life

Supporting Skies

sunrise.jpg

I almost discarded this photo on my phone today. Scrolling around for memories, I stumbled across this subtle, washed out photo in a sea of dramatic sunrise shots. I was out for a walk during a moody August sunrise at Folly Beach, the sky playing dramatic tricks on me with each passing second. It felt true to my mood at the time. The sky was stormy, but the light was not having it. The sunrise came out to play that day. But this little Southern sky was playing nothing but a supporting role in the morning.

I stopped moments before I hit the delete button, because despite it’s humble appearance amidst conspicuously gorgeous and fire laden sunrise skies, this photo stunned me with it’s simplicity. The hued blue-grey color palette with it’s subtle pinkish, creamy accent seemed so forgotten. It seemed to fight for attention and it’s own role.

It got me thinking about how we overlook situations like this. Sometimes we are so busy looking at the dramatic sunrise that we overlook the subtle, supporting skies. Much like we don’t notice that mom in the audience as her son takes center stage in a starring role. We forgetting that she, too, has a key role here. She provided support, meals, comfort and endless hours as he honed his skills, making magic for the rest of us. We tend to forget the ones in a supporting role, the ones who support that big, massive, shining star.

But maybe that’s okay too, because that sunrise won’t be looking at me while it makes it’s way through the morning sky. It will look directly at the billowing clouds that allowed it to take center stage.

And that is enough.

Touch

touch

Touch.

Perhaps the most often overlooked of the 5 senses, but on so many levels, the most necessary. Physical touch is crucial to survival. It helps things like healing, development and overall wellness. There have been studies to show that babies, if left in orphanages unheld and unconnected, suffer from physical and emotional development problems that can take a lifetime to unravel.

It is as essential as the air we breathe, the water we drink. And yet, we deprive ourselves…starving our souls of this important need.

Touch becomes such a part of the fabric of our days, it often gets overlooked or unnoticed. Wet hair. Slippery soap. Silky sheets. Velvety doggy ears. Creamy, wet clay. Pokey grass under our bare feet. They are all a part of something we take for granted as we navigate a busy day. We pass by kids and lovers with a pat on the head or tousle of the hair not realizing the impact of that one simple gesture of touch, texture, and connection.

There is nothing quite like collapsing into a loved ones arms at the end of a long day. There is nothing as essentially life giving as picking up a newborn baby and cradling them close as they melt into sleep, comfort and calm. It’s connection. It’s love. It’s belonging.

The act of touch is requires us to be present in something that happens every day. It’s so simple to take a moment and mindfully lean into this simple sense. I try to be present with pause as I touch the familiar, feeling the subtle nuances in my body. Soft. Cold. Warm. Fuzzy. Sharp. Smooth. Hard. The touch of a lover changes our body chemistry almost immediately. Notice it next time. Notice the subtle feeling when your bare feet are touching the soft, warm sand on the beach. Feel the difference when you stroke your cat’s fuzzy head. Lean into the moment a little more.

Because I am certain that if we all felt our way through life more than we are - if we just leaned into all our senses - we would lean into all those soft, juicy, delicious feelings a little more easily.

Seventeen

17

Dear Graham.

Seventeen. You are seventeen tomorrow.

The first time I saw you was like a punch right to my chest. A beautiful baby, full of love. I felt it the day you were born. We all felt it. Naked. Wriggling. Quietly wondering. Fully loved.

Today, I stand on the edge of a lifetime of you, deep in the waters of memories of you washing over me, pulling me under like a rip current. My boy, my child, my young and beautiful man. Thoughts of your sweet chubby cheeks and your hands that fit perfectly in mine are overwhelming in my heart. I miss that part - the part where you were little and life was simple. The part where I had the answers, where I could keep you safe.

But now, you are a man…becoming your own person – capable, strong, and oh-so-loving and kind. You have answers all your own that you don’t need me for now. You make the best decisions. You have the kindest heart.

I have watched you evolve this year into something I could have only hoped for a few short years ago. You are beginning to navigate this path of life a little on your own more and more each day, testing the waters while you are still close, while I still have answers to some of those harder questions, and while I can - for a few short moments - still take precious care of you.

I am not sure what the future holds right now, but I know it’s going to be a wild ride. Bends and twists and hopefully plenty of spots to catch your breath. Lean into all of the messiness as you go. Trust that you are on the road you need to be. Even when you get lost. Even when you feel scared. Even when you follow the clear signs that seem like they are written in another language with another alphabet. What makes you the Graham that most people know is that you know how to take it all in stride. But what makes you the Graham that I know is how full of heart you will experience it all. Trust that part.

