7

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It was early afternoon.
I was alone.
In peace and in privacy.
I slipped out of my bathing suit.
Turned on some soft music.
Poured a glass of chilled white Protea wine.

And let the water run.

Hot orange, pink, and red bougainvilleas, my only audience.
The perfect blue sky above me mirrored off the cool outdoor bath I drew.
I stepped in.
My body hidden under the bubbles

Yet my heart could hide no longer.

I was in a place and an experience that some would deem perfection
But I? Came undone.
As I tilt my head back towards the Palm Springs sun
I could feel my skin burn
From the rays
And my tears

Slowly roll down my cheeks.

At that point, my running stopped working.
All the parties and trips and time fillers,
As lovely and wonderful as they are,
Can only keep me safe
from myself

for so long.

The feelings and the fear surface
The finite and the fragile break
And without my consent
My body begins to feel.

The sadness I try to escape.

He walks through the door.
Comes to me on the patio.
Kisses my forehead.

Then looks into my eyes.

“What are you sad about?
Look what you’re doing.
Look where you are.

Aren’t you grateful for how good you have it?”

I smile softly.
Tears still streaming.
Yes.
I am grateful.
And I am grieving.
This slice is heaven.

The others, at times, can feel like hell.

The 12 deaths of my friends.
The destruction of addiction.
The divorce of my parents.
The long distance friendships.
The daydreams that became lost dreams.
The loneliness that comes.
The lovers that go.

Poverty, poison, paradise lost.

Alone for one hour and the waves of reality come.
I can only run this race of chosen ignorance for so long.
Don’t feel. 
It’ll hurt too much.
Just keep moving. 

I tell myself.

Until that Palm Springs patio.

Peace, pleasure and pain collide.

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I was sitting on a plane listening to a podcast a couple days ago on The Enneagram and this episode was specifically on the 7 personality type, and what it’s like dating one. Which was hilarious to listen to… because I’m a 7. Randomly laughing to myself, and those of you that know my laugh, I knew the flight attendants in the back could probably hear me. It was funny. Until it wasn’t. They quickly dove deep into the mind and heart of 7’s – which is beautiful and also, honestly, sad. Or maybe just real.

I titled this writing 7. Because it’s me. And it’s you, if you’re a 7. Or will give you insight if you’re dating one.

“This personality type is called The Enthusiast because Sevens are enthusiastic about almost everything that catches their attention. They approach life with curiosity, optimism, and a sense of adventure, like “kids in a candy store” who look at the world in wide-eyed, rapt anticipation of all the good things they are about to experience. They are bold and vivacious, pursuing what they want in life with a cheerful determination. Sevens are extremely optimistic people—exuberant and upbeat. They are endowed with abundant vitality and a desire to fully participate in their lives each day. They remind us of the pure pleasure of existence—the greatest gift of all.

When Sevens cope with anxiety and sadness they try to keep their minds busy all of the time. As long as Sevens can keep their minds occupied, especially with projects and positive ideas for the future, they can, to some extent, keep anxiety and negative feelings out of conscious awareness. Likewise, since their thinking is stimulated by activity, Sevens are compelled to stay on the go, moving from one experience to the next, searching for more stimulation.”

I paused the podcast. The story I just told came to mind immediately. It was my birthday in April. I wanted to relax. Then reality set in. Maybe it was Vance Joy’s lyrics or my nostalgia sipping on South African wine that triggered it. Sometimes my emotions come unannounced. Which I don’t specifically appreciate especially at a time like that. The second I slowed down, I swelled up.

I just want to say, it is okay to be both. To feel both. It’s okay to acknowledge how beautiful and magical life is… and also feel like it’s a little fragmented. Or a lot fragmented. And I’m saying this basically because I need to hear it. Write it. Say it. Remind myself again and again. This isn’t me preaching to the choir. This is me, in the choir, just singin’ away. I need to hear myself sing my song. The one of wild adventures and winsome. Faceplants and fetal positions. Grief and gratefulness.
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Spring in Seattle

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Springtime in Seattle is quite a marvelous thing.

