Happy New Year! I haven’t been on my computer for two weeks! My neck and my shoulders are thanking me and I’m hoping I can carry my better posture forward when I head back to work on Monday.
In the meantime, here are a few favorites as we start a new year.
1. Yoga Bolster for keeping my tight hips and shoulders more open this year
2. Wine Bottle Gnomes – Hilarious – Winter is still three months more people. Make sure your wine arrives in style.
3. Journaling supplies
It’s been almost four years since I put my stream of consciousness to paper with actual ink. My goal for this year is to return to the practice. Try these Micron pens or these ballpoint ones and pick up a Moleskine. These journals already come with page numbers!
Make a yearbook of sorts with your photos from last year and then save space on your phone by moving your pics from one storage place to the next. They always have amazing sales and great selection. A fun way to capture your memories for the year just closed.
I’m not a big Chip and Joanna fanatic, and I do like her new, lovely cookbook. So many yummy recipes and I was surprised to see many include the ever-favorite, mysterious product called Velveeta. For those in awe of their empire, or ones simply looking for new recipes to add to the mix.
They’ve been doing it for centuries. Singing in narrative verse to tell the story of the the nativity and the Christmas miracle. Wearing long red robes which morphed into vibrant red sweaters, men and women have stood on choral bleachers in front of audiences for a very long time singing songs of the coming of Christ.
Tis’ the season of the Christmas Cantata.
Raise your hand if you know what those two words mean. For those of you who aren’t attending church, never have, maybe never want to – that’s cool too. Think a carefully curated playlist of classics like Silent Night, Joy to the World, with maybe parts of Handel’s Messiah mixed in.
I have one vibrant memory of attending such a concert at the church my dad pastored. I was five or six and sat in the first few church pews, staring up in wonder at the gentleman singing in front of us. The mustard yellow upholstery scratched my little legs in their little white tights as I swung them back and forth, teetering on the edge.
I remember the glow of the candles, and the warm yellow lights bouncing off the brick walls of the sanctuary and I remember the sweaters. Bright red sweaters, probably with a crisp white collared tee underneath, were paired with khakis making middle aged men looked like Target employees. I remember sitting next to my dad and watching those sweaters move while their mustaches danced as they mouthed out melodies of all the traditional songs. I mostly remember the mustaches.
It has been years since I’ve been to a Christmas Cantata. For whatever reason, many of the newer, non-denominational churches we’ve been attending in the last decade don’t allow just any man on stage to sing.
In these bigger, more liberal establishments, musicians have to try out and prove their worth to perform with a microphone. We wouldn’t want worship led by an average engineer in khakis would we? Including ordinary folks’ talents in worship seems a lost art in the new wave of Christian religion.
This past weekend we didn’t go to a Canata, per se’, but we did go to a Christmas worship service at the local Presbyterian church. I sat in a mustard yellow church pew that surely would have scratched my legs if I was wearing white tights. Around me, the average demographics of the audience were certainly older by twenty years compared to where we sometimes worship now. On the front table were four Advent candles, three purple, one pink, one white – another tradition missing from big church stages. Above in the rafters, supported carefully in the beams, sat a most massive pipe organ waiting to be awoken by the days event. Big stained glass windows filtered the light encouraging it to dance across the stage. This was a sanctuary steeped in tradition and liturgy and it made me miss my Evangelical roots … just a teeny bit.
A tiny orchestra of ten or so men and women formed just below familiar black risers. To the left of them sat a full choir with close to thirty singers wearing floor length blue robes. Behind them, a bell choir of twelve wore plush velvet shirts and black gloves to protect the fragile tones. They were quiet – eager and ready to play and sing.
This congregation rallied over 100 talented folks to show up to share the gift of Christmas music with us. I don’t know, maybe they had to audition, but I was moved by the willingness for ordinary people to sign up and say, ‘Hey, I know how to play an instrument and I’m going to use my skill to bring some joy this season.’
Bring joy they did – an hour of beautiful music rehearsed and delivered to bring magic our way.
There is beauty in tradition, in family memories of Christmases past, and in the reverence experienced when we still our hearts enough to watch those willing to share their gifts with us. It doesn’t matter how old you are, or if you sing a little flat. Your voice carries and lifts up hearts. Your wrists make bells do magical things. And the choice to be present and not participate like the little blond boy with his arms stuffed up in his purple choir robes, refusing to sing a single word in the children’s choir – that’s beautiful too.
P.S. – There’s still time to enter the Give Light Giveaway. My friends at Colorpockit have just launched their new business and are graciously donating a set to be included in the prize pack this year. Colorpockit is the new portable adult coloring system that allows you to take your creativity wherever you go! It’s available in plastic or wood, and each Colorpockit comes with 12 dual-sided pencils giving you 24 vibrant colors, a built-in pencil sharpener, and 12 postcards to color. Fun right! You can learn more here.
