Top Blog Posts of 2017

I wrote a lot in 2017. Maybe not a lot for some people, but for me, it was a lot. I really stayed on top of getting a blog post out every week. I had a lot of good feedback from people about my writing. I so appreciate that. For real. I love to write and have been making sure to write something every day.

With this post I am up to 67 blog posts for the year. I went through all the stats from my site and wanted to share with you the top blog posts of 2017. I am listing the top 5 from the readers and also my favorite top 5 of 2017. I thank you so much for supporting my writing and taking the time to read my posts. It really means a lot to me.

I am going to list the top 5 blog posts and the links and then I am going to list my top 5 favorite posts for the year. Keep in mind that a few of the top 5 are my favorites, but I want to give you a chance to check out others.

I hope you continue to follow me into 2018. If you want to make sure to be notified when I publish a post you can go to my website and there is a place on the right side where you can subscribe to my blog posts.

And…here we go.

Top 5 – from you, the readers:

1. Mr Ellwanger – Hands down, the most popular post of 2017! Mr. Ellwanger was my gymnastics coach. Sometimes people don’t know the impact they have on others. http://peggielarsen.com/2017/08/29/mr-ellwanger/

2. Ryan and Sam Got Married – Ryan is our nephew and this is the day of their wedding. http://peggielarsen.com/2017/06/03/ryan-and-sam-got-married-today-and-my-deceased-mother-in-law-was-there/

3. When God Closes A Door – this is about a friend who died of cancer. Such a sad time. http://peggielarsen.com/2017/08/02/when-god-closes-a-door-he-opens-a-window/

4. A Love Story – My and John’s beginning. http://peggielarsen.com/2017/08/31/a-love-story/

5. I Saw A Lot of Life Today – a visit to the cemetery. http://peggielarsen.com/2017/06/02/i-saw-a-lot-of-life-today/

My Top 5:

1. His Name Was Gary – this is about my Dad. http://peggielarsen.com/2017/04/20/his-name-was-gary/

2.  My First Best Friend – this is about my friend, Mary. http://peggielarsen.com/2017/08/19/my-first-best-friend/

3.  Life is Fragile – about the kids at my dad’s funeral – http://peggielarsen.com/2017/11/29/life-is-fragile-live-accordingly/

4.  Ran Into An Old Friend – running into a friend I hadn’t seen in forever. http://peggielarsen.com/2017/05/12/ran-into-an-old-friend-at-the-new-coffee-place/

5.  Are You Afraid To Live – about facing your fears.  http://peggielarsen.com/2017/06/15/are-you-afraid-to-live/

Thanks so much for reading. You have no idea how much I appreciate it, and you!

you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered

This week I was trying to think of something to write about. Most times, things are just right there. This week was a little bit different for some reason. My thoughts have not been clear. They have been super jumbled together and fuzzy. I have been having a problem with the clearness of my thoughts. The clarity of my thoughts. Maybe it’s the holidays. Maybe it’s just so much stuff going on. Maybe it’s just the way I am this week.

I decided I wanted to tell you about an issue that I feel is very important. It’s important to me, not only because I have a stake in it, but also because these people I am going to write about deserve better. They deserve to be taken care of in a way that is better than what is available now. They deserve it.

Today I am writing about Veterans. At the beginning of November, I ran a Facebook group challenge. It was 22 days. I started November 1, and ended November 22. It didn’t really end though, for me anyway. It is an ongoing cause for me. It’s an important cause for me.

The challenge was about bringing awareness to Veteran suicide. Specifically Mission 22. Did you know that yesterday over 20 Veterans were lost to suicide? According to the website www.mission22.com “that makes the war at home more dangerous than all of our combat missions around the world. Let’s end the stigma surrounding Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury. Let’s end the silence. Lets save our veterans.”

Our soldiers leave as kids and come back with the innocence lost. They come back different. They come back broken. Maybe not physically, but for sure mentally. There is no way they cannot be affected by what they see overseas.

Four of my family members were affected. They were kids then. My son, Spencer, was affected. My nephew, Dustin, was affected. My nephew, Dusty, was affected. My nephew, Cole, was affected. Two Marines, infantry and a sniper and Two Army Rangers. Thank God they all came back physically in tact. I know they were affected mentally. The thing is we don’t see. We don’t know. We weren’t there. Things changed for them. Things didn’t stay the same. Things were different when they came back. Things will never be the same for them. They lost friends. They saw things no kid should ever see. But, you know what. These four boys were the most patriotic kids. They served their country proud. They did their time. They wrote the blank check. They gave to their country. They sacrificed for their country. Red, White and Blue. I thank them for that.

