It was a balmy 18 degrees at sunrise in Lake Geneva, so I did a t’ai chi move to help my circulation get moving. Suddenly there was a HUUUUUGE cracking noise, the ice was shifting, so I began to blow kisses to my mom, because this is her lake, and I miss her a lot xx
I wasn’t always afraid of the water, I grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, swimming in the crystal clear water and other area lakes at every opportunity and truly loved being a mermaid. But then came the dawn of JAWS and my swimming career was effectively halted. I remember trying to drown out my fears by singing to myself as I swam, in an attempt to not think about that shark and it’s reign of terror, but I sank in the fear of it all. One last swim in Crystal Lake at summer’s end, a snapping turtle poked it’s head up in front of mine and snapped at me — it was officially over. More sea-terror movies were rolled out, which effectively sealed the deal: Barracuda, Piranha, JAWS 2, JAWS 3, JAWS 4 (*cough*), Creatures, Tentacles, Titanic, ETC., I became content to stroll along the shores, even in the most docile of waters. The fear was big and silent and I gave into it.
Because if I swam, it would look like this:
I sometimes get a little embarrassed that so much of my life became unhinged (and is still unhinging) after my mom’s death. I hear a voice back there “yeah get over it already, it’s been two years now, do your thing whatever, stop talking about it!”
I understand grief knows no bounds, yet why am I quick to scrutinize and criticize myself when I find myself still grappling with it? Oy, the personal pangs that tug at me in the wee hours of the night when no one is looking, oy oy oy.
It’s true, I still struggle with grief and the confusion from everything that is now different in my life — I am mostly okay with my evolution, but some confusion remains. I’m certain many of these changes were inevitable because of my age ta boot; as I approach 50, I understand with more compassion than ever that many women simply must re-invent, re-discover or re-up, or literally lose themselves. I have found many of Dr. Christiane Northrup‘s books and workshops have helped me sort my way through this with better clarity and assurance I’m not losing my marbles. My mom’s death was perhaps the the dime I turned on, bringing with it new opportunities and exciting adventures, although — in hindsight — I can see it was going to happen no matter what. I was ready to shed my skin.
On Mother’s Day, 2013, I put my mom’s ashes in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on a brutally cold and windy May day. Her ashes flew up and around me like a tornado before they landed in the lake. It was surreal, for real. I was surprised to learn there’s a boat service available for people to put ashes in the lake, and I sometimes wonder how many people are in that lake?? Ashes-to-ashes, I don’t really care, but I do like that my mom is there. She wanted to be in Green Bay because of the Packers and I decided that was too far; I wanted to keep an eye on her in Lake Geneva. So began my frequent visits to the lake.
There is an amazing 22-mile walking path around the entire lake and as the cold spring turned to summer, I began to sink my toes into the water. And then I dangled my legs and stared deeply at the water. One day I jumped in and cried. This happened several times. I had lost so much… jobs, addresses, people, things… it was terribly scary because I had no idea how I would climb out of this hole, but I had faith and this lake helped me. I felt tingly energy all around me and something about my existence had been elevated — it was hard to explain, but everything was different. By mid-summer, I was helping myself to absent-summer-resident’s personal boat docks and full-on jumping into the cool waters of Lake Geneva and feeling the calmest I had ever felt in my life.
The summer of 2013 was an amazing, amazing summer and I am forever be grateful for all of it’s lessons.
I left Illinois mid-November of that year and life became very, very different. I had made a promise to myself that the rest of my life would be “magical”, although I wasn’t even sure what that meant, except that it was fodder for jokes — and I love good jokes. Guess what? My life has become magical in many ways, and while there are still mundane and challenging things about it as there should be, I am totally enjoying what my life has become. Call it magical or intentional, I love they way I feel in my skin these days. I miss the Midwest and my days in Lake Geneva — Chicago too, but life has carried on, as it should, and my dreams keep me close to it all. Someday I will be back.
I am having the good fortune of spending this winter in Mexico with Reed; first at the house in San Miguel de Allende, and then traveling through Central Mexico while he attends to business. Situated in a lovely situation here in Bucerias, Nayarit, Mexico, this past weekend we made plans to spend the day on a boat with Chica Locca Tours that promised whale watching, water activities, food and drink, snorkeling, cave diving; a day out at sea on a very comfortable boat. This group completely delivered and we had an amazing, amazing day. Well I did, for sure.
