This Thanksgiving…

Thanksgiving reflection

Sending you so much love today and gratitude for all you are.

liv

grounded but grateful: the mysterious way we got stuck in santa fe

grandma's hand in hospital

This vacation photo may not be of a sunset or a pool or a beautiful meal, but I can guarantee it captures one of the most memorable moments of our girls’ weekend in Santa Fe. That’s right; we spent part of it in the hospital. Still can’t even believe it.

God works in mysterious ways - doodle artYou might have read here that I met my Mom and Nana in Santa Fe later than planned, after my little guy got super sick last week. Despite the rocky start, we’ve had a magical and meaningful time together. In fact, yesterday morning, some of you saw me post this image on Facebook; I was sitting on the hotel balcony with Nana, doodling one of her favorite sayings – God works in mysterious ways – as we chatted.

Not long after, we headed to the historic La Fonda hotel and restaurant for a beautiful breakfast…

Breakfast at La Fonda in Santa Fe

There she is…my 89-year-old Nana enjoying a latte, looking pretty darn happy and healthy. We’d already checked out of our hotel, so after breakfast, we decided to stroll around The Plaza – an open-air square with shops and a long sidewalk where local Native Americans sell their gorgeous, handmade jewelry. Nana wanted to buy me something for my upcoming birthday, so we all moved from one artist to the next, looking at their wares. She must have said a dozen times as we walked that she’d been having such a wonderful time, she didn’t want to go home.

But her back started to hurt, so she sat down on a cement block about the height of a bench and leaned up against a pole, saying she’d be fine. I brought over a turquoise ring to show her, holding out my hand, and noticed she couldn’t seem to see the ring on my finger. She put her hand on her head, said she just wasn’t feeling well and – boom! – she slumped over into my arms, suddenly slurring words, drooling and staring into space, then passed out. I yelled for my mom, a nearby policewoman called for help and I whispered into Nana’s ear: “Stay with me. Hold on. I love you.” Friends, I really thought we were going to lose her then and there.

I’m sure it took a short minute, but it felt like an eternity for the paramedics to arrive. One said it looked like she was having a stroke as they loaded her onto a gurney. But by the time we rolled away in the ambulance, Nana was answering questions and regaining some strength. Not long after getting hooked up to monitors and an IV at the hospital, she was joking with the nurses. A few hours later – after an exam, blood tests and x-rays – she was free to go (in a cab, I might add, since we all arrived by ambulance!).

Turns out it wasn’t a stroke (thank heavens), but likely caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure. We don’t know how or why yet, but we do know we feel so, so lucky. For the swift and kind work of paramedics and hospital staff. For our hotel – which is almost always sold out – extending our stay by a night. For the airline finding us three seats on a new flight today at no extra cost. Meanwhile, my hubby’s home for the boys, including taking Tru to his first day of preschool.

As we sat by Nana’s bed in the ER yesterday afternoon, we noted that our missed flight was taking off that moment and that we’d likely have to stay in Santa Fe another day – just as she’d wished. Without skipping a beat and with a twinkle in her eye, she said, “God works in mysterious ways.”

Ain’t that the truth.

what is it like to be old and awesome? (the plant a kiss blog hop)

young love - at ages 89 and 91.

Wow. It’s been exactly a year since I first wrote about these young lovebirds – my Nana and Hibb, who remain as close as ever after reconnecting nearly 70 years after they first met. I loved how much you loved their story! And they did, too. They have continued their long-distance courtship, with Hibb traveling from Connecticut to Minnesota each season for three weeks at a time. When he’s not here, they talk every day on the phone. It is so beautiful that they have each other to lean on, near or far.  And to be totally honest, it’s pretty lovely to have a sweet grandfather-figure back in my life after 25 years without one. Such an unexpected gift.

