Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Mourning a Mother

I can’t breathe.

Is there anything heavier or sharper than grief?

If this was a movie, I’d be slumped on my side having just been run through with a sword. No, it won’t kill me, but to deny that death more than stings for those of us left behind would be an atrocious lie. Papercuts sting. This is so much more.

Talk of heaven doesn’t comfort me. I don’t want hope right now. I want to press into this moment of terrible otherness – the rending of life. Don’t talk to me about her reunion with Jesus or the promise of being with her again someday. Those thoughts will come in the days ahead. Today let me mourn and don’t try to stem the torrential tears. Just hold me close and let me be.

Twelve days ago, one of my “mothers” chose her ending – to enter hospice care at home with her precious family by her side. She’d been battling cancer and the treatments didn’t work. Last night, she took her last breath.

Avon

I stole this from her Facebook page. I love her mischievous grin.

Avon Shields, known by thousands of women around the world as “Momavon,” was my dorm mom in college. She has been one of the most influential women in my life. I could write volumes about the lessons I learned from her, but I’ve tried my best to live them out instead. The way she loved the girls in her care made me want to be a mom even though I swore to her that wasn’t part of my plan. She just laughed and hugged me tight, “Oh Niki, my sweet girl, you may change your mind one day.”

Three weeks after my eighteenth birthday, I packed everything I own and waited for my friend Erin Beske and her parents to take me away to my new life, one I’d been dreaming about since the seventh grade when I first stepped foot on the campus of York College in York, Nebraska. Finally, and against the odds, I said goodbye to my childhood in Wisconsin and swore I’d never call it my home again. Yes, I’m a bit dramatic like that, and apparently I swear a lot.

There were only two women’s dorms and I was assigned to the one Avon lived in. Someday I’ll write about the many kindnesses and miracles of that life-altering first year, but this is about me and Avon. She told me once she loved me from the moment we met. That strong, patient woman poured love and guidance into me, a broken girl with too many holes in my bucket, and when I apologized for being so needy, she pulled me close and said that was nonsense.

She saw the leader in me and gave me responsibilities, showing me I was capable. When we joked and teased her about her many rules and forms, I was secretly relieved at the structure and stability she provided after growing up in my chaotic family. I’m totally a rule bender, but I needed her to help me set my life on a better course. I think we both knew it. A lot of the major decisions I made at York were discussed over tea in her apartment. She talked me through all the things my mother couldn’t, and I’ll be forever grateful. When she did finally meet my mother, she was kind and gracious to her, which was also a gift to me.

Avon loved Benny. She loved to remind me that she knew he was the one I’d choose maybe even before I knew myself. It’s been many years since we’ve sat together with a cup of tea, and I’m glad we had Facebook to help us peek into each other’s lives. I’m thankful for the brief moments we’ve shared in the 25 years since we lived in the same space. There are so many stories to tell, and all of them are coursing through me today with a painful and beautiful cadence.

I love Avon’s family and ache for them right now. Her husband Ron is a kind and funny man. I don’t know their eldest son Alan, though we’ve met. I’ve always admired Lynnette and her beautiful artist’s soul. I know her son Paul the best as he was my editor when I worked on the school newspaper staff in college, and his wife Shalee is one of my kindred spirit friends I wish lived next door. I can’t be with them this week, but my aching heart is there, attempting this dance of grief and celebration with clumsy feet.

When we lose someone we love, we often choose to immortalize them as their best selves. We know they were flawed but we overlook those things to remember them as the heroes they were in our lives. I’m okay with that. I think it’s the way it should be. It’s what I hope for someday too, to be remembered as the best of what and who I was.

I will remember you, Avon. I promise. I learned how to patch my bucket and I’ve tried to be purposeful about pouring into others. Thank you for showing me how. Thank you for guiding me through my baby steps of adulthood and loving me when I didn’t feel lovable. Thank you for cheering me on as I spread my wings and flew away. It’s been years since I’ve hugged you, and I hope to hug you again someday. Thanks for being a mom to me.

