The “me” before you…

A few weekends ago, I had the chance to spend a couple of hours in the car with our oldest son. He’s almost 17. As we talked about different jobs my husband had before he was a stay-at-home-dad, I realized there is a lot he doesn’t know about either of us. We kind of assume that he knows what we were like before he arrived, but how could he? He didn’t realize it was 7 years after we were married before we had him. He didn’t know what activities I was involved with in high school. He thought it was strange that I was in everything except a major sport. He didn’t know much about his dad being born overseas or living in Idaho. He doesn’t know much about my trip to Israel when I was in high school.

There was a whole different “me” before my kids arrived. Some stories are ones I’m not proud to share, but they did shape me into who I am today. Even the boys’ younger years are ones they don’t remember, so they need to be told what happened. When we moved here, there was a whole different “me” in ND than I am here. Sure, basic parts are the same, but many people don’t know my story. My coworkers had experiences before I arrived that I’m not aware of also.

It was a good reminder – we often assume people know our whole story, even though they are just walking in on a chapter. The people who walk in on a chapter often fill in the pages with assumptions. That’s what we do in the store when we assume someone’s story based on their looks. It’s what we do when we assume the naughty kids just lack discipline instead of knowing their home life story. I’ve written before about assuming. However, without knowing the whole story, that’s what we naturally do. When my kids just say their day was “good”… I don’t know the whole story, so I assume based on how they act or what other things they say.

As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to get to know someone’s story. Find out some of their “me before you”… or share some of your story with someone else. Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Check back with me next week when I share my birthday “acts of kindness” list. Hopefully it will inspire someone to do even one thing from the list.

Did you open all of the gifts?

We went to the movie Jumanji 2 after Christmas. It was light-hearted and I laughed quite a bit. Danny Devito is in the movie as a crabby grandpa. He tells his grandson (& anyone else) “Growing old sucks.” He just had hip surgery and is having a difficult time getting around. At the end of the movie, after their adventures, he says to the grandson, “You know, growing old…” the grandson interrupts, “sucks.” “Nope, growing old is a gift.” I had a tear in my eye because it’s true. Being able to grow old is a gift we forget about and not everyone gets to enjoy.

This Christmas was difficult for many people. I had classmates who lost their parents and this was the first Christmas without them. A local farmer, his brother and his son all died from toxic silo fumes… a devastating loss at the holiday time. A UND football player was in a skiing accident and had severe spinal injuries…his family is praying for a miracle that he will walk again. The gift of growing old. We often forget about that one. In the season of worrying about getting all of the presents wrapped and traveling here and there, we often skip over a big gift – the miracle of life.

I’ve witnessed the power of prayer – for my brother-in-law and for myself. I will never forget the feeling of having people pray for us. It’s incredible. After his farm accident, we were amazed and thankful that he was alive. We were even more amazed and thankful when his broken ribs and broken pelvis healed… and he walked again. I felt people praying for me before my cancer surgeries and it gave me peace. Last week, I posted about the 46 acts of kindness I had done. Praying for someone is something that costs $0 and can mean the world to someone else. Pray intentionally. Actually do it instead of just saying you will. Don’t believe in God? Send them positive healing thoughts.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you open all the gifts this year, and be reminded each day what a great gift growing old really is.

Don’t stop believing…

As I sat and wondered, “what should I write about this week??”… my husband started playing a bunch of Journey songs on his phone. “Sometimes it’s ok to celebrate Journey’s greatest hits.” LOL, ok, I’ll go with that. I was born in the 70’s and graduated high school in the early 90’s. I had some Journey cassette tapes growing up. “Don’t stop believing” and “Faithfully” were two classics from my teen years. I was kind of naive though and didn’t fully grasp the meanings of many song lyrics until later.

Don’t stop believing… maybe it means something different now. When I think of believing, I think about God instead of the rock group Journey. When I think about where I was 5 years ago, having cancer surgery and not knowing what my future would hold, it would have been easy to stop believing. “Why would God give cancer to me? Doesn’t he know I have two boys who need me? Doesn’t he know I had plans to grow old with my husband? Doesn’t he know my parents and sisters and family worried about me?” Why God? There is a Christian song by Austin French called Why God? It talks about the things we wonder about – why do bad things happen? It’s on my list of questions to ask someday. I don’t have the answers. I think I know why I got cancer. It wasn’t karma or plastic bowls or sugar or genetics. It was a lesson of self compassion, empathy, understanding, asking for help, being open and connecting with others. It taught me to be brave and compassionate and daring.

