Holidaze: A letter a day is rare, they say.

A few months ago, I gifted my mom a book called 100 Life Challenges. It’s a fill-in-the-blank type calendar full of (100 to be exact) 30-day challenges, introducing the concept of developing good habits and at a time like this, Lord knows we could all do with some healthy new norms.

I can sometimes be a selfish Sally so I had to buy myself the same book because 1. Your girl loves a good challenge and 2. Filling things out; forms, applications, lists.. they bring me all the comforts and joy. Don’t @ me for being nerdy. *pushes glasses up*

See, before this whole book thing came about, my mom had been sending me challenges for years. I don’t know when it started or how but I know she was the first to offer up a challenge. This typically has always revolved around health in some capacity by the way of Hydration Challenges (getting your 8-10 glasses a day in) to Overcoming Couch Potato Syndrome (move your butt before you sit on it) to Stop & Drop Challenges (stop what you’re doing and do a minute of squats)! Drop it like it’s hot, ladies and gentlemen.

Those were fun.


Anyway, I figure that success and follow-through sometimes requires a group effort so in giving this book to both my mom and I, I had hoped that she’d accept the invitation to do the challenges with me and she was up for the double-dog dare! Exciting!

Since October, we’ve done six challenges in this book so far. The primary focus is self-care. The challenges range from easy things like “light a candle when you get home” or “watch an ASMR video” to harder things like “look in the mirror and say out loud what you love about your body” or “set a bedtime and stick to it.” Some will become habits and some won’t but in those that we have done so far, I’ve taken something positive away each time and began developing new routines that may seem like little nothings but add up to a whole lot ‘a somethin’ when put together.

In that time, I’ve been making my bed daily, lighting candles to give my apartment a more homey feel, and taking time to actually reflect before bed each night about the moments and people throughout the day that I’m grateful for.

Don’t get me wrong, in all these months at home, my blue-light consumption has not improved much and I definitely don’t have a solid morning routine. I’m 31 years old and still hit snooze 17 times before rolling out of bed. I don’t usually bother with breakfast either and I shut down when I feel excluded.

BUT, this little book of challenges is slowly encouraging me to find the sweetness in the small things. It’s prompting me to think outside of the box. Never have I ever tried daily dry brushing or gone thirty days without watching TV but those challenges are up to bat on pages 168 and 154, respectively. And I’m here for it.


Because I’m a planner-McPlanner-ton, I looked ahead in this challenge book to see what was upcoming and noticed that the month of December would challenge me (us) to write a letter to someone each day.

Talk about pulling at a girls heart strings, I thought we were easing into this. I used to write to my great-grandma Elsie for years. She must have initiated it when I was a teenager or maybe even earlier. I’d like to think that I’ve kept every single one (I do have an entire basket full of letters) but I may be missing a few. I know I didn’t reply to each one, especially back then. I’m sure my busy little 16-year-old life was too important to bother replying as quickly as my last name implies.

But I did, eventually.

She would write pages and pages in her perfect “grandma Elsie scribble.” It was always a challenge in and of itself to read her writing and I managed to do so pretty well, I think. But I’m not sure the kids in school these days could make out her old-school cursive anymore. Many times, she’d also include a handmade doilies!

I don’t think I realized the impact that she had on me at the time and the compassion that she exuded in comparison to the legacy she’s left on my heart in the years since she’s passed. Through her letters, she shared with me little well-being tips like placing a bar of soap at the end of your bed under your blankets if you’re having leg cramps to stories about how she’d met my great-grandpa Nick and how she’d felt in the decades since he’d passed. She’d share stories about the ladies she’d go to dinner with and the conversations she had.

In her letters she’d talk about her relationship with God and wondered aloud why she was still living. She had lived a long, happy, and full life. She walked three miles a day nearly ’til the end. She transcribed the entire Bible front to back and kept every single card, letter, photo, and news-clipping she was sent. For everyone, from everyone. She did all the things and prayed all the prayers wondering what it was she was left here on Earth to do all this time without her Nick.

