The Wagon Wheel Mystery

When we moved to the lake in East Bethel, Minnesota a couple of years ago we bought a house that had a lot of oddities, but at the top of the list were two very large old wagon wheels that had been placed in the landscaping on each side of the driveway. It still had the full bent wood encircling the metal and the old wood spokes are all still in place. They made things sturdy and to last back then. But why were they there? What was their purpose? Was it simply something
decorative, placed to define the end of the driveway? We did not think much of it, but when looking at the property we had decided it would be something we would remove early on. Before even giving them a thought we decided it was not our style.

Once we moved in we had a lot of projects that took priority over the wagon wheels, like getting rid of wood piles covered in tarps and changing out the carpeting that looked original, and of course exploring the lake with the kayaks and boats. We decided to make sure we had plenty of fun time, after all we did not move to the lake to be working all of the time. We knew some projects could wait.

Well it was good that we waited because time changed our attitude on those wagon wheels.

Along with exploring the lake in the summer we explored the local roads and parks in the winter. We started to notice the wagon wheels all over East Bethel and Wyoming (the next closet town
and the surrounding area). In fact the road we live on alone has four different properties with wagon wheels. Along County Hwy 22 our nearest large road, there are a number of properties with wagon wheels, and when we explored the side streets on our four wheeler, we started to notice even more wagon wheels. So many, that it sparked our conversation and curiosity.

Why so many wagon wheels? What is the deal with all the wagon wheels in East Bethel? I had lived in Blaine for 25 years, I’ve lived in Duluth and St. Paul, and I grew up in Pierz, Minnesota, but I have never seen so many wagon wheels in landscaping and displayed proudly as in East Bethel. I have traveled many times out west where the wagon trains were mostly headed. I did not see as many wagon wheels out west as I have seen here either. It made me ponder, especially while relaxed and walking my dogs around the neighborhood, what do these wagon wheels represent?

Over 150 years ago, families packed up their entire life into a wagon and set out on an adventure to find a better life. I cannot imagine the contemplation and decision making that preceded the actual move. The couples discussing whether the danger of the trek would be worth the reward of open land for homesteading that waited at the other end. They had a chance, not only at a new life, but a better life. They had to be sure that their wagon, with its strong wheels, could carry them the entire way over mountains, through endless prairie grass and crossing treacherous rivers. The trust, hope and bravery that must have gone into that decision is almost unimaginable today.

We even contemplate fun trips with some apprehension, and we have the internet to see every detail of where we are going, photos of every location we are going to, and we can read reviews on anything we are interested in doing. The amount of information we have to make simple decisions is endless. The lack of information that the wagon train generation had available to make life and death decisions are mind-boggling. Yet they had faith, trust, hope and an adventurous spirit that they would handle whatever life threw at them, because they were striving for a better life for themselves and for their children.

I would like to think that had I lived in the time of wagon trains, I would have been brave enough to load that wagon and see what the horizon brought. I would like to think I would have been selfless enough to know that making the decision would benefit my children and grandchildren more than me and making things better for my family would have been a driving factor.

Of course I cannot help, but reminisce back to the 1990’s when our kids and I played the computer game called, Oregon Trail and our entire family died every second game of either dysentery or we corked our wagon to forge the river and everyone drowned. As depressing as that sounds, it was a really fun game. It was challenging to see if one could get to the destination, and when we did without killing off the entire family, we had a sense of accomplishment until we started back at the beginning again and then lost everybody.

We had a lot of fun with that game, but the game hit home the realities of the real dangers the wagon train generation faced in making the decision to go. They lost about half their babies and their small children many times could not tolerate the disease and hardships. They were many times hungry and scared. I imagine myself as a mom, worrying about whether we would have enough food along the way for the family, worried and watching my kids for fever or the other dangers of the road like broken bones or encounters with wild animals. Of course the whole time also dreaming and hoping that we find our little piece of heaven on earth at the end of the long trek.

Why there are so many wagon wheels displayed in our area of East Bethel, I do not know. I know the area had a lot of Swedish settlers back in the day, but I am still in search of why so many wagon wheels survived and are so prominently displayed today here in this area of the county. I know I do not look upon these wheels in the same way anymore. I can tell you that these wagon wheels have a whole new meaning for me. They represent bravery and change. They represent hope, hard work and a promise of a better and more fulfilled life. I look upon them and remember the adventurous souls who were brave enough to change everything for the hope of something new and to trek into the unknown to find it.

