This week we'll celebrate Independence Day here in the United States. July 4th is often a day associated with parades, family reunions, fireworks, and barbecues. Here in North Dakota, where June weather can still be on the cool side, this holiday usually means summer is really and truly here.
As with so many holidays, we sometimes forget the "why" behind the special day. We might not pause to think about the brave people that banded together against a much more established entity more than 240 years ago, some literally fighting to the death for a cause they believed in. I tip my hat and say a heartfelt thank you to all the men and women that have fought through the years, and continue to fight, to keep us safe and free, here in the United States of America.
Freedom means different things to different people. The older I get, the more I realize two things: finding true freedom is an ideal worth striving for, and there is nothing easy about it. As the saying goes, "Freedom isn't Free."
While many of us don't literally "fight" for our freedom as part of a military branch (thank you to those that do!), we are all fighting our own battles to find and maintain the balance of freedom we seek in our own lives.
It starts (and ends) with our freedom of choice. The life I live today is the result of the many decisions I've made throughout my lifetime. The same holds true for you. Some are big choices that obviously change the trajectory of our lives. Some feel like much smaller, seemingly inconsequential choices we make on a daily, or even hourly, basis. But the crazy thing is, it's often those tiny choices we make that can have the most significant impact on the quality of our lives. Freedom to choose is a beautiful thing, but making the best choices for ourselves as individuals takes constant vigilance.
Maybe we should each take a dry-erase marker and write this on our bathroom mirror for a daily reminder:
"Make Good Choices!"
Because there is little else in life that has as large of an impact on the quality of our lives' than the small, day-to-day choices each of us make, often without much thought. It might be how we respond to the comment of a loved one, what we chose to eat for breakfast, or whether or not we get out and walk for fifteen minutes in the fresh air versus sitting at a desk for hours on end without taking a brain break. All of these little choices, compounded over time, make us who we are today.
My hope is we learn to choose wisely more times than not. Sometimes this can take years, or decades, to learn. We'll never be perfect, but we can be better than we were yesterday.
The freedom to choose what it is we want to do, to be, and to have can lead to so many other freedoms.
I don't think it can be stressed enough how important it is to choose to prioritize where we spend our precious time. The years pass much too quickly. I'm sure you've all heard the Dash Poem by Linda Ellis. It's a poignant reminder to live the time between your birth and your death well and to focus on the things that really matter. Every Memorial Day weekend, we visit the graves of close family and friends to plant flowers and show respect. Strolling through such a hushed place is a powerful reminder to respect the freedom we have to choose how we spend our time here on earth.
So this year, as we celebrate Independence Day in American, I'll recommit to the simple things:
What am I missing? What kind of choices do you want to make to give you the type of freedoms you seek? What we strive for will look a little different for each of us, and isn't that the greatest freedom of all? The freedom to be ourselves?
Choose wisely and make the most of the dash!
Always here to cheer you on, Kim.
Summer is my favorite time of year. Warm days, later sunsets and earlier sunrises all provide the canvas on which we can build days that are perfect for making memories. What are some of your favorite summertime memories?
For me, when I think all the way back to my childhood, I remember the simple things. Playing in the park a block away from our house as a kid, fishing for carp at the Ypsilanti Dam with my dad and two younger brothers, and playing softball with friends.
While I no longer live in my hometown, we get back there often in the summertime because we have a cabin nearby. Last weekend, it was a drizzly Saturday night, so we drove in from the lake for ice cream. I was feeling nostalgic, so we took a little detour, driving by the house I lived in during my grade school years.
The house hasn't changed much, other than the color, even though we moved away from there in the late '70s. It looks smaller now, and a huge, second garage sits on what was once the perfect baseball diamond in our backyard—perfect for little kids that is. My dad built the first garage. The memories are fuzzy, but I remember finding little treasures in the dirt when the grass was cut into strips of sod and rolled up to make way for the new building. I also remember that garage becoming the perfect setup for wicked games of anti-i-over!
