Hope

2018 Give Light Giveaway

It’s Back!

The 2018 Give Light Giveaway starts today and runs through December 31st.

“Give Light and People Will Find the Way” – Ella Baker

As you know, I believe hope floats on whispers and healing can be found in the pursuit of beautiful things. Join me this season to share hope, love, and light. This year’s theme is a bit different, so read the submission guidelines on how to play. 

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Give Light Giveaway Submission Guidelines

  1. Answer the question – What gives you hope? 
    I love creative answers and want to make this as easy to enter as possible. You can write one or two sentences, make a list, or snap a photo. Sing a song, send a video, draw a picture.
    We live in challenging times and I simply want to know What gives you hope in this messy, beautiful world?
  2. Let me know how you’d like to be recognized. Please tell me your name and how I can best contact you. Optional – include a photo of you, your website, and/or social media handles.
  3. Ways to enter:
    – Send me your entry via email at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com
    Send a tweet to @52beautiful with your answer and the hashtag #givelightgiveaway
    Send me a story with your answer on Instagram (@52beautifulthings) with the hashtag #givelightgiveaway
  4. I’ll share your responses periodically over the next few weeks. Email me if you have any questions.

This year, I’m really excited because two artists, Lynne Schwebach and Laura Romberger have joined me and will be donating their artwork as part of the prize pack for the winning ‘giver of light’.

On December 31st, I will put all the names in a hat, and draw one winner who will later be contacted. You need not live in Colorado to win. Winners must respond to notification within two days or I will draw another name.

**Please keep content appropriate – I reserve the right to refuse to post if I feel content is offensive or could cause harm to others. By submitting your materials, you give me permission to share your responses on this blog and on social media. I appreciate when you share your contributions with your networks, but this is not required.

 

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They Changed His Whole Night

From the busy highway, a long line of vehicles keeps turning left into the crowded parking lot. Every day of the week headlights beckon us in to come, sit, and eat pizza. Massive, Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Have you tried Oreganos? When I noticed the Arizona pizza chain was opening here, I was skeptical. For mysterious reasons, whatever joint went in the vacant restaurant on the busy corner seemed to fizzle and fade away. I’m pretty sure the last restaurant in that space mysteriously caught fire. Nothing seems to stick.

Now freshly opened, the cars keep turning and the parking lot is always full.
We had to know what we were missing.

We’ve been twice now and we’re hooked. Delicious cheese, buttery crust, drinks the size of your face – diners beware – they serve family style meals and when Dylan and I went just the two of us we came home with leftovers for twenty.

So there we were, Friday night, joining the stream of eager eaters. We put our name on the list and we waited. And waited. And waited.

Across the room, perched on a black barstool, was an older gentleman. Wearing a suit, worn leather shoes, red suspenders and a dusty grey Fedora. His aged hands sat folded in his lap, and another couple my age were chatting with him quietly, shoulders leaning in to cut the noise around them.

Many moments past. The waitress called the woman’s name, and the couple stood and said their good-byes to the man as they were led to their table.

And then, moment’s later, the woman my age was back.

“Would you like to eat with us?” she asked the older gentleman leaning gently towards his ear.

I don’t know what he said, but his face magically morphed.Have you seen faces change when loneliness turns to light?

The waiter walked their new guest to the table and he placed his hat on the coat rack near the booth before taking a seat.

I only watched the last few minutes of the exchange. I don’t know why that man was there by himself, dressed up fancy on a Friday night. I do know his eyes looked sad and the invitation from another added just a tiny bit of sparkle.

I started tearing up standing in the foyer.

“You gonna be alright?” Dylan asked, gently poking my side.

“Mmhmm” I nodded with my hand covering my mouth.

As we waited, fires burned, politicians scrambled, hearts broke. Fear and uncertainty abound. But in the busy Italian restaurant, one brave woman asked a simple question and connections were formed. One beautiful gesture.

Those people asked a stranger to eat with them and it changed his whole night. Seeing people need not be difficult.

I hope they had a delightful dinner.

 

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.

 

 

My phone did a bad thing.

My phone did a bad thing.

The past few days my Apple device has been acting up when I text. The little micro machine always telling me my storage is full, and I don’t have the space capacity needed for the new iOS update. As a result, I can’t log into my bank app and my camera shuts down frequently.

First world problems. Yes.

I take too many pictures on my micro machine. This micro machine is also a time machine. On it lives very important memories.

