June 27, 2017

Dream Board Workshop

An evening set aside to create dream (vision) boards - I looked forward to this activity, my third annual one, and spent a couple hours shopping for the perfect color board (poster vs thicker), placing one in my basket only to go back to the selection and replace it with another, more than once. Finally choosing a gray/blue slightly thick board. Satisfying because feel color matters in the long run to my end goal.

Arriving in the intimate office space I claimed my seat, one in which I didn't have to turn my head often, and looked around at this new meeting place. A plethora of magazines were scattered on all available surfaces, glue sticks and scissors stuck out of a plastic box on the work space; treats and wine were enticingly set out in a smaller office across the hall.

The leader began our experience with an exercise of guided imagery, having us close our eyes, breathe, and visualize comfort places. Soft music played in the background during this portion of our evening.
I'd spent hours clipping quotes, pictures and anything that grabbed my attention from my own reading materials and had them neatly secured in a plastic binder. I also journal my goals each year and check off what I was able to complete or accomplish ... a little OCD but fun to look at on future occasions. 

Fighting my being the oldest in the room

I was the oldest woman by a good ten years but settled into the activity fairly comfortable in that we were all working toward the same end. I had taken a picture of my current goals and looked at it for a bit before sorting my clippings into use or not use piles. This technique works for me and after completing the process a clear idea was formulated. Grabbing a glue stick I worked effortlessly and with direction while sipping on sweet wine. Unfamiliar rock-type music played in the background with some women singing the lyrics, accentuating our age difference, others silently focused, sharing intimate thoughts, with an occasional bout of laughter filling the air. It was a good night. 

An explanation of the boards

If you are not familiar with dream (vision) boards they are:
  • Created with magazine pictures, sayings, quotes, anything that speaks to you.
  • You can either paste or use double-sided tape to secure these clippings onto small, medium or large poster boards. 
  • The goal of these workshops is to create a dream scape of what you either intend to accomplish or wish to do for the year, or longer if you wish.
  • At the end of the workshop, each person is asked to share their board and what in them was significant to them.
  • More often than not, what is created surprises the "artist" and is usually an encouragement.
  • These boards ideally, when completed, should be set up in an area of your home to view and keep you on task.
  • Also, in my experience with dream (vision) board workshops, treats, wine, and music are integral parts to make you feel relaxed and cared for.
I am pleased with my board - and recommend this creative process for those stuck in a rut, wanting a little more direction, or plainly for the fun of a small gathering with similar-minded people.



June 24, 2017

Peek-a-boo

My girlfriend's eyes widened as she leaned forward on the table when I sat across from her and her husband at a local eatery during a lunch break from work.  My husband arrived and sat beside me.  Karen said, "did you know you can see through your blouse?"  Then she smiled and her husband chuckled, while I looked down at my shirt.

Story of my life in fashion - I have no life in fashion, never had, most assuredly never will.  From an early age of being a Tomboy, blue jeans and a t-shirt were my chosen clothing.  PF Flyers or Keds wrapped my feet protectively - I adored how my "outfit" made me feel: like a cowboy, Indian, explorer, hunter, athlete.


My parents had seven children and, even though mom always dressed beautifully, she most likely did not have the time or patience to teach me how to dress.  Our family struggled financially and money for clothes were doled out carefully.  I was not only not interested, but also rather clueless about clothing and was not going to ask my mother for new outfits when mine were nice and worn in.  I also knew we were poor and hated asking for something when it was obviously, to me, a burden to their pocketbook.

One year, though, junior high to be exact, I had one outfit to wear for the full year.  It was a lime greenish skirt and sweater, which I wore almost every day as my clothing choices were pitiful.  I became increasingly uncomfortable with wearing the same thing as peer pressure to be cool was a "thing".  Thinking about this difficult year of school - I have no clear understanding of why my parents did not intercede or show concern and take me shopping for a new outfit - but know they were overloaded with responsibilities themselves ... and I was number three of seven.

There have been since junior high school embarrassing times where my choice of clothing was, well, less than glamorous.  I had adopted a carefree attitude toward dressing and learned to have no fashion sense, but also did not seek assistance.

Two less than ideal experiences that stick out, among many, were:  my husband and I were invited to our good friend's home - we thought to visit as we often did - but when we arrived it was a somewhat formal party, and I was dressed very very casually.  I could have climbed into a corner and died of humiliation - but smiled my way through the evening, even through some shaded looks from the revelers.   Then, I was at work when my long skirt (my Bohemian wanna be moment) got caught in the wheels of my chair and could not extract myself - so had to call my boss into my office to help.  I've never worn a long skirt again as feel the "chair gods" were giggling.  My boss and I did have a good laugh over this event, and for that I will always be grateful to him.

