Watertown, Naturally

LL Trail Edit

Luce Line Trail in Watertown, MN

I felt a little foggy this morning, so I did the best thing I know, strapped on the sneakers and headed out the door. The wind was biting for the first mile and all I could think about was turning the corner and going in a different direction. Eventually I veered left and began the ascent up what we locals call “Lovers Lane”.

On top of the hill the wind died down and the sun came out. I passed a small creek (read “crick”…this is the country) and a large pond. The singing of the frogs was so loud that it literally forced me to focus on the surroundings. I smiled as I thought about my mom sharing a memory from her childhood. My grandma told her she couldn’t take off her long-johns until the frogs croaked three nights in a row.

Oh grandma. I smiled broader.

I took a deep breath of the fresh, clean air and exhaled slowly. A rooster crowed to my right from a small farm. On my left a new housing development was being built in the distance. The juxtaposition of the two worlds struck me as rather odd. But I suppose that’s how it happens; the creep of population comes on slow, reaching further and further from the metro areas.

Turning from one dirt road onto another, I was brought back to the here and now. The world is fighting an invisible foe, one with no regard for human life. Being outside in the fresh air let me forget, if only for a moment, that I would soon be back to the reality of a ‘stay-at-home’ order.

But for now, for these few miles, I had tranquility and peace. I was determined to enjoy it.

Nearing downtown Watertown, I followed Hope Avenue and hopped on the Luce Line Trail. Hope…the name of the street reassured me as I crossed the bridge and passed through Pocket Park. I saw some robins springing around in the newly-green grass and a couple of squirrels chasing each other up and down a tree. The Crow River swelled over her banks; a tree branch floating carelessly along in the swift current.

My husband says you notice nature more when you’re happy. I guess that’s true.

A woman ran by and caught my attention. Her large dog was tied to the double stroller that she maneuvered with one hand—yes, one hand. A young daughter held the other hand. A second daughter ran alongside them.

I’ve seen many women running with strollers. This one was my hero.

I made the turn down my street, our house sitting at the end of the cul-de-sac. Maybe it was the nature talking, but it didn’t feel like a fortress of imprisonment. What I saw was a yard coming to life. There were flower beds and planters beckoning with possibilities. It was a home that I share with The King of the World and our dog, Walter. I took one more deep breath of the brisk morning air; my previously foggy and blocked brain was clear. I pushed open the door to excited puppy kisses.

Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I know that this, too, will pass. Stay safe.


The Embarrassment of Political Theater


When I was young the “grown-ups” would study candidates, learning about their views and how they’d vote if they were elected. Now we have the misfortune of having the court’s jesters paraded out on stage and encouraged to be as outlandish as possible to get attention and votes.

I’m not saying there hasn’t always been a certain amount of mudslinging and horse trading amongst candidates and delegates. If you think politics in this country was ever like that you’re more of a Pollyanna than I. Certainly there is a time and a place for calling-out someone when you disagree with the way they voted or handled things.

But at what point did we abandon common sense and a shred of decency for political theater?

My guess is that it happened somewhere around the same time as when the news stopped delivering the news. It is practically impossible to find a source for straight, unbiased current events. Every channel has a slant and political viewpoint. Most stations seem unapologetic and downright brazen.

TV Anchors no longer deliver the news, they’re reporting stories from a perspective that they want you to share. It is pointed. It is shameful. We’ve turned away from having the news delivered to us in a way that we can have a discussion and form our own opinions.

Now we get persuasive sound-bites on social media.

When I was growing up people didn’t wear their political opinions on their sleeves. Those opinions (like religion) were not discussed in polite company. In fact, one time my mother wouldn’t even tell me who she voted for; she claimed voting was a personal, sacred, duty. Now it’s hard not to know how people think. Politics and government have become a polarizing and divisive topic.

Shame on us, America.

So to all of the candidates, regardless of party affiliation, how about a return to reality? Whatever level of office you seek, it’s up to you to get your message across. We don’t care about your height or what size gloves you wear. Tell me how you’ll lead our country.

We all deserve reality, not a reality show.

Tips to Avoid Typos


We’ve all been there. You spend time and effort to write an article you can be proud of, click publish, and then sit back and wait for the likes to roll in. Suddenly a comment pops up.

Oh crap, there’s a typo. And someone’s pointing it out.

How could that be? My guess is rushing. For me that’s par for the course because I rather fancy myself the queen of procrastination. The faster a deadline approaches the quicker my fingers fly across the keyboard at a fevered pace. Mr. Flynn, my eighth grade typing teacher, would be proud.

Yes, I know that dates me.

