June 26, 2018

Not Really Retired & Still Making Better Happen

When my husband retires in July after almost forty years as a busy urologist, I told him he could sleep and do nothing for a few years, and I would never say a word. Yet, I find myself taking note of others who are busier in retirement than they were while working. They aren’t sitting around lazy all day but are delving into interests they never had time to indulge in before. If that’s not enough, they’re choosing to invest in others and Make Better Happen in their communities. 

Dr. Steve Floyd, Conway

Many know Steve as a doctor of education (Ed.D.). For 30-plus years, Steve poured his life into hundreds of students as an assistant superintendent in Russellville’s School District, superintendent for the Lakeside School District, assistant professor in Elementary Education at Arkansas Tech University, ending his career in Little Rock as Deputy Director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

A Granada Hills, CA, transplant since he was 19, Steve followed his brother Dave to attend Arkansas State Teacher’s College (now UCA). Since his retirement, Steve has designated days to read to his grandchildren’s classes in Conway and Little Rock. Once a week he volunteers at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.

“What have you gained from your time volunteering at Children’s Hospital?” I ask.

“I enjoy holding and interacting with the babies,” Steve says. “It also allows me opportunities to offer words of encouragement to parents. It’s amazing how grateful the parents and hospital staff are to volunteers. Volunteering is certainly a win-win proposition. The volunteers feel good about their contributions and, in some way, we make a positive impact by lightening others’ loads.”

On other days Steve chauffeurs his wife Nina, an independent Licensed Psychological Examiner, to her appointments around the state. While Nina is testing those with special needs, Steve visits with the guardians who care for them.

“The people we meet are among the kindest, most dedicated and humble people we’ve met,” Steve says. “Many of them have limited financial means and life has dealt them a tough road to travel. However, we’ve yet to hear whining, self-pity or negativity. It’s humbling to interact with them. They are true heroes.”

With five grandchildren, Steve and Nina juggle many days with cross-country races or track events, basketball, soccer games and dance recitals.

“With your retirement, were there any surprises and adjustments you had to make?” I ask.

“Actually I didn’t anticipate a problem adjusting to this different phase of life,” Steve says. “I think every person going into retirement has some questions about adjusting to a different pace. What I didn’t anticipate was how much my identity was so closely tied to my job and career. 

“For over 30 years, I was addressed as ‘Dr. Floyd,’ so it took a few months to adjust to being just Steve Floyd. Now I’m husband, Papa, volunteer, grocery shopper, family cook, etc. I’m comfortable with my transition and happy that I don’t have to be recognized to know that I have other ways to contribute to my family, my community and my friends.”  

Mary Senander—Hot Springs Village

Mary Senander retired from her high-energy job in marketing, and she and her husband Alan moved from Golden Valley, Minnesota, to Hot Springs Village in 2013. Now in her early 70s, Mary is taking advantage of the free tuition offered to those 6o-and-over at public colleges in Arkansas. She’s working on a Master of Arts Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) at UALR. Her focus is gerontology, rhetoric and writing.

“What are you planning to do with this degree?” I ask.

“Do you mean what am I going to do when I grow up?” Mary responds and laughs. “I’m exploring the role of hospitality and design in out-patient clinics. It encompasses the rhetoric of space in waiting and exam rooms, entrances and hallways that balance functionality with soothing colors, art, even music. This all contributes to patient well-being.”

This topic was formed as Mary sat in a lot of waiting rooms with family and friends who faced serious illnesses. Even though researching and writing papers fill some of her time, Mary’s never too busy to gather with new friends and engage in some of the many Hot Springs Village activities.

“Did you know there are over 250 clubs in Hot Spring Village?” Mary reports. “There are two clubs for classic cars. I’m a member of a ladies guild at our church and a G.K. Chesterton Book Club. How great is that?”

Mary also broadens her interests and curiosity by being a part of the Questers Club.

“I’d never heard of the Questers Club before we moved here,” Mary says, “but it’s international and has 13 chapters in Arkansas. The club’s goals fit with my insatiable curiosity in wanting to connect the dots and always seeking to learn more.”

“My chapter is Vapor Valley, and before I had joined they created the ‘Toys of Yesteryear’ display at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library in Little Rock. Now we’re raising funds for ‘beacons’ that narrate stories about the toys.”

