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.

At a loss…

You might have noticed that I didn’t write last week. I was at a loss for words. Sometimes that happens, I guess. My mom was in the hospital again and we were just trying to get by. I won’t share her full story, but my focus was on how she was doing, the next doctor or nurse to enter the room, and what the next steps would be. So, my form of “self care” was to preserve my energy and focus on mom and keeping the family updated. As someone who struggles to say “no,” this was a pretty big step for me. I said no to writing last week and yes to myself.

It was more doctors, nurses, CNA’s, PT’s, OT’s and people in general than what I’m used to. She was on the ICU floor, which has a whole different feel to it. Several of these people would not be going home. As I passed their family members or friends in the hallway, with tear stained cheeks, I knew they had said their goodbyes or had gotten news they would have rather not heard. I was at a loss then too.

Luckily, my mom woke up with no recollection of the prior 24 hours. The nurse and doctors put their hands up, with no real explanation… other than a miracle. My tears became happy tears and I felt oddly guilty when she was able to go home. The nurse who had been with her likely had the best ending to a shift she’s had in a while. We even got the doctor to smile.

One thing I’m confident of: I am certain my mom knows how much I love her. Sometimes, “I love you,” is all that needs to be said. Those 3 words are enough, and I’m thankful to be able to have her say it back to me.

Being part of “the sandwich generation” is new to me – parents requiring more care, while having kids still in school. Although my boys aren’t little anymore, they are still active. It’s an adjustment. Not being able to fix everything is a challenge for me too. So, instead, I became the group communicator- keeping the aunts, uncles, friends and churches informed of what was going on. It was the only thing I could kind of control. It certainly brought me back to the days of my cancer diagnosis and trying to manage all of the info.

While I may be at a loss for words, I do have words of thanks. I’m thankful again to those who prayed/held space/sent love for my mom and our family. I’m thankful for the people who checked in on us. I’m thankful for the relatives who put up with my all-night messages. I’m thankful again for my aunt and uncle opening their home to us at all hours of the night. I’m thankful for the people who let me text them because it was as difficult to speak out loud about what they as happening. I’m thankful for my husband who let things running at home. I’m thankful for my sisters for their love and support. We continue to pray for my mom’s healing.

Sometimes when we are at a loss, we realize it’s ok to surrender. It’s ok to not have the right words. It’s ok to just be there.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. I’m thankful you’re here.

Difference makers and daisies…

It’s been a whirlwind of a week or two. From a quick trip to Bozeman (which isn’t quick), to a car trade/purchase, to endoscopy/colonoscopy for me, to a small town hospital & big city hospital for my mom and the start of school for my husband and son, I’m no longer sure what day it is or what is on my agenda.

We’ve encountered some memorable people – not all good… from pushy car sales people, to lying car sales people, to nurses and doctors and aides – some helpful, some less than helpful. It all just reminds me that we can make a difference in someone else’s life. It doesn’t take much – a smile, a kind word, honesty, holding someone’s hand while they are scared, speaking so someone understands, listening and making sure someone feels seen and heard, praying or holding space for someone struggling… all of these things cost $0 but their value is far greater than we realize.

There is a DAISY award at the hospital for the staff who have gone above and beyond. I picked up 3 nomination sheets. 3 different nurses made such a difference in my mom’s care during her stay in Fargo. They were advocates for her health, they paid attention to how she was feeling/what worked best for her, they kept us informed & listened to our concerns and questions, they held her hand, made her laugh and gave her warm blankets. My mom’s health has improved a little but she still has some procedures yet to come. Instead of just talking about how helpful the nurses are between our family, I want them to be recognized. Often times, people who go above and beyond do not draw attention to what they are doing. They quietly go about their jobs, living by the golden rule. They maybe don’t want the attention, but maybe it feels good to be recognized and it lets them know they did make a difference.

There is no such award for car sales that I’m aware of… that’s a whole different story. It was a life lesson, but not fun one. That lesson was about treating people how you want to be treated from the standpoint of seeing what you don’t want, instead of what you do want. I guess those things give us perspective and perhaps make us realize when things go right also.

