Chip and Putt

By Lisa Lysen (Published)

“Fore!” Now that’s not typically a word you associate with snow and ice, but then part of the charm of cottage living is that things here are seldom typical.

Although technically it’s spring, a frosty layer of white still covers a barren, frozen lake, spreading seemingly forever toward the distant horizon. Loose powdery snow gusts and swirls everywhere, powered by biting, cold winds.

And at first glance Lundar Beach looks as deserted as you’d expect on a blustery day such as this.

But a little closer look reveals movement; colorful, unusual movement, parkas topped with scarves and toques, gloved hands clutching bright yellow tennis balls and golf clubs, even a boat paddle or two.

Since the 1980’s when the Danielson family hosted their first game of Snow Golf, getting out onto the lake to play a round and welcome spring to the beach has been an annual event for this up beat and fun cottage community.

Part of the challenge each year is that springtime in Manitoba is famously unpredictable. The last Saturday in March has sometimes been as friendly and welcoming as the cottagers who make Lundar Beach/Sugar Point their haven, other times as frigid and cold as, well, springtime in Manitoba.

But whatever the weather may be, it doesn’t stop the fun! Snow Golf is a tradition everyone looks forward. It’s a great way to get together after a long winter and “break the ice” so to speak. 

Hosts Renee and Barry Danielson, with the help of neighbour Scott Ward are careful to take precautions and make sure no actual dangerous ice is ever really broken.

Holes are drilled the day prior, carefully watched and always given a final inspection before the entertainment begins.

And whether its creativity or plain old cabin fever, a big huge part of the fun is planning the “golf course” each year. Imaginative homemade obstacles and improvised hazards are always being added to the venue, keeping things entertaining and interesting.

Snow Golf can look a lot like Snow Mini Golf, which captures the attention of players of all ages and and makes it a great family event.

Some years donations of discarded Christmas trees have provided “forests” to maneuver, another year a toilet seat appeared! Did someone say that was the “turd” hole? Yikes!

Names are drawn from a hat, mixing up teams and making it easy for everyone to mingle and chat after winter’s hibernation. Most years that works very well but occasionally the wind has joined the party, grabbed the hat full of papers and scattered golfers everywhere!

A “concession stand” is set up where players meet to warm up over snacks and beverages and brag a little or laugh a lot as they compare games and score cards.

And of course a day of playing outside on the ice is always better with a big pot of chili waiting inside a warm and welcoming cottage!

An after-party where everyone can kick back, relax, and enjoy chatting about some of the great putts and drives of the day is as much fun as golfing on the ice.

It all paves the way for warmer days to come, setting the mood for summertime sunshine!

Another Variety Club ‘Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve’ Success!

by Lisa Lysen

“Variety Club, the Children’s Charity” once again ran a very successful “Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve” campaign, raising money for children in need during  the “Home Reno Show” at Winnipeg’s Convention Centre.

Offering raffle tickets for a $7500 kitchen makeover along with selling this year’s edition of the Variety Club’s famous “Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve” annual gold heart pins, Variety volunteers once again proved just how huge Winnipeg hearts truly are.

The Winnipeg Convention Centre was host to The Home Reno Show April 22nd and Variety seized the opportunity to raise funds in aid of some of Manitoba’s most precious citizens, our kids.

When asked how raffle ticket and gold heart sales were going, event coordinator Ashley Irwin responded “Great! Winnipeg loves Variety and all the good we do for kids and their families. Winnipeggers know we touch so many lives in a very special way and they support us. It’s wonderful. And of course the prize is awesome, too which never hurts!”

But not only are Winnipeggers happy to support Variety with their wallets, it seems many are more than willing to give of their time as well.

“Our son has congenital heart disease. That’s devastating news for any family to hear. But we’ve been lucky. He’s 12 now, doing great and he’s just such a joy. Life is better for us because Variety helped make it that way. Thanks to them, he’s able to go to camps, meet other kids who are dealing with the same thing, we’ve been able to connect with other parents, so many things! Variety’s just been such great support on so many levels all along the way. And with everything Variety’s done for us, a few hours on a Saturday afternoon selling raffle tickets? No problem!” explained one father volunteering.

