Saturday, November 14, 2015

Lights Shine Bright.

This blog feels like an episode of Madam Secretary.
Where you know something awful has just happened or National Security has been compromised or that the world is grieving the most tragic of events. And yet, here you are. About to eat family dinner & keep your children from beating one another with sticks. Yes. This blog feels like that. Minus the expensive Chanel business suits.

So with that being said, Paris is still my most favorite city I've never seen. My heart aches for every person lost & every person who is now living a little bit more in fear. We pause to mourn with the world & show our support to our French ami's.


This past week my family & I were hit by a third round of sickness since August.
I understand this to be normal since both of them have never been in full-time school or daycare before. Being exposed to hundreds of kids every single day- each carrying their own unique flavor of germs is bound to cause some sort of reaction to their immune system. We thought it was just going to be little guy's horrific cough to contend with. Until we got the call from the school nurse while we were literally standing in the doctor's office with one kid - telling us to come pick up the other puking child.

So it was ONE FULL WEEK of nebulizers & bark buckets. People telling me to infuse them with peppermint oils & rub their feet with vapor rubs. Sometimes I don't get why we as Mom's bother typing "Steam Showers" on our smart phones to our friends, rather than saying something less preachy like "I'm sorry. Here's some wine." That's what the good Mom's know how to do.

Somewhere in the mix of antibiotics & humidifiers, I made for an escape to a fancy schmancy work dinner I promised I would attend ages ago.
The nice part about being someone who:

1. Appears to be really good with people [really, I'm not. Ask anyone who actually knows me.]
2. Look like you are someone who can present information comfortably in front of a crowd [again - not so much. I can assure you butt sweat is a real thing.]
3. A person with reasonable hygiene who likes to wear high heels. [okay. I'm one for three.]

Is that your job will likely send you lots of public events like fancy dinners where they feed you things like steak & shrimp. And have you dancing & singing with 2 time Grammy winner and UNICEF ambassador Angélique Kidjo. No really. I danced with her. Insert awesome picture.

So basically, you just have no idea what your week might hold. One morning you're holding a barf bucket for your daughter. The next night you're joining in the fight for the right of education for girls in Africa. Both entirely fulfilling on behalf of women in their own right. Cheers!


Monday night I was able to still attend my 4 year old's parent/teacher conference. Most of you who have been blog readers for quite some time will note that I have a son who has had a lot of challenges since he was born. Apparently the American school system is not set up in a way that appreciates a 4 year old who cannot sit still & gets distracted and/or frustrated very easily.

Every day picking him up from daycare I have to hold my breath.  It's quite stressful walking into that daycare, not knowing if my son has had a good day or a hard day. Most of it due to external factors out of my control. Parenting my little guy has been nothing short of the hardest thing I have ever done. So when I say I was nervous about his parent/teacher conference, it is not by any means an exaggeration.

His teacher told me a few parts that he has continued to struggle with. But mostly how well he was doing - especially being that change is hard for him. Being in a new school, with new kids, a new teacher, a new daycare, riding the bus every single day - we've endured a lot of big changes these past few months. Of course you never view it as success because truly, you're just trying to survive the day. But when you take in the last few months all at once, and realize how remarkably well your son has held up - WELL THAT'S WHEN YOU BEGIN SOBBING. That poor teacher had no idea what to do with me. But I couldn't help it. I am so proud of him.

And as if that wasn't enough, his teacher began showing me class photographs of my little guy who has taken up a very special friendship with a little girl in his class who has cerebral palsy. The little girl must walk with crutches & is limited a great deal physically. To hear that my little guy not only prefers playtime with her, but that he watches out for her, acts as her protector, and helps her with her crutches on a daily basis - Well. Seriously. STOP THE MADDNESS. Ugly crying everywhere.
Quote of the night: "He doesn't see her disability. He just sees her."

Learning from my 4 year old son is something I continue to do on a daily basis.
I can only say that God has blessed my son with some of the kindest, most patient, giving teachers I have ever met. I'm so thankful for teachers who care. Blubbering Mama's like me need you.
Bless you.


