An Introverted Writer Goes YouTubing

I post one blogpost and I feel like I’m yelling from a platform–with a bullhorn–at a microphone.

What? You can’t hear me? Oh. That’s fine. I tried. Bye.

I want to say that. After short efforts to put content into the cyberworld, I want to hole up back in my cocoon and be content with collecting and digesting ideas and information, occasionally creating something new, whispering it to the worldwide web, and calling it good.

But it’s not good.

I’ve learned too much about the projects I’ve tackled to keep the valuable information to myself, for just our little family, or for the teams and families I coach.

I am a writer, so I will write, but there is this other part of me that simply hasn’t been given space enough to grow as it should and I need to pay attention to the gnawing feeling I have to attend to it.

I need to teach.

I HAVE to try to share what I’ve learned in whatever media I can. So, I will try harder.

I will write more. I will step into those places I ventured once and build back up the teaching/presenting/consulting muscles I’ve let atrophy.

I heard a baseball coach interviewed this week and he spoke about the mantra they have for their team: “Work while you’re waiting.”

I am waiting to get feedback on my proposal, on queries, on the next steps for The Team Adult Playbook I need to finish, and I have chosen to work while I wait.

So, I’m working on defining and fine-tuning my Choosing to Grow brand. I wear a lot of hats for the various projects I pursue and I want to share the observations, research, and writing in all the ways I can.

I have been Choosing to Grow:Through Marriage for fifteen years now. I just completed the research for Choosing to Grow: For the Sport of It and The Team Adult Playbook is blossoming because of it. I am chronicling the ways I am Choosing to Grow: GREENER and writing ties it all together.

I wear different hats, and I am now standing firmly beneath my Choosing to Grow umbrella choosing to grow in the ways I offer up the fruits of my labor.

If you are a YouTuber, I’d love to have you as a subscriber on my Choosing to Grow channel.

If you are on Instagram, I Instablog on my account regularly @meaganfrank.

I have an author Facebook Page as well as pages devoted entirely to Team Adult and Choosing to Grow: Through Marriage. Oh yeah, and I’m on Twitter too @meaganfrank_ctg.

Thank you for reading the words I write, listening to the stories I tell, and sharing anything you think will be valuable to people you love.

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2019                                     www.meaganfrank.com    

I Think I’m a Wood Duck…

male wood duck 3

Did you know there are ducks that live in trees? Yeah, me neither. (and if you said yes, you can keep that cockiness to yourself)

I saw this guy perched outside my kitchen window the other day and I ran for my camera because I was sure I was about to capture something extraordinary. I mean, look!

It’s a duck!

In a tree!

It turns out I’m like the only person interested in birding (and who lives in Wisconsin) who didn’t know that wood ducks are a thing. And apparently you can find them like everywhere water and woods collide. Ok, so I can expect to see this again in my lifetime, but just because I’m not very far up the birding learning curve, it doesn’t mean I can’t be excited about catching this guy posed on a branch. I was meant to see him and with his colorful-come-to-me-ladies-I-have-my-good-feathers-on-today look, I couldn’t help but to think about him.

So, after much contemplation, I have come to a conclusion.

I think I might be a wood duck. It’s a strange spirit animal, I know, but hear me out.

The old me, before I saw a duck in a tree, believed that ducks could be found floating in ponds or waddling in nearby grassy knolls. Most ducks behave that way, but not the wood duck. Wood ducks can do the normal duck things, sure, like swimming and laying eggs, but they do things just a little differently. They are non-conformists. I get it.

Like all ducks, wood ducks pair off with mates, but instead of hiding in grasses, they live in strategically placed wood boxes along the water, or in hollowed trees where they lay their eggs.

Hubby and I live in a bus in the summer…just sayin’.

Wood ducks are the only species of duck that has strong claws for grabbing branches and webbed feet for swimming. Nothing really anatomical I can use to relate, but I do find myself often oscillating between writing and coaching, unsure which role is truly me. Like the wood duck, I can navigate both worlds, I just need to focus where I am.

