Five Minute Friday: Place

While unpacking the boxes in our new house, I discovered a bag of leftover orange and red paper straws from our wedding nearly three years ago.  There’s something whimsical and carefree about drinking through a straw at home (it’s rather expected at a restaurant, even if you order water).   Before we were married, I had a beautiful life in Colorado.  I sincerely loved my life as a single, and filled up my time with hikes, snowboarding, dinners with friends, making wedding cakes and cupcakes, greeting at church, and working at Children’s Hospital.  When I met my now husband, I was almost irritated at my single life being interrupted.  I didn’t want to love him and follow him out to Connecticut.  But I did, head first.  And my life is immeasurably full in totally different ways.  To be sitting at my kitchen island writing while my 14-month-old daughter sleeps and my husband works at the hospital would have sounded like someone else’s life even just five years ago.  Right here, in this place, is exactly where I am meant to be.


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Five Minute Friday:: Steady

My soul needs a tether

while storms rage around and through me.

Sunlight peeks through the breaks in the clouds

and momentary calm shines down.

Then thunder cracks and lightning flashes

again kicking up the winds of anger and hurt.

Amidst the stinging, deafening rain,

my lips find their voice.

“Jesus, help me!  I need you to steady my heart.”

My red, wet eyes are drawn up

and I look into the Eye of the storm.

There, within the core of this vortex, stillness lies.








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Memory Weights

As we prepare to move to our new house in another state, we have been going through our closets and basement to see what we can sell, donate, or keep.  There was one plastic tub in particular that I’ve been dragging around state to state to every place I’ve lived for the last ten years.  Just thinking about having to go through it again for this move made me tired.  The only times I’ve actually cracked open the lid is just before I’ve moved to see what I could purge or add to it.  Old cell phones, a handful of race medals and bibs, a blond braided wig and Viking helmet from Halloween, a bunch of purses I never use (or used at all), a framed college picture collage, a keychain, and a few scarves are the paltry treasures within.  Why have I lugged this tub all over the country?  There’s nothing really in there worth keeping.  Yet, when I pick up each trinket, a flash of a memory from my life sparks to life.  I think about who I was in that period of time, and re-live the same feelings I felt in those periods of my life.  Some memories are happy, but of course the negative ones are what my mind clings to.  The what-ifs, should haves, and shouldn’t haves start feeling heavy.  I’m washed in shame and embarrassment as I recall how I acted out of loneliness and a desire for acceptance.  I feel guilty for how self- absorbed I was, and that I unwittingly stunted several friendships.  I also feel angry at my inaction, for not sticking up for myself or others, to say what needed to be said at the time.  I invent comebacks that only get better and more witty the more I replay the scenes in my mind.

For some reason, a particular memory invades my mind somewhat regularly and makes me wish I could go back and change my response.  As a member of a club volleyball team, each week someone from every team had to stay late for the next game to referee.  This particular night was my turn to be the ref.  I was deep in thought about some superfluous boy, when the volleyball bounced in front of me, WAY out of bounds.  Everyone looked at me, but I said nothing because I thought it was obvious that the ball had gone out.  Out of the confusion I caused by staying silent, one player from the team whose side I was standing, erroneously tossed the ball back to the other team who had just hit the ball out.  I watched in slow motion as the game continued, and I inexplicably remained mute.  The team who incorrectly got the ball back boldly was revived and came back to win the game.  Gulp.  I felt even worse when one guy from the team I’d cheated out of the win ended up refereeing the next game, which happened to be mine.  He was so full of resentment against me for singlehandedly causing his team to lose, that he intentionally made a bad call against my team which caused us to lose the game.  I yelled at him in protest, but he gave me this indignant look of , “How does it feel?” so I shut my mouth and was furious with myself more than anyone.   Nobody from my team knew why he had a vendetta against us except me.  I wish I could go back and yell, “OUT!” and make sure the right team would have been rewarded the ball, but obviously I can’t.  Why do I still perseverate over that one night?  Perhaps because I was so utterly useless when I was needed, and then had zero control over the repercussions of my inaction.

