Archive for March 2011

X Marks the Spot

March 27, 2011

Dawn March 26, 2011

When we were growing up if anyone read about buried treasure, pirates, lost gold mines, or hidden money, a map was always part of the hunt. And X marked the spot. Even one of my favorite Michael Douglas movies, Romancing The Stone, had a treasure map with a variation of X marking the spot showing where the giant emerald lay hidden.

So imagine my delight when I woke up yesterday at dawn and looked out the window. Even before I could let out my little Oreo, I grabbed my camera to capture that great photo op. My own X marks the spot.

Then I realized how appropriate this dawn was for me.

Right now, for me some days still prove more difficult to muddle through than others. Those are the days, maybe you have them also, when life seems to beat you down. You hear about other places that seem to be the perfect haven where stress never falls upon its inhabitants. It’s the Camelot of earlier times or future times, but certainly not the present moment when everything about us churns with turmoil.

Life deals most of us some pretty horrendous blows. Walking away from our environment in search of treasure or instant escape isn’t likely to make us happier. Think of those various lottery winners who win the jackpot, and in the span of a few short years, their lives are often worse than what they were before they found their “X” for treasure.

Perhaps you’ve heard of people who pack up and move from where they were, hoping to find a treasure in a new life elsewhere, an “X” spot that will bring happiness and/or easy living. Personally, I know many who return because that perfect place wasn’t so perfect after all.

So back to my reminder: my dawn delight, my “X.”

I have to admit I’ve thought about getting out of here lately. I’ve been overcome with grief which at times I find very difficult handling. My oldest son and his family live far away; so does my brother and his wife, and my sisters and their families are busy with their lives. I’m certainly not happy with our state and what’s happening politically and economically cause greater stress as I see our income diminishing, our expenses increasing almost daily, our support system for our disabled son who lives with us challenged and threatened in every direction.

But yesterday I saw my sign with a dramatic dawn.

Icy Boulders March 27, 2011

So I considered all day what treasures are here. I took an inventory: my ever-changing lake, my “perfect” home, my incredible friends, my sisters and their families who live near enough that I do see them regularly despite their busy lives. We have a faith community. My husband, who’s my greatest support, is happy here and enjoys the friends he’s made. We have wonderful neighbors. I’m within driving distance of several writers so we can gather together and enhance our creative skills. And most of all, my parents and two sons are buried here. I couldn’t leave them when they were alive; I don’t want do so now.

So yesterday’s dawn served its purpose. It stimulated me to look for the treasures I have about me, not seek elsewhere. This spot is my treasure.

What is a treasure is your life?  Do you need a reminder?

Sister Shelley

March 20, 2011

My Sister

Today is the first day of spring. Officially it’s supposed to arrive sometime late this afternoon. However, while the calendar may say that, sometimes spring doesn’t show up on the day it should.

I think today is one of those days with its cold rain and leaden skies.

However, what I can expect to happen today is my sister’s birthday. When she was born, I was 10 and thought I’d never be fortunate enough to have a sister. She arrived on a real spring-like day. I remember walking home from school with my girlfriend, like I always did, and we planned to jump rope since the temperature was great and we didn’t have any homework.

Instead of Mom greeting us, my grandmother was waiting and her news was I had a baby sister. Her name was Shelley.

Now my friend Jane was just as excited as I was since she had two brothers and I had three. We were surrounded by boys who delighted in teasing us and making our lives miserable. Or so we thought at the time.

Why a baby sister would be perfect! We could take her for walks, hold her, feed her, she’d be our ally against all those brothers. I guess we expected this baby to grow up fast for the last part of that dream. But she sure filled our desires in doing the walking, the holding, and the feeding. Because of our age difference, I was more a little mother to her, especially when my mom went back to work.

But I didn’t mind. Shelley was just the perfect baby—always agreeable and cute as could be. She had a hint of curl to her hair, a sweet smile once she learned that skill, and she rapidly found her place in our busy home.

One of the hints we got of how strong and stoic she could be, occurred when she was about 2. My dad’s family would always have a huge family reunion on a small semi-private beach at one of the large inland lakes. Lots of kids playing in the sand, adults catching up on news, food galore, a generally busy and hectic day. But that summer, Shelley, barefoot and toddling in the sand, stepped on hot coals covered with sand. Someone the night before had not used the firepits. Of course, Shelley’s little feet were horribly burned, and the rest of that day we spent either at the hospital learning of the burn damage or back at the beach worrying about our little sister. For several months she was in a lot of pain and couldn’t walk. I carried her, my brothers carried her, we all kept her occupied with games or walks.

But Shelley was a trooper and rarely cried. She battled through it far better than most expected for such a little one. I knew then she’d be tough when she had to be.

Fast  forward through a few years. Shelley grew into a responsible, somewhat shy young girl who became the older sister/mother to my babies once I had them. Just as my mom depended on me to help her with my little sister Shelley, I depended on Shelley when I had my sons. It’s a debt I can never repay adequately. She always said when she grew up she wanted five boys; maybe helping me with my boys helped her—since she did ultimately have 5 sons.

I am so proud of Shelley, the little sister I always dreamed of having. She’s now grown: a strong woman, a grandmother, a special-ed teacher, a talented musician, a caring woman.

Is she perfect? No, she’s Shelley—that’s so much better. But she was born on the first day of spring. She is tender yet can be a force of nature—just like spring weather.

Spring may not always arrive when March 20th rolls around; however, Shelley’s birthday always will. I’m so glad she came into my life.

Breaking Through to Sun

And one day this past week, we hit 70 degrees lakeside. Almost all our snow is gone now. However, the exposed winter detritus stares at us on still-soggy lawns. Maybe next week will be dry enough for us to get out there and clean up. However, I walked over to the garden on Friday to see if any of my spring bulbs were poking their heads to the longer days of sunshine.

