beauty grief hearts hope life love

‘so much held in a heart’

I’ve had a rotten cold for days now and it kept me from sleeping last night. I’d been laying in bed for nearly two hours, breathing out of my mouth and one nostril, my head propped up on two pillows, and turning from one side to the other. I listened to Travis’ deep sleeping, tossed the covers around a little when I got too hot, and nothing helped. So, I stumbled out of bed, being careful not to step on the cat, and walked to the family room where our dog was sleeping and woke him up. He looked so confused. “Is it morning already?” he seemed to ask me. And then I turned on a lamp and he squinted his eyes as I sat on the couch and propped up my laptop. He figured it out that no, it wasn’t morning. I’m just crazy. So he laid on his pillow and started snoring again, and while I was partially envious that he could sleep when I couldn’t, I figured I’d write the thing I’ve been trying to write for days – the one that’s been sitting in the back of my mind, half handwritten in a journal, the rest in jumbled thoughts that come and go.

Last weekend, my friend visited me and read a beautiful passage about everything a heart holds in a lifetime. I think she read it in a book, and I asked her to email it to me. At this moment, I don’t know what book it came from or who penned it. But it inspired me to write a version of what my heart holds after 33 years in this world. Here goes:

When I think of my childhood, I still feel the stir of excitement in my chest the night before every first day of school, the nights hiding in backyards while playing Kick the Can with the neighborhood kids, and my first time riding in an airplane. That wild flutter at my center is still what I live for, though it comes and goes between feelings of emptiness, heaviness, loneliness, and anxiousness. In the course of a lifetime, I expect my heart to be tired at it’s end, so much happy beating like a hummingbird, so many times deflated like a balloon that was let go only to fly around in a nonsensical pattern and lie exhausted on the ground. The heart’s cycle is curious and switches rhythm as life changes, sometimes multiple times a day. One can hope more happiness than sadness comes its way.

I can’t fit everything my heart holds in this post, but I’ll try to sum up some of that tangled mess that thumps behind my ribs. There are happy moments like falling asleep in triple bunkbeds above my brothers, the three of us smelling like fireworks and fresh Wyoming air at the end of a long, hot 4th of July. My heart remembers waking up at 3 a.m. and sneaking down to the living room every Christmas morning to see if Santa came. It cherishes making membership cards with my mom for the Fun Club we made up, where all my friends would come over to play games. There is a bed full of stuffed animals, and a big pink Barbie house full of toys from McDonald’s. It sees a “zero” best friend because zero comes before one, and that makes the friendship even more special. And then there were other friends, and other bests, and they all remain inside my memory forever, taking up this huge perfect space.

My heart fell in love with the salty smell of the ocean, staying up past midnight, taking pictures of everything and gluing memories in albums. Part of my heart always lives in California, at a restaurant on the beach where we ate chocolate coffee cake and laughed our guts out all night, on Main Street in Disneyland.

And then part of my heart always lives in Utah, the smell of the lake, long summer evenings, my dad choosing the movie on Saturday nights, cracking walnuts in front of a roaring football game, my mom and I crossing finish lines. Mashed potatoes and gravy every Sunday, and holidays that tasted like cinnamon bears, Orange Sticks, and hot chocolate. Mountains, and college, and roommates, and Slurpees. Then newspapers, sandwiches on Center Street, The Owl, and growing up while never feeling grown up at all.

Pieces of my heart live all over the country, wherever my friends and family are – New York, St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Washington state, Colorado, Idaho.

Then there are the cracked and bruised parts of my heart – the parts that have holes, scars, and cuts. Feeling guilty for half my life because I didn’t understand, feeling lied to and betrayed. Whispers, cunning smiles, and sneers. Insecurity and losing friends. Being told I was ugly and believing it. Hiding behind my hair and baggy clothes.

Boyfriends and breakups, getting in the way of love, and others doing the same. Being heartbroken over and over by the same men, and doing my own share of breaking. Calling one person 20 times in a row one night, tears streaming from my face, never getting an answer. Watching his garage door close one day, knowing it was over forever. Pain and relief at the same time.

