Showing posts from 2018

A New Way to Find Beauty with Resolutions

I love a fresh start no matter the time of year, but when New Year's Day rolls around, it has a strong appeal to my sense of order and harmony. I can't resist the opportunity to begin a new project, habit, or routine.

Resolutions are a holiday tradition in this country just as we have our family customs at Christmas. But sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to live up to our goals that come February, many of us have given up on the well-meaning decision.

A few years ago, I tried something a little different on January 1st. I wanted to be a person who sends supportive cards, so I set up a schedule with my calendar using a spreadsheet, designed some custom greeting cards through Shutterfly, and bought several books of stamps. Although I didn't send a card every week all year as planned, the practice helped me understand how to make time for kindness when I feel too busy. Now, I always have a selection of cards on hand to send when needed, and the experiment has led t…

Finding Light in the Darkness

 The Winter Solstice is coming. 

In two days, those north of the equator will experience the shortest day of the year. As a resident of Bozeman, Montana, this means I'll only have only 8 hours, 40 minutes, and 55 seconds of daylight. Which translates to about 15 hours of darkness!

My energy level follows the light. When I have to switch on my lamp at 4:45 pm, it also signals my brain that the day is over. This reaction, if left unchecked, can lead me into a somber, sleepy mood and leave me feeling unmotivated and uninvested in my world.

I have to find the light to overcome the dark.

I joined an online, Advent study group earlier this month. We meet once a week to discuss our responses to the daily readings as posted on Facebook. Though our numbers are small, we have been able to connect to the Christmas story in a new and meaningful way.

The leader suggested that as we approached the solstice, we should light a candle each night while intentionally thinking of or praying for a certain …

The Beauty of Peanut Butter Fudge

When I was growing up, Christmas meant packing suitcases and presents into a vehicle and traveling over 1,300 miles to Northern Missouri to visit extended family. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins would gather for meals, gift exchanges, and laughter, and my sister and I learned to soak up as much enjoyment and love as we could in this two-week, annual tradition.

My mom and dad grew up in towns only twenty miles apart, so it was easy to split our time between both sides of the family. Each household had their own customs and routines around the holiday which led to many unique, long-lasting memories.

Now, I can be instantly transported back in time to those cozy, safe, and loved feelings with the smallest sensory details.

Each year, my Grandma Kelley would make a large batch of fudge, both chocolate and peanut butter, to give as gifts and to serve to her family. There was nothing I enjoyed more than a large hunk of peanut butter fudge with a Pepsi while watching a movie or playing …

Beauty on the Bad Days, Part 2

I wrote a couple of months ago about finding beauty on the bad days, and since then I've realized that there is more to say. A lot more! Not every bad day is the same, and sometimes it's really tough to find beauty.

This week I have been sick with a cold. The last time I had a sore throat, runny nose, and stuffy sinuses was almost two years ago, so I was taken aback by how much these symptoms impacted my daily life.

I typically post entries here on Wednesdays, but two days ago it was late evening before it occurred to me that it was Wednesday. My brain had been so foggy that I went the whole day thinking it was Tuesday!

I swiped the reminder off of my calendar with my remaining energy as I shook my head. "The blog will just have to wait."

All week, I have been struggling to find beauty.

I have been self-quarantined, so even nature has been mostly hidden from my view. However, I still sat down each night to complete my DTH journal, and I surprised myself as I recalled smal…

Thanksgiving Every Day With DTH

Last week, most of us gathered with friends and family around a meal to give thanks for our blessings. And those who couldn't be with loved ones were likely still part of the holiday tradition by reflecting on the good things in their lives.

For one day on the calendar, and possibly a few days leading up to the third Thursday in November, it is expected and celebrated that we list the items for which we are grateful.

Then Black Friday arrives, and our tradition changes overnight (or in some cases, that very evening) and our gratitude lists are buried under mounds of shopping bags.

I know I'm not the first to point out this discrepancy in our quickly shifting holiday values, but I'm not here to judge those looking for bargains and buying gifts for others. Instead, I offer a way to maintain the spirit of Thanksgiving year round, minus the turkey dinner.

For the last several years I have used a gratitude practice. I had known long before this of the value and researched benefits

Can Beauty Rise from Challenges?