My fear of open water is still pretty HUGE and when we arrived off the Marieta Islands (“there’s only one way to get there, and that’s to swim for it!“), it was up to us to gear up and swim to the island, where the fun would continue. I did not read this bit in the brochure and my heart sank a mile or two when this was mentioned. I put the fins and snorkeling gear on and became a blubbering, quivering lip awash in a terrifying wave of fear. Everyone was jumping in the water and I stood at the edge of the boat, trembling — NO I could not do this. It was too far away and it was OPEN WATER for Christ’s Sake and surely I would be eaten alive by some monsterous sea creature before I hit the island. This was the OCEAN, did they not realize??! I whelped to the guys I could not do it, no way, my heart was going to explode out of my chest and I was not strong enough. I waddled to the back of the boat to take off my gear and pout it out.
I looked over to the ladder on the side of the boat and said, “fuck it, I will hate myself if I don’t do this.” With that, I jumped into the terrifying (not!) waters and swam to the island. Holy Moley it was gorgeous!
It was a gooooooooooooorgeous adventure and I am sooooooooooo glad I jumped in! We swam to the island and explored the caves and tunnels and dark holes that I thought for sure electric eels lived in and were waiting inside to kill me or eat me and guess what? They were no electric eels waiting in darkness to kill me nor eat me because they couldn’t care less about me! I was the happiest clam in the ocean this day!
After this awesome adventure on Gilligan’s Island, it was time to swim back to the boat. Oh shit….. who moved the boat soooooooooo far away?? It’s even farther away now because some dumb law says it can’t be too close to the island. I was never going to make it and oh my gawd I can’t breathe and so why not kick wildly and claw at the water as if there’s a magic rope to lead me home …
I totally panicked and gasped for air as I attempted to swim for several minutes; holy Mackerel I was scared! Wait. Stop it Meag!
I put my goggles on and looked down into the water and saw holy mackerels but no sharks. I knew I had to stop this panicking and rolled onto my back and looked up at the sky. I needed to breathe more normally and take myself out of the equation. A song came to me that I sang in the temescal a year ago; we sang this as a way to pass the time while sitting in pitch dark, soul-cracking, sweltering heat:
- One little, two little, three little Indians
- Four little, five little, six little Indians
- Seven little, eight little, nine little Indians
- Ten little Indian boys.
- Ten little, nine little, eight little Indians
- Seven little, six little, five little Indians
- Four little, three little, two little Indians
- One little Indian boy.
Whad’ya know, I made it to the boat safe and sound!
Again, I was the happiest clam in the ocean! I have been walking on my tippy-toes ever since this glorious day, even though every muscle in my body is sore, but it is a good sore, a sore I am grateful for; a soreness that reminds me I swam to the damn boat, RAWR!
I realize there are people in today’s world who are facing much bigger fears and maybe not by choice, but by fire and I by no means intend to compare to anyone’s challenges. This was a first world challenge, for sure. I believe I become a better person, first to myself and then to others, if I take an opportunity to break down any personal barriers that have held me back in life, or have kept me feeling fearful. There is a freedom that has grown within me in the past two years that has altered the course of my life and I, for one, choose to celebrate all of these personal achievements, great and small.
When I think back to the last half of 2012, it occurs to me that I was in a rather suspended mode and did not make many waves as I waited for yet another holiday season to roll on by. I knew something was up with my mom, but I was not allowed to get too close, so I numbed it out of my mind. I remember walking out of my office and I could feel my feet walking down the sidewalk, but it felt like my head was staying in the same place. I was trapped in a tunnel. It’s all rather surreal when I think back, because it was literally right after the holidays ended that my mom went south, after her youngest brother went into the hospital and was told he had about a week to live. Tom did not make it past three days and the night of his funeral was when I first had to bring my mom to the Emergency Room. They told me they couldn’t keep Mom, they said excruciating pain was not enough of a reason to admit someone. WHAT?
