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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 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.

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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.

beauty friendship grief laughter life love

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.

•   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •   •

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.







Photo May 15, 6 06 18 PM











beauty friendship hearts life love

200 pieces of my heart

My mom, nephew and I found this heart earlier this month during their Balloon Fiesta visit. We thought of my dad the whole time.

There is a trail by my house that is perfectly challenging and beautiful, and when I take advantage of it, I not only come home with a great view of the city and the occasional cactus bloom or sunflower in my head, but often a better outlook on my life.

Let’s face it. It’s been a rough year.

I recently started running on this trail more often thanks to a challenge from a friend to run a 10K. I wanted to compete in a long race for my dad this year but never mustered up the energy to even sign up for something longer than a 5K until this friend said she was running a half marathon and invited me to do it, too. At that point in the year, I didn’t have enough time to train for 13.1 miles, but figured I could train for 6.2. I made the official commitment on Sept. 1 and signed up for the Duke City race on Oct. 18. 

Six weeks was not a lot of time. Things got crazy and I didn’t get to train as much as I wanted, but long-story-short, I unexpectedly ended up running the whole race and finished around my average time. This was some sort of miracle, I promise you, but there were a few other miracles and mind-opening moments while training for that race I want to share.

I told you it’s been a rough year and I know this isn’t a surprise to you if you’re a close friend, family member, or anyone who has been reading this blog since December. For me, it’s really hard to run when my heart feels heavy and overwhelmed. Some days I’d go out on that trail and come home very frustrated because my mind kept me from doing my best. It was filled with the things that make me sad and it’s really hard to keep my legs moving when all I want to do is go home, crawl under my covers and be mad at the world.

There were a few good runs in there though, and one of them in particular has stayed with me. I don’t remember how fast I went that day, or how many times I had to stop mid-hill, but I do remember knowing in that moment that my heart is healing.

The first time I wrote on this blog after my dad passed away, I said, “Sometimes your heart breaks into 1,000 pieces.” It’s true. Sometimes life is just that way. For me, it happened Dec. 16  on my way to meet a friend for coffee. The moment was so unsuspecting. Sometimes life is just that way, too. All of the sudden you’re making U-turns, but you don’t really know where you’re supposed to go because your heart just fell to the ground and you realize the world has no refuge for you. If your heart can shatter right after missing a left turn on a road you’ve driven a million times, it can shatter anywhere.

It wasn’t long before I was sobbing on the floor of my living room. And it wasn’t long after that when I found myself in bed on the phone trying to sort out pieces that wouldn’t be known for hours. It seems I was on the phone all night. At the table. On the floor in front of my bed. In the dining room while pacing and making plans.

On that first day when you’re heart breaks into 1,000 pieces, nothing seems quite real. You almost wonder if you’ll wake up from it. On the second day, everyone is forced to start making really big decisions. Within seven days, you’ve most likely survived the viewing, the funeral, and the burial. For us, nine days later we celebrated our first major holiday without my dad – Christmas. Those firsts sometimes hit like a ton of bricks. Eleven days later, I was back at work editing and posting stories about an accidental shooting. More bricks.

From there on out, life sometimes feels like a corn maze. Sometimes you’re on the right path, and sometimes you’re not. Sometimes you’re going in circles and seeing the same things twice. Oops. It’s haunted sometimes; there’s the regrets and if onlys, and it feels like someone (maybe it’s yourself) is trying to chase you out of this horrible place and you’re screaming while running for the exit you can’t find.

Not all days are bad. There are really good days and there are actually a lot of normal days. You learn that no one and nothing will ever let you grieve for as long as you want to, so you learn to go on and pretend in most situations that everything is OK.

There are possibly more moments when you remember not to take things for granted. You see everything differently – from the clouds, rainbows, and sunsets, to the lightning, wind and starry skies. You notice more deeply when you’re on an adventure your loved one would have enjoyed having too, and you hope he’s with you somehow. For me, one of those moments was riding on a working choo-choo train from Durango to Silverton this summer where Travis, his dad and I all ended up with soot on our faces, wind-blown hair and memories to last a lifetime. The afternoon Travis and I took a boat under the Golden Gate Bridge was another moment my dad would have loved. Of course I thought about him when Travis and I were hundreds of feet above ground in a hot air balloon this August, and on the morning my mom and brother’s family was in town to see hundreds of hot air balloons launch all around us. I also know he would have loved to finish a race with me, so I don’t doubt that he actually did in spirit on Oct. 18.

