Tag Archives: Inspiration

108 precious days of summer

It happens every five or six years: the calendar gods bestow us with an extra long summer.

Astronomers might start counting summer’s days at the summer solstice (June 20 this year), but I don’t. Summer for a native Minnesotan begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends on Labor Day.

Most years, including last year and next year, there are 101 days between the Saturday before Memorial Day and the Monday of Labor Day. But this year, Memorial Day falls as early as possible (May 25) and Labor Day occurs as late as possible (Sept. 7). That means there are 108 days of summer—a full week more than usual.

The calendar hasn’t been structured this way since 2015, and before that 2009. A quick look back reminds me I was spending precious early days of that summer of ’09 watching Little League baseball, running long distances and grocery shopping. Actually, those are not the worst ways to spend summer days.

In a year when spring this year wasn’t only weird, it was isolating and downright scary, the prospect of a long summer sounds pretty appealing. Even if I can’t enjoy it in the usual ways, I want to savor every one of those 108 days.

So I made a list of ways to appreciate the sounds and scents and flavors of summer, one for each of those exquisite days. Some of the things on my list might not be possible in a pandemic (stock car races,  a parade, fireworks), but I’m operating from an optimistic perspective, which is probably healthier if not entirely logical at this point. I packed in lots of little ways to enjoy summer, not matter what COVID-19 has in store.

Some of the items on my list are specific to my interests. I can’t roller skate, I hate golf and cotton candy is way too sweet for my tastes, but those summery things might be right up your alley, especially if you don’t eat meat or wear a ponytail, which made my list.

108 days of summer

If you like the idea of celebrating summer right down to slapping mosquitos, mowing the lawn and making fried green tomatoes, I turned my list into an image so you can download it and print it out.

Beginning Saturday, the first official day of Minnesota Transplant’s summer, here are 108 ways to fully enjoy it.

Sights of summer

  • Go to a county (or state) fair.
  • Go to a parade.
  • Attend a family reunion.
  • Lay on the ground and look at the clouds.
  • Light a sparkler.
  • Go to a drive-in movie.
  • Visit a museum.
  • Stop at a historical marker.
  • Take a road trip (interstate highways don’t count).
  • Appreciate marigolds.
  • Watch the sun rise.
  • Watch the sun set.
  • Watch (or listen to) a baseball game.
  • Go bird watching.
  • Count the stars.
  • Watch a bumble bee work.
  • Watch fireworks.
  • Enjoy sunflowers.

Sounds of summer

  • Listen to the wind through windchimes.
  • Go to an outdoor concert.
  • Listen to a rainstorm.
  • Listen for a cardinal.
  • Pay attention to crickets.
  • Make a summer playlist.
  • Listen to a mourning dove.
  • Listen to children playing outside.
  • Listen to frogs in a pond.
  • Count the seconds between lightning and thunder.

Flavors of summer

  • Eat a fresh tomato.
  • Eat corn on the cob.
  • Make homemade popsicles.
  • Eat an ice cream cone.
  • Eat a s’more.
  • Make fried green tomatoes.
  • Dip a radish in salt.
  • Drink an iced coffee.
  • Drink wine outdoors.
  • Eat watermelon.
  • Eat a freshly grilled steak.
  • Make cucumber salad.
  • Eat a hotdog (preferably a Chicago dog).
  • Buy meat from the source.
  • Shell peas.
  • Make gazpacho.
  • Make berry cobbler.
  • Drink a tropical cocktail.
  • Dine al fresco.
  • Eat a fresh peach.
  • Eat fresh basil.
  • Picnic.
  • Drink an Arnold Palmer.
  • Drink freshly made lemonade.
  • Attend a backyard barbecue.
  • Blow bubbles with bubblegum.

Scents of summer

  • Arrange a bouquet of fresh flowers.
  • Take a walk after the rain.
  • Smell lilacs.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Eat rhubarb something.
  • Smell peonies.
  • Use coconut sunscreen.

