Ringing in the New Year with my Aunt Kaki

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I love the beginning of the year. There’s the newness and hopefulness of all the good intentions, goals and aspirations. You can see your life spread out in front of you, full of possibility. It’s a marker in time that reminds us to look backwards and reflect on the past, what went well and what maybe didn’t.

In 2001, I started a habit of writing an end-of-year summary about my past year. The habit started after my sister told me how our great-aunt, Kaki, did the same thing every year. We have a stack of Kaki’s writing, spanning from the year she got married in 1936 until the year she died in 1988.

I try to set aside a little time around the New Year to sit down and browse through them. It’s so comforting to have this piece of her. I can see what her life was like, long before I knew her, and it’s all in her own voice. I know some of the people she writes about, but most I never met. Her husband, Horace, died before I was born, but I feel close to them, and get a glimpse of what our family was like then.

photo 2It spans from the excitement of the first few years of their marriage, to the heartbreak of losing babies, and Horace’s time in the military during World War II. She details the many community, church and civic involvements she had, her travels, and family events. My sisters and I make appearances in later years. Like a little kid, I love flipping to 1979 and re-reading what she says about when I was born, the Christmases she spent with us and other events that included her great-nieces.

I like reading it from my perspective now as an adult compared to how I saw her when I was younger and remember her now. I can appreciate how involved she was in service to her community, and seeing that dedication is such an inspiration for me. That is why I like to read through these pages each year. When I read the stories of her life, I’m reminded of how I’m writing my own right now.

So I write about this past year and we all look ahead to the next, I try to remember how many stories have been written before us and how many stories will be written after us.  There are stories of hope and inspiration, of loss and sadness, of family and gratitude.  They are all splendid in their own right, but our own story – that is one we get to create.

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Thanksgiving Resolution

iPhone 009I’ve officially declared Thanksgiving as my favorite holiday.  You get to eat good food and hang out with your family and focus on what you’re grateful for.  I mean, what’s not to love about that?   I was able to spend my Thanksgiving doing just those things and it was great.

Like a lot of families, we go around before dinner and say what we are thankful for and this is what I shared this year:

“There are a lot of things I’m thankful for, but when I think about what I am most grateful for, it’s the people around me.  You always hear the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, which is true…but I think that you also need a  village to sustain us as adults too.  I’m so thankful for the group of people around me that have seen me at my worst but still believe in my best.  It’s been a rough year for a lot of us, but through the loss and the struggle, we’ve had our village.  We’ve had each other, and for that my heart is completely overwhelmed with gratitude.”

Maybe instead of a New Year’s resolution, I’ll make a Thanksgiving resolution instead.  Through the upcoming year, I resolve to pause for quiet moments and express gratitude for that which sustains me.  It shouldn’t be hard, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Listening For Your Anything

Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me―
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.

―Shel Silverstein, from Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of two books from my childhood that I still have. I remember dramatically begging my parents for it at a 2nd grade book fair, and being completely devastated when they said No.  But just like magic, it appeared on Christmas morning and inside the front cover it reads:
“To Sarah
With all our Love
From Mom and Dad
Christmas 1986
May you always keep your dreams!”

As 7-year-olds, our dreams may have been as simple as a book of poetry from a book fair, but as we get older we don’t do as good of a job listening to our dreams. School loans and full time jobs and mortgage payments start to create more noise in our lives.

The (joyful) tasks of raising kids and making dinners and doing laundry become the soundtrack for our days and we hum along to the noisiness of being busy. Sometimes plans are derailed by illness or tragedies out of our control and the SHOULDN’TS and MUSTN’TS join in the chorus.  Beeps and tweets and rings keep time.  Our focus shifts from one thing to another and we’re just trying to keep up each day.  We check our phones from when we wake up in the morning until we lay down at night.  And still the noise grows.

But what if we STOP for a moment.

Just for a few minutes or even a few seconds. We shush the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS and become quiet enough for that little voice inside of us to speak.  It has been waiting for just this chance and it may barely be a whisper to start, but it speaks of the ANYTHING.  Trust me, sometimes that voice is too close to the realest part of you that it is shit-your-pants scary to hear what it has to say, but all it needs is for you to listen.  The simple act of listening makes it stronger.


The MUSTN’TS, the DON’TS, the SHOULDN’TS, the IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS and the NEVER HAVES are boisterous and noisy and demanding and a lot of times are all that we can hear.

But the ANYTHING…? It may be quiet and scary, but it might just be what you need to hear today.

20 Favorite Pictures From Scotland

If there were a yearbook for countries, I have no doubt that Scotland would be voted most photogenic.  This little country captured my heart and captivated me with it’s landscapes.  As we weaved our way across the country, we would be stunned by the most breath-taking view only to find an equally beautiful view around the very next corner.