The wheels inspire us to explore and to take chances and to always hope and look to the future and move forward. They represent courage for the unknown and strength in the face of fear. I am keeping my wheels as long as they hold together. As I drive in and out of my new lake place, a place my husband of 30 years and I bought to start our new empty nest life together, I am inspired to keep up the adventure, hope and spirit of the past, while looking to the future adventures that life will bring us.

Facing Challenges and Fears

It is good for us to do things that challenge, and even scare ourselves from time to time. The effect is often to feel more alive and renewed, and helps to put the smaller problems of daily life in perspective.

When I plan vacations I like to add a little adventure. Something we have not done before and could get the old adrenaline flowing. Feeling safe all of the time is not a good thing. We need to img_9416step out of our comfort zone to stretch ourselves, and to feel energized, able and competent! To get your heart pumping and to be a little scared is a rush that helps you feel alive. There’s a sense of well being and accomplishment when finished, and a good story for dinner parties, and for when we are old to show our grandchildren how cool we were.

When I first zip-lined in the jungle tree tops in Costa Rica, my heart was pumping hard, but as I stepped off of the first platform, so high that you could not see the ground below through the thick forest,  I had a certain calm come over me and had to trust that those in charge had built it safe and I would be ok, or maybe it was just the img_9008realization that I had no control. I stepped off the platform, zipping from tree top to tree top, and I might as well enjoy it because there was nothing I could do to change anything at that point. I might as well enjoy the ride and fly with the wind! It was fun and life affirming and we were perfectly safe.

On our recent trip to New Zealand we visited Bluff. We flew into Invercargill, and then took transportation to the southern most tip of the island known as Bluff New Zealand. It was a small fishing village with quaint buildings and friendly people. It had some of the best sunsets around. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast located at the end of a winding road, and it was on one of the most beautiful areas of the beach with rolling hills and nature preserves surrounding the nearby town.img_9131

This was considered the southern most tip of New Zealand, and it had a sign at the end of the road to mark its importance. Through our window we could see many people drive up and take pictures at this most lovely spot. The sign showed how many miles it was to various other parts of the world including how far it was to Antarctica.

The famous hiking trail known as the Te Araroa goes from the top of the North Island of New Zealand through to the tip of the South island, and ends in Bluff in front of our Bed and Breakfast. It is a 3000 km walk and takes most people about 4 months. Over the three days we were there we saw a number of hikers end their hike in elation, with pictures to commemorate their accomplishment, hard work and img_9163perseverance to make the entire trek. They celebrated by hanging their hiking boots over the sign and taking pictures that they will cherish forever. It was clearly a celebration of life. They had pushed their limits and made the ultimate decision to leave any comfort and challenge themselves to complete this important personal journey. We met some of them and you could see the electricity of life in their eyes and the pride of accomplishment.

This is the feeling we want to feel everyday. We want the electricity for life that makes one excited to get up in the morning and to be happy, satisfied and to feel competent and accomplished; a zest for life that always playing it safe does not provide. We have been fortunate enough to have done many life affirming things, to take us out of our comfort zone and to challenge our comfortable day to day existence. We have taken helicopters over beautiful mountains, the Grand Canyon and the Great Barrier Reef. We have swam with sharks and gone img_9346shark cage diving. We have hiked beyond our comfort zone, and been lost and then found again. It is life affirming to face your fears and chose activities that scare you. The day to day work and life issues are not as consequential when you have been in situations that scare you. Facing work deadlines or difficult meetings or encounters of every kind in your work life or daily life become small and surmountable in the big scheme of things. The scariest thing for me would be to think that I did not live my life to the fullest. Take on challenges and push your comfort zone for a full, happy and most satisfying existence. There is calm and contentment in your life when you know what you can do, if you try.

Finding Inner Strength on the Bright Angel Trail

When I was about to turn 50 I decided that I needed to do something physically challenging to celebrate this big milestone birthday, and mainly I had to prove to myself that I was not really 50, even though the calendar did not lie. When it comes to a physical challenge and a beautiful hike, there is nothing compared to the Grand Canyon. That had to be my first choice.  I’d been there gc_08-102before, but only in a passing through type of way, without time for some of the more scenic and challenging hikes.

I have an April birthday and my research showed this was a great time to visit and hike. It seemed that if you go too early in the spring there is treacherous ice on the trail and if you go too far into the summer, it can be hot as Hades. I disclosed my plan to Joe in the fall before my big birthday, and as usual he was up for the challenge. We walked all winter to start training. We put on our thick winter wear and walked and walked until we could easily walk for many miles, and half a day without any trouble. Of course we were walking in Blaine, Minnesota, which had few hills, while our big hike would be in the Grand Canyon, traveling along the steep cliffs descending from the rim of the canyon to the bottom and back up to the rim all in one day.

gc_08-163Hiking the Grand Canyon has been described as hiking a mountain, but you are hiking down the mountain first and then climbing up the mountain to get back to the rim.   It hurts your knees on the way down, as if walking down stairs for hours and it hurts your heart on the way up, as you climb and climb to get back to the top. We like a challenge, so the more we read the more our anticipation grew.

