The Adventures of an Unemployed Boomer

Sharing challenges, solutions, observations and inspirations along the way

A Different View of Paris

To capture a different view of Paris, Sheila Evans, freelance writer and first-time visitor to Paris, decided to focus on some of the people who make Paris the remarkable city it is. Here are some who are often overlooked, but essential to the beauty that is Paris.


Paris in the spring of 2014:


Paris streets and sidewalks are remarkably clean for such a large and busy city. The city’s cleaning crews are known for their green jumpsuits and for their ability to keep this city nearly spotless. In rainy times, their uniforms are a stylish yellow and green. Some people refer to these workers as Paris’ little green men.

Those who keep Paris clean.

Those who keep Paris clean.

At the Louvre and at all museums and monuments in Paris, the people who keep order and make the long lines bearable are the guards. They are there, rain or shine.

The museum guides are on duty, rain or shine.

The museum guides are on duty, rain or shine.

Paris policemen are a tourist attractions in themselves. These men are at the Luxembourg Palace, keeping watch and protecting the senators, who are in session in this historic building.

Local police watch outside the French Senate, working inside the Luxembourg Palace, just off the Luxembourg Gardens.

Local police watch outside the French Senate, working inside the Luxembourg Palace, just off the Luxembourg Gardens.

With more than nine million visitors to the Louvre every year, keeping the floors polished and the cobwebs under control is a big job. This night janitor helps keep the Mona Lisa smiling as he keeps the marble floors gleaming.

Someone has to keep the artwork looking good! This man is part of the late-night cleaning crew of the Louvre. We spotted him through the window.

Someone has to keep the artwork looking good! This man is part of the late-night cleaning crew of the Louvre. We spotted him through the window.

The Luxembourg Gardens were built in 1612 for Princess Marie de Medici, who later became queen of France. It is 25 hectares in size, and contains some 100 statues, fountains and monuments. Many of the statues are of famous French women – queens and saints. It is one of the most popular public parks in Paris, and needs lots of workers to keep the ladies looking their best.

Luxembourg Gardens, cleaning and refurbishing is constant with 80 to 100 sculptures in this massive park. This man helps keep them looking their best.

Luxembourg Gardens, cleaning and refurbishing is constant with 80 to 100 sculptures in this massive park. This man helps keep them looking their best.

Helpful tourism associates are stationed right in the airport to help visitors find their way around, purchase tickets and passes, and get started on their trip with as little difficulty as possible.

Getting directions from the  information desk at the Paris airport helps newcomers get a good start on their visit to the city.

Getting directions from the information desk at the Paris airport helps newcomers get a good start on their visit to the city.

While Paris streets seem to be very safe and secure, the Police Nationale sometimes comes out in force. Whole streets are taken over with police vans and well-armed officers. Perhaps this is why the streets are so safe.

A street full of police for no apparent reason. They were fully armed and ready for something, though.

A street full of police for no apparent reason. They were fully armed and ready for something, though.

For visitors who are not used to using the underground or who want to travel by bus or train throughout Paris, things can get very confusing. The Paris Transport Authority (RATP) runs all the public transit systems. In just about every Metro station there are men and women available to help guide those who are in a quandary. They have free maps, they give assistance in purchasing tickets, and most will patiently answer all your questions.

A very accommodating  transit authority man helped us with our transport ticket arrangements.

A very accommodating transit authority man helped us with our transport ticket arrangements.

The annual Festival of Bread is held each spring in Paris. These workers are getting the main tent set up so that scores of bakers can make wonderful bread products inside and sell them to an appreciative public. These men erected several smaller tents, as well, and were back a week later to take everything down. The festival takes place on the plaza in front of Notre Dame.

A huge tent goes up in front of Notre Dame as these workers put their all into their task.

A huge tent goes up in front of Notre Dame as these workers put their all into their task.

Bakers from throughout Paris gather each year in mid-May to honor the patron saint of bakers at the annual Festival of Bread. They take over the plaza in front of Notre Dame and bake for a week under a tent, selling the items they bake and keeping the tradition of superior French baking alive.

Bakers from throughout France gather annually for the Festival of Bread, helping to keep the art of fine baking alive in the country.

Bakers from throughout France gather annually for the Festival of Bread, helping to keep the art of fine baking alive in the country.


