Wait, we are NOT related?

(photo of me & my actual sisters in Waco)

I grew up in a small town in ND. The population was around 500 people at the time. We lived in a 1911 era farm house on the edge of town. Town was on one side of the gravel road and we were on the other. We had a hobby farm with a few cattle and some sheep. My parents’ friends lived less than a block away. My mom’s best friend was Lois. She was the one who helped fix my hair when my mom was out of town. They stuck by my parents through some rough times. She was the first example of a “sister friend.” Even though my mom has many sisters, they didn’t live in the same town. Lois has been my mom’s Gayle. Oprah said “everyone needs a Gayle. Someone they can call up anytime. Someone to listen, not judge and be honest with.”

When my husband and I got our first house, we ended up living pretty close to them again. Our kids grew up hearing us talk about what they were up to and visiting just like relatives do. Recently, my oldest son and I were talking and somehow mentioned Lois. He said, “Wait, we are NOT related? I always thought we were.” I’m not sure what relation he thought we were, but he knew that we were close. I said, “It is kind of like you guys growing up with our Jessie and her kids. You spend more time together than many cousins and get along better than siblings.” It made sense to him then. I didn’t tell him Jessie is my Gayle because he’s not a fan of Oprah and he wouldn’t know what I’m talking about.

To be a “sister friend” is an honor. You get to love someone like your sister. If she already has a sister, you are not taking her place… you’re filling in, being there physically, enhancing each other’s life. I know that if I called up my sister friend, she would first off know something is wrong because I’d rather text… but she would listen and be there. When we lived closer, we’d go for walks. Literally miles would be walked – more or less, depending on the events of the day and the status of the kids. We still keep in contact, almost daily. We both miss our in person walks, but we will settle for the texts and the time we do spend together because we get each other, just like sisters.

This week, I am lucky enough to be traveling with my sisters to Texas. We stayed with my niece and her husband, met up with our aunt, uncle and cousin. We’ve laughed and eaten, walked and driven, laughed and eaten some more. We’ve crossed things off our bucket list and tried new things. We’ve had fun shopping and enjoying the 75 degree weather (it’s 112 degrees warmer than MN was last week!) Our time together is short, but we are thankful to be together. Whether you have a sister or a sister friend, take time to cherish them. Include them in your life, let them know how much they mean to you. Even if life takes you in different directions, you can always make time for each other. I’m 150 miles from one sister and almost 2,000 from the other, but they are in my heart every day.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. And if you’re in Waco, stop for the cupcakes at Magnolia bakery. They are amazing!

What’s your super power?

Last week, I wore a T-shirt that says #writer. It’s chilly in MN (it was -1 that day), so I wore my buffalo plaid shirt over the top of it. I realized I was self conscious and almost changed shirts. “What if someone says something?” I kind of felt like Clark Kent. Writing, for me, is a bit of a Superman type secret. Not everyone in my normal life knows that I write a blog each week. I’m not sure all of my relatives know either… or maybe they just chose not to read it. Some days I think it would be great to have a large following and other days I struggle to feel worthy enough to be an inspiration.

WordPress does a neat job of showing how many people read your blog. It also shows where they are from. One day, I had a bunch of readers from Ukraine and I was a little worried that I was being flagged or something. That lasted one day, so I figured they realized I was kind of boring and not any type of threat or spy. I’ve had people from all over the world read my words. It’s kind of cool, if you think about it. Without the internet (and my phone), I couldn’t reach this many people. I am going to be writing a book. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. I’ve had people tell me I have to write but they didn’t say what it should be. I’ve leaped forward into classes and then I’ve slunk back into my cave, wondering what my topic should be and if anyone other than my 24 followers would read it.

Superpowers. While writing isn’t really a super power, it’s something I do that isn’t known to everyone. Maybe my writing makes someone feel like they’re not alone or that they are enough. Do you have a secret talent? A super power of sorts? Something you love to do but you aren’t sure if you should share it with the world? What if you shared it? What would happen? Everyone is good at something or has something they love to do. Most of the time, if it’s something you love to do, you’re probably pretty good at it. Part of what makes it good is the joy that it brings to you. Each time I write, I feel like I am giving something of myself. When someone reads & comments and even shares my words, that brings me joy. I also love to bake. It is like therapy for me and I love that it brings joy to others. I enjoy sewing and gardening and tending to my chickens.

