Life is Messy . . .

•January 18, 2017 • 4 Comments

Northern Minnesota’s winter has been very messy .. tons of snow, freezing rain, huge snow drifts from extremely strong winds, and frigid below zero temperatures … yet, there is an underlying beauty about it.  It is definitely a cumbersome mess in life if you have places to go and things to do.  However, if you have the time to relax and look deeply into the winter you can see that it has coated everything in a blanket of white that covers the dead undergrowth, hides the flaws .. it acts like a blank slate .. or better yet,  wrapping paper covering our anticipated gift of Spring.

messy1“The Fullness of Life is Incubated in its Messy Places”  ~ Amy Dickenson

Life is messy … and the messiness of my life over the past 2 years took me far away from the blogging world.  I was too tangled in the mess to have anything worth sharing and no desire to delve into my mess in a public place.  Life is still messy for me and probably is for most of you, too … however, today I am peeking out through a whole in the mess and seeing some daylight.  Maybe it is the bright sunshine of the day that drew me to sit down at my computer and write an update for all of my loyal followers who have been looking for me and still dropping me notes to find out where I am even after a several year absence.

My Life Mess in short (very short) my mom got sick, very sick, prolonged-hospital sick and then she died.  Three months later, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer – no cure, a few weeks later my dog died of cancer, then about two months after that my dad got sick and he died, too.  I was deathly ill on a strong chemo (mourning the loss of my parents, my dog, my hair and my independence), family estate issues were causing major family strife, I could no longer work (I was depressed missing my school family and giving up my career) … Blogging didn’t even enter my mind … Life was too much to deal with.  I kept thinking … one more thing and I am done, I can’t handle any more … however, I did handle it some how (what else can you do but ride the wave of life?).  Maybe it is true “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle … with His help”.

Please do not feel sorry for me … life changes for everyone, whether we want it to or not.  I went through a lot of “forced” and unpleasant changes.  But, in hindsight, I can now see that my life is more than just different, it is actually better in some ways.

Life is messy … but I found that the mess teaches many lessons and increases faith immeasurably.  I was at the bottom of life and others were my rope out of despair.  Friends and family were there when I needed them – without me asking and filled my life with meaning and hope  .. after I hit the height of my anger and fear and sadness, I somehow was able to let go of the controls (most of the time) and have faith that things would work out for the best.  Letting go is really tough for me, but I have been strengthened and the stress flows away as I let things flow as they will and trust it will all work out okay.  Realizing there is no reason to worry (very often) as most of the things we worry about never happen.  (I am still working on this)

My Life Mess has slowed me down it took me off “auto-pilot” and 24/7 life of a teacher living by hourly bells, multitudes of deadlines, and the demands and needs of students that I allowed to run my entire life.  This was a complete and huge life change for me that was probably just as hard or harder to deal with than the cancer.  Finding new ways to fill my days and nights with meaningful things, looking for purpose, a desire to be helpful and stay involved … but too sick to do much of anything but get out of bed some days.  School defined who I was and the staff were like family .. it was a huge loss to me. (it still hurts, but less and less as time passes .. many of my school family have remained in my life)

Messy Benefits  … One benefit of my life mess and being forcefully taken out of my busy “auto-pilot” life was the increase in my time and ability to see more and think more deeply about things that really matter.   It took some emotional healing time.  I went from feeling sorry for myself because of all the death, loss, and sickness with its overpowering life sucking power… To now,  with a calm mind and open heart with a new awareness of all the hard battles everyone else is fighting, too.  Life is still messy and hurtful at times, but I am finding ways to live with my mess… and hopefully helping others with their battles, too.

” … be kind, because everyone you will ever meet is fighting a hard battle.” ~ Bob Dylan

Another benefit is the ability and a new permission to share life messes with others. Like many of you I was pretty good at hiding my personal and messy battles and keeping them tucked away inside.  Several times during the last 2 years, in the middle of my major mess, I would look around and see the world just continuing for everyone else like nothing was messed up … busy people all around me who were not aware of my battles and seemed like they had their battles under control.  That feeling of aloneness in my life mess together with a slower daily life and a search for purpose (why am I still here?) changed my vision.   It opened my eyes and heart much wider to the numerous battles going on in all of the people around me.  Other peoples battles are different then mine, but just as painful. It is hard for me to help others when I am struggling, but I do believe my “purpose” is to try.  Cancer may not win. Like everyone else, I could have an accident or a hidden issue could shorten my life … time is precious no matter who you are and what your battles are.  We are all living unpredictable futures … nothing is written in stone and we all need each other to fight the battles.

