Living Under the Influence

I have a wonderful opportunity next week to speak to a group of mostly retired women and some men. Upon receiving the invitation I immediately wondered what could I possibly say to a group who should be speaking into me?! But once I accepted the engagement I was sure of my message ~ You still matter, your influence is needed and valuable.

In a world moving a thousand times faster than in my grandparents day, when we seem to know it all (or can find our answer in the blink of an eye), it might just be possible that the elders in our lives could feel marginalized. Some of us feel so busy we worry that a phone call to a friend might seem intrusive. (Plus why talk when we can text? Insert sarcasm.) So what might possibly run through our parents’ and grandparents’ minds when they think of us and want to reach out? I wonder if they skip the contact because they don’t want to “get in the way” of our day.

Great-Grandma & Erin June 2001I will always be grateful for, and never forget the year my husband’s 90-year-old grandmother lived with our family. One of the moments that influenced me greatly was the day she sat at the kitchen table and asked if I would sit down and have a cup of coffee with her. I remember it vividly — I said I would pour her a cup but that I didn’t have time to sit down. In my mind was I thinking, Can’t she see I’ve got a sandbox full of sand on my floor waiting to be swept and dishes piled in the sink, not to mention the need for a shower and a dinner plan?! I don’t recall what caused me to sit down with her, but I did. Thirteen years later I still remember the sunny day I choose to sit for that cup of coffee. I recall feeling peace overcome my soul and being grateful for the reminder that people matter more than lists and sand and dishes.

That year we shared many cups of coffee and I learned to slow down. There were so many afternoons I sat across from her asking her stories about her past, and writing many of them down. She had a baby — out of wedlock — all those years ago. Imagine how strong she had to be, back when they called those children a name I won’t write here. I learned about how children, in her family line, had been “farmed out.” If you have a great-grandma, ask her what that means; it was common in our history.

That year had some difficult times, but what I gained and how she influenced me will be with me forever.  I was taking care of her but in the end it turned out we were taking care of each other ~ it was an unexpected and everlasting gift.

When I go to speak next week to the ones who carry so many stories, a lot of history and maybe a little insecurity about how they fit into the bustling extended family of 2014, I want to bring your input too. I have created a quick 10 question survey that I would so grateful for you to take. I want to tell them (and show them data) that their influence matters.

You can take the survey here:     Thank you!

Please feel free to share this link – gathering as much input as possible would be amazing. :)

Time at the Lake

Every Fourth of July used to be spent at the lake where my mother-in-law, Verona, and her husband, Red, live. Both of them, previously married, had four children each, when I entered the picture all of his kids were married and had children of their own. When we got together each Fourth it was one big blended shindig that sometimes lasted for three days! There was the annual parade, boat rides, swimming, paddle boating, tubing, jet skiing, lounge chairs tied together in the water. We also had endless food, overflowing coolers, bonfires at night, portable cribs, baby swings hanging in doorways and towels stretched out on the dock for sunbathing. It was magical.

Babies kept coming, his grandkids began having children, schedules started to get crowded and it seemed we just couldn’t all get there each year. If you could make it, you went — whoever showed up had a blast.

Eventually the boat was replaced with a pontoon, the jet skis were sold but the magic continued — just in a different way. Picnic baskets were loaded and eaten on slow rides around the lake, we still went to the parade, washed our hair in the lake, walked in the woods, still had more than enough food and a sense of community that was fulfilling and calming.

Over the last 25 years it’s gotten harder for our family to get there each and every year, and this summer our vacation time is just so squeezed. There are summer jobs, practice schedules, and with Kevin and I still living in two cities, our calendar has been full to the very brim. It was tempting to cancel our plans this year — but alas we did make the  l o n g  13 hour trek to northern Minnesota a few weeks ago.

The last two times we’ve gone, it’s just been our family and Kevin’s brother’s family who’ve gathered with Verona and Red at the lake — smaller and different, but wonderful weekends ensued, especially this year. There was no boat, even the paddle boat was gone, but we managed to still have a lot fun down at the lake. We went to the parade, made our annual walk to the ice-cream store, stayed up late playing games, laughed ‘til we cried, counsins connected, we spent hours in the screen porch and ate too much awesome food.

I knew I would write about how valuable it is to make time to come together. That value seems to be ever increasing because the supply of time seems to be so low. Because this wonderful place I love had recently been put up for sale, we knew this was likely our last Fourth of July at grandma’s house — so we made the most of it. We came home saying it was one of our best times at the lake.

