2018

Beauty Happens Every Night – All Around the World – Guest Post by Charlotte

Another Twitter connection. Another delightful person working bravely to write, create, and appreciate gifts right under her nose. Check out this sensory guest post from Charlotte Underwood. I love how she reminds us we don’t have to venture far to find experiences that please the senses.

Author: Charlotte Underwood
Blog: www.charlotteunderwoodauthor.com

Her Favorite Quote: “Time passes, people move. Like a river’s flow, it never ends. A childish mind will turn to noble ambition. Young love will become deep affection. The clear water’s surface reflects growth. Now listen to the Serenade of water to reflect upon yourself.” – Sheik

Nature is a gift that we receive every day and yet seem to ignore and maybe even act ungrateful for. It’s easy to forget that in our ever-increasing urban lifestyle, that we are on the doorstep of some of earths most beautiful creations.

I have always been infatuated with the beauty of nature and the little gems that the world provides us, memories of me playing in the mud, dancing under blossom trees and going on adventures through woods and dipping my toes in the hidden lakes of my hometown; these are the ones that showed me true happiness, love and awe, it reminded me of life.

Now, I must admit that as an adult with severe anxiety, I do tend to ignore the world that I crave all too much. I want nothing more than to pack up and travel the world, to see each of the wonders of the world and to experience every culture known to man; but for now, that is but a dream but one that I will achieve.

Until I am able to jet off, it doesn’t mean that I can’t make the most of my local area, we all seem for forget that our own towns and neighborhoods contain some truly beautiful sights. Be it the park that has contains a pond full of rainbow fish or a building that fills your mind with curiosity, when was the last time you actually took the moment to look and to ponder, to let that imagination flow.
My old garden and the memories of it has become my happy place when things start to get hard for me, because the environment it gave filled me with such warmth and safety; I’ll never forget it. I used to lie on top of my trampoline in the evening, with the sun glistening through the trees the enveloped my garden and caressed my cheek, I could hear the birds sing and the trees sway in the wind that was tickling my toes, this was happiness.

I can no longer sit in that garden but the memory will last a lifetime and also, right now, like you, I am surrounded by opportunity that will surely leave me breathless and thankful. A short drive away from my home is my local beach and while it is not the prettiest, have you ever sat and watched the sunset on a beach? Where the sun shines a golden coat across the coast and then folds into a hypnotic shade of purple before darkness fades in? This happens every night, all around the world and yet so many of us, even those who literally live on the doorstep will miss out – why?

Mother nature is an artist with the most precious and fine creations that not one person could ever mimic, with no cost or trap to experience the beauty and lust of these masterpieces, it seems almost wasteful that we do not spend more time appreciating what is right under our noses.


Hunstanton

Charlotte Underwood is a young 22 year old from Norfolk, UK. She is a growing mental health advocate and likes to use writing to inform and support.

You can follow her blog,  where she posts a lot about mental health, depression, anxiety and suicide. She hopes to raise awareness as well as end the stigma. You can follow her on Twitter.

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My Mountain Metaphor

I’m a seasoned ‘church camper.’ As a teenager, for at least a week each summer, I’d pile into a fifteen passenger van with sweaty boys and anxious girls and venture to the Colorado mountains for whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and torture … er, mountain biking.

Each night, after facing our fears and relying on God’s mercy to survive hormones, and crushes, and camp food, we’d hunker down to listen to sermons from a pastor underneath a picnic shelter with flames flickering behind him.

The bible is full of references to mountains. How we ought to look to them, how God moves them, how they melt in his presence, or shake in his glory. God speaks to people on mountain tops, bushes burn, internal battles are fought. Tectonic plates are holy ground.

Wise, college aged mentors would french braid my hair as I sat between their knees. I felt safe, loved, and seen. The mountains I was climbing in that season of my life involved grades, crushes, and college applications. All age appropriate, and yes, privileged.  I’d have my mountain top experience, head back down the hill and return to normal life.

Ten years passed and I still hadn’t climbed all the way to the top of one of Colorado’s beckoning peaks.

