I just couldn’t…

I missed my blog post Tuesday yesterday. I don’t get paid for this or have an editor to report to, it’s a self imposed timeline. I just couldn’t. Some things happened in the last week or so that were a bit triggering for me and I needed to take some time. It didn’t feel authentic to write about the beautiful fall weather when I was feeling down. I still don’t feel like Mary Sunshine but I’m taking steps forward and that’s a good thing.

I took a walk at lunch down to the dam. Breathing in the crisp fall air, hearing the leaves crunch below me, the squirrels gathering nuts for winter and the soothing sound of the water trickling down the rocks was just what I needed. It was part of what I needed. I also needed to be open/honest, but how much do I share? It didn’t seem right to spill everything out to anyone when I haven’t expressed things to my friends, family, co-workers etc.

In the past year, I can’t tell you how many times I have felt like a failure. It’s a lot. Of course I wouldn’t call anyone else a failure for similar things, but this is how my mind works. Messy house = I fail at keeping it tidy. Extra weight = I fail at eating healthy. Anxiety = I fail at doing the things that keep me balanced. Too much debt = I fail at managing money. Son struggling with money management = I didn’t model it well or work with him enough. Depression = I have too much to be thankful for to be depressed. Communication issues = I’m a bad wife/mother. Stack of unsold books = I fail at promoting myself. Cat sickness = I fail at being a good cat mom.

Unfortunately this list could go on. You get the idea. Our church is starting a worship series about the perfect family. Spoiler alert – there isn’t one. We all have issues, history, skeletons in the closet, you name it. The picture perfect “social media worthy” photos don’t tell the whole story. Sometimes we reach out and don’t find the help we thought we’d find. Sometimes we reach out to someone else who seems to struggle, but they don’t want our help. It can be so hard, yet we don’t talk about it. We don’t allow ourselves a bad day.

Then, on my way back home, I spotted a penny. I always pick them up, smile and say “thank you.” It’s usually a message to remind me that I’m not alone. The year often means something also… the year on this one? The year my husband graduated high school. Yep, I’m not alone. Neither are you. Sure, life can feel lonely at times, but we aren’t alone. Someone cares for you. If it doesn’t feel like it right now, reach out. You might be surprised in a good way. Perhaps your circle needs to change if those people aren’t supporting you in good times and tough times. Everyone experiences ebbs and flows.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. If you feel like you “just can’t,” reach out… get support…allow yourself to pause.

See the light, be the light…

This past weekend, I went to a retreat with 18 other women. I almost didn’t go. 5 times. I came up with multiple excuses, mostly related to someone else needing me to stay home – even though they didn’t. They needed me to be there, to relax, refresh & reconnect.

When I returned home and my husband asked what we did, I wasn’t sure what to say. Time was strange last weekend – it seemed to go slowly and quickly at the same time. We laughed, we shared, we connected, we caught up with ladies we knew and met new friends. We did crafts, played, ate and sat by the fire. For some reason, I was reluctant to share our spirit connections. Um, I’m an author in a Wild Woman Book of Shadows book… spirit connections shouldn’t be a shock. We connected with loved ones who have passed, we acknowledged and celebrated the light in each other, we shared stories and shed old patterns. We challenged each other to level-up, be the light and share the joy. We did yoga and sound therapy, stayed up late and giggled.

This was our first retreat without our friend. She attended many in the past and this was the first one since she passed away. We could feel her presence. She sent so many signs… some were subtle and some were huge. The photo above is the fire we had one night. I was going to snap a picture because I love the cozy feeling of a campfire. After I took the picture, I noticed the green light to the right of the flame. This was not visible when we were just sitting there. It danced off to the side as I held my phone up. I was able to get a video of it. Again, we couldn’t see it just sitting there, but it was amazing. We knew it was her spirit celebrating with us.

Last year I was spinning a lot and was nauseous, so I made a conscious effort to stay grounded. While we were visiting after breakfast, I knew I needed to step away. I went to the porch, sat with my coffee and a grounding mat. I did some meditation and was setting my intentions for the day. This was the largest group of people I had been around (for the longest time) in a year. I realized it was a little much for me and I needed some time alone. The difference is, that I took the time. I actually put myself on the list of “things to take care of.” While other people might have had big breakthroughs, my small one was a big first step for me. I struggle to add myself to the list. I tend to want to do/help/give and I forget about myself. Don’t forget about adding yourself to the list!

