Monday, June 28, 2010


If you eat homemade chocolate brownies at 6 AM along with your first cup of coffee for the day, that counts as breakfast. Right? I thought so.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

On Retirement

It has been a month since I left the world of the working masses and entered this new phase of my life.....Retirement. I have to say that it is proving to be an interesting time of my life. There are some things that I miss, but mostly there are things I am learning.

I have learned that I can stay up until two in the morning watching movies and it is OK. Probably not the most exciting thing in anyone's life, considering that my choices are movies like "Snow White," "Peter Pan," and "Cinderella." None of those movies where men chase each other around in cars, trucks or on motorcycles, shooting at one another. Or movies where things blow up a lot. Nope. Not for me. Watching "Snow White" reminds me of when I was a little girl and my Dad took me to a theater to see this Disney classic. I remember how scary it was, watching Snow White run through the creepy forest and how I laughed at the antics of the Seven Dwarfs. I think part of the memory is the fact that I got to spend time with my Dad. Mom wouldn't go. She held the belief that movies were sinful. I wasn't allowed to go to movies when I got a little older. Perhaps this is why I love these old movies. Teen-age rebellion run amok. I still can't watch "Bambi," tho. I cry when Bambi's mom gets killed.

I have learned that I don't need to feel guilty if I don't do the daily chores immediately upon getting out of bed in the morning. Previously, on the weekends especially, I felt the need to do things right away because I only had a certain number of hours before going back to work. This morning, for example, while enjoying my morning coffee, I spent a little over an hour going through some quilting blogs that I like to read. Which led to perusing a folder of quilt patterns that I have saved on my computer, looking for just the right pattern to use to make a quilt out of some delicious fabric I bought a short time ago, which led to drawing out the pattern on graph see how it goes. Now, the earth didn't stop rotating because I didn't wash the dishes first thing. Oh, they did get washed, the kitchen floor did get mopped and my bed is made, but I didn't feel guilty for leaving those chores go for a time. Letting go of that guilty feeling has taken practice. I am getting pretty good at it.

I have learned that I now have time to take absolute delight in the simple pleasures that life has to offer. Before retirement, there was never enough time. For anything. At least it seemed that way to me. I don't ever recall a time that I wasn't working, whether it was on the farm or at a job. But now, things have changed. When I go for a walk I have time to enjoy my surroundings. There is an old historical house about a block away with the prettiest lawn and flowers, along with benches for the public to rest on and take in the beauty around them. In the fourteen years that I have lived here, I had never had the time to stop there and enjoy on my walks with my dogs. Now it is a regular stop for us. Sometimes while doing something in my apartment, I will look down to find two pairs of eyes staring at me. You know the ones I am talking about. Those big, brown puppy eyes. Now, instead of finding something to keep them busy and out from under foot, I find that I can take the time to flop down on the living room floor and pet and play. There is real pleasure in having Jessie sit beside me, lean into me and smile that little demented chipmunk smile of hers when I give her the attention that she needs. The same goes for Lilly, who is too wound up to just sit, but who will bring her toys to me so I can toss them for her so she can go pick them up and hide them again. We are working on the "fetch and bring back" thing, but if hiding them makes her happy, so be it. I find that I can spend a day baking bread or sitting at my sewing machine, and truly enjoy the simple things that make me happy and content.

I find that I do miss seeing other people on a regular basis, but not so much. I have never needed to be around large groups of people, unless they were members of my family. I think I take after my Grandma Paul in that respect. I remember that she wasn't very comfortable in crowds and that she was happiest when the people surrounding her were her family. I don't feel the need to go out and spend time with acquaintances, but thoroughly enjoy the occasional days when I see my family. Like the times when one or the other of my children will call and ask if I would like to go to breakfast or lunch, or when one of them just drops by to see me for a little while. These times warm my heart and take care of any need I feel to get out and about and see people. I also love going to dance recitals or hockey games or any of the activities that my grandchildren are involved in. And the family get-togethers that we occasionally have are really high on my list of things I love to do. Even the phone calls I get where the grown-up child or grandchild on the other end says that they just wanted to see how I am or tell me about what they have been doing, make my day. I do miss seeing Starla, as we spent three years in each other's company and many hours talking about everything under the sun. But I stop in to see her once or twice a week and she calls me regularly to let me know what is going on in the shop, like yesterday when she called to tell me that she was doing a happy dance because one of the most difficult dogs we worked on (scratching, biting, growling, nasty dog) was now going to another groomer. We thought we should send that poor groomer a sympathy card, but refrained. So I guess, all in all, I see enough people and talk to enough people so that I don't really miss it all that much.