Doings of summer

  • Walk through rain puddles.
  • Do goat yoga.
  • Swing.
  • Climb a tree.
  • Day dream.
  • Lie in a hammock.
  • Play hopscotch.
  • Read a book outdoors.
  • Go for a boat ride.
  • Kiss in the moonlight.
  • Walk along the shore.
  • Visit a farm.
  • Kayak.
  • Sunbathe.
  • Dance.
  • Take a twilight walk.
  • Walk a labyrinth.
  • Pick a dandelion.
  • Wear a ponytail and baseball cap.
  • Take a day off.
  • Play 7-up (it’s a one-person game with a tennis ball).
  • Watch ants at work.
  • Pick berries.
  • Shop a garage sale.
  • Write a poem.
  • Sit around a campfire or bonfire.
  • Slap a mosquito.
  • Wear shorts and sandals.
  • Attend an outdoor church service.
  • Get a pedicure.
  • Ride in a convertible (or open the sun roof).
  • Go to a farmer’s market.
  • Play mini golf.
  • Go for a run (even a short one).
  • Chase a monarch butterfly.
  • Go to a flea market.
  • Place flowers on a grave.
  • Collect shells.
  • Paint a rock.
  • Visit a sculpture garden.
  • Go to stock car race.
  • Splash in a pool.
  • Go to a sidewalk sale.
  • Raise a flag.
  • Hang sheets on a clothesline.
  • Throw a frisbee.
  • Ride a bike.

The tide will come in and out

I woke up this morning to an order from my husband as he set his phone on the nightstand. “I’m going out to blow snow. Answer my phone if it rings.”

He disappeared into the ether of the morning while I lay in bed trying to breathe. I am in the midst of a good winter cold, good meaning one that fills one’s head with snot. When the decongestant of the night before wears off, waking up is just a reminder that one is not “up to snuff,” as they say Minnesota’s high country.

To summarize: It is the middle of February. My Beloved pressed his snow blower into service yet again this season. And I have the sort of blasted upper respiratory infection that keeps Kleenex factories in business. It’s the sort of day that requires one to remember. To remember that no winter lasts forever.

So I dug through some photos of a trip long past (well, two years ago, not that long past), and I found this lovely shot of some healthy thistles on the California coastline.

Tides come and go

And even though a sigh today is one filled with jagged boogers, I’m sighing in relief.

 

Dear Friend, Here are my hopes for you in the new year

I resolve to treat myself gently in 2015.

Regular readers know I am a resolutions junkie. I make New Year’s Resolutions every year, and some years they even have themes. Sometimes I even stick to them.

It’s the first day of a whole new year, a whole new chance to make good on the potential endowed to me by the Creator. I love a clean slate.

This year, my resolutions spring from my Best Friend Self, described persuasively by Martha Beck in this month’s O Magazine as the “cheerful, kind, patient version” of me. Instead of constantly expecting more of myself and berating myself with an inner dialogue that sounds more like a jerk boss than an ardent fan, I will be my own best friend in 2015.

I’m sharing my resolutions here for two reasons. No. 1, making my resolutions public is a trick to keep me accountable. And No. 2, phrased in the words of a best friend, they sound a lot more appealing than those horrible SMART-list goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely — ugh) written by a professional in Human Resources. Maybe they’ll inspire you, too.

My 2015 New Year’s Resolutions 

Friend, I’m here for you whenever you feel stressed, fat or lazy. You’re doing great. God loves you and so do I. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You ought to slow down, focus on the big stuff and savor the small stuff.

I’m behind you in your writing goals in 2015. Four new independently published books? You can do it. You have two-and-a-half manuscripts in draft form already!

savor

I hope you savor your adventures this year, and the people with whom you enjoy them. Be present. Listen fully. Follow your intuition.

And reading, too — savor it! Spend that last hour before bedtime winding down, reading paper books, instead of playing mindless games of Scrabble on your iPad. Really, nobody is saying anything that important on Facebook after 9 p.m. Sixty-three books in 2015? You can do it.