And then a year went by and things changed and one day I drove down an unsuspecting road and got chills thinking of the love interest who would eventually become my husband. Feeling, for the first time, that this seemed right from the beginning.

My friend sitting across the room from me, telling me one of my ex-boyfriends committed suicide two weeks earlier and that she found out through the grapevine after someone read a column his step-mom wrote. Wondering how one day someone can disappear from this world. Knowing that life is so hard for some people. Realizing there were only two people I could talk to about it. Ripping up, throwing away, and deleting almost everything I had to remind me of him.

Making a new home in New Mexico that looked like hiking whenever possible, felt like trying to find the right path, and tasted like green chile. Getting engaged on top of a mountain at sunset, walking down the aisle. The light days, anxious days, adventure days, and sick days.

Choosing a pair of earrings from my grandma’s collection at a lunch with all my cousins that I knew would never happen again now that she was in the ground. Missing her voice and our long drives and phone calls. Later releasing balloons into the air following a service for my grandpa – the orange rocks in the background and wondering why there was so much more peace in this loss.

The death of a parent, something no one understands until it happens. Kneeling by my dad’s body and sobbing in that long maroon room, everyone telling me he looked better two days earlier when I couldn’t be there. Telling him I was sorry. Running my fingers through his hair. Geese flying by and hearts appearing in rocks and trees, on trails, and in clouds, and I feeling like my dad would never forget.

I didn’t feel like myself for more than a year, and then one day, like magic, I wanted to listen to the happy songs again. But the happy songs don’t solve everything – nothing ever will.

The intensity of my heart has multiplied by 1,000 in every way.

I dance now even though I’ll never know how, and I surround myself with people who don’t mind. My heart holds the loud nights, the piano nights, and Halloween. Sunsets glow brighter than ever, and I love the rain. Sometimes I shake when I read the news and see videos of people running from violence in pictures on my phone. It all feels so close.

My heart holds dog smiles and sneezes, slow cat blinks, and Harry Potter nights. Bike rides, trails, and wine. Summer in the backyard and the way Travis tries to save all the bees and spiders. Rose bushes surrounding our brick house.

Life always goes on as it will, and time will move too fast. We’ll experience as many far away places as possible, I’ll write memories inside airplanes, and scale mountains until we are old and broken. Life will break me many times more – I don’t even know how to imagine the ways it will. And my warm, wrenched heart will hold it all.

beauty life

la vie en rose

La vie en rose means “life in pink” in French and is another way to say life through rose glasses. I’ve loved the phrase ever since I heard it played as a song on ukulele by “the mother” in the final season of “How I Met Your Mother.”

I bought the sheet music soon after we purchased our piano, but I could never quite learn it very well. Playing here and there without focus only got me halfway there. So when I signed up for piano lessons a month ago (somewhat on a whim), that was one of the songs I told my teacher I wanted to play. It was supposed to be my fun piece, but it turned out to be a challenge. I disappointedly told my teacher that last week and she laughed. “Just because something is challenging, that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.” She told me how her daughter is learning “Star Wars” music on the piano and that it’s hard, but she’s committed because it’s also fun.

I’m writing this post as a recap of the 2018’s first quarter, and it can be sort of summed up like that piano piece – slow, melodic, a bit challenging, but also rosy. When daylight savings hit, I felt an immediate change in me – like I was coming out of winter’s slumber. Following the holidays I’d been a bear who found a cave for the winter and enjoyed months of hibernation. I savored many weekends that involved plans such as “watching lots of TV,” and “changing from one pair of yoga pants to the other pair of yoga pants.”

I think we all have times in our lives when our bodies and minds decide we need certain things. This winter, I needed life to slow down. I needed to hide from the cold, and plans, and busyness. I needed freshly brewed coffee mornings with Travis, Saturdays and Sundays without alarm clocks, fuzzy blankets, every episode of “The Fosters,” and less phone time. I needed to rewatch some favorite movies with Travis, put together a puzzle, sip wine, and notice the moon.

