That’s Going to Be Fun for You?

I read fast. My eyes scan pages and absorb words quickly, inviting me into worlds not my own. Don’t ask me for details about story or memoir, though, because once I’ve finished a title I seem to forget. My reading comprehension sucks. The pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.

On our most recent road trip I read four books. Four. Last week I spent 38 hours in the backseat of a Subaru and there is not much to see from Wyoming to East Oregon. Enter books. Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.

Before the trip I sat down at our kitchen table and opened up a new browser to search for books to download to my Kindle. Picking out books to read is what I live for! I selected five titles and tucked my little e-reader in my travel bag.

Our trip was an amazing break from the day to day grind. When I told some of my friends that I was driving 38 hours across the country, they looked at me like I was crazy. When I told them we were driving with my in-laws, their mouths dropped a little more, and eyes got bigger seeming to ask, ‘That’s going to be fun for you?’

Yes! Fun for me. I am incredibly lucky in that I like my in-laws! My father-in-law drove the whole time. My mother-in-law packed delicious snacks and navigated our route, picking our hotels, restaurants and day trip itineraries. While Dylan and I are both grown people, these two parents continue to extend their love for us as we dozed in the backseat. After a hard year of taking care of hurting, searching people –  ie. myself, my husband, my mom – riding along in the backseat where all my needs were met was just the heart medicine I needed. It is nice to be cared for and out of your routine.

A list of beautiful things from our time in Oregon:

  • New breweries: these people like to drink beer as much as we do in Northern Colorado. I now know how tourists must feel when they come to our town. Another brewery on that corner! No time to fit in all those delicious pints of craft beer.
  • Kite Surfing on the River: no, no, I didn’t try, but we did watch hundreds of colorful kites kiss the sky as surfers handled the wind on the Columbia River. We stuck our toes in the water and laughed as the ripples lapped at our legs.
  • Salt and Straw & good friends: One of my oldest friends Jenny now lives in Portland. She took us to her neighborhood food trucks (THAT’S A THING PEOPLE!) and out to the trendiest ice cream store I’ve ever been to. Apparently Oprah endorses their Arbequina Olive Oil flavor. I couldn’t mentally stomach spooning olive oil into my mouth over and over, but the creamy concoction was delicious on a small metal tea spoon. Instead I turned to the beautiful combination of Carrot Cake Batter with Hazelnut Praline. For those easily overwhelmed types like my husband, they also have vanilla.
  • Canon Beach: We went to the ocean. Nothing like having your feet in the sand with cold water running over your toes. Wind in the hair, sand pushing back against the arches of your feet, reminding you that you wear shoes all too often. Cloud cover and waves crashed together in a soothing blanket of gray. The ocean is big. It makes me feel connected to the edge of something. I loved walking on the sand and exploring that quaint little town.
  • A family wedding: Dylan’s cousin got married and I was honored to be a part of the celebration. As we walked up to the rehearsal dinner which was held in a neighborhood park, huge trees sheltered us from intense sun. Who knew it could be 105 degrees in the Northwest. Rays of sunshine trickled through the leaves. We approached from about fifty yards away watching the bride practice going down the aisle with her dad. I stopped and stood still, catching my breath at the beautiful scene unfolding in front of me. Other members of the family kept walking ahead. One breath. Two. I swatted at a tear starting to trickle down my cheek, escaping my from my sunglasses of protection. I missed my dad as a flood of memories from my own experience down the aisle came back. More though, I was overwhelmed with the truth that I am living in the light again. Grief still exists, yes, but that’s not all. I sent up a silent whisper of thanks in realizing I am returning to living in joy. The choices to be taken care of, to explore, to love and feel loved, those are all beautiful, beautiful things.

 

Here is a list of books I read on the trip:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Vinegar Girl: A Novel

Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel

The Here and Now

Lessons in Solitude – Guest Post from Kirby Elaine

Life lessons come in many shapes and forms. When Kirby of The Joy List started following me on Instagram, I instantly loved her vibe. Her perspective is refreshing. Another person looking for good in the world, and perhaps more importantly, good in themselves! She was kind enough to share some of my musings on her blog, and I am thrilled to have her share her thoughts as a guest contributor here today. Beauty in solitude and returning to self.

