Be Happy In All That You Have

Thanksgiving has been a large family get together with grandparents and relatives for as long as I can remember. We ate real pumpkin pie, homemade dressing that melted in your mouth, and the turkeys that were roasted barely fit in the oven. When I was young we gathered at my grandparent’s farm, and eventually my parent’s farm, and eventually, as we grew into family lifeIMG_4231 (1) ourselves, my brothers and sisters and I took turns having the Thanksgiving dinners at our house.

I have memories of the Macy’s day parade on the TV in the background, and the adults having cocktails and wine hanging around the kitchen. We kids were playing games or with toys, and many times we played together outside. As we had our own kids the dynamics changed from us playing with cousins, to my siblings and I doing the cooking and drinking wine before we sat down to eat. Not everyone could make it every year, as there were sometimes obligations with in-laws, but we celebrated with whoever was available. The food was always amazing, and catching up with everyone and being together was really nice. It got everyone in the holiday mood and started the holiday fun.

Christmas is different. It has the religious aspects, and the Santa and gift giving fun, but Thanksgiving is special. There is no need to shop for presents and the holiday stress. It is a simple dinner with relatives and friends, but more importantly a day set aside to count our DSCN0901 (1)blessings and be thankful for what we have. It is not a time to think about our future, our goals or especially to worry about what we don’t have. We just need to take stock of what we do have and be thankful for all of those things. Remember those who face fierce battles with cancer, the loss of loved ones, loneliness and poverty. Help where you can.

To just celebrate Thanksgiving and have the dinner and the wine without the reflection is to short change yourself. I don’t mean everyone needs to be that family that has to go around the table and share out loud what they are thankful for. That is fine, but I suspect everyone feels so put on the spot or awkward that it is a meaningless exercise anyway. Many others look more on Thanksgiving to count their blessings in a more religious way. I believe that it does not matter if you are religious or not, or whether you like the historical aspect of Thanksgiving or look at Thanksgiving as a harvest celebration, that it would be a real missed opportunity not to take advantage of the meaning of this holiday and take stock in all you have.IMG_4246

I am a list maker and I am always setting goals and I have plans for the year, and a five year and ten year plan. All of those things are a little embarrassing to put in writing, but I have found that if I want to accomplish something I have to have a plan.   But as we focus on plans, we are always looking forward. That is a good thing, but it should be balanced with reflecting on what we have and being thankful and happy in all that we have. I start by being Thankful for the best kids a mom could ask for. They are all fun, happy and hard working. They have goals and I have to say that the three of them are the most fun crowd to be with on any holiday. I am Thankful for another fun year (due to good planning) and the IMG_4240ability to travel and the good jobs we have and have retained. We have a nice house on a lake and Joe and I have a lot of fun together. It does not matter if we are traveling together or taking wallpaper off or doing home projects; we have a good time together and that is important after almost thirty years of marriage.

I have learned after 57 years of life that no matter what you have, there are people who will always have more than you and there are many more who have less than you. Comparing yourself to others is a waste of time and steals your own happiness. There is always a negative or a positive way to look at everything, whether it is your past, your present or your future. If you choose to look at the negative, you rob yourself of your happiness.

On Thanksgiving take time to focus and reflect on the positive and to take note of all of the things you are or should be Thankful for. It does not matter how old you are or what you have, you have enough and you are enough. Love your family, love yourself, love your life and be positive in all that you do. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect. Take the opportunity and bask in the glow of all that you do have!! Happy Thanksgiving!




The Joy of Seizing Rare Opportunities

I have found that opportunities sometimes present themselves in the blink of an eye, and we are either smart enough to accept them or we let them go and they are gone forever. I had such an event this past summer. My son is a senior in college studying Geology at Winona. I was quite busy at work, but he called and said he wanted to go to the Duluth area and see some rock IMG_4003formations and he would be doing some hiking on the Superior hiking trail.

Now my son probably would have loved his time alone or would have liked to bring a friend, but he knows how much I love the Superior hiking trail and the Duluth area, so he was kind enough to think of me and offer to take me along. He also knows that if possible, I never turn down an opportunity for an adventure or a road trip. That is way more fun than working. I have never studied geology, but it is one of those fun subjects everyone likes to hear about and who has not collected rocks at one time or another. I have always loved rocks and now as the mother of a geologist, I have rocks everywhere at our house and in the garage and in the gardens. I love them and so jumped at a chance to go along.

