Friends

That’s Going to Be Fun for You?

I read fast. My eyes scan pages and absorb words quickly, inviting me into worlds not my own. Don’t ask me for details about story or memoir, though, because once I’ve finished a title I seem to forget. My reading comprehension sucks. The pleasure is in the journey, not the destination.

On our most recent road trip I read four books. Four. Last week I spent 38 hours in the backseat of a Subaru and there is not much to see from Wyoming to East Oregon. Enter books. Thank goodness I don’t get car sick.

Before the trip I sat down at our kitchen table and opened up a new browser to search for books to download to my Kindle. Picking out books to read is what I live for! I selected five titles and tucked my little e-reader in my travel bag.

Our trip was an amazing break from the day to day grind. When I told some of my friends that I was driving 38 hours across the country, they looked at me like I was crazy. When I told them we were driving with my in-laws, their mouths dropped a little more, and eyes got bigger seeming to ask, ‘That’s going to be fun for you?’

Yes! Fun for me. I am incredibly lucky in that I like my in-laws! My father-in-law drove the whole time. My mother-in-law packed delicious snacks and navigated our route, picking our hotels, restaurants and day trip itineraries. While Dylan and I are both grown people, these two parents continue to extend their love for us as we dozed in the backseat. After a hard year of taking care of hurting, searching people –  ie. myself, my husband, my mom – riding along in the backseat where all my needs were met was just the heart medicine I needed. It is nice to be cared for and out of your routine.

A list of beautiful things from our time in Oregon:

  • New breweries: these people like to drink beer as much as we do in Northern Colorado. I now know how tourists must feel when they come to our town. Another brewery on that corner! No time to fit in all those delicious pints of craft beer.
  • Kite Surfing on the River: no, no, I didn’t try, but we did watch hundreds of colorful kites kiss the sky as surfers handled the wind on the Columbia River. We stuck our toes in the water and laughed as the ripples lapped at our legs.
  • Salt and Straw & good friends: One of my oldest friends Jenny now lives in Portland. She took us to her neighborhood food trucks (THAT’S A THING PEOPLE!) and out to the trendiest ice cream store I’ve ever been to. Apparently Oprah endorses their Arbequina Olive Oil flavor. I couldn’t mentally stomach spooning olive oil into my mouth over and over, but the creamy concoction was delicious on a small metal tea spoon. Instead I turned to the beautiful combination of Carrot Cake Batter with Hazelnut Praline. For those easily overwhelmed types like my husband, they also have vanilla.
  • Canon Beach: We went to the ocean. Nothing like having your feet in the sand with cold water running over your toes. Wind in the hair, sand pushing back against the arches of your feet, reminding you that you wear shoes all too often. Cloud cover and waves crashed together in a soothing blanket of gray. The ocean is big. It makes me feel connected to the edge of something. I loved walking on the sand and exploring that quaint little town.
  • A family wedding: Dylan’s cousin got married and I was honored to be a part of the celebration. As we walked up to the rehearsal dinner which was held in a neighborhood park, huge trees sheltered us from intense sun. Who knew it could be 105 degrees in the Northwest. Rays of sunshine trickled through the leaves. We approached from about fifty yards away watching the bride practice going down the aisle with her dad. I stopped and stood still, catching my breath at the beautiful scene unfolding in front of me. Other members of the family kept walking ahead. One breath. Two. I swatted at a tear starting to trickle down my cheek, escaping my from my sunglasses of protection. I missed my dad as a flood of memories from my own experience down the aisle came back. More though, I was overwhelmed with the truth that I am living in the light again. Grief still exists, yes, but that’s not all. I sent up a silent whisper of thanks in realizing I am returning to living in joy. The choices to be taken care of, to explore, to love and feel loved, those are all beautiful, beautiful things.

 

Here is a list of books I read on the trip:

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Vinegar Girl: A Novel

Someday, Someday, Maybe: A Novel

The Here and Now

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Giving Light – Christine C.

