I’m back and ready to write some more stories about amazing people.
One thing I have learned since starting my blog, Growing Up Not Old, is that life over 50 looks very different to different people.
When I decided to retire from my job of 15 years, I told people that I was calling this phase of my life, my “re-imagination” not my retirement. So I have spent the past six months figuring out what to do next. Reimagining my life.
Since I left my full-time job, I have woken up every morning euphoric. I have never looked back or second guessed my decision. But after six months of writing, creating videos and doing a podcast, I wanted a little more structure in my life.
An opportunity presented itself at the local Chamber of Commerce. I had already being doing some work for them as a contractor so, I took on the position of part-time Community Events Coordinator. So far its been great.
I started working there after a two-week stay with my daughter and her husband in their home in Auckland, New Zealand. It was awesome! And for a long time fan of the Lord of the Rings franchise, it was really a dream come true visiting Hobbiton, the set of the Hobbit movies.
So now that I have recovered from my trip and have settled into my new job, it’s time to get back to my passion — writing.
As many of you know, I spent last year preparing for my own re-imagination by interviewing people who had made big changes to their life after 50. I have told stories of people selling everything and moving to the Caribbean and other stories of people falling in love later in life. Each story is unique and inspiring.
Now, I am writing my own story in real time, so please forgive my lapses between blogs as I figure out what life looks like for me personally.
Still, I have received so many comments about my blog and so many people have told me how much they like reading my stories, that I’m not about to give up now.
So, now that I am in motion, I am ready to get back to writing. I have already contacted a few people about interviews and I am always looking for someone else with an interesting story.
I know my part-time job with the Chamber is not my-end-all-be-all. It’s one more step on my journey. I hope I never stop taking those steps because I believe one should never stop learning.
So, follow me this year as we meet more interesting people with their own unique stories and help me as I navigate my own path.
My next blog will be March 14th. I am going to catch up with some of the people I profiled last year to see how they are doing and then March 28th, I will have a brand new blog.
If you haven’t been following my blog, now is a great time to start. Go back and read some of my early stories. The writing may not have been as on point, but the stories are just as fascinating.
Here’s to another trip around the Sun and more interesting people to meet.
If you know someone who would make a great interview, let me know. Email me at email@example.com.
When Jenn turned 50, she knew she was ready for a change. After some self-reflection, she found her next career helping others like her going through transition.
January is often a time when people reflect and think about what they want to do over the next year. Some people over 50 may start to think about retiring, while others start to think about what their next chapter might be.
Five years ago, when Jenn Gruber was turning 50, she began to think about what she might do next. Her husband was getting ready to retire and her daughter was graduating from high school and going off to college.
“I’d spent 22 years putting my family first,” Jenn said. “I wanted to do what I wanted to do, but I had no idea what that was.”
She knew she wanted to do something that would incorporate all the skills she had learned over a lifetime of volunteer and paid work experience with non-profits. Over the years, she discovered that not only did she love leading groups, public speaking and writing, she was good at it.
So, Jenn began a journey of self-discovery including meditation, yoga, journaling, and listening to podcasts, watching TED talks, and reading self-help books and articles.
“All of that led me to coaching,” Jenn said. “Helping people find more joy and more fulfillment in their lives felt very appealing to me and brought me back to what I wanted to do in my 20s.”
Although she was passionate about coaching, Jenn was still hesitant to take the first steps.
“I thought, ‘what if I’m not good at it?” Jenn said. However, once she started the certification process, she knew that coaching was the modality that she had been looking for. “I realized that through every job and position I’d held, I did a lot of coaching,” Jenn said. “I was always the person that the company leadership would ask, ‘What’s the mood of the organization? What do people need?’” Her training provided a framework for using the skills that had always felt intuitive to her.
Once she had decided move forward, Jenn had another decision to make, who would she coach? “I thought it made sense to work with women like me,” Jenn said. She wanted to help women who were ready to start a new chapter but had lost touch with who they were, but that felt too broad.
“I’ve always loved helping people to feel more connected to one another, so I realized that I wanted relationships to be a part of my work. What I landed on was family transitions.” Jenn said.
Now, she helps people who are approaching retirement to not only explore their own goals, but also to think about how their relationships are going to be impacted by those changes. Her clients also include individuals whose partners are retiring, those whose kids are becoming young adults, and those whose parents are aging and declining.
Her own personal experience with her father, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s, has helped give her insight into this area.
Training and Certification
Jenn went through extensive training to become a life coach. She first attended a 9-month program through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) and earned her Certified Professional Coach (CPC) designation. Then, after completing 100 hours of coaching and additional testing, she was awarded the title of Associate Certified Coach (ACC) through the International Coaching Federation.
Going into Business
In February 2020, Jenn launched her business. Although at first, this seemed an inopportune time to begin a business, Jenn found new opportunities.
“My entire marketing plan for the year went out the window.” Jenn said with a laugh. Instead, she pivoted and began facilitating virtual support groups and coaching clients struggling with COVID-related issues.
Jenn worked with SHIFT Yoga in Fulton, MD facilitating online “Support for the Soul” groups. In addition, Jenn led discussions for book clubs and groups of friends who pulled together, helping them deal with COVID-related issues.
Clients would say, “I’m not used to being with my spouse 24-7 and it’s driving me crazy.” But it wasn’t just about managing family relationships, people had many fears about COVID, and it caused them to re-think their lives moving forward, according to Jenn.
“It was a great way for me to get a lot of exposure,” Jenn said. During this time, she was able to make contacts and get her name out in the community, while also gaining more experience.
Building Her Business
Jenn also made a point to network. She joined the Business Women’s Network of Howard County. “Even though it was all virtual for quite a while, I made a lot of contacts,” Jenn said.
“I’ve also gotten a lot of referrals through other coaches,” she said. Because each coach has their own specialty, Jenn has had other coaches reach out to her. Sometimes the referrals come through the Facebook groups she belongs to and other times through iPEC alumni. “There aren’t a lot of coaches who do what I do,” Jenn said, referring in particular to the fact that she works with peoplewho are overwhelmed by their parents’ increasing needs.
Jenn has also built up a network of professionals who refer clients to her. “After the pandemic I put a lot of energy into referral partnerships,” Jenn said. These professionals include social workers, senior real estate specialists, estate attorneys and generic care managers.
Advice for People in Transition
Through her experience working with people transitioning into retirement, as well as her own personal experience, Jenn has found one thing that’s really important. She recommends you ask yourself, “What do I want my life to look like once I retire?”
Jenn said this is not about just planning out the big goals. She recommends you think about what day-to-day life will be. What time will you get up or go to bed? Do you want to set an alarm? Will you go to gym? Do you want to volunteer?
“Think about how you’re going to fill your days,” Jenn said. She also recommended asking yourself why you’re choosing to do those things, whether it be activities or down time. “What is going to bring you joy and fulfillment?”
Discover What’s Missing
Jenn said that when people first make the decision to retire, they often think about what they won’t miss after leaving their job. For example, “I won’t have to deal with difficult people anymore. “
However, she said it’s important to take that next step and think about what their former career provided them. According to Jenn, failure to look at the loss you may be experiencing as a result of retiring may leave a person floundering and feeling like “this is what I wanted, why am I not enjoying it more?”
For example, an individual may miss something like the social interactions at work. They need to think, “‘I do miss the social interactions so, I need to find new social interactions.’ It’s not that leaving was the wrong decision,” she said.
“People often don’t realize or anticipate how much the loss of their previous life will impact them,” Jenn said. “Then they start judging themselves for not handling things well.”
According to Jenn it’s important acknowledge what you are missing and where else can you find that feeling. “It’s not working every day that you miss, it’s the feelings that come from working every day that you miss,” Jenn said. Perhaps it’s the sense of accomplishment, or feeling appreciated, or being a part of a team.
She recommends that individuals remember why they made the decision to retire and think about what they are gaining in retirement.