She would sometimes start a letter on Monday evening and finish it on Tuesday morning. She was consistent and persistent in her letters. She never gave up writing to me even if I wasn’t as prompt as she’d likely hoped. She wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable. She was interested in my life and she spoke to me in the letters as if we were right there next to one another.

Now, I don’t know if she ever got her answer here while living, about why God bothered having her live for so dang long but I like to think she figured it out if not then, hopefully by now. I know she had many more people in her life, more than I am years old, but I do think reaching me in the way she did from afar was without a doubt, an act of God. She never gave up and I’ll cherish every single one of these letters for the rest of my life.

And you want to know what else? She is not the only grandma that has habitually written to me. Going through my basket of letters and re-reading them this last week, I didn’t realize how many I also received from my grandma Darlene. I don’t think I realized it until now because growing up, I saw her much more frequently in person. Thinking back, I recall reading letters from her and when seeing her, we’d chat about them. I know I replied to my grandma Darlene in written form too but not nearly as often as Elsie. How wild and cool is that? It gives me goosebumps to come to the realization of how blessed I was then to have two grandma’s pour into me for years and years and I didn’t even realize it at the time.

But I do now.


Where was I? Oh yes, a letter writing challenge. I’ve written letters off and on in the years since my great-grandma has passed. I’ve taken time over the years to write quick thank you’s and even heartfelt messages to people I’m close to but it’s never been consistent and I don’t know why other than using the excuse of “life gets away from you sometimes.”

Writing a letter introduces a level of self-care that I didn’t even consider before. Not only does it help the writer to slow down a little, create a moment of mindfulness, and an opportunity to be technology free, but it helps the recipient too; to pause. To be a part of an experience that is rarely felt anymore; to open your mailbox and see something other than junk mail, other than bills.. It’s like a blip of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy chore.

I went hard on this challenge, too. I hadn’t prepped for any of our other challenges but you bet your butt I did this month. I wanted to both finish this weird (and kinda mostly negative) year on a positive and channel my inner GGE.

In order to do that, I needed to be as prepared as possible. I ordered supplies for both my mom and I (think envelopes, notebooks, cute stickers, stamps). I even purchased address labels for the first time in years. #feelinprofesh

But in order to really do this right on my end, I needed to be accountable and the only way for me to be accountable in the middle of a pandemic is through social media so I posted a series of stories on Insta and Facebook enlisting trusting volunteers to dare receive a handwritten letter filled with scribbles by yours truly.

Through that medium alone, I was able to reserve 26 of the 30 days of this challenge but I do have a couple more days to fill so, if you’ve made it this far and would like to receive a letter before the month is up, fill this out! Or text me or slide into my DM’s or whatever is less weird for you. (I promise it won’t be as long as this post!)

Honestly, I hope this reaches enough people that it’ll exceed my challenge goal because while this started out as a challenge, it’s really given me time to reflect in ways I hadn’t before. It’s given me the opportunity to take pause and think about the people I’m writing to, who they are as individuals in this world. What I know about them, how I know them, how I keep in touch with them, if I do at all.

I ask myself how they are hurting, how they are coping through all the shit of this year. I want to know what makes them wake up in the morning and what they worry about when they go to sleep at night. And I don’t know any of that, about any of them. And I try to relay that in my letters but I don’t know if it translates well. We live in a world now where everyone seems to be so established in their lives and it’s hard to break down the walls to let people in, or at least that’s what I’ve experienced thus far.

It’s easy, especially with the blessing/curse of social media, to think we know people when really, we don’t.

So, to those I’ve written to, I hope you’re doing well far beyond what my keyboard-prone fingers would allow me to write. Trust me when I say, had I had the stamina, I would have sent each person a five-page letter like my great-grandma did with me, maybe one day. But I hope the 1-2 pages of handwritten, probably illegible, letters will be the start of many exchanges (in some form or another) for years to come.

And to those who haven’t received a letter yet. Hang tight. It’s only the 21st of December. :)

I have two hopes as I finish out this challenge:

  1. I hope that I continue writing, pen to paper style. I hope that there are people interested in receiving letters. Maybe I can find a non-profit to work with and write letters to the elderly or the sick or reconnect with my Norwegian pen-pal from fourth grade. Who knows?
  2. And I hope that I can be the light in someone’s otherwise cloudy year even if just for a moment. I don’t care if my letters end up in the trash and I don’t expect responses in return, but I do know what it’s like to open the mailbox to something other than the reality of everyday life and I sure hope it makes others feel like everything will be okay like it does to me.

