Books

“It is always and only mine”

The outdoor light on the shed in the back kept turning on. With each gust of wind, branches would blow casting shadows across the small sensor inviting light to stream through the open window, fighting the dark with lightsaber-like beams.

An intended safety feature was overreacting, having negative affects on my sleep.

Much like my over-active brain which was playing loops on repeat.

After a few hours of restlessness and an unsuccessful attempt at taking an Advil to relax my clenching muscles, I grabbed my pillow and stepped quietly downstairs to lay on our big, blue couch.

“Well this seems fitting,” I thought to myself as I rested on my back, staring at the ceiling. “This is where it all started.”

Those cushions couched my grief from day one. During the first week, I burrowed in the corner, surrounding myself with blankets and boxes of tissues as I made phone calls to tell folks we lost him. I choked back sobs at two in the morning while my husband was upstairs sleeping. The foam absorbed my tears and the worn upholstery still remembers the shock waves reverberating through my body.

Three and a half years later, there I was again, laying on my back, staring at the ceiling, thinking about my grief. No intense tears, no shaking sobs, just clenching fists and racing thought patterns as I prepared to fly across the country to lead others in a writing workshop on how to bring words to their grief stories.

I was trying to be brave. Mostly, I was terrified.

I tossed and turned and when 4:30 am rolled around signaling it was time to wake for the airport, I rolled off the couch and into my outfit I previously set out for my adventure. Dylan drove me through the dark and I breathed deeply, as my therapist instructed, as I prepared my mind.

“Life,” they say, “begins on the other side of our comfort zones.”

I checked my monster of a bag at the curb, made it through security, found coffee and sat down at the gate. Not a minute later an email buzzed through on my phone.

My eyes began to blur as I read the words, “Your flight has been cancelled.”

“Shit!” I mumbled under my breath and stood, making my way to the long line appearing at the front of the gate.

I once read the universe likes to test our commitment to our own goals. Challenges arise when we are about to embark on something we hunger to accomplish. Situations outside of our control flirt with our efforts, daring us to take one more step we didn’t think we could.

When I pitched a proposal to lead a workshop at a bereavement camp for 20 and 30-somethings back in April, I thought I’d just throw my name in the hat and see what would happen. I put together speaker proposals at least once a week. I thought applying would be the risky part.

Then I got accepted and said yes, I’ll go to grief camp with a bunch of bereaved strangers – still feeling silly and insecure and fearful of other peoples’ pain. Then I bought a plane ticket. Then I had to actually get on the plane which was proving more difficult than I thought it would be.

I called Dylan to inform him of the change and swallowed down tears as I explained my choices to him. He encouraged me to figure out how to get where I needed to go. I ran between concourses, taking trains and talking to airline employees about options for my bag and my transportation. The man at the United counter was not helpful. A kind woman at Southwest helped me figure out another route.

After nine hours at DIA, a two-hour flight and a one-hour carpool with strangers who kindly picked me up in a rental car, I arrived at grief camp. There were over 100 other people my age who lost someone significant in their lives. What a beautiful thing.

I got checked in and as I hugged the coordinators I noticed an open bottle of wine with a welcome message sitting waiting for us late arrivals. A fellow traveler who also spent hours trying to arrive from Philadelphia pulled out the cork and took a giant swig of red. No time for glasses. Balancing nerves, delayed travel plans, and latent grief calls for soft tannins and flavors of grapes.

IMG_20190927_211457.jpg

Eventually, I found my way to my bunk, unfurled my sleeping back tucked in the bottom of my giant duffle, and tried to fall asleep as kind strangers snored below me. Another night on my back staring at the ceiling flooded with thoughts and fears. I learned 30 is maybe too old for communal sleeping arrangements with strangers.

Over the next 48 hours I led my session and participated in workshops where we explored our grieving and resilience through words, photos, sounds, and memory. I joined support sessions and sat in a room with at least 40 individuals who also lost their dads. We had a talent show. People freely read eulogies, poems for the departed, and  danced their emotions out to their brother’s favorite songs. There was a group altar full of pictures and favorite things – hats, and cookies, and cards, and cups of coffee for the departed. I finally had a place to lay his favorite things and kiss his picture and whisper how much I missed him.

With every session and every conversation I could feel in my very bones the truth: I am a part of something dark and beautiful, heavy and freeing. Other’s pain I was so afraid of brought me more comfort than I anticipated. Connecting stories from bios to real faces and human hearts helped me to realize all of us carrying loss stories are not to be feared.

Yes, I’m in the very worst club with the most beautifully brave people who are living with heavy piles of shit.

Please do not fear me because of my loss.

It’s in the places where we sit and listen, where we touch hands and honor wounds where we get to extend our wavering whispers of hope and connect with one another. I kept gasping in small breaths when others would say things I’ve been thinking for years. I lacked the sacred places to share my unmentionable thoughts.

No one was afraid of making others uncomfortable – we’re much too weary of surprising others with our unsettling thoughts. Here I am. Take me or leave me.

How could so many strangers take me when others whom I loved chose the later?

We sat in our pain, absorbing the horrible truth – we must move into a forever forward timeline without our people. The bereaved still welcomed and embraced the mysterious joy flowing from the life force of love left behind in the people we love.

I’ll be processing for awhile.

During the weekend’s closing session, the organizers asked for feedback.

I raised my hand and said,  “For a long time, I’ve known I’m not alone in this thing called loss in my head. This is the first time I’ve felt I’m not alone in my heart.”

What a beautiful thing.

I also met an Artist, Meredith Adelaide, who wrote this poem originally published in her book The Great Blue World an exploration of grief and loss through imagery and word. She helped me remember this precious grief of mine is precisely that – mine to own, mine to hold, mine to share, mine to love and honor. And while this grief is all my own, I am not alone.

Screen Shot 2019-10-01 at 9.42.31 PM.png

 

September Favorite Things – 2019

Fall is upon us and the cooler mornings tease me as 90 degree days follow.

It is still too hot for my fall sweaters. The cozy clothes can wait in my closet and I’ll wait, refusing a pumpkin spice latte for a few weeks more. Here’s what I’m loving this month.

  1. Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life by Teresa R. Funke


My mentor and friend has a new book out this fall and I’m thrilled to be on her team as she inspires ordinary people like me to embrace and honor our creative selves. The e-book is now available and the paperback will be launched later this month. Learn more about Teresa and her other titles here.

2. Bring me a cannoli


These are my husbands favorite birthday treat and we had a friend make hundreds for our wedding. Our 5th (!) anniversary is this month and I’ll eat one or two to celebrate. If you’re feeling ambitious – these shells are fun to fill with creamy ricotta and chocolate chips.

3. Annie Sloan chalk paint

We’ve been re-doing our cabinets and while my kitchen is a mess and all the spices are exposed, this chalk paint is saving us from hours of sanding dark cherry stain.

4. Big Little Lies

I know I’m behind and just finished Season One on HBO. The editing! The music! The suspense! Perhaps I should read the book.

5. Zucchini

I’m still rooting for the zucchini blossoming in our backyard. As the slow crop grows, I’ve been stocking up at the farmers market and spiralizing, turning into muffins, and sautéing with goat cheese. Summer veggies won’t last much longer.

What are you excited about this month?

July Favorite Things – 2019

New month. New favorites.

I want to hear about your gratitude lists and what’s bringing you joy!

These are some things bringing me joy this month.

  1. Ursa Major Skin Care
    I like using natural skin care products and many of them are amazingly expensive. Not this stuff. The face wash leaves my skin feeling fresh and the balm leaves me moisturized and happy. The scents are refreshing, natural and light. And all the products are within my budget.
  2. No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work by Liz Fosslien and Mollie West Duffie

This book is charming, smart, and gives me hope for the workplace. As someone who cries at work, I’m encouraged people are leading the charge to encourage more empathy and healthy coping mechanisms in the spaces we spend most of our time.

3. This foccacia recipe

Even though it’s 94 degrees out, I’ve got the oven and the air conditioning on. And if you need me, I’ll be eating this delicious bread. Scared of yeast? You can’t go wrong with this stuff perfect for the amateur baker.

4. Watermelon Cucumber Cooler

I gave up alcohol for the month of June and have been drinking this instead. Mix with some sparkling water and lime for a refreshing after-work drink. If you’re feeling fancy I suppose you could add some tequila or vodka. I won’t tell.

5. Rainboots

Because Colorado can’t make up it’s mind. Bring some joy to the afternoon thunderstorm with these fun galoshes.

Have a joyful July.

April Favorite Things – 2019

 

I’m making some changes to my Favorite Things feature. Coding and rules are driving me crazy so just know great new things are coming your way soon. While I wrestle with html I hope you enjoy a few things making my home clean and happier as we head towards spring.

Here’s what we’ve got on the list this month:

  1. Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaning Supplies – I’ve been searching for a more natural cleaning product for my house. After receiving two bottles of multi-purpose cleaning spray, I’m hooked. Smells delicious and I’m not worrying as much about harsh chemicals.
  2. This mop holder is helping our newly finished laundry room feel more organized. Easy to install and looks great on the wall.
  3. I planted my seedlings this past weekend and was excited to use Fox Farm fertilizer as recommended by the lovely ladies at our local community gardens.
  4. Michelle Obama’s strength and wisdom unfolds on the pages of her memoir “Becoming.” For anyone asking the question, ‘How can I use my life to serve people more?’, this is an inspiring read.

Short and sweet. Get cleaning and reading and let me know how it goes. Planning to grow a garden? I want all your tips.

*I’m an affiliate partner with Amazon Associates. I may receive a commission if you make a purchase using the links above. I only recommend products I’ve used personally and love. 

February Favorite Things – 2019

It’s quite cold out there. If you are in the U.S. you know its way beyond freezing. Unless you live in Colorado and it’s a balmy 30 degrees. This month I’m sharing things that warm my heart and my bones. Stay warm out there.

  1. The Color of Life: A Journey toward Love and Racial Justice by Cara Meredith

I’ve had the pleasure of being on Cara Meredith’s launch team for her new book coming out on February 5th! Sharing stories from her own journey and interracial marriage, she reflects on big questions of race, religion, and accepting our own limitations when it comes to world view. I love how she mixes history, statistics, and grace to weave a beautiful narrative of her own experience. Pick up a copy – you won’t be disappointed.

2. Applesauce in the Crockpot

apples

Photo Credit – Jess Larson

Apparently my mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid. I was never a fan when I was little. However, last Sunday I used this recipe and a bunch of jazz apples to make delicious applesauce. I eat it hot with oatmeal. Dylan eats it cold, right out of the jar, standing in front of the fridge. You may eat it however you like. Need a crockpot? I like this one.

3. Twinings Sleep Tea

I bought this box of tea when we were in London and surprise, found it in the bottom of my duffel that I just ..erm.. finally put away this past week. A bonus souvenir! This delightful smelling tea calms my nerves at the end of the day at puts me right to sleep. Perfect for those Sleepytime loyalists who want to try something new.

4. Maldon Salt

Do you have foodie friends? I have one that always blows me away with her amazing gifts of hospitality. At dinner the other night, she sprinkled beautiful salt flakes over roasted vegetables and I was mesmerized with the texture of the granules. Needless to say, I’m now obsessed with this salt. Add to roasted vegetables, top a bruschetta, garnish a soup. The smoked salt flavor is good too!

5. Wine Colored Tights

I just bought a pair like this and I’m excited to add a little color to my winter work wardrobe. What do you think –  are bold colors fun to wear to work?

I’m Inviting You

I have the day off. For most folks in Colorado, sunny trails and crunching snow beckon on days gifted outside of the office. I see your pictures, your snow shoes, your athletic pants.

Here’s the thing. It’s cold out, there’s no snow in my neighborhood, and I don’t see myself leaving the house.

Instead, I’ve spent the morning reading Bob Goff’s book Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

I kept my butt in the chair and my fingers clicked the pages – next, next, next. I devoured his stories and my heart beat quicker with the amazing possibilities he bravely steped into in his life.

If God makes ordinary people move, why can’t God move Bob? Bob kept saying yes.

Why can’t God move me too?

Or you?

I’ve been a little disheartened this season as only one person has told me what gives them hope in the Give Light Giveaway. I find myself asking, ‘Are we so battered and tired, sitting slumped against walls that nothing feels hopeful?’ I’ve been there.

Or are we so busy and bustling we don’t have a quick second to answer the question, ‘What keeps us going despite all this mess?’

Maybe you’re in a better headspace than me and living anxiety-free comes easier to you.  Maybe you live boldly with ease and march into new spaces and sit at all the tables with confidence.

I’m unlearning the practice of waiting to be invited to participate.

Bob’s book invited me to be brave.

I’m inviting you to be hopeful. 

The Give Light Giveaway runs through Monday night. I hope to hear what gives you hope, wherever you sit, with whatever reverberates in your heart this season.

Here’s a reminder on how to share your answer to the question, ‘ what gives you hope?’

October Favorite Things

It’s come to my attention that I’m a little behind schedule. I didn’t have the energy to pull together a favorite things post to schedule for when I was traveling. Then we got home and I spent a week going to bed at 7:30 pm because of jet-lag. Then I … then I … then I … filled my time with other things.

Here we sit on October 21st and I’m just now posting my collection of favorites for this month. Thanks for eagerly anticipating what I’ve got to share. My thoughts and reflections on our trip are stewing and I’ll post soon. Until then, pick up one of these books, bake some pumpkin bread, or use these tools to plan an adventure. It’s a big world out there.

  1. The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom

I just started reading this book for our book club. Set in Denver, just an over an hour away from where I live, this journalist’s account of refugee students attending South High School is grabbing my heart. Humans live through amazingly horrific things. We need to be tender. We need to be kind. We need to be aware. I’m only 100 pages in and keep turning the pages.

2. The Shack

This book was incredibly popular when I was in college. The girls I lived with in our Christian dorm could not stop talking about the story line. I wasn’t ready to pick up the title then – my own faith wavering in big swirls of doubt. Years passed and for some reason, I was ready. I read the book on our long flight and murmured, ‘yes, yes, yes’ to the metaphors portrayed in these pages. God sees us in our suffering and gives us grace where we need it. For those doubting God, fearing faith, or feeling a bit hopeless, this story may be the spiritual hug you need.

3. Dandelion Travel adapter

Getting ready to travel abroad? After scouring the internet and starting at selections at travel stores, a friend generously lent me her travel adapter taking my stress away. This little adapter worked perfectly to charge our devices in both the UK and France. It’s size makes it easy to carry and easy to change between power sources. Note – this does not convert voltage which lead us on an interesting adventure to sketchy electronics stores in London.

4. Pumpkin bread

It’s baking in the oven right now. I like the recipe from Recipes from Minnesota with Love.

I wrote about it last year too. Cut the sugar down to two cups. With the chocolate chips, the bread comes out plenty sweet.

5. French Perfume

I’m not a big souvenir girl. Picking a special something feels overwhelming when I travel and I don’t need another glass, or keychain, or vase. After spending an afternoon at Fragonard and their interesting perfume museum, I did treat myself to a little bottle of French perfume. The little gold bottle, the spritz on the wrist, the memories a scent creates. Worth it. And yet, still odd because while I bought my bottle in France, I now know you and I can get the next set on Amazon. Ahh globalization.

Thank you again to everyone who contributed their lists of good things in your worlds. Keep searching.