Lent: Rest & Repentance

I’ve been giving things up for Lent ever since I was cognizant that people did such a thing. It seemed like a good way to regulate yourself over the reasonable 40-day period, to cold-turkey your way out of an addiction. Giving up meat my freshman year of college helped lead me to giving it up altogether several months later, and I still don’t eat it (unless it comes from the sea). And I’ve given up Facebook, my perennial mental health obstacle, several times and found relief in that break. I wrote last year at this time that “the point of giving things up is to refill your life with something better, to bring you closer to God.” I haven’t always had that mindset going into Lent, but coming to this conclusion has made it a more meaningful season for me.

So what to do this year? Just as I struggled to decide what my New Year’s Resolution would be (to be who I say I am), I couldn’t figure out what to give up for Lent. I didn’t feel like there was any particular thing that I needed to get rid of. I am not addicted to Facebook the way I once was, and it’s not causing me the same anxiety. Overall, that is a victory. Eventually I chose to disable my Instagram account for the season, to cut down on the time I spend looking at my phone. But that’s not my focus. I’m not obsessing about how much I miss it (I hardly do, though I do plan to reactivate on Easter). Rather, in conjunction with my resolution to be who I say I am, I am focusing on being intentional in all I do… and that means taking care of myself so the intentionality is real. While my anxiety has improved since its worst point last fall, I still struggle with mental exhaustion. I decided to make this my positive Lent resolution: to be aware of my energy levels and choose what I can do at a given time without self-repercussion. I keep to-do lists and obsess about them sometimes, trying to accomplish everything on it as quickly as I can in hopes of relief from that. And if there’s not very much on my list, well, I still exhaust myself. So now I am working to be mindful of what I can do in a day. Often that means only doing one other thing besides my full-time job. The end goal is to do better at everything that I do because my mind is balanced and rested. I’m happy to have gained more awareness of what my mind can handle and can choose to navigate that.

Now, this probably goes against what you may have heard about Lent. In the early church, as I learned from a pastor friend of mine, new Christians used that time to reflect before they were baptized. One practice that often gets associated with it is “fasting,” which gets translated to “not eating,” but can be translated to other addictions as well. Above all, it’s a time to repent for your sins. The Sunday School definition of that is apologizing. But there’s more to it. Repentance means you fully recognize what you’ve done wrong and why it’s wrong, apologizing, and seeking God’s forgiveness (which He always offers!). There’s no self-beating in there. Not to say you shouldn’t be humbled by the process, but that’s not harmful. In fact, being humbled feels pretty good, relinquishing the anxiety that’s built up and exhausted you. So, my process for reducing mental exhaustion allows me more space to repent, reflect, and rebuild. Anxiety drives people around the world to terrible sins every day… I’m not going to let it do the same to me.

As I go about life, whether at work, church, orchestra, social events, or out wandering around Minnesota (or anywhere else in the world), I’ll be taking care of my mind. You don’t need to commemorate Lent or even be a Christian to take care of yours, whatever that means. It’s not a reward – it’s a requirement for being alive. It doesn’t mean being haughty; it will allow you to treat others better too and take care of them if they need it. Set high standards, but stay realistic, too. And when Easter comes, celebrate your progress – and keep it going!

Lots going on lately – orchestra concert, making apps, writing articles for Agri News, making music at church, writing fiction, and visiting friends and family – all of it good. I have no need to boast about being busier than anyone else, because it doesn’t matter. I do the things I do with intention. My only hope is that the rest of you do the same.

Peace,

Brita

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You who have tried… you who have failed… you who are.

For many, January is characterized as a boring month that just slogs by, with gross weather and not much to look forward to. But on the whole, I’ve taken the opposite view this time around. In general, I’ve made January a month of optimism, not dreading winter but embracing it and not preventing myself from excitement. The start of year 2 in Rochester has been a little too exciting, as a matter of fact. But I have come to some sort of internal consensus on my resolution for this year, which is apparent in the headline.