Right now, Hibb is back in town for Nana’s 89th birthday. On Monday, thanks to a cancelled meeting and a sitter already scheduled for the boys, I was able to take my favorite couple out for a play date. It was a gorgeous day here, so we went to a favorite restaurant on the shores of Lake Minnetonka. Hibb and Nana sat across from me, finishing each other’s sentences, and marveling at the gorgeous weather, the ice melting on the water, the sweet waitress, all the people sitting outside, how perfect the chicken was in their meals. Seriously, everything delighted them.

ice melting on lake minnetonka - april 29, 2013

I thought a lighthearted movie would be nice after our leisurely lunch – but they suggested another show: people watching from a bench by the lake. And you guys? We sat there in the sunshine for over two hours – chatting with each other, chatting with strangers, petting dogs passing by. It was so lovely, just sitting there with nowhere to be and nothing on the agenda but connection and appreciation. A change of pace, for sure.

I didn’t want to waste all that quiet time on small talk. Nana and Hibb have both had health scares in recent weeks; reminders for me that their time here is limited. I know life is precious, that none of us know how many days we have. But it’s easier to tuck that thought away, to just assume I have many healthy decades left. I might go bonkers living each day as if it were my last. But I wondered, as I sat there with Nana and Hibb, what it’s like to know there really are no decades left after living for so many.

“I know this might sound odd,” I started. “But would you mind telling me what it’s like to be your age? Does each day feel more precious or do you try not to think about it?”

Nana put her arm on Hibb’s shoulder and looked him in the eyes. “I always say, ‘every day is a bonus,’” she said. “We don’t know how much time we have left. But I’m not afraid to die.”

Hibb thought for a few moments and then said, “I would say I just live in awe.”

After his father died young – when Hibb was a teenager – he assumed he’d suffer a similar fate. So he’s genuinely surprised to still be here at 91. He is in awe, too, of the changes he has witnessed in his lifetime – from gravel roads that are now highways to technology he doesn’t understand. He recalled how busy life once was – with kids and work and everything in between. He can’t believe he didn’t stay in better touch with my grandpa after the war, but honors that the busyness of  daily life took priority.

After you turn 80, Hibb told me with a laugh, you spend more time at the doctor than you ever thought possible. There are daily challenges, for sure. But as long as they’re able, he and Nana said, they’ll take every chance they can to fully experience and appreciate the life they’ve got.

They must have thanked me 100 times for our afternoon out, when I should have been thanking them – for reminding me what’s most important. I want to see every day as a gift, whether I’m on the go or have nowhere to go. I want to appreciate change – even the kind I don’t understand or want. I want to sit on more benches, talk to more strangers, and always look back on my life – including the busiest of days – with loving eyes. I want to live in awe, always. 

*****

Today’s post is part of the Plant A Kiss blog hop, first organized by Sherry of Simply Celebrate last spring, to celebrate the launch of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s darling book, Plant A Kiss. A group of bloggers were asked to do something special on April 29th that would plant joy in our corners of the world – and then blog about it. So happy to be doing it again! Click here to find links to all of the participating bloggers and see how each woman was uniquely inspired to celebrate Plant a Kiss Day.

P.S. I’ll be printing this out for Nana and Hibb, since they don’t have computers, along with your comments. Thanks in advance for the love! 

my silver linings playbook: link love

instagram view from a planeYesterday was a travel day from hell, friends. I’m on my way to a professional retreat with a bunch of other speakers in Maine – but I’ve been stuck in Detroit. Without my luggage. Or my phone charger. Or my sanity. ;o)

I definitely vented on the phone to Brad, to my mom…and, um, maybe a little on Twitter.  But I spent the day trying to lean into gratitude, too. I couldn’t change the situation, so I kept making mental notes about things I was grateful for. Like the fact that the airline paid for a hotel room vs. making me sleep on an airport floor. Like the front desk clerk who took pity on me when I realized I was at the wrong hotel. Like the $25 airport voucher I used to buy another phone charger…which allowed me to surf the internets while I waited…which made me smile because there’s so much goodness out there…which made me decide I wanted to spread the love with you. Silver linings, baby. So, below is a random list of products and peeps that are freaking awesome.

mother's day gift box from artsyville on etsy.com

 

declaration of you - preview excerpt by michelle ward and jessica swift

  • Two more blog course contributors – Jessica Swift and Michelle Ward – are eagerly awaiting the debut of their first book, The Declaration of You. Right now, you can download their chapter on intention, featuring an interview with (yep, you guessed it – another fellow course contributor!) Andrea Scher.

