Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Boomer Worries

My Hubby says I'm not happy unless I am worrying about something.  So what am I worrying about these days?

  • My Southwest High music fundraiser.  The list of worries on this goes on and on.  Yesterday though I decided that if I could throw money at a problem and get rid of the worry, I would.    I did the same last year.    Next year, it will be someone else's worry.  But then, I said that last year.
  • My ankle.  I tore a ligament and now walk around in a funny boot.  The Doc said it's the type of injury that can reoccur.    I have about 25 more National Parks to go.    That means lots of hiking and I tend to trip on tree roots.  A lot.   
  • My weight.  Keeping weight off is always a worry.  But doing it when you can't put in your usual three mile daily walk makes it even harder.  Plus doing it when you have Halloween, Thanksgiving,  Christmas and my birthday over the next three months is harder still.
  • What my daughter does that I don't know about.    I don't really think she's doing anything I wouldn't like, but then she's eighteen, so what do I know?  So I worry.   Heck,  I was eighteen once.
These are the biggies.  I suppose in the scheme of things they are not very big.  Like I'm not really worried about who becomes President.    There, I said it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Boomer Prepares for College

I know what you are thinking.  Aren't you a little old for college?   Perhaps not too old, but been there, done that.  My Darling Daughter, Grace, on the other hand, is just right for college.  Now that she is a senior, "we" have begun the adventure of college selection.    

We've opted for the "apply to a bunch of schools as well as the state school and hope they give you a bunch of money" approach.  I've learned from the experienced college seekers that this approach generally results in the child getting accepted to many schools that she can't afford so she ends up at the state school anyway.  

It's not like when I went to college.  Cost was still an issue even though it was a heck of a lot less.  My solution was simply not to go to college (until social security came to the rescue).   My eldest brother's solution was to work, save money, then go to school until the money ran out.  My middle brother got a sport's scholarship.  All of us went to state schools.

Grace is both practical and a dreamer.   She wants to be a marine biologist and travel the world.  She wants to study abroad in Spain.  She wants to be a scientist in the Caribbean.  She can envision herself on a science project in the Antarctic.    She wants to become a dive master in her spare time.   And just in case that doesn't work out, International Studies is her fallback.  And to do all this, she wants to go to school in California.

So she embarked on an internet search, identifying the best schools for her goals:  UCLA-Santa Barbara, UCLA-San Diego, UCLA.    We explained to her that these schools were too expensive since she'd have to pay out-of-state tuition and that financial aid was not going to happen. It's not that we couldn't afford to send her, Hubby and I just don't think out-of-state schools are a very good value when you compare it to her two state school options (University of Minnesota and University of Wisconsin).    

Beautiful Redlands University campus
After realizing merit scholarships offered her only hope, she identified all the private schools that looked like a possibility.  Those that offered the clearest path to merit aid rose to the top.   Mostly good schools, though still somewhat underrated vs. her state school options here in the snowy north.

As all this school searching is taking place, Grace is actually already attending the University of Minnesota finishing her senior high school year as a college student.  This is all very cool as she gets college credit without the cost.  Or so we thought.    Come to find out, not every school will transfer the credit because she also received high school credit.

So Grace began a letter writing effort to the Admissions Offices to find out who would/wouldn't take the credit.  And later she revised this effort with letters to the Registrar's office.  Because she is a practical gal, she made up her mind she would only consider schools that accepted at least one year of credit.  This eliminated one of her private schools.

Tour guide at University of San Diego
With our revised list in hand, we did the college trip to San Diego and Los Angeles.  I have to admit, it was fun and exciting and I wished I was the one who was eighteen and heading off on a new adventure.  And yes, I asked all the questions while Grace and Hubby listened in embarrassment.

Laguna Beach "college visit break"
In order to qualify for merit aid, you've got to have the SAT and g.p.a. numbers.  The higher, the better.  So Grace, in an effort to improve her SAT scores, retook the test.  And she made some big jumps, improving her chances.   Her top choice school changes as she thinks the chances at admission and aid change.  I think it is now USC.

