Author: Katie Huey

Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.

I added a 4-pack of marigolds to my growing selection of plants in the cart on Saturday. The orange blooms are supposed to help with pests and pollinators and look pretty in my square of dirt. We came home and dug holes for tomato starts and zucchini and cucumbers co-workers previously grew with care. Out poked the green shoots and leaves that will transform energy into happiness later this year.

It was risky, putting those plants in the ground. I knew the forecast was calling for rain and rain in May often turns to snow in May and still I was stubborn. Full of hope for my little seeds had sprouted and I wanted to get them warm and cozy in their dirty bed.

We put in the flowers too.

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And just like the weather said, it started raining. I chickened out and brought my peppers and tomato stalks inside. Now my bathroom floor is full of pots waiting once again in the dark. We slept and it poured.

And tonight, just as they said, the rain is turning to snow. Damn. We got out the trash bags and pots and buckets, covering my little guys to attempt to keep out the cold. I could see my marigolds trembling, their little petals looking up saying “Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.” And I whispered “Good night, you’ll do great. Try to stay warm.” 

And I came inside.

Also happening in my life is the slow demise of my iPhone Six. Here comes a first world rant as I know my privileged problems are small in the grand scheme of things.

For months my phone hasn’t updated. No storage. Countless problems with the operating system. First went the feature of mobile deposits. Then no room for Spotify. Which is more important – King Soopers coupons or Starbucks. Trivial questions and simple choices, yes, and still very obnoxious. I paid for more storage – still no luck. Deleted photos. Archived emails. Desperately asked the kind folks at Verizon for help.

“It’s never going to update,” said the nice sales lady “There’s just no more space on your phone.”

I looked up at her, shaking like those marigolds, thinking “Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.”

The phone is only five years old! Technology be damned, if Apple wanted to be so innovative and the world is going to crap, shouldn’t we be able to sustainably use our very expensive devices until the end of time?

Nope. Not that innovative.

So after the research and the Youtube reviews, I found myself once again standing at the Verizon counter with a pretty package and an expensive new computing device to use for my texts and my photos, and the occasional phone call. The world’s information is at my fingertips and I needed to make sure I could have a head phone jack instead. Spoiled, yes.  I stood drawn in, addicted, and raddled looking for solutions to my technological deprivation. I made a choice and signed a contract.

As the same sales woman placed the new box in my hand, my heart started to drop.

“I knew this was going to happen,” I whispered to myself as I walked out of the store. My grief gremlin climbed out of my pocket and hopped into my hand. “Oh hello,” I murmured as her feathers started poking my hand.

This new phone will never receive a text from my dad. There will be no new photos of him and his phone number won’t live in my contacts.  I already lost his texts. But this device he will never even impact. No yahoo jokes. No butt dials. No bad connection calls.

A phone became a trigger and Apple’s planned obsolescence moved me further away from him.

There are lots of endings this week. Game of Thrones came to a close – I didn’t watch it but he did. So will Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. Cultural movements that made up much of the last ten year’s pop culture just stopped. I didn’t expect them to last forever – I just didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did when they were done.

Our good friends who we met just months after losing Dad are moving hours away. We said good-bye to them too.

Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.

Life moves on and things change. These changes are joyous and hard and even the best news and exciting devices can suck the breath right out of your lungs.

Like those little plants in my garden, being transplanted into new chapters of life can feel shocking and cold. It’s risky putting new roots in new places.

And yet, we have blankets, and buckets, and cups of tea to protect us. And I hope when the snow melts, beautiful orange petals and green leaves will keep turning their faces to the sun.

Shows end, we upgrade, they move, and we still we tuck ourselves in, saying with kindness to reflections in the mirror, “Good night, you’ll do great. Try to stay warm. The snow may melt tomorrow.”

That hope is a beautiful thing.

Pink Threads

Remember the game Telephone? Someone starts with a quirky sentence and whispers the story to the person sitting next to them. Then that person, who likely messed up a word or two, whispers their recollection to the person sitting next to them, and on and on it goes until at the end, some new configuration of a previously silly sentence holds loose, small connections to how you began.

You giggle and shrug your shoulders and say, ‘Wait a minute? What did we start with exactly?” And what did she say that got us here?

I’ve been thinking of the messages I’m getting on womanhood, on mothering, on expectations of my complex and powerful sex and wondering, “What exactly, did I start with?”

My grandmother was born at home weeks premature. They wrapped her in cotton batting and covered her in olive oil, laying her to sleep in a shoe box.  She was that tiny. Her resilience came on day one, and day two, and day three as she grew proving the odds wrong. I come from small but feisty stock.

