Berry Picking, Bare Feet, and Three Strange Men in an Ambulance

Prior to an unsettling event last week that caught me completely off-guard, I had the opportunity to take advantage of yet another great past-time in my neck of the woods—berry picking.

IMG_1280The wild blueberries in Bayfield County are bountiful this summer. And, thanks to having a husband who spends most of his time driving the back roads of the county checking timber sales, he’s my perfect investigator for finding the best, secret berry hot spots around. This year was no exception.

Last year I purchased a blueberry rake from Williams Sonoma. I thought this might expedite the extraction process of the miniscule royal blue gems. FYI: It doesn’t work on wild blueberries.

I only lasted 45-minutes in the early morning sun before Baby Boy Probst informed me enough was enough. But, it was long enough to harvest enough berries to make a great batch of blueberry muffins and enjoy several breakfasts of berries and yogurt. As I packed up my car, I had every intention of returning to enjoy another harvest well before the season ended. Unfortunately, this won’t be the case.

A few days later I sat in the doctor’s office and was informed I should start taking it easy. Despite my best efforts to lie low, I was dealt another surprise last Thursday when my blood pressure shot up for reasons unbeknownst to me. Within an hour I was in my doctor’s office. She immediately had me admitted to MMC. While I was never in serious danger, there was certainly an immediacy I was not expecting. My hubby soon arrived at which time I was informed it might be go time… and that they were starting a magnesium drip in my arm and sending me via ambulance to Duluth.

Other than listening in on the Second Grade Tours I coordinate for the hospital, I’ve never spent time in or around an ambulance. I can honestly say it wasn’t on my top 10 list of things to do before I die. And, I certainly didn’t want my first transport to be one that would take 75-minutes, with three men I didn’t know, no shoes, and at a heightened hormonal state.

I silently cried much of the way to Duluth for no reason. The men, clearly experts at dealing with their own hormonal wives and/or overly emotional patients, did their best to calm my nerves. (Some medication may have helped as well). It was during this long, bumpy ride that I discovered two things—they really need to repave parts of Highway 2 and being vulnerable sucks.

There is something about riding barefoot in an ambulance with a measly hospital gown and no wallet or phone that makes you feel very vulnerable. It is even worse when your feet are swollen and less than glam. Watching too many episodes of Grey’s Anatomy had me envisioning us getting caught in a hurricane and me flying out of the back of the ambulance on a gurney, only to be lost in the woods in hopes some other stranger would find me. (Never mind it was sunny, dry and 70 degrees out).

Soon, the world’s longest uneventful ambulance ride was complete. I’ll spare you the details of the next 48-hours other than to say I never went into labor. Baby Boy Probst is doing fabulous. I’m stable. And, after two nights of monitoring and tests, I was allowed to return home with the understanding that this will be over in two weeks and berry picking or any strenuous activity (including work) is out of the question.

Every mother has a birthing story that is unique. Heartbreak, hope, sheer and utter joy, pain, anxiety, stress, frustration are regular emotions one rides on the rollercoaster journey of motherhood. My story is no exception. But, I’m also finding that my story is filled with angels that show-up at the most unexpected moments, asking for nothing in return other than to help me.

I’m not overly religious. But I find comfort in the chaplain who prayed for me when our adoption failed. The calming effect doctors and nurses have on being honest and direct with me at a time I want to think the worse. The nurse who came by and without even asking, offered me her Caribou coffee, knowing the hospital coffee was gasoline at best. The co-worker who didn’t think twice about checking my blood pressure daily to ensure I was doing ok and the others who have comforted me along this entire journey. Caring friends that listen to my endless ramblings without passing judgment and always knowing what to say or do. Supportive family. My breastfeeding, birthing coach and doula who answers my endless questions. My strong and compassionate husband who rubs my back, changes litter boxes (with minimal complaining) and vacuums while I nap. My puppy Joey who follows me around offering hugs and cuddles as needed, while my kitties offer me comedy relief and cues on how to rest for endless hours daily. And somewhere up there, I know the greatest angel of all—my mother is watching over me as well and reminding me that the Sisu Fin in me is strong enough for whatever comes my way in the next few weeks. Bottom line, Baby and I are both blessed.

