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.

The Fishing Connection

I have always loved fishing.   One of my first dates with my husband of 28 years was fishing in a small lake that was stocked with Bass. It was like fishing in a barrel. I thought the guy was the best fisherman I had ever met. He told me years later that the lake was a private lake stocked with tons of Bass for non motorized fishing by the owner of the company he was working for at 20140525_163109the time. He had special permission to fish it that day.   He was clearly trying to impress me and it worked. We have been fishing together for 28 years and now that we are empty nesters we take our boat to Kabatogama for a week of big fishing adventures once a year. So far we have not become lost in the wilderness, which is a real possibility up there, and we have some gorgeous pictures and some very fond memories of driving our boat to the historic Kettle Falls Hotel. It is a fun way to spend time together.

Everyone in the family, including my parents who are now in their Eighties, take part in the fishing opener each year. Our family scrambles around for months before fishing opener, deciding where we are going and guessing about the weather. The anticipation and planning are all part of the fun. We don’t all go to the same place every year, but some of us get together depending on who is available. No matter where everyone is fishing, we all have our cell phones and we send pictures back and forth of our catches. We call it the brag line.

I remember one opener that we spent with my parents and my kids at my brother John’s lake home near St. Cloud. The weather that year was less than ideal, with rain, sleet and snow. We dressed as we would for ice fishing, but we never caught so many fish. We had multiple boats on the water, and my kids and I were on my brother’s pontoon, which we fondly call the party barge. I think it is one of the biggest pontoons that they make and it even has a bathroom on board. It is perfect for taking the kids along. My brother has always had the patience of a saint, so he hung in there with my kids who managed to take turns repeatedly tangling their lines.

Despite the tangled lines and bathroom breaks, we all caught fish that year. My brother barely got his line in the water when one of us would be yelling that we had a fish on and he had to g040515 1455__1940et the net. It was a hell of a fishing opener. When we got back to shore, and before any staking of the fish, there had to be group pictures holding our catches and also comparing to see who caught the biggest or the longest, or the smallest. We have a lot of fish pictures, because we take pictures of them no matter the size or the kind.

I remember another year where my mom and dad, and my husband Joe and I were in the same boat on the opener. The fish were not biting at all that year, but we had beautiful weather and we had a lot of good conversation. As we talked and trolled around the lake in the sunshine, my mom went to cast her line out and accidentally threw her entire rod over board. We all saw it, but it took a minute to register what she had done and to take any action. By the time we got the dip net to try to retrieve it, we were all laughing so hard; it had sunk like a rock, so there was no hope. It took my mom a while to laugh about it. She was in shock and kept saying she just didn’t know how that happened. The more she tried to explain it, the funnier it got. We still talk about it to this day and tease her about throwing her rod away, just because the fish were not biting.

Many people talk about fishing stories, but it is because of the crazy things that happen in boats while fishing. You cannot make this stuff up. We were fishing Green Lake with my parents just a few years ago and my Dad caught a really large Northern. We put it into the live well, even though it barely fit. The live well aerator stopped running, because the fish was up against it. MyPhoto0099 dad went to open the live well to fix the aerator and that Northern jumped clean out of the live well in the back of the boat and into the lake. It was gone. That is one that if I had not seen it myself, I would have said they were making it up. I wish I would have had a camera in hand. The look on my dad’s face was worth a thousand words. I have never seen him so stunned. We were all speechless for a second and than started laughing and said it was good he jumped out because he was clearly part dolphin anyway.

We have so many fond memories of fishing excursions. One thing has become clear over the years. Fishing has little to do with the actual fish that we catch. One year my sister in law and I both caught carp and proudly took photos of those ugly things. Fishing has more to do with spending time with parents, grandparents and kids, in the sunshine or the sleet, on the water BenBass090524 (1)and more importantly together. Those moments with others which leave us with a lifetime of memories of happy moments and funny stories and time spent with family. Fishing has been one of those things that helped bring us all together in a shared life. It brought Joe and me together so long ago, as a couple and it brought us close to our kids over the years and our kids with their grandparents and uncles and aunts. The fishing connection is one of family and fun and most importantly time spent together. It cannot be overrated.

