Get After Grateful

The days are getting shorter, and the weather is getting colder. The sun still has its ways of saying hello.

It comes up at an angle near the southeast in the mornings like it’s peaking in and saying hello to every nook and cranny the beams find their way to. The light even makes its way into my apartment on the bottom floor of my complex — where I’m burrowed and cozie halfway underground.

The sunlight likes to stretch across my kitchen island. When this photo was taken, I wondered how blessed I am to feel this warmth, see this light, and be here.

I made myself pour-over. I cut a pear for breakfast and used a little bit of whipped chocolate honey on the side. I felt grounded and grateful.

It’s one week until Thanksgiving.

I have to work all the way up until Thanksgiving day. Instead of taking the entire day before to do all the cooking, I’m going to take the evenings to cook several dishes for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

I don’t know how it has already gotten this late in the year. I felt like it was just 80 degrees outside, and I was sweating through my shirts. Part of me doesn’t feel ready for the holidays, but here they are, coming upon us as quick as ever. So I’m embracing it.

I’m not always good at practicing gratitude. My mind tends to naturally fixate on the things I want or don’t have instead of the things I do. But to combat this natural instinct, here are a few things I’m grateful for.

The morning this photo above was taken.

Crips leaves and the smell of a bonfire.

Being a daughter and a sister.

A lover who is like no other.

Roasted chicken.

Green sweaters.

Purple nails.

Ginger lemon honey tea.

The view of serious the dog star from my kitchen window.

A fridge full of food.

Coffee with eggnog.

The Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.

Having my own kitchen this year. (Something I’ve been wanting for a long time coming.)

Writing for a living.

Making pasta from scratch.

What are you grateful for?

bold and scrappy

I keep a poem by Lori Hetteen on my dresser. It’s been there for several months now. When I ordered her poetry book, it came on a small square card. I typically have it propped up against a glass bottle that holds a paper flower. Sometimes the little card slides down and becomes covered with the messiness of my dresser, but I always find it and prop it back up again. 

At first, I didn’t understand the poem, but I kept it because all of her poetry should be treasured — even if I didn’t quite understand this one. 

It wasn’t until this week that I genuinely grasped the poem’s meaning. After months (years, really) of questioning myself and whether or not I’m a good enough writer, some words of a person I don’t even truly even know knocked me down and made me really sad. I stumbled into the darkness of insecurity and embarrassment. 

After a week of this person’s words bothering me, Lori’s poem popped up in my head. It was like a reminder that all was going to be okay. The poem came to me from memory, and it resonates with me like it hasn’t before. 

Her poem is in the bold italics, and my words follow. My words are not to change or enhance her words, but to document how the poem made me feel. When I talk about the work, for me, I mean my writing, but it could be anything you’re passionate about, a talent you’ve been given, or the things you’ve felt called to do. 

The darkness will not go quietly.

The darkness will not move willingly. There will always be busyness. There will always be unmet expectations. There will always be insecurity, sadness, loneliness, grief, guilt, shame. 

There will always be people who say mean things. There will always be those who call us not good enough. 

There will always be the darkness that haunts us. Those subtle and strong feelings make us wonder, “If it wasn’t for this, we could do the thing. We could be happy. We could feel on top of the world.”

The darkness will not go easily, and it will not go quietly. It will always be here, knocking on the door, prancing onto our welcome mats, peaking in the windows. 

If we let it, the darkness will come right in, curl up next to us on the couch, and make a home. It will whisper in our ears and play tricks on our mind — enflaming the words of other people, fixating on them, consuming us until all that’s left is tears and no willingness to move on.

We must be bold.

But even with this darkness pounding on our doors, sometimes making a home in our hearts — we must stand up in defense. We must rise and become strong. We must march the darkness to the door and onto the street, saying it doesn’t belong in our heart’s home. 

We must remember that a greater power will fill our weak cracks, broken bones, and bruised souls. 

