let go

My favorite time and place to write these days is in the morning on a weekend in the backyard. It’s Monday, but it’s also Labor Day, so it still feels like the weekend and here I am, listening to the birds chirp while Neville rests in the shady grass. The wind is slightly blowing and it’s cool – perhaps a little too cool for the girl in me who wants summer to last forever.

I would prefer that this weekend didn’t end. I had Thursday and Friday off for a much-anticipated girls trip in Denver, so it’s been a long, fabulous five days where I mostly forgot about work. Except, I did see on my work phone that I have 97 emails waiting for me, so the longer this day lasts, the better.

This also happens to be the last day of my 31st year. Tomorrow I will wake up a new age and have another new start. I always love the idea of beginnings. New Year’s Day, the first of every month, and sometimes even Mondays seem exciting, because what better day to start a new goal than a Monday?

I love birthdays. I always have, and I always plan to. To be honest, it breaks my heart a little every time someone says they dread a birthday because they are getting older. I always have to wonder why they dread a day that means cake and celebration. Why dread another year of life? Growing older is such a gift that I hope to never take for granted. Plus, I’m convinced we are not truly old until we’re 90, and even that is debatable. I realize this is easy for me to say because I’m still young and my bones and muscles don’t ache, but for as long as I’m alive, I hope to remain thankful that I’m here.

Tomorrow. 32. It seems like a very ordinary number, doesn’t it? I’ve been thinking a lot about it though, this new age, and new year. I’ve never made a motto for a year, but this year I want to. And you know what that motto is?

Let go.

On Saturday, my lifelong best friend and I made a somewhat spontaneous stop in Santa Fe on our way back from Denver. Jenn had heard of the spa Ten Thousand Waves in an article or television segment and had mentioned a few times that she’d love to go there someday. So, why not? We had a Saturday with zero plans other than driving, and we’d reach Santa Fe around 5 p.m. … plenty of time. When we made it to Pecos in the late afternoon and were amazed by how green it is, we set our Google Maps for Ten Thousand Waves and took a detour to the spa in the mountains.

I would love to describe to you how lovely this place is, with its Japanese influence and the pinons and conifer trees surrounding it so perfectly, but I feel like I’ve never been the best at descriptions. I’m not very good at metaphors or similes, but I can tell you the atmosphere was peaceful and relaxing, yet fun, for two best friends who just spent the weekend doing all the loud things – dancing at a Dixie Chicks concert, screaming when we (or I?) appeared on the Rockies jumbo screen, and laughing until the wee hours of the morning in our hotel room. The spa was sort of an escape from the loudness.

And one thing that neither of us have ever been able to do happened that night. We let go of some of the fears and heartache of body image as we entered a women-only hot tub where swimsuits were optional. This is kind of a big deal for women who grew up in a conservative culture where our bodies were often shamed and hidden. It’s a societal problem women all over this country face – clothed or naked – to feel we are not allowed to just “be” without strings attached to our appearance. And for just one part of one evening, none of this mattered for us and other women of all shapes, sizes, and ages. We were there beneath the trees as the sky turned pink and everything felt OK.

There are so many ways to let go, and we all hold fears and carry baggage of different things. Sometimes all of this feels like rocks in a backpack that we carry wherever we go. What I know is that I don’t want to live my life – my very short life – carrying around a bunch of rocks. I don’t want to be scared of getting older, or of strangers, or of failure. I want to come to a place where I’ve shed all the things that keep me grounded and heavy. I want my heart to be so open to people and possibility that I can’t help but feel connected to everything and everyone.

Let go.

Bring on 32.

unless you can be a unicorn

 

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“Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.”

A few weeks ago, I had my first – but definitely not last – stint with pink hair. It faded faster than hoped, and what’s left are light strands of cotton-candy locks. The day I had it colored, my stylist told me to embrace the fade, and I have, but in an effort to make the pink last longer, I’ll probably experiment with dying my hair on my own soon – scary! – so wish me luck.

I will admit, after my hair was painted pink and purple, the foils came off and it was blow-dryed for the first time, I had a mini inner freak out. It’s so bright, I thought. Oh no! I can’t cover that up if I try!

But the hairdresser, with all her confidence in her latest artwork, told me I looked like a mermaid and a unicorn, and if that doesn’t make someone smile, I don’t know what would. Who doesn’t want to be a mermaid once in her life?! So I embraced the brightness, the pink and purple sections mixing in with the blond – a style I’d been wanting to try for about four years (but didn’t have the guts). I mean, it’s just hair after all, and in that moment when my hair went from frizzy blond lion to pink and purple unicorn, I knew it wasn’t a mistake at all.

