Wednesday, July 31, 2013
I love the occasional rainy afternoon. Such was the weather a week ago Sunday, when the rain fell gently, my partially read book beckoned me and I found myself sitting in our sun porch, rocking, reading and watching the raindrops. With the windows open, the cool breezes wafted in. It was glorious! Rainy days are peaceful. They quiet me down and cause me to rest, relax and reflect. If I had my druthers, the sun would shine nearly all of the time and the temperatures would be a moderate 75 degrees, for I love to be out and about, getting my energy from interactions with others. However, a balance is needed and rainy days help provide that balance for me. So, I sat and watched the rain nourish the soil, the trees and the plants and I allowed it to nourish me, as well, in the quiet of my rocking chair a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
I was always very close to my mom, but I had the good fortune of being equally as close to my dad. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to enjoy as many years with Dad as I did with Mom. Twenty-nine years ago today, my father passed away at the young age of 65 from cardiac failure. Today, my thoughts go to Dad and the many wonderful memories I had with him. He always offered great advice, but only when asked. He wasn't the kind to assert himself and give unsolicited suggestions. I found myself going to him often, for his guidance was sound and his words measured and wise. My favorite adult memories of my dad were the times when he and I would go on father-daughter dates. It was during a time when my maternal grandparents' health was failing and Mom would travel as her work schedule permitted to support my grandparents and my aunt. When Dad and I were left to our own devices, we'd invariably schedule one evening just for the two of us. We'd go out for dinner somewhere in Wisconsin Dells, walk around the downtown and then take in a musical show at Chula Vista Resort. To this day, I can recall those special evenings being Daddy's Girl, just one more time.
Monday, July 29, 2013
I read in the newspaper yesterday about someone being celebrated as being the rock and the soul of her family. I got to thinking about what it means to be the rock and soul of another person's life and what a wonderful tribute it is to pay to someone. Our lives are fleeting and fragile. As I grow older, I am spending more time contemplating my own life and how I can use it to the best of my ability to enrich the lives of others. I believe we are all called to some kind of passion and purpose that drive us to do good works, regardless of our circumstances or whether those good works feel large or small to us. To me, being someone's rock means that you are present to him or her, someone to count on in the good and not-so-good times. To be the soul suggests to me that we express ourselves with caring, kindness, gratitude and inclusion so that all in our midst feel loved, valued and appreciated. What better tribute to give someone than to say that person is the rock and soul. Something to which we can all aspire.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
I love a parade, especially when it's a small-town parade that celebrates the community and the people who live in it. Such was the case yesterday when Baraboo celebrated its rich and unique circus heritage with an all-day Circus Celebration and 1st Annual Baraboo Big Top Parade in our picturesque downtown. Despite the record-breaking low high temperature that barely broke into the 60s, the wind that looked as if it might bring sprinkles with it, and the overcast skies, the crowds were not deterred. All of the hard work of my fellow event organizers paid off, for thousands of people donned winter jackets, hats and gloves and headed for our downtown anyway. Some of them brought their lawn chairs and blankets with them, while others had staked out their parade-viewing territory the night before. A year ago at this time, we were suffering from prolonged, unbearable heat and drought that threatened the crops. This year, we were more concerned about having icicles form from our noses. Yet, the show went on. The parade of over 70 units included antique circus wagons from Circus World Museum, horses, an elephant, stilt walkers and clowns. The parade also included community entries created by area businesses, nonprofit groups and youth organizations, as well as a host of contemporary convertibles and classic cars dating all the way back to 1916 that carried local circus celebrities. The Circus Celebration throughout our downtown square featured everything from tours of historic circus facilities, activities for children and music of all kinds including from a circus calliope, to the screening of a circus documentary, an antique fair and stores offering sidewalk sales. Baraboo has many things for which to be proud. Yesterday was a fine example of that community pride as we celebrated all things circus. As they say in the industry (and make sure to say it aloud with the gusto of a ringmaster)...May all your days be circus days!