Remember how I said my heart is healing? It’s a slow process, but I know that it is. During that training run on the trail by my house, I started thinking about how I was really close to reaching my 200th heart post on Instgram since May. I thought about the places they’ve been found and the people who have sent them to me. They’ve been discovered in the sky, as potato chips, in canyons and pumpkin patches. Friends visiting Scotland, England, Ireland and Japan and photographed them on sidewalks, sewer covers, statues and flower fields. Hearts have appeared as watermelons, water spots, bubbles, bricks and bark. They are everywhere, and they often come with a happy story or adventure attached.

I’ve known how incredible this is, but it struck me again during that run. I realized even though my soul broke into 1,000 pieces 10 months ago, every time I find a heart, or every time someone sends a picture, it’s like one of the shattered pieces is being put back together.

Sometimes your heart breaks into 1,000 pieces. It’s true. Sometimes life is just that way.

On that first day when you’re heart breaks into 1,000 pieces, nothing seems quite real.

I’ve lived 313 days since then and I can tell you it’s all real now – the pain, the loss, the grieving. But I can also tell you the healing is real, too, and you’re helping me with that. Thanks so much for sending me your hearts – your miracles – because they’ve become my miracles, too. I always say this, but we’re really all in this together. Thanks for taking me in, for thinking of my family, for sending your love and for helping at least 200 pieces of my heart feel like they’re on their way to being whole again.

As my husband reminded me yesterday when he gave me a heart necklace, every piece of my shattered heart has the ability to love everyone else, too. And one day, we’ll live in a space where there is no suffering, loss, or danger. Until then, I can work on making that place inside my own living, beating, healing heart.

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beauty friendship life love

realizing more in the moment


My friend Brittny is really good at helping others realize more about the moment than what most people ordinarily see. She is an excellent writer, so I think some of the observations she brings to the forefront come from that creative, analytic side of her.

In May, I got to be in Washington with her the weekend she turned 33, and we spent the whole time celebrating best friendship, big cities, beaches, and even Beyonce. We made sure to spend a day in Seattle because my only memory of that place consists of my 5-year-old self and my mom in the rain. I think we went to a children’s museum, but I don’t remember anything else.

On the day Brittny and I drove from Olympia to Seattle, we blared music down the freeway, sang top 40 pop songs, Taylor Swift and Yellowcard. She made sure to belt Beyonce at the top of her lungs. It was sunny and everything on both sides of the road was green. Brittny told me this would be our day, and that it was going to be a good day. We would have other time during the weekend to really talk about our lives, our troubles, our heartbreaks, but our Seattle day would be about all things happy.

We left Brittny’s car in a parking garage near the ocean, and started walking down to the waterfront where we watched ferries travel between islands and saw people line up for the Ferris wheel. A lot of people like us were taking pictures of the skyline and the water. From there, we started walking again in the direction of Pike Place Market.

Brittny pointed out the smells of the restaurants and the ocean. Seattle smelled like Indian food and spices and salt water. When we got closer to the market, Seattle was made of wet, squishy, bubblegum between our fingers that we stuck on walls like everyone else. Seattle was a moment when Brittny realized she actually could not blow a bubble and so we laughed while taking at least 20 photos of her attempts.

Then Seattle changed to the smell of seafood and giant fish being thrown back and forth between market workers dressed in orange waders. And following that seafood smell, came the fresh scent of pink peonies, purple tulips, yellow lilies. Bouquets were made in every color, shape and size, while thousands of flowers waited in buckets to be transformed into full-on artistic masterpieces that could be purchased for $15. The flowers, I tell you, were magical.

We meandered through art displays and looked at paintings and photographs. I bought a couple prints to hang up at home and a bag of Rainier cherries the color of sunsets that tasted like summer. We sat and ate those cherries at Waterfront Park before moving on to coffee and Beechers, where we ordered two kinds of macaroni and cheese, tasted curds, and watched through sidewalk windows as machines churned milk in vats.

