Growth

The Smell of Easter Lilies Makes Me Squirm

Right now, the smell of Easter Lilies makes me squirm. What once was such a welcomed fragrance turns my stomach over in memory of this time last year. I realized today, in a flood of grief-like fog, that Dad’s funeral was right at this time a year ago. No, not the actual date, but we had a hard time finding a church for the service because it was Holy Week. Churches are pretty booked in anticipation of the death of Christ. Not many openings for the death of a common man.

With Holy Week comes Easter Lilies. Beautiful flowers emitting a once-a -year scent. Those damn flowers are telling me to run the other way through grocery stores. So many people gave us beautiful lilies last year, but the timing of the gifts tainted my opinion of the blooms. I used to love those elegant flowers. This year, please keep the flowers and their symbolism away.

I wonder this if new revulsion may be similar to pregnancy – tastes and fragrances that once brought comfort are instead instantly turned into something else as we get ready to give birth to something new.

The metaphor is weak, I suppose, but I just keep thinking about how sometimes things we once loved change when you lose a loved one. And how maybe, just maybe, that process is ok. How through death I am being birthed into a new me. I am shedding skin of pre-death and even this first layer of post-death, like a snake, dropping layers and layers of unnecessary preferences. What remains is fresh skin. Raw skin that is a little bit sensitive to the light and indicators of time passing – like frickin’ seasonal Easter Lilies.

As I sat in church this weekend, I kept thinking about the comfort provided by the traditions of Holy Week. My dad was a minister when I was little and my parents used to hold huge Easter brunches in our backyard. Much of his congregation would attend. I remember matching dresses and egg hunts and little hats. I remember palms handed out on Palm Sunday and solemn trips to the Stations of the Cross – the crown of thorns, the smell of vinegar, nailing my sins scrawled on a notecard to a wooden cross. These experiences were so connected to who my dad was in his various roles at the church. They set the foundation for me to explore my own faith.

It has been eighteen years since my dad was in direct ministry, well nineteen now I suppose. As I approach another Holy Week, I find myself clinging to the memories of Dad in the church. Of his excitement as he passed out palms to the kids, the ceremonial seriousness he projected as he instructed the crowd to break bread in remembrance of Jesus. Have you noticed how on Good Friday, right around 2 or 3 pm, it always gets cloudy and dark? Dad would always point this out – the very real reminder that God still feels in his giving of his only son for us on the cross.

I also remember how last year my beautiful friend brought us a ham for Easter dinner, three short days after a funeral. I will never forget how that hunk of meat became a symbol of sustenance, hope, resurrection for our family in its newest, most raw and vulnerable form.

Thanks for hanging with me here – I’m not sure my thoughts are entirely connected. What I can say is there is beauty in the foundation of faith, in the way my father taught me to live through the history and truth of the Holy Week. Beauty in anticipating the death of Christ and the hope in his resurrection. Beauty in taking communion, in yelling “HE IS RISEN INDEED”, and in dwelling in the truth of Christ’s love for me. Beauty in remembering what brought you to this point and beauty in looking forward. Beauty in basking in the power of the cross.

Here – now you can yell it in Greek – just like Dad used to do.

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May Jesus meet you in unexpected ways this week.

Sprinkles and Grit

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I made cupcakes this weekend. Two dozen, delicious yellow cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Homemade from scratch… they were not… but you can’t fault a girl for using boxed cake mix and Pillsbury frosting in a pinch.

I like baking. The combining of ingredients, swirl of egg yolks, whipping of a fork does something for my anxiety, my overactive mind. The end result is always delightful and fun. Cupcakes deserve sprinkles on top. So after frosting the little morsels, I turned each one upside down, and dipped the frosting in a mixture of colorful sprinkles. Yellow and pink pearls graced the top of each little treat, casting a shiny glow across the glass baking pan they rested in.

I eagerly set the little cakes out for my ‘Galentine’s’ Day Party which I hosted on Saturday night. Not one gal ate them. Between a mixture of gluten intolerant and health conscious friends, all of the cupcakes sat untouched.

I had to convince these ladies’ husbands to eat the cakes when they came to pick up their wives. Both my husband and another guy took a bite of the pearly cake and said, “Those little balls on top are too crunchy. These things are hurting my teeth.”

The pretty decor was literally causing discomfort when being ingested.

