Over the Edge? Not Me!

Retirement! Retirement? Retirement brings up a lot of emotions and reactions. For some it’s the looking forward to leaving the daily grind of work and can’t wait to retire. For some it’s a loss as they hit that age of required retirement. For others it can be scary and what the hell am I going to do with my time. For all it’s certainly an opportunity, to explore new avenues. For me, and my husband, it’s been our greatest time of spiritual growth. A huge factor that has contributed to that has been our branching out and giving of ourselves, volunteering. But, and here’s the really important but, not at the expense of draining and giving our lives away. If it doesn’t bring joy, fulfillment, or other good things it’s not for me.

I’ve been semi-retired for over ten years now, my husband fourteen years. Both of us, professional people, he an attorney, me a nurse practitioner (NP). He headed up one of the legal departments at NASA. Me, I worked in the second busiest ER in Los Angeles County. Neither of us wanted to give up our professional work, all those years of education and experience. We weren’t ready to let go. I researched how we could put our expertise to good use without the stress of commitment, obligation, or work drudgery. We both had a need to be of service, a heart’s desire to contribute and give back for all our years of the great fortune of living where we do, having meals on our table, gaining an education, and being geographically safe.

My husband set out to connect with the Self-help legal clinic in the county courthouse where we live. He’s been there now over ten years. From that he’s branched out to becoming a volunteer small claims court pro-tem judge. When he’s not involved in his work at the courthouse, he gives his time to the Westminister Free Clinic as a pro-bono attorney. I also volunteer at the aforementioned clinic as an NP, working alongside other NPs, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, and health educators who freely give of their time to service the poor. Every Wednesday night over a hundred and fifty people ascend on this clinic, in a church in Ventura County, CA. as their only means of support. It is non-government funded and an absolute blessing to work at. I call it our own little Peace Corps in Ventura County. It has filled me with a sense of well-being to be able to show up and help, expecting nothing in return other than a thank you or smile from someone in need. Volunteers there range from receptionists, kitchen workers (the diabetic patients are fed from food donated from restaurants throughout the county), pharmacist, nurses, greeters, etc. There’s always room for someone to come and help and be a part of a great team of compassionate people.

Why the mention of this particular clinic? It’s just one example of what’s available at the other end of looking into what can I do to volunteer. There are hundreds of other similar places where one can go to help. Hospitals, libraries, schools, museums, homeless shelters, animal rescue groups, emergency rescue groups—like the Red Cross, and a lot of other similar places.

My husband and I took a class in mediation and both of us go to the court every Friday morning and volunteer our time doing small claims court mediation. We work along side a group of other retired professionals helping people settle disputes. That’s extremely rewarding. Opportunities like this exist all over the world.

I also love to write and have published a novel and am about to release my second one. All the profits from my work go to save dogs from kill-shelters. What does this have to do with volunteering? I volunteer my time as a writer; my end product is to be a small part of the solution to end the suffering resulting from the overpopulation of dogs. I do volunteer blog posts and give of my time this way. For those of you who love to write or who have always dreamed of writing here’s a way for you to marry volunteering and giving of your time with helping further a cause. The feeling I get from doing this is worth gold to me. Writing is a way for those who are homebound or have limited activity to contribute. Other things to do at home as a volunteer are helping non-profits with mailings and phone calls. No contribution is too small.

Ever dreamed of being on television, on a movie set, connected with radio shows? There are volunteer activities connected with these as well. After having the great fortune of being interviewed on a public TV station, I asked about volunteer hosting positions. I was interviewed, did a trial run hosting two shows, and am now on the on-call list as a public TV host. A lot of fun!

The possibilities of fulfillment and enjoyment are endless with a little research, a few phone calls, and showing up. If it’s not for you, you’re not committed and can try another thing until you find your fit. For me, and my husband, volunteering has enriched our lives. It doesn’t stop us from traveling, spending time with family, as we set our schedule, show up when we can—responsibly—and do what we can to help make the world a better place.


