All because two people fell in love…

This is a picture of my grandparents in front of their church in June 1999. It’s one of my favorite photos of them, mainly because of my grandpa’s smile. Just over 20 years after this was taken, 90 of us got together for a reunion at a breath taking lodge, on a hill, in the middle of nowhere.

The saying, “All because two people fell in love,” was never more apparent than it was at this reunion. Although my grandparents weren’t physically there, they sure were with us in spirit. They helped to bring almost 90 of us together in one place. The weather was beautiful and we saw some relatives we hadn’t seen in a while.

There were several who weren’t able to make it – if you add us all up, we total close to 150! We each bring a different piece to the puzzle… a story uniquely our own, with a common bond of family. Not all of the puzzle pieces are pretty, or ones we want to show off to others. Some have sadness, stories of abuse, addiction, health issues, infant loss, divorce, deaths of parents/grandparents/siblings/children/spouse, mental health issues, etc. Each of those pieces blend with the shiny pieces of good health, grand babies, laughter, new beginnings, prosperity and love, to create a masterpiece.

Photo credit: Bonnie Maley.

On a beautiful July day, surrounded by green pastures, cows and blue skies, our mosaic puzzle came together. Like I said, there were many missing. Some due to other commitments and some because they have passed away already…. My cousin who passed away too young, another cousin’s husband who died unexpectedly, uncle who passed recently, an aunt many years before him, uncle who had been gone several years. They all leave behind loved ones who long for one more moment. One more hug or laugh or story, one more batch of cookies or cattle round up. We honor and remember them when we get together. We feel that piece that’s gone, and we try to fill that spot with love and laughter.

Some of us got very little sleep that weekend. I was one of them. We stayed up until almost dawn, laughing, dancing and playing games. Those are the things I will remember and hold close to my heart… my nieces swing dancing with their guys at 2am, my uncle’s laughter and jokes and “advice” to my teenage son, my cousin’s hug at 3:30am, my aunt’s “high five” for staying up the longest of all of her sisters. Years from now, I won’t remember the hours spent planning, but I will remember the look on my mom’s face when she sat by her sisters and looked through old photos. It’s as though those photos took them right back to that place in the picture so many years ago. I want that for my kids. I want them to look back on the pictures of this weekend and smile. “Remember when…”

I know a large family is rare now, and getting everyone together is difficult. I’m forever thankful that those two people fell in love, because that love has multiplied. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Sometimes peace is hard to come by. Some days you may feel like it’s never enough and you don’t know how you will make it through your struggle. Hold on. Reach for those who love you. Lean on them, let them lift you up, and just rest. You are always enough. Much love to you all today.

Take off the backpack…

School is just around the corner. It seems like summer just started in MN, and already the aisles of Target are filled with school supplies. I’m not talking about a school backpack, although those can get very heavy. I’m talking about the burdens we carry around daily.

What’s in your backpack? Guilt, shame, responsibility, fear, anger, resentment, comparison, old stories that no longer serve you? If I picture all of the things that are in my backpack, I start to feel the weight of it. At times, it has felt so heavy, I didn’t know if I could move forward. I wanted to just stay in bed, hide from the world and hope it would all go away. I’ve felt the weight of infertility, of being the primary income for our family, of cancer, of my own weight/health… you get the idea. It has also felt like I was carrying the backpack through quicksand at times.

Someone shared with me a valuable exercise… I will share it with you too. We all need reminders that it’s ok to lay those burdens down. Picture that backpack filled with all of your “stuff”… regardless of its size at the moment, picture yourself taking it off. Take the straps off your shoulders. Picture it thumping down to the ground, as the dust flies. Step back from the backpack and lift your arms up. Give it over to God (or your higher power or the universe etc.) and see yourself announcing, “I’m done! This is no longer mine to carry! I give it over to you!” Do you feel physically lighter?

I can hear some of you…”Oh, that’s silly. Why would I do that? Those things define me… I need those burdens.” But do you? Do you really? This isn’t a one time experience… it’s something you have to keep doing. Whether you wait for that backpack to be so full, you can hardly move, or if you lay it down daily, it’s for sure something to do more than once.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you take the time to lay your burdens down…you don’t need them. They don’t serve you!

Stop it…

I’d like to send a message to doctors & to ladies. Doctors: Stop telling women they don’t need a mammogram. Just stop. Stop saying it’s not needed until 40 or 50 years old. Just stop. I was 41. Two of my friends were also 41. If I hadn’t had a baseline done years prior, they might have dismissed the findings. They might have told me to wait and see if it changed. I heard someone tell the story about their doctor who told them they should just “wait and see” if things changed in 6 months. My cancer grew from nothing to stage 1 in 12 months. I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait until it progressed to stage 2 or 3 or 4.

