beauty

What would the geese do?

I’m not an “operate at high-speed” person.

I pause.

I take time to think before I respond to questions.

When my boss comes to my desk hoping for quick responses, I gently remind him my brain takes a few extra seconds to shift gears and enter into his gracious questioning. I’m lucky he’s patient with me.

This week I’ve been forcing myself to swirl my arms and churn at a higher gear. Probably at the natural speed my boss operates.

I’ve been up late trying to get my silly iPhone upgraded (it’s still stuck on the old operating system) and transferring photos to make space to get the obnoxious ‘not enough storage message to go away. I’ve been working and babysitting and running and shopping and returning clothes and trying on swim suits (it’s own kind of torture) and dealing with online orders never refunded. Dylan and I got in a tiff about insurance cards and checking bags and I know I’m not communicating at my best.

My to-do list grows and with it my anxiety escalates at a steady rate. When I went to bed last night with great intentions to wake early and multi-task some more before work, I had to take deep breaths. The dog slept on the floor instead of next to me where she usually settles in for the night. I think she could sense my bad energy.

This morning I pressed snooze and woke later than I hoped. Chucking a load of laundry into our tired washing machine, I got a few more things organized as I poured dry kibble into a clattering bowl. I sped to work and walked in the office door with ten minutes to spare, ready to check in for a flight.

I watched the minutes tick by.

Click – right as the time turned over – and my stomach dropped.

I did not have the necessary information to get my boarding pass and I almost started crying at my standing desk.

Four big, deep, ‘Ohmmmmmms’ later and I walked myself to the coffee shop to get my regular hot beverage that restarts my soul. Yes – vanilla lattes are a coping mechanism.

I approached the shop with its warm lights and freshly ground beans beckoning and tried the handle. The back door was locked.

“Son of a bitch,” I cursed under my breath. As I walked around to the front door I told myself, “You need to do a better job of being kind to yourself.”

I’ve learned, in the last few years, moving faster does not get me where I need to go any more efficiently. I make errors, I forget things, or the universe tells me to pause when the barista forgets to unlock the back door forcing me to take a few more steps.

Moving faster just gets me frustrated.

There’s a stretch of road in between a few large fields left undeveloped and protected by the prairie dog lovers of Colorado on my commute. As I drove I saw the snow-dusted foothills and looked up to see a flock of geese flying in the bright blue sky. At the same moment I was muttering for the car in front of me to go just a teeny bit faster, these beautiful birds were flying on their way to the next thing. I doubt they had big to-do lists nor were they worried much about their speed. I’m guessing they just followed their instincts, flapped their wings, and took flight.

tim-umphreys-1268117-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Tim Umphreys on Unsplash

This week I’ve been ignoring my instincts, saying yes and packing days full when perhaps I could have just started moving my wings at their own natural speed.

So when the internet went out at work this afternoon, right after I sent my boss to an appointment not present on the other person’s calendar, I paused and had to ask, “What would the geese do?”

They’d keep flying beautifully.

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.

image.png

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?

Frisee and Calloused Skin

I’ve been sitting on my hands. Have you ever tried to walk forward while your arms are pinned under your seat? It’s impossible. In order for your butt to literally move forward, you have to have your hands at your side.

For the last three years, my fists have been clenched. They’ve stayed under me, or in my lap, warped fingers holding in the hurt of grief and the negative self-talk of not-quite-good enough to get over this enormous thing that happened to us.

While caring people have been helping me unfurl my fingers wound tight, I’ve been sitting, still on pause. Waiting for news, waiting for opportunity for my husband, waiting for the next shoe to drop. If my hands are balled tight, I can punch the next bout of pain away.

While poised to punch, I’ve been missing out. I know, last month I wrote a long list of steps I’ve planned and the lists of living accomplishments I’m hoping to step into this year. It’s easy to run away and retreat in the mountains and to seek companionship with crashing waves and old friends over steaming mugs and stormy skies.

What’s been harder for me is learning how to be me in my community – the one I grew up in, the one that shaped me, the one where we lost him and I still remain.

