Officiating My Daughter’s Wedding

When my daughter asked me to perform her February 22, 2022 wedding last December, I felt honored yet woefully unprepared and inadequate to perform such a life altering ceremony. I hadn’t attended seminary or done divinity school studies, however I’d lived with a lifetime of spiritual searching. The request sparked my curiosity so I researched what I’d need to do.

There are several sites on the internet that offer ordination. The first thing I learned was it’s important to check with the state you’ll be officiating in because rules vary from state to state. Turns out Florida, where my daughter and her fiancee were planning their wedding, has no special requirements about who performs the ceremony. After reading through different state, local, and organization websites, ordination seemed like the right thing to do. I selected Universal Life Church, then purchased a wedding ceremony kit with scripts and certificates.

The scripts were wonderful, but less personal than we wanted in a ceremony. I wasn’t really sure where to start, so I sent the soon-to-be newlyweds some samples and asked them to share ideas how they wanted their ceremony to feel. The next time I saw them, I asked them specific questions:
> How did you meet?
> What initially drew you together?
> What was your proposal like?
> What do you like most about each other?
> What’s the best adventure you’ve had together?

They also expressed to me how awesome it would be to be pronounced husband and wife at 2:22 PM. I laughed, thinking I’d be lucky if I even got close.

The hard part was putting together a ceremony that we all would be proud of while performing it in front of my partner, the groom’s family, my ex, and his wife. That thought resulted in writer’s block and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write a ceremony worthy of the occasion. The day before our flight to Florida, I put butt in seat and pen to paper. I reviewed how my daughter and her fiancee had met, fallen in love, and the love I’d witnessed between them and it dawned on me…echo their words to each other to tell the story of their love.

I practiced the ceremony with my partner to get an idea of length, then the night before the wedding we rehearsed and fine-tuned the timing. I knew if we started the ceremony around 2:10 PM, as long as I kept myself together and spoke at a moderate pace, we could do it.

Then it was time for my ex and I to walk our baby girl down the aisle to her love.

The rest of the ceremony is a blur in my mind, but I pulled it off…and pronounced them husband and wife at 2:22 PM with my poem:

Long have you waited for this special day
To gather us together and for each of you to say
You’re my person, I Love You, I’m yours to the end
So as your parents and family, this advice we send
Stay open and honest, transparent and true
There’s nothing more important in marriage to do
Be thrifty, work hard and obey all the laws
Be kind, be faithful, and love each other’s flaws.
We’ve loved and supported each of you since a babe
Now it’s your time with a daughter, a family you’ve made
So with joy in our hearts and a tear in our eyes
I make this pronouncement to those far and wide
By the power invested in me by the state
You’re now husband and wife, it’s legal, you’re life mates.
Now is the time to seal this love with a kiss
Your first of many in legal wedded bliss!

Wishing you a lifetime of love & laughter, Love you much❣️

Adventures in Retirement and Renovations

Life can turn on a dime…and sometimes you just have to hold on and ride the tide.

I had my Explorer set up to be a self-contained solo camper when I left North Dakota for retirement in Michigan. On my way, I stopped for lunch with the Minnesota friend I’d met and hiked with during my February Tucson trip. Kate and I had texted and talked in the intervening months, and found we really enjoyed each other’s company.

After four trips through Minnesota in the course of a month, we liked each other well enough to see where our relationship would lead in Tucson, since we would both be wintering there. Long story short, we’ve been inseparable since.

After my latest divorce, I was convinced I’d be forever single, not wanting to put my heart out there again. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my solo adventures, but I missed sharing them with someone who enjoys similar things. We enjoy listening to books and podcasts together, we laugh like school girls on a sleepover, and we have similar taste…though I don’t eat anything that swims. I taught her Pickleball, and now she’s kicking my butt, so she’s a great partner in sport and life.

