writing

Survived by….

Olive, our dog, got a new toy for Easter. Meet Cerdito (little piggy in Spanish) as we affectionately call him.

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Looks the same, but Olive’s is green. As I sit here, Olive is chewing and the little toy grunts away. It has this odd sound mechanism that makes me feel like I’m sharing my bedroom with a baby boar. Her zeal for this creature makes me laugh.

Sometimes it’s the little things that are enough to get you up and out of bed and writing.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

I was reading my dad’s obituary yesterday. It’s still online and when I miss him it can be helpful to look at the long list of memories that other people shared on his site. I stopped when I read the phrase, “… is survived by….” 

I wrote his obituary with my mom, an ugly obligation when you are the writers in the family. I remember being in her bedroom. Mom sat on her blue upholstered couch, I across the way perched slightly higher on her four poster-bed. With rounded shoulders and our chins in our hands we asked each other, “Do we have to include that phrase?”

“I hate that saying,” I’m pretty sure I murmured. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

I never used to understand that phrase. Survived by. I mean sure, that makes sense if we were all in a terrible accident. If the cause of death was a storm, or a bus, or a tragedy that we were all involved in. If we were the ones to get out of the car and walk away scratch free. I didn’t survive his heart attack. I didn’t survive anything in the few days, weeks, early months of loss.

We included the two words.

Roy is survived by his wife, Christine Christman; daughter, Katie (Dylan) Huey and son, Sam Christman.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito. Olive continues to chew away.

I think the impact of those two words makes sense to me now. Thirteen months out, I have begun to survive Dad’s death. My family has begun to survive loss.

As humans, all of us are going to have to at some point – sorry Charlie.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

I went to Good Friday service last Friday. This year the death part of the Easter story hit me differently. The pastor gracefully explained how deeply Jesus suffered on the cross – not in brutal, gory detail, but rather in focusing on the emotional exhaustion that comes from death.

Jesus experienced it too, hanging on the cross, crying out to God “Why have you forsaken me?” He experienced how breath becomes shallow, how head hangs low, how heart and spirit feel ripped away from the Creator of the Universe.  Jesus died. In dying, he felt the things that feel very much like grief.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

Grief can be unbelievable lonely, even when walking with people who lost the same person as you. On Friday, sitting in church in the dark, listening to Jesus’ final seven phrases, it hit me; Jesus has been through death too. This made me feel just a little bit better, a little closer to God, a little more hopeful, less lonely in the beginnings of survival.

On Sunday, I yelled “He is Risen” with enthusiasm. For Jesus rose again to take on our suffering, to walk with us through the dark, to say to ME “I get it. I’ve been there too.” This common ground never made sense to me until just this week. What a beautiful thing.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt, ” says Cerdito.

I think survival is an interesting concept. Day to day we, as humans, are surviving. By breathing air and eating food and drinking water we make choices to keep on going, despite hardship. Death can be hardship, so can a million other things.

Yet choosing to find joy as the thread that connects all of the horrible can be a beautiful thing.  I’ll end my thoughts this week with a list of the beautiful threads of joy that have helped me begin to be a survivor of death of a loved one.

It is a new identity I’m tentatively beginning to put on – one arm in the sleeve of a scratchy sweater, not yet worn enough to be soft on my skin.

Those silly grunts from a pig, and tears, and communion in individual plastic cups.

New jobs for my husband, and naps, and spaghetti.

In meals cooked by my brother, breakfasts at the lunch counter at The Silver Grill.

Afternoons spent at my in-laws.

In Easter baskets, and morning light, and endless text message threads.

In acknowledging that we all, at some point, are going to survive something.

“Grunt, grunt, grunt,” says Cerdito.

 

Coruscate – A Challenge

My mom sent me a text this morning with the word coruscate.

 

Coruscate-Turn on the stars.

She loved its definition and I do too. The way this word creates a beautiful image in its own meaning makes me feel all tickled inside.

When I stop and think about word-play, how we use word upon word to define our vocabulary, it can be dizzying to think about the power of language. And there are so many beautiful choices for how we want to describe our worlds.

I’ve started a Pinterest board with some of my favorite words and phrases, definitions that bring me joy. I want this board to grow.

So out of my own curiosity I pose to you this challenge. Help me grow my list of beautiful, tantalizing, delightful, intriguing, special, heart-warming words.

What is your favorite beautiful word and it’s definition?

If you email me your response at 52beautifulthings at gmail dot com I will create a meme for you with the word and post it on my Pinterest page. I will send you the image, and put your contribution in my collective list that will get shared at the end of the month.

Get out those dictionaries, search your minds, share your heart. Accepting entries until March 31st.

 

When Life Unravels

Beautiful power exists when we share our stories.

