Come Now, Let’s Begin

I just realized it’s National Poetry Month.

After Dylan’s cousin started posting his haiku’s on Facebook, I was inspired and frankly, copied his idea. For the next 30 days I’ll be posting a haiku on my Instagram.

I think 30 days of haikus will be easier than 30 days of yoga, or 30 days of no coffee, or Whole 30. I admire those Whole 30 people.

But for me, I’ll be a 30 days of poems person. I missed the start of April, but as wise folks say, “Better late than never!”

I’m extending an invitation for you to play along.

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Here are the rules. 

Compile the following and email me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com between now and May 11th.

  1. Email me your haiku. I’d love it if you can write it in your handwriting and snap a photo, but if you need to type it that’s fine too. Bonus points if you write about something beautiful in your life right now.
  2. Include your name and if you’d like, links for how you can be contacted – ie. email, Instagram, or Twitter feed.
  3. Be willing to share the post I create with your content with your network – share on your Facebook, send an email blast, work with others to promote poetry, creativity and writing.
  4. Your entry will then be shared in May in a haiku roundup of sorts on this very blog.

By submitting your materials you will be entered into a drawing to win a few of my favorite things. You also agree that it is ok for me to repost your content on Instagram, this blog, and Twitter. On May 11, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted.

Please note: no violent, hateful, or derogatory poems will be reposted. Swearing’s ok. Making fun of others, not so much. Keep it clean people, keep it clean.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

 

 

 

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You Have to Do the Cutting First

I lay there in the dark with my legs feeling heavy. The previous night we went to bed expecting snow. Nature followed through and we got mounds of it. A big, heavy blanket of spring snow.

When I woke it was dark, big flakes falling in that orangey glow of the street light.

I lay still and I stared at the ceiling, my dread-filled heart beating slowly when my phone started to ring.

It was my in-laws, calling in early, asking if it was still going to happen.

The funeral.

Was it still going to happen?

You don’t postpone funerals.

Not even with blizzards and three feet of mushy, heavy spring snow that takes out trees.

Overnight, one of our two tall aspen trees had laid over loudly in the quiet snow.

It’s bulky trunk and magnificent branches now splayed themselves over our driveway, hugging concrete and saying, ” I dare you to try to leave.”

My husband kept fielding calls from people.

So many people asking, “Is it still on?”

I couldn’t answer.

I got dressed in my black dress and scratchy tights. My cousin brushed my hair.

We continued to look out the window and kept thinking, “This storm has to stop soon.”

It didn’t.

In suits and ties and dresses and heels, the three of us marched outside and stared at the damn tree.

How were we supposed to get out of the driveway with that thing keeping us in this house? We had to get out. How were we supposed to go to the funeral?

It was still on.

Our kind neighbor was using his snowblower and looked up at us, dressed in all black, and quickly came over to move that heavy snow into piles.

Dylan pulled out of our garage at a precarious angle, and we bounced our way over the snow to the funeral.

The people kept calling to ask.

It was still on.

We went through the motions and mentioned how you could take the boy out of Minnesota, but you couldn’t take the Minnesota out of the boy. Even for his funeral. That boy, grown man, now gone, brought so much snow to his own funeral.

We headed home.

Exhausted from emotion, to-do lists, and people’s empathetic arm squeezes, I wanted to rest, but knew we’d have to face that tree first.

Except, we didn’t.

That same kind neighbor had cut the precious tree to pieces and stacked the remains by the side of our house. Dylan went over later to talk to him, and say thanks, and the kind man said, “It looked like you were heading somewhere pretty important.”

Yes. It was pretty important. That funeral happened.

As a result of that heavy weight, where two trees once stood, now just one permanently tilted as its partner was ripped from the ground.

Two years passed. 

I got worried every time it snowed and our neighbor’s truck, parked ever in front of the house, seemed to look over its shoulder at me every time I’d walk in to my home saying “Are you sure you’re going to let that guy lean like that?”

And so, on Saturday, the men brought the trucks and saws and rope and they cut her down. The second half of the tree – the one that fell with the snow on the morning of the funeral. The one that was still on.

They cut her down, even though she was standing bravely, without her friend.

