A New View on Retirement

If you could retire tomorrow but only pick one place to do it, where would it be?

I really can’t pick a place. I have hot feet and don’t think I will ever let grass grow under them. My bucket list is soooo long. It will take me the rest of my life to see it all!

I am already retired, meaning I don’t “go to work” everyday, I have downsized and I have time, freedom and the ability to travel. I am not golfing or living in a retirement community or living on a fixed income. I love my work and use it as a means to live the life I want. There is little separation between work and play for me. I am not working for the future. I strive to have “enough” and am obsessive about enjoying where I am in this moment and am acutely aware of the gifts I already have.

One last thought is to use the different world economies in your favor. Earn money in dollars and spend it in pesos. Your dollars go along way when you can rent an apartment for pennies on the dollar in Central American or Asia. Even in Italy, although the exchange rate is not in my favor, the cost of living is so low, that I can rent a fully furnished apartment with electric and wifi for less than a $1000 a month. Use inexpensive, readily available public transportation and you don’t need to buy and maintain a car. Don’t plan out the rest of your life, just work a few months ahead. Travel light and stay flexible.

How to Follow Your Dreams

What advice would you give someone who wants to follow their dreams?

Do it and do it yesterday! I clearly remember recognizing the first month I didn’t have my “big job” and realized that the sky didn’t fall down and that I was going to be OK. Once I stopped all reoccurring monthly charges and found inexpensive temporary housing renting a room in someone else’s home through the Internet (Sublet.com or craigslist), I discovered that it took very little money to live.  Go to where you want to live first, then figure out how to stay there. Do not map out your whole plan and wait to go until you have a job, apartment, visa, know the language…. go first. You don’t know what opportunities will be there until you get there. Remember, you can always go “back” and get a “real” job again! I also love the site HelpX.

Once I started to trust myself that “I can handle whatever comes up” the whole world opened up for me.  The right people, circumstances and events fell right into my lap. I used my gut feeling to decide where to go and what to do. If it felt right, I did it and the miracles kept happening.

Reinventing Your Daily Lifestyle

Adopting the European style of Quality vs Quantity



Do you feel like your life is spinning out of control and you are being buried under stuff with an unmanageable schedule that has you running from dawn until midnight?   STOP, and re-evaluate.  This is no way to live. Yes, we are fortunate to live in a society where we can have anything all the time, but too many choices create a different problem.  Too much, too many and too often becomes what we don’t want.



Less is more.  Less means doing less meaningless tasks and focusing more on things of greater personal importance.  Focus on being productive, not busy.  Busyness is a trick of the ego that makes you feel important but holds no real value.  Judge a successful day by results, not time spent.



When I first year I lived in Italy, I was so impressed that people seemed to have all the time in the world to chat with a customer or say hello to a friend they met in the street.  No one was rushing around, tapping their foot in aggravation or shouting into a blue tooth while walking down the street.  I quickly learned the “one thing a day rule.” Getting one thing accomplished a day was enough. So choose what will improve the quality of your life and enjoy the process of doing it. Let all the other things fall away as unimportant.



For example, the evening meal IS the event.  It is not something we quickly get through to go on to do something else.  There is nothing else to do.  Without TV or going out to an evening meeting or errand, we enjoy a leisure meal, letting the food digest before we decide if we should have another serving.  We put something on our plate and enjoy it, really tasting the flavors. We eat lunch and dinner together, sitting at the table with a table cloth and wine.  At first, I was scolded for jumping up to quickly and clearing the plates. Where was I going in such a rush?



In Italy, we enjoy amazing food because we follow the rhythm of the seasons.  In summer, we have beautiful fresh vegetables from the garden, eagerly waiting for the first zucchini and beans and eat them all summer long until we don’t want to see another tomato or eggplant.  By fall, we are ready for the next season’s food, such a polenta or squash.  In winter, we start each meal with hot steaming broth with tiny bits of pasta and finish with different types of cheese. But come spring, we are out preparing the garden again.  We don’t eat foreign grown foods or have much ethnic cuisine. We shop everyday and have small mini refrigerators. Quality and freshness are more important than quantity and exoticness.



Same goes with clothing.  Europeans don’t have huge wardrobes, just a few pieces of expensive, high quality clothing that are stylish and in fashion and they wear them all the time, then when the new season comes, they add just a few pieces.  We wear linen in the summers to stay cool and classic cashmere or wool in winters. A typical closet is a wooden armoire- a piece of furniture, not a walk in closet.  Less quantity and higher quality.



Europeans are not always upgrading and remodeling.  My bedroom furniture is over 100 years old and our household linens and bedspreads are the same ones for over 50 years.  We are not constantly replacing for a new color scheme or tread. We have one set of dishes, not a bunch of mismatched plastic junk. We don’t buy something because it is cheap; we buy high quality because we need something. Of course, we replace what is broken or worn out, but quality things last.