I wasn’t anti-social, just less social. I didn’t plan too far ahead. I embraced some quiet and tried to be kind to myself and others.

And because this is a recap, here are some rosy highlights in no particular order:

The day I started taking piano lessons after a 15-year hiatus. I found my teacher through a friend. I can walk to her house in three minutes.
I marched a couple of times. March for Our Lives was especially impactful to me.
Good things happen when my phone is far away from me. I wrote this poem in February. The finished version is on Instagram.
We had our first visitors of 2018!
Came upon this vintage train and had to buy it.
Super Blue Blood Moon. One of about 2 times I was interested in getting up early this year.
I love dates with Travis.
I love this photo because it shows a true version of a slow weekend. Puzzle box and wine glass in the background, no makeup, definitely wearing yoga pants under the blanket, and Neville snuggled up to me.
beauty life

2017 recap

I know this is late, but I’m an extremely nostalgic person and need to document certain things. For several years, I have written a year-end review and even though it’s Feb. 3, 2018, I’m still going to share one for 2017.

Before writing this, I spent a half hour or so looking through my journals and pictures from last year. Here are my takeaways:

  • I need to write. It’s in my DNA. Many journal entries begin with something along the lines of, “How has it been this long? I need to write more.” I was born with a need to write so that I remember, process, and capture the things I don’t say. At some point last year, I remember talking to Travis about what I want to do with my life and work. For a moment I hesitated on whether or not I am still a writer. To his credit he said something like, “If there is one thing that you always have to be it’s a writer.” I believe him.
  • I care a lot more about making memories than things. This was evident in 2017. More than anything else, I would rather spend my time and money on people I love, trying new things, and seeing new places. And for better or worse (depending on who you ask), I take pictures of it all.
  • No matter what changes in life – marriage, divorce, work, babies, distance – I will always try my best to keep in touch with friends. I will travel, I will invite them to visit, I will send emails, and birthday gifts, and cards, and ridiculous text messages. I will plan reunions and invite everyone over for breakfast if I’m in town. I will keep inside jokes alive. I believe in lifelong friendships.
  • I am in love with the number 33 and this age and all this year is teaching me.
  • One of my favorite quotes I heard last year is “I am not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world,” by Glennon Doyle. I relate sooooo much. Suffering in my life and the world makes me cry, but it doesn’t mean I am broken.
  • I crave truth and honesty in writing, in my family, in my friends, in myself. I mean the kind of honesty that reveals vulnerability and sheds light on the things we all feel, but have a hard time sharing. I crave the moments when the invisible armor we wear each day is left on the floor and we get to be ourselves. I believe when we share fears, and tears, and belly laughs we create a more connected world.
  • Gossip doesn’t have to exist between women. I want to write more about this someday, but it was something I discovered at a work conference that has stayed with me. It’s possible for women with entirely different personalities, ages, backgrounds, and interests to come together and discuss the past, future, big ideas, insecurities and dreams – like really get to know each other – and not gossip about each other afterward. It’s sad that this felt rare to me, but it also felt very exciting and hopeful. I have drowned in gossip many times and it’s something I’m fiercely working on. Women – and people in general – are stronger when we build each other up.
  • And lastly, I have the best family, friends, husband, doggie, and kitty for me. The end.
beauty friendship hope laughter life


Thirty-three sounds much better to me than thirty-two. I don’t know why – there’s no logical reason, but I like the look of it – two threes. Thirty-two was a good year though. I am grateful for the ups and downs (well, not all the downs), the travels, the discoveries, the friendships, my family.

Last year I made the goal to “let go” and sometimes I did. There was dancing (no matter how terrible), balloons for my grandpa, mountain tops, running away from Christmas, genuinely feeling good in my skin, letting my face scrunch up and a few tears fall during concerts, and laughing (oh, there was so much laughter).

Sometimes held on too tightly. So many things about the election broke my heart, I was hard on myself, I got stuck on whatever was going on in the news, I felt anxiety and sadness about a variety of things.

