…blank page…

img_1690So often, lately.. I have sat down to my computer to write.. and I simply stare at the blank page.

It’s not that I haven’t had a lot to say…

..and it’s not that I haven’t experienced enough to keep my mind racing…

…but sometimes? Sometimes even writers are too tired to write.

Spring time is Musical season in my house. As soon as the musical is chosen, my life is overtaken by set designs, character lists, auditions… and then rehearsals every day (it seems like), choreography, set build days on the weekends, painting the set, costume designs, costume runs, sewing costumes and searching for props…

.. and that doesn’t include encouraging the cast and crew to learn their lines and blocking.. and to be the best that they can be.

This year I added a full time job to my list of jobs. Even with the help of our amazing Music Director and all the parent volunteers? There were days that I worked from 8 am to 11:30 pm.

Yes.. I have been tired.

Recently someone asked me why I do it. If I get so tired? Then why keep my extra jobs?

Well?

Quite simply it is the kids.

Some of these kids come into the theatre with a lot to say.. a lot of experiences to talk about.. but they are staring at a blank page..

… not knowing how to express themselves..

I love to watch the musical come to life and to see the kids’ talent shine on our stage..

..but the MOST amazing thing?

The most amazing is watching these young people relax into themselves and learn to let themselves shine. They have the opportunity to help with building the set, working with lights, painting the set, designing costumes, organizing the backstage area.. some choose to step forward and take on a leadership role.. or help with choreography..

Endless opportunities..img_1501

.. and they rarely disappoint..

Ok.. ok… there is a week (ish) that we get a little worried (alright.. a LOT worried) that we will pull it together in time.. That we will have all the costumes and the props we need. That we will learn the sequence of lines in a tough scene… or that the choreography will be fluid…

.. but there is always that moment…

…the moment my veteran performer nails a tough character role… and blows us away..

… the moment you get chills from the emotion a student pours into their solo..

… the moment you forget the kids are acting because they are so genuinely in character…

.. and (of course) the moment the quietest person on your cast says their first line on stage with confidence …

… and they EXIT that stage with another page written in their own story. They exit with more confidence than they started.. more high fives… (too many bottlecaps.. more than likely).. hopefully a new skill… and a lot of memories.

I always remember the blank pages we started the season with.

Those blank pages?? They keep me going.. the writer in me is too curious to see what will be written next.. too hopeful of what will come … too amazed to look away…

Those blank pages will keep me coming back each season.

..among the weeds…

We planted a garden this summer.. the way we usually do.. Planned which vegetables we wanted to plant.. the way we usually do. And then my husband installed the irrigation system.. the way he always does..

… and then life happened…

This time of year usually finds me knee deep in green beans and surrounded by quart jars of dill pickles..

.. but life happened this summer… and we have neither..

With graduation events.. family trips planned… and family emergencies that weren’t… laughter and camping that were scheduled into our plans… finding a sick kitten in the driveway tube that wasn’t.. lawn mowers that wouldn’t start…  to-do lists that wouldn’t end…

img_0462

… with no rain… high temperatures… and no extra time to weed and pamper the vegetable plants…?? The garden didn’t do well… and by the time we remembered to check on it.. the weeds were high and it was definitely too late to replant…

Wandering through the weeds today, I noticed a couple plants had survived.

One was the reliable zucchini plant. It’s not very exciting but we are really good at growing zucchini in our garden.

More exciting to me.. there were quite a few tomato plants. I always enjoy tomatoes.. especially the little cherry sized ones. NOT to mention fried green tomatoes…

img_0790 YES.. the tomatoes were a good find.

As I pulled back some weeds to give these plants some room to grow.. I stumbled across a couple cucumber plants. Struggling to survive without sunlight.. choked out by the tall weeds.. but still alive.

Excited to see so much surviving in this overgrown and neglected garden, I started pulling weeds with more energy.

As I knelt there in the dirt… I realized our lives are like my garden..

There are seasons where we will not have the energy or resources to water our talents or hobbies. We may not have the time to weed out our bad habits or negative thoughts..

And harvesting? That will have to wait.