On one particularly captivating hike, as I was clicking away, my sister said gently, “There’s just no way to capture it all, is there?”   and I had to put down the camera and remind myself to breathe it all in.  When people ask me how Scotland was, the first word that pops into my head is magical.  It was the trip I never knew I always wanted to go on.

Before I left, I had learned a few new things about my iPhone camera (thanks to Tammy Strobel’s Everyday Magic photography course), so I decided to ditch my regular camera and just rely on the iPhone for my pictures.  The following are my favorite 20 pictures…

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Scottish Flag over the water



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To see the world through his eyes…



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A walk around the countryside.




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Broadford, Isle of Skye


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The Gardens at Dunvegan Castle


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On the way to Skye


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Hunting for seashells


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Surveying his seashell collection


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One of many rainbows


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Portree, Isle of Skye


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Who’s that handsome lad in the mirror?


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Campfire at Old Leckie


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Old church Door


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View of William Wallace Memorial from Stirling Castle


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Fairy Pools, Glenbrittle Forest


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Boat at Broadford


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So many places to explore



Ok, so this is the only one I didn’t take, but it was such a neat picture of my mom on a kayak.  Thanks to Chris Watt for the photograph.


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Sunset on Isle of Skye











Birthday Gifts


Yesterday was my birthday and a lot of birthdays are focused on the giving of gifts.  I wanted to focus on the gifts that I am most grateful for this year and here is a list of 35, one for each year I’ve been here on this planet.

1.  My health. As trite as it sounds, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I regularly take it for granted, but have daily reminders of what it looks like to have it taken away, either gradually or suddenly.

iPhone 1452.  My husband. He helps me be who I need to and want to be. He laughs at my jokes, corrects my grammar, loves me fiercely. He is my rock, and my companion to walk this adventure of a life with.

3.  The people who have been here before me. Generations of parents, grandparents, great great great grandparents. There is a layering of lives and decisions and acheivements that my life now rests on. They are woven into my DNA and my story.

iPhone 1374.  My Mom. There’s no one quite like her, and there’s nothing quite like the unconditional love she has for her family. I’m so grateful for the things that she has taught me and that the universe gave me her for a guiding light.

5.  I’m thankful for her teaching me how to sew. It has been a skill that has stayed with me through the years and served me well. It’s a creative outlet and a way we connect.

6.  My Dad. He’s wickedly smart and funny, with a good dose of quirkiness thrown in there as well. He’s always learning something new and excelling at whatever he tries. I love him dearly and genuinely like him as a person and a friend.

7.  The example of love and marriage that the great couples in my life have shown me. Their example of steadfast love and longevity are the building blocks and inspiration for my own marriage.

8.  My sister, Katie. She is my other half, the best big sister a girl could wish for. I can bet 90% of the time, that whatever I am thinking, she is thinking the same thing. We finish each others…sandwiches.

iPhone 6999.  My sister, Martha.   She is a force to be reckoned with, from her smarts to her razor sharp humor, to her mad party planning skills. I have always looked up to her authenticity and confidence in her true self. This woman can move mountains.

10.  My sister, Laura. The baby of the family, she has been the fireball to our lives. I am constantly inspired by the way she loves and experiences life, boldly taking on the world, she is not afraid of anything. She is always there when I need her most.

11. I’m forever grateful for phone conversations in the car on my way to work. It is not rare, that by the time I get to work, I am laughing to the point of tears and have to compose myself before venturing in to get my day started. These conversations nourish me.

12.  The breath-taking sunrises that greet me on the mornings I get up early enough to see them.iPhone 565

13.  The lottery of my birth. In no way did I deserve the place, the time, the family or the circumstances of my life, but it is undeniably a gift.

iPhone 08514.  The entire Kray family. They have welcomed me in, supported my crazy ideas, and celebrated big milestones throughout the years. I love watching my niece and nephews grow up and miss being so far away from all of them.

15.  I’m forever grateful and indebted to the role models of strong women I have in my life. The tough women who have gone before me, fighting battles for all of us and creating the world of opportunity we live in now as women.

16.  The reflective, and soul-feeding practices of yoga, writing, meditation, and photography that help me slow down, appreciate the present, and look differently at myself and the world around me.

17.  My aunts and uncles. This is a unique person to have in your life as you grow up. They straddle the line between the authority and comfort of our parents, and the fun freedom they have precisely because they aren’t our parents. All the aunts and uncles in my life have taught me how to be an auntie, a role that I get so much joy out of now.

iPhone 49918.  The gift of Brayden. As the 1st grandchild in the family, he taught our family a whole new kind of love, and he continues to bring joy in all of our lives. He is kind, and curious, and I melt when he hugs his brother or cousins with such love. His enthusiasm is contagious.

iPhone 22819.  The gift of Brynne. Yesterday she told us how when her mom is a grandma, she will be her mom’s age, and she’ll have a daughter who is her age, “and then it just keeps going and going.” She is wise and caring, and she makes my heart smile.

