Home is Where the Heart Is

Forgive my tardiness. Yesterday seemed to get away from me. It is with great excitement that I post another guest contribution from reader Melody. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on love and responding to the “Where Your Heart is Challenge.”

Here is her response.

Home is where the heart is.  It’s cliche, but it’s so true.  Today is Valentine’s Day and I love Valentine’s Day.  As a little girl Dad always made sure that Mom had roses and a big box of chocolates, while my sister and I were gifted a single red rose and a tiny heart box of chocolates,  It wasn’t the flowers and candy that made me love Valentine’s Day though.  It was the town I grew up in.

Loveland, CO is the Sweetheart City, and it lives up to it’s name. I’ve lived all over the United States and small towns everywhere put up Christmas decor on their streetlights; declaring to the community there is a reason to celebrate. And while that happens in Loveland at Christmas, what truly made it special to me were the February streetlights, happily decked out with giant red hearts. You could pay to have a special Valentine’s message placed on one for all the world to see.   My memories are crowded with images from childhood.  Sitting in the back seat of the car driving down Eisenhower next to Lake Loveland, I would dream of the day I’d see my name on one of those beautiful ruby hearts.
I haven’t lived in Loveland for 18 years now. My parents moved to Oregon 11 years ago.  And every February my heart grows a little bit heavy with the missing of my hometown.  Last March I returned to Loveland for a funeral.  I stayed with family friends and saw lots of friends and I was reminded that there is no place on earth my heart feels more at home than in my beloved sweetheart city.  The friends I have there are extensions of my family, the mountains sing to my soul of freedom and peace, and the streetlights proclaim loudly that love is here and love is good.
With memories and relationships rekindled this has been as year filled with Loveland stories for my friends here in NM and my husband.  And so as this Valentine’s Day approached I was excited to once again try to make my kid’s memories as special as my childhood ones but also filled with wistful dreams of streetlight hearts.  We gave the kids their gifts and cards this morning and faced the usual morning rush to get to school.  I left 15 minutes later than I wanted to but that was ok.  As I rounded a corner a couple blocks from my home I did a double take.  There on the streetlight was a red, hand painted, cardboard heart reading “Moose loves Moosette”  I took a deep breath and choked back the tears.  My Valentine fulfilled my childhood dream.  And it doesn’t matter that I’m not in Loveland this Valentine’s Day.  Home is where the heart is; and today I found that my heart could be home wherever I am because the love I carry from the people and places I have loved is always with me.
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Happy Valentine’s Day from New Mexico!

Sprinkles and Grit

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I made cupcakes this weekend. Two dozen, delicious yellow cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Homemade from scratch… they were not… but you can’t fault a girl for using boxed cake mix and Pillsbury frosting in a pinch.

I like baking. The combining of ingredients, swirl of egg yolks, whipping of a fork does something for my anxiety, my overactive mind. The end result is always delightful and fun. Cupcakes deserve sprinkles on top. So after frosting the little morsels, I turned each one upside down, and dipped the frosting in a mixture of colorful sprinkles. Yellow and pink pearls graced the top of each little treat, casting a shiny glow across the glass baking pan they rested in.

I eagerly set the little cakes out for my ‘Galentine’s’ Day Party which I hosted on Saturday night. Not one gal ate them. Between a mixture of gluten intolerant and health conscious friends, all of the cupcakes sat untouched.

I had to convince these ladies’ husbands to eat the cakes when they came to pick up their wives. Both my husband and another guy took a bite of the pearly cake and said, “Those little balls on top are too crunchy. These things are hurting my teeth.”

The pretty decor was literally causing discomfort when being ingested.

I wasn’t offended at the lack of consumption; more cake for me and my co-workers at work this week. However, I was just struck by the fact that although the sprinkles were displayed beautifully, no one cared to take a bite.

Rewind just a little further and stop on Saturday morning. The sun was shining and it was in the 60s as I sat a local coffee shop and shared a warm drink with one of my oldest friends with whom I’ve recently reconnected. Think kindergarten (OK WHO KNEW KINDERGARTEN WAS SPELLED WITH A T?) old, we shared lots of time together giggling and dreaming about boys and our futures. Years after high school and college drew us apart. She lived in New York. I stayed here. Both of us lost our fathers along the way.

