What I learned

Today I head home. It’s 3:55 am and I’m waiting for the TSA line to open up at the Bangor International Airport in Maine. Today’s date isn’t lost on me. I’ll be mid-flight between Chicago and Fargo on the 20 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and if I’m being honest, the event hadn’t made much of an impact on me until recent years.

Sure, we “watched the events unfold on live television” as children. I was 11. But does an 11 year old know the magnitude of what was going on? No. Did the adults we were surrounded by? Eh, the jury is still out. For years, I was frustrated at how dramatized people reacted around the anniversary as if everyone was personally effected. Maybe they were, but I doubt it. Or maybe I was raised in a home that didn’t make something out of nothing. Though, I know it wasn’t nothing, obviously. But I wasn’t in an environment where it impacted my life at all.

I guess, it just reminded me year after year of people’s inauthenticity and the more popular social media became, the more over the top people were about it. Kind of like the death of a 3rd cousin twice removed or high school classmate you hadn’t seen in 25 years but decide to blast a memoriam all over Facebook for. We all know that the loss really didn’t impact your world whatsoever so why make a stink about it? That’s right, attention. Or to fit in.

Uff. I really didn’t mean to wake up and choose asshole for a mood. I swear I’ll turn it around here..

Anyway, present day, I do think there are plenty of genuinely good-spirited, thoughtful 9/11 posts and memorial events year after year. The messaging has improved in the last few years, I think that’s why my avertness towards the day has switched gears or maybe I’ve matured.

I’ve focused my attention on learning about those that were personally impacted, the families of loved ones lost, the stories from that day, and the tremendous courage by emergency personal and civilians alike. Maybe that’s what everyone saw all along and I was too young or naive to recognize it. But I do now.

I feel grateful now more than ever at the sacrifices people of all professions have made to make our lives as easy and as (mostly) free as they can be. I recognize that I really have no idea what that actually entails on a daily basis but I know it’s significant to the infrastructure and success of our country, even if we are currently at war with ourselves societally.

Each year, I end up meeting more people who either serve or have served in some sort of way (military or otherwise) and it’s really something special to hear about the pride and honor they hold for what they do for their families and communities. It’s easy to overlook but I hope that in each person I meet, I gain a bit more humility in knowing just how impactful one life can be to another. I want to genuinely learn from people, not just post some sort of tribute on my FB wall so everyone knows we “didn’t forget” and I’d encourage others to do the same. When is the last time any of us really paused and visited with someone we didn’t know, learned their story? Bet it’s been a minute.

Alright, there’s no smooth segue here so moving on.. typically, I write a long sappy post about all the things I’d learned from the traveling I’d done. Considering this is already much longer than I planned and my posts this time around were much more “in my feels” than usual, I decided to bullet point it out for the sanity of myself and others:

  • Cathedrals, basicllas, tiny country chapels, and village churches with towering steeples are my favorite types of art.
  • Tolls seem dumb, what’s the purpose?
  • Many grown adults who should know better still have an issue with and make fun of people in bigger bodies.
  • Laughter is contagious.
  • I think this was my last solo trip, at least for awhile. This one specifically highlighted how lonely it actually is to travel alone.
  • Waterfalls are my love language.
  • The way COVID-19 protocols are depicted on the news in comparison to how it’s managed in real life is vastly different.
  • A quiet mind isn’t always a peaceful one.
  • I’m a creature of habit and thrive when in a routine. This has become more apparent now than ever before.
  • Sometimes detours are blessings in disguise.
  • The tiny circle of people I surround myself with are my most treasured experiences in life.

Welp, there ya have it. Another one for the books. Thank you to anyone that actually read this series in its entirety, it really was a trip. Where I’m at in life is much different this time around than the last time I wrote while traveling but I think it’s for the better. I’m more open and honest with myself and how I’m feeling now, rather than suppressing or hiding it. That may have seeped through in the form of pessimism in some of my writing this time around but I hope the light I feel still found it’s way to shine though. Life is weird sometimes but God is always so good.

Until next time! Maybe.

Day 8: A Cadillac and a glass of wine

I’m sitting in the little baby Prius rental at the summit of Cadillac Mountain looking at a wall of dense fog wondering what it looks like beyond that. I imagine it’s the Atlantic Ocean spotted with little Maine-owned islands. I’d wonder if anyone other than seals and eagles inhabit them. Or maybe it’s more mountains, I’m not quite sure which way I’m facing and it’s been raining since yesterday.

You need a reservation to drive up Cadillac this year, it’s $6 and mine was for 7:30 this morning. I think I might hang out up here until the rain stops which should be sometime in the next 4 hours, we’ll see.

Yesterday’s change of plans meant last night was very quiet for me and provided a lot of time to think; I have a feeling today will be the same. But having the opportunity to slow down and get serious time to be in my head without the woes and worries of work or people or plans really is good for the soul, even if that sounds a little clichè. Cheers to clearing your head while literally in the clouds!

I splurged on a lobster roll and clam chowder dinner with a glass or three of white wine to say farewell to New England in the most touristy of ways tonight. I wonder if true Mainers spend an arm and a leg for lobster on the regular or if it’s become more of a tourist trap. Either way, I’ll bite.

I sat seaside watching the clouds loom and the seagulls fly as the waves crashed into shore. I’d wished that the weather wasn’t so crappy, selfishly I wanted to see all the things in the most beautiful light and am bummed the high seas canceled the plans I had for the afternoon. It wasn’t until I was ready to leave to head up to Bangor that the clouds finally parted and blue skies found their way to Acadia.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a slight ping of rage rather than an awe of relief. I’d waited up at the summit of the mountain for hours hoping for just a peek beyond the fog and lingered at the restaurant far longer than normal until the time that I absolutely had to head out of town came. Then the sun decides to come out? There’s a lesson to be learned this week, I know it.

I’m looking forward to going home though, I miss Bo and Ag. I miss my routine and I’m excited to focus on the priorities in life that I’ve been working towards. Good things are happening and even better things are coming.

Tomorrow: home.

Day 7: When it rains, it pours

I woke up before my 5:30 alarm today. The rain was a’knockin’ and I found myself at an awake-for-hours bustling breakfast restaurant by 6:15 in Bar Harbor. I dined at the bar so I could chat with the locals. The chef’s English was broken and I’m not sure I understood much of what he said but laughter is translated the same in every language and I could tell he was loved dearly by everyone he interacted with. It was abundantly clear that he enjoyed making the hundreds of blueberry pancakes for patrons of both regular and tourist fashion each day.

I realized in that moment how rare it is to not only see someone so throughly enjoy what they are doing in the moment but to also be in the presence of someone who exudes joy so naturally. It was refreshing and felt contagious.

My goals for today didn’t quite pan out as expected. I hit up Bass Harbor Lighthouse after breakfast. I had intended to make sure I knew where I was going and what I’d be getting myself into so I could come back at sunset. The slippery jagged rocks of the Atlantic shoreline had other plans. With many “3 points of contact” steps and a lot of prayer, I safely made it down the mini-mountain of shady ass boulders. It was one of those climbs my mom wouldn’t have liked watching me do, balance doesn’t come naturally to me. But, I got to where I wanted to be for the shot I wanted to get. #doitforthegram

The graceful climb of a wannabe gymnast was nowhere in sight on the way up though. In a matter of seconds, I took a tumble forward in between two barnacle covered sharp as fuck boulders right into the leftover ocean water from this mornings tide. (Yes, it was that dramatic. You needed a visual.) My hand somehow broke my fall but it’s killing me like a mother and I screwed something up good down my entire leg.

I stumbled my way back to the car like a salty wet puffin and eventually took a walk in downtown Bar Harbor after regrouping but the fall seriously wiped me out and I’m going to be hurting for awhile. It’s been a weird trip, this one. So many detours and I can’t help but wonder what they mean.

Thankfully the cabin is cozy, the local gas station was stocked with ice, and Grand Torino was playing on AMC. It’s been pouring rain all day too which is definitely a bummer but I guess if I have to nurse some injuries at least it’s on a day like today. That’s optimistic, right?

P.S. Even though this probably took me out for the rest of the time as far as my plans are concerned (aka hiking), I really am in pretty good spirits and won’t let a little almost somersault into the rocky harbor let me lose sight of the blessings in life. Everything will be okay.

Day 6: Stairway to Heaven

I meandered my way through tiny Vermont towns that were cuter than buttons and as quaint as can be. Each, I noticed, had a cemetery off the main drag and they were all larger than the current population. I’d like to visit more cemeteries, those old old ones. There is something so calming about them, the centuries-old plots have so much artistry and craftsmanship involved and I really think they are one of the least creepy places around. After all, no spirit is going to hang around their burial site. Right? One of my favorite cemeteries in this world is found in Dublin, Ireland; Glasnevin. It’s truly out of this world beautiful.

Back to the living, in Vermont.. the homes hugged the curbs and the porches are nicer than those I’d ever seen in my neck of the woods, with wrap-arounds top and bottom. The stunning make-up of these towns were as picturesque as I’d imagined and seen in photographs. It felt as if I was driving right through the set of Stars Hallow village after village.

At some point, I crossed a rickety, but probably up to code, bridge and a river somewhere in the wilderness. My GPS officially welcomed me to New Hampshire. It’s weird how life takes you on the scenic route sometimes, or Google to be more exact.

The tiny towns found in every Lifetime movie stopped but the curves and twists of the road grew, the trees towered, and every now and again I saw a blip of blue sky peeking through.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the top of an observation tower in the clouds of the Cannon Mountains. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been in the clouds before, with all the wind and the white flusteries in my face. It’s cold and I can feel the altitude in my lungs. But I feel the sun up there somewhere too.

I can’t see beyond the posts holding this thing up but on a clear day.. Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont can be seen for miles and mountainous miles. Or so they say.

Truthfully, I’m still up here in hopes for a break in the clouds so I can see as far as my eyes will let me but for now, I’m happy to imagine this is what the stairway to heaven may look like one day. When the wind is quiet every now and again, I stop writing wondering if I might hear a looming voice from beyond the clouds. Wouldn’t that be something?

I eventually made my way back through the woods, down the tram, and off to a little cabin in Maine at the gateway of Acadia National Park. While I didn’t run into any big bad wolves, I did come across a sign or twenty for moose along my way. Precious in photos, on t-shirts, and as a bit of a doorknob via Bullwinkle on TV, but I’m sure that’s about as far as the cute factor goes. I wouldn’t want to cross one of those suckers IRL.

Across the way from the cabin is a lobster and barbecue joint plastered with seafood-esque signage and feel good smells everywhere. It seemed like the kind of place that the fun-having, life-loving pogues of Outer Banks would go to.

I didn’t catch the chef’s name but I asked what a newbie to seafood, never-having-had-lobster, kind of girl should try. He suggested an open-face grilled “lobby” (how fricking cute) with his world famous beans. Freshly caught today less than 10 miles away, my first lobster was delicious. 10 outta 10, def recommend! *chef’s kiss*

Night 5: Finding a silver lining

Well, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that traveling, let alone traveling solo, is all rainbows and blue skies so I figured it’d be fair for me to share a downfall of traveling with Ori.

I won’t dive much into the details because I don’t think they nessisarily matter here but not everything goes according to plan, even for those more organized, like myself. And even when plan A, B, and yes, even C fall through, it’s hard not to feel discouraged and overwhelmed.

I had to slow down last night and rely on someone else when I always make such an effort to only rely on myself. It made me feel like I let myself down, even though I know that’s not really the case. But the need to be self-sufficient and okay alone or strong or independent (or whatever descriptor you want to insert) is only a self-prescribed treatment plan. It’s okay to need a minute and ask for help. It doesn’t make you broken or weak, it doesn’t make me broken or weak. If anything, it can strengthen your spirit, at least it is mine.

I’m finding that this incessant obligation to be so self-reliant is more trauma-based than an actual desire. I’ve learned a lot and grown tremendously from whatever independence I’ve gained over the years but it’s also given me the clarity to realize that I don’t actually enjoy uber-independence or thrive to achieve some ultimate status of it, if that makes sense.

I don’t buy into the modern day feminist movement where women are superior and run the world, it just doesn’t jive with me. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, I don’t require a spouse to survive. I can hold my own. But do I want to? Not really. I’d like to share life and responsibilities with someone again one day.

Woof, this is getting off course..

Twice in the last month, I’ve been reminded of a message the pastor I primarily listen to touched on. It was about the struggles we’re faced with and I was reminded of it this morning after revisiting last night’s feels.

He talks about how sometimes we’re put into situations so that we can grow in our faith. Sometimes, and honestly oftentimes, our prayers aren’t answered in the way we hope. If they were always handed to us on a silver platter, would we rely on Him? There are going to be times in life when stuff doesn’t go according to the plan A or B or C that we outlined. (keyword there: we) And there will be loads of times, maybe even more than not, where we don’t feel His grace around us at all, like we’re doing all the “right” things but everything is going wrong. There’s a reason for it all and it’s fair to say, we may never know the reason on this side of Heaven. That’s gotta be okay.

