And a Squirt of Whipped Cream

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Losing someone is rarely easy. While their spirits may seem to evaporate into the liminal space, people we love who move on leave a lot behind. I spent much of this weekend amongst my grandmother’s things. Cups and wooden salad bowls, serving platters made of milk glass, worn handmade blankets and quilts, dishes with the farm scenes painted on ceramic.

While they moved her to assisted living weeks ago, they only took the essentials. Her navy blue, floral couch was gone, but the drapes that hung in her house for my whole childhood stayed. The china cabinet may have been picked over, but the sturdy structure still stood, watching us move through half-empty rooms, selecting what we hoped for and reminiscing at the dining room table. We flipped through photo albums and I saw faded pictures of relatives I’d never met nor heard of. Legends of old uncles with problems during prohibition, or ties to old business, were stuck among crinkly cellophane, protecting both stories and their sepia-toned faces.

As I lay on the floor in the basement, I said “You know what I hate about dead people? They never come walking through the door when you want them to.”

I knew my grandmother was going to pass. She lived a long life, close to ninety years. And yet, when I found out her spirit had moved on, it still felt as if all the air had been sucked out of the room. Maybe that’s what they do when they die – take the air with them into wherever comes next. It takes awhile to catch your breath.

This has been a summer of transition and shifting. We moved. We had a baby. We are growing into new roles and letting go of others. If all of your grandparents have passed, are you still a granddaughter? Or does that role now become my new daughter’s?

We’ll say good-bye in formal ways in a few weeks. And in the meantime, I’ll tuck a juice glass of her’s in my cupboard. In the morning, I’ll remember Lender’s bagels with blocks of cream cheese wrapped in foil, served on a small ceramic plate with a farm scene painted on top. I’ll remember Kraft singles, and dessert with Reddi-Wip out of a can. Because, as Grandma would say, life is better with a little squirt of whipped cream.

Being amongst her things, evoking memories, remembering stories, preparing to say good-bye, even when it hurts – all beautiful things.

Poked in the Heart

My muscles were sore from sitting on the floor balancing a plate of Chinese food in my lap. As I ate soggy noodles, three women, tenured family friends, sat perched above me on our worn, blue couch. As we watched an unremarkable movie, I felt safe in the company of people who knew me. People who knew him. People who carried pieces of my dead dad in their life stories too.

We had lost him a few months prior, and when the evening ended, I closed the front door and told Dylan, “I don’t want to go to bed because I feel so good now. I’ve forgotten how to feel good.”

I hadn’t thought of that night in years.

Seven days ago, Dylan called me upstairs with a somber voice. His delivery of a simple ask, “Katie, can you come here?” made my stomach sink.

After a week of addiction addled toggling between CNN and The New York Times websites, my eyes stuck in the red center of the US map as election results slowly ticked in. As the edges of our country turned blue, my heart beat escalated. Again, I sat on the floor, balancing plates on my knees as I watched The Queens Gambit to distract.

“Who died?” I thought. Unfortunately, still my default question.

“Joe Biden won” he said quietly.

Running up the stairs, I demanded he click over to nytimes. com – the news source I’ve been trusting in a sea of false news and fabricated reports.

I wasn’t convinced. Dylan scrawled out the math on an envelope waiting on the nightstand. Electoral votes and percentages and likelihoods of a secured win. Numbers and stats to help with the hope of certainty.

My heart cracked open with a gasp. I watched thousands of strangers dance in the streets with signs and masks and music from my tiny cell phone screen. We toasted gin and tonics as I don’t keep bubbly in my cupboard.

I didn’t want to go to bed last Saturday. I’d forgotten what happy felt like. I’ve been living with dread instead. Grief taught me feelings of elation can pop. Hope dissipates into the sheets as we sleep. It’s likely I’ll wake with big feelings in the morning.

