Morning Coffee: Satisfaction

SummerAs the Rolling Stones say, we just can’t get no satisfaction. In the heart of winter we can’t wait for summer, but when the heat of summer hits we start talking about winter. Have you noticed on Facebook there are constant reminders about how many days until Christmas? It starts December 26th. Recently I had a photo post of cars half buried in snow and assuring readers that this was only 17 weeks away…as if that’s a good thing!! Then when winter arrives, we’re going to barraged with photos of beaches saying just X number of weeks until summer. No matter what we have, we always want something different.

I admit I’m as guilty as the next person. Not of wishing for Christmas, snow, or frigid temperatures in the middle of July, but of looking to the other side of the fence and wishing I was there. For one thing, when my children were small and running me ragged, fighting with each other night and day, I wished they would grow up faster. Now that they’re adults and live far away, I wish they were small again and able to sit in my lap for a cuddle.

You might envy the friend with the new pet, new car, new house, or new job. But if you really stopped to think about it, if you had that thing would you wish you didn’t? That dog needs shots, walking, house-training. Having a new car might mean suddenly having car payments you don’t currently have with your still reliable old car. A new house means having to pack, move, and unpack. A new job…well, it could prove to be one of those jobs that are actually worse than your current job.

We get so caught up envying our neighbor we fail to see our own blessings. Maybe by continuing to drive your old reliable car that’s paid for you can save enough money to go on the vacation your friend with the new car no longer can afford. Sometimes that person we envy might actually envy us.

For example, I wish I were thinner but I have a friend who is too thin and actually struggles to gain weight. She doesn’t like to hear about the 5-10 extra pounds someone else wants to lose. If only she could put on 10 pounds and keep it on maybe her doctor would stop lecturing her. Maybe you wish you had that exciting high-powered job instead of being just an assistant, while your high-powered boss wishes she were you so she could have time to go out for drinks with her girlfriends…or maybe wishes she had the time to HAVE girlfriends.

So the next time you wish you were someone else, or had all the things someone else has, stop and look at all you DO have. Even if the only blessing you can think of is your health, remember, there are a lot of people who can’t even say that.

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Morning Coffee: Ice Cream

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.”

SummerYou remember that little ditty we all sang as children. Ice cream, who doesn’t love it! I always felt bad for the kids who couldn’t have it because of milk allergies. I don’t know what I’d do without the occasional ice cream, whether it’s a blizzard from the local dairy queen or a simple scoop of vanilla from our freezer, sometimes there’s nothing else that will satisfy.

July 16th was National Ice Cream Day! Who knew? I didn’t until I saw it on the morning news. But why not when there’s a national day for everything. And there’s nothing more deserving than ice cream for such an honor.

Everyone always asks favorite flavor. I don’t have one particular favorite. It depends on my mood, and the type of ice cream. If I’m in a sorbet or gelato mood I’m more likely to go with something fruity, both domestic and tropical flavors. But if it’s our traditional ice cream, then I tend to lean more toward the chocolates, peanut butter, mint, any combination thereof. I’m generally game for just about any flavor. At home I like to add a generous pour of liqueur on top. No whipped cream, thank you, but a maraschino cherry or two is always welcome; perhaps some sprinkles or nuts to top it off. Only a waffle cone will do. Those cardboard-tasting cones of our childhood don’t make the grade for me. Never did. As for other frozen ice cream treats, ice cream bars are a poor relation in my book, but will suffice in a pinch. I’ve always loved, loved, loved an ice cream sandwich. Maybe that’s because it combines ice cream with another favorite of mine, the cakey-textured cookie.

My hubby and I like to head down to Valley Sweets here in St Croix Falls when we’re in the mood for an ice cream treat. From there we can take our ice cream and walk over to the river overlook to enjoy on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon. If you’re ever in the area, you should check them out. Located on the river side of Washington Street (the main street) you can’t miss their brightly colored store front. Wonderful ice creams, waffle cones made fresh daily, and old-fashioned candies. The owners and staff are always friendly and happy to serve. This afternoon my husband got his usual black cherry while I tried the new carrot mango sorbet in, of course, a waffle cone. It was fantastic!! I will definitely have that one again.

If you’re interested in the history of everyone’s favorite summer treat, check out: http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/explore-the-delicious-history-of-ice-cream/

Morning Coffee: Finding Balance In Your Life

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relaxing by the St Croix River

Like so many others, I’ve been finding it more and more difficult to balance all the balls I have in the air at any one time: work, church, community, family, friends, writing, reading, crafting, golfing, etc…not necessarily in that order. It’s a hectic fast-paced world we live in and we are all, including children, wearing ourselves out.

