2019

Honey Bear Witness

We had a big weekend. The Buffs beat the Huskers and I screamed until my throat was as red as the sea of opponent fans sitting all around me.

Excuse me, who let the rivals into the CU section?

I painted again – another layer of fresh, clean, chalky white over the dark cabinet doors. Home improvement projects are not for the faint of heart.

Band practice filled our basement with loud beats and vibrating floors.

It was ordinary. Normal. Full of things we wanted to do and plans we put into place.

I sat to rest in our worn Lazy-Boy lounger on Sunday evening, and as the thunderclouds rolled in, I started to weep.

In the regular moments, at the end of busy days, the grief and fear and uncertainty of what comes next creep in.

In the stillness, his absence is there.

My overactive mind fills the space with what-ifs and how-to’s and qualifiers of my own doubt and the tiny tears fall.

And as the thunder clapped over my needing-replaced roof, I turned to my mess of a half-done kitchen.

I pulled on the paint-splattered bed sheet, tucking my renovation project in for the night.

I took out a cutting board and placed it on the granite. I palmed six green pears and moved their lizard-rough skin from one side of the kitchen to the other.

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One by one, I took a blade, slit the fruit open and transformed what was once one into two. Using a soup spoon, I dipped metal into the grainy flesh, carving out the seeds. Placed all six halves in a prepared baking pan and turned to take the honey bear from the cupboard.

As I drizzled the golden liquid onto the vulnerable fruit, I thought to myself, sometimes we have to be torn apart in order to transform.

Put the pears in the hot oven and baked for ten minutes. Structure softened. Heat broke down rigid boundaries and skin peeled.

After letting the fruit cool and honey pool, I stuffed the holes where the seeds once lived with gorgonzola cheese, letting the creamy blue melt with ease from the wafts of air leaving the pan.

Knives cut, innards scooped out, and golden nectar served witness to the transformation.

I’ve been cut, innards scooped out leaving so much room for beautiful things to bear witness. May I be full of things to help me transition with ease.

It may be silly to compare the preparation of pears and cheese to my growth as a human. But here it is.

I’ll keep letting the tears come, honoring the blade, and turning to the kitchen. My beautiful things.

September Favorite Things – 2019

Fall is upon us and the cooler mornings tease me as 90 degree days follow.

It is still too hot for my fall sweaters. The cozy clothes can wait in my closet and I’ll wait, refusing a pumpkin spice latte for a few weeks more. Here’s what I’m loving this month.

  1. Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life by Teresa R. Funke


My mentor and friend has a new book out this fall and I’m thrilled to be on her team as she inspires ordinary people like me to embrace and honor our creative selves. The e-book is now available and the paperback will be launched later this month. Learn more about Teresa and her other titles here.

2. Bring me a cannoli


These are my husbands favorite birthday treat and we had a friend make hundreds for our wedding. Our 5th (!) anniversary is this month and I’ll eat one or two to celebrate. If you’re feeling ambitious – these shells are fun to fill with creamy ricotta and chocolate chips.

3. Annie Sloan chalk paint

We’ve been re-doing our cabinets and while my kitchen is a mess and all the spices are exposed, this chalk paint is saving us from hours of sanding dark cherry stain.

4. Big Little Lies

I know I’m behind and just finished Season One on HBO. The editing! The music! The suspense! Perhaps I should read the book.

5. Zucchini

I’m still rooting for the zucchini blossoming in our backyard. As the slow crop grows, I’ve been stocking up at the farmers market and spiralizing, turning into muffins, and sautéing with goat cheese. Summer veggies won’t last much longer.

What are you excited about this month?

Different than Paint on Plaster

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Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Searching through the piles of dirtied towels, blocks of sandpaper, and used Clorox wipes, I finally grasp the small metal paint key. I place its tiny lip into the rim of the quart sized can. With a flick of my wrist and a pop, off comes the lid. I place it on the old, yellowing bed-sheet splayed across the cool kitchen counter.

The thick white liquid sits in the quart sized can, bubbling up at me after being shaken in its tiny vessel. My movements blended and mixed the pigment meant to cover up dark cherry stain.

I catch myself staring as I stand at the small entrance to our kitchen, hips leaning sideways against the center island.

In just ten seconds, thoughts and memories bounce through my brain.

This is the same kitchen where we unpacked wedding gifts wrapped in parchment paper along with our young-married hopes and dreams. The same kitchen where we prepared my dad’s last meal – blood-red steak and garden salad and steaming baked potatoes with melty butter. He broke a red wine glass that evening – promised to buy me another one to complete the set.

There sit three goblet glasses still, the empty space signifying his presence in my same kitchen.

