Coffee, Angels, & Hope

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Two Cups is my metaphor for life. One cup overflows with gratitude for all the blessings I’ve come upon as I’ve walked the path only I could walk—infinite, really. The other cup, only filled partway right now, are heartaches I’ve collected along my almost fifty years of living in this crazy world. It feels like a healthy balance to have so much goodness and a few hardships too. Perfectly imperfect. It’s kept me shooting for the stars while remaining grounded in real life too.

I’m extra grateful this year as I’m still here, sitting on my couch with a book about Christmas, Paris, love, and the heartache of loss. My cat is curled next to me whistling in her sleep, the fire crackles below four Christmas stockings my grandmother made for me and my three girls. The darkening sky above the bay is a soft grey, one that whispers words of serenity and peace.

This summer while on a vacation in Peru, my girls and I were in an accident where I was directly hit by a boat while we were motoring back to our cabin in the middle of the Amazon at night. I blacked out but heard the sound of a fishing boat hitting ours and then me. It took another two to four days before I realized I had bruises on my arm, dislocated ribs, and a head injury that has a 60-90 percent mortality rate. After the accident, my girls and I were taken by a different boat to the third-world-strip-mall, urgent care to have my lip sewn back together. Novocain was injected, but I wasn’t numb to the needle and thread pulled in and out of my gums in a hallway surrounded by the soundtrack of devastation. Nine stitches, mostly on the inside, answered my prayer that it would be “better than I think it will be.”

The next morning I drank more coffee than I usually do because I had a Seattle-sized tumbler with a lid for my swollen lip covered in a bandage. And, perhaps, I was in shock and kept sipping, reliving the events of the previous night. “What the hell? It’s a family vacation!” What was happening inside my head was the bleeding veins between my skull and brain on my left side were being constricted by the extra caffeine. It only took a half hour for the bleeding to stop before my body encapsulated the blood like a blood blister and pushed my brain over just enough to give me a freight-train headache through the center of my being. This headache was enough to get us out of the jungle and back to civilization where there is migraine medicine, a real hospital, and people who could help me and my three kids get out of the country. We got our two weeks worth of clothes and souvenirs packed and back on the long, narrow boat for the 45 minute ride to the tiny airport and then to Cuzco at 12,000 feet where we spent the afternoon waiting for our flight to Lima. It just so happens that altitude is also a blood vessel constrictor. Lucky for me.

But for the Starbucks mug I got in Lima at the beginning of the trip, drinking too much coffee, and having lunch at 12,000 feet, I might not be here this Christmas. I would have stayed for another day and a half in the humid jungle where blood vessels remain in full dilation. I would have thought my headache was a regular migraine with the added benefit of being hit in the mouth and this would have caused me to continue to bleed until it was too late. I may have been on the airplane with my three kids heading back the next day. I may have had to have surgery in Peru to relieve the pressure of two days of bleeding inside my skull. If I would have made it through, only 30 percent make a full recovery after surgery when bleeding is undetected for too long. This is what makes subdural hematomas the most severe of head injuries—you don’t know it’s serious until it’s almost too late.

Angels were in the Amazon. There were so many things that could have gone wrong. The first being, our group of eleven didn’t get thrown into the murky water where caiman (alligator family) and other terrifying creatures live. There were five kids on board… Just the trauma of being thrown into that water in the dark… I believe my angels were my four grandparents I’ve lost in the last handful of years – Elwyn and Shirley, and Alice and John. I was protected in the Amazon until we were able to get all the way back to Seattle where I realized I might have a severe concussion. Yep, and then some. And, I was protected at home when I sent a prayer request because the hematomas got bigger and surgery was a real possibility. Hundreds of Facebook friends responded. I was sent to a different doctor at the last minute and he said we would wait despite the CT scan. After two weeks of excruciating headaches, they stopped completely with the prayer, thoughts, and love that were sent my way—the very next day. Gone.

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Four months later, I’m doing so much better. Christmas is busy always, but it’s seemed like a little extra overload this year. Cookies didn’t get baked and not enough holiday movies watched from the couch all together. We had to get two Christmas trees because the first one was picked out in haste during a homework break at dusk. It was too small, “just not right.” Not to mention two sets of cards because there was a typo on the first set. Once again, life moving too fast.

