Keep ‘Em Flying

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter

May 12, 2023

by Tom Blake – Senior dating columnist

 “Keep ‘Em Flying” Reflections from Tom

(above photo courtesy of Christy Fisher)

I’ve been writing senior-related eNewsletters for around 20 years. Many of you have been subscribers since then. Today’s is unusual. I am not seeking sympathy from you Champs. I simply had to get some thoughts off my chest.

The last six months have been a blurry, bumpy road for me. During that time since the passing of my life partner, Greta, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on my life and realized it’s important for me to move forward, to seek health and happiness. I’ve concluded that I can’t sit back and hope those things will happen on their own. It’s up to me.

I can improve my chances of maintaining health and rebuilding happiness by reconstructing three things I’ve let slip somewhat during those six months. They are:

1 Career work – I sold my deli in 2016 after 25 years of making sandwiches, serving customers, and managing my staff. In giving those things up, I needed something to keep me busy and my mind active. I am blessed to have been a newspaper columnist for 28 years, and, at my age, to still be writing for nine printed newspapers – three in South Orange County, California.

The other six newspapers are monthly senior publications called 50plus Life in Pennsylvania.

My first article was published on July 7, 1994, in the Dana Point News, which at that time was owned by The Orange County Register, the nation’s 22nd-largest newspaper.

In 2013, I left the Register and switched to a small syndicate called Picket Fence Media which publishes three local newspapers—The Dana Point Times and San Clemente Times (weekly), and The Capistrano Dispatch (San Juan Capistrano (twice monthly).

My fifth printed book was published in 2022, titled, Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark.

Plus, I write this eNewsletter that keeps me busy every week.

I plan to continue writing until the ink runs dry. Will I write another book? Not sure. However, writing keeps my brain working and gives me a weekly purpose and deadlines to meet.

2 Activities to work on – Three things fall under this category that keep me active and happy. The first is exercise, which includes Standup Paddle Boarding in nearby Dana Point Harbor. I aim for three to four times each week depending on the weather and other factors. SUP is good exercise for the entire body and helps with balance, so important for seniors.

I’ve also recently joined a tai chi class, held weekly on a hilltop overlooking Dana Point Harbor, taught by Ron, one of our incredible Champs.

My second project is working on my home in Monarch Beach. I purchased the home new in 1992 and am fortunate to still own it. There were times when things got tough such as the 2008 recession when I considered selling it just to squeak by financially.

But Greta insisted I not sell it and I am so grateful for her advice. With the home now 32 years old, there are always projects to keep me busy. This spring, because of all the rain, the weeds are out of control, and I am slowly removing them. I planted a rose bush in Greta’s honor on her birthday, May 9.

The third activity is a home that I was fortunate to acquire in Palm Springs five years ago. That home was built in the 1970s so there are always maintenance projects out there that keep me busy. A big plus, it’s only a two-hour drive in each direction. A few of our Champs live in the Coachella Valley, where Palm Springs is located.

3. Relationships – I was beyond blessed to have a special relationship with Greta for 25 years. Having her in my life made me happy and I believe kept me healthy. Greta passed away last October 29. While I will miss her forever, I feel having a mate in my life may bring me some degree of happiness. At my age, I don’t have time to wait for even a year to start searching. So, I’ve decided to be proactive in finding a mate. I’m forcing myself to get off the couch and out of the house as much as possible.

I also felt that joining two online dating sites would improve my chances of meeting someone and it gives me a ray of hope that has been missing since Greta passed. Greta told me repeatedly before she passed that she wanted me to spend my final years with a mate. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.

So, I believe pursuing the three categories listed above will help bring me happiness.

5 Simple Phrases

Plus, during these last six months, I have taped to my computer screen these five simple phrases by which to live. They are gentle reminders to me of what’s important in my life.

“Let It Be” – Of course, those words are from the 1970 Beatles song of the same name. When the road gets tough, I try to remind myself of these three words. It has eased the recent stress.

“Don’t Overthink it!” – Sometimes I say to myself, “Should I or should I not?” For example, should I send a message to a potential mate or should I play it cool? Then I remind myself to just follow my heart and not worry about it. Or, at Costco, I think, “Should I purchase that pair of sunglasses for $25 that would give me a nice backup pair.” I say out loud, “Tom, don’t overthink it.”

“Keep ‘Em Flying” On April 15, 2023, I was at an outdoor arts and craft fair in Demuth Park in Palm Springs. I was walking past a booth where a family of six were gathered observing the artwork of a man named Kevin Sullivan. I heard Kevin say to the family, “Each one of you pick a number between one and 20.” And he looked at me, although I was just walking by, and said, “You pick a number also.” I had no idea what was going on. For some reason, I blurted out “17.” A few seconds later, Kevin said, “You won.”

I had won a painting of his called “Keep ‘Em Flying,” of a cartoon character like Snoopy flying an antique airplane. I posted it on my wall at the Palm Springs house. I interpreted that to mean that even though I had lost Greta five months before, I needed to keep on moving forward, in other words, to “Keep ‘Em Flying” and not give up living.

“Are you okay?” I read an article on how to deal with people who are being nasty, argumentative, negative, or combative: disarm them without violence or arguing. The article suggested saying, “Are you okay?” It tosses the ball back into their court without confrontation. I think it’s wise for me to remember those words and use them when appropriate.

And finally, “It doesn’t matter.” I say this when things may not be going as planned or hoped for. They ease stress. It’s a reminder that there are more important things in life than minor mishaps. The words help keep me on the happiness road.

