30 Days of Poetry

When you are doing what you like, 30 days goes faster than you think.

I challenged myself to writing a poem every day for 30 days in a row and the little lines of syllables have been my friends.

As promised, here are all of the poems readers sent in.

To see all of my poems, check out my Instagram.

 

The winner of this contest is @hi_im_morgz.

Thank you for playing!

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Podcasts and Petals and Quiet

I’m trying to get in a gym routine. I met with a personal trainer – you get two free sessions when you sign up – and I now have a weight training card with exercises I’m supposed to do. Those cards sit still and wait for me in the filing cabinet under the stairs.

Lifting weights still intimidates me.

My comfort zone often places me on the elliptical, feet staying stationary while my legs and arms pump me towards imaginary miles while I watch shitty t.v. shows or worse.

The news.

When I go to the gym at 5:30 pm, ten t.v. screens flash with world news updates.

Blech.

Horrible news flickers across the screens. Volcanoes erupting. Draughts happening. Teenagers arrested. Meth houses making babies sick. Politics – a circus. I channel the absurdity on these screens and pump my arms faster – if I run fast enough on a stationary machine, maybe all the madness will stop.

I’ve been at this looking for good thing long enough to know fixating on the fear and negative doesn’t help. It’s like me on that machine – all that energy exerted and in reality I haven’t gone anywhere.

Instead, a list of gratitude for the quiet, beautiful things.

Some weeks, it’s just that simple. For this week:

  • Bourbon Milkshakes – yup that’s a thing – who needs a margarita on Cinco de Mayo when you can have something from this menu instead? The sound of ice cream slurping up a paper straw
  • Hearing your recorded voice – I’m tickled that Hello Humans allowed me to record what I’ve learned in the last two years on this podcast – listen to the first few minutes
  • Lilacs – they smell so amazing – I want to go on a sneaky lilac hunting adventure through the park and find extra sprigs to cut and stick in a mason jar. If you have extras – let me know
  • Pink petals falling from blooming trees – they grace the sidewalk and make me feel like God is preparing where I walk like I’m a bride walking down the aisle
  • Spring rain storms
  • Food in the fridge — water flowing from my sink — the stove turns on with the press of a button
  • Facetime – for phone calls with loved ones
  • Taking risks – the worst that can happen is they ignore you – good news when they find out they aren’t, in fact ignoring you
  • Flannel sheets
  • Breezes coming in through the window as I fall asleep

 

What good and quiet things can you find? What do you do to drown out all the noise of the bad?

 

May Favorite Things

“April showers bring May flowers,” they say.

Here in Colorado April  brought winds, downed fences and little rain. I’ve got my tomatoes growing in their little plastic cups on my counter and dreams of planting our garden. Never plant a garden until after Mother’s Day here in Colorado. It could snow on Thursday.

So while I wait to plant actual plants, and Dylan works with the neighbor to fix our fence, I read and write and dream of summer.

Here’s what’s making the list of favorite things this month:

  1. Friends who write books!

Congratulations to Joyce Dickens who just published her book titled The Exotic and the Mundane – One couple, a bold decision, and the life-changing adventure that followed about her year of travel around the world! I was honored with the gift of being a beta reader and I know this newly published account will delight and inspire you to get out there!

2. Compassion

The world aches for it. For kindness, empathy, understanding. For us to slow down and realize all of us are humans along a path towards something. I went to a presentation at Colorado State University and my heart pounded as I listened to Dr. Leah Weiss talk about compassion in the workplace. Her new book, How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind is now on my must read list. Inspired from her talk, I walked away thinking ‘Yes! Perhaps there is a place for sensitive folks like me in the daily grind.’ I’m thankful compassion is becoming part of our cultural narrative and thank Dr. Weiss for sharing this idea with students and communities across the country.

3. Joy

We just read The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World  for our book group. As someone who questions suffering and struggles to embrace joy, this book sparked opportunities for self-reflection and personal connection with broader humanity. I especially like the joy practices at the end of the book.

4. Pizza on the Grill

Step 1 – buy this cookbook. It will tell you everything you need to know.

Step 2. Buy some pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. I like the herbed flavor. Ain’t nobody got time to make pizza dough. Or maybe you do – in that case. Make your dough. Move on to step 3.

Step 3. Invite your friends over and have a make your own pizza night.

We tried pizza on the grill for the first time a few summers ago and it is one of my absolute favorite dinners. The crust gets bubbly, crispy and delicious. Everyone loves making personal pizzas.