I’ve always loved the musical RENT. I saw the show on Broadway on a high school trip to New York. I remember feeling slightly scandalous because my mormon and catholic friends chose to see Phantom of the Opera instead. I sat in the dark theatre and trembled in my seat as social justice soared through air. These anthems taught me about Alphabet City, rent control, AIDS, and drag queens. The lessons stirred my heart and steered me towards sociology, social work, and the importance of advocacy.
Later that year our choir practiced Seasons of Love for months. At graduation, I proudly belted out the song wearing my bright blue robe, tassels brushing my face as my head bobbed along proudly to the now familiar tune.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes – how do you measure, measure a year?
Dylan celebrated another birthday this past weekend – another five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes of his life passed. And mine too, walking along side him.
Minutes filled with tears. Minutes blowing my nose. Minutes coughing up crud.
Minutes filled laughing.
Minutes of This is Us, and Chopped, and Gilmore Girls.
Minutes drinking beer. Minutes trying to figure out how to use a wine bottle opener.
Minutes giving up.
Minutes brushing my teeth.
Minutes whispering help.
Minutes of pitting cherries, chopping onions, planting tomatoes.
Minutes on Facetime and Instagram and Facebook.
Minutes staring at a computer, fingers typing, thoughts swirling.
Minutes at work.
Minutes frustrated that the trash isn’t taken out, and the dog peed on the carpet (holy hell, yes, again) and that your career isn’t unfolding as quickly as you thought it would.
Minutes on your knees, praying, making gratitude lists, blessing food and family and appreciating a peach.
Minutes trying something new.
How about when its 4:58 pm and you look at the clock at 4:58:01 and 4:58:15 and 4:58:42 and 4:59:01. Those slow, desperate minutes – those matter too.
Time goes so quickly.
And yet, try holding your breath for a full minute.
Stopping for that long is hard!
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my minutes – all the ones we have left – and what I want to do with them. How I want to use my time to serve others and dream bigger and dip my toes into uncharted territory.
Because when you lose someone at an early age, you’re always wondering how many minutes will I have left? And what about all the minutes of people I love?
I turn 30 in 4 months. That’s 175, 200 minutes.
I’ll be filling time with:
Minutes reading books.
Minutes worrying about my husband, my mom, my brother, my grandma. They’ll sit and say like Anne Lamott – “quit getting your help all over me”
Minutes on airplanes.
Minutes at work.
Minutes frustrated at the dog, at the dishes, at cooking dinner yet again.
Minutes swapping kisses.
Minutes learning to drive stick shift.
Minutes chasing dreams.
Minutes singing karaoke.
Minutes baking bread.
Minutes with tears, I’m sure, and minutes looking for beautiful things.
This past May I was invited back to high school graduation to sing with my choir because my teacher was retiring. She’d spent over twenty five years teaching kids to sing their hearts out at graduation. While waiting in the hallway in the basement of the stadium the band director organizing the event waved his hands to get us to quiet down.
“After they sing Seasons of Love it will be your turn to file out. And yes, we still sing that god-awful song.”
I chuckled to myself, because you see, some beautiful minutes last forever.
True life confessions? Melody babysat me when I was little. She was my absolute favorite nanny and I remember when she took us to see Wizard of Oz in the movie theater. I cried the night she left us to go to Texas A & M. That was eighteen years ago. I was thrilled to reconnect with her when she moved back to Northern Colorado with her own little family this year. Boom.
There is magic in the mundane, you just need the right lens to see it. Most people, I’d hazard to guess, just see a pile of laundry that desperately needs to be folded in this photograph. Today I see the magic. I’ve been given the gifts of a husband and children: this laundry reveals I have been entrusted with the care of other’s hearts. I’ve been given a home with electricity and running water, hot water even: this laundry reveals my basic needs are provided for. I can physically perform all the tasks required to complete laundry: I’ve been given the gifts of health and strength. The laundry is never done: I’ve been given a gift that keeps on giving, as long as I have the eyes to see it.
Melody Shaddix lives in Northern Colorado. She loves Jesus, cold weather, family and friends, baking and perhaps not surprisingly, laundry.
She has also been featured on 52 Beautiful Things here.
If you are interested in giving your own light, click here to learn more about how you can enter the Give Light Giveaway. I’m accepting submissions until December 31st.
I walked to lunch today. A welcomed break in the middle of the day in one of my favorite towns. The noon hour buzzing with people, cars, sunshine streaming. It was hot, sweat glistened, and I found myself watching my shadow as I walked. Pony tail bobbing, thinking to myself, “I feel happy today.”
I’m recognizing, more and more, the return of happiness. I welcome it home.
As I turned the corner, I heard a small tinkling of ukulele music. I stopped staring at my shadow and instead looked up. A larger gentleman was sitting on a bench. Wearing ragged clothes, hikers backpack full of belongings next to him, he plucked away at the tiny instrument. A sign sat at his feet that said, “Just traveling on a prayer.” Aren’t we all?