And I’d love to see your inner artist take flight decorating your home with images of those adventures and loved ones you’re savoring this year. Time to fill those walls in the house and camper with pretty pictures. You deserve it.

You’ve already taken the first step: You expressed your wishes, releasing them into the Universe. Now reward yourself with a nice cup of hot tea. Mm.

A new bookcase (to house books and big ideas)

Why are some people compelled to redecorate often, heck, every year, and some people live in the exact same floor plan with the same colored walls and the same pictures on the wall for decades?

Sure, money is part of the answer, but there lots of inexpensive ways to refresh a space, even simply moving furniture around. Beyond finances, I’m not sure what personality quirk is responsible for living quite literally in a rut.

And I’m not sure which camp in which I reside.

I had a sister-in-law once who moved around the furniture in her living room every six months or so, and I always was astonished with the configurations. I admired her. Yet I my bedroom furniture is sitting in the same carpet divots created when it was moved in six years ago.

You may have noticed Minnesota Transplant hasn’t post a new entry in almost a week. That’s practically a record. Since early 2009, I’ve posted almost daily without a pause of more than 48 hours.

I’ve been busy this week preparing a new womb for the incubation of blog ideas (and other, possibly more lucrative, creations). I’ve been remodeling my upstairs office, a room that remained in the same state for six years (plus or minus minor and major cleaning sprees).

I believed I was too busy to monkey around with the decor of my office. Maybe I was. Maybe I wasn’t. Perhaps I didn’t think it important. The office configuration was functional. Probably I was too lazy to attempt anything significant.

But the room has undergone a complete transformation in the past couple of weeks. And maybe I have, too. I have a whole new appreciation for paint (and screwdrivers).

I have tons to show you in the next few days, but we’ll start with the centerpiece of the remodel, the reason d’etre so to speak, of the whole project: A new bookcase. I’m a writer and a lover of writing, so I have a lot of books (yes, the old fashioned bound kind).

Here’s the before a look through the doorway at the east wall before:

doorway before

Since then, I moved everything out of the room, and my Beloved and I repainted (or possibly painted for the first time because I don’t think the room was ever painted anything other than white). The chaise lounge found a new home in my bedroom for the time being (ah, a new layout in a second room, too!).

Then my father stepped in. He’s created a built-in bookcase for me before but, alas, I moved out of that house (the bookcase is still there, even if I’m not).

This time, I asked him to fill an entire wall with shelves and install crown molding throughout. He arrived Tuesday with his pick-up filled with a saw, tools and a pile of finished shelves.

After two days of installation (he’s a hard worker, even in semi-retirement), he delivered this fabulous bookcase and bench:

doorway after

I’m sharing on this side view today because I’m still working on the bench area, but I’m so pleased I can now display all of my books and photo albums in one place.

Mom helped me organize my books by category (religious/spiritual, self-help, writing, crafts, business, memoir/biography — by far, my largest category, fiction and science fiction). Space remains for my notebooks and future purchases.

Tomorrow, I’ll share the results of my work (and lots of paint) on my new credenza. Remember what that looked like two weeks ago?

Last word of the week

Best thing I heard today:

“Fierce and courageous women will succeed.”

Love that.

Dem dry bones

Then he said to me, “Human, these bones are like all the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has gone. We are destroyed.’ So, prophesy and say to them, ‘This is what the Lord God says: My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves. Then I will bring you into the land of Israel.'”

— Ezekiel 37:11-12 NCV

Ever feel like you’re a sack of dry bones? No energy? No hope? No future?

I thought of Ezekiel’s dry bones the other day when I heard a review on NPR of “Why? Because We Still Like You,” a book by Jennifer Armstrong about the history of “The Mickey Mouse Club” show.

Annette Funicello was mentioned as the precocious break-out star of the show. She turned her childhood fame into a teen-age career in music and movies. But it was downhill from there; she starred in a bunch of Skippy peanut butter commercials and wrote a memoir, but for the most part, she’s now known for having multiple sclerosis.

