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Dear Kristin,

I’ve been thinking a lot about the third-third lately, which is to say, the next thirty years. Now, I know that there’s no way to predict how long I’ll live; a truck could be barreling down upon me at this moment (if this letter ends abruptly, you’ll know why). But barring accidents and weird cancers (and there is a little bit of weird cancer history in my family), I’ve got a good shot at a few more decades of living. The question is, how do I prepare? 

One thing I know I need to do is stretch myself physically. I’m a fairly flexible person, but if I’ve been sitting in the same position for a long time, I moan and groan as I stand up. After looking around for nearby yoga classes (everything seems to be filled up right now), I turned to YouTube, where “Yoga with Adriene” was waiting for me. So far, I’ve been sticking to Yoga for Seniors (even though, at age 58-almost-59, I’m officially still a junior), but soon I’ll move to a more mainstream class. To be honest, I find yoga a little boring, but I feel so good after I’m done.

I’m also trying to stretch myself creatively by drawing. As a kid, I drew all of the time (it was my second favorite activity after reading). I went through a period where I wanted to be a cartoonist when I grew up, but over the years, other creative activities took center stage, primarily writing and quiltmaking. Lately, though, I’ve been drawing again, pushing myself to break out of old habits and trying to learn new techniques. I find drawing completely absorbing. Way back before I had kids, I used to draw a Christmas comic that I sent out to friends, and I might try that again this year. 


Here’s what might end up being the biggest stretch of all: the Social Stretch. As a rule, I prefer to socialize in my own home, by myself or with Clifton and Travis. So when our new neighbors Rick and Marie invited us to their wedding in February, I had no intention of making new friends or being adopted into a dinner group of sorts, but that’s exactly what happened. In March, Rick and Marie invited us over to dinner along with Peter and Peter, who had been at our table at the wedding and who we adored immediately. This month, Peter and Peter cooked dinner for everyone, which means that we’ll be hosting in May–gulp! I’ve not had a ton of dinner parties over the years and am more than a little nervous, especially because the other couples in this new little tribe of ours are excellent cooks. I consider myself a good home cook, which is different from being a dinner party cook. But this is another good way to stretch myself, right? Okay, true confession time: I may ultimately stretch myself over to my favorite barbecue place and pick some pulled pork for our dinner party. But I promise I’ll make all the sides and dessert!

As a creature of routine, I have reservations about stretching myself in any way. I know I need to, and I know it will make this next phase of life richer, but who knows what changes stretching myself will bring about? It’s impossible to predict. What I do know is that  right now, stretching feels like growing, and it’s always good to grow, right?

How about you? How are you stretching yourself these days?


Dear Frances,

This is such an appropriate topic for me this week! A few things come to mind immediately.

My friend Pam has been after me to try her exercise class for literally YEARS! Up to now, I’ve resisted because: it’s expensive, it’s outdoors at 6 am, and frankly, I was intimidated. Most of these women have been doing this class forever. But after years of failed attempts to get myself to do any kind of strength training on my own, I decided to give it a try. The older I get, I realize that I need to be proactive and intentional about fitness. Walking every day is fine. Great even! But I also need to build muscle, work on balance, and stay flexible if I’m going live the kind of life I want. So, I beat back those excuses one by one: I can afford it and if I actually go three times a week (or even five times, if I do the yoga classes), it’s kind of a deal. I’m usually awake by 6 am anyway and I’ve been wanting to shake up my morning routine. And… what do I have to lose?

It’s still the first week and I’m writing this with sore muscles from head to toe, but I actually enjoyed it! (Well enjoyed the fact that I did it, let’s be honest.) And it turns out that there was no reason to be intimidated. Like most situations, people are focused on their own stuff and not worried about the fact that I can’t hold a plank for more than 15 seconds. It’s early days, but as I’ve learned from Gretchen Rubin, sometimes one change leads to others, and I think that this is a stretch in the right direction for me. Who knows where it will lead?

