shine on us

Oh, how I’ve loved having a house full of people again.

Living alone, working alone, and finishing online classes was a little too much for this extravert to handle. While the down time was nice and the transition was needed, I was getting a little antsy not having other people to do everyday life with. It was the first time I had ever lived entirely on my own & I had reached my maximum capacity of solitude.

Now, I have a house that never sleeps, is always on the go, and full of laughs – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have two littles that keep me entertained and giggling all day as they dance around the house, throwing in a “baby yoga” pose or two along the way. It’s been a joy watching their “firsts” in America, and I love seeing the amazement on their faces as they experience something new.

So here’s to adventures and laughs and not enough sleep. To iced coffee and popcorn and lots of champagne. To the snuggles and meltdowns and the moments in between.

And speaking of adventures, here’s a glimpse of our little one today.

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body, mind & soul

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This whole writing thing has been escaping me lately.

I think about it often, trying to come up with some brilliant topic that stirs my heart enough to warrant the time it takes to sit down and write. Before I get any sort of idea, my ADD brain is right on to the next task form of procrastination.

This whole procrastination thing has been biting me in the butt even more so lately than normal. Which is saying something, because I’ve essentially earned a bachelors degree in procrastination. It’s that bad. However, over the last few months, I’ve allowed myself to come up with absolutely any form of distraction that allows me to escape the necessary task or assignment or cleaning that’s next on my list. So much so that I gave up Netflix for lent (something I’ve never actually observed before) in hopes that it would free up my time and maybe even force me to read once and a while. But wouldn’t you know it, I’ve completely failed at the entire concept of lent and have filled that “extra” time with just about anything unproductive and nothing that has furthered my relentless pursuit of The Creator. So, not only have I failed at being productive, but I’ve completely failed at harnessing the potential power behind the proper observation of the season of lent.

So, I’ve decided to change that – a little later than I probably should have. I’m taking back what time I have left in this season beyond lent to cultivate an environment of not only productivity, but curiosity and creativity.

*In an effort for full disclosure, I wrote everything up to this point and switched over to Hulu. So clearly I have a little ways to go to fully put this into practice.*

So, two days after I initially started this post, here are the top five ways I’m changing my habits to become more productive and intentional.

  1. When you think about it, do it. I’m a procrastinator through & through (shout out to my fellow ENFPs), which often causes a task to take 3x longer than it should to complete. I’m such a pro at thinking, “oh, I’ll do that in a little bit,” when I think of something that needs to be done. This becomes SO DANGEROUS for me and my productivity. This “little bit” turns into hours which turns into days and weeks and suddenly I’m overwhelmed by all the tasks I’ve put off. So my solution: when you think about it, do it. I’m trying to be proactive by completing tasks as soon as I think of them. While this isn’t always necessarily possible, it does somehow make me feel more productive and saves me a little bit of stress in the future.
  2. Start moving as soon after you wake up as possible. I often tend to start my day by catching up on a TV show from the night before. However, on the days when I get out of bed shortly after waking up, make a cup of coffee, start my breakfast, and just move, I find myself to be 100x more productive throughout the day than I would otherwise be. And, I mean, coffee is involved – so it can’t be all that bad.
  3. Set small goals throughout the day. I love a good list. I’m such a visual person, it helps me immensely to see my calendar and tasks written out. I’ve found that I’m able to be more productive when I not only write my tasks/goals out, but also when I set small attainable ones throughout the day. By setting these small goals, I find my day less daunting. It breaks things up and makes them seem manageable. I often tend to reward myself after completing a set of tasks. Sometimes it’s just as simple as walking to get the mail, but it motivates me to push through.
  4. Keep your morning routine constant, but not boring. I’m a creature of habit, but I also thrive with change – which makes things complicated. I love having my plan for the day, but if it’s the same day after day, I get bored and tend to procrastinate more. I’ve tried to set a simple morning routine of getting up and making breakfast/coffee, but I tend to mix up what I do after that, or the music I listen to, or even just what I eat. Sometimes I go to the gym in the afternoon, while other times I wait and go in the evening. I crave something new and different each day, but maintaining some kind of routine allows me to thrive within that changing schedule.
  5. Reward yourself with something other than TV or other mindless entertainment. This is a really hard one for me. My go to is Netflix and Hulu – allowing myself to check-out for 40 minutes as I fight fires in Chicago or hop over to Seattle to perform a quick surgery. However, not only is this a complete waste of time, it’s also entirely mindless. I don’t have to think or process much at all. This is not to say that there isn’t a time and place for mindless TV, but it needs to stop being my go-to. Instead, I’ve tried to reward myself with either something that still makes me think (like reading) or something that gets me moving (like going to a class at they gym or simply getting outside to get the mail). This keeps my mind engaged and I’m less likely to “accidentally” spend my day hitting the “play next episode” button.

