Recycled Coffee

It was the last time I cared for the cats at my parents’ house. The morning routine of showing up, sprinkling treats, sifting litter, washing out the water bowl, and freshening the food dishes had ended. There was time left to relax with the cats.

I had yet to have a second cup of coffee and thought it the perfect time to fill the eco-friendly Keurig cup with fresh coffee grounds. I had been to my parents’ house countless times and drunk numerous cups of coffee. I knew the routine.

Or so I thought.

There on the counter was an open container filled with coffee grounds and a scoop. I scooped some of the grounds into the refillable Kerurig pod and inserted it into the dispenser. Pressing start, water began filtering through, filling my cup with fresh coffee.

Almost.

I cannot say exactly when I realized what was off about the situation. Maybe it was when I went to close up the coffee grounds and found this.

That is when I realized that I had just drunk a recycled cup of coffee. It had not tasted too bad. Which is also when I realized that in my world, even used coffee grounds make better coffee than some people get to drink in theirs.

First World Problems.

The thing is I know where the fresh grounds are kept. I make coffee from that canister all of the time. I think seeing the open container of used grounds on the counter suggested to me to fill the dispenser from there.

This time when I watch the cats the used coffee grounds container is empty and closed. I took the pictures for this post from that current situation. I still laugh about drinking my recycled coffee, though.

Really, it wasn’t that bad!

Rainbow Weather

Hey, Look! A rainbow!

I’m driving to the store in the early evening with two children in tow. One grabs my phone to take the picture while saying, God’s proooomises! in the special voice used only for her interpretation of my thoughts.

I do love rainbows. Especially unexpected ones like the one arching over stoplights as we head to the store. It’s unexpected, because where I am, it is not raining.

Rainbow weather is rain and sunshine. Light shining through gray producing a spectrum of color.

There is so much color, lately. It has burst from the gray and the rain.

This week is one of my favorites of the year, the one leading up to summer solstice. Days continue to grow longer and longer until they peak and begin to diminish. I try not to think about the diminishing when summer has yet to start.

I just want to be in the moment.

A new moment comes, inviting me to ponder again rainbow weather and to delight in the beauty of surprising color.

I find myself days from that car rainbow. Finishing an early-evening walk with my husband, I am exhausted. My exercise ring has yet to close. Eight grueling minutes remain.

Dropping him at the house to begin the evening routine, I continue around the block and up the hill. Please raise, heart rate, so I can call this a night.

Laughter comes from an open yard at the top of the hill, and a familiar young face smiles and waves. A sibling runs over to update me on her summer. I stop to catch the latest news from a parent and express gratitude for the season we shared together.

Continuing down the hill towards home, four minutes to go, a gentle hint of rain kisses my face. Looking up, I can see individual drops falling.

Rainbow weather.

I turn to scan the sky. My next-door neighbor steps from her house. She is looking for the rainbow, as well. We laugh together about it.

There it is!

I find it and shout excitedly from across the street where I am still walking towards my house. We both stop to look as I cross the street to my house.

I run inside and grab the phone I left behind while walking. A child greets me at the door, the same one who captured the week’s earlier rainbow. She comes out to look with me, echoing once again, God’s prooooooooooomises.

The rainbow remains long enough for a picture.


In case I need a sign to post on my neglected blog, this is it. I carry my laptop to the porch and write as the sun sets. The rainbow is gone, and the clouds roll in. Fireflies dance in the yard, turning on their evening lights.

White house trim glows. I love the gloaming. Hanging baskets on the porch silhouette against a soft gray sky. Birds sing their goodnight songs and a gentle breeze rustles the leaves of the friendship tree.

The colors fade to gray as they, too, sleep for the night and prepare to come back with the morning’s light.

.

Art Journaling Sessions

Heart Path Story Coaching is up and running! I have been working hard preparing the space where Art Journaling Sessions begin this Saturday, June 1, and creating content on the website.

