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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.

 

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September Favorite Things

Hold the phone.

Starbucks launched the Pumpkin Spice Latte three days ago! I’ve got a hard rule (self-imposed and regulated) that the famed PSL can not be consumed until October. By then it will have been out for like six weeks! Old news. The weather should be colder, leaves changing, sweaters bursting forth from wardrobes saying, ‘pick me, pick me.’

No! We are ahead of ourselves. None of those things happen in September!

Never you mind that the leaves are sorta, kinda, changing in my back yard. Or the fact that I wore short boots and long sleeves to work this week, even though the temperature reached 90 degrees.

Marketing is confusing me!

Stop, breathe. Be grounded in this new month and enjoy these new favorite things. Because before you know it, it will be time for candy corn (also self-imposed rule that only allows for consumption in October). Ooooo Candy Corn!

Staying in September. Here are this month’s favs.

  1. Stationary by Emily Howell 

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I’ve mentioned her before and I’ll mention her again. Emily creates beautiful things. I knew I wanted some personal stationary and she captured my vision so well! Now I have the perfect cards for snail mail that remind me just how beautiful it is to send people love through the mail. In the form of notes written with ballpoint pens.

2. Moon River by Carla Bruni

We’re heading to Paris soon and I keep swooning every single time I hear Carla sing this song. I’m going to be that drifting world traveler! I’ve got her voice on repeat. She also sings lovely songs in French and you can get her full album here.  Or wait months for me to successfully learn this song on the ukulele. I printed out these chords to give it a go.

3. Duolingo

Speaking of French … if you’re interested in learning a new language in a fun way download the Duolingo app. Each night, Dylan and I log in and have our ten minute French lesson. I’m doomed when I arrive in Paris because right now all I’ve got is Tu manges un orange.  And Je suis une femme. 

Hopefully my list of words and phrases will expand beyond croissant, pizza, cafe au lait si’l vous plait. If you’re not interested in French, you can try learning Klingon or High Valerian.

4. These SmartWool Running Socks

I’m kinda picky about socks for working out. My brother gave me a pair of these and I’m obsessed. They hit the ankle just right, don’t rub, and there are no seams inside that bother my toes. Lots of fun colors too.

5.  What Happened by Hillary Clinton

Say what you will about Hillary Clinton but I found her latest book pretty fascinating. I believe at her core she is trying to make the world a better place. Her call for radical empathy at the end of this book made me cry and truly appreciate the many shoulders of women I stand on today. The ones who show up, love, do the hard work, speak their truths. It’s a start to changing our world!

Now I have to go and assess how I feel about caramel apple cider before October. I don’t have a rule about that and it sounds lip-smackingly delicious. Like with this syrup.

Mmmmm…. the apples are calling!

Hope Floats on Whispers

Each time I log onto Facebook these days my stomach lurches a little bit. I know I have a choice in entering my password and scrolling through feeds that are slightly biased towards the left – most of my friends agree with my stance on political things.

It seems to be getting bleaker, more complicated, more hurtful out there .

My heart is aching for those who are facing the very real, life changing consequences of political actions that have taken place this week. And I realize too, just how risky it is to put my thoughts and reactions out on the internet.

I could and maybe should log on to CNN or The New York Times, or Slate, or spend time evaluating these infographics that are circling around that tell me just how ‘Alternative’ my new sources could be. But honestly, I don’t.

I know this ability to tune out the news is a reflection of my privilege and I hesitate with every sentence I write down here. So much potential for offending all across the board. I don’t really think the internet is a safe space to launch such flames of disagreement.

And here I am, nervous again, to write about the good, when things out there seem so very bad. So this is my disclaimer for the year – I see, I hear, and I do not ignore the very real confusion and pain caused by our political climate here in America. I do not dismiss it and I want to be an ally.

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I also believe that hope floats on whispers, on promises of good, on lists of gratitude. My efforts may not be loud, or in crowds of hundreds of thousands – heck I’m lucky if each post I write gets more than 17 views. However, if I choose to stop writing the beautiful, it’s another example of where fear will win.

Many of you may have seen my post on Facebook this week about the barista at Starbucks who gave me a free drink even though my birthday coupon had expired. Ugh – you can groan – at the example of white girl privilege – symbols of excess funds and the caffeine raddled habit that oozes corporate coffee. What I saw though, was a twenty something millennial, working his butt off in the early morning, reflecting kindness with the choice to just give me a free coffee anyways. There is still good in the world.

As I drove to work I had to smile because a 40 year old woman with two kids in the car was blasting music and encouraging her two kiddos in the backseat to dance along. Ugh – you can groan – at the example of oil dependent individuals  in foreign cars on busy roads. What I saw though, was the influence of music and artists who have created catchy beats that inspire smiles and laughter while getting from here to there.

We live in the challenging dichotomy of good and bad. Of catastrophe and regrowth. Of pain and beauty.

I just want to keep honoring the mystery that God allows both to exist.

So here are some other things I found to be beautiful this week.

  • Home Brew – we made a match of beer with our friends a month ago and the bottles are finally ready to drink – magical chemistry made a tasty drink in our very own kitchen.
  • Flannel Thermals – my husband got a new thermal top for Christmas and I really just love the ability to snuggle up next to him as he wears it to sleep.
  • Reflections of my puppy in the mirror – our downstairs bathroom is torn apart because we are painting so the large mirror that typically hangs on the wall is sitting on the floor. As we sit on the couch, Olive keeps staring at herself in the reflection. It makes me laugh, and then thing, heck I do the same thing too with window reflections at work. We love a chance to look at ourselves.
  • Gifts from the fruits of your friend’s talents – I asked my long-time friend Jenny Stoecker to take some updated headshots for me. In about 5 minutes she captured my uniqueness in some photos and I’m really thrilled to start using them more. If you need some photography, keep her in mind.

