Excitement in Retirement

So after scrimping and doing without for so long, with years of putting others needs first as you provided for your family and countless re-evaluations of when and if you can retire, you have finally crossed the threshold. You are retired – let the golden years begin! It has been a hard road and you can consider yourself lucky as I am reading yet another headline saying 27% of those over 55 are postponing retirement. In fact some wonder if they will ever be able to retire.

We all want to retire at some point – what that retirement will look like exactly is subject to interpretation as many will continue to work in some capacity whether they need to or because they want to.  But deep down I think we all believe that retirement is an American way of life just like owning a home or getting an education. Hmm – those are not such a given anymore either – these times they are a changing. At least it USED TO BE assumed that retirement awaited us all when age 65 rolled around so for the sake of this post let’s assume that things are as they used to be and you are among the retired masses.

Your calendar is open, you list is made, the day awaits – where to start? At your “ripe old age”, do you even remember how to have fun? And as we have been warned, the first six months of retirement are easy – the honeymoon period when we can finally do what we want to do when we want to do it. The new freedom is intoxicating but be aware the hangover. One morning you may awake and find yourself wondering what you will do with the rest of your retirement years and there are a lot of them!

Excitement in Retired Life

I believe we do in fact know how to have fun but we have insulated ourselves to survive an often unfriendly world. In retirement, this insulation can get in the way of us stepping out and really enjoying ourselves. Better safe than sorry is no way to enter a retirement that may be 20 or 30 or more years. What can we do to regain that free feeling we experienced during the honeymoon period? Where can senior citizens find excitement in retirement?

Watch hockey! Growing up I had never seen or had any interest in seeing a hockey game. Then a friend took me to a live Sharks game back in 1993.  Although I did not understand the nuances, the incredible energy of the screaming fans quickly raised my excitement level and I was hollering along with the rest of the faithful. When I came home that night, I lay awake for hours until I finally calmed down enough to sleep. I have been a fan ever since and the fact that my son and daughter are equally fanatical just adds to the experience for us all. I am sure other sports have similar impact on people but for me it is hockey. And with the San Jose SHARKS just one round away from the Stanly Cup Finals, now is the time to witness playoff hockey which is as good as is gets!

Take that trip and take a chance – my wife has traveled extensively over the years and is comfortable in pretty much any situation. Her past adventures include hiking alone through Guatemala for three months. So when we travel these days, I follow her lead. While in Paris she wanted to visit Montmartre, renowned for its Sacre Cour church and as a hangout for local artists. However to get there we had to wend our way through a less-than-desirable neighborhood asking directions if we dared from the always helpful French locals (!) Following her lead and holding her hand firmly we made the journey and arrived safely, and it was the highpoint of a very exciting vacation trip. You never know what some out-of-the-way neighborhood may have to offer until you walk its streets. Moral of the story – take a chance, step outside of your comfort zone a bit and experience the real world outside of movies and TV specials.

Buy and manage a hotel on a Caribbean island – the sun, the sand, freedom from crowds and incessant advertising, a steel-drum playing in the background with a fruity rum drink in your hand, a tropical island may be just the ticket. Put your entrepreneurial skills to work and watch the rest of the world go by. Actually before you attempt such an endeavor I recommend you read Herman Wouk’s Don’t stop the Carnival. Even if you decide against the tropical move, the book is a wonderful read!

Become a blogger – there is an amazing array of personalities in the blogosphere with interests spanning everything from retirement to reptiles. As you write and read other blogs, you will meet folks with similar interests and passions. You can share your thoughts in your posts as well as interact with others via their blog and websites. It is easy and rewarding and who knows where it may lead.

Retirement is only the beginning. Don’t be afraid to live. Don’t be crazy dangerous but also don’t be overly cautious. Live the life you have dreamed and if you are so inclined, share your adventures with the rest of us. We just might find the inspiration we need to step outside of our own safety zone and live an exciting retirement life.

Senior activities to keep busy #5 fishing

Elephant Rock Lake is a magical destination for any fisherman. Hidden back in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the small lake safely guarded by a rock shaped like an elephant (use your imagination) is home to beautiful native brook trout sporting vivid colors only found in the wild. At dusk, you wade out almost a third of the way across the lake on a shallow ledge with water no higher than your thighs and then the magic begins. As the sunlight diminishes, the brook trout begin to surface in search of a favorite dinner mosquito. All around you – sometimes mere feet away – rings appear in the water as trout rise to feed. In the quiet air, the only sound you hear is an occasional slap on water or a slight burble as the dance continues. And then, once the sun is down, like a switch being turned off it all stops. But for those moments, you were part of that magic that is the soul of fisherman the world over – a peaceful, beautiful fishing spot with magnificent and abundant native fish hungrily awaiting your next cast.

