Good Neighbors Add Allure to Summit Lake Wisconsin

Summit LakeWe used to be the only cabin on our side of the lake and I liked it that way, but when people built cottages next door, I discovered Summit Lake’s beauty magnifies when shared.

In 1952 my grandparents bought the log lodge peeking out from behind the pines on the point across from the island. They turned it into Camp Ney-A-Ti Boys’ Camp. The camp used to be the only sign of civilization on the western side of the lake.

In 1964, when my grandparents sold the camp and 40 acres, they had the foresight to save a 125 feet of lake front property on the far edge of their land. Then they built our little red cabin. On some else’s land. They were shocked to find out someone else owned that lot, so they lifted the wooden cottage and moved it over 50 feet.Summit Lake cabin

That landowner build a cottage on his land and generations later, we became friends with his grandchildren’s children. Then our children grew up together over lazy, fun-filled summers. The path through the woods between our cabins remains well worn. Instead of playing hide and seek of childhood, the “kids” sit on the screened in porch debating solutions to problems of the adult world.

We are the only flatlanders (Illinoisans) amongst the Wisconsinites; they accept us as long as we wear our Greenbay Packer caps.

A deputy sheriff lives on one side of us and a lawyer on the other. If we get in trouble with the lawman on our left, we could seek counsel with our neighbor on the right side to bail us out. But as grandchildren of Coach Mac, we would never consider breaking the rules.

Surprisingly, as much as I liked the idea of being alone in the woods, I discovered it is nice to have neighbors.

We hail from different cities and walks of life, but Up North no one cares where you come from or how much money you make, as long as you share the same values – respect for nature and community spirit.

kids of the lakeThe lake ‘hood children have grown up becoming doctors, nurses, plumbers, firemen and teachers. If the “kids” were ever Up North at that same time, we would have a “cabin” town of skilled professionals to cope with any illness, injury, wildfire, flooded basement, or backed up toilet.

With trees and foliage growing so thick, you don’t have to see your neighbors, who are never nosey, but if you do need anything they will be there.

At one time or other everyone has rescued my Frenchman when his catamaran capsized. All the neighbors have a story to tell about how they towed the yellow sailboat safely to shore behind their pontoon sailing Summit Lakeboat.sailing Summit Lake

Another time a neighbor helped jump-start my sister’s car at dawn in the dead of winter. And if you need to borrow a chainsaw, a shovel or a cup of sugar, just ask. Neighbors willingly share, sometimes even offering beds in their cabin when your own overflows with friends and relatives.

“You know the rule,” the guy next door says, “if my boat is out, and you want to ride or ski c’mon on over.”touring Summit Lake

Summer folks. Summer friends. Good neighbors. Good people.

Along with the wilderness and wildlife, human beings are part of the Northwood’s blessings too.Grandparents & kids

Call Me Crazy – Celebrate Women Changing the World

Call me crazy, but I have always acted outside the box beginning in early childhood, when no one was going to tell me that I couldn’t throw a football, shoot a basket or run a mile. I was born with a feisty, can-do attitude that served me well in the face of naysayers.

In pre Title IX days when girls were shunned from sports, I stood on the sideline of the boys’ pick up basketball games and demanded, “I got next.”

In a time before accolades, scholarships and professional contracts, I trained hard for no tangible reason. In girlhood, I ran miles across the sidewalks of Sterling, defying the whistles, catcalls, and laughter by putting one foot in front of the other.

In college, while my counterparts partied, I shot hoops in a drafty gym to prepare for next season where we endured conditions more grueling than the game driving ourselves through blizzards to play basketball in empty arenas.

After my team in first women’s pro league (WBL) went broke, I had a good cry. Then I got back up, boarded a plane bound for Paris to play ball in the land of wine and cheese, totally ignorant about French language and culture.

At a time when most women stayed near their hometowns and settled down with neighbor boys, I moved to Europe in pursuit of an absurd dream to play professional basketball.

When France closed the door to foreign women players, I rode the rails across the border to Germany and learned another foreign tongue and way of life.

In countries where I knew not a soul, understood not a word, I learned to observe and listen.

