Happy Places

I have a few things I want to write about, so please forgive the jumping around.

I’ve written “I love you” in every Mother’s Day card I’ve ever given. But this was the first year that I really felt it. I knew that I really meant it.

We’ve had a rocky past, but for some reason things really turned a corner on our last trip to Hawaii. I’ve always been more of a daddy’s girl, but it’s like a switch flipped when he found out that he needed a knee replacement. I don’t understand why, but I could relate so much more to my mom. Maybe it was the commiseration. Maybe it was just that it was the first time that I really considered that my dad might be…old. Or maybe I just made a decision (conscious or not) to give her a fighting chance. But for whatever reason, she is now the one I want to tell everything to. It’s taken a while to adjust to the new dynamic, but I really wanted her to understand how much more I mean it this year.

I’ve always been vocally jealous of my friends’ close relationships with their moms. Now I feel like I finally have one too!

Secondly, I was faced with a very triggering situation this weekend and it was the first time I’d really tested this new-found faith of mine. There is one recurring situation that I’ve never quite figured out how to handle. It usually makes me obsessive, which leads to a lot of guilt and shame and sends me into a slow downward spiral until I completely melt down.

I was determined not to let that happen this time. Which meant I needed to nip it in the bud.

I did my best to keep my mind occupied and focused on other things (Thank you, Royal Wedding!). But do you know what I realized? Positive thinking really is like the domino effect. I forced myself to find the positive in every situation and eventually I didn’t even have to think about it. I had to start deliberately, but then it just started to flow. And as it flowed, it carried my thoughts away from the tricky situation.

Now, a day later, I can still think about it, but it doesn’t consume my thoughts. I can turn it off and walk away. I can walk toward happier and more productive thoughts.

I’m having a hard time feeling anything but bliss right now. It’s been a long, but rewarding day. My mom was determined to figure out all of our floral areas around the yard and get everything planted and, somehow, we actually did it!

My biggest goal became turning the porch into a cozy little happy place for me (without any crazy DIY projects!). I think I definitely nailed it.

This has always been my favorite place to curl up with a book. It’s been one of the most inspiring places to write. It’s the perfect setting for a leisurely conversation with a friend. It’s where I feel most connected to nature and where my dreams don’t seem so crazy. I love a good ocean view (Aloha!), but there’s really no beating this. It’s my little corner of the world.

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Balance

Things have been really different lately. I’ve been feeling a lot more balanced and at peace than I ever have. I can trace it back to a few different things.

First of all, Minnesota finally decided that it’s time for spring! I don’t know if you heard, but we had a little blizzard at the beginning of April. And then we had another sizable blizzard a week later. We literally couldn’t leave the house all weekend and we had 15 inches of snow piled up on our deck. The snow slowly melted away and then all of a sudden we were hit with 80 degree days! It was a bit of a shock to the system, but very, very welcomed! We finally have patio and lawn furniture set up, new climbing toys for the kids hung in the woods, LEAVES AND FLOWERS(!), meals on the deck, walks outside without coats and boots(!), and, most importantly, afternoons spent reading in the sun on the porch!

Second of all, I’ve been trying to disconnect from my phone a little bit. I get into really unhealthy patterns with it and I want to be able to walk away without having a panic attack. So I started “forgetting” it in the house during my walks, leaving it in my purse a little longer at work, leaving it upstairs when I go downstairs to work out and watch TV and, for the most part, leave it in one specific place when the kiddos are around. I think I’m on about week 3 of this new routine, and I’ve already lost interest in most social media and apps that I used to check almost hourly. I allow myself one binge in the morning, when I spend about 40 minutes on my phone before I even get out of bed. (Well, technically I get out of bed first, because I keep my phone across the room while I sleep, but I get snuggled in again after I grab it!) And that’s even starting to dwindle.

I cannot recommend this enough. I have been so much more engaged with my surroundings and have actually gotten busier because I’ve found other ways to spend my time. And let’s be honest, I don’t get a lot of texts to begin with and the ones I get can wait an hour for a response. (I also get alerts on my Fitbit, so I’m really not missing anything.)

Another affect of my phone “detox” is that I’m actually in a much better place with my friends (Ironic?). I was starting to feel really clingy with one friend in particular and disconnected from the others. The guilt and shame were eating at me and turning me into a person I hate. That has all balanced out since I’ve taken a step back.

One of the hobbies I’ve had more time for because of my new phone habits is reading. I’ve had at least 10 samples of books sitting on my kindle since last summer. I’ve read 2 books in the past 2 weeks. I used to binge shows on Netflix while the kids were sleeping and I was waiting for their parents to get home on work days. But recently I’ve developed a new routine: quick workout, super quick phone check, read. Let me tell ‘ya, the time flies by!

But I think the biggest reason for my transformation is that I’ve finally gotten in touch with my spiritual side. The seed was already planted, what with my growing up in a Catholic family, attending Catholic school for 12 years and accompanying my parents to church pretty much every Sunday of my life. But do you want to know what prompted me to take that leap of faith? (Pun intended!)

