Now. Now. Now.

I’ve never been great at living in the now.

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My mom sent me this image this week as a subtle reminder to chill the heck out.

Now. Now. Now.

They say that’s all that matters. The NOW. And I want to believe them. But…

The giant BUT.

I find my over-eager brain jumping all over the place. A lot of time reflecting back to last year. To crisis. To loss. To memories of my dad. To what it felt like to be plunged underneath the churning waves of grief. To feelings of failure and uncertainty and just plain old awful.

Then I bounce back and arrive in the present again, eat my cereal, head to work. I go about my day, and today I got stuck in this moment, a memory.

Rewind six years and I’m sitting in a small theater on a college campus. Black robes swishing on a wooden chair, square cap on my head, chords of accomplishment round my neck. The tassles tickling my fingerprints as I anxiously await my turn across the stage.

A distinguished professor stood at a podium and read from Alice Walker’s book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting for: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness. A passage from  Chapter 4. All Praises to the Pause; The Universal Moment of Reflection.

Alice Walker writes, “The moment when something major is accomplished and we are so relieved to finally be done with it that we are already rushing, at least mentally, into The Future. Wisdom, however, requests a pause. If we cannot give ourselves such a pause, the Universe will likely give it to us. In the form of illness, in the form of a massive mercury in retrograde, in the form of our car breaking down, our roof starting to leak, our garden starting to dry up. Our government collapsing. And we find ourselves required to stop, to sit down, to reflect. This is the time of “the pause,” the universal place of stopping. The universal moment of reflection.” 

The professor reminded us over-eager, naive, twenty-one year olds that life is going to hand you pauses. Big ones. Transitions between jobs, times of sickness, a move, or days when feelings too great prevent you from your greatest work, or from accomplishing anything productive at all.

Last year was darkness. Double job loss. Loss of a parent. Hours spent staring at walls wondering what to do. Loss of a hopeful political candidate. Loss of routine, of schedule, of income.

A big, fat, Pause with a capital P. A giant rippppp in my picturesque magazine cover. Horrible coming-of-age experiences where you start to realize those depictions in advertisements lie. Not everyone’s parents get to die in their sleep at the age of 92.

Ding. Back in today. I looked at my flipped through copy of Walker’s book and was drawn to the chapter titled “When life descends into the pit” – ha. Maybe I should reread that one too.

This week I also read The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  They spend 250 pages exploring the science and magic of moments. Why do we remember some for years, and easily let thousands of moments of our lives slip through our noodle brains and onto the floor? What qualities come together to delight and make us feel important, accomplished, worthy humans? Read the book. Their analysis is pretty sound.

I’ve thought of that commencement speech often, and have wondered why that one moment left such a big mark on my perspective of life. I’m sure the graceful academic was trying to subtly say to eager graduates, ‘Hey, cool your jets. It’s ok if you move home for a few months, or wait tables, or feel lost in this break.’ I’ve carried this moment with me, though,the bigger implication always in the back of my mind.

Things take time. They fall apart. We must pause. I’ve trusted this truth in my journey and shared the chapter with friends, and my husband, and other people feeling lost.  This passage gave me permission to accept and even expect the pause. As painful as they can be. Remembering, too, that we will be able to press play once again.

In the last Grey’s Anatomy episode (yes, I still watch that show) a doctor had a brain tumor removed. After the operation, she is frantic to see her latest brain scans, certain that something is still wrong. Her kind, patient friend brings instead, her tumor in a jar. “You’re looking for this,” he says (and I paraphrase here), “You’ve been waiting for the last shoe to drop for so long that it’s hard for you to believe that everything is ok. That the thing causing you pain and suffering is no longer yours. It’s gone.”

Her body was growing against her, her relationships suffered, she was most afraid to believe that maybe, just maybe, things are ok now that the mass has been removed. I turned to Dylan as we watched and I said, “I can relate to that.” To that feeling of expecting the worst because it is easier than placing hope in the shaky notion that maybe things are ok again. I have a hard time believing my pain can be gone.

Because when trauma happens, in whatever form, it takes a hell of a lot of time to trust the universe again. Grief is never gone, but its intensity lessens.

I’m no longer on pause. Dylan is working again and I’ve got a new full-time job I love. I’m doing side-work I feel makes a difference. I struggle to find time to write this blog post. My family is healing, slowly, but still, and we are working on creating moments that make us feel good, inspired, and worthy of celebration. We can create more positive moments. We can press play.

Moments worth mentioning?

– Family photos – our first professional session without dad – with a caring and empathetic artist who captured us beautifully.

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– A lunch date with my husband – we each drove ten minutes to have lunch together – why haven’t we done this more?