I saw how people could be so different in language, custom and tradition, yet still so similar in the need to be loved and accepted for who they are.

When a car accident ended my career abroad, I didn’t pack up and go home. I married a Frenchman and stayed put. I carved my own niche as one of the few female coaches in the European international high school league.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=whpJ19RJ4JY

During my career spanning 5 decades across 4 countries, I have worked with girls from around the globe.

I gladly passed on my knowledge to the next generations of female athletes who never doubted their right to play.

Over the years, I witnessed their opportunities grow greater. I delighted in seeing my daughter and nieces play basketball, soccer, rugby, and run marathons. I took pride in watching my former athletes pursue careers as doctors, lawyers, counselors, and teachers.

By going after my silly dream nearly a half century ago, I helped make it easier for every girl to grow up believing her goal was within reach.

Women, daring to stand up and speak out, have made amazing strides in academics, business, law and politics. For so many girls that courage – to do something never done before – was born on playing fields.

I never had the size, talent, or notoriety of our elite athletes of today. I was no Lisa Leslie, Abby Wambach or Serena Williams. I was just a small town girl filled with my own brand of insanity.

But I learned you don’t have to be famous to make a difference. You just have to dream big.

Go ahead call me crazy.

I am kind of proud of the claim.

It’s my birthday. Raise a glass to all women creating change by being crazy enough to believe they can!

Feed Your Soul With Creativity

I am always looking for an interesting person to interview, a new place to visit, a story to share all the while feeling off balance and a little bit loco.

“You develop an extra sense that partly excludes you from experience,” Martin Amis says. “Writers are not experiencing things fully, 100%. They are always holding back and wondering what the significance is.”

That’s me in a nutshell, struggling to experience everyday life, yet capture each milestone and adventure on paper.

“Every person who does serious time with the key board is attempting to translate his version of the world into words so that he might be understood. Indeed, the great paradox of the writer’s life is how much time he spends alone trying to connect with other people.” (A Forest Through the Trees, p. 36)

Looking back at my career, I loved the game of basketball because its fast pace demanded total concentration preventing this dual existence as an observer and participant. I entered the zone – a perfect union of mind and body – and felt peace.

Off the court, stories pinged off my brain like pinballs.

On family trips traveling across America, while gazing out my window I made up tales of people’s lives on plantations down south, ranches out west and Victorian homes on the east coast.

As a kid I daydreamed so often, I wonder how I ever passed first grade.

Globetrotting in adulthood offered endless material for stories. Even standing still in the field teaching PE in Switzerland, my mind wandered to my mountain view where I imagined cows grazing in alpine valleys. Lost in reverie, I’d forget to call off sides in soccer or out of bounds in field hockey until a student complained forcing me back to reality.

To be in the moment is hard for a writer.

Not only am I torn between the different cultural, geographical, and physical worlds of Switzerland, France and USA, but also from the emotional, imaginary ones between living life and recording it.

Yet writing keeps me grounded. I process life through words. Like playing basketball, I enter “the zone.” Without the euphoria. After a writing session, I am spent. My shoulders ache. My back throbs. I need to walk or stretch, loosen my limbs frozen into the shape of a chair.

But writing is a constant battle of wills between the creative brain and the logical one. Why spend so much time doing something that brings no financial rewards and few emotional ones?

I swear off practicing my art becoming locked in writer’s block. But inevitably I return to the blank page because not writing is even more excruciating. Blessed with a curse, my tormented mind is that of a writer, whether anyone reads me or not.

Without writing life seems empty. As if only in the retelling, shaping experiences, can I fine-tune the raw edges of my soul.

Stories unleash the mystery in our existence.

But damned if it doesn’t drive me crazy. Stacked by my bed, crates crammed with thousands of pages of unfinished manuscripts, half bake books, and segments of stories, ferment like a compost pile.

Why bother?

Because language links humanity. Writer friends I encourage you to keep putting your muse to paper; reader friends’ merci mille fois (thank you a thousand times) for honoring our connection.

Why does anyone practice any form of art? Why did my dad paint beautiful landscapes and give them away or my mom spend hours quilting and cross-stitching presents for others? Why does one person garden for hours pruning delicate rose bushes? Or another spend time in the kitchen creating new delights to nourish family and friends?