“What is it that made you feel relevant before? What does relevance mean to you?” are questions that Jenn says can be great starting points.
Her Personal Transition
Jenn doesn’t just focus on an individual, but also on how the relationships in her clients’ lives will change as a result of major life changes. She knows first-hand. Her husband, Jim, retired December 30th, 2021. “It wasn’t a seamless transition for the two of us, even though he had been working from home for over a year.” Jenn said.
It’s was a transition for Jim going from being on a schedule to having no schedule, especially since she was still on a schedule. They made changes to the way they communicated in order to navigate this transition better.
Now, they talk in the morning over coffee. They both share what they are going to do that day. Jenn goes over her schedule so her husband knows when she is working and when she has time off. That way he knows when she’s available.
Jenn said this not only helps him, but it helps her as well. “I’ve worked from home in the past, and I’ve had trouble maintaining boundaries between work life and home life. By telling him my schedule, it helps me stick to those hours,” Jenn said.
In addition, they set up weekly conversations, where they discuss plans for the weekend and logistical details of their lives. It’s also an opportunity to talk about things that are bothering them. “It’s a safe time to have honest conversations. We started it during COVID,” Jenn said.
At first, Jim was reluctant. “So, you want me to set an hour aside each week so you can tell be everything I’m doing wrong.” Jim said.
“I explained, ‘No. We deserve to have the best in each other, and we’re not getting that.’ Now he admits that he sees the benefit. It’s a time to share whatever is on our minds,” Jenn said.
It is a time to discuss issues without the emotions that are present in the heat of the moment. They are able to me more receptive and less reactive and defensive. These meetings seem to work, according to Jenn.
The Second Spouse Retiring
Retirement is one change people make; however, when the second spouse retires, it is an entirely new transition.
Jenn said it’s important to keep in mind that each spouse may have their own perception of what retirement should look like. “There is no one perfect way to do retirement. Couple’s retirement goals can be very different from one another,” Jenn said. One person may be a homebody who thrives on down time versus another person who wants a full schedule and a lot of activity.
“No answer is the right one for everyone,” Each person needs to determine what does their ideal retirement looks like and where the crossover with their partner is, according to Jenn.
“Often one person wants to spend more time together than the other one does. There needs to be compromise and it takes time,” Jenn said.
“Start with what sounds fun and appealing to both individuals. Start there,” Jenn said.
Life as a Coach
Jenn works about 20 hours a week and feels she has found the right path. “I love helping people see things in a different way — helping them to see things they didn’t see before,” Jenn said. “With coaching there are no right or wrong answers. It’s all about helping people find the solution that is best for them.”
Jenn believes that people have the answer, and her job is to help them get to it. “They do know what they want, they just don’t know how to access it. Helping them figure it out is really fun for me and very rewarding.”
She believes her work has a ripple effect. “If a client feels happier as a result of our work together, that ripples out to everyone they touch. I like knowing I’ve impacted the world in a positive way.”
“So much time is wasted when people don’t understand each other,” Jenn said. “And a lot of that comes from them not knowing themselves, and what they want and need. When you look inward and figure that out, it’s going to improve all your other relationships as well,” Jenn said.
Jenn said the biggest hurdle in retiring is indecision. People often are unsure of when they want to retire and end up second guessing themselves.
“What’s really difficult is when somebody makes a decision and then they don’t feel good about it or question whether they’ve made the right choice,” Jenn said.
“You have to be really clear on why you’re making the decision to retire, then, regardless of what happens in the future, you can still feel good about basing the decision on very valid reasons,” she said.
When Randy May turned 50, he took a job in South Africa that has lead to a life of fulfillment, change, adventure and love.
Randy May never took the typical path. Early on in his social work career he realized that he enjoyed working closely with a team of people in mission-driven community organizations. In 2008, that desire took him to accepting a job as Deputy Country Director in Ethiopia working with an international HIV organization. He did well, and was later promoted and moved to South Africa. In 2012, he celebrated his 50th birthday by driving up to Kruger National Park with a colleague to enjoy the vast natural beauty of game park and the wildlife. “It was a lovely day.”
In 2014, Randy met his now husband, Walter. “It was such a surprise. I was 52 and wasn’t looking for love or a partner,” Randy said. “I was just living my life the way I wanted to. I was privileged to run into a really sweet guy.” They were married in May 2018.
Everything seemed to be going well, but in March of that year, Randy was called into a global meeting of the organization and informed that the organization had lost much of its funding due to a change in administration and was cutting the US-base funded positions. “It made perfect sense,” Randy said. The organization wanted to prioritize keeping the field offices open so many of the management and administrative positions were eliminated, Randy explained.
Although Randy had a spousal Visa, he did not have a work permit. “Like many places, you need a work permit to get a job, but you need a job to get a work permit.”
Randy tried for a year to get a job there. “I tried, but being 56, I needed a salary in US Dollars so I could contribute to my Social Security and 401K after a career as a social worker.”
He and Walter had the difficult conversation and concluded that Randy needed to go back to the United States at get a job. “I think that if we were much younger, it would have been really hard. But being at the finish line of work, it is time limited. I mean it’s still hard, but if it was open-ended, it would be even harder.” He returned to the U.S. in October 2019.
Walter needed to stay in South Africa to finish out his career. He had 26 years working for a bank and only a short time until he could retire. “Everyone retires at 60 there,” Randy said. Walter would work until 60 and then have a pension for the rest of his life.
So, in October 2018, Randy moved back to the U.S. He had been in Africa for over 11 years. “Everything I had here was in storage,” Randy said.
He moved back to Maine where he had friends and lived for 23 years before moving to Africa. “I applied for a job to work at the LL Bean call center during the Christmas season like every good Mainers does and I had done for two seasons in the past.” When not working, he volunteered at a local soup kitchen.
Luckily, by the end of December 2018, Randy was hired as the interim deputy director of a small, non-profit, supporting health systems in Haiti. “It was doing work that I love,” said Randy.
With his new job in place, Randy scheduled a quick trip to see Walter in South Africa. Then in February, he visited Cap-Haitien, Haiti for three-weeks to see first-hand how his work was affecting the residents of Haiti and to learn more about the organization.
“The organization I was working for was supporting local clinics and hospitals,” Randy said. His job was to help them get training and equipment so the residents could get quality health care. “It was lovely. The people were very friendly,” Randy said.
Then COVID hit and Randy wasn’t able to go back to South Africa to see Walter. “It was hell. Thank goodness for Facetime and WhatsApp, but it wasn’t what we had bargained for,” Randy said.
“It was pretty intense, but we were confident in us,” Randy said. He said he is grateful that he didn’t lose any family members to COVID. “In perspective, we were inconvenienced,” Randy said.
Randy enjoyed his job in Maine, but knew it was an interim job. He also felt he needed to move closer to his mother in Indiana.
“I knew my mother was failing and wouldn’t be able to live independently,” Randy said. He began looking for jobs in Indianapolis so he could support his mother and his sister, who had to bear most of the responsibility of taking care of his mother.
He got a job with the Marion County health department doing HIV work. “I’d run away from Indiana in 1984 and never looked back,” Randy said. However, moving back proved to be a good experience.
He enjoyed his time in Indiana and enjoyed reconnecting with friends. “I enjoyed the work and planned to stay there working the five-year plan until our retirement,” Randy said. “I met a lot of great people there.”
Then, one day, somebody “pinged” him and said he should look at a job in Washington D.C. The job was as the Director for HIV and Harm Reduction working with NACCHO, National Association of County and City Health Officials supporting over 3,000 health departments around the country. His job would be focused on making sure people living with HIV and those at risk received the health care they needed. The job also included securing health care for those with viral hepatitis.
“It’s clearly focused on health equity. It’s a little farther removed from what I was doing in Indiana,” Randy said. However, Randy knew that he wanted to apply and he got the job.
