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Moving Down the Ocean Hon

“I had the career my fourteen-year-old self always wanted,” said Pete Kerzel, 62. Pete had a long career as a journalist and spent the last 12 years as the managing editor for MASNsports.com, covering the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.

Welcome to Ocean City! Pete gets the key to his condo.

He was paid to watch baseball games and go down to spring training. He was there the night Cal Ripken Jr. beat the streak and met many of his childhood heroes, including Brooks Robinson. “How many people get to live their dream?“ Pete said.

When Pete began to think of retirement, he still loved his job, but he began to notice a change. “The written word is being minimized,” he said.  “And I’m a written word guy.”

He added, “I could see what was coming down the pike. They didn’t want to hire more writers.”  He saw a shift away from writing and more toward videos, social media and TikTok.

In addition, the demands of the job began to wear on him. Pete was always on call in case someone signed a contract or a team made a trade or some other story. “I would have to bring my computer with me when I went out to dinner with friends,” Pete said. “It just wasn’t as much fun anymore.”

The real turning point came when Pete met with Chip Herring, his Ameriprise financial advisor, in the Spring of 2020, almost a year after the death of his mother. His advisor said, “Just so you know, you can retire now.” Pete said he remembers thinking “What?!” He was surprised that at the age of 60, spending a lifetime in a profession known for lower salaries, that he was able to retire.

Where to retire was easy. Ocean City, Md., had always held a special place in Pete’s heart. Being in OC evokes memories of spending time “down the ocean” with his parents and friends. “I’ve been coming to Ocean City since I’ve been six years old,” Pete said

He started looking for property in August 2020. At that point, he saw it as a place he would be able to use when he wasn’t working and eventually retire to. By the time he bought in December 2020, he knew that he would be moving there sooner than he thought.

Pete knew exactly what he was looking for and how much he wanted to spend.  He said he and his real estate agent, Terry Miler, looked at 40 or 50 condos. He bought right as the market was beginning to tick up with people relocating due to COVID.

He began living down there part-time while he working remotely due to COVID. As he began living in Ocean City for weeks at a time, it became increasingly difficult for him to drive back home over the Bay Bridge to the Western Shore. “Then, when I would reverse that and come to the beach, I would think everything felt right again.”

World Series 2019 with Mark Zuckerman and Byron Kerr in Nationals Park.

In October 2021, Pete spoke to his supervisor to let him know he would be leaving the following April. When he told his boss he was ready to retire, his boss  said. “I’m so happy for you.” He knew the toll the 80-hour weeks were taking on Pete.

“The timing was right. I got out on my terms when I wanted to,” Pete said.

On April 20,, 2022 Pete moved to Ocean City, got himself settled, and was able to finish out the month virtually before retiring on April 30, 2022.

Upon retiring, Pete received some advice from a friend. “Don’t do anything for six months.” Pete took that advice to heart. His six months was up the Thursday after we spoke.

Life Down the Ocean

But Pete didn’t exactly spend all his time sitting in his condo reading, although he did that, too. He began writing for the Delmarva Shorebirds game program. “I put the ‘free’ in freelance, “ Pete said – and he couldn’t be happier. He’s already looking forward to next season.

2022 Delmarva Shorebirds game with Bob Stine.

He also did two important things that any senior who retires to OC should do: get a pass to Assateague Island National Seashore and get a OC bus pass.

The lifetime senior pass to Assateague Island costs $85. With that pass, Pete can go to the Island to watch the ponies or just enjoy the beach whenever he wants. He can also take a friend for free.

The senior bus pass gives free bus rides to people over 60 and free tram rides before 4 p.m. After 4 p.m., Pete gets a dollar off tram rides “They aren’t making any money on me,” he said.

Pete loves to ride the tram. ”The smell of the caramel popcorn or the sound of a kid squealing in the arcade because he won a prize can take me back 50 years.”

Pete also thinks of his friend, Barry Diffendal, when he rides the tram. Barry passed away suddenly in 2012 after only one year in retirement. Barry and Pete often joked about retiring to OC and Barry would say, “You drive the tram and I’ll be the conductor in the back.”

