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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Wrap up Summer Good and Tidy in Your Tender Heart

It’s been a bit breezier here this week. A slight chill is in the air. Fall’s just around the corner. The annuals are looking worn and torn from the dry, summer heat. Our garden is still vibrant for late August, but plenty of plants are overgrown, beyond bloom, and in need of a hearty prune. The kids have their school supplies. My youngest received a letter from her preschool teacher. Nine days from now, we’ll be operating on a September budget, which will include hot lunches, cold lunches, field trips, and more school clothes and shoes. Yes, we’re in the final days of summer now. I can feel it. I can sense it. I know it in my bones.

When I looked through my photographs from the summer this past weekend, it alerted me that I hadn’t taken nearly enough summer photos of my children. Having taken photographs obsessively since I was 10 years old, there’s a certain threshold in my mind as far as when an occasion has been properly marked or NOT marked with photographs. This summer has NOT been standard by any means, nor has it been properly marked with photographs. This summer’s photographs show a lack of routine, instability, inconsistency paired with utter craziness. Where are the beach photos? Where are the sidewalk chalk photos? Where are the “I love gardening” photos? Where are the fun summer stuff photos? Where are the easy, breezy, airy photographs of kids without a care in the world?

If there’s one thing I’m reliably good for under any circumstance, it’s a photograph. I have my camera with me most all the time, only this summer was a little (lot) crazier than normal, a little (lot) more out-of-routine than normal. My photos reflected what was happening, but they didn’t necessarily reflect what I wanted my children to remember as they paged through the photo albums I need to catch up on someday soon. (Yes, I’m 4 1/2 years behind on those photo albums!)

This morning, two of my children played with a Fisher Price doll house while the third spent an hour or more organizing her school supplies and getting them packed in her backpack. It was a poignant moment, for sure, one that brought tears to my eyes when I stopped long enough to look.

Summer and school.

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I love summer. It’s my favorite season by a landslide. I’m quick to admit to my husband (and hesitant to admit publicly) that I don’t love summer quite as much when it comes to being a mom. I’m torn. I don’t know. I love summer with kids. And I don’t love summer with kids. Part of me longs to treasure this time, these days with my kids while they’re little and somewhat-still little because I know there won’t be many more. But part of me sees the kids bored, longing for friends and routine, stimulation and more interesting things than me and my not-so-fun mom ideas. I’m the kind of mom who’d fully embrace a year-round school schedule with more frequent 2-3 week breaks throughout the year. I’m the kind of mom who’d thrive in a hot, dusty village with kids chasing balls, and moms gathering greens and cooking all day.

Yeah, I diverted a bit. Back on track now. Sorry about that!

So when I teared up over one kid organizing school supplies and two kids playing doll house, I knew I needed to do MORE to wrap up summer good and tidy in my tender heart.

This is the ONLY summer my children will be 4, 11 and 13 years old. There’s no getting this summer back. And it’s not lost on me that five years from now, my oldest will be IN college.

IN COLLEGE…

COLLEGE.

Sometimes this season of littles everywhere feels like forever. But it isn’t long.

I told the kids we were going to do some special things these last two weeks of summer. Some simple summer things. A day at the park. A day at the beach. A picnic. More time outside. Maybe ice cream one random afternoon. I don’t know.

So yes! The plan for today was picnic at the park, a special park we hadn’t gone to this summer. Because sometimes the simplest things in life are the best things.

I loaded the three kids in the car + 1 friend for my daughter. Heck, a good summer day’s never complete unless my oldest daughter brings a friend.

We drove 25 minutes to grab a bag full of sub sandwiches. Then we drove another 5 minutes to the biggest, grandest, most modern park in the area. We ate our subs and chomped on chips at a picnic table, and the kids played their hearts out for an hour, maybe more.

I followed the kids around the playground like only a good mom would, and carried my camera around like only a photographer would. Kids climbed ladders, spun in circles, glided across zip lines, spun in virtual spider webs, and hopped on giant ladybugs. Moms, nannies, child care providers and day camp leaders watched and followed children casually. It felt good. It felt right. It felt like summer. The kids were being kids. And I was being a mom. Just a mom. In summer.

