I watch my son pick a dandelion from the front yard by the birch tree. I know what he is going to do next. He can’t resist. It’s in his nature to stir the stillness. Without hesitation, he lifts the dandelion seed head to his mouth and casually blows on the white, feathery seeds. The bristles float in all directions, covering several feet of grass as they land. My husband can’t stand this. He knows that this will only multiply the dandelions in our lawn –making it look exceptionally flawed in comparison to our neighbor’s perfectly manicured emerald carpet. But there is something beautiful, almost magical, in watching a child unknowingly propel new life into the air with a simple breath. And although my son is not one to make wishes on the seeds that he sends into the air, I certainly am.
Twenty months. For the past 20 months I have started and ended every single day with the same wish. I wish to have time to write. I wish to have time to work at my laptop writing in the morning, drinking a hot cup of coffee before everyone wakes. I wish I could ignore the daily household chores while the baby naps and take that time to write outside on the front step with a pen and notebook. I wish I still had energy left in my body and soul at the end of each long day to spend a couple hours drafting the essays that I write in my head while doing dishes, folding laundry, and playing with my children.
Time. There just never seems to be enough time in a day. There is always something else that could have been completed, or started. But time sets limits to what we can do, and many days, all I can see are my limits. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Shower, watch children, and go to work. Laundry, dishes, and cleaning. Emails, bills, and appointments. Planning, planning, and planning. These items are all priorities. My family needs to be fed. Our bills need to be paid. We need to take care of our house. The list goes on, so I continue to tackle “the list.” But the list does go on, and it always will.
I’ve spent the past 20 months making every excuse not to write, and my biggest excuse is time. There are so many priorities in life, especially when you are raising a family. Your first priority is supporting your family with their basic needs. That in itself is a huge task that entails making money, operating a household, and giving your love and attention to each family member’s beautiful soul. And as a mother, I often lose sight of other priorities that need my attention too. I look at my day and plan out everything that I need to do in order to take care of my family, but I forget to do the same for myself. And even though I am in the thick of motherhood, I am human, and I need to allow myself to make my needs a priority too. But how do I find or make the time to do this?
Time. There will never be enough time. There will never be enough time with my kids. There will never be enough time to work on the house or garden. There will never be enough time on this earth. Time places limits; it’s a form of measurement that fills our days. And many days, all I notice is the time. Is it time to wake up? Is it time to leave the house? Is it time for lunch? Is it time for the baby to take a nap? How much time do I have while she naps to accomplish all of the items on my to-do list? Is it time for my husband to get home from work? Is it time to get the kids ready for their evening activities? Is it time for the kids to go to bed? How much time do I have left before I should be going to bed? What time do I need to set my alarm for?
There will never be enough time to write, especially if I continue to measure my days by looking at the time in this way.
My son picks another dandelion, this time near the row of hostas leading to the backyard. And I know what he is going to do next. I’ve witnessed it countless times this summer, and countless times the summer before. I pick a dandelion, too. We breathe in, exhale, and release the dandelions’ seeds into the air. They float for a few seconds before landing in the grass. Over time, dozens of more dandelions will be waiting to be picked next. They will be waiting to be chosen, to be given life with a new breath of air. And the words will float and fall onto the page all in their own time.
Here we are again. It’s that time of year when simply looking outside will send a chill through the bones of your body. I want to stay inside, pour another cup of coffee and crawl under a blanket. I feel tired. I know I must move and keep my kiddos moving too. It takes every ounce of my energy to get my children to put on their boots, gloves, hats and jackets. I chase them around the house, making incessant requests to listen to me so we can get some fresh air. I feel lonely. I miss spending hours outside in the warmth of the sun. I miss the little conversations with neighbors and other parents at the park. Those days seemed so effortless and bright. I feel lost. These days are bleak, and darkness comes too soon. But there are resolutions to make and goals to set. I begin to question myself. Am I doing this right? Am I going anywhere? Am I enough?
