On Doubts

Oh yes, I have them too. Big, fat, ugly, warty doubts that sit on my heart and squash my finger’s desire to type. Little wispy doubts that wear tutus and dance among my strands of hair, swinging along and whispering as they pass by my ears. “You shouldn’t write” they say. “Your stories, your truths – they are going to keep you from getting a job, or make your friends run the other direction. Give it up, no one tends to give a damn.”

I wonder, almost daily, if it is worth being vulnerable on the internet. I doubt the sharing of my tears, my heart, my hopes and my grief on this space. I filter my failures and minimize my successes.

And then, beautiful people like Anne Lamott give a Ted Talk and post on Facebook and I remember, once again, that I’ve got to. I’ve got to write.

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So today, my beautiful thing is Anne Lamott’s reminder that she shared. Take that world, I’m going to continue telling my story.  I don’t want to feel like hell.

I personally like #6 on her list. Take heed world, take heed.

Happiness Depends on a Good Breakfast

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The author William Martin wrote a book on parenting, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents, and in it he shares the poem above.  I’m not a parent, not yet, but I do suppose I’ve been parented (that’s a word right?).

Well I’ve seen the poem before and I’m sure I nodded along saying ‘yes, yes, those words make sense.’ This week I saw the words again, and they oozed into my being. I accept the lie that I am NOT extraordinary much too easily. My thoughts bounce and roll upon gritty terrain in my head as I beat myself up for not having the right career, not being travelled enough, not yet earning those expensive letters behind my name. I get stuck staring at choices and wonder if MBA, or LPN, or LCSW, or MFA would fit me best. Sure, sure, I can appreciate a great peach, but I haven’t published a novel and I haven’t been listed on the ‘thirty under thirty’ list of young, successful business leaders in my community.

Stop!

When I come to the surface again, and can calm that pounding drum of a thing called my heart, I remember to reevaluate. Like Martin says, ‘striving seems admirable, but it is a way of foolishness’. Silly me, how foolish. No one wants the letters F-O-O-L-I-S-H on a resume.

The letters that suite me right now are as follows.

W-R-I-T-E-R

I’m growing into these letters and embracing the truth that these letters are a gift. Being able to eloquently communicate thoughts, observations, human emotions. What a beautiful thing.

W-I-F-E

I used to roll my eyes at the women who used those letters to define themselves. Psh – MBA is much better. Nope. Nope. Wrong again. This journey called wife is immensely extraordinary.

E-M-P-A-T-H

I am one sensitive stinker and sometimes this hurts. As I’ve written over and over, the world is a hurting place. Being empathetic, sensitive, and observant means you can’t ignore the world’s suffering. It like walking through sandpaper, always living with some level of texture in the air. The ever present grains of sand rub away at the calloused layers of pain that try to make your heart hard. I can’t do it. I refuse to turn off my sensors that allow me the ability to view other’s pain.

This sensational quality of being an E-M-P-A-T-H gives fuel to my other letters. It makes it easier to be a W-R-I-T-E-R.

Take off the smudged glasses of striving, and the world begins to be a remarkable place. Andy Rooney captures this so well when he says,

“For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.”

Put on the hiking boots of extraordinary and you can travel well through all terrain.

This week I went to water aerobics for the first time. The youngest in the pool by twenty years, I walked the lanes, and did my lunges, and water rolls with a funny group of older people. Have you ever thought about the magic that is a swimming pool? Someone figured out how to get hundreds gallons of water inside, how to keep it clean (we hope) and a decent temperature, and some fitness instructor figured out that we can jog laps with low impact on our knees. I’m not sure if I’ll go back, but trying something new with people you’ve never met, while intimidating, can be a beautiful thing.

I also brought dinner to one of my friends from high school who just had her second baby. Meet Evelyn.

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What an extraordinary thing that the people God gave you to be your friends can create tiny humans! No really, they made TWO babies! As I was walking around Trader Joes, picking ingredients for their dinner, it stopped me in my tracks to realize how extraordinary it is that we have the potential to bring babies into the world. I put a small bouquet of flowers in the basket, and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups too, because dessert. A beautiful thing. Tiny toes, and delicate fingernails, and baby snuggles, even more amazing. Let us walk together through all stages of life.