My other “big deal” was that I sat in our circle, far from the door or the kitchen with my back to the window. You may be thinking, “So what?!” It’s a big deal for me because I like to look outside. I couldn’t do that where I sat. I also like to either be by the door so I can quietly escape or to be by the kitchen in case someone needs something. And I acknowledged this step. Silly as I may sound, my friends also recognized this change and pointed out how different it was for me to do that.

My weekend take-aways: 1) add myself to the list 2) acknowledge small steps 3) my family cannot read my mind 4) releasing control is ok 5) allow the support and friendship. There were lots more, but this was a start.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Add yourself to the list every day. see the light, be the light.

The end…

This is the beginning of a recent cross country race. It’s one of my favorite views. The race gun goes off and the kids start running. The long horizontal line funnels down while they jockey for their spot. They try to find their pace. Don’t go out too fast and burn out, but don’t save too much so you have too much left over at the end.

Between 5K’s, half marathons, full marathons and cross country runs, I’ve lost count of how many I’ve watched or participated in. 50? Maybe more? It doesn’t matter. While the starting funnel is one of my favorites, the end is my other favorite. Not the finish line end, but the end of the pack. The kids who still are running even though many of the spectators have already moved on. They may have had to walk part of the course, they are battling an injury, struggling with the heat, or this is their pace. Regardless of their story, they are worthy of claps and cheers. They need someone to smile at them even if they have no idea who I am.

What’s the point? I know how they feel. I’m usually at the back of the pack too. I haven’t run in several years, but when I did, it was more of a slow jog. I have a friend who walks faster than I jog. At some point in our lives, we need someone to cheer us on. While it feels great to hear the loud cheers when you’re at the front of the race, the few people who cheer you on when you’re just hanging in there are important too. Odds are, either you know someone towards the back of the pack right now, or maybe it’s you. I hope you’re cheering someone on, if you’re able. It doesn’t take much – a smile, a quick text, a lunch visit, an unexpected package or treat… you never know when it might be just what that person needed to keep them going.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” Hebrews 12:1

If God can lead you to it…

I was scrolling through Facebook before bed, too tired to move off the couch. We did a lot of canning on Labor Day. Whatever we don’t sell at the market, we try to use in some way. Today was salsa and jam day. We made 3 more batches of mild, medium and hot salsa, 3 batches of pasta sauce, strawberry jam, blueberry jam, chokecherry jelly & strawberry rhubarb jam. It was more than twelve hours of prepping, cooking & canning. My husband carried a canner full of jars and water up and down our patio steps many times on Monday. He wore gloves & glasses to prep the jalapeños for the hot salsa. Everyone stayed safe, so it was a good day. We do the canning outside on a propane stove. It keeps the heat out of the house and it’s much quicker.

Anyway, I saw this quote from Toby Mac. He’s a Contemporary Christian artist and has lost a son. His words struck a chord with me & I feel like that’s what I’m supposed to write about. We all face struggles of some kind. Most of the time we don’t know what someone else is going through. They may have lost a loved one, struggled to get out of bed, battled depression/loneliness/anxiety, struggled with hidden health issues… the list goes on. After I was done with breast cancer treatment, I had a bit of a panic attack. I wasn’t “actively” doing anything… no more surgery or radiation, no more regular doctor visits… I was just set free to do what? Now what? It’s a strange feeling. Like maybe when you’re not fighting anymore, it will come back?

I met with a counselor at the cancer center and also met with mentor (someone who had been through breast cancer herself). I asked, “Does it ever get easier? Is there a day when you don’t think about it?” Their answer was “kind of.” Eventually it doesn’t consume your every thought… other things fill in. You make plans for the future instead of putting plans on pause, you take some chances you had held off on, you find a new routine. I’m thankful that now I have to do math to remember how long it’s been. This past Memorial weekend was 6 years since my last surgery. This coming December will be 7 years from diagnosis. The thing is, it won’t ever go away. It will always be a part of me, always a part of my story, always a concern for my family.

But I like to think I have helped others who have gone through cancer. I’ve shared tips for them and for their caregivers, I’ve sent care packages to strangers, answered questions when I could and said many prayers for healing and strength. I remember hearing, “If God can lead you to it, God can lead you through it.” FYI, this was not helpful for me. It kind of made me mad. Why did God lead me to breast cancer at 41? Why did God make me give that news to my family & take me on a journey I didn’t ask for? Why did some friends turn away and abandon me? Why was work so challenging while dealing with such an illness? I don’t have the answers. Maybe it is because I was meant to help someone else.

The same could be said for you. Have you struggled with something and then been able to help someone else? You might not even realize the impact you had. It forms a connection. I picture a spider web in my mind… a small strand connecting us to someone else. When you get enough of those strands, the web can be pretty strong.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Stop and take a moment to reflect on how you’ve helped someone else. You are here for a reason, even if it’s not apparent to you, you’ve no doubt made a difference in someone’s life. Maybe God really did lead us to it.

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.

This was a lot…

This was a lot… a lot of preparation, a lot of planning, a lot of moving things & painting things, a lot of pulling weeds, a lot of mowing, a lot of baking cupcakes, a lot of pictures, a lot of lists, a lot of folding chairs. It was also a lot of friends & family helping out, a lot people showing up and a lot of memories made. We celebrated our son’s graduations from Tech School for welding and from high school this past weekend. We had a nice stream of people, a few sprinkles of rain, and a calm evening. Two of his high school buddies from his old school came for the weekend. The smile on Dallas’ face was worth all of the preparation. To hear him tell welding stories to the party guests and show off his certification welds made me happy.

I know he loves it. I know he will love Montana. I know he will make more friends and new memories… memories that I won’t be a part of. Seeing all of the pictures from when he was little made me nostalgic. Not sad, just nostalgic. I’m not sad that he is growing up. I’m not sad that he’s moving away. I will miss him for sure. I just wish I could have a little more time with that little boy farming on my carpet. I wish I could get back the year that I had cancer because it seemed like a blur. I wish I would have had the words to calm worries and mend broken hearts.

But I have a lot to be thankful for. A lot of conversations at bed time, a lot of cookies made and eaten, a lot of side hugs when my hands were full of something else. I don’t tell him how proud I am of him because I want him to be proud of himself… to seek that pride on his own instead of looking for someone else to fill it. But I am proud of him. I’m proud of how he came back from failing classes to accepting help. I’m proud that he can carry on a conversation with adults. I’m proud that he can be his own advocate. I’m proud he found a unique skill and learned how to improve on it. I could go on, but you get the idea. Is the kid perfect? Nope. And I don’t expect him to be. I’m proud nonetheless.

So I sat by the fire on Sunday night, reflecting on the week. There were a lot of emotions from the book launch, to graduation prep, to the party and the cleanup. There were a lot of cupcakes left over and a lot of things to put away. I’m thankful for it all.

I feel like summer can begin now. We were able to go tubing down the river with my sister and nieces and Dallas’ friend. The weather was perfect and it was a great way to top off the weekend. The quiet time by the fire was what I needed to. It may have been a lot, but it was also just enough.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Excuse me while I go make notes for a party four years from now….

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!

Are you willing to stick your tongue out?

This is one of the many bird feeders in our back yard. It is empty. Although we’ve had some snow lately, it has melted and hopefully it will feel like spring soon. The bird feeder isn’t empty due to a bunch of migrating birds returning from their winter vacation. It’s not empty because of a wind storm or squirrels. Nope, it is empty due to the deer wandering through the yard. While this feeder closes if a squirrel gets on it, it does not close if a deer sticks its tongue through the hole to lick out the bird seed.

Pretty creative, right? The deer walking from the state park through our yard like to stop for a snack, I guess. We have 3 “winter feeders” we keep full all year. These 3 deer were having some breakfast when we looked out the patio. (Our snow is gone finally- this was a little while ago)

How often does our life not go quite like we planned it? How often are we forced to adapt? Sometimes we have to be creative, be like the deer and stick our tongue out. It might be something small like a road detour causing us to reroute. It might be a larger event – job change, a sickness, a marriage, divorce, baby or graduation causing us to adjust to our new circumstances. Will you keep walking past the feeder, not even realizing that it’s a solution? Will you pay attention to the person showing you the way? Will you take the path not yet traveled? Sometimes the detour is wonderful and exciting, yet other times it feels scary. There isn’t one right answer, you just have to be open to new ways to seek help or find solutions.

I was happy that there were deer in the back yard. If it was a bear in the bird feeder, that might have been a different story. My chickens are pretty safe with the deer. Deer are often a symbol of peace and serenity. I figured they had some kind of lesson or wisdom to share. I think the wisdom is ‘to find peace amidst the change.’ Often times, the part of change that feels scary is the lack of control… the fear of the unknown. Maybe if we are willing to stick out tongues out, we might find what we are looking for.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May you find some answers you’ve been searching for, and maybe a full bird feeder or two.

You can’t skip the flour and the dishes…

I have always loved to bake. I make pies, cookies and breads for the farmers market. Pies are a favorite. There is something special about a homemade pie crust. The flakey, crispy, melt in your mouth pie crust brings back memories for many people. It brings me back to my mom’s kitchen in the 1911 farmhouse I grew up in. It makes me think of the red and white Betty Crocker cookbook (the crust recipe I always use). I remember her saying, “Save your fork,” after the meal… then you knew there would be dessert!

Aside from pumpkin (which HAS to be Festal), I make all of my fillings from scratch. It isn’t quick but I’ve gotten better at pie time management. Before a market, I’ll prep the filling mixes (the sugar, flour, cinnamon etc) so that it’s ready to mix in with the fruit when the crust is made. I’ll have my son help line some pizza pans with foil to reduce oven drips. I’ll make sure I have the cinnamon and sugar mixed up for the pie crust crispies.

There are some things about pie baking you just can’t skip. For mine, I need flour. I haven’t tried gluten free pie crust yet and I don’t have a flour free kitchen, so there is flour everywhere. It’s difficult to keep flour off the counter, the apron and even the floor. It’s a key ingredient to the crust. It can’t be skipped. Dishes are the other thing that comes with baking. Even though I put pies in disposable tins, I have bowls for the crusts, the special fork I use to mix it, the rolling pin, all of the measuring spoons and cups and even a small basting brush to make the top of the crust extra tasty. Dishes. Ugh. If ever I could hire help, it would be solely for the dishes. But they are necessary.

The mess is necessary. You can’t skip it. You can’t skip an ingredient and the dishes have to be done. Similar to life, you can’t skip the middle. You can’t skip over the messy parts or the clean up. You’ll get covered in flour and have a full dishwasher, but in the end, you’ll have a wonderful, delicious pie. (Ok yes, you could just buy a pie, but you get the idea). To me, baking is therapy. It’s soothing. I am creating something and sharing a skill. I’m baking JOY. I’m offering a connection – since most people share a pie (although I do not judge if you chose to keep one for yourself!)

I love seeing the people smile at the market when they buy a pie. They talk about bringing it to a friend for pie and ice cream, or a having a coffee snack. They don’t think about the mess behind it, they just get to enjoy the finished product. They have their own “flour and dishes” to deal with. We all do. Let people into your flour mess. Let them help with the dishes. And let them scoop up some ice cream when you’re done. We are meant to help each other in some way. We might as well enjoy some pie too.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. I also wish for you to have flour messes and dishes so you can get to the pie part. Save your fork, the best is yet to come.

Detours and rerouting …

This is a small dam near our place. The water from the lake flows over the dam and down the river. If you look closely, you can see the erosion on the far side. The water decided it wanted to go on the other side of that metal wall. It eroded the bank and started to flow a little too quickly.

This is the river we float down in the summer. This is my relaxing spot. For a couple of hours, time slows down. The water and the sun, the slow pace, the wildlife and fish… it’s all just what I need. Catching up with friends while we slowly float down the river is a highlight of the summer.

I’m not sure what it will look like this year. They are adding rock and trying to fix the erosion. Since it’s only March, (and in MN that means we still have potential winter), we have time. Also, the lake it flows from is one of the deepest, so it melts last. This means the water is pretty cold in the spring. We have some time before we need to air up the lounge floaters.

This wasn’t part of the plan for the dam. It’s a detour, a rerouting. It got me thinking about all of the detours or rerouting I’ve gone through. Some times I welcomed it, and other times I resisted. It came either way, whether I was ready or not. It’s more comfortable to stay in the stream, to stay the course. We get caught up in routines and before we know it, a whole year has gone by. Cancer was a detour, moving was a rerouting… they both created experiences I wouldn’t have had if I had stayed where I was. I wouldn’t have met the people I met because of cancer. I wouldn’t be writing a blog each week. I wouldn’t have gotten rid of household cleaning chemicals or become aware of my health. I wouldn’t get to wake up to rows of trees and chickens and a cat if we hadn’t moved. I wouldn’t have grown a huge garden and become a cottage food producer. I wouldn’t have perfected a pie crust and found almond cake recipes.

Sometimes it’s ok to be rerouted. Sometimes it’s ok to have a detour. You never know where you will end up as a result. For me, I hope the actual river will be great for tubing when May rolls around. Wherever your life detour takes you, I hope you have someone to share it with. While you’re being rerouted, I hope you know you are enough. If you’re struggling with that, please reach out. Talk to a friend, a pastor, a counselor… someone. Sometimes we just need to share our story and to know we aren’t alone in the detour. I wish you peace on your journey of enough.