Life is Messy … However, we are not alone in our mess or our battles … Everyone has a messy life with battles to be faced.  Be kind.  Offer your time.  Pray for one another.


messy2


Details:  I have LeiomyoSarcoma (1% of cancer diagnoses are sarcoma – my version is 1/6th of that 1%) – a rare cancer of the smooth muscles.  My abdomen has 5 large tumors and it has spread to my lungs.  I was originally given a year (to maybe 8 yrs  if chemo worked).  1st chemo treatment did nothing and almost killed me (I was even wishing it would at times). My 2nd chemo treatment worked, shrinking my tumors to half of their size.  I have been off that chemo for about a year trying to get healthy again for my next round .. probably starting in the next few months (unless I get some more miracles).  I have a wonderful team of sarcoma specialists at Mayo Clinic that have found ways to help me live with my cancer so far.  The longer I can live with my cancer the more chance there will be for scientists to find something that works … it is a long shot, but the only one I have as I will never be free of my cancer (or will there be a miracle?).

I have no doubt that the hundreds/thousands of prayers from friends, families and strangers are being answered for me … I feel blessed to still be here – even with cancer.  I was able to see the birth of a new nephew and watch him grow (plus, spoil him like his grandmother would have if she was still with us), I have had time to work on craft projects (long ago stored away) and learn new “crafty” things.  With no school demands or bells ringing I have the freedom to do things and go places when I choose to (and when I am physically able).  I volunteer at school, maintaining the website and even creating/designing a new one a few months ago.  I have a small cancer support group of friends to talk and pray with, friends and family willing to go on small and crazy “adventures” with me, and in my heart I know that …

God is watching over me …

Advertisements

The Dancers and Colors . . .

•October 18, 2014 • 11 Comments

Time to catch up on my Fall blogging . . . all of the posts that I began and never finished or published since school started are nagging at me, sitting heavily on my shoulders . . .

“With time, even a bear can learn to dance” — Yiddish Proverb

mushroomdanceEarly in September I saw several wild plants that looked like they were dancing. Spinning, flowing with the winds, flying with life. The fireweed and several other flowers had gone to seed and the mushrooms were popping up everywhere. The most glorious and beautiful dancing in nature takes place in the Fall. The last twirls in the breezes, new colorful costumes with frills and boas, ending in flights through the air and landing on beds of confetti.

“Dancing is moving to the music without stepping on anyone’s toes, pretty much the same as life.” ~Robert Braul

fireweeddanceDancing is also what I have been doing with life. Not a graceful, beautiful dance in the leaves .. more like an ADHD fluttering from one life demand to the next. Stepping on toes, tripping over obstacles, squeaking by at the last-minute waltz.
Since “busyness” has its good points, the dance of my life this Fall is not bad, just a chaotic mess of things that drain my energy and at times my emotions. It is all manageable as long as my desire to finish things stays strong and my eyes remain open long enough to complete my work. When I can find a way to get outside and enjoy my favorite time of the year, life’s burdens ease so much. I am looking forward to the promise of calmness winter snows bring (No way, did I really just think that?);-)

“Dancing with the feet is one thing, but dancing with the heart is another.” ~Author Unknown


“Your attitude is like a box of crayons that color your world. Constantly color your picture gray, and your picture will always be bleak. Try adding some bright colors to the picture by including humor, and your picture begins to lighten up.” ~ Allen Klein

colorwater2Nature’s colors began changing so early and quickly this year I almost missed it. I did get a few quick walks with the dog and rain. Over the years, I have taken hundreds of pictures of the leaves changing color. This year I was in an abstract mood and avoided the normal shots to try something different .. shake it up a bit as I have also been out teaching photography to my students and after watching their beginnings I am challenged to expand my camera-sight as well. When I try new things with my camera, they don’t always turn out .. but, I learn something new.

leafconfetti
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Except for the stubborn oaks, most of the leaves are off the trees. The ground is a carpet of color. The thick brush of the woods is gone and I can once again see the neighboring cabin through the trees and glimpses of cars on the road. Sound travels farther (the wedding dance at the resort three miles down the road really wasn’t in my front yard last saturday night ;-)). The orange clothing of hunters wandering the woods increases every weekend as the number of ducks, geese and swans lessens. Fall is in its twilight days here … and I want to soak up as much of this perfect season as I can.

colorwater
“Colors are the smiles of nature.” ~ Leigh Hunt
Those small white spots are feathers. Yes, feathers … lots of feathers. The swans have had several parties at my end of the lake in the past few weeks and they get rather rambunctious. The aftermath looks like they were having “pillow fights” (see post at Bear In Sight for pictures)

Strange and Unrelated Things . . .

