Embrace Your Days, Embrace Your Life

Just this week I heard a neighbor say she cannot wait for July in Minnesota to be over because she likes to walk and it is too hot and sticky for that now. The first thing I thought of was how can anyone complain about summer in Minnesota after such a long winter? That same day at Target I heard a young mom tell her friend she cannot wait for her kids to be out of diapers, and her friend replied she cannot wait for her kids to be out of daycare. Now I know these moms are probably just cash
20140524_204551strapped and tired, and I remember those days well, but it made me think how often we use this phrase to wish our time away. I have done it many times myself, but as I get older I realize how time flies.

The days fly by, the months fly by, and the years when my kids were in diapers flew by. Their years in school are now a blur. As Benjamin Franklin said, “life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Ben Franklin was so wise! We too often wish our lives away without appreciating each unique and wonderful time, whether it is the season of the year or the place in our life. I have made it a point to be present and to enjoy and make the most of where I am not only physically, but where I am in my life and career. I have learned that attitude is everything.

I have learned to appreciate each season.  I love our summers especially now living on the water, but I also like it when the season turns cool and the leaves change. I love putting on a plaid shirt and long pants after a long hot summer and walking among the changing leaves. I like a warm 100_6578 (2)fire in the outdoor fire ring on a cool crisp October evening. I like pulling out the Christmas decorations in December and the smell of the house when I bake Christmas treats.

We have such distinct seasons, and I know if I was not in Minnesota I would miss those dramatic changes. I have plenty to keep me busy in the dark cold winter months, especially as a writer. It is a lot easier to try to work on those novels when the lake is frozen over and my kayaks and paddle board are all stored for the winter. I also think I would grow weary of my water sports if I could do them year round. Maybe I just think that because I don’t live in California. But as the lake melts in the spring and the sun becomes brighter and icicles can be seen through the windows, melting from their tight grip on the shingles of our roof, I become excited for the warmth of spring and the possibilities that spring holds for the garden and our outdoor biking and hiking.

I enjoyed my college years even though I distinctly remember thinking how nice it would be to be done and not have to study for any more exams. I was wishing those free and fun loving years away and as much as I wanted to be done, I clearly liked the challenge of education, because I later continued on to law school for more exams and more challenges, and in hindsight the20140221_085600 (1)years sped by leaving me with some of the best friends and memories ever.

My years starting a career and making a name for myself in the legal community was challenging and fun, and as much as I tried to embrace the challenges, I have to admit that I sometimes dreaded the tedious work. I have to say however, that the part I embraced most was the extreme high of a job well done and an appreciative client, accomplished by either a win in the courtroom or in negotiating the best possible outcome in a bad situation.

I loved it when my kids were babies, even though I was tired a lot. They were so cuddly, and I loved it later when they could talk and run and they were fun to take to the zoo, the fair and on vacation. We ate ice cream and we made faces at giraffes. They were easy to please in those years with lots of energy and hugs. However, I also liked the teenage years. They had good ideas and some bad ones, but they were fun to talk with, most of the time. They also needed their NorthCascdesWAspace to grow, think and just be with their own friends. I appreciated and tried to respect their need to be able to express their own opinions as they grew into adulthood.

Our empty nest years are just starting and this simpler way of life, at the peak of our careers is easy to enjoy. We have money to travel and time to enjoy life. We have done our careers long enough that we are good at it and it is less stressful. We are both in careers where gray hair is a positive thing, in that experience, age and wisdom are all appreciated and sought after. That is a good thing.

I have tried my best at appreciating what I have and where I am, but with age has come wisdom, to truly embrace my days and embrace my life. I have worked hard for what I have, but I have also been very fortunate and I know that. I appreciate each day and I like sunny days as well as those cozy, lightning filled stormy days of pouring rain. I have learned to cherish my time and spend less time on things I do not enjoy. Don’t wish your life away. Life flies by fast enough. Time is precious and our life is precious. This is the most important wisdom that has come with age. Your little problems of yesterday fade quickly in the days and months that pass. Respect your time on this earth and cherish each season and each stage of life. Embrace each day and embrace the joy of your life.

