Roughing it is Relative

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We’ve had our first meltdown in the bus.

It happened at midnight two nights ago when Little Sprout couldn’t sleep.

Maybe it was the late-night ice cream she had eaten or the visuals running through her mind of the Jurassic Park movies we had been watching in marathon to prepare for Jurassic World. (no…I am not in the running for mother of the year.) Whatever the case, she was awake and ornery.  In her attempts to get comfortable she disrupted Middle Sprout with her feet, Big Sprout with her whining, and then eventually Pappa and Mamma Sprout had no choice but to intervene. The end result was a run to deliver Big Sprout to his man cave up the hill. Once everyone had their own sleeping space…quiet happened.

Our bus experience is bringing back memories of times when my kids were just babies. Sleeplessness was a regular reality. It’s also a bit reminiscent of living in a house packed for moving.

People struggle when they are tired and cramped and bus living has the potential to provide both sleeplessness and tight quarters…a lethal combination. What I need to remember is that the circumstance is what it is, but if there is going to be a better perspective about the uncomfortable situation, it happens with an attempt to change the energy.

It’s not the space of a place that makes life uncomfortable. It’s not the breaking down of something that usually works, nor the inconvenience of plumbing that is only pretending to be indoor. It’s not the struggles to maintain order when stuff piles in an unorganized way nor the frustrations that come with unpredictable electricity. All of those things are irritating, but what makes something rough more often has to do with reaction and, most specifically in this case, my reaction to my relatives.

I’d love to blame my nine-year-old for being difficult and inflexible, but in truth, I have not reacted well to her emotional expressions. She is simply reflecting most honestly what we are all experiencing. I hope she never loses that raw expression, but I hope I can be a better model for her about how to rise above the circumstances.

What I really need to do is sweeten the water.

At the beginning of our stay here, I was so happy to have attracted hummingbirds to the feeder just outside my bus window. They loved the nectar so much they drained the feeder completely in four days. In my second batch, I must have had too much water to the sugary powder and the hummingbirds barely visited this past week. (another thing I grumbled about under my breath)

This morning, I sweetened the pot. I added more powder and I have enjoyed watching the hummingbirds trill and eat all morning.

After the novelty of our first week in the bus wore off, I let the circumstances and the natural tendencies of my kids discourage me. This morning, I made a decision to keep the pot sweet.

I spent time ruminating over Paul’s reminder about circumstances.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,

whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13)

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This experience will only be as rough as I let it become. There is certainly beauty in difficulty, but there needs to be intention to find it. My goal in the next week is to relate better in all circumstances.

***Photos for this week can be found on my website and they include visits with relatives and ways we are staying busy…outside the bus.*****

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank          Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

The Spaces We Occupy

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Castle sweet castle

Anyone who knows our family’s story knows we have spent the majority of our time unsettled and between spaces. It makes some people who hear about our lifestyle incredibly uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, in fact, that some people hesitate deepening their friendships with us because we are generally planning an exit of some sort.

I hear things like:

“You choose to live like that?”

“You are crazy!”

“I could never do that. It would feel too chaotic.”

I admit, there are parts of what we do for our family of 5.25 (yes, Dickens completely counts!) that are not comfortable. This year, as we camp out in a 45-foot bus I expect we’ll be stretched more than most summers. What I have learned over the years of chaos and disruption is that routine is something man has created to help himself to feel more secure in the world. My habit is to crave and create routines to make my space more comfortable. The reality is that LIFE REALLY HAPPENS when my routines are broken and God tends to lean more toward the disruption of routine to allow growth to happen.

About a week ago, I was living in our beautiful home where the kids each sleep in their own rooms and on their own beds. There are three bathrooms for the five of us and plenty of space to spread out. This morning I drank coffee with my husband on our bed in the back room of the bus, quietly used the bathroom that divides the two living spaces, and then tiptoed through the girls’ beds at the front of the bus to get the dog out for his morning walk. I trekked a few miles on the site grounds and meandered my way past our son’s new single-person apartment that is situated on the top of one of our booths. He spends his nights in his new mancave that is about 1/4 mile away from us. It is a new and temporary routine.

