2023 Intentions: Retire

I did it. On February 11th, I retired, or semi-retired. I am still not sure what to call it. I am not working for income or actively seeking employment at this time. I have an idea that eventually I will either have my own business with volunteering on the side or something. My dad retired at age 55 and within nine months he was working a morning shift at a mini mart because he missed the public. Going to go out on a limb and suggest this not my answer as I am quite the introvert. But I do see me doing something, and helping others, just not sure what that looks like and don’t want to jump into anything too soon.

Now granted it will be three weeks Saturday since I had my last day, I am not an expert, but this is what I have learned so far.

Routine. I need a routine of sorts. At this point it is no more than grocery shop on Monday, get a Storyworth question done once a week, focus clean on room of the house and send a card to someone. The focus clean needs to happen as we have lived in this house for thirteen years and a lot has accumulated.  My grandparents, parents and brother have all passed and I have accumulated a lot of stuff. Stuff that I could not go through at the time, but now need to sit down and take a look at. My mother did a baby book for me and it was brimming with every single label the first time I tried a new baby food. That is cool, but I probably only need to save two not twenty.

Unlearn Multitask. I grew up watching MASH. We watched it while we ate dinner on TV trays in the living room. I had my favorites and I cried when people left the show (either to go home or die, looking at you Henry Blake!) In one episode, Charles declares “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and then I move on.” My whole life I have had a bit of a “good luck with that” attitude to that quote and his personality. I have spent my life, juggling a multitude of things; my stuff, my kid’s stuff, my partner’s stuff, parental stuff, friend stuff, household stuff, job stuff, hobby stuff, yard stuff. You get the picture. But now I am really working on taking the moment or project and really focusing. Spoiler: this is a lot harder that it looks.

Shock. People have no idea what to do when you say you have retired. You are too young is one reply. What will you do?! Is a very common one. Aren’t you bored? I have a friend who has a job opening. All responses to this. It is probably why I hedge with semi-retired. It seems easier for people to get their head around. I learned, sadly not to long ago, that no is a full reply and that you do not have to fill any silence. So, when people say “what will you do?” I say, “I don’t know but I have some ideas” and then stop talking. They tend to change the subject. Works for me.

People. I do try to set up at least one outing with friends. A walk or coffee, dinner or a getaway. While tempting to just start working through my To Be Read pile, humans need people and it is necessary to still get out and do things. Granted after the whole public library/notary nonsense, I could very easily do without the general public for some time but it really isn’t healthy to be a hermit. That does not mean I haven’t read 6 books in the last three weeks, just means I am trying to find balance.

Take your Time. You know how if you start a new job, you don’t say “you do this wrong here” after being there three hours (or you probably should not but OK I have seen people that do). Same with Retirement. In talking to people who have retired, I have heard six months to a year to make any big decisions, as this is a change a bit change, especially if you have been working since your were 15. I have given myself to May with the option of pushing it out further. I have ideas, I just want to do them right and after I have gone though all the baggage (literally at times, although most is in boxes) of my past.

Do What I Want. This one will be a constant struggle, I think. I am trying to talk to myself kinder and focus more on what I want to do and not what I think I should do. Today, I feel I should do laundry. Now, we are in no way going to run out of underwear and we are going nowhere today. So the should is all in my head. I ask myself if I want to do laundry and I find I don’t mind. No hindrance on what I want to do with the rest of my day so ok. Laundry. I want to learn to tap dance. I want to oil paint again. And I do see me trying those things. Again it is reevaluating the Should, is it a have to or is it a want or is it a not today.

As with a lot of my friends, I am among the first to go this route. A lot of it is trial and error and it is hard to go from 100 miles an hour to 40. I am excited about the change in so many areas of my life, nervous but excited.

Huh, Didn’t Know That

My family has done genealogy forever. To the point I rarely work on my own family (both maternal and paternal sides) as they are fully fleshed out trees with many branches. I poke around on my spouse’s tree as that one is not as robust and I have a bad habit of poking on my friends’ trees. Ok, maybe even a stranger or two.

I am currently going through boxes and file cabinets of stuff given to me over the years. Keep or Pitch is my new hobby. Sort of like what has happened in my music listening life (I have purchased the same song on cassette, CD, download and now just listen on Spotify), I have versions on the tree in all sorts of formats. Butcher paper hand drawn, handwritten on forms, print out of digital trees and a few on the internet and my computer. BUT. I am trying to look at each one in detail before I decide the Keep or Pitch. This was very wise.

