Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Commentary: Counting the blessings

Martha Wolf is the retired owner of the Ivy Bake Shoppe in Fort Madison and Burlington.
Wendi Riggins, Burlington, IA
courtesy photo
Martha Wolf is the retired owner of the Ivy Bake Shoppe in Fort Madison and Burlington.

“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but by how we react to what happens, not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.”

Raised on the Gulf Coast of MS, I was the youngest of seven children. My parents were both originally from IL, but life took them to the Gulf Coast where they met and married. And just like Brady Brunch, they both brought 3 children to the marriage, and then had me.

My mother had an incredible sense of courage, and she was confronted by many challenges. She faced a divorce when she was 32 years old with three children under the age of 5; she relocated them and then raised the seven of us—yours, mine and ours.

My father died prematurely at the age of 49, leaving three of us still at home. She then moved (with me) back to Illinois to help with my grandmother after my grandfather died. She faced all of this with spunk, courage, grit, humor, gumption, and faith ~ never feeling sorry for herself. She mentored all of us – face the challenges, relish the opportunities, and “for Pete’s Sake get up every day grateful and with smile on your face.”

Robert Lind, a retired minister, wrote an essay entitled “We all live with our second choices”. He refers to the Disciple Paul who had a grandiose plan to go to Bithynia and preach the message of God. “And then it didn’t work out, his dream shattered. We all have dreams broken. But instead of complaining about his disappointment, or cussing about his bad luck, he looked for another opportunity. He instead headed to Macedonia and opened the most successful ministry of his career. Paul took this second choice and turned defeat into a victory. Through this second choice the message of Christ first passed over from Asia to Europe.”

In 1992, I started the Ivy Bake Shoppe with another woman, who like me, was going through a divorce and searching for a new direction. We weren’t entrepreneurs ~ (I have trouble spelling it). We were two women picking ourselves up with our faith and passion. We embraced our second choice.

We live the life we are given, but what that looks like is in your hands. It is like a recipe when you think about it. You can follow the instructions, but once you add a pinch of this or take out a bit of that, it becomes your own.

My life is so different than I had envisioned, but it has become so wonderful. I couldn’t have done it without being open to all the new possibilities that life has to offer, even though sometimes scary. I found power in believing in myself, resisting retreat. Good comes out of everything no matter the circumstance. I know I am a better version of myself because of my divorce.

My advice for you? Because life does not take us in a straight line, one has to be willing to navigate the curves, hang tough through the detours and defy the roadblocks. And that can change the destination. How you handle it affects your journey. (I often laughed with customers as I picked up their dirty dishes, how proud my mom would be that I got that Social Work degree and am bussing tables).

One must be willing to be a lifelong learner, never settling. Discover passions, be bold, embrace your sense of humor, cultivate friendships and relationships from all walks of life for they will enhance your own life and you become a tapestry in their lives as well. Find your spiritual nourishment no matter what or who your higher power is and enrich and nurture your soul. Always count the blessings in your life.

I leave you with Winnie the Pooh ~ You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Martha Wolf is the retired owner of the Ivy Bake Shoppe in Fort Madison and Burlington.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Western Illinois University or Tri States Public Radio.

Diverse viewpoints are welcomed and encouraged.