Thanks for listening, Champs, and for letting me vent. I did a lot of reflecting on my life this past week as Greta’s family and I, about 30 of us, held Greta’s celebration of life on Catalina Island on Saturday, May 6. Why did we wait for so long? Because Greta’s birthday was May 9, she wanted the ceremony out there. All four of her children were born there.

I felt blessed to have my two sisters, Christine and Pam, and Pam’s husband, Bob, go with me for support to Catalina Island.

Also, while not attending Greta’s celebration of life, my neighbors, Coleen and Alex, and other neighbors, Kresta and Jake, were on Catalina celebrating Coleen’s and Alex’s wedding anniversary on that day. The four of them went out of their way to meet my sisters and Bob for 30 minutes before we left to attend Greta’s celebration. Having these seven people supporting me lifted me up and made me happy.

And then, after we had scattered Geta’s ashes from a private boat, I received a text from one of our Palm Springs’ Champ’s daughters that her dad had passed away. It was totally unexpected. I had known him for 30 years. Wow, sort of a double whammy on a double-whammy day. I thought to myself: “Keep ‘Em Flying.”

I had plenty of time to reflect on life during that May 6 ferry boat trip from Avalon back to Dana Point (an hour and a half). The notes I jotted down on the boat became the basis for this week’s eNewsletter, which I began writing on May 9 (Greta’s birthday).

Send me some positive stories for future eNewsletters. We all need to “Keep ‘Em Flying.”

Has the senior dating scene changed in 28 years?

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter April 8, 2022

By Columnist Tom Blake

Has the senior dating scene changed in 28 years?

This week, I was rummaging around my computer desktop when I came upon the first newspaper article I wrote. It was published July 8, 1994, in the Laguna Niguel News and the Dana Point News. Those newspapers created a new category called “Middle Aged and Dating.”

“Home alone, with only dogs for company,” was the title of that first article. When I re-read it this week, I thought to myself, “Oh my, age 50-plus dating has changed in many ways in 28 years, but, in some ways, it hasn’t.

Why did I start writing about dating after 50 in 1994? An unexpected divorce was the triggering event. I had been happily married for six years. I spent Christmas 1993 visiting my 83-year-old mom in Northern California. Simultaneously, my wife was taking what furniture and belongings she wanted and moved out. The catch? She hadn’t informed me of her plan.

I wasn’t a writer back then, but I’ve always kept a diary. That move-out event started an entirely new diary chapter. I wrote about the move out, the subsequent divorce, and the rather unsuccessful attempts at trying to date in the first few months after the divorce. I had blind dates, first dates, expensive dates, frigid dates, frustrating dates, and last dates. After each date, I wrote the woe-is-me details in the diary.

Five months later, I converted those diary notes into a 70-page short story. I thought perhaps that some newspaper or magazine might be interested in my hard-luck story, written from the man’s point of view. Luckily, the Laguna Niguel News and Dana Point News editors gave me a chance. They thought my articles would agitate but attract women readers.

At that time, the Internet was just in its infancy, so responses from readers were either faxed to me or left on the newspaper’s telephone InfoLine. There were no Internet dating sites.

As predicted by my editors, that first article struck a chord with women readers. The first message I received on the InfoLine was: “Who is this sniveling puke?” The second message was, “Get the boy a crying towel.” My editors loved those comments.

Tom’s first article July 7, 1994

In that article, I described the middle-aged dating scene as a “jungle.” Not much has changed in that regard, senior dating is still a jungle.

The biggest change: the Internet and online dating. Seniors are able to cast their nets far and wide to try to find a potential mate, which can dramatically improve their chances of meeting someone. However, with the good comes the bad; scammers prey on vulnerable older singles and are a menace to internet dating.

And then, for the last two years, we’ve had this thing called the pandemic, which has made meeting people face-to-face challenging at best.

The terminology has changed. In those days, there were terms like “breaking up” or “petting.” Now, words like ghosting, catfishing, cupcaking, cuffing, breadcrumbing, phishing, and LATs (living apart together) are now tossed around.  

One of the biggest changes in the last 28 years is the ratio of single women to single men. Back when the column began in 1994, the ratio of single women to single men was very close to being equal—one-to-one.

But now, as we seniors reach 70, 80 and beyond, that ratio has reached 4-to-1 or 5-to-1, or even larger, making dating more difficult for women.

Some things haven’t changed: networking through friends to meet potential mates is still an important way for singles to meet. And single people are still lonely, in many cases, even more so. Frustration with dating is still an issue.

And most of us are not with the same partners we were with 28 years ago.

So, yes, things have changed since the middle-aged dating era. We aren’t middle-aged anymore, we’re seniors. To keep up with the times, I’ve changed my column name from Middle Aged and Dating, to Finding Love After 50, to On Life and Love After 50, to Senior Dating. I haven’t figured out what the next term will be. Hopefully, my readers will make suggestions.

In 2013, I changed newspapers from the Orange County Register to the three newspapers that make up Picket Fence Media in South Orange County: the Dana Point Times, San Clemente Times and The Capistrano Dispatch. It was the smartest journalism move I’ve ever made. I’m blessed to still be writing for printed newspapers.

I look back and am grateful for the 28 years of writing columns. There have been nearly 4,430 columns and eNewsletters combined and five printed books published. Some of my readers have been with me for nearly the entire time. I appreciate their friendship and support.

