Pennsylvania Polka in Montana…

This past weekend, while our youngest son was in Washington for a school trip, my husband and I went to Bozeman to see our oldest son. We had previously only seen him (once) for a few hours in the last two months. My mom heart was so happy to hug him and to see Bozeman from his eyes. We saw one of the spots where he likes to fly fish. Surrounded by the snow covered mountains, the sounds of the river, the crisp air and the beautiful yellow leaves of fall – it was easy to see why he loves it there. Of course we treated him to some food that wasn’t made in the cafeteria and filled up his truck. We got to see his shop class and also tour where he has been working.

He mentioned a critter calling contest and a wild game feed in a nearby town. We agreed to check it out. We slowly (because we were behind a hay truck) made our way to Ennis, MT… a small town of 850, southwest of Bozeman. We parked at the top of the hill and walked down towards the wild game feed. There were 20 or more tables set up along the main street with wild game samples. Mostly elk based chili items in small sample cups were passed out until they ran out. “Be sure to vote for #18,” or something similar was said as they handed us their samples. People hugged in the street and visited at the park. The realtor office gave out ice cream and there was an exhibit in the park about bears. The local chamber had a booth promoting their town.

A tourist town, mostly supported by hunters and fly fishing expeditions, it felt like we stepped back in time. It reminded me of the movie “Groundhog Day.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth your time. Bill Murray is a weatherman who is reporting on the

Groundhog shadow tradition in the small town. They have a festival in the town square where they everyone gathers and has a great time. He gets stuck in Punxsutawney – reliving the same day over and over until he “gets it right.” Ennis reminds me of Punxsutawney. Nobody looked at us like we didn’t belong. They thanked us for coming and encouraged our son to sign up for the critter calling.

The local distillery, run by a veteran, set up a stage behind the bar. They had a panel of judges and prizes for each category of critter calling. Youth categories ranged from kittens to ducks to cows. Adult categories were either farmyard animals, predators, waterfowl or upland game. And they called in a Yeti, which is apparently a town mascot of some kind.

We won the waterfowl calling contest and got lots of compliments from the locals. He’s more like my husband so he talked to everyone. It was fun to listen to all of it and see the excitement.

The next day brought us back to Ennis for a fly fishing adventure. Dallas had been river fishing before, but not float fishing & Cam hadn’t done either. We arrived early so we could get the license and get fitted up for waders etc. After they took off with their guide, I wandered through town. It was so great to have 4 hours to just look in the stores and not have to be in a rush. I felt like I was in a movie set. I walked into one store and the two ladies were cleaning up from all of the traffic the night before. I got some compliments on my glasses and visited about the beautiful weather. I strolled slowly through each open store. I had lunch at the soda fountain/pharmacy/gift shop and enjoyed a huckleberry shake. I walked through the gift shops, clothing stores, thrift shops and art/mercantile. I stood at the end of Main Street and took in the mountain views and listened to the creek running through town. I sponged on some conversations, loving how charming the town and the people seemed.

At the mercantile, the shop owner said she is also from Minnesota. She mentioned that she recognized me from the calling contest the night before. We visited for a bit, which is kind of out of the ordinary for me. Then I went back to the soda fountain for a chai latte and took it to a table outside to read a book. The guys came back in the afternoon. They had a good time, caught some fish and had seen a moose in the river. We wound our way at back to Bozeman so we could start our journey back home. If the price of homes wasn’t so high, I might consider relocating.

I just had to share part of our journey. Since I mention peace weekly, this was sure a peaceful place. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. I wish you the opportunity to slow down, take in your surroundings and step back in time a little.

Bear with me…

5:40pm on Tuesday, I went out my front door and to the mailbox at the end of our driveway. I thought I might take a walk, but decided against it (thank goodness). I went to the back and let the chickens out to free range a bit. I figured there were some extra worms and bugs in the trees for them. They love to scratch in the leaves. I grabbed two containers to pick raspberries in the garden. I was almost done picking the beautiful fall berries (& getting eaten by mosquitoes), when my phone rang. My husband and son were in town and getting ready to go to a movie. “There is a bear in the yard,” he said very matter of fact-ly. “Not funny,” I said. “No, really, there is a bear in the front yard, it’s walking by the pine trees. The neighbor just called and told me.” Again, I said, “Seriously, this is not funny. I’m in the garden and the chickens are out.”