Loving Paris, Even In The Rain

Cole Porter wrote about loving Paris when it drizzles. Frankly, it is hard to love anywhere – even Paris – when there is nonstop rain. Waiting in the rain and wind for an hour to gain entrance to the Louvre puts a real damper on the experience of this iconic gallery and museum.

We stood in the cold rain for an hour to get into the Louvre. That may have affected our enjoyment of the iconic museum.

We stood in the cold rain for an hour to get into the Louvre. That may have affected our enjoyment of the iconic museum.


So, what to do if the skies darken and the sun refuses to shine when you finally have arrived at your dream destination? Get wet! Embrace the rainy weather and laugh in its face.


That is what Diane Bogenreider and Sheila Evans, two 60-somethings from Michigan, did. And they recommend this approach for others who are facing challenges as their trip of a lifetime seems to be going sour.


Diane and Sheila planned for months to go to Paris. For Diane, it was a return to a city she loved and had visited several times. For Sheila, it was her virgin trip to the City of Light. They decided on an early spring visit. Sheila would stay two weeks; Diane three.


Weather forecasters told them Paris would be much like Michigan in early May, cold and damp. They packed their raincoats and an umbrella, but pictured Paris as sunny and bright, like the postcards and websites all show.

The weather was near perfect as we arrived in Paris.

The weather was near perfect as we arrived in Paris.

And, indeed, when they arrived in Paris the sun was out and all seemed as it should.


They spent their first day walking and exploring. It was glorious. The next day, the forecasters predicted “gloomy.” They came to learn that this is a euphanism for day-long rain and cold. As they left their room for the day, though, they decided against the umbrella, since no rain was forecast.


Rain was not going to deter these intrepid travelers from having their trip of a lifetime. In fact, it added to the memories.

By mid-day, the skys turned from grey to black and the rain began, not torrential, but persistent. They had hoped to ride the “hop-on-hop-off” bus, which was a two-decker with an open top. What to do? Buy the ticket and enjoy the ride. It was wet and cold, but they saw Paris. They huddled together, found unusual shelters, and had an adventure they had not anticipated. They knew laughter warmed the soul, and made it work for the body, as well.


Not every day was rainy, of course, so the raincoats and shoes had a chance to dry out. The umbrella became a standard part of the daily attire, however. It may have even held off the rain some days.


One of the unusual places the two travelers discovered as a good shelter from the rain was the Gare St. Lazare, a transportation hub that looked more like a mall than a bus station. In this lively place, the ladies heard piano music and discovered a community piano with a large sign on it in French inviting anyone who wished to simply “Enjoy yourself.” Strangers sat and played, sometimes joining

A great place to hang out in a rainstorm was the Gare St. Lazare, a transportation hub with a piano.

A great place to hang out in a rainstorm was the Gare St. Lazare, a transportation hub with a piano.

together in impromptu duets. A toddler joined in at one point and added to everyone’s enjoyment.


Having unusual accommodations helped these travelers make memories that were not dependent on good weather. Part of their trip was spent in a monastery, where common breakfasts presented opportunities to meet new people and learn things about Paris that were not included in the guidebooks.


Another part of the trip was spent in a private short-term rental apartment, found online. The apartment owner was local, and helped the travelers with directions, theater tickets and personal insights on what to do and see. Relying on locals for help allowed the two to expand on what they had learned from guidebooks and blogs, which they had read voraciously before leaving for Paris.

Riding the Metro or the city bus were touted as excellent ways to see Paris, but actually doing so can be challenging. Kindly, knowledgeable, and bilingual transit authority and tourism employees helped make sense of the complex system.

A nice transit authority man helped us with our week-long transport passes.A nice transit authority man helped us with our week-long transport passes.


All these things added to the joy of this trip, but what these travelers realized was essential to making any trip memorable and fun is a little patience, the ability to laugh at themselves and their circumstances, and to see every new experience as an opportunity for a good time.

The calendar said "spring," but Diane was smart enough to bring a winter hat and gloves.

The calendar said “spring,” but Diane was smart enough to bring a winter hat and gloves.

Finding My Way Home

Three years of rambling are coming to a close this month as I move into my new “coral cottage” in Charlotte Harbor, Florida.

