Past, Present, and Planning

peak trainI’ve started three separate blogposts in the last few weeks but I’ve run out of time to finish any of them. I have an unbelievable desire to write regularly, but with increased activity through the summer, my time to write has decreased dramatically. I think I sense the squeeze of past, present, and planning, and whatever energy I would have for writing has leaked out into the lives of those around me. At the end of the day, I have no words left to share.

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Walking up the hill to our upper kitchen with Middle Sprout the other night, I was stopped by a bar wench. (yes, they actually call themselves that) She was curious about my writing. “What sorts of things do you write? What are you working on now?”

I laughed and said I am not able to do any real writing right now.

“Writing is like breathing for me, and I have been gasping for air much of the time I’ve been in Colorado.”

The other bar wench who was listening to our exchange piped in,  “It’s got to be hard to write in the bus with so little space and all of those people.”

I acknowledged that truth and continued up the hill, but the more I thought about it, the more I know that the bus is certainly not to blame for my lack of consistency or my assuredly unproductive writing habits.

Middle Sprout walked thoughtfully with me for a few steps and then said, “Mom, you should go to a coffee house or something. You definitely need to breathe.”

She’s right, and I want to show her that I do that. That I prioritize my needs enough that I can keep breathing…and thriving. What an extremely important lesson to teach my almost 13-year-old. It’s important for all of my kids to see my investment in myself and I’ve admittedly sucked a little at that this summer. It’s likely why I was introduced to my inner bear. (see previous blogpost) I am generally better about prioritizing for my needs, but I think this summer what may have become more important are the needs of those around me.

So, I’ve thought quite a bit about the reasons my own breathing has taken such a backseat this summer and I’ve concluded I’m wading in a pool fed by three tributaries.

PAST

When I come to Colorado I am confronted full force with childhood demons and challenges I wish I could completely abandon. Hard emotions get easier and easier to navigate as I get older, but there is still energy expended there. I feel a sense of love and obligation to my family and to the friends with whom I’ve maintained lifelong relationships. There is, however, a cost to remaining committed to the past that shaped me.

I’ve watched my life in passing scenes on the hills of this site too. The beer guys transported kegs and plastic cups from site to the reception for our wedding…I carried our first baby up and down hills in a backpack …I lost our second baby by miscarriage after walking the grounds…Middle Sprout’s arrival was cheered with Huzzah’s when her dad managed to get back on site the day she was born on the last day of the show…I waddled around fully pregnant with Little Sprout while pushing a monstrous double stroller…all the Sprouts have been knighted and princess dresses and crowns fill drawers in our home…the big sprouts have learned to work out here and memories of driving practice will likely include some of these backroads. And our recent summer of camping experience has happened on the grounds of this Festival.

It is now both my past…and the past for our kids.

PRESENT

Now that we’ve converged at this present place, I’m struggling with what that really means. The Sprouts are all under the same roof and living with our singular family rhythm. When I look at the present clock too closely, I have to acknowledge that time is running out. Next week I’ll have two teenagers and in the fall they’ll all be in double-digits. By next spring we’ll have a driver and what might have been subtle shifts in responsibility will be a full-fledged handoff.

Of course there is the present reality of my upcoming 40th birthday in August too and despite my efforts, I cannot seem to ignore the symbolic milestones that come with that.

My Choosing to Grow philosophy is dependent upon living in the moment and celebrating the present. It’s honestly taking almost all the energy I have to live up to my own expectations.

PLANNING

And then there is the planning. I have built my life around planning and I’ve painfully learned the lessons of thwarted plans and increasing disappointment evidenced in children’s eye rolls at my efforts. As my teens have grown, my plans have simply needed to adjust to become “wait…wait…and wait some more for their plans to develop.” (rides here…money to go here, etc.) It has impacted me enough that poor Little Sprout does not have my best energy for planning. There was a point this summer (right around the arrival of the bear) when I literally threw in the towel for any more planning.

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I have come to believe that planning is necessary but it needs to be more about hope and faith than about control.

I plan to pray fervently about putting planning back into my routine.

