Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Books I Read in 2016

A year ago, I set a goal of reading 45 books.
I ended up reading 33.

But I'm not too upset about it. A year ago, I had no idea that we would be moving to Denver and I would be going to graduate school. So I would like to plead "grad school" as my excuse. It's not that I haven't been reading. I just haven't been reading as many books.

Out of curiosity, I added up all of the pages of reading I've done in my first quarter of grad school and it came to 1,671 pages. I divided that by a 300-page average per book and I would like to generously increase by book total by 5.57.

(Can you see the week that our world kind of fell apart? That's when I declared bankruptcy But most definitely on reading.)

So I'm going to say my new total is more like 38.57!

Here are the books I read in the past year:

The Poisonwood Bible
by Barbara Kingsolver

Jayber Crow
by Wendell Berry

Daring Greatly
by Brene Brown

Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry

by Nayyirrah Waheed

Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps
by Kelly Williams Brown

Red, Hot, and Holy
by Sera Beak

Little Bee
by Chris Cleave

by Kent Haruf

The Sparrow
by Mary Doria Russell

The Testing
by Joelle Charbonneau

Independent Study
by Joelle Charbonneau

Graduation Day
by Joelle Charbonneau

The Art of Asking; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help
by Amanda Palmer

Millones Cahones
by Rob Bell

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert

Lord of the Flies
by William Golding

The Alchemist
by Paolo Coelho

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir
by Jenny Lawson

by Emma Donaghue

Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O'Dell

The Bean Trees
by Barbara Kingsolver

100 Cupboards
by N.D. Wilson

Dandelion Fire
by N.D. Wilson

How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living
by Rob Bell

The Chestnut King
by N.D. Wilson

Rising Strong
by Brene Brown

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
by John Tiffany

The Guide to Getting it On
by Paul Joannides

by Sarai Walker

Love Warrior
by Glennon Doyle Melton

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and The Collision of Two Cultures
by Anne Fadiman

Men Explain Things to Me
by Rebecca Solnit

My three favorite runner-ups this year were fiction and non-fiction books.

Little Bee (by Chris Cleave
     It's a tremendously heart-breaking story about a Nigerian refugee who lands in Britain and is reunited with a woman who never wanted to see her again. But in a way, they heal eachother. This book left me in tears. But good tears.

The Art of Asking; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help (by Amanda Palmer)
     When multiple people tell me to read a book, I take it as a cue from the Universe. And this cue was spot-on. Amanda Palmer is not someone I'd be great friends with. But she is someone I will continue to watch and admire from a distance for her basic not-giving-a-damn-ness. She plays music I don't love. She lives a life I do not envy. But she tells a story that left me curious and wanting more about how to live a life that is less hampered by the opinions of others.

Love Warrior (by Glennon Doyle Melton)
     Glennon is a favorite. I got to see her speak back in October. She's a person I would be friends with in real life. She's a wonderful, no-nonsense story teller and a fierce lover of all. This book tells the story of her husband's infidelity and their path back to each other. But not in the "be a good Christian woman" way. In the "this broke me wide open and I'm choosing to find my own way back to you." Beautiful.

For the sake of the retribution-seeking season I am in, I'd say my favorite book in 2016 was...Dietland by Sarai Walker.

This is a laugh-out loud, powerful story about women taking vengeance into their own hands. In this story a pack of women-vigilantes castrate deserving men on the "Penis Black List" and drop rapists out of planes. Without parachutes. To say it's "gratifying" sounds...harsh. But it's gratifying.

At one point in the story, this world-wide, lady-led retribution is freaking people out and two, women talk show hosts discuss whether this is actually "terrorism":

“I think it's a response to terrorism. From the time we're little girls, we're taught to fear the bad man who might get us. We're terrified of being raped, abused, even killed by the bad man, but the problem is, you can't tell the good ones from the bad ones, so you have to wary of them all. We're told not to go out by ourselves late at night, not to dress a certain way, not to talk to male strangers, not to lead men on. We take self-defense classes, keep our doors locked, carry pepper spray and rape whistles. The fear of men is ingrained in us from girlhood. Isn't that a form of terrorism?”

Read it for every woman paralyzed at the hands of an abuser.
Read it for every woman/girl who has been molested, assaulted, and raped.
Read it for every women completely played by the diet and plastic surgery industry.
Read it for every time you've felt the leering eyes of a male stranger and felt completely helpless. Read it for every woman subjected to a patriarchal society that wants us to play small
(which is all of us).

Just read it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Stubborn Hope for the New Year

It has been a year.

It has been a long, sweaty, hard-fought race. Through the desert. The sun beating the sweat right out of our skin. Dripping from our faces to our toes. Kicking up the red, dry dust that attaches to our wet and weary limbs. Leaving us covered in a thin layer of crusty mud. A little more brown. Stained. Exhausted. Weary.

This is the year that two marriages burned to the ground.
This is the year that a marriage I emulated and longed for fell apart.
This is the year that I was fooled. Hard. By people I trusted.
This is the year that the best friend I thought I would grow old with became unrecognizable to me over night.
This is the year that a very much wanted baby was not born.
This is the year that a very much wanted baby was born. Too soon. So soon. So small. And fighting for her life.
This is the year that I did a double-triple-quadruple-take as the country I thought I knew voted into power a man I absolutely fear.
This is the year that I watched an election transpire and cause hate crimes to break out across the country. And then people were surprised. And I don't why they were surprised.
This is the year that I was re-acquainted with PTSD and its power and its grip.
This is the year where I've felt such hopelessness that I just want to hibernate until spring.

It has been a year.

And many of us are stumbling toward the finish line with weak and fatigued muscles that ache down to the bone. That long for a place in the cool shade. For just a sip of water. For just an ounce of relief.

The day after the election, a mentor and friend emailed me and we grieved a bit together. As we grasped at straws, seeking any kind of relief, he advised:

"Eat good food and good drink and listen to good music and take in good art with good people. It's the only antidote right now."

I know, he's right.
Because often, the only relief in times like this is a reminder of the "good."

And so I've been distracting a lot lately with "good" in any form.
The "healthy" kind of numbing, as my counselor says.
Television shows.
And movies.
And trashy magazines.
And walks.
And runs.
And dancing.
And cooking.
And eating.
And moving.
And being with family.
And seeking out friends.
And laughing--when I can bear it.
And giving myself permission to get nothing done.
Which is frustrating.
But expected.

Because this race has left me weary. I'm crawling here. And when I look around me, many of us are.

It would be naive of me to think that simply crossing the "finish line" on December 31st would truly mean an end to the horrors of 2016. Because Sunday morning will come and many of the same things will still be true. This isn't a race of distance. It's a race in a loop. On a track. It's familiar territory that we tread year-after-year. And we pass familiar landmarks, but it's the same track--the same world. And we just start the circle again. But this hope that somehow the flipping over of our calendars will bring some kind of relief is all I have to hold onto.

And so I will.