 

  •  I am adoring Daniel Pink’s new book, To Sell is Human. Such a good one for anyone who sells stuff but hates selling stuff.

 

    • Have you seen the TED Talk by Sugata Mitra, outlining his vision for the School in the CloudIt is so fascinating and inspiring for anyone who cares about transforming education and honoring our kids’ strengths.

 

  • I can’t get this song out of my head. I know Taylor Swift is polarizing, but I like her. So there.

savvyMN magazine, April 2013

  • Oh, and this is fun news! I’m happy to share I’m now writing a monthly column for SavvyMN Magazine, profiling an inspiring Minnesota blogger each month. The publication has been really kind to me and my work over the years, so I’m excited to join forces with them on a regular basis. And in a fun twist of fate, my first column – about Sally McGraw of Already Pretty – appears in the April issue, which features an old family friend on the cover, superstar rapper Dessa. Cool synchronicity!

Have an amazing weekend, everyone (and wish me luck flying the friendly skies!).

when times get tough

gratitude quote

These words whooshed into my heart this morning and I figured they were meant to share. I have been feeling deeply and praying hard lately for people I know who are facing uphill battles and dark days. It’s hard to know what to say.

When I have been on the flip side, the one being loved up during difficult times, I have been comforted by friends’ words – but confused by a handful. Of course, they were all delivered with good intent, but sometimes when your grief or worry is so great, certain words fall flat or make the heart ache more.

Like “stay strong.” When someone tells me to stay strong, I can’t wrap my head around what that means. Don’t cry? Don’t crumble? Pump some iron? They just aren’t words that motivate me to keep moving forward; instead, the idea of “staying strong” feels like added pressure. In times of trouble, I want to know it’s okay to fall apart and trust that there are people around me to help pick me up off the floor.

And when they do, I am so incredibly grateful. And that’s an amazing feeling when you’re in the depths of despair – to feel thankful for something, anything.

It’s easy to be grateful when things are going good. But it’s a stretch when your world has spun off its axis. That, I think, is what makes it so powerful. My dad used to love the quote “fear and gratitude cannot exist within the same breath.” I can still see him – not long after he was diagnosed with cancer – standing in his driveway, looking up at his beloved trees, taking a deep breath and saying it out loud. That wisdom helped us get through some shitty days during his cancer journey – and since losing him, I have leaned on those words – and that moment with him – countless times.

So, for me – those words that hit my heart this morning really rang true. When times get tough, they key is not to stay strong…the key is to stay grateful.

 

a letter to my dad…and his last words to me

dear dad,

my heart feels both completely broken and surprisingly full today, treading water in an ocean of grief and gratitude.

it seems impossible that a whole year has passed since you slipped away on this day, a little after noon. we were not ready; not that anyone ever is. but we thought you were beating the cancer. you thought you were beating the cancer. remember weeks before, how we’d toasted with champagne? we giggled with glee for the changing tides, for the good fortune of improving health.

and then, a plot twist: an infection from surgery worked its way into your blood stream and pulled you from our grip. just like that.

one year ago still feels like yesterday.

sometimes i still cry. big, heaving sobs with crocodile tears for dreams we lost, for the laughter i miss, for my papa-less boys, for mom’s broken heart, for words i forgot to say. people see us all looking happy, acting normal and they say “thank goodness the worst is over, thank goodness you’ve moved on, thank goodness you’re happy again.” and that is all truth, but so is the lingering, gut-wrenching grief. there’s joy and pain co-existing in this new normal. i need to honor both.

i find such comfort in the last words i heard you say, from your soul to mine, in the deep of the night. mom and kai and i slept in the hospital room, next to the bed where your tired body slept. we wanted to be rested for when you woke up. the nurses put a twin mattress on the floor, where mom and i smooshed together like sardines to catch some z’s, as you would say. i was startled awake by a hand on my right shoulder, an arm around my back. the same one that had wrapped itself around me all my life; there was no mistaking it was yours. you were still in bed, yet also with me; i had no time to make sense of it. it felt like my shoulders and back were on fire, the heat from your arm – or your spirit – was so intense. and then i heard your voice in my ear, clear as a bell, say those words i will never forget:

