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7 Jan
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Book Review: “On the Brink of Everything. Grace, Gravity and Getting Old” by Parker J. Palmer


Reviewed by Bev Scott

On the Brink of EverythingAccording to the calendar, I am “old” and most people hearing my age would agree. But I have been unwilling to consider myself “old.” As Palmer says, “Old is just another word for nothing left to lose, a time of life to take bigger risks on behalf of the common good.” I am grateful to stand where I am, with the perspective, learning and experience my life has given me. Parker J. Palmer reveals his sense of humor as he points out that he is “not given to waxing romantic about aging and dying…simply know(ing) that the first is a privilege and the second is not up for negotiation.” I value the privilege.

Yet, On the Brink… is not age-bound. The insights call to anyone who is open to self-exploration, curious about the world and hungry to learn. Palmer also offers a way to find the benefits and joys in aging rather than suffering the bitterness of loss and failure. I find so much confirmation in this small book which offers us a manifesto for engaging life with awe, gratitude, curiosity and openness. Palmer invites us in to his own courageous exploration of both his brokenness and his achievement. With that invitation he calls us to confront our selves and to learn who we are in the present.

Reading On the Brink of Everything was for me like having an intimate conversation with a wise and humble friend willing to share his insights. I highly recommend this book.

16 Nov
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Book Review: “Energize Your Retirement” by Christine Sparacino

Energize Your RetirementReviewed by Bev Scott

Christine Sparacino has provided an invaluable resource for the multitudes of boomers who are entering their retirement years.  The literature and the research on happy, satisfying and productive senior years endorse the importance of active engagement in a passionate pursuit for a longer and healthier life. In Energize Your Retirement, Sparacino has collected stories of passionate pursuits generously augmented with the detailed information and resources to help readers determine if a pursuit is right for them.   Anyone thinking about “what will I do when I retire?” should read this book.

Sparacino has grouped her interviews into five sections which organize the book :  Animals and Nature, Arts and Letters, Civic and Social Participation, Mechanics and Technology and Physical Activity and Sports.  Animals and Nature include chapters on Astronomy, Bird Watching, Habitat Restoration, Mushroom Hunting, Service Dog Training and Beekeeping.  In the chapter on “Beekeeper,” Sparacino offers fascinating information such as the history of bringing honeybees to the American colonies as early as 1622.  Practical information also guides the potential beekeeper from zoning regulations, to how much time and money is involved.  The beekeeper himself describes how he got started and what rewards he gains from this passionate pursuit.  At the end of every chapter is an extensive list of resources to assist the  interested retiree explore the pursuit.

In the Arts and Letters section, the author introduces a magician who learned magic to liven up his office presentations and carried his passion into retirement.  The magician also shares information about how to learn magic, organizations to join and what makes a good magician.  Sparacino shares interesting background information about the relationship of magic and psychology.  Each chapter also includes a Fascinating Facts list about the chapter’s topic.  Did you know that that Harry Houdini could pick up pins with eyelashes and thread a needle with his toes?  Other chapters in this section include Calligraphy, Crossword Puzzles, Arts Usher, Fiction Writer and Stone Sculptor.

I knew the term “ombudsman” was Swedish defined as “one who cares for another, a citizen representative or advocate”.  But, I didn’t know that the Swedish Parliament established the first independent ombudsman in 1809.  You will find many such interesting tidbits in each of the chapters in the book.  The Ombudsman chapter introduces a volunteer who is an ombudsman for elder care.  Even if you are not interested in volunteering in this pursuit, you can learn a very helpful approach to figuring out what you want to do next after leaving your job or career.  This volunteer ombudsman describes the training and certification she is required to take, what she does during a visit and how she works as an advocate with both sides of an issue.  Believing that little things can make a big difference, this volunteer feels rewarded when she listens and feels trusted by both the elder and his or her family.  Other chapters in this section on Civic and Social Participation include Disaster-Response worker, Medicare Counselor, National Park Volunteer, Nonprofit Board Director and Youth Mentor.

Space and tools are required to be a wood turner, one of the pursuits described in the section called Mechanics and Technology.  A life-long interest led this retiree to prepare space on his property for woodworking, but he was really hooked after taking a class on woodturning before he actually retired.  This chapter describes the basic tools needed, organizations to join and how to actually make a wooden bowl.   The resources section lists websites, videos and classes to help the potential wood turner get started.  If you are not interested in wood turning but would like to pursue something else a bit unusual or even common, you can read about Blogging, Home Brewing Beer,  Operating a Ham Radio, Motorcycling, or RV Traveling.

The last section, Physical Activity and Sports offers stories from a Backpacker, Dancer, Softball Player, Target Shooter and a Triathlete.  The Target Shooter will keep all of us from making stereotypical assumptions.  A self-proclaimed workaholic and a vice president from a Fortune 100 company who retired at fifty five and with her husband took up target shooting.  She is now certified as a pistol and rifle instructor.  Sparacino gives us some interesting historical background of shooting competition in the US and in the Olympic Games.  The story provides a breadth of information about this hobby from expenses, to clothes and equipment and training required.  The story teller wants to let readers know that “target shooting is not about politics” but that it is a fun sport and an individual choice.

As the founder and creator of the positive aging program, “The 3rd Act”, I recommend this book as a “must have” resource for any boomers thinking about retirement.  Even if your interests are not covered in this book, you will undoubtedly learn about approaches, resources and  rewards that will help you in choosing your passionate pursuit in retirement.

I received this book from the author in an exchange for an honest review.

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