Peace In A Tin Can

Peace In A Tin Can

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Snow Day That Shouldn't Have Been

Yesterday was not a fun day.  Or it was.  It depends on how you look at it.

I started my day the same way I start every week day.  Up at 4:45am, prepare my hockey coach husband a cup of coffee to go, start his truck, send him off at 5:00am to hockey practice, then with a hot cup o' Joe for me, sit down at my laptop and have some fun.

I turned on the TV, because even though the most recent snowstorm had blown through on Saturday and I assumed that by Monday morning the roads would be clear and the kids would go to school, I never underestimate the power of the IIC (Idiots In Charge) to cancel school on a whim.  Hmmm…two school districts north of town had already announced closings.  No worries, they are rural areas, probably not plowed yet.  We will have school.  Definitely.

Scuba called me on his way to the rink, said the roads are clear, they will have school.  Definitely.

But the "others" on Facebook disagreed.

The "others" are the hockey moms who also get up long before the sun rises to make sure their hockey players leave on time for practice, then snuggle back into bed with cell phones and tablets to have lively interactions on Facebook.  I also throw my bff Debbie into the "others" category.  She doesn't have a hockey player, she just never sleeps.  One of the most interesting parts of my day is the early morning discussions on Facebook with the "others".

But yesterday, the "others" were being very vocal about wanting a snow day.  I am in the minority among moms who hate snow days.  God made schools for a reason, and kids should go there 5 days a week.  So with caution to push the limits without being offensive, I began a lively banter with the "others" about whether the kids should have a snow day.

A Road in the U.P.
They worry about their teenaged kids driving on slippery roads.  I worry that we are raising a generation of kids who will believe that, even though they live in one of the northern most states in America, a few inches of snow means everything stops.  The "others" wouldn't last a day in the U.P.!

At this point the TV has added a few new announcements at the bottom of the screen.  I started counting school delays and closings, because there are certain rules that the IIC is supposed to follow regarding snow days.  My kids go to Catholic Schools, and the general rule is that 4 other districts in our county have to have a delay or closing in order for us to follow suit.  At this point, the count was 2 closed, 2 delayed, but the city schools were still open, which means we have busses.  So we're still ok.

As the "others" and I continued our argument about whether our kids should go to school, one of the hockey moms posted a comment about something making noise outside her window.  Though Jo was mildly concerned, she did not want to get out of her warm bed to investigate.  I suggested it might be a bear, even though we have no bears this far south in Michigan.  That got her going!

Now another school has announced a closing, and one more delay.  But city schools are still open, and the count was at 3 closings and 3 delays, so we're good.  Surely, we would have school, right?

I offered to drive over to Jo's with my camera to capture her bear in the act, but mostly to prove that the roads in her neighborhood were fine.  She insisted the bus could not drive on her unplowed road.  Wimps.  But it was 1degree outside, and my car had 10 inches of snow piled on it, so I stayed put, eyes glued to the TV.

Our Road
By 6:15, no announcement had been made regarding our schools, so I prepared to wake Bean and get her ready for school.  5 minutes later, they cancelled school.  Really?  But the roads are not that bad.

I was incensed, and took it out on all the "others" who were waiting, wishing, hoping for a snow day.  Two minutes later, Bean sent me a text message from her bedroom asking if she could get up since she already knows school is cancelled.  My day just went down the toilet.

Bean and I went to the grocery store.  I drove her to another town 30 minutes away to play in the snow with a friend.  I ran errands.  The roads were clear, and there was absolutely no reason the kids should have a snow day.  This bothered me so much that I couldn't get past it all day.  Why aren't they in school?  Who makes this decision?  I want answers!

I became so agitated at the spineless, nameless person who is teaching our kids to be lazy and fearful, I finally had to find a way to seek some peace.  I grabbed my camera, and did what I do best; I went outside.