What I loved was that the feeling was the same, even though the experience was so different from all those years ago. There used to be almost 40 of us there for the Fourth, this year there were 12. It was different, and yet it met the desire to connect with our bigger family in ways that just slow our souls down. As we drove home I felt beyond grateful we had protected the vacation plan to go to my mother-in-law’s. I was thankful our kids Red ~ Summer 2014had taken days off of those summer jobs, and that Kevin took time away from his job at a time when he likely wasn’t sure he had that time to give due to mounting projects and deadlines. July 3rd – 6th, 2014 was priceless.

July 17th Kevin’s step-father passed away very suddenly.

And so very quickly the end of an era is upon us, one that spanned over 30 years. I will be ever grateful for the memories that fill my soul; time at the lake with grandma and grandpa, the big blended family that just kept growing, a place that represented peace, love, calm, joy, fun, happiness and so much laughter. I don’t know what the future looks like now, but then I didn’t know how our time at the lake would evolve either. What stayed consistent through all the change was that we came together. Now it will look different yet again, but as long as family is at the center, I’m confident it will remain magical.

I will always be grateful that through my 20’s, 30’s and 40’s I had plenty of time at the lake.
More of time at the lake


If You Give a Mom a Minute

If you give a mom a minute, she might gaze out the window as she washes the breakfast dishes and she’ll notice how filthy with splatters the window over the sink is, so she’ll decide to wash the window.

When she’s finished, she will realize the screen is even dirtier than the window, so she’ll pull that out and scrub that clean. Then when she puts it all back together she’ll notice that the wood surrounding the window is grimy and dull so she’ll get out the special wood soap and wash that too.

When she sees the bucket of water outside she’ll decide she should wash the dining room screens too. She’ll probably notice the windows and the wood that goes with those screens is icky too, so she’ll work to clean all of that as well. When she sees how clean and shiny those windows are, she will notice that the other windows and screens and wood in the house reveal that spring cleaning never took place, so she’ll wash those too.

When she’s on the patio washing all those screens she will notice how dirty the patio is so she’ll get a broom and sweep that up. When it’s all swept up she will realize it would look even better if she were to spray it clean. Then she will remember she has a patio in the front of her house that also needs to be swept and sprayed. While outside she will notice the dog poop in her yard. She will go to the garage to get a bag to clean that up.

When she walks through the garage she’ll see the ladder golf game that fell apart the other day so she will get in her car to drive to the store. When she gets in her car, she remembers the dog beds that need to be returned to Target. After she completes the return she almost walks through the store “just to see” but realizes she had spent $168 there the other day so she will quickly turn and leave.

When she gets home she will decide to load her car for her trip the next day. When she opens the hatch she will decide to vacuum the sand that is everywhere. Once that is clean she might decide to vacuum the dog hair in the backseat too. Then will probably notice the dog slobber on the windows, so she will want to wash those too. Since the back of the car is clean she will likely clean the front seats next. When she goes to put the dog seat cover on the seat she will realize it smells really bad, so she will decide to put it in the washer. But the washer will be full of her son’s laundry so she will move that to the dryer first.

When she finally moves the dog cover to the dryer and takes her son’s dry, clean laundry upstairs to his room, chances are she will close his window, and if she does that she will realize that she only cleaned the windows on the first floor, but….she will just go to bed.

If you give a mom a minute, she might just stretch it into an entire day!

This post was originally published over here.

Staying on Vacation

I almost didn’t come back from our recent trip. The first part of the trip was dedicated to time with our son, but the second part of our time was just for Kevin and me. We stayed in an a-m-a-z-i-n-g hotel on the beach, which is where I decided I could live. Although the beach was fantastic, and the pool on the roof of the hotel was out of this world, it was the room service that had me wanting to stay (well, and the guys at the pool and beach who brought us towels and drinks).

The first evening I accidentally left the shower door ajar a bit and water soaked the bath mat. I tossed it into the tub planning on wringing it out later, but when we returned from dinner it was magically gone and a fresh mat lay by the shower! Also, the bed was turned down, the radio was playing and a fresh plate of cookies sat on the night stand. It was as if caring, cleaning fairies happened upon our room twice — each and every morning and evening.

Another morning I left the ironing board out because the iron was still hot. Upon returning to the room it was put away — this on top of an abundance of fresh towels being left each day in our room. I began to think — in many ways (too many ways) this is the life my children experience, fresh towels magically appearing in the closet, groceries purchased each week, dishes done, dogs walked and so much more. I began to think — maybe I’ll just stay. Of course the hotel bill would add up to quite an extravagant amount — which led to me to also realize I am w-a-y underpaid for all the services I provide back in my real life — where I am the caring, cleaning fairy who visits all throughout the day.