I will have hope that next year will bring peace and healing for my sister.
I will have hope that next year will bring comfort to my family.
I will have hope that next year will mean some sense of financial peace.
I will have hope that next year will bring some unity to America.
(if only, unity in the fight)
I will have a stubborn--even nonsensical--hope that 2017 will be brighter than 2016.

Because I must.
Because we must.


Friday, November 4, 2016


Today is my birthday.
And I think this is the first time in my life that I've felt exactly the age that I am.

And while I might not have felt that way a week ago and I might not feel that way a year from now, it's true today. I feel every minute of those twenty-nine years ruminating inside of me. Because this week was heart-breaking in so many ways that have almost nothing to do with me and everything to do with people I love who are suffering.

And watching that pain has made me even more cruelly aware of this life.
This thing.
This space we borrow in the world.
That is ours today.
And gone tomorrow.

We are all temporary vagrants in this world, but we walk around like we own the place.
Like we know anything at all.
Like we can guarantee that the truths we held true today will still hold true tomorrow.
They might not.
And that's the transience of this life.
And the knowledge of that makes me feel exactly the age that I am.
Like I know too much about the weight of this thing.

And yet, I am hopeful.
Because I must be. 
Because if I can carry anything right now for anyone, it's hope.
And not a single, other thing.

In my 28th year...
1. What brought me joy?
Having a safe place to land with my parents after returning from Korea.
Living on Grandpa's farm.
Being nearer to family and friends that we love.
Celebrating four years of marriage.
Working as a barista.
Starting graduate school.

2. What are some of my favorite memories?
Walking with Jeremy (and the dogs) through snowy fields on the farm.
Getting a tattoo with my friend, Kylie.
Snowmobiling with South African friends in Silverthorne, CO.
My cousin, Destaney's, high school graduation with family.
Seeing Macklemore in concert.
Lake Mcconaughey camping trip and little Scarlett learning the work "turkey".
Celebrating Harry Potter's birthday with dear friends in Nebraska.

3. What did I learn?
World travel is sexy. And being home for Christmas is everything.
My parents are two of the most kind and patient people in the world.
Adult children really shouldn't live at home.
I wish I had listened to my grandparents stories more before they were gone.
The scary things are the most important things.
PTSD is real and has no expiration date.

4. What I did that I said I'd do?
-I did spend less time on social media and feel really good about the boundaries I'm continuing to establish around what my little-heart can truly handle.
-I did not read 40 books. Because graduate school.
-I did not take guitar lessons. And I understand why. I might let this one go.
-I did try Crossfit and really loved it! I loved the challenge. I loved the healthy competition. I may add some of this to my repertoire.
-I did continue my journey towards contentment. Always.

5. How about next year?
I just want to make it through my first year in grad school.
I hope Jeremy and I can just continue to lean-in to each other.
It'd be nice if we made a few friends in the area.
It'd be nice to find some Ultimate Frisbee.
I want to run a race or two. Maybe one of those fun color/bubble/mud ones!
Hike another fourteener.
Get outside.

This is what twenty-nine looks like.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why I'm Unfollowing Everyone I Disagree with on Facebook

Recently, an old friend of mine posted an article on Facebook entitled: "The Real Reasons Why Women Shouldn't Serve in Combat Positions." And I thought for sure it was satire. Or a throwback to an article from the 1920s. But it wasn't. It was a real person writing their modern-day opinions about how women will just never measure up to men. Let's just say, it wasn't a thoughtful piece. All of the blanket statements left me sweltering under the weight of it all.

And it changed the way I view that person.

In the past few years on Facebook, I've witnessed:

-a youth pastor from my childhood posting dehumanizing (a.k.a. sexist) caricatures of Hillary Clinton's face imposed on the body of a roasted chicken with the caption, "Two fat thighs, two small breasts, and a bucket of left wings!"

-my old elementary school teacher arguing about "the gays" and where they belong these days

-a childhood friend demanding that Obama "fess-up" to being a Muslim

-a family friend writing about how "Black Lives Matter" is a terrorist group

and an endless list of other opinions posted online for all to read.

And while it's probably no surprise that I find a lot of these positions to be sexist, dehumanizing, racist, and flat-out lies, I'm not oblivious that some people find my positions to be equally bizarre.  It all depends on where you're standing. None of us are entirely right or entirely wrong.
I wonder if we're just entirely too connected.

Because ten years ago, I didn't know the political affiliations of my volleyball coach.
And my pastor. And the woman who cuts my hair.
And I didn't need to. Because it didn't matter.
What mattered was knowing each other and sharing stories and learning from each other.

At it's best, knowing where we stand politically just enhances our understanding of each other. Having friends and family with various points-of-view is important and necessary and it makes it harder to make generalizations about "Republicans" and "Democrats" when you actually know some of each. But, I would argue, knowing everyone's opinions is only truly valuable, when you can sit down and have a conversation and respectfully listen to each other.

Except that now, we have this thing called the Facebook And we've tried to move some of these conversation to this new platform. So it's a place where people you know regularly say things that you kind of wish you'd never known. Not because you are intolerant to each other's views, but because, when limited to a sound bite, it's harder to have a good or healthy conversation.

Because there's no ground rules.
Because each "conversation" may take hours
(instead of what might've taken ten minutes in person).
And you spend hours of your life waiting for that person to comment.
And even when you're doing the dishes, you're thinking about what witty comment you'll make next.
And maybe that person doesn't respond at all. Ever.
So you're left with that person's angry, racist cousin from Connecticut who dropped in on the conversation.
But you don't even know them.
You never even wanted to talk to them.
And that's about as good as it gets sometimes.
Especially around areas for which we care. Deeply.

Election season, anyone?

I'm pretty sure that we are all going to vote the way we are going to vote. And no amount of FB posts about how Donald Trump scares me or how I'm worried that we are letting fear win or how it baffles me that a sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, bully could be our next president keeps me up at night, would change anyone's vote.

So do I plaster FB with my opinion?
Or do I have conversations with people in real life?
I think we know that one would be more effective, but we also know one requires more courage.

Ten years ago, what I knew about the people in my life, was what they demonstrated to me in-person. I think that's okay. Because in the words of most of our grandparents, 
"There are three things you're not 
supposed to discuss in polite company: 
religion, politics, and money."

Does "polite company" extend to our online world?
Can it? I'm not sure.
Because we're all just trying to figure this out.
I don't think we're benefiting by watching each other grow-up on the Internet.

As Sherry Turkle, a tech writers, says, "Just because we've grown up with the Internet, doesn't mean the Internet is grown-up." We are just adolescents in this big digital world. We are all learning day-by-day how to be together online. And if Internet trolls and Donald Trump's Twitter feed tell me anything, it's that we are all just trying to figure this out as we go. Some better than others.

So because we don't have ground rules for the Internet, I'm making some for myself. 

