Taking a Detour


Country-Road-300pxRecently I made the decision to take a break from blogging for a while. It wasn’t an easy choice.

The increasing needs of my elderly dad and the allure of summer, in a place where summers are short, are tugging at me.

I’ve wanted to pick up my watercolors and brush again, something I haven’t done for too long.

My scrapbooking projects have come to a halt.

My bucket list beckons and I’d like to tackle an item or two there.

Shifting my focus away from blogging and toward other responsibilities and pursuits feels right for me, at least for now.

Everyone knows that time is a precious commodity. I’m in awe of bloggers who have posted frequently for years, but I am not one of those prolific bloggers.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: This morning I put in a comma. In the afternoon I took it out. That’s me, writing at a snail’s pace.

Even though I write slowly, I will never stop writing – it’s my true passion. But I’m beyond middle age far enough to know that if I don’t pursue the other things now, I probably never will. I may be retired, but it’s still impossible to do it all at once.

My aim is to read and comment on blogs I follow whenever possible. I love reading them so much! I truly hope this is not an exit from my blogging journey but instead, just a pleasant detour. Time will tell. Until then, my friends . . .



The Swimsuit Edition


Minnesota, where I live, is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” There are actually 11,842 lakes in my state but our license plates proclaim only 10,000 of them.

Patti's DockGetting away to the lake is a way of life for most Minnesotans. Summer weekends, holidays and vacations are often spent pursuing one watery activity or another. There are nearly one million registered boats in Minnesota, a state with just over five million people. In good weather, many of the state’s 10,000 lakes are buzzing with speed boats, fishing boats, sailboats, pontoons, jet skis, water skiers and swimmers. And spending summer vacations at a lake cabin “Up North” is a rite of passage for many kids growing up in the North Star state.

Since I’m surrounded by so much water, you would think I’d own a swimsuit. I probably should own one. But the truth is I haven’t owned a swimsuit since they were called bathing suits. Is that term is even used anymore?

My last swimsuit, a black and pink one-piece, went into the trash years ago. The more I aged, the more self-conscious I felt wearing it even though the cut was modest.

Although I was never a strong swimmer, I’ve spent a good share of my life at the lakes and even gave water skiing a try. Not successfully or gracefully, of course, but still . . .

These days I no longer actually swim. I’ll cruise around a lake on a pontoon, or I’ll cool my toes in the water at the end of a dock. I love being at the lake. I just don’t get into the lake anymore.

When I said good-bye to swimsuits, I thought it was forever.

And then I recently received an invitation to a friend’s lake home. It will be a gathering of high school BFF’s. Of course, I’ll be there. We’ll spend a couple of days sharing memories, laughter, fun, food, pontoon rides – and swimming.

So my tentative search for a swimsuit has started. And it’s complicated. Way back when, I remember choosing from three types of suits – one-piece, two-piece and bikinis.

Now I’ve learned, in addition to one-piece suits there are swim dresses, bikinis, tankinis, skirtinis and shortinis. It’s almost too much for my teeny-weeny brain.

Before I decide to purchase, I think I’ll check with my friend. Never in my life have I gone skinny-dipping – but maybe that’s an option.



Anniversary Reblog: Retirement: A Different Kind of Busy

Here’s one last reblog from my earliest posts ~ in fact, this was my very first post. I’ve really enjoyed this blogging adventure during the last twelve months and look forward to continuing the journey.


It was over a year ago that I joined the growing ranks of baby boomers beginning retirement. After more than four decades of full-time work, I was finished. I enjoyed my job (and the paychecks) but I was increasingly aware of my waning energy, life’s accelerating timeline and a bucket list that I hadn’t started yet.

When I began working in the 1960’s the government told me that the date of my “normal” retirement would be 2012. Back then that far-off date smacked of something from a futuristic, sci-fi movie. And yet the day arrived in what seemed like warp speed even though I worked an extra year.

Cartoon-Woman-Thinking-300pxDuring the months leading up to retirement, I was eager but apprehensive. While I was convinced retirement would be amazing, I fretted over how to fill all the free time I was about to gain. I’m not always the best self-starter, and some of my life-in-retirement visions were strangely disturbing. I worried that my daily routine might become sleeping in late, living in flannel pajamas until noon, and out of boredom, resorting to daytime TV.

That scenario just could not happen. I know there are plenty of senior citizens who keep working because they don’t have a choice. I know that I’m fortunate to be able to retire. But how would I put all that precious free time to good use?

