Holidazed

Pretty much the day after Halloween ends, the Christmas season begins. Or at least in every store it does! I feel like the Christmas decor starts sneaking out earlier and earlier, and it makes me a little mad. Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet- can we just Ho-Ho-Hold on please?

The holidays seem to go by fast enough on their own, so why do we feel like we need to rush on to the ones that haven’t even happened yet? Slow down people! Let’s savor each holiday and actually enjoy them for once!

Buy! Buy! Buy!

I’m gonna be honest, I have found myself relating so much to Cindy Lou Who in the Jim Carrey version of ‘The Grinch’ so much in the past few years. At the beginning of the film, (which my kids have been watching on Netflix since like May), she is with her Father Christmas shopping and holding an enormous stack of presents. She is watching the chaos around them as people are hurrying to buy as much as they can in the rush before Christmas. Cindy turns to her father and says:

Everybody seems to kerbabbled. Isn’t this just a little superfluous?

I agree. 100%. The stuff, all the stuff really isn’t so important. It is, in fact, superfluous. What IS important is making valuable memories with your families, and remembering the real spirit of Christmas which is giving and love. I loved my presents of course as a kid, but the magic of the holidays and our family traditions were what I looked forward to and remember most fondly. Some of my most favorite memories as a kid? Going to cut down our tree, baking cookies with my mom, decorating our tree, having our holiday celebrations with our adopted family the Quinns, Mannheim Steamroller on repeat, and going to see the Wanamaker’s Christmas Light show in downtown Philly. The stuff? Although of course meaningful at the time, is all but forgotten now.

My husband and I have been trying to be more conscious of giving our children more useful gifts. We get them at least one of their “wants” from their lists, (come on we are not monsters!), but then try to give them something educational. The past two years we have gotten various Smithsonian encyclopedia books which have been a huge hit, and last year we got a huge box of geodes that they could smash open themselves. We also make it a point that Santa brings us new board games and card games we can play as a family. Game nights are big in our house, and it’s a great way for us to spend time together and connect in a fun way. He also always brings the kids each a new book- reading is big with us too!

This year, we have also been trying to do more “experience” gifts like classes or tickets to events or performances. Getting out and experiencing something to me is far more meaningful than a toy. I am in no way parent shaming anyone. We still get our kids plenty of toys, but we are really trying to focus on what would be the most beneficial for our kids too.

Blue Christmas

Unfortunately this season of joy can also trigger really strong emotions. Depression, anxiety, and any other mental illness can be exacerbated tremendously. There always seems to be more and more pressure to have the best Christmas ever. We are constantly bombarded by movies, ads, signs, and social media telling us: our holiday decor needs an upgrade, reminding you how you’re still single, that your life isn’t where you want it to be, that you need to lose weight for the new year, how much your cooking sucks, and that you have to buy presents to show everyone you love them. I mean, I could go on and on.

This evening as my husband and I were putting up our house lights outside, he asked me a question that has been floating around my mind ever since. He said:

“What’s the point of all this? Don’t you think in a way that we have all taken the holidays to this extreme and we have lost sight of what it’s really about?”

I think this is true, but that you also need a good balance. For instance, I think the decorations and lights help make this season so magical for my kids! I love pulling out my boxes every year and watching the kids eyes light up as they re-discover favorite ornaments or nativity scenes we have. The magic needs to remain, but don’t go overboard and become Clark Griswald or anything.

For the second year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has installed giving machines in some major cities around the US and the world. They sort of work like vending machines, but you are paying to give to people in need. It can be as small as glasses or socks, and as big as a cow! Your money will go towards buying what you choose and someone here or abroad will be given that special thing. I think this is such an amazing idea and gives people an opportunity to spread love.

Photo by R Scott Lloyd from Lds.org

Let’s just remember to be extra kind to those who need it this season too. Reach out to people who are single and maybe bring them some homemade Christmas cookies or invite them for dinner. If you have someone you know that struggles with their mental health, make sure they know they are loved this time of year too. A little love goes a long way.

