Your Fun, My Fun

I think fun is necessary to life, so I chase it. There is some to be caught almost everywhere.

Fun is such an individual thing. Maybe your fun and my fun might be the same, but most likely not. For instance, I know a lot of people who don’t like shopping, but I do. I’m not meaning the mall, or downtown Chicago for a weekend – I’m talking Walmart.

They always have interesting, beautiful things outside the door. The fun starts before I even get inside.

There has been over a year of mostly staying at home during the pandemic, but I could never bring myself to give up that occasional trip to get groceries. It was reassurance that the world of real people was still out there. It was different wearing masks and following (sort of) the one way arrows down the aisles, but it was still fun. Rules are a little less restrictive now, and I can actually recognize some people. I always see someone I know at the store, and I always see someone entertaining even if I don’t know them.

Since Walmart is on the other side of my backyard fence, I often go there just to spend time, wind down, see what’s new or what the latest shortage is. Sometimes I check out all my favorite corners like the seed and garden section, or the camping and sports section. I don’t have to buy any of it, just looking is fun. It’s a way to get out of the house when it’s been too long…

You see, I’ve been shopping in a few other countries where it is a lot different. Shopping in the U.S., I am always amazed at how much is available, that there are so many choices, that there is an acceptable degree of cleanliness and safety. Perhaps people who have always lived here think it’s this way everywhere. It isn’t. We are blessed. Even with predicted shortages, we are blessed.

Yesterday I had fun at Walmart, just because I could. It was great.

Can you believe I got these cool pants in the clearance section for almost nothing! Perfect for the next time I go shopping at Walmart.

Being “Right” Comes Full Circle.

(It has been suggested by the husband that I write this to his daughters.)

We were reading a thoughtful paragraph on humility this morning, referencing people who are always right about anything and everything. Dennis laughed and said something that our youngest daughter had said to him once. “I am right, because I am a Dietz!” It was said tongue in cheek and they laughed at it at the time too. Then he got quiet and continued, “I love our daughters so much. I hope they know that.”

It was a special moment and we continued talking about the meaning of that conversation and why the memory of it sparked such gratitude and love inside his “dad heart”.

During the years our daughters were growing up at home there were so many good times for us as parents and for them as children. There were also times, not so good, when they felt distanced from their parents. The role of provider was always of high concern for Dennis, and required a lot of his attention. Maybe small people (children), having limited experiences, were not as interesting as other friends and business associates. He never intentionally conveyed this to them, but it was conveyed nonetheless.

In addition it was natural to assume that children’s opinions, reasons, and thought processes were still to be directed and molded, not listened to and considered. This attitude also was never intentionally spoken, nor was it applied 100% of the time, but over the years it was felt, sometimes acutely. Although Dad provided well and loved them, he didn’t know them personally and was often clueless as to what they were feeling. Perhaps they heard more of “don’t leave toothpaste in the sink” and “your lights were left on – go turn them off” than the things daughters need to hear from their dads.

So what does it mean when a daughter can tease, laugh and point out some hurtful flaw when talking to her dad? What did it mean that she could remind him of that “always right” attitude in a gentle conversation (well, I don’t actually know how gentle it was or what it was about because I wasn’t there…)? To him, it meant forgiveness. It meant that she wasn’t afraid to remind him of that proclivity of his. It was acknowledgement and grace extended. And it was love.

The husband has mellowed so much in the last few years. Retirement has put the distraction of being a provider behind him. He fully realizes those things he has missed by not being more aware, more curious, more persistent about knowing his children. He has also been diagnosed with a heartbreaking condition. But it has turned into a blessing. It’s almost as if his heart had to be broken in order for him to know what was in it. It’s amazing to think about.

Although he is disabled, he has traveled long distances to see each of his two daughters get married, during pandemic times. He would not have missed these opportunities for the world. “Being right” has come full circle and is now much more like “Being in love.”

It provides hope for us all. We can grow, learn, change. The whole story doesn’t have to be pretty for the outcome to be good. God be praised for his transforming power, his gentleness and his wisdom, and his mysterious ways.

Random Spring

Today it is raining and blustery. Will it snow once more in the hours ahead? It’s possible. I never know how to dress for my daily walks – down coat, rain jacket, only a sweatshirt, hat? So I put it all on and take it off and carry it if I have to. For our spot on this planet, the month of March is never sure whether she is winter or spring, which leaves us waiting in various ways. Life is just a little more eclectic and full of random activities, waiting activities.