The "coral cottage."

The “coral cottage.”

The decision to find a place to call my own came fairly suddenly, as I began to feel disconnected from anything that resembled a community. I started feeling the lack of a church community and of the ability to volunteer in a fairly traditional way. I also began feeling the desire to join a writers’ group that could help me develop my writing skills, especially in fiction writing.

Once I felt that something was lacking in my life I decided to do something about it. I have never liked the cold, so I knew my search for a stable home would be in a warm climate. Florida was my first and only real choice. But where in Florida? I had lived for years in the West Palm Beach area and knew I liked the East Coast, but I also knew I did not want to live in or near a big town. I try to avoid traffic whenever possible.

Other factors I came to recognize as vital as I undertook the search for a place included:

  • It should be warm year-round.
  • It should be near “the water.”
  • It should be within a few minute’s drive of a swimming beach.
  • It should be a rental that was affordable on my limited and fixed budget.
  • It should have public swimming pools available.
  • It should have good libraries available.
  • It should offer some senior services.
  • It should have the feel of a house, rather than an apartment.
  • It should provide some outdoor space.

Amazingly, I have found a place that satisfies every one of these criteria.

Finding it was not easy, however. It took about three weeks of concerted effort, hours of driving, lots of internet research, and determination to discover this gem. When I started the process, I had the possibility of a job in the Panhandle area of Florida, so I decided to make that the focus of my search, initially. I drove to Florida from my temporary home in Michigan, and stayed in a Florida state park the first five days of my sojourn.

Camping at Top Sail Hill State Park in Florida's Panhandle

Camping at Top Sail Hill State Park in Florida’s Panhandle

With the park as my base, and aided by my map and my GPS, I drove to and through at least a dozen small towns. My list of criteria was much shorter then, but as I drove, I came to recognize that I did have other standards I wanted met in my home. The Panhandle has beautiful beaches, but I did not fall in love with any of  the towns. After five days of driving in and out of every small town I could find, only one drew me in at all as “home.” It is called Niceville, which is a nice name and a nice place, but not my place.

The potential job was looking more and more iffy, so I decided to continue the search, this time through the interior of the state and onto the East Coast. I set my GPS to avoid major highways, so it took me through the state’s interior, passing through many little towns, a number of which

North Florida has beautiful beaches, but I did not fall in love with the area.

North Florida has beautiful beaches, but I did not fall in love with the area.

have lakes and rivers in good supply. By the time I reached the East Coast, however, I was pretty sure smaller lakes and rivers would not suffice. My soul yearns for big bodies of water.

So, I used Ormond Beach, which is fairly centrally located on the Atlantic side of the state, as my base. I was there three days. I did the same sort of searching, in and out of small towns, including some a little more inland.

Florida's east side has great beaches, too, like the National Seashore near Titusville, but this will be a place to visit for me, not to live.

Florida’s east side has great beaches, too, like the National Seashore near Titusville, but this will be a place to visit for me, not to live.

At this point, I was just looking for the right community, not a specific home. I have one friend who grew up in Florida, and another who lives there now. I asked both of them for suggestions and made a point of visiting each town they mentioned. I also asked people on Facebook for ideas, and added those to my list of possibilities.

A technique I used was to set my GPS to take me to the “city hall” of whatever small town I was going to look at. This gave me an idea of how cohesive, friendly, and clean the town looked, and what its personality was. I checked online for more information about services, libraries, parks, and community issues. I also checked online for information on rental houses or apartments that might be available in my price range.

Another friend, who lives on the west side of the state, had offered me her condo to stay in while she was away. I took her up on her generous offer and stayed in Fort Myers for the rest of my mission. From her home I traveled up to Tampa and then down along the shoreline, visiting towns in much the same way I had done in the other areas. When all was said and done, I visited some 48 communities throughout the state.

My GPS and my atlas were invaluable tools in my search for an ideal location.

My GPS and my atlas were invaluable tools in my search for an ideal location.

My list of criteria had expanded and my list of potential towns had consolidated. There were only two or three communities on the West Coast and about the same on the East Coast that were likely places for my new home.

