What My Brother Taught Me About Dreaming

“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”   ~ John Lennon


Whenever Erik, my brother, comes home for the weekend or a night or just a day it’s hard for him to go back to his house. Erik is developmentally disabled and moved out almost two years ago. No matter how pleasant our time together has been the tension builds as he anticipates when one of us says it’s time to go.

His shoulders become tight, he starts working his jaw and tongue and his stimming behaviors are more intense. Erik verbalizes fears through what seems like violent talk. Sometimes I want to laugh over the bizarre things he says (this only disturbs him more), sometimes tears seem more appropriate.

Every time I want to tell him that he can stay home with us, that this charade of him living somewhere else is over.

But it cannot be that way.

Erik needs his own space and we need him to have his own space.

On one of our drives home he asked when Mom and Dad were going on a cruise.

To fill you in, sometimes I just chat to him as a way to distract him from his OCD thoughts. When we didn’t live together, my family and my parents and I, Erik would come to stay with us a few times a year. We came to call that time Camp Shepherd. He loved it, the kids mostly loved it, and I really loved it. Having Erik with us made it feel a little more like home.

Now, though, there is no Camp Shepherd. Camp Shepherd/Krieg (or Camp Shrieg as we call it now) does not hold the allure of the other. It’s not a vacation anymore. It’s just home, and home is the same.

At Camp Shepherd, Erik could ride his bike with his nieces and nephew, he could talk to people that he didn’t know, he could play the piano and preach in the empty sanctuaries of churches my husband was employed at. He was braver at Camp Shepherd, more bold, not nearly as afraid of getting lost.

He can ride a bike in our neighborhood, but home is boring. It’s something he’s known forever.

Camp Shepherd was a chance to be different, to be more free from his self-imposed constraints.

Erik had asked me when he could come to Camp Shepherd again, as he kept me company while I cleaned my boys’ room. Having him in there kept me from blowing my lid when I stepped the 17th Lego piece. I told him we’d have to send Mom and Dad on a cruise to Alaska to have Camp Shepherd. It was just something I said, not something I meant. He held onto that for a couple of weeks before re-visiting the idea.

It took me a few minutes to figure out why he was asking when our parents were going on a cruise. When I finally remembered I laughed because I’m always amazed at what he remembers, what he takes as fact. I told him I didn’t know, but that we’d look into it.

At the next light he said, “I want us to all go on a cruise.”

“You do?” I asked.

“Mm hmm,” he said, nodding his head. He does this a lot when he’s very happy or excited. He looks just like he did when he was a little boy. It’s one of my favorite Erik looks. “Yes, let’s all go on a cruise: Kiley, Laurel, Spencer, Liam, Lee, Mom, Dad, you and me.”

“To Alaska? That would be fun.”

“Around the world. I want to go on a cruise around the world.”

“Wow,” I answered, baffled at this newly divulged desire, one I think he had just given birth to in that moment.

“Yes. It will take us an entire year,”  he said with finality, like it was a done deal.

It struck me that this idea was not about our destination; it was about being together for as long as possible. It was about taking a break from the normal and getting to do something grand and different. A cruise around the world would be a chance to be brave and be together.

I told him I would get maps and we would mark with push pins where we wanted to visit. His excitement was contagious and I found myself getting into planning our world trip. We talked about which places we wanted to visit. He wants to go to Canada because the band members of Rush reside there.

It was easier for him to get out of the car after our day-dreaming. Erik was relaxed.  He only came back to discuss what concerts we could go to 6 times. Erik cannot leave without saying, ‘God bless you’ and if he thinks you missed it he’ll come back and make sure you did, sometimes over and over.

I drove off wondering what I would make for dinner, where I had to be next, and if anyone had fed the dogs dinner.

That trip and our cruise conversation took place a few weeks ago. I suppose both of us have moved on from that dream, or day dream, or pipe dream.

Except it’s not really moving on when our dream is forgotten. Maybe it’s left behind. Maybe it’s weighed down or maybe buried alive, just waiting to be unearthed again.




This morning I woke up thinking about our cruise. I woke up wondering what it would be like to visit another country by way of boat. I’ve traveled enough to know that while the landscape may look new there is also a familiar thread to be found. Maybe it’s the way certain food tastes, or a stranger will remind you of someone you know, but there is usually something that will remind you of home.

