Simple journeys to peace

At this point in my life, simple journeys are best.

There’s no ‘thrill seeking’ required for the bucket list I started a few months ago, after my husband passed away.

I figure I’ve had enough excitement in my life (some intended/some not), that most items now on my list are fairly simple.

Just give me a good Zen moment, any day of the week.

Yesterday’s bucket list activity was a fairly tame introduction to stand up paddle boarding.

And stand up I did, in the first 3 minutes.

I then spent a couple of hours paddling the calm waters with wood ducks, a couple of friends and Mark, our instructor.

We soon discovered Mark’s also a painter.

Perfect, I thought.

Little chance of missing one ounce of beauty on a lake with an artist as guide.

In Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, 1 in 4 residents owns a boat.

And I owned my own simple version yesterday as I toured.

One strong cup of coffee beforehand, a paddle, and a board was all I needed.

I quickly found my bliss.

Returning home, I read up some on the incredible healing powers of water.

I quickly bumped up fly fishing in the river on my bucket list.

I then added sailing the sparkling waters of one very special 40 acre lake next month, just as the leaves begin to turn crimson and gold.

My husband will be joining me.

A simple and peaceful journey for both of us.

And a final resting place for him, in the healing waters he once loved.



Joy in the strangest places


So when an accordion playing gorilla comes looking for you, there’s got to be a problem.

Especially if he starts singing you the blues.

Now I wasn’t exactly looking for a personal serenade.

But I surely got one.

And in a week when I needed it most.

Often joy will come and just hunt you down.

And all you’ll have to do is embrace it.

So I’m running back now to give this beast a bear hug.

And to get his card to add accordion lessons to my bucket list.

Selfie: My one, and only

Just so you know, this is the only ‘selfie’, you’ll ever see of me.

In fact, it’s the only one I’ve ever taken.

And it took some mighty tricky maneuvering with my green iPad, and the bathroom mirrors to get it right.

The truth is I find the notion of taking pictures of yourself uncomfortable, though I know I’m in the minority.

Kind of like those Facebook statuses where you indicate just how you’re “feeling”.

Maybe it’s my Norwegian stoicism coming through again, but I was thinking about self-focus driving back home from two ’50 by 60′ bucket list events this weekend.

Which I freely admit may be the ultimate in self-interest.

The first was my karaoke debut last night over at the old legion hall. With the help of my bifocals and brave friends, I finally managed to fumble through the words to the old Rod Stewart tune, ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’.

In fact, I didn’t even get in trouble for swinging the microphone once I threw in a feeble attempt at gyrating dance moves.

And I had a wonderful experience.

As did my friends, who may have had an even better time dancing and singing than I did.

Their smiles and laughter said it all.

How cool is that?

Much better than any kind of star performance from me.

Then this morning I tackled my next bucket list item.

I began my volunteer work with a great group in the community.

But within an hour I realized the people I was there to serve, were offering me so many more gifts.

I found similarities to, soon followed by memories of, several family members recently lost.

Though I admit I was in tears, they were full of such sweetness and light.

As was the reminder that focusing on others will always be the true source of my river of joy.


Forever Young

So I’d been thinking of backing out of my next ’50 by 60′ bucket list item.

Just let it go, I thought.

It’s scheduled for Friday night.

Singing karaoke down at the VFW.

With me performing solo.

Now I’m really having trouble envisioning my self singing, let alone the song selected for me by a friend.

It’s Rod Stewart’s classic, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

And just in case you’re wondering, I don’t think so.

Anyway, I do admit my husband was a big fan of Rod’s.

But whatever possessed me to add karaoke to the list?

As I don’t particularly like to sing.

At least I don’t think I do.

And I don’t have much of a voice.

It’s more like a squeak.

And I doubt I have any ‘karaoke appropriate’ clothing.

Or do I?

Finally, being the center of attention on stage is just not my thing.

But before I sent a note to my friends canceling, one of them emailed me describing how excited she was for the big event.

So maybe that’s the point.

It should be exciting.

For my friends and for me.

And I know I’ll be laughing hysterically.

At myself, most of all.

And that’s a good thing.

I caught a reminder today of why having fun is so important.

I was sorting through Grandma’s old sheet music, listening to the radio, when two sad titles caught my eye:
“I’ll Never Smile Again” and “If I Had My Life to Live Over”.

It got me to thinking.

I’m still planning on smiling when the last train comes for me in my final days.

And I sure won’t be getting on board carrying any regrets.

Suddenly the DJ brought me back to the moment.

While proudly announcing that Rod Stewart will be performing here later in the weekend with Santana!

Hey, I wonder if he and Carlos are free to stop by for karaoke night?

I’m up for at least a duet for sure.

Either way, I’m thrilled they’ll be in town and the news inspired me to add yet another bucket list item.

Number 32.

First rock concert with granddaughter.