Saturday, July 27, 2013
The air was still, the sweat pouring off of everyone, but there I sat in an open building with no air conditioning with a smile on my face. While waiting to speak to a group of people, I watched the view through a nearby open door and saw the loveliest scene of oak trees towering over freshly mown grass, the atmosphere dappled with a little bit of sun and the songs of birds. The view through that door was a little bit of heaven to me. If it hadn't been so terribly warm and had I not wanted to get home to return a phone call in the comfort of the air conditioning, I would have been tempted to walk through that door into that little bit of heaven, just to soak it up deep, deep into my memory. As it was, I glanced over my shoulder one more time as I exited the opposite way, grateful that despite the oppressive heat, I had been given the opportunity to sit in the stillness long enough to see something so beautiful and memorable that it quieted my mind, cooled my body and gave me a sense of being very close to heaven.
Friday, July 26, 2013
The ladies are blooming in the fields these days. Queen Anne's Lace, in all of its delicate, white finery and wild tiger lilies, wearing vibrant orange attire, dot the landscape, especially along rural roadways. You always know when it's July in Wisconsin, for these two lovely ladies, Queen Anne and Lily, start to bloom and they keep blooming through the entire month. We're now reaching the end of July and they are still looking regal and elegant, swaying in the slight summer breezes, still bringing color and unexpected beauty to verdant roadway ditches. As I say so often, I'm grateful to live on the edge of town where I get the best of both worlds -- a little bit of community and a little bit of country where I can readily see Queen Anne and Lily any July day.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
I heard a radio interview recently about the late writer David Rakoff. One of the people on the program referred to Rakoff's perspective about the tragedies and injustices of life and how the only "weapons" to combat them are beauty and kindness. Beauty and Kindness. I'd never thought of them before as weapons, but it was interesting to hear those words strung together. For the past year or more, I have been focusing a lot on thoughts about kindness. As I grow older, I feel that being kind is more and more important to me. If I'm not kind, then what am I? What better way to live life than to be kind? Or to see the beauty in things? And what better way to disarm and defeat tragedy and injustice than to find every opportunity to be kind. As the sign says in the yard by which I walk occasionally, kindness matters. What kindnesses will I show today? How will I live the words attributed to Plato: "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."?
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
I took a drive into the country one recent sweltering evening, en route to an appointment. It had been just a short while since I'd been on that route, yet the landscape looked so different. Sometime, somehow in the past week, the corn had grown and grown! On either side of me, the corn was so tall that it dwarfed the car roof and made for a tunnel-like effect. My mouth immediately started to water because I knew that if the corn was knee-high by the 4th of July and well over the height of my car by the end of the month, it wouldn't be long and we'd be enjoying ears of sweet corn for supper. Although it's kind of messy, I love the taste of sweet corn, the sweet juice running down my chin and splattering my glasses (unless I remember to take them off while I eat). Once again -- and it may sound kind of corny (forgive the pun), I was grateful that I live in a rural area where towering corn is only a few blocks from my home.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
While driving home from church, I had the car radio tuned in to Prairie Home Companion where ketchup was the subject of the musical skit. I'm not big on using ketchup (or catsup) these days, but during my childhood, we used it a lot at home. My parents liked ketchup with their French fries, on their fried egg sandwiches and for dipping their grilled (we called them toasted) cheese sandwiches. Ketchup was a staple in our meatloaf, mixed in with the hamburger and then drizzled over the top of the loaf before it went into the oven. I once knew a man who used ketchup as an expression of opinion. If his wife prepared a new dish for dinner and he didn't care for it, he always asked her for the ketchup. That was enough of a signal to indicate that the recipe needn't be repeated. Despite our not having ketchup very often, Larry bought us brats and burgers at the county fair recently and they were liberally garnished with ketchup. The sweet taste reminded me of happy memories of meals gone by with Mom and Dad when some of our favorite dishes tasted just that much better with a little dab.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Melissa, my young work colleague, and I got into a discussion recently about our love for libraries, how each of us could get lost in them, reveling in the experience of being in the stacks surrounded by books, books and more books. A college student, Melissa is used to reading textbooks for her studies, but recently enjoyed reading a 500-page book just for fun. We both agreed that there is something almost indescribably wonderful about reading and how we still enjoy reading hard-copy books. We both love the smell of the pages, the glue and even the mustiness of well-read tomes. No matter how my day has gone or how tired I am, there is nothing so welcoming than to spend my pre-bedtime minutes with my nose in a book. It relaxes me and prepares me for sleep in a way that almost nothing else does for me. If I were to become lost anywhere, let it be in a library or between the pages of one of the many literary wonders found there.
