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Turn that Tone Upside Down

I have a side job helping write monthly newsletters for a doctor’s office here in town. I love creating content, and deciphering notes and pulling together a multitude of sources into one space that serves as an educational resource for those seeking to improve their health.

A couple of weeks ago, feeling rushed to meet a deadline, I ticked off a quick couple lines of introduction copy for this month’s newsletter and sent it to my colleague. “How is this for an introduction?” I typed in the notes, and waited for her feedback. My tone had been pessimistic – February is a drag – something to get through – too much snow – and every once in awhile – we need a boost.

No sooner had I clicked send did the doctor call me, with kindness and laughter in her voice. “That intro was a drag Katie!” she exclaimed. “Let’s turn that tone upside down.” At first I was a little offended, but as I sat and listened to her vision for her correspondence with clients, my defense softened. The doctor went on to encourage me to encourage others – to find the joy and beauty in this month of February. Her redirection inspired me in remembering that our words are what create our reality – our intentions and tone are powerful. When we choose to share that writing, we have the power to influence other’s moods, attitudes, and perceptions. This conversation changed my month, and it changed my heart.

I’ve sense rewritten the introduction, and while it felt a little cheesy to try to find the positive, the doctor’s words continue to reverberate through my mind. We can find beauty and optimism when we go looking for it, and maybe, even more powerfully, when we create it.

IMG_3470This week I attempted to create beauty in several situations. Call it simple, but for Valentine’s Day I made my very own cheese danish pastry. While the holiday was on a Sunday, and we chose not to over indulge in any romantic dates, I did want to create a little festivity in my own house. I rolled out of bed, and followed this recipe to bring a little bit of celebration to our lazy Sunday morning routine. Routine? Does sleeping ’til 10 am count as a routine?

Cream cheese and sugar, vanilla and raspberries – when these ingredients blend together they create beautiful flavors and a sense of fancy that just made me smile.

Sunday also presented us with the choice to run errands, and use up gift cards lingering in our junk drawers  from Christmas. I went to Nordstrom Rack and got a pair of pants for nine dollars. NINE DOLLARS. I love a beautiful bargain. I tried Maintenance Moment at my favorite brewery – which perfectly pairs the light flavors of coffee with beer. Their full description is so much more delightful. Hello Colorado! You’ve achieved a combination of my favorite things. Is it bad to proclaim craft beer as one of your favorite things on the internet? Not sure, let’s take a beautiful risk.

So this week I give a nod to the universe as several loved ones have lifted my chin, and reminded me to look for the beautiful with optimism and hope in my heart. May you find and create beauty at every turn, even if it involves a roll of crescent dough.

 

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Tree Time

 

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Growing up, the Friday after Thanksgiving meant searching for a Christmas tree. These were outdoor adventures that required boots, and gloves, and a saw. The group was always composed of either my immediate family, or my cousins and my uncle, and we would chant in our matching Gap turtleneck sweaters (weren’t my mom and aunt cute) that it was time to chop down a tree. Bickering for a spot in the trunk – no seat belts! – my relatives and I would anxiously await the bumpy dirt road, the snow, the chopping and the treats that would follow once the perfect tannenbaum had been selected.

I remember these trips briefly, snippets here and there, and maybe I create stories based off of pictures in my family’s photo albums. I remember the trusty silver Subaru, the swearing in the dark when the tree fell off the front of the car, and how every year, without fail, my dad would have to cut off a few feet of tree as the piece of nature stuck out our front door, on its side, until properly adjusted for the high ceilings that hosted the tree in my childhood home. Trees look smaller in the grand expanse of wilderness, dont’cha know? These adventures make for tradition, and create laughter and embarrassment, and merriment all around.

So yes, the weekend after Thanksgiving, I convinced Dylan to go looking for a tree. I was an impatient, fair weather fan, however. Our adventure consisted of driving to Home Depot and picking out a 7 ft fir, rather than a rousing ride to the wilderness. Our cheeks were still rosy from the 25 degree weather, and we bickered a little with the strapping of the monster to the top of our car. Cold fingers and toes still gave us an eventful trip and brought my (ok …. our) tree home.

I love this beautiful transition into the holiday season. We say it every year, that Christmas tends to sneak up on us. This time last year we were moving. I am beyond thankful that we do not have to do that this December. We continue to create our own traditions while creating our own little family’s history.

