Good enough for this year.

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Photo by Miroslava on Unsplash

I walked in the door to grief group tonight with my arms full of bags – the worn canvas stretched as I turned to open my arms and hug the once-strangers who I now consider my friends. I bent at the waist and removed my clogs and turned and slid my mismatched socks towards the table.

Twelve courageous women laid out crackers and creamy cheese and plates of cookies to frost with store-bought frosting. We swiped crumbs off of islands and sprinkled flour on the clean counter. Relying on our resourcefulness we used a pepper grinder to roll out the dough. We cut shapes and dunked morsels in chocolate and shook green, red, and white sprinkles over pre-made cut-outs. We sat around a table and said their names and shared the multitude of complex things we feel during the holiday season.

And I stopped and thought, “Yes, this is good.”

Good enough for this year.

And earlier this week, while taking my turn at a four-way stop I apparently cut off a car coming round the blind corner. The horn shook me out of a something-thought and I proceeded to find a parking spot. I walked gingerly to the favorite kitchen store in town and met Mom to wander through familiar aisles.

Looking up from the shortbread display I grabbed my mom and I hissed, “Pause here.”

Around another blind corner, old acquaintances stood eyeing their own gifts and goodies. We pivoted, avoiding the unnecessary moment of awkward eye contact. Running into “before people” in stores on holidays earns you a pity tilt of the head and a sympathy sigh. If they are really unsure, you may get a pat on the hand as well. We turned towards the tea pots and moved through aisles to make our purchases on the other side of the store.

We had planned to spend hours together shopping, just like we used to, and instead we spent three hours talking at a new taco shop in town. At a small table in the back, next to the kitchen, we wept and we wondered how we can let go of the old and create something new.

New traditions. New expectations. New hopes and new chances to shape togetherness because the old holiday traditions will never be the same.

And as we paid the bill and walked into the winter sun, I stopped and thought, “Yes. This is good.”

Good enough for this year.

As I held my mom’s hand and looked her in the eye she said to me, “You know, we never started baking gingerbread snowflakes with the intent of that being tradition. We tried them. They were good, so we did it again.”

I’m borrowing loosely from holiday expectations this year. Different formats for making cookies. Different time spent shopping on Amazon rather than in stores. Different routines and expressions of grief and making space for the sadness our culture demands we package away in pretty red bows.  Maybe we’ll do them again. Maybe we won’t.

I spent year one through three trying, pushing, forcing the holly and the jolly and it was horrible.

This year I’m stopping and thinking, “Yes, this is good.”

Good enough for this year.

What a beautiful thing.

 

“Maybe”

Nichole Nordeman’s got a new Christmas album out and the whole thing is giving me chills.

I know this is a tricky time of year. She captures the spirit of the season – all components – the joy, the hope, the light, the hurt, the ache, the promise of Christ – so well in these songs.

Listen to the whole thing on Spotify and listen to this song for the brokenness in you and others this season.

Let your heart be light.

December Favorite Things – 2019

I wrote my Christmas card this weekend and thought to myself, “Wasn’t it just August?”

You too?

Welp, here we are at the end of the year and the end of a decade. Hard to believe.

Here are a few of my favorites as I decorate my house, buy gifts for others, and blow my nose continuously because the winter cold has hit me.

Merry Merry to you and yours.

    1. Advent Devotional by Ann Voskamp
      It’s the season of light and I get excited to remember how we can choose to welcome the Holy Spirit back into our lives. I read this one every year
    2. Dried oranges – I followed this simple recipe and used the oranges as ornaments on my tree and tucked them in on a home made wreath. I left the sugar off because I know my dog would eat them …. Another recipe suggested tucking whole cloves in the slices. I didn’t have any and dried allspice instead and wasn’t that impressed.
    3. Simmer Scents to make your house smell great naturally

    4. Pair this shortbread with Scotch and toast to Roy

5. “Eight is a lot of legs David.” – the best line from Love Actually


 

In a completely separate request, I’m gathering answers to the question:

As a reader of 52 Beautiful Things,  what do you like most about the writing?

