Tuesday, December 8, 2015

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Moment of Peace.

We prepared for our first winter storm in the Savage North yesterday with ten to twelve inches of snow forecast.

After coming off a huge holiday weekend, I realized how many tasks I had left for this week.  On top of that, Christmas is coming!  I went into full panic mode as I began creating lists and lists for my lists.  I could not afford a snow day.  So much to do, so little time! On one list, I had written "when you panic, read this:"


While walking in the woods one day, I find my mind filled with a list of to-dos and should-have-done-yesterdays.  Panic fills every pore as I feel time slipping away from me.  I become unaware of anything but the panic and my pace quickens.  

I must get back.  

I must get going.  

I have things to do and people to please.   

As I look up to see how much farther I need to go, I stop in my tracks.  The panic evaporates instantly as I stand in reverence to the beauty around me.  

On this early fall morning the trees are at their peak of color.  A cathedral ceiling of gold, orange and red cover me.  The sun, still rising in the sky, floods the trees with low beams of light adding a radiance that steals my breath.  

Below my feet, a golden carpet joins the floor with the brilliance of the sky.  I notice the quiet; no animals scurrying to ready for winter, no wind whispering secrets to the trees.  All of nature is in awe of this moment.  

And as if just for me, a snow of golden leaves falls gently to the forest floor leading my heart and my breath in a chorus of steady beats.  The panic is replaced by a peace I cannot capture with a photo and Instagram for all to enjoy; a peace that will only live in this moment, in this spot, within me.  

I drink it in allowing all of my senses to record the magnificence.

And then on I walk, welcoming back the list of to-dos and the should-have-done-yesterdays with a slower pace and a peaceful soul.


Life with three kids is busy in all seasons, not just today.  I read these and I feel them.  Even if just for a moment, these words return my breath and my heart to steady beats.  The panic recedes.  The day is no less filled, no less busy.  Yet with these magic words, my attitude has been lifted and my focus steadied.   

In the end, we didn't get the snow predicted and I have plenty of time today to finish the tasks on my list for the week, plus have a little fun!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Matter of Perspective

With everything in the news lately, I feel like my life has become a series of conversations with my kids about topics that are hard for even adults to understand.  We talk about ISIS and the reasons behind their existence.  We talk about terror and fear.  We talk about how propaganda is used to justify behavior and control the masses.  We talk about religion and how it is sometimes used for power instead of peace.  But because my kids are only 13, 11 and 8, it is hard to get them to really understand all of these very complicated topics. They continue to ask, "But why?" I find I want to ask the same question; but instead I find myself repeating the phrase, "it is all a matter of perspective."  And so I use this piece I wrote for fun in my writing class around Halloween for a bit of, well, perspective.


On the way home from school, the boys and I discuss the weather.  We discuss the potential for rain on Halloween, which dampened their mood. Although my boys say they are too old to trick-or-treat, a little part of them that continues to hold onto the childhood thrill of Halloween.  How can the loosely related ideas of childhood, rain and Halloween dredge up so many memories, I wonder as I drive.  I causally mention we could end up with another Halloween Blizzard.

These words alone begin a cascade of memories of Halloween Blizzard of 1991.  Rain was forecast that year too.  Looking back, I can remember the excitement of October 1991.  It was my senior year of high school.  The Twins won the World Series.  As Halloween approached, the excitement began to tarnish by early sunsets and the fatigue that brings.  A fatigue exasperated by early the morning school start time and late night college entrance essay sessions.  Halloween fell on a Thursday in 1991.  All through this all hallows eve, my throat was scratchy and my head ached.  I pretended I could make it through the evening dance and one more day before the weekend came and allowed rest.  As school let out, more than a fall drizzle greeted us upon our walk home.  My feet soaked quickly as my boyfriend and I trudged through the slushy ground.  I can remember complaining about the inch of snow that was now predicted and feeling more exhausted with each step.  I choose to go to bed early and sleep away my aches instead of attend the Halloween dance, to the great disappointment my boyfriend.  I can remember my surprise when my sister woke me after her tricks-or-treats to show me the winter wonderland our neighborhood had become and the shocking smell of damp snow on a day that should have smelled like leaves and bonfires. 

