2015

Zoom In

The world hurts. The world aches. This blog was created to alleviate some of that internal tension for myself, to look for the silver lining, and the good amongst the struggle, the suffering, or feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. On every level, I am learning, we have the choice to acknowledge the broken parts of our lives while striving for peace and enjoyment.  You know that video from elementary school that starts with an atom and magnifies and magnifies until you are stuck in the middle of the cosmos? This one? 

I’ve been thinking about how we are called to examine ourselves and the connections on each level of magnification. Where do you stand, and how does your world expand or contract based on your own power of ten?

On a macro level, it is no surprise that our world is struggling. The refugee crisis that is unfolding has caught my attention in ways that are new to me. I’ve always loved history and quite often said if I was given the opportunity to go back in time, I would search for an adventure during World War 2. The thousands upon thousands of stories that come from those years peaked my interest since sixth grade. Twentieth Century Politics was my favorite class in high school and I was shocked by the way one book written by Marx could influence so many lives through political repercussions leading us to where we are today.

Now, however, I am realizing that tomorrow’s history is created in the present. The political conflict that is occurring now will be in textbooks when my children reach high school. These choices that leaders are making are affecting trajectories now, and that potential is of monumental size.  These are lives of individuals, families, societies, that are living today. The ‘then’ expressed in history textbooks has caught up to the now – at least in my almost fully developed frontal lobe. I send empathy and compassion to those attempting to rebuild, to strive for something good, to make sense of things that seem unfathomable overseas.

As I zoom in a little bit, and reflect on community connection, waves of sadness hit me too. A young man my brother grew up with lost his battle to mental health this week, and I was shocked by his passing. Pain on a micro level ripples here too, in our own little communities that are supposed to be free of these social issues. I’m learning no, the suffering is here too, in our own circles, with our own friends, with our co-workers, and women in our book clubs.

I am not claiming I can begin to relate to these stories, these struggles, or the tremendous questions that arise out of situations like this. Rather, I am asking myself this week to zoom in. Zoom in and think about how my actions can help or hinder other’s struggles. Zoom in and allow myself to cry, in the middle of a crowded restaurant, while we try to make sense of these situations that are never perfectly going to make sense. Zoom in and recognize the beauty in feeling all of your emotions.

…….. the emotions related to your own relationships

……… the emotions related to situations outside of your control

……… the emotions of simply being human

The beauty in feeling the confusion, the grief, and the gratitude for the knowledge that by acknowledging these emotions, they too shall pass. Find someone you trust to process with. Or perhaps schedule a time to cry in your planner. Either way, allow yourself the space to find release.

Sometimes, you can plan when tears will cleanse. Other times the process of emotional release catches you off guard, and you have to weep. Keep weeping, keep feeling, keep searching for the beauty in the feeling not so very beautiful. This dance of zooming in and zooming out helps us find our place.

 

 

 

The Beauty of Color – Guest Post by Christine Christman

Living in the season of gratitude, I am thankful to have the chance to share yet another guest blog post. There may be a few more before the year comes to a close. This week’s author has been a foundational staple in my life, a friend, a mentor, a leader. I’m thrilled she is willing to share in the journey to find beautiful things by posting here.

Author: Christine Christman

Website: http://goodwordsinc.net

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“At the Foot of the Mountains” – Van Gogh

What’s your favorite color?  Oh, I do struggle when people ask me that question.  I have known my ready answer since I was in third grade and wrote it on the inside of a cootie catcher.  Yellow.

But as I got older I would feel that I had to explain.  “Not that lemon yellow,” I would begin, “but something more like the sun when it sets in the fall.  You know leaning toward mustard.  No that’s not it, more brown.  And as I got more sophisticated about colors I could say “ochre.”  But then nobody knew what I meant so I just went back to yellow.

Why yellow?  Well I learned at a young age what artists and writers have told us since the beginning of time.  Color is beautiful in the way it evokes emotion.  Yes, yellow is known as the “happy color” since it represents the energy of the sun and the fresh scent and welcome tang of lemon.  But that’s not why it’s my favorite.  Ochre is my favorite because every time I am around it I feel settled.  Ochre is a complex mixture of yellow and brown that combines earth and sun in some beautiful and evocative way that I can feel into.

I want to describe autumn, my favorite season, as ochre.  And yet it is painfully insufficient to describe even one of the many versions of yellow in the leaves tossed up around us.  Is that really ochre?  No, not really.  What color IS it? And the reds, ah the reds.  What is that particular red that emerges in an oak leaf?  Even using the word ‘red’ feels so inadequate.