It’s such a silly, vain thing, being excited about hair, so I hesitate to even write and post this. I’m also embarrassed to admit I took way too many selfies the last few weeks as I tried to save every stage. But if there was ever something meaningful to learn from pink hair, it may as well be shared, so here we go …

Life is hard you guys. Sometimes it’s really hard, and I know you all know this. A lot of the emotions inside a person are never seen by the rest of the world. I learned the hard way the last few years, and especially after my dad died, that depression and anxiety can come and go the way storms do, and sometimes they come fast. Sometimes I imagine my mind like a beautiful grassy field with blue skies and white fluffy clouds. There is a cute yellow house with flowers hanging on the porch, and birds singing their songs. But one thought can begin to change those white clouds to gray, until the whole sky is dark, and it starts to spin. The wind comes in, and a tornado forms and starts wrecking things, until all that’s beautiful – the grassy hill, the country house, and nature’s songs – are all in a million pieces. I know thoughts that trigger the tornadoes. They are thoughts of painful memories, of insecurities, of failures. And they are thoughts of the world’s hurt that is out of my control.

The spinning doesn’t always reach tornado status; sometimes the wind creates funnel clouds that change to blue skies again faster than tornadoes. The funnel clouds are more common than tornadoes, but both come around more frequently that I like to admit. And sometimes there is not even a funnel cloud or tornado. Sometimes there is just rain. Not fierce rain with roaring thunder and lightning that pierces the sky, but constant drizzling rain that makes everything gray for a while.

Not all rain is bad. Sometimes you have to just wait it out, and sometimes it allows time to slow down. It let’s you see what’s most important. I’ve actually come to love rain in the literal sense – the monsoon rain that falls from New Mexico skies in the summers. The rain that invites me to my back patio to watch in wonder. Last night, in fact, it rained for hours. I wrapped myself in a blanket and sat outside without any distractions. I saw the lighting in the distance flash against a dark purple sky and it all seemed beautiful and grand instead of sad. Some of the lightning lit up rooms in our house, and our TV even flashed off once, but none of it seemed scary. It was needed and welcomed this hot summer.

If I’m in a place where I can see the sky, I look for rainbows at the end of storms. Sometimes they appear as full arches right in front of our house and I’m always mesmerized. I rush to get my camera and will try to watch it as long as its there. I like to see the golden storm clouds lit up by the sunset, and the rainbow colors blended together. Those colors – it’s all about those colors – and the magic of a rainbow that can’t be touched, but comes and goes like a spirit in the sky.

Rainbows are so happy, aren’t they? And, somehow I’m going to bring this all back to pink hair although I’m afraid I got kind of off course. What I mean to say is I know life isn’t always happy, but for a few weeks, I had a tangible rainbow in my hair and it went around with me everywhere. And sometimes you need those silly, trivial, happy things to follow you around and remind you that life really isn’t so bad.

And on another note, it made me feel unique – and I don’t always feel unique. Every day I went to work and didn’t see one other person with pink hair. I went to movies, to the mall, out to dinner, and walked my dog around the neighborhood, and I was the only person with pink hair in all of those places.

So if there is ever something bright, and cheerful, and happy, that will make the storms in your life feel lighter, I say do it. Do it, even if it’s as frivolous as pink hair. If there is ever something that will make you feel just a little brave, I say do that, too. And if there is something that makes you feel unique – like a tattoo, piercing, or a daring haircut – go for it! Because in the end, life is still hard, and it’s short, and anything that brings out the rainbows is a good thing.

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dreamer

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Even though I swear she loves Travis more, Stella will stay up with me after almost all the lights are out, the dog is snoring on his bed, and a stillness has come over the house. Right now, she’s sitting on the floor behind me, grooming her feet and waiting patiently for me to decide it’s my turn to head to the bedroom where she will curl up by my feet and dream of chasing birds and sneaking out of the house to lay beneath our roses. I was actually on my way to bed when I stopped at the computer to look at a design I’m working on. I meant to just be here for a moment to click save and see if any last-minute ideas arose. But then the song “Imagine” came on Pandora – Jack Johnson singing a cover – and I had to listen to it all. I shut my eyes, and breathed in those magical lyrics. They remind me of college and my big dreams.  They remind me of New York City. They remind me of peace.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that song, but I’ll never get sick of it. Sometimes I don’t feel like much of a dreamer anymore between all the days’ activities, but when I catch a quiet moment, I remember that I am. I am still all of those words in the chorus and always will be.