We watch the snow melt. I know it’s hard to imagine that being exciting, but when you’ve seen nearly five months of whiteness, a little bare ground is a big deal. It has disappeared from the roads and most of the yards except for the deep snow banks that the snow plows left. There are still patches of snow in the woods where the sun doesn’t shine. The lakes are still covered with rotten ice, but the geese are arriving and looking for any open water in the streams and marshes.

We are cleaning closets, emptying boxes long forgotten, and making decisions. Spring cleaning, it could be called that but it’s much more. It’s like taking trips down memory lane and we spend a lot of time talking about what we are remembering.

We (I) are finally putting December behind us. I turned off the winter lights on Daylight Savings day. The sun is coming up earlier and in a different place on the horizon. The patio furniture is out on the east porch and we are ready for the first day that allows us to sit outside for morning coffee, no longer in the dark and cold.

For some odd reason, I’m finding puzzles to be more than usually comforting. They have appeared in greater than usual numbers too, thanks to friends who have dropped them off. This is the first year that I’ve done puzzles alone since there is no one in the house who cares for them like I do. When my brain needs a break from daily duties, the puzzle is there waiting, demanding nothing, requiring a different kind of focus, full of color, visually interesting, solvable and just challenging enough.

Even the cat is waiting to be let outside. She watches the squirrels at the bird feeder and gets all excited, but only spends a few seconds in the cold when I let her out. She is waiting for the warm times she remembers, and as I watch her sitting in the sun I am reminded of spring window washing duties. I cleaned this window this week and it looks much better now.

Everyone’s chickens are laying eggs now and it is easy to get them fresh from the farms. I get a strange delight at boxes like this one from a chicken breed called Rainbow – for obvious reasons. I am having time to pay more attention to our nutrition and exercise needs. I feel healthier and ready for summer, ready for the sun, and work in the garden.

I am writing, although finding it hard. April Challenge is coming up and I would like to have my posts finished beforehand. It is slow going because my theme is so interesting and personal. Stories of my great grandmother and her family are so thought provoking and absorbing and I find myself spending days thinking about one episode before actually nailing it down. It is hard but I know it will be worthwhile.

And amid all the projects that didn’t get done this winter, there are a few that are getting done. I’m sealing the beautiful outdoor chairs that my uncle made for our patio, and I sawed the backs off my kitchen stools and painted the seats barn red. Now they fit under the counter better. I swept under the stove, vacuumed out the truck, and put away the snow shovels in favor of the rakes. I am even finding time to knit, and that amazes even me. I am grateful for all there is to do that makes waiting an interesting part of life, almost like a season in itself.

I can almost forget I’m waiting,… just sayin’.

February Goodness: Movement

“I have got to get out of here!” This thought comes to me every now and then and thankfully I can do something about it. I can move. I often think, well, what if I couldn’t?

I’ve seen the frustration of people who can’t move due to life changing paralysis (former client), or chronic disease (the husband) and it never fails to produce gratitude. But, when I’m not looking right at it and thinking about it with intention, I sometimes take movement for granted.

Today was one of those days when I knew I should get out and move a little, because I still can. It’s cold outside (yeah, winter…) and the first few minutes I felt it. My face got cold and I felt the warmth being sucked out through the multiple layers of leggings, shirts and jackets. I was breathing differently to protect my lungs. A few minutes later as I started moving my skis, I forgot all about the cold. And by the time I’d been out an hour and a half, circling the property multiple times, stopping here and there to take a picture, I was actually hot inside all those layers. Movement wakes my body up, and it feels really good.

Wide, open spaces where I can move (to keep warm).

The ability to move is something to be thankful for, and it’s worth protecting. I ask God daily to help me keep moving, both for my own sake and for those I help, because they can’t move as well. Maybe it’s aging that is giving me more awareness of how wonderful it is to move. Maybe it’s February, and winter, and the cold.

If you got up today, stretched and walked out of the bedroom, savor that. Move it, while you can.

Something Good in February

It’s 2021, it’s February, it’s still winter. I’m challenging myself to find something good to be celebrated every day this month, in the interest of mental health. I need help, and thinking on good, deserving things is going to do wonders. Yep.

