December 24, 2017

The Fright before Christmas

Traditionally, as many families do, we gathered on Christmas Eve in our parent's home to celebrate together as a family. This particular year, talk of Y2K* was ever present in the media, in stores, and wherever you happened to be, warnings were issued and people stockpiled items to "survive". We were ready to celebrate Christmas Eve at mom and dad's when the bottom fell out from below my family. I wrote this poem during that sleepless night and had as many as I could track down write what their first thoughts were. Their stories are written, following the poem, exactly as penned that Christmas of 1999.

The Fright Before Christmas – 1999
(The year of Y2K)

On Christmas Eve in the year ‘99
Thirty-four Olsen’s were gathered and all lookin’ fine.

The food was prepared at Mom Olsen’s with care,
The table was filled for this festive affair.

We crowded the back room for a right solemn prayer
As the aroma of food lightened the air.

When what to our wondering ears did we hear?
But the cracking of floorboards so loud and so clear!

The scrambling, the screaming, the rushing to exit
Gave peace a good-bye as the floor fell just a bit.

My God! What is happening? Is this how we end?
Our separate thoughts shaking, the floor continued to descend.

Out Marcus, out Zhenya, find Elyse, where’s the baby?
Grab Alainamae, Rebecka, Sammy, Claire, Ksusha and Addie.

All out of the room we scrambled with a clatter
As none of us knew just what was the matter.

Mom’s heart it did flutter and flip with fast beats
As an assembly line rescued the lit candles, and good eats.

Dust settled, screams ceased, and the men they did check
The back room for problems. Was the house still erect?

The floor did give way – two feet in some places!
And left a good hole … and some awe stricken faces.

No one hurt, no one lost, just nerves jangled and blind.
On this strangest of nights, the year of Y2K on our mind.

Even though this dreadful event gave such a fright
We can still wish all a Merry Christmas, and to all a safe night.

“We were just about to eat supper. Lester said a prayer and we started to sit down around the table when we heard a loud bang – floor began to sink and furniture sliding. Connie called insurance company, expecting them in for estimate.” Mom Olsen

“I can’t explain exactly what I thought. I know I thought it might be the end of the world. When I got a chance to think, I had to figure out where my son Marcus was. Someone told me Alainamae had him and then I was okay. I think Terreal grabbed my hand and we ran into the kitchen and to the hallway. I still didn’t know what was actually happening. It was crazy – that’s how I would explain it!" Monica

“Well, I had a splitting headache and all of the sudden the table & china cabinet is moving. I thought for a minute that a car ran into the back of the house and that the entire room was going to colaps. Then I couldn’t find Sammy so I was into the kitchen. Everyone was shooken up for a few, but then it was calm again.” Kim

“I was in a different room and heard what sounded like gun shots.” Judy

“I was sittin next to my brother Corey talking. All of the sudden I felt a rumble. I thought it was a large object falling or like Uncle Jim fell. Then I realized it was the floor. I didn’t run into the kitchen. I just stood there.” Tony

“We just got done saying prayer and was about to eat when all of a sudden we heard a cracking sound. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I looked down at the floor and realized we were sinking. Everybody started screaming and running into the kitchen. After we realized that the floor didn’t go far, we all ate and ended up having a good time.” Kacee

“I did not know what to think. My mind was going in so many directions. At first I thought it was an earthquake, then I thought Y2K came a little early.” Corey

“At first I thought it was an earthquake, but there could not be an earthquake in Michigan, because nothing was shaking. Then I did not know what it was. So I just ran.” Addie Rose

“At first I thought that was a earthquake was in Michigan bot then vremgmbr the earthquake was not earthquake the hause prokt down it was the flore. it skerod me I run to the kichene.” Zhenya

“Floor Collapses due to multiple Grand Kids at Grandmas. Due to the love and affection at the Olsen family Christmas Eve Party we all pulled through a disaster of sinking proportion. Everyone survived a drop in holiday spirits at Christmas by pulling together and heading to the living room.” Mark

