2016

Give Light Giveaway

Things have been rather bleak the last few weeks. I don’t want to get into a political debate, and I don’t want to argue.

Instead, I have been asking myself over and over again how can I, one little person, make a difference in this heated political climate? How can I choose to influence my small portion of the world? How can I choose to continue seeking positivity when the world feels uncertain and hesitant?

My idea requires a bit of participation and I would like to invite you to participate in my….. drum roll please…… Give Light Giveaway! Let’s join together in an effort to share our small beautiful portions of the world and bring some positivity to our spaces.

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Here is how you can play.

Compile the following and email me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com between November 16th and December 15th.

  1. Email me 5 things you find to be beautiful in your world right now. They can be in list format, or if you prefer to write more, you can expand on your thoughts. Your top 5 beautiful things will then be shared as a post on my blog between now and the end of the year.  If I receive an overwhelming amount of responses, I will continue to share the content I collect past the deadline of December 15th.
  2. Include pictures of your items, quotes, and links that are appropriate to your content. (Please keep your photos and links appropriate – I will censor if necessary)
  3. Include a small bio about yourself and a fun photo of you. Optional –  include links for how you can be contacted – ie. email, Instagram, or Twitter feed.
  4. Be willing to share the post I create with your content with your network – share on your Facebook, send an email blast, work with others to promote sharing positivity for the rest of the year.

By submitting your materials you will be entered into a drawing to win a basket of local Colorado goodies – some of my favorite things. So far I’m thinking coffee from Bindle, beer goodies from Odell Brewing Company, and treats from The Cupboard to start. On December 15th, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted. You need not live in Colorado to win.

So there it is! Will you join me in creating beautiful content that can generate and spark a wave of beauty as we close out 2016.

Email me with questions. I can’t wait to Give Light!

“Give Light and People Will Find the Way” – Ella Baker 

Stop Pulling

We took the dog on a walk this weekend. A glorious, Colorado blue sky, 70 degree weather kind of a walk. As we passed by the hidden ponds that are close to our house, I found myself paying more attention to the dog tugging on the leash than the environment we were in. Every few seconds Dylan would reprimand Olive with a strong “No!” and a tug on the leash. We are trying to teach her how to heel.

“Do you think God ever feels this way about us?” I asked Dylan as our footsteps crunched on the gravel path.

“What do you mean?” he responded. Dylan is used to me sharing my thoughts, not yet fully formulated. He is patient in waiting for my explanations.

“You know, as we walk along through life we are tugging at the end of the leash. Wanting to see, explore, smell, and arrive faster than the one who is leading us. Like we are going to miss out on something if we just chill out. Do you think God is sick of us pulling on our leashes?”

“Huh,” he responded, with a few moments of silence. “Yes, I guess. I wish he would hurry up and help us get there though.”

“Me too” I murmured in agreement.

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This year has been one of waiting, of not understanding, of redirection.

I’ve often found myself tugging, hoping, aching, running towards the destination that I’m not yet even sure of. No, I do not think God has on metaphorical leashes, but yes, I think we can pull and tug, and plan and stress ourselves out. If we walked a little slower, had a bit more slack, then the journey may be a bit more enjoyable.

I’m sticking to this metaphor this week and reminding myself not to pull so hard. We will get there when we get there.

I also have a nasty head cold and am thankful for the ability to rest. To give myself some slack and read a few books. I’ve avoided the grocery store and instead am heating up leftover chicken noodle soup. There is beauty in giving yourself permission to rest, in weekend walks, vitamin C. More beauty, perhaps, in learning, or rather being reminded of life lessons from your pup.

 

 

Home and Routine and Clean

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We just took a walk around the block. The sun is setting earlier these days, and I did not want to miss the last few rays of the weekend. As we rounded the corner, and stepped back onto our street, I inhaled deeply. Weekend walks smell like laundry detergent. I find it comforting to know that people are managing their chores – not for the sense of accomplishment – but rather the commonality that we all have dirty things to tend to. Laundry detergent smells deliciously comforting, like home and routine and clean.