Goodness, I am by no means succeeding at this even 50% of the time these days. I find myself failing more than I find myself being productive and intentional. I try to implement just one more thing that I did the day before. One foot in front of the other, one good choice after another. It’s a slow process, but it’s something that I’m intent on mastering moving forward from here.

My word of the year is fearless (which is something for another post), but I also want to strive to be intentional. I want to be intentional about what I eat, what I do, what I read, and who I build relationships with. Not only that, but I also want to be intentional about seeking out opportunities, feeding into my curiosity, and cultivating gratefulness and joy in as many moments as I can. I’m 150% sure I will fall short of all of these goals, but I want to fight for them in each decision and action I make – moving forward with determination.

So, here’s to 2016. Here’s to a year of redemption, clarity, and fearlessness. Here’s to being bold and curious and intentional.

Here’s to planting one foot. And then the other. Again and again.

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i still care for you

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Ever since I started taking classes again, the amount of reading I did outside of school dropped significantly. I can hardly make myself read the necessary words required to earn a passing grade, let alone something that is for no other reason than inspiration and passion and concepts that challenged you.

I’ve made the resolution about 7 times over the last two years that I would pick up a book more often. And not one that coordinated with my lessons for the week.

And here we are, January 2016, and I’m failing at this goal yet again.

Until last night, that is. Okay, maybe it was this past weekend when I finally decided to turn off Netflix and open a book before bed instead of hitting “play next” again. I was already about halfway through one book, but in the interest of transparency, I was really just trying to finish it so I could start the book that has been sitting beside my bed for the last month-and-a-half.

So finally, last night I was able to pick up this long awaited book for the first time. It was just going to be a few chapters before I put it down and called it an early night.

But here’s the thing, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I didn’t even want to make myself try to stop.

I just kept reading and reading – soaking in every word and sentence and chapter after chapter.

I read three-quarters of the book last night. And I felt more alive and inspired and in awe than I had in months. Maybe more.

The book is not filled with complex concepts that take a mathematical formula to pick apart, but it is filled with truth and love and words that would resonate with anyone who took time to crack the front cover.

The chapters are short and the message is simple: we need love – we need people – we need each other.

I haven’t been able to get this book out of my head for the last 24 hours. There’s something among those pages that stirred something inside of me.

Stories. We all have stories. Our lives are filled with stories as we write one of our own. This book is filled with stories and lessons and experiences that simply say, “We’re all human. We all struggle. We all need each other. Let’s share our stories and do just that.”

The book is If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms.

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As I turned the last page, unable to fully believe that the book was over – with a few tears rolling down my cheeks, I longed for more. I wanted to hear more stories, more hope, more struggle, more redemption – more love.

It seems silly that such a simple concept could make such an impact. But I think that’s just the point.

It’s simple.

“We are only asked to love, to offer hope to the many hopeless. We don’t get to choose all the endings, but we are asked to play the rescuers. We won’t solve all mysteries and our hearts will certainly break in such a vulnerable life, but it is the best way. We were made to be lovers bold in broken places, pouring ourselves out again and again until we’re called home.”

                                                                      – Jamie Tworkowski

We are made to pour ourselves out again and again. There will be hurt and there will be pain, because, as C. S. Lewis said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable”. We are automatically opening ourselves up to the hurt that this world throws at us day after day. But we can still make the choice to love – to boldly step out, to admit that we’re wrong and that we’re broken, but that we all walk this same road together.

Oh, how I wish I could meet Jamie at a coffee shop somewhere drenched with the smell of salt water. I want to hear more of his stories. More about the things that led him to where he is today – that allowed him to simply say yes when an experience turned into a story turned into TWLOHA. Because we are all just humans, trying to give our best yes in the most broken of places.

“You’ll need coffee shops and sunsets and road trips. Airplanes and passports and new songs and old songs, but people more than anything else. You will need other people, and you will need to be that other person to someone else, a living breaking screaming invitation to believe better things.

We’re saying the story doesn’t end here, that the air in your longs is there for a reason. Perhaps we’re all in the business of better endings, you as much as us, the business of redemption.”

                                                                      – Jamie Tworkowski

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when i lost my heart to you

My goodness, how do I even describe these people & this day.

Through a crazy mess of twists and turns, I was able to make it to one of my best friend’s weddings. Not only that, but I had the honor of taking a few pictures throughout the day.