When we did eventually return home, one of the first things I heard, separately, from each of our children, was an acute awareness and great appreciation for all that I do. Eight days was a lot to keep it all going on their own (note: our children are 21, 19 and 17 — so no worries, we didn’t leave toddlers home alone!). For dinners they said they did cook one night, ate leftovers, grabbed fast food and hit a graduation party. The kitchen was always a mess — they were stunned at how quickly dishes pile up.

We returned to a clean house, fresh flowers in vases all over the house and a new appreciation for all that it takes to run this hotel. I’m so grateful for the time away to be pampered, but home truly is my favorite place to be. Now if only I had a pool guy … well, and a pool.

(This post originally appeared here.)

Running Beyond Myself

A few weeks ago I weighed in over here about my ongoing, seemingly endless and somewhat embarrassing battle/journey/longing to lose weight. At that time I had downloaded to my phone the Couch to 5K app, which tracks and encourages my walk/running time. The plan requires about 30 minutes a day – 3 times a week. I had completed week 1 – which was pretty simple, walk for 5 minutes, then alternate jogging for 1 minute and walking for a 1/2 minutes for 20 minutes, then walk for 5 minutes and you’re done. That seemed simple enough and I did it. I not only did it 3 times that first week, I did it 5 times that first week.

The second week only stretched me to 1 1/2 minutes of jogging and 2 minutes of walking for a total of 21 minutes with a 5 minute walk on the front and back end of that. Not bad. I also did that workout 5 times that week. I was so proud of myself – because at week 2 I was not motivated at all. I would do ANYTHING to avoid getting on the treadmill – including the dishes, cleaning the fridge, cleaning up dog poop.

I’m gonna be honest – the 3rd week scared me. After a 5 minute walk to warm up, it was to jog for 1 1/2 minutes, walk for 1 1/2 minutes, jog for 3 minutes, walk for 3 minutes and then repeat that whole thing. I had to jog for 3 minutes – twice!! Double what I had been doing! What the heck! What happened to jogging 2 minutes? Straight to 3, really?! I doubted my ability to keep my legs moving and continue breathing for 3 minutes at a jogging pace. I was beyond amazed when I did it. It wasn’t pretty, I was so out of breath when I finished that first 3 minute jog, but I had done it! And then I did it again. And I did that workout 5 times on week 3.

At this point I was still very, very unmotivated, but I was determined. It was my resolve to do this that eventually got me on that treadmill for those 5 days – 2 days more than required by the plan.

Then I saw week 4’s plan – walk for 5 minutes, jog for 3, walk for 1 1/2, jog for 5 minutes, walk for 2 1/2 minutes, and repeat. Jog for 5 minutes – twice. Oh my goodness. This I was sure I was incapable of doing. No way. Maybe I should stay on week 3 for one more week. But I didn’t. On Monday of this week I moved on to week 4. It was amazing to me that 3 minutes of jogging suddenly wasn’t the wall in front of me – it was that 5 minute mountain. The 5 minutes were really taxing me – so I slowed down my speed by 1/10 of a mile and it made all the difference. I was still winded, but I was doing it. And I did it 4 times this week.

In one week, 3 minutes was no longer the challenge – in fact I’ve upped my speed by 1/10 of a mile per hour for those 3 minutes, and I’ve left my 5 minute job at the slower pace. (3 minutes = 4.9 mph, 5 minutes = 4.8 mph. I’m certainly not claiming to be fast, I just put this on there in case I have any local friends who may find themselves compatible for an outside run/walk as it warms up here…IF it warms up here!)

Next week starts me off with 3 five minute jogs separated by 3 minute walks (after the 5 minute warm up of course). I’m not afraid of that. Although the work out on day 2 of next week I see is 2 eight minute jogs – that scares me. Once again I am not confident of myself – just being honest. (I’ll need some really great music blasting in my ears, that is for sure!) Day 3 of week five brings a 20 minute jog. 20 MINUTES. Oh. my. goodness. I should not have looked ahead. I sit here shaking my head, confident that won’t happen. (I should probably believe in myself more – have more of The Little Engine that Could mentality – but for right now – as I look to next week’s workout plan, I truly do not feel confident, or have a belief that my body will go for 20 minutes. Just being real.

I’ll check in at the end of next week and write about how I did. Even if no one cares, that’s the beauty of a blog, I do write for others, but sometimes I also just write to record a snippet in my journey that I want to remember.

The point of this post was to claim that I am stronger than I think  I am.
That will be my motto next week as I attempt an 8 and then 20 minute jog.

My “Normal” is Not Her “Normal” Today

I awoke this morning to a “normal” morning – no school cancellations or delays; a normal morning. (If you are a Fort Wayne mom – you KNOW what I’m talking about!) Before I pulled the covers back, my immediate first thought was that this was anything but a normal morning for a mom in Wisconsin.

