2017

“But Soon a New day Again”

Thank you to all who have chosen to participate in The Short & Sweet Giveaway!

The contest has come to a close and a winner has been randomly selected.

Congratulations to @WMO_Poetry for your contribution!

You will be notified by Direct Message.

She tweeted:

I sit here

all night

by my innocent

sleeping child

I write & she dreams

Typical

New meds

Again

But soon a

New day Again

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For a bit of a boost and encouragement in beauty, here are the other contributions.

I truly believe beauty is all around us if we choose to look.

Thanks for playing along and sharing your journey with me!

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Make Your List and Pick One

Don’t forget!

There is one day left to enter the Short & Sweet Giveaway.

Take a moment. Grab a pen, a real pen, and some paper.

Maybe it has lines on it, maybe it’s the back of your receipt from the grocery store.

Doesn’t matter.

Jot down a list of the beautiful things in your life right now.

Start with one. Add a few more. Maybe you can get to ten. Beauty and gratitude go hand in hand.

Then pick your favorite.

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Photo by Idella Maeland

Log on to Twitter.

Send me a tweet of your favorite beautiful thing in your life right now and you will be entered to win some of my Favorite Things.

You must be ok with your tweet being shared in a compilation post at the end of the contest.

The Twitter handle is @52Beautiful.

Winners will be notified via Direct Message on Twitter.

I can’t wait to hear from you.

xo

 

Short & Sweet Giveaway

Yin. Yang.

Sour. Sweet.

Anguish. Euphoria.

Life requires a balance of both.

At times, sorrow outweighs the joy and clouds our vision.

This week I face emotional triggers of both joy and pain.

Mother’s Day – celebrating my favorite woman on the planet. Joy. Easy.

Today would have been my dad’s 60th birthday. My heart hurts like hell and I’m drinking a 90 Shilling Beer in his honor – tears in my eyes as I write this. Pain. Ouch.

On Thursday I go down south for a weekend of wedding festivities and I am thrilled to stand by my cousin as she says “I do.” Bliss. Hope. Love. Good.

Life is a fucking balance of sweetness and sting.

I find myself sitting, breathing deeply, wanting to lean into both sides of the swing called life – the chains we rest our heads on.

Allowing myself to sway between sadness and joy is the only way to keep moving.

Keep looking for the beauty in both.

In this busy week I need your help. I pose another challenge that requires your participation. I’ll make it pretty easy for you. You can win a sweet prize of some of my favorite things and more.

Here we go.

Welcome to the Short & Sweet Giveaway!

Short & Sweet Giveaway!

Contest will run between May 15 – May 22, 2017

To Enter:

Send a tweet of 140 characters or less to @52beautiful sharing the beauty in your life right now.

Use the hashtag #shortandsweetgiveaway

No limits (well some limits – keep it appropriate – like something your mom would be ok reading. Maybe it would offend your grandma).

Tell me what you think is beautiful. It’s a glimpse of a child laughing, foam on your latte, tears shed in grief, saying good-bye to a friend, or a chapter, or release.

In celebration, in beers, in pub cheese.

In bridesmaids dresses, shoes stuck in the grass, your favorite golf outfit.

I will compile a list of the tweets you contribute and post them next week, so you have to be ok with having your comment shared here again.

If you follow me on my NEW Twitter account, you will get a bonus entry to win.

There ya go. Short and Sweet. Get Tweeting.

xo.

 

1400 Pennies

Clink. Clink. Clink.

I sat criss-crossed on the carpet sorting coins on Sunday night. Pouring piles of pennies onto the floor as fresh air blew in from my open window.

Piles of ten. Add up to fifty. Over and over again.

Rain drops sneaking their way through the screen. Olive snipping at a fly buzzing above.

Clink. Clink. Clink. Metal on glass. Coins exiting a mason jar.

I took home a canning jar full of coins from my mom’s house after family dinner on Sunday. The jar had sat in my parent’s medicine cabinet for years. Pennies collecting scum and dust and pieces of lint.