“My fist thought that it was an earthquake. But there was no earthquake this is Michigan. And plus there is no earthquakes in Michigan. I was realy scared because I was sitting by the part where it was a big hole. It was scary.” 12/31/99 10:37 pm     Ксюша (Ksusha)

*“The Year 2000 problem, also known as the Y2K problem, the Millennium bug, the Y2K bug, or Y2K, is a class of computer bugs related to the formatting and storage of calendar data for dates beginning in the year 2000. Problems were anticipated, and arose, because twentieth-century software often represented the four-digit year with only the final two digits—making the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900. The assumption of a twentieth-century date in such programs caused various errors, such as the incorrect display of dates and the inaccurate ordering of automated dated records or real-time events.” (from online Wikipedia)

December 3, 2017

Planning for the Holidays

When the winter holidays approach – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Day – a mild flutter of anticipation grows in the depths of my gut. After all, Santa Claus IS coming to town.

I am a born planner and organizer, avoid Pinterest design ideas, preferring to create - attempt to anyway - outside of the online box.

My husband and children would agree that holidays are exciting to me with their many events, family gatherings, decorating, smells, and creative thinking in choosing the perfect gifts. I am an idealist and truly believe each year that the holidays will be joyful, plans will run smoothly, and there will be peace and love with all. I’m my mom’s child and she was an optimist – how could she be so upbeat when in reality holidays are so exhausting and imperfect.

Fatigue is of my own making as I struggle with an auto immune disease but still have plans in place to:
·       Hosting Thanksgiving dinner for approximately 30-35 family members to include three turkeys and a duck, seriously.
·       Decorating with snowmen (no Santa figures until the day is over).
·       Clearing the backroom after the meal for people to decorate gingerbread houses with the blessed and total leadership of my girls.

·       Continue my walking with an average goal of 3.01 miles daily.
·       A soup meal with friends at my house in early December, when the house will be fully decorated with two trees, snowmen and Santa figurines.
·       Attending a cookie decorating party, making select cookies to add to the treats.
·       Jumping into a weekly book study about the holidays and how to create a peaceful time for everyone (don’t I wish). If only my thoughts and actions would align with the authors of this book. But, I try…
·       Organizing a special dinner at a local restaurant with friends.
·       Holding a girl-only (first time doing this) family Christmas gift exchange.
·       Having a Christmas time with our children a week before Christmas so all can attend.
·       Mulling over having a field trip to the Zoo to see the lights and animals on Christmas Eve.
·       More walking and thinking of what needs to be purchased, wrapped, fixed, cleaned, cooked, for all the above festivities.
·       Trying to remain cheerful this year while also remembering and grieving the loss of a sister.
·       Feeling blessed.

I want to assure you, dear reader, that, for me, these holiday gatherings, are fun to anticipate, and done with an attempt to share the spirit of the season – but, as a fallible human, tiring. I do acknowledge the secular along with the religious and spiritual aspects of Christmas.

As most planners know, activities and events come with many “cons” and “pros” which I leave to your imaginations and experiences. 
I wish for you a peaceful, joy-filled, relaxing Christmas. As for me, I’m collecting some good reading materials for the time between Christmas and through New Year’s Day.

November 15, 2017

My Ankles are Showing

I turned on the radio the moment a well-known “fashion guru” stated that Capri pants are essentially an abomination. What? A quick judgement of these pants worn by literally everyone I know. Perhaps he never wore these gifts of god, their cooling comfort embracing of the calf – I could live in them, and do during warm weather. Does this mean I am a little off in my fashion sense? Well, yes, and no.

Reminiscing about my (many) faux pas … which in one case was an embarrassing, fashion wise, social situation. It began with an active day out in public oblivious to the length of my pants. No one said a thing –  not even those near and dear friends who joined me on this fun day.