I’ve been trying a number of ways to control my time. Some work better than others. Just saying no would seem the most logical solution, but for me that’s not so easy. I generally try not to put myself in a position where I’ll be asked to do something I don’t particularly want to do, but when they find me anyways, I inevitably say yes. Why? I don’t know. I tell myself if I don’t do it no one will, but we all know that’s not true. There’s always someone who will step forward, if they look hard enough, although it’s often the same person. I just generally find it difficult to say no. And then there are the times when, sadly, I have to say no when I really want to say yes.

Most of the things I’m involved with I do by choice. The problem is, I “choose” too many things. So the question became, how to balance them all so nothing is forgotten or late and I’m still left with “me time”. While some people will tell you anything done purely for your own pleasure is selfish, I’d argue it’s healthy. We all need “me time” for relaxation, reflection, to recharge, to be happy.

Back in March I started keeping a list journal. Every day I have a to-do list and I check things off as I complete them. By assigning each task to a day I find I don’t forget to do something until the last minute. There are times I am so busy I don’t get a chance to do things until last minute, but it’s not because I forgot. For example, this week’s blog. You’ll be reading this tomorrow. I don’t normally like to wait until the day before. My list journal has helped me tremendously. However, it hasn’t proven to be enough. My chores are getting done, but my pleasures can still be difficult to fit in.

The next logical step was to evaluate my responsibilities and decide which, if any, could go. That decision came easier than I expected. As of August 31st I will be retired. My day job was part-time and I took it to get out of the house and meet people. The writer’s life is generally a solitary one. I like my job, I like the people I work with and will miss them, but I treasure other things more. (No offense meant if any of you are reading this.) So it’s time. It’s time to free up more time to write, to pursue my dream of becoming a published novelist. I want to spend more time with my parents, be free to visit my children, go to the cabin, be with my husband, travel.

What do you do to balance your life? Have you had to give up anything? Or are you one of those people seriously out of balance? Maybe you even thrive on that wild pace. Share your ideas in the comments section and who knows; maybe you’ll help someone else out there searching for a more balanced life.

Morning Coffee: “Up North”

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Me relaxing at the cabin.

Up North is not just a direction. It’s an experience. It’s an attitude. If you come from the mid-west, I’d say most particularly Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Michigan, you know what I mean.

Up North is where you go hunting, fishing, camping, ATV’ing. (Yes! That’s a word.) Up North is where your cabin is located. Up North is where you go to have fun and get away from it all.

When I was growing up, Up North meant going to visit our grandparents. Now it’s where we have our family cabin. While we’re not far from “civilization” it can feel that way when we’re staying close to home. We don’t have internet service and our cell service is so spotty we have to have a landline in case of emergency. We do, however, have DISH TV. Without it, my husband and I would actually have to talk to each other. That’s a little too primitive for us. One of us might be tempted to bury the other out in the woods before our vacation was through. Just kidding!

When he’s not in the woods, my husband spends hours working on jigsaw puzzles. This trip he finally got brave and opened the one my mother gave him for Christmas a couple years back…all candy canes! He’s going to be working on that one for a while. Me, I like to work on my cross-stitch. We both spend a lot of time reading, and I, of course, write.

We have a favorite bar and grill just down the road from us. If you’re ever in the Laona/Cavour, Wisconsin area, check out Mudslingers on Hwy 8. My husband’s a fan of the one-pound slinger burger. I tease him that it’s basically a meatloaf on a split loaf of bread.

Yes, Up North does have its down side. In the summer we battle mosquitoes, deer and horse flies, and, of course, wood ticks. That’s what bug spray is for. But there are also the animals, wildflowers, and beautiful colored leaves in the fall. There’s the complete silence…most times. Holiday weekends like this one do tend to bring out the ATV’ers (yes, also a word), but they drive by onto the logging road and leave us alone.

We just returned from our 4th of July trip to the cabin. The bugs were actually more moderate than some years, but definitely made their presence known. We stocked-up at the local winery. We had ice cream in town. We played a round of golf at the local course. It was one of my worst, but as they say, even a bad round of golf is better than a good day at the office. The big disappointment, though, was learning the fireworks are scheduled for the 8th so we’ll miss them this year. There’s always next year!

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Love the wild flowers!