Walks at dusk.  Curls I forgot I had bouncing in front of my eyes from the damp salty air.  Passing blooms in the oddest of places. Through cracks in the cement or the side of a tree trunk.  I almost made us late to dinner at The Walrus and the Carpenter because every couple steps, I stopped.

Enamored.  My senses taken over by the enchanting perennials.
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We took a ferry to an island and after hours of adventuring we arrived to our Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. Complete with a zipline that carries you from the wooden bungalow to the edge of the property where the Strait of Juan de Fuca crashes against the eroding cliffside.  Or in Georgia’s case, the zipline hits you in the face and gives you a nice shiner.

With a warm meal on our minds, each of us assumed our role. I’m usually kept out of the kitchen due to my lack of chefing skills. But that is fine by me.  Grabbing the scissors off the counter I headed for foliage.
Naturally, I set the table.

By candlelight and James Taylor, we spoke of seasons. Broken bodies and broken hearts. The best things and people that ever happened to us and the life lessons and experiences that have made us.
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I shared how and why I began Burn + Bloom dinners last year and how I feel like I’m at a standstill. Wanting to continue but in a different way. Perhaps one dinner per season instead of one per month.

Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall.

Then, at the table, Ben reminded us that this evening was in fact the last night of winter… and I had just hosted my winter Burn and Bloom dinner. My first of 2018.
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Being blanketed by the wild Washington air and the encouragement of friends, I am inspired to begin again. And I began without even knowing it.

I wonder how often that happens. Anticipating the growth, the next thing, wondering where this or that will lead and all the while… it is happening.

We are looking at our garden wondering when our broken seed will flower… when at our feet there are tiny blooms popping through the cracked cement path we’re walking along. We are looking at the leaves and branches of the tree looking for a blossom when there’s none to be found… but there… on the side of the tree trunk… is a bud in full bloom.

May we be overcome with enchantment. Enamored by the crooked and cracked path blooming with the unexpected. Maybe we’ll come to find that what we thought would grow will stay dormant a little longer or maybe not grow at all, and things that we didn’t even know were there will spring up like wildflowers. They may not be perfectly placed or nicely timed or the kind we expected but welcomed all the same.

See, I am doing a new thing.
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Look for the new thing. It is springing up all around you.
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Stay tuned for my Spring 2018 Burn and Bloom dinner!

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A Homesick Nomad

Days like this bring me home.
Currently sitting at the Rose Establishment next to a window with a short latte in hand.
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Sister and I used to go for Sunday drives. Taking side streets, windows down, radio on. An occasional cigarette. An occasional conversation.

To a local, or not so local, coffee shop. Depending on where the road took us. Our arms filled with books, journals, art supplies or computers. To write, reflect, regroup. To reawaken our hearts to our passions and purpose. Or to simply feel… a sense of home.

Four years ago, my sister and I packed everything we owned into one car, drove across the country with empty pockets in search of this dreamy West we’d heard so much about, with no idea where we we were going to live or do for work. We were in search for a new life. A fresh start. Before that I lived in Michigan. And before that I lived in South Africa at age 22. And before that I lived in Australia at 18. And before that I had traveled to 23 countries before I was a legal adult. Even my highschool years were spent basically living at my neighbor’s house when my childhood home no longer felt safe. At one of the lowest points in time I literally lived out of my Pontiac Sunfire in the darkness of a Michigan winter. Definitely not the glorified car camping so many of us love.
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I used to love being on the go. A global citizen. The classic couch surfer. A nomadic lifestyle. Quick and sweet like a hummingbird. Flirting with life and those living it but never committing to any of it. It may seem dreamy from a distance or to a distant spectactor, but this wanderer way of life no longer woos me.

The once airy, freeing feeling of no walls, restrictions or rules now stings a little more and a little deeper the longer it goes on. The saying, never touch anything with half your heart, rings true for me. Wholehearted is the only way to live. And this wholehearted brave and broken hummingbird is ready to head home. Back to my heart.  