When festivities were over I went home, still oblivious, and glanced in the hallway mirror, my focus immediately gravitated to my pants, which were easily two inches above my shoe tops. I groaned as recounting the numerous gatherings I participated in and could only hope (and pray) that observers enjoyed a chuckle over me and my goofy pants.

Capri pants would have solved the day.

Seriously, to be so pre-occupied over high-water pants is sad, of so little value and importance in the scheme of life. So what if I wore high-waters - they were comfortable. 

Running over finish line with cousins
On a hiking trip, I saw an older woman walking the trail wearing even higher high-water pants.  Smiling, I thought how cute she was and felt a kinship.  Why I focused so much time in how fashion-challenged I had been … and yet found high-waters charming on another … is a mystery. Seeing her and experiencing a comradery made me feel better.  Not cool - but better.

I suppose I have learned to embrace my nerdiness and loudly protest the “expert” fashion guru as he so arrogantly maligned Capri’s. For me, they are perfect to wear for a rainy, windy day along the shores of Lake Superior … or anywhere for that matter. So there!

September 17, 2017

I Had a Friend

My friend - I'll call her "Molly" - and I go back to the early 70s, but I knew of her for much longer through chance meetings with both her and her husband, "Paul". An articulate woman, she elevated me with her attention and interest in me, my family and writing goals. She always had a smile and a kind word, a hug, an encouraging nod.

Molly was older by a generation, married with children, an author and an active writer. The couple frequently drove to my office - "just stopped by to chat", they would say.

Molly and I attended writing workshops together, and once, she invited me to a party held at the home of a local writing legend - a tall Victorian house expansively decorated for Christmas, even the scents announced the holiday. Bookshelves lined the dark wood walls and were filled with leather-bound tomes. The atmosphere was scholarly and quiet with occasional bursts of laughter, the striking of a match to light pipes - no cigarettes there - and men with corduroy jackets with, yes, leather patches on the elbows. People milled around visiting, not sitting and relaxing in the leather chairs which filled the rooms of the home. She openly and happily introduced me to her friends: published authors, photographers, the hostess - a well-known teacher. Molly shared with these "celebrities" my personal writing goals ... while I stood feeling inadequate yet pleased with her praise and confidence in me.

I once confided to her that I wanted to write a book about my musings and she encouraged me to set up my own publishing company, which I did and even had a graphic artist create a logo - free. The book completed and self-published led to a desire to write another one - a story from the diary of my grandmother living in the woods during a very difficult upper peninsula winter. Eager to share this second book with Molly, and, as it had been over a year since we had contact, I emailed her and Paul. He answered that she was in a nursing facility.

I was let into her unit by her nurse - what? why would the place be locked up, I ruminated as she led me to my friend's room where she cheerfully announced my presence. Molly was sitting in a chair looking out the window and slowly turned around and stood up. Her face was blank as she seemed to be reaching into her memories for who I was - then it seemed to click and she lit up. "Connie, it is so good of you to visit," she excitedly exclaimed as we hugged. I experienced denial, big time, but had to finally realize that my good and dear friend had dementia. She talked, disjointedly, with an occasional recognition of who I was. I held out my second book for her and she stood and held me telling me how proud she was of me. Then faded into jumbled recollections.

I felt shock and the betrayal of dementia - the memory robber. Our old familiar and warm relationship ended that day, or perhaps changed as I will continue visiting and holding her hand, talking to her of old times and friends. I'll always hold Molly closely in my heart and embellish my memories of our times together. I cherish and hold onto her words about how proud she was of me when I gave her my book. I find comfort that perhaps it touched in her a hidden memory of who I was, who she was, and who we were together. You would have liked her.

Dementia stinks!

September 10, 2017

My Life as an Olympian

I deeply believe, to a point, that hidden memories can sometimes be crucial to good mental health. Perhaps the brain shuts down to protect you from the good, bad and ugly. Or, maybe not. 

When a memory erupts through our consciousness - a period of quiet focus follows with either pain, delight, tears or a smile.