 

Dancing and Laughing My Way through the World

I love to travel. If it were free and time was of no concern, I would be gone most of the time exploring. People have asked me many times why I like to travel. I have a standard answer: I love to see the natural beautiful sites, meet the people, taste their food, and hear their music. If there is one thing I have learned through travel, it is that most people are very nice, loving, caring and helpful, no matter where you go. I have also learned that no matter where you are, people like to IMG_9829have fun and enjoy themselves, and as a traveler we are also around other happy travelers. It is the perfect recipe for fun!

Before you travel, you will hear old stereotypes like the people in a particular country are rude to Americans, or that the people are cold and don’t like tourists. I have found none of those stereotypes to be true. If I smile at people and I am polite, they are polite and smile at me. It does not matter what country I am in, if I try their food and compliment them and try my hardest to speak at least a few words of their language, they are appreciative and assist me with my terrible pronunciations, and it usually ends with smiles all around.

Recently when I was in New Zealand and Australia we were in contact with many locals, but also were visiting many of the tourists sites that were also being visited by Japanese and Chinese tourists. Many of them were young people, and particularly there were several groups of college age girls traveling together. Of course, like our kids of the same age, they were constantly taking IMG_1786selfies, so I started photo bombing their pictures.

I would jump right into the picture, right before they took it and would smile like I was with them on vacation. Well they loved it. They instantly erupted in laughter and insisted that I come in on another picture, so it was not blurry and they would reposition so I was in a better spot and would take more pictures. Sometimes others would ask me to be in their pictures too, feeling left out. I did this so often I started joining in and I would say to them, let’s take a family picture. At which point they would all smile wide as they could and would be so excited by my saying that we are all family. They would smile and laugh and we would take a nice picture together. I even got a hug from one of them.100_3200

I talked with some Chinese children at a sheep farm in Australia where we were able to pet the sheep dogs. The children were grade school age and the first question they asked me as we were petting the sheep dogs is whether I had a dog in the States. I told them I did and showed them a picture of Yogi with his Mohawk haircut, at which point they cracked up in giggles and they started pointing and showing their other friends, my crazy looking dog. I asked if they had any pets and they only had fish tanks among them, but would love to have a dog. It was a brief, but fun exchange.100_3210

In Australia we ate a lot of delicious seafood, and we had porridge for breakfast, which is one of the best cooked oatmeal’s I have ever tasted, but we also had to try vegemite. It is served in restaurants like jam in small containers, except it is made from left over brewers yeast and is loaded with vitamins. It is an acquired taste especially with its beer on the tongue aftertaste. Now beer can be delicious, but this is served at breakfast. Those Australians are a hearty bunch.

100_3192We have tasted foods and drinks all over the world. We had pastries with meat in New Zealand, drank Blue Lagoons in Iceland, ate alligator in Florida, pizza in Italy and we ate pork hocks with the locals at a small bar in Frankfurt Germany. We sat at a large table and attempted our best to speak enough German words to get by. They all laughed and luckily spoke English with us. We discussed our families and where our travels would take us next. They told us more about their town and about their plans to visit the States at some point and we laughed the night away.

100_3190When our kids were growing up, we went to Mexico a number of times and even though the kids were young at the time they were always willing to try the food. They loved the fresh fish and they ate salsas every day. We also danced to the music that played every night after dinner, and we went to bed tired and happy. The kids learned to talk with the people and respect and appreciate other cultures. We also had a family vacation to Nova Scotia where the residents had a heavy Scottish accent and ate pizza with hamburger and shrimp on it, but no cheese. Interesting and the kids ate it and seemed to like it. They still talk about the cheese-less pizza with shrimp.

Mex03I travel to experience other possibilities and to learn about the world. James Michener is known for saying: “If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people you might better stay home.” He was so right. The people I know who have and do travel a lot, love the diversity of people and their customs and tend to respect others, no matter how different from ourselves. When you talk with people around the world and eat their food and dance to their music, you not only have a wonderful travel experience, but you create family wherever you go. You touch others lives and they touch yours in a way that changes you forever. Laugh, eat and dance your way around the world and you create a world where we can all be family and have connections that survive long after the vacation is over, and hopefully, play a part in creating a better world.

