Author: Katie Huey

March Favorite Things – 2019

Last weekend I went to visit an old friend who is now living in Portland. She’s not old … our friendship is. We bonded in middle-school. She was tall for her age and kinda shy. I was chubby and terrified to talk to people. In the eighteen years I’ve known her we’ve hit thousands of tennis balls, lived together, fought about boys and my messy shoes. We’ve written letters, sent care packages, had bouts of silence, and made attempts to re-connect. We’ve wrestled with faith, sipped cocoa with cream, and played Harry Potter on the winding staircase in the architecture building where our college boyfriends did arts and crafts … er… made their models two floors above us. She sent me my favorite grief card.

Decades of friendship is a gift. It takes time, work, and a lot of vulnerability. The dance of reconnecting is so worth it.

When I stepped out of the airport, wet Portland air embraced me. There she was waiting, jumping up and down to get my attention as the sea of Subaru’s passed by. I got in the car and she informed me our first stop would be Pips Original. Donuts and flights of chai? Yes, please.

This month I’m reminiscing of weekend get-aways and sharing my favorites from my trip.  Take a moment to send a note to your old friend. Take a risk, pick up the phone, buy a plane ticket. Perhaps to Portland. Enjoy.

  1. The Dirty Wu Donut from Pips 

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Cinnamon, sugar, raw honey with Nutella and sea salt ( 11:00) Need I say more?

2. Red Flags – The Game of Terrible Dates

Played this hilarious card game in a cider bar. Think Apples to Apples meets The Dating Game. Who would you rather date?

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3. Jacobsen Salt Co. Caramels

More beautiful salt. My friend said she gifts this hand-harvested sea salt to anyone who comes into town. I spent a bit of time exploring their multitude of beautiful spices and seasonings.  They also have delicious caramels that you can taste fo’ free. Go with the original. It’s the best.

4. Beanies

Everyone wears knit caps in Portland, perched on top of their head. So, of course, I had to get one to fit in. It was cold and raining. My frizzy hair needed a friend. I bought one at a cute little booth in a flea market offering all kinds of vintage goods. The sign said hand-made. While mine is NOT Carhartt, plenty of people do wear that brand. Get this one. You’ll fit right in.

5. Blackwing Pencils

When bouncing in and out of many stationary stores (such an introspective city, so many creatives journaling) I was impressed by these beautiful pencils. I think I shall save my pennies and put these on my wish list. Look at the erasers. So neat! Use these pencils to write that letter to your old friend. Reconnect. Get going.

Crying in Church

I’ve only heard God speak to me once before.

Seven words imprinted on my soul as I sat in a big stone church in Tacoma, Washington where I couldn’t stop crying. I was eighteen and had spent three months trying to adjust to my freshman year of college.

You are coming home for a reason, he whispered.

I didn’t know then what the heck that meant. I only knew I felt I had made a horrible choice in going to school so far away from home. I knew I wouldn’t stay and I hated the Pacific Northwest, and the rain wouldn’t stop, and I was ready for my mom to come and get me.

A few days later, I dropped out of the picturesque private school and my mom arrived with boxes to move me back across the country. I tried.

God told me I was coming home.

Years passed and I went to college an hour away from where I grew up. I spent time with my family and met a boy and as you know, the rest is history.

And then we lost him.

And things got murky.

And I began to wonder, ‘Is this the reason God was telling me about all those years ago?’

I like to think yes, yes that’s what God meant. I came home to bend and to grow, to meet my husband, to learn about family. Mostly, I wonder if he meant I came home to spend time with Dad.

This weekend I sat in a quirky auditorium and listened to denim-wearing hipsters with big beards play beautiful worship music on well-worn guitars. The building was much different than the stone church a few hundred miles north that I sat in years ago.

I joke I know worship songs created up until 2011, when my church-going became more sporadic. My friend told me she often doesn’t recognize the songs because the worship band writes the lyrics themselves. No wonder I didn’t recognize the tunes.

As they sang of God turning ashes into new life, and sorrow to joy, I felt it again.

God talking directly to me.

This I will do for you.

Despite my best attempts to swallow up emotion, tears started slowly rolling down my face. In a dark auditorium I wiped at my eyes and smeared my tears on my sleeves, turning my chin down so people I just met wouldn’t see.

I’m having trouble believing transformation is possible.  I want this whisper to be true.  The sorrow we carry will morph, lift and change, and the ashes we’ve spread will turn to joy.

I’m not sure I believe him, but I heard God again. Whispering loudly to me.

I was crying in church. What a beautiful thing.

Woke Up to Grey

I woke up to grey. We left the curtains drawn this morning and the light wasn’t making it through. The alarm buzzed and I kept pressing snooze. I pressed snooze a lot. Waking on cold mornings is so much harder than in the summer.

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I turned back the covers, sat upright, put two feet on the floor. I looked out the window and watched the snow swirl. Flakes weren’t really falling, just dancing about in dry air, refusing to stick to the cold ground.

Shuffled down stairs and put on the coffee. Swatted at the dog as she bounded to the front door, knocking me sideways with her excitement. Her little tail wagged, an ever-present reminder of new days worthy of rejoice.

Pressed grounds, poured steaming liquid, stirred in cream and watched dairy rise to the surface of my cup. Wrapped hands around my mug and sat down to pray.

I was distracted by the scene unfolding across the street. A little girl ran out of the garage, her rainbow-colored backpack covering her tiny frame from shoulders to knees. Wearing purple pants and a bright pink tutu, she jumped up and down, up and down, up and down. Time to go to school.

Next surfaced the tired mother with baby carrier in tow. She set down the infant and instructed the jumper to go around the car and get in her seat. The weary woman lifted the baby and herself in the car, careful not to close her baggy pajama pants in the car door.

Reverse lights came on and the car crept down the driveway. As they passed my window, the mother stuck her electric toothbrush in her mouth, multi-tasking like a champ. I laughed out loud.

“It’s hard here,” as Anne Lamott says, and the every-day tedium seems as such. Boring, repetitive, cold. Hard.

So, we shove our hands in our pockets and our toothbrushes in our mouths and we get back to it. To our families, to our work, to the poop piling up in the backyard. But this morning, as we started our days, snow danced, coffee swirled, tails wagged, and little girls jumped in pink tutus. Perhaps this is where the magic lives. In the swirling, the rising milk, the wagging. Beauty exists in the every-day, ordinary cold.

Slow down. Stop moving so fast. Take a breath. What else can you see when you wake up to grey?

Frisee and Calloused Skin

I’ve been sitting on my hands. Have you ever tried to walk forward while your arms are pinned under your seat? It’s impossible. In order for your butt to literally move forward, you have to have your hands at your side.

For the last three years, my fists have been clenched. They’ve stayed under me, or in my lap, warped fingers holding in the hurt of grief and the negative self-talk of not-quite-good enough to get over this enormous thing that happened to us.

While caring people have been helping me unfurl my fingers wound tight, I’ve been sitting, still on pause. Waiting for news, waiting for opportunity for my husband, waiting for the next shoe to drop. If my hands are balled tight, I can punch the next bout of pain away.

While poised to punch, I’ve been missing out. I know, last month I wrote a long list of steps I’ve planned and the lists of living accomplishments I’m hoping to step into this year. It’s easy to run away and retreat in the mountains and to seek companionship with crashing waves and old friends over steaming mugs and stormy skies.

What’s been harder for me is learning how to be me in my community – the one I grew up in, the one that shaped me, the one where we lost him and I still remain.

I started my career in nonprofit development. I’ve learned, oddly enough, I love raising money. I’m good at making funds flow in by telling stories to tug heart strings and change lives. Social work matters to me. And since Dad’s death, I had to step away from philanthropy. This morning, after three years out of that scene, I drove to a fundraising luncheon with the ladies who lunch. I read a book in my car as I waited – I had arrived fifteen minutes early. Chit-chat be damned – I was hiding as long as I could.

The minutes ticked as I turned pages and finally, I put on red lipstick matching my heels and walked into the grand ballroom. I scanned the crowd behind my big sunglasses and searched for my “before people” – the ones who knew me pre-death. I avoided eye contact with a few and found a comfortable seat with old friends in the distance.

I asked the networking questions and I ate my plate of greens (Really people, frisee should be forbidden from public lunches. How do you get all those loose fronds in your mouth without looking like a fool?)

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I watched as the videos scrolled and participants shared their stories of change. I got out my checkbook and I made a donation. I felt my fingers move from under my booty to my sides – thankful for my current job and it’s ability to give me a few extra dollars to donate to cause I believe in.

I felt a part of something bigger than me.

This question of fit has been with me for awhile now, taunting asks of ‘How do I stay and grow in a place I’ve lived in for thirty years when I feel and act so differently?’ When I posed this question to my mom, she responded, “Katie, I’ve had four lives in the 30 years we’ve lived here. You can be new here too.”

One need not move across the country to step into freshly grown skin.

Grief rips up your carefully calloused skin. The questions you ask and the tears you cry scrub away dead layers of you-ness previously known to others. In this excruciating process you grow beautifully precious and painfully raw skin.

I’m out in public again, giving money rather than raising it. I’m protective of this fragile layer of self-defense and take care to honor my newness. I’m trying re-entry and writing checks. When I catch myself clenching, I smile and relax my hands, putting them once again at my side.

I face my palms open, ready to receive, pause and then I stand.

What a beautiful thing.

February Favorite Things – 2019

It’s quite cold out there. If you are in the U.S. you know its way beyond freezing. Unless you live in Colorado and it’s a balmy 30 degrees. This month I’m sharing things that warm my heart and my bones. Stay warm out there.

  1. The Color of Life: A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice by Cara Meredith

I’ve had the pleasure of being on Cara Meredith’s launch team for her new book coming out on February 5th! Sharing stories from her own journey and interracial marriage, she reflects on big questions of race, religion, and accepting our own limitations when it comes to world view. I love how she mixes history, statistics, and grace to weave a beautiful narrative of her own experience. Pick up a copy – you won’t be disappointed.

2. Applesauce in the Crockpot

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Photo Credit – Jess Larson

Apparently my mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid. I was never a fan when I was little. However, last Sunday I used this recipe and a bunch of jazz apples to make delicious applesauce. I eat it hot with oatmeal. Dylan eats it cold, right out of the jar, standing in front of the fridge. You may eat it however you like. Need a crockpot? I like this one.

3. Twinings Sleep Tea

I bought this box of tea when we were in London and surprise, found it in the bottom of my duffel that I just ..erm.. finally put away this past week. A bonus souvenir! This delightful smelling tea calms my nerves at the end of the day at puts me right to sleep. Perfect for those Sleepytime loyalists who want to try something new.

4. Maldon Salt

Do you have foodie friends? I have one that always blows me away with her amazing gifts of hospitality. At dinner the other night, she sprinkled beautiful salt flakes over roasted vegetables and I was mesmerized with the texture of the granules. Needless to say, I’m now obsessed with this salt. Add to roasted vegetables, top a bruschetta, garnish a soup. The smoked salt flavor is good too!

5. Wine Colored Tights

I just bought a pair like this and I’m excited to add a little color to my winter work wardrobe. What do you think –  are bold colors fun to wear to work?

Twenty Things I Learned in My Twenties

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Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

Today I turn 30. The ‘big birthday.’ When I started this blog I was 23, unmarried, and unanchored. A lot has changed in the last seven years and I’m eager to see what the next decade brings. Thank you, dear readers, for watching me grow up.

Reflection brings its own kind of wisdom and before I dance into the next new decade, I’m sharing my love letter of lessons I’ve learned about myself in the last ten years. Enjoy.

