2014

Belly Laughs

There is a beautiful store in my town. You walk in off of a busy downtown street and are immediately embraced by cool colored walls, stones that soothe, wood floors that ground you in their space. The fabrics are soft, and delicate, and swish when you touch them on the hangers. I walk slowly, touching items, holding, grasping, smelling. Pillows and candles and furnishings delight the senses. I can not afford much of anything in that store, but I can walk in the doorway and be instantly calmed into the state of blissful desire for nice things. Someday, maybe, I will be able to stomach the cost of fine, fine, furnishings, but for now, Rain Boutique, you give me such joy in just browsing.

I found this little bag there this weekend, and took a picture, because I want the words to be my mission in life. My targeted goal of re-grounding and purpose. I can’t buy the bag, but I can adopt the mantra. Like I’ve said before, there’s a lot of bad out there, but if you look, there’s sure a lot of beauty, too.

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What a responsibility though, isn’t it? To look for the beautiful things? I find myself getting caught up in the nags and annoyances and pulls in direction of every day life. I vent about my co-workers, my car, my missing socks. The list could go on and on if we let it, and frankly, I think many people default to nag mode. Myself included. So Elise, I see your words and accept them as a challenge. Bring on the beautiful, bring on the life.

This past week, as you all know, included Halloween. Historically, not my favorite holiday. It feels like a lot of effort to commit to something that pushes me out of my comfort zone and into a world of monsters and masks. Seriously, I hate masks. Nice ones, friendly ones, gorillas, or the angel of death, they all FREAK ME OUT. So, no thanks to going to bars or parades, or out in public with those unidentified people. This year, though, my friend had a Harry Potter party. Nerds unite! I’m in my mid twenties, but that wizard still speaks to my heart. I committed to the costume, Dylan did too, and we set out to Denver to be with some of my dearest friends. Dress up we did.

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Maybe it was one of things where you had to be in on an inside joke, but when I saw my friend’s efforts and magical characters my heart was warmed. My friend wore stilts and size 52×32 pants to pull off the best Hagrid I have ever seen. We drank poly juice potion and butter beer, and we laughed. We ate nasty flavored jelly beans and laughed. I haven’t laughed that hard in a really long time. Out in public people thought we were odd, and in the local Dicks Sporting Goods, the staff were not amused at our request for Quaffles or Quidditch supplies. It didn’t matter, we were amused. And when we loaded Hagrid into a bed of a truck to go out, I thought I was going to pee my pants.

You are probably reading this and not getting it, and that’s ok. I got it and it made me laugh. Laughter brings joy and that is beautiful. Being myself amongst friends is beautiful. Belly laughs are beautiful. I need to laugh more, to focus on the good, to remember that it is a mission and a choice to laugh or to nag, to dress up or opt out, to engage or be fearful.

In an effort to make you laugh here is a WAY off topic YouTube Video that makes me laugh. Well actually, here are a few. One is a parody of something I think I self consciously struggle with. The other is just hilarious. See if you can figure out which is which, and maybe that will make you laugh too.

Do you allow yourself to laugh? What happens when you default into nag mode?

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Little Nuggets of Promise

I’m not good at mornings. I like staying up late and sleeping in if I can. My plan for today was to get up at 6, cozy in to my kitchen with a cup of coffee and write as the sun came up. Doesn’t that sound nice and romantic and what a writer should do? Soaking in those perfect moments of solitude to reflect on life as the worlds rubs its sleepy eyes.

I think I pressed the snooze button 12 times and here I am at 7:50 am just getting started. I’m making this a priority this morning, but it likely means “hat day”, if you know what I mean. I do have coffee made by our new coffee maker which I am so excited about. First world beauty, is that a thing? I guess it is, and the convenience of this programable coffee maker is fabulous! I put the grinds in at night, and presto it makes me my beautiful addictive nectar that gets me going each day. I joke because we now have every method to make a cup of joe. I’ll probably still go to Starbucks, and the coffee shop across from work, but I shouldn’t. I just adore the convenience of this little machine, the routine it provides, the status of adulthood that radiates proudly in my kitchen.