And as I sat there, with a warm feeling only old friends can create in your heart, this beautiful woman said to me, “Our experiences have given us grit that other’s don’t yet know how to relate to. We can sink into that grit, and let it move us forward. Even when moving forward feels like crawling, and the grit and persistence feels more like sand that is digging into our knees.”

If someone asked me if I wanted sand on my cupcake, I would immediately say no. Glimmering sugar is much more preferred.

But in life, it can be easy to pass on the sprinkles. We are drawn into the beauty and then push aside the glimmer as shiny little orbs that kinda hurt.

Grit, true grit, shapes us into who we are meant to be, giving strength in the most unexpected of places. This abrasive sand is fairly unavoidable.  And those who remind us to keep crawling just are so beautiful.

So here it is this week. The list of beauty: cake, friends, Galentine’s Day, husbands who whine at your baking, the reminder to keep crawling, saying thank you to the painful experiences that give you grit, persistence, and blessed cream cheese frosting.

 

 

P.S. Don’t forget – I want to hear about your Valentine’s Day expressions of love. Don’t forget about the “Where Your Heart is Challenge.” Write a love note or a poem. Send me an email about it. I’ll post it here.

When Your Heart is in Loveland

My good friend Beth chose to share her response to the “Where Your Heart Is Challengeand I’m so tickled. Thanks for sharing the love!

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“Loveland, Colorado sure knows how to celebrate Valentine’s Day! I moved to Loveland just over a year ago and I’ve enjoyed experiencing all of the unique traditions the city has related to the holiday, including the ubiquitous hearts posted on street signs across town and of course all of the “love-themed” beers on tap at the breweries. But my favorite tradition is sending hand-written Valentines to my family through Loveland’s Valentine re-mailing program. I’ve made it a tradition to personally deliver my letters to the special red mailbox located at the downtown post office branch (appropriately called the “Valentine” branch!) where the letters are stamped with a special message from the Sweetheart City before being mailed.

The part that I find most beautiful about this tradition is the process and the time it requires. As I wrote each Valentine, I took a moment to think about the recipient and to appreciate how much joy and love they give me! Even as I walked over to the post office, my heart was full of love as I took the time to reflect on the various ways these people have shown me so much love over the past year. Life moves so fast and it’s easy to let “love” be just a passing thought or a common phrase that we add to our daily speech. For me, “love” becomes truly special when I slow down to appreciate, reflect on and share in sending the love.”

 

 

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts on love, or responding to the “Where Your Heart is Challenge”, send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. Accepting entries until 2.14.17

“Where Your Heart Is”

I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. About our need for it, our hesitance towards it, how freeing it can be, and how scary it is to love all at the same time.

About how we say to love our neighbors, love our enemies, love ourselves. Why, oh why, does loving seem to be so challenging when at our core it is what we are designed to experience?

As protesters hold signs with phrases about its power and aisles at Target fill up with pink, chocolate, and candy hearts, our world inundates us with the perplexing notion of what it means to love and be loved.

As I got lost in my own thoughts this week, I kept drifting back to these questions. I spent a few hours searching for quotes or profound statements, phrases, poems that have catchy truths about that little four letter word.

Like the poem read aloud at the end of “10 Things I Hate About You” or the bible verses read at weddings as we commit to love one another for our entire lives.

As I scrolled and scrolled, I stopped on this quote.

“Because, wherever your heart is, that is where you´ll find your treasure.”

– The Alchemist, Paulo Cohelo –

And so, in the next ten days leading up to the United States’ most commercialized day of expressed love, I’m asking you to do something.

Help me to understand just how beneficial love is. Why we need it, why we choose it, why we believe in it. Help me to understand how you find your heart treasure.

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I invite you to participate in the “Where Your Heart is Challenge” by completing one of the following tasks and sending me your thoughts. The world needs more love right now, and I’m asking you to help spread it.

Here are your choices:

  1. Write a love letter to your favorite person of choice. Stick it in the mail or deliver it in person.
  2. Write a love poem. It can be about a person, a season of life, the good and beautiful things that enrich you right now.
  3. Make a list of your treasures.  What treasures are dwelling within a space of love that enrich and enhance your life.

At the foundation of this little challenge, I believe time spent on this exercise will make you feel better about your own situation. If you choose to keep this to yourself, honor the time you spend reflecting on love.

I hope, ever so much, that you will want to be brave and share what you have come up with and I can repost it here. Send me a picture of the list, type up a reflection, let me know how you have been inspired to pay it forward and bask in the force that connects all of us.

