Mess & Metamorphosis: The Dao of Preparation

One of the things I struggle with is keeping my home organized.

Getting ready to move (as part of my retirement planning) has provided a lesson in the dao of preparation for my total life change.

Cotton boll has many transformations
Cotton boll undergoes many transformations in its growth-use cycle.

Moving has been my excuse for letting things pile up. There was no reason to think that packing a mess is easier than packing well-organized possessions; the opposite is true.

Mail on the dining room table has become a pinwheel of papers. Notebooks and receipts, thick envelopes and catalogs swirl in dizzying disorganization.

Closets are easier to keep organized than rooms.

I can label the shelves, baskets, and other organizers. I put clothes where they belong no matter how tired I am, because labels make it easy.

Mail is the biggest time waster.

Some people say to chuck everything you don’t need to read on the spot. I don’t want to read anything on the spot when I get home late.  And I often forget or avoid it later.

As I searched for my phone book beneath the current cache of political ads, needless paperwork from various vendors, and miscellaneous ephemera — I noticed the melange was loosely arranged in three piles from less urgent to most.  Not bad for a subconscious sorting mechanism.

Out of this stew, a total life change is being formed. The caterpillar metamorphoses into a gooey mess before emerging as a butterfly. We often don’t like to think about the deep chthonic stew from which life emerges: ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Except ashes and dust are euphemisms for the ooze, gunk, and stink that fertilize transformation.

We avert our eyes and our noses; only the brave investigator of the soul confronts such reality. Meditating on life’s inevitable changes — those that may be part of life or retirement planning and those that take us by surprise —

are part of wisdom.

Realizations such as this one are rewarding parts of the journey and confirm that for now this is my dao.


The Dao, Patience, and Planning

The dao of moving forward toward my goal of total life change — making a home for

Roselane Bull ceramic object
Roselane Bull

a Doberman Pinscher companion and me — is testing my patience. My astrological avatar, Taurus the Bull, is supposedly both patient and a bit lazy.


I plead guilty to the latter. Dog obedience training helped me develop patience. How can anyone be mad when a Doberman is so eager to please and fixes me with those soulful brown eyes?


I have been looking for home opportunities online. Home buying isn’t easy in my low price range. Satellite street view is my friend surveying neighborhoods.

Patience and Information Gathering

Another part of my total life change planning is contacting Training Clubs up and down the Florida East Coast and

Read moreThe Dao, Patience, and Planning

The Dao of GPS

Many colored cars lost in a maze, and a sign marked Find Your Way helps point the way
GPS makes it easy to find your way.

I welcomed myself to the 21st century in May by buying a GPS for the car. As a result, I discovered the DAO of the GPS. It is so much easier to focus on driving with this device.

I have wasted too much time missing an exit and having to take a long way around, or being lost in a neighborhood trying to find a house for sale.

South Florida is laid out on an East-West/North-South grid. If you know where the sun rises and sets, it’s hard to go too far wrong — unless you are in suburban neighborhoods of endlessly curling lanes.

It usually takes me by surprise when anyone says they don’t know the difference between the southwest corner of an intersection or the northeast, because they don’t know directions. How can that be in South Florida?

Mountain communities like the one in which I grew up are a little different. Roads follow the paths of rivers and old trails, some of these as ancient at the Native Americans. I planned to drive through at least four Florida communities, taking a glance at homes for sale. I decided I couldn’t do that efficiently with maps.

This Magellan GPS that does not include voice activation is wonderful. It got all the directions correctly to the local places where I was going.

When I changed the route home, however, the device relentlessly repeated that I should make a U-turn in 150 yards at 67th Street . . . . in one-quarter mile at 90 street . . . and so on until the device fell silent, no doubt sulking because it didn’t get its own way. It is rather like an annoying passenger in that regard.

It points out stoplight cameras.

I think I’ve decided on St. Augustine, but that market may be a bit overheated and out of my reach.

So I’m pulling out the GPS again for a peak at some places up in Martin County and beyond. The dao of the GPS is the dao of finding my place and the one where I can have the last great love of my life.

Total Life Change: The Dame, The Dog, and the Dao

Total life change is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

Change begins with choice.

As young adults, we embrace these choices. It is the first time you can change your world, for many of us, freed from the rules and expectations of others, to the degree we are comfortable unfettering ourselves.

We start our careers, find life partners, move from one city to another, discover new foods, new music, arts, interest, and hobbies, and we may travel and explore the world. It is a great adventure.

By the time we are ready for retirement reinvention, we’ve been knocked about by life. We recognize that the voyage to change your world is not always the idyllic cruise of our youthful imaginings. I am comforted when I feel as if I am following the dao, the right path, for me.

This infographic portrays the three areas of learning as I embrace my total life change.


Home is all about this Dame. I am a Taurus, and my home is my sanctuary.