We flew out of Minneapolis excited and full of confidence in our abilities, with our adventure pants packed. I love these types of adventures where beauty meets challenge and I feel even though many people have gone before me and done the exact same thing, I feel like an explorer because for me it is new exciting and different. We had a lot of fun discussions on the way. Some of course were just for fun, but others were deeper delving into a self assessment and an assessment of the two of us and where we started and how far we had come. We had been married when I was 27 and he was 32. We were just youngsters then and now I was turning 50. gc_08-116These milestone birthdays lend themselves well to reminiscence and taking stock in oneself and our accomplishments, as well as looking forward to where we want to go in life together and for myself, my own wishes and dreams.

I have had a favorite saying for many years: “The life you have lived, does not have to be the life you lead.” That can mean many things to different people, but for me it means I can dream my dreams, and no matter what age I can follow those dreams. Whatever status quo I am in, can be changed if I choose to do so. It means I can change and reinvent myself, and no matter how old I am, I can follow those dreams and even create new dreams. It is up to me and no one else. It is never too late to do what you want.

The discussions we had were fun and uplifting, but when we were silent on that flight to Arizona is when I could reflect privately on turning 50 and how a I felt about that. I have never been particularly concerned about the numbers of age, but there was no doubt 50 was significant. I did not feel bad about my wrinkles or other such superficial issues. I was more concerned about the reality that I did not have a twenty year old body for adventures. This had nothing to do with gc_08-115how I looked, but how my body would function from here on out during our big hikes or on physically challenging adventures. It was also a time to take inner stock on what I wanted from life and to reflect. I knew the Grand Canyon with its grandeur would provide for inspiration and reflection.

We got there in the afternoon and reached our hotel. I booked a hotel with a refrigerator so I could freeze water bottles to provide cold water throughout the hike and into the heat of the afternoon, and also provide a cold pack for our sandwiches and ice in the event of an injury. We did some smaller hikes that day and looked at the sites around the rim of the canyon. We rested and had a nice dinner at Grand Canyon national park’s restaurant overlooking the beauty of the canyon in the late afternoon sunset.

As part of my planning I had selected the Bright Angel trail. It is a popular trail down into the Grand Canyon that starts at the rim in the park. As popular as it is, it is steep and challenging and many people only do a small portion and then return to the trim. It is treacherous enough that a
gc_08-106ranger is stationed at the top and questions hikers about how much water they have, and whether they have snacks or lunch and enough provisions to successfully hike the Bright Angel.

They even have large signs that show all of the stopping points along the trail. The sign indicates by words and pictures what one needs in provisions to descend to each stop site and how much you need to go all the way to the bottom and back. The sign indicates that one needs three sandwiches, snacks and six bottles of water to go all of the way, and if one is only going to the first stopping point, than one sandwich and three bottles of water, etc. So we dubbed different hikes the one sandwich hike or the three sandwich hike. We were going to do the three sandwich hike the next day all the way to the bottom and back on the Bright Angel Trail. We felt ready.

The next morning we arose early, put on our adventure pants and hiking boots, and brought along our hiking sandals to have a change of footwear which is necessary to prevent blisters and gc_08-093sore feet on the long hikes. We have learned to change shoes at some point, as it really makes a difference in your feet during and after the journey. Different shoes rub and move differently to give your feet a break. Also, we needed jackets and full hiking shoes, because early in the morning on the rim it was about 50 degrees and mid afternoon when we would be at the bottom it would be 80 to 90 degrees.  We brought our sandwiches and snacks and our frozen water, some regular water and a few bottles of Gatorade to refresh us in the afternoon.

With our provisions placed carefully in our backpacks, and having double checked to make sure we had more than enough, and with cameras and hiking poles in hand, we were off on our adventure. As I have lectured my children many times, always have enough in case you get lost overnight, and be able to make fire. I had plenty of food and water, and the ability to make fire in case of an unforeseen emergency. It may seem overstated in a National park like Grand Canyon gc_08-137and especially on the Bright Angel trail, but people die on Bright Angel every year and each year some get lost and some get airlifted out.

