Thank You Veterans

Thank You Veterans.  Your service is our gratitude. 

I saw something this weekend that I want to share.  Any time the word “gratitude” pops up in a video going viral, I’m paying attention.

Pete Davidson apologized to Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw on Saturday Night Live.  Pete had made a joke in poor taste, and–whether NBC put him up to it or not–the resulting TV clip is worth a watch.  It is especially worth watching at the 3:15 mark when the conversation turns to gratitude.  #neverforget.  Here is the link (it’s under five minutes).

Thinking of you today Veterans, especially you Sarah. If you haven’t read her writing from last week, it’s a good read for today.

To the Mom Whose Kid Asks Hard Questions



“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton


His little feet skip into the room.  I grin.  This kid is happy all the time.

Except when he isn’t.

Except when he asks the tough questions.

“Was Grandma cancelled?” he will say so plainly.

“What is cancer, mama?”

“What happens when we die?’

In this time of missing Grandma Peggy (her birthday is today), in and through our grief, I’ve spent many mommy/son moments not always knowing how to be with these questions.

A friend suggested recently that maybe my little guy’s questions are things that God is asking me, that maybe it’s a time of reckoning.

“Or maybe,” she said later in the conversation, “Maybe you could turn the questions around, ask him, ‘What do you think?’”

Each time I’ve done this.  Each time I’ve made the swap from answering first to asking first, I find myself right alongside him in my own hurt and love and missing her.  And I am often taken aback by the thoughts in his little four-year-old heart—thoughts I would have missed, had I been focused on answering right away instead of asking.

And every time, I am reminded that we are not alone in our grief, that answers help, but maybe not as much as the love in a hug, or the love that sits With us in our wanting to know it all, in the trusting and in the hoping all at once.

***

Gratitude Dare:  Do a random act of kindness.  Get creative!  You know that person who could really use it. . . maybe instead of knowing what they need, take time to ask what might help.

Finding Gratitude When it’s Chilly




“Nebraska, it’s not for everyone.”


If you haven’t heard yet, our state has a new tourism slogan.  It’s been met with mixed reviews.  When I read social media notes from people who are angry about it, I giggle, remembering it’s the tourism slogan.  You have to admit that our state is not a tourist destination of choice–at least not to most people.  But it might just be for me.  

Many people who live here know, that it does have idyllic places to visit, and sometimes a regular-old Nebraska sunset can parallel anything over the ocean.

That said, sometimes I don’t totally think it’s for me–now hold on before you get angry.  Take yesterday for example. . .

The kids were cheering, “Let’s play outside!” so excited from the snowfall.  “Brr,” was all I could think on this week of snow and lots to do at work.

But, the evening DID end up being one that reminded me that Nebraska IS the place for me.  One reason why was the super-duper secret that I want to share with everyone.

Last year I made a discovery that helped me find more gratitude throughout the chilly season, even when it was the third week of sludge in January.

Hygge.

“Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah) is a Danish word used when acknowledging a feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. … You can’t buy a ‘hygge living room’ and there’s no ‘hygge foods’ to eat.” (hyggehouse.com)

In my own words, it’s that cosy/warm feeling you get when you and friends are tucked into the house with comfy clothes and warm food and lights all around.  So while you can’t buy hygge, you can mix the ingredients into your home–or even into a normal weekday night.

Evi’s Prescription for some Nebraska Hygge:

  1. Candles
  2. Twinkly Lights
  3. Soup
  4. Cosy Socks
  5. Hoodie Sweatshirts
  6. Warm Cups of Hot Drinks
  7. Good Friends and Family
  8. etc.
I love it that in Denmark they have a word for this.  Having a word for it helped me feel more grateful last winter.  So, how might you mix some hygge into your weekend?

Today’s gratitude dare is to take a picture of something that sparks gratitude. . . maybe something hoogaly (not a word, but one I use, lol).  If you want to share, use #gratitudegal on instagram or Twitter this weekend.

Sneaky Post-It Gratitude

Did your mom or grandma ever put a little note in your lunchbox growing up?  Mine did, and every time I opened my lunch to that little unexpected note, I couldn’t help but feel loved and appreciated.  I couldn’t help but feel gratitude.

Today the gratitude dare is simple. . .find a sticky note and write a note of appreciation or gratitude and sneak it somewhere where the person will see it.

Cheers to sneaky gratitude!

Thankful for Cindi



The last time I saw Cindi was at coffee.  She looked like her usual self–a leader, put together, beautiful and strong–but she also looked tired, more quiet.