As a child, my dream was to be an Olympian – I ran barefoot through the school yard … fast. I entered races, ran the track at the local community college, and was tireless. But, alas, a “true” Olympic caliber runner would be able to circle me at least twice and still easily beat my time, but I could dream. No one could take away my dream, except for me.

Years passed with an occasional heart tug at how quickly my goal of the Olympics was extinguished, perhaps through lack of support, environmental or monetary issues, or my own abilities. But, I did think about what my life would have been like as an Olympian and figuratively kicked myself for not working more diligently toward that goal. In reality, it was unattainable as my body was not of the lucky "fast twitch" type, but in my heart I was on the starting line.

One day I shared this regret with one of my daughters. I'm sure I admonished her to grab hold of life and she could do anything she set her heart on, yada yada yada. She blurted out, rather defensively if I remember, that I had been an Olympian.


In the flash of a nano-second, the memory surfaced - sharp, clear, real - I had been an Olympian.

For my entire tomboy life, I was deeply in love with fast-pitch softball, living and breathing the sport, even having the honor of being voted the "Most Valuable Player" multiple times.

One day I arrived home to a mailed invitation - I was selected to compete on a softball team in the Mid-Michigan Olympics. Of course, I did compete, played shortstop - my favorite position - and don't remember if we won or lost ... another deep memory hidden. Nevertheless, I was an Olympian, not in running as I thought but achieved my dream. 

It is a mystery to me exactly why my memory shut down on that particularly exciting achievement, and not just for a short time but for years. Memory sure is a puzzle, isn't it? What memories could you be hiding?

August 22, 2017

Eclipse - Some Thoughts

The Solar Eclipse 2017 was yesterday and although we were not located in its direct path, excitement over this event was extreme throughout Michigan and in our house. Two of my brothers and a good friend live on opposite sides of the United States and were in the "Path of Totality" - how wonderful is that? I planned to walk during the eclipse and convinced my daughter that it would help her remember the moment of the eclipse if she joined me - which she was more than happy to do. Sans NASA approved glasses, we assured each other we'd not look directly at the sun.
Waiting for the Eclipse

I shared with her my thoughts that when an event as pure as an eclipse occurs it is as if a new beginning for each of us has occurred. We have a clean slate from that day forward to: make changes, start a new path, try something different.  As in New Years where we make resolutions/goals, or a birthday when you might reevaluate your path - we can view these events as a start to change or an embracing of  current life choices. I shared that I felt a newness or adventure in myself and hope she will be open to ruminate what these events mean for her.

I've been exploring Art Journaling and purchased two notebooks for this purpose the evening before. Eclipse Morning I met at a favorite coffee shop with two friends, one of whom is an artist, who told me about a class being held at her gallery this Saturday on, wait for it ... creating an ART JOURNAL! - and in the timeline of the Eclipse. I signed up immediately. Although art is not, most definitely not, my gift or talent, I've always carried a predilection or desire to be an artist of sorts. So, trying something new, different, challenging seemed the ticket to post-Eclipse direction. I look forward to learning about this method of expression and also have some ideas of my own.

  • using quotes which I've collected from movies, books, other media
  • adding pictures cut from magazines or old photos
  • embellishing the pages by writing short thoughts about it
  • discovering techniques for adding color
  • exploring my abilities as an art journal-er

I shot this picture with my iPhone 7 on our 2017 Eclipse walk after my daughter showed me the unique shadows from the sun/moon effect - and explained why they occurred. The scattered and numerous moon beam shadows were everywhere ... surreal. I call them moon bubbles ... what a celestial gift.