I got back from Seattle and to normal pretty quickly. The highlight of that first week was attending the Bread & Butter String Band’s concert in Decorah. My good friend Lucas is one of the founders of the band, back in 2008 (did I remember that correctly?), and I finally got around to hearing them last summer. I was so impressed that I go to their concerts now every opportunity I get! Plus it was fun to see him before he left for another semester of school in Montreal. The weather even held up for me to drive down and back, but right after, the deep freeze began. The obligatory below-zero days appear to have passed, and now we’re sitting in the comfortable 10-20 degree range. (Ha.) Fortunately, I’m a year more mentally prepared for the days of -30 wind chill. Considering I started dreading it back in July, I’m quite pleased with myself for holding up in it.

The cold did cause me a slew of new problems, though. A few days after that concert, I was driving to work. As I approached a red light on West Circle Drive, I braked… but couldn’t slow down. There was a pickup truck in front of me, and about a half second before it happened, I realized I was going to hit it. Wham. In hindsight, it was good that he was there to stop my motion. There was a spot of black ice there and I didn’t brake soon enough, so I slid into the guy. Returning to the feeling of it is intense. We were both okay – my car was the most damaged of anything involved. There’s a crack on the front bumper, my left tire rod got bent, and my driver’s side window regulator got broken. It’s all fixed now, except for the cosmetic stuff, which I’ll get fixed later. Still, I’ve been carless for bits of time, which I hate to be. And I won’t forget the financial impact, either.

So that’s what’s been messing with my life this month. That’s in addition to my usual activities – working on Bead & Jewellery Magazine (which I’m still getting used to) and our craft tutorial apps, singing and playing cello at Gloria Dei, Rochester Pops Orchestra rehearsals, reading books, and hanging out with friends. I will be going to England again in the first part of April for the next Big Bead Show 😀 And I’m going to Boise Feb. 6-9 to visit my grandparents. My grandpa Gordon’s birthday is on the 7th, and mine is the 8th. I’m really not excited to be turning 24, but I am excited for the trip. 🙂

Now, on to the philosophical. As my thoughts have formed, I’ve learned that I value authenticity in a person. That means being truthful about yourself and to yourself. You should do what makes YOU feel most alive, most at home. The book I’ve been reading, Dr. Daniel Levitin’s The Organized Mind, talks about flow, where you get so involved in what you’re doing that you don’t stop to think about it or get caught up in insecurities. It doesn’t exhaust you, but energizes you. Sadly, it’s been a long, long time since I felt this – not that I recall since practicing cello in the practice rooms in Jenson-Noble at Luther. That doesn’t mean I’ve screwed everything up, or that I’m working at the wrong job. I just need to find my way back to it. And flow isn’t the only thing that matters. Rational decision-making is important too, which Levitin spends a whole chapter talking about. But flow comes when you’re doing something that’s part of you. That’s what I strive for. I know I won’t be good at what I’m doing if I don’t feel connected to it. So my resolution for 2016 is to be who I say I am. In this world where social media lets you portray yourself as happier than you are, I’m fighting that. Perhaps it would be better to say that I’m going to say who I really am. That includes to myself. I can’t achieve flow if I’m not truthful with myself about the best choices.

“Should” is a dangerous word. I take the perspectives of others seriously, and sometimes that turns into my thinking I should do or be something, even if I don’t feel connected to it. There’s a matter of trial and error to this, of course. I took ballet for 5 years because I thought I would love it when I was 7, but by the time I was 12, I didn’t feel the connection. The worst of this is when the “should” manifests itself in your brain. It blocks you from your truth. “Should” is what tells you that you’re stupid, irrational, misguided, worthless, that your emotions are wrong. But how can your emotions be wrong? Emotions aren’t supposed to be called “right” or “wrong.” They just are. You can analyze them to determine the root of them and from there, determine the right or wrong path through rational thinking. And emotions are dynamic, too. You may react one way upon learning a tidbit of information, but as you learn more about the topic, your emotions change. That’s why empathy is so important, why I value it so much.

