Desert Blooms

Friends, I had the opportunity to head down to Borrego Springs a few weeks ago to check out the “Wildflower Superbloom.”  Words simply cannot describe this glorious scenery, and the smells… oh the smells.  Standing in the valley floaor at sunset, completely surrounded by a seemingly infinite supply of wildflowers, is a feeling I will never forget. IMG_8471We went to this valley the first evening and it was insane!  Driving by it’s a beautifully vast landscape, but getting out of the car and among the flowers was a different world.

The next day we headed to Anza-Borrego State Park – with the swarms of other folks.  I happened to be staying with some locals and we went the opposite way of the crowds and had these hills to ourselves (thank God!)

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Choose your path wisely 🙂

The purples mixed with yellows was just so lovely!

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Flowers or butterflies?

And of course the cacti…

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Mr. Bee getting busy.  If you can, zoom in!  

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How many types of flowers do you see…

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Look at the multi-color stems!  Looks like they belong underwater

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This fence!

What an incredible experience!  We were told the blooms hadn’t been this glorious in 38 years.  Blessed to have seen it.

God is good friends.  God is good.

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A Fall Day in Wine Country

Being a Californian, I’ve always heard “you haven’t seen a real fall”, and while I know it’s true, I do savor the glimpses I do get.  I am very blessed to live a hop, skip and a jump away from wine country, so I try to make it up as much as possible, especially when I know the leaves will be radiant with color.

For my latest trip I got spoiled.  Normally I do a decent amount of research into where I want to go to breakfast, wineries with the prettiest grounds, yada yada.  But for this trip my friend had everything planned out!  What a treat 🙂

Here’s what we did:

Stop 1, Breakfast at the Sunflower Café in Sonoma Square 


This place is just heavenly!  You order your food at the counter and find a seat.  It started pouring rain when we arrived, but we snatched an amazing covered table on the back patio where we were toasted by the heaters and serenaded by the sound of rain.  I’ve never dined outside while it was raining, and this experience alone was therapeutic.  All their food is sustainably sourced from local businesses – and is quite delicious!  We arrived around 10:30 on Saturday morning and had no trouble finding a spot.  After your meal, make sure to swing by the shop next door – Global Heart – where you can find fair trade goodies for all ages!  If you have extra time, stroll around the square, there are tons of cute spots to see.

Stop 2, Domaine Carneros, Napa 

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Driving up to this winery makes you feel like you’re approaching an English Country Château- it’s enchantingly elegant.  Stroll up the beautiful staircase and take in the colorful vineyards and roses on either side.  If it’s a nice day out, the patio will be loaded with champagne connoisseurs enjoying the view.  If it’s a rainy day, like ours was, get a reservation so they save you a seat in their lovely dining room.  You will spend a bit more on tastings here (starting at $30), but it’s worth every penny (*they offer a military discount for my fellow service members).  We sat here for literally hours, sipping our champagne and taking it all in.

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Stop 3, Oxbow Public Market, Napa


This place is ah-mazing.  The market is loaded with unique restaurants, goodies, gifts, you name it!  If we hadn’t still been stuffed on breakfast, we would have indulged in one of the tempting restaurants.  Since we were stuffed, we sauntered around the little “shops”, tasting olive oils and chocolate sauces, getting googly-eyed over cupcakes and assortments of cheeses and meats, smelled the extensive collection of every spice you could think of, and sniffed more flavors of bitters one knew existed.  We grabbed a couple of rainy day weather brews from Fieldwork Brewery and sat out on the patio and took it all in. We ended our day walking along the river, watching the locals fish.

While only hitting 3 spots doesn’t sound like much, we took our time at each spot, and before we knew it, it was evening.  This truly was a beautiful, delicious, and leisurely day.  Now, go, explore, indulge, have fun!  Surround yourself with good company, have good conversations, and enjoy the beauty that surrounds you.

God id good friends.  God is good.

Breaking up gracefully. 10 tips to help you through the split.

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First, I would like to say, I am so, so sorry you are going through a break up.

Second, you will be ok.  I promise.

Breaking up sucks.  There’s no other way to put it.   But having been through my fair share of break ups, I have learned a lot, and figured maybe my trials and tribulations may help others.  I’ve put together this list on how to break up gracefully, and I hope it helps you through this loss.

