Magical Maine

What if there are no rain clouds? What if there is only sunshine? 

A very good friend said this to me as we discussed sharing our joy! I have no problem exposing my weakness, sharing my heartache, and exploring my failures. Sharing my success is hard. Existing in a place of joy doesn’t always seem to fit. It’s what I’m trying to grow into right now. I am forcing myself to be comfortable with joy! 

Last week my boys and I boarded a plane heading to Maine. It’s been my dream to show my boys the world. When I was pregnant I would daydream about exploring with my children. I wanted to wander into nature and get lost with them. It always felt like a dream. After having Cole, I quickly became a single mom. When we moved back to Virginia, my dream was to create a life for the two of us. I craved roots and my dreams of wandering shifted to creating stability. 


As I boarded that plane last week I couldn’t help but feel proud. It was a dream come true. I was taking my boys to see part of world that remains untouched beauty. We’d hike and explore. We’d climb mountains. We’d splurge on ice cream every night and lobster dinners. I’d say yes more than no. As I boarded that plane, I was exactly the mother I have always wanted to be. 

Maine was magical. Every morning I woke up feeling alive. In my unwashed hair and no makeup face, in my recycled outfit from the day before, I felt at peace in my own skin. I felt my most beautiful. I’ve found this feeling in so many places around the world. I’ve found it in movement. I’ve found it in friendships. 

As I climbed mountains with my boys and discovered tidal pools filled with ocean treasurers, I realized my dream isn’t to show the boys the world. My dream is for my boys to discover a place of existence where they feel like their authentic self. For one week they got to see me at my best. I got to show them how I embrace life. 


They sat beside me in an old theater as we listened to an acoustic concert by Brett Dennen. Tears freely fell down my cheeks as his words healed my recent heartbreak. My boys stood beside me on the top of a mountain as we took in the beauty of the world from up above. We watched humpback whales breach. We explored islands that can only be reached at high tide. We skipped rocks on a secluded beach. 

Every night we sat down at dinner, and we all took a turn saying our favorite moment of the vacation so far. I can’t pick a favorite. The entire week is woven together to create this magical masterpiece that I’ll never forget. 


As I write this I feel compelled to tell you about our struggles during the week. I want to tell you how Chet wouldn’t eat. And how Cole and Chet battled over silly things. I want to tell you how Christian and I didn’t agree on our approach to both situations. That’s my habit. I highlight my weakness. In this new space of growth I’m deliberately  (and some what uncomfortably) focusing on the sunshine. 

I feel myself shifting to this new space. I feel myself expanding. I’m in a place in my life that feels like my own. I’m my best self right now, and I’m surrounded by people who are helping cultivate it. 

What if their is only sunshine? What if I really am stronger than I think? What if I finally give myself permission to be my best self? What if I learn to grow from my happiness in addition to my heartache? 

I’ve arrived at a place where I get to live my dreams, and I get to dream new ones I never thought would be within my reach. It’s amazing what happens when you give yourself permission to celebrate your own joy. 

What if there is only sunshine? It’s time to find out. 

Freedom mixed with Fatigue 

“& often the result of daring greatly isn’t a victory march as much as it is a quiet sense of freedom mixed with a little fatigue.” ~Brene Brown

It’s been a month sense I’ve felt the pull to write words of my own for myself. My brain has been full. My heart has been full. My mind has wander down endless roads of possibilities. My head has been creating structure and order as I’ve attempted to wrap my thoughts around this brand new job of mind. 

It’s invigorating. It’s inspiring. It’s fun and challenging. It feeds my creative heart and my logical mind. It feels like home. 

Like all new things, it’s consumed me. My sleep has been restless. My alarm clock is a new idea that pulls me from my sleep at 2am. Like all new things, I’m settling in. One moment I feel like I have everything under control. The next moment I realize I’ve forgotten to do at least a dozen things. 

Yesterday on the day that our country celebrates it’s freedom, I crashed hard. The day started early with a sunrise run followed by yoga. Both fueled my spirit and brought me back to myself. The moment I got home and settled, my exhaustion came spilling out. I slept the day away. This morning I woke up ready. Tired but ready. Tired but free. 

Something happens when life falls into place. It doesn’t happen all at once. Very rarely does every piece lay perfectly at the same time. But sometimes it does. 

