beauty

On Doubts

Oh yes, I have them too. Big, fat, ugly, warty doubts that sit on my heart and squash my finger’s desire to type. Little wispy doubts that wear tutus and dance among my strands of hair, swinging along and whispering as they pass by my ears. “You shouldn’t write” they say. “Your stories, your truths – they are going to keep you from getting a job, or make your friends run the other direction. Give it up, no one tends to give a damn.”

I wonder, almost daily, if it is worth being vulnerable on the internet. I doubt the sharing of my tears, my heart, my hopes and my grief on this space. I filter my failures and minimize my successes.

And then, beautiful people like Anne Lamott give a Ted Talk and post on Facebook and I remember, once again, that I’ve got to. I’ve got to write.

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So today, my beautiful thing is Anne Lamott’s reminder that she shared. Take that world, I’m going to continue telling my story.  I don’t want to feel like hell.

I personally like #6 on her list. Take heed world, take heed.

The Beauty of Everyday Adventure – Guest Post by Joey Holmes

I love when other writers approach me with beautiful ideas to share. When Joey emailed from Europe and asked if she could write something on the adventures we create in our daily lives, I jumped at the chance to see what she had to say.

Read along and start adventuring. Bonus points if you guess which of her suggestions I am going to do in the next few weeks!

Author: Joey Holmes

Her Website: www.coolofthewild.com

“In every walk with nature, one receives much more than he seeks.” – John Muir


I often question why being outdoors is such an important thing to me. Maybe being born in December and being cooped up inside for the first 6 months of my life has something to do with it. Or perhaps it was that, when the weather permitted, my mum would be outside with me on every given opportunity. But whatever the reason, there is something about getting outside and embarking on adventures, no matter their size or ambition, that lights a spark in me.

Recently I have started to take note of the things I say when I’m outside adventuring, and the way I feel or react to my situation. And on reflection I’ve come to realize just how important it is for me to be surrounded by the beauty of nature: an ancient woodland, a colorful bug, a stunning view, the dying light at sunset. These small, seemingly insignificant things are what drive me to get outside as much as possible and to open my eyes to the beauty that is out there.

Last year I challenged myself to cycle 70 miles across Wales, sleep on the beach and cycle back again. I loved the physical and mental challenge and the feeling of independence and strength that it gave me. But I was on a schedule to get from A to B before the sun went down, and I found it really frustrating that I couldn’t take the time to stop and enjoy the waterfall, or to lie down for half an hour to listen to the silence and take in the sense of freedom that my adventure presented. So I promised myself that, moving forward, I would always try to allow for that time of reflection and appreciation of what amazing things nature offers me on my adventures.

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This got me thinking about how adventure is so different for everyone. Stepping out of ones comfort zone and embarking on something new, unusual and exciting can be all sorts of things, and doesn’t have to be grand or significantly life changing. Anything from cooking your dinner on a hill after work, to spending weeks at a time exploring far-flung corners of the earth. Regardless of the scale, seeking out adventure always uncovers beauty in one form or another: in your surroundings, in the actions of your fellow adventurers, or in the feeling, emotions and thoughts within you.

With modern life getting busier and more hectic every day, it’s easy not to make the effort to get out adventuring. And even easier to forget to appreciate all that beauty when adventures do happen. So for a little inspiration on how to get some adventure into everyday life, here are a few simple things to try each week:

Dining out

  • Cycle to work instead of your usual mode of transport
  • Cook your dinner on a campfire – even if it’s in the backyard!
  • Take a walk along a river at sunrise
  • Climb a tree in the park
  • Have a sunset picnic at a place with a stunning view
  • Take a night hike
  • Go for a swim before work at your nearest wild swimming spot
  • Take a run to your nearest park on your lunch break
  • Climb a hill and do some yoga at the top
  • Build a den and read your book in it – even if it’s inside
  • Take your camp stove to work and make your own coffee in the park at lunchtime
  • Hang your hammock in the park after work and enjoy listening to noise of the city

Planning and then embarking upon mini-adventures is a great first step to getting out more. But to truly reap the benefits of all that adventure has to offer, I believe that it’s essential to take the time to sit back and pause. To really breath in all the elements of the beauty that is uncovered through seeking out the unusual, daring and exciting.