There was no shortage of commentary from friends, whether retired or still employed, about my approaching retreat from the work world. When I probed for some assurance, their responses ranged from “Don’t worry, you’ll love it” to “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself” to “Well, it’s a different kind of busy.” I didn’t find the comfort I was seeking.

It seems that many new retirees plan on spending extra time with their grandkids. Others think that golf or travel will keep them busy. But without grandkids, golf skills or an extensive travel budget, that wouldn’t be my plan.

Finally I admitted my hopes and fears to my husband. He was already retired and I was sure he’d give me oodles of satisfying, easy-to-accomplish ideas. Instead, he challenged me to figure out what I really wanted to do. And he warned, “Life in retirement is still just life. Don’t think it’ll be perfect. And don’t waste all that time.”

My retirement bubble burst but I knew he was right. Without the structure that a job provides it would take discipline, effort and a solid plan to function well in this new life. It will be a different kind of busy.

sheikh-tuhin-To-Do-List-300pxSo I began planning, of course, by making lists. The chores I’d been putting off – organizing files, de-cluttering closets, deep-cleaning the house and donating unwanted stuff were all on my new “To Do” list.

Okay, fine. I’ve got projects to do. And once I finish all that busy work, what then? What do I really want to do?  What had I imagined for myself before life got in the way? What will give me joy?

Lots of contemplation revealed that my retirement wants-and-needs basically fit into six categories: health and fitness, friends and family, giving back, self-improvement, creativity and having fun.

Beneath each category I listed a half dozen or so specific objectives, projects and dreams. No bungee jumping or rock climbing. Just achievable goals that would require some effort. Hike the local trails. Make Dad his favorite, banana cream pie. Volunteer. Expand my vocabulary. Try watercolors. Learn to make a proper margarita. Not everyone’s idea of a bucket list.

When my retirement finally did arrive I discovered that it takes a while to unwind after the job. It takes time for the surreal feelings of this new life to dissipate. I’m not on vacation. I’m retired.

I took some time – but not too long – to let the feel of retirement sink in. That old flannel-pajama nightmare was still lurking nearby.

retirementToday my list is my compass in life. It guides me toward where I want to be and prevents me from squandering time. But it’s open to fine-tuning, not carved in stone. I can add, change or remove items. It’s my list.

Do I have lazy days? Sure. Do I wander off track at times? You bet. But focusing on meaningful goals makes it easier for me to accomplish, create, contribute and have fun in retirement.

And that feels better than flannel pajamas any day.



Anniversary Reblog: Holsteins in the Hood

Dear Readers ~ If you read my last post, you may remember that it’s been one year this month since I started this blogging journey. Today I’m reblogging another one of my very early posts in order to mark that occasion.


cow eating grassIt was a beautiful day when the cows decided to take a walk. Not my cows – just a few adventure-seeking neighborhood cows. I glanced out my window and there they were: seven black and white Holsteins grazing serenely in the ditch along my country road. Definitely strays.

Now, it’s no surprise to see cows around here. Dairy farms and hobby farms surround our land. I’ve even known a local resident to keep a few of these country critters as pets. It was safe to assume there was no cattle rustling involved, so I knew this group had wandered away from home on their own.

My neighborhood was quiet and it seemed no one was noticing these voyagers on the loose. I started to worry that a speeding car would bring disaster. Someone had to escort them home, but who? I was on my own.

My mind drifted back to summer vacations as a kid on my uncle’s Wisconsin dairy farm. It was always my job to call in the cows at milking time.

Bosseee,” I’d call loudly from the edge of the pasture, just the way my aunt did it. It seldom took more than two attempts before the lead cow started toward me. Once she began to saunter, the others followed. Watching those Holsteins coming my way gave this young city girl an intoxicating sense of power.

The cows would enter the barn in an orderly fashion, each one knowing its designated spot. That is, until one of those typically docile creatures parked in someone else’s stanchion, causing a bovine mini-panic. I’d help my uncle straighten them out by pushing, pulling and smacking as needed, taking care not to be stepped on or squished. Quickly they were all in place where they belonged. Oh, yeah, I can wrangle cows.

But that was then. I pictured myself now, a beyond-middle-aged woman with arms flailing, trying to chase a bunch of cows back home. No, it was better to stay inside and leave the herding to someone else. Old age and cowardice won out.Loose Cows (3)

The sound of an approaching ATV promised a solution. Our neighbor, Joe, arrived on the scene and in no time at all he headed ‘em up and moved ‘em out. I breathed a sigh of relief as Joe expertly steered the cows toward home.