IMG_2596We have a lot of history with Duluth. It is one of our family’s favorite places. We took the kids there every year when they were young. I have a Minnesota bar convention in Duluth every second year and the kids would get to go along, and in the other years we made sure we at least went for a long weekend. The Bar conventions had a multitude of family fun planned, while we were busy at the convention meetings. One year the kids rode a Pizza train from Duluth to Two Harbors that had music and magic acts and activities for the kids during the ride. This kept them busy with Dad while the Bar convention had a cocktail party for the members. The kids still remember it and I actually think one of them still has the conductor hat she got on that train ride over ten years ago.

IMG_2407I went to college in Duluth too and so it has strong memories for me, but more importantly it is one of the most beautiful areas of Minnesota. It has hiking, biking, good restaurants, beautiful waterfalls and scenery, and nice hotels right on the Lake in Canal Park. I had worked my way
through college cooking at Grandma’s Saloon and Deli in Canal Park and I was actually fortunate enough to live on Park Point across the lift bridge from Grandma’s in Duluth, when I was a Junior and Senior in college. Three of us girls working at Grandma’s rented the house on the lake side from the Manager of Grandma’s. It was a beautiful place. I fell asleep to the sounds of Lake Superior waves hitting the shores and the sound of the bridge and the large loaded ore boats communicating by sound as they went through the lift bridge on their trek across Lake Superior.

IMG_2526When Ben was nice enough to call to see if I could go along to Duluth, I could have easily said I just could not make it. Making changes in my schedule and rearranging my calendar is not impossible, but it takes some work on my part. Thank goodness I seized the moment. Without hesitation I said yes and asked and firmed up the days we were going. I made the changes to my schedule and I made us reservations at the Inn on Lake Superior, my favorite hotel. It has nice rooms and pools, but they are also right on the Lake and have beautiful views. You can walk right out the back door of the hotel onto their back patio and you are on the walking trail on the shore of Lake Superior. At night they have a fire pit going and they bring large trays of the makings for smores. You can walk in the dark along the lake and actually walk out onto the pier to the lighthouse and look back at the Duluth lights glimmering against the dark backdrop of hills.  It is beautiful!IMG_2607

We had three days and a packed schedule for our adventure, starting the first afternoon with a hike to the end of Park Point. We had beautiful weather and hiked the entire way until we could see Wisconsin. It is a lovely trail that starts at the airport at the end of the road on the Point and goes through old growth pine forests and along the beach. We of course had dinner at Grandma’s and Ben had to again hear my stories of days gone by, when I worked there and the fun we had. We went to Ely and went down into the old mine and the entire way there and back Ben stopped and pointed out interesting rock formations and areas he needed to see, or ones he had seen on past field studies and wanted to show me. It is amazing to think that I have driven that North Shore so many times over the years IMG_2440and he could stop and point out rock formations and even an old fault line that I had never noticed before.   It is so interesting when your kids take up such a fun area of study and you as a parent learn something new.

The Soudan mine, now a State Park open to tours, was particularly interesting. We had been there when our kids were very young, but Ben was so young he could barely remember it. When we first got our hardhats to go into the small, loud elevator to descend over a mile into the earth, a light went off for him. He said he did remember the hard hats and the elevator ride. He was fascinated with the mine tour now that he has so much knowledge about the geology of it all. We both had a wonderful time and I learned a lot.

On our last day we hiked a small portion of the Superior hiking trail. This is a gem of our state. It winds through heavy forests, up and down rocky ledges and along waterfalls and streams. It has IMG_2573beautiful bridges and is well maintained, safe and well mapped. We ran into other hikers occasionally, but we felt completely immersed in nature. Being experienced in such things, we had plenty of water and some Gatorade and snacks along. We took our time and we took a few rest stops. It was just he and I, and we had a nice chance to talk about everything from the family, our past adventures, plans for future adventures to some of his plans for after college. It was so great to hear the birds and the water flowing and feel the moist, cool air of the thick forest, and to just spend time together. It was warm on the trail and after more than 4 hours of hiking, we were really sweaty and hot. We stopped at the next State Park rest area and completely changed clothes before finding another good local restaurant for a meal together.

IMG_2463Once those kids leave for college they need to forge their own life and they are busy with that, and that is a good thing, but it is so nice when we can take an opportunity like this between their busy life and ours, to be together even if just a few days. Even though I was tired after our trek in the woods, I felt refreshed and more alive than I had in weeks. Nature does that to a person, but more importantly sharing time in nature with those we love is life renewing.