I had the great joy of celebrating my husband's birthday this week. He hates when I talk about his age.... cough cough THIRTY-FOUR cough cough...... Of course I maturely oblige his age requests. Thankfully we celebrated the week before the plague visited us. So we weren't those awful parents who left their puking kids with a babysitter.......

He loves white guy Christian rap. TOBYMAC. Holllllla.
And I love 12 year old teeny bopper music with glitter pants and backup dancers.
Good thing Britt Nicole & TobyMac teamed up so we could both dance the ENTIRE concert.
No really. BEST CONCERT I have been to for quite some time.

I decided a few things while at this concert:

1. You people in the nosebleed section who bust out dance moves I can see from across a packed stadium - you are my people.
2. You might be over 30 if you have to sit down resting between dance songs & complain about being out past 10 p.m. dancing in your heel heels. [I knew I should have worn flats.]
3. I'm so glad I live in a world where Christian music is now open to backup dancers & glitter pants.
4. I want a pair of glitter pants.

The problem with wanting a pair of glitter pants is not having any place ever to wear them to. I mean, PTA meetings, the carpool lane, the office - totally inappropriate places for glitter pants. Unless maybe you're Cher or Lady Gaga.

Here's my girl Hollyn [she's 18 & just signed with Toby's label] rocking, in what I've decided is the only reasonable place in the world to wear her pair of awesome silver glitter pants. [Apologies for the bad quality, but I just found this on YouTube so you could experience the greatness of these pants. And the song is pretty decent too.]

Sparkles aside, Trev hopefully had a great birthday. I was also thankful my old college roomie could make it too :)

Here's to my husband - who makes 34 look a lot less scary.
And to everyone out there who still reads my crazy little blog.
I love you readers! Thank you for being here.

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Decade Of Purple.

I wanted this post to be different.
Not some sob story. Or something you’ve heard a million times.

10 years ago, I didn’t know what this day would look like.
How would I feel on the day where my sister died, now being 10 years later?
I don’t think I could have planned this or gone through it expecting what I would do.
Sometimes the only way to know is just to get there.

So today -  if you don’t mind :)
I’ll share what people do 10 years later when they lose loved ones.
People are always strangely fascinated by this I’ve learned.
Myself included.
Maybe we’re all just nosey? Or maybe we want to learn how other people do hard days.
Maybe it’s both.

First, you have to know that October 7th is a sacred day for me & my family.
We had planned a family dinner for that night so that we could make an intentional effort to be together.
I was expecting to do what I always do – go to work that day.

I woke up. I dressed in purple. My sister’s favorite color.
It's become the official color theme that we wear on what we call "Bridgett Days."
I put on the exact purple wool turtleneck I wore to her funeral.
[Yes – it still fits. And no- I will never, ever get rid of it.]
I felt itchy. And warm. Too warm.
Sorry Bridgett – I changed.

On my way into work, I felt like I needed to do something for this day.
Maybe because we think we are supposed to be sad?
Or do something to make ourselves feel like this is anything but an ordinary day.
I put in Bridgett’s mixed cd.
She listened to crappy music mostly. This makes me laugh.
Should I be laughing today?
I was overthinking things.

I get into work.
We are installing new Vending machines at our corporate location.
Getting people into elevators & behind locked doors, removing doors to squeeze new machines in, getting machines where they need to go.
It wasn’t a normal morning. But it was my morning none the less.

I wasn’t really at work. My mind was officially elsewhere.
I wondered why I didn’t just take the day off?
Sometimes you don’t realize what you need until you need it.
I checked in with my boss to see if it was okay that I left.
When I got the all clear, I got in my car & knew exactly where I wanted to go.

There was a bridge overlooking downtown St. Paul.
I NEVER have time to visit this bridge during my busy work day.
Today was it. I drove up some crazy hills.
As I walked up on that end of that bridge, I knew I was in the right place.
It was warm. A sunny day.
The leaves were finally turning.
The most beautiful time of year.
I start to think about how God gave her the most beautiful earthly sendoff He could.

3 older gentleman were on the bridge with me.
They asked me to take their picture. I agreed.
THEY HAD A FILM CAMERA. I died a little. How amazing.
The man asks me if I’d like my picture taken.
I pause. Do I want to remember this moment?
I say yes. I hate being rude more than I hate hard days I decide.
I teach the man how to use my camera phone. I die a little more.
He’s so terribly sweet.  He takes my picture..........


