October 16, 2018

Capturing the Heart - One Thing at a Time

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover. —Mark Twain

I'm sitting in a coffee shop along the Black River and the St. Clair River sipping a dark roast coffee with thoughts about my motivation and focus and the get-up-and-go I’m known for. I am looking out at the water as the weekend continues its gloomy face with low hanging clouds that spit down. Nevertheless, I find this environmental hiccup enticing in that it is forcing me to stay single-minded. Some of my focus is thinking that my get-up-and-go has lately got-up-and-went. My gut says, you are tired.

In exploring this motivational lapse, I’ve concluded that I want to do so much and cannot seem to achieve singular focus - not an endearing attribute. I have lived in the shadow lie that women are great at multitasking, but not true! Our focus on one thing is good but when that attention is split on multiple things at once, all becomes fuddled, tired, and does not give the result we think it does. Our alliances are torn and our brain is constantly switching the track of the train - recipe for mediocre, perhaps disaster.

I acknowledge heartily that when I'm in extreme multitasking mode, the memories of the time (un)focused are blurred. What was the weather? Who did I talk with two minutes ago? Did I just post on Facebook - and what? This is scary to me as, like anyone, I want to capture and cherish my memories - good or bad - and not lose days to the disease of multitasking. 

Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture the heart.
Ancient Indian Proverb

I find focus and am energized when attending conferences, events, interesting meetings, reading true adventure stories, walking in the woods, and watching documentaries. Strange, but when I engage in these activities I have extreme focus and attention to every phase, word, and thought – I get blessedly lost in what interests me. Hmm … makes me think I solved my own concentration issue. Of course, singular focus is difficult in this society but believe it can be tempered a little with surrounding yourself with activities that delight your sensibilities.

If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. —Vincent Van Gogh 

Focus on the moment when you can and as often as you are able. This is why I love coffee shops!

from Raven Café & Coffeehouse bathroom wall

October 6, 2018

The Raven Doth Speak to Me

Have you seen my Mojo?* I feel "she's" lost - or sadly replaced with a dull sense of myself. My Mojo was large, introspective, exhibiting bright thoughts and colors, and typically would have been found in a coffee shop, the woods, along a trail, or even shuffling through the house redecorating for the change of seasons. She was nerdy but indelible .. to me.

I'm worried and have searched in my heart for when and why she left me – there are clear concrete reasons on why and seems that these final ones created a rift between Mojo and myself. But I haven't lost hope of eventually finding and reclaiming her wonderful presence. Oh, my Mojo was tiring at times, always pulling me away from the mundane and relaxing to the realm of excitement and wonder. Frankly, during this loss I've been regaining the energy she demanded, still absolutely miss the spark Mojo was able to create … the gift of optimism she instilled in me.

The rain pours down in Port Huron today where I find myself with hours of me time. Delightful time, but truthfully, it's time to find that Mojo. As she's been noticed around coffee shops I asked around and was told I may find her again at the Raven Café and Coffee House in downtown Port Huron. The search is on … found the Raven and climbed to the second floor balcony to sit, drink in the sounds, atmosphere, and because it was rather funky - the music, perfectly suited for such a place - the Raven. The counter is narrow with a wrought iron "fence" you look through to the first floor. 
the view from my perch

As Halloween is approaching and Poe is well known for his tales of the macabre and mystery, this seemed the perfect viewing stage to spot my Mojo, so, I'm looking...

"When you come to The Raven, you’ll immediately notice something different; a feeling you can’t quite put your finger on. Part Hogwarts and part Cheers, the Raven is a unique place. When you step through the doors, you’ll get the distinct feeling you’re walking into a story. The walls are decorated with beautiful woodwork and packed with books, posters, and artwork of all varieties. Whatever time of day you visit, you’ll find an energetic atmosphere filled with the aroma of just-brewed coffee and, if you’re lucky, the smell of freshly-baked cookies or brownies." (from the Raven website). 

An hour of delicious pumpkin soup passed, ever alert, I continued to absorb the wisp of my Mojo. A sense of my need to continue this exploration was palpable. My Mojo is beckoning me to learn from this experience and will not fully re-engage with me until I follow the leads. My hope and faith get stronger as I swirl and swallow the last of my multiple cups of coffee. A peace settles in as I prepare the next steps. These passages from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe speak to me - I'm listening. 