And to round this fabulous contest out – I’ve got one more, very simple entry.
Thank you to all who participated. I am tickled that others have chosen to join me in the search for beauty.

Without further ado – 5 Beautiful Things from Christine.


1. Summer nights at Wilderness Ranch
2. Support of family and friends
3. Christmas Trees with white lights
4. A good glass of cabernet
5. A fireplace and a good book on a snowy day

I will be announcing the winner of the contest in the next few weeks. Christmas holidays are starting to get a little overwhelming.

Love to you all.

 

THE DEADLINE FOR ACCEPTING ENTRIES FOR THE GIVE LIGHT GIVEAWAY HAS PASSED. I AM FINISHING UP POSTING CONTRIBUTIONS. STAY TUNED FOR OTHER CONTESTS AND OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTRIBUTE TO 52 BEAUTIFUL THINGS IN 2017.

Giving Light – Alice M.

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Hi!  My name is Alice. When we were a family of 2, 5 years ago, we moved to Colorado so my husband could attend school at CSU. And I was lucky enough to meet Katie!  While in Colorado we grew to a family of 3, and have since moved to Rhode Island and become a family of 4!

Here are 5 things that bring light to my life…

1. My Family!

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My family is my heart and my soul; my guts my breath, my everything. There really are just no words…

2. The Time We Spent in Colorado 

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I had previously only lived in Virginia and living in Fort Collins opened my life up to how wonderful it can be to explore and live in a new place. Our time there was beautiful and forever changed me.

3. Down time!  Who knew!? 

Few things rejuvenate me more than just having down time…either sitting on my couch in my cozy clothes watching something or relaxing with a book in a coffee shop.  It doesn’t happen much, but when it does, it’s a beautiful thing!

4. Making new friends, and my beautiful friends I have known forever and met along the way. 

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I’ve been very lucky to have great friends;  I am beyond fortunate for the friends we have made as the result of our moves who I know are now life long friends.  Also for the wonderful people who love my children.

5. Christmas Lights!

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Okay, maybe I’m being influenced by the time of year, but nonetheless, Christmas lights make me silly happy!  And so far no where we have lived does Christmas lights like Richmond VA!

 

If you are interested in giving your own light, click here to learn more about how you can enter the Give Light Giveaway.

Giving Light – Kelsey H.

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Follow Kelsey’s Blog Here.

Hi! I’m Kelsey. I’m a dietitian by day and baker by night. I love to create and photograph food, read books I can’t put down, sing whenever I can and do pretty much anything outside. I’m currently living in Okinawa, Japan with my husband and fun-loving dog.
Here are the five things I find beautiful right now and always. Enjoy!
1. Okinawa, Japan
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The beauty of this island that I live on never ceases to amaze me. For those of you who need to brush up on your geography, Okinawa sits about 1,000 miles south of mainland Japan and is, therefore, very tropical. On the outside, Okinawa is beautiful because of the numerous white sand beaches overlooking turquoise waters, surrounded by colorful coral reefs with all kinds of tropical fish. The sunsets are phenomenal (as are the sunrises, when I’m awake to see them) and we frequently see rainbows arching across the sky. On the inside, Okinawa is beautiful because of the culture. Okinawa has a rich history with many traditions and holidays, the locals are always so helpful, accommodating and polite and the food is absolutely phenomenal too. We have enjoyed learning and experiencing this beautiful island and will truly miss it when we can no longer call it home.
2. Food
Food is beautiful to me. As a dietitian, it is beautiful because it provides vital nutrients to our bodies. As a chef and baker, it is beautiful because of all the dishes I can create with it. As a food blogger, it is beautiful because of all of the ways it can be described. As a food photographer, it is beautiful because of the many colors, focal points and textures it provides. As a lover of food, it is beautiful because it is exciting, comforting, memorable and, most of all, delicious!
3. Friendships
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I’ve been friends for over 10 years with all of these beautiful ladies!

