Choosing My Life, Part 2

I just reread Part 1 of this post, written in June, 2019. That was 2 years ago. It was a nice lookback, and I find myself wanting to reflect again on what I’m choosing these days.

I’m still in the garden. This is my 3rd year. I walk over almost every day, even when I can’t think of anything in particular that needs doing. Something always does. It’s summer, and harvest time, and my basket was too heavy to carry home yesterday. Potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers – all abundant, and heavy!

I chose a few years ago to tell everyone I know that I needed a job. And I got one: driving 3 wonderful kids to school and back, and here and there after school. I’ve seen them growing up, and now the eldest has his own car. The writing’s on the wall: my job is winding down. This summer, while they’re away at camp, I chose to answer an add on Craig’s list looking for musicians to play for the residents at a home for elderly with various stages of dementia. That little gig has turned into a bigger job that fits me perfectly and gives me a place to be creative and get paid for it. When I walk in the door, I feel like I’m joining friends. I miss it when I’m not there. My new boss is giving me freedom to create activities for them, and I have lots of ideas. She gave me the go-ahead to start a strength-training program which I do twice a week, and we have done gardening, dancing, a happy hour, nails and hair cutting, and a vision board along with the weekly singing. She’s happy to have found me, and I’m happy to have found her HOME.

I’m still meeting up with my ACOA step group, although we’ve gone virtual and meet on zoom now. It’s still a satisfying part of my week, and a safe place to talk about the challenges of being an adult child working through the process of reparenting my inner child. That looks like a life-long journey, and it’s never boring.

I’ve chosen to move my car insurance from Geico to Travelers, and found a local agent who I can call whenever I have a question. So much better. I love the upgrade, and I’ve made the choice to join the Intellidrive App program and have my driving monitored for the next 500 miles in order to reduce my premium. This is definitely a case of trying something new.

I decided to join during Covid to see if I could find anyone out there who wanted to get to know me. That was a novel and sudden inspiration. Now that Covid restrictions have lifted and most of us have been vaccinated, I’ve been hoping to find someone to meet for coffee, dinner, walks along the seaside, holding hands…It’s been over a year, and not a single bite by anyone I was interested in. I can say I’ve tried, and that’s something. I also know that I can trust the timing. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be. The point is, I’m not completely happy or fulfilled living alone. There is definitely something missing. Emilie is in Europe now, spending time with her Dad in Belgium, and traveling to France with her cousin’s family. Stories of her activities, and seeing pictures of Jean’s smiling face, I know being with her is a very special thing, and her absence will be felt strongly. She and her partner Alexi have decided to marry, another big choice that we are all feeling inspired and happy about. His parents are arriving at the end of this month to visit, and next year around this time all of both of our families will be gathering to witness and celebrate the union of two of our most precious people.

The next big question for Jean and I, and maybe for Alexi’s parents too: how do we want to spend our final years? What’s most important? What will bring us the most joy? And what can we give to our children while we’re still able? Choices need to be made. And they seem BIG and rather daunting. This is a new time in my life. I turned 70 this April, and starting a job working with very elderly has made me recognize my own aging. At first I was shocked. Wow! I’ve lost three inches in height, and I just noticed that my back has the beginnings of a hunch back like my mom’s. For the first time in my life I’m consciously working on my posture every day. My doctor told me I’ve crossed over from osteopenia to osteoporosis, another wakeup call, and I started lifting weights again, and walking up the 4 flights of stairs in my building a couple of times every day to strengthen my hips and my heart. It’s my intention to get stronger and more confident in my body, not just lie down and die 🙂 I’m sharing my program with those elderly residents at the HOME and that’s helping me too. It’s been nine weeks, and I’m checking off the boxes everyday: Walk, chair stands, toe stands, Arm and leg weights (increasing gradually), stairs, mat stretches, push-ups, and plank. I’m back to needing to take a look again at what I’m eating, and do a little tweaking there in the direction of more healthy. Step by step.

One of my band mates is 70 like me. It feels good to have a fellow from the 1951 club in my life. Most of my friends are either younger, or older. When he forgets something at practice, we laugh and give each other a look. Yes, I understand. Me too 🙂 The music is definitely my favorite way to have fun with other people. I’m getting better at relaxing and letting it all hang out, but it’s a challenge to give up that old need to be in control all the time. I’m choosing forgiving friends.

Many of my current choices revolve around doing what I can to insure I’m as fit and healthy as possible for the sake of the future. This is new. Youth usually doesn’t think that way. We tend to forget about aging until we arrive, and then it is often too late. I’m glad to be suddenly spending time with frail 87 and 93 year olds. They remind me of what I do and don’t want to be like when I get to where they are. I’m doing what I can. It is my intention to ask the universe both within and without to guide me. I’ll keep you posted, dearest.

Starting up again

It’s 2020. I’m not feeling so enthusiastic about anything, truth be told. You know when it feels like everyone is out to get you? Or however much you fight, you don’t seem to be winning?