The specific crap I dealt with last night kind of feels silly now in the grand scheme of things and I don’t know why nothing had panned out as planned. I’m frustrated with myself for not being able to sort through it on my own but I’m also trying to give myself the space to say it’s okay, because it is. And it’s a new day.

Today, I’m thankful for the calm, rational, banterful mind of a friend and the (kinda spotty) cellphone towers in the Vermont mountains. Both of which are silver linings admist an otherwise dimly lit evening.

And this is also meant to serve as a reminder for anyone reading to give yourself some grace too. It’s always and forever okay to take a minute, allow yourself some space, and a moment in time to just pause. The world won’t stop just because you do.

Day 5: The Prady Bunch

Today’s tour guide was a high energy, highly irritated indian man by the name of Prady. His birthplace was in New Delhi but he’s called Niagara Falls home since the early 90’s, leading this tour for the majority of his career. He nerded out on Nikola Tesla all day, gave us all name tags, and referred to the tour group as the Prady Bunch. So clever.

I couldn’t decide if I enjoyed his verbal frustration towards the constant stragglers in the group throughout the day or if it was borderline unprofessional but it didn’t matter really, because it made me laugh and I couldn’t help but relate to his need for timeliness. (Except when it comes to the gym. I pull into that joint one minute late on the regular.)

Prady and the bunch aside, the day at the wonder that is Niagara Falls was remarkable and utterly unforgettable. While on the Maid of the Mist cruise, where the boat literally drives into the gushing Horseshoe Falls, this guy next to me from Bulgaria managed to say, in between choking on water hitting his face, that he thought the Falls would be bigger. Okay, bud. (Insert eye roll emoji).

Maybe I’m easily impressed. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for anything water-related (I should have been a Pisces baby). I thought every angle I was fortunate enough to see of the Falls was just spectacular and we were only able to see everything from the American side. Our boy Prady said the Canadian side has ten times the view. Can you imagine?

There were so many beautiful sights and views today and each time I turned a corner, I know I audibly gasped but the highlight of the day, for me, was the Cave of the Winds. It’s found deep at the bottom of Niagara Gorge, 175′ down, I believe. Which, fun fact, isn’t actually a cave at all. At least not anymore. The rock/cave feature that allowed people to stand underneath the Falls collapsed in the early 1900’s but the name stuck.

On this specific tour though, there’s a spot called Hurricane Deck, where the Bridal Veil Falls hits you head on with so much force that you can barely keep standing. I know it’ll probably sound nuts but there are no words to describe the magnitude of relief I felt while in the swirling tornado of water encapsulating me. I could hardly balance and had to gasp for air; my eyes were forced shut and all I could hear was the sound of the water. No tourists, no noise, no busy thoughts in my head. It felt freeing, if only for a few minutes.

I’ve been to a lot of places the last few years and seen a lot of really incredible sites. Niagara Falls may not have been big enough for Mr. Bulgaria and I know there’s not a ton to do in the area but it really did take my breath away and I’d encourage anyone considering it to make the trip. The thrill of being inside a waterfall was worth it alone for me and I hope I never forget those few minutes of bliss.

More photos to come, check back soon!

Day 4: Airports & Airwaves

AM: As I was doing my morning skincare routine at a bright 4:30 am, I stopped to look at the woman I saw in the mirror and felt so much more joy than I remember feeling before. I sat there for a minute, thinking about all the times I’d looked in this mirror and so many others like it, wondering when the sadness and brokenness would leave. It was like I could see it written all over my face and I constantly tried to figure out how to conceal it and mask it each day. 

It’s still there, I don’t think the shit we go through in life ever really leaves us but eventually, there’s a day, and it might not be everyday, but there is a day when you’ll look in the mirror at your old self as if it were a black and white photograph. The stories are there, the memories even might be still just as vivid.. but so much has changed in the world and on the inside. It’s up to us how we handle that type of evolution. I’ve felt so stagnant for such a long time, in a period of waiting and truthfully, much more emotional than I’d been used to in comparison to the last couple of years.

But every moment has either forced me to grow or to appreciate the blessings I have, even if they aren’t as I prayed for.

This morning I drove myself to the airport for the first time. It doesn’t seem like a thing, millions of people do it daily. But I couldn’t help but feel a ping of loneliness realizing that at the end of the day, I have only myself.

This weekend was such a blast and even amongst all the glitter and glory, I still felt like an outsider. Like, something in me still didn’t quite click right with all of the people I was surrounded by.

This summer, my heart felt broken after having parted ways with an incredible friend. I found myself questioning everything about my life and character, reliving all those moments wondering what it was I’d done wrong.

But, in all those cases above and others like it over the years, I gained so much insight. A friendship reunited taught me to treasure each moment as it is, in the present. To not worry so much about tomorrow but instead be grateful for the right now in the capacity that it is.

Summer camp required me to let my guard down, to literally and figuratively dance like no one was watching. After all, the more genuine we are to ourselves, the less we have to try and fit the mold other people think we should fit into.

And driving myself to the airport really was no big thing but it gives me so much more courage, even in the smallest of ways, to make the big moves in my life for me and not for others. So many decisions I’ve made in life so far always have taken into account how it’ll impact others before I assess how it could impact myself, and that’s embarrassing to admit. It’s been a slow process, but I’m working on accepting the fact that I’m often an afterthought to most, a fifth choice. It becomes more and more clear each day. And, that’s fine. But the time has passed where I constantly put everyone first and fortunately for me, it’s now a black and white photograph.

PM: I arrived in Buffalo, NY this afternoon, home of the wings (yeah, those wings). So naturally, I had to grab a late lunch where it all started in 1964, Anchor Bar. Allegedly, that is. Apparently there is some dispute about the origin story but it sounds like most Buffalonians (Buffalites?) are team Bellissimo. Mrs. B still even has her own parking spot in the lot, even though she passed away decades ago. The wings were tasty and yes, I opted for the most mild/sweet sauce available because my Scandinavian roots don’t know how to handle spice but they were perfect and the view from the bar wasn’t half bad either. The OG AB was decorated with license plates and knick knacks from floor to about as high as a tall dude could reach and the perimeter of the ceiling was adorned with motorcycles from every era and make you could imagine. Check it out sometime, it’s pretty neat!

The evening ended with an impromptu jot over to Niagara Falls (like no biggie). My day will be spent there tomorrow in various ways but I’d heard that the Falls lit up at night are something to be seen so when in Rome, as they say. I’ll elaborate more tomorrow on the Falls because I’m dog tired but on nights like these, seeing something I’d dreamt about since I was a little girl.. it just left me speechless. I really wish I didn’t have to experience everything alone so often. But, c’est la vie, right?

Here’s an assortment of visuals that rounded out my day, in the event you made it this far:

Days 1-3: #UngluedCamp

FUCK! It’s now 8ish hours post camp and I seriously don’t know how else to continue this post without using all the swears every fourth fucking word because Unglued Summer Camp was so FRICKIN’ SICK, MAN. Literally nothing I say will even come close to describe the level of badass-ary that went TF on the last couple of days.

Okay, that was aggressive.

This was my second year at UGSC and as I so fondly remember, it didn’t disappoint. The moon and star glitter still left in my hair from the dance party of a century are welcomed guests as I type this, listening to the sound of the laundry going in the background. My poor washing machine; the amount of sand in that sucker could probably build a cute little castle.

I was #blessed by two of the best this time around at the good ol’ YMCA Camp Cormorant. As a first timer, I attended ridin’ solo but this time, two of my co-workers turned friends joined, April and Josie. And DANG, boys and girls. did we belt our hearts out to our boy Garth at campfire karaoke last night! And while we’re on the subject.. how many times can you say you’ve felt like you were at a concert WHILE singing karaoke? None for me, until yesterday. Everyone went so damn hard and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one who could barely speak this morning.

I really can’t pick a single favorite moment from the weekend and no matter how much I continue to ramble on, you won’t quite get the feel for all the insane wonderment that is Unglued Summer Camp unless you get your fine little asses there yourselves and attend one in the future because #yolo (and we always listen to Drake, right?). BUT anyway.. I did want to highlight my tippity top 4 treasured snapshots that’ll always hold a place in my memory bank of #feelgoodz.

  • 7:00 AM Dip: A 54 degree air temp ain’t got nothing on camp! It might have taken a little coaxing to go full blast but a few of us opted for the early morning swim fitness option (aka, we just floated). I don’t know if it was because the water was literally so cool or if our suit of arms was a body full of goosebumps, but it was a pretty badass feat.
  • Wine Theory and a Pontoon: You read that right. While pontooning on the beaute that is Big Cormorant, we were graced with the presence of a wine sommelier and it was so dope. The weather was ideal, the company was on point, and the wine was.. interesting. I know zilch about wine but we learned so much and based on how we rated the 5 wines we tried, Mr. Wine Dude provided us each with a personalized list of wines tailored to our palates. I’m so looking forward to making #winewednesday a thing!
  • All The Crafts: ‘Nuff said, really. There were SO MANY workshops to choose from that no matter your skill level, interest, or lack thereof, there was still something for everyone. And now I want to go and buy all the the things to be a wood burning, screen printing, cross-stitch making, plant propagating, leather can-coozie connoisseur. Weirder things have happened.
  • The Fricking People: For reals, dog. The people. From the Unglued Crew that make magic happen every single second of the weekend to the new faces I’d never seen and old faces I’d missed. Every person there was happy to be there and honestly so thrilled to have made it this far. Not only to camp in general but through all the shit of the last 18 months. Drama and politics aside, wherever you sit, it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, people coming together to just live in the moment, be at summer camp, and love the life and opportunities we have, unashamedly be ourselves in a judgement free, you be you, girl kind of atmosphere.. it is just so dang nice. Minnesota nice. I wish we could see more of this in the real world.

This was the first part of the last hurrah and farewell when it comes to my summertime festivities and I’m so grateful to not only have been able to attend for a second year but to be surrounded by so many really wonderful humans from all walks of life. As a solo camper a couple years ago to one who brought a few friends with this time, the experience that Ashley and Justin provide is truly so much more out of this world and full of magic than I think any of us even realize. Feeling the feels tonight and already missing the 12 mile hike up to the cabins in the early hours of this morning post-smores.

I laughed so much over the weekend. My cheeks hurt from smiling and that hasn’t happened in such a long time. I listened to conversations about things I new nothing about and learned from people I’d never met and may never see again. I ate all the foods I probably wouldn’t have ordered in a restaurant and found out Drekker Brewing now has a bomb fucking seltzer that I could chug like water. (Plop, you gotta try it). And I cried when it was all over. But like, the good kind of tears, because I had the time of my life.

For anyone interested in learning more about Unglued Summer Camp, click here for general deets and here for the 2019 recap they did (I attended this one)! I’ll probably add more photos to this post once I go through them from the weekend!

Pre-Trip Feels.

Ori here, your one and only source into the weird little world of my semi-adventurous life. I really should take the Gossip Girl series for another spin, it’s been a few years and I’m missing that Upper East Side teenage drama. It might take the edge off from the monotonous still-in-a-panini lives we’ve all grown accustomed to. Or I’m just looking for my Dan Humphrey turned Joe Goldberg creep fix. Who knows.

This isn’t off to a great start, my bad.

So, two firsts here.. (Maybe more firsts but for sure two.)

If you’ve been following along over the years, the Pre-Trip Feels post has become a ritual of sorts. And, while I’m sure no one has noticed, because I’m the only freak who psycho-analyzes my own writing, these posts have become more and more anxiety-ridden as the years have progressed. You’d think it’d be the opposite. The more you travel, the more exciting it becomes or the less worrisome. Something like that. There’s even been a trip or two that I haven’t blogged about and to be real transparent, any trip from the last two years wasn’t written in real time; rather transcribed from my scribbles after the fact. Sometimes months after the fact. And it might seem like a non-issue to pretty much everyone, but it has been a problem for me.

I’ve been struggling to write the last couple of years. I haven’t been able to put my finger on what the hang up has been exactly but I do know a couple of things for sure:

  • I’ve always held myself to a stupid high standard in everything I do. I set out to blog years ago and hit the ground running with it, finding joy in the practice and using it as an outlet to say what I needed to say or express how I felt.
  • But, I also struggle to be a people pleaser and found myself holding back more and more; making sure to avoid certain topics, choosing to censor myself to spare the feelings of people I know would never bother to do the same in return.
  • And, because I held myself to this invisible standard, I felt like I owed it to everyone other than myself to out-perform whatever I had previously written. I still put my heart into everything I write but the adventure-specific writing became more of a chore and less of an exciting re-telling.
  • Lastly, I think I tried to cleverly use writing as a tool to cry for help but didn’t dare ask for help in the real world. I’ve always written my best when I’m hurt and I think that shows. I never verbalized, even in the written sense, how much I was struggling because I never, even to this day, will post a pain-filled post until I’ve moved through it. It’s not worth diving into more now, just a note of realization present day.

Anyway, that got a tad more serious than I expected it to, ha! I’m not quite sure if there’s a smooth segue here but this escapade I’m about to go on is going to be really stinkin’ cool. (Insert all the excited emojis here, plz.) I do have some anxieties about the first couple days of vaca for reasons I’m not sure I’ll dive into (see point #2 above) but the actual trip that I sorta planned that follows, there are no nerves in sight which is seriously the relief I didn’t know existed. So, #praisebe.

