May 21, 2018

Sunshine, On My Shoulders

This Baby Boomer is almost 65, exclamation point... Am I tipping the balance between too old to want to experience more of life's adventures "in its fullness". Am I physically capable or brave enough - or plain old tired out from my journey to this year? 

Retreat Center, Grandfather Mountain
Campfires, songs, sharing our days
When my mom was 65 I invited her to a group retreat at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. She bought new shoe-boots, packed “mountain” clothes (so cute), and slept in a retreat center along with other adventure-minded people of all ages. She went on extreme daily excursions with her peers, many older, and saw, experienced and embraced her week in the mountains, tubing on the New River, campfires, and, especially enjoyed the thick rich taste of Cowboy Coffee!

My friend, Kim wrote this to me a couple years ago: “It's great to think about things you'd still like to accomplish. A friend of mine decided to pick one thing and stick with it, rather than making a list, which can be overwhelming. So, at age 60, she decided to complete the entire Grand River Expedition (14 days kayaking the entire length of the river). She started training for it and met some new friends in the process. She completed the expedition, missing one day of the two-week trip because of illness. Six months later, she was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer. I'm not trying to hijack your live-today-for-tomorrow-we-may-die message, but it tells me that maybe I should focus on one goal at a time and make the most of that. Darn you -- you always get me thinking about this stuff.”

This message from Kim is encouraging, as was my mom’s optimistic zest for life, laughter and family … her spirit courses through my veins. 

Journaling on porch - mom on side of building

Lunch on way to the summit

Nearing summit, small planes flying below us

I am spending time reflecting on my younger-me "bucket list" with goals ranging from biking across Michigan to walking the Appalachian Trail (some accomplished). What would prevent me from dreaming up new and wild and crazy, along with some “tame” ideas? What would I like to add to my older-me idea list … would some scoff at this as a feeble attempt to regain my youth? What does that matter? It is my personal journey.

Last birthday I spent a solitary day walking around a rather rugged 5+ mile rocky, smooth, and hilly trail as a gift to myself. I was organizing my day as I never had. After the walk, on which I got magically lost, met up with my family and went to a lake where I learned to paddleboard. Supper was Kentucky Fried Chicken - decadent and a perfect complement to the way I wanted to celebrate my birthday. It was a lovely challenging day of following my heart, growing, and being supported by my husband and kids.

On a long-ago kayak trip with my kids and husband, my daughter found a bucket in the water. I remember the bucket, the emotions, probably over-dramatized, and the smell of the lake and wonder if this recollection is a sign to explore my wish list? Yep, mainly because I am not ready to curl up and only live in reminiscing – I want to make current memories.

Sunshine on my Shoulders
Portions of Grandfather Mountain

May 8, 2018

A Day of Dust and Magic

It was a perfect day for a softball game: humid, warm, the pungent smell of dirt from the diamond. The sounds of balls clapping into mitts, orders shouted, stretching, excitedly anticipating the arrival of our opposition.

A packed crowd surrounded the field as the opposing team arrived in limousines: laughing, hand slapping us, playing to the spectators. Magic Johnson and Jay Vincent led the contingent of Michigan State University basketball players - their celebrity vs our small stature spirit. Each one of us, men and women, were chosen for our abilities to play this exhibition softball game in Holt, Michigan. 

My hand was tiny compared to these famous athletes ... the high-fives hurt, a lot, but the thrill of the game erased physical discomfort.

*This is number one, and the inning's just begun,
we need lots and lots of hits to score some runs!

I felt absolutely thrilled to be selected for this special team of MVP players around the region and "won" my favorite position -- shortstop. My life was softball, climbing trees, and walking in the woods. Playing against these men was a highlight, challenge, and a chapter-worthy notation on my life list. Along with the media attention, spectator's screaming, the clink of balls hitting aluminum bats, one memory I am proud of ... I snagged a mean and direct line drive off the bat of Magic Johnson. Out! My gloved hand seared with pain, but he was out. 

Their basketball turned softball team played to their fans and massacred us in runs and over the fence hits. The opposition was full of power, athleticism, and fun. The spectators got their money-worth of laughter.

Run the bases, leave no traces, lots of hits,
lots of runs, and they scored.

We obviously lost but I was in my element and loved every minute. We experienced the thrill of the game, celebrity-ness, fame and heart wrenching choking defeat.  It was great. My hand remained painfully swollen and bruised for weeks from the catch made off Magic's line-drive (and the high-fives) but relived the thrill and feel of this particular game for years. A moment in life to carry me into the future.