Erik teaches me so much about dreaming, but he also surprises me with it. It’s easy to look at someone like him, someone the world tells me is simple-minded, and fall into the wrong thinking that there’s not much to him.

There is a depth to my brother, though, that takes my breath away.

Photo Credit: rustyruth1959 Flickr via Compfight cc

His brain may not cooperate, it may be confused and betray him, but his heart is like the ocean. Erik’s heart, his soul,  is boundless and beautiful and deeper than anyone has ever explored. I’m embarrassed that it still shocks me to learn that there is more that Erik wants for his life, that the world’s short-sighted vision of good enough is not good enough for him.

Isn’t that true for all of us? Isn’t it our dream of what could be that makes the mundane, every day life bearable? Isn’t it that our dreams, our visions of an imagined future, lend color and passion to our current situation?

Isn’t it our dreams that tell us that this world is not the end, that there is more?

It dawned on me this morning that it is envisioning our wildest desires that fuels us forward, compelling us to continue on. Even as our mind tells us it’s impossible our heart cries out, “YOU CAN!”


“Dreams, if they’re any good, are always a little bit crazy!” 

~ Ray Charles


So today I’m going to get Erik a dream journal and we will fill it with pictures of places he wants our cruise ship to go. I’ll have the kids, Lee, and my parents help as well, so that bits of all our dreams are sprinkled on the pages. I’ll get his map, just like I said I would, and we’ll dream of our cruise around the world together.

It won’t just be his dreams, it will be our shared dreams, and when he thumbs through the pages he’ll remember that we dream together. Not alone. Never alone.



Just as I allowed the everyday to hide our cruise ship conversation we each can lose sight of our desires. It happens slowly, accidentally in most cases.

Sometimes it’s on purpose, though, that we allow our dreams to fade. Perhaps it’s too scary to keep a hold of them for fear of failing. It may be that your current situation feels so dismal that dreaming literally hurts. If that’s the case dig in, dear one, and be brave like my brother. In a world of no-you-can’ts he chooses to dream anyway – if that doesn’t stir your heart I’m not sure what will.

Dream even when it hurts.

Especially when it hurts.

What special thought swirls in your soul, what secret desire have you never told anyone?

Grab hold of it, nurture it. Allow it to grow. Feed that dream pretty pictures and sounds and words. Thanks to  YouTube all that is possible.

Maybe it won’t look like you thought it would when it comes into fruition, but I’m certain it will lead somewhere amazing. It may be that you’ll meet someone or go somewhere that you wouldn’t have if not for your imaginings.

Dreaming opens the door to action…and that’s when anything is possible.

I’ll let you know how Erik’s dream journal goes in a few weeks, and maybe you can share yours as well? I have things fluttering in my heart, too, traveling, writing, making our house pretty – all those things and more.

In the meantime, friends, be brave and dream a little.

Heck, dream a lot.




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Obligatory New Year’s Post

I have to be open about my disdain for New Year’s resolutions. They never cease to make me feel like a loser. I worry that my reflection on the year gone by and my hopes for the year ahead will fall flat. Which is probably why January 3rd 4th 7th  10th* has me finishing up my Obligatory New Year’s Post.

There’s no way to wake up on December 31 without thinking about what lies behind you, and what may lie ahead of you. As a child twelve months seemed like an eternity to me. At 43 I now how quickly the calendar pages turn.

I am a history lover. Not in the sense that I memorize facts and dates, mind you. I don’t. I do love reading about the past, though. I’m often astounded at how inventive and genius ancient people were, but also humbled at how little they knew. I know that others will look back on my present as their history and think the same. I also don’t think you can move forward if you don’t accept where you are and where you’ve been.

I’m advocating reflecting, not dwelling.

I don’t always share it, but I usually pick a word for the upcoming year, one that I feel that is in line with the Holy Spirit’s desire for my life and one that I feel will encourage me. Last year my word was JOY, and I have to say 2016 was quite a joy-filled year for me and for our family. We found community, friendships have blossomed, and life just feels more…settled.

