Living La Vida Cheapo ~

We’re looking for ways stretch our retirement dollars and have a few more grand adventures while we’re at it, so living in some place like Nicaragua or Mexico (yes it’s still safe), or Panama or even Spain are very intriguing possibilities for living the good life for less.   This recent article in the New York Times is full of great information on the benefits and pitfalls for people who want to explore the option of retirement living outside of the United States.  It looks like there are several interesting locations where you can live for less than $1500 a month – if you are willing to live more like a local and less like a gringo.  Really, why else would you go there?

And, yes, that’s a big pile of chickens lying out in the warm air on the table.  No, we didn’t buy one.   But right after we shopped at this gigantic outdoor mercado, I paid 5 pesos for two squares of toilet paper so I could use the public restroom.  It’s all just part of the adventure.

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Life is Short ~ Wear Your Party Hat

Did you know that if you wear your birthday tiara into Starbucks on your birthday they’ll give you a drink on the house?  I didn’t either, but on my last birthday I decided I was going to celebrate with the world and wear my party hat all day long.  And, since every day pretty much starts at Starbucks for me, there I was at 7am – no make-up – but sporting my shiny purple birthday hat.  In addition to the free tea, I got some very interesting looks and had a couple of great conversations!  You never know what good things will happen when you’re wearing a purple tiara.  Try it.

The first time I saw the poem, When I’m An Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple, I was only 39.  It struck a chord with me.  Probably because I was such a conformist back then; the thought of being an outrageous old woman really appealed to me.  Well, HELLO Dorothy!  I’ve arrived at the age of freedom.  I can wear any damn color I please because I am no longer driven to please.

Here’s my favorite part of the poem ~ Warning by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple

with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

and satin candles, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired

and gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

and run my stick along the public railings

and make up for the sobriety of my youth.

I shall go out in my slippers in the rain

and pick the flowers in other people’s gardens

and learn to spit.

These days I’m celebrating life because I know that no matter how you count it, I am closer to the end than the beginning.  Somehow, knowing that has opened me up to finally living fully in the present moment.  Celebrating what is and whatever is to be.  I’m going  to wear my party hat every day and stock up on birthday candles well I’m at it.  Because, if there’s an opportunity to light a candle and stick in my morning pancakes to celebrate a beautiful sunny day – I am all in.  And, I’m going to learn how to spit…

By the way, these folks really know how to rock a party hat!

Go get your own hat and Party On…

SWWOOF’n It ~

Can we really retire and is it possible to live on just your social security check, at least for the first five years?   Six months ago, I would have said “Absolutely no way – at least not in any way I’d call living!”  You hear all the sad stories of seniors who have to share kibble with fido at the end of the month or cut their meds in half to make them last.  Scares. The. Living. Hell. Out. Of. Me.   So, I said No!, No Way!  I’ll work till they kick me out or I drop over – whichever comes first.  Well, I’m starting to see the light and a glimmer of hope on the horizon.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll call time on my own terms.  Wouldn’t that be lovely?

I’m a compulsive planner so, of course, I’m exploring all the options.   No stone unturned.  Over the next few posts I’ll share my findings and a few stories of the brave ones who are blazing the retirement trail for us and showing us how to make the most of our own Second Acts.

FIRST UP ~ WWOOFing (Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming)

I had heard of WWOOFers from my son and other young organic farmer folks we’ve met, but I never thought that OLD people could do it too.  So, when I stumbled on a story about  Patricia, a 60 year old California woman who went WWOOFing in Italy, I was definitely intrigued.  What might that look like for two aging city slickers like us?   We’d buff up and blister up for sure – but what an adventure.  We’d have amazing stories to tell.  Patricia’s initial concerns mirrored mine.  Her main worry was that WWOOFing was only for the young. She envisioned an army of bronzed young backpackers working in the fields (a lovely vision actually) and sleeping under the stars (oh, no, these tired bones would need a bed in a quiet comfortable spot).  A quick email to Bridget Matthews who runs the WWOOF Italia organization, and here’s her answer:  “Age is no problem, our oldest WWOOFer is 86 and we have just had two delightful 58-year-olds at our own farm.”   I’m thinking… we’ve got a few years until we hit 86… so, Why Not?

Here’s the deal.  You register with WWOOF in the country of your choice, look through their listings of registered farms and then connect directly with farms you find interesting to see what they have to offer and match it with what fits your own needs.  There will be hard work, lots of work. Outside.  In the dirt.  BUT, sometimes its 4 or 5 hours a day and sometimes its 8 hours 6 days a week.  You choose.  You can stay a week or two, a month or longer.   The program has been around since the early 70’s and was established as a cultural exchange and not intended to be just free labor.  There are WWOOF farms in 50 countries from Africa to Japan to Italy.  Accommodation varies from tents (no thanks) to camper vans to rooms in the owner’s house.  This is where having our own VW bus camper would be perfect.   You can harvest grapes or olives, herd goats, make cheese, feed chickens, build fences, tend organic gardens and so on.  One WOOF opportunity was at an organic farm B&B and part of the “work” was helping in the kitchen.  With my hubby’s cooking talents, he perked right up at that one.  Meals are communal, organic and in places like Italy, I’m told they often include wine!I see adventure here, the opportunity to test your mettle as they say, try something way out of your comfort zone and meet interesting people (mostly young) from all over the world.  And since the gym membership went out the window with the corporate paycheck, where would you get a better workout.