Spending time on these thoughts and negative feelings consume my joy.  What good is it to look back at life and feel embarrassed or sad or angry or bitter?  None.  We can’t change our past, and rarely does looking back propel us forward.  I am drawn to these verses in Hebrews 12:

Hebrews 12: 1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, the physical and emotional baggage we carry.  Admittedly, the physical junk is way easier to purge.  Sometimes it’s really hard to connect the head knowledge to our hearts that we have been forgiven.  That’s why we need to keep our eyes on Jesus.  Looking straight ahead, not looking back, and most certainly not looking down at ourselves or we completely miss opportunities for purpose in this life.  “We are surrounded by a huge crowd of witnesses to this life of faith.”  If we claim to follow Jesus, people watch us.  Our words and actions should be different.  We have been forgiven of everything we have ever done or will ever do, so let’s live like it! Of course, we’re going to blow it every once in a while.  But, those stumbles cannot rule our thinking.  Sure, they’re part of our history, but they do not make us who we are.  There’s a great Hawk Nelson song titled, “Live Like You’re Loved” that I’m humming as I type.  Here are some of the lyrics:


I’m tellin’ you something, This God we believe in, Yeah he changed everything, No more guilt, No more shame, He took all that away, Gave us a reason to sing.

So go ahead and live like you’re loved, It’s ok to act like you’ve been set free, His love has made you more than enough So go ahead and be who he made you to be And live like your loved

So, let us get out from under those self-imposed entanglements and do this life with a freshly poured cup of grace.




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Five Minute Friday : Worth

There is something deep inside our souls, intentionally placed there.  It’s a desire to be connected to something bigger than we are, a longing for the feeling of home, or something we can’t quite put our finger on. We crave this magical, wondrous, butterflies-in-your-stomach, exhilarating, yet absolutely safe feeling, but it’s like trying to grasp a cloud.  We want to be a part of something beautiful and meaningful, but if we get caught up in our daily routine of to-do’s, we don’t see how we can.  We also start looking at others and become jealous of how seemingly amazing their lives are, and think how measly our lives are in comparison.  This jealousy causes us to feel worthless, so we stop, and then our joy and desire seem to dry up.  But we must not allow this to happen!  We can’t bury our desires and talents out of fear or because we become too busy.  Our lives only will have meaning and worth when we use the gifts our Creator has given us alone.


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Five Minute Friday: Future

Tonight as I rocked my daughter to sleep, tears stung my cheeks as I thought of the night, exactly one year ago as she was placed on my bare chest.  She was warm, but clammy as she nestled in my neck that night.  Tonight, she was in her dinosaur pajamas, curly strawberry hair just under my nose with her left hand on my right shoulder.

She has changed so much in this year, going from a helpless babe who had to feed every two hours, to this independent and funny girl who can cruise around a room and up stairs with no problem.  She can feed herself and drinks water from a cup.  Soon, she will no longer need me to be the source of her milk, and will no longer fit laying in my lap.  I don’t know what her future holds, but I know I will love her as long as I have breath in my lungs.FMF-Square-Images-2

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Five Minute Friday: Visit

As I contemplate our move to North Carolina, I think about the friendships I’ve made here in Connecticut.  My two closest friends here have developed over multiple visits with each other.  As a new mother, these visits helped me feel like I wasn’t alone in my feelings of utter helplessness and being overwhelmed.  These visits helped me learn how to feel more comfortable and confident in driving with my baby and getting out of the house.  That it was okay to take a break and not feel the need to constantly flit around the house to clean and cook while my baby slept.   We’ve shared our concerns ranging from feeding and sleeping, to keeping our marriages strong and maintaining our own sense of identity.  Our visits started out tentative, perhaps introduced by getting together for coffee.  Now we can dig deeper, comfortable in each other’s company, the accumulation of visits a solid foundation of our friendship.  FiveMinFri

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Over Memorial Weekend, I remember my grandfather.  He was a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force.  It has been just over 11 years since my beloved Poppy suddenly left this earth after silently battling colon cancer and a broken heart.  My mom’s dad who was known as Grandpa by me until my little ginger-haired brother at probably two years old changed that forever.  He renamed him Poppy because he couldn’t say the full word Grandpa.  Strangely, everyone started calling him Poppy, even my Gramma.