So, my blog posts adventures in and around Lake Superior are quickly dwindling while I prepare for a different kind of adventure. But, I’ll be back soon with new stories and adventures to share about life on Lake Superior with a little one in tow. Stay tuned…

Pickles and Moms: The two have more in common than you think

The stringent smell of boiling vinegar makes me want to gag. Growing up, it was an annual tradition in our house signaling the end of summer and the start to canning season. I loathed it. I loathed the smell, the humid stagnant kitchen air, and the realization that my carefree, responsibility free life and escapades at Pinehurst Pool with friends would soon be replaced with the constraints of returning to school.

Eight weeks later, though, my mother would finally give me the signal that it was time. I’d scurry down to the basement and grab a Bell jar off the shelf. I’d run upstairs, turn the lid, pop the seal and inhale the comforting smell of vinegar subdued by large quantities of dill. Nothing could ever replace the glorious crunch of the season’s first pickles.

My relationship with my mother was similar. On certain days I loathed her. I hated that she always seemed to know exactly what I was up to, even before I knew. I hated when she called me out on my bullshit or gave me the advice I didn’t really want to hear, but needed to hear. I hated when she said no. And, I hated that she was always right. What teenager doesn’t?

I still hate the stringent smell of vinegar but love the crunchy goodness of a fresh dill pickle. And, to this day I love that all of the things I hated so much about mom, helped shape me into the person I’m proud to be today.

I know I’m not alone as I approach this Mother’s Day, missing and wishing mom was here with me to celebrate. But, if I look hard enough, I see her all around me. In the short 18 years we had together, she made an impression on me I’ll never forget. I’ll never take it for granted. And, I’ll never again underestimate that sometimes the things we despise morph into something amazing. I just hope others feel the same.

This Mother’s Day I’ll enjoy an extra crunchy pickle (or two) to celebrate this special day. Happy Mother’s Day!

Dining at the Delta Diner

deltadiner

Reason #568 I love living where I live – the Delta Diner. I first dined at this hidden gem after a winter hike several years ago. The buzz about this diner in the middle of nowhere had been building and I knew I just had to make the trip to Delta to check it out. Um yeah. Amazing. Great atmosphere, super friendly service and one of the most creative North Woods menus I’ve seen. The Scandinavian in me loves the super thin, flavor packed pancakes and the carnivore in me drools over the fresh ground sirloin patties served up on Burger Monday. Add in handmade sweet treats, such as the caramel apple pie and life’s complete. All of that said, when I set out to do an article on a local investment group recently, I had no idea I’d stumble across another factoid that demonstrates just how amazing the Delta Diner is to my stomping grounds.

While interviewing Washburn Mayor Scott Griffiths about an initiative he’s involved in encouraging folks to pull their money from Wall Street and invest in Main Street, he suggested I speak to Todd about how he worked with the local community to drive his business forward. While the two initiatives are unrelated, I followed up and wasn’t too surprised to learn about the folks who wanted to invest in Todd’s vision. The article ran in this month’s Business North but in case you missed it, here’s a rerun of what can happen when you commit to a project you believe in–others can’t help but follow your dream with you.

Next time you find yourself in Bayfield County, make time for the meal of your life at the Delta Diner, I promise you won’t be disappointed!

To get there: Delta Diner is located at 14385 Cty. Highway H in Delta, Wisconsin. Truth be told, if can find Delta, you can find the Diner. From the East or West on Highway 2 turn south on H in Iron River.

One other notable – if you’re in the area, be sure to check out the Rainbow Lake Wilderness area 4 miles north of Drummond, Wisconsin. The Delta-Drummond road is a great way to access the North County National Scenic Trail within this area which encompasses 6,583 acres. It also just so happens this was one of the first wildernesses designated back in 1975. The first few snapshots of this slideshow are from the trail–yet another overlooked gem in Bayfield County.

Grassroots Group Aims to Invest in Main Street

A grassroots Chequamegon Bay area group has a vision of creating options for northwestern Wisconsin residents to invest their money in Main Street versus Wall Street.