Taken from the Mission22 website:

“Mission 22 currently has two treatment programs that focus on traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress. The goal is not to medicate and mask the problem our Veterans are facing but to heal them. The creation of these Mission 22 healing projects will allow us to support even more Veterans through ground breaking treatments.

HYPERBARIC FOCUSED TREATMENT FOR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY. 

Hundreds of Veterans are helped with this Treatment Protocol! Mission 22 has partnered with Fayetteville Hyperbarics LLC to create an intensive 5-8 week program to treat Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress. 

More than 350 Veterans have reclaimed their lives by pursuing a treatment protocol which includes Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT). The most effective results are experienced through enlightened clinics offering unique, collaborative regimens. 
In Louisiana, Dr. Paul Harch treats Veterans with TBI and PTSD using HBOT. In Colorado, The Miracle Workers of South Boulder Road do the same while adding counseling and a physical training element. The cost for this program is $6,450 for one veteran. This covers the entire 5-8 week intensive program. Mission 22 covers this cost 100% and there are no charges to veterans seeking treatment. 
 
ENDOBIOGENY PROGRAM FOR POST TRAUMATIC STRESS

Full Spectrum Health and Mission 22 have developed a personalized, whole person approach to healing veterans. PTS is not in your head and it’s not just a brain disorder. It involves physical, mental and emotional interactions. Endobiogeny focuses on the whole person as the point of treatment, not just symptoms. This means we treat the person at the level of body, emotions and mind. We allow the patient to tell their story. This is a profound process that brings a level of healing before the doctor has spoken a single word.  Finally, we have a powerful method of analyzing blood work to uncover hidden imbalances at body, emotional and mental levels. Because of the power of our testing system, called the Biology of Functions, the entire visit and treatment can be performed remotely. All appointments can be via video conference with the doctor and labs are done where the veteran lives. The patient can take their treatments from home while they continue to live with their family and engage in their daily responsibilities. Mission 22 has huge success and life changing results with veterans that have completed this program. Please click here to learn more about this program. This program costs on average $1,800 for the first six months with most veterans remaining in the program for one to one and a half years. Mission 22 covers this cost 100% and there are no charges to veterans seeking treatment.” 
 
During the Facebook 22 Challenge, we sent $690 to Mission 22 to help the fight. To help bring awareness to Veteran Suicide. To help our Veterans who are struggling. You can also donate on the Mission22 website. No Veteran should be left to die. No Veteran should feel suicide is their only choice. They deserve better. They deserve to receive help. They deserve it.

This holiday season, if you know of any Veterans who will be alone on Christmas, reach out to them. Invite them to dinner. Spend some time with them. Talk to them. Listen to them. Be there for them. They were there for us. They gave for us. Red, White and Blue.

Christmas Tree – 2017

Every year around this time we get the Christmas tree. Every year around this time we wonder why it is so big. Every year around this time we struggle getting it into the house. Today was no different. Today is Sunday, December 3, 2017. This is kind of early for our tree. It seems like we procrastinate and are lucky if we get one a week and a half before Christmas. Apparently, we are on the ball this year. In years past, we have had ridiculously tall trees. I guess 12 feet sounded short to John.

The tree had been hanging around outside for the past few days. You know, just chilling and dropping branches. John went and picked it out himself. He was excited, as it was a 12 foot tree. Shorter than last year. It’s funny how at the tree shopping place they all look so short. Until you get it in the house.

John said he cut at least a foot off the top and about a foot off the bottom too. I can’t imagine what it would have looked like if he hadn’t. The tree is beautiful, and heavy, and wide. Did I mention it is heavy?

I heard the doorbell ring and the dogs of course went crazy, barking and running to the door. I opened it and it was John. He told me he needed me to help with the tree. Oh fun, I thought. That’s not really what I thought, but I’ll leave it at that. The tree was at the bottom of the steps already in the stand. Our steps consist of 4 or 5 steps, a landing and 3 or 4 more steps. We don’t use the front door a lot, so I don’t know exactly how many steps are in each section. I was looking at the tree from the top of the steps. It looked big, and heavy.

John picked it up to move it and it tipped over and he just about fell trying not to fall. Of course I laughed. He started swearing. He got the tree back up and told me I would have to help him carry it in. The tree is big, and heavy.

He was complaining how he couldn’t really step up the steps with the tree because of his legs. In the past he had injured both legs and ankles. Not to mention the fact he is getting old. His words, not mine. So, I was summoned to help. He was going to hold the bottom and I was to hold the top part and we would bring it in. I grabbed my end and we started lifting it and I started to trip backwards up the steps because it’s hard to walk up the steps backwards whilst holding onto something, as the something you are holding onto gets lower the higher you go. We were almost to the top and then John realized we can’t take the tree in top first because it won’t fit in the door that way. If we did it that way, we would have stripped the branches and had a Charlie Brown tree. Joy.