A dating website.

In a moment of weakness (and, honestly, boredom), I joined a dating site for single Christians.

That’s right. That one.

And it just made me feel like a fraud. There I was reading about how important faith was in all of these guys’ lives and what their favorite verses were and I couldn’t relate. I studied it all for 12 years, but I didn’t feel like it was an important part of my life.

And I felt like it was time to make time for it.

I ordered some books on Amazon and dove right in. There are two books in particular that are really resonating with me. I can relate to so much of what they say and they put it in easy-to-understand terms. One of the big reasons I resisted throughout my teen years and college was because I hated the preachy Christians. These books are NOT that.(Highly recommend this and this.) I read them every day when I just need a few minutes to myself to regroup and shift my focus. I have another one that I read right before I get out of bed in the morning. Now I look forward to those moments. I crave them. They make me feel understood in the most satisfying way I’ve ever known.

I’m still figuring out how to verbalize what it all means to me, but it has affected me very deeply.

I can’t remember which book said it, but it was brought up that everyone needs to find their own faith. Even if they were brought up in a faith-based family. Each person needs to find out what faith means to them. And just like everything else in life, sometimes it comes when you least expect it. I certainly wasn’t expecting inspiration to hit when I joined that dating site. (Although maybe it already had–why did I feel the need to join that site in particular?)

Everything just feels better.

I feel like a new me!

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Our Very Bubbly Easter

This year we were chosen to host my brother’s family for Easter. Which meant that we were actually going to have some plans for the day. We usually go to church, have hard-boiled eggs and ham, and have an evening bonfire with some friends. But nothing is structured and it usually turns into all of us kind of going our own separate ways until bonfire time.

A few weeks ago, my brother approached me with the idea of making it a “Kids Cook Easter.” My parents were not to prepare any part of the meal. It was all on us. Which, honestly, didn’t seem like too big of a challenge to me. I mean, there’s nothing complicated about ham and scalloped potatoes.

It turned into him making the “dinner” and me making everything else (brunch and dessert). And I must say, I think my contributions outshined his. I made my now-famous caramel rolls for brunch (served with hard-boiled eggs) and this masterpiece. Speckled Malted Coconut Cake. I am seriously proud of this. My mom was really bragging it up!

(One recipe note: the frosting was giving us all sugar rushes–almost one whole bag of powdered sugar is too much.)

Aside from the food, of course, the main focus of the day was Juliana. She got another day with all of her (hopefully!) favorite people and animals, so she was having a ball. Until she ran right through nap time and finally ended up falling asleep almost 10 hours after she had woken up.

But while she was still up and running, she continued to decorate the windows.

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She also got some presents. First came grandma’s.

My mom saw this while she was killing time between meetings a few days ago and couldn’t pass it up. This girl is a foodie, so it was a slam dunk. She hadn’t opened any presents since Christmas, so she needed a little reminding about how to do it. Once she figured out how the velcro worked, she just sat there and put the candle on the cake and then pulled it off about 20 times.

Then her parents pulled out their present for her.

None of us had any idea how much she would love the bubbles. She started out just wanting to catch them.

Then she wanted to blow her own bubbles!

I don’t know, do you think she liked them? You never know how this girl is feeling…

She loved her “bubbas!”

While she slept, my parents decided to light the fire. I volunteered to stay inside and wait for the girl to wake up. So I watched the fire from inside.

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We don’t do small when it comes to bonfires. (We are very responsible about it, though.)

It was cloudy all day and then, miraculously, the sun came out just in time for the sunset. Those are always the best sunsets. (This was after the peak.)

I hope all who celebrated had a happy Easter!

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Bring on the Rain!

In honor of our first “big” thunderstorm last night and of my “last” week of college (graduation is Saturday, but I’m still taking a few summer classes), I’m throwing it back to a piece I wrote for a class last semester. After writing this, I got really excited about starting my blog and was convinced this would be my first post. Unfortunately, I started my blog four months later…so it wasn’t really relevant anymore. But today, it definitely is.


It rained this weekend. In fact, it poured this weekend. The wannabe professional photographer in me was thrilled!

See, the thing about rainstorms just before twilight is that they leave behind the most spectacular sunsets. Those sunsets call to me. I start to get antsy waiting for the rain to let up so I can run outside and take hundreds of pictures.