But as one of my friends told me, sometimes change takes longer than we want or expect. Maybe the important thing is giving yourself credit for the things you did right – for the moments you moved in the right direction.

A lot can change in one year, and from the outside, my life might not look too different from the day I turned thirty-two. But I think on the inside, there is movement in ways that I want. I put my phone down more often, I’m writing again, I have some big ideas, and I crave the outdoors maybe more than ever.

So if there is a theme, or motto, or mantra that I want for year thirty-three, it’s slow down. Because I think if there is anything that will help me on the let go path, it’s to be more in the moment, to spend more time on the trails, to enjoy the good food, to pay attention to the details, to truly listen to my family and friends, to write more, and read more (books! not my phone), and have a few more quiet weekends than I did last year. I don’t want my whole life to feel like a blur. I want to create it, remember it, and love it, and those things take time.

Goodbye 32.


beauty friendship hope life love

my religion

“I see God most in my relationships with other people. Victor Hugo said that ‘to love another person is to see the face of God.’ I think our capacity to love is uniquely human and naturally connects us to something higher than ourselves. I even think that loving a baseball team can be a religious experience. I was here in 2012 when Santana pitched his no hitter. Everyone in this stadium was holding their breath at the exact same time. And when the game ended, everyone screamed with the same joy. We all felt so connected at that moment. And I think that was holy. That’s the feeling I want to create in my synagogue.” – Humans of New York

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

When I picture that night, I see it in red.

Red lights shining from the stage onto our table, beer glasses, cheesecake, and faces. I see two piano guys winking at us from the stage and playing the songs we requested: “Old Time Rock n Roll,” “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places,” and “Bye Bye Bye.”

Shortly after the NSync song, I turned to one of my glowing red friends and, with a big smile on my face, said, “I decided music is my religion.” And she nodded and smiled like a good friend, and then we continued on with the night – singing, clapping, and dancing in our seats until the piano guys eventually called us on stage to dance to “Baby Got Back.” And if that’s not religious then, well … OK, maybe that’s not religious.

I’m sure saying “music is my religion” sounded like another Joe Drunk statement after I’d downed a Rocket Man margarita and a few beers, but as is the case with some Joe Drunk statements, this was something that had been following me around but hadn’t been said out loud yet.

In an effort to continue seeking some kind of spirituality, the Humans of New York quote above jumped into my mind after a recent Lady Antebellum concert where this same friend and I sat in the grass with a bunch of strangers singing country songs while watching the sunset. It was a good sunset that night, too, and I thought about how every musical event I attend feels a lot like that Humans of New York baseball game – everyone screaming with the same joy. Feeling so connected in the moment.

When I think of being religious growing up, I feel like many of the times I connected with it most involved music. And when I’ve attended a Christian church in Albuquerque here and there, it’s still always about the music. I love the guitars and piano, the drums, and the lead singers’ voices. I love the occasional accordion and flute, and the way that the energy brings people to their feet with their hands in the air. This is new to me. Singing on our feet to a band is nothing like the church I grew up in.

But outside of church, I feel just as strong of a connection – if not more – with people and God through beats, melodies, harmonies, and instruments. Nothing else gives me the chills like big talent on a stage and people cheering all around me. It’s completely inclusive. It brings strangers together in places where no one asks about your past or future because it’s all about being in the moment. Music accepts. It loves. It challenges, grieves, and spreads joy.

I always needed music – I craved it all the time growing up in the kitchen, in the car, and in my bedroom. I’ve also always needed people – family, close friends, and crowds. I needed places where everyone could be themselves and sometimes that’s where religion failed for me. Music never has.

I love the way cellphone lights make arenas sparkle and sway. I love when thousands of hands reach up and clap to the beat, and when the lead singer stops to let the audience finish the chorus on its own. I’ve been at a concert surrounded by lightning and saw it rain at just the right time. I’ve seen a crowd go nuts over the sound of one chord because they knew what was coming. I’ve stood on the floor jumping in unison with everyone around me and danced when a certain song had mandatory moves. I love when lights stay dim and everyone screams for an encore, then erupts when the musicians comes back on stage to belt a few more songs. I love piano bars and karaoke and how everybody cheers each other on, no matter how horrible the sound and ridiculous the dance.

