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Is this one of those moments in history we should chronicle because someone in the future will ask us, “Where were you when Covid-19 spread across the globe?”

I was in elementary school when President Reagan was shot. Our class mailed him a get well card.

Prince Charles and Lady Diana were married on my 9th birthday, so that’s memorable for me.

I experienced the collective shock of the space shuttle Challenger exploding while I was sitting with my friends in class in middle school.

I was a junior in high school when the Berlin Wall came down – we have a piece of it.

I was a young married woman with family in Oklahoma City when Timothy McVeigh blew up the federal building there.

We were living in Colorado and I was pregnant with Max during the Columbine shooting. I sat in front of the TV, tears running down my face and one hand rubbing my belly as I wondered what kind of world we were bringing a child into.

We were living in Indianapolis that crisp fall morning in 2001 when I left for Bible study. Shortly after arriving, I watched in horror on live TV as a plane flew into the 2nd twin tower of the World Trade Center, and then I saw them fall.

Microscopic view of Coronavirus, a pathogen that attacks the respiratory tract. Analysis and test, experimentation. Sars

There are so many historical touch points and defining moments in our lives. Those were just a handful of mine.  Could this be another one? What will people in the future say about this pandemic? Will they ask questions like these?

  • What was it like?
  • Were you scared?
  • Did you blow it off as no big deal at first?
  • Did you really quarantine for ___ days?
  • What did you do all day?
  • What did you do when the stores ran out of necessities?
  • How did you ration your toilet paper?
  • Did anyone in your family test positive for Covid-19?
  • Did you lose anyone close to you due to the virus?
  • How did people treat each other? Was it everyone for themselves or were people community-minded?
  • Who were the leaders that instilled calm into the chaos and hope into the fear?

I want to record details now to help me remember then. How are you doing with all of this? What’s happening in your family? Your city? Your state? Your country? The collective stories will be memorable because we help make them part of the official record of our time. Write it down. Take photos. Scrapbook or journal things out. Answer the question.

Where were you?

Speaking Words of Life

It was a short conversation over text, but it has stuck with me all week, so I asked for permission to share it with you!

Me – How do you know my friend Amy?

Michelle – She sat at my table at MOPS* like five years ago.

Michelle and I recently met at the school where I teach one day a week, and we just became Facebook friends a few days ago. I checked out her page to see who we have in common and was happy to see Amy’s name. After I explained my connection to Amy, Michelle had me teary with this story:

“She probably doesn’t know this, but she was instrumental for me dealing with a teen pregnancy – with my step-daughter. I had MOPS the day after we found out she was seven and a half months pregnant. Obviously, I was reeling. I shared my news with the other ladies at my table and Amy looked at me and said,

`God sent a baby to save the world. Maybe He’s sending this one to save your daughter.’

And it did…save her, and it saved our relationship. We adopted her baby, Harper Grace. Grace for God’s grace. Amy probably barely remembers me, but I’ll never forget her.”

THIS is what friends do for each other – speak words of kindness and love, especially when someone is hurting. Amy is one of those people you meet that always knows what to say to lighten someone else’s burden. She makes people feel seen and loved. She has spoken words of life to me too and inspired me to be a better friend, so I really connected with Michelle’s story.

My daughter’s middle name is also Grace, but there’s another piece of this story that tugged at my heart. Michelle and Amy met at MOPS!

You see, Amy struggled with infertility (and all the heartache that comes with it) for several years before she became a mom. I was witness to part of that difficult season of her life, and I know where she was at 5 years ago as an exhausted new mommy of triplets! I love that she was part of a MOPS group and I think it’s awesome how she made a difference in Michelle’s life. I love that my world continues to both shrink and expand through my friendships with amazing people.

And that little unplanned baby they were talking about?

She’s now a beautiful little girl.

 

Harper

Michelle and Harper

*MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers. Headquartered in Denver, MOPS has been around since 1973. They partner with churches and organizations in over 60 countries to encourage moms. For more information or to find a MOPS group near you, visit their website: mops.org

Accountability…Ugh.

There is nothing fun about that word. You want to know how to nail the concept down? Promise a child you’ll do NaNoWriMo with them. 😉

NaNoWriMo Writer Badge

Kate, my niece, lives a few states away. I don’t know her nearly as well as I’d like to, but we have the BEST common interest…BOOKS! Reading them. Writing them. Smelling them. Well, I don’t know if she loves the smell of books like I do. That’s an assumption. I’ll have to ask her.