Old habits are hard to break. I still find myself usually up at the crack of dawn, sitting in my rocking chair, coffee cup in hand, watching the sunrise. But now I have the time to watch. I find myself sticking to some routines, such as immediately feeding the animals and giving them fresh water first thing in the morning. They get cranky if I don't. Especially the fat cats! I still do the hated and despised laundry early on Sunday mornings, as this is the best time to do it while everyone else in the building is still asleep and I have the laundry room to myself. I still fix myself a couple of eggs and toast for breakfast most mornings, as I did before going off to work. As my father before me did most of his adult life. Routine like this is good. Keeps me from getting lazy or into the habit of sleeping late, which I probably couldn't do anyway. A lifetime of getting up early in the morning has wrecked any hope of being one of those people who can sleep until the crack of noon. More power to them - sometimes wish I could.

Perhaps at a later date I will decide to do some different things. Maybe take a couple of classes at the quilt shop in my neighborhood, or take a road trip, just for the fun of it. But for now, I think that this retirement thing is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. The stress level is non-existent and having time - real time and not just a couple of hours on a weekend - to do the things that I love, is priceless. I do believe that it is working out just fine.

And now I think the pooches and I will go for a little walk down by the river and see what we can see. Life is grand.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Comfort Food

I rarely sit around feeling sorry for myself. Let's face it. I have very little in my life to feel sorry about.

But this week I indulged in a short period of time wallowing in self-pity due to a summer cold. One of those nasty colds that just hangs on.....and on......and on. Makes me wish, just a little bit, that I still drank. Could have drowned it in brandy or some other suitable alcoholic beverage touted as a cure-all for the common cold. But alas, it was not to be. Just waited it out and sniffled a lot.

As feeling sorry for myself wasn't working real well, I decided to do something to make myself feel better - at least make my state of mind feel better.

Comfort Food! Great idea. I would bake some bread. I was down to my last loaf anyway, and hadn't been able to work up enough ambition for a trip to the grocery for more.

There is something therapeutic about smacking (kneading) bread dough. Gets out the aggression. Gets your mind off of your problems. Great upper arm exercise. So I stirred and beat and kneaded and shaped. Got a little bit carried away. But I now have my freezer stocked. And it worked. Forgot all about my cold.

I think I will go have a cinnamon roll now.

Fish Fry

A few weeks ago Kelly called me. He said that he and Jackie had a bunch of fish in their freezer and asked if we would like to get together for a fish fry. When I talked to David, his response was that he was always up for a fish fry. He and Kelly worked out the details.

Last Saturday we met at David and Staci's home. Duane picked me up and we were glad that we had left early, for about 10 miles from the turn-off on I-94, we encountered traffic moving at a snail's pace, slowed by road construction. Took an hour to go that 10 miles, and at one point we saw a guy walking along the shoulder of the highway. He seemed to be making better time than we were.

It was a perfect summer day. Lots of blue sky and white, fluffy clouds. I love the new deck. It adds so much to David and Staci's house. And it makes a really neat platform for watching the grandkids swim in their pool. The girls swam and dove and splashed and played and Jacob sat in his little floaty boat and pulled himself round and round the pool's edge. Staci said that she was glad that Jacob actually likes to wear his pint-sized life vest. Makes life much easier and he has so much fun in the pool.

David got into the act, getting into the pool to retrieve toys, I think he had nearly as much fun as the kids did!

And then there was the fish. Real honest to goodness northern Minnesota fish, from a real Minnesota lake and not from a box at a supermarket. David made foil packets of fish topped with peppers, onions and spices and cooked them on the grill along with packets of cubed potatoes with garlic and rosemary. Wonderful! Kelly and Jackie also brought a variety of fruit including my personal favorite, blueberries. Duane brought a really good watermelon - you just can't have a picnic without watermelon - and my contribution was a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. It just doesn't get much better than this. One of these days I will remember to take pictures of the food, but this day everything looked so good that taking pictures was the last thing on my mind. Let me at that fish!

We relaxed on the deck, talking and laughing and watching the kids play. There were memories revisited and current topics discussed. My family is so well informed and although now and then opinions differ, they are able to talk of these things without rancor. I love listening to these conversations.

It was getting on to evening when it was time to head home, and after ice cream and root beer floats, Duane and I started back south. I always hate to leave, but the time spent with my family is time well spent. It had been such a good day. Kelly and Jackie.....if you ever find yourselves with an excess amount of fish, give us a call. I'm thinking that we can find a way to help you out with that!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

They Dance

My Granddaughters dance. And they do it well. Last Saturday they had their annual dance recital and this Grandma was privileged to be there to watch them dance.

Last year was my introduction to dance recitals. I had spent a Saturday afternoon watching the girls dance, and was impressed at how well they did, remembering all of the moves and dance steps. Even when I had a working memory, I doubt that I could have remembered everything that they were required to do.

This year's dance recital was amazing. Boston and Maddie's groups performed three dances as well as the closing number and the Daddy-Daughter dance. I noticed right off how much both of the girls had improved in their dancing from last year. Some of the girls in each group would glance around from time to time to make sure they were doing the dance steps right. Not my granddaughters. Eyes forward, smiles on their faces, performing each dance flawlessly. I am so proud of both of them. Their Dad tells me that both of them just love to dance, and it shows. The hours spent on dance class and practice have surely paid off. They are so much fun to watch.