There has been a learning curve to our arrival this summer. It is not unlike other times we have traveled here for my husband’s job, but I am making a point this summer to document the things I learn along the way.

Some things I’ve learned this week:

I learned I need birds to watch out my window and hummingbirds eat a lot of food…once they find the source.

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I learned to cook pizza in a convection oven and how to cut a Papa Murphy’s pizza in half to fit. I learned how to anticipate the slow cooking of a hotplate and some new recipes for the grill. I discovered that with our current ampage I cannot run the A/C, dishwasher and a hairdryer at the same time. I learned that our bus camping is one of the nicest living arrangements on site and there really are people who live in tents…all year…and sometimes not because they choose to do it. I learned that the basic necessities of food, water, shelter, and clothing are enough. The luxuries are running water, a space to do laundry, a private toilet,  a shower, and mattresses up off the ground.

I reconfirmed that exercise in the natural surroundings of Colorado space is among my most favorite things to do in the world.

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I learned that it is not the space that someone occupies that makes my connection with them any less important. A friend of mine, who happens to be just as transient as I am, was in Colorado this past week to visit her family. She will occupy her mother’s space while she visits and we annually connect there or in any myriad of spaces in and around this part of Colorado. It is not the space, but the connection that matters. I confirmed that lesson when I crowded into a room (with more family members than were supposed to be permitted)  to visit my grandmother whose space is currently a hospital bed.

We can choose to spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over the spaces we occupy and the routines we can create there, or we can invest in how we connect and interact with the people who share our spaces.

***If you want to see some of the other pics from the week, I have a posted a slideshow on my website.***

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank          Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

Leaving Home to Go Home

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Probably the last thing I should be doing right now is writing a blogpost, but I’m really supposed to still be asleep. Therefore, all is justified, right?

We leave today for our annual adventure. I am of course thrilled that what splinters my heart in separation from my husband will soon be healed with our reunion, but I have to admit it is quite hard for me to leave this year.

I have fallen in love with our home.

The rooms have only begun to transform into lovely spaces of comfort and I have so much more work I would like to be doing in them.

I will miss the phrases I’ve put up on the walls and the art that records the year of growth for Little Sprout’s artistic expression. I’ll miss my paint projects, photographs, and experiments with candles. I’ll miss my office and the battles I’ve been waging with the bird-feed-stealing raccoon. I’ll miss the blanket of leaves outside each window and the surprising colors of flowers and bushes that push through this time of year. I’ll miss the dappled sunlight that subtly bounces off leaves just outside my morning window and the thrumming of big rainstorms at night.

It’s these elements of home that are impossible to bring with me.

I will miss people as well, but they are allowed to accompany me in the form of texts, emails, Facetime, Facebook updates, etc. And I guess I could actually call them too…

The space of a home is the space of a home… and there is no way to digitize that.

Maybe I’m more reflective this year because the space of our home is about to transform so completely in the next two days. The five of us are preparing to snuggle in tightly in our bus accommodations for the two months of summer. I want to remain mindful and grateful for what will surely be a memorable opportunity.

A good friend of mine (who happens to be RV living with her family of five right now too) told me the two things I need to pack for the lifestyle are patience and a sense of humor. Duly noted.

I also want to pack away a little bit of home too, so I took pictures of my yard this morning so that I can have a digital bouquet when I need it. Appropriately, a deer ran across our cul de sac while I was taking photos.

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flowers from home

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Undoubtedly there will be plenty of beauty and natural experiences as we camp this summer. I too, of course, intend to make our space as homey and comfortable as possible. I plan to catalog (blog) as we go.

I expect I’ll find home there too. It is in fact where my heart has been since April anyway.

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank          Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

Our Christmas Letter: A Celebration of Stories

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Thank you for being a part of our joy.

December 2014

It has been two years since I wrote our holiday letter. A lot can happen in a life in two years and even more can happen in the lives of five people. So, I think it’s best if I try to take a snapshot of where we are these days with a brief recap of how we got here.