There are always a few stages I go through during rainstorms:

  1. Oh, look. It’s raining. I know it’s supposed to rain, but it sure doesn’t look like it. Then all of a sudden, it is.
  2. Wow, it’s raining hard. One second it’s raining and the next it’s raining.
  3. Is rain supposed to be horizontal? The telltale sign that this isn’t just a rain shower. This is a rainstorm.
  4. I didn’t think it could rain leaves. When the driveway starts to look more like the jungle floor than a driveway, I know this is a powerful storm.
  5. Is that hail? The deck starts to turn white, but it’s too early for snow, and much louder.
  6. The sky looks brighter over there! Get ready! When the sky starts getting brighter, it’s time to slip on my navy blue rain boots and bright orange raincoat. This is also the time to get the camera out, figure out which lens is appropriate and, of course, make sure the memory card can handle the hundreds of pictures coming its way.
  7. Get set! Standing at the door looking like a freak, with my hand resting on the handle, I’m all ready to go.
  8. Go! The rain has slowed, the road is steaming and the sky is still dark from the rain, but the sun is shining on the tips of the trees, gradually making its way down the trunks.

Then the question is, where to start? There are so many spectacular sights and I know they won’t last long. I make my way around the yard and down the driveway, making sure to snap at least two pictures of every subject, knowing there’s a good chance of some being blurry. I can’t resist taking some puppy pictures while the camera is out.

I’m fully aware of how silly I must look while I’m shooting pictures. I’m a big fan of squatting and getting all kinds of weird angles just to see what I can come up with. Sometimes it feels more like I’m playing a game of Twister than taking pictures. Isn’t that how the pros do it?

Thirty minutes later, I’m back inside going through nearly 300 pictures on my computer. I’m disappointed to see that about 40 percent have to be deleted, but a few of the remaining pictures make me question why I’m not pursuing photography instead.

If you’ve never taken a walk after a rainstorm so close to dusk, I highly recommend it. It’s magical. If you’re up for it, grab the camera and pretend you’re a pro.

Bring on the rain!


Here are some of my favorite pictures I took that night.

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It’s Official!

I think it’s safe to say that Spring is finally here to stay!

We had a few hours where it was starting to look like winter again…

...But thankfully it was all gone by morning!

…But, thankfully, it was gone by morning.

Then, this morning the photography bug bit me. It was sunny, warm, and GREEN!

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All of the trees and bushes are budding and everything is waking up again!

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I love these! I don’t know what they are but we have a few of these bushes/trees scattered around and I can’t get enough photos of the flowers!

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The llamas like having something other than hay to eat. They’ve been outside almost all day, every day for the past week or so!

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Cokie and I even spotted some turkeys on our walk around the property!

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They’re way out there!

Speaking of Cokie, he really hates Spring.

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He’s an all-season dog! He loves the snow in the winter, but he really loves chasing the golf cart and swimming in the summer!

There were so many pinecones scattered around and the lighting was so perfect–I couldn’t resist!

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Again, I don’t know what kind of tree this is (I’m so bad!), but I LOVE these little pom-pom-like things (so technical!)!

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They're everywhere! They're everywhere!
They’re everywhere! They’re everywhere!

But my favorite sign of Spring is seeing the Magnolia Tree (I know that one!) start to bloom!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ll be sure to post a picture of the tree in full bloom when the time comes!

Winters are hard. Ironically, this one wasn’t. But, usually winters are hard. Which makes all of these signs of Spring all the more sweet.

Happy Spring!

Spring?

So nature isn’t exactly stunning at this time of the year. But this morning, my dad and I took a walk around our property and I saw beauty in everything I saw. Well, except in this. This isn’t pretty. (Why did I take a picture of deer poop?!)

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The weather here in Minnesoooooota has been so crazy warm lately that it’s feeling more like May than March. And that is okay by me!

Here are some pictures that for some reason or another, I really like.

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I’ve always loved the look of our wood piles, don’t know why. Just have.
MILLIE! The sweetest llama you'll ever meet. Literally.
MILLIE! The sweetest llama you’ll ever meet. Literally.
I can never remember what kind of tree this is. My parents tell me all the time, but it never sticks. But it looks cool all year.
I can never remember what kind of tree this is. My parents tell me all the time, but it never sticks. But it looks cool all year.
Some much needed color in the vast expanse of brown.
Some much needed color in the vast expanse of brown.
I love the drama in this photo--stunning!
I love the drama in this photo–stunning!
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I love these boys so damn much.
Yum. That's all I can say.
Colors. Lines. Lighting. LOVE.
This tree has no branches going to the right!
This tree has no branches going to the right!
I love Mr. Tree!
I love Mr. Tree!
I see you, ladies! Finishing up the Christmas trees?
I see you, ladies! Finishing up the Christmas trees?
Fenwood, you're not usually the piggy!
Fenwood, you’re not usually the piggy!
Num num.
Num num!
Mmmm! That there hay sure is gooood!
Mmmm! That there hay sure is gooood!
Why are you still pointing that thing at me?
Why are you still pointing that thing at me?
Sugar has always been the most arrogant of the bunch. "None of these are to my liking."
Sugar has always been the most arrogant of the bunch. “None of these are to my liking.”
But she also gives me the most headshots.
Don’t you sass me, girl.
And this boy still licks up his diminishing snow piles.
And this boy still licks up his diminishing snow piles.

I think it’s finally Spring! But this is Minnesoooota, so you never know. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!