Each evening, Dad would take coins out of pockets and throw them in the pile. Circles of copper waiting for a bigger purpose. Something to be saved. I don’t know what he did with his dimes, nickels, and quarters. This jar was only full of pennies.

Mom moved the jar out of her reclaimed closet a few weeks ago.

I’ve always been motivated by money. In elementary school I rose to Dad’s reading challenge – you get one dollar for every book you read from now until we go to Disney World. I read one hundred chapter books much to Dad’s surprise. He held up his end of the deal and I think I got a souvenir. Knowing me, I probably saved some of the cash. In high school I spent hours organizing holiday greeting cards for an odd acquaintance – paid by the package. Nimble fingers make for quick compounding pay outs.

This is an interesting personal trait considering I’ve spent my career working for nonprofits, writers, and small businesses. Passion pays the soul. It can also leaves zeros missing at the end of paychecks.

So yes, when Mom said I could have the cash if I took the heavy jar home, I jumped at the chance. This nerd already had rolling papers for the coins waiting to be filled.

This aint my first coin jar rodeo. I sat, I poured, and I rolled up those pennies.

Clink. Clink. Clink.

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1400 pennies in all. When I finished counting, an overwhelming sadness overtook me. This would be the last interaction with Dad’s always present coin jar. The one that sat next to the Advil and aloe in the cabinet. Never again will his contributions of loose change add up to something bigger.

I held the rolls of money in my sweaty palms feeling their weight. Went to bed.

In the morning, sipping my coffee, I glanced over at the pile of paper rolls and stared. His fingerprints, his grime, his pockets, his molecules in those little cylinders. Beautiful reminders of his after-thoughts at the end of his days.

I went to the bank this afternoon and swallowed the sadness as I handed the teller my beautiful pennies in exchange for some dollar bills. She laughed a little and asked if I had a side project collecting the coins.

“Something like that,” I murmured.

I walked out the doors of the bank and pocketed the cash. I told myself it is ok to let go, once again, of the many little things. That’s what grief is. A constant letting go.

There is beauty found in the grimy copper coins, in their distinct clinking noise against glass, in their memories.

I spent the dollar bills on a craft beer with a friend tonight. An EIGHT DOLLAR craft beer. I think Dad would have liked the ale but I know he would have rolled his eyes at the price.

Beauty in beer, in letting go, in acknowledging the sadness. In the saying of thank you, Dad, for keeping your coins. In realizing I can still say, “Dad, this one’s on you.”

Ink

I made the mistake of scrolling through Twitter while having my morning coffee. Anxiety-inducing caffeine mixed with anxiety-inducing messages about how health care changes are going to influence us all swirl like the cinnamon in my cup. Today’s choice makes my stomach hurt – health care, not my coffee.

I’ve got to stop starting my day on social media.

Coffee time needs to be for Jesus, for devotionals, for lists of gratitude and prayers and hopes.

So I write, to calm my anxiety, and to ground myself in the good again. Putting words on ‘paper’ often times is the only thing that makes sense.

The phrase ‘pen to paper’ really seems to lose its romance when you think about how people write their thoughts these days. ‘Put your fingers to the keyboard’ has none of the glamour. No images of writers struggling are conjured with the act of typing. Click click click on a keyboard – the nostalgia is gone. You can’t smell typing like you can a ball point pen. The beautiful smell of ink coming out of a ball point pen.

Ink.

Pre-death, I always said I would only get a tattoo if I had something big to remember. If I went through something tragic, or lost someone.

Damn. I have lived through both.

I wrote a letter to my dad on the year anniversary of his death. In my ramblings, and through my tears, I wrote about how proud he would have been of my brother who has lots of tattoos:

You should see Sam, Dad. His long hair and big muscles and tattoos to remember you by. How we ink our skin in hopes of putting you and your legacy back into our bodies, to absorb you yet again into our blood. I want one, a tattoo to remember you by. I’m kind of scared though. Needles and me don’t get along. That’s something we had in common too. What would you get? Your handwriting on my arm? That chicken scratch scrawl that used to drive me nuts.