My heart started racing as I walked quickly past the pumpkins and closed the garden gate. I kept my husband on the phone. As I walked past the shed, I could see my chickens. They were still out, but a little frozen in place. They were quiet. I walked quickly towards the coop, whispering for them to go inside. When I looked up and to the left, there was the bear. “Oh my goodness (& some other words), the bear is right there. What do I do?!,” I whisper/yelled to Cameron. Just as I spoke, the bear ran the other direction. It had been less 50 yards away from me. I quickly got the chickens into the coop and shut the door.

The neighbor came over to make sure I was ok and that the bear was gone. It appeared to be just one. We’ve had skunks, raccoons, fox, mink, badgers, pocket gophers and now bear. (Apparently a mountain lion also but I never saw it). I checked on the cat, luckily he was in the garage because I hadn’t let him out after supper. He was sitting on his ledge, probably watching this whole ordeal. He kind of looked at me like “Nope, I don’t do bears. I’ll protect you from mice or birds, maybe a fox or deer… but bears?! You’re on your own!”

I called our oldest son in Montana and told him the story. He said to call the DNR or the state park since we live right across from state park land. I called and left a message with the state park. I texted my “holy cow” story to some friends and family, let Cam know I was ok, then I called my parents. I went back through the Nest camera footage to find a pretty good view of the bear coming through the front yard. We joke about me being a mama bear, but I didn’t think I would get that close. 6:13, the bear lumbered through our front yard. Ironically, it went right past a wooden bear totem in our trees… something that was here when we moved in.

“Bears are more scared of you than you are of them?” Um, I’m not so sure about that. I have no idea if it was a mom or a two year old – IT WAS A BEAR, that’s really all that mattered to me. I’m sure it would have been more interested in my raspberries than my chickens but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out.

This is Greta. Greta is glad the bear is gone.

Regardless of its meaning, I’m glad it’s gone… for now. Tomorrow, my lunch break will be spent removing all bird feeders (even though they were empty), cleaning up the chicken treats and making sure we don’t have anything else appealing to bears. I obviously cannot remove the berries, but they are behind a fence, so maybe that will deter it a little. That’s enough excitement for one night! This week, I have my mammogram and I’m going to a retreat. I’m sure I will have some time to think about the bear and what it represents.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Hopefully there are no more bears with me, just peace instead.

I’d rather be “a little much…”

Color within the lines… follow the rules… don’t make waves… sit and listen… From the time our children are babies, we can’t wait for them to talk. Then they turn 2 and we wish there was a volume control. They may go through teen years where they rarely speak at all to us,but can talk to their friends non stop. They get ready to go to college and we wish we could talk to them in person.

As we get ready to send our oldest son to MSU Bozeman, I thought it would be fun to have their school colors (blue and gold) as my nail color. “It’s a little much, mom,” he said, after I excitedly asked what my son thought of my new (self done) manicure. It got me thinking about how many times I was a little much in my life… and how often I played it safe. The “little much” stories are lots more fun, although most people would say I tend to play it safe.

This past weekend, our youngest son and his buddy were in a bowling tournament. They started bowling last year, and something just clicked. They were both hooked. Soon they began learning the bowling terminology, talking about different types of bowling balls, shoes and lane oil patterns. They bowled with masks and had to take a break when the bowling alley shut down for a while. They signed up for the hometown/Midwest tournament and practiced a few times a week. Some days their scores would be low because they were trying out new things. 265 bowlers signed up for the tournament. The first day, he didn’t want to wear his new bowling shirt because he didn’t want to “look too professional.” So he wore his lucky bowling shirt, which is a Christmas/Dunder Mifflin shirt. He had a great day and got his highest score. He advanced to the semifinals in 2nd place. First place was the buddy he bowls with!