We walked all day in that lovely city and while we had a plan to see certain things, it often felt like there was no plan at all. We stopped in a shop that only sold umbrellas, and another that sold all things maps and globes. Whenever we got a little thirsty we found another coffee shop to sip on frozen Frappuccinos or lavender lattes.

We took an elevator to the top of the Space Needle where we could see all over Seattle and out to the islands. Sometimes when you’re up high like that, you get to imagine what it’s like being one of the people who live in that city every day. What are their lives like? What are their problems? What are their dreams? Do they feel lucky that they live in a city that smells like salt water, spices, Indian food, coffee and cheese?

We talked about all kinds of things on top of that Needle, and Brittny pointed out the landscape while the wind blew our hair around and made us laugh.

Then we walked to Kerry Park where teenagers in formal dresses of all colors were taking pictures before they headed off to prom. There were selfie sticks and smiles and a little of that teenage awkwardness that always comes along with dating and dressing to impress. Oh to be teenagers again, we wondered. What would we have done differently?

It was a perfect day. From Kerry Park we walked miles back to our car, talking the whole time about nothing and everything. I remember it was a day I felt truly alive.

It was a rough five months between the time my dad died and my visit to Seattle. It’s still rough. I have found, however, that one way I can always find myself is when I’m with a really good friend who makes me laugh, dream, think, explore and realize more about the moment. The same thing happened a couple months later while on a trip with Travis in San Francisco where we filled ourselves with Italian food covered in garlic, purchased loose leaf tea in Chinatown, took a boat that went under the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, and hiked all along the north beaches. At some point he told me I seemed really happy and I said, “I told you I’m my best self while traveling.”

There is just something about traveling – and there is something about the people in my life – that makes me feel whole again. Life can be blue, foggy, gray and dizzy, but give me a plane ticket, good food and company and I am OK again, at least for a while.

It was so sunny that day in Seattle. The clouds were perfect, the water was blue and once again, I felt like someone or something was watching out for me. That night, we drove back to Olympia and talked about our families. We discussed everything that is hard right now. I cried. I told Brittny about the regrets I have from when my dad was alive.

Brittny and I spent the rest of that weekend eating at cute local restaurants, getting our palms read at a farmer’s market, walking by the water and touring the Capitol. We got dressed up and had dinner with Brittny’s closest friends for her birthday, then danced to Usher and Madonna and dozens of other happy songs in a hot, bouncing bar. I was drunk and nostalgic then as I told Brittny, Devin and their friend Molly I was so happy we were together.

On our last full day, we went to Ocean Shores for Brittny’s real birthday and spent hours running around looking for sand dollars. We sat on the Jetty and listened to music in the wind. Brittny wanted us to take in that moment separately. She wanted to think about her own life and happiness.

I think these reasons are why I felt alive after five months of feeling unlike myself. I needed upbeat music, sunshine, and the ocean. I needed a good friend. I think it’s important to take time out, to see something new, to spend that time with someone who realizes more about the moment than what most people ordinarily see.

20150515_142116 20150515_190539 20150515_193737 20150515_185947 20150515_183439 20150515_142459 20150515_140114 20150515_135157 Photo May 15, 7 38 03 PM Photo May 15, 5 40 04 PMPhoto May 15, 1 53 53 PMPhoto May 15, 1 54 26 PM

beauty friendship hearts life love

the heart hunt: part 3

One morning on my way to work a few months back, the song “I’m Already There” by Lonestar came on the radio and took my breath away just a little bit. I was coming around the corner to the building, then I parked and sat in the dark while listening to the rest of the words.

“I’m already there
Take a look around
I’m the sunshine in your hair
I’m the shadow on the ground
I’m the whisper in the wind
And I’ll be there until the end
Can you feel the love that we share
Oh I’m already there”

Of course the song hit me as it never had before since it’s about a man missing his family and the ways he shows them he’s never completely gone. The words are perfect for me and tell the story I am living. In the first few months after my dad died, I would get to work before sunrise and was lucky enough to have a few minutes some days to walk up to the roof and look out on the soft pink and smokey blue clouds at dawn. One morning I saw birds flying among them and it felt like it was on purpose – like my dad sent them for me. I’m so thankful for the moments I feel like I’m being looked after, and for those minutes when it feels like heaven is really just barely beyond what I can see.

