Friday, October 19, 2018

"I try to keep myself occupied, Even though I know you're not coming home"

The Hassells are moving at warp speed right now. I can't believe how fast the school year is moving. The kids and I just wrapped up week number seven. Benton and Parker are coming into their own at school. Their personalities are blooming, they are thriving in their classrooms and when I spy on them throughout the day I see lots of smiles. I'm smiling every day at work too. I almost feel like I'm on cruise control this school year. As in I'm not slamming on the brakes and stomping on the accelerator all day long. I'm finding a rhythm to work that I lost last year. Days come and go pretty easy, I feel great about the work I'm doing and I'm having fun.

We are all settling into our daily routines. There are even some mornings I get out of the shower and I find Benton in my chair reading a book. He looks like an old man reading his newspaper before starting his workday. Things are clicking right now for us. But don't get me wrong 3:00-7:00PM each day feels absolutely nuts. I need two more arms and an extra hour to get everything done. I feel like I'm cooking for one most days because the kids refuse to eat regular people food. So I'm eating lots of the same thing for lunch each day and the kids are eating lots of apples for dinner. There are lots of little beautiful moments that I look forward to each afternoon/evening though. Parker is quickly learning to read and is determined to make sure that we get her twenty minutes of reading in each night (she is a much better student than I was). She has been checking out books from the library that oddly enough match the interest of a little boy in her class. So we just finished an incredibly detailed book about an asteroid that struck earth sixty five million years ago. I actually learned a ton.

When we were having dinner the other night Parker asked me "Is it hard taking care of us without mommy?". That led to an awesome conversation with both kids about how we are all in this together and that I need their help every single day. Parker continues to question and probe in her own way. Benton has been so thoughtful with some of the conversations and ways that I have watched him be a big brother in the last month or so. Guiding, protecting and being selfless. He has such a big heart. So while the kids make things crazy in the afternoon they seem to find a way to keep me grounded and present.

We all went to Bend last weekend and hung out with Eric, Stephanie and their three children. Their family has become a part of our family over the last fifteen years or so. Jordan and I walked side by side with them through college, marriage, having children, moving across the country and Jordan's cancer. Our children all look strangely alike and get along great. Whenever we get together it is a big mess. A big comfortable and heartwarming mess. There is an Eddie Vedder lyric "Yeah I'm a lucky man, To count on both hands, The ones I love, Some folks just have one, Yeah others they got none". Eric and Stephanie would get two of my fingers if I had to count to ten.

The thing I love and value most about our friendship is that is full of honesty and transparency. We have argued, we have cried, we have laughed and we have seen the ugly in each other. And we keep showing up and loving on each other with grace. In that, we have all got to watch each other grow in incredible ways.

Eric and Stephanie started a podcast a few months ago and they invited me to be their first guest. So last weekend I piled into their studio (a closet) and we did what we have been doing for the last fifteen years. We had an honest conversation about what the last year or so has meant for all of our lives. I invite you to listen along here. My hope is that it might inspire you to join the conversation. The conversation of what it looks like to live a life of transparency and to meet each moment fully by "showing up naked".

If you like the episode please check out some of the other episodes and take a brief moment to leave them a review.


Awkward school picture...
Most awkwardest school picture...

Parker went on a date. No comment.

"If I had a superpower it would be to heal anything."

I might be 35 and owning an iron for the first time. Thankfully I have neighbors that like to help. 

Hard to concentrate on the neighborhood kickball game when this is your view.

The driveway frequently turns into an art gallery.

I Recently got out for an overnight paddleboarding trip with a buddy.

Being on the mighty Columbia is a gorgeous and humbling experience.

My $650 Subaru is still kicking and going on all kinds of adventures.

Just a normal gorgeous fall day in Parkdale.

Pumpkin Patching it up!

Benton busting out his slackline skills.

Bend, beer and good company. A perfect Saturday night!

A dress and a down jacket. How you dress if you are a cute girl in Oregon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

"I am sleep, I am breathing, I'm the missing of the passing seasons"

Fall (Autumn) is not just a changing of the weather for me. I’ve learned to really lean into the seasons the last few years. They have taken on a sense of deep importance. A signal and constant reminder that life is perpetually moving forward despite the direction that I feel like I might be moving. I’m finally in a physical place on earth that has seasons. In the south, it was either hot or cold (and always humid). It just always seemed uncomfortable too. I don’t attempt to separate what that meant for me mentally, spiritually or metaphorically. So there is comfort from the sudden contrast I’ve been experiencing with the seasons of Oregon. A distinct separation of the what the planet is going through at different times of the year is such a recharge for me and also a giant kick in the ass.

In reality, fall is gorgeous here. Things seem to slow down. Birds don’t seem to be in a rush anymore. They sleep in later than I do now and have already started to head for warmer weather. The sun takes its time if it even decides to show up at all each day.

The gray soft lines of bare rock and soil on the mountain have begun their annual change. Clouds come and go. They hide the mountain temporarily while they dress it in fresh snow. Those soft lines are beginning to be filled by sharp lines of dark rock highlighted in white. The mountain seems brighter even though the sun is slowly starting its retreat.

The river becomes darker each day. The water seems forever restless and unable to decide which direction it should be moving. As it churns it looks like it could swallow you whole in seconds. But somehow those cold, dark waters look inviting.