It was a snowy Friday January evening; I took the bus home across the Loop and arrived at my West Loop neighborhood in record time. I didn’t want to go upstairs just yet; I don’t even know why because I never usually hesitated. I walked through the alley behind Girl & The Goat because I didn’t feel like looking at all the beautiful people on Randolph going to dinner. I smoked a cigarette in the alley and it tasted God awful, I couldn’t even finish it but I held it and looked at it in the falling snow. I hated that thing. I flicked it at the dumpster and made my way home.
Twenty minutes later the call came in that Mom was really sick and I needed to head out there. Ninety minutes later I was there with mom.
I took a leave of absence from my job. A job I knew I was not right for, but so many of us know that we are not right for a job and do it anyways because it’s 2013, and dammit we should be grateful that we have a job at all, so fake it ’til you make it. All bets were off when my mom got sick, I knew the gig was up. I will make amends for this when the time is right.
Now it’s the middle of May and I have radically changed almost everything about my life. My current reading and doing list:
Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
(Eat your veggies, ignite your spark and live like you mean it!)
The Rainforest by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt
(The secret to building the next Silicon Valley)
Soak Your Nuts
(Karyn’s Conscious Comfort Foods and Recipes for Everyday Life)
Astrology for Beginners (just because!)
The Holy Bible (I pick it up, give it a side-eye, then toss it aside)
Modern Qi Gong by Lee Holden
(a 27-part online series to learn & live the basics of Qi Gong — wonderful to learn how to breathe from my toes and awaken the Qi)
Mother Daughter Wisedom by Dr. Christine Northup
(also attending the Doctor’s 4-part workshop on Lightening the Motherload, which has been super super helpful and freeing)
I’ve changed my eating, drinking, breathing, address, job and spare time since my mom passed away. I go to yoga, I meditate with Buddhist Monks, I hike the hills (mounds?) of McHenry and Walworth Counties and every day I learn something new about where our food comes from and how screwed up the American food system is today and I am trying to discover a healthier ways through this. I teach social media at a creativity incubator and also am doing in-store demonstrations for a smart phone company (I made this connection while at a funeral, so always remember to keep your options open).
I was Meagan the Vegan many years ago when I lived in San Francisco; however things were so very different back, but then again not really. The cool thing to do was to jump on the “John Robbins, “Diet for a New America” bandwagon; I did it and I loved it, but I think I took everything too far as I was known to do. This was when I first learned how wrong the American diet was (is!), how proper food combining was necessary to thrive, all about food allergies and how poisonous Baskin & Robbins ice cream is to a body. I soon became convinced I was addicted and allergic to everything under the sun. I attended 12-step meetings, saw several therapists, tried different religions, worked with shamans in the forest, went to women’s drumming circles, had soul retrievals, studied expressive creative dance, did ecstasy naked on the beaches of Big Sur with hippies, rode my bike all over Northern California (mostly because I didn’t have a car for the first two years) — honestly it was an incredible time in my life and I will never forget the San Francisco years. I worked in SOMA’s South Park neighborhood (the exact park where Twitter and Instagram were born!) as a 35mm slide designer and then I tripped the holistic light fantastic at night and on weekends. I lived in Mill Valley with my pastry chef boyfriend and rode my bike to the Sausalito ferry to ride across the bay each day, right on past Alcatraz Island — could there be a more beautiful start the morning? No! It was cold of course, but absolutely gorgeous.
So here I am going green again twenty years later and I am basically re-learning everything — which is the cool part because I always love a challenge, and naturally it’s all different. My mother is dead now.
I don’t say that flippantly. Losing my mother was such an incredible kick in the guts, I was so not prepared. Even though I thought I was and had been preparing myself for the past two years. The lessons have been hige; my mom’s death is teaching me so much about myself and about life. I am extremely grateful for this bittersweet message that has changed my life.
I am not saying that it isn’t difficult for sons, but the mother-daughter connection is such a powerful connection, even if the two were not friends. My mom and I were occasionally friends, but mostly not. I’ve been amazed at some of the stories I’ve learned in the past few months; both heart -breaking and inspiring. Never in a million years would I have thought it would be me to have a complete meltdown after my mom died, in fact I would have wagered big money that I would NOT be the one to lose it. No Siree Bub, not me.
