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 

 

Changed A Life This Year

I’m inviting you to stop and think about just one thing that changed your life for the better this year. When I sit and ponder here’s one that comes to mind for me.

In September, I boarded a plane after a nine hour delay to join 100 young grieving adults. I had the opportunity to lead a writing workshop with The Dinner Party, a national organization who builds community for 20 and 30 somethings and mostly, I was terrified.

If grief makes you uncomfortable feel free to skip ahead. (I’m going to ask for your help)

If not, keep going …

I was absolutely floored by the beautiful, brave people who showed up despite terrible things happening in their young adult lives. People read obituaries, shared funny stories, and built altars in honor of loved ones.  We drank wine and toasted and sang songs and I found myself, for the first time, in a group of twenty five others who lost their dads.
When I shared my experiences, I was met with affirming mhmms and head nods rather than blank stares. While I have been attending a grief support table for two years now, this was the first experience I had where I felt completely welcome in my grief. I’ve known in my head I wasn’t alone. These people helped me feel less alone in my heart. You can read more about my experience here.

If you jumped ahead, pick up here:
Welcome back. This year I’m increasing my fundraising goal for The Dinner Party and am hoping to help raise $1,000 as TDP continues to grow. From April to September the organization placed over 2,500 people at tables all across the country and they need your help.

With an ambitious goal of being as well known as AA for alcoholics, we hope to grow this phenomenon as a fabulous grief support option for young people all across the country and need your help.

Please consider giving what you can here: 

https://thedinnerparty.funraise.org/fundraiser/katie-huey

Give because you loved Roy
Give because there are thousands of young people are grappling with life after loss
Give because you love me
Give because you are craving a space to tell your story
Give because there is power in community
Give because connection makes a difference

I hope you’ll join me this year – thanks for reading – and if you know of other wonderful people who would be willing to donate, please pass along my note.
With so much love,

Katie

Two Limes on a Rim

The elevator doors opened and I walked out into the tiny corner. I turned left and followed the arrows down the dimly lit hall as my wet boots squeaked with each step.

Removing the tiny key from my purse, I swiped my way in to the first hotel room I’d ever had all to myself.

Zipped off a text to my mother who used to do this all of the time – travel for work.

She shared her routine reminders with me. First you unpack your belongings, then put out the toiletries near the sink, and then call my dad.

I remember the calls as a child – her connecting with us across time zones and space from the uncomfortable chairs in casino hotel rooms. She didn’t gamble – she was an expert in trade shows – the two spaces and industries were inextricably linked. Pre Facetime, before What’s Ap and smart phones – what a treat it was to leave a voicemail on her hotel room phone.

Mostly I remember she’d leave prizes for us – one a night to discover. Sometimes my dad would forget to hide them and we’d wonder if perhaps this trip, we’d grown too old for her treats.

“Thanks for the memories,” she buzzed back, as I put on a sweater to head up to the roof top bar.

He’s with us in spirit, she’s at home, and I’m traveling now. How things have changed.

I took a deep breath, made a mental list of my networking questions, and pressed the up button, pausing to wait for the elevator.

Ding.

The doors opened and I walked into the dark bar decorated for Halloween. Creepy decorations hung in the large windows. The fog outside hovered next to the floating skeletons with gauzy dresses back lit by orange, suspended from string ten floors up.

I met new people, asked questions, and sipped my gin and tonic. Nervously, I squeezed the extra lime on the rim of the heavy tumbler between my thumb and forefinger.

The woman I was speaking with looked up and wiped her forehead.

Is it raining? she asked.

“I’m afraid I just squirted you with my drink” I blushed. She laughed, wiping again at the pulp in her bangs.

A granular burst of fruit brought us closer than I anticipated.

Time passed. We mingled and wrapped up the night. I pushed the down button, rode a few floors, followed the arrows to my room, turned down the covers and slept in the big, white bed.

When I woke to the sun fighting the fog, I saw twinkly lights fighting the approach of a new day.  I stared from behind the dark curtains and pondered the path I’ve been walking. I’ve floated between loss and joy over the last three years. Each room I enter has the haunting remnants of loss near by, like the decorations looming in the enormous window panes. Feelings of fear and ache linger close and heavy fog easily wraps its tentacles around me.

And then in ordinary conversations, the limes of life offer flavor and tartness and sweet bursts. I only need to release the potential between my finger tips.  Joy brings me closer to others and saying yes to the unexpected opportunities helps me grow.

Yes, this week I stayed in a hotel room, got on a plane, forced myself to be brave and network. I walked Lake Shore Drive and took photos of sparkling city lights – all beautiful things.

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Two little slices of lime jolted me to realize I influence others by just showing up. I can turn my attention from the haunting spirits and surroundings to the joy with a simple pinch of my thumb and forefinger.  Let’s choose the bursts rather than the ominous lingerings, shall we? There’s magic in the pulp.

Of Cautionary Tales

She shares the tale frequently. 

The one of a rebellious toddler with a shaggy hair cut – his red locks grazing the back of his neck as he turned his chin up to look at her with defiance in his big brown eyes.

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“Don’t touch that,” she said softly, “it’s hot and you

will get hurt.”

Always curious, you could watch him processing her words behind his crinkled forehead.

With defiance, he made his own decision, and leading with his balmy palm, stuck all five fingers straight to the coils and promptly started to scream.

I’ve been thinking of that little toddler and all the tales of caution we get served up.

Don’t put your hands on the burners, take your vitamins, avoid cigarettes, build up your 401k. For if we do all the right things, we’ll get out unscathed.