Email me the details at (52beautifulthings at gmail dot com) of your experience and I will be honored to share your story.

Ten days of spreading the love. I hope you will join me.

xoxo

Hope Floats on Whispers

Each time I log onto Facebook these days my stomach lurches a little bit. I know I have a choice in entering my password and scrolling through feeds that are slightly biased towards the left – most of my friends agree with my stance on political things.

It seems to be getting bleaker, more complicated, more hurtful out there .

My heart is aching for those who are facing the very real, life changing consequences of political actions that have taken place this week. And I realize too, just how risky it is to put my thoughts and reactions out on the internet.

I could and maybe should log on to CNN or The New York Times, or Slate, or spend time evaluating these infographics that are circling around that tell me just how ‘Alternative’ my new sources could be. But honestly, I don’t.

I know this ability to tune out the news is a reflection of my privilege and I hesitate with every sentence I write down here. So much potential for offending all across the board. I don’t really think the internet is a safe space to launch such flames of disagreement.

And here I am, nervous again, to write about the good, when things out there seem so very bad. So this is my disclaimer for the year – I see, I hear, and I do not ignore the very real confusion and pain caused by our political climate here in America. I do not dismiss it and I want to be an ally.

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I also believe that hope floats on whispers, on promises of good, on lists of gratitude. My efforts may not be loud, or in crowds of hundreds of thousands – heck I’m lucky if each post I write gets more than 17 views. However, if I choose to stop writing the beautiful, it’s another example of where fear will win.

Many of you may have seen my post on Facebook this week about the barista at Starbucks who gave me a free drink even though my birthday coupon had expired. Ugh – you can groan – at the example of white girl privilege – symbols of excess funds and the caffeine raddled habit that oozes corporate coffee. What I saw though, was a twenty something millennial, working his butt off in the early morning, reflecting kindness with the choice to just give me a free coffee anyways. There is still good in the world.

As I drove to work I had to smile because a 40 year old woman with two kids in the car was blasting music and encouraging her two kiddos in the backseat to dance along. Ugh – you can groan – at the example of oil dependent individuals  in foreign cars on busy roads. What I saw though, was the influence of music and artists who have created catchy beats that inspire smiles and laughter while getting from here to there.

We live in the challenging dichotomy of good and bad. Of catastrophe and regrowth. Of pain and beauty.

I just want to keep honoring the mystery that God allows both to exist.

So here are some other things I found to be beautiful this week.

  • Home Brew – we made a match of beer with our friends a month ago and the bottles are finally ready to drink – magical chemistry made a tasty drink in our very own kitchen.
  • Flannel Thermals – my husband got a new thermal top for Christmas and I really just love the ability to snuggle up next to him as he wears it to sleep.
  • Reflections of my puppy in the mirror – our downstairs bathroom is torn apart because we are painting so the large mirror that typically hangs on the wall is sitting on the floor. As we sit on the couch, Olive keeps staring at herself in the reflection. It makes me laugh, and then thing, heck I do the same thing too with window reflections at work. We love a chance to look at ourselves.
  • Gifts from the fruits of your friend’s talents – I asked my long-time friend Jenny Stoecker to take some updated headshots for me. In about 5 minutes she captured my uniqueness in some photos and I’m really thrilled to start using them more. If you need some photography, keep her in mind.

 

I invite you to join me in using the hashtag #stillgoodintheworld . This won’t discount the bad, it can’t erase our pain, but it can gather us together to think about how our efforts and our choices to see the beautiful remind us to keep hoping.

Start whispering guys. Or for all I care, yell! My little heart just isn’t ready for that quite yet.

“Grace always bats last.”

*Vulnerability alert – choosing to share my sticky emotions because they too have a place for beauty. Continue reading if you so desire.*

 

I am getting ready to celebrate my birthday this week. We went to a play with my mom and my brother on Friday evening. It was a lovely performance full of live music and dancing and emotion. Pure passion put on stage with a mixture of honesty, struggle, heart. Just what art should do for us. My dad was not with us, just as he won’t be with us for the rest of my life. And friends, it makes my heart ache.

We are getting closer to the year anniversary of his death, and they say that as you move through all of the monumental dates in the first year without your loved one, a weight can be lifted. I hope what they say is true.

