Oh for goodness’ sake…

Last week was a busy one. We’ve been battling sickness off and on in our house. The schools are filled with all kinds of illnesses too. It’s kind of difficult to avoid. Our youngest son has been preparing for the high school musical, “Chicago teen edition.” Several of the cast had colds or sore throats. It made practice and performing a challenge. With the help of DayQuil and many other home remedies, they made it to, and through the performances. I was able to see the preview Wednesday night. They had shows Thursday through Sunday. I was able to be at each one. 

It’s hard to put into words what I felt about the show. It was amazing. The songs gave me chills. The dancing and acting was great. The orchestra really showed off their talent. The sound and light crews did an outstanding job. The choreographer put a stunning show together. And their director was incredible. She took 26 students, balanced their schedules (some in additional sports), and she brought out the best in each of them. They shined!

These kids & director faced criticism they shouldn’t have had to deal with. I normally avoid conflict, but this brought out the mama bear in me. People would say, “You’re not a good Christian if you see the musical.” They called it scandalous before even seeing it. Some people completely mischaracterized the show and said it was about prostitution. They criticized their costumes. They rose above and wowed anyone who came to the performance. It was certainly more than a high school musical. They were professional grade.

It wasn’t vulgar or inappropriate for teens. There was no kissing in the musical, no gun replicas were used. These kids have seen and dealt with worse things in their lives. A two hour musical that was less “R rated” than most movies or TV shows. We make these kids go through active shooter drills at school, but don’t trust them to sing “Razzle Dazzle?” 

It costs $0 to be good & kind. It cost $10/ticket to support these youth and let them show off their amazing talent. I was raised Christian and I’m not worse for having seen the shows. In fact, I’m better having seen it. I have a renewed faith in our kids and how amazing they are. I’m not going to commit adultery or murder because I saw the teen edition of “Chicago.” I will have the soundtrack going through my head for weeks to come. I will smile when I think about what a great job they all did. I will beam with pride when I see the photos of my son as Fogarty. I will write a thank you note to their director.

“Oh for goodness’ sake,” was what I thought when I read the negative comments from our community. Our community who is supposed to support and encourage our youth. Instead of criticizing, be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Be the good, for goodness’ sake.

You don’t know what you’ve got…

I took a week off. Last Wednesday, my throat started to hurt. By Thursday morning, I was miserable and starting to lose my voice. I had to take the day off work. Friday, I sounded like a deep baritone, and the weekend left me without much of a voice at all. Amazing how we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone, right? I’m rarely thankful for my physical voice. I take it for granted. I sometimes raise it too much or use it in ways I shouldn’t. I joke that my family is probably thankful for my lack of a voice this last week, but it sure has been a challenge.

I’m a bit of a slow learner. In my (almost) 49 years around the sun, I’ve learned that if I don’t actually express myself, my body will yell at me… forcing me to pause or rest. My mentor warned me about this in September- that if I didn’t deal with the emotions, my body would surely let me know. This week, it has forced me to be quiet, to rest, to reflect. It has shown me how important it is to be able to communicate. How much it means to me to be heard, and how to find other ways to be able to interact with others. it has also forced me to ask for help, since I wasn’t able to lead meetings due to lack of a voice.

November is typically the month where we are reminded to be thankful. Even though we just put away the Halloween decorations, and some people have their Christmas trees up already, it’s still a good time to remember what we have. I’ve done a gratitude journal before and really enjoyed the positivity. It’s a thing that’s easy to forget about outside of November, but it makes us focus on the good. The more we remind ourselves of the good, the more good we see and attract. I can be annoyed with my lack of voice but thankful for helpful co-workers, understanding family and the ability to text instead of speak. I can be thankful for the time to rest and rejuvenate.

Are you looking for happiness while forgetting you have things to be happy for? We all do. I challenge us to have a mindful November… to use our voices to be helpful and supportive. Be kind. To others, but to yourself also. You’re worth it.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Fairy Rings…

According to Google, a “fairy ring” is as follows: A fairy ring is a common name for a group of redwood trees growing in a circle, usually around the stump of a logged old-growth tree. After being cut down, a new generation of trees sprout from the roots of the fallen redwood, often creating a near-perfect circle or ring.