I took another day to drive through the narrowed-down West Coast towns and look more specifically at potential domiciles. I found a little community that looked like “old Florida,” was close to the water, was loaded with public parks, had several places for rent, and matched everything else on my list. In fact, there was one place in particular that looked most promising. There was no rental information visible, though, so I could not tell if it would be available when I needed it, was affordable, etc.

I decided to go back to the East Coast, which is where I had always imagined I would find my ideal spot. Again, I drove up and down for two days, checking real estate listings, looking at specific possibilities, and finding myself constantly comparing these places to the one on the West Coast. On my way back to Fort Myers, I stopped at that little cottage, which was tugging at me. There was still no information, so I knocked on a neighbor’s door and got the contact information for the property manager. I called and discovered that it was really everything I had hoped for.

The next day I was able to walk around inside and fell in love even more. I put a deposit on it that day, and will move in on September 12.

The Peace River, which opens onto the Gulf, is less than two blocks away.

The Peace River, which opens onto the Gulf, is less than two blocks away.


My new hang-out area, at the end of my street.

My new hang-out area, at the end of my street.

There is no place like home.

There is no place like home.

A Prayer for Father’s Day

(Written around 2004, when I was a youth minister in Port Antonio, Jamaica)

Our Father, who art in heaven, thank you for the men on earth who share this title with you. As they follow your example of providing love, protection, and physical necessities, Father, show them how important they are to us and how much we appreciate their willingness to take up the responsibility of fatherhood. Help them always to remember that being a father is a divine calling, so much more than simply a biological happening.

In the Fourth Commandment, children of all ages are told to honor their fathers and mothers. We are taught that this means to obey them when we are young, but respect them and care for them no matter how old we grow – even when they make no sense – which, as we become teenagers, seems to be more and more the case. Dear Father, help us live this Commandment to the fullest. Help us to see in our own fathers, and those who serve in the role of father, the image of you. Let our honoring them show through in our words, attitudes and behaviors, not only today, Father’s Day, but every day and for all our days.

We, your sons and daughters, bring these petitions to you, Abba, in company with your son, Jesus, who taught us to call you “Father,” and assured us that we will never be without a father’s love, as long as we remain close to you. Keep us in your arms, guard us and guide us, now and forever, Amen.

Talking With My Dad

This blog has been going in a new direction lately, as I go through old writings. Now, with my father’s birthday on May 26, I include this remembrance. This was originally written in August of 1999, exactly a year after his death. I recently edited it.

Happy birthday, Dad.

Celebrating the day of my dad's birth.

Celebrating the day of my dad’s birth.

My parents died 18 days apart in July and August 1998. Less than a month before my parents had become sick, I departed for service in the Peace Corps. I was stationed in Jamaica. My parting with my parents had been so warm and loving, that when Dad called me in Kingston to tell me that Mom was in the hospital, I did not feel anxious about rushing home to let her know how much I loved her. As it turned out, rushing would not have made much difference, since she died two days after he called me.

During the days between Mom’s and Dad’s deaths, I was privileged to have a couple of really wonderful private conversations with Dad. The first of these special conversations happened the night I arrived home, the day before Mom’s funeral. My older sister and her family had arrived from Kansas City earlier, so with my arrival, all but one of us was now at the house. The talking, catching up, crying and laughing went on until late into the night – or, rather, early into the morning. When everyone else had gone home or to bed, Dad and I were left alone. At my urging, he started to tell me all that had happened since July 10, when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and July 11, when Mom was diagnosed with a blood clot in her leg.

In a style I have used, myself, he started to talk and could not stop until the entire story, in all its personally important detail, had spilled out. Most of this was not new information, but a more personal, impassioned iteration of what he had told me on the phone just a couple of days earlier, and that one of my sisters had told me, as well. Of course, the ending had not been written then, so the story took on a whole new hue this time. It was a story of pain and suffering; of love and struggle; of life and death. It was the story of a man losing the most important and precious part of himself. It was a love story with the saddest of endings.

Dad 19700001I felt privileged to have it told to me. Several years prior to this, Dad and I had shared other important exchange. I had realized as part of my Al-Anon fourth step that I had amends to make with my dad. It seems that in my heart I had confused God and my father. I had expected my dad to be all-knowing, all-loving, all-everything for my life. But he was a man, with his weaknesses and failings. He was a wonderful father, but as God he fell far short. Once I realized the measure I was trying to use to determine how good a father he had been to me, I was convicted of my error and knew I had to make an amend.

