Lifelong Learning: You Can’t Escape It

Laptop computer

Life is about learning. Sometimes it may be difficult, sometimes it’s a pleasure but, either way, it’s always about the changing circumstances of life and the education that is associated with that change. If we have to learn anyway, why not do it purposely? The Internet has made that so easy, it’s a shame not to pursue some online learning. I truly believe that discovering new things helps me to develop new skills and enhances my life in ways that might not be evident right away.

Are there benefits to learning? Of course there  is:

Provides an escape and is a good pastime
Reduces stress by giving your mind a mini vacation
Increases confidence
Provides knowledge which is powerful
Improves your mental outlook by helping in goal setting and achievement
Allows for some ‘me time’
Is an opportunity to rediscover past interests
It can be fun to pursue

Some of the best news about learning online is that so much is free to use.

Open Culture: Boasts 1300 free courses offered online.

Open Education Database: This site claims that they have 10,000 free courses to choose from.

Universal Class: My Library card allows me to take classes from this site for free. Check with your local library about this benefit.

Study.com: A long list of universities that offer free courses.

This is just a sampling of sites that offer online courses. There are many more waiting for us to sign up and start learning.

Have you taken an online course? Be sure to leave a comment.

Life Morphs

A picture of a path isn’t a very original or creative illustration for an article about life planning. I’ve been guilty of being unoriginal in my life plan, but now I’m stretching my creative wings to plan a retirement that is anything but ordinary.

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Our life plan has experienced some recent changes. My spouse finally came around to my way of thinking. I’m not sure what his reluctance was about, but he finally saw the light. The interesting thing about his change in thinking is that what I’ve been proposing recently is something we dreamed of doing many years ago. It’s now possible. It wasn’t possible then.

You know when something isn’t right when you aren’t enthusiastic about it. The things we were discussing about our retirement were ordinary. There was nothing about our plans that was exciting or even interesting. I knew I would have regrets if we followed that path. It’s all about making the best choices and when you find the right path, you will be filled with motivation. It’s still possible to fail, but staying on track minimizes that possibility. Keeping focused is key.

The problem with setting goals and envisioning how your life will progress is the constant changes of life. We’ve all done it: decided what we want, determined the steps to get there, and before we achieve success, we found that we didn’t want it anymore. .

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
-George Elliot-

Now, it’s all about a new direction. Start by creating a vision and not just goals. How does a vision differ from a plan or a goal? A vision is the general direction. A goal is more specific. Think of a clear vision as a compass which will continually point you in the correct direction. Having your own vision prevents others from directing your choices. My vision of our retirement is to elicit a “Wow” reaction from people I tell about it. Nothing else will do.

This will take some time and it must be cultivated before you can design the details. Answer the general “What do you want?” question. It seems like a simple thing. Keep focused on what you want and leave what you don’t want out of the process. If you pursue what you want, then things you don’t want will likely stay out of the way. Of course, this has to be realistic. You can’t plan bad things out of life. They happen.

Give yourself permission to dream, and to dream big. This isn’t about what should happen in your life. Things we must do are a part of life and will never go away, but they are often confused with the “shoulds.” Know the difference between things that have to be done and those that should be done. There aren’t many choices in “have to” but there are many in the “shoulds.”

One last piece of my dubious wisdom: Enjoy the journey. Life is short.

This Time It’s Gotta Be Right

I always thought I should earn an advanced degree.
I always wanted to write.
I always wanted to travel extensively.
I should have majored in photography.

These are a few of the overwhelming array of possibilities that I could pursue in retirement. Maybe, I should have done all of these things by now, but the reasons I haven’t yet pursued them are irrelevant.

Many of us have regrets in life, especially when it comes to what we could have been when we grew up. I am no different. While I don’t think I did poorly, I do think that when I was young, I didn’t set a search that was broad enough.

options

This time, with retirement, I’m looking at everything I can think of that’s possible for me to do. There’s only a little time left, as depressing as that sounds. Certainly, there are more years behind me than ahead, but there is still time to do something major if I want to and more than enough time to do a bunch of little stuff.

It all boils down to the question: What do I really want to do? That’s harder for me to answer than I thought. I guess I’ve never decided what I want to be when I grew up. I’ve had lots of ideas, but the little devil on my shoulder, whispering all the pitfalls that will come with a decision, often wins and I abandon the thought.

There is time for some things, but not all of them so deciding what’s important and doable is the goal. How to Make Decisions is an article published on the Real Simple website. The author divides us based on our decision-making style:

Poll Taker
Procrastinator
Overcautious
Make Snap Judgments
Overanalyzer
Overconfident
Waffler

I see myself in several of the descriptions.