– Sopping up dog pee – poor puppy has issue with us being gone ten hours a day and has been peeing in our house, yipee. As Dylan says to me often, “well you couldn’t hold it that long either.” He’s right.

– Raking up leaves. A chore, but the beautiful crunch of leaves under your feet only comes round once a year.

– Made a haircut appointment, called the insurance agent, paid the mortgage. Basic to-do list items that took extraordinary effort and produced high anxiety this time last year. Progress. Not perfection.

– Made it to yoga. Check the exercise box. My teacher reminded us to wiggle and shout. Get energy moving through our blood. Release. Breathe on a mat.

– Filled a jar with Candy Corn and love how it sits on my desk. People stop by for a handful and a chat and the sugar connects us.

– Planned a girls weekend with old friends from high school. Scheduled a catch up call with an old girlfriend from college. Investing in relationships matters.

These moments aren’t grand in gesture, or spectacular in effort. Rather they reflect every day opportunities to live in the now. To invest in the people around me. To take care of my loved ones and myself.

In ten years I may not remember any of these moments. The ones in the Pause may be more pervasive in my thoughts, but here is my commitment to me and to you, to keep making moments beautiful. It’s our choice to glorify the ordinary moments and that is a beautiful thing. I hope Chip and Dan would agree.

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Loss(t)

I told you I had good news.

Or hard news.

Or sad news.

I don’t know, I have lots of emotions today.

It’s good news. It’s good news.

For the last few months, I’ve been working on another version of my story. One that involves support groups, Jafar, and french fries. I think my dad would be proud of the end result as it went live today on Hello Humans.

I’m thankful for the absolutely beautiful opportunity to share my story. They don’t tell you how odd it is to see your dreams in print, your heart on the web, your past aches laid out for strangers to read. I’m into it, just emotional.

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Sam Lamott is a dream to work with. This platform that encourages real, honest, funny, gut-wrenching portrayals of real human life is so refreshing in a world that masks it all.

So take a glance, click here to read, and please share with anyone you know who may be grieving. Thanks for patting me on the back with reminders that bravery pulls off.

xo

So I…

This week was a heavy one. I’ve been thinking  about grief, and loss, and recovery, as these things seem to be themes in my life right now. I feel I make progress, then wham, terror on the national news breaks and I can’t help but think hundreds of others have now been pushed under the deep waves of grief. I’m enjoying community in my small group when a young teacher shares that her student lost her mom to suicide this week. I get pushed back under. I can’t watch CNN anymore, and I’m kinda nervous about my access to birth control, let alone how we would afford to have a baby on our perpetual IN 5 YEARS plan. GAH! Things can seem bleak. So I write.

Every single time I click the blue Publish button on WordPress my stomach lurches. Will people judge this process I’ve chosen to be so public about? Will people care? Do I turn others off because I should just be done already?

I dwell in that black space for a minute or two, and then I say screw it. I’ve got things to say, and I think there are people to read and hear those thoughts on this imperfect, beautiful mess we live in called life.

So I keep going.

I came across this image yesterday from Brian Andreas. I didn’t know he had a story called Beautiful Things. Just like me.

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The small print brought me to tears, right there in the tiny art gallery. “This is my purpose”, a little heart voice whispered, “and it may never be my 9-5 job, or make me very much money, but it matters, this pursuit of beautiful things.”

This is how worlds change.

So I whisper into the internet. I share my voice. Although, I’m starting to yell a bit more too.

Here are a few of my recent guest posts that kind, caring, hopeful people have chosen to allow me to share.

Cara Meredith’s Author Tuesday Post

www.52beautifulthings.com

This Glorious Life The Photo I’m Thankful For

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These beautiful things matter more now than they did a week ago, a month, or even five years.

So I wait. And connect with other people who think things could possibly, maybe get better, are better if we look for the good.

I also watch these videos, and listen, and find healing things to laugh about. I make pumpkin bread from a box, and I hug my husband tight.

What do you do?

 

 

ps. I have a VERY exciting announcement that goes live on Tuesday. Stay tuned.

Light a Candle

Horrific. The only way to describe what happened in Las Vegas last night.

People will say there are no words.

Wrong.

There are lots of words.

Words of Anger. Of Sadness. Of Loss. Of Grief.

Words of magnitudes.

Yet, we feel helpless. So we say “there are no words.”

Wrong.

There are words of hope. And of comfort. And of light.

Of a saying “hi” to our neighbor, or “Hey, let’s go give blood.”

Or “Here, have a sandwich,” or make a call to a senator to say “How dare you stay silent on gun control again and again.”

These acts CAN NOT be silenced.

Yes. If you feel grief, take time, stay quiet, ponder with loved ones and protect yourself.