Day 2 (not planning on this being a multi day event), he decided to wear his new bowling shirt. He stood out, he was a little much. It was awesome. Even the announcers commented on how awesome his shirt was.

They both bowled well, and he ended up in 3rd place. His buddy was first. In bowling tournaments, the kids win scholarship money. Since we are navigating college expenses with his brother, having a head start on scholarships is a wonderful thing! I was proud of them for how well they did, but also how polite they were and how much fun they had. He went up to the organizers, thanked them and said he had a great time. I did not prompt this, he did it on his own.

The awesome thing about his shirt and my nails is that we each love them. It didn’t really matter what anyone else thought. It was fun and made us happy. Win/win. Sometimes you’ll find JOY outside of the lines. We will be packing and driving almost 900 miles one way. At least it will be below 70 instead of 95!

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. I hope you’ll take a chance and do something you wouldn’t normally do.

Spending time…

“Time is money…” “Spending time…” “Wasting time.” Somewhere along the way, we began to equate time and money. Maybe it’s because we’re paid by the hour? Or maybe we realize how valuable time really is?

“Days of Our Lives” is still a soap opera and it must have enough followers to continue to produce shows. Although I haven’t watched it in many years, I’m sure some of the same characters are still there. I could probably pick it up and be able to follow along despite a 20 year break. “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” Who would have known a TV show opening lines would have so much meaning? Time slipping away like grains of sand in the hourglass. I can picture the grains as events… moments… good or bad, happy or sad, all slowly moving to the other side. We don’t know how many we have. Each person’s is different.

Only God knows how many days we have. Some hourglasses are small and some are large. For many years, I couldn’t picture myself growing old. It worried me. “Did this mean I would die young?” I wondered if it was a premonition. It bothered me that I couldn’t envision a 95 year old me. That was probably around the same time I thought 47 seemed super old though. I’m not sure. Now I find it fun to think about the what if’s. Twenty five years ago, I didn’t imagine my life today. Marriage (grain of sand), two sons (grains of sand), 3 main jobs (grains of sand), 4 different houses (grains of sand), published author, cottage food baker… it wasn’t all on my list. How have I spent my time? Did I wisely use my grains of sand? Either way, I don’t get them back.

Tonight I spent some time with our youngest son, who is learning to drive. I spent time with him at the bowling alley. I spent some time with the cat. I spent some time talking to our oldest son, as he prepares to move to Montana next week. I spent some time making supper and dessert (spent time=saved money). Spending time seems like it has a positive spin. We also waste time too. Sometimes the wasted time adds grains of regret or guilt. These too, we cannot get back.

The passage of time has been on my heart a lot lately. Not only because of our son moving away, but seeing my great nieces and nephews change, seeing my parents age, seeing my grey hairs become more plentiful… all reminders of the passage of time. It can seem so fast and so slow all at once. I know there are some moms who will be missing their kids and others who can’t wait for summer break to be over. It’s ok. It’s ok to not have the answers. It’s ok to feel “all the feels.” It’s ok to spend your time however you want. Your journey is yours. Embrace it.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. (And if you want to spend some of your time reading a good book, I still have some for sale! )

The village changes…

Shopping at Target, I walked by the cute little newborn onesies & mini dinosaur socks on my way to the dorm room supplies. Instead of sippy cups, I’m looking for water filter pitchers. The mental list is a long one, so I try to write random notes when I think about it… extra forks & spoons, ibuprofen, scissors, Kleenex etc. There is a Target in Bozeman. I’m not sending him out into the wilderness alone. He is fully capable of getting anything he needs. This isn’t an episode of Survivor.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think your village must shift around this stage of life. The village changes to support the moms. I cannot speak for the dads, I feel like many of them don’t talk about this stuff. I’ve seen my village shift over the last 8 months. From supporting me while I looked through senior pics, to helping get ready for graduation open house, and now as I navigate the “last 16 days”””… it’s my friends and family who have picked me up. My village is changing.