 

Out of everything on this list, I think friendships are the most beautiful thing. They fill my life with laughter, adventure and love. Even though location, age or just life in general can change, friendships always remain constant. I love that I can pick right back up with my high school and college friends, even though we only see each other one or two times a year. I cherish the friends that I have here in Okinawa because they have become my family, when all of our families are just so far away. Most importantly, I know that any one of my friends, both old and new, would run to my side if I ever needed them, and that, to me, is the most beautiful part of it all.

4. Music
I was listening to Christmas music the other night and I found myself not cooking, like I should have been doing, but standing still and listening to the music. I realized that music is beautiful to me because of the way the harmonies blend and fit together so perfectly. It took me back to all of the music performances I had ever been a part of and the beauty I heard and felt whenever we finally accomplished those harmonized moments. It also made me realize how beautifully music fills in the quiet parts of my day. Whether it’s listening to an upbeat song during a workout or Christmas songs to put me in the holiday spirit, the words, songs and harmonies always lighten my mood. Without music, my life would be a quiet, and less happy, place!
5. Running
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My forever running partner.

I have to admit, I don’t always love running. Sometimes it’s boring, a lot of times something in my body hurts and, almost always, my crazy dog is trying to pull me forward or slow me down. So why do I think it’s beautiful? Running is beautiful because it gives me a chance to be outside, which means, while we are living here at least, I get to look at and listen to the ocean. It clears my mind. It makes me realize how powerful my body is and how hard I can push myself. It’s my dog’s favorite thing to do (if only I could snap a picture of his face as we start running) and wears him out, if only just for a little while. Plus, going for a run means I can eat more Christmas cookies!

 

If you are interested in giving your own light, click here to learn more about how you can enter the Give Light Giveaway.

When Friends Take You Grocery Shopping

Life has brought me into a new season. A five letter word. A season of grief.

Previously, I have experienced loss in several capacities. I’ve said good-bye to my grandfather, and watched my childhood friend say good-bye to her father when he lost his five year battle with cancer three years ago.

Never have I experienced, however, the crippling shock that results from loss on a deeply personal level. When I received the call that my dad had passed unexpectedly, the first thing that came into my mind was the song lyric from Baz Luhrmann’s “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen.” Well, maybe not the first thing. But these words were certainly rolling around in the mess of thoughts and emotions that flooded my brain.

Luhrmann says, “Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday.”

For me, it wasn’t a Tuesday. It was a Friday, and it was 3 pm.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last few weeks, talking about death, loss, and grief can make people feel pretty uncertain. I know this is about them, and not about me. However, it doesn’t feel great to watch how your own pain makes others twinge in discomfort, or inspire fear in how they, too, could experience such an event. Grandparents, those we expect to lose. Not your dad, at the age of 58, when he was seemingly healthy the night before.

As the weeks and months move forward without my dad, and I continue to process this change in my life, it is not my intention to make others uncomfortable or to be seeking sympathy.

Rather, I choose to dwell on the fact that stories of shared experience bring me comfort. Over the past few weeks I have had several people share with me that they, too, have lost their parents unexpectedly. Co-workers and high school classmates have shared their hearts and insights as to how they have moved forward to survive without their loved ones. And so I am choosing to share tid-bits of my experience here. Maybe my experience can bring you some comfort or something to relate to in your own journey. I now know that even in the midst of terrible loss, there is beauty to be found.

 

Rewind to two weeks ago. Thursday night. I had planned my meals for the week ahead as my mom and dad sat on my couch. We shared glasses of red wine and caught up on the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Jotting down what I needed to get at the grocery store on Saturday brought comfort and a small sense of accomplishment in getting ahead on regular tasks.

IMG_3667This damn grocery list has sat on my kitchen table for the last two weeks because with a flood of funeral obligations, family time, and throat-aching sobs, I did not find the time to make it to the store.

Plus, the outpouring of support from our family and friends allowed our freezers to be full of casserole, lasagna, and breakfast burritos. Chores as mundane as grocery shopping quickly fell to the back burner.

