Thursday, January 31, 2013
Someone at work told me recently that we would need some 10 feet of snow this winter to make up for last winter's lack of it and the summer's extreme drought. To date, we've had perhaps 25 to 30 inches of snow, not nearly enough, if that statistical need is correct. Basically, Mother Nature has been stingy with snow the past couple of winters. Perhaps that was to make up for the two to three previous winters when we literally were buried under the white stuff. I don't need to have blizzards, like the one we endured in December or yesterday's big storm, but a constant, light dusting of snow eventually melts into the grateful land, preparing it for the growing season to come in just a few months. So, I think I'll sing "Let it Snow" and "Jingle Bells" a bit to see if it'll change Mother Nature's mind and help give us some moisture equilibrium - in a measured way.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Winter offers the gift of later sunrises, late enough that I can stand in our kitchen window, mug of hot water (yes, hot water!) in my hands, watching the sun come up. One recent weekday morning, I was nearly late for work because I stood in the window, completely captivated by the magnificent, pink sunrise to the east. To say I was tickled pink would seem humorous and tongue-in-cheek, but in truth, I was happy just to stand in the window with my mug of hot water warming my insides, watching that awe-inspiring sight. How can one begin the day in a bad mood when something as beautiful and breathtaking as a pink sunrise is right outside the window? In celebration, I wore something pink to work and truly felt "in the pink" the entire day.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Gladys Taber, my beloved late mother's favorite author, wrote in one of her books that she liked eating what she called "rugged vegetables": cabbage, parsnips and carrots. I'm with Gladys. Even in the mid-winter, I crave those tasty farmer's market treats. Our local health food store has organic cabbage and locally grown carrots, so I've been filling up on rugged vegetables at lunchtime lately. Although not necessarily rugged, I also had pureed organic winter squash as my supper one recent evening when Larry was away. Larry's not crazy about squash, so it was a special treat for me to make it my meal. Such bright orange goodness! With a couple of sprouted grain bread slices and a sprinkling of walnuts on top of the squash, I was in ecstasy! An organic Pink Lady apple for dessert and the meal was complete! With a belly full of rugged and not-so-rugged, good food, I'm ready for whatever our rugged winter sends our way.
Monday, January 28, 2013
The winter wind blew that evening. It blew harder than I've heard the wind blow in quite some time. It had a screaming, screeching, whistling, howling quality to it. The wind chimes outside of our kitchen window clanged like crazy. The vent above our stove-top fan clanked and clanked. The gusts swirled around the u-shaped entry between our condo and our neighbor's. And Larry was in Madison. Oh, how I wanted him home so we can snuggle in front of the TV and watch something silly and numbing, just enough distraction to reduce the sound of that loud, loud wind. I recall as a child growing up in the country that we would hear such loud winds, but except for the occasional bad summer storm now, I don't recall hearing such fiercely pitched, windy gyrations in recent years. The wind was removing our 40-degree weather and ushering in sub-zero temps. I must say that I was much happier with the 40-degree weather variety, but we'll take what we get and blow around with the wind, hoping to walk straight without flying away.
Sunday, January 27, 2013
If you live in Wisconsin, you have to go with the topsy-turvy winter weather. Following a December blizzard, we experienced a January thaw. Then, we were startled to have sub-zero temperatures arrive. It was during one of those startling moments recently that I was grateful to don my wonderfully warm coat, a long parka with a deep, fur-fringed hood. When I pull up the hood and fasten it tight, one can only see my eyes from its depths. On one of those recent cold, not-quite-yet-sub-zero days, I put on my great, long coat and pulled up the deep hood, wrapped a scarf around my face so that I was muffled to the nose and set out on a weekend walk. It was amazing how warm I was, except for my hands. One layer of gloves was simply not enough. No problem! I tucked my gloved paws into the sleeves of my coat and continued on my trek. It took a bit to warm up after I got back home, but the fresh air had been intoxicating, even if my nose had been so buried that I couldn't smell the fresh winter air!
