Pain is Beauty

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”Mommy I need my Batman costume!”  My three year old demanded me this morning. I was avoiding getting up even though I had been awake since about 7 am. Today hurts. My heart was heavy when I went to bed last night, knowing the emotions and emptiness today would bring. Somehow though, my son demanding his favorite costume got me to smile, and I was able to get myself out of bed.

Three years ago today my mom was rushed by an ambulance to the hospital. My sister in law Melissa discovered her on the floor of her bedroom early that morning and it was clear she had been in distress all night unknown to anyone. My dad was out of town for work so she had been alone.

As the day went on she was admitted into the hospital from the ER with acute pneumonia and was continually going downhill. By 3 PM the doctors told us she probably wouldn’t survive the night, and by 6:30 PM she was gone.

I have concluded through the harrowing experience of losing my mother that the painful experiences we go through in life can bring great sorrow, but also great beauty.

What’s Lost is Found

Soon after Mom passed away, my siblings and I along with my brothers wife, and now former brother in law and sat down on the floor in the hospital hallway. We were all heartbroken by what had just happened, and the emotions in the room when Mom slipped away from us were very strong. In the hallway, however, our moods got a bit lighter as we started telling stories about Mom. We re-lived some of our favorite childhood memories, and things that Mom did that were special. It may be hard to believe, but we were laughing, genuinely laughing! In that night the loss of our Mom brought us together in a sibling unity, and I am grateful for that tender mercy.

The next day, we had the hard task of visiting the funeral home and planning out the funeral and picking a casket. It all felt surreal that we were doing this for Mom, but once we got back to my parents home we began to dig through boxes of photos to find some for a slideshow that would be shown at the funeral.

Once again, even though our hearts were breaking the mood was lightened. Dad told lots of stories about the pictures we were finding and we found ourselves laughing through the tears.

I grabbed Mom’s journals too. I sat for two hours and read through one of them. I couldn’t stop reading her words- it was like she was there next to me telling me her stories. There is so much we didn’t know about the struggles she went through, and having those words is something I will cherish forever. It’s a huge reason why I am very vigilant in making sure I always journal too. I want my kids and grandkids to have the same treasure of my words when I am gone.

Turning the Bad Into Good

My son momentarily snapping me out of my grief this morning so I could help him is just a small example of what I am aiming to do. Even if it was just finding his beloved Batman costume. If he hadn’t gotten me up I’m sure I would have laid around reveling in my sadness. Later today, my sister Aly and I are using all the donated funds to buy the rest of our items needed for our cancer care packages we will be taking in memory of Mom to the Huntsman Cancer Institute on Tuesday. Using the pain we have gone through to do good helps make the pain just a little more bearable.

Ever since Mom died, I have tried to do good. I love serving others, and I know it’s something Mom loved too. Whether it’s our yearly cancer care packages, or working for the American Cancer Society, and most recently in working with the Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake. I also use my blog to talk about my personal battles and struggles to help others out there not feel alone. Nothing is too big or too small to be good.

Emotions aren’t a bad thing- it’s what makes us human. I woke up this morning so sad I almost was not sure I could make it through today. So I cried a little bit; it was impossible not to. Thankfully my son got me up. After making the kids breakfast I got ready and went to the gym where I ran until my lungs burned and I felt alive. Now that I am home we are preparing to go see my other son play in his basketball game, and then Aly and I will be finishing up the cancer packages.

The grief I feel is always there, but definitely is magnified today. But I choose to utilize it for good. Using this pain as a motivation to do good in the world and just be the best person I can be is what I aim to keep doing, one small step at a time.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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|Salamanca, Spain|

Our fourth stop on our trip through Spain and Portugal, was that of Salamanca. To be honest, I didn’t know a lot of cities in Spain, and when I did some research, Salamanca seemed really cool. Also, the train routes were strange, and wouldn’t go straight west from Seville into Portugal. So, we had to go up north through Salamanca into Portugal instead. So, Salamanca it was!

With a rather unfortunate error of scheduling, (totally my fault), we were spending one night there, when we thought we were only spending the day and then hopping on an overnight train into Porto, Portugal. So, as we were riding to Salamanca, Aly quickly booked an Airbnb that was right near the train station.

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This statue stood right outside the train station. It’s a pre-Holy Wars era representation. We saw others like it in Portugal as well. I loved it, from the unicorn horn on the horse’s armor, to the tiny dragon the knight is holding. So cool!

We walked the two or three blocks to our apartment. Our host was named Paloma, which means “dove” in Spanish, and she would later turn out to be just that! She was unfortunately out of town but her adorable mother met us and let us into the apartment. She gave Jess the rundown in Spanish and then we claimed bedrooms. Yes, I said BEDROOMS! With three of them, this was the most spacious apartment we had stayed in so far! Jess and I thought it only fair to let Aly pick her room first since she had been pretty much shafted on the bedding situation thus far. She naturally picked the largest room which Jess and I were totally fine with.

The two bedrooms we chose each had large and comfortable queen beds which was so nice. The third bedroom  with a twin bed we dubbed the “creepy” room because it had some very intense artwork and questionable reading material on it’s bookshelves. So, we decided no one would be sleeping in said creepy room.

After unpacking and changing into warmer clothes, (it was about 30 degrees colder here than in Seville!), we ventured out into the historic quarter of Salamanca. It was getting dark already, so we decided to see the big stuff the following day, and just had fun wandering around the historic section of the city.

