Friendship

Let’s Get Pancakes

“Let’s get pancakes” I said. “It will be fun.” I said.

That was a few days ago when Snooze AM Eatery brilliantly marketed their National Pancake Day celebration on my Facebook feed. Those damn targeted ads. They work.

So when my phone buzzed at 6 am with one of my friends texting she was sick and wouldn’t make our breakfast date I almost rolled over and went back to sleep. Then I couldn’t find a comfortable spot in my bed and my alarm kept buzzing back from snooze singing to me, “It’s time to get up in the morning.”

I got out of bed. It was still dark out. Let me repeat. It was still DARK out. I never wake up when it’s dark out. Sorry folks, I just don’t.

I got dressed, kissed my sick husband on his feverish forehead and left the house.

As I walked to the garage I noticed a thread of bunny tracks in the snow across the driveway. A sign of life in the glistening powder that was gifted to us last night. Tiny animal prints reminding me that we share our yard with other little creatures.

I got in my car, turned on the heat, drove the twenty miles to get a delicious breakfast. Heat in my car. A beautiful thing on a frosty morning.

As I drove the sun came up, turning the sky from dark to pink to blue. Shivering trees brushed the sky, reaching up their branches into the promise of another appearance from the sun.

I never wake up early enough to see the sunrise. I should witness that beauty more.

We sat down to warm coffee with rising cream in those perfectly crafted yellow mugs  and placed our order.

And then our waitress brought us these.

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Giant.

Giant pancakes. We started laughing. I thought we ordered off the special flight menu for, you know, National Pancake Day.  The tiny pancakes. I guess I was wrong.

Beauty in abundance on my plate(s). In white flour and caramelized pears, in strawberry jam mixing with sausage, and white chocolate mixing with coconut flakes. Beauty in pools of syrup and perfectly weighted forks.

Beauty in enjoying time with friends. Beauty in feeling productive before 8 am. Beauty in frequenting local restaurants that give back to their communities.

And later, tonight as I thought about this post, I asked my friend, “Hey silly question, did you take a pic of all those pancakes this morning?”

Of course she did. It’s so great when you have friends who get you. Who snapchat their food and document culinary adventures so I can share them with you.

Today reminded me that it doesn’t take much to be delighted. Mix up your routine. Watch the sunrise. Order the pancake or two.

You can always take home the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow.

 

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Grief Cookies – A Story of Resilience

I just turned it over onto the cutting board. The banana bread, that is, as my pinky fingers flexed to hold the hot glass bread pan over the corner. It bounced out of the pan. Success. No oozing. No repeat experience like this one. I am learning to follow the instructions and actually leave the gooey batter in the oven for the full time that the recipe calls for. It usually works, if you follow the directions.

I think that’s why I like baking. You take flour – yum – sugar – double yum – and butter -yes please – and can blend them into all kinds of beautiful things. Add the essence of cocoa, a bit of fruit, chunks of chocolate and the results get even better. I can follow a recipe and mix and blend and whisk and the outcome is usually pretty tasty. Sure, sometimes an extra bit of baking soda gets in, but that just adds fluff to the cookie. Fluff, cushion, softness, chew. A beautiful thing.

I wish there was a recipe for grief.

Er no, ha, not a recipe. All that requires is loss of something big or small.

I wish there was something like a baking manual for grief. A set of instructions that tell me to do this or that and put your emotions and anger, newly complicated family relationships, and friends who don’t “get you” anymore in an oven at 350 degrees for ten minutes and ding, you’re done. You’re free from this drastic change and ready to be enjoyed.

No such thing.

This week Dylan has been sick so I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied in the evenings as he rests on the couch. On Tuesday, after watching The Crown (we have to pace ourselves people. There’s only eight more episodes in Season Two!) I wanted to bake. I went searching in my pile of Cooking Light magazines. I had a specific one in mind.  I started with the March 2016 edition. No, that couldn’t be right. The April edition would have arrived by then.

Cooking Light April 2016.

I inhaled sharply.

That magazine sat on my counter top as I cooked the last meal my dad would ever eat. Its open pages got speckled with oil as we prepared the main meal. I had tagged the corner, folding the fragile paper over as I was waiting to make the cookies after they went home for the evening. On March 17, 2016 I made these cookies and they turned out perfectly. And then, the morning of March 18, 2016, my dad died.

I ate these cookies the morning of his funeral for breakfast. I chewed absent-mindedly on the chocolate chunks and sea salt as I stared out the window from our kitchen, moving my foot against my calves as my black tights bothered my legs. Then someone told me it was time to go.

Later, in the evening, I offered the cookies to my cousins who were visiting from out of town. They reached into the jar, fingering the morsels, looking at me cautiously as they took a bite.