So, when I look back on that recent night with the red lights and my nice friends, I mostly remember how fun and hilarious it was, and how I was driving everyone nuts taking pictures and videos. And I also remember that I meant what I said in that drunken Manette moment – that music is my religion. Because right now, nothing else seems to compete with that feeling.

Tim McGraw, June 2015
Elton John, March 2017
Garth Brooks, April 2017


beauty grief hope life love


I wrote this March 10 in a document that doubles as one of my journals. I made some edits, but thought it was worth sharing.

I’ve been writing here and there in a few different places, but it’s obviously been a long time since I came here, to this space, to write my heart out. Today something made me think of my dad, and for the first time in a long time I looked up his obituary. And that led me to my blog, and that led me to here. I wanted to write. For a long time it seems I’ve just been putting off writing about pretty much anything and I miss it so much it’s starting to eat at me.

I bought a journal called “I Gotta Be Me.” I’m loving it so far because I’m exploring the things I like about myself and the things I’m unsure of. But no matter what, it seems I always wish I’d written more – more of the day-to-day stuff. More of the funny moments, more of my explorative thoughts. Writing helps me release something inside myself, and it’s something I’m good at, and I never want to lose that.

I was in a training class last week where the teacher suggested doing mind sweeps every day, sometimes more than once, so you can get all the things out of your head and relax into work easier. The mind sweep they talked about was more about writing to-do lists, but I think it’s important to get the running sentences out of your head too – all the stuff that’s just stuck there on repeat. The way you analyze the world, and spirituality, and relationships. That stuff all needs a place outside your head sometimes. So here I am, releasing at least a little of that.

I want to let you know that I’m happy after two years of being sad.

For two years, I was so very sad. And I don’t know what did it, whether it was that trip to Hawaii, or the clock changing from 2016 to 2017, but something gave way in January that gave me some kind of peace. I will never be the same, and losing my dad will always be painful, but I’ve come to a place now where I can process things better and don’t feel so much anxiety about each day. I don’t get that feeling in my chest all the time that made me think something bad was very close on the horizon. I still think about death and accidents and the unknown, yes, and I know anything could happen, but I’m not so scared right now.

It’s kind of strange because politically, I am not happy and the news still has the potential to upset me. I’m very much more in tune with the world than I was years ago and sometimes all of that definitely takes away my peace. I suppose my overall sadness, however, is less obsessive. It’s less present.

In January, I did a clean eating challenge and I’m continuing with it most of the time now. This has been a very positive thing in my life. I’m becoming a better cook and I feel better mentally and physically. I’ve also been climbing more than last year and I’m dipping into the 5.10s which is very exciting for me. I’m also working on my business more than I have in a long time and might have three client projects coming up this month. I’m giving a portion of my proceeds to different organizations that help homelessness each month. Last month, I donated to The White Helmets in Syria. This month, I’m going to donate to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. I think my dad would be proud of this.

I guess this is most of what I wanted to say. I have other goals and other fun things have been going on, but mostly things are at least better than last year. Things continue to look up and hopeful. And that, of course, is a wonderful thing.

beauty hope life

simplify. let go.

I'm posting this random photo because I love it. And because Neville is what we look like when we don't "let go."
I’m posting this random photo because I love it. And because Neville is what we look like when we don’t “let go.”

