January 6, 2019

In the Arms of Mother Nature

I believe, I believe, I believe in the healing power of Mother Nature and spend as much time with Her as possible. She helps me sort through emotions, feelings, thoughts – even revealing hidden gems to explore on my path in this life.

Into the Woods

County, state and local parks provide a healthy way to explore life and to engage with family and friends. Mother Nature soothes concerns, problems; accentuates action plans, goals; allows for mind-half or mind-full-thinking.  Find rejuvenation on the plethora of paths throughout Michigan. 

Mother Nature makes my complicated and sometimes painful life appear simpler and more stimulating. Communing with the animals, birds, leaves, water, mud, snakes, and even walking through the swarms of freshly hatched bugs, gives me nourishment for the multitude items on my invisible schedule – my life blood is enriched.

I am a verbal processor, or, storyteller – embellisher of life -- it IS who I AM. My feelings, thoughts and memories are verbalized or put on paper allowing me to look at the words, ruminate, categorize, act or dispose of them. Maybe you are like me? Or perhaps you like to keep your words snuggled in your brain with the ability to search through your thoughts and make sense of life and pain and trials in a quieter manner.

Either way of communicating is acceptable.

Why would you want to fool Mother Nature or ignore Her? She understands why you seek Her and will embrace you with peaceful clarity. She accepts me … just the way I am! Give Her a chance.

In the year of 2019, think about parks you can visit, lakes you can toss up a lawn chair to be close to the lapping of the waves, perhaps a picnic? But, pick up your litter when you leave. Mother Nature loves those who care about Her.

Happy New Year...choose the road less traveled!

December 5, 2018

Tortoise Envy

Hare's Brain

I’ve lived the life of a hare. In The Tortoise and the Hare, the cocky rabbit bolted from the start line while the tortoise was more introspective and, frankly, slow, likely enjoying the plod. Of course, the tortoise was carrying a heavy shell on his back, but who doesn’t? As the race progressed, the hare decided he was far enough ahead, and would obviously “win”, so stopped for a quick nap. We see the tortoise slowly passing the sleeping hare, thus, winning the race with his own formula of … steady as you go. I think I have tortoise envy. Sigh.

My own hare feet pound with an intensity as I physically and emotionally make almost everything on my list completed in a fairly quick and hopped up pace -- even my resting.  Rather hare-brained way of living!

“You are hurrying to the sweet place,
To the nonsense chasing your spirit
And in the nonsense you look for answers.”
Dejan Stojanovic, Circling: 1978-1987

Open my eyes that I may see

The genesis of my transition was simple, yet poignant. I drove past a black-eyed buck which I didn't see until he was next to me. In that moment, I realized how often I don’t remember the trip so was incapable of enjoying the moment. My mind was stuck in an alternate, future thinking, list-directed mode. Days melded into each other and surprise – it’s the weekend - where did the week go?

Focus was needed – how to enjoy life’s moments before the weekend magically appears? What has and is working (most of the time) for me is:
·       3x5 cards of my important, urgent and interesting ideas for that day.
·     As I’d like to remember moments better … to look the buck in the eyes and acknowledge its existence ... keeping an online calendar with fun and memorable activities works well.
·       Writing important and necessary details in my journals – which I access more frequently than I’d like to admit. It allows me to focus more on the moment as my past is written down.
·       I complete a yearly “Vision Board” (see Vision Board Workshop). Writing my hopes for the next year, framing some, helps keep me on task. This year’s board will include spaces for action steps as I have specific goals which I want to complete.
·       I’ve intentionally slowed my frenetic pace. Leisurely walks in the woods and through town, coffeehouse visits without a phone, writing, visiting with friends.
·       Acknowledging how extremely difficult it is to change a lifetime of hurry, but realizing it can be done. It helped that I had a great need to stop - smell the roses - enjoy the experience.
·       I spend many tortoise hours of slow-paced walking, picture-taking, meandering, which have nourished a deep connection and balance with Mother Earth and Mother Nature, and myself.
·       I sit and breathe!

I think it cannot be disputed who won the race today.
Hayhoe Rivertrail, Mason

November 27, 2018

The Best Meal, Ever!

Thanksgiving is over - traditional food devoured (sorry about the stuffing). Pumpkins, orange tablecloths and lights now line my storage bins in the basement. A momentary reprieve of cooking and preparations then shortly onto the next celebration.