I almost cried as they chopped that beautiful, living tree into pieces. I stood in our front window and thought, “Thank God it’s not snowing. We cut it down in time.”

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There were buds on the branches. It would have bloomed again.

We’ve got piles of wood on the side of the house again, and now a bench made of the trunk.

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I hate that we cut down a living thing that was just living it’s life at an altered angle. It was just trying to reach for the sun.

And yet, sometimes we have to rip things out of the ground for our own safety. We have to cut things up that no longer are good for us, take what was and make it into something new.

The beautiful process of recognizing  you can’t postpone some things and move forward by taking actions where you can.

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We will plant more trees and they will grow and shade us and bring fresh oxygen into our lungs.

You just have to do the beautiful cutting first.

 

April Favorite Things

He is risen! Happy Easter! Death has lost its sting!

I always love the meaning of Holy Week and hope you find today to be full of peace, hope, and restoration. If you’re more into chocolate than the Gospel, you’re still in a safe space.

Have a Cadbury Egg and think of me. Speaking of Cadbury Eggs…. my Favorite Things!

  1. Cadbury Mini Eggs

Not sure these really require an explanation. They bring chocolate with a candy coated shell to a whole new level. And I’ve been eating mini bags full since February. No shame. If you go to the grocery store tomorrow, they’ll probably be on sale. Or you can order them in bulk, here.

2. War on a Sunday Morning (Home-Front Heroes) by Teresa Funke

Over the years, Author Teresa Funke has become a friend and mentor. I have the privilege of working and learning with her. I am so excited about the release of her newest book that tells the story of Pearl Harbor through the eyes of a teenage girl. One of my favorite references she includes is to a 1940’s movie star who later became President. Can you guess who that may be? For more information on her series for middle-age readers and books for adults based on true stories from World War Two, view her website.

3. Earrings

Ha! Aren’t these funny?

I pierced my ears. At the age of 29. It’s ok, I’m just a little behind. This was part of my list of 29 Things to Do Before I Turn 30 list. So I checked one milestone off! I am exploring choices for jewelry that I previously ignored because I haven’t worn earrings since I was thirteen.   I’ve got six weeks more until I can change out the studs.

4. Ugh Mug

Yup. Some mornings feel like this. Some days feel like this. Coffee always helps. Laughing too. And mugs that you can wrap your hands around. Find warmth. Comfort. Sip. Sigh.

5. Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Some folks at work really value sustainability. We use all natural cleaning products and reusable mugs, and cloth napkins at our office. At first it was an adjustment. Now, as a result, my behaviors at home are starting to change. I’m starting to replace a lot of my toxic cleaning materials with Dr Bronners products and I love how versatile they are. Next thing to replace, toothpaste.

Check back next month to see if I’ve made my own cloth napkins.

Now, where are my mini eggs?

Roll With It

Tonight, I walked in the door to snow covering my living room floor.

Flakes the size of paper towels mixed with fibers of carpet.

Wait. No. Not snow. Just paper towels. Shredded. All over two stories of my house.

This has happened before, as once Dylan and I forgot to pick up the paper towel roll from the floor that we use to clean up after our damn dog.

She did it again.

Snow. Covering the whole living room.

In that moment, as in most, I had two choices.

  1. Get mad and yell at the dog.
  2. Roll with it.

I chose to roll with it. I stuck her outside and headed up stairs, unloaded my stuff, sat and stared at the mess. I called a friend, she didn’t answer so I left a voicemail instead.

And then I opened up my inbox to attend to an exiting offer I’ve been procrastinating on because I’m scared. Called that phone number, left another message.

Then I went to my kitchen, got a huge garbage sack, and picked up all the snow… er, paper towels. Shreds.

People keep offering advice on how to combat our dog’s anxiety. Doggy day-care, Rover, CBD treats, take her to work. I’ve got a reason most of those won’t work. What do I do instead? I roll with it.

Somethings don’t need immediate fixing.

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I haven’t been writing much here because I’ve been processing in my head. Two weekends ago, I lived through another anniversary of Dad’s death. I wonder if it will be like this every year – waking and wondering who will text me that day. Some folks I thought for sure would speak up stayed quiet. Odd how such a significant day can go unmarked for so many people I know who lost him too.