It was still dark, but just getting light when we started. After being checked out by the ranger on duty to make sure we were ready, we started our adventure. As we started we saw mules ready and saddled in a pen to take visitors wanting to ride down to the bottom. I grew up knowing how to ride, but that narrow trail on the cliffs of the Grand Canyon did not look to me like an attractive mule ride. I would rather walk myself. Not only would I be concerned about falling over the cliff, but the saddle sores and tired hips at the end of a ride on a wide mule for hours did not at all seem attractive, but people do it all of the time.

As we descended into the Canyon, the smells of the night dessert were lovely. It was cool and crisp and surprisingly moist. I stopped and took pictures often soaking in the beautiful scenery gc_08-098as we made our way along a narrow trail that hugged the cliffs. We were energetic and fresh from a good night’s sleep, and in that moment I wanted this day to last forever. As I took in the scenery, I also felt introspective. I was turning 50 and that was an amazing milestone.

I reflected on each phase of my life, thinking first of my childhood on the farm and then the fun I had in college. It was there that I worked harder than I had ever worked in my life to get good grades in classes like anatomy and physiology in my training to be a nurse. I learned a lot in a short four years and I continued on with my time as a labor and delivery nurse, and then to law school.

I thought about my family life with Joe and in raising three great kids. As I took stock of my life, I was happy. I knew I had not done everything right or by any means had I made perfect decisions, but I had done well and was proud and happy with not only the accomplishments, but the fun I had, and those times when I skipped work or school and had fun instead. I came to the conclusion that because I had so much happiness to reflect upon and because I could look
back proudly at what I had done with my first 50 years, that turning 50 was inconsequential. I had no regrets.

gc_08-108As we made our way down the canyon, we rested, talked and drank our water and ate our snacks. Our knees were very tired and starting to hurt as we hit the bottom, but the hike was not so difficult that we could not enjoy every part of our adventure. We had lunch at the bottom and rested our feet in the grass. We changed our hiking boots for hiking sandals as the temp was now well into the eighties. After a nice rest we started to head back up.

Hiking up the canyon took some work. Our knees no longer ached, but we had to take our time because the ascent was a workout for our hearts. We also took our time as we had planned and tried to enjoy every step of the beautiful trail. This is where we really appreciated the frozen water battles we had brought which were now just ice cold water to refresh us. As I walked up and up, I thought about the future and what my, hopefully, next 50 years could bring. I vowed to stay fresh and positive in my life and I repeated to myself the saying: The life you have lived, does not have to be the life you lead. I vowed to myself to continue to follow my dreams and not to loose my zest for life.

I found my inner strength on the Bright Angel trail. It was not only the physical strength that was needed for this adventure, but the mental stamina to stay positive and not settle into a lack of appreciation for all that life holds throughout our journey, and not just when we are young. I vowed to stay inspired and strong and to enjoy and embrace new adventures, to continue to love deeply and to spend my most precious commodity—my time on this earth, wisely.

Farm Work Ethic, Productivity, and the Power of the List

Growing up on a farm teaches the most powerful work ethics. There is no way you can be a successful farmer and not be a hard worker. Farming is so dependent on weather, and accomplishing many things in a certain order, by each season and on time. If the crops are not planted on time you have little to harvest. If you cultivate too early you could kill the budding plants. If you wait too long after planting, the crops are too big and will be full of weeds resulting in a poor harvest, and I could go on and on.qz1-5img_20140401_0003_new

The saying that you have to make hay while the sun is shining is a real farm motto, not just a nice cliché with bigger meaning. Literally if you don’t make hay while the sun is shining, you get moldy useless grass instead of nice hay to feed to the animals. To get everything done you had to have a good plan and sometimes it meant that you had to work late into the night after getting up before dawn. Eating and sleeping had to wait many times to get the job done. After a long day like that, there was no better feeling of satisfaction than the accomplishment of getting the job done, and no better sleep than after a hard day of work.

qz1-5img_20140401_0003_new1You cannot be a procrastinator and be a farmer.  If the weather is right and it is the right time of year, there is something that must be done that day. You learn this at a young age on the farm. The rocks have to be picked, the cows fed, the gardens planted and the fences mended. There is nobody more productive than a farmer. But you also get to pet the cats and have the dog accompany you out to the fields, and maybe even ride your horse to go mending fences instead of taking the tractor or the farm pickup.

You get to feed the chickens and play in the tall fields of hay. There were so many wonderful things about the farm, but the best thing that helped me through college and law school and in all of my jobs, was the work ethic that I had learned. It was not a problem for me to work late and to get projects done long before they were due. I did not procrastinate because I learned you had to get things done, and to get things done you had to have a plan.img_20140318_0076_new

Many times I heard my parents list off the things that had to be done the next day, and they also maintained a list for everything to be done each week. If they did not have a paper list, they had a mental list and they followed it. The work ethic learned from my parents and having a plan or list of things that needs to be accomplished leads to great productivity. It is something I have tried to pass on to our kids and I have used to be successful all of my life.

