I Said YES!

Notre Dame


There were so many reasons I could have turned down this experience but last summer when the choice to do a Global Health Learning Abroad experience or sit in a classroom for three months to finish my last credit……  I said, YES!” to the adventure, (even though it SCARED ME TO DEATH) . 

There were plenty of excuses:

  • It would cost more
  • I would have to leave the country for a month
  • I didn’t know ANYONE that was going on this trip
  • I hadn’t traveled out of the US for years and years and years

………… and the list could go on………

But!  Like Robert Frost so poetically said, “I took the path less traveled and it has made all the difference.”   

Today as I continue to hear about the tragedy of Notre Dame, I will be forever grateful that I faced my fear and did it anyway.  Paris was an optional part of my Learning Abroad experience. It was an extra week away from my family and it would increase the cost.  I was also challenged with missing the experience because my father passed away the day before we were to depart for France. I had a choice to continue on to this breathtaking city or go home.  I listened to my heart and it said, “Life is for the living!”

So I sit here in sweet gratitude of the memories I have of walking through the halls of Notre Dame last summer and recall her beauty that defies words.  

Lesson learned over and over…. Take the chance, find a way, truly LIVE your life, face your fear and do it anyway!!!  


Meanwhile in Africa, Part 2: Where To Begin

Now that I’ve written about the day that had the biggest impact on me during my Learning Abroad experience in Africa its time to rewind to the beginning.  This is the part in the movie where the words on the screen say “Six Weeks Earlier”.

Except, I’m not sure where to begin…..

Does this part begin when I decided to go back to college in January of 2017  “Eighteen months Earlier” or does it begin when Trent came back from his Naked and Afraid adventure after contracting malaria, “Ten months earlier”.  There are so many amazing stories that happened in these time frames that could each be their own blog so for now….. We’ll begin here…….  “Three Weeks Earlier”…..

Chapter 1 – My first journal entry……..

It all began when Trent was invited to be a survivalist on Discovery Channels adventure show Naked and Afraid XL All Stars. Trent The challenge took place in South Africa and the survivalists were to attempt to survive in the Selati Basin for 40 days. As you know by now if you’ve watched the series or seen his Social Media feed, Trent contracted Malaria during this challenge and though the disease threatened to take him out of the challenge he persevered.  His warrior spirit drove him through extraction with his new “tribe” of naked friends and he completed what many have called “crazy” and I call the most EPIC ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME!!  Upon his return to the United States we found ourselves at the University of Utah Travel Clinic being checked out by Dr. Scott Benson to make sure Trent’s malaria had been taken care of and he was on the path to recovery.  During the check up, Dr. Benson mentioned that he took students fromdr benson and Trent the University of Utah to Ghana, West Africa every year for a Global Health Learning Abroad Research Project. Coincidentally, I had just been notified a week before that the waiting list I was on for my International Studies class had been declined.  This was the FINAL credit I would need to complete my degree at the University of Utah for my Bachelors degree in Psychology. I certainly perked up when Dr. Benson mentioned something about students going to Africa. The moment Trent returned from this mystical land I could feel my heart longing to set foot upon this continent and Dr. Benson had just handed me the map.  We discussed further that this would fulfill the credit I needed for graduation. Dr. Benson also explained that although I would be travelling with pre-med students, I was not required to be pre-med. It was as if the theme music for some heroic super hero film began to play and I knew that seven months from now I would be travelling with complete strangers, to an unknown land to meet a culture I would fall in love with.


But I just knew this journey had something magical in store so “trust the process” became the mantra every morning when I stepped into my day. I took it step by step, went to all the meetings, submitted my application, started to get my budget together, furiously wrote up scholarship essays, arranged for my vaccinations, took my online prep classes, completed all the learning modules, set up a go-fund me to help out with costs, arranged for financial aid to supplement what I wasn’t able to raise and finish up the required activities of the University before leaving.  

Before I knew it June 28th had arrived. I was packed and headed to the airport. I had planned to fly out a few days early and meet a few of the pre-med students in Accra to have a few extra sightseeing days. When I checked in online the airline offered $200-$500 to give up my seat because they had overbooked the flight. I ignored the offer and although the anxiety was beginning to set in about going early and not really knowing anyone or what to expect, I took a deep breath and continued to “trust the process”. I summoned my courage and reminded myself that THIS was my adventure of a lifetime!! Everything was so smooth with my check in, luggage weighed in right at 50 pounds, security lines were short and soon I was standing in front of gate B2.  An announcement came over the speakers and announced that due to the extreme heat in Salt Lake City they needed at least 40 volunteers to give up their seats because the plane could not take off with the weight.  They offered $2000 for anyone that volunteered….THAT WAS THE PRICE OF MY TICKET!!!! I went to the counter and asked if they could get me on another plane the next day to make sure I would arrive in Ghana on the day my professors (Dr. Benson and Dr. Dickerson) would arrive.  That was possible and I texted the other students and let them know I wouldn’t be joining them early.

BONUS!!!  One more night of snuggles with my love. When I arrived at the airport the next morning I was informed that the flight the night before (that I’d given my seat up for) had sat on the tarmac for four hours because of complications and then the flight was cancelled.  I was given 12,500 sky-miles for this inconvenience …which I didn’t actually experience because as you recall I had given up my seat for $2000….. so $2000 and 12,500 sky-miles and a day later, I was on my way to Cincinnati, then on to Paris and final destination Ghana. There is a reason that the professors and all the advisers say repeatedly “Be flexible, things happen, roll with the changes.”  It was pretty amazing how things were working out. My anxiety level had completely dropped as I was now travelling with one of the pre-med students.  I had met her the day before at the airport when we both decided to give up our seats.  (Her name is Amy….coincidentally that is my best friends name that I traveled to Japan with some 30 years prior….I love little winks from the universe that let me know all is well.)  I was confident my professors would be at the final destination to handle the particulars and answer the million questions I would have about arriving in a foreign country. I sat back, fastened my seat belt and took a long, excited, deep breath….. I was on my way to AFRICA!!!!20180713_191124



Meanwhile, In Africa. Part 1. Diving In.

When I left for Africa and started journaling my adventure, I never expected that my first blog would start at the end.  I’ve been back in the United States for about a month and a half. My heart longs to write about my grand adventure….our research, my colleagues, the food, the sweat, the tears, the dancing, the singing and ….. the poop (yes, there’s poop in my story, I was with pre-med students after all) ….. but it seems my heart also has not been ready to dive into the heart ache it will surely find by putting words on paper because once I start to tell the story, this story will end and somehow if I don’t write it, it doesn’t have to end just yet.  I know that it’s not REALLY the end and that all endings are just beginnings and my current situation is not my final destination and all that blah, blah, blah but I also know the only way out is through. But ‘through’ gets messy for me and I must surrender my idea of control (not something I’m really good at doing…or at least, not something I like to do.) “Through” for me is raw, honest and sometimes a little ugly….. Like the ugly cry you do when you watch a Nicholas Sparks movie with snot and those belly convulsions. For me, there is no escaping these BIG emotions I’m blessed and cursed with.  I know there are a lot of emotions all waiting to be unleashed and I’ve been a little hesitant to dive into the deep end of the pool. But I do know one thing, for me, writing is cathartic….. a process of releasing…. in this releasing, I know I will discover and uncover emotional wounds long hidden from my conscious mind, I always do…it’s so human, if I’m open and willing. I can tell this is just such a journey because I have done everything from rearrange my bedroom to painting the front door in an effort to avoid sitting down and diving deep. Today, is the day, I’m diving in…..and I begin at the end……

…..After three long weeks of exhaustive work in Ghana our final day would be a celebration and reward for all the maddening, saddening and at the end of the day, the “gladdening” hours we had all put in to our research projects .  (Sidenote if you haven’t read my writing before…. I make up words, I don’t use correct punctuation and there might be a curse word or two thrown in….. If this is too much for you, instead of leaving critical comments, please do us both a favor and google a “published” research article on overcoming grief, mine is not a technical report….It’s written for me and shared with you in hopes that what we can not do alone, we can do together….specifically on this journey, my intention is to heal my grief.)  So back to the maddening, saddening and gladdening stuff….. We would be spending our last day on the beach because we had


 worked our booties off in Kumasi for the last three weeks! We arrived at a gorgeous beach resort late in the evening hours after sunset and an exhausting all day bus ride. The moon gave us our first glimpse of the African coastline, she was GORGEOUS dancing in the moonlight.  I drifted off to dreamland that night, excited for the gift the next day would bring….. The ocean and all her majesty!  

I woke up early and quietly made my way to an empty tiki table on the beach.  I sat down, deeply breathing in all the freshness of a new view. Waves pounded the sand, a tiny island waved its good mornings from out at sea, fishing boats were tied off down the coastline a ways and I sank into a meditation of gratitude.  I was grateful for all the synchronicity’s that had brought me to this country. 20180721_072141.jpgGrateful for the amazing women and men I was able to work side by side with for the past month. I was beyond grateful for the breakthroughs we’d had in our research.  I was overjoyed that our little U of U team had truly made a difference GLOBALLY in the lives of so many and that would continue because of the discoveries we made. I was also grateful for the beautiful friendships I had developed so quickly over this time.  Bonded with mutual trust, respect, hard work and a shared commitment to make a difference on this planet. As gratitude after gratitude bubbled up and overflowed from my thoughts one of my new friends approached. She asked if I’d like to go for a walk down the beach to see the hand carved fishing boats.  I anxiously agreed and ran back to my cabana to get my phone to take pictures. I had wifi in my room and I noticed I had a message from my cousin, she wanted me to give her a call. My sweet cousin was going through some tough times and I thought maybe she wanted to talk some things out. It was the middle of the night in Utah where she was so I sent a quick message telling her that I was still in Africa.  I thought she would simply reply that we could chat when I was back home. I then forgot all about her message and headed down the beach.

This walk was very eye opening and I quickly learned that I did NOT want to take surf lessons as I had previously thought about doing for my last big bang in Africa.  The tide was washing out to sea the morning “waste”……animal and human alike. I was disgusted but also glad to have made this discovery because my choice for surf lessons had better research now, that was a for sure “Nope!”  You get used to a lot of “uncomfortable” things when you spend three weeks in a third world country. As disturbing as the thought of a morning poop in the sea was for me, it seemed to be a very normal ritual in this little coastal city.  In the past three weeks 


I had learned that some things in this culture I would probably never understand but I could still love these people. I could still respect this culture. I could still see them as part of my earth family and I did, I had fallen deeply in love with all of it.  Our walk was wonderful. We laughed, we took pictures, we talked about the people we had gotten to know this past little while. We also found a fishing boat captain willing to take us to the little island for twenty cedis and off we went on further big adventures for the day.  