 

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I spent three hours stringing popcorn and cranberries as garland for the tree. The reassuring squeak of bright white kernels as they squealed along the thread, mixed with the vibrant red juice of cranberry brought me joy sitting in our new living room. There is beauty in that bright white/crimson red color combination, in the sense of purpose in a project, and the final product hanging on the now decorated boughs of our very own evergreen. I find beauty in tradition, in merriment, and in the events that ground our lives.

Beauty in the things that require adaptation too. Every year I like to make gingerbread snowflake cookies. These treats are astounding, and I love decorating them with royal icing, and I battle my mom to get her to help me stick the beautiful frosting in a pastry bag because I don’t like to get my hands so sticky. This year, we used a different cookie cutter and the beautiful arms of the flakes, well… flaked. Each time we picked up a cookie, the fragile little stinkers broke. And broke. And broke. I have never laughed so hard, as each frosted cookie seemed to shriek – ‘not this year you don’t’. So beauty in imperfection as well.

These stories and traditions weave our lives together. I’m thankful for the transition this year, and for my beautiful Christmas tree. And for snow flake gingerbread nubs, because those too, are delicious when dipped in coffee.

 

Take a Break

There is beauty in knowing your limits. In saying, “No. This week I can’t manage that.”

I’m sorry to report this is the first week in my two year journey that I haven’t written a post.

I am knowing my limits and saying I can’t commit this week. Beauty in saying, “Sorry, not sorry.” I’ve got to take a break. Until next week. Keep up the search.

Smells of Summer

I am not in school right now. Days in May have blended into days in August and all of the sudden I catch myself thinking, ok kids head back to school soon. No, not my kids. I do not have children. The general populous of American children will be banging their backpacks into lockers and crumpling up half sheets of yellow paper that were meant for parents eyes in just a few weeks. We do not have cable right now, so the back to school commercials are missing and I do not have an excuse to buy new pens and pencils and notebooks – fine point Pilot brand please. It is odd, once in the working world, how summer seems to escape you. We have been to quite a few weddings, and played tennis outdoors and tried new cooking adventures on the grill, but summer as a working adult, does not have exactly the same charm as it does when you are fifteen, or eighteen, or even twenty-two.

This week, I made it a point to start observing the things that I want to capture before the long evenings turn to fall (oh fall, I love fall. Hurry up sweater weather). No, that’s missing the point. I am captivated by the sights and smells that remain of the summer. The season is not quite over. We have baseball games to go to, hikes to take, birthdays to celebrate and maybe since we won’t squeeze camping in we can sleep in the backyard.

This weekend I tried something new. Pizza on the grill! What a fun idea. Pizza dough at Whole Foods only costs $2.99. We received this cookbook back in early spring and hadn’t gotten around to implementing the nuggets of scrumptious, creative ideas. Saturday was the day for a foodie adventure and I was so proud of our creations. Thanks to Cathy for your grilling wisdom and moral support. If you are looking for a great way to cook something scrumptious without heating up the house, give pizza on the grill a try. Grill lines and the smell of charred dough are actually quite enchanting when paired with a summer breeze.

It's on a cookie sheet I know. I promise we used the grill!

It’s on a cookie sheet I know. I promise we used the grill!

Peach lady is here! I wrote about my love for the August peach last year here. My thoughts have not changed much regarding these delectable globes of juiciness and when Debbie the peach lady rolled into town I couldn’t wait for my mom to buy a box. Note – I’m too cheap to buy my own palette of grown fruit. I had my first taste of the season last night, standing over the sink, as I watched a movie with my parents in their dimly lit kitchen. Before I bit into the furry skin, however, I raised the fruit to my nose and inhaled. You can actually smell the ripe, real fruit in  a way that only nature can intend. When you smell fruit in the grocery store you experience no such beauty.

The same is true of the tomatoes growing in my pots in the back yard. I went out to water tonight, and picked off a few branches on the tiny plants that are not producing any blossoms. The smell of tomato leaves seeped onto my hands – green, fresh, delightful. Once again, not an experience you get at the grocery store. There is beauty in stopping to smell the bounty of goodness we are blessed to receive. Literally the fruits of our own existence.