From an early age I taught my kids that hard work and a good plan always pays off, whether it is hard work at school or on a team or just at home.  I tried to make it clear that just because something is not due right away, there is a certain comfort in knowing it is done early. 54bProcrastination equals stress and sometimes equals failure.  With the kids, and especially with their technology, one could easily get a glitch that causes a last minute project to be deleted or lost in cyberspace. I have tried to teach them to get things done early so that there is plenty of time to fix problems, and also that with a good plan or list they will can accomplish anything.

I live by my to-do lists. Without a good list little gets accomplished. Before the weekends especially, soon the weekend is gone without much accomplished if I don’t have a good plan. Some of the things on the list are fun things like kayak around and explore a certain area of the lake, and there is other stuff, like clean my kitchen cupboards and wash windows before the fall weather sets in.

There is no greater feeling than to cross things off of a list and feel the accomplishment of getting things done. My husband sometimes cringes when he sees my lists, but has to admit that we get a lot done when we follow them. If we have a home weekend project, we make sure we 54chave all the supplies picked up by Friday, so we don’t have to spend our project day buying the supplies. There is no better way to get a lot done.

My lists used to be kept on paper. Now I have most lists in the notes section of my phone. I have work lists, and lists of fun places we want to visit. I have lists of projects that need to be done around the house, and wish lists of remodeling projects to be done in the next couple of years. I have garden lists, and boat and outdoor building projects. I have a list of the things that need to be done during the week and the weekend project lists. I have work lists and lists of goals to accomplish. I don’t need to follow them exactly, and I can be flexible with when things are accomplished. I have a real satisfaction in having the plans, and when I find myself with extra time, I can consult the lists to take on a project or sometimes the lists can wait and I do whatever I’m feeling called to, like going on a bike ride.

The reverse list is a special and powerful type of list. I am not sure exactly where I learned it, but it was sometime in college. The reverse list is where you write down a goal you want to accomplish, and then you work backwards to show the steps you would have to take to get there. In the 1980’s while working as a nurse I decided I would like to be a lawyer. I wrote down on the paper: I am a lawyer. I stared at it for quite a while before giving myself permission to z3dreverse list it. I thought for a while and wrote, take the Bar exam, and continued with graduate from law school, attend law school, gain admission to a law school and so on backwards until I had the very first step of what it would take, which was buy the books to study for the entrance exam to law school called the LSAT.

I put down the pen and stared at it. The one thing that was clear was this list would take hard work, but as I learned on the farm, hard work pays off and I was committed to go forward with the list. I have used the reverse list many times and it allows for full introspection, and breaks down a goal that seems unattainable into smaller steps, laying out a plan to achieve that goal.

It is good to have thoughts, goals and dreams, but once those goals are written they gain a power of their own. There is real power in the list. Even if the list is just a weekend project list, the act of writing it down creates the goal and the work ethic creates the accomplishment of that goal. Good planning, knowing the downside of procrastination, and the work ethics I learned on the farm have been instrumental in my accomplishments. I love my lists and I love the productivity and the sense of accomplishment that comes with striking things off lists.  I thank my farm roots for the productivity, work ethics and the ability of good planning with the power of the list.

Taking Flight

I love flying and I love airports. I love the excitement of flying to a new adventure and I love the feeling of entering an airport to head to my comfy home after being gone a little too long. The excitement starts with the packing of my bags and carefully choosing what goes into the suitcase for my adventure. I lay everything out as the days tick closer, and I add and take away things from the pile, as I seem to always initially want to bring a little too much. The packing is part of img_1830the fun and the more you do it the better you get at it.

My excitement mounts as we leave for the airport. We live a little over an hour from the airport, and as anyone will tell you, I leave way too early and get there way too early. We say goodbye to the nice person we talked into giving us a ride to the airport, do our final hugs (it’s usually one of my kids), and my steps lighten as I walk through the big automatic doors and step into the hustle of travelers milling to find their airline, their gates, and check in.

It is a very diverse group. You see every age, every race and a mixture of young adventure travelers carrying everything on their backs, to business people dressed to impress. You see wealthy and poor, families doing their best to herd their children to their destination and old folks moving slowly, hoping to visit relatives or have an adventure of their own. The people watching is amazing, especially guessing people’s stories.