There wasn’t anything glorious, super special or incredibly poignant about that picnic and trip to the park, but it was exactly what we needed.

A little more summer before school starts.

A few more photos to properly mark the occasion, “The Summer of 2016.” 

A few more moments together before those routines start back up again.

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The 13 3/4 year old was the first to say he was ready to go.

The 11-year-old girls followed suit 10 minutes later. “We’re bored. We wanna go home now.”

The 4 year old was much more hesitant to leave the park. “NO! I wanna play more!” But after a while, she was ready to go home, too.

Nobody argued.

Nobody fought.

Everybody ready in their own due time.

As we left the park, my son even said “Thanks for bringing us to the park and getting us lunch, mom.”

This afternoon, he played XBox live with friends and is now outside playing with a neighbor boy. My 11-year-old daughter is playing with her friend. And our neighbor girl just rang the doorbell, asking if my 4-year-old daughter could come out and play. The doll house is out on the porch. There’s an empty water bottle blowing across the driveway. A bunch of boys played football in the neighbor’s yard. A little one rode by on his bike, another on a Hot Wheels. And that little neighbor girl who rang the doorbell? She called me “Maisie’s mother” and asked if I could raise my daughter’s bike seat.

It’s summer here for now.

Summer.

The days are long.

The days are getting shorter.

Can she use my bathroom “really quick?” Can they play water guns on my driveway? Can he balance on the retaining wall running through our garden? Can he ride her bike? Can she hang on your porch? Can they scream, shout and fight? Can they eat an applesauce from our pantry or a popsicle from the neighbor boy?

Yes. It’s summer.

School’s soon enough.

Do whatever you need to do to wrap up summer good and tidy in your tender heart.

pinksig

The Consequences of Letting My Tank Run Dry

Have you ever let your gas tank run so low you could run out of gas at any moment, like the middle of nowhere or the middle of a ridiculously busy highway? Have you ever run low on cash or time, and tried to get away with just $5 or $10 in your gas tank to tie you over? Picture this. It’s nearing end of the month and you’re low on gas budget, so you put $10 in your tank to get you by. But the gas doesn’t get you to the end of the month like you thought it would, so you put in another $5 in hopes THAT will get you to the end of the month. But that $5 doesn’t quite do it either, so you put in ANOTHER $5. Finally, you made it to the end of the month! Phew! This method doesn’t work very well, does it? If you never fill your tank completely, you just keep running out of gas.

Yes, I’m ashamed to report that I’ve experienced these things first hand. I’m the person who tends to run low on gas. I’m the person who’s been stranded on the side of the road twice in the past five years. I’m the person who runs and goes and does until I’ve run myself near dry. I’m unhappy to report that this summer, I’ve run my tank the driest it’s been in a long, long time.

My tank started running dry on May 10, the day after my youngest child’s last day of preschool. Don’t get me wrong. I love my kids. I love my baby girl. But the truth is, she’s a busy extrovert and loves being at preschool. I love my writing, photography editing, and catch all days at home while ALL three kids are in school. I refuse to believe this makes me a “bad mom.” It makes me a real mom, a mom who knows what her kids need for optimal functioning, a woman who loves her kids dearly, but also knows what she needs for optimal functioning.

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Knowing summer was coming and it would be impossible to find writing time of any significance, I stopped working on my books at the end of April. I pushed out four blog posts in June and four blog posts in July, but only published one post in August prior to this one. I worked out once the week of July 4th, and once the week of July 11th. I haven’t worked out since. We’ve made it to some Sunday church services this summer, but not nearly as many as we do during the school year. I’ve been home full-time with three children for 10 weeks, and my youngest was home full-time four weeks before that. Needless to say, my alone time has been lacking. Let me remind you, I’m an introvert. I need a certain amount of time by myself to function properly.