“It’s humbling to be this farm kid from Indiana sitting in meeting in Washington D.C. where major decisions are being made,” Randy said.
“I am able to speak to the needs of local health departments,” Randy said. “It’s good work.”
Securing Employment After 50
Although, Randy admits that there is age discrimination, he credits the ability to get jobs after 50 is how he presents himself.
“I talk about what I do know, but I am open to new leadership and new ideas,” Randy said. “I think that openness helps.”
Randy also said he likes to do informational interviews. “I have to pay my bills, so I address that whether it’s working at LL Bean or whatever, but I also talk to people and say, ‘This is the type of work I want to do. Who in your community is doing this type of work?”
Randy said he does information interviews even before he is looking for a job. “It’s just old social networking,” Randy said. He said he uses LinkedIn and his contacts to find out who he should be talking to. “I really appreciate LinkedIn. I’ve remained connected to a lot of the professionals I’ve worked with in Maine, Indiana, Haiti, South Africa and Botswana,” Randy said.
“It’s not passive. It’s about asking people to talk about their work,” Randy said. “Asking people for a half hour of their time.”
Using this technique, Randy got his job in Ethiopia. “In 2003, I liked my work, but I wanted to do something more. I knew I wanted to do international work,” he said.
“I was taking people to dinner and just doing informational interviewing,” Randy said. “I was saying, ‘This is the kind of work I want to do. What do you think?’”
“Lo and behold someone said, ‘I know someone doing that type of work.’” They connected Randy with someone and he did an informational interview. Even though there was nothing available at that time, the person said they would reach out to him when it was available. “They did and that’s how I ended up in Ethiopia.”
“I believe in that personal connection of meeting people,” Randy said.
Randy has even cold emailed people. He asked the person to talk to him about his organization. Randy said, “I know you don’t have any open positions, but that’s not what I am asking. I am asking for information about the organization. The person was so gracious and was happy to talk to me.” That email led to three other referrals and one eventually led to a job.
Early on in his career, Randy decided rather than look at the job title, he would look at the type of work the position was doing. “That has led me to lots of meaningful work experiences working with lots of wonderful people,” Randy said.
“I’m really grateful at 50 that I did something radically different and new. Living in Ethiopia in 2008 and learning Amharic and learning a different culture rejuvenated me,” Randy said.
“It opened up my world.”
Advice to Others
“People have to make choices and be pragmatic,” Randy said.
He said that many people are trapped because of health insurance. He said it would be great if Medicare age was lowered to 60 so people could explore other options including part-time work or volunteering.
“I really think it’s a shame we don’t institute a GAP year in our 40s,” Randy said. “You get into a track and it’s easy to keep doing the same thing. “It would be nice if people had a year to figure out what they want the rest of their work path to look like.”
He does encourage others to look for other jobs after 50 by finding out about companies they may want to work with and figuring out what makes them happy.
What the Future Holds
Randy is currently working on a five-year plan. In five years, Walter will be able to retire. “We agreed to look where I am financially and health-wise and where he is health-wise and we’ll make a decision,” Randy said.
He said he doesn’t really know what things will look like in five years. “We’ll decide where we are and discern our best decision then,” Randy said. He said he may decide to work another couple of years beyond that depending where he is with his career.
“Eventually, I will be moving home to South Africa,” Randy said.
If you know anyone with who would make a good subject for my blog, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beth Harbinson set out to help people with addiction issues and ended up starting a new business and a new life.
In 2017, Beth Sandbower Harbinson, now 63, was backstage at Merriweather Post Pavilion with friends. It was a big night out and she was ready to party. Her friends, who drank alcohol, “got these really cool drinks,” Beth said. However, she stopped drinking alcohol in 2005. So, when she got to the bar, wallet in hand, and asked for something non-alcoholic, she was offered water, soda or Red Bull. None of those choices sounded very festive. “It’s not an equitable choice,” Beth said. “Back then, there were not many non-alcoholic (NA) adult beverages available.”
That’s when Beth got an idea. She created Sobar, a non-profit specializing in providing non-alcoholic cocktail service. “I pitched this idea at a Shark-Tank like event called the Changemaker Challenge sponsored by United Way and The Horizon Foundation and thought why not?”
At the time, Beth was working full-time as the Executive Director of Children’s Scholarship Fund Baltimore. “I don’t know how I did it,” Beth said. “Because we did a lot (at Sobar). It was like having a second job.”
She ran Sobar “part-time” while working at the scholarship fund until this year when she decided to retire August 1. She helped transition a new executive director into the position and then moved onto retirement. “I had come to the conclusion of the substantive work that I had started,” Beth said. She saw that to continue and build Sobar, she would need to work on the project full time for a year and then assess her time commitment.
But the transition to retirement has not been without bumps. “I’m trying to figure out what I want to focus on. I’m wired to work,” Beth said.
“I am liking it (retirement), but I have to teach myself,” Beth said. She is still setting her alarm for 7:30 a.m., whether or not she has a meeting. She said she’s beginning to realize she doesn’t need to wake up at that time anymore except to take care of her four-legged alarm clocks — her 3 dogs.
For Beth, the best part of retirement has been more control over her time. “I’ve been able to prioritize what’s matters to me. I love my morning routine of mediation,” Beth said. “And I love to exercise.”
In addition to Sobar, she sits on the Opioid Community Crisis Council and Local Behavioral Health Authority Board. “We look at behavioral and mental health issues in Howard County and work with agencies to improve services and identify needs. I’m really passionate about dealing with these issues,” Beth said.
However, a majority of time is dedicated to her passion project Sobar. Sobar is a non-profit organization with a very specific mission – to provide and promote innovative beverage options to those who cannot or choose not to drink alcohol. Their current focus includes:
Creating awareness about the need to have non-alcoholic offerings at events.
Providing the non-alcoholic bar at large public events, and
Offering Sobar Certification to businesses and organizations.
Sobar Certification is a partnership Sobar offers to corporations, organizations and event venues that pledge to include equitable, non-alcoholic options at any event they are hosting. “In exchange the organization makes a meaningful contribution to Sobar annually that allows them to use our branding and gives them a direct line to our wholesalers. Nine times out of ten when we approach an organization, they say this makes so much sense, but we never thought about it,” Beth said.
“It’s a market that is rapidly going to expand in this country,” Beth said. “The market has exploded.” There are over 500 non-alcoholic options available according to Beth.
“It certainly helps people in recovery from alcoholism, but think about the other people who don’t drink. You’re pregnant. You’re on a drug for mental health or any medication where the label says ‘do not drink alcohol while on this drug.’ The designated driver. The person who doesn’t drink for religious reasons. Or the growing number of Gen Zer’s who are saying they want to moderate or reduce their alcohol intake – about 65 percent,” Beth said.
In addition to serving non-alcohol options and providing the certification, Sobar has NA options available on its website. They are working in partnership with wholesaler Better Rhodes and because they are a non-profit, a percentage of the sales help support Sobar’s mission.
Beth and her volunteers are unpaid. She does pay a few paid staff members, but the majority of the money goes to pay the “sobaristas.”
Soberistas are the bartenders for Sobar. The majority are in recovery and many of them live in halfway houses or sober living facilities. “Many of those people have a record because they have done things to support their disease, so it’s hard for them to get employment,” Beth said. “We love hiring these folks. I’ve met so many fascinating people.”
The sobaristas make $20 an hour and a minimum of $120 a shift. Beth said, “I think it’s important to pay a living wage to people.”
In addition, she knows many of her employees have lost their license and need to Uber to work. “That’s not inexpensive.”
“At the end of the day, if I help to keep one of my bartenders sober, that’s amazing, “Beth said.
Addiction in America
Beth stopped drinking in 2005. She knew that she had a problem with alcohol, but had been reluctant to face it. “It was a crazy, scary time,” Beth said. With encouragement from her family, she went to see a counselor and he suggested a 12-step program. “There are many roads to recovery,” Beth said, but this one has worked for her.