Bimg_1011eing early allows me to be relaxed in my check in and going through security. We fly enough that we have the pre-check area where the security is not quit as onerous. I would never want to be one of those crazy people that are running late and practically miss their flight. That is too stressful. It would take the fun out of the journey. I do not mind spending time having a little food or drinks at the airport and people watching. We also work a lot and so having a few hours to relax, and read or talk to each other is a nice break and part of the beauty of escaping our daily lives. We sometimes go over our itinerary or look at maps for our adventure and make sure we have everything we need.

When it comes time to load the plane we are ready and the excitement starts to peak again. I take my seat and arrange the things I need to keep me busy while in flight. Despite being a real img_5963type A most of the time, I seem to take on a different internal relaxation and I am no longer in a hurry once I board the plane. I am ready for the down time and the relaxation of having nothing to accomplish during the flight other than enjoy myself. I have an iPad for movies, iPod for music and magazines, snacks and gum for my ears, although we have flown so often we are good at clearing our ears as they pop from the altitude.

As the engines rev and the plane slowly starts to move my heart beats faster, and as the plane sits at the beginning of the runway and then the brakes let go to propel us into the air my heart img_1023soars with the plane into the clouds. To fly through clouds is indescribable. It is the feeling of almost lightheadedness and weightlessness as if being released from our earthly bonds. I love sitting by the window and watching the clouds go by. Flying on a beautiful sunny, puffy cloud kind of day is the best. I have occasionally had dreams where I can fly, but this is the reality of flying through the blue sky ever higher and even going right through clouds. It is amazing what you can see from the windows. Rivers look like narrow snakes winding for miles, you see the beautiful checker board of the Midwest farm fields and the mountains and I’ve even spotted the Winslow Arizona crater.img_9499

When Joe is with me we take turns at the window, but the reality is that the middle seat is fine with me if Joe is by the window, because I can lean way over him looking at the beauty out of the window.  I don’t mind sitting close to strangers. Either they are in their own world and they barely talk or they are the kind that are fun to get to know a little, before settling into movies or other entertainment. I have learned a lot from strangers over the years in airplanes.

Certain flights stick out in my mind. I have a favorite memory of a flight from Christchurch, New Zealand to Bluff, New Zealand on its southern most coast. It was a beautiful puffy cloud day and we took off about noon. It was a short flight of only a couple of hours, and our plane was small with propellers. New Zealand air has the coolest looking planes. They are black, and the smaller img_8989ones with propellers look like palm trees attached to the wings. As we loaded onto the plane we were of course in the best of spirits possible because we were on vacation and in the middle of our great adventure. We were having a fabulous time in New Zealand and therefore stress free and eating the best foods and drinks, with no work to worry about.

Attitude is everything. As I settled in, I put in my ear buds and I had the window seat. As the engines revved and the wheels left the ground, I was listening to Everybody Wants to Rule the World by Tears for Fears. It was reaching its loudest and I even turned it a little louder as we took off. I love the speed and I love the calm as the plane lifts. I was looking out the window at the clouds as we flew higher through the clouds. There was no one else in the world except me, my thoughts and my experience. They talk now about being present in the moment. I was not only present in that moment in time, but completely enveloped in it. That moment in time is pressed in my mind and more importantly in my soul to be a part of me forever. I cannot hear that song now withoutimg_5971 thinking of that glorious day and that smooth take off from Christchurch and how I felt as if I could rule the world in that most precious moment. I will never forget it.

I love airplanes and I love airports. I love flying to my adventures and when I am road weary and nothing but dirty clothes fill my suitcase, it feels good to enter that last airport to head home. I check my bag for the last time, hoping that all of my treasures I have bought on vacation do not make it overweight, and as they accept it I sigh a little sigh of relief and settle in for the flight home. There is no place like home, when you have fulfilled your itinerary and seen and done unexpected and beautiful things.
Flying represents our ability to leave our worldly jobs and earth bound life and explore beautiful and exciting places by soaring through the clouds. It is not just the destination that is important when you travel; it is the journey as well. The journey itself is a great part of the experience and the airport launches us into our adventure and it brings us back home again. Appreciate the journey as much as the destination. It starts with the excitement of the airport to fly you through the clouds on your way to discover yourself and live in the moment.