Fishing is truly a passion. As a boy, my dad took me out on the San Joaquin Delta pretty much every weekend that it was not raining. We got up early and joined our fishing buddy Mac in his 15 foot fishing boat where we wandered the backwaters of the circuitous river way in search of striped bass. And we generally knocked them dead with 20 pound beasts not uncommon and even an occasional monster weighing in at 30 pounds. And man did they taste good when my mom cooked them up!

The beauty of the still morning as the rest of the world sleeps, clean, clear water whether river, lake or stream, and the jolt of excitement when the fish hits your lure – there is nothing much better out there.

And it is never too late to start! With that in mind, let’s take a look at Senior Activities to Keep Busy #5 Fishing.

Why fish? I hope my description above answers this question a bit. It is not just about catching fish but also about where you are when you are fishing. You generally head away from mass humanity to find a quiet spot in nature to begin. Once there, things slow down and you begin to appreciate your surroundings. Fresh air, clean water, wildlife in the trees, and cooking outdoors all add to the experience. Even if you return home with no fish – known as “being skunked” in fishermanese – no one can take away the experience of being out there in nature. If you need a little more encouragement, see if you can track down a copy of Anatomy of a Fisherman as good today as it was when it was written back in 1978.

When to fish? Fishermen get going at the crack of dawn to be on the water when the fish are hungry (hopefully). Rising in the dark is part of the routine as generally the fish are hitting as the sun rises. And likely the activity will continue for an hour or two before things slow down during the later morning and rest of the day. The next time to gear up is as dusk approaches when the night bugs are out tantalizing our scaly friends.

Of course, it is not uncommon to see fishermen at it throughout the day. “You can’t catch a fish unless you have a line in the water”.  And with their secret inner peace the experience is ever enjoyable – it’s not just about catching fish but about where you are when you are fishing.

How to fish? There are many different ways to fish as there are many different fish. When fishing for trout, one amazing technique is float fishing. Basically you have an inner tube that you float in while kicking yourself around a lake and fly fishing as you go. I am not talking about your standard tire inner tube – these babies come in all shapes and sizes. If you have never seen one, just go to Google and type in “float fishing tubes”. With this method you can really get out where the fish are not limited by the distance of your cast from shore. As you reel in your catch, you can typically see it swimming in the clear waters many feet away from you as you maneuver it to your net.

For shore fishing, my favorite technique involves a plastic bubble filled with water. The weight of the water helps to cast your fly much further out – where the big ones are! Here is the standard set up: fill the bubble with water and secure to your line with a swivel. Attach about three feet of 1-2 lb leader to the swivel. Add the fly of your choice to the end of the leader and you are good to fish. As you reel in your line, slow is important so you do not create a wake behind the bubble. And pay attention as you never know when you will get a hit.

Different varieties of fish need to be pursued with different methods. Visit your local library or search online for your optimal combination. And always ask the owners of the local bait shop about what is working, how deep to fish, where the hot spots are, etc. They may even tell you the truth but remember fishermen are a secretive bunch and sharing productive fishing holes is the exception rather than the rule.

Where to fish? Where there is water there are fish – generally. Some of the most beautiful streams and rivers and lakes are home to fish populations of all varieties. You can travel the world over to try your hand at famous fishing spots – the Rogue River in Oregon, New Zealand, streams and rivers in Montana, lakes in the Sierra Nevada, even Europe has fish!  No matter where you end up, it will be the right place! There is no bad place to be when you are fishing. I have fished in ponds for catfish, the delta for stripers, lakes, rivers and streams for trout, the ocean for salmon, and which is my favorite? All of them!

Fishing allows us to get to know nature more intimately, to discover our own beautiful secluded spots, to slow down and experience life at a more reasonable pace, and even to catch a fish every now and then. But the true magic is that you are forever in search of the next fishing spot. You never know what is around the next bend or what is waiting in that lake/river/stream in front of you. The big one could be just one cast away. Or not. But no matter, true fishermen know that fishing is not about the results – it is about the experience.

Tight lines.