Learning to ignore products, trends, events and technology will dramatically change your life. Most material wants are justifications for spending time on things that don’t matter. Creating simplicity requires constant pruning of useless actions and requires making hard decisions about which activities really serve you. Extra physical space creates extra mental space.  To be free, happy and living a meaningful life, you must stop doing many common but overestimated things.  Focus all your attention on this.



I challenge you to adopt the European lifestyle of quality vs. quantity and downsize your stuff and schedule, while creating a lifestyle that gives you time and freedom to choose how to spend your precious days.

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

After five months of being in the USA, and 40 days apart from Giuseppe, it is time to return to him, my beloved Tuscany and my Italian family.  I have been in no hurry to return there, as spring can be cool with a chill-to-the-bone dampness. We spend all our time together especially touring the country to promote the wine and my book.  Three months on the road in close quarters and working side by side made me ready for a little time apart.  I stayed in Orlando, where my friends are, where I soaked up day after day of blue skies and sunshine and where I scooted around on my Vespa, grinning from ear to ear.

As the day to my homecoming nears, I am feeling an eager anticipation.  Distance really does make the hear grow fonder.  It’s a sign. A sign that my heart is still open and ready to give and receive love. And that Giuseppe is the one and we have survived another one of life’s transitions.  I drew a line in some silly shifting sand and let my ego run the show.  Not all life lessons are deal breakers, so why make them one.  We both learned something. His accent and use of English helps soften my heart and gives him a huge “hall pass” and still puts a smile on my face, like the time he sent me a photo just after he cut his hair with a caption of “look how much cute I am.”  What is not to love?  I am going home because I want to be there. I try to remember our house and view from the porch and my many walks down the country lane.  And I try to remember Giuseppe- his scent, the curves of his body and the taste of his kisses.

Stepping off the plane in Rome, I am shocked at the temperature.  Warm and sunny, hot actually!  What was the big deal?  I should have come back weeks ago. Why did I wait so long? I turn on my old Italian cell phone, call home and let them know I have arrived safely and aboard an evening train headed for Montevarchi.

Carla, Giuseppe’s Mom, and Fausto, Dad, have waited up to greet me but it is late so say our goodnights. Giuseppe and I lay in each other’s arms.  I have forgotten how much I adore him.  How much he makes me giggle and the tenderness in his gaze. I have also forgotten what is like to snuggle up close and drift off to sleep in the comfort of a man’s strength. It is like being together for the first time, which is six years ago to the day that we first met.  I had been in Italy for just 10 days that summer when I made my first trip to the winery not knowing how that day would change the rest of my life.

It’s almost noon when I rise from the darkness and first pull up the shutters in my bedroom to see green!  Green is everywhere, the birds are chirping and a wonderful sweet aroma fills the warm air.  I’m home! And it’s better than I remembered it. Giuseppe has been up for hours doing his morning chores.  He snuck out quietly letting me sleep.  The six-hour time change and flying all night always gets me upside down. One good 12-16 hour rest sets the world straight.

I make a cappuccino and sit on the front steps and take in the view.  Sadly, there is no Benny to gently nudge me until I go fetch him a crust of bread.  Our family beagle died of old age while we were gone this past winter. The grass in the lawn is green and tall.  It’s my job to mow and I can’t wait to make everything perfect again.  A new pine tree has been planted and Carla has already brought the lawn furniture out from its winter storage place.  She has gone into town to buy fresh bread as she does everyday, so I decide to throw on some work clothes and get busy mowing before she returns.

We live in the house with Giuseppe’s parent who lived here with Fausto’s parents.  Grandpa Giuseppe and his wife Rosa moved here from Lake Como area when Fausto was 17.  He and Carla married when they were 27 years old and Carla moved in from her childhood home just a mile or so down the road.  This is where we will remain.  There is no upgrading to a better neighborhood or bigger house.  It belongs to our family and this gives me great comfort. Some people find it strange that we live with Giuseppe’s parents but I think we’ve hit the jackpot.  There are four sets of hands to do the work.  Everyone contributes his or her part without overlap.  How wonderful it is to have another woman in the house to help take care of things.  It is a different mentality than how I grew up.  My house- my rules so when you are 18 years old, go and make your own.  Here, because we know we will live together forever, I think we are much more tolerant with each other. Or perhaps, my ignorance is bliss!