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"- here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

(*Mojo means 'finding the magic in what we do'. To have 'lost your mojo', refers to a loss of inspiration or creative genius; a loss of that special spark. Slang for Mojo from Answers.com)

October 5, 2018

Anatomy of a Murder

Many years ago I decided to (pedal) bike from Marquette to Big Bay, Michigan (and back again). On the chosen day there was an Upper Peninsula rain - a wet, breezy, chilly, relentless rain. I thought naively that bicycling in blue jeans would keep me warmer. True … but the material stuck to my legs, creating pull on every rotation of the pedal. I was chased by Bigfoot and a wolf causing my adrenalin to push me beyond my capacity - as my vivid imagination soared and scared me on these 27.2 miles of wilderness roads.

But, I digress. The purpose of this venture was to visit the Lumberjack Tavern where bar owner Mike Chenoweth was murdered in 1952. Big deal? The murder and court case were the basis for the 1959 film, Anatomy of a Murder, based on the book of the same name written by John Voelker (pen name Robert Traver), a native Yooper and former prosecutor for Marquette County who also loved to fish and write.

But, I digress. Our family elders shared our history over coffee, old camp tables, in warm living rooms, wherever there was an interested audience. The story goes that my grandmother loved BINGO and was quite the winner. On one occasion, in Big Bay where the family lived at the time, she had a particularly lucrative evening. Her winnings probably included dollar bills, soda pop, and donated items from local businesses, as was the custom in the 40s and 50s. She was so loaded down with her loot that she had to seek help - so went into the Lumberjack Tavern and asked Mike Chenoweth for a ride home. Family rumor claims he was afraid of my grandmother so acquiesced and gave her a lift. Nothing special in this story, except for the link with the main character in the book.  

Anatomy of a Murder was filmed in Marquette and Big Bay featuring Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Duke Ellington, George C. Scott, and Jimmy Stewart. Emil and Edna Olsen, my paternal grandparents, were extras in this film, as were others in the region. A huge honor and so very exciting.

Jimmy Stewart stayed near the old courthouse on Baraga Avenue during the filming - down the street from my grandparents. Jimmy had his own way of walking and was easily recognized, was friendly in his greeting to people and always spoke in his slow signature manner. Through our grandparents we heard he was a very nice and polite man. My grandfather was a stand-in for Stewart as they matched in height and he had some of Stewart's features.

Edna Olsen wore a black netting hat during the courtroom scene and can be quickly viewed – very quickly - as she traveled past Stewart and Remick. Emil Olsen can be seen standing next to these two celebrities during a break in the courtroom action.

One final digression. My love of family history began as a young person when we would stay at my uncle's camp along Lake Superior, where outhouses were common and skunks owned the woods. As we clustered around the table waiting for the coffee grounds to boil, stories were told. As children, we kept our mouths closed, drinking in these funny tales of sailors, relatives, and each other. My life regret would be that I did not journal all these delicious pieces of history - but have been able to write these down in my favorite hard-backed journals after "interviewing" the older family members.

September 23, 2018

Candles, Color, Crafts and Coffee

The end of summer finds me eager to embrace cooler temperatures and bless-ed time in preparing my autumn list. Love the beginning of each new season but this is my favorite. Highlighting in my bullet-list on what seems important during these last three months of the year is edifying, relaxing, and I have a great sense of delightful anticipation to achieve what I write down.
  • Decorate! I pull out my stash of pumpkins, leaves, lights and assorted "scary" decorations, and candles, oh yes, candles. After deep cleaning, set these out on the first day of fall. The splash of color in the house makes us smile and the house begins the cozy season.
  • Line books on my table to enjoy during quiet moments. Books on my list: remarkable creatures by tracy chevalier; the story of arthur truluv by elizabeth berg (a fun author); hard cider by Barbara Stark-Nemon; Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines; rereading Rosamunde Pilcher's books, along with an occasional holiday one to get in the spirit. I refuse to allow the excuses for not nestling - such as "Tonight I will read, but first…” Nope, not this year - reading will be part of my life this year.
  • Grasp the quiet moments! I sit on the porch with a candle burning, Spotify playing coffee house music, and read, people watch as neighbors stroll past waving and shouting greetings.
  • Drool over my delicious pile of magazines. Love Stampington & Company's selection in particular - in her studio (spaces and stories of creative women); artful blogging; artful journaling; where women cook. I have discovered a few go-to magazines, some have treats inside, such as flow. 
  • Crafts. Not being a very artistic person does not stop me from bumbling through projects. Currently, I have two silver-plated decorative trays on my list to be creative with. Idea: spray paint, snap up a couple really cool pictures, and mod-podge these onto their surface, hang on the wall. Sounds easy! Not for me, but my spirit will be in this activity. I am organizing a monthly craft afternoon with friends - the first one next week. In elementary school we had a project where we made "beauty" out of a piece of pliable copper-colored metal. The dread of art class crinkled my brow and true to what I knew - mine was horrible. But, we grow up and take on some challenges. This is one for me … action vs fear.
  • Gatherings with family and friends. I love autumnal parties, freshly made soups, candles on the table, coffee, playing board games. Last year my younger sister died and to think of having family over without her was too painful, but … this year I am full of ideas.
  • Update my calendar.  Include festivals, activities, writer events, trips to the orchard for a crispy sweet donut and cider while selecting the perfect apples for our basket.
  • Walking in the woods. The colors are stunning, leaves crisp under foot, an occasional animal scoots in front of us, all healing and peaceful. Look up "forest bathing" and see what you think.
  • Write cards and letters. Now, who doesn't like to receive a handwritten note? 
  • Create more friendships. This is a difficult one for me, but have begun by having a monthly "coffee chat" with old friends. I'm open if you would like a loyal friend … :) 

