Birthday Gifts

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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.

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The 3 Little Hipsters Bring You Inspiring Blogs To Check Out This Weekend

This week my favorite 3 Little Hipsters are bringing inspiration from some favorite blogs.  I think what I like most about these lovely blogging ladies is the way their voices shine through their words.  They each have an authenticity in their writing that is easy to connect to, and they seem like people you could easily sit down with and have a cup of coffee and chat.

image[2]So Many Places – Kim decided a few years ago that she wasn’t living her life the way she wanted.  She wasn’t doing the work that was true to her self, so instead of just talking about it like most of us do – she actually did something.  She and her husband saved money and worked hard toward quitting their secure jobs to travel, write, and live their lives differently.  Her blog has been a huge inspiration for me, and she is one of the few people in blogland I have iPhone 616actually met in person (I did feel a little bit like a weirdo-stalker, but she was really gracious).  This post was a one that helped me propel myself off the couch and onto the computer to start my own blog.

imageThe Frugal Girl – This may be the blog I have followed for the longest time.  Kristen’s life is very different than mine.  I am a Childless Working Woman and she is a Homechooling Christian Mom, but her voice and her message are so clear, those differences don’t matter.  I appreciate her thoughtful approach to life and her message that you can be content with whatever you have right now.  She has some great thoughts about food waste, and unabashedly shares pictures of whatever food she’s wasted each week (she’s brave!).

image[1]Rowdy Kittens –I found this blog when I started getting interested in tiny houses, and Tammy sucked me in with her writing style and photography.   She writes about living simple in her tiny house, happiness, and downsizing, and has published a few books on those topics as well.  I’m currently participating in Tammy’s Everyday Magic course about photography.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Anybody have blogs they are particularly fond of or bring them inspiration?

A Mother’s Day Tribute

135_26487570120_4898_nAlthough I’m not a mom, I’ve been deeply touched by the women in my life who are mothers.  I’m in awe of the energy and strength and self-sacrifice you pour out from your heart into our world and just want you to know it doesn’t go un-noticed.

To my own Mom, who continues to teach me about the big things and the little things in this crazy life, you embody selfless love and show me no matter how old your daughters get, you’ll never stop being there.  As we walk the hardest parts of our lives, we know that you’ll be there for us.  Our pain is your pain.  Thank you for showing me that you’re never too old to snuggle with your mom in the morning.

To my grandma who raised 16 kids (I know, 16!), who obviously knew what hard work meant.  The legacy you leave is one of a joyful soul.  Thank you for showing me how to eat ice cream sundaes for breakfast.

To my sister who gave up pretty much everything in her diet, in order to continue to breast feed her infant son with allergies.  She quite literally did everything she could to do what she felt was best for him.  You’ve shown me the ability to do difficult acts of selflessness for others.

Martha & BarrettTo my sister and other Moms going through profound loss, who find the strength to get up every morning and face a life you don’t recognize.  I can see your face change for an instant when you are momentarily pulled out of your grief to help your sons with their needs.  You are raising two awesome people as a single parent and making sure their lives are filled with fun, stability and adventure even though you are feeling pain, loss and uncertainty.   Thank you for showing the world your resilience, perseverance and faith – they shine through in everything you do.

Marita & EliotTo my friend who brought her 2 kids out to visit us recently.  During that trip, you made comments that you felt guilty that they ate fruit loops and still used a pacifier.  Those things don’t matter.  What matters is that your kids are happy and feel loved, and everyone around can see that.   You were never checking your phone or email.  Please let go of any guilt, and truly believe that you are doing an amazing job.  Thank you for showing me how to be in the moment with the people around you.

Nina n UsTo my mother-in-law who loves her sons fiercely and who has always accepted me as a daughter, even sending me a Mother’s Day card every year.  You get up every morning and work your butt off even when the universe throws curve balls right at you.  Despite all the trials, you continue to be one of the most generous, giving and positive souls I know.  Thank you for inspiring me to be the same.

To my aunt and other moms out there that know that to be the best Mom you can, it means getting up and going to work outside the home every day.  These decisions don’t come easy.  Thank you for showing me that your contributions reach far beyond raising your children, that really knowing yourself is important, and that you do what’s best for your family even if it is difficult.

To the numerous women out there who want to be Moms with their whole heart, but it just isn’t happening.  You are on an emotional roller coaster, fueled by hormones and hope.  You put your trust in your bodies and in science, and there is nothing easy about it.  You’ve shown me the power of hope and to have compassion because you never know the quiet battles people are waging.

Turkey TowelsTo all the Moms out there, I am profoundly grateful for the gifts you share with the rest of us non-Moms.  Your gifts come from just trying to do your best for your kids, but they have a ripple effect on the people around you, and just keep moving out in the world as you continue to drive kids to soccer, keep them fed, wipe tears (sometimes your own), wake up in the middle of the night, face piles of dirty clothes.  You are a veritable force of goodness.  Thank you.  May today be a day you can sit back and reflect on these gifts, and know that YOU ARE AMAZING.