Best Reads in 2016

30 December 2016

These year I read - or at least remember reading – 29 books.  Which averages over half a book a week.  Pretty good!!  Considering Andy Andrews, my Best New Mentor from 2 years ago, said that a person should read a least one book a week. 

Although I don't read with that level of consistency on a day-to-day basis, unless it's an intellectual book where I'm learning self-discovery, then I can dabble here and there.  But if it's a novel, I binge.  Once I start, my life ceases to exist as is, and I become consumed in the plot, rushing through all my responsibilities of the day, so I can get back to that book!  So I read through entire books in mere days, and then I swing back to another hobby for awhile.

Anyway, below are my author awards and top reads for the year!

Best Discovered Novelist:  Francine Rivers.  I read everything of hers this year!

Best New Mentor: Christiane Northrup

Best Writing:  Morgan McCarthy.   She puts together the most descriptive, and almost lyrical, sentences.

Below is my bookshelf of best reads in 2016:

(I also made a Best Reads for 2015 and Best Reads for 2014!)

Upward and onward,

2016 in the Rearview

28 December 2016

Well, we are now in the rearview of 2016!  It has been a great year for us, full of so many adventures and blessings!  Here we begin the year as two.  This picture was taken before we each left for work one morning, right at the beginning of 2016.

We moved into our house just before Christmas one year ago, and we spent the first part of the year remodeling, sanding, painting, and decorating.  We also vamped up our basement to use entirely as a rental.  Later, Ryan built a full kitchen down there in 2 weeks! 

And then tax season starts!  And, we find out we are.... pregnant!  And later, we discover she's a Baby Girl!

Just after tax season, we fly to Cabo with some friends!

Not yet through with our travel bug, we go on many more trips! 
Flaming Gorge
Lake Powell
Lake Hebgen
Oregon Coast

We go on many other adventures near home!  Our adventure closest to home was a neighborhood crawfish boil!  We made some new friends in the neighborhood, while peeling and eating tons of these crustaceans.

We are invited to a really important exclusive business launch.  Tons of people are flown in from some country in Asia to participate.  Ryan and I could not take this business seriously; it all seemed like such a huge joke.
Then we celebrated our one-year anniversary with massages and dinner at Tiburon!  Such a happy day to celebrate an incredible year!  A little later, we go wake-surfing with friends!  I even got out there at 8 months pregnant!

Ryan wins our ward chili cook-off!  He won 1st place in his category of chili, and then he won the overall contest.  Ryan also goes hunting and shoots a huge bull!  He showcases just one of the butt cheeks below, haha!

Meanwhile for me,
Baby Girl continues to grow straight out.

And just when I'm about to POP...
Our angel, Charlotte Rae, is born!

 We just adore this baby girl!

  Our first night out as parents!  We go to a Carrie Underwood concert!

In just one month, Charlotte develops and matures so much!  Wide eyes and big grins! 

And now we end the year as three.  :)  Family selfies become a bit tricky with such vast height differences.  I love my little family so much!

Upward and onward to 2017!  Love to all of you too.  Thanks for being here with us!

Rising Above As Our Full Self

20 December 2016


Feeling under-seen.  Under-known.  Undervalued.  When you put your full self out there, and you are received only half-heartedly, or maybe not at all, it hurts.  Quick!  Drawback.  Hide.

And it's easy to feel like, maybe I just want to live as half of myself.  Because a half-person is more accepted than a whole person.  A half person is safer.  Your weaknesses remain unknown.  Your passion doesn't rub against someone else's place of bitterness.  Your beliefs don't get mocked.  Your true personality doesn't get rejected.  You can't be left for naught.

Recently I was talking with my friend Rachel, and I was able to really respect and appreciate her because of how she continues with such strong steps as her whole self, even when she was just marred or disappointed.  We were talking about her recent move to another country, a journey where she dropped many elements of her life to take this opportunity (see my post here), and it has been a severe letdown.  And when she turned back to the people behind it all, there was radio silence.  She felt entirely abandoned and alone.  So she came back swinging and gave her full self to this project and even gave her full, best self to the people who severely disappointed and forsook her.  She is impressive - full of loyalty and tenacity - and she never halves herself into less of a person, even though other people have.  I told her the day will come will she will finally, finally be able to say professionally and personally, "thank you for seeing me.  thank you for valuing me to the degree I should be valued,"  because she deserves a lot more.