Back to NaNoWriMo. I’m a list person, and let me tell you, I could write a doozy of a list of reasons this is NOT the month to write a novel:

  1. We just moved to a new house in a new city. There are boxes everywhere.
  2. I’ve been fighting a head and chest cold for the past two weeks. *sniff*
  3. I have three jobs
  4. and two busy teenagers
  5. and an adult child who may never leave home
  6. and a husband who buys me mugs that say, “Write Epic Shit” on them. (Okay, that’s actually one for the “Pro” column.)
  7. and my novel has been shelved for several years
  8. and whinewhinewhinewhinewhinewhinewhine

But there is a twelve year old girl in Wisconsin counting on me to keep my word. I won’t let her down. I won’t let myself off the hook. And I really do love writing. Well, I love having written. If I’m going to reach my goals and dreams, I need to start somewhere.

Today is Day 1! It’s time to begin again! If you would like to join me in my quest to pound out a 50,000 word novel in thirty days, click on the link below to sign up for NaNoWriMo. If your list of reasons not to do it is anything like mine, ignore it. Find an accountability partner, and put your butt in a chair and your fingers on the keys. You can do it! I believe in you!

https://www.nanowrimo.org/

For the 17 and under crowd, join Kate in NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program: https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/ 

2-WriterWebBadge

Happy Writing! 🙂

 

Finding Your Voice

18 years ago today, my birthday twin posted on his blog for the first time. I know this because that’s what he posted on it today. You can read it here: http://wilwheaton.net/2019/08/6584-days/

“I enjoyed writing in my blog (powered by Greymatter!), and I felt like, for the first time in my life, I could speak for myself. My voice, which had only been heard through the filter of teen magazines, or vapid entertainment press, a voice which had been tightly controlled by the adults in my life, could finally have a chance to speak on its own truth.”

Holy crap! That resonates with me!

womanvoice

I started blogging the same year Merriam-Webster declared “Blog” their word of the year. YouTube was launched a year later. With three children under the age of five, I was desperate to find something that was just mine. As a youth minister’s wife, I longed for a place to express myself outside of the fishbowl I was living in. I was starving for connection with people I could be myself with – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Like Wil, I started blogging to stretch my wings a bit and find my voice, but I got to do that with a MUCH smaller audience because I’m not famous for anything, anywhere. Less pressure. The people in close proximity didn’t know what blogging was, so there was a sense of safety in the vague anonymity of the web. My how things have changed, huh?

I’m still struggling with my voice. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sarcastic. Sometimes it’s irritated or angry and I want to scream, “Go ahead! I F***ing Dare You!” Sometimes it’s weighty and sorrowful, and sometimes it holds the giddy excitement of a first kiss. At least that’s how it seems to me.

Blogging has given me a place to practice my voice, and I’ve learned a lot in the past fifteen years. Here’s a quick top ten:

  1. I have a voice but I’m still nailing down what it sounds like, because like my speaking voice, I know its sounds different to me than it does to you.
  2. I have permission and the courage to use the voice I have, even though sometimes I have to dig pretty deep inside myself to reach my courage.
  3. WHO reads my words is more important to me than the size of my audience.
  4. I blog to connect, entertain, challenge, inspire, and to explore and process the world around me. I blog to give others the gift of going second and permission to speak freely. If I want others to do that, I’d better be doing it too.
  5. My goal isn’t making money. If you’re blogging to make money, good for you! I hope you’re wildly successful! That’s just not the point of this for me.
  6. I am not always right. I have apologized for the things I’ve written SO MANY times through the years. #eatinghumblepie #beingteachable
  7. It’s okay to only write here sometimes. As long as I keep paying for my domain name, this thing isn’t going anywhere. I write in other spaces too – some private, some public.
  8. We all grow as we go. I keep my old posts – even the ones I no longer agree with – to honor who I was then. That woman was trying to find her voice too.
  9. Not everything that floats through my head needs to be written down or spoken. WORDS! I love them. I have lots of them. The word-vomit temptation is real, friends. I fight it all the time. You’re welcome. 😉
  10. Words have the power to heal and mend, so sometimes I write. I hope when you meet me here you’ll choose to see the best parts of me even when I show you my unloveliness. Surely we can find some common ground to heal and mend together so we can help heal and mend the world.

Wil inspired me today. I appreciate his journey, and using his paragraph that I quoted above, I’ve created my own version:

I’ve enjoyed writing on my blog. It’s given me an outlet to speak for myself and share pieces of who I am. My blogging journey has felt a lot like puberty – the beauty of personal development contrasting with a voice that cracks during the moments that will cause the most embarrassment. My voice, which I have allowed to be tightly controlled by my fear of what the religious people in my life would think of me if I spoke freely, is finally getting a chance to speak its own truth. My voice is one of love and inclusion, but also authenticity, which means there will also be times when I say, “I f***ing dare you.”