I’ve been prone a lot these days…trying to take the weight off, to keep the stress at bay. It helps. I truly love my bed. It’s definitely a safe space and comfort zone. However, one can’t stay there forever. Lying down isn’t a bad strategy, but life does keep calling.

So today I asked myself, what could I be doing to help myself feel better? And as I was driving home I found myself telling the story of my weight loss a few years back, and was reminded of my TeaTalks days. I could do another Tea Talk. I haven’t thought of that in a very long time. I could reach out and share an inspiring story that might help someone going through the same struggle.

I could do another Tea Talk about joining OA, what led up to it, how I keep the weight off after all this time. I love telling that story. It reminds me that I can do things to help myself. And those are the kind of stories I need to hear and tell right now.

So…I’ll be sharing that story with you soon. This is just the introduction to let you and me know that I’m still here, and I’m starting up again!


LIFE STORY: or how to identify your transferable skills~

S-2 Class
Think of something you did that was really fun, challenging, adventurous, or difficult. It can be from any time in your life. It can be something very simple, like riding your bike for the first time, or that no one even noticed, like my story below. The key point is that you were fully invested, and you overcame a challenge in order to accomplish your desire. You will need to identify 4 things:

1. The Goal: What was it you wanted to accomplish? “I wanted to…”

2. The Obstacle: What was the challenge you had to face and overcome?

3. The Action Plan: What did you do? Outline the steps you took to eventually accomplish.

4. The Result: What did you learn? And how do you know you were successful?


Ever since my dad made fun of the way I answered the phone, I was fearful and avoided answering it like the plague. By the time I was in college, I knew it was time to put my phone phobia to rest. I wanted to feel comfortable answering the phone in my own house! (Goal)

The challenge was I was still SCARED, and would break into a cold sweat when the phone rang and no one else was home to answer. (Obstacle)

So, I decided to make a strategy to challenge my fear. (Action Plan) I wrote all the possible scenarios that might happen: Someone calling for my parents, someone calling for me, wrong number, etc…and wrote down what I would say in each of those events. “Hello? This is Robin….Sorry, she’s not here right now, can I take a message?” The action steps included jumping up and down when the phone started to ring. I knew enough about energetics to realize this would get me into a more positive space, and also get my voice up off the floor.

Result? I became super good at answering the phone. I found out it was fun, once I got the hang of it. To this day, I enjoy answering the phone, and can handle whatever comes through on the other end of the line. Success!!

Now it’s YOUR turn 🙂 Try thinking of a victory you had, an accomplishment that you’re proud of, and analyze what you did to make it happen. Then write it down and SEND IT!

I’m interested to find out how people challenge difficulties, and what inspires and motivates them to do so. If you contribute a brief story, including your name, age, and where the story took place, I will add it to this blog, and you will have become a contributor-at-large. No pay, but it will be an opportunity to reflect on a life lesson, AND read about other people’s experiences.

You can send your LIFE STORY to, or post it directly in the comment section below. Send me a private FB message when you do, so I don’t miss it. And if you need any help with the editing, let me know~ all my Korean students were grateful for that 🙂 Thank you!

To see the life stories written by my Korean students, see or just keep scrolling down. They’re longer than a paragraph because they were prepared for a speech class.

* * *

The LIFE STORY PROJECT is about identifying our unique stories~ reaching into the most important places in your life where you were most alive, most vulnerable, most challenged and most inspired. Richard Nelson Bolles, in his award-winning job-hunters’ Bible, “What Color is Your Parachute?” said that searching for these stories of struggle and success helps us to discover what makes us tick. Hidden between the lines of each of our Life Stories are the keys to our strengths and passions. When faced with something important to us, something that fully absorbed our time and attention, or that posed a significant challenge to us for one reason or another, we found ourselves calling upon our talents and skills to work it out. According to Bolles, finding your life stories is an important way to discover your passion and perfect vocation. He shows us how to take each story apart to discover what skills we used~ what he calls ‘transferable skills,’ meaning they can be used in other areas in our lives. When we use these skills, we are enjoying and expressing our original nature and BEST SELF, so this is what we want to look for in a job or career path.


KMU Stage Fright


“If I ever have to speak in front of many people again, I will never be nervous, thanks to this experience.”

Hello, everyone. My name is Seo Jin. I major in Chinese and Chinese Literature. I’m going to talk about my challenge, stage fright. Every time I had to give a speech in front of many people, I worried about it too much. Once I started my speech, I froze up and completely forgot what I was going to talk about. I couldn’t speak clearly and my hands shook because I felt so nervous. As my nervousness grew, my speech got worse and worse. Finally, I finished my speech almost crying. After it was over, I always regretted that I didn’t feel more comfortable or have more confidence. I thought it was a big problem, not only at that time, but also for my whole life. That’s why I decided to overcome my challenge, and I started to practice speaking in front of people.

What did I do to overcome my fear of public speaking? First, I started talking with my dolls and the wall. I regarded my dolls as an audience and I talked in front of them. I even talked with the fish in the aquarium. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I really did that. Secondly, I tried to answer the teacher’s questions as much as I could during class. That gave me more confidence.

