April 26, 2019

At least it wasn't a vampire!

One autumn evening a few days before Halloween our youngest daughter ran into my husband and my bedroom - screaming that there was a bat in her room.

We flew upstairs to the closed bedroom door and peeked in to see her sister cowering in the corner as this bat flew in circles, whooshing and emitting bat sounds, quite scary in an enclosed space. He followed the circling of the ceiling fan, around and around.

I am not afraid of bats and have met these flying creatures face-to-face a few other times.

One such occasion was along Lake Superior where my sister, her little son, and I were going to stay at a family camp for the weekend. We unpacked the car to the front of the cabin then opened the creaky door when a Yooper Bat, surely a vampire, flew directly at us. My sister’s feet did not touch the ground as she repacked the car, put her son in, rolled the windows up, and demanded we leave. “I never laughed so hard in my life!” the saying goes. I entered the cabin with a large pot over my head, as protection, and “saved” the weekend by ridding the cabin of this rather cute creature.

Back to our bat in the girl’s bedroom – my husband and I laid out the plan of attack. Being the “brave” one, I planned to enter the bedroom, rescue my other daughter, fairly new to America and our family … Welcome to America! And capture the bat – be the hero. Remember, I am not afraid of bats.

Gently pulling the door fully open allowing daughter to escape, I panicked, shoved my husband into the room, slamming the door behind him. The girls screamed from horror as I held the door shut, holding my husband hostage to the bat.

In short order, he asked (begged) me to let him out – that he captured the bat in a container.

He was the hero!

My idea – take the bat outside and release him. In our county, you should NOT do this as there is a high incidence of rabies in the local bat population - the health department informed us that if a child is woken up with a bat in their room, they have to assume the child has been bitten.

So, due to my uninformed decision our little girls were taken to the hospital where they endured, barely, painful rabies shots. Tears poured down their faces as we tried to comfort them during these assaults on their tender butts. One daughter had to be carried from the emergency room as the pain was debilitating to her. I was SO not the hero …

I’m known for reminding our children to make memories. As they share this story in the future, I’m positive they will not label me as their savior and hero. It took my husband to be one of those. But my negligence gave them a memory they will always have (can I be a pseudo hero for that?) I understand fully that the shots were painful, the experience frightening – but remembering it makes me smile, and grimace.

Camp outhouses, Marquette

March 28, 2019

A Season of Hope after the Polar Freeze

Michigan's winter was intense this year, long, snowy, and so, so cold! The frigidness was breath-taking, literally, and winds strong enough to take trees down and blow a person sideways. Other regions in the United States had it worse with storms, rain, rain, rain, mud slides, massive flooding, so I will not complain. 

The entire Upper Peninsula was hit with over 200 inches of snow. Yet, when I spoke with our Marquette aunt and uncle about how they were coping, they quipped with a twinge of humor, "what can ya do?" … "we had to rake the roof again" … "chip the thick ice off the driveway" … rumor is that their son and his family even built an igloo. My mid-70-year-old aunt then shared that she waded through the chest deep snow to help elderly neighbors by clearing ice and snow from outside ducts. She'd laugh about how she must have looked with snow "up to my boobs!" - we giggled, partly because she doesn't talk like this, partly because this is so her - helping and diving into the task. Such positivity coming down to us in mid-Michigan. Hardy doesn't even define the depth of countless Michigan Yoopers cheerfully enduring the Polar Freeze and raging snow this winter.

March arrived with the heart and roar of a lion! But, and thankfully, spring is squeaking in with bright blue skies and temperatures 30s-50s - we'll take it. Our snow and ice have mostly melted. Walking in the woods this week a herd of deer bounded away with their bright white tails flashing us in the grasses. My conservation steward daughter rescued a couple caterpillars walking across the trail - and heard the abundant varieties of birds - some scolding us as if we were intruding on their territory. A highlight was when my husband and daughter were graced to see the first platter-sized leather back turtle leisurely (and gleefully) swimming in the park's pond. Signs of hope.

Spring – a time of renewal, rainy weather clearing out the mushy snow, crocuses, promises of the rest of the year engulfed in tolerable climate, the smell of manure on the farmer's fields. The exquisite, tantalizing smell of blossoms. Bees, yes, don’t forget the buzz of bees and the heady happiness of birds and land creatures. Spring is a balm for the weary wintered soul, a fragrance of hope and continuity of life. I figuratively hug the aromas - even that of spring skunks, a certain sign of the changing season.

March 7, 2019

An Elusive Purpose

How do you find purpose, a drive, a reason to get up in the morning, during a "dry" time in your life?

Purpose feels elusive to me lately during this season of reevaluating old friendships, retirement, recuperating from an ankle break and tendonitis, and the annoying concern about my auto-immune process.  

I’ve always tried to be kind, helpful, positive. Where did I learn that to be would be adequate for a fulfilled existence? I strove to be - all my life – but it’s not working for me anymore. I need something more tangible.

My wood-walking in the past has brought clarity in my direction but due to a slow healing process have not ventured on a trail since the end of 2018. I miss quietly traipsing in Mother Nature’s warm embrace and wrapping her peace around my very soul – but also know that my return to the woods is imminent.

In the meantime, I am open spiritually, emotionally, and mentally as I spend time writing at coffee shops and bookstores, listening to inspirational music, and attending writing and accessible outdoor events. You could say I am on a quest – trying to capture or glimpse the “it” for which I seek.

(Questing - The act or an instance of seeking or pursuing something; a search.)

I would encourage you to place yourself in areas of your true or possible interests – listen – record, at least in your mind, what you might like to “accomplish” or attempt.