I go back to Martin’s poem and I reflect on the way I was parented. Sure, there was a large amount of encouragement to strive. I was an over-productive high school student with amazing amounts of ambition and extra-curricular activities. I remember sitting in a Harvard informational session at the age of 13. I blame Gilmore Girls for that experience.

Yet, as I continued to grow into adulthood, lessons of empathy and emotional intelligence and self-acceptance rose to the top. My parents were really good at getting me to calm down, to stay grounded, to keep my crazy striving in check.

Another set of letters that describes me is D-A-U-G-H-T-E-R. I have this horrible thought that because we lost my dad, I’m maybe half of that now. A daughter only to one parent, not two. Like maybe the letters should not be capitalized, or truncated to half of the word.

F-A-T-H-E-R-L-E-S-S

These letters sting a little. I became fatherless just over fifteen months ago.

Stop!  The grandest of magnificent lies.

Yes, it’s true that my dad left this world.

However, I will always always be Roy’s D-A-U-G-H-T-E-R.

The lessons he gave me will always be extraordinary.

I’ve thought a lot about how I wanted to honor him on this second Father’s Day without him. Last year I spent the day in tears – my sweet in-laws being amazingly supportive as I snuck away, not once, but twice to call my mom. I sat on the porch wiping my tears and snot on the grass (sorry Mike, the smears on your lawn probably washed away).

This year, I become green with envy every time I see an article that was published in a magazine about another W-R-I-T-E-R’s father, or loss, or grief, or missed chances with their paternal person. I’m not yet ready to submit my story to a formal publication (here I go striving again).  I plan to stay off of Facebook, and will spend time with the best father-in-law a D-A-U-G-H-T-E-R-I-N-L-A-W could ask for.

I can, however, leave you this list of the things I ache for as my dad made the ordinary come alive.

  • Waffles on Sunday mornings. He would shuffle into the kitchen in his nasty plaid pajamas and make beautiful, fluffy waffles for us. Chocolate chip for me, topped with strawberries and whipped cream. He was good at weekend breakfast.
  • Fishing on the river – he always made us be enthusiastic outdoor adventurers. He would smile at us as my brother and I grimaced, lugging our fishing gear to some remote spot to put a fly in the water. He wouldn’t get too mad when we splashed upstream, probably scaring away all of his fish friends. Splashing brought joy. Casting did not.
  • He taught me to follow through. When I was getting my driver’s license he made me drive up to Wyoming and back at night so I could get my night hours. “Most parents just sign off on these Dad,” I grumbled. “Well, I’m not most parents,” he replied, “let’s get in the car.”
  • He drove me to junior high every morning. I’d be sleepy and cranky in the front seat, yet he always tried to have conversation. Not the best timing for connecting with a thirteen year old, but the effort was there.
  • Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 8.47.33 AMToaster hash browns. My favorite breakfast for years. Morning routines were Dad’s responsibility and he kinda sucked at weekday breakfast. Over-cooked eggs and toast with peanut butter smeared with mayonnaise because he always forgot to wash the knife between making our sandwiches and our morning meal. It was hard for him to screw up toaster hash browns. I’m going to go find a box. Dad loved breakfast. Like Andy Rooney, he knew, happiness depends on a good breakfast.

Happy Father’s Day papa. I miss you so very much.

The Beauty of Everyday Adventure – Guest Post by Joey Holmes

I love when other writers approach me with beautiful ideas to share. When Joey emailed from Europe and asked if she could write something on the adventures we create in our daily lives, I jumped at the chance to see what she had to say.

Read along and start adventuring. Bonus points if you guess which of her suggestions I am going to do in the next few weeks!

Author: Joey Holmes

Her Website: www.coolofthewild.com

“In every walk with nature, one receives much more than he seeks.” – John Muir


I often question why being outdoors is such an important thing to me. Maybe being born in December and being cooped up inside for the first 6 months of my life has something to do with it. Or perhaps it was that, when the weather permitted, my mum would be outside with me on every given opportunity. But whatever the reason, there is something about getting outside and embarking on adventures, no matter their size or ambition, that lights a spark in me.

