Nostalgia, like a warm hug…

I skipped writing last week. Sorry if you were looking for it. I’ve still been struggling with some things. Here I am this week though, ready to go. By the time I post this, I will be traveling to Montana. I’m so excited to go back to Bozeman for Thanksgiving. I’m also thankful for a friend willing to check on the chickens and cat, thankful I remembered to hold the mail and thankful for a Nest camera to keep an eye on things at home.

As I was in Target on Sunday, I walked by the hats and gloves and had to do a double take. This hat instantly reminded me of my grandma and the crochet turtles she made for all of the grandkids. Now this same pattern is in a hat and a headband. It isn’t the olive green, gold and autumn orange colors, but it’s the same pattern. She made pillow turtles for all of us. It was a backrest for Saturday morning cartoons or a pretend horse, depending on the day.

The old is new again. I’ve seen it many times. “Mom jeans” becoming cool again. The acid washed jeans, folded & rolled ankle … I’m waiting for the stirrup pants to return too. (Although I don’t think I’d jump on that trend) I’m not sure why the style trends rotate back around. Some of these are likely nostalgic – maybe a designer also had a “Grandma U” and they wanted to remember her.

Why do these things make us smile, make us feel comforted, like a warm hug? It reminds us of a happy time or of a loved one who has passed. As we approach the holidays, food often triggers a memory also. I remember my grandma B’s gingersnaps, not much larger than a half dollar coin. I remember my uncle playing guitar and my one cousin with a Christmas birthday. I remember finding my grandmas Siamese cat hiding from the visitors. I remember my grandma U’s “Christmas dessert.” I remember the house filled with laughter and games. I remember decorating sugar cookies in our farm house kitchen, a tradition that I’ve continued with my kids. I remember the molasses spritz cookies, still requested this year. Our Angel tree topper was made by my grandma. Some things make us smile and other times we might scratch our heads.

While I may not jump on board the acid washed jeans trend, some of these old things becoming new brings a sense of comfort. I’m instantly transported to those memorable events. I may not remember what I received as gifts each year, but I will remember the laughs, games and food of the holidays.

Wherever your holidays take you, I hope you’re able to have a hug of nostalgia. I hope you’re able to pause and think of all you have to be thankful for. May peace be with you on your journey of enough. I’m thankful for all of you who take the time to read and/or share my posts.

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.

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!

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!

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.

Silver and Gold…

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other is gold.” I remember singing this as a young girl. I couldn’t remember where. Thanks to Google, I realized it was from my days in Girl Scouts.

What triggered this memory from years ago? A friend I met at a cancer survivor retreat is passing away. She loved the Golden Girls and even went on a Golden Girls theme cruise. She is the third one from the retreat to pass away since April 2019. In less than 2 years, 3 of the 30 ladies have passed away. All of them were younger ladies with loved ones who will miss them. I wasn’t prepared for this to happen. Recurrence makes us more aware of our own mortality. We aren’t immortal. Sometimes we forget this and act as though we will live forever.

The Healing Odyssey 53rd retreat in the mountains of California was completely out of my comfort zone. They try to make it affordable so any cancer survivor can attend. I just had to get myself to CA. Flying alone is something I’ve done before. Staying with 29 other ladies who have had cancer previously or were still being treated was an experience like no other. I had an instant bond with total strangers. My story was enough. My cancer was enough. My journey was enough. I told them stories very few people know. I cried with and hugged these new friends. I zip-lined – which is something I swore I’d never do. I went on a ropes course, high in the trees with my legs shaking so fiercely as I thought for sure I’d fall. I did yoga outside at the top of the mountain. I went for walks among the tall pine trees and sat silently to look out over the valley below.

The whole song is: Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other is gold. A circle is round, it has no end. That’s how long I will be your friend. A fire burns bright, it warms the heart. We’ve been friends from the very start. You have one hand, I have the other. Put them together, we have each other. Silver is precious, gold is too. I am precious and so are you. You help me and I’ll help you, and together we will see it through. The sky is blue. The Earth is green. I can help to keep it clean. Across the land, Across the sea… Friends forever we will always be.

I’m forever grateful for my experience at the retreat. I hope they are able to hold it again once COVID is under control. Rest In Peace sweet friends.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Take a moment to reach out to your silver and gold friends today.