Take a Hike


Things have been a little deep around these parts, which is an honest reflection of my brain and heart. 
However, I also want this space to be a diary of the wonderful things that are happening during our New York adventures. 

The days are already growing shorter and I just know summer is running away too quickly! I now understand why it is such a special and preserved time around these parts. There just isn't enough of it!

A few weeks ago I went with a few of my wonderful co-workers on a hiking adventure.
We hiked "Buck Mountain" which is quoted as an introduction to the Adirondacks (Aka: a breathtaking set of mountains in Upstate New York).
Buck Mountain is settled in Fort Ann, New York and has beautiful views of Lake George, a huge traveling spot for New Yorkers in the summer time.

Buck Mountain stats:
Elevation: 2330ft
Ascent: 2000 ft
Distance: 6.6 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

As my first real hike, I really enjoyed Buck Mountain.  At times it was steep and left me winded at points, but the views during the hike were just as amazing as the summit.
We hiked with 4 nurses, seven year old twin boys, and 3 dogs. We were quite the crew but had a blast.
The dogs and the boys were our trail blazers and made me even more tired just watching them race up the mountain.

We can't wait for the next hike which promises a little more difficulty…maybe I should invest in some actual gear? Watch out friends, this city girl digs nature!

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Be you bravely


Lately I've felt emotionally drained. I feel like my defensive wall of courage and strength has been slowly weakened in places, threatening to crumble under me.

I don't speak much of work in these spaces quite frankly because I'm not allowed to. One word HIPPA.
But some times a girl has to decompress. As hard as I lean on Joe for emotional support when I'm down, writing is a therapeutic outlet that helps me to really break down the emotions that I'm feeling.

Work has been so, so hard on the entire staff lately. So many emotional cases that we all carry home with us at the end of those 13 hour shifts.
I often wake up with a pit in my stomach hurting for these families.

My heart feels raw, as if its been thrown against large rocks in an oceans storm. Tender and easy to bruise as it attempts to heal, which can only come with time.

I believe I'm in a season of learning to be brave. I am being thrown into situations where there is no other option but to muster the courage to be brave.

Brave is:
Not knowing when the storm will pass, but trusting that it has to
Helping the weak, when you only feel weak.
Leading, when you are blind.
Remaning positive when surrounded by negativity.
Standing up for your beliefs.
Faking it until you make it.
Loving yourself  despite your flaws.
Trusting your instincts. 
Trusting the path set before you. 
Knowing that timing is out of your control.

Do not conform yourself to the standards of this world. Romans 12:2

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Last week I had quite an Upstate New York experience that ended up teaching me more about life than I would have ever known. The plan was to tandem kayak with a sweet friend of mine on the West branch of the Sacandaga river. This was my first true kayak experience as my previous adventure consisted of canoeing on the tiny pond at summer camp so many moons before.

We make the hour and a half trip up winding back roads towards the Adirondacks with an 80 pound tandem kayak on the roof of the Prius…quite the sight to see. Eager I was to expand my adventures in the great upstate.
In life we are eager and full of excitement as we attempt something new in our lives. We load ourselves down with what we think we will need and attempt the journey ahead of us with only the greatest of hopes that could never be let down, because we will succeed.

As we hop in the tandem kayak, I am in the front and Gaby in the back steering the rudder. My eager excitement suddenly turned into nervous uncertainty. I feel as if I am pioneering this adventure and how the heck do I possibly steer this thing with the simple double sided oar in my hands? As we begin our alleged 9 mile trek via kayak, I suddenly feel too close to the water and that I am suddenly vulnerable.
As we step foot into a new adventure of life, uncertainty can invade the spaces that were once ruled by excitement. Confidence has now turned into cautionary steps as we attempt to figure out how to navigate life without tipping over.

As we paddle along, my nervous uncertainty becomes anxiety and paranoia. The water is suddenly clear and the long water grass is eerily flowing like a beast's long hair. What else is lurking in the water which I am unnaturally close to? Will I see a snake? A huge fish 3 times longer than the suddenly tiny kayak? Why is the water so still? Do Alligators live in Upstate New York?
Before my questions can be answered we come upon a huge dam of large trees that are just lying across the river. I am now terrified as my imagination runs wild. As we try to paddle over the tops of these creepy trees, I can only picture myself falling into the water, getting trapped in the branches of the trees and becoming huge fish bait.
Suddenly life is nothing we expected at all. There are road blocks to our plans that make us want to close our eyes and just scream until it's over. After the momentary freakout you realize the only way to get through the tangle of life, is to blaze right through the sticky branches, carefully moving and guarding yourself from the rotting stumps that are just waiting to drag you down.

After we pass over the ominous tree dam, the river suddenly opens up to a much wider branch of the river and the view is absolutely stunning. We slowed our pace, took a snack break and commented how there HAD to be a God for this kind of beauty. My terror ceased and we laughed at how silly I was for being terrified of fallen trees in our path. I apologized for being whiney and just soaked in the view. I felt like I was truly living after what we just made it through. We dreamed aloud of a life that was so simple. One without technology, once secluded in the beauty that was before us.
When things are going well in life, we easily forget about our sufferings, and push them to the back of our minds as if to erase the memories completely. We laugh at the thought of our terror and confidence, sometimes cockiness returns. We just suffered so things should be great the rest of the time, right? Wrong.