So we have to turn it around and start over. Now I am at the bottom of the steps and John is on the landing. We picked it up and started hauling. It is really heavy and awkward. The further we got in the door, the more the tree is coming down on my head. At least it is fresh and the needles don’t feel like real needles, like they do at the end of Christmas. We survived the steps. The tree is in the house. We get it standing up and we are laughing so hard because my hair is completely flattened on my head by the tree and I can’t even see because my hair is completely covering my eyes.

But guess what? We still need to get it on the plastic bag that it will go into at the end of Christmas. That means we get to lift it again and place it on the bag, in the center of the bag. John showed me where he wanted it to be. He said he would lift it and I could tell him where to put it. Yeah, you probably know what I’m thinking. Haha.

Here we go again. John lifted the tree up and started moving it back towards the plastic bag to the landing spot where he wanted it. I told him to keep going. Again, keep going. Then it was, okay, stop. He set it down and now I was trapped behind the tree against the wall. I had to squat down and crawl out underneath the tree. I am sure it was quite a sight watching us bringing in the tree and placing it. Of course, Tayler was nowhere to be found to help us. Typical teenager, when you need help, they disappear.

Every year around this time, we get the Christmas tree. Every year the tree is too big. Every year we say we are getting a smaller tree next year. Today was no different. Every year we laugh at each other when we are getting the tree in the house. I am so grateful that after almost 20 years of marriage, we can still laugh with each other and have fun.

Now, just like every year before, we will try to remember what color lights we put on the tree last year. We change the lights every year and we struggle to remember the color, every year.

The tree is beautiful, and heavy.

How do we sleep when our beds are burning

Why is fire so fascinating? It’s mesmerizing. I love it. Whenever we sit out at the fire pit, I find myself staring into it and getting lost in the colors. The dancing and jumping of the flames is fascinating. The colors are rich and vibrant. It is pretty and tantalizingly dangerous at the same time. Tempting and enticing, seductive even. I love the sound it makes when the wood cracks and the sparks release.

As far back as I can remember I have loved fire…

It was the Euclid house. My sister, Sherry, and me, alone in the bedroom we shared. One bed, one dresser and a closet. It was small. It seemed big at the time. It wasn’t. We locked the door with a butter knife. The kinds of door frames back then were the type where you could lock the door by sticking a butter knife in between the frame and the wall. I think that’s how it went. Anyway, it locked the door and nobody could get in. We stole matches from our parents. We were intrigued with starting things on fire. Little things.

It seemed like our bed took up most of the room. We shared it. It was either a full size or a queen. I’m not sure. There was a window on the south wall of the bedroom and it was pretty close to the bed. There was enough room for us both to crouch down beside the bed.

We had our stash, the matches and the fire starter—toothpicks. Apparently, toothpicks worked well to start a fire. We tested some toothpicks. They burned fast. As we were burning the toothpicks, we happened to notice there was a hole in the mattress with spider-webby fuzz and foam sticking out. Naturally, that was intriguing.

Sherry wanted to start that fuzz on fire. I didn’t. Sherry said we could blow it out. I didn’t think so. Because I was the older sister, 13 months worth, I was obviously more responsible. I kept telling her we shouldn’t do it. She kept telling me we could blow it out. Well if by blowing it out, she meant blowing it up, well then yeah, she blew it out alright. NOT. Obviously, it made it worse.

The fire started in the mattress. It got out of control. We didn’t know what to do. We were jumping on the bed freaking out. The fire was getting bigger. The flames were coming out of the bed, big time. We didn’t know what to do, so we hid in the closet. Yeah, that little closet that was on the other side of the bed. Like that was going to make a difference.

As a parent, you should never take naps when you have kids named Peggie and Sherry in the house. Especially 6 and 5 year old Peggie and Sherry. They will always get into mischief. We were much older than our tender years though, in case you are appalled by this story.

Mom must have smelled the smoke. Either that or we freaked out enough and were scared enough that we yelled for her. We were stubborn, so I am pretty sure she smelled the smoke.

I’m not exactly sure how she broke into the bedroom. Remember, the butter knife in the door. I guess it wasn’t mom proof. We were still in the closet. She came rushing in and then right back out. She got the bowl. The white bowl. The white Tupperware bowl. She filled it with water and came running back in. Back and forth with bowls of water. Water in the white Tupperware bowl. It seemed like it lasted forever. I bet she was tired. I bet her adrenaline went crazy. I bet she was mad. I bet she wanted to kill us.