It was neighborly of Joe to help. Like good neighbors everywhere he did the right thing. He wasn’t looking for thanks but I’d bet he was offered a handshake, a coffee and a slice of pie upon safe return of the cows. I know, because that’s the way it’s done around here.

And that’s why I plan to stay here a long, long time. Till the cows come home.



Anniversary Reblog: Fashion Philosophy

Today marks one year since I first set foot in the Blogosphere. It’s been an amazing experience and I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many talented and generous people here. This month I’m reblogging some very early posts that were probably only seen by two or three people the first time around. Thank you all for your kindness ~ you’re an inspiration!


Clothes-Hanger-300pxA change of season always comes with a long list of chores to do, at least in Minnesota where I live. Springtime means dragging out garden hoses, washing windows and planting flowers. Fall brings with it raking leaves, storing patio furniture and pulling up those same flowers we planted not long ago.

Whether spring or fall, there’s one seasonal routine I never miss – my wardrobe rotation. Not that I have a fashionista-worthy wardrobe, but I do bring out all my clothes for the coming season while the departing season’s garments are stored until next time. In the spring, sweaters are swapped for blouses or tees and capris replace slacks and jeans.

And when the next seasonal change approaches, I do it all over again – in reverse. It’s an effort that just needs doing, right along with filing income taxes and cleaning the toilets.

When it’s time for the semi-annual shakeup, my walk-in closet morphs from an organized space to a chaotic scene. Hangers stripped of their garments are left swinging on the pole and drawers are emptied. Shoes are re-boxed (yes, I keep the shoeboxes for just this purpose) and exchanged for the seasonal-appropriate footwear.

Most women probably follow this practice to some degree, in spite of the fact that it baffles the men in their lives. Wardrobe organization and shopping – most men just don’t see the need. My friend’s husband claims that he could buy a whole suit while he’s double-parked. I believe him.

My own husband has come to accept my routine although he’ll never comprehend it. His year-round attire consists of nothing more than jeans, T-shirts and flannel shirts. The hangars on his side of the closet are laden with dozens of flannel shirts. I’ve tried, and failed, to see any difference among those flannels. His seasonal wardrobe adjustments involve adding or subtracting a layer. Easy.

Hubby's Dress Code

           Hubby’s Dress Code

And while he does have one good suit and tie for the occasional wedding or funeral, he wouldn’t dream of complicating things with shorts, polo shirts or khakis.

Not long ago, though, my better half did have a wardrobe dilemma after he gave up sweets and lost a few pounds. Suddenly his trusty old leather belt was too big. He once explained his belt system to me – either the walking notch, the sitting notch or the Thanksgiving notch would be in play, depending on his current activity. But it seems that his weight loss had messed everything up. Not to worry. He easily solved the problem by switching to a military-style web belt with infinite sizing capacity. If only it were that easy for women.

Long ago I resigned myself to this seasonal wardrobe shift but then something happened. I retired. And in retirement I discovered that the size of my existing wardrobe far exceeded my needs. No more dress pants, blouses and professional-looking jackets. They’re destined for the donation box.

These days my wardrobe rotation is done on a much smaller scale. My closet even has some empty space since jeans, sweatshirts, shorts and tees are my new essentials. Every morning I select from the comfy apparel that makes up my streamlined wardrobe. Simple. Quick. Pure bliss.

Maybe the men have had the right idea all along. Who knew?




The Eye of the Beholder


bunting-300pxIt feels like summer is almost here and nothing says summertime like an outdoor festival. Whether the event celebrates music, art or food, it’s hard for me to resist the appeal. Not that I’m an avid shopper – I buy very little. I just love the atmosphere. Maybe that’s because I’ve spent so much time working at art and craft fairs.

For almost ten years my hubby and I traversed our state, selling his crafts on weekends, after doing our real jobs during the week. His woodworking hobby had turned into a side business, designing and building everything from fireplace mantles to grandfather clocks.

Eventually he came up with the idea of building children’s rocking chairs. The craft show business was booming at the time and we decided to market the chairs that way. Little did we know how much work would be involved.

Of course, there was a learning curve. Figuring out the best events to try, navigating the application and jury process, and setting up a mobile shop was plenty of work, especially in the pre-Internet era. And then we had to build some inventory.