The Fourth Dimension of MOTHERHOOD

I want our kids to know that motherhood is certainly multi-dimensional. Mother has a responsibility to herself and it serves as a model to her children. But motherhood is more than just teaching children how to be strong, independent, balanced and confident because they see that modeled behavior. It’s more than being a woman who knows what she needs and makes the effort to achieve her own goals at the cost of something else she also needs…relationship with her children. Motherhood is about something even more and it looks an awful lot like sacrifice.

I’ve spent too much of this summer being flat. I’ve been frozen without dimension because I let myself become too overwhelmed and it paralyzed me. I wanted to feel productive and important. I am at a critical phase in my life; sandwiched on all sides by past, present and planning pressures. There is a dimension I need to embrace, however, and the plan is to employ it immediately in order to legitimately refocus: LOVE.

Love transcends time and place, pain and pressures. The love I need applies to all parts of my day and my life. I need to be better at self-love, to be intentional about love for those from my past, for those who traipse across my day in the present, and for all those for whom prayer and planning are necessary to build hope.

As I try to finish this blogpost I just dismissed Middle Sprout to give me just a few more minutes of space. Space I have neglected to ask for this summer and, seeing the welling tears of hormonal disappointment, possibly the last time I will ask for this space while the Sprouts are snuggled in so closely. There is sacrifice in motherhood that piles up in pictures of their childhood. My choice is to be present enough…so I can love them back with everything I have right now…all before we have to make real plans for them to go.

***Despite my internal struggles, I have managed to get the kids out and about for some fun adventures. Pictures of ziplining and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo with Little Sprout can be found on my website. ***

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank                           Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

I’m Going on a Bear Hunt

bearFor a few weeks now, I’ve woken to the evidence of bears who have torn apart our trash cans just yards away from the bus. A part of me has hoped I would see one so I could take a picture. That is…until I actually did. Looking at that beast up close, I realize I have too much in common with that damn bear.

It may not be the best picture, but he surprised me when I was resting near the joust arena at the end of this past weekend. Fumbling with my shaking hands could only yield this semi-intelligible photo. I promise…he was closer than he appears.

I’d like to say I have nothing analogous in common with the lumbering bear, but if I’m honest with myself I see a lot of myself in him. I am carrying around something quite dark and heavy these days and it is slowing me down.

I’m certainly not myself. In fact, my normal self would definitely be sleeping right now, at 3:30 in the morning, instead of trying to tap out some of the words swimming around in my head. My normal self might not be struggling with outrageous bouts of moodiness and unpredictability. My normal self wouldn’t be so anxious or consumed with the idea of sweets.

Okay, so the infatuation with sweets isn’t necessarily a symptom. There really are fried ice cream balls to produce after all. (I’ll get to that in a second)

The more I think about it though, the more I think I am probably carrying around all of these things not through any fault of my own. Much the way a bear is simply a bear and does bear things…an almost 40-year-old just HAS to naturally do some of the crazy stuff I’ve been doing lately. So, maybe my crazy is NOT my fault. Let me Google it.

Ok, I think I’m on to something.

Diagnosis: I have symptoms of perimenopause.

A logical causal effect…the BUS. (now don’t you DARE try to tell me that my estrogen is clouding my judgment and making that crazy assumption) I have to believe the bus is causing perimenopause. If the bus is the cause, that way, as soon as I set foot back in my house in Wisconsin I will no longer have these symptoms of night sweats, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, irritability, uncontrolled moodiness and downright cantankerous attitude. There is NO WAY I’m taking this crazy with me when I leave this bus! In fact, I would love to eradicate it much sooner than that.

I suppose I could try to eat my way out of this funk…or drown myself in a vat of our ice cream frying oil.

Fried ice cream could be an option now that the Frank Family clan has gone into the business. Our supplier gave us the last of what had been produced and we were forced to employ child labor last week to start filling the order we had placed  to get us through the show. Here’s a peek at our first taste test:

ice creamWe made 360 ready-to-go balls of ice cream in about 1.5 hours last week. Only about 1500 more to go!! Word on the festival street…delicious!

I want to survive this adventure of a summer. Strike that…I want to thrive in this adventure of a summer. I just wish I was behaving more like sugar and spice and everything nice right now.

Is there a prayer for that? (or any suggestions of other animals I should be emulating?)

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank                           Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

Roughing it is Relative

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We’ve had our first meltdown in the bus.

