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Welcome to our TTN Chicago
Member Spotlight

We're introducing a new page that features insights and ideas from our members and goes beyond the information provided in our Member Directory. We'll be sharing profiles of other members in the coming weeks.

This month we are shining the spotlight on...

Carol Dietz
Member of Marketing Committee 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I just moved back downtown after 15 years in the suburbs, and love it--and the wonderful women I’ve met through TNN and Northwestern’s Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning, where I currently serve as chair of the committee that helps generate 200 different study group courses for “mature” learners annually.  During my corporate career in research and strategic planning, I was fortunate to have worked across the U.S. and also overseas, during the transformational three decades that saw technology revolutionize both business and our way of life. Now semi-retired, I can pursue all of the things (even the wacky ones) that I dream of.
 
What advice do you have for TTN members who want to change careers?
Don’t let fear of failure hold you back. I thought it was crazy to start my own company when I was 50.  The first one was an online home delivery meal service for working women--it flopped. The second one, strategic planning for retail development, succeeded.  To build confidence, I suggest reading "A Path Appears".
 
What have you learned from all of the transitions that you’ve experienced in life?
The arc of my life has fundamentally changed about every five years, bringing both blessings and serious challenges.  Once you’ve proven to yourself that you can rise to the challenges, you won’t fear the future.  We are all stronger, more flexible and resilient that we can imagine.
 
What new things do you want to explore?
I am insatiably curious about everything, especially the sciences and ancient cultures, the afterlife and dinosaurs.  I’m also concerned about the wounded planet we are leaving to our children, and want to do something about it. I have no athletic talent--in Catholic school, our team sport was the rosary.
 
What keeps you engaged and vibrant?
I keep this quote from David Brooks in my wallet: “The people who have character make deep, indelible connections outside of themselves, to tasks that cannot be completed in their lifetime.” (And my large, hyperactive German grand-toddlers keep my heart in fibrillation).
 
What’s one very special skill and talent that you have that only your closest friends know about you?
I do a great impression of Richard Nixon.


Mary Lee Gosz
Transition Peer Group Leader, Meet and Eat Special Interest Group Co-Chair

Tell us a little about yourself
My life hasn’t followed a single path but has been like a patchwork quilt of experiences -- and I plan to continue adding many new colorful, textural pieces to it !I grew up in Indianapolis, graduated from Duke, got an MSW at Indiana U, was a probation counselor in Virginia before moving to Chicago in 1983 to get an MBA at Northwestern (Kellogg). I worked in corporate banking and then fell into my dream job: developing training curricula - first at the old First Chicago and then later at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). My husband and I have been married 28 years and have a daughter and a son, both of whom now live and work near us in Chicago!
 
What caused you to join TTN Chicago?
I’ve been in transition for a few years. In 2014, after a reorg, I left the position I loved at IIT. I got very involved volunteering in my community. By 2017, though, I realized that I was becoming isolated (and bored!) in our quiet suburban town. Our two children were on their own, all my friends were working, and I needed more stimulation. I convinced my husband that a “pied a terre” would be great for me - and closer to work for him. Luckily, I found TTN as we were settling into our city apartment. I was delighted to get involved with this great group of women - at the right time for me.
 
What have you learned from your transition?
I knew it would be hard to leave the comfort of our suburban home and life where we’d been for 23 years and essentially create a new daily life. I decided to see a therapist to help me sort out what I could change, what I couldn’t, and how to manage it all. I began to learn about mindfulness meditation, journaling, and yoga - and practicing those has been huge for me! I’ve learned to practice enjoying the moment instead of worrying about the future (I need a lot of practice with that). I have also learned that it can take a while to make new friends - and that it was ok to admit that I wanted new friends. Slowly, by putting myself in new situations, I have developed a great new network of friends.  I think I’ve now successfully navigated this rather bumpy transition.
 
How do you have fun?
I love to learn! I love taking classes, going to lectures and performances, meeting people and learning their stories.  I have also joined Impact Grants Chicago, two mentoring programs - at One Million Degrees and Year Up, and a study group at St. Paul’s United Church of Christ. I’ve taken classes in sewing and knitting at Lillstreet as well as classes at the Graham School (UChicago), OLLI (Northwestern), and Center for Life and Learning (4th Church). I love learning about psychology, art history, architecture, and efforts to address the issues of inequality in education, housing, employment, and mental health services in Chicago.
 