And speaking of appreciating Champs, as I was composing this article on Monday, I received an email from Champ Larry L. in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He sent me a video of Glen Campbell singing the song, “Yesterday When I Was Young.” I hadn’t thought about that song but always enjoyed it. And it seemed to summarize today’s topic of what has changed in 28 years. I also liked Roy Clark’s version.

Here’s the link Larry sent of Glen Campbell singing “Yesterday When I Was Young.”

The back nine of life

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – July 9 2021

                          The Back Nine of Life

By Tom P Blake – Columnist

Most Champs—except newcomers–know that I write a bi-weekly column for Picket Fence Media, a syndicate that publishes the Dana Point Times, the San Clemente Times, and The Capistrano Dispatch (San Juan).

Newspaper readers sometimes respond to those articles, providing me with information that I think will be helpful to our Champs. Often, the people who respond live in cities and areas other than the three cities mentioned above. Such was the case this week.

For example, take Laurie of nearby Laguna Niguel, California. She emailed, “While reading your article, ‘Senior Singles can benefit from having an open mind,’ in the June 25 issue of the Dana Point Times, it got me to thinking about my sister, who is 61, widowed after only being married for four months in 2013, and she has not dated since.

“I checked out the link to your website and ta-da! There are so many things I could say about it. I watched your Today Show video and the last video you posted about the two ladies. Your advice is so spot on.

“I’m turning 68 this month. My friends and I tell ourselves we are on the ‘back nine’ now (the back nine in golf is the second half of a golf game). I’m not sure which hole in the back nine we’re on.

“I mentioned this to a 77-year-old surgeon I know and he chuckled and said in his Whales accent, ‘Well dahling, if you are on the back nine, I must be in the clubhouse having my martini.’

“My closest friends and I want our lives to be filled with quality time and friends and people who have value to us. Most of us are quite spontaneous, feeling as we get older to ‘try something new’ because we never know what the outcome could be. I loved your website article about who should pay for the date. The perspectives you presented were so interesting and varied.

“I am sharing your website information with several friends who could benefit from your insight. Do you still own Tutor & Spunky’s deli in Dana Point?

“I live in Laguna Niguel, up Pacific Island Drive, and am a frequent visitor to Dana Point.”

My response to Laurie: “I sold Tutor & Spunky’s five years ago, but still drop in for a sandwich to visit with some employees who worked with me. I am proud that the deli is in its 32year.

“I’ve been busy in my back nine of life. I am finishing a memoir about my 25 years opening, running, managing a Dana Point Deli. The book is titled, ‘Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark.’ It should be published around July 17 (it is live on both as a Kindle eBook and a Paperbook version.

Tutor & Spunky's Deli. A Dana Point Landmark
book cover by author Tom Blake
Tom Blake’s memoir finished July 17 2021

“At age 68, you and your friends may be on the back nine, as you describe it, but probably only on the 10th or 11th hole. You have lots left to do and enjoy.

“We in Dana Point appreciate your visiting us from Laguna Niguel. In 1989, I lived in Laguna Niguel. One night I went to sleep there and woke up the next morning in Dana Point. I promise I had not been drinking. I hadn’t even left my house.

“That was just before Dana Point became a city on January 1, 1990, and the boundaries of Dana Point were expanded to include the Ritz Carlton and Monarch Beach Areas, as well as Capistrano Beach. So, I understand the city of Laguna Niguel, from where you are coming.

“Now that the pandemic has eased, and you and your friends are willing to try something new, three things are important to keep in mind. These three suggestions apply to singles anywhere in the world, not just Southern Orange County.

Three things single seniors should do

“First, get the body moving. Walking helps. Try tai chi, yoga, water aerobics, dancing, standup paddleboarding—whatever is of interest. Just, get it going.

“Second, get off the couch and out of the house and involved in activities you enjoy. Senior centers offer a multitude of activities. For your widowed sister, there are widow and widower clubs. Many people she’ll meet there will be able to relate to what she has gone through. They would be good places for her to gradually reenter the social world.

“Third, aim to maximize social interaction. People need to be among people—laughing, talking, caring, sharing, and hugging—all of those social interactions are good for a person’s health. Meeting new people is healthy

“Those three things are key for senior singles. Pursuing them will keep seniors from finishing the back nine and entering the clubhouse too soon, unless, like your 77-year old surgeon friend, you’re into martinis.”

Have a good weekend.

Divorced man’s view on dating after 60

On Life and Love After 50 eNewsletter – November 29, 2019

Divorced man’s view on dating at after 60

by columnist Tom Blake

Note from Tom: I hope you all had a pleasant Thanksgiving. I was thinking of taking a break this week from writing an eNewsletter and then I thought, why? Especially, when I have a nice story about a man who just became a Champ (an eNewsletter subscriber) and how he views the dating scene.

Women often state they seldom read about single guys and their dating dramas, so I decided to share one with you on the day after Thanksgiving.

                              A divorced man’s view on dating at 62

As a senior dating columnist, my job is never boring.

Danny, a new Tom Blake’s Champ (eNewsletter subscriber), emailed, “I enjoy reading your column in the Dana Point Times. Online dating, while better than walking into a bar cold, is frustrating indeed. I’m sure many women feel the same way.

“I’m 62, divorced five years, with three grown sons. I’m active, healthy, gainfully employed and live locally. I’ve tried, Our Time, Plenty of Fish; they are all the same.

“Having been online for a while, I am picky and not willing to settle. If it feels right, I’m in. If it doesn’t, I’m like, “Check please!”