Whatever your super power, I hope you will feel it’s good enough to share with others. Start out small if you need to. Remember that you don’t need validation from others though- if you love doing it and it brings you joy, then it’s already enough. Peace be with you on your journey of enough.

Find one thing …

This is my cat in his “cat cave.” I’m jealous… I wish they made them for humans. Ever feel like you’re at the tipping point? Just on the edge of ok and not ok? Yeah. Me too. Some things seem silly and still drive me nuts. There is a road sign by a beach area – it’s a yellow sign suggesting to slow down. It’s winter in Minnesota. Nobody is at the beach. It’s not even plowed out as an ice fishing access. Every day I drive by it twice, and most days someone slows down for the beach area. I let it bother me. I know it shouldn’t but it does, so that frustrates me. When I know how to respond or how to act, but I don’t do it, I get frustrated with myself. I feel like a pouting kid needing a “time out.”

I’ve taken a lot of classes, read books and gone to retreats to help me be more self aware. I am much more aware of what things trigger me and how to respond. It doesn’t mean that I respond appropriately on a regular basis. I know I feel more relaxed when I meditate. I know I feel more clear when I am outside. I know I feel more grounded when I go for a walk. I know my mind feels less cluttered when I journal. Some days I feel like I have a tool box full of options and it is sitting on a shelf, just out of reach. That’s when I am jealous of my cat and want to crawl into a cave.

We had the cloudiest January in Minnesota this year. When the sun doesn’t shine for days on end and it’s cold & snowy outside, it can impact people’s moods. It does for me. I’ve been frustrated with others, frustrated with myself and just out of sorts. I think it’s a reminder to me that we are all human. Even when we know what to do, sometimes we struggle to follow through. Some days it feels easier to be like my cat and hide away.

This week, I challenged myself to find one good thing about the day. Even when things go wrong, I am going to find at least one positive. I know that focusing on the crappy stuff brings in more crappy stuff. The things that frustrate me in others are often a mirror to what frustrates me about myself. I can’t even fix it with a Snickers because I’m trying to eat healthier. So instead of candy or saying something I’ll regret, I’ll try gratitude. I’ll try focusing on something good. Will I be 100% positive? Probably not. But it’s enough because it’s a start. We all have to start somewhere and each day is a new day.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Give yourself some grace, but challenge yourself to find at least one good thing about your day. You’re worth it!

The “me” before you…

A few weekends ago, I had the chance to spend a couple of hours in the car with our oldest son. He’s almost 17. As we talked about different jobs my husband had before he was a stay-at-home-dad, I realized there is a lot he doesn’t know about either of us. We kind of assume that he knows what we were like before he arrived, but how could he? He didn’t realize it was 7 years after we were married before we had him. He didn’t know what activities I was involved with in high school. He thought it was strange that I was in everything except a major sport. He didn’t know much about his dad being born overseas or living in Idaho. He doesn’t know much about my trip to Israel when I was in high school.

There was a whole different “me” before my kids arrived. Some stories are ones I’m not proud to share, but they did shape me into who I am today. Even the boys’ younger years are ones they don’t remember, so they need to be told what happened. When we moved here, there was a whole different “me” in ND than I am here. Sure, basic parts are the same, but many people don’t know my story. My coworkers had experiences before I arrived that I’m not aware of also.

It was a good reminder – we often assume people know our whole story, even though they are just walking in on a chapter. The people who walk in on a chapter often fill in the pages with assumptions. That’s what we do in the store when we assume someone’s story based on their looks. It’s what we do when we assume the naughty kids just lack discipline instead of knowing their home life story. I’ve written before about assuming. However, without knowing the whole story, that’s what we naturally do. When my kids just say their day was “good”… I don’t know the whole story, so I assume based on how they act or what other things they say.

As we approach the holiday season, I encourage you to get to know someone’s story. Find out some of their “me before you”… or share some of your story with someone else. Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Check back with me next week when I share my birthday “acts of kindness” list. Hopefully it will inspire someone to do even one thing from the list.

Did you open all of the gifts?