Other surprising me people asked if we have traditions to mark the day? No traditions yet, we’re only on year two. I think it takes at least three years of doing something to make it a tradition. They knew I was dreading that day.

The 18th.

Ugh.

I woke on Sunday, March 18th and Psalm 118:24 came into my head.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

It was not March 18, 2016. That day sucked. It was now March 18, 2018. This day did not have to suck. I wondered how to go about marking the day, honoring Dad, and living in the present.

I had choices.

  1. Sit, grieve, feel sad and somber.
  2. Get outside, live, do things in remembrance of him. Roll with it.

Honestly, I did a little bit of both.

Without a plan, and a little less pain than the previous year, I didn’t have an agenda when I woke up. I wanted to feel good and alive. I needed to feel like I was rolling with the huge, sucker-stomach punch that I was faced with when Dad left this world.

I sat and felt sad for an hour. I wrote him a letter with tears streaming down my face. I drank my coffee and I felt his absence and smiled when a friend sent me flowers. Again. Then I got up and we left the house.

I made Dylan go to Dunkin’ Donuts with me and we bought three. One for me, one for him, one for Dad. We went to a park nearby – the one where Dad taught me to ice-skate, and we played trolls, and the one he could see from his office window in the last few years of his life.

I sat on a bench eating my chocolate glazed with sprinkles, hoping for a break in the crowds. Dylan poked me in the side, whispering, “Go!” and I scurried under the branches, donut in hand.

I left an Old-Fashioned cake tucked in the mouth of that alligator statue, where Dad would have looked when he usually walked by.

I hate vandalism and public littering and breaking all rules. I felt like the branch I hit my head on when running back to Dylan was a bit of karma. I felt good and I smiled. Dad would love this. He’d laugh. And he’d probably say, “Well that was a waste of a perfectly good donut.”

We went to dinner later that night, at the house I grew up in. My grief-molded family moved in our new forms and made big ol’ bacon burgers and beans. We sat at this old table and chewed sacredly, quietly without him.

We laughed and were proud of our choices that led us to this second year date.

A constant, patience testing, grace-filled, beautiful choice. To roll with it.

 

In a Dressing Room on a Tuesday Evening

I’ve got a tender little heart. This I know. I see people and I feel for people and I’m always wishing I had a granola bar in my pocket when I drive by homeless folks standing on the corner.

I am quick to give to YouCaring campaigns and bring my friends flowers. These past few weeks I brought my husband’s team coffee at work. Made a handmade card for a mentor who just released a book and stuck a gift card in the mail for a new momma.

I don’t say this to brag. I just feel like I’m good at these things. At giving gifts. At making others feel seen.

And then I read this.

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Ouch.

When it comes to taking care of treating myself, receiving. or extending the same kindnesses to myself, I realized I can often suck at this.

In my head I punish myself, rolling around threats of not-enough money or those flowers on the kitchen table should really be five dollars in my savings account instead. Little treats I give to others. Not often myself.  I brush off compliments and say, no, no, you first.

I prefer to be in the background. Anonymous.

It can be scary to be known. Sure, I want to be loved, but what if people don’t love me back?

What if I struggle to love myself too?

Earlier this weekend I found out another dear friend got a job at J.Crew Mercantile. Hmm, I thought, I’ve got some old gift cards burning holes in my stack – cards collecting dust, being saved for a sale or a time when I deserved to spend them.

Enter more punishing thoughts.

He needs pants more than me. I can wait another month. What if there is a better sale later?

“No”, my friend said firmly, “the time is now! Come visit me after work.”

“I deserve it” I tried to convince myself “plus everything is 50% off.”

In I walked, tentatively, into the beautiful shop. Realities of pending bills darting through my lizard brain, scratching and clawing at my ears, slithering you ought to leave.

Keep walking across the wood floor – straight to the sale rack.

My friend greeted me with a smile and open arms. She followed me around the store, making suggestions of new pants to try, a skirt she thought would look good. I asked her to bring me a t-shirt and a size bigger, or two.

