Family

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

Here’s to You

Sometimes, I worry about development – about our houses and our gyms and our stupid super stores taking over the planet. Yes, this trend is concerning and I want to rip developer’s “FOR SALE” signs out of those open fields. But then, I take a road trip to the Mid-West. It is when I drive through parts of Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin with miles and miles of corn, and I think “Ok, we’ve still got plenty of open space.” I am so snobby that I fail to remember that lack of things to look at on I-90 means food on the table, corn in my belly, orange soda in my hand. I’ll admit it, I’ve got some Colorado elitism in me and I carry some opinions about our neighbors to the east. I am, after all, a Colorado Buffalo. Sorry Husker fans. Did you know there isn’t a Starbucks within 200 miles between cities in Nebraska? I looked.

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This road trip helped me to identify a few growth areas within my personality – say some acceptance for slower ways of living, a respect for those who don’t sport my same coffee addiction, and a questioning look into my privilege of honestly craving carrots and hummus on the road rather than fast food. This trip, too, gave me an appreciation for roots, and for tradition, for open spaces, and for love that families create.

Dylan’s grandfather passed away last week. It wasn’t expected, and he was fairly healthy at 84 years old. It was less than 48 hours between finding out he fell, to finding out he had passed on. News like that is never easy to absorb. It is easy, however, to mobilize, and within a few days we packed up a car and ordered snacks, and loaded our Kindles to make the 15 hour drive to Wisconsin because nothing else in that situation would make sense.  Seven adults in a Ford Excursion is a lot different than a road trip with the cousins when you are ten or eleven. We still had fun, still made the most of it.

It can be, at times, hard to find beauty in tragedy or peace in the midst of suffering. My experience participating in Dylan’s family as they began to grieve was very different than that of when my own grandfather passed away. We all handle emotions differently and my family is known to be, well, “over processors” when it comes to emotion, so I wasn’t sure how to act or what to expect.

Tears were shed, and stories were told, and laughter was more common than silence or weeping. I was exposed to a Catholic funeral, a viewing, a rosary – cultural experiences I had never had before. We ate a lot of cheese curds, our sandwiches had butter on them, comfort food was shared.

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This is Grandpa as a kid – an original Cheesehead I suppose

 

What I found to be most beautiful in this experience, however, was pausing to reflect upon all the lives this man created and influenced and impacted. Gerald had six children, and a few married or committed to someone, and a few of those six had their own children. As the grand kids grow new additions get added on – me included. He has three great-grandchildren. Gerald served in the Army and the Navy so many men from the VA, or VFW or Knights of Columbus came and shared their respects. What a powerful thing it is to honor someone who has served our country.

I feel so blessed to be a part of their story – that I could hold some tissues, and hold Dylan’s hand, and give support to a family that has long ago accepted me as one of their own. It is never easy to lose someone you love, and even harder to think about what they will miss in your own lives. A part of me is really sad that the wedding did not come sooner – had we not postponed, both of our grandfathers would have been able to attend.

While I did not know this man very well, I have been blessed to be exposed to the beauty of what he created. A family of expansive love that gives freely, and ask questions, and has fun. So here is to you, Gerald Sullivan. Thank you for what you have given this world, and by extension, what has been given to me. Please know that you are loved.

That Rickety Kitchen Table

I have a bruise. A really glamorous purply, blue bruise. It’s on my left wrist, and it’s just about the size of a softball. That makes sense, because its from playing on a rec softball league, and I stopped a ball at second base and it hit my hand instead of my glove. ” Trust the glove,” a friend said. Well I tried, but it still hit me in the hand. I’ve got some learning to do when it comes to softball. “Room for improvement,” they might say.

My bruise, however, is nothing compared to what my brother has got going on. This week he had an accident on his scooter, where he got cut off by a truck, and slid on some gravel and turned the thing over on its side. Luckily he escaped with just some scrapes and bruises. Some serious bruises. Boy are those colors beautiful – yellow to red to purple – there is a rainbow in there. That’s got to hurt when he lays on his side. We are all thankful that he wasn’t hurt more seriously, and that his injuries resulted in some pain, inconvenience, and time off from work to heal. We got lucky with this one.

What was more beautiful, in fact, was what came from his injury, and I am thankful for it. Because Sam got in an accident he was staying at home; my parents taking care of him. Dylan was with friends, so I asked to come over for a free meal. This week, for the first time in many, many years we had a family dinner with just me, my brother, my mom and my dad. Now we have quite frequently sat down to share a meal recently, but there was always a welcomed addition – a grandmother, a friend, a fiancé. On Friday night, for whatever reasons, it was just us original four. We all sat at our customary places from when we were growing up – I had my back to the big glass door, Sam sits across from me next to the counter. My parents hold strong at opposite ends of the creaky kitchen table with the chairs my dad built himself and we sit on itchy cushions my mom knit years ago. It wasn’t a fancy meal, and the conversation wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but this ordinary moment felt incredibly beautiful to me.