I only learned later how much pain her body was going through as we sat there chit-chatting about life.  Cindi’s dance with cancer was long–and I say dance because she did it with such grace.  Yesterday, she passed away.  Thinking of her, I want to re-post what she wrote here, now a couple of years go.

Sweet Cindi, may your rest be one of peace–and of no more pain.  Thank you for teaching us all to keep moving “every day, one step after another, just keeping on, keeping on,” no matter the circumstance.

I open one eye and blink towards the blue illuminated numbers showing 5:50 AM.  With a stretch, I roll over and slip one foot on the floor, gently sliding out of bed.  I dress in the dark, tip-toe past my husband, and quietly close the bedroom door behind me.  Next, I creep past the dog in his kennel, (who doesn’t miss a thing), giving me a quiet whimper-yawn as I sneak out the front door to my bike locked up on the front porch.  It feels like it must be nearly 80 degrees and the humidity seems 90% as I swing my leg over my bike and roll down the driveway to begin my ride.  Still sleepy, and with a yawn, I whisper “Thank you God” as I get myself ready to bike some hills, pump my legs and get my heart racing for 6-7 miles of bike trails.

They say it takes the benefits of regular exercise 6-8 weeks to appear, and the investment in your health will be invaluable.  I do feel stronger, and my husband even says I move like I’m stronger, as I’ve been doing this now for over 6 weeks now. Thank you God.  A lot of people would be looking at this as terrific progress in creating a healthy habit of morning exercise, but to be honest, I am counting the days until I can quit!  Walking and yoga are much more my style for sure.

But I am in training, getting ready for my personal “Super Bowl” if you will, because in less than a month I will be hiking the Inca Trail up Machu Picchu in Peru with a team of 20 people, most of whom I’ve never met.  So I’m doing my best to get this bod in shape, as the better shape I’m in, the more I will enjoy the trek up 11,000 feet in the Andes Mts. to one of the most incredible places on earth.  The hike is quite a reach for me.  I’m not a hiker (haven’t hiked in 30 years since high school!) and I’m really not a biker.  (Not since college when I peddled around 40 hours a week as a Bike Cop…ok, Bike Patrol is the right language, for two summers.)

But this is like a victory lap I am excited to be working toward.  See I am a survivor, and this year I am celebrating a big victory.  And as I pondered a way to celebrate, or give back, and be thankful, I became aware of an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for Multiple Myeloma (a blood cancer) through a program called Moving Mountains for Myelmona (MM4MM), through Takeda Oncology. As I learned about the opportunity, it seemed surreal that I could hike one of the most celebrated places on earth to benefit others with cancer!  The team consists of multiple myeloma patients, caregivers, doctors, nurses and researchers who have come together to raise funds and awareness for research.

Ten years ago this October I had a stem cell transplant for multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, with the life expectancy at the time of 5-7 years. I remember making the decision to take on this hike (and certainly jump out of my box) in January, being able to raise funds and awareness as I trained for the journey.  It wasn’t really about the hike or about the mountain or even about this beautiful place, but rather a way to celebrate these 10 amazing and remarkable years of LIVING.  Thank you God! Since then I’ve been climbing my own “mountain”, every day, one step after another, just keeping on, keeping on.  Working through remission, and relapse, and chemo drugs, pushing through the physical burdens to take another breath and appreciate the gift of every day’s “view”.


So as I train and climb my mountain, I have so much to be thankful for, EVERY DAY.  Having cancer allows me to live my life with intention, to not let the little things in life de-rail me (most days!) from what’s important.
 My gratitude builds as I train for my climb.  And I’m counting the days to getting back to walking and yoga!  Thank you God!

Get Busy Living

Photo by Curt Brinkmann.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – Bilbo Baggins (The Fellowship of the Ring)


I wrecked my favorite car, friends. It was the first car I ever picked for myself.  On Saturday her sturdy driver’s side door, equipped with an old-school non-power roll up window, saved me.

As I exited the passenger side door–thank goodness I was alone–I couldn’t help but stare at it.  The door was curved in, touching the steering wheel, so close to where I had been.

I walked away from that wreck.  Thankfully, so did the other driver.

So today, perhaps more than any time recently, I’m grateful.

Diana Butler Bass writes about gratitude being a changeable thing—unique to each and every situation. Sometimes it’s simple, like a book you love or a little thank-you note.  Other times it’s full of love or memory, and yet other times it’s mixed with fear, and a deep knowledge that all of this is so fleeting.

So, today I’m simply thankful to be here writing, breathing in and out, and mourning my little silver Chevy Cobalt, may she rest in peace. . . and may the rest of us get busy living.