To learn more about Heart Path Story Coaching and Art Journaling Sessions, visit the website and sign up to receive email updates. When you do, you will receive an email to click through, making you official. Please click the confirmation link or you will not receive email updates.

I am grateful for blog readers who have encouraged me in my business endeavor! Each of you has been incredibly supportive and kind.

I would love for you to join me sometime to create a page together. Events are listed on the website, and I will try to keep things updated here, as well. Mostly, though, this space will continue to be for my writing.

In this season of transition, which seems to be a universal theme in my story, I am learning to surrender to grace. Thank you for being with me on the journey.

Shattered

An oval platter perches in the drainer, precariously balanced. I notice the carefully arranged pile of clean dishes, resting just so by the one who managed to fit every washed and rinsed piece together like a tower of Jenga blocks.

I lean over the pile to open the cupboard above, the one that holds medicines, vitamins, and the thermometer. My arm bumps the platter which loses its balance on the top of the stack and crashes to the floor, breaking into pieces.

The noise itself is enough to evoke strong response. A child stands near, waiting for me to retrieve cold medicine. I swallow back words rising to the surface, past my chest, into my throat, longing to escape my lips in a fury of noise.

Stand back. A dish just broke. Are you hurt? Watch out for the pieces.

I take care of the medicine and send her upstairs to get ready for bed as I gather the shatter.

I have two other identical platters, left over from days when I was snatching replacements up on Ebay. I am not sad that it is broken as much as I am annoyed that I have to clean the mess.

I want to blame someone for this, for the fact that something fell unexpectedly and broke, even though it was the result of imbalance and gravity. I turn on myself in a familiar pattern. I could have emptied the tower of dishes from the drainer before reaching over to get cold medicine for a child. Does it matter?

There is no fault.

It’s not about the falling or breaking or blaming. It is about what stirs inside. Always the stirring.

Splintered

Going backwards to find myself
Picking up the pieces
Fragments like the broken platter on the kitchen floor.

The large shards are easy to see, to gather
I collect them in a stack and set them aside to glue later
Where are the splinters?

Those are the bits that will surprise out of nowhere
In the middle of the night
Seemingly invisible, yet sharp
Piercing
Unseen by the eye but felt by the skin when inadvertently stepped upon

I trust a well-placed light to illumine the space
Revealing the slivers before they can harm
I’m finding the pieces to put back together

But should one go missing and enter the skin
A light can illumine the bit of the edge
To pull out with tweezers before it goes deep

Large parts of the story
collected in files
In my mind, in my journals, in my heart
They are gathered, assembled
While the splinters remain scattered
Waiting their turn to be collected, too
Just in a different way
Often piercing under the skin
Surfacing
Seen by the light of love
Tended by kindess
To be put back together
Revealing a brand new purpose.


Creating beauty.

Mother’s Day Booty Call

Dark chocolate, wine, nature, invitation to embrace my calling, I am seen by my children this Mother’s Day and every day. I feel loved all year long by the best kids. I do not need a specific day to remind me.

Still, they show up with surprises. Some with their presence, some with a text, some with a call. Loaves of dark chocolate babka (not pictured) draw waves of laughter, because Baab. Of course it is a fitting type of Mother’s Day specialty bread.

We tear into it together with delight. Then bemoan our stomachs being full of chocolate and rich, glutenous bread.

I have learned to rest on Mother’s Day. I have come to a place of deeper healing and kindness in my mothering story. What once was a struggle has become a challenge, an honest one, at that. Engagement with my narrative has brought deeper healing to my heart.

I have learned to repair with my children. They extend grace upon grace upon grace.

We laugh and cry and discover more inside jokes. Older siblings heal through youngers, as they name similar feelings and childhood anxieties and process them together. It is a beautiful mess.

So on this day set aside to honor mothers, which can feel fabricated and false, I marvel at the booty arranged on the table. My people love me well. They love me with their thoughtfulness and presence. They love me by feeling freedom to celebrate with their other mothers. Oh, how I love the others who mother them.