“I call mental health and substance abuse second class diseases,” Beth said.
“You can’t go to a hospital emergency room and get treatment.” When someone does seek help, oftentimes there is a long-wait to be admitted to a program.
“It’s crazy to me that something that is happening at epidemic levels is not more streamlined and mainstreamed in the continuum of care,” Beth said.
“We’re such an alcohol centric society,” Beth said. Sobar seeks to make not drinking mainstream.
When NA options are available “it’s just there. No one has to make a special request.” Beth said. “There is still so much stigma and shame associated with the disease of alcoholism and addiction. By having equitable NA options, hosts can help reduce those feelings.”
Beth works with organizations to promote NA options at events. She consults with organizations on the wording of their invitations to ensure they include information about having alcohol-free options. One example is a recent Bourbon & BBQ event that featured Zero proof counterparts.
“We do about 50 galas a year,” Beth said. Sobar can either set up a non-alcoholic bar or help curate non-alcoholic options for an organization.
“We can set up a bar that looks exactly like a regular bar with zero alcohol and with options that taste great.” Beth said.
Her work setting up these NA bars at events has been rewarding. “Occasionally someone will come up to us during an event and say ‘you helped keep me sober today.’ That makes it all worth it,” Beth said.
Although Sobar does not manufacture NA products, it does work very closely with NA producers and wholesalers. Better Rhodes is their wholesaler. “I like these guys. I like their corporate values and I want to be associated with them,” Beth said.
The public can buy NA products through the Sobar website and Better Rhodes makes a donation to Sobar to support its mission. In addition, first time buyers going through the Sobar website receive a 10 percent discount.
Sobar’s number one drink is their Butterfly Pea Tree Lemonade. “We will probably never do a bar in the spring or summer without including it,” Beth said. “It’s a beautiful drink.” The ingredients combine to make a magenta-colored drink.
“My favorite pre-mixed drinks are Lyres pre-canned drinks from Australia,” Beth said. “One mimics a gin and tonic and it’s 45 calories.”
As further evidence of NA popularity, Beth said, “These products sell out.” She suggests people stock up for the holidays early. In addition to selling products through the website, Sobar will have local events leading up to the holiday season.
“What we’ve decided to focus on this holiday season is selling kits for home parties,” Beth said.
The weekend of November 25 through the 27, Beth and Sobar will be selling cocktail kits at the Kennedy Krieger Institutes’ Festival of Trees. In addition, there will be a Zero-Hour Happy Hour at Georgia Grace in Ellicott City December 8th from 6-8 p.m. There will be samples of the Sobar offerings, drinks and kits for sales as well as live music and Georgia Grace’s great menu.
It may seem as though Beth spends all of her time helping others, but she has made carving out time for herself and her husband Scott a priority as well.
“I’m having conversations with my spouse, whom I love, about what we are going to do together,” Beth said. Her spouse retired a couple of years ago.
Before retirement they led fairly autonomous lives as they both had very busy careers. “We are working with a consultant who works with people through life transitions,” Beth said. Jenn Gruber, a relationship consultant, helps them ask the questions they need to ask during this life transition.
Beth has agreed to do a four-day work week so one day a week they make spending time together a priority. They have bought electric bikes and riding bikes is often a part of their weekday off plan.
The Future Looks Bright
Beth said she knows how lucky she is to have retired early and be able to run Sobar unpaid. She credits her husband Scott with creating a sound financial plan for them. “Thank God I married an MBA,” Beth said.
In addition to promoting the Sobar Certification with organizations, Beth said she would like to have a retail store with a tasting room in the back. She’s not really interested in running a NA bar or restaurant, but is glad that there are more and more of these places opening up. There is an app called “Better Without” that helps people find NA establishments.
“We’re building a culture of celebration that is not so alcoholic centric,” Beth said. “I hope in some way we can shift the conversation.”
Sonja Schmitz’s life changed in a moment, but she didn’t let hold her back from a new career.
For Sonja Schmitz, having her annual mammogram was like going to the dentist every year or having an annual physical. She entered the office with no real concerns. But when they did the sonogram and she saw the results, she started to cry. “It was a horrible day. I just knew.” Even though she had been a biology professor for many years, that’s not why she knew there was a problem. “It wasn’t a brain thing. It was a visceral thing,” Sonja said.
Although the radiologist saw a tumor, he could not confirm that she had breast cancer. However, he performed a needle biopsy right then and there and called her on the weekend with the results. The tumor was malignant and she most likely had breast cancer.
Sonja and her husband Gary went through the Thanksgiving holidays not knowing the specifics of the diagnosis. “I started doing my literature searches and reading everything on the subject, ” Sonja said.
In mid-December, after more testing, her doctor confirmed the diagnosis. Sonja had stage two, triple negative breast cancer. “It was a very aggressive form of cancer,” Sonja said.
“By Christmas, we knew we were going to be in for a hell of a treatment,” Sonja said. She was facing eight months of chemo therapy and radiation. The chemo started a week after her January 9th surgery when they removed the tumor and the sentinel lymph nodes. The chemo lasted until July, then she began radiation every day for 35 days.
The chemo was once a week on Thursdays for four hours. “I never had to go alone,” Sonja said. She would invite a different friend to come each week and they would spend the treatment time catching up. “Some friends even came twice,” Sonja said. “That’s how I got through chemo.”
“I had a lot of” good friends. People came out the woodwork to help, in a good way,” Sonja said.
The treatment made Sonja gain over 30 pounds and made her hair fall out. The worst part was that water tasted metallic and food had to be heavily salted or very sweet for her to taste anything. However, she was grateful that she had no nausea or vomiting.
“I only have good things to say about St. Agnes Cancer Center,” Sonja said However, she and her oncologist did not agree on evaluating her prognosis. Her oncologist did not like to give a prognosis. Sonja said her research revealed that “stage 2 triple negative breast cancer with this treatment had a 93 percent chance that I won’t get cancer again.” Her doctor said, “What if you’re that 7 percent?”
“Can you say that to someone who’s sitting there?” Sonja said. “I hated her from that day on.” She stayed with her until she was done treatment and was in remission, but then switched oncologists.
Sonja was fortunate to have medical coverage through the College where her husband continues to work. “I didn’t have to pay a dime towards cancer treatment,” Sonja said.
By October 2019, she was declared cancer-free.
Making a Career Change
Previous to her diagnosis, Sonja was already struggling with her career. In 2016, she had been teaching for 15 years and was an associate professor of biology at the Community College of Baltimore County. She was feeling burnt out and unsure she wanted to continue.
Sonja let her Department Chair know how she was feeling. “The Chair said she was alarmed by what I said. I didn’t want to try anything new,” Sonja said.
Her Department Chair recommended that Sonja go on sabbatical in 2017. During that time, Sonja retrained herself and earned a certificate in Educational Research Methodology which would allow her to evaluate grant-funded projects.
She spoke with an evaluator who was already in the field. Sonja had worked with her on a previous project and that woman became her mentor. In addition to earning the certificate, Sonja was also able to spend time working in various departments at CCBC focusing on grants and research.
“I loved it!” Sonja said.
After the sabbatical, in the fall of 2018, Sonja returned to her work in the biology department, but was now the coordinator of department.
“When I accepted the position the Dean said I could not retire for at least three years. I agreed. Retirement was not on my horizon,” Sonja said.
“I came back that fall and everything was hunky dory until November when I went in for my mammogram,” Sonja said.
She tried to work from January to June. “It didn’t work. The energy wasn’t there. I had brain fog. At the time, you don’t realize fully how it’s affecting you,” Sonja said. By March, she stopped going to work.
“The College was wonderful. My colleagues were so supportive, “Sonja said. But she knew she needed to leave. The heavy fatigue accompanying the cancer made it impossible to continue and she officially retired in June 2019 at the age of 61.
