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!

To my boys… 19 things I want you to know…

(I started writing this last December but paused. After being stuck at home with influenza for a week last winter, losing some loved ones & watching a couple of TV shows that had some “life is too short moments”… I felt I need to finish this. It’s honest and personal but hopefully inspires someone else to do something similar.)

I’m a mom of 2 boys. In this photo they were 2 & 5. See those smiles? They warm my heart and bring a tear to my eye. I can still hear their giggles. They are growing up so fast. I remember people telling me this would happen and I would just shrug them off… but oh man, they were right. One is almost as tall as me and the other has his drivers permit. Here are some things I want them to know (even though this may embarrass them, they will one day appreciate it)

  1. I love you more than you can comprehend. Both of you.
  2. I am your biggest fan.
  3. I will always feel like a mamma bear for you. I will try to contain this, but I won’t always be able to.
  4. Seeing pictures of you as little boys makes me sad & happy at the same time.
  5. I may nag you to do your homework or clean your room … but you are always good enough.
  6. I only want the best for you. Whatever that is.
  7. I want to protect you and set you free at the same time.
  8. Your worries, anxieties & fears… I’ve had many of them too. I really do understand.
  9. I’m sorry for missing the dinosaur exhibit at school when I thought I was too busy at work. I tried not to let it happen again.
  10. I’m sorry I didn’t know what to say… when other kids were mean to you, when you struggled to fit in, or when your worries overwhelmed you. All I wanted to do was to wrap you up & keep you safe.
  11. I hope you are always there for each other, regardless of your life paths.
  12. After I’m gone, I will still be with you in spirit. Still talk to me and look for signs.
  13. I hope you have amazing life experiences. This will mean something different to each of you.
  14. I’m sorry you had a mom with cancer when you were young, but I hope you see how strong I am. That strength is in you too.
  15. Go on trips. Sometimes have a plan and sometimes just wing it. You won’t regret it either way.
  16. At 18 years old, you do NOT need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life. You are allowed to change your mind.
  17. Wear your seatbelt every time. No exceptions.
  18. Don’t get drunk on your wedding night. You will want to be able to remember it.
  19. Life really is short. Love big, forgive others and make some awesome memories.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you be reminded of the reason for the Christmas season. I hope you are able to be surrounded by the gifts of family this year. I am thankful for my two gifts who will always be enough for me!

Thanks, but no…

It’s Christmas time and the season of holiday parties. While we don’t have a “work Christmas party,” there are some groups who do parties this time of year. I’m thankful to be invited, but I’m likely not going. I just might not have thought of an excuse yet. I wrote about this last year also, but it bears repeating.

I’m a stereotypical introvert. I need time alone to recharge. I get flustered by people who demand an answer right now. And the thought of going to a party makes my stomach hurt. If you are not an introvert, this probably seems strange. “Just go, it will be fun.” Yeah, I’m sure people will have fun, but if I go, I’d likely fill awkward silence with a drink and that would quickly become out of hand. It is not the image I’d like to portray to my co-workers. When I was 17? Sure, I didn’t care. Also, I’m not good at small talk. If my husband is there, I’m fine – he does all of the talking and story telling. I smile and laugh at his jokes or roll my eyes, and I don’t have to say much.

For years, I thought there was something wrong with me. “Why don’t you come out for happy hour?” I just couldn’t. I’d rather be at home with my family or shopping by myself. It wasn’t until I read some articles on introverts that the lightbulb went off – I’m not so strange. I need to honor and respect that part of me instead of trying to be something I’m not. I have little patience for “fake” people, so why would I want to be one myself?

People have different reasons for not going to the party – maybe they have other things going on in their personal life that they haven’t shared yet. Perhaps they are dealing with loss or being alone. While it’s good to invite people, I think we need to respect their answer. We shouldn’t make them explain their why.

