Keep Calm, and Boulder On.

Dear Avery,

This past Memorial day weekend I made a last minute decision to go camping in the desert of Joshua Tree National Park with a group of friends.

Yes, I slept on the ground. No, there wasn’t a flushing toilet. Yes, I stargazed.  No, I wasn’t a huge fan of the very loud bugs. But yes, I’m so glad I went. And, I can’t wait to go back.

This particular season of my life has been harder than most. I’ve felt pretty lost in my marriage, facing challenges with infertility, have been lacking a sense of peace, and struggling with the feeling of being overwhelmed. With all of that, I’ve been yearning for a different experience, and looking for something to take myself out of the my normal routine. I’ve been in search of an “ah ha” moment. And this was it.

My friend Cait asked me if I wanted to go for a hike around our campground when I arrived. I agreed, but was confused as she headed toward a boulder formation that had absolutely no trail to it. Just a bunch of boulders… higher and higher they went. Our hike was going to be climbing rocks. I got about 1 minute into it , watched Cait start to climb ahead of me, and said… “Um, I can’t do this.” Her simple response, “Yes, you can.”

Joshua Tree with Cait

I’m not going to lie. I stood there in front of this boulder, and thought: No Way. I’m not a 10 year old kid climbing trees anymore. (Yes, my first thought took me back to climbing Redwood Trees in this beautiful park back home where we’d get lost for hours playing in the branches.) I’m not prepared for this. I’m wearing old tennis shoes, not grippy hiking boots. I’m not strapped to anyone or anything. I repeat: I’m not prepared for this.

No way. I can’t do this. What if I fall? (This was prime time for self doubt. Hit me square in the face).

But then I thought >> Oh, but what if you don’t fall? What if you CAN do it?

And so I did.

I followed Cait’s steps up the rocks. Did my legs shake? Hell yeah they did.

Did my mouth get a little dry from being a little terrified? Absolutely.

Did I keep going? You bet.

When I reached the top, did I laugh at myself for freaking out? Oh yeah.

Joshua Tree Boulders

I enjoyed it so much that throughout our time there, I went “bouldering” a few more times. Even got tossed a beer from the ground level, sat back and enjoyed good conversation, an exquisite view, and a cold brew.

The next day, we took a trip into the Joshua Tree park and found even larger boulders and caves! We were in search of a cave called “Hall of Horrors”. Kinda perfect, huh?

Once we found that cave that you had to climb DOWN into… once again…  my self doubt came into play. “No way. I can’t do that.” But then my friends reached out their hands (thank you, John and Kyle!) and helped me through it. No questions asked. Here is my hand. Take it. And go. Don’t think. Trust. Climb. Conquer. Enjoy.

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This turned out to be my FAVORITE part of the experience. This cave is a long, narrow stretch of pathway in-between huge rocks. Maybe two people wide. And I’m claustrophobic! But I wasn’t in there. I felt a sense of accomplishment. It overcame any sort of fear I would typically endure. And that made all the difference.

So what’s the epiphany here? I literally had a rock standing in my way. I had the choice to let it stay there or climb over it. For me, that rock represented self doubt. I didn’t think I could do it. And then I did. I conquered it.

My hope for you, Aves, is that you know you can conquer any rock in your way. Even if that means grabbing the hands of people around you to make sure you can.

With love,

Aunt Megs

Our newest leading lady, Miss Bayley!

Dear Bayley,

It’s Oscar Sunday, and today you decided to make your grand entrance into the world. You’ve joined a family of movie lovers, so I’d say it’s the perfect day to be born.

The other leading lady in our lives is your big sister, Avery (almost 6yrs old now).

When your Mom called her on the phone to tell her the news of your birth, she heard you crying in the background and said, “Oh no, she is already crying! Is she OK?”. And so the journey of sisterhood starts.

Sisterhood is a funny thing. It’s full of jealously, love/hate, ups and downs, protection, fun, and the occasional bratty fights. But mostly love. Your Mom was much cooler to me than I gave her credit for during our childhood. She took me to her high school and college parties when I was 4 years younger — risking potential “eww, why did you bring your sister!” judgements. She included me anyway. With Avery’s heart for inclusion much like your Mom’s… I’m seeing a future of fun between you girls.