With her new credentials, she knew there was something else in her future. “I knew I wanted to do evaluation work in my retirement,” Sonja said. She had already been approached by someone to work with her organization. She had a plan.
By the fall Sonja the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a non-profit in D.C. was one of her clients. “I felt good about doing the work for someone like AAUW,” Sonja said.
Her evaluation work is secured by grant-funded projects to help them determine the effectiveness of their work. They require an outside evaluator to work with the team and to document their process. “You’re not there to tell them, you need to this, this and this. Your’re not there to monitor them” Sonja said. “You solicit feedback about the project in the form of surveys and interviews and write a report once a year.”
Sonja not only loves the work, but it has helped she and Gary meet their financial needs.
Between Social Security, her evaluation work and the money her husband was still making teaching at CCBC, they enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in retirement.
Unlike many people, Sonja’s work was not affected by COVID because it is mostly online. “It did affect the colleges and the grants and that piece needed to be documented in my reports,” Sonja said.
Although COVID did not affect her work, it did affect her socially, but in a positive way. “I got to know my neighbors really well. We’ve become very close friends as well as neighbors,” Sonja said.
Her Garden, Her Passion
Sonja’s pride and joy is her garden, which she began in 2004. She hired someone to remove the lawn and put down mulch and put down some perennial plants. Later, she hired a landscape architect to come in and design a garden with native plants. “That’s what I needed. Ever since then, it’s been fun,” Sonja said. As a biologist, she knew it was important to have native plants that the wildlife were already used to. Gary buys the yard art and bird feeders for her garden to help reflect the light and provide focal points.
Gary bought her a little gardening stool when she was in treatment so she could continue to work in the garden and do a little bit of weeding. “I was pleasantly surprised that my garden had matured to the point that taking that spring and summer off didn’t affect it that much.”
“I knew I was the type of person who couldn’t just let go,” Sonja said. “I do enjoy working and having that little bit of structure.”
“I’m going to keep working as long as it’s enjoyable,” Sonja said. She loves the flexibility of the evaluation work. “I can take a break and fold laundry or just hang out with the cats,” Sonja said. She loves being in charge of her own schedule.
One of the other benefits of retirement has been that Sonja has time to cook more and make healthier dinners. “That’s fun.”
However, they also love going out to eat and going away for long weekends.
The highlight of her retirement so far was a trip on a Viking River cruise to celebrate the end of her cancer treatment. She booked it in the fall of 2019 but because of the pandemic they weren’t able to go until 2022. “It did finally happen this past summer!” Sonja said.
“We had the full treatment during the cruise. It was the trip of a lifetime,” Sonja said. They went from Switzerland to Amsterdam after which they flew to Dublin to spend time with their son and his family.
Although Sonja did not enter retirement in the way she wanted, she had an idea of what she wanted it to look like. “Have a plan. Have a financial plan,” Sonja said.
Even if she hadn’t had cancer, Sonja knew that she was not going to continue working at the College much longer.
Please make sure to get your yearly mammogram. It makes a difference. Don’t put it off until it’s convenient. It will never be convenient.
If you have a suggestion for someone I should interview, please email me email@example.com.
Ed Johnson is making the most of his retirement by opening up to many opportunities.
For Ed Johnson, 79 and a half, retirement has never been about relaxing and taking it easy. It’s been all about helping others. In fact, his wife of 56 years, Pat, even calls him “Saint Edward.”
But Ed was helping people long before he retired. He spent his career in education as a teacher and principal. Then in 1995, at the age of 52, Ed decided to retire after 30 years of service.
His father had died at the age of 52 of heart disease and Ed wasn’t quite sure how much time he had. “I didn’t have any plans after 52 and I thought I might not be around to make any plans,” Ed said.
But that quickly changed.
He took a part-time job at the University of Maryland College Park working with student teachers as a field-based instructor. Working 2 to 3 days a week gave him more time to pursue his many interests and spend more time with his family.
“It was like opening a door to many possibilities,” Ed said.
He stayed there for another 20 years and was proud to have the opportunity to mentor so many teachers. The last 10 years he worked with masters-level students. “Working with them was a breeze,” said Ed.
Then, at the age of 72, he retired, retired. “My supervisor asked me, “why are you retiring, don’t you like teachers or the principals or something?'” Ed said. “I said, no they’re great. I just need a change.”
That change was to do more of what he was already doing.
His Passion for Patapsco Park
Ed has always had an interest in nature and the environment. Twenty-five years ago, after his initial retirement, he began working as a volunteer at Patapsco Valley State Park. He would help clear trails and do general work in the park. “I wanted to follow up with my interest in environmental education,” Ed said.
He then became a volunteer ranger for 16 years “As a volunteer ranger, you wear a uniform and are the eyes and ears of the park rangers,” he said. His work included monitoring various areas of the park, staffing the entrance areas and conducting history walks.
He recently went back to being a volunteer. “I still do a lot of what I was doing as a volunteer ranger — monitoring area of the park, doing history walks, art programs. whatever needs to be done,” Ed said.
COVID created even more of a need for Ed’s time. “The park used to average a million visitors a year, ” Ed said, “but during COVID they averaged 2.6 million visitors a year. It was crowded in there.”
On Saturdays, Ed sets up a table in the Orange Grove section of the park near the Swinging Bridge. He brings a large binder with pictures and fun facts to teach kids and adults about the history of the park. “I like to show the kids, particularly the girls, how they would have had to dress if they were here in 1911,” Ed said.
In fact, Ed had become such as expert on the history of the park that he was asked to collaborate with Betsy McMillion to write a book about the park’s history.
After 3 and a half years of research, the book was published by Arcadia Publishing in the Spring of 2019. “Images of America: Patapsco Valley State Park” recounts the history of Patapsco from the 1600s to present day. All of the money from the sale of the book goes to support the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park who support the maintenance of the park. He and Betsy don’t make any money from the sale of the book.
Ed recounts a story about when the book was first released. He and his co-author had a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Ellicott City. He said, “They called to say that they had 60 copies and asked if that would be enough,” Ed said. “There had been a great deal of publicity and I thought they should order more.” That day Barnes & Noble had 105 copies on hand and sold 104. The book is still on sale at Barnes & Noble as well as through other vendors.
“People are fascinated with many aspects of the park including the Swinging Bridge and floods. They know a little bit about (Tropical Storm) Agnes in 1972,” Ed said. He also talks about the firsts of the park including the B&O railroad, the Thomas Viaduct and the first female ranger in Maryland who worked at Patapsco.
For those interested he is also doing a history powerpoint with the Arbutus library on October 8th at 2 p.m. He has done similar talks at libraries and senior centers throughout the area.
Exploring His Creativity Through Painting
But working at the park is not the only activity that keeps Ed busy. He is also an accomplished artist who has won numerous awards. However, Ed got into painting accidentally in 1976.
“The elementary school where I was principal had a large Hispanic population. I decided to brush up on his Spanish,” Ed said. He went to sign up for a night course, but found that it had been cancelled. He needed to do something besides work so he started taking a night school art class taught by a local high school teacher, Keith Lauer. “That’s when I got started with painting,” Ed said.
Ed found he had a real talent for painting and continued taking courses through other local studios.
Once he was retired, he was able to spend more time painting and even began teaching. “I replicated his (Keith Lauer’s) style when I started with a class at our senior center,” Ed said. Each class started with a 15 minute lecture on composition or color. “Each week you would get a little bit more information and after a while you would learn a lot,” Ed said.
He began teaching a class at his local senior center which then morphed into an art group that still meets every Friday. He has also taught classes at the local men’s shelter to give the men an outlet for their feelings. “Some of them aren’t that interested, but others are,” Ed said.
Ed also combines his volunteer activities at the park with his love of art. He sets up painting sessions at the park where he provides all the supplies. The sessions are for people 8-years-old and older.
