beauty grief hearts hope life love

‘so much held in a heart’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grief hope life

Like Punky Brewster

This is me on the first day of kindergarten, around age 6. Don’t let this innocent face fool you; at times I was too stubborn for my own good, and even now I still am.

I’ve always been a bit, shall we say, independent.

When I was around 6 years old, my parents threatened to leave me someplace because I refused to get in the car or some other nonsense. When they packed up, buckled in, and drove away, I sat on a curb, folded my arms and decided I was going to make it on my own – just like Punky Brewster, whose parents left her at a grocery store. Punky Brewster was my favorite television show at the time and was possibly one of the reasons I played “orphans” instead of “house” with my cousins until I was at least 12. Characters like Punky Brewster and Anne-Marie from the cartoon movie “All Dogs go to Heaven,” were my inspirations. Who wants to pretend to be a mom or dad when you can pretend to be a kid on your own, who knows how to make it on the streets, and who lives in boxcars and abandoned buildings? We could pretend to be kids who never had to hear the words no.

As I sat there on the curb that day telling myself I’d figure life out like Punky Brewster, my parents drove about one block away, far enough that I couldn’t see them, but close enough that they could see me. They were surprised I didn’t cry when pretty much every other 6-year-old in the world would have run after the car sobbing her eyes out. After they realized I wouldn’t chase them, they pulled back up and MADE me get in the car where I continued to cause a ruckus until they literally turned the car around. By the time we got home, I was carsick and threw up all over the driveway. What a rotten child I was at times.

But the point is, I was independent from the start, and while I’m sure it’s given my family their share of headaches, there are good things about this too. Good things like the day I called my folks at age 19 and told them I was going to China to teach English – No. Matter. What. Following that conversation, I worked really hard to make the adventure happen. I wanted to pay for it on my own, so I got two unclassy summer jobs at Walmart and Maverik, clocked 12-16 hour days sometimes and worked a couple 20-day stretches. It was one of the summers I am most proud of. I saved most of that money, slept very little, hung out with friends as much as possible, then boarded a plane to Shanghai and lived in a small town five hours south for four glorious months.

It was during that stretch of my life where one of my mottos was, “you can do anything you want if you plan for it.” If I could make it to China working two cashier jobs, then I could go anywhere, right? Do anything? Fulfill every dream? I really thought so. Oh, to be 19 again.

Fast forward 13 years to last night when I had a huge moment of self-doubt that has been lingering for a while now but maybe hasn’t been put into words so plainly. Travis and I were talking about the adult stuff – budgets and house work mostly. After we’d gone over the to-do lists, I asked him what he wanted his life too look like? What did he imagine? And then he asked me. It’s hard for me to put exactly what I want into words, so I told him I want simplicity, and to be more grateful. But a lot of the other stuff, like what my dream job is, I just don’t know.

For a while now, I have felt like a failed business owner, a failed writer, a failed dreamer. And I started to cry, saying I’ve been asked what my career goals are and I have no idea. For now, I want a job. I want to be very good at a job. But being good at a job doesn’t necessarily equal passion. I said between tears that I used to have passion and it didn’t work out. I worked for a small paper, moved, and bounced around from three jobs in five years. I started writing a book six years ago and never finished. I opened a small business two years ago and haven’t broken even. I used to run marathons and make bucket lists and check things off. Now that old bucket list collects digital dust on this blog that survives solely because this space means too much to me to delete – not because I write often. I can’t seem to get organized enough to do any of the things I used to call dreams – such as my business, and book, running, and creating a home that feels quaint, and quiet, and warm.

Today those thoughts stayed with me. I walked from my car to my office nearly in tears, and started to cry at my desk before I was thankfully interrupted by a coworker who wanted me to sign a get well card for someone whose problems are more immediate than mine.

But I think maybe this could be a turning point, too. Because this morning, before the walk from my car to my office, I woke up and ran through my neighborhood with my dog and the moon and a small glimmer of hope that today is a new day and those dreams and passions are still somewhere inside me. Buried perhaps, but somewhere nonetheless. And after that run, and the almost cry, I signed up for a half marathon. Because although I don’t think my dreams and passions need to stay the same, I think I’ll repeat old ones until I find the new.