The local investment group consists of passionate individuals and regional experts who are helping navigate and research the concept. One member, who first introduced the idea to the area after attending the Building Local Ecnomies (BALLE) conference in Washburn, is Mayor Scott Griffiths. He said the movement is about providing opportunities for both local businesses and investors.

“It would be a way for someone to go to invest in a business they know and believe in versus sending their money away” to Wall Street, he said.

Unlike a loan, the goal is to find creative (and legal) ways to make equity investments versus loans to help a business grow. By accepting such investments, recipients don’t have to worry about interest payments up front but can grow their business while the investor gets a return based on how well the company is doing.

While the concept sounds simple, finance regulations are not. As a result, the group is studying its available options.

“We’re also trying to determine who and where the businesses are that could benefit from this type of investment,” Griffiths explained, and how much they’d be willing to invest.

He envisions the process will ramp up as people learn about it and the group has successes to share with the community. And, while participants can’t take credit, one local business is experiencing significant success with raising capital through its local customers.

Success in Delta

Delta Diner opened its doors in 2003. The East Coast diner sprung up practically overnight in the middle of nowhere, or in the owner’s belief, the middle of somewhere – Delta, Wis., a dozen miles south of Iron River.

“Every time I drove by that spot with the broken down cobblestone building, I felt something should be there,” owner Todd Bucher said of the site.

After doing his homework, Bucher learned that from 1923 to 1972, the site was something special. The broken down cobblestone building was actually the old Delta Store, which included a gas station, groceries, post office and tavern. “It was the center of the universe for folks living in that area.”

Today, it’s home to the authentic East Coast diner. Bucher recognizes Delta isn’t exactly a population center, but says his focus is creating a unique destination dining experience to which folks will drive. So far, he seems right.

It wasn’t soon after he opened his doors that customers recognized how unique the dining experience was and approached him to see if there was a way they could become a part of his dream. While he appreciated the gesture, Bucher genuinely believes that until you prove your concept the financial risk should lie with the owners.

As time went on, business exploded. Successful as it was, to reach the next level he needed to built it out and maximize efficiencies. However, after 24 months of exploring finance options, he discovered traditional lenders just weren’t interested in his business model.

It focused on slow growth. After opening, he removed about 30 percent of the seating so they could focus on the customer experience and ensure they were bringing in the right type of customer. He knew that if he built an experience you couldn’t get elsewhere, people would make the drive, which would bolster sustainability. The banks didn’t agree.

“They looked at the fact that we were walking away from revenue and said, ‘you’re doing what?’”

Frustrated by his experience, he worked with a consultant to create a five-year business plan and explore other finance options. It turns out that state statues allowed him to take on a number of LLC members who were more than investors. These folks would actually own a percentage of the business.

Bucher knew people were interested, so he found creative ways to let customers know if they wanted to get involved, it had become an option.

“We didn’t want to impose on our customers,” he explained. “We didn’t want to imply that we want your money but instead that the door is open if you’re interested.”

Working with his brother’s ad agency, he organized a subtle campaign displayed within the diner that let interested parties know something was happening. If they reached out to Bucher, he steered them to a password protected video that explained his vision for the diner and what the equity involvement would entail. If folks were still interested, they could attend an informal meeting to learn more.

“We were looking for certain types of people to get involved,” he said. “We weren’t selling it as ‘Hey, this is a gold mind investment’. But instead, we were going after people passionate about our business model.”

Once again, Bucher experienced success. By the time the campaign was over, he had recruited 22 new LLC members to his business. They own 40 percent and invested $400,000 towards the diner. They attend annual meetings and vote on important business matters. And, while the return on their investment might take longer than is traditional, Bucher believes it will come.

“From an organizational standpoint, we are a good business with strong financials. But these people also have a personal or emotional connection to our vision. It is a different type of return.”

His investors have changed the future of the diner.

“The impact for us is huge,” Bucher said. “We have a larger, more efficient facility that we paid for in cash. This allowed us to do what we otherwise couldn’t have done.”

