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.

BFF?

I couldn’t find a fitting picture but I love the river.

Within the last few weeks, I’ve seen Facebook posts about our 30 year High School reunion & the “all school reunion,” as well as people bringing their kids to college. It got me thinking about friendships. How many people have life long friends or friends from college years versus friends they met later in life?

I didn’t attend the high school reunion due to a bowling tournament for our youngest son. If I had gone, it would have been pretty uncomfortable. I haven’t kept in touch with many of my classmates for the last 30 years. It was not a large class – less than 50 in our whole grade. Obviously we have things in common, but we grew apart for various reasons. It was probably 10 years ago when I last saw any of them. I kept in touch with my college friends for a while, but we grew apart also.

What makes a lasting friendship? I’m probably not the right person to ask. I told one friend about my concerns regarding her abusive boyfriend… that friendship ended. I over-shared with another friend… didn’t hear much from her after that. Some who I thought were friends disappeared during crisis. Some faded without knowing the reason why… maybe there wasn’t much of a reason. In my head, it was likely something I did. Since I’m more introverted, I tend to avoid going out to meet people – I prefer to be behind the scenes. I wasn’t always that way. I was much more social in high school and college. I think it was the fading of friends that shifted it for me. I know people, but not all of them really know me.

I’m guarded. I worry about being accepted, about not being enough or being too much. I value time with my family and prefer to recharge at home. I do enjoy adventures and traveling. Attempts at setting boundaries end up being walls. What do I think is important in a BFF? Acceptance, honesty, fun, caring, compassion & joy.

I remember the friend who could walk and talk for miles. I miss that. I remember the friend who stopped by with a meal, I want to be like that friend. The friend who sends random postcards or texts, I cherish that. The friend who digs deeper into the “How are you doing?” question and doesn’t take my “fine” answer, I appreciate that. I want to be the kind of friend who makes a difference. I want to be a safe/accepting friend. I want to make someone smile, make them realize they matter and let them see how wonderful they are.

Our seasons of friendship change. For some, the season is longer and others maybe fade more quickly than we planned. Either way, they shape us into who we are. I hope you have enriching friendships and you are able to be the kind of friend you need yourself.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Make sure you are friends with yourself first and be aware of what you want in a friendship. You are enough, just as you are. Someone else thinks so too!

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!

Hidden victories…

First of all, it’s a temporary tattoo. I’m too scared of the pain to get a real one. Maybe someday. I do like the image though. It reminds me of making a wish. Making a wish on a dead weed doesn’t sound as appealing. It’s all about perspective.

Secondly, I’m celebrating a “non scale victory” by wearing my wedding ring again. I haven’t been able to wear it for a while due to weight gain/inflammation. Since being diagnosed diabetic in April, I’ve worked hard to watch what I eat, be more active and add some supplements to help me shed 25 pounds. I have 25 more to go, but I will get there.

It’s a hidden victory… one that I might not normally celebrate, but today I am. We all have our hidden victories that we are too afraid to share. We may think it’s not a big deal or nobody will care, but we should acknowledge and celebrate these wins. I’m quick to dismiss my wins. And I realize that negative self talk just keeps the negativity swirling. Not that I need to be “Mary Sunshine” but a negative narrative attracts more negativity. Pretty soon you forget to see the good. You’re only focused on the 25 more pounds to go, not the 25 already shed.

Instead of thinking about how much I want to overindulge in sweets, I can think about all of the fresh veggies we are growing. I can focus on a smaller portion of my favorite snack or pairing it with protein, water and a walk. I can be thankful for the time in nature instead of focusing on the deer fly buzzing around my head (trust me, that was not easy).

I’m a work in progress, friends. We all are, regardless if we admit it or not. I’m here to support you, cheer you on and not judge. Take a few minutes to celebrate a win, small or large, one that impacts you or a bunch of people.

Our walk last night led us to a secluded pond where some ducks were enjoying the evening. Another small victory – hiking without vertigo.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Peace is something I’ve been seeking a lot lately. Perhaps I need to pause more, make a wish on a weed and recognize the small victories. You are enough. Just as you are.

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!!

Have to?

How often do we say we “have to” do something? I know I do… I many times a day. I have to get up earlier. I have to feed the chickens. I have to check my blood sugar. I have to vacuum the carpet. I have to drink more water. I have to go for a walk. Some of these things really do need to be done and some could wait. When I say the phrase “have to” it feels heavy to me. It feels like a burden. It feels like it’s something we are forced to do instead of something we want to do.

We have to… says who? Are we imposing these rules on ourselves or does it come from elsewhere? I don’t really have to write each Tuesday. It’s not part of a job. It’s something I get to do. Getting to do something instead of having to do something has such a different weight and feel. Getting to do something sounds more like an honor or privilege. People don’t usually say, “I have to get ice cream,” normally they say, “I get to have ice cream.”

Words matter. What we tell ourselves matters too. I’ve had a lot of things going on in my life that I’ve not written about, but all of those things swirl around in my head. I’m not great about “positive self talk.” I’m quick to dismiss compliments and I’m very hard on myself. I try to catch those thoughts and flip them, but it’s an ongoing struggle. I don’t think many people wake up one day all cheery and mentally well adjusted with a wonderful positive tract in the background of their mind. I tried adding some affirmations to my walls to have a visual reminder. Not quite the kitty hanging on a tree, but close. My pessimistic side says they are cheesy. I read that our minds don’t really know the difference between what is actually happening and what we are just thinking about. Are you thinking about what you have to do and all the struggles with it? It’s shaping your day. It can feel like a hamster wheel some days and it’s hard to jump out.

