A lifetime in review

Years ago I was sitting next to my dad in the pew at church as we did each Sunday morning. I noticed that he was writing on a small piece of paper and although I could not see what he wrote I was curious. After mass I asked and he said he was doing a little review of his life so far – how had he done to this point against the goals he set for himself as a younger man.

In his early fifties at the time, he had in my estimation been a great father. Dad worked hard to put himself through medical school while later he and mom often did without luxuries for themselves to save for the future.  He had always provided for the family, we kids were going to private schools for the best education, on weekends we did family trips to the local foothills and beyond, and we always sat down to dinner together to share the events of the day. He was a success by any measure in my book.

So what about the book on me? At a similar age now, where did I sit compared to my goals as a young man? What are the real measures of success in each of our lives?

Family – mom always said there is nothing more important than family and we lived that rule. Weekends were spent with relatives as we celebrated life over a table of BBQ chicken or hamburgers or whatever was on the menu. Important events such as baptisms, first communions, graduations, school plays, tennis matches were always accorded their just due and everything was considered important. Each of us was recognized for being a success at what we did which helped to build self-confidence that followed us through our lives.

Raising my kids we did not spend as much time with the rest of the family as I would have liked to. But we did foster in our household the value of each individual, the importance of pursuing your dreams, and the all important do to others as you would have them do to you. Today both kids are rock stars (not literally) with successful college careers and now onto the working world.

How do you rate yourself in the category of family?

It is not about the things – we lived in a nice house in s nice neighborhood. We never wanted for anything but were taught early on the importance of spending wisely. Designer labels were not a part of my growing up. Credit cards were paid off at the end of each month and used more to build a credit history than anything else. If you could not afford to pay cash for it, you could not afford it! How that way of thinking could help us all these days from the government to the home front.

Raising my family, I was a bit loose with the credit cards as we competed with others caught up in the Silicon Valley madness. Spending more than we should have, we found ourselves in more debt than was comfortable. But we cleared the slate and adjusted our behaviors and made it through. The kids learned from the experience as well as their own. Now when it comes to designer labels, they shop at Marshalls or outlet stores if they cannot do without. And equally as valuable both realize the importance of pursuing a career that fills your heart rather than only your wallet.

Do you and your family value what is important or are you caught up in the never-ending attempt to one-up the Joneses?

Major decisions – in my parent’s house, career choices were discussed and then supported. Although on a pre-med path from day one, when I changed direction to focus on business after my first year in college, my physician father and nurse mother both supported the decision. They knew I was pursuing what was best for me and it was not medicine. More than anything, I appreciated their trust in me that I would ultimately find my way. I have jumped from job to job over my career but always with their support.

Who will your kids choose to hang out with – not always exactly the people you would have chosen? Who will they date – I guarantee not always who you have in mind? How will they dress? How will the cut their hair? What part of their anatomy will they choose to pierce?

In the overall scheme of things, these are minor details that you cannot control. It is often easy to get sidetracked and fight a battle that you will not win. I believe that if you support the inner person and provide guidance rather than enforce rules you have a better chance of helping someone find their way. It is all about the person they finally become rather than what it took to get there.

Are we as supportive as we can be to help each other find our individual destiny?

Upon review, not necessarily a perfect report card but on a pass/fail scale, I think I pass. At least I hope this rating is what I would receive from my kids and family. After all, they are the ultimate graders and the lives they lead are in large part the result of just how well we did our job.

How do you rate your lifetime in review?

In honor of grandparents

Are you one of those people fortunate enough to have had time to spend with your grandparents? Were you perhaps the lucky recipient of stories of the “old days” when men were men and life was good, when a dime user to buy a three-course dinner and “junk bonds” was not even in our vocabulary, when your word was your bond and trust was a given? Did you gaze at that wrinkled visage atop a body that seemed in a perpetual state of shrinking never quite knowing what would next escape their puckered mouth? 

Grandmothers are just antique little girls. ~Author Unknown

Grandparents – we all had them but not all of us were able to experience first-hand what they had to offer. Often gone before our time, we get by on pictures and scattered stories telling us of their lives. And you know there is a quite a conglomeration of stories when our parents crack a quick smile as they gaze off into the past and relive special moments. Memories a plenty I am sure because if they were anything like my parents, they had to have been characters. 

My grandkids believe I’m the oldest thing in the world.  And after two or three hours with them, I believe it, too. ~Gene Perret

We occasionally hear how something we do reminds others of a grandparent. It could be a simple expression or it could be the way we turn a particular phrase. It may be something as insignificant as the way we walk or as important as the way we treat a fellow human being. We sound like or look like or act like Grandpa Jacob – if we had only had a chance to meet him face to face.