If you know me personally, you know I’m sturdy and steady. My dad used to tell me to “get more excited.” My sister has mentioned that sometimes it annoys her that I’m so calm under pressure, that nothing seems to phase me. The truth is, while I might be sturdy and steady on the outside, I’m taking in EVERY. LITTLE. THING. on the inside. I’m highly sensitive. I notice everything. I feel everything. I internalize EVERYTHING. And I over process EVERYTHING in this wild and crazy brain of mine. If I don’t get time to do what I love on a regular basis- writing, photography, exercise, quiet time with God – I fizzle out. My tank starts emptying.

Unfortunately, this summer, my tank went dry right before my eyes. My tank ran SO DRY that it resulted in public meltdowns not once, but FOUR times over the course of one month.

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June 25: Public Meltdown #1

We were at an out-of-town baseball tournament for my son, staying at a hotel for two nights, with baseball games running across three days. Lots of people. Lots of kids. Lots of socializing. Lots of noise. Lots of money being spent. Lots of games in the super hot sun. Lots of STUFF to haul everywhere. It all came crashing down when I made the trek back to the car because my son ran out of water and needed more. When I brought fresh, cold water bottles to my son, he didn’t thank me. In fact, he barely even acknowledged me. Coach noticed Cooper didn’t say thank you and prompted him to do so. I (quietly) lost it. Tears welled up. A few spilled out. Coach noticed my response and asked “Are you okay? I’m worried about you. Do we need to get you a hotel room and let you be by yourself for the night?” “I just need some time by myself,” I replied, “Thank you, though. It’s very kind of you to notice.” I powered up and watched the game. Later when we returned to the hotel room, my husband watched the kids for a couple hours so I could rest and gather myself. I’d crossed the line and there was no turning back until I filled up my tank a bit. Unfortunately, the emptying happened while we were at a hotel and weekend-long baseball tournament. Fortunately, those two hours filled me up enough to make it through the rest of the night. The next day was better, and the boys won first place in the tournament!

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July 11: Public Meltdown #2

I had a “public” meltdown in front of my parents and my youngest child when there was a massive thunderstorm and the golf tournament in honor of my dad and his upcoming lung transplant was postponed. For some reason, the thunderstorms and postponement TRIGGERED deep emotion; I was mad at God more than I’d ever been in my life. No need to hash over the details; if you want to read about this totally out-of-character response, I blogged about it in this post. Perhaps I should have kept the experience private. I’m still not sure about that day OR the blog post, but one thing’s for sure. My tank was near empty AND I was overwhelmed with a flood of emotions stored up from many years. Not a good combination.

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July 18: Public Meltdown #3

July 18th was the rescheduled golf tournament in honor of my dad. It was sunny and beautiful, the perfectly pleasant weather we expected the week prior. I brought my three kids to my parents’ house for Sunday afternoon, Monday and Tuesday so we’d be free to “do” the tournament in full fashion – every element, every aspect, all the socializing, helping and planning, executing and wrapping up we ever wanted to do. The only problem was that my tank was STILL near dry. I had no capacity to recognize that fact until I was 20 minutes into the golf tournament and realized my husband wasn’t along to support me. We decided he’d stay home and go into work, as he’d already taken the prior Monday off and had a boatload of work to get done. Truth was, I needed him at the tournament that day, and it never once occurred to me until it was too late. The tournament started at 1:00 p.m., just in time for my four year old to become weary and crabby. I was DAUGHTER of the golf tournament’s beneficiary, and was also the official PHOTOGRAPHER for the event, a role I volunteered for excitedly and whole-heartedly. But I was ALSO acting as a “single” mom of three that day….at a big event…at a golf course…where people expect there to be a certain level of peace and quiet. Let’s just say that by the time lunch came around at 3:00 p.m., I was already frazzled and overstimulated. The kids needed this and that, and I barely finished my plate of food. I’ve blanked out the finest of details, but basically I melted down right there at the table in the very busy clubhouse with my mom, my three kids, my mom’s long-time friend, and my parents’ lifelong friends. OVERSTIMULATED was the word. Simply TOO MUCH. Mom and friends sent me away to get a moment by myself. I took my youngest with me because why would I ever expect my mom to watch all three of my kids when she’s wife of the beneficiary and had plenty of guests with whom to connect?