 

 

Drinking Ale in the Green Dragon

There is no doubt that New Zealand has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. It is no wonder Peter Jackson chose New Zealand as the location for the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. When we planned our recent vacation to New Zealand we had to include a tour ofIMG_6612 the movie set, smartly left in place by agreement between Jackson and the landowners. The green rolling hills of the North Island was the chosen home for the Hobbit shire and the famous Green Dragon saloon.

Reservations are required in advance for tours, as it is visited by about 350,000 people a year. We took a bus deep into the countryside of the Waikato District in the farming community of Matamata to get to the set, now known as Hobbiton. It is a mecca for fans of the Lord of the Rings movies, which were first released in 2001. New Zealand is known as the home of Middle Earth as depicted in these fantasy filled movies. Over 150 locations throughout both the South and the North Islands of New Zealand were used for the filming of the movies, but Hobbiton was the only set left in place.

Jackson loved New Zealand for its rugged mountains, rolling hills, dramatic waterfalls and streams, and the miles of unspoiled open landscape. The story is told on the tours, that Jackson’s location scouts flew over the Alexander’s sheep farm looking for a very large tree by a IMG_2721stream and were so impressed with the area that he negotiated the use of the farm to build the entire shire, which was the home of the Hobbits. The farm still has over 10,000 sheep and 350 to 400 hundred beef cattle on its approximately 1200 acres. The movie set itself, consists of about 12 acres and contains 44 Hobbit holes, built into the hillsides.

The Hobbit homes, surrounded by long lush grass, are scattered among the large trees and gardens. We visited in March. The sun was warm and bright in the deep blue skies above the shire. March is early fall in NZ and the shire gardens were full of large orange pumpkins and dark green vegetables. It looked as though they were ready for a fall festival. We looked for hours and took hundreds of pictures. The more you looked the more detail you recognized at each site. Each Hobbit home was set up to give you clues as to the occupation of the Hobbit who lived there. Some had carpentry tools and others had laundry on their clothes lines. Even now looking back at the pictures I notice details I had not seen before. Flowers, bushes, fruit trees and unique garden gates and painted benches everywhere. Some IMG_6502pictures I took just to have so that I could try to maybe replicate some of this beauty in my own gardens.

We spent an entire afternoon at the shire, learning about how they built the sets, how filming progressed for each movie and how the locals were enlisted to feed three meals a day to approximately 600 people working on the movies. The tour ended as we went over a stone bridge and through the large double doors of the Green Dragon saloon. It was a hit with movie fans. The crowds of happy tourist fans filled the Dragon and the bartenders did all they could to dispense the ale, hard cider and ginger beer as fast as the taps could pour them. We grabbed a IMG_6593table with other people from our day tour after looking around at the oversized stone fire places and the famous wood carving of the Green Dragon above the entire west bar.

We also booked a four wheel tour around Queenstown, NZ on the South Island which was also used for filming. We drove on the mountain roads and through the streams as our guide pointed out the Remarkables, a set of jagged mountains used extensively in the Lord of the Rings movies. Our driver would even stop midstream sometimes to cue up on his iPad, to show us the scene in the movie filmed in the area in front of our Jeep. It was such a fun trip and so fun to be on location of one of the most epic fantasy films ever made, from one of the best IMG_6640books ever written.

English author, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings and it was first published in 1954. The story was conceived by the author’s creative and limitless imagination, and then luckily he was also talented enough to be able to describe what he had created on paper into his books. Many years later, one of the most talented filmmakers, also blessed with that limitless imagination dreamt of making the epic fantasy novels into epic movies and did so with creative genius and creativity. Walking in and amongst the movie sets made us feel closer to the author IMG_6653and the filmmaker and brought the films and the books to life.