***

Gratitude Dare:  Pull up a YouTube song that makes you feel grateful.  I’m listening to a couple of songs that my friends and I listen to when we’re feeling alive:  The General Specific by Band of Horses and Atlantic City by The Band.  

Gratitude from Across the World


I am so thankful to Sarah for sharing these words of gratitude during her deployment.  I asked thinking I might post this on Veteran’s Day, but after reading her words, and after the weekend I’ve had (more on that tomorrow), I don’t want to wait.  Thank you Sarah for your service and for encouraging us all today. 
***

An Air Force chaplain once said, “It’s hard to see God in a crowd.”  He was referring to people getting caught up in the fast lane of life and finding time for faith took the backseat.  That really stuck with me. Similarly, it can be hard to see gratitude in a crowd, or maybe better put a cloud.  Dredging through a deployment has its cloudy days; being apart from loved ones and the comforts of home hits the mind and soul with a tidal wave of emotions.

Truthfully, we will all have our low places in life, but hanging out in the trenches does not have to be permanent residence.  Every day is a gift and it’s ultimately up to us to make it count or waste it (thanks mama, you taught me that).  99% of the time I choose to make it count, but while deployed, it doesn’t come easy.  My first week here was rough, it took a small army of family and friends to pick me up and get me back on track.  Slowly I regained my composure, did some self-reflection, set goals, got in a routine, and set off to LIVE (not just get by) each day to its fullest.  For that I am truly grateful for that small army of family and friends who carried me out of the storm.

I am grateful for another small army, our Sterling community and school, who have taken time to support me and my family with acts of kindness, phone calls, letters, and prayers.  I will tell you it DOES make a difference, THANK YOU! Here are a few more things I am grateful for this week: awesome co-workers, 10 point pitch, motivation, mail, WiFi, new comfy slippers, and pictures of those I hold dear in my heart. May you all find gratitude in your daily lives and strive to make each day count!

From another Jet Country to yours,
SMSgt Sarah A. Bredthauer

When the Way Finds Me


Ollie has been begging me for weeks.  Each night as I pull the covers up to his chin, it’s the same question.


“When can we go to Lost in Fun?” 

This indoor game park is a four-year-old’s paradise with ball pits, leveled climbers, and huge jumping pillows. 

So after what feels like the one-millionth bedtime ask, I realize we’ve got to go.  We decide to head up one weekday evening.  

As we pull into the parking lot, Ollie’s seat belt un-clicks faster than I can turn the key to shut off the engine.  Inside he tosses his shoes into the storage cubbies, and he’s off. 

I follow him through his excitement and eventually see him fling his tiny blonde body out into the empty big-kid ball pit. 

I look at the sea of cushy round pillows. . . no other kids in sight. . . and I get an idea.  I’m not sure if it’s against the Lost in Fun rules, but I jump.  As I spring up from the center of the cushions, Ollie’s eyes grow wide with giggles as he realizes what I’ve done.  Soon we’re in an all-out ball-pit war as he flings one cushion at my head and then the next.

Soon we’re covered and laughing as I roll over trying to get my footing.  And then I try again.

“Well this is lovely,” I think, as my foot awkwardly misses a third time–and a forth–until I know I’m stuck like some kiddie-park mom beached whale.


I struggle against it for a bit, wiggling this way and that, as the round pillows cascade in like fire swamp quick sand. 

Tired and seemingly out of options, I give up.  I lay back and look around.

Between two pillows, my son’s freckly grin peeks through, just close enough to tickle.  Soon we’re rolling and laughing again as Charli barrels in to join us.  After the second round of tickle-fights, she shoves over toward the edge and grabs the helpful exit rope attached to the wall.


It’s been there the whole time.

I grab it too and fairly easily find my way out of the pit. . . and out of any pride that I might have had left. 


And I can’t help but laugh at myself and wonder, how often am I just flailing around in life?  How often am I so focused on what’s not working, that I can’t see what’s right in front of me?  How often–if I just stop and look around in gratitude–will the next steps simply come, find me, and show me the way?  

These thoughts quiet as I return to kids who’ve retrieved their shoes from the cubbies.  After hugs goodbye (to an awesome aunt who came to play while I ran some errands), it’s time to head home.  The kids sleep on the car ride home and zombie walk up to their beds.  I pull the covers up under Ollie’s little chin, and he yawns as he asks with his eyes shut, “When can we go to Lost in Fun again?”

I pause, and for what feels like the one million and first time I say, “We’ll see honey, we’ll see.”

***


Gratitude Dare:  Get outside and take a picture of something that sparks gratitude.  


For the entire month of gratitude dares, print the easy-peasy calendar at https://goo.gl/4FhXQH.