Which leads me back to authenticity. Because I value empathy as well as authenticity, my goal is to show empathy always, to be a safe space for others to be authentic and true, which allows for their own self-improvement. But sometimes I think back on times in my life where I wasn’t empathetic. That’s where Impostor Syndrome comes in. How can I tout empathy as so important to me when I’ve failed so many times to live up to this, and hurt those who were dear to me in the process? I’m sorry that I have not kept my word. I feel like a failure – an impostor. Same as I do when I tell people that I’m the sub-editor of a prestigious beading magazine. I’m not a professional beader by any means. I know how to do it, but I confess I don’t share the excitement for the craft that many beaders I know do. It’s not what brings me to flow. So why would anyone want to work with me?

It’s not hopeless. Impostor Syndrome is not going to doom you to depression, you just have to look into why it’s happening. In my case of empathy, I acknowledge the times I’ve failed, and I’m sorry for them. I’ve come miles in understanding all of it. Then I think of a line from a communion preface my pastor from Seattle gives, welcoming all to the table of Christ: “You who have tried to follow Jesus… and you who have failed.” It’s the grace of a second chance. With the help of God, I can live up to my own ridiculous standards, in my work and in my character. I know Yoda says “Do or do not. There is no try.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from the “do not”s. It’s possible, because I see the possibility.

It’s hard to mince this into a few words. This year, I promise to say things that reflect what’s in my head and heart, to not boast, to not hide from my feelings, regardless of what society is telling me about them. To take others at their word and hold them to it, and to only give word that I know I will keep. And to be honest with myself. How’s that sound?

Onward and upward.

Brita

P.S. I’m rooting for the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl because I had a huge crush on Carson Palmer when I was 10.

2016 Awakens

No need to panic – there will be no spoilers in today’s post. But I do recommend going to see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. You may want to familiarize yourself with the original trilogy beforehand, but you don’t need the prequels. Save yourself from Jar Jar Binks and Hayden Christensen’s terrible acting.

But, we all know that 2016 is upon us. In some parts of the world, it’s already here, hard to believe as it is. I’ve lived in Rochester for a solid year now, though I’m back chilling in Seattle for the holiday break. Ashdown is very kind and gives us some ample time off for this time of year. 🙂 I spent Christmas Eve here, then a few days down in Beaverton, Oregon with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, mostly watching football and eating delicious food, while sharing good fellowship and celebrating the upcoming baby Crichton. 🙂 That’s what it’s all about for us. Tonight I’ll ring in the new year with my high school friends at a church party, and on New Year’s Day, I’ll see the final movie installment of the Hunger Games series with them.

So it’s been a significant break from reality. I’m ready to go back, though, despite the recent snowstorm. It should be cleaned up by when I get back 2 days from now, if I know Minnesota well. I plan to minimize my driving during the winter because icy roads terrify me. I’ll have enough going on in town anyway.

Now, perhaps you are wondering about my New Year’s resolutions. I’m still working on them. I’ve come to realize that the most effective resolutions are ones that are less concrete. For instance, you can resolve to lose a certain amount of weight and do what you need to accomplish that, but if that’s the end goal, what’s going to motivate you to sustain it? It makes so much more sense to resolve something that you have to work on every day in the future, a mantra to keep repeating to yourself beyond just the one year. I think this comes from the part of me that wants to always be improving at something. I am a perfectionist, but I take pride in improving at what I do. I discussed in my last post that I enjoy reflecting on my life, and from this I can see where I’ve improved.

One of my favorite parts of coming home is reading through my old journals. I have all of them that I’ve written in since the age of 7 stored in a large bin. I’m so thankful that I’ve recorded my thoughts and life philosophies, because this allows me another opportunity to see self-improvement. I know that I’ve spent too many hours agonizing over what I’ve done wrong in the past, trying to figure out why I wasn’t a better person and why so much didn’t go my way. Reading my old journals gives me insight into that and faith that I am improving. It’s also difficult, though – I see my moments of depression and anxiety and relive them, traveling back in time. But the encouraging part of it is that I understand these feelings now, which I didn’t back then. I’m giving my former self the love that I didn’t give myself before. My previous post describes the self-awareness I’ve come to, which has allowed me to understand and forgive my past errors, to have more patience, and to trust myself and others. I’ve found channels for the empathy I’ve always felt. I guess you could say I feel a maternal instinct towards my younger self. I want to comfort her and tell her she’s okay the way she is. Maybe self-acceptance is just part of maturing. I know I made more long strides in that progress in 2015. It was quite a good year.