Popsicles are pretty darn beautiful too. No, don’t smell those. Those come from the grocery store.

Biscotti: Almond – this recipe was delicious. Even Dylan ate three pieces

Essie Nail Polish – Congo Bongo

To the Women Speaking French

Watch this.

No really, watch it. What do you take away from these silly clay creatures and their love for one another? When I watched the video at first, I was upset. What do those little monsters have to do with the world going at tornado pace when all I wanted to do was sit and let the lyrics woo me into a comfortable trance. I believe I’ve discussed The Weepies before, and I’m sure I’ll reference them again. Maybe a year or so ago I even referenced this very song. If so, I apologize for my redundancy. The truth that this band communicates is too poignant not share.

As I sat and wondered what was beautiful about this week, I could not help but think “holey moley” did June go fast. [OK – side note, it is beautiful that holey and moley are not real words, and perhaps I am spelling this phrase wrong. Amusement comes in the finest of places.]

As I walk through my weeks and follow my routine, I feel something tugging on me to stop and look up, for yes, The Weepies are right, the world spins madly on. Quickly and with gail winds and blushing breezes we jump from to-do list tasks to the hop scotch of frantic completion of the next best thing. I stopped myself this weekend, and said, No, I refuse to live this way. There is always going to be another problem to solve, solution to master, load of laundry to do. So, instead, I slept in and I took a nap – both in the same day! Oh the sloth, the laziness of rest. Raise your hand if you feel guilty for taking a rest! I know, I know. I do this to myself.

My yoga teacher started class tonight by praising us for carving time out of our days to take care of ourselves. When you hear the word carve, what do you think? I think of stone, and wood, and sharp tools, and precise effort that lends towards something beautiful. However, the word carve and the words ease, or flow or grace do not seem to go together for me. Why should it be so difficult to give ourselves the grace to enjoy a yoga class, to take a moment to consciously stretch our limbs and breathe. True confession – I caught myself looking at the clock at 6:15 and hoping the class would hurry along. I have things to do, blogs to write, meetings to be held. Tsk, tsk to me. I was not the first to roll up my mat and put away my props at the end of class. Other people had things to move onto as well. That’s why they call it yoga practice, right?

This whirlwind of a week brought pleasant, beautiful surprises as I was rushing from work to home to life. I am thankful for a three day weekend, for fireworks, for freedom, for rest. I am thankful for watermelon. Oh watermelon, why can’t you be this deliciously juicy all year long? As I bought dinner tonight at the local grocery store, I stopped to eat by myself in the brief pause before meetings. I looked up from my phone and noticed two women sitting and practicing French. One woman was my age, the other older than my mom, and they were both practicing their language skills. I caught myself listening, despite not knowing more than three words of French myself, and was drawn in to their beautiful practice in working on a new skill in relationship with another. The artwork hanging on the wall above their heads was so intriguing. Two tables down, a father was feeding his little toddler mac and cheese, and two boys fighting over a banana argued their way to the trash can hoping to be the one to throw the peel in the bucket. Parents were barely hanging on as their days were coming to an end. I got to share that space with all of these individuals as they rushed madly to the next anticipated moment of rest. Mindfulness and raising my head from my silly iPhone screen can be beautiful. I miss a lot if I stay wrapped up in the whirlwind.

To the women sharing a conversation in French at Whole Foods, thank you for reminding me to stop and look for the little things. I wish I had been brave enough to ask for your names.

Biscotti – none – 4th of July does not scream biscotti

Essie Nail Polish – Forever Yummy with Gold Luxe Effects – my hands looked like firecrackers

“Have Courage and Be Kind”

I don’t remember being totally immersed into Disney’s Princess culture as a little girl. I think I had a Belle Halloween costume, and certainly watched the movies, but my favorite Disney Princess was Pocahontas. I had the sheets, the pillows, the outfit, the accessories. This princess’ connection with nature and rebellious efforts to stand up for her own self were more appealing to me. Hey, fighting for the right to protect who you love is something to stand for, analysis of feminism and colonialism aside.

The only instance I remember of dressing up like a princess was at my fifth or sixth birthday party. We invited the traveling princess lady to come who brought beautiful dresses, and jewels, and would do you and your friends hair and make up to turn you into a vision of a royal lady. My friends had first pick of the dresses. When it was my turn all the proper ensembles had been chosen. I was so mad I locked myself into the bathroom until someone forced me out. Some hostess, some princess I was.