Salamanca itself is very old, and I was pretty bummed that one of the most iconic architectural spots, Plaza Mayor, was being set up for some sort of market or festival, so we couldn’t see it in it’s full glory. But we met some adorable high school girls from Scotland who were visiting on a school trip and thought our American accents were “So cool!”, which is funny because Scottish accents are way cooler.

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The main section of Plaza Mayor. It’s shaped in a square, but since there was something being set up in the middle, a panoramic was not possible

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We were getting tired and hungry, and decided to try and find a place to eat. After walking by a few restaurants, we found an authentic Italian restaurant on Google Maps, and all were in agreement that we should eat there.

It took a while to get our food, even though there was literally only two other people in the restaurant, but it was SO GOOD. It was definitely authentic Italian. We had the most amazing cheese gnocchi which we all shared, that were like soft little pillows of happiness. I hate way too much but felt so full and happy that night!

 

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Happy and full!

After dinner, we decided to get a good nights sleep since we would have a lot of walking the following day.

We slept in because we literally had until 1 AM to see everything in the city. Thankfully, Paloma, our AirBnB host, allowed us to stay in the apartment until we needed to leave for the train station around midnight. So, we would not need to bring all of our stuff with us. She really was a life saver!

Jess ran to a local market and got us some pastries for breakfast, and we walked back to the historic section of the city. It looked so different in the daytime! The first Thing we noticed was a huge dome with a spire, which belonged to the new Cathedral of Salamanca. I say new, because there are two, one old and one new, which are adjacent to one another. The old Cathedral was built in the 12th Century, and the new cathedral was built between the 16th and 17th Centuries.

The entire building of both of them is quite impressive, even from a few miles away.

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We spent a great deal of time in the cathedral. They had these cool remotes that were in at least ten different languages, and when you walked up to a number that were various locations inside the cathedral you would press it on the remote and it would give you information. I learned a great deal more about the cathedral, and Salamanca itself from the remote than I would have just exploring.

Salamanca is known for beautiful silver ornate jewelry. I had to seriously control myself from buying all of it!

We walked around the city, and made it down to the river. By the time we walked back up into the city, we had walked quite a few miles. It rained on and off throughout the day, so we were pretty cold and miserable by the time we headed back to our AirBnb. Since we could hang out at the apartment until we needed to leave for the train, we decided to get some supplies at a supermarket to make spaghetti.

Once we got back to the apartment we decided to take a nap. We ended up sleeping from 5-7 PM which was pretty epic. We wanted to get as much sleep as we could because the overnight train we were going to be taking was only about 5 hours, and if you’ve never been on one, they are not super comfortable.

We made some delicious spaghetti and watched tv until we needed to pack up and head to the train station. Little did we know what adventure would be in store for us once we got on the train.

I had noticed earlier in the day that our tickets for the overnight train into Portugal said that Jess was in a separate car, but I didn’t actually think about it seriously until we showed up. We asked the guy at customer service, and he told us that the overnight trains were all segregated by sex. What? So weird right? So poor Jess was whisked away to another car when we boarded our train at 1 AM. Aly and I got into our car, there were already two other women sleeping in the bunk bed across from us. It was pretty disorienting trying to put my bags under the bed and get into bed in the dark, because the one girl seemed pretty annoyed when we turned on the lights. But somehow Aly managed to climb to the top bunk and I slipped in to the bottom one. I took a Xanax and thank goodness I did, because pretty much as soon as we got comfortable we both realized how HOT the train was. They seriously had the heat cranked so high on that train! And to make matters worse, it smelled HORRENDOUS. Heat tends to flare up my anxiety, so I was was so glad I had taken one of my pills. It also makes me tired so I was able to catch at least two hours of sleep. I found out once we had gotten to our stop in Portugal that Aly and Jess didn’t sleep a wink.

Thankfully though, we were able to start our adventures in Portugal!

To be continued!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

I Won’t Back Down

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For Christmas this past year my husband and I bought the DNA kits from Ancestry.com . I had wanted to do it for a while, and we jumped at the opportunity to get them at a decent price on Cyber Monday. Once we filled the vials with our spit, (yes, its gross but it could be worse right?), and mailed them back I anxiously watched my email everyday for the results. The morning that I finally got the alert that the results were in my email, I could hardly contain my excitement! I seriously was like a little kid, and my results didn’t disappoint!

Being adopted, I have always been fascinated by my genealogy. My adoptive family has done extensive family history, but naturally, I still needed to know my biological genealogy. Once I met Sherri, my birthmom, she gave me a copy of her families history, which I treasure. But even still, I was curious about my birthdad and his family.

At the top of the results with the biggest percentage was Ireland/Scotland/Wales and Western Europe which was not a surpise to me. What did surprise me, was the high percentages of my DNA that came from the Middle East, Iberian Peninsula, and Scandanavia. I am now more than ever motivated to keep digging into my families history and am hoping one day to visit these amazing and very different places of the world that I have ancestry from.

Skoal!

Obviously, all of my results from my DNA test were fascinating to me, but I am particularly interested in the fact that I have Scandanavian blood. My husband Jess when he got his results discovered he does too, which was relatively unknown by his family. We were probably so psyched because we have been extremely obsessed with the show “Vikings” on the History Channel. If you don’t watch it- WATCH IT! Some of the characters are based on actual people (the show itself is not historically accurate), and there are some amazing fight scenes, intertwining characters and stories, all minus the seriously excessive nudity of Game of Thrones. Have I convinced you yet? I hope so!

To now know that I have Scandanavian ancestors has me even more fascinated with Vikings and their history. One of my favorite parts of the Vikings folklore, is their stories of shield-maidens. For centuries, this was thought to be just that, stories and folklore. Just last year, it was discovered that a famous Viking warrior who was long thought to be a man, turned out to be a woman when they did some DNA testing on the remains. Seriously, how cool is that? Turns out the women were just as brave, if not more so, than the men on the battlefields.

