The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers

I loved watching Winnie the Pooh when the kids were little. My favorite character was Tigger and my favorite line was “The wonderful thing about Tiggers, is Tiggers are wonderful things. Their tops are made out of rubber,  their bottoms are made out of springs.” Well frankly, I love the entire cliptiggerhappy3scene with Tigger bouncing around, happy and having fun; always positive and upbeat. Then there was the Eeyore. The little donkey would walk with his head hanging down and his tail dragging with a black cloud over his head, and talk with his gloomy, depressed, pessimistic attitude, looking at the bad side of everything. Well in life I have found that everyone is either an Eeyore or a Tigger. You know I am right, because right now in your head you are placing every person you know, in your family and at work, in one or the other category.

Of course people are complex and many life factors can affect all of us, but I have a theory that each of us has selected, probably early on in our lives, clipeeyorest2the main characteristics of one or the other of these personalities. We have chosen happiness or we have chosen to be that negative nay-sayer in the family and at work. I don’t think people are one at work and the other personality at home. People select for whatever genetic, educational, family-rearing or circumstances that they are a happy person and look at the bright side of life or they do not. I do think that people can change and that is why I think there are so many studies out there about choosing happiness.

We all know that we like being around the Tiggers, but sometimes Tiggers can be exhausting, energetic and may come off as bragging too much. Really the bragging is not so much bragging to get attention; they just talk about positive, good things and don’t dwell on the difficulties of life. I also think that because they have a bright outlook, things do turn out better for them. Because they have that happy attitude they do not dwell on little things that are not perfect. For example, they do not dwell on it if the food they ordered at the restaurant was not perfect, or that someone they thought was coming to a party did not show up. They enjoy the people that do show up and they talk about the restaurant décor that was lovely or the conversation that flowed nicely at dinner.

Dwelling on the positive is a way of life. It is a lot more fun to be that person in the meeting at work who is thinking up ways to get a new initiative done or make a change, than the person who sits in the meeting telling everyone why their ideas won’t work and why the change will betigger_and_eeyore_by_inkartwriter-d57k6yi unsuccessful. Likewise it is more fun to be the person in the family around the dinner table who tells a fun story or talks about plans for the family to travel or for a fun outing, than the person who comes home grumpy and makes everyone miserable. That is the family member who can only talk about the dishes not being done and the laundry piling up. The Tigger tells stories while everyone helps with the cleaning and laundry, making plans for fun adventures.

People can change, but it takes work and even if we are normally very positive we can work on being even more optimistic and helping others feel good about themselves. Try going one week without saying anything negative, including things you say in the privacy of your own car while driving. Remember that person who pulled out slow in front of you is probably someone’s 80 years old father taking his wife to church. Remember that cashier who is struggling to check you out may have learning disabilities or it is their first job. Practice patience and positivity. Try complimenting people and only giving positive feedback at work, at home and in your community, and you will see a difference in your own happiness. Making others happy and being positive works to make a better world for everyone. There are two kinds of people; the Tiggers and the Eeyores. Choose wisely.

Standing on the Edge of Time

B0000925Anyone who knows me well knows that I like to visit natural, beautiful and amazing places on the earth.  I live for it and I never feel as relaxed and comfortable as when I am hiking or spending time immersed in natural beauty. I spend as much of my time as possible researching and traveling to reach those special places.  Our time on this earth is limited and precious. The earth has been around for approximately 4.5 billion years and there is no better place to appreciate the passage of time as when you stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon or witness the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, the vast oceans, or the Utah canyons. The beauty is almost overwhelming and you get a sense that you are standing on the edge of time.

A200008bWe have visited some very beautiful places over the years with our family. I remember my kids running in the Canadian Rockies on a stop by a stream.  They were young at the time, but with the mountains in the back and the sun shining so bright, they literally leapt out of the car and ran with their arms in the air as if trying to appreciate the vastness of the beauty.  It seemed almost instinctive for them to relish the great outdoors.  Of course it could have been that we were on a driving vacation for three weeks and they were always happy to get out of the Yukon for a while.  I know they did like it. They always seem to have fond memories when they talk about those vacations now. We did have a lot of fun on those driving trips. They had no fear and seemed to enjoy rolling in the long grass and wadding into the cool water. We went to a lot of inspiring places, including Yellowstone and the Olympic National forest, Nova Scotia and the Colorado Rockies.

