4/18/2017

Spring Break 2017



 ^^ for the record, I know at first glance it looks like Dan is smoking but that's just a candy bar, sorry to disappoint...












^^ a little backstory for that picture there: last year sometime I picked up some t-shirts at the thrift store, as one does. There was one particular shirt that was very comfy in all of the right form-fitting ways and it quickly became one of my favorites to wear. The front of it says "be kind" and I vaguely remember seeing on the back of the shirt that it was from a coffee shop in Colorado. Fast forward to earlier this year when we booked our trip for Spring Break, and it clicked! Estes Park Colorado! That's where the coffee shop on my thrift store shirt is! And so, of course, we made it a special point to find Kind Coffee (which was easy, it is right on the main street in town) and take a picture while wearing my be kind shirt. (I mean and yes, buy their coffee, which we did as well.)

Annnyyyway, boring stuff, I know.

For Spring Break we stayed in Estes Park, which is just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park, which has been on my bucket list. It was absolutely lovely there! Every morning I sat on the patio sipping my steamy coffee while listening to the music of the river running below and the birds chirping in the pines above. I would close my eyes and picture this as my life. A cabin with a river flowing in the backyard, sitting on the patio, living slowly and filled with awareness, breathing the fresh crisp mountain air.

It was a perfect reset button and a perfect Spring Break!

I feel that I should apologize for not being around much here on the blog. I have a lot of pictures stored that I could post, and a loooootttt of words filed away in my head, wanting so badly to get out somehow. But I find that I shy away from this space, the place where I once would write the words whenever they came to me. I know that I need to write, but I also sense that a massive internal awakening has been slowly occurring over the past year or so. I am respecting the awakening inside of me, and reverently honoring the meaningful changes that are demanding to be felt.

I thought I would be able to write more. I thought that my wounds would scab over and I would be able to come here, to tell my story, to tell my little brother's story, to tell about grief and pain and change and hope and despair. I know that it is important for us to be open and vulnerable about these things, because in the end that is what really connects us all together as human beings. We need to hear each others stories, to live in this solidarity that give us something to hold onto when we aren't sure how we will make it through.

And so, I thought I would be able to write more.

But as it turns out, all of these intense emotions brewing inside of me are taking a lot more time than I had realized they would take. I feel in my bones that I am not ready yet. I wish I were, but I am not. I am not ready yet to write my truths and to write all of my stories.

Not yet.

But I am learning and growing and changing tremendously. I will still be here! I will always be here to update the internet world (but mostly, to update my future posterity) about my life and its stories.

Thank you for being here.


xoxo

3/17/2017

river therapy







(If you look really closely in those pics there, you'll see a little white spot beneath Dan's paddle, which is Jace's glove. He was laying down flat to stay warm.)

Some of our very dear friends just purchased their very own kayaks and we are thrilled to finally have some kayak buddies! We were so excited that we couldn't wait, so we have been taking out the kayaks the past couple of weekends. We are perhaps a tad overanxious for Spring in this, because the last outing was quite cold. But always worth it! I remember one year Dan and I went kayaking in the late Fall, way up the mountains to Tony Grove, where we FROZE our buns (hands, really) right off even beneath all of our layers, but when we left all rosy cheeked and numb we still couldn't stop smiling because it had been such a fun time. Truth be told, I might choose colder-day kayaking over hotter-day kayaking.

And anyway, the weather this week has rocked our socks off. Seventy-degrees and sunshine and mayyyybe the first time in my life that I have thoroughly loved daylight savings. Every day after work and school we go outside and, minus a short break for dinner, we stay there until the sun goes down. (Even after the sun goes down I have to drag the boys kicking and screaming to come back inside.) We could not be happier about these sun filled days! I have already logged in eight miles this week on the trails and I am going to be putting all of our winter gear in storage this weekend with a big fat GOOD RIDDANCE TO YA.

My apologies for being so annoyingly excited in this post. I'm really not that overly happy of a person, but my optimistic side really comes out of hibernation when Spring arrives. This past winter was especially hard and I have been beyond ready for the warmer weathered days.

Happy Friday to you and yours! Go enjoy some sunshine!


xoxo

3/02/2017

Surviving Winter







February, you big jerk.

Mother Nature is the moodiest in February, taunting us with Spring days and then turning right around and throwing a full-blown freezing snow filled winter in our faces.

But March is here now and doesn't that sound lovely? March. A stepping stone into a season that is easier to love. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the next season, trying not to wish my days away while also waving my white flag in surrender because Winter has beaten me down once again.