I did lose it. But I quickly crawled up to gasp for air and asked for help in turning my life around. I was in bad shape. Not on the outside necessarily, but my insides were all topsy-turvy. I was empty and then shattered. My mom apologized for being so mean to me for so many years. She apologized. I laughed at her when she said it, but it was a nervous laughter because I did not know how to respond. Then I saw the look in her eye. She looked away and stared out to nowhere with an empty sadness in her eye. I knew she meant it. I knew right then that she was going to die soon.
I was fired twice in 2012 from two shitty jobs, and these back-to-back firings were very challenging to recover from their blows. I didn’t get fired for lack of trying, that’s for sure. I took this last job out of desperation — even my co-worker mentioned that I seemed “very hungry” when I first started working with the group. It’s true, I was literally hungry and scared because I had to sell my truck, my jewelry and anything else of value to stay afloat. It was very scary and I avoided calling my mom for several months because I did not want her to worry.
My Monk buddies tell me there is no such thing as being “balanced”, there is only “balancing” – I agree! I will continue to attempt to balance things through thick and thin, but I realize there will be challenges and setbacks, along with the successes, and perhaps those setbacks may require a strawberry sundae. It’s starting to sound less and less appealing but perhaps some rainy day may call for a cheeseburger to make things feel alright.
I couldn’t be more inspired than I am right now to live a right life. I don’t expect perfection, in fact I don’t want perfection — I want the real deal. I intend to remain soft, spongey and teachable as I enter the autumn of my life. I want this to be the best time of my life and live well for both myself and my Spirit Sister; my mom Juls.
May has finally warmed things up in the Midwest after a never-ending winter, and now the buds, blossoms and green fields are singing everywhere — I have even spotted a real live elbow or two (a sure sign of spring) while out and about. I am on Month Two Point Five of my “time out” from the city and I continue to make good on the promise to myself that I would not get bored. Outside of work and school, I intend to find new people, places and things and interesting things to do. People live here for a reason, right?
I’ll be honest; Northern Illinois bores me to absolute tears. I know I am not long for this area because I am here for a reason and I am dedicated to discovering things that I had not known while growing up, nor back for ocassional visits. I’ve officially made peace with Woodstock, but c’mon you all drive me crazy Illinois.
When I go to grocery stores and ask if they have organic vegetables, they look at me as if I am the Creature from the Black Lagoon. A produce guy said to me, “I’ve been eating these pesticides my whole life and nothing has happened to me!” I laughed, said “me too!” and sashayed away. We’ve all been eating them but now it’s time to stop, Bubs! I don’t expect it to be Organic Town USA here, but I do enjoy the conversations it can encourage. Northern Illinois has a huge resistance to it.
I have never understood McHenry County and probably never will. I went to the local community college because I heard they had a map of all the county trails but when I pulled into the main parking lot, I almost fell out of my car. Literally. They had created a mock-cemetery in the front yard of all the babies aborted. There were vicious signs everywhere. I was aghast. At the community college. eeee-gads. I’ve often commented that it feels more like Texas here than Texas.
There is something about this county that just does not want to be budged.
So be it, I am only a visitor.
My temporary explorations must carry on! The curious mind has pushed me across the border to Wisconsin, once again. My ex-sister-in-law Wendy and her family live in Linn Township and we have long considered each other as family, even though technically we are no longer. Wendy’s oldest son, Jackson, now five, has autism and recently they added Inka, the German autism service dog, to their rowsy family. Inka was trained in Germany and continues her training locally yet has a fairly substantial bill to support her services. Wendy and her neighbors are really good about creating events to support each other and a few weeks ago they hosted a partial-walk around Lake Geneva to raise funds to defer some of Inka’s training costs. The walk ended at Foley’s Bar & Grill where they offered a special Reuben sandwich for the day and sponsored a meat raffle. yes a meat raffle, say what?! Tables & tables of meat were raffled off, I’ve never seen anything like it. I won a huge a Wisconsin salami.
So this was not only a great event to be involved in, it totally sparked my memory that there is a 20-something-mile path that goes all the way around the lake and it’s open to the public. Over the past two weeks, I have hit this trail and it is SPECTACULAR.