Back to the Oscars that you share your special day with.leading-lady

This year was a fun line up of films. My favorite of all being “La La Land” – a modern day musical set in Southern California where I currently live. A movie about pursuing your passion and stopping at nothing (even love) to reach your goal. I hope that you find something worth pursuing this hard, Bayley. And I also hope you know that I’ll be here to support you through it.

I also enjoyed “Arrival” a movie about aliens coming to earth — how a group of scientists and a language professor make contact. Figuring out a way to communicate in a loving and compassionate fashion was a really cool take on a sci-fi film — with a plot twist that the end that was just BREATH-TAKING! Oh, I love those kinds of movies!

Lastly, “Lion” was a true story about a young boy from India getting separated from his family… and being adopted by a wonderful Australian family. Later in his life, he yearns to meet his biological family to understand more about himself. This film was rich and beautiful and heartbreaking. At the core of life, family really is everything. The need to understand who we are comes from who we are surrounded by.

And so, my little leading lady, I’m happy you’ve joined us. And I can’t wait to meet you.

With love,

Aunt Megs

Women March to be Heard

Dear Avery,

On January 21st, 2017…womens-march People from all around the world took a stand for Women’s rights. They marched, they rallied (even your Mimi!), they held their heads high and let their voices be heard. It was a call to action. Wake up — Women have something to say.

I didn’t get the personal opportunity to march, but I did get to spend the morning with incredible women who are successful, compassionate, and uplifting. Women who support each other, listen to other, and speak highly of each other. I believe that is starts there. A movement starts with people like these. It starts small, but makes such an impact when you treat others with this same respect. The ripple will continue. Be apart of it.

There will be trials in your life, Avery, where someone or some people will make you feel like your opinion isn’t worth being heard. They will make you doubt your self worth. They will say things that will offend you. They will put you down. But when they go low, you must go high (quote from the honorable, First Lady Michelle Obama).

Tough things will happen to you. Whether small or large , it’s how you handle those situations that will shape you.

  • I’ve had a boss tell me that I should stop using smiley faces in emails because I basically wouldn’t be taken seriously >>> my next promotion was given to me mostly based on my personality and drive. Smiley faces and all. And guess what? People tell me the like working with me. Must be those happy faces. 🙂
  • I’ve had a male colleague tell me I didn’t deserve the job I got, but in fact, he deserved it. >> Was I  mad? Hell yes. Did I work harder to prove to MYSELF, that I in fact did deserve it. Hell YES.
  • I had a boy take advantage of me in high school >> did it break me? For a time, yes. But did I lose faith and trust in all other men? No. Did it teach me that I am the owner of my own body — and its MY choice what I will do with it.. and no one ever will take advantage of it again? Yes. (I didn’t feel like I had a true voice at that age, but I do now.)

I have a voice. You have a voice. We all have a voice. We all deserve to be heard.

So today, they marched. Marched against oppression. Marched against sexism. Marched against the idea of a glass ceiling.

But also today, they marched towards love. Marched towards equality. Marched towards unity.

March on with grace, humility, and compassion — and you will change the world. It starts with you.

With love,

Aunt Megs

Hoping for a bright 2017, and experiencing my own “mini Wild”.

Dear Avery,

2016 was a tough one. Lots of turmoil in the world and lots of uncertainty it seems. This was the first year I could remember as a collective human race — most of us are happy to see it end. Me included.

There is something about starting a new year that brings hope and optimism. Which is great, but also, funny. Logistically, it’s just another day. And the following day will happen. But somehow we hope that things will change and become brighter.

A few things that stick out to me in the year of 2016:

  • The dreaded presidential election. Ugh! I’m happy it’s over, but really sad, with the outcome and what has become our of nation. The overwhelming feeling of being so divided is now even more apparent. Just when I felt we were getting somewhere positive. My hope is that by the time you are old enough to understand the perspectives of this world we live in — that it will be fair and just. And that you will play a positive part in making that so.

 

  • The unrealistic pressures we put on ourselves to portray an abundant life on social media. I’m a huge offender of this myself. I am of the notion to spread happy moments, funny thoughts, and touching sentiments on social media — and I still believe that it a true act to keep up with. My goal is spread and share happiness. But since 2016 hasn’t been the happiest of years for me, I’ve made it seem as such. Sort of a false reality, and then most of end up comparing our lives with others — and man, that is not helpful! I think we all need to find a right balance. It’s not a place to air dirty laundry or hateful thoughts, but more about being thoughtful towards your audience situations.