•August 9, 2014 • 7 Comments

Usually events in life or a photograph inspire me in someway to write a new blog post.  Lately, I seem to have lost or misplaced things that provide inspiration to write. (Maybe an expanded version of my black hole theory?). My days are currently filled with unrelated things and have me somewhat scattered-brained  (a slight case of ADD has developed). With school coming back into my life (feelings of dread in my stomach), working on my parents house, and trying to finish up all those summer projects that were easy to start in June and that I put off finishing in July I suppose it is understandable .. but still annoying.

I keep a thought list  for blogging ideas, however, it currently consists of strange and unrelated things.  They are so different and some are so weird that I am not  able to find any relationships to tie them together into a post … except their oddness.  So, I will just share two of my odd lists with you . . . and see what happens.  😉

 

butterflower

List #1 – Odd things from this past week:

~ Flower petals that fall and become like butterfly wings. (photo)

~ Morning radio show host being teased about his “whiskey laughs” and “nose whistles”  😉

~ Refrigerator filled with 6 quarts of fresh picked blueberries that prompt fattening thoughts of muffins, pancakes, pies, coffee cake, jam, smoothies, etc …

~ The dog developing a need for my moral support when chasing chipmunks and squirrels. He lies on the porch and keeps an eye on them until I tell him to “go get’em”. Just a month ago, he did his “yard patrols” chasing the critters out of the yard on his own. (maybe he is feeling defeated as he has not caught one all summer?)

~  Touch-Me-Nots (exploding pollen when touched) and Caterpillars making tents

 

touchnot

 

tent

 

List #2:  Taking the good with the bad . . . as they always seem to go together:

  • A spider on your chair (bad) … A dragonfly on your shoulder (good)
  • Finding new tires at a lower price (good) .. during installation finding worn out tie-rods and ball-joints, too (bad)
  • The raspberries are ripe (good) .. the dog has learned to pick and eat them, too (bad)
  • Warm humid days (bad) … cool, breezy nights great for sleeping (good)
  • Fewer mosquitoes (good) … a huge crop of biting flies (bad)

 

 (I posted pictures of  Fireweed at my photography Blog)


And, there is one last thing I would like to leave you with … (My 2009 post on Smokey Bear and his history can be found here HOT FOOT TEDDY)

Today, August 9th is Smokey Bears 70th Birthday.  Remember …

Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires!

 

Black Holes . . .

•July 26, 2014 • 14 Comments

stepholes

“In this world of change, nothing which comes stays, and nothing which goes is lost.”
~ Anne Sophie Swetchine

Do you believe in Black Holes? I’m not questioning the scientific ones found in space, unless there is a new controversy about them I am unaware of? The Black Holes I am asking about are a different variety closer to home … believe it or not, I think that I have a personal one that hovers around my house.

For the last month or so odd things have disappeared into a magical Black Hole at my house. The items have completely vanished. My very thorough and lengthy searches are never rewarded with finding it. The searches go on and on … I have discovered, however, that when I totally forget that it is missing this Black Hole decides to spit it out and give it back to me.  Like it is no longer interested in playing games with me … at least with that particular object.

holeinbarkForgetting it is missing is the hard part.  After I’ve searched everywhere for days and do not find it, the urge to look evaporates for a bit, but then is rekindled when something else reminds me of my lost item … so the process takes some time. As I gradually forget (give up, start believing it is hopeless and really gone), that is when the object magically reappears in a place I know I had searched many times in the past.

I have tried to trick my personal black hole by throwing up my hands and saying “I give up” and “it was not really that important anyway” and I might even slip in a .. “you can keep it, it is just ‘stuff’ “. However my looming black hole is smart and does not fall for that trick … it is all part of the game it plays with me. I absolutely must forget about it for a while, before it shows up again.

LeafyholeThis is not your typical, daily misplaced objects like car keys, a sock, or tv remote. No, these are more .. uncommon and not used very often objects that have a special place where they always are kept or are in a special out in the open place where I have put them because they need to be dealt with in some way.

“Remember that everyone you meet is afraid of something, loves something, and has lost something”  ~  Proverb


 

woodchuckhome

Currently vanished into the black hole is a coffee mug. I have a set of 8 mugs that match my dishes and they are kept on a special cabinet shelf all to themselves .. I currently only have 7. I do not use these mugs very often (I have other daily favorites for my coffee), so I have no idea why it is not in the cabinet with the others any more.  I live alone so there is no one to blame and mugs can not run away .. thus, my black hole theory.