I also got out of my comfort zone socially and attended an in-person Modern Quilt Guild meeting. As you know, I was very inspired by the quilts and creativity at QuiltCon. But it’s so easy to attend a show like that and in the moment it seems life changing, and then… you go home and right back to your comfort zone. I’m not going to let that happen. Left to my own devices, I fall back into comfortable patterns of making traditional quilts (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I had a million excuses about why attending this particular quilt guild meeting was hard: it’s too far away, it’s at an inconvenient time, and I won’t know anyone. But, once again, I dismissed the negativity and took the leap! I’m hoping that a monthly injection of inspiration and the company of like-minded modern quilters might unlock some creative energy in me. I’ve not had positive experiences with quilt guilds in the past, so just showing up was a stretch for me.

I just realized that I’m using community to help stretch me out of my comfort zone, both physically and creatively! Sorry to bring up Gretchin Rubin again, but under her Four Tendencies matrix, I’m an Obliger. This means that I struggle to meet inner expectations but have no problem meeting outer expectations. Translation: I can’t make myself lift weights at home, but if I have a friend waiting for me at a workout class—I’ll never miss it! Know thyself. Community is key for me.

I’m admiring you stretching yourself socially with entertaining. Before children, we used to be a part of a group of friends that took turns hosting dinner parties. We all cooked elaborate dinners for each other. Let’s just say that I used to own a paella pan (that I used exactly once). But the entertaining muscle has atrophied. I know what you mean about being a good home cook, but cooking for a dinner party is a different thing altogether! I was going to say that I’ll leave the entertaining to you, but on second thought, I’ve been meaning to have my friend Kristi and her husband over ever since we both became empty nesters. So, maybe I’ll get that date on the books. Just a tiny stretch.


P.S. I love your Christmas comic! And if you do it again, I better be on the mailing list!

  • Vicki Holloway

    The third, third. My birthday is next month and i have been thinking about the this so much. I have engaged in more things to stretch me to improve where my body is currently and evaluating everything else.

    Dinner parties, I would love to have one ! I haven’t had people over for a BBQ and cards in years. I have all the fancy dishes for a proper fancy dinner party I would need to clear off the dining room table for a proper meal! I think I should invite someone over even if I pick up something from a resturant and put it in a fancy dish. I am not a great cook or entertainer.

    I have been thinking about taking some classes in watercolors. I want to stretch my creativity and make art journals. New things to keep fresh and have an active mind. We watch tons of documentaries so I am a lifelong learner but I need a hands on class for watercolors or ceramics! The internet makes this easy as driving hours to attend something isn’t gonna happen.

    I also attended an in person quilt meeting. I didn’t make it the entire meeting but I did stay for most of it. Progress !! Thanks for the inspirations friends! Love the Christmas card Frances and exercise outside and 6am in front of people Kristen? I applaud your bravery and dedication!!

  • Mary Jo

    When my husband and I updated our backyard we added a buffet plank outside the kitchen window. This pass through makes it so easy. The back patio is designed to make it easy to have dinner/lunch guests. My husband is great with plants so with the hanging wisteria and container plants it looks like a trattoria, with wood tables that seat 20. I have a few table runners I use and our fiesta ware every day dishware mixed in with the dishware I got from the thrift store works well. The thrift ware dishware has 13 big pottery mugs that double as water glasses. I never worry about spotty glasses. We basically do the same setup every time. Fortunately we live in San Diego so we can eat outside year round. I can do the whole table and patio setup for a large dinner party of up to 20 in 30 minutes. It looks great and it’s easy.

    For lunch soup (lately Indian style butternut squash soup) and plated salads (MY DH is the master at these). The last time I made the soup I made enough for three different vegetarian company lunches. Put two batches in freezer. My husband often grills and when he does, it’s the complete meal on the grilll, meat or fish, lots of veggies and fruit (peaches). Just need to add bread and maybe dessert. With one set of friends we always do pot luck. .