The rocking chairs were fashioned from solid oak or maple, and they were elegantly simple in design. Built with mortise-and-tenon joints, they were study enough to become heirlooms. We joked that someday one might turn up on Antiques Roadshow.

The shed - rocking chairs in progress (6)

I knew the building process well. The familiar sounds that came from hubby’s workshop – the high-pitched grinding noise as boards ran through the planer; the metallic whine of the table saw; the whooshing sound made when wood hit the sanding belt – all told me he was doing something he loved.

A craft show day usually began in the middle of the night for us. With our cargo van and trailer filled with rocking chairs we’d be on the road early, sometimes headed hundreds of miles away. We’d arrive at our designated location, say a quick prayer for good weather and begin unloading.

An hour later we’d be ready for the show to start, our white canopy filled with a carefully arranged display. Hours after our day began we’d have our first chance to sit down and relax.

Early morning browsers would begin strolling by, some glancing our way as they passed, some stopping to talk. Once we made our first sale of the day, the butterflies in my stomach, always there at the beginning, disappeared. As the hours passed, we’d stay busy chatting and answering questions, completing sales and taking orders. The mood was always festive, with the aromas of food and the sounds of music drifting in the air.

Many customers became repeat customers over the years. Some wanted a personalized chair for each child as their family grew. Some sent us photos of their kids after a purchase. We became well acquainted with some families and saw them year after year at the same festivals.

Copy of chairs0001Then there was the day something almost magical happened. During a lull in the crowd that day we sat down to rest for a minute. I watched as an elderly couple approached our booth. The woman clutched the man’s arm with one hand; with the other hand she held a white cane.

They stopped at the front of our canopy and the man ran his hand along the arm of a rocking chair. His eyes wandered around our display, then he spoke quietly to her. She was facing me but her eyes were closed.

Letting go of her companion’s arm, she touched the maple rocking chair in front of her. Lightly her fingers followed the straight lines and gently rounded edges. She caressed the arms, the back, and finally the curve of the rockers. I knew the satiny smoothness she was feeling. I watched her face as she whispered, “Oh, they’re beautiful!”

I felt a tightening in my throat and glanced at my hubby. His eyes were rimmed with tears. The woman remained with her hand on the chair for a minute or two, then once again she clutched the man’s arm. Together they slowly moved away from us. It was the loveliest compliment ever.

Our craft shows days are over now but I remember the sacrifice and hard work needed to make it happen. Today, if I’m wandering around a festival, I take my time as I pass the rows of vendor booths. I may not be buying anything but I make it a point to share a friendly smile or to say a kind word.

And always, I hope that each of those artists and artisans will someday catch an admiring and appreciative eye.




Pickleball, Anyone?


sports-300pxIf you’ve been married for a while, as I have, you may have noticed a decline in the number of activities you once shared with your spouse. I don’t mean shopping, housework or errands. I’m talking about the fun stuff. No, not sex either – this is a G-rated blog.

I’m thinking of the things my hubby and I used to do together that have fallen by the wayside. Things like racquetball, tennis, downhill skiing, archery, bowling, canoeing, biking and hiking. Activities that provided exercise, fun and a chance to get outside together – and avoid sitting in front of the TV.

Some of our old pastimes were surrendered to diminishing stamina. Some, like bowling and racquetball, were victims of shoulder surgeries. Biking and hiking ended when we moved from our suburban home, with nearby trails, to the country. Our country roads are narrow and traffic is light but fast. Not really safe for biking and hiking.

With warm weather approaching, I’ve been on a quest for a new activity to share with my hubby. And it’s my quest alone – he’s content with things just the way they are. Yes, we each have our own hobbies but I want something we can share. Something we’re both capable of doing and enjoying together. Ideally, something outdoors.

Then, one happy day, I heard about pickleball. And, no, it’s not an appetizer. If you’ve never heard of pickleball, it’s a cross between tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The game is played on a court that’s smaller than a tennis court, indoors or outdoors. Wooden paddles are used to hit a plastic ball over a low net. With a small court and a light ball, the game is senior-friendly and easy to learn but still a good workout that promotes coordination and balance.

Pickleball has been around for fifty years but it began to gain popularity in the last several years. Today it’s the one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., according to the USA Pickleball Association. If you’re interested in learning more, check out their website at www.usapa.org.

As for my quest, I think pickleball might be my kind of game. I’ve researched online, checked sporting goods stores for equipment and made my decision. Now I just need to convince my hubby to participate, but he might need a nudge. Maybe if I mention ballroom dancing . . .