Freedom to say yes or no

By Katerina Misa

Katerina is the Editor-in-Chief of the Talon and a senior staff writer.

Posted: January 4, 2016

Retired teacher Mary Carlson takes advantage of travelling, drawing and volunteering

“Let’s go look at Americana,” is an expression former Minnehaha health teacher and sports coach Mary Carlson often hears from her husband.

“That means let’s just go back-road to some little town,” said Carlson, who retired in June after 42 years of teaching. “My husband’s big on road trips. If I really had to say one thing about the joy of retirement it’s the freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Just on a Thursday being able to say, ‘Let’s go to Duluth.'”

Carlson and her husband jumped in the car in October and drove through the fog of Duluth in attempt to see the changing leaves.  “In the past, anytime we wanted to do that, we’d have to plan for it or we’d have to go on a Saturday when everyone else is going.”

Carlson’s retirement also opens up opportunities to travel internationally. [In May, The Talon mis-reported that Carlson had never visited her brother in Alaska. Carlson has in fact visited her brother before, but not for the price she can now. ]

“If you can go online and see that on a Tuesday you can go way cheaper than a Sunday than now. In fact, going to Alaska, sometimes you could fly for two hundred dollars on certain days. Well, I’ve never been able to do that.”

Now that Carlson doesn’t have to wait for the weekends to do what she loves, she has spent more time doing her favorite hobbies and volunteering, as well as picking up the occasional odd job for some ‘play money.’

Golf has always been apart of Carlson’s life and since retirement, she can play more than ever.

“I’ve done golf for a long time,” said Carlson. “For me it’s good exercise because you can walk if you want to, you can ride a cart if you want. It is more low-key and you can do it with yourself or with one other person, so it’s not a team thing.

However, Carlson explained that although she loves the sport, she’s not so fond of the price to do it. “I’ve always had to golf, especially in the fall and in the spring, on weekends which is the most expensive time,” she explained. Now Carlson can enjoy golfing with her family, using coupons that she usually wouldn’t have been able to use because of their Monday through Thursday limit.

Along with golfing, Carlson has also found more time to draw, another one of her favorite pastimes. Carlson discovered her interest in drawing when she was a child, by watching her mother paint.

“My mom was an artist,” she said. “She could draw really well, so when I was really little I would just sit and draw pictures. To me it’s sort of relaxing because when I do it, I have to really focus on it, which doesn’t sound like it’s relaxing, but everything else sort of goes away.”

Carlson has drawn everything from senior portraits to the Split Rock Lighthouse, most of which she gives to others as gifts. However, Carlson finds that she is not able to do as much drawing as she planned, because she has stayed extremely busy through her increase in involvement at her church.

Carlson’s daughter works part-time at Trinity Baptist Church of Maplewood, and Carlson helps by working in the kitchen and working with kids.

On Wednesday nights, Carlson cooks for the Awana group, an organization where students come to learn about the Bible. She cooks for about 150 kids each week; the majority of the kids are Burma refugees.

“It’s quite ironic because I don’t cook, never have cooked,” Carlson said laughing. “In fact, a lot of the kids know me as the kitchen lady and I think that’s so funny because in my own house, my husband does all the cooking.”

Along with working in her church, Carlson is also currently teaching a college class at the University of Northwestern for early childhood professionals.

The class focuses on how to teach preschoolers and kindergartners about nutrition and safety. Carlson equates it to her sports medicine elective she taught at Minnehaha, because the students are enthusiastic and show interest in what they are learning.

“Sports med class was a class that kids wanted to be in. They weren’t expecting it to be an easy class, but they wanted to be in it. This health, safety and nutrition class at Northwestern feels like that. They come in knowing they want to learn.”

This type of enthusiasm that the Minnehaha community showed, is what has made Carlson miss her time teaching at the school.

“I find myself saying things like ‘How are we doing in football?’ I realized it’s not a ‘we’ anymore. My current health class is talking about grief, which is loss. That’s kind of what it was. Not an ‘I’m going to cry thing’ but just sort of an empty feeling.”

Although Carlson misses teaching, she knows retiring when she did was the right decision.

Carlson stated that the community is what kept her teaching at Minnehaha for as many years as she did. The caring spirit that the faculty and students bring to the school will continue to affect her for the rest of her life.

“That’s something you can’t fabricate,” she said. “It just happens because of the way people care for each other here. It could be the Christian spirit of it or whatever it is but it’s genuine.”

Carlson described her last walk down the aisle at graduation as an ‘out of body’ experience.

“It’s been part of my life for this big, long span. It was sort of surreal because I knew it was the last time.” Carlson said that because of that kind of longevity, Minnehaha will always be an important part of who she is.

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