October Cherishings

This has been the most beautiful, lovely October I have experienced in recent memory — in weather, color, and activity. We have visited pumpkin patches and apple orchards, have cooked out, gone trick-or-treating, and enjoyed our fireplace. We have yet to make soup but that will be happening this week. We have oo’d and ahh’d over the gorgeous colors and dressed cozily in our hoodies and sweaters for walks and playtime. I have burned through comforting candle after comforting candle, their flames flickering along sweetly with the twinkle lights draped over the bookshelves in our small library. Yes, it’s been a lovely October. So I thought it fitting to share some things, namely…

Here is what I have cherished this October.

  1. Friday Nights — I made a firm resolve this school year that no work will be done on Friday nights. Not by anyone in the house, yes, but especially not by me. After basic cleaning is done upon getting home, then work stops for the night. No tidying, no homework, no grading, no studying, no work emails/texts, nothing. Everything can wait until Saturday or Sunday. Fridays are for rest — for snacks and movies, shows, games, or books. Friday nights are sacrosanct. Friday nights are mine. Holding this boundary has done me a world of good thus far and will continue to do me good, I am convinced.
  2. Wearing Knits and Boots – I love to dress cozily. I love my sweaters, knit ponchos, arm warmers, socks, hats, and scarves/shawls. This has been a perfect autumn for all of my cozy clothes and my favorite pairs of over-the-knee boots with even taller socks, which has made some sweet happiness for my soul.
  3. Seeing My Heart and Soul in a BookBecky Chambers‘s novella A Psalm for the Wild-Built was recommended to me by a dear one and touched my heart in so many different spots that there were many times that I wasn’t convinced that I was not indeed Sibling Dex. There were frequent occurrences of me having to put the book down to have a good cry because I’d been shown my own heart so starkly yet again upon its pages. Obviously, I enthusiastically pass on my friend’s recommendation. A Psalm and its sequel A Prayer for the Crown-Shy are sweet, patient honest little books, like the calmest of companions just waiting for you. They will sit beside you until you are ready to read them again, no pressure whatsoever. I have heard God’s gentle voice in these pages, reminding me that the space I am in right now is okay. I do not need to break myself apart to change it. It is okay to take things slowly, okay to feel the way I feel, okay to look ahead, but equally okay not to rush ahead. He is there with me, the God of small comforts and rest just as He is the God who moves mountains, brings us through troubles, and changes lives.
  4. Open Windows – There have been enough days that were just cool enough to open up the windows and doors in the house. The cat sniffs eagerly and interestedly at outside through the open screens as I let the fresh air billow through the house, chasing open window to open door. Letting it refill the lungs of my home and accenting it with the sound of leaves rustling or rain pattering on the world without.
  5. The Glow of Flame – Whether it is my candles, our fireplace, a cozy scene on YouTube, or our firebowl on the deck, I love the comforting glow of flame. In it, there is a tug back into days gone by, days before “hustle” became the watchword of our society. Nights of quiet conversations, drifting imaginations, and gently-working hands. For me flame draws me to calmness, to burn slowly, take my time and consume what I need in order to glow.

I don’t have any profound lessons that I have learned this month or secrets to impart. All I have is what I have enjoyed and how its filled my soul, and I’m realizing that that was happening even more than I realized at the time. I am really, really thankful for that. As we slip from October into November, from Spooky Season to that of Gratitude and Thanksgiving, I hope that we can keep an eye out for the things we cherish, for those things that make us glow, even if the flame is small. The sun is still there, after all, even if it is watery and weak behind the clouds. It’s still there.

And so are we, Friendly Readers. We are still here. May this fall stretch and those moments of slowing down, cozying up, and feeding our glow continue.


Moments of Glory

I felt the glorious tonight, and I realized something. There are few times that I feel more sensual, more alluring, more glorious than when I am being slow and slinky in belly dance. When I am being deliberate and controlled, powerful and serpentine, particularly with snake arms. There’s a power in the movement, as well as a power in the one performing it. There is a strength, endurance, and control that the movement requires to be flowing and mesmerizing. There is also a feeling that goes with it, a confidence, a fierceness. I saw it in the raising of my chin, the tilt of my head, the deep, warm light in my eyes (I even had a thought that they could rival Anne Boleyn’s famed “dark hooks for the soul”), and the curve of my lips. It started without, curled and coiled within, and then flowed outward again, suffusing my body, mind, and soul.

It’s been a long while since I danced. Almost a year. Being back in boot camp class–conditioning, drilling, practicing, perfecting–reminds me of the beauty, strength, and the power that I found in the dance. And in myself as I did it. As my calves are so poignantly reminding me after Egyptian “choo-choo” shimmy drills, this dance, like any other, takes power. It takes strong muscles for control and precision in the movements, as well as developed endurance and stamina to make it through open dances and choreography without dropping to the floor. And even though performing really isn’t my thing anymore, I still love the dance. I love the drills, I love the conditioning, I love learning to move my body in new, prepossessing ways. In ways that make me feel beautiful, charming, captivating, mesmerizing (our goal-word when I first started dancing).

I felt the glorious tonight, and I’m holding on to that sublimity.


Muncie Gras 2010. Photography by Rachel Penticuff.


Watching Beauty

One of the things I do not understand is the fact that not everyone can see the beauty in others, or, if they do, they don’t celebrate it but negativize it. Over the past week, I have been just struck by how immensely beautiful people are. Now, these are people whom I have just seen in passing so their physical traits are all that I was observing, but I gave myself permission to observe them. To look at them, to watch them, to meet their gaze and offer a smile.

At the mall, there was a woman who passed me. She was shorter, though still a touch taller than me. She had dusky skin and dark hair that flowed like water down to her waist. Her hips were full, generous, and curvy, accented by the dark leggings that she wore. The name Hebe came to mind. She was stunning and I was just floored by her! I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t just staring at her like I was. She just felt like beauty unbound to me.

Then there was the young man at the gas station. He had russet-gold hair and contemplative eyes. I let myself look at him and smile and I saw the ghost of a smile back. He might have thought that I was flirting with him and that’s okay. His smile seemed tired so I hope that mine gave him a bit of a pick-me-up.

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder how people cannot see the beauty in each other, in others. But then I realize that it has become quite easy. We have been taught to be jealous, suspicious, and hateful of the beauty of others. To regard them as enemies or ourselves as less than. We have been taught to believe that we must compete with each other rather than appreciate each one’s uniqueness for what it is. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to deny someone else’s beauty just because it might make me feel better or more powerful. No, I’d much rather allow myself to see beauty in each person and marvel at it, whatever it might be.


Reflections on Thirty-Three

Author’s Note: Today, I turn 33 years old. It has definitely been an interesting three and a half years since my daughter was born and life changed in a big way. I think that I have learned more about myself in these few short years than in many others combined throughout my lifetime. I see myself differently, am taking better care of myself, am learning to love others better, and live my faith and purpose more honestly and, I hope, effectively. I do more than like myself at 33. I truly believe that I have finally learned to love myself.

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My form is a thing of beauty.

Take all your definitions of allure

And weigh them in your hands,

As I make mine my own.

Breasts, waist, hips, legs,

Arms, stomach, shoulders, back.

All I work to make strong.

This I do for myself,

For the good of my body as well as my soul.

To be strong enough in body to hold the skies on my shoulders

But soft enough in soul to hold joy in the sway of my hips

And grace in the reach of my hands.

My mind is a work of art.

Growing and challenged still,

Deeply considering and intense.

My intelligence has not been silenced by time,

But continues to grow and refine with new challenges.

My art is a meeting of thought and feeling,

Pulled together, chiseled, and shaped.

I share my art with a desire for hope,

Encouragement, uplifting, and joy.

I write to challenge to love, to kindness, to compassion.

I write to create refuge, worlds in which to escape,

To send out words that my own voice might find difficult to speak.

I sing to birth joy. I dance to proclaim free. I dress to cry beauty.

I write and post and mail to connect and pull threads together.

In life. In community. In love. In friendship. In chosen family.

I am a being made unqiue and becoming uniquer still.

The older I get, the finer I am becoming.

You should rejoice. I’d love for you to rejoice.

If you don’t, though, that’s your choice.

But, most of all, I just want you to smile with me.

A Smile Like Wine

Her lips were dark like malbec, the smile that tilted them almost coy in its own innocence. They were lips unused to color, unsure of just how to function in it. How widely she may smile, how freely she may laugh. Her lips trembled and stumbled through it until they decided, seemingly of their own volition, that they could not maintain such primness and elected merely for truth of being.

They parted when she laughed, to let her voice ring out. They beamed when she smiled, her teeth flashing brightly against the dark of her smile and catching her bottom lip shyly at times. They flew eagerly, drawing accidentally elegant shapes, when she talked about something of which she was passionate. They fluttered like dark birds in that moment, like the starlings that wheeled in lovely shapes overhead.

Coy innocence. Accidental elegance. Unintentional grace. A wine-dark smile beaming a sun-bright spirit.






The Weight of Glorious

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a day when I lost that glorious feeling. When the judgements and body shaming of others felt as if it had been directed at me personally. I folded in on myself, wanted to make myself small and to hide. My sense of glorious faded like so much morning mist and I felt like all I wanted was to feel nothing, be no one. It happens and it’s hard.

But then there’s also the opposite of that. When the weight of glorious crowns your head and sits on your being and you feel like you could conquer the world, that you could change the course of history with one strong foot set upon its pages. Those mornings where I wake with a profound sense of my own beauty; those evenings when I step from the shower and find that woman in the mirror positively breathtaking. Those days when I heard the beauty thrum in my voice and I open up my throat and sing with abandon.

That weight of glorious can be utterly breath-stealing. Like “how-did-I-get-here-and-who-gave-me-the-makeover-I-look-damn-wonderful” breath-stealing. I’ve had the weight of glorious knock the air out of my lungs and cause me to stare at my reflection as if it were a person I had never seen before in my life but had instantly fallen head over heels for.

Believe me. It does happen. It happens, and it’s awesome! The weight of your glorious is not a burden; it’s there to be enjoyed, reveled in, and channeled. Pay attention to the next time you feel that weight settle on your spirit. That sense of being glorious. When you look in the mirror and admit you’re stunning, when you finish that project and you know it’s excellent work, when you belt out that tune and feel your joy rise up with it, when someone just stops and stares at you like they have never seen before in their life but have instantly fallen head over heels for you. That moment when all you can do is catch your reflection and smile, even if you’re not entirely sure why, that’s it: that’s your glorious.

NaBloPoMo Day 12: Shades of Power and Beauty

A friend asked me my favorite colors the other day, for something she is making, and it took me almost a day to answer her, I think. Favoritism in respect to color is hard! Clothingwise, it really depends on the outfit and my mood at times. There are so many shades and so many reasons.

One of my favorite shades is pastel pink. It’s feminine and flirty and fun and it brings out the pink blush in my skin, my husband says. I think it does so in my cheeks. Put a white ribbon/headband in my hair and I feel all sorts of Betty Draper lovely.

I love maroon! It’s deep and rich and regal. It’s not as brazenly bold as red, maybe, nor dark enough to be too formal. But it’s heady wine shade makes me feel womanly, which is a power of its own.

Teal is cool, makes me feel mermaidy and fluid, like I can flow through anything, surmount any obstacle, or keep graceful under any stress. I usually pair it with black to round out the sultry side of the shade.

BloPoMo Day 3, Part 2: Décolletagic Tales

Author’s Note: Yes, I absolutely made up an adjective for my title. I found the first portion of this story set in a post that I made a year ago today and was delighted by it all over again. So, today, I decided to write the story that goes with it. And what do you know? I ended up with a story format that I had never planned on or even thought of since I was in grade school. Here you go! Choose you own décolletagic adventure. And there shall surely be more.

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“You ready to do this?”

“You mean, are me and my boobs ready to do this?”

“You know, I had never thought of your décolletage as having an individualism of its own but, in that outfit, I think you just might be battling them for attention.”

Me being five-foot-something and a D-cup, my bust line could indeed be an entity unto itself since I refused to swath myself in turtlenecks year round. And her wit was as dry at the autumn leaves outside.

“Eh, I’m used to playing second fiddle to my breasts; they are the lead singer in this one-woman band.” So was mine.

Ending 1:

Just then, the doctor entered the room, a genial smile on her face. “Okay, we are ready for you,” she said to me.

“Really? You’re sure you’re ready? Many a man had those exact last words,” I quipped.

The doctor looked a little surprised but then chuckled and didn’t stop chuckling all the way down to the mammogram room.

Ending 2:

“Just…don’t steal the bride’s spotlight,” she reminded me with playfully-narrowed eyes as I settled her veil like gossamer wings down her back.

“Don’t worry. I will hide behind my bouquet,” I assured her, “Or under your train. No one will even notice.”

She laughed outright at that and I felt her butterflies dissipate. Achievement unlocked! Maid of Honor skills for the win!

Ending 3:

“If it bothers you, you could always take a header off the stage.”

“I could,” I agreed, “But then you’d have to transport my broken ass back home in a wheelchair through several international airports. Want to do that across a few continents?”

She eyed me for a moment before smirking. “You’ll do great,” she said, “Go get your damn Nobel.”

BloPoMo Day 3: Golden Authenticity

A friend shared this on Facebook and I thought it absurdly appropriate to share here as well. Thank you, Genevieve V. Georget, for your authenticity! Follow her here – https://www.facebook.com/genevievevgeorget?fref=ts

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Genevieve Smyth's photo.

Genevieve Smyth

It was a Wednesday afternoon when I walked into Starbucks that day nearly six years ago. I stood at the bar, waiting for my drink, when the barista politely asked me what I was up to that day. As it turns out, I was en route to the airport at that moment…about to catch a flight to Italy with my husband. After a brief minute of chatting, the barista handed me my coffee and wished me a nice trip. “But then again”, she said “why wouldn’t you…your life is golden!”

I’ll admit…the gold star was nice. But at the same time, the words knocked the wind out of me. She wasn’t being rude. She wasn’t being sarcastic. In fact, she was being totally genuine. And that’s the part that really took my breath away.

Because here’s the thing…

This lovely girl saw me for all of five minutes a day. Usually all dressed up on the way to my full-time job at one of the country’s most prestigious art galleries. Or with my camera in hand to photograph two people in love. Or, yes, on my way to Italy for ten days to celebrate my anniversary. This is what she saw. Therefore, this is what she knew.

And truth be told, there is darkness in this kind of knowledge. Especially now, when so many of our connections happen only five minutes at a time…fully filtered and perfectly hash tagged. In our defense though, it’s not entirely our fault. That battle we’re fighting…those rough days were having…they don’t tend to translate very well when you have twenty people in line behind you for coffee or a hundred and forty characters to spell out your day.

Honestly, what was I going to tell my barista?

“Yes, we’re flying to Europe. I just miscarried our baby…we had a terrifying health scare…I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder…and we’re feeling pretty far from God right now. So, yeah, going to Italy seemed as good a place as any to just run away from our life and justifiably eat gelato twelve times a day.”

No. I wasn’t going to tell her this. Because shocking total strangers into oblivion is a bit harsh and cruel. Especially when she’s the girl in charge of making your coffee every day.

But I did spend the entirety of that flight wondering; about our sense of authenticity…our collective vulnerability…our polished identity. And it made me feel like a total fraud. Because I’m not any of those things that this girl sees on the other side of her coffee bar.

If I showed up one morning, wearing my most ragged and scarred self…it would be a very different girl staring back at her [and she would likely feel inclined to serve me alcohol instead of coffee!]…

Because I was bullied a lot as a teenager.

I’m afraid of thunderstorms.

I spend an absurd amount of time worrying about what other people think of me.

My biggest challenge in life is letting go of people. Even if they hurt me.

I hide behind my humor for fear that people won’t accept me without it.

I feel like I have failed as a daughter.

I try to avoid big groups so that I won’t feel like the invisible one among it.

I’m insanely self-conscious of my smile.

I feel like I’m an easy person to walk away from in life…and it haunts me on a daily basis.

I almost always operate under the assumption that I care more about everyone else than they do about me.

I unfollow people on Instagram if their life seems too perfect because it makes me feel inadequate.

I feel like a terrible mother pretty much all the time.

I hate emptying the dishwasher.

Every day, I’m afraid that my husband is going to wake up and finally realize how much crazy he married.

I thank God for every day that he doesn’t!

I don’t like to try new foods…so I travel with my own jar of peanut butter.

I want to write a book so badly that it hurts. But I’m afraid of people telling me that my life was never worth telling.

I struggle, every single day, with feeling like I’m enough. Skinny enough. Funny enough. Good enough.

And I cry. A lot.

I highly doubt I would get a gold star for any of this. But, now, six years later, I do know one thing for sure; that even with all of my frailty…all of my fears…and all my faults…none of those things make my life any less golden.

Scars tell stories. Scars mean survival. Scars mean you showed up for the fight instead of running from it.

And we’ve all got them…even the sweet girl serving my coffee. She’s fighting her own battle…defending her own front line…struggling in her own way.

And maybe it’s not about collecting gold stars for the perceived reality we give the world on Facebook…but it’s about the purple hearts we get for living bravely among the real one.

Because life requires guts…it requires bravery…and it requires vulnerability.

So, buy your coffee…wear your scars proudly…and carry on, dear soldier…

You’re not in this battle alone.

photo credit: www.richellehunter.com | Richelle Hunter Photography