Try Anything Once

Anyone who follows my writing and knows me well knows that I am more of an outdoor girl than an indoor girl, and I have never been known for my sophistication. I like to keep it real and simple, and I have no problem embracing and loving my farming roots. Even though I would rather be at an Eagles or Fleetwood Mac concert, I actually like a lot of different kinds of music.

When I was in college in Duluth at St. Scholastica, in the late 1970’s, we were required to take a class or community education item that had nothing to do with our major. It had to be approved, but the number and variety of choices were very great. The school really pushed us to have a well rounded education. It was a really good school. In my very first year of college, I selected season tickets to the Duluth Symphony Orchestra of all things. As I say, you need to try everything at least once and even at that age I knew it was more fun to get out of my comfort zone and try new things than to embrace the same old things.

I was in the nursing program and loved my science classes including the anatomy and physiology courses that came with the mandatory cadaver lab. I actually liked cadaver lab. I grew up on a farm, so life and death were a part of our existence, and being from a small Catholic community, everyone attended every wake and funeral that occurred. The wakes always involved open caskets with viewing of the body and the kids came along to the wakes from an early age.   I was not bothered by a dead human and found the study of human anatomy fascinating.

So when it came time to pick a class unrelated to my major out in the community, I chose the symphony, something that had nothing to do with science  or memorizing the parts of the body, and something we did not listen to on the farm. It was not expensive thanks to a relationship between the symphony and the college. Two other friends signed up with me and surprisingly we enjoyed it a lot more than we expected. We had talked beforehand and decided it may be quite boring, and as tired as we were from studying anatomy until all hours of the night, we would probably fall asleep. However, that was not a problem at all. We never fell asleep. We actually really looked forward to it after a while.
There was a monthly concert and I was excited for it. We dressed up and went to dinner before hand and it got to be a real event. It was so different than what I had done in the past. We were listening to Aerosmith and Bob Seger and we went to rock concerts. The symphony music was so much better than I thought it would be. I was really surprised how emotional the music felt. It could make you move in your chair or it could make you feel nervous or excited or be completely relaxed where your mind could wonder. It was surprising. I am glad the school required us to expand our education and interests; otherwise I never would have bought tickets to the Duluth Symphony on my own. I would have gotten too busy with the tasks for my classes and what must be accomplished; unless forced to do this required education I would not have had that wonderful experience.

080126 004It was more than 30 years ago, but the educational affects of trying new things still lingered. A couple of years ago I heard one of my law partners talking about his daughter who is an opera singer. She had the lead in the Romeo and Juliette opera at the Ordway in St. Paul. I was really excited about that. I had never been to the opera and my first reaction was that I don’t like opera. But I caught myself. How could I dismiss it so easily as something I don’t like, if I have never been to one, and this would be extra special because we kind of knew someone in it or at least we knew her mother and father, and we knew they were really nice people. We had heard about their daughter Elli, and how she lived in New York and she was a sought after opera star in Europe and the U.S. We had also seen pictures and she was a beautiful girl. I was definitely in.

I knew I could count on Joe because he is always a good sport about trying new things, but I wanted to make it a real event and why not pass on that Scholastica philosophy of trying new things? I asked my kids if they would go and I explained who Elli was and that we would have to dress up. They were all in. They had never been before, but they always took the opportunity to do something new as well.080126 017

I invited my parents too. I knew they would be up for something new, exciting and different. They were farmers from Buckman, but they were well traveled having been to Australia and all over Asia, and of course all over the U.S. This made it even more special because now there were three generations of us all dressed up and going to the opera, all of us for the first time. It was interesting because we had all been camping, traveling, boating and fishing together for years, but never the opera. Not all three generations. I was so proud of all of them, kids and parents alike, for being so adventurous and willing to try something new and so upbeat. I love this crowd. They are never a bunch of complainers or whiners, and they try to always be positive. My parents and my kids are all a lot alike. They are fun to be around, because they are all adventurous, fun and positive people.

080126 007We dressed up at my house so even the getting ready was an event. We went to dinner first and then the opera. Joe dropped us off at the door like dignitaries, and we went in to wait for him. The opera was surprisingly good. Beautiful costumes and great singing. Of course Elli was amazing and looked lovely and even though the opera was in Italian, you knew exactly what was going on. It was a cultural experience for everyone that again took us a little out of our comfort zone, but again reminded me and of course taught my kids that you should try everything at least once. Don’t assume or jump to the conclusion that you will not like something until you have experienced it.

