Today's retirees are social guinea pigs. We are shifting away from the model of learning for 20 years, working like a mad dog for 40, and goofing around for 20. What is evolving is some new blend between learning, working and leisure."

Retirement in the future will consist of more people working. But, it doesn’t have to be drudgery. Retirement in the 21st Century provides an opportunity to push back boundaries, explore new options and yes, find new ways of earning income.

In a recent interview, when asked why he doesn’t hang it all up because he had earned the right, Norman Lear replied, “Yes, I’ve earned the right to do what I want to do. What I want to do is wake up every morning to do something that I think matters.”

What have you earned the right to do?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New on Retirement Life Website

New on the RLM Website

As you know, travel remains the number one goal of new retirees. Micha Berman shares his experience working on a cruise ship. Not only can you learn about
life on a cruise ship, but did you know that there are opportunities for retirees to find work on cruise liners?

My friend Marty Kaplan, director of the
Osher Learning Institute at CSU Channel Island shares the Lifestyle Changes that accompany aging.

Understanding all of the financial issues can be overwhelming. Colleen King explains the difference between
Term and Whole Life Insurance

Speaking of financial issues, many of us have experienced increased stress over what is going on in the world. Jeff Gero explains
How to Survive These Stressful Times.

We’re always looking for new articles. Do you have information or an experience you’d like to share with the Retirement Life Community? Drop me a note.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Lessons From Susan Boyle on Retirement Living

Along with everyone else on the planet, I’ve been captivated by the saga of Susan Boyle. She epitomizes the story of the ugly duckling who sings like the beautiful swan. While the tale, at the time of this writing, seems to have ended on a bittersweet note, there are lessons we can learn that apply to achieving a successful retirement.

As the story has unfolded, it was revealed that Susan has spent her life being painfully shy. On her mother’s deathbed, she evidently promised to try to get on television.

Regardless of what transpired afterwards, Susan confronted her biggest fear and entered the talent show. How many of us have lived in our little private world and failed to pursue the big dream because it would mean also taking a huge risk?

Susan also shows the value of perseverance. There is tape of Susan as a young woman singing at a local Scottish pub. She never gave up on her passion. How many of us have said the passion wasn’t worth the heartache or effort?

No matter the outcome, Susan is going to be able to look at this experience, knowing she stepped up to the plate, took a risk, stood for a moment in her glory and was the very best she could be. That’s a lesson we can all learn from.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Where in the World Have You Been?

Even in tough economic times, travel remains the number one dream activity for retirees.

While many are curbing their travel plans, staying closer to home, for example, the desire to see the world still exists. The newly retired and not so newly retired are discovering creative ways to travel without having it break the bank.

I stumbled across this site through Twitter and love the idea of tracking and sharing where I've been. My only complaint is I wish they broke the US into individual states. Here's where I've been Create your own map at

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's in a Retirement Home?

The concept of home takes on a completely new meaning in retirement. In fact, home is considered on of the foundation elements, along with health and finances.

My husband and I remodeled our home almost ten years ago with the intention of making it our retirement home. Now, ‘retirement California’ may not make sense.

We’re not alone in our thinking. As people look forward to retirement, they take a special interest in where they want to live. For many, their retirement residence is a key factor in their plan for retirement.

Like many, I’d like to explore the possibility of retiring abroad. But, I’m not sure I’d be willing to totally give up a residence in the states.

There’s also a part of me that would love to be a vagabond for a year or two and not have to worry about a home.

When I think about living on the road, or retiring overseas, I always come back to the question of what would we do with the cats?

Right now, the primary question is what do we want in our new home? Not just the home, but what factors determine the community and surrounding area? These are all questions to consider

Research shows very few people actually move to a new retirement location. I'd like to know if it's something you are considering and what are the factors that are important to you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Retirement or College for the Kids

Recently, I read a lot about how parents are having to choose between retirement and sending their children to college. Or, saying they’re not going to get to college at all because of a lack of funds. I’m here to say, “Hogwash!”

This is a ‘back in my day story,’ but I think it is worth telling.

I completed my first year of college at a local community college before I made some stupid and life altering decisions. Over the next three years, I got married, pregnant and divorced, so by the time I was twenty-two I was a single parent. It was a difficult time in my life, but the one good thing that came out of it, besides my daughter, was the decision to complete my education. It took another six years to get my bachelor degree. I paid for it all myself, worked went to school and raised my daughter. I will admit, I lived with my parents for a few years and they help tremendously by taking care of her.

As I look back over my life, I regret not having the college experience of living in a dorm on a college campus, or of going to football games. If you want the college experience, it’s going to cost you. And yes, I know, the cost of college has gone up. But, if you want an education, you can get a college degree. It may take you longer. That’s a decision, I have never regretted.