Looking ahead, Bucher is ramping up for an exciting couple years of growth and new experiences. One way he’s enhancing this destination dining experience is by offering a series of dinner events that range from a Blue Plate Lecture series that “treat the stomach and feed the brain” to themed meals and outdoor barbecues and bands.

The diner also plans to add e-commerce in the next 12 months to serve far away customers who might be craving the red beans and rice or homemade chipotle paste but can’t make the drive to Delta because as much as the diner is in the middle of somewhere, it is still a long distance from most places.

Surprise! My Journey to Motherhood…

My life in 90 seconds.

This is in fact one of the worst kept secrets of all-time for me. I guess it isn’t so much that it is a secret but rather an odd thing to share beyond my close circle of friends and colleagues who need to know from a planning standpoint. However, as my pants get tighter and I admit that I am no longer training for my 4th Half-Marathon, I wanted to clear up the confusion as to why. So there you have it.

The past month has been a flurry of writing activity. With tourism season around the corner (should spring ever arrive), I hope to post about a couple local favorites including the awesome Delta Diner and year-round gallery favorite Karlyn’s in Washburn, Wisconsin. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I’ll share this. For those who don’t like corny, feel free to stop reading right now. In January, I started a 90-day program with the creative and inspirational Leslie Hamp. The program, Create the Life You Crave, was a chance to pause this winter, take stock on life, set some tangible goals and work to achieve them. Of course, life threw a curveball because immediately after I set my goals and 24-hours before the program started, I learned I was pregnant. That said, I still managed to adjust my course of action, achieve some of my goals and better understand where I’m going in life. Not bad for 90-days. The course ended with a vision board. While my artistic talent is lacking, it is a great reminder of what matters in life.

As part of the course work, we were asked to write about our perfect day. No additional parameters were set other than to dream big. I immediately dived in, knowing exactly what my perfect day encompasses: Nature, exercise, quality conversations and encounters, great food and coffee, and some quiet. To this, I added the impending news of baby, which is 5-years in the making. My perfect day goes something like this:

I awake as the sun breaks on Moon Lake. A loon serenades me as I face a new day full of promise. I tiptoe down the stairs and start water on the stove—a base for a freshly pressed cup of light roast coffee I made on the grill earlier this week. While waiting for the familiar whistle signaling the water is ready, I peak into the nursery for my daily reminder that miracles happen.

By the time my first cup is down, baby is awake with a freshly changed diaper via my hubby. It is Saturday and we’ve got the entire day ahead of us to explore. Once dressed, we head to the Farmer’s Market in Port Wing where we buy freshly baked bread to accompany the giant beefsteak tomatoes and basil from our garden at home. From there, we continue on to our land in Herbster where we take our little one out and about to check and trim the balsams on our Christmas Tree farm that’ll one day be home to an important family tradition. Then, it is off to the beach in Cornucopia for a picnic and opportunity to listen to the solitude of Lake Superior while enjoying fresh smoked whitefish. Baby dips her toes in the Big Lake for the first time and squeals with joy. Fully relaxed, we continue along on our South Shore journey, wandering the shops of Bayfield, indulging in an ice cream sandwich from Tetzners, picking berries in our special spot and buying goat cheese from Sassy Nanny at Coco’s to round-out our dinner all while snapping endless photos along the way.

We head home for an evening boat ride on Moon Lake. Our neighbors are out and before we know it, a small group has gathered on our deck for dinner. We fire up the grill and fill it with veggie kabobs freshly picked from our garden and burgers from Jim’s and enjoy sides from the treasures we’ve picked up throughout the day. As the sun sets, we build a bonfire and watch babies wonderment directed at the flickering flames. Surrounded by friends and family, I am reminded that perfection comes in many forms.

Everyday is not this perfect. But, my life is filled with love and balance and family. I am healthy enough to chase after baby, run half-marathons and swim across Moon Lake. Work is fulfilling – I’m a full-time PR specialist with enough time to freelance write about the area I love and continue working on my self-published book, while staying at 40-hours per week. I balance the rest of my time out with board service and volunteering with an ultimate goal of building a new Youth Center and Library in Iron River, writing that next great American novel, exercising, cooking, gardening, reading, traveling, being a loving mother, sister, daughter and wife and having meaningful, rich relationships with friends, neighbors and colleagues.