Treasured ones. His voice. His pictures. His words. Dad’s.

I carry pieces of who he was in my phone which means he’s always in my purse, on my desk, on my bedside table.

This morning, to remedy the odd text message problem, I pressed the center button and the other one – you know the small one on the right. The combination of my pressing prompted a computer reset.

I needed my micro machine working properly – ready to respond to my every communication demand.

I used my fingerprint touch id (the future is now) to log back in after the reset and I promptly received three texts in the correct order. I scanned my family’s messages and set my phone down. Fixed.

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Wait, something’s not right.

All of my previous message conversations ……… gone. The ones from when we got engaged, group celebrations, and family archives. Missing in the line up.

Also missing are two text threads I had with Dad. One, a joking joint conversation with my brother – the three of us discussing mac and cheese options for brother’s birthday dinner. The other, a long standing thread of individual texts with Dad.

Our conversations. Stopped abruptly by his stupid early departure from this planet.

And today, when I reset my phone, the conversation went missing.

“Shit, shit, shit,” I said to myself as I started to panic at my desk. Around me, my co-workers reviewed reports and I was supposed to be doing data entry.  My eyes started watering.

I muttered some other choice words and quickly texted Dylan asking what I could do to back up my phone.

“Google it, ” he said.

Everyone’s damn answer is Google it. 

I don’t think I backed up my phone and I’ll have to log on to explore iCloud and text recovery and all these IT language things I’m not sure I understand.

What I do get, however, is that sometimes life rudely takes things away from you before you were ready. 

Another thing Dylan suggested was to try to send a text to the number and see if it would bring up the thread. That number has been out of service for over a year and a half. Is it more painful to text a number he certainly won’t answer, or to risk never seeing that thread again?

Although memorized, Dad’s personal contact with office, home and cell numbers still lives in my phone. I couldn’t delete it because our jokes and check-ins still sat in my messages. Sometime, I said, I’d write them all down. I was waiting for when I was ready.

I bravely deleted Dad from my favorites in my phone about nine months ago. I made a choice to take that step. We already let go of his ashes, some of his clothes, his crap in the garage and in the storage room we affectionately called his “study”. I could let go of him being a favorite caller in my phone.

I wasn’t ready to let go of those texts. Shit.

This morning, before the dreaded reset, I logged on to Facebook and saw that a friend from high school just lost her friend to brain cancer. Age 30. This woman was taken too soon. Cancer took her before my friend was ready. Before any of her family, or friends, or co-workers were ready. I don’t know this woman, and I rarely talk to this high school acquaintance but I got goosebumps this morning – for that family, that beautiful woman, the husband now widowed at my age. Tears for what was taken abruptly from them.

Everywhere we look things are getting taken from us.

But.

But.

Every single day things are given to us too.

 This weekend I threw a baby shower for a friend I’ve known for fifteen years. It’s miraculous to watch your friends prepare for parenthood. To bless them with onesies and diapers and things that suck snot out of their children’s noses. Yup, that’s a thing.

Investing in dear friends as they go big through transitions is a beautiful gift.

Tulips are popping up through the cold ground without direction – loved into being by instinct and sunshine that God provides.

The weather is warming and trees are blooming. The promise of spring lingers.

More texts do come in on my phone, though none from him.

So, tonight, I’ll try to find those texts and trust God that maybe He knew I don’t need to be carrying that weight around in my purse, on my desk, or my bedside table.

Open some storage space. Ouch.

Let new, beautiful things – photos, voices, and words – flood in.

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Art by Gracelaced

 

 

Update – later this evening, thanks to that same, frustrating IT, I was able to locate the conversations I was looking for. All praise to the Cloud. The Jesus one and Apple too.

Roll With It

Tonight, I walked in the door to snow covering my living room floor.

Flakes the size of paper towels mixed with fibers of carpet.

Wait. No. Not snow. Just paper towels. Shredded. All over two stories of my house.

This has happened before, as once Dylan and I forgot to pick up the paper towel roll from the floor that we use to clean up after our damn dog.

She did it again.

Snow. Covering the whole living room.

In that moment, as in most, I had two choices.

  1. Get mad and yell at the dog.
  2. Roll with it.

I chose to roll with it. I stuck her outside and headed up stairs, unloaded my stuff, sat and stared at the mess. I called a friend, she didn’t answer so I left a voicemail instead.

