Halloween

What’s Next?

The remnants of my French manicure I paid for before we left for our trip is still on two of my fingernails. The pinky and ring finger of my left hand have off-white reminders of my time abroad.

I refuse to pick off the polish because when all the gel is gone, so means our trip is also finished. Never mind we’ve been back in the States for a full three weeks.

Like the stubborn remnants of faded glamour on my fingertips, I’ve been resistant to let go and settle back in to our routine. Much of this year was focused on dreaming, planning and executing our trip.

Coming home, returning to work, accepting the quiet reminders of things now behind us have been a bit disappointing.  What will be next? – is the question nagging at me now.

Next?

Next can look like elections, applications, piles of dead things turning to detritus.

Next could look like holiday planning and juggling schedules and muddled opinions and the huge ache of missing people no longer at the table.

Next might look like playing family diplomat (h/t Anne Lamott for that phrase) and navigating intense emotion and breezes of grief.

Next feels unsure, uncharted, unmarked.

I just finished reading Anne Lamott’s newest book, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope

Her short essays on the important things in life feel like someone rubbing my back when I’m sad. A mix of there-there with a “I see you … these things you think and feel are not, in fact, crazy.” I love her writing and outlook on life.

Lamott doesn’t put her head in the sand and pretend it isn’t bad out there. Nor does she refuse to participate in the mysterious wonder this world offers. Beauty, majesty, and magic are always available when we slow down to look.

Her next? She’s getting married. And encouraging all of us, to lift up our chin as we swim in the churning uncertainty of national dread.  It’s so easy to tip into dread.

When we boarded the plane at Heathrow, settling in for the nine hour flight home, Dylan turned to me and said, “I don’t want to go home because we don’t know what’s next.”

I responded, “but what if what’s next is better than what is. We never know what’s coming round the corner.”

I’m choosing to believe what’s coming round the corner might just be beautiful too. This act of believing is much harder than anticipating disaster and doom.

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Photo by Karol Smoczynski on Unsplash

It’s risky to dream and hope – we could have our hearts broken yet again.

My friend from high school is often repeating to me, “Our biggest problem when we envision the future is we never view God in it.”  Easier to believe we are all alone in the unknown future – surely God stays behind in our past, forcing us to doggy-paddle ahead with our heads just-above water.

Hearts break. In big, shocking, crackling ways.

Lightning strikes, politicians hate, cars crash, organs fail, people hurt.

People hurt so stinkin’ much.

And yet, the bravest thing we can do, is believe something beautiful is coming next. God is here, now, with us. And God will be with us down the road too. This truth gives me hope.

While I’ve been wallowing about Europe and upcoming elections and political ads, creamy soup bubbled on the stove, water splashed in the lap pool, and my brother sat next to me at breakfast. Sheets were washed with clean water and soap. Marigolds welcomed back spirits on the Day of the Dead. Dogs gave me kisses and people did too. Folks filled out their ballots and made plans to get to the polls.

On Halloween, I answered the door at 8:45 pm. A small Batman stood at the stoop quietly saying, ‘trick or treat.’ When I offered him all of the candy left in our bowl, he politely declined.

HE DECLINED.

He turned down a bowl full of treats and kept on walking down the street.

Perhaps, he was waiting instead, to see what beautiful treats waited at the house next door.

 

 

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November 2018 – Favorite Things

We’ve raked leaves the past few weekends and we have two feet of the little guys crunching down into our garden bed for winter. My hands have blisters, we’ve taken trips to Lowes, and our new leaf blower is getting a work out. I fear I will have to rake again this weekend. Halloween is over and Starbucks releases their infamous Red Cups tomorrow.  Notice how I mark the passing of time with Starbucks beverages? Apparently, I’m not the only one as I came across this countdown yesterday.

I feel ready to think about the holidays, perhaps earlier than my usual self, and am starting to dream of snow, hot cocoa, and seasonal things. I usually wait until Thanksgiving to indulge in festivities, but this year feels different.

As we wait for December, here are some favorite things that are taking up space in my heart and my closet.

