A Letter…On Senior Night

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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

Rallying for Life…as Women March

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“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

Rain Running:Tracking Life Moments

IMG_4816I ran in the rain yesterday. On purpose.

I hobbled home in a downpour. Because I had to.

For two glorious miles, I sucked humid air into my lungs, celebrated streams of warm rainwater on my face, wrung out my weighted t-shirt, and listened to the birds sing in the patter. I smiled the entire time. I rejoiced in how far I’ve come that a recreational run in the rain evokes complete gratitude. I relished the fact that fullness of life is possible in such simple, pleasant moments.

Two steps before turning around to head home, a shooting pain in my left calf, the leg that I’ve so carefully guarded because it still has an intact Achilles tendon, literally stopped me mid-stride. Staring back down the path from where I had come, I was in a new moment. A moment of pain, a moment of consideration about my new reality, but unbelievably still a moment of sustained gratitude. I’ll get to that later, because I did have to head back down the joyful path that had taken me there, but with painfully, slow progression.

Half a lifetime ago, none of what I experienced yesterday was possible.

When I was a senior in college, and preparing to graduate, I turned down an invitation to walk in the rain. What I believed about such activities was that it was useless. What was productive about a walk in the rain? It has taken me decades to learn what my college roommate apparently already knew: striving, achieving, and controlling is not living. Living is being present in a moment…no matter what that moment might be.

Maturity and children are responsible for chipping away at the version of myself that was too driven to live well.

I now gauge my progression through life on experiences that involve my kids too.

I told my sixteen-year-old yesterday, as I set my phone and headphones down on the desk, that I was leaving them behind because I didn’t want them to get too wet.

“I’m headed to the stop sign at the end of the path, so at least you know where I was running if I get abducted,” I told him.

He smiled, amused, and then went back to watching whichever show he had pulled up on his phone.

Part of the joy I experienced the first half of my run, before pain interrupted my thoughts, was the recollection of another rain run I had nine years ago.

Nine years ago, my children were six, four and one. We were planning another move, from Menomonie to Woodbury this time, and my husband was already in Colorado for his six-week spring stint. I had had one of those days and all I needed was a good, hard workout. By the time I got the kids to bed, it was lightly raining and, when I looked outside, I decided I was in need of a cleansing run.

The decision to run around the circle road just outside our townhouse was a selfish one. I needed independence from the responsibilities of children. I needed a moment to myself. So, I ran. I ran around and around the circle, glancing at the front door of the townhouse each time. I was drenched and filled with endorphins by the time it was done. I bounded in the door and what stopped me in my tracks that day was the immediate visual of my worried six-year-old on the phone with his arm around his scared younger sister.

“Oh, she’s right here,” he said and extended the phone to me.

“Hello?” I breathlessly answered.

“Yes, ma’am, this is the 9-1-1 operator. Your son called us because he couldn’t find you.”

“Oh, I’ve just been outside,” I said, “I’m right here.” Panic replaced my runner’s high.

“Well, we’ve already dispatched a unit to your home, he will be there in a minute or two.”

I managed to adequately explain to the officer my son’s seeming abandonment was a misunderstanding and the disheveled nature of a house littered in moving boxes was totally normal. The situation must have looked as desperate as I felt in that moment. I was a young mother still striving to be productive and willing to traipse my family around the country to achieve something I have since discovered is too elusive to actually attain.

So, yesterday, as I stood dripping at the end of my path, I reached into my pocket for a phone to call my newly-licensed son. I could still walk, but it was a struggle with a fully-cramping calf, and I thought it would be easier if he could drive to pick me up. It took me a moment to realize, I didn’t have my phone.

My slow and methodical walk back in the pounding rain gave me time to enjoy how far I’ve come. I may be outrunning the abilities my body once enjoyed, and my kids may no longer see a brief absence as an emergency, (actually no one even really noticed how long I was gone yesterday) but I am finally in a place where I can gratefully experience the moments I’m given. No matter whether the moment is filled with joy and smiling or pain and grimacing, life’s moments are meant to be relished.

If I could go back to the college-version of myself I would tell her to go walk in the rain. And to my future self I want to tell her: run if you can, walk when you must, and when time takes from you the independence to do either on your own, find the people who will stand or sit with you in a rainstorm.

 

(for those of you wondering…it’s just a calf cramp…I should be fine:))

                     

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2016                                     www.meaganfrank.com

Weeds are Growing in our Woods

woods“You know what’s growing in your woods, don’t you,” our affable neighbor said quietly as he stood paused at his bird feeder that sits in a cleared area of the land between us.

I had ventured over to that side of our yard to do some cleanup in the unusually warm weather.

He and I had already exchanged pleasantries and I was somewhat nervous he would bring up the rather large tree that had fallen from our side of the woods onto downed trees on his side of the woods. I was certain our tree had taken out a bunch of his trees during the hidden summer months and we were going to have a talk about that.