5. Old School Polaroid Like Pics – Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera

I threw a good friend a baby shower and my planning partner in crime brought this instant camera like a genius! Nothing like pressing the shutter button and seeing your picture five minutes later. Trust me, this is cooler than the iPhone Portrait mode. Going retro while celebrating new babies – priceless.

Thank you to everyone who has sent me a haiku over the last month! There are still eleven days of the challenge left, so it’s not to late! Not sure what I’m talking about, click here.

On Creating My Personal Brand…

Three things I did today:

  1. I went to a workshop today on how to build a personal brand online.
  2. Scrolled on Instagram
  3. Read an article by Sheryl Sandberg

Regarding #1:

When I first started this blog, I didn’t want a brand. I wanted to be anonymous. Perhaps ordinary is a better word for it. I wanted people to read my musings, nod along, or maybe feel moved. Thought influencer? I wouldn’t have dreamed.

Now my dreams are changing. I want to write books. I want to bring comfort with words and tell my truth and encourage others to pursue the beauty offered at our fingertips. It would be nice to grouped into “thought leader” or “leader of her generation” or even “popular blogger to follow.”

As I sat and chewed on my turkey sandwich, the professional marketer told me my brand voice and my personal mission statement need to match across social media profiles. The images I select – the glimpses into my life – are the brand I create for the world to understand.

“Folks only log on and see glimpses of who you are on these platforms,” said the presenter.

Yes, true.

But, what about expanding to writing my feelings and emotions? How do those thoughts influence or create a personal brand?

I went back to work and Googled myself. I don’t even think my last name is mentioned in this blog.

Regarding #2:

Later, I was scrolling on Instagram and one woman my age posted a picture of herself smiling. She recounted that it was astounding when she posted pictures and comments of her darkest times – her sadness, her depression – she received more engagement with her posts. When she posted images of her happiness, recovery, or thriving, people pushed their thumbs right on to the next depressing image.

I sat and stared at her smiling face and thought, “Huh – would this be because people enjoy seeing the suffering of others and think ‘Thank God that’s not me?’ Or rather, ‘Thank God people are being real in this space. Me too. I thought, it was just me.’

Not that happiness isn’t real and admirable. Of course it is. Most folks know though, that happiness takes hard work. We all crave connection and feelings of belonging. If people project their struggles, honest, true highs and lows of life, do they get more engagement?

If we are being true to ourselves – authentic in the moment, and honest with emotions, joys and suffering – why can’t we portray both?

Regarding #3

Interestingly enough, before I headed out for the workshop, I came across this article by Sheryl Sandberg: Develop Your Voice, Not Your Brand

She says,

” The idea of developing your personal brand is a bad one, according to Sandberg. “People aren’t brands,” she says. “That’s what products need. They need to be packaged cleanly, neatly, concretely. People aren’t like that.”

“Who am I?” asks Sandberg. “I am the COO of Facebook, a company I deeply believe in. I’m an author. I’m a mom. I’m a widow. At some level, I’m still deeply heartbroken. I am a friend and I am a sister. I am a lot of very messy, complicated things. I don’t have a brand, but I have a voice.”

Focus on developing your voice, she says. Figuring out what’s important to you and being willing to use your voice for that purpose is incredibly valuable. “If you are doing it to develop your personal brand, it’s empty and self-serving and not about what you’re talking about,” she says. “If you’re doing it because there is something you want to see changed in the world, that’s where it will have value and depth and integrity.”

Ahh, yes, thank you Sheryl again for making so much sense.

I have brand components. I’ve got a tagline for the blog, and a set of values I live by and my social media profiles reflect pictures of beautiful things – poetry, friendship, coffee, so much coffee. But I will never be a brand.

I will be a voice.

A voice that believes hope floats on whispers and healing can be found in the pursuit of beautiful things.

A voice amplifying my pain of loss mingled with radiating dew drops on grass.

A voice speaking of growing older and losing friendships and the beauty of discovering new connections in basements of members of our church.

A voice aching for the suffering of others that also delights in the first magical bites of a buttery croissant.

I am not a brand.

I’ll follow Sheryl’s template and fill in my own blanks.  I encourage you to do the same. Leave a comment, write it in your journal, or share with a friend.

“Who am I_” asks Huey. “I am a writer. I am a wife. I am a daughter. I am a sister. I am a woman living with the loss of her father. I am the Director of Operations at a company that works to spark passion and purpos.png

Whew, that’s a relief. I can cross create personal brand right off my list.