Advertisements

Begin Again!

Those two words are the story of my life.

I start things, get busy or bored, leave them sit for a while, then begin them again. Projects, writing or otherwise, are the worst and most common testing ground for this. I take brave, stumbling steps forward and often fall down, but I always get back up and begin again. I am resilient.

Beginning again is a choice. If you get lost, find your way back. If you fall down, get back up. If you are wounded, let yourself heal. Never ever give up. Finish what you start. Just do it. Press on. Start over. Pick up where you left off. If you’re still not happy or making headway with the project or whatever it is you’ve stalled out on, re-evaluate and decide if you’re at the end. If you are, let it go and embrace your freedom to move on. If you’re not finished yet, begin again. You can do it. So can I. We can cheer each other on!

Oh, how we need to cheer each other on! We need reminders because we forget and we judge ourselves too harshly. It doesn’t have to be this way, so here’s our reminder for today:

Keep moving forward. Dare greatly. Begin Again.begin again

(I was searching for a beautiful photo to accompany this post and came across this gem at http://melissablair.net/always-begin-again. What a nice reminder that this is nothing new and we are never alone. Great minds…)

 

 

 

2017 Teen Book Con logoTechnically it’s for teens and not forty-five year old teachers, so I volunteered to be a chaperone for five of my favorite teen girls. I’m a genius. Admit it. I win.

Maggie

Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie is going to be there! I love Maggie! She’s my kind of weird, and her stories pull me in then drag me around by the heart for months after I’ve finished them.

 

David Levithan photo

David Levithan

And David! He introduced me to Dash & Lily, and A, and a bunch of other great characters born in his crazy writer/editor brain.

 

Maggie and David are the keynote speakers for the day, but they’ll be joined by 24 other amazing authors including one of my other favorites…Veronica Rossi. I can’t wait to meet her!

The Tattered Cover didn’t forget me completely. They’re hosting a YA Author Happy Hour for the over 21 crowd the night before Teen Book Con. I get to meet the same authors over a drink, get Maggie’s new book signed, and hopefully meet a few local OwlCrate future friends. If you’re in the Denver area and interested in this event, there are still some tickets available:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2017-ya-author-happy-hour-tickets-36874760401

Maybe I’ll see you there! 😉

 

 

NaBloPoMo?

NaBloPoMo

Apparently that’s a thing. Or it used to be. Have the BlogHer people running that show gone silent? If so, I’m hardly one to criticize. I haven’t posted here since January. January! I guess it’s a good thing this blog is titled, “SOMETIMES I Write.” Am I right? 😉

National Blog Posting Month. Like I have time for this! But I miss playing my instruments (the quills and keys) and I ALWAYS have something to say, plus I’m not doing it alone. My dear friend Mary posted about NaBloPoMo on her blog today and a tiny little spark inside my chest flared to life! So here I am! I’m posting every single day for the month of November. I can’t promise I won’t go silent again as we slide into the holiday season, but who knows? Maybe that little flame will become an unstoppable, roaring blaze. Stranger things have happened.

Speaking of Stranger Things…I still haven’t watched Season 2. I hosted a gaggle of teenagers last weekend to watch the whole thing, but I didn’t join them, I just set out food and drinks and slowly backed out of the room. I’m praying for a snow day or two so I can catch up. Speaking of catching up, A LOT has happened since January! Here’s a quick list:

  • I hosted a Murder Mystery Dinner with a friend (Prom fundraiser)
  • I hosted a Steampunk Prom with friends (Max was crowned Prom King)
  • My bookstore closed for good (Lots of mixed feelings about that)
  • I started a new job with a friend’s construction company (Loving it!)
  • Max graduated from High School (Hooray for both of us!)
  • I got a new tattoo! (See pic below)
  • I went to Oklahoma for two weeks in June for summer camp (It was hot)
  • I met a few of my favorite authors (I’m adding to that number on Saturday)
  • I attended Denver Comic Con (No, I didn’t cosplay, but I may have swooned a little)
  • I celebrated my 24th wedding anniversary and my 45th birthday (No comment)
  • I attended a funeral and a wedding. (I cried at both)
  • I drank A LOT…Chai, Moscato, Coke Zero, Tea (But not plain water. Gross.)
  • I joined a Brene Brown book club (She’s incredible and so are the five of us!)
  • I lost a few friends and gained a few more (I always gain more than I lose)
  • There’s an ex-girlfriend and a new boyfriend in our family (I adore them both!)

I’m sitting here thinking about what I will share with you over the next 29 days. When my writing is silent and buried for a while, I feel the need to expound on life. Once the words break the surface, it’s a geyser of facts, anecdotes, tips, joys, and pains. I may need to rename my blog. Suggestion? These might work:

  • TMI w/Niki
  • It’s My Blog and I’ll Cry If I Want To
  • The Cussing Christian and other Tales

Or maybe I’ll just stick with what I know, that sometimes I write, and my writing often touches on all of those things.

Want to join us for NaBloPoMo? There are no prizes, just the satisfaction of creating something to fling out into the world. Express yo’self! Speaking of that, here’s MY graduation gift for successfully homeschooling my man-child all the way through:

IMG_5238

That’s what I did and what I’m going to do forever, so I’ll see you back here tomorrow!

I’m not embracing a single word to focus on for 2017, but if I was, it would probably be GRATITUDE. Even in my darkest nights of the soul, my life is filled with people and things I am so grateful for. I know there are many tools available to help me focus on those things. I was even gifted a gratitude journal. There’s only one teensy weensy problem…I hate journaling. Really. I hate it.

I love writing, but journaling and writing are completely different beasts! I fill my blank books with lists and story ideas and writing “Niki loves Benny” in my best penmanship. I don’t journal.

But…

On a melancholy, wintry day in 2015, I sought solace in a cup of chai at Starbucks. While I was chatting up the barista, I grabbed one of those little freebie cards for iTunes apps they used to give out. My eyes were drawn to the big number 5 on it. If I had looked close enough to see the word “journal” I probably would have left it on the counter. When I finally checked it out, I was impressed, and it was FREE. Bonus! Thank you, Starbucks! *bats eyelashes*

5-minute-journal-logo

I love this app so much, I had my kids download it on their phones too. The simple format is appealing – I’m not sitting down to a blank page wondering what to write, I just follow the prompt, answering the same questions every day in the morning and evening. It helps me think through my goals for the day and reflect on the little amazing moments that add up to my life.

You can add daily pictures, set up notifications, and share their inspirational quotes to social media. It takes less than 5 minutes yet it’s had a profound impact on my attitude over the past year. Even on my bad days, it helps to focus on what went well and who I am. The daily affirmation might be my favorite part. It gave me a new perspective and I’m happier for it.

As for my kids, I’m helping them form habits that will serve them (and others) well and I get the added bonus of happier, healthier kids. We’re usually together when our phones light up with our journal prompts, which is fun.

notification

Need a celebrity endorsement? Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week, is a big fan.

The Five Minute Journal is one of the simplest ways that I have found to consistently ensure improving my well being and happiness. Both in terms of achievement and actual measurable, quantifiable results.

Tim Ferriss, NY Times Best Selling Author

Sadly, the app is not free anymore, it’s $4.99 in the app store for my fellow IOS users. It is worth every penny!

Android users: I’ve read you can use the same principles with a journaling app like Dario, or 5 Minute Journal is also available in book form from the makers at Intelligent Change and on Amazon.

Try it risk-free! If you subscribe to the newsletter at Intelligent Change, they will send you a free quick start pdf for you to try 5 Minute Journal for five days. You can always unsubscribe to the newsletter if it’s just not your thing, but why not give it a try?

Do you journal? How do you motivate yourself and stay focused on positivity? 