We suddenly heard a clap of thunder and the skies opened into a torrential downpour…seriously TORRENTIAL. At this point, all we could do was scream with laughter as the cold rain pelted us, washed the sunscreen, bug spray and confidence all away. As the rain continued, those thoughts returned. What if the boat fills with water and it sinks? What if it never stops raining and we have to travel the next 5 miles this way?
Why ever did we think we were invincible? When things go wrong in our lives, it often feels like it's pouring and you are unable to catch a full breath without sputtering for air. We suddenly ask "Why me?" and those days of sunshine and beauty never existed either. There are times the rain is falling so hard, you are unable to muster the hope of bright skies in the future.

After a grueling 9 miles turned 11, we reach ground and could kiss the Earth which resembled stability and familiarity. Our muscles ached with pain reflected in a hard days work. Our minds are tired as we were catapulted through almost bi-polar emotions. We laugh because we are safe; we are proud because yes, we just did that.

So much of what I experienced last week can easily be an analogy for life. Often changing, full of uncertainty but one that reaps the greatest of rewards.

And just like that, I can check "novice kayaker" off my list of resume of life, because I feel as if I could take on the world. We are taken through these journeys to only come out stronger with more muscle, wiser with more knowledge than we ever thought possible.

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Beauty in all of its essence


Today I have beauty on my mind…beauty that in all of its essence has not one ounce of self hate.

Now think of this as a scene from Mean Girls…"Raise your hand if you have been personally victimized by Regina George yourself."
Get my point? Ladies it MUST stop…did you know you were created exactly with the 
shape, color, lines, wrinkles, shades and "imperfections"you were supposed to be created with? 

Yes it was all a master plan. His master plan
Want to hear more? Jump on over to Happy is a Choice where I am standing on my soap box and speaking to YOU today.

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If I could turn back time


Our apartment is a little more quiet this morning.
My parents were in town from Texas for seven amazing days and I wish I could rewind and start them all over again.
Family is just plain good for the soul and as I have said before "Home" is wherever family can be found.

I wish I had felt that way when I was a seventeen year old know it all.
When I was seventeen I had the world at my fingertips, I was invincible, independent and knew EVERYTHING.
Hah…if I could only go back in time and give myself a swift slap in the face.
I would tell myself that believe it or not your parents will become your best friends one day.
I would also tell myself that there will be a time when you worry about those pesky parents not being around anymore,
and the reality of cherishing time will become a harsh reality check.
I would tell myself that there will be a day when I want time to slow down.
I no longer want to rush growing up, but instead I need to ask the world to slow its roll spin a bit.

The quietness makes me angry at my younger self for taking time for granted.
Would I have acted differently if I had known I would one day be thousands of miles away from my family? Probably not, but I'd like to hope so.

1// Hours of fun spent as the Lucas Confectionary 
2// Late night taco bell after the Lucas Confectionary
3// Fourth of July in front of the Capitol
4// Daddy's little girl 
Can't wait until the next time we can get into more trouble!
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Strength (noun): the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force.

That force was around this time last year, June 29th to be exact.
I remember receiving the phone call around 10:45 that night last June.

Give me minute as I digress.
Last June we had the unexpected opportunity to fly home for a weekend, which just also happened to be Father's day weekend. The weekend was filled games, laughs and dinners with all three fathers in our family. Definitely a moment in time that our family needed, unknowingly.
A short two weeks later our worlds would be changed forever.

Back to the top. Joe and I had just spent a wonderful June summer day at the lake with two great friends, fishing, sangria sipping and really soaking in the beauty of upstate New York. On the way home we stopped on a scenic route to view the Helderberg Escarpment. We commented how we couldn't wait for Joe's stepfather to make a motorcycle trip the following spring, as the Escarpment would be at the top of our list to show Rex.

The phone call came late that night as Joe and I were sitting on the couch. As it rang, I remember Joe saying "Hmmm it's Mom". 
Something in my stomach immediately sunk. She never called this late and I knew it had to of been something bad. 
She asked for us to pray as Rex has just suffered a massive heart attack at home, and it didn't look good.

That night we lost an amazing part of our family. A part that we couldn't have back, wouldn't get to introduce grandchildren to, and a part of our hearts that could never be replaced. This year Joe's family has shown nothing but strength. Strength that was thrown into our lives like a horrific thunderstorm with a force that we hadn't properly prepared for. 

So many times we all asked why?
Why would He choose to take away Mary's love of her life?
Why would He take away our nieces and nephew's Paw Paw?
Why would He choose to take away Joe's hero?

He chooses to bring us to these hardships in life so that we may find our strength. 
In a way our family has become stronger. We enjoy the small moments together much more than we did in the past.
And sadly, we see each other much more often now than we did when Rex was with us. Master plan of sorts? Maybe.

This past Sunday we took a moment to remember Rex and reflect on all he gave us during the short time we had with him with a single red balloon. We went to the exact spot we were last year, knowing that Rex would have loved to see the beauty of the Helderberg Escarpment.

Moral of the story? Never take time for granted. It can be ripped away from you in an instant. Never have regrets or "What if's".

We miss you so much Rex, and we once again honor you this 4th of July weekend. Save us a good seat up in heaven.

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