Another volunteer’s story “We lost our beautiful little niece to brain cancer when she was only 7 years old, but Variety Club made a big difference in her little life. I began volunteering when she became sick actually, because my own kids wanted to do something for their cousin. We didn’t have money to give but we did have time. The first fundraiser we ever worked was selling calendars with her picture in it. She was so proud of that calendar! She just loved it. It made her feel very special and she was so excited to be “famous”. And it was really great she had that, you know? She was also sent to Disneyland with her family, maybe by “Make a Wish Foundation” … I’m not sure … I think she actually loved that calendar more! That was almost 30 years ago. I volunteer every time I have the chance.”

But it’s not just Winnipeg’s sick kids The Variety Club helps. Variety’s mission is to make life better for all children who may be less fortunate in any way.

Winnipeg’s Variety Club currently funds music therapy programs in twelve city schools, hosts over 100 kids at camps each summer, provides year-round educational entertainment through a special ‘one of a kind’, free, wheelchair accessible, interactive historic adventure park at The Forks, reaches over 1200 inner-city kids with its “Muikants” program, offering music in day cares, as well as cheering up over 10,000 sick kids annually at St. Boniface’s pediatric clinic with visits and performances from their therapeutic clown program.

But the thanks truly belongs to Winnipegger’s and their kind, kind hearts. Without that none of this would be possible. Because certainly, what Winnipeg may lack in warm weather, it makes up for with warm hearts.

And that’s easily proven by the number of Winnipeggers wearing Variety Club’s “Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve” gold heart pins for our children!

A Little Fun with Make Believe …

By Lisa Lysen

“NO! This can’t be true!” my mind is screaming.

This kind of thing doesn’t happen to people like me.

I’m ordinary, after all. I always have been. Ordinary and actually just a tiny step up from “boring”, if you have to know the sad truth … actually I’m not sure I’m even a step up from “boring” to be honest but since I’m trying to work on my self-esteem issues, let’s go with that for now.

But seriously! How can this be? I never get mail and yet somehow today not only do I have mail but I have a letter telling me I’m my Uncle John’s sole beneficiary!

So now here I am holding a pretty official looking promise of a $3.2 million inheritance in one hand, clutching the door frame in case I pass out with the other and wondering “Who’s Uncle John?” I’ve never even heard of him.

This is crazy. Why am I not just tearing this paper up and throwing it in the recyclables? Obviously it must be another scam. There’s so many of them everywhere now … usually on the internet, though.

Seriously, even if it looks legit enough it just can’t be, right? If I had a rich relative I’d know it? Someone would have told me about him, I’m sure. I’m crazy to give this a second thought.

What’s Mom’s number? She’ll know.

I hope she’s taking my calls again. She was pretty ticked after I blew off her last dinner party. But my book was just getting so good and her friends … well they really aren’t my type at all … so over-involved in everything and deep into the political/super- informed/ ‘look at me – I have an educated viewpoint’ scene.

Did I mention being ordinary and not really a very big step up from boring? Lol

Okay, here it is, in my contacts.

Ringing, ringing, ringing … Oh man! I probably should have called and explained why I missed that damn party but then, really, she always sees through my fake migraines so what good would that have done anyhow?

“Mom! Hi! I was afraid you weren’t going to pick up!”

******

“Sorry! I mean, of course I know you’d always pick up but I thought maybe your ringer might be off or something, you know?”

******

“What? Yah, it’s been a little while I guess. Sorry. I mean, I guess I’ve been pretty busy lately and yah, these migraines kinda get me down (Why did I SAY that?). But actually the craziest thing just happened! I have to ask you …”

******

“Sorry! What? A dinner party … again? Tonight? Oh, man … I don’t know if I can, Mom.”

******

“Yah, I know and I mean I am sorry … But I just have this crazy thing right now I’d like to talk to you about.

