Mother’s Day Gratitude

My son turned 21-months today. Tomorrow I run my first half-marathon in a year. Sunday is Mother’s Day. This trifecta has my mind spinning with emotions – some high, some low – but all of it is topped with gratitude.

When I decided I’d run the Journey’s Half-Marathon six months ago, I didn’t realize it was on Mother’s Day weekend. For obvious reasons, this holiday is particularly difficult for me and many people I know. On the one hand, I want to celebrate the single most influential person in my life… while at the same time mourn her loss and attempt to let go of the anger of her choices. After 19-years of dealing with this turbulent, emotionally charged weekend annually (thanks Hallmark), I can say it is getting easier.

Don’t get me wrong. If I’m honest, I still haven’t 100% forgiven my mom. And, I still miss her terribly. I still tear up when I see heartfelt Mother’s Day commercials that are designed to tug at my heart and guilt me until my wallet pops open and I rectify those feelings by buying trinkets, cards and flowers. Kudos to these marketers by the way. It still works on me and I don’t even have a mother.

I think it gets easier as time goes on because I’m realizing how little control we have over some portions of our destiny. I had 18-years with my mom. She was an amazing mother who loved me unconditionally. Unlike so many of my friends, I had time to say good-bye. I knew my mom was dying, long before she took her last breath. I know without a doubt she knew how much I loved her when she finally passed.

This past week, I was shocked to hear the news about Dave Goldberg dying. I’m slowly working my way through Sheryl Sandberg’s book wondering where I fell on the continuum of career versus family. At times I applaud her efforts, while at other moments, I despise her. Now, I just feel her loss and am reminded that nobody can escape fate. Yesterday, a long-time acquaintance visited me at the hospital to talk about his efforts to pay it forward. Several months ago while competing in a ski race, he went into cardiac arrest. Call it fate. Call it God. Call it whatever you want… but a physician happened to be skiing behind him. For 25-minutes, this man conducted CPR on the trail and while he was transported via a snowmobile sled to an ambulance. Once at the ambulance, they were able to shock him back to life. Just a few months later, he’s back to bike riding and coordinating a free communitywide CPR class, forever changed but healthy, happy and alive.

I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of grief. I know it is ugly and unpredictable. But in this moment, I can also say that I’m grateful to the woman who made me and this weekend I’ll do my best to remember all she did for me. Tomorrow, I run for me because she gave me the strength and courage to race, even if I suck. She taught me that it isn’t always about winning. That, just showing up and playing hard is enough. Even death can’t take that away from us and for that I’m extremely grateful this Mother’s Day weekend.

I love you mom. Always have and always will.

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The Gardening Bond

gardening The loon is back on Moon Lake. The snow is quickly receding. Soon, Hauser’s will be opening for their annual perennial barn sale. Spring is here. With that, comes the joy of planning and planting this year’s garden. I’m aiming for low maintenance this year. In part, because I hope to spend lots of time gardening with Jake. Last month, an essay I wrote about Jake and I gardening ran in Northern Gardener. I’m a huge fan of this magazine so I was pretty honored they ran my essay about like on Moon Lake. And today, I want to share it with you.

Gardening Bond

In theory, I love gardening. In actuality, at the height of muggy, mosquito-infested evenings here not too far from Lake Superior, where the weeds outnumber my harvest three-to-one, I sometimes find myself hunched over, silently cursing about putting myself through this misery.

Most years, the first glimpse of goldenrod yellow crocuses poking through the last remnants of dirty snow inspires me to plan, plant and harvest yet another year’s worth of bountiful blossoms and hardy vegetables. I am an enthusiastic gardener while the snow is melting and as the first crops green up. As the weather warms and my excitement fades ever so slightly, little treasures from the garden keep me coming back for more. There is that first, sweet crunch of a sugar snap pea. My senses awaken as the calm scent of fresh mint clashes with the intense garlic smell coming from freshly cut garlic scapes. Nearby, tiger lilies and hens and chicks multiply before my eyes, while hollyhocks and lupines shoot out luscious shades of purple that Crayola can only dream of re-creating. These are the gardening moments I live for.