Despite these dreams, I also accept and recognize that my self-published book will not hit the New York Times Best Selling List and that I may not succeed in building a new library in Iron River, become the next Julia Childs, break a Half-Marathon record or win All-American mother. But, for the first time in my life, I am ok with this. I have come to the conclusion that it is better to live life to the fullest and fail than to give up at the first sign of imperfection. The journey to motherhood has taught me to be vulnerable, to let go and find resolution with the unknown. To accept I cannot control everything and that things might now always go my way. But if I believe I am enough, than I am in fact enough, even if others don’t feel the same.

Brené Browne in her book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead says, “Don’t try to win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.” Oh so true. And how I love her.

I realized a few days later after reading this back to myself that my perfect day is in fact, my current life. Sure, it all doesn’t play out in a single day. But, all of these components are very real and important parts of my daily routine. This didn’t happen by accident, or without a ton of missteps, miscalculations, mistakes and sacrifice. But, in hindsight, I wouldn’t trade that journey for anything. It makes today, that much sweeter.

I know things won’t always be this perfect. And, there are plenty of things I can keep on doing in the self-improvement category. But for now, I want to savor the fact that hard work and being true to one’s self pays off in the end. I hope everyone can feel this way at least once in their life—it truly makes up for all the days that don’t pan out this way.

Spring Thaw – Lost Creek Falls

Courtesy: Cornucopia.net
Courtesy: Cornucopiawisconsin.net

I remember it like yesterday. It was spring, 2005 and I had just met this odd duck online named Steve. After dining over Chinese food and cheap beer we determined we liked each other enough to hang out again. Since it was spring thaw and Steve claimed to be an outdoorsman/forester, he suggested we hike to this remote waterfall that is off the beaten path but particularly spectacular this time of year.

An avid hiker and even backpacker at the time, I was delighted by the prospects of heading out on this adventure to something I had never even heard of. On a Saturday morning in April, we made the drive in his ’98 Honda Civic to a remote parking lot next to a cemetery near Cornucopia. It seemed a bit odd to me at the time and I started to wonder just how much do I know about this strange man that’s taking me to this remote location. It turns out that perhaps Steve didn’t exactly know where said place was either.

A snow covered ground and brown and green canopy of trees engulf us. The further we go into the woods, the more my feet squish and break through piles of snow leaving my feet damp and my leg muscles aching. Soon, my visions of murder are replaced with the calm that can only be discovered in the North Woods while one focuses on putting one foot in front of the other. As time progresses, I notice Steve looking around more than usual. I immediately become suspect because while I respect a man who takes in the outdoors, I can also immediately point out a man who is lost. We soon hit a clearing where Steve casually pulls out a satellite map and his compass and looks left and right… and then left and right again. “Hm,” he says.

I begin to panic. I, of course, have been paying absolutely no attention to where I was going. And, since I didn’t drive and was new to the area, I had no clue if we were next to civilization regardless of what way we walked or would spend the rest of our weekend wandering around hoping to find some snippet of life.

Since this was only our second date, I didn’t want to be rude so I refrained from going Erickson on him demanding answers. Instead, I casually question if he knows where we are. The repeated looks around the clearing are answer enough. After what seemed like eternity, he simply folds up the map and heads back into the woods. “I think I know where we are.”

My options are limited. I can either wander the woods in hopes a different random stranger finds me. Or, I can take a leap of faith and follow this stranger to this hidden gem in Bayfield County. I follow my gut, or in this case Steve, back into the dark forest. Soon we hear the trickle of water followed by a deep ravine filled with water, also known as Lost Creek Number 1. As we follow the water that has left its mark in this County Forest upstream the promise of a waterfall grows louder.

