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.

Missing pieces?

2020 is certainly a year unlike any other. It will likely be one of those moments in time you will remember. Similar to the Space shuttle explosion, JFK being shot or 911 attacks, people remember where they were or what they were doing at the time. Except this was more than just a moment in time, it was a whole year. With 18 million Covid cases in the US, you likely know someone who has contracted it by now. It’s changed almost everyone’s life in one way or another.

As we approach Christmas, you may feel like you’re missing some puzzle pieces. You may be missing a tradition, an event, a gathering, a trip or even a family member. My youngest son has a bunch of Christmas/holiday suits and he normally loves to wear them all month long. This year they remain in a tote. Our big group holiday baking day was replaced with individual baking day(s), not quite the same. We don’t have a Christmas program or a winter concert. Our whole family won’t be together for the first time in several years. When we were in college and first married, we had to work over Christmas, and had to celebrate at a different time. It seemed like no big deal. Now the lack of control makes it feel more difficult.

The very first Christmas was simple. It was small. There were no fancy Christmas outfits, no big buffet meals… just a young couple and a baby, some livestock and shepherds. Maybe this year is our reminder to keep it simple… to think back to the true meaning of Christmas. I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, but if you do, Christ’s birth should be top of the list. I like the Gospel of Luke.

Luke chapter 8: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

I can’t imagine this happening today, can you? I can believe the “no room in the Inn” part happening today, but if someone said , “Hey, follow me to see the son of God.”… I’m guessing some people would pause. Maybe that’s the piece we need to put back together. The Christ in Christmas. Or if you aren’t a believer, maybe Hope and Peace are your missing pieces.

Whatever your missing piece, the love of Christ can always fit in. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Merry Christmas & happy holidays!

What if?

Butterscotch posing for a picture with her new scarf

So you’re probably sick of me writing about being in a “funk”… but honestly, am I the only one? Probably not. What do you do when you’re in a bad mood or just out of sorts? I am not great at remembering, but being outside AND smiling really help me. So today, at lunch, I went out to visit with my ladies and tried some scarves on them. They weren’t big fans. Only two had them on, and honestly not for that long. But I gave them treats & told them they were good chickens.

Sometimes we need to look within. What if we just loved ourselves? What if we stopped the internal chatter that is so mean, we would never say it to another human? (Although I think some people on social media really would say this) What if we looked in the mirror and said, “I love your curly hair,” or “Your eyes are beautiful.”? What if…

  • What if we appreciated the laugh lines because it means we laughed a lot?
  • What if we appreciated our grey hair because it means we got to spend a bunch of years on earth?
  • What if we were thankful for the toothpaste in the sink & the inside out socks on the floor because it means we aren’t alone?
  • What if we were thankful for smelly teen clothes because we knew we won’t always have them around?
  • What if we paused and took a deep breath because it reminds us to be present & thankful for life?
  • What if we were thankful for for rain because it brings rainbows and nourishes the soil?
  • What if we looked people in the eye when we checked out at the store because it would let them feel “seen?”
  • What if we stopped expecting pastors & teachers to be perfect and realized they are normal people like us?
  • What if we stopped waiting for “someday” because we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow?

I’m just as guilty of these as anyone else. I’m too hard on myself, too shy to look people in the eyes and too self absorbed to notice things around me. None of us are perfect. We aren’t meant to be.

Many of our kids are distant learning or partially distant. Many of them are struggling, missing their friends and the stability that school brings to their life. Many of our teachers are working in person and remotely or having students with a combination of the two (while trying to care for their own family.) Many of our health care workers are stretched thin, worn out and tired. Many of our small businesses are struggling to get by. There is a lot of crud & struggles & mess, but I don’t believe we are doomed.

What if we found the thing that makes us smile, and did that? What if we showed love to ourselves so we can fully love others? Remember, you cannot pour from an empty cup… it is especially important to remember that around the holidays. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May you have some “chickens in scarves” moments to brighten your day. Hang in there!

Thankful Tuesday?

What age is it when you can’t remember how old you are, so you have to do math to figure it out? …But your random math skills stink even though you do math every day? Not sure, but it’s been happening for a while. Tell me I’m not the only one who has to do math to figure out their age? Like only on the significant years (21,30,40) do I know how old I am for a whole year. Ha ha, maybe it is just me.