I like to think that I inherited some of this “warrior” DNA. No, I have never been in actual battle, and would never try to pretend or compare my life to a real war-zone. I have the highest respect for men and women who protect our rights and freedoms everyday with their lives. I have gone through some battles in life, so in my own way I am a warrior of the hurdles life has thrown at me. I mean, everyone is a warrior of their personal struggles and trials.

I have many female examples in my life who are “shield-maidens” in their own rite like the ones in Viking times. Whether they are friends or family, or friends who I consider family, each one of them inspires and brings their own sets of experiences and insights that they teach me whether they realize it or not. I am extremely blessed and grateful for every one of them, but there’s an aching in my heart everyday for my mom.

Ripples of Grief

Grief is an interesting process. I like to think of it as a ripple in water when you drop a stone. The ripples move naturally outward from that initial spot and never seem to stop. In real life,  when something tragic occurs, we may feel like life stands still, we have to keep moving forward and living. When my mom died, I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed forever. My kids, however still needed me to be a mom to them. Even though they were heartbroken as well from losing their Nana, they still were kids and kept me moving. I am grateful for them because they helped me continue to have purpose and would distract me, although momentarily, from my grief.

When the ripples are closer to the start, they are compact, and still extremely raw and painful. As they move away, and get bigger the pain, although never fully ebbing, gets less strong and easier to deal with.

In a few weeks, on February 17 it will officially mark the third year since Mom passed away. The third ripple from the day she died. Just when I feel like I’ve got a handle on my grief, something happens in my life and I wish so badly I could call my mom and talk to her. I often visit her grave and have full on conversations with her, simply because there is so much I need to tell her. When she was still alive, I talked to her every single day; she literally was, next to my sister Aly, my best friend.

To my knowledge my mom did not have Scandanavian heritage, (she was mostly of Irish descent), but she had more of that shield-maiden fight in her than anyone that I know. Her tough 18-year battle with mulitple myeloma Cancer is proof enough that she deserved to be taken to Valhalla by the Valkyries and to feast with the gods.

A Call to Arms

One thing is for sure, I consider myself a modern day warrior in the fight against cancer. I hate everything about it, and want to help find a cure so no more people and their families have to suffer it’s effects.

One of my goals for 2018 is to continue helping in any way that I am able for cancer patients and the American Cancer Society where I have been honored to be a part of their events here in Salt Lake.

As of right now, we are planning our next big event for the ACS in September. I can’t leak any details just yet, but it will be an amazing event so I will keep you all posted as soon as I can!

Aly and I are currently working on our third year of Kind Like Karen day, which is on the anniversary of her death. We put together care packages for the patients at the Huntsman Cancer Institute here in Salt Lake City and deliver them in person (with hugs), to help brighten their spirits and day. This year we are collecting blankets, socks, slippers, and beanies. We also get donations from local bakeries of cookies and other various treats that really get people excited! It is always such a emotionally charged day, filled with lots of tears and gratitide. We love using that day to give back to others, because it’s what Mom would have wanted.

I will continue to be a warrior against the disease that took my mom from me. I will keep doing everything I can for the patients and their families and do everything in my power to raise money for them through my work at the ACS. My hope is that a cure will be found in my lifetime- to live to see such a miracle would be indescribable. Until then, this is a fight I refuse give up on.

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Photos by Angela Marie Photography

Seville, Spain

Guys! I’m finally working on catching up on our trip to Spain and Portugal this past October! Sorry I have been slacking, it’s been a busy few months.

Our third stop was beautiful Seville. We arrived at around 12:30 AM on our train. This was all due to the fact that we missed our train from Alicante that morning. We were exhausted, but excited to be there. We grabbed a taxi and soon discovered why there are very few cars in the historic old section of Seville: the roads are SO SMALL! I started panicking because it literally felt like we were going to be stuck between buildings. The taxi driver could only drive us part of the way because the roads were so tiny, and we got out and walked the rest of the way to our Airbnb.

Our very very nice host Manuel waited for us, even though we were supposed to be there at 3 PM. I had emailed him as soon as we missed our train and kept him informed of when we would be arriving. He was so understanding and I apologized again when we arrived, but he was all too gracious about it. He showed us to the apartment, which was on the third floor of a darling old building right in the center of the historic Jewish quarter of the city. Directly across from our building was the Iglesia Santa Maria la Blanca church, which used to be a synagogue. I loved hearing the church bells throughout the day.

The apartment was very nice and clean. Aly actually got a bed this time, so she was happy even if it was in the middle of the living room. There was a nice bathroom and a small but effective kitchen with a washing machine which we used immediately.  Once Manuel gave us all the maps, and suggestions on what to do, he left and we all promptly went to bed.

The next morning, we accidentally slept in longer than we had intended, but since we weren’t leaving until the next day we weren’t too worried about it. We got dressed and headed out. We explored the quaint tiny streets around our apartment on our way to get some warm croissants for breakfast.

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The front door of our apartment was beautiful

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Seville was full of beautiful courtyards

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The streets were too tiny for cars!

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Jess and Aly (bottom left) as we were trying to find croissants

Then it was on to the Real Alcazar to get tickets for later tour. It’s a very popular spot, an we didn’t want to make the same mistake we did in Barcelona by not being able to get tickets to places. So, we secured tickets for 1:30 PM, and then walked over to the Plaza de Espana.