What a beautiful thing.

My phone did a bad thing.

My phone did a bad thing.

The past few days my Apple device has been acting up when I text. The little micro machine always telling me my storage is full, and I don’t have the space capacity needed for the new iOS update. As a result, I can’t log into my bank app and my camera shuts down frequently.

First world problems. Yes.

I take too many pictures on my micro machine. This micro machine is also a time machine. On it lives very important memories.

Treasured ones. His voice. His pictures. His words. Dad’s.

I carry pieces of who he was in my phone which means he’s always in my purse, on my desk, on my bedside table.

This morning, to remedy the odd text message problem, I pressed the center button and the other one – you know the small one on the right. The combination of my pressing prompted a computer reset.

I needed my micro machine working properly – ready to respond to my every communication demand.

I used my fingerprint touch id (the future is now) to log back in after the reset and I promptly received three texts in the correct order. I scanned my family’s messages and set my phone down. Fixed.

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Wait, something’s not right.

All of my previous message conversations ……… gone. The ones from when we got engaged, group celebrations, and family archives. Missing in the line up.

Also missing are two text threads I had with Dad. One, a joking joint conversation with my brother – the three of us discussing mac and cheese options for brother’s birthday dinner. The other, a long standing thread of individual texts with Dad.

Our conversations. Stopped abruptly by his stupid early departure from this planet.

And today, when I reset my phone, the conversation went missing.

“Shit, shit, shit,” I said to myself as I started to panic at my desk. Around me, my co-workers reviewed reports and I was supposed to be doing data entry.  My eyes started watering.

I muttered some other choice words and quickly texted Dylan asking what I could do to back up my phone.

“Google it, ” he said.

Everyone’s damn answer is Google it. 

I don’t think I backed up my phone and I’ll have to log on to explore iCloud and text recovery and all these IT language things I’m not sure I understand.

What I do get, however, is that sometimes life rudely takes things away from you before you were ready. 

Another thing Dylan suggested was to try to send a text to the number and see if it would bring up the thread. That number has been out of service for over a year and a half. Is it more painful to text a number he certainly won’t answer, or to risk never seeing that thread again?

Although memorized, Dad’s personal contact with office, home and cell numbers still lives in my phone. I couldn’t delete it because our jokes and check-ins still sat in my messages. Sometime, I said, I’d write them all down. I was waiting for when I was ready.

I bravely deleted Dad from my favorites in my phone about nine months ago. I made a choice to take that step. We already let go of his ashes, some of his clothes, his crap in the garage and in the storage room we affectionately called his “study”. I could let go of him being a favorite caller in my phone.

I wasn’t ready to let go of those texts. Shit.

This morning, before the dreaded reset, I logged on to Facebook and saw that a friend from high school just lost her friend to brain cancer. Age 30. This woman was taken too soon. Cancer took her before my friend was ready. Before any of her family, or friends, or co-workers were ready. I don’t know this woman, and I rarely talk to this high school acquaintance but I got goosebumps this morning – for that family, that beautiful woman, the husband now widowed at my age. Tears for what was taken abruptly from them.

Everywhere we look things are getting taken from us.

But.

But.

Every single day things are given to us too.

 This weekend I threw a baby shower for a friend I’ve known for fifteen years. It’s miraculous to watch your friends prepare for parenthood. To bless them with onesies and diapers and things that suck snot out of their children’s noses. Yup, that’s a thing.

Investing in dear friends as they go big through transitions is a beautiful gift.

Tulips are popping up through the cold ground without direction – loved into being by instinct and sunshine that God provides.

The weather is warming and trees are blooming. The promise of spring lingers.

More texts do come in on my phone, though none from him.

So, tonight, I’ll try to find those texts and trust God that maybe He knew I don’t need to be carrying that weight around in my purse, on my desk, or my bedside table.

Open some storage space. Ouch.

Let new, beautiful things – photos, voices, and words – flood in.

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Art by Gracelaced

 

 

Update – later this evening, thanks to that same, frustrating IT, I was able to locate the conversations I was looking for. All praise to the Cloud. The Jesus one and Apple too.

Come Now, Let’s Begin

I just realized it’s National Poetry Month.

After Dylan’s cousin started posting his haiku’s on Facebook, I was inspired and frankly, copied his idea. For the next 30 days I’ll be posting a haiku on my Instagram.

I think 30 days of haikus will be easier than 30 days of yoga, or 30 days of no coffee, or Whole 30. I admire those Whole 30 people.

But for me, I’ll be a 30 days of poems person. I missed the start of April, but as wise folks say, “Better late than never!”

I’m extending an invitation for you to play along.

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Here are the rules. 

Compile the following and email me at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com between now and May 11th.

  1. Email me your haiku. I’d love it if you can write it in your handwriting and snap a photo, but if you need to type it that’s fine too. Bonus points if you write about something beautiful in your life right now.
  2. Include your name and if you’d like, links for how you can be contacted – ie. email, Instagram, or Twitter feed.
  3. Be willing to share the post I create with your content with your network – share on your Facebook, send an email blast, work with others to promote poetry, creativity and writing.
  4. Your entry will then be shared in May in a haiku roundup of sorts on this very blog.

By submitting your materials you will be entered into a drawing to win a few of my favorite things. You also agree that it is ok for me to repost your content on Instagram, this blog, and Twitter. On May 11, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted.

Please note: no violent, hateful, or derogatory poems will be reposted. Swearing’s ok. Making fun of others, not so much. Keep it clean people, keep it clean.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

 

 

 

You Have to Do the Cutting First

I lay there in the dark with my legs feeling heavy. The previous night we went to bed expecting snow. Nature followed through and we got mounds of it. A big, heavy blanket of spring snow.

When I woke it was dark, big flakes falling in that orangey glow of the street light.

I lay still and I stared at the ceiling, my dread-filled heart beating slowly when my phone started to ring.

It was my in-laws, calling in early, asking if it was still going to happen.

The funeral.

Was it still going to happen?

You don’t postpone funerals.

Not even with blizzards and three feet of mushy, heavy spring snow that takes out trees.

Overnight, one of our two tall aspen trees had laid over loudly in the quiet snow.

It’s bulky trunk and magnificent branches now splayed themselves over our driveway, hugging concrete and saying, ” I dare you to try to leave.”

My husband kept fielding calls from people.

So many people asking, “Is it still on?”

I couldn’t answer.

I got dressed in my black dress and scratchy tights. My cousin brushed my hair.

We continued to look out the window and kept thinking, “This storm has to stop soon.”

It didn’t.

In suits and ties and dresses and heels, the three of us marched outside and stared at the damn tree.

How were we supposed to get out of the driveway with that thing keeping us in this house? We had to get out. How were we supposed to go to the funeral?

It was still on.

Our kind neighbor was using his snowblower and looked up at us, dressed in all black, and quickly came over to move that heavy snow into piles.

Dylan pulled out of our garage at a precarious angle, and we bounced our way over the snow to the funeral.

The people kept calling to ask.

It was still on.

We went through the motions and mentioned how you could take the boy out of Minnesota, but you couldn’t take the Minnesota out of the boy. Even for his funeral. That boy, grown man, now gone, brought so much snow to his own funeral.

We headed home.

Exhausted from emotion, to-do lists, and people’s empathetic arm squeezes, I wanted to rest, but knew we’d have to face that tree first.

Except, we didn’t.

That same kind neighbor had cut the precious tree to pieces and stacked the remains by the side of our house. Dylan went over later to talk to him, and say thanks, and the kind man said, “It looked like you were heading somewhere pretty important.”

Yes. It was pretty important. That funeral happened.

As a result of that heavy weight, where two trees once stood, now just one permanently tilted as its partner was ripped from the ground.

Two years passed. 

I got worried every time it snowed and our neighbor’s truck, parked ever in front of the house, seemed to look over its shoulder at me every time I’d walk in to my home saying “Are you sure you’re going to let that guy lean like that?”

And so, on Saturday, the men brought the trucks and saws and rope and they cut her down. The second half of the tree – the one that fell with the snow on the morning of the funeral. The one that was still on.

They cut her down, even though she was standing bravely, without her friend.

I almost cried as they chopped that beautiful, living tree into pieces. I stood in our front window and thought, “Thank God it’s not snowing. We cut it down in time.”

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There were buds on the branches. It would have bloomed again.

We’ve got piles of wood on the side of the house again, and now a bench made of the trunk.

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I hate that we cut down a living thing that was just living it’s life at an altered angle. It was just trying to reach for the sun.

And yet, sometimes we have to rip things out of the ground for our own safety. We have to cut things up that no longer are good for us, take what was and make it into something new.

The beautiful process of recognizing  you can’t postpone some things and move forward by taking actions where you can.

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We will plant more trees and they will grow and shade us and bring fresh oxygen into our lungs.

You just have to do the beautiful cutting first.