My birthday usually falls around Thanksgiving. Since that isn’t the same day each year, it varies. Having a Black Friday birthday was fun when we could stay up all night and go shopping. I’ve baked Christmas cookies for my birthday, driven to our favorite restaurant, had Thanksgiving meals or spent the day shopping. This year will be different, so I’m going to see if I can come up with 47 things I’m thankful for. These are not really in order of importance. I’m just glad I could come up with this many.

  1. My husband. 25 years of marriage – we’ve had our ups and downs but he’s stayed with me and still tries to make me laugh.
  2. My boys. Forever thankful I got to be their mom. Even though some days I struggle, I think they know I love them.
  3. My sisters. I’m thankful to have them as my friends. They are both strong, faith centered, family loving women. They are amazing examples to me in more ways than they will ever know.
  4. My nieces and nephews. Blessed with some of the best. I’m thankful to get to see many of them & treasure the time we have together.
  5. My friends. I’m a bit reserved, so it takes a while for me to open up, but if I talk your ear off, you’re in my circle. My true friends “get” me & don’t try to change me or force me to fit in.
  6. My cat. Toothless has been a wonderful addition to our family, even if my hubby isn’t a fan. I love the kitty cuddles. He is one of the softest black cats.
  7. The chickens. These 6 ladies make me smile so big. They each have their own personalities and make me laugh. I love their different sounds, and the way they run to me when they think I have treats!
  8. My cancer journey. I’m not thankful for cancer in general because it sucks and it takes lives and loved ones. I’m thankful for the lessons I learned and for my ability to help others.
  9. My job. It puts food on the table and a roof over our head. It’s not glamorous and most of my family has no idea what I do, but I’m thankful for it.
  10. Our land. Not just the house, but our land. The land that grows the crops that feed us and our community. The beautiful trees and the land that houses the chickens and my son’s fort.
  11. I’m thankful to live near the river. Floating down the river with friends in the summer is one of the most relaxing experiences. I love to walk down to the dam and listen to the water and watch the fish.
  12. Faith. My faith has gotten me through some tough times. It has also evolved over the years.
  13. Love of travel. Most years, we’ve been able to take a trip or go camping. We sure missed it this year.
  14. Music. I listen to the same station when I’m driving & it’s uplifting/positive. I’ve been enjoying Christmas music at home though.
  15. Planning skills. Aside from being my job, it also helps with #11. Not all my trips have budgets and spreadsheets, but it has happened.
  16. Writing. I’m glad my cancer journey led me to writing. It’s something therapeutic for me and I’m in awe when people share it because it resonates with them.
  17. Art. I’ve always loved art. I like to paint and draw. I don’t let myself do it enough, although I have more paintings than I have room to hang them.
  18. Sewing. I learned to sew through 4-h. When I was in college, I had a work-study job at the costume shop. I kind of faked my way through sewing costumes for plays. Now I like to sew baby blankets, masks & the burp cloths like my grandma used to make.
  19. Pictures. I take a lot of pictures. I go in spurts with getting them printed or put into books. I don’t remember everything, so I like to have a picture to remind me. It’s fun to look back on our adventures.
  20. Empath. I consider myself empathic. I can sense people’s energy and often take on their feelings. I’ve learned more about holding space for someone else instead of being a sponge and absorbing it.
  21. Yoga. I’m thankful I learned yoga. I miss it. It’s peaceful and relaxing. It’s a way to connect to the earth and move my body.