Built in 1928, it was made for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and is just breathtaking. When we first walked into the open square, my mouth dropped. Not only is the architecture amazing but the colors were so vibrant! There’s painted tile everywhere, even on the ceilings! It’s such a bright, beautiful place. It is shaped in a huge semi circle, with a canal running under bridges, and a huge fountain right in the middle. For all you Star Wars fans out there, this place was used during filming as the kingdom of Theed on the planet Naboo in ‘Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones’.

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Jess enjoying the view, and the man in a red shirt photobombing

We walked around and enjoyed the architecture for a while, as well as the vendors who were selling various fans, and other souvenirs. There was also a man who was making gigantic bubbles with some homemade contraption that I was fascinated by. We needed to get back towards the center of the city to make it to our tour, and we decided to go by way of the Parque de Maria Luisa, which was a huge beautiful park right next to the plaza. One of the things I loved so much about Barcelona and Sevilla was the cute green parrots, and these were the only two cities we saw them in. When we walked up there were tons of them playing in a fountain. Of course, once I tried to get a photo of them, they ALL flew away. Oh well.

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You can see one parrot on the fountain

As we walked to and from the Plaza de Espana, we saw so many amazing buildings so it was a joy to explore.

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It was finally time for us to go to our tour of the Real de Alcazar and we were so excited! This was one of the main things I had to see on my bucket list for this trip. Despite how crowded it was, the buildings and grounds are so vast that other than the main halls you really didn’t feel like there was mass amounts of people.

Registered as a Unesco World Heritage site in 1987, the Alcazar is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. The Spanish royal family still uses the upper levels of the palace to stay during certain times of the year. It is also considered to be the most beautiful palace in all of Spain, and if you ever happen to see it in person you will see why.

The original building was built as a Moorish fortress, and was later converted into the palace by King Peter Castile in the mid 14th century. As he expanded it, he decided to keep the Islamic architectural style that is already had. What makes this palace so unique is that subsequent rulers added their own touches to the palace over the centuries, so now it possesses architectural influences from the Moorish, Arabic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. It also has influence of both Muslim and Christian faiths.

If you’re not so much into the actual history of the palace, but the entertainment history, there’s plenty of that too. The Alcazar has been the site of several huge movies including ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ in 1962 and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ in 2005. It was also the location chosen to represent the kingdom of Dorne in “Game of Thrones” on HBO.

Whether you’re into the history of this place or not, one can still enjoy the beauty of it. I could have spent hours there, and decided I was moving in!

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After we explored the inside, we went outside to the gardens. They were immense, and we maybe only saw a third of them. A lot of them were closed to help preserve the plants, but we still got to see them from above. The best part was the garden maze, which we may or may not have cheated to get out of!

 

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My favorite part of the Alcazar though, was the Roman Baths underneath the palace. They are no longer used for that purpose, but are still so beautiful to look at. 54DB5CEE-1CCD-41C6-AD0D-F46D02347ED10219BB0D-F580-453C-918B-326026625221

Like I said, I wanted to move in. Don’t you want to now too? 1EAD8F02-5196-4B7A-8B9C-78A5639DC7FCCA77F3F6-FA03-4B8C-8230-C826F871DD9E44722EE3-177C-43C3-8EF5-5EA7540D9FE5FED580EB-C21A-4A6E-85DD-3546A29526DC6CBC8B91-11A7-4A23-BCF4-B09A024AEBBA

After we finally willed ourselves to leave the Real de Alcazar, we wandered across the square to the Cathedral de Seville, which is another Unesco World Heritage site. It was very impressive! And, we were surprised to know that Christopher Columbus’ tomb was inside it, (which i apparently got no photos of). Even though I think he’s not that great of a historic figure, (I mean, let’s not forget all the kidnapping and raping that happened), it was pretty cool to be in front of his actual tomb.

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There was a bell tower to climb to the very top of the Cathedral, but you had to pay for it. We decided to try and sneak up, and the guard let us right by! So up we went 34 flights in a tiny bell tower. I started to get mildy claustrophobic because it was such a small tower, but thankfully, we were at the top before I started really panicking. The view though, was totally worth the almost claustrophobic induced panic attack!

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While coming back down the bell tower the clouds literally ripped open and some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen just seemed to pour from heaven. It was SO cool to hear it from inside the massive cathedral! There was even some impressive thunder. Once the rain let up we ventured out to find food, and ate at this really cool tapas restaurant that was decorated with mounted heads of bulls. It made me sad because they have such cute faces and I said “Our lunch is watching us!”

I did not get a photo of the bulls, but I did of my tapas which was pork with garlic that was mighty tasty. 1D01BDE6-64FE-41D9-ACED-9B34B0874BFE

We walked to the historic bull fighting ring, but decided it wasn’t worth paying to go inside of. Then we walked back to our apartment the long way and explored more of historic Seville along the way.

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That evening, Manuel had booked us tickets to see a local and authentic flamenco show. It was held at the Museo del Baile Flamenco which was just a few streets over from our Airbnb. They allowed no photos or video during the performance, and there was maybe only 50 people there in the room. There was one male dancer and two females, along with the most talented guitar player I’ve ever witnessed and a male and female who sang and clapped the beats. It was a stunning performance that made my eyes fill with tears several times and goosebumps travel across my body. I was so glad we got to see it! Afterwards I snapped a photo of this painting of a flamenco singer because he hilariously kind of looks like Jimmy Fallon!

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Seville was one of my favorite stops on our trip. If you’re planning on seeing Spain definitely add this city to your list!

