When Life Unravels

Beautiful power exists when we share our stories.

I have had the honor of writing for Invoke Magazine again, and today another installation goes live. For those who are interested in the beauty of sharing truth, being honest, and vulnerable in online spaces, here is my article.

3 Ways to Cope with Grief and Uncertainty (from Someone Who’s Been There)

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Thank you to Anna and Emily for the privilege of contributing again.

With love, bravery, courage and hope.

 

As Eeyore Says

IMG_4152As I was walking this afternoon, this thistle literally stopped me in my tracks. Stepping along, lost in my thoughts, the vibrant purple caught my eye and pulled me out of my spiraling fears.

Look at this living being, reaching up to the sky, yet covered in spikes to protect itself. Magnificently reflecting its own color at the top, despite its tough stem.

I don’t know about the science of thistles, nor the purpose of their evolutionary protection, but I do know this: this little plant reminded me to keep going, and hold my place in this world, thorns and all.

I know my posts have had a heavy tone lately, and for that I do not apologize. They reflect where I am at in life. This week, however, this damn thistle reminded me to be magnificently colorful despite the tough stuff. Look for levity, remember to search for the good, step outside of my own mind, and focus on the beauty that grows on top of the spiky thorns.

Here are a few beautiful things that brought a smile to my face this week.

  1. The Beatles cover bands. I so admire, well maybe admire is a strong word….. Appreciate. I appreciate grown men who are able to dress up like The Beatles and IMG_4154wear wigs, and practice hilarious Liverpool accents and play music to audiences in small towns. Watching people of many generations sing along to these classic songs while the performers wholeheartedly committed to the music of a previous generation warmed my heart. It was funny. They weren’t great, but their commitment to their performance made me laugh. Made me… appreciate.
  2. Playing Memory. I babysat my friends two kiddos – age 5 and age 6 – and I got to play Memory with them. Little toes on concrete floors, extreme joy at the match of character cards. It reminded me to get on the floor, get dirty, play and remember. PS – matching Captain Hook cards is much harder than it used to be. They refused to go to sleep, and giggled their way into their dreams. How long has it been since we have giggled into our dreams? Why, as adults, do we stop doing this?
  3. Chipotle Burritos. First thing – these burritos are delicious. Despite the fact that the owner gave the worst commencement speech I’ve ever heard at my own college graduation, they seem to have mastered the massive burrito. And when cooking feels like a chore, and the refrigerator is still empty from coming back from vacation, eating at Chipotle is a beautiful thing.

Keep looking for the beauty, feel what you feel, and honor those thorns.

But remember, as Eeyore says, “Thistles are flowers too.”

Float with the Wind

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Here in this valley we chose to leave my father’s ashes. Today we let him float with the wind, remembering that he no longer needs his body, that the spirit is what remains in our hearts and our memories. The concept of spreading ashes is an uncomfortable one, painful in release and a very permanent concept. And yet, through the tears, we were surrounded by beautiful community. The friends and family who have held our hands and wiped our tears and sent messages of peace and joy and comfort. Today I am thankful for the list of these beautiful people who joined us this afternoon.

The Wylie Family: John, Karen, Lauren, Leah

The Courtway Family: John, Claudia, Katy, Rob, Jenny, Heidi

Shaun Hoag & Dakota Lorenz

Pam Moore

Ron Morgan

For if you can not hold the hands of those you love as you face life’s challenges, it can be difficult to remember the beauty found in moving forward.

Too, I share these beautiful verses as a reminder that our lives are so much bigger than our own bodies can contain. That our purpose will be glorified in heaven. That beauty is to be found in releasing my dad to the wind, to remember that he is now connected in heaven, and we, too, can be free.

New Bodies – 2 Corinthians 5: 1-9

Dropping the Ball

Yup. I know it. Starting a blog post with a definition of a word is unoriginal and cliche. No hook to be found. So here I am, instead starting a blog post with a disclaimer about starting a blog post with a definition of a word. For therein lies the permission giving difference – I know what I am doing tonight here with these words, and I am ok with it.

Miriam Webster defines tonight’s word as such:

Grace 1a :  unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

And here is my interpretation of the word.

Grace 1a : The idea that we need to access forgiveness and get space from the divine for regeneration and revival.

2a: Room for putting down burdens and picking up rest.

3a: The idea that our efforts matter even when the end destination seems to be lost from sight.

This week I am trying to rest in the beauty of grace – in the unfinished business, our gentle work in-progress selves.

And so, I share with you here, my list of unfinished items and the beauty found in the dropped balls. The projects left unfinished, the things dropped when juggling priorities becomes a little bit overwhelming. Here are a few balls that have been rolling around on my spiritual floor.

  • Laundry – three piles sit on our guest bed waiting to be folded, hung up in closets. Instead I will pick casually out of the piles each morning, until once again, the clothes need to be washed.
  • It’s Tuesday – I usually write on Mondays, I missed last week, and I’m a day late for this week’s post.
  • I still haven’t finished our honeymoon scrapbook – our 2 year anniversary is looming closer.
  • I’ve taken a new job that is in a different industry that is slightly outside of my passion zone. I remind myself that the choice to provide for our family is ok – not all of my work needs to align with a passion. Still, at times, feels like a mysterious detour that doesn’t quite yet make sense.
  • I need a haircut and my eyebrows need waxing. My mother never nags me about anything – never a ‘What are you doing with your life?’ or a ‘Pick up your room.’ Instead, she just reminds me, ‘your eyebrows need waxing’. And right now, they do.
  • I’m out of stamps.
  • Dog toys cover our carpet and the puppy has figured out how to perch upon our hot tub. My arms are covered in claw marks and she needs her toenails cut.

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I list these shortcomings as if to say, “I see you. I accept you. I am working on you. You roll around on the floor there where I can see you – dropped ball of yet to finish tasks.” To remember that despite the unfinished to-do lists, and the feelings of continued uncertainty, things continue to be moving along ok.

There is beauty found when I tap into grace – whether from a divine source or the gentle push away from my perfectionist self that is striving, perhaps too much right now, to get it all right. Help me regenerate and beautifully revive, in the mysterious process of dropping some ‘frickin balls.

Lessons from the Big Apple

I’ve been posting less frequently, and for that I do apologize. However, the energy typically reserved for writing about the process of seeking beauty has been filled with self-care, reminders to practice gentle acceptance, and travel. A little bit of travel.

I’m no expert in grief; yet I’ve heard it said when you experience a loss, people often travel. They want to get away from the place where life was shared with a loved one, where memories and unanticipated triggers lurk around neighborhood corners, seep out from radio speakers in love songs, and smack you overhead as you eat dinner at an old favorite restaurant. I can understand this sentiment and we, too, sought respite from the reminders. Our family has planned some travel this year, and last weekend we ventured to New York City – a place full of wonderful diversity, adventure, and distraction.

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Being from Northern Colorado, it is not a surprise that diversity, true diversity, is lacking in my home community. One subway ride in New York City, and I was exposed to more types of people than I ever am back at home. I found myself thinking as we rode the train from Uptown to Midtown, how much of a beautiful phenomenon it is that I can come together and share a train ride with people so very different than myself. Yet, for fifteen to twenty minutes, we had something in common – our desire to move from here to there – even if the “there” destination was different. I liked knowing, feeling, this human connection that we all have purpose, if only in the need to get from here to there.

Those subway trains are magic – kinda like a time-traveling tube of metal – it is an amazing system that moves thousands of people every day. Each time we climbed the steps up from underground, into the bright sunlight, I had to take a moment to orient myself to our new location. I found myself getting bumped and prodded as our group would move to the side of the street – trying to navigate where to go next. When you are an individual in a constant flood of people, it is easy to shy away, step back, move to the side.

About half way through our trip, though, I had another realization:

“You know what?” I thought to myself, “I have just as much right to take up space as any other human here.”

And this realization changed my whole approach to the rest of our time in the city. Sure, I can be kind, and polite, and patient – but I, too, deserve a spot on that train. New Yorkers have a bad reputation for being pushy, assertive, and bold to a fault. Yet they fill their space with confidence. I can be brave and bold and share my story without hesitation. If you spend your time waiting for others to let you in, you are going to get left out. Jump in, forge ahead, push to the front of the line.

I realized just how out of character the idea of being first is for me. Both my brother and my husband made fun of me as I anxiously pushed to the front of the line at NBC Studios.

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We entered the lottery to see Jimmy Fallon and for months I looked forward to the event. So when I dragged my family to the sign-in location twenty minutes early, and pushed to the front of the doors of the studio with herds of other people, my brother yelled, “Katie, you are going to have to sit without us!” I kept charging ahead, looking back and responding “Come on! We are going to make this happen!” Yes, we all did get to sit together, and no, I wasn’t in the front row. But I carved out my space for myself in a famous location, with laughter in my heart and confidence in my step.

There is beauty in changing up the scenery of your life. Beauty in traveling, in pondering in different spaces, and in coming to the realization that yes, in a city of over eight million people, you matter too.

Sippin’ On the Porch

It’s hot. While the official start of summer is still a few days away, the temperatures here are creeping incredibly close to 100 degrees. The itchy, sticky kind of heat that causes your legs to stick to your seat, and your sheets to remain pulled back when you sleep. I suppose I don’t have much to whine about – we do not live in Arizona, and Colorado’s humidity is typically low, but nevertheless, I’m hot.

With this heat comes porch time. Maybe you’ve come home from work, and the summer sun still is flirting with the horizon. You grab a cold beverage, and you sit on the porch. This last week I’ve started to embrace porch time, and with it, the conversations that flow while sharing a beverage. This week, rather than delving into the deeper side of human searching, I’m going to share a few recipes and recommendations for things to sip on in the summer.

May your porch time be beautiful.

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White Wine Sangria

I enjoyed two glasses of this concoction at a gathering this weekend. I am sneaking this family recipe and sharing with the world wide web. I will not disclose my source – but seriously delicious. Note – btl = bottle. Hope you have friends to share with.


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Watermelon Agua Fresca

A refreshing break from soda and sugar, this drink is made with only five ingredients. My mother-in-law made this for us this weekend, and I quickly slurped it up. You can find the recipe from Dr. Axe here. No alcohol needed.


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New Belgium’s Heavy Melon

At first I was hesitant to try the newest seasonal release from Fort Collins’ favorite, New Belgium Brewing. Watermelon? In beer? However, I quickly became a convert to this sweet and tart beer. Perfect for sitting in the sun and chatting with friends. Can be purchased wherever New Belgium beers are sold.


 

Streams with a Pulse

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Every summer my family drives south on Highway 285 towards Creede, Colorado. Each time we drive past the majestic Great Sand Dunes and glance out in the distance someone suggests, “Hey, we really should stop by and see the Dunes.”

“Next year,” someone replies, “we will make it a point to go.”

Well this year, when life drastically changed, my family made it a point to go. Rather than combining our always postponed adventure with our annual trip to Creede, my mom, brother, husband and I went down to Salida and spent Memorial Weekend resting in the beauty of Southern Colorado. While the Dunes were not our primary destination, the Park did become a highlight of our trip.

When you arrive at the Dunes, you have to cross over the Medano Creek before you can explore the sand itself. There is a phenomenon that occurs in this natural space. They call it Surge Flow – Streams with a Pulse, and describe it like this,”Three elements are needed to produce the phenomenon: a relatively steep gradient to give the stream a high velocity; a smooth, mobile creekbed with little resistance; and sufficient water to create surges. In spring and early summer, these elements combine to make waves at Great Sand Dunes. As water flows across sand, sand dams or antidunes form on the creekbed, gathering water. When the water pressure is too great, the dams break, sending down a wave about every 20 seconds.”

As my mom and I sat on the banks of the creek, taking off our shoes and socks in preparation for our crossing, we shed tears in remembrance of my dad. This was our first family vacation without him, and his absence was tangible in our aching hearts and our photos. Mom and I held hands as we ventured into the shallow water together, and made it half way across. I looked up, into the valley, and the moment my eyes moved away from where my feet were headed, the sand beneath my toes shifted. A giant surge flow was gushing water towards us, sifting the foundation beneath our feet. The pressure was too great on the creekbed, a small dam had broken.

I found this moment to be incredibly spiritual. The pressure of loss, of grief, of previously held stability had built up in my life, and has continually caused my feet to shift in incredibly confusing ways. Standing in the water I was experiencing the physical manifestation of high velocity and little resistance. Spiritually though, I was tugged to ask, ‘what am I resisting?’

The answer included the resistance of the change that comes with loss, the reinvention that comes when family dynamics morph without a figure head. Huge questions of direction and purpose and the point of ‘all of this’ when things you had built crumbled to pieces. Standing in that shifting sand made me remember that I need to allow the dams to break, and the waves to flow – to let my foundation rearrange itself to make the beautiful mountains next to me.

As the water flowed past, and the speed of the water slowed, I could again look up. I remembered I have loving hands to hold, and my own ability to lift my eyes to the mountains. I realize I am still standing and that is a beautiful thing.

Psalm 121:1 – “I lift up my eyes towards the mountains – from where does my help come from?”

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Let the surge flows break you, let them change you and shift you, and mold you into the beautiful person you are meant to be. Natures healing powers are beautiful things.