Life Management

Jan
10

Money Makes The World Go Around

by Christine

"We have enough money to do whatever we want; we just don't have enough money to do everything we want." ~Ruth Somers

What is the first thing you think when you hear that a friend is doing something unique, exotic, grand or fun? "Boy, I'd love to do that!" is normally what comes to mind. The next thought that flashes through your mind? "How much did that cost?" Yup, my friends, for many of us it always comes back to the dollars and cents. Paying the mundane bills takes everything we have so figuring out how to finance our goals and dreams is top of mind

During my talks with Annie and Irene the issue of money came up and they pretty much came from the same place. They did not let money dictate what they wanted to do but it did frame their options. Irene is committed to giving back to her community through volunteer work. She began in her local community and when the time was right she expanded her horizons to include the international community. She found programs in countries that allowed her to travel, interact with international cultures and make a difference in those countries within her retirement budget. As Irene told me, "These aren't 5-Star hotels but they are clean and safe and allow me to do the work I want to do." 

Annie's first comment about money was, "I hesitate to say what Michael and I spent because I don't want people to think they have to do it the way we did. We saw people backpacking and spending less than twenty dollars a day in some countries. Others would work a while in one country to earn money before heading on to the next country." Annie's point was if you want to take a trip, there are many ways to go about it. To get a sense of Annie and Michael's trip, check out Dear Burglar...

Not that Annie doesn't live in the real world of electric payments and mortgages. She went through the exercise of "scrubbing" their bills the year before the trip. She went line-by-line with the phone company representative to see where they could cut. She reviewed every bill from their insurance coverage to their dinning out budget, making cuts were it made sense. Annie was surprised at the amount of money she and Michael saved the following year after that exercise. 

Zig Ziglar is quoted as saying that "Money isn't the most important thing in life, but it's reasonably close to oxygen on the 'gotta have it' scale." and I don't disagree. I don't discount the importance of money particularly in our society but I have found that it is more about setting priorities in life than the amount of money you have in your bank account. Do you want the biggest house in the neighborhood or the freedom to travel? Do you need three walk-in closets full of clothes or do you want the time to volunteer at the local school? Do you need to stay in a 5-Star hotel in Brazil or could you sign-up for an international home exchange program? I make no judgment on the validity of each choice and maybe you are able to do it all.

But if you are longing to do something and you believe money is what is stopping you, I suggest you think again. Look at your priorities, scrub your bills and be creative in your solutions. You may find that it is not money that is stopping you at all. 

Hugs,
C

 

Jan
08

Planning For Change

by Christine

 

"Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now." ~Alan Lakein

Twice last month I learned through FACEBOOK and email that three of my friends were out of the U.S. on an adventure. I was unaware of their travel plans and while I was very pleased for them, I felt a twinge of "I should be doing something more spontaneous with my life". So I called Annie and Irene to learn more about the hows and whys of their trips. We talked while they were working through the jet lag that accompanies international travel but still enjoying the warm glow of their adventure. 

As I listened to Irene and Annie talk about exploring other countries, I learned taking these trips weren't a spur of the moment impulse but an opportunity they had worked on and planned for over an extended period of time.  Annie said she and Michael had planned for their trip for over a year. The two of them had to make sure their lives, businesses and families were in order before embarking on a two and half month journey around the world. That's not to say everything had to be perfect but they had to feel things were in good shape so they could take full advantage of the trip. Irene explored and planned for an international opportunity to volunteer while she was still caring for her mother who was in a nursing home. Irene was able to venture out after her mother's passing. Timing and planning were key factors in making their trips a success. 

Planning is instrumental to the success of any venture whether in business or in pursuing a personal dream. Once you are committed to an action and have the will to follow through planning is the logical next step. I believe the planning phase is part of the journey and if you skip that step you miss an opportunity to enhance your experience. What dream or goal is percolating in your life? Do you have a plan on how to achieve that goal? Take the time and start planning now.