In a very long print out from my Uncle Jim that was sent to my mom and brother, there is the family tree that I know very well. However, there are also footnotes and side notes. My grandmother was a lovely woman. She made quilts (quite a few I still have), patiently attempted to teach me how to crochet (spoiler, didn’t work), she could spell (quite handy for a granddaughter who couldn’t and way before the years of spell check). She was not overly demonstrative but a solid, “well, this sucks let’s figure it” out sort of person. I am not even sure I could give you one real example of this, it was more just an aura that surrounded her. I don’t think I had ever heard her raise her voice or cry. Not that either of those are bad things, just not something I remember her doing. She was more a “turn on the light before you go upstairs so you don’t trip” and “it is raining, grab an umbrella” and “we will save this for when we need it” sort of gal.

Back to the notes I found. William McKendree Heath was my grandmother’s grandfather. He was married three times and a bit of a gadabout. He served in the Civil War, moved from Ohio to California to Pennsylvania. I have some pictures of him and some of his papers, but again, just a branch on a tree to me. This is what was in the footnotes about him and my grandmother.

“Upon his death in Philadelphia, his body was transported by train to Cincinnati, where he was buried in the Sullivan plot with Susan Margaret and her other two husbands. A letter I got from my mother, Margaret Halliday Scharf, said she was the one, at age 25, who made the train trip from Cincinnati to Philadelphia, picked up his body, and rode the train back to Cincinnati with it.”

“In 1924, the family moved to Aurora, Indiana and rented a house at 206 Fourth Street. The rent was $40 per month. Margaret went to work for the Southeastern Indiana Telephone Company, first as a telephone operator, and then as an accounting clerk.

In 1935, she applied to the local savings and loan office for a $1900 loan to buy a house. She was told she needed a co-signer for the loan, she informed the loan officer that if her signature was not good enough, she would not take the loan. She got the loan and purchased the house on Stoney Lonesome (still a street in the western part of Aurora). Her mortgage payment was $1.87 per week, and she said they would worry some weeks whether they could pay it.”  

Didn’t know any of that, had no idea any of that. What a fascinating looking into my grandmother’s life. In 1934 my grandmother, who never learned to drive, got on a train, navigated that whole experience, got her grandfather and brought him home for burial. A year or so later she goes toe to toe with the local savings and loan and gets a house loan on her signature alone. Again, just mind blowing this little paragraph was able to give a different side to her that I never knew.


To quote Oscar Wilde via Lady Bracknell “To lose one parent… may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”

My parents died in their early 70s. I had good relationships with both of them and very few regrets. And yet this quote always hits home to me. Maybe I should have taken better care of them and yet, not really the duty of the child as they were both grown, functioning adults. My mom has been gone for 9 years, my dad 3 years. The initial sense of loss has faded. I still miss them at odd times, or a memory will surface that blindsides me. And yet as I see friends with parents in their 90s and starting to go through the same caregiving support issues I went through over 13 years ago, I can’t help but feel I was careless somehow. Or maybe I went first so I could help others?

The reason this all started to swirl around in my head was well…sliders. Ham and cheese sliders to be exact. My father would buy a ham bone from Honey Baked Ham, cut off the remainder of meat to make sliders and use the bone to make Ham & Beans. Now while I am not a fan of H&B, my mother in law is so especially in the cold months, I try to make a batch and freeze it in individual portions for her. Hence, my recent ham bone purchase.

Both parent were good cooks, however neither parent believed in such thing as a recipe. This made their tab A fits in slot B child, a bit nuts. My father would make sliders with the ham from the bone and they were so flavor filled, with just the right amount of crispy and gooeyness. I have tried three times to recreate this, to no avail.  Don’t get me wrong, they were yummy, but just not IT.

The two most favorite things my mother made were creamed spinach and banana bread. I know, odd mix. The spinach she would use bacon fat and small bacon pieces as her starter. It was amazing. I could easily eat an entire package of spinach in one sitting. The banana bread was from bananas that had gotten too ripe and were then stored in the freezer until she had the right amount. Warm bread with butter (ok margarine, we were not butter affording people), is one of my most delicious childhood memories. And again, I have tried to recreate these but it has not worked out so far. They are good, but not Mom good.

I could blame it on lack of recipe. I have at times blamed it on lack of recipe. Except for the fact that I DO have the recipe for banana bread. I believe it has more to do with making food for another person. It is such an intimate show of love and caring, especially if it is one of their favorite dishes. And for me, that someone has cared enough to put a meal together for me, or bake me brownies or invite me for coffee with some snack they have made, makes me feel good.