And steady as you go, my love.

“Confess I'm not quite ready to be left.
Still, I know I gave my level best.
You give, you give, to this I can attest
You made me, you made me.
You and me forever baby.”

Free to float

waters edge

I have been standing at the water’s edge for a long time, watching the waves lap against the Lowcountry shore in wonder of what’s out there. I have been afraid to jump in and swim around in the salty waters because of the dangers that lurk beneath the surface.

What was I missing out on by letting fear drive the ship? Was there something bad under the surface? Or just stories or random encounters I let take over?

When fear drives, we believe things that might be untrue. We believe if our friend gets bitten by a crab in the water, we will too. We believe that sharks lurk below waiting to attack us for their next meal because someone 3 beaches away had that happen and we saw it on the news. We believe in box jellyfish and man of wars and things that we have actually never seen ourselves. We believe in the worst.

But what happens when you release and dive in? You float. You surf. You bob around in the warm waters and find your way. You feel free and untethered. There are no crabs nibbling on your toes, no sharks looking for a meal. It’s just you falling into what is.

Let fear go. Stop standing on the edge and watching the fearless live your beautiful, unencumbered life. You will float. You will be fine. There is nothing lurking in the deep, dark corners this time.

You are free to float.

The Sacredness of Food.

tomatoes

I am one of those weird people who finds cooking therapeutic and relaxing. When I tell this to people, they often stare through me, as though I am speaking another language of sorts. Sometimes people mumble back to me, “how do you have time for all that?” or “I just can’t be bothered…too much work!”

I get it. I really do…there are many days that I feel like take out is the best option. But there is something so mystical that I get lost in during the cooking process. Somewhere in the rhythm of chopping, mincing, and mixing, I get a little lost from the thoughts that plague the reality of my life. I get lost in the sacred ritual of it all.

For me, cooking is very definitive. It has a beginning, a middle and an end that usually happen in hours - as opposed to the days or weeks some projects can take. Whether you are baking a chicken or making a cake, the results are instantaneous and tangible. While I can make a cake in an afternoon, it could take days - even weeks and yes, sometimes months - for me to plan, shoot, edit, and deliver photos to a client.

Mostly though, it’s the end result. Feeding someone is giving them a gift you made yourself. When I cook, there is a sacredness to making the meal…I think about what people love, what they need…what they crave. I put energy into sourcing ingredients - where can I get the most delicious produce? Who has the best meats? Who has the “right” food for the meal at hand? The mere process of combining flavors, textures, and smells together makes it feel like art - like a painting coming together in all it’s vibrancy. It’s carefully crafted and created just for them.

So next time you sit down to a meal that someone has made, give pause and think of what went into making it. Or, when you endeavor to make your next meal for someone, think of the gift in the creation of it all. There is a sacredness in the food itself. There is a sacredness in the presentation and the process.

And then, after you think about all of that, dive in with love.

My world in a seashell

shell

I have many memories of my father. He was a passionate and sensitive man who was raised in a time where it wasn’t really accepted to be a sensitive man. But it was always within him, even if it was stuffed down and suffocated by the masculinity and machismo that ruled the world at that time. Whenever we visited the beach - or the seashore, as he called it - he would marvel at the colors of the seashells. “Just look at the colors,” was a perpetual exclamation as we strolled along the seashore, picking up tiny shells along the way, gazing at the rainbow sherbet sunsets of Kiawah Island, where he retired long before I graduated from high school.

He didn’t grow up embracing the loveliness of the little things in life because his siblings wouldn’t have stood for it. Led by fear (and maybe a little ignorance), they would have given him a proper bashing for it, I am sure. But in his distance from his family and surrounded by people who made him feel safe, he was allowed the space to marvel at some of the most magnificent creations on this planet. Moreover, he was allowed to be more who he wanted to be.

My dad recreated himself over the course of his life. He came from very little, and left behind his upbringing in the East Midlands of Post-war England to start over in the USA - the land of opportunity. In his early days here, he worked hard all day, saving money to make a difference for the future of him and his family. Each night, he would go home to his quarters at the local YMCA, dreaming of his future, scheming of how to get there. He feared nothing, often standing bravely in the face of so things that would many of us crumble and give up. The man NEVER.GAVE.UP. He was resilient, resourceful and had a blind faith in life. Most of all, he was always there for us as a family, holding us both emotionally and physically up when whenever we needed it.