Enjoy this season - do you have plans or ideas for a special autumn? Please share.

September 2, 2018

A Sojourn to the Truth

"It is the mind that makes the body" -- Sojourner Truth. 

This makes sense to me. How about for you?

Sojourner Trut

My rudimentary interpretation of this quote is that Sojourner Truth believed we determine the way our bodies are presented to others by what we think about and focus on. I sense optimism over pessimism in her words. For instance and for some people, I believe you could discover studies proving if you tell yourself over and over that you will get cancer or some other disease, you just might fulfill your own prophesy.  By believing this intensely perhaps you allow your body to eventually receive what you fear. 

Further, I believe that if you are raised in a secure family where love and respect are second nature, your bearing and face may show testimony to your fortunate start in life. But truly, can we really look at a person and know that they have had a very difficult and challenging life ... yes, sometimes. But I've met people who've lived through horrible situations yet their face shows contentment and yet met others who have been raised with abundance and by loving families who bear a look of distress and sadness.

Sojourner Truth seemed to speak from ageless wisdom and experience. "It is the mind that makes the body” - so, it is not too late to adopt a more positive attitude - you know, a glass either half full or half empty outlook. 

Perhaps if we exercise optimism more than negativity - look at the shiny side of the coin on occasion - maybe we can create a mind and outlook we can be proud of ... even adore. 

I want to be a half full person who laughs and dreams in color. My mother was an optimist. I tend to be more positive than negative but there is much room for improvement. The choice is in our hands and opportunities for optimism and change toward contentment available - daily. I strive to embrace an attitude that will shape me on my Sojourn … and, that's the Truth. 

Sojourner Truth was an amazing role model for our times. Please take a moment to read her story. http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Archive/LegacyOfFaith.htm

August 31, 2018

I was a "Juvenile Delinquent"

Usually, when my siblings and I were called home from playing in the neighborhood we'd hear the plaintiff drawn out calling: C O O N N N I E E  D E B B B B I E E and so on. The parents never searched the street for their kids - we knew when playtime was finished or we were called home for another reason - always singsong in inflection. The memory of the name "song" warms me - all the kids knew - "be home when the street lights come on" - common in the 1960s.

But one afternoon my father altered the singsong calling with me. My skin still pricks with the memory.

I loved trees … climbing them, hugging a special tree, kissing a favorite limb, sitting under a huge umbrella of autumn leaves - did I mention climbing? As a card holding Tomboy, climbing was my favorite activity - the higher the better.

One lazy, hot summer afternoon I was watching a ballgame at the local elementary school when a tree called my name. I swear it whistled at me.

The tree wasn't big but the limbs were delicious looking, attracting my attention. So, up I went. An o so gentle crack brought me to the ground. The lower limb had, as you can guess, broken.

A dark colored car was parked by the field and a man came out of the vehicle (much like a Twilight Zone mutant), approaching me. He claimed to be a "Juvenile Delinquent" officer and wanted my name, address, and threatened my shaking 10-year-old self.

I ran the couple blocks home but the car beat me and was parked in front. Being it was day time I knew my dad was home as he worked afternoons at the prison. So obviously, I continued running down the street to my "safe" place - a treehouse in a neighbor's yard. The slats in the house were wide open revealing everything and boy, saw my greatest fear heading my way.