When we returned I went back to my room and found another message from my cousin.  She said, “Give me a call when you get this message, no matter what time it is.” My heart panicked, I could feel her insistence and I wondered what could have happened to her that was so urgent.  When my phone connected with her voice, she quietly said, “You need to call Janet.” That’s when my heart stopped and so did my breathing. I had to consciously tell myself to take a breath and then I said, “Please tell me what she’s going to tell me so I can be prepared.”  

“Your dad is gone, Sher.  I’m so sorry.”

The sentence just sat there, on the air, hanging there as time disappeared like a cold fog.

I don’t know how long I sat there in shock but after mumbling something I made the call to my sweet stepmom, Janet.  Though I don’t remember the call much, I remember asking her if she wanted me to come home. We were about to fly out of Africa and spend five glorious days in the City of Love…… Paris!  This was an optional excursion, which I had opted in for as a job well done reward for myself….a graduation gift to me! Being the amazing mom that she is, she told me to make the best choice for myself but that nothing would change if I came home tomorrow or next week.  She told me we would make all the plans when I arrived home, whenever that might be. I hung up and walked back into my little room. I must have had quite the lost and forlorn look on my face because my roommates both looked at me with questioning wide eyed, expectant gazes.

“I just found out my dad died.”

Another sentence that just sat there, hanging awkwardly on the air as time again seemed to melt into an eery mist.

This was the only sentence that came out of me, I didn’t know what…..I didn’t know….well, anything….I just didn’t know.  I just sat there, my thoughts stammering in my head as I tried to remember how to walk, sit, talk, breath…..anything. They both tried to make sense of my sentence, rushed to hug me and asked questions to try to get more information.  I had none. I was in Africa, halfway across the world, finishing my Bachelors of Science degree on a Global Health Research Learning Abroad trip with the University of Utah and my dad was not going to be there when I got home? There’s no real way to make this make sense but I kept saying it over and over in my head like a lunatic, hoping that somehow these pieces of the puzzle would rearrange themselves and fall into place to show me that this wasn’t really happening.  Then I went numb. I asked my roommates to please keep it to themselves for now, I wasn’t ready for it to be real. I went out to my morning tiki hut, sat in the chair, pulled my knees to my chest and in the fetal position I stared blankly at the ocean. I just sat there for hours. My roommates checked on me, my morning walk buddy knew something was up and I shared with her, my professors were told and came to see how I was. I didn’t know how I was. I didn’t cry, I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t feel anything.  I just sat in the feeling of ‘nothingness’ watching the waves, completely numb. Later that afternoon one friend convinced me to walk down to the “burrito place” with her. I ordered a Pina Colada (worst Pina Colada I’ve pina coladaever tasted….sorry “burrito place” your food is WAY better than your drinks.) Our table was outside on the veranda facing the ocean. I silently toasted my dad, took a few sips of the worlds worst Pina Colada and sank back into “nothingness”. The table was lively and I was grateful that my friend hosted the conversation at the other end and diverted any attention from me.  It was a picnic table with a plastic table cloth on it. I sat on the back side facing the ocean and there was a chair to the right of me. An empty chair that I didn’t pay any attention to until “Frank” came and sat in it. We had met Frank on our morning walk. He had invited us down to his place for fresh juice. I hadn’t given Frank any thought until he climbed the four steps from the ocean and plopped himself in the empty

Frank's chair

I originally took this pic to capture the goat on the beach. Looking back on my pics I forgot I took this pic but there it was…THIS is where my dad first showed up.

 chair next to me. He didn’t say a word. Just sat down next to me. It felt awkward and I wanted him to go away. I felt like he was invading my space and I was super uncomfortable.  I could feel myself emotionally thrashing inside, wanting him to get out of my space. Then all of a sudden, it was no longer weird, no longer awkward, it just was. I don’t know how long Frank sat there but he eventually got up and walked away, that’s when the music started, no one could hear it but me. “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let it be.” Frank and the awkwardness and then the non awkwardness were the “Let it be” my dad wanted me to find that day, he was there, speaking words of wisdom and for now, all I needed was to “let it be”.

Things began to make a little more sense after that or at least it didn’t matter if they made sense or not.  Dad was here. It was the perfect place for me to spend these moments with him….. On the beach, his most favorite place in the world, where I could just BE with him.  The song replayed on a loop and I realized I didn’t need to make sense of it all right then, there would come an answer….. But in this moment, I could just “Let it be.”  

I had once again in my life surrounded myself with an incredible “tribe”. This time it was Global Health, Superhero, Pre-med, Superstars.  I was so wonderfully supported, I was so incredibly loved, I was cared for and I above all I could trust that in my hour of darkness there would always be loved ones standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom….this was proof enough for me that no matter where I am, no matter what I’m experiencing…I will NEVER walk this world alone.  This was the change I committed to making in my life a decade before, to leave a life that no longer served me, where I had felt so alone and find a life that LOVED me as much as I LOVED it! In this moment I knew I now lived THIS life!


My journey had brought me halfway across the world to serve a people I fell madly in love with, finish my degree I was so passionate about and say goodbye to the first man who said “I love you” to me.  Somehow, it was the picture of perfection for me (odd as that sounds). I couldn’t have picked a more perfect place to be when I heard this heart wrenching news.

So on the beach half way across the world, I said goodbye to my dad….and as I said goodbye, he said ‘Hello’ because the Beatles songs are still ringing in my head and I know he’s been hanging out with me ever since Frank got up and I “Let it Be”.  He’s seeing things from a new perspective, getting to know me from a different point of view and I guess I am doing the same thing with him too. Diving deep…… stay tuned for more!


…and yes, the end is only the beginning!


Do You Ever Feel Like There Must Be “Something Better”?

I am changedDo you ever feel like there’s something better for you in life, that there must be something more than what is happening in your life right now?  Does this sound like a different version of a Katy Perry song???  LOL…. read on, I have been here my friends.  

Could it be that “something better is calling to you???  Could this feeling actually be the awakening of a new phase of life?  I had this feeling almost a decade ago and that’s when I met my mentor/hero/friend Vicki Ann Clough.  She facilitated a retreat I attended called Inner Child that would forever change the course of my life.  (She continues to change lives and offers this workshop a few times a year.  Click here for more info.)

This workshop is where I first heard about imaginal cells.  I since have googled and read about incredible new discoveries so when I began teaching my own workshops several years ago I had to include this amazing discovery by Bruce Lipton and many other amazing scientists, about imaginal cells.  (Just google it and read about it, WARNING: You could get lost in a vortex of bliss!)  Recently one of the participants of my workshop reached out and asked if I had this story written anywhere so she could pass it along to friends that were going through a “transitional” time in life (that’s code for ….MY LIFE FREAKING SUCKS!!!  WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE!!!!  THERE MUST BE SOMETHING BETTER THAN THIS!!!)  This was a great “push” for me to get this exciting new research on my blog!

Let’s talk about IMAGINAL CELLS!  (Cool name, right?)  These imaginal cells have been discovered in the caterpillar, but they have nothing do with the caterpillar and everything to do with the butterfly.  Let me explain.  There comes a point in a caterpillars life when it feels “drawn” or “called” to a certain tree or plant or life giving organism.  At this point, thousands of caterpillars begin this journey and converge upon a common tree or orchard grove, shall we say.  They eat until they are fat and sassy, then begin the process of building a cocoon.  They are going within, this is when the imaginal cell (imaginal disc as they sometimes call it in science) first appears.  There is only one in the beginning.  This cell contains the blueprint for the butterfly it is to become.  But this cell is different from every other caterpillar cell so the other cells want to get rid of it.  (Self preservation and “habits of life” are strong!)  They do their best to fight off the new cell because it is different, it threatens to change everything that the caterpillar has become up to this point…..(and let’s face it, it’s scary to “change”).  However, this new cell is strong and holds its ground, soon it multiplies and there are now two imaginal cells.  This happens again and then there are four.  You get the idea.  The caterpillar is now quite literally turning to “goo” (that’s MY term, not the scientific word for it).  I’m not sure who does these studies and just how these studies are done.  Although, being a college student I have done my share of being the guinea pig for research sake and I can tell you, they have a lot of cool stuff to work with in those labs._)  I imagine scientists putting little tiny diodes on these caterpillar to study their experience.  Scientists report this is the most painful process this little caterpillar ever experiences in its life.  They have discovered at this point of “goo,” the caterpillar is experiencing excruciating pain in this (quite literal) life-changing transformation.  This is because, after the metamorphosis is complete there will not be ANY caterpillar cells left, they will have all become the butterfly DNA cells.  The caterpillar eye is NOT the butterfly eye, the antennae from the caterpillar is NOT the same as the butterfly, the internal organs are all completely different as well, do you get where I’m going here???  Total transformation!!!  When the transformation is complete, the butterfly must break out of the chrysalis on its own.  If you see a butterfly struggling and you assist it to get free of the chrysalis, you will handicap it.  It will never fly if you don’t let it break free by itself.  This is a journey it must undertake on its own.
This journey begins way back, with the sudden appearance of just one imaginal cell that seems to “call” the caterpillar to transformation so that it can, transform, grow wings and fly!   The most amazing part of this miraculous discovery is that imaginal cells have been found in humans.  Where do you suppose they may have been found??  The brain???  Nope!!!  The heart.  These imaginal cells are dormant but I believe they are beginning to wake up.   This is just my hypothesis at this point but I really believe this is the calling, the being drawn feeling we get in our life when we want a change, when we feel that there has to be something better, when we imagine that maybe we could fly!!!!  But how???!!!!  Now begins the journey to your “tree”…….. Remember that this journey includes patience and perseverance (and so many more strengths you have within you!!).  You may experience pain, you may turn to green “goo”….. And if you do……HOORAY….. Because on the other side of goo, there are wings, there is flight, there is freedom and there awaits a life you were always meant to create.  The good life.  The pleasant life.  The life of purpose and meaning.    Are your imaginal cells beginning to wake up????  Listen to your heart…… it will whisper what you need to hear!  Namaste, my fellow awakeners….. I see you, I hear you and I love you!   Cheers to SOMETHING BETTER….oh, and green goo!!! thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of our life

When is a Good Time to Meditate?