I spent several months doing online research about where to live, coordinating real estate prices, climate preferences, and kennel club locations. During a drive from North Carolina to South Florida, I did drive-bys of 14 homes in four communities in which I did expanded drive-throughs to check out the neighborhoods.

I could not have accomplished this time-consuming research without a GPS. This was my first experience with one. It was heaven to be freed from maps and pulling over to read them.

I already knew that my budget affords marginal neighborhoods.

This long day of driving narrowed my search down to one area of St. Augustine and resigned me to manufactured housing. Change begins with choice, and making these decisions are necessary toward taking actionable steps.

Now I am educating myself about manufactured housing, including what to look for, whether to buy a used mobile and transport it to my own lot (yes), the differences between cement pads, runners, and pilings (also called footers), utilities hook-ups, and cost of transporting the unit.

An unexpected benefit of this has been two long, nice conversations with my bro who knows a great deal about mobile homes and construction. Our relationship has not always been easy for either of us! I appreciate having his expert advice.

Simultaneously, I have been educating myself about health testing for Doberman Pinschers and updating my knowledge of the great breeding kennels in the US.

I am making slow progress on the dread financial and legal front, a part of my life I have been putting off for decades – so why rush into now as I close in on 70? That’s an ironical aside. Without this part of my plans supporting home and dog, no matter how right it may feel, there can be no dao.

There are days when I consider no longer having my campus job as a touchstone of my reality. My work has been a large and important part of my identity. Not having this income makes total life change seems as fearsome as entering the cave of Daenarys’s dragons.

Mostly, my retirement reinvention is giving me a renewed sense of vibrancy, energy, and life.

Doberman Pinschers: Breeding Counts

Breeding counts for Doberman Pinschers, perhaps more than for many other breeds. They are powerful, intelligent, and have a strong drive to relate to humans.

Last night, I was studying the bloodlines of the late great L’Ombre. My heart beat a little faster when I reviewed the many outstanding champions in his background.

The World of Doberman Pinschers does a fine job of tracing the histories of the great kennels in the USA and other countries. (This site earns a small commission if you click through from this ad to the amazon site.)

It also explains the basic principles about the breed I learned from the breeder and the excellent trainers at the Baltimore Kennel Club who taught me to handle this animal of distinction.

Most people just want a family dog who won’t dirty in the house, is fun for the kids, likes to chase frisbees, and barks without being aggressive when strangers come into the yard.

And that’s enough for most people.

Dobermans may make excellent family pets, but that is not what they were bred to do.  Their outstanding intelligence and train-ability is squandered.

Chaining a Dobe to stake in the yard and slopping food and water down is a crime. It is not wonder these super-brains and super-athletes of the dog world go nuts in such circumstances.

Upon announcing my plans to train another Doberman, a reader of another site remarked on my fur baby.

I never considered L’Ombre my baby; he was my best friend and my guardian. We were a team. Training becomes a dao — a path that you follow together in almost telepathic communication.

I urge anyone considering adding a Doberman Pinscher to your home to do your homework. Do you have the time and interest to make full use of the considerable abilities of this elegant, powerful, and active creature?

This dame developed a bit of agoraphobia when I was dragged down 11 cement steps by a mugger. L’Ombre was my escort and was often invited to parties with me — including one Christmas dinner at my minister’s home.

I realize that over these past dozen years I have become isolated, because fear of being alone walking about still affects me. I like walking around my world and seeing the sights, so I am looking forward to this special teamwork again.

It is well worth changing my life to make it so.


How to Follow the Dao to Retirement Reinvention

An old flame called me, and I decided to change my life.  Probably not the way you think.

As I talked with my long-ago lover, I realized I had no photo of him nor any other around my home — just one of the man I have been divorced from for decades and will always love.

But there were two of the great love of my life, L’Ombre the Magic Doberman.

In an epiphany, I remembered promising myself I would train Dobes when I retired. And here I am, on the brink of leaving my profession with only the vaguest of plans of when and what I’d do.

The Dao Demands Change

Yet here was the dao demanding a complete retirement reinvention of my late-life self. Once the moment of insight passed, I realized with a slight hitch in my breath that I’d have to change every part of my life.


I have to move from my pet-restricted condo and retire from my local job.

I have to re-educate myself about the breed, because L’Ombre was chosen for me by Roslyn Terhune, an expert.  She helped start the Marine Devil Dog unit in World War II. I have no Roz to make a wise choice for me this time.

I’d have to get my financial affairs in order and face all the other end-of-life details I have put off for decades.

Yet I have an inner knowing of the dao.  It is a force inexorably pulling me forward toward my retirement reinvention. .

The Dao of Retirement Reinvention

This blog is about all the details and life lessons I learn about how to follow the dao to my retirement reinvention. I hope you enjoy the ride.