Maybe the way I am most like wood ducks is in the way the mother duck moves the newly hatched ducklings from the tree to the water. The mother duck goes first, getting herself to the ground, and then she calls to the ducklings who are to follow her out of the nest. She calls with encouragement and the ducklings are expected to follow with faith and a leap. They are not able to fly when this happens. The mother hopes she has chosen a good spot, with a soft-leaf landing, and she then has to trust in the evolution of their species that like all those before her, the ducklings can handle the fall.

I saw this video a few years ago, but I did not know they were wood ducks.

duck jump

I am more like that wood duck mother than is comfortable for a lot of people.

I have faith in the surroundings we’ve created, I have faith in the resilience of our children, and I have faith in the natural wonder of personal growth that best happens when no one pushes us, but we are encouraged to go for it, so we do.

I was on a walk with Nate today, a gift of his time he gave me without asking, and I lamented the fact I need to change my writing, vlogging, YouTubing, content-creation mode of operation to fit a “standard” expected by the publishing world. He reminded me that with any new venture there are things I’ll need to do, but I need to remember I am more equipped to do them than I think.

I am a wood duck. Fiercely equipped, adaptable to many situations and filled with a faith that is sometimes hard to comprehend. I cannot think of an animal better suited to accompany me on this next phase of my production career because, and I forgot to mention, they are also the only duck that produces two broods a year. Production is what wood ducks do!

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2019                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                    @meaganfrank_ctg

 

 

A 96th Birthday Celebration: One Recipe at a Time

96 bday cakeToday is my grandmother’s 96th birthday and she’s been on my mind all week. I don’t live close enough to her to make plans for a coffee date or a special lunch, but I wanted to do something to celebrate her.

So, I cooked.

For those of you who know how challenged I can sometimes be in the kitchen, I made the conscious decision to make one of her recipes each day this week.

Choosing to Grow Project Prep

My antique recipe exploration served as a way to honor my grandmother, someone whose cooking I have always admired, and it also set the table for the launch of my next Choosing to Grow project. (puns completely intended)

For several years I have sensed that the CTG topic of exploration that would come after my sports book would be about food: how to grow it, why I eat it, how I feel about it, how best I can share it with others, and how I can manage to make a living while traveling the world and consuming it. (sortof my retirement plan)

My grandma was pretty integral in my first Choosing to Grow project, championing my book about marriage and encouraging me through the entire journey. I feel it is completely appropriate to pair her 96th birthday celebration with meaningful food that has the capacity to grow my enthusiasm for my next chapter.

So Happy Birthday Grandma!  Thank you for gifting me with the recipe book so many years ago and for including the reasons those recipes were important to you.  Here are the dishes I made this week and the reasons I was compelled to pick them. I’ll include the recipe for our favorite.

 

Chicken Casserole 3

I made this particular chicken casserole because of my Grandma’s note about it: “My dear John (my uncle who passed away when he was 29) liked this dish when he was a little guy. I’ve always though about him when making it or seeing this recipe.”

Shrimp and Blue Cheese Salad

This one sounded so fresh and good. I would bet it would be even more delicious in the summer, but I needed a little summertime feeling this week in January.

Beef Soup

My grandmother’s note convinced me this would be the perfect dish for a blustery-below-zero day. She wrote “Enjoy the smell of soup cooking on a cold, snowy, wintry day. We were in Dillon at Mintken’s condo and had been out in the cold. When we came home to this great aroma February 1964. I wrote this recipe as Margaret related it to me on a bridge scorepad as we spent many hours playing bridge.”

Potato Salad 

My grandma’s note on the recipe: “This recipe probably has the most fond memories of any as Jerry and I worked on it together for him to take to a men’s club picnic at St. James. I had never made potato salad and he tried to remember how his step-mother made it. It turned out to be a GREAT hit at the picnic. From then on I have had many compliments on it and probably haven’t made it exactly the same twice.”

