Birthdays

Favorite Things – August

August is a big month at my house. My husband and my father-in-law celebrate their birthdays one day apart (well one day and 30 years apart) and the whole month turns into a celebration of Huey men. I’m excited to approach these milestones with them!

As I mix celebration with continued healing, I share this list of my favorite things.

Here are a few things that are worth a mention, a glance, or an impulse buy this month.

  1. The Story You Need to Tell: Writing to Heal from Trauma, Illness, or Loss by Sandra Marinella

I was given this beautiful book to review and I loved the way Sandra encourages writers of all experience levels to get their stories out and on a page. She walks you through various writing exercises, shares her personal story with cancer, and encourages readers that healing can be found by writing your truth. All sentiments I can get behind. I strongly recommend this book!

2. Essie nail polish

My days as Receptionist at the Natural Nail Care Clinic forever left an impression on me and my medicine cabinet. I am still loyal to Essie products developed for your natural nail. I am loving this new color that was part of the Spring 2017 season. Come on, make your fingers feel pretty!

3. Ansel Adams Artwork

We finally painted our room! Our new, fresh, green walls anxiously await some art work. I’m planning on hanging some work by Ansel Adams like the piece below. My dad loved this artist’s ability to capture nature and peace. Photography and memory – beautiful things.

4. Be Brave T Shirt

Living life authentically takes bravery, compassion, and self-love. I like this t-shirt because it reminds me to embrace all of these things. Wear your mantras. Why not? I promise the women’s styles are more flattering.

5. Sprinkles

Everything worth celebrating is worth celebrating with sprinkles. Let the month of birthdays begin!

PS. I tried searching for manly sprinkles – Amazon tells me this doesn’t exist.

“Grace always bats last.”

*Vulnerability alert – choosing to share my sticky emotions because they too have a place for beauty. Continue reading if you so desire.*

 

I am getting ready to celebrate my birthday this week. We went to a play with my mom and my brother on Friday evening. It was a lovely performance full of live music and dancing and emotion. Pure passion put on stage with a mixture of honesty, struggle, heart. Just what art should do for us. My dad was not with us, just as he won’t be with us for the rest of my life. And friends, it makes my heart ache.

We are getting closer to the year anniversary of his death, and they say that as you move through all of the monumental dates in the first year without your loved one, a weight can be lifted. I hope what they say is true.

I am taking time to honor the beautiful tears that come when you acknowledge loss, the waves of deep sadness that come right along side the desire to celebrate, to move on, to be cheerful.

I am scared to turn another year older without him.

And then, just today, I came across this beautiful passage from Anne Lamott and remembered that ‘oh yes, I am so very far from being alone.’ I’m cheating a little and sharing the words of another. Beautiful, beautiful words.

Anne Lamott writes,

When people we can’t live without die, everyone likes to quote John Donne, “Death be not proud.” Yeah yeah yeah, thank you for sharing. My father died of brain cancer when he was seven years younger than I am now. He was my closest person. I did not love it. My best friend died years ago, leaving behind an 18 month old daughter. She was my closest person. I did not love it, or agree to it, and just barely survived it.

My darling friend Ann Brebner passed away early Friday. (You were so incredibly generous to donate to the fund for her home-care. Your generosity has given me such huge abiding hope in Goodness and miracles. We were down to almost no money. She accidentally spent her life creating and directing plays, loving us crazily, laughing and listening to music, giving to charity, instead of investing.)

Maybe this passing seems less death-y, as she was 93. But believe me, she had done the dying part, the closing-up-shop part, the leaving-us part, just like everyone has to do. It’s death 101 for everyone here on the incarnational side of things: we do it with no owner’s manual (Death for Dummies?) , and at the end, alone. If I were God’s West Coast representative, I would have a different system in place, i.e. less mysterioso Ouija board enigma. More grok-able My grandson stood nearby her at church as she sometimes painstakingly got out of our car. He always called her Ann Brevner, one word. “Hi, Annbrevner!” I told him Friday night that she had passed, and his mouth dropped open. “AnnBREVNER died?” he asked. Then, “I wonder what that’s like? Dying?”

So I thought I would tell you what I know, because this thing, this aspect of reality, this weird scary aspect of life, can just wreck everything if you don’t figure out at some point that it is what makes life so profound, meaningful, rich, complex, wild. If you try to outrun this existential truth, with manic achievement and people-pleasing and exotic distractions, it begins to argue a wasted life. Everyone we love–and I am just going to add, in a whisper, even our children and nieces and nephews–will die. They will no longer be here, on this side of eternity. We Christians see death as just being a fairly significant change of address, but still, our most cherished people will no longer be here, to have and to hold, or reach by phone.

This can kind of ruin everything. When my son was little, he asked if we would die at the exact same moment. When I said, No, probably not, he wept, and then said, “If I had known that, I wouldn’t have agreed to be born.”

Do you want to have instant meaning and incentive and almost heartbreaking appreciation in your life? Live, starting now–as if you have three months left. At some point, this will true. Tick tock.

But won’t death be scary? Annbrevner’s wasn’t. Just weird. Her death, like every passing I have witnessed, was beautiful, gentle, sometimes hard and confusing, and completely doable. At some point, for almost everyone, it is like being in labor. Especially if, like me, dilated 7 centimeters after 24 hours of labor, you realized you didn’t like children. But in both cases, birth and death, something beautiful is coming. Ram Dass said death would be like FINALLY getting to take off the too-small shoes we had been wearing our entire lives. Think of that. Getting to rub those sore arches and wiggle those baby toes, after all these year feeling cramped, like Chinese foot bound women, tiptoeing to minimize the pain.

But back to my grandson’s question, of what dying will be like, and why, I don’t think you need to be afraid:

So many people will surround you, your dearest family and friends, both the quick and the death–Ann’s father, who died fifty years ago was with her; her son who died last year was with her. And we were with her, encouraging and allowing her to be real, to share her deepest thoughts and and fears about what was happening to her, and how annoying liFe (and we) could be. The most important you can do if someone is dying? Show up; listen; nod.

And maybe even more important, we shared with each other our worries, memories, sorrow, impatience, and anxiety about the process, how much more, and much sooner, we could have done this or that. We showed up, we listened to each other, we told others how much we hated everything, and how much we loved each other, we listened some more, we nodded, and put the kettle on for tea.

We let each other complain and not know what we were doing. We tried to remember what we DID know: that the great cosmic Something had always been there before. That the Divine It had brought us and our beloved ones through ghastly loss, disappointment, and failure, against all odds. That crying and grieving heal us, cleanse us, baptize us, moisturize us, water the seeds hidden deep in the ground at our feet.

Our pastor came to anoint her the day before she died, not knowing if Ann’s home-going was an hour or a month away. Hospice was on hand to help with the pain. (If you know your person is dying, call Hospice. Once Hospice is on board, almost everything will sort itself out, I promise you–everything. Secret of life.

Every single person I have loved and lost had us around–their most beloved–and had Hospice, had the richest most astonishing love and sense of safety at the end. They had peace, like a river. Even if their death was sudden, Grace always bats last. They got to take off the tight shoes. They got their Get Out of Jail Free card.

Death? Be as proud as you want: bore me later, because Love is sovereign here. Life never ends. Joy comes in the morning. Glory hallelujah. And let it be so.

 

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Yes, even grief can be beautiful. And people who show up to wipe your tears and honor your loss are beautiful as well. Joy comes in the morning. The sun will still rise, God will still be present, we can still choose to get to living. After all, this thing called death is a part of it.

Psalms 34:18 is also beautiful too.

Crunchy Snow Steps

The days are long, but the weeks are short. That’s how the saying goes, right? The months are short too. Someone requested a coffee date recently, and as I looked at my calendar, I realized I would need to schedule out into February. FEBRUARY! January is flying by.

I have a January birthday, and I think it is one of the most sustaining things that helps me survive this month. Once that birthday passes though, I desire to whiz right by and move into late March. Please bring me those 55 degree days with blue skies and t-shirts. I tried to eat my lunch outside earlier this afternoon, and I froze. The sun may be out, but yes, it is still January. I am thankful that I am not drowning in snow right now like those on the East coast.

Oh wait, for those living in Colorado, we DID get one of those 55 degree days on Saturday. It was delightful. I wore patterned pants and a black t-shirt to my favorite brewery in Northern Colorado. I invited friends from many stages of life to come together and share a brew, laugh and soak up the rays as I celebrated another trip around the sun. This mismatched group of people who came to celebrate with me bring so much beauty to my life.

On Friday I got to eat at a new restaurant with my family- the foodie in me was delighted by the charming presentation that The Farmhouse at Jessup Farms delivers. This restaurant literally has a nook under the stairs that you are encouraged to sit at while you wait for your table. Cozy throw blankets and pillows are paired with wooden benches and beautifully lit brick walls that made me feel as if I was eating out of an extravagantly comfortable living room. Well done to the team that has created such an inviting and inspirational place to eat and experience community. I loved reminiscing about my year that just passed. This restaurant truly is a beautiful place.

Hard to believe last Monday was a holiday as well. I had the day off from work, and invited my mom to join me on an adventure up to the mountains. She had never been snowshoeing, and I am discovering this is one of my new favorite pass times. As we entered into Rocky Mountain National Park I started to doubt our excursion. Wind! So much wind was blowing snow across the winding roads. When I parked the car at the trailhead I was worried we may blow away – strong gusts threatened to trap me as my car door slammed shut with force. I may be a Colorado native, but I have a propensity to chicken out when weather sucks, or in this case blows. I bow out with the excuse of, “Hey, I can always go next weekend.” The chances of the weather improving in the next seven days are high.

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We got out of the car, and I shared a knowing glance with my mom from behind the trunk of my SUV. We weren’t going to give up after making the trek out there, not this time. We strapped on our snow shoes, buttoned up our coats, and started stomping our way through the beautifully crunchy snow.  I forget how absolutely refreshing it can be to be outdoors. These monstrous mountains are literally in my backyard, and I take them for granted as they blend into the scenery of my life.

We took step after step, sometimes losing our balance, other times laughing as we slid down small drifts, and made our way across the frozen mountain lake. I stood five steps ahead of my mom,  threw my face to the sky, and whispered a breath of thanks to the giver in the universe. Thanks that I get to live here, that I have the means to walk, thanks that I can spend time with my mom, to celebrate, and to most of all, keep taking steps.

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I’ve been mentally challenged this month, to give myself grace, compassion, patience, and love as I take steps while acclimating to my new job. For those of you who have been following along in January, you know I’ve been writing about my fears of isolation, and loss of previous relationship, and the great “what if this doesn’t bring fulfillment” question I give so much anxious energy to. I’m learning in these spaces of mountain air and festivity, that I need to work on me first and to allow all of these emotions to move through. Give myself the space and grace to keep taking steps. Even when you are crunching along, there are processes and people and air, beautiful mountain air, to support you.

 

All the Tricky Things

I’m a quote gal, what can I say? I came across this one this week, and thought dang Sylvia, you are spot on. “…Doing all the little tricky things it takes to grow up, step by step, into an anxious and unsettling world.” – Sylvia Plath

That is the process, isn’t it, of step-by-step explorations into who you want to be each day. You have to be brave enough to stand in the unsettledness, and accept with an open heart, maybe all this unsettledness is the only thing we can count on. One never is really arriving, but instead is dancing, prancing, grieving, smiling, aching, laughing, loving through each phase. I was talking to Dylan this week about that myth of arrival. I thought you would just, ya know, find a job, meet your co-workers, settle into your role for the next few years, and never imagined that maybe life would throw curve balls, or your friends would move, or your parents would sell your childhood home. That there would be beauty in loss, and the shedding of skin and the ability to stand as you are, letting go of what used to be.  You go through the natural transitions of growing up, coaxed through the programs and the academics, and are launched into the believing in yourself environment. That phase takes a hell of a lot of courage – especially in the fog of all of the fears that our society invites us to participate in.

I never imagined this process of blogging to be so vulnerable. There is something risky, I know, of being myself in cyber space. Of admitting challenges, or insecurities, or tiny victories along the way – oh my heart, you have been kind when you lay it all out there. To those I make uncomfortable, skip ahead to this blog post – “The One Where I Talk About “Friends” To those who can relate, thanks for reading. Let’s connect over coffee for I long to hear “me too.”

This week beauty surrounded me in the celebration of my dad. He had his birthday and invited us to play pool and ping pong and eat snacky junk food in a bar. Pub chips and nachos – yes, please. My brother came along and taught my 82 year old grandmother how to play pool. Both my brother and I were shocked she had never learned how to hit the cue ball across that felted green surface. Growing up, my brother and I spent countless hours playing pool in their muggy basement in Chicago while being “supervised” from my grandfather in the t.v. room above. How could she never have chalked up a stick in all those years?

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Nevertheless, we got to teach her how to play and avoid the eight ball, and break the “ladylike” paradigm to once again be blessed by the beauty of sharing life with the ones you love. Laughter too, so much laughter, as we held my dad across our laps for a photograph. These moments go by quickly, brief, little glimpses across the spectrum of life. Thanks for supporting me as I continue to do all of the little, tricky things.

Essie Nail Polish: Turquoise and Caicos

Biscotti: None

You know what I like? How when you try to load a new post on Word Press it makes robot words… beep booop beep

He lives on

Let’s start out with some updates shall we?

This week’s Essie color of choice: Guchi Muchi Puchi with a coat of As Gold As it Gets

Biscotti: None – was replaced with Birthday Cake

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Look at this beautiful cake! The raspberries. The rosemary. The dusting of powdered sugar! My wonderful mother made it for me for my birthday. I have two women in my life who are marvelous bakers and love to make me cakes for my birthday. I love to eat cake for my birthday. It really is a win-win. This was this year’s selection. I am spoiled, I know.

I’ve never been one for surprises, and I am very adamant about knowing what to expect (not my finest character quality, I admit). However, my friends and husband pulled of a surprise birthday dinner the night before my actual day and delighted my heart with their presence. We shared overpriced Italian food, and free champagne, and laughter. I need laughter right now. I need it a lot. It warms the heart to see people you love come together to celebrate you. Basic concept, I know, but it’s not something I ask for very often, and I was filled with joy at the coming togetherness of it all.

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On Thursday morning I woke up early, threw off my covers, and ran around my house yelling “It’s today! It’s today!” I love my birthday. It comes but once a year, you know, it has reason to celebrate, to bask in the wonder of a whole new year ahead, Birthdays are much better because you get to eat cake rather than have social pressure of improving yourself that comes from the fresh start of New Year’s. I have a co-worker who came into my office with cupcakes and danced, my family made me dinner, I receieved cards and gifts and roses. I bought myself a latte and I settled into a weekend of celebration.

Celebrate we did. Dylan and I headed off to Las Vegas for a celebration splurge. Usually, this is very unlike me. I like to scrimp and save and go to bed by eleven, so heading off to the smokiest city with sparkles and ding ding dings was perhaps a little bit out of character for me. Maybe characters can change. I loved our weekend at a nice hotel, with a show, and an afternoon by a pool. I think you learn quite a bit about someone when you travel with someone. Dylan and I quickly learned we are travel compatible years ago, but it tickled my heart this weekend when we finished dinner not too late, went to a show, and got excited about the idea of watching “Friends” in the hotel rather than go out clubbing. We are not cut out for gambling – we lost ten dollars in a matter of about three minutes. We slept in and walked through the crazy polarity between obscene extravagance and the staggering reality that there are so many who are not as fortunate as us.

As I was walking through the casinos all I could think about were the rooms that were unoccupied at the moment, and the countless number of individuals on the street with signs. What if we created a lottery program to offer up those empty rooms to those who need it? Never going to happen when a roll of sushi costs $35, but hey a girl can dream. Beautifully composed and delicious sushi, I might add.

I am touched by those who joined in to celebrate me this past week. I am encouraged by the reminder to take time to bask in the beauty of celebrating myself. And, check this out! An Essie Nail Polish vending machine. Does anyone else want to stroke their hands across the beautiful colors of that wonderfully marketed nail polish? Only in Vegas.

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I leave you this week with a photo of some Elvi (that’s the plural of Elvis right?) He lives on, and so do we. That my friends, is worth celebrating.

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We found the old VHS

You know who is a genius? Kristen Wiig. Seriously, that girl makes me laugh in so many situations. This morning, when looking at my Twitter feed at 6 am as I waited for my boss to pick me up for an all day training, I came across this funny meme (is that how you spell it? I’m too tired, I can’t think straight). The tweet was referencing improvement at work, but I felt it resonate deep into my bones. At least in a humorous way. 

 

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With two weeks to go until the wedding, Kristen’s character from the movie “Bridesmaids” is channeling my inner insecurities. The little perfectionist inside me is yelling the same sentence. Replace Carol with Katie and whelp, you’ve got it. I’ve been staying up late and paying bills at night and making to do lists like a mad woman. My mom is going out of town next week (no judgement people – she’s a wonderful mother) but this means a lot of final lists and conversations about what to delegate to my dad. I’m sending lots of texts to my future mother in law and talking to vendors and I need to breathe at work.  It’s Wednesday night, not Monday, when I usually post and according to WordPress it’s Thursday morning from wherever they keep track, so yup, I’m behind here too. I wanted to take a moment to reflect and to post. Please forgive me that this is my space to process and vent and purge all thoughts wedding. It’s where I’m at. 

We knew August was going to go fast and it is flying. This week I was able to pause just a little to reflect on the beauty of home grown produce. Isn’t it fun to see gardens yield something you can actually eat. I’m not going to attempt to post recipes here but we did make a mean green bean salad with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and a delicious dressing. The crunch of green beans are delightful. 

Too, the easiest dinner is home made bruschetta. Thank you to Giada for a great Bruschetta Recipe! I used the little cherry tomatoes that we have been growing on our porch in tiny pots. I am SO proud of these stinkin’ tomatoes that seem to want to grow every which way. Maybe next year we will have a lawn. It’s nice to slow down at night and have a glass of wine and a quality meal. I guess I do have that priority together still. 

Dylan had a birthday yesterday! Poor guy is doing a fabulous job of letting his birthday be, well, not a huge deal this year. We did make time though to go out for a nice dinner and to enjoy each other outside of the house. We splurged a little, and it felt extravagant to be together and talk about ‘us’ before the madness of all of this settles in. Good madness, but a little overwhelming.

 

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Over wine and a few courses of dinner I realized I have been with this man through so much. We started dating when I was 19. 19! That’s crazy. And here we are, more than a few years later, dreaming up ways to spend our money and formalize a life together. It made me remember when my biggest stress was registering for college classes; now the stressors are different, more adult, more like insurance plans and 401ks and institutionalized paperwork like marriage licenses. It makes me feel immensely blessed to have such a great person to help me figure things out. 

Tonight, Dylan was away bottling beer for the wedding and so I went to eat with my parents. I wanted to watch “Father of the Bride”, Steve Martin style circa 1990 something. Long story short I couldn’t figure out the old VHS tape (yes, my dad still has the VHS) and this movie is not on Netflix streaming, and not in iMovie and so we settled for the 1950’s version with Elizabeth Taylor. Not as funny, but the story line is shockingly the same. Many of the lines are word for word.

Here’s a little back story on how much I love that 1990’s movie. When I was in elementary school my dad taped the movie on VHS from tv ( same tape as mentioned above) and I watched it over and over. It was my frame of reference for how weddings could be, complete, I suppose with the family freak outs over hot dog buns. Apparently, I watched the tape so many times, I wore it out, as evidenced by tonight. When I got engaged, my mom bought me a blender as our first wedding gift. I come from ‘ a long line of over reactors’ you see.  If you don’t get that, you better watch the movie – best of luck finding it. 

So tonight, as my heart aches a little bit, about the anticipated excitement and changes and loss of being a daughter in the same way, I wanted to watch that movie with my parents. And we flexed and we adapted and we did the best we could with the media that was available. I know, I know, first world problem.  What struck me, however, was that my connection to comforting movies and stories and situations aren’t what are so important. All of that will change, or has changed, or is changing, and that’s ok. What matters are the social supports and love and extension and growth that comes with creating a new family. I had my mom on one side of the couch and my dad on the other, and that’s pretty neat.  I’m so excited to move forward and be a wife. And a little bit scared, and a little bit sad too, in the most complex of ways. It’s time. There is beauty in this process. 

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