Hugs,
C

Next: Money $$

 

Jan
07

What Does It Take To Make A Dream Come True?

by Christine


{The Brooklyn Bridge}

"Once you have the will, everything else is just details."
~Christine Somers

Just before New Years, I wrote about 4 of my friends, extraordinary people who are intentionally following their dreams.  Chuck, Irene, Annie and Michael have all embarked upon a life-changing course. As I listened to their stories, I learned of a continuing element, a common thread in each of their lives that made the next step in their life possible. They found the WILL to make the changes necessary to pursue their dreams. 

For each one of my friends there was an event or wake up call that started the process of change that resulted in them thinking about and eventually taking another path, a path that would lead to a happier and more fulfilling life.  For some it was a growing dissatisfaction with work or sadly for others, the death of a family member or friend but each one had a moment when they felt the need to make a change. These life touch points made them focused and willing to consider other options that would lead to a more invigorating life. 

In my Intentional Living Series I wrote about WILL as the spark that leads to success. Without the WILL to take action, plans will stall and dreams will be put on the back burner. Complacency takes over and nothing changes. As you think about your life plans and dreams, first decide if you have the WILL to make your plans a reality. Once you have the WILL, everything else is just details. 

Hugs,
C

Next: Planning for change

 

Jan
03

What's Up For 2014?

by Christine


{A Room With A View}

The Christmas decorations are put away for another year and my New Year's resolutions are all organized neatly in a Word notebook document. I am pumped and ready to go! I will be sharing with you over the next couple of months some of my resolutions but today I am going to give you a preview of my plans for Footsteps in 2014. Starting in February I will begin a series called Intentional Loving: Making It Work Everyday©. The series will explore what love is and how to intentionally show love. This series will be a marathon of sorts because I am going to post every day. Yup, you read that correctly and if you are a blogger, you know what I have just committed to do is a huge! 

In March I am starting a series called Intentional Parenting: Advice From A Grandmother©. I am a grandmother of 7 wonderful but not always perfect grandchildren. I have been brainstorming with their parents on the how-tos of parenting and thought this might be of interest to you. Also, I would love to get some of your most effective parenting tips that you are passing on to your children. 

I will also be sharing my journey to find the perfect pound cake and explore how you can make your dreams a reality. A lot has changed for me in a year but I will continue to write about living with an aging parent(s) and coping with the loss of a parent. For most of us, the passing of our parents or a loved one launches us on another journey that may start with sadness but morph into a positive time of our life. I hope you continue to share the journey with me in 2014. 

Finally, I regularly announce new content by two methods. One is by posting a link on the Footsteps page on FACEBOOK and the other is through my newsletter that goes out to all Footsteps subscribers. Over the last couple of years, FB has made changes that effect the organic distribution of pages' posts. What this means is that FB wants me to pay to reach people who have "liked" Footsteps on FB. The reality is my content...thoughts and ideas...are free; I don't get paid for my content. I don't blame FB for charging for their product but what this means is, you may not receive my content through FB anymore because it doesn't make sense for me to pay FACEBOOK to send out alerts. So, if you'd like to make sure you don't miss any of the Footsteps post, just sign up for the newsletter at the top of the page.

Hugs,

 

Dec
31

Boy! What A Year It Was

by Christine


{The quiet before the storm}

At midnight tonight the ball will drop in Times Square and 2014 will be ushered in with confetti while an estimated 750,000+ people watch themselves on screen as a robot controlled camera glides over overhead. You will not see Marty and me standing amongst the crowd. These days we gravitate towards an earlier evening and full day of events on January 1. Shortly after I moved here, we did have a wonderful New Year's Eve at a Manhattan restaurant complete with helium balloons decorating the ceiling and streamers dangling above our heads. When I naively suggested to a couple of our New York friends that one year we should all go to Times Square to see the Waterford Crystal ball drop, it was gently explained to me that a true New Yorker doesn't wait 8 hours in the freezing cold for such an event plus it's really an event for tourist. While I am still a tourist in many ways in this City, to get a choice spot, you must be in Times Square by 3:00 PM on New Year's Eve and remain in place until Ryan Seacrest dismisses you at 12:01 AM; I'm definitely not up for that.

