Everything Stops

In my last post, I said life moves fast and that I’m just trying to keep up; and that still holds true. But sometimes it not only moves fast, it also takes a few swings at you along the way.

There you are scrambling along, doing, fixing, trying, going, being…and it all comes to a screeching halt; because someone you love has died. Suddenly all that stuff, all those things, they just aren’t important, they don’t require your attention; and even if they do, they will have to wait; because, death changes everything.

  

My father-in-law passed away suddenly last month and I’m still trying to process the reality of that event. He was 84 years old, and he could out work a man half his age. The day he died, he had plans to go fishing with a friend. He died “with his boots on” and that’s exactly how he would have wanted it. I think he was ready, he had grown weary of the ways of this world and was ready for his rest; the only problem is, the rest of us weren’t ready to see him go.

Death is shocking, painful and surprisingly educational; it always teaches me something. Sometimes it’s a new lesson, sometimes it’s a lesson I’ve forgotten and suddenly am reminded of. Here are some things I’ve learned/remembered this time:

Make a difference. And make it a good one. Impact one person or a thousand people; connect, love, support and help. Because it’s people that matter and choosing to make a difference can inspire others to make a difference too.

Consider your legacy. As you make this journey, think about what will remain of your life after you’ve gone. How will you be remembered? Will you be missed, thought of with fondness? What do you want your life to say about you?

Enjoy the journey. You only get to do this once; so do those things that excite you. Go on adventures, learn, grow and try new things. Time wasted is time lost, you never get it back; don’t squander it.

Love people not things. Stuff is not important, it’s stuff. You can get more if you lose it. When someone dies, they are gone. There are no replacements for the person who’s journey has ended. Make the most of the time you are given with the people you are given. Love them fiercely.

I miss Dad Underwood. He wasn’t perfect and sometimes I found him difficult to relate to, but I’m sure he could have said the same about me. I learned a lot about life and love from him and I appreciate the lessons.

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Trying To Keep Up

Life moves fast. When I was young, I can remember rolling my eyes and thinking “yeah right” when older people said that to me. But now that I’m older I can see all too clearly that they were right. Life does indeed move fast.

I don’t think my life is moving faster now than it did twenty years ago, I think maybe I am just more aware of it’s break-neck pace. I think when I was a young wife and mother I spent my time with my head down, keeping everything together. There were diapers and bottles, then there were school clothes and girl scouts, then prom dresses and first cars; and when i finally looked up from that work I was amazed at how much time had passed. My girls can’t possibly be 18 and 20! I just taught them how to tie their shoes for crying out loud!

But my girls are that old. They have graduated from high school, they are in college and one of them is engaged. I find these facts very difficult to wrap my brain around. I am so proud of my girls, so happy for the stuff that is happening in their lives, and so shocked that they are old enough to be doing all of these exciting and wonderful things.

So now, I hope I’ll remember to look up from the work a little more often. I don’t want to miss anything. Life moves fast…and I’m just trying to keep up.

The Absent Writer

I haven’t written much lately; no journaling, no blogging, not scratching down ideas on random scraps of paper. I haven’t even been doing much reading. These are bad things. I know I should read and write and create, it’s deeply woven into the fabric of who I am and it makes me more well, me.

Unfortunately my only excuse is that life is a four letter word: Busy. It’s a cop out, I know, but it is true. I’m hoping things will slow down now that summer has arrived. I need to take the time to evaluate my priorities, make some changes and make time for writing!

That’s all for now, I’ll be back soon.

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