Should be a blast.

As she really loves music.

On the way over she can teach me the words to ‘Let it Go’, from the Disney movie Frozen.

And I’ll teach her the words to my favorite Rod Stewart song, ‘Forever Young’.

Barnyard in a bookstore

Thinking I needed to step up on my ’50 by 60′ bucket list, the first thing I did today was trip over a chicken.

A live one.

The big bird was dancing on the carpet of a bookstore, right by the front door.

Just like your local Walmart greeter.

This special shop is designed for the very young.

And the young at heart.

I guess that would be me.

I’m stopping by each of the independent bookstores within an hour radius that I’ve never entered before.

And in this particular bookstore I found the chicken had plenty of company.

I spotted cats, a couple of cooing doves, hairless mice, ferrets, and one big litter of kids in overstuffed chairs.


There may have been even more critters, children’s books and kids downstairs.

But I was just too chicken to go there.

Amazingly the store was spotless except for the mud I tracked in from my pink flip flops.

I became very excited when I encountered several of my favorite authors’ books, and I pulled down an extra special one from the shelf.

The chicken greeter walked right up to me, also excited as the book’s about a farm with animals.

Even though this is one big city bird.

But I still thought we’d be fast friends, and he’d surely want to sit right up on my lap.

Maybe even have me tell him the story.

That is, until he saw my camera.

And then read me the riot act with a round of cantankerous clucking.

Turns out this foul mouth bird prefers little kids to big, aging chicks.

But when I looked over my shoulder while exiting, I believe I caught him reading.

And he seemed to be really be enjoying the book.

Along with a young boy.

I smiled, happy the chicken had a new friend.

Even if it wasn’t me.

Stepping forward, stepping back

Sometimes to move forward you need to step back.

And I did so yesterday.

Buried on my bucket list was a visit to see some old friends.

Though technically these fellows may be ‘new’ friends.

They’re an ever graceful group of giraffes.

Standing tall and proud.

Likely descendants of animals I once knew at this small city zoo.

Dear Dad would take us there on trips when we were small.

He loved them almost as much as my sister and me.

And that’s more years ago than I choose to calculate.

Back then we’d offer salted peanuts from our tiny outstretched hands to the giraffes.

A sweet, loving gesture rarely allowed anymore.

But that’s OK.

Yesterday my friends greeted me again warmly.

Then strutted over for conversation.

Just like always.

If Dad was still with us, we’d be celebrating his birthday on Friday.

My sister and I are planning on getting together.

I’ll be suggesting another walk through the zoo.

But this time we’ll be eating the bags of salted peanuts ourselves.

And raising tall lemonades in a toast to Dad.

As well as our elegant old and new friends.

Blessings for a bucket list

We prepare to leave the bistro in pouring rain to join the big music block party down the street.

A first for me.

Actually my first rock concert ever, which is why it ended up on my ’50 by 60′ bucket list.

My friends pull their tickets from their wallets.

Just a I realize mine is back on the bulletin board at home.

Decision point.

Return home and skip the concert?

Or party on, and buy another ticket?

As we walk outside, the sun instantly re-appears against a brilliant blue sky back drop.

Decision made.

I buy another ticket while others in the crowd silently recite the mantra, “Praise the loud!”

Understand this is not a religious event, which is why the volume is being praised on the event’s t-shirts.

Yet the proceeds benefit the continuing restoration of a beautiful church and city landmark, the Basilica of Saint Mary as well as the needy in the community. A unique event and partnership, it’s now in its twentieth year.

One of the three big stages sits directly in front of a 1930s statue of Father Hennepin who seems to be blessing the crowd of 15,000 plus this night, as well as this beaux-arts style, century old Catholic Church behind it.

After my portrait is taken ‘with the Pope’ as I enter, we’re more than ready to start ‘praising the loud’.

My friends and I start to move strategically from stage to stage listening to several bands. Finally positioning ourselves near the front of the Sun Country stage to hear our favorite closing act, the San Francisco group Train.

The growing crowd starts to roar in anticipation.

I sing an impromptu duet of Train’s hit “Soul Sister” with a guy half my age who’s standing next to me.

We both agree we’re not half bad.

Suddenly we hear the ear deafening sound of train engines announcing the arrival of our headliner.

As the crowd spots the band’s members, thousands of photo snapping smart phones all rise in salute.

Quickly followed by loyal fans joyously singing and dancing with the band.

My friends and I do as well.

But soon I realize I might be here for a second reason.

The couple behind me and I stand prepared to catch the younger dancing fans to my right who’ve climbed up on recycling cans for the last two numbers.

One tipsy young lady begins to fall sideways, tripping on her floor length sundress.

She catches her balance just as she’s about to transform into heavy falling timber.

I take a deep breath, then smile as I look up back at the glorious full moon over the stage.

