beautiful things

Pink Threads

Remember the game Telephone? Someone starts with a quirky sentence and whispers the story to the person sitting next to them. Then that person, who likely messed up a word or two, whispers their recollection to the person sitting next to them, and on and on it goes until at the end, some new configuration of a previously silly sentence holds loose, small connections to how you began.

You giggle and shrug your shoulders and say, ‘Wait a minute? What did we start with exactly?” And what did she say that got us here?

I’ve been thinking of the messages I’m getting on womanhood, on mothering, on expectations of my complex and powerful sex and wondering, “What exactly, did I start with?”

My grandmother was born at home weeks premature. They wrapped her in cotton batting and covered her in olive oil, laying her to sleep in a shoe box.  She was that tiny. Her resilience came on day one, and day two, and day three as she grew proving the odds wrong. I come from small but feisty stock.

Jump seventy years ahead and join me as I sat with my two girl cousins as late teenagers. Young women, as they say.  Also present at the outdoor table are my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother who filled in my story as their relationships stitched together foundations for my formative years.

Stich-stich-stich- went the pink thread.

In unbalanced iron chairs my cousins and I rolled our eyes as we were told, we did not, like Grandma wished, inherit her bone structure, but rather my grandfather’s stocky German bones. We may have her strong spirit, but I got my grandfather’s thicker wrists.

And as we bounced along through time and I spent time with my now aging grandmother she’s started telling me stories. Of nights with martinis at fancy office parties, or the horrific boss who chased her around a desk. The things I watched on Mad Men were her life. I stand on tiny shoulders and work with the knowledge that when sexual harassment shows up at work, I can bravely do something about it. She raised four kids, made hundreds of hamburgers, worked, and always said, “You can pay the doctor or you can pay the grocer” so fresh vegetables were on the table every night.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread

And as we jump again and I’m standing on the cold clay tiles of our kitchen floor in the house where I lived until I was thirteen. I can hear myself groaning as the summer sun danced through the front window. “Gazpacho salad again?” I’d whine. Vegetables – fresh and seasoned – were present on my plate.

“Eat up” my mom would say as her working contributions to our household turned into nourishment for my growing body. I’d take a bite and with each crunch of cucumber ingest my grandmother’s values at the table.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread.

As a young girl I had so many evenings around a kitchen table with people who loved me. My mom took the best of her mother’s lessons and imparted them in me. How to make a pie crust is important. As is the presence of formal dishes and fancy settings at a holiday affair.

Stich-stich-stich – went the pink thread.

Time jump again and I’m 24 years old, registering for wedding gifts. “No china?!” my mom proclaimed loudly in the very public restaurant we were sitting in.

“No.” I stubbornly said, “We don’t have room for china. And I’ll just inherit a bunch of plates later.” Our voices escalated to the point where our concerned waitress came over and asked if we were ok.

We toned it down.

Time jump again and I learned at the age of 27 that you don’t inherit china when your dad dies. Instead, you witness a weeping mother with hunched shoulders sitting next to the Christmas tree. It was the first round of holidays without him and I wished I had some fancier fucking plates.

I put out some cheese, cut up some pears, and put them on the only piece of Tiffany’s anything gifted to me as an engagement present. The platter would have to do. Then our sink broke leaving Mom and my husband washing dishes in our bath tub by hand because, as I’ve been told, real men know how to help out with dishes in whatever room they may need to be washed.

Stich-stich-stich went the pink thread.

This past weekend, at nine o’ clock pm, my mom kissed me on the cheek and said, “You must be tired. You planned two Mother’s Days this year.” Her statement caught me off guard and then I nodded.

I did. Yes, I did. Because my mother taught me to show people they matter. Showing up is important. Taking care of others is vital and making them feel special is an added bonus I’ve taken on. Nurturing comes easy to me because my mom nurtured me so very well. And I’m rather exhausted. For the family work of connection and celebration has now fallen to me.

Stich-stich-stich goes the pink thread.

And at the age of thirty, as everyone keeps asking me about children and babies and my aging ovaries I simmer and switch between maybe and no way, not yet. How does one know they are ready to become a mother? My grandmother didn’t have the choice to control all those blessings like I do. Many states now are trying to take that choice away.

So I pause and I jump back through time and I wonder:

Grandma – What sentence did you start with in our game of telephone? We’ve taken your words and your dreams and your vision and kept the stitches going, sewing new stories in our own ways.

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I’m thankful for the pink threads connecting us all as we continue to love each other, no matter what words jumble up the sentences of where we started.

