Friday, October 6

Becoming Our Best Selves

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     There are moments that mark your life. Big or small moments that define whole chapters of your story, that change you irrevocably, and that can affect every choice you make as your life moves forward. Lately, as I think about details of my family's journey over the last few years and look for lessons that can help me carry on and grow stronger, I realized that I keep coming back to some of the people that were in it with me during those moments for the most inspiration.

    I'Ive been carried so often through the hardest times of my life by countless caring individuals, and the examples that they have set for me have served as a framework as I move through each day making careful decisions about my family's future. I want to talk today about one of those wonderful people and the impact she has made on my life, but first a little background...
  
    Since my late-husband Martin’s death in the Spring of last year, I've been blessed with the opportunity to share my story at many different conferences and platforms, and with many people who are hurting in their own way. I've gotten to hug and talk directly to people who have their own unique type of grief or loss or struggle. The biggest point that I've tried to pass on during these experiences is that not only are we not alone in our pain and heartache, but that those darkest parts of our lives can actually become our strongest parts. I've tried to express that trials can really open us up to becoming our best selves with more compassion, more empathy, and a unique and rare understanding of what is really important in life. Those deeply life-changing moments can actually be used as catalysts towards a version of ourselves that we never imagined existed. Because we have been lost in the dark, we know how sweet and beautiful and valuable the light truly is when it comes.

     Early on I learned to smile and hide my feelings from most people, especially the kids and Martin, because I learned that any sign of pain from me would cause him so much more hurt. During the transition from a wife and caregiver to becoming a single mother to my five little ones, I had the realization that I just couldn’t let myself really grieve and be consumed by my emotions all the time, because I needed to be a full-time mother and breadwinner now more than ever. I was only 25, but the kids were only 11 months through 6 years old. Not only were they needing/wanting extra love and attention to make up for lost time, but especially after the trauma we had faced and were facing as a together, they were fully dependent on me for comfort and stability as their only parent. Recognizing this was two-fold, because it served as a comfort in helping me to see that my life still had so much meaning and purpose when I felt like I wanted to die too, but it was also very scary and intimidating. I didn’t know how to do it all on my own, and I was pretty certain I’d be on my own for a very long time, if not forever. I felt like I was walking blindly into a completely unknown future with my children all holding onto me, and I had no idea where we were going, how exactly we were going to pay bills, how I was going to ensure their success and happiness in life, if our life would ever heal, if I would ever feel happiness again.
      I leaned on a few others when I really needed someone to just listen, but most of the time it took some digging for anyone to really get through to me. One person that has always been able to do that these last few years especially is my sister-in-law Robyn, Martin's brother's wife.

     From the beginning of my marriage to Martin, I felt extremely lucky to have new close-by and caring relatives that pulled me into the family and loved our children as their own. Robyn, in particular, would help babysit quite often and was always the first to be called on or to reach out if there was a need. When Martin was diagnosed and our life turned upside-down, we had to leave quickly to start treatment out of the country and she played such a big part in securing the children and keeping our house in order as well. It was such a blessing to know our little treasures were safe and secure, and it helped save so much money as well. When things became so dire and I really started to fall apart, she was always there to comfort me or to distract the children with an outing or a treat.
     During the month or so around his passing, she was a constant figure in the background, quietly performing so much service without being asked, always cleaning and folding laundry or running errands, etc. I would have forgotten to eat or drink for days at a time if she hadn't put a cup in my hand or a plate in my lap. Robyn, like me, really is more if an introvert and values her quiet and calm, so it meant even more knowing how much of her own time with her family and her work she so willingly puts to the side to be there for myself and others.

     She has been such a reliable and giving and loving friend through the hardest parts of my life, and she'll always be one of my greatest examples of what true service and love looks like. The world would be such a different place if more people were like her, and I've had the blessing to meet many that are. Feeling the effects of her giving heart, I realized there isn't really a way to repay her except to pay it forward, and to work harder at putting others needs and desires before mine in my family and friendships, in my community and in the work I do.