Xoxo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

One Foot In Front of the Other

I had to write down the date today and I still found myself automatically writing 2017. I cannot believe that it’s a new year already! I feel like we were just celebrating the new year of 2017! This last year in many ways felt that it went by extremely fast, and was very busy and full of events, activities, sports, and trips. We traveled and saw a lot of new things. We lost some good friends, but have made new friends too. We ended an almost 3 year lawsuit that has lifted some major stress off of us. I had a full-fledged breakdown that totally deflated me, but didn’t defeat me. We got to be a part of my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary, and Jess and I celebrated our 12-year wedding anniversary. The list could go on and on, but I would say overall that this was a good year for us.

Now that this fresh new year is upon us, I have sat down and actually planned some major goals for myself, which is something that I rarely do. I am hoping that I can make these all a reality for myself by the time 2019 rolls around.

Service

One of my major goals for this year is to make serving others a priority. I have loved being involved with American Cancer Society these past two years, and being the auction co-chair at their Faces of Hope Gala here in Salt Lake this past October was such an honor. Working to help raise funds for cancer research, patients, and their families is so near and dear to me since my mother passed away from cancer. So, I feel very strongly about this cause and hope to keep working with them for a long time to come. We are currently planning a huge event for this coming September which is going to be amazing! I will keep you all posted with the juicy details.

I have also reached out to a friend of mine who works at the Utah Rape Recovery Center in Salt Lake, and offered to help plan their yearly gala to raise money for their cause. Being a survivor myself of sexual assault I feel very deeply for other victims, and want to help this center in any way that I can. Did you know this is the ONLY rape recovery center in the entire state of Utah? It makes me sick that this isn’t a bigger talked about issue, (because it is a really bad problem in Utah, just no one acknowledges it), but we are hoping to change that.

Aside from charity work, I would love to be of service to my family and friends. I would love this year to be less about me, and more about others, especially those who I love. Yes, I’ve got my own issues and struggles, but making serving others the priority will help me and them. Plus, who doesn’t feel amazing helping others? I know I always do.

Putting Myself Out There

This goal is mostly for my blog, and social media persona of The Raw Brunette. I am starting to get a pretty good following on my Instagram, and have done some good networking from the small numbers I have already. But my goal is to really get myself out there this year. I would love for my blog to become somewhat well-known, (shooting for the stars, I know), but hey I dream big! I want to be able to start speaking to people, women specifically, about my life experiences with death, grief, sexual assault, anxiety, depression, OCD,motherhood, etc. I would love to do this in a public setting, maybe for example, at a conference as a motivational speaker.

More than anything, I would love for my writing and my work to just reach people. I have had countless friends, and strangers send me messages, DMs, and emails telling me about how my writing has touched them. A lot of these people deal with the same things I have, and have either been too afraid to speak up, or felt like they were alone. This goes back also to my goal of service, because I just want to help people know they’re not alone, and not crazy, and not unusual for the things that many of us all struggle with.

Leaving On a Jet Plane

Another goal of mine this year is to travel. in 2017, I got to travel quite a bit. Here in the states my family went to southern Utah to Zion National Park for the very first time in March, as well as Bryce Canyon National Park which are both gorgeous. We also explored a lot of Idaho this summer. From Boise, Twin Falls, American Falls, and Rexburg we saw a lot of beautiful country. We even got to experience the Total Solar Eclipse in Rexburg which was a life-changing event. From Boise, we also drove west to see my family that lives in and around Portland, Oregon. We even got to the PNW coast which was just gorgeous, and we were blessed with amazingly warm weather the entire time.

As far as international travel, Jess and I traveled to Ensenada, Mexico in February of 2017 on a Carnival cruise with his company Envi Pest Control. The weather was not so great, but we had a really fun time zip lining! Then, in October of this year we traveled along with my sister Aly to Spain and Portugal, which I am still catching up on blogging about! It was a dream trip of 16 days, and we saw, ate, and learned SO MUCH. I will never forget it!

I’m hoping that this next year will include just as much if not more travel. I live for traveling! So, I will keep you updated if anything exciting is planned.

Smoothing Out the Bumps

My final goal of this year is to continue to discover my true self. I see myself as a rough looking rock, who over the years is slowly being polished. Eventually, I will be beautiful and shiny, with not a hint of my former rough exterior. It’s going to be a lifetime of polishing I’m sure, but I feel that even over just the past three years I have seen more of my true self shine through than ever before. Going through difficult things in my life has helped to strengthen me, and enlighten me to who I really am. In order to help myself with this task, I will take time for me. I plan on doing things that I love so that I am taking care of myself as much as I am taking care of my family.

  • Exercise is one thing that makes me so happy. It is time for me to be in the zone, with music on, and getting my blood pumping. I am a much happier person when I workout regularly. Plus, keeping myself healthy is always a priority! So, making sure I workout, or getting to fun classes at the gym is definitely a resolution.
  • Pampering myself seems so selfish, but I have decided it’s something I am making a resolution. I’m not going to be over-the-top about it or out of control, but doing a little something here or there without feeling guilty about it is what I aim to do. Because you know what? Being a mom is FREAKING hard and I deserve a little pampering! So getting my nails done every once in a while, or booking a massage when I haven’t slept well in a week and can’t move my neck, or just buying the dress I just absolutely love is something I won’t feel bad about it.
  • I will keep it a priority this year to take care of myself mentally as well. I plan on continuing my therapy which has been so beneficial for me, honestly if any of you have considered going and haven’t – GO! Just sitting and talking through what I’m feeling inside with another adult who doesn’t judge me is so healing for me. I leave every week feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. I also have a pile of books I plan on reading, and then some more! Reading is so healing and relaxing for me, so I will do as much of it as I can this year.

