Getting my Colors Done

Back in the 1980s, there was a thing called “Getting your colors done.” I never had an analysis formally completed but I’ve always thought with my dark hair and light pink skin I was a “Winter.” My favorite and most complimented colors were jewel tones, deep shades of blue, purple, and fuchsia and my signature color is black!

My daughter asked for her birthday gift to be a color analysis and wanted me to join her.  We coupled this experience with a Mother-daughter getaway and I’m so glad we did. This was something we could do together, all while learning how to look our best in this stage of our lives.  For her, working as a professional educator at a college currently from home and raising her two school-age boys and me, as a new retiree.

With my pandemic silver/gray hair and completely new activities, I’ve struggled a bit with decisions on my retirement wardrobe.  When I was working, it was easy to know how to dress for staff meetings, speaking engagements, and conferences. A uniform of black pants, a black blazer, jacket, or sweater coupled with a top in my favorite colors, add some black shoes and silver earrings and I was done.

On Instagram, she found Nicole Kaczmarek at the House of Colour in Ballard, a neighborhood in Seattle not far from the University of Washington. (houseofcolour_ballard) A former pharmacist, Nicole has pivoted like many working moms to a career that gives the flexibility to spend more time with her adorable son and husband while providing a service to her customers. Her new career increases her joy, makes her happy, and gives her life! She took a risk starting a new business during the pandemic and hasn’t looked back.

I went first and was draped with countless fabric swatches as Nicole analyzed the colors that made me look my best. Once she established that I was in fact a “Winter” on the color wheel she found my best “wow” colors. We took before and after photos and the difference was striking.  One takeaway is that in my zeal to have a new life and a new identity I had departed from what I learned I looked best in.  I have concluded that I have started spending time and money on clothes that were in style and on-trend – but just not right for me.  While I still have lots of my best colors in my wardrobe I realized that completely missing were the hot pinks, fuchsia, and a bright red. I guess I thought those colors went out of style in the ’80s and forgot about what works best for me.

Next, it was my daughter’s turn. We both had no idea where she would land on the color wheel.  The fabric draping process started again and the conclusion was that she was a summer. The entire process for two people takes about two hours each for a total of four hours.  The time flies by!

It was amazing as her mom to watch how her face became almost airbrushed and her eyes popped as her best colors were draped. One thing she learned is that highlighting her naturally dark brown hair with golden highlights doesn’t make her look her best.  After covering her hair and seeing only her roots, Nicole recognized that she needs cooler Ash tones if she is going to highlight them.  But we all concluded she would look her best to let her hair return to its natural color and fill her wardrobe with Summer colors.

In fact, during both of her pregnancies, she let her hair go back to its natural color and the clothing she chose at that time was in the Summer part of the color wheel.  Her glow in those photos wasn’t only from the pregnancy, she looked her best because the colors she naturally wore at that time were her “wow” colors.  This was a huge takeaway for her.

At the end of our session, we tried on three sets of lipstick that complements our natural look.  One for daytime, one for evening, and that one special red for those special moments.  In addition, we received a customized set of color swatches to keep on hand for the next time we are shopping or ordering clothing online.

We were both so excited to get home and go through our closets and compare to our swatches. During the entire drive, we were excitedly talking about what we learned and then when we were home we did a FaceTime call and showed each other our wardrobes. It was so easy to discard those items that were just hanging in our closets unworn. We didn’t love them because they weren’t our best colors. I have a big bag now to donate to the Thrift Store at the Senior Center.

Then it was fun to arrange our clothes in the colors of the rainbow and compare them to our before and after photos and clearly see why these items were our favorites. What I learned was many of my most recent post-retirement purchases not only weren’t my “wow” colors but they were entirely wrong for me.

I think this is a great gift idea for your wife, daughter, or friend.  It is even a gift to yourself, there are lots of men that do this as well.  After this experience I have concluded that as a retiree, life is short, so why wear clothes that make you look ill or washed out? Why not find your best colors and then make a few strategic purchases to round out your wardrobe?  Buy the lipstick that makes you feel amazing, after the masks come off you’ll look your best.