Saturday, January 26, 2013
The other night, the sun went down in a blaze of deep scarlet. Although I had left work a little later than usual, nightfall was just arriving. On my short drive home, I craned my neck every which way to keep my eye on that magnificent red western horizon. I even talked aloud to myself on my drive, wishing that everyone could see what I was blessed to see at that moment. It was the most wonderful way to end a busy work week. Each evening, especially if the day's been stressful, all I need to do is look at the beautiful, expansive sky to be reminded that my troubles are small in this vast universe and that they will pass soon. On that special evening, seeing red was a very, very good thing.
Friday, January 25, 2013
I've been doing something new in this new year: I've been giving programs at libraries and to groups about a history book I had the privilege of writing for my employer. The experience has been an amazing one, beginning with conceptualizing, researching and writing the book, selecting the photographs and other illustrations, working with a book designer and publisher, seeing it on the printing press, and now telling about the book to audiences. I've promoted others' books before, but never my own. What a great journey it has been to see this project from start to finish. And what a blessing it is to start my new year with such a new adventure. It makes me wonder what else this amazing, new year will hold!
Thursday, January 24, 2013
I'm faithful about exercising indoors between 30 and 60 minutes most days of the week during the winter months, but there is nothing like an outdoor walk to invigorate me. For as many months of the year as possible, I try to get in an evening walk after work, as well as walks on the weekend. I love to be outside, to take in deep breaths of fresh air and to see nature in its gloriously constant state of change. One recent Saturday, during our January thaw, the built-up snow had melted from the streets and the black ice was gone, so I trekked earnestly, moving faster than usual, pumping my arms, breathing in the crisp air, and filled with gratitude for the chance to be outside. I'm not a skiier and I've never tried show-shoeing. Walking briskly is my thing, but only when there isn't the risk of slipping and falling. So, I'm thankful for the recent January thaw, which enabled me the chance to get that precious fresh air.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
There are so many pleasant sounds of bells ringing -- our church bell high in its steeple, the tone chimes that the children from our church play during worship services, the phone ringing when you're anticipating a phone call from a loved one, the jingling of the bell on the door of your favorite store, the wind chimes outside our kitchen window, even the doorbell at home when invited guests arrive. But one recent early morning, I awoke to the sound of an occasional little bell, a little chirp and I knew that one of our smoke alarms needed a battery replacement right away. So, I got up and pranced around with one ear cocked to the ceiling until I discovered which smoke alarm was ringing. Then, I got Larry up from a sound sleep so he could stretch his long arms and with a simple twist, change the battery. Needless to say, both smoke alarms received new batteries that day and their bells are thankfully once again silent.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
I recently read a quote attributed to Albert Schweitzer: "Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory." I had to laugh. Isn't it the truth that we look back on life through rose-colored glasses, our memories skewed so that we recall the happier times and perhaps not the real times. But, more seriously, I agree wholeheartedly that happiness and health are closely linked. In the January 2013 edition of "Natural Awakenings" magazine, the Madison, Wisconsin edition's publisher, Danelle Pretasky, reminds readers that our happiness depends mostly on our health. "There are so many health issues that can keep us from living productive and vibrant lives," she writes. So, as I near the end of the first month of the new year, I continue to refine my health and wellness goals so that I can embrace my life with optimum health and the greatest degree of happiness.
Monday, January 21, 2013
My hairdresser informed me a few weeks ago that my hair wants to fall forward or part on the right side of my head. For years and years, perhaps because I'm left-handed, I've been parting my short, pixie-cut hair on the left side. So, to be dutiful and to prove that this ol' dog could learn a new trick, I either let my hair fall forward or I parted it on the right side. Then, it struck me recently that I really like the "look" of my hair being parted on the left side. Going against my hair's natural grain kind of pleases me and feels "right" to me. So, I've abandoned my new trick and have gone back to my ol' hair-parting ways, thrilled at the thought of getting by with something (even if it is just parting my hair).