My friend told me her Doctor said she didn’t need a mammogram even though it was covered by insurance. Thankfully, she didn’t take “no” for an answer. She at least has a baseline to compare others to. Hopefully she never needs it, but it’s there and could possibly save her life.

Ladies, stop. Stop making excuses.

  1. You’re busy. I get it. We are all busy.
  2. You’re scared of having a mammogram. Being told you have cancer is scary. Telling your kids that their mom has cancer is scary.
  3. It hurts. Guess what? Having surgery hurts. It hurts longer than the 45 seconds of having your boob squished for a mammogram. Catching it early makes the treatment less invasive.

My mother-in-law had breast cancer shortly after we were married (more than 20 years ago.) A few years ago, she stopped going in for regular check ups. She stopped putting herself first. We aren’t sure why, and now we won’t get the chance to ask her. She was 70. She didn’t make it to her 71st birthday. She won’t see her grandkids graduate high school or get married. Last Friday we lit a luminaria bag in her memory at our Relay for Life event.

Our Relay for Life is one of the largest in MN. I was co-captain last year and team captain this year. We raise funds all year and our Relay night is 8 hrs long. We don’t go through the night anymore… not enough people stayed that long. I think that’s common for several Relay events. People have other commitments during their short summer. It is a powerful, emotional night. People of all ages wearing purple “survivor” t-shirts walk the survivor lap. I thought for a moment “maybe I shouldn’t go or be involved…. maybe it’s not a big deal.” And then I thought of my mother-in-law, my aunt, my friend’s wife… and I realized it’s a big deal.

My husband took a picture of the survivor on the back of my shirt. At first I thought it was silly, but it’s one of my favorite pictures of the night. My good friend decorated a bag for me with a cat that looks like ours and some chickens in clothes… perfect. It gets to be in honor of me and not in memory.

In general, please stop thinking that being survivor is not a big deal. I have a friend from a recent retreat who is traveling all over the United States to try and find a cure, a solution… something to buy some more time. Life isn’t guaranteed. We don’t know our end date. Supporting the American Cancer Society helps to fund research, provide rooms or travel assistance or valet parking.

It’s a subject that gets me fired up. I am passionate about prevention. If one person gets checked because of this awareness, it’s worth it. Mammograms don’t only happen in October. You can get checked anytime.

Stop and watch a sunset. Stop and smell some flowers (they don’t have to be roses). Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you stop doubting, procrastinating or worrying and start living.


My nephews have started calving. Hundred of babies will soon fill their farm. I few weeks ago, I had posted about them lambing. Now they have lambs and calves. I grew up with both when I was little. We had a small “hobby farm” right in the edge of our small town. We had a handful of cattle and sheep. Enough to keep us busy. Enough to help me appreciate the hard work and care that goes into raising livestock.

I love the feel of new calves’ hair… Soft and curly. I love to watch them chase each other and play tag. I learned a lot from having cattle. When my husband and I were either dating or newly married, we drove by a pasture of cattle. They were all standing in the corner. I said, “it’s going to rain.” He wondered what I was talking about. Cattle gather in the corner before a storm. I’m not sure if the science behind it, but it happens. Another time, there was a group of calves with one cow by them. I remarked, “it’s the babysitter cow.” He thought I was nuts. “There is no such thing as a babysitter cow!” Um, yeah, there is. One cow stays by the calves while the other moms are off eating or something. 

He joked with me, “you should write a book on your cow observations & call it mooances.” I doubt it will be a best seller, since those were my main two observations. Why am I writing about cows? Observation. How often do we go through the motions of our day without really observing what’s around us? Do we notice nature around us? Do we pay attention to our natural roles? We all have a talent or passion for something that leads us to do what we were called to do. Whether it’s a hobby or your job, do something that makes you happy. The next time that someone says, “you’re really good at ___,” take that to heart. It might just be the path that you are supposed to follow. And the next time that you see a pasture of cows & calves, look for the babysitter.

Thank God…

This is why you wear a seatbelt. This scene is from last weekend. After my niece’s wedding, our 16 year old son was supposed to get up early so he could drive to Albany, MN and meet up with another FFA chapter and go to camp. Only he didn’t make it to the bus. He is ok, but this could easily have been a very different post.

At 5am, after only a few hours of sleep, he got up and got ready to go. I was also tired, so I failed to give him snacks or a pop to help keep him awake. 6:12 am my phone rang. “Mom, I’m not sure how to say this. I’m ok, but I’m in a ditch outside of Lidgerwood. I fell asleep and over corrected and ended up in the ditch.” My heart stopped and I was immediately awake. He was shaken, but ok. I asked if he could drive out and he thought he could. There was grass coming through the hood, but he cleaned some of it out and put the hubcap back on and drove out of the ditch. He was only a mile away from a town, so he pulled into the Cenex to clear some more stuff away, get a drink and be on his way. It was clear the car had more damage than he initially thought. It wasn’t going anywhere. At 6:30am, his FFA advisor isn’t answering his phone and he doesn’t know the people he is supposed to be meeting for the bus ride. He will not make the 8:45am bus. We are an hour away from him and couldn’t drive him there in time.