Transitioning into Retirement

Pete said it took a good 6 to 8 weeks for him to get used to being retired. “It was a huge thing to get used to. I can go shopping when I want to go shopping. I don’t have to wedge it in,” he said.

“I hadn’t had a normal day in years,” Pete said. In his previous life, he had an erratic sleep schedule as he was required to work whenever the teams were playing. If there was a West Coast game, Pete would often have to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. after the game finished so he could  edit online stories.

Now, his time is his own and he is enjoying shopping when he wants, reading by the pool (during the summer time) and walking along the beach and boardwalk. He is also able to watch baseball for the sheer enjoyment of it and can turn off a game if it gets boring or goes into a rain delay.

Socializing with Friends

The other thing that Pete is enjoying is being able to spend time with his friends, “I got a two-bedroom condo so friends could come for a visit,” he said.

Some of his friends even live in OC either full-time or part-time.

Two his friends moved down there a year before he did. “They were a great resource,” he said. Not only does he spend time with them, but they have also introduced him to their friends.

One thing Pete enjoys is going with his friends, Greg and Cindy Cannizaro, to the Elks Club on Thursday nights for the fried chicken finner. Pete said it’s a great deal at just $12.

“Also, I can buy a round drinks for the table for just $6,” he added.

For Pete, retirement has been about seizing opportunities.

He said he loves being available for last minute events. Whether it’s seeing John Fogarty in Selbyville or watching the air show practice from a pontoon boat, Pete is ready for fun.

He is one of the few year-rounders in his community. This winter will be his full winter in OC. “I predict at some time this winter I’m going to bored out of my gourd,” he said.  However, there are many things to do even off season and Pete knows many people there.

“I forgot that it was possible to be spontaneous,” Pete said. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve been in an position where I can choose when to do things and it’s been fun.”

Tourist Season

For some people the tourist season from May to September/October could be a deterrent from moving down to OC, but Pete takes it all in stride.

“I love the water. I love the salt air,” Pete said. “So, you have to punt June, July and August for April, May, September and October. Sure, the summer months can be crazy, but it’s really fun to see the town so energized.”

There about 7,500 to 8,000 year-round residents in Ocean City. In the summer time, the population swells.

A beautiful sunset at Pete’s condo.

He said, “I enjoyed this spring watching the town gear up and get ready for the invasion of the summer people. It was a kick.”

Of course, he has had to make some concessions during tourist season, like doing his grocery shopping during the week. “You don’t want to go to the grocery store Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.”

Also, there are also some restaurants that he doesn’t go to during season because there just too many people in town and the prices are higher.

But he said OC has changed a lot over the years. “’It’s more of a year-round thing now,” Of course, some places do close, but others offer dinner specials and happy hours to get customers in the door. His favorite pizza place, Pino’s, is closed for the season, but he waits in patient anticipation for it to reopen in May.

Luckily, Happy Jack Pancake House, which Pete calls his second home, is year-round, though only on the weekends in the offseason.

Making Finances Work

Pete was able to retire early because he made savings a priority. He’ll have a small pension from MedStar Health, where he worked in public/media relations for almost a decade, but he’s contributed to 401k plans through other employers and socked away money in his Ameriprise accounts.

When his mother passed away in 2019, he took the proceeds from the sale of his mother’s house plus some other inheritance, and put it into an annuity. He will tap that when he turns 65. For now, he is paying himself a salary out of his savings and will be collecting social security and his pension. This allows him to live the way he wants to live.

He gets his medical insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He said that the insurance is good, but the bureaucracy has been frustrating at times.

Final Words of Advice

“I don’t miss 80-hour weeks. I don’t miss waiting for my expense check,” Pete said. “That stuff, let somebody else do it. I’m so happy to not be dealing with it now.”

For Pete, retirement is a new beginning. “I look at this chapter as a blank slate,” he said.

He remembers a few days after he moved down and settled in thinking, “What do I do now?”