I sometimes put off making a decision thinking that there will be time later. When there are too many choices, it results in a paralysis. I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong decision, and there won’t be time for a do-over. Sometimes, I make immediate decisions without adequate thought.

In my mind, a procrastinator and someone who is overcautious are two sides of the same coin. Am I procrastinating because I’m overcautious or is my caution causing me to put off the decision? Which came first and does it really matter?

giraffe

In the movie We Bought a Zoo, Matt Damon’s character explains that sometimes in life, you only need 20 seconds of courage to get what you want.

That’s what deciding what to do in retirement is about–finding 20 seconds of courage to make a decision and not worrying beforehand that it might be wrong.

Orchids and Other Stuff

When you no longer have a job, it is tough to find a reason to get up every morning. What is it about work that defines us and why is it so difficult to replace that purpose? Enter the hobby.

Orchids

I bought Orchids for Dummies nearly 10 years ago with the thought of giving orchids a try. A couple of years ago, we bought our first orchid. We now have several and we would buy more if space allowed. Contrary to common belief, they aren’t difficult to grow. Like all plants, they have their preferences for water and light and, if you get those right, they do very well.

orchids2

Growing orchids, or any other type of plant, is a hobby worth pursuing. So is woodworking, crocheting, building model airplanes or dozens of other pursuits. I truly believe that the quality of your life is improved by having hobbies.

Orchid

Now in retirement, our hobbies are particularly important. It provides a bit of incentive to get out of bed each day.

Check these links for some really good hobby ideas:
A Huge list of Hobbies
A Massive List of Hobbies

Changing Life, Changing Work

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

Retirement doesn’t always mean work stops. That’s the quickest way to the rocking chair and once you are there, can the grave be far off? The question is: Do we want to continue in our current job or do something else?123

Life must have a purpose and working provides that purpose. This is something I’ve struggled with since my sudden retirement. What can I do now? Maybe I should ask “What do I want to do now?”

Certainly, there were some things that are now off the table. The space program doesn’t want a gray-haired grandmother. The Metropolitan Opera actually wants someone with a beautiful voice. Who knew?

If you can foresee a change in your future, here is some information to help you along.

How to Change Careers from the Wall Street Journal

Finding the Right Career–from The Help Guide.org

Tips for baby boomers wanting career change–from the Tampa Bay Times

How Boomers Can Reinvent Their Careers–from Fox Business News

The Garden Conspiracy

The garden is in. Spring has arrived. All is good. Not.

I think there is a conspiracy afoot that purposely sabotages my garden every year. I’ve had late freezes, droughts, heat waves and critters all wreaking havoc on my tender, little plants. This year the critters struck first. I put in my pepper plants with a handful of crushed eggshells in the hole. Something out there thought that egg shells would be a good treat. Four out of six peppers were dug up and destroyed. I found two upside down, but still in their newspaper pots. They’ve been replanted. They may not survive.zukeplant

The next thing to hit was the weather. We had a heavy downpour the day after I put in my plants. Most of them came through, but the rain hammered the little zucchinis. One didn’t make it. The others look pounded but are hanging in there. I put more seeds directly into the garden to replace the lost plant. I’ll hope for the best.

If I had to survive on the produce from my garden, I would be much, much thinner. I hope the day never comes that I have to turn my property into a working farm just to survive. I won’t give up on growing some of my own produce. It brings me joy.garden

Cooking Like a Copycat

A few years ago, we decided that eating at most restaurants wasn’t really worth the money. Yes, it was nice not to cook. Yes, it was nice to go out, but the food wasn’t the central focus of the event. Of course, restaurant meals are no way to cut the food budget and, if it isn’t good, why bother.

Copycat recipes can replace the food that is missed by cooking at home instead of eating out. Last week, I tried one of my husband’s favorites–Jack-in-the-Box tacos. I tried to follow this recipe, but I didn’t have everything listed. I had to make refried beans and, of course, they don’t taste like those from a can. I didn’t have the specific taco sauce called for in the recipe, so I used what I had on hand. I’ve never had a Jack-in-the-Box taco, but I thought they tasted fine. The expert, my spouse, said they tasted fine but were nowhere near the real thing. I guess I’ll have to go out for a taco dinner to know for sure.

Buddy

If you miss some of your favorites, there is a recipe for just about any restaurant dish:

Dipping Into the Dumpster

The Learning Channel has a show called Extreme Cheapskates which showcases how people save money and live cheaply. It’s intriguing how many ways people employ to save money. My objection to this show is that it is done in a way that pokes fun at them. Maybe some go to real extremes and do things that most of us wouldn’t do, but that doesn’t suggest that there is anything to laugh about. I guess these people are freaks to the producers of the show. Saving money is nothing to be ashamed about nor is it freaky. Earning money while saving money is a double whammy!trash

Trash picking has been around for a long time. I’m sure most of us have, at one time or another, picked up something that was left as trash. There are some who take dumpster diving very seriously and use their finds to furnish their homes, supplement their incomes and put supper on their tables. I hope to never have to search out tonight’s dinner at the bottom of a dumpster. That’s taking trash picking to a level I’m not willing to explore.