Touching talent like this is rare and should be celebrated. On the surface it was one of the most beautiful locations anyone could be in whether there was a movie set or not, but when one contemplated J. R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s creativity and the bravery the showed in following their dreams to make this fantasy come alive for all to enjoy, it makes me appreciate theIMG_6677 abilities that comes forward in all of us when we believe we can accomplish anything. I am sure they ran into road blocks and nay sayers on their path to success, but they did not let themselves be dissuaded in their quest to follow their dreams.

By being a part of the magic we were reminded that there is no dream too big, and as we finished our tour of Hobbiton, in the Green Dragon Saloon, conceived in the mind of J. R. R. Tolkien and brought to life by Jackson in the movie, we raised our glass of ale to both men and to all those creative souls who fill our lives with fantasy and fun.   We took time to appreciate them and be grateful! Be grateful in your lives for those things that make life fun.

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Childhood Flower Memories

It is amazing how our human minds work. Our memories can be sparked by little things that trigger past memories and transport us in time.  A song that reminds us of our prom days, a team that was the champion at our high school or a lost love.  A taste, a smell, or a sight conjures up our childhood, or the smell of our Grandma’s big soft hug. For me flowers are a powerful memory from childhood. Dandelions, lilacs, tiger lilies and meadows full of buttercups. I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm, and at a time when life moved slower. We enjoyed the beauty around us, or at least I did, as a carefree child running barefoot through the fields. I can still remember the smells, the warm farm earth on my bare feet and the sun on my face.IMG_2460

Sometimes we loose track of our roots and our history in busy lives. I was recently traveling along the prairie roads from Minneapolis to Fargo on a beautiful sunny spring day. As we went, mile after mile we saw many old farmsteads from the past, now neglected as farms have become larger and consolidated, leaving the stone and brick houses and barns to slowly wither with time. Many were still surrounded by the beautiful lilacs, probably planted by some young woman many years ago who tended her garden and the farm animals, and raised her family on the Minnesota plains. She planted the hardy lilacs to surround her yard, provide a break from the winds and of course provide beauty and color. I could imagine her picking the flowers in the spring and putting them in a mason jar on her farm table. As we drove I could smell lilacs in the air.

It triggered a flood of childhood memories of our own farm. There is no flower that has a more lovely color. Sometimes in a soft light hue and others a deep purple. I would rather have lilacs IMG_2380than roses, and lilacs smell better too. They have a beautiful smell, but part of their beauty is the memories of warm, spring days, and in particular they remind me of my grandma. She would literally pick buckets of lilacs and we would dig in every cupboard scavenging all of the vases in the house to put the aromatic lilacs in every room, including our bedrooms.

I knew when I had my own house I would like my own lilac bushes. When our kids were young, I actually went and dug some at an abandoned farm in Blaine, right before they bulldozed the entire site for a golf course. It was a farmstead from the past that now had to make way for the new golf course. I had those rescued lilacs at our last house, but they were never big enough to pick as many as my grandma did to fill the house with that distinct smell. When we first looked at our current house on the Lake, I was really excited to see many beautiful mature lilac bushes. We have a variety of colors and they are so prolific, I can pick all of the lilacs I want, just like Grandma.

I can still see grandma in her flowery house dresses doing her gardening and tending her raspberries and her flowers. I can still see her and grandpa’s 1960’s blue car, as it drove down our long driveway into our farm yard. They only lived a mile away, so they came frequently. We were all excited to see her, but our dog went particularly crazy when he saw their car, IMG_20140302_0035_NEWbecause she always brought him food scraps. He could not wait for her to get out of the car, and he would practically knock her down, as she unwrapped the neatly folded peach crate papers to reveal the scraps of fat and meat she brought for him.

It never took him long to devour it all, and she would praise him the whole time, what a good dog he was. She always brought something for everybody. In the spring, she brought her galvanized pail full of the lilacs in water, nicely tucked into the back seat, so it would not tip on the ride over. She often brought her homemade donuts along in a dishpan carefully covered with a towel. They were usually still warm. We would snitch donuts from the pan, as they were being brought into the house and we would carefully put all of the lilacs in vases. I can still smell the fresh lilac fragrance as it took over the house.