Had I not taken that spur of the moment opportunity to go with Ben when he called and not juggled my calendar around to spend time with him on the North Shore, I would have lost the opportunity for a great hike and education in the geology of Northern Minnesota, but more importantly I would have forever lost that moment of time with him. There is sheer joy in seizing those rare opportunities. They present themselves in a moment and if we do not seize the moment, the moment is gone forever. Fun living is the seizing of those rare opportunities that present themselves.

Everyone Needs an Adventure Buddy

IMG_2258My husband Joe and I just got back from our second trip to Voyageurs National Park by Lake Kabetogama on the Minnesota-Canadian border. We load our big Lund fishing boat, wear our adventure pants, head up north to a resort called Moosehorn, and rent a cabin for a week offishing Walleye.   This is our second time to the resort because the owners, Christy and Jerry work really hard to make sure you catch fish and have a great time. We caught some really nice Walleyes, and more importantly, we were able to spend a really nice week together. I caught the biggest Walleye. More on that later.


You can do these types of things whenever you want when you are empty nesters. Joe and I have been on some very fun adventures together since our nest became empty. You can read more about by browsing the Practice Fun Living and Empty Nest Shenanigans pages on this IMG_1866site. We loved raising our kids, but the reality is that those years are about them, as it should be. We spent a lot of time in those years, through all of the different phases from diapers and then school, and all of the activities such as soccer, hockey, dance, plays, band and our wonderful family vacations. It was a hectic time, and with all of the kid activities, we sometimes had to work really hard to stay connected as a couple. We did stay connected; we now have been married for almost 30 years, and we can once again appreciate each other’s company as we are back to having things more about us and what we want to do.

I look back on those family years and even though some of them are a blur, one thing is for sure. I married a really nice guy who took care of us all and would do anything for his family. We recently sold our family home in Blaine, and I was talking to a friend and I told her that IMG_1936none of the light bulbs in that house had ever burned out in 25 years. At first she looked confused and then it dawned on her that of course they had burned out, I just did not have to change them because Joe quietly always replaced them. I don’t even ever remember having to ask him to replace any. He just took care of them. I also had my last car for ten years and during that time it never once ran out of washer fluid. Another thing that he just made sure was always done.

Over the years he has had to do a lot of things for his family. I have come to the conclusion that it is not big spectacular things, but the small things that make a good dad and husband. He has not had to defend his family against an intruder or wrestle a bear or cougar in a National Park so the kids and I would not be mauled, although that would be a good story, butIMG_2178 over the years he has had to take care of all of their gadgets that break, whether phones or cars, and schedule and keep track of oil changes on sometimes as many as five different vehicles. He has paid a few parking tickets for our college students—luckily no one has ever done anything serious, and when they were in High School he had to help them with their math and calculus, since he has a PhD and actually easily understood that complicated homework.

Over the years Joe fixed many a broken door, screen, window, dresser drawers and toys. He was there for them when they needed him and he has always been a low maintenance guy. Joe loves watching his Twins baseball and he is so easy going that he seldom complains. As our kids say, he can live off of a handful of peanuts and is happy with that. He mows the lawn, pays the bills, and would drive his family thousands of miles on family vacations. He had to put up with all of the pets our kids wanted over the years and had a real tolerance for all of the noise in our house when the kids were teens and had their friends over for movies, music and games. Those teens ate everything in the house like locusts, and were IMG_2230so loud you needed ear plugs sometimes, but it had to get really bad before he complained.

We did a lot of fun things with those kids over the years, and we had a lot of fun together. The guy has skills other than mowing lawns and fixing broken stuff in the house. When we took a driving vacation around Europe for our 25th anniversary he bossed it up on the roads, including keeping up with the Germans on the Autobahn, and he caught on quickly to driving without obeying the traffic signs and weaving around the hundreds of motorcycles on the streets of Rome. I had my hands over my eyes more than once. Yes, we got a couple of tickets in Europe for driving down the wrong way in Amsterdam and in Italy, but that was my fault as the navigator and it was well worth it, for the great sites that we saw on that vacation. There was not a scratch on the car and after being in Europe for about two weeks. I knew he had this driving thing down like a local when we went to a German restaurant for pork hock night and he parked our car with two wheels onto the sidewalk, just like the locals.IMG_1917

It is good to have an adventure buddy with balls who is not afraid to try something new, and a guy with some skills who knows how to do everything from fix the computer to catch fish. We have zip lined, snorkeled, and we have sat our butts in the Natural hot springs of the blue lagoon in Iceland. We have visited the cliffs on the Mediterranean at the Cinque Terre in Italy, stayed on a farm in the Alps by Innsbruck Austria, and a castle on the Mosel River in Germany. We have hiked and fished in Hawaii, Alaska and Costa Rica and we hope to have many adventures ahead.