What I am up for is a quiet evening taking in an early dinner at our favorite Cuban place, Calle Ocho and seeing a not so late movie. Marty has already bought tickets to see Nebraska and our reservations are made for dinner. The fun part of dinner besides the good food and festive atmosphere, will be reliving highlights from 2013 with Marty. Much of what we will discuss I shared with you in this blog. 

I wrote about attending Haven Writing Retreat in Montana this past summer and the joy in finding like-minded women who are supportive and encouraging. That was definitely a high point of 2013 as well as completing the Intentional Living Series that we shared on the Footsteps blog. A low point was the cancer scare but most definitely the euphoric high upon learning the biopsy came back negative.  I wrote of food, the lingering sadness after losing a parent, taking a sabbatical and even what our shoes say about us, and you responded with thoughtful and encouraging comments. I look forward to our journey together in 2014. So be careful while celebrating tonight. My early evening will end in my apartment in NYC with a glass of Champagne while joining the good folks of Nuuk, Greenland in a count down to midnight. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, it must be midnight somewhere.

Hugs,
C

 

Dec
24

Eat, Drink And Have A Merry Christmas

by Christine

For what seemed like forever but in reality was only the blink of an eye, Christmas Eve for me was a time of early church services and late nights of assembling toys for my children. Now my children are assembling the latest hot toy well into the night after an early candle light service at their church. Wanting to add a little adult cheer to the wonderful but stressful tradition of preparing for Santa's arrival, I turned to some truly creative people to come up with the perfect food and drink to make the evening special.

Eat: Clara Persis loves food and entertaining so when she says these are 8 Easy Holiday Appetizers, I know it's true. These are the perfect appetizers to snack on as dad and mom assemble the Razor Drift Crazy Cart or try out the new Playstation 4. 

Drink: Whether you live in Florida or Maine hot chocolate is a special, tasty treat for both children and adults at Christmas. Not Without Salt's has taken the basic hot chocolate recipe and made it a Christmas delight that works in both warm weather and cold weather climates. Peppermint hot chocolate affogato can be sipped from a mug or poured over ice cream in a bowl; it is scrumptious!

Be Merry: The kids or grandkids are asleep and the house is all-quiet, this is a good time to pull out your camera and make sure the batteries are charged. Nothing dampens the Merry than taking two photos and the camera goes dead. Also, take a few pictures of the adults in action as Santa's elves; in the future your kids and grandkids will love them. David Peterson of Digital Photo Secrets shares some of his insights in How To Take Memorable Christmas Day Photos.

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve!

Hugs,
C

 

Dec
20

Taking The Time To Give Back

by Christine


{Irene with her students}

After 33 years of federal service, my friend and colleague Irene Ivoné retired. While Irene and I had several serious conversations about retiring, even discussing money, how to fill ones days and the loss of identity that is attached to a career, I was still amazed when she actually pulled the trigger and stepped down from her job. I mean what do you do with yourself if you aren't working? In Irene's case, she hasn't skipped a beat and is fully engaged in a life of service in her community and the world. Irene and I recently chatted after her return from Ungaran, Central Java where she had been teaching 450 students conversational English. 

Irene was working with the Sarojini Orphanage Trust Inc. SOTI is a U.S. based charity that provides financial support for poor Indonesian and Indian undergraduate students. As she explained to me, this is their one shot to earn a degree in Nursing, Nutrition, Public Health, Pharmacy and Midwifery. SOTI also runs a program where volunteers like Irene can come to the school to help these young people become proficient in English. SOTI is looking for volunteers for their September session; to learn more you can email Mr. N.J. Hillary at josihillary@hotmail.com.

I asked Irene why did she decide to do this now. She explained, "I've been retired for more than two years now. Since my retirement I have tired to fill my time with interesting activities like cooking classes, volunteering at the animal shelter, sitting on the board with the Arlington Parks and Recreation, obtaining a Master Gardeners Certification and volunteering at Green Spring Garden...things I had never had the time to do when I was working a very demanding job, raising my daughter as a single parent and being a caregiver to my aging and ailing parents. My daughter graduated from college with a degree in Engineering and is working at a full time job. She is independent and living on her own. My father passed away 7 years ago and my mother passed away this past September. I decided to do this now because I was finally in a position to take a 6+ week trip and volunteering to teach English in Indonesia was very appealing to me."

