Making the intentional choices that build a life

NIAGARA, Wis. — I wrote last week about a book I was reading, “Women Rowing North” by Mary Pipher. Last week, I had completed only the first section that dealt with the many challenges of this journey and shared with you some of Pipher’s insights on the loneliness so many of us will face throughout these years. We learned some tips on transforming this loneliness into fulfilling solitude.

In the weeks to come, I will share some of the insights I found throughout the rest of this book. The second section dealt with the necessary “travel skills” we will need to develop in order to more fully enjoy this stage of life. This week, I want to talk specifically about what Pipher calls “making intentional choices.” She begins this chapter with two quotations. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “… the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” A second nugget of truth was offered by Nan Shin when she said, “There is nothing inevitable.”

Both of these statements go to the heart of something I have believed for decades and taught our sons. Our lives are the sum of the choices we make along the way. We certainly cannot plan every event of our lives; the unexpected hits all of us. But we do control how we react to, and make our way through or around, the obstacles that are thrown in our way. Everyone encounters “a wrench in the works.” We are all then faced with how we use that wrench. Do we let it remain within the machinery of our lives to continue to gum things up or do we remove it and use it to build a better plan?

We have all known someone who has seemed unable to use that wrench as a constructive tool. They leave it lie in their life and, over time, it becomes the excuse for everything that continues to go wrong for them. They become victims of life’s events instead of active participants; their life boat is lacking its captain. Someone very dear to me recently said, “All the while I was waiting for my life to begin, it was happening all around me.” I was struck by the word “waiting” and deeply saddened by his inability to understand that each of us is required to do much more than wait if we are to have a fulfilling life. This type of scenario is what Eleanor Roosevelt is referring to in her quotation about the choices we make throughout our lives. We are responsible for choosing our paths. When one leads to a dead end, we all need to circle back and choose a new way.

We have also known those who grew up surrounded by hardship. Or maybe a critical event happened in their life when they were a child. Through no fault of their own, they were born into difficult circumstances or grew up in an environment made difficult by a singular incident that was not handled well by their parents. How many of them believed that their tough beginning dictated a similar life filled with the same mistakes? How many saw no better path through life than the one their feet were set upon when they were born?

Nan Shin’s quote above speaks directly to this; “there is nothing inevitable.” Those four words are powerful and life changing when they are accepted as truth and then used as motivation to grow from a difficult beginning. Some of us grow up because of childhood influences, and others grow up despite them. Each of us has the power within us to decide, “No, this is not going to be my life.” And we have the ability to form our own life vision and the strength to take the necessary steps to fulfill it. And, most important, as Pipher expressed it, “we become who we believe we can be.”

Pipher also stressed the importance of attitude and self-talk as tools that could be of help or hindrance. One of her many very powerful quotes that jumped off the page to me was, “Happiness is a choice and a set of skills. We all live within the confines of the world as it is, but we have the freedom to frame that world in ways that allow us to be positive and grateful.”How do we do this at a period of our life when we may feel we are running out of time to correct anything that has gone wrong for us so far? We are retired and have fewer ways to increase our current income. Our health is beginning to go south, and often many of us acquire illnesses that cannot be cured. And we may have already lost the people who mean the most to us.

One suggestion from Pipher was to learn to “define ourselves by our grit.” We have the life view where we can look back and remember all of the difficult times we have already managed our way through and allow ourselves to realize just how strong we are. My husband and I have grown thankful for our rough start in life — both before and after we were married. Neither of us grew up in homes that were “easy.” We came from hard-working parents, and we learned at a young age how to work. Nothing was given — except a lot of love — so we learned how to fend for ourselves and work for what we wanted. Our early years of marriage were downright difficult, and we learned how to pull together to build what we have today. We now tell ourselves when glitches come along that “at least it isn’t as hard as it was back when…” and we can name any number of other difficult times that did not break us.

Here is more food for thought offered by Pipher about this stage of our lives.

1. Ultimately, all our most important decisions are about time. What will we do with our mornings, afternoons, evenings, days and weeks?

2. When we are in our 20s, 30s and 40s… Time spends us and leaves us spent. As we age, more of us have the opportunity for reflective decision-making around time.

3. Each of us has the freedom to decide what is essential.

4. It’s important to distinguish between wants and needs. When our needs are met, we have enough.

Yes, we had a lot of worries in our younger years. But my husband reminds me that we enjoyed every stage of life as it happened. We participated in our children’s lives as they were growing up and visit them now when they have built lives of their own. And now we enjoy the slower pace of our lives and look forward to building a good day — one at a time. We are content knowing that we have what we always wanted — a roof over our heads that belongs to us and enough money to pay our bills with a little left over for some fun. Best of all, we still have each other to help remove life’s wrenches and to find our way down another path.