I have had the honor of writing for Invoke Magazine again, and today another installation goes live. For those who are interested in the beauty of sharing truth, being honest, and vulnerable in online spaces, here is my article.

3 Ways to Cope with Grief and Uncertainty (from Someone Who’s Been There)

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Thank you to Anna and Emily for the privilege of contributing again.

With love, bravery, courage and hope.

 

Mess of the Middle

Whew. I’m exhausted. Being that it is a Monday evening, most would say that is not a good sign. I’ve got mixed feelings, because this kind of exhaustion results from productivity and the after effects of throwing myself into new learning situations. Starting anything new can be taxing.  I spent the first week of 2016 jumping into a new job, and continue the diligent work of learning new tasks and databases. I hope to lay the groundwork for new relationships. I have spent so much time thinking about tone of voice communicating in email. Do I need a formal introduction to this brief question about business cards? Do I send the emoji with this instant-message and do I insert a joke here or there or wait….. until I come out of my shell – as the infamous extroverts ask of me. For some, this process of new may be invigorating and easy. Me, I need to ease.

As we complete the first week of 2016 I challenge you to ask the questions of Jonathan Fields, ‘What am I cultivating that is new and challenging? What am I maintaining that is rewarding, and what do I simply need to let go of?’ I had a friend send me a podcast by Jonathan Fields sharing his exercise on finishing out the year. I encourage you to take some time to listen to his advice on “Closing the Books”  . This podcast promotes a beautiful pondering experience that I turned into a journal prompt. His questions allowed me to process 2015 – to get my grievances and successes out on paper. Thank you, Jonathan, for reminding me that while our past influences our present, we get to choose to what extent that rings true.

I’ve been pretty stuck in my head the last few days, and am trying to remember to breathe, to meditate, to stop and drink some water while the thoughts of this new chapter swirl around in my head. Authors are supposed to catch the audiences’ attention within the first chapter of a book, or readers get lost, bored, lose interest. If I am viewing 2016 as a brand new book – this week’s first chapter has me hooked. What will continue to unfold as I try to negotiate these new routines, duties, evolutions of me?

Today I am awed by the beautiful cotton candy sunsets that the Colorado skies provide. It IMG_3350may be freezing outside, but the melding oranges and pinks soothe my soul as the sun dips beneath the snowy mountains across the way.

Too, I got a card of encouragement in the mail from my best friend from college. Snail mail is such a beautiful, delightful treat. Or maybe I should call her correspondence whale mail, as the card was covered in charming little gold whales with happy tails and bursting blow holes. It means a lot to me to have love written down and send with intention from town to town.

What beauty will you find when you wrap up your year and turn to face the new? Are you feeling delighted or overwhelmed? Supported or disconnected? Or maybe, like me, living a little bit in the beautiful mess of the middle.

Live Together – It’s Prettier That Way

40 fabulous humans.

30 chocolate cupcakes.

5 pounds of ground beef.

5 bags of hamburger buns

4 cans of Manwich.

4 bags of cabbage.

4 onions.

3 bags of potato chips.

3 dozen brownies.

2 types of cheese.

1 massive veggie tray.

1 birthday cake.

No… there are no prices adding up here, but all of this food led to sloppy joes and mounds of coleslaw. This also inspired a beautiful happy heart as I facilitated a house filled with family and friends, laughter and beer. We filled our new home with light, joy and housewarming blessings. I was tickled to see so many parts of life come together yet again. I still get party planning anxiety – sure I can invite people over – but will they come?

They did, and I was happy. Bringing people you love together, who also love you back, is a beautiful thing.

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Before the party, I was at my parent’s house for a brief moment and saw this hanging on their fridge. It caught my eye, and my heart, as my first reaction was asking myself “Has this truly been a good year?” There have been some challenging situations that brought beautiful growth. There has also been immense blessings in the ability to step out in faith, with a little bit of fear, that led me to the deep sense of gratitude I experienced standing in my new kitchen, hungry friends all around me.

This line from the image caught me up too….. ‘Life is always giving back to me what I give out.’

That statement is a little, well, confronting. What am I giving out to the world? Am I sharing blame, hurt, confusion, or guilt? Or am I allowing myself to move through these emotions while understanding that I can give kindness, compassion, empathy, and honest expression of my truth. Can I invite my friends out and about in the hopes that they too will reciprocate an invitation rather than stay home for fear of not being included? Does this juxtaposition make sense to anyone else? For I feel there is beauty in paying attention to what you are giving the world.

No. This does not mean overextend and sacrifice and deplete yourself for the sake of others. Rather, I interpret this as a shocking call to action. Am I living in an authentic way that invites others to be authentic? Am I choosing to share my life, my food, my living room with my friends as I hope others will do with me? Life is meant to be lived together, its prettier that way.