  22. Laughter. The kind of belly laugh that makes your eyes tear up so you can hardly see. I was laughing so hard recently, I almost had to pull my car over. It was great.
  23. Senses. Something we often take for granted, but I’m thankful I have all of mine.
  24. Meditation & prayer. It is a great way to be present & connect with a higher power.
  25. Journaling. Sometimes I just need to write down all the stuff that’s in my head so it stops spinning around up there.
  26. I’m thankful for anyone who had read this far!
  27. Campfires. I love sitting by the fire… Especially on a crisp night, with a hoodie or a fuzzy blanket. I love the smell, the sound, the sight of it. Maybe because it awakens so many senses. (Not touch though LOL)
  28. Lakes. Being by water is relaxing to me. I like to be on the boat or go fishing with my family.
  29. Stories. I’m thankful for the stories my boys tell me about their day. I miss reading stories to them as little kids. I’ll settle for fishing or Minecraft stories now.
  30. Half marathons. I’m thankful I did them. I didn’t set any records or have a fast time, but I finished. I showed myself that I could move forward for 13.1 miles. Maybe I’ll do another… someday.
  31. Fall leaves. I love going for a walk in the fall, when the leaves crunch beneath your feet. I love the smell of them, the sound, and the sight.
  32. Crisp white snow. I’m not a big fan of winter, but when the ground is all white and the snow glistens in the sun, it is pretty.
  33. Skiing. Speaking of snow, I like to downhill ski. Our friends taught us how and I like it. I’m still a novice but I have a good time.
  34. Camping. I know I mentioned travel, but I think camping is it’s own thing. There is something special about cooking over the fire, making letter shaped pancakes and sleeping in a tent or small cabin. Some of my best memories with my boys have been camping.
  35. Big extended family. My parents came from large families. I’m thankful to have a big support network. I miss my grandparents.
  36. Curly hair. Maybe a strange one, but I have very curly hair. It’s naturally curly and I let it be. It doesn’t take me long to get ready in the morning.
  37. My unique name. There aren’t too many Mavis names around, so it makes me feel unique. Add in a last name that few can pronounce, and I’m even more unique.
  38. Coffee. But not for the typical reasons… I don’t NEED it to get my day started. I like it though. I like the warmth, the smell and the taste.
  39. Retreats. I’ve gone on a few retreats with other ladies, and it’s been amazing. I’ve met people I would never have met before. They’ve opened my heart and widened my circle.
  40. Time. I’m thankful to have had (almost) 47 years here. We never know when our time is up, and I’m thankful to still be here.
  41. Pennies from heaven. My grandparents & aunt send pennies or dimes (10 kids). My mother-in-law sends quarters. Little reminders that our loved ones are still with us just warms my heart.
  42. Movies. We watch a lot of movies as a family. I enjoy the time together & we are often quoting lines from movies.
  43. Flowers. I love fresh flowers. I often pick some up to have at my desk (pre-Covid). They are so beautiful and make me smile.
  44. Blankets. Maybe because it’s cold outside now, but I love being curled up in a cozy blanket.
  45. Care packages. I love sending them. I love to put together a surprise for someone to lift their spirits or even make their day.
  46. Fireflies in the summer. I love to watch them in the summer, especially on a clear, starry night.
  47. Last, but not least, my parents. (Hopefully they read this far!) I wouldn’t be here without them. I wouldn’t have a giving heart, a sense of faith or a love of family without them. I’m grateful to be their daughter. My dad just celebrated his 80th birthday. I’m thankful for that also.