Obviously there are not a lot of redwoods in MN. I’m in CA visiting one of my sisters. I didn’t know I’d see her twice in the last couple of months (in ND) when I booked my trip. Normally we only get to see each other twice a year. I have zero regrets. I had a free ticket that I had received for donating to the Healing Odyssey Women’s cancer survivor retreat. I had actually forgotten about it, and when I realized that I had it, travel needed to be completed by November 1. Yikes. It all worked out and the trip has been great.

Since I work remotely, I can work remotely remote – as long as I have internet & don’t miss my meetings, I’m good. Since it is two hours time difference, I need to get up early but I’m done by 3pm or so, which works out well. I’m able to take a walk at lunch time to a nearby Target store which has a Starbucks. She has a Mane Coon cat who is enjoying having some daytime company. Sunday we went up to San Francisco to a musical and a walk along the pier. It was a great performance, fun to spend time with my sister and niece, and we had fabulous fish for supper!

Monday after work, we went to the redwood forest. Walking amongst the giant redwoods was amazing. It was so still and peaceful, not a breeze or a noise other than the rippling of the small creek or the occasional hiker. These trees are so giant and so old. It’s amazing to walk in their presence and think of how many hundreds of years they have been growing. One of the trees that had fallen was dated back 2,000 years. We stood inside and under them, walked through the paths and enjoyed the smell. My sister explained the fairy rings and we stood inside several – gazing up in amazement.

Traveling refreshes me. I love to see new things and experience new places. Yes, I’m a “homebody,” but traveling ignites something special. And, I think I could eat crab cakes and clam chowder several days a week, if not daily. I think there is a quote about going into the trees to find yourself. I couldn’t find the specific quote, but I highly recommend this, if you’re able. Being in nature is so refreshing and grounding to me. And, apparently the fairy rings have some magic of their own. Check out the green light in these photos!

(My shirt is not sparking green, it’s grey)
Green sparkles above my sister too!

Wishing you peace on your journey of enough. May you find time to be in nature, to travel or to spend time with those you love.

H.O.P.E. ; Pause, but let your story continue

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends. Mental health awareness is something that needs to get more attention. We have talked more about mental health than we did in the past, but there is room for more awareness & acceptance. We now have a “World Mental Health Day,” which is a great step forward. Four years ago, a friend of ours lost a son to suicide. He was the same age as our oldest son. They started an organization called Robbie’s Hope to help stop the epidemic of suicide by reaching teens and their families. They have teen ambassadors who help raise awareness in their communities and wrote a handbook for parents. Visit http://www.robbies-hope.com to learn more about their mission.

A long time family friend shared this story with me. It’s written by a pastor from Trinity Evangelical Lutheran church in Watertown, MN: Mark Twain said, “There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibly. Inside of the dullest exterior, there is a drama, a comedy and tragedy.” At out annual outdoor service during “rails to trails” weekend in July 2018, I shared the above quote by Mark Twain that spoke to the fact that everybody has a story. It might seem obvious, and yet we so often forget this simple fact when we see people on the street, at work, at the store, or even at church. We forget that they might have just had a birth in their family, and so they’re celebrating. We forget that they might have just had a death in their family, and so they’re grieving. We forget that they might have just lost a job, or found a job, or moved to a new house, or received important news in an email, a text, or a letter. It might not seem like a big deal, but when we forget that everybody has a story, we begin to see them simply as “objects” that are inanimate rather than “subjects” that are full of life. You know, people. With feelings. And goals. And hopes. And dreams. And they are worthy of our attention, and our support and our prayers. And this means you, too. Maybe you feel like you, yourself, don’t have much of a story, or have much to say, or have much to offer. But it’s not true. You do have a story. You do have something to say. You do have a lot to offer. Someone once said, “To the world, you might be just one person. But to one person, you just might be the world.” Yes, that means you. Whether you realize it or not, you have so much to offer… so let your light shine! Pastor Engholm

I’ve written about this before but we all need a good reminder. It’s OK to not be OK. It’s ok to have a bad day, a sad or stressful time or to need a pause. We need to put aside the “just toughen up” mentality and acknowledge the real feelings… validate the stories…. let someone feel seen and heard. Take a pause, but please let your story continue. You never know the impact you have on other people. Don’t assume people are ok either. Robbie was a smiling kid with loving parents. He helped other kids through struggles but didn’t reach out about his own. If you are struggling, please dial 988, or 911 if you are in a crisis.