The same kitchen were I bake grief cookies and our friends and family gather for homemade pasta in remembrance of him. Other evenings we lift gin and tonics to the memory of our European adventures where we reclaimed pieces of ourselves on London’s city streets and in fields simmering with Spain’s sunshine.

The same kitchen where I’ll spoon feed a baby mashed carrots or pick up spaghetti thrown onto the floor by a child who has my dad’s eyes or curly hair.

This is a space not marked with trauma, but with comfort. With life-giving sustenance and floors with crumbs of recovery and laughter and places to lean when on the phone, chopping carrots or peeling back the layers of an onion. Paper plates and Crate and Barrel china and candles changing scents with the seasons.

I grab the wooden handle of the paintbrush off of the black granite and run the brushes bristles over my palms. Soft and soothing, a few strokes back and forth bring me back to the present.

I dip the bristles into the white and turn my wrist against the can’s rim, just like dad taught me, to remove the excess. I turn to face the wooden cabinets recently cleaned of layers of oil and grime and dust.

As I press my brush to the surface of the cabinet door I hear Dad whisper, “Remember to let your tools do the work for you.”

Moving paint on wood has a different feel than paint on plaster.

I’m not covering these doors up in the same way I did the basement.

This project is different.

Each stroke is empowering – I have a say and power in creating a space where I can be comforted and nourish others. I will delight in the light dancing off white cupboards. No more absorbing light into dark cherry stain.

What a beautiful thing.

Still Exposed

I sat in the cold office and stared at the posters on the wall across from me. I could feel wisps of cool air on my shoulders, ivory skin poking through the open-backed gown as I waited for an ordinary nurse to come and do an ordinary procedure.

A knock at the door brought my eyes back into focus and I traced my toes, still in socks, across the tile floor.

In walked a tall woman with kind eyes, her blond hair gathered tall on top of her elegant head.

She started asking me ordinary questions and then it happened again.

“Does this run in your family?” she asked with open eyes, her chin tilted up towards me.

“Yes,” I responded “but I can’t remember which kind.”

“Mhmm,” murmured the nurse “Well, it’s pretty common for dad’s not to share their medical histories with their kids.”

I paused. I had choices in this moment.

“More common for the dead ones not to share,” I thought to myself as I dug my gripping hands into my plastic chair.

“Yup, probably true,” I said, looking the nurse straight in the eyes.

Mouth shut, I could feel my jaw clench.

Poor girl – she doesn’t know. Better keep this one to myself. Breathe.

Boom!

Another grief bomb exploded at my feet and I gathered scratchy fabric around my thighs as I turned my face back towards the wall.

“Ready?” she asked.

I said yes and she began.

Shouldn’t they put this kind of information in your charts?

Dad dead. No father references please.

But that’s not how the medical system works and his blood and his health history influences mine.

So we move on. We go about our days.

This last week was full of birthday celebrations. The month of August is a big one for Huey men.

I planned dinners and boiled big pots of salted water to cook refrigerated ravioli.

Mom put candles in cannoli dribbled with chocolate chips and we sang along.

I hid gifts and revealed surprises inviting beautiful smiles of delight and excitement.

We walked through plazas holding hands and wiped at strawberry ice cream dribbling  out of their cones and onto our chins.

We took in a baseball game and bought new fan gear.

Ducked our heads into bars and sat to listen to the woman with radical hair and high-wasted pants sing tunes with soul.

We celebrated and we kept going about our days.

This is how it is now.

A beautiful mix of joy and celebration and plenty of encounters with clueless people who say seemingly innocent things because they don’t know.

I’m still exposed.

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Photo by Hadis Safari on Unsplash

I may never have it any other way.

Is that a beautiful thing?

Been There. Done That.

I’ve been at this awhile now – this seeking beautiful things in August.

I typed peaches into my search browser on this site and the first hit is a post from 2015.

I’ve observed the sights and smells of summer before.

I’ve been moved by the bounty appearing on my counter tops – harvested fresh from farmers fields nearby and tiny pots warming on my porch.

I wrote about the peach lady here and encounters with fresh produce here.

I’ve written about my gardens here and lessons from tomatoes here and my appreciation for nature and growth of flowers and trees and the promises of soil here.

It’s happened again. The days turned into months and with each sleep came seasons unfurling in my same lap – the one often longing for something different. As if repetition means stagnant and recurring inspiration means I’ve missed some big opportunity.

Sometimes I catch myself dreaming of other lives I could be living. An urban woman in black pencil skirt, taking the subway to a publishing house – her fancy heels tucked in an expensive black shoulder bag. The J-Crew dressed scholar with tiny-framed glasses burrowed in a dimly lit library while working on a masters degree in something world changing. A mother tending to toddlers with curls, wishing her hair was washed and her stretchy yoga pants were freshly laundered. The REI-outfitted adventurer with worn hiking boots and tales of sleeping in hostiles and fighting off flirtatious men in Europe.