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

right now

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It’s almost noon on this blue-sky Sunday and I’ve been spending the last hour or so in the backyard asking myself all sorts of questions I don’t have answers to – questions about life, and what it means, and what my purpose is. My thoughts go here and there as a light wind blows and birds around the backyard play their chasing games. Two hummingbirds actually came so close to me that I ducked both times, even though I’m pretty sure they had no intention of landing on my head. It’s like they were saying, “Hello strange human! How do you do?”

I have the mountains and my roses in various shades of pink to my right, a sleeping dog and a tempting swimming pool to my left, coffee next to my computer and shades of green in the form of bushes and trees and grass all around me. A while ago, I read that green is the color of renewal, the color of new life, and it seems perfect that I would notice so much of it in this moment – a moment where I long to feel renewed.

My heart is often heavy these days with all the terrible things I read in the news. It’s hard to avoid even if I want to. I recently wrote about that, so I don’t want to again right now. What I want is to simply notice this moment and be grateful for it. I want to slow time down, take in its beauty and be aware of my presence in it. I want to notice my breaths, slow and steady, and the colors of this beautiful world.

For a long while now, my mind has been very busy. It’s filled with everyday busyness, some important details, and many not-so-important details – social media posts and notifications, travel plans, to-do lists, exercise goals, business goals, writing goals, and so many things that sometimes I forget to just stop and rest within the day – with the moment that is alive and well if I notice it.

I left my personal phone at home while at work for three days this week. Not having it by my side helped me focus a little better during those hours. I deactivated my Facebook account indefinitely. I read a little bit of poetry, walked Neville, and woke up early most mornings. I went to a baseball game last night where I didn’t attempt to take one picture of the fireworks. Instead, I was present, allowing myself to happily watch the gorgeous show while my husband danced and sang in his seat. When I watched a few television shows the last few days, I was determined to simply watch those shows and not multi-task. I spent part of the afternoon making peach cobbler yesterday which took all of my focus and filled our kitchen with a warm, summer smell.

There are so many things I don’t have control over but I do have a choice to pay attention to the life that’s been given me and make the most of it. I have a choice to let it slip by in busyness, or make it slow and meaningful. Right now, I’m choosing to feel the wind on my face, listen to the dragonflies buzzing, and hope these moments keep coming more often.

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hopelessly in love

“It’s the time you spent on your rose that makes your rose so important … People have forgotten this truth, but you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.”

– Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

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I am hopelessly in love with roses, and cactus blooms, and purple, and blossoms, and pink petunias.

I am hopelessly in love with spring.

a prayer for the world

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or into the deep, deep, woods, and I’d look up into the sky – up, up, up – into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer. Well, I’m ready. What am I to say?”
– Anne of Green Gables

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For most of my life, my prayers have been pretty simple. As a child, I was taught to humbly call on God with my arms folded, my head bowed, and my eyes closed. I would thank Him for my blessings – my family, friends, home – and ask him for things I needed and wanted – safety for those I love, and the ability to deal with any troubles I was experiencing at that time. When things are good, my prayers are often repetitive and short unfortunately. Sometimes long periods go by where I don’t formally pray much at all except for in the silence of my mind during stressful moments of the day. I’ve always turned to prayer, and I feel that it works, but I’m not always the best at formally turning to God on a day-to-day basis.

When things get hard, however, I find myself pleading on my knees in the darkness, tears streaming down my cheeks. I might curl up on the floor in the middle of the day, the light flooding through the windows, and pray until the pain subsides a little. Or, like last year during heavy periods of grieving, I would often just try to get through each day with more frequent informal prayers here and there.

Recently, though, I’ve tried to take my prayers to a new level with the goal of reaching outside myself and really thinking about the whole world. I wanted to share this with you because it’s something that’s helping me feel connected to strangers and those who I can’t help in any other way.

When I pray now, I try to reach far beyond the people I know and love. While I still say that I’m thankful for those close to me and ask God to protect them, I want to send love to everyone who is troubled and hurting. I want to send love everywhere in the world no matter what. I truly believe that there is power in our thoughts and that somehow they can transfer from one heart to another. One of the beautiful things about experiencing tragedy and grief is that it opens your eyes to many more ways that others suffer, and it reminds you that every person deserves kindness and grace. I also try and thank God not only for the overall beauty and good things in my life, but their details. This reminds me of all the intricate ways this life is beautiful.