I’m calling this post SPONTANEOUS MEDITATION!  You’re going to LOVE this!!!

This is a guest blog from THE incredible Cami Glauser !!!  I saw this posted on her FB account and asked if I could share it with you.  Along with a daily routine of meditation, this little suggestion is dynamite…. read on to find out all about spontaneous meditation.

“Sometimes I don’t know I’m going to meditate, until it happens. Do I have things I need to do? Sure. Was I about to start working on a project? Yeah. But something stops me instead.

For whatever reason, I find myself reading something that inspires me. Hits home to my heart. Then that’s when I get that feeling. That feeling that says, “Now’s the time to get quiet.” I listen, trust, and agree. So I set a timer. And be.

This is my favorite time to meditate — when my vibes are high and inspiration is flowing… letting the inspiration marinate within me.

Sometimes I remember what I was just reading, most of the time I don’t. What matters is that heightened feeling. I follow that, ride that wave, and receive. Receive what is here for me in this moment. Thoughts come up, thoughts pass through, yet my heightened sensation stays. I move toward that… with that inspiration.

After, I feel alive, inspired, and free.

Meditation looks different for everyone… in every moment. Whatever you do, trust your instincts. Follow the breadcrumbs of your own delight. ” – Cami Glauser

Do you LOVE that???  Mmmmm…. delicious…… ride the wave of inspiration, be!  …and follow the breadcrumbs of your own delight.  Good stuff Cami…. thanks for sharing, thanks for glowing and thanks for showing us how to own our own glow, YO!

cami glauser



Cami Glauser is a sister, daughter, wife, friend, human, spirit, soul, and lover of all that is LIFE. She enjoys traveling, connecting, and gathering wisdom wherever she goes. She currently lives in Louisville, KY where she is a local actress and teaches yoga, meditation, and musical theatre. She is filled with gratitude as to where her life is in this moment. A mantra that’s been dancing in her mind lately is, “Life: make it up as you go.”  




My Future Unfolds with HOPE and JOY

4f4e5-allspiritualityisaboutrelievingsufferingHave you joined the 21 Day Meditation Experience with Oprah and Deepak?  I love every series they gift to our world and this one “Hope in Uncertain Times” is just as lovely….. I wanted to share Day 14 with you to give you a small peek into this magic Deepak and Oprah are sharing with the world.    Want to listen to all 21 days?  Click here….  Read on for a treat for your soul.

Day 14 Deepak and Oprah Hope Meditation


“Hope opens you up to clarity, calm and power no matter what is going on in your life.  Today’s meditation is “Living by the light of Hope”.

Dr Shefali believes the root of the worlds problems of violence and conflict is our loss of connection, especially the connection between a parent and a child.  She says there was some big forgetting that occurred in our history that made us believe we are separate from the oneness that surrounds us.  The awakening, the soul lighting up… happens when we realize we are one with God, with the universe and one with each other.  One of the greatest gifts you can give to your children, to yourself and the world is to grow in the awareness of this connection.  It IS the light of hope.”


“We have learned that hope is a powerful guide from our true self that leads us out of a mindset of struggle, but more than that, when the light of awareness guides your way you are no longer dependent on external beliefs, ideologies or politics to give your life direction and meaning.   Buddha’s last message to his followers was “Be a light unto yourself.”  When you discover your presence of awareness you can no longer be misled or disappointed in the messages and the actions of leaders and authorities.  This light of awareness resides within us already, waiting to be recognized and activated.   As this happens, the light expands and every action, thought and feeling springs from that light.   This is the light of hope.   It might seem that living by the light of hope is too far removed from the cares and demands of  modern life, but the light of awareness is not remote or unworldly.  It is the most intimate and real thing about you.  If you didn’t live in the light already you wouldn’t exist.  It takes awareness to experience anything.   There is spirituality in seeing a tree outside your window, or clouds or mountains or the sea because everything springs from consciousness and can only be known by consciousness.  So if you are individually guided by a light of hope, how does that work?  In a world of conflicting beliefs  and ideologies, can we really be our own light , guidance and authority and still be effective and engaged  in life? Yes!  Enlightenment is spiritual freedom but it is also practical and effective and harmonizing.  The light of awareness is the shared level of all life, where there is no conflict, no divisive beliefs, or need to defend oneself.  When you are a light unto yourself, you may still practice the same religion you grew up with and hold the same political and cultural values you’ve always had but now you are not threatened by any values or beliefs that are different from yours.  You recognize the good that is there and celebrate the differences.  There are as many evolutionary paths as there are people in the world, which means there are 7 billion ways to live in the light.  When you make the shift you live completely in the light then the journey of hope has made found its destination.  

Centering thought…. My future unfolds with HOPE and JOY!”     

Naked and Afraid Loved Ones….

naked and afraid logoI wrote this last October when Trent’s episode aired for the first time.  What a wild and crazy ride this Naked and Afraid Journey has been and it just keeps getting better.  As I watch the amazing survivalists on this seasons Naked and Afraid XL, I once again think about those loved ones that waited breathlessly to hear from their loved ones after sending them off to Africa….. I post this for all of you and for all the fans as a reminder…… please be gentle, there is a person watching your comments on the forums ….they are REAL…….and they did their very best….. show these amazing people the respect that they truly deserve because if the world implodes (as it seems to be doing)…. I want every one of them on MY team!!!!  Here is a little peak at the perspective of a loved one of one of these BA survivalists…….

For obvious reasons, I am a huge fan of Discovery Channels TV series Naked and Afraid.  Every person that goes on this show has my utmost respect for going into an unknown challenge of epic proportions.  There are many articles written on the Survivalists and I won’t even try to keep up with these fantastic journalists.

This post has a slightly different perspective and this goes out to all the unsung heroes that are behind the scenes, who quietly sit in the wings and watch their loved one attempt the most difficult challenge of their life.  You know who you are….. you’re the one that raised the eye brow when your loved one told you that they just applied for the show Naked and Afraid. “You what?”

Then…. You’re the one that took pictures, shot video, helped write bio’s and emails that would catch the attention of the producers of Naked and Afraid.  You are the one that cheered them on when they left for their casting interview and waited anxiously on your phone to get text updates about what the producers were asking you all about.  You are the one that watched your loved one check their email anxiously every day waiting for the announcement of where they would be sending them.  You are also the one that held your breath when they excitedly announced the location they would be sent to.  You are the one that shouted “Yippee!” and secretly wondered …. “Where the heck is Belize, I really should have paid more attention in Geography class!”  You are the one that sat by their side and googled everything there was to know about the location they would be going to.  You are also the one that secretly googled “most dangerous animals in Belize” when your loved one wasn’t watching.  You are the one that walked around barefoot for months with your loved one to prepare for the challenge just to support them.  You are the one that couldn’t stand it when your loved one wanted to go without food for a few days just to prepare, so you cooked a steak and told them you caught a squirrel for them.  You are the one that watched countless episodes of Naked and Afraid hoping that your loved one would have a partner that had all the good qualities of every great survivalist that was on the show.  You’re the one that paid attention to how every survivalist found food, water and made fire and obnoxiously pointed it out very dramatically.  You are the one that ran all over the city finding bamboo and demanded that your loved one “MAKE FIRE” from it so that you could have proof that they really would have fire to survive.…. (OK…. Maybe you all didn’t do that one.  That might have been just crazy little me…. In the middle of winter, at the bottom of our bed… and yes!  He did make fire from that stupid décor bamboo from the home decorating store Tai Pan.)   You are the one that anxiously awaited the departure date and became annoyingly bossy of what “not to do” on your episode.  You’re the one that was told by the producers that “no news is good news” when you asked if they would be updating you while you’re loved one was gone.  You’re the one that received one last phone call and when you hung up you cried and cried, then, you prayed and prayed.  You’re the one that spent sleepless nights knowing that out in the middle of the jungle you’re loved one probably wasn’t sleeping either.  You’re the one that appreciated every meal you ate and sent hopes to your loved one that they were being able to find food too.  You’re the one that every moment you thought about what it might be like right now to be hungry, tired, cold and all the rest you’ve seen on every episode.  You’re the one that sat outside spending time each day in meditation sending love, light and energy to both your loved one and their partner (ok…. that one might have just been me too.)  You’re the one that looked at the calendar every day and celebrated when you crossed off 11 days because you knew it was half way through and you hadn’t heard anything so as they said, “No news is good news.”  You are the one that received countless texts from curious friends and family, asking how you were doing and if you had heard anything yet.  You were the one that watched the phone the day of extraction and when it finally rang with that unknown number, tears of happiness and a knot in your throat finally choked out an anxious “Hello?  Honey?”  You are the one that wanted to hear every detail but also knew that your loved one had just been extracted and probably wanted to go eat, shower and rest…… oh how torn you were not to be there and wrap your arms around them.  You are the one that spent the next two days with no sleep, awaiting the time when your loved one would walk off the plane.  You are the one that held your breath after you received the text that the plane had landed and held that breath until their face appeared.  You are the one that felt tears well up in your eyes when you saw that smile you love so much.  You are the one that cried when you saw their body so thin, so malnourished, so completely riddled and scared with bug bites and finally you took a deep breath in relief that they were finally home with you….. now this is NOT where the Naked and Afraid journey ends …… now you are the one that listens to stories and are so glad they are sitting next to you as you hear the terrors your loved ones endured for the last month.  You are the one that loves to hear these stories even after you have heard them 5782 times and you want them to tell the stories again and again.  You are the one that waits anxiously to find out when the episode will air.  You are the one that listens to the post interviews and hopes that the episode will show the world just how amazing your loved one is.  You are the one that hopes that the thoughtless folks in the world will not make horrible and terrible comments about your loved ones on all the Naked and Afraid forums.  You are the one that watches the previews when they begin to show up on live TV and scream like a rock star groupie as you realize the world will soon get to see what you see everyday….. and I mean see everything!!!  You are the one that is thrilled when the big night arrives and there is so much support and love for your loved one that you are overwhelmed with this whole adventure…. In a really good way.  You are the one that watches in awe when the narrator introduces your loved one and you see them Naked and Afraid for the first time.  You are the one that cheers when their PSR is announced and quietly think…. It should have been way higher than that!  You are the one that feels a sense of “I can’t believe this really happened to you” as you watch the brutal conditions they faced for 21 days and your glad you can squeeze their hand as they are sitting next to you.  And that night…. You are the one that snuggles up close, so grateful they are alive and right here in your arms.  You are the one that watches as their phone lights up with messages, texts, emails, Facebook messages and all other sorts of social media communications about their adventure.  You are the one that watches from across the room as they continuously check social media to hear the opinion as strangers weigh in on how they judge your loved one on how they did on this wicked undertaking.  You are the one who loves that they are getting all the attention they deserve for enduring this challenge.   You are the one that sends out a prayer to the universe that people will remember that behind their tiny little phone screen or computer screen that they are thoughtlessly commenting on….that there is a person on the other side that put their heart and soul into the hardest challenge they have ever done in their life and no matter whether they made the 21 days or not, they did their best and they are reading your comments.…. and you whisper a small prayer for your loved one and for their partner to be strong and also to the strangers to be kind.