Teaching experience is not a requirement; the volunteer's job is to give the students the opportunity to practice speaking English. I was not surprised that Irene put her own "curriculum" together given her commitment to doing a quality job. She brought magazines to act as talking points, she lead conversations about their family and community and worked to develop subjects that the young people would find interesting. The greatest challenge was meeting all students at their individual level. Some knew very little English while others were more competent; the challenge was to keep everyone engaged. 

Irene said they worked hard during the week but there was "ample time to take day trips to UNESCO heritage sites like Borobudur and Prambhanan. The academy provided air-conditioned transportation for day trips to places like Solo, the batik capital of Indonesia." 

One of my questions was how did she "mothball" her life in Virginia while she was gone. Irene said, "My brother, daughter and a few friends looked after my house. They checked my mail and took care of general house maintenance." So what's the next big thing, I asked. Irene explained, "I'm looking at some opportunities with Doctors without Borders, Earth Watch and Habitat for Humanity. I would like to explore living in another country for 3 to 6 months and doing some volunteer work while there. Not sure what country yet. I am open to your reader's suggestions."

There's a Buick tagline that states, This Is Not Your Father's Buick. Well, this is not your parent's retirement. Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners defines Irene's kind of life as REWIRING not RETIRING. It's a new found freedom that results in adventure and service. I would love to hear what your "retirement" will look like?

 

 

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Dec
18

A Life Changing Adventure!

by Christine


{Annie and Michael Zip Lining Through New Zealand}

Have you ever talked about traveling around the world and visiting all the exotic places you've dreamed of since the days of junior high geography? Of course, most of us have and we promised that the moment we retire, off we would go. The husband and wife team of Annie Groeber and Michael Molanphy were on track to do just that until they made the decision to make it happen now. After Michael and Annie returned from a 75-day "most excellent adventure" that covered 13 different countries, I talked with Annie about their life-changing trip. 

Annie told me that the planning for the trip started "after both of our mothers passed away and my uncle, who I was really close to." Annie's uncle and mother had wanted to travel when they retired but sadly, with age came poor health.  Additionally Annie and Michael "realized we'd been going to a lot of funerals of people who were our age" so the slogan "Life is Short" started to resonate with them.  On the positive side, their girls were now out of the house and doing well so they felt free to take this trip. A sense of urgency and newly found freedom converged to make this the right to time to plan an adventure. 

My first question after why now, was about logistic. How did you make it happen? Annie said, "We had a budget and a list of places we wanted to go to." Next, they contacted Beth Jenkins of McCabe Worldwide Travel and as Annie explained, "she took our budget and our wish list and then came back to us with what we could actually afford to do." Annie continued, "I highly recommend working with a professional-a professional agent has a network of resources around the globe. We always had someone to call. And, we did run into challenges. A terrorist attack in Kenya diverted our plans to a longer stay in South Africa and a typhoon kept us in Hanoi, Vietnam for several days longer than originally planned. Thankfully, we had somebody to call who could deal with the changes and we had great travel insurance which covered most of the change fees."

Since I am a big how-to person my next need to know question was how did they "mothball" their life in Baltimore. Again Annie relied the professionals, "we found someone to live in our house and our accountant picked up our mail 1x a week and paid our bills. We set up a separate account just for the time we were gone."

As Annie and I talked I learned of her desire to remember her mother and uncle on this trip. In addition to selecting countries that Michael and Annie wanted to visit, they also choose countries that her mother and uncle had wanted to visit. I was touched to learn that in Thailand a monk bestowed a blessing on them that was dedicated to her mother and uncle and that Annie lit candles for her mother and uncle in the beautiful churches they visited. It was her way of taking her mother and uncle to the countries they were never able to visit. 