It warms a Mom's heart to watch her son dance with his daughters. Even though David said that he was a bit nervous about his performance, it went off with out a hitch. To see that so many Dads took the time out of busy schedules to attend the practices and learn the steps for this dance and to see so many little girls enjoying dancing with their Daddies gives me a double dose of the warm fuzzies.

Staci deserves a round of applause for all of the work she does behind the scenes. She helps the girls with their costumes, does their hair and makeup and, as was the case last Saturday, stayed on for the second show that Boston was in, thus spending nearly an entire day on just this one recital. Boston is on the competition dance team for her age group, so Staci has been spending time at the various competitions as well.

The taking of photos or video during the performance was not allowed, so afterward we all met in the lobby of the school where the recital was held, and we were able to get a few photos of our dancers. Staci's parents were there to share the pride I felt in our granddaughters and they enjoyed the day as much as I did.

Boston and Maddie, keep on dancing. You are a joy.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My Guardian Protector

Everyone should have someone who protects them. Meet my Guardian Protector. Her name is Lily.

It is not really accurate to call Lily a "rescue dog." It is true that she lived all of her seven years with a breeder of Yorkies. Same place I got Jessie Jane. However, she was not abused or neglected. She was well fed, well cared for, had regular veterinary care and had play dates with other female Yorkies.. She had three litters of puppies. The lady who owned her does not breed her dogs indiscriminately nor does she pump out as many puppies as possible to sell at pet shops, but is careful of how many litters they have and sells puppies only after meeting the prospective buyers. Lily has not had a litter for over two years.

She does, however, need to learn behaviors that a pet of her age who was adopted as a puppy has and she does not. She needs to be a little better with where she can potty and where she can not. Now that I am home with her every day, she is getting better at going outside when she needs to. This involves many trips up and down the stairs from my apartment, but, hey. I need the exercise. At least that's what I keep telling myself! (Grumble, grumble.)

She needs to learn to walk with her harness and leash. Jessie got it right away. Jessie and I go for walks all over town. Lily, on the other hand, mostly goes for a "carry." This past weekend I spent lots of time outdoors with her and she is starting to get the idea. Yesterday afternoon she walked to the end of my block and back without having to be carried. Baby steps. Time and patience. I think she is getting it.

She needs to be socialized with people. The only person she saw before coming to live with me, was her owner. She is shy with people other than me. I am thinking that when we get the walking on a leash thing down and she is able to go for walks with Jessie and me, she will get better at being around people. Jessie is a good teacher. She just loves everybody.

Now, about this protection thing. Lily seems to think that I need to be protected. And she does it well. Ready and on the alert.

I live in an apartment downtown. Early in the mornings on weekdays, there is a parade of delivery trucks and garbage trucks that make their way on the street in front of my home and in the alley alongside. After nearly 14 years of living here, I just don't hear them any more. They are just background noise that I blank out and ignore. Not Lily. I think she firmly believes that it is her job to make sure that no truck ever gets close enough to me to do harm. She stares at whatever window the offending sound is coming through, stiff legged, ears standing up, tail straight in the air. And she barks. And barks. And barks some more. She puts her whole self, all nine pounds of her, into keeping that truck away. Must work. No truck has gotten to me yet.

Now, I am a sucker for cute. Especially when it comes to babies or animals. Will get to me every time. And as long as Lily's bark is small enough so that she doesn't disturb the neighbors (I asked and they can't hear her), I find it kind of cute that she is so protective. However, last night we went right on past cute to annoying. On the hallway wall right across from my apartment door hangs a smoke alarm. Normally I am happy to have it there. Smoke in the hall, I will know about it. However, the battery must be low, as yesterday the alarm began chirping at regular intervals - about 30 seconds apart. I didn't have a battery to fit it, and the local convenience store didn't either. Nor did the neighbors I talked to. As there is probably a fire code law for disabling a smoke alarm in a common area of an apartment building, I decided to leave it alone. It didn't bother me. It did bother Lily.

I am now retired. Which means that I didn't have to get up this morning to go to work. Which also means that I don't have to go to bed the same time the chickens do, but can stay up late with the big folks if I want to. Which I did last night. I found a funny movie to watch on my computer, so I watched it while I sat and cut out pieces for a quilt. Then I found another one and watched that, too. 2:00 AM I finally was tired enough to go to bed. No problem. That is, until Lily decided that this chirping sound outside the door was a threat.

She barked. She growled. She stalked stiff legged back and forth in front of the door. She sat on the floor by my bed and protected me from the chirping monster that would surely attack at any moment. I took her to bed with me hoping that she would calm down. Nothing doing. I put her in her kennel. That didn't work either. Put the kennel as far away from the chirping monster as I could. Nope. She was having none of that. She didn't calm down until about 5:30 this morning when I gave up all hope of sleep, got up, made coffee and turned on the TV to listen to the news. Lily took a nap.

I truly hope that my landlord arrives soon to fix the chirping monster. If he doesn't - doggie Valium? Sounds like a plan.