Over the past six months, I've been quietly Unfollowing a lot of people that I disagree with on Facebook. Not Unfriending. Not refusing to read all opinions that differ from mine. Just unfollowing the most hateful. The most unhelpful. Unfollowing the folks who can't let a picture of President Obama playing with his dog pass by their News Feed without saying something about "that African Muslim we've got in the White House."

I just can't.
I just won't.
My heart can't carry all of this.
I'm not sure it was ever meant to.

I imagine some might say, "But if you hide everyone on FB that you disagree with, how will you encounter new ideas that stretch and grow your mind to consider opinions you don't like?"

And to that I would say, "The same way we did ten years ago before Facebook. In real life."

And in real life, we are pretty civil. And kind. And we don't blurt out, "#ALLlivesmatter!" in line at the grocery store. Or walking our dogs at the park. Because that's weird. And unnecessary.

And so, I'm not deleting my Facebook.
I'm not disappearing from all social media.
But I am setting some ground rules for myself and my sanity.
Because I want to engage with the world from a place of hope and abundance, not fear and scarcity.
And I see that all around in me in real life.
And less often online.
And so...

I'm checking FB once a week.
The only FB notifications I get in my email inbox are for Personal Messages.
I'm getting my News on Twitter.
And I'm not following anyone I know who may be posting on Twitter.
But I'm following a wide variety of thinkers on-line.
I'm listening to Black Lives Matter.
I'm listening to Blue Lives Matter.
I'm lending my ear to Hillary Clinton.
And even The Donald.

Because I value a wide variety of opinions.
And I'd rather give my full attention and respect to people I love in-person.
Not just bicker with them online.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Finding Peace in the Upside Down

A month ago, we moved to Denver so that I could start graduate school for social work. Tangibly, it was a pretty easy move, we drove an hour away and unloaded our truck and trailer. But emotionally, it was twice as difficult as packing two bags and moving to Korea.

Which is weird. But true.

Because this move cost more.
This move held more.
This move meant more.
This move played a pivotal role in my future career.

But beyond all that, within hours of carrying in the last box and closing the door, I was having flashbacks, nightmares, and panic attacks. I felt anxious. Scared. Absolutely sure that this was the wrong decision. And all my sweet husband could do is hold me while I cried and gasped for breath.

The next few days, I sat on the couch in a daze. I couldn't unpack a single box. I couldn't fathom having the strength to start grad school the next week. I couldn't understand what was happening or why I was so scared. Something about living in a city. Something about the absence of locks on the windows. Something about the rickety bolt on the door. Something about strangers walking past my window. My stomach was in knots and I couldn't eat. We took one, panicked car ride to Walgreens to buy a pregnancy test because we thought I might be pregnant. Not now. Thank goodness. I stood in the aisle of a hardware store in a teary stupor as Jeremy bought extra locks for our apartment. To be clear, I was a mess.

But laying in early-morning sleeplessness one day, feeling my tummy rise and fall, trying with all of my strength to be calm, I realized:
This feeling. 
This anxiety. 
This is how I woke up 
That I lived in Cambodia.


I haven't felt that feeling in nine years.
But I recognized it immediately.

When I was nineteen years-old, I moved to Cambodia for a year to volunteer as an English teacher. Taking that flight began the hardest, most traumatic year of my life. The country itself is a heavy place with a heavy past and I brought a lot of my own pain. The combination was almost unbearable. And honestly, laying in bed a month ago re-feeling for the first time that dull ache that makes you want to squirm and scream and run away under the weight of it all even though there's no immediate threat in front of you? That ache broke my heart. Because, in that moment, I would have given anything to be rid of that unbearable anxiety. And nine years ago, I lived with that constant ache every day.

In the last month, having been reminded how awful and hopeless that feeling was, I cannot tell you how I made it through my year in Cambodia. I have a renewed compassion for that girl who felt like she didn't have options. Like she couldn't just come home. But I'm not nineteen anymore.
It's not 2007.
It's 2016.
This time I get to make different choices.

I reached out to friends and family.
I called a counselor-friend for referrals.
I made an appointment with an EMDR (re: trauma) counselor.
I didn't pretend everything was okay.
I didn't try to do a whole lot.
I just sat and slept. Sat and slept.
I made Jeremy promise that if I wasn't better in one month, I was allowed to quit grad school.
I made Jeremy promise that if I didn't feel safe in our apartment in one month, we could break our lease and find somewhere else to live.
(He's a real trooper, that guy)

What I'm learning is that past trauma buries itself in our brains so that we can cope and move on with life. And I have moved on. I don't have a long history of anxiety and panic attacks. But this recent move and the feelings of exposure triggered my brain to believe that what happened in Cambodia was happening RIGHT NOW. That's what PTSD is. It feels like reliving a horrible nightmare and no matter how many times people say, "But that's not happening now. You're safe" you are living n a state of fight/flight/freeze.

To me, it feels like being Will in the TV show Stranger Things.

He's fighting for his life from a scary monster in the Upside Down, but on some level he knows he's in a familiar place where he can walk in his own house, but it's not his house. He can hear the voice of his mother, but she's just out of reach. You're here, but you're not here. And you feel like a crazy person trying to describe it to anybody else.

The mind is a fascinating--if not, at times, terrifying--place.

I keep seeing the face of that boy in Cambodia.
Around the corner.
In my dreams.
I can hear him laughing.
I can remember exactly how it felt it be taunted alone in the dark.
And to some degree, I will never forget that.
But EMDR therapy is helping me to sleep through the night.
To eat food.
To unpack our apartment.
To re-direct my thinking.
To name--out loud--real things that I see/fee/smell/taste/hear.
To keep living.

Since then, I have started my graduate school classes, an internship, and a new job. I have met 50+ new people and forgotten nearly all of their names. This content and these conversations are fascinating to me. I'm excited to be joining a field of work that acknowledges pain, validates people's experiences, and leads them to health and healing.

A month ago, I was looking for a way out.
Today, I'm feeling hopeful that this is exactly where I am meant to be.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Thoughts on the Opposite of Fear

It's safe to say that the graduate school acceptance letter I got in April hit me like ton of bricks.

Which is weird, because that's usually what we say about bad things.
Yeah, Heather. "Tons of bricks" are for bad things. 
This is not a bad thing.
Get your shit together.
(that's been my broken record the past three months)

Which is probably why I haven't been writing much lately. I mean, what would I have to say?
"Yup, still scared.
Yup, still unsure how we're going to pay for this.
Yup, still feeling conflicted about this great opportunity and this incredible fear."

And again.
And again.

And that's not really an interesting read, so I've kept these things to myself. Well, myself and anyone who would listen. And I mean anyone, including--but not limited to--the nice guy who pulled up to the drive-through window where I make coffee and asked innocently enough, "How ya doing?" on a particularly rough day.

(Oh, he went there...)

But every day, in spite of my fear, I've been applying for loans.
Answering university emails.
Signing the lease for our apartment.
Interviewing for my internship.
Registering for classes.
Interviewing for my on-campus job.
Packing and re-packing our lives into boxes.
Because these are the steps I can handle.

