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I’ll be Home for Christmas

22 Dec

For the last couple years, every December I get a bout of the Christmas blues.  I feel alone and ready to play Joni Mitchell’s “River” on repeat.  I am also not sure what to say if I head back to Mattoon for the holidays.  When I was in college, I would tell people I was heading “home”.  But after over two years in Denver, that statement doesn’t feel accurate anymore.

Mattoon is where I grew up, where my family lives, and where I can curl up and feel immediately safe.  But it’s not really my home anymore.  Not necessarily that Denver feels like my home either.  We’ve met some great people here that Eric and I consider our “Denver family”.  They are priceless jewels on a journey where Eric and I have too often relied solely on one another for support.  However, there are big moments here where I can feel the lack of family like a huge aching hole in my heart.  We’ve moved to a place without a safety net.  It’s completely up to us to take care of one another.  I mean, most of our friends in Denver fly “home” for the holidays.

So where is home?  Maybe after a certain age home exists in many shapes and forms.  Up to this point, Eric and I believed that someday our entire family would move to Denver.  All the people we love would experience and love Colorado as we do and move here to congregate around our goals, dreams, and aspirations; our safety net would be reborn!  Even right now, this feels ridiculous.  However, Eric and I both held onto this dream with a white knuckled grip.  It helped us deal with missing our cousins, nephews, and younger sisters grow up. It helped us cover up the regret of not being there to support our parents and grandparents on a daily basis.  It helped us push away the happy hours and deep conversations that we’ve missed with close friends.

Maybe home isn’t really a place; it’s the people.  Maybe saying “my home is Denver” doesn’t feel right because my home is actually Eric, Penny, and Jojo.  My home is where my loved ones are and, right now, that’s not one specific place.  Even if I’m sitting in our Denver living room with Eric, covered in Penny and Jojo’s snuggles, our home is still scattered all over the country.

This Christmas, we’ll be staying in Denver, and I’ll be stepping into that sadness, regret, and loneliness with the knowledge that these feelings exist due to the strength of the love that I feel for my family and friends.  I miss them every day.  But it also means that my home isn’t affixed to a permanent location.  My home is all over, even in places I’ve never been before.  After all, even our tiny apartment in Denver is just an apartment without my best friend.

They say that home is where the heart is
I guess I haven’t found my home
And we keep driving round in circles
Afraid to call this place our own

And are we there yet?
Home, home, home

-Ingrid Michaelson, “Are We There Yet”


Don’t Listen to the Demon

20 Nov

Penny wink

The peaceful snore of a basset hound.

The warmth from a cup of tea, feeding energy into my palms.

Hearing the sound of a blender in the morning; the first acknowledgement that my best friend is making breakfast and getting ready for his day.

Laughing with friends over margaritas that I haven’t seen in too long; they are truly family.

These are all things I take for granted every day.  Things that truly make life worth living and enjoyable.  It’s so easy to get lost in translation.  Too often I let the world around me cloud my feelings, judgement, and overall mood.  Too often, I let fear make my decisions for me, keeping me from taking on projects or challenges that I am interested in undertaking.

I am presenting my capstone work tomorrow at the Global Health Symposium at my alma mater, the Colorado School of Public Health.  I will be talking about the relationship I found between malaria severity and increased distance from health care in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Northeastern Tanzania.  I worked long and hard on this research, but I still am afraid…of so many things.  What if they don’t think it’s worthwhile? What if they ask me hard questions I can’t answer? What if I don’t present the information well?  These questions have been eating me up all week long.

I have finally come to a realization.  I care about the work.  I enjoy presenting.  I want to disseminate what I have learned.  Who cares if anyone else cares?

I should be living my life for me, not for anyone else.  And that goes for YOU too!

I like to think that this comes easier with wisdom and life experience.  I am so lucky and have so many great people in my life, and yet, I tend to focus on worry, stress, and other emotions that aren’t useful to anyone but my own ego.  Sorry, Ego, I think I’m going to do this on my own.

“Let the demon sit in the corner and have her temper tantrum.  She’ll never go away but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to her.” – Amy Poehler

To live an intentional life.

1 Oct


This weekend, Eric and I sat down to watch the documentary “Tiny”, which is about a man who bought a piece of land out in the mountains of Colorado and decided to build a tiny house on wheels.  It was really moving and also didn’t hide all the struggles that sometimes go along with following your dreams and living an intentional life.  I’ve come to realize how many decisions we humans tend to make out of fear, almost automatically.  Somehow these unintentional decisions start to add up over time, and one day we look around and wonder how we got here.  I’ve been thinking about this more these days, that idea of making very intentional decisions every day.

Life moves quickly.  Sometimes autopilot seems like the easiest and most efficient option.  However, I worry of where that will really take me.  Will it take me where I want to go?

I just finished with grad school.  Everything about grad school was intentional:  the decision to apply, where I applied, the university I chose, the courses I took, the professional experiences I undertook.  Now, having finished my MPH and starting a new full-time job, I have found living intentionally more difficult.

This summer, I had such an amazing experience doing research in East Africa.  It was such a life changing experience in so many ways, and I have grown to love the cultural discomfort that comes with flying to a foreign country where I don’t know the language and immersing myself in day-to-day life.  I’m still trying to process this summer and what it meant to me.

I find myself thinking, “So what now??” Life has changed so dramatically in such a short period of time that I find myself in a period of transition and re-evaluation.  I keep coming back to the idea that I really want to live an intentional life.  I want every decision I make to be very intentional and in line with what I want in the future and my values.

To me, living a simple life with less possessions has been the most effective way for me to live intentionally.  And the tiny house movement shown through the documentary “Tiny” is a really cool representation of how living intentionally can change someone’s life.

The more I think about what I want out of life, the more that little tiny house in the mountains sounds like a good idea….

  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…”
― Henry David Thoreau

Sunday Funday

8 Jun

I got a day off of work! Yay!

Wanting to relax, I went to the Hotel Tilapia and spent the day by the pool and looking out over the lake with my laptop.  It was nice to have a little solitude while still being around other people in the hotel.  Here are some pictures I took of the pool and pool-side bar!


Run like a Penny dog.

14 Sep

 The trials and tribulations of a non-runner deciding to run

I am not a fan of running.  There, I said it.  I have never been a fan of running.  In fact, I can honestly say I loathe it.  And I really try to not overuse the word “loathe”, but, in this case, it is absolutely accurate.

As someone who spent a significant amount of her child and young adult life running around a basketball court, this may come as a surprise to some of you that don’t know me well.  If I had to run to catch someone making a break down the court – I love running!  Let’s go get her!  I don’t want her to beat me!  Basketball makes running a competitive exercise, where the ability to get from Point A to Point B faster doesn’t make you a better basketball player.  It CAN make you better, but if you can’t dribble the ball to save your life then you may want to try a different sport (like track).  Basketball made me feel strong, confident, and I became a full-fledged adrenaline junkie.  I’m not sure anything has matched the excitement I felt before a big game.

For me, the idea of going out and running at the same pace for an extended amount of time makes me crazy.  Throw in four knee surgeries and a doctor’s suggestion that not only I never play basketball again, but that I really shouldn’t use running as my major form of exercise.  Thanks, Doc.  So for the extent of my 20’s I have been searching for a way to get the same exercise and competitive adrenaline that I used to get from playing basketball.  Running? Who needs it?!  Well, apparently, I do.

Choosing to go with the idea of “baby steps”, I asked my friend and marathon survivor, Haleigh, to help me develop a training plan for the Race for the Cure.  I told myself, if my cousin Jennifer can fight breast cancer with a smile then I should be able to run a couple miles in her honor.  So for my first run, I just started out with 1 mile.