He had just gone through colon cancer surgery and was still in the hospital. When I arrived to see him, Mom and several of my siblings were all there. Without my saying a word, before I knew it, all of them had disappeared to take care of other business. Dad and I were alone.

After some small talk, I tried to broach the subject of an amend. He made a joke of it. I thought, “Maybe this is not the right time,” and, of course, I did not want to do this, anyway. It was too hard to be so honest and direct with my father. Still, I decided to try one more time. If he was not ready to hear what I had to say, I would hold off until some other opportunity came along. This time, however, he let me in. We talked and talked for hours.

Once I told him of my mistaken identity, he proceeded to share his own perceptions of his shortcomings. He told me of his fears, his sometimes troubled childhood, and his own unhappy judgment of himself. It was an insight into his heart I am not sure anyone else had ever heard. Mom might have lived some of it with him, but I do not know if they ever spoke to each other about such things.

After that night I thought we might have other talks like this. That never happened, but we did seem to have a closeness we had not had before, and one I never saw him have with any of my siblings, although it might have been there with others without me recognizing it. It was this same feeling I had the night he told me how my mother had died. It was wonderful and precious, and at the same time it was awful and sad.

That night, as we finally started to climb the stairs, I told him I wanted him next to fill me in on his own medical problems. The next night, the whole clan was at the house again. This was the day of Mom’s funeral. Again, it was very late when the house cleared of all the siblings. At some time after midnight, Dad turned to me and asked if I still wanted to hear about his medical problems. I was yawning, but said I did – and I was telling the truth.

Again, Dad started and found it hard to stop. I asked him several questions and he shared some further intimate thoughts. I told him we all felt it was too soon for him to have this major surgery, but we did not think there was any option, since cancer tends to spread so fast. I asked what he thought of this. He said the doctors felt he would be ok, and so did he. He said he would do everything he needed to do to heal and become well. But he also said he believed his real job on earth was fulfilled. He said he loved his children and knew they and the grandchildren loved him and really wanted him around, but that his real job was to take care of Mom – and that job was finished. He didn’t exactly want to die, but he would be ok if that was what God decided should happen. It was obvious that if God gave him a choice, he would choose death, since life without Honey was not much of a life to him.

Sixteen days later, when he died following his surgery, the look on his face seemed to say that God had given him a choice, and he took the option we knew he would.


Parental Dance

Lately, I have been going through some old writings of mine. I came across this one, which I wrote originally in 1993, during my convalenscence from major surgery. My parents insisted I stay with them during my recuperation. I am extremely glad I did.

Since May includes both Mothers Day and my father’s birthday,  I thought I would pay tribute to both my parents by sharing this observation of the love they made so evident by how they lived.

Mom and Dad's wedding.

Mom and Dad’s wedding.

I have discovered who my model is for caring for others. It is my mother. There isn’t anything she won’t do, and she anticipates my needs and takes care of them without my asking. She even, perhaps, creates needs I may not have, but fully satisfies them, nonetheless.

It has been a wonderful, nurturing experience, being with my parents during my recovery. I have been allowed to be wholly self-consumed. I have my own room she has fixed for me. They bring me the portable phone when I have a call. My mother has done my laundry. I am using mostly my own toiletries, but if I need to supplement with shampoo or toothpaste or asprin, it is mine for the taking, no paybacks expected, usually no notice even taken.

I don’t know if this is unusual or not, it is the way I operate, but I have not always seen it in others. It’s something I can’t take for granted in them anymore, and that’s probably good. Such an awareness heightens my ability to be grateful and to express that gratitude to those who are so giving.

Mom is definitely the leader of this twosome. She sets the tone, and often the agenda. Dad is usually more than willing to comply, add his own methods and ideas, and blend the two. He is generous and giving. Their life has a lot of routine in it – almost a rhythm – and they have both found ways to incorporate me and my special needs into it withoout seeming to miss a beat.

The rhythm is fun to watch. Since Dad’s retirement, the absence of children in the home, and several illnesses in both of them, they have developed a system of meal preparing and serving that looks almost like a dance they do together.