     I realized soon after Martin’s passing that the quickest and simplest way to distract myself from my pain and to be able to simply function was to lose myself in caring for my children and in serving others as much as possible. When I’m giving of myself or sacrificing even in small little ways, I forget my own issues for a time, I feel so much stronger, and my life seems to have so much more meaning.

     Robert Ingersoll said “We rise by lifting others.” and I really know that to be true. We never know the full impact that even little acts of kindness can have on others and the world around us, but we know they’re never wasted. I know that I am my best self when I’m putting others first, and I’m so grateful for all of the people who, like Robyn, have set the ultimate example to me (and many others I’m sure) of how to live the most fulfilling and beautiful kind of life.


Monday, October 2

What I Wore // Let your hair down

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Wearing:
watch: c/o Daniel Wellington
rings: fred meyer
neck scarf: target
denim jacket: charlotte rouss
t-shirt: c/o bohme (out of stock:/)
belt: downeast
jeans: asos
boots: roxy brand from ross


     Hey again friends! At least now I can tell you that I've been kinda MIA due to some pretty crummy morning/all-day-long sickness, but this little peanut(or should I say eggplant?) has calmed down more today, so I have high hopes for the next little while.haha I'd almost forgotten just how much this baby growing business can really knock the wind out of you, but it's still been such an incredible experience so far. This little one is already so loved and anxiously awaited, and a 24/7 flu is a really small price to pay for such a huge blessing and privilege:) I've been feeling its tiny kicks and jabs for a few weeks now, and every time I still have to pause and grin like a goof.

     Right now I'm sitting next to Evie in some reclining chairs in the yard watching Richard and the four older kids playing on the trampoline. Their chorus of giggles is such great background to my typing, and looking over to see all their hair standing up on end with the static makes me smile and shake my head. It's just chilly enough today that I wrapped myself in a cozy sweater, and Luna the cat is napping at my feet now keeping them warm.

     The weather here really has been either nice and chilly or really warm and we haven't really seen any trees changing yet, so these next few weeks are going to bring lots of rich color to our beautiful city. I can't wait! I do feel incredibly zapped of all energy and stamina as a norm now, but I also have this incredible desire to cook (and eat for that matter) all. the. time.haha I've made a bunch of yummy soups in huge quantities, far too many side-dishes to name, apple cider, pie, smoothies, peach cobbler, eggnog, fudge, chicken salads galore, scones, brownies, and so many batches of fluffy rolls that I mostly hoard for myself(baby loves them). The kitchen just seems to be my happy place even more than it usually is, and my family isn't complaining either:) I think it stemmed from trying to find things that would stay down, but now I'm just having fun.haha

    While resizing these photos that my good friend Marley took on a walk together, I couldn't remember why I decided to let my hair down in the middle of taking them. Sometimes I do something with my hair and don't really feel it for some reason, or there's there's something uncomfortable about it. Either way, I realized that it was kind of perfect for my biggest goal for October, and that's to really try and let my mind relax more and to 'let my hair down' so to speak. I've trained my mind over time to try and do so so much at once (we all know how that feels), and a side-effect of feeling like I can keep tabs on everything and keep accomplishing my goals has also been becoming a drastic overthinker. I saw that changing in me much more in the years that followed my late-husband Martin's cancer diagnosis, when all hell broke loose and I had to really snap into action and control mode, but as our life has moved towards more predictable schedules and 'normal' routines, that habit of overthinking has become less helpful and more detrimental to my peace of mind.

     So, all that being said, I hope you'll join me this month in taking a step back, taking an extra deep breath, and giving yourself permission to stop trying to do and think of everything at once. To stop thinking of every possible outcome and failure and worrying constantly, and to let our hearts rest a bit more. I saw a quote recently by Carrie Bradshaw and she said: "Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want, and just see what happens."