Well, I’m going to get a head start on good physical health in 2016 as well as mental and emotional. And let’s hope that last week’s dud from the Seahawks was an aberration.

May 2016 be a year of improvement for us all!

Brita

Controlling My Destiny… Or Not

After an upsetting 2-4 start, the Seattle Seahawks are suddenly themselves again. Maybe even better. I certainly thought so watching them from the stands of TCF Bank Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 6. They’re now in line to make the playoffs, and at this moment, they control their own destiny. In other words, they’re not depending on anyone else’s games to get onto the playoff pace – as long as they win, they’ll be in. And that seems almost probable.

Now, what does this mean in terms of actual important stuff? Well, I’ve written before about the ways the Seahawks’ team philosophy has helped me keep a positive view on life, so this is kind of related. I reflect often on how I’ve come to be where I am. Partly that’s due to being asked so often why I’m in Minnesota after growing up in Seattle. Yes, it is my choice to be out here – I controlled part of my own destiny making that choice. But I didn’t get to have it without influence beyond me.

When I was about 18, I had all these plans in my mind of what my life was going to turn out to be. I was off to Luther College (another moment of controlling my destiny by choosing it) and in a relationship I was excited about. I knew many others who were going to Luther through Lutheran Summer Music, so I figured my social scene was set too. A double major in English and music sounded totally doable. Then after college, I would return to Seattle and work for a newspaper, teaching cello lessons on the side and writing art songs for fun, while being blissfully married and raising beautiful children. Sounds great, right?

No one likes to be wrong. And especially not to be told they’re wrong. If you’d told me at the end of my senior year of high school that approaching age 24, I’d be single (but not lonely), living in Rochester, MN, writing about beading, and playing in a worship band, how would I have responded? With shock, no doubt. Maybe I wouldn’t like the fact that I’m not close with many of the people I started college thinking would become my best friends, but I do still have a close friend group that developed my freshman year. I know I’d be upset with the way I’ve handled dating, but perhaps not more than I’m upset with my teenage self right now for being so stupid about it and stuck in the wrong mindset for years. I feel like I have to walk carefully to avoid falling back into it.

That’s the power of reflection. You see your mistakes and beat yourself up. Of course I know that’s not productive. The goal should be to figure out why the mistakes happened. I think I have some semblance of an answer to many of my social problems: I lacked understanding of myself and others. In my little box of belief that I controlled my destiny, I wanted to make people like me by my own actions. Not only did this not seem to work, I felt exhausted in trying. I knew I was an introvert, but I didn’t understand what it meant. I loved being alone, but I thought that made me dysfunctional. I didn’t thrive in my high school’s social environment, so I thought that meant I had to fix something I was doing. I believed I was repulsive because no one wanted to date me, then felt validated when someone finally did in 2009. And that came with its own can of worms. The rise of social media didn’t help.

I also know now that I occasionally have problems with anxiety. It proved to be more of a problem in college when the destiny I supposedly controlled wasn’t coming to fruition. On top of that, I was trying to figure out my values. There were things I thought I was “supposed” to believe, partly because I am Christian, but the root of it was that my then-boyfriend believed them (very deeply, to his credit) and to make my ideal situation work out, I had to believe them too. The fact that I wasn’t certain made the anxiety worse. And so on. It tore me apart.