Though it may have been raining before the wedding and during the ceremony, it was one of the most beautiful wedding celebrations I’ve ever been apart of. The wedding party was safe & dry underneath a big oak tree that was the most vibrate shade of yellow that is only seen during a true Ontario fall as two lives were pledged to God & each other forever.

I laughed, I cried, I ended up half in the pool trying to move the filter sprinkler – you know, a typical day. But most of all, it was a beautiful joining of two amazing people who seek God above all else in a way that is tangible to everyone around them.

My dearest Chris & Riley, I love you something fierce – from California to Canada and Australia and back.

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25 for 25

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As a continuation of my last post “24 from 24”, I thought I’d turn the tables and look forward to the year ahead.

I love the idea of a blank slate. Whether it’s a new planner, a new school semester, or an unexplored city – there’s nothing better than starting fresh, with new opportunities and choices ahead.

So, here are 25 things that I’m looking forward to doing & learning in the coming year:

  1. More In-N-Out. Obvs.
  2. Exploring my new city and state, finding my favorite places while still always wanting to try something new.
  3. More coffee dates. Taking time to sit down and share stories and conversation over a piping hot [or ice cold] cup of coffee [or tea, I’ll allow that].
  4. Keep travelling. There’s something beautiful about experiencing somewhere you’ve never been.
  5. Pick up the phone and dial. I’m done wishing I made more time to talk to my people.
  6. Buy more expensive makeup. You’ve held out for 25 years. It’s time.
  7. Bike that extra mile or 3 at the gym. The extra few minutes will be worth it.
  8. Visit the PNW. Because I’m 25 and that hasn’t happened yet. I’m doing it wrong.
  9. More whiskey. More beer. More champagne.
  10. Launch one of the biggest, most exciting projects I’ve ever been apart of. Stay tuned.
  11. Allow myself to take time for creativity. DIY therapy is the best therapy.
  12. Try every single flavor of La Croix.
  13. Take pictures with my camera more consistently. This has been an ongoing goal for too many years.
  14. Try at least one new recipe a week. My Pinterest board has been neglected when it comes to applying the copious things I continue to “save for later”.
  15. Put down the phone more. People are more important.
  16. Learn to really, truly rest.
  17. Get another tattoo. Because once you get one you just can’t stop.
  18. Finally watch Parks and Rec. I’ve failed up to this point. It’s not okay.
  19. Find a church community that I can invest in. Oh, how I’ve missed that.
  20. Attempt to learn how to surf. I might break a neck, but I want to say I’ve tried.
  21. Apply #20 to snowboarding and long-boarding also.
  22. Listen to more new music each week.
  23. Use my planner for more than the first two months of the year.
  24. Finish my degree. Finally.
  25. Live fearlessly – trusting fully in our Creator.

So here’s to 25. Here’s to expectantly waiting for big adventures and answers to bold prayers.

Photo by @graceandsalt.

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24 from 24

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Because I’m almost a quarter of a century & the last year has been on of the craziest on record, I thought I’d make a little list. Because my split left-right brain and split type a/b personality loves a good list to process the last year.

So here we go. Here are 24 things/lessons that happened or were learned while I was 24.

  1. Growing up in Canada does not mean that you are resistant to all things cold. Especially after living on the equator for a year. It’s 72 in the house right now and I’m bundled like I’m camping outside in the non-existent snow.
  2. The intercontinental trip to Uganda never gets more comfortable or enjoyable. My legs are simply too long for that to ever be possible.
  3. In-N-Out Burger for life. #proteinstyle3x3
  4. Canada failed with the whole Target thing. They need to figure that crap out.
  5. As much as you complain about the cold, you really kind of miss the snow.
  6. You fully understand that you would start to complain about this aforementioned snow within the first 24 hours.
  7. Life is better when you have friends to laugh with. Even when you’re making a fool of yourself.
  8. Coffee is always a good idea.
  9. Everyone needs the ocean in their life every so often. There aren’t many places that feel closer to the Creator than by the water.
  10. You should always take the Netflix hint when it asks if you want to “continue playing”. This is probably a warning that you’ve been letting it autoplay the next episode for too long.
  11. Sometimes you need to ignore the previously mentioned warning.
  12. One can never see NEEDTOBREATHE too many times.
  13. Settlers of Catan is addictive. Sometimes you play upwards of 15 games a day. And that’s okay.
  14. Handwritten notes need to come back into style. Encouragement on physical paper is unlike anything else.
  15. Having friends who are amazing musicians makes life that much better.
  16. Champagne is always the answer.
  17. If champagne isn’t the answer, whiskey is.
  18. You should stick with school the first time around. It’s less pleasant trying to finish your degree 4 years later.
  19. Sometimes you need to remind yourself of all the things you got to do during the 4 years you weren’t in school and put everything into perspective.
  20. Trying something new – especially something that scares the shit out of you – is probably just the thing you need to do.
  21. Putting up the Christmas tree by yourself, while somewhat depressing, allows you to put the ornaments just where you want them. But you also have to put on all the lights. Not sure it’s worth it.
  22. It’s worth the extra time it takes to stay in contact with friends that live far away from you. It’s always worth it.
  23. If you live by yourself, it’s acceptable to eat the same meal every night for a week. I mean, how do you even make a pot of soup for one person?
  24. Some years you live without having a real “home”. And to be honest, it’s during those years that you end up learning a the most.