A long time ago when you were young, you may have told yourself it is risky to love, to trust, to feel. You told yourself that everyone you trusted would in the end betray your trust. Your belief has many times been proven true. But it’s time now to believe in something else. It’s time to believe that the opposite is true. It is risky to not love, not trust, not feel.”
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Now I live in Utah. In a couple months I’ll be 28. It has now been over 10 years of “homelessness.” Is it possible to feel homesick without a home? No place to call my own. The thought of having all of my things (which isn’t a lot at this point) in one place, unpacked, deboxed, purposefully placed or folded or utilized… is a dream. Literally. I daydream about it. A place to hang my hat, lay my head, rest my heart. A sacred solace from this wild world. 

I’ve been welcomed into many places, into wonderful homes. But there’s still an element of tip-toeing. There’s timelines, and in unfortunate cases, strings attached. And my limited funds have limited my options.

It’s those Sunday drives. Those coffee shop vibes. That is comfort to me. That is home. Wherever I am in the world, I search for those holes in the wall, where I can pull out my journal, book, or art, writing of the journey, the joys to process all that has been and all that is. 

Driving however far to get there. From Holland (Michigan) to Uncommon Grounds in Saugatuck – 20 minute drive. Newport Beach to Hidden House in San Juan Capistrano – 35 minutes. To Madcap in Grand Rapids – 45 minutes. Now I drive an hour and 8 minutes to The Rose Establishment in Salt Lake City. It may seem as like I’m desperate for a good cuppa joe, but really it’s my nomadic soul in search of home.

To me, this is comfort. A form of soul care. A satisfying break in the day, or week, or month. Taking a drive. Breathing a little deeper and a little slower in a little cafe.

I may not have a home today. The people I love may live all over the world. I may be a guest in others’ homes for years to come. But I have my coffee shops. Cafes around the world. And here in this particular one, in Salt Lake City, I pull out my leather bound book filled with blank white pages, order my second drink – the Pacific Coast tea, turn on some old tunes, and find myself comforted. Home may not be a place… but a feeling. I had lost it long ago, but now I have found and fostered it. 

“What are places you like to visit? Do you enjoy browsing through an old bookstore? Is there a favorite cafe in your neighborhood where drinking a cup of tea changes your mood? Cherish old favorite spaces, and open yourself to discover new places. Healing doesn’t have to be extravagant, expensive, or traditional. Sometimes it just means going to the places that make us feel good.” – Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart: Daily Meditations on the Path to Freeing your Soul.

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WILDIRE // burn and bloom

My sweet friend from Australia recently came for a visit.
She looked over at me that slow Sunday morning and wide eyed with wisdom she said to me,

It is time to share your story.

Inspired by that comment, and finally responding to month old emails from people who’ve asked, I would like to share a slice of my ever evolving, spiraling, circling, moon phasing life journey we are all apart of. 

And if you know me at all, I rarely answer any question point blank. There’s always a back story.

This is my back story.

I like to get words for each year. Not “New Years Resolutions” or anything like that.
But a word.
From God.
From my heart.
Something to hang on to and watch unfold as the year does. 

In 2016 my word was Gold.
And in 2016 my life caught on fire.
I forgot about that part that goes along with gold.
The fiery refinement part.
You know, the part that has to happen before the pure gold can happen?
Yeah. That. 

Amidst the heat I needed my tribe. My lady friends. The gal pals.
A sacred space to honor one another with our presence.
Which is by far the best gift I have ever received.
Someone’s soul.
The gracious act of simply being with.
In the messy arena of life.
Wrestling. Waning. Working. Wondering. Worshipping.
Together.

My wedding day was set.
In the Sequoias, September, 2016.
That season ended. That day came and went.
Standing before me, a fire. My own life spark and burn before my eyes.

It is now a ring in my trunk.
A darker, thicker, fire ring amongst the thin rings of time and other areas of growth.
Remembering that the only way for Sequoias to grow are through wildfires.

So.
I set the table. Invited my friends.
Instead of putting on a white dress I put on a floral fairy dress, took off my shoes, raised a glass… and cried. I was grateful yet grieved.
At the exact same time. I didn’t even know that was possible to feel both.
It is.

Because of that back story…

I decided to host a dinner party the last Sunday of every month in 2017.
Now it’s a thing! Wildfire Dinners.
I wanted to create space for other women to share their fires. Their fears. Failures. Fights. I also wanted to create space for other women to share their season in a different kind of fire. The kind that’s inspiring, life giving, fires that ought to be celebrated. 

