Saturday, August 13, 2016

Get to Know Elizabeth Patten

hello there, friends!

today we have a treat for you. elizabeth patten is a mama and gratitude seeker from south dakota. elizabeth and i first 'met' on flickr many years ago where we found mutual admiration in each other's gratitude lists. we were both influenced by ann voskamp and her book, one thousand gifts, and have found that gratitude has brought so much joy and purpose to our daily lives. i know you'll enjoy reading her reflections.

b + (L)


elizabeth is closer to 40 than 30 and lives with three of her best friends, which makes life pretty fabulous. she has been married to ben for almost 15 years, who encourages her to be more peaceful and the best version of herself. she is mom to maddie and isaac, both of whom will be in junior high this year and who are nothing short of awesome. she is a sunshine lady: "i love to be in the sunshine, have sunshine flooding in through my windows, find the bits of sunshine in life, and share those bits or create new bits of sunshine for others." she blogs at bits of sunshine and you can find her on instagram @bits_of_sunshine.

What does a typical day look like for you?

right now, there is no such thing! my husband is a wildland firefighter, so we don't have regular weekends, or even regular evenings. he may be off on a wednesday, he may come home at 7 p.m. or 11 p.m. or not at all for one night or five. he won't be off on a saturday or sunday, and the rest of it is at the whim of the weather and his supervisor. so, we roll with it! i do have a monday through friday job, at the front desk in the forest service office behind our house, but some mornings i start at 7 a.m. and some mornings i start at 8. some mornings my husband is home and we have breakfast together before we go to work; some mornings he is not, so we can't.  

my job is a variety of customer service and secretarial work, so i don't have a typical work day either! i know i will answer the phone. i may get to talk about great places to hike and camp. i will walk to the post office. i may put together a packet of information about hunting or special use permits. i may need to relay messages over the radio for crews fighting fire in our district. i may get to do some driving to deliver people or supplies to one place or another. or i may not have a lot to do work-wise and so i will capture some moments to write a letter.  

i pop into the house for lunch at some point, and eat with my kiddos. we talk about the morning and i make a little plan with them for the afternoon. sometimes we plan a big supper, sometimes we plan to head to the river as soon as i am off, sometimes we plan to have a lego and scrapbook/letter writing/crafty night. they have been awesome at doing housekeeping chores this summer so we can just enjoy our evenings.  

my kiddos have been playing with a community band this summer, so they have practice on monday nights. we drive an hour-and-a-half to the town where they practice and we either get groceries or go to the pool, then eat supper at a little a la carte in a gas station (they love this for some funny reason). i get a cup of lemon black tea, and they practice for an hour.  

then we drive home, slowly, in the dark, talking for the first half hour, until the radio station we like comes in. then we sing along (sometimes isaac beat-boxes, sometimes maddie harmonizes) and watch for deer and pronghorn for the last hour of the drive. now, summer is winding down. band will be over after this weekend. ben will start having weekends off sometime in september. the kids start school on august 24 and we will see if the days settle into a pattern.  

What does gratitude mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your daily life?

this has been an ongoing, sustaining practice in my life: thinking on the good, the lovely, the praiseworthy, the excellent things. there is always, always something to be thankful for, even when we have to look very, very hard to find those bits of sunshine.

with my health and some of our life circumstances, we have had some long, interesting, and sometimes very difficult places to walk through {you can read about a lot of our journey on my blog, if you are interested}. finding and counting good things, good moments, has been a way for me to stay grounded, to stay anchored, to keep living. i have written out scripture verses and songs and lists of favorite things and good moments and happy little bits about my husband and kiddos in my journals and on my blog for years. little songs of praise throughout all my days.  

a few years ago, a friend pointed me to ann voskamp's blog. sometimes her posts are wordy and heavy for me, but sometimes they are wonderful and thoughtful. she is a list-maker and a counter of good. she keeps journals of gifts counted and has written about counting one thousand gifts. for a while, i used her prompts for listing three things each day. three things orange, three things round, three things tasted, etc. i realized that these were always lists of things i was grateful for. when i was homeschooling my kids, i often had them write three or five or ten things they were grateful for that day in their daily journals. gratitude sets such a peaceful, easy tone for a day, for a life.  