This past weekend we rallied with our cousins to trek to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain. We picked an “easy” one. Never you mind that easy still means you’re climbing an f’in MOUNTAIN.

It was not an easy experience for me.

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At the end of the meadow stretch, full of waving wildflowers, I could look up the steep trail and see people moving in front of me where I was headed. Like ants, we fell in line and moved slowly up, up, up.

“Our faith can move mountains” – Matthew 17:20

But could it move me?

We stopped every 200 yards to catch our breath. All the blogs told me this was a normal part of the process. I’d keep looking up, and see people ahead, and I’d ask, “how am I going to get up there?!”

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord – maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121: 1-2

The answer was adjust my blinders. I had to focus on the ten feet in front of me, and then the next ten, and the next, to keep moving along. Any time I looked to the top of the peak, I’d falter. Mentally challenged and physically tired my cousin offered me his trekking pole so I could stop stumbling.

 

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As we approached the summit, solid ground gave way to piles of boulders. Big rocks stacked over one another. Why would something so massive be made up of hundreds of moving parts?

The last 200 yards I was using my hands to pull myself up and over big chunks of stone. Why did God design mountains that way? Heavy, precariously balanced stones for us master?

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I made it to the top. I sat and caught my breath and inhaled God’s fresh air. He whispered to me, “look how far you’ve come.”

In this season, my mountains have matured. Accepting the loss of a parent is not meant for almost thirty year olds. Finding employment after job loss. Navigating marriage. Coming into our own skins with confidence and learning how to soothe broken hearts. Those were bigger boulders found when a previous foundation fell apart – the aftermath forming new piles in our way. Rubble. Crumbly, heavy, hurting chunks of stone.

We’ve moved these last two and a half years, holding hands, five feet at a time up, up, and up to this new summit. The view is beautiful, holy, and aching. For Dad is closer to the heavens than back at the trailhead, and he wasn’t waiting for me to return at home.

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“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” – Isaiah 54:10

It’s peaceful up there on piles of stone. Hearts soar and God speaks.

And then you have to come down.

Spiritually, I’m afraid of coming down for I know new mountains will form for me to climb. I don’t want to hurt nor do I want to find new footing.

We want the summit. We don’t want the work. Unfortunately, beautifully, you can’t have one without the other. 

As we trekked down and our knees screamed, God brought this song back to me from camp years ago.

The artist wrote this song from a mountain near where we spread Dad’s ashes. Funny how our stories connect. Funny how boulders mix with pebbles to create beautiful trails racking our lungs and pounding our hearts.

I’m offering up my broken cup. Keep climbing up. Willing to come down.

Keep stepping the next ten beautiful feet in front of me.

She Shouted Three Words

We took the elevator to our seats last night. They checked our tickets and stamped our wrists. Through the doors and to the left, plush purple carpet embraced my dirty sandals. “Welcome”, the door said, “to Club level.”

There was never carpet at the baseball games of my childhood.

We were granted this treat thanks to generous employers who shared their tickets with us!

A kind gentleman held the door for us as we juggled hot dogs and beer to our cushioned seats.

We settled in, three innings late, tending to the suds sloshing over our plastic cups onto cement. I was halfway through my meal when it started.

Two rows up a woman was chanting.

Loudly. Three words. Over and over again.

Let’s Go Mets. Let’s Go Mets.

It got louder.

Let’s Go Mets.  Let’s Go Mets. Let’s Go Mets.

Her beat relentless.

Let’s Go Mets. Let’s Go Mets.

Cheering at a stadium? No problem.

Except, we weren’t at the Met’s stadium. That was not our team.

At first some people laughed at how boisterous this woman was.

Rich people glared, turning their necks up to see who was causing such a disturbance.

She persisted.

Ushers were called over by folks who were annoyed by her enthusiasm. 

“I believe in YOUUU baby!” she screamed, her Jersey accent carrying the words down to home plate.

Inning after inning, this lady wouldn’t let up.

It pissed people off. Boy did it piss people off.

I was annoyed at first, and then my annoyance turned to something else. Respect maybe?