  1.  A break up is a loss.  Mourn it.  All too often I see people doing things to distract them from facing their break up.  Believing a break up is a loss, I encourage you to grieve it.  Be sad about it, cry, be angry, but face it.  Acknowledge this constant it gone, that your life will be different, and that it is indeed going to be difficult.  But you will be ok.
  2. Set a mourning time limit.  While I encourage mourning the loss, I also encourage moving on from the loss.  During my divorce, my counselor told me to mourn it, but set a date when I would stop crying and move forward.  It sounded silly at first – but it worked.  I set a date for myself, months away, and I let myself be sad.  I let myself cry, be angry, question my decision, and I did so without guilt, because I intentionally allotted time for this process.  Grieving a relationship could easily go on for years, a lifetime for some, but I believe we can take control of this. Don’t sell yourself short, take as much time as you need, but it’s worth it to move on eventually.
  3. Trust your gut.  I would bet every single person after one break up or another, questioned their decision.  Loneliness sets in, and maybe that reason you broke up doesn’t seem like such a big deal now.  You really miss them.  You didn’t try hard enough.  You’re just so sad, and getting back together would make it better.  But I ask you this: Why did you break up?  What led you to believe that you would be better off without this person?  Has that changed?  Do you actually miss the person, or do you miss the companionship or consistency?  It will get harder before it gets easier, but you have to believe in yourself.  You have to trust yourself that you have thought this through, that this wasn’t impulsive, it was intentional.  You knew in your heart what you needed to do.  And you did it.  Trust in yourself, you know you best.  You will be ok.
  4. Take time for yourself.  After my divorce, I spent a solid 9 months focusing on me.  I tell ya, those 9 months were the best 9 months of my life. I went to counseling, I traveled, I quit my boring job, packed up and moved to a little mountain town, found my dream job, I made new friends, I tried new things, I didn’t date, and I felt peace.  I filled my time with activities and people who enriched my life and helped me grow as an individual.  I recognized the errors of my ways and I worked on them.  Let me repeat that, I worked on myself.  I didn’t sit there and blame the other person, I had the humility to realize my actions contributed to the outcome of the relationship as well.  This process humbled me and changed me for the better.  The best part of this me time was realizing I am ok alone.  What peace you feel when you know you are ok alone, and actually enjoy it!
  5. Give it time before you start dating.  I would encourage you to give it at least a few months before you start dating someone, or many someones.  Even if this break up has been a long time coming, you really feel the loss when it actually happens.  Distracting yourself with someone takes away from your time to process and heal.  Pay your relationship (and yourself) some respect by not hoping into another one right away.
  6. Allow yourself to heal by taking some space.  The thought of cutting this constant out of your life if heartbreaking.  This was your best friend, travel buddy, Netflix companion, and it’s crazy to think of life without them.  You want them as a friend still – we can just be friends, right?  Let me start by saying I fully support being friends with an ex….in time.  However, 5 minutes after a break up isn’t enough time.  I know there are some circumstances where exes have to be part of your life (i.e. kids, shared property) but if you don’t have any ties, I would strongly urge you to give yourself (and your ex) some space to grieve and heal.  While it’s hard to think of them not being there, you will get used to it, and you will be ok.  I very much believe it will be harder to move on if they’re still around.  Also, maybe they need the space.
  7. Don’t stalk them on social media.   I bet, out of this whole list, this will be the hardest suggestion for some folks.  What they are doing?  Did they move on already?  Are they wallowing on the couch like I am?  Who is that person they are with?  Stop.  Stop that right now.  I think this is one of the most unhealthy, hindering behaviors you can do after a break up.  Chances are, you might see something you don’t want to see, then what?  This type of behavior, in my opinion, can only cause you pain.  Maybe take a break from being “friends” or “following” each other, block them if you need more restraint.  But give it a break for a while, and do whatever you have to do to not look them up.
  8. Don’t isolate.  It’s easy to sit alone on your couch, night after night, watching re-runs of Sex and the City while crying into your bowl of gelato.  While I support this occasional “woe is me” night, I think you should get up and get out.  Go out with friends, join a meetup group, take your pup to the dog park, but do something, with someone.  We (the human race) need companionship – it helps us through the grieving process and lets us know we are not alone.  Conversely, I think it is ok, beneficial even, to isolate from social media.  Studies have actually shown going on sites like Facebook, and comparing your life against others, can cause feelings of depression.  Deactivate for a bit – get some fresh air!
  9. Be mindful of the advice you receive.  A line that makes me cringe is “the easiest way to get over someone is to get under someone else”.  Are you kidding me? That’s the worst advice, and I guarantee that person is single – not by choice.  So who do you take relationship advice from?  You take it from someone who has the relationship you want.   We all have that go-to person we talk to about everything, but they may not be the best person to give you advice about your break up.  I ask you this – who would you take medical advice from;  your dog fluffy or your doctor?  Think about it.  I also strongly encourage talking to a counselor, especially if you’re having a prolonged, difficult time with the split.  I know there is plenty of people who would never consider going to a counselor, and I think that’s a shame (side note, I would caution you about dating someone resistant to getting help – that’s a red flag in my book).  My counselor has the same morals and beliefs as I do, and has the marriage I want – of course I am going to seek advice from her!  She’s well educated, she thinks of things I wouldn’t even consider, she has the tools to help me, and she just simply knows what she is talking about.  I humbly walk into her office, accepting the fact that I could use the help.
  10. Smile (and exercise).  Did you know even the action of smiling releases endorphins which are responsible for making us feel happy?  Sometimes when I am really down and out, I force a smile, albeit fake, it helps!  I feel like an idiot, but it actually helps my mood!  The same goes for hiking, walking, swimming, or any type of physical exercise.  I feel better by just moving.  So seriously, get off the couch and go outside or to the gym.