I chose it because it is my family’s absolutely favorite Grandma B recipe and I couldn’t have a week of honoring her without making it.

Potato Salad Recipe

  • 8 potatoes boiled and then peeled of skin while hot
  • 6 hard boiled eggs
  • Cut up the potatoes while warm.
  • 1 lb of bacon cut into small pieces (1 T of grease poured over potatoes)
  • 1/2 white onion diced small
  • Add sliced eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Mayo
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • (my grandma included 1 T celery seed, but I’ve never included it in my version)

And finally, I attempted my very first traditional family Chocolate Cake. It’s hard for me to believe that I have never attempted to make this cake before. It is THE cake I had for every childhood birthday and for the birthdays of my siblings. I never made it once I got married or when my kids started to celebrate their birthdays. My family tends to like ice cream cakes much more than pastry cakes, so I never pushed it. (plus, for some reason that cake generally does not turn out quite right when anyone except my mom or my grandma makes it)

I did learn some things in this first CTG with Food experience:

  • Not all recipe ingredients withstand the test of time. (or they become repackaged and hard to find)
  • I am better at cooking than I am at baking.
  • There are SO many spices I have yet to try.
  • Fresh ingredients are totally the way to go.
  • My grandma really likes celery.
  • And, recipes are like bridges connecting time, memories and people, whether they are in the same room or not.

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2019                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @meaganfrank_ctg

A Letter…On Senior Night

IMG_9896

I gave this letter to Nate last night…

Dear Son,

First born. First grown.

It’s senior night of your last hockey season.

Hours from now, you’ll walk out onto the ice in all of your gear. Your dad will walk stoically hooked into one arm and I’ll lean, unsure of the ice, on the other.

I’m preparing myself for how small I’ll feel. You’re tall now and on skates and in pads, you’ll feel so big to me. Bigger than I’m ready to admit you are.

Mothering you has meant the world to me.

You arrived, and my life became yours. For a second you were a hungry baby who couldn’t keep anything down. And then you were this amazing party-trick-toddler with an awesome sense of humor who loved to sign. Then you were the sweetest big brother who gave endless kisses to your baby sisters and told me how much you loved them all the time.

One of my favorite memories of you was when you were a spunky two-year old running around the house, spiking a little nerf football, declaring touchdown.

“Side step…side step…jiggle, jiggle, jiggly!” You’d dramatically mimic the words and end in an adorable toddler-butt waggle. You loved to celebrate. You still do.IMG_6181

With unbridled enthusiasm, you have often been caught up in the moment of celebration at such a level that you lose sight of those around you. I love watching when those moments happen for you.

I know your sports story has not been all celebration, but I’ve loved being a part of the harder parts too. I’ve loved watching you learn to skate and learn to tie your skates and learn to skate out of trouble. What’s added up over time has helped me to experience more parts of the full version of you than I ever could have known without hockey.

When you were little, you sang sweet songs and danced adorable dances. (Who am I kidding, you still do!) You were small, and cuddle-sized, but I didn’t see the truth.  The truth is, you were just as big to me then as you are now.

Hockey has grown you, but I hope you remember, you’ve always been big. See, that’s the thing about this space in my heart I’ve given over to you. It is bigger than you’ll ever be. You can’t grow into it and you can’t outgrow it.

At some point, you are bound to discover how big you’ve always been, and that is my eternal hope for you.

I am so proud of you and I‘m grateful you’ve made my life bigger. I just ask that you are patient with me as I grow used to what sometimes makes me feel so small.

Love,
Your Biggest Fan…Mom
Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow

Mental Health Awareness: My Reasons and Resources

sunlight on tree

On a recent vacation, I handed a homeless man $10. My family shrank behind me, unsure the gesture was the right thing to do.

“What are you going to do? Give every homeless person we see today $10?” my husband asked.