So now the paperwork begins:  applications, essays, letters of recommendations.  Her goal is to have them all done by mid November.   Then we wait.   I told her it will be like Christmas every time a letter arrives from a school.   Did you get in?  Did you get any money?  Did you get enough money?

Then the decision.  She's already decided that if the money isn't enough, she'll just stay a the University of Minnesota.  We've given her a promise to pay for graduate school wherever she wants to go.   But between you and me, if she comes close on one of those private schools, I'm going to have a hard time delivering the news she can't go.   She has worked very hard on this.

So I'm going to do the noble thing.  Let Hubby take the rap and look sad.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Bill, the camping man
Last week I agreed to a couple of nights camping in a nearby State Park with my Hubby.  In our twenty years of marriage I have gone camping about five times.    He loves it.  Me?  I just don't get it.

Let me recap my experiences.

Me, blending in with my environment
Camping trip #1.  This was the most successful.  Young, single, in love.  Camping by some river.  Bullfrogs singing their bullfrog songs.  Nice campfire.    Outhouse nearby.   After camping trip #1 I thought, this isn't so bad.

Bill gets our tent site ready
Bill carts in our camping gear
Camping trip #2.  A night in the boundary waters.  Newly married.  Adventurous.  Left our cozy A-Frame and paddled into the wilderness.  Set up tent, ate dinner.  Went wandering.  Chipmunk ate my ginger snaps.  Retired for the evening.  Thunderstorm with high winds throughout the night.  Bill was fearful but didn't tell me.   I was too stupid to be afraid.  Paddled back the next day in the rain and wind.  Fun?  I think not.

Wildlife crossing road.

Hiking trail
Camping trip #3.  A summer camping trip with another family.  Family bonding.  Hiking.  Dinner on the campfire.  Smores.  August temperatures dipping into the low 40's at night.  I am not prepared.  Freeze my rear end off.  Could hardly sleep.  Fun?  I think not.

Lake Pepin shore
Frontenac State Park at night
Camping trip #4.   Camping to do a pre-check of Boundary Water camping gear. Darling Daughter and I join Hubby and his Boundary Water Buddy at a Wisconsin state park.  Nice shower/bathroom facility but a little bit of a walk.  Get the tent up.  Do the campfire, dinner thing..barely.  Rain begins and goes on and on and on.  An absolute downpour.  We hunkered in the tent and played cards.    Middle of the night still raining when I ventured out to the outhouse (closer than nice shower/bathroom facility).  Fun?  I think not.

Camping trip #5.  Our most recent two-night adventure in Frontenac State Park.  Gorgeous fall colors.  Lovely hike along the cliffs above Lake Pepin.  Temperatures cool but I was prepared.  Ate at a nearby restaurant but made a nice cozy campfire later.  Forgot the smores.  Went to bed.  Hours later, still awake listening to the non-stop sound of freight trains.   Chugga, chugga, chugga.  Even Bill, the camping enthusiast, was miserable.   Packed up the next day.  Fun?  I think not.

Cool fire.  No smores.
While I agree there are times when the only way to see what you want to see may be by camping, the rest of the time, why would you?   If you can get a nice warm, dry room, with a nice soft bed with breakfast and have that wonderful park/river/vista/hiking trail (you name it) a short drive away, why would you spend all day putting together camping supplies for a night or two outside?

I just don't get it.  Except for the smores.

Frontenac Path to site #6

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Is Facebook Wasting Retiree Time?

Recently a Facebook friend announced he is shutting down his page to all but a few relatives.  He says it is getting in the way of doing those things he really wants/should do.   So it made me wonder as well.  Is the time I spend on Facebook worth it?    

On the plus side, here are some things I learned on Facebook that in all likelihood I would never have learned or learned much later.