It happened at midnight two nights ago when Little Sprout couldn’t sleep.

Maybe it was the late-night ice cream she had eaten or the visuals running through her mind of the Jurassic Park movies we had been watching in marathon to prepare for Jurassic World. (no…I am not in the running for mother of the year.) Whatever the case, she was awake and ornery.  In her attempts to get comfortable she disrupted Middle Sprout with her feet, Big Sprout with her whining, and then eventually Pappa and Mamma Sprout had no choice but to intervene. The end result was a run to deliver Big Sprout to his man cave up the hill. Once everyone had their own sleeping space…quiet happened.

Our bus experience is bringing back memories of times when my kids were just babies. Sleeplessness was a regular reality. It’s also a bit reminiscent of living in a house packed for moving.

People struggle when they are tired and cramped and bus living has the potential to provide both sleeplessness and tight quarters…a lethal combination. What I need to remember is that the circumstance is what it is, but if there is going to be a better perspective about the uncomfortable situation, it happens with an attempt to change the energy.

It’s not the space of a place that makes life uncomfortable. It’s not the breaking down of something that usually works, nor the inconvenience of plumbing that is only pretending to be indoor. It’s not the struggles to maintain order when stuff piles in an unorganized way nor the frustrations that come with unpredictable electricity. All of those things are irritating, but what makes something rough more often has to do with reaction and, most specifically in this case, my reaction to my relatives.

I’d love to blame my nine-year-old for being difficult and inflexible, but in truth, I have not reacted well to her emotional expressions. She is simply reflecting most honestly what we are all experiencing. I hope she never loses that raw expression, but I hope I can be a better model for her about how to rise above the circumstances.

What I really need to do is sweeten the water.

At the beginning of our stay here, I was so happy to have attracted hummingbirds to the feeder just outside my bus window. They loved the nectar so much they drained the feeder completely in four days. In my second batch, I must have had too much water to the sugary powder and the hummingbirds barely visited this past week. (another thing I grumbled about under my breath)

This morning, I sweetened the pot. I added more powder and I have enjoyed watching the hummingbirds trill and eat all morning.

After the novelty of our first week in the bus wore off, I let the circumstances and the natural tendencies of my kids discourage me. This morning, I made a decision to keep the pot sweet.

I spent time ruminating over Paul’s reminder about circumstances.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,

whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:12-13)

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This experience will only be as rough as I let it become. There is certainly beauty in difficulty, but there needs to be intention to find it. My goal in the next week is to relate better in all circumstances.

***Photos for this week can be found on my website and they include visits with relatives and ways we are staying busy…outside the bus.*****

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank          Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

The Spaces We Occupy

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Castle sweet castle

Anyone who knows our family’s story knows we have spent the majority of our time unsettled and between spaces. It makes some people who hear about our lifestyle incredibly uncomfortable. So uncomfortable, in fact, that some people hesitate deepening their friendships with us because we are generally planning an exit of some sort.

I hear things like:

“You choose to live like that?”

“You are crazy!”

“I could never do that. It would feel too chaotic.”

I admit, there are parts of what we do for our family of 5.25 (yes, Dickens completely counts!) that are not comfortable. This year, as we camp out in a 45-foot bus I expect we’ll be stretched more than most summers. What I have learned over the years of chaos and disruption is that routine is something man has created to help himself to feel more secure in the world. My habit is to crave and create routines to make my space more comfortable. The reality is that LIFE REALLY HAPPENS when my routines are broken and God tends to lean more toward the disruption of routine to allow growth to happen.

About a week ago, I was living in our beautiful home where the kids each sleep in their own rooms and on their own beds. There are three bathrooms for the five of us and plenty of space to spread out. This morning I drank coffee with my husband on our bed in the back room of the bus, quietly used the bathroom that divides the two living spaces, and then tiptoed through the girls’ beds at the front of the bus to get the dog out for his morning walk. I trekked a few miles on the site grounds and meandered my way past our son’s new single-person apartment that is situated on the top of one of our booths. He spends his nights in his new mancave that is about 1/4 mile away from us. It is a new and temporary routine.

There has been a learning curve to our arrival this summer. It is not unlike other times we have traveled here for my husband’s job, but I am making a point this summer to document the things I learn along the way.

