A Lasting Legacy

If you’ve ever met a Cochrane, you’ve probably very quickly learned a few things about us. We’re strong and stubborn, honest and opinionated, kind-hearted and determined. No matter how different we are or how many thousands of miles separate us we share these traits; like a common thread weaving together various pieces of fabric to create a beautiful quilt to provide warmth and comfort. That’s family.

In the Cochrane family, the weaver of our unique tapestry was my grandmother Louise. More commonly known as Grandma Cochrane, she was the family matriarch.

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Just over a week before Grandma Cochrane passed away, I visited her briefly. Andrew and I were late – a mortal sin in Grandma’s book since any number of catastrophes could have befallen us and “why would you keep your grandmother waiting and worried?” As I embraced her, she released a sigh of relief at our safety and a smile curled on her lips at the joy of being with family. She was perfectly dressed, hair and makeup done, ready to go a party. We were there to pick up a chair for my desk – an old wooden ladder-back chair given to her and my late Grandpa George by his parents as a wedding gift. Grandma was in a rush, anxious to get to her event and even more anxious to get us on the road before dark. In the hustle though, she paused and looked at the chair longingly, saying “I can still see George sitting in that chair…” As I stood there with my husband, I couldn’t imagine what it was like for my Grandma to have outlived her love by more than three decades. In that moment it was as if she was saying it was time – time to go home to her husband, finally.

Though Grandma was nearly 93, she was feisty as anything and sharp as a tack, so none of us could have predicted that the end was imminent.  But life doesn’t grant you the ability to predict the future. After a quick series of events Grandma lay surrounded by her three children, filling the room with love, as she breathed her last breath.

As I sit now in this Cochrane heirloom of a chair, strong and sturdy supporting me, I remember what it means to be a family. Grandma and Grandpa Cochrane are the foundation upon which our family is built. They labored throughout their lives to create this strong and sturdy support system, which continues to grow and flourish with each new marriage, each new birth. And though it is with heavy heart that we say goodbye to Grandma, our essential key-stone, we don’t have to look any further than each other – Judy and John and Scott, Chip and Ashley and Elizabeth and Courtney and Katie and Wesley, Barbara and Kim and Cameron and Andrew and Landon and Greg – to see that she is still here. Pieces of Grandma live on in each of us. So we celebrate this – her beautiful life and her immortal legacy.

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United

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I don’t really like sports. As much as I’ve tried to get into being a great fan, watching a game doesn’t generally hold my interest. But I love the World Cup.

Part of this love comes from my belief that soccer is the most entertaining of all the athletic activities out there. The game is not too long, the action is consistent, and it’s usually played in an outdoor arena.

But what really gets me interested in the game every four years is the unity that this international event brings.

I don’t think I’m breaking new ground to say that America has become increasingly divisive. If you look at the political climate over recent years, things seem to have shifted from semi-friendly debate to all out ideological warfare. With the ever present internet and media, every personal choice one makes is up for judgment – what you eat, how you parent, how you spend your time or money. Even within American athletics, people seem to forget the notion of being a good sport and rudeness is shown to opposing teams, fights break out among fans. There’s you and there’s them, but there does not seem to be much us.

But we are an us – the U.S. – united, despite the fact that we often forget it. And I love the World Cup because, for many of us, it forces us to remember, even if just for a few short weeks, that we are in this together. Democrats and Republicans, Broncos fans and Seahawks fans, Americans of different races and socioeconomic classes, can come together to cheer for the talented men who represent the United States. A common citizenship, a common goal.

Furthermore, it reminds us that we are connected to the rest of the world. When you put a group of men or women on the field, no matter where they’re from or how fierce the competition, they are playing as equals. It levels the international playing field, allowing us to disregard politics and stereotypes for a moment and just enjoy the game.

Once the World Cup wraps up, I can’t say that I will be spending my free time becoming a soccer fanatic. But any event that breeds unity over division, encouragement over derision is something I want to be a part of.

 

If you haven’t yet caught USA World Cup fever, this video will help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uEpcfonkt4&feature=kp.

Weekend Wandering: Cheesy Trails to You

There are a few things I love in life – my family and friends, my dogs, travel, the mountains, and cheese. I feel like that list really defines me as a person. So what happens when you combine all of these great things? Only the best birthday surprise ever! Otherwise known as the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail.