  • A friend reminding me to journal out my feelings and (safely) burn the paper…
  • My sister sending an encouraging card…
  • A friend helping me navigate trying to get residency for a new state …
  • A friend listening to me wonder out loud about financial aid and logistics…
  • My sister sending a text to let me know she’s thinking of me…
  • Encouraging words from a friend who has been there…
  • A hug…
  • My husband’s patience as I order another “must have” from Amazon or Target, based on the Bobcat parent group or the ‘Grown and Flown’ group…

I feel like I’m prepared for this some days and other days I read an article about time flying and my eyes get misty. It’s so confusing to feel excited for him, nervous, sad, guilty and happy all at once. It’s strange because we didn’t have a senior year of “lasts” since he was enrolled at the tech school at the same time. It seems like the summer has flown and now I’m starting to use my packing list. I did pick up some extra Kleenex today and a really cool fan came to the door step from Costco.

The past 7 years, I’ve learned to ask for help (more than before). I’ve built a support system and had it shift and change. I’ve tried to prepare him to be out in his own, and he’s made me proud so many times. My village is changing and that’s ok. I’m thankful for those who have stuck with me and continue to support my roller coaster ride.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. If your village is changing, that’s ok… and if your new college momma is randomly teary, let her tears flow. Next time she will be sharing about the fun college adventures of her new adult.

Zip lines & spider webs…

2 years ago, I was zip lining in the mountains of CA for a cancer survivor retreat. I like to remember that trip. For me, it reminds me of what is possible. It reminds me I can fly to CA, drive up a mountain by myself (without getting lost), and stay with strangers who would become friends. I can do a ropes course, zip line and do yoga on the mountainside. I can share my story, and listen to someone else’s story without fear or judgement. I grew a lot that weekend. It seems like a lifetime ago, but I think it was a turning point for me. I can do the tough things and still be vulnerable.

It’s bittersweet because we’ve lost some of the ladies from the retreat. My heart aches for their loved ones who have a void that won’t be filled. The kids who miss their mom, the spouses, friends and parents who reach for the phone and realize they can’t call to say hi. They enriched the lives of those they touched, but it still doesn’t make sense why they had to pass. Some things just don’t have easy answers.

The loss reminds me to appreciate my health, to cherish my friendships and to find JOY. It reminds me to fill my circle with people who cheer me on, even if I don’t make it across the ropes. We all have an invisible connection. When I picture it, I see a spider web. It slowly spins as we tell our stories and gain a connection. By the end of the weekend, the web was strong. Roommates, similar diagnosis, similar struggle, similar victories, similar likes and dislikes, with a common respect and a lasting connection.

A zip line in the mountains was where I found my courage. A zip line in the mountains was where I laughed and screamed and almost puked. A zip line in the mountains will hold a special place in my heart. And every year when this memory pops up, I will think of this web of connection woven between women who started with one common thread (cancer), and ended up with so many more. Your tragedy doesn’t have to define you, but it sure shapes you in a different way.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May you find your own “zip line in the mountains” and don’t forget to keep your eyes open. The view is breathtaking!

Never too old for “firsts”…

This past weekend, we flew from MSP to Bozeman. We had originally planned to fly to Kalispell, MT when we thought that’s where our oldest son was moving. We were scheduled to go over October break, but things were too risky with Covid, and vaccines hadn’t come out yet. Between then and now, he decided NOT to move to Kalispell, or to go to Billings. He wanted to see Bozeman once more before moving there and get a feel for the town. It’s 170 days until he moves away.

There were a few “firsts” on this trip.

  • First time traveling without snacks
  • First time changing flight plans a week before the trip
  • First time flying first class
  • First time in Yellowstone National Park
  • First time on a winter wildlife safari
  • First time seeing a wolf pack surround an elk
  • First time in the Bozeman airport
  • First time flying during a pandemic
  • First time in a Murdoch’s store
  • First Roost chicken and Red Tractor Pizza

I’m sure there are more “firsts.” Each time we travel, we try to eat somewhere new. (Or at least somewhere we can’t go to at home… so no McDonald’s, Culver’s, Taco John’s etc). We had a big lunch one day and were too stuffed for supper. Instead, we decided to go out for ice cream. I might have added it to the list, but I can’t guarantee it’s a first time having just ice cream for supper. It for sure is the first time we’ve had ice cream AND shared huckleberry shakes for supper. (It was amazing!)

