There’s busy, and then there’s busy…

Who and what are filling up your life? One of the exercises I enjoy most in our book is the one called “Finding My Fit” (Chapter 7, pages 74-75), where we are asked to assess the placement of the people and activities filling our life. Our commitments, time and energy are constantly changing as we age.
It’s easy to ignore this and continue doing what we have always done, the way we have always done it, because we have always done it! This became deeply important to me as we were approaching my husband’s death this past year. As my energy became more consumed with care-taking and family communications, many things needed to be rearranged in our lives, and many things dropped away. Since his death, it has been very interesting to re-evaluate people and activities as my energy returns. One friend shared with me how she just got really busy after her husband had died, in order to fill up the empty space.
Distractions or meaningful activities? Suzanne’s suggestion that we evaluate our choices based on the amount of focused, energized and happy energy they create has been crucial for me. Reevaluating values, seeing where I am now, and acting in alignment is satisfying. Choosing joy rather than complacency. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Sometimes I would rather wallow in my grief than make any choices at all, let alone the ones that will enhance my life!
But what we know at this age is that we will only have the life we are willing to create, and we have some good guidelines for doing that well. Thank you, Suzanne!

Gifts, Gratitude and 24 Carat Gold Artists

The Gift. This week has been one to give us pause, contemplate, and understand the power of both gifts and gratitude. The gift?  A 5 star review on for our book on Amazon ! From someone whose spirit and positive outlook are so much a part of her creative expressions, both in art and her writing. I have had great respect and admiration for her talent over the years, and have practiced and taught some of her techniques, but have never had the chance to take her workshops or attend her exhibitions.

What Makes it Special: To have her endorsement for our efforts to help people find fulfillment in this “next chapter of life” is very meaningful to us, and reinforces the importance of using inherent creative expression, wherever you are in the world! (Susan lives in New Zealand)

One of the 8 keys in the book, “the Key to Celebration” not only addresses the importance of learning to celebrate our lives each and every day, but also the importance of acknowledging our gratitude for people and experiences that have enriched our lives.

Our Gratitude: Thank you to Susan Harrison-Tustain, internationally acclaimed fine artist, for your gifts of sharing your talents, your wisdom and your lovely spirit of creativity. They are global influences and speak to all of us as human beings.  And in today’s world, those gifts are very greatly respected. Susan’s website

And here is a sample of her work, called “The Gift”. An appropriate title.

Painting in oil on 24 carat gold and palladium leaf

Encouragement, Relationships and Creativity

Standing in the Atlanta airport on the way home from a recent trip, I took note of a large, bright billboard of Oprah, with the word “encouragement” in bold letters, sponsored by the website, . The billboard was in a line-up of other signs but this one just stood out.  Perhaps because I was feeling tired, travel-weary, and unsure of what was next, I saw the word “encouragement” and wanted/needed to have it in my life, at that moment. Instead of feeling discouraged, I wanted to be encouraged by someone who shared my dream.

Patricia and Anne

The newest addition to our website this month is a story of 2 sisters, who, in their retirement years, have discovered an expanded relationship of mutual creativity, respect and encouragement in their growing art interests. Read Now Their smiles say it all – they’re having fun together and thinking about the next challenge – encouragement from within the family. Give some ENCOURAGEMENT to someone today. It’s positively energizing and it may just make you smile.

Taking Charge of Changes, Choices and Challenges


As we begin the third month of this new year, Patty and I have had to live what we write: managing change, choice and challenge in our daily lives, and navigating that often painful, frustrating and difficult pathway.

Personal loss, postponing/cancellling our workshops, and learning to re-direct our energies have put lots of other things on hold, as we become still, embrace our changing circumstances and emotions and adapt to a new “normal.”  Thank you for your understanding and support, and we will be back soon with great content for living well in these interesting times.

Suzanne and Patty

Is it the Journey or the Destination?

