Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

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Purging in the New Year

A bit of a cliche to say that I am ringing out the old and ringing in the new. In truth, most everything is old, these days. A year of struggling to manage the pieces of my life into some sort of organized chaos, I finally feel the need to push forward.

Spent the precious few down days from work over the holidays to purge my studio. What was supposed to be a few hours, turned into a long day of indecision, fond memories and disbelief at how much one accumulates over their career. 

No, this is not my retirement swan song, but rather a time to reflect on what is past and most likely never to return. As a music teacher, and during a time of little if any computer resources, I compiled binders filled with lesson plans, file folders of lab assignments, and theory games. I re-purposed old games, creating new cards or boards with theory modules. There they were, up in the closet, covered in dust and waiting for me to re-discover.

I laughed at the hours I spent brainstorming new ways to engage children in the wonderful world of music. With my focus in new directions, the question became what to do with all of this work. Does it become recycled or re-purposed? Does it go into the thrift store box or back on the shelf only to gather more dust?

Mind you, this is only one closet of three, that I must wade through. Relics of teaching past come to haunt me. Like me, dusty, old and worn. Oh yes, here it comes. Time to reflect on all that has come before, the mistakes, the wrong decisions and paths not traveled. Isn't that what purging is for? Please don't tell me I spent an entire day, one closet and a long walk down memory lane only to find myself in the same place.

The new year begins, with a less cluttered closet. More importantly, it begins with a clear vision of the path I would like to travel. Not that I have not been writing this past year. I have written, composed music and directed two children's plays. I have worked with my mother on compiling and editing two decades of my father's columns for publication. My writing has not stopped, just been diverted.

I still teach music, although not to the extent the binders would demand. That's ok. They have a home, despite their yellowed aging contents. What is old, may not become new, but it certainly is worth revamping.   


Delicious high calorie foods that keep you healthy

Delicious and high calorie rarely find their way into a healthy diet. If it tastes good, it can't be good for you. But here are a few foods that are easy to incorporate into your weekly menu that can give you a boost and put a smile on your face. 

Peanut butter - yes, this childhood lunch box favorite is full of good healthy fat and protein. The secret is it is low in cholesterol. This yummy spread improves fat burning, muscle mass buildup and even cardiovascular health. Use sparingly on toast at a 100 calories per tablespoon. I also put a tablespoon in teriyaki dishes for a wonderful peanut sauce.

Banana - could there be a more simple and versatile fruit? This yellow wonder is rich in vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folic acid, fiber and potassium. Whether a cereal topping, in a smoothie or a quick snack on the way out the door, the banana has almost double the calories of other fruits, filling the tummy nicely. One large banana has 120 calories and the benefits of yellow make for high caloric content worth eating.

Nuts - you can go nutty for these quick and easy snack bites. Raw or toasted, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios and peanuts help to control blood glucose and lipids. Reach for these crunchy rich in fiber and protein snacks instead of the chips. Each ounce has between 160 and 190 calories so nibble with measured caution.

Mango - I remember these as such a treat from my aunt's backyard in Miami. Doesn't matter how you slice them, breakfast, lunch or dinner, the mango brings high fiber and vitamins A, B6 and C to the table. This beautiful fruit helps regulate blood glucose and digestion, supports good vision and healthy skin. Rich in copper, potassium and magnesium, minerals that promote cardiovascular health, it is a delicious way to keep you fit as a fiddle. Use in smoothies for a midafternoon pick up. A medium mango has 130 nutritious calories.

Avocado - Avocados, fruit or vegie? Does it matter when it is deliciously rich in lutein, fiber, vitamins B6, C and E, potassium, magnesium and folic acid. Any monounsaturated fats that helps reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevents heart disease is a winner as a healthy food stuff. So many ways to enjoy this green goodie. Holy guacamole! Use as a spread instead of mayo or wrap it up in soft taco or pita. A medium avocado has approximately 276 healthy fat calories.

Olive Oil - Nothing better than to saute a little garlic, onion and tomato together. Add fresh basil or spinach and you have the perfect (and simple) sauce for pasta. Olive oil's anti-inflammatory properties help ease arthritis and are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. It offers protection from certain types of cancer, like colon and breast and is good for your bones. With slightly fewer calories than canola or vegetable oil this is an easy and delicious way to beef up your immune system. One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil has 120 calories.

Hard to feel deprived with these high calorie choices that fill the tummy with healthy options to delcious eating habits.