“i’m so sorry, liv-er. but i guess i have to go. they say i have big work to do.” 

mom suddenly sat straight up on the mattress, startled awake too, asking what had just happened. we all rushed to your bedside; you didn’t respond to our voices, our touch, our forehead kisses. maybe you were already moving to the other side before your body gave out a few hours later.

oh, dad. knowing that your spirit could catch up with mine in the still of the night fills my heart with gratitude and awe.  thank you for that one last reminder: that our connection has no limitations, physical or otherwise. i miss you with all my heart, and yet i know, really know, you are right here. hand on my shoulder. arm around my back. wrapping me in love and gently guiding, as always.  for always.

i love you this big. {arms outstretched}

your rainbow girl

The Little Bliss List Goes Back To School!

Every Friday, the Little Bliss List provides a chance for us to celebrate the little things that brought us hope and happiness this week. I do believe when we focus on the sweet stuff of life, the sweet stuff multiplies. And by sharing those small gifts in our lives, we help others notice the gifts in theirs. 

Can I tell you a secret? This time of year is hard for me. With young kids at home, the transition from summer to fall {particularly the back-to-school part} is jarring. I find myself dreading the endless forms, the fees that keep popping up, the schedule juggling, the shopping for glue sticks. My kids start school after Labor Day and I usually wait till the last minute to get everything taken care of {I know, big mistake}. But last night? I decided to try something new: an early school-prep shopping trip.

As we drove to the mall, I noticed my anxiety rising. But I didn’t want my attitude to wreck our evening. So, I decided to choose a different way of being. Rather than fret about finding the right brand of pencils, I told myself to pay close attention to the little moments of joy during our shopping trip. And you know what? It totally worked; I found bliss where I least expected it. I even took pictures…

l) We started our trip by getting dinner in the mall food court at a favorite pasta place. The boys picked a table and Tru immediately noticed the skylights above us. He was so excited, saying, “The sky is beautiful here! I cannot believe it!” It was so darn cute. I love that seeing the sky from inside the mall can dazzle my little guy so!

2) Speaking of him, I couldn’t resist snapping a pic of those big brown eyes as he ate {all!} his mac & cheese with a fork. This new-found confidence with a fork is only a few weeks old for him and it’s just one of those little things that make me so proud and excited.

3) We went to an electronics store and waited forever for service. Luckily, Ryder found an iPad on display with an app that changed his reflection into all kinds of funny shapes. The boys could not stop giggling; such a relief and so fun to hear them laughing like crazy!

4) And did you notice that full shopping cart up above? We stopped at Target and actually found everything on Ryder’s school supply list except for one thing. He had fun helping and I was thrilled the shelves weren’t empty yet. It is such a huge relief to know that part of our back-to-school prep is over!! Plus, we stocked up on items for families in our area who can’t afford school supplies. That felt good, too.

I’m so glad I put myself in check and chose to enjoy our shopping adventure vs. losing my marbles at the mall! It turned out to be a great, productive evening. So, what did you do this week that brought you joy? I’d love to hear! You can participate in the link party below through Sunday at midnight central {and click on other entries below to give yourself a bliss boost} or simply leave a comment!

{Wanna share the badge? Click here to get yours!}

 


Found in the Mail: My Best Self

When the package arrived on my doorstep, every inch of my being wanted to tear it open and let the love inside spill out. But I didn’t; I waited till the kids were quiet, my phone was turned off and projects were done, knowing I’d need some alone time to process whatever I found inside the box.

I mean…I knew what it was, just not exactly. My friend soul sister Lori Portka had told me it would be coming….one of the 100 glorious paintings she created for people who have touched her life in meaningful, positive ways. It makes me well up just thinking of it, to know that I weaseled my way into a big enough space in her heart that she’d not only feel grateful for it, but paint it into being.