Scenes and sounds, noon on Sunday and 11:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Sunday: Uno, 1 p.m.; dunking donuts, 2 p.m.; church, 2:15 p.m.

Monday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; resident council, 11 a.m.; library cart, 1:30 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; ice cream social, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Busy room, 10:30 a.m.; reminisce, 1 p.m.; Poonschki party, 2 p.m.

Wednesday: Room visits, 10 a.m.; rosary, 10:30 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; movie and popcorn, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Reading buddy, 10:30 a.m.; Bible study, 1:15 p.m.; pokereno, 2 p.m.; “Lawrence Welk,” 4:30 p.m.

Friday: What’s cooking, 11 a.m.; parlor games, 1:15 p.m.; sing along, 2:30 p.m.; happy hour, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Meet and greet, 10:30 a.m.; daily newspaper, 11 a.m.; oldies but goodies, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; evening news, 6 p.m.

Iron County 

Medical Facility

Crystal Falls

Sunday: Room visits, 9 to 11 a.m.; hangman, 10 a.m.; afternoon matinee with popcorn, 2 p.m.; Church of Christ, 3 p.m.

Monday: Cooking, 9 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; DT luncheon, noon; room visits, 1 p.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; Sunshine Club, 2:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Book club, 10 a.m.; Catholic Mass, 10 a.m.; gramma groomers, noon; travel film, 1:30 p.m.; travel club, 2 p.m.; crime movie, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Coffee social/yoga with Dodi, 10 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m..; current events, 2 p.m.; night bingo, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Puzzler, 9:30 a.m.; bowling, 10 a.m.; Bible study, 1 p.m.; wildlife film, 1:30 p.m.; Presbyterian church, 2 p.m.; happy hour, 2:30 p.m.

Friday: Crafts, 9 to 10:30 a.m.; exercise, 11 a.m.; room visits, 1 p.m.; monthly birthday party with music and cake, 2 p.m.; musical movie, 6 p.m.

Saturday: ICMCF word search/you be the judge, 10 a.m.; parachute, 11 a.m.; intergenerational social hour, 2 p.m.

Manor Care


Wet your whistle, 9:30 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Exercise, 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Lobby activity, 11:15 a.m. Sunday through Saturday and 4:15 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Popcorn Day every Friday

Sunday: Just jokes, 10:15 a.m.; company’s coming room visits, 1:30 p.m.; Protestant church, 3 p.m.

Monday: Did you know? 10:15 a.m.; family Baptist service, 2 p.m.; pokeno, 5:45 p.m.

Tuesday: Who am I? 10:15 a.m.; “Wheel of Fortune,” 2 p.m.; movie and manicure, 5:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Sharpen your senses, 10:15 a.m.; monthly birthday party with Paula D. music, 2 p.m.; flip five, 5:45 p.m.

Thursday: Crosswords, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; crazy for cards, 5:45 p.m.

Friday: ManorCare monthly, 10:15 a.m.; lucky 13, 2 p.m.; chips and chatter, 2:30 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Saturday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; bingo, 2 p.m.; movie, 3:15 p.m.

Maryhill Manor

Niagara, Wis.

Rosary/communion, 8:30 a.m. Sunday through Friday.

Sunday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; “Family Feud,” 10:15 a.m.; “Deal or No Deal,” 1:30 p.m.; Protestant service, 2:30 p.m.; Christian fellowship, 5:30 p.m.

Monday: Protestant service, 9 a.m.; Yahtzee, 10:15 a.m.; nickel jokereno, 2 p.m.

Tuesday: Current events, 10:15 a.m.; Mardi Gras social, 2 p.m.; help your neighbor, 6:15 p.m.

Wednesday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; Pictionary, 10:15 a.m.; Yahtzee, 2 p.m.; Chaplet of Divine Mercy, 3 p.m.; movie and popcorn, 6:15 p.m.

Thursday: Catholic Mass, 9 a.m.; board game, Scattegories, 10:15 a.m.; jokereno, 2 p.m.

Friday: Exercise, 10:15 a.m.; trivia, 10:30 a.m.; happy hour with Jim D., 2 p.m.

Saturday: Crafts, 10:15 a.m.; pamper and polish, 2 p.m.; leap year/day trivia, 5:45 p.m.

Victorian Pines

Iron Mountain

Juice time, 10 a.m. Sunday through Saturday except Thursday this week.

Exercise, 11 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Shopping days: 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, must sign up.

Sunday: Bible study, 1:30 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Tuesday: Craft class, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Wednesday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Thursday: Communion with Deacon Don, 10 a.m.; left-center-right, 2 p.m.; rosary, 3 p.m.

Friday: Bingo, 2 p.m.; refreshments, 3 p.m.

Saturday: Movie and popcorn, 2 p.m.

Florence Health Services

Florence, Wis.