Sunday, January 20, 2013
I look out the kitchen window and sigh. The dwarf burning bush we've been enjoying outside our kitchen window for the past couple of years has managed to truly remain a dwarf specimen, thanks to rabbits that seem to find equal enjoyment nibbling on it. I should have surrounded it by wire mesh last fall, but I thought it had gained enough momentum (like another dwarf burning bush just a few yards away) to maintain its size throughout the winter. But, alas, that particular bush remains a bunny delicacy. Everyone needs sustenance, so I can't be too angry right now, nor can I do much about it in January, but next fall, I plan to protect the burning bush so that it can gain some height. Take that, you rascally rabbit!
Saturday, January 19, 2013
Remnants of the December blizzard lingered until a few days ago when the huge shelf of snow finally cascaded to the ground from the south side of our condo. For weeks, the shelf edged its way forward, but still didn't have the umph to drop to the ground. Icicles tilted toward the windows like spears as the shelf of snow drooped over our windows, causing the normally bright views to be obscured by a heavy eyebrow of white. Our living room and bedroom were gloomier than normal because the daylight couldn't quite penetrate the big snow shelf. Finally, as the temperatures rose, the shelf dripped and dripped and dropped and dropped. I wondered how it stayed together, for the entirety of it was filled with lacy holes. Such a sight to behold. Truly a sign of winter's wonder. But the thaw gave it the momentum it needed and we now once again enjoy those precious hours of bright, white winter sunlight in our windows.
Friday, January 18, 2013
That magical time has come, at last: When I leave work at the end of the day, there is still a thread of light in the sky. No longer do I walk out the door into blackness. Light is slowly returning to the evening sky. One of our local meteorologists reported that we are gaining two minutes per day. It seems like such a little thing, but it does so much to my attitude to not be plunged into so much darkness. I must admit that I like the nesting tendencies that come with the early nightfall, but there's also a part of me that's just itching for enough daylight to give me some spring fever. With each day now, we will see a little more light, then even a little more light, until we find ourselves at the vernal equinox once again. Praise the light!
Thursday, January 17, 2013
With the landscape subdued in shades of tan, taupe, brown and white these days and the trees bare silhouettes, I found it easier one recent day while traveling west to see two hawks. Then, about a week later while traveling in the opposite direction, I spotted four more hawks. Each of the hawk encounters was the same: Perched at the top of deciduous trees or directional signs, still sentinels scanning the landscape for a tasty morsel. Might those tasty morsels have been mice moving with stealth through the remaining random corn stalks or burrowing through the snow? I feel so fortunate when I get to witness such scenes in nature, when my life slows down sufficiently to see these beautiful sights. Those recent wintery days were a gift.
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
My friend Mary Ellen told me recently that her husband, now retired, gets up with her every weekday morning and prepares oatmeal for her as she gets ready for work. Hearing her endearing story made me think of how my dad, when he was retired, did the same thing for my mom as she got ready for work and for both Mom and me on the weekend when I was home from college. These were pre-microwave oven days so he prepared his oatmeal on the stovetop, always getting the consistency just right. My dad wasn't a singer. He was a hummer. So, as he prepared the oatmeal, he'd hum. There was nothing so happy as to enter our kitchen for a hot, wholesome oatmeal breakfast lovingly prepared by my loving, humming dad. Not too long ago, as I was slowly awakening, I could hear Larry preparing his morning oatmeal in the kitchen and guess what he was doing? Humming. Delicious!
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
It's amazing how some people can move in and out of your life. You may see each other only occasionally, yet you can easily pick up with that person where you left off. So it is with my college roommate, Julie. I had the opportunity to see her at a large social gathering a couple of weeks ago. And although our conversation had to be brief because of the circumstances, there was a comfortable feeling between us that allowed us to practically pick up where we left off the last time our paths had crossed at the very same event a couple of years earlier. Julie and I got to know each other working together one summer before college. Her quiet, off-beat sense of humor was immediately appealing to me. She was thoughtful, well-read and gentle in her ways. She loved to play the guitar and sing and so did I, so as roommates, we spent hours on the floor of our dorm room, guitars in hand, singing harmonies to folks songs. I imagine we could still sing a halfway decent rendition of "Four Strong Winds" if we put our minds to it. Julie introduced me to the world of Thoreau. She taught me about patience and a peaceful countenance. She taught me that laughter and humor don't have to be loud and raucous. Certain people light the path for us and help shape who we become. Julie is one of those precious people in my life. Thanks, Julie.