I think to myself it’s sure been a night full of blessings.

And not even one mosquito.

In the Midwest in July, that surely counts as a miracle.


Grandma Greta’s bucket list

Grandma Greta’s a little jealous.

She caught wind of my ’50 by 60′ bucket list and wants to join in the fun.

“How about a ’90 by 99′ list?” Greta asked me as she awakened this morning.

“Well girl, we’ll have to get busy since you’re already 98 in dog years.”

“Don’t remind me,” she growled back.

Number one for Greta is running in the annual dachshund races in town this September.

I told her we’ll need an action plan to make that happen.

“First, the vet will have to ok it and we’ll need to do some basic training”.

“Oh, what’s a little heart murmur, arthritis, and cataracts anyway?” she replied. “And we could train by me running towards you while holding vanilla ice cream cones in each hand. It would be a great motivator and the cones would act as beacons of light leading me right towards that finish line!”

I thought I better pose an alternative.

“Hey Greta, they also have a costume contest. You’d be such an awesome peacock. Maybe I can borrow that costume from last year’s competition.”

Little Miss Attitude smiled right up at me sweetly and began to dance in circles.

“Oh, I’d love that. Would I still get my ice cream cone out of the deal?” she queried.

“Greta, you in a peacock costume would be worthy of a full sundae!” I replied.

Greta’s squealed in delight, dancing right back to her doggie bed where she’s currently dreaming of the big day.

They’ll be no missing this Train

So here’s the deal.

I’m the first to admit I’m an aging nerd.

And hopefully I’m chugging along nicely.

But there’s the matter of my ’50 by 60′ bucket list blast scheduled for Saturday night.

Number 27, I think.

I’ll be attending my very first rock concert (unless you count Donny Osmond back when he was six).

And I’m pretty nervous.

First off, I have absolutely nothing to wear.

Scratch that.

It’s more like what do I wear?

Are tie dye shirts ‘in’ our ‘out’ this decade?

Would sensible shoes fly for an outdoor concert with no seating?

Then what about buying brightly colored beads?

Are they ‘hip’?

Actually, does anyone even say hip any more?

And there’s another issue.

Will I stay awake long enough?

My favorite Grammy winning band, ‘Train’, doesn’t even start until after 9:00 p.m.

That’s peak snoring time for me.

Finally, here’s the real kicker.

The lead singer of Train looks to be 20 years old.

Yikes, I’m old enough to be his mother!

OMG, I’m actually old enough to be his grandmother!!!!!

Maybe I’ll pull a Roy Orbison and wear oversized dark glasses.

Those ought to cover my wrinkles of wonderment.

So I think I’ll grab my schedule, tickets, and will pack my bags tonight.

I’m definitely planing on an early arrival at the platform come Saturday.

There’s just no way I’ll be missing this fast moving Train.

Jokester Jack

There’s always been something disturbing and wrong with this picture.

I’m not in it.

A few minutes before I’d dashed into the bedroom for cover, diving deep below heavy blankets.

I was terrified of the crazed looking stranger who had entered the the living room, unannounced.

Just what had this horrible person done to dear old dad, who’d disappeared?

And why wasn’t Mom crying?

Or my sister or brother, either?

Shaking, I thought I heard laughter.

The man slowly plodded down the hall in heavy boots splattered with blood red paint, then abruptly opened the door knob to my room.

Quickly stripping his disguise, the crazy man yelled “Happy Halloween” and convinced me that he was just ‘Jokester Jack’.

A.K.A. my father.

Dad’s always been known for his sharp wit.

There wasn’t one ounce of stoic Norwegian hemoglobin in that man’s blood.

Growing up in my family the ‘wait till you father gets home’ lines never worked as they sharply spewed off Mom’s tongue.

We knew Dad was just one smiling pussycat.

He was much more likely to fill the sugar bowl with salt on April Fool’s Day, then ever yell at us for spilling it over.

So with his humor it was no wonder Dad found his way into a career into advertising and public relations, playing the role in a used, but sparking black Thunderbird.

Until he realized he couldn’t comfortably squeeze us into it.

And we were his pride and joy, not his image.

Looking back I’m amazed at the resilience of Dad’s humor and zest after a tough childhood and the atrocities seen while serving in the Army in World War II.

Yet maybe those life skills grew over the years because of both experiences.

Even during Dad’s final days with Alzheimer’s, he still often wore a smile and had a twinkle in his eye.

I hope I’m just as lucky.

I’ve heard it was my parents’ intention when I was born that I be named after my father.

But life surprised them with a ‘Jackie’ instead of a ‘Jack, Jr’.

Though they did add one creative twist of their own.

I was christened with the nickname of ‘Wacky Jackie’.

I know I have a long way to go to live up to Dad’s sense of humor.

So in honor of Dad this Father’s Day, I’ll be adding wacky humor to my bucket list.