Up North!


Recently, my family took our summer vacation to Northern Minnesota.  As part of our “get to know our state” year, we visited a few places we normally wouldn’t go.

Our first stop was Duluth and the surrounding State Parks of Jay Cooke and Gooseberry Falls.


The beautiful Gooseberry Falls.  As you can see, you can get right up close to it!

Here is the Swinging Bridge at Jay Cooke Park.


In the City of Duluth we saw Glensheen Mansion.  This beautiful historic manor is on Lake Superior and has all its original furnishings.  They offer multiple tours each day. Have you gotten the chance to explore local historic homes in your area?


Here are some shots of the beautiful interior.



The grounds were gorgeous too.


Unfortunately, much of the grounds still need to be restored.  Someday.

As we progressed along on our trip we also got to see Leif Erickson Park on the shores of Lake Superior.  There they have a beautiful rose garden.  Check out my next post to see more shots!

To be continued…..



Landscape & Porch redesign.

Well, we finally got it done.  We finished the redesign of our front yard/porch and side yards.  Want to see what the old area looked like?  You can see it in the archives.

Here are our final results:


Here is our front yard. The biggest expense was the concrete and stone work.  We had our porch doubled and the round sitting area added so we could see kids playing in the street.  What you cannot see in this photo is the concrete walkway we added to the front of our garage to the left.  In cold climate, you have the freeze and thaw cycle that caused your concrete, ground, and blacktop to settle. We had to dig up that part of our blacktop and put in concrete.



I will find a bench for this spot next summer!


Above is our Eastern side of the house.


This is our Western side of the house.  Here we pulled out a huge bush and straightened out the lines of the bed.  The we turned it into a garden.  Let me say, I was worried that nothing would grow.  My fears were unfounded!  My garden is growing like crazy!

In all we pulled out about 75% of the plants.  Our landscaper added several, and a layer of black rock.  We have since added Allium, Iris and tulips.  I am so pleased how it turned out.  Now we are working on the backyard ourselves. It will take a lot longer, but we don’t have any masonry or large bushes to remove. i think that once we get to adding more rock and edging we will have to hire someone.


Quote of the Week


I believe that there is a longing in my soul that searches the whole world. -Soren Kierkegaard


Coming Clean: Part 3 Anxiety continued.


Once I was finally diagnosed, after numerous and horrendous tests, I started treatment.  This is when I learned about family secrets.  I didn’t know Anxiety and Panic Disorder ran in my family.  It was a big secret.  I understand. It is not easy to acknowledge mental illness.  I see people’s eyes get big if I mention I have it.  You have to be careful, even in this day and age people will avoid you. No one understands, or knows actual facts about the illness.  They only know rumors, misinformation, and sensational stories in the media.  Nobody steps away from a cancer patient. They will run a mile from someone who has a mental illness.  It doesn’t matter if they have an illness that can harm others or something like a food disorder.   To them, the public, all people with mental illness should be put away.

So many brilliant people have mental illness.  Famously, Winston Churchill had severe depression.  Yet he lead the world out of WW2.  Know what a person has and how it affects their function before you judge. More people are suffering than you realize.

It took  6 months of talk therapy.  Then gradual desensitization.  Finally, I was able to return to school.  It was a battle each day. I used as many relaxation techniques as I could. I’d had bad days, but I’d muscle through.  What I learned is that I could take a lot of stress.  More than most.

My second major panic attack came when I was living overseas (six years after the first).  I had many small episodes and experiences, but not as debilitating as these major attacks. Fortunately, I  recognized it and sought help with the local medical establishment and school counseling. Here as in America, the medical establishment was reluctant to give medicine to help you cope.  This was the mid-90’s.  Like today, people think it is more a personality defect, you’re weak.  It’s not, it’s a medical condition where you brain lacks chemicals.  Nothing more.  If anything, my personal opinion is people with anxiety and depression have more of a backbone than the general public. However, the doctors would not give my anything temporarily to help calm me down.  I just had to suffer through it they said. It was exhausting and hurtful. The physical symptoms are the worst.


My parents told me to come home as I obviously couldn’t handle it.  I refused.  The only way I wanted to come home was on a stretcher.  I wasn’t going to leave.  Fortunately, my school counselor was so helpful.  I had so much on my plate that she told me if I wasn’t so tough I would have crumbled earlier.  I needed that.  Desperately.  It was one of the few compliments I’ve ever received.  I made it through.  I also started yoga which helped tremendously. It wasn’t a physical fitness yoga, but a relaxation yoga.  Which is what I needed.

