H.O.P.E. ; Pause, but let your story continue

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends. Mental health awareness is something that needs to get more attention. We have talked more about mental health than we did in the past, but there is room for more awareness & acceptance. We now have a “World Mental Health Day,” which is a great step forward. Four years ago, a friend of ours lost a son to suicide. He was the same age as our oldest son. They started an organization called Robbie’s Hope to help stop the epidemic of suicide by reaching teens and their families. They have teen ambassadors who help raise awareness in their communities and wrote a handbook for parents. Visit http://www.robbies-hope.com to learn more about their mission.

A long time family friend shared this story with me. It’s written by a pastor from Trinity Evangelical Lutheran church in Watertown, MN: Mark Twain said, “There was never yet an uninteresting life. Such a thing is an impossibly. Inside of the dullest exterior, there is a drama, a comedy and tragedy.” At out annual outdoor service during “rails to trails” weekend in July 2018, I shared the above quote by Mark Twain that spoke to the fact that everybody has a story. It might seem obvious, and yet we so often forget this simple fact when we see people on the street, at work, at the store, or even at church. We forget that they might have just had a birth in their family, and so they’re celebrating. We forget that they might have just had a death in their family, and so they’re grieving. We forget that they might have just lost a job, or found a job, or moved to a new house, or received important news in an email, a text, or a letter. It might not seem like a big deal, but when we forget that everybody has a story, we begin to see them simply as “objects” that are inanimate rather than “subjects” that are full of life. You know, people. With feelings. And goals. And hopes. And dreams. And they are worthy of our attention, and our support and our prayers. And this means you, too. Maybe you feel like you, yourself, don’t have much of a story, or have much to say, or have much to offer. But it’s not true. You do have a story. You do have something to say. You do have a lot to offer. Someone once said, “To the world, you might be just one person. But to one person, you just might be the world.” Yes, that means you. Whether you realize it or not, you have so much to offer… so let your light shine! Pastor Engholm

I’ve written about this before but we all need a good reminder. It’s OK to not be OK. It’s ok to have a bad day, a sad or stressful time or to need a pause. We need to put aside the “just toughen up” mentality and acknowledge the real feelings… validate the stories…. let someone feel seen and heard. Take a pause, but please let your story continue. You never know the impact you have on other people. Don’t assume people are ok either. Robbie was a smiling kid with loving parents. He helped other kids through struggles but didn’t reach out about his own. If you are struggling, please dial 988, or 911 if you are in a crisis.

I’m forever thankful that my son had a pause, but his story continues. Please hold on. Reach out. You are loved. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Ice breakers?

I’ve seen this phrase many times before. “There is somebody in the world who needs your story.” I often dismiss my writing. I think it’s not important, wonder who would care to read what I have to say and honestly question why I do this. Why do I share my stories with unknown numbers of people, many of whom I’ve never met and likely won’t meet? Connection. I know it’s not the physical connection, in person or face to face, but it’s a connection of sorts. Every now and then, someone will reach back to me and say, “me too” or “wow, I needed to hear that.” That’s the connection.

My writing is random and usually spirit led. It’s not eloquent or fancy. It’s often raw and always honest. It’s a peek into parts of me that not everyone sees. If you ask me in person how I am, I will likely reply with the ever acceptable, “fine.” Although for me to be able to write that I’m frequently not fine seems easier than saying the words out loud. I’ve gotten better with sharing things with friends, but I still feel like I’m a bother, so I don’t always bring it up. I’ll still be “fine, good, ok.” I have a small circle who dig deeper and don’t accept my scripted answer as the truth. Without judgement or criticism, they are willing to hear my crappy days as well as celebrating the great days. I treasure them more than they know, but gratitude is one of my strengths, so I feel like I do show them how much they mean to me. Hopefully that’s true.

It’s been almost 8 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. December will mark 8 years. I started a Caringbridge site soon after, and started writing more regularly not long after my treatment was done. In those years, I’ve seen so much change. Health scares, moving, new jobs, loss and gaining of friendships, struggles/lows and high points with family…. yet there is one thing that I keep getting reminded of: we aren’t meant to do this alone. I can go to church, but I need to walk the walk when I leave. I can go to a retreat, but I need to keep working on myself when I come back home. I can lose weight, but I need to be mindful to be able to maintain it. Along the way, I need people to help with all of those things. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Our connections are like a thread… weaving us together in one way or another. The last few years it’s been easier to see what divides us instead of what unites us. Have you ever been in a room where you had to do an “ice breaker” event? One of the introvert nightmares of tell me about yourself ?! As much as those make me cringe, I love to watch the connections form. Things you see in others that resonate with you. Soon those strangers now have something in common. They don’t need to be your new best friend, but it reminds us how unique we are, yet we still have common ties.