20130308_160210For me, I could stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon or the cliffs and canyon crevasses in among the red rocks of Utah and think about how they were formed and how long the earth has been around.  I like to contemplate all of the many peoples that stood in that same spot looking at those same formations for thousands of years and how these natural wonders were formed by billions of years of water and wind. I like the historical aspect, but more importantly I like the way it made me feel; insignificant and powerful all at the same time. You are witnessing life itself in all its past and present glory and soaking in the beauty created by the passage of time. All of my work-a-day cares fade away when I stand on the ledge of that cliff or hike that narrow path along the edge of a vast valley lush with trees and wildlife. It is a connection back with the preciousness of time and a B199208dconnection with our roots and the earth and time itself.  We were not meant to be indoors for days on end without spending our time with nature.

Time is the most important thing we have.  We cannot have anything else without it.  We need time for love, time for family and time for travel and fun. Without time we have nothing. Time feels like a concept, but time is a concrete thing over which we have absolutely no control.  We can feel time pass and we know when we run out of time and when our time is being wasted, or well spent.  Being immersed in great natural beauty is time well spent. Stand on the edge of time and wonder at the possibilities.

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Capturing Our Life Through Art

Once the weather starts turning cooler in the fall, I have an overwhelming need to dig in closets and drawers and try to start nesting for the winter.  As much as I love summer and the water, and outdoor activities, I enjoy fall for the colors and the crisp cool air and I enjoy the quiet peacefulness and coziness of a weekend in a warm house in the winter.

My need to dig through closets and spend time cleaning house and getting rid of stuff that I do not need probably starts because the hustle and bustle of summer leaves this wake of stuff laying around that we didn’t take the time to put away, rushing from one activity to another before summer passes us by.  We fit a lot into one season.  It is probably good we do not live in California with the fine weather all year round.  We would never have a winter to recover.  Don’t get me wrong, we do plenty in winter, but it is no comparison to the summer and the back-to-back fun-ness in which we engage.  When the weather starts turning, I clean coolers and put3some them away, hang the lifejackets and the bikes, and put away the adventure pants. I dig in my drawers and closets and donate all things taking up space that are no longer used.  The cleaning and organizing process is easier now that we are empty nesters.  It is just less space and people to pick up after.

In cleaning drawers this week I ran across a large box and folder with black and white photos of my family.  When the kids were younger and we lived in the woods of Blaine, we had a really nice 35mm camera. I decide to try black and white photography.  I love the look of old black and white photos and this was before everybody carried a phone with a camera that has black and white Jenny1options.  It does not seem that long ago that I decided to get artsy and try black and white photography, but the pictures are telling of how long ago it was.  My kids are all now in their twenties, so looking at the photos was really fun and brought back a lot of good memories.  My kids were really good sports about it.  I brought out the costume box and they were willing to participate with multiple costume changes and my direction for an attempt to capture different settings and emotions through my new found artsy photography interest.

Our costume box was amazing.  We had every kind of costume you could imagine, from beautiful dresses and dance costumes, to Harry Potter, Ben1goulash masks and pretend bloody hands for zombie costumes and of course the gorilla and banana.  We had boxes of hats and we had wings, and we had props like fake crows and swords and a staff.  Even neighbors borrowed costumes from us when they had an occasion for such things.  I loved our costume box and the kids and their friends had a lot of fun with them, even when it was not Halloween. We were known in the neighborhood for our selection of costumes.  I think part of the fun for the kids with the “photo” sessions was that they did get to pretend and wear a lot of different costumes.  I had to always wait for a sunny day to have the right lighting, but I used our woods as a backdrop and took most photos outside.

SaraJenny2I had a lot of fun doing that with the kids and after a weekend of shooting photos, I would take my film to Wal-Mart, who by the way did a great job developing black and whites and actually used real black and white paper for theJenny3 processing.  I could not wait to get the final product back
and the kids and I had a lot of fun looking through them afterwards. Some seemed great by accident and others were definitely not keepers.  The fun part in looking through them this fall is that I had kept them all, good and bad.  Surprisingly, some of the ones I would not have considered keepers turned out to be some of the best ones with hindsight.
I had a perfect picture of the kids in black and white that I had considered so good that I used it as our Christmas card that year, but the photos leading up to that photo were some of 3some2the best ones that captured their sense of humor and their sheer joy of goofing off together.  I can ask my kids to smile on a picture and they did well, but when I accidentally captured them laughing with each other in between pictures or them trying, unsuccessfully to put on a serious face, for a more dramatic picture, I actually captured them in their most honest and true sense. It is unrehearsed and pure.  I see their personalities when I look back at those pictures and I see a family of kids that will always be friends. I see sheer joy in the momentJoe1 and a camaraderie that they will always share.