“No,” I postured in defense.  “That was my last ten.”

On another day, I might give a ten I’m carrying, or a second half of a sandwich, or a bottle of water, or whatever I have in my car when I’m stopped long enough beside a stoplight panderer.

I can’t help myself. I see my dad in those outstretched hands.

My dad flailed on the streets for a time during the worst of his battles with mental health.

It’s a myth that every homeless person is afflicted with a mental illness, but the percentage is certainly higher than the general population. According to the American Psychological Association, “rates of mental illness among people who are homeless in the United States are twice the rate found for the general population (Bassuk et al., 1998). 47 percent of homeless women meet the criteria for a diagnosis of major depressive disorder—twice the rate of women in general (Buckner, Beardslee, & Bassuk, 2004).”

My dad was not the card-carrying type of panderer. If he had held a shockingly truthful sign, it would have read: “West Point graduate, disbarred attorney, father of four, suffering from depression, narcissism, and alcoholism. Need help.” 

My dad has his demons and my risk of sharing them with him are increased simply because we’re related.  In a 2010 issue of the YaleNews, Peter T. Morgan, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine said, “It’s been clear for a long time that children of alcoholics are at greatly increased risk for psychiatric disorders.”

If disorders are potentially genetic in nature, how far could the reach of mental health challenges go?

I’m a daughter of an alcoholic with a propensity for mood disorders. Ok. Awesome. It could be me. Any. Day. It could also mean the worry monster living in my daughter’s room is bigger and badder than I want to admit. Also awesome.

Mental health issues are all around us. The man who drove his car into a crowd of people in Times Square was hearing voices. A Florida man called 911 asking to be taken to a mental hospital to see his wife Taylor Swift. A recent teen suicide in Minnesota was painfully described in his obituary:  “An intentionally quirky boy who wore size 12 shoes but never grew a whisker; took his life in a bad moment in time.”

This past year, suicide and mental health crises touched too many people I love.

What do I do with that? What do any of us do with that? Do we snuggle up in a corner with our own worry monsters and hope for the best or do we arm ourselves with as much awareness as we can?

I hate monsters. Awareness it is. I have too many reasons to want to become aware and, chances are, you do too. You may think you don’t engage with or know anyone with a mental illness, diagnosed or otherwise, but chances are you do.

Nearly one in five Americans suffer from mental health issues over the course of a year.

That percentage is too high to be ignored. We have a responsibility to one another to learn all we can about the real life stories of people and their experiences. Thankfully, the mental health conversation is getting louder, but we need to continue to share and listen to the stories that will open our eyes and grow necessary awareness. 

Awareness is wanting to know what it looks like to walk alongside someone with mental illness so we are not tempted to retreat to the other side of the street.

RAISE YOUR AWARENESS

There are courageous battles being waged in households all over this country and there are books that tell important mental illness stories, pulling the curtains back from previously guarded windows. My most recent read:

broken-brain-fortified-faith-book-cover

 

Virginia Pillars’ book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith: Lessons of Hope Through a Child’s Mental Illness, is a powerful memoir about her family’s journey  leading up to, during, and after her daughter’s schizophrenia diagnosis.  Virginia presents her pain, frustrations, confusion and intermingled hope with raw honesty. It is a beautiful example of how love and a deep-rooted faith can be powerful companions on the walk with mental illness.

 

 

 

OTHER RESOURCES:walks on the margins

 

In a past issue of Books Make a Difference magazine, I covered Kathy Brandt and Max Maddox’s co-written book, Walks on the Margin, about Max’s struggle with bipolar disorder. The book is an inspiring look at how awareness, treatment, and art moved him to a healthier place.

 

 

On my to read list is Mark Lukach’s recent release: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward: A Memoir.my lovely wifeAwareness about mental health issues is an ongoing endeavor. Sometimes it’s a decision to stay on the same side of the street as the outstretched hand and other times it’s a decision to stop by the house of a friend who is struggling. A willingness to learn from the stories being shared, is a step in the right direction. We all have reasons to engage in the mental health conversation, and I’m grateful for those brave souls who start the discussion by writing down their stories.