Sunday, July 21, 2013
I saw something the other day while zipping along on the highway that I hadn't seen before -- a hawk and a songbird perched next to each other on a utility line. They were seated quite close to each other, but with the hawk facing one way, the songbird the other. Their heads were cocked in opposite directions, too, as if neither one was paying much attention to the other. As I drove by, I couldn't help but wonder what the two birds were thinking about. Considering there was such an expanse of wire for them on which to perch, I also wondered why they chose to sit so closely together, yet ignore the other one's presence. Perhaps each was thinking that the other one was "for the birds"!
Saturday, July 20, 2013
According to a recent newspaper article, this is the last week when we should be pruning our evergreens in order to give them time to adjust before winter arrives. So, with shears in hand, I paid a visit to the yews around our condo earlier this week and gave them a haircut. Unlike some who prefer to use electric shears to give a smooth, clean shave to their taxus, I hand-clip them to give them a uniform shape, but with natural growth. The end result makes the yews look feathery, not refined. Not to brag, but I was quite pleased with the outcome. My trimmed taxus now look presentable again, but not so shorn that they lack personality.
Friday, July 19, 2013
It seems so ironic. We wait all winter long, tucked inside looking out the window, wishing for warm weather, green grass, light breezes and sunny skies. Here we are in the middle of summer and as I look out the window, I see green grass and sunny skies, but the light breezes have turned into stillness and the warm weather has turned into a stifling wall of heat. Sadly, just as I do in the winter, I'm inside looking out the window, wishing I could go outside and play. How is it that we have such extremes in temperature that we find ourselves inside with either the furnace or the air conditioning running for what feels like nine months of the year? I'm waiting impatiently for the weather to break again so I can open the windows, walk through the green grass, enjoy the sunny skies and feel the light breezes on my skin. Summer is at its height and I'm oh, so ready to bask in it.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Lately, I've been thinking of those fun lyrics, "I say tomayto, you say tomahto." It's tomato time once again in Wisconsin. I was thrilled last Saturday to purchase my first juicy, red tomatoes from our farmer's market. These are the real thing. They are red and ripe and juicy and flavorful, unlike the tomatoes that travel many miles to reach us in the winter, only to be disappointing because the flesh is dry and lacks color. In celebration of our farmer's market purchase, Larry and I have been eating tomatoes all week, mixed with pasta, sliced into a salad and tucked into sandwiches. Whether you say tomayto or tomahto, it's tomato time in Wisconsin and all is delicious!
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
In the 1970s, there was a popular sitcom called "One Day at a Time." While I watched the show regularly as a teenager, I never really thought about the implications of the show's title. Indeed, we are all given but one day at a time. How we use each of those single days is the stuff of contemplation and careful action, especially as we grow older and we realize that those days have been numbered all along. Recently when given sad news about a friend's health, I was reminded of the importance of enjoying each moment and living a day at a time with a heart full of gratitude and a willingness to help bear one another's burdens. None of us knows what tomorrow will bring or even the next minute for that matter, but we do have the gift of today, this moment. We also have the ability to live our lives one day at a time with the fullness of our attention that it deserves. I am trying not to multi-task or worry or regret these days, but instead to try to live as I did when I was a child before the myriad adult distractions hadn't been placed in my mind yet as so-called priorities. It admittedly takes some effort, but the gift of living a day at a time is well worth it.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
I have a thing for dragonflies. I love their translucent beauty, their elegance and their lightness. My friend Mary gave me a dragonfly pin last year that I frequently wear. The pin's colors seem to go with just about everything in my closet. A few days ago, I showed the pin to my friend M.J. as she showed me her new, delicate dragonfly tattoo. I guess you could say that M.J. and I are dragonfly kindred spirits. So, I thought of her one recent evening when my husband Larry and I were walking at Devil's Lake State Park. The sun was starting to go down as we reached the south shore. It was there that I discovered magic and enchantment. There were dragonflies everywhere we looked, darting back and forth along the water's edge, skimming just above the surface, undoubtedly catching some evening insect snacks. I nearly tripped a couple of times because I wasn't watching where I was going. Instead, my eyes were fixed on the beautiful, darting, skimming, hovering dragonflies. Magnificent!
