Lessons from the Lake: 5 Things Everyone Needs to Know

Lessons From the Lake

The plan for the summer was to shift from weekly to biweekly blog posts.  In theory, it was a good idea and it was my intention after my last post in June to be back after the 4th of July.  But, you know what they say about the best laid plans.  So, here I am, almost two months and four lakes later ready to share with you a little of the wisdom my time at the water bestowed upon me.  Here are my lessons from the lake.

Lessons from the Lake – Listen to your body

It all started with our first vacation of the summer.  We were packing up, heading to my in-laws condo in the Lakeside Chautauqua on Lake Erie for a week long vacation over the fourth of July.  While I was packing I began to experience severe back pain. The kind of pain that stops you in your tracks, causing you to catch your breath and all but double over. I couldn’t identify the cause, I hadn’t lifted anything heavy or moved in such a way that would have pulled a muscle. Frankly, I was at a loss.  I did the best that I could as I finished packing, stopping periodically as the pain came in waves but continuing to move forward.  I grabbed some food, ibuprofen  and a diet Coke to wash it all down with and then we all settled in for the 3 hour drive.

The pain came and went throughout the week and sometimes it seemed to travel from my back to my front mid-section.  I guessed it was everything from stress to an ulcer, maybe even early menopause?  But we were on vacation, miles from my provider, so I pushed through it.  My refusal to listen to my body, to see a doctor had an impact on our trip as I found myself not feeling up to the activities I normally would have pursued on my own, with my husband and with the girls.  Lakeside is one of my favorite places to run in the early morning and I didn’t do it.  I couldn’t do it, not even once.  Despite this, I ignored the symptoms.  And, when we got home I settled back into the hustle and the Weatherman headed out on one of the many teaching trips we had committed to for the summer.  Of course, ignoring my body led me to my next lesson.

Lessons from the Lake – Sometimes not doing anything is exactly what you’re supposed to do.

We were about a week and a half out from our Lakeside trip when the pain returned.  This time it happened while I was at work.  I was two days from our next week long vacation, and the Weatherman recently returned from his teaching trip.  My plan was to stay late at the office the next couple of nights to both catch up on work and get ahead of things before we headed up north to Long Lake in Branch Township, Michigan.  The plan was to stay at a “resort”  (I use the term loosely) renting cottages with 35 or so of my husband’s immediate and extended family for the annual Dale family vacation.  There are four generations represented on this trip and it’s the Weatherman’s favorite week of the entire year.  Seriously.  This is not the trip you want to get sick for.

And yet there I was, two days before we were supposed to leave, slouched down in my office chair trying to find a position that would help alleviate the pain in my back.  Instead of working late that night I went home a few minutes early.  Partly because of the pain and partly because my administrative assistant was repeatedly admonishing me for not seeing a doctor.

“You don’t look good Julia Dale.” She said in the Texas drawl of hers at least half a dozen times.  I was fading fast and she knew it. “Go see a doctor, before it’s too late and you’re up north.”

I ignored her and made my way home. I sat in my minivan, parked in our garage, and gathered my wits about me.  There was so much to do, kids and linens to pack, even the dog was coming on the trip with us and he is his own kind of high maintenance.

Hours later, heeding the advice I first ignored, I found myself in the passenger seat of the minivan with the girls in the back.  It was about 9:00 p.m. as the Weatherman pulled up alongside the Emergency Room entrance and I did my own kind of tuck and roll when he dropped me off.  After sending him back home with the girls, I looked around the waiting room and knew it would be a long night.  I found one of the handful of empty chairs and blinked away tears from the pain and exhaustion I was feeling, an older woman looked over at me and asked if I was okay.  I mutely shook my head “yes”.  She wasn’t buying it.

After hours in the waiting room and then several hours waiting for the results of scans and tests to come back I received the news. Multiple kidney stones (double digits) in both kidneys and one really big one on the left side.  They weren’t sure, but thought it might be big enough to cause a blockage. Eventually, after a few rounds of morphine, fluids and heavy duty anti-inflammatories they released me in the wee hours of the morning. My friend (and the Children’s minister from our church) answered the call at 3:00 a.m. and drove from a city over to pick me up and bring me home so that my husband wouldn’t need to drag the girls out of bed.Lessons from the Lake

I spent the next 24 hours on pain killers that knocked me out in six hour blocks.  I woke up only to drink water, take more meds and wrestle the blankets from my chocolate lab and constant companion. I was lucid enough after 48 hours to help guide my husband as he loaded the car and we made our way up north -I continued to take the pain killers and checked myself (the way I would our girls) regularly for a fever and signs of infection.  (I once became septic from kidney stones and blocked kidneys and knew it could happen again and quickly.) I spent the first three days at the lake in bed or wrapped in a blanket on the deck.  The pain meds made it impossible for me to do much of anything and my body was pretty much exhausted.  My mother-in-law and I made a trip to the grocer when we first got to the lake and at one point she found my cart, a few aisles over from where I was standing, my purse wide open and my wallet there for all to see.  I hadn’t even realized what I had done.