“A lot of one-and-done meet ups. Met one woman that seemingly had high potential. After several months, it fizzled out.

“I want to attend your monthly Meet and Greets in Dana Point. Sounds like you need more men, so the odds sound good! When is the next one?

(Thursday, December 12, 5 to 7 p.m. Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, 34085 Pacific Coast Highway, no admission cost, free appetizers, beer and wine $5)

“Attached is my online dating profile summary, and a recent picture.”

 Champ Danny
I viewed Danny’s picture and profile. I selected a few items from his profile to illustrate what this senior single man says he has to offer and what he hopes for in a relationship.

He wrote, “I’m seeking a long-term relationship with a special woman. I’m a romantic optimist and believe in love and passion and treating a woman with respect and kindness–while being a chivalrous gentleman. Believe in going slow and let the relationship develop on its own.

“If the chemistry is there, great things will happen naturally, and it will be wonderful! I subscribe to honesty, trust, good character, faithfulness, and sincerity.

“I enjoy a healthy dose of Irish humor. Like to laugh and have fun. Not into drama and endless dating with no future.

“Enjoy cooking and a nice glass of wine. I’m emotionally available and ready to build a meaningful relationship.”

I responded to Danny, “Your profile is impressive. Being a gentleman and emotionally available are so important.

“A handsome man your age shouldn’t have to rely on Internet dating to meet someone. There are hundreds of single, available, desirable age 60-plus women in south Orange County.

“At our November Meet and Greet, widowers, widows and divorced men and women attended. One lovely woman from San Clemente was asked by two different men if they could walk her to her car. She handled the two offers graciously.

“May I write about you in the Dana Point Times, San Clemente Times and The Capistrano Dispatch?”

Danny responded: “BREAKING NEWS: The ex-girlfriend I met on just texted me and wants to meet. I’m not sure what her intentions are, or where meeting her might go. If things were to take off with her again, the last thing I need is my dating profile in the three newspapers you write for.

I responded, “OK, we’ll wait.” And then immediately I sent him a copy of the “breadcrumbed” eNewsletter from two weeks ago. And then I sent the follow up article with the 20 comments from Champs about the breadcrumbed article.

Two days later, Danny wrote: “I picked her up at the airport last night. We had dinner talking about mostly meaningless stuff. She isn’t sure she even wants to date right now.

“Today, I expected a text from her saying thanks for the ride home from the airport, dinner and drinks, but there was no text from her. Nothing. The silence was deafening. So, it’s okay to run my story.”

Did Danny feel he’d been breadcrumbed? I think so, and from the information I had received, I think he was.

For women in Southern California, to meet Danny and other fine gentlemen, attend the December 12, Meet and Greet at Tutor and Spunky’s Deli, in Dana Point, California.

Or, to contact Danny, email me at; I will forward it to him. Remember, he’s in So Cal and most likely isn’t interested in a long-distance relationship. So, if you live in Bangor, Port St. Lucie, Fargo, or Victoria B.C., or other faraway places, I wouldn’t contact him. That’s just my opinion.

Writing about senior dating is never dull.

Senior seeks dating advice at Dana Point deli

Customer service: a senior seeks dating advice at Dana Point’s Tutor & Spunky’s deli

By columnist Tom Blake

When I owned Tutor & Spunky’s Deli on Coast Highway, in Dana Point, California, for 25 years, it became a meeting and gathering place for older singles. One reason that happened was the deli sponsored a “Meet and Greet for singles age 50+” one night each month.

I know of at least 20 couples who met at those events and it pleases me to know many of them remain together years later.

I sold the deli four years ago to Jim and Shelley Mouzakis, who have continued operating it as a popular, locals, place to eat.

Tutor and Spunky’s Deli has won the “People’s Choice Golden Lantern Award” for “Best Sandwich” in the Dana Point Times’ Best of Dana Point Magazine 10 years in a row, including 2019.

I believe one of the key reasons for winning the Golden Lantern award is that employees Teresa (30 years), Debbie (20 years) and Sandy (17 years) are still working there. They were among my favorite and most loyal employees.

Great employees Teresa and Debbie
Teresa and Debbie at Tutor and Spunky’s   Deli in Dana Point, California in 2004

Last week, I received a text from Debbie. She wrote: “A man by the name of Ray asked about the age 50+ singles group that you and Greta hosted here at the deli before you retired. He asked if any of the singles from that group still come here.

“He wanted your telephone number to find out information about other singles’ groups that meet in south Orange County. Here is his phone number,” (which Debbie provided).

I texted Debbie, “Thanks, Deb, you have always been so thoughtful and considerate of customers, always helping them. How old do you think Ray is?”

Always being the diplomat, Debbie responded, “He is older–guessing late 70s, maybe 80. He seemed very eager to find a new lady friend. He took his girlfriend of 13 years to a community center Valentine’s Day party, but something happened, she is no longer his girlfriend.

“He was looking for a place where older singles hang out and knew you could help him. He will be happy to hear from you.”

Thinking that Ray must be very sad, or, he can’t cope being alone–after all, it was just five days since Valentine’s Day—I phoned him and left a message that I’d be happy to talk to him. I feel bad when older couples lose a mate and one or both are desperate to immediately meet someone new.

I was prepared to tell Ray to take a deep breath, think about what happened, and not be so eager to rush out and replace his girlfriend. Also, that there is no place of which I’m aware in south Orange County–or anywhere for that matter–where older men go to hang out to meet older women close to their age. Places like that don’t exist.

