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.

Curiosity Most Certainly Never Killed A Cat

The phrase “Curiosity killed the cat” is not only strange, but just plain wrong. A healthy curiosity is what moves us forward to learn and explore, and once a person’s curiosity is gone, so is their zest for life.

I have been curious all of my life about far away places and how things are made and what secrets lie in the Oceans and the heavens, yet to be discovered by curious explorers. I wonder how prior inhabitants of our area lived and loved together in the harsh Minnesota winters, and how they may have admired the same beautiful sunrises and sunsets on our lake.  I cannot pass an old building, overgrown with weeds and not be curious to know what happened there, and what is still inside to reveal its mysterious past. If I could explore abandoned buildings for fun without getting into trouble, I would. I don’t mean the large commercial towers downtown that the urban explorers climb around in and occasionally have to be rescued from. I mean the small sheds and barns in an abandoned farm, or our neighbor’s old, abandoned, long forgotten boathouse.IMG_4621

The old boathouse is less than a foot away from our property line and I will admit, I have taken a flashlight and looked in. The boathouse itself has had no care or repairs for at lease twenty, to maybe even thirty years or more. The sagging roof is covered in pine needles and the side boards are starting to deteriorate to the point where large gaps are appearing in the walls. It would take very little for this structure to catch fire or fall over. The front door is blocked by tree roots, and cast away items like an old rusty grill and a broken chair. A couple bought the lot about five years ago and rented out the old cabin on the site. When I inquired as to what was in the boathouse, I was told that they had not been in it since they bought the property, but had looked through the gaps in the siding and saw old fishing lures and lots of tools and what they referred to as junk.IMG_4694

My curiosity would never have allowed me to go five years without looking what is in the ancient boathouse for over five years. If I would have bought that property, I would have been looking around at the interesting things in that boathouse with my flashlight about an hour after closing. As I see it, I imagine it contains all kinds of treasures from the past, long forgotten and buried under piles of stored items needed for a life on the lake.

My curiosity was piqued even more when I inquired of our elderly neighbor about the history of the old boathouse. He grew up on the lake just a few doors down from where we live now, and his eyes lit up as he told about the prior owner, Mr. Peterson and his propensity for Rum and IMG_4687parties. He was evidently legendary for the epic parties he threw and also for falling asleep or possibly passing out outside and not even making it into the old cabin. Most interesting however was the neighbor’s clear recollection that a friend of Peterson’s had used old paint and had painted a picture of Minnehaha Falls on the inside wall of the boathouse. He remembered that the quality was quite good. I tried my best to see into the cracks with my flashlight more than once, but I cannot get a good look at all of the walls. Many of the walls are hidden by piled up stuff and things hanging on the walls. I did see a lot of old fishing lures and tools as they said, but even with the flash light it is too dark to make out what most of it is.

If only I could rip the front door open, I would be in there in a minute exploring for the owner. I told them about the alleged painting on the wall and it did not seem to make them any more interested to tear the door open and go exploring. I would love to assist, but unfortunately it is not my property to go exploring. They had renters at the property until lately, but now have decided to build a house on the lake lot. I cannot wait for their house tIMG_0293o be finished so we can get to know them better and I can find out if the mysterious old painting still exists or if other treasure lay buried waiting for discovery. I am sure that once they live on the property they will have to pull back the creaky door and explore the old boathouse.  I will be there ready to volunteer as tribute to help them.

The boathouse is not the only old structure in our area that piques my curiosity. It is fun to move to a new area as you discover new things. We have an old Hardware Hank store along highway 65, and even though I had been by there before, I had never noticed an old cemetery with the Swedish flag flying above it. It has a plaque and is clearly very old. Evidently the story is that it used to be the graveyard for an old fort located on the site long before the Hardware Hank. Clearly someone keeps it up, as the fencing around it and the lawn is meticulously groomed.

I cannot imagine not having my sense of curiosity for many different things.   I have read books on history, paleontology, geology, ancient cultures, archeology, cooking and music. If I could I would have many college degrees in many IMG_1753different areas of study. I like watching TV shows on how things are made and get ideas for places to explore on the travel channel. I find everything from ghosts to stories of aliens interesting. I will never live long enough to experience every place I would like to travel to, and I will never live long enough to satisfy my curiosity, or I at least hope that is true.

Curiosity never killed the cat, but a lack of curiosity can kill a full life that is well lived. Without our drive to learn new and interesting things, without our drive to peak behind the curtain to see how things are done or are made, and without our curiosity to travel to meet new people and cultures and taste new foods, and without our curiosity to explore into the history of an old boathouse and the tails told by its old treasures long abandoned, we sit still with a lack of excitement and wonder for things we know nothing about, and we live a life without the luster of what our big, beautiful, mysterious world has to offer.