As different as they are in many ways, they are close siblings with many fun and loving memories together. My stint of trying my hand at the art of black and white photography actually captured our family in a moment of time when we all lived together and enjoyed every aspect of life, including those slow Sundays in costume together, trying to capture art and emotion, in the
woods of our backyard.  I thought I was being artsy, and by accident I created a box of memories that may have faded with time. I look at the photos and I am there in time enjoying the moment.

3some3Time passes so quickly and even though it seems like yesterday to me, these kids are now gone and forging their lives and making new memories.  We still have a lot of great times together, but they will never again be those giggly, young kids who were willing to go along with Mom’s idea to try something new and play dress up, while she tried to get just the right shot.  I actually entered a couple of the photos into an art contest in Blaine and even though I did not win, they were displayed in the City Hall for a few months.  I felt proud that they had been accepted into the contest and I felt accomplished that I had tried something new and actually enjoyed it more than I thought. SaraJenny1We went as a family to look at all of the art and it was special that they could see themselves in an art display.

I did not know it at the time, but I had actually captured our life through art in a moment of time that we will never have again. Make your memories each day, because in the blink of an eye, today is gone and tomorrow is a memory.  Days turn into weeks and weeks into years.  Don’t let those days fly by without taking time to enjoy each moment and to create beautiful memories for those around you.

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Sun, Surf, Salsa & Dolphins

IMG_3544We have taken a lot of great vacations with our kids over the years, but our trips to Mexico to escape the Minnesota winters rate very high on our favorite’s list. On prior vacations we had been out of the country, but only to Canada. Mexico was our first big trip flying out of the country and it required that everyone in the family have a passport. The kids were young at the time as our first visit was in 2004. We were all very excited about it. Joe booked an all inclusive resort in Playa Del Carmen just south of Cancun. All inclusive resorts are the best deal when you are traveling with kids. The food, drinks and fun are included, so as parents you do not have to keep pulling out your wallet IMG_3545every time the kids need a soda or a meal. The food was amazing. Endless buffets of fresh fruits, veggies, fish, meats and always lots of fresh salsa and chips.

Our resort had informal buffets by the pools, all day long, in case you did not want to miss any of the ocean and pool fun. The pools all had a view of the ocean and the resort staff stood ready at the ocean to lend you fins and snorkels or give you lessons on the sailboats for use by the guests. There was an endless amount of activities to participate in and when you all had too much sun, you could go shopping in the villages or on tours.

IMG_3541There were more formal buffets in two different dining rooms in the main lodge, for evenings,
and vendors sold jewelry under the night sky, perfect to look at while strolling with a glass of wine. Family friendly movies played on the beach at night, and other nights they had magic shows and dancers of all kinds to entertain the guests. We always said it was like being on a cruise, but without the boat. These were fun times with the kids. I had to bring along a lot of sunscreen and big T-shirts so that the hot Mexican sun did not burn their white, winter Minnesota skin. Everyone got too much sun anyway, but we did our best.

On our first trip to Mexico, with our new fresh passports in hand, we decided to go through customs in an order where Joe went through first, and then the kids between us, and me last. So we were book ending our kids to make sure everyone stayed together. After we landed, we gave each of the kids their passports to hold under our watchful eye, and Joe proceeded forward as planned. His passport got a quick stamp and so did Sara and Ben as they went through. When it came to Jenny, just in front of me, the agent looked at her and her passport and looked at me. He looked at a fellow agent beside him and conversed in Spanish, a language I had not IMG_3539mastered enough to follow other than to clumsily order food or a drink, or exchange simple greetings. He was not stamping her passport and continued to discuss something with his coworker and even pointed at her passport. I exchanged a glance with Joe, as he stood just beyond the red ropes after passing through customs and he kind of shrugged. The Mexican customs agent stopped talking and looked at her passport again. I mustered up my best lawyer, authoritative, but respectful, no nonsense voice and said “Is there a problem?” He looked at me and said “no” and stamped her passport and mine and we were through. After we were out of earshot I expressed my concern to Joe and his response was “they were probably just talking about what they wanted for lunch.” That was a good laugh and ended our concern.

IMG_3546We moved on to our awaiting resort van with our tour guides dressed in matching flowery shirts, and we were off for fun and sun! We went sailing and snorkeled with every kind of fish possible. One day we decided to go to a natural water park of sorts called Xcarat. It was a short bus ride away and offered a full day of family fun. It had manatees and birds of every kind. It had bell helmet diving for the entire family. We tried everything. Jenny was the youngest and so on these adventures she had to in some ways be the bravest. She was so small but she put on her heavy bell helmet and she snorkeled with us and she never complained. I sometimes think it is why she is so adventurous now in her twenties because she was required to participate in a lot of things at a very young age.