All that is important and significant to who he was as a person....

But along with that, he was vulnerably sensitive. He felt deeper than he would ever have admitted…. perhaps more than he even intellectually understood. He saw colors in seashells and vulnerability in animals. He loved flowers and sunsets and babies and puppies and sent me more cat litter advertisements than I would really admit to most people (“now this is a good ad, love…” was something he said often to my young, art director self). He loved us with silence and strength. His heart was kind, but it showed mostly when he felt safe to show it to you - like a dog that had been beaten down, you had to win his trust and affection. He was a dichotomy of fierce love, strong will, and a gentle sensitivity that is unmatched in most humans.

So each time I walk down the beach, this is what replays in my mind like a broken record: “Just look at the colors.”

I see him, walking next to me, bent over to pick up the nearest shell and marvel at it, like countless others before it. Warm corals. Bright yellows. Creamy pinks. Cerulean Blues. Vibrant purples. He’d look to the sunset and telling me to see as many as I could in my life, reminding me that - like snowflakes - no 2 sunsets are the same. It’s like an old movie in my head, flickering quietly to the background soundtrack of Charleston’s warm ocean waves lapping gently against my feet.

I see him in the seashells and the sunrises. I see him in the babies splashing in the surf and the sandpipers running along the shoreline. And if I silence my mind, I can feel him - his gentle and strong arm, leading me just to where I need to be.

Women's Day

mommas

I was remiss at mentioning Mother’s Day on all the usual outlets. I didn’t reach out and wish friends a happy Mother’s Day. And I didn’t write about it or even acknowledge it at all. I am not sure why…I wasn’t sad or depressed or introspective about it. I just…was.

For me, Mother’s Day isn’t a really big deal. I never got into the whole “Hallmark Holiday” thing. Don’t get me wrong…I am happy to be celebrated, but I don’t need a whole ticker tape parade for it. Just some quiet time and maybe a little indulgence….some shopping…a pedicure…or a walk on the beach. Something to honor me and all of us for our incessant hard work.

But honestly, I sort of take issue with us celebrating moms only one day of the year. Because you know what - MOTHERS ARE EVERYTHING. I mean…every. effing. thing.

Mothers are strong and soft. Driven and easeful. They are the duality of all things - as soft as a down bed and as strong as 100 men. They are sage advice givers and tack-sharp fortune tellers. They know how to make cookies, do math homework, plan a meal, do laundry, nurse a baby, and arrange for babysitters so they can attend that work function – all at the same time. Simply put, they are the freaking operating transmission to the functioning world.

I don’t know if it took being a mom to understand what moms do, but friends - it’s a spectacular sight. Women are so amazing. Even my mother, who was imperfect in her way, was the strongest most resilient woman I know.

In the beginning of my lifelong quest of self-exploration and examination, I was initially hurt and frustrated by my Mother’s imperfections. But as I zoomed back and took in more of the picture - the part of her story that wasn’t just about me, but the image of the whole person she was - I sort of marvel at how far she came on her own and how strong she was for us. It was in my darkest moments that my mother took over for me – equal parts comforting and commanding – like a mother goose protecting her little chicks not just ready yet for flight on their own. She was broken, but still had the energy to care for me. Like we ALL do.

It’s amazing when you lean in and really witness to what women do. I am not talking about the perfect image of some cookie cutter June Cleaver-esque mom - there for her husband, food on the table, kids groomed and life running great. But still, that’s effing amazing too. I am talking about the women who struggle to work 3 jobs so they can get their kids out of a life situation they have no control over. I am talking about single moms who have to be everything and everywhere to everyone. I am talking about the foster mom of 6 who sacrifices and fights for those that have less than zero starting out. These are the heroes. They are the ones we need to celebrate. Everyday. Not JUST on Mother’s Day.

So if you are a mom - or really, a woman - hear me out. YOU ARE AWE-INSPIRING. You are strong. You are smart. You are loved. And I see you.

Happy Woman’s World, friends. Keep kicking ass.

Oh, Joy.

mumford and sons

About a month ago, I found myself smack dab in the center of Joy. I didn’t navigate my way there. I just stumbled upon it, like a secret garden or a hidden hot spring that nobody can quite tell you how to get to. It happened right here, at a Mumford & Sons concert.