I wonder if it has to do with the fact that I, rather spontaneously if I may, booked the flight after a half dozen cocktails on the patio by myself one August evening.. Or, maybe my inner monologue was stuck on the TikTok sound looping over and over almost as if it was a dare: “Girl, don’t do it. It’s not worth it.” Because, spoiler alert, I did it.

xoxo -Ori

P.S. It wouldn’t be a pre-trip feels post without an annual Bo pic!


Ever since you made your exit, your grand end scene, that final cut. The last arrivederci.. My life has been nothing but destruction. A riveting plotline to a never-ending spiral that I can’t gain control of.

It’s my own doing, I know. But it reminds me so vividly of something that you once explained, something along the lines of self-inflicted punishment. It’s like I’m trying to find something that’ll hurt me more than this does. While different, it feels so much the same. 

It’s taxing; to numb oneself from the pain, the sinkhole-sized space in my heart you left behind. I’m unsuccessfully and irresponsibly trying to create a void to forget you.

But no matter how much self-depreciating, 10-steps-back, irrefutable destruction I put myself through, you’re still there. Lingering inside me, penetrating my soul. Haunting me. Reminding me that I can’t forget how real the nothingness we had was. 

I can’t put you into a pretty little box and tuck you away into a corner of my mind that is inaccessible like you can. Lock away the key and throw it into an lake of goodbye’s and if only’s. It doesn’t work like that for me. Compartmentalization registers non-compute in this overbearing, always-analyzing, wishful-thinking mind. 

No matter what I do to distract myself from you, you show up even more vividly than before and that’s what’s really fucked.

The worst sword I ever pulled was telling you how I felt. Whatever is happening right now, whatever shit storm I’m putting myself through to try to forget about you is so much worse than unrequited love. My soul knows it’s quite the opposite of that though, while yours is too stubborn and hurt to see.

Choosing myself over you is something I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive myself for because a world without an us, even in the most friendship of ways, isn’t much of a world at all. Is it?

The Well, a poem.

The wells in her eyes are usually dry these days but that neverending heartache still remains.

It’s the girls in cute summer dresses that flow so beautifully in the sunshine filled air that make all the boys blush.

From the outside looking in, they seem so pure, so much more deserving. They are more flirtatious, more worthy, more incredible than she’ll ever be.

It’s never her.

It never has been and when the Cinderella reality strikes at midnight, it never will be.. this dream she’s had for longer than her first move.

It’s the ones without a cause who get the most love, that get the attention.

It’s the surface level, nice-bodied, mind-game playing gals that land the gents.

It’s a two-way street though, this I know.

Dating today isn’t really even a thing, it seems.

Instant gratification, constant affirmations from strangers, and a no-strings-attached policy are the rules of the game.

If you’re not willing to play, a left swipe is all it takes to forfeit your role.

It’s the healers and the lovers and the girls like her who are used up for a short time and left again.

Almost as if she’s a pit stop on someone else’s lonely day.

A girl left behind to scoop up the broken little pieces of her heart all to put on a shelf destined to get dusty in order to help someone else whose heart feels so overwhelmingly heavy on any given day.

The wells in her eyes often find tears but she won’t allow anyone to see them.

She’s resilient, she’s not as broken as she seems.

Or that’s what she tells herself anyway.

So why does her heart hurt so much that her stomach aches and why do the tears only fall down when the lights are off and the room goes quiet?

Why in such stark silence can she be free enough to hurt?

Because darling, she is no one’s everything and she knows it. The odds are against her in every single little way.

See, this loneliness she feels has always existed but is rarely acknowledged.

She’s too busy trying to prove her worth to boys interested in the pretty filtered girls rather than to herself.

It’s the ones who recieve all the attention that get it and it’s the ones who need to be loved that remain in the hollow wet walls of a well never filled.

Butterflies + Red Flags, a poem.

Contrary to popular belief, they say that the feeling of butterflies in your stomach isn’t nessisarily a good thing.

While they are to be perceived as feel-good smiles that you can’t help at first, if they linger for more than a couple of dates their purpose changes.

Something to the effect of self-inducing, anxiety-ridden security alarms going off inside of our bodies.

Butterflies at the beginning are nothing to be concerned about, they say. But they should diminish as you fall in love, I guess.

If they don’t go away, red flag.

And if we’re all being honest, there definitely is a difference between those feel-good butters we feel at first and the danger flies we decide to ignore.

Victims of narcissistic lovers please stand up.

But, riddle me this..

What is the significance of those butterflies spreading their wings and migrating to the heart?

They (whoever “they” is) don’t say anything about butterflies in your heart.

That’s the thing, they don’t say anything about them because I don’t think it happens all that often.

A heart full of monarchs is as rare as a celebrated jubilee.

It’s raw and pure; the anxious alarms of what hung out in our stomachs are so far away, it’s inaudible.

Butterflies only settle in our hearts when it’s safe, right? Almost like a reverse metamorphosis.

The butterflies diminish because there’s no longer anything to be nervous about, you’ve found your person.. in theory. But they are always there, as if they’re cocooning, hibernating.

“They” should write about stuff like that because the heart butterflies feel so different than the stomach butterflies.

The key difference, in fact, is when the wings flap at just the right second, you find yourself in the eye of the storm rather than the arms of the hurricane.

Danger, regardless, and still a red flag.

I may not be a doctor, but I’m an expert at being fat.

I went to a doctor today, one specializing in weight management. It was a referral and I think this will be one of the most difficult posts I’ll ever write so I might as well jump right in.

At the start of the year, I figured I’m not getting any younger and should establish a primary care physician for the first time in my adult life. That chick was cool and I’m glad I did the research to find the perfect PCP for me. From that appointment, I received a couple of referrals for additional avenues I wanted to go down; reproductive medicine and weight management. We’re focusing on the latter here.

Prior to today’s appointment it may help anyone bothering reading to know the thousand-foot-view of my history. I’ve been overweight in some capacity most of my life. It wasn’t a post-high school/freshmen-15 type of weight gain. Nicknames like “Oreo Fat” started circulating circa 1997 aka the 1st grade. Kids are great, aren’t they?

I grew up in a world full of blonde Barbie dolls and mom’s to match. Not only was it a severe character flaw to be red-headed and freckle-faced, but it was even worse to be fat.

Time passed, bully’s (even though I hate that term. Little assholes is a better one but I digress) came and went. While I didn’t think so in the moment, I did thin out at certain periods of time growing up; 6th grade rings a bell for some reason. I think that’s when I hit my peak height, 5’8″.

Even though my past self at age 16, for example would be considered normal size now, it wasn’t then. The societal image of beauty was defined as rail thin bones; think Paris Hilton and Mischa Barton on the red carpet. Anything other than that in my small northern Minnesotan town (or otherwise) was deemed unacceptable.

The first time I was put on a diet was the summer after 5th grade. I stayed a good chunk of the summer, if I remember correctly, at my aunt’s house a few hours away. She was a Weight Watchers leader at the time and drilled WW into my 11 year old little skull the same as if I was a 35 year old woman. Diet #1: Age ELEVEN.

It worked, obviously. I lost weight that summer. I was a thinner version of myself come fall when school started. More self-confident? No. Happier? No. More friends? No. But I had collarbones.

The rotating door of diets began so young that it scares me to think I’ve been conditioned to be mindful of everything I put in my mouth and what I look like for decades. I’m only 31 for fuck’s sake. And since then, I’ve tried all the things. WW, Jenny Craig, juice cleanses, intermittent fasting, exercise, pills, starvation. You name it, your girl has tried it. And they all work, for about 30 pounds of trying, give or take.

I sometimes think people see me and think I’m lazy or don’t believe me when I say I’ve been trying [insert diet or routine here] for awhile now. I might not look it but I do know what I need to do. It’s more math than it is science to me, I get it. And while I’m fat, I’m not blind. I can see the “oh really” and “you poor thing” sparkle in your eyes.

The really awesome thing about a blip of culture today is the #BoPo aka body positivity movement taking off. For the first time in the history of my life, I see people all over the internet flaunting what their mama’s gave ’em. I see women (and men) of all sizes not giving a damn F what society thinks. Living, dressing, acting, however they please in the bodies they were blessed with, take it or leave it. And I’m here for it! I LOVE seeing people unapologetically embrace who they are, how they are, and what they are. I want to know whatever magical fairy dust they found to garnish that kind of confidence! Seriously, please share.

However, while any improvement is leaps and bounds beyond what I had growing up, some of it stings worse than the ghosts of past and present.

I do genuinely believe people of all body types go through bouts of insecurities. The #BoPo movement sometimes, like 40% of the time, is so full of shit though. I said it. So often, it’s just another filter to pretend behind. Showing a before and after photo of you sitting in two different poses proves that your biggest fear on earth is to be fat. Well, try actually being fat.

  • Pose 1: You’re slouching, your bikini bottom is cutting into your hips, your hair is a mess, and you’re making a gross face. You look sluggish and tired, obviously.
  • Pose 2: You’re sitting straight, sucking in, and positioning your body at some perfect angle and the sun hits your jawline like it’s a diamond. You hiked up your bottoms to accentuate your curves, plumped up your boobs, let your hair down and threw your head back laughing. You look hot AF. No shit.

You think you’re telling your followers that it all has to do with an angle. You’re not fat, you’re just posing wrong. The thing is, girlfriend, you weren’t fat to begin with. You can pose the shit out of me and I’d never look like that.

Now, this is just one example of many where thin or average size people want to insert themselves into a movement meant to build people up, not tear them down even further. But by pointing out this example, I’m the asshole. I’m the one body-shaming. It’s so far from that though.

I recognize that thinner people can have body dysmorphia just as severely as someone who is fat. Mid-size bodies can feel groggy and bloated just as much as any other body type. Super duper thin or super duper tall people can have a hard time shopping for clothes. People of all shapes and ethnicities can have stretch marks.

But if you’ve never legitimately struggled with weight, it’s simply not even in the same ballpark; it never has been and it never will be. I just wish there was some sort of universal definitive distinction between being skinny-fat and the actuality of being fat-fat.

This brings me to today: referral day. I’d waited nearly 3 months for this referral appointment. In the meantime, I started (kinda) working with a trainer. She provided me with an exercise a week and I committed to working out 2-3 times per week on my own. I’ve stuck to that and found consistency which is pretty damn awesome and worth a pat on the back if I do say so myself.

She also started to work with me on some healthy eating habits. That’s been going okay-ish. I’d say my weeks are 75% successful. But I struggle with binge-eating on the weekends because I end up making up for being so “good” during the week by overindulging on Saturday. How fucked up is that?

I’ve lost a little weight since then, nothing noticeable or really worth celebrating but I am feeling good with the lifestyle choices I’d been making on my own in preparation for today. I was really looking forward to sitting down with a professional to talk about everything. My history, my issues, my binging, my sleep habits, my progress, all the things. Right?


Before we dove into anything, she suggested surgery as the only route for me to lead a thinner life and I backed that train way the fuck up because #cuewaterworks.

Surgery is not new information to me but it’s a non-starter. I won’t get into the nitty gritty today but it’s a “no for me, dog” for a multitude of reasons. Not only is it in my file but I told the nurse less than 5 minutes prior that I’m not currently considering it. I want to have a healthy and constructive conversation about my health, about ALL my options; not the one you are going to pressure me into. I want to discuss sustainable ways to survive, I want to be mindful of the choices I make. I do not want a “fix” without resolving the underlying issues. I shouldn’t have to explain that to a medical professional. But I did.

To top it off, I have no desire to “be thin” and she’d learn to know that had she bothered asking what my health-related goals are. Just because I’m in a weight-management clinic does not confirm that I have the desire to look like a Hollywood actress. And how much more of a confirmation of how unrealistic and disgusting my body is than by a doctor suggesting gastric bypass before even asking what I’m doing right now to better my health?

Sure, I do want to lose weight but not because I have an ideal figure in mind. I want to be healthy, live a healthy life. I don’t want my weight or health to limit me in any capacity or adventure that life has to offer. I want to carry babies safely; I want to love the body I have been blessed with, regardless of the number on the scale. Surgery alone simply will not do that, medical degree or not.

What this doctor failed to understand is that it took me YEARS to even convince myself to seek and ask for a referral to be professionally evaluated. Between tears, I tried to explain how embarrassing it is to have to deal with this. Have to think about it every day. How painful it is to compare myself to every other woman walking this earth.

Her response: If you had high blood pressure, you wouldn’t be embarassed.

You’re fucking right, I wouldn’t be. Because high blood pressure is not mocked and taunted in the hallways between class. High blood pressure isn’t a make or break to being asked out on a date. High blood pressure isn’t the reason you hate what you see in the mirror. High blood pressure cannot, in any world, be compared to being fat in the modern age.

Not only did it take me years to get myself to the doctor, but she doctor-splained to me about how fat people are fat. It’s all science.

Bullshit on all of that, respectively.

I may not be a doctor, but I’m an expert at being fat. And you cannot tell me that the mental aspect to the “chronic disease” I suffer from is not relevant or valid. Yes, it is science. But it’s also math. It’s also psychology. It’s awareness. It’s so much more than being predisposed.

Why do you think so many people who have elected to get surgery have gained the weight back? (More power to you if you did and kudo’s, this is not a diss on the choice. I know many people personally that have gone this route.) Because the underlying issue was NOT addressed. The emotional aspect, the trauma, the reason why you eat or binge or throw up.. It was not addressed.

And it needs to be.

I need it to be.

Maybe I sought guidance in the wrong avenue. I was under the impression that this was going to be a comprehensive consultation keeping in mind that holistic lifestyle change approaches were preferred and medical intervention was a last resort. I was wrong and that’s on me for assuming.

The resolution to today’s appointment was a prescription to two medications; a hunger suppressant and a craving suppressant. I think it was her way of meeting me in the middle. I don’t doubt that this medication could help with the hunger and cravings but it’s not tackling what’s going on at the root and I struggle with the lack of empathy I experienced today.

“Here, take these pills. You’ll lose weight. And we’ll talk about surgery again next time.”

“Cool, thanks.”

I hope I can look back at this a year from now with a big “FU” to the gal who told me today that the only way to a thin life is by cutting my stomach in half, literally. I hope that someone who actually can relate to some of this finds this and doesn’t feel as alone. Because even with all the really awesome body acceptance stuff going on, I still find it incredibly difficult to sort through and actually find women that “get it.”

Four final notes:

  • The last thing I want to do is offend anyone who is or has ever tried to contribute to the #BoPo movement by sharing their experiences. I believe in woman building woman up and know that insecurities, trauma, and self-loathing comes in all shapes and sizes. Your thoughts and feelings are just as valid and relevant as my responses to examples I provided are.
  • While they are sometimes difficult to find, there are some really badass woman on Insta that I follow and genuinely love. I encourage you to look ’em up (and plz share in the comments who else we need to know about!): @brenzaart, @sassyconfetti, @tessholliday, @thefatsextherapist, @swipefat, @lizzobeeating, @ashleygraham, @niccinunez, @visiontwins (guys not gals but still great).
  • Loving thyself is a lifelong journey. This post isn’t a cry for help or even a pity party. However, I don’t have a single person in my everyday life that can specifically relate to the issues I have run into with fatphobia and fat-shaming. From a childhood of mean girls to finding clothes that fit the fashionista you are; from the realization that men either like what they see but are embarrassed of you in public to not being attracted to us all together. I hope this reaches at least one person that can be like: PREACH GIRL.
  • Lastly, I know the doctor I saw today was “just doing her job” but quite frankly it was done without tact, consideration, or proper evaluation for my circumstances. Fat people have been treated unfairly and had problems minimalized in both society and in medical offices for decades. It’s getting old.

Anyway, thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

Home is where the heart is

We’ve heard that phrase so many times throughout life but it wasn’t until this past year, that I started to understand it better. My home has felt like a prison more times than not in this weird time we still seem to be in. I’m sure most, especially apartment dwellers and singletons would agree. Honestly, even those with roomies in the form of spouses and kiddos probably could get on board with that feeling.

An uncomfortable case of recurring situational depression and a never-ending anxious mind has been ever-present in this hurricane of a pandemic for me. It hasn’t been cute. Most people don’t even know who in their lives are hurting because even though we live in this “woke” modern age, feeling sad is still taboo to a lot of people.

So what does this house on stilts have to do with anything?

Last week, I took a staycation to this treetop cabin in the woods properly nicknamed Kløver Nord. I’ve actually been doing pretty okay as of late but I felt regularly over-worked and all too often underwhelmed. I felt too busy and not busy enough at the same time. Restless and sad and angry; an emo kid with sensitivity issues. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I work and live in the same space every single day and while I do count my blessings for having a job through all this crap, it doesn’t mean everything has been rainbows and butterflies in life.

If nothing else comes of it, I’ve learned this past year to listen to myself and my needs; to slow down. To recognize when I need a breather or when I need my people. To slap myself out of a pity party, to take responsibility for how I’m feeling, and to make corrective actions to better my quality of life.

Next week will mark one year of working at home. One year of reminding myself, sometimes daily, that I don’t want to live and breathe as a worker bee, letting my dreams slide to fulfill the agenda of someone else’s. It’ll mark a year of hills and valleys that would make the most accomplished of hikers question if it was worth it. But it also marks a year of really finding things to love about myself, discovering new hobbies, meeting incredible people, and going on adventures in so many different mediums. I’m excited for what lies ahead.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’ve been feeling not so great as of late or maybe for the last year.. I hear ya. I see ya. I really don’t wanna be ya. But I do hope you can find the thing you need and have the resources in some capacity to press pause and run away to a cabin in the woods. Or wherever it is that your heart needs to be so you can refresh and fill your cup. Because whether you realize it or not, we need you and all the “stuff” of life will still be here when you get back.

A wandering thought-bubble and writer’s block walked into a bar..

I’ve been suffering from a rather mild case of writer’s block lately. The last handful of posts I’ve shared, while heartfelt, were more forced than flowy. Yes, even the one about my favorite little five-year-old. I found myself wanting to write the last couple of months or so with a purpose at hand but when it comes time to take a seat, nothing comes out the way I envision it. I don’t know what that means. Writing has always been my outlet, even pre-blog. I’ve never been impressive off-the-cuff but I’ve always taken pride in what I can scrounge up if you give me a few minutes to breathe and organize my thoughts.

I’ve found that, over the years, my best writing comes from a place of pain and heavy-heartedness which, makes sense. I mean, even as a child, I’d put myself into a corner to write out my feels because I felt so broken from the child-size versions of Karen’s and Terry’s out there taunting a kid who desperately just wanted to disappear. I never even wanted to be seen in that way or to be one of the cool kids. I simply wanted people to be nice; something I thought everyone was born with, kindness. I found out that wasn’t really a thing and if it wasn’t possible, I wished people could just pretend I didn’t exist. I think I figured if I was invisible, it’d be easier than being ridiculed for looking so differently than the stereotype.

The thing is, I know I’ve come a long way since the days of summertime sadness. Of winter and fall and springtime sadness, too. While I may not be totally healed from the bummers of my childhood, I eventually figured out a way to overcome it and adopt a treat-everyone-with-kindness mentality, most of the time. But that, too, has gotten my heart into trouble.

The details aren’t nearly as important as the grief of realizing how mishandled your emotions were relationship after relationship, friendship after friendship. I learned how to show empathy and help people when they’re down but that only later put me in situations where I tried to fix people that were broken from their own unaddressed trauma. And the thing is, no one tells you that you can’t cure people that aren’t ready to travel down the yellow brick road of healing.

Those experiences taught me to keep my opinions to myself, they taught me to be quiet, they contributed to the diminishment of any self-esteem I bothered mustering up as a teen and young adult. I often found it hard to connect with girls; I still don’t know how to actually have a female friendship. Don’t come at me for this but woman are complicated. And mean.

I know it probably doesn’t make sense but all of this feels like some sort of twisted mind-fuck ripple effect.

Our parents start us out in this world with so much hope and joy for what their babies will grow up to be, maybe even how they’ll be. But so slowly, one small action causes another and another. The first weird look or hurtful thing turns into more than you can count on your fingers and toes. I’d rather have sticks and stones be thrown because contrary to the popular lies we’ve been told, words really do hurt. Pretty soon, those little babies are so self-aware and self-conscious of so many things that they don’t quite know what’s right and what’s not; what’s normal and what’s weird. When did all that happen? How?

Sometimes I wonder if parents-to-be ever think about the balance between protecting their children from the hate of society and allowing it to happen, because it will. Even the most sheltered of kids eventually are subjected to it.

Anyway, isn’t it weird? I often wonder if the reason I’m an perfectionistic constantly-observational overthinker with niche nerd pathways and anxiety-ridden tendencies is because of something that happened in 2nd grade. Or when I was 15. I wonder if I’ve always had the spirit of a vagabond and the mind of an organized spaz by nature, or by nurture. I wonder if I feel like I’ll be alone forever not because I’m not capable of loving but because I’m unbearable to be around. And why would that be? Is it because I gave too much of myself to other people throughout my time here on earth; like the wishes of a dandelion being blown in the wind?

The thing that really gets me though is while my best writing has always come from a place of hurt and I’m far more healed now in life than I ever have been in 31 years of millennial existence, I still experience all sorts of wounds in my wanna-be-tough-girl mind on a way-too-often basis. So why have I found it more difficult to write lately?

These wounds, they are more streamlined now though. Through a whole lotta faith and a little bit of therapy, I’ve had an opportunity to deal with some really crappy shit head-on. Which has been fulfilling to work through and overcome but where does that put me with the thing I enjoy most, writing?

I think I really just want to be heard. My whole life I’ve felt both seen and unseen at the same time. Seen for reasons I didn’t want to be and unseen because no one quite understands me. I figure if I spill my guts out to a white page somewhere on the internet, what? Someone, somewhere, will finally be like “girl, I get you.”

What a wild dream that’d be.

For Emma

You’re a whole handful today, can you believe it? I called you last night to wish you an early happiest of birthdays because you were heading to your mom’s today and you made sure to remind me that yesterday wasn’t it. You’re birthday wasn’t until today. So literal, so honest. You get that from your grandma Julie and it’s just the tip of the iceberg of qualities that I’m so grateful you hold.

Emma bean, you constantly encourage me without even realizing it; to be the most true and authentic version of myself that there is. Because you are. You are unapologetically fearless in life and in essence. You both laugh and dance as if no one is watching. It doesn’t matter who’s around you, you are you. You’re not afraid to let people know when you’re hurting. You’re not cautious to let people see you giggle or act goofy! You inspire me every single day to live with a courageous and lionhearted spirit even though I’m not with you most of those days.

My wish for you is to never lose sight of that magic in your life; to never stop dreaming, never stop wishing, never stop living. I’m not sure you’ll ever truly grasp the magnitude of influence you have had in my life and in those you’ll impact as you age. But when I grow up, I really do want to be just like you and when you grow up I hope that you want to be just like me.

You’re my reason for allowing myself to find my worth in this world. You’re my reason for adventure. For running instead of walking. You’re my reason to trust and love and pray even when it feels too hard to do so. You’re my reason because I want you to know, without a doubt, your worth in this world is greater than you can imagine. I want my love for a life full of quality, strength, distinction, and sense of wanderlust to ripple tenfold from me to you.

I want to protect you from all the pain in this world but I know that’s not realistic and honestly I think people need to go through pain in order to truly empathize with others so I know it’s gonna happen. But I hope between all the hard stuff, you’ll feel the sprinkles of virtue and warmth. You’ll know that I’ll always pick you up when you fall and be the person you can run to when you feel like you have no one, because it will happen. I hate thinking about it, but you will have some really crappy days and I’ll be here to remind you that life doesn’t end when the crappy days begin. Every single day of your life, I hope that you continue to wake up and choose to be the good in the world.

I can’t imagine a day where I don’t encourage you to strive for the absolute maximum of what you deserve. I can’t imagine watching you come down on yourself so hard that you feel like you’re drowning. I can’t imagine you ever feeling unloved, unseen, or unheard in all the ways that I have. But I do I hope you’ll know how many life-preservers in the version of people disguised as angels you have to save you when you feel lost or broken.

Emma, today you turn five! You love unicorns and kitty cats and sprinkles and slime. When we take pictures together, your first instinct is to close one eye and stick out your tongue, like a real-life emoji. You get excited when things shimmer and your personality flourishes more and more each day. You like to write and to draw; you’re an artist by nature. You love to use your imagination and honestly, you’re probably smarter than I’ll ever be.

One of my very favorite moments of year four with you happened this past summer. We were at a park here in Fargo with your dad, Uncle Nick, and Auntie Katie. You were playing and you met this little girl named Remy. But you didn’t call her Remy. You kept shouting “friend! friend!” She kept reminding you that her name was Remy, as if you’d forgotten and I even recall saying “Emma, your new friend’s name is Remy.” And girl, what you said to me in return is something I’ll never forget. Your beautiful four-year-old soul of a girl turned around and said to me “I know her name is Remy but I’m calling her “friend” because I want her to be my friend. I want her to know that she is my friend.”

To close, my birthday wishes for you are for you to live a year filled with happy thoughts and sunshine. I hope you continue to be the reason people believe in kindness even when people show you how rare of a quality that is. I hope you never stop loving people even when they let you down. I wish for year five to be filled to the brim with unicorns and kitty cats, with 4-wheeler rides and grease-filled fingers after helping your dad and grandpa Kevin in the garage. I hope your days are jam-packed with jumping on the trampoline in the summertime and splashing in the puddles when it rains. I hope you continue to make your daddy smile everyday because not only did you change my life but you changed his. I hope you never lose sight of who you are. I hope to see all of the dreams that you don’t even know you have come to fruition, I hope to show you the world, and I hope to help you know how incredibly good God is.

Until I met you, I’d never experienced the ability to love someone so fiercely as I love you, Emma. You are my favorite blessing and my greatest gift in this world. I wish you the happiest of birthday’s on your actual birthday!

