As I was soaking in bath number three of the week (increased stress = more baths) and having a pity party of one as the flame of a candle illuminated my mason jar glass of pink wine on the edge of the tub, a single word broke through the madness, humbling me almost instantly. Home.
How lucky am I to have a home? To have a retreat. A bath tub I can drown my sorrows in after a bad day. A water heater to warm the water. Epsom salts to ease my aching body. Essential oils to ease my aching mind. A dog sitting dutifully just outside the bathroom door, on guard to protect me from anything that could put me in danger. A loving husband singing in the kitchen as he makes us dinner. Cooking food we are fortunate enough to have cupboards full of. Shielded from the elements by a house that is ours. That is warm. And dry. And safe.
I was grounded more and more as I thought about each piece of our life. From minute to major. We don’t have a lot by some peoples’ standards, but goodness, I feel like we have it all a lot of the time. Especially when I break everything down. To have our basic needs met is a blessing on its own. To have experiences and things we want is just the cherry on top.
There are a lot of people locally, even if you choose not to see or believe it, that don’t have a home and everything a home can bring. Or if they do, it might not feel like a refuge. Or be warm, or dry, or safe. Going to sleep with no blankets, empty stomachs, and little hope for tomorrow.
My challenge to you this holiday season (and throughout the upcoming new year) has two parts:
Even if you don't have a lot to give, the smallest gestures of kindness can make a huge impact. You don't have to offer money or physical items. Look for ways to make people feel seen. Drop the word “stranger” from your vocabulary. We’re all in this together. Contribute to the comfort of those around you. Let the light from your heart make someone feel at home, feel at ease, just by being with you, even if it's a brief encounter. That moment matters. Especially to someone who needed someone like you in that moment.
If you are looking to support an organization that tirelessly helps others, we highly encourage The Salvation Army. I tell you why we love this organization in this post. This year marks the fifth year we have rang bells for the Red Kettle Campaign and we are looking for ways to do even more with this wonderful charity to support the people in our community who need to be lifted up.
Truly, home is wherever I’m with this guy. I wish you all the same kind of love and companionship in your lives.
Joel and I recently celebrated our NINTH wedding anniversary! We’ve been together almost thirteen years total. I have repeated this fact to myself over and over again the past few days. It seems surreal. Especially since I never thought I’d get married in the first place! But goodness, am I glad I did.
We always take time around our anniversary to stop and reflect. Escaping for a few days to explore, our favorite thing to do together.
This year was one of the best anniversary trips we’ve taken! We traveled around Iowa and Wisconsin over five days, our primary home base being my family’s cabin in Lansing, Iowa.
Before I dive into what we did, I want to tell you how the morning of our vacation started before we left because I think it’s important that some real life gets thrown into this shiny, happy post! We got water in our basement. A LOT of water. The dogs lost their minds at the vet, Madison had to get muzzled. I had a nail in my tire that needed to be fixed before we left. The dogs lost their minds again at home and pushed a glass platter down the stairs, breaking it. Something come up at work that they needed to contact me about. All before noon. After some big breaths and an undying will to continue on as planned, we made it out of the house!
We started out in Madison, Wisconsin. We both love Madison. Great city. College town. Pretty hip. Lots to do. We didn’t have much time to wander around this time because we were in town to see Jeff Tweedy from Wilco perform at an art museum. I had been to a Wilco show before and Joel is constantly listening to them so I had a good idea of what we were getting into. But wow. What a show. I was in tears several times. Jeff is a king lyricist. And for as serious as his lyrics are, he’s actually a pretty funny guy. Time flew and neither of us wanted it to end!
We had to venture home after staying the night in Madison because Twins had a show in Des Moines. So on our way back we hit up Chris Farley’s childhood home in Madison and then the Field of Dreams in Dyersville! I had never been to either, so it was pretty neat.
The following day we traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin – our favorite Wisconsin city hands down. We hit up our regular haunts, napped in the park (beyond relaxing), and then ended the day taking a walk with “Mark Twain” as he told us about the Mississippi River. This one man, outdoor play was wonderful. I never realized that Mark Twain was a humorist. For a humorist, he was quite an insightful man. Some of the lines spoken were extremely moving and very relevant in our current political state.
We finished the trek where three different rivers intersect at the end of the La Crosse river walk. Mark Twain said this is a sign of a sacred space according to Native Americans. We were in a hidden garden. The sun was setting over the water. Ducks were peacefully swimming nearby. I was with Joel. Mark Twain was standing in front of us. A sacred space indeed.
On our last day before packing up to go home, we went south into Wisconsin. We checked out some spots just outside of and in Prairie du Chien. We stopped by an apple orchard/pumpkin patch, walking away without any fresh fruit, but with a bag of fresh bakery items instead! Then we ventured into an area that we hadn’t been before, off the beaten path. I’ll let the pictures do the talking but essentially we found a large equipment graveyard. I may have broken a couple of rules and committed a minor crime while we were there, but I made it out without being arrested!