He starts to tell me about the history of St. Paul.
I remember how my sister taught me the value of listening to other people.
I thank him for his wisdom. He tells me how he enjoyed our time together.

On my way home, I put in that cd. The one with all the songs we played at her funeral.
“Held” “Homesick” “What If” and “Friends Are Friends Forever” play over my speakers.
I listen to the cd audio recording of the funeral.
I still can’t cry. Maybe I want to.
But I don’t.

I drop by my husband’s office.
Because he matters. I like spending all of my sacred days with him.
He hugs me. He knows me. He loves me.
I'm so glad he's always there. I'm so glad my sister knew him.


Next I went to Target.
Because that’s where we always went together.
Before Target shopping became what it is.
I decide me & Bridgett made it cool.
I’m looking for something that reminds me of her.
I see a blanket scarf. It looks warm. Very inviting.
It’s got purple on it. I decide to buy it.

Next I went to the clothing store where my sister worked.
I decide I will buy a hat there. My sister ALWAYS bought me hats from her work.
She was extremely thoughtful like that.
I decide I will also buy a hat for my other sister there.
Bridgett would like that. We were all about the hats.

I get to the store where she worked.
It’s closed down.
It’s now a Puma store.
How’s that for irony? I tell my Dad on the phone.

I walk down to the next store I could find.
They have hats there. But my head is too big for them.
Bridgett would have laughed at me & made fun of my big head the rest of the day.
I decide to get out of that teeny bopper store.
But not before buying a cute raspberry poncho.
Because sacred days are not sacred days without a raspberry poncho.

It’s time to pick up my kids.
Addison has drawn me a picture.
I love this. It’s exactly how life should be.
Rainbows and hearts and pink hair, and balloons, and sunny days.

I tell Addison’s daycare why I am there early.
She asks about my sister. I like that she asks.
I talk about her a little.
She asks me what I get asked a lot.
“How can you talk about it without crying?”

Vice President Joe Biden recently went to the Rose Garden this past week to speak about his plans for the upcoming presidential election.
Everyone was waiting to see if he would run, and there was no shortage of press that day as he stood out on the platform with his wife Jill beside him.
Biden spoke about the loss of his son recently & how he couldn’t put his family through the journey of a presidential campaign, until he knew they were far enough into their grieving process to handle the weight of what running for President would mean.
Biden said he knew his family would be in “the place” when the mention of his son brought “A smile to their lips before it brings a tear
to your eye.”

I loved that.
Because there does come a day where something shifts.
It’s still sad that she died, the way she died.
I still miss her Every. Single. Day.
But it’s different now.
Scars remain – but the wounds have healing.
The stinging pain lessens.

People say that “Time Heals All.”
No offense to those people – but SCREW YOU TIME.

For me it had nothing to do with time.
It was putting in the hard work that grief demands.
Reaching deep into pain. Going to dark places.
Having your people love you to the other side.
Talking about it. Going to grief counseling.
Yelling at God. Crying. Writing. Drinking. Listening To Bad Country Music. Fighting. Running. Surrendering.
Healing looks so different to every person I’ve met that has lost someone.
Grief is as unique as the person who grief belongs to.
There’s no measure of how long it “should” take. And there’s also no end to it.
Every October 7th will be hard. Every Christmas without her still feels like something is missing.

But just like everything else that we go through that is hard in life, you realize you come out of it with some valuable life lessons.

Life Lesson #1 – You value life more.
Rainbows are sweeter. Laughter is louder. You will hold your children longer. You breathe in deeper. You know how to appreciate good days, good food, good people, & good seasons of life.

Life Lesson #2 – Everyone dies.
So you know to tell people you love them when you leave them.
Sometimes you will say it 3 or 4 times in a conversation.
Sometimes you will drive your kids BONKERS because you say it that much.
But gosh dang it, when you die – people will always know how much you loved them.