If you’ve never heard of the WNC Cheese trail, join the club. Only in it’s second year, the trail showcases local artisan cheese-makers from across the Western Carolina region. Andrew just happened upon an article in an airline magazine featuring the cheesy excursion. In hindsight though, I’m amazed I didn’t come up with the idea myself – what could be better than a day spent driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains sampling some of the regions finest dairy offerings?

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We began the trek with a night in Asheville, one of our favorite weekend destinations. After an evening dining on tile fish, lemon thyme risotto, scallops, and coconut custard cake at the incredible Black Bird restaurant in downtown Asheville, we set off to explore.

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As we left the city limits, I had no idea where we were going or what was in store. Winding down country roads, the options became ever more limited – based on the road signs we were either going to one of a dozen Freewill Baptist churches or we were going to a creamery. I’m happy to report it was the latter. We pulled up to a small farmhouse with the most beautiful view of the mountains in the distance and a couple goats and sheep standing guard.

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Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview, NC was our first stop. Upon entering the small shop, we were greeted by the delightful Ashley, who didn’t hesitate to offer us endless samples their dairy delicacies. Their soft creamy chevre goat cheese served on local Roots & Branches crackers invited us to indulge. The plain chevre is fantastic, but the unique flavors they offered really took the cheese to the next level. Not wanting to choose between sweet and savory, we picked a chevre flavor from each category – delicately sweetened coconut chevre and tangy garlic & chive. The real standout cheese, though, was their signature award-winning Ellington. This lovely pyramid of goat cheese covered in a thin layer of ash tastes to me like the most delicious hybrid of goat cheese, brie, and blue cheese and is perfect on it’s own or paired with a freshly cooked steak.

Beyond cheese, Looking Glass has a few other tasty treats. Most tempting for me was their Bourbon Vanilla Carmelita – a rich sweet caramel sauce expertly balanced with the unbeatable flavors of bourbon and fresh vanilla. It’s my new favorite addition to coffee, but I would also gladly eat it by the spoonful on it’s own.

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After our tasting session we went outside to meet the goats of Looking Glass and thank them for their goods. Apparently they were interested in what we could offer them to eat in return.

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As much as I would like too, one can’t survive on cheese alone. So we went to find lunch at the Local Joint. The Local Joint is a Fairview, NC gem hidden in plain sight – it’s connected to a gas station. But don’t let it’s location fool you. They serve up some of the freshest, most delicious homemade food with a side of southern hospitality. I ordered The Local, an impeccable burger with bacon and blue cheese embedded into the patty on a fresh bun smothered with garlic aioli – truly one of the best burger’s I’ve had in a while. Andrew got the pastrami sandwich, which is made with local Lusty Monk mustard on a pretzel bun – also a delectably great option. And Bella certainly enjoyed the sweet potato fries and house-made chips.

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Fully satiated, we headed on to Hickory Nut Gap Farm to explore, and of course buy more food.

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Hickory Nut Gap, also in Fairview, NC, is not just a farm or store, but a full experience. Spanning endless acres across a beautiful valley intersected by a fresh mountain stream, we could have spent a day just enjoying Hickory Nut Gap.

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We wandered around the farm picking blueberries, meeting baby chicks and piglets, and tromping through the cool stream (Bella’s favorite).

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Back at the Hickory Nut Gap market, the friendly and knowledgeable staff welcomed us and didn’t hesitate to make recommendations on their favorite cuts of meat and other local treats.

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While Hickory Nut Gap is not a creamery, they offer some of the region’s best meats to accompany your cheesy finds. I could easily make a meal of their flavorful Sweet Sopressata salami and any choice of cheese.

Stocked with a cooler full of our fresh finds, we wound further east to Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain, NC.

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As a fully functioning goat farmstead, dairy, and creamery, as well as home to it’s owners, visiting Round Mountain is by appointment only. Fortunately the passionate owner, Linda Seligman, was kind enough welcome us to her farm on short notice.

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Round Mountain is the only producer of Grade A goat milk in all of North Carolina, so we knew their milk and cheeses were bound to be great. Linda gave us a private tour of the creamery, walking us through each step of the painstaking process – from prepping the goats to milking to processing the milk, and finally to making a delicious assortment of cheeses. Round Mountain Creamery has been a labor of love for Linda, 12 years in the making, so it was incredible to see the work and detail that goes into every aspect of making the highest quality goods.

After the tour she set us free to explore the farm and meet the hard-working goats before rejoining us in her tasting shop.