As part of this activity, Ed provides a folder with 200 nature-related pictures that people can choose from to paint. All the pictures are for 16×20 canvasses. There is a grid on the picture and the canvas so students can replicate the shape of the animal and be pretty accurate. Because of COVID, Ed was not able to have sessions with the public this year, but he was able to have a class with a group of seniors who do a lot with the park.
Personally, Ed has painted numerous painting through the years. Many of his paintings are of nature, birds, flowers and people. These painting have been displayed in art exhibits and have won many awards throughout the state of Maryland.
Serving Through Mission Trips
Ed has another passion project besides painting and working in the park. Since 2004, he has gone to the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota for 15 times (except when the trip was cancelled due to COVID). He was able to go back again this year in June.
Ed and a small group of volunteers from Catonsville United Methodist Church began going to the reservation to make repairs on homes and help in any way they could. Before COVID, they also had a food program preparing over 250 hot breakfasts and hot lunches for those in need. Now, most of the work centers around making repairs around the reservation. This year they spent their time at the reservation building a handicap ramp.
Ed has many stories about the amazing people he met on the reservation including Lakota chef Seth Larvie who created tasty meals for the residents. Ed also developed a long-term friendship with Roy Spotted War Bonnet. Ed was looking forward to seeing his friend on this trip, but found out that he had passed away during the pandemic.
Ed has been struck by the difficult lives of the people on the reservation and feels it’s important to spend both his time and money making their lives better. He recently recorded his stories about his experiences and the people he met during his trips in a personal memoir.
The Best Part of Retirement
For Ed, one of the greatest pleasures retirement brought him has been time with his family. His granddaughter was born the year he retired and he was able to take care of her one day a week. As she grew, he took her to her riding lessons and she became an accomplished equestrian.
He was also able to spend more time with his two sons. He and his son Adam took a canoe trip on the Potomac from Point of Rocks, MD. His other son enjoyed playing baseball and Ed was able to attend the games.
And he and Pat made a point to travel. They traveled quite a bit including throughout the United States, Europe and Canada. He also went with a group to the Galapagos Islands.
His Advice to Others
What Ed likes most about retirement is the flexibility. “I was working in a job where I was in the school at 7 a.m. and didn’t leave until 5:30 or so,” Ed said. “I couldn’t take off to run errands. I had no flexibility.” When he retired all that changed. “So when I retired I had flexibility to pursue hobbies like painting and the outdoor stuff and I had time to do things with my family.”
But Ed knows everyone is not ready to retire at 52. “Retire when you’re ready. You know better than anyone else when the time is right,” Ed said. However, he warns, “Don’t retire to nothing. Retire to something you are really interested in.”
He recommends working as a volunteer. “You can help somebody and you can make a difference.” He also says it’s a great way to try things and see what you enjoy.
“Certain things will work out. Certain things won’t So then, you move on and try something different. Look for new opportunities and try them out,” Ed said.
However, he warns that it’s important to not be too structured. He was able to take care of unexpected opportunities such as writing the book and going to the reservation because he kept his schedule flexible.
This summer Ed has had to spend time doing something he is not used to doing — sitting down. He came home from the reservation with a bad cough and then had a leg injury and shoulder surgery. Now, he is happy to be getting back to his regular busy schedule.
He and Pat are going to the gym together five mornings a week at 6 a.m. and they also volunteer to serve lunch to the community on Wednesdays at Catonsville United Methodist Church.
For Ed, retirement has opened up a world of opportunities that he never would have time for if he was still working full-time. He said he never regrets making the decision to retire.
Tara Ebersole has been making the most of her retirement. She believes learning and growing is the key to growing older gracefully.
If you look up Renaissance Women in a dictionary, Tara Ebersole’s picture should be there. She had a successful career as a biology professor and STEM director at the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC). She is also a musician, artist, wife, mother and grandmother, and is now adding author to her resume.
One of the reasons that Tara is so active is she realizes just how lucky she is to be here. At the age of 47, Tara was exercising on her mini-trampoline when she felt extreme pain in her head. “If you had told me I had been shot in the head, I would have believed it,” Tara said. “The pain was so severe that I collapsed.”
Her 11-year-old son found her and with the help of his sisters, called 911. Tara was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a ruptured aneurism. At first, the doctors couldn’t find the location of the bleed. She remembered the doctor telling her, “We can make you comfortable, but we can’t guarantee you’re going to wake up in the morning.
But she did wake up the next day and made it through a slow and difficult recovery. “I came out with the idea that I had to prove that my brain is ok,” Tara said.
Life After Her Illness
She approached life with a renewed enthusiasm. In addition to continuing her role teaching at CCBC, she began working on her PhD and added the duties of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) director to her already busy schedule.
As part of her STEM work, she started a non-profit to increase the number of women and minorities in STEM. The non-profit was so successful that after five years, she disbanded it. Together with a team from BCPS, multiple professors and local colleges, the number of minorities in CCBC STEM classes increased by 50 percent and the number of women by 50 percent. This was all while continuing in her role as wife to Eric and mother to her three children.
It was during this time that she and her sister also began to discuss creating a children’s book series, Little Honey’s Little Adventures. Her sister, Rachel Louise Eisenhauer would write the adventures, based on their own childhood adventures, and Tara would illustrate them.
Although Tara had started in college as an arts major, she had not created much art work in a very long time. In addition, Tara was classically trained in oils and her art was very realistic, she knew that wasn’t the right style for the series.
But Tara was up for the challenge. She refreshed her skills and began creating watercolor illustrations based on her sister’s writing. They now have a series of eight books which they sell through their website and at craft fairs. “It has been an amazing joy,” Tara said of working on this series with her sister.
Retirement from CCBC
In 2016, at the age of 61, Tara retired from her position at the CCBC after 35 years. “I was just ready for a change,” she said. But Tara was not content to relax in retirement. Instead, she took on the role as the Chair of the Baltimore County Democratic Party. Tara said she has always believed in public service and wanted to help facilitate change and make a difference. It became a full-time job. Her husband Eric Ebersole is also very involved in politics and serves in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Tara worked as the Chair for four years while still continuing to collaborate with her sister on the “Little Honey’s Little Adventure series.” She also continued with her other passion, music. Tara has played the drums in a number of bands through the years and is currently with Blues State, a band that plays at local events about six times a year.
Those who have seen Tara play know that she has a unique technique, she plays barefoot. “It’s easier for me to feel the rhythm of the music if I’m barefoot,” she explained.
However, Tara knew she was doing too much. After a minor car accident on the way to a gig, Tara realized that something had to give. She was working 40 hours a week as the Chair and practicing with the band every other week. “I was over the top with stress,” Tara said. Needing a change, she left her role as the Chair and took a hiatus from the band.
During this time, two things happened, COVID and grandchildren. Being quarantined at home, Tara learned the benefits of a slower lifestyle. She was meditating and taking the time in the morning to relax and have a cup of tea.
She also began helping take care of her grandchildren. When her daughters went back to work, they weren’t comfortable putting the kids in daycare, so Tara stepped in.
In 2021, with life beginning to return to normal, Tara started thinking about what she wanted to do next. She had learned the value of leading a less stressful life and wanted to continue her meditation and practicing yoga twice a week.
“I feel like I have just retired this year,” Tara said. “I’m beginning to find things that I want to do. It took me six years to realize this is my time. I have time to focus on me a little more”
Beginning a New Chapter
Tara had always thought about writing her own novel. She wanted to try her hand at adult fiction. Previously, all of Tara’s writing had been academic articles and her dissertation. That writing relied on fact, no emotion and no adjectives.
So, she began the process by taking an online writing class through CCBC and began reading books on writing. Her class, which she highly recommends, introduced her to an online community and helped inspire her to begin writing.