The waterfall itself is not that large, maybe 15 feet or so. But, in the height of spring thaw, the water volume is quite amazing. There is also something serene about how quiet the world is around the rushing of these falls. Unlike other falls, this one is out of the way, often overlooked and not easily accessible, allowing you to experience it alone. With no nearby roads, the sounds of traffic and city life disappear.

As soon as we arrive, Steve is ready to move on. Frankly, my wet and sore legs are as well. We make our way back to the car, this time not needing the map. But, something in me said there was something special about this day. I’m not saying I fell in love. But, similar to the river cutting its way into the ravine, Steve made an impression on my heart that day. Now, eight years later, that’s a spring Saturday I’ll never forget.

Unfortunately, I was playing it too cool at the time to snap photos of our first daylong adventure. I hope to return this spring, should it ever arrive in northern Wisconsin. I’ve also been told the fall colors are spectacular in this mix of hardwood and evergreen forest. Stay tuned for photos or find time next time you are in Bayfield County to venture out on this hike where perhaps magic can happen for you, too.

To get there: The route to Lost Creek Falls has changed since I first ventured there in 2005. Today, you can take Highway C south of Cornucopia 1.5 miles and turn right on Trail Drive. There, you will find a marked trail head parking lot. The falls is a solid 25-minute walk over uneven terrain.

2013: The Year of 10%

In order to continue my success with New Year’s Resolutions, I’m once again aiming low. I’ve decided 2013 will be the year of 10%. No, that is not a typo. Not 100% but instead, 10%.

10 percent doesn’t seem like much. But, think about it for a minute. By default, my goal is simple. But what does it mean?

Consider this:

  • If I cut my television watching by 10% and increased my writing by 10%, could I in fact accomplish self-publishing a book in 2013?
  • If I made 10% more, donated 10% more, gave 10% more of my time to causes that count, could I achieve my goal of making an impact in my community?
  • If I lost 10% of my body weight, could I shave 10% off my Half-Marathon time, allowing me to achieve my sub-3 hour time?
  • If I spent just 10% more time on the front end of my garden, instead of 10% on the back-end fixing my dying plants, could I enjoy a more bountiful harvest come fall?
  • If I invested 10% more time with people who respect me and 10% less time chasing after people that don’t, would I have more meaningful relationships?
  • If I dared to be fearless 10% more of the time, would I encounter people, places and experiences I never dreamed possible?

Achievable. Powerful. Realistic. Watch out 2013. I’m armed with 10% ambition and the sisu Fin in me. This, combined with an action plan that includes Great Courses coursework, a life coach/group, leadership training and new freelance contracts, a renewed gym membership, updated playlist and two half-marathons, garden plans, rekindled friendships, new special interest groups and trip itineraries, I have a chance of not failing.

Should a baby be thrown in the mix, I’ll gladly postpone all of these goals to achieve my number 1 dream—being a mom. Now that’d make for a 2013 to remember. If it isn’t in the cards, I think this list is a pretty good consolation prize.

Happy New Year!

2012: The year of not quite…

2012 proved to be a challenging, yet inspiring year. At the close of last year, I resolved to a year of mediocrity. I didn’t set this goal as some sort of self-deprecating, please feel sorry for me. Instead, it was my wish to set forth and try things I knew would be tough. Things I knew I wouldn’t necessarily excel at but would have fun experiencing. For the first time in year, I achieved my New Year’s Resolutions.

I still suck at Half-Marathons. But I finished two more—both of which were faster than last year. They are getting easier. And, I’m finding I enjoy running and all that goes with it.

I pursued the art of hand roasting coffee. It isn’t easy—just one look at the charred green coffee beans surrounding my deck implies I’ve had several catastrophic failures. And, truth be told, the big guys do a better job. I don’t care.

My garden still lacks the polish of one with a green thumb, but I’m finding certain plants excel under my lackluster care. Others, well, are easily replaced. And, a freshly picked tomato (even on a plant that has root rot) still tastes amazing.

I’m still no Julia Childs in the kitchen but I’ve created several concoctions that my family enjoys. And, after researching Christmas cookies, I hit a homerun with my take on the easy to make, yet oh so cute, Christmas Mice.

