My friend Francine, a former French teacher in Colorado, retired the same year as I did. She and her husband Harvey moved to Las Vegas, where they followed their passions. Harvey sells high-performance German automobiles such as Audis. Besides substitute teaching regularly, Francine also plunged into show business. She has been an extra in many films shot in Vegas and if she’s not acting, she is a production assistant. I have watched her in Rush Hour II, The Hangover, and Up In The Air, for example. She’s also a model who recently had a full-page spread in a national magazine. She has learned so much about Vegas that she can give a marvelous tour. My traveling friends and I can vouch for that. Below you can see a photo and the commentary she wrote about her most recent experience:

This is what I was up to last night. Resting up today! I’m the skinny one (wearing gray leggings) in between the blond and the dark-haired gal just before we let the bikini gals onto the pool deck. I was production assistant.

All day yesterday and last night, I worked as a PA on the Cosmo-Nivea 2010 Bikini Bash on the pool deck of Planet Hollywood. There were big wigs all over the place and media coverage from all over the country. Mario Lopez was the announcer and MIDI Mafia was the group that performed. I was hired as one of only seven people to wrangle the hundreds of bikini-clad women at precisely 7:30 pm to form the letters “NIVEA” and then “COSMO.” There were photographers on top of the roof filming it all. I was assigned to the “O” and the “I.” We “Wranglers” wore headsets and took orders from the director who told us exactly when to get all the gals into position for the photo shots. No easy feat, but it all came off without a hitch. All the other members on my team were with the LVCVA, (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority). It was my fellow-actress friend and colleague who was project manager for the entire event and it was she who got me the job. It was a privilege and an honor to have been hired for such a key position and I hope it’ll lead to more jobs with them. Coverage of the entire event will appear in the August issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. Can’t wait to see it.”

Here’s the link if you want to see the stars and bikini-clad women involved:

Francine is in photo # 10.

I am sharing this with my readers for several reasons. One is that I’m very, very proud of her accomplishments and indomitable spirit. She does whatever she needs to do to get where she wants to be. Secondly, even though life has dealt her some severe blows, she remains constantly positive and encouraging to all she meets. She says thank you for what she receives. She has fun. She makes everybody laugh.

The most important reason for my sharing Francine with you is to show us all an example of what life in retirement can be. When you know your passions and then live them, you are a happy person and you make others happy by association.

Recently, I met a former male colleague of mine by chance at our post office. I asked how he was and he said, “Not happy. I don’t like retirement. You can play with grandkids and play golf only so long, and then what?”

This problem does not compute with me. Before I retired from teaching, I made a list pages long of what I wanted to do with my life once I actually had time to have a life.

Exercise was first on that list. I started with water aerobics and since have added Zumba Dance. I do yoga and sometimes Qi Gong. Moving oneself is such a wonderful celebration of being in a body.

Garden. Our house had nothing when we moved here except a quarter-acre vegetable garden spot and a strip up the front walk and across the front for flower beds. Now there are the west, east, north, shop, and herb flower beds. There are numerous trees. The garden spot now sports wildflowers and a variety of berries besides a plethora of vegetables and a hidden square inside a hedge of giant sunflowers. From the garden I preserve what we eat all year, either through canning, freezing, or dehydrating. From that I make gifts to give throughout the year to friends and family. What we can’t use, I give to our local Salvation Army foodbank.

Travel. I took students to France, England and Spain while still teaching, and two graduating students took me to Ireland. I’ve been to Greece with my daughter. I’ve been to Mexico with my son. I’ve been to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia/Cape Breton Island, Mexico, Hawaii, Alaska, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, California, Nevada, Canada and Costa Rica with my husband. My friend Cecilia and I have been to Mexico, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona, South Carolina, and Quebec. With my childhood friend Janis, I have been to Boston and San Francisco. With my Burns, Oregon friend Roseann, I have been to California, Savannah, Mexico (where we learned to speak Spanish), Boston, New Orleans and the Cajun country. I have been to visit my friend Martha in Georgia, and together we traveled to North Carolina. I have visited my friend Jerry in Los Angeles. I love to travel because I learn so much and meet such interesting people.

Hint: a great way to travel is through the company that used to be called Elderhostel: Exploritas. Not only do you see the sights but you are educated about them by experts beforehand. One price takes care of food,lodging, and travel expenses and arrangements for the entire trip. I have met amazing people by traveling this way. I learned about this company from my friend Myrla who went to a music gathering every summer. Because of Exploritas, I looked forward to being 50.

Music was on my list. I could already play a few chords on the guitar, so I decided to try something else and I took up the violin. Then my violin teacher left in the middle of the night for parts unknown and my bow was left dangling in the breeze. Almost two years ago, I saw the local music store was offering mandolin lessons and being someone who loves bluegrass, I signed up to get me some learnin’. I am finally learning music and I have fun. Best of all, I get to sing.

I love singing. My brother and my nephew both have karaoke set-ups so there’s a lot of singing going on when our family gets together for birthdays, anniversaries and general merriment. I’m a believer of sound therapy. I know that singing and chanting keeps me mentally and physically healthy.

Write. I was able to pick up my freelance career which I had to drop in the 90’s due to teaching and I wrote again for small magazines. I also have been writing poetry, short stories, collaborating on screenplays, and just recently, have finished revising my middle grades novel and will be showing it to publishing agents in August.

Pay attention. I don’t sit much, but when I do, I sit with purpose. I breathe. For a year I wrote a poem a day about what I saw when I paid attention and you know what? I fell in love. What a miracle every day is! Now if I see something beautiful when I’m driving somewhere, I can stop and look deeply.

Have fun. Every day. I do.

My “to-do” list is so long, I haven’t even got to the end of it and I think that’s the way life should play out.

For at least ten minutes my colleague and I listened and spoke about his predicament. He had mistaken his career for who he was, and when he retired, he was left with no framework. He had no idea who he was. That’s why I encouraged him to seek out his passions because I know that once he finds them, he’ll know who he is and what to do. In the meantime, I suggested that since he’d been a coach, and I knew the YMCA always needs coaches, perhaps that would be a good place to start. Service to others is always a good place to start.

Francine knows that, which is why she still substitutes, why she is often a production assistant, and why she was successful herding hundreds of women into the letters “I” and “O.” I’ll bet she was hilarious doing it.

Below is a photo Harvey took of Francine when she got home. She had been given one of the bikinis in thanks for her work and so she modeled it for all of us to enjoy.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come most alive because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman


Leave a Comment