A prayer in which I really try to connect with God and the world goes something like this:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for all that you have given me. For my family and friends. I pray for them and for all those who are suffering in the world. I pray for their safety, for their hopes, dreams, and losses. I pray for those who are hungry, cold, sick, and for those who lack companionship. I pray for those who are lonely, lost, and broken. I pray for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness. I pray for those who are held captive by others or addictions that they may find their way out of their struggles. I pray for those who are crying today in our city, our country, and in the world. I pray that you will comfort them.

I pray for our world leaders, and that somehow they can work together. I pray for more peace in this world, that wars can end, and that someday we will have no use for weapons. I pray for the candidates running for president in our country – that they will do what’s right for the people, and that collectively, we can choose the best one. I pray for my enemies, and our country’s enemies, that we can somehow find common ground. I pray that those who harm others will someday understand that they are wrong and confused, and that their hearts will be softened. I pray that those who harm themselves will seek help. I pray for those who are victims of violence, and for their family and friends, and that they will feel comfort and love from others.

I also pray for animals – for those that are surviving in terrible weather conditions – the cold, the heat, the wind, the storms. I pray for the animals who feel stressed because they are starving or in danger.

I also want to thank you for the beauty of this earth. For the sunrises and sunsets, for the mountains, tulips, sunflowers and roses. I’m thankful for the pinks and oranges in the sky, for rain, for snow, and for flowing water. I’m thankful for trails created by others that give me a place to hike, run, and ride my bike. I’m thankful for a home, and pray for those without homes that they might find shelter. I’m thankful for the sound of birds, the call of wild geese, and for moments in nature that remind me love is everywhere. I’m thankful for the sound of laughter, for the stars in the night sky, for the sun and signs of warmer weather.

Please help me that I might be more compassionate – that I can see where I can help – that I can worry less about the things I can’t change and focus on the things I can. Please help me where I am weak.

And I say these things, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Those are my longer prayers, but they still only take a few minutes. I’m trying to say them more often and continue adding to them so I don’t forget anyone in this world. I still say shorter prayers in my head throughout the day. I pray when things are tricky, if I’m feeling sad, or if someone I know is hoping for good news – a job offer, a promotion, or a positive outcome at the doctor.

In more recent months, I also learned a Buddhist mantra that calls for the help of Tara, a female Buddha who is a representation of compassion and action, a protector who comes to aid and relieve living beings of physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering. After learning about Tara and getting advice from a Buddhist teacher, I try to whisper Tara’s mantra three times every whenever I hear police, ambulance and firetruck sirens in hopes those suffering in that situation can be comforted.

“Om tare tuttare ture soha
Om tare tuttare ture soha
Om tare tuttare ture soha”

I often follow up with a short prayer to God as well. I figure it’s not a bad idea to be double-covered by Buddhas and God.

I hope by attempting to pray for everyone and everything more often, there will be a tiny bit more peace in the world and a lot more compassion and gratitude in my soul. As I’ve said many times on this blog before, we’re all in this together after all.

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This statue of Tara is about half the size of my thumb and is taped near the clock in my car. She helps remind me to say her mantra or pray when I hear sirens. Tara is known as “the swift one.” On the statue, you’ll notice her right leg is not quite crossed. She is ready to jump up and help when needed.

deep thoughts and spanish moss

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This was my view during our last afternoon in Florida a couple weeks ago. Travis and I were sitting on a bench and I kept staring ahead at these trees, the Spanish Moss dangling from their branches, the pink flowers nestled peacefully in the shade. We were having a pretty deep discussion that began with evolution. I can get on the most random of subjects sometimes. This one started in a garden and continued as we meandered up and down a quaint little street in Winter Park, where people were sipping happy hour wine and cocktails, and snacking on bruschetta, chips and salsa. It was such an unassuming place for such an involved conversation. I tend to process things out loud and Travis is a really good sounding board. He also has really good perspective on things and will offer a lot of good ideas and insight. And he doesn’t judge when these topics seemingly arise out of no where like they did that day in a beautiful garden in Florida. The conversation twisted and turned and included thoughts on where we came from and where, as humans, we are going, until finally it turned into the current state of the world and all its problems, and then somewhat suddenly, I was nearly in tears.

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one in the entire world who believes there is still good in it? That good wins? That love is the answer? That many things are actually better than they used to be despite what we see on the news and hear from many people around us? This is how I felt in that moment, in this garden, while staring at this Spanish Moss. I felt like I needed to be at least one voice in a very loud sea of voices that still believed things could get better.