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Like a loving mother, Linda offered us endless samples of Round Mountain’s fresh cheeses, giving us the rundown of what ingredients were added and the process for making and aging each variety. To top it off, we got our first taste of goat milk, which is fairly similar to cow milk, but with just a bit to that tasty tanginess that makes goat cheese unique. We took with us a bit of everything – goat milk, various flavors of soft goat cheese, and (at Andrew’s request) a whole wheel of their award-winning Amber Moon aged goat cheese.

Bidding farewell to Linda, we headed north to enjoy the afternoon light and view of the mountains along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Andrew had one final birthday surprise in store – going to one of my favorite places in the world, Valle Crucis, NC, to visit my dad. Upon arrival my dad greeted me with the most delicious birthday cake from Valle Crucis Bakery and Cafe, with none other than cream cheese icing!

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What a wonderfully unique birthday! Those who know me certainly know that cheese is the way to my heart…

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There were a few other creameries we wanted to get to, but you can only do so much cheese in one day. Next trip we hope to make it to the cheese cave at Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery, as well as English Farmstead, OakMoon Farm, and maybe even the Western Carolina cheese mecca of Ashe County Cheese. For a full list of cheese trail participants, visit www.wnccheesetrail.com.

Happy Birthday to Me!

I love birthdays. I love the joy and anticipation and celebration. I love the idea that every single year, every single person gets a day to celebrate the simple fact that they were born into existence. I also love cake.

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My love for birthdays was born at a young age. My first memories of birthday joy surrounded my third birthday. In the summer of 1990, I was a vivacious little lady. I wore my yellow “pearls” and purple sunglasses with confidence, rocking my shaggy red-headed bowl-cut like it was nobody’s business. And there was one thing I loved more than anything else in the world – the Happy Birthday song. I would pester my parents to sing it to me throughout the day, and when they tired of my birthday enthusiasm, I would take up the task and sing “Happy Birthday” to myself.  At the risk of sounding like a self absorbed child, I truly believed that there was no greater day than June 14th.

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For many, it seems that the magic of birthdays dwindles as they grow older. Instead of celebrating this joyful occasion, I often hear others dwell on what they haven’t yet accomplished, lament the fact they are another year older, and complain that their looks, health, or life aren’t what they used to be.

But why does getting older have to be viewed as a bad thing?

Each year I live is another year I learn. With each passing year I gain infinitely more experience and wisdom. I’m smarter than I was at 5, happier than I was at 15, and wiser than I was at 25. Though my life may be another year shorter on June 14th, it’s also another year richer; which I think is a worthwhile trade-off.

Wrinkles and gray hairs are the beautiful battle wounds of adventure – of a life well lived. Scrapes and scars mark lessons learned. And another year older is a whole new story to tell. So I celebrate getting to live this amazing life.

I know I’m still young, and there may come a day when I view my age as a negative. My body may start to fail me. The view of life ahead may seem short. But I hope even then, when my birthday rolls around, I can still pause to appreciate all that life has offered me. If my life thus far is any indication, there will be oh-so-much to celebrate.

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For the Love of Travel

I’m not generally one for celebrity advice, but when Bill Murray waltzed into a Charleston bachelor party this past weekend, he shared some words of wisdom I wholeheartedly agree with. When asked for tips on finding lasting love, Mr. Murray responded:

“If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s pick a date. Let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”

Six years ago to the day, long before Bill touted it, I did just that. On May 29, 2008 I was on a plane from Germany bound for Athens, Greece. Waiting on the other end of that flight was a boy I barely knew; a boy I had met just weeks before leaving for a semester of studying abroad. We were still “just friends,” or so we thought. Friends who were wildly attracted to each other; friends who stayed up late nights waiting to coordinate time zones in the hope of a brief chat; friends who would cross an ocean to see one another when they had spent more time apart than together.

On that day six years ago, as we saw each other for the first time in months, our hearts raced nervously in anticipation of so much more than friendship. When our eyes met across the airport, we recognized in each other an as-yet-unexplored commonality. So we set off to explore it together.

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Here I must stop and and point out a key distinction in Bill Murray’s advice. Notice he did not say if you want to make sure you’ve found the one, go lay on a beach together and drink margaritas. He said go travel together, to difficult places. Why? Because it’s easy to fall in love on a vacation with no worries, but what cements love and companionship is putting yourselves (and each other) through the paces of a true travel experience.