We also learned that when you try new things, you will actually enjoy them if you are with the right people. Going with positive people is a key to enjoying new adventures and frankly the key080126 008 to a happy life. Some people look for the things that are negative or look for things to complain about. No one likes being around that, because it makes everyone feel bad. It takes practice and the right attitude to find the good things in life and enjoy life. To always find the good and positive things to say about anything and anyone. That is the attitude of my people—my parents and kids— and that is the attitude that makes new adventures fun! Practice positivity. It is never said better than in the old adage: if you cannot say anything nice don’t say anything at all. Surround yourself with positivity and you will be happy and you will be able to find something great and enjoyable in every new thing that you try.

Cool Change

Many people may not know this about me, but I sing in my car on the way to and from work, and back and forth to Court, and pretty much any time I am in the car. If my employees knew this, they would have made me a soothing playlist long ago, to set the mood on the way to work, before I hit the doors.   I should not admit this, but normally I am a pretty type A personality at work. It is just the type of work that I do, with lots of deadlines and demands. We are a very productive bunch. Being a litigation attorney is not a relaxing, stress-less job, so setting the mood with music would help.

I have always liked music. Back in the 1970’s I had one of those round plastic radios that IMG_0588you could carry around and also hang on your bike. I got it for Christmas and I still have it. The signal was so bad back when I listened to the greatest hits sent via the air waves from Little Falls to our farm in Buckman. Even though the signal was terrible and scratchy at best, I listened to it all of the time. Luckily the quality and choices for music has improved significantly. I can put whatever I want on my iPod and play it in the car and on our boat or wherever. I listen to some of those same songs that I first heard on my little red round Panasonic.

Even though I am from a very musical family, I was not born with that talent. My parents were good about giving us a variety of experiences and seeing what we liked, whether it was sports or music or theater.   My older sister Kathy was very talented on the piano and the guitar, and she had the coveted honor of being asked to play in church, so my parents maybe thought I had talent too. Kathy was very good and still sings in her own church choir and plays the piano.

I took three years of piano lessons when I was young, and I think after three years of piano taught by the Catholic school Nun, who played the organ in church, she politely broke it to my parents that maybe their money would be better spent elsewhere then on lessons for me. I was totally fine with that because, after all, I was such a tomboy that I did not want to stay in the house long enough to do any practicing. I would rather bottle feed a calf in the pasture or play with the dogs and cats than learn piano.   Despite my lack of talent, I loved to listen to music and I still do.

Sometimes I select the music by my mood and other times I select the music to change my mood. Now, I listen to everything from 1970’s music, to pop, rap and piano music by George Winston. No matter what I listen to, it does affect my mood. I have the theme from Miami Vice on my iPod and, I will admit that listening to it on the boat while we are driving fast brings me right back to that opening scene from the show. Those guys were so cool in their Hawaiian shirts, driving a super cool boat, super fast on the Miami shores with the wind in their hair. Also, who cannot listen to Phillip Phillips’ song Home and not be put in a calm and loving mood, and on the other hand NEVER listen to Led Zeppelin’s song called, Rock and Roll while driving. You will speed and you will get a ticket! I dare you to try.

Everyone knows what kind of mood Barry White songs put you in. (Insert sexy growling noise), but no matter what your favorite jam, songs are poetry and the lyrics and beat affect our soul.

When our kids were young and we went on multiple driving vacations we referred to the song Born to be Wild as the vacation song and played it often and loud. The kids loved it with the windows rolled down and singing that crazy song and it made everyone in the mood for an adventure. There are many times like that in my life that we developed a “theme song.” When wIMG_0500e went hiking in the deserts of Utah, our song was Hotel California by the Eagles. Of course it starts with “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair.”

Interestingly last year when Joe and I were in Costa Rica and decided to move forward with a sale of our family home and find a place on the lake now that we were empty nesters, we had the song by Little River Band called Cool Changes in our heads. We had lived in our family home and raised our kids for 25 IMG_0279years. As the song goes, “Now that my life is so prearranged, I know that it’s time for a cool change.” We love that song and it has been our theme song to make this exciting and yet terrifying change to a new home on the lake, just the two of us. We are aways from retirement yet but we have always loved the water and decided that there was no reason to wait. We couldlive on the lake and still work to retirement.

I played Cool Changes when I needed some bravery as we signed things to put our home up for sale and to buy our new one. I needed it while I emptied closets full of toys and childhood memories, and we all made decisions on what to move and what to store or donate. After all it is not easy leaving a place that has been your home for 25 years. Our home held so many happy family memories and good times.

We had three acres in the woods of Blaine on the edge of a large preserve, so while we technically lived in the city it felt like the woods. It was home for us in every sense of that warm and comforting word. By the time the day arrived where we moved our possessions out, we were so ready for our Cool Change that there were no tears. We know that while it was our home for so many IMG_0598years, we always know that home is where we are and where our kids and family come to relax, talk, play, laugh, consult, cry, rest, eat, drink and be LOVED.