Wow. 47. I wasn’t sure I could get that far, but I could probably keep going. It’s easy to think of a few things, but to get to 47 takes some extra thought. Whatever your Thanksgiving looks like this year, remember all that you are thankful for. Focus on those things. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May your thankful list be long, and your heart & belly full.

Ho Ho, oh no!

Thanksgiving is next week. Normally, I wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the Christmas tree. Not this year. Not 2020. Something that brings joy and doesn’t hurt anyone else? Go for it. Handmade ornaments, sentimental gifts and mementos from trips we’ve taken adorn our tree. There isn’t a theme or fancy ribbons, but every ornament has meaning. There isn’t room for a tree upstairs, so you can’t see it from our window. Instead, it’s in the basement family room, and to me – that’s perfect. Watching movies with the twinkling glow of the tree is one of my favorite things.

This year, our cat joined us in the festivities. While the Christmas music was playing in the background, the cat attacked a few ornaments. In order to distract him, our son got a fuzzy cat toy. In the picture above, his claw is stuck to a fuzzy toy on a string. He has a guilty look on his face. Silly, but funny to me.

We could all use some silly. We could all use some extra joy. It’s been a stressful 8 months. Tensions run high, people are frustrated and there is a lot of anger. Way too much anger. Even though your Thanksgiving or Christmas might look different than you planned, try to find some JOY. Put your tree up early, bake your favorite treat, take a drive, go for a walk, sing to the radio, dance in the kitchen, savor a cup of coffee, read a book, spend time with your pets.. so many options. Just think – if we all did one thing a day to bring joy, what a difference it would make.

So this year, instead of “Ho Ho, oh no,” say “yes” to joy. I’d love to hear your ideas on what you can do to bring joy. Many of us aren’t traveling, but we can get creative. Video call, write a letter, send a surprise in the mail to someone, leave a treat for your mail carrier or delivery person. There are still ways to connect, even if it’s different than before.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough… and enough joy to make you giggle… or at least crack a smile.

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.

Who brought the humbug?

My youngest son and I went to a show in Minneapolis on Sunday. It was called “Who brought the humbug?” We had front row seats and he wore a Christmas suit. He certainly didn’t bring the humbug. It was me. (I’m actually in the picture on the screen)

I’m guessing less than 39 people will read this because it makes people uncomfortable.

This is what anxiety looks like. Put together, hair fixed, makeup on, smile… not what you thought? Yeah, me neither.

I didn’t know what it looked like. I used to assume anyone anxious would look worried and be fidgety. I used to assume anyone depressed would be crying and withdrawn. December 9th, 2014, my world changed. I’ve told the story before, but if you’re new, here’s a quick recap. I had gone in for a routine mammogram. That turned into an ultrasound and then a biopsy. “I’m sure it’s nothing, you’re only 41.” That nothing ended up being cancer. I was teaching a class at work when I got the call. “I’m not sure how to tell you this, but you have cancer.” The next several weeks blur together. Fast forward 5 years. Healthy, a little overweight, but cancer free.

We went to the show on Sunday with tap dancing, singing & a band. It was just the two of us because the other two were ice fishing. Gotta love MN! Before the show, we wanted to spread some kindness. We put quarters in the candy machines at the Outlet Mall. Then, with his Christmas suit on, my son and I put candy canes on the door handles of the cars in the parking lot. If there was someone in the car (happened to be all men), I asked if they wanted a candy cane too. They all said “yes.” It’s part of my 46 acts of kindness between my birthday & Christmas. I cannot call them random acts because I have to come up with ideas first – some are random, most are not. While my body is cancer free, my mind wages a different war…. anxiety about the cancer anniversary, seasonal depression, overwhelm of the holidays, lingering thoughts of not doing enough.

This kindness challenge has shifted my focus but it’s still a struggle to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve talked to more strangers than I normally do. Every part of me wants to hibernate and every part of me wants a magical Christmas. How can I be the one who brings both the humbug and the Christmas cookies? Do you ever feel this way? Caught in a tug of war? I know the things I need to do, yet I struggle to get them done. If you’re in the same boat, you’re not alone. Join me in some acts of kindness- random or not. Watch your favorite holiday movie. Dance & sing. Do something that brings you joy. It’s not selfish, it is necessary. You cannot fill from an empty cup! Give yourself the gift of taking care of you also… you’ll have more to give to others.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May your holidays be filled with joy, peace, forgiveness, gratitude, grace, love or whatever you need most this holiday season.

Tradition…

We have just finished up with Thanksgiving & Black Friday and we got our tree up on Sunday. As I placed my grandma’s crochet angel on top of our Christmas tree, it got me thinking about traditions. Before we had kids, I would look at what other families did for traditions and wonder what ours would be. One aunt and uncle slept by the tree with their kids on Christmas Eve. One family member had oyster stew as a tradition. One grandma made a “Christmas dessert” as a special treat.

Traditions don’t have to be just for the holidays… some people have pizza on a certain night or special birthday treats. It’s tradition for my nephew to have pumpkin pie instead of cake for his birthday (because it’s his favorite & his birthday is close to Thanksgiving). I remember getting to pick the meal for my birthday when I was growing up. It was a big deal.

Traditions tie us together. It’s like an invisible string that connects us to the event/memory/people. When I think of the Christmas angel, I think of my grandma. I picture her sitting in her chair, making the angels. I see her starching them to make them stand up. I picture her smile and hear her laugh. When I see Gingersnap cookies, I think of my other grandma who made them every Christmas. I don’t know if she made them other times if the year, but they were always there on Christmas. I picture her grey hair and glasses. It brings me back to her house with her Siamese cat, Sam. He would hide at Christmas because of all of the commotion. I was one of the few who could pet him.