As we set off to explore Athens – a city we didn’t know with a language we didn’t speak – lugging our suitcases in hundred degree heat, we learned the value of teamwork. When Andrew broke his foot on day two in Santorini, we learned to show care and compassion towards each other. In our dependence on one another to carry the load (literally) and make it to our next destination, we learned the give and take of relationships – relying on the other’s strengths and supporting their weaknesses. Through missed trains, nights sleeping on a bench (or train or boat), new places, unfamiliar people, and hours spent walking (or crutching) around Europe just trying to figure out where we were going, we learned patience and persistence.

At the time I didn’t realize that we were learning all these crucial lessons. I didn’t even realize that we were falling in love. All I knew was that we were determined to keep moving forward; and that despite the difficulties, it was the best time I’d ever had.

As the trip came to a close, we were exhausted and broke, but connected in a way that I don’t think would have been possible without our trials of traveling. While we didn’t go back and get married at the airport immediately (though my husband would have loved an airport wedding), we had taken that first leap towards togetherness. In the six years Andrew and I have spent together since that fateful day in Athens, many more adventures have ensued and they have all led me to this important conclusion:

Some of the greatest things in life – love and travel – will test you endlessly, but they will also bring more joy and richness to your world than you could ever imagine.

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The Flight

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The boy grasps his grandfather’s hand, calloused from years of hard work, and looks up, big brown eyes filled with wonder. He doesn’t look at his grandfather’s face, but beyond to the sky above, towards their shared dream and destiny.

The soft purr of a motor from afar grows louder as the boy and his grandfather instinctively shift their gaze, focusing their eyes and ears on the familiar sound until a faint speck appears in the distance. Gleaming in the midday sun, a small airplane comes into sight. It’s single propeller whirls as the adept pilot keeps the wings steady despite the afternoon breeze. As the the wingspan casts it’s shadow across the boy’s face, his heart swells with amazement. His mind races with the possibility of this impossible feat – earthbound man taking flight.

“Papou, can we fly?” the boy asks his grandfather, timid but excited.

His grandfather looks down into those brown eyes and smiles, a soft but reassuring grin, and leads the boy over to his plane. They push the plane out of the hangar together; the boy learning to believe in his own strength. Patiently, Papou walks the boy through each step of the pre-flight checklist. Like waves on the sand, each new piece of information washes over and exhilarates him as the boy soaks it all in. He’s attentive, yet tentative, as he learns about the instruments and ailerons. Though he intuitively understands the concepts of lift and airspeed and altitude, he carefully listens to every word his grandfather says, hoping to absorb his years of experience.

Finally they are ready for takeoff. After taxiing to the end of the runway, Papou instructs the boy to take the yoke – he will be flying. The boy is filled with fear, doubting his own abilities; but as he looks into his grandfather’s eyes, a reflection of his own, he sees them filled with trust and confidence. His small hands grip the yoke tightly, white knuckles steadying their shaking, as the propeller spins and the engine revs to full throttle. The plane speeds down the runway, and with only a little guidance from his grandfather, the boy firmly pulls back on the yoke.

They are aloft.

Out of the corner of his eye the boy sees the ground quickly dropping below him. He sees the green leaves of the trees wave farewell, beckoning him upward; then he’s above the towering trees. Up, up, up they climb – like Icarus daring to soar ever closer to the sun. Keeping pace with the altitude, the boy’s exhilaration and assurance continues it’s ascent, his apprehension fading with the landscape below.

As he levels off the plane, the boy looks to Papou with pride. But Papou is no longer visible. Confused, the boy looks down at his own hands and realizes something stunning – he is no longer a boy, but now a man. He is doing the impossible, taking flight, all on his own.

The man is in the left seat now; a pilot of his own dreams and destiny. Yet he’s always aware of his ever-present copilot, the source of his inspiration and motivation, Papou.

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This story is in honor of my incredible husband, who just fulfilled one of his greatest life dreams, becoming a private pilot, and in memory of his beloved Papou, who would have been 91 last week and has endlessly inspired Andrew’s consistent love and pursuit of flight.

On the Road Again

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One of Andrew and my favorite pastimes, no surprise, is to travel – to set off and explore new places or visit loved ones living afar. We love to fly of course, and when it comes to speed and convenience, commercial airlines can’t be beat. But from a budget standpoint, flying is a pricey option.

So we climb in our trusty Subaru and set off on the highway.

