Weekly Photo Challenge: Beginning

The temperatures had already started their downward trend, -8°F with a –28°F wind chill when this photo was taken mid-afternoon from Duluth’s Brighton Beach, as the sea smoke rose from Lake Superior.  The beginning of the far-reaching cold snap had arrived.

Lake Superior's Brighton Beach

Minnesotans may be hardy stock, but this impending deep freeze has even prompted the Governor to close all public schools in the State tomorrow.  A wind chill warning is in effect through noon on Tuesday, with potential wind chills of -50°F.

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
~ John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Beginning” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

The original fifty shades of gray . . .

Lake Superior, near Cascade River

Sometime the horizon is the thinnest of lines, a subtle demarcation separating the heavy sky from the frozen winter lake.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Horizon” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Life Lessons: Success Is Letting Go of Perfection

I was disappointed when the sunset did not contain the brilliant colors it had displayed earlier in the week, as I stood on the icy shoreline of Lake Superior with camera in hand.  I thought, “Is this all?”  Seemingly flat colors, uninteresting cloud formations, no breathtaking moment as the sun dipped below the horizon.

lEarly Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

But, the longer I stood on the shoreline, the more I appreciated the “imperfect” scene.  I knelt on the hard-packed ice and snow to examine the delicate mounds formed by the water and wind, battling to keep hold as Spring fought to take over, and enjoyed the solitude for a time.

Early Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

As I sat and watched the changing light across the ice, I thought about conversations my oldest son and I have had in recent weeks, as the scores from his standardized college tests are revealed and he continues evaluating where he might be interested in applying to college in the Fall.  We are blessed in many ways — so blessed we are unlikely to receive any financial aid from colleges to help with expenses, and not so blessed that we can write  the check for private college tuition, room and board.  Closing that gap between the reputable public universities in Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin, and the private college price tag if that is where he decides he wants to go, comes down to our son successfully competing for merit scholarships.

Early Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

We are proud of our son (OK, son #2, if you happen to actually ever come across this blog, we love you and are proud of you, too, but a post can only be so long) — he has done his job as a student, challenged himself with his coursework, is a competitive athlete and knows how to draw a bow across a string to produce a beautiful melody.  He also realizes that there are many others who will be applying to college with resumes just as impressive . . . which brings us back to standardized test scores.

When I learned of his ACT score, I was pretty darn impressed.  However, being the over-achieving first-born, his immediate reaction upon reviewing the score sheet was, “I can do better, I am going to take it again.”  Frankly, he does not have a lot of room for improvement, but while my husband and I are trying to support and help provide guidance through this process, we do not want to dictate.  So . .  . registration for another round of the ACT was completed, with SAT scores pending in the meantime.

Early Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

This week, the SAT scores were published, and he again did very well.  I gently suggested he just “leave it be.”  He was well within or above the upper half or top quartile of the statistics for schools he is considering at this point, and he meets the thresholds for most competitive scholarships.  We talked about what the numbers meant, we revisited our discussions regarding what he is seeking in a college environment, and what were his impressions of the schools he has visited thus far.  Is another point or two on the tests, when you already have crested the threshold most folks consider more than sufficient, going to truly be a game-changer?  Are you wanting to do it to seek another feather in your cap without really needing that feather?  Could your time be better spent elsewhere?

We had a similar discussion earlier in the year concerning an opportunity for a select talent-based group that would involve a significant amount of additional time investment his senior year.  I finally asked him — “Do you want to try to qualify for this opportunity for the sake of being able to tell people you are talented enough to do so, or because you actually want to spend the time doing that activity?”  It would mean taking time away from other activities, perhaps detracting from the level of performance he desired in those other areas.  I reminded him that leaving room for some fun and downtime as the year goes on is important, as well.

Early Spring on the shores of Lake Superior

So it goes with life, as we feel the pressure to climb ever higher on the career ladder, add another degree to our resume, lend our name to another non-profit or corporate Board of Directors . . . the list goes on.  Is that pursuing success, though, or pursuing society’s (or friend’s, family’s) concept of what success should be?  Life is about trade-offs.  We can perhaps have it all, just not at the same time.  Having it “all” or being a success is not always the corner office, not always the top box on the organizational chart.  In my office hangs a wooden sign on the wall with a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”  To me, that is success.

Saying something is “good enough” is not always failing to realize your potential, sometimes it is recognizing that “good enough” is being the best you are, whatever you are, and being content with that.  Continually finding reasons for discontent, for imperfection, living life by a string of “if only” thoughts, is a great way to let life pass you by before you realize it is gone.  Even in high school, while we want our children to fully realize their talents and opportunities, setting goals and aspirations for the years beyond high school, we hopefully also want them to spend some time enjoying life now.  Life can quickly become a treadmill of expectations, with that perfect concept of “success” always just out of reach.  Step off the treadmill once in a while, maybe even explore the road less traveled, and help your children learn to do the same.

“The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Ciao! ~ Kat

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lost in the Details

The North Shore of Lake Superior is a place where one can easily get lost in the details.

North Shore of Lake Superior in winter

While its beauty is great when taking in the broader view, it is when one gets down on hands and knees, and really examines the shoreline up close, that the exquisite designs of nature are discovered.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” ~ Albert Einstein

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Lost in the Details” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

Life is Made up of Moments

“Life is made up of moments, small pieces of glittering mica in a long stretch of gray cement. It would be wonderful if they came to us unsummoned, but particularly in lives as busy as the ones most of us lead now, that won’t happen. We have to teach ourselves how to make room for them, to love them, and to live, really live.”

~ Anna Quindlen, A Short Guide to a Happy Life

cascade lake ice eve 2_21_09

For this week’s “Reflection of Gratitude” I have shared another photo from that memorable winter sunset on the frozen surface of Lake Superior.  The first photo I shared from that day can be found here.  These photos remind me of one of those times it was necessary to make room for a glittering moment, watching as the sun set and trying to memorize every detail of the complexity of nature’s beauty.

Ciao! ~ Kat