  • My cousin, J.C., died after a long battle with cancer.  Another cousin posted the news soon after it happened.  And my cousin's daughter posted enough that I knew his family was present at the time.    I would have eventually learned of J.C.'s passing, but not nearly as fast.  And very unlikely to have heard anything about the time leading up to his dying because I wouldn't get home for the funeral.   I was also able to let J.C.'s niece (a non-facebook person) know right away for which she was very appreciative.  A B+ posting.
  • My cousin, Jimmy, just got married to Jack in New York (where it is legal).  I haven't seen Jimmy in probably 40 years.   I've kept up with his mom and dad through the years so I knew a little of what was going on in his life, but not much.  So I was very happy to share in Jimmy's good news and his happiness, if only through Facebook.  And I'm guessing Facebook is the ONLY way I would have known.  An A+ posting.
  • I come from a large family and it keeps getting larger.  I know because people keep posting proud grandma/grandpa/great grandma/great grandpa pictures.  Would never hear about the 1st cousins twice removed (cousins' kids' kids) any other way.   But as I am sure I'm still missing many other births and haven't felt terribly bad about it, I'll call this a C posting.
  • Bill has a small extended family (compared to mine) and knows few of them.  Through Facebook I have befriended a number of his cousins and their children.  After posting on Jane V.S.'s page I was headed to California for vacation, she connected us up to her dad, Peter, Bill's 1st cousin.  We met Peter and spent the day hiking and hope to see him again our next trip out.  Definitely an A posting.

These are all family postings though.  I have many more examples of things I learned through my wanderings on relative pages.   Like my friend, I could eliminate non-family members and be in the same place.  So what of my non-relatives?    Have my posts and time spent on non-relative friends' pages been worth it?   Do I accomplish anything except wasting time?  To answer this question, I reviewed my past activity to see how I felt about it looking back.

First off I don't have that many friends.   And my friends can be classified into those I will check in on frequently and those that I may check on occasionally.  Then there are those I never check on because either a) I really don't know who they are or b) their comments/lives simply don't interest me much.   I suppose I could de-friend the latter folks, but since I spend no time with them they don't really waste my time.  Why make them feel bad?  Maybe they are spending time with me and love everything about me.  (Who wouldn't?)   So the potential time waster comes from reading the posts of those folks I visit or from my own posting.  Hence, my review of various types of posts and assessment of time wasted.

  • "Give me your thoughts" posts.  For the most part when I ask for an opinion I get it.  Even if I don't act on it, where else can I get the thoughts of people I know without sending out lots of emails or making calls.   And if I am asked for an opinion, I gladly add it to the conversation.  I'm calling these A class posts.
  • Give-Away/Sweepstakes posts.  I've done a lot of these and they are not good.  I never win and then I'm stuck seeing their updates most of which do not interest me.  Having learned how to turn them off my news feed, I am slowly ridding myself of these time wasters.   Still I am always tempted by a good prize.  D posts.
  • Random "what am I doing, thinking" posts.  These generally are worthless.  I am always amused though when they provoke comments from others.  You just never know what's going to hit a hot button.  While these are not necessarily great uses of my time, I no longer feel I have to type something everyday, every hour.   The potential amusement value as a researcher is good enough to continue them at a low level.  So I give these a C.
  • Political posts.  I don't do them and I seldom read those of others.  I can do without them because I seldom find them enlightening or fair to the candidates.  Not worth my time.
  • Religious posts.  These fall in the same camp as political posts.   I'm in the camp that throughout the centuries as much harm as help has probably been done in the name of religion.   So I generally don't read these.  Also not worth my time.
  • Picture posting and reviewing.  Well this one is tough.  It probably is a time waster but it is just sooo handy.  My issue is I post on Facebook and I post on Shutterfly.     Having recently taken about a million pictures while on vacation, I've become painfully aware that too much time can be wasted loading pics that most friends will probably not look at.    As far as me looking at others' photos, I think I self-edit.  I like seeing former co-workers' proud mama new baby pictures and a few travel pics keep me up-to-date on others' exciting lives.   The occasional picture post of something odd and funny my friend David sees on his international travels keeps me entertained like a funny TV show.   So overall, in small doses, picture posting/reviewing can be valuable and entertaining.  I give them a B rating.
  • "Linking" posts.  These are deadly.  And sometimes very funny.  But mostly deadly.  I do them myself despite this belief.  Why?  Well they tell people what I am interested in:  the Twins, the occasional food/diet story, my volunteering pursuits, the Derby.     Sometimes I just want to get the word out on something.  But do they get read?  Probably not by many.  So my links can definitely be scaled back.  Anyone who wants to know about the Twins can read the paper.  What of other's posts?  Well, I mostly ignore them but I do like to see the occasional video of someones kid performing and there are some hilarious YouTube videos that pop up.    So, as with photos, I mostly need to moderate my own posting behavior.  Another B rating.  
  • Everything else.  I'm not sure what I've missed, but that tells me everything else is probably a waste of time.  So let's just give them an F and promise not to do them anymore.
So net conclusion:  Enough above average time spent that I'm staying on Facebook.  Besides,  I'm retired.  Who cares?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Never Letting Go