Senior activity to keep busy #4 make your family tree

The acorn does not fall far from the tree

According to reliable research conducted many years ago, ancestors populating the earliest branches of my family tree were fur trappers in Quebec, Canada traceable back to the year 1626 with Jacques Brouillet. How cool is that! Historians have documented our progression from Brouillet to Baptiste and finally to Bernard which is the moniker I wear today. Along the way, one relative was the first pioneer of Beloeil back in the 1700’s, another branch of the family came to the American colonies in 1754 and served in the Revolutionary War, and another included the superintendent of the Elk Point Public Schools from 1887-1892.

 

The major attraction of family trees is discovering and learning about the roots from which we grew. Who were these people from the past, what kind of lives did they live, and just how far back can I trace my family tree?

 

With some serious detective work, a family tree search may go back a few generations, maybe even further. But aside from learning names and dates, without some kind of record or story, we will know little of the actual people and their personal lives behind the statistics. What a shame to lose track of our family history.

 

As we grow older, we become the keepers of our family histories – our memories record the lives of our parents, hopefully back to our grandparents, and provide the substance of their lives, their challenges and dreams and unique characteristics that often find their way on down the line to future generations. A diary kept, early photographs of somber faces (I don’t think smiling for the camera came along until recent days), a mention in a local paper, all are sources of information that fill in the blanks. And all are in jeopardy of being lost or forgotten.

 

What a wonderful opportunity to add some color to the characters that branch from our family trees, to save for posterity our experiences and memories, to document a family tree with deep roots filled with leaves rich in details of lives lived.

 

That said, I believe we have found an excellent topic for our senior activities to keep busy #4 – making your family tree.


If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance ~ George Bernard Shaw

 

How to get started

 

(1)    What do you know? Let’s assume you are 65 years old. You should have many memories, photos, and rich details on the lives of your parents. You should also have some memories and memorabilia concerning your grandparents. Now is the time to start documenting what you know whether in the form of a diary or book you create or folders you arrange. The key is to record those details that will be lost when you are no longer here to share them. Put it to writing.

(2)    What do other family members know? Creating a family tree should be a combined effort and other members are typically happy to add their two cents given the chance. Let your family know that you are endeavoring to document and save their history but you can use their help. Become the collection point for stories, pictures, humorous events, and whatever they have to contribute regarding your shared family history. Everyone wins with this partnership.

(3)    Research – there are many ways to research your family history from visiting libraries and town halls to searching the web. Ancestry.com allows you to build a family tree on line for free. They also provide additional information with “hints” based on the names and dates you add as you fill out your family tree. This additional information is available for a fee but can help you to fill in the blanks for those little known family members. Ancestry.com does offer a free 14 day trial to allow you to test-drive their service.

You can go to Google.com and enter a name with a birth date or range of dates to see what information is publicly available. Or try a name and the town or city where the person was born or grew up. Search for that same home town including specific years of interest. If you know the profession of your ancestor, try the town name plus profession plus a date. You get the idea – combination of names, dates, places, and anything specific to your relative may help you dig up the scoop on great-great-great whoever.

Archives.com is another service that helps you trace your family tree by entering your name, age and state plus you can search for a specific ancestor. There is a charge but again you can sign up for a free seven day trial.

I did discover many offers for “free” family trees but when I clicked on links they invariable charge something for their services, so buyer beware.

(4)    Make your family tree – various software programs exist to assist in tracking, documenting and presenting your family tree in an appealing manner including pictures and video. One available from Amazon for under $40 is called the Family Tree Maker (I have not tried this but the description sounds pretty full features although some reviewers found it a bit complex).

Numerous images of family trees can be downloaded from the web, some free and some for a fee. Using these templates you can fill in the blanks as you build out details of your family history.

Ultimately what really brings a family tree to life and makes viewing it an experience to be savored by all is specific details on the lives of its residents. Great-great grand dad who was a black smith in old New Mexico, who as a boy raced his Appaloosa against a train and ended up tangled in a barbwire fence when his mount shied at the shrieking whistle, who met his wife-to-be when he offered one rainy day to carry her across the muddy town streets, and who chased away a marauding mountain lion with a shovel – THAT is what gets the juices flowing and makes us proud and aware of our heritage. And that wonderful information is exactly what is so easily lost over the years.

As keepers of our family history, we older folks have the opportunity if not responsibility to provide insights into our family and ancestors. Any scraps of information and gathered memories along with historical data we collect can make our ancestors more real to our children and their children. Not just names with dates from long ago but real people who lived and loved and ultimately made us into who we are today.

 

While the memories are still sharp in your mind, take the time to preserve them.

 

Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to lovebeingretired@hotmail.com.