Going back even further in my memories, I remember a terrifying drive away from that house in the dead of night, streetlights shining through the rain splattered car windows. Mom was very pregnant with my brother, which would have put me at just shy of three years old. The river, behind the houses across the street from us, was flooding. We needed to get out. Dad stayed behind. I'm told the water flooded our basement, reaching the top step, nearly touching our main living area. Dad had to knock in windows, maybe even part of one basement wall, so the pressure wouldn't collapse the whole structure. He saved our house while Mom drove our little family to safety.
To look at it now, you'd never know.
My old mini-van, now with over 200,000 miles on the odometer and reserved for easy trips like this, drove slowly down our old street and then rounded the corner toward Klaus Park. There, along a dense growth of trees and grasses, was a large doe, munching on tree leaves. She glanced our way, unconcerned, and went back to her dinner. It was such a peaceful scene on a damp Saturday evening in a quiet neighborhood.
I spent countless hours in that park growing up. There is a spot, in the back of Klaus park, where two rivers meet: the James River and the Pipestem River. For as long as I can remember, there's always been a bench there, where a person can sit and take time to enjoy the view. As so often happens in my writing, bits and pieces from my life find their way into my stories, and this bench is no exception. I had this very bench in mind during two different scenes in my third novel, and it was fun to stop to see it again and snap a few pictures.
We continued on with our lazy drive through the park, no one else around on such a wet evening. Next stop for photo ops: the beautiful walking bridge spanning the river and the older playground equipment near the front of the park. I wonder how many times I walked across that bridge or rode my bike over it as a kid?
I couldn't help but compare the old playground equipment, the very ones I climbed, rode, bounced, and slid down on as a child, to the brightly colored, molded playground equipment of today. I'm a bit surprised no one has felt the need to rip the old equipment out due to "safety concerns." Personally, I'm glad they remain in the park. Not everything needs to be plastic and new.
It felt a bit odd, being back in that old neighborhood we left so long ago. We moved when I started seventh grade, but I still have so many snippets of our days in that first house deep in my memories. And most of the memories are of times spent outside, in the summertime. There was a new flower garden in the corner of our yard. A swing set in the backyard and a big old tire wedged between some trees and filled with sand. We played in that sandbox for hours. I even remember a heavy, red canoe, propped up against the side of the house. We'd play around and under that old thing all the time but I don't ever remember it in the water.
Do you ever go back to your first home, even to just drive by it?
Our kids have only ever lived in one house. I can't help but wonder what they'll remember when they look back to their grade school days. We live on the river, and we've fought floods, but we've never had a basement full of water. There's a park at the end of our street now, too. The old playground equipment that was there when we first moved in has been pulled out, replaced by a more modern, very likely safer version. It's a wonderful setup, and little kids in our neighborhood are lucky to have it. They'll never experience the burn of sliding down a metal slide that's been heated by the summer sun, and that's a good thing, but still…
Home—it plays such an integral part in our lives. Home is also a critical component in my third novel, coming out next month. Maybe that's why I was feeling so nostalgic. Homes come in many different shapes and sizes. "Home" can be an apartment, a small house, or a large one, a simple or an elaborate dwelling. But a home is so much more than just a building. It isn't only a place. It's a feeling. It should be our safe place; somewhere to rest, and eat, and live, and love.
And since today is Father's Day, I wanted to give both my dad and my hubby a shout out for all you have both done in keeping a roof over our heads. Thank you for helping provide homes for our family. For fixing, for saving, for building, and for maintaining the various places we've called home through the years. We couldn't do it without you.
And to all of you fathers out there: Happy Father's Day! Kim
Those of you that know me might assume this blog post is going to be all about my kids. You'd be partially right. You see, our son got married last August, our middle daughter graduated from college in December, and our youngest graduated from high school last week. It's been a year full of milestones. Both girls will be heading out of town for more schooling this fall, leaving us with the proverbial "empty nest." I'm an incredibly proud mother of three young adults, and I'm learning to give them space so they can continue to develop their own lives. I'm letting go, or at least loosening my grip! And now I need to learn to live life a little differently.