There is something special about being outside right after a snowstorm.  The air is so clear and crisp, everything is blanketed in white, and sounds are muted.  The quiet is complete and all senses are awake.  I walked, I took pictures, I breathed.  I listened, and filled myself with the clean scent, felt the cold air.  It made me feel so alive!  I needed my own snow day, a day to experience the elements of a Michigan winter and remember why I choose to live here.  It helped me to understand that maybe the kids need a snow day, too, not to sit in a stuffy classroom and stare out the window, but to bundle up and go outside to build a snowman, jump in a snowbank, run and play, and nurture a love for nature any time of year.  Bean was off with a friend, staying outside
and laughing, not like a teenager, but like a kid who delights in something as simple as snow.  I was a solitary soul embracing the woods, the wind, the cold, and I found my peace, painted white and waiting for me to leave my footprints in its virgin ground.  When you walk in the snow, you leave a message to Mother Nature that says "I was here".

Later, when I picked Bean up to bring her home, her cheeks were rosy and her eyes were bright.  All the way home, I listened to her excited chatter about what she did outside all day, and she reminded me of…me.  It was a good snow day.

This morning on Facebook, Jo informed me that even though we got an additional inch of snow last night, the kids would have school and her bear did not make a return appearance.  All I had to do was plant the tiniest seed of thought, and I've got Jo snuggled in her bed listening for a bear that could not exist here.  Ain't life grand?

I hope that today, wherever you are and whatever you're doing, you find your moment of peace.  Just go outside, peace is waiting for you.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Guest Post from Girly Camping: 5 Reasons You Should Go Camping

Camping is a great and affordable way to get away, any time of year.  Today, I am sharing a guest post from one of my favorite blogs, Girly Camping.  The author is witty and always gives me a new insight into why I camp, sharing her own tips, gear reviews, and stories from the outdoors.  In this post, she gives us the top five reasons we should go camping, whether we are experienced campers or just starting out!

5 Reasons You Should Go Camping  Posted by  in Camping Trips

I love camping! I love the outdoors! But I haven’t always been a fan! If you would of told me a few years ago I would be writing an outdoor blog, I would have laughed in your face! But I love it and I wish I would have discovered that a lot sooner! Here are 5 reasons you should go camping:
  1. Being one with nature. Have you ever taken a hike… like a real hike into the mountains? Its beautiful and peaceful! You really start taking a look at the beauty around you! And bring your camera along! You’d be surprise at the rad pictures you take! I know there’s an inner photographer inside!
  2. Exercise. One thing great about being outside is the exercise you get! Get moving by hiking in to a spot, setting up your tent, going for a hike, playing games- there are tons of things to do outside! I find being outside makes me motivated to not be lazy!
  3. Quiet time. If you run out of things to do, just relax! Turn that cell phone off, put the iPod away, and just soak it up! You work hard anyways- you deserve a break and some peace and quiet! Listen to the river running, breeze blowing through the trees, crickets chirping, the bears growling- just kidding! But the other stuff is pretty awesome :)
  4. Its cheap. Ok, let me rephrase that- its cheaper than planning a vacation and once you get your gear, its practically free every time! We save money by going camping on the weekends rather than going out with friends and eating at restaurants!
  5. Rekindle that relationship. My favorite part about camping is sitting around the camp fire talking about good old times and discussing life! No distractions- just conversation. Its something we don’t see too often any more and we so desperately need!
Happy Camping!!
Be sure to check out Mandie's blog, Girly Camping, for more stories.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Dusting of Snow Is Not A Weather Situation!

We have a weather prediction for 1-2" of snow tonight.  The kids will probably get a Snow Day tomorrow.

Really?  Yup.  Two years ago, my kids got a Snow Day in March when it was 40 F and raining.  But give us a half-inch of ice on the road, and school is not cancelled.  I like to refer to this phenomenon as "The IIC Effect".

IIC is an acronym for "Idiots In Charge".  I don't know who the nameless, faceless people are who make the decision to cancel school because of weather, but I do know they gather in a dark room in the wee hours of the morning and play a Russian Roulette game to make their determination.  A roll of the dice, a spin of the wheel, and a life-altering choice is made by Lady Luck whether to let the kiddies go to school that day.

That must be the case, because there is no rhyme or reason to the qualifying factors for a snow day.  I can say this, though, with certainty; a dusting of snow is not a weather situation.  Yet the IIC goes into a blind panic as soon as the white stuff starts to fall, and cancels school.

I know the arguments I'll get from other moms.  They say young drivers should not be on the road, they just want to keep their kids safe.  But if young drivers never drive on slippery roads, how will they learn to drive on slippery roads?  Ten years from now, will we live in a nation where everything shuts down all winter because nobody knows how to drive?

My biggest problem with this argument, though, is the fact that when school gets cancelled for a Snow Day, all those young drivers get in their cars and drive to my house.  It's my own fault.  I created a winter wonderland at my house, with snowmobiles and an ice rink and ample opportunities for the girls' "pretend-model"                      photo shoots.

Blizzard of '78
Google Images
We don't get as much snow now as we did when I was a kid.  I still vividly remember the Blizzard of '78, when the record-low barometric pressure of 955 created the perfect scenario for 16.1 inches of snow to fall in one day.  It continued snowing for 3 days.  My dad attached the snowplow to our Jeep and pushed all the snow in our parking lot into one corner, building a giant snow mound which towered over the garage roof and beckoned us to play.  My cousins and all the neighborhood kids came over, and using shovels we dug the most incredible maze of snow tunnels through the mound. Then we packed the snow down hard on top and designed an elaborate series of slides.  We played King of the Mountain, Eskimos, and Bobsledding. I stayed out all day.  When my mother finally made me come inside after dark, I limped up the stairs because I had not been able to feel my toes since noon.  I took my boots off, and as my toes began reacting to the warm air, I experienced pain like I had never felt before.  I literally wanted my mother to take a butcher knife and just cut my toes off.  It was the best day ever.

That was a snow day.  These days, when all the kids descend upon my peaceful home, they have to completely clear the front yard of it's 2" of snow just to build a snowman.  That's not a snow day.  Its an irritating day.

But today the weatherman will issue a Winter Weather Advisory for 1-2" of snow, and tonight the grocery store will have long lines of moms stocking up for the big snow day tomorrow.  Snacks, hot chocolate, and big steaming pots of chili will adorn kitchen tables everywhere while moms wear out the dryers trying to keep the kids' mittens and socks dry.  Adults will be texting each other to talk about how bad the roads are.  Kids will play outside all day and make a mess of the yard and drip dirty snow on the mudroom floor and post thousands of pictures on Instagram that all look the same:  "Here we are, not in school, playing in the snow even though the grass is still peeking through."

Be careful out there folks!
This dusting of snow we are supposed to get tonight is going to wreak havoc in my busy schedule.  But what do I know?  I bow down to the IIC who, in its wisdom, makes decisions based on fear of lawsuits and designed to foster a generation of people scared to leave their homes in the Winter.  The next generation of movers and shakers will be unable to cope with northern winters.  I hope Florida has room for all of them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fixing the Christmas Lights

It's a tradition.  Every Thanksgiving weekend since I was a child, the house was decorated for the Christmas season.  Long before Black Friday, we had Twinkle Friday, a magical day when all the clear mini lights suddenly adorn the trees, fireplace, and wreaths.  I love decorating my house for Christmas on Twinkle Friday.

This year as I pulled all the boxes and totes out from the basement, I realized it has been quite some time since we bought any new decorations.  While I decorated, it occurred to me that it really is time to get some new decorations.  Only this time, my husband is banned from Christmas decoration shopping.

A few years ago, I asked my husband to build me a manger for the nativity set.  He took an old rose trellis, broke it in half, and stapled burlap to it.  The burlap does not fare well outdoors.

Then there's the tote in the basement full of strings of lights that no longer work.  It's been sitting there since November 1998, when my husband told me not to buy any new lights, because he could fix those.  Every year I have fewer and fewer lights outside.  Still waiting…

A couple of years ago Scuba bought a really cute light-up snowman for my courtyard.  After one year, the lights no longer worked.  So I pulled them all off, and tried to re-string the snowman with new lights.  By day, he's a cheery friend by the bonfire, but by night, he's a big blue blob of light.

Ten years ago, we bought a whole bunch of red bows at the Dollar Store to brighten up the fence.  We are still using them, though the mice have apparently been using them as well.

I was delighted a few years ago when Scuba brought home a beautiful indoor nativity scene for the living room.  But then my daughter dropped one of the Wise Men, and his hand fell off.  Every year when I set the nativity up, I glue his hand back on, and every year, it falls off the next day.  Nowhere in the Bible does it reference a handicapped Wise Man, but we have one.

Likewise with the ceramic Elf's feet.  I have a very old and beautiful set of four ceramic elves that I inherited from my late grandmother.  When my son was young, he was playing with them and dropped the standing elf.  The footless Elf has to lean against the hearth now.

Last year I bought new table decorations, which include little sparkly styrofoam balls.  The cat never even noticed them last year, but this year, she won't leave them alone.  I find styrofoam balls with little teeth marks in them under the table, in the living room, the sunroom, and unless our cat lays golden eggs, I'm pretty sure I scooped one out of the litter box this morning.

These are all things I can live with (though I'm not sure the cat can).  The minor marks on decorations that have been used and enjoyed by my family for years just make them that much more endearing.  However, I have to draw the line with Ralph and Stella.

Google Images
Remember The Elf on the Shelf?  I sent Scuba out to buy the beloved elf with the storybook.  Even though our kids are not little anymore, I thought it would be fun to hide the little elf each day and watch them look for him.  But Scuba didn't buy The Elf on the Shelf.  He came home with Ralph and Stella instead.

Maybe my husband is conducting an experiment to see if he can
introduce an unreasonable fear of Christmas in our children.  If so, it's working.  Hiding Ralph and Stella is not as easy as a tiny little elf.  Add to that the fact that Ralph and Stella are just plain creepy and you have the perfect scenario to induce nightmares and cold sweats every time "Jingle Bells" is heard.

I fear that Ralph and Stella may meet with an unfortunate accident in the near future.  Their days are numbered, folks.

I think next year, on Twinkle Friday, the kids and I are going to Bronners to buy a few new decorations.  Scuba can stay home and fix the lights.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Echo of the Woods

I hike alone.  The woods teach me things about myself every time I go down a trail, or wander off trail. Alone, I have learned that I am stronger than I thought. I know things in a deep place in my mind, and after a fourteen mile hike when it feels like I will never live without pain again, the pain will go away.  Eventually.  The woods teach me to listen, see, and smell more intensely, and trust that I can keep going.  I let the woods show me who I am, instead of who I'm scared to be.

If I hiked with others, I would not be able to see, hear, feel, and learn without distractions.  Some of the lessons would be lost.  So I hike alone.  Which is why I wasn't particularly excited to take five 13 year old girls into the woods last weekend.

When The Wise One asked for a trip up north with her friends, I searched on Pure Michigan and found Cedar Bend Farm in Mancelona, Michigan.  The Farm appealed to me because we would have the place to ourselves, we could stay in a cozy stone cottage, there are many outdoor activities available, and it is affordable.  I planned the weekend, pleased that my daughter wanted an outdoor adventure.  It was killing me to think I would be spending a weekend in Northern Michigan with no opportunity to hike alone.  This trip was about my daughter, not me, and maybe I could teach her a thing or two about the woods.

The Wise One chose her four friends wisely.  What an amazing group of young girls!  I never heard a single complaint, only enthusiasm for the next adventure.  A snow storm blew in, it was cold and windy, yet those girls stayed outside all day, walking through the woods to the zip line, flying through the trees suspended by a harness while snow smacked their faces and froze on their eyelashes.  Scuba showed them how sound echoes back to them from the top of the steep tubing hill, and a chorus of hello's fell with the snow.  The girls rode the zip line over and over, then hiked up another steep hill to test their physical limits on the challenge course.  Balance, agility, and teamwork produced more giggles, more shouts of achievement.  The Wise One was fascinated with the creek that flowed freely, it's water so clear it almost got lost.  She took a glove off and stuck her fingers into the stream, letting out a little scream at the frigid cold of the water.

After a quick lunch, the girls went right back outside for a scavenger hunt.  I heard their voices from every direction, calling out with excitement over finding a bonus item on the list.  The Wise One could be heard directing the others to different areas (she can be a bit bossy; a control freak, like her mom).  Then they were off to the hill to scream with delight while racing to the bottom on snow tubes.