Someone needs your story too. You may not think so, but they do. I know I’ve written a lot about it lately, but I feel like it needs to be repeated. You’re not alone. Somewhere there is another mom struggling to get it all done. Somewhere there is another middle aged woman wondering how she got to be middle aged. Somewhere there is another baker, a gardener, a chicken tender, a cat lover, an artist, a writer and a survivor. It just takes a brave first step, an awkward ice breaker or a smile in the grocery store.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Thank you for letting me share my story, even if it is just with a few people. I’m thankful for you, more than you know.

Hanging in there…

This little green tree frog was chilling on the chokecherry bushes the other day. Cameron found him and he hopped onto my hand. I put him back in the bushes and I thought it was cute how his sticky hand was hanging onto the leaf. Ever feel like him? Just hanging on and trying to get by? Trying to blend in and keep cool? Yeah, me too.

The last several weeks have been a whirlwind at work. I feel like this little guy, just hanging on. Our garden is in full swing and the chokecherries just turned ripe. This week marks the start of the fall school season- athletic meetings, cross country practice, sales on school supplies and one last camp. Next week will be musical practice also. We don’t start school until after Labor Day but will have a cross country meet before then. A few last Farmers markets and we will be picking pumpkins before we know it.

If you’re just hanging on, good job – keep it up. It’s ok to rest in the shade if the leaves. Blending in can be a form of rest also. It allows you to just “be”… without as much effort or explaining. That’s totally fine. Look how happy this little frog is, blending in with the leaves. He’s less attractive to predators and he will probably find a snack or two.

We put so much value on being busy. I wish that wasn’t the case. As we start another school year, I’m reminded of how few there are left. Our youngest is in 10th grade already. I hope we can enjoy all the activities amidst the busy schedules. I’d better start getting ready for cross country spectating and become familiar with the “Chicago” musical songs.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Life is short- try the chokecherry jam!

Just go with it…

My favorite gentleman at the Minion movie

It’s been five years since a Minions movie came out in the theaters. When the Minions were at their peak, they were Myles’ favorite. “Minion Myles.” He had Valentine’s boxes in the shape of Minions. We had more than one birthday party with Minion themes. There were Minion backpack, pajamas, shirts, slippers and toys. The first Minion movie came out in 2010. He was 4. He grew up with these little yellow dudes.

In the fall of 2015, we went to California. Part of our trip was to Universal Studios. Minions everywhere!!! Minion rides, Minion characters, Minion stores, Minion foods and a carnival similar to one of the movies. Both boys played carnival games. Myles won & we thought his prize was a small stuffed toy. Nope, it was a giant Bob Minion. It was almost as large as him. He won this in the morning, so Cam got to carry it around all day. It has stayed with us all these years. Today Bob made an appearance at the Minion new movie.

There are trends on social media of teens dressing in suits to attend the movie. Some media outlets have covered it, tried to explain it and failed. “You just can’t explain it mom, just go with it.” So I did. Of course he had the suit already. Just needed the Bob Minion to ride along in the car and pose by the marquee.

The movie was cute. There were references to the previous movies and to other popular movies etc. It was a fun night. Pretty soon we won’t be going to movies together. Only three years of high school remain, and I’m guessing I won’t be his choice for movie date. That’s ok, it’s part of growing up. For now, I am happy to share the time together.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Even if you don’t fully understand the reason behind it, sometimes you just have to go with it. You might have some fun along the way!

Minion Valentine’s Day box

Who is steering your ship?

A recent trip to Disneyland meant lots of walking, lots of rides, lots of sun and lots of water! Of course there was some shopping & pin trading thrown in. We also got to celebrate our niece’s 21st birthday and our youngest son’s 16th.

The movie, “Inside Out,” is a Disney movie about all of the emotions in the character’s head. Each has their own role, but Joy is the leader. They have a “command center” type set up. Joy zooms around, trying to keep the happy thoughts driving, but sometimes Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear take over. Joy tries to calm Anger, reassure Fear, cheer up Sadness and please Disgust. She occasionally looks exhausted trying to keep everyone happy. Who is steering your ship?

This photo is of me, standing by the “Disgust” character near the ride called “Emotional Whirlwind,” which we did not ride. For many years, Disgust would have been the one steering for me. I was usually annoyed and didn’t have much of a filter. I don’t have a poker face, I have a resting b*tch face – before it was actually a phrase. I’d like to think I’m different. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not Joy all the time, but I’d like to think she steers more often in the last few years. Sadness had her turn and Fear still reluctantly takes the wheel now and then. But Joy is the one coordinating things.