But honestly, the ability to "let go" extends far beyond our relationship with any growing children we may have been blessed to raise. When we strive to truly live our best lives, we need to get really good at the process of letting go. A colorful, fun life can mean seeking new adventures, fresh careers, loving with all your heart, and growing every day.
And as wonderful as those things are, they all come with the need to leave things behind.
When we are given the gift of a long life, eventually we must let go of some of those things we "used to do" when we were younger. I remember being mildly offended a few years back when my husband and kids were shocked to hear I wanted to jump on the tube with my daughter and go for a ride behind the boat. Why were they surprised? It never occurred to me that tubing might be a bad idea. I bet you can guess where this is going. While my hubby may have been tempted to throttle down and see how far he could fling me off the tube I was clinging precariously to, he's smarter than that. My daughter and I laughed and hollered as we circled the lake, fighting for handholds on the tube, neither of us wanting to "let go". No big spills, no problem, right?
Imagine my surprise when my back soon reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that I wasn't twenty years old anymore. Suffice it to say it took a couple of weeks and more than one trip to the chiropractor to set me straight again. And yes, sadly, I've wizened up and given up tubing.
I remember when I used to win limbo contests for crying out loud, but now the extent of my participation could be holding one end of the pole. Sledding is questionable as well, and I'd still consider a trip down while sitting on the sled, but I'll never again ride down on my belly.
So yes, we need to let go of some of the fun, physical things we used to do. The important thing is to find something new and fun to replace the old activity. Paddleboard anyone?!
Our bodies age. Menus get harder to read in dimly lit restaurants. Don't let it bother you. Slap on some glasses, use the light from your cell phone to see the menu better and order whatever you want. You've earned it. Let go of vanity and enjoy yourself.
Similar to our bodies, our relationships evolve. Sometimes people who were once dear friends rotate out of our lives. I think about how inseparable a group of us was in high school. I still count these ladies among my dearest friends, but we've let go of our day to day interactions. Life has taken us to different cities, and other commitments consume our time. Now when we do get those precious snippets of time together, we can't stop talking or laughing, and maybe we even appreciate each other more. But we are no longer part of each other's day to day lives.
As we travel through life and the years start to accumulate behind us, other important people in our lives are aging as well. Letting go of my mother was one of the most painful things I've ever experienced, and I know this journey I'm on, where I'm trying to get acclimated to life without her will always feel foreign, sometimes incredibly lonely. It is also unavoidable.
Maybe it wouldn't hurt so much if we hadn't been such an integral part of each other's lives. I made certain choices in life because I wanted that close relationship. And now, despite the pain, I wouldn't change a thing.
We live life to the fullest when we love with all our hearts. It comes with risks, but the pain of letting go pales to the joy we experience during the good times.
There are even times when we need to let go of relationships because they’ve become detrimental to our lives. Deciding to do this, when it is by choice, can be scary and difficult. But sometimes it is necessary in order for us to live life on our terms. Unfortunately, some people won’t understand our desire to chase big dreams. Don’t allow them to hold you back.
I couldn't help but smile when I watched all the high school graduates celebrate last Sunday afternoon. The sight of those white mortarboards flying through the air felt symbolic. Hopeful. On the floor before us were a few hundred eager young adults, ready to take some massive "next steps." Who among them would step forward to change the world? In some way, they all will. They'll be leaving old friends behind, but they will find new, perhaps life-long friends as they move forward.
But those boards, tossed in jubilation, gave me hope and inspiration as well. In a way, it felt freeing to watch them soar. Can I now let go of some of those things that have been part of my life up to this point, and find new, rewarding peaks to climb? If the kids can do it, why can't I?
None of us should ever stop learning, stop striving for new experiences, stop growing. Letting go of the old to make room for the new is necessary at any age. I love this idea.
If you would have asked me a month ago how I would feel at my "baby's" graduation, I might have said I’d be a blubbering mess. And the scale could have easily tipped in that direction on Sunday, but I choose to see the joy in the celebration and the beauty in this milestone. Instead of looking at it as the end of something wonderful, I decided to revel in the sense of accomplishment and the beauty of new beginnings.
When letting go feels hard, have faith in what will be.
Always cheering you on, Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!