We went to the movie Jumanji 2 after Christmas. It was light-hearted and I laughed quite a bit. Danny Devito is in the movie as a crabby grandpa. He tells his grandson (& anyone else) “Growing old sucks.” He just had hip surgery and is having a difficult time getting around. At the end of the movie, after their adventures, he says to the grandson, “You know, growing old…” the grandson interrupts, “sucks.” “Nope, growing old is a gift.” I had a tear in my eye because it’s true. Being able to grow old is a gift we forget about and not everyone gets to enjoy.

This Christmas was difficult for many people. I had classmates who lost their parents and this was the first Christmas without them. A local farmer, his brother and his son all died from toxic silo fumes… a devastating loss at the holiday time. A UND football player was in a skiing accident and had severe spinal injuries…his family is praying for a miracle that he will walk again. The gift of growing old. We often forget about that one. In the season of worrying about getting all of the presents wrapped and traveling here and there, we often skip over a big gift – the miracle of life.

I’ve witnessed the power of prayer – for my brother-in-law and for myself. I will never forget the feeling of having people pray for us. It’s incredible. After his farm accident, we were amazed and thankful that he was alive. We were even more amazed and thankful when his broken ribs and broken pelvis healed… and he walked again. I felt people praying for me before my cancer surgeries and it gave me peace. Last week, I posted about the 46 acts of kindness I had done. Praying for someone is something that costs $0 and can mean the world to someone else. Pray intentionally. Actually do it instead of just saying you will. Don’t believe in God? Send them positive healing thoughts.

Peace be with you on your journey of enough. May you open all the gifts this year, and be reminded each day what a great gift growing old really is.

Don’t stop believing…

As I sat and wondered, “what should I write about this week??”… my husband started playing a bunch of Journey songs on his phone. “Sometimes it’s ok to celebrate Journey’s greatest hits.” LOL, ok, I’ll go with that. I was born in the 70’s and graduated high school in the early 90’s. I had some Journey cassette tapes growing up. “Don’t stop believing” and “Faithfully” were two classics from my teen years. I was kind of naive though and didn’t fully grasp the meanings of many song lyrics until later.

Don’t stop believing… maybe it means something different now. When I think of believing, I think about God instead of the rock group Journey. When I think about where I was 5 years ago, having cancer surgery and not knowing what my future would hold, it would have been easy to stop believing. “Why would God give cancer to me? Doesn’t he know I have two boys who need me? Doesn’t he know I had plans to grow old with my husband? Doesn’t he know my parents and sisters and family worried about me?” Why God? There is a Christian song by Austin French called Why God? It talks about the things we wonder about – why do bad things happen? It’s on my list of questions to ask someday. I don’t have the answers. I think I know why I got cancer. It wasn’t karma or plastic bowls or sugar or genetics. It was a lesson of self compassion, empathy, understanding, asking for help, being open and connecting with others. It taught me to be brave and compassionate and daring.

Though it all, I didn’t stop believing. I prayed for health and healing. My faith helped pull me through. Our youngest son struggled with believing. He was 8 when I had cancer, and I think he was a little mad at God. Each night since he was little, we would say bedtime prayers. We would ask God to watch over us and keep us safe and healthy. Why wasn’t God listening? It took a while to work through those fears. Fear of loss, fear of the unknown.

I kept falling back to my favorite verse- Jeremiah 29:11-12. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Then you will call on me and I will listen to you. He says he will listen. He doesn’t say he will fix everything or make it all better. He doesn’t say there is a magic wand to erase the heartbreak and tragedy.

Share some kindness. Bring joy to someone. Take time for yourself. Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Don’t stop believing… in yourself or your God or your higher power.

5 year goals…

January is typically resolution/goal setting/vision board time. Have you ever been asked. “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” For many years, I didn’t know how to answer that question. The idea that I had no clue what the next 5 years was going to bring kind of scared me. Why couldn’t I envision the next 5 years? Why didn’t I have 5 year goals? I honestly worried at times that perhaps I wasn’t going to be around in the next 5 years and that’s why I couldn’t see it.

I worried about it when we were first married- what would the next 5 years bring? The first 5 years brought no children… would the next 5?

