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.