Saturday, February 27, 2010

Timing is Everything....And the Sunshine Award Goes to...

This has been a hard week for me, and the intrusion of something nice could not have been better timed.   It's just when I think I am at my lowest, when I get a gentle nudge of positive reinforcement, and I start to think that what matters to me might actually matter to someone else too.  I want to thank Sandie, at
for giving me this Sunshine Award for both this blog and my Choosing to Grow-Through Marriage blog.  I think in my heart of hearts that writing, and moving others through writing, is what I want to do with my life.  I don't know how that is all going to come together, but I trust that it will, and when I am recognized by another gifted and talented woman, it inspires me to keep working.

It takes time and energy to build positive connections, and I am thankful for the many amazing contacts I have made along this journey so far.   In recognition of how sunshine has been shared with me, I would like to recognize, and similarly award the following blogs:


There is something amazingly powerful about the internet, and the beauty that women spread because of it is truly awe-inspiring.  It is only right to continue moving forward with a heart full of gratitude.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sometimes God's Answer is NO

I don't think I have spent my life praying for the ridiculous or the absurd, but I admit that I have often prayed for  divine favors that are just not going to happen.  I've been like an insolent, selfish child making demands for things that I want, but that I guess, as I walk away with head down and shoulders slumped, I don't need.

My prayers too often sounded like this:

"Lord, please take away the parts of life that are hard."

"Lord, please keep our family perfectly healthy and happy."

It's not that I think God isn't listening, but I think, and especially recently, that sometimes God's answer is simply "no".  I imagine that, just like I know my answer to my kids' pleading for extra cookies just before bedtime is not going to be what they hope, He listens to my pleadings patiently, knowing all the while that the answer is no.   He knows about the plan for my life, and even though I still think I'm in control, it is the selfish child in me who wants to orchestrate the plan alone...and starting with my pleadings.

Lately my prayers have been even more specific:

"Lord, please make this pain go away."

"Lord, please give me a clear and distinct sign about what you want me to do with my life."

Today was arguably one of my worst days in a while.  I anxiously anticipated the MRI report from my doctor. I wanted to know the information so that I could start making plans to make myself better. It wasn't the report that I had expected, and some things are going to have to change in my life.  My back is not in good shape, and some of what is wrong, cannot be treated.  I have two bulging disks and a number of mildly herniated disks., indicating a condition I have likely had since childhood.   The MRI did not take pictures of the upper part of my back, but the report suggested that in all likelihood I have similar herniated and compromised disks higher on my spine.  

"So, what does that mean?"  I asked.
"Well, it means that when you exercise strenuously, you are going to hurt, and you are suffering from a flare-up with your bulging disks."
"Oh, I could have told you that, but we can make it stop hurting right?"
"The pain can be managed, but it is dependent upon what sorts of things you do, if you are ever going to be without pain," she looks at me knowingly.
I sit quietly for a minute.
"So, I can run right?"
"You can, but it's probably not a great idea. Swimming would probably be good for you.  Walking. Yoga.  And try to avoid anything that you have to twist because that is going to make you hurt the worst."

I make mental notes of the things I do that include twisting: soccer, hockey in the basement, golf, tennis, aerobics.

I cried my way home, talking to my family about the fact that I am not going to be the golf/tennis playing senior citizen that I had hoped.  Beyond that, I know that I can no longer keep trying to do the things I have always done.

My mom pointed out that I have writing to fall back on if I cannot do what I love to do physically, and I reluctantly agreed.  The physical and the philosophical are both such important parts of who I am, that I don't want to give up on either.

I think to myself, "well, maybe this is the sign I've been looking for as an answer to my question about what I should do with my life."

Then I came home to find rejection letter number two for my book proposal.


Ok Lord, so your answer about an easy fix to pain  A clear sign about what to do with my  But I know in my heart of hearts that God's answer does not end there.  I know he is whispering..."not now, but I'll tell you what you need to know later. Just trust in me."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


If you haven't yet met Sue, the over-enthusiastic surprise party planner, you need to check out the SNL clip. She is a riot, and I ashamedly admit that I closely identify with her. I don't gnash my teeth or rub my hands raw in anticipation, but I absolutely love planning surprises. There is something about orchestrating a situation where you know that the end result is going to be joy-filled or happy, and watching it unfold for the unsuspecting recipient, makes me giddy.

As luck would have it, I have had two opportunities, in the last month, to surprise our kids with unexpected visitors. Both my brother and my sister have had to come to Minnesota for work, and for each visit, I wanted to do something special.