Going to events like this remind me of all of the ways I’m not enough. I realize it’s a self imposed thing – I’m not smiling enough, I’m not funny enough, I’m not social enough, I’m not pretty enough… this list goes through my head. I know I need to speak kinder to myself and I’m working on it. It takes time. My request is for the answer of “no, thanks” to be enough.

Peace be with you this holiday season. You are always enough, whether you go to the party or choose to stay home.

Thanks, but no…

It’s Christmas time and the season of holiday parties. While we don’t have a “work Christmas party,” there are some groups who do parties this time of year. I’m thankful to be invited, but I’m likely not going. I just might not have thought of an excuse yet. I wrote about this last year also, but it bears repeating.

I’m a stereotypical introvert. I need time alone to recharge. I get flustered by people who demand an answer right now. And the thought of going to a party makes my stomach hurt. If you are not an introvert, this probably seems strange. “Just go, it will be fun.” Yeah, I’m sure people will have fun, but if I go, I’d likely fill awkward silence with a drink and that would quickly become out of hand. It is not the image I’d like to portray to my co-workers. When I was younger? Sure, I didn’t care. Also, I’m not good at small talk. If my husband is there, I’m fine – he does all of the talking and story telling. I smile and laugh at his jokes or roll my eyes, and I don’t have to say much.

For years, I thought there was something wrong with me. “Why don’t you come out for happy hour?” I just couldn’t. I’d rather be at home with my family or shopping by myself. It wasn’t until I read some articles on introverts that the lightbulb went off – I’m not so strange. I need to honor and respect that part of me instead of trying to be something I’m not. I have little patience for “fake” people, so why would I want to be one myself?

People have different reasons for not going to the party – maybe they have other things going on in their personal life that they haven’t shared yet. Perhaps they are dealing with loss or being alone. While it’s good to invite people, I think we need to respect their answer. We shouldn’t make them explain their why.

Going to events like this remind me of all of the ways I’m not enough. I realize it’s a self imposed thing – I’m not smiling enough, I’m not funny enough, I’m not social enough, I’m not pretty enough… this list goes through my head. I know I need to speak kinder to myself and I’m working on it. It takes time. My request is for the answer of “no, thanks” to be enough.

Peace be with you this holiday season. You are always enough, whether you go to the party or choose to stay home.

He found the joy, did you?

While shopping at Target last weekend, our youngest son saw this Christmas suit. He is not a typical 12 year old – he loves to wear suits. It’s either suits or sweats. He’s not a fan of jeans for some reason. I think it’s a “tween” thing. Normally, I would refuse such a purchase because who would wear this thing? Him. He would wear it, along with red shoes and the largest grin possible. If he wasn’t required to wear black for his band concert next week, he’d be wearing this suit.

How often in life do we wear our joy? He is wearing it in the form of an obnoxious Christmas suit. What does yours look like? Are we too afraid of what other people will think? I remember when I was young, my mom wouldn’t go to the local grocery store (in our town of 500) unless she at least had lipstick on. I haven’t worn lipstick since my wedding. Everyone has their own idea of acceptable. Our outward appearance doesn’t always match our joy but sometimes it does. Sometimes it’s the opposite – fake joy may equal hidden sadness.

4 years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. Some days I felt actually brave, ready to conquer cancer. Other days, I felt like staying in bed and giving up. 4 years ago at Christmas was difficult for me because it made me think of all the what if’s. Lots of scenarios ran through my head while I tried to fake the holiday cheer. I still didn’t know my course of treatment and yet I had to reassure everyone I’d be fine.

Unfortunately, the holidays aren’t filled with joy for everyone. I encourage you to reach out to someone who may be struggling- emotionally or financially, if possible. Just letting people know you care is a huge thing. If you are struggling, I encourage you to seek help. There are better days ahead. If you are filled with joy this holiday season, wear it like this Christmas suit. Spread it around like sunshine and glitter. Our journey of enough isn’t meant to be walked alone. May you find joy this holiday season…whatever form it may be in. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Thanks & giving…

This past Thursday, we spent Thanksgiving with extended family & friends. 2 large meals and a whole table of pies and desserts made for some stuffed guests, not just stuffed turkey. Friday morning at 3:30am, our alarm rang. We threw some clothes on & hopped in the car. This year, our boys came with us for Black Friday shopping. Their eyes were wide yet sleepy while hundreds of people streamed into Fleet Farm on a chilly North Dakota morning. Some were just there for the free stuffed sloth. We made a couple more stops and didn’t have to wait in line too long. The reward? Some kid-approved Christmas gifts & Sandy’s donuts (one of the best donut shops around). We have lots to give thanks for.