It went on all day.  The girls stayed outside playing and running and shouting.  When it came time to go home Sunday morning, not one of them wanted to leave.  One girl declared this trip should become an annual event.  Next year, the girls agreed, we should stay for a week.

Scuba left with the girls, but I stayed behind.  I had planned all along to leave a couple of hours after them, to give myself time for a quiet hike in the woods.  As I climbed up the hill under the zip line, the wind blew the branches of the bare trees against each other like strings on a violin, creating a haunting melody.  It was in this moment that the woods taught me something new.  For the first time ever, I was lonely in the woods.  The music played by the wind was missing the sound of young girls' laughter.  It was only when they were there with me that the melody became a symphony of beautiful sound echoing through the trees and wide open fields.  The woods are meant to be shared.

For the most part, I will continue my solitary walks in the woods.  But I learned something about myself last weekend.  There is a time for the sound of laughter and joy.  I don't have to be alone to love the woods, I can share my time with others and still learn, still laugh, and still enjoy.  The Wise One and her friends gave me a gift with their shouts of delight, and as I walked back to my car to leave, I swear I could still hear their echoes.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cedar Bend Farm: Good Place, Good People, and Good Times

It can be tough to plan the perfect weekend for your daughter's 13th birthday, especially when she is inviting her four best friends along and you are on a budget.

We tossed around ideas like a concert or musical.  Maybe a Spa?  The indoor waterpark had already been done by another girl.  I turned to my best resource, Pure Michigan, and using the search function, found the most perfect place I could have imagined, Cedar Bend Farm.

I arrived in Mancelona, Michigan ahead of my husband and the 5 young teenage girls to set everything up for the weekend.  The owners of Cedar Bend Farm, Dan and Alice, greeted me with a fire burning in the wood stove in the most delightful stone cottage.  Their welcome was as warm as the fire, and as Alice described the opportunities for fun and excitement, I was amazed at how much Cedar Bend has to offer!

Dan and Alice purchased the farm about 10 years ago, after making the decision to live a more faith and family-centered life with their seven children.  Originally established as a Christian Retreat Center, Dan and Alice continue that work while also exceeding their goal of providing a simple and wholesome setting for Corporate Retreats, Survival Weekends, Romantic Getaways, Family Reunions, Youth Camps, and any other idea guests can come up with, including a 13th Birthday Party.  They work to plan a stay tailored to each guest's needs and wants.  Dan and Alice will be as involved or as removed from guests' stay as asked.

Some of their annual groups include the Freshman class from Spring Arbor University, for a Christian Retreat.  There are groups that come as missionaries to donate time and work toward renovations at the farm.  Through fundraising, Dan and Alice welcome children each summer to the Dollar-A-Day Outdoor Camp.  Alice told me that nothing makes her happier than to see kids discover the outdoors and learn how to run, laugh, and play in nature.

For our weekend, Dan and Alice made many suggestions and helped me plan the event to keep the girls happy.  When the girls arrived Friday evening, Alice joined us in our lovely cottage to teach them how to hand-churn their own ice cream.  They got an idea of how hard life used to be when they had to sit on top of the handle while churning, because they weren't strong enough to hold the lid down.
We later served the ice cream with birthday cake, agreeing it was the best ice cream we ever tasted!

The next morning began early as Dan took my husband out to the woods to train him in the use of the zip line and challenge course.  The girls walked down the lane, past the chapel, and into the woods to begin their adventure.  The temperature dropped, the snow blew in, and we spent the entire day outdoors with the girls on the zip line - on which they amazed Dan by going three different times! - and testing their strength, balance, and agility on the challenge course, not realizing that they were learning how to work together to accomplish a common goal.  My daughter and her friends wandered throughout the 112 acres looking for items in the scavenger hunt, then used the tubes Dan had prepared for them to race down the hills, over and over again.  At night, they ran to the barn to play hockey and football.

They never stopped moving and running and playing, outdoors, from sun up until way past sun down.  We all slept very well.

