Thanks & giving…

This past Thursday, we spent Thanksgiving with extended family & friends. 2 large meals and a whole table of pies and desserts made for some stuffed guests, not just stuffed turkey. Friday morning at 3:30am, our alarm rang. We threw some clothes on & hopped in the car. This year, our boys came with us for Black Friday shopping. Their eyes were wide yet sleepy while hundreds of people streamed into Fleet Farm on a chilly North Dakota morning. Some were just there for the free stuffed sloth. We made a couple more stops and didn’t have to wait in line too long. The reward? Some kid-approved Christmas gifts & Sandy’s donuts (one of the best donut shops around). We have lots to give thanks for.

We stayed in West Fargo with our friends. Our plans were to do our Christmas baking on Saturday. Since Black Friday shopping went smoothly, we started baking a few things early. Our annual baking day turned into baking days – plural. Most of our recipes were doubled or x6! A neighbor & her mom came over to join in the fun. From Friday afternoon through Saturday at 9pm, we went through more than 25lbs of sugar and flour, over 120 eggs. My husband packaged all of the treats into 3 separate tables of containers. Her husband did dishes for hours. We mixed, measured, scooped, baked, dipped and rolled until we smelled like sugar. Our aprons, the counters and the floors were covered in sugar & flour. Good thing my friend loves to sweep! Many of these goodies will be gifts. Some will be for piano open houses, some for bus drivers, teachers, neighbors and co-workers. Family gatherings and pot-luck events and a Relay for Life fundraiser will all benefit from our baking day. Our joy is in giving it away! (Of course some will be snacks at home too)

You know the saying that anything “baked with love” tastes better? I think that’s why people love our treats. They aren’t anything strange or necessarily special- but they are baked with love. While Christmas music plays in the background, we bake our treats and visit. There may have been a glass or two of wine included, but not too much – we need to make sure the measurements are accurate! We can’t exactly remember when it started, but it’s been about 9-10 yrs that we have baked together. I think we only missed the year we moved. Each year, one of us packs up half the kitchen and comes with recipes and “raw materials” to bake several dozen treats. I think we made 25 different kinds of treats this year, but we’ve been told to scale back next year, our our packaging department might protest.

Whatever your holiday traditions are, I hope they involve both thanks AND giving. Peace be with you on your journey of enough & may you enjoy a holiday treat or spend some time laughing and visiting with those you love.

Not just another angel…

Do you collect anything? I’m not sure if people still do that. One of our sons collects fishing gear but that’s not what I’m referring to. When I was young, I remember my mom’s spoon collection. Decorative spoons from places we visited were displayed in a case. She also collected angels. We would try to find unique or meaningful angels. One of my favorite ornaments (aside from ones my kids made) is an angel from her that says “I made a wish and you came true.” My maternal grandmother crocheted an angel tree topper and it sits on top of our tree every Christmas. She lived to be 95 and it’s a great reminder each year.

I went to Israel when I was in high school. We saw a bunch of camels there, and I brought some camel figurines home as a memento. Since the only camels in North Dakota live in zoos, they were fascinating to me. Shortly after that trip, I started collecting camels. I got tired of dusting them and scaled them down, especially during our moves.

My mother-in-law used to collect bells and angels. I’m not sure of the story behind the bells. My husband thought it might be related to the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” She had a variety of angel figurines too. I’m not sure which ones were the most meaningful to her. I didn’t get a chance to ask. She passed away in September, just shy of her 71st birthday. She had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She first had breast cancer shortly after we were married. It returned last year. When people remember her, it’s often for the way she spoke her mind. It’s also for how strong & tough she was. My husband and I started dating in 1993, so I knew her for 25 years. We are probably more similar than I’ll admit out loud. We both love my husband & my boys, we both had breast cancer, we both speak our minds and we are both tough/strong women. This angel will be given to my father-in-law to place at her gravesite until a headstone is ready. It was hand made by a guy in Fargo,ND – Eli Harvala. It’s not “just another angel.” It’s one that will rust & tarnish with time, a reminder that none of us are perfect. We start out as babies, all shiny and new, and the storms of life alter our appearance. The comforting thing, to me, is that her spirit will live on – free from pain, free from worry. Her spirit is shiny and new.

If you are new to my blog, I frequently end with, “peace be with you on your journey of enough.” To me, peace is an amazing feeling… one I know my mother-in-law is experiencing now, but one we can experience on earth too.

Filling up on magic…

This past weekend, I spent some time in Superior,WI at a rustic camp (this is me by Lake Superior). 10 ladies and our leader, Jodie Harvala, spent Thursday to Sunday laughing, enjoying nature, hauling wood, bonding and exploring our Spirit side. We didn’t sing any church hymns, but we were at a Lutheran camp and did sing grace before every meal.