Despite this beauty, as the summer lengthens, I find myself easily dismissing each of Mother Nature’s countless miracles as I swat the mosquitos and yank the weeds that aggressively choke out my carrots and overpower my asparagus. It is a constant love-hate battle.

Last year was no exception. Except that it was. I’m a new mom. In a heightened hormonal, sleep-deprived, angstridden world of motherhood, the burden of gardening weighed me down. In an attempt to manage expectations, I planned, planted and harvested substantially less. I looked away as the weeds dominated the empty spaces. As summer progressed, I found myself stealing early morning moments to do what little I could to keep the garden going. Those snippets of solitude energized me in a way I didn’t expect. It reminded me why I garden in the first place. It made me want to do more. And then the raspberries ripened. I tended to keep my son away from the garden in part because of his love for shredding, yanking and destroying anything in his path coupled with the random spots of poison ivy that seem to find their way within my garden fence annually. But, on a bright sunny day in early July, I noticed the first radiant red berries popping out of my raspberry plants. It was time to make an introduction.

I carefully carried my son inside the garden walls, checking for bees along the way because that’s what paranoid mothers concerned about allergies do. We approached the overgrown row of plants and, as I moved to lead Jake’s hand to pick that first ripened raspberry of summer, he had already grabbed it. A burst of red left him giggling as I watched yet another outfit get instantly stained beyond repair.

I tried again. This time, with my help, he guided the berry from plant to mouth. Jake’s eyes grew big as he discovered the sweet, delicate flavor of a freshly picked berry that no grocery store brand can replicate. He instantly wanted another. And another. This scene was played out time and time again throughout our summer. A season of firsts—first sugar snap pea, purple bean, crunchy cucumber, mouthwatering tomato and countless others.

With each harvest, a new memory for mother and son and a new reason to garden. By summer’s end, even the buzzing of mosquitos could not drown this newly discovered bond. For now, love wins again.

Apostle Island Sea Caves Set to Open this Weekend!

The latest from the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore… Sounds like the mayhem could start-up again in northwest Wisconsin again this Saturday! PS If you are looking for some tips on what to do while visiting, be sure to check out my post from last year… 

Apostle Islands Ice Caves Open for Winter Viewing

seacaves1Bayfield, WI – For the third time this winter ice has formed along the Apostle Islands mainland ice caves.  This time it has formed with enough thickness and extent to allow viewing of the ice caves along the mainland unit of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.  If conditions remain as they are or improve, the Ice Caves will open on Saturday, February 28th.

The Apostle Islands mainland ice caves feature some of the most spectacular cliffs and sea caves found in the Great Lakes.  The features are different every year, as is the route to see them.  This year there is very little snow and a lot of glare ice, making the route exceptionally slippery.  Ice cleats (e.g., stabilicers) will be a necessity this year and ski poles are highly recommended.

Ice conditions can change rapidly, so it is important to keep safety in mind at all times.  High wind speeds, such as those forecast for the near future, is a factor that can quickly change conditions and cause decreased visibility.  Visitors must prepare for cold conditions and possible extreme wind chill.  Beware of ice formations falling from the cliffs.   Because of such slippery conditions, bringing your pet is not recommended.  However, if you do, pets must be on a leash and under control at all times and pet owners must properly dispose of pet excrement in trash receptacles.  Finally, don’t forget a camera to take home a tangible reminder of this spectacular landscape.

The sea caves can be reached from the end of Meyers Road, 18 miles west of Bayfield off State Highway 13.  There is a $5/person/day fee for those 16 and older for visiting the caves, regardless of access point or method.  Please bring cash.  There will also be an annual pass available for $10/person. The annual pass is only available at Park Headquarters in Bayfield (415 Washington Ave.) during the Ice Cave Event.

For the most up-to-date information, visit the park’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/apostleislandsnationallakeshore or call the 24-hour “Apostle Islands Ice Line” at 715-779-3397 ext. 3. Information can also be found on the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (www.nps.gov/apis), Bayfield County Tourism (www.icecaves.org), and Bayfield Chamber of Commerce (www.bayfield.org) websites.