Of course I am not the only person who believes there is good, love, and beauty in the world. Most people still believe in fairy tales, superheroes, happily ever afters, and that good can overcome evil. If we didn’t believe this, we wouldn’t be flocking to “Star Wars” films, and movies like “Bridge of Spies” wouldn’t be nominated for Best Picture. (Have you seen “Bridge of Spies” by the way? If not, you should. It’s marvelous storytelling about how every life matters, even if that life may be considered a so-called enemy). I would guess that more than 90 percent of the fictional stories we turn to have positive endings. Voldemort loses. The Force continues. Po’s clumsy battles overtake evil (OK, I love “Kung Fu Panda” too). Doesn’t the stories we read and watch, and the endings we hope for, say something about humanity?

However, even if we seek happy endings, I bet you’ve heard the same doom-and-gloom phrases I have throughout my life. Things like, “It’s a sign of the times,” and “The world is going to hell in a hand basket,” and “Back in the good ol’ days.” I used to believe those phrases, and unfortunately, I often still do. But in that Florida garden I couldn’t because believing all of those phrases made me feel like I was giving up on the universe even though it has proven again, and again, and again, that people can forgive, forget, become stronger, love more, create change and present opportunity. If there is no hope, then what is the alternative?

People have been saying the end of the world has been coming for a long, long time – thousands of years probably. And has the world ended yet? The truth is, women in many parts of the world actually have more freedom than they’ve ever had. There is dialogue about some of the toughest subjects concerning all life – even animals. People of various races, religions, backgrounds, and cultures are accepted in ways that they weren’t 10, 20, 30, 100 years ago. Gay people can get married in the U.S. The topic of transgender people and how to support them is actually on the table. These are all really wonderful ways we are coming together in a world that feels incredibly broken and fragile sometimes.

Five or so years ago, I decided to believe that God made us all different for the reason that we have to learn to love. People weren’t meant to grow apart, but they were also meant to be challenged. It would be too easy to love if we were all made the same, and we wouldn’t know our full potential that way. There is something a lot more beautiful in creating truthful, positive, generous, everlasting relationships with others who are not the same as us. There is grace in the way we learn to protect each other, especially those who are more vulnerable. Every single day there are people everywhere who are working to help the underprivileged, the grieving, the lost, the broken.

Sometimes I feel there is very little I can do to help this world. Maybe you feel that way, too. I felt that way in the garden, and I decided I wouldn’t forget that conversation for a long time. I wouldn’t forget that I still have faith in humanity. To counter my feeling of helplessness, I’m challenging myself from here on out to be one hopeful voice.

What if I was one of the stars in that deep, black sky? What if I was one of the little lovely stars, after all? What if my hope was like a tiny speck of light shining with all the other twinkling diamonds of hope in the night? What if your hope shimmered, too? Maybe then more people wouldn’t lose their way. People look to the stars for directions, you know. And people look to hope when all seems lost.

disney world for dad

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Let’s start out with this fabulous photo of me wearing flamingo socks and bright blue shoes. I have become obsessed with Woven Pear socks, and much to Travis’ dismay, I will wear them with any outfit, no matter the color. I have socks with cats, roosters, cassette tapes, hearts (of course), and bikes. I brought all the fun socks to Florida and decidedly wore these flamingos the day I thought we were going to Disney’s Animal Kingdom because, you know, animals. Usually these socks are hidden under pants and boots, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to wear shorts in February, so there was no covering these babies that day. The shoes, well, I needed my good tennis shoes of course! Travis was not excited about my outfit that day but said he’d walk with me anyway. Due to it being a rainy day, we ended up going to Epcot though so the whole animal theme didn’t really work. Oh well! I just looked like this all day:

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It wasn’t until last night when my cousin commented on Facebook, “That is quite the sock/shoe combo,” that I realized I’d really pulled a Norm Newbold with this outfit. This made Travis and me laugh out loud, and reminded me that I’m channeling my dad without even knowing it. He was known for his wild, bright-colored clothes, and one of my favorite stories that was told in the first few days after we lost him was one that involved him, my uncle and a bright yellow pair of Crocs. I believe he bought them in a sporting goods store while on a fishing trip. They were shoes that most people in their right minds would never purchase, but “They were a good deal and Bob would have bought them too but they didn’t have them in his size!” He loved those silly Crocs.