Recently I have started to take note of the things I say when I’m outside adventuring, and the way I feel or react to my situation. And on reflection I’ve come to realize just how important it is for me to be surrounded by the beauty of nature: an ancient woodland, a colorful bug, a stunning view, the dying light at sunset. These small, seemingly insignificant things are what drive me to get outside as much as possible and to open my eyes to the beauty that is out there.

Last year I challenged myself to cycle 70 miles across Wales, sleep on the beach and cycle back again. I loved the physical and mental challenge and the feeling of independence and strength that it gave me. But I was on a schedule to get from A to B before the sun went down, and I found it really frustrating that I couldn’t take the time to stop and enjoy the waterfall, or to lie down for half an hour to listen to the silence and take in the sense of freedom that my adventure presented. So I promised myself that, moving forward, I would always try to allow for that time of reflection and appreciation of what amazing things nature offers me on my adventures.

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This got me thinking about how adventure is so different for everyone. Stepping out of ones comfort zone and embarking on something new, unusual and exciting can be all sorts of things, and doesn’t have to be grand or significantly life changing. Anything from cooking your dinner on a hill after work, to spending weeks at a time exploring far-flung corners of the earth. Regardless of the scale, seeking out adventure always uncovers beauty in one form or another: in your surroundings, in the actions of your fellow adventurers, or in the feeling, emotions and thoughts within you.

With modern life getting busier and more hectic every day, it’s easy not to make the effort to get out adventuring. And even easier to forget to appreciate all that beauty when adventures do happen. So for a little inspiration on how to get some adventure into everyday life, here are a few simple things to try each week:

Dining out

  • Cycle to work instead of your usual mode of transport
  • Cook your dinner on a campfire – even if it’s in the backyard!
  • Take a walk along a river at sunrise
  • Climb a tree in the park
  • Have a sunset picnic at a place with a stunning view
  • Take a night hike
  • Go for a swim before work at your nearest wild swimming spot
  • Take a run to your nearest park on your lunch break
  • Climb a hill and do some yoga at the top
  • Build a den and read your book in it – even if it’s inside
  • Take your camp stove to work and make your own coffee in the park at lunchtime
  • Hang your hammock in the park after work and enjoy listening to noise of the city

Planning and then embarking upon mini-adventures is a great first step to getting out more. But to truly reap the benefits of all that adventure has to offer, I believe that it’s essential to take the time to sit back and pause. To really breath in all the elements of the beauty that is uncovered through seeking out the unusual, daring and exciting.

So whatever adventure is to you, make sure you do it with open eyes, arms, ears, mind, heart and nostrils(!), to fully absorb all that beauty that’s yours for the taking.

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Joey Holmes

Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, or hitting the trail in her running shoes .

You can connect with her here:

 Facebook    Twitter     Instagram    Pinterest

 

If you are interested in contributing to 52 Beautiful things, send an email to 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. 

Be The Horizon

We have a family therapist. Or rather, had a family therapist. One wise gentleman that counseled my mom, my dad, my brother and me. This therapeutic closeness to each of our situations was wonderful and horrible all at the same time.

You know how you have to spend the first few sessions with a new therapist explaining your background? Tell me about your mom, your dad, your childhood trauma. Well this guy already knew – perhaps way more than I did – about my mom, my dad, and their childhood trauma. This was nice. Cut out the time-wasting backstory telling. Jump right in to my perspective of things.

This closeness also caused challenges. Like when I heard of a family’s new news from  Said Therapist on a phone call, rather than the source. He assumed I already knew. I didn’t.

Said Therapist is wise and kind and has supported my family in unspoken, spiritual ways. He was the first person to call me, after my mom and Dylan, to offer kindness the day we lost Dad.

So when my dad died, who also happened to be one my therapist’s good friends, I had to stop getting counseling from Said Therapist. Grief and family closeness swarmed in on itself, collapsing one of the support systems I had previously relied on. While difficult, the choice to stop receiving therapy from this person remains to be a healthy one.