I’ve had many a day I felt that was all that was bringing me through til night. A prayer.
I walked past and went into the sandwich shop chain. I paid eight dollars for my subpar sandwich and tucked the change in my pocket. Exit the restaurant, place sunglasses on head. Pivot back towards work.
I took a few steps and I noticed the music had stopped. I glanced down the block and saw the gentleman had placed the instrument to his side. His head was in his hands, a grubby bandana crumpling over his face, covering his eyes.
I bent down, and set a dollar into his large mug.
“Thanks for your music” I said and started to walk on by.
The gentleman picked up his head and smiled, breathing a sigh of relief.
“You are the first to donate all day. I was beginning to doubt myself. ”
“Nothing to doubt,” I said, “thanks for the gift. Your music is lovely.”
He kept talking and I wished him a good day.
The pony tail in my shadow had found a reason to bounce. I felt a new swing in my step, fueled by feelings of thanks for my gift of seeing.
I’ve been given the gift of seeing – of noticing things others prefer to ignore. It can be a pain and sometimes I want to squash what this spirit in me reveals, to dismiss the urge to lean in to those sitting and playing on street corners. Yet, my gift shows up again and again tugging my heart like an impatient child pulling on a parent’s arm. She tells me to whisper hello, and transfer feelings of hope in the form of eye contact and simple words.
Today I chose to recognize talent, made a connection, shared resources, even if small. My choice was met with acceptance and affirmation. It felt like he really needed my words.
We all want to be seen and appreciated for our talents. Plus, I love the ukulele.
I hope others spared a dollar or two for his beautiful talent.
Where can you improve in seeing others? How can you share your resources? What can you say thank you for?
How can you interact while we all travel on a prayer? Can it be beautiful if we choose to appreciate one another?
We have a family therapist. Or rather, had a family therapist. One wise gentleman that counseled my mom, my dad, my brother and me. This therapeutic closeness to each of our situations was wonderful and horrible all at the same time.
You know how you have to spend the first few sessions with a new therapist explaining your background? Tell me about your mom, your dad, your childhood trauma. Well this guy already knew – perhaps way more than I did – about my mom, my dad, and their childhood trauma. This was nice. Cut out the time-wasting backstory telling. Jump right in to my perspective of things.
This closeness also caused challenges. Like when I heard of a family’s new news from Said Therapist on a phone call, rather than the source. He assumed I already knew. I didn’t.
Said Therapist is wise and kind and has supported my family in unspoken, spiritual ways. He was the first person to call me, after my mom and Dylan, to offer kindness the day we lost Dad.
So when my dad died, who also happened to be one my therapist’s good friends, I had to stop getting counseling from Said Therapist. Grief and family closeness swarmed in on itself, collapsing one of the support systems I had previously relied on. While difficult, the choice to stop receiving therapy from this person remains to be a healthy one.
I’ve tried a few therapists since the loss and neither have clicked. And since mental health is NOT covered by my insurance I’ve taken a break from therapy. Another healthy choice because I tend to over-process myself into a tight spiral. Sometimes taking a break from counseling can be a beautiful thing.
However, Said Therapist’s wisdom continues to whisper in my ears and I am thankful for his lessons that he helped me grow into. I am thankful he taught me mindfulness, and thankfulness, and grounding exercises that help me remain in the present. Old lessons, like worn socks, which we take off and put on again, when we remember there are easier solutions to cold feet than freezing.
So today, when I got a phone call that a banking situation is going less than perfect, rather than panic I took a deep breath. I am a grown woman, I can problem solve, this, like all things, will resolve itself.
“BE THE HORIZON” Said Therapist would say.
Maybe Said Therapist never ever said that phrase to me, but it is one our family adopted. One my dad would share in texts, and my mom and I continue to repeat over and over again.
You know when you look out at the ocean, the line where the water meets the sky continues to remain steady. Yet, waves are always churning, water always moving, creatures and weather and ships interacting in patterns of chaos.
That darn horizon continues to stay true and steady and straight.
“Be the horizon.” Breath deep, remember you got this, stay the course.
Grounding exercises are beautiful and I’d like to think I’d accept reminders to take it one moment at a time with open arms. Too often, though, these reminders are in the form of tires that need replacing, and broken shingles, and bank accounts, and lost book shipments and the rearranging of schedules. Inconveniences and annoyances that remind us we are not in control.
Life is less than perfect. Perhaps these moments of perfect frustration should be seen as beautiful too.
This morning I was scrolling on Facebook, the grandest of all time wasters and anxiety provoking messages reminding me of how not-good-enough I am. I found this poem.
“It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.
It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.”
I found this poem before the day unfolded and it caught my attention.
As the day progressed, its beautiful gift seemed to sink in more.
I want to stop counting, letting go of the broken, and moving forward to embrace all the good.
I think Said Therapist would say, ‘That sounds good Katie. That sounds good.’