One activity that we often do with our kids is a clue hunt. We have played this game to celebrate holidays, to liven up birthday parties, and sometimes just for fun. The kids love this game. I give them a clue that leads them to a specific room in the house, and then they have to hunt for the clue that will take them to the next room. It truly does not take long to get it set up, and when the kids were home full time, we would often play the game over and over, simply moving where the clues were hidden. We started out by drawing pictures of the rooms, to writing the names of the rooms, and now we are at the stage where I give them hints, but they have to figure out the clue. At the end of the hunt there is always something fun, or sweet-tasting, and I love watching the kids run from room to room.

We set up the clue hunt game when my brother came, and we hid him in the master closet as the final surprise. Our littlest sprout was home when my brother got to the house from the airport, so we were only able to put the clue hunt together for the older two, but little sprout was "Sue-like" in her excitement about setting up the surprise. It was cute!

For the uncle surprise, there were six clues and the fifth one led the kids to the laundry room. My husband, little sprout, and I followed the kids into the room, and right on cue, my brother dropped the last clue down the laundry chute. I so wish I had been filming this clue hunt because the perplexed and anxious looks of our kids was absolutely priceless. They knew that everyone in our family was standing in the laundry room, and to watch the light come on that there was someone else in the house, was really fun. The clue that came down the chute was: "Come and get me!"

The kids still didn't know who was housed upstairs in mom and dad's closet, and middle sprout was visibly nervous about the unknown. (totally in line with her personality...she is a kid who thrives on predictable) Oldest sprout sprinted up the stairs, and after cautiously opening the door, he leaped at my brother and knocked him down in his excitement. The other two quickly followed, and the dog-pile in the closet was totally worth the planning.

Now, with the additional visit of my sister, I couldn't just let it happen without some sort of surprise, but because we had already used the clue hunt, we had to be a bit more creative. She was expected to arrive at our house at 6:30 pm. Middle sprout had a hockey practice that ended about that time, and I used the practice as an excuse to get everyone out of the house. We dropped off dad and middle sprout, and then I took the other two to get haircuts. Right before we left the house I set up three bowls in the kitchen, three chairs in the playroom, and I unmade all three beds upstairs.

My sister and I texted the final arrangements. She let herself into the house, dished up two bowls of ice cream and made it look like she had eaten a third. Then she hid herself in big sprou'ts bed right when we got home.

"Okay guys," I said, just as we were pulling into the garage. "I want to play a little game.  I am going to go in for a second, and then when you come in I will have your assignments.  It is an impromptu skit, and I want to film the story."

My kids love being filmed, and conveniently we have been filming random things the last few days, so it was not a huge give-away.  My sister had dished the ice cream, and I stood at the breakfast counter as the kids came in.  I put them each in the right chair, and then I handed them a small piece of paper that had their "lines" on them.

Littlest sprout (with some reading help from dad) said, "Someone has been eating my ice cream."

Middle Sprout said, "Someone has been eating my ice cream."

And big Sprout finished, "And someone has been eating my ice cream, and it's all gone!"

I moved them to the playroom and put them in the right chairs.

"Someone has been sitting in my chair," Littlest Sprout said.  She had just read the story at school that day, and she was grinning with anticipation (of the story).

"Someone has been sitting in my chair," Middle Sprout added, comfortable in the "performance".

"Someone has been sitting in my chair, and now it's broken," Big Sprout dramatized, pointing out the broken arm of the chair.

As we ran upstairs to the beds, Big Sprout said, "I bet there is someone still in my bed!"

Middle Sprout said, "What?!" now nervous about the unpredictable part of this "pretend" story.

Littlest Sprout was still clueless, but excited about her next line as she jumped in her bed.

"Someone has been sitting in my bed," she said.

"Someone has been sleeping in my bed too," Middle Sprout anxiously chimed.

And Big Sprout fell on the floor crawling toward my snoring sister forgetting his lines, but once again dog-piling on the surprise.

They each recounted when they figured out that there was someone here to surprise them, and I couldn't contain my Sue-like excitement.  It is a great way to interject something fun into lives that often get to be entirely too routine.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Cross-Country Skiing Lands Thirty-Four-Year-Old at the Doctor's Office

The conditions could not have been better. A sky full of sunlight, a gentle breeze, and a fresh coating of powder covering an entire lake of open skiing that was just waiting for me to go on it. I was nervous the poles and the skis would be too long, but they actually fit pretty well. I hooked in my feet, that were snugly wrapped in boots that were entirely too comfortable to be ski boots. I guess technology has come a long way since I actually strapped on a pair of boots and skis.