Jump seventy years ahead and join me as I sat with my two girl cousins as late teenagers. Young women, as they say.  Also present at the outdoor table are my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother who filled in my story as their relationships stitched together foundations for my formative years.

Stich-stich-stich- went the pink thread.

In unbalanced iron chairs my cousins and I rolled our eyes as we were told, we did not, like Grandma wished, inherit her bone structure, but rather my grandfather’s stocky German bones. We may have her strong spirit, but I got my grandfather’s thicker wrists.

And as we bounced along through time and I spent time with my now aging grandmother she’s started telling me stories. Of nights with martinis at fancy office parties, or the horrific boss who chased her around a desk. The things I watched on Mad Men were her life. I stand on tiny shoulders and work with the knowledge that when sexual harassment shows up at work, I can bravely do something about it. She raised four kids, made hundreds of hamburgers, worked, and always said, “You can pay the doctor or you can pay the grocer” so fresh vegetables were on the table every night.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread

And as we jump again and I’m standing on the cold clay tiles of our kitchen floor in the house where I lived until I was thirteen. I can hear myself groaning as the summer sun danced through the front window. “Gazpacho salad again?” I’d whine. Vegetables – fresh and seasoned – were present on my plate.

“Eat up” my mom would say as her working contributions to our household turned into nourishment for my growing body. I’d take a bite and with each crunch of cucumber ingest my grandmother’s values at the table.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread.

As a young girl I had so many evenings around a kitchen table with people who loved me. My mom took the best of her mother’s lessons and imparted them in me. How to make a pie crust is important. As is the presence of formal dishes and fancy settings at a holiday affair.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread.

Time jump again and I’m 24 years old, registering for wedding gifts. “No china?!” my mom proclaimed loudly in the very public restaurant we were sitting in.

“No.” I stubbornly said, “We don’t have room for china. And I’ll just inherit a bunch of plates later.” Our voices escalated to the point where our concerned waitress came over and asked if we were ok.

We toned it down.

Time jump again and I learned at the age of 27 that you don’t inherit china when your dad dies. Instead, you witness a weeping mother with hunched shoulders sitting next to the Christmas tree. It was the first round of holidays without him and I wished I had some fancier fucking plates.

I put out some cheese, cut up some pears, and put them on the only piece of Tiffany’s anything gifted to me as an engagement present. The platter would have to do. Then our sink broke leaving Mom and my husband washing dishes in our bath tub by hand because, as I’ve been told, real men know how to help out with dishes in whatever room they may need to be washed.

Stich-stich-stich went the pink thread.

This past weekend, at nine o’ clock pm, my mom kissed me on the cheek and said, “You must be tired. You planned two Mother’s Days this year.” Her statement caught me off guard and then I nodded.

I did. Yes, I did. Because my mother taught me to show people they matter. Showing up is important. Taking care of others is vital and making them feel special is an added bonus I’ve taken on. Nurturing comes easy to me because my mom nurtured me so very well. And I’m rather exhausted. For the family work of connection and celebration has now fallen to me.

Stich-stich-stich goes the pink thread.

And at the age of thirty, as everyone keeps asking me about children and babies and my aging ovaries I simmer and switch between maybe and no way, not yet. How does one know they are ready to become a mother? My grandmother didn’t have the choice to control all those blessings like I do. Many states now are trying to take that choice away.

So I pause and I jump back through time and I wonder:

Grandma – What sentence did you start with in our game of telephone? We’ve taken your words and your dreams and your vision and kept the stitches going, sewing new stories in our own ways.

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I’m thankful for the pink threads connecting us all as we continue to love each other, no matter what words jumble up the sentences of where we started.

Mother’s Day weekend just passed and I’m thankful for beautiful and brave choice my grandma made to be a mother. For my own mom who knows the power of magic in thoughtful gifts and just the right words to bring comfort to my fears. I’m thankful for my mother-in-law who shaped my husband and accepted me with open arms at her table. These women. These stories. These sentences. Beautiful things that leave me here, stitching together sentences for you.

 

 

May Favorite Things – 2019

There is snow on the ground. Welcome to spring in Colorado.

Where the weather keeps you guessing and you can’t quite put away those sweaters just yet.

I’m dreaming of sun dresses and sipping peppermint tea and sending you my favorite things this month.

  1. Rob Bell’s book What We Talk About When We Talk About God
    A really compelling argument about how our conversations are evolving. I keep telling everyone about this book.
  2. Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Boost Root Lifter
    I’m not a big beauty (like cosmetic, hair, nails, beauty products) gal. Typically my routine includes a shower, a bit of mascara and a good hair tie. BUT this past weekend I cut my hair to my shoulders and need a bit of help with styling my new ‘do. This product smells lovely, adds volume, and doesn’t leave me feeling crunchy or grimy at the end of the day.
  3. Brene’ Brown’s Netflix special
    Keep watching all the way to the end. Her story about her daughters swim meet brought me to tears. So much of life is like that swim meet.
  4. Peas and Beans and Lettuce
    We planted some of our cool weather plants and I’m very excited. Look for frost resistant varieties of seeds and get your gardens started. Especially if there isn’t snow at your house.
  5. Strawberry Bubly Water
    Remember Michael Buble’s Superbowl ad? It was clever. When my boss brought in this sparkling water, I said, ‘sure – let’s give it a try.’ And the strawberry variety is delicious. Watch out La Croix. Bubly is going to give you a run for your money. Especially in my office.

May your May be warm and sunny.

 

A Both Mindset

Easter. Resurrection weekend. It’s hard to absorb the magnificent power of Christ rising from the grave.

When people die, your people, my people, they are … well… dead.

And dead, my friends, is forever.

I went to Good Friday service this year because I’m finding comfort in the death part. I find comfort knowing Jesus doubted, just like you and me, and can tangibly connect to the excruciating circumstances present for those left behind on the hill that day standing in the dark shadows of the cross. I relate to the onlookers to suffering, those wiping their tears from a distance. I liked sitting in those creaky, auditorium-church seats and feeling connected with the very human problem of the chaos, confusion, and uncertainty coming from death.

I couldn’t go to Sunday service. Not this year. The resurrection – its very nuts and bolts – feel too far away and out of reach. Dead people stay dead right?

Wrong.

I guess.

I’ve been reading Rob Bell’s book What We Talk About When We Talk About God. His thoughts on human’s beautiful attempts to use of language, science, facts, faith and reasoning to grapple with the mysteries of an old story full of spiritual truth is really making me think. Perhaps, Rob suggests, the way we try to explain a living, vibrant, breathing, present God is a bit outdated.

“Mhmm”, I nodded along. “Mhmm”.

Rob walks readers through a series of six words and evokes critical thinking and a willingness to suspend the need to know. I got caught up in his “Both” chapter.

Perhaps both science and religion can co-exist. Perhaps God lives in both suffering and joy. Perhaps we can know all kinds of cool, hard scientific facts and still not quite know what happens when atoms merge and collide in a fancy research center in Switzerland … er is it France? CERN. Google it.

Enlightening. Expansive. And a little unclear. Right?

I went to yoga on Tuesday night. Before class began, my teacher shared about her trip to Tennessee. In her storytelling she lowered her head and said nine simple words.

“Yeah,” she said, “I just really needed to see my dad.”

And right there on the mat, my heart sank.

She’s in her late 30’s and still needs her dad. I do too. But my dad died.

And where does that leave me?

I put my hands up to prayer pose, took a deep breath, and honored the hole in my heart still working on sealing.

I wish, my friends and readers, I could step away from this grief stuff.

Every week I keep saying to myself, just focus on the good things, the beautiful, the light. Perhaps people are getting sick of tuning in to my pain.

And I can’t.

Rob Bell also shares in his book on page 110:

“The question then,
the art,
the task,
the search,
the challenge,
the invitation is for you and me to become more and more the kind of people who are aware of the divine presence, attuned to the ruach, present to the depths of each and every moment, seeing God in more and more people, places and events, each and every day.”

Exactly what I’m trying to do here.

So yes, I’m sad. And I’m noticing. I’m doing both.

 

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Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

I see divine in the bowing sunflowers in a vase, in the red robins bouncing through my street, and the spray of freshly ground flour settling on my black countertops. Beauty in the questions and the words we use to grasp at answers. Beauty in intense emotion and in those willing to walk with me through, not out-of, this process.

Beauty in the lessons coming straight from my experience with pain, for God is creating a BOTH mindset in me.

 


In other news, I just launched my personal website. Check it out at www.katiehuey.com

Priming the pump

I’m doing a bit of behind the scenes work these days. Some is fun, other tasks feel maddening.

I’m on tech support chat lines and creating brainstorming diagrams, meeting with creativity consultants and charging my credit card as I invest in me and a small dream of a little business.

And I have an important question.