Though Andrew often finds the drive to be a burden, I secretly love these long road trips. The older we get, the more demands life puts on our time and attention, the rarer it is to find time to just sit and be. With each passing mile, my mind travels further away from the stresses and worries of everyday. The open road ahead of me feels full of hope and potential. Even if I know my destination, the possibilities along the path seem limitless. What grand adventure may lie around the next curve in the road?

Then there is the pure beauty of the drive. Have you ever slowed down to notice the simply stunning landscapes of America? Though I’ve driven the route from Washington, DC to Tennessee dozens of times, the cascade of the evening sun across the Blue Ridge mountains never ceases to amaze me. Each drive brings the gifts of a new season, painting an always unique scene of flora and fauna.

If you’re lucky enough to travel with a great companion, you’re in for the greatest of treats. I’m a firm believer that you can’t truly know another person until you’ve spent endless hours in the car with them. The stretch of time and lack of distractions allows you to interact in a special way. We may spend a half hour just laughing and joking. Maybe an hour dreaming about the future. Perhaps a long while reminiscing about past adventures, or delving deeper into hopes and goals. Like the road ahead, there’s no telling where the conversation may lead. The most magical times, though, I find are those silent moments, filled with only the sound of the radio in the background, as we sink into the contended place of just experiencing the journey. Together.

So can road trips be annoying? Certainly. Are they the most efficient means of travel? Not likely. But if you avoid the scenic route you miss out on the best views of life.

Facing Fears

Last weekend, to celebrate her birthday, my mom decided that she wanted to go to an amusement park. This is a fantastically fun idea, except for the fact that I am slightly terrified of roller coasters and thrill rides in general.

My husband has this theory though. He believes that we humans need to experience fear every once in a while to remind of us of our own humanity. He claims that humans have evolved so much that we do not often encounter things that make us fear for our lives like our Stone Age ancestors might have – which in many ways is a very good thing. Yet, we need to face such fears to show us that we are not invincible, but we have extraordinary potential to overcome terrifying circumstances. In doing so, facing the fears, he concludes that it helps us appreciate the ordinary relatively fear-free existence of our everyday lives.

Brilliant.

I agree with this wise man; on a figurative level. Yes, I can be brave and vulnerable and face those emotional things that bring me fear. But literally? I’ll just stay on my carousel thank you very much.

No, my husband persisted, that’s not how it works. He was referring specifically to the physical fears we must face, propelling us out of our comfort zone and towards a sense of accomplishment. In other words – get on that roller coaster missy!

So with trembling legs I climbed the steps to the Wild Eagle – the newest, fastest, steepest roller coaster at Dollywood. As the friendly attendant strapped me in, she took one look at my panic-stricken face, gave me a knowing smile, and asked, “Scared?”

Then the coaster was off, scaling the slow vertical ascent to the peak. As we hung suspended, Andrew kept reminding me – deep breaths, just breathe. I inhaled as we crested the metallic summit, bracing for the worst, and wooosh.

I loved it.

As we soared and dipped and inverted and whirled, my anxiety melted away and was replaced by a refreshing feeling of accomplishment and, dare I say, joy.

My whole body was shaking as I emerged from the ride – pulsing with a delicious mix of adrenaline and pride. I was still terrified the second time I rode, and the third. But I also now knew my husband’s words to be true – it’s not just the rush of the ride that makes the thrill worthwhile, but the way that your feet touch the ground afterward with enhanced appreciation for the security of our ordinary lives.

Facing our physical fears forces us to get out of our own minds and bodies, too often hung up on meaningless modern worries, resetting our perspective on life. Bonus: you might just find you actually enjoy doing something you fear.

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Victorious!

Have a fantastic weekend of facing fears and finding joy!

How’s Married Life? My Messy Beautiful

Cochrane-Moore-701“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote. Though he was referring to 18th Century Europe, he might as well have been talking about marriage.

In the seven and a half short (but seemingly long) months since we said our vows, I’ve learned more about myself, relationships, and life in general than I did in the preceding 26 years. And what I’ve learned is not that love conquers all and “I do” is simply followed by happily ever after. I have learned that marriage, just like life, is messy and incredibly hard. But if I keep showing up, keep putting in the effort, there is also incredible beauty to be found shining through.

Nothing prepares you for the simultaneous glory and heartache that comes from committing yourself to another person for life.

I like to think I walked down the aisle with open eyes, prepared for what lied ahead. “Marriage is hard,” people tell you. That’s ok, I thought, I can do hard things. I’ve got this, I was made for this. We had been together for years, so we both knew what to expect. Or so we thought.

When we get too comfortable and confident, it seems that’s when life starts throwing curve balls. In a matter of weeks into our marriage, the curve balls started flying fast and furious, relentlessly pummeling the foundation of our marriage and our very selves. From a devastating loss to broken promises, from lies to issues with alcohol – the beauty we worked so hard to create was replaced in the blink of an eye with endless mess raining down.

Daily disappointments settled into the cracks of our broken hearts and shattered dreams. There seemed to be no space for beauty to shine through.

But seeds of hope, like wildflowers, bloom most beautifully in unexpected places; taking root through the sheer force of will to hang on under difficult circumstances.  And this hope is where the hard work of sifting through the mess begins.

Day after day we have to clear the debris and rebuild one block at a time. Day after day we have to choose to trust – ourselves and each other – and keep moving forward. Day after day we have to rediscover that person we chose to marry and learn to love them, to truly accept them in all their broken humanity, all over again. Some days one or both of us don’t think we can make it, and that scares me more than the mess itself. But we keep trying, keep taking tiny steps of grace; each step uncovering just a bit of beauty.

The beauty shows up in the unexpected and wildly ordinary moments. A glimpse of my husband’s face, alive with passion, as he prepares to pilot a plane. The soft brush of his hand on my hip as I wash the dishes. Working together, side by side, to weed the garden and make room for new growth. The magic of uttering “Thank You” and “I Love You” to one another, even on the worst of days. Sometimes it’s simply those precious few moments before we fall asleep as we hold each other close, our silent victory lap, we made it through another day.

When I get asked a dozen times a day, “How’s married life?” I know these are the things I’m not supposed to say. Hide the mess, sing out the beauty. I should, and usually do, smile and respond, “great!” But the truth is, beauty and mess coexist. It’s their inseparable intermingling that make life and love honest, real, and incredibly enlightening.

 

momasteryThis essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Making Time

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In today’s fast-paced society, there seem to be limitless demands on our limited time, energy, and attention. With the continual emergence of new and better technology, along with the “there’s an app for that” mentality, there is so much more we are expected to do or know simply because we have the ability to do things quickly and simultaneously.

But there’s a problem with this idea of doing more at once, and it’s the concept of multi-tasking. I am exceptionally good at multi-tasking because I am exceptionally bad at focusing my attention on any single task. The problem is, though, when I multi-task I leave in my wake a slew of unfinished projects, along with the feeling that I haven’t really accomplished anything productive. I affectionately refer to myself as a half-assed multi-tasker.

I thought I was the only one who fell into this brilliant category, but it turns out humans as a whole aren’t actually as good at multi-tasking as we would like to believe. If we can’t do 7 things at once, then how are we ever supposed to accomplish the 7,263 things on our daily to-do (and want-to-do) lists?

Ironically my inspiration for time management came from one of the places where I often focus the least amount of time – creativity. For creatives like myself, time management proves to be even more difficult. We need to take time to tap into that mystical place inside ourselves and produce our own form of art, yet this need constantly seems to fall behind life’s other more pressing matters (who needs to cook dinner or get to work anyway?). But I read something by one of my favorite authors, Liz Gilbert, recently about the toll ignoring our creativity can take by manifesting in negative ways in other areas of our life. Her remedy for prioritizing this all-important creative need was to give it just a little time – to devote 30 minutes a day, even on her busiest days, towards her writing. Just 30 minutes – I can do that.

Then I realized I don’t have to limit devoting small blocks of focused attention only to my creative pursuits. This idea of time blocking may very well help me regain my time, sanity, and productivity. Rather than my usual mode of heading home with a list of tasks and no real plan, I’m going to block off specific and manageable chunks of time to focus on accomplishing a certain thing. 30 minutes devoted solely to cleaning the kitchen, 30 minutes spent just playing with the dogs, 30 minutes working on meal planning and grocery list.

One caveat to this whole plan of time-blocking is being realistic. For me that means not blocking out every half hour chunk of time to try to accomplish everything. The goal of time management is stress reduction, so flexibility is key. In a four hour evening, it would work to block out three half-hour periods.

Various tasks will of course take longer or shorter than the allotted 30 minutes, but that’s not the point. The point is to make a commitment to devote uninterrupted time to something and see what magic can be accomplished when we truly focus. As with all of life, it’s an experiment.

Do you have any fool-proof tips for time management? I’d love to know, because this crazy world seems to just keep getting busier…