I minored in Women’s Studies, I proclaim feminist views, and still banter with the best of them about the valuable role women play in society and the challenges we face in almost every arena for equal rights and respect for our femininity. However, this week, I watched a movie that made me want to embrace everything amazing about the fairy tale story. I went to see Cinderella with my mom. I haven’t been so giddy since I was six years old, imagining what my princess birthday party could have been like. Needless to say, I loved the film.

This movie is so beautiful. The costumes, the quirky animal characters, the twist on the common tale are absolutely enchanting. I wanted to go home and put on my wedding dress and dance around the room, inviting the little creatures that live in our backyard into our house to play. The sparkles, the glamour, the hope of a better life. There is a sensitivity written into the character of Cinderella that embraces compassion, acceptance, self reverence in light of challenges, and I just wanted to be friends with her. Laugh if you may, but this portrayal was so much more dynamic than the average fairy tale. It takes a lot to get rescued by another person; even more to to be aware of your own choices and how they impact the lives of those around you as you make changes for your own self betterment.

Plus, who doesn’t love Helena Bonham Carter. Can you imagine what it would be like for her to be your Fairy Godmother?

Cinderella’s mother starts off the film by saying, “I want to tell you a secret that will see you through all of the trials that life can give you. Have courage, and be kind.” I’m tucking this nugget of wisdom away, because there exists power in that perspective. I place those words in my heart, and ask myself, in what ways am I living that beautiful mantra today?

Can someone please find me a dress like that to wear? If you watch the movie, let me know when you come across the line, “I can’t drive. I’m a goose!”

Biscotti: None

Essie Nail Polish: Jam and Jelly

Papa

Take a moment to think of the ways in which you are influenced by others. What some of your mentors, friends, coaches have taught you along the way. This week, in honor of Father’s Day, I was reflecting on the ways in which my dad has influenced me. Maybe you get nostalgic in stages, maybe it’s just me, but this year was one of the better Father’s Day experiences our family has had. I know, not everyone has happy memories with their parents. If Father’s Day is painful for you, my heart expands as I send compassion and light your way. I hope you can find connection to the positive interactions with people who have supported you as you became who you are today.

My dad and I have not always been the closest. As I’ve gotten older and tried to separate from my family like normal adults do, my appreciation for my parents has grown ten fold. This week, I’m grateful for the beautiful parts of my dad that I see in myself.

Here are a few:

My love of coffee, road trips, potato chips. A chocolate chip cookie does constitute as breakfast. So does cold pizza.

While preparing dinner we sneak little pieces of cheese, or chicken, or nibbles or bread crusts with butter. Sometimes these snacks fill us up before the meal reaches the table.

We are both “thrifty”, or ok fine, cheap. We reuse, we recycle, we have holes in our sneakers until my mom tells us it’s time to get new things.

My dad can be the quiet, pensive type. He taught me to observe before speaking, and to choose my words wisely. He can also talk to anyone  in the grocery store and connect over bacon, or a bag of onions. I watch this skill, and observe wisely, trying to pick up his ability to talk anyone who cares to make eye contact. Private processor, publicly friendly. I want to be better at this.

My dad never doubted my dreams because I was a girl. Thank you for teaching me to play ball, hold a hockey stick,  how to fill the car with gas, answer my insurance questions, wipe my tears, and encourage me to catch creatures in boxes if they aren’t supposed to be living in your house. Remember the mice incident? Thank you for letting me be afraid of birds.

My dad has taught me to find things to laugh about. We text back and forth jokes that are witty and stupid and charming. It’s a way to stay in touch and remain wired through laughter. Isn’t that a beautiful image? What if the whole world was wired through laughter. Positive energy wandering the waves over our heads and into our hearts. He is the goofy in my blood, the wiggle in my dance, and the quiet reminder to be proud of myself.

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I don’t say this often, and we don’t always connect, but I am immensely grateful for his presence in my life. Thank you for wanting to choreograph our father daughter dance at my wedding, for walking me down the aisle, for teaching me how to walk.

Happy Father’s Day Dad. You are beautiful.