H.O.P.E. ; Pause, but let your story continue

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends. Mental health awareness is something that needs to get more attention. We have talked more about mental health than we did in the past, but there is room for more awareness & acceptance. We now have a “World Mental Health Day,” which is a great step forward. Four years ago, a friend of ours lost a son to suicide. He was the same age as our oldest son. They started an organization called Robbie’s Hope to help stop the epidemic of suicide by reaching teens and their families. They have teen ambassadors who help raise awareness in their communities and wrote a handbook for parents. Visit http://www.robbies-hope.com to learn more about their mission.

A long time family friend shared this story with me. It’s written by a pastor from Trinity Evangelical Lutheran church in Watertown, MN: Mark Twain said, “There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibly. Inside of the dullest exterior, there is a drama, a comedy and tragedy.” At out annual outdoor service during “rails to trails” weekend in July 2018, I shared the above quote by Mark Twain that spoke to the fact that everybody has a story. It might seem obvious, and yet we so often forget this simple fact when we see people on the street, at work, at the store, or even at church. We forget that they might have just had a birth in their family, and so they’re celebrating. We forget that they might have just had a death in their family, and so they’re grieving. We forget that they might have just lost a job, or found a job, or moved to a new house, or received important news in an email, a text, or a letter. It might not seem like a big deal, but when we forget that everybody has a story, we begin to see them simply as “objects” that are inanimate rather than “subjects” that are full of life. You know, people. With feelings. And goals. And hopes. And dreams. And they are worthy of our attention, and our support and our prayers. And this means you, too. Maybe you feel like you, yourself, don’t have much of a story, or have much to say, or have much to offer. But it’s not true. You do have a story. You do have something to say. You do have a lot to offer. Someone once said, “To the world, you might be just one person. But to one person, you just might be the world.” Yes, that means you. Whether you realize it or not, you have so much to offer… so let your light shine! Pastor Engholm

I’ve written about this before but we all need a good reminder. It’s OK to not be OK. It’s ok to have a bad day, a sad or stressful time or to need a pause. We need to put aside the “just toughen up” mentality and acknowledge the real feelings… validate the stories…. let someone feel seen and heard. Take a pause, but please let your story continue. You never know the impact you have on other people. Don’t assume people are ok either. Robbie was a smiling kid with loving parents. He helped other kids through struggles but didn’t reach out about his own. If you are struggling, please dial 988, or 911 if you are in a crisis.

I’m forever thankful that my son had a pause, but his story continues. Please hold on. Reach out. You are loved. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Breaking isn’t bad …

How often do you tell the same story? Either out loud or in your head… “I’m so____.” We repeat our woes or claim to be unable to break the cycle. But we can break the cycle. We can end the story and start a new one. We can be better than what broke us. We can choose compassion, acceptance & understanding.

I recently shared a story about how we apologize for our messy houses. The author encouraged us to break the cycle- to be the generation that doesn’t apologize for being normal. It’s not that we don’t try, but things are hectic… we may have little kids or teens running to different events & meetings or doing homework. Sometimes anxiety or depression keeps us from doing household chores. Apparently, it’s also related to ADHD to be bothered by clutter but not able to take action to clean it up.

If you’re struggling with your kitchen table being full of papers, mail, random water bottles or sunglasses, I see you… I am you. The kitchen table mess didn’t break me, but it sure has made me apologize a time or two. “Heal instead of becoming bitter.”

“Be the person you needed when you were hurting.” I think that’s where a lot of my advice from my cancer recovery comes from. I wish I would have had someone to ____. Instead of dwelling on the hurt, break the cycle. I choose acceptance. I choose inclusion. I choose grace. I choose understanding.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you find joy in creating your new chapter.

Katie & I …

It’s officially October, and the fall leaves are in full display in central MN. October is also breast cancer awareness month. This became extra meaningful for me after my cancer diagnosis & treatment. I recently got this mug as a gift from an aunt of mine. I chose to have pink sparkle nails this month too! I probably won’t wear pink every day since I work from home.