August 15, 2017

Blogger's Block

I'm at a bump in the road with Blogger’s Block – an uncomfortable condition where ideas, thoughts, and even words are struggling to be placed on “paper”. I researched Writer’s Block and learned that a change of environment might help - so am visiting a new coffee shop where my large white cup is holding a bold, black brew, and am listening to contemporary folk music … my large table (a great find) is clean and free of distractions. Two professors are sharing the other end talking about their upcoming classes but find this as white noise in the background. A Garmin can passively lead us to our destination – but I’m now in the writing driver’s seat with no GPS, on my own, literally. So am brainstorming various thoughts to help loosen up my grey matter and my fingers to see if that breaks the chains of this oppressive block.

I take every possible opportunity to drive the roads less traveled.
Often great adventure is around corners: hidden gems, undiscovered shops, stunning scenery. To balance out the good, occasionally we have found ourselves hopelessly lost. My husband and I would calmly chat as if we knew exactly where we were and try to end this little adventure of the lost, attempting to distract our brood by telling stories or sharing, what my husband and I think are leg-slapper jokes.

I own nice cameras but prefer to take pictures with my iPhone 7. I’ve taken photography classes, belong to two photo clubs, and yet, my realm of comfort lies with my mobile phone. Having “experts” share how they photograph scenery, sports, flowers, nature, landscapes … the hours spent looking for a perfect shot … the F-stop, aperture, shutter speed, sun and moon conditions …. blah blah blah! I have spent countless wasted hours silently comparing my (lack of) expertise to these photographers. My level of interest went down as I knew I’d never measure up or to be taken seriously as a photographer/blogger. Not being a passive woman and to distance myself from comparisons, I plan to leave these clubs and begin a comfort with myself taking “good enough” shots with my iPhone, occasionally shooting with a camera. All are synced to my iPad for easy editing, posting, and developing. For my emotional health - the right choice.
I read books about people who love books, bibliophiles, women's true adventure stories, and the stories behind recipes in cookbooks. My collection of these genres is ever-expanding. Give me a comfy chair, coffee, and allow me to vicariously live another's life for an hour in the comfort of my home, bookstore, or coffee shop. Through my reading adventures, I discovered a town in England where bookstores are around every corner. Sixpence House by Paul Collins takes place in the Welsh countryside in the village of Hay-on-Wye, a Town of Books, boasting forty bookstores. In Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife by Ann Linnea, I kayak around Lake Superior with her during a summer of cold, wind, rain and sleet. I sit transfixed on the edge of my figurative kayak imagining her battle with heavy winds while safe shore is unreachable in this frigid, people eating lake. A Year By the Sea by Joan Anderson is inspirational in a strange way as she takes a year away from family living by herself in Cape Cod. Although I’m not planning to take a year away from my husband, I love reading about the insights and freedom she experiences in this daring move.

Cooking is not (yet) my gift. Owning a plethora of cookbooks and food magazines, I think like a cook but without the expertise or desire to create these recipes. I’d like to train myself to take a chance and am inspired to when finishing my “Where Women Create” magazine. In my head, my kitchen is magical and I find myself planning new designs for this very tiny, galley room. I’m blocked by previous cooking experiences with crockpot liver stew, putting orange juice on All Bran for breakfast, mushy meats … but, there is always hope. One of my favorite movies, Julie & Julia, has Julie Powell cooking each and every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year’s time. Julie began documenting this experience in a blog, which led me to begin blogging. So, in a way, I am a cook.

I save fun words and unique sentences. I enjoy the spiciness of what others have written to me over the years … and I save these gems – and clip your unique way of speaking and writing. Yes, I am a plagiarist of you as you are blindly creative, and your word treasures feed my muse … are at times fun and blog worthy.

July 28, 2017

Panic Around My Birth

Looking up from my bassinet into the mask-covered faces of white-clothed people I saw concern blanketing their eyes as my bed was moved into a lone room where I would gurgle at the sickly green walls and single lit bulb most of the day. The door opened to crying noises as a person with a funny hat entered my solitary room holding up a long skinny shiny “toy”. She fooled me as it caused a sharp pain in my thigh making me wet myself. A masked woman with kind but worried eyes would visit me frequently. She seemed to know who I was, picked me up with her soft and gentle hands, and sat carefully in a moving chair. The lady would pull a couple of bottles from her shirt and offer them to me. Eagerly sucking away the hungry tummy pain I tasted the fear-laced nourishment while searching this kind person's eyes for an explanation.