Keeping the Memories Alive

For me, Christmas is especially hard without my mom. Everything reminds me of her, including most of the decorations I now have in my home that were hers. I have found myself this past week particularly missing her, and getting an ache in my chest as I wished she was still here.

The best thing we have done and will continue to do, is keep her memory alive by keeping traditions going.

Mom started these candy sleigh races when we were in high school when she was a seminary teacher. It was a fun game to keep her students motivated early in the morning, but it also became a favorite family Christmas time activity. The object is to create a sleigh out of candy- a large bar is the base and two candy canes are the runners. You can add as much or little candy as you want to try and make your sled faster. The names of the sleighs are always fun too. Then we turn a table on its side so it slopes down and we have heats and race them until there is a winner. My kids and my brothers kids look forward to it every year!

My stepmom has been really sweet and continued this tradition with our family, and has even started doing it with her own kids!

When I find my heart feeling heavy this season because I feel like I am not doing enough, or that the pain of missing my mom is too much, I will really try to spread some love instead. I have always found that helping others gives me so much joy. I want my kids too to understand how privileged they are and to remember to give back because they can. The reason for the season is not the stuff, it’s love. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of our Savior, not the presents under the tree. We need to remember to spend time and make memories with our loved ones, or give back to those who are less fortunate.

So, thanks to Cindy Lou Who and her inspiration – I won’t find myself kerbabbled this year!

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Are You My Mother?

It’s Mother’s Day again, and I find myself relating so much to that little bird who is searching for his mom in the classic children’s book  Are You My Mother? There are still so many times I find myself needing and aching for her and waking up on this day really regurgitates a lot of emotions for me; none of them good. Mother’s day was always such a lovely day to celebrate the woman who raised and loved me, but now I wake up and instantly feel unsettled because I know she’s no longer here. With an ache in my heart I am bombarded all day by thoughts of her that are so bittersweet.

Oh dear, I’m being a total buzzkill aren’t I? Well the good news, (yes there’s good news I promise), is that I am incredibly blessed to have many other mothers in my life. So, obviously on this day I will always honor my own mother who raised me, but today I will be celebrating the many other mothers who have helped shaped me into the woman I am today.

A Mighty Woman

When my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1996, all of our worlds were rocked. Even though this tragic thing was sprung on our family, life still needed to proceed as “normal”. What I mean by that is that Aly and I still needed to go to school, we still had music lessons, activities to attend, meals to eat, and not to mention the house work and laundry that still needed to be done. My dad was still working a full time job and traveling a lot, and my older brother Rob was serving a religious mission in France for two years. This left Aly and I on our own a lot. This is where Judi came in.

In my opinion, everyone needs a Judi Quinn in their life. She was my mom’s best friend, and growing up it became tradition that our two families would celebrate holidays together since neither of our families had family super close by. I consider them family, and know to them the feeling is mutual.

There were other guardian angels too, who helped us during this time, many in fact. I have such a strong testimony of the love we can have for one another in times of tragedy because of the great kindness neighbors and friends showed us. Judi, however, is the most prominent to me. Our fridge and freezer were always full of meals, and if we ever needed a ride we would be taken care of. Even though life was incredibly chaotic, I always felt comforted knowing that she would be there for us in heartbeat.

Even when my parents moved away from Philadephia in 2004 my mom and Judi were in constant touch. Distance doesn’t end real friendships. They saw each other as often as possible, but talked on the phone all the time. Judi flew out to Utah and spoke and my mom’s funeral, and did a lovely job, but I did not expect any less. She still to this day is always a text or call away should I need her.

The Quinn’s family motto has always been “The Mighty Quinns”, and it honestly could not suit them more, especially Judi. It takes one mighty woman to not only care for her own children, but her best friends children when they were in need. My love for Judi can also be described as mighty.