I wrap my hands around my mug of herbal tea before looking out the window. A layer of hard snow covers our backyard. Hundreds of frozen footsteps make trails from the back porch steps to the trees and shrubs that border our yard. Only a handful of leaves have managed to hold their grasp on the branches of our trees. It’s close to sunset, but the grey sky mutes the beauty of shades of pink and orange. Everything is still. Everything is calm. Too still, and too calm. I feel empty. A dead leaf suddenly catches my eye. The wind has invited it to dance across the snow. It glides 6 inches to the left, leaps off the ground and spins another foot to the right. The wind gently drops the leaf to the ground where it remains still once again. It’s beautiful and brutal to witness.
This is winter. This is the hardest part of winter for me. This is where I start again.
I take a sip of my tea, set my mug on the desk and release my grasp. It’s time to open the laptop and type. It’s time to let my fingers dance across the keypad. I don’t know what I will write about. I feel tired, lonely and lost, but there are beautiful shades of pink and orange hiding behind the grey sky. The bitter cold interrupts my plans and paralyzes me, but after some time, I find my layers and put them on. I open the door, step outside, and I breathe. I put one boot in front of the other. I search the ground and bushes for fallen branches, and I decide to build a fire. I watch the flames twirl in the wind, and once again, I feel the warmth of summer on my face.
Minnesota winters are brutal and beautiful. I want to avoid the cold slap of the wind on my face, but it’s the same cold slap I need to wake me up. I get lost in the comfort of patterns and habits. I build walls and then I retreat. I lose my momentum, and then I feel lost. When I finally glance out the window, I see there are patches of snow that have been left untraveled.
It’s a new year. It’s a new day. It’s time to get out and play in the snow.
This is winter. The hardest part is starting a new routine and embracing the cold. But there are new fires to start. And these fires will warm your soul.
Is your fire burning bright?
When you are bitten by a radioactive spider, you have to be brave and make the decision to put on your superhero shirt. You have to wear it proud, and you have to believe in doing the impossible. You have to fight the bad guys inside your head. And when the villains foil your plans to save the world, you fight back harder. You wash your shirt in the cold wash cycle of your washing machine, you dry it on low, and you put it back on. You wear your superhero shirt again and again and again. You do it because you believe in doing the impossible, you do it to show your family the power of persistence and courage, and you do it because it is good. And don’t we all want to fill our lives with goodness?
Seven days ago I was bitten.
It happened when I was sitting at a round table in the middle of a conference room with about 300 other attendees of the 2014 Minnesota Blogger Conference, which was held in St. Paul. I had just finished chatting with a couple of wonderful bloggers I had previously met in August, and I was fueled up on coffee. The conference started with a speech by Pete Goddard of RedCurrent. When the RedCurrent app launches, individuals will be able to sync their calendars and get the scoop on numerous local events. However, what is especially intriguing about RedCurrent is their mission to share the stories of people who are connected in some way to the many events that take place around us. And that’s when I felt the first bite.
We all have a story. We all have a story of how we got here, to this very moment. And in seven days, or seven months, or seven years, our stories will be told differently. Every decision we make and every experience we have propels our stories across the page. Our stories are important to us, and like any novel, poem or comic book, our stories have the ability to inspire, educate, comfort, entertain and bring people together. Many of us read to understand humanity. So why not share how we are human?
After thinking about the power of stories, I got my notebook and pen ready to take notes on Christoph Trappe’s breakout session on how to get on a blogging schedule. I was ready to hear all about tips on how bloggers can follow a consistent schedule and continue to produce content week after week. But as Trappe’s session started, I realized I was going to hear something much more valuable from him. A schedule is helpful, but a commitment to write every day is what really matters. Write. Let it sit. Think about it. Write some more. Edit. And publish. Trappe recommends publishing at least once a week and having several weeks of posts that are written and ready to be published. Honestly, I am not ready to commit to this goal as a blogger, but the message is clear: you must make time for writing, and you must write often. Having a blog isn’t simply about pushing out content, either. Trappe blogs to tell stories because stories are authentic, and authentic stories connect people.