  1. Jag Jeans

When I first saw these pull-on jeans I started laughing. On the rack, they look like maternity pants. However, after a friends recommendation, I tried some on and on me, a person, they became the most comfortable pants I now own. So take them off the hanger, or just take my word for it, and buy a pair of black, comfort jeans in your size.

2. Pink Lipstick

I bought some frosty pink lipstick for my Halloween costume – Samantha from Sixteen Candles – and I actually kinda like it. The 80’s are coming back right? Can I wear it to work?

3. Hot Apple Cider with Brandy in it.

As the nights get colder, it’s nice to sit and sip by the fire. If you want to get fancy you can add spices, like this recipe here, but honestly I just mix the two simple ingredients. Serve in mugs like this.

4.  We were GIFTED a dishwasher.

Sometimes God answers prayers in mysterious ways. I have been praying to see God’s provision in my life because most of the time I have a hard time trusting it’s going to come. And then, boooooom, we were gifted a brand new (ok, two year old, but still) dishwasher.

God is present, listening, comforting, active, joy.

I had a conversation with a friend who told me, “God always comes in joy and peace.” Not shame, not fear, not feelings of inadequacy. Joy. and. Peace.

And dishwashers.

5. This blurb someone posted on Facebook.

I always fall asleep during Lord of the Rings, but this metaphor makes sense to me. I dream of turning into Pippin and Merry.

“My mother once told me that trauma is like Lord of the Rings. You go through this crazy, life-altering thing that almost kills you (like say having to drop the one ring into Mount Doom), and that thing by definition cannot possibly be understood by someone who hasn’t gone through it. They can sympathize sure, but they’ll never really know, and more than likely they’ll expect you to move on from the thing fairly quickly. And they can’t be blamed, people are just like that, but that’s not how it works.

Some lucky people are like Sam. They can go straight home, get married, have a whole bunch of curly headed Hobbit babies and pick up their gardening right where they left off, content to forget the whole thing and live out their days in peace. Lots of people however, are like Frodo, and they don’t come home the same person they were when they left, and everything is more horrible and more hard then it ever was before. The old wounds sting and the ghost of the weight of the one ring still weighs heavy on their minds, and they don’t fit in at home anymore, so they get on boats go sailing away to the Undying West to look for the sort of peace that can only come from within. Frodos can’t cope, and most of us are Frodos when we start out.

But if we move past the urge to hide or lash out, my mother always told me, we can become Pippin and Merry. They never ignored what had happened to them, but they were malleable and receptive to change. They became civic leaders and great storytellers; they we able to turn all that fear and anger and grief into narratives that others could delight in and learn from, and they used the skills they had learned in battle to protect their homeland. They were fortified by what had happened to them, they wore it like armor and used it to their advantage.

It is our trauma that turns us into guardians, my mother told me, it is suffering that strengthens our skin and softens our hearts, and if we learn to live with the ghosts of what had been done to us, we just may be able to save others from the same fate.”

S.T. Gibson

In an effort to turn my grief into narrative, or at least take away the stigma, I’ve joined The Dinner Party to raise money for their end of year campaign. Can you help me reach my goal of $500 to support grief groups for 20-30 somethings who have experienced loss? People like me?

All funds raised go towards their goal of $75,000 to match hundreds of folks to tables across the country as well as awareness events and public campaigns.

Donate here and spread the word.

 

A Quick Little Ditty

In the corner of the martini bar I sat with them on cushy benches. Old friends from college who were celebrating their 10 (!) years together.  Wouldn’t let them leave until they gave me their list of ten beautiful things. We sipped, we shared conversation, and we sat in the blissful, comforting feeling only decades old friendship provides.

Thank you to the following contributors for a)being my friend and b) playing my game.