What keeps you healthy?
Weight Watchers for life, Pilates, walking, yoga, prayer and meditation, good friends, a great relationship with my husband, two children, and two sisters! Practicing gratitude is key.
 
Sujatha Kailas
Explore Chicago Special Interest Group Co-Chair

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a part-time Gastroenterologist spending half my time in Chicago (the place I love) and half my time in Wisconsin (with the person I love – my husband). After working full time for about 25 years, I decided it was time for me to explore my other passions in addition to my work, which is by far my most precious passion. So, in my newfound free time I travel, volunteer and do stuff with my TTN friends.
 
What caused you to join TTN?
I saw The Transition Network mentioned in an article in The Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago. The article was about the new domain of people that are breaking free and living life on their own terms. They are not retired, but at the same time, they don’t call themselves working either. When I found out that there was a chapter in Chicago, I was immediately on board.
 
What transition are you going through?
I have moved from being a full time physician, mom and wife to doing all three of them part-time. How can you be a part time mom or wife, you ask? My daughter is in college on the east coast, and now needs me more as a friend and less as a mom. My husband is in Wisconsin full time as he starts winding down his business. I am spending half my time in Chicago and half in Wisconsin, making me a part time wife. But in reality all my roles are full time, as I am trying to carve out time for myself. This is a huge change for me as I was a very busy practitioner who also had multiple administrative roles throughout my career. I was also a typical “Helicopter Mom”.
 
What have you learned from all the transitions in life?
Change adds energy to life. Embrace it. Think thoroughly about the transition before making it, look at it from all angles and get input from people that have experienced change as well as those that will be affected by your change. Don’t burn any bridges; keep your options and your attitude open.
 
What do you look forward to?
I look forward to the time when my husband and I can live in one place all the time. I look forward to my next trip, as I am finishing up one right now. I look forward to spending time with family and friends and most importantly I look forward to the day when I can watch News without being horrified or disappointed.
 
What keeps you engaged and vibrant?
Explorations keep me young at heart. So does meeting new people, going to new places and volunteering with teenagers and young families. The transition I made a year ago added years to my life. Sunshine, music, exercise and even Netflix--I am not going to lie –also keep me young.


Jennifer Ohl
Member of Membership Committee

Tell us a little about yourself
I’m a software consultant and I enjoy reading, bike riding and swimming, and most other activities not involving computers!  I have travelled to 48 of the 50 states for work and over 30 countries for fun!  During my free time I volunteer at the Inspiration café in Chicago, an organization that provides free restaurant style meals to low income and homeless individuals and provides food service training.
 
What caused you to join TTN?
I moved to Chicago from Miami in May.  This was a major change for me- the weather, the culture, and language.  I felt it would be helpful to learn from others going through major life changes and experience the ups and downs of making a major change together.
 
What have you learned from all the transitions in life?
Slow down and breathe!  Things that seem daunting and difficult are much easier when you break them down into bite size pieces.  Be positive, proactive and take it one step at time. 
 
What do you look forward to?
I look forward to working less and spending more time with my nephews, who are 16 and 18 and will be going to college soon.  I look forward to my trip to Barcelona and Amsterdam, two places that have been on my bucket list for a long time.  I look forward to spring and summer in Chicago!
 
What keeps you engaged and vibrant?
Making new friends at TTN, having new adventures and exploring new neighborhoods at home and abroad. 


Emma Kaladjian
TTN Chicago Steering Committee Member

Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in New York and New Jersey and was a big fan of “Murray the K,” “Cousin Brucie” (NYC deejays) and American Bandstand. I ventured to Chicago to attend college at Northwestern and loved Chicago so much that I have stayed ever since. I can’t believe I am entering my second decade of retirement from full-time work! My career transitions included social work; law school grad; investment attorney and corporate law division head; and investment adviser and CFP® since 2007. As a former Co-Chair of the TTN Chicago Chapter, I am an enthusiastic supporter of TTN and attend just about all of our Special Interest Groups. I even learned a new hobby, seed beading, in one of our former groups. I love the experience of sharing insights and lively conversation in our discussions of books, movies and theater. 
 
