colorado

Pivot Forward

Yesterday, I was every bit of a capitalist consumer. I spent the afternoon searching for  key pieces for an upcoming trip and bopped into a few shops, heading straight for the sale rack towards the back of the stores.

Each time I checked out, the cashiers I interacted with said something along the lines of, “Enjoy the sun while it lasts. Snow is coming tomorrow.”

I was ready for big flakes, fluffy blankets, and savory food warming in the oven.

When I checked the weather before bed last night, I was disappointed. Our anticipated snow day had gone from a sure thing to a 30% chance of flurries for just a few hours. When I woke this morning, no snow had fallen. The ground was dry. The light was grey.

In Colorado, this change of weather and threatening inconsistency is nothing new. I’m used to being told to wear layers to prepare for multiple scenarios.

I have been trained to prepare to be flexible.

Like a toddler pushing the limits, I frequently go in to work on blue sky mornings wearing polka-dot flats only to come outside at five wishing I had worn socks as sharp little ice drops bite at the tops of my feet. If I’m going to get cold, I’ll do so on my own terms.

We wounded wonderers are masters at pivoting.

Turn for the needs of others. Turn for the wallops of pain. Turn for the things we didn’t see coming. I’m used to pivoting to protect myself, to mask disappointment, and to forge forward telling my spirit, “It’s ok. It’s ok. It’s ok.” when really, the situations are anything but.

Yes, the soft landings of snow flakes are missing today. In the grey sky surrounds I sit and I wonder, “How can I teach myself to pivot differently? What if I moved, not away-from but towards the things I want? Can preservation be channeled into motivation instead?”

This week I walked into the gym and climbed onto the elliptical stationed in front of the big t.v. showing the Food Network. The absurdity of watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives while attempting to burn off calories does not escape me. The choice, however, was better than the ever-present terror unfolding on CNN, NBC, and ABC after work hours.

I spent thirty minutes pedaling backward and the lights on the whirring machine began to flash.

Pedal forward. Pedal forward. Pedal forward. 

The green words blinked at me across the digital keypad.

It was time, again to pivot. To change my legs and my weight and move forward with my movements even though I was going nowhere at all.

March is coming and with it birthdays and anniversaries of death. In my head I’m pivoting between how it was then and where I am now and what it feels like to sit in the grey.  Four years have passed and I’ve found myself forgetting the electricity of shocking loss in my veins. The memories are softer now, still cold and wet and powerful in congregation with their fellow flakes.

I want snow and protection and warm food and calories to cushion me.

Machines are beeping, I am weeping, and conversations with encouraging strangers are telling me, “Now. It’s time. Pedal forward. Pivot towards the places you want to be. Create your work – the world needs you just as you are. ”

March is coming. Maybe this year, pivoting forward can be a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Caught an Edge

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Photo by Emma Paillex on Unsplash

“It’s happening!” I heard my brain say to my left leg as it lifted from the slush and jolted painfully, pulling me up and then down.

There was a loud crack and a solid thwack as my back met the iced-over ski slope. I don’t know if my turquoise helmet hit first, or my shoulder, but I was dazed.

I’d caught an edge and ate it. Hard.

I stared up at the blue sky for a moment or two.

Or seven.

I knew I had to sit up. Wincing, I raised my upper body to vertical.

“Skis still on?” I asked myself. Yes, the bindings did their job.

Poles were close by.

I tried to breath deeply and a kind woman stopped and asked if I wanted help standing.

“Yes please,” I said as I tried to make eye contact. “It’s been years since I’ve fallen on skis.”

I haven’t fallen because I haven’t been on skis in years. I haven’t fallen because I’m cautious. I take calculated risks. May I be one with the slope, not one laying on the slope.

As the stranger reached for my arm, she reminded me to turn my skis parallel from where I sat, rather than pointing my tips straight down the hill. If I could lean my body weight into the mountain, I could stand again.

I had to push into the very thing that hurt me.

I stood and eventually swooshed the two hundred yards to where Dylan was waiting for me.

“I hit my head.” I said, “Hard.”

My ski afternoon came to an end after a medical check from Ski Patrol and a gondola ride back down to base.

As the incident replays in my brain this week, I’ve been wondering what it means to be brave. We tell ourselves to muster up the courage and to push ourselves out of our comfort zones. Being brave can be an active choice, yes, but what about when we are attempting to enjoy life and plans go otherwise? When our instincts kick in and the hard things require actions we feel we must do – not the ones we are brave enough to do?