#342 I like my job
#343 my great girlfriend
#344 my truck is so cheap
#345 Aspen trees
#346 cute dogs
#347 opportunities for education
#350 fresh vegetables
#351 when you make a chard smoothie you can’t taste the chard
#352 I only have to drive through two stop lights on my way to work
#353 Tegan has good taste in clothes
#354 I’m reading good books. Man, Americanah is good

#342 – #354 Contributed by Nathan Savig

#355 Luna – my dog for those who don’t know
#356 Luna’s firecracker eyebrows
#357 Tess
#358 Friends new and old
#359 Fall Colors
#360 Hot showers
#361 Biking to work
#362 Mugs’ Big White Whale drink
#364 French fries at the Crown Pub
#365 Rootbeer milk

#355 – #365 Contributed by Corey Woodruff

#366 fall leaves
#367 the dog being excited when you get home
#368 roommates
#369 biking
#370 mowing your grass
#371 eating cheap, delicious, greasy pizza
#372 picking out Halloween costumes
#373 the promise of trick-or-treaters
#374 Neon Signs
#375 the smell of rain
#376 the sound of rain
#377 the feel of flannel sheets
#378 baking bread
#379 and Halloween costumes …. did I mention that?

#366 – #379 Contributed by Tess Stoops


They added to the list and you can too. When you’re ready, send me a list of 5 – 10 things going right in your world right now and I’ll share here.  More information on submission guidelines can be found here.

Belly Laughs

There is a beautiful store in my town. You walk in off of a busy downtown street and are immediately embraced by cool colored walls, stones that soothe, wood floors that ground you in their space. The fabrics are soft, and delicate, and swish when you touch them on the hangers. I walk slowly, touching items, holding, grasping, smelling. Pillows and candles and furnishings delight the senses. I can not afford much of anything in that store, but I can walk in the doorway and be instantly calmed into the state of blissful desire for nice things. Someday, maybe, I will be able to stomach the cost of fine, fine, furnishings, but for now, Rain Boutique, you give me such joy in just browsing.

I found this little bag there this weekend, and took a picture, because I want the words to be my mission in life. My targeted goal of re-grounding and purpose. I can’t buy the bag, but I can adopt the mantra. Like I’ve said before, there’s a lot of bad out there, but if you look, there’s sure a lot of beauty, too.

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What a responsibility though, isn’t it? To look for the beautiful things? I find myself getting caught up in the nags and annoyances and pulls in direction of every day life. I vent about my co-workers, my car, my missing socks. The list could go on and on if we let it, and frankly, I think many people default to nag mode. Myself included. So Elise, I see your words and accept them as a challenge. Bring on the beautiful, bring on the life.

This past week, as you all know, included Halloween. Historically, not my favorite holiday. It feels like a lot of effort to commit to something that pushes me out of my comfort zone and into a world of monsters and masks. Seriously, I hate masks. Nice ones, friendly ones, gorillas, or the angel of death, they all FREAK ME OUT. So, no thanks to going to bars or parades, or out in public with those unidentified people. This year, though, my friend had a Harry Potter party. Nerds unite! I’m in my mid twenties, but that wizard still speaks to my heart. I committed to the costume, Dylan did too, and we set out to Denver to be with some of my dearest friends. Dress up we did.

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Maybe it was one of things where you had to be in on an inside joke, but when I saw my friend’s efforts and magical characters my heart was warmed. My friend wore stilts and size 52×32 pants to pull off the best Hagrid I have ever seen. We drank poly juice potion and butter beer, and we laughed. We ate nasty flavored jelly beans and laughed. I haven’t laughed that hard in a really long time. Out in public people thought we were odd, and in the local Dicks Sporting Goods, the staff were not amused at our request for Quaffles or Quidditch supplies. It didn’t matter, we were amused. And when we loaded Hagrid into a bed of a truck to go out, I thought I was going to pee my pants.

You are probably reading this and not getting it, and that’s ok. I got it and it made me laugh. Laughter brings joy and that is beautiful. Being myself amongst friends is beautiful. Belly laughs are beautiful. I need to laugh more, to focus on the good, to remember that it is a mission and a choice to laugh or to nag, to dress up or opt out, to engage or be fearful.

In an effort to make you laugh here is a WAY off topic YouTube Video that makes me laugh. Well actually, here are a few. One is a parody of something I think I self consciously struggle with. The other is just hilarious. See if you can figure out which is which, and maybe that will make you laugh too.

Do you allow yourself to laugh? What happens when you default into nag mode?