Misunderstanding myself and others around me has cost me relationships, no doubt. I’ve beat myself up over this enough. But, God provides us with abilities and opportunities to learn and improve – that’s what grace is! Various things in college helped me see beyond this need to control my destiny, which, as I discovered on the way, perhaps wasn’t what I wanted at all. I just wanted to know what was going to be next in my life. But you can’t know where you’re going to be in 5 years, even if everything seems clear in your life at the moment. There are opportunities, hopes, and dreams that will come to you, and probably not at the moments you’re looking for them. There’s one dream I had in 2013 that I’ll never, ever forget. It changed the direction my mind was going, forcing me to stop, break down, and examine everything. Without it, I probably wouldn’t be writing about this today! It helped me open up to the possibilities that I didn’t see while blinded by my plans. That’s not to say it’s wrong to have plans – I’d never get anything done without them. But they can change.

So, I’m okay with being “wrong” about where I’ve ended up. Now that I am independent and stable, I’m open to what will come that’s out of my control. Of course I’ll make mistakes still and fear that I haven’t moved beyond my former self. But I’ll acknowledge them, apologize, not repeat them, and go forward. And I’ll live free in the faith that my destiny isn’t concrete, nor is it something I can know. Besides, there are no playoffs for life – you don’t need to control your own destiny. 🙂

I guess I didn’t mention any of my recent life events in this post other than attending the Seahawks game. I haven’t written since November 2. But this does cover much of what I’ve been thinking about in that time period. I went to Christmas at Luther about a week and a half ago, so that was an opportunity to reflect as well. And I spent Thanksgiving in Muscatine, IA with my former roommate Laura. I’ll be heading home to Seattle in 6 days, where I’ll try to relax while comprehending all the changes that have taken place in my family. It’s hard, but good. Who knows if I’ll blog again before 2015 ends, but I’ll do my darndest.

Go Hawks,

Brita

Florence: Saints and Sinners

It’s All Saints Day, and also the day after Reformation Day, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, which makes Halloween also the birthday of Lutheranism, the faith which I practice. So the philosophy that we’re all saints and sinners is on my mind this time every year. I’m also remembering the saints in my life who I no longer see, but who live on in my memory. In greeting time at church this morning, our worship leader Pat had us share with each other the people we’re looking forward to seeing again in heaven. My grandparents Ruth and Phil Moore are a clear answer. I also look forward to seeing my great-grandparents Gladys and Milton, after the special reunion we had this summer in Tahoe remembering their spirits. All Saints Day has become one of the most meaningful days of the year to me. I’ll get to that more in a bit – first, my trip.

I returned from Europe just over a week ago. I wrote last on Oct. 15 about the work portion of the trip, which went very, very well. The Big Bead Show was another smashing success. This time, I felt comfortable being there knowing what was going on. I met world-class beaders who I’d been hearing about for months, like a Swedish woman named Anna Lindell. She beaded a VW Beetle!

Then, of course, we headed for Florence, Italy – me, Sara, David, and Elizabeth. I already miss that city terribly. Everywhere I looked, there was history waiting to be read. Stunning churches hid themselves away within the narrow streets – we just had to look inside. I got up early and meditated at one of them one morning. We walked everywhere, as it’s not a huge surface area. I can’t say I’m a fan of Italian drivers now. So many people walk about, that they can’t all fit on the sidewalks, and the cars just drive right through. You have to be careful. As you walk around, you’ll find plaques by the doors of buildings indicating their significance. And the street names help you find what you’re looking for – for instance, Via Dante Alighieri is where the museum about that man’s life is. The magnificent Duomo cathedral is not hard to find. I did get inside there, although I didn’t go up to the top because I was a little sick. Popes of ages past lie memorialized there. Perhaps most importantly, we visited the Uffizi art gallery, which is chock full of Renaissance and medieval art, with large rooms dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. It’s more than you could ever look at in one day. I enjoyed it very much though! We also attended a performance of Cosi Fan Tutte at the new opera house, ate gelato, and drank prosecco on the roof of our beautiful hotel. And too many cappuccinos. 🙂