My suggestion is to take some time in 2022 as a new or long-time retiree to really figure out your new lifestyle, your activities, and the colors of your wardrobe. I think you will be happy you did!

Mother-Daughter Getaway

When I ask my kids, “Do you want a “thing” or an “experience” for your birthday?” their answers these days are an experience.  We are finding that in the days of online shopping, we all have so many “things” that spending intentional time together seems to win out every time.

In the past, my daughter and I would take a weekend or a night for an annual “Mother-daughter” getaway.  This started when she was around eight years old and we would go somewhere with her best friend and her mom. Whether it was to Canada to visit Whistler Village, Seaside, Oregon at the beach, or a play in Seattle we always enjoyed our time together.  This continued for many years right up to the time they both turned 21 and wanted to go to Las Vegas with their mothers!

This year (after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic) we finally felt safe enough to explore Tacoma, Washington, and resurrect our getaway.  After booking a room at the Hotel Murano on the “Black Friday Special” we arrived in a torrential downpour. We enjoyed a cup of seafood chowder and a charcuterie board of local meats and cheeses before visiting the Dale Chihuly Museum of Glass.

While the wind and the rain lashed the building, we were warm and cozy as we watched the resident artists make amazing glass art in the demonstration area.  Then we leisurely strolled the exhibits and learned about the history of art glassmaking in the Pacific Northwest. Spending an entire afternoon together with no schedule and no agenda is just what we both needed.

By the time we left at closing time, it was completely dark outside and we looked at the lights and the glass of the fountains and then crossed the Chihuly Glass of Bridge back to the downtown area.

We walked and walked arm in arm, enjoying the lights of the city and the Christmas tree near the Pantages Theatre, and finally turned into a highly rated little boutique restaurant called the “Over the Moon Cafe.” My daughter is obsessed with the 1920s, Downton Abbey, Art Deco, and restaurants decorated like speakeasies. Finding the perfect place for our dinner, we were thrilled that even though we didn’t have a reservation there was one little table that was reserved for walk-ins. We felt so lucky and blessed.

We shared an entire bottle of wine, a cheesy Brussels sprouts appetizer, dined on an amazing winter squash lasagna and prawn fettuccine, and capped off our evening with the bread pudding full of bits of peaches, pecans, and a bourbon sauce for dessert. Delicious!

Returning to the Hotel Murano, we put on our Christmas pajamas and cuddled up together, and watched a Hallmark movie.  The next morning we got our coffee at Starbucks, drove to Ballard for our appointment at a studio to get our colors done at House of Colours, and after an amazing four hours ended our time together at the iconic Dick’s Drive-In.

As we each drove in a different direction, my daughter south and me north, we talked on our hands-free devices and reflected on how wonderful it was to spend two days and a night together! I think during the pandemic we have all become accustomed to pausing the things we used to do.  Hopefully, we will all once again be even more intentional about spending time with our kids, enjoying each other’s company, learning something new, and sharing a meal together. If you have a child you haven’t spent much time with as a result of the pandemic I hope in 2022 you will find a way to “get away”, you’ll be so glad you did!

A different kind of Thanksgiving

Last year, with the pandemic raging, hospitals overflowing, no vaccines available, and a lack of understanding of how this virus was spreading, we chose to follow the guidance and essentially cancel our holiday.  It felt really sad and bleak to be home just the two of us while many members of our extended family still gathered.  Not seeing our kids or grandkids in person had us resorting to communicating via a sad little video that we sent to the grandkids telling them how grateful we were for each of them.  At the end, we were both teary-eyed and prayed that 2021 would be better.

This year with all of the adults fully vaccinated and some of us already obtaining our booster, we decided to go ahead with the holiday.  Washington and Oregon State all have mandatory mask mandates for any indoor activities and some counties require proof of vaccination to enter a restaurant or bar. All were careful leading up to the holiday so we decided the benefits outweighed the risks.

It was our “turn” to have all of our kids and grandkids together at our house.  (We alternate years so that our in-laws also get to enjoy everyone together, so next year we will be alone again.) Planning was in earnest weeks before the day.  Finding a turkey this year proved to be a challenge but I had ordered ahead and the truck came through.