When I first became a mom.. the only thing I paid attention to? Yup.. watering those baby plants. The other corners of my garden were virtually forgotten..

When my son was diagnosed with Autism.. and then a mood disorder… Yup.. the corners of my garden grew high with weeds again..

I didn’t water my friendships… I didn’t weed out my worries… I didn’t take time to read for fun.. or to write for enjoyment.. My adventure plants were nearly choked out…

…and my self care?

I don’t think that plant survived…

Doctors and friends often remind me that I never take enough time for myself.

You see?

My “zucchini plant”? My boring, stable.. always present … can’t kill talent?

Taking care of others..

And I do it really well… sometimes too well. So well.. at times.. that I over-volunteer.. I over-work myself.. over commit …

…under eat.. under sleep.. under relax ..

… and forget to leave enough energy to enjoy my interests…

My tomato plants…? My exciting adventure plants… my love to read and write… my love to play baseball in the backyard? .. to watch Jane Austen movies?

Those plants are surviving.. but they don’t have a lot of fruit on them.

And those cuke plants? Friendships and relationships?

Pulling back the weeds, I always find that they are still there. Ready to listen .. and to laugh. But I need to go looking for them more often.

Surprisingly… after the really long year ?

My garden is full of ALL KINDS of interesting things. I pulled out unique plants I have never seen before, beautiful weed flowers.. and huge pricker bushes.

I find that all kinds of beauty.. and ugliness can come from struggles in life. Doubts and bitterness… anger… fears… they can ALL take root in your garden. So can surprise friendships, new knowledge… new skills… blessings in unexpected forms.

While I walked my journey as a parent of a son with Autism.. I had doubts as to whether I could be a good parent.. I had anger that my son had to endure so much.. FEAR that we would never make it past each “phase”… fear that I would fail my son…

… but…

But I also found some amazing friendships among the flowers that walked with us… Paraprofessionals, special education directors, speech therapists, teachers… students in his classes… parents of his peers…

I developed a huge knowledge data base.. that I found could be applied to all kids..

I developed a vast amount of patience… that I didn’t know I had… Patience that I apply to every aspect of my life.

When a difficult season of life was over?

I found myself kneeling in the dirt… pulling weeds.. letting the sun shine on forgotten parts of my life.. finding friendships that I had neglected…

Today I pulled out those pricker bushes… all the fears and anger… Remembering how happy and thriving my kids are… I threw those fears in the pile with the doubts and exhaustion….

But… when my hand came across a weed flower? A friendship I hadn’t expected.. one I didn’t plant… and I certainly didn’t plan for?

I simply smile… and clear the plants surrounding it.

And today.. as I looked around my garden…? Among those weeds..?

I realized that some of my favorite things weren’t planned for…

.. thrive

img_0574As we traveled home from dropping my daughter off at her first apartment, we pulled off on a scenic overlook.

High on a hill overlooking the beautiful Lake Superior, the colors were vibrant.. the lake was calm… The whole area was stunning.

Everything was thriving.

Except one tree…

There in the middle of all the green trees.. in the midst of the green grass growing high… right next to one of the largest supplies of fresh water in the world… ??

Right there was a very brown, very dried up tree.. The brown was such a contrast to the greens around it, that you couldn’t help but notice it.

As I snapped a few pictures of it, I wondered what was eating at it. This tree couldn’t thrive in the most optimal environment.. so something had to be eating at it.

I enjoyed the view for another moment and then continued down the hill to the beach below.. img_0591

The lake was unusually calm.. and it was a beautiful place to take pictures..

As I tried to get artistic with a pile of rocks, my foot came to rest next to a stump in the sand. At first, I thought it was a rock and tried to move it… but it wouldn’t budge.

So I shifted my footing and snapped a picture of it.

A stump… from a tree… that had survived and grown on a sandy beach. No dark rich soil.. No minerals and nutrients… nothing to shelter it from the winds.

As I pushed on the stump again, I could feel how solidly the roots were planted still.

img_0676 Here was a tree who had lived in an environment full of difficulties and right next to a turbulent body of water.

And yet?

Yet.. this tree dug its roots down deep.. deep enough to hold on and thrive for a number of years.