I had my husband snap a few pics before I headed out on my next great adventure, and sliding one ski in front of the other...I was off.

My hair was blowing in soft waves from around my face. (note the picture) I was gliding effortlessly through the snow placing poles down in perfect sync to the alternating skis and the more comfortable I got, the faster the movements became. The powder made it difficult to explode into sprint speed, but I was working up a sweat. About five minutes out from the ice-fishing crew, I glanced over my shoulder to see how far I had gone, and when I turned back around, in mid-stride, the tips of the skis congratulated one another and took me down.

Mind had taken me five minutes to get about 3 football fields away from my family, so I was not moving along the snow as fast as my effort might have indicated, and I was well within visual contact. I lay in the snow for a moment relieved that I hadn't decided to learn half-pipe snowboarding, and I got on my elbow to get up. That was when I remembered that I have been nursing a bad that flares with immobility every few months or so, and it was absolutely not going to let me up off the ice from a sideways position.

"Fine," I thought, "I'll just get up from my knees."

Like I said, it has been a while since I have been on skis, and I don't know how, but somehow I forgot that it is physically impossible to get on your knees (except from a sideways position) with skis on your feet. The front...and then the back....and then the front of the skis do not bend at the whim of a flailing ex-athlete.

I lifted the poles up and put them into the snow to see if I might be able to pull myself up from the ground with upper body strength. Note to self: You need your back for EVERYTHING!!

"I need to get these skis off," I brilliantly assessed, and I reached for the back button that I remembered from my downhill skiing days. No back button. YOU ARE CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING YOU IDIOT!!

Oh, so there must be a button on the front. Here, I'll just push down on that button at the front of my boot...I just have to lean forward here... no move the ski that way, oh jeez...why did I put on so many layers...almost got it...crap, there goes my back again. Maybe I can get it with my pole. Look the pole reaches it, now all I have to do is get my back into it (oh yeah...back is starting to go into spasm)

So while the poles were flailing and the skis were whirling around like helicopters, my family noticed my turtle-on-the-back positioning. As heart-warming as it was, I have to say I was not all that thrilled to see my nine-year-old running through the snow toward me. The snow rescue by my son was not going to happen...not on a five-minute cross-country ski stint. I found a position that worked to get the ski off and then I was able to get up and get turned around back toward home.

My son stopped victory in this epic battle. I caught up with him as we headed back. He told me that he was worried about me and that dad thought that I had hurt my back.

"No, my back is okay," I lied.

I was just going to file my accident report with my husband, but as soon as I got back to the ice-fishing tent, our littlest emerged soaked on her entire right side. She had stepped into the ice-fishing hole, and my morning cross-country ski adventure was brought to an end.

I did manage to get back out on the lake for a wonderful 40-minute ski trip complete with music from the ipod and light snow showers. It felt great, and I am looking forward to at least another outing or two this year, and of course multiple trips next year.

Cross-country skiing is awesome, and something that I feel a thirty-four year old should be able to do whether it is on a competitive or on a recreational level. My back issues have become too severe to ignore any more, and I want to enjoy learning new activities like this one, and I really hope I can figure out what's wrong so that I can do what I need to do to get it fixed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thirty-Four Year Old Teaches Herself to Cross-Country Ski

Okay, so it hasn't happened yet, but it will. I have carried around a free pair of cross-country skis for almost five years, and I actually got myself together this week to get them outfitted for use. I drove to a part of St. Paul that I hadn't been, climbed over a five-foot snow bank (skis in hand) and made my way back to the back of a small (tiny really) cross-country ski specialty shop to get bindings and boots.

Sure, the skis are probably a foot too long for me (most certainly fashioned for the use of an extremely tall man) and I will likely have to hold the poles in the middle of the shaft so that I do not throw out a shoulder, but I am going cross-country skiing this weekend.

We have a trip planned to our cabin this Sunday and there will be groups of people ice-fishing and another group ice skating. I am too antsy (and logical) to sit on a chair pulling a fishing line in and out of a frozen hole. Maybe I'll change my mind if I actually witness a fish emerge from said hole, but for now, that is not my choice of activity.

As for the possibility of ice skating, I hold dear the fragile connection of the ligaments in my knees and ankles, and I am pretty sure I would tear something if I tried to skate for any length of time.