“Weren’t we all surprised that year?  It could happen again this year boys,” I say.  “You never know.” 

After a brief silence, one asks.  “What flavor was it?” 

Confused, I say, “What flavor was what?” 

“Well, the blizzard Mom?” 

For my boys, there is no memory that is triggered from the combination of childhood, Halloween and rain.  To them, Halloween and blizzard means the Dairy Queen Blizzard flavor of October. 


Our perspective is based on our experiences.  We cannot expect someone to understand our point of view when they have never walked in our shoes, nor can we understand theirs.  Their life has been a sum of entirely different experiences which lead them to very different conclusions on very different paths.  Our fun Halloween story helped my children realize whether a perspective is right or wrong may not be the right way to understand a situation; because the truth of a perspective depends on the perspective you hold.  And this illustration allowed my children to begin to sort of understand the complicated topic of how a group of people on the other side of the world can be made to behave in a way we have been taught as completely unfathomable. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Happy Anniversary

Today is my thirteenth year anniversary of life in the Savage North.

Anniversaries are often a time when I reflect on the journey.  This year I enter the teenage years of this life as a mother and suburban stay-at-home mom.  There is a chaos, and even a healing, that comes only after you do the same job for more than a decade.  My reflections have caused me to realize how much has changed since that day in 2002 when I arrived on the doorstep of this life.  I realize how much healing has taken place, how much calmer, braver, and passionate I am about life.  I realize how many walls have come crumbling down and how much my three little ones have brought out a better version of me.

There is a song by Matthew West called “Do Something.”  This song talks about how we notice all the injustice in the world and wonder…if there was really a God, why would all of this injustice happen.  We shake our fist and ask God, challenge God even, to do something.  In the song, God answers, “I did, I created you.”  For me, that sums up the journey.  I started out a pregnant, twenty something, who had a vision of how life should be for her to be determined a success.  Then I quit my job and committed to a very different life in the Savage North.

I spent a lot of time pouting and shaking my fist at God, demanding He do something different.  I wanted more, different, easy.  And I somewhere in the journey of feeling it was just not very fair, I realized it isn’t suppose to be.  If I want to see change, I need to start where I can make the changes.  If I wanted to raise children who are doers instead of complainers, then I needed to be a doer instead of a complainer.  I stopped complaining and I started changing.  I would like to say that the more, different and easy followed; but, the opposite was more often true.  I lost friends.  I got my feelings hurt.  I felt alone.  I learned where my walls stood; and how much those walls held me back.  I learned the meaning of courage and love and how often they go hand and hand with pain.  It seemed I had mastered the more and the different in a painful way, but the easier was nowhere in site.

And then, the journey took a turn.  I started to see my way out of the dark.  Or maybe, I just began to realize that pain meant growth and growth is good.  I broke down the walls that held me back and entered the arena willing to try.  I got dirty and I got my feelings hurt some more.  I felt like a failure a lot of the time.  But I realized that failure is growth too and growth is good.  I found people to support, laugh, walk and talk with me on this journey.  And, I started to see that my three little ones were becoming doers instead of complainers.  And, after thirteen years, I think that is pretty good progress. 

This is all imperfect progress, but progress all the same.  And I am grateful to the Savage North for all these lessons.  I know we have a long way to go on this journey.  I know there will be good days and not so good days.  But, as I look backward today, it is pretty amazing how far we have come.  And, as I look out from here, the view is pretty spectacular. 

"Do Something" by Matthew West

I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

We are the salt of the earth
We are a city on a hill (shine shine, shine shine)
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still
No we won’t stand still

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

Thursday, February 13, 2014


As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a week working on the mobile pack for Feed My Starving Children.  Our church, along with 18 other faith communities from the South Metro, decided to unite to try and pack 3 million meals in one week for Feed My Starving Children. 