“No,” I looked up from the bag of leaves I was filling, “but I’m guessing it’s not good?” I smiled genuinely, hoping I didn’t appear anxious.

He walked gently over to the edge of the woods on our property. The property  I had been meticulously manicuring for the past several weeks right up to the line of woods where he now stood. I had been leaf blowing, mowing, raking, leaf blowing some more, mowing again, and admittedly pushing some of what seemed like leaf litter into said woods.

He waved his hand pointing over a swath of ground and said, “All of that green foliage…that’s buckthorn.” I looked in the direction he was pointing and all I saw was green foliage. “It’s invasive and you don’t want that.”

For what I had considered about the woods, I had admittedly paid little to no attention to what was actually growing there. All I knew was that the woods could blanket the “lawn” part of our yard with more leaves in one day than I think I saw in my entire childhood in Colorado. The woods provide great shade in the summer, fun hiking days all year long and, no matter the day, they seem the perfect haven for the birds, squirrels, deer and turkey I love watching.

“Oh my gosh! I had no idea. ALL of that green is bad?” I looked deeper into the woods realizing that there were a lot of shrubs still clothed in vibrant green and a stark contrast to the dulled and muted autumn hue of browns and maroons.

“Yep, it gets just about everywhere, and it is tough to fight. I’m not really an ecologist, but I know it screws up the wildlife.”

I was immediately saddened that I hadn’t been fighting the fight I should have been.

I apologized profusely, got advice about battling the botanical beast and continued to survey with my eyes the war I was going to need to wage for the rest of the time my husband and I live in this house. War with something, up to that point at least, I had no idea was even growing in our yard.

OUR MARRIAGE ACCORDING TO PLANTS

THE YUCCA FACTOR

yuccaThe very first home my husband and I owned was situated at the top of a hill in the arid, high desert of Monument, Colorado. Spectacular views of the mountains, but not much in the way of plants. A pair of small pine trees grew on that lot and practically nothing else. It was a familiar landscape for me, but unfamiliar and boring for my Midwest husband who had been accustomed to blossoming plants by the lakes and vibrant northwoods.

“You mowed the yucca plants?” I yelled at him as he rolled our battered lawn mower into the garage.

“Those things will not mow down,” he said as the mower hummed to a stop and he and I stood looking at the frayed and mangled remnants of the yucca plants in our backyard xeriscape.

“They’re not meant to be mowed down.” I said with resignation, “They are plants that grow here.”

“Oh,” he shrugged, “I didn’t know that.”

Yucca plants are spiky and resilient, but admittedly not the prettiest plant on the planet. My husband’s tendency is to cut ugly to the quick and start over. I like to sit with ugly a bit longer and determine what I’m meant to learn.

At that point in our marriage we were trying to figure out how to let even unattractive truths flourish. We had to acknowledge the naturally occurring plants, before we could create fertile ground for anything else.

It was in Colorado I had to choose to grow: through our marriage. It was on the backdrop of sandy hills covered with spiky plants that I desperately needed something to grow…or at least to learn how to let things grow the way they were meant to.

With a number of fits and starts, we started a conversation about how we would both grow best and our transition to the Midwest began.

THANK YOU FOR MY BOUQUET OF DANDELIONS

Our yards here in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been home to plenty of naturally occurring plants as well as the purposeful landscaping of the families who lived in those spaces before us. I learn about a new plant every year.

Our Woodbury house needed major dandelion maintenance, yet we were at the point in our marriage when children required more time and care than I could possibly devote to deweeding my front yard.

I was tempted to craft a sign to post in the front yard: “Don’t mind the weeds…we are growing children” but I didn’t have time for that either.

BACK TO THE BUCKTHORN

This new phase in our marriage is a tricky one. We seem to have the yard in order. We’ve learned to maintain the landscaping, our children are of age where child labor is considered appropriate, and I am proud of our lawn. It’s manicured and it looks like we care about it as much as we do.

On the surface I suppose our marriage is similar. We’ve got the children toting and schedule coordinating down. We have worked out the rhythm as we move in and around each other through a year. It’s very easy to let the marriage run on cruise control and ride out the remaining years of our children being home. The problem is, if we ignore the buckthorn growing in the woods, we will soon be overrun. It chokes out other plants and an inattention to marriage maintenance does the same thing.

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Maybe it’s age issues. Maybe it’s battling through self-worth or lifelong goals. Maybe it’s tackling fears or pursuing joy. Without intention, I’m not sure we really ever know the truth about ugly things that have a chance to grow when they go unchecked. Ignoring the maintenance we need to keep doing at this point in our marriage is easier than pulling out buckthorn that only he and I (and an observant birder next door) knows is there. It’s not a quick fix, and I’m fairly certain there will always be buckthorn. Making a decision to continue to pull it out is our best chance to encourage anything beautiful to grow and flourish. It’s in our best interest to start now.

We’ll have enough time to sit with this ugly and work through cutting it down to the quick together. What an advancement in our marriage!

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank                           Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

 

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                                             

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.