AND at the end of today…… you are the one that takes a slow, deep, heavy, breath when someone on the forums says, “I hope we see you on Naked and Afraid XL.”   If you are the one I’ve been talking about please know…. I know you!!!  I love you!!!  You are my new family!!   I feel for you, I have felt every emotion you have had…all the good, all the bad, all the ugly and I salute you for your support and encouragement from the wings.   If you are NOT this person and you have had a loved one on Naked and Afraid, I beg you to take a moment and see if you can shift some of your thoughts into loving, supportive and encouraging behaviors.  Our loved ones just accomplished the challenge of a lifetime and they became highly vulnerable on TV for friends, family and loved ones across the world to see.  If they didn’t come out looking like a rock star be kind, be gentle… after all it is Hollywood…… our loved ones need those closest to them to truly see that they are among the elite that would even consider doing this challenge.  They need us to be their safe place, their protection against the thoughtless comments…. A safe place to turn.  My hat is off to all of the survivalists, especially to the man who rocks my world every day.  This challenge wasn’t just for the survivalists out in the wild….. this challenge also taught me about who I am, what my character is all about and I faced a few of my demons on his Naked and Afraid journey as well.  Thank you Naked and Afraid and thank you to all the unsung heroes that quietly love, support and encourage from the wings…. I salute you as well!!

– Sheri Joi, Founder of Redefining Joy, October 2015

Bad Life Choice!

20151001_102204Last year I started getting this “crazy hair brained” idea to do something drastic with my hair.  I get this “itch” every few years and I find something new and extreme to do with my hair.  This time I started really setting my sights on the wildly adorable and sexy/sassy pixie cut.  I told my fabulous hair dresser about my idea and she did her best to talk me out of it.  She didn’t think I would like it.  I told Trent my idea and he was fully on board….he’s such an amazing support and voice of encouragement no matter what crazy idea I come up with.   So, at the first of October the big day arrived and I went into get my new “do” and color.   I watched with excited anticipation as my hair fell to the floor.  When she was finished I sat in horror.  What had I done????  There was no going back…. My hair was on the floor…. And to my hair stylists credit she had styled it with all the sass and sexiness that a pixie cut could be but I hated it…. Hated on me!!!  I looked in the mirror and didn’t know the person looking back at me, it was sooooo not my style….. BAD LIFE CHOICE!!!



As the days passed and I did my best to sass my hair up, I realized this was going to turn into a fantastic blog!  How many times do we talk ourselves out of something because it is too risky or we worry about what other people will think?  Sometimes we are so afraid to step out of our little circle of “normal” that the wildest chance we take is wearing a color we have never had in our closet…..and wahoo if you actually do this because it is a little uncomfortable… and that’s growth!!!  I started thinking about my haircut and just how symbolic it could be as an object lesson.  I had made a choice that I was excited about and I asked for input….. even with my hair stylist advising against it…. (The person I probably should have trusted on this one)  I made the choice to go ahead ….. risk it all…..all of my hair…. And try something new.  Well, it flopped…. As far as I was concerned at least….. everyone around me loved my new hair but I wasn’t LOVING it the way I usually love my hair.  So I was able to detach from my identification with my hair and realize that my hair doesn’t determine who I am ….  And that this “bad life choice” was just a matter of time until it worked itself out…. “This too shall pass” as they say.

So I rocked my lesbian “do” ….(there is NO offense here because most of my BEST friends are lesbians and I LOVE them and their hair…. It’s just not the style for this chica!)  I found some great styles to wear until I could grow my hair out to the style that I love….. and only 4 short months later I’m once again in LOVE with my sassy, sexy hair!! sheri biz card 2

The moral of this story is when you make a “bad life choice”…..

– Realize “this too shall pass”

– Rock your choice until it “grows” out

– Keep your focus on what you want and keep heading in that direction

– Be grateful you took a risk and now you know!

– Do what you want, take a chance and never live in ‘what if’

– There’s a blog in every experience in life….bwhahaha!!!!

I’m truly happy that I made the choice to go “pixie” and didn’t live in the “I wonder what it would look like on me” for the rest of my life.  Now I have a challenge for YOU for 2016!!!!  Find something that might be risky and take the leap!!!  I’d love to hear about your stories of “bad life choices” that you totally rocked until you grew past the awkward stage…OR ….. those “I took a chance and it TOTALLY worked out”  choices… whichever way it goes, it feels better to live life to the fullest with no regrets … you do know this blog was way deeper than just a hair cut for me,  right????  LOL…… just checking!!!



The Finish Line is Only a Piece of the Journey

The finish line may be what you think of when you think of running a marathon…. to me it was not only the finish line…. it was about the journey….. the goals you set for yourself are like that too….. they aren’t just about they finish line….. they are about who you become as you train day in and day out so that you can reach that finish line.  On your journey to the goals you have set for yourself…. make sure you are celebrating the little wins along the way that make up your journey….. here is they journal entry I wrote after I reached the finish line.

May 2, 2010 Marathon Day…..