Mex04cXcarat also had snorkeling on a river through caves and it offered swimming with the dolphins. Even though this was a little pricy, I viewed it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy the dolphins when the kids were most excited about the allure and beauty of dolphins and the ocean. They had seen movies about dolphins and read about dolphins, but to touch aMex04bnd swim with them was magical. The looks on their faces was worth the price. It was the highlight of the trip and something they still talk about as adults.

The kids loved the people in Mexico and interacted with them with ease. The young adults working at the resort worked on Mex04ateaching the kids Spanish. When they came to get towels at the pool they used the Spanish word they had learned to ask for them and said please and thank you in Spanish. Sara studied a little Spanish in school and actually helped us out when we were a little lost at the Xcarat resort. We had gotten into an area that was more remote in the park while looking for the Mex04drestaurant. The workers at the resort in that particular area were working on a construction project and not the workers trained to work with guests. They spoke no English so Sara stepped in and tried her best to use her Spanish to find our way to the area for lunch. She was successful and they understood enough of what she was saying to direct us to where we needed to be. The kids even learned enough Spanish on our vacations to negotiate purchases at the little stores and to order at restaurants.

We also went to Mexico and an IMG_3540all inclusive in 2007 when the kids were a little older, and that time we went to the island of Cozumel.   That was an entirely different experience because they were older and we did different things. The girls went parasailing and Ben and I went scuba diving. That Ben has always been a lot better than me at diving. He is a natural. Calm and cool on the dive and he was the best dive buddy ever. He watched after me and we saw sharks and barracuda together. It was a mother and son bonding event.

One day on Cozumel we rented a van and a local driver to take us slowly around the entire island. We stopped at beaches and the Mayan ruins and the shops and local restaurants. We saw IMG_3543sights and tried to enjoy the local food, culture and the people, in the warm Mexican sunshine. We had good times together and filled each day with activities, and then at the end of each busy day, when we were all tired from too much sun and fun, we had great food together while listening to the live music and shows provided by the resort.

I am so thankful we took the time to do these adventures together. We will always have those memories. Once the kids started college and worked on creating their own lives, making those family memories was a lot harder. We took the time away from our jobs and the kid’s busy sports, band and school schedules to make family time that they will remember forever. We notMex04er only had a great time, but the kids learned to interact with and respect people from other countries and cultures, and they learned to be brave in the big blue ocean and in trying new and exciting and sometimes scary things, like snorkeling in caves. They learned how to go through customs and navigate through airports together. They ate unfamiliar food and learned to love it. They swam with dolphins and they laughed and played together in the warm sunshine. There is nothing more important than family and family adventures. In hindsight, we had a really good time together as a family, but our kids also learned life lessons and now have fond memories of our time together. It made us all closer and stronger. Time is irreplaceable. Use it well.

Sister Love

IMG_3436I come from a family of five children raised in the 1960’s and 70’s. I am in the exact middle of
the five, with an older sister and brother and two younger brothers. My
only sister, Kathy is the oldest in the family and we are three years apart. We are alike in as many ways as we are different, but we are sisters and that means something, including that we were each other’s first girlfriends and we learned about life, fashion, relationships, boys, and dreams from each other and we always had a closeness that only sisters would understand.

We were each other’s first sleep over buddies as we shared a room while growing up, and we shared clothes and learned how to get along and how to treat others. We played Barbies, house, dress up and we did each other’s hair. We almost always got along, other than one fight that IMG_1218involved kicking each others bikes and some hair pulling. We learned very early from each other, that we did not like fighting and of course we were given a penalty by our mother of picking all of the strawberries in the strawberry patch for our misbehavior, which was a hateful job. My mother was very clever, because having to do the hateful job together for hours, brought us closer together. By the end, we were laughing and throwing strawberries at each other, all in good fun and so we would have less to clean.

As we got into high school and college, we shared clothes and I visited her on campus, and we even went on a double date. We confided in one another and we sought advice on everything from our college plans, to guys and dating. She would come home on weekends from her college and we knew some of the local guys. Don’t tell our mother, but a common activity was IMG_3430parking in the gravel pits. I went with a date one time when Kathy was home. We had been at the bars, her with her friends and me with mine and we each knew the other was out. It was common after the bars closed to continue the party at the gravel pits. It was more of a party place than a place to be alone with a date. When we would get to the gravel pits there were other cars and it became a social event talking with others. My date pulled up to another car to talk to his buddy before we joined the bonfire going on at the pits. I leaned over to see who his buddy was with and it was Kathy. We both laughed and did not say a word, of course until we got home and then we had a good laugh. True story, so don’t deny it Kathy!!