So here’s to 24. For all that it was, for all that was learned, and for all of the wins and loses. You gave me a run for my money, and I could barely keep up.

But here we are, almost at 25, and still moving forward. So here’s to 25. To all that you will be and all that you will bring. Here’s hoping for big adventures, getting up after failures, and more In-N-Out burger than any year before.

From 24 with love (and a little heartbreak),
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Photo by @graceandsalt.

have yourself a merry little christmas

Oh, what a wonderful Christmas it was.

While it wasn’t my first Christmas away from “home”, it still felt weird leading up to the holiday season, knowing I wouldn’t be in Ontario this year. I was dreaming of snow and cold and fondue on Christmas Eve – but the snow was scarce (read non-existent) and I was thankful to still be able to spend the holiday with family on the west coast.

While I was expecting a warmer than normal Christmas, let’s just say it was plenty cold. While I still would have loved a snow sighting, it still felt cozy enough to not seem out of place. Thankfully my new jacket came in time for the train trek to Fresno. My Canadian mittens may have also made an appearance…

Normally, our Christmases at home are fairly quiet. With only one sister and just a few cousins in the area beyond that, there was never much commotion. I always dreamed of a big Christmas filled with lots of people, good food, Christmas movies, and lots going on. My first Christmas away from home in North Carolina was just that, and I was looking forward to this Christmas following in those footsteps.

And let me tell you, it did not disappoint. I’m so thankful for my west-coast family. They made Christmas week so much fun. Seriously, I can’t even count the times I ended in in tear-inducing, ab-workout laughter. These people are my kind of crazy, and that’s just the best feeling.

We took a few pictures before I had to catch my train back to San Diego on Sunday. Don’t be fooled by the pictures – it was cold. It felt a little less like California than I expected, and I was okay with that. In fact, it was the same temperature in Fresno as it was in Ontario this week – so it’s basically like home came here.

Here’s to family, and Christmas, and uncontrollable laughter.

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These are my people. As crazy as they are. And let’s be honest – the crazier the better.

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the fall

All the fall things. Literally, all of them.

This is the first fall since 2010 that I haven’t been in North Carolina for at least part of the season. I must admit, I’m missing the Blue Ridge Parkway, the cool morning walks to the bakery, and, of course, the Sky Top apple cider donuts.

But, let’s be honest, Southwestern Ontario has a pretty remarkable fall itself. Last week, sister and I took a short hiatus from school work and volleyball to roam around a local apple orchard. We went to Orchard Home Farm, just a beautiful country drive away from Kitchener.

We picked some apples, got lost in the trees, and took a few pictures along the way. We didn’t choose the apple picking life, the apple picking life chose us.

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almost home

Cottage adventures are the best adventures.

We’ve been spending time up at a little cottage on Golden Lake for over 15 years. The cottage belongs to some of our best family friends – we’ve grown up there together, skipping rocks and catching frogs for a week almost every summer. This summer was the first in about four years that all of us were reunited on this little lake in Northern Ontario.

While the visit was brief, the nostalgia was thick. Suddenly, we’re old enough to take the jet ski out and wander onto the dock without cautious warnings from our parents. Sometime during these years, we’ve grown up – living lives together and apart. But still, we can always come back together for a few ridiculous card games and the best popcorn that you ever did taste (shoutout to Mrs. Hillier for that).

So here’s to those days spent together & and the lifelong memories made – wherever we may be.

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love will be enough for us

Oh Florida, while your beaches are beautiful, your humidity is fairly unnecessary.

As the sun lowered & the humidity became bearable, I ventured outside with my good friends, Duncan + Christina, to shoot a few engagement pictures. While this trip is the first time I’ve met Duncan, it feels as though we’ve known each other for years. And it doesn’t hurt that the two of them make quite a cute couple.

I was dreading these photos, nervous that I wouldn’t get a good shot worth anything at all. I tend to lean more towards snapping candid photos, opposed to posed shots. However, it turns out that you can still capture the candid moments within them all.

So here’s to being bold & trying new things, and life, love, & other mysteries.

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