Tag Archives: life

A Love Letter to My Friends

Dear Amazing Friends,

I can barely begin to describe the beauty that you bring to my world. When life is busy and the road is winding, each of you provides a beacon of hope and joy. You are the sparks of light along the way that make the journey infinitely more enjoyable. Whether it’s laughter or listening, advice or accolades, you bring exactly what I need when I need it most. You fill my soul and make my heart happy. You inspire laughter and soothe tears. Quite simply, you make life so much more delightful.

And what an incredible life it is getting to live it with each of you. You’ve known me through it all. You’ve been with me through high school homework stresses, college relationships, job struggles, early adulthood adventures, walking down the aisle, and raising babies. You’ve seen me at my best without responding with jealousy, and you’ve loved me at my worst without bringing judgement. You’ve held my hand on important occasions; you’ve held my heart throughout.

I’m really not quite sure what I’ve done to be lucky enough to have you all in my life. As life has gotten ever more complex with marriage and moves and children, I know there have been so many times that I’ve dropped the ball on being the type of friend I want to be, the type of friend you deserve. For that I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that it takes me two days to respond to a text, two weeks to return a phone call, and two months to reply to an email.

I’m sorry that I’m constantly tired and distracted when we do finally get the chance to chat.

I’m sorry that my brain these days is frenzied and forgetful and I’ve neglected to send birthday cards or inquire about important life events.

I’m sorry that I’ve missed bonfires and bachelorette parties and weddings because my babies needed me.

I’m sorry that I haven’t always shown up at the times or in the ways you needed me.

It is said that when juggling all the responsibilities of life, its not about never dropping the ball, it’s about learning which balls are glass and which are rubber; which ones will break and which will bounce. I hope, lovely friends, you can continue to bounce with me as I try to find my balance in this busy phase of life. I hope you know how much I value our friendship and would never want to break our bond. For still being there in spite of it all, for loving me anyway, I cannot thank you enough.

Thank you for making me laugh until it hurts and (ice) dance until we collapse in giggles.

Thank you for listening; for truly hearing what’s on my heart.

Thank you for asking the questions and saying the words I didn’t even realize I needed to hear.

Thank you for caring; for remembering the details of my life that even I sometimes forget.

Thank you for lifting me up; for making me feel valued, worthy, and adored.

Thank you for laughing at my corny jokes and off the wall comments.

Thank you for welcoming my babies to join brunches, bridal fittings, and weekends away.

Thank you for holding my little girls, making them laugh, and loving them with your whole hearts.

Thank you for accepting and embracing me for exactly who I am and where I am in life.

I love you dear ones…

Xo,

Court

Advertisements

A Love Letter to my Husband

Dear Handsome Husband,

I know this phase of life feels a little tricky at times. I know that there never seems to be enough time or energy or money to go around. I know our days are endlessly consumed with meeting the needs of small children, with little left for ourselves, much less each other. I know I often forget to tell you how much I love and appreciate you. I know that when we find ourselves completely spent, day after day, it’s far easier to focus on the annoyances than to celebrate the fantastic.

But I know, too, that I am still madly in love with you in a million amazing ways every single day.

The things that make my heart melt these days look a little different than when we first met. They are not all roses and romance (although I did absolutely love those beautiful yellow roses you surprised me with!). What takes my breathe away are the things that make the rhythm and flow of our life, however chaotic, feel a bit more bearable and beautiful.

I love how you show up. For work. For the kids. For me. For your flying community. You are all in and all there, even and especially when there never seems to be enough time and energy.

I love how you work tirelessly to support and better our family. I know you don’t love your job, and the sacrifices you make every day to provide for us cannot be underestimated or over-appreciated.

I love how you support and encourage my dreams. Whether it’s staying home to raise our children or getting out to write, you bend over backwards to help make it happen.

I love how you relentlessly chase down your own dreams. You reach and strive to learn more and become better and grasp you goals, stubbornly rejecting failure.

I love to watch your boyish wonder and fascination with all things aviation.

I love to watch you share this passion with our daughters.