A lot of my southern friends have felt sorry for me, having to live “up north” in the winter. I will be the first to admit that the winters are long and can get pretty cold, but there are bright spots to being here.

Entering Wisconsin from the southern border, most of what one sees are farms, lots of farms, and small cities and towns. About 2/3 of the way north, things change and when you finally reach Hayward, you find… trees, lots of trees. Real forests, that go on for a long ways.

Mosquito Brook runs through the forest. There were no mosquitoes. None.

Thirty years ago when I was living here, logging was a huge industry. I used to see the logging trucks, fully loaded, on the roads, and wonder how there could be any trees left in the forests. That was years ago and there are still as many, if not more, logs being hauled out. The forests are so well managed, and so BIG, that there is no apparent shortage of trees.

Back view of sweet machine

And now for the bright spot. Today I got to go out in the forest with my brother on his snowmobile. We rode tandem for two hours. On the way home we switched places and I got to drive. Miraculously, we did not fall off the trail. The experience is a cross between riding a boat in choppy water, riding a dirt bike on rough roads or maybe a bit like posting on a horse with a rough trot. All done out in the forest, at speeds between 0 and 30 (40) mph and at temperatures usually below freezing. We call it winter recreation.

Recreation is pretty big here in the Hayward area because there aren’t a lot of other ways to make a living. People take ice fishing, snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling very seriously. There are about eight snowmobile clubs in this northwest corner of Wisconsin that have found ways to get from here to there, mapped them, created apps and invited the “world” to get up here and have fun in the snow. On good weekends the motel parking lots are full of trucks and trailers from as far away as the Dakotas, and the sound of snow machines is in the air. The trails are groomed often. Some are like the “interstates” of the forest and some are “one laners” complete with mile markers and signage.

Not exactly crowded out there, but we weren’t alone either.

My brother’s new machine has heated seats, hand grips, and the throttle (for that cold thumb). Even the helmets plug in and stay warm. It’s a very comfortable, maybe even luxurious, ride. However, they haven’t yet learned how to make them quiet. We live close to a major trail into town and I hear the snow machines a lot. I can only imagine what the deer, bear, wolves and coyotes are thinking now that their forest homes have been invaded.

Groups of snowmobilers travel for hours, stopping for “refreshments” and fuel at designated resorts and bars, bringing a lot of business to our area. All this happy influx of business hinges on two requirements. There has to be snow, preferably quite a bit of snow, and it can’t be so cold that it’s no longer fun but dangerous. This winter has not been bad so far, but we have February to get through yet.

I did enjoy my ride today. The forest was wild, the trail was full of twists, turns, hills and ravines – just beautiful! Most of the time I had no idea where we were, but I was glad to be there anyway. Something good happened today, just sayin’…

Not Wasting Time

Time is a very strange commodity. I always think about this with birthdays and anniversaries, and of course with the turning of the year. When time is gone, it’s really gone and we have no control over its passing. It’s so impersonal. Yet we do have control over what we do with the present moment.

I was thinking about that over the last weekend when my brother posted a writing to all of us siblings. It was about not postponing the things we want to do thinking we will always have time to do them later. Being in your 50’s, 60’s, and yes (gulp) 70’s, we should begin realizing that there’s not a lot of “later” left.

I was especially considering that when I went outside on Friday, New Year’s Day, to take a walk in the snow. It was a perfect snow day. There were a couple of snowmobiles being noisy out in the wetlands. Seeing them zip around made me remember the days when I used to ski, and how much easier that was than plodding around in my boots. I wanted to ski again but wondered whether it was a bit too risky. If I fell and broke something it would really impact others in my life. Recent experience had made that pretty clear.

My skis, my boot, my thumb.

Talking it over with God, in my mind, drew my attention to fear and how it could keep joy away. I’m not sure it was all God’s doing, but I found myself bravely walking into New Moon Ski Shop. It conveniently adjoins our wetland property. More surprisingly I found myself walking out with skis, boots and poles. Three days of skiing have not only been very fun, but I also have not fallen even once. There are no hills to speak of, and the poles are there for balance. It is great exercise and will make my long winter much more bearable. I am so glad I did not leave this for a “later” time that probably wouldn’t have come.