But with one month left to go, I'm running out of steps. And I feel like I'm about to walk off a cliff. A very expensive cliff. And everyone's just cheering me on like it's the best thing ever. And I love them for it, but I legitimately do not know how to feel.

Because through their cheers and encouragement, all I want to say is:
"Yeah, but...what if we run out of money?"
"Yeah, but...what if this is the wrong master's program?"
"Yeah, but...what if it's all just too much?"
"Yeah, but...what if?"

And while, "Yeah, but...what if?" is a valid question, it's certainly not a very interesting one.

It's a defensive one.
It's a way of giving myself a soft landing in case I take this leap and it all falls apart.
And the answer to nearly every one of those "Yeah, but...what if?" questions is:
Well, then, you'll figure it out like you always do. 
Which isn't satisfying, but it's true.

It's true, because I cried when my parents left me at Union college and drove away. And it turned out to be some of the best years of my life thus far.

It's true, because every instinct told me not to go to Cambodia. And then, I did. And it was awful and hard. But it was also important and meaningful.

It's true, because I was sure I'd never make it through my student teaching. And then, I did.

It's true, because I had all kinds of worries about marriage, and now we're four years in and I've never been so loved so well.

It's true, because the panic attacks I had upon landing in Korea were not evidence that it was a big mistake, but evidence that it was just big.

The brave things are the hard things. And you can't get there without at least an ounce of fear. Fear isn't a signal that what we're doing is wrong. Fear is a signal that what we're doing is new and big and important.

And as Brene Brown says:
(found this while I was packing boxes today)

In yoga class this week, the instructor asked us to make an "I am..." statement about something we want to manifest more of in our lives. In my mind, I knew I was tired of being fearful, but I could not--for the life of me--figure out the word that meant the opposite of fear.
I am hope?
I am courage?
I am not fearful?

Like any good millennial, I Googled it and found that some antonyms for "fear" are:

But I wonder if a valid opposite to fear might also be acceptance.

Because, in many ways, fear is a resistance to what is happening or what is about to happen. And--my God--if I've been anything the past three months, it's resistant.

And I've fought a good fight.
I've come up with all kinds of reasons why this is a bad idea.
Why I simply cannot succeed.

But acceptance would be a radical approach I just haven't tried yet.
Acceptance would be saying:
Yeah, it will be hard.
Yeah, we might run out of money.
Yeah, it's a risk.
And we'll figure it out when (and if) we need to figure it out.

I can accept this.
I can be open to this.
Even though I'm scared.
I am still brave.

I am still brave.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Four Year Anniversary

Jeremy and I have been married for four years.
Four years. 

And the person I'm married to now is not the same person I married back then.
And I'm not the same person either.
And it's a beautiful thing because time changes us.
Even just a few years.

But there are some things that haven't changed.
Like the things I love about him.
That list has only gotten longer.

I love how he's real quiet in the mornings, because I'm always the one who sleeps later.

I love how when I wake up he crawls back in bed to "snuggle me awake."

I love how he looks into my eyes as if I'm the most beautiful messy-haired, retainer-mouthed, bad-breathed girl he's ever had the pleasure of loving.

I love how he puts toothpaste on my toothbrush. For no good reason, really. Just cause.

I love how he calls me "Bo-nicorn" and "Bo-dacious" and "Bo-tiful" and "Bo-ness" and "Bo-diddly."

I love that he helps me make the bed.
And load the dishwasher.
And do the laundry.

I love how patient he is when I forget to check the oil on the car. For months.

I love how he brags about what a good cook I am.

I love how he lets me feel how I'm feeling. Even when it's grumpy. Or sad.

I love how he texts me mid-day, just to say "hi."

I love how he's always excited to see me when I get home.

I love that he doesn't rely on man cards and stereotypes to tell him who he needs to be.

I love that he holds me when I cry.

I love that he listens to me instead of trying to "fix" me.

I love that he's handy and capable of so many things with repairs and cars and tools and stuff.

I love how he warms up my side of the bed before I get in.

I love how he holds me as I fall asleep.

I love how he kisses me on the forehead as my mind wanders into dreams.

There's no one else I'd rather be doing life with than him.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

On Leaning Into Joy

Two weeks ago, I applied to my #1 top-choice for grad school. And Thursday night, a letter came in the mail. Jeremy got this child-like grin on his face and said, "Open it, open it!" But I just shook my head and said, "Sweetie, there's no way" as I slowly opened the envelope.

Inside it said:
"Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have been approved for enrollment in 2016 as a foundation year Master of Social Work student."

And I looked up at Jeremy and said flatly, "This is a terrible joke."

His smile faded. He looked at me questioningly.

I told him, "This can't be. This isn't real."

He peered at me with curiosity.

I insisted, "There must be some mistake."

Because I applied four months past the application deadline.
Because I filed my FAFSA two weeks late.
Because this was a "practice" application just because Carole wanted me to.
Because I was planning to apply for several years before I got accepted.
Because I'm certainly not qualified.
Because I'm not deserving.

For the past three days, I've been telling people that I don't know how to feel about it. Because I don't. Everyone is excited except for me. I'm surprised and shocked that this actually happened, but not necessarily excited.

And I realize now with an ounce of clarity, that I don't want to admit to excitement, because part of me doesn't believe this good thing can be good. I've been cautiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. I've been withholding the joy that I feel at having been accepted, for the chance that maybe this won't work out. That maybe something will happen that will prove my own self-doubt, like I can say, "See, I told you I wasn't good enough." Which is a TERRIBLE way to live.

And this is what Brene Brown calls foreboding joy: "If you ask me what's the most terrifying, difficult emotion we feel as humans, I would say joy." Because often the more you have of something, the more you fear it may all be taken away. She writes, "What we do in moments of joyfulness is we try to beat vulnerability to the punch."

Written. Like. A. Boss.

That's precisely what I've been doing.

I've worn this foreboding joy like armor. I've downplayed this good news to protect myself. But the problem with armor is that it keeps out vulnerability, but it also keeps out joy and love and kindness and gratitude and all the other positive things can make our lives better. We feel it all or we feel nothing. You can't have it both ways.

I've been treating joy like a bank account with limited funds. There's not enough to go around. Once you're out of joy, you're out joy. I've been clutching this piggy bank tightly to my chest in an attempt to make this less scary. But joy is a renewable resource. There's always more to go around, especially when you practice gratitude.

Ahhh, gratitude. 

I'm grateful because...
-I've been accepted to grad school
-I was given a $30,000 scholarship
-My hard work has paid off
-My husband--bless his heart--has whispered in my ear more times than I can count: "You've been approved. They want you."
-When I told Carole about my doubts, she said, "Honey, if you don't feel worthy even after being accepted to grad school, then I have to say that all that time and money you spent in therapy was wasted on you." God, I love her.
-I have a job
-We have some money in the bank
-My parents let us live with them, saving us a ton of money the past six months
-We are young and healthy and capable
-We can do this
-I have been approved
-I am wanted

I can lean into joy. Daily. By taking stock of all that is well. And letting that be enough.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

On Being Hope-full

Rob Bell defines despair as "expecting that today will be like the next day and the next day and the next day."