Senior Health

I did something for myself today. No, not the usual indulgence of chocolates or flowers. I actually did something important. At first, I was reluctant to discuss it, because it comes under the heading that is traditionally considered unmentionable. Life over 50 gets complicated and sometimes we need to discuss unpleasant things.

I had a colonoscopy this morning. The reason I decided to discuss it is many people don’t have the procedure. I’m lucky I have insurance and quite probably wouldn’t have had it done without it. I’m talking to the people who have insurance or can otherwise afford it, but elect not to do the procedure. It’s inconvenient. It’s a bit uncomfortable and it occurs in the part of the body most of us would like to ignore.

That’s the main reason I decided to write about it. Denial can be wonderful thing. Well, sometimes. Rarely. Nope, now that I think about it, I don’t know that denial is a good thing. We get to pretend, but that just postpones reality and when reality actually hits, the ramifications of denial are magnified.

The doctor found a small polyp in my colon. He removed it. There’s a possibility that had I not chosen to have the procedure, it could have grown and in ten years I’d have colon cancer.

As I wrote in a previous post, a friend of mine died of cancer this winter. Cancer is not fun. There is no way we can absolutely prevent all health issues in our life. I can’t be assured that I won’t get some other form of cancer in some other part of my body. There are many things we can do to ensure senior citizens health.

Today I had a procedure that will minimize the probability of getting one form of cancer. If you’re over 55, get it done. It’s as simple as that.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me anything. Boundaries are minimal.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Senior Fitness for Abs

While I try to accept my aging body, the post menopausal tummy, drives me crazy. I know I eat too much, but I'm going to try these ab exercises from FitnessDiet.Info. I actually like crunches, so I'll let you know if it works.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Should You Retirement?

To most people, retirement is mostly a question about money. Do I have enough financial resources to last the rest of my life?

Here are additional questions to think about.

What percentage of time do you love what you do?

What percentage of time do you love who you work with?

What percentage of time do you love when you work?

Can those questions be a criteria of when you should retire or look for another job?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Family Finances Part Two

As I mentioned in a previous post, we scheduled a family meeting to discuss money. Not everyone made it this year, but a process was started that I plan on continuing.

We have one daughter and one son. My husband and I try to split everything equally. Unfortunately, we made a bad decision (I think) by making them co-executors of our estate, should something happen to us simultaneously.

My husband was executor of his mother’s estate and there was a lot of paperwork to fill out and sign. He was in a different state than the attorney, so it was challenge. My children live in different states and I don’t think we’ve done them any favors by making them co-executors. We don’t have a resolution. I hoping they will discuss it and help us decide what to do.

My son brought up concerns about making the mortgage payment if we’re not around. I thought that was a good question, but couldn’t provide an answer. We’re going to discuss it with our financial person to find out the answer.

Every family I know struggles over family estates. I know of more than one family where siblings and parents stopped talking to each other over money. I don’t know if we can prevent that from happening. I glad we had a family meeting.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Family Finances

Americans don’t like to talk about money or finances. There’s an attitude that it’s none of anyone else’s business. Which may be true, but money is a major factor in successful aging.

My mother is a very independent woman. I trait I appreciate, but also drives my brother, sister and I crazy. She is reticent to share her financial situation with us, which has made it difficult for us to help her. Now that she’s in her mid-eighties with memory issues it would be nice to be able to have a open dialog about her financial situation.

As my siblings and I continue to try to figure how to help my mother, my husband and I are discussing how we might avoid the same trap. While our children have a vague idea about our estate the plan has been to have a yearly meeting to let them know about our financial and estate situation. We’ve been intending to do this for over a year, but have failed to schedule a time to have the conversation.

I’ve decided Mother’s Day is the right time to have the call. While not the most sentimental of topics, it is for the benefit of all of us that we have the discussion.

My husband and I live in Southern California, daughter is in San Francisco and son is on the east coast. Everyone can call into Instant Conferencing # for free. They will have to pay any toll charges for the long distance call.

I’m still working on the agenda, but we want to let them know where financial information is kept. We have a trust, so we’ll answer any questions they might have about that. We’ll also let them know where our money and an overview of our financial situation. In addition, I’m hoping we can answer any questions they may have.

Aging and finances are intricately intertwined. Families should learn to work together for successful retirement living. Not everyone can have this conversation, but I’d like to hear how other families deal with finances and family as they get older.
Baby boomers understand this isn't your parents’ retirement. Find out how to make the rest of your life the best of your life with the complimentary e-book 7 Ingredients for a Satisfying Retirement at

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Quotes from Thomas Leonard

This comes from Andrea J. Lee's Blog

Here are your 5 snippets of wisdom about people for this week. We hope you’ll find them as useful and thought-provoking as always. They’re from the collection by Thomas Leonard, and assembled by his R&D team.