“One thing I especially love,” Mary adds, “is the people who choose to move here. Many have lived all over the country, actually all over the world, and they bring their life tales to share. Hearing about their rich histories and cultures fascinates me. Best of all, everyone is so kind.”

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Mary and Alan’s favorite excursions are day trips to explore their adopted state’s many gardens along with historical and art museums.

Janet Fotioo, Hot Springs

The day I spoke with Janet, she had spent her afternoon at her oncologist’s office. After beating Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma three years before with a year of treatments, she found another tumor which meant another year’s worth of treatments.

“Cancer changed my attitude toward life,” Janet recalls. “The things that once bothered me are now insignificant. I try to fill my days with things that really matter.”

Janet was quick to express her undying gratitude for her husband Jim who cared for her with the utmost attention. Now approaching mid-60, Janet’s every two-month IV-drips are preventative measures. With two grandchildren and another one due in August, Janet has many reasons to live long.

Yet, even with her treatment that day, Janet’s week didn’t lag because of it. The next morning Janet was volunteering for Habitat for Humanity’s Hammers and Heels event. On Friday, she was going with Jim to Little Rock where they volunteer annually at the International Greek Food Festival. They were to work at the Loukoumades booth. Jim describes them as “Greek donut holes.”

In their younger years, Janet stayed home with their two daughters until the girls entered school at Lakeside. Then Janet worked in the primary school office, and Jim worked up the hill as principal of the junior high. After Janet’s father died, she shifted her time and energy to help her mother, especially during her mother’s last years.

Now with Janet’s cancer recoveries behind her, she has challenged herself to begin running in 5k races and is working up to a half-marathon.

Most admirably though and without fanfare, Janet and Jim have been exercising kindness. One of Janet’s classmates from high school has special needs and no family. So Janet and Jim are doing what family does.

“Even though Bobby Joe and I went to the same elementary, junior and senior high schools,” Janet says, “he was in the special needs classes, so I didn’t have much interaction with him. Bobby Joe was in the foster care system since he was a baby. He’d get up at 3:00 in the morning and ride his bicycle to a restaurant and cut onions and vegetables before he went to school.”

It was at a high school reunion a few years ago when Janet and Jim realized Bobby Joe needed help. He had broken his leg when he fell through the floor in his mobile home’s bathroom. Those participating at that year’s reunion chipped in to help make repairs.

“Bobby Joe wrote thank you notes to everyone who contributed,” Janet says. “He has such a grateful heart, and he’s always smiling.”

“Once we helped Bobby Joe get organized inside his house and yard,” Jim adds, “he’s done a great job maintaining it. He’s high functioning in many areas.”

One of Bobby Joe’s wishes was to have his poetry published, so Janet took his pages to a commercial printer and had copies printed and bound. Janet and Jim shared a wealth of stories about Bobby Joe’s hardships but also about his fun sense of humor and overcoming spirit. It’s apparent their own lives are being enriched by their times with Bobby Joe. That same week Janet was taking him to get fitted for new dentures.

Recently when Bobby Joe needed some major work done at his house, Janet began a “Go Fund Me” Campaign to help with some of those expenses. Reaching out to fellow classmates of the 1972 Hot Springs High School class, they raised $5,035 in 18 days. Both Janet and Jim agree Bobby Joe’s smile of gratitude surpasses any medal for those who choose to exercise kindness.

Everything You Do Matters

What each of these supposedly retired people chooses to do is share what they have—a little more time to learn more and share more. In Andy Andrews’ small gift book The Butterfly Effect, he shares a big message.

It is a theory Edward Lorenz shared in 1963 that was proven 30 years later: When a butterfly flaps its wings, it sets molecules into action capable of stirring up a hurricane on the other side of the world.

With that in mind, Andrews determines, “Every single thing you do matters. You have been created in order to make a difference. You have within you the power to change the world.”

Make better happen.

Ann Robertson

Ann Elizabeth Robertson, a member of Arkansas Women Bloggers, retired from teaching English, journalism and art to write, paint and grandparent with leisure. Favorite excursions include traveling anywhere with her husband Bill, especially visiting art museums, large and small. Writings and artwork can be seen at her website The Art of Lovely Living (www.annelizabethrobertson.com).