The idea that everyday will be the same.
Nothing special.
Nothing to look forward to.

I've understood that definition of despair lately (ever since we landed back in the States). Feeling that certainly our fun and games are over. We did the exciting things and now we need to buckle down and do the "adult" things. After all, my peers are getting promotions, buying houses and having kids. And I'm working as a barista and living with my parents. This is not what I had in mind, but this is what's happening. And that idea of being a "grown-up" is one of the most depressing things I've ever thought about. Because it comes fully-loaded with the expectation that there will be "no more fun." I mean, no one uses "grown-up" as a compliment or a life goal. It's always a reprimand.

But on a good day, I know
This is not my forever story.
This is my for now story.

So that's why the idea of social work grad school got me excited. Something fairly "adult" to do, but also something that made me happy to be doing something. And then, I started the application process and that faint light of hope felt like it was covered by a heavy blanket: career goals statement, transcripts, academic and professional references, resumes, and lest we forget, the hefty financial burden.

In March, after visiting a Denver grad school, by some work of magic I was put in touch with Carole. She is a 70-something-year-old "retired" social worker who has been all around the world and simply has no time for self-doubt or indecision. Within 5 minutes of our first phone call, she asked why I hadn't applied yet and I told her I felt like maybe I was too old to be starting grad school. She laughed at me for an uncomfortably long time. "Honey," she chuckled, "I got my PhD at 56. It's never too late for anything!"

After that phone conversation, I wrote on my bathroom mirror:

You survived Cambodia.
You survived anorexia and bulimia.
You have not earned the right to feel hopeless.
You are hope-full."

Since then, Carole and I have met a few times and talked social work, religion, politics, and applying to grad school. This is the woman who in a short period of time talked me into applying to my #1 choice school after I had missed the deadline by four months. She's persuasive that one. "All they can do is say 'no' right?" Carole...

I finished my application on Sunday.

I'm reminding myself a lot more lately that I am hope-full.
Filled to the brim with reasons to hope.
With reasons to feel confident.
Because, frankly, Carole thinks I'm the bomb! She talks to me like I am special. Like I am so different from the other several hundred students she has mentored in her lifetime. Like in a way that makes me uncomfortable. So I told her last week, "I'm worried what all this praise is doing to my ego.."

She cocked her head and furrowed her brows as if she was encountering a foreign odor: "How could I possibly do that? You've got enough self-doubt for the both of us. Enough of that nonsense," she chided.

Everyone should be so lucky to have a Carole.
I certainly am.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How To Be Here

There's a song by one of my throwback singer/songwriter favs, Sara Groves, that goes a little something like this:

"I've been painting pictures of Egypt
and leaving out all it lacks
the future feels so hard
and I wanna go back
but the places that used to fit me
will never hold the things I've learned
those roads were closed off to me
while my back was turned."

Oh, gee golly, I'll just let her sing it to you...

And I've been thinking a lot about this song lately.

About the things that I've been holding onto.
About the things I've been glamorizing about the past.
About the things that are keeping me from moving forward.
And now.

We spent two years in Korea. And they were good years, but also hard years. Not everything was perfect or rosy or comfortable. Homesickness is a thing that only magnifies when you're 12 time zones away from your own zipcode. And we've been back in the States for six months now.
And there's this startling phenomenon I've noticed:
from this vantage point, I tend to focus on the 
best of past moments 
the worst of the present moment. 


Lately, Korea has been nothing but exciting cultural lessons.
Great food.
Wonderful travel.
And fun times playing Ultimate Frisbee with people from all over the world.

But I know--because I wrote about it for the past two years--Korea was kinda lonely.
And hard.
And at times isolating.
And confusing.
And frankly, I didn't love most of the food.
And we didn't travel, like, every weekend.
We went to work.
We paid our bills.
And I woke up most mornings thinking about home.
Wishing I were somewhere else.

About a month ago, Jeremy and I had the awesome opportunity to be part of a small, day-long workshop of sorts with Rob Bell. He's that guy that wrote that book that asked a lot of interesting questions that made a lot of evangelicals cranky. And as a result he gained a whole following of interesting and curious people who find themselves somewhere in-between the super-religious church-going world and truth-seeking atheists. The work he's doing lately completely fascinates me. So, I didn't want to miss this opportunity to sit with about 100 other people and listen and ask questions.

Rob presented on his most recent book, called How To Be Here. And if there was a more fitting message I needed to hear at THIS moment in our lives, I haven't found it. I took four pages of notes.

He talks about how our lives are like that blinking line at the beginning of a Word document.
It's either pushing us to do something awesome.
Or scaring us into doing nothing at all.
But it's always there blinking.
Reminding us that life is happening with or without us.

And the most interesting people are those that are doing the work that's in front of them whether that's  selling insurance or driving for Uber. They make it their craft. As much as we like to think that only "lucky folks" get to do the work they love, we fail to realize what there is to love about this moment. This job. This place in time. And so we long for some other place because only then will we be happy. Only then will we be fulfilled. And then, we hope and hope and one day, we die. Never having been happy with a life that was always right. in. front. of. us.

He talks about cultivating a grateful awareness that
we are alive
and we are here
and we get to do this.

I haven't felt much of that grateful awareness lately, but I'm working on it. And I think it begins with being here. With focusing on the goodness that's right in front of me. Now.

And so, right now...
I get to live in America.
I get to live in a place that has friendly northern neighbors.
I get to be in public without being a spectacle.
I get to see my parents every day.
I get to live on a farm.
I get to see the Rocky-freaking-mountains from my window.
I get to drive a car.
I get to see my one year-old niece on the weekends.
I get to communicate in English everywhere I go.
I get to call or text my friends any time, no longer setting up Skype dates once a month.
I get to be a barista.
I get to apply to graduate school.
I get to be a "native" instead of a "foreigner."
I get to go to the grocery store and buy anything I need.
I get to be alive.

I get to be here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ten Years

Ten years ago, I adopted anorexia as my own.

Ten. Years.

That means that ten years ago in March, I started the eating disorder behaviors.

And that six years ago in March, I ended the eating disorder behaviors. 

And those two sentences can seem so small and insignificant, even to me when I'm not careful. When I get so caught up in the here and now, I can forget where I've come from. It can sound like such a small thing to stop eating and then start again, especially on this side of recovery. But all I can tell you is that the space between the "stopping" and the "starting" is where my life truly began.

Because anorexia has very little to do with food.
It has so much to do with:

And bulimia has very little to do with binging and purging.
It has so much to do with:

An eating disorder isn't about being a narcissist who diets too much.
An eating disorder is a spiritual disease. 
Because when you're in it, you feel hopeless.
And when you lack hope, there is a plethora of despair.
And despair disconnects you from life.
And the living of it.