Time is a construct that God understands much better than I do. I believe he wants me to respect and value the time he’s giving me, and he’s not against creative enjoyment of it. I’m so grateful for that. I love the line from the life story of Eric Liddell “I believe God made me for a purpose but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.” I’m not a world class skier, but I know what it is like to feel God’s pleasure when I’m out on my skis, in his world, being grateful. It is anything but wasted time.

I see beautiful things everywhere.

A Story for the New Year

“When you ask God for something, when you put the matter in God’s hands, you must then be aware that what happens is his doing and he deserves credit.” My paraphrase of something I heard Joyce Meyer say.

We have spent many days readying our friend’s house for sale. The friends are in Florida now, and expected to come back and live in the house in the summers – be snowbirds. That plan changed. The house was put up for sale and a cash contract came within two weeks. The house was very full of twenty years of shopping trips (they were collectors) and a home daycare business that required many toys, children’s clothes, videos, DVD’s. We knew they couldn’t return to empty the house and we were willing to do it for them. My brother and I, and even Mom, have spent many hours sorting, and dispersing things.

Earlier this week we had two strong, young men helping us take furniture from the upper story of the house down into the garage. One of them came down to me as I was working in the basement and handed me $500 and an envelope with a card in it. “We found this when we removed a drawer from the dresser. This envelope had $500 in it.”

I was elated. The owner of the dresser (soon to be 95 years old) had asked me to search carefully in those drawers because she had a “feeling” that she was missing some money, had perhaps hidden it and forgotten where. I had looked in the drawers but had not taken them out.

I opened the envelope to see who the card was written to and found another five hundred dollar bills! I texted the owner, shaking my head and laughing about this crazy, but happy discovery. I put the bills in my front pack. The card was too big so I discarded it in one of the many trash bags being filled. I went about the rest of the day in the house, to the store, to the thrift shop, outside to get the mail, in and out of the truck numerous times. I often reached in my pack to get keys or credit card. Mentally, I was aware of having a lot of money in my possession.

That evening as I took the money out to a safer place, I was mystified to find only $500, not $1,000. I did all the usual purse and pocket and car searches, and finally went back to the house hoping to find the card. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention and had left money in the card? I dug through bags of trash and finally found the card but it had no money with it. I went to the store (Walmart) and asked. My prayer was “Lord, if I dropped that money without noticing would you please provide an honest person who had to turn it in.” I figured it would have to be the Lord’s doing if that happened. But it was not at Walmart, although I got a great deal of sympathy from the lady at the service desk.

Zeb prays too.

I told my brother and asked if he had seen the money and picked it up. He had not. Discussing the situation with him, and with Mom, I began to wonder if there really was $1000 or if I was seeing the same $500 twice. There was so much going on, so many interruptions. If some of the $1000 had fallen out, why would there be exactly half of it left? Why not $300, or $600? I started to doubt what I had seen and done, and honestly that bothered me the most.

However, I decided that having prayed and asked God to help me, I would just let him help in whatever way he wanted to. I wasn’t finding the money but I had told my friend that she had $1000 coming and that’s what she was going to get. I made up the difference from my own funds. I didn’t stop wondering what had happened, but I didn’t stress out like I normally would over that amount of money.

Today I went out to my vehicle to get my water bottle and saw, on the floor of the backseat, a bank money holder with my friend’s writing on it. In it was $500.

Right away I thanked God for letting me know I was not going crazy (yet). And now I’m thanking him for the lesson in trust. I didn’t know that the money would be found, because I have lost things dear to me that haven’t been found (yet, again). But I’m learning to trust God’s ability to take care of situations in ways I can’t think of. He can take care of me, and of other people effortlessly, and money is not even a consideration.

Just like saying thank you is always important, it is doubly important when I know I have asked for help. Credit where credit is due is a biblical principle that I love and adhere to. I find it in the words “in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path” Proverbs 3:6

I’m still wondering, and would love to see a replay of how that money got where I found it. But I am content for now to acknowledge God’s goodness, his ability to teach effectively and possibly his sense of humor. Thanks God, just sayin’…

A 2020 Celebration

I’ll bet with all the memes and jokes about 2020, you are surprised that I’ve found something worth celebrating this year. But I have! I’ve actually found many things worthy of celebrating and writing about.