And it's not just me, you know. My kids are all sorts of antsy for better weathered days. After the long winter they are a little more moody and grumpy, a little more sullen and stone faced. Jace said to me, "Mom, can we move somewhere where they have no snow and you can ride your bike any day you want to?" He is a child after my own soul. He wants to run wild, ride bikes, build forts and soak up the sunshine until after bedtime.

And anyway, March! We welcome you with open arms!

Currently getting me through seasonal depression:

TV:

This Is Us, best show! I cry every episode. All of the feelings.

The Bachelor, duh. Mind numbing stupid reality tv at its finest.

Big Little Lies, new show on HBO.

Trolls is on repeat at our house, we loooove it.


BOOKS:

Currently reading The Nature Fix, a book that Dan got me for Valentine's Day, and it is perfect for me.

Over the winter I read and enjoyed:

Brene Brown's Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection

Looking For Alaska

Anne of Green Gables (classic)


MUSIC:

Music is so huge for my moods. I need music that speaks to my soul. I need it most when I'm winding down after a long day, or when I'm about to begin a long day. This winter I have stuck with just a few that have really fueled me:

The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons on repeat.

Also loving Alan Isakov.

And occasionally still finding peace through Dashboard Confessional.


COMFORT FOOD:

It's no secret that I am in love with Larabars, all natural and sweet enough to curb sugar cravings. My favorites are: peanut butter brownie, coconut cream pie, lemon bar and chocolate chip cookie dough.

Cooked dates rolled in crushed almonds or coconut flakes.

This black bean hummus has been my go-to for munching. So soooo good.


MANTRAS:

Slow. I have been so inspired to make my life less busy. I don't want crazy, I want easy. I want as much peace and simplicity as I can find. I want more time with my family. I want mornings to breathe and sip coffee and read. More sunrises and sunsets. Less distractions. I am straying away from a life packed with too many things to do.


MINDFULNESS:

My sister told me about a new meditation technique and it has been an absolute life changer. For five minutes you close your eyes and clear your mind. During the five minutes, any time a thought enters your mind, shut it down and re-clear. After the five minutes is up grab your journal and jot down all of the thoughts that entered your mind during the meditation. This has hugely impacted my awareness and my ability to let go of the thoughts and worries that aren't beneficial to me. LIFE. CHANGING.



Anyway. I truly hope you are getting through all right. I hope you are being slow and kind to yourself. (Better days are ahead! And very soon, according to the weatherman!) We can do hard things!



xoxo

2/10/2017

Spring is on the way



I love my morning time so much. Currently while I write this, I am sipping from my second cup of steaming hot coffee with sweet cream and the birds outside the patio door next to me are chirping and singing away beneath a sprinkle of rain that is trickling down from the sky.

On Tuesday it was Rockie's SEVENTH Birthday. Can you believe she is seven?! I, for one, can not! She was my very first baby. We still have the video of Dan surprising me with her back when we were young and engaged. It was on April Fool's Day that he was able to bring her home, and I kept saying "Is this a joke?? This is a MEAN JOKE!" as I instantly fell in love with her and couldn't believe that she was really mine.

I was hoping to make a doggie Birthday cake but as it was, we had a sick toddler and a crazy schedule so I missed the doggie-cake train. We did give her a shiny new elk antler bone to chew on (forever, because they last FOREVER) and we let the boys run around the house dropping chicken treats everywhere for her. It was so much fun. While I watched them all laughing and Rockie running around with her little stub tail wagging, I was all sorts of emotional thinking about what a wonderful life she has and how loved she is.

So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Rockster you cutest, sweetest, most adventurous s pup I know and love!

It is February and I am grateful for February, always, especially after a long January. We have had glimpses into Spring, tiny rays of sunshine that burrow into my soul and restore some hope. Just last Wednesday I was able to take full advantage of the Spring feel when Rockie and I hit up a trail to run in the mountains. It was a little bit muddy from the rain, a little bit of chunky slippery snow here and there, but beneath the shining sun and the blue sky in forty degree weather my heart sung praises. It was so very lovely and perfect.


xoxo

2/05/2017

Limber Pine Trail











^^another day, another incredible sunrise.

A couple of weeks ago we spent three days in Bear Lake with the Croft side of the family. The entire weekend it dumped snow, which is perfect when you are staying in a condominium stocked with hot chocolate and within walking distance of an indoor pool and hot tub.

The day we were coming home we woke to find they had shut down our main canyon to get there, but we found a way to drive around and through a different canyon and still made it home safely. (that canyon ended up closing too only hours after we drove home!) The snow this year has been epic, it reminds me of my childhood when this was always a normal winter before the seasons started warming up in recent years. I could do without the negative twenty degree temperatures and the inversion in the Valley, but I will take all of this snow happily because I know that we need the water!