National Alliance on Mental Illness https://www.nami.org/

 

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow

Capturing Life and Love while Dying

Dan poster

My friend Dan died on Saturday. The news was something we had been anticipating, but it was heartbreaking nonetheless.

I met Dan two years ago, at the opening for that year’s photography show. I had gone to listen to a friend sing and I was drawn in to the work of the local photographers and to Dan, in particular.

There was something about him. A genuine passion for the pieces on the walls, an apparent care for the people who had placed them there, and an immediate engagement with me, a perfect stranger.

He invited my questions that day and entertained the possibility that I too become part of the group. I joined the following fall.

For two years, I’ve had Dan as a teacher. He’s taught me about photography: breaking photos into thirds, avoiding white corners, following sight lines, depth of field, and capturing light.

More than that though, Dan has taught me what it looks like to live life fully and to love others completely… not just when we are dying, but in every moment we are given.

Photography gives us a window into a person’s soul. We get to see  what captured their imagination for a moment. We have access to someone else’s truth. We get to ponder their focus and, in that, our own perspective has an opportunity to shift if we let it. Dan was a phenomenal photographer and an incredible teacher.

That’s what I told him the last time I saw him. I told him that my perspective is forever changed. Because he was willing to share his focus with me and others, I see the world in moments worth living and capturing.

layered spring raw file

I was thinking of Dan when I captured the photo I’ll have on display at this year’s show. It is called “Layered Spring”. The light and reflection caught my eye as I prepared to leave the library a few weeks ago. I couldn’t stop myself from walking across the parking lot and up to the water’s edge to catch the image. I also hoped that Dan might have been looking out his window at that moment because, from his house, an elevated view of this scene would have been possible.

The symbolism of this particular photo is appropriate too. I see all four seasons. I see wind, fire, earth and living water. I also see stillness and dark shades of still-present ice. I see the complications of full living. There is beauty, joy, suffering, pain, cycles, and an immediate moment. I love that I see that. I love that Dan is a part of the reason why I do.

I know when I told Dan that my perspective was forever changed because of him, he knew I was talking about more than photography. I know that because when I leaned in to hug him one more time, he whispered, “I love you,” and I believe that to be completely true. His life and his photos say the same thing.

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow

 

 

Rallying for Life…as Women March

menom-march-button

“Those are the weird people in Menomonie,” said a teenaged girl, after my daughter explained that the group gathering at the University clock tower was getting ready to march.

I’m pretty sure my daughter was grateful I wasn’t in the crowd yet.

To be honest…I was scared to go.

I know the sentiment of many people in our community and I worried I would be misunderstood. I’ve never rallied, I’ve never marched, I’ve never been a physical part of any movement whatsoever, and I’ve watched and listened to the anger rising in this country because we’ve stopped listening to one another.

The details of the reasons I felt compelled to walk would be of little importance to the people who assume I’ve taken sides.

My husband and I had a bet about whether anyone would drive by and try to splash me, or yell at me or throw things at me. He said there would be honking in support and I said there would be angry yelling. We were both right. Plenty of people honked in support (for which sign I don’t know because there were so many), but there was anger too. One man revved his truck engine at a stoplight and another yelled out the window and flipped off the group as he drove by. There have been angry rants on Facebook since, and no doubt even posting this blog will move me to a new place in people’s estimation of me.

I truly don’t take offense to that young lady’s assessment that weird people were gathering, because she’s probably right. I am one of the weird people…practically everywhere I go.

What makes me weird is my inability (or maybe my unwillingness) to fully align with mary-poppins-mrs-banksa group.  I am a white, Catholic woman who believes in pro-life…for everyone…coaches a diverse boys high school soccer team in a Wisconsin football town, writes books, and runs a kitchen employing seasonal workers at the Colorado Renaissance Festival.  I would say I am a conservative Democrat/ liberal Republican. I work hard to love saints and sinners alike and I oscillate between the two camps on a daily basis. It’s complicated.

