simplify. let go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

i need the night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

let go

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

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

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

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

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

Let go.

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

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

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

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

Let go.

Bring on 32.

unless you can be a unicorn

 

SONY DSC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pink Hair

dreamer

Rainbow

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

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

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

right now

SONY DSC

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

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

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

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

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

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

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

what i’ve learned as a dog mom (so far)

Neville

We always had dogs growing up, and as the youngest child with only older brothers, sometimes I would say Muffin, our little gray schnauzer, was my sister. If I’d had a sister, you see, I would have wanted her to be the same age Muffin was, and I would have played Barbies with her, just as I sort of attempted to do with my dog (and in that, I mean I had a Barbie blanket that I used to tie around her head so looked like an old lady). It made me laugh and Muffin was patient, so I guess it was a win/win.

We had Muffin for a long time – until I was a teenager – and she was the stinkiest dog we ever owned, but I loved her so and was heartbroken on her last day. A few years later, my parents caved and let me get Maggie – a fluffy black shih tzu/pomeranian mix. She was this little thing of light, with happy eyes, and the tiniest bladder. For the longest time she simply could not hold in her excitement when she saw members of our family and it unfortunately came out all over the floor in yellow puddles. She liked to be right in your face, she liked to eat marshmallows, and she even had her own little recliner. She was spoiled and sweet and looked adorable wearing the little bows from PetSmart Grooming.

I moved out two years after Maggie became part of the family, so even though she was technically my dog, she was really my dad’s, and they became the best of pals. She would lay on his stomach, inch closer and closer to his face until her eyes were right in his, then she’d most likely sneeze and throw everyone into fits of laughter.

When I moved in with Travis, he wanted a cat immediately. His family never had pets, but he’d had a black cat in college named Lucifer and loved him. I hated him, mind you. He had a thing for pouncing girls and at the time, I didn’t have my own computer. I was often at Travis’ apartment using my boyfriend’s desktop and at some point during the evening, I’d always feel they eyes of the devil on me, then look down the hall to see Lucifer crouching and his tail whipping back and forth. And without fail, he always went after my feet, made me scream, and the boys laugh. So, no, I was not excited about getting a cat when I moved to Albuquerque, but Travis was just so set on it that one day we went to Animal Humane and picked up Stella, who was so scared in the car that we let her out and she pooped on me, then snuggled in my lap. And right then, I knew she belonged with us.

I plan to write a whole post on Stella, because she turned out to be wonderful, and stubborn, and funny, and sweet. But right now I’m just so excited to tell you about the newest addition to our family, that Stella’s post will have to wait (I suppose I’m fickle). And since we’re already five paragraphs in and I have no idea if you’re still reading, I’ll just get right to it. I want to tell you what I’ve learned from having a dog for just a little over a week. Granted, I’ve been around dogs all my life, but I never had one that my parents didn’t do A LOT (or should I say most?) of the work (thanks, guys!).

  1. Name your pet after one of your favorite fictional characters, and it will make you happy every time you call for him. We picked Neville Wigglebottom based on Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter. This has led to all kinds of jokes like whether he’s a Gryffindog or a Hufflepup, how we have our own Padfoot now, and how his bed will be the Cushion of the Phoenix. I already have a photo planned in my head where Neville looks mischievous and the caption will say, “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” We are nerds for sure, but so is Neville in the books, so it fits. Plus, Neville is actually this really strong, loyal, sweet character, and so is our dog.
  2. I am a crazy dog mom. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve shown Neville’s picture to! Ask about our dog, and expect to have me whip out my phone and show him to you!
  3. Sunrises are the bees knees. We’ve been walking Neville before work most days and it’s so wonderful to see the pink clouds and the way the neighborhood is slightly blue, and golden yellow as the sun wakes up the world. I’m not naturally a morning person, but there is definitely beauty, quiet, and peace in it. Time seems to move slower in the early hours.
  4. Rescue dogs are amazing. We got Neville from Boxer Rescue of Albuquerque and I’ve never had a dog that was so easy right from the beginning. Growing up, we always got puppies so we had to teach them everything. Neville came housebroken, already knew how to sit, and doesn’t pull on his leash. Granted, not all rescue dogs will be trained, but I think most of them come with really huge hearts and the simple longing for love and permanent homes.
  5. Some dogs snore. And Neville happens to be one of them. He also sounds like a pig when he gets excited sometimes. He’s nuts.
  6. Dogs look good in pictures. And if you love taking pictures, but your husband doesn’t love being in them, you’ve got a great new subject to capture.
  7. If dogs and cats can get along, then people should be able to get along with people. Stella was our priority, so if Neville hated her, we couldn’t keep him. This was my biggest worry, and since I became attached on day one, I really hoped it would work out. And it did! I learned that Neville has more willpower than some people. When he can’t quite take Stella being a cat and doing cat things, he’ll sometimes stand up and walk away for 10 seconds. I think sometimes it takes everything in him not to get in her face and see if she wants to play. But he succeeds 90 percent of the time and gets better each day! I wish people could be more this way sometimes – that we could see where we are weak, and where we struggle with those who are different than us, and that we’d take 10-second breathers, and try again. We learned this in kindergarten after all, right?
  8. This happened because people worked together. We don’t know Neville’s whole story or the exact reason he ended up with Boxer Rescue. We do know that he’s been shuffled around to different families a few times in the last few months because of various circumstances that simply didn’t work out. It was after few families fostered him and some volunteers connected all of us together that he ended up with us. I’m so thankful for all of those people! I realize this is the case with pretty much everything in life; everything I have is because of the kindness of others (someone built our house, someone gave Travis and I jobs, someone grew the food we eat), and our experience with adopting Neville was a reminder to be thankful for that.
  9. Life as we know it will never be the same. So long sleeping in until 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays! We have a dog who needs to poop!
I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good. I couldn't resist!

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
I couldn’t resist!

a prayer for the world

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

*        *        *        *        *

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

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

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

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

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

Dear Heavenly Father,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20160319_145307

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