Yesterday at 12:25 pm my daughter sent a text message to her dad and me telling us of the shooting on the Purdue campus, and that she was OK. We soon found out that the shooting took place in the Electrical Engineering building – a building our daughter, an engineering student, has classes within. She said she was headed to that building for a class when she heard the campus sirens; she ducked into the building next door to the Electrical Engineering building; police and ambulances were everywhere.

In the initial moments, with no other information available, I was just incredibly, selfishly grateful my girl was OK. Not knowing if there were other shooters, of if the shooter had been caught, I continued to text her to assure myself of her continued safety.

Then the news came of the arrest. Then the news of the death. Then the identities were made known and it all got a little more personal. I don’t know the victim, Andrew Boldt, but when I saw his picture and saw how active he was as an engineering student, I identified with him as a child much like my own. My heart instantly went to his mom – who likely just experienced four weeks of her son’s presence, laughter and hugs before sending him back to college for his last semester. I can only imagine how proud she was of him and excited for his future – which in a few short months was about to shift as he graduated from Purdue.

My heart agonized for her; this news would send any mom to the floor, in utter agony. The weight too much to bear, I cannot imagine how one gets up after receiving the news that her child was killed so senselessly . I just keep praying for her, for her husband, for the brothers.

There is another mom my mind keeps going to, the mother of Cody Cousins, the suspected shooter. I cannot even begin to process her grief and confusion. Her boy was also a senior at Purdue. When I look at his picture I see a typical college student – not a killer. I cannot imagine how his mother has gotten off the floor either.

As I woke up to an ordinary morning, poured my coffee and drove my daughter to school, I have carried with me these two moms – whom I can only imagine woke up (if they even slept) begging for yesterday to have been a horrific nightmare that surely will be over when they open their eyes. It’s been hard to even put words to my prayers for these moms, though I continue to lift up these women and their families – it’s the only thing that I can do.

Tomorrow I will drive to Purdue to take my daughter to lunch. I want to look into her eyes and hug her tight. Yesterday it seemed she didn’t quite know how to feel, or process this tragedy. When I see her tomorrow she will have been back in the classroom and may want to talk about how that feels. She will have heard stories of those involved – from the friends she knows who were even closer to the scene (one even ordered to the floor by police at gunpoint before being cleared and moved to safety) and I just want to offer her a place to dump all that out. May God guide all those who witnessed this terrible murder, those close to them, and the ones who don’t even know what to feel just yet.

The ripple effects are unknown and far reaching.

The Hard, Good Choice

To understand the decision our 18-year-old son made, there needs to be a little background. All his life, Zach has loved Minnesota and has hopes of living there someday. He supports each of their professional sports teams, has purchased more jerseys than I could count, and early on knew he wanted to attend the University of Minnesota. Kevin and I were both born and raised in Minnesota, so this passion for our home state has been endearing to us.

He applied to several colleges but we all understood the University of Minnesota was his number one pick. When we went on our college visit he noticed, walked over to, introduced himself, and had a conversation with Rodney Williams, Maurice Walker and Andre Hollins, all Minnesota Gopher basketball players, whom he had just watched play in the NIT basketball tournament! The deal was sealed in his mind. This is where he wanted to spend four years, and thousands upon thousands of dollars…both ours and his.

He was beyond thrilled with this arrived:

But the boy is smart. He used his math skills to figure out how much tuition (out-of-state) would cost for four years. He then sat down with his dad and went over the college funds that will be available to him from the Bank of Mom and Dad (we’re actually less like a bank and more of a pre-loaded debit card – when it’s gone, it’s gone. And it won’t fully fund four years.)

One of the colleges he applied to, and was accepted at, was Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne, otherwise known as IPFW. As he began to look at the data he had gathered, he began to wonder about staying at home for 1-2 years to begin his college education in town at IPFW. The many saved dollars on the front end would allow him to transfer to the University of Minnesota and likely leave college debt free.

Then this arrived:

Yep. A scholarship from IPFW.

The boy is also wise. Simple math led to a difficult choice ~ the numbers were just too favorable for him to pass up. He had two goals, one to graduate from the University of Minnesota, the other to graduate debt free. So Zach accepted the scholarship from IPFW, got in touch with the University of Minnesota to make sure each class he registers for now will indeed transfer later. We went to orientation, he registered for classes, and he begins college in the morning. He made a hard, but good choice, but in the end it will pay off as he is on track to graduate both debt-free and from Minnesota.