Send an email to 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com with your response

52 Thankfuls – 2019

“Gratitude is wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk.” – Rumi

52 Things to be thankful for this year. In a sorta particular order….allie-smith-h5K9F-gXr5I-unsplash.jpg

1. Family as we choose to call them
2. Flannel Sheets
3. Whats App Face-to-Face Phone Calls
4. The Dinner Party
5. Keyboards
6. Mentors
7. Donuts in Portland
8. Hot-springs
9. Snow shoes
10. Warm winter coats
11. White mugs full of coffee
12. Vanilla syrup
13. Book Club
14. The occasional steak dinner
15. Beaches in Mexico
16. Sunscreen
17. Access to medical care
18. My job
19. My husband’s job
20. Olive-pants
21. Sandy Flip flops
22. Remakes of The Lion King, Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland
23. Birthday Tea Parties
24. Moms who sew
25. One Hope Wine
26. Gin and Tonic
27. Moscow Mules
28. Paint and Drywall and Wood
29. My general contractor
30. Summer Camp-like experiences
31. Men who play harps
32. Lake Michigan
33. Hiking Trails
34. A clean hot tub
35. My grandmother’s stories
36. Old friends
37. New friends
38. A leaf blower
39. Whiskey
40. Rental Cars
41. Hot Chicken
42. Improv
43. Teachers
44. Music lessons
45. Side hustles
46. The power of the internet
47. My words printed in ink
48. Good night kisses
49. Airplanes
50. Sunday night dinner
51. Walks to the lake
52. Hope

What are you thankful for this year?

Chim Chim Cher-ee

“Winds in the east, theres a mist comin’ in
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and ’bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I feel what’s to happen all happened before.”
– Bert – Mary Poppins

It was 60 today. They are saying snow on Tuesday.

It was August just yesterday.  Thanksgiving is on Thursday.

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Here I am, tonight, writing in the now, while and temperatures drop and Christmas lights go up, and lists get written down to prepare for the holiday season. Movement.

I’ve moved out of our safe-zone and into the holidays and I’m thinking of Bert and his cautionary storytelling.

Awhile back, I shared how my grief safe-zone was from the day AFTER Father’s Day to the week before Thanksgiving. As Thanksgiving is a week late this year, I promptly walked out of the safe-zone and into the field of grief triggers last Thursday. Was it 8 am or 3 pm?I couldn’t tell you. But I noticed.

The wind’s blowin’ in.

Mom’s making turkey hats, I’m writing Christmas lists, and I ordered my holiday cards. I bought a wreath hook and gingerbread cookie mix (blasphemy … sorry Mom) and started the joy-filled planning tasks while honoring the Dad-size bubbles of mash sitting on the back burner for the last few months.

The grief, still warm, starts steaming and stewing and mingling with pine and plans and memories of tree trunks and his strong love of going around the table and sharing our thanks for the miracles God provides.

Later this week I’ll share my 52 Thankfuls for this year with you.

Tonight, I’m getting out my wind-breaker to brace for the back and forth blowing all of us humans feel while crafting Hallmark holidays in a broken world.

As my grief moves, I drove through the Target parking lot and stared at the pretty trees glowing yellow with magical space in between bare branches. I stole a taster from the cookie store. I ate brunch with my family and drank a latte with another who gets the scratchy feeling our frayed heart holes have when rubbing up against the Christmas sweaters of others. Beautiful, beautiful things.

Celebrate, yes, and witness the beautiful things around you. Tend your hearts with toasty socks and mugs of something warm, and twinkly lights on boughs of delicious smelling trees.

And bring a friend some tissues, or invite your co-worker to lunch, or take an extra long bath because, while wondrous, magical, and sparkly, this time of year tends to rub on our healing wounds like the scratchy wool socks waiting for your cold toes in the back of your drawer.

Year four. Worn. Familiar. Something that’s happened before. “Can’t put me finger on what lies in store.”

