This morning

A friend from high school now leads a Lutheran congregation in Alaska. She posted this poem on her Facebook yesterday.

The pains of the world:
There are many.
The joys of the world:
There are a multitude.
To hold one while avoiding the other:
A human struggle of distraction.
Both are vital.
Give both the attention they request.
Your soul demands tending of both.

This is what I’ve been doing. Tending both.

Today, it has been three years since I was introduced to sorrow so deep. Three years since he died. Man, it still sucks typing those words.

In the last 365 days I’ve been flirting with joy, allowing it to tickle my toes and tempt my heart as we begin to believe that maybe, just maybe, we’ll get used to this pain.

This morning I will write a letter to my father and I may weep. I’ll head to work and have my people on speed dial should panic attacks decide to knock on my office door.

I’ll breath deeply and drink Pike’s Place coffee and mostly, this morning, I’ll remember. The sparkle in his eyes. The badly dancing hips, the sound of his laugh. The way he would get out of bed on Saturday mornings when I was in high school, making room for me to chill with my mom. I’ll remember waffles, his Einstein hair, plaid pajamas and encouraging texts and bad jokes from yahoo. I’ll remember how it got worse before it got better and how far we have come. And I’ll listen to this song by JJ Heller on repeat.

Thank you to all who have walked with us this far.

Dad, we miss you.


I see the tears sitting on your cheeks
I know you’re tired, fall now to sleep
Stop fighting so hard, it’s time to surrender
Raise your white flag and always remember
Your heart will feel lighter
Everything will be brighter
Find peace in knowing
That all will be well in the morning
In the morning
All will be well
All will be well in the morning
It’s been a long day, and you did your best
Let go of the past, it’s time now to rest
The weight of the world is getting too heavy
Give it to Jesus, His arms are steady
And your heart will feel lighter
Everything will be brighter
Find peace in knowing
That all will be well in the morning
In the morning
All will be well
All will be well in the morning
Close your lovely eyes
Can you feel the sunrise
Your heart will feel lighter
Everything will be brighter
Find peace in knowing
That all will be well
And your heart will feel lighter
Everything will be brighter
Find peace in knowing
That all will be well in the morning
In the morning
All will be well
All will be well in the morning
In the morning
All will be well
All will be well in the morning

 

What would the geese do?

I’m not an “operate at high-speed” person.

I pause.

I take time to think before I respond to questions.

When my boss comes to my desk hoping for quick responses, I gently remind him my brain takes a few extra seconds to shift gears and enter into his gracious questioning. I’m lucky he’s patient with me.

This week I’ve been forcing myself to swirl my arms and churn at a higher gear. Probably at the natural speed my boss operates.

I’ve been up late trying to get my silly iPhone upgraded (it’s still stuck on the old operating system) and transferring photos to make space to get the obnoxious ‘not enough storage message to go away. I’ve been working and babysitting and running and shopping and returning clothes and trying on swim suits (it’s own kind of torture) and dealing with online orders never refunded. Dylan and I got in a tiff about insurance cards and checking bags and I know I’m not communicating at my best.

My to-do list grows and with it my anxiety escalates at a steady rate. When I went to bed last night with great intentions to wake early and multi-task some more before work, I had to take deep breaths. The dog slept on the floor instead of next to me where she usually settles in for the night. I think she could sense my bad energy.

This morning I pressed snooze and woke later than I hoped. Chucking a load of laundry into our tired washing machine, I got a few more things organized as I poured dry kibble into a clattering bowl. I sped to work and walked in the office door with ten minutes to spare, ready to check in for a flight.

I watched the minutes tick by.

Click – right as the time turned over – and my stomach dropped.

I did not have the necessary information to get my boarding pass and I almost started crying at my standing desk.

Four big, deep, ‘Ohmmmmmms’ later and I walked myself to the coffee shop to get my regular hot beverage that restarts my soul. Yes – vanilla lattes are a coping mechanism.

I approached the shop with its warm lights and freshly ground beans beckoning and tried the handle. The back door was locked.

“Son of a bitch,” I cursed under my breath. As I walked around to the front door I told myself, “You need to do a better job of being kind to yourself.”

