I Think I’m a Wood Duck…

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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.

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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

 

 

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

Whose Plans are These Anyway?

path on the lakeI laugh at my last two entries. Not the light-hearted giggling “hee, hee, hee” of a little girl, but rather the evil “bwa, ha, ha, ha” of a deranged woman.

Dear Self from Last Year’s Blogposts,

I’ve got news for you sweetheart…stop trying to lay your own life plans!

Yeah, right. You’ll just move into the cabin on a lake and build your dream home. Ha! No problem. Sure, you’ll have a hard time closing doors and packing up boxes, but you are really pretty clueless. You won’t see those things you’ve boxed for practically a year. And, honey, you have NO IDEA what your life journey will look like the next ten months. Just relax, would ya’?  There is plenty to see and hear and learn and NONE OF IT IS IN YOUR CONTROL!!

Let go. Sit still. Oh yeah, and if you refuse…there will be outside forces to take care of that for you.

Sincerely,

The Crazy-eyed Future Version of Yourself (jaded and sarcastic)

Back then…two whole posts ago…I thought things were simple. We would move to a new town, start a new hockey adventure and build a home…hilarious! Before I became hardened to reality, I figured one of the hardest things we would do would be to agree on the color of the kitchen backsplash.

God had other plans for us.

Progression of My Plans            God’s Plans
Work for my husband during the summer and   see him lots Work for my husband, stress with him about a new business…see him 5 minutes a day
Move to the lake and start building a new   house Move to the lake and realize the lake has many building restrictions
Cheer for Big Sprout as he starts playing   soccer again

 

Enjoy Middle Sprout as she blossoms into a young lady

 

Watch Little Sprout leave behind any anxieties she had in a bigger school

Co-coach with hubby for the middle school soccer team just so all the   kids could play

 

Be challenged by the nastiness of pre-teen hormones and attitude

 

Realize that innate anxieties move with you

 

Enjoy the temporary nostalgia of no   dishwasher and one bathroom for 5 of us Extend time in close living quarters through one of the worst winters in   30 years
Enjoy the warmth and coziness of our   cabin on the lake Force close huddling because the furnace goes out
Establish independence in the new town Force dependence when my car dies on the side of the highway in -15   weather
Ok fine…find a house in town and keep the   cabin a cabin You’ll find one, but it won’t be ready for you for a while
Well then should we plan to just make the   cabin as big as we can? You could, but it won’t be all you need
Well I’ll just make the most of it then:   snowshoe, cross-country ski, lakeside yoga Wait a second…you need to rest now. Sit still. You need to heal your   ruptured Achille’s tendon anyway

If I’ve determined anything in the last year it is that God wants creativity and imagination. He knows that it takes energy to create and imagine in chaos and with all we’ve faced this year we have been tapped dry. We could never have had enough energy to do what we’ve been asked to do. So yes, we relied on Him more. And He has come through.

Again and again, we’ve had what we needed.  We are suited for this town and this town is suited for us. They accept our crazy. They may not understand it, but they do accept it. We know now what it is to live in difficult circumstances and we have an appreciation for the many blessings in our lives. We are surrounded by good people who are willing to help us…again, and again, and again.

I am no longer in the planning or predicting mentality. I am resigned to live in the moment.

In this moment, I am sitting on the couch with my driving leg propped on a pillow as the staples work to mend the surgically repaired tendon. The heatless sun is shining on the snow-covered lake and I have time to blog. Time I have not had for months and months. (you poor people!)

I make no predictions about my next post, or my next house. What I know is I have a place to sleep tonight and probably tomorrow. I have food to prepare in the fridge and children to parent this evening. What would be the point of planning out any further than that?

 

                     

Copyright Choosing to Grow 2014                                     www.meaganfrank.com

“Closings” and “Openings” on the Calendar

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Later today we will close the door at our house for the last time. We’ve gently shut many doors this past month, but this one will be the hardest.

The dry-erase calendar in our kitchen has been counting down the days until we pack up our final belongings and head out of town. Over the last few weeks, a number of activities have been listed on that calendar: Move furniture to storage, Concerts, Birthday parties, the last day of school, Middle Sprout’s fifth grade graduation, end-of-year recital and… Final day.