Slate blue is another of my favorite mystery combinations but with blue and gray; ocean and sky, deep blue water and dark heavy clouds.  It might feel ominous to some.  But, instead, it pulls me into a pause at the edge of creation.  Slate blue evokes an entry into the unknown that will somehow nourish me back to creativity.

And now you are thinking about the complexity of your favorite color and the emotions it evokes for you.  At least I hope so.

Color is also beautiful because it points us to something infinite. I learned that from Vincent Van Gogh.  From a distance, the colors in his paintings look magical, mysterious, not like anything you could find, even in the 64-count Crayola crayon box.  I used to just walk right by those magical colors in the Starry Night print, or even in original paintings at museums.

But on my last visit I was able to get up close to some of Van Gogh’s work.  And I was astounded at the myriad combination of color he used to create one small section of each painting.  Say a field of grass.  The way he layered paint allowed me to see into each image a seemingly infinite number of brush strokes each with a different color that also had been created by  mixing another set of colors.

If all color starts with Red, Blue, Green and Yellow, then the possible combinations must be infinite, as painters throughout time have demonstrated.  It takes just a moment to consider the vast combinations that go into a single painting, along with the complex and nuanced emotions that can be evoked by a single color and to be drawn into infinity.  To experience the Divine.

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Christine Christman works in marketing communications and online learning.  She explores her world through literary writing on topics such as archetypes, symbols and feminine spirituality. She is also my mom. You can find her at http://goodwordsinc.net.

Live Together – It’s Prettier That Way

40 fabulous humans.

30 chocolate cupcakes.

5 pounds of ground beef.

5 bags of hamburger buns

4 cans of Manwich.

4 bags of cabbage.

4 onions.

3 bags of potato chips.

3 dozen brownies.

2 types of cheese.

1 massive veggie tray.

1 birthday cake.

No… there are no prices adding up here, but all of this food led to sloppy joes and mounds of coleslaw. This also inspired a beautiful happy heart as I facilitated a house filled with family and friends, laughter and beer. We filled our new home with light, joy and housewarming blessings. I was tickled to see so many parts of life come together yet again. I still get party planning anxiety – sure I can invite people over – but will they come?

They did, and I was happy. Bringing people you love together, who also love you back, is a beautiful thing.

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Before the party, I was at my parent’s house for a brief moment and saw this hanging on their fridge. It caught my eye, and my heart, as my first reaction was asking myself “Has this truly been a good year?” There have been some challenging situations that brought beautiful growth. There has also been immense blessings in the ability to step out in faith, with a little bit of fear, that led me to the deep sense of gratitude I experienced standing in my new kitchen, hungry friends all around me.

This line from the image caught me up too….. ‘Life is always giving back to me what I give out.’

That statement is a little, well, confronting. What am I giving out to the world? Am I sharing blame, hurt, confusion, or guilt? Or am I allowing myself to move through these emotions while understanding that I can give kindness, compassion, empathy, and honest expression of my truth. Can I invite my friends out and about in the hopes that they too will reciprocate an invitation rather than stay home for fear of not being included? Does this juxtaposition make sense to anyone else? For I feel there is beauty in paying attention to what you are giving the world.

No. This does not mean overextend and sacrifice and deplete yourself for the sake of others. Rather, I interpret this as a shocking call to action. Am I living in an authentic way that invites others to be authentic? Am I choosing to share my life, my food, my living room with my friends as I hope others will do with me? Life is meant to be lived together, its prettier that way.

I find it odd that Americans make fun of our propensity for gratitude this month. Sure, we may not remember to be thankful all year, but what is wrong with reminders to stay grounded in gratitude for at least thirty days? Dylan and I have been sharing what we are thankful for each day at the dinner table this month. Maybe we will continue as we move into a new year, maybe we won’t. Either way the practice is grounding when focusing on the present.

I have also chosen to participate in a fun social media project using the hashtag #30daysofreal. I find that gratitude comes with acceptance for me, and there is nothing better than breaking down the fake illusions we often create on social media. The hashtag is meant to portray the good, the bad, and the beautiful in real life – at least for 30 days. Join us if you will. It’s fun.

What are you giving to the world? Is it gratitude, is it authenticity, or perhaps something else?

No biscotti.