Preparing dinner starts by mid-day, with Mom baking some kind of rolls. After lunch – which Dad fixes for the two of them, and now the three of us – Dad starts to prepare the meat or main course. Later in the afternoon, Mom begins the other parts of dinner. He is responsibile for the main item, she for everything else. It is done expertly, with little extras and wonderful seasonings. The meal is always completely balanced and healthful – low in calories, cholestrol, sodium and fat, but very tasty and attractive and delicious. Meals were never this carefully or deliberately prepared when there were jobs and children and other things that needed to take precidence.

It seems a healthy, enriching evolution.

They work together well. There are the occasional jibes, but that is part of the dance. A sense of understanding and true affection has settled on everything in the house.

Even serving dinner is part of this dance. They eat in the family room, as they watch the TV news. Mom sets up the card table, puts on a tablecloth, and puts our the table settings in impeccable style. There is always salad and rolls, the glasses, etc. It is all very deliberate and social – nothing haphazard, rushed, made-do. Dad finishes the meat and serves the dishes. They sit down quietly and enjoy their meal as they comment of the news of the day.

Dad helps clear things away, but Mom washes the dishes. At 10:00, Mom serves Dad some type of dessert and coffee. She rarely eats dessert, but often has a soft drink or something.

It has been fun watching them. Like many children, I have not always appreciated my parents. I have been given the opportunity as an adult to come home and see the real love and giving that resides here. Whether it has always expressed itself quite this well, I can’t really say, but I am glad I saw it now. It has been a wonderful part of my recovery.

My parents both died in 1998, three weeks apart. They had been a couple since they were teenagers, and married for 56 years.

The whole clan, a few years ago.

The whole clan, a few years ago.

My Next Adventure Needs Your Input

This is new for me. I am asking for your help. I am thinking of submitting the piece below to a writing contest. I would love your input. Specifically, yes or no, submit it or not? You can elaborate, but please be gentle with me.

Next, what category should I designate? Is it “inspirational writing” or “memoir/personal essay”? I don’t see any specifics in the guidelines, so I will go with a consensus.

(This piece was originally written in 1992, revised 2008, and 2013)

A Walk on the Shore

Sheila Evans

 As I walked along the shore, I listened to the ceaseless hum of the lake as it lapped at the water’s edge. It gave me power and serenity. After a while the sandy beach turned to rocky marsh, and then to rocks with drier-land plants growing up. I looked ahead and decided to walk to a certain outcropping, but that only teased me to another, and then another. I kept walking, not really looking for anything, but knowing I’d find more as my steps took me onward.

The shore became a mosaic, with every stone fitting perfectly into its own space, leaving just the proper hole for the next rock to fit into. I thought about the magnificence of God, and asked him how he could imagine to make such things as these, to design these systems, to know what size rocks to place where. God laughed at me and reminded me that he is God – it is in his nature to be magnificent, to think of such things. Of course he was right.

Then it occurred to me that this would be just the kind of place Jesus would come to. It was nature at its most spectacular – at least in my mind and for that moment. I wondered if he would come and talk to me there, and started looking for a place we might sit and talk. There it was: two large rocks close together, flat enough to serve as sitting stones. They were just the right distance apart for an intimate conversation Jesus and I might have.

I sat. What would we say to one another? I thought he might drink from my water bottle. Time passed, but no miraculous vision or words from heaven came. Still, I pictured Jesus and me sitting together, just watching the water and listening to the waves. Jesus loved water, as I do. Maybe we would just share the sunlight and the moment. We are friends, we don’t need to say a lot. I’d know he loves me and that might be enough.

But no, that wasn’t enough. I wanted him to speak to me; to tell me something I should share with the rest of the world. I wanted to have something special no one else had gotten from him. I wanted to be his confidante and his voice to the world.

It didn’t happen. I sat and waited and telepathically let him know of my expectations. The pages of my notebook turned in the wind, but I knew no special message would be written on them. I knew there would not be a stone at my feet with his face carved in it. I knew I was wanting something that was not right for me.

Then it occurred to me that maybe Jesus wasn’t supposed to be there to tell me something or give me something. Maybe he was there to get something from me. Maybe I was supposed to take the lead. I couldn’t think what that might be. The only thing I could think of to give would be my gratitude. I realized I could tell him how much his gifts meant to me; how much I realized he had done for me. Lake Michigan was one of his gifts to me. Another was the stone mosaic; the reassuring and empowering sound of the waves; the brilliant sun that makes the water glisten.