(xxxx)

My Life Unfiltered

brooksshoeA couple weeks ago I was getting ready to share an update on my diet and a pic of my new running shoes, along with a blog post about my first ever class on how to build a succulent wreath. Within an hour of opening my blue and brown Brooks running shoe box, life changed.

I won’t go into details but my dad spent the last 2+ weeks in the hospital. He is at home now and is doing ok. We’re still looking for a long-term solution but I am counting my blessings that he has an angel for a sister and that the folks at Cloquet Community Hospital have provided him amazing care through this tough time.

This alone would have shaken the toughest of dieters. The fact that I’m an emotional eater and an emotional person in general is a bad combination. A slew of other complexities including family dynamics, being in what appears to be a permanent transitional phase at work, backed up freelance, a rental property that isn’t selling and a whole slew of other stresses has left me struggling to find comfort in long walks versus bags of peanut butter M&Ms.

Last Monday, I started training for my 5th Half-Marathon. I had hoped to have lost 20-pounds when I hit the pavement in my new Brooks shoes. The reality is I’ve lost 11—seven of which I lost in the first two weeks. I had hoped to spend the last 12-weeks building my core so that when I hit the pavement I’d have a strong upper body. That never happened. If anything, my back aches from hauling my 25+ pound baby up and down hills, stairs and other obstacles within our house. Needless to say, I am nowhere near where I wanted to be when I started training. My first two runs were lackluster, uninspired and weak at best.

I laced up my shoes this morning with an intention of quitting. This, despite my husband promising he’d find time for me to get the training in I needed to cross that finish line. It was my first “long run”. At three miles, I expected that it would be impossible confirming that this, along with my so-called failed diet would have to take a back seat.

Instead, life has a different plan for me. You see it is one of those perfect summer days on Moon Lake. The kind where bugs total zero, the wind gently flows off the lake, the birds sing, the blueberries are ripe and the height of summer green engulfs and calms you in a way that no form of meditation can ever provide.

I didn’t set the world on fire during this morning’s run. But, I finished it strong and faster than I anticipated. More importantly, I enjoyed it. I finished the run with a clear head and understanding that things will get better – not just with my strength but with the other complexities in my life I cannot control.

So here we go. I have 12 weeks or so until I line up on October 11 (my 6th wedding anniversary), to run Whistlestop Half-Marathon 2014. I’m confident I’ll cross the finish line. But, the question remains whether I can beat my 3-hour goal. For runners, this is very slow—just under 15-minute miles. But for me, this is the impossible hurdle I cannot seem to surpass. I don’t know if my body in this shape can achieve that. But I do know, while there are a million things I cannot control right now I can control how hard I try when time is made for me to train.

As for the diet, I’ll continue to try. Back to the basics. Carrot sticks and greek yogurt instead of peanut M&Ms. Good-bye white bread. Hello whole what. Good-bye afternoon diet pop, hello carb control shakes. One day at a time. One step at a time. Focus. Breath. Be the best person I can be, show up and train hard, and the rest will fall into place. Or it won’t, but at least I will know I have tried. Funny how the lessons of running and the lessons of life intersect for me right now.

So that’s the latest from Moon Lake. I still plan to post an update about Simply Succulents someday. It might come in the dead of winter but that’s ok. The class was a blast and my wreath – despite this chaos – is thriving. I also just learned I get to write a feature about these amazing folks to run in Northern Gardener magazine next year. Meantime, a piece that I wrote about my favorite farmer Clare Hintz and her year-round CSA should run in the magazine this fall.

 

Herbster Home for Sale

Update: On Monday, October 27 we sold this home and thus this chapter in our lives. The new owners seem wonderful and I hope they enjoy the house in a way we were never got a chance to. While I am happy that it sold, I can’t help but wonder about all of the “what ifs” that went with the property.

The backstory behind how we ended up owning a 3-bedroom home near Lake Superior in Herbster, Wisconsin is a whole different story. But, today, it is with mixed emotions that we’ve decided to sell it.

The view from the road.
The view from the road.

I still remember that crisp fall day when we walked the property for the first time. The former hobby farmer in me was fascinated by the outbuildings and aged barn. Next to it, a spacious back yard, 30 acres of woods to explore and winding ATV trails that intersect with deer paths satisfied my curious side. While an artisan well watering the field out back with water from Lake Superior’s Basin reminded me just how close we were to the greatest of great lakes, Lake Superior.