The Deep Warmth and Comfort Brought on by Snow and Ice

I love Minnesota! I love to travel, but in all of our travels around the world I have never found a better place to live. The beautiful change of the seasons are a big part of that undying love for my home, but now for an unbelievable admission, as much as I love our beautiful fall colors and our warm blue summers, full of lake fun, I love the deep cold of our winters. Yes, I look forward to seeing that mercury drop and take delight in bragging about how cold our state can get. I watch img_5163-1the news each morning, as I get ready for work and I hope that the temperature is so low that we are going to break another record. I delight when they report that our exposed skin will freeze in two minutes and I delight in pulling out my warm black, fur-earflap hat with moose decorating on its sides, truly worthy of being a prop from the Grumpy Old Men movie. The lower the temperature goes, the happier I am.

There is a certain pride in survival and even though in this day and age we have reliable heat in our cars and homes, and since our jobs do not require us to be outside much, we really don’t have any serious risk of death when it’s cold. On the other hand, people die of exposure every img_4937year in Minnesota and we all know about past storms where people were caught in their stalled cars, or got lost hunting and died of exposure. Yes, I can brag that with a little bit of unpreparedness and in some cases some stupidity, or just bad luck, one can die in the cold Minnesota. It is a fact! However, our cold winters provide a certain internal calm.

As it approaches I get excited for the slower pace of winter and the silence and crisp beauty of the frozen lake. Our summers are busy trying to enjoy every beautiful day we can in the great outdoors. We kayak and we hike and travel and have as much fun in the sun as we can before the cooler weather of fall sets in, so winter feels like a break from the hectic pace of summer and a welcome rest.

That first snow fall is magic. Just watching those first flakes fall and the slow accumulation of the first bright white of winter lowers my blood pressure and makes me want a cup of hot chocolate. I love sitting in the porch watching it come down. I turn off the inside lights and turn on the outdoor lights if it is night, and I just watch and I think of other things. Watching the snow fall grounds me to the earth and to my home and provides for internal reflection of the past year and the year to come. It makes me feel warm and cozy and makes me remember my childhood and playing and winter06sledding in the snow. It reminds me of when our kids were home and we lived in our big house in the woods, with its large brick wood burning fireplace. We never had to buy wood because enough trees fell down each year on our three acres, and on the preserve that bordered two sides of us. The fireplace added cozy warmth to the house.

I loved winter with the kids in the woods and particularly liked snow days from school and work. We had very little yard around the house by choice, as I made our builder 25 years ago, take down only those trees absolutely necessary to build. We preserved the woods right up to our deck and so on those special snowy days or just any regular Saturday in Winter, we could cross country ski or just tromp through the snow right off of our deck. We made snow men and we built forts and snow tunnels. Even though I was the Mom, I winter04think I enjoyed our outdoor adventures as much as they did.

We would sometimes put on our boots and walk cross country through the preserve for miles, and end up at another road where Joe would pick us up after our little adventure. We would see possums in the trees occasionally and we would see lots of deer and all sorts of animal tracks that we tried to identify. One time we came across a dead deer with antlers and we made Joe bring a hack saw and we cut the antlers off because the kids wanted to keep them. I still have those. The kids still talk about our crazy antics.

I remember the trees heavy with snow and I remember thinking that we lived in the most beautiful woods in the world. We would stay out as long as we could stand it and come in rosy cheeked, cold and tired. The warmth and the smell of our fireplace could be felt as we took off winter03our layers of clothing. The deep warmth and comfort when coming in from the Minnesota cold penetrated through to our bones. It was a deep heat not felt in the summer. We could feel the heat hit our chilly red cheeks as we entered, and my home never felt more comfy and inviting.

As much as I love the summer and the fun of the water, I always look forward to the slow pace and that deep warmth and coziness of my home in winter. Winter warmth and reflection are such a welcome change and almost seem to provide healing for the body and the soul. Embrace your Minnesota winters and the deep warmth and comfort brought on by the snow and ice.

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Crescendo

Don’t tell my law partners, but I have been a master over the years of sometimes playing hooky in the middle of the week.  It was most often unplanned and last minute during a regular weekday when I decided I was caught up on my work, and nothing would suffer if the work was put on hold.  I would skip work and take the kids to the zoo, the Science Museum, a movie or the Mall of America.  They were either in day care and I would take them out, or it was a holiday from school, or summer vacation and they had nothing better to do.  Those days were some of the best.  I couldn’t give them much warning because sometimes things changed at work and I could not leave, so since I did not want to disappoint them, I would not tell them until I was very img_5087sure that we were going. They were even more excited by the surprise.

