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’.

Hope for Things Thought Dead

What is the story here? I can see it plainly, but I never know how plain it is to others – we are all products of our past thoughts and experiences and it can make such a difference in our outlooks.

Last fall I put these amaryllis bulbs in the garage for their winter dormancy period. Their long leaves flopped over, turned yellow and dried up. They got no water, very little light, and no attention. One of them started pushing up a new leaf during the winter but there was no chance of it surviving and I worried about the untimely appearance. They were all dead looking, didn’t seem very stable or rooted in their pots, and were soft like they might be rotting. Nothing hopeful about them.

And then they came to life, like so many things do in the spring. Tips of the new leaves were barely visible in the dead layers of brown wrappings. I didn’t know if the early started would start again a second time, but it did. It was much later than the others and seems a bit tattered but it’s alive.

For me, it’s all about the hope that is built into creation that dead things come to life. It’s one of those plainly seen reminders of the intentions of our Creator. Seeing how life is embedded into the DNA of plants and trees and animals of all kinds, I can’t imagine that it isn’t also built into us. I do believe there is a creator God and that he’s telling me on a regular yearly schedule, that he is all about restoring, making new, and starting over, no matter how unlikely it might look to me. I love the sound of that and the spirit behind it.

Funny thing, once I started believing that God was sending me personal messages through things I could see and touch, things he created for my environment, he became real and personal to me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in science. Science is a process by which we study our world. But science is not a creator. Science is still looking for a creator.

I’m enjoying this season. I’m watching for green grass to come up through the dead, matted fields. I’m watching for the geese to come to the marsh to make nests. I’m looking at the lilac twigs to see how far along the buds are. I’m watching the sunrise shift rapidly from south to north on the horizon. There is nothing dead that doesn’t have some hope attached to it and it all feels very personal, now that I’ve decided it is.

#A to Z Theme Reveal

April is nearly here. For me, that means spring and the end of winter, it means birthday month for me and youngest daughter, and it means the April A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Choosing a theme each year for the blogging challenge has usually been a chore. This year I have tried out several ideas and rejected them, because they required extra time in addition to the writing that I actually have started and want to continue. But wait! I can combine what I am already doing with the A to Z and maybe accomplish both at the same time. First, here’s what I am already working on.

My great grandmother was an amazing woman for her time, feisty, brave, resourceful and independent. And she was a writer. I have her story and will be magnifying her tales of midwestern life in the late 1890’s up to her death in 1954. I have to call it fiction because she leaves room in her story for imagination of the times and circumstances, but it is historical fiction. Hers is a story of family, of faith, of women’s place in society, of handling hardship and sorrow, even of living through pandemic times. I am proud of her and love her story. I think you will too.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge consists of a post every day in April, excluding Sundays, following the alphabet in some way – twenty six days, twenty six letters. Short stories from my great grandmother Alzie’s life will make up my daily posts and I’ll get the alphabetical thing in there somewhere. I look forward to any feedback from readers, because that has been my favorite part of the A to Z in all of the years that I’ve participated. The challenge has been a great tool to stimulate creative ideas, and to develop a consistent writing habit so I recommend it to all writers or readers who want to do something interesting in April. Follow this link (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com) to learn more and see for yourself.

My favorite April picture from a print at youngest daughter’s house. Creator unknown to me, but I would gladly give credit if I could. Cute.

February Goodness: More Snow

February had this one last day to show up with something good and it decided that snow would be its choice. I walked over to Mom’s to say good morning and the walkways were bare and dry. I came home an hour later wading through several inches of very loosely packed, huge snowflakes. It was clear that shoveling and plowing would have to take place again. February is known for being indecisive about its weather.

There are many features in this field, none of which can be seen. White, white, white.

It was worse by the time we traveled to the church. The highways weren’t completely plowed. The confusing thing about new snow is the way it seems to erase important things like where the roads and ditches are. Everything is just white and more white and even the air is full of flying white. The husband’s remark, “maybe we should have stayed home today?”

But I was kind of glad that I would have at least another day of skiing, possibly a whole week. We ended up with about 8 inches which was just enough to fill in all the ski trails I had made the last time I went out. It was a different kind of snow too – so very wet that I could not get the skis to slide at all. The walk was much like traveling in very large snowshoes. I only went for a mile but the scenery was amazing and the experience of being out while the snow was coming down was worth it.

My feet are kind of like snowshoes, right?

I knew this month would most likely be a difficult month, unless I purposely looked for the goodness of God in it. Winter seems too long in February, especially a pandemic winter. A good friend’s death seemed imminent and, indeed, has come to pass. I seem stuck in some patterns I want to move out of. There are things I want to do that seem out of reach. February is a month of waiting for change. I know that if I wait long enough, change is certain, and for that I am glad. Change is part of God’s goodness.