I love how you can elicit laughter from our children with a simple silly face or fun game and turn everyone’s moods around.

I love how you can walk in and breathe patience into a room when I have none left.

I love how you cook for us and am constantly blown away by the delicious concoctions you create in less time and with less mess than I ever could.

I love how you clean up after me. I know I am a walking mess maker, and there are always dirty dishes, scattered laundry, and random clutter left in my wake. Thank you for not nagging me (too much) about it; thank you even more for silently doing the dirty work.

I love how you effortlessly seem to figure things out and fix things to keep our cars, house, and life running smoothly.

I love how you twirl me in the middle of our cluttered kitchen when one of my favorite songs plays, even though dancing is the last thing you want to do.

I love how you still look at me, after all these years and a couple of babies, with desire in your eyes.

I love how I get to glance across the kitchen at your rugged handsomeness, kind dark eyes, and smile that lights up the room.

I love how you seek adventure and and ruthlessly refuse to settle for the ordinary. And I love how you push me to do the same.

I love how you bring me milkshakes and pay the bills and watch our daughter so I can have a weekend away. I love how you clear the drains and shovel the snow and take out the trash. I love how you make coffee in the morning and do bedtime in the evening. I love how you get out of bed to help our daughter and how you stay in bed to snuggle me close. I love your rough hands and your kind heart and your brilliant brain and your compassionate soul.

I love you for all these reasons and so many more that too often go overlooked. I may not be as great at saying or showing it these days, but I love journeying through this life with you and all the everyday joys you bring with us.

All My Love,

C

A Love Letter To Myself

With Valentine’s Day looming on the horizon, it’s a time of great love and even greater expectations. We all want to feel loved, cherished, adored, and noticed. Perhaps we wait with bated breath for someone else to tell us we’re worthy. Perhaps we feel a deep sense of disappointment and self doubt if we either don’t have someone to tell us how wonderful we are, or the person we hope for fails or forgets.

But what if we gave ourselves this gift of love we so desire? What if we took the radical step of seeing and appreciating all that we are and all that we do? It’s so hard to fully love others when we don’t really love ourselves. So maybe we start a revolution and become our own Valentines. Thanks Hallmark, but I’ll just save myself the postage.

IMG_9503

Hello Lovely,

I see you there with your radiant red hair blowing in the winter wind. I don’t care if it hasn’t been washed in days, it still looks gorgeous, as do you.

Let’s talk about your beauty for a second. You are truly beautiful. Your body has grown beauty inside of it, and though you may feel like its left you a little stretched and sagging, in reality you have become so full of the beauty your body has been holding and nurturing over the past four years. Your muscles show the signs of heavy lifting, not confined to the walls of a gym, but every day in every moment in the real world. Your face glows with the joy of living a purposeful life. Your eyes shine with, well, sleep deprivation, but also resilience.

But it’s not just that amazing body I adore, it’s the soul contained inside. You are working tirelessly everyday to better yourself. You’re never afraid to question your own ways and seek new solutions if something isn’t working in your life. I admire how you’ve come to embrace who you are and where you you are in life, yet continue to rise to the challenge of gaining greater knowledge, depth, and humanity. You balance on that tightrope between striving and settling, and on it you’ve found your happiness.

And darling, how the world sings when you let that happiness ring forth in laughter!

Your joy is contagious and I love watching it bloom into the brilliance that is your daughters. They are thriving and smiling and you don’t even realize the incredible role you play in forming them into the beings they are becoming. You pour onto those beautiful babies every ounce of kindness and care and compassion you can muster. And when you fail and yell, as you sometimes do, you embrace them with empathy and grant yourself grace instead of guilt. As you flounder through many moments of motherhood, I fall even more in love with you, knowing that you are learning and doing your best.

I see you. I see you doing the messy and mundane tasks of everyday life. The dishes and laundry and diapers and cooking. The things that so often go overlooked, but that provides the fuel that keeps your family going. I see you trying to be everything to everyone and still coming up short. I see you questioning whether you are being a good enough wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I see your doubt, and I embrace it all the more. Never doubt, my sweet, the mark that your small but meaningful efforts make.