With that being said, I’ll leave you with a transcribed excerpt from my great-grandma Elsie:

By the fall of ’39, we moved to Warroad, Minn. When we got there, the lady wouldn’t let us live in the place we were promised. We moved to a town with no where to go, no home. Keep in mind my sweet little son was only a year old and it was nearly winter. We did end up moving into the empty Lindamood house for awhile sharing it with Dave and Martha. They had the two boys and we had baby Larry so they lived in the big kitchen and upstairs, we were in the living room. Larry’s fingers were so cold so he had to sleep between us in the bed.

Later, we bought a place from J.W. Pearson but there was no house, no outhouse. Just a road and a 1/2 mile full of manure. So, the church men came and cut logs for us. Hubert Hamlin sawed it into lumber and they all helped us build an 18×26 home; 1 large room and 1 bedroom but we were happy then, to be by ourselves. Helping each other when we’re down, that is what we called Christianity.

P.S. If you’re interested in the 100 Life Challenges book, I did link it at the top of the post but you can also find it in Fargo locally at Barnes & Nobel or Target. Thank you for reading!

2nd Day Of Christmas: ‘Tis The Season Of Giving

IMG_7437Today’s story comes to you in the form of a good deed done by my mom. My mom’s heart will always be the biggest of anyone I know. She has this uncanny way of being accepting and compassionate even towards those who least deserve it. She has the ability to look beyond the surface without judgement. She’s who I want to grow up and become because there really isn’t anyone much more wonderful than my mom.

If I’m correct, my mom has been donating to the Grand Forks homeless shelter; Northlands Rescue Mission for awhile now. $10 or so here and there whenever she could. I don’t think it’s been too regular or anything but I think the mission sends out donation requests periodically and if she can afford it, she’ll throw a few bucks their way.

Bags-of-Blessings-2014-231x300Recently, Northlands Rescue Mission sent out flyers with the tagline “Bags of Blessings.” As we all know, Christmas is definitely coming. Those [believers] of all ages, races, and income levels in some way, shape, or form have Christmas on their yearly bucket lists. Whether you have the money or you don’t; Christmas is special. ‘Tis the season where miracles are possible and kindness is spread.

My mom took part in being someone’s Christmas miracle this year. Instead of tossing the flyer she received like I’m sure a lot of people would do (sadly, myself included) she decided to spread the wealth. Good karma if you will.

On a routine trip to Grand Forks she picked up all of the items on the list including a sweatshirt, socks, shampoo, deodorant, and a few other things. She also bought a gym bag as asked and marked the front of it male also noting the size she had bought for. All that was left was to bring the bag with the items in it to Northlands Rescue Mission and that she did.

The total cost of all the items purchased came to $72 and some change. When I asked my mom what her reasoning was for helping the homeless shelter more than she usually does, she left me with this:

Matthew 25:40 “What you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.” ~Jesus Christ

I’ve been one to judge too quickly and assume things that I do not know.  I’m sure that many people in homeless shelters across the region and country are truly in need of generous help from those like my mom and I hope that I can find the empathy needed towards causes like that. My mom deserves a round of applause not only for buying a few things and donating it to the shelter but for being a damned good person. Coming from someone (myself) who finds it hard to see beyond the grime and the dirt on the surface and actually wonder what the story behind the homelessness is – it really takes a heart of gold and compassion to donate towards a cause that faces so much ridicule.

IMG_7970If you’d like to donate to your local homeless shelter please do so; I’ve listed both Grand Forks and Bemidji’s contact information at the end of this post. They need more help than any of us are probably capable of even understanding. If you chose not to donate towards the shelter, find a cause that you feel comfortable donating towards even if it’s just one time a year.