I can still feel Poppy’s hugs.  He stood at over six feet tall so my arms were parallel to the ground as  I wrapped them around his waist.  He was so slim that I could grip my wrists as if I never wanted to let him go.  My head came to just below his shoulders, and his chin’s white stubble felt like sand paper against my forehead.  In my mind, the he would only wear a button-down collar shirt or a Lacoste short sleeve polo shirt.  Actually, I didn’t know it was Lacoste until years later.  I just remember he always had an alligator over his shirt pocket.  I never saw him in a t-shirt.  I also remember this brown ball cap with the orange letters SD, since he was from San Diego.  And he had a newsboy cap, which made him look so dapper.

If I came over after he had eaten, he’d sit with me and have another meal, not letting me, or anyone else eat alone.  A very gracious, social eater he was.  At noon every weekday, his Bose radio would flicker to life automatically, and Rush Limbaugh would always be right.  The afternoons would be time to sit on the couch with his leg crossed over his knee, and he would be reading either the newspaper or some new historical fiction or biographical book.  Those long legs.  As a small kid, I can remember he would be sitting with his legs crossed, I’d climb on to his size 13 foot and he would bounce his crossed leg up and down, giving me the feeling of riding a horse.  He would hum a classical tune that I still sing to this day, and haven’t the slightest idea what it’s called.

In the span of ten years, he and my Gramma had eight kids.  He had one daughter before he met my gramma, from his late first wife.  He then had five boys and three girls with my gramma.  Since I was the first grandchild, I was alive when six of them still lived at home.  I accepted the fact that his first daughter lived in California with her grandmother, Poppy’s mom, my great-grandmother.  Now that I’m much older, I find it sad that she was rarely a part of his new family.  As a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force, he was assigned to Korea when he wasn’t conceiving or delivering a baby.  At least, that’s how it seemed.  Maybe because my mom was so young, in her mind, her dad was gone all the time.  Poppy didn’t hug his sons.  They shook hands.  That generation just wasn’t touchy feely.  Then once grandkids came around, hugs were introduced.  Poppy always hugged us grandkids, my mom and her sisters, and of course my gramma, but never his sons.  Even for me as the oldest grandchild, I can remember the awkward hugs as my uncles tried to get used to the affection.

Gramma and Poppy always had a black Labrador retriever, and Banjo was the first one I remember, followed by Josie, and finally Winston.  He and Gramma had the best dogs.  They all had such sweet temperaments, and they loved being on a schedule as much as Poppy did.  The dog always ate when Poppy ate, and that included morsels of whatever Poppy ate, too, much to Gramma’s chagrin.  Their house will always be the one on Anderson Street in Dale City.  When my mom was born, they lived in Rapid City, SD, then lived in Bellevue, NE for a few years.  When my mom was about to start 5th grade, Poppy was transferred to the Pentagon and that’s when they moved to the house I remember.  It was a brick house with a white two-story column on either side of the porch.  There was always an American flag at attention and a bronze bald eagle mounted over the front door.  We’d walk in, climb up the shag green carpet, and the warmth and smells of the kitchen would waft down.  And then you would hear the sound of the Braves on television.  Full blast.  It took him decades before he finally acknowledged he needed to wear hearing aides.  He had been a pilot and then a pilot trainer for many years he was in the Air Force, which obviously affected his hearing.  Until he broke down to get hearing aides, the sound of the tv was deafening and Gramma was constantly irritated that she had to repeat everything she said.  At night, he would take the dog out for his last walk before bed.  This was my favorite time with Poppy.  On a clear night, we would walk the sidewalks while the lab happily sauntered along, sniffing everything and randomly lifting his leg as we paused to look up.  Poppy knew every star and every constellation.  He would point at whichever ones he noticed, I would lean in and follow his long arm and finger out in the darkness, and he would tell me their names.  Cassiopeia, the “W” in the sky, and Sirius, the brightest star, always make me think of him.  He had a saucer magnolia tree outside the front bay window of their house.   He would unfailingly yell at that silly tree every year for blooming just in time for a big frost or a snowstorm to hit.  We would enjoy those gorgeous purply pink flowers for about a week before they fell off and stayed off for the next 50 weeks.  I never heard Poppy swear.  Maybe he did, but my ears never bore witness.  Apparently, he was called “Gramaw” as a young man in the military.  Maybe because he didn’t swear, which reminds me of Captain America. I did hear him say, “Fiddlesticks!” in frustration.  That makes me laugh, and makes me realize I should adopt that word since it dissipates any trace of anger.