Another item that is missing is a book I borrowed from my physical therapist that I need to return.. I set it out, so that the next time I headed in that direction I could return it. Now it is gone and it was not mine for the black hole to take. I am trying hard to forget about it so that it will magically reappear and I can return it. However, since it was not mine and I feel responsible, that is extra difficult.

A friend suggested that I need to make a deal with my black hole and volunteer to trade something for the book … the problem is that the black hole does not take things on trade or things that do not matter to me (like a stained shirt, a dish with a crack in it, or that annoying singing reindeer head someone gave me for xmas).

I know .. this black hole theory sounds crazy, right?  But, what else could it be?

“Black holes are where God divided by zero” ~ Stephen Wright

(Sorry, the math teacher in me had to include that one.)   😉

Times Up for “New” Challenge . . .

•July 22, 2014 • 13 Comments

“Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence.” ~ Robert Fripp

(also the engraving on my iPod ;-))

 

It has been over a week … did you try or do something new to meet my blogging challenge?

wineryTo meet my own challenge of finding/doing something “new”, I became a backyard tourist for the day and visited The Forestedge Winery (link)  near Laporte Minnesota. It is about an hour and a half drive from my home in the woods to the winery in the woods.
(click here for a newspaper article about the winery)

This winery has been making wine for many years (20+), but this was my first visit. And, even though I also saw the wine in the store many times, it was also my first taste. What makes this winery unique is that their wine contains no grapes. Instead, it is made with locally grown fruits. The wine has its origins on a small farm at the winery where they grow rhubarb, lots of rhubarb (one of their most popular wines). They also buy locally grown fruits for their other wine varieties (ie:  blueberry, raspberry, plum, etc…). All the wine is made and bottled at this small woodsy winery.  When you visit, you can request a free tour and enjoy free wine tasting (yes, it is FREE). This truly is an all Northern Minnesota wine that will definitely surprise you with greatness.
(Below find a local news video about the winery and how they make their wine:)

My visit started with wine tasting. After a quick lesson on the proper way to taste wine, we got down to wine business. I happened to mention that I don’t like rhubarb, so my friendly wine tasting teacher made that one my first to taste (with a big grin on his face). Besides not liking rhubarb (the fruit) I don’t like sweet-fruity wines, so I was amazed at how much I enjoyed their wines. Believe it or not, the wines and not heavy and sweet … they are crisp and smell so very good, fruity and natural. The rhubarb wine was a terrific white wine that any Pinot Grigio lover would prefer. During our wine tasting we were privileged to try about 10 different wines. My favorites (and the ones I chose to bring home) were the white cranberry (a lot like riesling), red cranberry, black current (dark red and crisp), rhubarb and apple (sweetest and lightest).
After wine tasting and feeling a little giddy from all the wine tasting (do people still use that word?) we enjoyed our picnic lunch with a glass of rhubarb wine at a shady, woodsy table on the winery patio and then browsed through the locally made crafts they sell in a little shop off the patio.

Here is a little math equation for you about my “new” thing …. a trip to the local winery …

Sunny + Cool 70º + Slight Breeze + Great Company + Yummy Food + Locally Grown Wine = Perfect Afternoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Drop me a comment or a link to your “new” blog post if you met my “new” challenge …
I am waiting to hear about your “new” thing!

What Gets Us Through . . .

•July 12, 2014 • 8 Comments

“There is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” ~ Winnie the Pooh (one of my favorite bears)

rainyleaves

 

The human race, in fact all living things, are amazing. Our ability to adapt, think, build, change, and find our way through life and all of its obstacles is phenomenal.

To get through the heat we … invented air conditioning, ice boxes, fans, and silly beach things.
To get through the cold we … built fires, insulated houses, thermal clothing (even fuzzy hats with ear flaps)
To get through the rain/water we … made boats, bridges, umbrellas, yellow rain coats and boots
To get through an accident we … organized rescue units, safety procedures, trauma units, and trained caring people to handle disasters
To get through isolation we … connected phones, roads, mailboxes, and now blogging sites.
To get through physical pain we … developed pain killers, medical procedures, induced sleep and new methods to comfort each other

To get through grief … well, this is one area I’m sure that we haven’t developed a concrete method to help get us through. The problem with grief is that it is unique to everyone, can be a long process, and the healing needs to take place within us … other people can’t fix it for us. Counselors, friends, family, prayer, and for me music can help us .. but it is up to us to find a way to move past the pain, depression and even despair.