New Essie Polish: Frilling Me Softly – SO FUN FOR THE WINTER HOLIDAYS

Work in Progress

You know that Home Depot commercial, or maybe it’s Lowes, with the young couple flirting their way through painting a room in their half furnished house? The woman’s hair is pushed into one of those unattainable messy pony tails, the sprigs of hair perfectly framing her face, while the man’s navy shirt accentuates his nice muscles as he applies paint to a wall with a roller. As he writes a love note on the wall with a nice ocher color, she basks in his cleverness. Joyful music plays and the advertisement laughingly suggests, ‘Oh if you only buy from us, how blissful this process of home improvement can be.’

That was us this weekend! My hair perfectly poised atop my head as we worked as a team to start the process of repainting our multi-colored house. Not.

There were no love notes rolled onto the wall, no drama either, but instead the shocking realization that, dang it, the color Dylan wanted is way more, well….white, than previously anticipated. Two coats of Behr Ultra paint and $30 in and we are probably going to start over.

Fast forward to Sunday afternoon at around 3 pm. I am yelling instructions off of the online manual from inside our kitchen through the space in the sliding door as Dylan crouches under our deck, attempting to drain the hot tub we inherited in the move (long story – I’d be happy to share if you are interested). “Pull the black plug towards you and attach it to the hose,” I yell. “There is no black plug Katie,” he responds. “Find the number to the Aqua Spas place!”

Five hours, lots of gallons of water thrown on our lawn from a bucket, a headlamp, teamwork, and $70 of hot tub chemicals later the silly machine has been drained and the water replaced.  The pH strips tell us we are ready to enjoy our spa without the harrowing effects of well, too much acid to soak in. Good to go for the next six months.

This weekend our projects felt like works in progress. I am a finisher, according to all the personality tests out there, and so these open ended projects drive me nuts! I want deadlines and to wipe my hands on my dirty paint stained pants and to look at the wall and say, “All in a day’s work.” It’s going to take us longer than that. As I sit and write this, I stare lovingly at a lemon yellow wall in our den, windows without coverings, and I can peek into the half finished room of white white white. I have to remind myself that this adventure we just embarked on is a continuous journey in improvement.

Life. Is. A. Work. In. Progress.

It took the blessing of homeownership and the last eight weeks for me to realize I am, in no way, going to figure out this thing called life in a weekend. I can set goals and learn as I go, and call and ask for help but the beauty is in the progress. I am thrilled we chose to steer away from a “fixer-uper”. I would have gone crazy.

I love this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. It’s going to be my mantra for the rest of the year.

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I can’t function any other way and their is beauty in that. Too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. Progress, not perfection.

Nails are a mess and biscotti has been non-existent for months. Progress, not perfection.

Healthy It May Not Be

Fall is falling. I looked out my kitchen window this weekend, and the cascading crunchies covered our lawn. Until yesterday, we did not own a rake. We quickly solved that predicament with a trip to the local hardware store, and our Sunday afternoon turned into a lovely time to work on projects, chores, and maintenance of the season. Dylan raked the yard and with the way the winds are blowing, he will likely have to do it again next week. I know, I know, I’ve mentioned my love of this month repeatedly, but there is something magical about the four weeks of the year that make up October. We’ve only got one full week left – are you taking the chance to savor it?

Beauty exists in carving pumpkins- the slime of orange goop dripping down your hands as you balance a knife between your fingertips. Oh! And the delayed gratification that comes from the promise of tasty pumpkin seed snacks roasting in the oven. This weekend we joined family to make treats of caramel apples, and popcorn balls, and little morsels of chocolate. My counter at home is buzzing with sugar asking to be eaten and I find comfort in the beauty of this season’s ritual, routine, and tradition. This year has brought a multitude of unanticipated changes – mostly good for our lives. As I navigate these self-directed detours I take comfort in knowing that I, too, can create some predictability. Carving pumpkins near Halloween? You can count on it. Eating candy corn, making pumpkin bread – these are the activities that ground me as I look around and say the world is changing yet again.

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This week we have had three full days of cloudy drizzle, and I can say with confidence that I have brought out my cowl, and am wearing cowboy boots, and look forward to my North Face puffy jacket becoming a part of my daily routine. I wear this coat from November to March. It’s a well-loved staple for my transition to fall. Fancy Sunday dinners may become a part of our routine as we head into dark evenings, cozy socks and fire places. Do you have any “fine Sunday night dinner” recipes you can share with me? I made this one last night and it was delicious. Healthy it may not be, but gravy sure is a beautiful thing. Wine and sage and thyme, chicken broth and cream. Yum.