Life Lesson #3 – Keep your phone on you.
Right or wrong, your phone is always nearby. In case something bad happens.
It’s because you’ve gotten that phone call.
You know that those phone calls do come.
So you always try to make sure your phone is next to you at all times, at all points of the day.
You may or may not get anxiety when your phone needs to be turned off. [stupid airplanes.]
You may or may not drive yourself INSANE because you hate that you have to have this stupid phone beside you at all times.
It doesn’t always have to make logical sense.
Some people may look down on you for it. Some employers will hate you for it.
It’s something you will continue to struggle with.
Kind of like aftershocks after the earthquake.

Life Lesson #4 -  You have made a will and/or planned your funeral.
Life insurance has been purchased.
Wills have been written.
Cemetery plots are picked out.
Funeral services have been planned.
People know your wishes.
To some people that’s just plain weird or morbid.
But when you have seen death so up close, you will reason that you cannot help it.
You just know to have a plan.

Life Lesson #5 – Money will not matter like people will.
You will spend an absurd amount of money flying around the country to see your people.
You will forfeit weekends, holidays, credit card points, & vacation time to value the people you love.
You understand that you can always make more money. But you cannot replace people.
People matter.
This is the single greatest truth of your life.

Life Lesson #6 – You will help others.
There will come a day – most likely when you aren’t expecting it – that someone will ask you to share your story.
Or maybe someone else will lose a sibling/loved one in a similar way to how you lost your loved one.
And when it comes - You will be there.
Because you know how to be there.
You will know what to say/what not to say.
You will bake casseroles or text encouragements or sit there in silence.
You will do these things when it seems like the world has moved on, but that person has just started their grief.
You will be intentional. You will not forget.
Because of all these things – you will help people.
And through that, you will realize that there is purpose in pain.
You will honor your lost loved one in ways that most people will never know of.
You will find some amount of healing & solace in this strange place.
Confession: This one is probably my favorite.

Life Lesson #7 – You will learn not to judge others.
I hate this one. Especially when it came to my siblings.
Because their pain & their grief didn’t look like mine, I judged them.
I came down hard on them. I didn’t understand them.
I did not like how they processed grief.
It took me MANY YEARS to understand that their path was exactly that - THEIR PATH.
It didn’t have to look or feel the same as mine.
We all went through the exact same thing, but our reactions to that were exactly the opposite.
This is not wrong. This is not for you to understand necessarily.
You will learn not to be so hard on people.
That we are all just trying to figure this stuff out.
If you are just beginning your grief journey, please learn this one early.
The less time you spend comparing your grief to someone else’s, the better.

Life Lesson #8 – People will forget.
They don’t mean to. They don’t intentionally do this.
But life goes on.
For most people, they will attend a funeral, buy a bouquet of flowers, and someday might remember that time where someone died that mattered to you.
This will not seem okay to you at first.
You will worry that people are forgetting.

And if people are forgetting, you aren’t doing something right.
That their death somehow didn’t mean anything.
But as you move along in life [believe me, this one took me YEARS] you will start to realize that it wouldn’t matter if everyone in the world forgot your loved one.
Because you will not forget.
And strangely weird – that will be enough for you.

Later that day, I changed back into a purple tee & put on my new Target scarf.
My husband comes home from work & we got into the car to head over to my mom's house.
My nephew, niece, my siblings & their spouses, and my parents all together in one space.
Being together brings me to my best place that day.
We walk through hard days together.
There's peace in that.
My daughter & son.
These new little lives that my sister never once met.
But somehow I see pieces of her in each of them.
[Especially their love for cats....]


My mom cooks. My brother talks a lot.
My sister is tired from expecting baby #2. [YAY!!!]
My step dad tells me he likes my new scarf.
I like how he always notices the little things.
My mom sees that I dressed my ENTIRE FAMILY in purple.
She insists on matching us. She changes into purple. [Laughter ensues.]
The night goes on. No one wants to leave.
My kids were up way past their bedtimes on a school night.
They know something special is happening.
I hope we always do this I decide that night.
We hug. We say I love you. My husband takes a picture of my family.

I wrestle my kids out the door.
We drive home & I start to think about how much Bridgett would have loved that night.

There's been so many hard moments without our Bridgett these past 10 years.
With every passing year, I see how different we are now to the people we were then.
Heaven seems so close some days. And other days I'm all too aware of how far apart we are.

I stopped wondering where my sister would be now if she were still alive or why things had to happen as they did.
At some point you just learn to stop asking so many questions.
I don't know if this is growing up so much as this is growing older.