Life Appreciated from the Water

IMG_3937They say water is the essence of life. I understand that statement. It is for sure a powerful physical and emotional force in my life. I am not sure what it is about water, but whether it is rain on my face or swimming in a cool lake in the summer, it affects my mood, it cleanses my soul, and nourishes my body. Water makes me feel healthy and calm. It is such a simple concept that many times we forget in our quest and stress of making a living.

I have always been attracted to water. When I was growing up on the farm we had a water hole to swim in and we had two creeks to play in. Neither was very big, but both had running water all summer and I spent an inordinate amount of time walking and playing in it. I remember walking with bare feet in the cold spring waters as it rushed over the rocky bottom. I remember cooling IMG_3769off in the hot summer sun. The water was an important part of our entertainment growing up on the farm.

We swam in the water hole on hot summer days, and when I was not playing in the creeks, I was pretending that our house was a large ship on the ocean and the lawn was the water. I pretended to walk on the sidewalks, that in my mind was the deck of the ship and I would jump onto the grass and pretended to swim with dolphins and look for sharks and rays. We did not have video games, but we sure had vivid imaginations.

We also went on picnics and swimming in the local lakes almost every weekend with our cousins. It was the late sixties and early seventies and so the parents were not vigilant, like they IMG_2717are expected to be now. Our parents and uncles and aunts sat at the picnic tables and played cards or talked while the kids all swam in the lake. The older ones watched out for the younger ones and we were expected not to drift into water over our head unless we could swim. I think we all swam well and nobody died even though no one was watching us. It was a different time.

We had a boat when I was a little older on the farm and we learned quickly how to water ski. I got really good at it from having my evil brothers drive the boat and try to dump me off of my skis. They would zig zag, drive fast and then slow to throw me as hard as they could into the water around every turn. Of course when it was my turn to drive, I paid them back big time.IMG_3591

I went to college in Duluth and lived by Lake Superior. I spent a lot of time when not studying looking at the ship wreck files at the Duluth Harbor Museum and walking or driving the north
shore. In 2004 I finally became certified in scuba diving and I have made the ocean a part of many of our trips over the years.

I still love the water. Living on the water and being older has given me a new appreciation for life. Life looks different and feels different when you are on the water. It IMG_3512does not matter how busy a day I have had or how stressed or busy I feel, the minute I am on the water my blood pressure lowers and my stress melts away. If I am in a meeting at work, I sometimes day dream of walking into the water from our beach and I imagine lowering into the water and gently swimming away from the shore. I can feel the cool refreshing water, which is a nice dream compared to the stale air and old coffee smell in the office conference room. I cannot wait to get home every night. We can take a relaxing pontoon ride around the lake or just sit and watch the water. Morning coffee is relaxing and early morning weekend kayaking has become a ritual.

Life looks different from the water. You have time to reflect and to appreciate the simple beauty of our great outdoors. I watch and hear the birds as a glide silently along the lake, and as I do, I appreciate life itself. We have an otter who makes a surprise appearance every IMG_2357once in a while, and the bass literally jump out of the water in front of my kayak. I sometimes have my dog Yogi along, and he has his own life jacket. He seems as caught up in the moment as I do sometimes. He sits and takes it all in, content to sit in front of me, as we glide along the clear lake. Just recently I bought a glass bottom kayak to be able to see the lake world below me as I glide along. I tried it on Lake Michigan looking at the ship wrecks as we would glide over the old sunken wooden boats, some from over 100 years ago. I cannot wait to see what I can find in my lake and it will now add a level of adventure and exploration to my weekend kayaking.

It is not often in our busy lives where we have the luxury of just appreciating life, being grateful IMG_3425for everything we have, our health and our ability to enjoy the beauty around us. Reflecting on how far we have come and how beautiful life is. I sometimes stop paddling and just exist. I am caught in the moment. Appreciating life from the water gives perspective to everything.

It grows appreciation for what we have and for the beauty around, and our problems seem small in comparison. Those problems that seemed large on land become insignificant and very solvable from this on the water perspective. The fast pace of life slows with the waves of the water and our life purpose is realized as not to work ourselves into the ground, but to live each day in appreciation for what we have and for what is really important in life.

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Happily Ever After

In 1984, I was a Labor and Delivery nurse at Ramsey Medical Center and I had just started law school. My brother Dave was always my partner in crime growing up on the farm and we had remained close even after college. Our lives were too busy starting our careers to spend a lot of time together, but he was always the IMG_0700first one I called if I had a flat tire or needed a new battery. I even consulted him to help me find my first apartment. I trusted him and relied upon him, but when he called in the fall of 1984 and said he had the perfect guy for me, I was more than skeptical.

Actually to be honest, I had zero trust that he had any idea what I was looking for in a guy. He told me he had met this guy at work, had gone fishing with him (a sure sign of good character) and he was perfect for me. Dave was a chemist and his work buddy was a PhD chemist. Dave wanted to set up a blind date. I had never been on a blind date and thought the idea was crazy, but because it was Dave, I agreed.