Author: Kirby Elaine

Her Website: www.thejoylistla.com

Her Mantra: “love the life you live”

If you asked me three months ago what my greatest “achilles heel” was, I’d say loneliness. The vulnerability that came from sitting at home alone or walking through this world as one set of footprints was so foreign to me and not something I had any interest in exploring. Three months ago, I made a decision to begin what I am now calling my “Self Love Journey,” but let me say, this decision did not come without it’s challenges. For months I had felt a burning in my throat and sharp pains in the middle of my chest, and any time I placed my hand on my heart I heard a voice, a voice that so sweetly and simply said “you need to be alone.”

 
I tried to silence it, not wanting to give into the vulnerability of what actually being alone might hold for me. I filled the empty spaces with more food and more alcohol, I kept my mind busy with my bartending work and copious amounts of classes and scene work for Acting. And ironically, every time I sat down to write, I immediately found a distraction or reason not to. Ego control, anyone?

What I can now see so clearly is that I wasn’t ready for the whole truth, and writing is, and always has been a truth-seeking practice for me. I sit down and my fingers channel the truth of what lies inside my heart. So let’s just get down to it and say that my heart finally won the battle (thank you, my strong, beautiful heart). My solo Journey began, and what I soon found was that without the distractions and worries over others and how I was affecting every single person I came in contact with, and without the self-
doubt and self-sabotage, I was able to tap into the childish innocence I have always known was inside and that I have always valued so deeply as one of my gifts. Through the journey of being alone I have remembered and repaired the relationship of who I am to ME.

I am a lover
I am a lightworker
I am joyous
I am that girl who get’s excited over beautiful fruit at the market
I am the one who stares at each Sunset as if I’ve never seen one before
I hug people deeper and longer than maybe I should
I tell people I love them, all the time
I share my gratitude with myself and anyone who will listen
I don’t apologize for my new ways of thinking and living
I don’t shrink myself to fit was is “acceptable”
I laugh loudly
I speak up
I do things that others may not always like, and that’s ok with me, because no matter what, now I always lead with nothing but love, and I stand up for myself when I feel my boundaries have been crossed.

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Three months ago I was a different Woman. Myself, yes, but I was scared and overwhelmed and weak from self doubt and guilt. Three months ago I truly and honestly didn’t know why I was even still here, I didn’t understand how I could possibly have a purpose, and within three months (less, if I’m being honest) I have found my life’s work, my life’s purpose, and each and every day I walk around with my head held high, buzzing in gratitude and anticipation for the gifts the day ahead of me will bring.
No matter how alone you may feel now, no matter how lost or weary, know that there is a way out, and it comes from Self Love. It’s time to fall deeply, madly, head-over-heels in love with yourself. It’s time to empower yourself to live the life you deserve, and if you ever need guidance, never be afraid to ask, we may be just meeting now in these words, but I’m always here – THAT is my gift to you.

Stay hungry my friends, I promise that this life has SO much for you ❤
In light and love,
Kirby

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Kirby lives and works in LA and describes herself as the following: hugger. writer. actor. improviser. dancer. dreamer. lover of animals. advocate for a healthy mind|body|soul

You can follow her on her blog or on Instagram.

Favorite Things – August

August is a big month at my house. My husband and my father-in-law celebrate their birthdays one day apart (well one day and 30 years apart) and the whole month turns into a celebration of Huey men. I’m excited to approach these milestones with them!

As I mix celebration with continued healing, I share this list of my favorite things.

Here are a few things that are worth a mention, a glance, or an impulse buy this month.

  1. The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss by Sandra Marinella

I was given this beautiful book to review and I loved the way Sandra encourages writers of all experience levels to get their stories out and on a page. She walks you through various writing exercises, shares her personal story with cancer, and encourages readers that healing can be found by writing your truth. All sentiments I can get behind. I strongly recommend this book!

2. Essie nail polish

My days as Receptionist at the Natural Nail Care Clinic forever left an impression on me and my medicine cabinet. I am still loyal to Essie products developed for your natural nail. I am loving this new color that was part of the Spring 2017 season. Come on, make your fingers feel pretty!

3. Ansel Adams Artwork

We finally painted our room! Our new, fresh, green walls anxiously await some art work. I’m planning on hanging some work by Ansel Adams like the piece below. My dad loved this artist’s ability to capture nature and peace. Photography and memory – beautiful things.

4. Be Brave T Shirt

Living life authentically takes bravery, compassion, and self-love. I like this t-shirt because it reminds me to embrace all of these things. Wear your mantras. Why not? I promise the women’s styles are more flattering.

5. Sprinkles

Everything worth celebrating is worth celebrating with sprinkles. Let the month of birthdays begin!

PS. I tried searching for manly sprinkles – Amazon tells me this doesn’t exist.