I worried about it when I first started my full-time job. Where would the next 5 years take me? I was asked to set long term goals but I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

I worried about it when I was pregnant for the second time. “The baby had a 2 vessel umbilical cord instead of 3.” What would the next 5 years bring? (Spoiler alert, he is fine)

And, I worried about it when I had cancer. What would the next 5 years look like? What treatment would I have? What were my odds? How would my family cope?

Next Tuesday marks 5 years from surgery. 5 years from when the surgeon said, “We got it all.” 5 years from when they said, “Her lymph nodes are clear.” 5 years from when I wore pink gloves to my surgery and afterwards told my husband that I was ready to bust out of there.

I’m writing about it now instead of next week because I feel like I need to honor this milestone. So much has changed in 5 years. It seems like such a short time, and yet it seems life times ago. It often feels like a bad dream, but one that shaped me into who I am today. 5 years ago, people prayed for me and they didn’t know me or hadn’t spoken to me in years. 5 years ago, I had no idea where I would be today. 5 years from today, so much more will change. God willing, I’ll have 21 & 18 year olds and a whole new chapter will be unfolding.

5 years can go by in a blink. Some days I feel like I’m making the most of it, and other days I struggle. I do have some regrets: I wish I would have spent more time on the floor with my kids. I wish I would have played more games and come home earlier. I wish I would have made date night a priority. I wish I would have taken time for self care and not felt like it was selfish (it’s NOT selfish). The list could go on, but it won’t. Today, I lay down those regrets knowing that my kids and husband love me anyway… flaws and all.

Next Tuesday, I will acknowledge the day, but it will be with gratitude & not fear. Do you have 5 year goals? Good for you! Do you have no idea what the next 5 years will bring? Good for you too! I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May your next 5 years be filled with all the things they’re supposed to have, whether you know it now or not.

20/20 Vision

How many 2020 jokes and memes are out there? Probably a lot. This isn’t a joke or a meme … just a little bit about last Saturday. (Ok, it’s a LOT because it was Oprah!) The picture is of me and my friend, Jessie – who is for sure my Gayle. Oprah said everyone needs a Gayle. I lucked out.

Several months ago, my friend texted me and said something about Oprah coming to Minneapolis and that we had to go. I agreed, thinking Oprah would talk for a couple of hours and that would be cool. Once the event got closer, we read more about it being a day of wellness and vision setting. Awesome. Then we learned she had guests and we get lunch… it kept getting better. On a brisk Minnesota day, 15,000 fans packed the Xcel center in St. Paul, MN. It was mostly women, but there were a few brave men. Anyone who attended was in for a treat! There were hand massage stations, spots to get your hair touched up, samples and photo spots…. and that was just the concourse! Once we found our seats, we had an Oprah treat bag with snacks, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, a vision 20/20 workbook, Oprah pen, WW coupons and Kohl’s cash (I think they know their audience!)

Our day of wellness began with a dance party. You could feel the energy in the room rise. Of course everyone danced – we were about to see Oprah!! Oprah was a “bucket list” item I didn’t know I had. Wow. I knew she was an amazing speaker, but seriously… SHE IS AN AMAZING SPEAKER! I could have listened to her all day. She talked about her story and some of the things that shaped her life. It wasn’t easy. Her grandmother hoped she would have a nice family to work for some day as a maid. She knew she would do something more. Her talk show was #1 for 25 years. She spoke about the key to it being such a success- connection and intention. Each show idea had to have a clear intention or she wouldn’t consider it. She refused to be fake. She wanted her connection with the audience and with the guests to be real. People could tell it was genuine. When they were on her show, they felt heard. She said that almost every person she interviewed would say, “Was that good?” At the end of the taping, they would ask Oprah if they were enough. Wow.

We also did a mass meditation with Jesse Israel. The whole stadium was quiet for 60 seconds. Oprah led us through her Vision 20/20 workbook – it was like being in a giant classroom with one of the most amazing teachers. After a Panera lunch, we were ready for the second half. (I really want to know the logistics behind 15,000 boxed lunches and how the sandwiches, water and apple were cold!) Julianne Hough came on stage and got us moving our bodies and wondering how she could run around stage and into the audience while barefoot and not be out of breath! She was amazing! Tina Fey was Oprah’s guest interview for this stop. She has someone new each time. She seemed surprised that people agreed to do it. Um, if Oprah asked you to show up, I think you would… even in MN in January when it’s -2 degrees outside! Tina talked about her “reboot” and how she is taking time for herself and her family. She has achieved so many of the goals she set for herself, she’s waiting to see what is next. They discussed the Mary Tyler Moore show and how influential she was to both of them.

Oprah talked about when she was first starting out, she visited a co-worker’s home, and they had a big house with 6 trees. “When I get rich, I’m going to have trees also!” She said she was looking out her window recently, and saw her 6 trees. She went out to count her trees but there were so many, so she hired someone to count them for her. She had so much more than 6. She stops every day to be grateful for her trees. Gratitude is a huge part of Oprah’s life. It’s not just a saying or a fad. She lives her life with gratitude & intention.

So many good things, so many cool stories and so inspiring. It was a bucket filling day for sure. It was a day sandwiched in between the losses of two friends who I met this past spring at a cancer survivor retreat. One lady passed on Friday and one on Monday. Between the two of them, 4 kids will be missing their moms. It stopped me in my tracks. I knew they were ill, but kept hoping for a miracle. Life is precious and short. Dream BIG! Oprah talked about setting the vision and intention for big goals.

I wish you peace on your journey of enough. Even Oprah said God doesn’t make mistakes… He created you for a purpose. How cool is that?!

This year, be you…

When I was in college, I was a server at Red Lobster. The tips were good (except if you had to work lunch), and the schedule worked around my college classes for the most part. We had at least 3 managers who kept an eye on things. One gentleman took me off to the side and said, “You need to smile more. You need to look happier.” One other manager was more interested in how we looked and if our white shirts were clean. You could tell she was not listening when you talked to her. It was one of those periods of time where you look back and realize it shaped part of who you are… or who you thought you should be. I was told I wasn’t good enough. I seemed too serious, thinking, trying to remember who needed extra butter and who needed tartar sauce and which table was #73. I wasn’t “Mary Sunshine.” I was me… a college student, not sure of who she was yet.

Since it’s the New Year, you may be bombarded with resolutions or things you need to change. What if you were just the best version of you? Not a number on a scale or a grade point average or a picture perfect version – but an unapologetic, thankful to be here, awesome you. I’m not saying give up or don’t try… just be kinder to yourself. Focus on the things you are great at, the things that bring you joy, the things that bring joy to others. Don’t beat yourself up over the rest of it. I know when I’m focusing on all things I shouldn’t eat or can’t eat or how heavy I am, I feel worse. It’s not motivating to me when I think about the can’t(s) and should have’s.

So, here is my resolution: this year I will be me. I will be happy, healthy, committed and helpful. This year I will go on trips with my sisters, my family, my hubby and by myself. I will drink more water and spend time with my chickens. What am I good at? Writing, baking, giving to others, painting, sewing and planning trips. Those things (in addition to my family of course) bring me joy. This year, I’m going to do those things and I’m going to be me. I know I should lose 40 lbs, get back to running and be more successful… but what if the focus on the things that bring joy also brings new opportunities, experiences and joy to others? Then I’d say it will be a pretty good year.

My sister gave me a plate that has this saying on it and a co-worker gave me the mug. “My chickens think I’m amazing.” I love it, it makes me smile. I think you’re amazing too. You have the ability to do great things. I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May 2020 be a great year for you.

Kindness can be contagious…

(Ok the picture isn’t an act of kindness- I love the angel wings and I’m wearing my Chickens Christmas sweater so I thought I’d share lol) Nicole Philips has a book called, Kindness is Contagious. She’s a fellow cancer survivor, mom and just all around neat person. Her book about kindness, my recent birthday & the goal to get me out of my “humbug” led me to my 46 acts of kindness. I set out with the idea to do at least 46 things between my birthday (on Black Friday) & Christmas Eve. It took a little bit of planning. I also had to remember to write them down. I’m not doing this to brag or for an attagirl– I wanted to spark some ideas for others. Some of the things on my list were things I’ve done before but some were new. Some were free and some cost a quarter or two. Others were a little more expensive, but nothing crazy.