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July 18: Public Meltdown #4

I thought I made it through the worst of that golf tournament, but a couple hours later, I found my tank near empty all over again. This time, it happened on the porch of the clubhouse. A few sets of my parents’ married couple friends were at the tournament, a couple sets I hadn’t seen in a long time. At one point, it was just me, my 4-year-old daughter who was melting down and being uncooperative, and one set of my parents’ friends. I hadn’t seen them in 5, maybe 10 years. They were super nice and super friendly and trying to carry on a reasonable conversation, but I was supposed to be going out on a golf cart to relieve my uncle from hole 11 as he’d been there for hours without a bathroom break and without any lunch, and I was also responsible for my three kids. I hadn’t seen my dad in a long time. And yes, did I mention the lovely parents’ friends who just wanted to have a nice conversation with me, and they hadn’t a clue about the uncle who needed to be relieved or the three children who needed tending or the photography I was supposed to be taking or the meltdown I’d had earlier or the husband who wasn’t here to help me through. And yes, my youngest was freaking out and melting down right there on the porch in the middle of all of this. It was embarrassing and humiliating and made me feel like a fool, but I melted down too. Yep, that’s how low my tank was. They recognized it in a second. I tried to explain what must’ve seemed like the most ridiculous of reasons why I was acting like a blubbery mess, and they said “GO, go, we’ll take care of her. You go, cry if you need to, do what you need to do, but just go for a while.” I was an utter fool. Two meltdowns in one day. Honestly, I didn’t know I needed my husband there until it was way too late.

When your tank is EMPTY or NEAR EMPTY, you need to make every effort to conserve the fuel you have. You need to make every effort to fill that tank back up. You might be able to do it yourself AND you might need some help. It’s easy to think you might be going insane, that you’re finally LOSING IT once and for all. But remember you’re NOT going insane, you’re NOT losing it. Your tank is empty. You need a FILL. Period.

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On July 19th, the day AFTER the fundraising golf tournament, my dad was placed on the national lung transplant registry. He was called with new lungs on July 22nd, had lung transplant surgery on July 23rd, and was discharged from the hospital at noon on August 6th. A series of unfortunate events led to an ambulance ride back to the hospital the morning of August 7th. Dad was admitted to the ICU, and finally discharged on August 14th.

So here I am.

With the exception of hitting a wall one week ago and having to hide in my room for three hours by myself that night, I haven’t had any significant public meltdowns for a month. Wahoo!

But this week, I’ve found myself breathing deeply and intentionally more than once. My tank isn’t empty, but it’s not terribly full either. If I had to estimate my tank’s fullness level, I’d say it’s hovering around 30-40%. Three days ago, I asked my husband to come home early and I went out for a few hours to grab a quick 20-minute dinner followed by a movie. Dinner was rushed and just okay. The movie was GLORIOUS. Absolutely GLORIOUS. My tank filled. A little more than it was before.

Yet the next afternoon, I felt my fuel level dropping again, so I told my near 14-year-old son he needed to watch his sister for a while because I needed a little break. I baked myself four tiny oatmeal cookies and drank iced watermelon Kool-Aid. I wrote for 90 minutes, then we went to the bank and got back-to-school haircuts for the girls. With a little time out and self-care, I made it out and through!

By the grace of God, I’ve kept enough gas in my tank to sustain me ONE DAY AT A TIME this month. Small things fill me and sustain me – a church service, a night at writing group, a few hours by myself, help with child care while I was at the hospital, three meals brought by three very thoughtful friends, a night of good sleep, a healthier choice at mealtime, a bottle of water, a cup of hot tea before bed, planning next steps for my children’s books, scheduling photo shoots, taking a deep breath. ONE DAY AT A TIME is all we really need if we’re honest with ourselves.