This weekend was so full I don’t even know where to begin. I guess we could start with last week. Last week I had found myself in a not so happy place which I struggle with because I want to ALWAYS be happy. There were many reasons that I was beating myself up and it seemed I just couldn’t stop the monkey chatter in my head no matter what I did. On the way to pick Jules up for our adventure in Eugene I popped in a CD about positive affirmations from Louise Hays. I loved hearing that the QUEEN of positive affirmations said she hadn’t mastered the skill herself but was at least up to 75-80% living in a joyful, happy and gratitude filled life. I felt a whole release within me as I let go of the beating that had been happening for about a week now. Jules hopped in the car after saying a final “good bye and have fun” to Tyler. She was missing his first prom to participate in her first marathon. Of course if she had known this would be his prom weekend back in January when she had this crazy, hair brained idea of doing a marathon, we probably wouldn’t have spent almost EVERY Saturday for the last 4 months out in the rain! Not to mention the 5 days of training during the week that we did on our own. I remember sitting in the meeting in January thinking, is she crazy?? We can’t do a marathon. Why does she think we can do this?? I watched Jules for any sign of hesitation that I could pounce on and say NO we can’t do this, I don’t want to fail again so I don’t even want to begin, PLEASE do not tell me you want to do this! There was no hesitation from her and sitting next to my best friend that is a hundred pounds overweight and eagerly wanting to DO something about it, there just was NO good excuse I could come up with to not sign up right alongside her. (Little did I know the monumental experience I was in for; what an experience I would have missed out on if I had let fear win this one.) That first Saturday started a lot earlier than I was used to Saturday’s starting. Our entire team met downtown at the Portland Running Company for a ‘shoe clinic’ at 7:00 AM. Then we all headed out for a 1 mile walk. I did ok, considering the last time I had actually ran a mile was in 6th grade around the soccer field. Jules struggled but she was a trooper and although her feet were swollen and her feet had blisters, she didn’t complain and kept a smile on her face. As we continued our own personal training during the week and then met as a team on Saturday’s we started to gain a whole new respect for the phrase “I’m training for a marathon.” The weeks went on and the miles got longer, the courses got harder and the time investment increased. We also had another challenge that brought new respect to our heart. We started fundraising. We both had to raise $1800 each, for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We figured with as many friends on Facebook as we had it would be easy to get everyone to donate $5 and we would be set. Turns out, it’s not that easy! We begged, pleaded, planned events but we could never get the commitment from others, to hold these events. We got discouraged and our thoughts definitely took a turn for the worse. We prayed for a miracle and an angel appeared. The owner of Great Harvest stopped me at the school and said she wanted to do a fundraiser for LLS to help us raise the funds we needed. With renewed hope we bounced back into action. We advertised, planned and did our part to ensure the success of our event. The 23rd of May we spent 10 hours of the day making fools of ourselves; yelling, jumping, twirling signs or doing whatever possible, up and down Sunnyside to get donations and draw people into the store for our fundraiser. After a wildly successful day we found ourselves just a couple hundred dollars short which our friends and family quickly took care of.
Jules and I relived this small victory we had felt in fundraising as we now drove to Eugene for our first marathon. I was suffering from a cold (which we know is from anger and inability to express myself and confusion….yes, that’s EXACTLY what my week before had been to bring about this dis-ease) and I really was not in the mood to be my usual happy, cheery self but reliving this small victory raised my spirit a bit and I was able to stop the monkey chatter at least.
We got ourselves checked into our hotel and found the other hotel to get our marathon registration stuff and then on to yet another hotel for our pasta party. ( I told Jules we should be in the Guinness Book of Records for being in the most hotels in 5 minutes…outside of Vegas and without casino’s!) We were early to the pasta party so we chilled in the lobby with all the other Team in Training Participants. When it was time to go down to dinner, we walked down the stairs to a very LOUD and rowdy cheering section. Our team coaches, trainers, mentors and others were all lined up cheering, blowing horns, ringing cow bells (more cow bell!) and high fiving all of us. It was really fun but I thought it was a little over the top and a little crazy, it didn’t really seem like that big of a deal to me…….YET! We dished our plates….carbed up….and chatted with other participants. The inspirational part of the program soon began and we heard that our group had raised more than $210,000 and that Nationwide, Team in Training had raised 2 billion dollars. We had signed up to be a part of the largest group of individuals worldwide to do this sort of thing! WOW! I started realizing this WAS a big deal. They asked all the people that had suffered from these blood cancers, that then had gotten involved with TNT to stand up. We all cheered. Then they asked all the people that had lost loved ones due to these diseases, which then got involved with TNT to stand up. We all cheered and cried! Then they asked who had not personally been touched directly by this disease but just thought it sounded like a good thing to get involved with to stand up. Jules and I rose to our feet and for the first time in a very LONG time I KNEW that I was AMAZING!!! The people that had suffered from this disease and the family members that had lost someone, honored us for being true hero’s to just do something GOOD for no other reason rather than just do GOOD! That’s when the tears started for the weekend and they haven’t stopped. NOW I knew this was a BIG DEAL! Looking back in hindsight, I know why those coaches, trainers and mentors cheered, yelled and high fived us as we came into that room. We had all been a part of something so much bigger than ourselves, yet we individually had done our parts to succeed as a whole!
Danny was the first speaker. He is a Marathon runner from Eugene. He got involved with TNT after he lost his daughter, Hannah, to Leukemia when she was 4 years old. He told a story about a Hawaiian lifeguard named Eddie that would go wherever needed. It didn’t matter the time, the weather or the conditions, Eddie would go. Danny and his wife started saying, “Hannah would go.” Because no matter what they would ask of her, she would comply with the poking, prodding, testing, etc. Danny told of a marathon he went to after telling this story and all along the route the crowd would yell “Hannah would go!” and her Spirit would lift him to the place he needed to find, to finish the race. He told of the San Francisco marathon, an especially hard one for Danny, he was heading up a hill in his 20th or so mile without many people out on the course. He was in physical pain that he couldn’t bear and decided to give up and that he was ok with that, when across a deserted square he heard someone yell, “Hannah would go!” and the last miles didn’t even exist as Danny crossed the finish line. Danny had us laughing so hard with his marathon etiquette, “don’t shoot your friends with snot bullets and drop to the back of the pack if you’re going to fart,” and then sobbing so hard the next minute with stories of his victories and Hannah. Another story he told was about a race he shouldn’t have entered because he had a spider bite and was almost paralyzed on half his body. He told us that at one point he was delirious and could see the Red Cross tent so he focused on that. He sat down at one point on the curb to rest and a little 4 year old girl was there all alone. She reached in her cooler and pulled out an otter pop and offered it to Danny. Otter pops were the only things that Hannah could eat after she had a chemotherapy session. Whether or not that little girl was there or not, I couldn’t tell you and I didn’t have the chance to ask Danny what he thought but I have a feeling that he was visited by an angel that day. What an amazing man he is and what strength he shared with his stories. He has changed my life by the way he lives and I will continue to say to myself, when the going gets tough “Hannah would go!”
The next morning as we gathered in the lobby of our hotel at 6:00 AM, Sue gave us our last little pep talk. She told us she knew we were ready for this, that we had trained hard and that we would do great. Her reassurance sank deep into my heart and I knew I would be fine; my goal was to make sure Jules crossed that finish line with me! Then Sue was somber, she asked us all to take a moment to remember the reason that we were here. She went around the circle and reminded us all of the personal stories that had been shared by each of our teammates. Kelli had lost her dad too early, little Hunter lost his fight and we had just met him in January at our kick off dinner, he was only 3, and Nick had lost his only daughter, Ashley. We all stood in a circle with our arms around each other, crying, for a moment of silence in their honor as well as all the names we carried on our shirts and our hearts. Next, Ellen led us in a final “Go Team!” cheer. Those words echo in my soul as I heard them countless times today out on the course. As we all turned to head out the door to the starting line, Nick was in front of me and I got my first vision of the angel that would carry Jules and I through this day. On his back was a beautiful little girl named Ashley, his only child! He ran today in her honor! There were many times on the course that her face would mysteriously pop up in front of us on someone else’s back and once again I KNEW that I was AMAZING because I was making a difference!
We joined over 5000 people on the starting line, over 100 of them Team in Training participants. Encircled by our coaches and trainers we anxiously stretched among the throng of people. It was with great pride that I covered my heart when I heard our national anthem being sung and joined the crowd in exuberant and joyful cries after the song finished. I have to admit, I didn’t hear the gun, amidst all the other excitement I didn’t hear the start but suddenly we were all moving forward in a quick pace. I knew we couldn’t start too fast or Jules would suffer tremendously at the end. We paced ourselves and stayed steady. The first aches and pains were familiar to Jules and she knew how to work those out with herself. We laughed and talked about all the things we normally laugh and talk about. Around mile 2 we had to make a bathroom stop that put us behind the “sweeper” patrol (the cop assigned to keep the runners safe at the back of the pack). I could tell this was upsetting to Jules because she knew that we were in the very back. Without saying a word she started running, she pushed herself until there was not another run in her and then she continued with her fast walk. I followed suit, so proud of her for really pushing her limits! After another couple miles and another couple bursts of running we were in front of the “sweeper”. Jules was now finding aches and pains that weren’t familiar to her and a whole new pain set in, the kind in your head that won’t let anything else go. I told her stories and reminded her of why we were doing this and how excited people were going to be for us, yet the monkey had gotten a hold of her mind and would not let go. I started to sing to her, just to be silly and we came up with a game. We would talk back and forth to each other with songs. This worked for a little bit but ended up being too challenging for us. After “I spy” failed out for a new game but a really good laugh because we remembered the moose part of Brother Bear (and re-enacted it…eh?) , we came up with a new game (with the help of Ellen Degenerous…our hero!!) We would decide a category and for 2 telephone poles we would name everything we could think of and the last person with a word would win. So the categories were: movie stars, things that are yellow, things that grow and a few others that escape me right now. This brought us to mile marker 7 and past our half way point without realizing it! The grocery game came next….Jules would say, “I’m going to the grocery store and I’m going to get artichokes.” Then I would say, “I’m going to the grocery store and I’m going to get artichokes and blueberries.” Do you see where this is going? It’s an alphabet game. By the end of our game we decided to stop at the grocery story to get artichokes, blueberries, cantaloupe, dolphin safe tuna, escargot, French fries, green peppers, horseradish sauce, ice cream, jam, kiwi, lemons, a mango, Nancy’s yogurt, octopus, pansies (for a centerpiece), quince jelly (don’t even know what that is, I think Jules made it up!) raspberry tea, salmon, tomatoes, unbleached flour (this was with a little help from Rhonda…..one of the Team in Training sweepers….she was checking on us…and thought we were a little crazy at this point but chimed in with a much needed “u” grocery item) vinegar, walnuts, xtra sugar free gum, yellow corn (weak one Jules!) and zoo crackers (nice recovery Jules, I couldn’t come up with a thing!) This game brought us to the beginning of the only really big hill we had and it was a struggle to make it up; but arm in arm Jules and I climbed to the top. We passed another walker at this time, her name bib said her name was Davis and we encouraged her as we pushed ourselves to the top. We continued forward with a constant rear view glance to check on Davis. At mile 9 we were in front of the stadium that we would eventually be entering to take our victory lap to the finish line. There many runners had already completed their run by now and were wearing their well earned medals. They cheered us on as we pressed forward. Disappointment had begun to set in as the aid stations that had water and Gatorade every 2 miles, had been torn down and we had no water with us. The small worry of not having water ahead was starting to weigh heavy on Jules mind and I could see it was going to be a problem soon. We had been told that there would be plenty of water on the course and it wasn’t something we would have to worry about. Rhonda, still hanging out with us, jumped on the phone and called the other captains and coaches for help. As we passed mile marker 9 the throng of people leaving the stadium was a bit mixed with where our route was supposed to go. I ran over and asked a volunteer in an orange jacket, Marcus, where our route continued. He gave me directions and we continued forward. Jules leaned over to me and though I know she didn’t want to ask, she sweetly requested that I go back to make sure that Davis knew where she was going as she was walking all alone. Of course I told her, I wished I had thought of it. I headed back through the crowd to find our new friend in the neon green shirt. I found Davis and walked with her a bit. We chatted a little bit about the last hill and what a great triumph it was to be done. I told her where our route was to go and was thrilled when some of her friends came running up to her give her some renewed encouragement. I wished her well and headed back to Jules. Jogging through the crowd, I weaved in between the celebrating families of the newly finished marathoners. F’ers….is what Danny had called them….as opposed to those that didn’t