But, please, oh please, stop saying there are no words. Try this list if you’re stuck.

Take a moment.

Light a candle instead.

Whisper, sing, shout or wail a prayer.

For the mothers and daughters, sons, and brothers and fathers who are hurting and have lost ones most dear. For the co-workers who won’t have a project mate, the child now parentless, the countless kids across the country afraid to go to school, or the movies, or the football stadium.

Light a candle for all the conversations this incident should spark.

Light a candle for you. A person with words, who can use them for good.

Light a candle for hope and for healing.

Spread the light.

 

I do not want to take away from the heaviness of tragedies aftermath. Yet, I do believe dwelling in good brings peace. Share in the comments a few things you found to be beautiful in the slurry of mixed emotions following today.

Favorite Things – October

Anne Shirley says it best – “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

It has always been my favorite month. Those advertisers may make fun of us for our love of pumpkin spice, our UGG Boots, or the black leggings and denim button up outfit.  The leaves are turning, and falling in my backyard. The light is changing and life continues to transition. Soon, I’ll opt for a warm latte instead of iced.

Truth is I don’t really love the aftertaste of Pumpkin Spice lattes, Colorado girls make fun of California girls who wear UGGS, and it has really been too warm to wear scarves, or even long sleeves. Instead I’m dreaming of these things.

Here is my list of things to love in October.

  1. Candy Corn

Yes. Starchy blocks of dyed sugar. Yes! I have a hard fast rule that I’ll only eat the crap in October, and I must wait for the 1st to roll around before I’ll purchase a bag. A handful a day keeps the October haters away. The little condensed sugar pumpkins? Even better.

2. A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

This story technically takes place in September, but it counts. Historical fiction that blends story from 1911 to September 11, 2001. A story with heart that kept me on the edge of my seat. Or rather in my seat, turning pages.

3. Pumpkin bread.

I don’t like Pumpkin Spice, but my gosh do I love pumpkin bread. We have a family recipe from the Recipes from Minnesota With Love cookbook that is heavenly. Cut the sugar in half though and add chocolate chips. Let your inner Mid-Westerner out.

PS. I can’t believe I found this cookbook online. My dad would chuckle. You can buy canned pumpkin online eh? Take that grocery stores who always run out. Oh, the poor grocery stores.

4. Short Boots

Forget the Uggs. I want things like this in my closet. Role up the bottom of your jeans. Wear a sweater. Strut your stuff.  I’m just currently drooling and did not actually buy these beauties. Oh? You want to send me a pair? Sure! I’m a size nine.

5. Football is back.

Sure, I have lots of mixed opinions on the NFL and football players safety and their rattled noggins. It seems that any industry these days is having its fair share of controversy, and people have to be brave to take a stand. Cheers to those practicing their rights to pray on the field.

For me, right now, I’ll just take comfort in the noise of the game on a Sunday. Sunlight streaming in in the afternoon. Memories of my dad. The announcers voice. A beer with my father-in-law – probably a Blue Moon or a Michelob Ultra. Back against the couch, legs sprawled on comfy carpet. Loved ones around. All good, and beautiful things.

What’s on your list?

A Tequila Toast

I stood at the edge of the stone pit, toes warming as flames licked the burning wood as it spat and sputtered to a start. I stuffed my hands in my pockets, the sounds of laughter rolling around behind me in the cold mountain air.

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Belly digesting rehearsal dinner food, I was having one of those moments where I felt full. Not just my stomach, my heart too. We had gathered for a wedding weekend for one of my oldest friends. All around me acquaintances chatted, laughter bubbling on the waves of pre-marital promise and bliss. I felt reminded of my roots, where I came from, and how these people shaped me at age thirteen, eighteen, twenty-two, twenty-five. Love for people with whom you have history.

I received a friendly slap on my back and I was invited into a loud conversation with my girlfriend’s dad. I used to spend weekends at his house, stealing Cokes and bobbing in the pool in his backyard. Summer afternoons on his ricksha, and movie nights in his basement. Time passed. I haven’t seen him in at least ten years.

With a big smile and a tip of his cowboy hat, he asked a perfectly normal question.

“How is your family?”

Oh…. shit… he doesn’t know. That question isn’t normal for me any more.

The warmth in my toes disappeared, and I shrank a bit into my puffy North Face jacket.

“Well,” I started, ” my mom is great. She’s working at a pre-school and my brother is still in town.”

Pause. How far do I go? Does he know? Gulp.

And then I jumped right in because I realize the burden of my grief often oozes out when I have to tell people who don’t know, over and over again, that we lost him.

“Not sure if your daughter told you,” I said, “but we lost my dad a year ago.”