I did not really see Jesus that day, but I pictured him dressed in white. He sat with me for a while on lovely stones on the northernmost shore of Lake Michigan. I talked to him and we sat for a while in silence. We were in each other’s presence and we were glad.


One Step Back — It’s Part of Life’s Great Two-Step Dance

It looks like the time for me to become rich and famous has not yet come. For a couple of months, there was a possibility that a story I wrote last summer for might be resurrected as a national ad campaign for a life insurance company.

Camron, Rosa and me enjoying an ice cream this summer.

Camron, Rosa and me enjoying an ice cream this summer.

We gathered pictures of me and my grandchildren, about whom the story was written, and signed all sorts of official-sounding documents. But in the end, the client decided not to go with our story. How fleeting is fame!

But not to worry, there are more irons in my fire. Recently, an old friend, with whom I had not spoken in quite some time, called and asked if I could help her write a business plan. The new business would be in Virginia Beach, VA, so if we are successful, I will have a new place to visit. And it would be close to the ocean, which I love.

Speaking of the ocean, while visiting a friend in Florida (actually on the Gulf side) I came across a little book that has captured me. It is written by Willard Scott, known by many for his birthday greetings on the Today Show. The book is called, “The Older the Fiddle, the Sweeter the Music.” I love this title.

The book is a collection of reflections from older people on getting older. It is very positive, as the title suggests.

I don’t want to steal any of Willard’s thunder, but I want to share a few additional one-liners about getting older that any of you are welcome to use – referrring to yourselves or those you know who are reaching “a certain age.”

“The older the moon the brighter it shines.” This is one I learned in Jamaica, and I use it regularly, mostly about myself. I love it, and it is so true!

“Those who love deeply never grow old; they may die of old age, but they die young.” Benjamin Franklin

Phillis Diller, the famous comedienne, said that old age is great, “People tell you, ‘You look great,’ no matter how you look.”

Tony Curtis, the late actor, said, “Getting older is the best revenge.”

I won’t go on for too long, but let me share a couple of thoughts from the late TV and radio personality, Art Linkletter. He notes some of the good things about growing older:

“1. The things you buy now will never wear out.

“2. You discover that you can get along (even grumpily) without sex, but you absolutely have to have your glasses.

“3. In case you are taken hostage by kidnappers in a plane, you will be among the first released.

“4. You accept the philosophy that it is better to be over the hill than under it.

“5. You admit that money may be the root of all evil, but there is one great soothing recommendation – it keeps your children in touch with you.”

And finally, I recently watched the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which told us a number of times: “All will work out well in the end, and if they are not working out well, it must not yet be the end.”

As you get older, you can dance as if no one were looking.

As you get older, you can dance as if no one were looking.

There’s A Whole World Out There We May Be Missing

Being unexpectedly — and perhaps permanently — unemployed tends to make one more cautious about spending money. In this case, being a Boomer can be a real advantage. Being open-minded can be an advantage, as well. Since Boomers of my demographic are eligible to wear the label of  senior, we can find all sorts of programs and events specically aimed at us. Many of these things are free or low cost.

— One of the wonderful free programs I recently enjoyed because of my friend’s never-ending ability to find cool things to do. —

There are some challenges to taking advantage of these things, though, especially if being unemployed is still fairly new.

  • We take ourselves very seriously and see having fun as a frivolous waste of our precious time. This is especially true if we are still seeking employment. We are willing to spend time networking or attending classes that will make us more employable, but not to learn to tie flies or to crochet or to write our life story.

  • We refuse to see ourselves as seniors. Seniors are retired people, they are old, they are not in the job market, they are no longer vital. So, any trip or event or program with the name senior in it, or marketed for seniors, is off our radar.

  • We share employment opportunities or ideas with one another, but rarely let that spill into social areas. We often compartmentalize our lives, turn inward, and block the possibility of new friendships that  do not have a networking aspect to them.

  • We do not want to go to these events alone. We think that makes us look like loosers (which we already feel like and suspect others see us as), yet we also do not want to ask someone to go to them with us (likely for the same reasons).

