Skip to content

Adversity or opportunity


We live on a “lake” which is really a dammed part of the Wisconsin River.  There are beautiful bluffs that line the river and even the lake.  We also canoe on the Merrimac River in Missouri where the bluffs are huge and spectacular.


What happen with rain, ice, wind and flooding is that the rock becomes weakened and part of the bluff “sloughs” off into the river.

This can change where the fish can be caught if it is small or it can change the course of the river if it large.

I was thinking about this as we were on the river at home in Wisconsin.  Change comes in our lives whether we are ready for it or not.  Sometimes it seems to be a little adversity or sometimes it seems like a catastrophe.  Sometimes it makes a difference for the better.  For the later perspective, I love Garth Brooks’ song “Thank God for Unanswered Prayer”.

Things in our lives need perspective.  I saw on the news a man in his 80’s who had lost everything with Harvey.  I know if that happened to me, I would be devastated and it would take a long time – if ever- to recover.  Yet there are things in our lives which seem “huge” as they happen and when we look back they weren’t as bad as we thought.  Sometimes we look back and we wonder how we got through it all.  Sometimes we look back and wonder what our lives might have been like.

My prayers go out for people affected by Harvey and Irma and what other hurricanes or disaster will follow.  As a United Methodist, we support UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) with money because 100% of what you give goes to the disaster.  The cost of operation and administration is paid for through other funds.  We also go to the Midwest Distribution Center in Chatham, Illinois to help get the flood buckets and other kits together so that when disaster strikes, things are ready to send out to those needed.

As I deal with problems, I try and get a perspective of how to handle it and how to see it as an opportunity rather than a problem.  Nothing stays the same. We get into trouble when we try to cement our present reality.   Just about the time you think you have things together, you don’t.  If we look at life like canoeing down a river rather than have the bluff as a “stay-cation” place, we might be better off.  Life is a journey – not a destination point.  We are traveling down the river of life.

Change happens in our lives.  How we deal with it can bring disaster, adversity, or catastrophe.  How we deal with it bring opportunity, an opening or a good change of direction.  See what you can do to make the best future going forward.  Plan. Set goals. Then you need to be flexible and a change agent as life actually happens and you go with the flow.


Vision vs What you can see


I am leading a class at the public library on how to take better photos with the camera on your phone.  There are limitations with that camera.  I love my digital camera.  The other night the moon was full and lite the sky.  I put my camera on the rail of the deck and low and behold a number of good images appeared!

Yet every time I “sees” something, it doesn’t come to be revealed in a digital or phone camera.  Our eyes and mind can see/not see/focus/not focus on so much more than any sensor on a camera.  It is amazing what I have been gifted and what I have not seen at all – that is between when I raise my camera and when I get the digital results.

Life can be like that.  We can “see” and “imagine” so much more than we can actually act upon or use.  It is good to be able to cast a vision.  There is the story about boats in a harbor. They are usually safe there in the case of some bad storm, the ships need to leave the harbor to be safe.  They throw out the anchor and winch OUT to safety in the seas.

In our lives we can find safety in the harbor or in a moon lit night.  During the day we need to throw our anchor out and be in the high seas – knowing that we can return to the safety of the harbor when we need it.

It was awesome to sit on the deck and watch the moon light dancing on the waters.  I hope you enjoy peace and safety in your nights and days and be able to live toward a wider vision than you can see or imagine.





My mother’s memorial service was Saturday June 24, 2017.  Church people came.  Relatives came.  Friends came.  People whose lives she touched came.  They all shared stories of why they came and what her life meant to them.  It got me thinking of what her life meant but also what all lives can mean.  Often we don’t know how we affect people so looking at what other people’s lives have done can give us direction and hope.


My mother always smiled.  If we were angry, she would ask us to think about the other side.  If we said “I’m the only one not going”, she would ask who else wasn’t going.  Her smile didn’t mean she didn’t talk about or deal with conflict and tough issue.  Her smile was also part of her hospitality in making others feel welcome.  People I didn’t know from church talked about how the first time they came, she smiled at them and welcomed them.  Her smile was infectious that way.  I told them that in her memory they were the ones that needed to smile and welcome others and make them feel that this church was their home.