Then he said, a little apparition appeared over his head and said, “You can do whatever you want.”

What Pete wants to do is carve out time for himself and just appreciate his time in Ocean City. His condo backs up to a bayfront marsh and one of his favorite things to do is sit on his screened deck and watch the wildlife including herons, otters and foxes.

“I get these incredible sunsets and it’s as though someone painted the sky,” Pete said.

He is not sure what he is going to do now that his six months are up. He might volunteer or get a part-time job. He is leaving the door open to new opportunities.

Before he moved to he said, “I thought: What’s the worst thing that could happen? If I don’t like it here, I can move back to Baltimore, But I don’t think that’s going to happen. This is home now.”

If you know someone who you would think would make a good subject for my blog, email me at karensparis15@gmail.com.

Becoming a Pickleball Person

It’s time to hit the courts for Pickleball. Are you game?

Alright, admit it. You knew at some point I would do a blog about pickleball. As I told my husband “All the cool kids are doing it!”

Although apparently it’s not just the cool kids over 50. Did you know there was now a professional Pickle Ball League? No kidding! Some of the biggest names in sports are buying professional pickleball teams. Tom Brady and Kim Clijsters (tennis) both own teams.

With all the hubbub, I had to find out what it was all about.

I have never been very sports-oriented. I was a cheerleader in high school and a personal trainer in my 40s, but I have never really played sports, so I decided to take lessons.

My husband, always supportive, agreed to take them with me. He is an athlete, but more as a runner and cyclist, so I felt we were pretty even.

We decided to take lessons at the Dancel YMCA in Howard County. I know there are many places to play and take lessons, but I was already a member so it seemed like a good choice.

If you’re not familiar with pickleball it is a cross between tennis and ping pong. It can be played on a tennis court, but there are different lines and boundaries. Our lines are purple. Not sure if they are purple everywhere, but wouldn’t you think they’d be green.

The racquets are a lot like ping pong paddles except a little longer and narrower.

For me the real difference is the balls. The balls are fluorescent and are just like the whiffle balls we grew up with. You would think they wouldn’t bounce very well, but they do. They also hurt when you get hit with them.

At the Y, the instructor loaned us racquets. I took the one with a dragon on it. I thought I could channel the fire of the dragon into my hit.

We also received a basket of big whiffle balls. They were the only types of balls I could ever hit with a bat, so I was already familiar with them.

It seems as though it would be the perfect “couple” sport. There are usually two people on a team and they work in tandem to prevent the other team from scoring. However, we heard that sometimes it’s not a great idea for couples to be on the same team. It can cause arguments. I think it might cause more issues if they were on opposing teams. We’re not there yet.

Our pickleball coach said the first rule was to “stay out of the kitchen.” Hey, that worked for me. They told me that the first day of Weight Watchers too.

The kitchen is the front court essentially and you aren’t supposed to hang out there. You can put one foot in, but then you taken one foot out. You put one foot in, but no shaking it all about like the Hokey-Pokey.

When you are up by the kitchen, you are dinking. (I really couldn’t make this stuff up.) Dinking is when you hit the ball softly over the net. Even the professionals dink. All pickleball players dink at some point.

Dinking did not really seem to be in my nature. I was more a slamming and lobbing kind of player, which has its place in pickleball.

Once we were done dinking, we rallied and volleyed. That means we ran around the court trying to hit the ball. Finally, we were ready to play a game, but not until lesson two.

Even before our lesson was over, the gym started to fill with pickleball players. The began lining up on the beach behind the courts. Apparently, you get in line and when you get to the head of the line it’s your turn to play.

Score keeping is pretty easy. You score on your serve. Just like tennis, the ball has to land in a specific section in order to be considered good. Unlike tennis, you serve underhand. There are none of those fabulous shots of a player arching back to hit the ball like there are in tennis. It’s more like a softball pitch.

Each player gets to serve before the serve is returned to the other team. Easy peasy. Not.

You only play to 11 unless a lot of people are waiting to play then it’s 9. And there are always a lot of people waiting to playing.