And so the journey between March 2006 and March 2010--onset and recovery--was a journey that saved my life. Because it lead me to:
-writing a book
and most importantly: hope

And I don't think I would have gotten there any other way.


Anne Lamott wrote in her book Traveling Mercies about her own recovery. And she put into words something I couldn't have said better myself:

“It is, finally, so wonderful to have learned to eat, to taste and love what slips down my throat, padding me, filling me up, that I’m not uncomfortable calling it a small miracle. A friend who does not believe in God says, ‘Maybe not a miracle, but a little improvement,’ but to that I say Listen! You must not have heard me right; I couldn’t feed myself! So thanks for your input, but I know where I was, and I know where I am now, and you just can’t get here from there. Something happened that I had despaired would ever happen. It was like being a woman who has despaired of ever getting to be a mother but who now cradles a baby. So it was either a miracle- Picasso said, “Everything is a miracle; it’s a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar”- or maybe it was more of a gift, one that required some assembly. But whatever it was, learning to eat was about learning to live- and deciding to live; and it is one of the most radical things I’ve ever done."


I started this blog in 2007 (18 months into my eating disorder) and just as I was leaving for a year abroad in Cambodia. If you want to read any of the older blogs from my recovery journey the past ten years, select the topic labeled "Healing" on the sidebar to the right.

Here are a few you can start with:
-The First Blog I Ever Wrote About the ED
-Thoughts On The Daily Struggles
-How I Might Be Contributing to Another's Eating Disorder
-Stupid Things People Say About Eating Disorders

If you have an eating disorder (or are just interested in the subject of greater self-love and body acceptance), start here:

Life Without Ed: How One Woman Declared Independence from Her Eating Disorder and How You Can Too by Jenni Schaefer

Gaining: The Truth About Life After Eating Disorders by Aimee Liu

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies: Freeing Yourself from Food and Weight Obsession by Jane R. Hirschmann and Carol H. Munter

Women, Food, and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything by Geneen Roth

If you have recovered from an eating disorder, read these (but please don't read them any sooner, because they are not easy stories to hear and definitely wouldn't help in your current battle):

Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia by Marya Hornbacher

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia de Rossi

Thursday, March 3, 2016

That Time I Was Kind Of, Sort Of a Bigot

"I can spot a Republican a mile away."

This is a thought I've really had.
It's a thing I've never said "outloud" until this very moment.
And there it is.
I said it.

And so when I went to do my civic caucusing duty on Super Tuesday this week, I was pretty positive what I'd find there:
-mostly white people with white hair
-several cowboy hats and Wrangler jeans
-and a few Latinos and Democrats squished into a corner representing a teeny-tiny portion of Weld county, a historically conservative area.

So, when Jeremy and I walked into the middle-school cafeteria where caucusing was taking place, I saw all of the typical people and characteristics that I expected to find there based on how "I can spot Republicans," you know? And then I found "my people": the Democrats, scattered around the room.

We were directed to sit at our district table with other people who lived near to us. It was nice to finally meet some of our neighbors from local farms, because you don't exactly bump into each other when your houses are at least a half-mile apart.

We made small talk. We introduced ourselves. And at one point, I asked, "So why are we all seated at different tables? Are we separated by our favorite candidates or by political party?"

The leader of our group chuckled and said, "Oh, we're all Democrats!"

"So, this table is Democrats, but the other tables are Republicans?"

Again, I could see the surprise in his eyes, when he said, "No, like this whole room is Democrats. The caucusing is separated by party. The Republican caucus is down the street at the high school."

Long pause.

The room grows blurry.

Shame sweeps into my bones like a warm wash.

I've been so terribly wrong.

Now, if you understand anything about the voting process, you might've known already that caucuses are separated by party. But I did not a single ounce of research before showing up, so I came fully-loaded with my assumptions and defenses. It was not my finest moment. And I'm still feeling pretty bad about it.

Because what I really meant when I thought that I could "spot" a Republican, was that I knew who I disagreed with based solely on their appearance. And I had all kinds of ideas about how farmers and country-folk and country music fans must feel and must vote. And that assumption and that idea is basically bigotry.

To be fair to myself, I am not "intolerant" to the views of conservatives.
I have family and friends who vote the exact opposite that I do.
We talk. We engage.
I legitimately want to understand what leads them to their perspectives.
But I can still be real judgey.
And I can put people in a box when I don't know them at all.
But I assume how they would vote.
And that's certainly leading me toward intolerance.

And this is not a fun thing to talk about.
I'd rather not be confessing to my own biases.
But I write this anyway, because I know I'm not alone.

We're doing a lot of arguing right now, aren't we?

I know I'm not the only one who makes assumptions about the other side, regardless of which side you're standing on. Which doesn't create harmony or good conversation, it just makes it easy to write others off. It creates a separation. It builds a wall. It does the very thing that I am most repelled by Donald Trump for doing.

And I've done it.
And I'm sorry.

As the meeting was called to order, we all stood, faced that vibrant red and blue flag, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. And as we did, I thought about the other good group of folks down at the high school, standing and saluting their flag and the values of the country they love.

It's kind of a beautiful thing, isn't it? People raising their hands in public support of the issues they care most about. Yeah. I think so.

The conversation at the table went on without me. When I started listening again, I heard people having a kind and civil discussion about their favorite candidates and wanting to understand the views of the other. I listened as people shared family stories from when their great-grandparents first homesteaded outside of Greeley. I talked to a jolly, old farmer across the table: "Did your grandfather ever tell you about the time I sold him that mean bull? I felt so bad about that," and we laughed.

That evening, I talked to a wide range of teachers and pastors and Christians and non-Christians  and moms and dads and Bernie-fans and Hillary-fans and a lot of people who look nothing like me.

But when its all said and done.
You can't tell us apart. 
Because while we are not the same, we are one.

Bless us. Everyone.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Food Experiment (a.k.a. Whole30)

If you've ever reached for a cookie when you were 
stressed or bored or angry
(but not hungry)
you can understand emotional eating.

Very few of us are immune to it. We want comfort from stress and often we eat to fill a void. This doesn't have to equate to a full-blown eating disorder or anything. It doesn't mean you are definitely overweight or in-crisis. It just means that, for many of us, eating is not just about hunger and nourishment.

Since the start of 2016, I've thought and learned a lot about myself when it comes to eating, emotions, and what it takes to fuel my body. This--in big thanks--because of the Whole30 challenge.

For the past two months, our family (Mom, Dad, Jeremy, and I) have been on a "food experiment." I highlight that word intentionally because I am a person who is absolutely opposed to diets. I don't believe in them. They don't work long-term And I grow so weary of the endless cycle of diets I see people (particularly women) going on and going off, going on and going off.

So for the month of January we took the Whole30 challenge.