So I plugged in my iPod, cranked up the tunes, and started my first run.  As loud Eminem and Pink songs blasted in my ears, I heard myself start to think negative thoughts, like “I must look so stupid running”, “I wonder if anyone watching me now would even know that I used to be a college athlete”, and “I am so bad at this.  I hate that I am bad at this”.   The negative emotions cascaded down telling me I wasn’t good enough and would never be good enough.  I finished the run feeling worse about myself than when I had started.  And I had successfully finished my run!

I came inside feeling self-conscious and depressed.  After talking with Eric, he suggested I try to run outside with no music.  He told me to go out for my next run with the idea that I’m going to go take some time to just be with myself, move my body, and enjoy being outside.  He asked me to not look at it as a competitive practice but as a way to meditate, feel the sun against my skin, and reflect on my day.  This was a new concept for me.

So for my second run (1.25 mi) a day later, I set out with nothing but my running shoes and my thoughts.  As I jogged in my neighborhood, I felt more connected to both my community and Mother Nature.  I found that I talked myself through problems I’d been having.  I gave myself a break when I couldn’t make it all the way up the hill without catching my breath.  I even thought about the look my basset hound, Penny, expresses when she’s running in the park – PURE JOY.  So I smiled.  When my run got hard, I put a big smile on my face and enjoyed the feeling of moving my body.  I had a great run.  I ran like a Penny dog.

Maybe running will never be a competitive outlet for me, like I originally thought it should be.  I’m really okay with that.  Somehow I found a way to enjoy running.  With baby steps, hopefully someday I’ll be running longer than a couple miles, but if not, oh well.  At least I will always have something where I can go out and be quiet for a while.

In Health & Happiness,


The Great Indoors?

13 May

In today’s world, it is much too easy to become trapped inside your home.  There is so much that needs to be done!  Those dishes in the sink need cleaning, and that pile of laundry isn’t just going to do itself!  Along with that, there are computers and televisions packed with social media, online shopping, and tools equipped to make it easy to waste hours online without even trying.  Now I love Facebook stalking as much as the next person, but what is the price of those hours spent staring at a TV or computer screen?  Home should be a comfortable place where we get to relax and feel completely safe.  But what are we missing by staying trapped inside our personal playground?

In the time I’ve spent in Texas, I have seen the detrimental effects of staying indoors instead of exploring the community.  Since Eric has been away often for work, I have had to brave this new place solo at times.  Not knowing anyone and being alone makes it easy to stay closed indoors and seek the comfort of familiarity.  I have found that doing this, however safe, hinders my soul from finding its happiness.  If I spend too much time in our apartment, I begin to feel anxious.  Plus, I seem to end the day thinking, “What did I do today? What did I accomplish?”  It is far too easy to forget what really makes me happy, and fall into a rhythm of sedentariness and confinement.  Plus, in no way am I improving myself or realizing and chasing my dreams.

In my short 25 years of life, I have come to believe that the answers we seek are not usually found in the privacy of one’s home.  The truth can be found in the sunlight radiating off the trees in the park, in the freedom of riding a bike down a hill, or in the look of pride in my dog’s face as she trots alongside me.  It is in the excitement of forming a new relationship or rekindling an old one that may have been temporarily neglected.  Our purpose in life is something that every being strives to find, but too often we close ourselves off to experiences and relationships that could inevitably form that purpose in our own lives.

So I challenge everyone to take a moment and ask why you are sitting absent-mindedly in your home.  You could be scared of the world outside and fear that you will not be accepted for who you are.  Some, including myself, can claim to be tired and long to hide away in the crevices of the couch. But ultimately, the joy you will find in taking a 20-minute contemplative walk will significantly outweigh the joy you would find in hours of watching television.  The grass and the birds will never tell you that you are not good enough or that your clothes are SO last season. 🙂

Some of the best conversations I have ever had occurred while sitting on a blanket in a park or taking a walk.  I dare everyone to get up off of their couch, turn off the TV (or get rid of it), and suck the marrow out of life.  In the end, taking a stroll is actually more meditative and fulfilling than surfing the web.

As John Mayer so succinctly puts it:

“So go unlock the door and find what you are here for. Leave the great indoors.”

In Health & Happiness,