beauty

Sweating for a Sandwich

Turn on the oven to 400 degrees.

Take a pound of bacon and layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes until crispy.

While you start to sweat because your house is eighty degrees and the oven is on at 400 degrees, take out the toaster. Plug the metal machine in to the socket.

Turn from your cool granite counter and take the package off the top off the whirring fridge.

Remove the plastic twist-tie from the crinkly, cellophane bag holding the precious loaf of sourdough bread.

Turn back to your cold counter.

Select two of the softest slices of bread and place in the toaster, pressing down on the black metal bar to engage the heat.

More heat.

While the bread toasts, wash some lettuce with cool, cool water and slice a tomato once warming on the counter. If you’re feeling luxurious, slice up an expensive avocado before it turns from the heat.

Pop!

Your bread is done.

Remove the toasted pieces from the hot metal grates with your fingers. If you feel brave, unplug the toaster and use a fork to get the bread out. Do not mix up the order here.

Open the hot oven to check your bacon.

Has it reached toasted perfection?

Once it’s done, put on insulated oven mitts and remove the hot pan from the hot oven.

Take your bread, now cooled, and spread refrigerated mayo with a cool knife to one side of the one slice. Take your expensive, normal temperature avocado and spread with the cool knife on the remaining slice of bread.

Layer warm bacon, cool lettuce, and warm tomato slices. If you’re like my dad, you’ll add a slice of cold cheese. Cheddar or Muenster will do. Smack those slices together and cut into triangles with your knife, cold mayo lingering on the blade.

Turn off the 400 degree oven.

Eat your sandwich outside because both you and your house are now stifling.

BLTs, my friends, are beautiful things.

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In other news, my favorite dinosaur Carl now has his own Instagram. Please follow along.

And don’t forget to tell me what’s bringing you joy this month. More details here.

In Denial

I got an email from Nordstrom Rack this week. A classic promotion and the subject line read, “Which type is your dad?”

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A dead one – I thought to myself.

Oy

I wanted to send of a snarky reply but I didn’t.

Sometimes it’s easier to keep those little remarks to yourself. Advertisers are not often in the business of being sensitive to these kind of pain points.

Here we are. Another calendar year rolled by and I find myself clicking delete on promotions in my email, in the accounts I manage, and ignoring blatant ads on social media.

These Father’s Day triggers are everywhere.

After reading some of the pieces I published last year on the holiday I realized I’m at year number four, not three, of this holiday without him.

Four seems so much bigger than three.

You can ask the toddlers who have become bigger children in his absence.

I’m in Father’s Day denial. I was hoping to keep it at an arms distance.

But Nordstrom and Macy’s and Apple and even Starbucks are telling me I better prepare.

Sigh. Deeeeeeeeep sighs.

I’m missing him and breathing in his scent found in the hot popcorn popped fresh at the hardware store. I finger his sweatshirts hanging in my closet, next to my work blazers reminding me of how his fibers felt when brushed against him as I rushed out the door.

I’m in denial this year and so I turn my attention here. To the …

White walls painted fresh in a completed basement.

Slices of crisp dill pickle on dry crumbly bread.

Ham spread with mayo, no Minnesota butter to be found.

Small floating bubbles in spritzer.

Peas sprouting up in the garden.

Translucent squirts of lemon juice easing their way down into glasses full of cool water.

Coffee beans grinding.

Fitness instructors reminding me to tend to my back.

Encouragement from bosses.

Kisses on the cheek with an old friend. The ones who knew him too.

Red lipstick marks on coffee cups.

Baby Opal just one miraculous week old.

Maintained eye brows.

Dinners with grandmas and aunts and mother-in-laws.

Lottery tickets scratched clean.

These are the beautiful things this week is made of. And I’m focusing on them instead.

 

May Favorite Things – 2019

There is snow on the ground. Welcome to spring in Colorado.

Where the weather keeps you guessing and you can’t quite put away those sweaters just yet.

I’m dreaming of sun dresses and sipping peppermint tea and sending you my favorite things this month.

  1. Rob Bell’s book What We Talk About When We Talk About God
    A really compelling argument about how our conversations are evolving. I keep telling everyone about this book.
  2. Paul Mitchell Extra-Body Boost Root Lifter
    I’m not a big beauty (like cosmetic, hair, nails, beauty products) gal. Typically my routine includes a shower, a bit of mascara and a good hair tie. BUT this past weekend I cut my hair to my shoulders and need a bit of help with styling my new ‘do. This product smells lovely, adds volume, and doesn’t leave me feeling crunchy or grimy at the end of the day.
  3. Brene’ Brown’s Netflix special
    Keep watching all the way to the end. Her story about her daughters swim meet brought me to tears. So much of life is like that swim meet.
  4. Peas and Beans and Lettuce
    We planted some of our cool weather plants and I’m very excited. Look for frost resistant varieties of seeds and get your gardens started. Especially if there isn’t snow at your house.
  5. Strawberry Bubly Water
    Remember Michael Buble’s Superbowl ad? It was clever. When my boss brought in this sparkling water, I said, ‘sure – let’s give it a try.’ And the strawberry variety is delicious. Watch out La Croix. Bubly is going to give you a run for your money. Especially in my office.

May your May be warm and sunny.

 

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.

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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.

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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?

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?)

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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

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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.