You know how I’ve been looking for hearts? I see them everywhere now. Yesterday I was on a hike and saw more than I can count, and brought three heart rocks home. Today that Lonestar song crossed my mind again and I thought about how whenever I see a heart, it’s like my dad is saying “I’m already there. Take a look around.”

I also see that this sentiment has reached so many of you, too. I can’t believe how you’re looking out for me. In the last month since I wrote about this heart hunt, I’ve received hearts from places as far away as Hawaii, Florida and even Japan! There have been so many I can hardly believe it. Thank you so much! The last five months or so have been the hardest of my life, but these little surprises that show up in my text and Facebook inboxes make me happy every time. I’m going to attempt to post them all here, and I apologize if I forgot any. Just know every single one has been a bright spot in my day, my week, my life – and your friendship and love means a million times more.

I’ve decided to make a public Instagram page, @huntingforhearts, where I can post hearts as I find them and as they are sent to me. The page will be for my dad and I hope it will showcase love in many unexpected ways near and far. I invite you to join in and/or follow along! I think you might be surprised at how fun they are to discover. I love hearing about the stories and places where my friends and family members have found them.

There have been so many hearts found in the last month I was able to make six collages! They are labeled below left to right, top row to bottom row.

Heart Collage1

1. My cousin Amee in Arizona sent this photo after she and her kids found a heart-shaped Cadbury egg.
2. Unfortunately, I don’t remember who sent me this photo of beautiful bleeding hearts. I love these.
3. During her vacation in Hawaii, my friend Candace found this coral heart. I’d just read that day that heart rocks are often found at beaches because they are tossed and turned. I love the analogy that love can be carved from the rough waves in life.
4. While visiting my friend Brittny in Washington in May, she showed me this picture in her apartment which contained three hidden hearts (two are pictured here).
5. My junior high and high school band buddy Christiane saw this heart in her bathroom tile the day after she read my last post. She said she probably steps on it every day. Christiane lives in Utah and came to my dad’s viewing after I hadn’t seen her in years. We’re emailing now after she sent this heart. Some friends last for life, no matter the time or distance.
6. Our friends Emilie and Garrett came to visit me and Travis from Utah over Memorial Day weekend. We were standing in line at Chipotle when Emilie noticed she was wearing a heart shirt filled with names of strong women. Emilie is one of the strongest women I know.
7. My friend Devin in Washington sent this photo from Olympia after the trees at his apartment were trimmed. It’s a heart inside a heart, he said.
8. My elementary school friend Latasha sent this heart over Facebook. She said she glanced over at her Ten Commandments plaque and saw the reflection of a heart. She also said she was glad my dad could be in her life every day now. So sweet.

Heart Collage2

1. After a Florida storm, my cousin Genevieve sent me this heart over Instagram while on vacation. I love stormy skies.
2. My friend Holly, who has been my friend for almost 10 years now, sent this heart from Virginia the day after my last post.
3. My friend Latasha sent this heart from Utah of her fuzzy heart socks. She included the hashtag #huntingforhearts which I’m now using for my Instagram posts and page name.
4. My mother-in-law Irma said she thought of me when she saw this photo of New Caledonia, which is a French territory comprised of dozens of islands. Her text came from Arizona.
5. My mom’s sweet student in Utah made this. “More hearts makes more love.”
6. My sweet cousin Katie Rae almost walked right past this ladybug one day, then had a feeling she should go back. When she took a closer look, she found a heart right behind its head. Her dad died a year before mine and when she sent her text from Utah, she said she knows our dads are watching over us. I know it too.
7. My friend Kelly said this photo is admittedly mushy, but that she wanted to send it anyway. It’s from her honeymoon in Hawaii. I want to see that rock someday if that means I’m in Hawaii!
8. This photo was taken by me last weekend while walking around our neighborhood.
9. Brittny sent this photo of heart-shaped garlic she found while making dinner with Devin one night. She says garlic is heart healthy, you know.

Heart Collage3

1. I spotted this heart on a stoplight in Seattle while visiting Brittny. We walked everywhere that day and had the time of our lives doing all the touristy things.
2. My dear friend Miranda, who has the cutest boxer in the world, sent this picture from Utah of a heart spot on her dog. His fur just grows that way!
3. Memories of sleepovers at my friend Nikie’s pond in Idaho came back to me when she sent me this heart. I love that place and thinking of the rodeo before sleeping under all those stars.
4. The other day, my lifelong friend Mindy found this perfectly-shaped chicken nugget heart while making dinner with her kids.
5. My sweet sister-in-law Melissa was having a bad day and almost sent me a text to tell me she looks for hearts everywhere and never finds them. Then she looked up and found this on her wall – a heart my brother painted in their bathroom for her a couple Christmases ago.
6. This heart comes from a Scentsy light. My friend Jamie, who used to make me laugh every day at The Herald Journal in Utah, saw it on her wall and thought of me.
7. Melissa continued to see hearts after that day she thought she couldn’t see any. She and my mom found this one in my mom’s yard one day.
8. My mom eats kid food sometimes (she is a first grade teacher after all), and one day at lunch they served her this heart-shaped chicken patty.
9. A gum heart was found on the ground in Ohio and sent to me by my good friend Mandy.

Heart Collage4

1. During the Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point in Utah, my sister-in-law Jackie spotted this brick heart with my mom at The Secret Garden area.
2. One day while helping Travis in the backyard, I saw this heart rock. He turned around and wondered what in the world I was taking pictures of!
3. In Seattle, Brittny and I joined in on the Gum Wall madness and she made this cute pink heart.
4. While in Arizona for Mother’s Day, Travis, his parents and I were walking and I got so excited when I saw these cactus hearts. Pretty much anytime I see hearts I gasp and need to take pictures immediately. I’m sure sometimes this is annoying.
5. Floss fell on the ground and made this balloon-like heart. My sister-in-law Nikki sent this from Washington.
6. We went dancing for Brittny’s birthday and on the way home, I spotted this lovely piece of trash and a cigarette butt on the ground. I got really excited of course and made Brittny snap this photo. Devin was laughing at how non-glamorous this heart was. I have to admit, it was pretty funny … and I was tipsy which probably makes more sense, right?
7. Just the other day, my friend Nikie sent me a picture of her heart-shaped pizza lunch from work. Yum!
8. My friend Holly told her sweet little friend I like hearts and the girl insisted Holly take this photo and send it to me from Virginia.
9. My friend Mandy recently went to Japan on vacation with her husband and spotted this heart shape at a Buddhist temple. Wow … Japan! That was so kind of her to send it and knowing it was from a Buddhist temple, I thought Travis would love it, too.

Heart Collage5

These hearts were all captured by me on the La Luz Trail in Albuquerque, the beach in Ocean Shores, Washington, and the Albuquerque BioPark Zoo (the heart is on the giraffe’s neck).

Heart Collage6

These were also captured by me at Ocean Shores; at a coffee shop in Seattle (Brittny told the barista, “she likes hearts, so if you can do a heart, she’d like that”); the Petroglyph National Monument where I got more excited over hearts than the actual petryglpyhs; in Santa Fe right before a hike with Travis, Emilie and Garrett; in Olympia near the water in front of the Capitol Building; in the sky above the La Luz Trail (look for the bird in the clouds here, too); and at my best friend Jenn’s house on the day I met her baby.

Thanks again for making this hunt for hearts reach far beyond what I could have imagined. I will always, always, always be grateful for that.

beauty friendship hearts love

the heart hunt: part 2

I am truly amazed at what my hunt for hearts has turned into. What started as a game inspired by my sister-in-law a few years ago has turned into something that makes me feel loved in a unique, special way by my friends and family during the hardest months of my life. Since I posted about the heart hunt and shared that first photo of a heart potato on Instagram, I have received photos of unexpected hearts found in Utah, Texas, Florida, Arizona, Washington and Maryland while I’ve continued to find them in New Mexico. Please keep sending them to me via social media, text messages or emails, and I’ll keep sharing mine with you. Let’s all feel the love together.

