Ex-Occupational therapist flourishes in retirement

In addition to gardening, swimming and Jazzercise, Linnea Keatts hosts foreign students.

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Retired occupationl therapist Linnea Keatts works in her garden.

As the garden flourishes, so does Linnea Keatts, and many young people throughout the world who have blossomed because of her care and mentoring.

A retired occupational therapist, Keatts continues her affiliation with the AFS American Field Service volunteer exchange group, hosting high school students from many other countries. She and her husband, Robert, have a constant stream of friends from all over the world coming through their home.

She’s combined a love of learning, travel and teaching, to help others through exchange programs.

Early in her life, Keatts visited Norway as an exchange student. Later on, she had another chance to spend time there, as a teacher.

"In Trondheim, Norway, we opened our own exchange school for occupational therapy," Keatts said.

Keatts retired four years ago from her job of 11 years as an occupational therapist with the Walla Walla School District.

"It’s interesting, I started my career working with kids and that’s where it ended, working with kids," she noted.

Keatts was on a team that assisted children who were having problems with fine motor skills and concentration.

"The purpose of the occupational therapist in the school district is to teach techniques to help the child get the most out of their educational experiences," Keatts explained. "Occupational therapists help people become more independent.

"I’ve been real happy with my career, I like variety," she added.

A social person, she’s adept at interacting with people and building relationships. That helped in her occupation.

"A huge piece in a therapy session is developing a good relationship with the patient and their family. You teach the caregiver what to do," Keatts said. "You let the caregiver become empowered to help their own child."

Among many talents and accomplishments, Keatts is a Master Gardener, working now on square-foot gardening with great success, growing peas, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and plenty more. She credits Mel Bartholomew’s gardening concept with inspiring her to do more.

The results have been spectacular. The cabbages have grown to be huge and the tomatoes are abundant. This year, she’s trying out a unique tomato, the Green Zebra, a large, striped green and gold tomato. She’s never grown this type before, she said, but the yield so far looks good.

Keatts has divided up her garden area into the square-foot format, conserving space and reducing the number of seeds planted in conventional rows. The frame is above the ground, so no regular soil is used. Keatts said that she uses a mix of peat, compost and vermiculite.

"Some things work better than others. Plant the garden close to the house — you’ll have a better chance of actually doing the work, if it’s easy to get there," she said.

When she’s done outdoors with the garden, Keatts does more creating with her textiles and needlework. Keatts used to weave on a rug loom but she’s always learning something, and then moving on to new interests.

"My passion now is felting, needle felting, making purses, pictures," Keatts said. "Weaving is wonderful, but it’s not so feasible for travel."

Keatts also taught Norwegian baking, which she called unique. Keatts is has become accomplished with lefse, krumkake, and kransekake, the festive Norwegian 18-ring almond cake.

But balancing cultural interests with physical activity is important as well, Keatts said, to maintain her health and sense of well-being.

Swimming is a favorite activity; Keatts and her husband have a pool they use to swim laps. Keatts has participated in the Quest program over the years, enjoying many classes, yoga being a favorite.

She recently began Jazzercise and loves it. "It’s an hour well-spent," she said. "It’s convenient. It just fits. The people are friendly, the music is good, the dancing is fun. As with any exercise, afterward you feel good. And you’ve got to take care of the ‘goods,’ because nobody else is going to do it for you."

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