These events mark the closing of an era, of a year of study, and of a year of life.  They needed to be on my calendar. We are meant to acknowledge and grieve the end of things because how else can we be fully open to the beginning and joy of other things.There are doors closing all over the place, but there are equally as many doors opening. So for the big changes in life, we need to mark them on the calendar.

There are other things, however, and arguably the more important things, that aren’t ever listed on a calendar. These are the moments I’ll miss most.

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When you live on a cul-de-sac life happens in impromptu fashion.

Bike gangs emerge, kids gather at the park and kids ask one of my favorite questions: “Can I go see if they can play?”

If it weren’t for the rain outside today, I bet the embers of last night’s cul-de-sac bonfire would still be smoldering in our neighbor’s driveway.

The bonfire, like so many of the other impromptu gatherings that happen in good neighborhoods, was not on the calendar. It came together over the course of the weekend and is the perfect closing for what our time on this street has been.

The night games unfolded in their yard and as the adults stood around chatting, all of the kids, ages 7-17, ran and tagged and fell and laughed. Marshmallows and chocolate melted into sticky gobs and as the eyes of my kids drooped heavily, they resisted going home because they knew what I knew…this was our last impromptu bonfire for a while.944400_10151511412077745_2112992674_n

Bonfires were new to me when we moved to the Midwest. We cannot regularly set fire to things in Colorado, so I hadn’t ever really known the power and draw of a good fire. The cul-de-sac bonfires will be among my favorite memories of living here. It’s magical, quite honestly, and the connection and community that can be sparked around a fire pit is hard to replicate somewhere else.

So last night, I walked somberly from across the street knowing it was the last time I would walk home from an impromptu cul-de-sac bonfire. I know full well it is not the last time I will gather with our friends, but I do know our world, and their movement in it, is about to change considerably. We cannot rely on the freedom of proximity and instead of living moments without a calendar we’ll have to more purposefully use the openings in our calendar to plan ahead.

I hadn’t considered the symbolism of the note I am leaving for the new owners of our house. You’ll notice I wrote it on the dry-erase kitchen calendar.

calendar

It says: Welcome to your new home. You will be happy here. Please make an effort to get to know the amazing people who are your neighbors. You could not be luckier to have people on this street who care so genuinely about one another. We will miss a lot of things about living here, but most definitely what we will miss the most are our awesome friends and neighbors!

                                                                       www.meaganfrank.com

Copyright 2013  Meagan Frank             Choosing to Grow

 

The Difference of Blogging

I am assigned the task of writing about the difference blogs/books have made in my life. I am taking part in a bloghop hosted by the magazine I work for, Books Make a Difference. It’s harder than I thought it would be. I have procrastinated all month, and although I could blame my husband’s annual departure, our impending house sale and move, or the general expectations of my job and child-rearing, it is also true I have not made time to write through this piece.

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Blogging hasn’t always been this way. I used to have to restrain myself from putting out too many blogposts in a week.
Blogging with small children was as necessary as breathing.

I started blogging fall of 2003, and I found the support, encouragement, friendship, wisdom, connection and sounding board I so desperately needed.

That’s what writers do essentially, right? We write to hear an echo back from the world. We write in the hope our words will be important to someone else. Maybe not every writer needs emotional feedback, but I sure did. I was a stay-at-home mom unhappy with having made the deliberate (and seemingly permanent) decision to stay home and raise our children. Motherhood wasn’t what I had expected and I needed to know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

As I grapple with the focused subject of this post I am sitting in the back hatch of my car. My laptop is open on my legs and I am lounging near an elementary school playground . I glance up occasionally to make sure the girls are happily playing and taking frequent breaks to pet the dog. Big Sprout is building his muscles and stamina at a dryland hockey practice at a gym in town and I’m admittedly a bit nostalgic.

I never thought I would be at this point in motherhood.

Over and over again, in the early years of blogging, I’d write about the permanence of motherhood with small children. It was either pervasive frustration, or bouts of hilarity. I’d catch the sprouts teaching me things, and without a classroom to hash out the life-changing reality of the motherhood experience, I decided instead to put my stories out into the world for commentary.