  1. Career may not fulfill your soul.
    I spent my early twenties bouncing from job to job searching for the perfect fit. I had nine jobs in ten years. There will be conflict at work. There will be days that feel tedious and boring. It is important to find people you can learn from and environments to push you out of your comfort zone. It’s ok to make a switch, and ok to fail. At least you tried. There’s more to your worth than what you do from 9-5.
  2. Ask for that raise sooner than later. 
    You’re worth it. Practice negotiating and communicating how your skills bring organizations different value. It takes practice and it pays off. The least they can say is no, not right now.
  3. New paint makes a big difference.
    Make your spaces your own. Your house can be a reflection of you. Paint is affordable and it takes just a few hours to reclaim space for rest and rejuvenation.
  4. Planning a wedding is fun. Planning for marriage is improbable.
    I got engaged at the age of twenty three and walked down the aisle at age twenty five. That was young. We did marriage counseling, had dated for six years, and talked about many things. We weren’t prepared for how unemployment, unexpected death, and financial uncertainty would change and shape our young marriage. You can’t plan for all of the scenarios. You can, however, pick a partner who will fight for you and hold your hand when things fall apart.
  5. Pick up those shoes.
    Really, I leave them all over the house. Weekly shoe round-ups should be a thing. I’m messy. Tough.
  6. People will die.
    Yes, your people. They will die. Before your heart is ready with things left unchecked on bucket lists and words left unsaid. This is the worst truth of the universe. Surviving the death of my dad has rearranged me leaving gaps for compassion, empathy, and tears. Death sucks. Grief sucks. People die. It sucks so frickin’ bad.
  7. Say I love you every chance you get.
    The last time I saw my dad, he left my house without me saying good-bye. I just assumed I’d see him the next day. I didn’t say ‘I love you’ and I regret that. Life is short. Tell people how much you love them every chance you get.
  8. Friendships change.
    As you grow and change, so will your friends. Give others grace, stand up at weddings, cheer when they announce they are going to have a baby. Honor the space of sadness when the people you could always count on don’t respond as much as you’d like. Hold space for new relationships. Be the friend you want to have.
  9. Metabolism slows.
    Damn. Buy bigger-sized pants. Eat a few less french fries. Get back to the gym and love your body.
  10. Stop resisting when they offer to do the dishes.
    For a long time, I’d be mortified when my mother-in-law would do my dishes. It made me feel like a horrible host. She’s not silently commenting on the state of the kitchen. She’s instead using her gifts and sharing her time. People will show you their love in all kinds of ways. Stop resisting and say thank you.
  11. Having a dog is beneficial.
    They’ll pee on the carpet and destroy a few of your favorite things. But the little creature will warm your heart, absorb your tears, and take up space on the bed when you’re cold. Eye contact with an animal will soften your soul.
  12. Get a few stamps in your passport.
    Planning a trip and traveling abroad will give you confidence and joy in unimaginable ways. Gelato in Paris is delicious. Kidney pie in London is not.
  13. Graduate from an amaretto sour.
    Try different alcoholic drinks and explore how your tastes evolve. Know a few classic cocktails to ask for in a bar. When you order a shot of Fireball with your brother’s friends, they will laugh at you. Don’t let shame shape your choices. It’s ok to like what you like.
  14. Softball is not fun.
    I’d just rather not spend my summer evenings on the ball field. Practice saying no to the things that don’t bring you joy so you can say yes to the things that make your heart beat a little faster.
  15. I’m sensitive. So be it.
    My awareness of others suffering is a gift, not a weakness. Refuse to let others squash the sensitivity out of you. Continue to give the homeless woman a granola bar, make donations to charity, and cry at the news.
  16. People want to read these words.
    I must believe this every time I click publish. Your voice matters and you have every right to share your thoughts. Not everyone will resonate and likes and comments don’t qualify my words as worthy. Keep typing. It doesn’t have to make you money … though that would be nice.
  17. Family is complicated.
    It gets tricky when pain trickles through long-standing relationships. Keep trying. Keep praying. God’s grace can fix holes in family tapestries. Where we come from matters. Hold onto the good stuff, let go of the crap.
  18. You can take care of yourself.
    Of course I want others to take care of me. Bring me soup, vacuum the dirty carpet, offer tissues for the mountains of snot grief creates – yes please. More empowering though? Learning how to care for myself. Take space to sit and be sad. Invest in good shoes, honor your body with clothes that fit, and pay for a therapist to help process. Accepting help is self-care. Putting things in place to meet my own needs – even better.
  19. Money is a tool – let it flow.
    While I prefer to sit on my savings account for fear of not enough, I’m learning money is a tool for joy. Using funds responsibly can create positive, life-changing experiences. Travel. Save for the car. Get a haircut. Sponsor a child. Trust you have the capability to make more money and believe God provides.
  20. Hope lives in the relentless search for beauty.
    The gifts God gives are in the small and ordinary. Keep seeking good and you will find beauty. Clean water, fresh flowers, a kiss on the nose. Bubbles in sparkling wine, puppy breath, baby toes. Suffering and beauty co-exist. We won’t live in a world without both.

It Started with Stand-Up

It started with a stand-up comedy routine. This one to be exact.

We’ve been watching it on repeat at our house. Sarah’s routine sparked important conversation for Dylan and me. After watching a few times, I found myself wondering, ‘Yeah! Do I contribute to the problem of men feeling like they’re losing their voice?’ There needs to be space for men to make plans and pay for dinner.

This is a BIG feminist discussion and I don’t have an answer to the mystery of emasculation in our culture. I tend to think it’s not q.u.i.t.e. my problem if men who’ve historically made bad decisions are feeling crushed by powerful women.

Both men and women have different strengths. I believe feminine and masculine traits live in all of us. How these traits are lived out has a lot to do with our culture, and the media, and the muddied messages of chivalry, independence, patriarchy, and equality.

It is my problem, however, when my husband is holding back because I overpower his voice and poo-poo his plans.

So, on Friday night, after starting a text thread asking how he wanted to spend our evening, I had to consider my silencing. He suggested, ‘let’s go out, get a drink, listen to some jazz.’ I stifled the urge to say ‘shoot, I was hoping for Mrs. Maisel and a glass of white wine while wearing pajamas.’

He had made a plan.

I shushed my impulse to lounge and instead I blew dry my hair, put on some red lipstick, and set out for an evening of saxophone and cocktails.

As we walked down the stairs to the basement bar, I whispered to myself, ‘I’m tired of being afraid of living.’ I think we both are. We’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern for a while – waiting on news, waiting on opportunities, living in the just-a-little-longers. Grief tends to rip the plans right out of you.

So for this year, I’m going about living boldly and holding space for the rising tides bringing us back to shore again. I’ve booked a birthday trip to the mountains, am headed to Portland to see an old friend, and am carving out space to fashion a book out of these posts. He’s going to fix up a car, draft some buildings and learn new software. Together we’ll tackle our ugly basement, paint some cabinets, and build a website.

We’re going to get up off the couch and hold hands as we step into jazz clubs, letting brushes on drums and stand-up bass bolster us up.

We’re making plans again. What a beautiful thing.