It is good to have the right adventure buddy. We encourage and reassure each other and more importantly we have fun together. If you cannot have fun together, a marriage will not last for 30 years. I have found that you have to find common interests, and the key is that you enjoy being with the other person.

IMG_1880We enjoy many things and we can still have fun at things we have been doing for years. We work together on the planning and preparations for our adventures and we have a list of future adventures that we already know we want to try. Last week at Kabetogama, as usual with our fishing adventures, there is a lot of trash talking about who will catch the biggest fish and the first fish. I make him take pictures of every fish I catch, no matter how embarrassingly small it is. I did catch the biggest fish this year and have been rubbing it in since we are back, but he reminds me that he caught the first fish. Most importantly, we enjoy our time together. We go with the flow; we enjoy not only the adventure, but the planning, preparations and getting there and back, and talking about it afterward even when it is trash talking about who caught the biggest fish.IMG_1861

Picking the right adventure buddy for both your vacation adventures as well as your own life adventure is crucial to enjoying your time on this earth. Who would have thought, looking from afar that the quiet guy who gets little recognition when he changes the washer fluid on the cars and changes light bulbs in the house, the guy who is mowing the lawn and paying the bills, going unappreciated and almost unnoticed most of the time, would be the best husband and dad a family could ask for. The kids and I have appreciated the things Joe has done for us, even though we have not expressed it as often as we should.

Appreciate your adventure buddy, your quiet guy who has done his duty for his kids and wife; the guy who asks for little in return, but shows up for everything from changing dirty diapers to hauling the kids stuff to college. It has been a fun ride and we have many more adventures ahead. Life can be fun with the right Adventure Buddy!


Adventure is in the Genes

I came to the conclusion that we all get our spirit of adventure in an honest way.  My parents, who are now in their eighties and have been married for over 60 years, were putting on th34aeir adventure pants long before REI invented them.  They were married in their early twenties and started off their life together with a three week driving adventure to Yellowstone, the Canadian Rockies, and Colorado.  They made a big loop, taking their time and traveling in a mint green Buick. They have awesome pictures to remember the event and I have attached some of them.

They looked so Fifties, with my Mom’s rolled up jeans and Dad looked like James Dean.  Extremely handsome and more importantly, they were both fun and adventurous. My Mom 37balways said that they each gained 20 lbs (exaggeration also runs in the family) from eating so many potato chips and malts while on vacation.

They have never shied away from adventure and in fact embraced the unknown and unexpected when traveling.  Mom and Dad have been to every state and most of them more than once over the years.  They have been to China, Japan and rented an RV and took a driving trip around Australia.  They took a cruise through the Panama Canal and drove the road to Hana in Hawaii.  Even though they were farmers from Pierz, their world was very large.  They are still active getting together with friends and going fishing and traveling with their RV.  They just don’t go as far anymore.38a

Their lust to see the world goes way back. In 1947, Dad and his only brother and parents traveled out West through the mountains in a 1942 Plymouth.  He did most of the driving, his brother read the maps and did the navigation, and his parents sat in the back seat – even though he was only 16 years old at the time and the mountain roads were gravel and narrow. You could not have paid me enough to sit in the back seat of a car while any of my 16 year olds had control of the car on Mountain roads. My grandparents had complete confidence in my dad and his abilities, and he lived up to their expectations.

35eHe bragged when we were young that he got his driver’s license from the Postmaster in town when he was 12.  The only test was the Postmaster asking him, if he could drive and he said “yes” and so he was given a license.

My grandparents also traveled a lot.  When I was growing up they took driving vacations every year and sometimes flew to their destinations. They went to Florida and brought us back a letter holder that had flamingos on it and sea shells.  My parents still have that letter holder. They also brought us a sea shell that they taught us to hold to our ear to hear the Ocean.  I still have that sea shell.

46aMy grandparents and parents gave us a gift. They showed us that travel is fun, that the world is a big and beautiful place and they taught us not to fear the unknown, but to embrace it.  They taught us to use our time on this earth wisely and to never waste an opportunity to enjoy our time off.  As simple as the lesson seems, so many struggle and worry about work more than it deserves.  The work will get done. We are not here to work our lives away. Time is your most valuable commodity. Take control of your time and seize the moment to enjoy your life!