The following dreams have been fluttering around my thoughts and found some semblance of rooting into my gonna do it list this year. Do you have a list of your own?

  • Self-publishing the story of our adoption from Russia
  • Self-publishing a compilation of all our family newsletters, The Olsen Chronicles
  • Walking portions of the North Country Trail
  • Learn how to start a website, and begin one
  • Photography editing eludes me, but I’m more than capable of learning enough to post better pictures on my blog
  • Find a perfect place in which to volunteer – which has people to meet and so I can feel a part of something larger than myself
  • Still be a good person and be kind
I received this e-mail from an old, cherished friend, who was an accomplished author and journalist – these words spoke directly to my heart. I carry her words around with me and cherish not only the encouragement she offered, but that she would take time to share it with me.

But, my dear Connie, I have read enough of what you have written - including numerous entries on your blog - to know that you already are a good writer!  You have a good command of the English language and a wonderful way of turning thoughts into words when you express an idea or tell a story. So, I would suggest that when you have a little time, pick a short topic that you're interested in, or something that you've experienced, and consider submitting some of your writing for publication.

February 8, 2019

Is This Why the Woolly Mammoths are Extinct?

Our life is a line with commas, semi-colons, question marks, asterisks, and many exclamations. I am not ready to place a period on this special line as doing so will seem as if I am giving up on growth and experiences and, of course, making memories. 

This brings me to when I recently said, “yes, sure, why not” when my daughter found us a rustic cabin for a night’s stay in during this particularly difficult, windy, snowy and icy winter. There would be no electricity or running water, she tentatively warned.

The reasoning for this trip was to get closer to where she had to present a program early the next morning – when we knew the weather would change from miserable to almost dangerous. She knew I would not let her travel alone so asked me to go with her.

What do you pack for a night in a state park’s rustic cabin with no electricity, when wind gusts were predicted into the 30-50 mph range? Sleeping bags, blankets, water, lanterns, and games. My husband made me a fresh pot of coffee which he bundled up in a thermos. We were told there would be a vault toilet – excellent! But the night would be free as the camping had closed down for the season.

True to the weather report, we were blowing all over the place on our way to the cabin – entering the state park we still had to travel another almost two miles on icy roads to the farthest reaches. Our cabin, cozy, was situated on a higher spot along trails. We unpacked our supplies, claimed our spots to relax, and then booted up for a walk on the trail. Wind gusts were a good 35 mph at this time and the trails were icy, some impassible. As we stood on the trail we heard crunching noises and saw a golden lab come out of the snowy pathway with a man also exiting the surreal blizzard-like pathway. We chatted momentarily, his dog, Mika, licked at our hands but was eager to continue his hike with the master. That was the last contact with humanity we had! Now, we were on our own – my daughter and I – in the middle of nowhere. 

The evening was interesting as the trips to “the vault” were a production of bundling, grabbing a walking stick as the wind was wickedly trying to trip us up. My daughter read me a chapter in the science fiction book she was reading, and I read her a chapter of my current book. We chattered on as the wind whistled around the cabin, shaking the roof, and making everything white. Finally, bedtime, where we lay listening to the gusts, wondering if the cabin would hold up, knowing we were high so the wind could gain speed. It was almost a relief when my alarm went off and found my gear for a walk to the vault. The gusts had grown and iced the already icy path, the vault’s door had frozen shut so had to resort to viciously pulling, banging and pulling again on the door until finally it was free – just in time.

As we quickly packed up, both thinking of the long icy road we had to traverse to get through the park, we realized that indeed, we did create a memory. A winter night in the woods. We thought of my grandparents, Emil and Edna Olsen, who, with four of their kids, lived in a cabin for a time during the winter of 1938 in Marquette. We envisioned how it was probably the beginning of February where she was losing her mind with the small cabin, concerns, the horrible winter she had to endure while my grandfather worked every day. I think it made us closer to her, but also glad for our current conveniences.

My daughter and I will put this memory on our timeline. We camped out in winter, survived, and, had a good time. 

Think about your time line – what do you want on it this year? Are you eager to explore? 

February 2, 2019

The Power of the But

A woman was interviewed on a radio program – she was very insistent that she could not do anything healthy or positive for herself – interjecting the excuse of the but at every question asked by the host, a psychologist. My first thought - what life experiences were behind her forceful but?

We can and do get away with a good but in plenty of occasions. BUT, did you know that a good resounding but can and will cease growth and movement in our physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual health? What’s going on behind your personal but – making it such a powerful excuse? Was this guest abused, neglected, hated, not supported, dismissed in her timeline, giving her the great excuse of her but, but, but. Using her but made her miss an awful lot of life.

Turning the other cheek - know that there are many socially acceptable uses of your but. I would love to go out with you tonight but my child is in a play and I need to be there. Or, I wish I could join you, but my husband and I are going on a date. 

Yes, we all deserve to use an occasional but – we’re exhausted, over-extended, just want to stay home and read – no explanations needed. But I hope we can be more aware of our but’s history, and also of how our but has hindered us. 

Consider taking more chances. People are onto your but over time – so cut back on excuses, be brave, don’t miss wonderful opportunities. Fear can bring out a but in the best of us. I, for one, want to live free from the confines of my but.

I agree that using a hearty but is powerful – yes, I use it, but something that has helped me was making plans with family and friends so I had to be accountable and trustworthy, and make me aware of my but. In the exercise realm, I found that by doing this I created internal and external motivations to walk or bike – and was counted on. 

As a side note, my but began to recede over time – and am proud of being a fairly reliable person.

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

At least it wasn't a vampire!

One autumn evening a few days before Halloween our youngest daughter ran into my husband and my bedroom - screaming that there was a bat i...