Creativity feeds the soul. Without it we would starve to death.

What is your passion?

During Winter Trials, Hang On

Winter Trials, Hang OnJanuary it a grueling month filled with the let down from the holidays, fatigue from the cooking, cleaning, shopping, traveling frenzy and from the disillusionment of New Year’s resolutions gone awry. In January, the days are shorter, nights longer. A deep chill penetrates your bones making you long to dive back under your duvet and hibernate until spring. During winter’s tough trials, hang on.

In the winter, our bodies feel older, weaker and wearier. When your joints lock, your muscles ache; your head pounds from the relentless pace, take time to wallow in your misery, and then hang on.

When bad bacteria devours the good, when mitochondria misfire and when every cell of your body feels inflamed, hang on.

When you lose a loved one and feel so bereft you can’t go forward, hang on.

After losing a beloved family member or friend, to think of better days ahead is unimaginable when each hour is so unbearable. With time, the loss will be processed and assimilated into the most poignant memories, but for now reminiscing and crying is the best therapy.

Take time to grieve.

Winter Trials, Hang On

In our smiley-button society, we forget that it’s okay to frown and feel down.

We bury our emotions in too much food, drink, alcohol, exercise and other addictions, anything to numb the pain. But pain permeates. Instead of masking it, embrace it and recognize its value. Our ability to feel emoWinter Trials, Hang Ontions ties us to humanity.

Our electronic world spins so fast, we no longer take time to process those events that most deeply shape us into human beings.

Life is not only holiday gifts, birthday cakes and wedding parties; it is also incurable disease, chronic illness, tragic loss, difficult compromise, and the pain in letting go. Whether waving goodbye to a toddler off to day care, a teen leaving for college, or a sister, daughter, or mother moving away to another state, hang on.

Change is inevitable. You can run, but you can’t hide. Hang on.

This year set aside those well intended resolutions and ignore endless to-do lists. Instead vow to be in the moment. Cherish life in all of its uncertainty. During aches and pains and disappointments and losses, hang on.

Best wishes for 2018. May your new year filled with resiliency, hope and the fighting spirit to hang on.

Winter Trials, Hang On

This Holiday Season Take Time to Play

ChristmasAfter the Black Friday blitz, which surprisingly arrived in Europe, even though Thanksgiving doesn’t exist here, I wonder if anyone else longs for that era when gifts were simpler and often times homemade? Back in the good old days when even adults took time out during the holiday season to play.

Can you remember your favorite childhood Christmas present?

I still cherish Christmas as a six-year-old: my big brother got a stamp collection book, my middle sister a fashion doll, my little sister a Barbie doll case, and I received a pop rifle.

ChristmasThough I may be an anti gun advocate now, back then a toy rifle meant that my family accepted gender equity long before society got around to it. My parents let me be free to play cowboys and kick ball. If I ever wanted I could also play dolls with my younger sisters.

Unlike the electronic games of today, our toys of yesteryear were designed to encourage social interaction, develop creativity and inspire make believe. They taught children how to share, to take turns, to cooperate and to help each other.

How different from the expensive Santa’s wish lists of today with things like Costzon Infrared Remote Controlled Robots, Electric Dog BeatBowWow Interactive Learning Toys, Self Balancing Electric Scooters, Xtremepower Hover boards and LovaBella Baby Dolls that can recite a hundred words and mimic their owners actions.

What does that leave to old-fashioned imagination?

ChristmasIn the 60’s my siblings and I invented games around the Christmas theme. We set up present wrapping stations and cookie baking shops. We enacted mystery stories by pretending to steal “magic” light bulbs from the Christmas tree.

We spent entire days setting up our Lincoln logs, dollhouses or train sets.

We loved it when three generations sat around the kitchen table coloring, drawing or playing cards, especially when Grandpa Mac tried to get our bluff.

Have we lost our ability to play?

Wouldn’t it be more rewarding to engage in a game with a human being instead of an activator?Christmas

As the holiday season arrives with the usual media fueled, materialistic commercialization, find a way to curtail the frenzy, to roll on the floor and wrestle around with your kids.