He eventually got ahold of his advisor who contacted the other chapter and the camp to let them know he would be delayed. My husband drove over to where his car was. We could drive him to camp ourselves, but they’d need to come back and get me and our other son and then go home and drop them off.

His seatbelt saved his life. He was tired, going 64 mph on cruise, trying to stay awake. Window down, then up, shifting in his seat, radio on… until he heard the tires hit the gravel on the left side of the road. He startled awake and over corrected, swerved back and forth and slammed into the ditch. Thank God it was 6am on Sunday morning, so there was no traffic. He could have hit someone. Thank God he wasn’t on the interstate. Thank God he was wearing his seatbelt, or he would have been thrown through the front windshield and the car would have driven over him. Thank God he didn’t roll it. Thank God he didn’t fall asleep 10 seconds later because he would have ended up in a ditch full of water. Thank God he is ok. Thank God he learned a lesson in a non-fatal way.

He learned a few things:

  1. Wear your seatbelt, even if it’s not “cool.”
  2. Driving while tired is dangerous.
  3. Do not drive with the cruise on if you are sleepy.
  4. Have snacks or drinks along to help keep you awake.
  5. North Dakota mud will turn to a clay brick if it dries.

Shaken and probably suffering from whiplash, he still went to camp. I drove him the 2 hours from our house up there. He was be able to catch the bus back home, or at least to Albany. “Mom, I could have died. It all happened so fast.” Yes, yes I know. I am beyond thankful for the angels watching over you, tapping you on the shoulder and helping you to wake up. I’m thankful that God spared your life that Sunday morning.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough & always wear your seatbelt!

I didn’t breathe…

This was me on Saturday at my niece’s wedding. It was 90 degrees in ND on a hot summer night. The gym (where the reception & dance were held) was air conditioned, but it just couldn’t keep up with having over 300 people, the humid weather and doors opening. The humidity isn’t the reason why I didn’t breathe. I didn’t breathe because I was running around, trying to make it all perfect, and I failed to fully take it all in. The day went by almost as fast as my own wedding and I didn’t stop and take a breath.

My oldest sister’s oldest daughter got married Saturday. My husband and I were asked to be a host couple, and I offered to bake cupcakes. My love language is “acts of service,” followed by “words of affirmation.” People who know me will totally understand. I like to “do” and to help. (If baking was a love language, that would be on the list too. We made around 400 cupcakes with homemade frosting.) I’m not sure what a typical host couple does at weddings, but my planning & control freak sides take over and I become the Energizer bunny. I helped with my nephew’s wedding a few years ago also. The reception was in the same place, so I was somewhat familiar. It’s an old school, no longer used as a school but as an antique shop and community center. The gym is beautiful and makes a great wedding reception venue. The town itself isn’t really even a town anymore. They don’t appear on the list of ND town census. There is literally one street. I think there are 2 or 3 houses.

Big dark thunderstorm clouds loomed on the horizon as we took some family pictures outside. The temperature dropped a few degrees, and it appeared as though we would get drenched, but the rains stayed away. The wedding was beautiful. My niece was stunning and her groom had the biggest smile… just as it should be. She had planned everything, had a budget, an itinerary, and a vision of how things would look. It all looked magical. Everyone seemed to have a good time. It was hot, but we had lots of bottled water for the guests. There were snacks and bars and hundreds of cupcakes.

“You should really sit down.” I’m pretty sure I heard that phrase 20 times that night. In my mind, a good event is one where things are tidy and there are extra paper towels and toilet paper and the garbages are taken care of. The snack table is refilled, the lemonade is cold, there is plenty of water and the tables are cleared of plates & cups and half eaten bars. That was my job, at least in my head. For as many times as someone told me to stop running around, my niece and her new husband said, “thank you.” A sincere, loving, heart felt appreciation for what was being done… so they could just enjoy their wedding.

One of my aunts sent me a note the next day. She said, “I watched you scan the room and take care of every detail.” I didn’t do this for recognition or praise. I did it as an act of service. A few years ago, after my brother-in-law’s farm accident, we didn’t know if he’d get to walk his daughter down the aisle… but he did. I also

did this for him and my sister, so they could also enjoy the night.

I did dance a few songs with my husband. (We can two step to almost anything.) I wish I would have stopped a little more though, just to breathe deep. I should have taken it all in. I should have absorbed that love and joy and newness of marriage.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you stop and take a breath amidst the chaos. May you look for the good and focus on the blessings. The more you focus on the blessings, the more abundant they become. They sure were abundant for these newlyweds. Wishing them many years of wedded bliss. I’d do it all again, but next time, I’ll breathe more.