An Education

When I was to get married in 2005, I was nervous because Jess is the baby of his family and I know how protective moms can be of their youngest children. From the beginning, I always felt loved and welcomed by Kathryn, my mother-in-law. I feel extremely blessed to say that I genuinely love her, because I have many friends who do not feel the same way towards theirs. She is a sweet, kind, and loving woman who herself has been through years of health struggles. She raised five rambunctious boys, (seriously some of the stories I’ve heard are unreal), and lived to tell the tale. I admire her for her strength and enduring faith through her trials of health, and truly love having her as another motherly figure in my life. Over the years she has been there to watch my children when I needed help, to give me advice on many subjects, and to be a tremendous support to me when I lost my own mom.

Not only am I blessed with my mother-in-law, but my sister-in-laws are pretty spectacular as well. Not just from my husband’s family, but my brother’s wife as well. I am surrounded by some incredible women who are there should I need them. When I found out I was (surprise!) pregnant in the summer of 2015, the first person I called was my sister-in-law Jacie. I wasn’t planning on the pregnancy to begin with, and still had my IUD in so I was feeling extremely panicked. Jacie is a nurse, and just all-around knowledgeable, and she was the person I was compelled to call. She was there for me in my full panic mode and I was extremely grateful. I feel so blessed to have these amazing women who are now my family that have taught me so much about motherhood. Becoming a mother has been so much easier because of their influence on me.

My dad remarried after my mom passed away. It was difficult to hear at first when he told me over the phone that he was engaged, but when they flew out to Denver and I met Christy for the first time, I could see what he saw in her. She is a very kind, sweet woman, and she has taken such great care of my dad. Seeing him so happy again has been so good to see. She also loves not only my children but my brother’s kids as well, and has done her best to make sure they each know it. Christmas of 2017 as we were packing up the kids in the car to head back to our house after having a dinner at my dad and Christy’s home, I felt strongly that I needed to run back inside where she was washing dishes. I tearfully told her that I needed to tell her that I loved her and appreciate her and we both hugged and cried. I do love her, and she is a part of our family now, and another great motherly figure for me to turn to.

The Branches of My Tree

In August of 2013 I finally came face to face with Sherri, my birth mother. We had been in contact since 2007, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I knew I was ready to meet her. Since that wonderful day, my family tree has expanded immensely. Not only did it expand, but it strengthened the roots, because I now have some incredibly strong and amazing women who are examples to me of motherhood. Suddenly I had three half sisters, a step-dad, grandparents again, (both sets of my grandparents passed away before I was in high school), aunts and uncles, and so many new cousins! I met pretty much all of them in one weekend, and you would think it would be overwhelming but it never was. To be honest, I felt like I had always belonged, and instantly felt welcomed and loved by everyone.

I have always felt connected to Sherri even before I knew who she was. Even still, figuring out our similarities cracks me up, and have connected the dots on so many things in my life. and why I am the way that I am. She had such an influence on the woman that I have become even before we met each other. But now that she is in my life, she’s someone I turn to constantly for help and advice.

The night that my mom passed away as I left the hospital to head home Sherri was the person I needed to call. I’m sure she could barely understand what I was saying because I was hysterical, but in that moment of absolute heartbreak I needed to hear her voice.

Her presence in my life means so much to me, and in these three years since my mom passed away I have had the opportunity to not only continue to strengthen our relationship, but to have another mother figure in my life. I’m extremely blessed to have two mothers in this crazy, beautiful life.

Twinning

Obviously, my twin sister Aly is without a doubt a huge part of my life, so why wouldn’t she be just as big a part of my children’s lives? My oldest son Calvin when he went into kindergarten told his teacher that he had two mommies, and she looked quite surprised when at the first parent-teacher conference I showed up with my husband Jess. I thought it was so sweet that Calvin considered Aly his other mommy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

All three of my kids as newborns would happily transfer to my sister. A lot of people would ask me if I thought the babies could tell the difference. Clearly, a baby knows its mother’s smell, but I honestly believe my babies instantly loved their Aunt Aly from day one and imprinted on her because she is my twin sister. They all love her very much too.