As another week passed, COVID cases jump at alarming rates. People I know receive positive test results and I feel my fingers curling closed in fear. I’ve lectured my mom, and doubled up doses of vitamin D and zinc. Daily, I swallow down words I want to say to people who keep doing whatever the heck they want to do in the name of carpe diem.

As the artist PINK says, “It’s gonna be a long way to happy.”

Last night, with another plate balanced on my knees, we watched the movie 13 Going on 30. After the credits rolled, we turned to YouTube to watch Pat Benatar’s music video for Love is a Battlefield. For thirty minutes, my years of dance classes paid off. I wiggled and pointed my toes and matched the movements of the rock stars with big hair on tv. Dylan laughed and my dog barked. I felt happy. I didn’t want to go to bed.

This year has been scary for all of us. Whether you’re aware of your fears, or are stuffing them down into the fibers of your muscles where your subconscious lives, the reality of living in constant threat is not normal.

Like the first months of grief, I wonder if these intense circumstances will ever pass us by.

But there are moments, in balancing plates, and states turning blue, and dance parties in living rooms, where I am poked in the heart to remember again what it’s like to feel good. What a beautiful thing.


I made the mistake of scrolling through Twitter while having my morning coffee. Anxiety-inducing caffeine mixed with anxiety-inducing messages about how health care changes are going to influence us all swirl like the cinnamon in my cup. Today’s choice makes my stomach hurt – health care, not my coffee.

I’ve got to stop starting my day on social media.

Coffee time needs to be for Jesus, for devotionals, for lists of gratitude and prayers and hopes.

So I write, to calm my anxiety, and to ground myself in the good again. Putting words on ‘paper’ often times is the only thing that makes sense.

The phrase ‘pen to paper’ really seems to lose its romance when you think about how people write their thoughts these days. ‘Put your fingers to the keyboard’ has none of the glamour. No images of writers struggling are conjured with the act of typing. Click click click on a keyboard – the nostalgia is gone. You can’t smell typing like you can a ball point pen. The beautiful smell of ink coming out of a ball point pen.


Pre-death, I always said I would only get a tattoo if I had something big to remember. If I went through something tragic, or lost someone.

Damn. I have lived through both.

I wrote a letter to my dad on the year anniversary of his death. In my ramblings, and through my tears, I wrote about how proud he would have been of my brother who has lots of tattoos:

You should see Sam, Dad. His long hair and big muscles and tattoos to remember you by. How we ink our skin in hopes of putting you and your legacy back into our bodies, to absorb you yet again into our blood. I want one, a tattoo to remember you by. I’m kind of scared though. Needles and me don’t get along. That’s something we had in common too. What would you get? Your handwriting on my arm? That chicken scratch scrawl that used to drive me nuts.

I went back and forth, for that fear of needles is real for me. Could I be brave enough to make such a permanent choice?

A few weeks later I was reading the handwritten speech Dad gave at my wedding. At the bottom of the paper he had scrawled his favorite phrase of adoration, ‘love you much.’

“Do it”, he whispered through those words on paper, “mix my words with your blood and carry me with you permanently.” 

And so I did. I met a beautiful tattoo artist who accepted my whole family into his studio with compassion. My mom embarrassed me exclaiming to Jordan, “but you are just so normal!” He laughed her words right off his shoulders.

Jordan took Dad’s handwriting and made it beautiful.  Figured out how to transfer the letters onto my skin. Held my arm, made sure the words were straight, transferred Dad’s legacy onto my skin and deeper into my blood. Words and love made permanent through ink.

Here it is:


Needle to skin has shimmers of beauty too. Writing stories on our skin. Ink.


For more information on the studio Heart & Skin visit their website.


It was 75 degrees today! You know what that calls for? A shandy! I think my new summer go-to drink is going to be mixing Sunshine Wheat Beer (my favorite New Belgium brew) with Lemonade. When I asked Dylan what mix he used he suggested 56% lemonade, 44% beer. No joke. Good luck figuring those measurements out. Anyway, I highly recommend the drink. We had burgers for dinner, and my little summer drink, and the weather promised a bit of a spring teaser that makes me so excited that Spring and Summer are coming. Its been a long, cold winter.