But that flurry to pound out an article, whether for self-publication or for profit, tends to sometimes cause us to skim over things instead of really proofing what we’ve written. What’s the solution? Well, it’s not foolproof, but these are my steps.

  • After you’re completely done writing and formatting, run the document through a review. Have it spell-checked and tested for grammar. I read an article yesterday on LinkedIn where there were several words missing from a paragraph. Puzzling.
  • If you have time, set it aside and come back to it. Even if it’s just a quick stroll down the hall for a drink of water, a few minutes away often provides fresh eyes.
  • If you’re copying and pasting to another site like LinkedIn or WordPress, read your article again in the preview format. Sometimes funny things happen, maybe you’ll catch an error you missed in the first reading.
  • Read it one more time—out loud. Yes, I know that’s a little repetitive, but you’ll be surprised how often you find errors when you read something out loud. Even if you’re mumbling it under your breath, if it doesn’t flow right, that is when you’ll catch it. And better then than after you’ve hit publish. This is where I typically find the their/there or your/you’re errors.

I’m not crazy enough to think all my writing has been error-free. But there’s a part of me that is extremely obsessive about typos. I cringe when I find them in past articles. And yes, sometimes I even go back and correct them, even though no one else will probably ever see them.

Reading and re-reading has made me a better writer. I don’t always agree with the grammar rules, but then I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. There’s a little bit of picking and choosing, but mostly I stick to the old school lessons and what is commonly accepted as the norm.

Before I step off my soapbox, if you’re going to take the time to write something, write it right. I’m not talking about posting a status update on social media or sending an informal email to a friend. But if you’re posting an article on a platform in which you would like to be seen as a professional, or someone capable of providing content, it’s worth the work.

If someone found a typo in your published work would you want to know? Just asking for my inner proofreader.


Roxanne Wilmes is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and thirty year survivor of the restaurant and hospitality industry currently with AmericInn Hotel & Suites.



Putting the Focus on Focus


Yesterday I sat at my desk thinking about a project I’m putting together. My mind jumped from idea to idea, unable to really land on something firm where I could come up with a solid plan. I stared out my window, watching the snow melt for a few minutes. Oh, look, squirrel!

Finally I got up and took a walk back to the lunch room. I peeled a couple of Halos, filled my water glass, and looked over the crossword for a couple minutes. The smell of the citrus and taking the time to distract myself from my task gave me a new perspective. I wrote in a few answers on the puzzle, washed my hands, and went back to my office to lay out plans for the project.

Everyone has difficulty with staying on task now and again. Here are my top tips for getting and staying focused.

  • Do one thing at a time. For years we were told that we had to multitask if we were ever going to get ahead and get things done. I call BS. When you’re committed to one thing and a new idea pops up (very common for me!) it’s easier to pause and evaluate it when you’re not doing several things already. Just keep in mind the original task at hand. Make notes on new ideas if they’re not going to be immediately implemented, you don’t want ideas slipping away.
  • Do the hardest or most creative thing first. For me writing comes easiest in the morning. My brain is wide awake and the ideas come pretty fast and furious. I am most able to concentrate on more difficult things then, too. In fact, I rarely do difficult math past ten in the morning—at least if I am counting on accuracy in the numbers. That’s just how I’m wired. Laying out the most difficult tasks first enables you to get that part out of the way and focus on the rest of the project.
  • Allow yourself the right amount of time. It can be tempting to schedule tasks back to back, giving yourself minimal time to finish them if they all run smooth. But what happens when there’s a hiccup? If you don’t have a little buffer of time in between or adequate time allotted in the first place, you have just set yourself up for failure.
  • Be careful with your noise distractions. Certain tasks require me to have silence. Other times I like music fairly loud to stimulate my senses and bring about new ideas. For example, when I wrote my last book I listened to Dire Straits and R.E.M. so much I’ll probably have to give them a nod in the credits! But when I found myself twisting and turning through the climax of the story, I needed that familiar music in the background to keep me in the moment and undistracted by a new song. It also gave me enough noise in my office that I wasn’t distracted by outside sounds. Right now writing this piece, I have only the sound of a snoring Schnauzer and pouring rain. Balance.

Our brains are wired to be excited when we’re multitasking and there are lots of things going on to stimulate us. You can train it to be productive and focused on one thing at a time to get big projects mapped out and accomplished. It just takes getting to know your triggers and what works best for you.

Oh, squirrel!


Roxanne Wilmes is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and thirty year survivor of the restaurant and hospitality industry currently with AmericInn Hotel & Suites.