Seventeen years ago today, I was in New York City with my university's marching band. We had made the cross-country flight earlier in the week for the sole purpose of performing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade the next day. I was also eighteen days into a regular heart rhythm, having had atrial fibrillation off and on for the past year.

I was in the colorguard, the section of the band whose instrument is a brightly colored flag. We had prepared and memorized a routine for the two and a half mile march that involved spinning, tossing, and otherwise moving our flags in synchronized time while we smiled continuously at the crowd.

But first, we had to complete a dress rehearsal of our culminating show to be performed when we reached the end of the parade in front of the Macy's Department Store. This piece would be televised across the nation, so the producers wanted to plan for camera angles and placement to best feature our music and formations.

The catch? They wanted us a…

A Beautiful New Greeting

How are you?

This is a question I often hear as I'm greeting friends and acquaintances. It's also the first line in offering customer service. Even some strangers on the sidewalk will ask it in passing if our eyes meet. It's become a standard opener in small talk, and the common, expected answer is limited to Good, Fine, or Doing well. A few use exclamations in response like Still standing, Tired, Busy, or Great! Only a small handful will give a more detailed reply, almost exclusively in conversation with someone they trust.

 However, when I field this question, I have to consider the underlying tone. Especially if I'm in my wheelchair. Well-meaning friends regularly put a strong emphasis on the second word by saying, How are you?, often accompanied by a slight head tilt or by leaning in.

I love that these people are in my life and care enough to ask about me, and I see the beauty in the attempt.

But this is the hardest question to answer.

I instantly think to myself, How m…

The Beauty in Differences

Last week my husband and I got a new puppy. Our first dog, Rascal, had passed away in April after fourteen and a half years of good life. That left us with Nita, a six-year-old Pomeranian/Poodle cross, and though she did fine on her own, we wanted another companion for her (and for us!).

Our search led us to Riley, a ten-week-old Toy Australian Shepherd. She is full of energy and has the curiosity and mischief of an unruly toddler. She is constantly exploring her surroundings and chewing on squeaky toys, paper towels, and Shawn's velcro shoes.

When our friends came to town to stay the night last weekend, they brought their tall, gangly Shorthair dog, Sadie. She had been to our house before, so I wasn't worried about her temperament, but I wondered what Riley would think of her.

Despite their differences in age, size, and training, they were eager to get along almost immediately. They shared toys and Sadie's bed like they'd been friends for years. There seemed to be an inn…

Budgeting for Beauty

Most of us are familiar with financial budgeting. We calculate our total income and allocate it to pay bills, buy food, and cover our basic needs. Then we decide how much to spend on entertainment or luxury and how much to save for emergencies.

There are varying degrees of income that allow for or limit your choices. With increased money comes expanded options and freedom to choose more of them. And if you overspend one month, the debt has to be paid the next, lest it accumulate beyond your means.

We can make the same budgeting plans for our energy.

Living with a chronic illness, each day I wake up with a certain amount of limited energy in my bank. It's as if I've lost my high-paying job and am now on a fixed income that gets cut year after year. When I go beyond my daily allowance, I pay for it out of the next day's balance, often with physical pain. So this is what my budgeting process looks like to avoid the consequences of debt.

Basic Needs - taking a shower, getting dres…

Beautiful Birthdays

Last week I turned 40. Yep. The big 4-oh. Over the hill. Mid-life crisis time. Except it wasn't.

I have never related to those greeting cards that tease about too many candles, sagging body parts, or developing wrinkles. My perspective on aging changed dramatically when at 19, I had a stroke, was diagnosed with a heart condition, and doctors predicted I would only live another ten years.

My heart function improved over the next year, and the terminal timeline was lifted, but I was left with a new outlook on the fragility of life and would come to know it deeper a decade later when I discovered my underlying, genetic muscular dystrophy.

This is why I opened up my home to my friends and family on my 40th birthday. I wanted to hear the voices of 40 people, to connect in conversation and laughter as a reminder of how rich my years have been as I had gathered these jewels and gems of humanity along my journey.