I’ve heard stories that Poppy was a horribly impatient math teacher to his kids due to his probable genius.  He couldn’t understand why math was so difficult for some of his kids to grasp.  I am sad to say that, my mom included, she and many of her siblings are literally afraid of any arithmetic beyond addition and subtraction.  Thankfully, he must have softened with age, because I can remember him quizzing me on my multiplication tables in the morning before school.  I have them memorized because of him, and no tears were shed in the process.  The morning my brother was born, I can remember waking up to Poppy downstairs in the kitchen making breakfast.  He told me that my mom and dad were at the hospital because my mom had just had a baby boy- the one who would convert us all to using the name Poppy.  My brother had to write a report for school with the source being an in-person interview, and he chose to interview Poppy to ask about his war stories.  My brother’s paper about Poppy’s plane engine catching fire was the only story I ever heard of his adventures in the Air Force.  He just never talked about his time in the service, and I didn’t know enough to ask.  He was always intensely interested in politics, but in my youth, it put me to sleep to hear him get so worked up over Gorbachev, the guy with a port wine stain on his forehead.  It wasn’t until Poppy’s funeral that we found out he had been working at the Pentagon doing classified work.  I wish I could ask him now.  I would listen all night if I could.  Often when he spoke, his sentences trailed off at the end.  When I was in my twenties, I traveled quite a bit for my job.  One day when I was telling him about all of my travels and social adventures, he looked at me quite seriously and said, “You’re about as busy as a one-armed paper hanger in a windstorm.”  I’d never heard that expression before, and it struck me as so funny and such a true picture of my life at the time.

In the last year of Poppy’s life, first my uncle Mark and then my uncle Greg died.  I think that broke him.  I remember him repeating that a father should not have to bury his children.  Poppy could have been buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but he chose to be cremated and have his ashes scattered along with Mark’s around the hunting cabin Mark loved so much.  It could have been because I was so wrapped up in myself around the time after Mark died, that I didn’t know Poppy had cancer.  On the last day of his life, he kissed my gramma on the forehead and said, “Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”  He knew, but nobody else knew that would be the last words he’d ever say to her.  He know that would be the last time he slept in their bed.  He knew Winston wouldn’t get to go on another walk with him.  He knew he would never hear us call him Poppy again.  But his pain and heartache obscured those seemingly small comforts.

Of course we usually only remember the good qualities of someone, especially after he or she is gone.  And hopefully we’ve forgiven him, even if “I’m sorry,” was never spoken.  Several years ago, I visited my uncle Tim with his family shortly after Christmas.  Unlike all the rest of the Erickson children, he was short and stout.   The other Erickson kids were tall, long-legged, and skinny (at least until age 30 or so).  Along with impatience with math ineptitude, Poppy was not the most gracious with people being overweight.  I think poor Tim got the brunt of those two character flaws. We sat outside on his deck amidst the trees that night and he told me how he’d made peace with his dad.  For years, Tim struggled to quit smoking.  One night shortly after Poppy passed away, Tim looked up at the stars in the sky and shouted, “Help me, Father!”  He told me he didn’t know if he was talking to God or to his dad, but after that night, he never touched another cigarette again.  I told him that I think they both heard his cry.

We all love and miss you, Poppy.  Thank you for your service to this country.

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