Ray called me back on Friday, February 22, leaving this message:

“The reason I called you: I was a single. My woman-friend and I broke up after Valentine’s Day. I was looking for a place where older singles hang out and knew you could help me.

“But, she and I are attached again. That’s just how it is with women: one day it’s one way; the next day it’s another.

“We are happy now, but if it happens again, I will call you. Thank you.”

Some older men can’t handle being alone, not even for a few days. They rush into a new romance, and after a while, realize they weren’t prepared mentally for a new relationship. The result: they often end up breaking the new woman’s heart. Not good.

I didn’t find out what transpired in Ray’s case—why they broke up or why they got back together—he didn’t say.

I notified Debbie that Ray was already back with his girlfriend.

Debbie’s reply: “How funny. Oh well, we gave him the best customer service we could provide. I wish him success.”

Perhaps, in 2020, the Dana Point Times, San Clemente Times, and The Capistrano DispatchBest Of” Magazines will add a new awards category: Best restaurant to dispense senior dating advice.

A  version of this article appeared March 1, 2019 in


and the February 28, 2019, San Clemente Times

aeb8d6_d1217dc996dc4392a46d4bcabc21eb2f_mv2                                                               San Clemente Times

Tom Blake 24 years of writing columns

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – July 6, 2018

There are two parts to today’s eNewsletter. Tom Blake columnist.

Part One – Home alone with only dogs for company

People often ask where I learned to write, expecting to hear a reply like “At journalism school.” Or, they ask, “Have you always been a writer?”

I reply: “No journalism school. I’ve been writing for 24 years. I learned to write sitting on barstools, while trying to meet women after my divorce.”

That answer probably needs an explanation.

On Christmas Eve, 1993, my wife of six years, and her two boys, decided they’d had enough of me. While I was in Santa Rosa, California, visiting my 82-year-old mom, they took what furniture and belongings they wanted and moved out of my life.

I had no clue that was going down. Oh, I knew we had some issues to discuss, but most couples do. I found out the morning after Christmas when my wife telephoned me at Mom’s and told me.

On the drive home, I had a notepad in my lap. When you’ve got nine hours to drive, a million thoughts go through your mind.

As best I could, I jotted down my thoughts. The first item: What about my dogs, Amy and Kira? Were they gone? Were they still there? Had they been fed or left water in two days?

The next item: Why did she do it without us discussing it first?

By trip’s end, I had a mishmash of notes on the notepad. My writing career had begun, although I didn’t know it.

A month later, while serving sandwiches during lunchtime at Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point, California, deli, in front of customers and employees, I got served. With divorce papers! And, as I was doing every night, I went home and jotted down my thoughts in what then had become a divorced-man’s diary. That divorce turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Shortly after the divorce, at age 54, I decided to start dating again, thinking I’d be king of the hill. Oh my gosh, reality hit harder than I had ever imagined. As I sat on barstools at Brio, Hennessey’s and other Orange County singles’ hangouts, I’d add the dating misadventures into the diary. On those barstools is where I learned to write.

After five months, I put the notes from the diary into a short story. I edited the material 25 times. It was about 75 pages. I thought, maybe I could get the story published.

I sent query letters to The New York TimesPlayboy Magazine and Esquire. No response. The Orange County Register recommended I contact the Dana Point News, the Register’s community paper in the city where I lived.

After reading my short story, the two women editors—Sherrie Good and Dixie Redfearn–agreed to a meeting at their office.

At the meeting, their first question: “What do you have in mind?”

I had no idea, so I just blurted out, “Maybe I could do a dating-after-50 column from the male-point-of-view.”

They said, “That’s what we were thinking. You are whining and complaining so much about the cost of dating, and being rejected by all sorts of women, we feel the single, middle-aged women of Orange County will have a field day reading your woe-is-me adventure.”

“Home alone, with only dogs for company,” was the title of my first newspaper column. It appeared July 7, 1994–24 years ago tomorrow–in the South County Lifestyles section of four Orange County Register community newspapers.

Sherrie and Dixie were right about the vitriolic responses from women.

The first comment was, “Who is this sniveling puke?”

The second: “Get the boy a crying towel.”

And the third: “He complains that younger women won’t go out with him. It’s a wonder any woman will go out with him”

Welcome to the dating trenches, Tom.

Soon the column appeared in 10 OC Register community papers. And then for eight years, the Register itself, the nation’s 20th largest newspaper, as well as the community papers. Opportunity had arisen from adversity.

Seven years ago, I was blessed to join the team at Picket Fence Media—the publishers of the Dana Point TimesSan Clemente Times and The Capistrano Dispatch, in south Orange County, California. I am very lucky to have this incredible opportunity to write for newspapers that are still printed. How so?

On Tuesday, July 3, the Boston Globe newspaper published an article by Evan Horowitz that stated, “The newspaper industry has declined faster and fallen further than some of the most famously collapsing sectors of the American economy. Coal mining, steel manufacturing, fishing.” Since 2000, newspaper employment has fallen by more than 60 percent…

“Nearly 300 English-language daily newspapers have disappeared from the US landscape in the past 20 years….Florida, California, New Jersey, and Michigan have each lost roughly 70 percent of their newspaper jobs…In San Diego, newspaper employment is down 83 percent since 2002.” So, I’m very fortunate to still have my articles printed by functioning newspapers, published by hard-working Americans.

And even though this is off-topic, I have to say this: I was devastated with the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, last week. So senseless. Each of the five killed reminded me of someone I know. 