I realize that saying I’m going to simplify and let go is not enough. Those are just words. They’re very nice words, but still just letters typed out on a keyboard. I’ve been thinking a lot about specific goals related to each of these items, and this is what I have so far:

  1. Meditate. I’m going to try this again for a while, just 10 minutes a day to begin with. Last night, I lit three candles, pulled out a chair and turned on a “Clear Mind” CD that Travis gave to me when we were first dating. I imagined my body becoming very light, then glowing. When I was done, I’m not sure much had changed yet, but I’m hoping with time I will be able to refocus my thoughts easier, and feel lighter.
  2. Read books more, and my phone less. This week, I’m trying to read a chapter a night before going to bed instead of scrolling through my phone. I’m a shameless Instagram addict, and while I love seeing my friends’ photos and posting my own, there is something to be said for a paperback novel in my hands and beautifully written words flowing through my mind before falling asleep.
  3. Clean out my closet. Then the drawers. Then the other closets. And so on. I watched “Minimalism” the other day on Netflix and I’m all inspired to live in a home filled with purpose and downsize the things I don’t use. This weekend, I plan to start with my closet and make a donation to a homeless shelter that takes used clothes.
  4. Get outside. When we were in Hawaii, we woke up at 6:30 every morning and headed to the beach or volcanoes. I don’t remember watching one TV show. The only time we had the television on was at night for noise while we got ready for bed. The whole trip was all about being outside, and I was so incredibly happy. At home, I can be more diligent about getting to bed earlier so I can walk our dog in the morning. I can get to work earlier so I can leave earlier and enjoy a little more daylight. On weekends, I can climb mountains, bike, run, and walk. I’m really so lucky to have trails so close to home.
  5. Create. I have my little card shop that is too often neglected. I’m giving it one more year and then we’ll see how I feel about it. But I’m going to create cards with the intention of putting smiles on my friends’ faces and hope a little business follows, instead of the other way around. I’m not going to let fear that something won’t sell stop me anymore.

And through all of this, I’m going to be kinder and more patient with myself. I’ll do what I can in a day, and I’ll try my best. Some days I’ll fail. Some days I’ll fail a lot. But I’ll let go and try again, and again, and again, and by the end of 2017 I hope to see myself as a more beautiful and fulfilled person by enjoying simple things and clearing out the rest.

What are your goals this year? I’d love to hear them! Cheers to 2017!

beauty grief hope life love

new year

It’s New Year’s Day and I’m sitting in my family room with the Christmas tree lights on, the TV off, the cat and dog resting, and Travis reading his phone on the couch opposite me. I have one soft light turned on in the corner, but for the most part, the room is dim because I was watching a documentary and the fan light causes a glare on the television.

I’m writing because I told myself I’d write today; it’s the new year after all, so it seemed like a good reason. I hoped to have all my resolutions picked out so I could tell you about them, but I’m having a hard time promising myself specific things like exercising five times a week, or writing a book, or going to bed on time, or learning how to do a headstand (although all of those things sound fabulous).

In years past, I chose five things I’d never done before and while this lead me to several adventures (like buying my first pair of stilettos and getting a massage) and temporary hobbies (like making desserts and sewing purses), I haven’t been able to think of five new things that I can commit to yet. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t do some of the things I’ve thought of such as climbing a 5.11 route or finally making a trip to Chaco Canyon.

I suppose this year I want more of a theme to work on instead of a number of things to check off a list. Quality over quantity perhaps?

What I keep coming back to is two themes: Simplify and Let Go. Let go was supposed to be my theme of my 32nd year anyway, right? Maybe it’s not time for me to come up with entirely new goals, but rather to focus on the ones I don’t have down yet.

Last week, Travis and I boarded a plane for Hawaii where we lived simply in so many ways. I have only put on mascara once since we left Christmas morning. My hair was never blow-dried and only styled in ponytails and buns (which is not a huge surprise, but still). I wore gym shorts, swimsuits, and tank tops every day which confirmed what I was afraid of – that I’d overpacked with all those shirts I didn’t wear. We stayed in a little studio attached to a house where a kind, outgoing 60-year-old man lives with his girlfriend. They shared their boogie boards, beach chairs, and umbrellas with us. He’d marked up a travel book and told us to take it everywhere if we wanted. Although we paid to stay there, we didn’t pay much, and his generosity made me want to be just like him someday – friendly, and genuine, and willing to share.