Moonshine and the Law

I come from a long line of rule breakers, so of course I became a lawyer. Yes, my grandfather and his brothers and sisters, in Pierz, Minnesota, in the 1920’s were known for making some of the finest moonshine in the country. More than once we heard stories about them having to hide from the Feds during prohibition. Well, they were German so it was excusable. What good German could get along without some beer or moonshine on a regular basis?

They were a fun bunch even into their nineties and they actually did not hide the fact that they made moonshine during prohibition. They told their stories in an almost bragging fashion. There is only one sister left now, and she will be ninety nine soon. If you would use my great uncles and aunts as a study on longevity, you would have to conclude that rule breaking and drinking moonshine equals a long and FUN life.

Moonshine still from 1920s

Moonshine still from 1920s

They told one particular story where it is said that my grandpa and great uncles, who were all in their late teens and early twenties at the time, blew out all of the windows in the house while running the still in the basement. As the story goes, my great grandma was quite angry, because they had to go to different towns and just buy one window at a time so as not to raise suspicion at any one particular mercantile store. The story in hindsight is hard to believe because everyone in Pierz, it seemed, was of German heritage and many of them were related and probably bought the moonshine from my grandpa and his brothers, so exactly who would turn them in is not known.

They lived a couple of miles outside of town on the family farm running a dairy operation. The farm is still in the family and the original house is still there, but has been worked on and kept up nicely over the years. My grandpa also claimed that at one point during prohibition, two of his brothers had warrants out for their arrest and had to hide in the back woods of the family farm, until they received word from town that the Feds had left, not being able to find them.

They were a big happy family with a strong devotion to the Catholic faith. They would never miss church on a Sunday or eat before communion, but they made brew in the bathtub and risked Federal prison. It is a funny contrast when you think about it. It seems in hindsight that they chose which rules had to be followed. It could not be that they simply disagreed with prohibition. I am sure there were many rules in the church and elsewhere that they did not agree with, but yet followed them.

It had to be something specific about Prohibition. They clearly did not recognize the Federal Government’s ability to regulate liquor. They had to have a sense that the Federal Government had no right to make Alcohol illegal. This is an interesting concept in rural America in the 1920’s. They were farmers who raised their chickens and pigs and milked the cows, and planted and harvested their crops, and they made homemade bread and sausage and they raged against the man. I love it in hindsight. They were the original Rule breakers in the family and they passed down a sense of self confidence and the ability to question authority and question the main stream. Just because it was the law did not make it right.

Through their stories they passed down the ability to think for ourselves, and to enjoy life and the pursuit of happiness. It is these qualities that are embedded not only in our fond memories of them and their stories, but in our very genes that has helped us as their grandchildren and great grandchildren to be very successful in many ways. The descendants are doctors, accountants, successful business owners, nurses, a judge, teachers and one of my most fun cousins Don Millner, became a dentist, but now owns a successful winery in Kimball Minnesota. It is interestingly named after the moonshine making family and known as the Millner Heritage Winery. It is a really fun place to visit. We went with one of our BFC’s (Best Friend Couples) a couple of years ago and had an awesome Sunday afternoon drinking wine and exchanging stories with Donny. The wine is some of the best around and he has won many awards.

Family reunions on this side of the family are a full contact sport. You really have to train for it like a marathon and possibly wear ear plugs. They are loud, and in your face fun! You cannot go to this reunion without having a great time. This is a group that still drinks moonshine, just to be nostalgic and is proud of our rule breaking, outlaw heritage. The family is now spread all over the country, but we usually come back to our roots in Pierz, every few years to continue to hand down the stories that are a part of our very nature and heritage and raise glasses in honor of our grandparents and great uncles and aunts. They all taught us the simple, but important lesson of work hard and play hard and, of course the importance of family.

Fishing and the Original Red Dawn

My husband and I had two daughters and one son. We always said each of our kids had their special place in our family. My daughter was the first and oldest child, which gave her that special space, and my son was in the middle but the only boy so that was special, and my youngest was a girl and the baby so that was her special place.