I wasn’t offended at the lack of consumption; more cake for me and my co-workers at work this week. However, I was just struck by the fact that although the sprinkles were displayed beautifully, no one cared to take a bite.

Rewind just a little further and stop on Saturday morning. The sun was shining and it was in the 60s as I sat a local coffee shop and shared a warm drink with one of my oldest friends with whom I’ve recently reconnected. Think kindergarten (OK WHO KNEW KINDERGARTEN WAS SPELLED WITH A T?) old, we shared lots of time together giggling and dreaming about boys and our futures. Years after high school and college drew us apart. She lived in New York. I stayed here. Both of us lost our fathers along the way.

And as I sat there, with a warm feeling only old friends can create in your heart, this beautiful woman said to me, “Our experiences have given us grit that other’s don’t yet know how to relate to. We can sink into that grit, and let it move us forward. Even when moving forward feels like crawling, and the grit and persistence feels more like sand that is digging into our knees.”

If someone asked me if I wanted sand on my cupcake, I would immediately say no. Glimmering sugar is much more preferred.

But in life, it can be easy to pass on the sprinkles. We are drawn into the beauty and then push aside the glimmer as shiny little orbs that kinda hurt.

Grit, true grit, shapes us into who we are meant to be, giving strength in the most unexpected of places. This abrasive sand is fairly unavoidable.  And those who remind us to keep crawling just are so beautiful.

So here it is this week. The list of beauty: cake, friends, Galentine’s Day, husbands who whine at your baking, the reminder to keep crawling, saying thank you to the painful experiences that give you grit, persistence, and blessed cream cheese frosting.

 

 

P.S. Don’t forget – I want to hear about your Valentine’s Day expressions of love. Don’t forget about the “Where Your Heart is Challenge.” Write a love note or a poem. Send me an email about it. I’ll post it here.

Giving Light – Vanessa A.

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Small Bio: Vanessa A.- a 30-something wife and mom of 2 wild and crazy boys. I consider myself an imperfectly kind and honest person in pursuit of health, happiness, simplicity and meaningful relationships. Feel free to reach out on Facebook or email.
I’m honored to take part in giving light and sharing beauty today. As I reflect on the five beautiful things listed below, I’m incredibly grateful 🙂
1. Growth and Self-Discovery
I learned a while ago that I cannot control people or change them or force them to do things, despite my desire to intervene and be “helpful”. Thankfully, I have had the pleasure of observing others grow and come to their own realizations about life and happiness. Lately, I see this growth in those who are closest to me:

– My husband Matt has finally found his groove with consistent exercise. Despite my own, very inspirational (😉😉) health and fitness pursuits over the years, Matt found his niche on his own and he is happier, healthier, and less stressed. It’s a beautiful thing.

– My oldest son Grady is discovering how to be driven and focused through a cool game/task app called Habitica. In fact, the whole family has enjoyed tackling tasks through this app by earning pets and armor and destroying “basi-lists” and other monsters.

– My youngest son Drew is growing his expressions of helpfulness, generosity and empathy. These things come naturally for him but as we have embarked on our annual kindness calendar, he has been able to let loose and really enjoy his giving spirit.

2. Christmas Decorations

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…
Growing up, I really didn’t have Christmas traditions with my family. Now that I have a family of my own, we have developed our holiday rituals and routines, and one of my favorite things to do is enjoy Christmas decor all December long.
…But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be… on your own front door.

3. Meditating

I have intended to implement a meditation practice for years but have had a hard time remaining disciplined. Well, it turns out that finding a helpful app gave me the extra boost I needed. I tried out Headspace and landed on Stop, Breathe, Think . Since I began using Stop, Breathe, Think a couple months ago I have meditated for over 3 1/2 hours total (most of the time it’s around 5 minutes per day). There are a lot of great features including finding the right guided meditation for your current physical/mental state. I’m grateful to see my desire for a grounding meditation practice finally come to fruition!

4. Feeling Better

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My dietitian/nutritionist friend Esther invited me to participate in a 16 week program to replace sugar and fast carbs with more healthful foods. I have been struggling to tackle my chronic migraines since age 17 so I figured this program was worth a try. Right out of the gate I learned some key things that have helped me succeed in limiting added sugars, approaching food in a new way, and in turn reducing my headaches and migraines significantly. Not only do I have fewer headaches, I have more energy and feel a whole heck of a lot better overall. Feeling better for the win!!!