A second story deck provides the perfect spot to read, write or dream.
A second story deck provides the perfect spot to read, write or dream.

Glancing upward, I notice a second story balcony overlooking the property providing the perfect writer’s nook and I couldn’t help but wonder if this unexpected purchase was a glimpse into my future. As we toured the home, the word character kept coming to mind. It was clear the previous owners had a vision for this renovated farmhouse. In the kitchen, new cabinets and flooring, along with new windows provided the floor plan for a modern day, functional kitchen. The gorgeously crafted tongue and groove ceilings, spacious family room and open floor plan provided plenty of room for a growing family to run around. Upstairs, the bedrooms were simple but large, with access to newly finished deck. Standing there, I could almost taste my morning coffee. There were snippets of wonder and vision as I toured the property. An unfinished loft space that was designated for a second story hot tub seemed to be more appropriate for a second bathroom. The previous owner’s love of blue, including blue carpets and a blue first story bathroom was a bit extreme for this gal’s love of neutral. But these cosmetic differences were easy fixes in the grand scheme of things.

As we left the house, Steve and I had a moment of pause. Could we leave our life in Iron River to start a new life in Herbster? Our immediate response was absolutely. I could already envision roasting coffee from the outbuilding, planting a pear orchard and having my own 1-acre vegetable garden. I could see our kids exploring the woods, chasing deer and harvesting mushrooms without ever having to leave our property. I could see our family biking the mere couple miles to the shores of Lake Superior to enjoy a summer filled with sand and sun. It could in fact be the perfect life. But, life is a bit more complicated than that. The realities of our jobs and the life we’ve built on Moon Lake topped our dreams of starting a new life in Herbster. We’ve sat on these dreams for a few years as we rented this property out. But, at this juncture in our life, we’ve decided to sell. So I write this post with mixed emotions. If you or someone you know of is looking to start a new life away from the rat race, near the shores of Lake Superior in some of the most gorgeous country around, this property is worth checking out. Here’s the nitty gritty details: Escape the rat race in this for sale by owner 3-bedroom, one bathroom home (1,900 sq. ft) just 2 miles from Lake Superior in Herbster on a beautiful 5-acre wooded lot. Option to buy an additional 30 acres of prime hunting land adjacent to the proerty. Highlights include Internet fiber optic wired to the home, new windows, newly remodeled kitchen, tongue and groove ceiling, second story deck off master bedroom, 4 car garage, maintained trails on backside of property, large yard, an outbuilding and an option to buy up to 30 additional acres of prime hunting land. Closing and title insurance will be professionally handled by Wisconsin Title. Priced to sell at $104,900 or $134,900 with the additional 30 acres. Private showings available starting in late-May. Call Steve at 218-269-6776 for additional information or to set-up a showing. At this price, this home won’t stay on the market long. I’ve also included the PDF of our poster for you to share as well. South Shore Property For Sale

The Perfect Marketing Storm

The calendar says April 4 but if I look out my window, I have the joys of seeing a fresh foot of snow. As someone who is training for a half-marathon, this is extremely annoying. Muster up a conversation with anyone in the tri-county or possibly tri-state area, and the conversation will likely turn to this unseasonably miserable winter. As a life long northlander, I get winter. I get miserable weather but honestly, enough is enough. On a side note, this winter will go down in the history books for more than just the longest winter ever. Around here it’ll always be remembered as the year the Sea Caves went viral. The social media, marketing, story teller in me couldn’t help but attempt to explore why this happened in this month’s Business North.

Of course, I didn’t draw any incredible conclusion. But, it was a fun, powerful lesson and reminder about the fact that television news isn’t dead, social media matters, people love selfies of themselves in front of cool things (which will cause others to long for said selfie), and there’s nothing like a Hail Mary Polar Vortex on your side to boost tourism in the northwoods. Here’s a link to the article.