What caused you to join TTN Chicago?
When I left work and my long time career, I felt isolated and in need of a new community. I attended a TTN program presented by a co-founder and an author of TTN’s signature book, Smart Women Don’t Retire, They Break Free! . I discovered so many interesting women who were sharing my same experience and talking about what’s next. I signed up immediately!
 
What transition are you currently going through or contemplating?
I am currently negotiating with my husband about downsizing and deciding when to sell our home and where we will go next. While I used to enjoy taking on challenges, this feels like a big hurdle!
 
What advice do you have for TTN members who want to change careers? If possible, refrain from jumping in to a new career and take time to explore what work will be enjoyable.  Consider volunteering your services or “interning” at organizations or companies that might be of interest. This may be an opportunity after a former career to do what is meaningful and satisfying.
 
What have you learned from all of the transitions that you’ve experienced in life? They keep coming! Whether positive or unpleasant, it’s good to have friends who are supportive or who have walked that path and can share insights and experience.
 
How do you have fun? I love exploring Chicago’s ethnic restaurants.  Also gardening, road trips and travel.
Deborah Holton
TTN Chicago Chapter Member

Tell us a little about yourself.
I would describe myself as down-to-earth and rigorous with a sweet, light-hearted core. I come from a long line of Southern educators, preachers, artists, and musicians whose influence shines throughout my life in myriad ways. I’m a Chicagoan who grew up in Bronzeville’s Lake Meadows where my church was home to activists and intellectuals who helped shape the Civil Rights Movement. I received my BFA in Theatre and Drama from Howard University; and, my Ph.D. in American Theatre Studies from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. A fiction writer and poet, I also hold a Creative Writing MFA from Solstice, Pine Manor College. While my ancestors and role models live on in me, I continue to evolve to be my next “best me.”
 
What transition are you currently going through or contemplating?
After over thirty years as an educator and mentor of adult learners at DePaul University, I’m nearing retirement. For the past five years, I’ve been “on the hunt” to find out as much as I can about transition in general and retirement in particular. I’ve been gathering information, talking with people, interviewing leaders, and attending talks, like TTN’s “Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?” by Joy Loverde, to learn as much as I can so that my path to retirement is well-planned and values-centered. I became a certified coach specializing in transition and a member of the national Retirement Coaches Association so that I could share and support other women on their retirement journey.
 
What advice do you have for TTN members who want to retire or are currently considering retirement?
Planning for retirement is both wise and essential, given life’s complexities. Why not design it so that it is deeply rooted in your values, in what matters most to you? Drawing from a variety of resources, tools, and support options, women who are considering retirement can craft what I call their “next best self” that way. For Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom still rings true: “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”
 
What do you love most about Chicago?
Chicagoland, with its majestic lake that looks like the ocean and its converging rivers, is vibrant with culture and diversity. There is much to love here: festivals, marathons, music (oh, the music!). These days though the museums and gardens--from the Art Institute to the Writer’s Museum, from the Morton Arboretum to the Chicago Botanic Garden and all points in between—comfort and nurture me.
 
What keeps you engaged and vibrant?
I have three grandchildren who never cease to inspire me to try new things. As new beings on the planet, they bring wisdom that teaches me in unexpected ways. When I stretch myself to experience things like star-gazing or foreign television mysteries or treat myself to dance concerts that reinterpret the old while making something new, those creative sparks remind me that we can be forever young, when we choose to be.
 
What motto do you live by or what quote inspires you?
In every vital activity, it is the path that matters. —Egyptian Proverb

Want to be featured in our Member Spotlight?  Send us your photo and we'll send you a profile questionnaire.
Email us at ChicagoChapter@TheTransitionNetwork.org

Learn about our Previously Featured Members:


Roni Buckley
TTN Chicago Steering Committee Member, Membership Committee Co-Chair

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a native New Yorker and have lived in Chicago for the past 22 years since my own personal hostage crisis when my husband was transferred here. I reluctantly made the move and realized that the relocation provided an opportunity to reinvent myself; and, so I did by returning to school and obtaining a doctorate in Adult and Continuing Education.  My research has been on the correlation between vibrant aging and lifelong learning – something that provides an interesting perspective for all women as they age.  I currently teach and advise at DePaul University’s School for New Learning – it’s college for adult students.
 
