Life In The Mitten–Oberan

What’s Oberan you ask? It’s beer. Actually it’s more than beer, it’s summer beer. West Michigan is blessed with more than it’s fair share of good breweries and lots of them have great summer ales,  but nothing says “Summer’s coming!” like Bell’s Oberan Ale.

It has a bright blue and orange label with a happy yellow sun in the center. In restaurants and bars, it is served with an orange slice. You can’t miss the cases at the store, they are bright blue and are normally stacked in the main aisle, beckoning to you, telling you to be happy because warm weather is on the way. Even if you don’t drink beer, it’s a sure sign that winter is coming to an end.

And guess what. It’s here, in the stores and on tap in local pubs.So raise your glass and celebrate surviving another Michigan winter. It’s almost time to go to the lake. Cheers!

Life in the Mitten–#SnowWhiteProbs

In an earlier post, I promised to share about life here in West Michigan; including the weird things that happen. Well, here is the first of what I’m sure will be many weird tales.

With the onset of spring, nature wakes up; and this awakening includes an increase in animal activity. It’s a good thing and I’m happy to see it happen, but today it just got weird. I live in the country, so I’m always on the look out for deer but they usually aren’t too active between sunrise and dusk.Today they were. Four deer ran out in front of my car on my way to work and then to add some extra excitement a little further down the road, a large hawk swooped down in font of my car and startled me. Neither event is terribly surprising but they did get my heart beating a little faster and made me a little more “eagle-eyed”. It got weird after I reached my destination.

It’s a crazy busy Monday for me and I had a lot to get done first thing this morning, which means I needed coffee. I work at a small private university, so after I arrived at my office I walked across campus to the coffee shop. There are lots of birds returning to Michigan, and several of them call our campus home. I love seeing them and hearing them after such a long cold winter. Apparently, along with singing and nesting, they play tag. Two little finches or some other small bird, were chasing each other and not paying attention to where they were going. As I was walking down the sidewalk, minding my own business, they smacked right into the side of my head. I’ve never been hit in the head by a bird before, and I’d prefer that it doesn’t happen again. I suppose I should be grateful that they just accidentally bumped into me and it wasn’t a full on attack.

All these animal encounters have left me feeling like a less popular version of Snow White. The animals don’t want to hang out with me and listen to me sing, they want to pull pranks on me and see if they can throw me off my game.  I mean, who gets hit in the head by two birds! I’m a little leery of venturing back outside and driving home this evening; who knows what else the animal kingdom has planned for me. But I will be going out again today, It’s going to be 65 degrees and sunny in Grand Rapids, and that hasn’t happened in a long, long time. No furry or feathered creatures can stop me!

Life In The Mitten–Spring Thaw

The mercury has peeked its head up above the 50 degree mark and The Mitten is in full celebration mode! I’m pretty sure the whoops and hollers could be heard in the Florida Keys.

It’s a wonderful thing, to witness the awakening that happens here when spring starts to peek out from behind winter’s dreary curtain. It reminds me of the reasons I live here. In February, I begin to question my sanity…it’s crazy to live in a place that is so cold and dark. But, when that first warm up happens I remember. I remember what a wonderful place the mitten is.

This was the week; the week that the mitten came to life again. It happens every year, but this winter was so hard and cold that it feels like a hard won victory. It’s exciting to see the signs of spring, and I don’t mean trees budding and flowers blooming. There are some very distinct things that begin to happen here when the temperature rises out of the freezing range.

Here are some of the things I am talking about:

We go outside without a coat

No coat, no gloves, no hat and probably no socks. It is so exciting to finally just go outside. it’s not uncommon to see braver souls in shorts and flip flops. Bundling up like you are heading out on an Everest expedition gets old. Going coat-less almost feels like being weightless. It’s a glorious thing.

We breathe deeper

When the weather warms up, mitten dwellers go outside and just breathe. Deep, lung filling breaths of beautiful fresh air. In winter, inside air gets stale and cold outside air is best inhaled in shallower breaths. When it’s 10 degrees out, a lung full of fresh air is painful! It’s not uncommon to see people here just standing outside to feel the sun and breathe the air. It feels like we’ve been raised from the dead.

We drive with our windows down

Yeah, the air is still cold at 55 mph, but we are so excited about spring we don’t care; we just crank up the heat. One of the surest signs that spring is on it’s way to West Michigan is all the cars driving around with their windows open.

We smile more

What can I say? We’re happy. We have survived another winter and we feel hopeful. We are friendlier, we say things like “Isn’t it beautiful?” and “Enjoy the sunshine!” We are just happy to be alive and warm.

