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living a dream: chapter 1

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Since the first days we held Oliver and two years later, Lucy, Paul and I held a dream to someday travel with our family to another country for an extended period of time. Back then, at the very beginning of our journey as parents, everything was new and everything was possible.

Fast-forward twelve years, to the cafeteria at North Junior High, to the parent information night for incoming seventh graders.  I was sitting in a metal folding chair, surrounded by other parents of incoming seventh graders, watching the “Where Everyone Belongs” (WEB) video, ugly-crying in the semi-darkness, astonished that Oliver is already in junior high.

I came home, walked into our kitchen, and accosted Paul as he was cutting vegetables.

The time is now. 

He kept cutting. For what?

To travel with our family.

He stopped cutting.

It is easy to dream when it is years away and in abstract. Standing at the doorway of a dream is a different story. There is never a swath of money, waiting in the underwear drawer to be spent.  It is never convenient to find care for four chickens, one cat, two dogs, and some fish, as well as a house and two independently-owned businesses. Nor is there ever a space of time that magically opens up and makes it easy to leave your life for an extended period of time.

It is way easier to back away from that door. After all, big dreams come with big risk, and over the years, we had grown comfortable with our lives. In fact, we loved our lives and didn’t want to throw a wrench in things and screw up.

Our dream brought us to the edge of our comfort zones, but the urgency of life and the swift passing of time pulsed through me, pushing us forward, through both his and my fears.

When Paul said things like, What if my business stops?  What if we end up going into debt and we can’t recover? and What if we go broke? I held my own billowing fears inside, and with bold tone reassured him, We are going to be fine!

I wasn’t exactly sure of it myself, but I knew we had to do it.

Paul and I are two scrappy, resourceful people, so I didn’t worry about the practical things he worried about.  Instead, I feared the more nebulous things, such as, What if the plane crashes over the Pacific?  What if one of the kids gets hurt or sick?  What if Dharma (our 12-year-old blue healer) dies while we are overseas?

As the months passed, scary what if’s dancing in our heads, we forged ahead, one step at a time:

First we picked the date we would leave and the date we would return.

Then we checked with Oliver and Lucy’s schools to determine what we needed to do to pull them out for six weeks.

Then we bought our plane tickets.

Forward we walked toward Uncertainty, carrying both the weight of our fears and the beauty and lightness of our dreamscape.

 

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living a dream: prologue

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At the end of December, 1995, I left the snow-filled streets of Minneapolis with a backpack, $500 cash in the back pocket of my Levi’s, and a work visa, and boarded a plane to Australia. I was 23 years old.

I had never been out of the country, except for a stint in Mexico my senior year of high school, and I had just graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in journalism and no idea what I wanted to do with my life.  I had time on my hands and dreams in my heart. I wanted to see the world.  And learn how to surf.

I intended to travel for three months and ended up staying a year. I would have stayed longer, but the lady who worked at Qantas Airlines told me if I didn’t leave by December 30, 1996, my flight would expire.

As my plane departed New Zealand, through which I hitchhiked for a month at the tail end of my year in the Southern Hemisphere, I vowed that I would return to that magnificent country with my someday-family.

22 years later, on January 2, 2018, I boarded a plane to New Zealand with my family–my husband, our 12-year-old son, and our 10 year-old-daughter, and we spent six weeks rambling through the North and South Islands of New Zealand in a camper van.

This is the story of living a dream…(stay tuned)

 

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darkness

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I am in a dark place right now. A place rife with fear, regret, pain, sadness. I am living in it. And it sucks.

TMI? Why do I self-disclose? Because not enough people do. We live in this weird uncertain world where everyone acts like everything is great, like life isn’t hard.

Well, today I am acutely aware that life is hard. Relationships are hard. Vulnerability is hard. Putting yourself out there again and again and again is hard. Accepting our mistakes and failures? Hard.

This morning, while I was marinating in the weight of the many mistakes I’ve made in my life, I pulled out my jar filled with “angel cards.” These are cards with words printed on them like, “education,” or “clarity,” or “joy.” There are a whole handful of them.

Sometimes when I’m in a dark and depressed state, I sit with them and ask my guardian angels what I need to learn from this situation. Then I pull a card and contemplate its meaning for a while.

Today I pulled “Power.” Curious, considering I feel none.

But in a way, it makes perfect sense for my situation.

Because responsibility—owning up to our shit—is power. When we make mistakes, as we all do and will, we can only change ourselves by accepting the truth of what we have done and apologizing when we can.

Power is not perfection, but rather accepting responsibility for our actions and doing something about it.

For those of you who are sitting in your own states of darkness right now, I am sitting here in Minneapolis, feeling the same. I am right here with you.

And we are going to make it through to the light again.

I promise.

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writing monday: words as gifts

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A few weeks ago, in the heat of an argument, Paul said, “I see you write all the time. And you never write to me anymore!”

He was right. I used to write to him a lot more. But I fell out of the habit.  And since we are always together–cleaning, cooking, working, playing–living our daily lives right next to each other, I grew complacent and assumed he knows how I feel about him.

But when he (yelled) that at me, I realized that, like me, he just needed the words in front of him, needed to hold onto them.

So I spent some time honoring him, us, and the thousand moments we’ve shared since our journal started gathering dust, and wrote him a letter, letting him know how grateful I am for him and the life we’ve created together.

Then I wrote Oliver a letter because he has been feeling like Lucy gets all of the attention lately.

And last, I wrote a letter to a boy on our team who lost a friend two months ago.

Now I am a little behind on my work goals. But my heart feels bigger from simply taking time to give people words to let them know they are loved and valued.  The time was worth the giving.

Today, write a letter to someone to whom you want to express gratitude.  Address, stamp, and and send it, and know that your words and time are an act of giving light to this world.

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writing monday: who we were

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I was the girl with the bad Dorothy Hamil haircut, who wore hand-me-down clothes and liked to play “explorer” along the side of the creek. I was the goofball girl who talked too much in class. I was the girl who rolled up the right leg of her pants so it didn’t get snagged in the chain, the girl who had to be outside, riding her bike, no brakes, down the 57th street hill and through the stop sign below. I was the girl whose parents smoked and swore, the skinny girl who walked up to Don’s Superette each week and spent all of her allowance on candy….

When we were small, before the opinions of friends, family, and society crept into our heads about who and what we were supposed to be, we were fully ourselves. Fully and authentically ourselves.

Who were you?

If you observe a room of kindergarteners long enough, a spectrum of personalities begins to emerge: the outgoing boy, first to raise his hand, grunting at the teacher to call on him, and the introspective boy, reading a book quietly an a blue square because it’s his favorite color.  The creative girl, tangles in her hair and mismatched clothes, intensely drawing pictures for her friends during “choice time;” and the animal lover, poking her toy stethoscope into the teddy bear’s chest. 

If you observe a room full of kindergarteners, you see a glimpse of the essence and spirit of each child.

Who were you?

Writing Exercise: Beginning with the words, “I was the girl/boy who…” tell the story of who you were as a little girl/boy.

Our stories are powerful reminders of our own essence, spirit, and strength. When we remember who we were and what we dreamed and hoped for, we are better able to ground ourselves in who we are now. Use this prompt when you feel lost or are seeking direction in your life that will resonate with your truth and soul.

 

 

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thank you martin luther king jr.

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