Even though she did not give birth to those three babies, she is a mom to them. She teaches me about motherhood without even knowing it. I complain and vent to her all the time about things that frustrate me with being a mom, and she always has answers I hadn’t even considered or helps me to look at things in a different way.

I have zero doubts that when she is a mom one day, that she will be an amazing one. She has helped me raise my three kiddos in more ways than she will ever know.

A Storybook Ending

Sadly, I won’t be like the little bird finding it’s mother at the end of the book. I know my mom is gone from this earthly life, and even though it makes my heart ache and me feel all the feels today it’s going to be alright. Just thinking of just how many other mothers I have in my life makes this bitter pill a little easier to swallow. To be honest this has been an extremely emotional post to write, and I have cried (a lot) typing out my feelings.

Life isn’t like a storybook at all, in fact not even a little bit. But the way that story of my life has played out is that when a tragic chapter comes up, an amazingly beautiful chapter immediately follows it. Losing my mom was definitely a long, painful chapter, but the beautiful chapters that came right after it have been life-altering for me. Sometimes we need to experience a huge loss in order to grow.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mothers who enrich my life. I love you all very much and treasure your presence in my life.

XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

 

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Photo by Mckenzie Mcdonald Photography

 

 

 

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

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

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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Smoke and Mirrors

Scrolling through social media today, a thought occurred to me that our generation has become really talented magicians. With colorful pictures and filters, different fonts and backgrounds, funny memes and videos, suddenly it’s like “poof!” everyone’s lives are perfect and just like a movie. The finest magicians would be tipping their hats. We all like to magically make our lives seem perfect. I can say with confidence that I am proud of who I am. It’s taken me pretty much my whole life to get to a point where I really feel like my true self, and even still it will be something I am still discovering for the rest of my life. That being said, the present me feels like the most “authentic and unafraid to be me” me. With the world we live in, it’s hard to sometimes find the courage to be yourself though.

Why as a social media obsessed generation do we feel like we need to pretend to be someone we are not? I’ll admit it, I’m totally guilty of it too sometimes! It seems that with our lives just so out there for the world to see on the internet, it’s always easier to put your best self forward, and only the happy and good times. Being yourself is sometimes scarier than pretending. This is why it’s so easy to go on Facebook for example, and just feel completely rotten about yourself and your life. When all we see is happy, good, fun, amazing things from our friends, we feel like something is wrong with us and our life. FOMO hardcore.

In the time since my mom passed away, I have experienced a complete change of self. Unless you have lost someone so dear to you, you really won’t understand what it’s like. The loss was so monumental to me, that I feel like it literally changed my DNA, (I know it didn’t, but it certainly feels like it!), and I am a much different person than I was before she passed. Just the other night, one of my best friends who now lives far away called me around 10 PM. I immediately knew why she was calling- her brother’s birthday was that day, and he passed away about four years ago. She tearfully told me that she just needed to talk to someone who understood how she was feeling, and I know that feeling all too well. Sometimes it’s hard to describe to people just how devastating my mom’s death was for me, and still is.

This journey of self discovery I have been on the past almost three years has been an interesting one. It definitely has not been easy, and I’m sure a lot of my friends didn’t quite understand the things I was going through. Initially, I pushed away from everyone. It wasn’t because I didn’t love them or appreciate them, it’s just something that I needed to do. I fell into a deep depression and lost a lot of weight. I became dependant on sleeping pills to help my brain turn itself off at night so I could sleep. Nighttime was my most feared time of day because the house was quiet but my mind would race, and my anxiety and heartache would just overcome me. Jess was in Denver that summer, and initially I wasn’t going to go, but by May when he had been gone for two months already I decided that I needed to go. Getting up and leaving this place that was a constant painful reminder of my mom was much needed for me to start to heal. Going to Denver was the best thing I did for myself, because being away from what was normal everyday life for me was so cleansingfor my mind and spirit. We went hiking and on adventures every day that we could and I could really feel myself beginning to heal. I don’t think the pain of the loss of my mom will ever realistically be “healed” but I have gotten to a point where I can handle the pain better and remember the good times we had.