(Still not friends with winter, just being an adult, you know.)

Oh also, did I tell you that I have been taking a photography class this year? It has been so wonderful, stepping out of my comfort zone and shooting in manual mode. Photography is something that really makes me excited. Finding new and unique ways of capturing the beauty out there in this gorgeous world is turning into such a fulfilling hobby for me! (it should be noted that all of the pictures in this post were from our iPhones. I tragically left my digital camera home when we spent the weekend at bear lake. But the pictures from my last post were taken when I was practicing manual mode on my digital camera, if you care to know!)

We officially booked a couple of trips for the year and still have more in the works. It's nice to have some things to look forward to in these dreary winter months! We have another full year of being able to live slowly before some big changes come our way, and so I am going to soak up this year. I am going to miss this stage of life one day, this beautiful and painful and lovely and hard stage of life. These ages of the boys that are simultaneously so hard and so sweet all at the same time, living in our tiny condo life, I just know that I am going to miss it all so much one day!


xoxo

2/04/2017

Practicing Awareness









For weeks I keep coming here to write, but time and time again I stare blankly at the blinking cursor for a while before I just give up and leave. I think I have so much to say that it is overwhelming.

So for now, here I am, writing something, posting anything.

Life has been so wonderful in a very strange way. I mean that to say, this year (all 33 days of it so far! 34 days?) has been so tremendously better than all of last year combined. Even with winter quite tragically kicking my behind. I have been craving blue skies and sunshine, bike rides and warm trail runs and camping and rock climbing and hiking and all of the things that fill my soul.

Even so. My emotional well-being since 2017 started has been rejuvenated.

At first I was baffled as to why, but I do have a theory:

Passing through December was like being kicked, hard, right in the gut, and when I was already down nonetheless. I hated December. I hated Christmas, I hated the one year anniversary of James' death. I cried and wallowed in sometimes gut-wrenching misery and tried to pretend everything was okay when really, I was just barely making it through.

And then suddenly, January hit. And with it, well, how do I explain this... It was as though I had been driving through a tunnel. A long, windy, very dark tunnel. And aside from a glimpse of dull light here and there coming through some cracks in the tunnel walls, it was all just darkness. It became reality. I coped and dug for courage and tried so hard to just accept it, that I was in this tunnel, that this was my new life now.

And then suddenly, after a long, long drive through the tunnel (an entire year of a drive), there I was, coming out the other side. Without any warning that I would be, I just...left the tunnel behind. I entered a whole new world and I will never have the chance to go back to the other side of the tunnel, but here in this new world it is open and spacious and there is light! There is sunshine! I can feel things that have been dead inside of me for a while now and I almost forgot they were there at all.

I think grief and life after loss is different for every single person. Some people say grief is like a snowflake because it is so very unique.

I still don't know how to really cope with and move past James not being here, his not being a physical part of our family anymore, the horrible reality that I will never ever see his face again in my lifetime, and the guilt that still surfaces from my not being able to save him before. I really truly don't think I will ever get past it. But it seems apparent to me now that the darkest and most miserable part of my grief lasted exactly one year. That year had some ups, some glimpses of hope and peace, but really a lot of downs, and I don't think a single day went by all year where I didn't cry. I was trying so hard, but I just couldn't manage all of the emotions inside of me.

But, for whatever reason, it seems that one year was the amount of time it took before someone lifted the heavy anvil off my chest. I'm just sure it will never be easy and James being gone is still absolutely surreal, but I am learning so much more this year already about peace than I learned all of last year combined.

I have real hope. And not the temporary hope that will go away tomorrow, the kind I dealt with off and on all of 2016. I feel like I finally have real hope.

I have also been acutely practicing awareness for the past month and it has been so incredibly rewarding.

Do you ever feel like maybe people these days are so distracted and obliviously passing by all of the beauty surrounding them, that perhaps the universe puts on an extra brilliant show for the people that are actually putting forth the effort to pay attention? I do. I feel it on the daily. I see so many beautiful displays, the kind that take my breath away, and then I see everyone else just passing through their day completely oblivious to what they would see if they would just stop and look.

Have you ever seen flocking birds move in unison, dancing and swooping, as if choreographed? Pelicans and geese will fly in their flocks that usually form v-shapes, but I am talking about the clusters that are usually starlings or shorebirds or, what I see most often, blackbirds. They fly in dense groups and make all of their swoops and turns in unison, as though they are doing a dance. It is beautiful.