Back to the day of the see through blouse.  I was working full time in a psychiatry department and had no opportunity to change this shirt, or go home due to the work expectations.  So, after laughing with my friends and husband and eating lunch, I returned to work knowing without a doubt, that my body was exposed to these psychiatrists ... u n c o m f o r t a b l e.  Imagine what they could have said about me behind their closed door.  I was well-liked in the office, a bundle of energy effectively and successfully working on special projects I was assigned to, but again, clueless.  If they knew my back story, would it have made any difference?

So, if you see me walking about town or see me on Facebook and I'm wearing my striped shirt with flowered pants, pink socks with yellow and white shoes, smile.  I'm still and always will be Connie - my mother's unique child - I love me and so do an awful lot of people (I'm told) and isn't that part of what life is all about?

June 21, 2017

Sliding UP a Sand Mountain


The breeze was almost wicked as my husband, daughter and I rounded the top of the sandy trail in the Leelanau Peninsula. Leaning over the bluff I looked into the cold arms of Lake Michigan – grabbing my daughter's arm, said: "Let's go, it's not that far down."

We laughed on our descent – hop, skip, and sliding down the dune. My delight in the adventure turned quickly to concern as the top of the hill was receding with each sandy step. The bluff was at a 60-degree angle and presented a 400 foot drop. But we continued to the bottom with Lake Michigan lapping at our toes.

The top of the dune where my husband was waiting was hidden due to a large sandy protrusion – “Crap” I sighed loudly to my daughter. What had I gotten us into? Wandering worriedly as the waves lapped our feet, crap seemed like a good word to use, again, as I envisioned an embarrassing helicopter rescue.

I was a couple decades older than my last successful trip down the Log Slide in Grand Marais, Michigan, where I flew down the dune and easily climbed back up to my mother’s smiling face. But now, the 60s taunted me, yet thought I was in pretty decent shape. So with my pride on the line and desperately aching to prove this climb would not defeat my daughter and I, up we went.

Step by agonizing step.

My energy gave out after only about ten minutes into the climb forcing me to stop, a lot. The bluff was at such a steep angle that to sit or stand would surely cause a tumble onto the rocks below. I rested and breathed delicate pieces of sand into my flared nostrils, my pounding heart ripping at my chest.

Up a few steps, down some, up again and sliding backwards. The climb was the most extreme exercise of any I have ever engaged in and I was frankly scared and thinking about how my daughter was doing, my husband at the top, and that helicopter rescue.

My daughter was obviously concerned as she carefully followed my sunken steps and took charge of the sand-wheel, if you will. "Breathe from deep in your lungs mom, and let it out; walk in my footsteps."

She took the lead and leapfrogged me up the brown sugar sand dune as my energy resources continually were exhausted. We had no choice but to continue - she positioned herself next to me and pushed my butt to keep me going. Butt push, steps, descending some, upward momentum, butt push, progress.

The summit was visible. My worried husband was standing next to a man and woman shouted words of encouragement, which were difficult to hear due to the wind, the beating pulse in our ears, and our one focus to finish. As we reached the final agonizing leg of this intense upward climb, the stranger kindly lowered his backpack as a handhold as there was nothing in our paths to grasp. I ungracefully lunged over the lip of the dune … crawling on my stomach I grabbed his foot and held on with gratitude. This stranger did not pull away but stood patiently – all three of them appeared proud – my husband smiled, “I knew you could do it.”

As a group we descended to the parking lot. My legs wobbled and were spent but found myself beaming with pride of my daughter and the manner in which she took charge, fully giving of herself to get me to the top of this sand dune. I was touched by the support of these beautiful people.

The couple, who were in their 60s, had shared with my husband, as we were struggling up the dune, that I was an inspiration to them. The husband and wife told him that my taking on this dune challenge helped them realize that they, too, could also take on adventures. It was absolutely humbling to realize that my not so smart decision would affect this couple in a positive way – to get them to think beyond their age and see that some of their own limitations were in their minds.

Was the climb worth it? The jury is out on that one. (We found out later that if we had only walked around the bottom of the dune a short distance there was a firm path leading back to the top. What can I say?)

June 16, 2017

Wind Runner to Woods Walker

As a child I would take my shoes and socks off and run the perimeter of a local school yard over and over, fast. Never was there a fear of stepping on glass or other junk - I loved running or doing anything outdoors. The early morning dew felt decadent between my bare toes while I imagined I was my favorite Disney character running fast and free, or perhaps an Indian with my feather flying back due to my speed. When I ran, there were no cares, and allowed my tomboy self to have imagination moments.