Monday, January 14, 2013
At my mother-in-law's memorial service, Larry and I had the good fortune of meeting two of her dear friends, Barb and Connie. Marty had met them through her church and they proved to be true-blue friends who stayed with her through thick and thin. Barb, Connie and Marty became three musketeers of sorts, with Barb and Connie joining Marty for all doctor's appointments, biopsies and treatments. They walked a most difficult journey with her, standing by her side as she received hard news about diagnoses and prognoses. I could only thank them for all they did for Marty, but thanks seemed so inadequate for all they did in the spirit of friendship. Talking with Barb and Connie made me think of the true-blue friends who have stood by my side during difficult times, friends who didn't look the other way when I was hurting or recovering from illness or deep in sorrow and grief. Having true-blue friends is a gift indeed and I can only hope that I can live up to being that type of thick-and-thin friend to them.
Sunday, January 13, 2013
With her usual artistic sensibilities, my good friend Kitty decorated the exterior of her home for the holidays this year with evergreen and red berry-bedecked ice skates. Her beautiful decorations made me think of how much I love to watch ice skaters on television. Their elegance on ice is true beauty and precision. Admittedly, I am not an ice skater. For a period of time in the mid-1970s, I wore my hair like Olympic figure skating sensation Dorothy Hamill, but that was as close as I ever got. As a little girl, I recall getting the surprise of my young life when I first saw my mom ice skate. She could do figure-eights. She could ice skate backwards. I could barely stand up, let alone move my wiggly ankles enough to propel me forward on slim silver blades. Mom had perfected her form while ice skating as a child. I just never caught onto it, so I eventually gave my skates to a young girl who enjoyed the sport. Seeing as it's unlikely I'll get my skating form perfected, I'll just put my feet up, watch the skaters on TV and happily hum a few bars of "Skaters' Waltz." Maybe I'll even grow my hair into a Dorothy Hamill "do" again, just for kicks.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
Following the blizzard and subsequent snowfalls last month, I started hearing great stories from people about snowmobiling, snowshoeing, skiing and sledding. All of the stories brought back fun sledding memories with our good friends, the Hillmer family. As an only child, I didn't do much sledding except when the Hillmer family invited me to do so. Bud and Sharon Hillmer and their children, Pam, Jon, Susan and Carol, gave me those fun memories. On evenings similar to those we've been experiencing recently, the Hillmers would pick me up and we would head to the north shore of Devil's Lake State Park near the Nature Center where there was a spectacular hill. The Hillmers had a great, long sled that accommodated most of us. We'd pile onto the sled and sail down the hill, laughing and squealing the entire way. Bud was the "driver" of the sled to ensure our safety. Then, we'd dash back up the hill on foot, dragging the big sled behind us, only to repeat the process over and over. Many thanks to the Hillmers for helping make my winters so long ago merry and bright.
