And Then We Watched the Sunset

I started writing this post last spring, when it had been one year without my mom. While it is very personal to me, I felt it was time to share. I know Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for some but a mother’s love is forever. Be sure to squeeze your people tight while you can. And don’t spend too much time in that place of hurt. It’s more than acceptable to grieve and feel but take time to remind yourself of all the goodness that still surrounds you. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there. You do the greatest work known to mankind.

I wanted to watch the sunset with you today. So, I went to the prettiest spot I know here. Where you can look down into Latah Valley and see it all. Trees, the first signs of spring. Life moving forward. Even if it I felt as if it stopped, I knew that wasn’t true for everybody else.

I wanted to watch the sunset alone, except for you of course. We listened to Elton John because I know how much you love him. It was a little bit chilly outside but I didn’t care. Being with you that day was really all that mattered.

I wanted to watch the sunset because I knew I’d find you in the moment where everything becomes still. When the hues of yellow, blue, orange and pink all blend together on the pallet of sky, finally disappearing into complete darkness.

I wanted to watch the sunset because things needed to feel real. I didn’t want sympathetic looks from strangers or the “I’m sorry’s.” They mean well and heck, I’m sure I’d do the same, but gazing at the sky with you finally brought back some normalcy into this life.

 

I wanted to watch the sunset, not to be reminded of everything I’ll miss, but of what I still carry with me. The concerts and plays where I found you in the stands. Silly moments and arguments. Cooking lessons where I spent more time with my nose in a book than actually learning how to cook. Christmas mornings and holidays where we didn’t have a single place to be except together.

I wanted to watch the sunset but also I didn’t. Because of what that would mean, of what I would feel. Of the tears flowing too easily. For what I would learn in this shared quiet moment between you and I. In the way the memories flood back, making it difficult to catch my breath. So for a bit I could forget the unfairness of it all, shrinking away from the tragedies that form our stories.

I wanted to watch the sunset because to say I needed a place to visit you sounds so cliche but yet, I did. To glimpse past the veil that seems to separate us at times, between those who are here and who have left. To see more in the stillness than we generally allow. To recognize that the love is greater than the loss.

I wanted to watch the sunset. So we did. It wasn’t perfect but it was beautiful. It was the point where bliss and hurt coincide. The sharpness of the pain meets up against your unbroken love. We hurt, we heal, we start again. In it all, we never stop loving. In the sunset that day, though I felt my foundation was shaky, I found assuredness in you. In each gift you’ve given. In each smile. In every moment I saw your heart. And wouldn’t you know it, the sun keeps rising and setting. Just like that glorious circle, your love reminds me to rise and to rest. To cover all I can with my own love and warmth.

Thank you for so very many of my best days and for the strength to make the rest of my days as beautiful as those I spent with you. I love you mom.

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Brooklyn Accents & Choosing Joy

This week I had the chance to babysit two wonderful boys whom I had previously nannied for last year. How I became so lucky as to even become their nanny in the first place is beyond me. All I know is that these two young gentlemen make me so darn happy each time I see them.

Even though I have generally been around children in some caregiving capacity (through church, watching my littlest sister, etc.), there was something unique about being a nanny. Perhaps it was the amount of time we spent together and how I was able to watch changes take place as they navigated life. (And I am lucky enough to be in touch with them still!) How little shifts would occur from week to week, sometimes subtle and other times significant. No matter the case, the joy that has been brought to my heart by caring for them has me feeling all sorts of happy.

The conversations you have with a 5 year-old and 2 year-old (at the time I was their nanny) can tend to vary from wildly amusing to….”Is this actually happening right now?” I once had a 20 minute discussion with the oldest in regards to the eating habits of the loch ness monster. (And yes, I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned, although, also not sure what I was expecting.) I truly thank these boys for how much they’ve given me. I play more. Laugh more. And smile more. Because without any of the fun, life is going to be arduous and exhausting.

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Last week was no different than how our time together normally looks. There was the usual dinner time, play time outside, getting ready for bed and then clean up. But, there was also hide-and-seek. And learning the funky chicken dance in the kitchen. And let’s not forget my impression of the elves speaking to Santa with a Brooklyn accent, which left the children in fits of laughter. (These parents are really great for allowing my shenanigans.) 🙂

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Photo Credit: symphony of love Flickr via Compfight cc

 

I am reminded of kindness when the oldest asks me to save whichever insect was lurking about the house (Spider? Fly? I can’t remember) and take it outside. I see wonder when we build leprechaun traps. I find that celebrating small victories isn’t so silly after all. And in the middle of it all, I am still blown away by the pure and simple fact that the everyday moments hold the greatest secrets we will learn in this life. I loved caring for these two and I still do. I think it is absolutely wonderful that we have both been able to teach the other something.

I belt out “Dancing Queen” in my car and sometimes I dance at work. I love going on walks so I can take in the seasonal colors and scents. Laughing makes me happy. I try not to take myself too seriously and if a particular situation or act brings me joy, I fully intend on participating. This life is constantly playing a reel of joyful moments and we were made to partake. What a beautiful gift we were given! Walk in that joy, share it with others and find renewal in what those moments look like. Keep that little joyful candle burning so brightly that you light others just by being near them. In case you were wondering, I don’t have it all figured out. I certainly don’t have the answers but I think I’ve found a couple of kids who do.

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Feeling Grateful Friday – 5/5/2017

And just like that, it’s May! I don’t know about all of you, but there is an abundancefullness (oooh….I like this made-up word combo) of goodness to be grateful for right now! A little gratitude to start off the month sounds perfect to me!

  • Beautiful weather. For reminding me of the fact that even though spring brings rain, it also brings sun! (And some extra warmth this week, getting me all fired up for summer.)
  • Flowers for days! Seriously, you go to bed one night and when you wake up, the world is painted in a gorgeous array of colors. It makes me so happy!
  • Hikes. I feel I am now gaining an appreciation for this incredible beauty that we are blessed with in the Pacific Northwest. I’m exploring more of what’s in my own back yard and I most certainly love what I see.
  • Friends. For pushing me out of what is comfortable. For loving on me when I don’t feel I deserve it. And for looking out for me when it seems I might be getting a little lost. I am so thankful that each one of you has been placed in my life.
  • Struggle. Yes, you read that right. Would I ever imagine a day where I would be thankful for this? Absolutely not. But, through life changes we are challenged and our new self replaces the old. For the relationships that ended. The projects I pursued in reckless ambition, only to realize I wasn’t completely prepared yet. The moments where mentoring challenges me so greatly that I am left in tears. And to silencing the inner dialogue, whispering, “You can’t.” Each of these has added defining features to the work in progress that I already am. I am stronger, braver, more confident, and even on my worst days, feeling for the first time, like my very best self. Without struggle, the view from the mountain top is just another pretty postcard.

Happy Friday Friends! Go find something to be grateful for. 🙂

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Palouse Falls

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Inversions & Saying No

I’ve finally come to see that being the yes girl is exhausting. In retrospect, it was a nice idea but no human being on this planet can 100% commit to everything all the time. This sounds like a life lesson I should have learned awhile ago right? Turns out my people pleasing and perfectionist tendencies can get the best of me now and again. (Cue 10+ years of work in the hospitality/service industry.) Learning to say no and being OK with that had not ever existed in my thoughts.

Post-breakup and the loss of my mom, I thought that reaching out might be good for me. So when I started down this path of volunteering a  couple of years ago, I started small.  Mentoring once a week, helping out at my church, etc. I was still so damaged but as I began to heal over time, I found myself wanting to become immersed deeper within my community. I was yearning to step outside of that which was familiar to me and in turn, my experiences began to change. I took on larger roles and extended time commitments. I found that a life of service and the people that come with that was right were I belonged.

As far as I was concerned, I had the perfect balance for awhile. Eventually I fell into another relationship, was working part-time as a server and all felt right. Good things don’t always last sometimes and each one of those previous components eventually ended. Break-up, job change(s) and instead of feeling harmonious, I felt overwhelmed. One week after my break-up, I ended up moving for my second job. Every small piece of the aftermath that landed on me felt heavy. I felt myself being pulled in 1,000 different directions as I piled on more and more commitments. My patience and kindness towards people I love was wearing thin. This was not the woman I knew myself to be. When you aren’t sure which way is up, it can help to flip the situation upside down. And where do I find that space? Yoga of course.

Way back in the day:

 

When I need to feel grounded (and just feel the ground!) and steady, yoga is my jam. In this time of reflection and serious personal growth, I suddenly realized that when we say no to one situation, we end up eventually saying yes to another. I didn’t have to be the yes girl. I didn’t need to check all the boxes and be a super volunteer. I had commitments to fantastic organizations but when they asked more of me, I was not required to say yes. And the real kicker? I didn’t have to feel bad. Occasionally in our shortcomings, we fail to see that that which we are already giving has incredible value. It can feel it is not enough and society has us programmed to lead a life of more, more, more. No thanks. If we are stretched too thin, it doesn’t matter how much you commit or what good you are doing because the burnout will damage not only yourself but potentially seep into those you are trying to help.

In yoga, when you do an inversion such as a headstand, you need a solid base. Your core should be strong in order to lift your legs by solely relying on that power within. When I first attempted headstands before learning the right way, I basically thought you just kicked your legs up while simultaneously sending up some prayers, in the hopes it would work. Turns out that wasn’t correct. The more I taught myself about yoga and the more I committed to studio time, I learned that headstands done incorrectly over time have the potential to cause injury. Our bodies know when we are trying to over-commit and do more than we are prepared for. The lasting effects can be damaging.

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And now!

You can be super girl (or boy!) and find balance through the process. Don’t commit unless your base is strong and your core is firing on all cylinders. You are worth more to fewer people at 100% than you are to many while you’re burned out. Focus on that which is most important and put your energy there. Everything else will fall into place over time. Sometimes it helps if you look at it upside down.

Coffee & Community

My allergies have set in this week, depleting my energy levels and all-around making me feel like garbage. This was not the post I originally intended to write but now and then we have to adjust to that which we’re capable of in that moment. Hoping the fogginess of this congestion will lift soon because I am missing feeling healthy.

I lead a community group through my church. When I saw the lack of the very niche I was seeking (post-college, no kids), I felt compelled to start one. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have never seen myself as much of the leading type. But, when we stretch and spread our wings a bit during our growth process, doors that were once locked now become open. The experiences and situations within my own life were shaping me to step into roles that I had initially never envisioned fulfilling. How beautiful that we are given precisely what we need.

What does this group look like? Our skills, talents and backgrounds are varying but our desire for community is the same. From students, to those in science, hospitality and non-profit work. Twice a month, we gather for coffee and discussion. Though I’ll admit, we didn’t always look this way and have only found our footing in the past month. Our little group was challenged with scheduling conflicts and a brand new leader (Me!) who was still learning the best way to navigate this course. But, I’m thrilled to have found a formula that works for us.

This week, I am feeling grateful for these women and the opportunities that we have to10334253_10152224498548763_6726641651941934601_n learn from one another. That we can challenge each other in our faith, continuing to stretch more and more. It isn’t about the coffee (though delicious!), the equally amazing baked goods or making sure we answer all the questions. It’s the stories we share, the way we become vulnerable in those 90 minutes together, catching each other when necessary. It is the simple fact of devoting our Saturday mornings to this when we could be sleeping. Once upon a time, when I first started this group a couple months back, I thought of giving up. I was incredibly discouraged, leading me to feel stuck and unworthy of leading. I am so glad I listened to those around me and didn’t quit. (Back to that whole reaching out thing again yeah? ——>Yoga Practice & Lessons in Grace)

If there is one thing I have learned in this life at all, it is this: We are led to that which our life story has prepared us for. It might not look how you thought it would and the characters could be completely different than when you first began. I know the uncertainty is frightening and the fear of failure feels heavy. But man oh man when you launch and fly! That makes it all worth it to me. I am blessed by that which I have already received from these incredible women in the short time I’ve known them. I couldn’t help but think that we are roasting our beans of faith and character, preparing to make them into delicious cups to pour into others down the road.

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Cafe Bombon in Spain. Oh how I miss you!

 

Flowers & Filling Up

“You are spending so much time pouring into others. Make sure you take the time to fill yourself up too.”

That’s what my mentor said to me when we got together this week. She really is the10273912_10152199094073763_5981953878757103830_n sweetest soul. Always watching out for me, checking in on me and asking if there is anything she can do. A month after my break-up, I reached out to my church community. I needed a guide. Somebody who would look at me with zero judgement, remind me of my worth and speak positivity when all I saw in the mirror was the complete opposite. If you think that is unnecessary then I’m sorry but you are wrong. You can’t do it alone. Not your struggles, not this life. We weren’t meant to. Say it with me: You NEED those people for this specific purpose. We need to be lifted, not to feed our ego but rather, to nourish our soul. In the past couple of years, I have realized the difficulty and pain that comes with living far away from family. I love my life and the roots I have placed in Washington but I knew my habits and old self were trying to kick down the door of the woman who now stood in her place. And maybe, a stranger who becomes a friend can be that person. Unlike family, they don’t know your garbage and baggage. You know nothing of them and what the burdens they carried. Both are entering this relationship with zero biases. They are simply saying, “Place your hand in mine. Take a walk with me. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture and work out the smaller details as we go.”

13086824_10153661362928763_3805220378019328500_oThat’s how I found my mentor. While I have been a mentor myself for two years and the idea of having somebody to take on that role in my own life sounded just peachy, I had no idea of the imprint she’d place on my heart. The love and care she would speak into my life. This was exactly what I needed. In all the moments that I had been there, to listen, to just be and to have a hand when they needed someone to hold theirs, I was now reaching my own hand out, grasping for a brand new connection.

Her words stuck with me that day. I’ve often heard and have been hearing this reoccurring theme lately. If I don’t take the time to re-energize and recharge then how is what I pour into others of any value? It isn’t. Just like the flowers that soak up the springtime rains, we need our own nourishment to grow. We need rain in the form of rest. In the beauty of nature. In the laughter with our friends. In the quiet moments of reading a good book. In dancing with a stranger in Mallorca. (Check!) In enjoying this very life that we are so blessed to live out each day. Did I really need to pencil those things in? Schedule time just to ensure that I’m actually….living?

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What an eye-opener friends. If we truly listen to what the world is telling us, we are often met with the people and situations we need in those moments. My mom was one of the hardest working women I know. She sacrificed each day so my sister and I were provided for. Only when her body was breaking down, when she knew there wasn’t much time left and there was one place she wanted to be more than anything, did she get to go. My parents picked up and moved to Alabama. Where she could sip coffee on her porch and take everything in during those Southern mornings. I walk with that reminder and I will never stop feeling enveloped in that love she gave me. I will always wish she could have enjoyed Alabama for longer than she was able but the fact she was able to go at all is still a miracle.

Pushing the accelerator to the floor might feel like I’ll get there faster but I am going to be so wore out by the time I arrive. Let’s not even talk about my flowers, which will have zero chance of thriving in such a stressful state. The giving, serving, goal-achieving and box-checking look nice and feel even better when that dopamine is released, telling our brain how great this is! And, that is awesome. Our brains and bodies are super smart that way. I want you to reach your goals. I implore you to live a life in service to others. But, don’t forget to water your flowers ok?

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Even flower dresses. Happy spring y’all!