And then I opened up my inbox to attend to an exiting offer I’ve been procrastinating on because I’m scared. Called that phone number, left another message.

Then I went to my kitchen, got a huge garbage sack, and picked up all the snow… er, paper towels. Shreds.

People keep offering advice on how to combat our dog’s anxiety. Doggy day-care, Rover, CBD treats, take her to work. I’ve got a reason most of those won’t work. What do I do instead? I roll with it.

Somethings don’t need immediate fixing.

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I haven’t been writing much here because I’ve been processing in my head. Two weekends ago, I lived through another anniversary of Dad’s death. I wonder if it will be like this every year – waking and wondering who will text me that day. Some folks I thought for sure would speak up stayed quiet. Odd how such a significant day can go unmarked for so many people I know who lost him too.

Other surprising me people asked if we have traditions to mark the day? No traditions yet, we’re only on year two. I think it takes at least three years of doing something to make it a tradition. They knew I was dreading that day.

The 18th.

Ugh.

I woke on Sunday, March 18th and Psalm 118:24 came into my head.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
    let us rejoice and be glad in it.

It was not March 18, 2016. That day sucked. It was now March 18, 2018. This day did not have to suck. I wondered how to go about marking the day, honoring Dad, and living in the present.

I had choices.

  1. Sit, grieve, feel sad and somber.
  2. Get outside, live, do things in remembrance of him. Roll with it.

Honestly, I did a little bit of both.

Without a plan, and a little less pain than the previous year, I didn’t have an agenda when I woke up. I wanted to feel good and alive. I needed to feel like I was rolling with the huge, sucker-stomach punch that I was faced with when Dad left this world.

I sat and felt sad for an hour. I wrote him a letter with tears streaming down my face. I drank my coffee and I felt his absence and smiled when a friend sent me flowers. Again. Then I got up and we left the house.

I made Dylan go to Dunkin’ Donuts with me and we bought three. One for me, one for him, one for Dad. We went to a park nearby – the one where Dad taught me to ice-skate, and we played trolls, and the one he could see from his office window in the last few years of his life.

I sat on a bench eating my chocolate glazed with sprinkles, hoping for a break in the crowds. Dylan poked me in the side, whispering, “Go!” and I scurried under the branches, donut in hand.

I left an Old-Fashioned cake tucked in the mouth of that alligator statue, where Dad would have looked when he usually walked by.

I hate vandalism and public littering and breaking all rules. I felt like the branch I hit my head on when running back to Dylan was a bit of karma. I felt good and I smiled. Dad would love this. He’d laugh. And he’d probably say, “Well that was a waste of a perfectly good donut.”

We went to dinner later that night, at the house I grew up in. My grief-molded family moved in our new forms and made big ol’ bacon burgers and beans. We sat at this old table and chewed sacredly, quietly without him.

We laughed and were proud of our choices that led us to this second year date.

A constant, patience testing, grace-filled, beautiful choice. To roll with it.

 

Katie’s Felt Board

I asked on Instagram on January 29th:

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Look what I got! Collecting beautiful quotes, clean jokes, and positive musings to put a smile faces. Send me a suggestion. I’ll share it on my board. 
#katiesfeltboard #beautifulthings#tinymessages #playalong

You answered.

Thanks for sharing to the following folks on Instagram:

@unabridged_me  – @schwebacharts @picturingloss – @savvysavagseavig – Mike Huey – and @momo_live_laugh_love_books


Today, I heard of an at-risk teenager lost too soon. A friend from college posted that she lost her dad to a year long disease.  More trauma from the shootings in Florida and heard from another grieving gal just a few years older than me. This world aches with loss and reels in the after-math of things outside our control or understanding.

Today daffodils also bloomed on my kitchen table. A baby was born. The third one this week from my friends and family. New, fresh, tiny humans waiting to make this world a more beautiful place. Babies keep being born. Life continues to sprout through the dirt and petals unfold to the sun.

We exist in both of these spaces. In the dark and the light and the shadows and glitter in between.

Think on that and read these quotes reflecting on beauty. We need it in this aching, hurting, blooming world.

 

Beam of Light – Cathy H.

I’m so excited to share this beam of light from one of my favorite ladies Cathy. I always appreciate her ability to craft and create with excellence.

Cathy H. 

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My name is Cathy and I live in Lafayette, Colorado. I work with children with special needs in a public school.

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Cathy has previously contributed to 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 through December 31st.