Update: If the video isn’t working, here’s the YouTube link: 5 Minute Journal on YouTube

I’m kicking off 2017 by sharing some of my life hacks! Next up: LastPass!

It’s Sunday night on the first day of the first month of 2017, and the eve of the first Monday of the year. I’m doing what I do most Sunday nights, planning for the week.

I’m snuggled in my bed, sipping something sweet, and poring over my calendars. Plural. I love my phone’s Google Calendar that syncs up with those of the rest of my family, but I can’t live without a paper version too.

Though my own brain and habits haven’t been studied and tracked, I know there is Scientific evidence that suggests by physically writing things down, we process the information better by creating spatial connections in our brains and we have an easier time remembering the important stuff.

I’ve always been a writer-downer. It is one of the tools that allows me to be a high-capacity woman. I’m a big fan of lists and I create them for everything: Grocery shopping, names I might like to use in the stories I’m writing, funny things my kids say, special information about friends I don’t want to forget, books I want to read, etc. All of this gets jotted down in the different sections of my paper planner, then some of it gets entered into my phone, and on the big family calendar on the side of our refrigerator.

cover-pic

I prefer to see the whole month-at-a-glance, so I like the large flexi-planner. Mine is dated August 2016 – December 2017. My phone calendar is set to see the day-at-a-glance. Do what works for you!

calendar-pic

Each month I begin by filling in the squares with standing commitments like meeting times, food bank days, fieldtrips, and my kids’ work schedules and babysitting dates.

I use the extra blank squares on the calendar to record notes about the kids and that month’s book releases I’m excitedly awaiting. This month they’re on the bottom. My teenagers pay for their own phones, so this is where I record what they owe us and I cross it off when they pay it. Any other loans and notes about the kids get recorded here as well.

I use the side column to list birthdays and anniversaries of family and friends, and section off the bottom for our list of bills so I have a visual of what we need to pay for the month.

The top margin gets filled in with quotes, questions, observations, and other notes.

The circled dates are my paydays for my part-time jobs.

week-pic

The week-at-a-glance section in my planner is where I record notes as I think of them. Kind of like a daily sticky note of what happened or things I want to remember.

What I’m adding this year:

  • Book List – Books I’ve read will be recorded on the day I finish them.
  • Movie List – Movies watched will be recorded on the day I watch them.
  • Moving List – Daily recording of the steps I take. I plan to add a lot more of them.

Do you use a planner or calendar? More than one? How do you stay organized? 

I’m kicking off 2017 by sharing some of my life hacks! Next up: The 5 Minute Journal!

2016 Mom’s Mystery Trip

img_7845

$500.00.

A weekend away in an unknown destination.

Details to be given once you arrive at the airport with your carry-on bag.

Are you in?

I said YES!

Last fall, my friend Cindy decided to put together a Mom’s mystery trip. She’s the director of the private school where I teach and my kids take classes on Fridays. She’s also an experienced world traveler, having led several educational trips abroad for high school students, and done some traveling of her own with her family. She excitedly made the first announcement to see if anyone would be interested.

The responses ran from “YES, YES, YES!” to “Are you crazy? I’m not spending money to go on a trip without knowing the details!”

In the end, it was a chilly January morning when five excited women met Cindy at the airport with our carry-on luggage in tow. (A very special thank you to my mystery friend who made it possible for me to go on this adventure! I can’t thank you enough!) After we gathered around, Cindy announced we were booked on a non-stop flight to Miami where we would spend the night in a luxury suite before driving to the Port of Palm Beach the next morning to board a ship for a two-day cruise to the Bahamas! It was more than I ever hoped or imagined! WOW!!!

img_7844

2016 Mystery Moms

We arrived in Miami and drove to the Marriott on Biscayne Bay. It was beautiful! We settled in a bit then talked and laughed our way through dinner at Primo Restaurant near our hotel. My friend Veronica and I ordered different meals so we could share. Delicious! I also tried crab cakes for the first time and loved them. Who knew?