I am taking time to honor the beautiful tears that come when you acknowledge loss, the waves of deep sadness that come right along side the desire to celebrate, to move on, to be cheerful.

I am scared to turn another year older without him.

And then, just today, I came across this beautiful passage from Anne Lamott and remembered that ‘oh yes, I am so very far from being alone.’ I’m cheating a little and sharing the words of another. Beautiful, beautiful words.

Anne Lamott writes,

When people we can’t live without die, everyone likes to quote John Donne, “Death be not proud.” Yeah yeah yeah, thank you for sharing. My father died of brain cancer when he was seven years younger than I am now. He was my closest person. I did not love it. My best friend died years ago, leaving behind an 18 month old daughter. She was my closest person. I did not love it, or agree to it, and just barely survived it.

My darling friend Ann Brebner passed away early Friday. (You were so incredibly generous to donate to the fund for her home-care. Your generosity has given me such huge abiding hope in Goodness and miracles. We were down to almost no money. She accidentally spent her life creating and directing plays, loving us crazily, laughing and listening to music, giving to charity, instead of investing.)

Maybe this passing seems less death-y, as she was 93. But believe me, she had done the dying part, the closing-up-shop part, the leaving-us part, just like everyone has to do. It’s death 101 for everyone here on the incarnational side of things: we do it with no owner’s manual (Death for Dummies?) , and at the end, alone. If I were God’s West Coast representative, I would have a different system in place, i.e. less mysterioso Ouija board enigma. More grok-able My grandson stood nearby her at church as she sometimes painstakingly got out of our car. He always called her Ann Brevner, one word. “Hi, Annbrevner!” I told him Friday night that she had passed, and his mouth dropped open. “AnnBREVNER died?” he asked. Then, “I wonder what that’s like? Dying?”

So I thought I would tell you what I know, because this thing, this aspect of reality, this weird scary aspect of life, can just wreck everything if you don’t figure out at some point that it is what makes life so profound, meaningful, rich, complex, wild. If you try to outrun this existential truth, with manic achievement and people-pleasing and exotic distractions, it begins to argue a wasted life. Everyone we love–and I am just going to add, in a whisper, even our children and nieces and nephews–will die. They will no longer be here, on this side of eternity. We Christians see death as just being a fairly significant change of address, but still, our most cherished people will no longer be here, to have and to hold, or reach by phone.

This can kind of ruin everything. When my son was little, he asked if we would die at the exact same moment. When I said, No, probably not, he wept, and then said, “If I had known that, I wouldn’t have agreed to be born.”

Do you want to have instant meaning and incentive and almost heartbreaking appreciation in your life? Live, starting now–as if you have three months left. At some point, this will true. Tick tock.

But won’t death be scary? Annbrevner’s wasn’t. Just weird. Her death, like every passing I have witnessed, was beautiful, gentle, sometimes hard and confusing, and completely doable. At some point, for almost everyone, it is like being in labor. Especially if, like me, dilated 7 centimeters after 24 hours of labor, you realized you didn’t like children. But in both cases, birth and death, something beautiful is coming. Ram Dass said death would be like FINALLY getting to take off the too-small shoes we had been wearing our entire lives. Think of that. Getting to rub those sore arches and wiggle those baby toes, after all these year feeling cramped, like Chinese foot bound women, tiptoeing to minimize the pain.

But back to my grandson’s question, of what dying will be like, and why, I don’t think you need to be afraid:

So many people will surround you, your dearest family and friends, both the quick and the death–Ann’s father, who died fifty years ago was with her; her son who died last year was with her. And we were with her, encouraging and allowing her to be real, to share her deepest thoughts and and fears about what was happening to her, and how annoying liFe (and we) could be. The most important you can do if someone is dying? Show up; listen; nod.

And maybe even more important, we shared with each other our worries, memories, sorrow, impatience, and anxiety about the process, how much more, and much sooner, we could have done this or that. We showed up, we listened to each other, we told others how much we hated everything, and how much we loved each other, we listened some more, we nodded, and put the kettle on for tea.

We let each other complain and not know what we were doing. We tried to remember what we DID know: that the great cosmic Something had always been there before. That the Divine It had brought us and our beloved ones through ghastly loss, disappointment, and failure, against all odds. That crying and grieving heal us, cleanse us, baptize us, moisturize us, water the seeds hidden deep in the ground at our feet.