Well, now what? We knew we were in BIG trouble. We were super scared, as you can imagine. We didn’t know what was going to happen next, but we knew it wasn’t going to be good. Once the fire was out, we were out. We were done. We were anticipating the punishment. I’m pretty sure she ripped the doors off the closet trying to get to us. I’m also pretty sure that I pushed Sherry in front of me, because obviously, she started the fire in the first place.

Sherry got the first ass beating. On Mom’s lap, pants pulled down, about 10 or 15 hard whacks and then she was thrown to the floor. Ouch. It was my turn next. Same scenario. Pants pulled down like they were made of paper, like there was nothing to them. I’m sure we covered up our butts with our hands. No go. That didn’t matter. She still found a way to get her whacks in. And then, just like Sherry, I was thrown to the floor. I’m pretty sure she threw us back in the closet. The same closet where we tried to hide. The comfort of the closet, which was not comforting at all after that.

It was over. Except not really. The bed was burned beyond saving. It was ruined. It was the kind of bed that had a box spring that was actually springs, not too comfy at all. We had the privilege of sleeping on those springs for over a week before we got a new bed.

Our fire days were over, or were they…

Her name was Nancy and she had really red hair

When I started gymnastics I was in 6th grade. Actually, the summer after 6th grade. I learned about it from a friend in my grade. She had been in it for quite some time and I was immediately curious about it. I had really never heard of it before.

I signed up. I was hooked immediately. I LOVED it. I was a strong kid and this fueled by passion for being strong. I practiced all the time. Day in and day out. I was always practicing splits and cartwheels and handstands. I practiced handstands so much that I made myself so tired that I fell and broke my collar bone. That was super intense pain. It never set right and to this day I have some problems with that side of my body, mostly trying to keep square and not twist during movements such as kettlebell swings and even pull-ups.

By the time school gymnastics started in the fall, it was time to get the brace off. It was the day practice started. I was so excited. It was finally time to dig back in. It was finally time to get strong again. It was finally time to work hard again.

We had some really cool upperclassmen who were there to help guide us underlings to gymnastics success. One of them was Nancy Teske. Her name now is Nancy Boe. She was so nice. She was so helpful to us peons. Gymnastics wasn’t huge back then and a lot of us youngsters were on varsity. It was a lot of pressure for us. It was a lot of hard work, but the older girls were there every step of the way for us and wholeheartedly supported us.

We worked together during summer gymnastics too. We actually got to be in the “new” gym instead of the old grungy one. I actually miss that old grungy gym. There were stall bars in it and the peg board. I would love to have those two items in my home gym.

When I worked during summer gymnastics, Nancy was the boss. I remember Cathy Cowan and Nancy Stoeser too. They were so fun. I totally remember wanting to be like all of them. They were so cool and so together and just so enjoyed life. I could tell. They had fun. They seemed so grownup.

The thing I remember most about it was the music. There was a separate little room with a record player. You had to physically go put on an album that you wanted to hear. The one we chose over and over was Cat Stevens. The songs included Wild World, Peace Train, Oh Very Young and Morning Has Broken. I’m listening right now on Spotify and it takes me right back to that gym.

I think when we are young and we have good role models to look up to we should tell them the influence they had on us. Nancy and I both had sons who were the same age. They graduated together. I think we were at the parent/senior party and I gave her a letter and CD. I can’t really remember exactly what I wrote in that letter, but I know I told her that she was a huge influence on me. She influenced me to make good decisions in life. She influenced me to stay on the straight and narrow. She was cool like that. She was the type of person that you wanted to please. You wanted to make her proud. I looked up to her and I wanted her to know that. The CD I gave her was Cat Stevens.

I think it’s pretty cool and ironic that she became a teacher. The most underrated profession. The influence of teachers is immeasurable. I bet she was an amazing one! I hope she is enjoying her retirement.

I think so much in life we are afraid to tell people what they mean to us. I think it’s okay and I am doing it now as much as I can.

 

Oh baby baby it’s a wild world
It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh baby baby it’s a wild world

 

Mr. Ellwanger

Something compelled me to go to Dakotamart, instead of Walmart. I needed water for the studio and it’s 5 bucks more at Dakotamart. Why ya gotta be so expensive Dakotamart?

As I was walking in I saw a man walking towards me. Then I heard him. The voice I will never forget. The voice I will always recognize. The voice of a coach. The voice of a friend. I heard it, “Hey Fry Baby!” Then I recognized him. Obviously a huge smile came over my face. It was Mr. Ellwanger. I can’t call him anything else. His first name is Bill, but he will always be Mr. Ellwanger to me. You know how important people and influence people leave a mark on you and that’s just the way it is? That’s why I can’t call him anything other than Mr. Ellwanger.