If you stumble across any other recaps about the Sea Caves or want to share a post about your experience at the caves, send them my way. I’d love to share them here. In the meantime, here were a few of my favorites. Some make this list for incredible writing. Some make this list for great photos. And some make this list for over-the-top reporting that makes it sound like the Sea Caves are either a new thing or that hiking on Lake Superior (in the winter) is something incredibly unusual. I’ll let you be the judge…

The Surreal Apostle Islands May Only Be Visitable For Another Few Weeks: Huffington Post

Almost Otherworldly: The Sea Caves of Lake Superior, On Ice: NPR

Lake Superior Freezes, Revealing Ice Caves Blocked for Five Years: Esquire

Winter Gives Access to Dramatic Ice Caves Along Lake Superior: Pioneer Press

Our Morning at the Ice Caves: The Cookery Maven

Sea Caves Shrowded In Ice Open to Explorers: NBC News (local affiliate reporter)

Lake Sueprior’s Ice Caves Offer Glimpse of Nature’s Fleeting Beauty: CBS Evening News

Rare Frozen Path on Lake Superior Opens Dazzling Ice Caves to Hikers: LA Times

Guest Shots: The Sea Caves of Cornucopia: frankjhutton.blogspot.com

Exploring the Frozen Caves of Lake Superior: The Baltimore Sun

The Beautiful Ice Caves of Northern Wisconsin: Stonehouse Photo Blog

Extreme Weather Exposes Rare Ice Caves in US: Aljazeera

 

 

Celebrating 36 My Way

Token Selfie at the Apostle Islands Sea Caves
Token Selfie at the Apostle Islands Sea Caves

I turned 36 today. As of this moment, I’ve been an adult longer than a kid. I officially feel old. I thought this might kick in when I turned 30 but that was a breeze compared to today. Perhaps it is because I’m a new mom. Perhaps it is because I have now fully accepted I cannot start my day without a cup of coffee and that just seems like such an old person issue. Or, perhaps it is because I keep nursing a multitude of aches and pains resulting from a combination of training for my next half-marathon and just everyday life. Either way, I feel old.

To celebrate 36, I opted for solitude. These past few years I’ve really come to terms that despite being a freelance writer and public relations guru by day, I am in fact the world’s largest introvert. I love interacting with people. I love connecting the dots between friends and colleagues. But there is nothing more I love than disconnecting from everyone and everything and just being lost in my thoughts. Better yet, stick me with those thoughts alone in the wilderness with a camera.

I’m not sure if you had heard but the Apostle Islands Sea Caves opened up for the first time in 5-years. (Yes I’m joking). I’ve walked these hidden gems in the past. My first time was while living in Duluth. I ventured over the bridge to the unknown “south shore”.  This magical place felt like it was days away versus 45 minutes from Duluth. I was instantly in love, not just with the caves but also the hidden gems along the way. It was Lake Superior in all her glory but without the people.  That frosty mid-week morning I was the only one wandering through these majestic, ice adorned caves.

At the time, I never thought I’d end up living in Wisconsin. What little I knew about my future. Several years later I ventured out to the caves again, this time with Steve. We were dating at the time and despite claiming he was the great outdoorsman, he had never bothered to visit the caves. It was a day filled with laughter, endless picture taking and another affirmation that I had found the man I wanted to live with forever.

And today, I returned to the Sea Caves again. I know I’m a bit late to the game but my goal was to enjoy the caves alone. As each day passed that they were open, the numbers of visitors grew exponentially. I couldn’t seem to find a moment to escape my day-to-day responsibilities to beat the morning, afternoon, and weekend crowds that were coming from all around the world to see this wonder.

When the notice came out that the caves were closing, I realized time had run out. It was now or never. I woke at 6 am to arrive at the Sea Cave parking lot around 7. As day’s first light broke, I made my way down to Lake Superior to discover I wasn’t alone. But, alone enough given 125,000 folks have visited the caves in a mere two months.

At midnight the caves close. My birthday passes. All things considered, it was an uneventful birthday. But, it follows an eventful year of buying new land, becoming a mom, growing my freelance and returning to the streets to prepare for my fourth Half-Marathon. I’ve learned lots and discovered I really know nothing. I’ve made new friends, found new hobbies and grown as a person. I look forward to all 36 has to offer and sharing it with those around me, while embracing my quiet moments alone.  In the meantime, one final look at today’s hike.