It sort of snuck up on me. It tapped me on the shoulder a few times, but I ignored it - chalking it up to a song or the energy of the room that night. It was, after all, a great concert. But at the end of the last song, I stepped back, away from the crowd, and I just took a breath. It was in that moment of space that I gave myself that I recognized where I was. Smack dab in the middle of Joy.

It was bound to happen. I had been denying myself Joy for so long….pretending like it didn’t even exist. Maybe I just didn’t recognize it because it had been gone for so long. So each time I saw it, I looked away, seeking it in some other format. Or maybe not at all.

Depriving ourselves of joy is not new. We do it for many reasons. I think mine was a sort of self-flagulation, as if I didn’t deserve a relationship with Joy….as if I wasn’t meant to live side by side in the presence of something so simple and true to our well being. I wish I had a better explanation of why I have left Joy behind in a dustcloud - shame, guilt and fear all vying for shotgun in my life, but I don’t. It’s silly and ridiculous and I wish I didn’t feel this way. But the fact is that I do. Or at least I did.

After I snuck away from the mosh pit of humans that night, I squared myself up center to the stage - iPhone in hand to take a shot. I took a deep breath in and smiled, just lingering in the moment a little. That’s when I realized Joy was back. And there we were… face-to-face, hand-in-hand with all the other couples in the back of the room. We cozied up and renewed our long lost commitment to one another, dancing under the confetti like we had just renewed our holy vows.

And if you, too, are seeking Joy in your life, I think you can find it tucked away at the crossroads of love and gratitude. Just make sure you don’t bypass it as you take a direct route on the superhighway to where you think it should be. It’s not clearly marked on that map someone tricked you into believing. There are no shortcuts. No direct routes. No signs pointing to a singular destination. It’s tricky to find and even harder to recognize. But once you arrive, you’ll know it.

Connections

I pressed the button here, so this is technically not my camera or edit. But these are my best people. Credit to my cousin, Rowan Williams of  Parrot & Pineapple Photography , for her mad skills and camera.

I pressed the button here, so this is technically not my camera or edit. But these are my best people. Credit to my cousin, Rowan Williams of Parrot & Pineapple Photography, for her mad skills and camera.

A few weeks ago, we had these lovelies visiting us for a week from England. My whole family is from “the Motherland,” and we don’t get to see them nearly as much as I would like. When we do see them, days zip by as we navigate through meals and sightseeing, sitting poolside watching time slip away relentlessly, like water in a sieve.

Shortly after their visit, one of my best friends came to the area for a brief overnight trip. I felt the same tugging at my heart - that familiar feeling you get when you slip right back where your friendship last dropped off, despite years of children, missed birthdays, and too many miles between you both. It’s a familiarity of friendship that can’t be replaced or changed. I melted into the feeling once again, leaning into a sense of peace as they shuffled out to the car in my dark driveway, sleepy babies in tow…the fuzziness of familiarity, peace, and satisfaction of a delicious evening together.

It’s that feeling that I always want to bask in…the timeless love, forgiveness of sins, and unabashed acceptance of one another as we are in the moment we are in.

It’s not often we get these people in our lives that can hold space for us as we are. It’s not often we get people that love us unconditionally. I mean…let’s be real….I don’t even love myself that way. But when spend your time with people who make you feel wholly you – without hidden, selfish agendas or a mission to change you – isn’t it worth hanging on for dear life?

Perhaps the place I am in with life right now makes this even more poignant… change is on the horizon: my child is grown and ready to spread his wings, and loved ones have passed on…leaving connection to the people I have been closest to that much more desirable and necessary.

We are hard wired for connection. Ask any anthropologist or sociologist. It’s a requirement for living. Babies will actually die without physical connection, even when their other needs are met. So it’s no wonder that despite my best efforts to cut myself off, these deep connections I feel with family and friends who I have shared a history with are normal and expected…and, dare I say, necessary.

So now, I look forward to what the next phase holds. Maybe it’s a re-connection phase. Or maybe it’s a freedom phase. I just know it will be a phase of deep, meaningful relationships wherever I turn.

And thank goodness for direct flights.

Spring

Spring-100.jpg

Each spring, life bursts through the frosty earth and spiny trees. The world slowly comes to life after it’s dormancy through the cold and quiet winter. Cycles renew and continue bringing forth familiar rhythms and energy.