Weeks later I put that magazine back in the pile and ignored it. For almost two years. It took that long for me to be able to flip through the pages and find the recipe. Tuesday night I texted my mom for support, got out my white mixing bowl and I baked.

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I mixed flour and sugar and honey and butter and chocolate. I rolled the dough into tiny little balls. Smooshed salt into them with my fingers. I waited while chemistry worked its magic in the oven. And after the cookies cooled, I sat on the kitchen floor and ate one. Or two. Ok, yes, two. Then I packed up a tupperware full of them and sent them to work with Dylan.

Grief cookies.

Bummer there is no set of instructions for getting over grief. Maybe I never will. But I will continue to get back my strength, choose resilience, and bake. The gift of beautiful baked goods lightens others hearts. Extra baking soda effervesces and softens mine.

 

 

A Hope for My Middle-Aged Self

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“Spring Break!,” they squeal, in their sorority sister sounding voices. Can you hear the excitement reverberate over the sound waves as thousands of college kids head out to the beach? Spring break is upon us as schools all over the nation take a hiatus for a week in March.

No, I am no longer in college, and technically I no longer ‘qualify’ for Spring Break. However, this past weekend I had the pleasure of venturing out to the beach for a girls weekend with some of my best friends from college. Do you ever read those books about the middle-aged women who have been friends for decades and go on vacation together once a year? The characters always talk about their relationships, careers, and children over pina coladas and brush the sand from their sun-burned skin before going out for a night on the town.

This trip set the foundation for that plot to unfold in my own life. Basically, I want to be that middle-aged woman some day! It takes years to create tradition, and while none of us have children, we  can certainly get started discussing our  relationships, careers, and family in a tropical location.

This weekend, I was blessed with the reminder that true friendship means being beautifully vulnerable with people you trust. There is nothing quite like being honest and open, laughing, and admitting our struggles while sitting on the sand, staring hopefully out at the ocean. I was thrilled to have three days to reconnect, and to trust that these friendships will continue as all of us grow and change.

 

bbqToo, Texas BBQ is a beautiful thing. We don’t have anything that comes as close to the delicious, salty, savory meat that they smoke down South. I have such a respect for Texans. (Shhh, as a Colorado native, I likely shouldn’t admit to such a thing on the internet). One has to admire the amount of pride these people carry in their own hearts for their state. I may not understand all of Texas culture, but I can say, in a very Avatar way,  “I see you.” You have pride for where you come from, what you offer the country, and how you contribute. But please, stay off of our mountains if you plan on skiing in Carhartts.

As a girl who grew up in a landlocked state, I have an awe and appreciation for the ocean. I saw dried-up, little, blue jelly fish all along the shore and squealed with delight. Pelicans and seagulls made me laugh from a distance. Stepping outside of your geographic norm can bring a greater appreciation for the unique beauty that exists all across the nation.

And so we continue, back in our own towns and settle back into our routines of our lives. Snapchat and Instagram continue to keep us connected. I hope, my dear friends, that if you check back with us in sixteen years when middle-age will have approached us we may still be sharing a drink on Spring Break.

It’s Your Turn and Yes, I Love Croissants

Hey you! Yes! You!

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Do I have your attention? One of the most beautiful experiences that has come of this blog is the chance to connect with other writers, creatives, inspirational folks fully living life, who are also seeking beauty in their every day to day ordinaries. I have reached a point where I want my ideas expressed here to inspire others. I am excited to announce that I am now accepting guest submissions to be included here on my blog. If you have had a poignant example of choosing to experience the beauty in your every day life, I want to hear about it, and to share it on this space. If you are interested in being a guest contributor please email me the following to 52beautifulthings@gmail.com:

A post between 500-800 words about your experience with beautiful things

A picture of yourself and your favorite quote

Any social media connections you want to promote – Twitter, Instagram, your blog or website

If you think we may be in alignment, I can’t wait to host your beautiful encounter here.

And now on to this week’s experience with a beautiful thing…..

When I was in college, I vividly remember sitting on the back porch of my bible study leader’s house with four young women who had walked the four year journey with me. It was the week before graduation, and nothing was set in stone. One out of the five of us, one had a job lined up. One was staying in Boulder, one going to DC, and the rest of us were moving home. As the sun set over the Flatirons, our conversation wafted out into the summer night as we shared hopes and dreams, and anxieties about what was next – what wonderful adventures would fill our lives as our bank accounts quivered in fear of “self-sustainability.”

