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.

Out of the spotlight…

My mom recently turned 80. She has never liked the spotlight. She probably won’t like the attention, but she deserves to be celebrated. We couldn’t go see her on her birthday because our son was exposed to Covid and had to quarantine. It broke his heart and mine too. We want her to know how special she is and how much we love her.

Where to start? My mom is the oldest of 10 kids. I remember stories about the one room schoolhouse and the farm they grew up on. I remember big Christmas get togethers and family reunions filled with laughter and food. But it’s the small things too that make her special. My oldest son says she makes the best toast. My youngest son says she makes the best mac and cheese. Everyone is convinced her scalloped potatoes and ham have some secret ingredient because we can’t quite replicate it. Not only the food she makes, but her smile, her warm laugh, her hugs and the way she loves her family makes her one of a kind.

She has always been an example of giving. As a church secretary for many years, she was often a listening ear to whoever was waiting for the pastor or happened to stop by. She would write notes to people in need of a smile. She listened to many hours worth of teen heartbreak and drama (and I understand now how difficult that must have been.) She went to my band/choir concerts, 4-h events, track meets, plays, basketball and wrestling to watch me cheer. She’d make pizzas and malts for me and my friends before a game. Many slumber parties and sleep overs were held on that orange shag carpet and my friends always knew there would be treats.

She taught me to sew, how to bake, how to do laundry and how to write thank you notes. She showed me the importance of faith and giving. She used to have “Hobby Club” and “Homemakers” and Bible study meetings. Aside from her weekly hair appointment, those were the few “self care” things she did. She is an example of how to show up for those you love. It’s one of the reasons I was sad that I couldn’t show up for her. It was beyond my control, but sometimes lack of control is hard to accept.

80 years is a big deal. I’m sad to have missed most of the last year with mom, but know it was important to keep them safe & healthy. Too often we wait to tell those we love what an impact they have on our lives. So, to anyone reading, I hope you tell someone today what they mean to you. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow. If your loved one has passed, sit quietly and talk to them as if they are still here. Their spirit is with you.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Mom, you’ve always been more than enough and I’m forever grateful God chose you to be my mom. It was worth the wait!

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.

Adulting…

No, not adultery… adulting: “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” Our son just turned 18, so he is officially an adult. He could legally get a tattoo, vote and apply to be an auctioneer. I’m not sure he will be doing any of those things very soon. Instead, he’s fishing, welding and applying for scholarships.

18. I know… I’ve written about this more than I thought I would. You might be sick of hearing about my senior. When I look back at the pictures of my little boy, I can’t believe how fast it went. I will let him read this before I publish it, but here are my 18 things I want him to know.

  • 1. I will always love you. Not in a cliche way or something that moms “should” say… I really love you. If you have kids some day, you’ll understand.
  • 2. Always be humble and kind. Listen to the song if you need to, but this is important. Kindness will get you further in life than being a jerk or being “cool.”
  • 3. Have fun but be responsible. Your teen and college years should be fun. It’s one time in your life where people will assume you’ll have lots of fun, but please know your boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.
  • 4. You really do need to eat some fruits and vegetables. It won’t make you less popular. It’s good for your body. Unlimited ice cream is fun, but seriously, have a pear every now and then.
  • 5. Keep music in your life. Dance, tap your toes or sing along in your car. Music lifts your vibration and is good for your soul.
  • 6. Stay grounded. Connect with nature and don’t absorb any negative energy around you. Sit on the grass and watch the geese and ducks, stand in the water while you fish.
  • 7. Your college friends are more likely to be your life long friends. You get to choose who you hang out with even more after high school. Choose wisely.
  • 8. Don’t smoke. Don’t smoke anything, just don’t. Your grandpa had open heart surgery in his early 40’s because he smoked. It’s not worth it. It’s really not. Plus you’ll save money.
  • 9. You don’t need to spend everything in your pocket. I’ve failed at being a good example of money managing and letting you learn about it. It’s ok to save some. The fishing lures will still be there next time.
  • 10. You will always have a place here. I hope you always feel like being with us is like “home,” regardless of where we are. A year from now, I might be sitting in your room, wishing for a messy floor.
  • 11. I hope we taught you the value of hard work. It’s ok to go the extra mile. It’s ok to get up early or stay later. People will notice this, even when you think they aren’t paying attention… they are.
  • 12. Look someone in the eye and shake their hand (once COVID is over). I think you do this well. You had a good example by watching your dad. Don’t forget this.
  • 13. Brush. Your. Teeth. I’m not even joking. You have a beautiful smile. We spent a lot on orthodontics. Don’t mess it up.
  • 14. Look for a partner to share your time with. They are not “less than”… they aren’t your maid or cook. You will be a team. Make sure you give and receive respect.
  • 15. It’s ok to change your mind. You already have, but it won’t be the last time. It’s ok. You can do more than one thing with your life.
  • 16. Always do the extra credit. ALWAYS. Ask for help before you get stuck. It’s ok to fail, but you need certain grades for scholarships.
  • 17. Crappy jobs will add to your character. Have a job (at least once) where you have to serve someone so you know how difficult it is. Don’t look down on another profession.
  • 18. I’m so ridiculously thankful to be your mom. That won’t ever change. I can’t wait to see what the world has to offer you.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. 18 years have flown by, and I am looking forward to cheering you on for the rest of your journey. Oh, and to quote your dad, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Are you ready?