Morning news, 6 a.m. Sunday through Saturday.

Sunday: Bingo/family and friend visit, 10 a.m.; music with Grace and Dave, 2 p.m.

Monday: Bingo, 10 a.m.; monthly birthday party, 2 p.m.; reading, 6:15 p.m.

Tuesday: No scheduled activities

Wednesday: Black jack, 10 a.m.; Ash Wednesday service, 1 p.m.; reminisce, 6:15 p.m.

Thursday: Pastor Jason, 10 a.m.; manicures, 2 p.m.; reading, 6 p.m.

Friday: Catholic church, 10 a.m.; happy half hour, 2 p.m.; reading, 6:15 p.m.

Saturday: Family and friends visit, 10 a.m.

Pinecrest Medical Care Facility


Sunday: Grace church, 10:15 a.m.; Phase 10, 10:30 a.m.; Lutheran service, 2 p.m.

Monday: Life connections, 9:45 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; song service, 1:30 p.m.; rosary, 2:30 p.m.; sensory, 3:30 p.m.; Yahtzee, 6 p.m.

Tuesday: Baking group, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; Mardi Gras, 2 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Catholic Mass, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; reminiscing, 3:30 p.m.; room visits, 6 p.m.

Thursday: Exercise, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 p.m.; bingo, 1:45 p.m.; Phase 10, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Friday: Karaoke, 10:30 a.m.; busy bee, 12:45 a.m.; happy hour, 2 p.m.; cards, 3:30 p.m.; one-to-one visits, 6 p.m.

Saturday: Rummy, 10:15 a.m.; sensory, 10:30 a.m.; social circle, 2 p.m.


Note: All centers ask for 24-hour advanced reservations for lunch. Those who have meals delivered who will not be home should notify the center.

Alpha-Mastodon Center


Meal at noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Amasa Center


Open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Lunch at noon.

Bingo on Tuesdays.

Free meal drawing on Thursdays.

Menu for the week:

Tuesday: Beef stroganoff, noodles, California blend vegetables and salad.

Wednesday: Ham, scalloped potatoes, corn and salad.

Thursday: Lasagna, wax beans, salad and garlic bread.

Breen Center


Meals Monday through Friday.

Pasty sale every third Saturday of the month, except on holidays.  

Cards and games available 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 2 p.m. 

Hostess on duty Monday through Friday.   

Treats and coffee, 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Center retail store is open 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday; volunteers and donations are welcome.

Birthdays acknowledged every day.

Evening meals are on the first and third Thursday of the month. Salad bar opens at 4 p.m., with dinner at 5 p.m. Donations are $4 for those 60 and older and $5 for 60 and younger.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Liver or sausage, parsley potatoes and carrots.

Tuesday: Calzones and stewed tomatoes.

Wednesday: Cheeseburger, fries and baked beans.

Thursday: Chicken alfredo, noodles and carrots.

Friday: Fish or smoked sausage, potatoes and cauliflower.

Soup, salad and dessert are offered with every meal. Reservations for meals are encouraged. Walk-ins are welcomed.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen


The center is not just for seniors — bring a friend.

Suggested meal donations: $5 if older than 60; $6 if younger than 60; $1 extra for take-out.

To reserve meals, call the center by 1 p.m. with name and number of people.

All dinners include soup and salad bar, homemade dessert, tea, coffee and milk

Open: Monday through Wednesday, 4:30 p.m., soup and salad bar, 5 p.m., dinner.

Mondays: Basket weaving after dinner — all are welcome for dinner and/or class. Beginners can make their first basket with materials provided.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Meatloaf, baked potatoes and vegetables.

Tuesday: Chicken and spaghetti and vegetables.

Wednesday: Lemon pepper cod and fried potatoes.

Crystal Lake Center

(906) 239-0278

The center is closed on weekends.

Monday: Woodcarvers, 10 a.m.; Les Artistes Art Club, noon.

Tuesday: Pinochle, 12:30 p.m.; two-person team cribbage, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Wednesday: Spinning Spools Quilters Guild, 1 p.m., with crafters, scrapbookers and others also welcome; knitting and crocheting class, 1 to 3 p.m.

Thursday: Pinochle, 12:30 p.m.; Happy Quilters, 1 p.m.

Friday: Smear, noon.

In addition to home-delivered meals, a lunch at the center is offered from 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. every Wednesday, along with two evening meals each month. Meals cost $5 for those younger than 60 years and a $4 donation for those over 60.

Home-delivered meal menu for week:

Monday: Cheeseburger, potato wedges and green beans.

Tuesday: Polish sausage, sauerkraut, carrots and dinner roll.

Wednesday: Hamburger soup, crackers and three-bean salad.

Thursday: Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots.

Friday: Tater tot casserole, green beans and biscuit

For more information on the home-delivered meal program at this center, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256

Wednesday — Noon meal at center: clam chowder and deluxe salad bar.