Rejection letters a plenty this year in terms of freelancing. But, I made more money and signed more long-term contracts than I have in years. I’m finding out what works (and doesn’t work) for me as a writer and am having a blast along the way.

I won’t go into details about how much I missed my weight loss goal. But, I’m finishing the year down from last year and hopeful that number will keep creeping downwards. It might take longer than most but I’m confident I’m on the track to reaching my goal someday.

Travel was limited to the Midwest. There was no warm escape in the bleak winter months or crazy adventures this past fall. Instead, time was spent closer to home exploring what’s in our neck of the woods. Surprise—it is pretty amazing.

In terms of my professional career, I didn’t change jobs this year. I wasn’t promoted. I didn’t win any awards or do anything exceptional. But, I discovered I’m at a place where I’m not defined by my day job. Instead, I love what I do. I love the people and place that I work. But, I love my life with all of its surprises more.

2012 won’t go down as the year where I made crazy investments, traveled afar, changed careers, adopted or experienced some other unexpected but awesome surprise. By all accounts, it was an average year lived out by an average person. But, all of these experiences and understanding of what makes me tick has laid the groundwork for 2013—a year that’s bound to be ordinary in an extraordinary way. Stay tuned for details…

This is what happiness looks like…

john_deere_tractor_beth_probst

Happiness comes in many forms. For some gals, it involves diamonds, new shoes or designer cars. For me, it is a tractor. I’ve always wanted a tractor in part because it represents to me a simpler life. (And, because what Tomboy doesn’t dream of owning her own green and gold pride).

This past weekend I got one. Granted, it isn’t the big shiny new tractor I have drooled over while driving by Lulich Implement, but instead it is an authentic 1968 John Deere tractor/snow plow/lawn mower, complete with a 12 HP engine. A workhorse, quality tractor, without bells and whistles. I love it. I haven’t had a chance to figure out if we can use it on our hilly lake lot, that doesn’t in fact have a yard to mow, but there are plenty of fields to mow on our land in Herbster. I’m envisioning a Christmas tree farm for my family someday, complete with mowed trails and trimmed evergreens.

Is this a bit nostalgic? Perhaps. But, I’m finding this represents the life Steve and I have created for one another. It is a simple life—not boring, but plain old simple. I say this with pride because we somehow managed to figure out in our 30s (barely for Steve) that keeping things simple keeps us happy.

2012 was a year of blessings. Sure, there were ups and downs but there were also many, many moments of sheer bliss. Simple moments. We didn’t leave the Midwest this year. We didn’t change jobs. We didn’t buy a new home, or, even successfully close on a new property. In many regards, it was an average year. But, as I approach my favorite time of year celebrating with family and friends, I cannot help but take stock of how lucky I am to have an ordinary life be so extraordinary.

I stumbled across this recent posting by Jen Payne in her blog Random Act of Writing. In it, she compares the process of taking stock of what matters in life to actually making stock.

“We bring together experiences and moments, thoughts and ideas, and let them simmer for a while, mingling and merging to create a well-seasoned potage of intention.”

A well-seasoned potage of intention. I love that phrase. Purchasing the John Deere tractor was an impulse purchase at best. But, it was purchased with intention. A continued commitment and desire to live true to what we’ve become: a happy couple in Northwoods Wisconsin living the simple life.

This Christmas I wish everyone who has played a role in helping me reach this point in my life a very Merry Christmas. May you find joy in the simple things in your life.

Happy Holidays!

Today I’m thankful for

Today I’m thankful for the simple thing in life.

I’m thankful for my husband who brings me tea when I’m not feeling well because that’s what husbands that care do. He’d do this everyday if needed, which is just one of many reasons I love him.

I’m thankful for my family that loves me for me, even when I make mistakes. I would be nothing without them.

I’m thankful to those who cannot be with me today in person but are around me in spirit. I see reflections of them in me and am reminded that things will happen that I don’t understand but that someone has a bigger plan out there for me.

I’m thankful for friends—old and new—who remind me that a daily dose of laughing can put life in perspective. Without this, the tough days would be that much tougher.