However, as we marked the two week anniversary, it became pretty apparent that grocery shopping was necessary. Yet, the list continued to sit on the table. It can be challenging to return to routine after such a shock. At times, the thought of every day life just feels like too much.

On Friday evening, I had the blessing of two girlfriends coming down to join me for a meal out. After eating and drinking and discussing our lives, we decided to skip on dessert and make brownies at home. We had to stop at the store to get a boxed batch of promised, gooey, deliciousness.

Both of my friends insisted on returning to my house to get my list – the neglected reminder of my last night with my dad. I hesitated and said I could manage by myself, later in the weekend, but they insisted. Pissed, I grabbed my grocery bags and got back in the car, quietly feeling scared of undergoing such a task. My dear, gentle friends followed me around the brightly-lit aisles, put items in my cart, and helped me complete one of my first attempts at returning to normalcy.

Because that’s the thing when you lose a loved one – life continues, trash needs to be taken out, and you return to work, but picking out peanut butter can be a gut wrenching experience. The presence of these two women in a King Soopers on a Friday night was the most beautiful example of ‘showing up’ and letting me be me I have witnessed in my experience with grief.

Thank you to my dear, beautiful friends who have shown up in so many ways over the past few weeks. Thank you for wiping my tears, reminding me of love through candles and journals and phone calls with sobs, for bringing us Easter hams, and sending chocolates from across the world. For the cards, the flowers, the sentiments, and the continued communication of love and support as we move forward. Friends are the most beautiful things.

What are your experiences with grief? How have you moved forward? Do you find sharing your stories is comforting, scary, or even allowed?

 

Self Care for the See Ya Laters

Happy Labor Day! I for one am enjoying the opportunity to stay in my pajamas until eleven am. I have plans for coffee, and reading a book, and having dinner with friends. That is what days off should be about. I am procrastinating some fairly large tasks for the week ahead, and saying “Today, I choose self care.” The anxiety of what I should be accomplishing to manage my life can begin tomorrow.

This weekend I bought a Real Simple Magazine. One of the articles was talking about how hard it can be to make friends as an adult. I was shocked by a stat that said that on average, people change groups of friends every seven years. While I love my friends dearly, I thought to myself, hmm, its almost time for a new batch of friends. I simply mean that life choices and changes, especially in the second half of your twenties, draw you away from your tribe created in college and perhaps the terrifying years of when you are all moving home and floating a little bit. When you pass over twenty five, we all start to seem a little bit more ‘legit’ – whatever that means – and these legitimate choices of career, and partners, and lifestyle preferences push friendships into the great unknown. As a loyal person, this makes me sad. As a realist, this makes me understand, ‘heck, these changes have nothing to do with me as a person, it just happens.’

This past month I said “see ya later” (not good-bye – that is too final) to three friends going off to grad school – Boston, California, Scotland. I had friends start new teaching jobs, new outdoor adventure jobs, and I chose to leave behind a tribe when I started a new job – even if the location is literally across the street.  Through all of these swinging doors I’m learning how to take care of myself. I’m trying to ignore comparison, sending light and love across the country, and gaining new pen pals. Also choking back a sob, a healthy sob, that we are entering into the next new chapter of life with threads still connecting us.

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It is easy for me, in times of change, to beat myself up. I feel I should have a better handle on the unknown outcomes of my choices. My therapist gently reminded me that it is ok to be anxious about some of these changes – I’ve never done them before. My need to be perfectly predicting is preposterous. So this week, I’ve adopted this beautiful mantra above and allow myself to cultivate new thoughts as I change and grow at rates un-measureable. I didn’t create the image above, just took it from Pinterest, so to whomever did – I love it.

Also this week was my first wedding anniversary! Hard to believe 365 days have already gone by as a wife. It is so fun to celebrate and reminisce about one of the best days of my life. I know there are many more good days to come. We spent the day at the farmers market, bopping around town with a latte in hand, and looking in shops, admiring beautiful things. We went to our favor restaurant for dinner and exchanged small gifts. My favorite part, though, was coming home and watching a movie, sharing a whole bottle of prosecco and nibbling on Cheez-Its. Word to the wise – don’t get the reduced fat.