I am trying to concentrate on this letter, but I am distracted by the sloppy flakes sloshing down outside my new office window. There hasn’t been snow since Thanksgiving and I am grateful we are headed toward a white Christmas.

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The  office view is among my most favorite parts of the house we bought in Menomonie, WI last spring.

The Story of a House in Town

We moved back to Menomonie (for a third time) in  August of 2013. Pudge accepted the job as the head boys hockey coach for the MHS Mustangs and we planned to settle into a quiet life on the lake. For some reason, the kids insisted on coming with us, and our vision of a quiet, retired life on the water was anything but.

We locked the storage unit with a house’s worth of things and snuggled into the cabin for what we thought was going to be a few months. Becoming lake residents was our plan. Becoming town residents was God’s plan.

We ran into building restriction after building restriction as we worked with architects and the county to obtain permits to upgrade the cabin to make it a house. Who knew how hard it would be to build anything new so close to the water? (we are 35 feet from the shore)

By November we realized the cabin was going to need to remain a cabin and we were probably going to be better off in town. We resigned ourselves to the reality that living a bit closer to all the places we were driving our children was probably not a bad idea. So, the house hunt began.

We fell in love with the house we bought the first time we walked through it right around Thanksgiving. Our original offer fell through and we figured we would have to hunker down for the winter. We had no idea what kind of winter it was really going to be.  “Epic” “Polar Vortex” “The worst winter in nearly 300 years” This was the winter we spent tightly quartered in our one-bathroom-no-dishwasher-no-garage-mice-in-walls-old-furnaced-cabin.

The driveway became glazed with ice just before I ruptured my Achilles Tendon in February. Ice picks on crutches and left-footed driving became the new norm and all the while we bantered back and forth with the home owners about our deep desire to buy their house in town.

We FINALLY made a deal on the house and we were all set to close and move in  April 2nd.

Two days before closing the house suffered a sewage back-up that flooded the entire basement as well as 16 other houses in our neighborhood. Closing delayed, move-in stalled and renovation necessary before we finally unloaded the storage unit we had been renting since the previous June and moved in April 6th.

We LOVE the house and I can honestly say I am completely grateful for the year we had in the cabin. It strengthened all of us through humility. We learned to find gratitude in and through hardship and it certainly changed all of us.

The Stories of the Kids

Nate started high school this year and has adjusted well to the tougher work load and varying activities. He played soccer in the fall, is playing bantam hockey this winter, and continues to sing in the chorus. He plans to work out at the festival for the third year in a row this upcoming summer and he also hopes to visit Seattle this spring. (he pictures himself living there some day…he LOVES cloudy and rainy weather)

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Haley is in seventh grade this year and continues to stay very busy too. She LOVED waterskiing this past summer and has taught herself to get up on one ski. She played volleyball and soccer this fall, is the goalie for the boys’ peewee hockey team, sings in choir, and she just got herself certified through the Red Cross to babysit. She too plans to work for us out at the festival this summer.

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Kiana turned 9 this fall and is in third grade. She had to move schools again, because we moved to town, but she has transitioned really well. Ki likes to tube and kneeboard at the lake, she plays soccer when the grass is showing, is playing hockey this winter on the squirt team (with real games, real offside and real penalties) and is consistently wowing us with her artistic and creative energy.

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Dickens turned 4 and is such a great part of our crew. I do wish he would stop stalking the presents under the tree.

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Our misfit tree (white and multi-colored) so appropriately symbolizes the hectic season of life we are enjoying.

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Our Marriage Story Continues

Pudge and I are doing great. We snuck away to Bayfield and Madeline Island this past fall.

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Pudge continues to work for the RenFest and coach hockey. He completed his Masters in Education last spring and is glad to be done with school work.

I continue to write as often as I can and I have a goal for 2015 to complete a novel I’ve been working on. I am still doing some team building consulting for the women’s hockey team at Hamline University and I write occasionally for the Books Make a Difference magazine. I worked at the festival for my second summer last year and I plan to do it again this upcoming summer. I enjoy all the work I get to do but absolutely most rewarding is my job as a mom.