Maybe some day those visions will come true.

For now, I lift up my head and turn the calendar page for here it is – August again – and I sit, still me, with clean hair up and my square-framed glasses I should be wearing buried in the trusty, worn Timbuktu bag resting behind the desk chair I used in college.

Yesterday, we went to the farmers market and picked a bag full of bright orange carrots, crisp green peppers, a cantaloupe, and stone-sized potatoes still grimy with dirt.

Today, we drove home on the busy highway and pulled over to visit a bright yellow awning with fruit the size of baseballs ready to be bought. I wrote a check and handed it to  the teenage boy who only briefly nodded when I said I get excited to come get my peaches every year.

On Sunday, we went for a bike ride at dusk on the familiar trail near our house. Cool breezes from the river nearby lapped at my face as I peddled along, long grasses licking at my ankles.

The carrots and corn are still growing. Peaches wait to be picked.

I’ve got a pallet of luscious fruit wafting on my counter top begging to be doused in ice cream. Dusk still falls with purple and orange and the cool breeze waits to kiss my cheeks when I pass by on a bicycle.

Yes, I’ve been here and done these things before.

With all the chaos out there I’m reminded, in this moment, I don’t need anything more.

What a beautiful thing.

August Favorite Things – 2019

Better late than never.

  1. Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Word nerds rejoice! I giggled to myself, I was delighted. The book affirmed I’m on the right track. Keep reading.

2. Toms with Sloths on them.

Because your feet are happy when sloths are on them.

3. Lily Kershaw

Her voice is enchanting, haunting, engaging. I want more. I found out she’s coming to my town to perform in October and I’ll be gone. So if one of you could go in my place and live stream to my phone I’d appreciate it. Lily, I’ll pay for the remote experience.

4. Utter Nonsense

It will keep you laughing. Not for the faint of heart or easily offended.

5. Good ol’ fashioned school supplies.

You’ll find me wandering the hallways at Target. At least until the college kids show up next weekend. Go ahead – buy yourself the big box of crayons.

Of this I am sure.

“I’m not sure I know what I want to do” I said swatting at the mosquito nibbling on my ankles.

“And no matter what we choose, it’s all moving quickly.” said my friend sitting across from me, the orange dusk moving in on us.

She touched her elbows to her knees and rested her chin in her hands. We made eye contact and sighed.

When one goes to grief group, one is reminded of the slippery little secret we don’t like to talk about.

All of this will someday come to a close.

Each new day feels a vulnerable, brilliant breath as the sun rises to once again turn the darkness into light.

The time we think we have is not promised and not guaranteed.

This realization should move me into action and valiantly push me into new places.

No more settling.

I could be using this loss to wiggle my way into new rooms, and have bold conversations, invest in experiences to expand and take up space.

ropeBut I am still myself –  the one slow to dip into cold pools. I observe situations for stillness before I act – like a double-dutch jumper waiting for the perfect in.

I watch the plastic ropes thwacking the cement each time as wrists turn them in arching rounds. There is a space where I can insert myself gracefully without the sting of plastic rectangles jangling on their strings stinging my skin. I watch. I wait. I trust the ropes will come around again, leaving me space to jump.

Tonight, I’m not sure what comes next. Not sure where to compromise, where to push, where to pull. Where do I risk and where do I play it safe? Where to put my trust in myself and in others.

Where do we lay our fragile beating hearts?

I’m not sure.

And yet, last night as I was trying to sleep my husband sat next to me strumming his guitar. His chords and his presence made me feel safe. I closed my eyes and whispered thanks.

I’m sure I want more of his music and his warmth and his work-on-the-car jeans leaving marks on our bedspread.

I woke and watched the sun seep into our bedroom window as my dog stretched between us, her scratching legs kick-starting her jangling collar to act as my wake-up call.

I’m sure I want more of those still mornings, seeping sun mingling with morning breath and puppy kisses.

Still in my pajamas, I brewed some coffee, poured thick white cream, and picked up a small book. Pressing the title to my chest, I juggled a full plaid mug with prose, moving myself and a story to the worn reading chair in the corner of our living room.

I’m sure I want to fill my life with the creative words of others.

I’m sure I want to find a way to share my creative words with those who need them.

I’m sure I want to publish.

I’m sure I want a cover with my name on it.

I’m sure I’m a reader.

I’m sure I’m going to write.

I’m sure of the simple, of the comfort found in conversations and knowing glances. I’m sure I’ll live my life seeing people and taking time to list the beautiful things filling my heart.

Perhaps that will be enough.