I’m thankful for a lot of things, but my patience is wearing thin. When I get crabby, I try to think of the positive things. I acknowledge the stress but try not to dwell on it. So here is my gratitude list for today: I’m thankful for my aunt and uncle who opened their home and their hearts to us during the hospital stay. We didn’t have to worry about hotel rooms or where to “land.” I’m thankful for all of the people joining us in prayer and well wishes for my mom. I’m thankful for the team of doctors, nurses and support staff who have helped her to feel better. I’m thankful for my manager and coworkers who have covered for my absence. I’m thankful for my family who has coped without me and kept things running at home. I’m thankful for my friend who helped drive our son after practice. I’m thankful for all of the plants and flowers to brighten the hospital room.

You can make a difference… in the day of someone else or even yourself. Speak kind words to yourself. Have patience and grace. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Oh for goodness’ sake…

Last week was a busy one. We’ve been battling sickness off and on in our house. The schools are filled with all kinds of illnesses too. It’s kind of difficult to avoid. Our youngest son has been preparing for the high school musical, “Chicago teen edition.” Several of the cast had colds or sore throats. It made practice and performing a challenge. With the help of DayQuil and many other home remedies, they made it to, and through the performances. I was able to see the preview Wednesday night. They had shows Thursday through Sunday. I was able to be at each one.

It’s hard to put into words what I felt about the show. It was amazing. The songs gave me chills. The dancing and acting was great. The orchestra really showed off their talent. The sound and light crews did an outstanding job. The choreographer put a stunning show together. And their director was incredible. She took 26 students, balanced their schedules (some in additional sports), and she brought out the best in each of them. They shined!

These kids & director faced criticism they shouldn’t have had to deal with. I normally avoid conflict, but this brought out the mama bear in me. People would say, “You’re not a good Christian if you see the musical.” They called it scandalous before even seeing it. Some people completely mischaracterized the show and said it was about prostitution. They criticized their costumes. They rose above and wowed anyone who came to the performance. It was certainly more than a high school musical. They were professional grade.

It wasn’t vulgar or inappropriate for teens. There was no kissing in the musical, no gun replicas were used. These kids have seen and dealt with worse things in their lives. A two hour musical that was less “R rated” than most movies or TV shows. We make these kids go through active shooter drills at school, but don’t trust them to sing “Razzle Dazzle?”

It costs $0 to be good & kind. It cost $10/ticket to support these youth and let them show off their amazing talent. I was raised Christian and I’m not worse for having seen the shows. In fact, I’m better having seen it. I have a renewed faith in our kids and how amazing they are. I’m not going to commit adultery or murder because I saw the teen edition of “Chicago.” I will have the soundtrack going through my head for weeks to come. I will smile when I think about what a great job they all did. I will beam with pride when I see the photos of my son as Fogarty. I will write a thank you note to their director.

“Oh for goodness’ sake,” was what I thought when I read the negative comments from our community. Our community who is supposed to support and encourage our youth. Instead of criticizing, be the reason someone believes in the goodness of people.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Be the good, for goodness’ sake.

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!

Busy beaver…

I couldn’t resist the pun. My job has taken me to Cumberland, WI this week and the school mascot is a beaver. Kind of fitting for the busy week it has been so far. We had a big system upgrade and the teams of people who have been working for years on this project have come together for the “go live” event.

This trip was different for me in a couple of ways. I haven’t spent much time away from my family in the last 2 years. I haven’t spent 10-12 hours/day in a conference room with 15 other people in quite a while either. I miss the family. I could do without a conference room full of people for a while.

What have I learned this week? 1) I overestimated the amount of time I’d have to read. 2) Not all Holiday Inn Express hotels have scrambled eggs. Some have sour coffee, but sugar free cocoa (I don’t understand). 3) I like routines. 4) Not everyone thinks about food all day. 5) I am thankful for my home office. 6) We could use a Kwik Trip near our place at home. 7) My mind wanders in 1,000 directions and by the end of the day, I’m exhausted. 8) It’s ok to leave for lunch at 11, especially if your blood sugar is low. Nobody cares. If they do, they don’t say anything. They’re probably jealous you took initiative and they’re waiting until 1pm to eat.

I didn’t find myself in Wisconsin. I wasn’t lost. I did learn some more about myself and I feel much better when I can take a pause. I’ll let the beavers be busy while I recharge. Back at it again tomorrow, but looking forward to the weekend. Now if you’ll excuse me, Redwood Bend is calling my name, and 5:40 am will come soon enough.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Stay busy but know when to pause. You’re worth it!!

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.