img_7864

Marriott at Biscayne Bay

After dinner we drove our minivan down to south beach and cruised past all the clubs. Can you picture it? lol We were so cool. The traffic was insane! We came back to the hotel and took some pictures of the bay (and each other) and hung out enjoying the cool breeze. What a beautiful night!

img_7917

Miami Sunrise over Biscayne Bay

The next morning, we headed for Little Havana to eat breakfast at the famous Versailles Bakery & Restaurant. I tried Cuban coffee (yuck) and took lots of pictures of the architecture and my breakfast. I’ll spare you those particular photos. Not having seen palm trees since I was a little girl living in California, I loved the drive to the port! You could feel the excitement and energy in the van as we planned possible activities: A glass bottom boat tour, swimming with the sharks (Ellison was the only one up for that adventure), shows on the boat, and of course, shopping.

Then we arrived at the port and our trip took an unexpected turn.

 

Click on the images to enlarge them.

As we were checking in, we found out Amanda had a copy of her birth certificate and wouldn’t be allowed to go on the cruise. The port only allows state-issued birth certificates or passports for re-entry into the United States. I suddenly felt like I had swallowed a pile of rocks. I have a military hospital issued birth certificate. Sure enough, when it was my turn at the counter, the guy practically rolled his eyes at me as he handed me my documents and told me no, I would not be leaving with my group.

Stunned, angry, sad, disappointed. I didn’t know what to feel. We were just told we needed an original birth certificate with a raised seal. That’s what I have. It’s the one I’ve used my whole life. But it wasn’t enough. It was a terrible mix up, and Cindy felt awful about it. My tender-hearted friend was beside herself trying to fix it.

It was a struggle looking into the sad faces of my friends. Everyone felt terrible. I love them and wanted them to enjoy their cruise. A few deep breaths and hugs later and they were off, leaving me and Amanda to form a new plan for a few days in Florida.

We were both in a bit of shock, but we pep talked each other into looking at it as another unplanned adventure. It worked! We had a blast! We decided to take lots of pictures and post them to Instagram so our cruising friends would know we were having fun, and they’d be included in our part of the trip too. We didn’t know they didn’t have internet and couldn’t see our pictures or share their own. My friend Ellison was the only one to interact with us at all, so now I’m convinced she’s either a spy, has her own satellite phone, or connections in high places. I’m leaning towards spy. 😉

Amanda and I found a nice place to stay in West Palm Beach and spent our two days walking, talking, going to the beach, visiting a state park, and attempting an Anthony Hernandez scavenger hunt. Our first night in West Palm Beach we happened upon a pretty cool wall mural of JFK, so I googled the artist and found out he had street art all over the city! (See above and check out his website, the ones below are other people’s art.)

The whole art district was pretty great. We stayed up late into the night talking, got sand all over the rental van, laughed, cried, shared the highlights of our lives with each other, ate great food, and relaxed.

And what is a trip to Florida without spending a bit of time writing at the beach and playing in the waves? The photo of my hands full of sand is me rescuing a stranded baby jellyfish. He’s the bluish blob on top. I carefully scooped him up and threw him back into the ocean and cheered him on with the hope he’d beat the tide.

Our vacation flew by and soon it was time to meet the other ladies at port and begin the uncertain trek back to Denver – which was in the middle of a snow storm. I kind of hoped our flight would get cancelled so we’d have another day with all of us together. I even bought this postcard and texted the photo to a few friends. Ha! No such luck. We actually arrived home early?!

img_8073

It was a fabulous trip! It was good that I didn’t have a plan, and even though it didn’t go according to Cindy’s plan either, I would do it again! And guess what? Last week, Cindy announced the next mystery trip is scheduled for February! I wonder how long it will take me to get my passport?

What about you? Would you go on a mystery trip?

Do you have any suggestions for great WARM places to visit while it’s freezing in Colorado?

 

%d bloggers like this: