Finding my way home

Today, I took the long way home. After leaving my mom’s house, I drove south. The city and the suburbs open up to vast country — to empty fields and hazy mid-winter sky. Though the weather is below 35 degrees, the heat is on in my car, and I’m driving fast towards the place I now call home, growing my wings and finding what suites me. The song playing on the radio is my jam, and I turn up the volume. The Sunday slowly rolls off my shoulders and into the following week. I am ready for cold mornings, for work, for volunteering, for whatever this week brings.

I’ve come to love winters in the midwest. The cold that nips at your nose, figure tips, and toes. This winter has been exceptionally beautiful. While we’ve seen a lot of hazy blue-gray sky days, my heart has felt more at peace and at home than it has in a long time.

I often feel hugely out of place. I often feel like an imposter, like I’m not good enough. But lately, I’ve found peace and calmness in doing my thing well in quiet and without much glamour or fuss. I’ve been enjoying slow evenings at home, maybe a candle lit with some soft music in the background. I have books littering my coffee table. Dishes linger in the sink from many good meals cooked. I like the process these evenings bring, the inviting warmth. Maybe I’m not supposed to be chasing a moment in the spotlight; I think my nerves would definitely testify that I freeze up and become accident prone when there are a ton of eyes on me. Maybe I just need a quiet corner to do my work well.

That is what this winter has been teaching me. While the outside world beckons us during spring and summer, it’s okay to draw into the warm, quiet, and gentle peace that occupies the winter.

I’ve taken time off of Instagram this month. I’m trying to read through as many books as possible while taking this time off from online socialization. Ideally, I’m trying to read through the entire stack of books on my bedside table before officially downloading the app again. Although I love the window Instagram and other social media gives into other’s perspectives and pieces of lives people are willing to share, I found myself addicted to the scrolling, the watching, the disconnecting it led to in my own life. Since stepping away, I’ve noticed that I have more time to read words in books, write my own words, or just sit quietly while waiting for my coffee while in line at Starbucks or in the mornings when I’m sipping coffee. I’ve noticed that I can hear my own thoughts rather than constantly listen to others’. While I fully love hearing others’ revelations and ideas, sometimes it would seem like they knew me better than I knew myself. I needed this time for my thoughts to surface, to know myself better and my feelings deeper. I need this quiet time to think and to breathe.

Regardless though, I love sharing photos, and I miss sharing the small beautiful moments I find myself in — like swing dancing on a Friday night and being downtown late at night, as the coffee shop closes and I’m in the corner with my Love sipping on warm drinks. Or like the other day, when I found myself in the middle of the country, my man is driving, and I’m in the passenger’s seat looking out at the horizon. The earth getting darker and darker, the sun sunk below twenty minutes ago and the clouds are tucking into bed the northern part of the world.

Here are a few moments I found myself in these past 16 days. The beautiful and the messy. I lay them out here for the sake of sharing stories and documenting this small, beautiful life I find myself in. The life I’m starting to pay more attention to, this winter, where I’m starting to feel more alive and more at home.

January 7, 2022

I woke up to the coldest morning of the winter thus far. The freeze started last night. I came home late while it was snowing — a beautiful image of white glitter gracefully falling under an amber streetlight. All was quiet. It felt as though all the comosion and chattiness of the world was put on hold and all that mattered was that moment, the stars and clouds blanketing the earth and lulling it to sleep.

This morning the flakes cling to the windows of the cars and frost freezes to the tips of the grass. It’s in the single digits but the sky is clear blue. The tree limbs bare. Everything is frozen in place. Inside my tiny apartment, the air has a tinge of coldness to it even though I have the heat on. I make pour over coffee and peel a clementine. The quiet from the night before still lingers as the world stretches and wakes. My feet are cold against the kitchen tile, sleepy eyes and dreams reside. I’m ready to start the day.

Ode to the new year while sitting in my kitchen

The daylight floods my kitchen. The sun sends yellows rays through my blinds that streak across my cabinets, counters, and walls. Coffee is keeping warm in a Chemex on the stove. A pan of gluten-free cake that I made last night sits on the counter. It’s enticing me to come eat it all in one big gulp. The sink is clean with no dishes and only a little bit of soap residue. The dishwasher has a little blue light indicating that the contents are washed and dried, ready to be put away. Poetry magnets are stuck to the side of my fridge and on the front cling photos of the past year — portraits of my brother, my pup saydee, and my Love, a poem, some post cards. There is also a running grocery list, so I don’t forget what I need the next time I make a trip to the store. Succulents sit in the window seal, basking in the glow and thriving even though it’s 32 degrees outside. My pantry is full, stocked with almost all the necessary ingredients to make anything on the fly: bags of flour, sugar (both cane and brown), baking soda, chocolate chips, honey, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, bread, onions and garlic, a handful of different dried pastas, oils and vinegar, chips for snacking, Cheerios for breakfast, peanut butter and jam, marshmallows, an assortment of teas, and a tub of hot cocoa powder. My fridge is fairly stocked with the necessities, too: milk and creamer, orange juice, butter (tons of butter), eggs, carrots and celery, navel oranges, heavy whipping cream, lettuce and baby tomatoes, condiments (ketchup, mustard, and mayo), yogurt, lemon juice, the remnants of a bottle of sauvignon blanc, leftover soup from last night. 

I sit here, writing this at my kitchen island. Fresh purple flowers sit in the middle, bringing color and life to my kitchen in mid-winter. A small piece of paper that says “Strong convictions precede great actions” props itself against the base of the vase. It came from the fortune cookie I had on the second day of the new year. 

I’m writing in this space where I cook food to feed my family and myself. I’m writing this at the beginning of the new year. My life isn’t perfect, and I am deeply flawed. I learned a lot in the past year, and there is a lot to know ahead of me. Yet I’m here in this space that is somewhat tidy, somewhat lived in, somewhat peaceful — I feel at home. 

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.