Today, I love nothing more than to be in the woods with my husband and/or children. Age has robbed my ability to run, but after a rather difficult adjustment period, discovered that walking and the smell of fresh ground speaks deliciously to my soul.

Yesterday was a day from my youth. My husband and I visited a wonderful, hilly, and thick woods near Howell, Michigan, near where our youngest daughter and her friend were competing in an orienteering venture deep in the "forest". The crunch of this long autumn under our feet was lucious, palatable, seeming to create a vibration which spoke directly to my heart. The hills were insane, covered in leaves, rocks and fallen limbs. Climbing up the first time, we were huffing and puffing but trying to talk normal as if in competition and to ignore that we have aged a wee bit. Little critter and bird noises were all we heard, along with, of course, our feet crunching, shuffling and breathing. Next hill and next hill, until we reached the top. A sense of accomplishment, almost a peak experience, only to turn around and look at the steep downhill slope. The hill was so slippery with dried leaves and presented with an abrupt decline. To proceed safely, we needed to take tiny steps, stick our butts out, and claim only the attention of the ground, lest we tumble down.

It was exhilarating - we reached the bottom, wandered around a bit and decided to climb again. Funny, the second time up, our breathing was normalized as our legs, lungs and heart were prepared for the engagement with the hill. Reaching the top felt wonderful - we were proud of our physical abilities and ready to de-climb easily and confidently. What a perfect day of imagination moments.


Rainy Days with Meryl Streep

I sprawled out in our orange room on a rainy afternoon, my body half on and half off the white IKEA sofa, a pillow behind my back and one on my lap for my opportunist cat who jumps on and presents his royal ear for a good scratching.

A delicious mug of Kona coffee is a treat in itself and keeps me company as I watch Julie and Julia for the fourth time. This is one of my most favorite movies … portraying a melancholic woman, Julie, who works in New York fielding insurance calls after 911 - and is an unpublished writer. Julie feels less accomplished than all her socialite 30-year-old friends, one of whom “even blogs”. She whines about this to her husband as they watch Julia Child’s The French Chef. Her husband, distractedly annoyed with her mood, gently encourages her to start her own blog. She sits straight up on the couch and after some excited discussion wonders what she could blog about. Julie loves cooking, adores Julia Child, and decides that the blog will be daily posts focused on a year of cooking through her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Julie’s husband helps her select a blog site and assists with set-up, she chooses the blog’s name, writes her introductory entry, clicks the post button, then waits.

Julie and Julia arrived in theaters in 2009 - I was first in line. A large bag of popcorn in my hand, a hot cup of coffee, of course; my seat secured … stage center. I was captured, enraptured and became Julie’s silent and secret apprentice. I laughed and became weepy when, after all these years, it hit me that Julia Child was dead, not realizing until that movie moment how much I missed her. Meryl Streep melded into Julia and was amazing – becoming Julia to me and I held that close to my heart to bring me out of a threatening sob.

Julia and her husband, Paul, had moved to France for his work and the couple ate often at French restaurants. She loses the ability to communicate with words but rather happily moaned when she ate food – cooked in real butter, a lot of butter. “I feel I am French” she exclaims brightly when walking through town with her husband. Paul proudly proclaims to friends, “Julia brings out the best in a pole cat” acknowledging her zest for life, love of the French - and the food.

Julia is me in that when I eat an exquisite meal, I moan and exclaim through the whole meal how wonderful it is, that “it’s the best meal I’ve ever eaten”!

Julie is me, was me, seeming to parallel my journey. I thought of myself as a writer … wrote the family periodical The Olsen Chronicles, penned stories, kept diaries and journals - but felt a void in my life’s direction. I was close to tears for most of the movie in 2009 as I morphed into these women and embraced the love and support they received from friends and family.

As the movie progressed thoughts were formulating and terminated in a decision to begin my own blog. I love watching cooking shows, and, in particular, The Barefoot Contessa … so because of my own tomboy existence chose The Barefoot Norwegian as my blog’s name. It would be a blog of positivity and would be about my experiences traveling through Michigan and my coffee shop musings. I virtually hugged Julia, Julie, and Meryl, for reigniting my writing spark.

Tears again pricked at my eyes as I sat on the couch finally allowing the grief of Julia Child’s death go, feeling comforted in knowing I still had Meryl Streep who helped redirect my life, giving me purpose during a period of my life when I needed it.

Under the Tuscan Sun is another most favorite movie … um, does this mean an Italian Villa in my future?

And, so it goes, spontaneously and unpredictably exciting…

"Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid, 5 cents a glass"

My family and I have often and happily traveled Back Roads on our forays from one area of Michigan to another. My children grew use to the ...