"Connie" dad shouted. No plaintiff drawing out of my name. "Connie, come here - NOW!" Was that a belt in his hand? I wondered as he drew closer to me. I knew I was in very bad, very bad, trouble, and it would hurt. My fear was intense as I climbed down from the hut coming face-to-face with this very, very, very, angry parent who grabbed my arm and half yanked and dragged me home.

As we entered the house, I looked out front and "the car" was gone. Dad was livid, saying that he had the embarrassment of having this "officer" come to the house (telling on me), demanding payment for the ruined tree ($16), which now we didn't have for clothes and food. I was a "fool" and a juvenile delinquent - and the officer issued me a JD card (which I never saw) as proof.

To this day I don't recall if he whipped me (and also have no memory of ever getting whipped), but vividly remember his cutting words. 
I was never to climb another tree (right!) and was grounded for the next month.

In his defense, Dad was a veteran of World War II and also a survivor of "Shell Shock" as it was called then … now PTSD. He was unpredictable and easily angered, didn't like sudden loud noises, but also loved his seven kids and worked hard to raise us. But, at times, I was afraid of him. 

Why is it that certain words are burned into our very soul, perhaps changing us for the rest of our lives, coming back in dreams, thoughts, and family lore? In the "early days" parents didn't know the psychology and power of words. Some don't know even in these Dr. Phil days of confrontation and reconciliation.

My love of trees never changed, preferring the outdoors to indoors, sharing the woods with my children - trying to develop their love of nature. Tomboys and optimists are not easily deterred!

Do you have a memory of where words hurt you?

August 18, 2018

Attitude at the 45th Parallel


Sporting a brace on my recently broken ankle, my husband, daughter and I decided to go to our favorite northern lower peninsula cabin for a planned vacation where my husband could fish all day, my daughter and I could relax, read, write, take pictures. My ankle injury almost sidelined us as typically we are very active on vacations, preferring the water and being outdoors to staying tied down inside. But, we adjusted. 

The morning of our departure I found my husband awake with severe wrist and thumb pain … it was devastating after so many months of anticipation. After some soothing encouragement he went to urgent care, returning sporting a brace on his non-dominant hand. We made the decision to leave for camp, packed the remainder of our belongings, along with our daughter, and left home.

A change in plans

An hour from our destination, we stopped for gas -- I checked my e-mail inbox to find a desperate "...your cabin is not available, ...double-booked, ...so sorry, ...don't have your phone number, ...feeling frantic and awful, ...found a place for you to stay." We read this in shock over "losing" our favorite cabin. I called and told her, no problem, things happen, thanks for finding us another cabin (on the same lake). We updated our (beloved) Garmin with the new address, and drove on while eating sandwiches from a local store. My daughter was rather quiet for some time then said that when she bit into her egg salad it squeaked at her. We laughed and laughed - a small comic relief which we needed. I shared half of my tuna fish with her, trashing the "living" egg salad. Michiganians are so so resilient.

45th Parallel attitude

"When you stand on the 45th Parallel, the halfway point between the equator and North Pole, the ground doesn't vibrate and compasses don't go twirly haywire. Instead, you meet many fine people and see a heck of a lot of trees."  (from In Michigan, drive a crooked line to follow the 45th Parallel, Pioneer Press, June 27, 2009)

Our cabin is lovely, although a long way down a steep path to the water, challenging my balance with this brace. But, we settled in, enjoyed the "new" view from the window. My husband discovered he could both kayak and fish within the constraints of his brace. Our daughter paddle-boarded to her heart's content. I ungracefully plopped into my kayak and … all was perfect.

Coffee Coffee Coffee

This morning while my husband fished (for 6 hours) and my daughter paddle-boarded (for 4 hours) I re-discovered my old coffee shop haunt where I drank the best coffee ever. I wrote a blog about attitude and resilience. 

Returning to the cabin I wanted to make a couple changes to "Attitude at the 45th Parallel" and lost the entire blog. Dumbfounded, I sat. My tech savvy daughter was perplexed as my blog was truly gone. So, since I profess that Michiganians are a resilient people … rewrote this post, saving it every few words, of course. 

Through all these hiccups in this trip our attitude is what make me proud. Yes, we had a couple moments, but persevered and are stronger mentally to have weathered these small, very small, first world issues.

Capturing the Heart - One Thing at a Time

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlin...