Not a Dreamer After All

I used to fancy myself a dreamer. A possibility thinker. I remember the ambitions I had as a teen. I was going to move away, to bigger and better things. Blaze my own trail and leave a lasting mark on the world. Maybe international business? Live abroad? The skies were wide open and the possibilities were endless.
Somewhere along the way, my world shrunk. The ideal became a little less lofty and I started to think more about what is attainable. I began thinking in terms of what was reasonable and realistic. Sort of the “Let’s face it you’re never going to…” mentality.
Somewhere along the way between the world-is-your-oyster high school years and the middle-aged, near-empty-nester year, I became a realist.
Maybe it was becoming a parent, or buying a house or some other step of adulthood that changed me. But it’s ok. For me. It’s ok to think practically, to be realistic about the future.
However, I think it does my kids a disservice when I can’t embrace their dreams. When I burst their bubbles with my “realistic” views on life. It limits them. It squelches their creativity and instills doubt.
In my effort to paint an honest picture of life, to give them a realistic perspective on what the grown up world is like, I take away the option to dream. The freedom to dream the big, hairy, audacious dreams. The ones that scare the bejeebers out of you and excite you at the same time.
I have only recently come to realize this about myself. I have a dear friend who lets her kids dream. In fact she supports their dreams. And prays for their dreams. Even the big, unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky dreams! I admire that. And yet I don’t do it.
It’s hard to shut off the logical, ordered, down-to-earth, focus-on-what-is-realistic part of my brain and engage the dreamer again.
We all need to dream! Especially young people. There is a great, big, world out there and the ability to envision yourself changing it is priceless. Without the belief that you can make your dreams come true, what do you have? What pushes you, drives you and makes you revise that idea/paper/design one more time? What makes you reach a tiny bit farther, try that move one more time, reach out to one more person?
We must be able to dream.
We must be able to create and nurture our own dreams without doubt standing behind us whispering in our ear.
I don’t want to be the doubt for my kids. I want to be the voice in their head that says, “If this is what I really want, I’m going to make it happen!”
So go, my sons, dream really big dreams! Imagine, what if…! Put your heart into your dreams, work your 10,000 hours! Become the expert you want to be!
I believe in you!

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For What it’s Worth

A coworker had to leave work early today because her 4 year old was sick. Not sick-sick, but the “school” insisted she be picked up since she had been to the bathroom 4 times with diarrhea. Understandable. The mom was frustrated. Leaving work meant no pay. That means less rent money. She was a bit exasperated. Understandable.
But I so wanted to say, “embrace this moment!”
Go home and hold that little one in your arms. Cuddle her and tell her stories and listen to her breathe. Be present in this moment. Shut out the world; the rent, the job, the fact that she wasn’t running a fever and just hold her. Put your jammies on and pop in a silly movie or better yet, grab her favorite books and read.
And soak up every detail of that little one. Soak in her smell and the way her hair gets in her eyes and the quirky way she describes things. Be present in this moment and commit the memory to your heart.
For one day, one day that seems so far away, she will be too big to sit on your lap. She will be too busy to take time to read with you. Her life will grow bigger and bigger. She will become the confident person you raise her to be. And one day that confident young adult will spread her wings and go her own way.
And though you are so proud of who she has become, every now and then, you will wish you could have a “sick day” with her again. A day to shut out the world and just be.
Life with young ones is hard. And it is so easy to get distracted by the demands of life. But remember, those little ones are only little for a very short time. The blink of an eye.
I know you are exhausted, worried and a little overwhelmed. I have the luxury of speaking from somewhere near the other end. Many things seem clearer when you are looking through the lens of time.

Mason 22
For what it’s worth, I don’t regret one single moment spent cuddling my sons. Not one.
I don’t regret the days we spent in our pajamas or the lunches on the living room floor.
I don’t regret the silly stories they told again and again. In fact, I wish I had listened more carefully.
I don’t regret all the sick days or even all the puke I cleaned up!
Just a little perspective from a mom who’s been there.