Last time on the lake I took a long walk across the water, a bucket list activity if you have never done anything like it, and I started thinking about that free pair of skis that have occupied the corner of our garage for entirely too long. I will ski across the lake this weekend, and I am excited to try something totally new.

I don't know if this is going to become my next greatest thing, but it will be something that I can say I did, and who knows, I may really enjoy it. A friend of mine in Colorado wisely commented one time that, "in order to keep living life to the fullest, you need to find something each year that you want to learn how to do. If you run out of things to learn, you might as well be done."

I may not actually learn how to cross-country ski proficiently, but I hope to at least learn how to maneuver monstrous skis from car, to store, back to car, to cabin, to feet and hopefully to the other side of the lake.

I will report back next week with pictures and evaluations.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Make the Driving Age Younger

The Frank family calendar sits on the corner of our kitchen counter-top, and two days ago I updated it for February. As I moved through each week I realized that the days for February are awfully colorful. Red for my husband, blue for me, green for Nate, orange for Haley and purple for Kiana. It looks pretty, but what it really means is that we are outrageously busy this month. A keen observer would note that there is hardly any purple, and that is partially purposeful. That poor third kid is barely scheduled for anything but rather she is toted from event to event for the older siblings. It is not because she does not want to be doing something, it is because we do not have a third driver to get her places.

We knew this would happen. When we were contemplating having that third kid, we talked about how we were going to have to give up our man-to-man defense for zone coverage. What we didn't anticipate was how the zone would work to physically get each kid to where they need to go.

I had an enlightening dream the other night, however, and so I think I have come up with a solution. In my dream, Nate was driving in a beautiful little go-cart, complete with helmet and padded bumpers. He was waving at me with a huge grin as he was heading off to practice. His bag and stick were hanging on the back of his tiny car. In the dream I felt not an ounce of trepidation. I was elated that I was free to take Kiana to something just for her.

I have not yet checked in to the legislative requirements for starting a petition, but I am pretty confident that there will be a number of families, especially those who have more than two active kids, who would support a proposal to have the driving age designated for eleven-year-olds. If Nate is able to get his license by the time he is eleven, that will be perfectly timed for the inevitable scheduling of our littlest, and it will solve so many problems (in our house at least!)

Relax...relax. I know what you are thinking...but I have thought of that too. What in the world would they drive? The auto makers are struggling right now, and when they start the "small car" line to deal with the demand of the younger drivers, it will most certainly save the economy too. I modestly admit that this is by far one of my more brilliant ideas!

I know that the science suggests that the sixteen-year-old brains are not even developed enough to be driving cars safely, and we give them licenses, so really, what difference would it make if the brains are just slightly less developed than those hormone-crazed teens?

The positive arguments for the younger driving age generally outweigh the negatives for me, and when our lives become a bit less busy than they are now, I will pursue the legal route to get the driving age lowered. Looking ahead at our calendars, it is probable that I will finally have some time to make some headway with this in about....6 years or so, and by then...Nate will be 16 and....well, I guess I wouldn't have to do it then. Oh well, it's still a good idea.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Peacefully Disconnected

My computer broke Friday. I turned it on and the screen of DEATH was holding my documents and my life hostage. No matter how I held it, what buttons I pushed or how nicely I talked to it, the blue screen simply stared back at me with a mocking tone. I was forced to travel to my son's hockey tournament without my computer. That meant no private internet social emails. Nothing. All the things that I was looking forward to doing on my mini-vacation were not possible because my laptop was frozen. I felt practically paralyzed and alone. Frustration didn't change the color of my screen so I had to think back to what I ever used to do with my time...before I had my laptop.

I relished the quiet time to read as the kids were falling asleep in the hotel room and I took an incredible two-hour nap between games. I went swimming, worked out, hung out, ordered room service and looked at Lake Superior from the warmth of the hotel lobby. I survived!!! No wait...I thrived. It was a wonderful and relaxing way to spend a couple of days, and I didn't feel the internal clock begging me to get check those update blogs...because I couldn't.

I could have used the computer to write, but I liked the pace of the weekend without internet. Sometimes I wish I could just unhook on my own and stay disconnected. In my heart of hearts I know that I will have a hard time doing that when my computer is back up and running.

I delivered my computer to the equivalent of the laptop emergency room this morning, and I am confident that it will be up and running in the coming days. In the meantime, I have stolen a few minutes on my husband's computer to stay connected, and I am sure I'll keep doing that until I can be connected on my terms, but my new goal will be to be as peacefully connected as I am when I am disconnected.