July 18, 1953 was a day of comfortable temperatures ranging from 60-82 degrees in Marquette, Michigan, and was a day of panic in the community. A celebration of a new baby coincided with a massive polio epidemic.

("Poliomyelitis is an acute infectious disease caused by the poliovirus and characterized by fever, motor paralysis, and atrophy of skeletal muscles often with permanent disability and deformity and marked by inflammation of nerve cells in the anterior gray matter in each lateral half of the spinal cord - called also infantile paralysis." Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

"Paralytic poliomyelitis, or polio, held a reign of terror over this nation for decades. But unless you were born before 1955, polio may seem to be just another ephemeral disease that has been nonexistent for years. Those born before 1955 remember having a great fear of this horrible disease which crippled thousands of once-active and healthy persons. This disease had no cure and no identified causes, which made it all the more terrifying." (Fear of Polio in the 1950s © 1997, Beth Sokol)

Beth Sokol continues and references Jane Smith's, Patenting the Sun: Polio and the Salk Vaccine (New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc, 1990, p. 34) "When polio struck, movie theaters were shut, camps and schools were closed, drinking fountains were abandoned, draft inductions suspended, and nonessential meetings were canceled until the epidemic appeared to be over for the time being."

Over the years I grew into a tomboy who delighted in the creepy crawly, presenting my slimy treasures to mom - the kind lady with the bottles. She had an abject fear of anything wiggly and especially rodents. I often wondered if she looked back to the terror of my birth and did it cross her mind that she wanted to put me back. 

But, I am thankful our family can celebrate birthdays relatively healthy because of the sacrifices of countless people. Medical research needs to continue, funding is crucial in a plethora of diseases and conditions.

I’ve fairly recently been diagnosed with Sjögren’s Syndrome (“SHOW-grins”), “a systemic autoimmune disease affecting the entire body. Along with symptoms of extensive dryness, other serious complications include profound fatigue, chronic pain, major organ involvement, neuropathies and lymphomas.” (Sjögren’s Syndrome Foundation)

It can take over 3 years to diagnose Sjögren’s which affects mainly women. It took 10 years for my diagnosis – I had two doctors who dismissed my symptoms … but was lucky to “flare” in front of my new primary doctor who sent me to the University of Michigan Hospital where a diagnosis of this autoimmune disease was confirmed. Unlike polio, many people have never heard of Sjögren’s, which may affect over 4 million Americans.

My rheumatologist tells me that I am one of the lucky ones – so far. I’ll hold this close and be comforted in her assessment. And as everything … so it goes!

June 27, 2017

Vision Board Workshop

An evening set aside to create vision boards - I looked forward to this activity, my third annual one, and spent a couple hours shopping for the perfect color board (poster vs thicker), placing one in my basket only to go back to the selection and replace it with another, more than once. Finally choosing a gray/blue slightly thick board. Satisfying because feel color matters in the long run to my end goal.

Arriving in the intimate office space I claimed my seat, one in which I didn't have to turn my head often, and looked around at this new meeting place. A plethora of magazines were scattered on all available surfaces, glue sticks and scissors stuck out of a plastic box on the work space; treats and wine were enticingly set out in a smaller office across the hall.

The leader began the vision board experience with an exercise of guided imagery, having us close our eyes, breathe, and visualize comfort places. Soft music played in the background during this portion of our evening.

I'd  spent hours clipping quotes, pictures and anything that grabbed my attention from my own reading materials and had them neatly secured in a plastic binder. I also journal my goals each year and check off what I was able to complete or accomplish ... a little OCD but fun to look at on future occasions. 