For a brief moment my life feels like an sunrise. The early wake up is exhausting, but it is always worth it to see the world come to life. Watching the dark sky turn to fire before the sun takes it’s position in the sky always leave me in awe. It’s a new beginning every single day. 

This is where I’m at right now. The dark is turning to fire. I’m waking up. While words have been hard to find and my energy hasn’t been flowing towards this place of mine, I know my words are always here to guide. They are my true home. Sometimes words need quiet as much as I do. Sometimes they need fire. No matter their form or their volume, I know I’m exactly where I belong. I always have been. I always will be. The brilliance of each sunrise last for only moments. It happens every day, but the fire quickly fades to day. 

Kindness is Quiet

“I’ve decide it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity.” ~Nadezhda Mandelstam

When I hit publish on the first blog post, So much more than no means no, I felt like an eighteen year old version of myself. I trembled. I took a shower and cried. In that shower and with those tears, I washed away the fear. I became empowered.

I couldn’t sleep Monday night. A crack in my silence had formed, and I needed to get it out. I needed my words, my story, my voice on paper. In the dark while my house fell asleep, I wrote.

Yesterday I went to hit publish again. It was time to scream: I was raped. I trembled. I took another shower and cried. This time it was a release. My body was squeezing out every what if I have ever played in my head. I was releasing every doubt, every bit of self blame, and every insecurity I’ve ever held. Putting my story on paper and hitting publish gave me my voice back. My story was no longer my burden to carry alone. I gave it back to the universe.

Every single one of you caught me. You stood beside me. By reading my words, you offered to carry the weight with me.

I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. You all have flooded me with love and compassion. You’ve lifted me up. You’ve celebrated my voice. You’ve made me feel safe. You’ve trusted me with your secrets.
At first it was my dear friends. The people who love me best today stood beside me. Then it was the people who loved me most during that year of my life. My heart exploded. I took the most comfort in the support from the people who have always provided it. Then friends of friends started reaching out followed by people I’ve never met. The ripple effect was beginning. My screams were being heard around the world.

Then I started to hear your stories too. My heart broke every time I received a message. I will carry your weight too. I will catch you. You are not alone. We are all stronger together. The words of support I received belong to you too. Please read them all. They are yours to keep.

I couldn’t hear them when I was raped. During that year of my life, I heard the hatred. I felt the anger from all of his supporters. It was all I noticed. Eighteen years later, I see them for what they were: A small pack of teenagers who needed to be angry at someone. They were small in comparison to all of you.

You didn’t just show up yesterday. You’ve been here the whole time.

Kindness is quiet. It doesn’t scream from the rooftops. It doesn’t flood the streets of town with energy and anger. It doesn’t need to. It is kind. It is gentle. It is authentic. But what if it did? What if kindness flooded the streets with the same energy as anger?

In our broken society, we see and hear the broken.  We feel the anger. We highlight and focus on the bad, but kindness is everywhere.

I am so sorry I couldn’t feel your kindness more. It was everywhere. From the boy who was brave enough to still like me the summer after high school. You brought me strawberry gum and candles because you knew I loved strawberries. I liked you too, but I was afraid. I no longer trusted the intentions of men, and I couldn’t see that you genuinely liked me. To the friends who didn’t know what do with this topic, neither one of us knew how to navigate the space. So many of you said sorry yesterday. I am sorry too. At eighteen, none of us should have to know how to deal with this. I’m sorry I didn’t trust your kindness. I’m sorry I let myself believe that no one believed me. To the people I let in, to the people who chose to love me, thank you. You are brave. You are strong. You suffered beside me, but I took all the attention. It was my burden to carry, but it spilt over on to you. Thank you for being strong enough to figure it out with me.

I’m going to beg you all one more time. If you’ve taken the time to read this, help me make kindness loud. Today our world is flooded with anger. It’s flooded with ego. It’s flooded with entitlement. It’s running for President. It’s raising our children. It’s shaping our future.

Let’s make the world noisy with kindness. Be kind to your neighbor. Accept people for who they are. Celebrate our stories. Let’s assume we are all doing the best that we can, and let’s help each other do better. You all have showed me how to do it.

Show up.

We are stronger together.

A few years ago, I got an email from my rapist. He wanted to know why I did that to him back then. I considered ignoring him, but I couldn’t. My response was simple. He has a different memory from that day. It has taken me my entire lifetime to recover from what he did to me, and I hope he can find his happiness as well.

I tip toed around my story in this blog post: Loving Kindness. I wasn’t brave enough to share my truth then, but my heart found forgiveness. Today my heart has the same wish.

May I be filled with loving kindness

May I be well

May I be peaceful and at ease 

May I be happy

May you be filled with loving kindness

May you be well

May you be peaceful and at ease 

May you be well

Please keep sharing. Please keep celebrating the young woman who was raped in Stanford. Let her feel our kindness. Share her story. Share my story. Share your story. But let’s heal the hearts of our rapist and their families too.  We have to stop the cycle. It doesn’t come from healing the survivors. It comes from healing the attackers. I hope that the Stanford rapist’s dad is able to fully examine how he lives life. I hope the rapist becomes aware of his evil. I hope my rapist can heal and do something wonderful with his life. I hope we can all heal.

It is not us versus them. It is us. It is all of us.

Help me make kindness heard. I’m so tired of anger being the only thing we hear.

May you be filled with loving kindness 

May you be well

May you be peaceful and at ease

May you be happy



A Flower in the Sunshine

As I searched the Internet for a quote that embodied the happiness I felt exploring our local botanical gardens with Chet, my mom and my two nieces, I stumbled up words I adored. I read them and thought this is me. 

Maybe I should ask Christian to post it on my birthday. 

I wish someone else would find these words and say them about me. 

Then I laughed at myself. Good grief. In five days, I will be 36 years old. I can say these words about myself. I can post a picture that makes me happy, and I can say these words. 

Validation doesn’t come from the outside. It comes from the inside. Happiness doesn’t come from the outside. It comes the inside. Who we are as people belongs to us alone. 

I can say these words about myself. 

my boy and me

“Her wild heart was rare, she saw blessings were most saw burdens & if one thing was certain; her smile was like a flower in the sunshine.” ~Nikki Rowe

This is what I know. In five days I will be celebrating my thirty sixth birthday. Every phase of life has a story, and right now I feel internally satisfied. I can compliment myself. I can celebrate my strengths. I know I love to smile. I know I feel better when my eyes are squinting as my face lights up. I know gratitude is part of my daily practice. I know that life is good. 

It is okay to recognize the good in myself. In fact, it should be where I place my focus. Instead of constantly looking for ways to grow and get better, I can take the time to appreciate exactly where I’m at today. 

Learning to accept a compliment takes times. I used to dismiss them when I received them. I learned to smile and say thank you. Now it’s time to compliment myself. 

My heart is wild. 

I see the good in every scenario. 

My smile is my sunshine. 

My life is really really good. 

Taking inventory of wishes that have come true

Blossom

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~Anais Nin

A month ago I sat down in a tattoo studio. 

The story of the tattoo is simple: strawberry blossoms and cherry blossoms for my two boys. 

Cole was born during strawberry season. Picking strawberries was our first adventure out of the house, and it brought back a flood of childhood memories. I remembered walking along the wooden planks that seperated my grandma’s lawn from her strawberry patch. I remembered the pinwheels I’d get from the grocery store to place in her garden. Having my own baby in a strawberry patch felt like home. 

Chet has always been my cherry blossom baby. Upset that I was sidelined from my first marathon with a stress fracture, I bought myself a road bike. Shortly after I heard that lululemon was hosting free yoga in front of the Washington Monument during the blooming of the cherry blossoms. A weekend getaway was born. With our bikes and yoga mats packed, Christian and I went out of town for the weekend to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. A few weeks later, we realized we brought home a very special souvenir from the trip. A cherry blossom baby was blooming in my belly. 

 

When I fell in love with the art of a local tattoo artist, I knew exactly what I wanted tattooed: strawberry and cherry blossoms. I gave Abby no other instructions. I let her work her magic. Every time I glanced at my arm to check on the progress, I became more and more amazed. She crawled inside my head and created a piece of my heart on my arm. 

Every phase of blooming in captured in my tattoo. As a late bloomer in life, I feel like I’m always growing, always blossoming. 

Woven throughout the tattoo are bursts of yellow. The tattoo is literally shining. 

  

While the intention of this tattoo was a celebration of my two boys, it has evolved into a celebration of my love. It feels appropriate. My boys have been my greatest life lesson. They have shown me who I am, what I value, and what I need to embrace. Because of my boys, I have the courage to stand comfortably in my own skin and to take ownership of who I am. 

My boys are the reason I bloom. My boys are the reason I shine. 

As I started 2016, I knew this was the year to let go of everything that was holding me back. It was the year to show up and proudly say this is me. It was the year to walk away from everything that makes me feel less than towards everything that makes me feel complete.  This tattoo is just the beginning. 

  

(Peru) Screen Day 2

(May 16, 2015)

The unknown was eliminated as we entered day two of screening. I knew what to expect. My nerves had been settled. Day two was a repeat of day one. The drive to the hospital was familiar. The walk to the courtyard of the hospital was familiar. The crowd waiting for us wasn’t a surprise. In one day this became familiar territory.

The medical team quickly settled into their screening stations. Patients were registered shortly after we arrived. With every patient that came through the screening process, I watched in awe the love of each parent. While the environment already felt like home, I still found myself standing back observing it all.

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The children were entertained by a plastic bottle that quickly turned into a soccer ball.

Stickers provided hours of entertainment.

I never witnessed a family complain.

I never saw anyone ask for anything.

Gratitude filled the air before anyone even knew if they would get surgery.

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This waiting room is such a contrast to the waiting rooms in America. Compared to the world that I know, I can’t help but feel they have found such a deeper appreciation for life when they have less. How do you blend our world so it has the best of both? How do you remove medical uncertainty, life uncertainty, and uphold the love and gratitude? I don’t know the answer, but I do know that more isn’t always better. I also know that less isn’t fair.

I feel myself growing quiet. My heart is changing. I find myself wanting to absorb it all. I want to stand back and appreciate every moment. I want to sit for hours and play. I want to learn from each person who showed up at the hospital the past two days. I want to learn from every person who showed up to volunteer. I have so much to see. I have so much to learn. I have so much to be thankful for in every moment of my life.

How do you take this all in?

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Photo credit: Michael Kelly, U-Voice volunteer (and a pretty incredible person too!)

(Peru) Screen Day 1

(May 15, 2015)

It’s about to begin. I’ve had this thought for so many weeks now. I have carried around so much anticipation knowing this moment was about to arrive, and today is the day it begins. Today is the day I get to observe the magic of a medical mission. Patients are probably waiting already. They are waiting for us to arrive at the hospital.

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I don’t have a lot of words for today. There are only images that will forever be captured in my memory. I spent most of my day observing and learning.  I was just trying to absorb it all. I was just trying to be a friendly smile to settle someone’s nerves. I was just trying to be an extra set of hands to the people who were taking care of every patient. I was just trying to keep a child happy while they waited for hours in the sun not exactly knowing why they were waiting.

It was a long day.

We arrived at the hospital and made our way to the center courtyard where screening would take place. I don’t know what I expected. I found myself taking several deep breaths as we navigated the hallways of the hospital. When we turned the corner and walked outside into the courtyard, the deep breaths got stuck in my chest. There was no visible end to the line of people waiting for us to arrive. Within seconds, people started clapping. I didn’t even realize they were clapping for our arrival until I had walked past the crowd and into the area set up for screening stations.

A Small Glimpse of Screening Day

Every single person standing outside in the sun was waiting to be screened or was waiting for someone they love to be screened. And they were clapping. It didn’t seem fair. It still doesn’t seem fair. We should be clapping for them. Life certainly can’t be easy for them. I can’t imagine the ache in the heart of a parent when the learn that their child is born with a cleft lip or a cleft palate. I can’t imagine the feeling they must having wondering what they can do. If this was my child, surgery would be scheduled and planned before he was ever born. His birth would still be filled with hope knowing help was waiting. We should be clapping for them for showing up today.

At the end of day one, we screened nearly 200 patients. Nearly 200 individuals received a full health screening to see if they are healthy enough for surgery. The had time with a speech pathologist. They had time with a psychologist. They got help with breast feeding or bottle feeding. A nutritionist meet with them all. A dentist spent time with each patient. It’s an amazing thing to observe. It works like a machine. One station to the next. Every team has a specific goal, and every volunteer treated every patient with love and compassion.

Hours and Hours of Fun thanks to a green frog finger puppet and a two year old boy who made me love my boys even more

Tomorrow we will do it all again. There are more patients to screen, more bubbles to blow, more people to love.

“It is only with the heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince     

Still working hard long after Sunset (or maybe just Jerry!)

  

Celebrating 35

For the first time, I’m celebrating a birthday that feels like a real bench mark in life. 35 feels established (a very nice word for old). It feels significant. So many of life’s big moments are behind me: happily married, full house, satisfying career, happy home, and satisfied with my education level. There are no more “what’s next?” moments on my life plan because what is next is simple. What is next is simple enjoy this life I’ve created for myself.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my voice this year in nearly every facet of my life. I’m writing my own story. I taking ownership of every step I’ve taken. I’m finding that the stronger I become in owning my own story, the more I have to offer those around me.  Finding peace in the memoir of my life has changed my perception of the world.

Understanding my story makes me want to know your story. I want to know the story of the person running by me on the trails. I want to know the story of the mother in line behind me at target. I want to know the story of the mother half way around the world who brings her child to our surgery site. Our stories are all so unique and all the same.

I find myself wondering how much compassion we would give if we all knew each other’s stories. Would we get mad at the man who accidentally cut us off in traffic if we knew what he was feeling? Would we get mad at the cashier who moved a little too slow if we knew what was going on in her home? Would we demand so much from those around us if we knew what they had been through? Perhaps its age or perhaps it’s my exposure to just how fragile life and love truly is this year that makes me want to embrace the world more. We all experience heart ache. We all experience loss. We all are doing our best to live our best possible life. Life is rarely easy, but there is so much magic in living.

“Today is your magic moment. Whatever you do will be there for the rest of our lives. We can’t relive it, so give it all today.” ~Dr. Bill Magee, CEO and Co Founder of Operation Smile

This year I will use my voice. This year I’ll tell my story. This year I will remember that we all have our own story, our own experiences, that are bigger than any one moment. This year I will embrace the magic of living.

 

The perfect gift from my parents: a yellow bench for our backyard

 

 

Chasing the Sunset

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ~Rabindranath Tagore

As I pulled into my driveway after a busy day at work and a last-minute visit to the doctor (that trumped my plans to go to my first boot camp class), I could see the sun beginning to flirt with the tree line. The thought of seeing the sunset over the river is all it takes these days to get me out the door in my running shoes. Cole, home with a clean bill of health, had an art project to tackle. Christian was grilling. Chet and I decided to chase the sunset. I ran as fast as I could to catch the setting sun. The river is less than a mile from our front door, but leaving for a run with a two-year old never happens quickly. Running while pushing a two-year old never happens quickly. We made it to the river just as the gorgeous reds were leaving the sky.

My running buddy
My running buddy

We missed the sunset, but the river was still waiting. I always let Chet run with me for the few blocks along the river. We bird watch. We check out the crane that is building the new boat ramp. After some begging and pleading (and protesting), he returns to his stroller (or tractor or lawn mower or dinosaur – whatever his imagination determines each night) to take the long way home.

This is why I run. My reasons for why I run change with the seasons of my life. During this season, I run for the sunset and the sunrise. I run to see the world wake up and fall asleep. It refreshes my soul. It hits the reset button.

Running has become less about pace and personal bests and more about connecting with my body. It’s become my way to keep my body, my mind, and my spirit free. It has become a time to explore the wild imagination of a two-year old and to listen to the rambles of a ten-year old. It’s become my way to catch up on conversation with my husband. There are nights the whole family joins me on their bikes. My running can be selfish at times. I run for myself, but my evening hours at home are limited. My time with my boys is limited. So I selfishly bring them with on my runs. I don’t think they mind.

Everything in life has a season. Right now is my season to bask in the glow of sunshine. I want to take in as many sunrises and sunsets as I can. I want to celebrate the promise of new beginnings, and I want to celebrate what has been offered as each day ends. I’m excited about running again for no other reason than I love to run. It’s something I hope I never take for granted.

Fall race season is just around the corner. I won’t be trying to run my fastest times or to push myself to new levels. This season I want to carry sunshine with me on to the race course. I just want to run. I just want to shine.

Chasing the sunset
Chasing the sunset