******

“What? Yes I’m still vegetarian, well vegan actually. But that’s okay. I don’t want you to make anything special for me, you know? … I don’t even think I can come anyhow…”

******

“But can I just ask you this one thing?”

******

“What? Sure, sure. I understand. You have shopping, but I’ll be fast. I promise, just a quick question, okay? You’ll still have lots of time to shop, okay?

******

“Thanks, Mom. I appreciate it. I know you’re very busy. Okay … It’s going to sound nuts. But is there any chance, I mean is it possible at all that maybe … oh this is so crazy … do I have an Uncle John I don’t know about?”

******

“Mom? Are you there? Hello?”

******

“Mom? What just happened? I thought I lost you”.

******

“Yah, look, Mom, I’m sorry but I don’t think so”.

******

“Seriously, I just don’t have time to do coffee right now, you know? And aren’t you on your way out shopping anyhow? About this Uncle John guy, though … no such relative, right?”

******

“Oh, wow, really? WOW! That’s kinda crazy. Okay. How ’bout I’ll meet you at the ‘Tim’s’ by you in say 20 minutes? Does that give you time?”

******

“Oh, your hair? Right! Okay. How about 45 minutes?”

******

“Sure. See you in an hour at ‘Tim’s’ then. I’m bringing a letter and a few questions, too I guess.”

******

Honestly! How can it possibly take anyone that long to do their hair? Really! And to just go to a ‘Tim’s’ yet! It’s only a cup of coffee.

But … Wow! I really didn’t expect that! Who’d ever think this family was interesting enough to have any secrets! And a secret long lost relative, yet?

Holy shit!!! He’s real???  3.2 MILLION DOLLARS!!!

Lundar Provincial Park, a Perfect Summertime Getaway!

By Lisa Lysen

The smell of wood smoke drifts in the air as twigs and logs crackle and light up the night sky. There’s nothing like a campfire after a day of swimming and relaxing on the beach!

Lundar Provincial Park, about an hour outside Winnipeg, with its 32 electrically serviced campsites offers a little piece of paradise to anyone who appreciates a relaxing getaway.

The picturesque sites are always well-maintained, the park quiet and clean. Add to that the shallow lake, sandy beach, playground and volleyball nets and you have a perfect place for a family holiday.

Lake Manitoba is ideal for swimming, kite boarding, tubing, canoeing and kayaking. Bike and walking trails through Lundar Provincial Park and along the rustic shoreline lead to cottage country on either side.

A scenic walk along the area’s Interpretive Trail will give you an interesting hour or so of exploring bush and adjacent marshland. Deer are plentiful, as are birds, chipmunks and squirrels, but be prepared to meet the occasional snake!  

Every day a beautiful new masterpiece paints itself across the sky as the sun sets over the lake. And morning sunrises are equally enchanting. Heaven for anyone with a camera or just a love of nature!

But as secluded and far away from hustle and bustle as it all feels the towns of Lundar and Eriksdale are each only about 15 minutes away. Shopping, hospital and other amenities are easily within reach.

There’s also a golf course just a short drive down the road, complete with clubhouse and restaurant. And if the weather takes a turn for the worse, taking in the Lundar Museum can liven up a rainy afternoon.

For so many reasons, Lundar Provincial Park is a great getaway destination!

For George … Because His Blue Jays are Bluer!

A home anywhere is made special by the people it entertains. Today I’m posting this for George and Kathy who have always made our home more special be being our neighbours and by becoming our friends. We’ve laughed lots over the years! They’ve encouraged us and given us opportunities to share and enjoy the experience of our book. They make great pizza! Who doesn’t love a neighbour who makes great pizza 🙂 They’ve shared their beautiful family with our beautiful family.  Sadly, George has not always been as willing to share his birds with us … which has led to even more laughing! (Because they like us better … but don’t tell George … lol) 

“SUGAR POINT’S BIRD ESCAPADES”

By Lisa Lysen (Published)

“Hey! You’re stealing my birds!” a voice bounces playfully across the deck, as a little hummingbird floats between yards. Good neighbours and humour always livens things up at the cottage.