My mom also loved her flowers on the farm and still loves tending her flowers in their retirement home in the city.  I don’t know how she does it, but she can grow hydrangeas the size of a basketball. When I was very young, she had pots of violets growing in the kitchen window. I still remember their fuzzy leaves and the deep purple colors. She also had a lot of dragon lilies. I cannot see those without thinking of the farm. She had bunches of them in flower beds around IMG_2459the house and the yard, and as I got older I was charged with watering them. I loved the color and the little brown stems waiting for the bees to spread their pollen. I recently planted some around my mailbox, because they invoke so many strong feelings of home and warm summer days on the farm.

As we drove along that road to Fargo, I had a vivid memory of myself as a young child when I saw the meadows full of yellow buttercups. Buttercups have bright yellow, almost glossy leaves and grow in wet lowlands and meadows.   I hadn’t seen those in years. I was instantly transported in time to my childhood.  I remember putting on my rubber boots as a grade school child and walking through the moist meadow, picking the short yellow flowers and bringing some home, where my mom would help me put IMG_2451them in a glass on the kitchen table. They grew so thick in our meadow along our driveway that it looked like a fine carpet of yellow and waxy green. We had meadows full of buttercups on our farm in the spring.

Every child should have beautiful flower memories of warm spring days and lovely scents; of picking dandelions, of running through the meadows free of all cares and playing in the bright sunshine. Of a mom who grows tiger lily’s and keeps violets on the windowsill and a grandmother who brings homemade donuts and fills the house with the scent of beautiful purple lilacs. We were lucky to grow up on a farm, with a loving, but hard working family, but childhood flower memories can be created anywhere for any child. Make time to create beautiful flower memories for the children in your lives. Pass on the beauty to our next generations.

 

Fishing with Grandpa and Dad

We grew up close to Mille Lacs lake in Minnesota, and as a family spent a lot of time on Mille Lacs. We swam and water skied and fished in the summer. We had a ski and fishing boat, and
would bring our Winnebago to camp at Father Hennepin State Park. Winter was even more fun when it came to fishing. It was an event and special time with my dad and grandpa.IMG_20140318_0072_NEW

We were only about twenty minutes from Mille Lacs, and my dad and grandpa loved to go ice fishing. I remember one fall the two of them gathered scrap lumber from around the farm, and built themselves two ice houses.

Grandpa was really good at building stuff and so was dad. As father and son they were a good team. They built hard sided, dark houses which were needed for spearing. We watched as they worked for days in the large farm machine shed, with its wall full of tools and piles of salvaged parts neatly stacked under the work benches and around the outer walls. We marveled at all of the old treasures and how easily Grandpa could make old parts fit and work together to make something new.

We walked around the shed and looked at all of the old things. Sometimes we had to ask what they were. He had old parts from horse harnesses, from an era gone by and even square nails and triangular barn hinges. They saved small windows and wheels of all sizes. Grandpa was very 53dgood at saving things. He had weathered the depression and still saved everything.

It was a good attitude that more of us could be better at in today’s world. We so easily throw things away that are perfectly good. We buy too much and we waste even more. My grandma even saved bread bags and bread bag ties and the old metal band aide boxes. They learned to waste nothing and on that day of building fish houses, all the parts and saving they had done came in handy. They did not have to go into town for anything.

The houses each had a wood burning stove in it with a proper smoke stack protruding out of the roof. They built the wood stove by welding old metal together in a small box shape, the size of a large bread box. It had a small hinged door on the end to add the sticks of wood, to keep the house warm and it worked really well.   As a matter of fact, its problem was sometimes too much heat and then we had to open the door to vent it out. It was very warm and snuggly in there even on very cold days. The top of the stove was flat and so many times my mom would send cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup along and we would open those cans and heat the soup on the stove. It made a perfect lunch, especially since she sent along bologna sandwiches made with white squishy bread. It tasted best if actually dipped into the noodle soup.