Friday, January 11, 2013
At church recently, our pastor asked the congregation what songs their mothers sang to them as lullabies. Several members in the pews raised their hands, identifying a variety of songs, some of which I had never heard of before. I didn't raise my hand, but I readily remembered the lullaby my mom used to sing to me. I could even hear her soft, soothing voice as I thought about it. The song was "White Coral Bells." I've seen the lyrics presented a little differently online, but this is the version that Mom used to sing to me (and that later we'd sing together): "White coral bells, upon a tender stalk. Lilies of the valley line my garden walk. Oh how I wish that I could hear them ring. That will only happen when the fairies sing." To this day, when I see coral bells blooming in the spring, that lovely, little song plays in my head and I think of Mom soothing my cares and worries, making the boo-boos go away, putting me to sleep while singing "White Coral Bells" gently to me.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
My very good friend, Kitty, has once again astounded me with her abundant talents and generous heart. On Christmas Eve, she dropped off what she called a "non-Christmas" gift at our door, a beautiful, quilted cover for a composition book she had secreted into its folds. She had made the composition book cover of the same nature-theme fabric swatches she had used last year to make me a quilt that she called "Literary Dreams." In careful, beautiful penmanship, Kitty wrote on the composition book cover's quilt squares words such as "Inspiration," "Ideas," and "Notes." In the upper right-hand corner, she wrote "K.J.O. - Author." I so appreciate Kitty's encouragement of my literary dreams. I have a feeling that this year is going to be a Great Writing Adventure and my new composition book will hold many inspirations, ideas and notes, thanks to Kitty.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
I have had a thing about plaid this fall. I decided that I wanted a plaid skirt and plaid pants. It didn't matter what colors or what plaid designs. I just knew that I wanted plaid. So, during my regular visits to my favorite thrift store, I had my sights set on plaid and, lo and behold, I found black, pink and white plaid pants (never worn, still with the tags - Might that mean something?! Is my taste too weird?) and a black watch plaid skirt (gently used, in great shape). The price was right for each, so I grabbed them off the rack, tried them on, found that they both fit perfectly and brought them home to launder. I've gotten a real kick out of wearing both since then. For some reason, wearing plaid in the winter makes me smile. Wearing these "new" plaid items makes me think of my teenage years when I had red plaid pants, pink plaid pants and some plaid skirts that I had sewed. It's all probably pretty silly, but I kind of like being mad about plaid.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
I heard a compelling speaker recently, laying out in great detail the rapidly changing environment of the industry in which I work -- health care -- and the need to do business differently in order to survive and thrive. During his remarks, the keynoter quoted M. Scott Peck: “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” Although the speaker was talking about an industry, I also heard M. Scott Peck's remarks on a personal level. Quite recently, I've had exciting opportunities to move way outside of my comfort zone and test the so-called ruts of my life. For the first time in my life, I will have written a book, complete with my byline on the cover. I have been given such a great opportunity by my employer and I am deeply grateful for the chance I have been to write, especially about a subject I love. In this new year, there will certainly be opportunities to search for different ways to do things at work, but I will also look for ways to move outside of my comfort zone and seek truer answers on a personal level.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Someone who offered a prayer recently included these words attributed to Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen: “Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.” As I internalized the words of her prayer, I began to think about my own tendencies. Am I more inclined to help, fix or serve? Likely, I have ventured often over my life toward the first two. So-called helping and fixing are the easier to do. But, in the future, I will seek to focus my energies on the third. By being in service to others, I will see wholeness in them and possibly in myself, too.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
I work in an industry that is fact-based. One of our individual employee competencies is to be able to make decisions based on data and facts. While I work hard to embrace such a way of doing things, I must admit that I tend to base my decisions on intuition. I follow my "gut", so to speak, and when I do, it doesn't fail me. The point was driven home recently when I was called onto the stage at a large-group meeting for work to be part of a "Let it Snow" Contest. The contest was designed like a game show where the contestants had to answer multiple-choice, winter-theme questions. Whenever I relied on my intuition, I got the answer right. If I over-thought the question, I got it wrong. It was a fun way to remind me that my inner wisdom doesn't fail me, no matter what.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Last Sunday, Larry and I celebrated the anticipated new year by purchasing our 2013 Wisconsin state park stickers at Devil's Lake State Park. It was a quiet afternoon at the lake with just a few people seen engaging in winter sports there. We saw a couple of people ice-fishing and another couple snow-shoeing. Even the birds were silent. The hush and the snow made the park spectacular. Temperatures have been cold enough that the snow we'd received a few weeks ago during our pre-Christmas blizzard and the flakes that followed had not yet melted from the rocky surfaces, the picnic tables or the trees. Everything looked pristine and white with mounds of snow covering them. I likened the landscape to a giant hand having taken an equally giant spoonful of whipped cream, flicking the wrist just so to cover the entire park with white dollops. I can certainly understand the philosophy of those human snowbirds who crave the sun and warmth of the south at this time of year, but this snowbird of a different kind found the mounds of snow on the rocky outcroppings, deciduous tree branches and every other surface at Devil's Lake to be nothing short of breath taking. I wouldn't have wanted to miss the sight.