I’m thankful for a job that has meaning at an organization that has a mission to save people’s lives. The same job also provides me the downtime needed to pursue my passion for writing, photography and giving back.

I’m thankful for the community I live in and all of the people that make this place that thousands vacation to every year, my home.

I’m thankful for my health and the stubborn Fin within me that’s helped me accomplish things I never thought I could do.

I’m thankful for the simple process behind a freshly roasted cup of coffee and the quiet moments I have to enjoy it.

But most importantly, I’m thankful that life has taught me early on to savor these simple moments in life because when all is said and done, they are the only things that will matter.

What are you most thankful for today?

Eyebrows + Potty Talk + High School Yearbooks = Transformative Weekend?

My last post I mentioned being the lucky winner of a 250-word essay contest for an all-inclusive Girl’s Gone North weekend. The weekend was focused around women reconnecting with friends and finding their inner cool factor without the added stress of men being around.

My weekend ultimately involved throwing a group of women together who sort of knew each other. For 40 hours we drank steadily while sharing totally inappropriate but hilarious fun facts about the skeletons in our closet, laughing to the wee hours of the morning and then repeating. Dinner conversations were as intense as who could shout “Penis” loudest in a crowded restaurant. Yearbooks of our past fed plenty of on-going conversation about the good old days. Ambitious morning work-outs involved lifting our coffee cups and eventually a few stragglers making their way to a morning yoga class or the fitness center, followed by some relaxing by the fireplace we never quite could get going. It turns out our rustic, outdoor survival skills have long since disappeared. But, these skills have been replaced with more important skills such as opening boxed wine (tell me again, just how many degrees does it take to open a box?) and a palette so complex Almond Champagne compliments dark chocolate and Doritos.

I had a brief respite during a two-hour session by the Minnesota Monthly team makeover for a friend and I. My ultimate goal was to walk away with eyebrows. This probably seems like a simple request. But, as a life-long blond with a few colorless pieces of hair approximately in the spot of brows, this was important to me. Make-up artist Ashley Kilcher from Roe Wolfe made it happen. And, more importantly, this morning in mere seconds, I was able to replicate the easy maneuver. As for the wardrobe, I pushed myself enough to know what doesn’t work and am grateful that few photos were taken and none would be shared. The experience confirmed that I’ll never be a fashion queen. But, I think I can achieve a Polished Tomboy look, complete with a new hairdo from Justine from Root, that will take me far in North Woods Wisconsin and be true to who I am on the inside.

I’m not sure if this equates transformation. But, in some respects I think the experiences encountered this weekend trump that. At the keynote presentation Saturday afternoon, Lori started off by asking the question, what if you realized that what you had to offer the world was good enough. That if in fact, you as a person, was enough. It stuck with me. In part because everyday, especially as a female, I am reminded of my inadequacies. The pressure to make more money, find balance, be happy (what does that even mean?!?!), lose weight, grow professionally, all while being the perfect wife, procreating and being an engaged citizen in my community. Because, according to these messages, it is the only way I’ll be a full, realized human being. Let’s be real. It isn’t going to happen.

Instead, this weekend the sexy six on Friday night and fabulous five on Saturday night celebrated our flaws. We wore sweatpants and ordered French fries with dinner. We exposed our past, laughed about our insecurities and faced up to some of the difficulties we’ve encountered or are encountering in life. We also celebrated our successes. And, at the end of the day, flaws and all, we came to the undeniable reality that we are in fact not only good enough, but frankly awesome.

I’ve been betrayed, let down and disappointed by more people in my life than I care to mention. But, the women this weekend reminded me that occasionally in life, your path intersects with amazing people. People you can count on. Trust. Share your life with and most importantly, not be judged.

I didn’t need to win a contest to know how blessed I am to have such amazing women in my life. But, I’m glad I won. And, I hope this brief check-out of our daily lives reminded them not only how amazing they are, but how thankful I am that they’ve come into my life. So today, I am grateful for them and Bluefin Bay for making this Girls Gone North weekend happen.

Girls Gone North – Fabulous Five. (No pics of the sexy six were taken because true friends don’t post pics of their gal pals in sweats).