After the houses were fully constructed and painted a light green sea foam color, a paint left from past projects, they had to be taken with the pickup, one at a time to Mille Lacs. A lot of IMG_20140318_0062_NEWdiscussion always occurred between Dad and Grandpa over the decision about where to put the houses. Should the houses be placed over the shallows, fifteen or more feet, or the deep waters? Knowing where the fish would be was a decision based upon years of fishing knowledge.

The houses were built on skids to make pulling them easier on the lake. They were considered seasonal houses and so they stayed on the lake all winter, but could be moved around by Grandpa and Dad if they wanted to try a new spot. Once set onto the lake, we could go whenever we wanted to fish. As a truck driver, Dad was laid off in the winter and there was not much farm work in the winter either. Grandpa was retired so they could go fishing anytime they wanted.

When we were not in school we could go along. We would leave with Grandpa and Dad before sunrise with our lunch in the black hinged top, old fashioned lunch pail. We usually had rice krispie bars along with our soup and sandwiches and some peanuts or other snacks for mid-afternoon. We took the pickup truck drove onto the ice along makeshift roads plowed right on the ice of Mille Lacs.

We pulled up to the fish houses and file into them. The first thing Dad and Grandpa had to do was to cut the large square holes, and then they lowered a big minnow into the hole. The minnow was held low in the hole by a loop of string around its gills, like a leash and the other end was attached to the ceiling of the fish house. This allowed the minnow to swim around in the hole, but not get away.

The person fishing had the fishing spear attached to their wrist and standing against the side of the inside of the house ready to grab if they saw a fish go after the minnow. We sat on the wood bench built into the fish house, our gaze fixed on the hole. We IMG_20140318_0090_NEWtraded off sitting with Grandpa and Dad, and a lot of good conversation took place during these outings. This is a sport that takes lots of patience. They would let us have the spear and fish too. We did not have the talent they had, but I actually remember spearing two fish over the years. One was a small Northern and the other a rough fish that is called an Eelpout. It is an ugly fish with skin. When Grandpa saw I speared it, he laughed and said “lets get that ugly thing off of our good spear.”

Sometimes during casual conversation the minnow would get jittery and start trying to swim away, and it was then that you knew there was something big coming. My Dad would grab the spear and wait. Sometimes the large Northern would swim into view, and stop to look at the minnow. Those were easier to spear, but other times you just saw the large fish dart through while going after the minnow, and sometimes there was a chance for a shot. They may came back into the hole for another pass, or other times they grabbed the minnow and they were gone.IMG_20140318_0073_NEW

It was mostly a slow relaxed sport, except for those few minutes of extreme excitement and elation if they actually speared the fish and successfully got it out of the hole. Many of the fish were of average size, but there were those very large Northerns sometimes, that made you think there were monster Northern Pike in that lake. Fortunately, we have pictures to prove that my memories were correct. They caught some really large fish, but more importantly we had some really special times with my dad and grandpa.

Fishing was a special event with Dad and Grandpa, but it was so much more. We did not know it at the time, but they were teaching us many lessons. We learned that my dad and grandpa were really talented at building things and resourceful. They taught us how to fish, but they also taught us patience, and the joy of appreciating our environment and the beauty of our lakes.

They were the best dad and grandpa kids could ask for. They left us with great memories of our times together and taught us lifelong skills. They taught us to work together as a team, to relax and have fun, and to save and not be wasteful, and by their great parenting, I feel they taught us to be good parents and to include our kids in the things we did and teach them lifelong skills. Fishing with Dad and Grandpa is not only a beautiful memory, but the age old process of passing down from one generation to another the many skills needed for a full, fun and successful life.