I keep my eye on particular people like this in the world - the people who never pull back and fraction themselves into half selves.  Like my above friend Rachel, like Elder Uchtdorf, like Ryan, like my friend Ashley Sargeant.  Even if the world only receives a bit of them, or doesn't appreciate any part of them at all, they still give everything they have.  When all goes low, they go high.  They don't turn inward and feel not enough or off somehow.  They maintain confidence that their goodness and their virtues are just right and they are just not being received as they should.  Their intentions are so pure, and they have such strong willpower and passion to always live it fully.  I respect that so, SO much. 

I am so grateful that we can plant ourselves into spiritual anchors, into tribes of people, into whatever sources that keep us tied together.  I believe it's so important to continually renew and come back swinging as our full self.

Upward and onward,


Oh my heart.

Baby Girl is still asleep and it's almost noon.

I am definitely mothering Ryan's daughter, and I LOVE it! My baby and my husband love to sleep, and I could not be more grateful for that.  Because I LOVE morning hours!  I love the rising sun; I love time to workout; I love time to stretch; I love time to study; I love time to vox some of my friends while I eat breakfast.  And today, following these activities, I went back to the bedroom, and Charlotte is still squish-faced, deep sleeping on the mattress.  So, I turn back around and now I'm here to blog.  What a Christmas miracle!!  Not to mention that after a really busy few weeks, work is slow these next couple of weeks, so I feel ease towards taking time to write.  Self-indulgence is an art form, and I am too keen to shouldering all responsibilities before I allow myself to partake. 

I am really grateful for my life right now.  It is a very happy time.  Just the other night, Ryan and I were huddled over Charlotte as she was tucked into our bed, and I thought my heart was going to explode.  Charlotte has begun focusing her eyes on Ryan and I, and just really recently, within the last couple of days, she has begun really smiling back at us.  Having our tiny little gal smile at us is... well, it's indescribable.  And the other night, as we were all in our bedroom together, Ryan was talking with Little Buddy, and for the first time, she locked eyes with him and gave him a huge grin.  I could hear the happiness in his voice and could practically feel his joy radiating out of his body.  So there's little Charlotte grinning at Ryan, Ryan is on cloud nine smiling back at her, and I'm filming it all on camera watching both of them and thinking I'm about to have a heart attack from joy.  (This is the recent video on social media).  I just pulled Ryan close and we held each other while staring at Charlotte, feeling like this is all that exists in the world.

I feel peace because I feel that everything is so right in our lives right now.  I really value the health of my body, both in growing and delivering this healthy baby, and my insanely rapid bounceback.  I really love my body and the power it holds.  I see my nutrition and my fitness as my highest responsibility because my body is the vessel to bear and feed children, and I like placing my health at the top of my priorities every day.  Ryan and I are also just in such a settled place in life.  We've secured our home, our food storage, our healthy homegrown food sources (more on this later), our finances, our future, and our careers.  And though my career has vastly scaled back, it still feels good knowing I've scrimped and sacrificed so much along the way to produce a career that can be picked up and quickly monetized if need be.  All this alignment makes the time for parenthood full-focused. 

And I also feel such spirituality in motherhood.  I've settled into this role like it's been my calling all along.  Other roles I've needed study and guidance and training, but this role pairs with my intuition more than I've ever experienced, and I feel a true match here.  I also feel a palpable closeness with Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, really seeing how their guidance through Gospel principles is so important for the growth of a person's soul.  And because I really, really want to provide that for Charlotte, I can feel how much my Heavenly Parents (and biological parents) wanted that for me, and I feel close to Them.  I feel honored that I get to instill a little being with God's principles, sharing all my enthusiasm for the Gospel with Charlotte's little heart and mind.

I value this Gospel so much.  I really believe the principles, and I find so much strength and peace within them.  I am grateful to have Higher Knowledge that lifts me.  And I know that the accounts of men and women who have spent their lives representing this Gospel are true.  I read the first 2.5 books of The Work and The Glory just before Charlotte was born, and I really grasped Joseph Smith's gentle and loving character.  And now I am reading a Christian novel that personifies Mary's life, as the mother of Jesus, and I am really appreciating Christ's loving and wise nature.  I know these men were real and as valiant, if not more, than these talented authors portray them to be.  I'm so grateful for their examples to inspire me upward, including Ryan's example that aligns just with theirs, right in my own home.

More than ever... Upward and onward,

image source

Happy words from a friend

19 December 2016

this picture kills me.

Kelli said some things about me today of why she values me so much. She said she really loves taking to me, especially in the hard time, because I am so non judgmental and empathetic with everything she tells me. She thinks I would be a great counselor. But even more than that, she thinks I will be a great mom because I am so good at listening.