We must be bold by continuing in the direction we’ve had our eye on, keeping our head focused on our work. Keeping our hearts and minds grateful. We must be bold for love. We must be brave for the wonders of being human. We must be fearless because this life is a gift.  

Despite the darkness that temps our minds to ruminate, we must stand in shaky confidence and do our work anyway. 

And also scrappy.

Once the darkness is on the street, it will become angry. It will become like a great wind that whips past our shutters and calls us cowards and selfish creatures. 

But despite this, we must seize every moment we find. In the tiredness, in the middle of crazy life, when everything seems more important, the work calls our name. With must be scrappy with resources available to us. 

We must stop comparison, jealousy, hatefulness, greed, consumerism — the friends of darkness. They’ll surround our homes and keep us from focusing, occupying us with their banter. But we must say no to these feelings that consume us and keep us from the work. 

We must continue — even if we’re unsure of the processes. We have to trust ourselves and our Maker for giving us the intuition to keep going. 

We must work amongst the piles of dirty dishes and laundry, the ever-growing to-do list, the texts, calls, and emails to make. We must do our work when everything seems to be caving in, and we hear the darkness say, “Stop. You’re not good enough. Look at them instead; you’ll never be as good as them.” 

We must pick up where we left off when the darkness pushed us down. We have to trust that we have the pieces in our hands to finish what we started. We must take what we’ve been given and where we’ve been placed and make the most of it — and most importantly, be grateful for it. 

We must continue like our life depends on it. To say we can do it anyways. To live out our story. To do our work. To keep the embers in our fire warm so darkness and friends can’t come in uninvited. Because this is our heart, our home, our life, and we are to make the most of it.

an impromptue celebration

Tonight’s dinner: grilled chicken with fusilli pasta in a creamy herb sauce.

After a busy workday, I realized that last night and into today marks one month of living in my new apartment. For a small impromptu celebration, I grill chicken and cook pasta. I used my favorite copper pot and blue enamel cast iron. I drink a tinge of wine that I’ve had leftover in my fridge. Fresh flowers in autumn colors are in the middle of my kitchen island. I lit a lit candle. Dishes are in the sink. A blue sky is waiting for me to step out and take an evening stroll.

The messy in between

I haven’t written much about the phase of transition I’ve been living through for the past several months. Outgrowing old things and growing into new. Dreaming of what the future could hold for so long, then actually watching the events happen in front of me. It’s slightly surreal. Moments I’ve dreamed of happening for years are finally starting to become tangible. While I’ve been moving and breathing in the momentum, fixating on the future and occasionally glancing back to see where I’ve been, I have to keep reminding myself to be where my feet are. Be here. In this moment that I find myself in, this moment of transition.

My room is a mess, I have piles of laundry that either need washed or folded. I have a stack of totes with thrifted things waiting for a future apartment kitchen. There are a collection of mugs on my dresser with remnants of coffee still in the bottom that I need to wash. My bed is unmade, and beside me, I have a full to-do list. I have important papers I can’t lose and books piled high that I still have yet to read. There’s no more room on my shelf yet I keep buying more, something is comforting about bring a new book home during a transition phase, finding comfort in the beautiful colors of the cover, the lengthy prose, the hope that one day I’ll be able to soak in all the words, wisdom, and perspective of many other people.

As I write this it is a quarter to 9 am and I have to start work soon, but in these few minutes, before I transition over my thought from this to that, I want to hold this space open. Receive where I was and where I’m headed, but focusing on the now. This messy transition, let it come what may and teach me what it has to know. I cried the other night, not because I’m not grateful, but because the overwhelming sense that life is changing and I’m in the thick of it is just a lot to process all at once while you lay in your bed alone at midnight. It’s okay to be sad sometimes, even when everything is happy. It’s okay to simultaneously miss the way things were when you were 15 but still look so much towards the way things will be when your 30. It’s okay to grieve the past while looking forward to the future. This is what transition looks like, for me. This is the messy in-between.

