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                                             

 

Roughing it is Relative

IMG_1494

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)

IMG_1612

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                                             

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

13 Lessons I’ve Learned While Being Your Mom

nate fishing picture

Today is Big Sprout’s 13th birthday, and this letter is for him.

Dear Big Sprout,

I started out the morning by writing my annual man-you’re-getting-so-big-I-can-hardly-believe-the-time-is-going-so-quickly blogpost. It is never an easy post to write, but today’s was especially difficult.

Just after dropping you off at school, I learned Zach lost his battle with cancer this morning. Actually, out of respect for Zach I want to amend that statement. Like he said in this Soul Pancake video, My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech, he wants to be remembered as “the kid who went down fighting and didn’t really lose.” There is nothing about Zach’s story that says cancer won.

I cannot get Zach and his friends and family off of my heart today nor can I stop thinking about life and your own movement through it. I struggle to keep from imagining what it must be like to be the mother of such an incredible son and to watch him slip away.

We mothers have to do that, you know. In little ways with each passing birthday, when milestones come and go, when college creeps up and marriages happen. We have to let go a little at a time and sometimes, in heartbreaking fashion, what seems like all at once.

Today you’re asked to share the day with Zach. A celebration and a reminder to live life purposefully. To learn as you go and to make the biggest difference possible.

I’m not sure what it is you’ve learned in your 13 years here, but I have a list of a few things I’ve learned from you along the way. Inspired by a recent interview with Jim Higley at www.bobbleheaddad.com, I have compiled a list of some of the lessons I’ve learned from being your mother.

There is such a thing as love at first sight.

I fell in love with you the minute I saw you. It was an overwhelming sensation I had not expected. Don’t tell your dad, but you were the one and only boy I have ever fallen in love with at first sight.

Babies fingernails are hard to cut, and sometimes the pain kids feel comes from a mom who tries too hard.

I vividly remember cutting your fingernails for the first time. (or rather filing because oh my gosh are you kidding… baby nails bend so unnaturally… yet they cut through steak?!?) I filed too closely and your finger bled and you cried. (harder than usual) Trying hard and caring deeply doesn’t make my attempts at motherhood perfect, it just makes the mistakes that much more painful. For both of us.

It’s awesome watching a kid touch grass for the first time. (and all the other firsts he gets to do too)

The joy in your smile when you felt grass for the first time was something I’ll never forget. It is a privilege to witness people’s firsts, and it is worth celebrating each and every one.

Toddler boys don’t sit for story time. (and that’s ok)

Chasing you through the library when I had envisioned a pleasant toddler story time taught me that I need to pay attention to who you are in the moment…and to let go of the made-up version living in my head.

Big brothers can be kind.

You have shattered my expectation that all big brothers are mean to their little sisters. I’ve learned that compassion can come in big brother bodies.

There are scary things in the world and praying is a good defense. 

When you brought me over to the rock pile to show me the black widow you had wisely decided not to touch, I realized I would never be able to watch everything you do nor would I be able to protect you from every harm. It’s true that sometimes I just need to lean harder on my belief that you don’t really belong to me… God has you in the palm of His hand.

People want to feel important.

Someone once told me you were like the mayor of preschool. You knew all the kids names and you would regularly inquire about their well being. Not much has changed since you were four and you’ve taught me a positive way to live is to try to make other people feel important.

Determination comes from within and parents have the power to damage the naturally determined kid. 

When you were five and you refused to stop spinning to catch a tennis ball I had encouraged you to drop-spin-and-catch I learned that you take parental pressure way too seriously. I’ve learned to let you lead the way since.

It is important to listen to stories. Dreams and wishes live there.

Walking into your school conference for first grade, you confided you had made up a story that was supposed to have been true. You said shyly, “I might have written that we have lived in Hawaii and we have a dog named Hunter.” You were reeling from a new baby in the house and your made-up story reminded me how important imagination can be. That… and you really wanted a dog.

Singing is cool.

When you and I were locked out on the balcony of a mountain condo for a few hours, we passed the time by huddling in my jacket and singing any song we could think of. You haven’t stopped singing since and I think it is one of the coolest things you do. Other things will come and go in your life, but music is forever.

It’s important to teach a man to fish…no matter the weather.

