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I am a seeker of delicious new words.
Old and decrepit to some, perhaps
But well-suited at times when nothing else will do.
Words that have long graced many a page (or conversation) but are newly discovered and now mine to make use of as I see fit.

Words can be fanciful, ornate, economical and stout. Even exotic.
Chunky, elegant, gregarious, preposterous or ill-fitting.
It’s the manner of speaking them, using them to convey thoughts, ideas, emotions.
Or in how they are written, often beautifully, sometimes awkwardly, to illustrate an action, a theme, a person, place or event.

I am a seeker of scrumptious new worlds.
Havens of comfort, thresholds of inspiration, venues of wonder.
Environments to stimulate thought or to aid in the cessation of an uncomfortably constant stream of mental chaos and angst: a refuge.
Color and light and nature: birthplaces of history, art, literature, religion and countless cultures and civilizations.
Places, both ingress and egress, that bear witness to human growth and development.

And sadly – and far too frequently – human destruction, as well.

I am a seeker of peace, of harmony, well-being and community.
Searching out the best in others, and myself.
This, first and foremost…
Mindful, always, that this is a continuous process. A task never quite finished.

I am a seeker of the here and now. I choose, simply, to be.

Inspired by recent conversations with family as well as posts that I’ve read here in The Land of Blog, I’ve compiled my own Bucket List of adventures, goals and achievements to strive for before the days, weeks, months and years really start to slip away from me…

The point of creating a Bucket List, to my way of thinking, isn’t (or shouldn’t be) another means of self-flagellation for things not done or opportunities frittered away but rather as a vehicle for self-exploration, for contemplating your inner wants and needs, passions and desires and in the process of enumerating goals and perhaps unattainable ideals, learning something about what really means the most to you.

I’ve created my Bucket List – the beginnings of one anyway – fresh off the heels of a life-changing trip to Estes Park where my husband and I reveled in the joy and beauty of hiking in the Rocky Mountains.  This analysis of what I’d like to do and achieve prior to kicking the proverbial bucket, in part, reinforced (as did our hiking adventures this fall) the great satisfaction I found in participating in outdoor activities in my 20s and 30s – camping, hiking, spelunking, rappelling, exploring – gloriously fun times spent both with friends and with my son as well as solitary forays into the woods to hike or photograph or just spend time alone to think.

And so, what I’ve inscribed onto my Bucket List thus far is as follows:

  1. Master our new Canon 70D SLR
  2. Get myself published on Freshly Pressed
  3. Hike the Grand Canyon
  4. Relearn to crochet
  5. Bag me a 14er in Colorado
  6. Visit and explore New England
  7. Visit and explore Alaska
  8. Visit and explore Scotland, England and Ireland
  9. Experience Niagara Falls
  10. Drive up along Michigan’s North Shore Drive
  11. Travel to Instanbul
  12. Learn to kayak

Working towards one’s goals can serve, also, as a motivator like none other.  I know exercise and eating well is something I need to and should do for good health.  It’s a gnawing concern and one I strive to manage.  But yearning to hike to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain – and I ain’t getting any younger! – is going to require more than just sheer will and determination.  I need to prepare my body for this particular goal.  Visualizing myself standing at the top one of those magnificent peaks is more than adequate motivation to get myself in shape to accomplish my objective.

Travel and photography, well, I already know I love these pursuits so including them on my list with the goal of learning more and expanding what I already know, what I’ve already seen and done, is exciting and enticing.  I learned to crochet in my early 20s and have never returned to it.  I believe it’s time now to do so.  And what WordPress blogger doesn’t dream of being featured on Freshly Pressed?

This list may not stand, it may (and should!) change over time and hopefully, by the end of 2015, I’ll have #5 crossed off, and perhaps replaced with the goal of bagging yet another.  We’re already researching options and making plans.  For me, planning an adventure is half the fun!

So.  What’s on YOUR bucket list?