As I explore potential meals to create for the Christmas holidays, my mind wandered on a little memory trip recalling The Best Meal I've eaten.

The Siberian wind rushed over the Ural Mountains in Perm, Russia, where we stayed while waiting for our children's adoption and paperwork to be completed. The January blizzard was sharp as we searched for a food kiosk where we would purchase lunch.

Our meals were sparse due to the constant activities our visit required - so we were particularly hungry. The bitter cold made us visibly quake to the elements and shiver with hunger. Our small family of my husband, young daughter and I were surrounded, warmly, on the streets with Russians wisely wrapped in traditional fur hats and coats - we Americans wore inadequate zippered coats and ski hats.

Finally - a kiosk - where our interpreter ordered pizza. Not the typical pizza we grew up with as this pizza offered a crust … a flattened round piece of chewy dough … topped with a heavenly mixture of sour cream, mayonnaise, cucumbers and tomatoes. No familiar red sauce graced this white meal.

Biting into the pizza brought a mixture of an exquisite stinging liquid enhanced with mellow, sharp and creamy - very chewy and substantial with pops of sweet cucumber and tomato. Our moans of pleasure over this delicious meal were doubled as we topped off the food with warm Faygo common to this region.

The most delicious meal – ever!  A Russian feast on a little round plate.

Back to the present, I search for something old and something new in our menu selections. Would love to hear about your favorite dish reserved for the Christmas holidays. Please tell...

November 19, 2018

Grab a Coffee - You Have Mail

As the holidays approach, you will find me at bookstores searching for the perfect boxes of Christmas cards. I stop at the post office to melt over the pretty holiday stamps until I settle on a few designs, then end up nestled in coffee shops, at times with a companion, writing notes on these cards to friends and family.

It is with pleasure to confess that I have saved almost every letter and card received. Particularly precious ones are:

· Letters written by my father over the years filled with humor and signing off on each with Love Daddio.

· A cherished letter from King Olav’s secretary (Olav V was the king of Norway from 1957 until his death in January of 1991). I wrote him to introduce myself and to form a connection as family lore shared that my great uncle, Thorvald Olsen of Norway, and King Olav were friends. Our family has pictures of them sitting next to each other at formal royal dinners. The King’s secretary wrote back to let me know that King Olav had read my letter but died before he could write back.

· Letters from a family in England who took my father in during World War II after he was injured. Dad lived with this family during his recovery and the wife would write to dad’s parents in Marquette informing them how his healing was coming along – also sharing some of their situation living in England during this war.

· Letters from aunts, uncles and grandparents, which piece together portions of our history which would be lost and forgotten if these had been tossed away.

· Letters from my uncle, Captain Richard E. Olsen, a great lakes ship captain. In these he describes life at sea, particularly on Lake Superior. I asked him if he would record his adventures on (cassette) tapes, he agreed, so followed a long period in his life where we sent these tapes back and forth. My husband took the cassettes and put them on CDs after my uncle’s death to present to his wife. She missed his voice and would fall asleep as he told tales of his high sea adventures.

· A letter from the actress, Carol Burnett, in response to one I had written to her during a very trying period in her life. She wrote kind words of thanks for the support during this difficult time.

· A notebook filled with all our family newsletters - The Olsen Chronicles - written by family, edited by me, recording their stories of trials, milestones, and greetings.

· Lastly and truly, a binder filled with all your Christmas letters, short or long, 3-hole punched, and placed with love in this book of memories.

These stories through the written word is a gift to our ancestors. Think about the future [you may not be living, but bear with me]. Imagine your children sitting around a table with steaming mugs of coffee or tea sharing family stories, and, of course, missing you tremendously. A pause in the conversation as they struggle to share what they learned growing up from the stories told around tables by family members. The conversations run dry of memories so they pull out “the box” and read aloud about our funny lives, which authenticate their discussions, thus themselves. They will know deeply who they are from what we share about ourselves.

But so sad if nothing has been shared … no letters are found. Mom, dad, grams and grampa are long-gone (this includes us, dear reader).

So, with that in mind and my favorite pens sorted and ready, I write little tidbits.

Sharpen those pens, dear friends. I’ll eagerly grab a hot mug of coffee to drink as we read your card or letter.

Your stories matter more than you can imagine.

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.

In the Arms of Mother Nature

I believe, I believe, I believe in the healing power of Mother Nature and spend as much time with Her as possible. She helps me sort thro...