According to the website: "Think of it as a short-term nutritional reset, designed to help you put an end to unhealthy cravings and habits, restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, and balance your immune system." So for 30 days we did not eat any sugar, dairy, legumes, or grains. But we have eaten fruit, vegetables, nuts/seeds, and meat. It may sound impossible to go without milk, cheese, bread, or pasta for a month, but according to a few thousand people (and myself), it's obviously not.

We each had specific health concerns that we suspected might be attributed to food sensitivities we didn't really know we had (a.k.a. Mom and I had health concerns, the boys just kindly came along for the ride).

Here is all of the food that went down to the basement, because it was not Whole30 approved!

So, I cleaned out the cupboards and started cooking. And this challenge really tested my go-to cooking routines. Here are some new things I learned how to make this month that took me out of my cooking comfort zone:

-I made almond milk
-I roasted a freaking turkey!
-For the first time, I cooked sirloin steak.
-I roasted cornish hens. Don't ask me what they are, but I ate them.
-Bison? Yeah, I fried up some bison and ate it for breakfast.
-Didn't know what kielbasa was, but I made a delicious hash out of it with apples and bay leaves.
-I learned what ghee is and how to make it at home.
-I made zucchini noodles.
-I cooked with plantains and used them to make "nachos"
-Capers? Yeah, no big deal.
-I used a helluva lotta avocados. We didn't have those in Korea.
-And herbs! I cooked with fresh herbs, like, mint, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and parsley.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I am every homemaker's new kitchen guru.

Here are some of my favorite recipes from the month:
-spaghetti squash with meat sauce
-chocolate chili
-chimchurri sauce

salmon with spiralized carrot and zucchini slaw

chicken curry, roasted vegetables, and cauliflower rice

roasted sirloin steak

roasted veggies, steak, mashed potatoes

pad thai with spaghetti squash

plantain nachos with spicy ground beef

roasted spaghetti squash and ground beef

Them there are cornish hens...

I am happy to say that the four of us went THIRTY freaking days eating only fruit, veggies, nuts, and meat. We were VICTORIOUS!

After the thirty days are over, you've reset your system from common allergenic foods (like dairy, wheat, and soy), so now you need to test which ones might be better to limit/avoid. Because if on day 31 you just go back to your normal eating and feel icky, you won't know which food is the culprit.

So for us, we re-introduced foods this way:
Day 31: dairy
Day 32-33: regular Whole30
Day 34: legumes
Day 35-36: regular Whole30
Day 37: soy
Day 38-39: regular Whole30
Day 40: gluten-free grains
Day 41-42: regular Whole30
Day 43: corn
Day 44-45: regular Whole30
Day 46: wheat grains
Day 47-48: regular Whole30

You get the gist?

Here are some things I've learned:

My needs and wants are very different
After spending thirty days without toast or cereal or rice or desserts, you begin to realize that the foods you rely on because you think you need them are really just wants like nearly everything else. I don't need rice with my curry, I just want it. Since this experiment, I've realized that grains make me a bit constipated. And I feel better when I limit them. So that doesn't mean grains are evil or that I can never eat them again, but when I do, I'm not going to waste it on rice or croutons or something. You better believe it's gonna be a cinnamon roll, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or macaroni and cheese. Every damn time.

I've gotten trapped in a cooking rut
This food experiment made me look outside the box for new foods that were Whole30 approved. Like fish or spaghetti squash or sweet potatoes or beets or unsweetened coconut flakes. It's broadened my ingredient list and added a lot of color (by way of more veggies) to my diet.

Sugar is everywhere and we are all over doing it
We spent 30 (well, more like 58) days without any added sugars. No sugar, no coconut sugar, date sugar, palm sugar, honey, agave nectar, Splenda, or Stevia. That meant plain coffee and tea. That meant no ketchup from the store. That meant most marinara sauces. Most chicken broths. Most of...a lot of things you wouldn't suspect have sugar added to them. Like, chicken breast anyone? Yeah, that's just silly. But beyond added sugars, nearly all starches and grains end up being digested as carbohydrates and inevitably sugar. That's why all of our "comfort foods" usually have bread or noodles in them. It's dang satisfying and terribly addictive. I'm not determined to live a sugar-free life, but just a less-sugared life.

The Whole30 really made me ask a lot of questions about
-What is the purpose of food?
-Do I need a cookie right now or a hug?
-If I can eat this way for thirty days, what's stopping me from eating this way for longer?

Have you done the Whole30?
What was your experience?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On Playing Small

Last week, Jeremy and I had the opportunity to play Ultimate Frisbee again. It'd been awhile. Like--six months-awhile. So we were super out-of-shape, but happy to get back on the turf.

A friend had invited us to come play with the league he is a part of. He said most teams are always short on subs (and particularly lady-subs), so we would be welcome to join. There were about a dozen teams. Jeremy got put on one team, I got put on another. My team had 11 guys and 1 gal. I walked up to the huddle and said, "Hey, is it all right if I play with you all tonight?"

They basically said, "Yeah. Whatever" and got on with it.

During that huddle, I had a lot of questions, like:
-What's every body's name?
-What kind of defense do you run?
-Do you run vertical or horizontal stack?
-How do you organize subbing?
Basically: What's going on?

But I didn't say any of that.
I just kept quiet.
I waited my turn.
I was polite.
I smiled.
I apologized unnecessarily.
I didn't get in anyone's way.
After all, I was just some random girl passing through and would never see these people again. Best to just blend in and have fun.

And once we started playing I had even more things I wanted to say, like:
-How does scoring work?
-I can catch those long throws, don't hesitate.
-Hey dude, you're actually cutting in the wrong direction.
-Um...that's a foul.
Basically: Yeah, I'm pretty good at Ultimate, I know what's up.

But I didn't say any of that either.
Because I was temporary.
I'm not a permanent member of this team.
I'm outnumbered by men.
So, I played small.

During the last five minutes of the evening, one of the loudest and most talented players asked: "So, it's Beth, right?"

"No, my name is Heather."

He was unfazed and didn't take his eyes off the field: "Right. And where are you from?"

I told him I was from Colorado, but just in-town visiting.

"Yeah, me too," he responded.

I didn't compute what he was saying at first because in my head I was thinking:
Wait, YOU are not on this team either? 

This guy spent the whole night calling for the disc, giving his opinion, laughing with complete strangers, and being so outwardly confident, I never would have guessed that he was passing through just like me.

And so it was a pretty powerful ah-hah moment standing there on the sidelines next to this super-star player. It made me want to say, Well, then why did I spend the whole night playing small, when I had just as much right to feel confident in myself as he did?

He didn't wait for anyone to give him permission. He didn't cower. He didn't play small. He didn't show up assuming that he didn't belong there. He showed up knowing that he had as much right as anyone else to be who he was.

This probably isn't as easy as gender.
It's not as if EVERY woman plays small.
Or that EVERY man exudes confidence.
But I think the lesson still stands.