It brings me deep joy to see my adults living their lives in freedom as individuals. Whether with me in person or by text or by call or in spirit, the space we give one another is a gift. There is big space.

Now I do not want Mother’s Day to end. I want it to last and last, and in many ways, it does. Every day feels like Mother’s Day.

I look forward to a card arriving in the mail this week. I anticipate goodness with a son and his girlfriend joining us for a favorite dinner on Wednesday. The sun goes down on the day, and my heart feels full and so very blessed.

That is the greatest gift of all.

Third Person

I became third person. It happened at Walmart. It was the strangest thing to be spoken of as if I were not present. I almost could not believe it, and might have missed it completely, had I not taken a moment to be curious about what was happening around me.

Standing in the checkout line at 10:00pm, putting groceries on the conveyor belt was the icing on the cake of an incredibly long Thursday. My husband was still out working. The least I could do was make sure there was food for breakfast in the morning.

A woman and man stood in front of me, finishing their transaction. I was preparing to unload my full cart onto the empty conveyor belt when I overheard a female voice loudly say, She can wait. She’s got all those groceries to put up on the counter. I’m gonna look for my gum.

I felt a presence walk around me searching the candy rack, still talking. It took a minute to realize that I was the person she was talking about. I was the one who could wait because I had all of those groceries. Her volume and tone felt harsh and dismissive. I was confused by her need to comment at all, since it was obvious that I was not in a hurry and did have a lot of groceries. I would not challenge her need to take extra time making a gum selection.

I proceeded to unload my cart, ignoring the commotion around me. Focusing on minding my own business, I felt something inside of me running for cover. The loud voice began again. I wouldn’t want to be out shopping at this hour and have to unload all those groceries when I got home. The words were directed towards her partner and the cashier, not at me, again at a volume that spoke otherwise. I was being talked about is if I were not there. Words about me were not spoken to me.

Had they been, I would have assured her that I don’t exactly enjoy late night shopping trips myself. This grocery run is happening out of necessity due to unexpected circumstances in my day. I did not plan to be at Walmart at this hour. In fact, every fiber in my body fought the entire trip to stay focused and not flee the task, leaving an empty cart somewhere back among the dairy (something that I have actually done before!)

I wanted to go to my local Food Lion, but it closed early for a remodel. Aldi also closed at 9, leaving Walmart as next on the list. I had actually prayed before I left the house that God would give me strength and help me make wise shopping choices. When Walmart was the option available, I figured that must be the answer.

It helped that when I entered, the jovial young man walking beside me rushed ahead and grabbed two carts. Here, Mrs. McClay! Let me get a cart for you. You probably don’t remember me, but you used to be my teacher! We laughed and chatted and remembered together, and I told him that the joy of seeing his face was one of the things that would keep me going on this late shopping trip. He had the same laughing eyes and smile as when he was small, though a beard now covered his chin.

I was grateful for my teaching practice of always (mostly) treating my students like the adult people they would one day be, with kindness and respect. This was not the first time a lumbering young man has looked down at me as we reminisced about early childhood school days.

Returning to present, my chest felt heavy, like I wanted to cry the giant sobs that had been accumulating throughout the day. The only thing that kept me grounded while checking out was the smiling face of the cashier ringing up and bagging my groceries.

We had nothing in common age, gender, or ethnicity-wise, but he was kind to me, and I was kind back. I was too tired to engage in conversation beyond returning his smile. An understanding smile can cover a multitude of hurt.

Gathering the final bags from the rotating bagging station, I noticed the line behind me had grown longer. I fought against a feeling of shame that it was because I had so many groceries. At this point his line was the only one open. A lady further back begin to complain loudly about it being the only line open before actually asking.

Is this the only line open?

Yes, he said. There is also self-checkout.

I was reminded that as hard as it is to be grateful, as hard as it is to be kind at 10:08 under the fluorescent lights at Walmart, it is worth it to try. We are all people. We are people doing our jobs as best we can. I am trying to get food for my family, this young man is trying to earn a paycheck, and if we could spread a little kindness, a smile, a look into someone’s eyes instead of a loud talking around and about each other, we just might find ourselves in a little bit brighter of a place.

Let’s grab a cart for one another!

Mirroring

While preparing celery to cut into sticks for an afternoon snack one day, I chopped off the end of the bunch with a satisfying slice of the knife. The rounded bottom piece with its protruding curved ends rested on the cutting board.

Preparing to toss it in the compost bin, I looked at the cut end and thought it was perfect for dipping into paint and stamping in my art journal.

So I did just that!

I painted shades of silver, green, pink, and purple on the cut end of the celery and stamped it on the pages. Then I closed the pages together and pressed. When I opened them, I had these pages that mirror each other.

I am not sure if this is finished, yet. For now I am enjoying the colors and shapes and knowing that I was inspired to create while fixing a snack for my kids in the kitchen.

Feel Free

I love the way these pages in my art journal capture what was going on during March when I created them. They moved me into April with confident excitement.

I was preparing to register my business name and get my business license. I was excited about creating something new that involved connection. The chairs around the fire pit capture that feeling.

My firstborn had invited her siblings for the weekend, so we met halfway and exchanged cars. That is where the feeling of freedom and the wine and cheese and charcuterie come into play. And also the knight.

Overall, these pages remind me of steps taken, one at a time, that continue to move me forward. Where are you experiencing movement and growth these days? What small step can you take today to look back on and say, I did it!

Feel Free to share in the comments!

Easter Sunday Surprise

Easter afternoon finds me walking downtown towards my parents’ house to celebrate with dinner and an egg hunt at our usual 4:00 time. I love living close enough to walk over and decide to take the route past the nest. I am surprised to find Mama Duck surrounded by broken eggshells.

The ducklings hatched on Easter Sunday.

It is early in duckling season. There are no others in the stream. These will be first or second brood. Last year I was out of town and missed them completely. Other years I missed the hatching, as well, even though I was in town. One day they were in the nest, then they were gone.

This time I see the new ducklings in the nest.

Mama Duck protectively covers them with her body as they scurry around behind her under the bush. I imagine they are practicing using their legs for the journey to water. When I peer in for a closer look, she puffs up and begins breathing heavily, gathering them underneath her.

This is the first year I got to see a duckling peeking out from under Mama Duck.

I give her some space to collect everyone before peeking in again. I see three little heads looking back at me. That seems like enough of a gift for the moment, so I continue on my way to the dinner, celebrating life and resurrection.

If you look closely there are three little heads looking out from under Mama Duck.

By Monday evening when Steve and I walk the dog, the nest is empty. There is only a scattering of broken egg shells. Steve suggests walking to the stream. After initial hesitation, I agree.

In the dark I see movement of a mama with her babies on the water.

Thursday finds me with a child home from school. She has a cold and is uncomfortable but not too ill to go on a morning dog walk. We head down to the water in search of the ducks.

Upon arrival, she holds the leash, sending me ahead to check it out first. Then you can hold the leash, and I will go look. I see mama with her babies.


The babies still have fluffy duckling down. They are so cute.

Papa Duck joins them, flanking the side, while Mama protectively guides them towards the water.

The duck family waddles towards the water together.

I keep my distance, watching as they move closer to water. They pause to let the ducklings catch up.

Mama, Papa, and three baby ducklings walk towards the water.

Once all have reached water’s edge, the parents pause, allowing the ducklings to splash a bit before launching. I smile as they swim away and turn to face my youngest child who holds the leash of the dog. She smiles, too.

We walk home together sharing memories of duckling days past.

Risen, Indeed

He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

It is Easter Sunday, a time to celebrate the resurrection and all things new. Yet, even on Resurrection Sunday, many sit in Saturday still, the space of death and loss. It is a tough bind to hold, that of rejoicing in the hope of the resurrection, while simultaneously mourning that we remain here in the death.