Last week I wrote about connections. I also learned that I have a connection with Katie Couric. Although she is 65 (I was 41), she was diagnosed with breast cancer this summer. From the Today Show web site, I learned she also had a lumpectomy (left side) and radiation. They interviewed her on the Today Show on Monday and we had a remarkably high number of similarities. Stage 1, Her2 Negative, HR positive, left side lumpectomy & radiation, followed by aromatase inhibitors, no chemo. So I guess we are “besties” now. I do have a mass communication degree, and I did do a TV internship, so yeah, we’re pretty similar. (Ha ha)

Some of her main goals are to increase awareness, get legislation passed to improve health care and insurance coverage for women with dense breast tissue, and remind women to get their mammogram. When you have a mammogram, they should be able to tell you if you have dense tissue. If you do, a 3D mammogram is recommended because they can see through the dense tissue more effectively. If they notice a spot of concern, they may do an ultrasound of the area. Depending on what that says, they may biopsy it and test the tissue to confirm if it’s cancerous or not. (PS – if you do have a biopsy, do not go back to work the rest of the day. Get some ice packs, take some ibuprofen and take a nap!)

The month of October is a trigger for me. There are a few “anniversaries” coming up and this is just before the big one. Mine was caught early. I took the recommended steps but I also incorporated some things on my own. I believe I am supposed to be an example of early detection and surviving/thriving. I slipped a little on my journey, but I’m on track again. I’m starting to feel better as I shed some pounds, and my A1C has gone from 6.9 in April to 5.8 now (goal is under 5.7)

I wish your peace on your journey of enough & grace through the seasons of change. Take time to care for yourself while you’re busy caring for others. And… get your mammogram!

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.

Oh for goodness’ sake…

Last week was a busy one. We’ve been battling sickness off and on in our house. The schools are filled with all kinds of illnesses too. It’s kind of difficult to avoid. Our youngest son has been preparing for the high school musical, “Chicago teen edition.” Several of the cast had colds or sore throats. It made practice and performing a challenge. With the help of DayQuil and many other home remedies, they made it to, and through the performances. I was able to see the preview Wednesday night. They had shows Thursday through Sunday. I was able to be at each one.

It’s hard to put into words what I felt about the show. It was amazing. The songs gave me chills. The dancing and acting was great. The orchestra really showed off their talent. The sound and light crews did an outstanding job. The choreographer put a stunning show together. And their director was incredible. She took 26 students, balanced their schedules (some in additional sports), and she brought out the best in each of them. They shined!

These kids & director faced criticism they shouldn’t have had to deal with. I normally avoid conflict, but this brought out the mama bear in me. People would say, “You’re not a good Christian if you see the musical.” They called it scandalous before even seeing it. Some people completely mischaracterized the show and said it was about prostitution. They criticized their costumes. They rose above and wowed anyone who came to the performance. It was certainly more than a high school musical. They were professional grade.

It wasn’t vulgar or inappropriate for teens. There was no kissing in the musical, no gun replicas were used. These kids have seen and dealt with worse things in their lives. A two hour musical that was less “R rated” than most movies or TV shows. We make these kids go through active shooter drills at school, but don’t trust them to sing “Razzle Dazzle?”

It costs $0 to be good & kind. It cost $10/ticket to support these youth and let them show off their amazing talent. I was raised Christian and I’m not worse for having seen the shows. In fact, I’m better having seen it. I have a renewed faith in our kids and how amazing they are. I’m not going to commit adultery or murder because I saw the teen edition of “Chicago.” I will have the soundtrack going through my head for weeks to come. I will smile when I think about what a great job they all did. I will beam with pride when I see the photos of my son as Fogarty. I will write a thank you note to their director.

“Oh for goodness’ sake,” was what I thought when I read the negative comments from our community. Our community who is supposed to support and encourage our youth. Instead of criticizing, be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Be the good, for goodness’ sake.

BFF?

I couldn’t find a fitting picture but I love the river.

Within the last few weeks, I’ve seen Facebook posts about our 30 year High School reunion & the “all school reunion,” as well as people bringing their kids to college. It got me thinking about friendships. How many people have life long friends or friends from college years versus friends they met later in life?

I didn’t attend the high school reunion due to a bowling tournament for our youngest son. If I had gone, it would have been pretty uncomfortable. I haven’t kept in touch with many of my classmates for the last 30 years. It was not a large class – less than 50 in our whole grade. Obviously we have things in common, but we grew apart for various reasons. It was probably 10 years ago when I last saw any of them. I kept in touch with my college friends for a while, but we grew apart also.

What makes a lasting friendship? I’m probably not the right person to ask. I told one friend about my concerns regarding her abusive boyfriend… that friendship ended. I over-shared with another friend… didn’t hear much from her after that. Some who I thought were friends disappeared during crisis. Some faded without knowing the reason why… maybe there wasn’t much of a reason. In my head, it was likely something I did. Since I’m more introverted, I tend to avoid going out to meet people – I prefer to be behind the scenes. I wasn’t always that way. I was much more social in high school and college. I think it was the fading of friends that shifted it for me. I know people, but not all of them really know me.