I find it odd that Americans make fun of our propensity for gratitude this month. Sure, we may not remember to be thankful all year, but what is wrong with reminders to stay grounded in gratitude for at least thirty days? Dylan and I have been sharing what we are thankful for each day at the dinner table this month. Maybe we will continue as we move into a new year, maybe we won’t. Either way the practice is grounding when focusing on the present.

I have also chosen to participate in a fun social media project using the hashtag #30daysofreal. I find that gratitude comes with acceptance for me, and there is nothing better than breaking down the fake illusions we often create on social media. The hashtag is meant to portray the good, the bad, and the beautiful in real life – at least for 30 days. Join us if you will. It’s fun.

What are you giving to the world? Is it gratitude, is it authenticity, or perhaps something else?

No biscotti.

New Essie Polish: Frilling Me Softly – SO FUN FOR THE WINTER HOLIDAYS

When Goals Become Accomplishments

I just looked at the calendar. It is September 20th. You are likely reading this and thinking, well yes, just look at a calendar. You have one on your phone, and on the wall.  I’ve been thinking it’s September 17th for the last four days in a row. Time is going quickly and the year is almost in the fourth quarter.

I’ve been reflecting on goals, and resolutions, and have asked myself the question, “Have you accomplished what you set out to accomplish this year?” I was drawn to my post about new year’s resolutions and realized, yes, I have done some of these things on my list. Currently, my cupboard is bare of biscotti and my nails are naked, so I’m not doing as great as I thought I would on those weekly goals.

Baked goods aside, one of my goals for the year that was not included on that list was get more involved in sharing my writing. I wanted to write an article, and get it published. And I did!

I had the privilege of connecting with a fabulous group of women who are in tune with themselves and the world around them and I had the opportunity to share a small part of my story. Thank you to Invoke Magazine for letting me join in the journey.

To read my article, click here: My Mother’s Voice Inside My Head – A Journey to Individuation.

Love ‘Em or Leave ‘Em – Guest Post by Teresa R. Funke

We moved this week. It’s been crazy – I will have updates for you soon.

In the meantime, I am thrilled to share this guest post by one of my mentors, Author and Writer’s Coach Teresa R. Funke.  Originally posted on her blog, Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life, this post reminds us to find things to love in the world, when there is so much going against us.

Author: Teresa Funke

Twitter:@teresafunke Blog: Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life

Website: www.Teresafunke.com  

It’s not hard to find beauty in this world, if you go looking for it. It’s also not difficult to find things to complain about, if you so choose. I have friends who put a positive spin on everything, and I mean everything. At times, that feels disingenuous. Sometimes life really is hard. But I also know people whose thoughts go immediately to the dark side.  They are quick to judge, and quick to condemn.

One day, as I was thinking about what to post to my blog, Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life, I started thinking about how we, as a society, can be quick to judge too. We impose strict rules of social etiquette on people and criticize anyone who steps outside of those lines. And I started to think how ridiculous those dictates could be, going so far as to condemn people for dancing, singing, even laughing out of turn. How crazy is that?

So I decided to take apart some of those social rules and expose them for what they really are, joy killers. If we really want to see the beauty in our world, we must first see it in each other.

Here’s the post I wrote. See if you agree:

I love people who laugh at their own jokes. The harder they laugh, the better. Why shouldn’t we take enjoyment from our own creativity? Why create anything if it doesn’t bring us pleasure?

I love people who sing loudly and badly in church. Why? Because they are more concerned with giving praise than they are with what you think of them.

I love those people who take to the dance floor alone. They don’t wait for someone to hand them an opportunity, they go out and seize it.

I love people who stop a total stranger to tell her they adore her shoes. Our clothes are one of the ways we express ourselves. How nice when someone notices!

I love it when poets stand on a street corner and recite their verse. They have learned that we don’t need adoring crowds, we just need one person to listen.

I love it when someone says, “I don’t mean to brag,” and then they do. We work hard. Why shouldn’t we be proud of our accomplishments!

I love it when little kids ask, “Are you rich?” or “Are you famous?” or “How old are you?”  They keep us humble.

I love those students who always have their hands up in class. They have learned that everything in life is more interesting if we get involved.

I love those people who say, “That’s nice, but I could do it better.”  Go ahead then, show me. You either will, and I’ll be glad for it, or you won’t, and I’ll have lost nothing

Some days I even love people who drive the speed limit. They remind us that there’s plenty of time to get where we are going.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my ideas with you on 52 Beautiful Things!  May you have a beautiful day!

Teresa_Funke Red ColorTeresa Funke embodies the modern artist/entrepreneur. She is the owner of Teresa Funke & Company and Victory House Press and the award-winning author of six novels for adults and children based on true stories from WWII. She is also a nationwide speaker offering keynotes and presentations and a popular writer’s coach. You can find more on her website, on Twitter, and Facebook.