Even when you feel like you’re failing, especially when you feel like you’re failing, I still love you, my dear. Always remember to hold yourself with the same grace and tenderness that you afford others.

I know you’re tired and spent, but I so admire how you summon the energy and courage to pursue your passion and write. You are learning amazing things with each new word and each new day. I am in awe of how you get up every morning, no matter how early the children wake you or how restless your night has been, and face each day with the potential and adventure it holds.

Keep trying, keep shining, keep showing up.

With Abundant Love,

Me

When Love Is Not Enough

IMG_9493.jpg

The room is dark as I quietly creep in and gaze down at my older daughter’s sweet sleeping face, filled with the peace of a deep slumber. I kneel beside her little bed and touch her lips, pursed in a rare moment of silence, as they have been busy all day forming new words. I stroke her tiny ear, so unencumbered by the hearing aids that rest upon them during waking hours and fill my daughter’s head with all the incredible sounds of the world. My heart is heavy with the weight and depth of the love I feel for this amazing little being.

But sometimes it feels as if love is not enough.

I grew my firstborn inside of me with every ounce of love her small body could contain. My love flowed to her like blood and nourishment, pulsing with the beat of the potential that was her life to come. When she was born into this world, becoming the physical embodiment of that great love, she was pure perfection in every way, except one. On the second day of her life we discovered that she was born with inexplicable hearing loss.

In that moment, it felt like my love was not enough. My love was not enough to grant my child two perfectly working ears. My love was not enough to guarantee that she could effortlessly hear the music that makes our lives sing.

Through the miracle of science and the grace of great clinicians, we quickly got our baby girl fitted with hearing aids to help her fully experience the world around her. At just three months, her little ears blinked with the bionic beauty that let us know that the tweets of birds and rustle of leaves were being amplified and broadcast into her mind. By six months, she was working with the most incredible therapist who made sure she was striving for milestones. And strive she did. As our baby grew into a toddler, and now a little girl, she has amazed us with her ability to thrive in every metric. Her hearing loss, originally diagnosed as mild-to-moderate, faded into the background of our lives as we relished watching our girl grow and learn.

Until a week ago. I sat in the office of our audiologist following a routine screening. The room was loud, filled with the sounds of my own restless children who were hungry and tired and losing patience. I tried to listen as the audiologist explained the results of the test, stating kindly, “It looks like your daughter’s hearing is getting progressively worse. It’s slipping into the category of profound.” My eyes welled with tears and my ears rang as I caught phrases like, “cochlear implants” and “total deafness” and “we just don’t know.”

And in that moment, I was hit again with the realization that my love simply is not enough. It is not enough to ensure that she will one day be able to hear, with her own two ears, the voice of the person she falls in love with or the music that compels her to dance or the sound of her children’s laughter. My love is not enough to ensure that she hears my own voice, right now, whispering how much I love her. And my heart breaks for my girl.

I know I’m not alone. Mommas around the world hold their babies, young and grown, with heavy hearts filled with uncontainable love that spills out onto their children. I know I am a lucky one, for my daughter’s challenge has options and opportunities still; it doesn’t threaten her very existence. There are mommas who stroke their baby’s eyes, with no hope of them ever seeing the beauty of this world. There are mommas who caress delicate legs that will never know what it feels like to run through fields and forests. There are mommas who hold close tiny bodies, waiting to feel their child’s inevitable last exhale. Our stories and our struggles are unique, but we all carry with us the heavy burden that our love is not enough to protect our precious babes from their own fate.

But we go on loving anyway. Because that is the call and the contract of parenthood; to have our love live outside of ourselves. From the moment of conception, we’ve agreed to trust an imperfect world with our most perfect expressions of love – our children. This world will disappoint us, and this world will disappoint them, with the injustice of it all. They will face suffering of all shapes and sizes, and time and time again, our love will fail to save them.