And maybe that is exciting. And maybe I’ll fail again. Maybe I’ll fail again 1,000 times like many of us with passion do. Maybe that 19-year-old isn’t wiser than my 32-year-old self; maybe that 19-year-old just hadn’t failed yet. And maybe there is a part of me that still believes I can make big things happen No. Matter. What. Even if that means some of my plans take longer than expected, or don’t happen at all. Maybe that 6-year-old inside me is still sure enough that I’ll figure out life … just like Punky Brewster.

-Written July 10, 2017

beauty grief hope life love


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

beauty grief hope life love

new year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

beauty friendship grief hearts hope life love

rainbows and peppers

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

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

1. We’re all connected somehow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe this point is to hope no one suffers alone.

beauty grief laughter life love

disney world for dad


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:


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.

I love the light in this photo. It’s like my dad is shining down on us.
Spotted in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This was normal sock day.
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:


Scan 38

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

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grief life love

where i’m going from here

I chose this picture for this post because I look the way I feel … happy.

I’m feeling much more like my old self these days. In the last couple weeks, it’s like a big weight was lifted off me that I didn’t know was there. I’ve been a roller coaster the last year, but during the times when I was on top of the hills, they didn’t seem this high. Now it’s almost like I can feel my arms in the air, and the adrenaline of what’s to come again, and that is a really good feeling.

This past year, I always laughed. I always worked. I always planned. There always seemed to be something heavy following me around, though. It was like I was a prisoner in some way, with my ankles shackled together carrying a very big ball behind me. A lot of grief, a lot of fear, and some resentment and anger seemed to always follow me around. And even as the weight of that ball became lighter (or I built enough muscle to just pull it around easier), it was there dragging me into the past and making it so I didn’t see the present in a full, accurate way.

I’ve written mostly about grief on this blog since my dad passed away, but this blog was originally meant for something else. It was meant to be my positive, uplifting space on the internet. While I don’t regret the direction this blog has gone because life changed and no one could have predicted that, I’m hoping to share more thoughts on this blog’s original topics – love, beauty, happiness, friendship. I’m hoping, because of what I’ve been through, that my thoughts will have more validity than before. Soon after my dad was gone, this became the place that I could share some of my perspectives on life and death, and through that, I have discovered much more depth in me and my writing. If only I’d written more, I always think, but writing has been hard.

In the last recent while, when I discovered myself feeling more and more like me, I hesitated to believe it would last because in the last year my ups and downs have been pretty unpredictable. I have wondered if this top-of-the-roller-coaster-hill feeling will be temporary. Life will always be somewhat up and down, right? If it’s not grief that seems overwhelming, it will be something else. What I’m learning though, is I have to keep a balance inside me, and learn to be OK with the lack of influence I have in so many ways. In all reality, I can’t control very many things in this life, but more recently, I’ve tried to focus on the things I can.

How I view the world

I stopped watching the news around the new year. I have a tendency to dwell on the negative, scary stories. This was affecting multiple aspects of my life. I was fearful on a daily basis and everything felt like chaos. I was becoming very negative about the world and the city I live in. However, what I see in the news is not the full picture. I know because I worked in news professionally for eight years, and unfortunately, the bad stories generate more views, more clicks, and seemingly more excitement. It seems there are fewer positive feature stories as top headlines on news websites and TV stations these days, but all those happy things are still happening everywhere every single day, and it’s my choice to remember that and participate in the good. I will never be able to control the bad things that happen, but I can focus on the good and pray for everyone every day without watching the news.

How I view others

Everyone deserves friends and compassion. Just like me, everyone is seeking to be happy. The more I see others and their needs as equal to me and my longings, I will be able to share more love with them. Recently, I was told that although there are a lot of things out there that seem uncontrollable and confusing (like my dad’s death), love will always work. It works to solve problems. It works to mend burned bridges. It works to heal every single heart. You may never know if a certain prayer worked, or if science worked, or if politics works. You may also know when all of those things didn’t work. But love will always work in some way. I think it helps more than time or any other remedy someone can suggest for grief, depression, or anxiety. Love works. It protects. It wins.