Home and routine and clean. These are three factors that have been essential to survival this year. When the outside world doesn’t make sense, and my own heart has been learning to heal, my home, a gently forced schedule, and chores seem to be what have grounded me.

And so, this weekend, I am thankful for the absolutely ordinary. Because coming out of loss after loss feels anything but.

I am thankful for the excitement that going on a simple date night provides. For the beauty in tacos, a new restaurant to try, the two dollar movie theater. I am thankful for the beautiful resources that allow us to spend time together, laugh at clever children’s movies, and for gift cards that allow date night to cost only $3.86.

I am thankful that after that date we came home and did chores. I cleaned the bathroom, Dylan started a new home improvement project. When gratitude sweeps its beautiful arms around us, I start to think, “Oh my goodness what a gift it is to have our very own toilet to clean.” And I mean this with sincerity, because many people don’t have such a thing.

I am thankful for creativity, and Home Depot, and the amazing miracle that it is that we can drive to a store that is filled with an aisle devoted to screws. We live in abundance, and this gift is going to help my husband recreate our banisters. I am excited to see the finished project.

I am thankful for my crockpot, and the way the smell of bacon fills up the house after you make B.L.Ts for lunch (well actually just B.A.L.s – we didn’t have tomato, so I replaced with avocado.) I’m looking forward to the soup that has been simmering on my counter all day long.

I am thankful for baking, chocolate chips, and bloggers like Amanda Rettke who devote their time and talents to sharing their treats with me. I am thankful for  an oven and the appreciation of sweet things. Sundays are for baking.

Treats are so important. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies even more so.

These components all seem rather ordinary on the surface. For me, they are a beacon of hope that we can return to the basics of what make up our lives. Even chocolate chips make a difference.

 

Twice Baked Banana Bread

It’s Saturday night and the CU Buffaloes football game plays in the background. My in-laws and husband sit in our den, yelling occasionally at the tv. These are the noises of comfort and of fall, of predictability, and of safety. I cherish these times with my family, and cheering for the alumni team is never a bad thing.

I get bored watching football, though, and so I decide it’s time to bake. I look in my inventory, er… pantry, and pull out chocolate chips, flour, sugar, baking soda, and put the frozen bananas to use. Yes, banana bread is an easy, cozy recipe that takes less than an hour.

Log on to Pinterest and find a simple recipe. Do I have all the ingredients? Check.

Heat oven.

Combine ingredients, blend, pour batter into pan, put in oven and set the time.

Thirty five minutes. Should be good to go. Return to football game.

Timer goes off. Complete the toothpick test and toothpick comes out clean.

Wait fifteen minutes. Take out cutting board and turn pan of bread out onto the counter.

The beautifully golden crust starts oozing all over.

“Oh shit!” I mumble to myself. Then, louder, “Oh shit, OH SHIT!” as the gooey, chocolatey mess sludges and expands all over my counter top.

Thirty five minutes was not long enough. Frantically check recipe which clearly states bake for 40 – 50 minutes.

Scoop up half baked banana bread and spoon liquid dough off of the counter and back into the baking pan. Set timer for twenty more minutes.

The result, a crispy on the outside, delightfully chewy on the inside banana bread. I call it “twice baked banana bread.” Still tastes good, but looks less than appealing. I think the blurriness of the photo does the situation justice.

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Sometimes, this baking exercise feels like a metaphor for my year. Attempts at moving forward got turned upside down.

The illusion of a beautiful exterior got smushed as my efforts collapsed, and the ooey gooey emotional mess was left. And those emotions spread all over the place.

I think the last few months have been our attempt to scoop back up the remnants of the muddied ingredients, and we are in the oven cooking into a new form.