Have you found your voice? What has your journey been like? How are you using your voice now? Permission to speak freely…

Find your voice. Change the world.

TGIF – Or Not

Day 3.

I have a love/hate relationship with Fridays. I’m guessing ninety-nine percent of the people I know LOVE Fridays. It’s the last day of their work week, or they are living for the down time they get on the weekends, or whatever. Then there is me. I love Fridays for one reason only – It’s the one day a week I teach kids other than my own. I love our school. I love my teacher friends. I love my students. I hate waking up at 6:00am.

H-A-T-E with a fiery passion.

For my new friends stopping by, here’s a little Niki trivia for you: I used to think I suffered from insomnia – I don’t.  What I do have is called DSP or Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase. That’s the official name for being a night owl, and yes, it’s a real thing. It means left to follow my natural circadian rhythm, I will go to sleep later at night and wake up later in the day. When I do this, I am my best self. The other name for it is DSWPD (Delayed Sleep-Wake Phase Disorder). WHY is this classified as a disorder? Because we have socially acceptable times for sleep??? The most common treatments are time-controlled Melatonin, or light therapy to “correct” the disorder. What if I don’t think it needs correcting?

download

I am not a farmer, so there is no need for me to rise with the sun each day. I am no longer in the bleary-eyed bliss of young motherhood, so I don’t have to grab snippets of sleep whenever and wherever I can get them. I am not part of the Monday through Friday, 9 to 5 crowd. I am a woman who found a way to embrace being a night owl in an early bird world. What else could I do?

BK (before kids) I worked a few jobs where I had to be up early, but since then I’ve been in positions that were flexible enough for me to set my own schedule most of the time. My babies were not early risers. (Thank God!) As teenagers, they still aren’t. I suspect they too have DSP.  After all, it’s believed to be genetic. Benny certainly doesn’t have it. I am married to a man who wakes up before the sun without the use of an alarm. He can’t sleep in. Poor guy. Speaking of alarms, let’s get back to Fridays.

In 2021, my homeschooling and teaching days will end. Pete will graduate from high school, and I will no longer have to set my alarm for 6:00am on Friday mornings. It will be bittersweet, but right now the thought is just sweet. Why? Because it’s Thursday night and I will be up early tomorrow morning. Thursday nights are the worst. Even after I’ve completed my pre-Friday checklist, my brain is not ready to slip into sleep mode. Tonight, I’m up blogging. Most nights I read until my iPad slips and hits me in the face or falls on the bed or floor. (True story.) I keep it in an Otterbox case for a reason. 😉

How about you? Any other night owls up reading this way past their socially acceptable bedtime? Or are you one of my early bird friends that will read this long before I am up showering for school? THAT is called ASP or Advanced Sleep-Wake Phase by the way, and is also considered a disorder.

Try not to sustain an eye-rolling injury as we both laugh at the experts.

It’s Planner Time!

Day 2

I’ve been working on my 2019 planner. Like an office supply junkie needing a fix, I’m surrounded by my stickers, rubber stamps, washi tape, bold colored pens, and my favorite pencil. This is my toolbox for coping with the chaos of life. Planning calms me. Making lists and highlighting important dates to look forward to helps me breathe easier. It’s one of my best brain dump practices. Paper and pens are my thing.

nerdy girl

My friend Don has been showing me his bullet journal pages for a couple of years now and I hate to admit it, but I’m a bit jealous. I’ve purchased 157 blank books in my life, give or take a few, and I’ve filled about 4 of them. But I’ve filled a planner every year for as long as I can remember. Don makes his own planner, and he’s amazing at it. I think it calms his brain too.

Mary, another dear friend, special orders an Erin Condren planner every year with her name on it! Yeah, they do that. I’m a little jealous of that too. Yes, I know I can order one, but we are in different planner tax brackets for the moment. I dream of owning a planner with my name engraved on the cover. *sigh* (I’m kidding about the sigh.)

That may be one of my goals for 2020. That seems like a good goal, right? Or maybe I shouldn’t jump ahead a whole year. I should tackle this one first. Baby steps.

Are you a planner or a pantser? (Do you fly by the seat of your pants?) I’m a planner that sometimes embraces spontaneity. I’m off to brain dump before bed, but here’s a picture of my two planners. The tall one is for work. The spiral shorty is my personal planner and fits perfectly in my purse. The lighting isn’t great, but you get idea.

2019planners

What’s in your toolbox?

So It Begins!

Day 1. January 1st. A fresh start. 365 days of possibility stretched out before me. New beginnings. A chance to do better and be better. But, I’m still feeling the sorrowful weight of 2018. I don’t know how long it will last. Here’s what I want for the new year…

EASY-button

I don’t make resolutions anymore – I never keep them. What I do is hope. I hope to be intentional this year, in my relationships, my work, my health, my writing, my travel, my rest, my faith, and most of all, my family.