One thing I like from the movie is the idea of core memories. These are memories that shape who we are and how we feel about ourselves, our lives and our environment. We often talk in our family about the trips we went on when the boys were little – they don’t always remember the specifics, but to me, the trips are a core memory. They invoke a feeling of adventure and love. Maybe that’s not the case for them, but I hope so. There are many pictures and photo books of those trips though, so that sometimes helps jog a memory.

I also like the rainbow unicorn from the movie. She is magical and sassy. While she isn’t an emotion, she is an imaginary friend. She goes with the girl on adventures and inspires her imagination. If the unicorn could drive the ship, I think she would try! She would be the one to encourage a coloring book or an ice cream cone.

There is a lot going on in the world now. It can seem overwhelming. Who is steering your ship? Are you letting Anger take the wheel? Is Fear stepping into the drivers seat? They can all take turns, but if Joy isn’t the leader, the road can seem dark. I’ve written about it before but I need the reminder myself. What sparks your JOY? What makes you smile or laugh or feel loved & alive? Make some time to do that thing, have that experience or be with the person who lights you up.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. I wish you enough Joy to make you smile and so much that it pours out into others too. Not in a “toxic positivity” way, but in a real, honest quest for JOY. Let her steer for a bit.

A day disconnected…

Last weekend, we took a trip out west to see our oldest son. Since neither of us love driving long distances, we broke it up into 2 sections – part way Thursday after work, and the balance on Friday. Thanks to hotel internet and vehicle WiFi, I was able to get quite a bit of work done. We arrived Friday and got to see his house. It’s a nice place for college kids, in a good neighborhood. It’s nice to be able to picture where he is when we are talking.

Saturday we made our way to Yellowstone National Park. We saw some elk, antelope, maybe a bear & lots of bison. The last time we were there, it was winter – so it was great to see everything lush and green. They’ve had more rain than normal, so the rivers were flowing rapidly and the grass was getting long. While Dallas and Cameron fished, Myles and I checked out the geysers and hot springs. We had little to no internet or cell service – it was perfect (except for trying to contact the fishermen who had wandered up stream). A day to disconnect and reconnect with nature. Despite someone getting thrown in the air by a bison recently, people still walked way too close to them to get a photo. Their heads are large & strong and they can run 35 mph. “Do not pet the fluffy cows!” And this time of year, there were a bunch of bison calves, so the moms were extra protective.

Yellowstone bison (taken from the vehicle)

I could have sat by a stream and listened to the water all day. The hot springs were steamy and warm, but it was still chilly the day we visited the park. We just missed Old Faithful by 10 minutes, the next time it would erupt would be an hour and a half, and it started raining. So we saw some of the surrounding areas and started to make our way out of the park. A long line of traffic was stopped due to another bison traffic jam.

Dallas
Cameron
Myles
Me

I’m thankful for a safe trip and a nice visit. I learned that because of being diabetic, I need to be intentional while traveling. We were all tired and I actually had a sunburn (didn’t think about it because it was chilly and cloudy). I’m thankful for a day disconnected and time with family. My message is to slow down. Take some time to breathe deeply. Stand in nature, sit in the grass, listen to the birds and rivers. It’s easy to get caught up in our “to do” lists & forget to take time to disconnect.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Where will you go to disconnect? Some time away, (even if it isn’t far) is good for your soul.

Calm after the storm…

The Robin nest remains unharmed after the storm

We had quite the storm last weekend in the Alexandria, MN area. Tornado warnings resulted in one tornado and straight line winds. There are at least two power companies in the area and ours had 8,000 people without power Thursday evening. We’ve lost power temporarily before but it usually returns pretty quickly. This one was worse. Many power poles down, trees falling and substation damage made it a challenge to get back up and running. As social media began to show rumors of multiple day delays, we knew we had to get a plan going for fridge/freezer/sump pump. The heating and cooling would be ok since the temps were mild. Having a farmers market business means we have more fridges and freezers than the average person.

The tornado warning extended to midnight, so we slept in the basement and got the generator in the morning. Extension cords were run to the appliances while we quickly tried to combine the freezer contents. A spark on one freezer made us think we were probably at the limit. I spent the day swapping the cord between freezer and sump pump. I would not be working remotely Friday. A call to the power company indicated it would likely be Saturday before we had power. A friend borrowed us another generator so we wouldn’t have to swap back and forth. The basement stayed dry despite the constant water pouring into the sump hole.