This lady was screaming her truth. Her passion for baseball, enthusiasm for being in a crowd, using her voice. I mean yes, it was annoying as hell, but also – Wow.

She was into this. She wasn’t hurting anyone. And she did not let the glares of privileged people stop her.

I don’t know how she ended up in our section, or why she traveled from New Jersey to cheer in the Mile High City, but she did.

Loudly.

We wanted to shush her. She refused. The ushers politely explained that unless she becomes belligerent, starts swearing, or threatening others, guests (yes guests) are allowed to cheer as loudly as they want.

“We’re in a stadium for God’s sakes,” she cackled ” If I wanted to be quiet I woulda stayed home.”

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What if we all refused to shush?

Some things are worth repeating loudly, over and over. You believe your message matters.

I’m more of a quiet gal myself – you know my tagline – hope on whispers. Quiet, gentle whispers. Eeesh please don’t look at me.

I could never stand there and scream, “But the World has SO MUCH TO OFFER! Why do we have to be so cruel? Why can’t we just look for God’s gifts? The beautiful things? The food in your belly. The slobbery kisses your children leave? The feeling of dirt on your toes from your own soil? A blessing of a pillow at night?

I could never stand and yell – YOU PEOPLE DON’T GET JUST HOW GOOD WE HAVE IT? HOW BEAUTIFUL THIS GORGEOUS, MAGICAL WORLD IS. YOU’RE LOOKING IN THE WRONG PLACES. MAYBE HURTING PEOPLE ALONG THE WAY!

No.

I’m more quiet.

So I write. In all capital letters.

After the 9th inning when our team won, she gathered her belongings and yelled, “Don’t worry, I’ll see you in Miami next week!” right at the field.

Devotion. Loyalty. Voice.

We drove home and bitched about her persistence but as I was laying in bed, ears ringing with her screams, I couldn’t help but think, what am I willing to shout?

She shouted.

In passionate cases, one carrying voice can be a beautiful thing.

My Apple Cart / Soap Box Rant

I’m bending down and dragging out the medium-sized apple cart. The old wood scratches on the cement, screeching along as I place the little pedestal in front of me.

Clomp. Clomp.

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Photo by dimas aditya on Unsplash

My feet stand confidently on this wooden box, supporting me as I take a deep breath.

Here it is folks.

My apple cart / soap box rant.

It’s Father’s Day. My third one with out him. The first year this loss was fresh, fresh, fresh. Teeth had sunk in and crunched away a giant part of me. I texted my friend who had lost her dad three years prior and I asked, “Um. What the hell am I supposed to do on this day?”

She responded, ” My first year I stayed off social media, got in bed and waited for it to pass.”

She granted me permission to do just that.

Last year we spent the day putting new mulch in our front yard. Ate pizza with my father-in-law and I’m sure I cried privately. I still stayed off social media.

This year, I’ve been working very hard on finding a community of people who understand and can relate to these swimming feelings of loss. I’ve whispered prayers for friends who can walk through this with me.

To my surprise, I found a lot of support on the internet.

I signed up for a Father’s Day gift exchange through Modern Loss. I write on the private group boards and think of the ol’ AOL chat room days. I ponder how these strangers behind their computer screens bravely share their pain and frustration and joy.

I submitted my answers to Father’s Day questions posed by The Dinner Party – a grief group specific for 20-30 somethings who have lost important people in their lives. They were going to pick 24 stories to highlight – one each hour today – and were overwhelmed when over 150 people responded to their prompts. I received the email with this round-up of powerful pieces at work. I scrolled through this list and tears filled my eyes while a sense community filled my heart. They included every single submission.

Unfortunately …. beautifully … I am not alone.

 

 

I get it now. I’m in the Dead Dads Club. A lifetime membership to the suckiest group.

New members join every day.

I think of the line they start every Al-Anon Meeting with – We’re sorry for what brought you here, but we’re glad you’ve found your way. 

This year, I believe in the power of my story and I’m using my voice. I’m scrolling on Facebook and won’t be staying in bed. I’m putting up pictures and writing poems and high-fiving with those who get it.

If you need to stay in bed and sip white wine that’s fine too.