Kathy married a really nice guy and moved to Ortonville, and I moved to the cities after college.
Even though it was hard and even though sometimes we went weeks without contact, we managed even when we were busy raising kids and building our careers to stay IMG_0515close. We called each other when we needed to, but even when we did not have contact for periods of time, we knew the other was there for us anytime we needed a confidant or just someone to listen. We still relied upon each other for that sisterly advice and to gain support or an honest opinion.

After being a nurse for a few years, I decided to take the LSAT and go to law school, and Kathy was the first person in my family that I told. I told her first to have a respected opinion before I told my parents. I think I needed reassurance that I was not crazy to pursue this career especially since I was entering law school, having never even met an attorney. It was a way to test to see if she thought the idea was crazy. She did not know it at the time, but my career and future may have depended in part on her reaction. I respected her opinion and wanted some input from someone who knew me the best of anyone in the world.140220 859 Had she said anything to make me think I was out of my mind to think I wanted to go to law
school, I may have rethought the idea. In true sister fashion, she was one hundred percent supportive. She started with “If that is what you want, you go for it.” And she was supportive in telling me she believed in my ability to handle the challenge. She always knew what to say and she knew how to be supportive.

As we have aged, we have grown even closer. We have called each other with worries about our kids or now with our parents, and we provide each other that listening ear and advice. We are IMG_0519now both empty nesters, and Kathy has an early retirement as a teacher. This gives her more time to come visit and plan for our sister fun. In the last few years we have become concert buddies, going to Billy Joel, the Eagles, Madonna and Fleetwood Mac. She usually buys the tickets online, as she is good at watching and buying at just the right time to get the good seats, and then comes to my house to stay and we get dressed up and make an event of it. It is so much fun, we take selfies and post on Facebook, and we dance and clap to music that was popular when we were in college. We reminisce about our college days and we catch up on our lives and our kid’s lives.

We have also gotten together at the lake house for a little sister bonding time. We went paddle boarding, kayaking and biking. It is so nice having a sister who enjoys the same things I enjoy, and it is different being with a sister than a friend. Friends are great, but a sister is special. A sister will support and encourage you even if your dreams may be far fetched, but a sister will also be brutally honest if that dress makes you look like a grandma, in a bad way.IMG_2312

Kathy has worked really hard to be in top physical shape.   She is an inspiration with her competitive running and daily bike rides. I need to emulate that more, as I sit behind a desk too much of the time. I had a great bike ride with her a few weeks ago. I had always poked fun at bike riders who wear lycra. I do trail rides and while I can ride easily for 25 miles and have done 50 miles many times, I had taken pride in the fact that I do not wear lycra.

On this particular ride with Kathy, she broke out the riding shorts with the gel padded seat and put them on for our anticipated 25 mile ride. I laughed, because that is what sisters do and she told me in that big sister voice that IMG_2814she brought a pair for me to try. I said I was not wearing those, because they make my butt look big. She said, in a very matter of fact way, “What do you care, you’re not for sale anyway.” (Referring to the fact that I am married and have been for almost 30 years). A good point and one I had not really thought about. “Besides…” she said, “who sees you on the bike trail anyway?” Another very good point. She was always the smarter of the two of us. She was so right, but I have to say I was hesitant at the utility of the shorts in relationship to the butt magnitude.  Well it only took a few miles to appreciate what I have been missing for years. The bike shorts were awesome and it not only made the ride better and smoother, but I could go a lot more miles without discomfort. I admitted to her that she was once again right, and then in IMG_2780true sisterly fashion, she had not only convinced me that the shorts were awesome, she took that extra step to buy me some on her way back home through St. Cloud and mail them to me. That is a sister!!

I have always been close to my family. I have wonderful brothers and have great parents. I am lucky to have close friends and to have stayed close to many of my cousins and extended family, but a bond with your sister is like no other. I have only one sister and maybe that affects my perspective, but a sister is unique. The bond between sisters is not like any other. We do not need to talk to each other every day or even every week, but we know the other is always there and would drop everything we are doing if the other needed help. We share experiences together and enjoy each other’s company. We confide in each other and look to the other for advice, comfort and sometimes just to listen. I have been lucky to have a sister in my life and to share the sister love!