While we sometimes remember the “firsts,” we aren’t always sure when we will have the “lasts.” The last time our kids held our hand or wanted to sit on our lap. The last time we heard someone’s laugh. The last time we hug someone we love. A friend of mine has gone through a lot of loss in the last year. A LOT of people she knows and loves have passed on. Some of them were known to be passing due to illness and some were sudden. It’s a lot for our hearts to bear. We want to help others navigate their loss, while still trying to process our own. We miss seeing them in person. We miss their smile, their stories, their touch. Was our time together enough? What do we remember most? Memories & pictures are what remain after they are gone. The other “stuff” left behind is just that. Stuff. It’s those moments of joy that bring us back to the time when they were here physically.

It’s one of the reasons I like to go on trips. Memories. Moments. Joy. A little escape from regular life that carves out some firsts…. some “remember when?…” It’s putting a pause on Groundhog Day and making room for some Pennies from Heaven.

As we flew into the Bozeman airport, my son said, “Can I just live here forever?”… and that’s when my mommy heart knew that my boy had found his place. He will be living in a beautiful town, surrounded by mountains and streams and abundant wildlife. He will have so many new “firsts” coming up. I hope someday he will remember this trip and smile…and know how very loved he is. I’m so excited for your journey, buddy. You are always enough.

I wish you all peace on your journey of enough. If your heart is hurting and missing the “lasts,” think back to the “firsts” and go create some new ones. You might just find some signs from your loved ones when you do. We found pennies and quarters on our trip. Each time, I stopped and smiled, and my heart was happy.

862…

862. It’s 862 miles from our house to Montana State University in Bozeman. Our oldest son got accepted to MSU for this coming fall. He will graduate high school in June and have his welding certificate this summer from the Tech school. This fall, he will move 862 miles away to pursue an Ag education degree to become an Ag teacher and hopefully an FFA advisor.

This is not a piece of cake. He isn’t a 4.0 kid. He will have to work hard, ask for help and really get to know the tutoring department… but I know he can do it. We haven’t been saving for this since he was a baby, like is often suggested. The amount the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) suggested we should contribute is ridiculous. Why am I not stressed about this? It will work out. He will apply for scholarships, take out loans and get a side job welding or at a sporting goods store. It’s where is heart wants to go, and to have him settle for less because it is more convenient, cheaper or closer to me wouldn’t be fair. His one year of school will cost what almost 4 years cost when I went. The thought of moving to Norway did cross my mind. (Just joking – kind of).

He will be ok. He will have a high school diploma and a tech degree/certification and a 4 year degree. Since some of his tech classes will transfer, it should be less than 4 years. He has something that is difficult to teach…. communication skills. He isn’t afraid to talk to people. He is his father’s son. He’s getting better at asking for help and has seen the value in tutoring. He will be able to relate to the kids who have trouble focusing and who prefer hands-on learning. He can share his love of nature, outdoors, agriculture, welding and wildlife.

From Jaguar to Cardinal and now Bobcat, I’ll cheer him on wherever he goes. Part of my heart will move 862 miles away, but I’m so excited for his adventures. His journey is just beginning and there is so much more to his story. How does this relate to you? Don’t settle. Don’t sell yourself short. It’s not entitlement. It’s about knowing what you want and knowing what will bring you joy.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May you find what brings you joy, even if it is 862 miles from home.

Adulting…

No, not adultery… adulting: “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” Our son just turned 18, so he is officially an adult. He could legally get a tattoo, vote and apply to be an auctioneer. I’m not sure he will be doing any of those things very soon. Instead, he’s fishing, welding and applying for scholarships.

18. I know… I’ve written about this more than I thought I would. You might be sick of hearing about my senior. When I look back at the pictures of my little boy, I can’t believe how fast it went. I will let him read this before I publish it, but here are my 18 things I want him to know.