On those days I would call or simply show up and say I have off, let’s go and do something fun! These spontaneous outings taught them to be flexible and go with the flow.  Now as adults they are still very good at going with the flow and dealing with changing plans or unexpected fun that arises.  All of them are always up for an adventure. I’d pack a lunch for us or more often eat out.  We loaded into the Yukon, or if I had not planned ahead well enough in advance, we’d be stuck with my commuter car since Joe usually drove the family Yukon to work. In that case I would cram them all into my little car and off we went.

img_5088The thing I remember best is that they were always so grateful for the adventure.  They never complained and seemed to be on their best behavior.  I suspect that even as very young children they knew there was something special about the unexpected middle of the week adventures.  We had plenty of fun as a family on the weekends, but this was different.  It was unexpected and exciting.

Recently I was reminded of one of those fun days as my kids fondly reminisced about a particularly  memorable middle of the week excursion.  Now that they are in their twenties and have lives of their own, I don’t get to play hooky and leave work to do fun things with them. I miss that, but I love it when they visit and I am particularly happy when they remember the good times we have had together. The event they remember was a trip to the Mall of America, when the kids were fairly young, maybe 10 years old to early teens.

I picked them up and I told them we were going to the Mall of America to ride the rides at Camp
Snoopy and have some lunch. It had been a particularly terrible couple of weeks at work, with one hearing after another and my stress level was through the roof.  I did not tell them that, but knowing kids they probably knew more than I gave them credit for.  We headed off and I bought img_5083them all wrist bands so we could ride as many of the rides as we wanted.

We did most of the rides that day, but the one that they remember best was the Mine Ride.  It was one of those rides that had a large screen playing a fairly short movie in front of you and the seats move as if you are part of the movie, and it is really loud for effect.  We had been there before, but they changed up the movie every so often so it was still new to us. The movie they played that day was called Crescendo.  It had music notes and a picture of a piano on the advertisement poster outside the ride, and it looked like an odd subject for the mine ride which usually featured a mine car and small tracks on the screen to make it feel as if you were riding into a mine shaft really fast and jerky for affect.  We took our seats as usual expecting a usual ride.

The movie started with a man in a truck on what appeared to be the streets of San Francisco, with its winding roads and steep hills.  The man backed up to a baby Grand Piano and used a long chain to connect it to the back of his truck.  Before he took off a tall, thin gentleman in a tuxedo and tails, who looked to be ready for a concert at Carnegie Hall, came out, bowed and took his place ceremoniously on the piano bench, attached to the piano, and he began to play in img_5086the middle of a street.  The piano was on wheels, and as the truck took off it pulled the piano. As he played louder and louder the truck went faster and faster, hence the Crescendo name.

When he went around corners the piano flew wide around the turns and almost hit other vehicles and just missed panes of glass carried through the street. It was one of the best comedy sequences I have ever seen.  The music was classical music, and as the truck drove faster the camera would pan onto the pianist’s face, one minute concentrating on the music and the next frightened as his piano veered towards train tracks, narrowly missing being crushed by fast moving train cars. I could not help but laugh harder and harder.

His music flowed with the crazy fast driving, and as we watched our own chairs jolted and moved as if we were riding on the piano with him, and I could not stop laughing.  It was not an, oh I am amused laugh, but a belly aching loud laugh, that everyone in the theater could hear.  I think my kids were actually a little embarrassed and I am sure that some of the people in that Mine ride probably thought I had been drinking in the middle of the day, because the laugh was so continuous and ridiculous. I don’t know why that hit me as so funny.  As we left the theatre, we had even more fun as the kids were poking fun at me for laughing so loud and hard and how the other people probably did think I was drunk.

Thinking back on it, it still makes me smile.  I think it was the slap stick comedy of it mixed with the beautiful classical music that fit each part of the pianist’s ride to a T, and the facial expressions on the pianist’s face as he would, time after time narrowly escape injury and death.

The fact that our own seats shook, rolled and rocked each time his piano went around corners and stopped suddenly, helped with the effect I am sure, but another part of my pure joy may img_5089have been the circumstance itself.  Here we were on a normal weekday when my kids would have been at home, and we were having such a great time, eating fun food and riding the rides together.  We were enjoying each others’ company instead of working the day away.  We have plenty of those days in our life time. To experience the pure joy of spending time together was the crescendo of my week, especially as a nice break to the stress of work life.

I am so glad I had that opportunity to be able to spend that time with the kids in unexpected adventures. It was fun for all of us and yet another reminder in the middle of work stress of what is important in life.  When I think back on it, I don’t remember any of those things that made me stressed that week, but I do remember a random weekday spent with my kids laughing so hard that my sides hurt and I now have the joy of reminiscing about the fun we had, so many years ago. It is easy to say we need to remember what is important in life, but we need to ensure that our most memorable, loud and intense memories and moments are those shared with family. Like the crescendo in a fine piece of music our best moments in life should be loud, intense and memorable.