Our oldest granddaughter helped with decorating the table and I made hand-painted watercolor place cards.  We created a long table for fourteen people, embellished with two overflowing cornucopias and native ferns, cedar boughs, and pine cones from our backwoods. She carefully placed the cards and gave specific reasons for where she chose to seat everyone.  Great-grandma near all of the great-grandkids, parents nearby and uncles, brothers, and nephews at the “taller table” so they could fit their long legs, and me near the kitchen so I could get up and get things for the meal.

On Thanksgiving morning after we prepared the sides, we all got dressed in color-coordinated outfits and braved the rain to snap some family photos.  Due to the pandemic, our annual photoshoots just didn’t happen.  It was shocking to realize it had been over three years since we had been altogether to snap a picture. The kids are growing up so fast and now I have gray hair!

At mealtime, my husband read the presidential proclamation declaring a national holiday and a day of thanks.  Then our nine-year old granddaughter read a Thanksgiving essay that she had hand-written, edited, typed, and printed along with gorgeous crayon illustrations of a cornucopia.  With emotion, she shared her Thanksgiving blessing with the large circle gathered around our kitchen island. Then we prayed as a family, thankful that a dear niece had been spared after being hospitalized for eight days with the virus, asking for a miracle for a young friend who had been diagnosed with leukemia, and finally asking for God’s blessings, health, and safety for our family and friends in the New Year.

After our delicious meal, the Nerf “war games” among the grandkids began in earnest.  The teams they had established last summer during Nana Camp continued and they were chasing around the house until bedtime.  Playing a modified form of paintball with soft nerf bullets instead of paint with ever-evolving rules, it was a blessing to the adults hearing their laughter, seeing their sweaty little bodies fly by, the loud pounding of their feet upstairs and down, and the shrieks and screams as they were frozen and then tagged.  I had flashes of my own holidays as a kid doing the exact same thing.

I felt so thankful for the delicious meal, the precious minutes of catching up with family news, recognizing that the time we spent together was positive and free of conflict, and laughing over the card games we played.  I think that had we not had the Thanksgiving of 2020 with its quiet, sadness, I might never have appreciated the raucously crazy, fun-filled Thanksgiving of 2021.  I hope that you and your family had a different kind of Thanksgiving this year as well and that you are able to recognize the blessing that being together as a family will be in 2022.


The Jeep Wave

A few days after purchasing our motorhome which is allowing us to start this new chapter of our retirement life, we realized that it would be really convenient to have a towing vehicle.  What we didn’t think about before we made this monumental purchasing decision is that my Ford Explorer can’t be flat towed. When we found out that my husband’s F-150 could be towed, but it would need significant modifications involving welding, we took a minute to think further about it.

Some extensive research and talking with friends revealed that one of the best vehicles that can be safely towed behind a motorhome is a Jeep! We went on the search and it was almost too easy to find our Jeep and trade nearly straight across for our Ford. She has some big knobby tires and looks like she is ready for desert adventures!

In one afternoon I went from a quiet, smooth comfortable ride to the loudest, bounciest, and most uncomfortable vehicle I’ve ever driven. But I absolutely love it!  I feel like I’m driving a fun toy.  When I park now, I always look back as I walk away because she looks so awesome.

Driving home in our Jeep Wrangler JK after the trade was completed we were surprised that other Jeep drivers were waving at us.  We looked at each other and wondered, “What is this all about? Why are people waving?”

Unknowingly, the day we bought our “toad” (towing vehicle) we also joined an international club of fellow Jeep owners. A quick Google search revealed the origin story of the Jeep Wave.

The roots of the Jeep Wave have a few different origin stories, two of which seem to stick the most. The first theory of the Jeep Wave was that the wave began during WWII as a way for U.S. soldiers to differentiate an ally from an enemy. Jeeps were often driven by soldiers during WWII and the wave was used to greet fellow soldiers when transporting supplies and carrying wounded soldiers.  The second theory is similar to the first, but that it started after the war. Many civilian Jeep owners during this time were most often returning veterans and the wave was a way for citizens to acknowledge the service of veterans and for other veteran Jeep drivers to greet a fellow soldier.”