I went back and forth, for that fear of needles is real for me. Could I be brave enough to make such a permanent choice?

A few weeks later I was reading the handwritten speech Dad gave at my wedding. At the bottom of the paper he had scrawled his favorite phrase of adoration, ‘love you much.’

“Do it”, he whispered through those words on paper, “mix my words with your blood and carry me with you permanently.” 

And so I did. I met a beautiful tattoo artist who accepted my whole family into his studio with compassion. My mom embarrassed me exclaiming to Jordan, “but you are just so normal!” He laughed her words right off his shoulders.

Jordan took Dad’s handwriting and made it beautiful.  Figured out how to transfer the letters onto my skin. Held my arm, made sure the words were straight, transferred Dad’s legacy onto my skin and deeper into my blood. Words and love made permanent through ink.

Here it is:

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Needle to skin has shimmers of beauty too. Writing stories on our skin. Ink.

 

For more information on the studio Heart & Skin visit their website.

Pink Flamingos in the Pool

I sat down at my computer two hours ago with the intent of completing some overdue work. I have a task I eagerly look forward to. One of those tasks that I am a little bit afraid of – a ‘just need to sit down and pump it out’ task that still isn’t finished.

I opened up my computer, clicked to open Word and got the rainbow wheel of death. You know what I’m talking about. The ever whirring wheel that taunts you saying, ‘just a sec…. let me just load this one thing.’ You sit on your hands and grit your teeth and hope that the machine you use every day will respond to your gentle caresses and coaxing.

No luck.

Open Microsoft Office support, let them log on remotely (that’s ok right? I feel like I’m signing away all of me when someone remotes into my computer) and here I sit, uninstalling over 70,000! files so I can reinstall my Microsoft Office suite.

My task remains unfinished. My brain, and maybe the universe, are telling me to switch gears. Here we are instead, blogging. A much better use of time than staring at the screen as my trash bin empties on my Mac.

I drift back in memory to the wonderful weekend I just spent in Scottsdale, Arizona with my cousin’s best friends.

Lew, as we affectionately call her, is three years older than me and was always the epitome of cool. We grew up living two hours apart and spent major holidays, vacations, and summer play dates together. In elementary school I was in awe of her competitive soccer team and would get excited when her traveling team would come up north for a weekend game. In junior high I envied her Abercrombie and Fitch clothing and group of best friends. When I was in high school she would invite me to come watch a movie at her house nearby as she was in college. I’d marvel her home full of all things college – sports paraphernalia and the cute boys from the ‘guy’s house’ across the street.

She stood as Maid of Honor for my wedding and in three weeks time I will stand as a bridesmaid in hers.

I was thrilled to fly to Arizona for a weekend girl’s trip for her bachelorette extravaganza. I was blessed with an opportunity to bask by a pool in the desert and to rest in a beautiful mansion. Blessed with many hours of conversation that were distinctly feminine. The conversations carried threads of hopes for marriages, our careers, their babies (no, no not me, just all of her friends).

Laughter bounced along the water ripples as one of us would occasionally jump off the diving board or fall in the pool after trying to balance on a floating flamingo.

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Lew and me on our floating creatures.

There is something powerful when women gather. Energy shifts, back rubs are given freely, tears are shed over iced glasses of rose wine. I didn’t know these women that well, and frankly, they have intimidated me all of my life. Looking up to a cluster of amazing women that have supported my cousin has often left me feeling jealous – why can’t I seem to foster decade long friendships with such ease?

The veil lifted, though, as I took time to speak with each of these ladies. My myths of glamorous girls formed into real people with real problems, hopes, dreams, and jokes. Lots of wonderful jokes. I started to feel like a part of them. And that is a beautiful thing.

Friendship with women can be hard. We form cliques, we gossip, we exclude – unintentionally, often in an effort to protect ourselves. Yet, if we can let down our own IMG_5081guard, and let people in a little bit, we can find a whole lot more of ourselves.

