These Happy Golden Years

This article on These Happy Golden Years was written by Irwin Lengel after interviewing Marlene Caroselli, author of many books and a very busy retiree!

What better way to talk about all the fun years one has facing them when they retire than to talk to and then write about those individuals that have – forgive the pun – “been there and done that”!

Most of us learn by watching and listening to others. Our mission in this case has led us to meet a former Californian now residing in Rochester, New York whose story would have a forty-year old catching their breath trying to keep up. Below is her story:

Marlene Caroselli, by her own words, will soon be a septuagenarian. Merriam-Webster’s definition of septuagenarian is: a person whose age is in the seventies. Marlene’s own thoughts about becoming a septuagenarian were that for the ten years prior to becoming a septuagenarian, she had hoped that the first syllable of the word describing those ten years would be part of her sixties. But, alas it was not.

That did not stop her though. Marlene happily eased out of her career - a schedule, mind you that had her working six days a week and averaging three books a year – and eased into what we all fondly tend to call our “golden years.” Part of this easing process involved her moving from Los Angeles to Rochester, New York (that is, in this writer’s opinion – a transition itself) where she cared for her aging parents. A transition such as this required the need to make all kinds of new connections.

Previously, Marlene had worked as a corporate trainer – delivering seminars all over the country (and abroad) for Fortune 100 firms and for federal agencies. In her “free” moments, she wrote. After the death of her parents, Marlene soon realized that she needed to find outlets for the pleasure she derived from being busy.

The following is a brief glimpse into the daily life of how yet another retiree enjoys her retirement years:

Marlene starts her days living the “life aquatic” by water-walking an hour each morning at the local YMCA. Afterwards she makes her way to her workroom where she makes gift baskets and does art work for 140 (yes, you read that correctly) 140 local charities. Her charities with whom she works now number 140. By the way, in case you do not know it, Rochester, beginning with philanthropist George Eastman and advancing to today's Tom Golisano is a city known for its giving.

This is her passion in retirement. Not surprisingly, she derives great pleasure from this. It gratifies her in knowing that one of her birthday bags given to a homeless man at a soup kitchen will provide a momentary happiness that otherwise would not have existed.

After her “downstairs time” as she affectionately calls the time spent working on her baskets and art work, she makes her way upstairs for lunch and computer work. During this time, she answers email, responds to HARO (Help a Reporter Out) requests, and writes blogs for the local newspaper. Having done all that, after supper, if she is so inclined, she may return to the art work downstairs and answer the mail delivered by snails (you know, the mail we used to look forward to before all the latest technology came into being). Her evening hours are spent reading or watching television. While Marlene hasn’t given up on the hope that someday she might find a husband, her only request is that the Man upstairs continues to provide her with good health.

Now that is a fulfilling retirement! I am still somewhat amazed that she works with 140 charities. Among Marlene's favorite charities is Rochester's Breast Cancer Coalition (BCC), primarily because her own mother died of the terrible disease.

BCC recently published this vignette Marlene wrote about her mother.

You can view many of Marlene Caroselli's books on AmazonHere!

“FIX YOUR OWN SUPPER!”

Written by: Marlene Caroselli

She was a sweet little ravioli of a woman. At age 85, she was saucy and spunky and still thought she was sexy. When our local supermarket, for example, was displaying fresh fish beneath a banner that proclaimed "Catch of the Day," she strode right up to the good-looking man behind the counter and announced, "If you are the catch, I'll take all I can get!"

She was a collector; my father, by contrast, a minimalist. One day he entered her sewing room, known among insiders as "the junk room," and sadly shook his head. (Clearly, he was not familiar with Edison's assertion that "it's easy to create. All you need is a good idea and a lot of junk.")

With dismay, he looked around at the amassed stacks--ribbons and sewing machines, sergers and scissors, buckram and buttons, zippers and gimp, bobbins and lace, and uncountable bolts of fabric. Then he made his logical pronouncement: "If you haven't used something in a year, get rid of it."

She daggered him with a dirty look and quickly responded, "I haven't used you in 30 years. Does that mean I should get rid of you?"

Breast cancer diminished that spunky spirit of hers, but it could never extinguish it completely. My mother created beautiful things all of her life, including the smiles that appeared on people's faces after only a few minutes of being in her presence. She even made the surgeon who performed her mastectomy laugh when she told him--just before they gave her anesthesia--"If I don't survive, make my daughter bury me next to Frank Sinatra. And have her inscribed my gravestone: ‘Frank, let's do it your way!’ "

But hers was not an easy life. She made dozens of wedding gowns (often free of charge because the brides could not afford to pay her). By nature, she was an emotional marshmallow, placing compassion well ahead of compensation. Of course, there have been those who have taken advantage. Like the woman who owned a building and the business it housed. She hired my mother to make drapes for every window in the place. When the work was done, she asked what the bill was. "Twenty-four dollars a window," my mother replied.

A few days later, my mother received a check in the mail for $24....total. And she never had the courage to call and ask the businesswoman for the remainder. Then, there were those who would tell her they could not afford to pay just then as their money was in a CD and they didn't want to lose interest by withdrawing it. Could they pay her in a few months, they would inquire.

Invariably, my mother the marshmallow would tell them not to worry about it. And, of course, they did not. The few months passed by and it was not the customer, but my mother who was embarrassed about the unpaid bill--too embarrassed to call those customers and ask for what was due her.

But she never let these experiences diminish her zest for life. They never stunted her creative spirit. Once, she was chosen a runner-up in a national contest sponsored by the American Plastics Council for re-using plastic products. And, she wrote recipes for the George Foreman Grilling Machine. The title of her recipe collection? "Boxer Shorts"!

Her most remarkable idea, however, was an invention she sold to a major American manufacturer when she was 70 years old. In hundreds of thousands of homes across the nation, her Continental drapery rod adds elegance to window treatments. Produced by the Kirsch Company, it has proven to be a drapery bestseller and has created work for a great many people. During the creation process, though, my father, in a slightly jealous mode, belittled her invention. "You are acting like you put a man on the moon," he told her.

When she received her first royalty check, she made a copy of it and left it with a note for my father, on the kitchen table. "Dear Pasquale," it read. "Taking my first trip to the moon. Fix your own supper!" Then she took off for a two-week vacation ...all by herself.

As you can see, retirement should not be looked upon as a destination. Retirement should be looked at as yet another step in this wonderful journey called life.

Thank you - Marlene - for sharing your retirement story with us. Irwin



Wendy: Irwin, this was a fantastic story. WOW.. wish I had half her energy and wit at 65, let alone in my 70s! Loved reading the story of Marlene's mother too! The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree! Marlene, you go girl! I am so thrilled to have read your story -- pure inspiration for those who follow your path! Thank you for sharing!