What caused you to join TTN Chicago?
I see TTN as a means of personal growth for women interested in lifelong learning, social and cultural opportunities and relationship building with others.  Appealing on all levels for sure!
 
What transition are you currently going through or contemplating?
Currently, I am reducing my teaching and academic advising roles and expanding my already busy volunteer schedule. My husband and I have two adult children-one on the West Coast and another in Germany – so not too many quick visits with children and grandchildren.  Busy and engaged is my preference and TTN supports that objective.
 
What advice do you have for TTN members who want to retire or are currently considering retirement?
Identify your passion and move in that direction in your retirement. Whatever it is, put some plans into place BEFORE you retire and remain engaged throughout your retirement. I have known many women who, in spite of health issues and personal loss, have continued to find purpose and enjoyment in their lives. Why not you and me?
 
What keeps you engaged and vibrant?
Embracing life and building relationships with people of all ages.  I believe every person alive today whether they are one hour old or one hundred years old is my peer.  People in different life chapters have much to offer – perspectives, interests, attitudes – all providing broadening experiences and understanding for others.
 
What motto do you live by or what quote inspires you?
“Life is a banquet and most poor people are starving to death.” (Quote from my favorite fictional character Auntie Mame).


Joy Loverde
TTN Chicago Steering Committee Member, Membership Committee Co-Chair

Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Chicago and raised in a traditional Italian household, surrounded in a culture of family, food, music, art, and love. I am the author of the best-seller, The Complete Eldercare Planner, and the recently released, Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old?  In addition to my family, I owe my success to my old friends. They teach me how to keep my priorities straight. My website is: www.elderindustry.com
 
What advice do you have for TTN members who want to retire or are currently considering retirement?
Nothing will be handed to you from this point on. You are wise to anticipate change, and consequently plan for what you want during this critical stage in life. Your plan must also include revising your plans at the onset of every transition.
 
What have you learned from all of the transitions that you’ve experienced in life?
There is no better way to navigate the process of making important decisions than to actively engage in the process of critical thinking.   
 
What are some of your favorite places in Chicago?
In the summer, you will find me dining outside with friends at Bella Luna (Dearborn and Superior). In the winter, you will find me dining with my sister at the bar at Topo Gigio (Old Town).
 

What keeps you healthy?
I do not hang out with toxic, negative people. I take nothing personally. My happiness depends solely on me.  This strategy keeps me happy and healthy.
 
What’s one very special skill and talent you have that only your closest friends know about you?
I am a fanatic rollerblader.
 
 Dorothy Balabanos
TTN Chicago Steering Committee Member, Marketing Committee Co-Chair

Tell us a little about yourself.
Born and bred in Chicago, I am in my kinda retired phase of life. After four decades in marketing (with almost two decades also teaching at DePaul University), I’m on to the next phase of my life…actively living it. My current interests include extensive volunteering; enjoying the cultural trappings the city has to offer; meeting new people/making new friends; yoga; reading; getting/staying fit; learning new things and facilitating classes at the Osher Center for Lifelong Learning; and whiling away the hours.
 
What advice do you have for TTN members who want to retire or are currently considering retirement?
1.       Do the math—over and over again. With life expectancy increasing, you want to make sure you have enough money (income and savings) to get you through at least 30 years. 
2.       Understand that retirement is a journey on to itself. You’ll want to do different things at different phases. Don’t replace the hours you spent working with activities that don’t interest you. Express gratitude that you can take this journey.
3.       Let things unfold for you. Some of the most delightful things happen when you stay open to new experiences and people.
 
What have you learned from all of the transitions that you’ve experienced in life?
1.  They take longer than you think they will
2.  Resistance to change is futile
3.  You need to let go of a part of your old self, so that the new one can emerge
 
What new things do you want to explore?
I want to use my creativity in a new and artistic manner. I’m thinking of taking a beginning art class at Lillstreet Art Center next year.
 