Yesterday I walked twice around Lake of the Isles.  You are probably thinking I am a real go getter in the exercise world.  Well, I walked around once.  Then right as I reached my driveway I realized my right earring was missing.   Hence, I went a second time around the lake, only at a much slower pace.

I did not search without a plan.    First I did a mental assessment of my activity while doing my first circuit.    For 3/4 of the route I merely placed one foot in front of the other, likely hugging the inside of the trail to minimize the distance.    It was at the 3/4 mark that I met up with a friend.  At that time I yanked my buds out of my ears so that I could talk and listen freely.  Then, realizing I was now late for my SKYPE call with my Finnish Exchange lad, I began to jog for some of the remaining distance.   I reasoned, therefore, I should reverse my walk.

I felt confident it was a good plan.  As I was just starting out a neighbor was just finishing her walk.   After exchanging pleasantries, I told her of my quest.  She was totally sympathetic.  She too had lost an earring while walking the Lake over 1 1/2 years ago.  As she told me her story, I could see her become visibly upset.  She said she lost it in the snow, but hasn't given up.  She is still looking.   Right then I had an image of myself wandering the moors, desperately seeking that which I had lost.  Heathcliff??

Back to reality.    As I walked the trail backwards, I kept an eye on the sidewalk and the inside edge of the trail.   Having no luck,  I thought perhaps I needed to think like an earring.  Where would I fall?  Then I remembered an earring can't think.  Okay, think like someone who might have found my earring.  Where would she put it?  (Note, I think a he would have just left it where it landed.)  I began to look on the benches and tops of ledges and posts along the trail.  I even looked inside a garbage can.  Only once though.  If my earring was residing with the day's collection of dog poop, it would have to stay there.

A related side story.  Hubby and I once found a pair of eyeglasses in its case on the sidewalk while walking the lake.  We debated what to do.  They seemed like a decent pair of glasses so we decided to take them home.  No, not to keep!   We quickly prepared some lovely flyers telling the owner where she could find her glasses and posted them all around the area where they were found.  Hubby thought we should post on Craig's List, but I thought that was an overkill.  For sure someone would see the signs and call.  But no one called.    Perhaps we should have let the glasses stay where we found them.   

Back to the earring search.  Well, let me end the suspense.  I did not find the earring.   This greatly saddened me.  They were new.  Worn only once.  Not expensive but still, they were new.  Worn only once.  Did I say that already?  I was also angry with myself.  In my earring holder I have two little bags full of earring backs for just this problem.  You see this is not the first earring I have ever lost.  It is not the first time I have failed to put a back on the earring.