We have hundreds of trees around us. It’s not an exaggeration. We live in a pine/evergreen forest. Winds in our area were 80-100 mph. We had 0 trees fall during the storm. Zero. The loss of the contents in my fridge were a drop in the bucket compared to the damage some homes and buildings sustained. Huge old trees tipped over like dominoes less than a mile from our farm. Our power returned early Friday evening. Almost 24 hours without power makes you realize how much you depend on it.

An amazing thing happened between Friday and Sunday. People came together to help each other out. Neighbors and strangers grabbed rakes, chainsaws and wood chippers to clean up the storm damage. A local Bible camp had 40-60 trees down. Zero trees fell on a cabin or building. Hundreds of volunteers showed up with rakes, wheelbarrows, chainsaws and work gloves. Our youngest son wanted to do something for the community so we made Krispie treats with evergreens on them. Many of the trees that fell were big evergreens. We worked for 3 hours at the camp and he had treats for the workers. He interviewed and took some video for his you tube channel “The Unspecified Show.”

All around the community, people shared resources and helped each other out. Sometimes tragedy brings out the best in people. I think there will be plenty of firewood and wood chips in our area this summer.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. We all experience storms in life. I hope your community rallies to help. And I hope there is still signs of new life to come, like our robin’s nest.

Snowballs on International Women’s Day

Tuesday is International Women’s Day and this Snowball reminds me of my mom. Not because she ate them all the time, but because I know she likes them, but they were a rare treat. Why didn’t she have them more often? Maybe because money was tight or because she would have rather have gotten a treat for the kids. Maybe she was just aware of the lack of nutrition value in them. I hope it wasn’t because she didn’t feel worthy of a treat. (Because she was and is – we all are!)

When I did a search on International Women’s Day, it says the first National Women’s Day was in 1909. I wonder if they thought we’d be in a different place 113 years later. I wonder where things will be 113 more years in the future. Hard to say. I can only hope that there will be more women leaders, that women will lift each other up instead of comparing or judging, they will wonder why there wasn’t equal pay way back then, and women will feel safe going for a jog alone or walking to the car at night.

On International Women’s Day, I’m helping to plan meals for a dear friend who is still hospitalized. (Something I should have done sooner but I didn’t want to be pushy.) She is in rehab still and even when she comes home, she has healing to do and strength to build back. Taking care of a few meals is the least I can do. They switched her to a gluten-free diet and it really helped her digestive issues. So we are pivoting for gluten-free ideas… freezer meals for a busy family. We have a cake place in our small mall – the company used to be at farmers markets with us so I want to support them. They have gluten-free cupcakes on their menu this weekend. We will bring one to our sweet friend (& hope her taste buds are doing well that day!) I’ll also make a gluten-free key lime pie since I know it’s a favorite of theirs.

This prompted a friend to say, “You have such a big heart.” People have said this to me before and I tend to dismiss it as no big deal. The thing is, this is not only my personality type, but also how I was brought up. My mom was and is, a very giving person. She would help out people at church, friends, neighbors, people she hardly knew. She’s not outgoing, she just has a giving heart. I grew up watching that. Then my oldest sister, who is a nurse, and nurturing by nature, modeled the same thing too. She is 9 years older than me so I was only 9 when she went off to college. While she was raising her own kids, I saw her doing the same thing our mom did – looking out for others. My other sister, a teacher, also nurturing, made sure to come to my track meets in high school to cheer me on. I was not a track star, but she made me feel special. She does so much for her grade school kids to make them feel extra special. I know she has the same giving heart too. I’m so thankful for them, and for all of the loving women in my life – aunts, cousins, friends & neighbors who helped to show me how to give to others.

Growing up with great female role models has shaped me into who I am. I don’t have a nurturing profession like my sisters. I’ve had to be firm and organized. I have worked mainly with men, and haven’t always been supported by my female coworkers. I’m not a perfect mom… I mess up, I lose my temper, I have regrets that I can’t undo… but hopefully I was/am the mom my boys need. Hopefully I’ve shown them that it’s ok to ask for help, and that it’s good to be able to help others.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. I know it’s late on International Women’s Day, but maybe you’ll have a snowball tomorrow. Enjoy it!

One act, many hours…

Years ago, I was in speech and drama in high school. It was a small ND town (500 people), and we didn’t have musicals. We had a speech team, a one act play team and a 3 act play. I was trying to recall the plays that I was in… I couldn’t remember all of them. I know we did “Cheaper by the Dozen,” and “Flowers for Algergon.” I remember finding out I was an aunt for the first time during one of my play practices. I was also on the speech team, yet I don’t remember the details. I remember the hours of practice and the thousands of words memorized. I remember my coach/director’s voice, her “wild hair” and her very dramatic nature.