I’m forever thankful that my son had a pause, but his story continues. Please hold on. Reach out. You are loved. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Breaking isn’t bad …

How often do you tell the same story? Either out loud or in your head… “I’m so____.” We repeat our woes or claim to be unable to break the cycle. But we can break the cycle. We can end the story and start a new one. We can be better than what broke us. We can choose compassion, acceptance & understanding.

I recently shared a story about how we apologize for our messy houses. The author encouraged us to break the cycle- to be the generation that doesn’t apologize for being normal. It’s not that we don’t try, but things are hectic… we may have little kids or teens running to different events & meetings or doing homework. Sometimes anxiety or depression keeps us from doing household chores. Apparently, it’s also related to ADHD to be bothered by clutter but not able to take action to clean it up.

If you’re struggling with your kitchen table being full of papers, mail, random water bottles or sunglasses, I see you… I am you. The kitchen table mess didn’t break me, but it sure has made me apologize a time or two. “Heal instead of becoming bitter.”

“Be the person you needed when you were hurting.” I think that’s where a lot of my advice from my cancer recovery comes from. I wish I would have had someone to ____. Instead of dwelling on the hurt, break the cycle. I choose acceptance. I choose inclusion. I choose grace. I choose understanding.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you find joy in creating your new chapter.

Katie & I …

It’s officially October, and the fall leaves are in full display in central MN. October is also breast cancer awareness month. This became extra meaningful for me after my cancer diagnosis & treatment. I recently got this mug as a gift from an aunt of mine. I chose to have pink sparkle nails this month too! I probably won’t wear pink every day since I work from home.

Last week I wrote about connections. I also learned that I have a connection with Katie Couric. Although she is 65 (I was 41), she was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. From the Today Show web site, I learned she also had a lumpectomy (left side) and radiation. They interviewed her on the Today Show on Monday and we had a remarkably high number of similarities. Stage 1, Her2 Negative, HR positive, left side lumpectomy & radiation, followed by aromatase inhibitors, no chemo. So I guess we are “besties” now. I do have a mass communication degree, and I did do a TV internship, so yeah, we’re pretty similar. (Ha ha)

Some of her main goals are to increase awareness, get legislation passed to improve health care and insurance coverage for women with dense breast tissue, and remind women to get their mammogram. When you have a mammogram, they should be able to tell you if you have dense tissue. If you do, a 3D mammogram is recommended because they can see through the dense tissue more effectively. If they notice a spot of concern, they may do an ultrasound of the area. Depending on what that says, they may biopsy it and test the tissue to confirm if it’s cancerous or not. (PS – if you do have a biopsy, do not go back to work the rest of the day. Get some ice packs, take some ibuprofen and take a nap!)

The month of October is a trigger for me. There are a few “anniversaries” coming up and this is just before the big one. Mine was caught early. I took the recommended steps but I also incorporated some things on my own. I believe I am supposed to be an example of early detection and surviving/thriving. I slipped a little on my journey, but I’m on track again. I’m starting to feel better as I shed some pounds, and my A1C has gone from 6.9 in April to 5.8 now (goal is under 5.7)

I wish your peace on your journey of enough & grace through the seasons of change. Take time to care for yourself while you’re busy caring for others. And… get your mammogram!

Ice breakers?

I’ve seen this phrase many times before. “There is somebody in the world who needs your story.” I often dismiss my writing. I think it’s not important, wonder who would care to read what I have to say and honestly question why I do this. Why do I share my stories with unknown numbers of people, many of whom I’ve never met and likely won’t meet? Connection. I know it’s not the physical connection, in person or face to face, but it’s a connection of sorts. Every now and then, someone will reach back to me and say, “me too” or “wow, I needed to hear that.” That’s the connection.

My writing is random and usually spirit led. It’s not eloquent or fancy. It’s often raw and always honest. It’s a peek into parts of me that not everyone sees. If you ask me in person how I am, I will likely reply with the ever acceptable, “fine.” Although for me to be able to write that I’m frequently not fine seems easier than saying the words out loud. I’ve gotten better with sharing things with friends, but I still feel like I’m a bother, so I don’t always bring it up. I’ll still be “fine, good, ok.” I have a small circle who dig deeper and don’t accept my scripted answer as the truth. Without judgement or criticism, they are willing to hear my crappy days as well as celebrating the great days. I treasure them more than they know, but gratitude is one of my strengths, so I feel like I do show them how much they mean to me. Hopefully that’s true.