This weekend, I didn’t cry when I fell. I said yes to help from a stranger, asked Dylan for water, and thought it would be smart to get more medical help. I chose the safe route down the hill rather than pushing myself to move on two sticks of waxed wood. I wobbled in ski boots and found my mom who was waiting and sat quietly in the car, imagining all the things that could have gone wrong. I didn’t feel brave.

Grief looks very much the same.

I didn’t feel brave when I wrote my dad’s obituary or called the organization in charge of his pension. I wasn’t brave when we spread his ashes or gave away his golf clubs, or each week when I choose to share my experience here. I wasn’t being brave.

I was surviving.

Are they the same, beautiful thing?

Life gives us edges to catch, limbs to flail, and places to fall. We’re lucky if we remember to wear our helmets and rely upon the little, beautiful buffers to help us feel a smidge safer in a scary world. We spread out, stunned, staring at the sky, trying to catch our breath as people swish by. And we remind ourselves to sit up again.

In order to do so, you must lean into the mountain. The majestic destination, the reason we are there out under big blue skies seeking solace and cold crisp air.

Lean into mysterious source of the beauty, of pines, jagged rocks, crisp, hard, sometimes powdery snow, and possible pain.

What a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.

I added a 4-pack of marigolds to my growing selection of plants in the cart on Saturday. The orange blooms are supposed to help with pests and pollinators and look pretty in my square of dirt. We came home and dug holes for tomato starts and zucchini and cucumbers co-workers previously grew with care. Out poked the green shoots and leaves that will transform energy into happiness later this year.

It was risky, putting those plants in the ground. I knew the forecast was calling for rain and rain in May often turns to snow in May and still I was stubborn. Full of hope for my little seeds had sprouted and I wanted to get them warm and cozy in their dirty bed.

We put in the flowers too.

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And just like the weather said, it started raining. I chickened out and brought my peppers and tomato stalks inside. Now my bathroom floor is full of pots waiting once again in the dark. We slept and it poured.

And tonight, just as they said, the rain is turning to snow. Damn. We got out the trash bags and pots and buckets, covering my little guys to attempt to keep out the cold. I could see my marigolds trembling, their little petals looking up saying “Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.” And I whispered “Good night, you’ll do great. Try to stay warm.” 

And I came inside.

Also happening in my life is the slow demise of my iPhone Six. Here comes a first world rant as I know my privileged problems are small in the grand scheme of things.

For months my phone hasn’t updated. No storage. Countless problems with the operating system. First went the feature of mobile deposits. Then no room for Spotify. Which is more important – King Soopers coupons or Starbucks. Trivial questions and simple choices, yes, and still very obnoxious. I paid for more storage – still no luck. Deleted photos. Archived emails. Desperately asked the kind folks at Verizon for help.

“It’s never going to update,” said the nice sales lady “There’s just no more space on your phone.”

I looked up at her, shaking like those marigolds, thinking “Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.”

The phone is only five years old! Technology be damned, if Apple wanted to be so innovative and the world is going to crap, shouldn’t we be able to sustainably use our very expensive devices until the end of time?

Nope. Not that innovative.

So after the research and the Youtube reviews, I found myself once again standing at the Verizon counter with a pretty package and an expensive new computing device to use for my texts and my photos, and the occasional phone call. The world’s information is at my fingertips and I needed to make sure I could have a head phone jack instead. Spoiled, yes.  I stood drawn in, addicted, and raddled looking for solutions to my technological deprivation. I made a choice and signed a contract.

As the same sales woman placed the new box in my hand, my heart started to drop.

“I knew this was going to happen,” I whispered to myself as I walked out of the store. My grief gremlin climbed out of my pocket and hopped into my hand. “Oh hello,” I murmured as her feathers started poking my hand.

This new phone will never receive a text from my dad. There will be no new photos of him and his phone number won’t live in my contacts.  I already lost his texts. But this device he will never even impact. No yahoo jokes. No butt dials. No bad connection calls.

A phone became a trigger and Apple’s planned obsolescence moved me further away from him.

There are lots of endings this week. Game of Thrones came to a close – I didn’t watch it but he did. So will Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory. Cultural movements that made up much of the last ten year’s pop culture just stopped. I didn’t expect them to last forever – I just didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did when they were done.

Our good friends who we met just months after losing Dad are moving hours away. We said good-bye to them too.

Seriously, I knew this was going to happen.

Life moves on and things change. These changes are joyous and hard and even the best news and exciting devices can suck the breath right out of your lungs.

Like those little plants in my garden, being transplanted into new chapters of life can feel shocking and cold. It’s risky putting new roots in new places.

And yet, we have blankets, and buckets, and cups of tea to protect us. And I hope when the snow melts, beautiful orange petals and green leaves will keep turning their faces to the sun.