What do you love most about Chicago?
Despite all of its problems (and there are many), the city has a vibe that I haven’t found anywhere else.
 
What motto do you live by or what quote inspires you?
Kindness, kindness, and still more kindness.


Kimberly Mulcahy
TTN Chicago Steering Committee Member, Chapter Chair

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a divorced mom with a son who just finished his Master’s degree. Yay, I am tuition payment free!  He lives nearby in Chicago with his lovely girlfriend. I work in HR for an awesome French cheese company. I’m still figuring out "what’s now, what’s next", but I love my solo life!
 
What caused you to join TTN Chicago?
I moved to Chicago/Streeterville from the western suburbs last May. I’m living solo after 30+ years of marriage and realized I didn’t have any friends outside work who live in the City. I love working with our Steering Committee members and meeting other professional women around my age who are looking to stay active and engaged and get the most out of life now and in the years to come. 
 

What advice do you have for TTN members who want to change careers? 
Go for it! After the company I worked for most of my career was sold and relocated to NJ, I ran my own PR/communications business for nearly 10 years; then went to work for my favorite client. I am now working in HR leading Learning and Development and Talent Management and Recruiting. Never stop learning and trying new things!
 
 How do you have fun/what do you love about Chicago?
I love going to the theatre for plays, musicals and ballets – and Chicago is such an amazing city for all things cultural. I enjoy walking around the city and still feel like a tourist as there is so much to see, to do and to enjoy. I love yoga and working out with my trainer. I have discovered that almost everything is better with a glass of wine!
 
What motto do you live by or what quote inspires you? 
Don’t look back, make the most of what you do every day and stay focused on the positive.

Ann-Marie Downing
TTN Chicago Steering Committee Member, SIG and TPG Coordinator, Community Service Chair

Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am a retired special education teacher, with over 25 years teaching experience with elementary and secondary school students in the Boston area. My husband and I have three adult children-- one lives in Chicago with his wife; the others are in Boston and Portland. We moved to Chicago last year, after living in the same house for 36 years. I was feeling lonely and lost for a few months. I remembered a quote from Aristotle: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.” I decided to “take the bull by the horns,” realizing that I was the bull! I discovered volunteer organizations and activities that let me find my find passion, purpose, as well a connection to Chicagoans who share common interests and an enthusiasm for life. I now believe that my journey into another phase of my life will involve friends, laughter, and the knowledge that “we are all in this together!”
 
How do you have fun?
Fun comes in two categories—individual fun and friends/family fun. When I am alone, my fun consists of reading a book, knitting and listening to WBEZ, podcasts and Ted talks, walking to the lake, doing yoga, listening to music and making wreaths. When I am with my family and friends, I have fun going to museums, theaters, movies and restaurants; having people to dinner; hiking; watching  a TV series; sitting and walking along the beach; and most of all, laughing about silly things to the point I cannot breathe.
 
What new things do you want to explore?
I would like to investigate more areas in Michigan and in Wisconsin. In the city, I am a little infatuated with the train system and my goal is to explore a few more colors of train lines beside Red, Brown, and Purple. Someday soon, I may just ride the train lines all day and see where I wind up. 
 
What do you love most about Chicago?
When I first came to visit my son, I was in awe of Lake Michigan. I enjoy the convenience of living in the city and walking everywhere. I love to go into the little shops on Armitage Street  and in Bucktown, as well as the vintage stores where you can purchase the  second hand clothes I wore in my youth. You may see me in the store singing the Beatles songs “And I love her” or “All you need is love.”
 
What keeps you engaged and vibrant?
Being around young people has always inspired me. I love learning about technology, apps, recipes, music and Millennials’ philosophy on life. Last summer, I dragged my husband to  a Katy Perry concert and he had to endure my screaming along with the ten year old girls I was imitating. This year I went to a Sam Smith concert and yes, I bought a t-shirt. I am collecting t-shirts as I attend more concerts and become a groupie, but I’ll be going by myself next time because my husband was not so thrilled! 
 
What motto do you live by or what quote inspires you?
The most wasted days are ones without laughter.
 


Want to be featured in our Member Spotlight?  Send us your photo and we'll send you a profile questionnaire.
Email us at ChicagoChapter@TheTransitionNetwork.org