The Energy of Spring in Our Blood

Spring not only gets the Maple tree sap flowing, the warming sunlight adds a bounce to our step as if spring is actually flowing through our veins. There is something promising in what is to come, with the creeks slowly opening and water starts to drip and then flow. The ice on the lakes slowly recedes as it gets warmer, and we have more sunlight and energy.  The drastic differences between the Minnesota seasons are amazing and spring is a particularly special time.IMG_20140318_0061_NEW

The weather beacons us outside after a long winter. The sound of water flowing on the farm was irresistible for us as kids. Even though the creeks were freezing cold we would take off our shoes and walk into the water until our feet were starting to become numb. We sat on the bank warming them in the sun and marveling at the bird sounds, the re-emerging bugs and frogs and the warm winds blowing in the dry grasses. My brothers, Dave and Jim and I were always exploring the farm and hanging out by the creek and in the woods. It never failed, we always had big ideas to build a raft and try to sail it along the creek in the spring as the water was high and moving fast with the melting snow and spring rains.

We built a raft a number of years in a row. We used scrap wood lying around the farm, and we had work shops full of tools and nails and whatever we needed. Our parents were very tolerant of such shenanigans as it probably kept us busy and maybe we learned some building skills. We would sometimes draw up a crude plan and then search for the materials. It usually took a few days or more to build anything worth while. We had all read Tom Sawyer and so the
IMG_5672conversations we had while building were as much fun as the actual launching. Our anticipation of how it would work and how far we could get always exceeded the capabilities of what we had built, but we were never dissuaded by past failures.

Each year we built as if this was our year to be very successful. As each year passed we grew older and wiser in building our raft. I wish we would have had cell phones back then, because then we would have pictures of those beauties. We just have our memories, which are probably somewhat distorted. When I imagine the rafts, they look like a small version of the rafts from the Tom Sawyer movies.

We had three logs or half logs on the bottom and on the top, short boards nailed into a platform that we could sit on, and some long sticks to try to push and steer it from the bottom or the creek banks. Sometimes our neighbors or cousins helped. We always watched out for each other so no one was hurt and the only injuries I ever remember is minor things like scrapes or the occasional black fingernail from pounding our own fingers.IMG_20140318_0075_NEW

We did not have a very deep creek even when it was swollen for spring, but it was enough to float our little raft about halfway through our pasture if we did not load it too full. Usually only one or two of us could go on at a time and it got stuck often in the weeds or shallow areas, but we always considered the project a success if we could get it to float with one of us on it for even a short stretch down the creek. It was usually my brother Jim who volunteered to ride the raft.

He still is an adventurous guy, and also was the youngest at the time, so probably the lightest for riding the raft. Nevertheless he was always game to give the untested raft a try. I still remember dragging our heavy creation to the creek and the elation we felt as we actually got it floating with Jim aboard, riding proudly like one of the Spanish explorers we had read about. It was a spring ritual for a number of years. I suspect that there may still be remnants of some of our creations in the area where the creek turned narrow and shallow and we were all done navigating the creek for the year.

I think the ritual was more about being outside and feeling the sunshine and the cool waters than any real need to navigate the creek. We also slopped around in big boots in the pastures as IMG_20140318_0053_NEW (1)we let our beef cattle out of their winter pens. Most of the mamas had calves by this time and the beautiful deep red colored calves with white faces were as happy as we were to be let free in the green, fresh spring grasses. They would follow their mamas and would literally kick up their heals when they first felt the grass on their hooves and smelled the freshness of spring.

Spring is still an exciting time for me.   It seems as if winter makes our blood thick and slow, but as soon as that spring thaw starts I have an overwhelming urge to dig in my garden and to step in the puddles. I cannot wait to plant my flowers and plan a little vegetable garden. I look at garden websites and survey my dry dead gardens and imagine what they will be with some tender loving care. I love digging in the dirt in the spring, andIMG_5758 even cleaning the leaves. There is still a lot of farm girl in me. I even own a small tractor despite the fact that I am not farming. I watch the lake edge at our home and marvel as we slowly get running water past our shoreline and eventually full ice out. I don’t have to build a raft to enjoy the water as we now have boats and kayaks but the memories of building rafts on the farm with my brothers came flooding back this weekend when standing on the edge of our lake in the warm sunshine, watching the ice melt before our eyes.