As you make your way around the lake, homes that are not visible from anywhere but the lakefront are visible, as are their gorgeous landscapes and lake-faring accouterments. No two homes are the same and the path is varied and semi-rugged, by going through golf courses, flat beaches, endless green lawns and beautiful lakefront patios and so on. I recommend remaining very respectful because you are very close to people’s homes, but there certainly are areas you can sit back and take in the views. I sat at William Wrigley’s boat slip to take in the sunset — very serene indeed.
More information in case you want to plan this thing out a bit more than me:
Naturally I made a Vine:
I look forward to learning more about Lake Geneva this summer, especially because this is FREE! Things just taste better when they are free, yahvoh!
I am completely grateful my health has returned (WHEW!) and my legs are strong once again and ready to hike, hike hike. Ever since I read Cheryl Strayed’s “WILD” when I was in Lake Tahoe a few weeks ago, I am feeling compelled to plan a super-big hike, but not entirely the same as Cheryl Strayed’s hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.
I back-packed through Northern Arizona several years ago and hiking with a monster-backpack is very hard work — I felt very tall and my legs were never stronger. It’s hot and dirty, dusty and smelly but I absolutely loved the experience — even though a mountain lion growled at me and I thought I was going to die right there. I didn’t.
That was an experience a woman should experience in her twenties, and that’s about when I had mine. Except I think I was 32. I am looking to do something different now and will continue to research and plan.
My legs are ready to climb things again, this much I know. A treadmill will not cut it.
Next up, mom’s ashes are going for a swim.
Thank you for reading my words, I do appreciate it. xo
My mom, Juls, was a wonderful quilt maker and won many awards and accolades over the years for her art — but never really told anyone outside of the family. Even at her wake, neighbors that she lived next door to for decades had no idea that mom was such an accomplished quilter. Cousins, aunts, even one of her brothers had no idea that this is what my mom did up in her little condo; in a work space roughly about 6 by 6 feet. To see all her quilts up on display was really rather moving for me, I had never seen them in this light and it blew everyone away.
Juls was able to blow the room away at her wake because as an ode to my mother, I filled the “wake room” with her quilts and it looked very much like her own personal art gallery. It was really beautiful if I may say so myself. Quilts on walls, on chairs, on couches, on podiums, she was everywhere. Relatives asked all day and night, “What are you going to do with your mother’s quilts?” My brothers were ready to bring in an auctioneer that night! I don’t know exactly what I am going to do with her quilts, but I certainly am exploring some options.
A quilt appraisialist said that they should go to either the Illinois State Museum in Springfield or to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. This appraisalist never met my mother, not many did, but she certainly was familiar with my mom’s work. Juls was the recluse quilter that quietly won all the awards at the McHenry County Fair each year and came in to pick up her ribbons on the Monday after the fair — and into the fabric cabinet the ribbons would go.
The reasons why mom hid for so many years are starting to become clear to me as I sort through her things and empty out her life and it’s not always easy because I get upset with her. I wish she had let me in on some of her thoughts and not let them fester. So stubborn. Stone Head.
I always threatened my mom that I would expose her craft when she was gone and she would say, “What will I care then?” Well, ummm true but that time is here and now the first thing I had to do was photograph the quilts. This is not as easy as it sounds, as her quilts are huge, well most of them at least, and huge means heavy. Thankfully I was able to use one of the studios at the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (where I am now also teaching and studying, but more on that later).
I sold some of my mom’s quilts at her estate sale but have hung on to a good many. I learned that my mom had quite a following and when word got out that some of her quilts were up for sale, people came from all over the area and her estate was quickly emptied out. I am pleased about this. As well as a little freaked out by her empty house that I can now hear an echo when I talk. I wonder if I made it all happen too quickly and now have very little of her left.
I am not a pack rat. Now I am preparing to contact the museums as soon as I have them all properly inventoried. These are just a few.
My mom was never big on talking. It drove me crazy my entire life. When I saw her quilts up on the walls of the funeral home, I saw that mom said everything through her quilts. There are layers and layers of her emotions and thoughts in her quilts and I will do what I can to get people to hear my mom.
Aw Juls. You finally said something. xo
I grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois, which meant that Lake Geneva, Wisconsin was just a hop, skip and a jump to get across the Wisconsin border, where things were a bit more readily available in my younger years. It also felt like a world away from the cornfields and cows of Crystal Lake because the town has always felt like vacation, with the availability of taffy, fudge and paddle boats in the quaint and cute little downtown.