Here’s the key though. I did not give the bread enough time to become beautiful. I rushed and as a result, the outcome was less than ideal. So remember folks, give your bread enough time in the heat to transform into what it was meant to be.

Plus, there is always someone who likes the crispy, burnt edges.

 

 

The Beauty of Remote Alaska and the Northern Lights – Guest Post

It’s neat to know your words and ideas are getting attention. That people across the country tune in to what you have to say. Neater still when readers approach you and ask if they can share their own thoughts in the space you have created.

So when Jon of No See Um Lodge in Alaska emailed to ask if he could share on my blog, I was thrilled. I have never been to Alaska, but the idea is certainly on my bucket list. I want to go see the big wilderness, the open spaces, and the lights.  Thank you Jon for inspiring me to stay committed to the dream of Alaska. Maybe someday, I’ll be able to come stay at your beautiful lodge. For now, I will bask in the beauty of the pictures you captured, and keep dreaming.

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Words & Pictures by: Jon Clark of No See Um Lodge

Learn more about the lodge on their FacebookTwitter and Instagram

Beauty is always in more than the eye of the beholder. It surrounds us every day in so many ways. It can be the sound of children laughing or the fragrance of roses. The shaggy feel of a favorite four-legged friend’s hug is as beautiful as the loving look in those big brown eyes. From the flavors in a perfectly prepared homemade soup to the feelings evoked by a stunning sunset, beauty is an amazing sensory experience.

We also know that beauty can be a dream come true because it surrounds us every day up here in Alaska. The longing to live in a pristine wilderness became a wonderful reality for us many years ago. We’ve been fortunate enough to make our home in an area that defines beauty on an almost infinite number of levels.

When our kids laugh up here, it’s often at the sight of sea otters bobbing on their backs just off the shoreline. Suddenly, the otters roll over and spring into playing wild water games. They chatter and race and splash, and we’re all caught up in their fun. It’s beautiful music to our ears.

We do a lot of fly fishing on the crystal clear rivers up here, and brilliant blue skies serve as our back roads to favorite spots. When we take off with the rising sun, the views from our float plane take our breath away every time. Sailing just above the tree tops with rugged mountain ranges in the background, it feels as though we can reach out and brush our hands against the natural beauty all around us.

Hiking the backcountry immerses our spirits in everything that we love about this amazing great outdoors. We’re very lucky to live in one on the last places on earth that encompasses vast ranges of untouched wilderness. We take a deep breath filled with the smell of towering spruce and crisp, fresh air, and we know that beauty has an aroma.

All of these things make home here our slice of paradise, but nothing transports us to an otherworldly place of extraordinary beauty like our Northern Lights. When people visit, they’re excited about exploring the reaches of Katmai National Park and photographing brown bears. They want to watch whales, cruise past glaciers and dine on fresh salmon. But most of all, they want to see the Aurora Borealis. We understand.

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The Northern Lights perform a ballet in our winter skies that always stops us in our tracks. An entire lifetime here in Alaska isn’t enough to take in the endless variations of colors that drape and billow across a backdrop of twinkling stars. What begins as a faint flicker in the distance slowly grows reaching farther and farther up into the night.

The incredible show peaks with a dance that fills the sky with gracefully undulating curtains of lights and ignites the darkness with reds, purples, blues and greens. A celestial glow reaches the highest points in the heavens and lights up our faces here below as we gaze up basking in this miracle that illuminates our nighttime sky. If we had to define beauty in Alaska with just one thing, it would be our Northern Lights.

One of the most beautiful things about living in the Last Frontier happens every time we greet someone who’s new to our part of the world. The look of wonder on a face and the excitement in a voice confirms what we already know. Alaska holds the promise of unforgettable experiences and delivers a lifetime of beautiful memories. We feel very blessed to be able to share it all.