So, why am I posting such a mundane little story?  Because I have this box.  And in this box I have about ten earrings, maybe more, none with a match.  Some of these earrings are twenty years old.   Yet,   I hang on to them.    There must be some deep meaning to this.  Trying to avoid blame?    Inability to face reality?  Looking for an excuse to put another hole in my ear?

Like my neighbor, I can't let go.  If I do ever find a match, it will be like the prodigal earring.  Returned to me.  More appreciated than the one that never left.  

My inability to let go is worrisome though.  You see my daughter will be leaving for college next year and I don't have a match.  She's the only one in the box.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Big C vs. the Little c

About a week ago I got the call I have been expecting for many years. The Piper Breast Institute called to say there was a spot on my mammogram they felt we should look at with an ultrasound. I was so sure I was getting this call that before the gal provided any details, I correctly predicted the problem was on the right breast. When I was having my annual mammogram the technician took two extra shots on that side. You can't tell me that those techies, who do this all day and look at 100's of scans don't notice things a little out of the ordinary. Then again, I suppose I had a 50/50 shot to get that one right.

Anyhow, I dutifully made my ultrasound appointment and began to mentally prepare myself for bad news. Mom was a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in her mid 50's. Her sister was diagnosed when only in her 40's. Unfortunately for my Aunt Margaret, the discovery came too late and she died. I still remember driving her to the doctor getting treated for back pain when she was still wondering what the heck was wrong. When my mom underwent a biopsy and they found a malignant tumor, she opted for the full mastectomy. They did it right away. She went into the operating room hoping for good news and came out with one less body part. When the doctor told us what was going on, he made it clear to me that I was in a high risk category. Hence my pessimistic viewpoint. I'm 57. I've been having mammograms for 30 years. The time seemed right.

Consolation prize: European cruise
Hubby and I walked the lake and chatted about the upcoming ultrasound. I told him my plan was to assume the worst. He thought that was good. He is a prostate cancer survivor. When he was diagnosed he was so unprepared that he literally tuned out the doctor telling him. Had to have it repeated. Just shocked that it was happening. But assuming the worse to me means I will get diagnosed, treated and survive.

Now I come to the true confessions part of this post. Prior to the ultrasound, I began thinking about how to capitalize on the inevitable sorry feelings others would have about my terrible news. Grace would want to cheer me up and insist we go pick out a cool prom dress instead of insisting on wearing her Internet bargain. Members of the Music Board, of which I am chair, would insist on taking over the planning of the big annual fundraiser.  Hubby would take me on a fabulous European cruise.  I could lose that extra 15 pounds.   Ahhh, the benefits of The Big C seemed mine for the taking.

As the day of my ultrasound drew closer, I began doing Internet searches. Did she say it was a centimeter? Is that big? Maybe Stage 1. Check.  I'll survive.  Lots of info on the problems of detecting lumps in dense breasts.  I've been repeatedly told mine are very dense; almost no fat.  Normally anything with no fat would thrill me to no end.  Apparently my missing breast fat found a home along my waist. The Internet said there's only a 50/50 chance a mammogram will detect anything in breasts like mine. So guess this was a lucky find.   The search also said it may be only cysts. I have a history of cysts. It's been quite a few years since I've dealt with any. Those were all found with self exams. I could not find this mysterious creature even knowing it was there.
The internet prom dress was just fine.

So the big day arrived for the ultrasound. Bill volunteered to go with me but I declined figuring I'd still have a biopsy step to take before we really knew anything. The folks at the Center greeted me in a subdued manner being careful not to be too cheerful. At first I thought I had never had an ultrasound on my breast but as soon as I saw the machine I realized this was used to locate my problem cysts. It took all of a minute to have the exam. Then the radiologist came in to talk to me. She confirmed I had very dense breasts. Thank you. That I knew. Then she announced, "You have cysts.  Nothing to worry about."