Rave and rave about this machine, I could. I know, beauty in an appliance? How trite. Don’t discount that wonder that comes from the kitchen counter. I am thankful for technology that brings comfort to my daily routine. Sometimes, I stop to ponder how fabulous the world actually is.  Every thing in my kitchen, from the coffee maker to the little bright light bulb in my refrigerator, was created and designed by human intelligence. That’s so neat! The clothes I put on my back, the hairbrush I use to groom, the toothpaste I use to scrub my chompers – all of that was made up by a person and engineered and manufactured and made usable. That’s pretty incredible.  It is easy to focus on all the wrong doings humans create; the accidents, the horror unto one another and unfortunate consequences of quick action. Those exist, sure as heck, but so do little wonders. Remember the book, “The Way Things Work”, by David Macaulay and Neil Ardley, that you used to read when you were a kid? I loved that book and its illustrations and explanations. I ask myself what happened to my wonder at the world? Have I let it be squashed by disappointment and disheartening news? I hope not. There is so much beauty, only when we let it become a part of our day.

This week we carved pumpkins in preparation for Halloween. I’ve never been a huge fan of Halloween, but pumpkin carving, that is what I live for. I’m not particularly skilled and my exercise typically involves a cut out pattern of some sort, but the process is fun and full of delightfully slimy gook. I had friends over to partake in the festivities, made a huge batch of chili and got down to work. Here are our results:

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The weather has been unseasonably warm this week, breaking records and causing our creations to shrivel like little old ladies with no teeth. They sit on my porch silently screaming, “How many days ’til we get to rest? This smiling is exhausting us!” Their dropping faces remind me of going to the dentist, or getting braces put on when you have your mouth open for hours and your jaw starts shaking. Hang in there little guys, just a few more days until Halloween. Joy from pumpkins is short lived.

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More amazement, too, comes from the little nuggets of promise mixed in with the slime. I roasted the seeds this year, for the first time on my own. Usually, that’s a job my mom masters, but I gave it a whirl this season. The results were quite excellent – maybe the trick is boiling the seeds in salt water first. Here is the simple recipe that I used. So while my pumpkins may be shrinking to their end, I’ve got their legacy on my kitchen counter and my snack size zip block bag full of their gifts in my work bag. Find ways to carry beauty with you, create reminders that things are good, and wondrous, and worth exploring.

Did you carve a pumpkin? I want to see.

She’s Back!

I cried a little tonight. We are working on joining accounts and it made me emotional to know a part of that independence in my life has ended. Or something like that. This joining does not bother my spouse at all. Bother, perhaps, is a strong word. It doesn’t particularly bother me, it just makes me emotional. What bothers me is the big VOID in my old id that seems to be sending a more patriarchal message that my original identity and maiden name are gone, only to be consumed by marriage. I know this is not how my spouse and I approach marriage, and that those four letters do not reflect our attitudes towards life partnership. That VOID stamp, though, that bothers me.

I had lunch with a friend this week and she was joking around saying that after her wedding next summer she is going to joke, “Oh, I can vote now. I’m married.” You have to understand her and you have to understand me and be able to look back at the absurdity of institutions and how we exist inside of them, and how we can laugh within them. It is a balance isn’t it? Or maybe I’m just sensitive.

This week was full of unanticipated delights. I love delightful things. Sunday evening we headed to Denver in the pm for a concert. The weekend was restful, the Broncos were playing (they won by the way), I would have been content being an introvert and staying home. I’m glad I was coaxed out of my comfort zone and we got to listen to a wonderful musician, Noah Gundersen. I do not feel I can adequately explain or critique him in words. This man and his band communicate with such passion and in a way that is unassuming and challenging all at the same time. I want to have coffee with him, to pick his brain about religion, family, and his outlook on the world. I’ve never left a concert feeling calm and content the way I did on Sunday evening. He has a gift and he chooses to share it, and I wish him the best of luck in doing so. Here is a video of my favorite of his songs.

Music has an ability to evoke such an intense spectrum of emotion. In two hours, Noah seemed to capture them all. Check him out, buy a cd, drink some red wine. Combine the three for a fabulous few hours. He has so much beauty to offer.

Remember my post Heart Balm from a few months ago? I mentioned Marcel the Shell and my ridiculous obsession with a cartoon shell that warms my heart over and over. Well, guess what? She is back! Marcel the Shell has her third installment and does not disappoint. Take a moment, get in touch with your inner child, and giggle at this delightful success story of mistake turned wonderful. Thank you Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp for bringing such an enchanting character.