After a quick shower, I prepare the table as we do for both lunch and dinner.  We dine as a family with a tablecloth, wonderful homemade food, much from our garden, fresh bread and of course, wine.  After the meal, we linger for about and hour, enjoying each others company and letting our food digest before taking a nap and returning to work about 3 or 4pm.  What is not to love about this rhythm to the day with it’s high and low of energy and work/rest?  In the states, we rise in the morning, charge up for the day, stay full-on until 7pm, then eat dinner, drink wine and crash on couch, full and in food coma, barely moving for the rest of the night. Even though I know how to live a different rhythm, I too, find myself falling into this pattern when I am in the states. The need to be productive all the time just takes over.  Taking a day not to leave the house is practically impossible.

As we watch the TV news, I am reminded that not all is well in paradise and the political climate in Italy has changed.  Taxes on primary residences are being levied for the first time and patriarchs are taking their own lives out of shame because they cannot pay.  The homes of civil servants assigned to the task of collecting these taxes are being bombed or pelted with stones and garbage.  They quickly resign.  They are members of the their community, friends and neighbors to the towns people and no one is in favor of these new rules when the headline scream of government officials misuse of funds.  I have always admired the Italians for their defiance.  What happens when you can’t get the masses behind the government? What happens when people refuse to pay and march in the street in protest?  To me, as an American, I feel passive.  I shake my head, grumble about it for a moment and then go on my way.  The Internet has made it easier to spread awareness, sign a petition and put my two cents in. But that’s all.  Here there is a feeling of compassion for another’s plight rather than competition.

My favorite and least favorite part about living in Tuscany is the isolation.  I loved not knowing what was going on.  The language barrier kept me isolated from watching TV or understanding the news.  I was so busy exploring that I didn’t have time to miss much.  Later, I yearned to know the intricacies of the language so I could really understand the stories that the old men told while sitting in the piazzas.

But today, I sit under the big tree in our front yard at an old table made from a hollowed out tree trunk and sip the amazing wine made by my beloved.  He learned at the hands of his father, who learned at the hands of his father.  I love when they push away talk of expanding the business, knowing full well, that one cannot put this much care and thought into wine made in mass production.  The love can literally be savored in every sip.  The warm summer sun shines down, the barn swallows swoop in and out- busy with nest making as I sit and gaze out over the long perfectly manicured rows of vines.

This is what I remember.  This is what I love, this nothingness.  There is nothing to do, nowhere to go.  Only to live in the moment, enjoy each breathe, each kiss, and each sip of wine.

Change the Situation or Change Your Response to It

When you really boil it down, there are only two solutions to every dilemma- Change the situation or change your response to it.  If you find that you absolutely cannot go on any longer in a situation, then change the situation.  Change your morning routine, change your diet and exercise program or perhaps it is who takes responsibility for the household finances.  The beauty of it is, that when you change a situation, the others involved in it must also change.  It is a natural law.


I had a client who was overwhelmed. There was just too much on her plate. She was constantly worried about money even though her and her husband lived comfortably and within their means.  She didn’t trust him to handle the checkbook because years before he made some mistakes.  Because this one issue was both stressful and time consuming for her, we decided we could kill two birds with one stone.  The result was amazing.  Not only did her husband step up and willingly take charge, but he was deeply touched that she believed in his mature ability.  He felt important and trustworthy in the eyes of his wife and worked extra diligently to make sure the bills were taken care of.  Her marriage improved in others areas.  He found others ways to take some pressure off of her.  He thrived on becoming her hero and she openly praised him.


If your morning routine is always rushed and full of shouting and tug of war- change the situation.  Decide together, how can we make mornings more pleasant.  Pack lunches the night before, set up the coffee maker, lay out the clothing and gather papers.  Sometimes something so simple as starting a bit earlier for your commute, arrive early and use the few minutes before you must start work to review your calendar or plan a vacation.   You will be in a better mood and start the day so much more relaxed and happy, rather than in panic mode.  Your co-workers will respond to the new you.


When we decided to divide the household chores, my former husband agreed to do laundry.  The problem was he would wait until he had nothing left to wear and it piled so high that it took over our closet, making me crazy.  So rather than stew about it, I decided to bag up the clothing and put in in the laundry room.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I didn’t look at it and he did it on his own sweet time.  Of course it took him all day but that was his choice.


Your partner snores.  They get throat surgery or breathing strips, you get earplugs or sleep in the other room.   Change the situation.


If there is a situation that you can’t change, then change your response to it.  Stop letting it bug you.  It is a choice.  What you focus on grows and what you ignore dies.  In Lamaze, women are taught to redirect their pain by focusing on an object and keep remembering the joy the new baby will bring.  Don’t talk about a nagging situation or rehash it in your mind.  You give it more power. When you catch yourself, turn off the voice in your head and think about 10 things you love about your life or focus on something beautiful- like a flower or a picture.  These small adjustments can reap huge rewards!