We hope for all the best for each of you this holiday season and for the coming year. We love visitors and we do hope you’ll consider stopping by if you are in the Northwoods.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and may you live many stories worth sharing!

 

Come Rest Awhile

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Sit with me and rest awhile.

Watch all the leaves fall down.

There is no stopping winds of change,

No silencing the sound.

No way to push back time that ticks

Or changing cold air style.

There is nothing to do at all my friends,

So come sit with me a while.

Writing and Cooking: Creating without Fear

On my stove

My diced potatoes are softening on the stove. I grabbed a pot I think is a stock pot, and in it  I have combined the recipe ingredients I hope will turn into yummy-sounding loaded baked potato soup. Whatever I end up with will be what I serve my family tonight for supper.

On my laptop

There are storylines swirling in my head. Characters are starting to populate my thoughts and I realize in this very moment, I too am in the stage of softening. Fiction writing is a form of letting go for me. I have held my writing so tightly to my chest. Writing for me has been more about editing, revising, controlling, manipulating. The only stories I’ve allowed myself to tell are the real ones because my writing can be legitimized by something tangible. Made-up worlds are foreign to me and I realized today only by letting go will I have anything new to offer the world.

Quote of the day:

Why not go out on a limb, that’s where are the fruit is.

Living Life Unfinished

finishThe dog began to bark and I knew my prep time had come to an end. My visiting friends from Woodbury had arrived, and it was time to take them through our new home. I simply laid down the strawberry slicing knife, ignored the fact things didn’t look quite the way I had imagined they would, and walked to the door.

It took everything in me to pretend I wasn’t bothered by how unfinished I felt. Actually, at this phase in my life, unfinished is the way I feel practically all the time.

My kids are in school full time, have been for years, and I have less finished on a daily basis than I ever did when they were crawling around under my desk.

I used to be able to finish blogposts (edited and polished and ready for the world.) The lives of our growing children has interrupted my finishing. Actually, for quite some time now, I have stopped starting…because I know I will rarely have a chance to finish the way I hope.

We’re not finished with a lot of things around here. We’re not finished emptying out the detached garage that is currently housing those must-move-with-us-but-probably-won’t-ever-unpack boxes. (we moved in April) We’re not finished hanging pictures or shopping for wall art or furnishing rooms that don’t have pieces to fill them. We’re not finished organizing the clutter in the house or training our children in the ways of the world or to pick up their own rooms.

I’m not finished culling through boxes of photographs or organizing my books onto shelves or putting piles of my paper into a functional system. I’m not finished learning how to cook and bake and I’m certainly not finished with so many writing projects that I have energy enough to start but lack time enough to finish.

This is my life

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unpolished

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Before I even had a chance to finish this blogpost I got a text from our oldest. Usually the first sign I will not be finishing what I’m doing.

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Our across-the-street neighbor, who is dying of cancer, has been out nailing and painting his mailbox the last few days. Maybe he is trying to finish it before the weather changes…or he runs out of time. I can only imagine the list of things he hopes to finish in the time he’s given and once again I am challenged by the life being lived across the street by someone whose life is finishing.

Maybe life isn’t about finishing at all. Things are always unfinished, but while I sit waiting… paralyzed to start things I don’t think I can finish well, I miss out on moments that could complete me.

I’ve decided completion doesn’t always look like finishing.

So, I am writing without being able to finish well. Sending my writing into the world is the way my life feels most complete. My new way to write reflects my new way of living…unfinished…unpolished…but unapologetic. Take it or leave it.

Middle Sprout has decided to learn how to play volleyball. Many of the girls had to step out on the court without really knowing how to play. I need to approach life the way a 7th grader approaches a new activity. Sometimes you have to get out there and do what you are not ready to do.  I don’t know how to write without really finishing, but my life demands writing and I’m not really living if I don’t do it the way I can in the moments I’ve been given.

The 3 lessons I’ve chosen to grow through this week:

You have to host before the house is ready.

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You have to serve before you are finished learning how.

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You have to write what comes out in a morning…and post it before it is finished