What was enchanting to you this week? What can music do for you?

We are the Ones

Who has seen the movie Chocolat? The one with Johnny Depp where the gypsy woman comes to a conservative town and sets the world on a tilt by opening a sensual chocolate shop in the middle of Lent. The treats she concocts make your mouth water, and the need for a truffle, or hot chocolate has never manifested as much as it does when you are watching that film. It’s a great movie. It’s even better when that little chocolate shop, or perhaps a slightly less sensual version, plants itself into my town.

This weekend we tried Nuance Chocolate and had a lovely experience. I am never one to turn down an afternoon treat. Life is too demanding to not allow yourself little indulgences every once in awhile. So Saturday afternoon, we ventured down the street to try a new treat. Big windows and display cases filled with small morsels of chocolate invite you in. Rustic brick walls and wood floors invite you to take a seat and just settle in to watch and decide where to start. We invited our taste buds to experience the chili pepper dark bar. Let me just say, it has my vote. I think the little business perhaps has a way to go, but I am excited to stop by as winter afternoons approach and try some sipping chocolate, or a taster bar, or even, perhaps, a truffle should a bad day present itself. Sorry I didn’t take more photos, but you can follow the small business at @nuancechocolate.

Treats, my friend, are beautiful.

Too, in the midst of a world that seems to be crumbling, I was comforted by the words of author and activist Alice Walker this week. Our staff team at work rotates sharing positive encouragement to one another and this month it was my turn to share. I came across her series of essays, We Are The Ones We Have Been Waiting For – Inner Light in a Time of Darkness when a professor shared her writings in a commencement speech at my college graduation. Women’s Studies commencement of course. I bought that book several years ago, and still turn to this woman’s wise words for grounding and empathy in a complex and intricate world.  This is the bit that I chose to share with my colleagues this week.

“It was the poet June Jordan who wrote ‘We are the ones we have been waiting for’. Sweet Honey in the Rock turned those words into a song. Hearing this song, I have witnessed thousands of people rise to their feet in joyful recognition and affirmation. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for because we are able to see what is happening with a much greater awareness than our parents or grandparents, our ancestors could see. This does not mean we believe, having seen the greater truth of how all oppression is connected, how pervasive and unrelenting, that we can ‘fix’ things. But some of us are not content to have a gap in opportunity and income that drives a wedge between rich and poor, causing the rich to become ever more callous and complacent and the poor to become ever more wretched and humiliated. Not willing to ignore starving and brutalized children. Not willing to let women be stoned or mutilated without protest. Not willing to stand quietly by as farmers are destroyed by people who have never farmed, and plants are engineered to self-destruct. Not willing to disappear into our flower gardens, Mercedes Benzes or sylvan lawns. We have wanted all our lives to know the Earth, who has somehow obtained human beings as her custodians, was also capable of creating humans who could minister to her needs, and the needs of her her creation. We are the ones” (Walker, pg 3).

I’m encouraged, and challenged and a little bit scared of how Walker enthusiastically calls us to action. The world may feel unmanageable and like it is falling to pieces, but we have a say in how we want to participate. What we want to feel passionate about. What we want to admit that we have connection to. There is beauty in responsibility, in accountability, and in examining where do I fit in this big, complex world. I like thinking critically, even when it seems insolvable. Do you ever think about these things? How about afternoon treats?

Just How Lovely It Is

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I saw this picture today. Somebody posted it on Facebook. Is it a picture? It’s not quite a meme. I don’t know. It caught my attention. I’ve always been a lover of Fall. The pumpkin spice lattes, the crisp leaves, the perfect temperature with brisk mornings and sunny afternoons. October is my favorite month. I’ve got the pumpkin carving planned, and the chili in the crockpot even though it’s still over seventy five degrees. Stereotypical white girls get made fun of for their pursuit of coffee and scarves and boots and the delightful crisp air. No one really mentions death. Then I came across this picture. It speaks shocking truth. Sometimes, things have to die, and we have to let go, and that process is beautiful.

Ahh, here comes the extended nature metaphor. Really though, I’ve been thinking about change and how it sneaks up on us, and I’ve been reflecting on where we’ve been and where we are going. This week, I celebrated one year at my current job. One year of stability in location and yet, a year of amazing change in an organization. Good change, but at times emotional, and challenging, and questioning change. I can’t believe a year has passed since my tearful days of a nightmare job and extreme anxiety about what I was going to do with my life. I can’t believe I’ve been living back in my hometown almost eleven months. I can’t believe we planned a wedding, and I got married, and the single version of myself has died.

I’ve had to embrace the discomfort and I’ve found by letting go of what was, I can be more immersed in what is. What is continues to be good. It seems extreme to say that old ways of understanding my position in life have died – that word, death, has really strong connotations. It’s true though, isn’t it, how sometimes I have to let how things used to be die to become the next version of myself. That makes me sad, especially when how things used to be included some of my favorite people on earth, and a sense of self that I was very good at settling into. The end of a chapter, so to speak.

And rebirth, I believe, comes from the ability to say to myself, ‘Wow, I’m rather sad that chapter was over, that piece of my life complete, that death has occurred’, but isn’t that really where life lies? So complex and yet so simplistically true. What beauty lies in those flaming trees of color, in the promise of loveliness in such a tragic process.

From that mountain drive I mentioned last week

From that mountain drive I mentioned last week

This week, when I stopped to think about beautiful things, I was struggling to come up with one specific thing to write about. Except for the leaves of course, but honestly, I just came across that a few minutes ago. Here are some moments I enjoyed as well. I feel wrong leaving you to ponder beauty in death. Perhaps beauty in transition that sometimes requires us to admit that things end, chapters close, and life as you know it, may die. That doesn’t mean death has to be final. That seems more appropriate.

– My friend from college got married this weekend. What a joy it is to have a reunion with five girls so central to my life as supports in friendship and in prayer.

– I saw a bystander call an ambulance for a homeless man who was struggling. People do care about one another when you stop to take a look.

– Dylan bought me flowers for our one month anniversary. It was sweet. I like being a newlywed.

– I got my wedding pictures back. Holy schamoley, these things are gorgeous. If you need a wedding photographer, I strongly recommend Jamie Fischer, out of Boulder. Check her out here

What things are you having to let die to move on. Does this process feel excruciating, or maybe, just a little bit lovely?

Incomplete

I’m feeling insecure. Is the pursuit of beauty cliche? Does looking at leaves on a Saturday constitute as a hum drum, expected, yawn of a post? I could spend tonight writing about the Colorado Aspens in September. Or maybe, even, the beauty of access to cold medicine because my head has been stuffed to the brim with gook. It happened, the wedding melt down and stress let down led to a stuffy nose and a brain full of fog. It happens to me at the end of something big. I could count on it during the end of finals week in college, at the end of any major accomplishment. The bog of a cold snuck up on Thursday and hasn’t quite left. That doesn’t feel beautiful – actually quite the opposite.

Tonight, I suppose, I want to talk about the beauty of reclaiming unanswered situations. This is a theme I talk about because I think it helps my sanity. It helps me feel grounded, and makes me feel that I have some semblance of control in my life when change happens. Like I’ve said, I don’t like change. Dylan and I were talking at dinner about some next decisions we have to make, and we said maybe, as you grow up, you get more comfortable making decisions individually, without worrying about all of the pieces being in place. Get more comfortable, not get better at putting together the whole puzzle perfectly. Dang it, I wish it was the other way around.

I feel incomplete right now. My to do list at work seems to be growing rather than shrinking. There is ambiguity in a new job title, and new responsibilities, and the realization that having a job as an adult means having responsibilities where the buck stops at me. Thats new, and I don’t know how to completely fill that space. I feel incomplete in changing my name – there are so many pieces of an identity I have to get straightened out. I feel incomplete in knowing where we are going to live next year, and which commuter town we should go to to make life more fair for my spouse.  I feel incomplete in sharing money with a new person. I feel anxious that I have waves of acceptance that I’ll probably never feel complete either. I mean what does that mean, because like I predicted before, achieving one goal often leads to the opening of another door and new opportunity. Overall doesn’t this lend to a circle of ‘incompleteness?’