My husband is and was a great dad and with our son. He had an immediate connection because they were the only guys in the house. It was easy for me to develop a close relationship with my girls. We had a lot in common, not just because we were the same gender, but our personalities fit well together even though we were different in many ways. We had developed a bond easily choosing activities and flowing from activity to activity with ease. We had a connection that was effortless to maintain.  I decided early on that as a mom I would need to make sure that I developed a good relationship with my son. I knew it would not be as effortless as with the girls, but I had had three brothers and I had grown up on a farm. We had gone hunting and fishing, and I was somewhat of a tomboy. So I decide to plan a couple of days together just him and me.

benfishyI took a couple of days off and told him to hitch up the fishing boat. I borrowed a friend’s cabin for the night. I told my son to pack for fishing, just him and me, and I was hoping that what I had planned would meet the clear excitement and anticipation I could see on his face. We got up early the next morning and drove up north to Crookneck Lake by Randall, Minnesota. We launched the boat after careful bait selection at the local shop and with our lunch cooler. We were lucky enough to have a really warm sunny day that allowed a comfortable full day in the boat. We discussed bait choices, depths to try for different fish and sometimes just sat in silence. As the day wore on the conversation became less superficial as we settled into a rhythm and the unwritten understanding in that no topic was off limits and there would be no judgment. We laughed together, we sometimes clumsily pulled in fish together, and we had the best day on the water anyone could hope for.

We caught a small Northern Pike and a crappie just enough for a little dinner. As a little chill started in the air, we made our way to the cabin and I handed my son the staking knife and even though he had seen fish cleaned before he had never actually done it himself. I gave him a few tips as he completed the task and the pride I could see in his eyes trumped the fact that the fillets looked like they had been through a meat grinder. We cooked up the fillets and washed them down with a beer that I brought to share even though he was not quite drinking age.

After dinner we built a fire and I put in the original Red Dawn movie and there alone in the cabin, warm cheeked from the days wind and sun, we watched high school boys save the United State of America with their guns and pickup truck. We shared one more beer and as the movie came to an end we could feel the tiredness, one only feels from all day outdoor activities, and we sunk into our beds. The next day we swam in the lake to cool off after a sunny day in the boat and headed back home.   I knew it would be fun just to be together and do outdoor things, but I did not realize how really special it would be. Such a simple concept that did not require spending a lot of money created a lifelong memory for both of us. Teenage boys are not the best at expressing themselves, but he talked about our fishing trip for years. I would listen with pride when he would always start with, “My mom and I had the best bro weekend ever, we fished and watched Red Dawn up north at a cabin.” In all the things we do as parents that we question and wonder if we did them right, or could have done something better, this was a perfectly planned and executed bonding between mother and son.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Girls1 In 1987, five of my female law school classmates and I went on a weekend get-away.  No husbands.  No kids (for those who had some).  Having just graduated and taken the Bar exam, none of us had much money and we used the cabin of a family friend.  We brought a little food, a lot of liquor and some cigarettes.  (How wild – NOT).

We talked the entire weekend, getting little sleep, but covering everything from working like dogs as Associates in our new firms and where we wanted to be in five years, to husbands, politics and the afterlife.  We came back refreshed and with a Girls2new attitude.

A pact was made that we would make the weekend a yearly event and we have.  The schedule of Fall has had to be juggled occasionally because of pregnancies over the years, but we have remained faithful.  All six of us have children now, and husbands.  We still bring liquor and stay up until all hours discussing everything from child behavior, politics and unwanted hair to ghosts.  We have laughed about going to Court with peanut butter fingerprints on our suit, and how to clean up vomit off the rug without you yourself getting the flu before your big Appellate Court argument.  Oh, how times have changed, but the spirit remains the same.  Now we are all in power positions and the discussion of work is about associates who aren’t working hard enough and how we had it more difficult back when we were associates.  We exchange parenting ideas and vent and laugh about our spouse’s inability to use sani-flush.  We have graduated to weekends flying to Chicago or renting a townhome in a resort community.  Prior to the weekend we have a flurry of e-mail activity about the growing anticipation which is expressed as, I need to get out of town, my hair is on fire.

Sometimes things are shared on the weekend that have never been shared with anyone before.  Tears have been shed by at least some if not all of us.  There is a sense of safety to reach out for help or just be able to unload a burden.  The tears are a release from the divulging of something that has been saved for just the right moment and the right people.  It’s a cleansing of the soul.

I would miss the weekend terribly if I couldn’t go.  It is not only good for us, but good for our families and our careers.  We have had the ability to commiserate and to cleanse, to vent, to find solutions or sometimes find peace.  Too often we sacrifice our own balance and needs in order to care for our families and careers.  However, this commitment to keep ourselves balanced makes us better spouses, parents and partners.  Girls not only wanna have fun, they need to have fun.