I was the oldest woman by a good ten years but settled into the activity fairly comfortable in that we were all working toward the same end. I had taken a picture of my current goals and looked at it for a bit before sorting my clippings into use or not use piles. This technique works for me and after completing the process a clear idea was formulated. Grabbing a glue stick I worked effortlessly and with direction while sipping on sweet wine. Unfamiliar rock-type music played in the background with some women singing the lyrics, accentuating our age difference, others silently focused, sharing intimate thoughts, with an occasional bout of laughter filling the air. It was a good night. 

If you are not familiar with vision boards they are:

  • Boards you create with magazine pictures, sayings, quotes, anything that speaks to you.
  • You can either paste or use double-sided tape to secure these clippings onto small, medium or large poster boards.
  • The vision aspect of these workshops is to create a dream scape of what you either intend to accomplish or wish to do for the year, or longer if you wish.
  • At the end of the workshop, each person is asked to share their board and what in them was significant to them.
  • More often than not, what is created surprises the "artist" and is usually an encouragement.
  • These boards ideally, when completed, should be set up in an area of your home to view and keep you on task.
  • Also, in my experience with vision board workshops, treats, wine, and music are integral parts to make you feel relaxed and cared for.

I am pleased with my 2017 vision board - and recommend this creative process for those stuck in a rut, wanting a little more direction, or plainly for the fun of a small gathering with similar-minded people.

June 21, 2017

Slip Sliding Away

The breeze was almost wicked as my husband, daughter and I rounded the top of the sandy trail in the Leelanau Peninsula. Leaning over the bluff I looked into the cold arms of Lake Michigan – grabbing my daughter's arm, said: "Let's go, it's not that far down." 

We laughed on our descent – hop, skip, and sliding down the dune. My delight in the adventure turned quickly to concern as the top of the hill was receding with each sandy step. The bluff was at a 60-degree angle and presented a 400 foot drop. But we continued to the bottom with Lake Michigan lapping at our toes.

The top of the dune where my husband was waiting was hidden due to a large sandy protrusion – “Crap” I sighed loudly to my daughter. What had I gotten us into? Wandering worriedly as the waves lapped our feet, crap seemed like a good word to use, again, as I envisioned an embarrassing helicopter rescue. 

I was a couple decades older than my last successful trip down the Log Slide in Grand Marais, Michigan, where I flew down the dune and easily climbed back up to my mother’s smiling face. But now, the 60s taunted me, yet thought I was in pretty decent shape. So with my pride on the line and desperately aching to prove this climb would not defeat my daughter and I, up we went. 

Step by agonizing step. 

My energy gave out after only about ten minutes into the climb forcing me to stop, a lot. The bluff was at such a steep angle that to sit or stand would surely cause a tumble onto the rocks below. I rested and breathed delicate pieces of sand into my flared nostrils, my pounding heart ripping at my chest.

Up a few steps, down some, up again and sliding backwards. The climb was the most extreme exercise of any I have ever engaged in and I was frankly scared and thinking about how my daughter was doing, my husband at the top, and that helicopter rescue.

My daughter was obviously concerned as she carefully followed my sunken steps and took charge of the sand-wheel, if you will. "Breathe from deep in your lungs mom, and let it out; walk in my footsteps."

She took the lead and leapfrogged me up the brown sugar sand dune as my energy resources continually were exhausted. We had no choice but to continue - she positioned herself next to me and pushed my butt to keep me going. Butt push, steps, descending some, upward momentum, butt push, progress.

The summit was visible. My worried husband was standing next to a man and woman shouted words of encouragement, which were difficult to hear due to the wind, the beating pulse in our ears, and our one focus to finish. As we reached the final agonizing leg of this intense upward climb, the stranger kindly lowered his backpack as a handhold as there was nothing in our paths to grasp. I ungracefully lunged over the lip of the dune … crawling on my stomach I grabbed his foot and held on with gratitude. This stranger did not pull away but stood patiently – all three of them appeared proud – my husband smiled, “I knew you could do it.”