Shows end, we upgrade, they move, and we still we tuck ourselves in, saying with kindness to reflections in the mirror, “Good night, you’ll do great. Try to stay warm. The snow may melt tomorrow.”

That hope is a beautiful thing.

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.

 

In Two Places at Once

I live about an hour and a half from the state border. If I wanted to, I could get in my car and drive north up to the big state sign and pull over to park. After zipping up my jacket and protecting my ears, I could exit the car and stand right next to the highway marker where miles are named zero.  I could turn to the west and widen my stance and strategically place one foot proudly in Colorado while the other foot could stamp down and stake claim territory in Wyoming.

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One could be in two places at once.

This is holiday season number three without Dad and I’m finding myself in there – in two places all at the same time.

I’m living with more joy. I eagerly completed my Christmas card and mailed them this week (I’ve got ten left if you want one). I bought spontaneous tickets to White Christmas at the Performing Arts Center. We made penguin cookies with frosted snow and sparkle dust.  I’m going to The Nutcracker, making lists for gifts, and decorating the house cheerfully.

In each of these traditions and activities, though, exists the sting of grief, the remnants of loss, and the gluing back together of the places that broke when he died.

For Christmas cards, how do you address an envelope? With peoples names who live in that household, leaving one very important one out because he doesn’t live there anymore? It’s safer to lump and title the envelope ‘the xxx family’.

In a dark performance hall you notice the stranger sitting next to you and as his arm brushes your shoulder you think, ‘huh that fabric is scratchier than dad’s coat.’ If you lean your head on this man’s shoulder, you’re gonna get an uncomfortable look and a talking to.

Dylan stands on the ladder helping wrap the garlands at Mom’s house rather than Dad. Pecan crescents are missing from the fridge because really those are gross and no one would eat them but Dad.

I’m present and happy and festive. I’m also sad and aching and have room for the light that Christ promises he brings during this advent season.

I’m in two places at once and that’s a beautiful thing.

 

PS – don’t forget to enter the Give Light Giveaway. This year, it’s super easy to enter.

At Parties, Pubs, and Places People Gather

My inbox is filling and people are chatting. At graduation parties, the pub, and places people gather, folks are taking time to think of things going well in their worlds. I’m thankful to the following contributors who have brought our list over the 300 mark!

#273 my eldest daughter reading books
#274 my little one pretending to read
#275 the cup of chamomile tea I have in the evening each day
#276 the blessing of having another day to live
#277 my health is great
#278 my kids playing with their tea set in the middle of my bedroom
#279 looking over at the man I chose to spend the rest of my life with
#280 sharing a cup of coffee for 10 minutes in the morning with him before
the kids wake up

#273 – #280 Contributed by Alice V

#281 having a job that works to make a genuinely positive impact in the lives of others
#282 beautifully positive relationships with my family members
#283 living in a location where a lot of people would choose to spend their vacation days
#284 new friends choosing to do life with me
#285 old friends that have chosen to grow with me
#286 stainless steel drinking straws (and other eco-friendly efforts)
#287 having a rescued dog and cat to love me
#288 a partner that loves me even when I don’t act very lovingly
#289 days off from work
#290 a trustworthy Higher Power

#281 – #290 Contributed by Bailey Dutko

#291 this beautiful day
#292 Music
#293 Beer. Beer. Beer
#294 My grandson’s health
#295 Family. All family.
#296 Food
#297 Hiking outdoors
#298 Photography and Instagram
#299 Books and comic books
#300 Bourbon
#301 Naps

#302 – #311 Contributed by Sharon
#312 my job
#313 the outside
#314 my friends
#315 I have the ability to travel
#316 delicious food
#317 tea
#318 whiskey
#319 games
#320 – colo-f’n-rado
#321 my family
#312 – #321 Contributed by Renee Wanger
#322 alcohol
#323 my girlfriend
#324 my health
#325 my bed
#326 5:30 pm every day
#327 family
#328 my roof over my head
#329 showers
#330 date nights
#331 caramel ice cream
#322 – #333 Contributed by Tanner Hunt
#332 I have incredible, and I do mean INCREDIBLE people surrounding me who love me unconditionally.
#333 Life has turned out so differently than I ever imagined it. Honestly, it’s better than I ever imagined it.
#334 I’m starting a business that I am so excited about, I could explode. So many people have come together to support me in this. The feeling of being believed in is so precious, I cannot describe it.
#335 I have beautiful forests just 10-15 minutes away that constantly renew my heart and soul with their beauty.
#336 The month of September is here and it’s my absolute favorite. Everything so gently shifts into a state of glory before the winter.
#337 I’m laughing a lot these days. And laughter has elevated my heart.
#338 Hugs. They are super important and I’ve been blessed by so many of them lately.
#339 The amazing animals that have crossed my path lately. This weekend, I had an encounter with a coyote who leapt out of the bushes not 4 feet in front of me, gave me a piercing glance and then ran back into the forest. At this very moment, I can hear a hawk scratching up above. I believe animals have medicine and can help remind us of our own truths.
#340 Books! I just recently got back into reading after a long hiatus. My mind feels nourished by the words of so many beautiful humans.
#341 Long, hot, showers– not very environmentally sustainable, I’ll admit. But man, what a long hot shower can do for an anxious mind.
#332 – #341 Contributed by Katrina Nilsson-Gorman