Today I feel like I am more me than I was before because the loss of my mom made me take a good look at what is important to me in life, and what’s not. Death has a way of making you question everything, and I did. I questioned my faith, my friends, my hobbies, my decisions, and my ability to be a mom. I basically disassembled and dissected my life as a whole. Most of these things I was able to salvage and strengthen, but some I had to let go of. It was a really good self-cleansing of my body and mind, and even though it was from something so traumatic, I am grateful for this new me I’ve discovered. I am much more confident now, I stand up for myself, and I don’t let things or people bother me that normally would have before. I have really tried to immerse myself in my faith, and also in helping others. Charity work has become a passion of mine. My sister Aly and I started a yearly donation fund, Kind Like Karen (in our Mom’s name), where we take goods to the patients at the Huntsman Cancer Institute where our mom spent a lot of time in the last 8 years of her life. Also, we have becoming heavily involved with the American Cancer Society in Utah, and have participated in two Gala’s, the second one where we were the co-chairs of the auction. I am honored to be a part of such amazing things, and hope to keep doing more charitable work. It makes my soul happy to be helping others and paying it forward.

It takes courage to be yourself, especially in today’s world. I’m not asking everyone to just stop posting their happy moments, because that’s one of the great things about social media. What I’m asking is that we be a little more real, and to be more authentic. Don’t be afraid to be you! Let’s spread some love and support one another in how unique we all are. Smoke and mirrors shouldn’t be something we feel is necessary with our identity online. You shouldn’t feel nervous to post how you’re really feeling, or who you really are. Obviously there’s stipulations to what’s appropriate, but you know what I mean! If you want to post a cute photo of your baby do it! Or if you want to post about how your kids are driving you nuts and you are just having a crappy day- do it! It’s a balancing act for sure, but let’s not tip the scales with one side or another.

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XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette

Five Minutes

Five minutes doesn’t seem like a long time. Or does it? To a woman, saying she will be ready in five minutes really means about an hour or so (and we are sorry not sorry about it!) To a kid, five minutes in time-out can feel like a life sentence, but if it’s five more minutes to play then it’s not nearly long enoughIt’s funny how time can be so insignificant at times and monumental at others.

A Glimpse of What Could Have Been

When my youngest son Memphis was born he was a seemingly healthy baby weighing in at 9 lbs 6 oz, (he was a whopper!). I hate hospitals so was overjoyed when they told me we could leave the next morning. Unfortunately, that next morning Memphis failed his heart test. They initially told me to not worry, (yeah right. Me WORRY? Never.), sometimes it happens, and they would immediately run another heart test. Much to my dismay, a while later they told me he once again failed it, and would require an echocardiogram. I was starting to get nervous, and joined the heart specialist over the course of an hour as they did a full ultrasound of my newborn son’s heart. That hour seemed to stretch out forever. Memphis was quite uncomfortable and was tired of being poked and prodded and was crying uncontrollably. The nurse kept giving him little syringes full of sugar water but it would only make him happy for a few minutes and he would start yowling again. I wanted so badly to hold him but was not able to. I kept wishing and hoping for the ultrasound to be over, but time would not yield to my pleas. Soon enough though, my baby was once again in my arms. The doctors told me that there was nothing wrong with his heart, which was great news, but he had started to labor in his breathing and was turning blue. Before I knew it, they were whisking my baby off to the NICU to be monitored, and four hours later, they determined he was born with pneumonia. We were so thankful that he had something that would be easily fixed, but so heartbroken to leave our baby in the NICU for a week. One of the worst feelings ever was leaving the hospital with no baby. I was heavily sedated to even be able to do so.

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For the next 8 days I went back to the hospital as many times a day as I could to be with my sweet baby. When I was at home I was constantly pumping and also bringing as much bottled breast milk with me as I could for Memphis. I had never visited a NICU before so it was all very foreign to me. Every time one enters, they must first go through a washing station that consisted of large metal sinks. Above each sink was a digital timer which when you pushed the foot pedal underneath would start at five minutes and countdown. That was how long you were required to scrub your hands before being able to enter.