We hope you’ll enjoy!

· People have the capacity to create. They create their lives and opportunities each day of their lives.

· People most often criticize traits in others that they dislike about themselves.

· People play out issues from their families of origin in their present workplace situations.

· People suffer because they resist the present moment.

· People see the world not as it is, but as they are.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

About Retirement Guilt

Retirement is an interesting transition regardless of how it occurs. A couple rarely retires at the same time. Even if they do, there’s a shift that occurs. In our case, my husband retired in the fall and I continue to work from home.

Yesterday, he decided to work in the flower beds in the backyard. That had been my domain for years, but I just don’t have the time to keep it up. I felt guilty as I watched him lug bags of bark, pull weeds and clear winter clutter. At the same time, I wanted to control what he did and how things took shape. Plus, I wanted to be outside on the beautiful spring day.

In the end, I walked out once an hour for a five minute break. Then I would go back to the dungeon to work.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring In the Blue Ridge Moutains

I am disappointed in myself. I had hoped to post to this blog everyday while I was on the trip to western North Carolina. The three-hour time change and lack of WiFi made writing and posting more difficult than expected. So, here’s the recap of the week in the mountains.

Day 1. Took the redeye from Los Angeles to Atlanta, grabbed the rental car and was on the road by 7:00 am. We stopped for breakfast at a Waffle House. First time at a Waffle House, even though they are on almost every other corner in that part of the country. It was hardy and filling and the service was friendly.

I was born and raised in the west, so the opulent beauty of the southeast always astounds me. As we began the climb into the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, the lush beauty struck me. Even though the large deciduous trees were just beginning to leaf, the delicate Dogwoods were in bloom and wildflowers were popping up along the roadside.

We were staying in Sapphire, a small ski resort in Jackson County in southern North Carolina, which is an area known for its waterfalls. Although we had only dosed on the plane, we decided a hike was in order to see Glen Falls. We made it to the top third of the falls, but lack of sleep and being completely out of shape prevented us from descending the full 1.6 miles to the bottom. It was lovely and once again, we were revived and excited about the upcoming week.

Day 2. Today we headed for Ashville, home to the Biltmore, known as the ‘largest home in America.’ We didn’t visit the Biltmore, but wanted to spend the day taking in the rest of the town. It’s a city of about 70,000. We didn’t have an agenda, so decided to start from the visitor’s bureau, which was also the chamber of commerce. It was a wonderful building in the heart of town. They offered trolley site seeing tours, which we decided to take. The tour lasted an hour and half, but you could get off and on at the various stops. Our tour guide was a wonderful man named Kenneth, who had written books about the area. You could tell he was delighted in sharing the wealth of the history of the town.

We left the tour for a detour of the art district down by the river. Artists took up residence in the old abandon warehouses that dotted the wharf. We were only able to sample a small block that included potters, weavers, glassworks, woodworking and traditional paint on canvas artists. Everyone was friendly and delighted to stop and talk about his or her art. After a bite to eat at a small café, we hopped back on the trolley to finish the tour.

Ashville is a delightful town, combining a wonderful blend of old south and new world. The downtown had been renovating and we would have liked more time to look around.

Even though it was the longer way home, we decided to hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Built as a WPA project during the depression, the parkway stretches from Virginia to Tennessee. Having grown up in the mountains of Colorado, I am familiar with the hairpin curves as one rises and descends through the mountains. It was a delightful surprise to discover that once you get to the parkway, you actually stay on the ridge. One second you’re looking at the mountains and valleys to the north, the next to the ones on the south. Overlooks appear every quarter mile or so, allowing for better viewing of the panoramic landscape that stretches for miles in every direction.

At first, I was disappointed the trees had not sprouted their leaves yet. As we peered through the branches at the landscape beyond, it occurred to me that in a few weeks the leaves on the branches will make visibility impossible. There was a tradeoff. The hills were still brown, dotted with the occasional evergreen, but you could see clearly in every direction. Don’t get me wrong, it was a spectacular sight in any season. I can only imagine the bumper-to-bumper traffic that occurs at the peak of the fall colors.

Day 3 – We woke up to a gray and drizzly day. As is common on most of trips, we take a time to look at real estate. We were surprised at the development in the mountains area where we stayed. The little town of Highlands ten miles to the west boasted condominiums on the lake with a sales price of 900 thousand dollars. Way too rich for these Californians.

We decided to spend the day at a lower altitude with hopefully lower prices. We are interested in finding a new area to retire, but not necessarily a retirement community. The tour guide in Ashville recommended we visit Hendersonville, a small community to the south.