A social lubricant of three powerful margaritas sipped out of a penis-shaped straw may have helped. 

It felt wonderfully beautiful to be taken care of, to rest, to sleep in the sun.To share salads and crackers and bits of cheese. To float on flamingos, and unicorns, and swans.

 

 

 

 

Get your own flamingo here: GoFloats Flamingo PartyTube Inflatable Raft, Float In Style (for Adults and Kids)

Survived by….

Olive, our dog, got a new toy for Easter. Meet Cerdito (little piggy in Spanish) as we affectionately call him.

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Looks the same, but Olive’s is green. As I sit here, Olive is chewing and the little toy grunts away. It has this odd sound mechanism that makes me feel like I’m sharing my bedroom with a baby boar. Her zeal for this creature makes me laugh.

Sometimes it’s the little things that are enough to get you up and out of bed and writing.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

I was reading my dad’s obituary yesterday. It’s still online and when I miss him it can be helpful to look at the long list of memories that other people shared on his site. I stopped when I read the phrase, “… is survived by….” 

I wrote his obituary with my mom, an ugly obligation when you are the writers in the family. I remember being in her bedroom. Mom sat on her blue upholstered couch, I across the way perched slightly higher on her four poster-bed. With rounded shoulders and our chins in our hands we asked each other, “Do we have to include that phrase?”

“I hate that saying,” I’m pretty sure I murmured. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

I never used to understand that phrase. Survived by. I mean sure, that makes sense if we were all in a terrible accident. If the cause of death was a storm, or a bus, or a tragedy that we were all involved in. If we were the ones to get out of the car and walk away scratch free. I didn’t survive his heart attack. I didn’t survive anything in the few days, weeks, early months of loss.

We included the two words.

Roy is survived by his wife, Christine Christman; daughter, Katie (Dylan) Huey and son, Sam Christman.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito. Olive continues to chew away.

I think the impact of those two words makes sense to me now. Thirteen months out, I have begun to survive Dad’s death. My family has begun to survive loss.

As humans, all of us are going to have to at some point – sorry Charlie.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

I went to Good Friday service last Friday. This year the death part of the Easter story hit me differently. The pastor gracefully explained how deeply Jesus suffered on the cross – not in brutal, gory detail, but rather in focusing on the emotional exhaustion that comes from death.

Jesus experienced it too, hanging on the cross, crying out to God “Why have you forsaken me?” He experienced how breath becomes shallow, how head hangs low, how heart and spirit feel ripped away from the Creator of the Universe.  Jesus died. In dying, he felt the things that feel very much like grief.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

Grief can be unbelievable lonely, even when walking with people who lost the same person as you. On Friday, sitting in church in the dark, listening to Jesus’ final seven phrases, it hit me; Jesus has been through death too. This made me feel just a little bit better, a little closer to God, a little more hopeful, less lonely in the beginnings of survival.

On Sunday, I yelled “He is Risen” with enthusiasm. For Jesus rose again to take on our suffering, to walk with us through the dark, to say to ME “I get it. I’ve been there too.” This common ground never made sense to me until just this week. What a beautiful thing.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt, ” says Cerdito.

I think survival is an interesting concept. Day to day we, as humans, are surviving. By breathing air and eating food and drinking water we make choices to keep on going, despite hardship. Death can be hardship, so can a million other things.

Yet choosing to find joy as the thread that connects all of the horrible can be a beautiful thing.  I’ll end my thoughts this week with a list of the beautiful threads of joy that have helped me begin to be a survivor of death of a loved one.

It is a new identity I’m tentatively beginning to put on – one arm in the sleeve of a scratchy sweater, not yet worn enough to be soft on my skin.

Those silly grunts from a pig, and tears, and communion in individual plastic cups.

New jobs for my husband, and naps, and spaghetti.

In meals cooked by my brother, breakfasts at the lunch counter at The Silver Grill.

Afternoons spent at my in-laws.

In Easter baskets, and morning light, and endless text message threads.

In acknowledging that we all, at some point, are going to survive something.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.