In the same way that he was so proud of that purchase, I am proud of my fun socks. I could honestly be Woven Pear’s spokesperson. I have given socks for Christmas and Valentine’s gifts, posted photos on Instagram, and got my sister-in-law Melissa and friend Stacey just as obsessed with them. But I’m not here to tell you how soft they are, how comfy they make my toes, or how I model them for Travis every time I put them on. I digress …

What I’ve been noticing lately is that memories of my dad have been making me more happy than sad. The first time I noticed this was when I saw a picture on Timehop of the Billy Joel/Elton John concert we went to in 2010. Seeing that photo brought a genuine smile to my face as I laid in bed that morning remembering how happy we all were that night, and how thoughtful my dad had been in buying an extra ticket so I could bring a friend. And then yesterday, as I looked at the flamingo socks photo and laughed, thinking of my dad and his crazy outfits once again made me happy.

In Disney World, I thought of my dad all the time. He was a huge Disney fan as I wrote about last year just two weeks after he passed away. I can’t go to Disney parks without him being with me in spirit. He never made it to Disney World, so during this trip I often thought about what he would have loved. In a way, I was seeing all of these things for him. There is an attraction in Epcot called Test Track that lets you build a car. You choose the model, shape, tires, design and more. Then you ride in a car that seemingly tests different conditions such as weather, slick roads, power, and efficiency, then you find out how your car would handle these situations. At the end, the ride speeds up to more than 60 MPH and you can ride with your hands in the air and scream around the track. Travis and I went on Test Track twice because it was my favorite, and the second time was at night. As our car sped up and curved around one of the last bends, a firework from one of the other parks went off and it felt like we were in this perfect, magical Disney moment. It was like my dad was saying hello with that firework, and telling me he was right there loving that ride, too.

I had a few of those moments where I was so amazed I got to see something that always seemed far away and unimaginable. I didn’t know when I’d ever see Spaceship Earth in person, and as the monorail took us around Epcot and it appeared to my left through the window, I literally gasped. The same thing happened the first time I saw the Tree of Life in the Animal Kingdom. These were two things I’d seen on TV and ads since I was a kid and to see them in person was, as cheesy as it sounds, magic. I wonder what my dad’s reaction would have been to these places and the sheer size of Disney World in general.

In Epcot, my dad would have loved seeing the gardens with my mom and exploring each country pavilion. I can imagine him talking about all the countries he’d really been to … Italy, Canada, England, Mexico, France. Maybe he would have asked me questions about China. He would have loved Dinosaur, Expedition Everest and the safari in Animal Kingdom. He would have succumbed to the popcorn smell just as we did in the Magic Kingdom. I thought of him as we passed a corn dog place on Main Street and I looked for hearts and found them here and there. I hope he got to see it all with us.

The last thing we did in Disney was the Fantasmic show in Hollywood Studios. We’d attempted to see it last year in Disneyland but there was a technical issue and the show stopped part way through. I had to laugh when this happened again at the beginning of the show in Disney World. Travis said maybe he just wasn’t meant to ever see it. Out loud and jokingly, I said, “Come on, Dad, fix it!” And right after that, an announcement was made that the show would go on! And it did, and it was fabulous.

Right now, I’m holding onto the happy feelings when thinking of my dad. I that’s what he would want.

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I love the light in this photo. It’s like my dad is shining down on us.

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Spotted in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This was normal sock day.

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Do you see the sideways heart on this tree? I didn’t notice it until after we got home and I put the photos on my computer. So cool! This was spotted on the safari ride in the Animal Kingdom.

 

I found this heart near Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom.

Just for fun, here are a few examples of my dad’s awesome style for you:

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And here’s one where we all apparently took after my dad … and at Disney, too!

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new life

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I feel myself becoming a morning person now more than ever. Even though it’s still hard for me to get out of bed, when I do, I am happy, energetic and mostly annoying to Travis. Waking up at 5 a.m. and forcing myself from beneath our covers is a struggle, but once I’m up, I’m often pestering Travis with pokes and jokes until he gets up too. I flex my non-muscles in all sorts of poses to make him laugh, then we head out to the living room for P90X3.

I feel like I have more energy for everything these days. I went to bed last night excited for this morning. This is my Friday off and I have zero solid plans. While I didn’t bound out of bed at 5 a.m., I did get up before 8 a.m., which is a miracle if you ask my mom and previous roommates who saw me sleep in past 10 a.m. for much of my weekend life. This morning, though. This morning, I’m happy about cinnamon coffee brewing in the kitchen and the idea that I can make today however I want it to be. I can do my favorite things – write, take pictures and spend time outside.