From the moment we landed on the Big Island until the day we left, the knot in my chest that has become all too familiar went away. I didn’t stress; I lived in moments. I took tumbles in waves, boogie boarded with my arms stretched out as if I were flying, took deep breaths of the salty ocean wind, and tried to engrain images of volcanoes, waterfalls, brightly-colored flowers, and black sand in my memory.

I’m very reflective, you know, so I reflected. I thought about Christmas and family and friends and life and loss and God. I read my books, and wrote in my journal. I was quietly thoughtful at times, and talked Travis’ ears off at other times. And the whole week – the whole week! – I was simply thankful to be there – anywhere! – on that island.

One day, I drew names in the sand of loved ones I’ve lost, and those my friends and family have lost. I included common nouns like “grandpa,” “brother,” and “friend” in hopes I wouldn’t leave anyone out. Before we left the beach that day, most of the words had already washed away because pictures in the sand are fleeting and, like life, disappear without our control.

So, now we’re home and Travis and I have made lists of things to do this year. I’m calling those lists ongoing resolutions, not new resolutions. We’ve discussed ways we can be more organized and accomplish our goals. But beyond the lists and goals for our budget, and health, and travel, is my biggest longing of all – to focus on what matters. To let go. To simplify. To be grateful. To remember what it feels like to stay present in my own life and accept it for what it is – a short, fleeting gift.

beauty friendship grief hearts hope life love

rainbows and peppers

There is a Buddhist story about a woman named Kisa Gotami who seemed to have every joy in her life until her child got sick and passed away, leaving her in a world that suddenly felt dark and lonely. In deep despair, she sought help and was told to find Buddha for advice. When she approached him and told her story, he asked her to come back with a mustard seed from a family who had not known death. She knocked on doors and confronted everyone she knew, but could not find anyone who could give her the seed, because they had all experienced the loss of relatives, too. This story is meant to teach that we all experience suffering and death, and in this way, as tragic as it is, we are all the same.

I thought of Kisa Gotami tonight after a series of events involving rainbows, a green pepper, a heart, a friend, Instagram and text messages. It was one of those seemingly modern miracles that could only take place in the 21st century, but reminds me of truths that seem to have been around for thousands of years:

1. We’re all connected somehow.

2. This space we call life extends beyond the years we live.

3. Angels exist among the living, and are most often friends.

It started with a bright, full rainbow that arched over Cache Valley, Utah, at the same moment my friend Janalee took out the trash. She snapped a photo, posted it on Instagram, and said she’d been having an “off” week. It will be six years ago tomorrow since her dad passed away and she said this perfectly-timed rainbow was a perfectly-timed message that her dad is watching over her.

More than 670 miles away, outside the climbing gym, I saw her post, liked it, then went inside to workout. Thirty minutes later, I walked outside and saw a monsoon rainbow peeking through the clouds and immediately thought of Janalee. I rushed to my car, got my phone, and right before I went to send it, Janalee texted me with a heart she found inside a pepper! All of it was perfect timing. I sent her the rainbow saying I was thinking about her at that exact moment, to which she responded that all the hearts and rainbows were messages from her dad. And maybe they were from my dad, too? This is when warm tingles flowed up and down my body, a feeling I’ve felt countless times when something amazing or spiritual happens. I wanted to cry, but I didn’t. I just sat there in wonder and started driving, watching the rainbow as it disappeared, then reappeared, and vanished one more time.

Janalee and I don’t text each other often, so all of these things lining up seemed too perfect to be coincidental. I’m pretty skeptical these days about everything happening for a reason, and when good things happen, I often lean more toward serendipity. But sometimes it seems something really did happen on purpose and whether that’s true or not, it doesn’t hurt believing in the magic of it all. Maybe this is my dad’s or some unknown angel’s way of telling me to keep having faith in something.

Every September, I’m reminded how fragile life is. Six years ago this week, three of my friends lost loved ones unexpectedly. One (Janalee) lost her father, one lost her best friend, and one lost her husband. Those were huge things to try and grapple under the age of 30. They’re still huge things.