I am most grateful for the commentary.

As I write this, I am watching a young mother with her little boy. He is about the age Big Sprout was when all of this blogging madness started. When I started to blog, Big Sprout was four years old and starting preschool, Middle Sprout was just over a year old, and Little Sprout was merely an idle egg in my ovary. I felt as though life were never going to be any different. Big Sprout turns 13 this month, and long gone is the permanence of mothering small children.

Blogging, instead, has been my permanence.

I was talking with someone yesterday about the shelf we have moved seven times during our marriage. We are preparing to move it again. It is a plain, white, cheap, particle-board bookcase, but it is the most important piece of furniture we own. On one side of the bookshelf there are hand-scrawled marks denoting the height of each of our children at various points in their childhood. If I’m grateful for any of my ideas, I am grateful I made the decision early in their lives to put this record on something portable. I didn’t ever want to have to paint over the marks or leave them behind. I guess that is sortof what blogging has been for me too.

Blogging is my portable marker. I can go back to old posts and I hear the voice of a woman I hardly recognize. I see linkbacks to women who have remained important friends in my journey through writing and motherhood and I can hardly imagine what type of mother I would be without them.

So, what difference has blogging made in my life? Having a space to write through and mark the growth that has happened for our family, and for me personally as a mother, has truly made more difference for me than I have words to explain.

 

Meagan is constantly moving, but you can sometimes catch her these places:


Website:
www.meaganfrank.com

Twitter: @choosingtogrow

Facebook: MeaganFrankAuthor

Email: choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com

 


Copyright 2013                     Meagan Frank                     Choosing to Grow

Washing off Dust with Water

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Let’s pretend that this is new. Better yet, let’s pretend I’m young.

I was okay in the dust when I was younger because I didn’t know about water.

We lived in Monument, Colorado, with a surprisingly arid landscape full of cacti. I had never seen a natural lake.

Dust felt natural.

You and I stood at the indoor balcony of our first house and watched the water pour as a paint bubble down the front, two-story wall. It wasn’t supposed to rain for four straight days. We didn’t believe the compromised roof was going to fail so soon. We tried to call for help, but learned your energy to work was going to fix things faster than any delayed contractor could.

Water started our path through dust.

We renovated that house.  I trod off proudly to my teaching job with signs of your labor carried in lines of dust on my skirts. It was a declaration of home ownership.

It didn’t bother me then.

It didn’t even bother me the other three houses we’ve renovated. It was all part of our young adventure.

I am done with dust.

It has been so messy around here the last few days. Sanding drywall drops a layer of dust that doesn’t really ever go away. I’m certain I have dust from every house we’ve renovated imbedded in my skin… or buried in my ears. Part of me is so ready for the mess to be cleaned, while another part of me knows this phase of our lives is coming to an end.

I have to admit I’m a little sad to see it go.

This last project mimics this past winter and maybe with a new perspective I can avoid bitterness about both. Let’s imagine the story has just begun and the dust settling at our feet is magical instead of maddening.

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Remember the way snow felt at the start of December? Yeah, me too. Now, let’s forget the snow that fell today has come in late March. Instead, let’s relish its freshness.

We’re at the last house renovation. This is the last time you’ll be covered in soot of your own work. From the very first house we’ve owned together, we have raised the dust to bring life to what was dying in some way.  I should embrace gratitude for our dusty story.

That’s why I need to stop myself from cringing with each footprint we leave as we walk through the dusty part we’re mending onto the wood floor we’ve already replaced.

This is it.

This is the layer of dust that, once blown away, will reveal the calming center of where we’ve been aiming to be.

A house on a lake…imbedded into a shoreline with humid leaves for blankets.  It’s not the dust-filled, wide open potential of a Pike’s Peak view, but it is the calmest place we’ve been able to imagine together that will let the dust of our crazy lives finally settle.

www.meaganfrank.com                                                              

Copyright 2013    Meagan Frank                          Choosing to Grow

Feeling Grief…Embracing Joy

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“They only have two hours of childhood left.”

It was this fleeting comment by a woman in Newtown, CT yesterday that has rendered me useless. I cannot shake her distraught and heart-broken expression as she explained to the rolling cameras that she was across town to console her friends while delaying the pick-up of her own children. She wanted her kids to enjoy their innocence for just a few hours more.