Summer Shandy

Don’t worry. Just one is mine.

And…… today was Free Cone Day at Ben and Jerry’s. Who doesn’t love ice cream? And FREE ice cream at that. If that’s not a beautiful thing, I’m not quite sure what is. I really enjoyed my free cone of Coconut Seven Layer Bar. If you didn’t take advantage of Free Cone Day, you missed out. What was more enjoyable, though, was the waiting in line for 30 minutes. No, I’m not being sarcastic, I really liked it. It was nice to stand outside in shorts and chat with my parents, and Dylan and the little boy behind us in line. It was fun to people watch and see how a community comes out when the weather warms up and a free treat is waiting. Musicians were playing, the sun was setting; this was the place to be.

In my people watching, I saw a group of high school girls wearing Poudre Tennis gear and my heart swelled. Now the reason behind this excitement requires a little bit of back story. I am one of those girls who obnoxiously loved high school. I loved studying, I loved being at school, I loved doing sports, and being in choir, and when I wasn’t doing those things I was with the same 15 kids pretty much all the time. Thinking back retrospectively, I often wonder if I was so happy because I was in the right clique, and sometimes I wonder if I was mean to those I went to high school with. I hope not. But you know what they say, “If you think cliques didn’t exist, you probably were in one.” If I was mean to you, I’d like to apologize.

Part of what made my high school experience so wonderful though, was that tennis team. I was one of those giggly, seemingly annoying girls who was SO proud to wear my blue tennis skirt and home made puff painted t-shirts with the silly nicknames on the back. I was lucky enough to play on the team with the same girls for three years. We did EVERYTHING together – we had sleepovers, study parties at Starbucks, the staff at Chipotle probably hated us, and my coach was a wonderful, tough love kind of woman whom I still respect.

Regional Win

My best friends and I after we won the Regional Title in 2007. I’m in the center.

Aren’t those shirts embarrassing? That year, our Science Bowl team won the National Competition. Ok, we were also nerds. Big Nerds. It is neat to still live in the same town where I grew up, and I’m thankful I can have a little bit of alumni pride. We are the only Impalas in the nation you know. So where does the beauty in this nostalgia lie? My heart strings were tugged tonight because I sometimes miss that time of my life, where success came as easy as an A on a paper, a sweet tennis serve, a high five in the hallway on the way to class.

What is even better than feeling nostalgic tonight is knowing that these girls are still some of my very best friends. Yes, we went to college in different states, dated different boys, and made some of our own choices. Yes, now we have scattered and distance and life experience have changed each of us in different ways- two are in Africa serving in the Peace Corps, one is married and  owns a home, one is living in Fort Collins and one in Denver. Our communication comes less frequently, sometimes every few months, sometimes more than that. But this week, I also get the pleasure of inviting each of them to my wedding. One of them is standing up as my bridesmaid, and one will be returning from Sierra Leone for my special day. Those days of tennis skirts, and prom dates have passed us by, but those roots are so important to me. This group is so foundational to who I have become and my perspective on this planet.


Here are some of us on Wedding Day number one

Sometimes, I feel a little bit insecure because I am entirely happy living in the town that I grew up in. I’m a little afraid you are reading this and thinking, “sheesh, – she still hangs out with those girls?” Maybe I should be out exploring the world, traveling, testing my boundaries. But the beauty in “being Katie” as author Gretchen Rubin would put it, is that I know that what makes other people happy doesn’t necessarily have to make me happy. And tonight, I am thankful for friends who, against the odds, still remain a significant part of my life. I am thankful I live in a beautiful, wonderful town that I continue to enjoy. I am thankful for roots. And thankful for the beauty in free ice cream.