“Now it’s my turn to do some writing. I’m loving the process,” Tara said. Tara already knew the subject she wanted to tackle, corporal punishment. She had worked in the East Tennessee school system when she was first out of college where paddling was allowed. “I had some paddling stories to begin with and at no point did any of the paddling stories lead to better discipline,” Tara said. Although the book is fiction, she draws from some of her own experiences at that time. She says that writing the book has been cathartic as she deals with her role administering corporal punishment in the school system.
The working title of the book is, “A Broken Bit of Spirit.” Her goal is to bring a social issue to the discussion level. Corporal punishment is still allowed in 19 states. “I want readers to end the book thinking,” Tara said.
Tara has also started teaching classes for the CCBC SAIL (Senior Adventures in Learning) program. Tara started a class called Drums Alive. It is a program that uses large exercise balls and drumming techniques as a fitness class for people over 60. “I think that teaching drums to Seniors is the best thing for them because it is so low impact and yet it’s aerobic and it’s fun,” Tara said.
But Tara is only going to teach two sections of the class. At 67, she has learned the importance of life balance. “This is a brand new me and I’m experimenting,” Tara said.
Her Role Model
Tara was fortunate to have a role model for growing older gracefully. Her brother’s mother-in-law, Dominque, lives in Paris. At 92, she was still teaching gymnastics to seniors two days a week. “The seniors she taught became her friends. It really improved her social life,” Tara said. Dominque just retired at 94.
Tara said Dominque helped her realize how important it is to maintain and develop relationships as we age. That’s another reason Tara wants to teach the drumming classes, to make new social connections. “Interaction keeps you young. Exercise keeps you young. Independence keeps you young. Creativity keeps you young,” Tara said.
“Aging is a process we are not prepared for,” Tara said. “There’s a lot of loss along the way and there’s not a lot of preparation.”
“In fourth or fifth grade, we see a film to prepare us for becoming women. There’s not even a film to prepare us for getting older,” Tara said. Creating a class to help people with the aging process is next on her agenda.
“It’s a tough transition,” Tara said. She thinks there should be a greater acknowledgement about how difficult it can be. “It’s a massive transition in status from the phone beeping non-stop to that not happening anymore.”
“It’s not easy to make the transition and that’s ok.”
Life Is Great
Her advice to retirees, “The key to aging is just to continue to grow.”
Although she is dealing with some health issues including thyroid issues and metabolic syndrome, she has been able to control these issues through diet, exercise and medication. “My health is better today than it was in 2016,” Tara said.
She takes time every day to de-stress and meditate and appreciate her life. “Whenever I go into my yoga position of gratitude, I am always thankful for my family. We have four wonderful grandchildren and three wonderful children.”
Tara’s favorite part of the day? “One of my very favorite things about being retired is that I can get up and fix myself a cup of tea, sit in a chair and drink it as slowly as I want to. I never grow tired of that.”
Embracing my retirement, I decided to take a trip to Costco with my husband Scott. Little did I know the adventure that awaited.
I must confess that I have been to Costco before. In February 2020, my husband, Scott, and I decided it was time to join a warehouse store. It turned out to be perfect timing. While others were experiencing a toilet paper shortage, we had bought so much on our first trip that we were even had a few extra rolls to share with our less fortunate neighbors when the pandemic hit.
Since then, I have only been to Costco a handful of times. When my husband retired, he took on the responsibility of grocery shopping. But now that I too am retired, I decided it was time to join him.
I could tell that we had different approaches right from the start. Scott said he wanted to start with a $1.59 hot dog from the concession stand so that he wouldn’t be tempted to over shop. I thought it sounded like a reasonable strategy, but I really don’t like hot dogs.
So, I went to grab a cart. Scott said we did that after the hot dog. I already had the cart in my hands and said. “That’s ok, I’ll get it.” The problem occur when I realized that the cart and I were on one side of the registers and the hot dogs were on the other side.
Scott gave me an “I told you so” look. I smiled and suggested that he get his hot dog and I browse since I hadn’t been there in such a long time. The look he gave me then could best be described as slightly fearful, but the hot dog was calling his name.
So, I wandered. For those who have never been to a Costco, it is truly an amazing place. Of course, I had seen the TVs before as I entered, but there were also mattresses, dining room tables, kayaks, lighting…really anything you can think of. I was mesmerized.
Next was the bakery, meats, cheeses and the first sample station. There was a young (well maybe not young), pleasant (well not unpleasant) woman giving out samples of tortellini. At Weight Watchers, they tell you to stay away from samples like this because the calories add up. But I truly felt I needed to indulge in order to actually embrace the entire experience. The tortellini was creamy and delicious.
Suddenly, my husband was next to me. I guess the hot dog needed some company, because he was also gnashing on some tortellini.
Then he looked at my cart. Apparently, on my journey through the store several items had jumped into the cart of their own volition. “I’ll go find the things that are actually on our list,” he said and picked up another tortellini.
I was somewhat surprised he trusted me to continue on my own. Instead of continuing to shop, I decided to follow the lead of a spry 70-year-old who was moving from tasting station to tasting station gathering his lunch. I could have done without the kombucha. It was like a fruit vinegar, but overall it was yummy and I wondered why my husband needed a hot dog with all this other yummy food around.
I caught up with my husband in the snack section. He had his phone out calling me. Apparently, he thought I was lost. I knew where I was. I was sampling cashews.
The best part about being retired is going to Costco during the week when no one else is around. Check out took no time at all.
But being retired, I had to hit the restrooms before we left. When I came out, my husband said he also needed to use the restroom. So I found a place to sit down and I waited.
“Is your membership on automatic renewal?” I heard someone say. I looked up and she. was talking to me. “Is your membership on automatic renewal?” she asked again.
“I’m not sure,” I said.
She took my receipt and said, “I can tell by your receipt.”
I wasn’t sure what this was all about being as unfamiliar as I am with the inner workings of Costco.
“Yes, it is,” she declared. “You get a free case of water.”
“Really,” I said. She put a sticker on it and motioned for me to pick up the 40 bottle case. Luckily, I workout.
Just then, my husband came running towards me. “What’s this? We don’t need any water,” he said. I felt like grandma being talked out of signing up for a timeshare.
The woman turned to him. “It’s free.”
“It’s free,” I said joyfully.
He still didn’t seem convinced, but I think the whole experience of having me along was more than he could handle and he just wanted to go home.
But I’m not sure why people think they save money going to Costco, I was surprised at how high our bill was.
Still, I got free water, free lunch and racked up a few thousand steps on my Fitbit. It was a win-win for me.
Since that trip, my Costco card seems to have disappeared and there have been no other invitations forthcoming to join him. Still, I think another trip is in my future. I hear that’s where all the cool retirees hang out.
Dave was ready for a change. He made a decision to change his career which changed his life.
Even before the pandemic hit, Dave Stock knew it was time to change professions. He had been in the printing industry for almost 40 years and everything seemed routine. “It was like playing the same record over and over and over again,” Dave said.
Dave had seen a decline in the printing business over the past five years. More and more people were relying on digital rather than print. Then COVID hit. For a business that relied heavily on printed invitations, programs and other items for in-person events, COVID was devastating. “Printing is never going to go away, but it’s certainly not where it used to be,” Dave said.
“I felt like I was banging my head against the wall. I just didn’t have the same happiness,” Dave said.
However, printing was not Dave’s only job. Six years ago, Dave had taken on a part-time job at his neighborhood bike store, Race Pace. He and his wife, Madeline, had made cycling part of their daily life preferring to run their errands around Baltimore City on their bikes. He spent time at the store getting his bike serviced and buying accessories. When he saw they were hiring, he put in an application and was hired. At first, there wasn’t a position at Race Pace in Federal Hill, so he worked at the one in Ellicott City until a position closer to his home became available. That was about six months later.
While COVID hit the printing business hard, cycling experienced a resurgence. More people wanted to get outside and get exercise while confined during COVID. The bike store saw a huge increase in business and Dave was offered more hours.