Feeling happy.  Okay, the end.

Upward and onward,

Charlotte SMILES at me!

15 December 2016

Charlotte has become infinitely more aware and engaged in her 40 day life span.  

While her eyes have de-puffed, opened wider and wider, expanded their general gaze, and slightly begun focusing on items of close distance, I have not even removed my eyes from Charlotte once in these last 5.5 weeks.  Literally, I've looked at nothing else.

And today, OH MAN!  Guys, today, I had just completed a mediocre diaper change.  I say mediocre because excitement metrics change in motherhood.  I get super stoked about a well-filled, plump little diaper.  Yeah! Go baby go!  Juice that thing up!  So a lightweight diaper is like, meh.  

Anyway, her diaper is wrapped securely to the side, Little Buddy has her ruffly pink pants taut around her waist, protruding her incredible belly bulge, and I am peering down over her face saying all the innane things that people say to babies on repeat.  "Hello!  Hellooooo.  Hiiiiii.  Hi Little Buddy!  Helllooo.  Look at yooouuu.  You are so cute!  Hiiiiiii."  And her little bobble head steadies itself in my direction.  Then she locks eyes with me and stares at me with wide-open wonder.  

And then,

She smiles!!  

Open mouth, HUGE smile!  

I nearly fell over. 

So I swooped her into my arms, and while texting Ryan, I ran to the bedroom to repeat the scenario.  I didn't take my sights off Charlotte while I wobbled my camera around, and I still gratefully captured the below snaps of her in a matter of seconds.  Here's our moment:

What's that? You have a story, mom?     //     Ooo sounds interesting!     //     Okay, I'm listening.

 Hmm, okay, I'm hearing ya.       //       That's actually pretty funny!       //        Actually, it's hilarious!!

Mom, YOU'RE TOO MUCH!!       //       I'M DYING OVER THIS!!       //        MOM! SERIOUSLY, I CAN'T EVEN!!

Okay, stop.  Out of my face now, mom. 

Ryan came home shortly thereafter, and we have yet for a 3rd instance of seeing her gummy grin.  I hope Charlotte has not decided today in ultimatum that her parents are a bore.

Upward and onward,


14 December 2016

The pain of my trauma is lingering again.  Like a visitor who stays far beyond their welcome.  I wish I could shove this visitor out the door.

But I have little bright places and people that I turn to. There is this one local clothing store I found with really bright, happy lights. There is this one aisle at the library that holds the books of all my recent favorite authors. There is this one uplifting Instagram account. And now, one rolly little blue-eyed baby!  These brighten me up, straighten me out.

And there's always Ryan's fancy sweet potato fries.

Upward and onward,

Sweet Baby of Mine

09 December 2016


Today I was cradling Charlotte and singing to her.  She was looking up at me with her almond-blue eyes.  As I sang, she smiled.  It was such a sweet moment.

So far, she randomly smiles or randomly looks around at things.  But it's never focused on anything, and her smiles aren't emotionally connected, they seem more reflexive.

The last month of being a mom to Charlotte has been so magical.

These are some moments that I jotted down:

-Ryan walking around the bed to pick up Charlotte propped up on the pillows. I watch him walking towards her, and he has his eyes on her the whole way. His smile is SO big and full of love. 

-I hold Charlotte against my chest.  I can feel her warm fuzzy head against my lower cheek. Her soft smell of milk drifting to me. She is heavy against me, deep in dreamland. Her legs are curled up under her, just like always, leaving her little bum protruding out. I look at her growing little thighs and smile. I concentrate on the feeling of one of her arms limp, laying across my rib cage. I hear her breath, rhythmic with the pulse of her little head, subtly moving up and down against my body.  

-I love this little being so much. I could never soak up get preciousness. I would move the world for this little girl.

-I sing to her as I cradle her in my arms. Her almond shaped blue eyes and gorgeous eyelashes staring up at me. I lean down towards her, and we are in our own little world. I sing about how much I love her and how special she is to me. She smiles her crooked smile.

-She is never more beautiful to me than in the soft glow of her nursery lamp in the early hours of morning. The color of her skin is so rich and healthy. Her eyes are bright and curious. She pushes her eyebrows up, wrinkling her forehead, or she pushes her lips out in a pooch, checking out all the muscles in her face.

-I love her noises. The squeaks in her sleep.  The tiny little lip smacks when she's hungry. Her little breaths when she's sleeping. The little clicks of her tongue when she's really tired. 

She's so beautiful. So perfect.

Upward and onward,