Yet, our love is the only thing that can save them. Our love may not be able to provide health and healing, but it offers glimmers of hope and happiness through the hardships. Our love may not bring a solution to the problem, but it brings purpose to the journey. Our love shows our children that, though life may look or sound different than we had imagined, it is so full of treasures that make the trials worth it. Our love is the strength and the salvation that carries them through it all.

This will be the hardest thing we do as parents – to keep loving in spite of the fact that our love is not enough. This will be the holiest thing we do as parents – to keep loving, in fact, because our love is not enough.

So we face each day with broken hearts; hearts that break open to pour out our boundless love on to our babes. Raw and ragged, the wounds that ail our children seep into our souls, inspiring ever greater love. We carry with us the ache of knowing our love is not enough, and the grace of knowing our love is everything.

As for our daughter, she continues to amaze us every day with the breadth and compassion of her own love. She continues to face each day with wit and wonder. She awakens in the morning and excitedly grabs her “hearings” to ignite her mind with the melodies of life. And she listens, not taking for granted the sounds that others might miss. When she hears something in the distance, she ponders sweetly, “What does that sound look like?” I don’t know what her future holds, in terms of hearing loss or life in general, but I know that I will continue to love her with a wide open heart, and that will be enough.

IMG_9489.jpg

The First Ten

Today marks ten years since I first met my husband. A decade. A third of my life I’ve now spent with this man.

img_0389

When I think back to that fateful night ten years ago, it feels like the time that’s passed is both a lifetime and a blink. In the span of the last decade there have been countless moments and memories that have shifted and shaped us, both individually and as a couple. We’ve grown up and grown out of bad habits and grown into ourselves and grown together. The evolution of it all is wondrous.

There was the beginning. There was the late night with too many drinks and bad dance moves and his irresistible dark eyes and sweet crooked smile. There was our first date. My sick day off work and my warnings of being contagious and his reckless abandon as he kissed me anyway. There was my move halfway across the world and the awkwardness of saying goodbye to something that was still nothing. There was the crushing loneliness of knowing no one in a new land and spending hours at a European Internet cafe just hoping I could connect with him. There were entire nights spent chatting online because we were young and had all the time and energy in the world to burn. And thousands of miles couldn’t dim our spark. There was him flying halfway across the world to visit me. The glimpse of a familiar stranger in a foreign place. There was the love that sprouted as we traversed new territory, even though we weren’t yet brave enough to give it a name.

There were the adventures. Oh, the adventures! There were the 7 countries we trekked through, devouring food and culture and experiences and laughable moments. There were the countless states across this great nation, stretching from the southern tip of Florida to the furthest reaches of Alaska, upon which we’ve made our small but meaningful marks. There were planes, trains, and automobiles; and mopeds, gondolas, and donkeys too. There were missed trains and sleeping outside on station benches. Or airport floors. There were broken bones and crutching over cobblestone. There was the warmth of the Grecian sun kissing our skin and the chill of ancient ice glistening on a glacier. There were alligators and pythons and orcas and eagles. There were mountains climbed and vistas viewed. There was the magnificent flying, just the two of us soaring  high above lakes and rivers, hills and valleys. The most unique and beautiful way to experience this gorgeous Earth. There were more places and people and experiences that have taken our breath away as we’ve explored the world together over these first ten years than I could ever hope for in a lifetime.

There were the places we came home to. There was Maryland and DC, Florida and Tennessee, and now Illinois. There were crowded college houses and quaint city apartments. A tiny travel trailer and abodes shared with relatives. A house covered with dog hair and a home filled with all the joys and messes of children. There’s our conflicting zest for more travel and adventure mixed with our fervent desire to settle somewhere we love.

There were the leaps of faith. The jobs left and the passions pursued. There were the foolish but fun choices and and the vehement refusals to live according to someone else’s plan. There were the moves and the upheaval; the packing and the unpacking. There was the striking out on our own and encouraging the other to blaze their own unique trail. There was the catching each other when we fell and supporting each other when we floundered. There is the seemingly reckless but ultimately unwavering faith we have in one another to pursue our best lives; together.

There were the life transitions and momentous milestones. The moving in together and rearranging our lives for one another. The walking down the aisle and rings exchanged and vowing to love each other for the rest of this life. There was the heartwarming joy of growing new lives together and welcoming our children into this world. There was the heartbreaking grief of shepherding life out of this world and figuring out how to go on living.

And there were the heavy and hard times. More than we’d probably care to admit. There were the dreams shattered and hearts broken. There were the harsh words spoken and tears brought forth. The blame and shame and resentment and restitution. There was the bickering and the fighting. The honest miscommunications and the blatant bitterness. There was the questioning of whether this relationship could be or should be. The wondering if we were broken, and if we could be repaired.

Then there was the learning. The learning how to give and how to take. The compromising. There was the pushing and pulling to bring out the best in each other. The seeing through the broken cracks to discover new light in the other. The calling out of that light and trusting the person and the process. There was the embracing what truly matters and letting go of the rest. There was the realization that we’re in this for the long haul so we have to put in the effort, because nothing good ever comes without a little (or a lot) of work.

And there was, and of course still is, the love. Always the love, ever evolving. First burning hot and fast under the guise of desire. Then steadfast and righteous and ardent, followed by raw and vulnerable and real. Now all of those things combined, faded slightly in intensity, into the comfortable commitment that comes from spending a decade together. Strong and steady and simple. There were the small seemingly insignificant daily acts that formed the love song of our life. There were the million moments when we chose us and chose love, when we could have chosen something different.

There is the now. There are the sleepless nights that a decade ago were spent drinking or dancing or talking and now are spent caring for sick children. There are the soothing messages with scented lotion that have been replaced by the tender smoothing of vapor rub on our always sick and tired bodies. There are the beautiful babies and jubilant laughter and simple pleasures. There are the heavy burdens of responsibilities that accompany adulthood, and especially parenthood, and the effort not to let them consume us. There are the extraordinary joys we’re creating that often go overlooked in our ordinary life. There is the continual choosing, every day, to love one another and to carry onward on this well worn but still entirely unpredictable path together.

Here’s to the next ten, and the many more to follow.

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 1.28.12 PM

Small Gratitudes

It’s the month of Thanksgiving. The time of year when we see grocery store aisles brimming with turkey and stuffing and Facebook feeds filling with daily reminders of gratitude. Many people partake in a lovely tradition where they record and post one thing they are thankful for each day during the month of November. I think this is a beautiful practice, but I’ve never been able to maintain it with any consistency. You see, I’m woefully forgetful and far too easily distracted, so I make it to about day three before my efforts begin to taper off.

Instead, I decided to practice a day of gratitude. Rather than finding 30 things I’m thankful for over the course of the month, I decided to challenge myself to find 30 things to be thankful for in a single ordinary day. The thing is, its in the ordinary, the mundane of everyday life, that we can often find the extraordinary. But we must be willing to slow down, shift our perspective, and notice.

These are just a few of the many magical moments sprinkled throughout my day that often go overlooked, but for which I am so thankful:

IMG_9311

1. Tiny baby fingers grasping my arm and snuggling warm in bed in the dark and cold of the early morning.

2. The magic of a toddler growing in independence. Getting out of bed and going to the bathroom by herself and amazing us with what she’s learning every day.

3. My husband going in just a little late to work so he can share breakfast with our family.

4. The all too loud sounds and overwhelming mayhem in the morning that mean our house is bursting with life.

5. A warm cup of coffee with a perfect swirl of cream and just the right amount of sweetness.

6. A baby who stops nursing just to look up at me with the most gorgeous gummy grin.

7. The music of little pots and pans clanging together in a play kitchen.

8. My daughters sitting on the kitchen floor, without caring how dirty it is, playing joyfully together.

9. The cold damp air on my cheeks as we head out for a misty morning walk.

10. Moving my body and stretching my legs as I breathe in the peace of the outdoor world.

11. The smell of fall. Not of artificial pumpkin spice, but of peaty fallen leaves and dewy grass.

12. The wonder of a child discovering an acorn or a worm on a walk in the park.

13. How excited the dog gets to see a squirrel. Tongue out, tail wagging wildly as she can barely contain her fierce energy.