Jason Gray’s new CD (“Love Will Have The Final Word”) showed up in my mailbox when my mom first got sick and I played it over and over again during the hours and hours of driving I had to do during that 8 week period. The songs (not all sad because they are about love) and Jason’s deep understanding of life that he shares in the words of his songs got me through and are still helping me today. Unfortunately, it is one of those days when grief pops back up and takes me in reverse a bit, so I’m listening to Jason. Although every song on the CD is great and will open your heart and provide some healing, I thought I would share his song on grief with you … maybe it will help get you through if you are struggling, too … or help you help someone else who is grieving. The worse part of grief is feeling that you are alone in your suffering … and you are definitely not.

 

Here is a link to Jason’s WordPress post on grief and this song: http://jasongraymusic.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/not-right-now-the-story-behind-the-song/#comments

“You give yourself permission to grieve by recognizing the need for grieving. Grieving is the natural way of working through the loss of a love. Grieving is not weakness nor absence of faith. Grieving is as natural as crying when you are hurt, sleeping when you are tired or sneezing when your nose itches. It is nature’s way of healing a broken heart.” – Doug Manning

RainyWindow

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Grief is not always about death of a loved one … loss of a job, health issues, trauma, relationship break up, selling family home, loss of a friendship … many other things can make us experience grief.  Sometimes it is not about just one big loss, but the combination of many smaller losses … whatever the case, know that you are not alone in your struggles and seek help when needed.

More information on grief: (http://www.helpguide.org/mental/grief_loss.htm)
“Grieving is a personal and highly individual experience. How you grieve depends on many factors, including your personality and coping style, your life experience, your faith, and the nature of the loss. The grieving process takes time. Healing happens gradually; it can’t be forced or hurried—and there is no “normal” timetable for grieving. Some people start to feel better in weeks or months. For others, the grieving process is measured in years. Whatever your grief experience, it’s important to be patient with yourself and allow the process to naturally unfold.”

Share Something New Challenge . . .

•July 4, 2014 • 11 Comments

InWoodLily

A great thought begins by seeing something differently, with a shift of the mind’s eye.”  ~  Albert Einstein

 

There is something special about “new” things that can raise your spirits, add excitement to your life, make memories, make you feel more alive and inspire you.  Think about how “new” feels …. the excitement of driving a new car (even if it is only for a test drive), meeting new people, attending a new event, a new coffee shop, a new hiking trail, a new haircut,  listening to new music, tasting a new kind of chocolate perhaps 😉 … or finding a new wild flower like this one, maybe?

woodlilyI have lived in Northern Minnesota for most of my life and if I ever saw this flower growing wild in the woods before, it never registered with me until this week.  I don’t remember ever seeing them.  I am known to stop for many things while I am driving down the country roads .. usually to take a photo, watch an animal, or even pick berries.  The brightness of these orange colored flowers caught my eye immediately and as soon as I slowed down enough to realize that they were not the common Indian Paintbrushes, I was stopped and down in the ditch with my camera (amidst the bugs) taking pictures in the wind (sorry for the blurs).  These are wood lilies (I looked them up when I got home).  Unlike the lady slippers in a recent post, these can be picked (I only took 3 home to enjoy 😉 ).

 

“See any detour as an opportunity to experience new things.”  ~  H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

woodlily2New out of the ordinary and off the beaten path shops were also a part of my week.  A craft shop with locally made things (where I found a New little star candle holder and battery operated wax candle to put in it – not that I needed more “stuff”), a very small coffee shop with a “mom’s” lunch menu (3 special items for the day) and homemade pies (the wild rice quiche was heavenly), and an antique shop with sidewalk cafe (Italian sodas and homemade goodies) … These places were all in a small city/town that I visit all the time.  However, they are places I don’t usually see as I am too busy running errands and don’t take the time to explore the little corners of the town, the little shops and try new things.

 

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions.   All life is an experiment.”  ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson 

 

New things … newness … can inspire you in a variety of ways.  This week’s newness has inspired me to slowdown and explore the unknown more.  I am looking more closely at the details, I am looking in unseen corners of my little world and I would like to challenge you to do the same.

A challenge post:

I challenge you to look around this week for something “new”.  Take some time to slow down and look around your world more closely.  Venture into an out-of-the-way place in an area you are familiar with but never visit, look more closely at something you pass by every day but never really “see”,  try something new, do something new … and in a “new” post, share your new thing with us and tell us how it made you feel.  How did this  “new” thing put a little life into your life this week!

Simply provide a link to your post in your comment and we will all come and visit your newly found “new” thing …

 

“To see a world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower; to hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour–is inspiration.”  ~   William Blake

 


 

If you would like to see more of Minnesota’s Wildflowers that growing this first week of July, check out my recent posts at BEAR IN SIGHT (my photography blog):