Rejoice with those who rejoice.
Mourn with those who mourn.

And let’s do it together. Around the table.

No judgement or jealousy.
Comparing or contrasting.

Just being

As we are.
Where we are.

I like to thrift.
So most, if not all, of my tablescaping comes from Salvation Army, Grandma or the neighbor’s garage.  I tend to cap my dinners after 12 guests. It worked for Jesus. So I figured that would work for me, too. Keeping it intimate. 

I ask one question at each dinner.
It’s always around the theme of fire.

I’ve asked questions like,
What is something in your life that is burning in a positive way? A negative way?
What is something you’ve planted and would like to see grow?
What is something you are grateful for and something you are grieving?

We all burn and bloom. We will continually go back and forth between the two.
Fires create fertile soil for seeds to bloom. Each season is different. Each season changes. Trees have multiple fire rings. So will we.

For 12 months, I wanted to bring it all to the table.
Giving my guests the privilege of going second, by me sharing my story first.
And letting the fire spark as it may. One by one around the table. 

If this is something that you’re drawn to,
I would encourage you to do the same. In your hometown. In your tribe.
Sharing your story. Your heart. Giving your gift of presence to others.
Not to fix them or even share advice. But to listen. To validate. 

To be with

Logistics:
I usually get food catered.
Healthy, locally sourced, supporting small businesses.
I charge a relatively small amount per person. Not to make money. I just literally cannot afford to feed 12-14 mouths once a month. I can barely afford to feed my own.

First hour is cocktail hour and appetizers. Sometimes I have live music or will have some kind of entertainment one way or another. Making flower crowns, wrapping your own sage bundles, craft cocktails, photo booth, writing your answer down to a question, whatever! 

And then the dinner itself takes about two hours. With dessert to finish, of course.

IT IS THE BEST!

My Wildfire Dinners are for women only at this point! Sorry fellas.

I have women come that I know and women come that I don’t know! Some share their deepest darkest and some just say their name. But the response seems to be the same.

Some that attend choose to never enter a church building, but have shared with me that gathering around the table seems to be one of the most sacred experiences, their own church.

Evenings like this are beautiful because of the women who show up. Not because of the flowers on the table or the killer Spotify playlist. But because of the value in vulnerability. Because that’s what we’re meant to do in life.

Show up.  

If you’re a woman reading this, I would love for you to attend!
Come have a seat at the table.
Let’s raise a glass, and spark a flame.

A wildfire that burns and then blooms. 

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Dusty Dreams

She had never been… so, as her little sister, it was my responsibility to take her.

I am one for all day dates. Planning is my favorite part. Some might say they’re a bit Bachelor-esc. Like the tv show, a little extravagant but mine are thrifty and, believe it or not, much more dreamy.

Prepared with arms full of all the Mexican blankets we could find in the house, a stocked picnic basket of our essentials (dark chocolate + wine), and two bags of clothes each even though we’d only be gone for 12 hours. You never truly know what’ll you need on the road… a bikini so you can sneak into a hot tub, a dress if you find yourself in a salsa bar, camo to hide from bears, and full on snow gear on the outside chance a spring snow blast comes and you’re stuck on the mountain for days (which has happened to me before). Shuffling out of the house squealing and making a raucous in our very quiet apartment complex, we played hooky from church and got on the road, a solid 30 minutes later than anticipated… per usual.

Off to the mountains.

To inhale peace. Exhale fear. To walk slowly. To stay present for ourselves. To turn life into a walking, waking deliberate meditation. And bringing that back with us.

I love to escape. To introduce precious humans to Mother Earth’s secret sacred spaces that I’ve stumbled upon along my journey. It’s been important for me to slip away at times. To rediscover the power of meditation and connection to creativity, especially over the last three years of exposure to the relentless hustle and heat of Southern California’s coast.

I’ve always been one to go my own way. To experience what is this way and that. Regardless of traffic signs, sage advice and statistics. To me, it’s a beautiful way to live while it may make others watching shake in their boots.