The moments though… We had the best time shopping for each other in Seattle. We saw Annie: The Musical at the 5thAvenue Theater. We watched a couple movies and got to sleep in a few days. My family, aunts, uncles, and cousins came over for Christmas Eve. It was magical. Our morning was lovely too – matching pajamas, Christmas music, the fire flickering, twinkling lights on the tree and mantel, presents opened, and pumpkin pie and homemade whipping cream for breakfast. Around noon I helped my girls put all their things in Ellie’s car and off they went to celebrate the holidays with their dad and his family.

The house is peacefully silent now. I’m still in my pajamas and the filtered sun won’t shine again until tomorrow. It’s not picture-perfect, but it’s been a beautiful day. I’m surrounded by love and grace. My girls gave me the softest blanket I’ve ever touched (ever), photographs of my girls with Santa through the years sit on the table behind the couch, a nativity scene on the piano, a “perfect” (second) Christmas tree with ornaments I’ve collected since I was young, art, flowers, and even my cat and dog, surround me as a reflect on where I’ve been, how blessed I am to get to live this life of mine, and what’s ahead in the new year.

We all have moments of absolute magic and moments of deep grief for what was lost or what will never come to be. Me, too. I’ve decided I’m going to live for the magic, the connections to others whether minutes or a lifetime, and, most importantly, for the love I can give to those in my circle and their love given right back.

This is life. It’s two cups at the same time. Sometimes one cup is overflowing like a Starbucks cup from Peru. It’s easy to keep refilling until you have to get out of the jungle—right now. The cups are not always marked clearly. The cup of heartache just might turn into the cup that saves you, but patience is required. It’s happened over and over for me.

The only thing I need to remember is to accept whatever comes, have faith I will be okay no matter what, and hold onto the hope that is infused in both cups. I’ve learned that everything in this beautiful, messy life is meant for me. I get to decide the narrative, even when it’s as crazy as a rogue fishing boat hitting me in the middle of Peru on our family vacation.

There is always, always something to be thankful for… Today, I am thankful for every single thing because I almost lost this life. This Christmas I was given perspective and that grace surrounds me like the softest blanket I’ve ever been wrapped in.

May you also know for sure that no matter what, life is so, so good. Love and grace are protecting you too. xo

Magic is…

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Magic is in belonging to someone, the sun setting over the waves, the hazy dream you don’t want to leave, being transported by a story, love, God, connection to each other. Magic is never a brown shag carpet. It doesn’t happen while watching TV or when people are upset, fighting, or in the throws of life drama or traumas. Magic does not happen in excess of things that numb the pain. Magic can’t be forced and it doesn’t exclude. Magic is not selfish, doesn’t lie or cheat or deceive or abandon you when you’re on your knees. Magic does not come with manipulation or betrayal. You cannot move the pieces just so to create it. Magic is unbounded gratitude for the single rose you notice while standing in destruction. It’s the energy created in a moment, and like standing in a river, water rushing and swirling, cannot be experienced in the same way ever again. Magic happens where there is authenticity, kindness, grace, love and sometimes heartache too. Magic is connection to yourself, to others and to God. You have the power to create it, but you cannot make it happen and it (almost) always requires at least two so you can remind each other that it really did transpire in that exact magical way. xo

 

“Life is amazing and then it’s awful, and then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and the awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”    ~L.R. Knost

Our Beloved Papa…

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Elwyn Bushaw, 89 years old, was born in Bismarck, North Dakota to William and Bertha Bushaw on February 19, 1925. He served with pride and honor in the United States Navy from 1942 until 1946. His family moved from a farm in Grand Forks, North Dakota to Seattle where he learned the sheet metal trade with many of his dark-haired, sparkly-eyed brothers. He met the love of his life, Shirley Darlene Hanson, while roller dancing in White Center. Elwyn asked Shirley if she was from North Dakota as he recognized her roller skating style. They were married within the month of meeting and very quickly inseparable for almost 70 years. Together they raised their three children, Doug, Greg and Debbie. No one felt Elwyn’s fun-loving, generous spirit more than his eleven grandchildren: Janna, Jeff, Heather, Carrie, Lindsay, Shannon, Eric, Tom, Kevin, Kurt, and Sheryl and fifteen great-grandchildren. Elwyn was the head of our family who spent holidays, birthdays, weddings, family BBQs together. Our Christmas Eve parties call to each of us no matter where we are in the world – even if it means by phone or Facetime. Papa loved being with the kids as much as they loved being with him. Our big family is home.