She was trained as an art teacher.  She was part of the banner ladies that made banners.  It wasn’t just banners in that they studied the symbols of the church and its seasons.  They tried to do different cloth and medium so that they never repeated themselves.  They designed the banners and fretted over them and then from their drawings made the patterns so that the banner became reality.

In 1951 someone shared that they remembered her doing crafts for Vacation Bible School – carving a Scottie dog from a bar of Ivory soap.  I did it as a child.  I taught that in different ways.  I did that with my children.

She was a 3 -4 year old Sunday School teacher with 2 others for 24 years.  She was creative in what they did and in the attendance chart which was actually making a bulletin board each quarter.  The kids would make pictures of the “people” they had chosen and dressed and other things on the board.  She worked with others as a team in many things she did.

One comment from a school mate of mine was that my mom threw the best birthday parties.  I can see in what I did with my children and how my adult kids now work with others that this legacy continues in many ways.


She was also a Brownie leader for 24 years for all 3 of us girls.  She “flew up” to Junior etc as we became older.  In those early days there were many trainings and she went to them all.  She was a continuing learner as well as teacher.  Her leadership was one of growing in learning as well as figuring out how to help the girls and people she worked with.


She asked me if I would rather practice my piano or help her with dishes.  It never dawned on me that it took her 30 minutes every night to do them – actually I believe she would just keep clunking things at the sink periodically to make me think she was still doing them.

I know my middle sister would be talking to mom and every once in a while, mom’s mind would be off somewhere. Mom would say “uh huh” but to check and see if she really was listening, my sister would say something like “I went over Niagara Falls in a barrel and then went to the moon.”  If there wasn’t an acknowledgement, my sister would leave.  Mom would realize she was gone and say “not again”.  Yet we know that if we called her on the phone, she would talk and share and listen.  She would do that in person.

These are some of the things she gave me to help me know that I didn’t always need to be perfect.

  1. wooden wall hanging “Around here, “Normal” is just a setting on the dryer”
  2. Refrigerator magnet “This home is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy”

At this point in my life, “legacy” is probably already set in some ways.  There are still things I can do but I see that most of what I need to be doing is encouraging others to start their legacy to be in the lives of their children and family, other’s children and their families, the community and be a leader to all those around.  What is your legacy and how does your life impact others?  Smile, be creative, be a learning leader and be present to situations and those around you.  Doing just this will leave a lasting legacy in your life and in the lives of others.

That’s less than an optimal choice


That was a comment my adult son made as we were playing Mancala.  We had played when he was in grade school.  Now he had made his own board and we were playing again.  When he was little, I would teach him strategy and show him all the options.  It wasn’t necessarily to win at all costs for sometimes we would help others in the game so we all won.

He had gone through the rules again of Mancala and helped me out so that I won several games.  Then he let me play on my own and I seemed to forget what I had just been taught.  As a result, I lost the game.  The next time when I would be making move that would not be helpful to me, he would say “That’s less than an optimal choice.”  He was giving me a clue and a chance to change what I was doing for a better play.

Sometimes we feel like we are out on a limb.  We can feel good about being there or feel like our future is very fragile.  Kevin had come up to help cut up the 40 foot Mulberry tree that had fallen in the wind.  That is what he is sitting on in the photo.  It was a good decision to get help and get to see him.  It was after all the work was done that we were playing games.  It was a good job done for both getting the tree cut and having fun.

After playing the mancala game, I kept thinking about that line “Less than an optimal choice”.  He was trying to get me to make a better choice that I was making.  He was trying to help me remember strategy just as I had been teaching him so long ago.  I thought about that phrase and how things might be easier for us in life if there was someone was on the sidelines to say to us “That’s less than an optimal choice.”  We make decisions in life and sometimes don’t really think if it is the best choice or what the long term consequences are.   If we would stop before we said something or before we did something and ask “Is this really an optimal choice for me at this time and in the future?”  Would this make a difference for us?  I think it might.

When I made the optimal choices in the mancala game I didn’t necessarily win but I gave myself the best chance to win rather than if I made “less than optimal choices”.  I have thought about that phrase as I was playing other games – Disney Emoji Blitz for one.  Sometimes in my haste I did make less than optimal choices.  The “stopping” and “thinking” and “looking at near and far consequences” may in itself be what makes better choices.  The questions we ask ourselves may be different and may actually be irrelevant to the outcome.