Here’s a tiny taste of the thousand opportunities I found all over the world:

Beekeeping in Piedmont, Italy

If you want to uncover the secrets of beekeeping, the Apicoltura Leida Barbara produces organic honey, queen bees and pollen as well as cultivating a small vegetable garden. WWOOFers stay in a private room with a bathroom. Food is mainly organic and vegetarians can be catered for. From April to August, volunteers are based in the mountains but spend autumn and winter back at the farm. English is spoken and the minimum stay is a week.

OR

Sedlescombe organic wines, East Sussex, UK

Britain’s oldest organic vineyard now stretches across 23 acres in East Sussex, but began with just 2,000 plants in 1979. One of only four organic vineyards in the country, it has been developed by Roy Cooke and his family, who produce approximately 15,000 bottles of organic wine each year and have hosted WWOOFers for 25 years. Volunteers are generally independent, with use of internet, TV and sometimes a car. The minimum stay is a week and accommodation is in caravans with a communal meal with hosts Roy and Irma once a week. The busiest period is from Easter to November.

So many interesting opportunities – so little time.  Well let’s hope there is a LOT of time now that I’m discovering all of these fun and unique ways to spend it.  Maybe we’ll help lead the charge on retirees re-inventing themselves in a whole new way.  We’ll be SWOOFERs  (aka Senior WOOFERs).   I like it!

Why Not? ~

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently” … and here’s to having friends who help you be a person who says Why not? instead of just Why.   Thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple for the inspiring quote and thanks to a special friend who always brings out the “why not crazy” in me.    I had a lot of time to think about this while we were at the tradeshow for the Bloomsday Race in Spokane, WA this weekend handing out red bracelets and temporary tattoos to thousands of people and inspiring them with the story of the Japanese word Gambaru ~ Never, Ever Give Up.   Why?  Because my friend called and I said Why not!   These race folks didn’t really get that two women (and two brave men) were just there to sprinkle some motivation and inspiration. In fact, I’m pretty sure that lots of people at the event thought we were just a little crazy.  I hope so!  A little crazy is the spice that makes life interesting.  It’s what opens the door to adventure and opportunity and many times crazy is the glue that bonds.

This particular friend, I’ll just call her Sallie, always feeds my creative monster.  She is the queen of  “why not” and then a new idea springs to life – and hang on – ‘cuz we’re off again.  I have to admit not every idea is a winner in the end, but with Sallie the journey is so much damn fun that it’s always worth it.  Worth keeping 10,000 red Gambaru bracelets, toxic fumes and all, piled 5 feet high in your guest bedroom closet for a year, worth talking your hubby into playing along and hauling all 90 bags of them down two flights of stairs and loading them into the back of the SUV and then driving 7 hours in pouring rain to Spokane.  Sallie is a glass 3/4 full kinda gal and she brings that out in me – every time.

The more time I spend on this planet, the more things change and the more important my connection to others becomes.  I value every one of my friends, young and old.  I learn from you every day.  And, here’s to the crazy ones – and you know who you are, my dears.  You are the colorful threads that help me weave this beautiful crazy quilt called LIFE.

By the way, here’s where Sallie first learned about GAMBARU.

It Takes Two to Tango ~

This wonderful photo has been sitting on my computer desktop for months.  I think I downloaded it from someone’s Facebook post.

I want to be that woman!  Actually, I want Les and I to be just like that couple and we are now – sorta, kinda.  But I’m betting I’m a little more driven and a little less Driving Miss Daisy.   I have a serious case of the old English work ethic – if you are sitting still, you are wasting time.  My hubby is a hard worker, but he has always known how to give himself a time out and he is also a really good napper.  Watching him ease into Retirement Living is something to behold, really.  It’s almost an art form.  He just knows how to wring joy out of every moment.

I have so much to learn from this guy, it’s amazing.  He lives in the moment. I handle the worry.  He takes “cocktail hour” every evening to sit and share the day and reflect on all of the good things that happened.  I’m thinking about what I still have left to do or what I need to get done tomorrow.  After ten years together, you would think a smart woman like me would stop and smell the Pinot (it is cocktail hour) and see the wisdom in the crazy old guy’s ways.

A dear friend told me the other day that her mom and husband who are well into their 80’s clear a space in their dining room, turn on some big band music, and dance together every evening.  They have a cocktail too.  I LOVE that!   Being in the moment of being in love – at any age.  Hell, at every age!   How do so many of us forget how important that is?

Clearly, I’ve got some rose-smelling and napping and bridge dancing to do.

I’m working on it.

“You only live once, but when you do it right, that’s all you need.”   Mae West