I had a great revelation after my first lesson. Pickleball really is fun and despite it’s silly name, it’s a serious workout. My heart rate got up and the next day muscles I hadn’t heard from in years were speaking my name.

During our second lesson, I got a sage piece of advice. “Don’t keep extra balls in your pocket. If you fall down and land on them, they hurt.” How did she know I fall down a lot? I think it’s more likely they would serve as a cushion when, not if, I fall.

During my third lessons, we had newbies on the court. You know, the ones who hadn’t had two whole lessons like I had. I was patient with them.

After my third lesson, I decided to take the plunge a buy a racquet. In the past, I had bought equipment that I had never touched again and later sold at yard sales for a tenth of the price. I don’t think that’s going to happen with my pickleball paddles.

I don’t think a professional pickleball career is in my future. I mean I am retired. I don’t want to have to start traveling the country to play in tournaments, but I do have my eye on a prize.

At the YMCA they have tournaments and I am already visualizing myself winning the grand prize. — A jar of pickles.

I love to tell people’s stories. If you know someone over 50 who has made a major life change, send me an email karensparis15@gmail.com. I would love to interview them.

Opening the Door to Many Possibilities

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 and co-author Betsy McMillion

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 working on the Rosebud Reservation

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.

Ed and his wife Pat

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.

If you know someone who would make a good subject for this blog, email me at ksparis15@gmail.com.

The Big Clean Out

Starting the big clean up has been a challenge. Who knew getting rid of 25 years of stuff wouldn’t be easy?

One of my goals in retirement has been to start the big clean out. That’s what everyone says you need to do when you retire.

Of course, I could have started during all those months in isolation during the pandemic, but instead my husband and I built shelves during that time so although there was not less stuff, at least it looked as though there was less stuff.

But as the philosopher says, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” Or something along those lines. So, I started the big clean out with a few little clean outs. At this point, the basement is still a little too much for me to tackle.

I decided to start with a few junk drawers. It was interesting to see how many drawers had been designated as junk drawers. And what had been designated as junk.

The greatest revelation has been how many pairs of scissors we own – 10. What is most surprising is that when we need them, we can never find them. Maybe that’s how we ended up with so many. I don’t know what the perfect number of scissors is, but I’m going to going to say that it is less than 10.

We also seem to have a need to measure things. (Keep it clean people.) We have multiple rulers, tape measures and large tape measurers for measuring rooms. I don’t have the final count, but it’s definitely in the double digits.

But we have no yard sticks. Do people even use yardsticks anymore? Since I think most people only used them to spank their children, they probably don’t sell them anymore. Let me know if you own one.

The tool boxes (yes plural) have been a revelation as well! Four hammers, screwdrivers and wrenches that I’m afraid to count and two levels. And of course, we saved every allen wrench from every piece of IKEA furniture that we have purchased during our 36 years of marriage. I may have to take up welding and create some sort of allen wrench monument to use them all.

I am very confused by finding so much stuff in my house. I have always considered myself organized and when my staff took me out to celebrate my retirement, they commented, multiple times, on my propensity to clean and organize. So, what happened? How did all these things get into my house and what do I do with them now that they are here?

If I were able to throw them out, I would have, but it seems so wasteful. Is there a place to donate these things?

I feel as though I am failing retirement 101 and I haven’t even gotten to the hard part. Calgon take me away!

Starting the Next Phase

I am currently working on my closet and have to restrain myself from throwing away all my work clothes. I really think I should keep a few just in case.

Another problem with my closet is finding things that are no longer “useful” but hold such great memories. For example, I heard bell bottom jeans are making a comeback and I’m sure after a few weeks on Weight Watchers I will fit into them again. Right?

I’m not making head away.

I think cleaning out my husband’s closet would help me clean out my closet. He doesn’t agree.

So far, I have emptied one tub. I guess I shouldn’t mention I emptied it by taking books out of it and putting them back on the bookshelf.  Still, it felt good to see an empty tub.

Maybe an electronic cleanup of our computers would be easier.