So tonight, I sit in this in between space, and reflect on this meditation, and know that God will continue to bring us good things. That maybe clarity will develop, and maybe it won’t, but we have been given the grace to make good decisions in the mean time. Meditations are beautiful and being nice to myself, even when feeling incomplete, is quite extraordinary.

CULTIVATING MINDFULNESS

written by Jon Kabat-Zin

1. The real meditation is how you live your life.

2. In order to live life fully, you have to be present for it.

3. To be present, purposefully bring awareness to your moments – otherwise you may miss many of them.

4. You do this by paying attention and non-judgment to whatever arises.

5. This requires a great deal of kindness toward yourself, which you deserve.

6. It helps to keep in mind that good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, the present moment is the only one in which you are alive. Therefore, it’s the only time to learn, grow, see what is really going on, find some degree of balance, feel and express emotions such as love and appreciation, and do what we need to do – even in the face of pain and suffering.

7. So it is a gentle love affair with the present moment.

8. We do that through learning to rest in awareness of what is happening inwardly and outwardly, moment by moment– “being” rather than “doing.”

9. Formal and informal meditation practices are specific ways in which you can ground, deepen, and accelerate this process.

10. Realize that this moment is already very special – because you are alive and awake in it.

11. You have a lot of moments so treat each one as a new beginning — there are always new moments to open up to if you miss some.

12. We do all this with a huge amount of self-compassion.

13. You are not your thoughts or opinions, your likes or dislikes. They are more like weather patterns in your mind that you can be aware of – like clouds moving across the sky – and so you don’t have to be imprisoned by them.

14. Befriending yourself in this way is the adventure of a lifetime.

Swedish Fish for the Win

I can’t see my kitchen table again. Well I can see the table. I can’t see the surface of the table. I can’t explain it, but this time, this mess seems more enjoyable. It’s a mess of completion, accomplishment, and arrival at the finish line. Here are the things I’ve got going on within that surface.

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1) Clearly, Swedish Fish were the most popular candy evidenced by the fact that we are still drowning in Starbursts and Skittles. My favorite candy wins the popularity contest.

2) Our wedding centerpieces were beautiful – but made even more attractive with flowers in the blue bottles. The white box with holes doesn’t have quite the same charm. I must invest in some floral arrangement components soon.

3) I’ve got a long list of thank you notes to write. I also need to buy stamps.

4) I’m in the midst of a name change. It’s an odd middle to be existing in. The transition from one name to another leads to new hesitant introductions and insecure laughs when I state my name. Who is this person with a new identity? I feel I’m living my way into it a little bit. Now I get to go wait at the DMV to make it final.

5) Again I am washed over with love and blessings as we set out in this new beginning. Its rather freeing to say over and over again, ‘yup, we did it.’

My list isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but there is a lot laid out on this table. Small objects that symbolize a culmination and yet a wonderful beginning too. Forgive me, I reflect often.

This week was a busy one, with many adjustments and catching up to do. I did notice, though, the simplicity in a game of cards. Cribbage to be exact. Now let me back up here. Cribbage gets a bad reputation as ‘an old man’s game’. I guess I fail to see the problem with that reputation – personally I really like it. I was first taught how to play at a friends house in third grade. I was not good. Then later along the line, my dad brought me up to speed.  My dad is good. Not just good, really good. And he is competitive. Not in an out loud obnoxious, rude way. No, more in a passive, ‘I’m going to kick your butt and you know it so I will just sit here and smile’ way. He still helps me count my cards and make sure I’ve fully accounted for everything in my hand, but he will still win.

Friday night I got to play cribbage with my dad, at my grandma’s house, while Dylan was away. We had pizza, like they do every Friday these days, and it was a nice reminder that while significant events happen and life can change, I can still play cribbage with my dad. And yes, he still won.

Then, this week, at a meeting for work at the coffee shop nearby I walked in and noticed two older gentleman sitting at a small table near the window. Here come’s that reputation for the game. They were playing cribbage. Their cards were large faced and the numbers huge, and they used a shuffling machine to cut the deck. Oh man, did they warm my heart. I don’t know anything about these men, and I’m hoping they were friends, and that they are happy. What that observation reminded me is that there is comfort in a game of cards, comfort in connection, and comfort in continuing to look for beauty when life changes and you enter new territory.

What comforts you when you enter uncharted territory? When you look around at what is surrounding you what does that tell you about your life?