These little lessons teach me every year. Spring is time to burst forth with energy and hope. It’s time to unfurl our colors and wake up to the possibilities around us. It’s time to hold on to what brings new life and new energy. It’s time to let those winds take the seeds of hope and possibility, spreading them all around to grow and fruit under the heat of the fiery summer sun.

Spring is my favorite season…it’s full of little seeds of hope, cleaning rain, refreshing clearing winds, hopeful blooms. And if we just relax into it, we, too, can bloom.

The Not-So-Starving Artist

La Gloria

Recently, I was on the phone with a good friend talking about the daily struggles of life. I told her I was tired, run down and sick of struggling…sick of worrying about my finances.

“You are the one that chose to be the starving artist,” she said.

Her response cut me in half.

Truth be told, I never imagined myself here. I never imagined the starving part…artist, yes! But starving? Not even close.

In my wildest dreams, I always imagined myself to be wildly successful - not for the fame or the legend of it all, but because I wanted to be that good. I knew I could be that good. I knew I had it in me.

But sometimes, life takes over and my story had a mind of it’s own - weaving it’s own vine-twisting, kudzu-suffocating plot twists in where I hadn’t even considered it. Single motherhood. Sick parents. And a relentless economy in the middle of it all. So my dreams took a temporary side step to get out of the way of reality. Temporary.

You see, I am a creative soul - a photographer, an artist, a chef, a writer. I have this need to make things…it’s a draw I can’t ignore, a calling I must answer with every fiber of my soul. I would die sitting behind a desk 10 hours a day, staring at spreadsheets and decimal points. I couldn’t do it. It may mean that I would be able to pay my mortgage, buy a sofa, and plan a trip all in the same month, but in truth that isn’t what drives me. That isn’t my truth. And I would be starving on the inside.

For creative people, there is no other way except To Make. It’s the work that nourishes us and gives back what we need to live. That doesn’t mean we can’t be successful or wealthy. It doesn’t mean we suck at creating either. It just means the rest will come in it’s due time. The rest falls into place when we are ready. So I just keep making, not stopping until I reach the end.

I won’t lie…there are months that are hard. This month, I have to forgo some sweet concert tickets to one of my favorite artists coming through town because I have more pressing needs that need to be met. And that is a bummer…today.

But when I walk out on my back porch to take a business call, azaleas bursting with color around my yard, bees and birds flying overhead, fresh air to breathe during my meeting, I smile. Because a life like this feels like anything but starving to me.

Tiny Changes

These little flowers changed my day in a big way today.

These little flowers changed my day in a big way today.

This morning I sat waiting for a client in a sweet, local cafe. It’s raining and the temperature has dropped a good 20 degrees over the past 24-hours. It’s gloomy, grey and wet… a mirror of my heavy heart these days. Between saying goodbye to our family dog a few short weeks ago and dealing with the rest of regular life like taxes, prom planning, bills and laundry, I just feel like I am moored to Life.

As I sat there, I looked down at the clean, marbled table and paused to notice this tiny vase and these little perfect flowers curling and weaving around each other. I was baffled at their delicate strength. I was consumed by their simplicity for a moment. I became curious about their unassuming gentleness and forgiving nature. They made me stop my train of though for a brief a minute…to pause, to breathe. To remember to forget and to let go.

Life can be altered in these little moments. They are the moments that encourage us to lean in. They are the moments that encourage us to breath, pause, remember or forget. They can be transitional and transformative. But mostly, they are when we can learn to tolerate ourselves, our stories, our lives, and all the things that wait for us beyond their delicate and perfect features.

Changes usually come to us when we are ready. But sometimes, I think the biggest changes can come to us in the tiniest moments, bravely weaving and curling their way gently into our tender, aching hearts.

Loss

charleston harbor

I’ve been looking for that sliver of blue sky lately - the tiny slice of hope that keeps us going through the dark and stormy times - wondering if the sun was going to ever shine back down on my heavy heart again.

I am in a stage of loss right now – something all too familiar to me. I have experienced loss before… Parents. A sister. Aunts and uncles. Friends. Pets. To be honest, loss never gets easier. And it doesn’t diminish at any stage. The overall feeling is still the same.

Loss comes in many forms. And so does the grieving. It doesn’t have to be traditional - like a death. It can happen when a friend leaves your life or you have a relationship-altering disagreement with a family member. The loss of a loved one can have a ripple effect, too. Breaking up with a boyfriend or divorcing a spouse can lead to losing extended family that you thought you would be with forever.

A few years ago, I had some friends move back home to Europe. I remember the grief I felt when they were gone. It was a loss in it’s own way. I also remember having to hide it - stuff it down like it didn’t exist. They were, after all, not gone…or so everyone kept trying to remind me. But with kids in schools, different schedules, different time zones and expensive plane rides, the likelihood of us seeing one another often seemed like a fleeting hope as I watched them drive away that last time, my battered heart trailing behind them in the dust. I felt heart broken. I felt loss.

I feel it each time I drive by their street. I feel it on Saturday afternoons when we would be making plans for the an evening of dinner and conversations together that lasted late into the evening. I feel it when the weather warms up and we head to the beach, picnic in tow, empty chairs beside us. The pangs of loss can linger for a while.

But, as I sit there on the beach on these cloudy days with my picnic in tow, I just look for that sliver of blue over head. Because it’s always there… peeking through just to remind us that above all, this, too, shall pass and that that big, bright, beautiful, warming sun is always shining above those heavy clouds.

Finding Grace.

sauna

This week was hard.

In the midst of all the missed deadlines, forgotten appointments, back to school schedules, financial disarray and angry clients, I had a brief personal training session (brief because I was late because I had the wrong time written down…I told you, not my best week). I was down… and my young, and too-wise-for-her-own-good trainer knew it. We worked hard for 20 minutes, and then she looked at me and said this: “I want you to go into the sauna for 5 minutes and close your eyes and just… be.”

It was a pass. A free ticket. A permission slip.

It was permission to be – to be still, to be quiet, to be imperfect. It was a pass to slip away from my life for a moment in time. It was my ticket back to me. It was permission.

I feel like we all need something like this…someone to occasionally, out-of-the-blue, step in and say “I GIVE YOU PERMISSION…” on those days when we maybe forget to have the grace ourselves to give us a much needed break. We are not supposed to go hard all the time - and it’s particularly difficult to be mindful of this during the time of year where everyone looks like they are cramming for life’s finals with resolutions and magical words of empowerment. January can be hard when you feel like you aren’t on top of your game. Social media makes it look like I am surrounded by people that are literally conquering mountains. (You know who you are.)

So I went in the sauna. I fidgeted. I looked at my phone. I fought and wrestled with the stillness until I gave. I knew it needed to come. It always needs to come. When I finally closed my eyes and leaned into everything, there it was…Tears. Sweat…. Release. Every glorious moment of being in that space was exactly what I needed to momentarily let go my imperfections and move on. Every second I spent in there with the discomfort of sweating and crying and being present with my emotions was a direct deposit into my soul. Building that account to be stronger so I can face the tolls of life on the rocky road ahead.

Sometimes we find grace in the strangest places. Sometimes it comes from unexpected people. But the times I am most surprised by grace is when I have found it fumbling around in my everyday life…all by myself.

After the Storm...

ACS_0084.JPG

And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up,
I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

After The Storm, by Mumford + Sons

* I have posted the lyrics to this song before. It’s one of my most favorite ballads of all times by one of my most favorite bands ever. I listened to this music during a very hard time for me and remember feeling like it was a life jacket that some threw me in a wild, stormy sea. It still brings me to my knees when I hear it.

'Tis The Season

xmas-101-8.jpg

The holidays are here again. The picture-perfect life of candy canes and Christmas lights adorning every available surface are streaming through social media feeds and magazine covers. Happy faces anticipating romantic nights by the fire, cozied up with steaming cups of goodness and a mostly TV-less existence – except for a brief encounter with Elf or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Only that’s not totally true, is it?

Maybe this is true in moments. Or for a day here and there. But when you really boil it down, it’s about all of us working, folding laundry on partially decorated dining room tables and anxiously checking bank accounts to make sure there is going to be enough to see us through the season of spending. We are still living our lives…just with more to do now.

The truth is, the holidays can be hard. Being around family for days on end can be stressful. Cooking freaks a lot of people out. Gift giving can create a lot of anxiety. And lots of people are lonely or dealing with loss, change or pain.

But there is a happy medium…a place where fantasy and reality collide if only for a moment. Not every day is going to look festive and light. Some days are going to be regular… even hard. But it’s leaning into those sweet spots and silent nights where we can find some true holiday spirit and joy.