Now this is number seven and they really played like heaven;
they had lots and lots of hits and scored some runs!
They ran the bases,
they left no traces,
got lots of hits, lots of runs,
and they soared.

 *I had been a member of the Lansing Laurel's Women’s Fast Softball Team. The Laurels were hardcore players and won games and tournaments around the country and Canada. A Laurel wrote the lyrics of the above song. As we royally lost the game against the MSU basketball team, I changed out the original words to befit the event.

April 26, 2018

The Dancing Queen

A few years ago my daughter gave me a plaque with the inscription Dance Like There Is No One Looking. Tears poured down my cheeks in a surprise outburst of emotion ... my child understood, clearly saw, and acknowledged my spirit.

My family has watched (in horror?) as I "secretly" danced around the house, in the yard, car, and occasionally, publicly, on the dance floor. Elaine Benes on Seinfeld had nothing on me - we shared a unique dance expression.

Seinfeld The Elaine Dance*

In junior high I attended an occasional dance with my girlfriend where we were mercilessly teased and mimicked by the boys (boys will be boys, sigh). Over the years, as I revisited the memory, my confidence had already been affected to the point where I'd hide my "cool" dance moves. I still danced but for my eyes and entertainment only.

A turning point in my dance-insecurity was at a cousin’s wedding ... an aunt pulled me to the dance floor as the DJ played a particularly popular and fun song. Now this aunt was a wonderful dancer, as are some of my family, so I was hesitant, shy, afraid, and excited all at the same time. My aunt's beaming smile was an encouragement and so I danced albeit stiffly and awkwardly.

The first dance ended and we were having a ball. I felt eyes on us and almost backed off the floor but the pull of the music was too much. We urged some of our children onto the floor and all evening I danced "like there was no one looking". I felt like The Dancing Queen. I twisted, bopped my head, bobbed my rear, even made up dance moves for the lyrics of some songs. Concern for other's opinion went out the window to the lyrics of Y M C A. I just danced! Just danced!

My imperfections are abundant, especially in dancing, but overall and in the scheme of life - who cares? Bullies can impact our future - I absolutely know - but it is so refreshing to rise above the memories and be relatively free of judgers (still a work in progress). Dancing freely as I do now at weddings is so much fun and allows me to express myself, perhaps I make myself a "fool" - I feel at peace with this.

Just remember if you are going to invite me to your family wedding -- I have me some good moves, and I'll use them.

"In Feresten's 8th-season Seinfeld episode "The Little Kicks," the dance has more disastrous effects for Elaine (Benes): Her staff at J. Peterman, after seeing her dance, loses respect for her. When Jerry and Kramer tell her she "stinks" at dancing, she videotapes herself to see -- and wrecks the bootlegged movie Jerry was working on." (from Yahoo! TV Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, Oct. 10, 2016)

April 17, 2018

Almost Eaten by a Bear

My breath came in gasps as panic-adrenalin fed my legs allowing me to run faster as a bear chased me, matching step-for-step, loud and intense, my life was about to end. Skip-running frantically in the calf-deep waves of Lake Michigan - a forest on one side and open water on the other - and a bear paralleling me in the woods.

The bear kept pace with me as my legs rose and fell quickly slicing through the cold wavy lake, my only thought was "it" was going to hurt, and hurt badly. 

Terrified of bears since I was a child this was my worst nightmare ... perhaps my last one. 

I ran faster, my wet clothes sloshing and splashing in the water.

I slowed to catch my breath. 

The bear slowed down.

I ran. 

The bear ran.

The waves were too noisy for anyone to hear me scream, as if I could.  My breath was coming in such gasps that I was forced to slow again. I bravely or stupidly looked back.  The bear stopped, and although the forest hid the beast, I felt how close he was, sensed him, smelled his musty fur.

I ran, and the bear started after me again. With each paw step closer, my panic intensified.

As I was about to be crunched in the bear's jaws a funny noise came from my shorts. I slowed down, the bear slowed down. Oh my good Lord, the noise was the sound my wet canvas shorts made as canvas rubbed on canvas making a strangely bear-sounding noise. The bear was the noise of my pants. 

I breathlessly laughed from the tension at my narrow escape from what I thought was a sure and painful death. 

I suppose my take-away is that if you are terrified of something unseen - stop and breathe - the "thing" may be a figment of imagination created from your own wet pants.

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!

Sunshine, On My Shoulders

This Baby Boomer is almost 65, exclamation point... Am I tipping the balance between too old to want to experience more of life's ad...