Grandparents are similar to a piece of string – handy to have around and easily wrapped around the fingers of their grandchildren. ~Author Unknown

I was fortunate enough to spend time with my dad’s mom who lived into my college years. We shared many weekends together at family events as she lived only 40 minutes away. I clearly remember visits when we would stay up late and watch old movies while gnawing on a pickle the size of a meatloaf. I remember her dry sense of humor, her love of bridge, her evil hissing black cat who allowed no one near except Gram, and  her playing the piano while brave family members stepped up to sing along. I remember when my family and I were on vacation in Maui and we got the news that Gram had passed on. And I remember the emptiness that I felt wondering what had been the last thing I said to her while she was on this earth. I sure hope it ended with “I love you”.

A grandmother is a babysitter who watches the kids instead of the television.  ~Author Unknown

Grandparents know it all but generally prefer to dole out wisdom slowly. They could overwhelm us with why something should be one way because their experience tells them so. The focus of their attention could be to correct each and every character flaw and mistake the grandkids make. But loving  grandparents take the high road and just smile knowing that no one is perfect but if there was a grandchild even close to perfection it would be theirs.Leave the discipline to the parents – grandparents get to spoil and then return grandchildren when the day is done. 

When grandparents enter the door, discipline flies out the window.  ~Ogden Nash

Those of us who lived part of our lives along side our grandparents are blessed. Looking back I think we realize that. And I hope by our actions and deeds that our children learn to respect and treasure and experience their grandparents while they are here. The reality is we will all one day be grandparents and it sure would be nice to be appreciated and loved in a like fashion.

I want to die in my sleep like my grandfather – not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car. ~Will Shriner

To grandparents everywhere…

What do I really NEED in retirement?

Everywhere we look these days we find bountiful advice about how to best prepare for retirement.  Advisers who know absolutely nothing about us as individuals with lives as unique and different as snowflakes on a winter day are nevertheless confident about making recommendations that will dictate whether or not we will be happy once retired.

Save enough so that you can spend 4% each year; you will need at least 80% of your current earnings to live comfortably in retirement; downsizing is the way to go when you reach senior citizen status.

And these guidelines will facilitate a “happy retirement” according to whose definition of happy? Most of us cannot even agree on a movie to watch let alone what will ultimately provide us with a satisfying life in retirement. I am not sure that I trust someone who does not know me to make such a critical recommendation for me.

What is it that I really NEED in retirement to be content? If it was entirely up to me – actually it is – is there a magic formula?

Here is what I really NEED in retirement to be happy (WARNING: your mileage may vary…):

(1) My wife – my best friend, my confidant, my ever-tough backgammon opponent, my sanity in an insane world, my shelter from the storm, and my biggest fan who laughs at my jokes when others only gaze in wonder. Each day when we awake, we face each other, snuggle closer together, and embrace like it was the first time. We hold this position for minutes on days that we work, longer on weekends. But it is the starting point for every day and we are reminded of the special bond between us and never take each other for granted. Talk about the way to start your day!

(2) The ocean – each of us has some place that brings us a feeling of inner peace, where heart rates decrease, stress departs, and we just plain enjoy being. For me it is the beach. Constant rolling waves along distant shorelines with an ever-changing landscape of sand, shells, gnarly driftwood and whip-like seaweed are just the ticket. And it is not about necessarily living on the beach but just being able to walk there. Gas for the trip – $15; lunch for two $15; feeling I get when I am there – priceless.

(3) A house to live in – our mortgage is almost paid off. So the house is a little bigger than we may need just the four of us (two peoples, two cats). That is okay despite what the pundits recommend. So the neighborhood is changing – the good news is young families are moving in with their kids. Nothing makes me feel younger than watching youngsters playing around the neighborhood. And nothing serves better to remind me how lucky we are that OUR kids are raised! Traffic may be getting worse – where do I really have to be that cannot wait until rush hour is done and gone? Our house is a home – our home.

(4) Good health – the wild card that is a bit out of our immediate control. We do all we can with regular exercise, healthy diet (I actually drank a concoction this morning made of celery, carrots, lettuce, and kale with a little ginger thrown in for good measure. The nutrition is awesome and the taste is not really bad at all – trust me!) , moderate alcohol consumption (I do love my red wine), and just an overall focus on doing what is good for us. But we do not know what the cards have in store so we live each day and appreciate it and each other.

A happy retirement cannot be calculated or formulated with a one-size-fits-all mentality.

We are individuals with unique tastes and desires and definitions of what is happiness.

The trick is not to stress out about the right formula.

The trick is to figure out the real definition that fits – your definition of happiness.

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