Six, Quarter-inch, Dark Blue Lines

Turning my head tenderly to the left, I glanced at them in the mirror through the steam.

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Six, quarter-inch, dark blue stitches are pulling my skin together.

The nylon threads forcefully merge two sides left from the removal of a minor something. A something, they said, that could be a bigger something if neglected.

I’m now missing a crescent of seemingly dangerous freckles transferred to my back with a kiss from the sun while coaching tennis in the summer months.

Skin pulled taught, knotted tendrils, and a wound remain.

The incision looks badass, sure, and more importantly has the power to make me woozy with the application of band-aids, vaseline, and tape. What we survive is nauseatingly awe-inspiring – how we breath through required work of tending our healing is beyond me.

I spent this weekend moving slowly, rising from chair, lowering to couch, and still lower to my bed. Each move felt tender and heavy, the pressure from pulling skin reminding me of the work it takes to bring things forever changed back together again.

In the days and months after losing my dad I wrote a lot about unraveling. I wrote about how a significant chord had been cut when he left this world.

Someone was perched at the edge, throwing my big ball of yarn I’d worked so hard to gather down the stairs without asking for my permission.

Bounce – there went our jobs.
Bounce – there went big relationships.
Bounce – there went holidays, and traditions, and the layer of security when both parents are accessible by phone.
So, I wrote about tapestries and embroidery and threads to help me finger the loss and the holes and the missing pieces. I snarled at the snaggles, and left the yarn running through my house without energy, limp, and ready to be played with by whomever treaded by. Who cares? It was all unraveled anyway.

I never gave much thought to the attempts at assembly we’ve been doing until I sat in a sterile room wearing a patterned robe with my back exposed and numb. In a quick out-patient procedure someone had poked me with a thread and a needle and literally sewed me back together again.

They finished the procedure, and I sat up. I asked for a glass of water and the nurse, noting my color, gave me a small can of orange juice instead.  I sipped and I listened and noted the irony found in the hopes of sugar used to calm my shaking hands.

“The best thing you can do is lay right on your back on the floor,” instructed the RN who was younger than me. “Perhaps lay on a bag of frozen peas.”

“Right on my back?” I asked with big eyes. “Isn’t that going to hurt?”

“At first,” she responded, “but the pressure will help you heal.”

In year one – I was entirely focused on the dark, oozing hole left from the quick snip of his exit.

In year two – there was immense pressure. I laid on my back for hours, staring at ceilings, at walls, at the spaces in between. The pain of grief is unbearable and confusing. You need Tylenol Extra Strength and tissues and healing ointment in various forms.

In year three – I’m learning something greater than me has started stitching again on my body, my heart, my life. With my participation, we’re bringing things together again to fuse what is left over the hole.

I’m approaching year four and I’m noticing … my scar is fucking huge.
But I am healing. What a beautiful thing.

November Favorite Things – 2019

1. Go Ya’ll!

Who cares who is playing on the field – just yell go!

My favorite phrase on a t-shirt in Reese Witherspoon’s adorable store Draper James. When you walk in the big double doors, they give you sweet tea with a cute striped straw.

I just got back from a trip to Nashville and I’ve got a few Southern favorites on the brain. Happy November!

2. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

We only had to wait 30 minutes. I overheard someone in line waiting to board the plane saying they waited an hour and a half. Sure, it may be chicken, but it may also change your life.

3. GooGoos

Peanuts. Good.

Marshmallows. Good.

Caramel. Good.

Put them together.

Still good. As the marketing says, “So good, even babies ask for them.”

Get the Pecan version – it’s tastier.

4. Kacey Musgraves

They have an exhibit about her at the Country Music Hall of Fame right now and I laughed because in the display was her Lisa Frank diary circa early 1990s.

I’m not in a hall of fame yet, and that’s ok – we had the same diary.

5. Raising money

I like raising money. Supporting causes. Donating to things bigger than me. I’m asking for help.

If you agree that no one grieving should have to do it alone, donate to The Dinner Party here.

If you believe agree everyone deserves a safe place to call home, to Finally Home donate here