      It's good to see you again October:)

Wednesday, September 20

a little bit of news:)

62 comments:
 

     Actually, it's pretty big news! haha We are so excited to finally share that we're expecting a new little fox sometime in early March! It feels so great to pass that on. This will be #6, holy cow:)

        We've decided to wait on the gender for a few more weeks, but that will be a fun day when we can share that as well! I was hoping to be rid of this crummy nausea when my second trimester started, but there's still no end in sight:( I've also given up on expecting any surge of energy to come since we already have five running around.haha

     It was so much fun telling the kids, and they haven't really stopped talking about 'mama's baby' and how fat my tummy is going to get!! haha. And the two older girls! They ask questions non-stop and love describing how much they're going to love and take care of the baby, and they've even started saying goodnight to my stomach.haha They were too young to really remember much of when I was pregnant with Evie and when she was born, so this is going to be an exciting and beautiful adventure for us all.

     Well, I'm sure I'll be sharing lots more details in the coming months, so I'll wrap this up for now! If you feel like watching the kids funny reaction when we told them the news, I shared the video on my YouTube channel here.

     Thank you all for the encouragement and support already expressed, we love you guys!

xoxo

Thursday, September 14

We Haven't Forgotten

13 comments:
     Hey guys:) Well 9/11 came and went this year in such a different way than it ever has since 2001. Of course, there was the time spent pondering back to exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard/saw the news of the various attacks. There was also the usual flood of memorial posts on social media with beautiful artwork and quotes, etc, and as always there were many people expressing regret at how united our country used to be back right after we were targeted, and how we've lost most of that unity and brotherly love.
     The first and biggest reason it was so different this year is because of our favorite and most impacting experience from our little NYC visit last month: The 9/11 Memorial Plaza.
     Visiting there was one of our biggest goals for our trip, but it wasn't until a few days in that we were able to go. It just so happened to be raining lightly, and as we sat in the back of the uber headed to ground zero, the dark sky and raindrops down the windows felt really fitting for what we were about to see. Getting out of the car and taking Richards hand we quietly walked a block or so before reaching the two waterfall pools.
   
     It was really so amazing to stand there and take in all the details, the vast number of names, the white roses(a birthday tradition we learned), the symbolism of the massive empty holes in the ground, etc. It would have been extremely humbling at any time of course, but thinking back to the day the towers were hit and about the pain and heartbreak of the families who lost loved ones cut me so much deeper than it ever has before, because of my own incredible loss. Suddenly I could relate to the absolute anguish and grief in a whole new way, and it felt so heavy on my heart.
     Deciding to go through the Memorial Museum was actually a harder decision than either of us had been expecting, once again just because we were both feeling very affected and weren't sure how much more we could take. We decided to get the full experience while we had the opportunity, so we took the hour long guided tour through. It was so deeply intense and impacting, and I can't possibly go into enough detail about everything they have collected and preserved. 
     The majority of the museum is underground between the original twin towers, and tells the story of the event from the morning of September 11, 2001 through the perspective of those that were there. There are over 3,000 names and faces that are honored, and the use of video and audio tech used to share recounts and last words and messages of love is tragically beautiful. 
     Some of the most incredible artifacts to me were a set of stairs that were used by escapees, a mangled fire truck, and the last column that stayed standing after the buildings collapsed. People helping in the aftermath of the destruction started attaching mementos and photos in tribute to loved ones, and it was made into a memorial symbolizing strength for so many. 

     In wrapping up my 'quick' thoughts I suppose I just wanted to add that to all the people I mentioned above (that have always included myself) who feel like our country has since lost all the charity and unity that we gained right after 9/11, we still have so much of that if you just look around. This years anniversary just happened to come right after Hurricane Harvey hit and I saw SO many thousands of people reaching out to help in any way they could. Then Hurricane Irma came and the response was the same. All the wildfires in the West and the horrible devastation that is taking place all over this country and elsewhere is bringing out an urgency in so so many to do make a difference and show their support to strangers who need them. We haven't forgotten how to love one another when others need it most. At least not in my humble opinion:)

     I'd love to hear your thoughts, and if you've had a chance to visit the memorial plaza yourself?
Take care today dears,