Sometimes I feel like this mushroom in the woods, growing silently in the shade. If I’m stressed out, am I acknowledging it and moving on or dwelling on it in the dark? What’s feeding my thoughts and shaping me into who I am becoming? There are currently 4-5 different kinds of mushrooms in our woods. They grow out of the stumps, in pine needle piles and on the side of the logs. We just got more rain so there will be even more sprouting up. They grow despite the lack of direct sunlight. They don’t need the spotlight to thrive.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Whether you’re in the shade or basking in the sun, your journey is your own, and you get to have a great day.

How “prickly” are you?

If you know me personally or have read my blog before, you probably know (or have learned) of my personality. I’m an introvert, sometimes speak my mind too much and I’m not a big hugger. Some might call me aloof, or even prickly.

As I took a mental health break to pick some berries today, I started thinking about how similar I am to black raspberries. These delicious gems are sweet and firm (ok maybe they aren’t completely like me!) The thorns on the plants are NO JOKE! Not only do they have rose bush size thorns, they seem to want to stick to your clothes. What a defense mechanism! Protect the fruit and don’t let anyone or anything get too close. Sound familiar?

It’s easier to put up defenses than risk getting hurt. But, in doing so, we may hurt the people close to us. The people who just want to love us. The people who know me well don’t often think I’m an introvert because I will talk freely around them. (Sometimes WAY too much with hand gestures and facial expressions etc!) But many people don’t get to know that side of me. They just see the thorns and back away. Sometimes when I try to open up, I go too far and don’t stop talking. As I see their face indicating they’d rather be somewhere else, I regret the decision to let my guard down.

The thing about black raspberries that’s different from our other raspberries (aside from the thorns), is the way they reach out. These thorny plants will grow long canes that reach to the ground and root. The other raspberries spread new plants from roots beneath the ground. The black raspberries spread out above ground. They also quickly overtake an area. I feel like writing is my way to reach out “above ground” where anyone can see it. Even though I don’t have thousands of followers, that’s ok with me. It keeps me a little safer and less exposed to other people’s thorns. I’m sure you’ve noticed that people on the internet can be pretty cruel sometimes. I don’t recover well from those things. I’m learning about some ADHD traits and “rejection sensitivity” really struck a chord with me. That’s a post for another time but if basically means I have a hard time getting over rejection.

These long canes/branches will root into the ground to create new plants

So, if you have a prickly friend, be patient with them. The fruit of their friendship might be worth it! We can complain that the raspberries have thorns or be happy that the thorns have berries! I wish you peace on your journey of enough.

Mystery cave with a side of mystery…

Mystery Cave

This past weekend, we went camping in southern MN to the Forestville Mystery Cave State Park. We hadn’t been camping in a while due to Covid and other conflicts. We arrived Saturday, (got a little lost thanks to Google maps), but eventually found our cabin. We unloaded the vehicle, set up camp and made supper. Campfire cooking is my favorite. My husband makes wonderful meals over the fire. We played some yard games and tested our skills at some new axe throwing games (not real axes!) After supper, we went on a hike though the forest. It was a beautiful area. We saw some deer, lots of white moth/butterflies and a sea of lightning bugs.

Beautiful sunset at camp

Sunday morning I woke up with vertigo that would not go away. I couldn’t walk a straight line. I looked like I was drunk without drinking. I’ve had vertigo before but it is usually quick to resolve. This was not. We had a cave tour scheduled and I didn’t want to miss it, so I held it together as well as I could and went. The Mystery Cave was neat. 48 degrees cool, always constant temp. 13 miles of caves, but we were on the easy tour that lasted an hour. I held the railing and shuffled my feet to maintain balance. It felt like I was walking on a bounce house instead of in a cave due to the vertigo.

After the cave tour, we went to “historic Forestville” for a tour of the town. I had gotten a walking stick to help steady me, but I wasn’t feeling well. The whole time that Art was talking I kept trying to will myself to stay upright. After the tour, I tried to have some coffee, thinking that might help make me feel better. It didn’t work. I was sitting outside and started vomiting. But then I was vomiting blood. I asked to quickly leave so we could find medical help. This State park is not near a large town, and it was Sunday. With no cell signal it was difficult to find the nearest clinic. The closest one was in Rochester. Thankfully I had some “puke bags” in the car for the ride to town. The clinic was a basic clinic and suggested we go to St Mary’s/Mayo, so we did. Apparently if you are vomiting blood, you don’t need to wait in the waiting room.

My son came with as they took me back to a room and my husband tried to find parking. It was like a NASCAR pit crew of people putting on sensors and hooking up IV and asking questions. By this time, I was still throwing up, but they gave me an anti nausea medicine to help. They ended up doing a head/neck CT to rule out anything brain related, and did an abdominal CT to make sure there wasn’t active bleeding. They did an EKG and a bunch of lab work. It all came back ok. There was no real reason for this mystery illness. It couldn’t be explained other than Vertigo. They made sure I could keep down some graham crackers and water and sent me on my way.

We opted for the Holiday Inn down the street instead of going back to camp. The guys got some basic supplies and Gatorade for me. I was able to rest. We went back to the campground in the morning to pack up. I still felt dizzy but kept small amounts of food down. I had to take of my glucose monitor for the CT scans so I was checking my blood sugar manually. It was in a good range. We made the four hour trek home.

The mystery illness is still a mystery. I’ll follow up with my doctor here to see if we can figure out where the blood came from. I guess if I was going to get sick, having it happen near one of the best hospitals was a good thing. Now to get back on my feet and not feel like I’m on a ship!

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. I hope to solve my mystery soon!