For much of the first half of that week other people watched, fed and cared for my girls and even our dog for that matter. I couldn’t do much beyond rest.  And, it was okay.  My family didn’t fall apart just because I couldn’t do the things I normally do.  I slept and rested and slept some more.  A bottle of water and my dog always by my side – I enjoyed my own little type of vacation simply by not doing anything.  And, the world didn’t stop spinning on its axis.

Sometimes not doing anything is exactly what you're supposed to do. #LessonsFromTheLake Click To Tweet

Lessons from the Lake – Don’t Worry About What Others Think

Throughout the whole ordeal with the Phantom pain, diagnosis and treatment I worried about what others were thinking.  When we were at Lakeside and I needed to disappear to the bedroom because I was hurting I worried about what my in-laws might think, and that I would appear anti-social or inhospitable.  I worried about the girls not understanding why I was shorter with them. I worried about what my close friends thought as I continued with our plan to head up north after spending hours in the E.R. I worried about what our family would think as I spent most of my time up north huddled in our cottage.

And then I watched as my 48 year old husband floated by on a bright rainbow colored unicorn.  He didn’t even flinch when he saw me taking a picture or when I shared it on social media.  The Weatherman didn’t care what the guys might say.  He was doing his thing, enjoying a beautiful day on Long Lake, with his family, on the largest and most comfortable floaty out there.  If he didn’t care about what others would think, why did I?

Lessons from the Lake – Hospitality is more about the Company than the Cookery

I admire Martha Stewart.  Heck, on occasion, I might have even wanted to be her.  In my mind she sets the standard for dining and entertaining.  Which means it’s Martha’s fault that I am both thrilled and terrified at the thought of entertaining someone other than family in my home.

One of the Weatherman’s cousins comes all the way from California to join us each year for our week up north.  She is stylish and cool in all those ways a midwest gal thinks west coast women are.  She swims (across the lake and back), runs and golfs.  And, more importantly she entertains on a grand scale.  If I wasn’t so terrified at the thought of doing the same, I’d be jealous.

She brings her amazing kids, wine from her and her husband’s estate and her crazy cool mom from that other college town here in Michigan (her mom’s so cool I don’t fault her for where she lives!).  She always makes a meal that everyone looks forward to.

Allie is an amazing cook and an ace entertainer, but the meal isn’t lessened or enhanced by the mismatched dishes and wine enjoyed from old coffee mugs.  The camp chairs around an old outdoor dining set don’t lessen the experience – they couldn’t if they tried.

The meal, a delicious pasta dish, baked chicken and well paired wine was enjoyable, but not more so than the one consisting of left overs at the end of the week. What made the meals so special wasn’t as much the cookery as it was the company. True hospitality, a welcome gathering of family, friends and soon-to-be friends, is never really about the food.

Hospitality is more about the company than the cookery. #LessonsFromTheLake Click To Tweet

Lessons from the Lake – If you’re going to jump in you have to let go of the rope

This last lesson is for all of us entering new seasons – and I’m not talking about the weather.  In-between family vacations, we visited  “new to us” Lake Manitou.  Friends from church had graciously opened their home (on the banks of the lake) to the small group leaders of our church for a summer party including a cookout, fun on a jet ski, tubes and a boat as well as every other water activity you could imagine.

Every good lake has to have a tree with a rope swing and this one was no exception. As I watched my oldest climb the steps and then swing out over the water I held my breath at the moment I expected her to let go and drop into the lake feet first.  Instead, she clung to the rope and swung back over shore.  I watched her do this several times before she got the courage to let go.

She wasn’t the only one to struggle with letting go of the rope.

Lessons from the Lake

So often we find ourselves in a new and exciting season of life, swinging out over the water and afraid to jump in feet first.  Afraid to let go of the rope.  Sometimes the only thing left for us to do is just let go – and jump into the new season feet first.

Are you ready? Just say “when” and I’ll start the count down.

Let go of the rope - it's the only way you'll get your feet wet. #LessonsFromTheLake Click To Tweet

I am so glad to be back in the swing of things and connecting with you.  I hope you enjoyed my stories as well as the lessons.  I would love to hear about the lessons you’ve learned over these summer months – please share yours in the comments.

Be there,


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