Friday, January 4, 2013
Last evening after work, six friends and I removed the Christmas decorations from our church. The weeks of Advent had gone by quickly. It seems as if it was only a couple of weeks ago when we were busy putting up the tree and wreaths. The putting-up is always filled with anticipation and excitement, while the taking-down seems to lack the same spirit of merriment. Despite the somewhat-sadness of putting everything away, my six friends and I took on our tasks with gusto and good humor. Before you knew it, we were done and Mark and Gloria were asking us to their home for hot beef sandwiches. A quick stop at the grocery store rounded out our meal. We sat around the kitchen table for nearly two hours, catching up on life, telling funny stories and reveling in the familiarity of long-time friends, while feasting on our delicious meal. Mark and his brother have assumed the task from their late grandmother of making fruitcake, so we all had at least one delicious slice after dinner. How fruitcake has gotten such a bad reputation, I'll never know, for the fruitcake that Mark and his brother made was moist and sweet and chocked full of nuts, candied fruit and flavor. Granted, our celebration tonight may not have held the same sense of awe that preparing for Christmas brings, but it did hold a great deal of joy for these un-decorators.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
It made me sad that Christmas seemed to end so abruptly this year. All of a sudden, there were no more Christmas carols on the radio. As early as Christmas evening, the Christmas television shows and movies were replaced by the normal fare. Then, at church last Sunday, our deacon reminded the congregation that Christmas continues for 12 more days after December 25 in the Christian faith, concluding with Epiphany on January 6. In fact, according to our deacon, December 25 is when Christmas begins. So, today, if we follow the lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas," we're into Christmas Day #9, when the day would be celebrated by nine ladies dancing. Thinking about "The Twelve Days of Christmas" reminded me of a hilarious program on that theme that I saw on television as a child. I've only seen it once since then, but it tickled me as much then as it had when I was a little girl. As I recall, the program was absent of audio except for the song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." An overly enthusiastic lover showers his true love with the partridges, lords a'leaping, pipers piping, etc. until she is completely overwhelmed by her gifts. I don't expect to be showered with nine ladies dancing today, but I am heartened to know that Christmas still lives on for a few more days and then must reside in my heart the rest of the year.
Wednesday, January 2, 2013
During the Christmases of my youth, my mom and her mother would spend one evening during our holiday visit sitting at the kitchen table, looking at old photos. As a child, I couldn't imagine what was so fascinating about looking at the same old pictures year after year. Now that I've added years to my life, I find myself doing the same thing -- looking at the same old pictures over and over and deriving great joy from it. I have pictures of my parents as children, young adults, newlyweds and later as a family with me. I have photos of Larry's family, of him as a young lad and of the two of us aging "gracefully" over the past 20 years. There are photos of friends and photos of special events. I fondly remember good times and good people by looking at those pictures from days gone by. They are picture-perfect gifts, memories that will stay with me forever.
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
I recently finished reading The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey and Jim Huling, a book required for work. One of the main messages of the book is to define a Wildly Important Goal (also called a WIG, for short) that will help transform your business, bringing it to a new level of excellence. WIGs and their execution (as laid out in the book) can also be applied to one's personal life, according to the authors. The book got me to thinking about the possible WIGs in my professional and personal life. What better time of year to look at one's goals, one's wildly important goals than at the close of one year and the promise of a fresh, new year? I'm glad to have read the book and to now begin defining my WIGs and developing the plan to properly execute them -- charting a new path for the new year.