4 Thoughts on Letting Go of the Past


For many of us the season of Lent began this week. It’s a time of sacrifice, reflection, and atonement. But for some people, things in the past torment them and they carry it around like overweight baggage that will never squeeze into that overhead bin. We all have things in the past we’d like to change; perhaps we’d like forgiveness for something we’ve done or to forgive what’s been done to us.

Yet somehow we just can’t let it go.

Why is that? Jack London said “To be able to forget means sanity.” I think he’s got something there. So here are my thoughts on letting go of the past.

  • Do it for your health, both mental and physical. If you think having something gnaw at you for decades has no impact on your health, you could be in for an abysmal diagnosis in the future.
  • Don’t agonize over mistakes. No matter how big, we’ve all made mistakes. I’m not saying you shouldn’t own up to them, acknowledge them, or apologize for them. By all means, you should try to make things right if that is possible, and say you’re sorry if you can’t. But then you have to let it go. (See paragraph above.)
  • Everyone deserves forgiveness. Yes, that is how I feel. If someone is truly sorry, they deserve to be forgiven. And if you have a hard time forgiving something terrible, huge, then start by trying to understand Practice empathy, try to see things from their point of view, decipher why they did/said what they did. And if you just can’t forgive someone (yes, I know that is a reality) at least maybe you can find some answers for yourself and move on. Hopefully with less pain.
  • If you don’t forgive yourself, you’ll never reach your full potential. Yeah, yeah, I know that sounds hokey. But it’s true. I’m not talking about being successful or wealthy, I’m talking about the whole picture. If you are carrying a load of self-loathing, you’ll never be truly happy or have meaningful and healthy relationships. (See paragraph above.) Or worse yet, you may go around blaming everyone else for things that have happened to you. That is not fun for anyone.

So no matter if you’re religious or not, take some time to reflect as we wait out the end of winter. Are there things you need to settle to really let go of your past? If so, take care of business. Do it for your health, for better relationships, and as Jack London said, for your sanity.

Roxanne Wilmes is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and thirty year survivor of the restaurant and hospitality industry currently with AmericInn Hotel & Suites.

Ramblings of a Gen X Worker

Professional with Banana

Yes, I am over 40. *Gasp* I know, it’s not safe to admit it, but I own up to it. I’ve lived more than four decades and now finally am considering myself around middle aged. As a matter of fact, I do fully intend to see my centennial birthday, so to me it’s not a stretch.

Lately all the hype online is how to attract and keep the young employees. You know the ones, Millennials, Centennials, still in-utero, whatever; you know what I’m saying. But what of us in the sandwich generation, why didn’t we get our chance to have a great say in…well, in anything?

Coming behind “The Greatest Generation” and Baby Boomers, we had some big shoes to fill. Many of us were born during a war, had depression-era parents, and then lived through or participated in another war. I like to think that made us scrappy. We knew how bad things could be, so we tried to keep our heads down and get the job done.

What about now? Why is it so hard for many of our generation to find work in our fields?

Funny choice of words there, fields. Sometimes it seems many of us have been put out to pasture. Hey, we’re in our prime here! After all, fifty is the new thirty and all that. Yet many of my generation find themselves unable to secure employment, and everyone is focusing on how to get at the younger generation.

I have news for you; we’re still relevant.

Many of us are empty nesters or close to it. We’re not chasing after young children or fretting over babysitters. We have a renewed energy and the time and focus to get the job done. We also have the work ethic to find a job and stick with it. We’re not looking for quick riches in a shortened work week. We don’t expect to have everything handed to us. Some may even be looking to travel or relocate. Who knows!

Luckily I have a job that I really enjoy and a great gig as a freelance writer. Many in my generation aren’t as fortunate. And that’s too bad. So to all of the recruiters out there and human resources managers contemplating someone over forty, give them a shot. We bring experience and patience, logic and wisdom.

And if that internet thing doesn’t catch on, we Gen Xers will still know how to function.


Roxanne Wilmes is a freelance writer, author, ghostwriter, and thirty year survivor of the restaurant and hospitality industry currently with AmericInn Hotel & Suites.

A Minnesota Spirit of Giving

Bill FoussardThis is a re-post from a couple of years ago. It is definitely worth reading again. What an amazing man and selfless giver.

Back in 1970, Bill Foussard and his friend, Barb Aslesen, heard about a friend’s family that was not going to be able to afford a Thanksgiving dinner.  They immediately sprang to action planning to cook extra in Bill’s kitchen and deliver a full meal to them on Thanksgiving morning.  A few people heard what they were doing and asked Bill and Barb if they could help out with feeding two more families.  Those three families amounted to twenty four meals that inaugural year; this year they will feed 19,000 people.