I’ve mentioned this before, but every time I’ve had a few bad days in a row, something good happens and sometimes all that means is seeing a new heart on the ground or in a tree, or opening my phone to see a new one from someone I love. I want to share these hearts with you as I rejoice in the wonderful friends and family I have.

Here goes:

Just a few days after I posted that potato, I was tagged in this photo of spilled yogurt from my lovely friend Hayley who lives in New York and has known me well since the awkward, fun high school days. She helped me survive and thrive my sophomore year, and I still love any time I hear from her.


During my job search, I had to step out of the office for a few minutes sometimes to answer phone calls. One day I stepped out to call a couple of people to see if they would be references. As I was talking to one of them, I looked down and saw this water heart on the ground. I felt that had to be a good sign. Things didn’t turn out exactly how I expected with that particular job I was calling references for, but I truly believe things worked out even better. I needed to remember to have hope.


That day my sister-in-law Nikki also found another water heart in Washington. Two in one day! That had to be an extra good sign.


February was both long and short with ups and downs, but on the very last day of the month, my friend April in Maryland sent me this mushroom that was trying to grow into a heart.


Two days later, I spotted this perfect, tree-made heart on the ground.


And another two days after that, my friend Janalee in Cache Valley, Utah, spotted this heart-shaped chicken nugget and said maybe this heart hunt was turning into a trend. At the time, I had no idea how right she was.


On Sunday, March 8, Travis and I recreated our first date by going to a talk by This American Life creator Ira Glass and eating at a Thai restaurant.  Between the talk and dinner I spotted this leaf on the ground of UNM campus. Since this was my Valentine’s Day present to Travis, it seemed very fitting.


The next day the sky presented heart after heart to me.

Heart Cloud

The next Sunday, Travis and I went to the Botanic Garden and I looked for hearts but didn’t see any. Then just before bed, my friend Brittny sent this picture from Washington Beach. Friends always seem to fill in the pieces.


Later that week, I went to Colorado to see my friend Stevi and go to an epic Garth Brooks concert. I thought about my dad a lot that day because my family was celebrating his birthday in Utah. I saw two hearts that day … twice the love! Stevi was pretty sure the first one was made of geese poop, but hey, a heart is a heart. Plus, I’ve told you my dad loved geese.



On my dad’s real birthday, my friend Hannah spotted this heart in a parking garage stairwell after volunteering at a children’s hospital in Florida for four hours. Perfect timing.


The next photo wins for the cutest heart sent from my sister-in-law Jackie of my little niece Madison. Hearts can be handmade.


On my last day of work, my coworkers surprised me with a cake decorated in pink hearts. It was so kind of my friend Hawa to think of hearts that I almost cried.


The next day, I found a heart in the form of a red curry potato chip.


More hearts came from Washington near the end of March when my friend Brittny visited a cemetery there.

FullSizeRendergrave IMG_0089grave

On Easter, I told you we went to the Botanic Garden again, and this time hearts were everywhere.


Hearts came from Maryland again. April said she was on a walk with little ones to look for bunnies. Along the way, the 5-year-old noticed the stars and made a wish to find a bunny named Sparkles. So cute.


A shadow at a park in Arizona created this heart and my cousin Caree sent it to me. So happy.


The next day, my cousin Genevieve’s little girl noticed a rip in her mom’s jeans and said it looked a heart. This photo came from Texas.


Last weekend, I went to visit family in Utah and my first night there, my mom and I found heart sunglasses at Charming Charlie. There was only one pair and my mom said I should have them. She looked so cute in them though so I went home and promptly ordered a pair for her. Now we can be heart twins from afar.


I couldn’t resist putting them on my niece who looked pretty cool, too.


During the trip, my mom and I went to the Tulip Festival at Thanksgiving Point. Near the end, we spotted hearts within the leaves.