At the Uffizi gift shop, I bought a book on one of Florence’s characters, Catherine de Medici, by British author Leonie Frieda. She was Queen of France in the 1500s, the wife of Henri II, and obviously part of the ubiquitous Medici family, who dominated Florence beginning in the 1300s. This family of bankers was the driving force behind the Renaissance and made Florence the center of flourishing art that it’s known as – they made themselves into nobles by their entrepreneurship. They not only became dukes and duchesses, they became cardinals and popes… and unfortunately did not live up to the standards of the job. I’d known about the corrupt religious officials from my previous classes, but it’s another thing to read about it within the city where all this took place. I don’t know if Martin Luther ever visited Florence, but he certainly visited Rome and saw what was going on. The papacy not only controlled spiritual regulations, but also possessed land all over Italy – it was effectively a political entity. (You’ll see details about this in Machiavelli’s The Prince.) What ticked off Luther was the sale of indulgences, where parishioners could pay a sum and be told they were absolved of their sins, which meant more money and power to the church. He wasn’t a fan of these men – these Florentines – who were supposedly saints walking the earth, yet openly committing sins by having illegitimate children and seeking temporal power unjustly. Luther sparked a revolution of thought by noticing what was wrong in the church. I think he’d be happy to see a pope like today’s Francis I, who’s at the other end of the spectrum from the greedy Medicis. Being in Florence made me think about this… I haven’t finished the book yet, I’ve been a bit distracted since getting back. But I will. At least we know now that it doesn’t fly to call yourself a perfect saint and then corrupt yourself in sin. It’s better to recognize yourself as both.

I had another big musing from today, which was quite a busy day, playing at church, a concert with the Oneota Valley Community Orchestra in Decorah, and rehearsing for the Polar Express with a dance company here in Rochester. I’ve been reading articles on my Facebook news feed about grief this week, just because they’ve caught my eye. I’m always striving to be empathetic to everyone – we all have struggles, and I find empathy to be the best way to help, rather than cliches and platitudes. We know that losing someone you love is hard. It sucks. But we hate to see each other suffer. These articles gave insight into better ways to help your loved ones with grieving. They also made me think – grief is an emotion that’s feared. We don’t want to spend time feeling it because we want to move on with our lives, as we’ve got things to accomplish with our jobs and families. That’s why empathizing with grief is hard too. But it’s a natural human reaction. It’s okay to be sad when you lose someone! This isn’t just death, either – breakups cause grief also, with a friend or with a romantic partner. I was realizing earlier today that I didn’t allow myself to grieve my breakup two and a half years ago. I’d been with the guy for nearly four years. I felt like I shouldn’t be sad because I chose to end the relationship and knew that it was the right thing, but I was still saying goodbye to someone who’d been a mainstay in my life for so long. That’s never going to be easy, no matter how necessary it is to move on from them. Not wanting to admit my sadness made senior year a little harder than it needed to be. Only recently do I feel like I’ve processed it the way I wanted to. It will never be pleasant, and I pray I don’t experience it again, but there are no guarantees.

Thinking about grief on All Saint’s Day seemed fitting to me. This day is meant to remind us of those we love who have passed – the connection is clear. These dear ones aren’t with us anymore, and we have the right to grieve that. We grieve because these people moved us and shaped our lives. So we will, and we will carry forward their legacies. That’s why the Milton and Gladys Anderson family reunion continues. We still grieve for them a little. We love them and miss them. They are our saints. Ruth and Phil Moore are our saints too. That’s what this day means.

I’m glad to unload my thoughts a bit after this busy week. I got back to work and Minnesota life, put out a new issue of Bead Me, taught cello, played music at church, had my concert today… no stopping to rest just yet. I have a hard decision to make coming up. My job at Ashdown is only becoming more energizing, which I love, and I have to make sure I can live up to that. I’m at the point in life where I have the time and space to do what makes me happiest, what makes me be the light to the world I must be. So here’s to more self-discovery.

Cheers,

Brita

Bead Show Eve – Round 2

As I write this, I’m winding down for the evening in Storrington before heading up to Surrey tomorrow to set up for yet another Big Bead Show, where I’ll represent Bead Me Magazine. This week has flown by. We’ve accomplished a lot that we needed to for our company and re-connected with our British colleagues. I’ve certainly shared many laughs with them, and they’ve borne witness to my “cat stretch.” I don’t know what to say about it, really, as I’m still processing. What I do know is that I’ve begun my adventure into the Periscope app, which I’d never used before, but am excited about now for sharing my beading journey.