As a family, we occupy this weird space in the world, and there isn’t another family anywhere who is going to understand us. Maybe that’s why I am slower to judge the complications and uniqueness of each family and the choices people make, including the choices people made this past weekend.

I’m grateful to be alive at this point in history when it is possible to have the freedom to be so complicated…and to march for it. I marched on Saturday (with my Protestant friend who has been a staunch Republican…and felt strange surrounded by so many Democrats). Like I said, it’s complicated.

It was a rally for me from the beginning. Some who marched were there to protest, but I was there to rally around the freedoms  I cherish and to put into action my vow to defend those freedoms for every person. Every. One.

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The reasons I walked are unique and I have no doubt there were 2.9 million unique reasons any particular marcher felt the need to show up that morning. Unfortunately, reporters have to pick headlines and quick phrases to define what the march was. I wanted to write down, as specifically as I could, why I was among the marchers this past weekend.

  • I walked for my daughters. I wanted them to see I’m willing to physically show up for something I believe is important and I think all people are important. They both have incredible freedoms because they are American girls in 2017…I want them to know they have a right to celebrate those freedoms and they should always feel safe enough to speak up for what they believe.
  • I walked for those who’ve adopted children from around the world and who may not look like the little faces they feed.
  • I walked for my friends and family, and their children, who struggle with their freedoms because they are gay.
  • I walked for the women I know who have been physically, sexually or emotionally abused.
  • I walked for the stay-at-home dads who battle stereotypes because they believe in fatherhood and supporting the work of their wives.
  • I walked for my family members with disabilities and for those who are currently receiving government funding to live in assisted living situations. I want them to know I believe they deserve protections.
  • I walked for my friends in bi-racial marriages whose children have been, quite recently, targets of racism.
  • I walked for my friends who are public school teachers because I want them to know their talents and their services are valuable and worth defending.

Walking for women’s causes is complicated and many of the issues have only one thing in common: a woman cares about it. Not even all the issues I care about were represented on Saturday and many women I love didn’t feel welcomed or comfortable to march at all.

Several friends of mine don’t like the rhetoric reported by women they feel are in opposition to their beliefs. In a Facebook post that is making the rounds through feeds of women I know who support more Republican values, there were questions about the differences between the women who marched and those who didn’t:

In the post it’s written: I’m not a disgraceful woman because I didn’t march.

I completely agree. There is nothing disgraceful about the choices afforded to women in this country. That is precisely why I rallied. I didn’t protest. I didn’t carry a sign. I could barely bring myself to pin on the button, but I was compelled to show up and we each have a right to march or not…to carry a sign or go empty-handed.

Also written: You waste your time complaining about women’s rights in the US. You should spend your energy defending the rights of women around the world…those are places where women are really mistreated.

The marching energy was a rally cry…inspiring legs to keep moving for all people. It is true, American women have an incredible freedom in this country unlike anything afforded to women in the history of the world and with that freedom comes a great responsibility. My personal commitment is to remain responsible to both the vulnerable here in our country and to those suffering around the world.

Because I am a devout Catholic, I liken my march this past Saturday to that quiet walk I take every Sunday when I accompany the diversity of our church to the altar for Communion. I know there are vast opinions and philosophies from pew to pew, yet we gather each week around the guiding principle of love. Each relationship with Jesus is unique, each level of sinfulness personal, and we are asked to love instead of judge. Loving looks different for each of us.

My efforts to love meant I walked this weekend. I walked for the weird people who walked alongside me, and the vulnerable who couldn’t attend. I walked for those women who disagree with me and I also walked for that teenage girl who may never understand why I walked at all.

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2017                                     www.meaganfrank.com                                        @choosingtogrow