If I sent out e-blasts with updates about neat events, fun products, where I’m teaching and speaking, would you want to be on the list?

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I’m sure you get hundreds of emails a day.  Could I add one more (besides this one) to your list?

I’ll have more updates rolling out in the next few weeks – gauging interest for now. If you want to be on the e-updates list to never miss a musing of mine, please send me an email with your name and best contact email to 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com.

Thanks for your input – I’m heading back into the land of DNS and domain mapping now.

 

For Tonight

It was a heavy weekend. As I processed deeply yesterday, I’m challenging myself to once again focus on all the good and beautiful things existing right alongside my heaviness.

Things like ….

Dried rosemary fronds mixing into batter for scones

Fresh cut flowers arranged by talented florists

Dirt moving in tines of rakes

Puppy breath fogging up my computer screen

Hot showers

Peppermint tea

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Conversations mumbled across kitchen tables

Those who care to listen

Fingers intertwined, sitting on the arm of old wooden chairs in the tiny amphitheater

Waffle cones

Banana, chocolate, oreo

Loud, long, laughter

Natural peanut butter oozing on a spoon fresh out of the jar

Eyes blinking with a nod of understanding

Spotify

The speed of email

Love notes

Seeds sprouting

Ribbons blowing in the wind

Here are my beautifuls for tonight. What’s on your list?

 

 

 

Things We Try to Cover

The previous owners of our house loved color. A different one for each room.

When I got the phone call my dad died, I was working in my plum purple bedroom.

I passed tan stairs as I staggered down the stairs and leaned against mustard yellow basement walls to call my boss and spread the horrible news.

I kept working in my off-putting “home-office” for a few weeks more. I sat by myself, staring at the pillars, willing two contrasting colors to blend as my eyes glazed over with inability to concentrate.  Mustard yellow and sky blue will not blend. Their stark contrast refuses to budge and kept reminding me of the day he died.

And then I lost my job. And time kept moving.

I had to reclaim my bedroom and cover the purple with a lighter shade of wasabi green last summer.  The primary colors remained in the basement and I hated being down there.

I’ve been nagging about the walls in the basement for a few months. For some reason, after three years, I was ready to turn my attention to reclaiming my creative space. Dylan and my in-laws helped me rip down, paint, and repurpose the old cabinets. They hang on fresh drywall in our built-out laundry room.  I’ve picked up a roller and Dylan cut in, covering spaces where ceiling and wall and floor and carpet meet.

We need four gallons of “Veil White” Behr paint to cover up the hideous mustard yellow and sky blue. One coat will not cut it. Two may be insufficient as well. Despite primer and luxuriously plush roller sponges, the old is still infiltrating the new.

As we apply the silky liquid, I keep thinking no matter what we do, that gnarly yellow will still be there, underneath our applications of white.

With each arm extension and application of the brush I am not erasing the grief nor the trauma created as shock moved through my back and into the radiant walls.  The yellow remains under fresh layers, a muted witness to where I once stood, shaken and weeping. I cried as I rolled blue to white, wishing Dad was here to remind me to add more paint to my roller. More tears came for the beautiful truth that I’m capable of transforming this pain. Whispering to myself and my experience, ‘Take that – this grief need not be the top layer forever.’

As I painted, our garden sat ready and waiting for love and attention. Six months ago we filled our little plot with all kinds of leaves. We dragged in detritus and waited – hoping the simple act of covering would encourage nature to do its thing, turning the leaves into something useful.

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This morning, Dylan threw four bags of soil on top of the crunchy pile and set about to mix and mulch two forms of earth together. Our rototiller machine failed to break up the mounds which had not, like we’d hoped, decomposed in time. Our attempts to cover failed. Too much matter remained.

I got out the shovel and he the rake, and we moved mound after mound of material into the green trash toter. The more we removed, the less resistance we faced and the fresh soil was able to mix with the old organic material. Rake, sweat, stomp, mash, repeat- all to prepare the pile for its next life.

Dylan did the math. We still need more cubic feet of soil to sufficiently cover the leaves and turn the mixture into something capable of growth.

We can’t cover our pain. It has to move and mix and honor the layers it added to our lives. We can, however, transform it.

We can use handcrafted brushes, and cushy rollers, and salty tears from our hearts or crumbling earth and warm, wooden rakes and heavy-handled shovels to do the lifting. The chemical components of what you started with still remain. Traces of previous layers compound adding thickness and texture to your heart.

And clean slates and fresh plots of earth come together, eager and waiting for what you will create next from your new form. What a beautiful thing.