As I look back on that we’ve learned this year I see that we have grown so much. We learned some hard lessons about harmful relationships and some wonderful lessons about healthy relationships. We rediscovered the treasure of older friendships, too. Keeping up with friends after moving to a different city is tricky, to be sure, but SO worth it.  It’s interesting that each of us has stepped out and made friendships on our own, too. This is new for my introverted people.  2016 was our year for relationship maintenance and formation.

Not every moment was joyous, but every moment added to my joy. Even the tough stuff.

As 2017 was a approaching at warp speed I decided it was time to figure out my word for the upcoming year. I woke up on December 31st and knew that my word for the New Year would be ACCEPTANCE. It fit for so many reasons. Here’s a few:

Accepting where I am in life, what my life looks like, is important to keeping me from feeling down. Always wishing for something else, or allowing myself to feel that some other kind of life would be more ‘normal’ keeps me trapped somewhere that I just cannot be.

When I accept  myself, my flaws and my good qualities, makes me feel way more relaxed.

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Accepting my family for who they are as individual helps all of us who live here. It goes back to wishing for something else – my people are who they are and desiring them to be different doesn’t give me room to embrace who they are. It also doesn’t give them room to embrace who they are. 

Accepting that tidy is not permanent, that Legos can be scooped up, and that pee can be wiped off the seat helps make me less crazy.

Accepting who was voted in as President makes it easier to make a plan for how to move forward as a citizen of this country. 

Accepting that people I love voted differently than me, hold religious views outside of my own, and parent  their kids differently can be…tricky. Remembering that we’re all doing our best, though, makes it less so.

I accept that my hubby will be offered an amazing job in 2017 – and that he will accept it. 

I accept that each day is different than the one before it and that having a plan does not mean that the 24 hours will go the way I planned it.

Well, I’m learning to accept that one.



It’s easy to get into the habit of always striving, always working toward something else. I feel like it’s trending right now, this whole ‘accept where I am in life and embrace it’ mindset. Maybe it’s because I read a lot of almost-forty or definitely-forty authors and bloggers. I don’t know and I don’t care. If being 40-something means it’s easier to accept the life I have then yes, please and amen!

Goals aren’t bad, and I will continue to have those, BUT  I need to be realistic about where I actually am before I can move forward.

Like, I’m overweight. I accept that now. Especially after I stood in front of the mirror, naked, for 30 minutes.  I now also accept that I have gotten here by overeating and not exercising (much).

Up until 2017 (give or take) I was convinced that I was not that overweight, that sizing had just changed. That I had a metabolism problem. That no matter what I ate I gained. That it’s just baby weight (but now my baby is 7).

Nope. Turns out that eating a lot of sugar and thinking of house cleaning as cardio does not make you Cindy Crawford even though she said that’s how she stayed in shape.

That woman lied in her Cosmo interview 25 years ago.

Anyway, now that I’ve accepted where I am I can decide if I want to do something about it. 

I may. I may not. I don’t know. I’m still at the acceptance phase of my weight loss journey so I’ll let you know.

Though, honestly, since I’m already 43 I’m prone to just wait til I get to heaven to get a new body.

Size 8, please.

I have to acknowledge, though, that 50 is the new 40…so in reality I have 7 years before I reach true middle age. Now I have to accept that and consider doing something about it.

Considering now.


In the meantime, I’m fine with how I look and who I am because I know whose image I’m created in. I accept that this body isn’t permanent.


So, 2017 will be my year of ACCEPTANCE.

I’m going to accept the good and the bad as part of being human.

I accept that I’ll get some things right and some things wrong.

I accept all the grace that Jesus has available.

All. Of. It.

I accept that sometimes I want to be around people and sometimes I don’t.

I accept that I pretty much always want to do the thing I shouldn’t want to do and don’t want to do the thing I should want to do, just like Paul said.

I accept that I’ll probably never get the lyrics right, that I’ll never be a football fan, and that, at times, life may be harder than I would like.

I also accept that Jesus will always be my soft landing.




So, do you have a word for 2017? Let me know by sharing in the comments.

Or maybe you hate that kind of thing? Perhaps you find it forced. That’s okay too. I accept you whatever your likes and dislikes.


And, if you like what you read here, share it with your friends, too. 🙂


In the meantime, stay warm, and be brave.



*Our internet went out last night just as I was ready to post. Seriously. That happened. Dad and I fixed it though. All is well.