Between visitors and phone calls, I had exactly 40 personal interactions -- a do…

Soul Friends and the Beauty of Listening

Several years ago I joined a volunteer program that facilitates one-on-one caregiving for thosein the community experiencing crisis or loss. I went through fifty hours of training that taught me how to be a better listener and immersed me in the program's goals of non-judgmental, empathic, and confidential care. 

Each week, I meet with a care receiver who has been thoughtfully and prayerfully matched with me, and I listen to her talk about her fears, troubles, and challenges. These relationships can last a few months or more than a year, depending on the needs and the situation.

I don't give answers or advice. I simply show up each time, ready to allow my care receiver to talk about what is on her heart as I actively listen and ask open-ended questions.

Recently, at the end of my last meeting, my care receiver gave me a card with a description of an Anam Cara. As I read it I knew instantly the power and impact of our time together.

In ancient times, the Celts established a "s…

Beauty at the Edge

For the last two years, I have gone to Moab, Utah to camp and ride the trails. One of the Jeep roads goes through Hurrah Pass, and it took us on a winding path through steep canyon walls. We happened to look up just as we rounded a corner and saw a red rock, precariously balanced at the edge of the cliff. Shawn and I both felt it's beauty as we reached for the camera.

When reviewing the pictures at home, I chose to print a set of small, blank cards with this image and superimposed the line There is beauty at the edge. Then I stored them on a shelf with my other greeting cards for later use.

Two weeks ago, I opened my card boxes, looking for the perfect one to give to a close acquaintance who was retiring earlier than she had planned, and my hands gravitated toward the balanced rock. Sitting down to gather my thoughts, I wrote that though she may feel as if she had been pushed to the edge, my hope for her was to find some beauty in the experience.

A few days after her retirement celeb…

The Beauty of Connecting to Family From Long Ago

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a doorway in a blog post about updated results from my DNA ancestry. Since then, my interest in genealogy has been rekindled, and I have been dreaming up a trip overseas to walk in my ancestors' footsteps.

My mom's sister and brother have devoted hundreds  (if not thousands) of hours to researching our family history and have discovered some amazing connections to Ireland and Scotland. My aunt has traveled twice to both countries in search of tangible evidence of the family legacy, so she was my first call in planning my quest.

After a long and beautiful conversation with her, I had a list of castle names and the deep sense that I had opened a door to the past. I began with my maternal grandmother's side and Googled Kincaid House in Scotland. My great-grandmother was a Kincaid before she married into the Hays family, and her lineage can be traced back to the 1690 family who lived in the castle. Today, it has been fashioned into a hotel and …

Where Is the Beauty in Doing Chores?

My dishes have been piling up for days!

It's a chore both my husband and I dread, and it's become like a game of chicken as we wait each other out until one of us breaks the stalemate, usually when we run out of forks!

Today, though, I chose to take a new view on doing dishes. I mentally listed all the things that are beautiful about it during the task.

We only have two people in the house using dishes regularly, yet we have 18 ceramic plates of varying sizes, 50+ durable utensils, 12 soup or salad bowls, and over 25 glasses. Abundance is beautiful.We live in a house that has a dedicated space with a double sink and counter space to stack dirty dishes. Having a kitchen under a roof is beautiful.All of the plates, bowls, cutting boards and knives that need to be washed means that we had food that was prepared and made into meals. And when the dishes pile up quickly, that just goes to show that whenever we were hungry, we got to eat. Having plenty of food at your fingertips is be…

Beauty on the Bad Days

Last Sunday, I had a serious case of the blah's. I had slept okay, but my energy level was on the floor and I was out of breath with the tiniest movements. I was lugging around extra weight from PMS fluid retention, made worse by my enlarged heart failing to keep pace with its pumping efficiency. I wanted to stay in bed.

But I didn't.

I put my complaints to the side and went to church, knowing from past experience that I never regret making the effort to attend once I'm there. However, once the service let out, I was keen to get home and eat my lunch in front of the television. And I was secretly hoping that my husband would abandon his plans of going for a ride in the mountains, so I could put on my sweats and lose myself on the couch.

But he didn't.

Instead, he loaded up our UTV (side-by-side) and asked if I was ready to go. At that moment I had a choice to make: I could beg off, citing my frumpy feelings and let him do one of my favorite things without me, OR I could ga…