August 31, 2018

I was a "Juvenile Delinquent"

Usually, when my siblings and I were called home from playing in the neighborhood we'd hear the plaintiff drawn out calling: C O O N N N I E E  D E B B B B I E E and so on. The parents never searched the street for their kids - we knew when playtime was finished or we were called home for another reason - always singsong in inflection. The memory of the name "song" warms me - all the kids knew - "be home when the street lights come on" - common in the 1960s.

But one afternoon my father altered the singsong calling with me. My skin still pricks with the memory.

I loved trees … climbing them, hugging a special tree, kissing a favorite limb, sitting under a huge umbrella of autumn leaves - did I mention climbing? As a card holding Tomboy, climbing was my favorite activity - the higher the better.

One lazy, hot summer afternoon I was watching a ballgame at the local elementary school when a tree called my name. I swear it whistled at me.

The tree wasn't big but the limbs were delicious looking, attracting my attention. So, up I went. An o so gentle crack brought me to the ground. The lower limb had, as you can guess, broken.

A dark colored car was parked by the field and a man came out of the vehicle (much like a Twilight Zone mutant), approaching me. He claimed to be a "Juvenile Delinquent" officer and wanted my name, address, and threatened my shaking 10-year-old self.

I ran the couple blocks home but the car beat me and was parked in front. Being it was day time I knew my dad was home as he worked afternoons at the prison. So obviously, I continued running down the street to my "safe" place - a treehouse in a neighbor's yard. The slats in the house were wide open revealing everything and boy, saw my greatest fear heading my way.

"Connie" dad shouted. No plaintiff drawing out of my name. "Connie, come here - NOW!" Was that a belt in his hand? I wondered as he drew closer to me. I knew I was in very bad, very bad, trouble, and it would hurt. My fear was intense as I climbed down from the hut coming face-to-face with this very, very, very, angry parent who grabbed my arm and half yanked and dragged me home.

As we entered the house, I looked out front and "the car" was gone. Dad was livid, saying that he had the embarrassment of having this "officer" come to the house (telling on me), demanding payment for the ruined tree ($16), which now we didn't have for clothes and food. I was a "fool" and a juvenile delinquent - and the officer issued me a JD card (which I never saw) as proof.

To this day I don't recall if he whipped me (and also have no memory of ever getting whipped), but vividly remember his cutting words. 
I was never to climb another tree (right!) and was grounded for the next month.

In his defense, Dad was a veteran of World War II and also a survivor of "Shell Shock" as it was called then … now PTSD. He was unpredictable and easily angered, didn't like sudden loud noises, but also loved his seven kids and worked hard to raise us. But, at times, I was afraid of him. 

Why is it that certain words are burned into our very soul, perhaps changing us for the rest of our lives, coming back in dreams, thoughts, and family lore? In the "early days" parents didn't know the psychology and power of words. Some don't know even in these Dr. Phil days of confrontation and reconciliation.

My love of trees never changed, preferring the outdoors to indoors, sharing the woods with my children - trying to develop their love of nature. Tomboys and optimists are not easily deterred!

Do you have a memory of where words hurt you?

August 18, 2018

Attitude at the 45th Parallel


Sporting a brace on my recently broken ankle, my husband, daughter and I decided to go to our favorite northern lower peninsula cabin for a planned vacation where my husband could fish all day, my daughter and I could relax, read, write, take pictures. My ankle injury almost sidelined us as typically we are very active on vacations, preferring the water and being outdoors to staying tied down inside. But, we adjusted. 

The morning of our departure I found my husband awake with severe wrist and thumb pain … it was devastating after so many months of anticipation. After some soothing encouragement he went to urgent care, returning sporting a brace on his non-dominant hand. We made the decision to leave for camp, packed the remainder of our belongings, along with our daughter, and left home.

A change in plans

An hour from our destination, we stopped for gas -- I checked my e-mail inbox to find a desperate "...your cabin is not available, ...double-booked, sorry, ...don't have your phone number, ...feeling frantic and awful, ...found a place for you to stay." We read this in shock over "losing" our favorite cabin. I called and told her, no problem, things happen, thanks for finding us another cabin (on the same lake). We updated our (beloved) Garmin with the new address, and drove on while eating sandwiches from a local store. My daughter was rather quiet for some time then said that when she bit into her egg salad it squeaked at her. We laughed and laughed - a small comic relief which we needed. I shared half of my tuna fish with her, trashing the "living" egg salad. Michiganians are so so resilient.