I learned a few things: 1) people are often shocked when you give them something 2) not everyone pays it forward & that’s ok 3) it’s ok to step out of your comfort zone to make someone’s day brighter 4) I found myself judging my acts- were they big enough, good enough etc. – don’t do that 5) kindness really can be contagious & it doesn’t have to just be for birthdays or Christmas- we can do this anytime!

So, here are my 46 things. Some I did more than once.

1. Brought coffee and donuts to church staff.

2. Went back home to get Cam’s medicine so he wasn’t late for work

3. Tipping the gymnastics team at the grocery store

4. $10 gift card to Caribou to a random person in the drive through. (walking up to their car freaked them out a little)

5. Bag of toys for holiday toy drive at work

6. Reindeer chow for coworkers (this is a Chex cereal/nuts/almond bark/candy treat)

7. Platters of treats for neighbors & friends.

8. Donated to 2 charities (Robbie’s Hope and Healing Odyssey) on Giving Tuesday Dec 3, so the funds were matched

9. Gift bag of office supplies for church office

10. Donated toiletries, blankets & gloves to homeless (Kare Packs)

11. Put a $5 bill in a box of generic diapers at Target – maybe next time I will add a note

12. Donated food to the food pantry

13. Sent a bunch of pjs for kids who have been abused or neglected (Project Ignite Light)

14. Paid for my coffee in the drive through + person behind me and gave the lady at the window a $7 tip. Her smile made my day even more than the $7 made hers.

15. Shared Christmas chickens pictures with co workers to brighten their day.

16. Praying intentionally for a friend who was experiencing lots of struggles.

17. Smiling and saying “hi” (more than I normally do)

18. Brought a poinsettia plant for our front desk lady & thanked her for all she does.

19. Mailed Christmas cookies to a niece right before college finals

20. Put a bunch of quarters in the carts at Aldi (x2)

21. Fed the birds

22. Put quarters in the candy vending machines at Wal-Mart (found a dime when I was doing this, thanks Grandma!)

23. Got a wind up Christmas chicken for a co-worker who also loves chickens

24. Save pop tabs for Ronald McDonald house

25. Handed out free ice cream coupons to 3 men walking over to Culver’s.

26. Set out waters & treats for UPS, Fed Ex & USPS workers (modify this if you’re in MN, the water will freeze LOL)

27. Gave change to Ronald McDonald house in the drive through

28. Put candy canes on car door handles in Albertville parking lot (this was lots of fun)! Also did this in Target

29. Put quarters in the candy/toy area in Albertville outlets

30. Son wore a Christmas suit to spread cheer – made people smile

31. Donated to the FFA at Culver’s

32. Put coffee creamer in the lunchroom by the coffee pot for coworkers

33. Bought toys & books for a little boy from the giving tree at church

34. Held the door for construction worker at church

35. Brought donuts for coworkers on a stormy Monday

36. Picked up an extra gift card for the giving tree because there were some that weren’t claimed yet

37. Gave a coworker a ride to her car at the repair shop

38. 7 Bags of treats for middle school teachers

39. Make tie blankets for Pink it Forward (sends to cancer patients)

40. Leave pennies for someone to find

41. Put quarters in the feminine products machine and left 2 extra quarters

42. Tipped cleaning people at the motel

43. Sent a bunch of personalized packages to ladies from a retreat I went to last year. Each thing reminded me of them specifically. I think the postage might have gotten mixed up though – Oops!

44. Mailed out a bunch of Christmas cards & put an extra sheet of stamps in the self service kiosk at the post office

45. Donated food to the middle school food shelf (sends food home with kids in need)

46. Paid for the person behind me in the Culver’s drive through. The cashier said, “Why would you do that? Just kindness?” Yep, just kindness. Merry Christmas.

My most fun: (by far) was the candy canes on the car doors. I did this 3 times because it was so much fun! There were people waiting in cars who saw me – I gave them candy canes too!

The most sneaky: $5 in the diaper box with no note

Most unlike Pinterest: the treats for the delivery drivers… the water froze & I had to bring them in at night so critters didn’t try to eat the snacks, then sometimes forgot to put them back out even when we did have a delivery.

Which one will you try? I’d love to hear your ideas! Peace be with you on your journey of enough. Merry Christmas if you celebrate or Happy Holidays if you don’t. Either way, I encourage you to spread some kindness- maybe it will be contagious!