Some parents think I'm some kind of event planning guru, but the fact is I can find any place in Michigan to suit any need simply by entering a few keywords into the Pure Michigan website.  Using tags like "nature",  "Northern Michigan", "outdoor activities", and "crafts", I found Cedar Bend Farm, and created an affordable and fun weekend for the girls.  It was easy!

If you are looking for TV, Saunas, Gourmet Meals, and luxury accommodations, look elsewhere.  But if you are looking for rustic charm with basic amenities, a peaceful setting or outdoor adventures, and excellent hosts, look at Cedar Bend Farm.  Dan and Alice are good people who work hard to give you the best experience you seek.  They discourage excessive drinking and brazen behavior, but if you seek a quiet weekend with a loved one, Alice won't mind if you bring a bottle of wine.  Don't plan on watching the Red Wings game on TV, but be prepared to play a round or two of broom ball on the frozen floor of the new barn.  Anyone looking for a quiet weekend with family or friends in the summer, or an opportunity to hone your survival skills during a cold winter, or an outdoor adventure for the less adventurous, or a corporate outing,  Cedar Bend Farm is an affordable place with flexible hosts who will go out of their way to make your time on their farm exactly what you want it to be.

For more information, or to schedule your perfect getaway, call Alice at (231) 587-8126.  Or visit the website,

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dear Mother Nature: You Win

Last Sunday I prepared for the deadly storms that raced across the Midwest.  When it was over, I touched base with my family members, making sure all were safe and suffered no ill-effects from the storm.  Everything was fine, and I had a little haha moment for being smarter than Mother Nature.  But she wasn't done with me yet.

Late Sunday night, my mom called and said their power had gone out.  After the storm, the winds picked up and blew trees down on power lines all over our county.  By Monday morning, still without power, my parents' house was getting cold, which is not pleasant for my 95 year old grandmother.  In a rare moment of selflessness, I offered to pick Gran up and bring her to my house for the day.  I wanted her warm and taken care of, and also thought it would be fun to spend a day with Gran.  She's a pretty fun lady.

That one moment, the quick decision to do something nice, led to a series of events that would throw me so far off schedule I won't be caught up until next week.

I brought Gran to my house Monday morning, thinking I would set her up in our big Lazy Boy in front of the TV, since she has a regular schedule of shows she watches everyday.  I wrapped a blanket around her, poured her a glass of Pepsi, and turned the TV on.  First she asked me to turn the volume up.  A little more.  A little more.  Just a bit more.  By the time I reached volume level 70, Gran said, "that's good."  It was really, really loud.  Then she asked me if I could turn the heat up a bit.  Certainly. I cranked the thermostat to 70 degrees.

The loud TV bothered me; I like a quiet house.  No big deal, though.  Gran is 95, I'm sure her hearing isn't as sharp as it used to be.  I can handle one day of a loud TV.  Then she called to me and asked if the heat could be turned up a little more.  No problem.

This went on all morning, so that by lunch time, the thermostat was set at 78 degrees, I was wearing shorts and a tank top, and covering Gran with another blanket.  All the while Andy Griffith was yelling at me from the TV. Ok, I can handle this.  No big deal.

Late in the afternoon, my parents still didn't have power.  I asked my husband if we could take them and Gran to a cottage on a nearby lake for the night, since we don't have an extra bed.  He made the arrangements, and my mom called from work saying they would be here soon to pick Gran up.

Looking back, I can say coulda shoulda woulda all I want, but the fact is, I dropped the ball here.  I gave my parents instructions for getting into the lake cottage, put Gran in the car, and sent them on their way.  They were going to stop at their house to pack a few things, then head to the lake.

As soon as they left, I turned the TV off and forbid my husband and daughter from watching TV or talking loudly.  I turned the thermostat off, put away the blankets Gran had wrapped up in, and served dinner.  Ten minutes after my parents and Gran had left, the phone rang, and my mom was shouting on the other end of the line "Call 911!  We all fell in the driveway!!!!"  Scuba jumped in the car and took off for my parents' house, I called 911.