The numbers from the week are impressive.  In the end we had 3,009,312 meals, 10,800 unique volunteers, and 8,200 some odd kids will be fed for a year.  We went through 152 TONS of EACH the rice and the soy in those six days.  The event itself was equally impressive to behold.  Every square inch of our massive church was used to set up 39 packing stations, hold ingredients, and prep and prepare the packages to leave this country and get on the way to Nicaragua as quickly as possible.  With some 20 FMSC staff and some 40 trained volunteers at each shift, we welcomed 800 people three times a day for 6 days for their 2-hour packing shift.  The music would pump through the building as the volunteer packers would get energized and pack away.  The screams for rice and soy could be heard through the building in between renditions of “We Will Rock You” and “Sweet Caroline.” Several all time FMSC records were broken through the week, as no event in the 25-year history has been this big.  In our final shift, over 1400 boxes of food were packed in 2 ½ hours!

I worked hard all week until every muscle in my body ached and; I was more exhausted than I have ever been in my life.  But, there was no time to complain because I was too busy being inspired.  I honestly smiled all week, despite my aches and pains.  I joyfully worked hard along with several new friends who also gave it all for this cause.  And, I really cannot wait to do it again.

I think often about what it means to be a Christian.  There are so many definitions out there.  There are people who spend so much time arguing and studying and talking and arguing some more, trying to convince the rest of the world that they know the one true way to God.  But, I believe this event showed me what it really means to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  It was in the joyful way so many volunteers asked, what do you need?  And then gladly helped.  It was in the smiles.  It was in the little ones who packed meals with extra love and kisses.  It was in the high school student who refused to stop working even though his glasses broke in half.  It was in the grace that was shown to someone who was overwhelmed by the mess and could not see how things would ever return to “normal.”  It was in Philipians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength” when we were all bone tired.  It was the 67-year-old gentleman who worked along side me all week lifting boxes and smiling all the time, never once complaining.  It was the helping of over 8,000 children we will never meet find hope and a future through a simple meal.  It was all this and so many more little things all week long.

Colin asked me last night why I am spending so much time away from home helping other people.  Why would I do this FMSC event at all?  And I told him many of the things I said here, but I also added…”because it feels good to do something that really matters.  It feels good to feed kids, over 8000 of them, who would not have a meal.  And, all I had to do to help was give up one week of my time.”  And he thought about that and agreed, it was a pretty cool thing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy Birthday Molly!

Molly is 7!

My baby turned seven last week.  SEVEN.  

She chose to celebrate her birthday participating in the Feed My Starving Children event I was working on through our church.  Our church partnered with 18 other churches in our area to try to be the largest packing event in the 25 years of Feed My Starving Children.  Naturally, I offered to help.  The week changed my life.  But, this post is about Molly…

So selflessly, Molly also chose to partner with FMSC for her birthday.  She packed twice last week, once with school and once as her birthday party.  The picture above shows her with her class.  She wore her shamrock shirt to bring extra luck to the children who will receive the meals we packed.  And she worked hard packing meals and ended up packing 75 boxes in her two packs.

What this tells me is my little lady is turning into quite a giving young lady.  Her New Years resolution was to help people.  Her choice in birthday party did just that for several children in Nicaragua (the food is already on the way there).  But, I have also noticed some other changes in Molly over the past year.  She no longer believes herself to be a princess dressed beautifully in jewels and waiting for her prince.  Instead, she is becoming aware of what it means to be strong, fast, smart, and capable in her own way.  She is a kind and giving person, who will be the first to offer help to others.  She is a hard worker, willing to stretch herself to learn new things.  She doesn't believe she can be limited because of gender or age.  Yet, her smiling face and positive spirit have remained, and grown stronger.  When she grows up, she says, she would like to be just like Mommy, only taller.