finish which were the DNF’ers. I caught up to Rhonda and Jules a few blocks down the route. I asked Jules how she was doing and she told me she just wanted some water. I tried to remain calm but inside frantically searched the crowd or anywhere I could get water for her. We turned right on Franklin and Rhonda continued to call for water assistance on her cell phone from anyone that could help. I saw a Subway down the road and told Jules I’d be back. I ran ahead and grabbed a couple cups of water. I ran back and handed one to Jules then continued back further to find Davis. Both were grateful for the refreshment. So many hurtles had been over come just to make it to this point and I knew we were SO close and yet SO far away. The marathon committee had picked up all the cones outlining the route and we didn’t know which way to go. Rhonda mentioned that she thought we were off course and we might have to turn and go back, this seized Julie’s heart. Everything in her shut down. Her hopes were dashed and she knew she could not finish if she had to go more than 13.1 miles, and if this little detour had been more than that, then her dreams of finishing were over. Davis caught up with us at this point and she had a map. We did our best to navigate it, when down the street comes Dennis, as fast as he can go, carrying a 12 pack of water bottles! He renewed our spirits with his confidence in us finishing what we had started and we heaved forward with his directions. We were right on course and had not strayed from where we needed to be going. Now a pack; Jules, Davis, Rhonda and me, shoved forward. The Eugene coach, Nina joined us too. One of Jules favorite things to do is to get to know people so I started asking Davis questions so Jules would be able to get into it. Davis turned out to be absolutely brilliant with 3 master degrees and was studying for her PHD. She had motivated herself to just come out here and do this marathon all by herself. I felt replenished energy as she told us her story and so blessed to have her in our circle. We shared a little about Team in Training with her, since by this time she was surrounded by these crazy purple people. What seemed like the longest mile on the course to me, finally ended at mile 10 as we crossed Knickerbocker bridge. Davis started to slow her pace a bit and had some cramps in her foot. In contrast, Jules found she was able to go faster, Nina was on a scooter so keeping up with her seemed to be a challenge Jules wanted to rise to. We entered a beautiful forested path along the Willamette River. I started a new query, with Nina this time and soon we were deeply entrenched in the beautiful heart of the Eugene coach. She works for a company that aids in the adoption of international children. She shared some stories with us about her experiences with escorting children back to the states for a new life. It was fascinating and the pain that Jules was suffering was able to be ignored a little. Her back ached, her stomach was cramping, her feet were throbbing with a steady heart beat, her hands were swollen and about to burst, and there were so much other soreness, I worried a little, that our last few miles would not be attained but Jules NEVER gave into this thought. Quitting was NEVER an option for her, she told me later. As the trees closed in around us I could tell Jules was hitting her wall….if she hadn’t hit it a mile ago…..so I started to sing again. This time it was the classic, the ants go marching one by one…..Jules?? I’m going to need a harrah, harrah! The ants go marching one by one…..I paused…..’harrah, harrah’ came the meek, muffled whimper. I continued the song and by the time we had made it to 7, Jules was listening so intently on when she needed to ‘harrah’ that she had forgotten how wracked with pain her body felt. Well, probably not forgotten but she wasn’t consumed by it. At mile marker 11, I had to ditch out to the ‘honey bucket’. Nina and Jules pressed on. Jules was determined to keep going, she didn’t want to stiffen up. When I jogged up the path to find Julie, I noticed that Nina was no longer at her side. Jules told me that she had asked Nina to please go back and find Davis. Jules told me that when you are overweight and in this much pain you cannot be left alone in the forest, your head just starts yelling terrible things and she was so afraid of Davis being out on the course alone. Nina graciously headed back. And this told me EXACTLY where Jules was in her head. This last few miles was going to be rough.
Across the bridge we passed mile marker 12 and Jules and I shared an early victory high 5! Just down the hill we saw Dennis, Sue, Kiera and Heidi. Sue ran to us to take our picture, (of course ) and then she continued on with us. She gave us instructions of what it would look like to walk into the stadium, where to look to see our larger than life images on the jumbo-tron and where to wave for our victory photo. I’m not sure Jules could hear any of this anymore and as soon as Sue finished I told Julie I was going to tell her a story….about a bear…..in his underwear! So it began, another song…..The other day (Jules repeated….The other day)….my turn……I saw a bear….(Jules repeated) …………..me…..a great big bear (Jules repeat)…….me…..in his underwear…..(Jules repeat). You get the idea. The story continued up the street and just a block before our grand entrance. When we both realized where we were we started to cry. We saw the entrance to Hayward Stadium and we knew our journey was ending and just beginning! Just before we entered we high fived with a clasped grasp and looked in each others’ eyes and affirmed, “We did this!” Tears continued as we walked around the beautiful track. The stadium was filled and the crowd was cheering. The announcer said our names and then told everyone we were part of Team in Training and we had raised over $210,000 for LLS. Our hearts were full and it poured out of our eyes and down our cheeks as once again we KNEW we were AMAZING!!! Patti, a dear friend of Jules, was visiting her daughter in Eugene for the weekend so she came to the stadium to cheer for us. We saw her along the fence line and hugged her and exchanged “I Love You’s” as we continued our victory lap. As we crossed the finish line, we grabbed hands and raised them high over our head in celebration!! WE FINISHED!!! We were awarded our beautiful medals and continued into the crowd. Our thoughts were if we stopped, we might not be able to start again so let’s get to the TNT tent ASAP. We unfortunately got turned around and ended up hiking around the whole block to find the tent, just another lesson to not limit ourselves to the 13.1 miles we had signed up to do. We chatted with fellow contestants as we walked. One gentleman asked how we had done and we told him we finished and it was our first marathon. We told him there was nothing like it as we both became a emotional again and told him we would never forget it, he agreed and said if someone doesn’t get that feeling, they didn’t do it right. We made it back over to the TNT tent and sat down. We sat in silence and sat….and sat…..and sat. Not even talking, just sitting and being. I don’t know what was going through Jules mind but mine was clear. I was completely present. I breathed in the day! I relished the feeling of the heavy weighted medal that sat on my chest. I gratefully thanked my aching feet for the pain that let me know I had finished what I had committed myself to. I pleasantly turned my gaze toward the sky and whispered a quiet, “You knew I could do this…didn’t you?” Tears once again confirmed the feelings in my heart that I was AMAZING and someone else KNEW this too. After a very good long break, we visited with a few others and inquired if Davis had finished. We were pleased to hear that she had also made it across the finish line. Once I was fully rested, I announced I would go get the car. It was back at the hotel about a mile away. I know Jules ached for me as she didn’t want me to go alone and yet, she physically could not go. I played it off as no big thing and though I know I was not in the pain that Jules was in, the thought of one more mile shivered down my spine. Off I went making my way through the U of O campus. One little girl noticed my medal and asked if I won, I confidently told her “I did!” I’m not sure if the finish line or the sight of my car was more of a relief for my feet. I dropped into the seat and quickly headed back to my wing man. She climbed aboard as I bailed out to find a ladies room. I saw Rhonda and Sue near the finish line and asked if Amy had come in yet. Amy was another of our team mates that was actually walking the full marathon. She was a lot like Jules and I and we were excited to see her finish. Rhonda said she was still a few miles out. I went back to the car and asked Jules if she minded if we stayed for a little while longer. She enthusiastically agreed that we would stay to see Amy finish. We drove my little Joan Jetta down closer to the finish line. There was a parking spot right at the front gates. I parked and took off my shoes. We sat in silence for a little while. Then, I hopped out and ran over to where I could see down the street to look for purple. There was no purple but a few more walkers of the full marathon were making their way in and I cheered and high fived them as they entered the stadium. I couldn’t help but think of the crowd that was there for us when we arrived and how many more must have been there an hour before we arrived. I was a pretty small crowd for the final walkers making their way into those gates but the feeling remained victorious just the same. The streets of Eugene pulsed with victory today!! I went back over to the car and checked to see how Jules was doing, she was doing great! Feet were swollen and blistered, body was battered and beat up but her spirit was soaring. We laughed, we cried, we relived moments from our day. Every now and then I’d go check for purple or we’d cheer a walker into the stadium. The day was perfect and exactly where we were was perfect. We had nowhere to be, no one we had to be with and no one to answer to. Today it was all about us! “The miracle was not that we had finished, the miracle was that we had the courage to begin!” Uncle Bob, had sent this inspiring message to Julie and she had shared it with me. At this moment, it rang more true than we had ever felt it before and we knew that we would take this experience as a victory, a success and an amazing accomplishment into our ever changed life! Once again I peeked down the course, searching for purple. Clear down the road I saw the color we had waited for. It wasn’t clear who it was yet. I shouted over to Julie so she could come over and cheer for Amy too if it was her. As the figures got closer I could tell that there were two purple wearing people on either side of another figure…..I burst into tears as I realized that Dennis and Heidi were carrying a fallen runner. The runner was not a part of Team in Training, but she wanted to finish the race. She had experienced a seizure of some sort and her feet just weren’t working right. I yelled at Julie, “you have GOT to get over here, they are carrying someone?” Jules pushed past the sharp pains that screamed through her body and made her way over to the fence that led to the entrance to the stadium. “Is it Amy?” She asked. “It’s not.” I told her and we both break open into tears again. Grateful that our teammate had not fallen and so proud to be a part of Dennis and Heidi’s team, right in front of us we saw two true hero’s carry a wounded soldier to her finish line! We watched as they carried her around the track to where her family embraced her at the finish. Amy was right behind them! We cheered wildly and high fived her as she broke into a little jog to celebrate her victory lap! We pulled the car back to the Team in Training tent to make sure that Amy wouldn’t have to walk back to the hotel. We were assured by all the coaches that she had enough family that would be able to get her back there. We offered the coaches, captains and mentors a ride back to the hotel which they gratefully accepted. After dropping them off we headed to our victory BBQ. I wasn’t exactly clear on where were going and turned up the road where our starting line was. We saw Amy and two other mentors walking. One of them was Kelli, she had fallen and banged up her knee really bad and her cheek but she had savored victory as well. We asked the group where they were headed and they told us back to the hotel. I knew that it wasn’t a mistake that I had turned up this road and we loaded them up and gave them a much needed ride back to the Phoenix Inn. We asked Kelli how she was doing? She was in great spirits and relayed that she was excited to start training for her next event, the fall had not dampened her will to press forward. Now we were ready for our victory lunch. We sat outside and enjoyed the sun as we savored our final moments of “Team in Training, Eugene Marathon 2010”. Climbing back into the car, neither one of us spoke. We turned Louise Hays on to listen to her inspiration. Apparently basking and marinating in our glow of success renewed energy we didn’t know we could summon. Our bodies were BROKEN but our spirit was ALIVE with rejuvenated vitality! We turned off the CD and talked excitedly all the way home of the many lessons, miracles and greatness we were a part of! We were our own inspiration today. We were both overwhelmed with gratitude as we found our way HOME. I personally will give thanks tonight for my loving Father in Heaven for each and every experience this weekend….from the small to the HUGE. I am also grateful that the weekend started out in what I would perceive as a bad mood because I was able to so dramatically change that from the power WITHIN me!!!
The week following I seemed to walk on sunshine. The lessons learned poured in and these are just a few of the many life altering moments I felt!
– I really AM a good person with a loving heart (that has been questioned this year and I know now what is true!)
– I AM the change I want to see in the world and my actions show it
– It truly is HOW you live that matters
– I never gave up on my wingman, as long as she was committed to moving forward
– I knew that I would continue even if my wingman gave up, I would be sad and not want to move forward, but I would move forward and finish the race
– We may be alone but we are also all one…..the extra “L” is for “love”
– The miracle wasn’t in finishing, the miracle was in having the courage to begin
– I spent more time and effort raising money for people I didn’t know than for myself the past 4 months and the reward is priceless!
– I can and will succeed what I put my mind, will and heart into
– Never allow fear of failure hold me back from the experiences that will change my life forever
– Never let excuses keep me from taking risks with big rewards
– You never know what you don’t know
– That medal means more than anyone will ever know and NO ONE can ever take that away
– There are people in this world that may not appear to be hero’s, never judge another because you may just be in the presence of a “Danny, dad of Hannah” or “Dennis, the gently giant” Both Hero’s among men!
– Music can push you the next mile
– Everyone plays an important role in life
– I could only prepare myself for this race. I couldn’t do Julie’s training for her.
– What you put into it, you get out of it
– Let go and let God
– I AM amazing when I want to be
– Victory of self is the greatest victory of all
– Dedication, diligence and determination build self confidence
– Do something each day to ‘train’ – even resting is something needed in vigorous training
– Begin with the end in mind
– Help others along the way
– Encouragement, genuinely given, is like sunshine to weary flowers, it lifts the soul
– Each finish line is a new beginning