So that was that.   No Big C, just the little c.   As I walked through the reception area I must have looked happy or relieved or both because I got a much cheerier reception from the desk ladies.  I announced happily, "I'll see you next year"  and they smiled seemingly as relieved as I was.

So I didn't get to pick out that prom dress or get relieved from my Booster duties and the European cruise will have to wait. And that tummy fat is going to have to come off the old fashioned way.   But I think my reception face must have told the story.   Despite my acceptance of my fate, I'll take the Little c over the Big C any time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Retiree Attempts Bread Baking

One of the delightful things about retirement is that you can take up new hobbies or interests.  I take the occasional camera class for improving my vacation pictures.  I'm taking piano though refusing the recitals.  This year I added caramels to my candy making adventures.  Next up,  bread baking.

For awhile I was making bread in our 15-year old bread maker (used about the same number of times as its age).  This was going well until Hubby accidently chewed up the little paddle (an important part) in the garbage disposal.  Given its age I was faced with buying a new/old one at the Goodwill, doing the bread thing totally by hand, or asking for a fancy mixer.

I went for the fancy mixer.  For Christmas I asked for a Red Kitchen Aid Mixer.  It was the kind of very specific request that I knew Hubby would appreciate.   There are many things one can do with a wonderful bright red device such as this, but truth be told, I primarily wanted it because it looks cool on the counter.  Now that I have it, the practical side of me says I must use it.   So back to bread baking.

I have had four bread baking attempts and I've yet to have a big success.   This should be easy.  Flour, water, yeast, a little salt.    Mix, ignore.  Shape, ignore.  Bake. Eat.

For my first attempt I used the Easy Rise Bread recipe.  Presumably a novice bread baker can't go wrong with this.  I don't know what happened, but this novice bread maker clearly went wrong somehow.  Maybe because I didn't check the water temperature for my yeast?  I tossed it.  It was ugly.  (I know pics would have been good here.)

I then moved on to the basic white bread recipe.  All was beautiful. I carefully measured my water temperature, mixed it up on speed 2 (no higher!), let it rise (which it actually did), rolled it out, formed some loafs, let it rise again (which it did again!) then started baking.  The recipe said start at 400 then drop the temp.  I got a little distracted and didn't drop the temperature.  In fact, I totally forgot I was baking it.  Grace came to get me at the computer to tell me that my bread looked "very" done so she took it out of the oven.  It was a little dark and crusty on the top, but didn't have the nice crumb inside.  That's what we bread makers say rather than admit it was doughy in the center.  At least this one was mostly edible.

Based on my second attempt, I figured just paying a little closer attention would result in a perfect result.  So for my third try I decided to stretch and make a pumpernickel bread using a little recipe I got from a bread book only I was missing the coffee ingredient so I substituted cocoa.  I had lots of cocoa and other recipes used cocoa.   I went through the same steps, but the bread didn't seem to want to rise quite as lovely as the last one.    But, hey, its pumpernickel!  So into the oven it went.  I carefully monitored.  When done I tapped its bottom, listening for that lovely hollow sound.  Sounded good to me, though I really don't know what a non-hollow bread sound would sound like.  The taste?   God awful.    Into the garbage.  I'm blaming the recipe, and maybe my adjustments,  for this mess.

I decided at this point I needed help so I went to a Kitchen Window bread class.  The teacher was like a magician.  I believe she could have made bread blindfolded with one arm tied behind her back.   I asked lots of questions.  I touched dough.  I watched her spray water into the oven to give the bread a nice crust.  I watched as she shaped the dough into rolls and loaves and braids and pretzels.   I was once again inspired.  This is easy!  I can do this!  Just need to buy a scale to measure all my ingredients by ounce instead of cup.  Besides there's this lovely Red one that will look really cool on my counter.