Monday, July 15, 2013
Larry and I had the pleasure of talking with two women recently who embrace lifelong learning. One told us about the art classes she takes and the art she has created as a result of her education. The other woman told about the classes she took that resulted in her ability to butcher her own hog and enjoy cuts of meat in which she had had a hand. The first woman spoke of how she combines different media to create her art, each piece a unique expression of her talent and experience. The other woman spoke knowledgeably about types of ribs, from what part of the pig bacon originates and how to make sausage. Their passion and knowledge fascinated me. We're always reminded that although formal education may conclude for us at some point, there are myriad opportunities to keep learning throughout our lives. Those two women made me ponder about what I might like to learn. What subjects are calling me for increased knowledge?
Sunday, July 14, 2013
My friend Charlene and I made music once again today. Every few months, we sing an a cappella piece of music at our church. Normally, we sing something peppy, but this time, we sang "Poor Wayfaring Stranger." The arrangement of the American folk ballad was simple, yet lovely. The lyrics were soulful and filled with much meaning. I especially liked the words: "I know dark clouds will gather 'round me; I know my way is rough and steep. Yet beauteous fields lie just before me...." Those are words of hope, faith and a knowing of better days ahead. When the way is difficult, there is always something to which to look forward, something both today and ahead to keep our spirits positive and our hearts light. In some ways, we're all probably poor wayfaring strangers in this life, but today as Charlene and I sang, I felt in full communion with her and others and had a light heart and deep knowing that the beauteous fields truly did just lie before me.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
My friend Julie and I see each other one day a year. We live only a couple of hours apart, but life has a way of preventing us from getting together more than once annually. Today was that day when we met halfway and spent hours catching up on life, sharing gossip and eating foods in which we normally wouldn't indulge. It's a brief getaway, yet it always feels like a vacation made with a special friend. Julie and I have known each other for 30 years. Yet, when we get together, the decades melt away and we are young women again, finding our way in the work world and trying to figure out how our adult lives will take shape. But 30 years have passed. We've married, our parents have passed away, we've changed jobs a few times and we've seen some of the good, the bad, the difficult and the indifferent about life. Although we only get together once a year, that once-a-year get-together means more to me that perhaps Julie will ever know.