What about your life?  Are there cases where “less than optimal choices” were ok or damaging?  Would that question have helped you or would help you get to your goal better and faster and cleaner than if you didn’t ask that question? “Less than optimal choice” isn’t about winning but choosing a strategy that will work for you right now and in this place and point to a good place in the future.  It is a good question to ask.  It is a good question to think about.  It helps reframing our choices and our decisions in a positive light that makes sense.

Planning doesn’t always work


In 1989 we got land on Lake Wisconsin.  We built a home on it in 1990.  When we bought the land, the top half was a field where cows grazed while the bottom half was covered with trees. There came a drought in the 90’s and all the cedar trees died on the hill side.  We still had some big tall trees – Poplar, Mulberry and Elm.  We had lots of stumps on the hill side from the dead Cedar trees.  Poison ivy filled the spaces between the stumps so when my husband mowed in the morning and I would walk down to the lake in the afternoon, I’d wind up with poison ivy all over me as the “stuff” hung in the air.  We got someone to dig all the stumps out, planted grass and that was the end of the poison ivy.

The first big old tree to go was the Elm with Dutch Elm disease.  It was the one that held the tire swing.  The next one that went was a Poplar tree as it was mostly dead inside and if and when it fell, it would “get” the house.  The next one was a Mulberry.  We looked at it one day deciding when to take it down and the next day it fell just missing our neighbors house.

We had started planting a tree here and there on the property knowing that the tall trees were older.  Some of these new starts lived and some didn’t.  Then one day we came late at night after dark.  We opened the sliding door onto the deck and were met with one of our mulberry trees.  Mulberry trees grow with multiple trunks.  We didn’t live up here full time and didn’t notice that 2 of the 5 trunks were dead.  These 2 dead ones were downhill and somehow the 3 uphill ones helped the tree fall slowly onto the deck.  During the night the tree just it slipped off never having done damage to the deck.  We have several piles of split wood from the various trees that have come down.


Fast forward to this spring.  My husband David, had cleared up under the existing mulberry tree and our red buds.  The lilies and tulips were wonderful this year.  We were heading to Missouri and I thought I would get some great photos when we got back.  We knew this tree was getting older but again we were thinking that we would still have a few years with it.  The yard looked great!  Then came a series of storms on May 17, 2017.  All of a sudden the windows outside our deck were being pelted.  My husband took down the big metal bird feeder from the Shephard’s crook it was on was bent into the deck and we were afraid it would blow into the sliding glass door.  We took shelter in the basement.


There was a crack and a thud.  We went out the basement sliding door and our 40 foot mulberry was on the ground.  For some a mulberry tree is a “dirty” tree as the mulberries can leave a mess.  It is a mess that the birds love.  The birds love to feed on it and love to live in it and be sheltered by it.  As it has laid on the ground the birds still have enjoyed the branches.



Today we have assessed some of the damage.  Luckily, the tree didn’t fall on our deck or propane tank.  The top of the tree next to it is also gone and we may have to cut that tree down as well.  One of the Red Bud’s is safe but we can’t see the other one so we don’t know what else we lost underneath.  Forget the lilies and tulips until next year.  It is raining as I write so we will need to wait to see how and when to cut it down and cut the other one apart.

We have always made plans.  We will now have to make new ones.  It takes a long time to grow 40 foot trees.  When we first came and built, we could hardly see the lake from the house.  The large old elm being taken down had the loss of the tire swing but opened up some of the view.  The cedars didn’t obstruct the view as much as hold the soil well on the hill.  The grass we planted now does that job.  The Mulberries are gone.  One by one the lake is easier to see and there are fewer places for the birds to rest.  We have a much larger, clearer view of the lake but it is with sad heart that we know what is missing from the picture.

I tried to find some photos of the tree but didn’t.  You can see all the branches in the background in the photos of the bird feeders.  The first photo is that of a bird sheltering in the winter storms in its branches.  Somehow I missed a photo opportunity of whole tree.   I guess I just took the tree for granted that the tree would always be there.

There are many storms in our lives in many ways.  Some are bigger than others.  Some cause more damage than others.  This storm was a physical one but it has also tugged at our hearts and emotions.  We take things for granted until they are gone.  Somehow we need to take stock of what is there as we are mindful of each day.  We will still make plans.  We will speed up our planting of trees.  Storms will always wreak havoc.  I for one, will again be mindful of all the things: this day, this scene, this place and be mindful of all the people in my life as well.