I’ve tried a few therapists since the loss and neither have clicked. And since mental health is NOT covered by my insurance I’ve taken a break from therapy. Another healthy choice because I tend to over-process myself into a tight spiral. Sometimes taking a break from counseling can be a beautiful thing.

However, Said Therapist’s wisdom continues to whisper in my ears and I am thankful for his lessons that he helped me grow into. I am thankful he taught me mindfulness, and thankfulness, and grounding exercises that help me remain in the present. Old lessons, like worn socks, which we take off and put on again, when we remember there are easier solutions to cold feet than freezing.

So today, when I got a phone call that a banking situation is going less than perfect, rather than panic I took a deep breath. I am a grown woman, I can problem solve, this, like all things, will resolve itself.

“BE THE HORIZON” Said Therapist would say.

Maybe Said Therapist never ever said that phrase to me, but it is one our family adopted. One my dad would share in texts, and my mom and I continue to repeat over and over again.

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You know when you look out at the ocean, the line where the water meets the sky continues to remain steady. Yet, waves are always churning, water always moving, creatures and weather and ships interacting in patterns of chaos.

That darn horizon continues to stay true and steady and straight.

“Be the horizon.” Breath deep, remember you got this, stay the course.

Grounding exercises are beautiful and I’d like to think I’d accept reminders to take it one moment at a time with open arms. Too often, though, these reminders are in the form of tires that need replacing, and broken shingles, and bank accounts, and lost book shipments and the rearranging of schedules. Inconveniences and annoyances that remind us we are not in control.

Life is less than perfect. Perhaps these moments of perfect frustration should be seen as beautiful too.

This morning I was scrolling on Facebook, the grandest of all time wasters and anxiety provoking messages reminding me of how not-good-enough I am. I found this poem.

“It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.”
—Mark Nepo

I found this poem before the day unfolded and it caught my attention.

As the day progressed, its beautiful gift seemed to sink in more.

I want to stop counting, letting go of the broken, and moving forward to embrace all the good.

I think Said Therapist would say, ‘That sounds good Katie. That sounds good.’

Favorite Things – June

Cheers! We made it to June. While the official start of summer doesn’t roll around for a few more weeks, here are a few things that bring me delight as the days grow longer.

  1. Gold and Navy Blue Paper Drinking Straws

Smoothie season is here! Iced coffee season too! (although for me that’s an all year thing). Put a little pep in your glass and choose some fun straws to sip your favorite beverage.

2. Fun Express 12 Mini Pirate Rubber Ducks Duckie Ducky Party Favors Novelty (1 Dozen)

I went to a bar and they gave me a cocktail with a rubber ducky in it. Needless to say I was instantly won over. Check out my Instagram to find out which charming duck graced my booze. A fun idea for any summer get together or just because. Rubber ducks make you smile.

3. Asti Cinzano 750 ml

This was the lovely sparkling wine I reference in this post.

Order a bottle. Toast to being alive.

4. Jobe’s Tomato Fertilizer Spikes,

We put in our garden and I am anxiously awaiting little sprouts to come and grace the dirt with their faces. Hoping this unique, less messy solution to fertilizer will produce lots of fruit.

5. Mattel Blokus Game

I forgot how much I like this game. Play with friends, challenge your brain, get blocking.

 

For a full list of my Favorite Things featured in 2017 click here.  Stay tuned for next month as the featured list will change as the months roll by.

Hospital Room Drama

I was in a coffee shop recently and I overheard a group of women my age talking about tv shows.

“You know what they should let die?” spat one of the women. “Grey’s Anatomy.”

All her friends nodded along, offering better replacements of shows like Scandal, House of Cards, or Game of Thrones.

I can’t handle watching suspenseful tv. I think the world is too icky in real life to watch trauma unfold on screen. Affairs, politics, sex, incest, murder set in the White House or in fantasy worlds just doesn’t sit well with me.

Let me also mention that comedians and actors across many platforms keep joking about how even the writers of House of Cards could not make up the story lines unfolding in our current White House. It’s a crazy, uncertain world out there.

Though if you switch out the Oval Office and drop the scene in an operating room I may consider the suspense just for a moment. I like hospital room dramas.