I wondered what it must be like to experience the highlights of your life at the beginning rather than building up to them. In general, I’ve always viewed my life as getting better and better, but I’m realizing in my 40s, the best might be behind me (as is certainly the case in regards to smooth skin and lustrous hair).

Still, I found this quote attributed to Funicello: “The Lord has been with me throughout my life. He has never let me down.”

She’s not angry or blaming or bitter. If she’s feeling her dry bones, she’s not letting on. To be stricken with multiple sclerosis and say, “He has never let me down” humbles me. My problems, my downhill slide, dry bones — they are tiny irritations compared to hers.

The Dalai Lama recently told “Being” host Krista Tippett that he finds happiness in suffering by focusing on the opportunity that loss presents. In other words, when God closes a door, he opens a window. Or, when the ride’s all downhill, enjoy the journey, not the destination.

Lately, I fear I may have been focusing too much on that closed door. Instead, I need to be looking through that open window. With my focus elsewhere, I might be missing the noise and rattling, the whooshing of air and the opening of the ground. Bones coming together … winding blowing .. a living, breathing army standing at the ready. Giving me hope.

Consider your year, your decade

It’s that time to consider what events shaped your year.

The news in late December is always filled with the Top 10 films of the year, the biggest news stories, the most momentous deaths and the biggest innovations of the year. Because this year ends in “9,” I’m seeing “end of decade stories” everywhere, too. So we can consider what events shaped your decade, too.

First, the decade:

  • I didn’t even have a cell phone 10 years ago, and there was no such thing as Facebook and Twitter, which fill big chunks of my free time now.
  • In the past decade, I went from not even having a passport to having to add extra pages to my passport because I traveled the world so much. Ten years ago, there was no such thing as Al Qaeda, at least in my perspective. Air travel has changed dramatically in a decade.
  • In 1999, we were all afraid of the millenium bug. Hah! It was paper dragon. We should have been worried about the ozone layer and bankers who turned bad mortgages into big busimess (that’s not a typo). I’ve gone from having a 401(k) and the hopes of a retirement fund to being underwater on my mortgage and thinking I’ll be working until I’m 72.
  • I bought the Cash for Clunkers Durango brand new in 1999. We learned today the engine is toast (we won’t go into “why” here, but I wasn’t driving it when it ceased up). Is it worth repairing and bringing into the next decade with us?
  • Ten years ago, my nephew Drew was born. Now I’m Auntie M to five boys — my daughter’s three sons and my in-law’s two sons. More substantially, I sometimes still can’t believe I’m now stepmother to two children.
  • A decade ago, I was working way too hard and questioning it. I’m still working too hard and questioning it.
  • I was thinking about joining a church. In 10 years, my life has changed more than I ever would have predicted. I did join a church (the Catholic church) in 2001. But I also got divorced and rejoined the Lutheran church. And remarried. And now I’m considering a nondenominational option (church, not marriage). I don’t know what church I’ll belong to in 10 years, but I sure hope I’m in the same marriage.

And in the past year? Let’s consider this by the numbers:

  • I enjoyed three different trips and saw new things in Florida, Missouri and the Caribbean.
  • I set a goal to run a 10K in under an hour. I ended up covering an average of 19.78 miles a week, I managed 59:14 in the 10K and I lost 6ish pounds over the course of the year.
  • I avoided shopping retail with only a couple of transgressions, and I learned you can buy a lot of things on the internet.
  • I wrote 302 blog entries (including this one) and 15,000+ words on a memoir.
  • I became plaintiff in two lawsuits to fight for that lost retirement fund.
  • I saw at least five live Major League Baseball games and enjoyed watching the Twins play in the post season.

Was it a good year? Sure. Compared to the decade as a whole, I plodded along in 2009 for the most part, which the pastor at church on Sunday defended. “Plodding along” is worth something because it signifies you didn’t give up; you moved forward in some way. As Paul notes in Galatians 6:9: “And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.”

As you think of the 2000s, or of 2009, what events shaped your life? How did you continue in well-doing? How did you avoid losing heart?