I’m guarded. I worry about being accepted, about not being enough or being too much. I value time with my family and prefer to recharge at home. I do enjoy adventures and traveling. Attempts at setting boundaries end up being walls. What do I think is important in a BFF? Acceptance, honesty, fun, caring, compassion & joy.

I remember the friend who could walk and talk for miles. I miss that. I remember the friend who stopped by with a meal, I want to be like that friend. The friend who sends random postcards or texts, I cherish that. The friend who digs deeper into the “How are you doing?” question and doesn’t take my “fine” answer, I appreciate that. I want to be the kind of friend who makes a difference. I want to be a safe/accepting friend. I want to make someone smile, make them realize they matter and let them see how wonderful they are.

Our seasons of friendship change. For some, the season is longer and others maybe fade more quickly than we planned. Either way, they shape us into who we are. I hope you have enriching friendships and you are able to be the kind of friend you need yourself.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Make sure you are friends with yourself first and be aware of what you want in a friendship. You are enough, just as you are. Someone else thinks so too!

Hanging in there…

This little green tree frog was chilling on the chokecherry bushes the other day. Cameron found him and he hopped onto my hand. I put him back in the bushes and I thought it was cute how his sticky hand was hanging onto the leaf. Ever feel like him? Just hanging on and trying to get by? Trying to blend in and keep cool? Yeah, me too.

The last several weeks have been a whirlwind at work. I feel like this little guy, just hanging on. Our garden is in full swing and the chokecherries just turned ripe. This week marks the start of the fall school season- athletic meetings, cross country practice, sales on school supplies and one last camp. Next week will be musical practice also. We don’t start school until after Labor Day but will have a cross country meet before then. A few last Farmers markets and we will be picking pumpkins before we know it.

If you’re just hanging on, good job – keep it up. It’s ok to rest in the shade if the leaves. Blending in can be a form of rest also. It allows you to just “be”… without as much effort or explaining. That’s totally fine. Look how happy this little frog is, blending in with the leaves. He’s less attractive to predators and he will probably find a snack or two.

We put so much value on being busy. I wish that wasn’t the case. As we start another school year, I’m reminded of how few there are left. Our youngest is in 10th grade already. I hope we can enjoy all the activities amidst the busy schedules. I’d better start getting ready for cross country spectating and become familiar with the “Chicago” musical songs.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Life is short- try the chokecherry jam!

Hidden victories…

First of all, it’s a temporary tattoo. I’m too scared of the pain to get a real one. Maybe someday. I do like the image though. It reminds me of making a wish. Making a wish on a dead weed doesn’t sound as appealing. It’s all about perspective.

Secondly, I’m celebrating a “non scale victory” by wearing my wedding ring again. I haven’t been able to wear it for a while due to weight gain/inflammation. Since being diagnosed diabetic in April, I’ve worked hard to watch what I eat, be more active and add some supplements to help me shed 25 pounds. I have 25 more to go, but I will get there.

It’s a hidden victory… one that I might not normally celebrate, but today I am. We all have our hidden victories that we are too afraid to share. We may think it’s not a big deal or nobody will care, but we should acknowledge and celebrate these wins. I’m quick to dismiss my wins. And I realize that negative self talk just keeps the negativity swirling. Not that I need to be “Mary Sunshine” but a negative narrative attracts more negativity. Pretty soon you forget to see the good. You’re only focused on the 25 more pounds to go, not the 25 already shed.

Instead of thinking about how much I want to overindulge in sweets, I can think about all of the fresh veggies we are growing. I can focus on a smaller portion of my favorite snack or pairing it with protein, water and a walk. I can be thankful for the time in nature instead of focusing on the deer fly buzzing around my head (trust me, that was not easy).

I’m a work in progress, friends. We all are, regardless if we admit it or not. I’m here to support you, cheer you on and not judge. Take a few minutes to celebrate a win, small or large, one that impacts you or a bunch of people.

Our walk last night led us to a secluded pond where some ducks were enjoying the evening. Another small victory – hiking without vertigo.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Peace is something I’ve been seeking a lot lately. Perhaps I need to pause more, make a wish on a weed and recognize the small victories. You are enough. Just as you are.