9/11 Led Us to The Park

WWP

If you were old enough, you remember where you were the day planes crashed into buildings and the world changed forever.

I was shaken awake by my husband at the news we were under attack. “We”: our small nuclear family of three, thousands of miles away from actual destruction, death, and chaos. Yes, “we” were under attack.

What we believed about the world was no longer true. How we trusted goodness and leaned into love was challenged to the absolute core. I’ve never felt more a part of that larger “we” than I did with the events of that horrible day.

Maybe I had no right. I had walked away from the TV images and taken our then one-year-old son to the empty and silent playground at a park in Castle Rock, Colorado. No one was there playing. No one was laughing, or swinging, or chasing, or sliding. No planes flew overhead and yet in that silent stillness I felt this guttural connection to the contrast of noise: the sirens, the roar of collapsing buildings, and the screams of terrified people.

What I discovered at that playground is that we stop living when we’re under attack.

The trajectory of life changed for a lot of people on that day, and our family was no exception.

Later that fall, on a road trip back from Minnesota I asked my husband whether he felt like our lives were purposeful. Lots of people asked that question in the wake of 9/11 and those who spent time truth-seeking found unique and various answers. Some felt called to rush to the scene as helpers. Others felt the need to take up arms and physically defend against other possible attacks. Some moved home. Some set off to see the world. Some got married. Some made babies. Some made art. And some, feeling utterly useless otherwise, set out to the park.

No matter what our next steps were, we all had to step into a brand new world.

The attack changed us. For those who honestly sought guidance to return to truth and purpose, I have watched in so many beautiful ways how the gaping hole of 9/11 has planted gorgeous outgrowth in response.

It certainly happened for me and my husband. It has been a slow-growing and unexpected revelation but we did keep earnestly seeking in pursuit of the one thing that felt like our battle against attack. After eighteen years, we have landed at The Park.

I will spend time in upcoming blogposts writing about how this story has unfolded for us,  but here is a glimpse of the destination we didn’t even know we were pursuing. It is a testament to the power of faith and proof that goodness and love remain. No attack can diminish them.

WOODWIND PARK VIDEO

 

Meagan Frank Copyright 2019

 

Choose a Territory of Love

I was on the ground in four states yesterday, flying from Colorado to Arizona to Minnesota and then shuttling to Wisconsin. I’ll do the trip backward tomorrow, without the annoying Phoenix connection.

It’s how I roll this time of year.

On the weekends, I sleep in an RV bus. I spend my time wandering around a foothill in Larkspur, Colorado, listening to minstrels and bagpipes, and marveling at people willing to spend hours on makeup and costumes, some of whom get paid to do it.

Then I pop home a few times during the week and find scenes like this one, unfolding in my kitchen.

https://www.instagram.com/tv/BzNjUruAWDo/?igshid=qw3vprkum1r5

With a six-hour solo travel day on planes and in airports, it’s impossible not to people watch (and listen).

I’ve decided something important. No matter where you are, or with whom, you choose your territory. It goes with you and you have so much more choice about the territory you carry than most people realize.

If you watch the video long enough, you’ll see my neighbor’s cat pop in the window, sidling up to the music. His owner is away house sitting as she prepares to build a house next door to the one she sold. The vet told her to leave Frank, the cat, in his territory because cats are more tied to territories than people.

I’m not sure I totally buy that because I know Frank absolutely adores my neighbor and I think the rest of the neighbors he visits make the territory he roams a loving one. He has been a stray for part of his life, but navigates by seeking out the support he needs. Without loving people, I don’t think Frank would stay in this territory. He certainly has the demeanor to attract loving people and maybe that’s the sort of territory the vet meant. Cat’s create their territories by how they come into an area.

So, today, no matter where you are, or with whom you are navigating the spaces you occupy, I challenge you to imagine the most loving territory you can, and bring it with you everywhere you go.

Copyright 2019 Meagan Frank

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

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

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.

woods 2

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