My Imperfectly Perfect Christmas

the grinchThis is about my imperfectly perfect Christmas and the Gifts it Gave me…. “They didn’t come from a store and these gifts all meant a little bit more!”

– Sheri Joi (Seuss??)

To say this Christmas was all “Joy to the World” and filled with “Christmas Cheer” for me, would be a flat out lie.  In November I was so excited to start this holiday season and anxiously anticipated the “Holly, Jolly” joy of the end of the year celebrations with ALL my favorite people under the same roof for the most magical night of the year…. Then unanticipatedly (I know that’s not a word but that’s what happened) I received some news and I felt like I had been punched in the gut.….. and I began to spiral down, the shadow of “the greatness sadness” began to creep into the valley of my heart…. I can tell when this begins to happen and I have to call a little “time out” for my life.  I know I’m going to need to be extra gentle with myself, very conscious of how I feel and how I’m acting and I’ll really need to take some time to sit down, get centered, be present and then I analyze (because that’s what I do!!!  Analyze and analyze and ANALYZE ….said with a long drawn out drone…..  until it makes sense or I can at least come to peace with it.)  This Christmas season felt anything but “Jolly” and the wave of heartache hit again and again.  The truth is I’ve cried this month…over and over, I’ve hurt and ached from deep in my heart.  I’ve yelled, screamed and said all sorts of swear words as I was driving down the road by myself.  Then in the middle of all that rawness I also discovered that I had the power to sprinkle of my own JOI presence and use my own sparkle to light up the darkness with gratitude…. These are the “presents” you can’t buy in a store….. these are the little tender mercies, filled with grace, that mean a little bit more.

Today,  I sat down and reviewed my magical/tragical (yes, I make up my own words sometimes) month and found those perfectly love wrapped gifts that sparkled like diamonds in a darkened winter sky for me this month and I invite you to do the same…. Whether your Christmas was the delightful Spirited holiday of wonder and awe…. or that not-quite-like-I-dreamed-of-Christmas….. spend some sacred time to find out what the Grinch discovered when he thought of something he hadn’t thought of before…. “Perhaps Christmas doesn’t come in a store – or that perfectly dreamed up fantasy of sugar plums and snowmen coming to life—maybe Christmas means, a little bit more”.  By spending a little time thinking back about some of the little magical moments of your month you may discover you really did have a Merry Christmas and experienced it in other glittering moments but didn’t even realize it.  My hope for you is that you will take a little time to find a fabulous space/place where you can cozy up… snuggle into yourself and embark on an adventure to find those moments this past month or year that meant a little bit more…..here are mine, in no particular order, for the last month.  May you find the imperfectly perfect “presence” of YOUR life.  Cheers!  (The rest of this is going to be long…. And it’s probably mostly for me….. so feel free to read through, skip through, come back to or simply begin your own journaling at this point…. Whichever you choose, from my heart to yours…. Merry EVERYTHING and Happy ALWAYS!)

1* Holiday Party to Raise Money for Sub for Santa.  This is the second year I was able to head up our annual “Seeds of Service” holiday party.  It is an honor to be able to get a sneak peek into the behind the scenes work that goes into this great event.  I was able to witness the volunteers put their heart and soul into their assigned jobs and find donations for the auction, the raffle and the prizes for this event.  I experienced the selfless love of ‘giving’ as my clients, friends and even people I didn’t know graciously opened their hearts and wallets for our “cause”….the children.  I love watching the sparkle in the eyes of all of those donations so that “Santa can come to town” for many of those needing a little gift of love this year.  The party was a success and the magic of the night carried me through some tough days this month.

2* Trust from a friend in need.  I was honored to receive a text from a sweet friend…. A sweet mother , of many children….. it was so hard for her to reach out and ask for some help. (Can you relate?  I can!)  Her husband had been sick and out of work, she had done what she could with her work to make ends meet but the reality of “no Chrismas” under the tree had become a heavy burden her heart was carrying.  I felt so blessed that she felt safe enough to reach out to me and ask for assistance…. I was able to give her such a surprisingly fabulous gift from YOU….from those who made our “Seeds of Service” holiday party a success.  The tears of joy and hug I received when she opened up the envelope I sweetly placed in her hand were gifts you can’t wrap and put under the tree.  These gifts, I get to keep in my heart.

3* Surprise Joy from a childhood friend.  A couple months ago, I heard that one of my childhood friends had run into some misfortune.  She is a single mom of 5 children and has one grandbaby who also lives with her.  I had found out that their house had burned down and they had lost everything.  When I called this sweet woman to see how she was doing she told me “Well, it doesn’t do any good to feel sorry for yourself so I’m just doing what I can to re-build our life right now.” She was positive but I could hear the weariness in her voice.  I remember visiting my friend about 5 years ago when I was in Utah for a short stay.  Her house was very small and with all those kids, they were bursting at the seams.  She is a CNA at a hospital and at the time she worked in the part of the hospital which is where mostly older people come in for their last days if they end up in the hospital.  I could tell when I visited her that her family didn’t have much.  Her husband had left her and was not helping out financially so she put her head to the ground….. worked as hard as she could to support her family as well as planted and harvested a garden to make sure they had enough food to make it through the winter.  I noticed on my visit she had a big bag of “goodies” by her front door.   The big, bag of goodies was filled with crayons, notebooks and other fun “kid” things that she probably found at the dollar store.  When I asked about this goody bag, she told me that when she was working and there was an older person about to cross over….. many times their grandkids would be at the hospital and because of the grief those kids parents felt at losing their own parent, they sometimes didn’t realize the children were a little scared…. So my sweet friend would pull them aside and let them choose something fun from her “goody bag”.  She would continue to check in on the kids to make sure they were not too overwhelmed in the grief of their parents.  WOW!!!  This woman!!!  Imagine my delight when I was able to hand her a fabulous envelope with a gift certificate inside that she could use to help her and her family begin to rebuild a little of what they had lost in their house fire.  Tears of love and joy???  You betcha….. that’s not available for sale on Amazon.

4* Sharing my heartache with my little circle of love.  Quite often I get to circle up with some of the best people on the planet and we share our “wins”, our “joys”, our “disappointments” and our “heartaches”.  We love each other, cheer each other on, we laugh together, we cry together, we look into each others eyes/souls and reassure each other that we truly are “enough” and we will make it through this day, come what may.  We spend only about 90 minutes together but those minutes can never be measured by time as they are infinite moments of eternity….. as I sat there one day this month, quietly listening and soaking up all the love offered by this little circle, the heartache clawing at my heart burst out and I spilled out my hurt with raw vulnerability to this sweet “family” that filled the chairs that day.  I had not intended to spill the flood of tears that was dammed up in my soul but when I let go of the heartache deep inside….. my sweet circle loved me through the discomfort and filled me back up with their encouragement.  One of these sweet angels looked deep into my eyes/heart and soul….. I knew she knew my heartache because she had walked my same path and her heart embraced mine.   We are all one….. what we can not do alone, we can do together.  This precious “diamond in the sky” gift will forever be tucked safely into my heart.

5* Texts, emails and private messages from friends.  Throughout the month…. I received many messages from all different circles of my life.  These messages were filled with love, encouragement and cheerful wishes for me.  Many of these messages included….. “just thought of you and wanted you to know……” Dear friends from all different circles in my life…..Thank you for listening to your angels, your sweet messages lighted my days and nights when the clouds of sadness moved in.  Cost of an inspired thoughtful message???  Priceless…..

6* Miracle of life!   A surprise text, a surprise announcement ….. a new little babe would be arriving 4 ½ weeks early.  I was so honored to be able to hold this sweet little 5 pound miracle just a day after he made his grand entrance into our world.  Thank you to my sweet sister who invited me to be a part of this celebration of birth …. You have no idea how much this sweet little miracle meant to the lifting of my spirits!!!  I love being an auntie, I love getting to meet these sweet babes that make my younger brothers and sisters turn into love-crazed parents.  I was able to visit this cute little family several times this month and each time, though I went to be of service to them….. this gift of life, this miracle of birth and this JOY of family has been a service/blessing/gift to me.

7*Speaking of Auntie.  Each year, from before I could remember…. My sweet Aunt Connie sends ALL of her nieces and nephews a gift for Christmas.  Yes, this is a gift you can buy from a store but what you can not buy….. is the love that is enclosed in that gift.  When you open the card…. You are sure to make a giant mess all over the floor with the sparkles, confetti and fun that she lovingly sprinkles into each card. … and the gift…. She has picked out just for you….. she watches your Facebook, she notices what gives you life as you interact throughout the year…. And guaranteed…. You will receive the perfect gift!!!  This year I received a sweet little book entitled “Life is All About How You Handle Plan B”.  This isn’t just a gift this is my sweet auntie whispering to my heart ….. I “see” you, I “hear” you, and I “love” you.  This is the spirit that is packed into whatever little package arrives on your doorstep from my sweetest Aunt Connie.

8* Hug from a friend.  I was sitting in my office working up some numbers for a client getting ready to buy a house.  A sweet friend dropped by my office and popped in for a visit.  I saw her enter our lobby and she chatted with our cute receptionist for a minute and then immediately came into my office for a hug….. she didn’t know it but I had needed arms wrapped around me that day.  Her simple gesture for my weary heart is one of those sparkly moments I have adorned with a ribbon and sweetly placed among the treasures of my heart.  I received many “needed” hugs this month.  Thank you!   Hugs are best when given away.

9* Leaning in to love my granny.  My granny has been my best friend since I could remember…. She’s truly the greatest and probably not like most grandmas…. For one, we call her granny and she loves it and for two, she knows all my secrets in life…. and still loves me with all of her heart.  She has been living in an assisted living center for several years now and spends most of her days watching her favorite TV shows.  I drop by from time to time to chat about life, death, memories, robbing banks and the perks of getting old and pretending to be senile.  We laugh like we are the same age….. in our hearts and souls we are.  I could tell from one visit that she was feeling a little lonely so I texted my cousin and asked if she would help me throw a party.  Within minutes my cousin had group texted our entire family, made the arrangements for the “party room” at the assisted living facility and the party was set.  I was so excited to see so many of my family that next weekend.  I hadn’t seen some of them for years and I was moved from the top of head to the tips of my toes that they would all take a few hours out of their busy December schedules to join me in letting our granny know just how much she means to each of us.   We took a few pictures and I told everyone to “lean in towards granny” on one of them….. when I posted it to Facebook, someone asked, “Why are you all leaning except for granny?”… I responded by saying, “We were all leaning in to love her”….. my dad replied and told me that was the perfect response…. This sweet little family began with my granny and my sweet grandpa –who is now my angel—It was an honor and a privilege to “lean in” and “love” my granny.