Again my attention was drawn to the brown tree on the hill.

So often we are like these trees.

Some of us are planted in fertile soil.. in a beautiful environment… with so many blessings…

Yet?

And yet… we let things eat at us. Anger.. disappointment… something from our past that we feel like we can’t let go of… Something that has a deep hold on us..

But those things eat at our roots.. and steal the joy from our lives if we let them control us.

When we let those things go?

When we let them go.. they can’t control us anymore. And we can thrive…

I have met a number of people in my life… who are like the stump on the beach. Some of them were parents of kiddos with extreme special needs. Some were people with the most horrific childhoods.. Some survived diseases.. some survived without parents…

But… ?

But they ALL survived…

What stood out about these people?

They stood on the shores of those turbulent waves… they dug their roots down deep…

..and they survived…

In fact?

They didn’t JUST survive.. With smiles on their faces.. and counting their blessings … and reaching out to help others… They were thriving…

I snapped a couple more pictures and thought about my daughter that we just dropped off at college.. I thought about my son that stood there beside me… We have no idea what the future holds for either of them. We have no idea where the future will take either of them…

A smile came to my face as I whispered a prayer for them.

My prayer? … as I sat there in the sand?

My prayer for my kids is that they will thrive wherever they are planted …

… my smile?

My smile is because I believe they will…

Cousins weekend…

Ever since my family moved home to Michigan, I started a new tradition where I picked one weekend, over the summer, and invited all of my nieces and nephews to my house for a sleepover.

Now.. one of my nephews was too old to enjoy this.. and.. some were too young..

..but every year I get a few to come..

Ha! By a “few”.. I mean 10 or more..

This year.. I had 18 kiddos at my house..

Age range .. 4 years to 20!

Doors were left open… noses were skinned… heads were bonked… snow cones were spilled.. a bean bag lost its beans… shaving cream in the eyes… stubbed toes… there were hurt feelings.. disappointment over the rain.. and cancelled bonfires..

…but there was also.. laughter .. games… late night talks.. talking in sleep… snow cones.. sundaes on Sunday… frog hunts.. snuggles… hugs… movie time… swimming… a small obsession with the kitten.. good food… some amazing fairy/gnome/snake houses craft time.. and a lot of new memories made…

Some people ask how me how I can do it?

Well?

I don’t do it by myself. My husband stayed this year for some of it. A couple of my Sisters-in-law stayed and pitched in. This helps with the mixed aged groups. And everyone sends food.

But over all?

I go into this weekend EXPECTING them to act like kids.. and then? I expect chaos. I plan certain activities to give them focus. I provide spaces for them interact.. I give them my expectations.. but give them the freedom to make choices.

And I don’t know? It just falls into place..

But what I do know?

I know that these kids all look forward to it every year… counting down the weeks until it happens.. talking about “next year”…

And every year.. I fall in love with these blessings who create huge messes a little bit more.. until my heart is near to bursting…

So this morning as I clean up beanbag “beans” in my living room.. mop my kitchen floor.. kill the flies buzzing my head… clean up the craft supplies in the garage.. and put away the bounce house..?

I find myself planning for next year…

.. our own luck..

Today is Friday the 13th .. one of the most superstitious days for some people…

As I sit here drinking my coffee, I started to wonder how many people are waiting for something bad to happen…

Not that I don’t believe in bad luck..

.. in the theater, we have a “tradition” where we have one performance where EVERY THING falls apart backstage. Costumes disappear.. buttons come off vests.. props break.. someone falls apart emotionally… the lemon/orange water springs a leak all over the floor…

.. every season it is the same..

.. we learned to expect that “bad luck” show..

.. and we laugh during the absurdity of it all…

So I can’t laugh at people who are superstitious.. and go into the “Friday the 13th’s” of this world.. prepared for the worst.

..in fact? Maybe it is foolish for me to go naively into the world .. ASSUMING that I will be able to handle any bad luck that comes my way.

Naively thinking that my Faith in God.. my faith in my family.. my faith in my friends.. and my faith in myself will get me through any luck that life throws at me..

But honestly?