As I write this tonight, my son stands next to me with his guitar wailing out "TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR!"
I smile & hug him.
I am reminded that there has been so much life, good life after death.
I remember those days when it felt like life might never be good again.

And in every happy moment since then, where we laugh until we pee cry.
Where my brother talks a lot. And my little sister Kayla picks on me.
Where my mom cooks & matches her clothes to whatever we are wearing.

And my step-dad sees the details.
Where cousins pick on cats together.
And in-laws seriously question why they married into this family.

We remember & honor the memory of someone we were pretty proud to have in our family for all those years.

Our last picture we'd ever take together.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Undisturbed Pickle.

I was having a lovely dinner with my step-mother Janet yesterday.
I've learned through the years that people will look at you funny when you say nice things out loud about your step-mom.
To that I say - don't believe everything Disney sells you about step-mother's.
They get a raw deal.
I promise - not all of them are evil.

We were finished eating dinner, hanging out in her posh hotel room [the view was fantastic]

 Just then Janet broke out the big guns.
A huge plastic Ziploc container of the best chocolate chip cookies known to man.
Janet has a cookie recipe that was passed down by her family.
She has sworn it to secrecy.
Mostly because of the unbelievable taste of these cookies.
Janet has promised me this recipe, making me swear to high heaven that I will mention her when I become all famous for these cookies, and people put me on the front of their cook books.
Clearly Janet has never tasted anything I've cooked for dinner....ever.
But sure - whatever it takes for me to get a hold of that recipe.

As Janet was about to bestow upon us the gift of these cookies, she held them back away from us - almost to torture us with their scent for a minute longer.

"Now guys - I have to tell you. As I was walking into my hotel today with these, I dropped the whole container & cookies rolled everywhere around the parking lot. I'M SORRY! So eat these at your own risk!"

My family watched in horror as I approached the Ziploc container, picked up a cookie, inspected it, and to their amazement, ATE EVERY LAST CRUMB OF IT.

I realize that in some circles, I might fool people with my obvious refinement [cough, cough] & my extreme pickiness for most kinds of food.

What you don't know is that I started my life in humble beginnings.
My first job was a dishwasher at a local family restaurant called "The Oaks."
Waitresses would bring me their table's dishes. Cooks would bring me their pots & pans.
And it was my job to push these dishes into the largest commercial dishwasher ever, and put the dishes away when they were clean.

Often times when plates would come in, you get a sense for what people touched & ate off of.
And what people left alone on their plate.
I'm not ashamed to say [or maybe I should be] that if a dill pickle that came with their meal was left untouched by my 13 year old assessment, I would snatch it off their plate & EAT IT.

I reasoned that it was only ever the pickle.
And if it was undisturbed by all accounts, wasting this pickle would be a real shame.
Especially with starving children all over the world.
Undisturbed pickles became a real job perk.

And though some people might cringe at the thought of eating other people's uneaten pickles or at the thought of being a dishwasher, I tend to look back at this first job fondly.
Because when you start your working career cleaning up after other people's messes, eating other people's undisturbed pickles, you realize that you are never, never, never too good for anything.

Call this a snob deal breaker.

But this job helped shape me into the person I would become.
Because when you are not a snob, willing to roll up your sleeves & do the hard work, there's so much more that God can do through you.
Call me old fashioned - but when I meet a person who isn't too good for everything.
Willing to wash dishes, rake leaves, serve dinners, wipe the snot off other people's kids in the nursery, wash windows, dust blinds, hold sick people, comfort grieving people, love smelly people, or volunteer for the least fun job with a smile on their face.....
Well. I cannot help it.
I like that person. Instantly.
You become my peoples.
And what's more - from that Jesus man who washed other people's feet, willing to die by the lowliest of standards - well, you're His peoples too.

Take it from me.
When your boss offers up a project that is the least amount of fun.
When the cookies that someone made for you with love hit the pavement & falls under the 5 second rule.
When your church needs help with something that no one else wants to do.

With a smile on your face.
You will amaze & horrify people all at the same time.
And feel good about never, never, never being too good for anything.

The world has enough snobs.
Don't be one of them.