I’m also entrenched in Anglophilia once again, if you know what I mean. It’s really not a disease, though I’ve made it sound that way here. Just an obsession that dates back to college. I’ve come alive this week like never before, more eager to relish others’ company and, dare I say it, extroverted. My fear is that once I return home on the 24th, I’ll be too exhausted to function for several days, recovering from the high I’m on, but I won’t worry about it for now. My head and heart are full.

Apart from working, we’ve been on a couple of walks with the Kings and their dogs in the South Downs National Park, which is quite large, but we just walk part of an area of trail there. The dogs, Albert and Lulu, love it. It feels like wandering through the pages of a book – I’m sure I’ve said that before. And we also visited The Rising Sun pub again yesterday with our whole crew, the combined USA and UK teams. The camaraderie we’ve shared this week is something I’ll never forget. It’s started up a fresh wave of energy that I won’t let go of.

Of course I’ve also enjoyed watching British quiz shows on TV with a few glasses of red wine (or Madeira), eating biscuits, and chatting with the Kings. They are as great hosts as ever. My parents actually came out here and met them about a month ago, and they Skyped me while I was at the office that day. A totally surreal moment… and now I am here too! It’s almost unreal. I hated to leave Minnesota last week, as I love that area very much too, but it’s hard to imagine going back from what I can only call a mountaintop experience. I feel affirmed, loved, appreciated… I’ve needed this more than I thought. Let’s see what I feel inspired to do when I get back. Last time it was finding a new apartment. I still have a week and a half to figure out what it will be this time.

Okay – my thoughts are becoming jumbled in my mind. I wish I could say more, as I realize I haven’t posted on here in awhile and of course much has happened in Minnesota as well since I got back from Seattle. It’s past 10 pm here, if you can believe it. I’ll have more to report soon, after the show and our holiday in Italy next week. Traveling here wasn’t terribly difficult, so pray that keeps up. I wish I could bring you all out here with me to what I consider my fourth home, behind Seattle, Decorah, and Rochester.

Peace, blessings, and beads!

Brita

Goodbyes, travels, and growth

I spent this evening on the patio in the backyard of my parents’ home, with a glass of local cider, a salmon burger, sweet potato fries, and grilled zucchini. The sun was out all day, and the temperature hovered around 70. It was the quintessential Seattle summer day, the kind that brings people here to stay. The mild winters keep them here.

But, Minnesota is pretty awesome, too. So I’ll head back there tomorrow after a beautiful Labor Day weekend at my childhood home. It’s the second time I’ve been back since I moved. I’m so thankful I was able to be here this weekend to honor my late grandmother, Ruth Moore, who passed away in August at age 90. We held a memorial service for her on Sept. 5 at Bethany Lutheran Church on Greenlake, the church she attended for 60 years, where my parents were married, and where my aunt serves as organist. My dad, aunt, uncle, cousin, and I all contributed musically to the service, a beautiful tribute to her remarkable life.

Death is never an easy thing to deal with, but with my grandma (and in many ways, my grandpa Phil too, in 2008), it was no tragedy, but a gradual and expected end. Both of my Moore grandparents contributed so many gifts to the world. I best remember my grandma for all she did for my grandpa – he was legally blind, so many times she drove him to his late-night jazz gigs in Seattle and his piano-tuning jobs. She also cared for him in his last years of life, and I came to admire her even more then. As a teenager it devastated me to see him struggle, knowing he could no longer play music or tune pianos as he’d done all his life, but I knew Grandma would be at his side no matter what. They were both native to the Midwest, he from Nebraska and she from a farm in Sioux City, Iowa. I spent many evenings as a child at their house in Greenlake, playing with dolls and piano, eating toast, and taking walks around the block looking for alligators. Grandma made a point of reading to me, which I believe helped ensure my academic success. She was a schoolteacher herself for many years, as well as Sunday School at Bethany. She was frugal and preferred to work for others rather than calling attention to herself, up until the very end. And, she took pride in her Swedish heritage, hanging a Swedish flag door decoration up at her room at the Norse Home, where she lived from 2012 until her passing. There’s so much about her to emulate that took me too long to comprehend. I will always hold my memories of the little red house on 77th in love.