Thursday — Night meal at the center: Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots.

Transportation is available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call 906-282-0492 or 906-774-2256. Rides are $3 for age 60 and older, and $3.50 for younger than 60. 

Felch Center


Meals served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Bingo after lunch on the first and third Wednesday of each month.

A congregate jigsaw puzzle is done daily.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Turkey, mashed potatoes and peas.

Tuesday: Meatloaf, potato wedges and three-bean salad.

Wednesday: Fish or Salisbury steak, oven-browned potatoes, broccoli and bread.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.


Director: Tiffany White

Suggested donation for seniors older than 60 is $4 per meal. Those younger than 60 must pay $7. Reservations and cancellations are needed 48 hours in advance.

The ADRC can assist area seniors and those with disabilities with transportation Monday through Friday. Transportation reservation should be made with meal reservation.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Beef chop suey over rice, Oriental vegetables and fruit.

Tuesday: Pulled pork on a bun, western baked beans, oven-roasted potatoes, fruit.

Wednesday: Cheese ravioli, broccoli, side salad and fruit.

Thursday: Beef stew, potatoes, carrots, onions, biscuits and strawberry crisp.

Friday: Minestrone soup, cheese sandwich, lettuce and tomato and pears.

Other assistance includes information on aging, benefits specialist and caregiver support.

Fence Center/Town Hall


For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Meal served Wednesday only with the same menu as listed under ADRC of Florence County. Reservations are requested. Cribbage and cards are available.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Home-delivered meals are available. Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. at this center Monday through Thursday, with the same menu as listed under ADRC of Florence County.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Serving lunch at noon on the second Thursday of the month only, with the same menu as listed under ADRC of Florence County.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Meal is served at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, with the same menu as listed under ADRC of Florence County. Transportation arrangements can be made to and from the meal site.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska


Meal is at noon Monday through Friday. Suggested donation is $3 for age 60 and older and $7 for those younger than 60. Morning coffee is available daily.

Fifteen games of “fun bingo” are played each Tuesday and Friday, along with a 50-50 drawing.

Tuesday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Wednesday: Cards played in the afternoon. Call ahead to see if a game will be going on.

Friday: Bingo, 12:45 p.m.

Monday through Friday: Walking in the gym, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A treadmill also is available.

Enjoy friendly interaction with other crafters.

Iron River Center


Meals served 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; a $4 donation is encouraged from those 60 and older, and a $5 payment is required from those younger than 60. Thursday meal, 3:30 p.m. soup, 4 p.m. salad bar, with dinner 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Home-delivered meals are available — call 906-774-2256, ext. 235 or ext. 230.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Enchilada casserole, rice and Mexicorn.

Tuesday: Cabbage rolls, mixed vegetables and breadstick.

Wednesday: Fish, macaroni and cheese and peas.

Thursday: Swedish meatballs, noodles, carrots and roll.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Noon meals served Monday through Thursday. Transportation is available to the meal site for those living in the Niagara, Wis., area. Any senior groups who would like to use the meal site as a meeting place are welcome — join us for lunch then stay for a meeting or social time. Wii games, cards, puzzles and board games are available to play. 

Other activities are in the works — suggestions are always welcome. 

Those who have not been at the meal site/senior center are invited to give it a try. Those who haven’t been here in a while are encouraged to come back.

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining


Monday through Thursday: Meals served at noon, with salad bar. Soup also is available at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Milk, juice, bread, fruit, tea and coffee served daily. Meal donation is $5. Reservation for the meal should be made in advance.

Two special-themed meals take place each month on Tuesday, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50 drawing.

Two evening meals offered at 5 p.m. on the first Monday and third Wednesday of the month, with bingo, prizes and a 50-50 drawing.

Menu for the week:

Monday: Finnish pancake, sausage, hash browns, strawberries, muffin, salad bar and orange juice.

Tuesday: End of Winter dinner: Beef stew, Brussel sprouts, biscuit, soup and salad bar, fruit, juice and dessert.

Wednesday: Chicken chop suey over rice, mixed vegetables, salad bar, fruit, juice and dessert.

Thursday: Spaghetti or polenta, winter blend vegetables, soup and salad bar, fruit, juice and dessert.

Cards are played daily after the noon meal.

Craft and exercise classes: Mondays and Thursdays.

Ceramic and art classes: Wednesdays.

Puzzles always in the works.

Note: File of Life packets available at the center.

Sagola Center


Meals: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11:45 a.m.

Cards: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Commodities every other month and quarterly commodities are every three months. A puzzle table is available to enjoy. Volunteers are always welcome. 

Note: The cook for the Sagola Center is on vacation the month of February, so no meals will be served this month. A few homebound people will receive some meals from the Felch Senior Center.


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