It’s been almost 8 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. December will mark 8 years. I started a Caringbridge site soon after, and started writing more regularly not long after my treatment was done. In those years, I’ve seen so much change. Health scares, moving, new jobs, loss and gaining of friendships, struggles/lows and high points with family…. yet there is one thing that I keep getting reminded of: we aren’t meant to do this alone. I can go to church, but I need to walk the walk when I leave. I can go to a retreat, but I need to keep working on myself when I come back home. I can lose weight, but I need to be mindful to be able to maintain it. Along the way, I need people to help with all of those things. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Our connections are like a thread… weaving us together in one way or another. The last few years it’s been easier to see what divides us instead of what unites us. Have you ever been in a room where you had to do an “ice breaker” event? One of the introvert nightmares of tell me about yourself ?! As much as those make me cringe, I love to watch the connections form. Things you see in others that resonate with you. Soon those strangers now have something in common. They don’t need to be your new best friend, but it reminds us how unique we are, yet we still have common ties.

Someone needs your story too. You may not think so, but they do. I know I’ve written a lot about it lately, but I feel like it needs to be repeated. You’re not alone. Somewhere there is another mom struggling to get it all done. Somewhere there is another middle aged woman wondering how she got to be middle aged. Somewhere there is another baker, a gardener, a chicken tender, a cat lover, an artist, a writer and a survivor. It just takes a brave first step, an awkward ice breaker or a smile in the grocery store.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Thank you for letting me share my story, even if it is just with a few people. I’m thankful for you, more than you know.

At a loss…

You might have noticed that I didn’t write last week. I was at a loss for words. Sometimes that happens, I guess. My mom was in the hospital again and we were just trying to get by. I won’t share her full story, but my focus was on how she was doing, the next doctor or nurse to enter the room, and what the next steps would be. So, my form of “self care” was to preserve my energy and focus on mom and keeping the family updated. As someone who struggles to say “no,” this was a pretty big step for me. I said no to writing last week and yes to myself.

It was more doctors, nurses, CNA’s, PT’s, OT’s and people in general than what I’m used to. She was on the ICU floor, which has a whole different feel to it. Several of these people would not be going home. As I passed their family members or friends in the hallway, with tear stained cheeks, I knew they had said their goodbyes or had gotten news they would have rather not heard. I was at a loss then too.

Luckily, my mom woke up with no recollection of the prior 24 hours. The nurse and doctors put their hands up, with no real explanation… other than a miracle. My tears became happy tears and I felt oddly guilty when she was able to go home. The nurse who had been with her likely had the best ending to a shift she’s had in a while. We even got the doctor to smile.

One thing I’m confident of: I am certain my mom knows how much I love her. Sometimes, “I love you,” is all that needs to be said. Those 3 words are enough, and I’m thankful to be able to have her say it back to me.

Being part of “the sandwich generation” is new to me – parents requiring more care, while having kids still in school. Although my boys aren’t little anymore, they are still active. It’s an adjustment. Not being able to fix everything is a challenge for me too. So, instead, I became the group communicator- keeping the aunts, uncles, friends and churches informed of what was going on. It was the only thing I could kind of control. It certainly brought me back to the days of my cancer diagnosis and trying to manage all of the info.

While I may be at a loss for words, I do have words of thanks. I’m thankful again to those who prayed/held space/sent love for my mom and our family. I’m thankful for the people who checked in on us. I’m thankful for the relatives who put up with my all-night messages. I’m thankful again for my aunt and uncle opening their home to us at all hours of the night. I’m thankful for the people who let me text them because it was as difficult to speak out loud about what they as happening. I’m thankful for my husband who let things running at home. I’m thankful for my sisters for their love and support. We continue to pray for my mom’s healing.

Sometimes when we are at a loss, we realize it’s ok to surrender. It’s ok to not have the right words. It’s ok to just be there.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. I’m thankful you’re here.

Difference makers and daisies…

It’s been a whirlwind of a week or two. From a quick trip to Bozeman (which isn’t quick), to a car trade/purchase, to endoscopy/colonoscopy for me, to a small town hospital & big city hospital for my mom and the start of school for my husband and son, I’m no longer sure what day it is or what is on my agenda.