There are so many ancient and even modern beliefs about birds, birds as spirits or Gods, birds as omens and signs. I am obsessed with birds. I love them all but I have noticed my awareness is centered on black birds in-particular. I see them everywhere. It seems as though they know I am watching and so they go out of their way to make sure they are always around, putting on great shows, swooping in front of me, saying hello. And the truth is, I had never noticed these dancing birds until this year, but suddenly, with the practice of awareness, I am seeing them all of the time. Every single day.

I wonder how often they were there in years past and I just passed on by without noticing them at all.



xoxo


12/28/2016

2016


















I want to write more often. I want to write in the same way that a starving child wants a slice of bread and a glass of a water.

Which is to say, I need to write.

When I am not writing consistently, when I am not making the time to document my feelings by stringing them into words, I find that it leaks out of me in other areas of my life. It is this inherent need to create. It's the strangest thing.

It's just like Sylvia Path said, "I write because there is a voice inside me that will not be stilled."

I suppose the internal battle that I am fighting is this: the things that used to fill my cup, they all feel so empty and superficial these days. A blog. Social media. None of it matters so much.

I think that I spent a good deal of 2016 in denial. I was a tiny helpless chick hatching from her shell, acutely aware of the cracks and the breaks and the world outside of them but trying subconsciously to stay inside of my shell while it was all coming down around me instead of breaking free.

I was fighting for life to stay the same.

I am a reminiscer. I am always thinking back on life, looking through pictures, reading journal entries, taking long drives down roads passing old familiar places. And so I sometimes wonder, when I look back to reminisce in ten or twenty years, what will I think about this time of my life?

First and foremost, I will always remember it as our first year without James. I will remember crying so much that my eyes would swell until I couldn't see, and then crying into ice packs to try and stop the swelling. I will always remember his body in the casket, all handsome and dressed up in his green army uniform, a gentle smile painted permanently on his face. I will remember clutching his stiff arm and sobbing. I will remember how I stumbled clumsily throughout the year, grasping for stability while wandering through darkness. I will remember living in a fog. I will remember anger and guilt consuming me. I will remember pain and tears and depression and regret and heartache like I had never known before.

I will also remember it as the year that we chose to change. The year that our pain and loss gave us the courage to take the leaps we needed to refine. It was the year that we dipped our toes into the minimalist movement. The year we sold our big and beautiful home to move into our tiny condo. The year we purged ourselves of all the unnecessary to simplify our lives.

And thus, the year we started to learn what it meant to really live. The year we let go of things and searched for memories to make. The year we stopped living paycheck to paycheck, the year we paid off our debts and started seeing investments and savings. The year of our first visit to Hawaii, many weekend roadtrips to new destinations and old destinations, climbing new mountains, earning our first time at DisneyWorld badges.

I will remember it as the year of the two year old. My last baby. How he potty trained himself effortlessly, but he was such an awful sleeper. I will remember all of the days I spent at work with tired eyes, all of the nights I spent laying on the floor at his bedside to keep him content. I will remember how utterly exhausting a two year old was, but I will also remember his chubby cheeks and the way he held my hand and whispered "I luh-you mom", the way he liked to kiss me right on the lips and cling to me as though I was the only thing he needed in the whole entire world.

I think that, in the long run, I will always remember this as a transition year. An eye-opening, terribly hard, life changing year that transitioned me into a life that had more meaning. A life of following my dreams, of conquering my fears, of living to the fullest, of really knowing my worth, of loving harder and not taking my people for granted.

Christmas this year was pretty downright awful, being the first one without James while also walking through the first year anniversary of his death. There were a lot of tears, a lot of emotions, a lot of pain. But there were also moments of peace scattered throughout.

I remember this one small moment at lunchtime on Christmas Day. The boys were playing with their new razor scooters, cruising back and forth from the living room to the kitchen. I was standing over the stove top in our tiny kitchen, stirring boiling noodles for the pasta I was cooking, and as I stood there it suddenly struck me how absolutely wonderful it was to not want for much. I was watching my little family surrounding me and I realized how much happier of a person I am to be so content and fulfilled without needing things.

Here we were in this little and perfectly comfortable home. We had just celebrated a simple, unembellished and no-frills Christmas with nothing but a tiny handful of presents, solely because we truly didn't want much. I was so worried about how the boys would handle such a small amount of presents but they exceeded my expectations. I was filled to the brim with gratitude at how well they did, at how genuinely pleased they were with what they had been given, at how authentically happy they were with what they had.

I am so anxious to walk away from 2016. I am coming out of this fire refined, a completely different person than I have ever been before.

I will never be the same.