Last week we were in Florida where everything was lush and green, where the Spanish Moss danced slowing with the wind and the sun sparkled through tree branches. The salty, cerulean ocean was only an hour away, and oh how I long for water sometimes. I laid on a rainbow-colored beach towel in the sand and let the sun soak into my skin and tried to let my mind wander as freely as the wind – thoughts coming and going until all felt still for a moment. Everything in Florida made me feel lucky to be there, and it was enough to make a desert girl like myself a little jealous. However, upon our return to Albuquerque, there were blossoms and buds forming on our trees and bushes. It was a wonderful surprise that made me feel lucky to be here, too. Right now, we have a bush flaming in lemon yellow, and another blooming in bubblegum pink. Soon, red flowers will burst from our backyard cactus, another bush will turn purple, and our peach tree will transform into, well, peach flowers. This will be the second year experiencing spring in this house and while I know better what to expect from our foliage, I’m still amazed by nature’s gifts and wonder.

I noticed my tulips are coming out of our rock beds and these flowers have the power to put a smile on my face and make me think of my mother, who bought them for us as a housewarming gift, and my mother-in-law, who helped me plant them. There is something very beautiful about that.

There is something beautiful about new life in general. Last spring, I was incredibly sad and spring helped lift my soul. This year, I am still nostalgic but I’m doing better and spring is a perfect reminder that things can keep moving in a fulfilling, lovely way. The world is brimming with miracles after long, harsh winters. I’m trying to make life bloom before me a little more slowly. I’m trying to breathe it all in and capture the color with eyes that have seen heartache and grace. I want to let this spring be new and free, and in the same way I noticed the blossoms, I hope to pay attention to more of this season’s gentle, bright surprises.

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feeling alive

“You just keep living until you feel alive again.”

My sister-in-law heard that quote on a television show a few days ago and sent it to me. The worst thing about loss is it feels like everyone moves on and you’re still stuck. I learned that nothing and no one will ever let you grieve as long as you want to, or in the way you want to all the time. It was quite a while before I felt completely alive again, and even that was temporary. In the meantime, I had to continue working and making plans.

I believe one thing that helped me the most last year was planning travels with Travis, friends and family. I got to visit quite of few of my best friends, and they came to visit me. I want to tell you about some of those moments. In case you’re ever grieving in the worst way, I want you to know that you can feel alive again. In my case, it was always, always, always my close friends and family who helped me feel that way.

Disneyland I insisted we watch the firework show one night and they played “Silent Night” while the sky lit up with bursts of all colors by the castle. Travis looked at me, knowing I was thinking of my dad because my cousin played that song at his funeral. I cried a little on Indiana Jones. I smiled a lot when the Genie in Aladdin reminded me of him. I took pictures of things that reminded me of previous trips. The corn dog stand. The Carnation Cafe. The Golden Horseshoe. My mom. I marveled at how a person can be everywhere and no where at the same time.

Telluride A friend suggested I plan little trips or fun weekends each month so I had something to look forward to. Soon after that, we were invited to ski in Telluride and I couldn’t pass up the chance. I (slowly) made my way down an icy mountain several times that weekend. I faced fears. I breathed in the world’s chilled beauty – the fresh air, the white snow, the pine trees. I laughed my guts out playing Cards Against Humanity for the first time and during a late-night gondola ride.

Denver My friend Stevi and I got a hotel for a night where I jumped on the bed for about two seconds before falling right off! It was the prettiest hotel with fluffy, marshmallow comforters and pillows. We drank red wine and talked about all things happy and sad as usual. Then we ventured into Denver’s busy downtown and watched Garth Brooks take a late-night Saturday crowd by storm. Stevi and I stood the entire time. We sang our lungs out. We danced. I couldn’t make it to my dad’s birthday party that weekend, but I know he was in Denver with me, too. And now I’m glad I didn’t know / The way it all would end, the way it all would go / Our lives are better left to chance, I could have missed the pain / But I’d have had to miss the dance

Utah Tulips were blooming in every color – deep plum, fire truck red, monarch orange, sunset pink – and the cherry blossoms were putting on a show. My mom and I walked all over Thanksgiving Point looking for heart leaves and talking about my dad. She helped me with my first bridal faire at USU that weekend, and she blew out candles with all five of her grandkids right by her sides cheering for her.

Seattle The sun was out as we drove to the city. I told Brittny I felt like my dad was watching over me, and that days like that day made me feel really lucky and blessed. I asked her, “Who watches over those who are not so lucky? The homeless? The lonely?” She said, “Maybe all we have is today. Maybe those people also have had wonderful days. Maybe someone is looking out for them, too, but maybe all you can do is count on the day you have. This is our day. And we are going to have a good day.” We turned up Beyonce and kept driving into what became a really perfect memory.