We’ve encountered some memorable people – not all good… from pushy car sales people, to lying car sales people, to nurses and doctors and aides – some helpful, some less than helpful. It all just reminds me that we can make a difference in someone else’s life. It doesn’t take much – a smile, a kind word, honesty, holding someone’s hand while they are scared, speaking so someone understands, listening and making sure someone feels seen and heard, praying or holding space for someone struggling… all of these things cost $0 but their value is far greater than we realize.

There is a DAISY award at the hospital for the staff who have gone above and beyond. I picked up 3 nomination sheets. 3 different nurses made such a difference in my mom’s care during her stay in Fargo. They were advocates for her health, they paid attention to how she was feeling/what worked best for her, they kept us informed & listened to our concerns and questions, they held her hand, made her laugh and gave her warm blankets. My mom’s health has improved a little but she still has some procedures yet to come. Instead of just talking about how helpful the nurses are between our family, I want them to be recognized. Often times, people who go above and beyond do not draw attention to what they are doing. They quietly go about their jobs, living by the golden rule. They maybe don’t want the attention, but maybe it feels good to be recognized and it lets them know they did make a difference.

There is no such award for car sales that I’m aware of… that’s a whole different story. It was a life lesson, but not fun one. That lesson was about treating people how you want to be treated from the standpoint of seeing what you don’t want, instead of what you do want. I guess those things give us perspective and perhaps make us realize when things go right also.

I’m thankful for a lot of things, but my patience is wearing thin. When I get crabby, I try to think of the positive things. I acknowledge the stress but try not to dwell on it. So here is my gratitude list for today: I’m thankful for my aunt and uncle who opened their home and their hearts to us during the hospital stay. We didn’t have to worry about hotel rooms or where to “land.” I’m thankful for all of the people joining us in prayer and well wishes for my mom. I’m thankful for the team of doctors, nurses and support staff who have helped her to feel better. I’m thankful for my manager and coworkers who have covered for my absence. I’m thankful for my family who has coped without me and kept things running at home. I’m thankful for my friend who helped drive our son after practice. I’m thankful for all of the plants and flowers to brighten the hospital room.

You can make a difference… in the day of someone else or even yourself. Speak kind words to yourself. Have patience and grace. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Oh for goodness’ sake…

Last week was a busy one. We’ve been battling sickness off and on in our house. The schools are filled with all kinds of illnesses too. It’s kind of difficult to avoid. Our youngest son has been preparing for the high school musical, “Chicago teen edition.” Several of the cast had colds or sore throats. It made practice and performing a challenge. With the help of DayQuil and many other home remedies, they made it to, and through the performances. I was able to see the preview Wednesday night. They had shows Thursday through Sunday. I was able to be at each one.

It’s hard to put into words what I felt about the show. It was amazing. The songs gave me chills. The dancing and acting was great. The orchestra really showed off their talent. The sound and light crews did an outstanding job. The choreographer put a stunning show together. And their director was incredible. She took 26 students, balanced their schedules (some in additional sports), and she brought out the best in each of them. They shined!

These kids & director faced criticism they shouldn’t have had to deal with. I normally avoid conflict, but this brought out the mama bear in me. People would say, “You’re not a good Christian if you see the musical.” They called it scandalous before even seeing it. Some people completely mischaracterized the show and said it was about prostitution. They criticized their costumes. They rose above and wowed anyone who came to the performance. It was certainly more than a high school musical. They were professional grade.

It wasn’t vulgar or inappropriate for teens. There was no kissing in the musical, no gun replicas were used. These kids have seen and dealt with worse things in their lives. A two hour musical that was less “R rated” than most movies or TV shows. We make these kids go through active shooter drills at school, but don’t trust them to sing “Razzle Dazzle?”

It costs $0 to be good & kind. It cost $10/ticket to support these youth and let them show off their amazing talent. I was raised Christian and I’m not worse for having seen the shows. In fact, I’m better having seen it. I have a renewed faith in our kids and how amazing they are. I’m not going to commit adultery or murder because I saw the teen edition of “Chicago.” I will have the soundtrack going through my head for weeks to come. I will smile when I think about what a great job they all did. I will beam with pride when I see the photos of my son as Fogarty. I will write a thank you note to their director.

“Oh for goodness’ sake,” was what I thought when I read the negative comments from our community. Our community who is supposed to support and encourage our youth. Instead of criticizing, be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Be the good, for goodness’ sake.