A lengthy article on Wired, “The Pro Dumpster Diver Who’s Making Thousands Off America’s Biggest Retailers,” showcases one person who found the benefits of dumpster diving by accident and turned it into a lucrative sideline. At first, he used the items he found for himself and later discovered there was a market for many of his finds. According to the Wired article, Americans dumped 251 tons of trash in 2012. There’s no reason to believe that the amount has decreased in subsequent years. So, is picking trash a possibility for supplementing retirement income?

Being an extreme tightwad isn’t on my radar but maybe I could be persuaded to take a peek into a dumpster. Wikihow has a complete How-to get me started.

The Baking Mix Scoop

There’s no doubt that a baking mix in the pantry can help you put something on the table quickly. There’s also little doubt that baking mix recipes don’t always taste very good. My mission: to change that.bakingmix

There are dozens of recipes online for baking mixes and I’m certain that any one of them would produce a good mix. I used one created by Sandra Lee on Foodnetwork. It didn’t make a huge batch like many of the other recipes.

Cost savings wasn’t a big issue in this pursuit. I don’t use baking mix all that often. (Maybe I would if stuff tasted better.)A 40 ounce box of Bisquick at my local Walmart sells for $3.28. That’s $.082 per ounce. The mix I used makes about 35 ounces for $.036 per ounce, less than half of the national brand.

Now to the cooking. The first recipe I tried was for Blueberry Muffins. They were awful. I’m still working on that one and I’ll get back to you later.

Next I tried the classic Streusel Coffee Cake. In the Fanny Farmer cookbook, there is a recipe that is surprisingly similar to the Bisquick recipe. The big difference I found was in the amount of fat and sugar. I boosted each to the levels listed in the Fanny Farmer recipe and the cake was delicious.

Adding a couple of extra things doesn’t negate the convenience of a baking mix. Comparing my alteration to the original recipe, the only extra ingredient I used was 2 tablespoons of oil. Sugar is already a part of the original recipe, I just increased the amount to 1 cup instead of 2 tablespoons. The flavor and texture was much improved by these simple changes.

Here’s the recipe I adapted from the original Bisquick cake:

Streusel Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Print

Cinnamon Streusel
1/3 cup baking mix
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons firm butter

Coffee Cake
2 cups baking mix
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 inch round pan.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the streusel ingredients. Set aside. (A food processor makes this step quick and easy)

In another bowl, mix together the cake ingredients until well blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Sprinkle streusel topping over cake.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.

Wow! It’s Retirement

My father once told me that people need to learn how to retire. He said those who retired without a plan for what they would do died sooner. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that life needs a purpose, even for someone who is retired.

We’ve all spent the years working, raising our families and doing the necessary things in life. Now, it’s time to be a little wild. The definition of wild will vary, but you know what I mean.

Looking online for ideas has been less than satisfying. The search for retirement information is often limited to financial planning. We get it about the finances. Either we have enough or we don’t and the only remedy to a shortfall is more money. That’s what these sites say—save more or earn more. Such insight.

In this day and age of writing for search engines, the sites with the best SEO win so trying any type of search for retirement information leads us frequently to financial planning sites. It seems that the owners of the retirement related sites think that financial planning is our only concern.

I was getting nowhere fast in my search for interesting ideas, so I tried some different search terms to see what happened.rollercoaster

awesome retirement: brought up a couple of sites but quickly reverted to financial planning
retirement find passion: better but still not there; finding your passion is a common theme on lots of sites

There is no shortage of people who want to help you plan your life. I’m not sure when the profession of “life coaching” came into being but it’s certainly prevalent now. A simple search about creating a rewarding life brings up plenty of sites with lots of life coaches willing to help for a fee. It’s a valuable service, but in my case, I think the hunt is going to be rewarding, too.

What I’m really searching for are ideas for a spectacular retirement. We are still able and, for the most part, healthy so an average retirement won’t really fit. There are probably a million and one things we could do. The problem should be choosing rather than finding out about stuff.

What we really want and need is an exciting pursuit that makes people say “Wow!” when they hear what we are doing. It doesn’t take much for a reaction like that, but it does have to be a bit different than what everyone else is doing. That one thing that is a little different is what I’m searching for and what I’m trying to achieve.