I shared a story yesterday about a mom with a senior and all of the struggles to let go. It hit me hard. It’s something so difficult to prepare for. A friend asked if she would be ready when her kids get to that age. My reply was, “You won’t be ready… but I will be here for you when it happens.”

I understand that not everyone has the same relationships with their kids. Mine isn’t perfect. Nobody’s is. I remember feeling so ready for diapers to be done. I remember being ready for them to crawl, walk and ride bike. I remember being ready for the floor to be free of toys and then LEGOs. People would tell me, “Enjoy it, it goes fast.” I would grin and nod, thinking it wouldn’t end. It literally feels like yesterday when they rode bikes around the neighborhood with water guns. I can still hear the little kid giggles and belly laughs.

I wasn’t ready to let go of their little hands. I wasn’t ready to no longer have cheers when I come home from work. I wasn’t ready for him to drive (ok, maybe a little). I wasn’t ready for the first time he lied and it hurt my heart. I wasn’t ready for his first heartbreak. I wasn’t ready for the harsh words from bullies. I wasn’t ready to NOT be able to fix or help or mend. I wasn’t ready for the last trick-or-treating. I wasn’t ready for the last Christmas he helped decorate the tree.

I’m not ready for graduation. I’m not ready for his room to be empty. I’m not ready for his bathroom to be clean. I’m not ready for dad’s fishing buddy to be gone. I’m not ready to share his time with a girlfriend. I’m not ready for less communication. I’m not ready to be second.

I AM ready to see him do what he loves. I’m ready for him to spread his wings. I’m ready to hear about his new adventures. I’m ready to see what kind of man he will become. I’m ready for him to be independent (kind of). I’m ready to cheer him on when he succeeds and listen when he stumbles. I’m ready to send some cookies that remind him of home.

Will he change his mind a few more times? Probably. That’s ok. This is such an amazing time- to get to decide what you want to do, find your love, explore the world. It’s so much more accepted to do this at 18 instead of 47 (although it shouldn’t matter). Are you ready? I’m not. But I’m forever thankful to get to be a mom, his mom.

Hang on, moms of seniors, the next 5-6 months are going to fly. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. I may not be ready, but he is, and that gives me peace.

Discouraging words?

“Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day”

After a modified Christmas, we ventured towards Billings, MT. We planned a tour of the college over the break. We saw lots of deer and antelope playing on the way. There were a few discouraging words from the back seat (ha ha). A tour of the town and driving through campus in person is much different from what you can see on a web site. It’s difficult to get a true picture of size, cleanliness, safety and over all feel of the college (and town) from the pretty pictures on the web site.

As long as we are this far west, what else should we see? This sparked a conversation that led to a last minute trip 2 hours west to Bozeman and a campus tour. The town is beautiful, the campus was larger and he really seemed to like the area.

Do you remember deciding what you wanted to do after high school? I do. I changed my mind and my major several times. I changed colleges twice. I heard several discouraging words. My high school guidance counselor said I should not go to a technical school for radiology tech because my grades were too high. I was told I couldn’t be a physical therapist because I got a B my freshman year. I thought of becoming a counselor until I was a resident assistant in the dorms. I ended up with a Mass Communication degree but scheduling and planning manufacturing production lines.

It’s a balance between finding what you love to do and being open to other options. Allowing your kids to be able to spread their wings is one of the most wonderful and frightening moments all at the same time. As we toured the campus, they had a statue of a bobcat named “Spirit.” Surrounded by snow capped mountains, it seemed so peaceful. And, as “cheesy” as it sounds, I knew the spirit would always be with him. I hope he listens to the nudges from spirit as he navigates adulthood. I’ll try to limit my discouraging words.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May you seldom have discouraging words as we head into 2021.

What if?

Butterscotch posing for a picture with her new scarf

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

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

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

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

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

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