and, once i start listing things that are lovely, that i am grateful for, i find that i have blessings uncountable. even when difficult circumstances and people threaten to sabotage a day, there is sunshine. there is room for me to respond with grace, to be kind, for i have been given so much good.  

and last summer, i found the #htfgratitude group, and beth and lindsay's hello there, friend blog. I realized that i have "known" beth for many years from flickr and the habit blog, and it felt like finding another piece of home. reading other's lists of gratitude and peace and joy, writing my own, this is hearing songs of praise, writing songs of joy.  

in july last year, i wrote in my journal and on instagram "gratitude list: sunshine, shade, and breeze. lake, dock, and clay. a lovely daughter to talk to and just be with. a slow but steady learning curve about the anxiety that doesn't have to, get to, control me. others to be grateful with. #htfgratitude." a community, a home, a life with its roots deep in gratitude is strong and beautiful indeed.

How do you stay connected to those you love?

i have learned that i must take the moments that are available -- or even make the moments happen. to stay connected with my husband, i sometimes take a day off, unexpectedly and maybe when (from a work perspective) i really shouldn't, so we can share a day. one of us makes coffee and we sit with a cup on the front porch, late into the evening and talk. we talk a lot. and we listen to each other. i send texts with words and pictures. i even sometimes send him a racy picture of myself. and when he is home, i scratch his back and hold his hand and look at him, really look, and kiss him and do all the things that lovers do.  

to stay connected with my kids, i play with them. i jump in the river or the lake and run and chase and even jump on the trampoline. i listen to their music and even learn enough of it to sing along (we are great at singing in the car -- i need you, by the chainsmokers is a favorite right now). i watch their shows and their movies with them sometimes, and i introduce them to movies i like. i answer their questions, even the hard ones. we talk. we talk a lot. and sometimes, we are just all in the house together, doing our own thing, but knowing that the others are there, and that we really like each other.

to stay connected to my people who don't live in my house, i send texts and pictures, i buy little gifts, i make cookies to share, i send snail mail and packages, i make it a point to write comments and messages on facebook and instagram, to not just hit "like" or "heart," but to really say something, because i really love people. and i truly feel like one of my "musts" in life is to share sunshine and joy.

What's inspiring you right now?

the things that inspire me are big skies, fresh air, sunshine, my husband's fierce, sacrificial love for us and for the men he works with, my kiddos as they grow into themselves, the words i carve out time to read and write, the way others are grateful and look for beauty, lives that are filled with kindness and goodness and peace and lived out with realness, rawness, and fierceness.  

What is on your bedside table?

a history of the area we moved to a year ago {the land of the dacotahs by bruce nelson, copyright 1946}, a milkglass lamp, a cup that ben and maddie and isaac decorated for me on my birthday a few years ago with quotes and sketches, pens and pencils, a notebook, usually a pair of glasses and a pair of earrings, a lego piece that i rescued from our german shorthair. and, let's be real, some dust. above my nightstand are pictures and quotes of and about ben and i.  

go gently and be fiercely wonderful, my friends. ~ elizabeth


be sure to stop by the hello there, friend instagram account on monday, when elizabeth takes over and shares her day with us!


  1. Hello there Elizabeth! I so enjoyed getting to know you! Your photos are beautiful and the deep love you have for your family and your life shines through.

    1. thank you, cathy! i'm looking forward to the continuing connection we will have in the community we are creating here - in the online world. ;) it's good!

  2. elizabeth, it was such a treat to put your post together! you are an inspiration to me and i know to others. i love the intention you have created in the rhythms of your family life. thank you so much!! xoxo

    1. thank you for the time and effort that you and lindsay put into these guest posts! i know that they don't just magically come together, and i appreciate very much what you two lovelies do to foster this community. xoxo to you beth!

  3. Great to go deeper with Elizabeth. Been following since I first began instagram and so grateful to learn about the list practice and her practice of really looking and listening. I take these words to heart.

    1. pam - you are such an inspiration to me! i love your poetry and your noticings. here's to many years of friendship!

  4. I loved reading this, Elizabeth. I feel so grateful that we found each other through this amazing community.

    1. hello dawn! i, too, am grateful to have found you! what a lovely thing, the practice of gratitude with friends.