As a group we descended to the parking lot. My legs wobbled and were spent but found myself beaming with pride of my daughter and the manner in which she took charge, fully giving of herself to get me to the top of this sand dune. I was touched by the support of these beautiful people.

The couple, who were in their 60s, had shared with my husband, as we were struggling up the dune, that I was an inspiration to them. The husband and wife told him that my taking on this dune challenge helped them realize that they, too, could also take on adventures. It was absolutely humbling to realize that my not so smart decision would affect this couple in a positive way – to get them to think beyond their age and see that some of their own limitations were in their minds. 

Was the climb worth it? The jury is out on that one. (We found out later that if we had only walked around the bottom of the dune a short distance there was a firm path leading back to the top. What can I say?)

June 16, 2017

Rainy Days with Meryl Streep

I sprawled out in our orange room on a rainy afternoon, my body half on and half off the white IKEA sofa, a pillow behind my back and one on my lap for my opportunist cat who jumps on and presents his royal ear for a good scratching.

A delicious mug of Kona coffee is a treat in itself and keeps me company as I watch Julie and Julia for the fourth time. This is one of my most favorite movies … portraying a melancholic woman, Julie, who works in New York fielding insurance calls after 911 - and is an unpublished writer. Julie feels less accomplished than all her socialite 30-year-old friends, one of whom “even blogs”. She whines about this to her husband as they watch Julia Child’s The French Chef. Her husband, distractedly annoyed with her mood, gently encourages her to start her own blog. She sits straight up on the couch and after some excited discussion wonders what she could blog about. Julie loves cooking, adores Julia Child, and decides that the blog will be daily posts focused on a year of cooking through her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie’s husband helps her select a blog site and assists with set-up, she chooses the blog’s name, writes her introductory entry, clicks the post button, then waits.

Julie and Julia arrived in theaters in 2009 - I was first in line. A large bag of popcorn in my hand, a hot cup of coffee, of course; my seat secured … stage center. I was captured, enraptured and became Julie’s silent and secret apprentice. I laughed and became weepy when, after all these years, it hit me that Julia Child was dead, not realizing until that movie moment how much I missed her. Meryl Streep melded into Julia and was amazing – becoming Julia to me and I held that close to my heart to bring me out of a threatening sob.

Julia and her husband, Paul, had moved to France for his work and the couple ate often at French restaurants. She loses the ability to communicate with words but rather happily moaned when she ate food – cooked in real butter, a lot of butter. “I feel I am French” she exclaims brightly when walking through town with her husband. Paul proudly proclaims to friends, “Julia brings out the best in a pole cat” acknowledging her zest for life, love of the French - and the food.

Julia is me in that when I eat an exquisite meal, I moan and exclaim through the whole meal how wonderful it is, that “it’s the best meal I’ve ever eaten”!

Julie is me, was me, seeming to parallel my journey. I thought of myself as a writer … wrote the family periodical The Olsen Chronicles, penned stories, kept diaries and journals - but felt a void in my life’s direction. I was close to tears for most of the movie in 2009 as I morphed into these women and embraced the love and support they received from friends and family.

As the movie progressed thoughts were formulating and terminated in a decision to begin my own blog. I love watching cooking shows, and, in particular, The Barefoot Contessa … so because of my own tomboy existence chose The Barefoot Norwegian as my blog’s name. It would be a blog of positivity and would be about my experiences traveling through Michigan and my coffee shop musings. I virtually hugged Julia, Julie, and Meryl, for reigniting my writing spark.

Tears again pricked at my eyes as I sat on the couch finally allowing the grief of Julia Child’s death go, feeling comforted in knowing I still had Meryl Streep who helped redirect my life, giving me purpose during a period of my life when I needed it.

Under the Tuscan Sun is another most favorite movie … um, does this mean an Italian Villa in my future?

And, so it goes, spontaneously and unpredictably exciting…

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