March 1st, tomorrow, in the year 2021 has never happened before. It is brand new, like our snow today. There are good changes to plan for, dream about, pray about, and bring about. Looking forward to it, just sayin’…

February Goodness: Volunteering

I can hardly believe February is nearly over! So many good things to report, and many I missed writing about because I was busy living them…

What an amazing event! And I have gotten to volunteer to help with it, in a very small way, for the third consecutive year. The American Birkiebeiner is the largest cross country ski race in North America and the third largest in the world, and it was created by a visionary man who lived right here in Hayward, my home town.

Part of my amazement is the way the race has adapted to pandemic times and become even more available to sports enthusiasts all over the world. The Birkie went virtual. There were still over 8,000 skiers participating this 47th year of the race but half of them were not here in person. Yesterday I got to watch some of them as they passed the Fire Tower Aid Station. Unlike other years, they had to bring their own water containers and food, but we dispensed water and electrolyte drink and watched out for those who might need medical attention.

Our cozy aid station with drink systems in place. Challenge was to keep the hoses from freezing.
Volunteer and Birkie employee, keeping the fire going.

It was a perfect skiing day with temperatures getting into the 30’s and barely any wind. Many skiers remarked about the snow being just right. What they complained about were all the hills. There are few places that have the kind of hilly, glacial terrain found in the 43 K forested trail of the Birkie, so skiers have a challenge to prepare for it. I talked to one man who thought he had prepared but was seriously considering cutting his distance in half after reaching our aid station.

Most skiers would expect to be skiing down hills like this, but not in the Birkie, no, no, no. Every “down” is partnered with an “up”.

What did I and the others on our team do? We set up the aid station with water hoses, touch-less dispensing systems for water and drink, got the fires burning for those needing to warm up (but seriously, there were people with shorts and T-shirts in this race and they still thought they were hot) and served as the cheering audience. No spectators were allowed this year. I mixed up several batches of Noom in the 10 gallon coolers, answered questions (like “how much farther do I have to go?”) and held ski poles while people filled their drink bottles.

It was a great day to be outside. We started at 7:30 am and were done by 2 pm when most of yesterday’s skate skiers had passed our station. As I watched some of the last stragglers wearily climbing Fire Tower Hill, I remembered my Grand Canyon experience, and was glad I was going home in my truck and not skiing another 12 K out in the forest wilderness of north Wisconsin.

These were the elite, early wave skiers. The later ones did not power up this hill with the same energy.

I will probably never ski the whole Birkie Trail – it’s not on my list – but I would like to hike the whole thing. Maybe this summer will be the right time to do it. Tell me if you want to come along. It will be epic, in one way or another, I promise.

February Goodness: Getting Outside!

After over two weeks of -20 degrees F. and even lower!!

Well, you know I live in northwestern Wisconsin where it’s cold and snowy. Many people wonder how we endure this long, frigid and dark season and the answer is, we get used to it. After the first month or so, we can go outside and have fun even when the temp is below zero. Actually, it’s not uncommon to see someone in shorts and flip flops, all it takes is a warm streak of 20 to 30 degrees F. And yes, it’s usually in Walmart that you see these people, but they are not the weirdest ones there by any means.

This is as close to taking a selfie as I can manage while on skis.

We dress for the weather. Today I went out to ski for my exercise. I have nine extra articles of protective clothing and shoes that I wear so it takes me a few minutes to get all geared up. Ski boots for my feet, snow pants and gaiters for my legs, head band for the ears and cap over that for the rest of my head, neck protector that I can pull up if my face gets cold, jacket of course, and gloves or mittens. I am usually sweating under all these layers.

I literally start at my side garage door and ski through the development to get out to the meadow where my paths are. It’s extremely convenient, although I am always hoping no one is watching as I ski past the other condos. There are many trails near by that are groomed regularly with machines and they get a lot of traffic. Those are nice if I have the time to drive but most of the time I stay at home and make my own trails.

Making my trails is something I’ve come to enjoy. There’s a lot of freedom in doing it that way. Skiing is a lot faster than walking in snowshoes and I can go anywhere I want to go. Breaking the trail is slow, but the second time over it’s much faster. I take the widest circle around our property and then do a lot of criss-crossing to add variety. I have no trouble getting in two or three miles that way.

Isn’t this snow so clean and beautiful?!

I’m still in beginner stages and spend a lot of time looking down at my skis to make sure I’m in the track (if there is one). Somehow, it is easier to keep my balance when I’m focusing on the ground in front of me. Unfortunately, that means I sometimes run into low hanging branches that I don’t see until it’s too late. Today I did that again. I felt the branch as it loosened my hat and knocked my glasses crooked and for a few seconds I thought maybe I could correct things and stay upright, but no. My skis were too far ahead of me.