I sat with the same dilemma while at my desk in Minnesota. I sobbed at the overwhelming loss. At the grief that enveloped my every thought.  I longed to hold my children, to grab their precious faces in my hands and gaze endlessly into their bright little eyes. I knew they would come home from their school-days without a clue about what unfolded in horrific fashion hundreds of miles away, and all I wanted was to stop the vicious clock from ticking.

The clock is the problem, you know. We know all childhood, all innocence, all life will inevitably end, but we hate the truth of that. We pine for more joy than grief as we’re living, and we hurt so much for the children because they are our balance between hope and loss.

When my 12-year-old bound in the door, I greeted him in the kitchen and held him. We embraced in silence until he mumbled into my shoulder, “You alright mom?” “No” I explained and pulled back to make eye contact with him. He had heard some rumblings, and we talked about the news, and the horror, and the overwhelming feelings of grief, anger, sadness, confusion, and despair.

He knew better than to give me away when I hugged his sisters just as hard.

The girls are in fifth and first grades. They are who I picture cowering in closets or hiding in cupboards, and I was hopeful they would stay unaware for quite a while.

I knew the fifth grader would eventually catch on, and when she asked me about an Instagram photo she saw, my heart gently splintered. Our first-grader still doesn’t know, but I can hear that deafening click of the clock hand.

While I cannot help but to consider something will have to be done about this…measures will have to be taken…forward movements will need to be made, there remains this space of time that needs to be lived too.

It brings me to another scene I watched unfold this week reminding me that where grief exists, joy can too.

Most weekdays, about 2:30 in the afternoon, I watch a young man arrive at the house across the street to visit the teen-aged daughter who lives there. Most days he gets his crutches out of the car and slowly makes his way to the front door.

The young man’s name is Zach Sobiech, and he is a 17-year-old boy who is dying from cancer. His ticking clock is loud, and he hears it, but he has made a conscious decision to live in spite of it.

The last few weeks he has been in the news for a song he wrote to say good-bye to his friends and family. 

I can never watch the video dry-eyed and I think of the grief and the loss for this boys’ family and for his girlfriend, Amy.

Then Zach gave me a gift of joy I will never forget.

One sunny and somewhat unseasonably warm day this week, I noticed Zach out of his car. His crutches were sticking out of the snow, and he picked up snowballs and threw them. He launched one down the street, one at his car, and he threw a few gently down at his feet. He walked painfully, without his crutches, over to the snowplowed pile of snow in the middle of the cul-de-sac. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He picked up another few snowballs, and after throwing them, he made his way back to the drive.

A silent tear streaked down my face and I said to my husband, who had turned from his work to watch Zach too, “he’s just a kid playing in the snow.”

The next snowball he grabbed was cupped and hidden behind his back as his attention obviously moved from what he was doing to something down the street. Amy’s car pulled into the driveway, and it was apparent he was readying himself for a surprise attack.

The driver’s door opened and when Amy realized the plan, she quickly shut it. He raised his empty hands in innocence, and Amy made her way out of the car. It wasn’t long before the two of them were in the powder of the yard.  Zach arm-swiped the snow toward Amy first, and she quickly returned fire. She approached him laughing and he offered her a hug. They embraced for a moment in the sun-kissed snow, and then she let him slowly pull her down into the snow with him. They splashed each other with powder and I found myself breathlessly smiling and crying in the same glorious moment.

Life is full of triumph and tragedy, celebration and sorrow, joy and grief. It is only what we choose in even the smallest moments that define the lives we live. There will be those who rise in anger about what happened in Newtown…there will be those who rise in action…and there will be those who will be unable to rise for quite some time.  There’s no telling how we’ll react until we are in any particular moment.

In this moment, in my small kitchen in Minnesota, I hear the girls making play-doh worlds to the backdrop music of some boy band. There is a clock ticking in the background, but maybe my job as their mom is not to do what I can to keep them in an ephemeral childhood, but rather to embrace the fleeting moments, and to throw myself into that proverbial pile of snow to make snow angels any chance I get.