Cheers to Gratitude and Writing

Photo by Charli Wusk (age 6)

(While playing superheroes.) 

“Come on mom, be brave!”
“How do I be brave?”
“Show other people your feelings.” – Charli (age 4)

I’ve sharpened the new skeleton pencil I found.  It’s a little creepy with its white skulls sporting red glowing eyes.  It must have been a stowaway in a trick-or-treat bag.  Creepy or not, it’s sharp.  The kids are in bed.  The house is quiet, and I’m snuggling in with my notebook when I hear little footsteps.

“Ollie, is that you?” I say across the next darkened room.

The footsteps scoot along the wood floor, quickened.

“I just had to go potty, momma,” he says while he curls into my lap, pushing the notebook over.

“I’m writing a story,” I say.

“You should put characters in it. You should have Elsa,” he says matter-of-factly, as he hugs me one last time and skips along to the bathroom.

An Elsa from Frozen cameo would be a creative twist to this piece, but I’m not sure that’s where I’ll begin.  Simon Sinek says start with why, and there’s wisdom in that. . . for a business man, that’s just the place.

But I’m a storyteller.  

Storytellers tend to start with characters, setting, a problem that needs fixing.

So, today the characters are you and me.  Me in my sweats, my hair less blonde than it used to be.  You reading this somewhere, maybe on your phone or in your e-mail or just scrolling Facebook.  Here we are together, wanting a little more gratitude in these lives of ours.  

My setting today is small-town-big-heart, Sterling, Nebraska, fall 2018.  

This is the place where I’m teaching.  

This is the place where we’re raising our family.  

This is home.  

Our town water-tower rises just a block or so down the road.  In the daylight, I can see it out the window with its fresh coat of paint.  Like a lot of things around here lately, it feels new.  New teachers, a new community center in the works, a pair of dear friends with a new house.  There’s new energy, and yet the old iron of that water-tower sits underneath the paint, solid.  Not everything is new, and that too is good.  

I’m glad we’re here.

This time of year my notebook always feels a little full, like the few farm fields still lined with brown stalks, the last ones waiting for harvest.  

I’m a word collector.  I’m convinced there’s magic in ’em.  Just this week I was reading Eugene Peterson–a writer I love–and it was like he was right here talking with me.  He passed away ten days ago, but those words still felt very much alive.  

So as I set my creepy skeleton pencil down for the night, it’s tip a little duller, I’m sending these words out hoping they might have some life in them.  Perhaps Elsa will make her cameo tomorrow.  These are the words I have today.  Thanks for reading.  I’m glad you’re here.  Cheers to gratitude and sharing some writing this November . . . two of my very favorite things.  


***


Gratitude Dare: Flip through your camera photos until you find something you are grateful for.  For the entire month of dares, print the easy-peasy calendar at https://goo.gl/4FhXQH.

If you or someone you know wants a little more gratitude in their in-box, subscribe just under the header image at eviwusk.com.  

Thanks.

If We Dare to Wrestle



I still have football on the brain.  A while back my family and I were at Old Chicago.  I was eating bite after bite of pizza until I saw Scott Frost’s grey suit and red tie repeated across the multiple TV screens.  I set my pizza back on the plate.
​I’m honestly not that big of a football fan, but something about how he spoke, how he talked about a shift toward positive culture, heartened me.  Anyone who’s lived in Nebraska the last few years knows the football team has struggled compared to the past.  (And anyone paying attention knows the volleyball team is pretty awesome.)

The Omaha World Herald ran a story about the football press conference noting how the word “Championship” was never mentioned.  Even without a trophy focus the new direction felt like a victory after a struggle.


I recently read a Bible story about Jacob wrestling “a man” (maybe some sort of angel) in a dream.  He won’t give up.  Jacob holds the man down until he receives a blessing.
​I love a story like that.
Hard work, dedication, and determination that results in a win.  Pete Carrol has a book on his football philosophy titled, “Win Forever.”  He tries to daily look at his seasons with a zoomed-up, big picture viewpoint.  It’s one thing to be good.  It’s another to be sustainably good over a long period of time.  
The start of a new year is a time to zoom up and see the big picture–a time to step back and say thanks as we gear up for what’s next.  How can we turn our energy toward goals that matter, goals even more important than victory?  

What if we each scheduled a chunk of time as January turns to February to take one hour, four hours, or even just ten minutes to zoom-up and get perspective?  What if we take hold of 2018 and use the fresh start in ways that really matter?  What blessings might be waiting if we dare to wrestle? 

***


Special thanks to Curt for this gorgeous and thought-provoking image he took to go with a football piece.  I appreciate it.  🙂