And finally, We remember what a great place The Mitten is

We briefly forget what a great place this is during the winter, but we are quick to recall it’s beauty once we can feel the warmth of the sun again. We begin dreaming of warm summer nights and trips to the lake. Camping and fishing trips are planned. We start looking for new recipes for the grill. We go buy a new swimming suit. We remember.

Yes, this is the time of year that I and my fellow Mitten dwellers remember why we love it here…and why wouldn’t we?

Life In The Mitten–A New Series

I’m starting a new series about the place I call home.

I have lived in Michigan, the mitten state, my whole life and I love it. I’ve decided that I love it enough to write about it. I just want other people to know how great it is.

So, from time to time, there will be a post about the great, fun, fantastic and weird things that make Michigan, Michigan. I hope you enjoy seeing it through a native’s eyes.

"Mighty Mac" in winter

“Mighty Mac” in winter

Too Much

Sometimes my heart and mind go into hyper drive and I think,do, say and feel too much. And it keeps me from being an effective person; from being the me I long to be. So here is my prayer for the times I am experiencing “too much”:

For today,

Let me think what must be thought.

Let me feel what must be felt.

Let me do what must be done.

Let me say what must be said.

And, let me leave everything else alone.

Funky February

For me, nothing puts the “funk” in dysfunctional quite like the month of February. For several years now, February has been rough for me; I go trough life in a pretty deep funk. I think it’s just a combination of lack of sunshine and too much winter. Every year I start to feel frustrated and unmotivated. I start looking for a change while lacking the motivation to actually do any changing. I only do what I absolutely must do and then I spend the rest of my time laying around watching TV and feeling sad. I lack the desire to do the things I normally love, like spending time with my family and writing; it’s bad when I don’t even want to write! It’s a weird month, I’m glad it’s short and I’m glad it over.

March, now March holds promise. When March roles around I suddenly have the urge to clean, de-clutter and organize my life. It’s very name evokes action. March! Get up off your lazy butt and do something! When March speaks, I listen. At work, my desk is clean, all my files are organized and put where they belong and the supply cabinet never looked so good! At home, the pantry is orderly, the furniture has been dusted and the floors have been swept (and so have the lamp shades).

There is a lot more left to do to get my life completely back in order, but it’s progress. So here’s to shedding the funk of February and Marching on towards spring!

Discontent and Dissatisfied

To quote Mick Jager “I can’t get no satisfaction”. I don’t know if it’s because I have the winter blahs, or I’m having a mid-life crisis. Perhaps it’s because I’m an ENFP or maybe it’s just a poor attitude; but I’m feeling frustrated and stuck. I feel like it’s time for a change, but I just can’t seem to put my finger on what that change should be. To put it simply, I am feeling discontent.

I’m tired of my job, the place and the people are great, but the work bores me and I feel like it consumes the lion’s share of my life. Yes, yes, I know that I just recently chose to stay here when offered another job, but that’s beside the point. Just because I chose to stay doesn’t mean I love it, the other job just wasn’t right for me. I’m bored with the type of work I’m doing, or at least with doing it this way. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m to the point where I just want to do things on my own terms and work for myself. But I’m not sure and I certainly don’t want to jump in feet first only to realize that my career wasn’t the problem after all. If I am going to make a change, it needs to be a gradual shift and I honestly don’t know where to start.

I want to move; and I don’t. It sounds like a fun adventure to move to a new house in a new town; it also sounds like an enormous amount of work. Our lives aren’t really anchored in the community where we live. Neither my husband nor I work in town. Our children are no longer in school here and we don’t go to a local church either. But moving won’t change any of that. I work in a large city west of home and my husband works in a large city east of home. Moving one way or the other doesn’t solve the “living where we work” issue. (Unless I do throw all my caution to the wind and make a change) Also, I don’t think either of us would be happy living in the city long term; been there, done that. It would be fun for a year, maybe two and then we’d be looking at house in the country again. Our current house doesn’t really meet all of our needs anymore but it’s also home. It’s where we raised our children and built our life together. A new place could be more what we want and also be the place where we build the next phase of our life.The housing market has also been volatile. It is improving, but it would still make sense financially to wait awhile before we sell.

In my crazier moments (or maybe not so crazy) I tell my husband: “Let’s sell everything, quit our jobs, cash out the retirement and start over. Adventure here we come!” But then the practical side of me rears its head and that sounds like a scary and dumb idea. I want to see things, try things, do things; maybe that’s what all this discontentment is about, maybe I’m just not living my life the way I’m meant to live it. Maybe I just crave more living.

I may not know what I want to do, where I want to live or what I want life to look like, but I do know that I don’t want to look back ten years from now and discover that I’m still here: still dissatisfied, still discontent. And I don’t think that’s what will happen. I’m trying to ask myself some tough questions, working to find the root of the issue and fix it….so maybe there’s hope for me after all.