Some things I’ve learned this week:

I learned I need birds to watch out my window and hummingbirds eat a lot of food…once they find the source.

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I learned to cook pizza in a convection oven and how to cut a Papa Murphy’s pizza in half to fit. I learned how to anticipate the slow cooking of a hotplate and some new recipes for the grill. I discovered that with our current ampage I cannot run the A/C, dishwasher and a hairdryer at the same time. I learned that our bus camping is one of the nicest living arrangements on site and there really are people who live in tents…all year…and sometimes not because they choose to do it. I learned that the basic necessities of food, water, shelter, and clothing are enough. The luxuries are running water, a space to do laundry, a private toilet,  a shower, and mattresses up off the ground.

I reconfirmed that exercise in the natural surroundings of Colorado space is among my most favorite things to do in the world.

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I learned that it is not the space that someone occupies that makes my connection with them any less important. A friend of mine, who happens to be just as transient as I am, was in Colorado this past week to visit her family. She will occupy her mother’s space while she visits and we annually connect there or in any myriad of spaces in and around this part of Colorado. It is not the space, but the connection that matters. I confirmed that lesson when I crowded into a room (with more family members than were supposed to be permitted)  to visit my grandmother whose space is currently a hospital bed.

We can choose to spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over the spaces we occupy and the routines we can create there, or we can invest in how we connect and interact with the people who share our spaces.

***If you want to see some of the other pics from the week, I have a posted a slideshow on my website.***

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank          Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

Leaving Home to Go Home

house front door

Probably the last thing I should be doing right now is writing a blogpost, but I’m really supposed to still be asleep. Therefore, all is justified, right?

We leave today for our annual adventure. I am of course thrilled that what splinters my heart in separation from my husband will soon be healed with our reunion, but I have to admit it is quite hard for me to leave this year.

I have fallen in love with our home.

The rooms have only begun to transform into lovely spaces of comfort and I have so much more work I would like to be doing in them.

I will miss the phrases I’ve put up on the walls and the art that records the year of growth for Little Sprout’s artistic expression. I’ll miss my paint projects, photographs, and experiments with candles. I’ll miss my office and the battles I’ve been waging with the bird-feed-stealing raccoon. I’ll miss the blanket of leaves outside each window and the surprising colors of flowers and bushes that push through this time of year. I’ll miss the dappled sunlight that subtly bounces off leaves just outside my morning window and the thrumming of big rainstorms at night.

It’s these elements of home that are impossible to bring with me.

I will miss people as well, but they are allowed to accompany me in the form of texts, emails, Facetime, Facebook updates, etc. And I guess I could actually call them too…

The space of a home is the space of a home… and there is no way to digitize that.

Maybe I’m more reflective this year because the space of our home is about to transform so completely in the next two days. The five of us are preparing to snuggle in tightly in our bus accommodations for the two months of summer. I want to remain mindful and grateful for what will surely be a memorable opportunity.

A good friend of mine (who happens to be RV living with her family of five right now too) told me the two things I need to pack for the lifestyle are patience and a sense of humor. Duly noted.

I also want to pack away a little bit of home too, so I took pictures of my yard this morning so that I can have a digital bouquet when I need it. Appropriately, a deer ran across our cul de sac while I was taking photos.

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flowers from home

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home flowers

Undoubtedly there will be plenty of beauty and natural experiences as we camp this summer. I too, of course, intend to make our space as homey and comfortable as possible. I plan to catalog (blog) as we go.

I expect I’ll find home there too. It is in fact where my heart has been since April anyway.

Copyright 2015  Meagan Frank          Choosing to Grow

http://www.meaganfrank.com                                             

Our Christmas Letter: A Celebration of Stories

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Thank you for being a part of our joy.

December 2014

It has been two years since I wrote our holiday letter. A lot can happen in a life in two years and even more can happen in the lives of five people. So, I think it’s best if I try to take a snapshot of where we are these days with a brief recap of how we got here.

I am trying to concentrate on this letter, but I am distracted by the sloppy flakes sloshing down outside my new office window. There hasn’t been snow since Thanksgiving and I am grateful we are headed toward a white Christmas.

window house

The  office view is among my most favorite parts of the house we bought in Menomonie, WI last spring.