Our pastor came to anoint her the day before she died, not knowing if Ann’s home-going was an hour or a month away. Hospice was on hand to help with the pain. (If you know your person is dying, call Hospice. Once Hospice is on board, almost everything will sort itself out, I promise you–everything. Secret of life.

Every single person I have loved and lost had us around–their most beloved–and had Hospice, had the richest most astonishing love and sense of safety at the end. They had peace, like a river. Even if their death was sudden, Grace always bats last. They got to take off the tight shoes. They got their Get Out of Jail Free card.

Death? Be as proud as you want: bore me later, because Love is sovereign here. Life never ends. Joy comes in the morning. Glory hallelujah. And let it be so.

 

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Yes, even grief can be beautiful. And people who show up to wipe your tears and honor your loss are beautiful as well. Joy comes in the morning. The sun will still rise, God will still be present, we can still choose to get to living. After all, this thing called death is a part of it.

Psalms 34:18 is also beautiful too.

What Would Your 16 Year Old Self Say?

Thank you Facebook, for sharing memories with us every so often.

You know what I’m talking about – when the picture shows up at the top of your feed, only for you, for you to choose to share memories from ages ago.

Well this afternoon I was scrolling through my feed I was tickled by this photo that one of my acquaintances had posted from over ten years ago.

We had just earned second place at the Regional Tennis Match.

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Take a moment, try to identify me.

I just couldn’t stop looking at this photo. We look so little- in our cozy high school cocoon of academics and after-school sports. Our biggest stresses were grades and championship matches. We were so fresh to life – protected, loved, achievers. Boy was I an achiever.

And as I stared and stared at the photo, my thoughts trickled to this blog post which my mentor Teresa Funke wrote just this last week about expectations. My coaches here were the ones who believed in me before I ever did – I still attribute much of my success during that time frame to them.

And then I asked myself, “Would 16 year old Katie pictured here be proud of me today?” Would she think she lived up to her expectations? Would these coaches think that I’ve lived up to their expectations?

It’s an uncomfortable prospect for an overachiever like me, to think that I’ve maybe let some wise leaders in my life down. When I was 16 and that photo was taken I was going to go to a private liberal arts school, go travel the world, go to grad school, get the heck out of Fort Collins and show them all!

I tried liberal arts school and I hated it – I couldn’t stop crying so I came home and went to “State” school.

I left town and came running back at break neck speed – this town, this community is my home.

I married my college sweetheart and live twenty minutes away from my childhood home.

I have had a lot of jobs and most recently am in a career spot I never would have anticipated.

I think my 16 year old self would maybe be a little shocked by how her expectations have shifted, changed, and evolved.

Yet, as I sat at my desk this afternoon, still starting at the photo, I was thinking about just how important it is to be proud of myself – despite the detours, despite the frustrations, despite life-altering loss.

Expectations are wonderful, but not when they are harming your self-esteem and your self-worth. Instead, I want to be proud of my choices that I made that have led me to this point. To bask in the feeling of permission to take risks, double-back, fail a little, and still return to the practice of loving myself that sometimes gets muddied when I play the perfectionist game.

There is so much beauty in being proud of yourself. 

There are emails floating around about a ten year high school reunion – I see these and my stomach groans a little bit. No, I’m not a doctor, and I don’t have letters behind my name, and I haven’t lived abroad or in cities, like many of my classmates, but I am running my own race.

In the last ten years I’ve worked for nonprofits, raised money, changed lives. I’ve written this blog, became a wife, been a daughter to a grieving widow. Been a sister, a friend, a baker, a puppy owner. My choices may not have led me to my original expectations, but I can still stand and be proud of where I am today.

I was talking with my mom a few weeks ago about our very strong desire to be seen – for our talents and accomplishments and contributions to go noticed in the workplace and beyond. I don’t think that desire changes as we age.

Can we combine others expectations for us with those of our own and stand and say, “Why yes, I’m pretty damn proud of the choice to keep expecting to love myself through it all!”?

I agree with Teresa when she says, “So when you see talent, call it out. You may provide just the right amount of encouragement to a fellow artist when he/she needs it most. And when someone shows faith in you, don’t dismiss it. Sometimes others know better than we do of what we are capable!”

We never know how we are influencing the lives of others.

Can you be brave enough to return to seeing these things in yourself? Can you remember to hold onto your own faith in you? Would your 16 year old self be proud?