Thrifted stories of the heart

I step into Emporium 31. Florescent lights light up the interior, a slight smell of old things lingers. Different booths with different themes, most not even having a theme actually. Just a jumbled mess of items waiting to be sifted through. Pieces that the booth owners probably got from actions or estate sells in pallets or collections then setting it up on shelves and bins, waiting for each item to be found by the right person at the right time. Some of the things are vintage and antiques, others are movies from the early 2000s, still, others are toys, clothing, or decor that were once loved but are now out of sight and out of style. 

I love going thrifting. When I stroll through a thrift shop, it’s not always aesthetically pleasing, but there is something about it that I want more of. I want to hunt for that item that has been on my list for a while, or maybe stumble across something that I was not expecting. I mainly look for vintage, eclectic items. I know I could just go pick up something similar or a replica of a vintage item at the local Home Goods or Target, but it’s much too satisfying to find the original when you’re hunting through a plethora of things. Finding the item that has already been used and loved at one point in time, and you want to give love back to it. As much as it compliments your story, you are continuing its story. 

A lot of the vintage items I find aren’t perfect, but not all things have to be new or perfect to be beautiful. Sometimes things with little scratches, worn spots, or imperfections are the most beautiful because they hold life. They have human stories behind their worn spots and love edges. 

I love giving pieces new life, reinventing them to be beautiful within themselves. The other day I was talking through a thrift shop and found a piano — two pianos actually, one black upright piano and one brown spinet. If I had my own space, I would’ve bought one of them then and there. They were both out of tune. The sheet music stand was off of the spinet. They needed to see the light again, given a but of love. 

I would’ve loved to know who had these pianos in their houses. What fingers trilled the keys and what songs they played during hot summer days or on Christmas Eve. The wood wasn’t perfect, it has collected a few bruises, but it was once loved. Ending up in a thrift shop might have not been its plan, maybe it thought it would be a family heirloom forever, but this happens to the best of things, sometimes the best of people too. 

I wanted to take these pianos home and make them mine, give them a new place where they would’ve been played on the days I find myself longing for a song on the soft keys. Or teach my Love how to play the duet, “Heart and Soul”, with me. But those pianos weren’t meant for me, not right now. Somebody will come along soon and see their bruises, scares, and potential then show them some love. And one day I’ll find the right piano at the right time to do that myself. 

I love discovering the stories behind the pieces I thrift. I recently acquired a set of baskets from an auction in Indy that I’m going to resell in a vintage shop I’ve recently started. After picking up the collection and taking it back home for further examination, I found a name printed on a piece of masking tape on the bottom of one of the baskets. Out of curiously and my slight sleuthing tendencies, I Googled the name. What came up was an obituary for a woman who passed away last year that lived in the area where the auction took place. She worked with children who had disabilities. She was an artist who loved pottery and baskets. She was once apart of a band where she played the dulcimer that she built herself. I looked up from my phone and to the baskets that sat on the floor. With a slight chance that they weren’t, I was holding this woman’s baskets. Her collection of beloved things she left behind. One of the baskets even looked handmade, and I wonder if she was the one who made it with her own two hands. Some people might find this odd but I’m enthralled. And I’m determined to continue these piece’s lives and add on to their rich stories.

A lot of people that I’ve sold things to tell me that they already had an attachment to the item they’re buying or they’re excited to use it because of a significant reason. A set of glasses are ones like their grandma used to have. The salt and pepper shakers match a tea set they thrifted last week. A set of bowls to go with a big set of plates of the same design that their mom gave them. The sugar and cream set will be their friend’s birthday present and they know she’ll love it. I love being apart of these stories. I love being apart of the reinvention process, continuing life to vintage pieces that will bring even a little bit of joy to someone’s life. And also being connected to the lives that these objects once belonged to. Objects and things aren’t our saviors or of absolute need, but they collect unique histories. Histories of the humans who once held them cherished them, or loathed them, humans with names and stories of their own. To me, being connected to the stories behind the pieces is more valuable than the piece itself. They are thrifted stories of the heart.

Originally published in my newsletter, Narratives. Sign up for the newsletter, here.