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Batten down the hatches, winter is almost here

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Lynn Hummel Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

"Batten down the hatches boys, a big one's blowin' in."

A couple days ago, we experienced what will undoubtedly be the last of the beautiful autumn days of 2010. But at this moment, it is pitch black outside, the rain is falling, the wind is howling and the temperature is dropping. For the next few days we are in a high wind watch and a winter storm watch with rapidly dropping barometric pressure, winds up to 60 mph and a 90 percent chance of continued rain and then snow. One report said we may have a "record breaking" storm. Winter is moving in and it's time to batten down the hatches.

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They tell me in the hardware stores that the weather forecast has been good for business. If the politicians can't get the economy moving, maybe the weathermen and women can.

If we were on a ship at sea headed for Norway right now, we'd be zipped up, buttoned down and hunkered in to ride out the storm. Thank God we're not -- I've read about the storms on the North Atlantic and I want no part of that action.

There are many different routines for battening down the hatches. There is the standard, unrushed routine of getting ready for winter that we're all familiar with: Yard work, bringing in the plants before they freeze, get the furnace ready, firewood maybe, tighten up the insulation, stop the drafts, get the car ready, winterize -- prepare and do the due diligence.

Remember folks battening down the hatches for the year 2000 (Y2K)? Many believed computers programmed for the 20th century would get confused in the 21st and power systems would fail, planes couldn't land, midnight surgery would be fatal, cars wouldn't start, toasters wouldn't toast, bank vaults would jam and chaos would grip the land. Desperate folks, frightened about the mass breakdown, would force their way into the homes and shelters of those who had prepared. So "the prepared" (paranoid) moved into panic mode, dug shelters, purchased generators, gallons of bottled water, canned goods, dehydrated foods, survival provisions and loaded guns to protect themselves from intruders.

As it turned out, the computers figured it all out and none of dreaded events took place. There was some embarrassment and business was good in the generator, bottled water, powered milk and gun business, but everything else stayed about normal. Again, battening down the hatches was a shot in the arm for the economy.

Retirement is a time to start battening down the hatches, a time to attend to home repairs and chores and business details postponed during the years of employment. This is the semi-final time of life.

The final time might come with a warning like a word from the doctor that you should "get your things in order." That warning may come with 12 month's notice or maybe six, or maybe 30-60 days. But there may be no warning or just a two-minute warning. So, since the final stage may be too short for action, the steps should be taken (if not before) during the semi-final period. The steps are wills, powers of attorney, trusts, medical directives, insulating, cleaning out the garage and getting rid of the surplus things that nobody else will want to deal with. The step I am working on at present is cleaning out and organizing a very disorganized garage. When that's done, I'll be ready to go -- just kidding.

The morals of the story are these: Get your warm mittens and snow shovels out before the snow falls; listen to the weatherman but don't panic; don't go sailing in the North Atlantic during stormy weather; don't worry about your computer's memory -- it's better than yours; don't crawl into a hole with a generator and a gun; clean out your garage and throw away some junk; keep the economy moving; and start battening down the hatches before a storm is predicted.

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