Above all else, I won’t second guess myself this year, and I plan on living my truth, and taking it one step at a time in the direction that I want. This is the year I won’t let fear stop me, and will push myself accomplish my goals. I will make mistakes I’m sure, (I mean don’t we all?), but I won’t let it stop me from enjoying my life.

Happy New Year Everyone!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

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Photo: LC Photography 

 

 

 

Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

00241429-DB90-4AE4-9EC6-DB9473DD4693Here I lay at 11:00 PM in my bed sobbing. I had gobs of soggy tissues on top of me and laying all around me on the bed. It was the night before Christmas Eve, which is supposed to be such a joyful time of year and I was feeling extremely un-jolly and grinchy. Let me tell you, I was a pretty pitiful sight. After who knows how long, my seven-year-old daughter Shay tip-toed in. I felt a hand on me, and she whispered: “Mommy, can I come snuggle with you so you’re not sad anymore?” which about made my heart burst from my chest.

A Familiar Feeling

Backtracking just a little bit, to two weeks ago. The very same daughter who turned seven on December 10, started acting not herself. That entire week she kept having these spectacular meltdowns which nothing and no one could pull her out of. They would last anywhere from minutes to over an hour. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with her, and myself because it seemed anything I tried was not only not helping her but making things worse. To top it all off, my anxiety would go through the roof when she would get into this state, so I would just me a mess too and end up yelling and feeling terrible, and going to bed just feeling defeated. As I lay in bed one night thinking about her, this lightbulb suddenly went off, and I realized that she was displaying symptoms of anxiety. I was so mad at myself for not realizing this sooner since I have anxiety!  After scouring the internet in the wee hours of the morning, I was positive that was what she was suffering from.

The next day, when she once again had a meltdown, this time which was triggered by pain when she scraped her side, I tried to use some of my methods I have learned to help me calm myself down. I picked out one of her favorite stuffed dogs, (named Ollie after my sister and her boyfriend’s real life dog), to become her breathing buddy. The idea is to have her place him on her belly and take big deep breaths. When she sees him moving up and down she knows she’s doing it right. My heart was in the right place, but it didn’t work, and she just became more irritated and upset. It seriously just crushed me. I even have anxiety myself, so I should be the one to know how to help, and I felt helpless. Every night I would just feel defeated about it.

Thankfully, she was already scheduled for her seven-year check-up, so I talked in-depth to our pediatrician about what was going on. We have known him since I was pregnant with Calvin and chose him to be our kids doctor, so it’s been almost a ten-year relationship. He confirmed my suspicions and said all her syptoms are classics signs of anxiety in kids. So, he scheduled her an evaluation with their in-office psychologist in January, (which she is doing free of charge and this no insurance Momma is SO grateful), and she will hopefully be able to shed some more light on what type of treatment will help Shay.

The Naughty List

I was so relieved, and thought that we would be able to skip on into Christmas now arm in arm, singing carols and sipping hot chocolate together like the picture perfect Rockwell painting. Unfortunately, it was not to be so.

About six years ago I got one of those Elf On the Shelf dolls to try and help Calvin be good during the month of December leading up to Chrismas. If you’re not familiar with this concept, the Elf comes from the North Pole every December 1st, and leaves the night of Christmas Eve. He or she moves every night to a new spot, but is always watching the kids and reporting back to Santa if they are being naughty or nice. Calvin named him Thomas, since he was going through a Thomas the Train stage at that time.

This year, my kids could not give a rat’s patootie about that damn elf on the shelf. I’m not sure if it’s just something in the air, or if my kids are just possessed, but I have tried to keep it all together despite their rude behavior. Why don’t we celebrate Krampus here?! They have all been the naughtiest, meanest, whiniest, and most selfish kids these past few weeks. It would actually be funny if it wasn’t my real life! Yesterday, it all came to a head and this mom ended up having a meltdown herself. It was pretty ugly.

It all started when I had to finish some food shopping yesterday morning, which I wasn’t excited about doing. My husband had major Christmas shopping he needed to get done, so he was gone for most of the day. I had to take all three kids with me, but since I only needed a few things for a relish tray, I wasn’t expecting it to be too bad. Target was a nightmare, but I wasn’t surprised. It seemed that literally as soon as we crossed the threshold of the doors, Shay was asking me for some food. Annoyed, I complied and let her get a small bag of chips. As we grabbed the food we needed, Calvin started whining about getting a package of cookies, which we didn’t need. I told him no, and said he could get a bag of chips if he wanted like his sister. Instead of just saying no, he proceeded to yell at me and kick me in the shin not once, but THREE times. Yes, it hurt, he had his snowboots on. Cursing silently to myself, I kept it together, but upon moving the shopping cart again, I accidentally ran into Shay, who proceeded to go into a full fledged meltdown. I picked her up and put her into the cart and tried to get my shopping done as quickly as I could. As we headed towards the checkout lanes, Memphis found a Power Rangers Christmas Ornanment that was left abandoned on a shelf. I’m sure some other poor mom left it there when her toddler grabbed it. He of course wanted it, and when I said no, he too started having a meltdown. Thinking quickly, I had the cashier pretend to buy it and he hid it on a shelf unerneath his station. He then offered my kids stickers which magically made them all cheer up. Thank you Target worker, I didn’t learn your name, but in that moment you were a godsend. If only stickers could solve more problems.