I’ve been told if you’re planning a trip overseas you should begin preparations a year in advance. Perhaps this is so but in my mother’s case her recently completed trip to Ireland (‘twas “wonderful” she sighed!) was booked barely three months prior. In any case we’re contemplating just such a grand adventure ourselves for 2015.

So. Where to go? For the last several years we’ve had serious discussions about visiting Germany. We even went so far as to contact a travel agent to learn about our options. In the beginning we seriously considered backpacking our way across the region, traversing into neighboring countries via Eurail carrying our travel necessities with us along the way. I still find this hugely appealing but perhaps only after an initial trip or two to the continent are firmly entrenched under our belts.

While Germany is still on our bucket list other countries vie for our attention (and travel dollars!) as well. With ancestral roots in Norway, Ireland and England in addition to the Deutschland we have several options to choose from. Not that lineage will be the final arbitrator in where we might go. Italy, Scotland, France and even Istanbul beckon. Disclaimer: That last option is on my list, not Bill’s. I read a fascinating book a few years ago called The Historian. It is a story rooted in the Slavic region of Europe telling the brutal tale of Vlad the Impaler, the basis of the Dracula character as we know it today. Some of the story’s action takes place in Istanbul and I was curious to learn more. After a little research and seeing some incredible photos Istanbul secured a place on my travel To Do list.

We’ve got our work cut out for us but this is my kind of labor. The planning is half the fun (or half the battle depending on your perspective). Having something to look forward to is, for me, the very spice of life: sage, cinnamon, ginger, anise, basil, coriander, cardamom and nutmeg. I love them all! And, so too, do I enjoy the dreaming, the research, the planning and the anticipation of any kind of travel expedition whether it’s a weekend getaway or a trip half way around the world.

We’ve still got a few years left before our passports expire and the Life Clock is ticking away! Stay tuned for further developments.

What is on your travel To Do list? Where do you want to go? Where have you been that you’d return to in a heartbeat? I’d love to hear from you!

Retirement has been a recurring theme here on my blog as well as in some of my Facebook posts and conversations with friends, family and co-workers. Most of the time my husband Bill and I are just living our lives, going about our business and only occasionally do we think about retiring like when I’m updating the Excel spreadsheet I created a couple of years ago to track our progress. Now and then an article will catch my eye and I’ll get to thinking, all dreamy-eyed and such, about what it will be like to quit working and begin retirement in earnest. And now twice today I’ve been reminded yet again why this is such an interesting and important topic of conversation for us.

My husband and I are both at that age where if you aren’t thinking about retirement you seriously should be. It’s important to plan for this next phase of life both financially and emotionally.

Financially – unless the bottom drops out of the stock market – I believe we’re on solid ground. After many years of debt and no savings whatsoever I began saving earnestly and ferociously once I began my career after graduating in 1995 with my MIS degree from Iowa State University in an attempt to make up for lost time and lost opportunities.

Bill and I have no debt other than our mortgage and we are prodigious savers. We’ve been fortunate but we have also worked very hard and we have (hopefully!) made good choices about our finances to get us to where we are today. No one can predict the future but making the right decisions about how to get from Point A to Point B are imperative if one hopes to live well and comfortably in their golden years.

With all that due diligence out of the way let’s commence to the fun stuff!

Reminder #1: My sister called today to tell me about a visit she made to the health club yesterday where she and I are both members. It was an early morning swim on her day off and she saw a large group of what she assumed were retirees getting into the pool for a fun aqua workout class. She said it made her think of me and she now understood for the first time why it might just be nice to retire. I completely agree. To have the freedom to do the things you want to do without the nuisance and inconvenience of having to show up for work each and every day sounds heavenly to me. Don’t get me wrong. I like my job, I have a fantastic boss and I enjoy learning new skills and becoming more well-informed about the business as I take on new projects and work initiatives. And making money? Well, that’s pretty darn nice too of course.

