beauty

Let’s Get Pancakes

“Let’s get pancakes” I said. “It will be fun.” I said.

That was a few days ago when Snooze AM Eatery brilliantly marketed their National Pancake Day celebration on my Facebook feed. Those damn targeted ads. They work.

So when my phone buzzed at 6 am with one of my friends texting she was sick and wouldn’t make our breakfast date I almost rolled over and went back to sleep. Then I couldn’t find a comfortable spot in my bed and my alarm kept buzzing back from snooze singing to me, “It’s time to get up in the morning.”

I got out of bed. It was still dark out. Let me repeat. It was still DARK out. I never wake up when it’s dark out. Sorry folks, I just don’t.

I got dressed, kissed my sick husband on his feverish forehead and left the house.

As I walked to the garage I noticed a thread of bunny tracks in the snow across the driveway. A sign of life in the glistening powder that was gifted to us last night. Tiny animal prints reminding me that we share our yard with other little creatures.

I got in my car, turned on the heat, drove the twenty miles to get a delicious breakfast. Heat in my car. A beautiful thing on a frosty morning.

As I drove the sun came up, turning the sky from dark to pink to blue. Shivering trees brushed the sky, reaching up their branches into the promise of another appearance from the sun.

I never wake up early enough to see the sunrise. I should witness that beauty more.

We sat down to warm coffee with rising cream in those perfectly crafted yellow mugs  and placed our order.

And then our waitress brought us these.

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Giant.

Giant pancakes. We started laughing. I thought we ordered off the special flight menu for, you know, National Pancake Day.  The tiny pancakes. I guess I was wrong.

Beauty in abundance on my plate(s). In white flour and caramelized pears, in strawberry jam mixing with sausage, and white chocolate mixing with coconut flakes. Beauty in pools of syrup and perfectly weighted forks.

Beauty in enjoying time with friends. Beauty in feeling productive before 8 am. Beauty in frequenting local restaurants that give back to their communities.

And later, tonight as I thought about this post, I asked my friend, “Hey silly question, did you take a pic of all those pancakes this morning?”

Of course she did. It’s so great when you have friends who get you. Who snapchat their food and document culinary adventures so I can share them with you.

Today reminded me that it doesn’t take much to be delighted. Mix up your routine. Watch the sunrise. Order the pancake or two.

You can always take home the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.

 

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She Gets That.

People have been sending me quotes from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are for awhile now. An excerpt in an email here, a meme or two tagged on Instagram there. I received the book for Christmas and I wasn’t brave enough to open the spine. Until the book, sitting on my coffee table for weeks, began to whisper at me. I started reading slowly, in January, feeling the weight of such honest words in the pages.

Ann calls us to share in her practice of giving thanks. Much like what I do here, she was desperate to see the good in an aching world. Her list of 1000 things carried me through big questions and the small details in routines, laundry and mess. I’d digest a chapter each morning, while sipping my coffee and watching the sun rise.

Her beautiful prose made me stop, think, ache, and praise. Praise God for all of the good that is granted to us when we just lift our chins to the sun. Or the rain. Or the trauma lingering in our hearts. What happens when we say thank you to God for the experiences we have been given – no matter how painful.

Nothing new here. Not a new concept. Just a radical practice we must do every single day.

The weekend of my birthday I was so caught up in the message of chapter two that I brought the ingredients of communion to my birthday dinner.

On a snowy Sunday I wept into these pages, Ann’s words – Eucharisto – causing me to remember my dad delivering the communion message in front of congregations. Me sitting in the front pew as a five year old, legs dangling from the church bench scratching on old upholstery. The same girl turned teenager, new church, now cold metal chairs, same bread and grape juice. Same version of the last supper. Gospel of Luke. Same truth.

How long had it been since we broke bread and drank from the cup in remembrance of him? In remembrance of the promises that Jesus brings to our lives? Too long. I’m still wrestling with a Jesus who would choose to take good and holy things away from us. Away from me. Ann gets that.

Now grown woman, near thirty, sitting at the kitchen table dotted with turquoise plates. Same bread. Now wine. No father. He’s gone, but the memories remain, my voice picking up where he left off, taking over the verses with less command and familiarity than he. Practice, it will require. Still Luke.