Elwyn grew up in a family of fourteen on a farm in a very different time. His dad drove the kids to school in a horse drawn wagon with coal in the back to keep them warm on the cold winter days. He had to leave school in the eighth grade to help his family on the farm. Elwyn is preceded in death by his brothers and sisters: Elroy, Kenny, Donny, Erwin, Ebert, Lloyd, sisters Edna, Valoyce, Maxine, and Laverne. He is survived by his loving wife, Shirley, his sons, Doug Bushaw (Roxanne) and Greg Bushaw (Kim), daughter Debbie Ziebarth (Jim), and brother Bob.

Elwyn’s career was in the sheet metal trade after putting himself through school and supporting a young family. He was a brilliant mathematician who could visualize and lay-out sheets of metal that only machines can do today. His grandchildren marveled at how many and fast he could manipulate numbers. Young apprentices to the owners of the companies he worked for, appreciated his natural abilities to get any job, not only done, but done perfectly the first time. Elwyn loved his work and took great pride in a job well done.

He was a self-taught jack-of-all-trades. Doug and Greg remember helping their dad dig out the basement of the family home on Military Road in South Seattle. Elwyn could make just about anything. One year he made his family and friends truck canopies out of sheet metal for their weekend camping trips. He gave freely of his time, energy and talent and remodeled many of our homes. Shirley was right there beside him cleaning, painting and cooking; together they made a great team.

Elwyn lived the All-American life full of family, friends, love, laughter, a few tears, work and play. Over the years, Elwyn and Shirley were involved in bowling and square dancing. They loved to play cards with friends and family, sometimes late into the night. Later in the years, Elwyn enjoyed blackjack at the casino and taught the grandkids and great-grandkids the science of cards. Picture books are full of memories of parties in the dugout basement, gardening, and swimming in their pool on hot days. The family spent almost every weekend camping and fishing from the time the kids were small, far into grandchildren coming along happily playing in the dirt. The two of them could dance like there was no one else in the room, floating across the floor on a cloud of their own making. They were poetry in motion. There are many great memories of camping in Eastern Washington where Willard’s Resort became the “Bushaw Family Compound” with all of the aunts, uncles and cousins. These are such wonderful memories for all who were part of the Bushaw Family.

Elwyn led a full and wonderful life. He demonstrated true values of unconditional love, generosity of spirit, and shared what he had, what he knew and his wisdom collected over the years. He was devoted to his wife, Shirley, his children and grandchildren. There was rarely a time he didn’t profess his love for his family and his beloved wife. They were almost one spirit, hand-in-hand, never leaving each other’s side. Their love for each other was of fairytales and dreams; authentic, true, everlasting. We feel your spirit within each of us, Papa. Our memories of you so deep, your presence is with us wherever we are and for all of time. May you rest in peace…

Written by Kim Bushaw and Janna Bushaw

Positive to Positively Authentic

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As Americans we say things like, Be positive, Don’t complain, Pull yourself up from your bootstraps, Move on, Don’t let it bother you, Don’t worry, be happy, Count your blessings, not your problems; all of these, full of wisdom and the path to a happy life. At times in my life, I have been the poster child for “Everything is AWESOME!” I read Stephen Covey, Og Mandino, and Dale Carnegie, and listened to Zig Ziglar tapes (yes, I said tapes.) I was in sales and marketing, which put me squarely in the Positive Psychology camp or suffer by comparison. After all, You are what you think. With a smile, twinkly eye contact and a genuine interest in other people, a person could be very successful. Follow the 10 Easy Steps to a Happy Life; I’m sure I read it and wired it directly into my DNA.

This was in my early twenties and in my late twenties I realized, “Wait a minute, some things in life are just not okay, not happy and certainly not good.” Being positive all the time and denying reality started to seem a little foolish and might get a person taken for a ride. Cynicism seeped in. It’s so easy because there are many smart people who will jump on that wagon in a snap. It’s one of those deals where if everyone is cynical together,we feel pretty smart, in a class all our own (some would call this the Ego Mind.) “We see the REAL deal and no one is fooling us.” During this time I had a boss who was still in the Positive Stage and, wow, she was so annoying. She was repeating the earlier messages on a daily basis like I had never heard them before. Ugh!

At some point I moved on from the cheery-boss and just stopped caring. Positive. Negative. Whatever. I just let my thoughts roll. They generally liked to roll down hill. This is about the time Corporate America was revealing itself as a tad empty and also after September 11, 2001. Life needed to change and it certainly did with a move from New York back to Washington, no corporate job and a new (colicky) baby. Catapulted into suburbia, in a neighborhood of moms with babies in every home, life rocked into an easy balance between the good and, let’s just say, not so good. Moms bonded on the ‘challenges’ of said babies, but relished all the goodness these little people brought into our lives; no positive-negative decisions necessary.