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Vacation Musings

I just returned from a relaxing vacation with family. I had plenty of time to let my mind wander. I miss being able to do that regularly. Life has been so busy, so full of tasks that thinking has been squashed out. It was refreshing to pause. I debated about going media-free for the week, but decided better of it. I just dabbled instead.
Here are a few thoughts and realizations from the week.
• When I don’t trust my gut, that inner voice that tells me what to do, I don’t feel in sync with my own life.
• I won’ t look back in 20 years, or even 20 days for that matter, and wish I had spent more time cleaning, working, planning.
• I am a happier person when I can take a moment and make some order of my life.
• I don’t have to be in control of my life, but I do have to be in control of my responses to my circumstances. I need to make deliberate, intentional choices about how to move forward at any given moment.
• When I look backward, I realize I am much stronger than I believe myself to be.
• Faith is a journey, sometimes a hard one, sometimes a boring one, sometimes an exciting one. It’s hard to stay focused when you are in the boring parts.
• If you can stay focused in the boring parts of faith, you may find great reward in the exciting parts and comfort in the hard parts. It can be like eating your veggies to get to dessert. You don’t see the immediate impact of eating the veggies, but in the long-term, you can’t survive on just dessert.
• Life is a balance between seeing things in the micro and the macro. It is challenging to both look at what is best for an individual and what is best for the group – community, family, world – that individual lives within. Especially when what is “best” for the individual and the group is not the same.
• Loss is inevitable. It will happen. It will be painful. And I will survive. And each loss, be it a parent dying or a son moving off to college, hurts tremendously. And each will make me a more compassionate, understanding person if I let it.
• Creating experiences is one of the best things I can do as a parent. It is the thing that will bind us together when life takes us in different directions. It is the thing that will keep each of us grounded when the world seems to be beating us up. It is the soft spot we can land in our mind when we don’t feel like we have a friend in the world.
• Helping my kids develop their faith and nurturing that faith is hard. I see other parents who do an amazing job of this and feel I fall short. I miss opportunities to nudge my sons in the right direction. I miss the mark myself so often it’s hard to imagine they can see how it should be. Faith is hard.
• Personal wellness is a journey, just like faith, it can be hard to see the impact of your actions for a long time. You have to trust that the tiny steps you are taking are making a difference. You have to keep piling good habits on top of each other until they make big steps and big impact. And still it is work. Always will be.
• Letting people go is hard. Watching your life change is hard. Even when you know the changes are good. When you believe things are heading in a good direction, it is still hard to let go.
• I feel a constant tug between feeling appropriately blessed, fortunate or grateful for all that I have, for all the conveniences, wealth, health and acknowledging that sometimes life is tough. The reality that even if my life seems “good” there are still bad days. There are still times I struggle, still things that get me down. This doesn’t make me ungrateful or complacent, it makes me honest. Event the luckiest people have bad days.
• Sometimes I feel like there are no words left I can say. I live in a world that is so obsessed with analyzing every word we speak, every phrase we utter that no one listens to anyone’s heart. I can’t say I feel blessed – that implies God has bestowed something special on me and skipped someone else. I can’t say I have struggled with anything- after all I am one of those who experience “white privilege” so I’ve had no struggles. So much energy is expended making sure our words are not misinterpreted by someone else. And yet, they will be. Regardless of intent.
• My world is obsessed with categorizing and labeling people. You must fit into a box for me to know how to respond to you. We are not people, individuals; we are the categories we fit into. I want to relate to others as individuals, finding the things we have in common, and learning about the things we see differently. Trying to understand each other. There is good and right in all of us if we just get past the labels and categories we could see that. This feels like too big of a problem to tackle fresh off a relaxing vacation.
• I haven’t written much since I took a new job. This job has monopolized my creative energies, taken over my problem solving space, and challenged me in new ways. I miss writing and have to find a way to get my fix. A way to make writing a priority. Maybe all that extra time I’ll have when two kids are gone off to college….