When thinking of a Spirit retreat, my family instantly thinks of “church ladies”. While many of us do believe in God, it wasn’t the purpose of the weekend. We were working with the Spirit side of life – learning more about intuition and paying attention to messages. Before I lose you to an image of a giant cauldron in the woods, let me tell you more about it.

We didn’t:

  • Cast any spells
  • Do anything related to voodoo
  • Perform any sacrifices
  • Use a magic wand

We did:

  • Listen to our intuition
  • Connect with like minded souls
  • Laugh until our sides hurt
  • Cry happy and sad tears
  • Release regrets and fears
  • Challenge each other to grow
  • Learn and expand
  • Play “hide & seek”
  • Hike through the forest
  • Observe the power of a waterfall
  • Feed chickadees & squirrels

I could go on and on, yet it’s hard to explain at the same time. I hauled wood in the snow with two friends I hadn’t seen in a while. We laughed and listened to Christmas music and felt like little kids again as the snow fell gently down. It looked like we were inside a snow globe. I met some new friends whom I might not have crossed paths with otherwise. I shared my story and was challenged to write a new one. We talked about big dreams, past hurts, lost loved ones and the messages they send us. We wrote down our regrets and fears and released them in the wood fireplace. We wrote down our dreams and all of the things we are thankful for. It was magical.

I think we get caught in the day-to-day grind and we end up empty. If we don’t fill ourselves back up, we have nothing left to give to others. Was it hard to leave my family for a weekend? Yep. Did they do OK without me? Yep. And I returned refilled with magic and hope, forgiveness and love. Our journey isn’t meant to be walked alone. Find those people who KNOW that you are enough. Let them remind you how magical you are. I wish you peace on your journey of enough & enough magic to fill you up.

Thank you for a magical weekend!

Robbie’s Hope

I believe in God. I always have. There are some things I would like to ask him about though. The list is long, but here are a few:

1. Why do we have extra body parts that we can live without (appendix, gallbladder etc)?

2. Why can’t we turn on and off our ability to have kids?

3. What on earth do I need hair on the top of my nose for?!

One of my biggest questions is:

4. Why do we lose loved ones too soon?

There has been a lot of deaths lately. A couple of weeks ago, a friend I grew up with in 4-H posted a link on Facebook. Her nephew had passed away. He was 15. (The same age as my oldest son.) Everyone loved him. He was an active kid, outgoing, smiled a lot. But he was silently struggling with depression. Behind that smile, he was not OK. He died by suicide while his parents were at teacher conferences hearing about how great he was. Instead of taking him to swimming, they had to plan a funeral. They had to figure out what his wishes were. They could have easily lost themselves in grief. (I tend to think that’s what I would do.) Instead, they were called to action.

They started “Robbie’s Hope” with the intention of bringing more awareness to teen depression & suicide. They later learned of the acronym for HOPE: Hold On, Pain Ends. Their GoFundMe page has raised over $75,000 to help get awareness and prevention programs started in Colorado.

Even more amazing – all of the conversations it has sparked. I’ve talked to both of my boys about this. I’m sure many others have also had conversations they didn’t think they would have with their kids. If you haven’t had that conversation yet, do it NOW. Please let them know to talk to parents, coaches, school counselors, teachers, pastors, relatives… anyone who will listen. Robbie’s parents thought he was OK.

“It’s ok to not be ok. It’s not ok not to tell anyone.” This is a message that his family wants to be sure you hear. “Not ok” is normal. The photo shopped and Instagram perfect looking people have issues too. Talk to someone & get some help. Suicide is not the answer. There are many people who love you.

After showing him the news story on Robbie, my oldest son said, “It’s true. I’m sure there are a lot of people struggling. Mom, guys are the worst. Nobody wants to talk about feelings.” If that’s true, how do we change it? How do we make it ok for guys to open up? How do we encourage them to support each other? They are constantly bombarded with not being enough. Not a nice enough truck, not a big enough deer, not a fancy enough boat, not smart enough… and he’s 15. It’s a completely different scenario from when I was 15. Instead of someone talking bad about you on Instagram, they stuck a mean (hand written) note in your locker. Bullying and depression aren’t the same thing. Talking to someone is a good first step for both.

We need to believe them. We need to support them. We need to be present with them. Sometimes our journeys take us places we don’t want to go. We need to get the message out so fewer parents have to plan funerals. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s NOT ok to not tell anyone you’re not ok.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. You are loved. You are important.