I’m proud of you.
Love, Mom

Later this week I will write about how we helped him move into his dorm room – which happens to be upstairs in the room he has been sleeping in since he was four.

These Ordinary Days are Slipping Away

I haven’t been very faithful to write here this month. I haven’t exactly known how to tell what’s been going on and so I don’t write anything, then I’m not sure where to begin.

We’ve known for a few years that Kevin’s job would be coming to an end. His company decided to move all the operations that took place in this city to another city, and we chose not to accept the invitation to move our life to that city. So we knew this time would come.

I’m so proud of my husband, during the last two years he has met with many who were either losing their jobs, choosing to retire or choosing to move their families 180 miles away. He focused on them and never worried about what he would do; he simply felt called to stay put until the transition was made for the employees. Well, now that process is about done and so it became time to focus on us and our next steps.

Kevin was pursued by another company for a great portion of these last few years but he let them know he needed to finish well here. He took their calls, had some dinners, went to some meetings, but kept his focus on the job at hand, which was to close down operations here. We prayed and felt peace all the way through this process.

Then his end date was set for his job, and as his job came to a close this other company came in with just the right offer at just the right time. Though this company is not 180 miles away, it is 90 miles away and so a move is inevitable.

With a daughter in college, a son starting college (who will be living at home – at least his first year) and a daughter about to begin her junior year in high school, we decided that the kids and I would stay here in this house so Erin could finish her last two years of high school without moving. When Erin leaves for college, I will leave to join Kevin.

During these two years Kevin will live 90 miles away during the week, we will live here and we will figure out how to bridge the distance during this period. (Hello Facetime, mid-week rendezvouses and learning how to unclog a drain for myself!) In some ways, this plan has made the idea of the transition a little easier for me…I’ve been able to just be excited for my husband and this incredible career opportunity – without crying about having to leave the community we love so much. (Seriously, this makes my heart sink a little as I write that, but I don’t linger there, we have two years to live in the embrace of our friendships and church.)

In the meantime, Kevin has been on what we have been calling a sabbatical (Sabbatical or a sabbatical (from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a “ceasing”) is a rest from work, or a break). He has been home every day for 17 days so far! These wonderful days all feel like weekend days, neither of us can ever seem to ever remember what day it really is.“Why is Jay Leno on in the Saturday Night Live time slot?” I wonder each night!

I am loving these days. These days are our break, our rest, our time to connect, to strengthen our marriage, our communication and our family. But they are slipping away.

In 12 days Kevin will begin his new career – 90 miles away. So we are buying a house – 90 miles away. He will live there during the week, but he will come home on weekends and sometimes we will go there on weekends. Sometimes he will come home mid-week, and sometimes Erin and I will run up there mid-week. We will have to figure out our new ordinary.

There you have it, the beginning of our next chapter. I don’t know how the story will go, but I know it will be a good one. Stay tuned….

Here we are sitting on the steps of what will soon be our “other home”.

 I mentioned 3 of our 4 children in this post, our 4th is still in the program that he entered last fall. We are going to be visiting him in just a few days. (!!) I wrote Leaving to Hold On over here.

(If you’ve managed a transition like this, please feel invited to comment and let us know what worked, what didn’t, what challenged you and how you grew!)

Excuse me, Ma’am…

A true tale from this ordinary mom….

This afternoon I ran to the grocery store for just a few things. Soon after my arrival I realized that a trip to the bathroom would be a good idea, I saw a “Restroom” sign at the back of the store and stopped in. I came out of the bathroom and moved on to the dairy section when a woman stopped me with wide eyes and a shocked face. She looked at me and said, “MA’AM, your skirt is tucked in your underwear!”

She was shopping with her elderly parents, the mother looked empathetic and the father tried not to laugh! I thanked her over and over, so grateful that she didn’t just turn and laugh!

I have laughed about this all day. I then shared the story via text with my sisters, one of them said she almost peed from laughing so hard, and one sat on a bench by herself laughing uncontrollably. One shared the story with her whole family, creating a house full of laughter. One said the same thing happened to her in the Atlanta airport.(I’m thinking I’d rather have that happen in the back of the grocery store than in a busy airport!)

I LOVE to laugh ~ and so I had to share this little story here! Laugh away, you’re not laughing at me, you’re laughing with me!

And that elderly man…well he walked by me when I was checking out and he tried not to smile.They say laughing is good for your health, I may have added years to that man’s life today!

P.S. I just heard from my sister who is a Chief Marketing Officer at a major company that my text to her came up on a very large screen that she was presenting on during a meeting. So….her staff laughed too. Good to know my texts come up on her screen like that on a consistent basis, I need to quit texting her.

I wrote Moving on from the Minivan this week over here.