In January 2022, Race Pace was bought out by Trek. During this transition, some executives from Trek visited the store and asked Dave if he would be interested in a full-time position “They said, have you ever thought about coming on board full-time. Let’s have a conversation,” Dave said. “We had the conversation and they gave me an opportunity.”
“I was on a sinking ship and saw a life raft and I took it,” Dave said.
But his decision wasn’t final until he discussed it with Madeline. They went away on vacation to discuss the move. “She said, ‘just do it. If it doesn’t work out. it doesn’t work out. I don’t want you to have any regrets,'” Dave said.
So, in April, Dave decided to retire from printing. “I don’t like to call it retiring,” Dave said. “I call it my next chapter.”
“I think of retirement as moving to Florida and doing water aerobics,” Dave said. At 58, he’s not ready for that.
So now, he is the Sales Manager for Trek Bicycle Federal Hill. His responsibilities include selling bikes and accessories, making sure goals are met and training new employees. “I answer to the Store Manager,” Dave said.
His typical day starts with having a cup of coffee with Madeline in their backyard. “I trying to get used to retail hours,” Dave said. He used to have to be to work at 9:00 in the morning and worked 5 days a week. Now, he goes to work around 10:30 a.m. and has off Tuesdays and Saturdays. The store is about half a mile from his house.
So he spends his morning going to the local coffee shop, meeting friends or going for a bike ride.
“The biggest change is the mindset,” Dave said. It’s been a total change in routine.
His work day starts with a “team huddle” where they go over what needs to be accomplished that day.
Dave says there is no typical customer. “We have everyone from advanced cyclists to people who haven’t ridden a bike since they were a kid.” Dave said. “It’s never the same.”
His favorite part of the job is helping customers. “There’s nothing like sending someone on a test drive and they come back with a smile they haven’t had since they were a kid. There’s such a sense of joy.” Dave said.
He feels that his job is guiding customers to the right bike. “Trek has a guide sales process. You are the guide and the customer is the hero.” Dave said. The sales person wants to help the customer have a safe enjoyable experience on a bike.
Ride bikes. Be happy. Have fun. is Trek’s motto.
The most challenging part of his new life is learning a whole new industry. He has always been in sales, but bikes are a whole different product.
The bike business has changed now that people are getting out more. Customers are now looking to upgrade their bikes, service their bikes and buy accessories. He said they don’t see as many people coming in for their first bikes.
However, there is a growing interest in e-bikes, electric bikes. Dave said e-bikes are really making a big surge. “Trek is coming out with some more affordable models,” Dave said. He adds that that Trek is also coming out with a commuter e-bike.
Riding in Baltimore City
Dave says it’s a misconception that the city is a difficult place to ride a bike. “There are many bike friendly roads and bike lanes,” Dave said.”The city is quite easy to navigate on a bike.” In addition, Baltimore City is working on a biking infrastructure, according to Dave.
“I love the freedom of riding my bike,” Dave said. “You see a heck of a lot more from a bike than you do from a car.”
Part of Dave’s job is to lead a Sunday bike ride at 9:00 a.m. through Baltimore City. It’s called the “Causal Shop Ride”. “It’s slow pace. It’s causal. We stop along the way if someone wants to stop,” Dave said. Right now there are only half a dozen people, but he is hoping to grow that number.
Changes in His Relationship
Dave said his relationship with Madeline has changed “exponentially”. “We were both going through some big changes and I wasn’t happy,” Dave said. She would say “Where is the man that I married?”
Now she says, “You’re happy. I have my husband back.”
They have been married for almost 12 years. “She always has my back,” Dave said.
Although Dave’s job may sound like all fun and games, he had to consider whether or not this job made sense financially. “I looked at my finances and knew how much I needed to make,” Dave said. He has been able to meet those goals and is even doing better than he did working in printing.
“My wife and I had a big conversation before I left, but it was about so much more than money, it was about happiness,” Dave said.
“We know what we can afford. We don’t live with extravagances. We live a very simple life.”
They have paid off their home in Baltimore and have an investment property in Florida. Due to COVID, they have not been able to rent it out, but now they are hoping to rent it to traveling nurses.
For Dave, his health care situation has actually improved. “TREK provides tremendous health care,” Dave said. In his previous job, he carried he and Madeline on his health care plan, since she is a solopreneur, so good health care was important. “TREK health care is very similar to what I had before.”
In addition, he and Madeline make sure to lead a healthy lifestyle. In fact, since his career change, he has lost 15 pounds. He has more time to eat healthy rather than picking up fast food. “I used to be on the road and it was just easier to pick up a cheeseburger,” Dave said. Now he’s moving more and eating regularly. He has even seen a reduction in his blood pressure.
Dave is not sure what his future holds. “I’ll probably always work doing something. I need that interaction with other people,” Dave said. “I thrive off of that.”
Because TREK is a large organization with stores all over the United States, there is the ability to move to another state and stay with the organization. He keeping all his options open.
Final Words of Advice
Dave’s advice. “Just do it. Don’t be afraid. Fear can be crippling,” However, he also recommends doing your research to make sure it’s the right decision for you.
Even though Dave is no longer involved with printing, he stays on top of what is going on and is proud of the contribution he made. “I feel like a did something good in the industry. Sometimes I thought I didn’t make that much of a difference, but based on the response on Facebook, I obviously did,” Dave said. Dave was flooded with well wishes when he announced his “next chapter.”
“I saw my father work himself to death. I don’t want to just work for the sake of working. I want to work doing something I’m enjoying,” Dave said.
“I enjoy learning something new every day,” Dave said.
If you need a new bike, make sure to stop by and see Dave at the Trek Bicycle Federal Hill store. You’ll make his day.
If you know someone who would make a good subject for this blog, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now that I am officially retired, it’s time to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
My husband and I started talking about my retirement over two years ago. He left his job and we began to envision what the rest of our lives would look like. Now, we have the freedom to find out.
I never thought I would feel comfortable with the word retirement. Retirement bring about images of water aerobics and 5:00 dinners. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s not me. So I decided to embrace the word and give it a refreshed image. I’m in marketing, we’re all about re-imagining.
Two years ago, my husband and I started to prepare for my retirement and the next phase of our lives.
The first thing we did was sell my little Volkswagon Beetle convertible. I had it for over seven years and I loved it, but it was not a car we could travel around the country in. I was surprised how many people were sad when I sold my car. I admit, it was a hoot to drive, but an SUV was more practical. So, we bought a Mazda CX-5 and paid it off before I left.
The added benefit was that since it looks like every other car on the road, I had to learn my license plate.
Then we made sure to max out my 401K contributions. Sure the car payments and 401K contributions significantly cut down our monthly cash flow, but it was worth it. We knew it would help us create the life we wanted in the future.
I started noticing what other people were doing in retirement. That’s when I started my blog. I wanted to find out the path people took and why they made the decisions they made.
I’ve been so much fun telling people’s stories. Each one is so unique and each one helps me to put a piece in my own retirement puzzle. I’m not even sure what the end picture will be.
When people ask me what I was going to do in retirement, I say I going to drink lemonade and read books in the backyard. And I am. But I am also looking at all the opportunities available to me.
For example, I have been creating videos for people and businesses. These have been fun projects. I not only love helping people celebrate special events, but I also love the creative process of combining video, pictures and music.
I also have a podcasting gig. More about that later.
And finally, I am doing all the projects that I have been thinking about doing for years. My husband is already threatening to take away my coffee if I don’t settle down.
And I’m sure I will. It’s strange to think that I don’t have to fit everything I want to do into a weekend or an occasional day off. That I don’t have to sit in traffic worrying that I will be late to work or a meeting. I have time.
The most important thing I have learned from all my interviewees is that to have a successful retirement you have to find your passion. I’m working on that too.
For now, I will continue to find people who are working on their next chapter whether it be through love, work, moving or volunteering. I hope you will continue to join me.
As always, if you know someone who would make a good subject for me blog, email me at email@example.com.