Today I had a great report from a cancer screening test and I couldn’t wait to celebrate by taking a long, long walk. It felt so good to swing my arms and stride along. I had not been aware of being anxious, but apparently I was. The relief made me feel lighter than air. I had asked for my health to be protected, knowing that is not always how things work. Good health is not the ultimate sign of God’s approval, and he even works his purpose through the death of his most loved persons. I guess when you have the intelligence to create life, to restore and make anything brand new, and when you plan to eventually resurrect all who’ve died anyway, you think a bit differently about death in general. Nevertheless, I admit that I struggle to keep God’s perspective in mind at times. And I particularly don’t like cancer.

For me, there is no better way to celebrate than to move, to see, to experience the natural world. I could give you the short story – it was a beautiful day and I saw a deer and two snakes. Or I could show you with my pictures, which I love to do. August is the last month of summer. Everything here in the north is maturing and getting ready to die or go dormant in a very few weeks. The colors are different, the grasses and flowers are going to seed. You can feel the progression of life cycles that are expertly designed to show us things about God, if we will look, and think about what we see.

The irresistible trail (a miracle, not a single mosquito or deer fly did I swat.).
Hospital trail, Beaver Pond Loop, where rest stops are furnished with urinal and chamber pot, naturally.
Beaver Pond, with beaver lodge in the distance.
There is a snake in here, but you have to look really closely. I nearly stepped on it before it crawled off the path. Adrenalin moment.

If you put away thoughts of COVID19, politics, natural disasters, and riots, I’ll bet you can find something to celebrate in 2020 too. I’d love to hear about it.

2020 Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday…

And I decided to count and name my blessings throughout the day.

1. I woke up. The chance to celebrate one more time.

2. I woke up on land my grandfather used to own, still in the family, in a free land.

3. 12 people actually read yesterday’s blog post.

4. I had hair to comb.

5. I got to go over and have coffee with my mom.

6. My youngest brother came over to sit with us and tell me happy birthday.

7. Mom added a 1927 cookbook to my antique collection.

8. Pancakes and Nutella for breakfast.

9. A day with no rain in the forecast!

10. Singing birds everywhere outside – red winged blackbird trills,my favorite birthday song.

11. Online greetings that make me tear up.

12. No headache today.

13. Already have supper figured out and ready to cook.

14. A long birthday walk on Hospital Trail North, all 10,000 steps in the great outdoors

15. A surprise stare down with a beautiful wild deer in the forest (which I took as a birthday present since it doesn’t happen very often)

16. More birthday blessings from people online, more happiness reviewing those memories

17. A “hope” rock from my sister-in-law

18. The special dinner – I didn’t burn anything!

19. Birthday dessert from my mom.

20. Alexa played music I liked all evening – another rare occurrence.

21. FaceTime talks, texts, and calls from family during the day. They all helped me to feel valued and to process the fact of aging, and live with the fear of it.

22. The mantra “We understand fear is normal, but courage gets the final say.” from “The Next Right Thing” by Emily Freeman

The Other Side of Thanksgiving

If I had remembered to take pictures at the right time, I could have shown you my beautiful table, decorated and set for our Thanksgiving meal. But I didn’t and through that I realized there is an “other side” of Thanksgiving.

That side is as much a part of the good memories I hold as seeing that perfectly cooked turkey, the smorgasbord of pies ready to be served, or that plate full of food artfully arranged. The other side is seen here…

and here…

and here.

It is experienced as I wash dishes with help from guests, wipe counters clean, search space for an extra chair at the table, empty garbage, and wipe a spot of gravy off the floor (okay, it was really cat throw up but that’s not the point).

The other side includes that kind of relaxed, awkward time after eating when no one is quite sure what to do so they do this…

or this…

or this…

The other side is dear, but also a little stressfull as the number of people in the house swells, the kitchen counters are crowded with supplies, refrigerators are full of leftovers and entryways look like this.

Those necessary inconveniencies of travel, trying to keep rested over a long weekend, trying to connect in meaningful ways with each loved family member and guest – all are parts of almost every Thanksgiving I can remember. They are the other side that is maybe not so photogenic or talked about.

I think I love the other side too – the mess, the chaos, the spills, the broken dish, the menu item that gets forgotten in the fridge, the cat that dips its paw in my guest’s water glass.

Thanksgiving is a singular, memory making holiday with two sides. It might even be my favorite. All this goodness makes it easy to say “thank you family!” And “thank you guests!” And most of all “thank you God!” for another great Thanksgiving.