Because there are SO many people who get it.

These people not be my intimate friends, but they, my fellow members, have brought me support and nodded “uh-huh” and wiped away tears from across the country. All on the internet.

 

I see Dad today – in the places he’s missing – but also in the places where we are living.

Cheers to the dads throwing ball, changing diapers, grilling steaks today. The ones who throw their kids in the air, teach tots to ride trikes, those working to pay the bills and put bread on the table. Cheers to the dads who are hurting. Those struggling with depression, or unemployment, or grief of their own. Cheers to the men who have no blood relation. Those who care deeply about the development of others. The ones who are bosses. The ones who are putting others before themselves. Cheers to the dads who are expecting. Those watching their wives bellies grow. The dads who are dreaming.

Cheers to the dads who are living.

Cheers to the dads who have died.

I wrote this poem for my dad and Hello Humans was gracious to publish it.

Happy Father’s Day.

Clomp. Clomp.

Stepping down.

Dragging my apple cart back into the garage.

In These Ordinary Sparkles

Read a book. Hiked a mini mountain. Two over easy eggs oozed over shredded potatoes.

Beer courted lemonade.

Words worked this afternoon.

Sore legs pulsed.

Cold water cascaded, kissing scalps while mixing with shampoo bubbles.

Sleep tickled eyelids.

Weekend.

Sometimes the ordinary feels magical.

In the sparkles, I feel unbearably grateful for peace.

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Photo by Fred Heap on Unsplash

Sunday nights can be challenging for my grief. It’s as if the world pauses before launching in to another week and I miss him. Sunday night dinners forever changed. This week was National Doughnut Day and I ate my plain cake doughnut with chocolate sprinkles (Thanks Jana!) and with every swallow wished I could text Dad to say,  “Look what I’m eating.” Instead, I pinched the last morsel of my treat and licked my fingers, saying a silent hello to him at the counter in our workplace kitchen.

Yet, tonight, on this cloudy cool evening with my dog at my feet and my husband fixing our fence I am so grateful I could cry.

Happy tears. Peaceful tears. Nostalgic tears.

Deep breaths. Sigh. Whisper thank you. Repeat.

These ordinary sparkles. They glitter and dance shaping this new version of me. Different body, strengthened heart, gold filling the cracks.

We’re moving forward with strength into the second half of another year.

Time for sleep.

Listen to this before you go to bed.

She’s won my heart.

June Favorite Things

I wrote down a list of things I want to do before I turn 30. I was supposed to complete one of them before June and I blinked and now it’s June. Still haven’t completed that project.

I have, however, learned how to roast a chicken, made homemade pasta, published in a magazine, pierced my ears, and learned a song on the ukulele. So, ya know, some progress. I’ve still got slots left on my list of things I need to do. Any ideas for what can fill the second half of the last year of my twenties?

Anyway…. (think how Ellen De Generes says it)

Here are some of my favorite things for the month ahead.

  1. Trader Joes Ice Cream Bon Bons (#2) on this list.

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It’s hot and it’s only June. I’ve been going to the gym so I’ve ALSO been eating these little treats from Trader Joes. Haven’t tried em? Trust me. I fill a bowl with three for Dylan and one for me and they are delightful post dinner treats. If you want to have three and leave one for your husband I approve of that too.

2. The Goat Fetching Soap

I met the folks of this lovely little Etsy shop on Twitter and they kindly sent me a bar of their soap. The smell is heavenly and the soap very creamy. Seems to provide great moisture for my hands. They also make other natural bath and body products without harmful or toxic ingredients. Certainly worth perusing their offerings.

3. Hiking Pants

Another thing on my goals list is to hike a 14ner. Not from Colorado? That means a mountain with an elevation of over 14,000 ft. I’ve lived in Colorado for most of my life and haven’t tried to conquer one of those mountains with my own two feet. So I’ve rallied a support crew and have started collecting necessary accessories for an adventure. Just purchased these hiking pants and I promise I’ll put them to use.

Never you mind that my stomach looks nothing like that models. No body shaming here.