I had no idea this would be such a blast!  Our Jeep has now been modified so that she can be towed and even has a hitch for our bike racks.  Since we joined the world of Jeeps I’ve joined a few facebook groups for Jeep Beginners and Jeep Life and I continue to learn more about Jeep culture. I’m loving the proud photos, the stories and commentary.

Jeep owners have a unique identity. They name their Jeeps, make all kinds of modifications, help each other if there is a break down, go out of their way to park near other Jeeps, sometimes leave little yellow ducks (called “ducking”) and have clubs that go on adventures together.

What started as a convenient way to have transportation while we are “snow-birding” has turned into a learning experience that is exciting and makes me smile.  I’m learning to watch for other Jeeps in my travels (something I never did before) and am perfecting my Jeep Wave!

Joining the Snowbird Migration

After a summer of fun following my retirement earlier in the spring, the weather has changed suddenly and Fall arrived one rainy weekend in the Pacific Northwest at the end of September. It was so sudden it caught many of us off-guard, including my husband and me.

With the cool, crisp days and leaves falling on our lawn, (just now starting to go from dead grass to lush green following a record hot and dry spring and summer,) we started revisiting our many conversations about winter plans.

Many of our international, already-booked trips have been canceled, a few getting full refunds, some not.  Any of our other ideas for future trips have been shelved for now and into the foreseeable future. It is too hard to keep booking adventures that never come to pass. With the Delta variant taking its toll on friends and family, canceling our plans seems like a small price to pay. 

As a couple, we are grateful for our health and the ability to retire earlier than many of our longtime but still working friends.  However, we believe that life is short and for us, the time to travel is now.  Every month we receive news that someone we love is suffering from a health event that will likely curtail their ability to enjoy the retirement lifestyle they have dreamed of. Or worse, classmates and even people younger than us are passing away before they are able to retire.

For the past thirteen months, we have weighed and considered what we should do this winter season. We have contacted property managers to find out about short-term rentals in warmer places, finding out we are “too late in the season” to be trying to book.  Countless hours conducting searches on the internet for places to fly or drive to in the US has resulted in more frustration.  It seems that travel is beginning to return to normal and the pent-up demand means that it is increasingly difficult to make arrangements.

We’ve looked at fifth-wheel trailers which require a new truck with more towing capacity.  We considered a tiny trailer light enough that our existing pickup could tow but we don’t fit. A few weeks ago we spent an entire day evaluating Class C motorhomes, online. We even called some dealers but no one had 2021 on the lot and the 2022’s are experiencing supply chain issues and won’t be available until mid to late spring.

Tempted by the idea of just ordering one and flying somewhere in Texas to pick it up, a kind and honest salesman said, “Never buy a motorhome until you’ve sat in and driven it.” Great advice!  We found a local dealer that had a few older used Class C motorhomes (they are on a truck chassis) and was shocked when I didn’t fit in the passenger seat.  My legs were too long and it was uncomfortable.  At 6’6”, my husband didn’t fit behind the wheel and his legs extended 6” past the end of the RV queen size bed.

We walked over to check out some used Class A motor homes (they look like a small bus) and it was an eye-opener.  We both fit in the seats and behind the wheel. Armed with that information we went home a bit dejected because the difference in price between a Class C and a Class A is significant, especially if you choose diesel models. We continued to talk throughout the day and night. Analyzing, researching, watching YouTube videos, reading blogs. It is notable that in some states you could purchase an entire new home on a piece of property for the same price as a motorhome.

Joining the Snowbird MigrationThe entire rainy weekend we looked at brands, models, and floor plans online.  We found an “Empty Nester” motorhome set up perfectly for two but also with the capacity to sleep our grandkids.  We loved her on paper but sometimes reality is something entirely different. 

We analyzed our finances, knowing that an RV is never an investment.  Rather it is a luxury lifestyle choice that allows you to have your own bed, bathroom, and kitchen (essentially a second home on wheels) that you can drive to state and national parks and park for a day, a week, or a month. We still weren’t sure what to do.