Lately we’ve been renovating Kate’s manufactured home in a 55+ community. In years past, I’ve avoided getting involved in renovation projects. With my bicep/rotator cuff recovery, I’m limited to cleanup chores. Although I haven’t been a huge help with removing the popcorn ceiling and skim-coating, I’m a good researcher…and I love me some power tools.

I’ve ridden the tide to a sweet ending to a life-changing year. We’re headed back to Minnesota and North Dakota to spend the holidays with family…so more adventures to come!

One-Month Retirement Retrospective

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since I retired. Weirdly, I feel as if I’ve lived a year already.

I’ve been able to spend quality time with family and friends, I’ve enjoyed seeing my poetry made into art, and Parkher, my 2019 Ford Explorer, and I have traveled more than 5,000 miles. We’ve seen sunsets and storms, sunrises and sprinkles…and a lot of beautiful country between Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota.

It still feels a little like I’m on an extended vacation, but I’m embracing the change. I even took an afternoon nap a few days ago, something I could never do before.

Like a migrating bird, I’ll start traveling south in the next month just as my retired parents did. I am my father’s daughter in so many ways, and I feel his presence on this nomad journey…”Be sure to log your mileage and the cost of gas. And how many miles to the gallon you get.”

On it Pa!

Skirting the Edge of Safety

by Deb Sinness

I want to talk about the things I love…
an overcast day on the bay filled with colorful kayaks,
each carving a path
to meet in the middle,
separate yet unified
in seeking a record.

Snow crunching beneath fat tires
careening through the trees
losing control,
my balance impaired
falling in the deep, soft snow.

Exploring unseen lands,
hiking to the edge of the
circle where birds perch,
as if they own the land.

Tubing out of control down
a slick snow-covered mountain.
The rubber I grip guides me to
safety but reminds me,
safety is not what I seek…
Go now.

Adjusting to Retired Life

“It is a hard thing to leave any deeply routined life, even if you hate it.”

John Steinbeck, East of Eden

I didn’t hate my day job, but it seemed every day brought an onslaught of challenges.

I did, however, like the people I worked with and loved the routine the work week ushered in. I knew I only had so much time outside my work hours to get other work and writing done, motivating me to use and structure my time well.

This retirement thing is going to take some getting used to. Right now, it still feels like I’m on vacation. It’s a challenge to get into any writing done when I’m traveling.

So I’ll just have to steal moments of time until I settle into a routine that suits me. Meanwhile, adventure awaits…and I’ll be posting photos of some of my favorite places.

When I wrote poetry in the late 1990s, I wanted to publish a book of poems called Solitary Sojourns and Everyday Epiphanies. I never did, so I’ve started a new Instagram profile called SolitarySojourns where I share photos from my travels and thoughts on this, my sixth decade of living in a meat suit on this beautiful, blue spinning marble in the cosmos. My blog will become more of a photoblog while I focus my writing on finishing my memoir so I can move onto other things…and more adventures.

Writing As Art

Writing Myself Home
I don’t know if I could
or even if I should
dig through the debris
of buried memory
to get to the place
where I can face…
myself.

I wrote the above poem in the late 1990s and when I wrote it, I suspected it had to do with my mother’s mental illness and my fear it would happen to me. I had a good life with a husband who loved me and the daughter I’d always wanted, but something was always gnawing at me? I never felt satisfied, and my mother’s memory hung over my life like a grey cloud. I quit writing shortly after when work and family life took priority.

I came out to myself 12 years later. It would take another 6 years to come out of the “having a mentally ill mother” closet.

Last Fall after moving back to North Dakota, I read a call by the BisMan Writer’s Guild for a collaborative touring art show called The Art of Writing, sponsored in part by the North Dakota Art Gallery Association. Artists and writers were to submit samples and if an artist selected a piece of writing (or vice versa), they would create pieces of art inspired by the other’s work. I wanted to submit my poem, but it needed a title.

After having spent two years drafting, rewriting, excavating, and shaping my memoir, I realized the poem was a way to express what I could not. It was the beginning of “coming home” to myself. Then a year ago September I moved back to my home state of North Dakota. I literally and figuratively had come home, thus the title Writing Myself Home.