Ok…. I’ll admit it. I still LOVE Grey’s Anatomy

This show is kinda like the annoying neighbor you grew up with who lived down the street. Its ever-present story line has become background to my life, showing up once a week with really absurd knick knacks for me to examine.

You want the neighbor to be gone but you keep answering the door when they knock, just to see what oddities or treasure they might offer this week.

Even if the neighbor keeps knocking for 13 years.

If you have abandoned this series long ago, forgive my passion. You may want to skip ahead to the photo below, but I’ve still got love to express. TV producers stopped Gilmore Girls and that revival is over, so Grey’s continues to be the show with which I grow.

I’m not ready to let this show die – even though all of my favorite characters have been killed off. There have been so many crises and trauma that all of those surgeons should be in therapy.

I watched the season thirteen finale last night *spoiler alert, spoiler alert* and in an hour episode there was a rapist, an explosion, a fire, a missing girl, a soldier missing for ten years. Choking babies, bleeding arteries, divorce and firings.

I squirmed on the couch as the level of suspense escalated to a level of unbelievable discomfort.  I thought of this blog post that my dear friend wrote on fear.  Her words kept ringing through my ears and I sat watching threat after threat play out at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital.  Jenny writes,

“Many of my fears involve unfamiliar situations I’d be terrified to encounter — assault, debt, sickness. Just knowing these things can happen stresses me out.

I’m not unique in this. As a world, we have greater visibility of fear inducing events than ever before. Videos of disease, genocide, famine, and terrorist attacks are just a click away. It’s natural that we begin to fear things we see affecting others.”

So why, I keep asking myself, do we want to watch these risks, scandals, crises, terrors for entertainment? How much crazy can we absorb – how deeply do we let the immense potential for loss seep into our awareness? Or are we purely being entertained by horror?

Resilience. That’s why.

The world can be scary, threats to our safety, our security, our families, our lifestyles lurk. Sometimes I ask Dylan why we should ever leave our house.

Then I remind myself, “Katie, your dad died at home.” No place is free of vulnerability.

When we keep focusing on the potential for loss, on the threats, on the prevention of pain we miss out on living. Face the fear, choose to live anyway.

All of the surgeons on this show have faced tremendous, outrageous amounts of loss. Body parts and spouses and jail time and positions of power. Mothers and written words and friendship and brain capacity – these themes and tangible absences tangle with real life situations that many of us don’t want to face.

But Shonda Rhimes keeps writing in the necessary themes of resilience – the power of facing our emotions connected to the human experience. She writes in threads of healing, and humor, and love and reminds me, at the very least, that it is an amazing thing to be alive.

On Thursday, even before I sat down for a three hour tv binge, I found an older bottle of champagne that someone had given us when we moved into our house almost two years ago. It was dusty and tucked in the back corner of our liquor cabinet. I was saving it for something special. As if purchasing a home for the first time wasn’t special.

For whatever reason when I got home that evening I pulled the bottle out, wiped off the dust, and stuck it in the freezer to chill. I took down two delicate champagne flutes that we have never used.

When my husband got home from work, I asked him to pop open the sparkling wine. I poured the sticky liquid into our glasses and plopped in a few raspberries in for good measure.

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We toasted to being alive. To Thursdays. To the ordinary. To resilience. To bubbles and fruit and each other.

When all those threats lurk around us, in the news, on tv, in our neighborhoods, we have to choose to celebrate the beautiful thing it is to just simply be breathing. Life is special just cause it’s life.

Shonda Rhimes gets that. I’m working on learning it too.

“But Soon a New day Again”

Thank you to all who have chosen to participate in The Short & Sweet Giveaway!

The contest has come to a close and a winner has been randomly selected.

Congratulations to @WMO_Poetry for your contribution!

You will be notified by Direct Message.

She tweeted:

I sit here

all night

by my innocent

sleeping child

I write & she dreams

Typical

New meds

Again

But soon a

New day Again

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For a bit of a boost and encouragement in beauty, here are the other contributions.

I truly believe beauty is all around us if we choose to look.

Thanks for playing along and sharing your journey with me!

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