 

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We’ve been through a lot over the past few years, and to be honest, being all together did not always feel good. It is hard to watch those you love suffer, and we’ve all been working on so much personal growth. At times, this growth pulls us in different directions, to perhaps separate corners of the house, or separate towns or school or work while we figure out who we are going to be as individuals in the world.

We used to make fun of my mom because while I was in college she used to get teary when we could all sit down together for dinner. This time, it was me. So much of family life happens around that square little table. It’s a routine I treasure, and I am so thankful my parents made an effort to gather us each night for a meal. Even if that meal was popcorn, and cheese, and apples on Sunday evenings (Grocery day was Monday don’t ya know). It is a tradition and a value I hope to instill with my own family some day. And as I continue to grow and change and prepare to leave my family in the traditional sense, and my brother starts out his own life on his own terms, and my parents embrace that term “empty nesters” I know that I can always return to sit at that table. New memories will be made, and maybe other additions brought in, but the power of the “original four” melts my heart. I’m thankful we keep fighting for each other, and that we keep returning to our spots at the table. I hope they continue to sit by me, and bless the food, and bless each other in ways we never could have imagined.

 

I’m that girl…

I’m that girl. The one who wants to hang out with her mom – yes, still – on Friday nights. The one who talks to her parents every day whether on text, email, FaceTime or just the phone. I joke with my dad and make him buy me pizza and beer, and I drag Dylan to my grandma’s house for Thursday night dinner. I’m not sure Dylan knew what he was getting into when he said he would move with me so I could be closer in proximity to my parents house. Because I’m going to want to continue to hang out with them, and joke with them, and cry with them until, well, hopefully forever.

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(This is me and my mom on Halloween – she wears the wig to work  as a scary secretary – she is awesome. Do I ever take a normal photo? Not often)

I got a double bonus in that I also am the girl who is TOTALLY ok hanging out with my future in-laws on a Saturday night. I text my future father in-law, have great conversation with my future mother in-law, and am as comfortable at their house as I am at the house I grew up in. That’s saying something. Skeptics go ahead – tell me about how this is going to change, and I will grow to desire my own space, and my own life, and hate my in-laws. Well things may change, but I hope that weekend encounters, and family dinners and Sunday outings with my parents – both sets – continue.  They have wisdom and guidance, and humor and vulnerability and free dinners to share!

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(This is me and my future father in-law. We switched sunglasses for our afternoon stroll- he can rock them don’t you think?)

One of the beautiful things I love about my parents is their openness to the world and all that it has to offer. This is progress, for them, and for me, but I would say that in the past 5 years our family has gone through some significant struggles. These struggles have brought us closer, helped me to grow up, changed our dynamic, and forced us to examine those good ol’ family patterns that you may not like to admit. I am the oldest you know, and strongly demonstrate the side effects of the “I got this, I can take care of it, and take care of you” syndrome. We are working on it.

This new openness also has led both of my parents to change their home screens on their new iPhones to say “Let Go and Trust the Universe.” If there is a better mantra, please let me know. We all also have the same therapist. I’m a big advocate for therapy and think everyone can benefit from an hour a week where you pay someone to talk about things you’d rather not think about. Just kidding, it’s been huge for me, and huge for my family. Now you are probably thinking, where is she going with this? Isn’t this supposed to be about beauty??

Well as openness to the world, and therapy, and my parents culminate into one great expression of beauty for the week I would like to look at what we affectionately call our “Gifts from the Universe”.  Maybe it’s a song lyric, maybe it’s a picture, or a quote that speaks to us in ways we didn’t imagine. Maybe its the suggestion of Valerian Root drops to help me sleep, or a friend dropping a line who you haven’t heard from in quite some time. But this week, for my beautiful things, I will share some of the “Gifts from the Universe” that my family and I shared with each other.

  • If you are looking for a song, I suggest checking out Tyronne Wells song “Give It Time”   It spoke to me this week.
  • If you are looking for some words, here is the Valentine’s Day affirmation my mom sent me:

(I told you, we have a hippy therapist)

Here are 10 affirmations to help you love yourself and bring more love into your life.

  1. I choose to see clearly with eyes of love. I love what I see.
  2. Love happens! I release the desperate need for love, and instead, allow it to find me in the perfect time.
  3. Love is around every corner, and joy fills my entire world.
  4. Today, I remember that Life loves me and will reward me.
  5. Life is very simple. What I give out comes back to me. Today I chose to give love.
  6. I rejoice in the love I encounter every day.
  7. I am surrounded by love. All is well.
  8. I am comfortable looking in the mirror and saying, “I love you. I really love you.”
  9. I draw love and acceptance into my life, and I accept it now.
  10. Love is all there is!
  • If you are looking for an image, my dad follows this artist named Hugh MacLeod who does Gapingvoid Cartoons. His little cartoons help me and my dad connect each week, and I really loved this one.

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  • If you are looking for a laugh, here is a picture of my 80 year grandma and me when I was trying to teach her about ‘selfies’. Don’t tell her she’s on here, she may not like this face being out on the world wide web.

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What were your “Gifts from the Universe” this week? I’d love to hear about them. Keep your eyes open, beauty comes in unexpected packages.