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.

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….

Doors, roses and dancing…

We traveled back “home” for the graduation of our son’s former classmates on Sunday. He went alone on Friday to see some more kids and attend a few extra open houses. As we drove up to the school in the middle of nowhere, I knew the day would be almost as emotional for me as it was for the moms of the kids on stage. I forgot Kleenex in the car, but I managed to hold it together.

I held back tears as I talked to other moms before the ceremony. Parents who my son grew up with. Field trips and birthday parties, Halloween around the neighborhood on scooters… now young adults stood before us, eager for their next steps. Pomp and Circumstance played and the lump in my throat got larger. Where would he have been? Who would he walk in with and sit by? What stories would be told of his high school years if we had stayed? Then the choir sang, “I Hope You Dance,” and I leaned over and told my senior that I should have brought tissues. He looked shocked. “What for?!” It’s a touching song. Through all the struggles of raising kids, moving and changing schools, I still always want the best for them. I know it won’t always be easy, and that’s ok. The seniors handed roses to their parents and I’m sure I would have lost it. I would have tried to take 100 pictures so I wouldn’t miss a thing.

When he walked across the stage for his tech school graduation (before high school finished), I wasn’t even able to be there. When he walks across the stage this Friday, I will be there in person, but it’s just not the same. 322 kids instead of 43. Very few he has connected with, and since he was mainly at the tech school, he wasn’t involved in many activities with them either. He is so ready to move on. I can relate to that part. I vividly remember being ready to graduate. I didn’t move as far away, but it was a change. It’s the independence that I longed for. He’s ready for that independence also. I hope we’ve given him the skills to do well, and I hope he will dance.

The words give me chills. Here is a reminder. LeAnn Womack’s “I Hope You Dance”…

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.I hope you dance… I hope you dance…I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance,
Never settle for the path of least resistance,
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’,
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’,
Don’t let some Hell bent heart leave you bitter,
When you come close to sellin’ out reconsider,
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
And wonder where those years have gone.)I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.Dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
And wonder where those years have gone.) I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.Dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
I hope you dance… I hope you dance.
(Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along,
Tell me who wants to look back on their years
And wonder where those years have gone.)

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Moving may have closed a door, but it opened a different opportunity & many friends remained. Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens for you too.

Take me to the water…

I don’t know much about astrological signs, but I am a Sagittarius, which I guess is a “fire” sign. Youngest son is a “water” sign, oldest son is “air” and my husband is an “earth” sign. My husband’s makes the most sense because he is very connected to the earth. He loves to garden, move dirt, work with compost, and trim trees. I love the water. I spent most days at the city pool when I was a kid. Growing up in the 70’s/80’s, we would ride our bikes to the pool and wait for it to open (as long as it was warm enough). We would swim until supper break & sometimes ride back again for evening swim. In high school, I got my lifeguard certificate and worked at the pool for a few summers.

I’m drawn to water. I love floating down the river or being on the lake. I could sit and listen to the waves lap against the shore all day. I love the sound of it flowing over the rocks at the dam. I like kayaking so I can glide across the water. There is a calm and sense of peacefulness that washes over me when I’m by the water. It’s hard to explain if it’s not something you connect with. It is where I will retire someday… in a cabin on a lake. I will wake up and have my coffee while watching the sunrise and listening to the loons.

“Take me to the River” is the song that the “Billy Bass” sings. If you’re not familiar with it, Google it. For several years, that’s how my husband woke up our oldest son. A song from a plaque with a singing bass fish was just annoying enough to get him out of bed. I could always hear it upstairs, even though his room is in the basement. It made me chuckle. I wonder what will happen to Billy when he goes off to college?

I know my son will learn to fly fish in Bozeman. He will seek out the pond of ducks and sit to listen to their calls. Are there lakes by Bozeman? If there is, he will find them. Ironically, the kid sinks like a stone… he is not a strong swimmer. His lifeguard mom failed at getting him comfortable IN the water. He will be on or beside it, but he doesn’t love to swim. He may not have Billy Bass with him, but I’m sure there will be a few tackle boxes and rods packed into his car in the fall.

There are many things I admire about my son. He can talk to anyone, I love his smile and he has a desire to learn new things (especially if they are in the realm of fishing, hunting or welding). He may look more like his dad, but we will always share the connection to the water. I’m thankful this summer will be busy compared to last summer. There will still be time for fishing or boating or river floating. Next year will be completely different.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Take me to the water, are memories to be made.

Before selfies…

This week marked 26 yrs since my husband proposed. This photo wasn’t taken at the proposal. It wasn’t common to have people photograph or document it. Heck, we still had regular film cameras where you had to take your film in to be developed (& hope for some good ones). Selfies weren’t a thing yet. We took this picture at the International Peace Gardens in 1997. We went after Labor Day and there were very few people, so we took the phot ourselves. Odds are, there are 10 others that have part of our heads or just the sky in them, but this one was good. We camped in a tent there, saw porcupines, deer, tons of beautiful flowers and we did lots of biking.

It got me thinking… what would I say to my “26 years ago self?” My experiences brought me to where I am today, but that young 21 year old had no idea what was in store. What would I say to that young lady?

  • Your wedding day will be the fastest day of your life. Enjoy it.
  • Sometimes it takes a while to have a family. Hold on, it’s worth the wait.
  • Hold those babies more! Let them sit on your lap longer, rock them and give them even more kisses than you already did.
  • Lighten up. 21 yr old me went from wild to serious and stayed there too long.
  • Don’t lose yourself. It’s ok to have dreams and goals of your own. Don’t get too lost in everything else that you forget to take care of yourself.
  • You cannot pour from an empty cup.
  • One day you will look back at the “Rice a Roni years” and realize you can get by with less.
  • Jalapeño peppers will burn your hands.
  • You will meet some magical ladies. Listen and learn. They help you discover part of yourself that is also magical.
  • Date night. Seriously. Get a sitter and go out more.
  • Love your body in all it’s phases. One day you’ll wish you were the size you are now. Love yourself through all of it.
  • 529 plan. Look into it. College is no longer $12k for 4 years!
  • Slow down. Life goes by fast enough.
  • S’mores for breakfast & pancakes in letter shapes are totally ok when camping. Your kids will remember it.
  • Before you know it, you’ll be knocking on the door of 50. Enjoy the journey.
  • Have more massages, take more walks, spend more time by the water.
  • You will complete half marathons and then forget you’re capable of it. Don’t forget.
  • You’ll experience the power of prayer and feel people praying for you.
  • Keep sharing. Keep sending notes and baking treats for people and sending care packages.
  • Be in the pictures. The number on your jeans doesn’t matter. Your family loves you at all sizes.
  • 26 years later, you’d still say “yes” again.

I’m sure there is more. But, like I said, all of those experiences, victories and mistakes got me to where I am today… so maybe I wouldn’t change much. I bet she wouldn’t listen anyway. She was pretty stubborn. I would tell her to make more photo books because her iPhone will run out of space. (Then she’d wonder what I was talking about!)

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Have some grace with your younger self. She/he did the best they could, and brought you to where you are.

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.

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.