The number of columns and eNewsletters I’ve written in 24 years—approaching 4,000.

Why was that divorce 24 years ago the best thing that ever happened to me? It launched a writing career that has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. It brought two appearances on the Today Show and an appearance on Good Morning America.

And more importantly, it opened the door for me to meet Greta, a partner with whom I’ve shared so many incredible experiences in the 20 years we’ve been together, I don’t have time to write about them all.

Have things changed on the dating scene in 24 years? Not much. Except now, instead of focusing on dating after 50, it includes dating after 60, 70, 80, and even 90. Same old issues—hard to meet someone compatible and one of the biggest issues single seniors still deal with is loneliness.

Adversity leads to opportunity

Often, adversity leads to opportunity. For those who have suffered a major setback in life, try–as hard as it is at the time–to look for that seed of opportunity to soothe the adversity pain. It’s out there somewhere, you just need to keep an eye out for it and follow your instinct. It will help you heal.


Widow’s dilemma: should she let her much younger, never-married man friend move into her paid-for home?

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – February 23, 2018

In December, 2016, Sally, a Champ from San Diego, and I exchanged emails. She initially wrote, “I have no trouble meeting men. But mostly they are UN-acceptable to me.

“I am a widow of almost three years. About nine months after losing my husband, I began dating. I joined two dating sites and met a married man and many losers.

“I am financially secure, healthy, fit and attractive. A retired teacher. I do volunteer work and have many friends. I have a lot to offer but I am soon going to be giving up looking for a relationship!”

That December, I wrote back to Sally: “I understand what you say about possibly giving up looking. That’s ok. But, always keep alert for potential situations–a nice guy in the post office line, or in a store, or at a party, or wherever, just in case a decent man comes along who has a void in his life and would like to have a buddy to do things with.

“Volunteering is wonderful, way to go on that. Do you ever travel? And you say, “Financially secure, healthy, fit and attractive,” wow, you can’t beat that. Lots of men out there would be lucky to have a woman with those characteristics so don’t completely give up! Keep me posted.”

This week in February, 2018, Sally emailed: “You said a year ago December to keep you posted. So, here is an update. I’d welcome any feedback from you or our Champs.

“I have been doing volunteer work for the last two years! And it turned out that’s how I met the man I am now seeing. Two years ago, you told me not to give up and I didn’t, but I was not ‘looking’ when a man I will refer to as ‘D’, came into my life.

“In early April, 2017, ‘D’ walked into the museum where I volunteer as a docent. We talked at length and when he returned to the museum three weeks later, I was on duty again. We exchanged phone numbers. He lives 34 miles away.

“After a few good phone conversations, we had a beach picnic. Our next date was a classic car show! We have seen one another almost every weekend since the middle of May. He is 56 and I am 69! He says the age difference is not important.

“He is patient, kind and loving. He loves my dog and helps me around my home. We took some swing dance lessons and went to a few Elks Club dances. We have had some misunderstandings but have worked through them and grown our relationship as a result. We have built friendship and trust between us.

“We took a trip together last November to Kansas to visit his mother and sister. We enjoy being together and doing ‘ordinary life,’ but are planning more trips to Hawaii, Palm Springs and Northern California.

D is very affectionate, a good listener and, we are able to talk and resolve differences so far. He is hard working and loves his 86-year-old mother and his sisters.

“He is not as financially secure as I and he still works full time, which is good. I am a retired teacher and I own a nice, large, mortgage-free home.

“Your January newsletter about LAT (Living Together Apart) relationships, was great and very informative. I like the way our relationship is now.

“We get a chance to miss one another because we don’t live together. He is a never-married man of 56 and I am a widow of almost four years. My late husband and I had a solid and loving marriage for 39 years and then he became ill and died suddenly.

“I always felt I would never marry or live with a man again, but I did want to find a special person with whom I could share a committed relationship.

“I think D is that person for me. We have been serious about one another for eight months. He wants to move in with me and so we are ‘discussing’ it. I know what it is like to be married and D does not. He has had live-in relationships of a few years a few times, and I wonder, is this a red flag? I used to think there was something wrong with a never married man who had not been married by age 50.

“Do you know any age 56 or older men who have never been married? And yet they are great guys? Thanks for any insights/advice you may have. I hope to hear from Champs as well.”

Comment from Tom: Of course, I have my opinions. But, let’s hear what you Champs have to say. Email me and I will forward your comments to Sally. Let’s give her the benefit of your thinking, experience and wisdom.

Should she agree to let D move in?

Sally’s issue is a little like these Bocce balls. What if the two blue ones were moved in next to the orange one? Would that be a good thing? Or, would moving them in change the game and create problems?

Any other thoughts for Sally?

Update: More than 35 of Tom’s eNewsletter subscribers (called Champs by Tom) responded. You can read their responses in Tom’s eNewsletter that is published immediately above this article. These comments can be helpful to any senior considering allowing a new found love to move in. Read those comments before deciding!

A similar version of this story appeared in the San Clemente Times on March 8, 2018, the Dana Point Times, and The Capistrano Dispatch on March 9, 2018, written by Tom Blake as well: Here are the links:

San Clemente Times article


Dana Point Times article by Tom Blake


The San Juan Capistrano Dispatch


How long should a widowed person wait to date?

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – February 2, 2018

by newspaper columnist Tom Blake

How long should a widowed person wait to date?

In 24 years of writing about senior relationships, I’ve been asked many times, “How long should a widowed person wait to date?”