 

I invite you to join me in using the hashtag #stillgoodintheworld . This won’t discount the bad, it can’t erase our pain, but it can gather us together to think about how our efforts and our choices to see the beautiful remind us to keep hoping.

Start whispering guys. Or for all I care, yell! My little heart just isn’t ready for that quite yet.

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I went to church this morning. For the second time since my dad died.

I found it to be very comforting – reassuring to be with other people who are seeking God and seeking good and looking forward to new birth.

For some reason or other, this year I am very drawn to the concept of Advent. The preparation of the coming of Christ – and in the form of a baby no less. How humble beginnings lead to big things. How Angels surround us in our night. How stars can guide us to the King. I went seeking a story and connection to the season.

The speaker preached on something different altogether this morning, and I was a little disappointed.

However, as I sat in my folding chair, and listened to the Christmas hymns, it hit me for the first time, just how powerful the wish for “Good Tidings of Comfort and Joy” can be.

This year I need comfort and joy. While the holidays can be challenging after the loss of a loved one, they are also turning out to be a great source of comfort and joy for me and my family. Even if there are tears involved.

So tonight, I share some comfort and joy that I have experienced in these early days of December and wish you great tidings as well.

  • I am loving this rather irreverent devotional.
  • Starbucks has made a gingerbread store kit. I am a coffee addict, and a loyal Starbucks follower. For better or worse, this charming display of corporate charm has me giggling. My mom and I enjoyed the delightful hour it took to put this together. The box always looks more polished but hey, we tried.
  • A wine bottle warmer? Why does wine need a snuggie? Nevertheless, we wouldn’t purchase this for our wine but rather my mom’s small dog Ella. It would fit her perfectly. We didn’t purchase it, but we could have, because that’s America.
  • Puppy snuggles by my Christmas tree. Doesn’t it look like she likes reading too?

Take a listen will ya? What is bringing you comfort and joy? The search can be beautiful.

 

 

42 Christmas Movies

“Daddy, why is they singing Jingle Bell Rock?” said the little girl sitting next to me in a plush chair at Starbucks.

Creative Christmas music is pulsing through the speakers above me. You know the kind – the remakes and attempts at original Christmas songs that may or may not still be blasting through the speakers next year at this time.

The dark haired little girl, likely four or five, is wearing a striped jumper that has to come out of J.Crew kids. Her father – mid 40’s, hipster glasses, fancy shoes – pulled her to the side and simply responded, “because it sounds like rock. You’ve got to jam.”

She nodded as if she understood, and started pulsing up and down in her little leggings. This family must have hip conversations about music and about Christmas. Their family time at Starbucks is making me feel really happy. Watching others interact is a beautiful thing.

This week I came across this fabulously written blog post about how to handle the world when things seem absolutely out of control. Did you read it? Fifteen Things for When the World is Shitty and Terrifying

I was inspired by Katherine Fritz’s reminders to choose to live in the good, the magical, the absolute power and miraculous components that make our world work. Inspired by  Ms. Fritz’s article, here are a few of this week’s moments that seem ordinary and enchantingly beautiful at the same time. It does not take a lot of effort to find the beautiful surrounding you.

  • We got to spend time with Dylan’s cousin who has an 8 month old baby. Spending time with a young family is a perfect reminder that we have the capability to create human life. While families each have their own challenges, joys, and sufferings, we choose over and over to make new little humans. To me, watching this little 8 month old, reminded me to that we HAVE to choose hope that our world is beautiful, magical, prosperous. For this little guy, for the little girl next me in the jumper, for all of the babies out there gumming their way through the day.
  • Baking cookies – have you ever spent time thinking about the miracle that is the American oven? This week we made more holiday cookies, and I have the opportunity to simply press ‘bake’ and this magical metal machine heats up in my kitchen to over 375 degrees and cooks things. Blend sugar, eggs, flour, vanilla and you get a heavenly treat, but for thousands of people living around the world this process of cooking takes so much more effort and resource. I am spoiled, I have an oven, and it allows me beautiful treats.
  • 42 Christmas Movies. This weekend we had a gift exchange with some family and a few DVD’s were floating around the room. No one wanted to claim the various collections boasting 10 Lifetime Christmas Classics, 20 Traditional Christmas Classics, or 12 Hallmark Christmas favorites. These movies exist people! While the themes may be cheesy, and the acting sub-par, our culture continues to create stories of Holiday hope, inspiration, love and connection. Except, well, maybe one of them. One of the titles included Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964).

Upon a Wikipedia search I found this description: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a 1964 science fiction comedy film that regularly appears on lists of the worst films ever made. It is regularly featured in the “bottom

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Movie Poster from Wikipedia.com

100″ list on the Internet Movie Database, and was featured in an episode of the 1986 syndicated series, the Canned Film Festival.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch that? We need to find reasons to laugh, to embrace the absurd, to connect and to enjoy the ridiculous. I plan on rallying my family for an afternoon of aliens and Santa Claus. What could be more engaging? At least family time is beautiful.

Biscotti: Almond (the year isn’t over -my resolution not forgotten)

Essie Nail Polish: Fashion Flares