Although her birthday party included giving to others, she was still the center of attention.  She spent her actual birthday as the center of the family with a special breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Grandma Nan was able to join us for the birthday diner.  And, she received gifts too!  Then on Saturday she packed meals with 14 friends and their families.  Although the friends were asked to make donations instead of bring gifts, Molly left with a blanket that her friends all signed.  The blanket sits in a place of honor in her room.  She had a quick lunch with Grandpa and Grandma McLaughlin with more gifts.  And on Sunday she got to spend time with the Eckers and get a few more gifts.  Her American Girl dolls are very well situated now!  And she felt very loved and appreciated by Sunday night.

We celebrate Molly's seven years and look forward to watching her continue to grow into a true lady of generosity and love.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I do it all.

Todd and I have a running joke about how he no longer is needed in our house.  Work has been extremely busy for him lately; and he doesn't have the time to a lot of the tasks that use to fall under his domain.  Although we also celebrate the ways he does help the family, we still continue to joke about how I do it all around here. This weekend Todd is off on a “work” ice fishing trip.  The trip is “necessary” for his career.  I just couldn’t help but tease him as I headed off to Dads & Daughters dance class.  It is official, I really do it all now as I even fill in for his role as Dad.

What I learned last night entering the world of dance with my daughter was so insightful, I felt blessed to be Dad for just an hour.  First, my daughter has inherited my perfectionist personality.  When Todd asked her recently if she wanted to grow up to be just like Mom, she said yes.  Then added, but maybe a little taller.  It breaks my heart sometimes to see her growing up just like me.  Watching her struggle with perfectionism triggers the “fix-it” reaction within me every time.  And no amount of encouraging words can undo the example I live out each day in her view.

My daughter is a very good dancer for her age.  And, as I find myself taking credit for her perfectionism, I also have to take some credit for her tenacity.  She started dancing at three years old, after finishing her physical therapy for her developmental delay.  She needed to continue in something that provided an opportunity to work on strength and balance.  The first year was painful to watch as she struggled to do the things that came so easily for the other little girls.  But, she kept trying, smiling all the while.  Three and a half dance years later, she is placed front and center in every performance.  Her teachers comment on her natural grace and ability.  But when something does not come natural, she works at it.  I want to believe I live out that example in front of her as well as a quest for perfection.

My second observation last night was how different Dads are than Moms.  If this would have been a Mom & Daughter class, I believe the class would have felt more competitive.  Mothers tend to push their daughters in the same way I observe Fathers push their sons.  We know what is ahead for our daughters and we want to prepare them for it, help them learn from our mistakes.  As I watched these Dads have fun with their daughters, I realized how valuable unbridled fun can be for our kids.  Sometimes I need to step out of my Mom role and just have fun.

My third observation was to see how social my daughter is among her peers.  She had so much energy once we arrived at the studio.  A little of it was nervous energy, as she worried if she would fit into this class.  But a lot of it was the energy we extraverts get being in social situations.  Being one of the youngest, I was impressed with her ability to put herself out there and interact with girls who are twice her age. 

My final observation revolved around being the outsider.  I was the Mom in a Dads class, the only Mom.  I could do the dance moves while the other new Dads struggled.  But that is not the only way I stood out.  My X to their Y excluded me from the social conversation during the down time.  And, it felt ok to be left out because I really had nothing to add.  I wonder if this is how the Dads feel during afternoon pick-up as the Moms gather in a circle and continue the conversation we have been having for the past year.  I try hard to be inclusive, but maybe there are times when it is ok to stick with just the Xs and let the Ys have their own circle. 

I have no desire to continue in my role as Dad. And, good-natured teasing aside, I am grateful for the role Todd plays in our family.  I am also grateful for the role I am allowed to play.  But, I am equally grateful anytime I get to see the world from a new perspective.  I am most grateful to be reminded Moms and Dads each have a role to play in the lives of their children, but taking on the role of the other can really help us appreciate the benefit the other parent plays.