Making a Difference

In 2002 Jack Nicholson starred in a movie called About Schmidt.

Nicholson played Warren Schmidt, a grumpy curmudgeon retiring from his actuarial career  – facing the fact he’s no longer needed. His wife annoys him, his daughter’s about to marry a “nincompoop”; their new Winnebago bodes travel plans that he dreads.

Then his wife drops dead and he’s alone. Sounds uplifting, right?  Bet you can’t wait to find this on Netflix.

So let’s zoom to the redemption part.

Schmidt responds to an ad and sponsors a boy from an African village.  He starts writing letters to this boy – chronicling his Winnebago misadventures traveling cross-country to his daughter’s wedding.

At the very end, having endured perky campers and wedding weirdness, Schmidt reflects, has his life made a difference?

Now for the good part.  Finally.

Once at home he discovers an envelope  from Tanzania. A nun from an African orphanage tells him that his sponsored child, Ndugu, is only 6 and can’t read or write.  But Ndugu has enjoyed Schmidt’s letters and thinks of him everyday. Ndugu wishes for Schmidt’s health and happiness. He has made a picture for Schmidt which he hopes he likes.

 Schmidt starts crying as he realizes he HAS made a difference in his life.  Click redemption. to see Nicholson at his best. 

Enough about Schmidt.  Now About Us.  

We do NOT want to be remotely curmudgeonly.  And we DON’T want to wait for our final years to be reflecting, have we made a difference?

Each day we can make a difference in small ways.  Anonymous giving is the best!

Last summer Brett and I were sipping wine at a Wisconsin bar.  The bartender told us he was saving money to visit his young son.  After we signed the bill and the bartender had turned his back, Brett snuck a $100 bill under the napkin.  We scurried out. Unfortunately, the bartender, being young, sprinted after us to shake Brett’s hand. At least we tried to be anonymous!

My friend Donna once dropped off a delightful book at my front door and was mute about it for a full year.  She giggled when I finally figured out that she was the gift-giver.

And what’s retirement for, if not more giggling?


Today’s Takeaway –


  • Small things are big things.  Pay someone a sincere compliment – one  that the person can live on for the next month. 


  • Let’s do our best NOT to over-share about those arthritis aches or upcoming bunion surgeries.  Even Schmidt would lose interest!



Enjoy the ride!

xox Barclay and Joy

Retirement – It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Maria is a veteran teacher who turned down the retirement incentive package offered last spring – something I (Barclay) and 25 eligible others jumped at.   

This was perplexing.  Maria had tons of retired friends who kept busy lunching, volunteering, reading book club selections with time to spare.   

And it wasn’t as if she was passionate about the daily grind of work. So why did she leave money on the table?

Her response?   How many times can you clean the house?

She anticipated isolation.  Watching too much CNN or MSNBC.  Waiting for an invitation to visit her grandkids.

Did Maria have a point?  5 months into retirement, I get it.

On the one hand, I have been liberated from team meetings (no more role playing!), evaluations, testing.  I’ve said good-bye to jarring alarm clocks, anxious rush hours, Monday angst, and Sunday blues.  

But oh how I miss the kids.  The magic of a first grader sounding out a word, a second grader reading a sentence with expression.  Even conferencing with parents.

Where’s my purpose now?  To Maria’s point, it’s not vacuuming the dog hair that rolls like stage brush through our living room.   And lunches, though wonderful, simply don’t cut it.


Today’s Takaway –

  •  Find your sweet spot of service.  
  • Who are your new “people”?  From toothless babies to toothless dementia patients – someone needs us.  Right? 


I think I’ve found my people.  Some mumble incoherently and some lick their paws. Every Friday I take my crazy Codie to visit a nursing home. She has made friends with Sylvia shaking with Parkinson’s, Father Edward battling throat cancer, Doris who tells the same story each visit, and Anna who gushes Polish love.  

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 3.01.58 PM.png

Maybe the word, retirement, is a misnomer.  Look at Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn’s second chapter of life-  putting Habitat for Humanity on the map.  Recently President Carter was chomping at the bit to get his hammer back after undergoing treatment for an annoying brain cancer.  

90 something.  In their sweet spot of service.

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 2.53.53 PM.png

Maria was right about one thing.  Vacuuming is overrated!



unnamed     Codie chilling.


Enjoy the ride!

xox, Barclay and Joy