5. Life is imperfect, a sense of humor is required

I often try to catch the occasional beautiful moments that happen between my children so I can post them on Facebook for everyone to see my perfect life. Obviously, I don’t intend to display only the good side, but sometimes I don’t even realize I’m doing it, perhaps it’s easier than baring the raw, honest self. Rest assured, me nor my life are perfect.
In this short 20 second video, I attempted to capture what I saw as a beautifully perfect moment only to have an imperfect funny surprise.
(tip: turn up your volume to view)
Thank for coming along for the ride as I shared my small pieces of beauty for today.
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.

Brave

Have you ever heard the advice, or the rather judgement deflecting phrase “You do you”?

I have a friend who says it often when she doesn’t exactly understand another’s choices, or on the opposite side of the spectrum when she is encouraging me to stand in my truth and be brave enough to live my own life.

Example: Wearing a dress that is too short for my taste but happens to look fabulous on my friend.  “You do you.”

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Example: I love seeing my parents twice a week even though I’m a grown woman.  “You do you.”

The concept is similar to Amy Poehler’s phrase, “Good for her, not for me.” Constantly pulled in a thousand directions, it can be challenging to remember that all we can do on this planet is capture “you.” You being me… you are following this right?

But what happens when “you do you” results in the fear of isolation and loneliness? I know that at times I don’t like to make decisions that are going to benefit myself for fear of disappointing others. Personal growth and embracing new opportunities gets thwarted because I much too often let others define how I am going to “do me”. Oh heavens, you don’t want to tag that phrase in a blog post. But do you know what I mean?

Let me try to explain. I’m starting a new job in a couple of weeks and am excited about the opportunity to go in a new direction with new prospects and responsibility. I had stomach aches giving notice at my current position when I knew that my leaving would disrupt the flow of things in my current situation. When I gave my news I was met with the most gracious response a boss could provide and support and good luck for my next step.

I am scared about what leaving behind a group of people I have grown to know over the last year will mean. Relationships are hard enough for me to maintain; what happens when I am the one changing course?

And yet, this is something that if I’m being honest with myself, I want. Me being authentically true means learning to live in the wake of the discomfort I am causing others and saying ‘we are all going to be ok’. I think women all over the country struggle with this. The idea of taking care of ourselves goes beyond getting a manicure or taking a nap. I’m learning it is also being beautifully brave in taking the next steps that are going to help me continue to grow. To “Lean In” as Sheryl Sandberg would say, or to embrace all that God has given us so we can develop into who we are meant to be.

In a recent post on Brene Brown’s Facebook page she was encouraging individuals to set healthy boundaries around the holiday season and her quote, “Be willing to choose discomfort over resentment” struck a serious chord in me. How often do we stay quiet, go with the flow, remain comfortable for fear of what others with think, or say, or do and then get angry. Angry at ourselves, angry at our situation, angry at others.

I’m noticing this pattern in myself and I’m wanting to put an end to it. No more anger for allowing myself to put me on the back burner while others glow boldly in the front. Instead, here is what I hope for in the year ahead as I continue to be me.

  • Growth – being ok with being uncomfortable
  • Keeping up this blog. Will you continue to read along? I’m going to write anyway.
  • Camp – the mountains are calling and I must go
  • Find a small group – I’m craving community and want a group of people to walk through life with. I don’t care your religion – let’s find a chance to connect and discuss all that is life over chicken noodle soup.
  • Start a retirement account – financial goals are becoming a reality
  • Continue to read. This year I think I’ve reached 43 books. Next year maybe more.

Being beautifully brave is a conscious choice that requires energy and discipline and self- care. I’m not feeling incredibly brave tonight, so write this as an ode to myself knowing I’ve got what it takes within me to continue to boldly step into the next stages, paying attention to what I need.

What helps you feel beautifully brave as “You do you”?

Essie Nail Polish: Jump in my Jumpsuit

Biscotti: None – but heavens have I eaten enough Christmas Cookies to last me until next year. I did make my dad this Shortbread Recipe

 

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

Plants, Pelicans & Lilac Rebels

When you plant seeds in the ground, you have two choices. The first is to tuck those little nuggets of potential growth into their dusty beds of soil, water, and wait. You trust that your nourishment and cultivation and light are going to yield something fantastic. It may take three weeks, or three months, but you are confident that what is shown on the cover of that seed packet is going to rise through its gritty foundation and end up delighting your senses.