We were also excited to find an antique shop we hadn’t seen before. If you are in that area and like reasonably priced antiques, check out Checkers Antiques! Nice people, amazing selection, open for 50 years – so they know what’s up.
Overall, it was a very relaxing trip. In between adventures we made sure to reaffirm our commitment to one another, celebrate victories, learn from challenges (like the five in a row we experienced before leaving!), and look into the future.
I’m lucky for this man and all he brings to my life. We seem to feel happier each year we are together, which I am immensely grateful for. Being by his side is my favorite part of living. We’ve built a simple yet incredible life together that only keeps getting better. Here’s to staying aligned and in love for many more years, J! Glad you’re on my team.
I wanted to share a quick mindfulness tip that I apply to my daily life that I hope you find helpful.
I am a little impatient, especially when I’m in a hurry. And sometimes even when I’m not in a hurry. I usually blame those moments on being hangry.
A long line. Slow traffic. Service that’s taking forever. The list goes on.
Instead of allowing myself to become consumed with unnecessary rage, I look at the situation as an opportunity vs. an inconvenience. In most cases, my only option is to wait it out. So why not use that time wisely, in a way that benefits my mind and body?
By the time I’m through with this short routine, the circumstances causing me to feel poorly most times have passed. And if they haven’t, I’m in a better place, able to handle the wait with more tolerance all around.
Give this a try and let me know what you think! If you have any other good mindfulness tips, I’d love to hear them.
I’ve been feeling a little exhausted by personal development lately. I read the books, the quotes, the encouraging posts every day. I reflect, I practice, I preach as often as I can. I celebrate victories and try learning from setbacks. Yada, yada.
Like many others, I’m always working towards the “best version of myself.” That’s the whole point of personal development, right? But I never feel like I get there. And I beat myself up for that. I tell myself that “next time will be better.”
But what if it’s not? How can I come to terms with that?
I’m really struggling to find a balance between who I am now and the “better” me. I can’t seem to make myself believe that I am loved as I am now, before the “better.” And if I continue to think that way, I fear that I’ll never truly internalize the love I KNOW I am SURROUNDED by. Taking it for granted in a way, which is something I am terrified of.
My personal development is, and I feel always will be, quite a roller coaster. When my anxiety and depression subside, I excel. Connections are made, joy is felt, creativity radiates. When they appear, they take me down. Negative self-talk creeps in, isolation is in full force, physically I run on empty. One step forward, two steps back. A painful dance I’ve been forced to learn the steps to.
In either state, I leave interactions and experiences saying to myself, “Next time will be better.” Every single time.I feel that if I tripped over my words, acted awkwardly, didn’t say or do the right thing – I’ve lost any love that existed in that moment. Without fail. Like the love that was present before or in that moment disappeared the moment I felt I wasn’t “better.” For a woman who preaches presence and joy in the moment, this isn’t a very healthy way to think.
The quote I shared at the top of this post really got me thinking. I have to reach a point where “better” isn’t always a factor. I can be who I am – WITH SO MANY IMPERFECTIONS – and still feel worthy of being loved in that moment and beyond. Good day, bad day – loved for it. Gold star performance, F grade performance – loved for it. Internalize that I am loved for who I am, not who I think I should be. Which for some reason I think would be a more loveable person?
I’ll close with this. When we feel that we could be/need to be better – that’s great, it drives us forward towards being good human beings – but don’t get distracted by only looking forward/waiting for next time. Take time to be present and think about this: “I remember the days I used to dream about what I have now.” We are a version of our “better” every day. It may not feel like it, but if that’s what we’ve been working towards, then there has to be a bit (or all) of it that exists in who we are in this present moment.
If you haven’t seen The Greatest Showman yet, you need to. I’m completely consumed with it right now. The soundtrack is on replay at work, in my car, and at home. I feel swept away. And I like the places my mind is being taken.
There’s one song in particular that I can’t get enough of: A Million Dreams.
I can’t get through it without crying. It speaks to me on the deepest level.
I’ve always been a person that goes my own way. My mom never misses a chance to profess that I never listen(ed). I have to do things on my own. Experience life my own way. See everything with my own eyes. Even if the outcome would have been better if I had listened to those around me.
I take pride in this characteristic. What fun is there in living a life based on the experiences others have had? I need the lows to appreciate the highs. My mistakes have brought some of the best learning experiences. I’m a better and wiser person because of what I’ve been through. There’s more to me because of it.
A lot of why I am this way can be attributed to my dreamer mentality. My head is in the clouds a majority of the time. Huge portions of my days are filled with daydreaming. I have list after list, sketch after sketch of the plans and projects I want to accomplish. I have my own agenda laid out. Always have, always will. If what you’re telling me doesn’t jive with how I have things aligned in my mind, it’s probably not making the cut.