Owner of the Best Western White Bear Country Inn in White Bear Lake Minnesota, Bill is no stranger to making connections.  That is how this Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels program works, all through volunteerism and donations.  Having no paid staff, a hundred percent of cash donations go to the program.  When I asked him where he got all the food, Bill gave all the credit to others, “People are just generous!”  Some of their contributors are Jennie-O turkeys in Minnesota and US Foods headquartered in Illinois.  They even get donations of some of their rolls from a bakery in Omaha, all a testament of the regional spirit of giving.

Initially they cooked the meals in Bill’s mother’s kitchen; feeding up to 400 people.  When the program outgrew that space, they moved to a mobile kitchen, working out of the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul.  After that location was torn down, they settled in their current location at Cretin Derham High School in St. Paul.    This is a convenient setting for the 3000 volunteers who start rolling in at 4:00 AM to cook and 7:30 to deliver.  The cars are on the road by eight with a minimum of two volunteers per vehicle.  Often times it is a family affair.  Since they are done with all the deliveries by eleven, people still have plenty of time to enjoy the rest of their day.

Barb works with over thirty agencies to find the families who are in need.  This year they will enjoy dinners of turkey, dressing, potatoes, peas, corn, cranberries, rolls, pumpkin pie and milk.  When I asked Bill how much time he spends all year organizing this amazing undertaking, he deferred any accolades, “I never talk about time.  That morning is so special.”  But I know Bill; his phone is like an extra appendage.  And if you think he gets to rest after Thanksgiving, you’re wrong!  He’ll be preparing for the Christmas party he is hosting for 150 local seniors at his hotel.

If you would like to volunteer for Thanksgiving Meals on Wheels in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, please contact Bill at 651-699-5404.  For people like Bill and Barb…we are truly thankful.

A Cold and Misty Start to October

Frosty Path

It was such a great morning; I couldn’t resist hopping on my bike and snapping a few pictures.


It was cold, but definitely worth it!

Mist on Calm Waters

These pictures were shot in Watertown, MN at Riverpointe Park.

My Favorite Tree

One of my favorite trees in the park!

Shallow Crow River

Shallow waters on the South Crow River.

Trees on the Path

Natural carnage. Could be old, could be tornado!

Purple Holdouts

No one told them it’s fall!

Misty Dock

The little fishing dock.

Where to Look for Story Ideas

This is a post from last year. Since I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo again, I felt it was timely and worth repeating. Don’t be afraid; take a chance and write a book!

Fresh Air Musings

Ah October, when fall colors are blooming and a writer’s thoughts turn to November. Why November?  Because that is National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo.  That is when those of us crazy enough to accept the challenge write 50,000 words in thirty days.  Yes, that is a lot of words.

As a previous winner of this challenge, I thought I’d take the month of October to pass on some tips and tricks I’ve picked up. After you poke around and sign up at the website, you may start to panic.  You’ll wonder where you could ever come up with an idea that you can actually expand into a whole book.  Relax, there’s time.

First, think of what kind of book you want to write. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “write what you know” before.  In this particular case I would agree.  Your goal is going to be…

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Planning For Successful Writing

PlanningI just realized yesterday that in less than two weeks it’s October. Holy crap, where did September go? I love this magical time of the year. The heat is finally releasing its miserable hold, leaves are starting to turn vibrant fall colors, and my muse is jumping up and down with anticipation for November and National Novel Writing Month.

I’ve already started looking around at what I can do in advance to lighten my load in November. A few Christmas presents have found their way into the office for storage. Yes, I know it’s early, but I can’t help myself. November is so busy with writing and Thanksgiving, and when December comes, I want to relax, bake like a maniac, and enjoy the season.

I don’t want to run around overcrowded stores trying to find one last tchotchke

But I kind of feel like I’ve got a leg up this year. Last year I wrote a book of suspense with a sort of open ending. My readers immediately responded asking when the sequel would be out. Sequel? Huh, yeah, I’m gonna write a sequel. That’s what I intended all along…heh heh. So now I’m thinking of which characters to develop, where the storyline will go, and whether there will be a book three.

Hey, if you’re going to write two, you may as well write three. Right?

But that doesn’t mean it’s all smooth sailing. There are still outlines to write, characters to name and assign back-stories to, and pretend cities to map out. Yes, I do draw out my pretend cities. Doesn’t everybody? When you’re writing a whole book in thirty days, you need to have things right there at your fingertips. I don’t want to have to scroll back to remind myself where a landmark was or at which corner my protagonist lives. That’s just proper planning.

So here I am, less than two weeks from October, planning month. I will look for things that can be completed now and not worried about again until December. There will be plenty of food in the cupboards and freezers, deep cleaning will be done, and writing tools will be ready.

Because November only comes once a year.