Though it all, I didn’t stop believing. I prayed for health and healing. My faith helped pull me through. Our youngest son struggled with believing. He was 8 when I had cancer, and I think he was a little mad at God. Each night since he was little, we would say bedtime prayers. We would ask God to watch over us and keep us safe and healthy. Why wasn’t God listening? It took a while to work through those fears. Fear of loss, fear of the unknown.

I kept falling back to my favorite verse- Jeremiah 29:11-12. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Then you will call on me and I will listen to you. He says he will listen. He doesn’t say he will fix everything or make it all better. He doesn’t say there is a magic wand to erase the heartbreak and tragedy.

Share some kindness. Bring joy to someone. Take time for yourself. Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Don’t stop believing… in yourself or your God or your higher power.

5 year goals…

January is typically resolution/goal setting/vision board time. Have you ever been asked. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” For many years, I didn’t know how to answer that question. The idea that I had no clue what the next 5 years was going to bring kind of scared me. Why couldn’t I envision the next 5 years? Why didn’t I have 5 year goals? I honestly worried at times that perhaps I wasn’t going to be around in the next 5 years and that’s why I couldn’t see it.

I worried about it when we were first married- what would the next 5 years bring? The first 5 years brought no children… would the next 5?

I worried about it when I first started my full-time job. Where would the next 5 years take me? I was asked to set long term goals but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I worried about it when I was pregnant for the second time. “The baby had a 2 vessel umbilical cord instead of 3.” What would the next 5 years bring? (Spoiler alert, he is fine)

And, I worried about it when I had cancer. What would the next 5 years look like? What treatment would I have? What were my odds? How would my family cope?

Next Tuesday marks 5 years from surgery. 5 years from when the surgeon said, “We got it all.” 5 years from when they said, “Her lymph nodes are clear.” 5 years from when I wore pink gloves to my surgery and afterwards told my husband that I was ready to bust out of there.

I’m writing about it now instead of next week because I feel like I need to honor this milestone. So much has changed in 5 years. It seems like such a short time, and yet it seems life times ago. It often feels like a bad dream, but one that shaped me into who I am today. 5 years ago, people prayed for me and they didn’t know me or hadn’t spoken to me in years. 5 years ago, I had no idea where I would be today. 5 years from today, so much more will change. God willing, I’ll have 21 & 18 year olds and a whole new chapter will be unfolding.

5 years can go by in a blink. Some days I feel like I’m making the most of it, and other days I struggle. I do have some regrets: I wish I would have spent more time on the floor with my kids. I wish I would have played more games and come home earlier. I wish I would have made date night a priority. I wish I would have taken time for self care and not felt like it was selfish (it’s NOT selfish). The list could go on, but it won’t. Today, I lay down those regrets knowing that my kids and husband love me anyway… flaws and all.

Next Tuesday, I will acknowledge the day, but it will be with gratitude & not fear. Do you have 5 year goals? Good for you! Do you have no idea what the next 5 years will bring? Good for you too! I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May your next 5 years be filled with all the things they’re supposed to have, whether you know it now or not.

20/20 Vision

How many 2020 jokes and memes are out there? Probably a lot. This isn’t a joke or a meme … just a little bit about last Saturday. (Ok, it’s a LOT because it was Oprah!) The picture is of me and my friend, Jessie – who is for sure my Gayle. Oprah said everyone needs a Gayle. I lucked out.

Several months ago, my friend texted me and said something about Oprah coming to Minneapolis and that we had to go. I agreed, thinking Oprah would talk for a couple of hours and that would be cool. Once the event got closer, we read more about it being a day of wellness and vision setting. Awesome. Then we learned she had guests and we get lunch… it kept getting better. On a brisk Minnesota day, 15,000 fans packed the Xcel center in St. Paul, MN. It was mostly women, but there were a few brave men. Anyone who attended was in for a treat! There were hand massage stations, spots to get your hair touched up, samples and photo spots…. and that was just the concourse! Once we found our seats, we had an Oprah treat bag with snacks, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, a vision 20/20 workbook, Oprah pen, WW coupons and Kohl’s cash (I think they know their audience!)

