Free to grow…

School is starting for our North Dakota friends, and before we know it, we will have our new “back to school pictures” too. This photo was from 5 years ago. 5 years. Myles was just going into Kindergarten and Dallas was going into 4th grade. Sometimes when I look at my boys, this is what I see. I’m guessing that my parents still see a blonde 5 year old with curly pigtails. I imagine it’s similar for other parents… you see a growing son or daughter before you, but your mind jumps back to years ago. Those little hands that just wanted you to hold them, those big backpacks on their little bodies, those smiles – eager with anticipation for a new school year. 

I often hear people say, “I wish I could keep them this age forever.” I get the idea behind it, but it also makes me think of those parents that don’t get to see their kids grow – they are taken from them all too soon, and they are “frozen in time.” They won’t get to experience life with them beyond that point. That picture is the last one they will take. There won’t be totes of school papers, pictures from the big game or prom or weddings. I know that may seem harsh, but there are families in this area dealing with that this year. There are families everywhere dealing with it. 

So, while we soak up the last few days of summer and get ready for back-to-school nights, let’s remember to be thankful. Be thankful that your kids are free to grow. Be thankful for their busy schedules and noisy friends and games. Be thankful that they’ve grown out of their new clothes already. Just stop and breathe it all in. Soak it up like a sponge and thank God for another year with them. Think of those parents who won’t get to experience this. (Maybe have coffee with them or just give them a hug). 

Peace be with you on your journey of enough & may God grant you growing kids. 

Just one…

On a humid August night, I walked into a restaurant that was new to me (The Garden Bar on 6th). There were only two other guests in the building, but the sign said Please wait to be seated. So I did. The gal came over and asked how many were in my party. “Just one,” I said quietly. My boys were off on a trip back to Harvey, ND so I was in my own tonight. Truth be told, I don’t love to cook. I love to bake things or make desserts, but I’m not a great cook. So when I’m home alone, it’s either cereal, eggs or left overs. I thought I’d try something new. As I scrolled through my phone, I glanced at the menus. I ordered a Minnescato Mule (like a Moscow Mule, but with a local Miscato and rhubarb syrup). I’m not a “foodie,” but in the spirit of trying new things, I had a kale summer salad with berries, candied pecans, pecan crusted chicken and a maple vinegarette. I made a point to look at my waiter when he came by – instead of being shy and embarrassed of being alone, I paused what I was doing and paid attention. As the copper mug condensated on the table, I slowly enjoyed my salad. When I was finished, he appeared again and asked if I’d like dessert. (See previous post about pie.. 😉). “Yes,” I said. “What do you have?” He looked surprised that I had agreed to it and he read off the 3 items on their dessert menu. The first one was a blueberry rhubarb bread pudding. Mmm. No more needed to be said. I love bread pudding for some reason and Cameron isn’t a fan. “Yes, the bread pudding sounds great, thank you.” I went back to my phone, pausing to look out the window or watch for new people coming in. The other two had left and soon more groups appeared… 2 guys who made it clear that they were not on a date, a group of 4 ladies who were there for a “birthday club,” (even though it wasn’t anyone’s birthday- they just like to get together once a month), and a group of young ladies. As I waited for my dessert, the restaurant got busier and the sound of conversations drowned out the music. Then it arrived. Warm blueberry rhubarb bread pudding with ice cream on top. It was amazing. After a couple of bites of the warm pudding with a prefect crunch top, I figured I’d better photograph this. I am not a food critic but this was really good.

As I left the restaurant, I started thinking about my first statement… “just one.” Just… like it wasn’t ok that I was there alone. I almost felt the need to explain myself, but I didn’t. The thing is, as an introvert, I need this kind of time to recharge my batteries. I don’t do it much, but I do feel more refreshed when I’ve had a little time alone, to regroup. I feel like it makes me a better mom, wife, co-worker when I’ve had some “me time.”  There was a time in my like where I would have laughed at that term. Me time?!  What is that? Nobody has time to be alone, there is too much to do. Yeah, there is, but it will still be there. The peas were still waiting in my garden to be picked. While my supper delay made me a feast for hungry mosquitoes (they get worse at dusk), the peas were still there and they still got picked. And, while I was picking peas and being a mosquito buffet, I started thinking about writing. Sometimes I catch myself thinking in “story lines”… testing out my blog ideas in my head. Will that be a good enough story? Is that interesting enough? Enough, enough, enough. Yes. It will be. Because someone else is eating alone tonight and they also said “just one.” And I want them to know that’s ok. Whatever your reason, it’s alright. If you are lonely though and don’t want it to be just one, I hope you’ll chat up the waiter or waitress. You might be the only person tonight that treats them like a person and not a servant or an after thought. If you need that time to recharge and refresh, I hope you take it. I hope you are able to enjoy a peaceful evening (or lunch or whatever). I wish you peace on your journey of enough. The kind of peace that comes from a recharge (and a really good bread pudding.)

Pack your bags & try the pie….

It all started with a casual conversation…

My sister, Marie and her friend Heather were talking about spending some time with their daughters. “We should really do something with our girls before they go off to college next year… And while they still like us.” What the mom’s didn’t realize was that the girls overhead the conversation and it lit a spark. Both of them probably knew it was one of those things people say, wishing for it to happen, but knowing that it probably wouldn’t. Time would slip away, and before they knew it, they’d be off to college. So the girls, soon to be seniors in high school, took it upon themselves to plan a trip. The girls told the moms what days to take off of work and what to pack, but nothing else. “You need 3 days off, tennis shoes & shorts for sure.” No clues. No hints. No slip ups. Their lips were sealed, but their minds were racing. You could see the sparkle in their eyes when they talked about the upcoming adventure. 