Like Kisa Gotami and everyone in that story, we will all experience death if we haven’t already. And maybe the point of all of this isn’t to avoid the suffering because we can’t. Maybe the point is to keep reaching out, keep watching for anything that might lift someone’s day. A rainbow, a heart, a quote, or a simple, “I’m thinking of you.”

Maybe this point is to hope no one suffers alone.

beauty hope laughter life love stars universe

i need the night

“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again, so that there is really only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”
Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark

It’s been a month since that 4 o’clock morning in the backyard with all those stars. Travis and I were sitting in patio chairs looking up at the cloudless, moonless sky waiting for shiny meteors to shoot across the sky like rockets. We talked a little, and I gasped a lot – every time I saw one soar and disappear like a magic trick. The dry, desert air was cool and we were wrapped up in blankets, listening as crickets chirped. I don’t remember a breeze, but I remember the crisp night on my cheeks and the way summer filled my lungs as I breathed it in and out.

We were out there for about an hour and saw a few dozen flying meteors, then Travis went inside to sleep a little longer. I couldn’t help staying out to watch the sky fade from black to golden blue. Most of the stars disappeared by the time I decided to head in and make waffle batter for Travis’ 31st birthday breakfast, and as I watched them vanish, I closed my eyes and tried to feel each second and everything I am thankful for.

There was something magic about that early morning. Neither of us had seen a meteor shower before, and when we saw that this one would take place on Travis’ birthday, we couldn’t pass it up. Watching a meteor shower was one of those things on an imaginary bucket list in my mind – the kind of thing I never wrote down, but would eventually experience because it’s such a Manette thing to do.

I’d started reading a book around that time about the value of darkness in our lives, both literally and figuratively, and how even though we tend to equate the night with the unfamiliar and scary things, there is so much to be gained from it. I recently read that Chaco Canyon in New Mexico protects 99% of its night sky from most light pollution, creating better living conditions for nocturnal wildlife in the area and enabling humans and plants to experience life’s natural rhythms. There is value in darkness that can’t be found in light, and on the morning of Travis’ birthday, I realized how much I missed it – how much I longed for more frequent outdoor moments beneath a million, billion stars.

Sometimes I need the night. I need to walk outside and see the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia. I need to look through a telescope at the surface of the moon or a cluster of stars and realize how tiny I am in this big universe. Sometimes I need to go for a long drive with the windows down and my favorite music keeping me company. Sometimes I need a group of friends around a campfire because it’s a space where every kind of conversation can happen and no one feels awkward.

Sometimes I need to hike long after sunset and reach the top of a mountain where all I can see is black trees and the sky’s diamonds. Sometimes I need to sit on a blanket somewhere and watch fireworks burst right above me in 100 colors. Sometimes I need to soak in a hot tub where everything feels intimate, or swim in a pool where everything feels free, or funny, or both. Sometimes I need to see the ocean in the dark and hear the waves all night long.

Sometimes I need to sleep without a roof over my head so I can hear the owls and rustling leaves. Sometimes I need to be on a chairlift while it’s snowing so I can see the magic of winter with its giant trees draped in white blankets. Then I need to tromp through knee-high fresh powder and make snowballs and angels, and, for some reason, not feel cold at all.

Sometimes I need the loudness of night – the sounds of parties, and city trains, and baseball games. I crave amphitheaters, concert crowds, and my favorite bands giving everything they have on stage. And every once in a while, I might stumble to the car after dancing to thumping beats inside bars with all of my (two) dance moves.

Sometimes I need to sit on the back patio to drink tea and watch lightning strike in all directions. Sometimes I need to sit on a rooftop with friends from all different places and backgrounds and watch cigarette smoke fade into the darkness while talking about the most serious and silliest sorts of things.

Some of these things I’ve only done once, and others dozens of times. What I know is that I don’t do any of it often enough. I love how the night will wrap me up and keep me for a while. How it holds hope in all those stars. How it remembers happy moments, with many more to come.