I’m nearing the two year mark for this blog, and I sometimes have trouble coming up with original content because I’m noticing themes in my journey to seek beauty. I love books, coffee, and treats, time with family, self-exploration, and get-away vacations. I seem to gravitate towards these things when I feel low and just as often when I feel energized and beautiful myself. These trends bring great awareness, and great potential, as I have the ability to influence their presence in my life all by myself. As you walk through the crunching leaves ask yourself this question – “What beauty can I manifest for myself that helps me to maintain stability as the world spins madly on?”

Nope – That’s a Phrase

“Osh*t is not a word,” says the dad.

“Nope, it’s a phrase,” says the daughter.

“Sh*t is a word,” says the dad.

“Yup, sure is,” says the daughter.

“Here are the definitions,” says the dad as he proudly reads off his iPhone, using his very own dictionary app.

  1. excrement; feces
  2. an act of defecating; evacuation
  3. the sh*ts – diarrhea
  4. Slang. pretense, lies, exaggeration or nonsense
  5. Slang. something inferior or worthless

Dad skips ahead a few

12. Slang. used to express disgust, disappointment, frustration, contempt or the like

12 give a sh*t  – Slang. to care; be concerned

Daughter and mother laugh and laugh.

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Playing Scrabble with my parents is a beautiful thing.

Note* – I did not win. My mom always kicks our booties.

Be a Beginner

Here is the awareness that I experienced this week. I hate being a beginner. I like, instead, having accomplished a level of mastery that is comfortable, predictable, and extremely safe. However, life continues to give me some grand opportunities to begin again, pushing me down my tunnel of safety into unknown land of what the heck am I doing? I almost cried this week while staring at a budget worksheet for a proposal I’m working on. Is this ever going to get easier? I wanted to throw the paper down and wipe my tears in the hallway bathroom. Instead, I tried again, and after two hours, the numbers finally added up in their columns appropriately.

Other areas of being a beginner?

  1. Owning a home – luckily my husband is very zealous about projects and maintenance. I instead plan meals from the couch and feel a little anxious about water heaters and home warranties.
  2. Being a wife – in the grand scheme of things, I’m still pretty new at this. Hence why I sit on the couch and plan meals. Wives do that right?
  3. I have a new job. I’m more than six months in, but still learning a new skill, navigating a new team of people, and trying to balance my desire for leadership with lack of experience. Hence my tears over a budget worksheet.
  4. Being a child that is an adult – maybe some people get used to this way before I did, but navigating relationships as an adult with both parents and in-laws can be fun and a little unclear. Is it ok to ask for help? To have my father-in-law doing our electrical and still eating dinner with my dad on a Wednesday night? I hope so.
  5. Making new friends – this year I’ve watched numerous people I care about continue their own journeys, moving away, and going in different directions. I feel this has left a void in my own life, and I want to build new relationships. This process is awkward, requires risk, and vulnerability. Do you want make new friends too? Come over, let’s have a dinner party.

There is beauty in beginning. In admitting I don’t know quite what I’m doing, but I am trying to bring new and prosperous things to my life. At times, no all the time, I’m uncomfortable, but am finding ways to say learning is often an uncomfortable process. There is beauty here.

Something I am not new at is enjoying the full radiance of October, my favorite month. I can quote Anne of Green Gables like the rest of us, and I look forward to boots and sweaters and the return to hot coffee over iced. I haven’t brought out my sweaters yet; the weather is still over eighty degrees. I am loving the beauty of the Colorado blue skies splashed with aspens changing, and the rich hues that the trees offer as they transition into their resting space. I need to buy a bag of candy corn and eat it nibble by nibble, one color segment at a time. I look forward to these precious thirty one days each year. Chili and pumpkin bread, and crock pot meals are promising. There is something magical in this season of transition, when the mornings are cool and the sun rises later making me wake in darkness. I anticipate the return of cozy nights with blankets and big glasses of red wine. These are beautiful elements of my world that I can create and choose to participate in.

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As I sit and write today, the light is dancing on my wall through the glass on our front door. The shadows move back and forth, glamorously sharing their own beauty as the leaves wave in the autumn wind. Observing these little things bring peace. I don’t feel particularly purposeful in this moment, but maybe just sitting and watching the leaves dance and bring their own beauty to my living room wall is enough.

What are you beginning? What makes you feel like you are enough?

No baked goods or manicures this week. However, this mac and cheese in the crockpot is delicious.