I finished the book this week. And so, inspired again, I have been giving thanks.

Thanks for another birthday. For my health and my dreams of what I want to accomplish this year. For a list of 29 things to do before I turn 30. Gulp. What a privilege.

Whispered thanks in the grocery store that we have an amazing bounty of food to choose from. Thanks for the resources in my bank account to fill a cart without concern.

Thanks for Cara Cara oranges and for lunch with my husband at an overflowing Whole Foods. For the holes made in Ciabatta bread. For thick slices of cheese.

Thanks for friends who come to watch a Super Bowl. For my mom who opened up her house to us. For buffalo chicken dip and celery crunches and puppies staring curiously at the t.v.

Thanks for the woman who wanted to get rid of her piano and the man who daringly saved the beautiful instrument in a warehouse for twenty years.  For the dusty tarp protecting the instrument. For the father-in-law and friends who take time out of their day to move the music into my home.

Thankful for boxed cake mix turning to batter, swirling red, mixing chocolate, cold golden egg yolks pooling in a bowl.

Thanks for white cream cheese frosting on knives licked clean.

Thanks for the brilliant creators of This is Us and the reminder that we, my family, that me, that I, have come so far in this process of grief. Thankful for healing and hope and tears.

New music. Old memories. Thanks to raw writers who inspire and breath life into the aching areas of my bones. For the chin tilt that prompts a smile. Thanks for the reminder and choice to delight in the magic of suds in my sink.

The keys, just waiting to be played.

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Thanks that we get to play on.  How beautiful.

 

February Favorite Things

I’m back on the bean.

The truth will set you free, they say, and the truth is tea is just not as good as coffee. I tried. I failed. I’ll drink a bit more Earl Grey tea, but coffee has my heart. I’m trying to limit the vanilla syrup and switch to honey. Again, not as good. But I’m sipping my way towards less sugar and more love for myself when I “slip up”… or sip up. I crack myself up.

Ahh February. Typically the weather is colder, we get more snow, and I’m sad because Christmas and my birthday are over. February means I’m in for the long haul towards Spring. It’s not my favorite month, but here are a few of my favorite things that can make the month more bearable.

  1. Felt Letter Boards

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My friend got me a changeable letter board for my birthday and I am so excited! I am using it for a little fun this month. Send me your favorite beauty quote and I’ll capture it on my board and share it on Instagram. Then I’ll round up all the contributions for a special post at the end of the month. Leave a comment here or send your thoughts on beauty to 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. Keep in mind, the phrase has to fit on a felt board.

Other future uses: Cocktail lists for parties. Positive vibes. Dinner Menus. Bible Verses. Love notes to Dylan or to myself.  Show your friends just how quippy you can be. It has retro charm and modern day potential.

2. Zucchini Noodles

Cutting out carbs seems sad. I love pasta. And potatoes. And carbs. Yet, I’m slowly pulling myself up on the Paleo bandwagon and trying to integrate healthier meals into the rotation. This Spiralizer will help. Come over for zoodles or maybe I’ll make you ribbons of butternut squash. The possibilities are endless.

Let this cookbook be our guide.

3.Groundhog Day

The old classic. I like it. It’s a reminder that we have choices in how we live our lives. That we can make changes, break out of routines, keep practicing until we get it right. Perhaps About Time captures these themes better, but one must pay homage to Bill Murray every February 2nd.

4. Air Plants

I kill plants. But Pinterest promises me all these plants need to live is air. They can pull the nutrients they need from the AIR. I just have to soak them in water once a week and their tangly arms and blooming flowers can grace glass bottles and hang from my book shelves with little effort. I got six for my birthday and I’m still placing them around my house. And ps, did you know you can buy PLANTS on Amazon? Of course you can.

5. RxBars

My new favorite protein bar. Again, a Paleo thing. But these protein bars have real ingredients, low sugar, and are tasty! I like the mint chocolate flavor. Dylan prefers peanut butter. I like that I feel full in the morning and there are no mystery ingredients. Throw one in your purse. Stick on in your husband’s work bag. Have a snack. Share the love.

Except When

On Saturday, when I told the ladies in my book group that I was giving up coffee, six loud voices retorted, “WHY?”

Why give up the nectar of the gods?

“Just switch to an Americano,” one said while another quickly spoke over her and said “Yeah, I had to break up with my white mochas too.”

Because at the end of December, when I was still in the holiday festivities and drinking eggnog lattes, my pants got tighter and I’m trying to cut back. That’s why. Sure I could run, but that’s more torturous than no coffee.

Because tea, as you now know, is supposed to be my new thing.

Except when, ugh, it’s not.

I’m ten days in and English Breakfast Tea with honey and milk is NOT AS GOOD AS A VANILLA LATTE. I’m a little tense. The caffeine headaches are real. I’ve got 21 days to go until I might just say… will probably say… screw this and invite my favorite beans back into my life.

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Photo by Mark Daynes on Unsplash

Trying to hold yourself to new standards is a beautiful thing. Except when those standards drive you crazy and instead turn into punishment.

This week we got a rather large dental bill. Dylan calls me Smaug, like from the Lord of the Rings books, because I prefer to watch my savings account slowly increase rather than spend on myself or use those resources to meet my needs. So when I saw the amount due, my stomach dropped and I began to get tense.

No coffee + large expense = tense

“Have gratitude that you have the resources to pay the bill,” my mother said as I griped to her about the cost of adulthood. Ah, she is so wise.

So I started chanting in my head – I’m grateful we have the resources to take care of ourselves and our bodies – and slowly the stomach ache fear that comes with big bills began to dissipate.

I believe that saving money is a beautiful thing.  Except when it’s not. When my obsession turns into stomach aches I have to remind myself to let resources flow. Turn over the money and say there will be more opportunities for funds and abundance to come our way.

And tonight, when we went out with Dylan’s new friends I tried really hard not to watch the clock as the minutes passed and the time spent away from the dog ticked by. Knowing Olive’s past track record with us being gone for long periods of time has led to destruction and mess. I sat over beers and had visions of our only good couch left torn to shreds, or Olive laying in a pile of the remains of our kitchen rug as she looks up me saying, “Well where the hell have you been?” I drove home quickly, even saying aloud, “Just a few more minutes Olive.” I opened the door expecting disaster and took a deep breath.

Nothing. No mess. All our furniture intact and a dog, very ready to go outside, smiling at me as if to say sure I make messes “Except when I don’t.”

So this week there is beauty in setting goals and freedom in saying maybe not. Beauty in having principles and penny pinching and grace for understanding that discipline led to provision.  Beauty found in being present rather than dwelling on the next pending disaster coming our way.

Beauty in remembering I get to live on the swing of life’s situations presented to me, swaying between yes, no, and except when with smiles on my face.

We Didn’t Get the Baby – Guest Post From Becca

When Becca sent me an email asking to share her story I was touched. She told me she wanted to write about a different kind of loss – infertility. I thanked her for her honesty and for the way she chooses to look for beauty while moving towards acceptance. Thank you, Becca, for desiring to create connection, awareness, and strength for women experiencing infertility.

Here are her thoughts.

Author: Becca 

Her Website: Post IVF World

Her Mantra: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” – Helen Keller

To see the beautiful things in every day life is a very positive thing to do, although, sometimes I do find it hard. This is why I was so exited to do a post for Katie, not only will it (hopefully) be a good addition to her blog, it will also make me write about the positives I have found through my journey.  I experience really bad anxiety, mostly due to the lack of control I feel I have had over my life thus far. As a result I do have a tendency to overlook the positives.

Let me introduce myself, my name is Becca. I went through the Menopause at 15 and this has made life a little different for me. I have chosen to be open about my diagnosis with friends and family, where we talk about the way this change has effected me, us as a family, and my friendship group openly and honestly.

I consciously made the decision to speak about my experience in an attempt to make the process easier for everyone. I learned early on it isn’t just me going through the turmoil that can follow an infertility diagnosis at such a young age. My Mum, Dad, sister and wider family are still impacted too!

This openness has worked well for the most part, but sometimes I just don’t want to talk about this loss. My choice to remain quiet can be hard to explain to my support network.

I am not going to say that my journey has been all positive just because we are talking about ‘beautiful things’. My journey hasn’t been rosy all the time and I don’t want to paint an untrue picture of what it can be like to find out you are infertile, especially at such an early age.  If I am honest though, the diagnosis was the easy bit – that was just the beginning.

My partner and I have in recent years, had 3 failed IVF attempts, including 2 pregnancy losses and naturally they were hard times. These losses and the days following are ones which I don’t think I will ever fully recover from. I still think of those babies on a daily basis as ours, a potential future, a future that was taken from us.

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Photo by Claire Nolan on Unsplash

Saying all this though, I have for sure found some beauty in my journey. I have found how strong I am as a person, at times when I really thought life was battling against me. I fought through such gaping voids and I am still here.

IVF and infertility is hard on a couple. I’ve realized my partner and I are lucky in that we have been together since we were teens. It’s in our nature to be open and honest about our thoughts and feelings when it comes to our fertility journey.

I have known my partner, who is now my fiancé, since my school years. We were friends for a long time before we got together and because of that, my infertility was never an issue in our commitment to one another. We never had to have ‘that talk’. He quickly accepted this limitation it was just a part of me. We knew from day one of our relationship that it may be difficult to get pregnant and even then it was no sure thing.

Like any couple we have had bad times. We both dealt with IVF and the losses differently. We fought with each other, we shouted, we cried a lot.  We also had other things going on in life –  family loss and a failing business were surrounding us all at the same time as IVF. We struggled to keep our heads above water. Somehow, we managed.

It was touch and go many a time but our extended families were amazing with us. Sometimes we needed their support more than anything. Some days we didn’t want to see anyone at all and they took it all in their stride. What a beautiful gift it was that these members of our family let us take the lead and not pressuring us to ‘recover’ any sooner than we were able to!

Now, at age 28, I am proud to say we are moving forward. After finding out I was infertile at 15, being on an IVF waiting list for 7 years, and 3 and a half years of failure after failure, it makes me happy to be able to say things are better for us now. Today, we are a year out from the day we decided to end IVF. We didn’t get the baby we have always wanted but somewhere through the journey I think we both realized that it is first and foremost each other that matters. We are concentrating on that as much as possible!

My blog ‘www.postivfworld.wordpress.com‘ focuses on our lives after IVF, not dwelling on the past, but talking of the way things are now. This loss still lingers. I still struggle with my mental health issues.

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Yet, I’ve found new things that we live for like our new puppy Hector.

 

My blog has been an amazing solace for me, something that I can control, that is mine, that I can make what I want of it! The people I have met and the communities I am now part of as a result of this loss are way beyond anything I ever imagined. I wish I had found out about them years ago, a couple in particular are the Daisy Network (concentrates mostly on early menopause) and The Fertility Network UK who cover a much broader spectrum of infertility. I urge anyone who is struggling with infertility to get involved with some of these powerful organizations as it really does help one sort through the complex emotions associated with this reality. I am happy to direct you to the right places depending on your diagnosis or concerns!

So there it is, my story. A somewhat shortened version, but everyone has their own story, and everything is relative. I choose not to moan about what I have been through, nor am I here to make light of infertility and pregnancy loss.  I hope to raise awareness of infertility and direct people who may have similar experiences towards resources. I hope to reassure people that life can get better. Acceptance takes time, and recovery needs to be at your own pace, but rest assured, you are not alone!

 

Becca can be found on her blog 

What’s with the Glitter?

 

My co-worker asked me today, “Katie, what’s with the glitter on your face?”

Glitter?

Ha – I guess my eyeshadow smudged. I often forget when I’m wearing eye makeup and it smears all over my face as I vigorously rub my eyes.

“Mondays call for a little magic,” I said. Co-worker laughed.

All days call for a little magic. The magic found in tasty, hot apple crisp coming out of the oven and sharing Sunday dinner with family. Magic in the comfort a puppy gives as she rests her paw on your arm as she sleeps. Magic in the ability to drive home safely, pick out and pay for fresh food, drink fresh water that comes out of my own sink.

Magic in the glinting ache of waking up on Saturday and wishing so badly I could eat breakfast with my dad. I entertained the idea of going by myself, to that diner, and sitting at the food counter. Magic in watching the grumpy men turn bread to toast on a conveyor belt.

I couldn’t do it.

Not strong enough – too afraid I’d dissolve into tears spinning on that swiveling stool. I can’t go have breakfast with dad – without dad.

You know what I mean?

I’ve got this vision that someday, when I’m a famous writer, I’ll sit on a swivel stool, sipping coffee in diners across the country and write to him, recording our stories or capturing new versions of me in ink. The crabby waitress will ask if I’m expecting someone because you know, the stool next to me is empty – with perhaps a jean jacket saving his spot – and I’ll have two mugs of coffee. One for me, one for him.

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‘Nope’, I’ll say, ‘I’m just having breakfast with my dad.’

The waitress won’t get it.

Unless she’s lost someone too. Then maybe, just maybe, she’ll fill up the cup and smile. Glitter mixing in with her bright blue eye shadow, like I used to wear in junior high.

Someday.

I couldn’t do it. So I invited my mom to breakfast, and we went to the diner – stalking other eaters like vultures so they would give up their spots at the counters. We sat on wooden stools, sipped coffee in those heavy, ceramic diner mugs, and swallowed down the  glinting aches of memory and longing with an orange juice chaser.

As I drove home, missing him, Here Comes the Sun came on the radio. Our song. Hi Daddy – I say, whenever I hear that song on the radio.

Sunlight dancing on my windshield. Glitter.

The beautiful thing about art – sometimes others speak exactly what you are thinking in their own medium. This song below captures all my questions I have about grief  – talking to those gone – where do we put our love?

 

Feeling connected through another artists’ thoughts, songs, aches.

Magic.

To-Do or Ta-Da

Do you ever schedule time on your calendar to watch your favorite t.v. show? As of 1:16 pm on Saturday (now people, that’s right now) I’m two weeks behind on This is Us, a week behind on Grey’s Anatomy, and APPARENTLY a full season behind on Stranger Things.

I want to sit down and catch up on t.v. but then I think, well that’s lazy isn’t it when you’ve got a to-do list a mile long.

But what if watching This is Us is on my to-do list? Then I’m not lazy. Then I’m productive. So ha.

I saw on LinkedIn the other day that Gretchen Rubin was encouraging us to write “Ta-Da Lists” rather than “To-Do Lists.” Here’s her podcast. Well this is a fun idea, isn’t it? Let’s write down all the things we have accomplished. In all honestly, listening to the full podcast is on my “To-Do List” because podcasts are 40 minutes long. I like the shift in language though. I’d love to scream Ta-Da! I’ve gotten all of these things done.

For now, here is my to-do list:

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I’m sure you all have similar things on your lists, because they are reflections of lives being lived.  I know mindfulness is positive, but our culture tells us it is not sexy to have a piece of lined paper that just says “Be.” Being – that’s all I’m doing. Being. I can stay in that space for approximately three minutes before the urge to do kicks back in.

All that to say my brain feels full and the pursuit of beauty feels a little squelched by my pretty lined notebook paper with pencil notes in cascading order.

Maybe there is beauty in making lists, in sitting at a computer, in getting caught up.

Maybe there is beauty in adding fun, rest, and indulgence to the list.

Maybe there is beauty in watching This is Us.

Damn. It’s the best show on t.v. right now.

Maybe there is beauty in laughing at my own neurotic tendencies to push and push to get things done.

I watched a webinar at work this week for a new product they are pushing called Getting Things Done. A bajillion dollar industry to help people stay focused and organized. In it, the presenter told me that most people have a capacity to remember 7 (+ or – 2) things they have to accomplish at any one time. Any more than that threshold, and our brains dump it to the back.

That’s why I write things down. I’m sure though, since my list is longer than seven items, that I’m probably forgetting something.

In other news, I’m beginning to think about a creative project with grief. I’d like to connect with delightful illustrators who would be willing to help me bring my little grief gremlin idea to life. If you know of someone who is taking on new work, I’d like to chat with you! Bonus points if the artist, too, has experienced significant loss.

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No, that sounds bad – I just think an artist will understand my spark a bit more if they’ve had grief gnaw at their heart too. Please send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com and I can explain my hope and vision for the project.

Now. Back to my list.