The second choice, if you are untrusting, and unsure, is to continually check on the plant. You dig and look for roots, and pick out the bugs, and move its location to a seemingly better windowsill that serves the plant much better than its first location. All of this unsettling, likely, results not in growth, but in death. You can not rip up a plants roots and examine its everyday progress, or you will kill it. This is like life too. We have to trust that the good iterations and progress and unseen, measurable day to day growth will pull us into some pretty fantastic fruit if we can wait long enough to see things grow. It may take weeks, it may take months, but our efforts will produce something good.

I had this concept shared with me this week in my monthly Dining for Women group. What a refreshing reminder of optimism. I love this group of ladies that ranges in age from, well, me, to women old enough to be my grandmother. We share food, laughter, questions and support the great work that women are doing all over the world. These greetings continue to bring unexpected beauty and a sense of grounding to the world. The previous analogy got me thinking, where am I ripping up the roots and getting frustrated because it just isn’t happening fast enough. Whatever “it” may be. I do this to myself often. Not trusting that where I have been planted for now may yield some fantastic results. I cherished the reminder to trust the process and was thankful for the metaphor that connects us to the earth.

This week I feel like the haze of winter has fully lifted and beautiful gifts of spring continue to grace me with their presence. On Wednesday night, as Dylan and I were eating dinner, he was looking out the window and he loudly exclaimed, “is that a paddle boat with three heads on the water?” We rushed to the window, and looked closer at the lake. No, not a paddle boat, but rather, three, enormous pelicans were bobbing along. There is a pelican rescue about 15 miles away, so perhaps this little family of birds were out for an evening stroll, or swim, or glide. We watched these birds for a long time, until they gracefully floated out of view. Never have I experienced something like that, so close to my own beautiful backyard.

Also in the backyard, and all around the neighborhood, the lilac bushes are blooming. Last year, about this time, one of my co-workers brought in an amazing mason jar full of the blossoms to our office. When I asked her where she found them, she said she just snipped a few from the bushes on the way in to work. “What?”, my little rule following self exclaimed, “you can do that without pissing people off?” She didn’t care how she got them, just that they were in the office. Well, my friend, you inspired me, and this weekend, I snuck into the backyard and cut a few blossoms off of our elderly neighbors abundantly flowering lilac bushes. I stuck the flowers in a wine glass, and put them on my nightstand next to my bed. The smell is heavenly and I like looking at the delicate orbs as I rise. I smile to myself because in the grand scheme of things, this is hardly a rebellious move. However, it went against my rule following comfort zone and brings me immense delight.

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I received a comment on my blog last week that was along the lines that life is about the simple things that we should bask in every chance we get. Another beautiful basking was the combination of ginger beer, vodka, and lime juice in a bright copper mug. Freeze the mug before you transfer the concoction to your drink holder , and muddle some lime, and a Moscow Mule is something delightful to appreciate on a Friday night. I don’t follow a special recipe, but I do have loyalty to certain kinds of ginger beer. This combination is a mouth watering treat. Treats are good and copper mugs are fabulously fun to hold and toast.

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This weekend was the most calm and relaxing I have had in awhile. Dylan was in a wedding, and I spent the rainy days reading at my in-laws while he was off fulfilling his groomsman duties. It is amazing how when you let yourself rest, things come catching up to you like a rushing river. Emotional reminders to process, to breathe, to grieve, to be grateful, to soak in the gloomy weather with a content heart. Going to a wedding after participating in my own wedding was such a fulfilling experience. Never before have I felt so confident in my choice I made to walk through life with another human being, as I was when watching my cousin-in-law take his vows. Weddings are powerful, love is tangible, life is meant to be shared and I was thankful.

What can you toast to this week?

Biscotti: Thinking about making some with almond M&Ms – haven’t gotten there yet

Essie: Hands – Limo Scene – unfortunately this one just blended in to my skin tone – fleshy looking nails

Toes – Size Matters ( my mom gave me a pedicure this week when we had girls night. Have I mentioned I love my mom?)