My last day at work, one of the circulation people made an apple cake for the 6 of us to enjoy. Now I am not a human that really enjoys cooked apples. I can smile and nod through an apple pie, but baked apples or the like, that is a hard nope. But this cake was really, really good. I had 4 pieces (no judgement they were small) and while I did not love the apple slices, they were not that big and they whole thing was made with friendship.

In the conversation starter of “if you could what 3 people would you like to have a dinner party with”, I would probably be picking the menu instead.

2023 Intentions: Photos

I was born in a time of pictures that were developed from film and duplicates made. A time you took three of the same shot to make sure you got the picture right, but then developed and kept them all because it was so expensive. You would get duplicates made and send them to grandparents.

When my grandmother’s died, my inheritance was shoeboxes full of pictures. When my mom died, it became an avalanche of more pictures (as this inheritance contained pictures she inherited from her mother and her own pictures). My avalanche of pictures contains 4-8 of the same shot with slight differences. As I received these photos, I would stuff them in boxes, tuck them in folders, hide them in drawers, there were even 15 of my favorites in the cedar chest (still not sure why I thought that was a good idea).

I need to get a handle on this, as this is not something I want to leave to anyone else. I have given myself permission to throw out pictures if 1) I do not know who is in them, I really have no one to ask and that just makes me anxious 2) I have many of the same shot just slightly different 3) there is no reason for them. This one is a bit harder, as it is a personal call. My litmus test is can I identify the subject matter, does the back ground give me a picture of the setting at that time that I want to remember and might not without the photo, would it make me smile to see this picture again and if so, I keep the picture and if not, I throw it out.

I know, I could scan it and save it and… and what? I work in a genealogy department and we have boxes and boxes of donated pictures with no idea who they are, the time period (you can guess to some degree), where they are taken. We even do a weekly “help us ID this picture” on our website. But for the most part, these pictures are never going to be identified as the people who could do that, are not with us.

My intention for this year is to gather up these pictures, sort through them,  toss the ones I really do not need, and put them in albums. Seems a tall task, but it is only January.

The First Intention for 2023: Water

I need to drink more water consistently. Every morning I fill my water bottle decorated with stickers that embrace my personality yet are subtle enough that the patrons and co-workers can tolerate in a work environment. Sadly, most days the water bottle comes home about half full. It sits in my line of sight and still I cannot seem to get the water into my body.

Recently on a trip to Indianapolis, we ate in quite a few different restaurants and for both breakfast and dinner (I do love breakfast, especially out where you can try all sorts of things or things you might not make for yourself at home, hello Stuffed French Toast!). In these restaurants, there were always smaller clear glasses and a bottle of water that staff brought on our arrival. And we not only finished the bottle of water but had more along with our other drink.

We stopped on the way home and bought our own water bottle and cute water glasses that are not huge (I do think that is part of it, you finish the water in your glass quickly and it is empty and think huh, I should fill this). So far it is work on meals we sit down and eat together. Years ago our kid made a perfect coaster for it in fiber arts. My goal for next week is to fill my coffee cup with water, drink it and THEN get my first cup of coffee. We will see how this goes.

Welcome to 2023

I have written bits of this over the last two weeks in my head, it has perhaps marinated enough for actual writing (maybe not).

I am a big not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. It just seems so fraught for failure. And if you screw up by the 3rd, are you done for the year? I would hope not but I know I tend to lean that way. It is probably the same part of my brain that thinks “we need to start eating healthier, let’s eat all the cookies out of the pantry right now, that way they will not temp us”. So this year, I have decided to make intentions. And I can add to them as I go. Things I intend to do this year, easy things with no metrics involved.

So far I intend to try more things (activities, foods, places to eat, books etc.), find my balance (both physically and mentally), get stronger (ditto) and take better care of me. I want to be better at supporting people and keeping track of progress I am making on my own goals. I intend to get more organized in my keepsake keeping (is this necessary? Does it have a story that needs told?) and in my photos and genealogy.

Seems like a lot to intend… however it seems easier that they are not resolutions, at least in my mind. And Daniel thinks if we just have enough coffee, it will be a piece of cake (or donut)

Don’t Touch the Hair

My Grandma Frantz had the same hair style my entire life. She colored her hair (as I have done) for a long time but eventually she stopped, and it was a lovely shade of white. I do hope I have inherited that gene. But the style was always the same. Done once a week at the beauty parlor; washed, set and combed out into a helmet like fashion. Shellacked with hairspray and done. No one could touch the hair. No one until maybe the Thursday night prior to her hair appointment on Friday.

When I would spend a few weeks with them in the summer, I was allowed to go to the beauty parlor. It was quite amazing to me. Her hairdresser had a shop in a trailer in a trailer park and I could go and sit and watch tv. Sometimes she would even let me take the rollers out of grandma’s hair as long was I was very careful not to disturb the curl and worked slowly. But once she finished my grandma’s hair, I could not touch it again until maybe Thursday night.