Most of us had nicknames during gymnastics. My maiden name was Friman and Fry Baby became my nickname and just stuck. He can’t call me anything else. Similarly, anytime I see him around, that is how he always addresses me.

Mr. Ellwanger was one of my junior high gymnastics coaches. I didn’t like him very much at first. Obviously this is an issue for me. It was the same time as the beginning of my friendship with Mary. I didn’t like her much at first either. If you missed that one, you can read it here: http://peggielarsen.com/my-first-best-friend/

I first came in contact with Mr. Ellwanger during gymnastics. Typical coach attire he wore. You know, the stretchy down to mid thigh polyester shorts, usually light gray or tan in color. Then the topper, the polo shirt with the school name or something similar. Always green. Always Pierre colors. The finishing touch, the crew socks and tennis shoes. I believe Adidas were pretty popular back then. I just recently purchased a pair of those Adidas originals. Awesome shoes.

Something about him just ticked me off and rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t know what it was about him. He was just trying to be a good coach and I feel like an ass, because I was kind of a dick to him. I’m not sure what or when it changed, but he became one of my most favorite people. I truly treasure knowing him. I truly treasure the influence of Mr. Ellwanger.

It seems so strange to see a teacher that when you were in school seemed like they had to be so much older than you. But, in fact, we were closer in age than we were far apart in age. How weird. I pondered that on my way home. He said he is retiring after this year. He has been teaching and coaching forever. Lucky kids. As I was pondering this revelation, I came to the conclusion that he can’t be THAT much older than I am. WTF? How could that be possible? No wonder we got along so great. See, Mr. Ellwanger was the kind of person that totally befriended Mary and me. He let us go to his house when we needed to get away from things. When we were stressed with the teenage angst that so often happens to teens, he let us go and just hang out with his cat. Ellwanger was a huge Yankees fan. His cat was named Thurman, after Thuman Munson, the great catcher for the Yankees. I’m not a Yankees fan. I was a fan of his cat though. He was a cool cat and he liked to hang out with us.

He lived in a trailer house behind Jake’s. We were lucky back then. We were lucky that he cared enough to keep track of us. We were lucky that he cared enough about what we were going through. We were lucky that he cared enough to give us a place to think things through and to work out our problems. We were lucky we had Mr. Ellwanger.

In our lives, if we are lucky, we get the privilege of having the influence of great coaches and teachers. They help mold us. They help define us. They help nurture us. They help us.

As we chatted for a few minutes and I was heading in to get that damn expensive water, I noticed that Mr. Ellwanger had on the coolest glasses. They were stylish and sharp looking. I wish I would have told him.

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  South Dakota Historical Society

 

 

 

 

my first best friend

You know how you have “best” friends when you are in grade school and junior high, but then you move into the high school age and friends start meaning more. That’s when you have a BEST friend. They start becoming more important. The more we grow up, the more we need one. We need the one person to talk to about problems. We need the one person to talk to about hopes and dreams and to talk about life’s plans.

I remember the first time I met my best friend. It was summer. It was gymnastics at the old Junior High Gym. The gym was old and had giant cement stairs that were about triple the height of a normal stair. When you got to the top you had to crouch down because there was the ceiling. We ran those stairs often. I actually liked running them. They were long too. We could cover a lot of ground running the junior high gym stairs. There was also a set of narrow stairs that led to the weights. They were so crappy. The weight room was full of mismatched weight equipment. I loved it though. My first real introduction to weight lifting. The smell of sweat, iron and mold.

I must have been gone when she first showed up because that day I met her, a bunch of the younger girls ran up to tell me about this new girl who moved here. They said she was really good. It was like they were waiting for my reaction. She moved her from Vermillion. Her dad was the Attorney General and her mom was a department head and later became a Supreme Court Justice.

I remember seeing her, she seemed tall. She was thin. She had long legs. She had a round face and big blue eyes. She had short hair. Her name was Mary. Instant vibe of dislike. Jealously? Maybe. It was weird. Not sure what it was. She was really good on beam. I was really good on bars. It took a while, but we ended up hanging out more and more. Then the I like her vibe kicked in. We became fast friends. The kind of friends where you hang out every single day and talk on the phone every single day and do everything together every single day. The best of friends kind of friends. Best friends.

We got tattoos together before tattoos were cool. We drove to Rapid and hit the tattoo place on Mt. Rushmore Road. It was in a house it looked sketchy. We didn’t care because we were cool. As cool as a 16 year old and 15 year old could be. We sat in the car for a while. Our courage was named Jack.  We had a shot or two and went inside. My guy was Mouse. Seriously, who has that name. Mary got an ass tattoo and I got a hip tattoo. She was smart, I wasn’t. Stretch marks from my first pregnancy ruined that tattoo. Again, she was a planner, I was a now-er. We hit Wall after we were done to take off the bandages and to check out our new ink. We were dying laughing in the bathroom. We agreed we had zits that hurt worse than our tattoos.