There was a time when you felt incredibly uncomfortable being alone. Since finding your peace in fishing, you have calmed that unsettled energy. You’ve taught me to celebrate rain and cold and to relish time outside alone.

Thirteen-year-olds are pretty awesome.

They may wear headphones, laugh at crude jokes and flip their hair to get the flow, but they are loveable and I enjoy being with them.

And finally,

Letting go, in even small ways, is hard…really, really hard. But when we carry something with us, we’re eternally tied to something bigger.  

What comforts me, and what I hope will be of comfort to Zach’s friends and family who are having to let go, is the light that Zach has left for us to carry.  Life is a series of lessons and we are meant to learn from experiences and from people. Lessons are the lights we pass to one another. Zach was very intentional about his light. He carried a huge flame through his short life and he managed to light millions of candles along the way.

Son, you are challenged to carry with you a light from this shared day with Zach. You are challenged to take in all the lessons you are meant to learn and to pass on a light of your own to as many people as you can convince to carry it.

I love you more than I can adequately express and I truly hope this is a birthday you will never forget.

Love,

Mom

Connected through Books…Related by Blood

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“Hello. This is Meagan Frank from Books Make a Difference. I was hoping to connect with you this morning for the interview, and now I’m wondering whether I have the wrong time. I’ll try back in an hour in case I had not accounted correctly for the time zones. Thanks. I do look forward to talking with you soon.”

“She’s not there?” My husband asked from his adjacent desk that sits less than five feet away from me. He seemed hesitant to break the ordered silence. I had shushed him and built up the importance of the phone call, and as I relaxed from my interview posture, I turned toward him.

“I don’t get it,” I said,”I could have sworn this was when we rescheduled it. Maybe she got hung up with something, or she’s still not feeling well.”

I re-checked our email exchange…an ironic part of the whole story…and felt assured that I had at least remembered the appointment the way she and I had set it. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself.

I had looked so forward to my interview with Susan Maushart, and now I was wondering whether it was going to happen at all.

I left my ringer on and headed to the kitchen. I had managed to ignore the morning mess in my preparation for the call and now I found myself walking aimlessly through the room with an unsettled energy. What I did next made me laugh out loud. I went to the laundry room and took out the broom and dustpan. I started sweeping my way through the minutes of waiting.

“How ironic,” I thought, “I’m waiting to get connected to Susan Maushart to talk to her about her book The Winter of Our Disconnect and I start doing Wifework.”

It was in the pages of Wifework where I first came to know about Susan’s work. I don’t remember exactly how I grabbed her book off the library shelf in Monument, Colorado, but it was one of the titles I took home during my rather aimless search to save our marriage. That book became the source of one of the biggest fights my husband and I have ever had. She had the research and the data that explained part of my malaise and frustration in our marriage. I was doing too much of the work around the house, and it was not the work I really wanted to be doing. When I brought up this fact to my husband, I think it included the slamming of a basket of laundry and a launched pair of socks. Laundry has never been the same in our house since.

I was telling people about this eye-opening book, and I think it was at a family gathering I learned she and I are relatives. Somewhere far up the family branches on my grandfather’s side of the tree, (if I’m reading the family tree branches correctly) her great-grandmother and my great-great-grandmother were sisters. I like to think it might be a partial explanation for the way her work resonates so completely with me.

So when the editorial team for Books Make a Difference was meeting to discuss possible stories for the magazine, I mentioned Susan’s latest project that included unplugging herself and her three teens from electronics for six months.

The story was approved, and I set out to connect with her via Facebook, email, website…and eventually smartphone. Hmm.

When I called her back the hour following my first attempt, she and I laughed about the fact she had not picked up the phone because she hadn’t recognized the number on the caller id. As I worked through the interview questions, I remained cognizant of the cosmic connection of both books and blood. I remain grateful for both. You can see the resulting article here: “Susan Maushart: Living Deliberately by Unplugging“.

In another time and place our paths would likely never have crossed. She jets back and forth from New York to Australia, and I flit from midwest town to midwest town landing regularly in Colorado for the summers. I probably would have found all her books on a library shelf eventually. Maybe we would have bumped elbows at a family reunion, but I am fairly certain if we had crossed paths in some other way, we would have somehow ended up connecting deeper through books too.

                         

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Copyright 2013     Choosing to Grow                         Meagan Frank