The Story of a House in Town

We moved back to Menomonie (for a third time) in  August of 2013. Pudge accepted the job as the head boys hockey coach for the MHS Mustangs and we planned to settle into a quiet life on the lake. For some reason, the kids insisted on coming with us, and our vision of a quiet, retired life on the water was anything but.

We locked the storage unit with a house’s worth of things and snuggled into the cabin for what we thought was going to be a few months. Becoming lake residents was our plan. Becoming town residents was God’s plan.

We ran into building restriction after building restriction as we worked with architects and the county to obtain permits to upgrade the cabin to make it a house. Who knew how hard it would be to build anything new so close to the water? (we are 35 feet from the shore)

By November we realized the cabin was going to need to remain a cabin and we were probably going to be better off in town. We resigned ourselves to the reality that living a bit closer to all the places we were driving our children was probably not a bad idea. So, the house hunt began.

We fell in love with the house we bought the first time we walked through it right around Thanksgiving. Our original offer fell through and we figured we would have to hunker down for the winter. We had no idea what kind of winter it was really going to be.  “Epic” “Polar Vortex” “The worst winter in nearly 300 years” This was the winter we spent tightly quartered in our one-bathroom-no-dishwasher-no-garage-mice-in-walls-old-furnaced-cabin.

The driveway became glazed with ice just before I ruptured my Achilles Tendon in February. Ice picks on crutches and left-footed driving became the new norm and all the while we bantered back and forth with the home owners about our deep desire to buy their house in town.

We FINALLY made a deal on the house and we were all set to close and move in  April 2nd.

Two days before closing the house suffered a sewage back-up that flooded the entire basement as well as 16 other houses in our neighborhood. Closing delayed, move-in stalled and renovation necessary before we finally unloaded the storage unit we had been renting since the previous June and moved in April 6th.

We LOVE the house and I can honestly say I am completely grateful for the year we had in the cabin. It strengthened all of us through humility. We learned to find gratitude in and through hardship and it certainly changed all of us.

The Stories of the Kids

Nate started high school this year and has adjusted well to the tougher work load and varying activities. He played soccer in the fall, is playing bantam hockey this winter, and continues to sing in the chorus. He plans to work out at the festival for the third year in a row this upcoming summer and he also hopes to visit Seattle this spring. (he pictures himself living there some day…he LOVES cloudy and rainy weather)

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Haley is in seventh grade this year and continues to stay very busy too. She LOVED waterskiing this past summer and has taught herself to get up on one ski. She played volleyball and soccer this fall, is the goalie for the boys’ peewee hockey team, sings in choir, and she just got herself certified through the Red Cross to babysit. She too plans to work for us out at the festival this summer.

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Kiana turned 9 this fall and is in third grade. She had to move schools again, because we moved to town, but she has transitioned really well. Ki likes to tube and kneeboard at the lake, she plays soccer when the grass is showing, is playing hockey this winter on the squirt team (with real games, real offside and real penalties) and is consistently wowing us with her artistic and creative energy.

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Dickens turned 4 and is such a great part of our crew. I do wish he would stop stalking the presents under the tree.

dickens and tree

Our misfit tree (white and multi-colored) so appropriately symbolizes the hectic season of life we are enjoying.

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Our Marriage Story Continues

Pudge and I are doing great. We snuck away to Bayfield and Madeline Island this past fall.

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Pudge continues to work for the RenFest and coach hockey. He completed his Masters in Education last spring and is glad to be done with school work.

I continue to write as often as I can and I have a goal for 2015 to complete a novel I’ve been working on. I am still doing some team building consulting for the women’s hockey team at Hamline University and I write occasionally for the Books Make a Difference magazine. I worked at the festival for my second summer last year and I plan to do it again this upcoming summer. I enjoy all the work I get to do but absolutely most rewarding is my job as a mom.

We hope for all the best for each of you this holiday season and for the coming year. We love visitors and we do hope you’ll consider stopping by if you are in the Northwoods.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and may you live many stories worth sharing!

 

Come Rest Awhile

bench in leaves

Sit with me and rest awhile.

Watch all the leaves fall down.

There is no stopping winds of change,

No silencing the sound.

No way to push back time that ticks

Or changing cold air style.

There is nothing to do at all my friends,

So come sit with me a while.