Most of all, I remember the feeling of accomplishment and pride, the friendships made and the laughs we had. I remember driving our teal ‘65 Ford Falcon to practice. No power steering or air conditioning – it didn’t matter. I don’t remember if the radio worked, but we’d roll down the windows and drive to the nearby town because our high school didn’t have a stage. We did speech practice before or after school. I wasn’t in the one act plays because it conflicted with a sport.

Our youngest son, as a freshman, got a part in the one act play this year. Hours of practice for 34 minutes of performance. While the rules for one act are different because it’s a competition, seeing them perform brought back memories. They won their subsection and advanced to section finals. In one week, they listened to feedback, made tweaks and improvements and memorized changes. I watched the performance with pride, knowing how hard they worked. As I sat in the theater, waiting for the results, I watch the teams interact and I smiled. They are amazing kids. All different backgrounds and talents coming together to tell a story. It brought me back to the feeling of being part of a cast. I couldn’t help think of how he might look back on this experience, 30 years later, with the same fondness I did.

Hours of practice, memorizing, weekends, after school, set building, costumes, make up, more practice, more memorizing… 34 minutes of performing for a life time of memories. The one act play has just one act (no break). They have 10 minutes to set up their set. All of their stuff has to fit in a certain size before they set it up. Their performance can have up to 20 students (actors, lights, stage crew etc), and must be less than 35 minutes. They are judged on their performance and given notes from the judges. When the results came in at Sections, they announced the second place team, and it wasn’t them. I grinned because I knew. I knew their name would be called next and the big plaque would be theirs. They advance to the State Performance. I was so happy for them and their director, who wrote the script herself.

I know theater isn’t for everyone, just like football or swimming might not be for everyone either. I’m happy he was able to be a part of this cast, share this experience, learn about theater and gain confidence in himself. When your child does something they love, they shine, and this mom’s eyes get a little misty. I’m proud of you, buddy… but more importantly, you should be proud of yourself. You are more than enough.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. If you’re in the St.Paul, MN area Thursday/Friday this week, take in the State One Act – you’ll be glad you got to watch these kids shine!

Foundation of trust….

It’s something I wasn’t fully prepared for – my kids growing up and becoming adults. Sure, it took us a while to have kids, so you’d think I would have had plenty of time to learn these things. I’m not sure anything can fully prepare you… because the journey is not fully up to you.

Your role changes. From an exhausted mom of a newborn to the first day of kindergarten… from their firsts to their lasts. It all zooms by and suddenly you have a young adult. You reach this stage and you’re not their event planner, their driver to practice or their cheerleader at events. You may cheer them on from a distance but it’s certainly not the same. They may ask for advice, but the decisions are now up to them. Hopefully you’re still a safe place, a feeling of home, a reminder of how much they are loved. It’s a foundation of trust.

Our oldest son moved 900 miles away – from MN to MT. He got his welding degree when he was still in high school, but decided he wanted to go to college to be an Ag Ed teacher. So, we supported his decision and his move. He loves the outdoors and the adventure, but school was a struggle. He realized that getting a degree, to wind up in debt and make less than he would as a welder was not the path for him. So, after one semester, he withdrew to weld full time. There was a lot of logistics and navigating that had to happen in order for all of this to fall into place. While it was my strong desire to fix and manage things, I let him lead. I helped where I could, but he did a good job.

I feel like a weight is lifted off of his shoulders, but perhaps another one was added. Will he stay in the same job or the same place? Who knows. I’m proud of him and love him. I read a parenting article where the mom felt like a college transfer was a failure on her part, and I thought, “Wow, that’s a heavy burden.” I do NOT feel like my son dropping out was a failure at all. I do not feel like it was a failure on his part nor mine. I’m super proud of him for not getting into very large debt that would take years to try and recover from. I’m proud of him for doing what he loves, for finding a place to live, and for learning to budget. I know he will continue to have changes and struggles, opportunities and victories. I’ll be cheering him along every step of the way, even though we are miles apart.

There is a lot of pressure to have your life figured out at 18/19 years old. I wish there wasn’t. I wish we had more grace with these kids and they had more with themselves. I wish they could look in the mirror and see how great they are. I wish they would all know they have a place in this world. I wish they would have a foundation of trust for themselves and be trusted by others.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Trust in yourself and your path. You are here for a reason!