Are you noticing a theme here?
This was just the beginning of my day. I attended another breakout session, ate lunch and then listened to our keynote speaker, Dan R. Morris. I was blown away by his story he shared with us, and what I learned was that I have the power to write my own story. I may be a small dog in this big world, but I can strive to be the “biggest small dog” I can be. I have the power to pursue my dreams, and even though the road may be long and full of obstacles, I have the power to push past the obstacles. But pursuing my dreams isn’t only for my own pleasure. As Morris noted, “You’ve got to fall in love with your audience first.” My audience is my husband, my children, my family, my friends, and you. This blog is not for me alone. Yes, writing feeds my soul, but I hope to feed your soul, too. And I hope to share a powerful story with my children someday.
After listening to Morris, I began feeling like I could take on the world, one blog post at a time. I attended two more breakout sessions, including one session featuring Rachel Martin from Finding Joy. She talked about how bloggers can use Facebook as a successful tool for not only reaching new readers, but for also building stronger connections with your audience. Martin is a woman who knows how to connect with her readers. Her Dear Mom Letters have brought me to tears, and I often read her You Are Enough posts to find encouragement on those tough parenting days. It was truly a joy to listen to her speak and to hear about why it is important for her to blog.
The conference was amazing. And even though I couldn’t attend all of the sessions that were offered, I left feeling ready to breathe new life into my blog. I left feeling like a superhero; like I could really pursue my dream of being a writer.
Seven days ago I was bitten.
Fate or coincidence, I was scheduled to start an online writing class two days after the conference. The class focuses on blog writing specifically, and I spent the first week exploring the purpose of my blog. Writing for this blog forces me to face a lot of my fears. I fear that people won’t like me, I fear that my writing sucks, I fear that no one will read what I write, I fear that I will fail. When facing all of these fears, it is easy to become discouraged. It is easy to turn on Netflix instead of sitting down to write. It is easy to think that this blog doesn’t matter. It is easy to think that writing this serves no purpose. So how do I even begin to write about the purpose of my blog? What is the purpose of all of this?
After reflecting on what I learned from the speakers, other bloggers and myself after attending the Minnesota Blogger Conference last weekend, I have decided to believe that there is a purpose for doing this thing called blogging. There is a purpose because I believe that my purpose, my calling, is to write. And I believe in breathing life into our everyday moments. I believe that our experiences can and should be turned into poetry. I believe that writing and reading and sharing our experiences will serve as a reminder that we are all human. And when we see this, we can take on the world together.
Seven days ago I was bitten.
Before I felt the pierce, I felt small. I play a big role in this house with my family, but outside of these walls, I felt small. What could I possibly have to offer outside of my home? Where would I even start if I could make a difference? Would anyone even care?
These are bad thoughts. They are haunting. They are cruel. We have these thoughts, even though we know they are bad. These thoughts are villains bent on destroying what is good.
Despite my high from attending MN Blog Con and starting my first writing class since college, these bad thoughts continued to pop up. I decided to buy myself a gift for encouragement. I purchased “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler, and this gift to myself made the bite real. In the preface, Amy writes about how hard it was for her to write her book. It was hard for many reasons, but the biggest reason was because of self-doubt. To push past her fears, she quieted the negative thoughts and the self-doubt, and she focused on doing. She quieted the bad thoughts and she listened to her heart. She said yes to the challenge. She quieted the demon voices by sticking up for herself. Negative thoughts and bad voices are haunting and cruel. So why don’t I stick up for myself? Why don’t I be brave and try and try again like I encourage my kids to do?
Seven days later, I feel like a superhero. I believe in my purpose. I may have big dreams, but these dreams deserve a chance. The good deserves to be louder than the bad. Like every superhero, and Amy Poehler, I will say yes to the challenges. I will say yes for myself. I will say yes for my kids, because they are our future superheroes. And I will say yes to wearing my superhero shirt.
I am human. I want to be a part of something bigger. I have the power to make this happen. And so do you. What will you say yes to? What superhero shirt are you wearing today?