I hope to have an update in October that I have successfully completed Stage 1 of the big clean out. At this point, I am gathering these items in my daughter’s old room until I figure out what to do next. Pretty soon, I’m going to need another room since my husband has prohibited anything else going in the basement.

All advice appreciated!

If you have any ideas for my blog, please email me at ksparis15@gmail.com

Managing the Move to Myrtle Beach

Carol used her project management skills to plan the perfect retirement for herself and her husband Mike.

“Retirement is the best decision I ever made!” said Carol Opalski Hewitt.

In April of this year, Carol retired from her job as a Project Manager at T. Rowe Price and she and her husband Mike Hewitt moved down to the Del Webb community in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Carol was only 59 and four months when she retired from T. Rowe Price but she knew it was the perfect time to leave. In March, she finished up 2 ½ year project.  “I knew it was my swan song. I just couldn’t continue work 60 hours a week anymore,” Carol said. 

But Carol and Mike had been thinking about retirement for a while. Seven years ago, while vacationing in Myrtle Beach, they decided that it was the perfect place for their forever home. It had everything they wanted. Sun. Beaches. The ocean. Warm weather. Low taxes. Close proximity to an airport.

Since Carol’s children and mother still live in Baltimore, it was important that there was a quick and convenient way for them to get back home.  Super convenient, economical flights from Myrtle Beach to Baltimore made it the perfect location.

About three years ago, it was time to figure out how to make early retirement possible. Mike had left the workforce in 2001 to take care of their children, so many of the decisions were based on Carol’s income.

They met with a financial adviser at T. Rowe Price who helped guide them through the planning process. “The homework came back to me. How much do we need to retire?” Carol said. Carol emphasizes need rather than want. They needed to consider insurance, health insurance, long-term care insurance and other necessities. But they also considered their wants such as travel, new furniture, a golf cart and other entertainment. The fun stuff. Luckily, Carol and Mike were on the same page when it came to retirement goals.

“You work all your life. You want to enjoy your quality of life while you can,” Carol said.

Finding the Right Community

Then they had to decide where in Myrtle Beach they wanted to live. They looked at three different communities long before they were going to retire. In addition to Del Webb, they considered Waterford Plantation and Berkshire Forest. But ultimately, they decided on Del Webb because it was an active over 55 adult community. “You can be as busy as you want to,” Carol said.

At Del Webb, there are two different builders you can chose from to construct your home. Carol and Mike were able to choose from five different models. “From down payment to settlement was six months,” Carol said. The community has an active calendar of events, pool, concerts and many different groups and activities.

Since moving there, Carol, always an avid tennis player, has taken up pickle ball and plays 5 mornings a week. Her days are now busier than they when she was working.

They have developed a group of about 12 couples who they spend time with going to concerts, hanging out at the pool and going to dinner together.

In addition, Carol does volunteer work like helping out at community concerts.

When her sister said she was worried about Carol staying busy, her response was, “Don’t worry, I am.”

Getting Ready for the Move

After deciding where they were going to move, it was time to make a plan. “Plan the work and work the plan,” Carol said.

As a project manager, Carol backed into her dates. She knew when they were moving and then decided when each step needed to happen.

The first step was to start to cleaning out. It took about eight months. “We were fairly aggressive,” Carol said.

“You need to decide what do you will need in your new life.” Things like her china and vintage martini glasses were some of the things that weren’t going to make the move.

Instead, they sold or donated many of the items. “Catonsville Marketplace and Catonsville Yard Sale are great,” Carol said.

Her advice. “Down size. Down size. Down size.”

In addition, Carol and Mike have two children and their stuff was in their house. Their daughter had already moved out and bought a house, but didn’t take everything with her. Carol and Mike drove her things over to her house and left them there!

Their son was still unsure as to whether or not to make the move with them, but after deciding to stay in Baltimore, he moved out in about three days and took all of his stuff with him. Phase one completed.

Selling Their Home

Next, they needed to sell their home. Because of the hot real estate market earlier this year, Carol and Mike decided put their house on the market on December 26th  and sell it themselves.  It sold within 4 days. Then they negotiated with the buyers so that they could stay in the house until they were ready to move to South Carolina.  “I put the plan in motion and everything fell in line,” Carol said.