45th Parallel attitude

"When you stand on the 45th Parallel, the halfway point between the equator and North Pole, the ground doesn't vibrate and compasses don't go twirly haywire. Instead, you meet many fine people and see a heck of a lot of trees."  (from In Michigan, drive a crooked line to follow the 45th Parallel, Pioneer Press, June 27, 2009)

Our cabin is lovely, although a long way down a steep path to the water, challenging my balance with this brace. But, we settled in, enjoyed the "new" view from the window. My husband discovered he could both kayak and fish within the constraints of his brace. Our daughter paddle-boarded to her heart's content. I ungracefully plopped into my kayak and … all was perfect.

Coffee Coffee Coffee

This morning while my husband fished (for 6 hours) and my daughter paddle-boarded (for 4 hours) I re-discovered my old coffee shop haunt where I drank the best coffee ever. I wrote a blog about attitude and resilience. 

Returning to the cabin I wanted to make a couple changes to "Attitude at the 45th Parallel" and lost the entire blog. Dumbfounded, I sat. My tech savvy daughter was perplexed as my blog was truly gone. So, since I profess that Michiganians are a resilient people … rewrote this post, saving it every few words, of course. 

Through all these hiccups in this trip our attitude is what make me proud. Yes, we had a couple moments, but persevered and are stronger mentally to have weathered these small, very small, first world issues.

August 5, 2018

A Bad Break

A walnut cracked under my foot, or was that a stick? I thought about this as a sharp crack and immense pain forced me to stop walking. "Hold on" I told my friends, "give me a minute", as my breath escaped my lungs in a flash of light. A few deep inhalations and my equilibrium returned -- we continued our trek down a local trail, even veering off to explore another path, on our way to the cars. A funny catch in my foot was bothering me and made me wonder if I'd sprained my ankle but the day was going to be an active one.

A few more hours of walking and when I returned home made the decision to seek urgent care opinion for my foot. It was not only sprained but the ankle was broken on both sides. The crack was not a walnut! Booted and crutched up my main thought was of a lost summer of walking. My daily mileage goal would not be met as I was given a "sentence" of 6 to 12 weeks recuperation, at least!

A planned and important trip loomed a few days away with packing center on my agenda. At 65, crutches are NOT my friend and impeded everything I tried to do. The trip to beautiful Lake Superior over, we got home in time for calf pain and a diagnosed DVT (deep vein thrombosis) - aka blood clot.

My goal of walking 1100 miles this year was almost as important to me as my identity. It was a reachable goal, similar to years past. My Fitbit eagerly counted my steps all year with a daily goal met or exceeded. A deep breath and a moment of reality faced me as I pulled up my google calendar to reset my daily walk goal to meet the need for RICE: rest, ice, compression and elevation of my foot. I planned out 12 weeks of .5 miles a day - enough to get around to my essentials without blowing my recovery. An optimistic although less-enhanced walking goal … a positive move (if I must admit) rather than dwell in sadness over my inability to walk through the summer.

I know that this Barefoot Norwegian will return to the trails in autumn … a beautiful time of year in Michigan. My decreased mileage for this time period will be difficult at times, but it IS a goal, even if tiny - better than drinking weak coffee, that's for sure.

August 1, 2018

Ready for "Murder"

Ksusha Geissel in her coat of many colors
A daughter was visiting us while my family was watching a selection of the syndicated murder mysteries.  She pointed out that one of the suspects was too old to have murdered someone in the way described.  I told her that the suspect was only in his late 40s and asked:  "Do you think I’m too old to murder someone?"  Her immediate, somewhat sheepish response, was a quick, “no, but you would get winded.”

Perhaps her response points to the fact that, yes, I am getting older although I still have some zip left, daughter!  Sure, I get the occasional ache and may groan during the motion of standing, yet I consider myself rather young at heart and challenge anyone to say I have an old soul.  Plus, if I wanted to murder someone, which had not occurred to me until she brought my “lack of breath” to my attention, I can accomplish the task, and not get winded. 

This murder talk reminds me of this year’s journey or killing off - murder, if you will - a part of me that I find cumbersome. 

These are some of the ways in which I try to age with grace
  • To aim not to be discouraged with the process of my aging
  • Making sure to embrace each day
  • Absolutely include daily fitness activities - whatever strikes me at the time
  • Plan fun and challenging activities
  • Write an encouraging bucket list, and act on it
  •  Jot down daily “to do or to don’t” lists – the satisfaction of crossing an item off makes my heart beat faster
  • Make sure to smile at and be patient with young ones who think you are pushing close to death after the age of 35, because frankly, we probably thought the same thing at their age.  
If murdering is in my future, I’ll work on being in the best shape possible, so windedness is not a hindrance.

The Hardwood Walking Stick

All through my 30s onward, I’ve walked woods from the Appalachian and Smoky Mountains, along with the mountains, hills and valleys of Michig...