But with all the birds in the Interlake, we’re in no hurry to send our visitor back, even with that cute comment.

An hour’s drive from Winnipeg, Sugar Point on Lake Manitoba offers the beauty and solitude of lake living within arm’s reach of the city. And a big part of what keeps things interesting is the birds coming and going as the months roll by. 

There’s beautiful plumage and colour all year long with constant seasonal change-ups of purple martins, robins, finches, flycatchers, barn swallow and grosbeaks, to name only a few of our treasured guests.

Each year in a quick, fiery blaze of orange and black Orioles make our home theirs for a short time, enjoying citrus fruits we put out. 

Sugar Point is on a migration route, giving this piece of Lake Manitoba an extra dose of charm. As much as possible,the landscape is left intact. There are bulrushes and rocky patches all along the beach, the rugged beauty often adorned with birds fishing, swimming or simply sunning themselves, enjoying the day!

The natural splendor of the shallow shoreline is a draw for swans as ice comes off the lake in early spring. They stop only briefly on their way north but enjoying their company for the time they share with us is pure magic.

And seeing them lets us know better weather is just around the corner!

Taking a walk along the same bewitching shoreline in summer can suddenly take a very scary horror movie twist when a booming “Baah-RONK” echoes from surrounding reeds. Especially when frogs and all those gentle marshy sounds go deafeningly quiet!

As much as it may sound like a swamp monster, the bittern actually looks more like a harmless reed from a distance. A dull brownish color, it stands with long neck stretched upward, beak pointed toward the sky. Bitterns eat small aquatic creatures hence the sudden quiet when one starts talking.

Sugar Point Trail mid-summer is an enchanting sight. Bulrushes sway rhythmically beneath yellow-headed blackbirds. The bright yellow, dark black contrast against wheat-colored reeds and greenery spreading out over fields paints a spectacular prairie scene. 

Red-winged blackbirds join in, adding a cheerful pop of color to the mix. Blue herons fish in ditches and sand hill cranes feast on crops in bordering fields. Many varieties of woodpeckers can be seen climbing trees everywhere.

Over the summer we watch families of ducks and geese grow up. We also host pelicans and eagles. Sandpipers and plovers bounce along the beach and there’s certainly no shortage of seagulls.

Killdeers practice their broken wing routines leading real and imaginary predators away from nests and hawks frequent telephone poles watching for movement that might become prey, as do ravens, magpies, even owls.

Starlings chase crows across the sky, a reminder that there’s a constant battle going on within the bird world.

As fall becomes winter the bird scene changes drastically but stays colourful and entertaining just the same.

Chickadees, blue jays,cedar waxwings, wrens and nuthatches take turns at the feeders with juncos and finches. Sparrows join in, hopping up and down, chattering. Before long the snow is covered with tiny footprints and scattered shells.

Whatever the season, it’s great laughing with neighbours and enjoying the bird escapades at Sugar Point. 

 Thanks for the beautiful photo, Wayne … even if George’s are bluer!

Conversations With God

by Lisa Lysen

Long before I’d ever read about the loving power of “The Universe”, heard of Quantum Physics, learned how through meditation one can connect with an Inner Being or Higher Power; Long before I knew the difference between new age or old age or ice age, I had discovered that if I was in desperate need of love and guidance, consolation or wisdom, I could call out with my innermost thoughts and I would receive an answer.

I was a very little girl when I discovered this and since my parents had taught me to say my prayers and told me we are never alone; that God and Angels are always with us, watching and waiting to help, I came to know this experience as prayer.

And I came to believe my prayers were being heard and answered by God.

I say this because I want you to know I don’t challenge other beliefs or ideas on this subject. I only want to explain where mine come from.

I’m 60.

50+ years ago and up until relatively recently my claim that my prayers are always answered I felt was viewed as naive, preachy, sometimes foolish, insecure, often, I’m sure as “crazy” and I think maybe occasionally as being quite full of myself.