All the towns we passed through were charming. Hendersonville had a small downtown area that had been completely renovated. It boasted with planters filled with tulips and pansies in front of refurbished storefronts over a hundred years old.

We toured through some interesting new housing developments. We found an area just outside of town where the homes were clustered into one lever four-plexes. We liked the layout and design, but I was concerned about the lack of outdoor privacy.

One of the reasons we always look at homes when we travel is how it increases the knowledge of what we want. The more I struggle with keeping landscaping at our home in California, the more I’m interested in finding a place without yard work. I still love to be outside and would like outdoor privacy, however, it is nice to look at the different options available. With each tour, we learn more about what we want in a new home.

Day 4. The community center where we stayed provided an advertising rack for local businesses that cater to tourists. I looked through it our first day and was delighted to find a brochure for the John C Campbell Folk School. Established in 1925 as a way to preserve the music and culture of the people of the Appalachian region, the school draws instructors and students from all over the world to study and preserve folk art.

The school is nestled in a beautiful valley a few miles east of Murphy, North Carolina. Tucked in the hills of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains, the school rests among a grove of trees. The number of buildings for the school is actually larger than the town of Brasstown where it’s located.

We arrived in the late morning, took a tour of the museum that tells the story of the school and the people of the Appalachian Mountains. We were invited to visit classrooms and got to three before the lunch break. The classrooms were small with less than twelve people.

In a woodworking class, we were greeted by John surrounded by five students who were to learn how to make and play a flute. Many of the students had been to the school before and they welcomed us to the class. As they were shortly taking a break, John was more than eager to have new people in attendance as he leaned back in his chair to tell us the legend of the beginning of music.

We also visited a woodworking class where students were making a shaker bench from hand. When we passed through, they were forming the base of the seat. In the weaving class, a group of advanced students were working on tiny looms to create a sampler of patterns from the area.

We were disappointed we weren’t able to visit more classes before lunch, but were delighted to discover the school. We acquired a huge catalog of classes for 2009. They last for extended weekends to a full week. Many classes are centered on music, both making and playing instruments. If it could be considered folk art, they most likely have a class for it.

Day 5. It was a culture shock, to say the least, to go from the folk school to the Biltmore the next day. As we drove to Asheville, more trees were popping leaves, and wildflowers of every color dotted the roadside.

The Biltmore is touted as the largest home in the United States and it doesn’t disappoint. As one of the most visited homes in the country, it is all very organized as hundreds of people descend daily to view the house and surrounding estate.

Built at the turn of the twentieth century by George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore is a testament to the opulent wealth of the guided age. Guests receive a guidebook and are allowed to tour the estate at their own pace. Audio guides and special tours are also available for an additional charge.

While the house is impressive, it is definitely crowded, so I enjoyed to freedom to roam through the gardens and conservatory. We were a couple of weeks early for the azalea garden, although there were a few plants that were starting to bud. Instead, we feasted on hundreds of tulips that were in bloom.

The Biltmore is the primary draw to the western North Carolina Mountains and is certainly necessary for everyone’s list.

Day 6. We elected to take a tour for the day, which consisted of a bus ride to Bryson City and then the train ride into the Nantahala Gorge. I found it ironic that only a month before I had ridden the train with my grandchildren into the Grand Canyon.

We had driven every day since our arrival to the mountains, so it was nice to have a break and let someone else take charge. The train follows the banks of the Nantahala River. It’s a gentle ride through lush mountainsides. We could see rafters on the river below. Although, the rapids seemed tame, on a cool spring day, I wouldn’t want to fall into a stream of melted snow.

While I thought the scenery of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad was prettier than the one leading to the Grand Canyon, there’s no comparison in destination. As we reached the end of the line, I asked when we’d be arriving at the gorge, only to find out we were already in it. No one has ever looked over the Grand Canyon and remarked, “Is that all there is?”

Day 7. It was our last day in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Once again, we jump in the car. Today we stayed close to home, as we drove less than twenty miles to visit some of the numerous waterfalls that dot the area. Signage was a bit of a problem as we had to backtrack at one point, because the turnoff was missing a road sign. With that said, we saw five waterfalls, all within a short drive of where we were staying.

Cashiers Sliding Rock is a swimmers delight in summer as people can cascade down the rocks into a large pond. The Chatooga is also a destination for swimmers and fishermen in summer, but on this day we were alone. We ended the day at the impressive Whitewater Falls, the tallest falls in the eastern US.

The western North Carolina mountain area was some of the most beautiful county I’ve seen. It wasn’t the hillbilly land I expected. Huge homes, worth millions dot the hillsides, but much of the charm still of the area remains. Everyone we met was gracious and friendly. We were never treated as intruders, but always as guests in this distinctive and diversified area.