 

  • Being a leader (whether it be in work, friendships, or the President of the United States), is so much harder than it looks. But man, the people that can pull it off and manage to lift people up and encourage them is something that can not be taken for granted. My bosses this year have blown me away with their support, their encouragement, and their non-forceful ways of challenging me. They are incredible! Same goes for President Obama — as his term comes to a close,  I’ve seen him in a new light. I’m legitimately going to miss his presence.  He’s been so poised, respectful, caring, humble, and strong. Whether people agree with his policies or not, I firmly believe his leadership has been incomparable. And I’m thankful I was apart of his 2 terms.

 

  • Love, beauty, and light is really all around. We may have to look a little harder, but it’s always there.

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Moving towards a bright 2017:

I think my friends have the right idea for me. One of my best friends suggested that I should  experience my own “Mini Wild” as she called it. We read the book “Wild” in book club about a woman who was at a crossroad in her life, so she decided to pack up and hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail (California to Washington — she walked it!) wild

While, I am no hiker, I think the theory is still a good one. Taking time out of your regular life to reflect, meditate, discover more about the person you are, and who you are becoming is worth while.

Another best friend suggested experiencing new cultural things around us like museums, plays, art fairs, etc. Finding joy  in our own backyard!

I think both of these suggestions are perfect ways to bring perspective to a new year. Filling up my cup with rich experience is just what is needed.

I hope that in 2017, I will be:

  • More thoughtful
  • More joyful
  • More considerate
  • More complementary of the people around me.
  • Be able to slow life down
  • Learn more about myself
  • Give more of my self to others
  • Be ready for whatever adventure lies ahead

My hope is the same for you (to those of you reading, and to the 5 year old to whom this blog is written to). Cheers to that.

With Love,

Aunt Megs*

 

 

 

Ain’t Life Grand.

Dear Avery,

I’m a firm believer that things like quotes, people, works of art, sunsets, a super moon, or a song will find me at the right time when I need a moment of reflection. A simple Instagram photo and caption found its way to me when I needed it to.

A woman who’s company is an inspiration to me, The Shine Project, who’s tagline is: “Wear Change. Ignite Hope.”  (is enough to warrant admiration). But more than that, she usually eludes a genuine joy in her social posts that is infectious. Until she started doing something I noticed over time…sharing small truths that life hasn’t been easy for her. And then she posted this:

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Most people would scroll and see… a cozy setting for Christmas. And scroll on. But I noticed the sign that reads, “Ain’t Life Grand.” And then I read her very real post about that saying:

 

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3 Things came to mind in this post:

  1. She hadn’t noticed the sign in her home for 2 years — and it’s huge! But I believe this happens to everyone. You only notice the things you are looking for, and in that moment, she needed a reality check so she noticed the sign.
  2. This cozy photo is a quintessential image of contentment, yet clearly, this life is not perfect when you read the words that come along with it.
  3. These words found me and others when we needed to see that sign for ourselves. <This is my favorite part of the internet — easily.>

 

And so began the thoughts in my own life.

Life is grand. But grand can be heavy. The pains of your life can be pretty overwhelming. They can feel suffocating because of the largeness of your situation.

Grand can be exquisite and lavish too. It can also be small in nature, but large in impact. Ain’t that grand?

Funny to harp on that word, but I just love that life is as such.

One day I’m watching the embodiment of grand: World of Color ( a water/light/music/fire show at Disneyland).  I was in complete awe of the beauty, creativity, and work that went into that show (hat tip to my friend Michael Duncan for producing that show)… leaving with a childlike wonder and amazement.

The next day, I face the realization that parts of my life have not gone as I intended. I’m missing some essential things, that when I take a step back, are quite grand in scale.

Love and loss. Hope and despair. Joy and sadness. Fulfillment and discontent. Unexpected blessings and unanswered prayers.

Life is messy. Life is beautiful. Life is complicated. Life is magical.

In spite of the extremes, we tend to live a majority of our lives in the repetition of the every day shuffle. Missing the signs that say … Ain’t Life Grand?

In all its glory and its pain, it sure is grand.

With love,

Aunt Megs

ps. how many times did I use the word “grand”. Jeez — I need a thesaurus.