Friends, you will be ok.  Keep telling yourself that.  Also, you’re strong, beautiful, handsome, smart, steadfast.  You got this.  You will be ok.

God is good friends.  God is good.  For those that believe in prayer, I offer an 11th tip.  Pray!  Give God your pain, release it to Him, let Him heal you, He WILL not forsake you, you are the love of His life, and He has something better in store for you.

The simple joy … 

I was blessed to spend this weekend at Yosemite National Park – my “happiest place on earth”. Though the scenery was glorious, my joy was found in the dainty wildflowers dancing by the stream near my cottage in the woods. 

Happy 1st Day of Spring 2016

 

A day of Zen

As a veteran, programs and logistics coordinator for a nonprofit organization serving veterans, and community outreach coordinator for a park district, I was invited to attend a Veterans Wellness Day at Green Gulch Farms & Zen Center.

I listen to zen music when falling asleep, enjoy the occasional yoga session, and need those quiet moments to myself, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for this event.

This was an entire day of essentially just being. There was some group talk, lunch, exploration of the grounds and walking to the beach…but overall, not much.  Again, I’m happy to just be but 8 hours of mellowing out was a bit much for me.

Though doing a Zen day may not be for me, it was an incredibly healing experience for a lot of the repeat veterans.  It did however, enlighten me. I have repeatedly said I’d like to live out in the woods, with very few people, where its peaceful and quiet. Well, this spot was out in the middle of nowhere with not a lot of people, and extremely quiet. Turns out that’s not the life for me!

Here’s some snapshots of the Zen Center and the grounds.  Happy meditating!


                              

God’s Country: Yosemite Valley

“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir
IMG_8362My childhood summer vacations were spent exploring around Yosemite Valley, wondering through the Ahwahnee dreaming of what it would be like to stay there, basking in the sun and playing in the freezing cold river, laying in the meadow gazing up El Capitan & Half Dome, and taking deep, deep breaths of rejuvenating mountain air.  As a kid we stayed in the cabins, which were flooded and ruined in 1997, so we moved to Yosemite Lodge.  My brother and I would be packed up in my dad’s old, yellow Mercedes, and meet all his buddies and their kids.  It was the greatest experience a kid could ask for.  Yosemite is home for me.  