We just returned from a wonderful trip to Costa Rica, and were amazed by the wildlife, the jungles and the gorgeous beaches. Since we arranged our own trip, we had a car and navigated a lot of the country on everything from high speed freeways to pot-holed dirt roads (neither of these were for the faint of heart!!). As we drove, there were days that we just wanted to “get there”, and other days that we delighted in frequent stops to explore the area. Some days the destination was all important, and other days, the journey.

Interesting to think about how this might apply to the way we are choosing to live this next chapter of life – do we savor the moments as they unfold each day, and enjoy the journey? Do we see ourselves as visitors, just passing through in order to get to a desired “there”? Are we intentional about our journey and purposefully headed in a specific direction?  Are we allowing opportunities to create meaningful experiences and relationships pass us by?

Good food for thought as we travel through this time of life.

And if you get the chance to travel to Costa Rica, I can recommend some great places!

Pura Vida from  Suzanne

Mermaids Know. Choice and Change take Courage

by Suzanne

I was inspired to blog about this painting that Patty Van Dyke recently created of a mermaid. Beautiful, imaginative, soulful.mermaid 

It also sent me right back to a time when my daughter absolutely loved Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” movie, and would watch it so often that I was afraid she might start growing fins !

So, how does this all relate to change and courage? The mythic mermaid is a great example. Choosing to let go of her tail meant that she could no longer live underwater in the sea. The trade-off was that she could have legs and dance in the sand or gaze at a beautiful sunset from the shore. Tough decision.  She had family and friends in that underwater paradise, but her heart was drawn to the shore, and to becoming human. It took courage to face the fear of change, the scary choice of tail vs. legs and the challenge of letting go of life in the water, to embrace the possibilities of life on the land. 

The process of aging brings huge opportunity for personal accomplishment and fulfillment. It can also lead into some dark spaces, where fear of the unknown and self-defeating behaviors can keep us from enjoying the time we have left. When you can learn to look for the “silver linings” that accompany change, you can be rewarded by great possibility instead of fear.

 Chapter 6: Change, Choice and Challenge, the Key to Finding Balance.

Conscious Creative Retirement: 8 Essential Keys to Maximize Your Next Life Chapter The Book

Sorry, This Brain is on Overload

From Suzanne

One of my friends likes to say, “I don’t have a life, I have appointments”. Some days are just like that. Too many commitments, not enough time.  I recently saw a post on Facebook from an old classmate, who was counting down the exact number of days, hours and minutes until his yearly 2 week vacation started.  It was clear that he was anxiously anticipating a break from his daily routine.

And it got me thinking about how the speed of life today is over the limit – trying to get more done is less time.  It gets exhausting, to the point that we just need to escape. We need a rest stop. Chapter 6: 8 Essential Keys

What is occupying so much of our time?  Does it feel like a burden or a pleasure? How do we get that desperately needed downtime, even if we’re no longer working full time?  We all need resting periods that allow our brains to process all the information we take in during the day. Those moments of being able to relax and see life in a different way, to find unexpected connections in situations, and expand opportunities for new experiences – all necessary components of nurturing creativity and decreasing stress.

What sparks your creativity and replenishes your spirit?  Fishing, hiking, travel?  Maybe it’s not activity, but just the opposite –  sitting still in a quiet corner of the garden and letting nature seep in.

Regardless of how you decide to replenish your creative spirit, there are great benefits to doing so.  For starters, here’s a few: a more positive outlook, cognitive health, stress reduction, greater resistance to disease and infection, improved ability to problem-solve. Who doesn’t want more of that?

Here are some interesting articles on nurturing creativity in our downtime:

For a More Creative Brain, Travel , Atlantic Monthly Group 2015

What Creativity is Trying to Tell You, TEDxStuttgart

10 Signs that Tell You to Take a Break, Health

P.S. If you’re ever at a loss to find a great topic of conversation at the next social gathering, ask someone about their latest vacation or trip. People love to talk about their vacation experiences (both good and bad). You may find you have to change the subject after awhile!

We’d love to hear about your rest stops.