Her family became my substitute family. I spent so much time at her house, you would have thought we were sisters. We did everything together. Her parents and brother treated me like I was part of the family. I felt like I totally belonged there. One summer we taught gymnastics together. She lived way out in Neltom, Lakeside Lane. If you know Pierre, you know the junior high was a long ways away. Mary had a little Toyota stick shift. Awesome car. We lost the keys somehow. No spare. No way of getting a new one fast. We walked to gymnastics for quite a while.

We lived through gymnastics. We lived through high school. We wore Converse tennis shoes and we had our red Converse party shoes. If we were going to have a party at her house on the weekend, we wore the red shoes to school. The clue. Thank God our parties never got busted. We were very lucky and very stupid at the same time. We were good beer shooters. We were good drinkers. We could drink the guys under the table, shot for shot of Jack Daniels. I can’t touch the stuff today.

We told each other everything. I wanted to be like Mary in the fact that she journaled everything about her life. She documented it all. I so wished I could have been able to do that. Even today, I have good intentions, but never can stay consistent with the journaling. I know it is a great life tool. I wonder if she still does. I wouldn’t be surprised if she did.

I went to Sioux Falls after graduating from high school after working for a year. I went to school to become a legal secretary. Mary was going to be a doctor. Always a dream. I had no doubt she would succeed.

We were always there for each other. Things work out when they need to work out. She had happened to be back in Pierre, after being at Texas A&M and just got burned out. She had driven all night to get back home. I was having a hard time in my marriage and wasn’t sure what I was going to do. We ended up back together. Hard times for hard friends. We made it through that. Not sure what would have happened if we hadn’t reconnected.

I was her maid of honor at her wedding. I was pregnant then with my third child. She ended up in California. I ended up divorced. I went out to visit her there. She was in the Navy to pay for med school. See, her dream, reality. She was laser focused. I always loved that about her. Once she set her mind to something, once she had a goal, there was no stopping.

We had fun in California. 29 Palms, like the Robert Plant song. We got belly button piercings and in Palm Springs we pretended we were Thelma and Louise. The scarfs and dive bars. Taking selfies before they were called selfies. Pre-digital and hoping they would turn out.

We went through lots of stuff together. Gymnastics, eating disorders, boyfriends, drinking, parties, skinny dipping, weddings, graduations, hard times, fun times and sad times.

I remember the day I got the call. John and I weren’t quite up yet. We were just lying in bed talking to each other. The phone rang and it was Mary. I remember distinctly, a song by Stevie Nicks playing in the background. Landslide. It was March 14th. Mary had a baby girl named Lauren on March 11. She called me to tell me that her baby died. I was devastated and shocked. I didn’t even know what to say. How? Why?

At my wedding to John, Vegas style, Mary was my maid of honor and she was pregnant at the time with Lauren. She spoke at her baby’s funeral. She is one of the strongest people I know. She always has been and I know she always will be.

Not even a year later she had another baby, Mark Edward. He was born on January 7, 1999 and he died from SIDS on January 30, 1999. How can that even be possible? Life is funny sometimes. Not haha funny.

John and I weren’t sure we were going to have kids. Mary said we better because we shouldn’t waste those genes. She was right. We made a good kid.

When my oldest, Corie, graduated from high school, Mary surprised us and showed up. It was like we were right back where we left off. We sat out on the front steps and just talked. There is nothing better than having that kind of friend.

Mary is a successful OB/Gyn in Sioux Falls. I think about her often. I think about what would have happened if we hadn’t ever met. I wonder. I thank God we did and I thank God for my best friend.

I have best friends now. I have friends who have come into my life at just the right time and are super important to me and mean the world to me. But Mary will always be my first best friend.

 

 

 

when God closes a door, he opens a window

It was winter. It was January. It was cold and windy, like most winter days in South Dakota. It was 2003. I was spending hours and hours at the hospital. St. Mary’s, in Pierre, to be exact.

She was 50. She was an agent. I met her through work and she was gone way too soon. She was a really, really good friend.

I wrote her obituary.

On my way to the studio today I thought about her all the way down Euclid. The Eagles song, Peaceful Easy Feeling was playing. One of her favorite songs. That song was played at her funeral.

I can still hear her voice. I can still smell her perfume, Donna Karan, Cashmere Mist. I miss her. She always called me Peg.