Memorial Day “Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life worth living to me.” Georgia O’Keefe said that and I wrote it down the day Travis and I went to her museum in Santa Fe with Emilie and Garrett from Utah. We hiked that day, sipped little chocolate drinks and said goodbye after a wonderful weekend with them.

Father’s Day Weekend Lightning struck, thunder cracked and rain began to fall during the last few songs at the Tim McGraw concert. Was Dad saying, “Hello?” My mom, Chelsea and I hugged and cried as the whole crowd sang. “And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying. And he said someday I hope you get the chance, to live like you were dying.”

Durango After spending all day on a working choo-choo train that weaves along the calming Animas River, green pine trees and around canyon drop-offs, Travis’, his dad’s and my face were covered in soot and my hair was wonderfully windblown and tangled. There is something about the mountains, riding in an open gondola, the wind in your face, the non-stop chugging of the train that relaxes you and makes you excited at the same time.

San Francisco The city smells like sourdough, chocolate, garlic, the ocean and wine. One day, Travis and I walked for miles and miles along the northern part of San Francisco, passed the Painted Ladies, then by The Mill where the smell of toast and coffee came billowing through the front doors and onto the sidewalk. We made our way to the Palace of Fine Arts, along the beach near Crissy Field where dogs happily splashed in the water and chased their friends, and where kite surfers glided through the waves. We walked on the Golden Gate Bridge the day after we’d taken a boat ride beneath it with our friends Ken and Claudia. Happy memories for sure. Travis and I always travel well together.

Pool Days The spiked lemonade took us all by surprise and we spent the rest of the day ridiculously laughing at the craziest of things. Then I ate an entire tub of salsa while trying to talk Jenn out of being sick. That’s what best friends are for, after all. The rest of the weekend was filled with long talks, flowers and painting. I’m so glad she came to visit.

Washington, D.C. We wore matching pineapple pajamas to bed, ate macaroni and cheese, toaster strudel and cotton candy grapes. April made everything feel like old times. After she dropped me off in Virginia, Brittny, Holly and I spent our nights talking late into the night about all the real stuff. The day was filled with museums, monuments and bike rides. I’ll love these girls forever.

College Kids How we ever managed to pull off getting together again still seems like a miracle to me. Bret and Michelle came from Utah, and Stevi came from Denver one weekend. These friends were and continue to be main players in shaping my life for good. I’m thankful for the time we spent swimming, quoting our old jokes and exploring New Mexico.

Balloon Fiesta We managed to get my nephews out of bed around 4 a.m. to watch hundreds of balloons take off at dawn in Albuquerque. They were such good sports. As always, we were all amazed as we watched the balloons rise. With little wind that day, they hovered around us for a long time. I’m so glad my brother, sister-in-law and my mom drove down for the most magical time of the year here. Ryan got his Heisenberg hat and wore it everywhere, so I’m pretty sure the weekend was a success.

Christmas The Candyland tree stayed up the whole year and looked just as magical as the first time I saw it. We saw a movie at the Kaysville Theater on Christmas Eve and all laughed during the old-fashioned theater etiquette commercial like usual, then we accidentally turned out to be the messiest people in the place (you probably had to be there)! My mom went shopping for things my dad would have – speakers and car kits – and it made us all so happy. She stood in front of us as we opened them and explained how they all worked. It was amazing!

Breakfast of Champions Potato casserole and French toast were on the menu the morning after Christmas when 20-something friends came for breakfast at my mom’s house. A handful of them drove all the way from Logan, and that meant a lot to me. I tried to invite everyone, but I’m sure I accidentally missed some. I wanted to gather as many friends as possible who had been a major part of my life, and who showed up when things got hard. High school friends I hadn’t seen in years came to my dad’s viewing, and they also came to breakfast that morning after Christmas. I told everyone before we started eating that I had planned to write a speech, but ran out of time. So I just thanked them for coming and said I was glad they were part of my life. It wasn’t enough, but sometimes words never will be. Hence, the French toast. 🙂

New Years Travis and I finished and started the year in Arizona with his parents. We stayed up late drinking champagne and watching the ball drop after my first NHL game where we howled with all the coyotes fans. “Ooo Ooo Oooooooooo!” A new year. A fresh start.

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Those are some of the moments that made me feel alive again last year. Those were some of the days when I felt like broken pieces were being put back together, and when all the nostalgia, and grief, and laughter, and adventure created something really lovely and new. What I know now is that life will never be what you expect all the time. Sometimes it’s really, really hard. What I think I’ve always been aware of, though, is how much the people I love help me see the best things in myself and the world. They keep me strong, and they remind me that life is truly beautiful. Thank you for that. Thanks to all of you.

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