This guy named Joe called me to set up our blind date dinner. The night before the date I cleaned my apartment, because that is what we did back then. I didn’t want him to think I was messy, even if I still had zero confidence in the success of this blind date. On the night in question, fall was fully in the air, and I selected a pink sweater and a skirt to go to dinner. He was a coworker of Dave’s, and even if it did not work out, I did not want to ruin Dave’s relationship with Joe.

Joe picked me up on time, and to my surprise he was nice, relaxed, and most importantly could carry on a very interesting and fun conversation. I had dated a lot of men who were decent and hard working, but some were boring or just not very bright or had offensive world or political IMG_3814 (1)views. Joe had been raised in a German Catholic home in New Ulm Minnesota. Both of us had grown up with brothers and sisters, and had grown up in the rural areas of Minnesota.  I can say after all of this time that having a similar background and similar religious, political and world views is important in a long term relationship. Those shared experiences help in everything from our world views, to views on marriage, and most importantly child rearing.

Joe and I had a lovely dinner on that fall evening together, and spent a few hours afterward just talking in my apartment. As skeptical as I was before the date, I had turned 180 degrees. I called my brother after the date to report how it went. I told him, “This is a man I could marry.” I had never said or thought that before about anyone else.

This was a man I could marry and I did. We were engaged within a year and married within 2 years. The ceremony was in one of the most beautiful Catholic churches in Minnesota, and we IMG_3818had a heck of an open bar and dinner. Weddings in rural Minnesota back then were an all day affair and a lot of fun. We took our commitment to each other seriously back then and still do. This week is our 30th Anniversary.

Joe and I raised our three great kids together and have been partners in our adventures whether it be world travel, adventures to the zoo, or the emergency room for stitches with the kids. We have negotiated through soccer, hockey, and work schedules, and managed to share the household chores and yet have time for dinners together and a private laugh after the kids were in bed. Now as empty nesters we have reconnected for some relaxation, travel, and a lifestyle that refocuses back on us as a couple.

IMG_3816They say if you are a close couple you finish each other’s sentences. It is more like you correct each other’s sentences when you have been married a long time. I have heard my parents who have been married for over 60 years do it and we do it too. I believe it is because we have spent so much time together, have had so many shared experiences, and we both remember them differently at times. But, arguing as a couple is not a bad thing. We don’t argue about anything big, just little details.

They say the opposite of love is hate, but that is not true. The opposite of love is indifference. Only when you care about a relationship or care about a person do you fight to make it better. Show me a couple that does not bicker or care about each other or about the relationship and I will show you a couple that will not stay together.   You can only be driven mad or become mad about things you care about. Joe and I have been angry with one another, IMG_2198but never for long and never about anything big. We care, therefore we have strong feelings about each other. That is the sign of love.

I believe after all these years that finding a nice person as your spouse is THE most important thing. Everything else is secondary. Joe is one of the nicest, kindest, caring, sensitive, gentle guys I ever met. He also was, and is, an outstanding father and husband because of it. He could look at me when I was hugely pregnant and bloated with dark circles under my eyes and he could convincingly tell me how great I looked. He left hostess snowballs over the years on my steering wheel for no reason, because he knew I liked them a lot, especially when I was pregnant. He drove thousands of miles in our Yukon without complaint to show our kids at all ages the entire US and Canada by road trip. He fixed the kids cars and he worked hard for his family.

As a spouse of 30 years I can say he and I have had a lot of fun together, but I have also appreciated having him by my side for support and to share all of life’s journeys, both good and bad. We navigated the uncertainties of parenting, and I can say we are both stronger for the other. The companionship, friendship, and intimacy were all important for a full life. He has been a sounding board and a calm influence. He hasIMG_3717 been someone to talk to when needing an opinion. He has been a true partner. I saw Joe cry 5 times in our 30 years together. He cried the day we said our marriage vows 30 years ago, and he cried when each of our three children were delivered, and when we lost one of our babies through miscarriage. He is a strong, but sensitive family man that has shown his true character through his actions without bragging or without needing to be recognized.

Joe has provided the balance in my life and the JOY for 30 years, and I know that I am a lucky person. You never know if you have the Happily Ever After until you have the years behind you, with full hindsight. After 30 years, I can say with full confidence that I have my Happily Ever After. I IMG_1394have a friend and a companion. I have a guy who enjoys traveling, biking, hiking and any adventures the two of us can dream up. We have fun going to Menards on a weekend and doing projects in the house as much as going to dinner. I have a true partner who shares my life, yet we are both comfortable enough that sometimes he watches his Twins and I can watch my romantic comedies.

We have swam In the seven sacred pools on the road to Hanna in Hawaii and went shark cage driving in New Zealand. We have hiked in Alaska and warmed ourselves in the hot springs of Iceland, but all of our adventures have been better because we were able to share them together. I have my Happily Ever After! Happy Anniversary to the nicest guy a girl could ever have dreamed of in her life. Happy Anniversary to my Joe!