The valley begins to lose the vibrant green that has been dominating every corner of the earth here for the last several months. Clouds, fog and shadows creep in. The longest shadows I’ve ever seen. Somehow they are able to soften the sun. When the sun hangs low or is just peeking its face over the horizon the gorge and valley remind me of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Hills and peaks that seem to roll on for days and they are all slightly different shades of grey and brown. A faint reminder of my favorite landscape of the south.

Fall is so strikingly different from the summer and that scares me. I’m honestly terrified of the transition that is already happening. Looking out into the vast expanse of what is coming makes me shiver. In the same way that I do when I wake up and I forgot to close the windows before I went to bed. My fear lies in what kind of man and father I will become. Will I continue to be able to find balance and insight in my own grief? Will I lose the edge of honesty and transparency that has helped to deepen my relationships with so many? Will I continue to remain grounded in the here and now?

Summer was a time to acknowledge that I am broken. Jordan’s death stripped away everything from me. It took things from me that I thought were one hundred percent me. When the dust started to settle I found there wasn’t much left of me to stand on. But what was left was significant. It was somehow sustaining. It was/is a foundation for who I will be for the rest of my life. But the process for building a new life is slow and arduous.

I want to take what the fall gives me. I don't know what adventures and mishaps it will offer. But I do know that I want to say yes. My goal in saying yes is to remain present in each moment. In that presence, there is an increased awareness of the goodness and beauty that surrounds me.

Yesterday I ran with a coworker. The sky was void of clouds, filled with stars and the sun hadn’t even thought of peeking over the ridge yet. The air was clean and crisp. It was just cold enough to notice. I was aware of my feet hitting the pavement. I was happy and content to be doing something I do every single day and to be sharing that simple act with someone. It just felt good to be alive. I want more of that.

Always a good time at Solera with co-workers and friends.

Parker picking and grinning.
Swiney the Elder was roasted up by a buddy for our joint birthday party.

My birthday party got wild.

My first ever hop harvest!

Playing in the creek on the last day of summer break.

The first day of school picture. 
One more try.

Parker likes to eat dinner in the backyard 
Always a good time with the Molassells.

They could all be siblings.
Benton completed his first triathlon last weekend.

Monday, August 27, 2018

"Change your heart, look around you. Change your heart, it will astound you."

I fully believe in the healing power of where my family has been planted.

We have been spending time in the frigid waters of this place. Lakes, streams and rivers literally awaken your soul when you take the plunge (or fall off your paddle board). You are completely aware of every square inch of your body when the water you are in takes your breath away because of its temperature.

We have spent time in the dry and dusty woods here. Being covered from head to toe in grit and dirt before our tent is even fully set up. There isn’t much else that makes me happier than seeing my children with bed head, dirt still smeared on their faces and stumbling out of our tent in the morning while the cool mountain air calls us to simply be aware.

We have spent time in the dirty, somehow still going strong #adventurevan. Singing our hearts out to the terrible pop music my children are into while I try and balance out their taste with weird folk and hip-hop. We roll down the windows and feel the changing temperature as we drive through all sorts of ecosystems and mountain passes on the way to our adventures.

We have spent time in our backyard and in the gardens of our neighbors. Taking time to literally stop and smell the flowers. There is so much beauty in the simplest of flowers, fruit, veggies and hops that are somehow continuing to thrive in our yard despite my haphazard approach to “gardening”.

We have spent time in the chaotic and always unorganized place that Benton and Parker call a bedroom at night. Talking. Laughing. Reading Amelia Bedelia. My own little way of checking in. Seeing that my kids are actually doing really well. They are finding a way. They are a living and breathing example to me.

We have spent as much time as possible being off of schedule. Staying out late, skipping showers, not wearing a watch, eating breakfast for lunch, Watching movies way past our bedtime, leaving messes in the sink and not having plans on purpose.

We have been in the backyards and equally unorganized/chaotic homes of our neighbors. We have been getting to know the people that embraced us. Asking questions, letting the kids run wild, sharing meals and beers (so many beers). The stories are great, the people are better. What I’ve ultimately seen in the transparency of my community is that I live among generous, hard-working, big hearted and fun loving people. I’ve also seen that nobody has a clue. We are all trying to figure life out and find a balance. I love and value the honesty in the ability to have people admit that. I couldn’t ask for better neighbors.

We have been in so many beautiful places this summer. We have grown. We have taken steps. We have embraced forward motion. This season was so necessary for my family. I can’t even imagine what the last few months would have looked like if I had to roll right back into work. This summer has given us a fighting chance to thrive. Having this time has allowed us to just live, just be and just love on each other.

We are excited about the school year and this next season. We are excited to welcome whatever it brings us as a family and to continue to fully embrace the healing power of where we have been planted.


Headshot of Parker from her art camp performance.

Make a cute face for the camera please...


He was able to take home three tootsie rolls and a slap bracelet with all these tickets.

Breakfast for lunch.

The girl with a thousand expressions.

Second breakfast is the best breakfast.

Picking some awesome raspberries with a great friend.

My first sunflower!

Squeezing in some paddle board time with Parker. 
There may or may not be a naked boy jumping on this trampoline with my daughter.