Take time out to play. Have a pillow fight, a tickle fest, a story swap.

Play an antique game of Twister, Clue, Monopoly, Life or Mouse Trap.

Turn off computers, cell phones, electronic games, tune out social media and focus on family and friends.

 

Have Yourselves a Merry Little Christmas.

Slow down, step back, savor the season. Have fun! I’ll be back in 2 weeks.

Sterling Memories – Hometown Imprinted in Heart

Sterling Memories - Hometown Imprinted in HeartNo matter how far we have moved away, those stellar Sterling memories of our hometown remain imprinted in our hearts forever.

We grew up in a blue collar town founded on the Rock River and fueled by the steel industry. From Hezekiah Brink’s simple log cabin built in 1834 in one of the most fertile areas on earth, the small farm community grew to a bustling metropolis, a bedrock of manufacturing and steel once nicknamed the Hardware Capital of the World. During the late 19th and early 20th century, Sterling expanded quickly with the founding of Northwestern Steel & Wire, Lawrence Brothers Hardware, and the Wahl Clipper Corporation.

Most of us kids raised in the 60s and 70s came from modest families. We grew strong raised on powdered milk, baked potatoes, string beans, tomatoes, and whatever else we could grow in our garden. Everybody’s mama knew how to make hamburger a hundred different ways. Baloney on day old Wonder Bread became a lunch staple.

We obeyed rules. We never skipped school. We rarely swore. The only thing we ever stole was third base in sandlot baseball. We attended church on Sunday, said please and thank you for every little thing, and politely requested to be excused from the table. We were never dismissed from dinner without finishing our milk and clearing our plates.

Newly invented black and white TVs became popular during that era, but the picture was so poor and choice of channels so limited that no one became a couch potato. Too many more interesting adventures awaited outside our windows. Back yards were for ball games; neighborhoods became parks where we explored. The only bullets we dodged were imaginary ones from our cowboy rifles. Playing outside was safe even after the street lights came on.

Like food and clothes, toys were limited too, so from an early age we learned to take turns and share. Riding a bicycle was a rite of passage. A driver’s permit a sacred privilege. As soon as we were old enough to push a lawnmower or babysit a toddler, we were earning our own money and learning to save our pennies.

Sterling Memories - Hometown Imprinted in HeartThe highlight of our childhood was entering the halls of the Sterling High School, a red brick building that looks every bit as stately as an Ivy League School. The SHS sports facilities put small colleges to shame.

We were proud to fill our trophy cases with championships and cover our fieldhouse walls with conference banners. Although half of us were forbidden to play competitive sports pre Title IX, once that law passed in 1972 our school became one of the first to provide equal opportunities regardless of gender and race.

Between Westwood, Duis Center, the YMCA, Sinnissippi and a dozen other Sterling Memories - Hometown Imprinted in Heartparks we learned to play early on. We never realized how spoiled we were in terms of public recreational centers. Today our high school sports facilities are so outstanding opponents kiddingly call us Sterling U. The recently renovated stadium looks stunning.

Traditionally we catered to our strong football teams of boys who now have the luxury of playing under the lights on astroturf. Back in my day we ran on a cinder track but today, local kids continue to break records on DuWayne Dietz all weather, royal blue running track. But no thrill was greater than watching those Golden Girls basketball players making history as Illinois 1st ever State Champions back in 1977. With the steel industry dying, the economy failing, the town struggling, that team united the community and inspired hope.

Sterling Memories - Hometown Imprinted in HeartNow half a century later walking down the streets of my childhood, the single story ranch homes with one car garages look like match box houses.The soil has settled and the foundations appear to be sinking, the sidewalks shrinking. Trees, mere saplings during our youth, now form a canopy over the street.

After living abroad for nearly half a century, it is hard to imagine going back home. So many of us moved away for education, employment, love, and family, but we all look back fondly and agree Sterling was a good place to grow up. Our heartstrings remain strongly attached to our old hometown and a way of life where solid values were instilled and we knew right from wrong. Mainstreet remains the heart of America, and the memory of Sterling still beats strong in ours.