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“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34

This, too, shall pass. Tomorrow, we’ll be with family at my near 96-year-old grandpa’s auction sale. Next week, we’re taking a couple days to do a family staycation. In 2 1/2 weeks, my two oldest will be back to school, and I’m going to resume my regular workouts. A couple weeks after that, my youngest will be starting preschool three days a week, and I’ll be able to resume a semi-regular writing schedule. My parents are near and will be needing back-up care for my dad for at least another 2 1/2 months. But with school starting soon, there will be a lot more space, a lot more room to breathe.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. He will work ALL things together for our good. Empty tanks. Filled tanks. And everything in between.

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I’m Gonna Have to Sit This One Out for Now

DSC_148312 days ago, I was sitting poolside chatting about small and big things with a baseball mom while the baseball team and siblings swam. Right there, right in the middle of our casual conversation, in rushed my husband. “Your dad got the call. Your dad’s getting new lungs tonight.”

In a panic, I flipped over my silenced phone and saw a bunch of texts and unanswered phone calls. It was true. The phone read 8:27 p.m. My dad was on his way to the hospital for a lung transplant scheduled for 5:00 a.m. the next morning.

I grabbed my phone and book, told the baseball mom with whom I was chatting that my dad had ALREADY gotten the call, and that I had to leave RIGHT NOW. As I whipped around the right side of the pool, I told two other baseball moms that my dad had gotten the call, that I needed to leave RIGHT NOW, and could they PLEASE watch our two oldest children until we figured out how we were going to make this happen. I yelled to our two oldest over the pool noise, “Stay here! Grandpa got the call, he’s getting the lung transplant tomorrow morning. These moms are going to watch you!”

My husband and I rushed to the hotel room we had reserved for the weekend’s state baseball tournament, the final baseball event of the season. Within a half hour, we sent some texts, made some phone calls, answered the hotel door to baseball parents offering to watch the kids until my husband returned, and were on our way two hours north back to Minneapolis so I could head to the hospital and be with my dad for the lung transplant.

ONE lung transplant later, ONE pacemaker surgery later, ONE heart attack for my mother-in-law, 12 days later and all the days back and forth between the hospital and peak-heat-of-summer home, here we are.

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If there’s such a thing as reaching your maximum capacity AND being depleted, that’s me. Honestly, I’d hit 90% capacity and had 15-20% reserves in my well BEFORE the lung transplant. I’d told a few people that reality; an incredibly keen observer would’ve been able to tell without me saying a thing. Thanks to the unseen, unheard prayers of many, I am maintaining stability in this place of depletion. If you’ve ever been in crisis or depleted of reserves, you know what I mean. Sometimes remaining functional, helpful and stable when you’re depleted is the very best you can ask for!

I haven’t published anything on my blog since Friday, July 22, the day we got the call about my dad’s new lungs. As I stated in the original blog post about my dad’s lung transplant, I intended to write ALL the way through the transplant process. Just as I journaled through my sister’s significant battles with addiction and mental health. Just as I wrote through my trip to Haiti. Just as I wrote through my trip to Dominican Republic. Just as I wrote through my trip to Africa. Just as I wrote through our family trip to Walt Disney World. Just as I’m writing through my husband’s eye cancer journey.

But this journey has been different. It’s summer. I’m home full time with our three kids. They’re not in school and need my constant attention, care and taxi services. My husband continues to be in a heavy work season with big projects, evening business dinners and events, and stress that spills into the weekend. I’m honored to be keeping a Facebook page and CaringBridge page for my dad’s lung transplant. For the past 12 days, I’ve been brushing up on my informative writing skills with a crazy number of posts in those spaces. There are hospital visits, phone calls, texts, Facebook messages, visitors, laundry piles, finances and a gazillion things to keep up with at home. Until this afternoon, I haven’t had or been able to create a single moment to type a blog post. Heck, the only reason I’m able to write today is because my youngest was exhausted and finally succumbed to an afternoon nap. All of this to say that this lung transplant journey hasn’t been as conducive to personal, reflective writing as other significant journeys I’ve been on in the past. As desperate as I am to write something that comes from my truest and realest heart, I haven’t had time to do so.