She had cancer. It started in her mouth. A local Pierre dentist, Dr. Monty Bechtold, found it on her tongue during a routine checkup. (side note – his daughter, Cori, is one of my favorite people and she has been in my life for only five years—life is ironic for sure). It was melanoma. She had to have part of her tongue removed and had to have a lot of speech therapy afterwards. It seemed as though everything was good. It wasn’t. More cancer in her lungs. She had several surgeries to remove cancer spots in her lungs. Man, she was a fighter. She always said it was just a speed bump and that it was going to be okay. It spread from there. It was in her brain and in her bones. She didn’t have long. She had to go into the hospital before Christmas and then she was moved to sub-acute. She said that was the place where people go to die. She was a realist. I loved that about her.

She was ready to retire. In fact, the party had been planned and the date had been set. In the best interests of her federal benefits, it was decided that leave donation until the end would serve her best.

We had so much fun at work. Most people aren’t lucky enough to be able to have fun at work. We did every day. That’s how we coped with the awfulness of the job. She had the perfect Pee Wee Herman laugh. She nailed it every.single.time. We played Star Trek on the radio. Whenever she left for the day, she always said, “minyana.” Translation: tomorrow.

One of the times I was at her house before she went in the hospital, I asked her if there was anything she needed. She whispered, “courage.” That was a slap of truth right in the face. I bought her a necklace with a little charm that said, “courage.” To see someone so full of life and then to see them connecting the dots that they aren’t going to make it kind of changes the way you look at things.

Her favorite holiday was the 4th of July. Her least favorite holiday was Halloween. Her sister had died then. She loved good food and good scotch. The more it tasted like dirt the better. Yuck! We have a picture of her at the hospital in her bed, bald head, wearing her glasses and holding a bottle of scotch. She made everything fun. That’s how she was.

She had the most beautiful blue eyes and an engaging smile. She was fun-loving and would do anything for anybody. She was in the service business and she served well. She was not very fond of kids, but when I had Tayler, she loved her. She held her and talked to her and just stared at her. Tayler is named after her.

She had a friend named Nancy. I met Nancy through her. We clicked. We spent the hours together at the hospital. Every day we could see the changes. She was becoming weaker and weaker. I remember one day so clearly. I walked in and I could just see the bones in her fingers and arms. She couldn’t wear her rings anymore. It was hard to look at. There was no way I wasn’t going to be there with her though. Same with Nancy. Thick and thin. Always.

Her step-daughter, Kathy, came a few weeks before the end. She was awesome. Nancy and I totally fell in love with her. We became very, very close with her. She was a riot. She was like our own kid.

Her husband was also there, spending the time with us at the hospital. It was weird and so surreal, just waiting for someone to die. Not knowing when it was going to happen. Not knowing how long it could take. Not knowing how long it would take. She grew weaker every day. Her breathing became more and more shallow. She still knew us though. Every time I hugged her when I went to leave, and I mean every time, she always said, “You always smell so nice.”

That day, the end, Nancy, Kathy, Bill and I were gathered around her bed. The hospice people told us it was time. It was just so weird. We didn’t know what to say. We just cried. She took a big deep breath. The hospice lady said, “and that was her last breath.” Really? Nah, just kidding. She wasn’t done yet. She got us all one last time. Did I forget to mention she had a really good sense of humor? It wasn’t long after though, I think it was just a few more breaths and she was gone. She was at peace. She was free. I remember thinking that I just had to get out of there. I went and started making phone calls. She had a lot of friends and a lot of people who loved her.

The day of the funeral was cold and windy. It was snowy too. People came from all over. See, my friend, Alexandra “Sandy” Asbury, was an FBI Agent. She was a law enforcement officer (LEO). She was amazing. She was well-respected and well-liked. She was going to be missed.

The church was packed. So many people. I remember meeting her parents for the first time and her brother. Her dad was also an agent and so was her brother. It was so sad to see that pain. I wasn’t sure her parents were going to be able to handle it.

It was a beautiful service. We were all just trying to hold it together. It was hard, but we were doing it. Then Amazing Grace, on the bagpipes… I still get goosebumps.

The saying, “When God closes a door, he opens a window” could not be more true in this situation. The window he opened was the friendship between Nancy and me. We became really, really good friends and I know Sandy loved that.

Continue to rest in peace Sandy. We all miss you.

 

life is short, even in its longest days

Usually when I get up on Sunday mornings, John is already downstairs getting ready for church. He and Tayler go, I don’t. Not because I don’t believe in God or anything, I just don’t go. I come downstairs and get coffee and go plop in the chair to visit with him for a few minutes before he leaves. And by visit with him, I mean we are both sitting in the chairs just being. Not really talking or anything, just being in each other’s presence.