Once home, I put a show on for my kids and attempted to lay down for 20 minutes because I now had a headache. I’ll let you guess if that happened or not. No, not it did not. Within 5 minutes there was screaming from downstairs and then crying. I had to go break up and fix a fight about a toy, and by that point I figured a nap just wasn’t going to happen. So, being the ever positive mom I am, I wanted to make sugar cookies with my kids. Making Christmas cookies was always a favorite memory of mine with my own mom, and I try to do it every year with my kids. They picked out what cookie cutters they wanted, and even helped me crack the eggs without shells in the batter which was a win. As I rolled out the dough I thought to myself “Wow this day is really turning around.” How foolish of me.

My top oven was not working. It has this error code on it “F1 E5” and when this usually happens I can fix it, but nothing is working, and I have tried everying on google to try and make it work again. If anyone out there could help me out, that’d be great! I had a chicken pot pie cooking in the bottom one so I attempted to bake the cookies at the same time, which resulted in the first batch getting really burnt and the children to riot. The second and third batches were fine, but when I told them we could only decorate them once they finished their dinner, they were greatly displeased. Not one of my kids wanted the chicken pot pie, and I was feeling so done at that point, that I made sandwiches for them and called it good.

My husband arrived home at that time, and I had him take over the dinner/cookie decorating duty so I could go take a shower. When I was out, I asked all the kids to get ready for bed and I would put on a movie in my room for them to watch in my bed. Not one of them complied and whined and made the bedtime routine just a nightmare. Finally, once I got them all ready and in bed to watch a movie, they started fighting over what movie to watch, and I was so done at that point that I picked the first one I saw on Netflix, and slammed the bedroom door behind me once it was on.

It was all quiet on the western front until the movie was over, and at 10:45 they all came bounding downstairs and I honestly was in no mood for them to be so loud. I asked them three times to go upstairs and get in bed, and after no one responded to me, and I turned around to see Memphis wielding around the dirty plunger from the bathroom I had had it! In a not so loving mother moment, I completely lost it on all three of my kids. They were in bed within five minutes, and that’s when I retreated to my bed feeling completely rotten and heartbroken.

Hallelujah

Shay climbed into bed with me and grabbed my hand. “This helps me to calm down Mommy, try it,” and she placed my hand on her belly and took some deep breaths. So she was listening when I told her to use her stuffed animal after all. Her efforts to help me were so sweet. I felt better the moment she was in the bed with me. She asked me why I was so sad, and when I told her that her and her brothers really gave me a hard day she softly said that tomorrow she would try to be better. For the next hour or so, we held hands and talked, and laughed. She told me some stories, and I told her some too. After that we watched a few funny cat videos on YouTube per her request, and when we both were starting to nod off I turned on some music. One of my favorite stations on Pandora is called “Twinkle Twinkle Little Rockstar”, and is based off of a music series of famous rock songs put into lullabies. Shay fell to sleep first, and was still clutching my hand to her. The song “Hallelujah” came on, which is one of my favorites. Altough it’s not necessarily a Chrismas song, it made me start to think of how grateful and blessed I am. Yes, these past few weeks have been rough on me, but no one ever said parenting would be easy. It’s hard, really hard! And even though I felt defeated, I needed to be a little easier on myself because not one parent knows what they are doing. I was reminded of a funny quote I had seen on Pinterest that said:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. The Mom in E.T. had an alien living in her house for days and didn’t notice.”

It made me smile as I looked over at my sleeping daughter next to me clutching my hand against her and peacefully dreaming. This is why it’s all worth it, the bad days are but a fleeting moment that lead to good ones.  I am so grateful and beyond blessed for my three beautiful kids, and even though being a mom is no cake walk I am happy to do it because of them.

My husband came in late in the night from painting the downstairs bathroom and found us both asleep still holding hands. My sweet girl and I are going to have many rough times ahead I’m sure, but she definitely has my whole heart.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Just Ask the Axis

 “Anger he smiles towering in shiny metallic purple armor

Queen Jealousy, envy waits behind him

Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground

Blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted

They quietly understand

The once happy turquoise armies lay opposite ready

But wonder why the fight is on…”

The lyrics to Jimi Hendrix’s famous song “Bold as Love” have been on repeat in my mind for about a week now. If you’ve never heard it, (and you are doing yourself a great disservice to not expose yourself to it), it personifies colors as different characters. It very descriptively paints this picture of the full spectrum of human emotions. Not only is the song great, but it has reminded me how prevalent colors are to us in our everyday life.  Colors have meant a lot to me as of late, and I have a strong belief that colors can influence your life.

Have you ever considered how great a role that colors play for you? If you sit back and really think about it, colors are involved in almost every aspect of our lives.

Making a House a Home

A room can literally be transformed with a coat of paint. Currently the house we are living in was painted in mostly tans, and my husband and I are just not loving it. So across the room from where I am currently typing in my kitchen there are three paint swatches of different greys we put on the wall to decide which one will work throughout the entire house. Even just the small paint strokes of grey against the existing tan are drastically different, and we feel it will brighten up our home while staying neutral.

Unfortunately, picking the perfect paint color doesn’t always happen. In our old home, we decided to repaint our master bathroom, and for whatever reason I thought a dark brown would work. After we painted it and put everything back up, I realized that painting the walls dark brown in a room where we do number twos was maybe not such a good idea. In fact, it was downright hilarious! In the end, we decided it was the “poop brown” bathroom and we called it that until we moved out. At least we could laugh about it.

Signature Color

Ever notice how a specific color can make you feel more confident? Or how when you are in particular moods you tend to wear colors pertaining to them? I know that I personally tend to gravitate towards certain colors in my wardrobe. Generally I like black, grey, neutral, and darker colors. I have very few pieces that are super bright because that’s just not usually my style (unless it’s a swimsuit). These colors tend to give me more confidence, and I generally feel the most comfortable in.