10* Good Neighbors.  You see it on TV shows, those neighbors that are just fun.  They chat in the yard.  They help each other move heavy furniture.  They share their vegetable harvest.  They surprise each other with random acts of kindness.  This year we were so blessed to have these “fun neighbors” move in right next door.   What fun it was this month to be invited over for a game night….. it was the perfect way to wind down after pulling off my annual “Holiday Party”.  Laughing, dancing, singing, eating, playing pool, telling stories and just good fun were all a part of a fabulous evening of just letting go and enjoying new friends.  Then, we were invited over on Christmas Eve to be share their Christmas Eve tradition….. dressed in Christmas Elf attire (the girls of course….) we exchanged delicious treats and toasted to a fabulous year.    Cheers to the neighbors that join in making life FUN!

11* White Christmas.  There is nothing quite like waking up to the world you live in being blanketed in the white, diamond studded, fluffiness of snow.  Although it was an early morning and required a LONG drive to school for the kids…. We (all four of us….kiddos, Trent and myself.) all ventured, slowly, carefully and me with childlike joy out into the winter wonderland.  Throughout the month, I have been able to slow down and just enjoy the beauty of a world wrapped in glittering snow.  I was filled with SONG one evening as I slowly drove past the Murray City Hall and breathed in the enchantment of a giant pine tree, glistening with white lights covered in snow.   “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” filled my soul…. And I was reminded that this attitude was my choice….. what a gift “choice” is to all of us.

12* Lights!  This time of year the days are short and the night sneaks in quicker than you realize.  The dark of night is brought to light with the sparkly celebration of illumination….the lights!   We wanted to spend our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day relaxing and leisurely enjoying each other so instead of running around to visit family on these days…. We invited the family to join us a couple days before for soup, goodies, blowing up gingerbread houses (that’s what you do when you have teenage boys…. You build the firecrackers right into the frosting) and going downtown to see “the lights”.    What a fun tradition it is to see “the lights”…. It takes on new meaning for me each year and I nostalgically recall the years past of visiting “the lights”..…. Much like those “Ghosts of Christmas pasts” and I get to let go of those “ghosts” that no longer serve me…  As I walked among the lights, the people and the traditions downtown… I think I took my sister-in-law quite by surprise as I — an adult-grown woman, skipped up behind her….. grabbed her arm and proceeded to skip among the lights – (notice I said grown…. Not grown up…)  Feeling that childlike “gotta skip” feeling burst out of me, she was the closest person to drag along….. thanks for playing along .….. you may not realize the brief relief and gift this gave my heavy heart.  There isn’t a price tag you can put on that!

13* Sweet 16.  I am a “Mama” to six teenage boys ….. so when my sister asked if I would help with my nieces Sweet 16 birthday party I was more than thrilled!!!!  GIRLS!!  GIRLS!!! GIRLS!!!  We played games, we had a fantastic hot chocolate bar, delicious food, an amazing cake….. uninhibited karaoke and dancing…. And an over the top, feel like a rock star ride to the party in a limo!!!  Now don’t get me wrong, I love my boys with all of my heart and I’m probably a much better “Mama” for boys BUT….. I have always secretly wanted to be able to have a Sweet 16 birthday party for a girl.  Thank you Kiersey and Mikal for letting me be a part of the party.  You made this grown girls dream come true….. the glitter, the sass, the silly girl laughter…. All tucked into the treasures of my heart forever.

14* Glitter Toes.  A few days before Christmas I found out a friend needed a little extra cash to bring some Christmas cheer to her family….. I sent out a text and my heart was once again filled with the “Reason for the Season” as my friends and neighbors showed up to support me in helping a Christmas miracle happen.  My sweet friend spent the day ‘glitterizing’ toes….. she may think this day was for her…. And that is what I thought too when I arranged the day ….. but what happened is I was able to spend some magical moments laughing with dear friends, filling up my heart with their goodness.  Thank you for showing up…. All of you…. for this day was truly about giving to me!

15* Christmas all over the house.  The fact that Christmas decorating, for me, is contained in eleven giant Tupperware bins may give you an indication that I get a little “crazy” with the decorating for the holidays.  This year I was a “crazy” mess….. I carefully took down all the “fall/autumn” décor and began with a clean slate…. So to speak.  I would put up some décor… and then I would sit down and cry…. “why am I even doing this?”  I would ask myself.  Then I would take a little break…. Have some hot chocolate, turn on a little Christmas music and continue to create the perfect holiday scene all over again…. Then again, break down, decide it wasn’t even worth it…. give in to the tears as I joined Faith Hill and asked “Where are you Christmas?  Why can’t I find you?  Why have you gone away?”  I would let the sadness take over for a bit then slowly rally back with the music of The Polar Express reminding me “When Santa’s sleigh bells ring….. the herald angels sing….. and all the dreams of children, –once lost will all be found—that’s all I want when Christmas Comes to Town” and slowly, through tears of sadness, then hope, then heartache and then faith…. The tree was decorated, the stockings were hung, the presents were wrapped, the lights were put up and Christmas came to town…. in our home.   The best “gift” was when I would come home from the office and Trent had run around and plugged in all the lights (and there are a lot of places you have to run around and plug in!)….. I don’t know if he knows it but this said to me…. “thank you for bringing Christmas to our hearts and our home with your decorating…. You make a difference to us!”  Thank you baby….. Best gift ever!!

16* Phone call to my sister.  One of my most favorite titles is “sister”.  I love being a sister and l love having sisters.  I love everything that has to do with my sisters, whoever and however they come into my life.  The past few years, I have been blessed to be able to grow closer and closer to my baby sister.  There is an eighteen year age gap between us but now that we are grown… there is no gap at all.   This month she texted me to see if we would be coming to Montana to visit, I let her know that we were going to be staying home this year and we texted back and forth for a little bit.  A couple days later she called to see how I was doing….. I spent an hour with her…. Venting, crying…. Then laughing and listening to her express her love.  Thank you sister for witnessing my heartache…. She called just as I received a hurtful message….. she was a sweet angel that softened the blow and let me know I was not alone.  All of my sisters….. **ALL OF THEM**….. are priceless gifts to me, they are the angels among us.  “They come to you and me in our darkest hour.  To show us how to live, to teach us how to give, to guide us with a light of love.”  My sisters are my gifts in life… every day!

17* Surprising someone.  I spent this month in an online workshop with one of my favorite mentors, Brendon Burchard.  One of the activities he asked us to do was wake up each morning and after we had stepped into the feeling of gratitude by counting our blessings we were to think about someone we could surprise each day.  I loved this idea and I accepted the challenge.  It really did make a shift in my mood to be thinking of how I could “surprise someone”…. A text, a message, a small gift, a thank you note, a random act of kindness…. Out of the blue and for no reason except to surprise someone.  I loved this feeling and it would help counter the other feelings I was experiencing this year.   One day…. As I lay in my bed missing my boys who live in Portland…. I thought, if I was there in Portland, what would I do to surprise them….. I thought of all the different ways I had surprised them in the past and loved the trip down memory lane….. I thought how fun it would be to surprise them again……. THEN I had a HUGE “A-ha” moment…. I have boys HERE that I love…. And that day, before I went in to the office I dropped off a couple dozen donuts to Les Schwab where my oldest son works his butt off.  His smile was all I needed….. that night he came home, wrapped his arms around me and kissed me on the cheek.  “Thanks for the donuts, Mama…..” was the greatest gift he could give me this year.   Surprising someone else turned out to surprise me.

18*Christmas Movie Tradition.  This year on Christmas Eve…. We all snuggled up and turned on “Buddy the Elf”.  Several times during the movie I would just look around at the wonderful people that shared the couch with me on this magical evening.   I recognized each of their faces and their hearts.  I know them well and I simply adore each and every one of them.  This was a Christmas wish I had wanted my whole life…. and though there were a few little faces missing…. I could reach out to them with my heart and they would also know just how much I love them.  This is my Christmas miracle.

19*Christmas Phone Calls.  I was snuggled up on the couch, watching everyone enjoy their new treasures on Christmas Day.  They were all chatting about what they were going to do with this and how they were going to use that.  It truly is one of my favorite things to watch brothers interact with each other….. they fight, they tease,  they laugh, they encourage and they dream together.   I was watching all of this play out when my phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “Merry Christmas, Mama” and the other “brothers” of our family….. joined us….. if only via telephone, for Christmas.  **Tears… my heart was filled.***

20* Random gifts of presence.  It wasn’t a secret that this Christmas was a swing between joy and sadness for me all month long.  Trent’s love was the greatest gift I could have ever hoped for this year.  He would watch me…. He would randomly stop whatever he was doing and come over, bend down and kiss my cheek.  His hugs were extra tight and extra long.  He refilled my water throughout the day, when I worked from home on those snow filled days.  He helped longer and harder behind the scenes for my holiday party then anyone else because he knew it meant so much to me.  He entertained the kids with Bigfoot stories at my get together for my Granny so the adults could visit.  He took the kiddos out of the house for a little bit so I could enjoy my friends during our ‘glitter toe’ party.  He went along with all the Christmas adventures I wanted to do. He shopped with me….. even endured Christmas music while the house was turned upside down with my Christmas decorating…… and on Christmas day, as the excitement of presents, dinner and fun had faded and the kiddos had all retreated to their own space to play with their new treasures….. he found me sitting on the couch, playing a little electronic game I had bought for the boys….. and asked if he could play with me.  I know it wasn’t about the game….. he felt my heart aching and he wrapped me up in his love… and we played Scrabble Twist together.   His gift of presence is given to me over and over….. sometimes I forget and take it for granted but this year, that moment of time will be the memory I will take with me…. That memory trumps all the hurt I have felt this year…. That is what I will remember about Christmas 2015.

21,22, 23, 24, 25…..****and so many more*****

If you are still with me…. Wow…. That was a long one, thanks for spending some “time” with me this Christmas.  These are twenty of the gifts wrapped up sweetly and tucked lovingly into my heart, given to me by the love that surrounds me.  I hope everyone can find a few sparkles of joy and happiness that aren’t able to fit in a box or left under the tree this year….. and if your Christmas was one of those years where it just didn’t feel “perfect” because maybe someone you love wasn’t here to spend those magical moments with you…. please know I get it, and I  love you because I  was having an imperfectly perfect holiday as well….BUT……  It’s not about it being “perfect” …. It’s about making the most and best of each experience we get to have here in this life.  It’s about finding those simple, sweet and tender moments that twinkle with the love that’s in our hearts.  I really hope you will sit down and think about a few of the gifts you received this month….. the ones that didn’t come from a store, the ones that meant a little bit more!!!!

Remember to SHARE ….this may be the ‘gift’ someone is waiting for this year.