Damnit.

I hadn’t had to say that stupid euphemism since I got a new job. I have exited the insurance agency, and the phone calls from his old clients stopped haunting me. I don’t remember how many of his clients had to hear the horrible news from me. Not many, but enough to make it no fun. A strength I didn’t even know I could possess, handling those calls.

The dad’s eyes softened. Chin dropped. Smile faded. He didn’t ask questions, and instead offered sympathy, jumping into his own story about the loss of his sister.

“Oh good,” my little, squeezing heart whispered to itself, “he kinda gets it.”

After mumbling a bit, said dad quickly bent over, grabbed a fancy glass bottle, and offered to toast to my dad. He poured the golden liquid. A couple fingers worth.

Strong, expensive tequila on ice in a styrofoam cup. Raised to you my papa, with other dads who wish they could still know you.

I drank it all down.

This is the space I’m living in now. A mix of integration, acceptance and painful memories. In being present in really happy moments, taking deep mountain breaths, and reconnecting with old friends. In telling people who don’t know and telling myself (who really ought to know by now) the damn truth. We lost him.

Yet, I haven’t lost these things:

  • I haven’t lost my friends. The ones who knew me when I was chubby and awkward with braces, who went to Prom with me, who stood by me when I got married, who I have had the privilege of watching walk down the aisle. They know me and they knew my dad and will continue to walk with me forward, out of this hell of sudden loss. Life long friends, a beautiful, beautiful gift.
  • The importance of laughter. Belly laughs. Make fun of yourself, dance, put on the cowboy boots. Show up. You will feel better when you get there.
  • The symbolism of toasts and celebration. Honoring memories with tequila makes sense. Standing and raising a glass to a friend of fifteen years as they make the biggest commitment of their life. A privilege.
  • Peace. It comes in waves and whispers and mountain breezes. A long hug. Fog rolling in, lapping your arms in cold, wet, kisses, the universe wants to bring me peace. If I am willing to accept help, people are there making me hot cocoa and offering an extra pair of socks.

Humans are funny, friendly, cheerful, present, and unsure. Death is inevitable and soul sucking for those left behind. Living in these real intersections of the choices to be in relationships and the quivering vulnerability that it can all go away – a beautiful thing.

 

 

On Seeing People

I walked to lunch today. A welcomed break in the middle of the day in one of my favorite towns. The noon hour buzzing with people, cars, sunshine streaming. It was hot, sweat glistened, and I found myself watching my shadow as I walked. Pony tail bobbing, thinking to myself, “I feel happy today.”

I’m recognizing, more and more, the return of happiness. I welcome it home.

As I turned the corner, I heard a small tinkling of ukulele music.  I stopped staring at my shadow and instead looked up. A larger gentleman was sitting on a bench. Wearing ragged clothes, hikers backpack full of belongings next to him,  he plucked away at the tiny instrument. A sign sat at his feet that said, “Just traveling on a prayer.” Aren’t we all?

I’ve had many a day I felt that was all that was bringing me through til night. A prayer.

I walked past and went into the sandwich shop chain. I paid eight dollars for my subpar sandwich and tucked the change in my pocket. Exit the restaurant, place sunglasses on head. Pivot back towards work.

I took a few steps and I noticed the music had stopped. I glanced down the block and saw the gentleman had placed the instrument to his side. His head was in his hands, a grubby bandana crumpling over his face, covering his eyes.

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I bent down, and set a dollar into his large mug.

“Thanks for your music” I said and started to walk on by.

The gentleman picked up his head and smiled, breathing a sigh of relief.

“You are the first to donate all day. I was beginning to doubt myself. ”

“Nothing to doubt,” I said, “thanks for the gift. Your music is lovely.”

He kept talking and I wished him a good day.

The pony tail in my shadow had found a reason to bounce. I felt a new swing in my step, fueled by feelings of thanks for my gift of seeing.

I’ve been given the gift of seeing – of noticing things others prefer to ignore. It can be a pain and sometimes I want to squash what this spirit in me reveals, to dismiss the urge to lean in to those sitting and playing on street corners. Yet, my gift shows up again and again tugging my heart like an impatient child pulling on a parent’s arm. She tells me to whisper hello, and transfer feelings of hope in the form of eye contact and simple words.

Today I chose to recognize talent, made a connection, shared resources, even if small. My choice was met with acceptance and affirmation. It felt like he really needed my words.

We all want to be seen and appreciated for our talents. Plus, I love the ukulele.

I hope others spared a dollar or two for his beautiful talent.

Where can you improve in seeing others? How can you share your resources? What can you say thank you for?

How can you interact while we all travel on a prayer? Can it be beautiful if we choose to appreciate one another?