Blue

I’ve been listening to podcasts. This is a new development, as I have a hard time sitting down and focusing on audio for more than ten minutes at a time. I guess I’m more of a visual learner. A few weeks ago my mom sent me this one on grief. Counselor and Author Patrick O’Malley shares patterns found in his work counseling grieving people. His biggest take away – people don’t want to forever move away from grief, but rather they want people who are safe to talk to. Safe to process with. Safe to listen to their story.

I want people to listen to my story. I know, as they all have been damn well telling me, this is going to affect me for the rest of my life.

Mr. O’Malley also says that our culture gets grief wrong because we attach negative or positive labels to the process. If a person is grieving and they are having trouble getting out of bed, can’t go to work, or continues to be sad, this is bad. Negative emotions = negative experiences of grief.

If the opposite is true, and a person is functioning well – working, going out with friends, remaining connected – we equate that with a successful handling of loss. Congrats, snap your hands, you’ve moved on. The reality of living with grief lies somewhere in the middle.

Over the last year and a half I DID function. I went to work, spent time with friends, and the grief gremlin still lived within. I can still be really sad, foggy, and confused. On the outside, I was living in the positive. On the inside, I was struggling, yet because I wasn’t visibly falling apart or unable to function it seemed like things were moving along just fine. This spectrum of grief as bad and healing as good is damaging to those who are working their way through it.

Today, I listened to this new podcast “The Other F Word – Conversations About Failure.”  The title drew me in immediately, as any opportunity to reference the REAL F word makes me curious. But no, here they are talking about the other one – failure.

Sam Lamott’s Episode hones in on how harmful our projections of perfect can be. How when we hold in our stories we miss out on honest, authentic living. His approach suggests that, as humans, we are all going to flow through positive and negative. We need to be more honest in our responses to the question ‘How are you today?’

He says, and I’m paraphrasing here, that it can be freeing to answer with ‘I’m feeling a little blue today.’

“BLUE IS BEAUTIFUL,” he said, “the sky is blue, and the ocean, and many beautiful things.”

My eyes filled with tears and I nodded along. Blue is beautiful too.

Mountains. Clouds. Rain drops. Flowers. Plums. Peacocks. Ice. Sharks. Payphones. Jazz. Blueberries. Birds. Emotions.

All blue.

I’m trying to give myself grace and combine Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Lamott’s wisdom. Because today, I feel a little blue. This does not mean I am bad. An important distinction. It is ok to feel shitty, to not be living in bliss. Grief and experiences of emotion are not negative.

My mom is back where we spread my Dad’s ashes and I didn’t go this year. I ache for family vacations that will never be the same. I miss that mountain valley. I wish I was there and I could read Dad a poem or two. Thursdays I work out of the office and my heart usually feels a bit heavier when I’m working alone. Every time I turn on the news something ridiculous is happening in our country. People are hurting. This makes me sad as well.

I will get up after I click publish, and I’ll go sit outside to watch a softball game. Life will continue and my emotions will pass. I’m learning though, that there is beauty in the bravery it takes to say ‘Today, I’m just a little bit blue.”

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Learn more about Patrick O’Malley’s new book Getting Grief Right by clicking below.

The Office Phone Rang

The office phone rang yesterday. Once. Twice. Glance at the caller ID.

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Photo by Davidson Luna

I picked up the black office phone, untangled the snaggled cord, and tucked the receiver (oh dear, that is what it’s called right) between my raised shoulder and my left ear.

“American Family Insurance, this is Katie how can I help you?”

How many times have I repeated that phrase? I started when I was sixteen, working in my Dad’s office. And now, after his death, have spent over 365 days living out his legacy, still with the company, working for a different agent.

“Hi, this is …… and I’m calling to let you know that my husband died this past weekend.”

I paused. Death sucks your breath out of your bones, even when you don’t know the person who has passed.

“Oh no, ” I am sure I said “I am so sorry.”

I didn’t know this customer and I didn’t know her husband. I do know just how jolting death can be for the living. The ones left behind.

We continued the conversation.

I began to notice, in this customer call, there lived signs of personal progress.

My stomach didn’t drop. Huh. That’s different.

For the last year anytime someone told me another person left this planet my stomach would crumple. My body would sweat, my heart would drop deep into my already aching gut. Empathetic wavelengths would extend like squid, squeezing remnants of emotional energy I didn’t have to spare out to other people.

This didn’t happen yesterday.

We proceeded to talk logistics and I was shocked by this woman’s resolve. Her ability to speak coherently, to share her concern. “He used to handle these things,” she said, “how am I supposed to now know what’s best?”