This week started with me calling 9-1-1 for a stranger in Macy’s. A pregnant woman had fainted. We were shopping for jeans. Dylan helped her partner lay her down on the worn green carpet in the department store. Undertrained staff frantically fumbled and we, just bystanders, made the decision to call for help.  While Dylan moved the tables stacked with denim, I leaned over and counted the woman’s breaths saying “Now. Now. Now” to the dispatch woman on the other end of the phone.  Another kind stranger fanned the woman with a crumpled flyer full of coupons waiting to be clipped.

I did something kind. We responded to a situation and when the emergency team walked in, I said good luck and we went on our way. I didn’t have it in me to stick around and see what happened next. Was it any of my business anyway?

The week ended with someone I love in the hospital and while she is ok, the tethers of vulnerability connecting us still brought me to tears. A friend was evacuated from her house due to forest fires.

All of these people take their vitamins, eat vegetables, and save money where they can. They tsk at diet soda and hug their loved ones and take deep breaths.

They’ve heard the tales, took caution, and still seem unable to escape the pain.

How do we witness and engage in others pain? How do I experience the heat of their experiences surging into the hot plates sitting in front of me?

Whether we know a diagnosis is coming, or show up and ride an elevator up to a sterile room full of beeping equipment, or call the adoption agency, or click send on the email with the hard to say feelings from years of resentment. We have choices with how much we want to touch the burning red. We can see it coming. The response is ours.

Is it really protecting ourselves to avoid the glow all together? Where can we lean in and feel the heat and not get scorched?

Or perhaps, we need to grab and hold and promptly let ourselves scream.

The choice is ours. What a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

ABC’s

They tell me to worry about all these things. You could go through the alphabet, much like my mom does with her toddler students at day care.

A is for Airplanes. The 737 seems to be failing.

B is for bacteria. It’s crawling all over you. Wash your hands. Bleach.

C is for cancer. Don’t drink Diet Coke. Put down that cigarette.

D is for Donald… Ugh. Yes I am afraid.

E is for Eggs. Are the ones I just purchased cage-free and do the chickens producing them even have beaks?

F is for Future. Uncertainty looms.

We could go on and on… at least until X. It always gets tricky at X. I’m not afraid of xylophones. Some people are afraid of their eXes I suppose.

I want to stop the worrying. I’ve caught myself tuning in to CNN too much – hoping for good news. Am I crazy? They thrive on my anxious clicking, fine-tuned to hone in on the bad.

So today, here’s a beautiful ABCs – let’s bring it in and focus back to the basics.

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Photo by Jessicah Hast on Unsplash

A is for Apples crunching – honey crisps falling on bending bows of bountiful trees

B is for Babies – brave people keep making them

C is for Cheese – have you had cheese! I bought burrata and more gorgonzola for those gorgeous pears

D is for Dogs – mostly my dog Olive

E is for Eggs – soft boiled with a dash of salt

F is for Family – as messy as we are we keep trying to show up

G is for Grandmothers. Mine makes me smile.

H is for Home. However you define it, may you find comfort in those walls.

I is for Iced coffee – just a few days left to drink your java on the rocks

J is for Juice – spiced apple cider – cinnamon swirling, spice sediment mixing in magic

K is for Koalas –  k is a little tough…

L is for Light streaming in, sun rising slowly, dancing in the golden leaves

M is for Marriage – it’s hard and messy and comforting and wise

N is for Not Yet – I don’t have all the answers – there are things I’m waiting on. Not yet

O is for Octopus. Isn’t it funny God gave animals eight legs?

P is for Pumpkins on porches, in pies, and in breads

Q is for Questions – the big and the small

R is for Remembering – the good times, the vibrant memories of love

S is for Silence. Deep breath. Slow down. Hear the pauses your breathing creates.

T is for Time. We think we have more.

U is for Underwear – a fresh, basic staple

V is for Vacuum lines on the carpet

W is for Walking in the evening before the sun sets

X is for Xylophone – everyone knows this

Y is for You – you have purpose, passion, meaning

Z is Zinnia – flowers linger while seasons wait to change

How can you turn your fears into gratitude today?

 

 

October Favorite Things – 2019

I’m burnt out on pumpkin spice. The joy has been sucked away by commercialism and over-done everything. Why is it we have a tendency to squeeze potential out of things, drip by sugary drip?

This October I’m focused on turning inward a bit – asking new questions and preparing to lay down old stories with the falling of leaves.

Here are a few things I’m loving this month:

  1. Roasted chicken – fill the house with amazing aromas on a Saturday evening. Don’t burn your hand on the roasting pan like I did. 425 degrees means 425 degrees.
  2. One Hope Wine – I’m intrigued by their business model and am excited to raise money for a good cause. If you’re thinking about stocking up on tasty wine for the holidays, check this out.
  3. Candy corn. Still. Yes. It’s a classic. Once a year because we will never burn out on their perfect chew if we only consume the kernels for one month a year.

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  4. Classic T’s – Maybe I’ve got some latent grief begging to be honored by the donning of black clothes. Maybe I’m channeling my inner New Yorker. Maybe I’m just craving a simpler closet. I’ve been stocking up on comfy black t-shirts and getting back to the basics with my wardrobe. As we head in to the season of layering, add these gems to your staples pile.
  5. Rising Strong by Brene Brown – for when you need permission to accept life as it is and a gentle reminder that magic meets us when we’re face down in the ring.

What can you lay down this month? What is bringing you joy?