Mother’s Day weekend just passed and I’m thankful for beautiful and brave choice my grandma made to be a mother. For my own mom who knows the power of magic in thoughtful gifts and just the right words to bring comfort to my fears. I’m thankful for my mother-in-law who shaped my husband and accepted me with open arms at her table. These women. These stories. These sentences. Beautiful things that leave me here, stitching together sentences for you.

 

 

Woke Up to Grey

I woke up to grey. We left the curtains drawn this morning and the light wasn’t making it through. The alarm buzzed and I kept pressing snooze. I pressed snooze a lot. Waking on cold mornings is so much harder than in the summer.

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I turned back the covers, sat upright, put two feet on the floor. I looked out the window and watched the snow swirl. Flakes weren’t really falling, just dancing about in dry air, refusing to stick to the cold ground.

Shuffled down stairs and put on the coffee. Swatted at the dog as she bounded to the front door, knocking me sideways with her excitement. Her little tail wagged, an ever-present reminder of new days worthy of rejoice.

Pressed grounds, poured steaming liquid, stirred in cream and watched dairy rise to the surface of my cup. Wrapped hands around my mug and sat down to pray.

I was distracted by the scene unfolding across the street. A little girl ran out of the garage, her rainbow-colored backpack covering her tiny frame from shoulders to knees. Wearing purple pants and a bright pink tutu, she jumped up and down, up and down, up and down. Time to go to school.

Next surfaced the tired mother with baby carrier in tow. She set down the infant and instructed the jumper to go around the car and get in her seat. The weary woman lifted the baby and herself in the car, careful not to close her baggy pajama pants in the car door.

Reverse lights came on and the car crept down the driveway. As they passed my window, the mother stuck her electric toothbrush in her mouth, multi-tasking like a champ. I laughed out loud.

“It’s hard here,” as Anne Lamott says, and the every-day tedium seems as such. Boring, repetitive, cold. Hard.

So, we shove our hands in our pockets and our toothbrushes in our mouths and we get back to it. To our families, to our work, to the poop piling up in the backyard. But this morning, as we started our days, snow danced, coffee swirled, tails wagged, and little girls jumped in pink tutus. Perhaps this is where the magic lives. In the swirling, the rising milk, the wagging. Beauty exists in the every-day, ordinary cold.

Slow down. Stop moving so fast. Take a breath. What else can you see when you wake up to grey?

Coming Back

I’ve been practicing telling my grief story out loud. To people using their ears and their eyes.

It’s easier for me to type my story. I’m more comfortable when you’re just reading what I write.

I’m dreaming of new ways to bring my speaking voice to my experience and sent an email ask to Shelby Forsythia if she would be willing to host me on her podcast Coming Back.  She lost her mom when she was in college, and dove right in to learning more about grief, healing, and the power of owning one’s experience.

Shelby describes herself as an intuitive grief guide and works with people struggling with grief and loss. In her interviews with others, she offers refreshing perspectives on the way our culture handles grief, and focuses on real experiences with real humans as we continue to live with loss.

Her tagline, “because even through grief we are growing” pinched my heart and said, ‘pay attention to this’ – she’s on to something.

I’m thrilled to share our conversation here and am very thankful to be in her group of people growing with grief. We talk about introversion, a little bit of Jesus, and how searching for beautiful things informs my process with loss.

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Shelby is also looking for new folks to interview on her podcast for her FIFTH(!) season.  If you are interested in sharing your experience with grief, send her an email and tell her I sent you.

Happy listening.

December 2018 – Favorite Things

I miss lettuce.

With the e coli invading romaine I’ve come to realize how much I enjoy greens with my meals. Funny how we take things for granted right? I just always assume lettuce will be available. Wrong.

While I dream of crunchy greens, I’m also thinking of these fun and fancy things. Have a wonderful December!

    1. Thieves

      My friend Courtney Maloney is a Young Living distributor and sent me a lovely bottle of thieves to use to clean my oven. She since has taught me all kinds of uses for this essential oil and bonus, it smells like Christmas. Courtney also knows all kinds of magical uses for essential oils and is a big believer in their ability to optimize wellness.

      She says,
      ” I love educating people about essential oils and wellness because in a world of disease, sickness, and brokenness, it gives people hope. It brings me so much joy when I have the opportunity to encourage and empower others in their lives and help them find freedom in their health, finances, faith, and every aspect of living.”

      If you’re interested in learning more, you can find her on Instagram.

    2. Stringing Popcorn and Cranberries
      Creating garlands with popped corn and whole cranberries is one of my favorite holiday decorating traditions. The last few years I’ve held back because I don’t want Olive to eat the strands off the tree. This year, I’ll string along and maybe decorate our pine tree outside. All you need is waxed thread, pop corn kernels, whole cranberries, and a way to pop the kernels. I am a big fan of Whirly Pops to use on the stove. If you don’t feel crafty, you can buy a faux garland right off of Amazon.
    3. Colorado Gives Day

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      Tuesday December 4th is Colorado Gives Day –  a state-wide campaign to support nonprofits in Colorado! Use this website to learn about the thousands of worthy causes to donate to this year. Because giving back doesn’t have to be hard. Some of my favorite causes? The Matthews House, Finally Home, and Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

      4. Ingrid Michaelson’s Songs For The Season

This is a fun album with a twist on classics and some new songs to delight. Also good, John Legend’s new Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas.

5. French Press Ornaments

For the coffee fanatic, these ornaments are too cute to pass up. Marketing works. Here’s a Starbucks version and I personally am partial to the smaller version created by World Market. I’m a sucker.

I’m hoping your days are merry and bright. And don’t forget about the Give Light Giveaway! Entries are now being accepted. Details on how to enter here.

2018 Give Light Giveaway

It’s Back!

The 2018 Give Light Giveaway starts today and runs through December 31st.

“Give Light and People Will Find the Way” – Ella Baker

As you know, I believe hope floats on whispers and healing can be found in the pursuit of beautiful things. Join me this season to share hope, love, and light. This year’s theme is a bit different, so read the submission guidelines on how to play. 

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Give Light Giveaway Submission Guidelines

  1. Answer the question – What gives you hope? 
    I love creative answers and want to make this as easy to enter as possible. You can write one or two sentences, make a list, or snap a photo. Sing a song, send a video, draw a picture.
    We live in challenging times and I simply want to know What gives you hope in this messy, beautiful world?
  2. Let me know how you’d like to be recognized. Please tell me your name and how I can best contact you. Optional – include a photo of you, your website, and/or social media handles.
  3. Ways to enter:
    – Send me your entry via email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com
    Send a tweet to @52beautiful with your answer and the hashtag #givelightgiveaway
    Send me a story with your answer on Instagram (@52beautifulthings) with the hashtag #givelightgiveaway
  4. I’ll share your responses periodically over the next few weeks. Email me if you have any questions.

This year, I’m really excited because two artists, Lynne Schwebach and Laura Romberger have joined me and will be donating their artwork as part of the prize pack for the winning ‘giver of light’.

On December 31st, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted. You need not live in Colorado to win. Winners must respond to notification within two days or I will draw another name.

**Please keep content appropriate – I reserve the right to refuse to post if I feel content is offensive or could cause harm to others. By submitting your materials, you give me permission to share your responses on this blog and on social media. I appreciate when you share your contributions with your networks, but this is not required.

 

October Favorite Things

It’s come to my attention that I’m a little behind schedule. I didn’t have the energy to pull together a favorite things post to schedule for when I was traveling. Then we got home and I spent a week going to bed at 7:30 pm because of jet-lag. Then I … then I … then I … filled my time with other things.

Here we sit on October 21st and I’m just now posting my collection of favorites for this month. Thanks for eagerly anticipating what I’ve got to share. My thoughts and reflections on our trip are stewing and I’ll post soon. Until then, pick up one of these books, bake some pumpkin bread, or use these tools to plan an adventure. It’s a big world out there.

  1. The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom

I just started reading this book for our book club. Set in Denver, just an over an hour away from where I live, this journalist’s account of refugee students attending South High School is grabbing my heart. Humans live through amazingly horrific things. We need to be tender. We need to be kind. We need to be aware. I’m only 100 pages in and keep turning the pages.

2. The Shack

This book was incredibly popular when I was in college. The girls I lived with in our Christian dorm could not stop talking about the story line. I wasn’t ready to pick up the title then – my own faith wavering in big swirls of doubt. Years passed and for some reason, I was ready. I read the book on our long flight and murmured, ‘yes, yes, yes’ to the metaphors portrayed in these pages. God sees us in our suffering and gives us grace where we need it. For those doubting God, fearing faith, or feeling a bit hopeless, this story may be the spiritual hug you need.

3. Dandelion Travel adapter

Getting ready to travel abroad? After scouring the internet and starting at selections at travel stores, a friend generously lent me her travel adapter taking my stress away. This little adapter worked perfectly to charge our devices in both the UK and France. It’s size makes it easy to carry and easy to change between power sources. Note – this does not convert voltage which lead us on an interesting adventure to sketchy electronics stores in London.

4. Pumpkin bread

It’s baking in the oven right now. I like the recipe from Recipes from Minnesota with Love.

I wrote about it last year too. Cut the sugar down to two cups. With the chocolate chips, the bread comes out plenty sweet.

5. French Perfume

I’m not a big souvenir girl. Picking a special something feels overwhelming when I travel and I don’t need another glass, or keychain, or vase. After spending an afternoon at Fragonard and their interesting perfume museum, I did treat myself to a little bottle of French perfume. The little gold bottle, the spritz on the wrist, the memories a scent creates. Worth it. And yet, still odd because while I bought my bottle in France, I now know you and I can get the next set on Amazon. Ahh globalization.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed their lists of good things in your worlds. Keep searching.

Slightly cooler …

It’s supposed to get cold tonight. Nine degrees. Nine. When we left two weeks ago it was in the 80s. Now, I’m prepping for nine. Sometimes life shifts abruptly, at others it eases. I’m not ready for the shock of nine. So as I sit and gather your lists, I look out my kitchen window. Leaves turn yellow and the weather prepares to drop while I think about shivering, cozy blankets, and warm meals like lasagna and chili.

Thank you to the following contributors for sharing your beauty with me.

#403 The weather shifting into slightly cooler temperatures, promising cozy fall evenings to come
#404 Running into old friends out of the blue in random places!
#405 Strangers who say “bless you” when you sneeze, it’s a nice reminder that we’re all paying attention to each other and care
#406 Getting random discounts at my local coffee shop and wine store! Because who doesn’t love coffee and wine?
#407 Watching sunlight reflect off of rain-soaked streets and sidewalks
#408 Petting big pups outside of the local coffee shop
#409 Feeling successful at work after a long time of not feeling great about it
#410 Getting to know someone in a new relationship!
#411 Walking into a restaurant/store and realizing that it’s happy hour/50% off whatever you were going to buy
#412 Finding the perfect song(s) for your mood when you need them

#403 – #412 Contributed by Katie Myers

#413 I have a job that I can grow in
#414 And the opportunity to grow my own business and blog as well
#415 Family and Friends that love me
#416 A super sweet pup
#417 The beautiful Fall weather to enjoy
#418 The ability to release into my artwork
#419 Hot tea to curl up with
#420 Always a good book to read
#421 A great new car this year
#422 Food to eat everyday

#413 – #422 Contributed by Laura Romberger

#423 Fresh snow fall
#424 Watching Frozen with my girls
#425 Playing Candyland with a 3 year old
#426 Pumpkin spice flavor (now that it’s October)
#427 Prayer time
#428 Children napping at the same time
#429 fireplaces

#423 – #429 Contributed by Elizabeth Timpe

#430 being surrounded by Music
#431 a long conversation with an old friend
#432 When it rains, but the sun is still shining somehow
#433 Driving through a familiar place late at night when it’s empty and quiet and peaceful
#434 A song that perfectly articulates something you needed to hear

#430 – #434 Contributed by Laura Glyda

#435 I have an amazing and supportive family. Missing them as much as I do is a daily reminder of how much I adore them
#436  I have found a field of work that fulfills me and about which I am crazy passionate
#437 A cup of tea, a cozy blanket and a good book on a crisp fall day
#438 I have the means to pay for an apartment that is warm and safe and beautiful in one of the greatest cities in the world
#439 My body is healthy and it allows me to do the things that I love to do
#440 Dogs
#441 The fact that strangers let me pet their dogs as I talk to them on funny voices
#442 A beautiful soul that remains a bright spot in my life despite our recent break up
#443 I get be with my family to celebrate Thanksgiving this year
#445 Joining a CrossFit gym has allowed me to feel like an athlete again

#435 – #445 Contributed by Leah Wylie

#445 the first snow of the season
#446 Puppy cuddles near the fireplace
#447 Video games that make me feel like I’m still a kid
#448 Binging seasonal movies
#449 That way a good book magically transports you to another world
#450 Family and friends to share life with. 😊💕❄️

#445 – 450 Contributed by Carly Hennegan

#451 Having enough money to travel to a different country and explore a new place every year
#452 Having friends from other countries, visiting them in their countries, learn their culture and also bring them around at my home country.
#453 Having stayed overseas in Sweden for 6 months to learn how to be independent. In Singapore, most people stay with their parents until they move out to their own house with their spouse.
#454 Having a supportive family that encourage you to chase your dreams and to help me up when I’m down.
#455 Having a lot of different cuisines in my country. Good food makes me happy and I’m lucky that my country has great food.

#451 – #455 Contributed by Chee Zhiquan


We are so close to 500! With only a few days left of the challenge, I invite you to share your list of 5-10 things going well in your world right now. More details are here. Tag a friend and spread the word!