I finished my degree and flew home.  Then only a few weeks home, I was in a car accident.  That, along with my families reaction caused me to have another major panic attack.  It lasted for weeks.  My family said I didn’t need any medical help b/c I could just get over it.  Why pay money.  Since I had no health insurance myself, I didn’t have much of a choice.  Each day was so difficult.  I really pushed myself to function hard.  I was an intelligent, competent, hard working, what could possibly be wrong?  Each day I pushed through.  Then I enrolled to finish my second degree in another state.  My panic and anxiety followed.unsplash28




Quote of the Week


When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends-Japanese Proverb


Quote of the Week



Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; suddenly you are doing the impossible.-Francis of Assisi





Don’t let schooling interfere with your education. -Mark Twain


I love the zoo!


I have to admit I took my son to the zoo a lot when he was the kid.  I enjoyed watching the animals, as much if not more, than he did.  So this weekend my family had the chance to take our nephew to the Como Park Zoo in Saint Paul,  Minnesota. I’ve been to Como many times before.  This time I was hoping to see butterflies and the primate babies. It did not disappoint!


Above in beautiful Orange is the Julia Longwing (Dryas julia) found in North and South America.

I loved all the flowers in the Butterfly tent.  It was so beautiful.  How can you not be happy when you see butterflies?


My favorite butterfly, the beautiful Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) from South America.  Of course this sneaky little one would never let me catch it with its wings fully extended.


Here’s Como’s newest member of the Gorilla Group.  Last time I saw this little one, she was being carried around by mom.  Now she’s up and climbing all over!


After indulging in some cool treats like ICEES, we went on a few of the rides at ComoTown.

Then on the way out, I went through the butterfly tent one more time.  Who wouldn’t love these delicate and colorful creatures?


My final photo is of the cute little baby orangutan who never fails to endear herself to the visitors. Can you blame them?


What is your favorite animal?




Every man dies, but not every man truly lives. -William Wallace

Coming Clean: Part 3. Mental


I have struggled with how to write this entry.  This is not easy for me to talk about.  It’s not easy to discuss.  It’s scary.  It’s taboo.  It will make people look down upon me or question me.  It can effect my life in so many negative ways I wasn’t sure what to say.  I wasn’t sure if I should say anything.    It’s embarrassing, and a source of anger for me.  It can negatively impact things, events and people in my life.  People will not want to be around me as a result. What to do?

Part of the reason for me writing this blog is to get things out.  To clear out my “soul” if you will.  I don’t know if anyone will read this or not.

So I guess I am here to say I have mental illness.  It runs in my family.  It is not some moral weakness.  It is not for some lack of a backbone.  Quite the opposite.  I am one of the strongest, toughest people I know.  I suffer from panic disorder with a mild depression.  In my case it is which came first, the chicken or the egg?  In this case the panic or a mild depression.  In many cases these two diseases coexist.  This is a serious illness.  It interferes with your ability to live a normal life.  It’s not just nerves.  Oh, how I do wish it was just that!

Panic is feeling terror without a cause.  Not seeing it mentally, but feeling it physically.  Imagine yourself being carjacked.  That absolute terror you have at just that moment when you realize what is happening is what a panic attack is like.  The only difference is a panic attack can happen waiting in line at the bank, watching a movie, driving your car, anywhere when you are doing anything.  Your panic button is wired wrong.  Your not actually afraid of anything.  You feel terror and all the symptoms that come with it.

Your heart races and may skip a beat.  You sweat, feel chills, feel like you are about to throw up, your throat tightens, stomach pains, dizziness, and so much more.  Many people think they are going crazy, having a heart attack, or are about to be physically ill.

I remember when it started for me.  It was Easter week, my freshman year of high school.  I started to feel like I had the flu.  It snowballed from there.  I ended up missing the entire second half of my freshman year of high school.  It was awful.  My symptoms came and went.  New ones were added.  A lot of people thought I was making it up.  I wasn’t.  People thought I didn’t want to go to school.  Quite the opposite.  I missed my friends and I was falling behind.  I was scared I would be held back. I wanted to go.

I went to so many doctors.  I went to the hospital every week where they filled vials full of my blood.  I was tested for everything from Lupus to AIDS.  All tests came back negative.  I went to numerous specialists.  I was even sent to a childhood disease specialist.  I was the oldest patient.  Everyone else was a toddler.  They didn’t even have gowns to fit me for the physical exam. I had to hold two tiny sized child ones over my privates.  I was in tears a lot.  I hated myself.

My family was supportive in the beginning. When they thought I had an “actual illness” instead of a mental illness.  They thought I was weak, being dramatic, lying, lazy and so much more.  My illness was a inconvenience for them. I was such a disappointment.  I needed to be punished and ridiculed.  They treated me miserably.  In some ways they still do.

The irony of it is this disease runs in my family.  It’s genetic.  You would think that they would understand.  They didn’t and they still don’t.  I have stopped sharing things about it with them.  I lost over three years of my life to this disease. The panic and anxiety were so bad I couldn’t even leave the house.   Everyone kept saying to me “just toughen up” or what do you have to be “upset” about.  This is a disease, just like cancer or diabetes.  You don’t say to a diabetic “Suck it up and get off insulin!” do you?

To be continued…






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