IMG_7326ki hockeyki elf outfit

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!

 

Walking in Dad’s Shoes by Sitting in a Cast

cast and crutches

Injuries mean a loss of independence. It is a loss of the way life has been and a miserable process of acceptance that life is not in our control. This particular injury is providing even further enlightenment I hadn’t expected.

It’s a joke, really, that we have control in our lives. The truth is we can’t control ANYTHING! We can’t control freak injuries or illness. We can’t control procrastination in others or a lack of attention to detail. We can’t control whether people around us want to do the things we ask of them and we certainly cannot control whether they go about doing those things with a smile. We can do things to influence others, but we really don’t control any of it.

I try though. I see tendencies in myself to fill when I’m hurting. Fill by achieving something, fill with food or booze. I am my father’s daughter that way I guess. I find a temporary relief in “feeling” full. I have approached my many injuries as an opportunity to fill with something else.

This injury I am not maintaining the full…I am purposefully emptying instead. Except for one day a week I am restricting sugar, carbs, caffeine, and alcohol. I was scheduled to do a 28-day cleanse starting the day after my injury, so I know God intended for me to endure this injury empty. The process has been eye-opening and HARD.

I don’t like having lost independence. The ice makes it REALLY hard to get around outside of our house. I have taught myself to drive left footed, but I am incredibly hesitant to go any place where I will have to park the car and crutch on the slick surface more than 100 feet.  It is a scary deathtrap and it will stay that way until the temperatures start to rise.

So I’m dependent upon help. Needing help, asking for help and accepting help is getting easier for me, but it is still a struggle. The bigger problem this time around is the struggle with my kids. They have had a hard time transitioning from kids depending on mom to mom depending on kids. And I’m not doing well with helping them. It’s not moving quite fast enough and I’m admittedly frustrated. My dependency needs were immediate and their willingness to pick their heads up from various electronic devices hasn’t happened in quite the way I had imagined it would. They are acting like, well, kids!

This is it. This is what my dad battled, isn’t it? He got to a monotonous part of his life and was struck down by a torn Achilles tendon. He denied the injury for so long he ended up in a much worse place than he would have been: a full-leg cast and weeks of immobility. He could control nothing when he thought he was controlling everything.

He lived in a house with four children (some of whom were similar ages to my kids) who were slipping out of his control too. They were at an age of their own independence and it was excruciating to watch from the couch. All he wanted to do was get up and drive somewhere…anywhere. He couldn’t. He was stuck. He was stuck in a life that wasn’t meant for football gods from small-town Nebraska. He saw he was in a life out of his control: the one that included the 9-5 (or 9-9) job as an attorney with a wife and kids. Those kids… god, 3 of the 4 of them were girls too. What use were they anyway? None of them could even play football or replicate even a small version of his football story. They played soccer: that sissy sport with sissy rules that were worth arguing about with those men who called themselves refs. And his son, well, football wasn’t going to be for him either. He was too cerebral, too much of a dreamer, too naturally gentle to be the reflection of anger and aggression that was filling him.

I wonder whether he ever gazed at himself in the mirror during those dark days. Did he make eye contact with himself and see the demons rising from within? I would bet it was too hard for him to look.

I don’t know that a torn Achilles tendon threw him over the edge, but when he tore the other one playing touch football, it was the start of an unraveling no one could have predicted. Two torn Achilles tendons in 18 months would be a lot for anyone to handle, but if you are struggling to understand the worth of your life, it would be devastating.

I am having a chance to see, firsthand, how truly tough this immobility can be at this stage in life. It may only be 10 weeks, but currently sitting in the middle of it, I can attest to the bouts of frustration, anger, sadness, self-pity and questioning.

Injury is temporary but aging is permanent.

He must have come to that conclusion too. Did he start to wonder whether all the hard work was worth it when he was facing an ugly truth: he was just as mortal as the next guy? His accolades didn’t matter as much as everyone had told them they would, and he was starting to realize it. There was one thing he could control though. No one could tell him to stop drinking if they never saw him do it. His next greatest achievement was hiding that from everyone.

families where grace is in place

My cleanse has been perfectly timed. Also well-timed is a book club book I am reading called Families Where Grace is in Place by Jeff VanVonderen. VanVonderen is one of the intervention counselors featured on the compelling A & E series Intervention. One particular section of the book describes an inner circle of self and an outer circle of self. The inner circle can only be filled by God’s grace and love and the acceptance that who we are is enough. The outer circle is the one we create (and fill) to make us feel as though we are complete.

Maybe no one told my dad that he mattered without things or achievements. Maybe they tried, but he didn’t listen. He had been filling his emptiness and neediness with accomplishments and accolades his entire life. He thought covering up shame again and again would be enough.

He probably never considered that God might be waiting with the news that who he is…is enough.

Emptying needs to be happening for me right now. There is plenty to learn and work through for myself and with my children. “Filling” would only keep me from the great work I’ve been tasked to complete.

                     

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2014                                     www.meaganfrank.com