    I used to get very stressed out by dinner parties but now I”m pretty relaxed. It’s the same setup every time with some variations in food. And we don’t mind purchasing food if that’s what’s needed. It’s not fancy, although it looks a bit fancy and people are always happy to be in such a relaxed atmosphere . Everyone always comments about the colorful table setup.

    When we had the whole family for a week, For my contribution I bought a lasagna from the Italian restaurant. It was more expensive but all 10 of us loved it. A salad and bread (purchased at the Italian place too) made it doable. . For the weeklong extravaganza we had purchased tacos, Son and girlfriend made Persion soup, DH made African stew, Son in law made the party (for the neighbors) food. He’s a professional chef and loves to cook. Everyone made generous amounts so there were lots of leftovers for people to choose from.

    It took us about 15 years to come up with this system but it works. Not much variety in the table setting but I don’t care it’s easy, predictable and fast. It helps to have family members, especially my husband who love to cook.

    Keep it simple. Buy the food if it will be less stressful.

  • Marsha

    Frances, funny you should mention Yoga with Adriene. I did my first video this week. I took a yoga class at the local fitness center about 8 years ago. I struggled with the breathing part of yoga-shouldn’t breathing be the easy part of an exercise? I feel stretching would be good for me so I’m going to try to do yoga twice a week for now. I’ll keep you posted. By the way, Kristin, I did yoga on the beach in Cancun a few years ago. Its was wonderful. And then I went to the breakfast buffet! The fresh air must have wet my appetite.
    After 2 years of strife, we recently left the church I attended all of my life. We’ve been stretching ourselves by attending different area churches. In these fresh places of worship, I enjoy being anonymous for now (which really isn’t the point of worshiping with others). To walk into a new place of worship is a terrifying stretch for me. We’ve really enjoyed attending church with our adult daughters and their families. Some day we plan to retire near our kids so we will probably attend this church.
    I used to draw all the time when I was young. I always thought it would be fun to do caricatures. I attended a quilt guild meeting once. If I could find one closer to home perhaps I would enjoy it more. For now I enjoy the quilt community on line with Frances & friends on the Quiltfiction FB group.
    Great post again! Have a good weekend, everyone!

  • Robin Leftwich

    Stretching is a great topic! I do a live Zoom flrcibikity and balance exercise session with Silver and Fit twice a week. Feels so good! I need to do more!
    My husband and I are not entertainers, but have hosted a few family dinners lately. I did a very last minute Easter brunch that was a fantastic gathering, with good food, good company, and it only took me 4 hours to clean up! Next stretch will be to recruit a clean up detail.
    Can’t say I’m pursuing a new craft, but I’m trying to stretch my quilting abilities, by some Worhoos through Quiltfolk. Boutis, anybody!
    Happy stretching to everyone!

  • Kris

    We too, went through a period of hosting the dinner parties, 4 couples and middle school-aged kids, taking turns every month. Good to hear that I am not the only one uncomfortable with the thought of cooking elaborate dishes for friends. Much work, and some stress to make sure all is the best it can best, and second-guessing culinary tastes. I look back fondly on the memories, and occasionally will have a couple over for dinner, but not usually. Recently a friend of mine did have us and another couple over for dinner over Christmas week. It was nice, but I sure didn’t want to start up the pattern again haha. Out of my comfort, this month is making a mock-up of a wrap skirt for my niece to try out. She needs multiple wrap skirts made as she is embarking on a 2-year commitment with the Peace Corps to Figi and is a tall girl like myself at least 5″10. This is out of my comfort zone, but will be fun to see if it works.

    Thanks for the Blog

  • Kathryn

    Stretch is such a great word and I often think about it but that’s as far as it goes. I often think of Frances out walking with Travis and that inspires me first of all to al least go for a walk. (I listen to Frances every night, you have such a wonderful calming voice so it sends me to sleep and when I wake there you are and I listen and often fall asleep again! Not because you are boring, far from it, I love listening. I am on my third round and I figure eventually I’ll hear every word). I need to stretch socially like Frances too, I love my own company at home and when I get invited out I find myself not wanting to even though I do enjoy it when I go. Yes stretch is a great word.

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