We stayed in West Fargo with our friends. Our plans were to do our Christmas baking on Saturday. Since Black Friday shopping went smoothly, we started baking a few things early. Our annual baking day turned into baking days – plural. Most of our recipes were doubled or x6! A neighbor & her mom came over to join in the fun. From Friday afternoon through Saturday at 9pm, we went through more than 25lbs of sugar and flour, over 120 eggs. My husband packaged all of the treats into 3 separate tables of containers. Her husband did dishes for hours. We mixed, measured, scooped, baked, dipped and rolled until we smelled like sugar. Our aprons, the counters and the floors were covered in sugar & flour. Good thing my friend loves to sweep! Many of these goodies will be gifts. Some will be for piano open houses, some for bus drivers, teachers, neighbors and co-workers. Family gatherings and pot-luck events and a Relay for Life fundraiser will all benefit from our baking day. Our joy is in giving it away! (Of course some will be snacks at home too)

You know the saying that anything “baked with love” tastes better? I think that’s why people love our treats. They aren’t anything strange or necessarily special- but they are baked with love. While Christmas music plays in the background, we bake our treats and visit. There may have been a glass or two of wine included, but not too much – we need to make sure the measurements are accurate! We can’t exactly remember when it started, but it’s been about 9-10 yrs that we have baked together. I think we only missed the year we moved. Each year, one of us packs up half the kitchen and comes with recipes and “raw materials” to bake several dozen treats. I think we made 25 different kinds of treats this year, but we’ve been told to scale back next year, our our packaging department might protest.

Whatever your holiday traditions are, I hope they involve both thanks AND giving. Peace be with you on your journey of enough & may you enjoy a holiday treat or spend some time laughing and visiting with those you love.

On behalf of introverts everywhere…

It’s that time of year… holiday parties. While most people look forward to the celebrations and fun, it makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong, I like you, I just don’t want to be at a social gathering where I may or may not know everyone. It literally creates a physical reaction in my body. I’m sure I’m not alone. This time of year is when extroverts shine. The small talk, socializing & merriment is right up their alley. There is a lot of pressure to attend festive social functions. I love the holidays, but the parties are my least favorite part. So I avoid them… because I’m learning to say “no, thank you.”

If you’re not an introvert, let me give you some insight…. Introverts see the invitation as an obstacle to carefully overcome. Do I go and feel awkward or try to come up with an excuse? If I go, it’s like a land mine. For me, it’s like being in jr. high all over again. Who to sit by? Who to talk to? Drink something? Don’t drink? How long do you stay? What if you say the wrong thing? Forget to talk to someone important? It’s a long list. If I don’t go, then there is the guilt. Why couldn’t you make it? Where were you? The list is shorter. See where I’m going with this? It’s easier for me to skip the party and deal with the questions, and it’s far less stressful.

I don’t mean to be dramatic or sound like I’m a party pooper, but this is a real thing. So please, continue to have your parties but don’t feel bad if I’m not there. I’m probably snuggled up at home. On behalf of introverts everywhere, we respectfully decline. Peace be with you on your journey of enough, whether you attend or not, you are enough.

Emotional flood…

6 years ago, we said “I do (again)” in Las Vegas while doing my first half marathon. It was a “run-through” vow renewal. We didn’t know the twists and turns that we’d face in the years to come. We assumed we would grow old together… we felt invincible. I miss the carefree time & how fit I was.