The girls researched where to go, what things to do in the area, popular places to eat, etc. The moms were still totally unaware of what was in store. Anticipation was thick as they loaded up the car early in the morning of day 1. It was 3 hours into the trip before they found out where they were headed. Duluth, MN. 

Their 3 day adventure would take them biking along Canal Park, having meals by Lake Superior, a trip to Gooseberry Falls, Glensheen mansion & Betty’s Pies & more. 3 days. That’s it. This wasn’t a week long vacation to the Caribbean. It was 3 days in northern Minnesota, and it meant more to the moms than the girls will ever know. It meant that they cared enough to want to spend time together. It mean that they planned out their trip with excitement & mystery. It meant that the love those moms show their daughters came back full circle. It makes me emotional and teary eyed thinking about it. I’m sure it will make them all smile each time they think of their trip together. Time spent together that they wouldn’t trade for the world. 

Take the trip. Try the pie. Walk by the lake. Love. Laugh. 

It makes me think of a surprise trip that I planned 16 years ago. Cameron was about to turn 30, and I wanted to surprise him. Before kids, before 9/11, before airport security & before you needed a passport for Canada, I planned a surprise trip to Niagara Falls. I did have a binder and a plan but it was all secret to him. I got him to the airport & had his bags already packed. I had a sign with his name on it. His plane ticket was purchased & we were off.

We stayed on the Canadian Falls side & had a great time. We went on a biking trip to vineyards in the area and saw the falls up close. I normally don’t add this many pictures, but look at these kids!! I’m not sure what made us laugh at the vineyard picture, but I’m guessing it was something that seemed funnier given the amount of wine we had.

I realize that we do need to work to make a living, but it can’t be at the expense of our life. These moments won’t come around again. We don’t get a “do-over.” I still grin when I think about this trip – as will those 4 ladies when they think about their Duluth adventures.

On your journey of enough, take the time to have a detour. Go somewhere new. Try a new food. Have a new adventure. Stop and listen and soak it all in. Spend some time with those you hold dear. Oh, and for sure -have the pie! 

The file grows…

It all started as I approached 40. I wouldn’t call it a “bucket list,” because I wasn’t planning on dying anytime soon… there were just some new things I thought I should try. Stuck in my routine and bound by anxiety, I felt like I was missing out. So, why not try something new? I wish I would have actually written them all down. Perhaps I didn’t believe in myself enough to think I’d go through with it. Some things that I do remember (starting around, near or after 40):

  1. Colored my hair blonde (just to see if I’d have more fun)
  2. Completed a half marathon (total of 4 times)
  3. Went to a “paint & sip” by myself – did a painting while drinking
  4. Did hot yoga (normally don’t like being hot)
  5. Joined a “fight club” at the gym (I know, I broke the first rule)
  6. Got breast cancer (lumpectomy, radiation & hysterectomy)
  7. Rang the survivor bell (see above)
  8. Got tattoos (just for radiation, haven’t been brave enough to get a fun one)
  9. Wrote/writing a blog
  10. Rode the Wild Thing roller coaster at Valley Fair
  11. Ski @ Red Lodge, MT
  12. Moved my family to Alexandria 
  13. Went to a writers conference 
  14. Rode the Linq wheel in Vegas
  15. Went to a drive in movie 

Did any of them change my life? Yes. Some were intentional & some were not. All came with lessons or realizations of some kind. Some were more profound than others. Coloring my hair made me realize that it’s not your hair color that decides how much fun you have – it’s your willingness to say yes to new things. Completing the half marathons started out as a test for myself to see if I could do half of what my husband does (he’s a full marathoner). It ended up as an emotional journey – my last one being completed a year after my cancer “stuff.” The painting class by myself was proof that I could step outside my comfort zone. I normally avoid situations where I’m alone with 20-30 strangers. I made it through the class and have done it a few times since then – alone and with friends or family. The hot yoga and fight club made me realize that my body can do some amazing things. Also learned that “hot” is ok and I got my pink boxing gloves for fight club. Those pink gloves would be worn the day of my lumpectomy. The cancer wasn’t on my bucket list, but it did change me. It opened my eyes to how short life is. It helped me to realize that it’s ok to take a risk or make a change. It made me realize that it’s alright to need people, to let them bring you meals or flowers or just visit. 

You get the idea… everything had a meaning or a lesson or a realization of some kind. Some stretched me further than I thought I could go. Some prepared me for other things that would come along later. It only happened because I was open to it. Not quite like the Jim Carey “Yes Man” movie, but along those same lines. Before having cancer, our family trips were carefully planned out. I’m talking spreadsheets, budgets, binders, timing of events & places to go, how much we would spend on parking or toll roads – all of it. Planned. After cancer, we went with a rough idea and were more spontaneous. I’ll never forget my boys looking at me and asking what our plan was for the day. When I said “I’m not sure,” their eyes got huge. “What do you mean?!” This whole concept was foreign to them. It has taught them both ways – it’s good and comfortable and reassuring to have a plan, but it can be fun to be spontaneous.

My hope for you is that your own file (“things I never thought I’d do”) grows. Be open to new things. Let people in. Step out of your comfort zone. Take the trip. May your journey of enough lead you to a whole new set of adventures and a peace that fills your soul.