In an effort to embrace the season of giving and to do some good; I’ve decided to do some research myself and donate a little bit this Christmas season as well. I fully believe that rehabilitation is one of the key factors to solve many of the homelessness cases in the area. I’ll be looking online and around the area locally for a non-profit rehabilitation program to donate towards.

Northlands Rescue Mission – 420 Division Ave, Grand Forks, ND 58201
Village of Hope – PO BOX 1035, Bemidji, MN 56619

Merry 2nd Day of Christmas!

 

She Got Her Wings.

So much can happen in one year. Some enter this world and some exit. Families are formed and families are torn apart. People are forgiven and people are damaged. Some die and some are born. We travel and we get snowed in. We fall and sometimes we get back up. We change jobs, we move to new cities, and sometimes..we sit still. Sometimes life happens so quickly and days turn into weeks that turn into months that turn into years. Before you know it, you can’t even remember the last conversation you had with someone because of life.

And at the very exact same time that “life” is happening, it doesn’t. Life isn’t easy, I don’t think it was designed to be easy. Everyone will hit a rough patch or twenty. Some will suffer throughout their childhood. Some as young adults. Some won’t even suffer until they’ve hit the peak mid-life crisis stage of life. But it happens to the best of us.

Truly..to the best of us.

One year ago today, an old friend passed away. I call her an old friend not because of our age but because of life. Life got in the way from seeing each other often. Life got in the way who’s who and what’s what. Life got in the way of appreciating the goodness, the memories, the time.

And death? Well, sadly, death brought us back together. We don’t often think about everyone that has made an impact on our lives every single day because there’s still time. There will always be time to run into them at Wal-mart or catch up at class reunions. There will be time, especially when you’re 23.

That’s where I was wrong. This last year I’ve really tried to work on finding out who the hell I am. What I stand for. Who and what I love. I’ve tried to humble myself (it isn’t easy) and I’ve tried to be a more empathetic person (definitely not easy). I’ve tried to improve myself because of one person and that person is Aron.

Now, I wasn’t best friends with her. I didn’t keep in touch like I should have. I didn’t know what she was doing in her day to day life but I knew one thing. Time didn’t change her heart. It may have changed her life but it didn’t change her heart. It wouldn’t have mattered if 2 years had gone by or 20, she still would have come right up to you with a hug and a smile and ask what the hell you’ve been up to.

Man, I wish I could be like her. I wish that I could find the best in people and care as much as she did. I wish that she was still here and I could make a valiant effort to reconnect with her. I wish that her family could squeeze her too tight just one more time. I wish that holes weren’t created in hearts the day she died.

One year ago today, an old friend passed away. So much can happen in one year. Some enter this world and some exit. And some..well they are with us every day. We all miss you, Aron. Keep us on our toes will ya? I hope those wings fit you just right.

I’ve mentioned Aron in a couple posts throughout the last year. I’ve posted them below for Elaine, Melissa, and Austin. Sending the biggest hugs I can muster up your way today.

10/17/2013:
We Shouldn’t Have To Say Goodbye Yet
10/22/2013:
I Want To Be A Better Person
1/8/2014:
Heavy Hearts & Open Arms
4/4/2014:
Does Heaven Have DQ Ice Cream Cake?
8/14/2014:
Genie, You’re Free

Empathetic VS Apathetic.

Empathy doesn’t come easy for me. Even admitting that makes me feel like a douche. It’s not that I don’t care about people, I do. But I don’t know, it’s just something that I can force and force and force but if I’m faking it, does it really matter? Can you tell? I mean, I feel empathy towards people that I can actually relate to. There are plenty of people that I can actually say I’ve felt something similar to what they are feeling but there are many more things that I just can’t relate to. I’m sure lots of people that can empathize with others haven’t gone through the heartache or whatever emotion may arise but they can still genuinely exhibit compassion.

Does that make me a bad person? Is it better to show rapport when you don’t mean it or to be honest? I’m sure it depends on the situation. There have been times when I just want to say “you know what, too bad for you.” This even relates to the entire 9/11 fiasco. It’s terrible that all those lives were lost, yes, but it didn’t change me. It didn’t change my view on the world. The world has always been a shitty place, have you ever read a history book?