This weekend, I got to spend a full day with two of these women, and my heart was full to the brim. I was amazed to think back to that hot summer night, and to watch in awe at how God’s hand continues to direct each of us on our paths to, I don’t know, the beautiful something or someones rather, that we are meant to be. One friend is living in Manhattan using her amazing skills to sew costumes and alter the beautiful clothes of the rich and the famous. One friend is living in Denver, working her way through the advertising field, gaining skills and supporting companies as they grow and change and morph. I continue to walk my way through the non-profit field, learning new things and finding new ways to connect caring individuals to causes they feel passionate about. The whole group could not be with us in our mini reunion because one woman is in Africa doing missions work. The other in Japan with her husband in the AirForce.

I wanted to turn, as I walked with my friends in the sun, and whisper back to those anxious 22 year olds, it’s ok, you are going to continue to discover more about who you are and what makes you tick. You will continue to learn to stand up for yourself, and what you believe in, and navigate some gain and some loss. You are more beautiful now than you were then, because life and all of its roller coasters bring you more beauty if you let it.

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That’s what growth is – you can’t see it while it’s happening. When you stop to look around though, you’ve got more fruit in your hands than you’ve ever imagined. I miss my weekly encounters with those women, and long to create new community where I have been planted. If you are in your mid-twenties, raise your hand if you have been lonely in the loss of friendship as we all start to divide, to separate, to march into our own territory? I’m realizing, this week, that much like the separation from family is necessary to grow, the willingness to accept your friends coming in and out of your life is a blessing. No, I don’t see my circles of friends each week, each month, and now even as frequently as each year. I do, however, treasure the time I get to spend with those who still peek their way into my life. Thank you for shaping me, and continuing to support me as I start shaping myself.

And, let’s talk about bakeries. Nothing is better than a pastry and a coffee while you wait for brunch. NOTHING! I love me some carbs and coffee. If there are sprinkles, even better. I got to spend my Saturday morning here and the smells of sweet dough mixed with floating flour made my heart happy. Look at those pastries! SO BEAUTIFUL?

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Biscotti: None – but does this bakery count

Essie Nail Polish: got a pedicure instead

Hopes & Healing in Boxes

This time two years ago I moved out of my parents’ home for the first time. I was in a city with people I didn’t know, and spent many evenings during the week home alone, or with Dylan, reading books and wallowing in anxiety of how to even get this thing called life started. In December of 2012 I moved with anticipation and anxiety of what being an adult actually looks like – away from home, away from my friends. Towards what I wasn’t quite sure. All of my belongings could fit in the back of my SUV. One load.

In December 2013 I moved back to my hometown with a hope of a return to normal, to community, to a proper sense of grounding. This time, the move took three trips in a truck and I brought a man back with me. I was disappointed and shocked to find that while my hometown hadn’t changed too much, perhaps I had. I wasn’t the same Katie that walked those streets and halls and through the nostalgic memories. The realization that perhaps the job, or the location was not the problem, but rather was something within me took quite a bit of therapy to admit. This move gave me the opportunity to say yes to new opportunities in relationship and fully walk towards the promise and commitment of marriage. I had to come home to move forward.

Here we are in December of 2014, once again moving, with wedding gifts, and hopes, and compromises that come with having a life partner. This move required a U-haul. I’m not quite sure what will be next, but know that it is so wonderful to be moving towards things with another person at my side. Excuse the self promotion here, but I am thrilled by the healing that I have carried with me this year. Usually, the moving of my physical belongings, and the disruption of my connection to place throws me completely off my center. I know I probably wasn’t the most fun to be with over the last week – moving makes me really crabby. This time, though, the past few years experiences have made me realize I’m going to be ok. I already am ok. Perhaps I’m even grand. I’m not waking up with stomach gripping fear that literally makes me gag. I’m not losing weight from stress. I’m breathing and trusting, and healing. I’m healing. And I’m thankful.

Remember, that return to community that was so important to me in December of 2013? God has answered that prayer tenfold and I’ve found wonderful opportunities to reconnect with old friends. Friends who were traveling, friends who are in school, friends who have also found their way home, back to their roots. Friends who seek out groundedness and peace and giving and look at the world through a critical lens. Friends who come over to help move, or bring dinner to share, or tell me to wipe a tear from my eye. I am not sure where we will go as a group, as dreams take all individuals in a multitude of directions. For now, though, there is so much beauty in connection with others. Look at this motley crew of people who showed up to help us move, because they care about me and they care about Dylan and they invest in friendship. They breathe fresh hope for human connection into my heart. For all those friends not pictured here, you, too, know who you are.

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I’m ecstatic about the beauty of healing, of progress, and the opportunity to reflect about growth. You don’t know what blossoms in that painful experience of sprouting new shoots until the flower has bloomed. Have I bloomed? I’m not quite sure.

What gives you anxiety? How about affirmations of healing?