Some may call this being stubborn. And I suppose I’d agree with that to a certain point. I mostly look at it as being an independent person. Someone who knows themselves, what they want, and the direction they’re going in. We shouldn’t be apologetic about that.
When we “veer off the beaten path,” follow our instincts in spite of others’ opinions, experience things on our own with open eyes, hearts, and arms – people sometimes think that is crazy. Because what we’re doing doesn’t match up with the agenda they have laid out. And that’s something we should rarely concern ourselves with. Which is hard to do. So that’s why we should strive to create and nurture our own “world” to retreat to. A world that fills us up, reaffirms our heart’s desires, and allows us to get lost in our own joy.
What’s even better is if we can find someone to build that world with. A spouse, a friend, a family member, a child - even a pet. You choose who and what is allowed in your world. People who share your dreams, or are inspired by them. Hobbies and projects that make you feel capable and unstoppable. A place that only you can see and feel.
My world includes my little family. Joel, our pups, our home. In our world we forgive quickly, strive to make each other smile - even better, laugh - daily, support each other's goals, work as hard as we play, hug big, breathe together, and take moments to feel grateful for all of it. We create, we dance while we clean, we find treasures that make us smile, we look for contentment in the things we are fortunate to have.
By starting to think about my life as the world I create for myself has changed the way I see everything. It makes life feel more manageable somehow. Maybe because it takes the time limit out of the equation. Breaking my experience on this Earth down to the bubble I create, the experience I choose live, makes me feel more ownership over the small corner of the big world we inhabit. It makes each decision I make feel personal and purposeful.
How is your world taking shape? Who do you want to share your dreams with? Let them in. What makes you feel like you're in a world all your own? Do more of that. Let's build the best worlds for ourselves. In the end, it's all we have.
We had a pretty nice holiday at the Sires' household. We soaked in the glow of our Christmas tree, watched lots of holiday movies, snuggled in with our pups, and indulged in too many treats!
To balance out the peaceful calm, we threw some chaos of our own making into the mix. As usual, we were the people out shopping for ALL of our gifts the week before (up to the day before) Christmas. Never fails. We never mean to wait so long and we're not unthoughtful people, it has truly just become a laughable tradition of ours. At least we're experiencing the madness together!
This year was a little different for us because some of our normal traditions with family shifted slightly. The shift meant that we had Christmas Eve completely open, no commitments. (!!!) We tried to be intentional about what we chose to do in hopes of creating one or two new traditions that we could carry into the future.
It was a pretty laid back day. We slept in, rose slowly, had brunch, wrapped the last of our gifts, napped, took a walk, and went to church in the evening. The pace was dreamy. It felt so strange to have such a leisurely day in the middle of the busiest few days of our year, but I think we both welcomed and needed it.
My absolute favorite part of our Christmas Eve together was our walk. We took a walk around our property, taking time to stop, look around, and breathe in the crisp air. We fell in love with our acreage in the winter, so winter always feels an extra kind of special around here. Our dreams for this place took shape in the quiet, cold, and snowy months before we made it our home.
This type of reflection as a couple is undoubtedly the best new tradition that sprouted from our extra eight hours together during the holidays. My love for him, who we've become as individuals and as a couple, and the life we've built together has never felt stronger than in those stolen hours.
I hope you embraced new traditions along with the old this holiday season and were able to be present in both. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and happy new year!
Here are some “family photos” we attempted on Christmas Eve! Attempted being the key word. No amount of treats can persuade our dogs to take a photo!
I recently turned 33. I'd love to share an upbeat story about what a beautiful day I had and how wonderful I felt, but that would be a lie. I spent the first day of my 33rd year in the midst of a swirling mix of emotions. Mostly anxiety, some sadness, with an undercurrent of feeling special and overwhelmingly grateful. I cried. Hard. One of those deep down cries that catches you off guard and ends up being a welcome release of emotion.
I couldn't put my feelings into words. I'm not normally a person who is bothered by birthdays. I actually look forward to them as times for reflection, looking back and setting personal goals for the future. Wanting to be a better version of myself year after year. But this year was different. I'm hoping for good reason.
Over the past few months I have felt a major shift inside myself. I've been faced with messages of overcoming fears, embracing change, the importance of connection, of showing up. All things I'm admittedly not very good at. Actually, I would identify all of these things as my top weaknesses. But over and over again, I'm hit with truths about how in order to live in a full and authentic way I should embrace these things. And I believe this is true.
There will always be characteristics about ourselves that will be hard to face, but need to be faced in order to grow.
I don't want to make any declarations about what I'd like to see from myself over the next year, but I do have some thoughts:
Whew. That was much more of a download than I was expecting.