Now, it’s so much better than before. I can speak in front of people without my hands shaking and I don’t feel nearly as nervous as before. I can’t say that I’ve completely overcome my fear of public speaking, because I still feel nervous sometimes, but I’m on my way. I believe that one day I will be able to speak easily in front of thousands of people.
The End

Teacher’s Comments: The LIFE STORY PROJECT was first conceived during a writing assignment by students at Kookmin University in Seoul, Korea.The stories were eventually given as short 2-3 minute speeches in front of the class.

In my job as a teacher of English conversation at Kookmin University, I was constantly faced with students who were in the process of job interviews and resumes and the daunting task of selling themselves in a very competitive job market. I realized that many of them didn’t really know themselves well, and that finding their stories as Nelson Bolles suggested in his bestselling job-hunting book, “What Color is Your Parachute?” would help them discover their strengths and interests.

The assignment I gave them was to write a story from their life about a time that they 1) wanted to do something, 2) faced an obstacle, and 3) overcame it. In the process, they were reminded of interests and strengths that they have, and the rest of us were inspired to hear their accomplishments. The LIFE STORY PROJECT was born! To submit a story, please keep it brief, include your name, age, and where the story happened, and send it to

Thank you! Robin

GREAT TEACHINGS ~ Korean student speaks about his English teacher


GREAT TEACHINGS, A life story by Yoo Bin Heo 

Hello, everyone. My name is Yoo Bin Heo. I’m a freshman at Kookmin University and my major is Public Administration. I’m really glad to meet all of you in this class. Today, I’d like to talk to you about a very special teacher who meant a lot to me in my life.

 Whenever I think of the teachers I had throughout my school life, I always think of Mr. Yang, my English teacher. I learned a lot from him. Not only knowledge, but I also learned wisdom that is essential to my life.

 I met him when I was a junior in high school. He was my English teacher. He always greeted his students with a sweet smile and a kind word. In every class, he always told us exciting or touching stories.

 I figured that Mr. Yang was a very strong-willed man. His family was really poor when he was young, so his parents couldn’t afford the education fees. However, Mr. Yang, who had a great will to study, worked on a farm delivering cabbages to earn money. He studied and studied to get a scholarship at the college. He said that he studied about 15 hours a day. Finally, he got the scholarship and made it through college. Now, he’s a great teacher and tutor.

 I was a very negative and unwilling person before I met Mr. Yang. Since I was very young, my mother wanted me to try new things and gave me lots of chances to do what I wanted to. However, I never continued or finished anything I began. For instance, I started learning piano when I was in kindergarten. I played until I was in 4th grade in elementary school and then I quit. The reason I quit was because it was getting harder and harder. I was always like this during my school life. When something got harder, I lost interest and gave up.

 However, after I heard Mr. Yang’s story, which was like a drama, I felt I wasn’t trying hard enough. I saw in him the exact example of the proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Before that, I had always been negative about any challenge. I was afraid of failing and I also had no purpose. However, since Mr. Yang, I feel very different than before. Now I know that if I think I can do something, I can do it.

 I sincerely appreciate Mr. Yang for giving me courage by being a great example. I’m glad I was one of his students. Thanks to him, whenever I feel discouraged by my situation or any obstacle, I don’t give up anymore. He taught us great teachings, both academically and spiritually.

Did you ever have a teacher like Mr. Yang in your life, or were you ever strongly impressed by someone close to you? I hope so!


Editor’s Note: After hearing this story, I asked Yoo Bin Heo if he had told his teacher how he felt. When he said no, I suggested he make sure he did. So often the teacher never knows where his precious wisdom has taken root.


Teaching at KMU

As a former lecturer in the General Education Dept at Kookmin University, I taught conversational English, which in my courses included speech writing, presentation skills and public speaking, as well as an out-of-class real-life assignment interviewing foreigners. Over the course of my 6 years at KMU, I collected hundreds of life stories from my students.

When I first started asking students to write about a turning point in their lives, I knew I was on to something important. Listening to them recount their challenges and subsequent victories, I knew these stories should be heard by a wider audience, and the Life Story Project started taking shape.

1)An anthology of short stories about the lives of university students in Korea;
2)A textbook for teachers, including guided lesson plans, sample speeches, and comments from students;
3)An interactive website for university students, both in Korea and abroad, where they can submit written stories in English, ask for and receive help with topic ideas, basic writing skills, grammar corrections, and proofreading, ending up with a polished work published in an anthology.

There is a recent interest in many countries to know more about Koreans, and a fascination with the culture of what used to be called the ‘hermit kingdom’ but now has a woman president for the first time, and all kinds of artists and performers like PSY taking the world by storm.

If you are interested in supporting or contributing to this project, contact me at, or here on my website. For more information about how to submit your own Life Story, see for guidelines and a sample story.

Thank you,
Robin Debacker
Liege, Belgium

THE JOY OF WRITING, IN THEIR OWN WORDS: An Anthology of Speeches, PLUS Writing Tips, Teaching Guidelines, and Feedback from Students~ Compiled and edited by Robin Debacker at Kookmin University, Seoul, Korea, 2007-2012