I picked out a Spring outfit and felt waited upon and loved. Loved by a friend who kept telling me, ‘no, those pants really do look good’. Who encouraged me into a shop for some self-kindness and attention. Beauty found in feelings of admiration – for myself and the way my feet look in Spring sandals. Beauty in the reminder that it takes a little nudge to love myself and feel seen. That my needs matter too.

I was able to receive the gift of attention when I let myself be taken care of in a dressing room. On a Tuesday evening, in the back of J. Crew, she helped me feel beautiful too.

 

We Played Stratego

We stood in the beautiful kitchen, back lights gleaming against the fresh cream colored tiles. My feet anchored into the wood floor as we were introduced to her husband. Reach. Shake hands. Eye contact.

I’ve known of her for years, but her regular presence in my life jump started again as she recently moved back to town. They all come back to Colorado, we always say.

My view of the stairs was blocked from where I stood, the stove and half-wall creating a sound barrier for the shy giggles that started at the bottom of the five or so steps separating us. A little boy leaning on the carpet, bare tummy sticking out from his footie pajamas decorated with carrots, radishes and broccoli.

“Come say hi,” invited the mother, “I promise they won’t bite.”

This little boy crossed over the threshold into the adult space – bravely walking into the kitchen and kept his eyes focused on the floor. Curly hair bounced on top of his head as he leaned into his mom’s caring and protective embrace.

We sat down to eat. He started to engage. I asked questions of school, what one does at first grade, the things he is learning. He politely asked if he could reach for the salt.

Boy do I hope my kids have the manners that this little boy demonstrated.

We chewed and we chatted and the little man warmed up. His gangly legs started fidgeting like only a six year olds can. When we were done with the meal he asked, “Will you play Stratego with me?”

Sharp breath in. Stay sweet my little beating heart. He doesn’t know. He couldn’t know. That Stratego , a simple strategy game, was one of his favorites. One of Dad’s favorites.

This one my dad taught me too, when I was probably the boys age. Hours spent trying to develop strategy, protect my flag, destroy bombs. I hadn’t seen or heard of the game in years. Here was a young fella, inviting it all up again.

“Why do you keep attacking me with your twos?” he’d ask.

” I can’t remember how to play,” I said “you’ve got to help me remember.”

Heart warming and magnificent to remember that games span decades and memories linger. That threes destroy bombs and only a spy can destroy a ten. He took my spy right away. Captured. Much like the flag.

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It is humbling to be beat at a strategy game by a six year old.

I couldn’t put it into words that night just how special it was for this younger generation to ask me to play. A beautiful, expanding circle for my once nanny’s son to ask me to play Dad’s favorite game.

The candle light flickered as the new memory etched into my heart. Just like we etched our names into their kitchen table that night. That’s their family’s tradition. For guests to solder their name into the kitchen table. My husband took his time and we wrote my new family name in their table.

Stories, decades of time, connection – etchings in wood and fibers of my heart.

She knew my dad. I now know her son. We played Stratego.

What a beautiful thing.

Katie’s Felt Board

I asked on Instagram on January 29th:

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Look what I got! Collecting beautiful quotes, clean jokes, and positive musings to put a smile faces. Send me a suggestion. I’ll share it on my board. 
#katiesfeltboard #beautifulthings#tinymessages #playalong

You answered.

Thanks for sharing to the following folks on Instagram:

@unabridged_me  – @schwebacharts @picturingloss – @savvysavagseavig – Mike Huey – and @momo_live_laugh_love_books


Today, I heard of an at-risk teenager lost too soon. A friend from college posted that she lost her dad to a year long disease.  More trauma from the shootings in Florida and heard from another grieving gal just a few years older than me. This world aches with loss and reels in the after-math of things outside our control or understanding.

Today daffodils also bloomed on my kitchen table. A baby was born. The third one this week from my friends and family. New, fresh, tiny humans waiting to make this world a more beautiful place. Babies keep being born. Life continues to sprout through the dirt and petals unfold to the sun.

We exist in both of these spaces. In the dark and the light and the shadows and glitter in between.

Think on that and read these quotes reflecting on beauty. We need it in this aching, hurting, blooming world.