I hmm’d along empathetically, flashing back to many conversations with my own mom who instantly acquired the title ‘widow’. We spent a better part of a year rebuilding, coaching, working together on learning again to know what’s best. You certainly can’t know in the first few days. Sure you can take action, make decisions, pick a song for a funeral. But what’s best? Baby, that takes a really long time.

I clicked through our computer system and managed to rework this woman’s policies. New options saved her money on her monthly premium. Changing coverage, that’s easy.

I gracefully offered to remove her husband’s name from her policies. Erasing a person from a policy, that’s harder.

Robotically, I clicked an “x” into the Deceased box next to her husbands name, and changed her marital status to widowed.

How quickly our society allows you to mark a box, change a status, erase a name on a billing account. The process of grief is no where near this simple. I still hate this word – deceased. I hate knowing that my dad falls into that category. One simply does not erase a loved one from your own being.

I never once mentioned my own loss in that conversation. I learned quickly that saying, ‘Oh yes, I lost someone too’ doesn’t bring comfort. Instead it brings awkwardness and an urgency to change the subject. I listened and asked if she had someone nearby to help her with these decisions. Support remains vital.

As I hung up that black office phone I felt strong and empowered. For the first time, I noticed how Dad’s death had purpose in changing ME. I was empathetic, calm, and collected when absorbing other people’s stories. I could offer support, problem solve, listen and see, just for ten minutes, her situation and perspective. Her pain was separate from my pain.

This is new. This is healing.

We keep saying in our household just how true it is that people die. People die. This doesn’t remove emotion, downplay trauma, or remove loving connection. These words just make it easier for me to live with the truth of death.

This phone call brought beautiful awareness. A gift from my job that can bring comfort and pain at the same time. A deeper understanding of how Dad once worked with customers. The realization that my approach to the world has forever changed with this pulsing absence of Dad. An American Family insurance agent for almost twenty years.

 

ps. Do you know hard it is to find stock photos of office phones? Ha! No one takes pictures of these anymore. Maybe the use of an old office phone is also a beautiful thing.

 

 

One Little Piece of the Pie

Patriotism.

A buzz word these days. The concept is sure to spark a conversation, or perhaps simply a stirring in your stomach because the challenges now facing America have a lot of ‘not quite rights’. Maybe this post will piss you off, start an argument, make you throw your expensive mobile phone to the floor. Or maybe you’ll scratch your head, nod along, and think hmm. I’m hoping for the later.

I’m not one to consider myself overly patriotic. The red, white, and blue is something I respect, certainly, yet I haven’t given much thought to what it means to be an American. I’ve taken freedom for granted. I’ve been angry with our government, our culture and the unspoken rules in which we operate. I have a degree in Sociology and I’ve been trained to look for the gaps in equality. I see the ways systems benefit some while leaving others out. I know I have immense privilege, but I’m not exempt from feeling that our culture counts my skills and potential as less than because of my gender. We live in the grey where ‘isms’ overlap causing pain and confusion.

Patriotism is not simple – it can be a loaded word. I wave a yellow flag of friendship (is that symbolism wrong?) and say hang with me here. This America stuff can be tough but let’s dialogue together. As with all things – God, faith, country – I just have a lot of questions.

The New York Times released an article last week called “A Patriotic Fourth: What Does That Mean Now?” and these shared perspectives got me thinking. Journalists stationed themselves across the country and asked travelers what the holiday means for them. Many ages, many backgrounds, many perspectives of the real America presented by those journalists – not just the ones we glamorize or relate to.

What is it I feel about our nation, our land, our challenges? Big, beautiful, important questions that are hard to answer in one blog post. 

Cataloguing my swirling thoughts I’ve made a list of the reasons I’m thankful and proud to be an American. For every bullet point listed below, there could be thousands of ‘buts’ that follow. Take a moment to let each statement to sink in before we go contesting and looking for the negative. Yes, my friends, there are paradoxes. The ‘buts’ exist, yet so does the beginning of these thoughts.