Love, Auntie Ori

An open letter to the lonely-hearted.

No matter how much you mentally prepare for social media love bombing every February 14th, it still stings just about as hard as the nationwide cooldown that’s going on right now. If it’s not Minnesotans bragging about how low their “real feel” displays on whatever app they have downloaded than it’s a dramatized and amplified version of the love in everyone’s lives.

This letter is selfishly more of a therapeutic release for myself than anything but sadly, I know there are more people than just me sitting at home trying to find the balance of staying-off-social-media-for-your-mental-health but also subjecting oneself to the red-hearted vomit that floods your feeds and wanting to throw a pity party cursing every single box of chocolates and lovely bouquet of flowers.

Woof, that screams a run-on sentence.

Don’t get me wrong, the girl typing this is just as guilty of displaying an over-the-top geasture for all to see. But that girl then was a broken one. One who thought showing everyone how great things were going would somehow be a permentant display of the rose-colored glasses behind the screen; a mask if you will.

A girl who rarely felt good enough and year after year, begged for the absolute minimum from a damn man. A girl who genuinely thought she was put on this earth to show love but not receive it because that is what experience has taught her. A girl who knows she was meant to sit on the sidelines.

A girl who felt as if, and sometimes still feels as if, she must constantly evolve in the moment, like a chameleon. Changing and molding herself into the people she surrounded herself by because she wasn’t good enough as she was. Or so she thought.

Sound familiar?

That girl is more than just an old version of “me” and I think about that a lot. On quiet days when I haven’t opened my mouth to speak to another person, on the loneliest of days.. she comes to surface. It’s like the enemy verses the victor. Negative thoughts and reminders of how worthless she is ooze out at the most inconvenient times. And mindless scrolling to self-sabotage all the good she has in her life just spills over, it doesn’t help.

I saw a video the other day that described this so perfectly. In it, the narrator said: Her love fell down like rain droplets, even on the days she tried to stay dry.

This letter is to serve as both a distraction from the #FakeItTilYouMakeIt positivity that is trolling the socials I know you’re subjected to and as a reminder that you don’t have to be that version of yourself if you don’t want to be.

I don’t want to meet that girl ever again; the one who was convinced that she was both too much and not enough even though she was more than enough and never too much. The one who allowed the bar to be set so stupidly low; whose identity shifted out of fear of rejection.

It’s okay that today is a day filled to the brim with love all around you but not to you and it’s okay if today you’re the only person you say “I love you” to today. You deserve to feel the same love you give, you deserve to raise that damn bar further than you can reach, and you deserve to ooze kindness and self-compassion for yourself before anyone else.

One of my very favorite blessings in this world turns five in six days. I knew becoming an auntie was going to shift something in all our lives but I never could have imagined how much she’d change my entire world. And how much I want to change the world so hers isn’t as hard.

I cannot imagine a day where I don’t encourage her to strive for the absolute maximum of what she deserves. I can’t imagine allowing her to come down on herself so hard that she feels like she’s drowning. I can’t imagine her ever feeling unloved, unseen, or unheard.

If you’re hanging out all by your lonesome today trying to find the joy in everyone else’s love (like I am), you’re not alone. And honestly, you might not even be there (see paragraph two).

But, no matter how cliche it is, this too shall pass. We all have different reasons for why everything seems so difficult all the time and I think sometimes it’s always going to feel like you’re the only one going through it even though you aren’t. In a world claiming to be so accepting of uniqueness and vulnerability, we still shy away from it like it’s taboo or something; to feel sad and alone and tired.

I don’t know how to make everything better for everyone but Lord knows, if I could, I would. I don’t want to go through anymore pain in my life but I will and I don’t want my niece to bear witness to it one day either but she will. All that I can do, all that you can do, is face it ’til you make it.

To the lonely-hearted: You’ll get there, you’ll find a way. And if no one has told you yet today, Happy Valentine’s Day you beautiful, incredible soul of a human! I love you! <3

Fast Girls + Clydesdales

Today I lived in little blips of soon-to-be memories that I know will last with me far longer than they will with you. I wish my mind wouldn’t continue to bring that realization to surface.

Today we slowed down for you. In a world that is always buzzing, always moving, and never having enough patience, we slowed down in time, in spirit, and in space.

Today we laughed with you as you cracked jokes and we giggled like Emma does when she thinks something is the absolute silliest. And today we listened to you.

Today I bore witness to a version of you I thought had faded long ago with all of the other pieces that have. It seemed so foreign yet so familiar; your smile and your humor. Without anyone really being able to recognize when everything started changing, I saw parts of you that never actually left.

Today your quips and your wit were top shelf, grandma. Top shelf. Your smile accentuated the beautiful porcelain skin I’ve watched age in such a remarkable way and your eyes didn’t feel so tired when I looked into them.

They were only blips, though.

Today wasn’t constant. You were both present and so lost. My heart aches when I see you sitting in your thoughts of worry and confusion. The empath within me wants to help but the introvert knows to give you that space. It’s hard to watch you feel.

Today the smiles of fifteen minutes prior felt like a lifetime ago when your eyes filled and refilled with tears the size of rain drops that you refuse to let fall.

Today I was reminded of how strong you think you need to be when it’s okay not to be. Why does anyone need to be strong; why can we not just be? Why do you have to work so hard to be silent when all you want to do is hear and be heard?

Today, for the first time in my life, I asked if you pray.

They were only blips, these slices of time in the day. Already, they’re moments turned memories that I worry we’ll remember differently, if at all.

Tonight though.. tonight I will continually pray that your prayers are heard and count every blip as a blessing.

A little over a month ago I wrote a piece about my grandma within the series “Holidaze” covering both the joys of the holiday season paired with a memory-crippling daze of confusion. If you’re up for it, you can check out that post here.

2020: A Year in Review

Every year, I look back at the year prior usually in the form of photos, but I journal too. I look back to review the life I lived, how I lived it, and who I lived it with. I look back to see if I’ve found my “why” yet in life, to see if I provided any type of positive influence on others. I look back to smile and to reminisce; to find the good in the bad and to see how I can use the old year as a stepping point for an even better one to come.

This type of post is typically reserved for my own self-reflection purposes but I usually like to share it in hopes to inspire someone else to think big. Anything in life no matter how great or small, regardless of a pandemic or not is available to you if you determine that your worth is great enough. It might not be by the way of luxurious travel accommodations amidst a global shutdown but we are all entirely capable of giving it our best; of overcoming even the greatest of misfortunes we’ve faced regardless of creed, country, family, or otherwise.

I’ve struggled putting this years post together because I don’t know what the appropriate balance is between acknowledging the crappy parts about the year and the good. Because both were there and I’m sure most could argue that there was more negative than positive but I really hate looking at life that way so I’m going to challenge it. I’ve read the posts people have shared the last few days condemning 2020 and giving it a royal unicorn fist (a term I learned just yesterday, ha!). The ratio of good to bad is so low, that the few people I did see who focused on the blessings of last year can be counted on only four fingers.

I’ve followed along throughout the year not knowing how to navigate this world in the most politically correct way, as a privileged white woman not wanting to offend friends or peers. Do this, you’re wrong. Do that, you’re wrong. I know I’m not the only one that felt like it was easier to stay quiet not because we didn’t care but because it seemed like there were more people interested in being malicious than joining hands.

I’m critically aware that the pain I’ve personally experienced in 2020 is nothing in comparison to the lives lost to COVID, to their families; to brutality and injustice people have been subjected to, and to heartache. Because of that, I’m not sure I even feel qualified to write about anything. But, I’m going to.

This last year, I learned a lot about the people around me, near and far. I learned a lot about myself. I wondered more times than I can count how unusual it is to feel nothing while everyone around me is feeling something. As a self-proclaimed empath, I found myself feeling little empathy for certain situations that occurred throughout the year. This was usually on a much more grand scale than in my own life but I found myself analyzing the bigger picture more often than not; considering all the circumstances for something to be and watching how the communities I’m involved in, the country, and the world.. reacted. While that happened, I sat still, reactionless. As if a statue, emotionless to it all because to me, no one was listening to one another and it all seemed so pointless.

The masks (at first) seemed pointless. The protests, the destruction. Pointless. The election, omg the election. Point. Less. The isolating “safety” and the drama of it all seemed so pointless. It still does. In 2020, not only did a worldwide pandemic wreak havoc across the globe but millions of people acted out the movie Idiocracy as if it were a challenge between terrorizing entire cities and destroying their communities to causing a scene when the employees at a grocery store only ask you to put on a mask because it’s their job not because they are about you.

I found myself in a deep social media hole, watching friendships literally dissipate over two old dudes who both have questionable morals. Guess what, most of us do too if we decide to take a step back and really check out our own lives instead of everyone else’s. I followed along on more GoFundMe and CaringBridge sites than I ever thought possible in 2020. And I cried a lot. I was reminded that even though I felt so stupidly alone, that we are in this together, apart.

With that being said, there’s no smooth segue to transition to 2020 from my point of view. So, without further ado and because I am a lover of lists, here are TWENTY-ish notable somethings from my 2020. Note, that this isn’t a “top 20” highlight real of all the good things. While most of these are positives, my year was full of learning experiences, affliction, and growth too.

  • Faith: Oh hey, God. It’s me. Faith has always played some sort of role in my life to varying degrees. The last few years I’ve really found a good community of people and in 2020, I did everything I could to maintain and build an even deeper relationship with God. The year started out with a goal to read the entire Bible in 2020. I made it 128 straight days of consistent reading before it began to feel like a chore and I didn’t want God to feel like a chore so I shifted my thinking. This year, I was fortunate enough to join IF:Gathering with like-minded women around the country, I led a Launch table pre-Covid and a virtual Grow Group at the height of the pandemic. I was invited to be a part of a BEMA study group which has seriously opened up so much in terms of understanding scripture, I’ve explored online churches from around the country, studied world religions, and I’ve learned to truly rely and trust in both God’s plan and His timing.
  • Hawaii: 2020 marked year five of mother/daughter trips and we found ourselves in Hawaii this year! We even invited my dad along to pre-celebrate becoming an old man (60, holy smokes)! I learned how to snorkel, that my dad and I are not suitable travel companions, and grew to appreciate the island life in a way I didn’t expect. Read about it here!
  • Emmalita: Emma turned F O U R this year, graduated preschool like a boss, jumped on the biggest of trampolines, decorated pumpkins for Halloween, baked birthday cupcakes, had awesome auntie/Emma sleepovers, and taught us all so much about feelings and compassion for others.
  • All the Loves: My middle brother got married and so did a few really incredible people in my life. Babies were born and engagements were announced! I know the events of the year didn’t pan out how everyone had hoped and many weddings or showers were postponed but love is love and still worth celebrating!
  • Isolation + Depression: Read about it here because I don’t want to trigger my lil’ snowflake self rn.
  • Montana: I dared to leave my dark and dingy apartment and venture off alone in search of mountains, fresh air, and glacier water this summer. I determined that mental health was just as important, if not more, than physical heath so I made the controversial choice to travel in a pandemic. I’m a lazy bones so I haven’t totally transcribed my journal entries (because there is no reception in the mountains, who knew?) but part of that series is up, the rest should be by weeks end!
  • Navy Bean: This year, I found myself spending a bit more time with one of my favorite girl cousins, Navy. The year started off with a hot cocoa crawl and ended with a haunting in the woods of Leonard, ND; long nails, dinner, lots of laughing, and tubing were sprinkled in between. I hope to find ways to make even more memories in the new year with her.
  • Kittens: Bodhi got a sick lion haircut this year after watching Tiger King and Aggie dared to let another human pet her this year so I’d say between that and their mom working from home, they’ve had a pretty fabulous time.
  • Netflix + Chill: I wish the streaming services had an end-of-year wrap up like Spotify does. Who wants to swap stories on who can binge watch something for the longest period of time? Because, I’d win. P.S. This summer, I video chatted with my brother and his now-wife to watch a show together just to feel less alone. Is that weird?
  • Art Therapy: In an attempt to pull myself out of a late-spring situational depresh due all the isolation fun, I dove head first into projects with no rhyme or reason. I taught myself how to embroider, tried my hand at keeping succulents alive for the entire summer, started to learn Italian, made wedding bouquets with my SIL, and painted a cute little pumpkin to look exactly like the vintage camper I don’t have but definitely need. Art, in any form, is good for the soul.
  • Tik Tok: Whether you’ve found yourself on the darkside yet or are still watching the best videos on Facebook two weeks later, I think we can all agree that TT has taught us more in the last 9 months than any of us learned in primary school
  • Boss Lady: In 2020, I worked on a really big entrepreneurial idea and put pen to paper to take the steps into making it a reality. At this point, I’ve read a handful of books, done a buttload of research, and made appointments with business advisers across the region to make my dream become a reality. I cannot wait to share more as 2021 gets started. And also, I’m really freakin’ scared so #prayersplz
  • Family: My family has been instrumental in being the reason for survival in 2020. After isolating for what seemed like an eternity, I went to my brother Nick’s house and will never forget the hug he gave me or the road trip to the drive-in theater in Warren with him and Katie. For the messages of love Logan has sent me when he can hear the sadness in my voice from 125 miles away or showing up in Fargo because he’s bored. For my mom knowing I’m not okay without me even saying a word and for my dad for just being his sometimes oblivious and always hilarious self. For my aunts and my cousins, and my niece. Family really is everything no matter how cliché that sounds.
  • Mental Health: This takes up a few spaces in my 20-ish list because it’s SO FLIPPIN’ CRUCIAL to address mental health. At the start of 2020, I started therapy because after two years of single-dom, I felt like I still had a lot of work to do on myself. You know the whole “love yourself before others can love you” type of thing. I went for a little bit, then Covid hit. At a time when I should have dug my nails in and stuck with it, I didn’t and instead allowed myself to sink into a deep ugly hole of really crappy feelings. I eventually jumped on the therapy bandwagon again just a couple months ago and have given it 110% to do better, be better, and feel better. I still cry more than I’d like to admit and there are so many days that I feel useless to the people around me in this world but I’m working on that. I’m indulging in self-care via solo pedis, Thursday night face masks, and silencing my phone. I’m writing more on here and working through the traumas of my past. I know the road is long but some of my very favorite places have taken the longest to get to. Please address your mental health if you haven’t yet. Anger, abuse, body shame, sadness; outwardly gregarious but internally broken.. Fine but also, not really that fine, stuck, meh.. Those are all reasons to ask for help and there is absolutely NO shame in doing so. The days of therapy being taboo are behind us, please don’t let an old way of thinking prevent you from finding peace.
  • Physical Health: To round out a really interesting year, I did more for my physical health than any other time in my adult life. I’m pretty sure I know every single crack in the sidewalk within a 2 mile radius of my apartment and I said YES to a 16 week boot-camp program! I’ve been doing a whole lot of snackin’ + slackin’ since that ended and need to push myself to start up again. While I didn’t see much progress in the mirror throughout the year, I gained confidence, strength, and community by making myself a priority.
  • Letters: I wrote so.many.letters this year. In December, I took the challenge to write a letter a day and it’s officially run over into the New Year! #scribblewin But the letter writing began far earlier than that. This spring, I wrote a letter a week to various people for a month or two, I started writing letters to “my future husband” back in September and left notes on post-its along my walks for random people to find in hopes to create unexpected smiles this summer. 10/10 it’s not that weird.
  • Good People: I could dedicate an entire post to the good people in my life and how blessed I feel to be surrounded by them. From co-workers turned friends to check-ins from parishioners at the start of quarantine to gym-mates, and new people with incredible souls that I’ve met only recently.. There is so much good in people if you choose to surround yourself with them. It took me a really long time to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy when it came to inviting others into my life but I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to meet and grow in community with some really special humans this year!
  • Writing: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, writing has been a huge aspect of figuring out my crap this year. I’ve written in my travel journal, in my prayer journal. I’ve spent time writing poetry and filling out self-help workbooks. Here are a couple of my favorites from this year that haven’t already been mentioned in this post:

2020 hit different. The year of perfect vision bailed on it’s optometry appointment and so much of life got cancelled in the same year that cancel culture was used to such an aggressive degree. It’s really easy to go on and on recognizing the sorrows of the year that shall not be named in an attempt to validate some of the good but sometimes that’s old news. Sometimes, we need to keep moving forward, keep trying for a better tomorrow instead of wallowing in the pain of today. As Stephan Furtick so boldly said: You can’t receive new miracles with old mindsets.


This year many people, myself included, just tried to survive. In the moment, I felt that so much. In the sadness and the suffering; the endless “God, are you there?” questions wondered aloud.. we did so much more than survive. I dare you to take time to really evaluate the year you had. Acknowledge the shit parts and celebrate the incredible moments, even if they are few.

If 2020 really did suck the life out of you, I urge you to use last year as a stepping stone as you venture into 2021, don’t toss it aside as if it wasn’t important because it was. It’s another bit of the framework that makes you, you. Dare to thrive in 2021, not just survive. <3

When you start to feel like things should have been better this year, remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. They are not accidents, and those moments weren’t in vain. You are not the same. You have grown and you are growing. You are breathing, you are living, you are wrapped in endless, boundless grace. And things will get better. There is more to you than yesterday. -Morgan Harper Nichols

I didn’t wake up like this.

The first photo in this post is a pre-my-brother’s-wedding trial makeup run back in August because I’d never had my makeup done before and was nervous about it. Jordan with Grin & Bare It absolutely killed it. She made me feel beautiful and see myself in a way I never had before. She made me look on the outside how I felt on the inside.

I know this isn’t my real, everyday-life look. I could never do my eye makeup like she did and for the first time ever, I was able to say my eyebrows were on fleek. (Dang, I feel old actually typing that out.) But seriously, the day that I got this done, was such shit and I’ve been trying to figure out since then how to talk about it.

I was in yet another 2020 slump for like, the fifteenth time in however many isolating pandemic-y months. Feeling alone, hating my body, constantly frustrated and forever sad, or so it seemed. I was making excuses for myself and throwing a daily pity party about everything in life I either didn’t have, couldn’t do, or was jealous because of.

I was feeling all of the feelings about all of the things but I tried my best to “hide” it all. I constantly feel like it’s either too much for anyone to know and be burdened with or I put this unrelenting pressure on my shoulders to remain positive while everyone isn’t, at least on the outside.

I’ve looked back at the photo above dozens of times since I took it. On one hand, I wanted to share it because I loved the photo. I actually felt like a bomb ass bitch and Good As Hell after this. It was like a pretty face could wipe away all of the insecurities and feelings of worthlessness that the day held. But, on the other hand, I didn’t want to post it because it was only temporary and it was just another perfectly angled selfie.

I didn’t want to only share half of the story. You know? The filtered version. The face-shot. I don’t know what the right balance is. I don’t want to share every detail of my life on the ‘gram because for one, it’s not that damn interesting and two, no one wants to hear me whine about my insecurities day in and day out. When I am in those down-in-the-dumps days, looking back at the things I’ve shared actually do help me. The unbelievable places I’ve been to, the moments of pure joy radiating from my nieces four-year-old little self.. The adventures I’ve been on, the people I’ve met.. They help. If I looked back at a feed full of full-body shots accentuating every single thing I hate about myself, it wouldn’t help lift me up so that’s why I don’t post stuff like that. Yet. I do opt to be rather vulnerable in many of the posts I do share via the captions, at least. It’s a start. But, how many people scroll through Instagram as if it’s a picture book, neglecting the story? I’m guilty of it.

That’s the part I’m still working on. Finding that balance. And not by the way of “omg is my social media too filtered” but really working at what’s going on inside. That’s the thing that I only recently started addressing in therapy; my immense sense of self-hate and embarrassment.

I tried the whole fake-it-til-you-make-it thing. I tried daily affirmations, not looking at the scale, went on a follow-binge of body positive influencers. I even tried not looking in the mirror for two full weeks in August. This summer and early fall, I focused on fitness harder and more seriously than ever before in my life and did a pretty damn good job, if I do say so myself thanks to the encouragement of some really incredible humans. But, that didn’t change what I saw in the mirror. The scale moved then, which felt good for the one second a week I looked at it but nothing changed internally.

They say that it doesn’t really matter if you are curvy or thick or fat or whatever cringe-worthy descriptor you choose, if you can’t love yourself as you are now, you’re not going to love yourself when the weight comes off. Ouch. That hurts to hear over and over again. As our queen Lizzo says, though, Truth Hurts.

When my brother and his wife got their wedding photos back, I was mortified. I know what I’m about to say is sprinkled with selfishness but I genuinely felt like I ruined their wedding day by literally being in it, because of how I looked. A pretty face didn’t hide the fact that that’s all I was, all I am. All I think I am. I pick and choose what version of myself I let sit on the internet, requiring tagged photos be reviewed before they show up on my timeline. The queue of unpublished photos is ridiculous. I purposefully don’t post full-body shots because body-dysmorphia is so fucking real, guys.

I usually see thin women make reference to it, BD. Detailing out the struggles they face when they look in the mirror and their feelings are so valid, they are. But it’s not the same. The freshmen 15 amount of hate and disgust when you look in the mirror is not the same as the decade-115. Flexing in one photo and unflexing in another whilst looking identical in both photos is not the same. It’s just not.

I don’t see people like me on the internet. And the BoPo influencers that are around, they love themselves. Or appear to. They’ve accepted their bodies as they are and embraced it. They don’t give an F about societal norms and fitting into a size 6. I mean, maybe they do. Honestly, it does appear to be quite unavoidable but they own the crap out of the bodies they’ve been blessed to live in and they are gorge inside and out.

When I share my insecurities with others specifically about being overweight or not loving the body I’m in, a typical response is to tell me I’m beautiful. But the thing is, I didn’t say I’m ugly. I said I’m uncomfortable in the body I’m in, in the shell that holds all that I am. But I’m working on overcoming all of that. I’m trying to believe that people don’t just pay compliments to pay compliments. I’m trying to remind myself to say “thank you” instead of “whatever.” I’m listening to my therapist and treating myself with the grace and kindness that I treat others with. I’m trying all the things and feeling all the things so that I can be all the things.

The photo below is from yesterday. A makeup-less selfie that I wouldn’t dare post on social media until now. It’s taken from the exact same spot in my apartment as the top photo in this post, just 4 months later. It’s still just a headshot and not a body shot but it’s a step. The difference between these two photos is more than just four months.

It’s hours of tears in front of my computer with a counselor I’ve never met in real life. It’s dozens of pages in a journal trying to pinpoint the exact moment that I was first tormented in elementary school because of how I looked. It’s sitting in silence to allow myself to grieve and forgive those that have hurt my heart. I grew up in a town full of blue-eyed and blonde-haired little girls who were born to shine, whose mothers didn’t teach them to be kind. I grew up hating my name and my hair and my freckles and my body. I grew up feeling ashamed that my parents didn’t have the money to pay for me to pretend to fit in. I grew up full of angst with no way to define it or deal with it. Until now.

It’s still just a selfie. But, I feel more confident, more sure of my worth, and more compassionate towards myself in the photo I took yesterday verses the one I took four months ago.

A week from now, everyone is going to be posting about how much 2020 sucked and they aren’t wrong. It really has been quite shit. But, I started to love myself in 2020. I’m still alive in 2020. I’m forgiving myself for myself in 2020, accepting myself. This year has been filled with more sorrow, more conflict, more death, and more division than any year I’ve been alive, perhaps topping 9/11 if I dare compare. Even that event brought the country together while this year has quite literally broken the world’s heart and I for one am trying my very best to find the silver lining in it all the only way I know how, self-care.

I didn’t wake up like this. It’s taken me years to even address the issues at hand, my insecurities. But I will love myself as I am now. There really isn’t any other choice.

Holidaze: Food for thought.

Last weekend my immediate family gathered together at my brother’s place in Horace. My grandma Rita joined in on the fun too, which was a sweet (sorta planned) surprise. Usually she finds herself at my Uncle Troy’s but due to everyone’s comfortability with health and whatnot, that just wasn’t in the cards.

We did the usual things; visited, opened gifts, and played games. At one point, the games got so rambunctious that my dad asked my mom how much we’d all had to drink. Shocker, pops but we were simply jacked up on cheer and chocolate. He and my youngest brother sat idlily by while we quite literally displayed Utter Nonsense in various accents round and round again. A game everyone must have in their collection!

I do think this was one of the most enjoyable Christmases I remember having in quite some time. The food was good, the company even better. No one seemed to be too bogged down by having to spend quality time with each other and my dad even got out of the house to go pawning; a regular activity that really seems like a holiday tradition.

Fast-forward to the real deal, Christmas itself.. I found myself with nothing to do and I was actually pretty okay with it. I felt blessed that my family was all in good health and able to spend time together the weekend before. I had decided weeks ago to keep myself busy by volunteering at church on Christmas Eve and filling my Christmas Day with holiday movies galore.

For the first year in three, I wasn’t sad. I had a couple of blips, sure. A few moments in the days leading up to the holiday when people were describing their plans and I was like “well, we celebrated last weekend so just me, myself, and I.” And actually, I think more people felt sorry for me than I felt for myself, which was new.

I hadn’t physically stepped foot in Prairie Heights in months; only twice since our worlds changed. It was weird and uncomfortable both times but not for lack of trying. We all have had to make due with what we can; evolve to live. We’re taught to believe that church isn’t a building but people. It’s true, I do believe that. But it’s hard to be the church without the people. Without seeing the faces IRL that keep you accountable in whatever it is; life, faith, or otherwise.

My eyes swelled up before I even opened the doors at PH and when I was greeted with the same smiling eyes as I always had been, I was reminded that the church is in fact people but it didn’t sink in until I was in the building. How is that?

I felt like I was both home and away from home in the same moment. I watched from the sidelines as the service before the one I volunteered at get dismissed; families gathering together for what I can only assume is a holiday photo opp. I watched other volunteers embrace one another in elbow bumps and air high fives, radiating such immense joy from behind their masks.