When you are ready to contribute your list of 5 – 10 things going right in your world, send me an email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com. If you’re feeling stuck, Morgan Harper Nichols created a fun joy template that can be a great place to start. You can find the image on Instagram.

More details about how to submit your list here.

My Mountain Metaphor

I’m a seasoned ‘church camper.’ As a teenager, for at least a week each summer, I’d pile into a fifteen passenger van with sweaty boys and anxious girls and venture to the Colorado mountains for whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and torture … er, mountain biking.

Each night, after facing our fears and relying on God’s mercy to survive hormones, and crushes, and camp food, we’d hunker down to listen to sermons from a pastor underneath a picnic shelter with flames flickering behind him.

The bible is full of references to mountains. How we ought to look to them, how God moves them, how they melt in his presence, or shake in his glory. God speaks to people on mountain tops, bushes burn, internal battles are fought. Tectonic plates are holy ground.

Wise, college aged mentors would french braid my hair as I sat between their knees. I felt safe, loved, and seen. The mountains I was climbing in that season of my life involved grades, crushes, and college applications. All age appropriate, and yes, privileged.  I’d have my mountain top experience, head back down the hill and return to normal life.

Ten years passed and I still hadn’t climbed all the way to the top of one of Colorado’s beckoning peaks.

This past weekend we rallied with our cousins to trek to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain. We picked an “easy” one. Never you mind that easy still means you’re climbing an f’in MOUNTAIN.

It was not an easy experience for me.

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At the end of the meadow stretch, full of waving wildflowers, I could look up the steep trail and see people moving in front of me where I was headed. Like ants, we fell in line and moved slowly up, up, up.

“Our faith can move mountains” – Matthew 17:20

But could it move me?

We stopped every 200 yards to catch our breath. All the blogs told me this was a normal part of the process. I’d keep looking up, and see people ahead, and I’d ask, “how am I going to get up there?!”

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord – maker of heaven and earth.” – Psalm 121: 1-2

The answer was adjust my blinders. I had to focus on the ten feet in front of me, and then the next ten, and the next, to keep moving along. Any time I looked to the top of the peak, I’d falter. Mentally challenged and physically tired my cousin offered me his trekking pole so I could stop stumbling.

 

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As we approached the summit, solid ground gave way to piles of boulders. Big rocks stacked over one another. Why would something so massive be made up of hundreds of moving parts?

The last 200 yards I was using my hands to pull myself up and over big chunks of stone. Why did God design mountains that way? Heavy, precariously balanced stones for us master?

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I made it to the top. I sat and caught my breath and inhaled God’s fresh air. He whispered to me, “look how far you’ve come.”

In this season, my mountains have matured. Accepting the loss of a parent is not meant for almost thirty year olds. Finding employment after job loss. Navigating marriage. Coming into our own skins with confidence and learning how to soothe broken hearts. Those were bigger boulders found when a previous foundation fell apart – the aftermath forming new piles in our way. Rubble. Crumbly, heavy, hurting chunks of stone.

We’ve moved these last two and a half years, holding hands, five feet at a time up, up, and up to this new summit. The view is beautiful, holy, and aching. For Dad is closer to the heavens than back at the trailhead, and he wasn’t waiting for me to return at home.

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“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” – Isaiah 54:10

It’s peaceful up there on piles of stone. Hearts soar and God speaks.

And then you have to come down.

Spiritually, I’m afraid of coming down for I know new mountains will form for me to climb. I don’t want to hurt nor do I want to find new footing.

We want the summit. We don’t want the work. Unfortunately, beautifully, you can’t have one without the other. 

As we trekked down and our knees screamed, God brought this song back to me from camp years ago.

The artist wrote this song from a mountain near where we spread Dad’s ashes. Funny how our stories connect. Funny how boulders mix with pebbles to create beautiful trails racking our lungs and pounding our hearts.

I’m offering up my broken cup. Keep climbing up. Willing to come down.

Keep stepping the next ten beautiful feet in front of me.