I started my career in nonprofit development. I’ve learned, oddly enough, I love raising money. I’m good at making funds flow in by telling stories to tug heart strings and change lives. Social work matters to me. And since Dad’s death, I had to step away from philanthropy. This morning, after three years out of that scene, I drove to a fundraising luncheon with the ladies who lunch. I read a book in my car as I waited – I had arrived fifteen minutes early. Chit-chat be damned – I was hiding as long as I could.

The minutes ticked as I turned pages and finally, I put on red lipstick matching my heels and walked into the grand ballroom. I scanned the crowd behind my big sunglasses and searched for my “before people” – the ones who knew me pre-death. I avoided eye contact with a few and found a comfortable seat with old friends in the distance.

I asked the networking questions and I ate my plate of greens (Really people, frisee should be forbidden from public lunches. How do you get all those loose fronds in your mouth without looking like a fool?)

peter-feghali-110596-unsplash.jpg

I watched as the videos scrolled and participants shared their stories of change. I got out my checkbook and I made a donation. I felt my fingers move from under my booty to my sides – thankful for my current job and it’s ability to give me a few extra dollars to donate to cause I believe in.

I felt a part of something bigger than me.

This question of fit has been with me for awhile now, taunting asks of ‘How do I stay and grow in a place I’ve lived in for thirty years when I feel and act so differently?’ When I posed this question to my mom, she responded, “Katie, I’ve had four lives in the 30 years we’ve lived here. You can be new here too.”

One need not move across the country to step into freshly grown skin.

Grief rips up your carefully calloused skin. The questions you ask and the tears you cry scrub away dead layers of you-ness previously known to others. In this excruciating process you grow beautifully precious and painfully raw skin.

I’m out in public again, giving money rather than raising it. I’m protective of this fragile layer of self-defense and take care to honor my newness. I’m trying re-entry and writing checks. When I catch myself clenching, I smile and relax my hands, putting them once again at my side.

I face my palms open, ready to receive, pause and then I stand.

What a beautiful thing.

Twenty Things I Learned in My Twenties

charles-etoroma-374017-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

Today I turn 30. The ‘big birthday.’ When I started this blog I was 23, unmarried, and unanchored. A lot has changed in the last seven years and I’m eager to see what the next decade brings. Thank you, dear readers, for watching me grow up.

Reflection brings its own kind of wisdom and before I dance into the next new decade, I’m sharing my love letter of lessons I’ve learned about myself in the last ten years. Enjoy.

  1. Career may not fulfill your soul.
    I spent my early twenties bouncing from job to job searching for the perfect fit. I had nine jobs in ten years. There will be conflict at work. There will be days that feel tedious and boring. It is important to find people you can learn from and environments to push you out of your comfort zone. It’s ok to make a switch, and ok to fail. At least you tried. There’s more to your worth than what you do from 9-5.
  2. Ask for that raise sooner than later. 
    You’re worth it. Practice negotiating and communicating how your skills bring organizations different value. It takes practice and it pays off. The least they can say is no, not right now.
  3. New paint makes a big difference.
    Make your spaces your own. Your house can be a reflection of you. Paint is affordable and it takes just a few hours to reclaim space for rest and rejuvenation.
  4. Planning a wedding is fun. Planning for marriage is improbable.
    I got engaged at the age of twenty three and walked down the aisle at age twenty five. That was young. We did marriage counseling, had dated for six years, and talked about many things. We weren’t prepared for how unemployment, unexpected death, and financial uncertainty would change and shape our young marriage. You can’t plan for all of the scenarios. You can, however, pick a partner who will fight for you and hold your hand when things fall apart.
  5. Pick up those shoes.
    Really, I leave them all over the house. Weekly shoe round-ups should be a thing. I’m messy. Tough.
  6. People will die.
    Yes, your people. They will die. Before your heart is ready with things left unchecked on bucket lists and words left unsaid. This is the worst truth of the universe. Surviving the death of my dad has rearranged me leaving gaps for compassion, empathy, and tears. Death sucks. Grief sucks. People die. It sucks so frickin’ bad.
  7. Say I love you every chance you get.
    The last time I saw my dad, he left my house without me saying good-bye. I just assumed I’d see him the next day. I didn’t say ‘I love you’ and I regret that. Life is short. Tell people how much you love them every chance you get.
  8. Friendships change.
    As you grow and change, so will your friends. Give others grace, stand up at weddings, cheer when they announce they are going to have a baby. Honor the space of sadness when the people you could always count on don’t respond as much as you’d like. Hold space for new relationships. Be the friend you want to have.
  9. Metabolism slows.
    Damn. Buy bigger-sized pants. Eat a few less french fries. Get back to the gym and love your body.
  10. Stop resisting when they offer to do the dishes.
    For a long time, I’d be mortified when my mother-in-law would do my dishes. It made me feel like a horrible host. She’s not silently commenting on the state of the kitchen. She’s instead using her gifts and sharing her time. People will show you their love in all kinds of ways. Stop resisting and say thank you.
  11. Having a dog is beneficial.
    They’ll pee on the carpet and destroy a few of your favorite things. But the little creature will warm your heart, absorb your tears, and take up space on the bed when you’re cold. Eye contact with an animal will soften your soul.
  12. Get a few stamps in your passport.
    Planning a trip and traveling abroad will give you confidence and joy in unimaginable ways. Gelato in Paris is delicious. Kidney pie in London is not.
  13. Graduate from an amaretto sour.
    Try different alcoholic drinks and explore how your tastes evolve. Know a few classic cocktails to ask for in a bar. When you order a shot of Fireball with your brother’s friends, they will laugh at you. Don’t let shame shape your choices. It’s ok to like what you like.
  14. Softball is not fun.
    I’d just rather not spend my summer evenings on the ball field. Practice saying no to the things that don’t bring you joy so you can say yes to the things that make your heart beat a little faster.
  15. I’m sensitive. So be it.
    My awareness of others suffering is a gift, not a weakness. Refuse to let others squash the sensitivity out of you. Continue to give the homeless woman a granola bar, make donations to charity, and cry at the news.
  16. People want to read these words.
    I must believe this every time I click publish. Your voice matters and you have every right to share your thoughts. Not everyone will resonate and likes and comments don’t qualify my words as worthy. Keep typing. It doesn’t have to make you money … though that would be nice.
  17. Family is complicated.
    It gets tricky when pain trickles through long-standing relationships. Keep trying. Keep praying. God’s grace can fix holes in family tapestries. Where we come from matters. Hold onto the good stuff, let go of the crap.
  18. You can take care of yourself.
    Of course I want others to take care of me. Bring me soup, vacuum the dirty carpet, offer tissues for the mountains of snot grief creates – yes please. More empowering though? Learning how to care for myself. Take space to sit and be sad. Invest in good shoes, honor your body with clothes that fit, and pay for a therapist to help process. Accepting help is self-care. Putting things in place to meet my own needs – even better.
  19. Money is a tool – let it flow.
    While I prefer to sit on my savings account for fear of not enough, I’m learning money is a tool for joy. Using funds responsibly can create positive, life-changing experiences. Travel. Save for the car. Get a haircut. Sponsor a child. Trust you have the capability to make more money and believe God provides.
  20. Hope lives in the relentless search for beauty.
    The gifts God gives are in the small and ordinary. Keep seeking good and you will find beauty. Clean water, fresh flowers, a kiss on the nose. Bubbles in sparkling wine, puppy breath, baby toes. Suffering and beauty co-exist. We won’t live in a world without both.

It Started with Stand-Up

It started with a stand-up comedy routine. This one to be exact.

We’ve been watching it on repeat at our house. Sarah’s routine sparked important conversation for Dylan and me. After watching a few times, I found myself wondering, ‘Yeah! Do I contribute to the problem of men feeling like they’re losing their voice?’ There needs to be space for men to make plans and pay for dinner.

This is a BIG feminist discussion and I don’t have an answer to the mystery of emasculation in our culture. I tend to think it’s not q.u.i.t.e. my problem if men who’ve historically made bad decisions are feeling crushed by powerful women.

Both men and women have different strengths. I believe feminine and masculine traits live in all of us. How these traits are lived out has a lot to do with our culture, and the media, and the muddied messages of chivalry, independence, patriarchy, and equality.

It is my problem, however, when my husband is holding back because I overpower his voice and poo-poo his plans.

So, on Friday night, after starting a text thread asking how he wanted to spend our evening, I had to consider my silencing. He suggested, ‘let’s go out, get a drink, listen to some jazz.’ I stifled the urge to say ‘shoot, I was hoping for Mrs. Maisel and a glass of white wine while wearing pajamas.’

He had made a plan.

I shushed my impulse to lounge and instead I blew dry my hair, put on some red lipstick, and set out for an evening of saxophone and cocktails.

As we walked down the stairs to the basement bar, I whispered to myself, ‘I’m tired of being afraid of living.’ I think we both are. We’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern for a while – waiting on news, waiting on opportunities, living in the just-a-little-longers. Grief tends to rip the plans right out of you.

So for this year, I’m going about living boldly and holding space for the rising tides bringing us back to shore again. I’ve booked a birthday trip to the mountains, am headed to Portland to see an old friend, and am carving out space to fashion a book out of these posts. He’s going to fix up a car, draft some buildings and learn new software. Together we’ll tackle our ugly basement, paint some cabinets, and build a website.

We’re going to get up off the couch and hold hands as we step into jazz clubs, letting brushes on drums and stand-up bass bolster us up.

We’re making plans again. What a beautiful thing.

The 2018 Give Light Giveaway Winner Is …

hannah-troupe-367604-unsplash

Remember those embers? We’re starting a little fire. Thank you to the following folks who entered the Give Light Giveaway. The winner is announced at the bottom of this post and will be contacted shortly.

What gives you hope?


My hope comes from my kids and I hope I can give them the best life possible.

– Alice V.


A darkened church filled to capacity being infused with light one candle at a time while everyone sings Silent Night.

A third grade boy filling the heart of a child with special behavioral needs by asking him to be his twin on ‘twin’s day’. He remembered that they both had the same Christmas shirt in second grade. He also ate lunch with him.

Brilliant sunrises, amazing sunsets, crystal clear blue skies.

– Cathy H.


I am hopeful for good things ahead because I survived this past year without losing or compromising my integrity, patience, curiosity, creativity, willingness to try, or ability to love. I look forward to using these as guideposts and inspiration in the coming year.

– Laura G


Besides my faith in God, new life gives me hope: A precious baby, a wobbly-legged calf, or a tiny green shoot popping out of the brown dirt.  New life is such a miracle!

– Cathy P.


What gives me hope:

My children give me hope every day. And every child that walks into my life and shares their unfiltered joy with me. As long as new life keeps bringing new joy to the world I am hopeful.

– Christine C.


What gives me hope? Prayer gives me hope. When I pray for peace, faith, forgiveness or love; I’m given hope. When I pray for meekness, strength, comfort or mercy; I’m given hope. When I pray for courage, compassion, patience, and self-control; I’m given hope. When I pray for a sense of humor in a dark place, for listening ears when I want to scream, for self-love when I’ve made a mistake, for acceptance instead of judgment; I’m given hope.

For me, prayer is more than an expression of thanksgiving or a plea for help. Prayer is hope eternal.

– Suzanne M


There are two things that give me hope:

Seeing glimpses of how God has been preparing me and working behind the scenes for this season of my life.
Seeing the good that is still in the world.  I am reminded of friends giving gifts to their friends who are differently abled.  Giving baby dolls or stuffed animal dogs to those suffering from dementia to help make them feel purposeful and needed.  It helps remind them even subconsciously of previous times in their life when they were a caregiver for pets and / or children.
– Stephanie S.

Hi all,
I admit that it was hard for me to write a submission for this and I searched my brain and heart as to why. I realized that it’s because I don’t feel particularly hopeful this season. It’s definitely not like good things aren’t in my life right now, but it’s been a strange, quick, busy season where the gifts were unwrapped before I could say “it’s Christmas already?” My feelings seem to be echoed by everyone I talk to. I also feel like I’m in a strange limbo where I want to be working towards something but I haven’t figured out what.
However, there have been a few things that make me want to break down in tears just from the pure thoughtfulness of them, and they all have to do with children. I dropped by for a surprise visit to my friends’ house to visit with them and their kids on Christmas Eve. They were so welcoming and the kids were so excited that it immediately brightened my day. Not only that, but their daughter wrote me such a sweet note; I included pictures of it below. This is the same daughter that once picked the cheese out of the last cheddar biscuit for me just so I could have it (I’m lactose intolerant). Her kindness, uninhibited by motive or obligation, floors me every time.
katiem1  katie M 2
The second thing that has brightened my days are the spontaneous hugs of my niece. My brother and his family are visiting from Mexico for the holidays and I don’t get to see her very often, but she seems to revere me like one would a big sister. Every time I’ve seen her over the last few days, she just randomly runs up to me and hugs me. It’s an expression of joy that I feel so grateful to be on the receiving end of.
The third thing is my tiny 1.5 yr old nephew diving in for a cracker crumb-filled kiss before he left my parents’ house last night. He has been so hesitant around me the past couple of months and I cherish those moments of closeness.
What do these all give me hope for?
The next moment.
– Katie M.

Thanks to my husband’s helpful selection, this year’s winner is Suzanne M. Here’s to hoping in 2019.
I’m also hoping to have more guest bloggers in the year ahead. If you are interested in contributing new content, let’s connect!

January Favorite Things – 2019

 

It’s tradition in my family to watch The Rose Bowl Parade (#1 Favorite Thing) on New Year’s Day. My parents lived in Pasadena when they were first married and so we always had it on in the background when we woke groggily on the first day of the year. Nostalgia mixed with beautiful compilations of floral majesty – this parade is an amazing artistic effort.

The past few years I turned the live stream on with tears on my cheeks and we’d watched without Dad. Starting another year without loved ones is bittersweet. Sometimes, you still feel guilty for living.

Today, I turned on the parade and scooted our little leaf receiver, trying without success to get a clear stream via our janky attempt at living cable-free. I can’t find the ABC live stream and the ESPN account we share with a relative isn’t granting me access.

BUT – great news – the Spanish channel is coming in perfectly. So here I sit, watching the floats and the bands and the flowers and Dad is chuckling along with me because I can’t understand much.

‘Stop taking new starts without me so seriously,’ he whispers. I’m putting my head on his shoulder and trying to figure out the subtitles.

So, adding to the list, here are a few of my favorite things to start the year off right.

2. Electric Fondue Pot


I found an unopened wedding present in the cupboard this weekend and decided to continue another tradition of New Year’s fondue at our house. This little guy is so easy to use and dipping treats in chocolate is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I knew we registered for this for a reason.

3. Photo Books on Shutterfly

I love making albums for the year just finished in January. Take a few minutes, download the photos from your phone, and upload the images to Shutterfly. Don’t be intimidated by creative limitations – if you want, you can use their “Make My Book” feature and they will put all your photos in beautiful designs for you. They’re always having a sale and you get a great keepsake.

4. Pick Your Word

I was introduced to the idea of picking a word for your year ahead in college. My small group leader encouraged us to prayerfully pick a word to focus on in the next twelve months. We know we break resolutions, but having a word to return to, shaping your choices and your hopes is easier to return to as time goes on. This book explains the idea in more detail. My word for this year is REACH.  What’s yours?

5. Pick Your Tunes

Bring in the new year with some new anthems. Dylan was given Miles Davis on vinyl and we’ve been filling our house with jazz. Buy a new album, pick a new song, add some life into your home with music.

Happy New Year!