Sunday Morning is always on. I find most of the stories very informative. They had been teasing this particular one for a while. I also saw it on Facebook. John Mellencamp was going to be on. If you know anything about me, you know I LOVE him. I wrote a blog post about him. You can read it here if you are at all interested. http://peggielarsen.com/under-the-influence/

I was excited to watch the piece on him. Jane Pauley was going to visit him in Indiana, and talk about life, his music and his art. Oh, and his smoking. It was a good interview and it was interesting to just listen to him and for him to tell how much he has evolved. She blasted him a little bit about his smoking, which yeah, I get it. He had a heart attack when he was 42, but that has not deterred him. He likes how it changed his voice. The rasp. The scratch. The money maker. He doesn’t drink. His theory is that if you smoke AND drink, then you will have problems. Otherwise, you’re good.

One thing he talked about, which didn’t make the story was anxiety and panic attacks. There was a bonus interview on his website. I had to watch it. Because stalker. He said in his early 20’s he was paralyzed by panic attacks. His words, “They jumped all over me.” They are real. He said there are some things called drugs that people can take to help with them. I love listening to the inflections in his voice, the scratchiness of his voice—hello cigarettes. He said he has no gray area concerning his health. He’s either okay or he’s dying. He said he goes straight to cancer. So interesting to listen to him open up about that. So interesting also that my friend, Heidi, you know the one who I dragged to his concert, she does the same thing. Straight to cancer. Funny.

He said he wants to learn something or make something every single day. The creative process–tapping into it–being available. I love this. You have to be available in order to create. You have to show up every day. You have to work at it. It’s not some simple little thing. It takes effort and time AND being available. With the creative process, there are no wrong turns. You create.

He reflected on life quite a bit. He talked about the lyric in the song, Longest Days, which says, “Life is short, even in its longest days.” He sure is right about that. Life is so damn short. The meaning in this song is about being sick, and even though the day is long, life is still short. I put my own ideas into that phrase, not taking away at all the true meaning of the song.

My absolute favorite thing he said though: “I’m 65 years old. I can see the finish line from here. I only have so many summers left and I intend not to waste them being old.” LOVE.

SO effing relevant in today’s society. So many people don’t live. They just exist. They don’t smile. They just scowl. They don’t enjoy things. They just go through the motions.

Some day, they will realize that life is short, even in its longest days.

eye in the mirror. the one that sees all the flaws, all the fat, all the fear.

Eye in the mirror. The one that sees all the flaws, all the fat, all the fear.

Is it your eye? Do you look in the mirror and see flaws? Do you look in the mirror and see fat? What about fear? Is it in your eyes?

As I was sitting at the orthodontist’s office today during Tayler’s appointment, there was a little boy sitting in the chair near me. He was probably about 8. He wasn’t right beside me, but another chair over and beside him on his right was his mom. It was silent for a minute and I heard her say, “I love you.” He responded, “I love you too.” So sweet. It made me tear up and think of my own boys when they were little. Such unconditional love. Unspoiled love.

Such unconditional love before we are told not to love ourselves unconditionally. Such unconditional love before things get spoiled. Before we are told that there are conditions. Before we are told that fat is ugly. Before we are told to see every single flaw with our appearance. Whatever happened to unconditional love with ourselves? Why do we find the worst things we can about ourselves and then hone in on that and focus on that and let that occupy our thoughts? Does that eye in the mirror reflect back at you and tell you that you are fat? Does it tell you that you are ugly? Does it look back at you with fear?

Let’s take it a little bit further. Do you have daughters? Do you have sons? Do your kids know what you think about those perceived flaws. Do you ever say out loud in front of your kids that you are fat? Do you ever put yourself down in front of your kids?

Because of my issues with body image and issues with food, I have made it a point to never say anything negative about my body in front of Tayler. I don’t want her to become obsessed with food or obsessed with some cellulite on her legs or obsessed with anything else about her appearance. I want her to be comfortable, no matter what she looks like. I don’t want to teach her that anything other than “Barbie” appearance is ugly. That is society talking.

If our kids are seeing us do these things and if they see us treating ourselves negatively and with self-hate, they are going to do the same thing. If we are constantly showing our kids that we hate our bodies by constantly being on a “diet,” how do we think they are going to start looking at themselves? They are going to start obsessing over their weight, over their looks and over everything about their appearance. We need to teach our kids to love themselves unconditionally. Our kids notice and hear way more than we think they do. It’s time we gave them some positive things to hone in on. Teach them to respect their bodies and themselves.

Next time that eye in the mirror is looking for flaws, think about how lucky you are to have a body that has a purpose. A body that can walk and run and breathe and function. Our bodies do a lot for us. Focus on the good. Let’s start loving ourselves unconditionally and teach our daughters (and sons) to do the same.