Traditions bring us back to vivid memories. They make us feel safe and comfortable and reassured. What traditions will my kids remember? I’m not sure. I’d imagine they each have a different one. I tried to force some traditions when they were little, but that didn’t work. They will each have their own view of what they think is special.

Whatever your traditions are or if you create new ones, they are great just as they are. They don’t have to make sense to anyone else. They don’t need to be approved. They don’t need to conform. If it’s special to you, it’s enough.

This busy holiday season, remember that you are enough just as you are. As I am thinking of my 46 acts of kindness, I’ve found myself getting caught up on the act being big enough or good enough. “No act of kindness is too small.” I saw that quote yesterday & it really stuck. No tradition is too small if it means something to you.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you be able to enjoy the holiday season with new or old traditions. May your heart be filled with peace and love… so much so that you just have to share it with others.

And the world didn’t stop…

This is my Christmas tree. Yes, it’s January and I haven’t taken it down yet. Some of the ornaments are in a box, but most are still on the tree. We traveled a lot over the holidays, but we were home some too. I had all weekend to take it down. Too many excuses… my head hurt, we went ice fishing, we watched movies as a family. My tree is still up and the world didn’t stop.

It’s hard to take time for ourselves. I often feel guilty just sitting down because there is “so much to do.” Sometimes we need to listen to our bodies. My headache was my sign to rest. Spending time with my family fills me up, but so does reading a book. I was able to do both this weekend and I was less than 8 feet from my half- taken down tree. I didn’t completely obsess about it. I didn’t let myself feel guilty. I was thankful for the time to rest, the time to connect and the time to laugh.

Whatever stage your holiday decorations are in, it’s ok. Have the cup of coffee, write in your journal or snuggle up with your kids. Life is short, my friends. If the tree brings you joy, it’s ok that it stays up a little longer. I wish you peace on your journey of enough as we start the new year. Let’s make it a great 2019. Maybe I’ll get to my tree tomorrow, but I know the world won’t stop if I don’t.

I hope you find your people…

It’s the season of getting Christmas or Holiday cards from friends and family. Some send cards or pictures right after Thanksgiving, some wait until New Years & one friend sends a Halloween card. There are some people I’ve sent to for years and others just recently added. Aside from the year I was diagnosed with cancer (& a little too distracted to get them all sent out), we’ve sent Christmas cards or New Years greetings almost every year. The amount we send out doesn’t equal the number we receive. Some people don’t send them at all, which is fine. I do feel kind of bad when people that I send cards to have sent cards to other people but not to me. It kind of makes me feel like I’m not important enough... Am I not worth the stamp? Not worth the card? I’m not sure of the reason.

Instead of worrying about it, I’ve decided to just focus on the people who give the positive energy back to me… The people who show up, who love me, scars and all. I spent some extra time with family and friends over the Christmas break. We traveled a few different times and tried to make some memories. We ate lots of treats, played games, went skiing, made lefse, drove go-karts and rode roller coasters. As we say good bye to 2018, there will be a lot of “reflective” posts. I don’t have a top 10 list. Many people I care about lost loved ones this year – some unexpectedly & some had been struggling for a while. For myself, I chose to focus on the positive. I learned a lot this year. I grew, I shrunk, I laughed, I cried, I gained new friends and some fell off the radar. Some of them are like the “return to sender,” but that’s ok.

I will look back on 2018 and remember the times I spent with “my people.” Not just one person, but groups of people who get me. Groups of people who think I am enough. All are different… yet all are meaningful. Family, friends, people at work, people I met at classes or retreats, people at church, people at the grocery store… all bring something magical to my life.

For 2019, I welcome in magic, fun, laughter, prosperity, writing, growing, loving, adventure, kindness and vulnerability.

Whatever your new year brings, I wish you peace on your journey of enough. With peace in your heart, you can survive the ebbs and flows of life. I hope you find your people on your journey. Be thankful for your breath and blow the noisemaker!