Our day of wellness began with a dance party. You could feel the energy in the room rise. Of course everyone danced – we were about to see Oprah!! Oprah was a “bucket list” item I didn’t know I had. Wow. I knew she was an amazing speaker, but seriously… SHE IS AN AMAZING SPEAKER! I could have listened to her all day. She talked about her story and some of the things that shaped her life. It wasn’t easy. Her grandmother hoped she would have a nice family to work for some day as a maid. She knew she would do something more. Her talk show was #1 for 25 years. She spoke about the key to it being such a success- connection and intention. Each show idea had to have a clear intention or she wouldn’t consider it. She refused to be fake. She wanted her connection with the audience and with the guests to be real. People could tell it was genuine. When they were on her show, they felt heard. She said that almost every person she interviewed would say, “Was that good?” At the end of the taping, they would ask Oprah if they were enough. Wow.

We also did a mass meditation with Jesse Israel. The whole stadium was quiet for 60 seconds. Oprah led us through her Vision 20/20 workbook – it was like being in a giant classroom with one of the most amazing teachers. After a Panera lunch, we were ready for the second half. (I really want to know the logistics behind 15,000 boxed lunches and how the sandwiches, water and apple were cold!) Julianne Hough came on stage and got us moving our bodies and wondering how she could run around stage and into the audience while barefoot and not be out of breath! She was amazing! Tina Fey was Oprah’s guest interview for this stop. She has someone new each time. She seemed surprised that people agreed to do it. Um, if Oprah asked you to show up, I think you would… even in MN in January when it’s -2 degrees outside! Tina talked about her “reboot” and how she is taking time for herself and her family. She has achieved so many of the goals she set for herself, she’s waiting to see what is next. They discussed the Mary Tyler Moore show and how influential she was to both of them.

Oprah talked about when she was first starting out, she visited a co-worker’s home, and they had a big house with 6 trees. “When I get rich, I’m going to have trees also!” She said she was looking out her window recently, and saw her 6 trees. She went out to count her trees but there were so many, so she hired someone to count them for her. She had so much more than 6. She stops every day to be grateful for her trees. Gratitude is a huge part of Oprah’s life. It’s not just a saying or a fad. She lives her life with gratitude & intention.

So many good things, so many cool stories and so inspiring. It was a bucket filling day for sure. It was a day sandwiched in between the losses of two friends who I met this past spring at a cancer survivor retreat. One lady passed on Friday and one on Monday. Between the two of them, 4 kids will be missing their moms. It stopped me in my tracks. I knew they were ill, but kept hoping for a miracle. Life is precious and short. Dream BIG! Oprah talked about setting the vision and intention for big goals.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Even Oprah said God doesn’t make mistakes… He created you for a purpose. How cool is that?!

This year, be you…

When I was in college, I was a server at Red Lobster. The tips were good (except if you had to work lunch), and the schedule worked around my college classes for the most part. We had at least 3 managers who kept an eye on things. One gentleman took me off to the side and said, “You need to smile more. You need to look happier.” One other manager was more interested in how we looked and if our white shirts were clean. You could tell she was not listening when you talked to her. It was one of those periods of time where you look back and realize it shaped part of who you are… or who you thought you should be. I was told I wasn’t good enough. I seemed too serious, thinking, trying to remember who needed extra butter and who needed tartar sauce and which table was #73. I wasn’t “Mary Sunshine.” I was me… a college student, not sure of who she was yet.

Since it’s the New Year, you may be bombarded with resolutions or things you need to change. What if you were just the best version of you? Not a number on a scale or a grade point average or a picture perfect version – but an unapologetic, thankful to be here, awesome you. I’m not saying give up or don’t try… just be kinder to yourself. Focus on the things you are great at, the things that bring you joy, the things that bring joy to others. Don’t beat yourself up over the rest of it. I know when I’m focusing on all things I shouldn’t eat or can’t eat or how heavy I am, I feel worse. It’s not motivating to me when I think about the can’t(s) and should have’s.

So, here is my resolution: this year I will be me. I will be happy, healthy, committed and helpful. This year I will go on trips with my sisters, my family, my hubby and by myself. I will drink more water and spend time with my chickens. What am I good at? Writing, baking, giving to others, painting, sewing and planning trips. Those things (in addition to my family of course) bring me joy. This year, I’m going to do those things and I’m going to be me. I know I should lose 40 lbs, get back to running and be more successful… but what if the focus on the things that bring joy also brings new opportunities, experiences and joy to others? Then I’d say it will be a pretty good year.

My sister gave me a plate that has this saying on it and a co-worker gave me the mug. “My chickens think I’m amazing.” I love it, it makes me smile. I think you’re amazing too. You have the ability to do great things. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May 2020 be a great year for you.