When I talked to my son on the way to school the other day, I asked him what he was most looking forward to this holiday. He said, without a beat, “decorating the tree with you and drinking eggnog.” In my mind, this activity is always a disaster. Broken lights. Trips to Walmart. Wrestling with the tree stand. It never feels perfect to me. But for him, it’s his favorite time. His memories are of the good parts. The parts that bring him complete joy and gratitude…a representation of the season at it’s best. He’s not focused on gifts or jobs or wrapping - just a nice moment with me, creating memories that will last longer than I am here on this planet.

So this year, I am going to lean in to those simple moments that he remembers forever. I am going to stop worrying if my food is good enough or the gifts were perfect or the house was decorated like a movie set. I am going to spend time making the magic in the best way I know how – together.

Ebb and flow

MARSH-100.jpg

If there is one thing I have learned about life, it’s that cycles are always prevalent. The tides ebb and flow. The sun rises and sets. The seasons change and progress. We don’t doubt these things. We count on them to dictate the rhythm of our days.

Yet somehow, I forget that these cycles happen in my personal life as well. I forget that work comes and goes, or that relationships wax and wane. I forget the gentle push and pull of everything and wrestle with the notion that rhythm of my life SHOULD be good, abundant, happy, joyful and full all the time.

But what would I know of life without the dry spells? What would life be in only fullness? Would I recognize the tide if it only kept pouring in? Wouldn’t that mean I would be under water. Wouldn’t that mean I would never know solid ground or the sand beneath my toes.

As I watched the tide roll in the other day, I was confident in what would come next. Just as it flooded the lowcountry, soon, as it always does, it would flow out again, leaving behind treasures and findings and room for the little fiddler crabs to breathe again. I never doubt this. I only know with all my heart. I know it will because I have seen it before. Time and time again.

It made me realize that life flows the same way. Life flows. Things come and go. Its a never ending cycle. Practice and trust. Trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness and grace. Grace and practice. It just keeps on going. Always there. Always flowing. Always ebbing.

Silver linings

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I would have missed this sunset if life had been normal.

I would have been in my house, AC cranking, cooking dinner alone in the kitchen. I would have probably been listening to a podcast or book on tape or even watching some sit-com rerun for the umpeenth time, my son in the other room doing homework or playing guitar or a video game.

Instead, my life had been turned around in a first world kind of problem sort of way. We’ve been without AC for weeks. And I am on a cooking strike. So I piled my son and myself into the car and headed to get some form of take out. On the way, we saw this incredible sunset. We stopped in awe of mother nature, the universe and the power of serendipity.

Sometimes, life happen for us. Sometimes situations present themselves. Last night, as we sat around the table at the restaurant, we marveled at the fact that had it not been for the awful week we had, we would all be spearated ,living our own individual moments in front of one screen or another. Instead, we have explored forests, new restaurants, new cities, and even glorious sunsets with views for days right down the street from where we live.

So maybe the past few weeks weren’t really a crisis after all. Maybe it was the just the opposite - maybe past few weeks was the universe trying to break up our regular, safe, ordinary days with new adventures and some much needed fresh perspective.

If it comes with a silver lining like this, I’ll take it.

Dear Little Girl.

Little girl

Dear Little Girl.

You. Are. Beautiful. You are braver than you think, kinder than you know, and smarter than you give yourself credit for. You have gifts inside that are just waiting to be uncovered and unearthed. But it's up to you to do it.  

I know you. And I know you are scared. I know you somehow took on the notion that you weren't good enough, smart enough, pretty enough... I understand that you don't feel right in your skin. Too big, too loud, too different than the others that seem to float together like a school of silvery little fish, floating in a rhythm that seems to sync up perfectly while you float alone, trapped in netting you are just too tired to try to escape from.

My whole life, I have been watching you...your strength and your whole-heartedness are unmatched. I have seen you do the impossible. Given these circumstances, who could possibly survive? Yet... still, I have seen you bravely carve the most unique life path - not knowing what's next, not knowing where it's leading. I have watched as this world stripped you shamefully bare and expected unrealistic things of you. And through your tenacity and utter heart, I have watched as you delivered every last one. 

It's not you who is failing. It's the world who has failed you. It has destroyed hope in all the places you were supposed to feel safe. But still, here you are. On the eve of your birthday, still smiling, still full of heart, still courageously standing in the storms of life.

You are mine. And I am yours. And I am here to guide you through the rest of this journey, full of love and void of fear. I am here to show you how to navigate the rest of this twisting, unchartered path of life. So take my hand. Don't be afraid. We have got this...together.

Love,
Me