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Celebrating the Spirit

I have always struggled with the notion of predestination. I believe to strongly in free will. Recently, I got into a discussion about this with good friends. We talked about how we see God intervening in our lives, about how we understand His intervention or guidance in our lives.
I believe there are many “right” paths to take. I believe God continually creates opportunity for us to experience the future He has dreamed of for us. We just have to be open to the nudging.
Which takes me to a celebration of sorts. A lesson for me in listening to the still small voice {or sometimes screaming alarm} that I believe to be God’s leading.
A little over a year ago, last spring, I started thinking about a gap I felt in my life. A missing link or hole of sorts. I hadn’t done a Bible study for MANY years. When the kids were young I did 3 or 4 Disciple Bible Studies. They were so powerful for me and made a huge impact on my spiritual life. Then I went to work full time and the Monday morning study didn’t fit in my schedule anymore. And the kids started getting involved in lots of activities quickly filling my weekend. The timing was just not right.
Fast forward about 8 years and I found myself with a hole that I knew needed filling.
At the same time, I found myself longing for more connections with Moms in my life stage – with teenagers and kids with one foot out the door. It occurred to me that many of my relationships to this point centered around the life of my kids. And though there were lots of great women I had made this journey with, we were connected because of our kids or their activities. I realized what I was craving is women I could connect with because we picked each other! Women I would remain close to whether our kids hang out or not, whether we are on the booster board together or not.
I needed connection.
Connection to other women and reconnection to my faith.
And I had a compressed work week at my job so my Fridays were free – me time!
What to do…
I sat with it for a long time, mulling ideas in my head. I looked at options out there. What I felt God leading me to do was start a Bible study in my home. It seemed to be the perfect solution to using the beautiful space I had, creating real connection with others and deepening my faith. But that was a risky idea. What if no one wanted to come? What if their lives are already so full, they have no need for a connection like I do? What if everyone else has all the close relationships they want? What if they already have a safe, supportive place to study God’s word? It sounds funny for me to say out loud now, but those were real fears of mine. I was taking a risk. Risking being rejected when what I needed was connection. Risking being the only kid raising their hand and saying, “I need help.” It was scary.
But I felt like this is what I was supposed to do. So I started making a list. I checked it way more than twice. I thought about women I had met who I wanted to get to know better. About women I thought might be open to a Bible study. About those I thought could be available on a Friday morning. There were some on the list I knew really well, some I had known for years and some I had only had very short superficial conversations with at a game or meeting. I didn’t know if any of them knew each other, but that didn’t matter.
After carefully wording a letter, I emailed about 20 women inviting them to participate. I was careful to let them know, if this wasn’t their thing, I wouldn’t be offended. And then I waited.
There were plenty of no responses. Lots of reasons it just wouldn’t fit or wasn’t the right timing. But, there were a handful of yes responses too. You could say the rest is history. But the rest is the real heart of the story.
I am so blessed {and yes, I do mean God looked on me and gave me a gift} by these women. I can’t imagine getting through the loss of my father without them. I don’t know how I would have gotten through May with Dad’s illness, Middle Son’s graduation and Dad’s funeral. They cleaned my house! Who does that?! They brought us meals and all those things we do to help each other. But more importantly, they have prayed with me, wiped my tears, understood the struggles of my heart, held me close when I didn’t know if I could get through and continue to pray me through it all. That is really powerful stuff!
And now, a year after that first anxious Friday, I see why God put it on my heart to start a summer study. God knew I was going to need something special, something more than what I had, to get through the things to come.
Not predestination, but working on my heart to prepare me in the way I needed.

PS. I debated about writing this for fear of hurting someone in my real world. There is risk- why didn’t she invite me? I would have come. I am sorry if I left you out, sorry if you are searching and not finding. My hope is that this post inspires others to listen to God’s calling, to reach out and ask for what you need. God will help clear the path for you!

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Memories of Dad

Thinking of Dad so much. Here are the words I shared at his funeral. Thankful I did it and thankful I captured my thoughts at the time. Writing is so cathartic for me.

The last time I stood here with my dad was 23 years ago tomorrow when he walked me down this aisle to give me away as I married my husband Dan. I find comfort in saying goodbye to Dad in this place that holds so many good memories for all of us.
I’ve always cringed at eulogies or speakers who get up at a funeral and wax poetic about their perfect loved one. It always leaves me wondering about their weird habits or strange quirks. I promised myself that given the opportunity, I would tell the truth. Just like dad. He didn’t really sugar coat things. You always knew where you stood with Dad.
So here it is.
I have an amazing Dad. But he was a unique guy.
He has longer finger nails than any woman I know. I didn’t realize how odd it was until friends started asking. It always made me chuckle a bit when someone would say, “um…your dad has really long finger nails…”. Yup, he does. And wouldn’t you know it, I did not inherit them!
Dad liked a lot of strange foods. Who remembers being offered pickled herring? Nasty stuff and he loved it. And my sweet, generous mom stifled her gag reflex many times to make him beef or chicken liver.
I was a teenager before I found out not everyone had orange juice with their pizza. But we did. And when we have mom’s amazing cinnamon rolls, dad dunks them in his orange juice. And so does Scott.
But I think the strangest might be the pickled beef heart. According to my unofficial research, we may be the only family in the world that ate it!
Dad also came up with some crazy inventions. Like the side by side bicycle so a blind person could ride a bike. I know some of you looked at his inventions and thought, what the heck?
But what I saw in those was creativity and optimism and possibilities and potential. That’s what my dad was really about. Seeing a problem and immediately dreaming up a solution. Working through all the scenarios in his head and developing a way to make something work.
He had hope. He believed in potential and had the ability to imagine impossible things, especially when it comes to designing. Like a ramp for the scooter, a 3 stall garage or a theater in the church. He always had an idea in the hopper. And he believed in his ability to make it happen.
Anyone who knew Dad knew he had a generous spirit. Dad was a helper. From tools to trailers – dad would loan whatever he had to someone in need. And he was generous with his skills, talents and expertise as well. Just looking around the church you can see the physical impact he left on this congregation.
I will miss picking up the phone to describe the sound the car is making and get his thoughts on what might be wrong. I will miss being able to call him when I’m lost and have him point me home. But I am at peace knowing his body is now whole. And I believe he is telling a story to my uncles as they all sit around a workshop or piece of machinery.
Dad loved my mom fiercely. From the days when he pursued her as a teenager through the really lean times and the good times. He loved her until the end, always taking care of her.
I see my dad in each of my brothers. In Doug’s quiet contemplation with the wheels always turning, in Phil’s take care of business take-charge attitude that comes when something just has to get done and in Scott’s honoring of our past, respect for where we have come from and how we got to where we are.
Today, I can’t help but think what an amazing witness my dad gave to everyone he met. Micah 6:8 says …And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Well done Dad.
A life well lived.