We continued searching and came up with nothing. Over and over again we hit dead ends.  Just when we nearly gave up, suddenly we found the make, model and year we wanted at a dealer about an hour north of our home. With the idea of just going to take a look and see if we fit, we called ahead to make sure we could walk through and maybe take a test drive. 

Less than ten minutes after arriving, as we were sitting in the living/kitchen area listening to the salesman, we both looked at each other and nodded.  After 41 years of marriage, we didn’t need words to communicate that we were “home.” We both got to drive her around the surrounding farmland on narrow country roads, the interstate, and the parking lot. My husband even fits in the king-size bed. We put our deposit down on our new home for the winter.  When we returned home that day, we both had different reactions.  My husband didn’t sleep for four nights. I slept great, dreaming of where we would go.

We have now officially joined the Snowbird migration south.  We have so much to do to get ready to go but from after Christmas through the middle of April 2022 we’ll be in California, Arizona, and Utah. Let the RV adventure begin!

Writing a Memoir

One of my favorite birthday gifts this year was the one I received about 8 months ago from my daughter.  She paid for a subscription for me to something called “Storyworth.”

I received an email that explained the gift I was being given and what was involved.  The concept is deceptively simple but I’m finding the experience incredibly rich and rewarding. The idea of writing a memoir is daunting but just like any big project, this one has been broken down into bite size pieces or manageable elements. 

Each week on Monday morning I find an email in my inbox with a question.  These are “story-starter” questions; they are open ended and thought provoking.  The questions were chosen by my daughter so I’m finding it interesting to think about what she wants to know.  

The simplicity is that I don’t need to think or prepare or struggle.  I only respond to the question with my answer and hit reply and send.  Then each of my questions throughout this year are collected and at the end of 12 months a book will be published and mailed to me.

Sometimes I can write an immediate response because the question is easy and brings to mind a story or a situation I can share.  Other times I’m stumped and need to think about my answer.  A few times I’ve even asked my husband how he might answer the question and it seems that as we talk it through something amazing comes to me.

After I hit “send” the system automatically shares my answer with my daughter in real time. This way she can track my memoir journey with me.

What I love is that I can go back at any time and edit or rewrite my answers and there is a feature where I can add photos to make my memoir more interesting.  While I haven’t done this yet, I know that if I take some time to snap some pictures stored in old dusty photo albums I can actually share them in a more meaningful format.

If you are the gift giver you can choose the questions you want to be answered by your recipient.  Or if you choose to join on your own and write your own memoir you can make up your own questions or choose from the list they provide.

Some of the questions were thought provoking, others brought back fond memories, still others feel like I’m sharing our family history.

Here are a few examples of some of the questions I’ve already answered.

How did you feel when your first child was born? 

Which fads did you embrace while growing up? 

What is one of the most selfless things you have done in life? 

Describe one of your most memorable birthdays. 

At what times in your life were you the happiest, and why? 

What is one of your favorite trips that you've taken? What made it great? 

What is one of the bravest things you've ever done, and what was the outcome? 

Are you more like your father or your mother? In what ways? 

What is one of your favorite memories of your mother? 

What is some of the best advice your mother ever gave you?

Since I lost my mother to breast cancer over 25 years ago (she was only 57 years old when she died), I have been realizing that by answering these questions and publishing them in a book,  she can be better remembered by my children and grandchildren.  For that matter, when I pass away, future generations will have the answers to these and many more questions. 

I’m enjoying this so much that I’m finding that I don’t want it to end.  How often today do we take the time to write things down? In a frantic world of social media, screen time and blaring electronics I think we have lost our ability to tell stories and share our family history.  “Storyworth” has been an unexpected delight and a pleasure.  How many gifts that cost so much more than $99 ultimately end up in the trash or donated to the thrift store?

This opportunity to write my memoir, during a pandemic in 2021 has been life-changing in many ways.  It has caused me to slow down, think and tell my stories in a written format. I have found it relatively easy to do, because after all who doesn’t have time to write an answer to an email? 

I’m so grateful for a gift that reminds me how much my daughter loves and me and how much I love her, every single week!

Go to www.storyworth.com if are interested or wish to give an amazing gift this holiday season. I think you'll be happy you did.


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