And so I learned quickly not to talk too much about it.

When people would comment that I always made good choices, I often felt guilty not owning up to why. But experience had taught me that I’d most likely be dismissed or laughed at or that any number of other uncomfortable situations might arise if I tried to explain, or, really  “give credit where credit was due”.

And my happiness and everything about the security of my world has always depended on my prayers and my knowledge that my prayers are answered.

And so the subject has just been too close to my heart to risk opening up to ridicule.

This is where I have to make a very important point.

And I have to make it because I’m sure my inexperience and shy awkwardness about talking about my answered prayers has often sounded as if I’ve been saying I always get what I ask for or that God always gives me what I want.

That is completely NOT what I mean!

It’s 100% NOT what I’m saying and it would most likely have made a total disaster of my entire life if it were even remotely true.

I’m talking about when I’ve had a problem or needed help in any way, when I’ve been sad, when I haven’t known who to talk to or where to turn, talking to God about it has always provided me with the perfect and the best solution.

And whether or not I follow the advice I’m given has always been up to me, too and that’s also very important to say.

I’ve learned that if I pray /think “God!!! “This” is happening! Help me! What do I do?” the first thought, and I mean, the very first thought, the first instinct I have as soon as my question is out there is ALWAYS the best thing to do.

And I know this because far too often I haven’t done it.

When I haven’t done it, there’s been no repercussion from an angry God. There’s no lightning bolts or dire punishment. Sometimes things fall into place and sometimes they don’t.

But without fail, at some point I’ve always realized that if I had only done what that first instinct or thought was everything just would have been so much better so much sooner.

And as I’m writing this I’m realizing I still can’t find the right words to explain what I mean; to properly describe this beautiful phenomena. It’s not tricky or difficult by any means and I don’t understand why I’m having such a hard time expressing myself.

Maybe through journaling my conversations with God I will make more sense.

I should add, too that I pray lots. Much of my thinking is prayer, actually. I thoroughly enjoy my conversations with God.

And now I’m rambling a bit but I’ve learned from this that God (or The Universe or Higher Power, Inner Being or Source or whatever name you call this rose), along with tremendous wisdom, also has a pretty cute sense of humour.

Quite often when I’m sure the sky is falling and I’m ranting in my head about it, my “first thought” is something ridiculously cute or funny and I just stop taking myself so seriously.

And, really that in itself is such good advice and often the only “solution” I actually needed!

I’m also very sure praying as often as I do isn’t necessary. I know there are amazingly great thinkers out there who use their thoughts for so many more useful things than I do! And I think I’d be very scared if I didn’t believe this.

So I’m not saying do it my way – Pray all the time. Not at all!

I think I’m saying that in the quiet recesses of our minds, if we can learn to trust it, there is guidance and there are answers.

This isn’t a new revelation, I know.

And I’m sure you can call this intuition, give it any number of different names and explanations, or think of it as my parents taught me, simply that we are never alone because God and Angels are always watching over and helping us.

I’ve been told I should learn to believe in myself and not think something so other-worldly is at play and I do think there is a lot of merit in that, too.

 Confidence and self-love are extremely important.

And being encouraged towards those things are empowering in ways that are life changing! 

But I really do very much enjoy my conversations with God and since I’m a stickler for being stuck in my ways and this really works for me, it’s just the way I do things.

What I’ve also come to understand is that whatever your own beliefs are, your own beliefs are incredibly important. Your fundamental belief is your fundamental belief and it’s that for a reason!

It’s our fundamental beliefs that make us individuals.

And the fact we have so many different beliefs is all part of our charm as humans.

Having said that, I hope if you continue to read my stories I won’t offend or be dismissed for calling what I do praying and for saying God answers my prayers.

I do know is that what I experience is very real and that it happens all the time for me and believe me, I’m no one special, so if it happens for me it’s available to us all.

And I think maybe that’s the biggest part of what I’m saying here that really matters.