I listened intently as Marni, the director of Guest Services thanked us, prayed over us, and shared the hurt in her heart over how different her holiday was this year in comparison to years past. I found myself feeling remorseful for getting to spend the holiday with my family just last weekend, forgetting how many households didn’t have that luxury this year.

A dear friend of mine was asked to share her story with the PH community this Christmas season. The theme being “The Thrill of Hope.” Now, I don’t know if it’s just because I know her or if it was the feeling of community on Christmas Eve or the holy spirit at work; likely a combination of all three but her story, even though I’d heard it previously, hit me like a ton of bricks.

I met Anna before she’d even attended Prairie Heights. She joined the same Grow Group I did at the same time, but she had yet to step foot in the church. We both came with broken hearts for different reasons and had the courage to not only show up but trust others to be gentle. To ask for prayers. I feel so honored to have seen first hand how God has been working in her life since that first evening I met her. One of my very favorite things Anna has ever said in our small group and in her testimony is: “I had a God-shaped hole in my heart and I was trying to fill it with everything else. But it was Jesus, that’s what was missing.” Uffda, is that ever true. You can watch Anna’s video below:

To my surprise, I actually didn’t end up being alone on Christmas either. My aunt reached out asking if I’d like to come over for dinner and to visit. All of my cousins on my dad’s side were there and it was such a fun time. Growing up, we were hours and hours away from that side of the family. We’d see them occasionally but we didn’t grow up with them, like on my mom’s side. So, as the oldest, it’s always been so weird for me. Like, I remember them young. In diapers. Little kids that were too tiny to play Scrabble or have anything in common with. Now, fast-forward two decades and we’re all adults. We’re on different paths and have completely different worlds but we have the opportunity to connect in a way that we never did before. It’s still weird though. I still feel like the old one in the bunch but I’ll take what I can get!

We played what seemed like a plethora of games and changed the rules of some. We ate delicious foods, too many sweets, and I may have participated in an olive showdown challenge with my cousin, Dallas. I even talked them into taking part in the inaugural adventure of the Adventure Challenge book I gifted myself this Christmas. ‘Twas a fun time.

I originally had a different plan for this final post of the Holidaze series. I wanted to focus on the story of Christmas; that it’s not about the gifts or the food or the fun. Because faithfully, it’s not. I think we all know that. And I think we’ve all just come to accept that it’s morphed into this Americanized “vacation” that everyone either looks forward to or dreads.

  • Whether we celebrate the holiday for the right reasons or not, I was reminded in my BEMA small group this week of Micah 6:8 “..to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
  • I was nudged to serve at Prairie Heights for Christmas so others could spend quality time with their loved ones.
  • I was moved by Anna’s message of hope when everything seems so hopeless.
  • I was reminded by Pastor Beth in her Christmas message that everything has meaning in God’s plan.

Christmas isn’t about the gifts or the food or the fun. But it is. The gift of life and community that we’re fortunate to be given because of Jesus. The food of wisdom and the God-moment reminders in every day life are there, if we are hungry enough to listen. The fun in the joy we feel by seeing and being with people we love.

Jesus taught us to simply love one another. That’s it, really. The story might get lost and the traditions might change but the message never has. I hope that even if your holiday season was filled with piles upon piles of wrapping paper and garbage bags full of leftovers, that you were able to take pause and feel even the slightest sense of gratitude for all that Christmas is regardless of creed.

Merry Christmas from here and thank you for reading! -Ori

Holidaze: A letter a day is rare, they say.

A few months ago, I gifted my mom a book called 100 Life Challenges. It’s a fill-in-the-blank type calendar full of (100 to be exact) 30-day challenges, introducing the concept of developing good habits and at a time like this, Lord knows we could all do with some healthy new norms.

I can sometimes be a selfish Sally so I had to buy myself the same book because 1. Your girl loves a good challenge and 2. Filling things out; forms, applications, lists.. they bring me all the comforts and joy. Don’t @ me for being nerdy. *pushes glasses up*

See, before this whole book thing came about, my mom had been sending me challenges for years. I don’t know when it started or how but I know she was the first to offer up a challenge. This typically has always revolved around health in some capacity by the way of Hydration Challenges (getting your 8-10 glasses a day in) to Overcoming Couch Potato Syndrome (move your butt before you sit on it) to Stop & Drop Challenges (stop what you’re doing and do a minute of squats)! Drop it like it’s hot, ladies and gentlemen.

Those were fun.

Anyway, I figure that success and follow-through sometimes requires a group effort so in giving this book to both my mom and I, I had hoped that she’d accept the invitation to do the challenges with me and she was up for the double-dog dare! Exciting!

Since October, we’ve done six challenges in this book so far. The primary focus is self-care. The challenges range from easy things like “light a candle when you get home” or “watch an ASMR video” to harder things like “look in the mirror and say out loud what you love about your body” or “set a bedtime and stick to it.” Some will become habits and some won’t but in those that we have done so far, I’ve taken something positive away each time and began developing new routines that may seem like little nothings but add up to a whole lot ‘a somethin’ when put together.

In that time, I’ve been making my bed daily, lighting candles to give my apartment a more homey feel, and taking time to actually reflect before bed each night about the moments and people throughout the day that I’m grateful for.

Don’t get me wrong, in all these months at home, my blue-light consumption has not improved much and I definitely don’t have a solid morning routine. I’m 31 years old and still hit snooze 17 times before rolling out of bed. I don’t usually bother with breakfast either and I shut down when I feel excluded.

BUT, this little book of challenges is slowly encouraging me to find the sweetness in the small things. It’s prompting me to think outside of the box. Never have I ever tried daily dry brushing or gone thirty days without watching TV but those challenges are up to bat on pages 168 and 154, respectively. And I’m here for it.

Because I’m a planner-McPlanner-ton, I looked ahead in this challenge book to see what was upcoming and noticed that the month of December would challenge me (us) to write a letter to someone each day.

Talk about pulling at a girls heart strings, I thought we were easing into this. I used to write to my great-grandma Elsie for years. She must have initiated it when I was a teenager or maybe even earlier. I’d like to think that I’ve kept every single one (I do have an entire basket full of letters) but I may be missing a few. I know I didn’t reply to each one, especially back then. I’m sure my busy little 16-year-old life was too important to bother replying as quickly as my last name implies.

But I did, eventually.

She would write pages and pages in her perfect “grandma Elsie scribble.” It was always a challenge in and of itself to read her writing and I managed to do so pretty well, I think. But I’m not sure the kids in school these days could make out her old-school cursive anymore. Many times, she’d also include a handmade doilies!

I don’t think I realized the impact that she had on me at the time and the compassion that she exuded in comparison to the legacy she’s left on my heart in the years since she’s passed. Through her letters, she shared with me little well-being tips like placing a bar of soap at the end of your bed under your blankets if you’re having leg cramps to stories about how she’d met my great-grandpa Nick and how she’d felt in the decades since he’d passed. She’d share stories about the ladies she’d go to dinner with and the conversations she had.

In her letters she’d talk about her relationship with God and wondered aloud why she was still living. She had lived a long, happy, and full life. She walked three miles a day nearly ’til the end. She transcribed the entire Bible front to back and kept every single card, letter, photo, and news-clipping she was sent. For everyone, from everyone. She did all the things and prayed all the prayers wondering what it was she was left here on Earth to do all this time without her Nick.

She would sometimes start a letter on Monday evening and finish it on Tuesday morning. She was consistent and persistent in her letters. She never gave up writing to me even if I wasn’t as prompt as she’d likely hoped. She wasn’t afraid to be vulnerable. She was interested in my life and she spoke to me in the letters as if we were right there next to one another.

Now, I don’t know if she ever got her answer here while living, about why God bothered having her live for so dang long but I like to think she figured it out if not then, hopefully by now. I know she had many more people in her life, more than I am years old, but I do think reaching me in the way she did from afar was without a doubt, an act of God. She never gave up and I’ll cherish every single one of these letters for the rest of my life.

And you want to know what else? She is not the only grandma that has habitually written to me. Going through my basket of letters and re-reading them this last week, I didn’t realize how many I also received from my grandma Darlene. I don’t think I realized it until now because growing up, I saw her much more frequently in person. Thinking back, I recall reading letters from her and when seeing her, we’d chat about them. I know I replied to my grandma Darlene in written form too but not nearly as often as Elsie. How wild and cool is that? It gives me goosebumps to come to the realization of how blessed I was then to have two grandma’s pour into me for years and years and I didn’t even realize it at the time.

But I do now.

Where was I? Oh yes, a letter writing challenge. I’ve written letters off and on in the years since my great-grandma has passed. I’ve taken time over the years to write quick thank you’s and even heartfelt messages to people I’m close to but it’s never been consistent and I don’t know why other than using the excuse of “life gets away from you sometimes.”

Writing a letter introduces a level of self-care that I didn’t even consider before. Not only does it help the writer to slow down a little, create a moment of mindfulness, and an opportunity to be technology free, but it helps the recipient too; to pause. To be a part of an experience that is rarely felt anymore; to open your mailbox and see something other than junk mail, other than bills.. It’s like a blip of sunshine in an otherwise cloudy chore.

I went hard on this challenge, too. I hadn’t prepped for any of our other challenges but you bet your butt I did this month. I wanted to both finish this weird (and kinda mostly negative) year on a positive and channel my inner GGE.

In order to do that, I needed to be as prepared as possible. I ordered supplies for both my mom and I (think envelopes, notebooks, cute stickers, stamps). I even purchased address labels for the first time in years. #feelinprofesh

But in order to really do this right on my end, I needed to be accountable and the only way for me to be accountable in the middle of a pandemic is through social media so I posted a series of stories on Insta and Facebook enlisting trusting volunteers to dare receive a handwritten letter filled with scribbles by yours truly.

Through that medium alone, I was able to reserve 26 of the 30 days of this challenge but I do have a couple more days to fill so, if you’ve made it this far and would like to receive a letter before the month is up, fill this out! Or text me or slide into my DM’s or whatever is less weird for you. (I promise it won’t be as long as this post!)

Honestly, I hope this reaches enough people that it’ll exceed my challenge goal because while this started out as a challenge, it’s really given me time to reflect in ways I hadn’t before. It’s given me the opportunity to take pause and think about the people I’m writing to, who they are as individuals in this world. What I know about them, how I know them, how I keep in touch with them, if I do at all.

I ask myself how they are hurting, how they are coping through all the shit of this year. I want to know what makes them wake up in the morning and what they worry about when they go to sleep at night. And I don’t know any of that, about any of them. And I try to relay that in my letters but I don’t know if it translates well. We live in a world now where everyone seems to be so established in their lives and it’s hard to break down the walls to let people in, or at least that’s what I’ve experienced thus far.

It’s easy, especially with the blessing/curse of social media, to think we know people when really, we don’t.

So, to those I’ve written to, I hope you’re doing well far beyond what my keyboard-prone fingers would allow me to write. Trust me when I say, had I had the stamina, I would have sent each person a five-page letter like my great-grandma did with me, maybe one day. But I hope the 1-2 pages of handwritten, probably illegible, letters will be the start of many exchanges (in some form or another) for years to come.

And to those who haven’t received a letter yet. Hang tight. It’s only the 21st of December. :)

I have two hopes as I finish out this challenge:

  1. I hope that I continue writing, pen to paper style. I hope that there are people interested in receiving letters. Maybe I can find a non-profit to work with and write letters to the elderly or the sick or reconnect with my Norwegian pen-pal from fourth grade. Who knows?
  2. And I hope that I can be the light in someone’s otherwise cloudy year even if just for a moment. I don’t care if my letters end up in the trash and I don’t expect responses in return, but I do know what it’s like to open the mailbox to something other than the reality of everyday life and I sure hope it makes others feel like everything will be okay like it does to me.

With that being said, I’ll leave you with a transcribed excerpt from my great-grandma Elsie:

By the fall of ’39, we moved to Warroad, Minn. When we got there, the lady wouldn’t let us live in the place we were promised. We moved to a town with no where to go, no home. Keep in mind my sweet little son was only a year old and it was nearly winter. We did end up moving into the empty Lindamood house for awhile sharing it with Dave and Martha. They had the two boys and we had baby Larry so they lived in the big kitchen and upstairs, we were in the living room. Larry’s fingers were so cold so he had to sleep between us in the bed.

Later, we bought a place from J.W. Pearson but there was no house, no outhouse. Just a road and a 1/2 mile full of manure. So, the church men came and cut logs for us. Hubert Hamlin sawed it into lumber and they all helped us build an 18×26 home; 1 large room and 1 bedroom but we were happy then, to be by ourselves. Helping each other when we’re down, that is what we called Christianity.

P.S. If you’re interested in the 100 Life Challenges book, I did link it at the top of the post but you can also find it in Fargo locally at Barnes & Nobel or Target. Thank you for reading!

Holidaze: I do remember, and then when I try to remember, I forget. -A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

My grandma’s memory is failing her and all I want to do is go back in time to relive the moments I didn’t realize I’d come to cherish.

I’ve been struggling to find a way to write this post because I don’t know who will see it or how it’ll be received. I won’t be writing anything that isn’t true to how I feel but when writing about something as debilitating as dementia, it can be painful to read. So grandma, if you read this, I love you. We all love you.