Even though I recognize there's still work to do - I also have to appreciate the good things that have occurred within me this past year. Limitless patience, recognizing the impact and power of my reactions and words, finding outlets for my anxiety, being present, finding the best in everyone and leading with the positive when referring to them, showing love without expecting love back. Good things. Good strides. Good vibes.
Two things in closing:
The first - I felt so very loved on my birthday due to the calls, texts, messages and hugs I received from my friends and family, both near and far. I also got some of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever gotten - which made me cry even harder.
And second - I've covered a lot in this post, but I feel the quote below best captures who I think I am at this time in my life. This is my 33.
Our family has grown by one member! Meet Homer:
Homer is a one-year-old Australian Terrier that we adopted from the Cedar Bend Humane Society on Friday, August 4. We originally went in intending to get another German Shepherd, Tango, who was a male version of our current shepherd and favorite girl, Madison. But after seeing Homer (previously known as Joker) and taking him outside for a walk, we were immediately smitten! The good news is, Tango got adopted the same exact night so we got to see him going to a new home as we walked out with Homer in our arms.
All I can say is we got LUCKY. So lucky. Madison was our first adoption nine years ago and she was an angel. We feel just as spoiled with Homer. House trained, social, quiet, playful - and get this - he doesn't need to be on a leash. He sticks right by us at all times. He's our new little buddy that we love very much. A little ray of sunshine that we didn't know was missing from our family.
Here's a few more photos of his cuteness since I can't seem to stop taking them...also pictured in a couple shots is our beauty girl, Madison. She's slowly taking to her little brother. Some things just take time!
We love when we get to spend one-on-one time with our nephew, Max. He makes us so happy just being himself. Energetic, talkative, smart, musical, loving and quite the cutie (as evident in the photos below).
Recently, we took Max to Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa. Joel and I hadn't been to Adventureland since we were younger and were looking forward to seeing the park through Max's eyes.
Max was eagerly awaiting us when we arrived to pick him up. Bags packed, he was ready to go! He's a good road-tripper as long as you have good music, drumsticks and snacks on hand.
We got checked into Adventureland Inn (which was very nice, highly recommend) and hopped on "Molly the Trolly" to head to the park. Max's excitement was contagious and we both felt childlike anticipation for what the day had in store. Holding each of our hands, Max led the way, taking in everything as we entered.
Max is four, so I had a little concern that there wouldn't be a lot for him to do. I was completely wrong! On most of the rides, if an adult is along, little ones can hop on. We didn't do any crazy roller coasters or anything like that, but there were a few rides that freaked us out while Max was beside us laughing hysterically! Like the two pictured below:
The thing Max was looking forward to the most was the Adventureland Bay waterpark. It was pretty impressive and Max had a blast! He wore a little life jacket so Joel and I showed him how to kick his feet to swim back and forth between us. He also learned a valuable lesson about closing your mouth before jumping in the water!
When we were done at the waterpark, we were all pretty beat. We finished up on some rides he mentioned he wanted to try on the road trip down, had some treats and enjoyed a juggling show before we headed back to the hotel.
Our hotel room was poolside so we took one last dip to end the day. When we asked Max what his favorite part of the trip was he replied, "Two pools!" And the first thing he said upon waking up the next day was, "That was a really fun day." My heart swelled up to about 10 times its regular size!
Needless to say, it was a fantastic little weekend getaway with our favorite little guy! Joel and I actually want to go back again soon because although there is a lot to do with kids, there's much fun to be had by adults as well!
I've been thinking a lot lately about memories. The legacies we leave. The things we remember about those that have touched our lives. The things they remember about us.
I tend to remember the little things. Character traits or quirky actions that are probably missed by most, but to me, are things I look back on and tear up about. Because they are the things that help me remember why that person is special to me and how much I love them.
One of the smallest yet significant examples I will share is about the sound of my grandpa's shuffle. I would eat dinner with my grandparents once a week, and today, still eat dinner each week with my grandma. One night after dinner was done and my grandpa left the table to refill his iced tea, I heard the shuffle of his feet and pants dragging on the ground. His pants were a little too long and he was in his socks. In the moment, I thought it was so cute, and realized it's a sound I had heard so many times before, but never really listened to. It's a sound I can still hear. And it makes me miss him so much, but reminds me in a million different ways how much I love him.
My sister's laugh. My mom's voice when she's happy. My dad's scent. My grandma's graceful demeanor. My husband's warmth. The way my uncle wraps his extension cords. These are just a few of the countless number of small things that make my heart swell.
We're lucky to exist side-by-side on this Earth. Human connection is so beautiful, especially when every inch of it is appreciated - including its flaws. Here's to noticing not only the big things, but the little things, too. I truly believe the little things are keys to knowing and remembering what real love feels like.