The curve balls that life has thrown me aren’t things I ever would have expected.. let alone things that I could have prepared myself for..

yeah.. I’ve had an accident.. and a flat tire.. and some car issues.. and I even locked my keys in my car once..

.. but having a kid who has Autism?

I didn’t even know that was a possibility 19 years ago.

… having to have my son’s hips screwed back together?

I didn’t even know that was a thing.

.. having severe food intolerances be the cause of my kids health issues?

That only happened in movies.. right?

… a pack of raccoons wiping out my whole bird flock?

Ok.. I probably could have expected that one..

Recently my mom was in the hospital. It was pretty scary. The nurses needed to draw blood from her but they were finding it to be nearly impossible.

When another nurse came in to try to find a vein that would work..?

Well? Someone wished him luck..

Without looking up? He stated, “I make my own luck.”

And he was successful!!!

At the time, we were all simply grateful for his confidence.

But since that day?

Since that day, I have found that this simple statement is true.

We do make our own luck.

There is a saying out there..

Life isn’t about surviving the storm…

Life is about learning to dance in the rain..

I laughed when I saw it because this was how I approached raising a son with special needs…

… this was how I approached raising a very independent, strong willed daughter..

.. this is how I approach life…

I could let bad luck hold me back.. or I can focus on the good things that are still there..

Through everything? Through every tough situation I still have 2 beautiful children.. I have an amazing family… a Merciful God.. and some pretty spectacular friends..

… through everything we choose to laugh through the tears… sing through the frustrations .. and dance in the rain..

After all.. can it really be bad luck if we are all together? Or can we change those bad situations into good luck by finding the good around us? Can we change that bad luck to good luck simply by having Faith in ourselves and those around us?

So today?

Today I won’t worry about what bad luck this “Friday the 13th” has in store for me…

.. because I make my own luck…

.. mosquitos ..

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind here in our house..

.. graduation and family vacations …

… emergencies…

.. new pets…

It was so busy that I almost cancelled one of my author events. It seemed selfish to do something for me, when there was so much to do at home.

But in the end, I kept my event. And I spent a marvelous couple days with my girl..

.. even though my girl didn’t feel well..

.. even though the hotel was less than we had hoped for..

… even though the weather was a little too cold for the sunset..

Still???

Still we had a marvelous time..

.. we laughed and talked as the sun went down..

.. we shivered and talked as we took pictures of the seagulls..

… created works of art and had a few laughs as we watched the sun go down a little more ..

As we limped across the sharp rocks to the warm car, we laughed at each other’s gasps of pain..

BUT when I got into the car.. it filled up with mosquitoes..

when I left the door open to get one more pictures.. ?? Even more mosquitoes flew into the car..

ok.. more than few.. it was like a cloud of mosquitos… and they were biting me through my sweatshirt..

This surprised me…

We had sat on the beach for over 30 minutes.. and I had not noticed ONE mosquito..

.. NOT ONE…

.. but then? Then I realized .. I had been focusing on the moment. Focusing on my girl and what she had to say.. focusing on the laughter.

There could have been a million mosquitoes.. and I wouldn’t have seen them.

Life is like that..

If I let the mosquitoes bother me? The bills.. the busy schedule ahead.. the housework.. conflict.. ??

It blocks out the “present”..

But when I write down those worries .. and schedule a time for them? Then maybe… JUST maybe.. I can focus on the present …

MAYBE I’ll even find time to write more..

As we drove away from the beach that night.. we laughed at the mosquitoes swarming around our heads..

… then decided to stop .. and get one more picture…

..footprints..

I watched my son run down the shoreline today.. kicking sand in the direction of his sister. He didn’t even try to be sneaky about it. Laughing at his own antics, he would wait for his sister to splash him in return.. My daughter would pretend to be offended .. and then they repeated the whole scene again.

.. as I watched them play fight.. I noticed the footprints that my family left behind them..

.. the footprints that weaved in and out of the ones that stayed straight and steady…

.. the deep twisting prints of my kids’ playful actions..

… the steady footfalls that others left behind…

It got me thinking…

…it doesn’t really matter what path we take in life… it doesn’t even matter where we are going…

What REALLY matters?