 

Liking Biking

I have liked biking since the 1960’s when my parents brought home my first “big” bike. It was a Schwinn of course, blue and white. I rode it so much, I wore out the seat after a couple of years and we replaced it with a yellow sparkling banana seat, which were all the rage back then. I wishIMG_2678 I still had that bike and that seat. They were cool. Our bikes were our independence before we could drive. We rode about a half mile into town to the little store to buy ice cream or we rode to get books at the book mobile. The book mobile was like a little traveling library that stopped in all of the small towns, to allow people to check out books in the summer. It was a great concept. It is still around; I saw one recently when driving up north of Duluth.

Since those early days on my Schwinn, I have never had a time where I did not have a bike. I have never had anything fancy, just trail or road bikes, and I have never worn Lycra to ride my bike. In college, I biked to and from work in the summers, and once we had our kids, they always had trikes and bigger bikes as they got older. I once rode 50 miles with my kids on the Paul Bunyan trail by Brainerd MN, while all of us were dressed like pirates. It was a fundraising event for the Bar Association. They had prizes for the fastest time, largest group, and one prize for the best costumes. I told my kids ahead of time that we will never be fastest because there are a lot of Attorneys who wear lycra while riding bikes that cost them $3000, but I said they should come up with costumes, because that is an area where we can excel. The kids came up with the pirate costume idea and we won the prize! I think we were the last team to come in.

Bike Pirates

Bike Pirates

My kids were complaining about their legs and their bikes as we passed the miles away. Some had those three quarter size bikes as they were still pretty young and I had a nice trail bike. So when they would whine about their legs hurting or being tired, I would trade bikes with them. I should get an award for driving most of those 50 miles on a three quarter size kid’s bikes with poor gearing.   My paralegal, Carol, who I have worked with for over 25 years and who is a good sport for sure, came with us because Joe had to work. She also dressed like a pirate and we did have some fun!

We started biking the Minnesota and Wisconsin “rails to trails” (railroads turned into bike trails) when our kids were really young. My husband pulled a cart behind his bike and I had a carrier on mine. He sometimes pulled two kids and a small cooler in the cart at the same time and for a IMG_2683few of those years he had thighs like Thor. He also sometimes had to drive the trail with us and then drive the entire way back on the trail to go get the Yukon while we waited.

As the kids grew, we could do more miles and more trails. Those rails to trails were perfect for the kids, because they are all really flat. We could carry a small cooler with sandwiches and snacks on the cart and if the smallest kid got tired, we would duct tape their little bike to the cart and let them ride for a while. The kids would sometimes fall asleep in the cart and other times I could hear them singing to entertain themselves. They seemed to sing the Sponge Bob Square pants song a lot when biking. When our youngest Jenny was old enough to ride a tag-a-long behind Joe, we got rid of the cart and I had packs on my bike for the lunch or snacks. She and Joe could really move and make time when she was on that tag-a-long. They were always Bike_Mackinawahead of the rest of us and got to our destination the fastest.

We biked around Mackinaw Island with the two younger kids in the cart behind Joe, while Sara and I rode a bicycle built for two. She and I chatted the whole way around. It was so nice to spend the day together on a bike. She always enjoyed biking and was always upbeat and helpful as a little girl. That was a fun family vacation and we had perfect weather for it. Another year we rented bikes and drove around Yosemite National Park while on vacation in California. We did a lot of the trails in Minnesota and Wisconsin over the years. I always had a rule that they could not take me to a buffet on Mother’s day until I was eighty years old.   They had to take me on an adventure, so they took me biking different interesting trails that we had never tried before.

Yosemite

Yosemite

We sometimes had to problem solve. We biked in one area of Western Minnesota and one of my daughters who shall remain nameless ( Sara) complained that her underwear was bothering her and riding up. I suggested she go “Cowboy” as we called it in our house, so on our next rest stop she went cowboy (no underwear) for the rest of the ride and I heard no more complaining. Problem solved. We once ran out of water and had to stop at a gas station and we had to sometimes use an outhouse on some trails. We had one outhouse in Southern Minnesota that had two holes side by side. Jenny asked why they would do that and so I said it was so two of us could go at the same time and chit chat while on the pot. She was quite young at the time and she wanted to try that so we did. Girl talk and chit chat while peeing. It was nice.