Vivian Frantz and Alex

Fast forward, I give birth to my son and he and my grandmother have a special bond. Even as a toddler he could reach out and touch her hair (it was quite interesting to touch, sort of like cotton candy but not sticky) and she would just laugh and catch his little hand and redirect. But it was no big deal. As he got older and acquired his beard, she would ask to touch it and he would say only if I can touch your hair. It became their “thing” and almost every time they were together, either as a greeting or a goodbye.

Alex and Vivian Frantz


My Grandfather Frantz was not a many of many words. When he talked you listened as he did not just sit around filling the air with his own talking. He could talk on many topics, was quick to tell you he loved you and give you a bear hug, but just comfortable in his silence. Not really one for profound wisdom, but could teach you how to do something in a way you never forgot.

Darrel Frantz fishing in Wisconsin

That being said, one time when young Kristan was gather around the dinner table with him, my grandmother, and my aunt, we were talking about memorizing or quotes or something. He mentioned that there really was only one that he knew. And I pestered him to tell us.

Ladies and Gentleman

Take My Advice

Pull down your pants

And slide on the ice.

Darrel Frantz with Kristan .1968

My grandmother was NOT amused and I thought it had to be the very best quote EVER!

Uncle Dave and the Ham

My uncle Dave has the gift of storytelling. And has my whole life. At family gatherings growing up, he and his cousins Mike and John would tell tall tales and long-winded story jokes. Many you would have heard the time before but then some would be new. I think that was something that I miss more than anything about not having those family gatherings, those same stories being told again and again.

Dave Scharf and Kristan

A few months ago, we were in our hometown for my husband’s uncle’s funeral. Dave had gone to school with one of his siblings and stopped in to pay his respects. I had not seen him since my brother’s funeral though we exchanged Christmas packages and notes.

Margaret Scharf and her son David at his graduation from Purdue

We talk about this and that, the minor catching up the way people do. I ask him about a family tradition that I had no idea how it started and turns out he also had no idea why we put a large pencil in the Christmas tree. I make an off handed comment about it being a family tradition we will never know why. He replies well you must be careful about those; you know about the ham right?

And with that he launches into the story I have heard many times in different formats (that meat usually changes) and I am instantly 10 years old and back at the giant table with all the grownups trying to stay quiet and under the radar so I can listen and soak it all up.

Jim and Dave Scharf

Once a woman was making a ham for a fancy dinner. Remembering the way her grandmother did it, she cut off the ends and then place it in the baking dish to cook. Her child asked why she cut off the ends and she replied, well I am not very sure, my grandmother did it that way and I know my mother did it that way, it is just the way we cook the ham in this family. I am sure it makes it taste better.  The child mentioned this to the great-grandmother about why the ends were cut off the ham before cooking. The great-grandmother looked quizzically at the child and said, because my baking dish was too small.

My Uncle Dave tells it much better. 😊  

Chains and Rabbits

My brother Donald was a person who walked to the beat of his own drummer. He even had Little Drummer Boy as a music box in his teddy bear. He was willful, stubborn and shockingly never wrong in his 48 years on the earth. You could ask him; he would tell you.

When he went away for his first year of college, I did the expected older sister thing and bought a bottle of Scope, emptied it, poured in bottle of peppermint schnapps with some green food coloring and made him a going away present. I mentioned this in my eulogy at Donald’s funeral and my dad came up afterwards and said I did not know that! (There was quite a bit my dad was spared of the details of my life and Donald’s).

Donald Frantz High School Graduation, Aurora Indiana

Donald goes to school; I am 900 miles away and my mom is an empty nester. A few months into his freshman year, I get a phone call that went a bit like this.

Mom: I am worried about Donald.

Kristan: uh huh, why now?

Mom: Well, I am worried what he might be doing at college. He might be drinking!

Kristan: uh huh, probably.

Mom: And he is listening to that music.

Kristan: what kind of music?

Mom: That bad music, you know that one group …that group, you know… Chains & Rabbits

Now I did pause, it took me about 15 seconds to translate in my head Mom-speak to everyday human words.

Kristan: Do you mean Guns & Roses?

Mom: YES! That! I knew it was something bad and something good.

I did go on to explain that Guns & Roses was fine music, not likely to cause any of the horrid destruction she had envisioned, and I have spent the rest of my life every time a G&R song comes on thinking about them being Chains & Rabbits instead.

Me and Donald Frantz, Lombard IL before we started to listen to Chains & Rabbits