The energy of spring flows in my veins as I open the windows wide and the fresh spring air fills the house with the clean smell of a new season. The buds start forming on the trees, and the birds even their pleasure with the end of winter. We walk the dog in the sunshine and feel warm and energized. Spring is a time of fresh renewal and infinite possibilities, of beautiful flowers being surveyed by the butterflies, cooking with the fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden and floating along the lake watching the herons and the eagles emerging in the ever increasing sun leading to summer. Enjoy and appreciate the spring for its fresh possibilities!

Glitter, Champagne, and Doing the New Year Right

I love New Year’s Celebrations. It represents a reason to get together with friends for one final celebration after all of the major holidays are over and we all go back to work in January. (Usually we are trying to catch up after all of the goofing off we did during the holiday season). It is an easy holiday because there are no presents or shopping needed; it is a pure 2000fenjoyment type holiday. Also, the thought of a new fresh start is always exciting to me. You get to begin again on whatever your aspirations and goals, or set new goals. I like to look forward and decide on something new to learn in the coming year or try something I have never tried before.

Some people make New Years resolutions and set such things as weight goals or getting healthy and those are fine, but it is also our opportunity to have gratitude for all of the things we have and all of the things we have accomplished in the past year, and to shut the door on any disappointments or troubles we had in the past. We can also take stock of 2000dwhere we are with our dreams, our family, our job and life itself. We can plan and look forward to making a great year for ourselves. I plan fun things for us and get them booked in the cold winter months. I try to have something fun to do at least once each month.

Before New Years Eve I find a quiet place at home, at work, or at a coffee shop, and I do my planning and dreaming. I think, “What would I like to be grateful for next New Year’s and what steps would I take to achieve that goal?” Some are lofty, out-there goals, and others are very attainable with some discipline. Once my planning is done and I feel good about my plan, I am ready to celebrate the coming of the New Year. Every year is a new year of possibilities. New hopes, new dreams and sometimes a continuation of goals and dreams, but always mixed with plenty of gratitude for what we do have.

When the night arrives, I dress for it, I plan for it and I always enjoy it. There is always2000c champagne or some other special drink involved and glitter, somewhere or everywhere. Most years it is glitter eye shadow for the occasion and when we were in college in the 1970’s, New Year’s always involved sprinkling glitter on each other at midnight, which usually turned into dumping glitter on one another. It was a complete mess and I would find glitter in my hair and in the shower for days! When I was dating it always involved going downtown for the action of the big city and when I was married and our kids were young, it was family activities that usually ended at 10:00 p.m. instead of midnight.

IMG_4872One of my favorite New Year’s celebrations of all time was when it turned the year 2000. What a celebration that was! I cannot believe it is over 15 years ago. How time flies. There was so much hype in the years before, about our entire computer system and possibly society collapsing because of this Y2K bug as it was called. People were stockpiling food and gold and guns trying to be prepared for anything. We did not have a lot of concern and believed we were fine, but decided to take the kids out and celebrate big just in case. We went to a German restaurant that had prepared special food and they had a polka band and a guy dressed like the Kaiser getting people to dance. We had so much fun that night and threw all of our cares to the wind. We had a little wine, ate good food and danced with the kids as a family. There is nothing better than family time.

We celebrated with gusto as we ended a century and turned the calendar to the year 2000. It was the last night of a thousand years and the first night of a thousand more years, which made it particularly spectacular, but the 2000efact that it came with threats of potential doom, lent an air of “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die” attitude. The threats of gloom and doom were not very believable, so it was more exciting than any kind of real fear of a disaster. It did however, reaffirm that none of us knows what tomorrow brings, so it is important to take every opportunity to celebrate with glitter, crazy hats, and good food and drink with your family. The most important thing in life is to enjoy the moment, because on our deathbed, 2000gwe will not remember things that we did at work, but we will remember those times that we celebrated life. We will remember those times when we got dressed up and wore glitter and when we danced with a child in our arms, laughing until our sides ached and kissed at the stroke of midnight. Celebrate New Year’s with gusto every year. It is the opportunity for new beginnings and the beginning of new opportunities.