Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Sum is Greater than its Parts

It's no big secret here...I love me some good times with my girlfriends. With each passing Girls Weekend, I find that they morph into something bigger and better each time. Some of the faces remain the same, and I look forward to reuniting with the return attendees. But I also thrill in the inclusion of newbies to the party. There's no better way to reconnect with old friends, some of whom I talk to daily, others whom I haven't spoken to in years, then to romp around in the woods together for a few days.

This winter, which after last year quickly became one of my most favorite weekends of the year, I decided to include some people from both high schools I attended. Kahley cracked me up in the days leading up to this winter's festivities. "It's like the Hunger Games, Mom. Which District is going to win? Team Rockridge or Team Fox? And where does your loyalty lie? Just be careful, and may the odds be ever in your favor."

I rolled in laughter. Twenty-five years ago, she wasn't far off. These two factions may have squared off and hunted one another to the death through the woods, if for nothing else because we were idiotic 17 year olds with no life experience, a pinhead of common sense and a needle pointing to empty in the wisdom tank. But fast forward through scads of failed relationships until we found our lifelong partners, fourteen children who rule our calendars, enough heartache over the years to create our own Lifetime series, and we can unsurprisingly live in our own little version of utopia for four days. A world so good, with so much common understanding and appreciation for one another, that we don't want to leave. We are already talking about extending next year's outing and making Monday a mental health/travel day.

Team Fox... the Eagle River Ice Castle in its last days of 2014. It was dismantled on the following Monday.
 And Team Rockridge.
Last year's winter weekend was unique in that we crammed so much activity into two and a half days that we all fell into a stupor of exhaustion and muscle regeneration every night by 8:30. I had to post four times just to explain all that we did. Because we squished so much fun into such a short amount of time, I felt a little pressure to exceed the repeat performance this year.

On the first full day, I announced our plans: "We're going to start off by cross country skiing to feed the chickadees. Then we're gonna return the skis and travel to Musky Mountain for extreme sledding. After that, we'll stop off for dinner, then journey out for a nighttime romp through the forest in snowshoes. Sound good?"

Five sets of eyeballs with brows raised in incredulous speculation eyed me. "Sure Jen. Whatever you say."
Funny sidebar - the FedEx man stopped in the parking lot to take a leak. That's not all he took - we commandeered him to snap this photo before we headed off into the woods. He's my deliveryman. Small Northwoods World.
Whelp, we made it to the cross country skiing adventure. And despite a significant decline in the birdy volume in the Nicolet National Forest (the extreme -30 degree temperatures are not conducive to sustaining the Northwoods chickadee population), we still were able to meet and greet a few little critters.
There is just something so Snow White about hearing that rush of wings as they descend for a snack.
 Think mosquito in your ear, times one thousand.
And although it's a bit unnerving to hear them whistling through the air and touching your skin, their little toenails? claws? digits? are delicate and light and almost tickly when they land in your open hand.
This'll never get old.
Post skiing, it quickly became obvious that we were done. We refueled at a local restaurant.
The dampness of the air that day seeped through more than just our clothes. It was in our psyches, and our bones were ready to call it quits. Beer cheese soup and hot toddies helped.
After lunch we stopped off for one more cocktail and collectively decided that jammies, a warm fire and some wine and beverages at the cabin sounded like a five star restaurant.

What followed is probably my favorite part of the weekend. It didn't require some unique or extreme activity. It didn't involve shenanigans with strangers and an obscene amount of liquor intake. We simply sat around my kitchen table and talked. I pulled out a table topic card game, and we all took a turn reading a card and responding. Even though it was already happening on it's own, this game helped bridge the friendships I've made between these women. We learned about one another and listened to each other's funny life stories and more serious views on controversial topics. If that sounds like a miserable night in to you, I assure you there's no other place on the face of the earth that any of us would have rather been at that moment. Because what we played next was simply priceless.
I've mentioned it before, but Cards Against Humanity is the funniest game to hit the world maybe ever.
We played and laughed until our legs were crossed and our guts ached.
We had fun.
All together.
And we didn't even have to compete to the death in a manmade, controlled arena during a televised event to get there.

The next day I ditched the notion that we had to cram scads of activity into the day in order to have a successful good time. I recalled from the fall version of Forty Somethings Gone Wild (really not appropriate for a Lifetime-esque program) that some of the best times with friends are the sitting and doing nothing moments. Like when we talk on the boat for hours. Or sit in the cabin and linger over coffee. My mates agreed.