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There are some things I know to be true right now, at this moment in time.

  1. I am a writer at heart. Through the lung transplant, through the heart surgery, through the heart attack, through the child care and being-a-mom stuff, through the phone calls and texts, Caring Bridge posts and laundry, cleaning and finances, hospital visits and heart-felt conversations, I’m thinking about writing. I’m formulating thoughts and sentences in my mind, even if they never arrive on the screen. I’m thinking about what’s happening and how it’s impacting my perspective on life and faith, even if it’s years before you read about it.
  2. I have now reached my maximum capacity. I am now depleted. I’m full, but I’m hungry. And I haven’t worked out in about three weeks, which is crazy long for me. I am tired. I sleep, but I really need REST if you know what I mean. I need to either eat SUPER CLEAN or go on a FAST, or maybe both. I could use a massage and I’ve never, ever said that before. I have had very little time to myself. I haven’t been able to go to church since July 10th and need to get there ASAP. I could use a quiet movie, a quiet night, some peace and quiet. Maybe a movie in the dark theater with popcorn all by myself.
  3. There’s a long road ahead. My dad is still in the hospital, but will hopefully be out in the next couple of days. After he’s discharged, my parents will be staying in the Minneapolis area for THREE MONTHS, as rejection is most likely in those first months post transplant. It is my duty and delight to help my parents through this difficult time. I refuse to sit this one out, but also fully acknowledge that I am human.
  4. I am thinking about you, my reader. This isn’t your journey, but it’s mine to steward. How can I live in, live through and learn through this journey so I’m better able to help others in the future? What can I learn NOW that will help you LATER? How will these experiences shape me, form me and mold me so I’m a better writer and leader down the road? What is it that God would have me do, see and learn through these trials? I’m honestly wondering what you need right now, and how could I possibly help you? I SEE that it’s no longer about ME. I’m more than ready for a healthy and hearty writing transition from ME and MY STUFF to YOU and ALL OF US, but when will that be?
  5. Since the lung transplant, I’ve drafted at least TWO blog posts in my mind. Quite honestly, one of those posts would be better off as a chapter in a book. This morning as I was getting ready for the day, I had a vision for TWO companion books I’d never ONCE thought of until they came to me out of nowhere. I do believe they are ebooks, and I do believe they are for anyone who’s ever suffered and been through a major life crisis. No doubt, God can take our greatest miseries and make them our greatest ministries.

I’m a wife and a mom of three children who are at home full-time for summer. My dad’s still in the hospital and is going to need heavy care and support for at least three more months. My mom is going to need care and support for at least three more months. My sister, niece and nephew need to make it through this. I’m at maximum capacity and I’m depleted, yet I REFUSE to sit this one out. This is WHERE I’m meant to be, even though it’s not always pretty, it’s not always pleasant and it’s certainly not always perfect.

I’m in an extended planting season, learning season, growing wiser-than-my-years season. God is maturing me, giving me the much-older-and-wiser-woman wisdom I’ve so desired. When it’s time, in due season, I will reap the harvest.

Then I will I be able to use all of this FOR YOUR GOOD, which is the end goal I’ve envisioned since 2003.

There is ALWAYS something more for us to learn through life.

If we stop long enough to listen, we will HEAR the whisper.

This journey is not complete.

Keep going. Keep going.

The end is yet to come.

I’m gonna have to sit this one out for now. Time will tell me when it’s right to write again. Time will tell me what to write about when I write again. Maybe I’ll write about the transplant journey now. Maybe I’ll write about it later. Maybe I’ll write about other things. For now, I’m confident enough to say I don’t know.

Reader, you are never far from my mind.

This gift of writing? It’s for me and my sanity, but it’s ultimately for YOU.

Praying these years of trial and transition will produce fruit for all.

Now or later.

Now AND later.

pinksig