  • We can talk ourselves out of just about anything. We are not looking for a new pet, we do not need a new hobby, we do not like riding in buses, we know how to cook enough things, we do not fancy certain kinds of music. So, we do not volunteer to help at a pet adoption program. We do not sign up for a special deal on a trip to a new city. We do not visit the local museum. We do not attend a free lecture. The list of what we do not do is endless.

Fortunately for me, I have a friend who is in much the same boat as I am, yet she is not finished living life to the full. She does not need a job to feel worthwhile. She has found a way to mix seriousness with enjoyment. She lost her job when she was about 60. She lives exclusively on Social Secuity. She tried for years to find andother job, and succeeded in getting a couple of short-term, part-time jobs that were not very satisfying.

But this friend is not interested in being bitter about her situation. She ran for public office at 64. She takes a subsidized senior exercize class. She goes to free libary events all the time. She uses her smart phone to find trips and events and programs she can participate in for little or no money. And her list of activities goes on.

Fortunately for me, she often includes me in her plans. I turn her down sometimes, but I have gotten to experience some great things because of her willingness to put herself out there and find stimulating things to do. I am good at making excuses for staying alone and isolated (It is easier to sit in front of the TV, or play solitaire, or read a book, you know.), but when I make the effort to get up and do more, I rarely regret it. 

I think it makes me a more interesting person. It keeps me on my toes. It helps keep my mind youngish and active. It brings more people into my life. And it is possible I am able to add to someone else’s life by sharing part of me with them. Not a bad deal.

  • What are some of the fun things you have found to do around your town for little or no money?
  • Do you find yourself making excuses for not getting out and taking advantage of free programs in your area? 

I May Be Ms. Pickwick

Without a job, this unemployed boomer has rediscovered reading for pleasure. When I read professionally, it was hard for me to pick up a book without a red pencil in my hand. That tends to take a lot of the pleasure out of it. But now, I am reading all the time and truly loving it.

I have discovered books on CD, as well, which has satisfied my need to multitask while I drive, without sacrificing safety. I am reading or listening to all kinds of books, but a recent acquisition is especially noteworthy. It is Charles Dickens’ The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, commonly known as the Pickwick Papers. 

Mr. Pickwick

Mr. Pickwick

A dear relative of mine was trying to downsize his book collection. I agreed to look through them, although I have been downsizing my own collection of worldly goods. A couple of books caught my eye, including a copy of the Pickwick Papers

It turned out to be a copy owned by my sister. In the front she had written, “If this book should ever roam, box its ears and send it home.” I may do that, as her birthday is coming up soon.

However, I decided to read it before I send it home. It was tough at first. The language is old and full of references to old British customs and situations. As I continued to read, however, it became easier. 

Then the editor/ctitic in me surfaced. It seemed as though this novel was really just a collection of stories, strung together by a very thin thread. I thought Charles Dickens was supposed to be more solid. Then a chapter came that contained a long poem. I thought this was rather cheezy, that this highly rated author would use his novel to show off his ability to write poetry, as well. 

I decided to check the internet to see what it could tell me about the Pickwick Papers. I was charmed by the truth. 

This was Dickens’ very first novel. He had been hired to write the story line for a serialized cartoon. At the time, such publications were very common, and the illustrations usually carried the story. A writer was hired to put words to the pictures. Dickens changed all that.  His words became the driver of the story. Now, the short-story nature of the book made sense to me. I relaxed, put my red pencil away, and really got into the characters.

Dickens is a master, even in this early work. I came to thoroughly enjoy the stories and the characters. I felt sad when the book neared an end. 

I never realized how comical Dickens could be, but at times I laughed out loud. I respected his courage at showing the blundering and unfairness of many people in authority. I admired his way of crafting characters in such variety and so recognizeable, even in our own time. Finding great names for the people in his sotries is one of his best talents. 

In addition to all this, I felt a new kinship with Mr. Pickwick. He was a traveler, observing people, and learning new things, even at a somewhat advanced age. His Papers tell of his exploits, the people he meets, the insights he gains. They are something like a modern-day blog. It seems that Mr. Pickwick and I not only share something of a family resemblance, but also a kindred spirit.

— Has something in your past been transformed into an unexpected blessing for the present?

— Have you taken up a new hobby or resurrected an old one?

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