A photo by Nelly Volkovich. unsplash.com/photos/ZSMgNjYrHRM

No See Um Lodge is a family-run operation that was established by Jack Holman in the early 70’s. Today his son, John, who is both a pilot and a guide, maintains No See Um’s well-earned reputation for pampering and pleasing its guests. John has been living, fishing, guiding and flying in Alaska for most of his life. He and his guides know the best fishing spots and how to get you there safely.

*If you are interested in contributing a guest post, please email me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com*

 

Stand in the Circle

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There are debates. And shootings. And sickness. And brokenness galore.

And there is also rest. And joy. And hope. And peace.

And I want to choose peace.

I don’t know if you are religious, believe in God, or the power of the universe. If you are agnostic, atheist, or prone to struggle with others. It doesn’t matter where we come from, or how our religious backgrounds divide us. Instead, let us dwell on what can unite us.

My beautiful, simple prayer for this week, for this world, is this.

Encircle us Lord. Keep love in and hatred out. Keep joy in and fear out. Keep peace within and worry out. Keep light within and darkness out. May you stand in the circle with us today and always.

This is where I believe we need to dwell. Where we need to encourage each other. Where we need to return. Take the time to mediate on these words, and see what comes as a beautiful result.

 

On another note – I am extremely excited about my new logo for the blog designed by Blastoff Branding. If you need design work, I highly recommend this company.

The Dachshunds

Shauna Niequist is taking the world by storm, or rather, by quiet revolt. Inviting people to say no to the rush, and yes to the pause. No to feelings of inadequacy and yes to the beauty and grace that we discover when we give ourselves the permission to slow the heck down.

The other day she had this as a Facebook status, “One of my spiritual practices: noticing. The tiny moments of sweetness & beauty & hope are always there–sometimes it’s just a matter of choosing to be a noticer.”

I saw this and I thought, “YES! This is what I want to be. A noticer.”

And so this week I choose to share the joy brought from these things that I noticed.

We went to a Rockies baseball game on Friday night and sat next to a school group. I was amazed at the sheer energy these kids had – climbing over chairs, refusing to sit still, hitting and nudging of siblings. I was so exhausted from sitting all day – yes sitting, the curse of the desk job – and I almost wished I had the tenacity to be able to climb all over my environment.

Too, these kids could not stop eating. Handfuls of popcorn, Pringles, hardboiled eggs their parents had brought, cotton candy. The joyful consumption of so many snacks. Every time I would look over, these little boys and girls had their palms to their faces, licking remnants of cheese and salt, and smears of flavor would be left on their face. This is the kind of abundant life we should be thankful for – remnants of food and wiggles still yet to be had after 9 pm. We live in a place of abundance – we need to recognize this.

As I left my neighborhood driving to work on Monday morning I rubbed my eyes and slurped my coffee. Mornings have never been my favorite and we are notoriously bad at any kind of morning routine here at my house. So when I stopped at the stop sign to turn left onto the main street and noticed an older gentleman walking three dachshunds I had to smile. Not one little dog, but three, and their owner had the ability to get up and dressed and out of the house for a walk. Not all of us are in a hurried rush to get to work.

Notice this kind of thing – the joy owners get from their  little creatures- the will to be outside in the mornings. I noticed a feeling of thankfulness for the beauty that was brought by being forced to stop and notice at a stop sign.

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And today, a little girl outside of the bank building, patiently waiting in a trailer being pulled behind a bike as her mom made a deposit. She knew how to put her hair in a pony tail, and beamed with pride as her mom noticed the change in her appearance when the mom was done with her chore.

It’s true – the world can be scary, and anxiety provoking, and a heck of a hard place to be. But when we slow down and choose to notice, not all of it can be awful.

I want to continue to notice – the good, the happy, the joyful, the dachshunds.

What did you notice this week?

 

“My Status is Not Binary”

I think too much. About where I am, how I got here, what I should be doing. How much do I rest, how much do I push? Where should we be going, how should I be spending money, what to invest in, what matters most?