IMG_3605 IMG_3606 IMG_3608

My mom helped me with my first bridal show at USU’s Spectrum. While we were setting everything up, I thought, “I can’t wait to tell Dad.” I think it was the first time I forgot for a second that he’s gone. Later during the show, I noticed a section of seats that looked like a heart. I feel really good about that day because I tried something that was scary for me. Even though I didn’t get to tell my dad about it, I think he was proud anyway.IMG_20150411_172526

For my mom’s birthday, my sister-in-law had a bracelet made with my dad’s handwriting on it. She got the text from a card he gave her and sent it to an Etsy shop owner. It turned out beautifully.


On my last day in Utah, my mom and I stopped by the cemetery and I got to see the lovely flowers and wreaths placed there for my dad. My uncle Jay crafted the big metal heart. It’s perfect.


I want to thank everyone who has sent love the last while whether it was through these heart photos or in another way. I’ve received more kindness than I’ll ever be able to explain. This week marked four months since my dad passed away. I believe he keeps sending us signs that he’s close by and I never want those signs to end. I love the way hearts are appearing for so many people right now. Love is a miraculous thing and comes in many forms, just as these hearts have. When you look for them, I promise you’ll find them.

friendship laughter life love

girlfriends are the greatest

During good times and bad my girlfriends have always seen me through and helped me along the way – so this post is for them. It’s impossible for me to share every memory because there are millions and I know I’m bound to leave some girls out on accident. Some pictures of my friends aren’t easily accessible either, so just know I’m thankful for every childhood, teenage, college and grown up (whatever that means) friend who made me laugh until I cried, dressed up with me, sang with me in the car, planned parties and trips with me, shared sorrows and big dreams with me under the stars, worked with me, had sleepovers with me, got in trouble with me, saw me sloppy, danced through the night, and so much more.

Thank you.

With all my heart, thank you.

You are some of the main people making this journey through life fun, exciting, bearable, interesting and inspiring. Tonight I want to share why I love you.

You view the world as something beautiful and you want to see it with me.


You know all we need is a cotton candy maker to ensure a day we’ll never forget.


You were there during the months and moments that changed our lives.


You sat with me when I was the only person older than 4 who wanted to hold a bunny.


You partied hard with me on my 21st birthday.


You dressed to match on accident.


Or on purpose.


You laugh with me until our guts hurt.


You show up on the big days and bad days – and often in a group.


You think wandering around New York City with the sole purpose of eating can be the greatest thing.


You did’t even have to be human to make me happy.


You have dress-like-a-wizard parties with me.


And wear-your-biggest-sleeves parties with me.


And see-who-looks-the-funniest-in-a-Christmas-sweater parties with me.


You taught me that life is an adventure and I still believe it 9 years later.


You saved our umbrella at a baseball game.


You visited me in the desert.


You traveled to one of the most exotic places with me.


You’ve been in my life since the 4th grade (or younger!)


You made sure my dress laid right on my wedding day.


You’ve been happy for me.


You danced to “Save a Horse Ride a Cowboy” with me – in fancy clothes.


You dressed up in ’80s attire because that’s what I wanted for my 30th birthday.


You inspired me to try new things, whether it be ice skating lessons or something else just as fun.


You know I’m ridiculous and often reciprocate that.


You agreed to make a pyramid for me because I was moving away, even though you probably thought I was crazy.


You take feet pictures with me in all the places we go.


You’ve been to the most epic of concerts with me.


You put on mustaches because, who knows why?


You agree to a hug even when you don’t want to (or you just hold your arms out until it’s over).


You get really into karaoke.


You’ve listened to every thought in my brain for years.


You stayed with me on the green runs when everyone else skied better.


You make biking and “Bachelor” plans with me every week.


You text me pictures that make me smile.


You do girly things when my husband won’t want to – like going to the ballet.


And when tragedy struck, you licked the tears off my face while I laid in bed wondering what happened.


You gathered around me during that tragedy, too, in many different ways both near and far. A couple of you came over that night to hold my hand, cry, and agree to watch our cat because we had to leave town. We barely knew you and you did it anyway.


Some of you who I hadn’t seen in years offered to do anything – including picking me from the airport if I needed it. You came to the viewing or funeral (or both), and sent cards, flowers and text messages from states away.



You send me cards and necklaces in the mail that lift my heart.


You’ve remained by my side while life is blurry.


And you know the next time I see you, it’s possible we’ll look like this again no matter what is going on in our lives.