We associate certain colors for specific events or people. Brides traditionally wear a white wedding dress, inmates generally wear orange jumpsuits, and one in mourning usually wears black to a funeral. For my mother’s funeral I considered not wearing black, but my heart was just so broken and sad that black was the only solution. I did though, paint my nails a beautiful raspberry pink which I know my mom would have loved so it seemed fitting.

Colors are involved in every aspect of fashion. Can you imagine how unimpressive our clothes would be without all the beautiful colors?  We color our fabrics to make our clothes, and shoes come in all colors of the rainbow. There’s accessories like coats, bags, belts, and hats. We color our hair, we paint our nails, there’s blush, and bronzer, fake tanner, lipstick, and eyeshadow. I could go on, but you get the point.

In truth, it would be a whole lot easier to shop if everything came in one color, but what fun would that be?

Color Me Happy

Colors also have emotional ties to them. We can associate colors with memories, or people. Yellow for instance, was my mom’s favorite color. At her funeral we went rogue and got a gorgeous casket spray in yellow roses and other various yellow flowers in season. The florist said she had never made one before in yellow, but loved the idea. It turned out wonderfully, and looked just gorgeous on top of Mom’s casket at the cemetery. It was such a rainy and cold day in February so this bright light of sunny yellow in the midst of all of it was a tender mercy.

I can also vividly remember my dad’s blue Buick that he had when I was young. Not only was the exterior blue, but the interior was as well and it was plushy. Anytime I hear Buick it makes me think of that car.

There was a really good friend of ours in Philadelphia named Nancy Sowa. Some of you reading this have fond memories of her like I do. She was very loud, very funny, and loved those she cared for fiercely. I remember once when I was about nine years old I told her that I always knew she was in church on Sundays because I could hear her singing from the back of the chapel. I didn’t mean it to be rude, (although she did belt her little heart out), and she didn’t take it that way at all. In fact, she told me she was “tickled pink” by it. So, now should Nancy every arise in conversation or should I think of her,  I always associate her with the color pink.

Isn’t it funny how even just looking at a color can spark a memory?

Bold As Love

The past seven months have been a bit of a roller coaster for me. I wrote in a previous post here about my battle with anxiety. Through many prayers, therapy, medication, and good friends I can lean on I have been able to manage it, although some days are still a struggle. The past few weeks have been incredibly emotional and hard for me. Therapy, although extremely beneficial for me, has uncovered so many layers of myself that I have never dealt with. So, handling the emotions that are uncovered are at times pretty painful, and working through them is hard. Also the fact that its the holidays, and it makes me ache for my mom so much does not help.

I was at a place last week where I had so much inner turmoil from a particularly hard subject which we uncovered at therapy, (which I won’t be disclosing), that I didn’t even realize I was holding onto and was causing me so much pain. Those floodgates were opened and it had me feeling panicked and I was spiraling down into a bad place. I found myself backed into a  corner and not sure where to go. Cue fate.

This fall my oldest child Calvin played in a youth tackle football league, and through that team I was able to meet these two amazing parents, Cy and Julie, who’s son was also on the team. Not only are they just the coolest people, but I feel like we were meant to meet. I am a firm believer that people are put into your life right when you need them, and in this case, this couple definitely was. Julie, in particular. I had asked her advice about getting some help for my sister who is struggling after her volatile marriage and divorce, and came to learn that Julie is an energy healer. I was so intrigued that I set an appointment for myself too.

I am still fairly new to energy healing but I love the ideas behind it. It’s basically having to do with your chakras, which there are 7 main ones, and they are all associated with colors and different parts of your body. The Crown Chakra, on the crown of your head is purple, and is associated with your divine connection, as well as the central nervous system and deep brain functions. The Third Eye Chakra, in the center of your forehead, is blue, and it associated with your intuition, your sinuses, eyes, ears, and outer brain functions. The Throat Chakra, in the center of your throat, is turquoise, and is associated with expression and communication, your neck, jaw, teeth, gums, mouth, throat and thyroid. The Heart Chakra, located along your spine next to your heart, is green and is associated with love and compassion, your heart, lungs, upper torso, shoulders, arms, and hands. The Solar Plexus Chakra, located along your spine, is yellow and is associated with your willpower and ambition, your liver, pancreas, gallbladder, stomach, and spleen. The Sacral Chakra, located in your hips and genetalia, is orange and is associated with intimacy, creativity, desires, and sexuality. Finally, the Root Chakra, located at the base of your spine, is red and is associated with survival, safety, security, and fear.

During our session, Julie was able to assess what was going on with my chakras and help balance them. I was actually pretty nervous going there, and called Jess in Julie’s driveway on the verge of a panic attack. But I sucked it up and went in despite feeling this way, and Julie was super sweet and made me feel safe. I can say that when we were done, I felt so much relief. My burdens and panic were literally lifted away from me and I truly felt balanced and refreshed. All weekend I had the color purple with me, which I now know is associated with my Crown Chakra, and it comforted me to know that it was strengthened by my energy healing.

Even our inner selves can be associated with colors and it can alter our state of mind and emotions. After my energy healing this weekend I am wholly convinced of that.

Even if you think colors have no effect on you, I guarantee if you take a good look at your life you’d be surprised how much they really do. Life is much more beautiful in color!

May we all be more willing and open to let our true colors shine through.

“…all of these emotions of mine keep holding me from

Giving my life to a rainbow like you” – Jimi Hendrix “Bold As Love”

 

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

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