Today The Art of Writing touring show opens for a month at the James Memorial Art Center in Williston, North Dakota where I spent the first six years of my life. My poem, in word art, will appear with the piece of art created by the artist who was inspired by it.

An Artist’s Reception will be held on Friday, September 17th from 7:00 to 8:30 PM, one year from my first full day as a North Dakota resident again.

Life truly has come full circle.

Badass Women Warrior Writers

After I was discharged from the Marine Corps, my first mother-in-law asked me what would be a prescient question.

“What do you want to do?”

“I want to be a writer.”

“Don’t strive to be a writer, write.”

It would take years before I finally put pen to paper, first writing poetry in the 1990s. Then in 2018, I saw a Facebook post saying the MilSpeak Foundation was hosting a Women Warriors Writing Workshop weekend at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. I only had to pay for my room and transportation.

I jumped at the chance and took an early flight so I could check out the Whitewater Center and take a zipline tour before the festivities started. Note to self: visit the Whitewater Center again and try whitewater rafting.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I wanted to reignite that dream, to write the book I wanted to read when I was struggling.

The weekend was transformative.

A Friday night welcome reception with Open Mic kicked things off. Several women were published authors, and many others were further along their writing journeys than I was. It was intimidating. And inspiring.

The weekend was filled with keynotes, break out sessions, and on Sunday a small-group workshop. Participants were asked to bring five copies of a work-in-progress, whether it be fiction, memoir, poetry, or an article. I went back to my room to write something so I could participate.

Nothing.

I could not write. I was so hung up on wanting it to be perfect that I couldn’t get any words out of my head.

Sunday morning I listened in awe while other brave writers shared their stories. I vowed one day I would too.

It’s been three years since that weekend spent in the company of badass women warrior writers. Although I didn’t write anything myself, I consider it the beginning of my writing journey because of the writing friendships I made and the inspiration I received…and the adventure continues.

Once A Marine, Always A Marine

Forty-five years ago today, I stepped off the bus in Parris Island, South Carolina onto the infamous yellow footprints, forever changing my life.

While I intended to stay in and make it a career, the post-Vietnam era was not a popular time to be in the military. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out after my four-year enlistment. Now, 45 years later, it’s crazy how fast time has flown.

I am forever grateful to be one of the Few and the Proud…Semper Fidelis my Sisters and Brothers!

6 Lessons from Pa on My Boxcar Birthday

We are inextricably linked to our parents on our birthdays: they brought us into the world and are our first teachers.

On this 66th birthday, I’m thinking about my Pa…the dice game 6-5-4, the double-six boxcars he loved to roll, and the life lessons he taught me.

How to be a good parent. He raised me to be independent, yet I knew I could always count on him to be a sounding board, a shoulder to cry on, or a soft place to land.

Be less judgmental and more accepting. Rather than passing judgment on something, he would keep an open mind and say, “Well, that’s different.”

Focus on the positive. Pa had had been through a lot in his life plus he had medical problems, which you never knew because his focus was on you and making the best of the situation.

Cherish friends and family, giving them your full attention. There was nothing more that Pa loved to do than sit and visit with family and friends.

Stay curious about people. Pa loved to meet new people and hear their stories. Being an introvert myself, I challenged myself to be more Pa-like during my 2020 pre-Pandemic Portland trip. The rich, memory-filled trip was one I’ll never forget.

It’s never a bad day for a drive. Pa loved to drive and said, “There’s always something new to see.” After he retired, he worked for car dealers and Enterprise, driving and shuttling clients while chatting them up. He racked up some serious miles, and I definitely get my sense of adventure and love of the open road from from him.

So my 6-5-4 take-away on this day is: 1) life is like a dice roll, you never what’s coming; 2) don’t be greedy and squander a decent score because the next roll might be worse; and 3) sometimes, when you least expect it, you roll boxcars and win the pot.