Five minutes never felt so long in my entire life. Those red digital numbers seemed to go slower and slower as if mocking me. I would go through this process so many times a day and by the time I was even able to come back to the hospital I was aching so badly to see Memphis that those five minutes were torture.

I’ll be honest, I did some very deep soul searching during those five minute scrubs. It forced me to stand still and painfully revisit the events that had occurred with our family and our brand new baby. The importance of minutes and just how valuable and precious they are became very clear to me. Jess and I for a frightening time thought we were going to lose our son, and it’s a feeling I won’t ever forget. We were lucky enough to be able to still have him, and it helped me to start appreciating every moment I had with all of my children, and all of my family for that matter.

Frozen in Time

Not two days ago I was vacuuming out my minivan at the local car wash. As I was picking up garbage I looked inside the pocket on the backside of the driver seat and saw the back of a Kodak photo. I pulled it out and to my surprise it was a snapshot of my parents that I don’t think I have ever seen before. The weirdest thing is I have no idea how this photo came to be in my van, but I know I was meant to see it when I did.

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Instantly, I was taken back in time. Judging by the outfits, I would say this was from the early 90’s. This was before my mom was diagnosed with cancer in 1997. She was so beautiful in this picture, and so happy. The cancer changed her physically and emotionally over her 18 year battle. She was never really the same person.

I found myself wishing so badly to go back in time to this. I would even take five minutes with her before she got sick, and taken some mental pictures of her when she was her healthy self because those fragile memories that I have of her are fading. I mean, we had no way to know what was going to happen, but when she was diagnosed the cancer forced us all to take a step back and treasure the moments we had left.

Time Lost

Cancer is a thief. It steals time. It made the years that were supposed to be my mom’s best painful 24 hours a day. She fought to stay alive, and she fought hard. My mother was an extremely stubborn woman, and she refused to die until she was good and ready.  Initially when she was diagnosed in 1997, she was terminal with stage 4 multiple myeloma (bone marrow) cancer. For almost an entire year she stayed in a hospital. The doctors did not expect her to live, but she surprised them all and did. She told us that she was determined to see Aly and I graduate high school. She entered her first of several remissions in 2000, which lasted until after we graduated and went to our freshman year of college.

She then told us she was determined to see all her children married. My brother was married in 2001, I was married in 2005, and my sister was married in 2013. Despite have her second bone marrow transplant and nearly dying in 2008, Mom lived to see all her children married like she said. She was so stubborn, that woman.  It’s one of the things I loved most about her.

Her health dramatically decreased from 2013-2015. In October of 2014 they told us once again that she was terminal. But after 18 years of the constant pain, and the long list of health issues that arose from the chemo treatments, radiation, and cancer itself, Mom decided she would stop treatments. None of us could blame her at that point, but that does not mean it wasn’t heartbreaking knowing the end was near.

On Tuesday February 17, 2015 around 6:00 PM we gathered around a hospital bed where she lay dying. They had turned off her pace maker and we were watching the monitors as her heart rate and breathing were slowing. My sister Aly, my brother Rob and I were all by the bedside. My sister whispered :

“Mom, it’s okay to go now.”

My brother and I both chimed in too saying it was okay, and in a few moments she was gone.

Her time on this earth was shortened, but she held on as stubbornly as she could to get every last moment she could with her family.

Time Found

Time is a funny thing. Some days we constantly check our clocks just wishing for the day to speed up, and other days we feel like the days are dragging on. Time is best spent doing things we love, and with the people we love. For those loved ones we have lost, we can find them in those moments of happiness because they do not want us to sit around and be sad missing them. They want us living and enjoying every moment.

One thing is for sure, on those days where I catch myself wishing for time to speed up I have to stop and remember how precious every moment is. Be it an hour, a month, ten years, or five minutes.

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XoXo,

Heather

The Raw Brunette