Post Script.  Our son came up and helped my husband.  With small and large chain saws and with a swing of an ax or two, the tree was dispatched into several piles.  The ground is too wet to get the trailer down to get the limbs carted off to the too wet forest area.


The ground is too wet for the wood chipper to be brought down to finish the larger logs to smaller pieces for the fireplace.  You can see the grass again.  You can see both red bud’s again.


Tomorrow is another day.  Tomorrow is the time to plant another tree or two.  I can think of the song from Annie “The Sun will come out tomorrow”.  It may but the rain has continued mostly for the last few days.  We await the sun’s warmth and growth and while we are waiting we will plan and plant.




Why didn’t I see it before?


I am mindful of looking at the world around me.  We live in a most fantastic place. Wherever we drive, in whatever season we drive, we see amazing things.  We see all sorts of critters – flying, walking, crawling, running, jumping.  We were on our way to church when a big white Chinese goose came out into the highway.  We stopped and my husband when ‘honk honk honk’ with the car horn.  The goose just stood there and responded “honk honk honk”.  We backed up and went around the goose that had claimed the right side of the road.


We always stop and see the wonderful colors of fall. It is amazing to see the shades of orange and red and sometimes purples.  This spring, I looked at the trees and thought “Is it fall already?”   I saw reds in the Baraboo range hills.  When the sun is shining they are bright but the clouds have hung over us for a while so I decided to share the images I have.


Why didn’t I see it before?  We have been here for other springs.  It is amazing.  I still am in awe at seeing Sandhill cranes.  We have deer and wild turkey among other things.  We saw 8 deer, about 10 turkeys and a couple of Sandhill cranes all one meadow feeding together.  We are seeing them separately but they all seem to have regular places to be.  There are rabbits and coyote among other critters around.


I lived in Chicago – in the city as well as suburbia.  I would notice the trees and loved Lake Michigan.  In the city you notice people and buildings and other things.   I grew up in Wisconsin and on the Mississippi river in the Coulee Region (which are wonderful hills).  How could I have missed seeing these “red” trees in the hills in spring before?  I can’t wait to see if I will see them next spring – now that I know they exist.

It made me wonder what else I might be missing.

What is the strongest force in the universe?


As I sat looking out on our deck, I noticed water dripping from the bottom of a chair onto the deck.  It was one drop at a time.  It held may attention for a long time.  Drop.  Drip.  Drop.  I tried to catch the moment the water splashed up.  It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  As I was looking at one drop at a time, I began to think about how strong that one drop really was in the whole scheme of things.


A drop of water can wear away stone.  One drop alone won’t do it.  It takes persistence and time. It takes many drops coming together and over and over again wear away at what the water is dropping on.  Over and over the drops need to fall.  The Grand Canyon was formed through many persistent drops of water over time and space and place.


The drops I watched from the bottom of the chair luckily didn’t “drill” a hole in the wooden deck.  As the droplets fell it made me think of the persistence of people saying that Climate change isn’t real.  “She Persisted” is a rallying cry for Elizabeth Warren.  Many people may have already forgotten what she did.  There are T-shirts and other things to remind people to be persistent.    People go to the next new thing or “in the moment” topic.  It is said that the first step takes the most energy – to get started.  For me starting isn’t as hard as the energy to keep the momentum going over time and distance.  The farther from the origin, the harder it can be to be energized and keep going.


The same day as the rain drop, I saw a cardinal through the window.  No matter how I tried, the camera focused on the rain droplets on the window.  These droplets weren’t going anywhere.  These droplets weren’t going to drill through stone.  They will leave water marks on the window but that is all.  Even these won’t be noticed once the window is cleaned off.


We need to know that what we do matters and can make a difference.  We need to remember what matters and mark it in as many ways as possible.  We need to carry the story and share the stories over and over and over.


What do we do when we need something made like the Grand Canyon?  We need to find “like droplets of water” and join forces to stay energized and get the job done.  We need to find people to talk about issue – ones that agree with us and ones that don’t agree and ones that don’t care.  Call your representatives at all levels of government.  Keep on keeping on.  Do what you can and support others and ask for support yourself.  Together we can be a strong force in the universe that can make a difference for good.




%d bloggers like this: