Celebration

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.

It’s a Little Smudged

The Oscars are on, and my dad isn’t here. I feel funny watching without him.

On Friday, through fits of tears, I groaned on the phone, saying “I don’t want to participate in something I once loved without him. I’m just going to do something else entirely.” I wiped off my snot, and tried to move into the weekend.

All day, I’ve been wondering how it will feel to watch something I treasured without his presence. I’m not sure if my parents intentionally made Oscar night special, but I have memories of fancy evenings, appetizers, and sneaking out of my room to watch the award for Best Picture be handed out late at night. Watching the Oscars was a family thing, a special event, a day I always looked forward to. I wrote about my passion for the night here.

This year, as I write, the opening monologue plays on. I think my timing in writing is connected to avoidance, to the still uncertain, squeamish feeling in allowing myself to participate in things I love when life has changed. Is it ok to return to things I enjoy? To remember to laugh, to dance at weddings, to smile in the Sunday sunshine? Sometimes grief treats you like a real bitch who deprives you of those things.

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I was at a wedding last weekend, and we accidentally took this blurry picture. I kept it, though, because I think at times, the beauty of life can feel a little smudged.

In moving out of intense grief, efforts to dress up and sparkle feel shaky and uncertain. Are we allowed to partake in such joy and celebration? It can be hard to tentatively trust the universe that joy is allowed. I am, at times, the only one keeping myself from those experiences. But if we don’t keep trying to get back to enjoying life, I don’t think we ever will.

So here I am, watching the Oscars, and I might cry a little bit. Might make my in-laws uncomfortable. I might have to choose to honor the beautiful ache when I make the choice to return to the things I love without him.

Time to squint, and start seeing the beauty through the tears.

 

“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.

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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“What I Believe About You”

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I think I found this picture on Pinterest, I can’t remember, and I’m sorry if I’m not giving appropriate credit. What I love, however, about this little quote is it encourages authenticity. And it encourages celebrating myself. I don’t think society does a great job of encouraging us to celebrate ourselves. We down play compliments, are quick to point out flaws, and are often afraid of tooting our own horn for fear of being arrogant, loud, self centered. Yes, there are plenty of those “me monsters”, as comedian Brian Regan would call them, but I think it is rare when we come across people who are worth celebrating that actually allow themselves to engage in self celebration.

This week I had a few choice encounters with beauty in this world. My favorite came in a really unexpected way. I was invited on a whim to participate in an online writers workshop called Women Who Write Rock  – a virtual retreat where for seven days women share their writing online, and participate in Skype sessions, and post on Facebook. This opportunity excited me, and scared me too, because while I love writing, I do not love criticism or critique and I really am kinda uncomfortable with people I don’t know. But I signed up, and it has been a really fun journey so far. I am on day 4 of 7 and I am responding to prompts and responding to other people’s writing. Beautiful writing with beautiful expression of pain, of joy, of experience, and of self celebration. I am getting positive feedback, and these other people’s responses – hundreds of women whom I’ve never met- are making me feel more at home in this world that doesn’t often celebrate women.

This week, my beauty to share with you is the affirmation that the workshop creator gave to us as we started our week of writing. Helene Rose, whom I’ve never met, inspired me and gave me such a confidence boost with her words.  These words are reminders we should repeat throughout the day. They should echo in our actions, and be whispered to ourselves when we feel crummy. They should be yelled from mountain tops, and sneak out through laughter. They should be celebrated. We should be celebrated. How do you celebrate yourself?

” What I Believe About You”

You are a woman of great strength and courage.
You have the ability to express yourself. It may or may not need prodding. But it’s there.
You have a right to be heard, your voice booming out to the world, for all to witness.
You have a unique story to tell. All women do.
Your presence on the earth is magnificent, and we need you. We need your unique contribution.
Your life is filled with challenge and heartache, but it’s for a purpose. To serve your soul.
Your inner creatrix yearns to be free, to express, to just be, without judgement.
You deserve every ounce of ecstatic joy and abundance that life has to offer.
You can overcome your fears and claim your place in heaven on earth. The earth will rejoice.
You are a kick-ass, warm-hearted, kind, compassionate, loving, fierce and powerful woman. A force to be reckoned with.
Your broken-heart only grows stronger, more authentic, and more open to love when it heals.
Your supportive feminine community yearns to witness your heart-opening experiences through your creative self expression.
You want to be held and we hold you, in loving compassion.
You are a shining star. XXOO, Helene ”

 

 

For more information about Helene, check out Bebrilliantnetwork.com