I’ve learned, in the last few years, moving faster does not get me where I need to go any more efficiently. I make errors, I forget things, or the universe tells me to pause when the barista forgets to unlock the back door forcing me to take a few more steps.

Moving faster just gets me frustrated.

There’s a stretch of road in between a few large fields left undeveloped and protected by the prairie dog lovers of Colorado on my commute. As I drove I saw the snow-dusted foothills and looked up to see a flock of geese flying in the bright blue sky. At the same moment I was muttering for the car in front of me to go just a teeny bit faster, these beautiful birds were flying on their way to the next thing. I doubt they had big to-do lists nor were they worried much about their speed. I’m guessing they just followed their instincts, flapped their wings, and took flight.

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Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash

This week I’ve been ignoring my instincts, saying yes and packing days full when perhaps I could have just started moving my wings at their own natural speed.

So when the internet went out at work this afternoon, right after I sent my boss to an appointment not present on the other person’s calendar, I paused and had to ask, “What would the geese do?”

They’d keep flying beautifully.

March Favorite Things – 2019

Last weekend I went to visit an old friend who is now living in Portland. She’s not old … our friendship is. We bonded in middle-school. She was tall for her age and kinda shy. I was chubby and terrified to talk to people. In the eighteen years I’ve known her we’ve hit thousands of tennis balls, lived together, fought about boys and my messy shoes. We’ve written letters, sent care packages, had bouts of silence, and made attempts to re-connect. We’ve wrestled with faith, sipped cocoa with cream, and played Harry Potter on the winding staircase in the architecture building where our college boyfriends did arts and crafts … er… made their models two floors above us. She sent me my favorite grief card.

Decades of friendship is a gift. It takes time, work, and a lot of vulnerability. The dance of reconnecting is so worth it.

When I stepped out of the airport, wet Portland air embraced me. There she was waiting, jumping up and down to get my attention as the sea of Subaru’s passed by. I got in the car and she informed me our first stop would be Pips Original. Donuts and flights of chai? Yes, please.

This month I’m reminiscing of weekend get-aways and sharing my favorites from my trip.  Take a moment to send a note to your old friend. Take a risk, pick up the phone, buy a plane ticket. Perhaps to Portland. Enjoy.

  1. The Dirty Wu Donut from Pips 

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Cinnamon, sugar, raw honey with Nutella and sea salt ( 11:00) Need I say more?

2. Red Flags – The Game of Terrible Dates

Played this hilarious card game in a cider bar. Think Apples to Apples meets The Dating Game. Who would you rather date?

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3. Jacobsen Salt Co. Caramels

More beautiful salt. My friend said she gifts this hand-harvested sea salt to anyone who comes into town. I spent a bit of time exploring their multitude of beautiful spices and seasonings.  They also have delicious caramels that you can taste fo’ free. Go with the original. It’s the best.

4. Beanies

Everyone wears knit caps in Portland, perched on top of their head. So, of course, I had to get one to fit in. It was cold and raining. My frizzy hair needed a friend. I bought one at a cute little booth in a flea market offering all kinds of vintage goods. The sign said hand-made. While mine is NOT Carhartt, plenty of people do wear that brand. Get this one. You’ll fit right in.

5. Blackwing Pencils

When bouncing in and out of many stationary stores (such an introspective city, so many creatives journaling) I was impressed by these beautiful pencils. I think I shall save my pennies and put these on my wish list. Look at the erasers. So neat! Use these pencils to write that letter to your old friend. Reconnect. Get going.

Crying in Church

I’ve only heard God speak to me once before.

Seven words imprinted on my soul as I sat in a big stone church in Tacoma, Washington where I couldn’t stop crying. I was eighteen and had spent three months trying to adjust to my freshman year of college.

You are coming home for a reason, he whispered.

I didn’t know then what the heck that meant. I only knew I felt I had made a horrible choice in going to school so far away from home. I knew I wouldn’t stay and I hated the Pacific Northwest, and the rain wouldn’t stop, and I was ready for my mom to come and get me.

A few days later, I dropped out of the picturesque private school and my mom arrived with boxes to move me back across the country. I tried.