Falling is not the hard part, and doesn’t even feel dangerous. Getting up again is hard. I have learned, the hard way, to take at least one ski off when trying to get up. It still doesn’t look graceful, but it cuts down on the failed attempts.

It is really an un-natural state, this being on skis. It’s like having shoes that are over five feet long, and having arms that reach down to the ground. The “shoes” are so narrow that any tilt to the track, or a sudden sticky patch of snow, creates a challenge to my balance (an alternate way of saying I might fall down…) And the long arms (poles) seem to be life savers during those frequent off balance moments, but not at all helpful in getting up after a fall. They are one more thing that has to be retrieved from the ground after I’m standing again.

The mess under this tree branch tells the story…

One day last week a rather large dog came silently loping out from between two trees. I looked over at it briefly to assess whether it was going to eat me or be friendly, and again got a balance challenge. I think we were both equally alarmed when I landed in the snow with my skis crossed. It took me so long to get up that the dog got bored and wandered back where he came from. He appeared again today and clearly remembered me – probably wanting me to get down on his level again.

Now that I am learning so much (the hard way) about skiing I will probably continue to share these insights until the snow is gone. This week, for the third year in a row, I will be volunteering for the Birkiebeiner Ski Event. I expect that will be an adventure. The Covid Birkie is going to be way different than it has ever been and I will tell all about it in the next post!?

February Goodness: Finding Lost Things

It is so good to be able to find things that are lost. Well, not actually “things” plural, but “thing” singular. I’m betting every woman who owns a purse or a bag that goes everywhere with her knows the panic of losing her purse.

It’s not a little purse.

This is my purse. I don’t take it everywhere because I carry most of what I really need in my phone wallet. But today I took it along to the husband’s weekly chiropractor appointment. I had it with me in the treatment room and hung it on his cane, like in the picture. After the appointment I had an errand to run for Mom at the hardware store.

I came out of the hardware store with my purchases and as I set them on the floor of the truck, where I usually put my purse, I was aware that my purse was not there. Thinking it must be in the back seat, I got out, opened the door and took a look. The inside of my truck is black too and sometimes the purse is hard to see. It definitely was not there.

No problem. We just went back to the chiropractor’s office a minute or two away. It wasn’t in the waiting room where I thought it had to be. But I could have put it down in the treatment room when I helped the husband up after his adjustment. The receptionist went in and looked. It wasn’t there either.

Back to the truck I went. Everything in it got lifted, opened, felt and thoroughly examined, but there was still no discovery. I went back in the office and waited for ten minutes until the person in the treatment room was finished and came out. I had to see for myself that the purse was not there, although I didn’t think they could have missed it. There was no purse and there was nothing left to do about it except pray that it be found. The chiropractor added his prayer as well, and it was comforting to know he was genuinely concerned.

I went back to the truck to inform the husband, who is also as eager to give lost causes to God as I am.

Husband: “God knows where it is. We’ll pray and keep looking.”

Me: “I know, but there isn’t any place left to look. It wasn’t anywhere in the office and I can’t see it anywhere in here, unless you’re sitting on it.”

Husband: “I am sitting a little bit crooked.”

Me: (looking at him in disbelief) (shoving my hand behind his back and feeling a purse strap) “You’re sitting on my purse! You couldn’t feel that?!”

Husband: (looking sheepish and overjoyed, a very strange combination) “Well, that was quick.”

All good. We were both so relieved that there was instant laughter. Losing things is not fun, but sometimes finding them again makes it all worth it. Just sayin’…

February’s Good Things: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not something we do for other people, it’s something we do for ourselves, to move on.

From ProjectForgive.com

Today’s good thing is forgiveness, both the kind that others give me and the kind I give myself.

The day started out just fine, and I must have let my guard down a little because of that. It wasn’t much past noon when I forgot an appointment. I had also put my phone on silent earlier and forgotten to take it off, so I didn’t get Mom’s reminder call. I’m pretty sure I’ll be forgiven for both of those things just because my people are nice. But when I miss an appointment it really bothers me, so I don’t forgive myself right away. I carried that around in my bag of disappointments for a couple of hours.

I felt pressure to do my exercise before too late in the day. That was my one productive activity, after which I started messing up my room collecting things for the upcoming rummage sale. It was all out on the bed, and overflowing onto the floor, when I realized it was time to cook dinner. Where does the time go? I had intended to cook for Mom, but because I hadn’t let her know, she had eaten earlier. The bag of disappointments was feeling full, so I forgave myself for that one.