Yep—they were. If we get a few warm days next week, I may have cheerful daffodils and crocuses. I can’t wait to check. Let’s hope we soon she spring flowers. 🙂

Footprints On The Beach

March 13, 2011


Bootprints in slush

Dreary skies, grey days, snow or worse, an icy wintry mix described our weather for the past few weeks. Sun hasn’t been something we’ve seen very much of this winter. Many of us have wondered if that round yellow orb would ever show its warmth again. Along with those gloomy, dark days, that wintry mix would add to the ice shelf that covered our beach and created otherworldly shapes to our piers. The deep snow and ice covered the grassy areas leading down to our beach.

 Most mornings when I’d let my dog out I’d see prints in the slush from the newspaper delivery person. I’d be glad to see the paper, but not so glad to see the bootprints in the previous night’s deposit of fresh wet white stuff. If I looked toward the lake, I’d never see any prints in the snow or on the ice. The snow was too deep; the ice too hard. 

In warmer weather, our beach always has prints—human, hoofed, webbed, and pawed. 

But late Thursday afternoon, I looked out at the sky and noticed the sun had broken through the clouds. It had returned. Better yet, the snow covering the grass to our beach had mostly disappeared. So had the ice on the shore. Friday morning when I looked out at the beach, I spotted footprints in the sand. Human footprints. Oh, happy day! 

That’s a sign for me. If some hardy neighbor could get down to the beach and walk in the smooth sand, then spring wasn’t too far away. Sure we can have some more snow; after all we do live in Wisconsin. But the beach is clear of ice. The huge snow pile which at one time covered our south windows and was well over 12 feet high has dwindled. Why these past two mornings when I let my dog out, I don’t see footprints. The cement is dry. What a miracle. 🙂 

What’s really the miracle here is how little things that sneak up on us can lift our hearts. Make us hopeful again. Make us think of crocuses and early daffodils. My hubby’s busy checking his fishing rods in preparation for his first fishing outing. The ice is leaving the lakes.  

Last night we lost an hour of sleep with the start of daylight saving time, but right now it’s getting near dinner time, and we don’t have lights on yet. I’ll take that. 🙂 I’m feeling more energized. Maybe not so energized that I’ll start cleaning closets, but I’ll think about doing one section at a time.   

Footprints in the Sand

Ahh, anticipating spring…

I hope you’ve had sunshine in your life this past week. I hope you’ve seen positive footprints in the sand around you. (Click on this last photo to enlarge it and see what I saw Friday morning) 

And if you’re Irish, may you have a great St. Patrick’s day. Come Thursday I’ll be cooking the corned beef, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes. Life is good.

Life Changing Moments

March 5, 2011

Winter Slips a Bit

March came in like a lamb this past Tuesday, but the lamb was a dingy, dirty one. Even the skies for most of the week were dull and dreary. Not exactly conducive to pushing on to spring-time thoughts and better days.

For example the photos for today were taken in color—but you’d think I’d done them in old black and white film. Not so—just colorless dawn.

As I’m writing this now and glancing out my window, Lake Michigan churns up its dingy, silty bottom and huge snowflakes are falling.  The remains of dirty snow piles left from the February blizzard are getting a white glossing over, as if to say, “Really, better days are coming.”

I’m sure they are.

Perhaps because of this dreary weather this week and the fact that serious issues keep popping up each day lately, I’ve thought a lot about life changing moments. You know those moments that sneak up on you and deal you a gut-wrenching blow. In the aftermath, you realize that life will never be the same again, that life may be more difficult or easier, or even sometimes both.  But in the moments that you get the punch from life, whether it’s a moment when you make a conscious decision or not, you know your life has changed forever.

What follows then is what you make of the blow you received.  Will you grow from it? Will you retreat from understanding its impact? Will you close off your personal growth? Or will you develop even better survivor skills?

I’ll share one of mine with you.

The day was an ordinary one in very early September. I’d been married to my first husband about ten years and had 3 adorable sons.  While my boys were in school, I spent the day registering for classes at the university and missed my ride home. However, a young man who’d been in a couple of my classes offered to give me a ride home and I accepted. Otherwise, I’d have had a very long walk and wouldn’t have been home to greet my sons after school.  We all arrived at home at the same time, and the young man played some ball with my boys. All innocent, but I was frantic. I knew my boys would be excited about this and tell my husband. I knew he’d be furious. I stewed about what would happen when he found out. This ordinary day made me realize my life was so circumscribed by trying to make my husband happy when he never was that I made myself miserable and could never be the best mother I needed to be for my sons.

That realization hit me like a thunderbolt. In actuality, I’d been hiding it from myself for many years. I understood I couldn’t go on living the life I had been living. It would kill me and my spirit. I recognized life would be tough, especially since divorce didn’t happen very often. It had never happened in my family. However, I knew I’d be a stronger woman and happier in the long run—no matter the difficulties I endured in getting myself out of the marriage.

Rolling Waters

Life wasn’t easier for a few years, but my sons and I grew closer and stronger.  Because of a simple moment that changed my life in so many ways. Like a crocus bud on the first warm spring day, the moment opened me up to seeing how strong I could be, to really understand what my priorities were, to accept the bad things that happened in life because I knew I could handle them—somehow.

It was the beginning of my journey to being a wise woman, a strong woman, a woman who in walking away from what she thought was love, learned the greatest lessons of love. First you must love yourself before you can love another. That loved ones are worth fighting for—even when fate seems to suggest otherwise.

I’ve thought often this past week about Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” especially the last stanza: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

What life changing moment have you had? One really gut-wrenching and mind-opening? Have you taken the less traveled one?