But this is where, I’ve come to find, the magic of life.  Learning to clear my own path. The path to my heart. 

Sister was in charge of music as I maneuvered through seven lanes of traffic. Finally, we broke free on a two lane road. The desert behind us and snow capped peaks ahead. Passing the most fragrant orange blossom fields and the most delicate, yellow wildflowers reaching to kiss the clear blue sky.

We were half a mile away to highway 38, the mountain pass – the last leg and most beautiful part of the drive, when we came to a ROAD CLOSED sign. Thankfully someone else had already broken the chain because I was prepared to. To turn around and go the other way, the non-scenic way and who wants to do that, would have taken an extra hour. A motorcyclist that had stopped on the side of the road warned us to not go through but sister and I gave each other the green light grin and waved our new friend farewell. Her car rattling along and our coffees spilling everywhere as this road truly was under construction. They weren’t lying.

At the end of that torn up, dusty trail there was another chained gate. And this time, it was not busted. It was doing it’s job, almost too good. Standing there, we could literally see the road we wanted to take ahead yet there was absolutely no getting around this blockade. And trust me, I am one for always making a way… and there was none.

Sister and I laughed and then sighed at the oddities of life. Knowing in our spirits the universe was speaking to us. The past few weeks, it has come to my attention, this message is not only for myself but has been a theme for many others. This was just another reminder.

There are often obstacles on our path. Roadblocks, barricades, detours. Things to go over, around, or under. Sometimes, the roadblocks are telling us no, this door isn’t opening. Find another way. Other times the roadblocks are telling us that the road we have chosen is very special. If we want to go down it, we will have to try. We will have to focus. We will have to muster our energy and show the world how badly we want it. We will have to overcome each and every obstacle, one by one, as they appear.

What do you want badly? Are you willing to go through an obstacle course, if need be, to achieve it? Are you willing to be tested by the universe? Are you willing to focus, push forward, go the distance?

Sometimes, the road ahead is blocked, but clearing the way becomes part of the journey. Learn to tell when it’s time to let go, to surrender, to search for another road, a different path, another dream. But also learn to tell when it’s time to move forward, through obstacles if need be, because the dream is electric, charged by Divine energy and love.**

We hopped back in the car, bouncing back past the motorcyclist tipping our hats, and taking off down the road through the orange blossom fields once again. No shame. All smiles.

We made it to the mountains of course. And it was beautiful. Breathtaking, actually. Renewed with a fresh sense of what it is our hearts truly desire and the determination to see it through, as well as an acute awareness of the importance of surrender and openness. 

Our dreams may get dusty from the dirt roads, side streets, detours. But it is always worth going the distance. There is always a way. It is the journey of the heart.

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** Melody Beattie, Journey to the Heart

Dear November

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Dear November,

Good morning.

I am so happy you’re here. You are more than welcome.
This year, November, has been the slowest, most difficult year in my entire life. Caught in a Wildfire. There have been glimpses of goodness, grace, gold and I have tasted depression, doubt and darkness.

Yet, I must say, as I begin to reflect on this year from January 1 to this foggy morning, I am filled with an incredible gratitude; For God. For family. For friendship. And for you, November. Though I know the ending of a year really only changes the headlining number on the calendar, I do find solace in knowing that 2016 is coming to an end.

I have honored the seasons of my soul this year, accepting my emotions as valid and important to feel. I have welcomed my feelings as they come to keep myself from shutting up, shutting down, and oozing resentment, anger and pain through my not-so- very thick skin. Like bad body odor one pretends they don’t have but everyone can smell it. Yah, like that. Pretty gross analogy, I know, but it’s true. I have embraced the seasons, Sweet November but boy have I been ready for you. I have long awaited your arrival. Your Spirit and your refreshing breeze. This year has brought the heat and I am in need of your crisp November air to cool the hot coals that remain. Bring your clouds that I may no longer squint from the blaze and your gale force winds that I may no longer be lost in smoke.

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 This year, my life caught fire the day it began and my Creator was there to catch me, pull me close, and look into my eyes as he showed me His heart. He taught me again that He is a good, good Father who would never leave my side. Each morning when I would wake with the weight of the world on my chest, He was with me. Throughout each day trying my best to outrun my anxiety, He was with me. And at night when sadness clung to me like a shadow, He was with me.