God told me I was coming home.

Years passed and I went to college an hour away from where I grew up. I spent time with my family and met a boy and as you know, the rest is history.

And then we lost him.

And things got murky.

And I began to wonder, ‘Is this the reason God was telling me about all those years ago?’

I like to think yes, yes that’s what God meant. I came home to bend and to grow, to meet my husband, to learn about family. Mostly, I wonder if he meant I came home to spend time with Dad.

This weekend I sat in a quirky auditorium and listened to denim-wearing hipsters with big beards play beautiful worship music on well-worn guitars. The building was much different than the stone church a few hundred miles north that I sat in years ago.

I joke I know worship songs created up until 2011, when my church-going became more sporadic. My friend told me she often doesn’t recognize the songs because the worship band writes the lyrics themselves. No wonder I didn’t recognize the tunes.

As they sang of God turning ashes into new life, and sorrow to joy, I felt it again.

God talking directly to me.

This I will do for you.

Despite my best attempts to swallow up emotion, tears started slowly rolling down my face. In a dark auditorium I wiped at my eyes and smeared my tears on my sleeves, turning my chin down so people I just met wouldn’t see.

I’m having trouble believing transformation is possible.  I want this whisper to be true.  The sorrow we carry will morph, lift and change, and the ashes we’ve spread will turn to joy.

I’m not sure I believe him, but I heard God again. Whispering loudly to me.

I was crying in church. What a beautiful thing.

Woke Up to Grey

I woke up to grey. We left the curtains drawn this morning and the light wasn’t making it through. The alarm buzzed and I kept pressing snooze. I pressed snooze a lot. Waking on cold mornings is so much harder than in the summer.

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I turned back the covers, sat upright, put two feet on the floor. I looked out the window and watched the snow swirl. Flakes weren’t really falling, just dancing about in dry air, refusing to stick to the cold ground.

Shuffled down stairs and put on the coffee. Swatted at the dog as she bounded to the front door, knocking me sideways with her excitement. Her little tail wagged, an ever-present reminder of new days worthy of rejoice.

Pressed grounds, poured steaming liquid, stirred in cream and watched dairy rise to the surface of my cup. Wrapped hands around my mug and sat down to pray.

I was distracted by the scene unfolding across the street. A little girl ran out of the garage, her rainbow-colored backpack covering her tiny frame from shoulders to knees. Wearing purple pants and a bright pink tutu, she jumped up and down, up and down, up and down. Time to go to school.

Next surfaced the tired mother with baby carrier in tow. She set down the infant and instructed the jumper to go around the car and get in her seat. The weary woman lifted the baby and herself in the car, careful not to close her baggy pajama pants in the car door.

Reverse lights came on and the car crept down the driveway. As they passed my window, the mother stuck her electric toothbrush in her mouth, multi-tasking like a champ. I laughed out loud.

“It’s hard here,” as Anne Lamott says, and the every-day tedium seems as such. Boring, repetitive, cold. Hard.

So, we shove our hands in our pockets and our toothbrushes in our mouths and we get back to it. To our families, to our work, to the poop piling up in the backyard. But this morning, as we started our days, snow danced, coffee swirled, tails wagged, and little girls jumped in pink tutus. Perhaps this is where the magic lives. In the swirling, the rising milk, the wagging. Beauty exists in the every-day, ordinary cold.

Slow down. Stop moving so fast. Take a breath. What else can you see when you wake up to grey?

Frisee and Calloused Skin

I’ve been sitting on my hands. Have you ever tried to walk forward while your arms are pinned under your seat? It’s impossible. In order for your butt to literally move forward, you have to have your hands at your side.

For the last three years, my fists have been clenched. They’ve stayed under me, or in my lap, warped fingers holding in the hurt of grief and the negative self-talk of not-quite-good enough to get over this enormous thing that happened to us.

While caring people have been helping me unfurl my fingers wound tight, I’ve been sitting, still on pause. Waiting for news, waiting for opportunity for my husband, waiting for the next shoe to drop. If my hands are balled tight, I can punch the next bout of pain away.