Right now, I stop my racing brain by focusing on the simple good – our puppy, our family, warm sheets at night, food in our bellies. Maybe the pushing for accomplishment and achievement can be put on hold this year – grief is the work of progress – acceptance is the work of moving forward.

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This week’s beautiful thing is rather simple.  My friend sent me this link and the little cartoon really made me think. I’m sure the clip from The Oatmeal has already gone viral, and maybe you’ve already seen it. I like the simplicity in the little cartoons, and the beautiful way in which the internet can invoke thought and allow us to examine a bit more.

As Americans, let us stop and think, what really makes us happy? How do we stop striving and start living? Can you do both? Remember to stop, to do the work that is in your soul, and focus internally while being thankful for the people who support you.What do you find meaningful, compelling, worth it?

 

They Took that Bumblebee Off Stage

Let’s start with a little story. When I was 4 years old, I took a ballet class. I’m not sure if I was drawn to the idea of being a ballerina, or if my mom felt pressure to put me in activities like the rest of her friends and their daughters at our church. I took the classes, learned to point my toes, and got the bumblebee costume for the recital. I do not remember many of the details of the classes, except for one everlasting memory. Come the night of the dress rehearsal, I got pulled off stage by my teacher because I was hitting another little girl in my class. Mind you, she was in my spot! I had the yellow “X” and this little lady was in my way! So I stood up for myself, and well, was removed from the stage.

I danced on-and-off again until awkward puberty hit, and my height and my love handles didn’t quite fit in with the girls taking 4-10 classes a week, those lining up for point shoes, and neat costumes and weekend competitions. I turned my attention to Science Olympiad – eesh – and to tennis and getting A’s.  Yet, I kept my dance bag with my name embroidered in red, and three pairs of dance shoes – jazz, ballet, and tap. Maybe my 13 year old self knew I would once again return.

FullSizeRender (1)Time passed, I graduated from high school, and started college, and somehow came across my first pair of ballet slippers hiding in a closet, or a drawer at my parent’s house. I took them out and put them on my dresser, as a reminder of the little girl that still lives inside me. The worn pink leather, my name scrawled in Sharpie in my mom’s handwriting, the delicate nature of small slippers used by young children – all of these things make me cherish my first pair of dancing shoes.

I used to make so much fun of my dad for keeping everything – our VHS movies, our toys, our art, our shoes. These shoes. Quite honestly, I’m not sure if it was Mom or Dad who saved these treasures, but in his absence, these shoes mean so much more to me. We need to remember our inner child, and the joy that comes from dancing. These slippers greet me each morning as I pick out my clothes, and serve as a reminder to remember the little girl who once used them.

FullSizeRender (2)As part of my healing process, and an effort to keep moving forward in life, I signed up for a dance class for adults this year. I got out my old dance bag, and my ballet slippers from age 13 still fit. They are not nearly as adorable, but they hold much potential for healing, movement, and joy.

When I went to my first dance class last week I was absolutely stunned at the beautiful atmosphere that was cultivated in the studio. Women ranging in ages from 18-62 joined together, all types of bodies, all different levels of experience, and we were given the freedom to move.

Much to my surprise, the week’s prompt and meditation focus was moving from sorrow to joy. Never have I felt so called by God to be in a space. The bible verse shared that night was Isaiah 43:2. It was like God was speaking directly to me, saying I see you, I’m with you, you will make it through this. My heart still is overwhelmed by the powerful essence of healing and hope Lighthouse Dance created on an ordinary weeknight.

There is beauty to be found in a grown woman’s old ballet slippers, in returning to a space of dance and joy, and in experiencing God’s presence in the most unexpected of places. Beauty in the gifts of graceful reminders that come from people who do not know your struggles, truth that provides hope, community that allows acceptance of diversity and challenge. Beauty in moving forward, and in remembering that with each point of the toe we build on who we once were and can dance our way into who we are meant to be.

When Life Unravels

Beautiful power exists when we share our stories.

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

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

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

With love, bravery, courage and hope.