Yesterday’s news of the untimely loss of a precious child I was blessed to work with this year in the SVCC and this morning’s news of horrific attacks on worshipers and tourists in Sri Lanka, make the words I was so eager to share today seem flat and trite. How does the story I want to tell even begin to matter in light of the bigger picture?

I think it matters. I think it matters that beauty and hope can be found in unlikely places, in personal ways. This week’s resurrection story came at the perfect time, in an unexpected way, and I share it here now.

Wednesday was full of goodness. I worked on an online class in the morning, created in my art journal after that, had a Facetime call with two dear friends, did the after school pick up.

I noticed while driving past my house, that there was a box on the front porch, a package. I did not remember ordering anything, but sometimes Steve or one of the adults does, so I made a mental note to check when I got home.

Then I forgot.

Afternoon routine involved connecting with kids, preparing supper, wrapping up the day, watching a favorite Youtube channel while working in the kitchen. An unboxing was happening there (go to 15:53 if you click on the link), reminding me that there was a box waiting on the front porch. I stopped what I was was doing to go check it out.

It was labeled as containing 50 hangers. This struck me as interesting and odd at the same time. I use a mishmash of hangers and wondered if maybe Steve wanted to start using nicer hangers or if one of the adults had gifted me with a box of them.

The return address was local, but unfamiliar, and read Shoot for Your Dreams. The closer I looked at the box, the more dented it appeared, and I began to feel an odd sensation relating to opening it. Was it a good idea?

This has happened twice before. I was afraid to open an unexpected package and felt an unreasonable anxiety that maybe there was something dangerous inside. The first one held cherries, the second, a thoughtful gift.

Bracing myself, I opened this box.

This is the box that held the surprise. I would have been happy with 50 matching velvet hangers, but that is not what was inside.

I removed this.

I was not expecting a Gucci dust cover bag to come out of the box. Curious and curiouser.

Untying the strings at the top, I pulled out a gorgeous spring Gucci bag. I. Was. Stunned.

This spring tapestry-style Gucci bag is covered with beautiful images on both sides and has bamboo-style handles. It is gorgeous.

I took it to show my son who began snapping pictures and researching the pattern and authenticating numbers. Yes, it was a real Gucci bag. The mystery deepened, and remains. I had suspicions that did not pan out, and clues that have not come all the way together.

I decided to receive the beauty and rest in the mystery.

For this particular gift to arrive in the midst of Holy Week, felt significant. I wrote in this post a story of loss. A death, if you will. Out of the dented hanger box came something beautiful, brimming with images of life, flourishing like my word this year. I was overwhelmed.

It felt so personal and kind, this third surprise package. It reminded me of another gift of three.

This is my resurrection story today. It is the resurrection of new beauty in a new season of life. It is the receiving of a generous gift that holds deep meaning from a giver that I cannot see. It is relinquishing the need to know everything and trusting the evidence that I have been given.

I am seen, loved, celebrated, encouraged.

Dear Mystery Giver,
Thank you for this generous gift. You have no idea, or maybe you do, how blessed I felt to receive it. In this season of stepping out and showing up and starting something new, your thoughtfulness and generosity reminded me, once again, that my labor is not in vain. God works in the unseen spaces and brings to new life things we thought have died. He provides exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever imagine or dream. I certainly did not imagine or dream the contents of this package! My husband, the giver of the original bag, told me that this one is amazing and so much more beautiful. And I agree. I loved carrying it to church this morning. Blessings and Love to you!

Dear Reader,
Thank you for staying with me to the end of the story. I don’t know where you find yourself this Resurrection Sunday. Maybe you, too, are rejoicing at seeing a glimpse of the goodness of God in the land of the living. Maybe you are grieving a deep death or loss and don’t believe there will ever be goodness. Wherever you are, please know that you are seen and loved by the one who cares about the things of your heart, even the loss of a bag from your teen years. He is in the business of restoring and making things new.

He is risen, indeed!