It’s just that the alternative is SO much more appealing. It would be even more so if I could retire AND continue to pull in the money every two weeks. Not likely to happen so I’ll content myself with the wonderful prospect of all that free time when I retire to claim as my very own!

This might be a good time to point out that my husband is five and half years younger than me. I plan to retire early (I ain’t getting any younger and I want to relish and enjoy a life of leisure while I’m still relatively healthy). I can fall under my husband’s health insurance until Medicare kicks in and by then (again – hoping the Dow continues her upward trend!) Bill can retire as well.

Reminder #2: A friend posted a wonderful blurb on Facebook this afternoon stating one of the things she loved about getting older was the fearlessness that (my input here) most but not all people are able to harness from somewhere deep inside themselves. She’d talked to a woman in her early 60’s who had been planning a train trip to Canada. Unfortunately each of the friends who had planned to accompany her dropped out and decided not to go. Instead of cancelling the trip the friend decided to go anyway. She toured Canada by way of Amtrak, all by her lonesome, and despite the initial awkwardness said it was the best trip she’d ever taken.

This, my friends, is exactly the approach I hope to exhibit when I retire. Indeed, it’s how I want to live my life RIGHT NOW. Stepping outside our comfort zone can be a scary thing and while the outcome may not live up to our expectations the flip side is that it may just wildly exceed them! We never know until we try.

And now I’m pumped up again and more committed than ever to building up our retirement reserves and emotionally (and yes, realistically as well) planning for this next stage of my life. Life is good now, yes, it is. I am in no hurry to grow older – no one is – but I’m one of those people who enjoys planning adventures and who loves, even more, having them! I want our retirement to be lovely, comforting, nurturing and exhilarating as hell. With continued planning and foresight, a smidgeon of good luck and a kick-ass attitude I’m cautiously optimistic it will be all of those things – and maybe more!

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Road tripping, either done over the weekend or as a means of travel over the course of several days or even a week or two, brings to mind the old maxim about enjoying the journey and not just the destination. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, when it comes to travel (especially via our nation’s roadways): You never really know what you’re going to get (or where you’re going to end up). Those less brave and optimistic about life’s twists and turns might read this with a negative bent. I, on the other hand, prefer to consider all the wonder, mystery and beauty in this world including the charm, goodness and generosity of those we might encounter along the way.

To my way of thinking there are two necessary components for enjoying a fun and rewarding road trip excursion (aside from a reliable mode of transportation, a full tank of gas and adequate funds to get you to where you want to go):

  • Flexibility: Being joyfully willing to accommodate a change of plans, target destinations and perhaps even travel companions. Individual thresholds to comply may vary (refer to your own personal owner’s manual).
  • Sense of adventure: Welcoming new experiences with grace, enthusiasm and a hefty sense of humor. Employing a gleeful approach to stepping outside one’s comfort zone is a must for cultivating unforgettable memories.

Optional elements for a successful road trip include the following (although some, like myself, would argue these are requirements in their own right):

  • Camera, charger and/or batteries to capture the fun and whimsy along the way.
  • Funky, colorful clothing, solid yet stylish footwear, sunglasses and your favorite jewelry (you want to look good in those photos, don’t you?)
  • Portable laptop (don’t forget the power cord!) to upload said photos and to research landmarks, historical information, find restaurants, hotels, campgrounds and other points of interest.
  • Books, magazines, Kindles to peruse during your downtime or while on the road (preferably while your partner/significant other is doing the driving. ‘Nuff said.)
  • Great travel music which helps immensely over those long stretches when caffeine and the ability to safely rest are just beyond reach. Highly recommended: George Thorogood, Joe Bonamassa, Dire Straits, Queen and Pink Floyd. Not your cup of tea? Pick your own poison.
  • GPS: Our own personal Ginger (when we remember to hook her up) is an invaluable tool for navigating unknown locales, finding the nearest Starbucks or a particular restaurant as well as providing useful stats such as travel time, average speed, maximum speed and rest time. Use with caution however and in tandem with a pre-printed travel route. Ginger has been known to divert us to impractical and/or inefficient paths that she, in her wisdom, deems the preferred method for getting us from Point A to Point B. These alternate routes have at times taken us very much off the beaten track.