So on my next attempt I measured all my ingredients with my handy new red scale.  Then I forgot to check the water temperature again, but hey it was warm, so probably it was fine.  Mixed everything together using my newfound knowledge of machine kneading.  Did you know you can't over knead when using a mixer?  That's good to know.  Then I set it aside to rise.  Oops, I forgot the salt.  Quick google on that said, in no particular order, a) too late to add now, you are screwed, b) just add lots of salted butter, it will be fine and c) salt is needed for the rise, d) feed it to the birds.    Needless to say, I approached the loaf shaping with some dismay.    The dough felt good.  Not too dry.  Nice stretch.  I attempted a round loaf.    How did she do that again?   Heck, it's sort of round.  Good enough.   Into the oven.    Watched the time.    Not very dark on top, but I avoided the egg wash due to my vegan daughter.  And I didn't have a cool water spray to make steam in the oven, so maybe a little light on top is okay.  Took it out.  Tapped it.  Sounded hollow.  First slice?  A little doughy again.  Taste?  Needs salt.   Garbage?  Maybe.

But I'm not giving up.  Already planning my next attempt.  First I have to go buy a little bottle for spraying water.  You just can't develop a new passion without all the right equipment.

Maybe I can find a little Red water bottle.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Memoir of Stuff

I cannot decide what to write about.  Recently I went to a writing seminar to get inspired.  One thing Alison McGhee (our guru) said was to give yourself ten minutes a day  to write creatively .  So this is my ten minutes.

At the seminar I realized I am ignorant of most things related to writing.  For one, I never thought of "memoir" writing.  Several times that came up so I looked it up.  Here's the definition I liked:

memoir is how one remembers one's own life, while an autobiography is history, requiring the checking of facts etc.   

In other words, a memoir doesn't need to be true.  That pretty much fits with what I write here, so I've declared my blog a memoir written in real time.  I suppose there are other words to describe it, some  might even be positive, but memoir works for me so I'm sticking to it.

She also gave us an exercise requiring us to describe an individual by describing those things you associate with the individual.  No personality words.  

Has it been ten minutes yet?  No?  Well,  I must go on then.   I will try to incorporate my new learning.

This morning I was thinking about my mom.  A friend's last parent (dad) recently died and she is busy dealing with the artifacts of her parents' life.  Lots of antiques and I presume other valuables.  So they are dealing with dealers to get rid of the lot.  

When my mom died, we went through her stuff and the conversation went something like this:  "Anyone want the ceramic duck collection?"  Silence.    "How about the thimble collection?  Look there's one from South Dakota! "  More silence.  "Here's a few rosaries.  I think I gave her the one that lit up in the dark.  Anyone need some rosaries?"  Silence.  "Who wants this broken statue of Mary (that's the holy one)?  Silence.  That's when my sister-in-law steps in and takes the statue.  She couldn't bear the thought of it being tossed in the garbage.   And I eventually step  in and take the ducks, the thimbles and the light up rosary.    

Now as I look down the road, knowing that the inevitable will eventually happen with only my daughter to go through my stuff, I realize more and more that my stuff may not be stuff anyone wants.  And certainly it isn't stuff that any dealer would want.  It's time to stop collecting and start weeding.

Anyone want a thimble collection?  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Our Finnish Lad..Lessons Shared

We are currently in month five of hosting a foreign exchange student.  Our Finnish Lad came to us last October  and began attending Southwest High School.    Now that we are a little over the half way mark, I figure it is time to reflect on life with Our Finnish Lad.

We took on this adventure without much discussion or thought.  He needed a place.  We had a place.   We never had any big discussions about how we would handle this or that.  Instead, life just unfolds and we take it as it comes.  Kind of the way life has been with our Darling Daughter (oops I mean Grace.)  Actually, when I think about it, it is pretty much how we took on marriage too.  Not a lot of discussion.  Just dig in.

So what have I learned so far from this adventure?  

Number 1:  We got lucky.  Our Finnish Lad is an easy going, respectful young man.  Not a whole lot of drama.   He takes correction well.   He probably would fuss more if we were his parents, but they have obviously trained him well.  