So whatever adventure is to you, make sure you do it with open eyes, arms, ears, mind, heart and nostrils(!), to fully absorb all that beauty that’s yours for the taking.

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Joey Holmes

Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, or hitting the trail in her running shoes .

You can connect with her here:

 Facebook    Twitter     Instagram    Pinterest

 

If you are interested in contributing to 52 Beautiful things, send an email to 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. 

Be The Horizon

We have a family therapist. Or rather, had a family therapist. One wise gentleman that counseled my mom, my dad, my brother and me. This therapeutic closeness to each of our situations was wonderful and horrible all at the same time.

You know how you have to spend the first few sessions with a new therapist explaining your background? Tell me about your mom, your dad, your childhood trauma. Well this guy already knew – perhaps way more than I did – about my mom, my dad, and their childhood trauma. This was nice. Cut out the time-wasting backstory telling. Jump right in to my perspective of things.

This closeness also caused challenges. Like when I heard of a family’s new news from  Said Therapist on a phone call, rather than the source. He assumed I already knew. I didn’t.

Said Therapist is wise and kind and has supported my family in unspoken, spiritual ways. He was the first person to call me, after my mom and Dylan, to offer kindness the day we lost Dad.

So when my dad died, who also happened to be one my therapist’s good friends, I had to stop getting counseling from Said Therapist. Grief and family closeness swarmed in on itself, collapsing one of the support systems I had previously relied on. While difficult, the choice to stop receiving therapy from this person remains to be a healthy one.

I’ve tried a few therapists since the loss and neither have clicked. And since mental health is NOT covered by my insurance I’ve taken a break from therapy. Another healthy choice because I tend to over-process myself into a tight spiral. Sometimes taking a break from counseling can be a beautiful thing.

However, Said Therapist’s wisdom continues to whisper in my ears and I am thankful for his lessons that he helped me grow into. I am thankful he taught me mindfulness, and thankfulness, and grounding exercises that help me remain in the present. Old lessons, like worn socks, which we take off and put on again, when we remember there are easier solutions to cold feet than freezing.

So today, when I got a phone call that a banking situation is going less than perfect, rather than panic I took a deep breath. I am a grown woman, I can problem solve, this, like all things, will resolve itself.

“BE THE HORIZON” Said Therapist would say.

Maybe Said Therapist never ever said that phrase to me, but it is one our family adopted. One my dad would share in texts, and my mom and I continue to repeat over and over again.

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You know when you look out at the ocean, the line where the water meets the sky continues to remain steady. Yet, waves are always churning, water always moving, creatures and weather and ships interacting in patterns of chaos.

That darn horizon continues to stay true and steady and straight.

“Be the horizon.” Breath deep, remember you got this, stay the course.

Grounding exercises are beautiful and I’d like to think I’d accept reminders to take it one moment at a time with open arms. Too often, though, these reminders are in the form of tires that need replacing, and broken shingles, and bank accounts, and lost book shipments and the rearranging of schedules. Inconveniences and annoyances that remind us we are not in control.

Life is less than perfect. Perhaps these moments of perfect frustration should be seen as beautiful too.

This morning I was scrolling on Facebook, the grandest of all time wasters and anxiety provoking messages reminding me of how not-good-enough I am. I found this poem.

“It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.”
—Mark Nepo

I found this poem before the day unfolded and it caught my attention.

As the day progressed, its beautiful gift seemed to sink in more.

I want to stop counting, letting go of the broken, and moving forward to embrace all the good.

I think Said Therapist would say, ‘That sounds good Katie. That sounds good.’

Favorite Things – June

Cheers! We made it to June. While the official start of summer doesn’t roll around for a few more weeks, here are a few things that bring me delight as the days grow longer.

  1. Gold and Navy Blue Paper Drinking Straws

Smoothie season is here! Iced coffee season too! (although for me that’s an all year thing). Put a little pep in your glass and choose some fun straws to sip your favorite beverage.

2. Fun Express 12 Mini Pirate Rubber Ducks Duckie Ducky Party Favors Novelty (1 Dozen)

I went to a bar and they gave me a cocktail with a rubber ducky in it. Needless to say I was instantly won over. Check out my Instagram to find out which charming duck graced my booze. A fun idea for any summer get together or just because. Rubber ducks make you smile.

3. Asti Cinzano 750 ml

This was the lovely sparkling wine I reference in this post.

Order a bottle. Toast to being alive.

4. Jobe’s Tomato Fertilizer Spikes,

We put in our garden and I am anxiously awaiting little sprouts to come and grace the dirt with their faces. Hoping this unique, less messy solution to fertilizer will produce lots of fruit.

5. Mattel Blokus Game

I forgot how much I like this game. Play with friends, challenge your brain, get blocking.

 

For a full list of my Favorite Things featured in 2017 click here.  Stay tuned for next month as the featured list will change as the months roll by.

Make Your List and Pick One

Don’t forget!

There is one day left to enter the Short & Sweet Giveaway.

Take a moment. Grab a pen, a real pen, and some paper.

Maybe it has lines on it, maybe it’s the back of your receipt from the grocery store.

Doesn’t matter.

Jot down a list of the beautiful things in your life right now.

Start with one. Add a few more. Maybe you can get to ten. Beauty and gratitude go hand in hand.

Then pick your favorite.

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Photo by Idella Maeland

Log on to Twitter.

Send me a tweet of your favorite beautiful thing in your life right now and you will be entered to win some of my Favorite Things.

You must be ok with your tweet being shared in a compilation post at the end of the contest.

The Twitter handle is @52Beautiful.

Winners will be notified via Direct Message on Twitter.

I can’t wait to hear from you.

xo

 

1400 Pennies

Clink. Clink. Clink.

I sat criss-crossed on the carpet sorting coins on Sunday night. Pouring piles of pennies onto the floor as fresh air blew in from my open window.

Piles of ten. Add up to fifty. Over and over again.

Rain drops sneaking their way through the screen. Olive snipping at a fly buzzing above.

Clink. Clink. Clink. Metal on glass. Coins exiting a mason jar.

I took home a canning jar full of coins from my mom’s house after family dinner on Sunday. The jar had sat in my parent’s medicine cabinet for years. Pennies collecting scum and dust and pieces of lint.

Each evening, Dad would take coins out of pockets and throw them in the pile. Circles of copper waiting for a bigger purpose. Something to be saved. I don’t know what he did with his dimes, nickels, and quarters. This jar was only full of pennies.

Mom moved the jar out of her reclaimed closet a few weeks ago.

I’ve always been motivated by money. In elementary school I rose to Dad’s reading challenge – you get one dollar for every book you read from now until we go to Disney World. I read one hundred chapter books much to Dad’s surprise. He held up his end of the deal and I think I got a souvenir. Knowing me, I probably saved some of the cash. In high school I spent hours organizing holiday greeting cards for an odd acquaintance – paid by the package. Nimble fingers make for quick compounding pay outs.

This is an interesting personal trait considering I’ve spent my career working for nonprofits, writers, and small businesses. Passion pays the soul. It can also leaves zeros missing at the end of paychecks.

So yes, when Mom said I could have the cash if I took the heavy jar home, I jumped at the chance. This nerd already had rolling papers for the coins waiting to be filled.

This aint my first coin jar rodeo. I sat, I poured, and I rolled up those pennies.

Clink. Clink. Clink.

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1400 pennies in all. When I finished counting, an overwhelming sadness overtook me. This would be the last interaction with Dad’s always present coin jar. The one that sat next to the Advil and aloe in the cabinet. Never again will his contributions of loose change add up to something bigger.

I held the rolls of money in my sweaty palms feeling their weight. Went to bed.

In the morning, sipping my coffee, I glanced over at the pile of paper rolls and stared. His fingerprints, his grime, his pockets, his molecules in those little cylinders. Beautiful reminders of his after-thoughts at the end of his days.

I went to the bank this afternoon and swallowed the sadness as I handed the teller my beautiful pennies in exchange for some dollar bills. She laughed a little and asked if I had a side project collecting the coins.

“Something like that,” I murmured.

I walked out the doors of the bank and pocketed the cash. I told myself it is ok to let go, once again, of the many little things. That’s what grief is. A constant letting go.

There is beauty found in the grimy copper coins, in their distinct clinking noise against glass, in their memories.

I spent the dollar bills on a craft beer with a friend tonight. An EIGHT DOLLAR craft beer. I think Dad would have liked the ale but I know he would have rolled his eyes at the price.

Beauty in beer, in letting go, in acknowledging the sadness. In the saying of thank you, Dad, for keeping your coins. In realizing I can still say, “Dad, this one’s on you.”

Survived by….

Olive, our dog, got a new toy for Easter. Meet Cerdito (little piggy in Spanish) as we affectionately call him.

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Looks the same, but Olive’s is green. As I sit here, Olive is chewing and the little toy grunts away. It has this odd sound mechanism that makes me feel like I’m sharing my bedroom with a baby boar. Her zeal for this creature makes me laugh.

Sometimes it’s the little things that are enough to get you up and out of bed and writing.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

I was reading my dad’s obituary yesterday. It’s still online and when I miss him it can be helpful to look at the long list of memories that other people shared on his site. I stopped when I read the phrase, “… is survived by….” 

I wrote his obituary with my mom, an ugly obligation when you are the writers in the family. I remember being in her bedroom. Mom sat on her blue upholstered couch, I across the way perched slightly higher on her four poster-bed. With rounded shoulders and our chins in our hands we asked each other, “Do we have to include that phrase?”

“I hate that saying,” I’m pretty sure I murmured. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

I never used to understand that phrase. Survived by. I mean sure, that makes sense if we were all in a terrible accident. If the cause of death was a storm, or a bus, or a tragedy that we were all involved in. If we were the ones to get out of the car and walk away scratch free. I didn’t survive his heart attack. I didn’t survive anything in the few days, weeks, early months of loss.

We included the two words.

Roy is survived by his wife, Christine Christman; daughter, Katie (Dylan) Huey and son, Sam Christman.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito. Olive continues to chew away.

I think the impact of those two words makes sense to me now. Thirteen months out, I have begun to survive Dad’s death. My family has begun to survive loss.

As humans, all of us are going to have to at some point – sorry Charlie.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

I went to Good Friday service last Friday. This year the death part of the Easter story hit me differently. The pastor gracefully explained how deeply Jesus suffered on the cross – not in brutal, gory detail, but rather in focusing on the emotional exhaustion that comes from death.

Jesus experienced it too, hanging on the cross, crying out to God “Why have you forsaken me?” He experienced how breath becomes shallow, how head hangs low, how heart and spirit feel ripped away from the Creator of the Universe.  Jesus died. In dying, he felt the things that feel very much like grief.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

Grief can be unbelievable lonely, even when walking with people who lost the same person as you. On Friday, sitting in church in the dark, listening to Jesus’ final seven phrases, it hit me; Jesus has been through death too. This made me feel just a little bit better, a little closer to God, a little more hopeful, less lonely in the beginnings of survival.

On Sunday, I yelled “He is Risen” with enthusiasm. For Jesus rose again to take on our suffering, to walk with us through the dark, to say to ME “I get it. I’ve been there too.” This common ground never made sense to me until just this week. What a beautiful thing.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt, ” says Cerdito.

I think survival is an interesting concept. Day to day we, as humans, are surviving. By breathing air and eating food and drinking water we make choices to keep on going, despite hardship. Death can be hardship, so can a million other things.

Yet choosing to find joy as the thread that connects all of the horrible can be a beautiful thing.  I’ll end my thoughts this week with a list of the beautiful threads of joy that have helped me begin to be a survivor of death of a loved one.

It is a new identity I’m tentatively beginning to put on – one arm in the sleeve of a scratchy sweater, not yet worn enough to be soft on my skin.

Those silly grunts from a pig, and tears, and communion in individual plastic cups.

New jobs for my husband, and naps, and spaghetti.

In meals cooked by my brother, breakfasts at the lunch counter at The Silver Grill.

Afternoons spent at my in-laws.

In Easter baskets, and morning light, and endless text message threads.

In acknowledging that we all, at some point, are going to survive something.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.