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Anything But Content

I feel like my heart is raw. Like a wound that keeps getting torn open, again and again. There is no time to heal. There is no balm for my soul.
It is as though I’m running on a sandy beach, feet sinking deep into the warm sand making each step a little harder than the last. I know I need to keep going, but it’s so difficult.

I want to stop the world, stop all the change in my life, to regroup, to get my bearings again. I want to mourn and wallow, and feel sorry for myself. I want to cry until there are no more tears. And some days I do. But the next day they return, flowing strong and steady.

I’m going through the motions, but feel like my world is spinning out of control on the inside. Like the merry-go-round that I used to ride as a kid. The one that terrified me and made me feel ill. The one that spun and spun and left me puking in the grass.

I’m trying to be present. To be focused on the things that are big in my kids lives. The changes and challenges they face. I’m trying to be the mom they need me to be. But it’s so very hard.

I don’t want to take care of anyone else right now. I don’t want to problem solve with them or be their shoulder to cry on. I want my Dad back. I want to remember him, to think about the stories he told, to hear his voice again. I want him to not be gone. And I’m having a hard time focusing on anything else.

I guess I’m just shocked at how hard it is. I didn’t know it would be like this.

It has only been a few weeks. But life has gone on at breakneck speed. Work keeps happening, the house needs to be cleaned, the bills need to be paid the pictures need editing. There are college orientations and teenage transitions and all kinds of life still happening.

It all just keeps going. And I try to hide the tears when they come at work. I try to focus on my health and Bible study. I try to move forward. And yet I just want to cry.

A lot.

I find myself thinking of all the people who have gone through this before me. The people who seemed to keep going like their world hadn’t fallen apart when I know it had. They kept it together. I know they had to be hurting just like me, but they made it through. They went through the motions. They put one foot in front of the other and kept going. And I had no idea how hard it must have been.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I didn’t know what you were going through. I’m sorry I didn’t remember those things that would bring back the tears. I just didn’t know.

I am thankful to those who have been where I am today. Thankful for their understanding; for their notes and cards and texts.

I’m grateful I’m not going through this alone.

But most of all I’m thankful that I know I will see him again. That I believe life isn’t over at death. I believe in heaven and the afterlife. I am thankful that despite missing him terribly, I know that I will see him again. And that helps. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it gives me hope.

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Not Ready

It has been a week since my dad died.
The funeral is over, the flowers are dying, family (including me) have all gone home.
And now it is time to go back to work, to resume the daily routine. Time to get going, because life goes on.

Except I don’t want to.

I don’t want life without him to be normal. I don’t want to go to work and make dinner and pay bills like it’s just another week. It’s not just another week.
It’s the first week I’ve lived without my dad.
The rest of the world does keep moving. Life goes on all around me. And yet, I just want to make it all stop. I want the world to pause and be sad with me. To realize what a good man he was and what a hole he leaves in my life.
I always thought when the day came that one of my parents passed away, I would be able to stop. To pause. To just be. But the world doesn’t stop just because my life is turned upside down. Graduations still happen. Kids still move away from home. Bills still come in the mail. Finals still have to be taken.
It’s surreal actually.
To hear my dad passed away and have to go on about business. To have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, going through the motions trying not to cry a big ugly cry in front of people who can’t handle it. It’s too much.

I just want more time. And yet I know, life must go on. I know I am not the first person to lose a parent. I know others have been right where I am.

And I didn’t get it.

The outpouring of support from friends and family has been humbling. The kindness of people overwhelms me. I feel the immense love of friends and family. And still, I just want my dad.

So today, like my brothers, I will get dressed and put one foot in front of the other. I will go through this day. And I will get up and do the same tomorrow.
I will cry. I will laugh. I will be pissed off at how unfair it is. And I will go on.

One foot in front of the other.

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