IMG_0184

I’m sorry that your spouse is in the military. They chose that life knowing the consequences. You either were part of the decision or knew it was part of their life when you met them. It’s a package deal. Yes, it’s tragic when someone dies in war but it was also awful when my mom lost her dad to heart disease.

Or when you miserably had to plow your snowed in yard for the thousandth time this winter? Really, I don’t care. You live as far north as you can in the midwest, are you surprised it snowed again?

Within the last year, I had a good friend pass away. It was a very sad moment in time and whenever I think of her I am filled with immense emotion but I wasn’t close enough to her to deserve any empathy from anyone. Once we heard of her sudden passing I promised myself that I’d try to relate to people more but it’s not easy. It’s not something that you can just “do” or turn on. You have to try to be kinder and I mean really really try.

I’m not trying to exhibit myself as an asshole nor am I attempting to justify my emotions. It’s more admitting to something that I can’t seem to control. I do empathize when necessary but overall I’m not an overly understanding person. The simple things in life that we all complain about on a daily basis shouldn’t have to require empathy. I bitch all the time but I don’t expect people to really give that much of a shit. And when people do go over board with the “oh no, that’s just terrible” nonsense speech – it doesn’t make me feel any better, it just makes me wonder if you are sincere or not.

I’m not quite sure where it all came from. It’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older I can tell you that much. I’m sure part of it was how I was raised. When you wake up in the morning it’s up to you if you’re going to have a good day or not. Don’t let others bring you down. It also might be due to the last few years where although I had people to care for me; I still didn’t feel like anyone understood what I was going through. Someone told me about two years ago to not broadcast everything out there. To keep it to myself and that’s what I’ve been doing. I kept a lot of things to myself thus obviously no one has been able to empathize with me because in all fairness, they didn’t have the choice to.

Having gone on an on about that, I wouldn’t describe myself as an apathetic person either. I guess I’m in limbo when it comes to the topic. I wonder if we were honest with ourselves; if more people are actually in-between like myself. I run into people on a daily basis that try too hard and I can’t help but wonder if they pull the guilt card like I have for so many years so they just default to feeling bad for people. I’m on the road to being more honest so I can find myself from within and I really do feel that I am a good person to the people in my life whether you are present for five minutes or five years. But I’m still willing to admit that I could be better.

Here’s to trying a little harder and caring a little more.

Heavy Hearts And Open Arms.

Anything going on in my life is nothing compared to the sorrow of the families of those lost in the last 24 hours. My Facebook wall and Twitter feed has been flooded with quotes, sayings, and memories of three different deaths in the surrounding area. I lost a good friend a few months ago and up until that point, I didn’t have a terrible amount of empathy or relatable experience to anyone suffering loss. Not because I was a complete asshole but because I didn’t understand. And I still don’t. I don’t think anyone can completely understand the meaning of mourning and grief. It’s different for each and every person.

death

I didn’t keep in touch and I didn’t know what was going on in anyones lives. I didn’t bother saying “Hi” to people I knew in stores and I didn’t go out of my way to extend a helping hand. I was just doing my own thing in my own world by my own self until Aron died. Even though I hadn’t seen her in such a long time, her death put my life into perspective. I realized that I needed to show people that I care not just assume that people know it. I needed to reopen friendships of people that I’d pushed away and books that I had closed and most of all, I needed to appreciate everything.

I’m very fortunate that the most important people in my life are still on this physical Earth. But I am reminded on a daily basis that even though we are alive, happy, and well; that doesn’t guarantee us a lifeline. Any single one of us can be taken in an instant and although it’s only pointed out when a loss has happened, we all need to learn from it. We really do need to appreciate the people around us. Love them and tell them and show them and be with them. We need to reach out even though we haven’t spoken in weeks or years. We need to cherish the memories and the moments yet to come. Because it can all be gone in an instant.

I want to take a moment to extend my absolute deepest condolences to the families and friends of those lost. I don’t know exactly how any of you feel (none of us do) and there are never any words that can be said to console everyone in the same way but know that every single one of you are in so many peoples hearts and prayers.

So tonight, hug the ones around you, reach out to the ones far away, and never ever stop making memories.