  1. This gave me some good ideas to try out in my retirement years. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Rose. I’m happy to hear this. Paulette

  3. Wonderful article, Paulette. Have pen will travel. Congratulations.

  4. I’m so impressed by all you both do, by your commitment, by your energy, by your big giving hearts. You really do demonstrate that retirement is just the beginning for a whole new life, with more freedom and much to contribute.

  5. Paulette, what a wonderful article. I know several retirees who volunteer, and they have nothing but good things to say about the organizations they volunteer for, and the work itself. It is truly a worthwhile endeavor. Thank you for your perspective. I suspect this article will ignite more than one person to step forward and volunteer. Take care, Bill

  6. I quite naturally agree with Terry…Good article, but I would add great article for ideas for they who do not have, volunteering experience, and ideas of Paulette and Terry. The informative ideas and the level of volunteering potential, and range of achievement possibilities, border on an educational course for a do good retirement life.

    Bravo to you both for your contributions, and bravo again to you Paulette for your well presented and helpful article. JJ

  7. Thank you so much, Teresa, Alison, Bill, and Jean-Jacques for joining the conversation and enriching the experience. Alison: it was your wonderful article on the travel you and your husband, Don, wrote about that inspired me to leave a comment which brought me to Simone’s attention and this article. A wonderful lesson in sharing, even if only words. Grateful for this terrific cyber community we’re all a part of. Paulette

  8. Until reading this enlightening article, I didn’t realize you and your husband volunteered so much of your time to so many causes. The help you both give is invaluable to both humans and animals, and obviously much needed. You are doing a wonderful thing and you have my admiration for it; the satisfaction you get out of it must be very rewarding.
    I volunteer at our local Animal Welfare Centre and nothing compares to the feeling you get out of helping others and knowing you are making a difference.
    I’m sure your article gives an insight into volunteering that will help many retirees make the decision to do the same.

  9. You set such a good example and it reminds me I need to get back in the habit of doing more volunteer work now that I’m not in the classroom. I used to figure all the “extra” tutoring hours, etc. counted 😉

  10. I am a fan of Paulette and this just made me applaud her even more, what a fantastic lady. I love the decision to volunteer and the balance in their lives.
    I love how she has so much to share and does so ! BRAVO

  11. Thank you, Barb, Jeri, and Catalina. Barb: Your helping animals in shelters is such a great gift to help ease some of the suffering and give the shelter staff badly needed support. Jeri: tutoring and helping students is a great gift of service on your part and all you continue to do to help others through your blog is greatly appreciated by many. Catalina: your kindness of spirit and all you do to help your author friends around the world is admirable. All these things you do, my friends, speaks a lot for making the world a better place and I thank you. Paulette

  12. Beautiful article! I’m glad for you … and thank you for writing it.

  13. You set the bar high, Paulette!

  14. Wow. You are an inspiration. Ventura county is lucky to have you two.

  15. Thanks so much, Marilyn, Denise, & Julia. It’s heartening to see how many kindhearted people are out there trying to make a difference. It balances a lot of the not so nice things going on around the world. We feel very lucky to be able to contribute and be a part of this.

  16. Great article, my friend. I feel like a rock star just knowing you! The world is a better place having people like you in it and now you’re inspiring others to follow in your over-sized shoes!

  17. Very kind of you, Lorna. You certainly shine with regards to your big heart and willingness to help others, the gift you have to make people laugh and how you touch on all our emotions with so much compassion. Grateful to call you my friend.

  18. What a beautiful way to spend your “retirement”. It is a privilege to be your friend.

  19. So great to see you here, Holly. The privilege is felt about our friendship this end as well. You have a most generous giving heart and do so much to help others and make the world a better place. You’re a gem.

  20. Hi Paulette,
    Wonderful to find you here. You and your husband set a high bar! Love the idea of mediation at small claims court. Looking forward to reading your new book.

  21. Thank you so much, Julia. Mediation has been very rewarding for us as volunteers, doing the dispute resolution. In this day and age, it’s so nice to see two (sometimes many more than two) people come together to settle a situation and not need to take it before a judge. Thank you for mentioning my new book. I hope it helps a lot of dogs. Love, Paulette

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