I am just starting my 65th year. I have had a rich and full life so far and I am nowhere near ready to retire to an easy chair and let the world pass me by. There are so many things I want to do, and see, and experience. Travel has always been a big part of my life. When we were rasing our family and money was tight, we took lots of camping trips in our Volkswagen camper to many National Parks, California State Parks, and lots of smaller campgrounds. These camping trips not only helped us to bond as a family, they also served to inspire a wanderlust in our children who were drawn to professions that help them satisfy that desire. My husband and I have been to all of the continents save Australia and 49 of the 50 states. I have attended the Summer Olympics in Montreal and Los Angeles; rode a bobsled at Lake Placid, and skied the trails of another former Winter Olympic site, Squaw Valley. Together we hiked England coast-to coast, have paddled canoes in the Boundary Waters in MN, piloted a canal boat on the Erie Canal, floated in a hot air balloon over Vermont, and taken a wild ride in a Fire Department helicopter above the Angeles National Forest. These memories, and too many others to mention, inspire me to continue to seek new adventures.
But there is more to a rich full life than travel and adventure. I firmly belive that it is important to give back to our communities. While it is nice if you can afford to give money to worthy charities (and we have always done that) it is equally, if not more important, to give your time, energy, and talent by volunteering with organizations or causes that help make positive differences in the places we live and work. I had my first meaningful volunteer opportunity coaching a team of 9-10 year old girls in a parks and recreation league when I was fresh out of high school. Later, I helped to coach my own kids in softball and soccer. When I heard that there was a movement to establish a high school in our small community, I joined the High School Formation Committee and even made a trip to Sacramento to speak before the Board of Education. I am proud to say that Vasquez high School is a result of those efforts. Even though it wasn’t finished in time for my own children to attend, I am glad I was able to play a role in making it come to fruition. In our church I have been a reader, founded a youth group, and was even parish president for a bit. Since moving to Maine a dozen years ago, I have been an English language practice partner for foreign students at the university, a literacy coach, volunteered with the American Folk Festival for ten years, and am currently one of the co-coordinators for Women of the World in Orono.
I should also mention that I worked part-time starting my senior year in high school and full-time since graduating college at 22 before taking an early retirement at 50. I came from a working class family that had 4 kids before my parents celebrated their 6th anniversary. I learned to share and how to work for the extras in life. I remember my dad paying me 5 cents for each one of his work shirts that I ironed when I was still in grade school. I am truly thankful for all the opportunities I have had in life. Not just the travels and adventures, but also the opportunities to give back to the communities of which I have been a part. I love to keep in touch with friends and family that hold a special place in my heart. I write letters and send cards just to let those folks know how much they mean to me. There have been difficult times, but I have learned from those as well. None of us know how long we’ll be around, but we can all choose how we spend what precious time we do have. Discover what you love and find a way to do more of it. Life is what you make it, so write your own story.