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There is a lot of pressure to make a first anniversary astounding. I’d say we had a great day, but it was the little snack of crackers and bubbles with my man that made my beautiful heart oh, so happy.

The One Where I Talk About “Friends”

When I was growing up it was a Thursday night ritual to watch “Friends” with my family. Don’t judge my parents here, ok. The show started in 1994. I was, well, young. Young enough to not have walked in the halls with the third graders. My shoes still likely had cartoon characters; my leggings definitely had stirrups. I did not understand the complexity of the jokes, or maybe, the simplicity of themes portrayed on the show.

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Over the next ten years I grew up with the voices of Joey, Ross, and Rachel drifting up the stairs when I was falling asleep.  I’d sneak peeks, getting glasses of water, or brushing my teeth again so I could see what my mom was laughing at. As I got older, I earned my spot on the couch for the 7:30 pm time slot. I started to understand the jokes, and my love for the characters increased, even though I didn’t quite have the life experience to relate to what was depicted on screen.  I cried at the series finale, tears rolling down my cheeks as Rachel told Ross, “I got off the plane!” He’s her lobster don’t you know.  I think I was a freshman or sophomore in high school.

I was given all ten seasons of the show for various birthdays and Christmases and I took all ten seasons to college. I fell in love with my first serious boyfriend, who is now my husband, in his basement room in the co-ed housing that we lived in.  I got “in trouble” too many times to count as I stayed passed the curfew on the boys floor night after night to watch this show with Dylan. We laughed, loudly, and I snuck back up to the girls floor at 2 am most nights of the week. I was young, and very much intrigued by a boy, and rolled my eyes that I even lived in a place that had curfew for college student.

Now, “Friends” re-runs are on “Nick at Night”. “Nick at Night!” I do not have cable, but I do know that the shows they play on Nickelodeon past 10 o clock are old. Like “Cheers”, or “Laverne and Shirley” or something my parents used to watch. Not the shows I grew up with.  So, yes, I’m aging I suppose. Now though, I’ve been watching the show on Netflix, and binging. All ten seasons! We started in January and now we are Season 3. I still love the jokes, and the characters, and Dylan and I still laugh, loudly. I’m not sure if it is a stretch to call a ten year series beautiful, but the joy that this show brings to my day to day life now, and through out my “formative years” really is something I enjoy.

You’ve heard the theme song, and you know where to clap your hands. “Your job’s a joke, your broke, your love life’s DOA.” I do not view my job to be a joke, I think we do wonderful work. My love life has had a really successful year. However, there is some crazy truth to watching a t.v. show about a bunch of 20 somethings, even if the show was created, gulp, twenty years ago. You do not always end up where you think you will when you are in the third grade. Your friends move and change and get married too. I just found out a best friend of mine is moving again to a different city. I cried, even though she will only be an hour away. Life is messy right? Sometimes things happen that don’t make a lot of sense.

There are five feet of snow on the East Coast and I wore flip flops in Colorado yesterday. I think global warming is real. A loving father of four was in an accident this week – he died and his high school aged daughter walked away unharmed. That’s not fair. We want to be healthy and make good choices, and yet our food makes us sick. Kids are abandoned, parents leave, opportunities are stretched and prohibited based on privilege in ways we can’t even begin to solve. I think about these things. Too much.

In the midst of those warbled social issues and situations that make us scratch our heads, or hurt our stomach because they don’t make sense, we need to find things to clap at. We need to laugh, and to be surrounded by friends. We need to joke. We need continuity and history, and connection. That is where I find beauty when situations lack solutions, or when anxiety overtakes.

And I need Ross, Rachel, Joey, Monica, Phoebe and Chandler, in ways I am embarrassed to admit.

No biscotti or nail polish this week. Sorry.