We finally shed the jams, layered up and headed out to the Minocqua Winter Park for some more snow fun.
We started with snowshoeing, trekking off in search of a tea house that promised warming libations on the wintry jaunt. However, our coffee lingering that morning put us a tiny bit behind schedule, allowing a mere hour on the trail before we had to return to the chalet for our next activity. So when the tea house didn't materialize on the trail, we created our own respite area.
And pulled out spirits from home.
I highly recommend Rumchata for wood trekking. Delicious. But not to disappoint it's creamy, aromatic cousin, the minty fresh Ice Hole also made a star studded appearance, via a bota from circa 1992. One of the handiest vessels that stands the test of time through Big Ten college football games and raucous canoe trips, this handy gadget will surely remain a wintertime constant in the great North Woods for years to come.
Pleasing many a customer...
...even yours truly.
Heading back, the lighthearted chatter and giggling resumed, amplified thanks to a good dollop of Vitamin D, warming rum, refreshing schnapps and perfect weather. Not to mention the occasional sink hole that gobbled up an unsuspecting gal.
Or the woody nest that entwined the locks of another.
A perfect site for one of those chickadees to snuggle into, no doubt.
The sinkholes got even the best of us. Er, I mean, the most fit.
But when the leader of the group face plants, do we rush to her aid and offer assistance?
Why of course not. We snap photos for posterity, squeezing our legs together to hold our bladders tight. Naturally.

At one point, I stopped for a lovefest. I told all my gals, with our districts now united, that when our husbands die and we're all alone, they are all welcome to join me in my Utopian Commune in the Woods. I'm calling it UCW. Where only females are allowed, and everyone must pull her weight. So you do cross fit? Sweet. You're the wood chopper. Shoot a gun really well? Awesome. You're the hunter. Domestically challenged? No problem. You can do dishes. We all have our talents, and we're gonna make some interesting times for ourselves in our latter years.

To top off a perfect afternoon, we saved the best for last.
We flew down a 600 foot chute on tubes, bouncing off a netted barrier at the bottom of the hill, squealing and giggling like little schoolgirls the entire time. But not all sledders chose a blue or red tube.
Meet Ted, a Minocqua Winter Park volunteer, kickin' it old school.
I chatted him up after snapping his photo. And learned that this impressive winter park also offers cross country ski lessons to enhance the wintertime fun. Guess what's already on next year's itinerary? Given that we all fell flat on our butts at least once the day before, some lessons are certainly in order.

I had the joy of spending twelve hours in the car catching up with this dear friend.
She flies in from Florida for this fun. FLORIDA! She enjoys telling everyone where she's from, and that she was on the beach in 78 degree weather the previous weekend.
That aside, she can assemble and direct engineers like nobody's business on a conference call while using interesting words like bifurcate. It's amazingly entertaining to listen to a corporate meeting when you've got nothing to do with it and aren't the one herding the cats. Quite amusing.
She also doesn't hesitate to dole out the sarcasm, which I love and adore, after sharing a bottle of wine with another sassy little thing.

She's my go-to girl for sound fashion advice because she always, always looks cool.
Except for when she trips over the pavement or the slippery X-C trail and face plants.
We have that in common, among many other talents.
Like finishing one another's sentences. The other four bared witness to that more than once over the course of the weekend. That'll happen when you know someone for 35 years and still talk about sheer nonsense on the phone for hours on end.

This one?
Showed me extreme kindness years ago by just being herself and didn't even realize it. I've never forgotten that.
Her quiet, confident way nestled in perfectly with the group. And she most definitely will be coming back with some homemade treats, compliments of her husband. Her face here?
Pretty much sums up the weekend. She told her daughter all the stuff we did, and her college student replied with, "Mom, you are so cool." I couldn't agree more.

One of these girls is not like the other. Here, you can hardly tell which one!
 But it's a little more obvious here.
I love her wide smile, and she loves herself a spin down the hill.
She's like an old shoe. I mean that as the most genuine of compliments. She fits me well and feels good for my soul. Always.

This sweet little cupcake might call you Sunshine.
Or Sweetheart.
Or Sunshine Sweetheart.
But the most ironic part of all? SHE is the sweetest one. She's just dripping in sugary sweet goodness. She fills the room with good juju everywhere she goes. And to her sweet husband? She didn't say one bad word about you. Not once, all weekend long, even when prompted by the table card game. We all promise.

While I love them all individually...
...the weekend wouldn't have been the same if even one of them weren't present.
Our selfies would have been lacking.
Our laughs would have been less.
And our sum most certainly would not have outweighed its parts.


P.S. Thanks to Michelle...
...for taking so many pics of the weekend. It was a joy for me to set the camera down for a while and just soak it all in. All pics not watermarked with were snapped by this soul sister. Or by someone who picked up her camera.

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