When asked if they had a good balance between time and places visited, Annie explained, "Michael said it best. He described our trip as a Whitman's Sampler (boxed chocolate). Some countries were like the chocolates that have caramel or chocolate in the middle and you say I want more of that. Others were like the chocolates with the jelly in the middle and a small bite was enough and you just put the rest back in the box. We would definitely like to visit South Africa or Thailand again but not necessarily Chile and Australia." 

After a most excellent adventure I wondered what the next "big thing" would be for Annie and Michael. Annie said, "The biggest lesson we learned is that we don't need so much stuff. We are selling our house (in Baltimore), downsizing and moving to New York City (to be closer to Michael's family). The trip really helped us to realize how much extra stuff we have. We want to be more flexible so we can do even more traveling and spend more time with our friends and family. Having a life with less "stuff" will help."

Annie and Michael wrote about and shared pictures of their journey in real time on a blog called Dear Burglar... I love the tongue and cheek title and their humorous turn of a phrase continues all through their trip journal. I encourage you to stop by and check out their Best Of awards. (Michael and Annie annually host a killer Academy Awards Party complete with an Oscar made of cheese. They know awards!) 

This trip was a fulfilment of a dream and also the catalyst for change for my friends. I ask you, where would you go on your most excellent adventure? And when will you go? I would love to hear from you. 

 

 

 

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Dec
17

How Do You Change The World? One Oyster At A Time.

by Christine

Over the next couple of posts I'm going to write about some extraordinary people in my life. They are intentionally following their dreams and in Chuck Westfall's case, making New York a better place. Chuck's tag line is "Saving the bay, one oyster at a time" and he works hard every day to save the Great South Bay. Chuck calls what he does aqua farming and for oyster lovers, you know his crop. He raises Blue Point Oysters; the real thing, not some knock off or want to be. I am not an oyster person but the desire to be specific about what is a Blue Point Oyster is akin to the French insisting that true champagne comes only from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France. This is Chuck's fourth year as an oyster farmer and he's starting to get the kind of attention that a man who has weathered hurricanes, bitter winters and the deadly starfish deserves. Edible Long Island featured Chuck on the cover smiling as he works. It's good to see him getting the recognition he has earned. 

I have watched over the last 4 years as Chuck moved from running an audio company while sitting behind an audio board in ballrooms all over the country to boating out daily to tend an oyster farm in the Great South Bay. He spent his time educating himself on raising oysters, learning about the eco-system of the bay and becoming proficient on government regulations and laws concerning aqua farming. Chuck talked passionately at parties and get togethers about aqua farming and how to solve the technical problems of oyster farming. But I have also listened as he shared his frustration when times were difficult. I love the photo on my blog for just that reason. As you gaze upon it, you think "oh, how lucky he is to be under a double rainbow in the Great South Bay on a beautiful summer day". Chuck tells a slightly different story. He was fuming when that photo was snapped because a piece of the farm equipment had just floated away and disappeared.  Even when you are doing something you are passionate about, there a bumps along the way but Chuck kept moving forward and now his efforts are bearing fruit. 

Chuck is a cross between Hemingway's Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea and Ayn Rand's Howard Roark from The Fountainhead.  Just the right mix of determination and experience has resulted in a successful 4 years as an oyster farmer. Chuck has worked hard but he also had another important asset...His wife, Ruth. Yes, the quote behind every successful man stands a good woman is true in this case. From the beginning Ruth said, "I am with him in whatever he wants to do but he can't stay home all day in his pajamas". Okay, I am embellishing the last part a bit but she did say something amusing. Ruth is funny in an understated way but she is clear on the need to stay engaged in life to be happy. It's motivating to watch them work together as a couple. To see them in action check out the highlights video Chuck put together about their first year aqua farming; you'll love it. 

I, like a lot of my friends, wonder what I will do in the next phase of my life. Do I continue to work at my current profession? Do I start something new? Do I chuck the whole thing, retire and sit on the beach? Watching Chuck embrace and follow through on saving the bay, one oyster at a time is energizing and encouraging. So I ask you, what is your passion?  And will you go for it? 

Hugs,
C

 

 

 

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