4 years ago, Myles was getting ready for his bell solo at the 1st grade Christmas concert. I really miss the Christmas concerts at our old school. They don’t do them here and it makes me sad. Last year, Myles had a sing along, but it isn’t the same. I miss all of the songs & actions the kids did. I miss some of that magic.

3 years ago, we were also getting ready for a Christmas concert, but it was with a heavy, anxious heart. 3 years ago was my diagnosis of breast cancer. My world would change in so many ways.

So today brings a flood of emotions… Joy, sadness, thankfulness, love, hope, peace, remembrance & fullness.

Joy like the pure joy in Myles’ smile. Sadness for missing out on a Christmas program and the “end” of that kind of magic. Thankfulness for everyone who stood beside me, cheered me on or held my hand. Love of my husband, family and friends. Hope for the future & for a long, healthy life. Peace knowing that I’m a child of God and supported and loved. Remembrance so that I don’t take my birthdays and Christmases for granted. Fullness because my heart is full (& probably somewhat to do with the abundance of cookies too! – see previous post)

So, while the day goes on like any other, it does cause me to pause and be grateful. I’m grateful to be on this journey of enough with you. Thanks for reading – now give someone a hug!

Thousands to share…

When my friend and I get together, it’s quite the opposite of the “5 loaves and 3 fishes” story. We always over-do food. Not sure why but we both do, so when we are together, we could easily add a few more people and still have plenty. For many years, we have gotten together to do our Christmas baking. We aren’t even sure how it started. Likely it was while we were on a walk one time when we were still neighbors. I’m guessing we got to talking about holiday baking & thought that since we both liked to bake, it would be a great way to do it together. We would try to get together once a month for a group meal. Maybe we talked about it then. Not sure. It all started with her bringing over her baking supplies and using our double oven to make the baking go faster. Of course there were lists involved (who made which one and how much). We each picked our favorites to make. Eventually we found some new ones and got rid of some others.

We made a full day of it each year. Our husbands were in charge of dishes, packaging & the babies. Now our kids are much older and we don’t need the pack & play or diaper bags. The year I was diagnosed with cancer, we still baked. We made an extra batch of everything & took it to a neighbor who was also battling cancer. I was still numb from my diagnosis- still not sure what path my treatment would take. Baking has always been like therapy to me. Not sure why, I just love it. Last year we didn’t do baking day. We had moved into a rental and things were crazy. Between the two of us, we didn’t have a good weekend to do it and my double oven was gone. When we were cleaning out our old house, I cried when I saw sprinkles under the stove – so many memories of baking in that house.

So, this year, we took baking day “on the road.” Her friend wanted to join too, so this time, I packed up 1/2 of my kitchen and hauled it to West Fargo. We spent 4 hrs the night before having some wine & just doing “a few things.” Sunday was Game Day! It was an 8am start, and when we left at 5, they were still doing their cut out cookies. After seeing the pictures on Facebook, several people asked if we were doing a bake sale. It’s not why we made that much, but I am taking some of mine to a bake sale at work. We do a fundraiser for Relay for Life. Usually, we give most of it away. We like to eat some of course, but we mainly just love to share it. Several years, we have packed up a bunch to take to the homeless shelter. We give it to teachers and neighbors & co-workers. The fun is in the laughs that we have while we do it. It’s an all-day, 12-14 hr marathon. Our feet are sore, but our freezers are full and we have plenty to share. Her husband likes to keep track of numbers. Final count was 3500 treats, aside from our separate cut outs and the puff corn & reindeer chow.

I ended up sick but it wasn’t from eating too many sweets. Just a bug. Or God’s way of slowing me down. Or maybe I’m getting too old for this. Regardless, the treats were all divided into 3 groups by our packaging department & will be shared throughout December.

Whatever your talent, be sure to share it. This time of year is a great time to reach out to a neighbor or volunteer somewhere. May your journey of enough contain enough sugar for your cookies, enough music for you to sing along and enough laughter to make the time fly. I’m thankful to have had all of that and more yesterday.