Now in my forties with children/preteens, I have come full circle. I found that no one really cares if you are positive or negative, although people generally do not want to be around complainers. If you are one of those people, you may find yourself complaining to your dog or maybe on Facebook – and surely there will be those who sympathize for awhile, but gradually we learn people Like you better when you have something of value to say. Cynicism is everywhere. Cynicism is easy. Cynicism is worthless. What I have found is I am far happier when I dig in to find the beautiful, the kindness, the lessons and the love in life’s situations. Sometimes it’s really easy. I lived in the Rocky Mountains for a year where I hiked, skate skied, downhill skied, touched the river daily and was surrounded by people who did the same. Negativity? None whatsoever. It was easy to be grateful for literally everything in my life.

Then life took a hairpin turn catapulting me into the abyss. Suddenly finding the positive was no longer easy and the ugly followed me around like a Northwest cloud in November. Now what? I do know You are what you think, but this seemed insurmountable, like climbing Mt. Everest in a wind storm. Pretending Everything is AWESOME! was just plain ridiculous, yet I still have the DNA wiring that says to Look for the good, Pull myself up by my bootstraps, Move on, Forgive and forget is the only way to happiness, yada, yada, yada.

However, when faced with the absolute choice, balancing these two opposite views on life is the only answer and I call this Positive Authenticity; accepting and speaking your whole reality with deep recognition of our infinite blessings.

Positive Authenticity is understanding we all have both light and shadows within us. The balance of allowing others to know our challenges, humility, cracks in the armor, as well as communicating our resilience, courage, wisdom, and love of life. Mostly, it’s about knowing for sure we all have everything we need, we are whole and good and unique and the same. We are human.

 

The Love Experts

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The movie Frozen is my favorite. It just is. LOVE this movie. There are so many layers of truth in almost every scene – which is why it is the highest grossing animated film in history.

In scene after scene I saw myself as Anna from falling for the absolute wrong guy to going in after someone to my own detriment and even, struck in the heart and slowly freezing. Layers, many layers. My name is even quite close, don’t you think?

However, lately I have been thinking about the Love Experts, Christophe’s family, the rocks, the trolls. Actually, I think these are my people or at least who I aspire. Grounded and connected to this earth, to each other, this group of people do not concern themselves with the fancy people at The Castle or what they may be doing. Most would not call them “fun” or exciting, but instead honest, compassionate, and loving. They help those who, through a connection, find them where they are because they certainly don’t advertise their ability to play matchmaker or rid one of a frozen head and heart. They live simply in a quiet enclave in the forest and when strangers come, they remain rocks until they feel positive energy. These Love Experts have crystal necklaces but will never go to the Ball at The Castle; they would be excited to see you go though. They joke and laugh, are serious and loving and they probably bicker and roll over each other’s toes now and again. They are real, authentic and the masks that many at The Castle wear are nowhere to be found among the Love Experts.

Over the last few months I have been adding color, lots of color to our home; art (mostly kid’s), photographs, healing crystals, candles, flowers, quote cards, and even painting. I hear about parties or (certain) people doing fancy things with “ubèr-fancy” people. Anna would be so eager to go and meet as many people as possible and maybe even THE one. She might even be sad or jealous to not be on the guest list anymore. No, I am creating my enclave of love with my girls. Fancy anything doesn’t sound as good as snuggling in with my girls, our dog and cat, watching a movie, holding our new crystal rocks, with candles flickering… I trust that God will bring to me those who I should know in good time. Yep, I think I just might be a Love Expert…despite all evidence to the contrary! Ha!

Life at the Speed of Life

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This week I had two of my three girls home for Spring Break. Since they were tiny, we have always traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho to catch the end of ski season and the beginnings of spring in the Rocky Mountains. However, this year is the first year our family of five is a family of four and we are all feeling less like butterflies and more like a caterpillars ensconced in chrysalis. Staying home was a chance to do life at the speed of life.

My younger girls are what I call Pioneer Girls (my preteen is a pioneer-girl-in-training, I call her my book girl) because they like to get their hands dirty and would prefer anything that has to do with real life than the entertainment most kids would go for. We had a ball sewing blankets and pillows, baking, gardening, cleaning our house, bike rides to the park, play dates with friends, and a few movies thrown in for extra snuggling on the couch after sleeping in and hanging out in our PJs for at least half the day. It was balm to my soul. It was life at the speed of life for all of us.