Friday, July 12, 2013
Every Saturday throughout the summer, there's big band music at the Chateau at Devil's Lake State Park. Last Saturday, Larry and I walked at the lake and then tapped our toes to the music wafting from the Chateau's open windows. There's something magical about hearing music at such a beautiful place. The weekend before, we had walked at the lake and then took in a concert on the lake's shore. Music bridges the generations, as was evidenced that evening when children and their parents and, in some cases, their grandparents danced, tapped their toes, sang, played makeshift instruments and gestured to the music. All winter long, I carry the memory close to me of those carefree summer nights when music travels the shoreline and tapping one's toes is all it takes to feel fully entertained.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
It's time for the county fair and I'm delighted. Our county fair is a fine blend of music, animals, carnival rides and 4-H displays, plus much more. Our fair embraces all that is right about small-town and country living and reminds us why we have chosen to live a rural lifestyle. Scheduled each year in the heart of summer, I equate county fairs with hot weather, abundant sunshine and the tickle-bumps I felt as a child every time I rode the Tilt-A-Whirl. I recall having a full tummy as a little girl from the cotton candy, the burgers and the ice cream. This year, I'm working at the event to engage local residents in a survey about broadband Internet access to our county's rural residents. Although I have a larger purpose related to my work for being there each day, I'm deriving much pleasure from being with the many others who celebrate our rural roots.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Last Sunday was Communion Sunday at our church. As I stood in a close circle around the communion table with our pastor and others from our congregation and, later, as I sat in the pew watching others do the same thing, I felt a tremendous connection to the wonderful people who are my church family. Feeling their openness, their kindness, their outward love for me and for others nearly brought me to tears. It is with this group of people that I have shared all of the joys and sorrows of my entire life. The First United Methodist Church in Baraboo is the only church to which I've ever been a member. I was baptized, confirmed and married there. It is there that we honored the memory of my dad and mom. The church and its members are my past and my present. And these days, with my parents both gone, no siblings, no children and my aunts, uncles and cousins living far away, these precious people and others from our community have become family to Larry and me. And what a lovely family to have.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Larry and I enjoyed our first locally grown strawberries of the season this week. We hadn't made the time to pick them ourselves, but the local farmer's market had them available to us by the pint. A few days earlier, we had eaten some large, juicy strawberries that had traveled a long distance to get to the function we attended and they were tasty. But they paled by comparison to the rich flavor and ruby red color of the strawberries that were grown locally and transported only a few miles to our dinner table. I'm a big advocate for locally grown and organic food. There's a different look, a different flavor to the produce that is grown in our backyards. Just taste a locally grown strawberry and I think you might agree.
Monday, July 8, 2013
Composer and musician Alanis Morissette was interviewed in the July/August 2013 edition of Energy Times, eloquently telling about the ways she pursues health and happiness. Alanis Morissette explained that she doesn't shy away from confusion, anger, fear, frustration and sadness, but accepts them for the value that they can have in her life. She then said that she gets back to wellness "by walking through the valley of challenge." The valley of challenge. What an apt description. In all of our lives, we encounter those occasional valleys of challenge (and sometimes not so occasional). So what do we do with them? Perhaps they are important indicators of things that require change or temporary setbacks that lead us to new, right directions. These days, there are countless books, articles, speakers, blogs and more on the art of happiness. It's almost as if we've forgotten how to be happy or we want to march right out of that valley of challenge as fast as possible so we don't have to experience pain. But those valleys can be unavoidable. They provide valuable lessons and we must experience them in order to live a real and complete life. What we learn from those experiences and how we use that knowledge to live our own better lives and help others is even more important, in my opinion.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
The sun porch seemed the ideal place to sit and read last evening. The cool breezes, the rocking chair, the night sounds all seemed to beckon me. As the daylight dwindled, I closed my book and just rocked. All of a sudden, I could see little flashes of light darting around the backyard - fireflies! It'd been a year since I'd seen fireflies from that same vantage point. So, I just sat and rocked as the darkness enveloped me and I watched the little creatures letting their lights shine. It made me think of the children from our church who sang "This Little Light of Mine" a few months ago. Even when all is dark (and especially so), it's important to let our own lights shine. The light that we may think is but a tiny flicker may be the illumination that is needed by another. By letting our lights shine, we express our true selves, providing a gift to others just as the fireflies provided me last night.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
My husband Larry and I celebrated July 4th morning this year by taking a walk at one of our favorite places, Steinke Basin, which is a lesser traveled part of Devil's Lake State Park. It was one of those perfect summer days that you just wish you could package up and open again and again when the weather's fowl. This particular day, the sun's rays were warm, but the breeze was cool. You could walk uphill at a brisk pace in the shade of the many trees and feel as if you were being fanned as you went along. We normally reward ourselves at the top of the bluff with a brief sit on a strategically placed bench, but alas, on that day, a family had beaten us to it. So, we turned around and retreated back down the hill, listening to the birdsong, watching the flutter of butterflies in our path, and feeling the heavenly cool breezes fan away the perspiration. That walk in the woods was a quiet, delightful way to start our holiday.