Before listing the house, Carol researched other listings and picked and chose key words to get their listing noticed.

They made the decision to not make a lot of upgrades or repaint their home because the next buyer would probably want to make their own design decision. It worked out for them.

Selling their house quickly and for a good profit was key to their retirement plan. “It helped that our house had appreciated so much,” Carol said.

Deciding What to Move

Next, they decided on what they wanted to move. Even though Carol was committed to getting rid of the clutter, there were some things that she decided were worth moving. “It’s important to look at things with a different eye,” Carol said. For example, they decided to move their brown bedroom furniture.

However, once they moved down south, Carol used her newly acquired chalk painting skills to paint it grey and white so it looks beachier. In fact, she has become so good at chalk painting that she has been helping some her friends with their projects as well.

Life In South Carolina

“The best part about being retired is doing what I want to do, when I want to do it,” Carol said.

She doesn’t miss routine of work because she has a new routine. She is on the pickle ball court bright and early at 8 a.m. 5 days a week.

In addition, each week, they review the calendar of events and decide what they are going to do. Of course, errands still need to be done. Wednesday is food shopping day because seniors get 5 percent off. “I take Mike with me because I’m not a senior yet,” Carol said.

They’ve had no problem adjusting to spending more time together. “I think COVID helped with the transition,” Carol said. But they are not spending that much additional time together. Mike doesn’t play pickle ball, instead he walks the dog. At the pool, she hangs out with the girls and he hangs out with the guys.

Carol said she likes having friends around who are of similar age and similar interests. The only bad part about their new friends is that many of them are Steelers fans. Go Ravens!

Finances and Paperwork

Even now that they are retired, Carol and Mike still consider expenses and do paperwork.

“Your expenses will be higher your first few months after retirement,” Carol said. For them, they wanted to buy new things for the house and try new restaurants. However, after a few months of being retired, she sees those expenses are starting to normalize.

Except health insurance. Health insurance is their biggest expense.

At this point Carol is on COBRA and will stay on that for the next 18 months. “It’s very expensive because our son is still on our plan,” Carol said. After the 18 months, she will have to go on the open market or pick up the insurance through T. Rowe. Still, they knew health insurance would continue to be a big expense and they planned for it.

The one down side to retirement so far has been paperwork. Carol has been inundated with paperwork. The biggest challenge was working with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration to get their car registrations changed.

But there is also quite a bit of insurance paperwork. It’s not only the paperwork that is a challenge, it’s also finding new doctors. “It’s difficult to find doctors down here that are accepting new patients,” Carol said. Right now, she and Mike are flying back to Baltimore for their doctor’s appointments while they wait to get doctor’s appointments booked out in the future in South Carolina.

But with round trip ticket to Baltimore under a $100, it’s working for now. However, Carol doesn’t want to go back to Baltimore too often. “There’s so much going on here, I don’t want to miss anything,” she said.

Final Advice

Carol and Mike are loving their new life in South Carolina. They are meeting new people, starting new hobbies and keeping busy. Still, sometimes Carol likes some down time.

“This morning I was getting ready to head out to pickle ball at 8 when it starts raining and the texts start flying. ‘Are we going? Are we not going?’” The decision was no pickle ball that day. “So, it was nice to have a second cup of coffee and get some things done around the house,” Carol said. Retirement is everything they thought it would be…and more.

If you know someone who would make a good interview for this blog, email me at ksparis15@gmail.com.

Living Her Best Life

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.

Growing Older

“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.”

Tara and her husband Eric

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.”

For more information about the Little Honey Adventure series, go to: https://www.littlehoneyslittleadventures.com/

If you know someone who you think would make a great subject for my blog, email me at ksparis15@gmail.com.

Cycling Towards The Future

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.

Financially Speaking

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.

Health Care

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.

Future Plans

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.

Dave’s Sunday Morning Ride

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 ksparis15@gmail.com.

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