2018 kicked my ass. I am down for the count and I’m fighting to stand back up. I moved beyond sad awhile ago and I’m struggling with depression. This past week I had friends on Facebook asking us to list three good things that happened to us in 2018, and I sat there numbly staring at my screen. Could I think of three?

  1. Amsterdam & France. The mom’s mystery trip was the best thing that happened to me in 2018. Traveling to another country with some of my close friends and spending the day with Don in France was AMAZING!
  2. Erin graduated in May. Erin is my neighbor and one of my “daughter from another mother” kids. Traditional school was not a good fit for her, so I worked with her mom and we helped her homeschool her last two years of high school. Homeschooling is HARD, but I am built to do hard things.
  3. I’m thinking…

In the name of processing hard things, here’s my 2018:

At the beginning of the year I started a new job I thought would be amazing but turned out to be awful. I don’t want to work for abusive people with zero integrity who lie and manipulate others to get what they want. When I started back at GJK in June, I came home and cried that first day. I had forgotten what it felt like to be treated with respect and as an integral part of a team. The joke has been that I took a five month sabbatical from them and everyone is glad I’m back. Me too.

Someone dear and close to us broke the law and twelve months later we are still walking through the fallout of that bad decision with them – it’s not over.

What I initially thought was a break from my church turned into a break up. I am dismayed by much of American Christianity and navigating what that looks like for my faith journey. I’ll be blogging more about that sometime this year.

The mystery trip was a wonderful adventure, but I was betrayed by a friend shortly after we returned home. I didn’t see it coming and it completely blind-sided me. Then she cut me out of her life and I just don’t understand. I’m still mad as hell about it.

For the first time in twenty years, I missed out on summer camp. I had just returned to work with GJK and Benny was job hunting. We just couldn’t make it happen.

Letting go of the cigar shop and dealing with unemployment for a few months was a huge challenge. We survived it, but I can’t even talk about the difficulty of that season. It’s still too raw.

Kids: Max had two car accidents and two tickets, we had to sell his car for scrap when we couldn’t sink any more money into it to fix it (it wasn’t the car in the accidents), job changes for the kids, teenage hormones and angst, and a medical issue that had us worried for months that seems to be resolved now, and all three of my children had their hearts broken, which hurts a momma’s heart too. It was a hard year for the whole family.

We have several friends fighting serious health battles, a few of whom have stopped treatment and are trying to live their best life with the time they have left.

And death, oh the deaths. One of my former students passed away. The loss of a child in one’s life is particularly hard. A sweet young lady we’ve known for many years shocked everyone who knew her when she took her own life. We love her family and feel their heartache. As you know from my last post, Avon Shields lost her battle with cancer and that devastated me. My 14-year-old niece Sarah got sick and passed away the week before Christmas. While I didn’t know her because we’ve never lived close, it was excruciating to watch my sister lose her only child. It was terrible speaking with my dad on the phone and hearing his voice break. Her funeral was last Saturday on Pete’s birthday. On Christmas Day we learned of the passing of our friend Davon the day before. It was a year of great loss and I’m still reeling.

There are things that happened in 2018 that I am processing privately. Hurtful, ugly things that make me want to change my name, move somewhere no one can find me, and tell the whole world to go to hell. That doesn’t sound like me at all, but it’s where I’m at. 2019 has got to be better, right?

And now that I’ve purposefully tried to think of three good things about 2018, I’m remembering several more…

  1. I made new friends.
  2. I enjoyed lots of planned coffee dates in person and messenger or phone dates with friends far away.
  3. I saw some good movies.
  4. I read a lot of great books.
  5. I met several amazing authors I love.
  6. I got a free educator’s pass to Denver Comic Con – spent some time with my friend Rebecca and we got a photo with Val Kilmer.
  7. I reconnected with old friends I haven’t seen in years.
  8. I wrote a little bit.
  9. I led some fun field trips with my homeschooling mom friends.
  10. I prayed for a lot of people and was prayed for too.
  11. My food bank was thriving and I helped lots of families
  12. My dad and Shari came for a visit.
  13. I learned some new skills that will serve me well in the future.
  14. I bought a vintage 1930’s typewriter and won a pretty cool 1970’s one for a poem.
  15. Benny got a great new job.

I’d keep working on this list, but I really just want to move through the grief process and look forward to good things in the new year. I know every year is a mixed bag. That’s life, and it’s never fair, but for now I’m signing off with this…

Good riddance 2018. You may have kicked my ass, but 2019 is going to kick yours.

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