Life at the End of the Road

We’ve hit a dead end. All of us. It’ll be disorienting for a while, but I believe we can, and must, learn to live well at the end of the road.

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This was an actual surprise dead-end we found trying to get our drive-thru shamrock shakes back to the family.

It is likely your end-of-the-road is not exactly like our family’s new and literal end-of-the-road home, but I know we are all sitting in a similar place right now.  An unexpected end has happened for all of us in one way or another. I am admittedly unsure how the road will open up again, but I am confident of one thing: Hope IS on the other side.

Our family of five is huddled in our newly-almost-fully-renovated-three-and-a-half-bedroom-one-bathroom lake house at the end of a road. Rough, I know. Our twenty-year-old is home from college for the semester and our high schooler has resigned herself to the real possibility she’ll spend the rest of her senior year at the end of this road. The eighth-grader thought she’d have this place pretty much to herself, but that is not the case for the foreseeable future. Not much of our move here has gone how I sensed it should, but in the strangest sense of all, it feels like exactly where we are supposed to be.

What if that is the truth for everyone? What if your hard stop is intended for difficult reflection, a reset of priorities, a shift in perspective you never considered you’d need to do?

People tend to fear endings so much, but the more I let myself look at them, the more I believe we are meant to live as fully in our endings as in any other part of our lives. Bring faith to all of it: beginning, middle, and dead/ final ends.

Over a decade ago, I had a premonition I would meet my end at this lake house.

The first night we stayed in our then-run-down little cabin, my husband went out to buy supplies. I had tucked our three small kids into bed and as I stood waiting at the window for him to return, I became awash with fear. I felt so uneasy in the unfamiliar, dimly-lit kitchen and I was overwhelmed by the thought of one thing: mortality. It was a feeling more than it was a word. I thought, “he’s not coming back tonight.” I was sure of it. The nervous energy ushered in an almost paralyzing fear. I was compelled by this feeling enough to write myself a letter to make record. He did come back and I quickly pivoted the admission that the feeling of mortality probably applied to me. It was like the certainty I felt after my husband kissed me goodnight and I knew we’d be married. I simply knew ends at this lake house would happen.

I still believe in that truth. Maybe the COVID-19 world shift is the end I sensed or maybe I’ll meet my actual end here, but no matter what, I’m not afraid of it like I used to be. You’d think knowing what I do about this place, I would try harder to avoid it. That’s what I would do if I wanted fear to carry me. Faith-filled choices carry us too, and without resistance sometimes that means we head right back to face the fears we spend most of our lives avoiding.

The crazy thing is, simultaneous to the thoughts of endings at this lake house,  my husband and I have followed a compulsion to live here and pursue plans to build The Park. Each day we wake up, we’ll continue to work toward that. I do sense, in these crazy times, I should be doing something else too.  The Park, like this house, sits at the end of a road. (sorta think that’s not a coincidence) I feel a new calling to photograph and blog about how we attempt to live life fully while we wait at the #endoftheroad.  I’ll post those photos and musings on my Instagram and Facebook pages.

soft white grass

For those of you wrangling with the difficulties you have today and the anticipated discomfort yet to come, I am sincerely sorry you have landed where you never intended to travel. I do believe the end of the road is not to be feared, however, and instead sits waiting in invitation to remind us that hope, faith and love are real things that deserve our attention in beginnings, middles and endings.

When all else fails, look to the children. Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite poets as a kid. This morning as I walked and photographed the space of our property at the end of the road, inspired by a photographer who posts pictures regularly from somewhere on his eighty acres, I thought about Silverstein’s poem Where the Sidewalk Ends. Without knowing why I loved it as a kid, rereading it today reminded me that I loved it because he highlights the hope that exists because of children. They are a hope we can look to as we wait at the end of the road for the other hope we know is coming.

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends

And before the street begins,

And there the grass grows soft and white,

And there the sun burns crimson bright,

And there the moon-bird rests from his flight

To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black

And the dark street winds and bends.

Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow

We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And watch where the chalk-white arrows go

To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,

And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,

For the children, they mark, and the children, they know

The place where the sidewalk ends.

Meagan Frank

Copyright 2020

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

 

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

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

Where’d You GO? wednesday, and …

I know I missed a Where’d You Grow Wednesday?  Actually two. And, I am sad to admit, this is only the beginning of an upcoming and extended blog drought.

The one thing about starting a regular blog routine is that you kindof have to stick with it.  I should have heeded the wise advice of caution. A brilliant writer friend of mine doesn’t want to get into the blogging scene because she is not sure she could be as consistent as she should be. I laughed at her when she said that because “you’re a writer…you’re always going to have material to write.” And she does…she just doesn’t have time to to do it for free.

Here’s the deal…

There are bloggers who make oodles of money selling ads on their sites…marketing for companies…engaging regularly in the blogging world.  That’s not the kind of writing I do, nor do I want to do. I have figured out that my writing has to find its financial legs offline for a time. I have a limited amount of time in a day…a certain number of words I can produce…and if I am writing and writing and writing, but not selling…I end up with a whole lot of words for nothing.

So I am off on a freelance writer/ contracted-writer career shift. That’s where I’ll be Wednesdays for a while (and all the other days of the week too).

I liken myself to the baobab tree. The growth that happens in the dry season for baobab trees still happens, but in order for the tree to sustain itself, it sheds all of its leaves.  The shade disappears so that the tree can get through the trying months of drought. It produces only what it has to…but I would venture a guess that baobab trees really like the times in its life-cycle when it can create lots of leaves too.  I look forward to the leaf-creation that will resume some day.

I’m not going to say it will be the fall because I hope to be writing my book, but I may occasionally pop by with a story to share or a growth spurt to explore…just know that it won’t be consistent.

Happy Growing!

If you still want to share about any of the growth you’ve chosen to do, I’m always interested to hear about it.  choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com

                                                     

Copyright 2012                                        Meagan Frank                   Choosing to Grow