How I view myself

My husband and I started a workout regimen this year and it’s not only given us more quality time together, but it’s improved how I feel about my overall self and body. I’m feeling better than I have in a while due to these 5 a.m. workouts and weekly climbs at the rock gym. We have goals together and separately (like me running a half marathon in May!), and I’m feeling a difference in my mind, probably due to extra endorphins. Beyond working out, I’ve also felt myself fall back into the creative things I love that hadn’t been consistent in my life for a long while. I’m designing more again, I’m putting effort into my Etsy shop, I’m taking pictures, I’m writing. I also sense my mind changing and gravitating more toward the things that make me feel lighter and happier. Just this last week, I created a “Happy” station on Pandora. So many melancholy songs on my Ingrid Michaelson station helped me through the last year, but I’m finding myself wanting to sing and dance again to upbeat, fun, and ridiculous songs like “Uptown Funk,” “All About That Base,” and, yes, “Happy.”

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I’m never really sure where this blog will go, but I have ideas. For now, I hope that some of these things might work for you if you are struggling. If it’s bothering you, turn off the news. Remember that love works. When you’re ready, set goals that remind yourself of the old you. If you’ve been through something hard, you’ll probably never be the same and that is OK. But there is hope. There is always hope.

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.

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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.







Photo May 15, 6 06 18 PM











beauty grief life



Yesterday, I went for a really long, much needed drive. It’s something I used to do in Logan when my heart felt heavy and I wanted the loudness of my music and the quiet rhythm of the road to help me sort things out for a while. Sometimes I would leave my apartment late at night, start up the engine and drive to small-town Preston of all places – just to get out of the city, away from my roommates and distractions, and allow myself to think beneath the light of the moon and stars. Other times, I’d let my car take me through Logan Canyon. I’d follow the river and maneuver around the curves surrounded by green and rocky walls in the summer and warm-colored leaves in the fall. I’d go all the way to Bear Lake just to see that clear, blue water, put my feet in the sand, and attempt to let go of my troubles.

I don’t really take drives like that anymore. It’s not necessarily because I don’t need them, but because I never really looked for a new road since I moved. But yesterday. Yesterday, I decided I needed to go somewhere that would remind me that I’m small, and compared to so many people around the world, my problems are, too. So, after work as the January sun began to set and a glow started over the city, I began driving to the other side of the mountains that I’ve come to love here. I drove, and drove, and drove.

I knew right where I was going when I started, and when I saw the sign for the Crest, I made a left turn and started on that 14-mile road that goes straight up the Sandias around dozens of curves and bends. Similar to how I was feeling, everything seemed to be slightly draped in blue. Every once in a while, I could get a glimpse through the darkened, tree silhouettes and I’d see more blue mountains in the distance with snow on their peaks. I listened to country music – no songs in particular – and thought about the things in life that didn’t feel right. I passed the beginnings of some of my favorite trails, the sledding area, the ski resort. This road was somewhat haunting and beautiful at the same time, and I kind of just let my thoughts run as my heart began to ache.

Things will never be as they were.

I’ve made it through the hardest year of my life so far, but this January felt colder than normal, grayer than usual, and while I can’t believe there’s only one week left already, this month has also felt long. I think this is the nature of Januarys. They are harsh, and frozen, and slow.

When I reached the Crest, there was snow all over the ground and it was so cold I knew I’d only stay a few minutes. I parked and quickly trudged through some of that snow in the boots my dad gave me last Christmas so I could see the last bit of the sunset’s glow over the city. I tried to take in the colors … the ocean blue at the top of the sky, and the way it faded to yellow, with pink strips running through it. Lights were beginning to twinkle throughout Albuquerque. People were going about their lives. The mountains to my left were stacked in the distance with trees and bushes poking through the crisp, white snow. My fingers began to sting as I took pictures of the scene, knowing they would never do justice, and then I began to breathe deeply. I thought about breathing in the good, and exhaling the bad. I slowly opened and closed my eyes, trying to focus on how I’m just one life in all this madness – how the world is big, and how my sadness and failures are contained to a small space in my heart. There are so many other things out there. There are those twinkling city lights, and millions of people, and the colors in the sky. The universe is filled with miracles and tragedies, and while I’m a part of that, I’m a small part.

Sometimes it’s good to feel small. It’s good to stand on top of a mountain at sunset and remember that the world is big – that it will keep changing and glowing, and so will you.