Now that we are all moved in and settled in ourroutines, we love the lake life and each time Little River Band’s Cool Change comes on the playlist, I am grateful that we had the bravery to give something new a try. It is always easier to keep things the same, but it is good for the soul to change things up. We had a dream of living on the water and we made that happen. As the song says, We May Never Pass this Way Again. Chase your dreams.


Let Your Children Play with Matches

“Quality time” with our kids is overstated and overrated. Did anyone ever ask the kids how much time they want to spend with us? Who said that we as parents should play every game with our kids and take every nature walk with them? Now don’t get me wrong, we should spend time with our kids, but not all of their free time should be consumed by us. They need time on their own and time with their peers. Do you remember your parents hovering over your every move? I don’t and I wouldn’t have wanted them to.

I remember when I was young I’d be gone for hours and sometimes most of the day with neighbor kids or just my brothers and sister. We built forts and went exploring. Once we tried to build a raft and float it on the shallow creek that cut through our farm. We ran in and out occasionally to get tools or food, but no one’s parents ever interfered in what we were doing or even came to snoop. We really would have considered that an intrusion.

We knew they were there if we got into any trouble but they went about their business and we went about ours. We knew the big rules, such as no one could do anything to harm someone else or someone else’s property. We hung out with a group of neighbors and cousins with kids that varied in age. We were much better, back then, at being inclusive rather than exclusive. We never seemed to get into any real trouble. We occasionally got hurt, but nothing serious. We occasionally broke things, but nothing irreplaceable. We learned to make good decisions, to be self reliant and careful. It built our self esteem and prepared us for the bigger world.

Now it seems as if we don’t allow our kids enough time to explore the world without us. It occurred to me one day when my kids were planning a trek into the woods behind our house. They had water bottles, a flashlight (even though it was the middle of the day), some snacks and a bucket for nature finds. I said this looks good, what are we going to look for? They all looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language and in the silence I could read their faces. They didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but they clearly had not planned on inviting me. Inviting an adult took away the adventure and the uncertainty. It took away the excitement. I gracefully backed out and said, “oh, I forgot I have to fold the socks,” and they all smiled and said, “yeah, maybe next time,” and ran off. Kids sometimes just need other kids. How else will they learn independence and self reliance? They need room to make small mistakes before they are allowed the big decisions.

I heard on the news a while ago about a house burning down because of children playing with matches. The children seemed to be too old to be setting a house on fire by playing with matches. I got to thinking. I know that a preoccupation with fire can be a sign of abuse in children. I also know from growing up and from being on enough camp outs that fire is a fascinating thing for anyone. We all poke and dig at the campfire and try to cook things over it. We all like starting the fire. Kids are no different. However, if they have never been allowed to touch matches or lighters, the fascination becomes even more intense. Back on the farm we used to be able to burn our paper trash. We were responsible for this at a fairly young age. Our parents had taught us that fire was hot and then trusted us to be careful with the matches and burning the trash. I decided one day that I didn’t want my children to be 16 years old and not know how to respect fire or worse yet, be 10 years old and be so fascinated with it that they had to secretly try matches and maybe end up burning something down. One day I told my 9-year- old son and 12-year-old daughter to get the box of matches and start a fire in our fire pit and burn the sticks that had fallen in the yard. They both stopped dead in their tracks and said, “We can?” I said “sure,” much to my husband’s dismay, but he could tell where I was going with this.

I told them to be careful. They spent hours at the fire pit and went through an entire box of matches. I never went to the fire pit during the burning but occasionally looked out to make sure the woods were not on fire. If anyone burned their fingers I didn’t hear about it and every stick in the yard was cleaned up. When they were done they hosed out the fire as they had seen us do. They reported back that they were done and had put out the fire. You could tell that they were proud of a job well done, but more proud that they were entrusted with the task.

I have come to the conclusion that we may sometimes be over protective with our kids, to their detriment. We are raising a generation of kids who may not have the confidence to be self-reliant and know how to make good decisions, despite all of our talking. We have been very successful adults in part because we were given experiences early on to gain independence, self reliance, leadership skills and responsibility. We were expected to make good choices, but not every little choice was scrutinized, criticized or even known about, much less discussed to death.

If we don’t let our kids make small mistakes and some bad choices growing up, how are we going to expect them to make good choices on the big issues. We cannot keep them totally protected and then all of a sudden release them and expect them to be able to handle all the choices, obstacles, dangers, and responsibilities of life. They learned to walk by starting to crawl and gained more and more independence. They need to do the same with responsibility and independence. Hug your kids tightly, but don’t suffocate their independence. We need to be there for them, but not insist on having them spend all of their free time with us. Love them, trust them and show confidence in them to complete difficult tasks, even if they are at a young age.

If you show a high level of confidence in them and their abilities, they will live up to your expectations. If you expect a lot you will get a lot and they will gain the skills necessary to have confidence in their own abilities and to make good choices.