And as the Wildfire around me began to subside, I began to notice a fire in my heart. In my eyes. I now could stand and fight. The fire in me grew stronger and I began to rage warfare against the darkness in the Land of the Living. And it was then that I realized my fight was not against the fire, but with it.

With tears in my eyes, I screamed and I thrashed with my torch in hand and I blazed with the fire. Lighting the forest within my heart. And through sweat and soot, I held my breath as piles of ash covered what was once a life I loved.

I have since learned that what was left standing closely mimics that of a Sequoia forest. Fallen trees upon the ground that would soon become the earth beneath my feet, the foundation on which I stand a little taller. A little stronger. My platform for influence. And the living trees, that stood the test of the furnace will continue to grow and multiply as Sequoia seeds can only germinate in the intense heat and ash of a Wildfire. This affirms to me that our Creator thinks beyond our present troubles but for the generations to come. He is in the business of restoration and sustainability. New life.

November, you symbolize life after death for me. You symbolize the new life in the Sequoias because here I am. Alive. Standing before the smoking space that was created for the all the new life to come.

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I’ve been told “Only you can prevent wildfires.”

I don’t want to prevent the fire.
I am the fire.

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[photographs from pinterest]

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Ah, candles lit, the golden hour nearly finished, Bob Dylan in the background and a little white wine to go along with my fresh out of the oven arugula, burrata cheese and prosciutto flatbread. This put a smile on my face and, believe it or not, a little dance in my step in my living room tonight. I get it now. This is what old people look forward to. A quiet home to themselves. No demands, questions, obligations or white noise. Just the ocean breeze, feet up and drinks down. I’ve crossed over. I’m one of them now.

I get excited to go to bed early just so I can wake up and have my cup, or two, of costa rican coffee in the morning with a dash of organic heavy whipping cream. Yes, it’s amazing. After work today I went for a run and realized the only people smiling or waving back at me had grey hair. Once I got home I went into the bathroom nervously to check, and yep, I too have a grey hair. Just one. But I have one nonetheless. These grey haired people are my new tribe.

I’m being welcomed into my late twenties with open arms and I am fully embracing it. I feel it. I can see it. The sun damage is visible. I can now talk about life a decade ago and remember it like yesterday. I’m usually in bed by 10 and three slightly dirty kettle one martinis on a patio with a friend over the span of 5 hours constitutes for a wild night out.

Oh the twenties. I read a quote that said, “A brief history of my 20’s: lost, found, lost, found, lost found, lost, found.” I would agree with that. Yes, I’m still in my twenties and thankfully have a few years left, but man has it been packed. A lot of life lived. Enough for 9 lives it seems.

My birthday this year actually came at a bad time. I kept telling it to just hold off. Don’t come yet. Stay in the future. Just hang on until I can get my life back together. Until I felt like I have something to celebrate. Until I felt found once again. Not exhausted. Overrun. Pushed down.

The 17th of April came anyway. As quick as another other day. And it was beautiful. From my friends to the sky to the hippy house in Topanga Canyon and several glasses of wine throughout the day in Malibu, it was perfect. I found myself more appreciative on this birthday than any other before. Sitting around a table overlooking the ocean and gazing into the eyes of seven stunning women, I was grateful. Grateful for friendship. Grateful for the seasons of beauty and ashes. Grateful for new life. Grateful for bartenders, babies and baked goods. Grateful for another year. Another day. Another chance to wake up and show up to the greatest gift, life.

I can sit back and let life happen to me or I can engage and create. I refuse to let the winds of change push me over and hold me down. I will rise strong and allow the wind to blow my through my hair, be the wind in my sails, and be the energy to reroute not ruin.

Just for today, the rising strong and rechanneling means lighting my Tibetan musk incense, relaxing with a homemade meal on my porch, and smiling and waving to my grey haired next door neighbors, who get it. It’s the simple things. The small things. That bring joy in the moment. Love for today. It’s staying present. It’s savoring. It’s one foot in front of the other that brings healing, gratitude, and freedom.

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