One of our favorite trails was the Lanesboro trail in Southeastern Minnesota. We still enjoy it. It is flat as can be and runs through some of the most picturesque landscapes in Minnesota. There is a little town every 6 or 7 miles to stop and look around or rest, and it winds along small rivers and past sandstone cliffs. There are a lot of fun places to stay in Lanesboro including an apartment above an art gallery on Main Street and an old mill made into a hotel, with themed rooms. There are a lot of cool options for dinner too, which is nice after a day of biking. It is a romantic town set in a valley and is good for couples as well as family friendly. It is fun anytime, but it is particularly beautiful in the fall. The cooler temps are also a plus when biking.Bike_Lanesboro03

We did the Lanesboro trail with my good friend from Law school and her family when our kids were all tweens. Her daughter Courtney was on a tag along behind her Mom and my Jenny was behind Joe on the tag along. The girls had Walkie Talkies (before cell phones for kids) and Courtney fell off the tag along trying to use the walkie talkie while driving. A first good lesson in driving and using phones, but luckily no damage was done, as we were just getting started and no one was driving very fast yet.

Another favorite was the Elroy-Sparta State trail in Wisconsin. It is 32 miles long and the best part of this trail is that it is an old railway bed (like the other rails to trails), but this one has three preserved train tunnels that you drive through with your bike. One is three quarter’s of a mile long and the other two are about a half mile long. As you drive along the trail through the woods, you can feel the air becoming cooler and damp as you get closer to the tunnels. You can also smell the tunnels as you approach. It is really more like a cave then a tunnel. There is water dripping inside and it is pitch dark; you can only see the small ligBike_Lanesboro02ht at the end of the tunnel in the distance. The dark, cool, moist tunnels are a real treat when biking in the hot summer. It is like stepping into air conditioning. Most people walk their bikes through the tunnels holding flashlights. It would be difficult to make it through the tunnel without those flash lights. The first time through we actually taped flashlights to the kids’ bikes which they really liked. The dark tunnels added to the adventure and the uniqueness of this trail. Just writing about it again makes me want to go back and do it again. It will never be as exciting as that first time, when the kids were young and so in awe of the tunnels. It was exciting for us too.

One year, we did this same ride with my brother, and my parents drove what we referred to as our chase vehicle. They dropped us off at the beginning and then they met us in a predetermined towIMG_2680n for lunch. The kids were all late tween ages or early teens. After lunch my mom looked up at the sky and said “you guys may want to load the bikes back up, because it looked like it may storm.” Well we were not about to have driven all the way to Wisconsin and not ride the entire trail. Besides, we thought the rain may never come. So off we went onto the trail. Within the hour, the clouds were opening up on us raining cats and dogs, but worst of all the thunder and lighting was spectacular. The thunder seemed louder than normal, as it bounced off the sandstone cliffs along the trail and it sounded like the lightening was right above our heads. We continued on as we had no choice. The chase vehicle could not get anywhere near us in the country side, so we continued and met up with them at the end, as planned. My mom had that, “I told you so” look on her face and a big smile for us as we looked like drowned rats. We were soaked and we had mud going up our backs, because this trail is not paved. It is called a crushed rock trail and normally on a dry day, it feels almost paved, because of the way it is made, IMG_2682but on this rainy day it blew up yellow mud onto all of our backs and we were almost too dirty to enter the vehicle.

I am always glad we did not quit just because the rain was coming. That would not have been memorable or a good story at all. Instead we raged against the rain to make sure we finished the entire trail. We have never laughed so hard and had a better experience. We were totally soaked and while on the trail, we must have repeated that line from the movie Cady Shack a hundred times—“I don’t think the heavy stuff will come down for a while.” The kids still talk about us getting rained on and our adventure on the Elroy trail, and I think that although we did not know it at the time, it was a good lesson for the kids in not quitting. It was also a lesson in raging against the rain and in finishing what you start. None of those things were said, but as they say, actions speak louder than words. There would be no story at all had we quit. We would have been back at the hotel sooner and sitting in the pool. Instead we came to the hotel laughing and having to clean up after an ordeal. A fun ordeal, but none the less an ordeal. We had finished all 32 miles despite the rain and the lightening and we were stronger for it.

We have been back on that trail with that same brother and his wife and we actually camped for the weekend at a campground on the trail called the Tunnel campground. Our rain and lightening story got told often that weekend and my kids still tell it.

NIMG_2681ow that we are empty nesters we have gone biking around Itasca State park with friends and stayed at a local Bed and Breakfast during the peak of the fall colors. That is a gorgeous ride. I would load my bike carrier with sandwiches and frozen water bottles (to keep them cool) and I would throw in a beer or two for our rest stop. When we biked around the entire park we would stop at Douglas lodge for real ice cream malts made by hand. It was something to look forward to. We did that Itasca trail with the kids and the cart when they were young as well. That one was a thigh killer, as it is anything but flat.