 

30 things my 20’s taught me.

Dear Avery,

In a few months, I’ll be 30. To some that sounds so old, to others that sounds young. To me, there are days it sounds scary. How could I be 30 already? Wasn’t I just 21 celebrating in Vegas? I must have just blinked. Other days, I’m excited to think about this new decade – the abundance of joys and the new challenges that will come.

 

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Reflecting on my twenties, here is what I know:

  1. Your body starts to become a little more fragile.
  2. Social drinking changes drastically from the start of your 20’s to the end.
  3. Time moves fast — if you don’t stop to look around — you just might miss it.
  4. Friends become family, and your family become your friends.
  5. If personal space wasn’t an issue before, it’s an issue now. Get out of my bubble people — and take 3 steps back. Please and thank you.
  6. Pets are just as important as people.
  7. Love changes — in good ways and in bad.
  8. Being outdoors is natural medicine — for soul and body.
  9. Weekdays don’t need to be dreaded. Find a place of work that makes you excited to come into.
  10. Weekends don’t need to jam packed. But it’s OK if they are. I happen to love them.
  11. Taking a day to rest and relax is actually a lot harder than it used to be.
  12. Sleeping too much might actually not be good for you.
  13. Judgement of other people becomes harsher. At times, you’ll need to force yourself to empathize.
  14. Being kind and thoughtful goes a really long way.
  15. Actively engaging in relationships with your friend’s spouses/partners is good for all of you but can be hard to maintain.
  16. Good poetry finds you at the right time.
  17. …A meaningful song will do the same.
  18. A one-on-one dinner or lunch date with a close friend is so very vital.
  19. No marriage is perfect. In fact, it’s a lot harder than it appears (even on Facebook).
  20. Your career should never hold you back, if it does, push back and make it move forward. Only you have the power to make that so.
  21. The world can be a cruel place — but paying attention to news will bring perspective to your own life.
  22. The world can be a magically beautiful place — acknowledging when you find that beauty and sharing it — is something we all need to do more of.
  23. The universe gives us so many small signs and signals to a greater story. Paying attention will bring you unexpected joy.
  24. Themed parties will never go out of style.
  25. The most wasted of all days is when you haven’t laughed.
  26. You’ll look at teenagers and think “Why are you dressed like that?”
  27. You’ll look at older generations and think “Why do you think or believe that”?
  28. Getting lost in a good book is so enjoyable when you finally find the time to dedicate to it.
  29. Year 29 of life is a harsh realization that you can’t say “I’m in my twenties” soon.
  30. At 30, you are an official adult (according to me). But that doesn’t mean your sense of childish wonder, discovery, and fun ever have to end.

Oh, and also — in my twenties, I learned to really love creating lists. Can you tell?

(Here’s another fun little list of mine from 2012: What to expect in your 20’s ).

Avery, I hope your twenties bring you joy, suspense, curiosity, exploration, the travel bug, a good true love, a wealth of fantastic friends, pain that is followed by learnings, a love for the earth, poetry that speaks to you, and something or someone that inspires you to write (like you do for me).

OK, 30 — I’m finally ready for you.

With love,

Aunt Megs

Celebrating 4 years!

Dear Avery,

This year is special. Somehow, magically, you turned 5! How is that so?

Today marks 4 years of this blog. 4 years of stories, lessons, lists upon lists, and learning about how impressed I am with you. Only 5 years old, and you continue to amaze me.

You are funny, caring, insanely intelligent, sassy, full of confidence, and so easy to love. You light up a room full of family and strangers.

I can’t begin to tell you how proud of you I am. And how much I brag about you to anyone that will listen.  (And this photo has been my phone background basically all year.)

Aunt Megs

I firmly believe that if you are not on a stage somewhere singing and dancing for thousands of people, that could become the President of the United States, or become a fearless astronaut. Why? Because you can do anything you put your mind to, and BE anything you want. And I will be here to make sure that happens. I’ll be here to support you and lift you up when you need it the most. And encourage you every step of the way.

I plan on writing a full post just on celebrating your 5th birthday this year, but for now, know that the sole idea of this blog was to be a constant reminder that your Aunt Megs will always be in your court.

You are loved. You are supported. And I will always be here to cheer you on — where ever your path my take you.

With love,

Aunt Megs