Once the house was still, I sat down in my dudio to open the box ever-so-carefully. When I pulled out this canvas, my heart skipped a beat. Seriously. It was like looking in a mirror and seeing my best self staring back. Surrounded by angels and sunshine and tulips, looking as content as can be and having a really good hair day. ;o) Every little detail holds so much meaning for me.

I’ve seen Lori in the throes of creating her art, so I know her magic-making is time-consuming and heartfelt. This makes it all the more stunning to me that she accomplished this feat, painting a hundred thank yous. And to then give them away!? I know how protective I am of my own art; when I sell or gift an original, it’s like a little piece of me goes with it, hoping it finds a loving and appreciative home. So, when I look at this painting, I not only see the very best pieces of me reflected back, but I know it also is infused with the very best pieces of Lori. It’s the ultimate friendship gift and I am forever grateful.

Want to know more about Lori Portka? Visit her blog here and check out her positively glowing art shop. Her Hundred Thank Yous project will also be featured in the upcoming documentary, 365 Grateful. Can’t wait.

 

 

Is Heaven Like This…All The Time?

On Saturday, we went to one of our favorite summer spots – Lake Harriet. Within the city of Minneapolis, there are lots of gorgeous lakes with trails wrapped around them, but Harriet is our favorite. We rode the old trolley and then walked down to the bandshell, where Jaspar Lepak was singing folk songs under a clear blue sky.

While Brad took Tru over to see the boats, Ryder and I cozied up on a bench in the audience. We tapped our toes and I rubbed his back, mesmerized by the perfect setting, pretty music, smiling concertgoers, tail-wagging puppies, hand-holding couples, shimmering lake, and quality time with my big boy. This is the life, I thought to myself. A truly blessed life.

When we saw Brad and Tru had returned from boat-watching, we left our sweet park bench and walked over to them. As the boys started monkeying around, Brad leaned over to me and asked, “If life can be this good, do you ever wonder how great Heaven must be? Is it like this – but all the time??”

I love that we both had a sense in that place, in that togetherness, in that evening – was something special, something sacred. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. We both breathed in the fresh blue air, watched our beautiful boys skipping ahead of us, and gave thanks for a glimpse of Heaven on Earth.

Come Get Messy: Can You Spot the Miracle Here?

To most folks, this pic probably seems pretty straightforward: you see a super-cute kiddo playing in the dirt.  But when I look at this photo, I see so much more. In fact, I see a miracle. Can you spot it?

I see ten tiny toes happy to be out and about, no matter what surface is beneath them. I see ten little fingers about to make a glorious mess with a toy train and a pot full of dirt. I see our super-duper-special boy content enough to just play - and it chokes me up.

This could never have happened last spring. I remember sitting in the front yard with one of Truman’s therapists as we tried to coax him onto the grass, urging him to let just one little toe touch the soft, green grass. But Tru was riddled with fear, on sensory overload. It was as if we were asking him to walk across fire. He couldn’t handle touching most textures. And any mess – whether a speck of dirt or a smudge of butter – on his skin or clothes threw him for a total loop.

The difference now is like night and day. Tru can make a mess with the best of them; sometimes I see him tense up, but he looks to us for reinforcement – laughter, smiles, nods usually do the trick. I wish I could have whispered in my ear a year ago that this part would get better; that change would come, slow and steady.

Our journey with Tru is teaching me to trust in new ways, to accept where he and we are in the moment. I catch myself sometimes, feeling scared and worried. Asking myself questions about his tomorrows that are impossible to answer today. My heart knows worrying gets me nowhere, but my head can be a stubborn stick-in-the-mud. I find comfort in reviewing the gratitude list that’s practically engraved on my soul: for his amazing team of advocates and therapists and caregivers, for people in his life who adore him no matter what, for his bright-as-sunshine spirit, for his physical health, for weighted blankets and Nuks and Thomas the Tank Engine, for my flexible schedule, for chocolate milk, for everything that contributes to his well-being and, in turn, to our family’s.

Remembering all of that goodness shifts my frame of mind. But nothing does it better than noticing and celebrating these milestones that feel like little miracles. They remind me this messy life is perfectly beautiful.