Our kids still like biking and so do we. I just recently had a hitch installed on my daughter Jenny’s Jeep, so she can carry her bike. She had requested it because she and her friend love biking, but need a way to carry them to the trails. As she was talking about needing the hitch for the bike rack, I could not help but be brought back in time with her riding in that cart behind Joe’s bike, and then later behind him on the tag-a-long. Even though she is now 20 years old and almost finished with college, I can see it clear as day, as if it were yesterday. It has been said often, but those years with the kids fly by. Make memories and teach fun. You will never regret the adventures you did together.

Running with the Girls

IMG00519-20120715-1055A number of years ago, I decided it would be fun to participate in some of the 5K runs that were becoming so popular. Many were being used as a way to raise funds for charitable organizations and some to get more people active and into running. It seems like the more fun they could add to the experience, the more likely they were to get a lot of runners.

Making the 5K run’s fun worked. It attracted a lot of us and they still do. I have done a number of Color runs, where you show up for the 5K in all white and by the end you look like a rainbow. The course has IMG00514-20120715-1011various color stations that you run through. As you run through the color station, a powdery shower of yellow, purple, green or blue is sprayed at you by the volunteers, creating a multitude of colors on your clothes and also covering your hair by the end. The colors are safe or so they say. Good thing too because you feel like you are breathing them during the run through the color stations, and after the color run you are sneezing colors and wiping colors out of every part of your body—yes every part, even those parts.IMG00534-20120715-1105

These runs were a good way to connect to other women including family. My daughter Sara got me involved in the Color runs, and she invited her friend Megan and my sister Kathy and I, to a run at night, called the Glow run. The Glow run was really fun because it was at night and we had to make matching shirts with glow in the dark paint, and we wore glow in the dark jewelry and glasses. Getting ready for this run was half the fun.

It was held at Valley Fair, so the amusement park atmosphere fit the glow run craziness. IMG_2315During the run we had to be extra careful not to step in a hole or trip in the dark, which added to the fun, but also made it the slowest run ever. We got through the run without any injuries and had a great time. There were hundreds of runners and they had all kinds of colorful moving lights throughout the trail that added to the nighttime mystique.

IMG_2312I also invited my sister Kathy, and Sara and Megan to a charity run called Women Run the Cities. It was sponsored by a great organization I belong to called MNCREW, and the beneficiary of Women Run the cities was a charity for at risk young girls. The charity was started by Ann Bancroft, the Arctic and Antarctic explorer and author. Ann has been one of those amazing women that has succeeded in her own quests to explore and educate, and has worked so hard to make opportunities for other women and girls. We did this run many times and we did get to meet her and it was not disappointing. She was as gracious, energetic and down to earth as she seemed when we had seen her speak on prior occasions and on TV.IMG_2316

My daughter Sara, Megan and I signed up for one of the most fun runs in all the Twin Cities called the Anoka Halloween fun run. This is a 5K that you run in a Halloween costume. We learned quickly to pick your costume carefully. Anoka is known as the Halloween Capital of the world, and those Anoka residents take their Halloween very seriously. The costumes people were running in were amazing. One group of people were actually pushing a large, fifteen foot homemade Paul Bunyan and Babe the blue Ox. It took a IMG_2310group of eight people in lumberjack shirts to pull that off and rightly so, they won the costume contest. Sara and I dressed like luffas and Megan dressed like the Hamburgler, which were all fairly easy to run in.

Luckily no one takes their running times very seriously at these runs. Serious runners and competitive people probably do not spend a lot of time on these fun runs. Many of us are talking the whole time, laughing and tripping over our own feet. What I have discovered is that these runs are more than a good time with the girls, my friends, daughter and sister. It is a bonding experience that starts with IMG_2311the calls and texts to each other, convincing each other to join the run and getting the group together. The next bonding experience is getting ready for the run, whether that is the fun of shopping to find a costume to be able to run in or all white clothes or glow in the dark items to wear at night. The texts and calls fly back and forth and the bonding continues. My daughter Sara has been a real instigator in finding some of these fun experiences, and my sister, who is normally a competitive runner and one with impressive times for her normal 5K’s, has been such a good sport in joining us for these fun runs, even though she has to drive from the South Dakota border to get here.

The runs provide some exercise, but they 140220 732are so much more. They provide a fun, noncompetitive activity that is not the cliché shopping. Running with the girls helps us appreciate the fun things in life, helps drop away our little worries of the day, puts the stress of work or home on hold and provides a connection with some of the best women in our lives. A run that is really no run at all, but provides an outlet to share a laugh and a hug and a little sweat, and rub off some love and sometimes color on each other. Run with your girls and appreciate the sometimes very simple pleasures in life. Housework, homework and work obligations can wait. Run with the girls!

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