I’m fortunate enough to have experienced the love of many grandma’s in my 31 years of life. For the first 11 years, I had two great-grandmas, two grandmas, and a step-grandma. All living. How incredible is that?

My paternal great-grandma, Agnes, passed away at the age of 87. For the last handful years of her life, she struggled with Alzheimer’s and ultimately lost that battle not remembering the people who loved her most.

That is my greatest fear, truly. To not remember.

I feel like I function off of love, don’t we all to some extent? To live a life of love to the best of our abilities all to have it come to an end so slowly taking the best memories you have with it? It sounds like a miserable, gut-wrenching, disaster.

I feel like I’m watching that happen to my grandma Darlene (Agnes’ daughter, my dad’s mom) right now. I was 11 when my great-grandma Aggie died. The memories I have of her are few but fond. I remember her entire house inside and out. I could sketch it out on graph paper right now if I wasn’t typing this. I remember the little “hiding spots” upstairs. I remember the view we saw if we came in the front door verses the back. I remember Halloween and laughter and heavy Norwegian accents.

My two favorite memories of her are the buttering of saltine crackers for a snack and her infamous phrase towards men with saggy pants asking if they had “dritt i buksa” (shit in the pants!).

I know I was there towards the end but I don’t remember it as clearly as the good times, which is probably okay. I was very young visiting her in the nursing home and I remember seeing my grandma (her daughter) upset. I don’t think I had any idea what was actually happening outside of an old women nearing the end of her time here on the physical Earth. Nothing more, nothing less.

But I now know it was so much more than that. To be loved by people you don’t recognize and to love someone who no longer knows you.

I don’t experience every day life with my grandma anymore and haven’t for well over 15 years but we do phone often. She’s nearly three hours north of here and still lives on her own in the same house she did when I went to school in Roseau. My brother Nick and I would walk to her house after school when it was nice out.

As with my great-grandma Aggie, some of my favorite memories are with my grandma Darlene. Good memories that I didn’t know were good at the time. She took pride in her garden, always a green thumb. When I was little, I just assumed gardening was easy and it took little to no energy. I found out the hard way what a joke that is when I grew up and had dabbled a bit in it myself. I’m more of a succulent gal thanks to my many failed attempts. Teach me your ways, gram.

Her rickety old swing set was another. There was nothing special about it other than it was there and so were we. I’m surprised we never swung so high that it tipped over. She’d sit at the picnic table or garden while we played. Us kids were in our own little world so much of the time and she was just there watching us enjoy life in such a blissful state. I wonder what she was thinking about during those moments.

She used to make us mac n’ cheese with hotdogs but not just regular ol’ cut up hot dogs, that’s boring. She’d cut them vertically almost to the end and spread them out like an octopus over the pile of cheesy noodles. It always made us giggle.

Grandma’s two favorite shows in life (or at least in the life I was a part of) were JAG and Jeopardy. The two J’s, so to speak. She was way better at Jeopardy than I was. I called her when Alex Trebek died last month and she’d said she hadn’t watched Jeopardy in years. I wonder when she stopped and why. I didn’t think to ask.

I’m sure I could go on for days about the things that riled grandma up or the ones that made her laugh. Just thinking about them makes my eyes swell because those moments are so far behind us and I’m afraid they are memories all my own, no longer shared by her.

A week or two ago, my grandma stayed here in Fargo with my aunt Krissy. They have a strenuous relationship and always have, I believe. It’s not difficult to see the strain. I’m fortunate enough not to know what that’s like. I can’t imagine having to sort through those types of feelings for a lifetime. But I see the hurdles they face in them both, my aunt and my grandma, or I try my best to.

My grandma wasn’t a perfect mom or grandma for that matter but who is, really? My mom recently put that into perspective when she said parents aren’t given a guidebook. They do their best with what they know or have and I try to remember that often especially when I feel put down.

I think my grandma has made comment on my weight every single time I’ve seen her throughout my life. It doesn’t sting any less now than it did when I was 8 years old. I think she’s developed tact over the years though, but maybe not. When I brought her to dinner a couple weeks back, I was telling her about the adventures I hope to go on in 2021 (pending the ‘rona of course). One of them being South Africa. On one hand, she was at a loss for words in admiration of the wanderlust spirit I have but on another hand, she was pre-emptively second-hand embarrassed for me. She made me promise that I wouldn’t travel anywhere else until I “lose a considerable amount of weight” and it breaks her heart to see me looking like I do. A promise I don’t know if I can keep, honestly. She also reminded me that it’ll be hard to find love if I look the way that I do, that it might have been better just to stay with “him” (my ex of nearly 10 years) because then I wouldn’t be alone.

I know all of that and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell myself those same things on a way-too-regular basis but I also know them to be falsities of another generation.

In moments like that, I struggle to keep the hurt feelings inside but I do. Because the affliction I see in her eyes less than two minutes later when she doesn’t know where she is is more painful than anything she’s ever said about my weight.

When she was here to visit for a week, I spent four evenings with her. We mostly reminisced about the good ol’ days of the 20th century. I asked how she met my grandpa; what kind of dates they went on and what he was like as a father in the early years. I asked about how her parents met, what her favorite memories were, and learned all about things I’d never bothered asking before.

I focused on the past because the present seems to cause so much distress in her mind. When we do circle back to the here-and-now, the tone in her voice changes from a lighthearted sparkle to one filled with melancholy and tears. She’s so weak and frail in those moments. She’s sometimes literally and figurately so lost in the present that it’s unbearable for her.

She knows it happening, her memory failing. I picture it the same way I pictured an accident I was in a few years back. I was going 60 on the interstate here in Fargo. Traffic slowed ahead of me, as did I, but the traffic slowed so abruptly that I didn’t have a chance to react in time. It all happened so fast and so slow in the same moment. It was terrifying.

That’s how I imagine my grandma feels when her memory lapses.

She’s back home now. My aunt brought her home two Saturday’s ago. At the time I didn’t know that the most painful of conversations were about to be had.

My grandma called me because she didn’t know who it was that delivered us pizza the evening before, here in Fargo. She didn’t know whose home we had been in with my cousins and brother surrounding the table and she didn’t know who brought her back to Roseau that day. It was Krissy, her daughter. She knew who Krissy was but didn’t recognize her in the flesh. She’d forgotten and it left her disoriented. She didn’t understand.

A couple months back she had called me asking to know who a couple of people were and it turns out one of them was my cousin Garrett. What followed that was a series of phone calls to me from her being in complete awe and totally perplexed as to how she could have forgotten who her own grandchild was.

That was the first time she verbalized to me that she was afraid. She’d gone through this with her mother, my great-grandma. She was nearly inaudible when she said she doesn’t want to forget my dad (her son) or me or Emma. She said doesn’t want anyone to see her lose her mind. She doesn’t want to tell her doctors. She wept when she told me she’s not ready for this.

I don’t think anyone is, grandma. I don’t think we can prepare for this.

She knows her memory is failing. It’s sporadic and random but it does seem to be more short term than long and I think that’s what makes it so much more heartbreaking, that she knows.

As someone I recently visited with said so perfectly: “It wouldn’t be 2020 if the last month wasn’t the hardest of them all.” Ouch, but true.

You might be wondering what this post has to do with my series. This post is the reason for my series; Holidaze. My grandma is currently in a daze, a state of confusion. A life of “everything seems to be fine” but then a blip occurs and it’s thrown off it’s axis.

I didn’t start this series to solely share a social-media filtered version of my seemingly perfect life because it’s so not that. I do admittingly try to focus on the good, try to only show the good but life isn’t always good. Sometimes all we want is a Wishenpoof wand to make it all better but they are in short supply this year. Everyone is trying them out on different things.

To close, I just want us all to remember where we came from, who we came from. Reflect on the parts of life that formed us into who we are today, recognize that they aren’t all going to be sunshine-y moments. The tough times shape us too. I want this to serve as a reminder to see beyond the pain that people may have caused you and try to address the pain that they have themselves. Dig deep to exhibit empathy to those you don’t understand.

I wish I could push pause and rewind on my grandma’s mind to the exact moment before her brain decided to stop working as hard. I wish I would preserve the memories for her to replay when she is feeling lost. I wish I could go back in time and prepare her heart before it was broken by the loss of a baby and ultimately a divorce. I wish I could have been there for her when she needed someone in her 80+ years of life because I see all of that now and I never had before. I just wish I could hug her and never let go.

I hope my grandma does have many years of life yet ahead of her and I hope we are able to contribute to it in the most positive of ways even if it’s from afar. I hope my niece Emma remembers her years after she’s gone and I hope she lives to see more great-grand babies of her own. I hope that I never lose the memories I have of her and I hope she finds comfort in knowing how immensely she is loved by me.

Thank you for reading. Go call your grandma (or someone you miss).

Edit: We did, in fact, swing so high the swing set tipped over! And on multiple occasions to boot. My brother’s memory has always exceeded mine. Thank you to Nick for fact-checking! :)

Holidaze: Thanksgiving

The day of the turkey has come and gone. I’m sorry to report that a not a flake of snow was in sight nor has it been this entire “winter.” Though, I suppose it’s fitting; a brown Thanksgiving. The color scheme for those that decorate their homes for the fall involve a lot of browns and warm oranges. Turkey’s are brown, or at least they are pre-dinner. If this year was a color, it’d probably be brown too. Right?

I was fortunate enough to spend the holiday with my immediate family at a cabin in the middle of Minnesota. This was the second time we’ve rented a cabin and the first for Thanksgiving. It was cozy and beautiful. The cabin had a sweet bunk room where all of us kids stayed and all I could imagine was how wonderful it would be if this could become a tradition; pausing our lives just for a few days to gather together in the middle of nowhere surrounded by cedar walls, jingle bells, and my dad’s legendary fried egg sandwiches for breakfast.

Spending those couple days with the people I hold closest to my heart helped to level my emotions out a bit. I don’t think they realized how incredibly healing it was to just be in their presence. To stay up late talking, to play games old and new, and just laugh. How fun it was to make Christmas ornaments and gingerbread houses that wouldn’t stay together. How relaxing it was to take a nap on a Friday afternoon and get woken up by Emma’s little girl snuggles. It wasn’t long enough but I know it was far more than some people were able to spend this year, if any. And I’ll do my best to cherish those couple of days, though brief.

I know we’re in a tricky time of comfortability with being in close proximity to one another and I won’t argue that. Some may even frown at the fact that our family selfishly spent time together and I get it. My feelings of physical safety vs mental health stability change nearly every single day. I watch the news too; I see the reports.

Way back before we knew that COVID would take over every other thought in our minds, we had planned to spend the holiday at my aunts house. She was over-the-moon excited to host Thanksgiving at her new home but unfortunately, she wasn’t able to thanks to our friend, C-dawg. My mom and I, however, did take time to visit with her from afar. She, at the top of her front door steps, and us at the edge of the garage. It was weird and unnatural and distant and cold but it was also warm and pretty amusing. A good story to tell in the years to come.

While I’m about a week late sharing my feels, I’m thankful for my nieces imagination and for my family’s unconditional love. I’m thankful to the people I’ve met this year and the kindness they’ve exhibited. I’m thankful for my job and technology; for the truck drivers and the health care workers. I’m thankful for love and God and the hope of a bright future. I’m thankful for my health and for your health. I could go on for days but I’ll leave it here.

Until next time. -Ori

Holidaze: An Intro

I decided to pull out my ol’ keyboard and start this series to share a little bit of my world with you all. I love to write more than anything, I find it therapeutic and it helps the socially inept side of me connect with others but I let the monotony of a mostly isolated life take up my time. Think: work, tv, bed, repeat all from the same 750 square feet, day after day. I’m tired of it and I need to make an active effort to change the bad habits I’ve adopted over the last nine months.

‘Holidaze’ is a series about navigating the weird time we’re in these last few weeks as 2020 comes to a close. The holiday season meets a state of confusion right in the middle of a pandemic, or something like that. I hope you follow along if you’re into it and feel free to share with others!

The holiday’s are always so tricky for me. On one hand, this is the time of year that brings me a lot of heartache (more on that another time) and reminds me of how lonely I am. The holidays definitely weren’t made for the single ladies.

But, on another hand, I love every single second of it. I love getting together with family and friends. I love the quiet days in with the fireplace crackling, a cup of hot chocolate steaming, and a sappy Christmas movie. I love the holiday festivals and events. The gift exchanges and the cute cards and the unknown of what my sister-in-law will decide to make for Christmas dinner! I love the celebration of a New Year and the tradition of Advent. The season truly is a magical time.

Unfortunately, a lot of that isn’t happening this year. And the parts that are will be different and unusual. It’s uncharted territory for us all and I know I’m not the only one that is and will continue to struggle throughout this season both in the holiday spirit sense and in the ‘winter = situational depression’ sense.

This season, I hope to invite you into my weird little world a little bit. I hope to connect with people I haven’t had an opportunity to connect with in a long time and I hope to make it through this pandemic alive and healthy with each of you. I hope to remind myself of all the wonderful things this world has to offer, of the bittersweet memories of days past, and of the many blessings we have in life.

Thank you for reading! -Ori