beauty

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.

 

Freedom

What do words mean to you?  I love spending time thinking about rhetoric, our language, our definitions that we use to explain our lives. It has been fun drawing words out too.

Thank you to Natasha Wing for contributing her word FREEDOM to the Beautiful Words Challenge.

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I am still accepting entires until March 31st. If you have a favorite beautiful word, let me know and follow the submission guidelines here.

 

Glee

Happy Friday ya’ll! Weather forecasters were calling for a nasty day here in Northern Colorado and as I look outside I see beautiful skies and 60 degrees. Jokes on them. Or on me when it dumps two feet of snow tomorrow, but for now, I’ll take the sunshine.

I’m happy to share another contribution to the beautiful word challenge.

What brings you glee on lovely Fridays such as these?

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Do you love words? Please consider sharing your favorite with me. Details on how to get your own custom image here. Accepting entries until March 31st.

 

Coruscate – A Challenge

My mom sent me a text this morning with the word coruscate.

 

Coruscate-Turn on the stars.

She loved its definition and I do too. The way this word creates a beautiful image in its own meaning makes me feel all tickled inside.

When I stop and think about word-play, how we use word upon word to define our vocabulary, it can be dizzying to think about the power of language. And there are so many beautiful choices for how we want to describe our worlds.

I’ve started a Pinterest board with some of my favorite words and phrases, definitions that bring me joy. I want this board to grow.

So out of my own curiosity I pose to you this challenge. Help me grow my list of beautiful, tantalizing, delightful, intriguing, special, heart-warming words.

What is your favorite beautiful word and it’s definition?

If you email me your response at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com I will create a meme for you with the word and post it on my Pinterest page. I will send you the image, and put your contribution in my collective list that will get shared at the end of the month.

Get out those dictionaries, search your minds, share your heart. Accepting entries until March 31st.

 

Hope Floats on Whispers

Each time I log onto Facebook these days my stomach lurches a little bit. I know I have a choice in entering my password and scrolling through feeds that are slightly biased towards the left – most of my friends agree with my stance on political things.

It seems to be getting bleaker, more complicated, more hurtful out there .

My heart is aching for those who are facing the very real, life changing consequences of political actions that have taken place this week. And I realize too, just how risky it is to put my thoughts and reactions out on the internet.

I could and maybe should log on to CNN or The New York Times, or Slate, or spend time evaluating these infographics that are circling around that tell me just how ‘Alternative’ my new sources could be. But honestly, I don’t.

I know this ability to tune out the news is a reflection of my privilege and I hesitate with every sentence I write down here. So much potential for offending all across the board. I don’t really think the internet is a safe space to launch such flames of disagreement.

And here I am, nervous again, to write about the good, when things out there seem so very bad. So this is my disclaimer for the year – I see, I hear, and I do not ignore the very real confusion and pain caused by our political climate here in America. I do not dismiss it and I want to be an ally.

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I also believe that hope floats on whispers, on promises of good, on lists of gratitude. My efforts may not be loud, or in crowds of hundreds of thousands – heck I’m lucky if each post I write gets more than 17 views. However, if I choose to stop writing the beautiful, it’s another example of where fear will win.

Many of you may have seen my post on Facebook this week about the barista at Starbucks who gave me a free drink even though my birthday coupon had expired. Ugh – you can groan – at the example of white girl privilege – symbols of excess funds and the caffeine raddled habit that oozes corporate coffee. What I saw though, was a twenty something millennial, working his butt off in the early morning, reflecting kindness with the choice to just give me a free coffee anyways. There is still good in the world.

As I drove to work I had to smile because a 40 year old woman with two kids in the car was blasting music and encouraging her two kiddos in the backseat to dance along. Ugh – you can groan – at the example of oil dependent individuals  in foreign cars on busy roads. What I saw though, was the influence of music and artists who have created catchy beats that inspire smiles and laughter while getting from here to there.

We live in the challenging dichotomy of good and bad. Of catastrophe and regrowth. Of pain and beauty.

I just want to keep honoring the mystery that God allows both to exist.

So here are some other things I found to be beautiful this week.

  • Home Brew – we made a match of beer with our friends a month ago and the bottles are finally ready to drink – magical chemistry made a tasty drink in our very own kitchen.
  • Flannel Thermals – my husband got a new thermal top for Christmas and I really just love the ability to snuggle up next to him as he wears it to sleep.
  • Reflections of my puppy in the mirror – our downstairs bathroom is torn apart because we are painting so the large mirror that typically hangs on the wall is sitting on the floor. As we sit on the couch, Olive keeps staring at herself in the reflection. It makes me laugh, and then thing, heck I do the same thing too with window reflections at work. We love a chance to look at ourselves.
  • Gifts from the fruits of your friend’s talents – I asked my long-time friend Jenny Stoecker to take some updated headshots for me. In about 5 minutes she captured my uniqueness in some photos and I’m really thrilled to start using them more. If you need some photography, keep her in mind.

 

I invite you to join me in using the hashtag #stillgoodintheworld . This won’t discount the bad, it can’t erase our pain, but it can gather us together to think about how our efforts and our choices to see the beautiful remind us to keep hoping.

Start whispering guys. Or for all I care, yell! My little heart just isn’t ready for that quite yet.