My Junior Prom was held at The Abbey and I have attended many of public and private events there over the decades, all with very fond Wisconsin memories, but none recently until I was invited by Duong Sheahan, of Live Healthier & Happier, to spend a complimentary weekend this past June to get to know the new & improved Abbey Resort and Avani Spa in downtown Fontana, Wisconsin on Lake Geneva.
The Abbey looks just as I remembered it from years gone by when driving up to it, and especially the atrium dining room that gives it an old world feel. But that’s about where my recollections stopped because it has been spruced up and remodeled to accomodate all your comfort and technological needs to enjoy a peaceful stay. There is wifi coverage in the rooms but not so much in the lobby, which is fine, unless you’re there for a heavy online stay. But this is Wisconsin so why not relax a bit and enjoy the sights and sounds.
Just as you may find it difficult to find margarine in butter-rich Wisconsin, you won’t have a hard time finding a New Glarus Spotted Cow beer, as it is only sold in Wisconsin, and many of us Flatlanders are quick to stash some in our suitcases when headed home because it is that delicious (also the allure of having something that’s hard to get is brilliant on New Glarus’ part).
So after the drive up from Chicago, a delicious and huge brunch spread at the Fontana Grill, I was ready to relax and see what the Avani Spa had to offer. I opted for the Aromatherapy Retreat Wrap and yowzah it was delightful. I could barely walk afterwards, I had apparently released that many toxins, which is the point of it. After being scrubbed with salts and then massaged with oils, you are then wrapped in hot linens and a foil blanket and then left alone to bake. Because it can be a little claustrophobic, the masseuse does not leave you for too long to make sure you don’t go berserk. I did not, thankfully. I then slithered to the indoor pool and enjoyed some cucumber water until I was stable enough to carry on with my day. It was a much needed and delightful treatment, I would like it have it every week if possible.
There were four of us in the group and after our spa treatments, we all went our separate ways to explore or relax or whatever we wanted. I chose to grab a bike from the recreation center and rode around the lake until I was informed that no bikes were allowed on the path; it was a walking path, so I jumped off immediately and rode the back streets of Fontana. Again it was lovely and I’ll always be grateful that this little peach of a town is in Chicago’s backyard, yet far enough away to feel like you are in Germany or something. ha.
After a rest-up and refreshing, we all met for dinner at the Fontana Grill and it was a delicious meal that stretched over about three hours. It’s moments like this you realize you are not in a big city; the courses are parsed out and you’re forced to talk to your friends or family; whomever you are dining with. All of our instincts were to say, “c’mon let’s move this thing along!” But instead we rolled with the punches and enjoyed a fabulous seafood dinner and delicious wine suggested by our server. And for some reason we acted like silly gooses before we went in for dinner, I suppose because WE CAN!!
The remodeled rooms are beautiful at The Abbey and of course the free wifi kept me there probably a bit longer than if there was not, and after a good night’s rest — something powerful about that Wisconsin air that knocks you out — we met for a yoga class with Julie, the Director of Events at The Abbey. I t was lovely to start the day this way, and we were all super hungry by the time we got to The Waterfront Grill for lunch and a trip wrap-up.
It was fantastic to spend this weekend at The Abbey and to see all the efforts they have made to enhance and beautify your stay with them. They have also made some great strids in jumping into the world of social media; they hold photo contests on their Facebook page, where you must guess where a photo was taken to have the chance to win a gift certificate for the spa, and they have joined Instagram, where they post gorgeous photos of the property and events. This past week on Twitter they held a “Your Experience Photo Contest” where you had to capture the best of your Lake Geneva experience for the chance to win a night’s stay at the resort. They boast a lively Pinterest board and also have a Youtube channel, highlighting events and reminders that even in winter you can have a blast in Fontana.
I heart Wisconsin; always have always will. It’s a great get-away from Chicago and there’s something for everyone to do. My sister-in-law has recently purchased a house just off Linn Pier in Lake Geneva, so I look forward to spending more time up there in the coming months. I want to see it in the winter as well!
For me personally, a country drive is sometimes the best meditation of all….
The Abbey Resort & Avani Spa
269 Fontana Boulevard
Fontana, WI 53125