The most recent person to ask, Champ Arlene, emailed, “What is a respectful time to wait to date after one’s spouse dies? A man I know is dating after six months of his wife’s passing. He’s in his mid-60s. I’ve asked many women what they think and they say, ‘It’s different for everyone.’ I say he could have waited a year out of respect for his deceased wife.”

The women that Arlene asked are correct: How long to wait to date is different for everyone.

I don’t think respect is the issue here. I don’t know any details about the man’s marriage. His wife could have been ill for years while he stood by her. If that were the case, he had already shown great respect for her.

Or, what if their marriage was unhappy and miserable? But out of respect for her and the institution of marriage, he hung in there. Waiting to date wouldn’t accomplish anything else.

A more important question: has he properly grieved and healed? If he hasn’t, he should not be dating. Widowers tend to date quicker than widows after the death of a spouse. What often happens, particularly with new widowers, they are so lonely, they start to date before they are ready. A nice woman comes along and falls in love with him.

A little later, he realizes he still misses his wife terribly and dumps the new girlfriend. So, in protecting his heart, he breaks hers. That’s not good.

What’s the proper period to wait for grief recovery? Impossible to say. Many times, I’ve asked widows and widowers how long they waited to date.

One widow wrote: “You’ll know you’re ready when you no longer find dwelling on the past comforting. Only you will know that.”

Another widow said: “After 21 years of marriage, it took me a good two years before I was emotionally ‘whole’ enough to consider another relationship. Up to that point, my incessant talk about my late husband would have made any man run in the opposite direction.”

What happens if a widow or widower is still grieving and he (or she) meets someone he thinks would be a great partner who becomes interested in him?

                                      Here’s where honesty is critical

Out of respect for the new person, he should tell her he’s still grieving but feels they could become a loving couple, and, if she would be patient with him, it could work out. Then, as they go forward, they can openly and honestly discuss how things are progressing. In that way, no one gets blindsided, she’s aware of what she’s dealing with. The same honesty can apply to someone grieving from a divorce.

Somewhat along that line, a Champ whose mother saw a man she knew, whose wife had died just months before. My friend said, “Mom questioned me whether it was too soon after his wife had died for her to ask him for coffee. I told her you can’t control when opportunity knocks, and if you don’t answer the knock, it may not return.

“They had coffee. The next Sunday, the man took her to church. Six months later, they were married.”

​Another Champ, Gale, told me years ago: “The man in my life had already done his grieving before his wife died, and no one has the right to dictate what that mourning period should be or for how long. That’s a right reserved exclusively for the partner left behind after a spouse dies.”

In other words, it’s no one’s business except the partner left behind on when he decides to date.

One thing is certain: As we enter our 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, we don’t have a lot of time to waste in deciding if we’re ready to date or not. If we are able to open our heart to a new person, go for it. Just don’t be selfish by rushing that decision when you know deep inside you can’t deliver love.

So perhaps Arlene will not judge too harshly the mid-60s widower who is dating six months after his wife passed away. Let’s hope he has adequately healed.


For more information on dating a widower, I have an eBook on titled, “Widower Dating: Gold Mine or Mine Field” The cost to download the book is $3.93.

A similar article to this by Tom Blake also appeared in these three Picket Fence Media newspapers:

newspaper logos

San Clemente Times         The Capistrano Dispatch      Dana Point Times

5 Things I’ve Learned in 3 Years of Retirement

January 1, 2018

Tom Blake

When I was pondering retirement from Tutor and Spunky’s, my Dana Point, California, deli, the main thing I dreamed about was having “free time.” With it, I could do just nothing, if I wanted, which sounded great after 25 years of making sandwiches.

I pictured the early scene in the movie, “The Graduate,” where Benjamin, who had just graduated from college, was content just floating around in his parents’ swimming pool doing nothing more than soaking up the sun. That would be I.

In January, 2015, I sold the deli. I worked until age 75; I’m glad I did. Obviously, that helped the financial nest egg and kept my body and mind active. No more slicing salami. Freedom!

I learned quickly that I did not want a lot of “free time.” I realized it wasn’t good for me. I’m just not built that way; I realized I must have projects to work on. Every morning I make a to-do list for the day. If I haven’t crossed each item off by day’s end, so be it. But, the list keeps me focused.

Soon, my “free time” became busy time. And from busy time, five lessons learned from retirement evolved.

(1) The most important lesson I’ve learned in retirement is the need to have social interaction with people. If retired people let socializing with others slip away–they might be sitting around the house too much or watching too much mindless TV. When that happens, their retirement will become boring, lonely and non-productive. To be too isolated is not good for one’s health.

A good way to interact with people is by joining groups. lists thousands of groups and activities and should provide plenty of ideas for people not sure what to do to meet others.

This week, my partner Greta hosted her book club of 10 women for dinner. I helped by pouring the wine and serving dessert so Greta could focus on enjoying her guests. Those women had a hoot of a time together. That’s the type of social interaction people need.

And one last thing about social interaction after retirement. Try to mix interacting with younger people into your life—kids, grandkids, great grandkids, for example, or friends younger than yourself can really keep you thinking young. That’s very important.

(2) The second lesson I’ve learned in retirement is the importance of keeping my body moving. It’s a daily priority for me. In Orange County, where we live, we’re fortunate to have the ocean nearby. The ocean can be a great aid and inspiration to keep moving. There’s surfing, kayaking, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, and walking in the harbor or on the beaches. Salt Creek Beach is one of the most beautiful in the world. I can walk there in 30 minutes from our front door, and do often.