  • I can share my heart freely on the internet for the whole world wide web to see. Freedom of speech is a powerful thing.
  • Our land is immensely beautiful. The Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, coastlines, prairies, and fields of sunflowers. Giant forests and desert cactuses. We have something to enjoy in creation.
  • People can wear our colors proudly. Classy they may not be, but we have flag pants, and bro-tanks, and shorty shorts, and swimsuits and jackets and hats that boast our colors. We are allowed to indulge in the wearing of the red, white, and blue. We can share our pride on our shoulders – literally.
  • I have access to clean water, healthy food, and supportive community. I haven’t seen war on my doorstep.
  • I have been given the opportunity to work and to write.
  • Green chili. Sushi. Naan. Spring Rolls. Exposure to different cultures through the reality of the ‘melting pot’ has brought me delightful experiences with food. Sorry folks, but I’m not sure the hot dog is something to be proud of on a culinary scale.
  • Creativity and innovation. Mix those with access to resources and we have technology that holds so much power. Channel music, painting, writing, and poetry with passion and make humanity weep happy tears. Variety in creative expression remains of utmost importance.

We aren’t perfect, but there is good here in the United States. Coming up with a list that doesn’t cause anger or leave people out is immensely challenging.

My family spent the 4th of July hiking in open space just a half-hour away from our house. The sun beat down on our necks, and sweat dripped underneath t-shirts. Wild flowers grazed my ankles and dirt came home with me on my calves. We ate lunch at a small business in a smaller town outside my bigger city. Locals slinging pie and sandwiches out of an old gas station. I sipped on an iced vanilla latte (of course) out of a disposable plastic cup.

We went to a bigger outdoor store, still local, and searched for flip flops to wear – hundreds of choices that symbolize abundance at our fingertips. We went to a bigger box outdoor store and joked that we don’t actually spend time outside on days off, but instead wander around gear stores and buy a bunch of outdoor gear that sits in our garage (another, more embarrassing American trait). We came home and showered in clean water and fell asleep on the couch. Rest is revolutionary.

We ate a dinner of avocado toast with salmon – hot dogs be damned – and when it came time to decide about fireworks, this year we passed. Riding bikes to the park and fighting crowds felt too hard. Freedom in opting out.

Dylan got out our ladder and we climbed up on our roof. Well he climbed, I slowly crawled as my heart pounded in my chest. I decided I hate going on the roof. We tried to watch the city’s fireworks from our own home (a beautiful gift – homeownership) and saw bursts of color through our neighbors trees.

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Photo by Kimson Doan on Unsplash

Since the big fireworks display was hard to see, I directed my attention to the young family across the street. A dad and his son, probably five or six, were lighting little fireworks off in the driveway. Whirring light mixed with cracking, sizzling flames lasted thirty seconds at most. The boy was delighted with each repetition – light, boom, repeat. Down the street another set of children lazily grasped sparklers in their sweaty palms. Circling the sticks of fire into the dark, the wands produced smiles on these kids faces, and a tickle of joy in my stomach. Time moved slowly up on the roof.

I climbed down the ladder with an ache in my heart, missing my dad and the summers he was with us. Standing with shaking feet on our deck, I sent a wish his way.

One story of an American holiday. One little piece of the pie.

Being American can mean so many things. It is messy, painful, zealous and enticing at the same time. Sitting of the roof helped me remember to be thankful for the freedoms we are given. To bless with a kiss the multitudes of beauty we can choose to embrace.

Favorite Things – July

Little Rascals Quote

 – Hint Hint –

Bonus points if you remember which charming movie character swooned with the words above.

We made it! To July! To real, live, summer. Here are my favorite things this month. Fresh cooking and little life savers that keep the bugs away and make the evenings sparkle. Enjoy!

  1. Marcus Off Duty: The Recipes I Cook at Home

I picked up this delightful cookbook at the library and could not stop flipping through the pages. Famous Chef Marcus Samuelsson shares his favorite recipes, and even includes a playlist for each type of food that inspires him! May I suggest his recipe for Crab Fried Rice on page 44. Um. Yum.

2. Popsicle Molds Set – 6 Ice Pop Makers + Ice Cream Recipes E-book

Remember what Darla says. Popsicles melt quickly on the 4th of July! And I’m really into making my own this summer. Thanks to my mother-in-law who let me borrow her molds. May I suggest this recipe?

3. Citronella Tub Candles

The bugs! They are out to get me! I have to invest in a citronella candle to keep the little stinkers away. While the candle smells bad, it can still be pretty.

4. Globe String Lights with Clear Bulbs

True confession – we’ve had a set of globe lights in a box on our kitchen table for a few months. They eagerly await getting stapled to our deck so the nights can be twinkly and charming. I love the way these look at night. I promise, we will get ours up soon.

5. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence

I’m working on committing to a devotional and after coming across this one at my good friend’s house (see here) I was thrilled to receive a copy. Each morning I have the reminder to look for Jesus. This is a good and beautiful thing.