While poised to punch, I’ve been missing out. I know, last month I wrote a long list of steps I’ve planned and the lists of living accomplishments I’m hoping to step into this year. It’s easy to run away and retreat in the mountains and to seek companionship with crashing waves and old friends over steaming mugs and stormy skies.

What’s been harder for me is learning how to be me in my community – the one I grew up in, the one that shaped me, the one where we lost him and I still remain.

I started my career in nonprofit development. I’ve learned, oddly enough, I love raising money. I’m good at making funds flow in by telling stories to tug heart strings and change lives. Social work matters to me. And since Dad’s death, I had to step away from philanthropy. This morning, after three years out of that scene, I drove to a fundraising luncheon with the ladies who lunch. I read a book in my car as I waited – I had arrived fifteen minutes early. Chit-chat be damned – I was hiding as long as I could.

The minutes ticked as I turned pages and finally, I put on red lipstick matching my heels and walked into the grand ballroom. I scanned the crowd behind my big sunglasses and searched for my “before people” – the ones who knew me pre-death. I avoided eye contact with a few and found a comfortable seat with old friends in the distance.

I asked the networking questions and I ate my plate of greens (Really people, frisee should be forbidden from public lunches. How do you get all those loose fronds in your mouth without looking like a fool?)

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I watched as the videos scrolled and participants shared their stories of change. I got out my checkbook and I made a donation. I felt my fingers move from under my booty to my sides – thankful for my current job and it’s ability to give me a few extra dollars to donate to cause I believe in.

I felt a part of something bigger than me.

This question of fit has been with me for awhile now, taunting asks of ‘How do I stay and grow in a place I’ve lived in for thirty years when I feel and act so differently?’ When I posed this question to my mom, she responded, “Katie, I’ve had four lives in the 30 years we’ve lived here. You can be new here too.”

One need not move across the country to step into freshly grown skin.

Grief rips up your carefully calloused skin. The questions you ask and the tears you cry scrub away dead layers of you-ness previously known to others. In this excruciating process you grow beautifully precious and painfully raw skin.

I’m out in public again, giving money rather than raising it. I’m protective of this fragile layer of self-defense and take care to honor my newness. I’m trying re-entry and writing checks. When I catch myself clenching, I smile and relax my hands, putting them once again at my side.

I face my palms open, ready to receive, pause and then I stand.

What a beautiful thing.

February Favorite Things – 2019

It’s quite cold out there. If you are in the U.S. you know its way beyond freezing. Unless you live in Colorado and it’s a balmy 30 degrees. This month I’m sharing things that warm my heart and my bones. Stay warm out there.

  1. The Color of Life: A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice by Cara Meredith

I’ve had the pleasure of being on Cara Meredith’s launch team for her new book coming out on February 5th! Sharing stories from her own journey and interracial marriage, she reflects on big questions of race, religion, and accepting our own limitations when it comes to world view. I love how she mixes history, statistics, and grace to weave a beautiful narrative of her own experience. Pick up a copy – you won’t be disappointed.

2. Applesauce in the Crockpot

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Photo Credit – Jess Larson

Apparently my mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid. I was never a fan when I was little. However, last Sunday I used this recipe and a bunch of jazz apples to make delicious applesauce. I eat it hot with oatmeal. Dylan eats it cold, right out of the jar, standing in front of the fridge. You may eat it however you like. Need a crockpot? I like this one.

3. Twinings Sleep Tea

I bought this box of tea when we were in London and surprise, found it in the bottom of my duffel that I just ..erm.. finally put away this past week. A bonus souvenir! This delightful smelling tea calms my nerves at the end of the day at puts me right to sleep. Perfect for those Sleepytime loyalists who want to try something new.

4. Maldon Salt

Do you have foodie friends? I have one that always blows me away with her amazing gifts of hospitality. At dinner the other night, she sprinkled beautiful salt flakes over roasted vegetables and I was mesmerized with the texture of the granules. Needless to say, I’m now obsessed with this salt. Add to roasted vegetables, top a bruschetta, garnish a soup. The smoked salt flavor is good too!

5. Wine Colored Tights

I just bought a pair like this and I’m excited to add a little color to my winter work wardrobe. What do you think –  are bold colors fun to wear to work?