  • 1. I will always love you. Not in a cliche way or something that moms “should” say… I really love you. If you have kids some day, you’ll understand.
  • 2. Always be humble and kind. Listen to the song if you need to, but this is important. Kindness will get you further in life than being a jerk or being “cool.”
  • 3. Have fun but be responsible. Your teen and college years should be fun. It’s one time in your life where people will assume you’ll have lots of fun, but please know your boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.
  • 4. You really do need to eat some fruits and vegetables. It won’t make you less popular. It’s good for your body. Unlimited ice cream is fun, but seriously, have a pear every now and then.
  • 5. Keep music in your life. Dance, tap your toes or sing along in your car. Music lifts your vibration and is good for your soul.
  • 6. Stay grounded. Connect with nature and don’t absorb any negative energy around you. Sit on the grass and watch the geese and ducks, stand in the water while you fish.
  • 7. Your college friends are more likely to be your life long friends. You get to choose who you hang out with even more after high school. Choose wisely.
  • 8. Don’t smoke. Don’t smoke anything, just don’t. Your grandpa had open heart surgery in his early 40’s because he smoked. It’s not worth it. It’s really not. Plus you’ll save money.
  • 9. You don’t need to spend everything in your pocket. I’ve failed at being a good example of money managing and letting you learn about it. It’s ok to save some. The fishing lures will still be there next time.
  • 10. You will always have a place here. I hope you always feel like being with us is like “home,” regardless of where we are. A year from now, I might be sitting in your room, wishing for a messy floor.
  • 11. I hope we taught you the value of hard work. It’s ok to go the extra mile. It’s ok to get up early or stay later. People will notice this, even when you think they aren’t paying attention… they are.
  • 12. Look someone in the eye and shake their hand (once COVID is over). I think you do this well. You had a good example by watching your dad. Don’t forget this.
  • 13. Brush. Your. Teeth. I’m not even joking. You have a beautiful smile. We spent a lot on orthodontics. Don’t mess it up.
  • 14. Look for a partner to share your time with. They are not “less than”… they aren’t your maid or cook. You will be a team. Make sure you give and receive respect.
  • 15. It’s ok to change your mind. You already have, but it won’t be the last time. It’s ok. You can do more than one thing with your life.
  • 16. Always do the extra credit. ALWAYS. Ask for help before you get stuck. It’s ok to fail, but you need certain grades for scholarships.
  • 17. Crappy jobs will add to your character. Have a job (at least once) where you have to serve someone so you know how difficult it is. Don’t look down on another profession.
  • 18. I’m so ridiculously thankful to be your mom. That won’t ever change. I can’t wait to see what the world has to offer you.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. 18 years have flown by, and I am looking forward to cheering you on for the rest of your journey. Oh, and to quote your dad, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Discouraging words?

“Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day”

After a modified Christmas, we ventured towards Billings, MT. We planned a tour of the college over the break. We saw lots of deer and antelope playing on the way. There were a few discouraging words from the back seat (ha ha). A tour of the town and driving through campus in person is much different from what you can see on a web site. It’s difficult to get a true picture of size, cleanliness, safety and over all feel of the college (and town) from the pretty pictures on the web site.

As long as we are this far west, what else should we see? This sparked a conversation that led to a last minute trip 2 hours west to Bozeman and a campus tour. The town is beautiful, the campus was larger and he really seemed to like the area.

Do you remember deciding what you wanted to do after high school? I do. I changed my mind and my major several times. I changed colleges twice. I heard several discouraging words. My high school guidance counselor said I should not go to a technical school for radiology tech because my grades were too high. I was told I couldn’t be a physical therapist because I got a B my freshman year. I thought of becoming a counselor until I was a resident assistant in the dorms. I ended up with a Mass Communication degree but scheduling and planning manufacturing production lines.

It’s a balance between finding what you love to do and being open to other options. Allowing your kids to be able to spread their wings is one of the most wonderful and frightening moments all at the same time. As we toured the campus, they had a statue of a bobcat named “Spirit.” Surrounded by snow capped mountains, it seemed so peaceful. And, as “cheesy” as it sounds, I knew the spirit would always be with him. I hope he listens to the nudges from spirit as he navigates adulthood. I’ll try to limit my discouraging words.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May you seldom have discouraging words as we head into 2021.