A year and a half ago, my nephew Derek, from Dallas, was visiting and would hit the sidewalk walking first thing in the morning. I’d see him push a button on this watch-like thing on his wrist; he called it a Fitbit. “It tracks my exercise,” he said. “It counts the number of steps I take and the flights of stairs I climb. By keeping score of those things, it encourages me to keep moving. I walk almost 100,000 steps a week. You ought to get one.”

I took Derek’s advice. I purchased a Fitbit Charge 2. It has made a world of difference encouraging me to keep moving each day. My goal is 10,000 steps a day. I don’t always reach that goal, but I’m there 4-5 days a week. And I admit that there are nights, when I haven’t quite reached the 10k goal, where I walk around the kitchen and living room enough times to get the goal. It’s a little weird, but, it keeps me moving.

Weather permitting, I do Stand Up Paddle Boarding (SUP) 4-5 times a week with my buddy Russell, a cool Kiwi from New Zealand. One neat thing about the Fitbit: it counts the strokes I take as steps toward the 10K-steps goal. Another positive about SUP: it amazes me how many new people I meet down at the launching beach. Both men and women. So, there is social interaction to the sport as well.

To keep moving, one doesn’t need an ocean nearby, or even a lake. Almost all cities have parks. Not to mention the exercise classes that help keep the body moving and, also provide social interaction at the same time.

In retirement, keeping the body moving daily is an absolute “must-do” in utilizing my “free time.”

(3) The third lesson I’ve learned in retirement is to have a purpose in life. Something with meaning, it doesn’t have to be a huge project. Volunteering and helping others is a great way to fulfill this human need.

Champ Chris Anastasio volunteers at the San Clemente Villas in California.

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He plays Santa and the Easter Bunny and dances weekly with the patrons who live there. Chris turned 84 on January 28, 2018. What a Champ he is. This picture was taken a week ago at the Villas Christmas party. That’s one of the ways he finds purpose in his life.

Lots of people use the words, “Giving back.” There are lots of people around me who are way less fortunate than I. They can use a little help. How I help them doesn’t matter-giving of my time, or what little money I can afford, is of help to them.

Here in California, there are people who’ve lost their homes to the fires. There are homeless people sleeping under freeway bridges and in dried river beds. They can use some help. Also, there are animal shelters that need volunteer help.

Having a purpose can simply mean improving oneself. At the book club party, Greta’s daughter, Tina, stopped by. She showed me the Spanish lessons she’s taking on the phone app Duolingo, which is free. That’s something I want to add to my “Have a purpose in life” goal. Just a few words a day and before you know it, “Hola, Como Estas?”

Friends of my partner Greta and me, Ron and Leigh, take Spanish lessons, dance lessons, Tai Chi lessons through senior community centers and a local college. So, there are other things, besides learning a language, that can add meaning and purpose to one’s life (they do them all).

For people still working who are thinking about retirement, I think it’s important to start planning before the big day arrives. Find an interest, or a passion, so that you’ll be up-to-speed when the time comes. I know a few men that weren’t prepared for retirement and they say they are driving their wives crazy and themselves crazy because they are around the house too much, with little to do. Might have been better to continue working.

I was in my local bank this week talking with Sheri, one of the gracious tellers there. She has taken up quilting and was telling me all about it. Gosh, I never realized how much is involved in that hobby. “It’s addicting,” Sheri said. “There are always new things that pop up. There’s a heck of a lot more to it than just sitting and sewing. In quilting, you are on your feet much of the time.”

I know one thing Sheri will be doing with her retirement “free time.” She’s got a great head start on it already.

(4) The fourth thing I’ve learned in retirement is the importance of keeping one’s mind and brain stimulated. For some, it’s the love of reading that fulfills this need. For me, it’s my writing. I’m been a newspaper columnist for 23 years. I love it; every week I must generate a column and/or a newsletter article. I am grateful for the opportunity.

Frankly, I probably would not enjoy taking cruises as much as I do if I didn’t have my writing. Taking pictures, editing pictures and blogging each day about the ports we visit keeps my mind occupied, particularly on sea days when there are no ports to visit. Writing gives me my purpose and keeps the noodle functioning.

(5) The fifth thing I’ve learned from retirement is to be willing to step out of one’s comfort zone. When Greta and I were in Lima, Peru, in October, it would have been easy to take a tour of the city arranged by the ship. But, instead, we decided to do it on our own. We took the buses that locals take. We stood in line with the locals. We learned a lot and kept close to each other for safety. We were a bit out of our comfort zone. But at the end of the day, we had grown from what we had learned.

If you’re single, and you’ve made a list of the qualities you seek in a mate, don’t be shackled by the list. For example, let’s say one of the qualities is to meet a widower of the same faith. But you meet a divorced man instead. And holy horrors, he’s not of the same faith, or even more horrifying, not of the same nationality. But you like him because he’s a gentleman. Too bad his qualities don’t show up on your list.

Guess what? Step out of your comfort zone and take a chance. Let yourself be enlightened. You’d be surprised at the number of seniors unwilling to do that. Don’t be an old fuddy-duddy.

So those are the five biggest takeaways I’ve learned in retirement: Seek social interaction, keep the body moving, have a purpose or purposes in life, keep the brain and mind working, and, be willing to step out of your comfort zone.


Similar articles by Tom Blake appeared in the January 11, 2018, San Clemente Times newspaper and The Capistrano Dispatch (San Juan Capistrano)