Number 2:  We are pushovers.   Particularly Hubby.    When Our Finnish Lad was hell bent on eating ice cream (cookie dough to be exact) Hubby kept him supplied.  When Our Finnish Lad wanted pancakes every morning, Hubby made him pancakes.   When Our Finnish Lad needed inexpensive hockey equipment to try out for the team, Hubby drove him at 6:30 a.m. in the morning to be first in line at the Excell Center give-away.  (Now I know my Hubby likes a bargain, but even this was beyond the norm for him.)   The young man tends to get all excited over something but the excitement tends to fade in a few weeks.  We go along for the ride.

Number 3:  We can't change his colors.  He likes what he likes and discards everything else.  When I learned Our Finnish Lad had no interest in reading, I foolishly thought he just needed the right book.  Knowing his interest in "extreme" sports, I gave him the book "Into Thin Air" to read.  Four months later he is on page 30.

Number 4:  We're not so bad to be around.  Our Daughter is not a sit around the table and chat kind of gal.   Not that she doesn't share, but she does so on her terms not ours.  She will literally change rooms if I sit down with her to watch a TV show.  But Our Finnish Lad can get downright chatty!  Yes, after dinner we actually sit and shoot the breeze for awhile.  He is very entertaining.  He and Hubby trade typical "male" humor, leaving me mystified but amused.   Basically, he doesn't mind being around us.  If I could stand watching shows like South Park or American Dad, he would gladly make room on the couch.  It's nice being liked.

Number 5:  Sometimes you can only do so much.     I wasn't mentally prepared for the first time Our Finnish Lad really needed an emotional crutch.  He failed to make the hockey team and was devastated.  He moped by himself for awhile then finally sat next to me.  When I asked, "do you need to talk", the floodgates opened.  I realized right then, he's a long way from home and mom and I had to bridge the distance.  Mostly I just listened, offering a few words of advice here and there.  When he was done he said he felt better.     But I was left wondering if I should have done more.  Like a hug.  We have not ventured into the land of physical contact.  I asked him about that once and he was quick to say he liked his personal space.  And given I am a bit like that too, we keep our distance.

What has Our Finnish Lad learned so far?

Number 1:  American kids are woefully ignorant of the world around them.  He was particularly dumbfounded by the child who tried to identify Finland on a map of Africa.
Number 2:  It's hard to make friends.   American kids don't seem to just hang out.  I didn't tell him that it was hard even when you are an adult to make friends.  No need to pile on.
Number 3:  Finnish candy is better than American candy, though he seems to have no problem eating the American stuff.
Number 4:  That it is better to say "that's not my cup of tea" than to call someone else's interest "dumb." And, under no circumstance, can he say "that's so gay" and get away with it in my household.

And last, but not least, the one thing I can be sure he will take back to Finland, courtesy of my Hubby, is...

"That frosts my ass".

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Retiree Prayer: Save Me From Myself

I am tired.  I don't sleep well.  I don't exercise.  I am reminded of what I most dreaded about being a working person day in and day out.  The stress.

Once, while I was still part of the workforce, I told my boss that I worked hard to keep stress at a minimum.    That it was a struggle for me.  He was dumfounded.  He told me that he never saw any hint that I was under stress.   I don't think he believed me.

Until I started putting together a fundraiser for our school, I had forgotten myself how under control I had it.     Now I wake up in the morning (or in the middle of the night) and right off the bat my mind starts worrying about what is or isn't getting done on the project.  I worry about how to talk to people about what they need to start or stop doing.  I worry that I will forgot something I've committed to doing.  I worry that people will think I am a total nag.  I worry that the whole thing will be an utter failure and I will have let down the people who are depending on me.

This is just like work.  Only after 25 years of working day in and day out,  I had found a way to make most of the worry go away.  Now, after almost two years of a mostly worry-free existence, I find myself back in the worry saddle.    And to think,  I VOLUNTEERED for this.

It is an important reminder of why I retired.