My grandma’s passing was only one of the things that happened in August that presented a challenge to my emotional strength. I started some new projects at work, and we’ve been having meetings to discuss some different directions we could go at our company, which overwhelms my brain sometimes – there are so many possibilities, and the trends change every day, it seems. But, I’m excited that our trip to Europe in October is all booked up for the Big Bead Show, with a trip to Italy afterwards. I’m not going there alone this time – my colleague Sara and our UK boss David and his wife Elizabeth are coming too. Needless to say, I’m stoked.

I also learned in August that one of my former housemates was found dead along a trail in Rochester back in June. Somehow I completely missed this news when it happened – another housemate filled me in on the shocking news. I’d actually talked to this person quite a bit when I lived in that house for the first 4 months of 2015 – he was in the kitchen often cooking something delicious. Just thinking about it again makes me shudder. (I won’t link to any of the stories out of respect for the victim’s family.) It’s one thing for someone you know to die of age, as we all hope for ourselves. It’s another for them to be found on a trail, with suspected foul play involved. This only further motivates me not to go out alone after dark. (Except in Decorah.)

Speaking of Decorah, some happier news: I’m going to be in an orchestra down there this fall! It’s called the Oneota Valley Community Orchestra. I’ve got plenty of connections in it, unsurprisingly. We are playing, for one, Dvorak’s New World Symphony, so I’m excited for that! Our concert is on November 1. Sadly I won’t be with the Rochester Pops Orchestra for the first concert, since it falls while I’m in England. But I’ll rejoin in November once I’m back. I’m also still playing for the Bridge worship service at Gloria Dei and will start singing with the Sanctuary Singers choir this Sunday. And I’m up to six cello students at Schmitt Music on Saturdays. This is exhausting – another reason I’m glad to have gotten a break for a few days. I’m already feeling inspired to get back at it when I arrive home tomorrow, with some fresh perspective.

This weekend I spent a great deal of time reading old journal entries from the end of college and shortly thereafter. I’ve gone through a lot since then, and it was reassuring to read these entries and know that most of the worries I had about the future back then have been resolved. I wrote several times that maybe the Midwest was where I belonged – lo and behold, I am there. I’ve learned so much about myself since graduating, things I was in the process of discovering during school but have clarified while living independently. My first trip back to Seattle in May was weird, as I wrote before, and it did not feel like the home it was before. But this time it’s not like that. It is home. Not my forever home, but a place that always will be home. I can stay for however long I like, and then I’m ready to go back to Rochester. Which I was in May, and I am again.

Meanwhile, my parents are taking off tomorrow as well, for London. They are going just a month before me for a vacation. I’ve been doing my best this week to help them prepare, and I’m sure they’ll do great. They are experienced travelers. Plus they will get to meet David & Elizabeth! I’m so excited for them. No need to be jealous, though.

September will bring challenges of its own. As fall approaches, so do the days of darkness, and for me that means my Seasonal Affective Disorder will kick in. I get it worst in September when the shorter days become noticeable, but it actually improves throughout fall and by December I’m happy again. I would say that June, July, and December are my happiest months year over year. My family and friends provided some advice on dealing with the condition. Most of all, I need to reach out to my support system. Sometimes I forget that I have one, no matter which part of the world I’m in, and I direct my negative feelings inward, which of course helps nothing. I’m never too busy to help anyone. I just pray that others aren’t too busy to help me when I need it… and that I’ll accept the help.

It’s 10 pm Pacific, midnight Central… time for some shuteye before I force myself back onto the latter time zone.

Soli Deo Gloria, and go Hawks.

Brita