Both my parents and Gran ended up in the ER.  I spent 6 hours there while they were bandaged up, cat scanned, x-rayed, and tended to.  Gran had tripped when they got of the car, and as she fell she took mom and dad down with her.  They were pretty banged up, with Gran taking the worst of it.  I felt terrible.  I never should have let them go their house alone.  With no power, it was very dark outside.  What a mess!

It was the wee hours of Tuesday morning before I was able to take them to the lake and get them tucked in for the night.  When we stepped through the cottage door, I was surprised by how warm it felt and to see a fire burning brightly in the fireplace.  Scuba and my daughter had driven to the cottage while we were in the ER and made up the beds, started the fire, and left the lights on for us.  I could have cried at the sweetness of it.

My parents have since gotten their power back.  I cleaned up the cottage, helped them get settled back at home, and brought Gran over to my house and helped her shower.  She said she felt dirty from being in the ER, and I did, too, so I understood her need for a long, hot shower.

I have pretty much lost three work days this week.  I'm not complaining; I am happy to take care of Gran and help my parents out.  But had I been more on top of things, much of this could have been avoided.  I made the mistake of thinking once the storm had passed, I didn't have to be prepared.  If only I hadn't forgotten how dark it would be outside my parents' house with no power, I could have prevented Gran's bruises and cracked rib; I could have kept my dad from tearing his hand up, and kept my mom from injuring her hip.

Life happens, and I roll with it.  But when stuff happens because I didn't think a situation through, I only have myself to blame.  And Mother Nature.

This week has been a good reminder for me.  When out in the woods and the mountains and the wilderness, Mother Nature is unpredictable and unforgiving of those who are ill prepared.  I won't forget that any time soon.  Prepare for the worst of Mother Nature and enjoy the best of her.  And never, ever, assume she is done with you.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

You Can Feel It Coming

I am in the part of the Midwest today that has severe storms predicted with possible tornadoes.  Because I am home, I have taken precautions by squeezing both cars into the garage, out of the way of the dead tree that sits along our driveway.  I put a few things away from the yard, made sure there is water and blankets in the basement, and reminded my husband and daughter which pet to grab if we have to take shelter.  I am all set.

I can feel the storms coming.  It is way too warm outside for November, and a cold front is going to clash with this balmy heat wave in a couple of hours.  The winds are bending the trees and removing the last of the leaves from the brush.  Debris skips across the yard and driveway, and the birds have disappeared.  There is an ominous feeling in the air.  Mother Nature is gearing up to unleash her fury,   which holds a little excitement, a bit of worry, and a healthy dose of respect for her power.

Being at home is the best place to be when a severe storm attacks.  Sometimes I experience their wrath while hiking or camping in the wilderness, and the sense of excitement is replaced by a sense of survival.  There is no safe place from lightning, falling branches and trees, and tornadoes if you get caught outside.  So what do you do?

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Since beginning a routine of hiking and camping two years ago, I have read many articles and consulted with Michigan DNR officers regarding storm safety.  The general consensus seems to be "do the best you can" to get to a safer place.  I always have a plan of being aware of my surroundings so that if I get caught in a storm, I will remember where I last saw that depression in the ground, or

preferably a large hole with a ridge of solid ground around it.  I would make my way to the closest area where the ground offers some protection, huddle down, and wait out the storm underneath a plastic tarp.  In the case of lightning, I have been told to squat on the balls of my feet, with as little body contact to the ground as possible.  Of course I always have a first aid kit, water, and a little food in my pack.

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Having experienced a few storms on camping trips, I know that the tin can is not the safest place to be, and there have been a few frightening times when the lightning hit awfully close, or a large branch has narrowly missed the Airstream as it crashed to the ground.  During these times, I am all too aware of the deadly affects a strong storm can have.  At home, though, it is not so scary.  We have a safe shelter below ground with adequate supplies and an impending storm can carry a sense of excitement with it.  As long as I know where my family and pets are, we can weather any storm.

I feel this one coming.  It feels powerful.  With just a little bit of preparedness, we will be fine.  I think sometimes my family forgets that my time in the wilderness has taught me how to be prepared and survive.  I know how to handle this storm.  Bring it on, Mother Nature, I am ready for you.  Be safe out there today, folks, and watch for the storm, because here it comes!