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Monday, November 27, 2017

The "R" Word

by Courtney Pierce

I don’t think we Baby Boomers ever really retire. The word is unthinkable and should be banished from the English language. It insinuates that we’re replaceable―washed-up―and are willing to be pushed aside. To better characterize our true nature, why not use descriptors like reach, realize, and reap?

I can’t speak for all of us, but as I sunset a two-decade-and-change corporate career, I feel as though I’m just getting started. My husband and I are less than five years away from that magical time to call our own shots, answer to no one, and eat breakfast for dinner. We can’t wait.

Our idea of retirement isn’t strolling on a golf course or gossiping over five o’clock highballs at a
clubhouse. Instead, we’ve chosen to make a rural sanctuary for ourselves among the mountains and lakes. It will be our home base for backpacking, fishing, camping . . . and yes . . . hunting. To weather the winter, we’ll need meat in the freezer and jarred vegetables from our garden. We’ll remain fit and active, with an array of wild animals (including black bears) to provide new inspiration to write. Our private acre on the lake in Montana is now a reality, if only for vacations until we retire in earnest.

Before the sun rises we’ll launch the canoe, two thermoses of strong Joe set in the bow. “Let’s go catch breakfast,” I’ll say.

“Trout, bass, or pike?” he’ll whisper, to not scare the fish.

“Rainbows. Pan-fried with your special seasoning.”

“Done. Get in.”

And since we’re still newlyweds, I’ll give him my most mischievous grin. “But I think I’ve already caught my fish.”

He’ll throw me a wink. “Can’t throw me back, especially before a nap.”

And then we’ll shove off, the bow like a feather cutting a delicate tear on the water's skin. To tease us, the only sounds in those early morning hours will be random splashes of fish breaking the surface.

In some ways we’ll work harder in retirement than in our current day jobs. Personal productivity will be on the line, along with our sense of self-worth and the compulsion to make a difference in the lives of others. We certainly don’t need to buy any more stuff. Geez! We have two lifetimes worth of stuff.

But with all that dreaming comes an important responsibility that scares the heck out of me. Our health . . . so strong, yet so fragile.

Not that I’m a Negative Nancy or anything, but stuff does happen. One of the realities of retirement is that our bodies aren’t as resilient as they used to be, nor are our steps as assured, quick, or squarely placed as they once were. Knees click and crack until they're warmed up. A twisted ankle might be a Simple Twist of Fate, rendering us unable to go on (I'm certain Bob Dylan had a different meaning in mind for that title), 

While we eat healthy and maintain our weight, what if one of us has chest pain or breaks a hip on the hiking trail? It could happen. A health crisis could seriously undermine our plans. The nearest hospital will be 20-minutes away, and on the trails we’d require a Life Flight to get help. I do think some of us become more risk adverse as we age, while others throw caution to the wind. We fit into the latter. I'd rather us get hurt doing what we love. Why the heck not? What do we have to lose?

Coming into the home stretch is both thrilling and scary. We can’t turn back time to fix all our stupid mistakes, but we can certainly start over with a fresh perspective. We've got one last shot to make our dreams of youth a reality, right? In the meantime, we’ll slip some old vinyl on the turntable to reset our mood. 

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young anyone?

Photo: Loma Smith
Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Milwaukie, Oregon, with her new family. She writes for baby boomers. By day, Courtney is an executive in the entertainment industry and uses her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor and mystery. She has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, she is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and She Writes. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal. 

Check out all of Courtney's books at: and Both print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including

The Dushane Sisters are back in Indigo LakeMore laughs, more tears...and more trouble. Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.

New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."

Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's trilogy about the Dushane sisters. Beginning with The Executrixthree middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death. Mom’s book gives them a whole new view of their mother and their future. Is it fiction . . . or truth? 

Get out the popcorn as the Dushane Sisters Trilogy comes to a scrumptious conclusion with Indigo Legacy. Due out in summer, 2018.

Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.


Judith Ashley said...

Courtney, totally agree about the word "retirement" as it does mean retire as in put aside because it's no longer useful/good. In between hikes, fishing and hunting, you'll be able to devote time to writing and that's what makes this next phase of your life even more special - at least that's true for me.

Sarah Raplee said...

Awesome post, courtney!!!

Courtney Brooks said...

We'll be driving to Montana over the holidays to sleep in our dream house for the first time. And my new hubby, Jeff, is a writer too! While I write my light, twisted fare, he'll be writing adventures of treasure hunting and Mountain Man drama. Then we'll go for a hike. Ah yes, but back to the grind for a few more years. But in the meantime, he's teaching me how to shoot a .22. He said that I need to be Cracker Jack, so I can take out the garbage with confidence. :-)

Hey, wait a minute! That's his job!

Maggie Lynch said...

You make retirement sound like bliss. Having been in that state for nearly five years now, I can tell you it is better than you can imagine but also with more of the challenges you mentioned. I think one of the distinctions about Baby Boomers is that we don't see retirement as stopping and relaxing. Many of us see it as the chance to do things we didn't have time for during the family raising and corporate employee phase of life. Many Baby Boomers focus on a new career. Others increase their creative pursuits. Like you've said many times, Courtney, it is the third chapter of life. More than that, the third chapter is not necessarily the final chapter.

Even for fit people, health can change quickly. But it doesn't have to stop you. It only means taking a little longer for that next hike or rethinking how to accommodate health challenges and still do the things you want to do. When my husband had hip replacement surgery, I was shocked into the realization that he wouldn't always be the strong, bulwark of a man I knew. For several months, he worked his way back to regular walking and weight lifting. The thing he has had to accept, and me too, is that though he can do things almost as well as before, that hip will never be the same. For example, getting down on one knee and some bending over is highly uncomfortable. That's okay, I can still do that and, being almost a foot shorter, I'm that much closer to the ground anyway. On the other hand, my upper body strength is not what it used to be and no amount of weight lifting will make it so again. But Jim can handle a lot of that for me.

As arthritis sets into other places--knees, fingers, shoulders--it is not a matter of stopping but realizing limits and enjoying the time you do have. Being a musician, he gets most upset about not being able to play for four or five hours straight like he used to. But he can play for two hours without a problem, and with a couple breaks and finger stretches, and a little ibuprofen, he can play for a third hour which gets him through a typical three set gig.

You have the right outlook. That is not to stop doing things you enjoy out of fear of what MIGHT happen. Just do a little more planning so that if something does happen you are as ready as can be. Take a fully charged phone while hiking. Carry a first aid kit. Put extra blankets in the car when going driving in the snow. These should be true for people of any age, but especially for seniors. Take breaks when you need them. Always remember, if it is too hard one day there will always be another day to come back and try again.

I am so happy for you and your newly wedded bliss at a time of life when you both know yourselves well and chose wisely who to spend the rest of your life with. It is like a romance novel in itself. :)