Because it's made me consider that:
If I wait for people to give me permission so that I can start playing big, then I will be waiting behind a long line of men (and bad-ass women) who have already decided that they have a right to show up in their own lives.

My permission slip is my birth certificate.
I'm allowed to have a voice.
I'm allowed to share my opinions.
I'm allowed to take up space in this world.
But no one will give it to me.
I have to own it.

I deserve to be here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

For the Days When I Feel Small

Some days it feels like the list of things that I know for sure is dwindling. But one thing, I know to still be true is this:
the language I use toward myself
I would never dare utter to a friend. 

And this was demonstrated to me last night, when a friend shared with me a way that she wants to show up and be courageous in the world and my immediate response was: "Go for it! Always. All the time." Because she's beautiful and wonderful and perfect and why shouldn't she go for her dreams?

But me? I'm different.
I'm a mess and I'm broken and I'm lost and I can't be trusted and...on and on and on.

The things I believe for the people I love the most are so much different than the things I believe for myself. I've felt this lately: dilly-dallying about my purpose, knowing a direction I want to move, but being terrified about how to get there, stalling for time, wasting time. It's as if everyone else has beautiful and unique talents to share with this world, but I'm different. I'm the exception to that rule.

And so, while it takes the last 1/8 of a tank of courage I have left within me this morning, it's time for the first "Dear Child" pep-talk of the year 2016--directed at me--as if I were a friend. Because I so desperately need to be my own friend right now:

Dear Child,

I see you.
I see you.
I see you waking in the morning and wishing you were somewhere else.
I see you puzzling over the 67 thoughts that cross your mind before 7:20am.
I see you navigating this world with a fundamental sense that there is no hope for you.

And it breaks my heart.
Because I'm not sure where you got this idea.
This notion that it's "too late" for you.
That you are so far behind all of your peers.
That everyone else has life figured out except for you.
That you're the only person on planet Earth living with their parents.
That you are the exception to the rule.
That you are undeserving of a meaningful and fulfilling life.

I'm not sure where you got this bullshit, but it's bullshit.
And I'm here to break it down for you: You will be stuck in this cycle of self-doubt and self-deprecation as long as you choose to be.

I know this sounds a little harsh from your Truth-speaking Mother of the Universe, but hang in there, okay? I'm not saying that you need to suck it up. I'm not saying that this is easy. I'm just letting you know that no one and no thing will pull you out of this thick, soggy mud pile. You HAVE to take small, daily steps to believe in hope again. Because I can't do that for you.

You have to decide every morning when you wake and every evening when you go to bed that while the prospects seem slim and you're lonely and you're lost, that you have not EARNED the right to be hopeless. The cards are NOT stacked against you. The Universe is NOT hostile to your efforts. You have far more blessings than curses and until those truths are reversed, you have EVERY reason to be hopeful.

You are not stranded on a concrete median between two lanes of dangerous, highway traffic.
You are standing in an empty cathedral with nothing but space, clarity, and room to breathe.
Trust me.

And so now, don't get on Facebook.
Don't get lost in an Internet vortex that will inevitably suck you dry.
Don't wander into another list of to-dos.
Take a deep breath.
Make some tea.
Read some fiction.
Do the things that have always vibrated with self-nourishing truth.

Take. Care. Of. Yourself.

And then, after your heart has slowed its frenetic pace, do the next best thing.
Maybe that's unloading the dishwasher.
Maybe that's spending 15 minutes (set a timer) looking at graduate schools.
But take this one moment at a time.

Because you need not have the answers to every question on this random Thursday morning in January. You wouldn't expect that of your dearest friends and it is downright unfair--cruel, even--to expect that of yourself.

Do the next best thing.
Repeat as necessary.
Read often.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Holiday Update: "See You Again" video

Who has time for holiday newsletters and cards?
Not this family.

So, please enjoy this music video/holiday update from our heart to yours:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

And So Instead...

When you go to a foreign country, you expect disorder.
You expect chaos.
You expect nothing to go as planned.

When we went to Korea (in August 2013), we went with the expectation that we would be out of our comfort zone, we didn't expect to be knowledgable or understood. We didn't expect to know the language or understand the culture. We didn't have many expectations at all, in fact. Because we knew that in such a new and foreign environment, we would need to be flexible and adaptable. We would need to be open to whatever came our way as a means of survival.

All packed and ready to fly to Korea

When you come home, you expect familiarity.
You expect sameness.
You expect things to be comfortable.

This has not been true for me. This has not been easier, this has been harder. This has not been familiar, this has been foreign.The Universe did not respond to MY expectations about how this should go coming back to America. And lately, I've kinda been stomping my feet around about how life has "let me down" and this is just too hard. But the problem isn't the situation in front of me, it's in my expectations.

All packed and ready to leave Korea

I've said it before and I'll say it again: expectations are tricky.
And...Re-evaluating our expectations is one of the hardest things we will do in our lives.
Or maybe it's THE hardest thing!
(I'll work on that hypothesis and get back to you)

We carry with us all kinds of expectations in life.
Expectations that...
-we will be happy
-we will graduate college
-we will get a job
-we will get married
-we will travel
-when we are ____ years-old, we will _______
-everyone we love will live long and happy lives
-there will be more sunny days than rainy ones

And living a life based on expectations leads to a lot of disappointment, because life doesn't really care about your expectations for how you thought this would go. Life will be what it will be.

But some of the most interesting and resilient people I know are those who practice the art of continually and whole-heartedly re-evaluating their expectations on a daily basis. Taking an open stance to life instead of a defensive one (and expectations are a defense, aren't they?).

This looks like:
-planning a lovely picnic, but it rained, and so instead, they ate soggy sandwiches and made-out in the back of the car all afternoon.

-hoping for a big promotion at work, but it didn't happen, and so instead they reached out to their manager and opened up a dialogue about what they can do to get it next time.

-entering into a marriage with the hope that they would have kids, but found out that they couldn't, and so instead they found a way to add life and vitality and meaning to their story in other beautiful ways.

The formula looks like this:
hope + reality = "and so instead..."

At my best, I am perpetually adjusting with humor and grace to this crazy thing called life.
At my worst, I find myself often chronically thinking, "This is not how I thought this would go."

I never expected that at 28 years-old I'd be married, jobless, directionless, and living with my parents in the hometown I never planned to return to. Ever.

And if I stay here, holding my expectations close to me like a warm blanket, I'll never move. Because we all gain some comfort in having expectations and thinking that somehow the Universe will play along if we just wish hard enough.

But it rarely does.

And so instead...I'm finding the backpack I took off 3 months ago and I'm putting it back on.

Not because we are going to move anywhere soon.
Not because we need to galavant to another country or anything.
But because I want to remain open to whatever God has in-store for us next.

And the best stance I can possibly take in this life--regardless of where I stand physically--is to be open to any and all of it. Even when I'm "home" now in Colorado, my ability to be flexible and adaptable is just as important here in America as it was in Korea.

On to the next great adventure: Colorado.