Instead I started cooking dinner and got distracted, until the faint smell of burning food brought me to my senses. I’m forgiving myself for burning dinner. After all, I’ve not burned dinner many more times than I’ve burned it. I cut the burned parts off and we ate it anyway. I forgave myself for ruining the non-stick pan because I don’t really think there is such a thing. I’ve never met a non-stick pan that I couldn’t make sticky. And I forgave myself for forgetting to turn off the burner for another hour. It’s -30 degrees outside and the house needs the extra heat.

Oh pan, I’m sorry.

And now I’m forgiving myself for the awful shape my room is in. I’m going to push everything off the bed and take care of it tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a brand new day, and that’s kind of what forgiveness is all about – starting over fresh, and second chances. Forgiveness and extending mercy feels good and in my life, it is oh so necessary. Just thinking about it and its merits has reminded me of how important it is not to hold grudges against others or beat myself up about things that are past. I’m not saying it’s easy to do this, but maybe that’s why God gives me days like this – to practice.

February Goodness: Anything Not Connected to the Internet

Today I am celebrating all things that don’t require screens in order to be enjoyed. I am thankful for books, knitting and jigsaw puzzles, face to face conversations and walks outside, cat petting and sitting by the fireplace.

And just why did you stop petting me?

This morning I went over to Mom to get a particular TV series on her set so we could watch it together. An hour of utter frustration followed, as I tried one thing after another. I encountered freeze ups, dead batteries in remotes, rebooting, forgotten passwords, locked accounts and basically one fail after another. I can get the program on my TV at my house, but not at hers and that is the end conclusion (at least for today). I am too upset to continue.

I am more than a little frightened at how dependent I (we all) have become on the internet and all our devices. I can’t even bake a loaf of bread anymore without looking on the internet for a recipe. The trouble is, this has happened so quickly to our world. I remember a time, not that long ago, without pc’s, cell phones and smart watches. I am blessed to have always lived in a world with electricity and indoor plumbing but perhaps those things also scared people who came to depend on them. If it’s true that there’s no going back, then we had better hope we don’t have to because most of us won’t know how to keep ourselves alive. It won’t be pretty.

This trend to take a day off technology every now and then is probably a smart move in the right direction. But look at me, I had to sit down and vent here on my blog. And what if I didn’t have Fitbit telling me I was “crushing it” and Noom congratulating me for logging three meals in a row? If I didn’t have the internet, who would love me? Yeah, …

Maybe, this line of thought is a good reality check, a chance to be more aware of the stress of our cyber culture. Anyway, back to the world of available choices – I am thankful for a change of pace. I’m going to do something non-technological, like taking a nap or eating chocolate. I’ll feel better soon. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll google “technology frustration” and see what the remedy is, just sayin’…

Good choice. Real chocolate.

February Goodness: Good Words

I love it when someone speaks influential words that apply to my life.

I believe that learning, growing, and being curious makes me a happier person. Sometimes I can commence down a better path all by myself, but most often I am inspired or encouraged by someone else’s good words. I have good words written on note cards, in my journal, on sticky notes here and there, magnetized on my refrigerator, and on note apps on my phone. In fact, they are stashed in so many different places that I have trouble finding any certain one when I want it. My favorite books are highlighted so I can easily find those places where words changed something for me.

When I was younger, encountering good words was easy. I had parents and teachers who felt responsible for telling me all kinds of things. Now that I’m older I have to search for that kind of input. It’s actually work to keep growing. I’m trying to do it on purpose.

A favorite thing, and I don’t do it often enough, is to ask someone who knows me fairly well to think for a minute and then tell me something they think I need to hear. I pick kind people, like Mom, who have earned my respect. But I am willing to hear correction as well as anything else they might have to say. Although it might feel selfish to ask someone to think about me and give feedback, I think that is a distorted feeling. I think it’s healthy to want to know what other people see. It adds balance to my life and keeps me away from unhealthy extremes.

Thank you Emily for some good words today.

Today I listened to a podcast that had a good word for me. I am a writer of sorts and have been a member of a professional writing group for several years. I have writing projects that I want to complete and I thought I was taking them seriously. I am working on them whenever I get time. And then, prompted by words from the podcast teacher, I took a look at my calendar and did not see writing anywhere on my schedule. I had to admit that it did not appear to be a very serious task. I now have a chance to do something better.

Okay, it’s on the calendar now. (I know it doesn’t look like I do much, but that’s because I’m retired and don’t write things down until after I do them.)

And of course, there’s nothing like a pandemic and year long isolation to make good words precious to me. I hear all the time that people are lonely, wondering whether they have value to anyone, feeling a bit hopeless, depressed… and I begin to feel some of that myself. I am grateful for words that came along one evening this week, from the video series “The Chosen”, Season 1, Episode 1 (such a good, thought provoking series!). The words are “But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.’ ” From Isaiah 43:1 Those words are for all people and they make me feel known, valued and not afraid. Good words.

What good words have come across your radar lately? Please share.