Seeing What’s Right Before Us and Being Surprised !

We just returned from a road trip to Tucson, Arizona, with my oldest son and his family. While there were many wonderful aspects to the trip, what I have been musing about since our trip is my response to the landscape. When I was a child I went to Palm Springs and Joshua Tree with my grandparents – and didn’t like it a bit! I found it scary and very foreign. I never felt drawn to it or expected to like it. However, on this trip, I found it mesmerizing, evocative. The barren mountains felt lunar, ancient; the open spaces serene and sacred; the mystery of flash floods in this dry country almost inconceivable. The exposure and vulnerability of the structure of the land itself was very moving to me. We were walking on Mother Earth’s bones. I was truly surprised by joy! And so grateful that my old preconceptions were able to shift, to drop away.

I don’t see myself painting a lot of cacti, dry washes, or Palo Verde trees but I am very curious about how this experience will express itself as it continues to seep into me. I hope for more of this as I age, an openness to what is right before me, to be still enough to feel it.  A freedom from the narrow vision of the past.  An openness to be led by curiosity rather than judgement.

What experiences have you had where you found yourself responding differently than you expected? Were you delighted or shocked? Did this open something within you to explore, change your opinion of yourself or the situation?

We’d love to hear about it!

Meaningful Activities: How are you spending your time?

In our book we talk a lot about meaningful activities – those events and actions in which we are energized, focused and happy. I love Suzanne’s definition and it really made me question how I was spending my time – I do a lot of things just because they are on my schedule or because that is “what I do”. And I do love my little routines, so this evaluation was hard to do! I decided to take one activity about myself, one for my family and one for the community at large and see how they measured up to those terms.

Water Aerobics. I do this for myself, 2 or 3 times a week. And I have to tell you right off the bat I am not an exerciser, more of a couch potato. I like to walk and hike – and do water aerobics. Period. I don’t have great coordination or balance. The first thing that occurred to me in questioning this activity was simply how good it feels to be in the water. I swam before I walked and see water as our natural habitat – we are, after all, made up more of water than anything else! So this class and I have a natural affinity for each other. I also like the timing of the class – it meets at 8am so my day is still before me when I get home and get dressed. Raising my kids and working I was always a morning person but not so much anymore – one of my favorite ways to start the day is with a cup of coffee in bed, checking my email. So it takes something to pry me out of bed and it is excellent that this hour of exercise doesn’t take up my whole morning or really break into my day. And then there is the sense of community. This class is an amazing group of women (and one man!). Many of them have been coming for over 20 years and some are in their 80’s. I enjoy them tremendously and appreciate how willing they have been to welcome a newcomer. For years I went to regular workouts at a gym, purely (and grumpily) out of a sense of duty, and have been delighted to discover how much more I enjoy exercising in a group. I am focused in this class and work hard – even though I am often relieved that the instructor cannot see what’s going on underwater! And I am energized by how much easier it is to move in water than on land. I’ve realized that exercise, to be worthwhile for me, has to have all these peripheral perks.

There will be more blogs coming on how I’ve evaluated family and community activities with this criteria – some I’ve tossed, some I’ve retooled, some I’ve kept! What’s been your experience?

“Aging: Life’s Most Dangerous Game”

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had the opportunity to see Dr. Bill Thomas performing in his Age of Disruption Tour – what a great evening!  The Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC, was  a perfect venue for the “non-fiction theater” about changing the way we view aging. Paired with amazing musician Nate Silas Richardson, the show was creatively arranged, personally engaging, insightful, and most of all, honest. And we were invited to use our cell phones to capture the moment….thanks Bill!Age of Disruption Tour 2

Since Conscious Creative Retirement™ is all about learning to make intentional choices in the “next chapter” of our lives, this program adds another creative dimension to thinking about how we age, and navigating the new normal of our retirement years.

The tour is continuing around the US for several more months, so be sure to check their website for dates and times near you.  You’ll be glad you did! Changing Aging