Image: Flickr image by froglish


Michelle Obama makes 50 look good

Today Mrs. Obama turns 50, a once dreaded age now trendy. Aging just keeps getting better. Fifty looks better than it did when our parents reached this pinnacle. Or does it? My 85 year old mother says she is still a young woman on the inside. Maybe we were just never allowed to think young at 50.

Attitude is, of course, the key. You can feel old at any age. Michelle Obama believes that being fit and eating healthy helps to keep the youthful image. My mom's only form of exercise was keeping up with seven kids. Now at age 85, she works out at the YMCA several times a week. Here I am at 62, and without pilates, yoga and tai chi, I think age might sneak up on me as well. After doing my age fitness calculator, as opposed to my chronological age, I find that I am really only 53 years old. 

If we are aging younger, then here's hoping our minds are making the grade as well. More of us are playing video games to sharpen the mind. Volunteering is a great way to stimulate the mind and attitude as we age. Our family grew up with volunteering as much a part of our DNA as the color of our hair. I bring my grandchildren with me when I drive for Meals on Wheels. Start young, stay young.

So, happy birthday, Michelle. And many more. Although we all have an expiration date, none of us know what it is. Rather than making living longer our goal, we should be focused on living better. 

Image: Flickr image: QuotesEverlasting


Redefining the word retire

Since I have declared my plan to retire, I have had more feedback from readers. After the shock of hearing that I would retire, the question is "are you old enough?". This probably speaks more to my seemingly boundless energy than any fountain of youth serum discovery. Honestly, it has nothing to do with age.

Yes, I am reaching the magic bullet age, but I think the shock comes more from how people define the word retire. The definition of retire: leave one's job and cease to work, typically upon reaching the normal age for leaving employment. This leaves us scratching our head, wondering what is the normal age for leaving employment.

Can I get an "Amen" that most of us would have left our jobs long ago if it was all about normal? There is nothing normal about working 40-60 hours a week, to the detriment of social contact with friends and family. Chronological age has nothing to do with it, although, we seem to come to this conclusion around the golden age of 60. 

The truth is, the compelling reason, is more about the ideal there is something more I can do with my life, while I am still alive. It isn't about leaving a job, but creating new opportunities. It means giving myself the time to work at my passions, instead of coming home so tired, even reading a book feels like work. 

Therefore, I declare that the word retire is an outdated concept and the definition should be revisited. Here are a few suggestions.

re·tire   riˈtīr/: Time to discover new opportunities to explore at any age.

re·tire   riˈtīr/  Leaving the workforce to become a better worker on one's own terms.

re·tire   riˈtīr/  Finding the sweet spot between what one has to do and what one wants to do.

No matter what you call retirement or the age you decide to retire, it is not an end, but a beginning and that is why I am looking forward to it. To those who are still in shock, you have plenty of time to get over it. My plan to retire is at least 3 to 5 years in the future. Save the date for 2017, and we will revisit this conversation. In the meantime, I will follow the example set down by my 85 year old parents, who told me they are busier now than when they were working, and loving it. Now that is what I call retirement!

Any definitions you would like to share?

Images: Flickr image by Bohman





A retirement plan you can live with

Think of retirement like a Google map. You are here and retirement is your destination. Now start dropping pins. One of my pin drops is a debt free life. Although I have always lived well within my means, most of us have some kind of debt we drag with us through the decades. Finding a way to reduce and eliminate that debt is essential in getting to your destination.

“The happiest clients are the ones who go into retirement completely debt-free, including the mortgage,” says financial planner Bill Losey, author of Retire in a Weekend.

In our 50’s we need to consolidate and trim the fat, so to speak. Locking in lower rates can reduce your payments but making an extra payment can change a 30 year mortgage into a 23 year mortgage. It is important to keep saving for retirement, so don’t let one outweigh the other.

Saving an extra $200 a month in your 50’s at 8% interest could multiply to $100,000 in your 70’s. Take advantage of the boost to your contribution limit for your 401K or IRA.

Using credit cards can pay off with reward points or cash back bonuses. But don't get caught in the trap of racking up debt just to get a few airline miles. Choose your card rewards carefully but even more important, use the card wisely. Emergencies, large purchases or tracking business expenses can make the cash back rewards pay off, rather than bury you alive. Do the math, think twice before you swipe, and pay off the balance each month. 

Start making your entrepreneurial dreams into a reality. Make a plan. Network. Use your social and business contacts to fuel the dream that can take shape in retirement.

Make a plan to pay down debt, build up savings, and work toward a healthy, wealthy and wiser retirement. 

Images: Flickr image by Ryanne Lai

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