4. Garden Gnome Home

I have a thing for gnomes. We have cute Christmas ones and they made an appearance on my wedding gift registry. So when my mom texted me this cute little photo of garden gnome homes for the trees in your backyard, I giggled with delight. This is so cute. I want! Bring on the garden gnomes.

5. Native Deodorant

Facebook ads got me again and I purchased some all natural deodorant made by Native. Never you mind it is quite a bit more expensive than your regular, nasty aluminum-filled deodorant. I love their quirky marketing and had to laugh when the instructions share that it can take up to 14 days for your body to adjust to the new chemical-free stink destroyer. I told everyone close to me if I was extra sweaty, there was a reason. Now you know too. I’m one week in and LOVING it. This stuff works. No more Ladies Speed Stick for me.

I hope you have a stellar, sweat-free summer!

 

A Beautiful Moment is Enough – Guest Post by Ruth

Twitter. A mysterious, magical thing that connects me to readers and writers all over the globe. I’ve been following the #bloggerswanted for awhile now and throw my name and my website into all kinds of hats to see if I can write for bloggers. So when Ruth tweeted one of her goals for her blog was a guest post, I was happy to send her my guest blogging requirements.

She’s right, sometimes a beautiful moment is more than enough.

Take it away!

Author:  Ruth of the blog Ruth in Revolt

Favorite Quote: “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” – William Shakespeare

It was spring 2018. Spring – a time for new life. A time for hope.

There I was, not feeling much of anything at all. At best, I was lost. At worst, I was empty.
I had been on a slippery slope for a few weeks. The stress of work, the stabbing ache for home and the constant fear I wasn’t good enough were consuming me. I was being sucked into a black hole. I needed something to hold onto.

The sun was shining, but there was a cool breeze. It was the perfect day for a trip to the beach. So, that’s where I decided to go. Strange, indeed, how I needed solid ground, but I sought a body of water.

I set off in search of relief. All I wanted was a moment of clarity.

My legs were shaky as I walked. There was a tightness in my chest and butterflies furiously flapping their wings inside my stomach. Anxiety had its fingers wrapped around my heart. In spite of it, I took strides forward. I turned my music up, desperately trying to drown out the thoughts in my head. I could see the sea in the distance. It drew me in. I told myself that if I could make it there, I would feel better. A sense of determination washed over me. My legs moved quickly now, until I reached the esplanade.

There were people everywhere. We had all had the same idea, but I imagined they were here for very different reasons. They were smiling. I was barely holding it together.
There were children, laughing as they played in the sand. There were couples holding hands. There were dogs, chasing balls and splashing in the sea. There was a photographer or two, trying to capture the magic of it all. It was a hive of activity. It was full of life and for a moment, I was, too.

I noticed an elderly man, sitting alone and eating ice cream. He must have faced troubles in his life, but he looked content.

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I decided I wasn’t leaving the beach until I felt it. I knew it would come. It had to.

The air seemed clearer here; lighter. For what seemed like the first time in weeks, I felt like I could breathe. I took deep breaths to ensure the air reached the depths of my lungs. My chest rose and fell, mimicking the tide sweeping in and drifting out. I turned off my music. I could hear it all now – the talking, the laughter, the sweet sound of memories being made. The delicate sounds of the waves kissing the sand was playing on repeat in the background. It felt like a hundred sounds reaching my ears at once, yet so peaceful.

As the waves came down, the grip of anxiety loosened. I let myself relax. Something about being here made it seem easy. All the problems slipped away, like grains of sand in my hand. I couldn’t tell you how good it felt.

Staring out at the sea, I knew I was bigger than my problems. I could conquer them. I could do anything. I was more alive than ever before. I knew it couldn’t last forever, but it was a beautiful moment.

And, sometimes, a beautiful moment is enough.


 

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Ruth is 27 years old and lives in Aberdeen, UK. She writes about everything and anything. Loves bourbon biscuits, typewriters, cats and music. Collects notebooks and Dr Martens. Happiest by the sea.

You can find new posts on her blog Ruth in Revolt every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  Send her an email at hello@ruthinrevolt.com or follow her on Instagram or Twitter.