If you’ve never been to Yosemite Valley, it’s hard to describe the feeling you get looking up at the massive granite walls surrounding you.  It’s humbling and awe-inspiring; it’s unreal.  I try to go at least once a year, either for a day trip or a weekend of camping.  To get a weekend campsite is a bit of a challenge – as it fills up right when reservations open.  I was fortunate enough to grab the last spot in North Pines Campground for this weekend.

The weather was overcast  when we rolled in on Friday afternoon, so we unpacked and rode around (you must bring bikes!) the valley.  It was my beau’s first time, so it was fun for me to take him around.  We went to shops in the Yosemite Village, Ansel Adam’s store, walked around the Indian site and explored the museum, and wrapped up with some hot coco from the cafeteria at Yosemite Lodge.  We came back to our site, lit a fire, made some dinner (steak fajitas!) and tucked in with a good book (the BFG – Roald Dahl) right as the rain rolled in.

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If I ever get married (again) it’s happening here!

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Even though we’re in a drought, the falls were mighty!

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On Saturday – we woke up to a b-e-a-utiful day!  We woke up leisurley, enjoyed some breakfast and hoped on our bikes to lower Yosemite falls.  We walked up the trail and enjoyed the views – and debated doing the much longer hike to the upper falls, and decided a drink at the Ahwahnee sounded a little better!  Ha!  We got a seat on the patio, ordered coffee, tea and cheesecake (of course) and enjoyed our afternoon.  We then went back to the site for a little nap, and got back on our bikes to stroll around Mirror Pond and Curry Village.  We wrapped up the evening with chili and cornbread by the fire.

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Best spot in the house!

Sunday morning we woke, enjoyed some delicious blueberry pancakes and packed up camp.  As we were heading out, we realized we had a dead battery!  Luckily, we had a very nice neighbor who jump started us, and we were on our way.

I truly can’t express how amazing Yosemite is.  There’s places to stay (and eat) for any budget, tons of hikes, amazing scenery and neat things to do.  It’s a must visit for anyone!

Oh ya, we saw this guy too:

God is good friends.  God is good.

The sunset that took my breath away

Have you EVER seen anything so glorious?  No, no you haven’t.  I promise you my friends, there are no filters on this image.  I took this photo in my back yard when I lived in Colorado.  I remember walking outside, feeling like I just stepped into Heaven.  This is one of those “Awe” moments.  The world stops, it takes your breath away, makes you feel so incredibly small yet so blessed for experiencing it.  Friends, I have witnessed some amazing sky-scapes, but this one, this one… there’s no words.  God is good friends.  God is good. IMG_0389IMG_0388 IMG_0390

Mammoth, CA

With camping season around the corner, I decided to post about an amazing trip I took a few years ago.

3 friends and I loaded down my Subaru and hit the road to Mammoth.  I planned this trip around the annual Bluesapalooza Music, Beer & Food festival.  I had never been, but what’s better than camping, good music, beer and food?  The answer is nothing, nothing is better.

Mammoth:  This place is GORGEOUS.  There’s so many lakes, hikes, fishing opportunities… a nature lover’s dream!  We went in early August and it was beautiful out.  Not too hot during the day, not too cold in the evenings.  The awesome sunset shot below is the result of a fire that was raging about 20 miles west of our spot.

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Campsite:  Coldwater Campground, Inyo National Forest.  We stayed Friday – Sunday in site #55.  The campsite was walking distance to the lakes, and provided a shuttle to downtown.

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Festival:  Mammoth Bluesapalooza. Unfortunately we didn’t book far enough in advance to get the Blues/Brews 2 day – Friday night & Saturday pass (sells out fast!) so we got the Saturday evening concert.  I was mostly there for the beer, so missing out on the free tasting on SaturDAY was a bummer, but with the evening pass you could buy some brew.  Buy in advance!

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Drive:  Having never been to Mammoth, I didn’t realize how far it was.  In the future, if you’re coming from the Bay Area, or anywhere over 3 hours, I would stay at least 3 nights.  2 nights wasn’t enough – considering it was about 6 hours each way!  Woof.

Can’t wait for camping season!  This year I have camping trips planned to Mt. Diablo SP, Yosemite’s Upper Pines, Pinecrest and Fallen Leaf Lake.

Happy Camping friends.

God is good friends.  God is good.