20.  The gift of Barrett. His handsome smile hides a quick wit and mischief. He’s tough. He’s hilarious. His his little hoarse voice is about the cutest thing I’ve ever heard.

iPhone 66221.  The gift of Everett. He is a trooper through and through. I love watching him grow and learn and change every day. A hard day gets instantly better when I see his tiny little cherub mouth smile.

22.  Public education. When I visited Uganda, there were kids that wanted to go to school but couldn’t afford it, and I had never realized what a gift free public education was. Say what you will about the current state of our schools, but I’m so grateful it is there and the education I received.

23.  The opportunity of higher education. Going to college helped me shape my ideas about the world, it taught me how to think and provided me with even more opportunity in life. I didn’t earn this gift, but I will forever be appreciative.

24.  A job and a profession that lets me contribute to people’s lives. Work that is fulfilling. I’m honored by the trust and confidence that people put in me.   It has been a wonderful way to make my living.

Nina n Us-00125.  My mother in law. She has given me an example of strength and resilience and generosity. She has always treated me like a daughter and I’m forever thankful that she raised the kind of guy that I wanted to marry.

26.  The gift of struggle. Nobody guaranteed us that there wouldn’t be hard times. Loss is the price we pay for living and loving. Hardship is the great teacher of our lives. It brings perspective and change, and if we can make it through, we can sometimes see the gifts it brings.

27.  The gift of nature. I can go up into the mountains whenever I want to connect with the natural world. It reminds us of the older, bigger world out there with all its mysteries and beauty and that we are a small part of the picture.IMG_1871

28.  Being able to turn on a faucet and get cold, clean water. Such a basic thing, but such an awesome gift that is by no means accessible to everyone in the world.

29.  The big, beautiful world out there, where exotic destinations are within a day’s travel and they’re all out there just waiting to be explored.

30.  The gift of friendships past. They leave the imprint of memories and will always be a part of you.

iPhone 57931.  The gift of friendships present. We’ve been lucky enough to be in an amazing community and found kind, generous, inspiring people to call friends.

32.  The gifts of friendships far. The people that you can go years without seeing in person, but are able to pick up wherever you left off. The lack of proximity has no effect on the closeness of these bonds.

33.  Dreams, hope, optimism. Because if you carry these gifts, the future always looks splendid.

213-00134.  Quiet weekend mornings that stretch into the afternoon with a mug of coffee, lazy conversations, and the down-time I always need.

35.  And finally, the gift of another year, another day, another hour. The universe needs me here another day and that is the greatest gift we all have this very moment.

Mini Adventure to Ouzel Falls – A Photo Essay

On the recommendation of our friends Wendi and Paul, we went hiking this past weekend to a well-traveled part of Rocky Mountain National Park called Wild Basin Area.  197Our goal was Ouzel Falls, a 2.7 mile hike one-way.  It ended up being about a 45 minute drive from our house, South of Estes Park on Highway 7.  It seems to be fairly popular as the parking lot was already full at 10 AM.

When we entered the park and drove along the one lane gravel road, the rangers were talking via walkie-talkie to direct cars to a parking area about 3/4 of a mild from the trailhead.  They radioed to the main lot to ask if there was anywhere to fit a Mini Cooper and we heard them say, “We can fit a Mini, but NOTHING bigger than that!”  It was like we won the parking (lot)tery, and we drove up to the main lot.  280

The trail was fairly easy, which is good for us as we have not been out hiking much this season.  There were lots of families with kids that we saw along the way and at the falls.  As you go, the trail roughly follows along the river.  235The sound becomes more faint as the trail weaves away from it and would sometimes become a thunderous roar when it was close.  It is one of those nature sounds that is so constant and reassuring.   The river was flowing so fast and heavy with all the run off we have had this spring.  It was impressive.  220

One day last week, I took a picture of a little toy Mini in the weeds by my house, and ever since then I have been getting such a kick out of taking pictures of this mini Mini in different places.  I had to bring this little guy out here to get some more pictures.

233I didn’t mind the eye-rolling from my husband or the strange looks from fellow hikers when I was laying on the ground trying to get a close up.  It was so much fun!


Once you get to the falls, you can’t go any further on this particular trail after the bridge was washed out with last year’s flooding.  You can hike much farther on to other lakes in the trail system, but have to take a different trail earlier on.

250By the time we got there, it was around noon, and starting to warm up, but once you get close to the falls, there is a cool mist that feels great.

We took another suggestion from Paul and Wendi and braved the snow and the muck to hike to the top of the falls, where the view was absolutely stunning.  You have a great view of Mt. Meeker and Long’s Peak.  We snacked on PB&J sandwiches, fresh cherries and pistachios before heading back.

262It took us about 2 1/2 hours round trip for us, which includes stopping quite a bit for pictures.  We would definitely go back, probably for a longer hike to one of the lakes.