Friday, July 5, 2013
We had so much rain last month that it was hard to schedule my evening walks without carrying or wearing my rain jacket. What I discovered is that I like walking in the rain. There is something peaceful about having the rain gently falling around and on you. I saw my friend Sharon out for a walk recently as I was driving down the street. I stopped the car and rolled down the window for a brief chat and while doing so, it started to drizzle. I enjoy Sharon so much, but at that moment, I realized we were kindred spirits. Like me, she doesn't let the rain interfere with her walks. Last Friday evening, I decided to venture out for my evening walk after a heavy downpour. It didn't rain on me, save for the drops that fell on my head and glasses from the dripping treetops. The birds sang louder and the fresh scents seemed sweeter. No one else was out and about, just the birds and me, singin' after the rain.
Thursday, July 4, 2013
Today is the 4th of July. In addition to the patriotic significance, I associate this all-American holiday with gatherings of family and friends for barbecues, picnics and swimming, and with watching fireworks splashing against the night sky. I've seen some pretty amazing fireworks displays in my life, including in my youth on a class trip to Europe and several years of magnificent pyrotechnics associated with The Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee. Our community and those in the surrounding area all have elaborate fireworks displays that attract families. Lately in preparation for the big holiday, fireworks vendors have been out selling their wares. Night after night, I've been hearing pop after pop after pop that indicate that for some, the 4th of July has started early. As I ooh and ahh with our neighbors at the community fireworks this evening, I'll also say a prayer for all of the heroes who have protected and continue to protect our country. Happy 4th of July, everyone, and God bless us all.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
I read an interesting quote attributed to Grammy award-winning singer Lisa Fischer in the June 30, 2013 edition of Parade: "One constant: I know who's living inside me. I like her." How many of us really know who is living inside us and like that person? How many of us allow ourselves to be that person living inside of us without feeling compelled to be what others want us to be? What is the price of being our true, genuine selves (or not)? I've read that as we grow older, we become happier with life and content with ourselves. Yet, I see article after article about how to cope with stress and how to find happiness. As my husband Larry said, happiness is not about the destination, but about the journey. It's how we frame our life's circumstances to see the blessings and the sacred moments, and how much we're willing to be our true, genuine selves, so that like Lisa Fischer, we can be assured that we know and like the person living inside us.
Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Every magazine I read lately features at least one mouth-watering summer salad recipe. I made one of my favorites -- a combination of cabbage, cucumbers and light dressing -- thanks to the latest items for sale at our local farmer's market. Despite the rain, rain and more rain we've been having of late, the vendors have had a handsome array of kale, radishes, sugar snap peas, green beans, red potatoes, heads of cabbage, cucumbers and more. With a little more sunshine and mild temperatures, we'll start to see an even greater array of produce. Then, I can dig out all of those summer salad recipes I've been clipping and we'll enjoy feast after fine feast of locally grown, nutritious food while the growing season lasts.
Monday, July 1, 2013
My late mom had a little pillow on which was embroidered "Live well, laugh often, love much." Mom lived by those words. She had a wonderful, purposeful life. She filled each day with love and laughter. She was always the first to enjoy a good joke and even had the grace to know how to laugh at herself. Our friend Bill noted recently that his late mother-in-law would have recommended that family and friends enjoy some LSD. As those around him gasped, Bill chuckled and explained that LSD stood for "Laughter, Singing and Dancing." So that's just what we did that evening as we celebrated Bill's birthday. There was much laughter in the room, especially when we all gathered into a conga line and moved about to the Latin musical beat. I told my husband Larry that I felt more alive that evening than I had in months. It was great to just cut loose and dance without self-consciousness, laugh joyfully with long-time friends, and sing along with the live music. As Bill said, we all need a little LSD in our lives so that will be my aim. At the end of each day, I want to be able to reflect back on how well I lived, how often I laughed and how much I loved.