This year has been one of the most difficult (okay, actually the MOST difficult) years of my life, but at the same time has been the most peaceful, filled with extraordinary ordinary moments that have changed my perspective on life forever. Instead of breakneck speed of shuttling three kids to, well, everywhere, traveling and keeping everyone in a family of five happy (not easy when one was hell bent on being unhappy), our lives have now become grounded in our tranquil home with candles, flowers, flute music, healing crystals and art, lots of art. Sometimes the activity schedule gets disregarded, school breaks are spent at home and our lives are now filled with color, kindness and love.

The vibration of life has changed dramatically. I am noticing all that is quiet and lovely. When you slow life down to quiet, your inner self can come out of your head and you notice all the people who are doing the same ordinary, beautiful things you are: taking their kids to school, going to work, the grocery store, walking their dog, planting flowers, reading the newspaper, helping their parents or grandparents, nursing a hurt knee or teaching a child how to ride a bike or fix a flat tire. You revel in small conversations with the woman at the check out counter or the veterinarian or the man helping you at Home Depot. Kind people living life at the speed of life, who go home to their families, make dinner, go through the mail, let down their shields in the only real place that any of us can; at home, our sanctuary.

We Belong Wherever We Are

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You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you. ~Frederick Buechner

My family has lived in Small Town, Idaho for one year. How do I summarize the experiences of each of us as a collective? It is impossible, even as just one part of the whole. What did I learn? What am I taking with me? What added to my spirit moving forward?

I belong. I understand this simple fact with a depth I hadn’t known before living at the base of the Rockies for one year with my husband and three girls. Like the branch of a Willow tree I have been bent in ways that cannot be straightened. I have been stretched, molded and shaped this year by the place, the seasons, the people who have come upon my path and most of all, by the four spirits who have been chosen to walk with me.  My family.

For several years, Bob and I contemplated moving to Sun Valley. I resisted because it scared me. I grew up in the vast strip-malled suburbs of an airport pass-through town and found the anonymity comforting. I could come and go without anyone noticing. I could spend days without anyone knowing where I was or even wondering for that matter. I could get in my car and drive to the water, mountains or to Seattle on a whim. What would I do in a small town where there is one road in and out, the same people at the grocery store, school, church and post office? Would they like me? What if they didn’t? That was the fear – what if the people that I saw everyday didn’t like me. What if I didn’t fit in? What if I didn’t belong?

It is hard to say what erased that fear once I put my feet in the Big Wood River, but it never materialized. Gone. I took one step at a time up the vast trails surrounding the Valley in nature, in beauty, in acceptance. The grasses, wildflowers and Aspens didn’t care how long I have lived here or whether or not I was staying. They whispered, Welcome.

As summer transformed into fall and then winter, my girls started school one mile from our house. Happy, curious children smiled and asked, “Do you want to play?” The teachers asked, “Can you help?” We became part of a wonderful church community. We asked, “How can we serve?” This is a ski town so naturally there are a lot of people that like the outdoors and having fun while they’re at it. I joined two women’s ski groups where I found many lovely ladies who asked, “Do you want to hike…ski…bike?”  Wow. All that is needed is to show up. Show up with an open heart, an open mind and a sense of adventure. You can choose to join the collective energy or not. I chose to belong.

Although we committed to one year, tough decisions needed to be made. In my youth the choices were 1) the hard road but opportunity for big pay off; or 2) the easy path with the promise of the status quo. Of course, I always chose the hard road or the hard road was chosen for me, not sure which one. It is in my DNA, the pioneer spirit. I think I have finally grown up because the answer did not speak to me. Both options are good but the criteria for choosing did not line up. After a childhood of not belonging—perception is everything—I finally felt connected to this Earth, to humanity here in Sun Valley, Idaho. This connectedness did not have anything to do with friends, acquaintances or groups that accepted me, but instead a deep understanding that I am a part of the collective consciousness. I am a part of my family and they are a part of me. We are connected like Aspen Groves growing along the rivers and streams that stem from the tops of mountains and the rain clouds overhead.

The call to return to our roots is stronger than I thought possible. We need to return to where we were planted among our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and ancestors. The mountains, the Aspens whispered to me this year. The strength and fortitude of nature showed me my purpose. I have been realigned to the sun and upon leaving will never be the same. Never again will I wish or search to belong. I have learned that I can just show up with an open heart and an open mind. God will do the rest. He told me on the hiking trails in the summer time and while soaring up the ski lift in the winter. Welcome.