What really matters is how we are getting there… Are we enjoying life? Are we enjoying our family? Are we living each moment to the fullest?

And most importantly?

What are we leaving behind?

Are we leaving behind happy memories? Memories of laughter and playful water fights on the beach? Are we leaving behind feelings of love and being cherished?

What will people remember us for after our walk through life is finished? Will they remember how hard we worked? Or how we enjoyed life? Will they see the impact we had on others?

When I looked up from those footprints in the sand.. I watched my kids with a tear in my eye… (maybe more than one tear)..

I think both of my kids will leave some pretty special footprints through life..

both sets different ..

but equally beautiful in their own way…

That makes me one proud momom…

A lifetime in a moment…

Last night, I watched the beautiful colors fill the sky as the sun set behind the trees. The brilliant display was only accentuated by the play of lights and shadows.

And then in a few moments?

In just a few moments it was over and the light faded from the sky .. and the moment of beauty was over.

There are days where time speeds by in much the same way.. and you wonder where the time went. Hours that passed in a moment.

And then there are moments that last hours..

I have experienced a lot of moments in my lifetime. Some great moments and some.. well? Some not so great moments.

The moments after the doctor confirmed my son had autism?

That moment felt like it lasted an hour. As your mind categorized every thing that diagnosis would change for his life .. and ours…

The moments after the doctor told me my son needed a screw to hold his hip together..? Felt like hours…

But mostly I remember the happy moments.. like watching my son dancing in the waters of Lake Michigan as the sun set behind him.. watching my daughter perform in any one of her performances, watching my kids laugh, laughing with my nieces and nephews, watching a shy student shine on stage, early morning talks with any of my exchange daughters..

So many moments that could fill a lifetime..

.. and then I realized …

Life is like that sunset…

Sometimes the most beautiful moments are the shortest.. and if we don’t enjoy the beauty while it’s there? If we don’t keep our eyes glued to the colors playing amongst the shadows? If we don’t stay IN THAT MOMENT.. we will miss it…

… and life is already too short..

We blink and our kids grow up too fast.. We blink and months pass by..

We blink and we miss so much.

So.. we get to choose…

Do we turn our moments into lifetimes?

Or turn our lifetime into mere moments?

It humbles me.

For me? I will continue to live in each moment .. waiting to see the beauty life has for me.. waiting to make memories in each of those moments..

..eye catching

Yesterday was Easter.. and we headed out into nature to recharge..

Our family parties were done … the Easter baskets opened.. and my daughter headed back to her campus.

And.. well?

And the sun was shining. We didn’t really need any OTHER invitation.

As we entered the woods, we were reminded that Spring really hasn’t arrived yet.

The landscape was beautiful. Rolling hills… sloping roads… lazy rivers…

So beautiful!!

But nature is still sleeping here. So everything is brown. So many different shades of brown… but still just brown.

And SO cold!

Then?

Then every once in a while, we would go over a hill.. or around a bend… and something would catch my eye.

There amongst the dead leaves and the cold wind? There would be the brightest green moss growing.

I know.. I know…

Moss isn’t really that pretty.. and it isn’t SUPPOSED to be growing on the sides of trees and rocks.

But the bright green of that moss against the shades of the sleeping nature around it? It was so startling. It caught my attention every time.

That moss?

That moss reminds me of people who show happiness and positively impact the world around them .. every day.

Not just showing their green color when the sun is shining and the warmth is all around. But glowing a bright green when the winds are cold enough to make your nose hurt and cause your lungs to burn. Glowing green when nothing else is even growing.. when there feels like there is no hope of hope.

So today I wonder?

Am I showing a bright green color of hope and love against the dull colors of today?

There are always “dull” things going on around us..

..extra bills… health concerns… raising kids.. car issues… and messes to clean up..

..not to mention world troubles…

…but amongst those shades of “brown”…?

Among the lifeless colors… am I shining some green into the world? Am I handing out genuine smiles.. holding open doors… sharing my resources with the world around me… lending a hand where I can…? Am I looking for hope?

Am I offering to share the small amount of hope that I hold in my hands?

Because that is what I want.. I want my love and my hope to shine brightly against my surroundings.

What color are you today?

Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.