So. There you have it. Everything you need to enjoy your time on the open road. Perhaps most important, however, is the desire to just have fun and to make the very most of your road trip adventure. Our world offers a multitude of travel and exploratory opportunities. Now get yourself behind the wheel and go enjoy what’s out there!

After a much-delayed start in financially planning for my own retirement my husband and I both appear to be on a solid path. Flexibility is key and like most everyone concerned with their retirement years there are unknowns for which we are hopefully prepared to address. Health care is obviously the biggest concern as well as an unwelcome stock market crash that could send everything spiraling downward. But for now, all systems are GO and we continue to keep putting money away to help ensure a financially worry-free retirement.

An equally important component of retirement planning is deciding how we want to spend our time once we are no longer gainfully employed. Having a plan in place for what it is we that want to do is perhaps just as critical as amassing the nest egg required to support whatever lifestyle we choose to embark upon once we retire.

With my anticipated retirement date just a few years down the road (more or less!) I’ve given much thought to how I want to fill my days and enjoy life at that time – the true ultimate goal.

I’m always a little surprised to hear some folks say they don’t ever want to retire. They think they’ll be bored or maybe find themselves unfulfilled somehow. I suppose, for me, that’s a distinct possibility but all the more reason to think long and hard about what it is that I want to do and what I want for my life. The interesting side effect to this self-evaluation is that I came to realize what is truly important is the journey itself and not just getting to that longed for day when I actually retire. That is, rather than thinking about all the things I want to do once I retire I need to live my life TODAY and enjoy those activities now as well. Retirement, once she’s here, will simply allow more time and freedom – given ample and sufficient financial planning! – to be able to fully enjoy all the many things we want to do with our time.

Therein, however, lies the catch. The ‘gotcha’. We want to also be healthy enough to participate in our chosen activities – travel, golf, photography, adventures in cooking, adventures in baking, target shooting, bicycling, hiking, swimming and catching up on all those books I’ve yet to read. Maybe do some volunteer work or take a class or two at our local community college. A part-time job is also on the agenda – at outlet for interacting with people a few hours a week and earning a little mad money in the process. Yes, all these things and hopefully good health and vitality to make them all a reality.

Travel is probably, as for most people, the number one goal. Life wasn’t always easy for my parents but thankfully the last several years of their lives together Mom and Dad did quite a bit of traveling. The first trip they took together was to Mackinac Island and I was enchanted with their descriptions of this lovely, lovely place. We traveled there three years ago and our visit was everything I imagined and then some. It was wonderfully peaceful and relaxing and I’d go again in a heartbeat.

Our travel bucket list continues to grow and it’s sadly not realistic to think we’ll have the time, funds and good health to visit every single destination. Oktoberfest in Germany. Scotland, England and Ireland. A cruise down the river Rhine. Scandanavia. Italy. France. Istanbul. New Zealand. And not just foreign travel either. Here in the US there is New England, Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Door County, Washington DC, Napa Valley, Alaska and Hawaii. There’s also Nova Scotia and the Panama Canal and all the island destinations in the Caribbean. Just so much to see and do in this world!

In the end there are no guarantees in this life. We have all read or heard the stories of people who became ill and die or are incapacitated shortly after they retire. Conversely there are folks who save vigorously thinking they need a set amount of funds (and in the process not savoring life along the way) and wait far too long to ever enjoy the fruits of their efforts. All that we can do is strive to live healthy lives, stay active now, plan for the future and be prepared to tweak those plans should the need arise.

What is your retirement philosophy? Are you counting the months and years until you bid farewell to your job or do you want to work right up until the end? What are you looking forward to? I’d love to hear what other folks are thinking about. What’s on YOUR bucket list?