14. Conversations with a neighbor. Dreaming together of exotic vacations with sunny skies and sandy beaches.

15. A friend getting my toddler a cup of water at storytime since my hands are so full and my mind is so frenzied.

16. The most caring librarians who always remember the children’s names, have the patience of saints, and engage the kids in such fun programs.

17. A kind compliment from a stranger telling me I’m handling my children so gracefully when in that moment I feel the exact opposite.

18. A hot meal out shared with my daughter, which feels like such a special indulgence, as we smile at each other across pot roast and mac & cheese.

19. The luxury of being able to buy groceries and feed my family.

20. Running through cold rain and climbing into a warm car to escape it.

21. An easy nap time. The rare and beautiful gift of my toddler drifting off to sleep without a battle.

22. The quiet and sacred breathing of both children sleeping simultaneously.

23. A meal eaten in silence and solitude. And consumed in one sitting.

24. A baby who won’t stay asleep without me nestled beside her, because it means I have no choice but to take a much needed break.

25. My daughters entertaining themselves and each other as they play so I can cook dinner in relative peace.

26. The warmth of a bear hug from my husband when he walks through the door.

27. Dancing while cleaning the kitchen as my girls stare at me with wide eyes and big smiles.

28. Little wet footprints on the floor after my daughter climbs out of the bath.

29. The sweet smell of clean babes with wet hair and snuggly pajamas.

30. The even sweeter taste of chocolate devoured after the kids are asleep.

FullSizeRender.jpg

In the noticing of these little sparks of joy, the day actually felt so much more peaceful, happy, and slightly magical. Each challenge I met throughout the day provided an opportunity to look for the positive. The seeking was like a reset button, reminding me to step back and gain perspective.

While none of my moments were anything earth shattering or momentous, they were glimpses of the happiness that can often be overshadowed by busy schedules and grocery store meltdowns and sticky floors. They are the small wonders that lie between the mess of daily life, which at the end of the day is what its all about.

As one of my very favorite quotes by one of my very favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, reminds me:

“Maybe life doesn’t get any better than this, or any worse, and what we get is just what we’re willing to find: small wonders, where they grow.”

Wanderlust & Adventures Ahead

This past weekend while visiting the lovely Pleasanton Goods in Paris, Kentucky for my cousin’s baby shower, my eye caught sight of a beautiful magazine. I was instantly drawn in by a single caption on the cover.

Folk 1

Wander.  Defined as to “walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way,” wander is one of my favorite words and activities. Intrigued, I picked up the magazine and, flipping to the back cover, found the most wonderful quote.

Folk 2

Yes. Yes. Yes. If I were to choose a life mantra, that might just be it.

While the love of wandering is always close to my heart; this quote, this idea, resonates with me even more in my current phase of life. Because, well, I’m doing it again. Quitting my job, that is, to take off on another grand adventure. Taking that leap of faith to live free and ready to wander.

Last time it was South Florida, so this time we’re going for the extreme opposite: Alaska. Since we’re older and wiser now, this trek comes with a little more foresight, in the form of a job. Andrew’s job offered him an unparalleled opportunity to do work in various regions throughout the 49th state and, fortunately, he was willing and able to respond with a resounding yes. The only caveat was, I wasn’t letting him go alone. No way was I going to miss out on an opportunity to explore the final frontier of American wilderness.

So we decided that Andrew would finish up the first leg of his work in the the tiny town of Unalakleet before I head up on to meet him in the comparatively populous Fairbanks. Once he finishes up another week of work there we’re off to, well, wander. Denali, the Kenai Peninsula, Homer, and Seward are just a few of the spots we hope to hit, but really it’s up to wherever the open road (or sky or sea) takes us.

As great as it is to have a plan sometimes, especially when traveling on a timeline or budget and trying to fit everything in; I believe there is something even more blissful about not having a plan. Allowing a trip, or life in general to become it’s own adventure.

I realize that we can’t all take off on an Alaskan voyage, as I feel simultaneously blessed that my life currently allows me this opportunity but also acutely aware that my days of flying to a far off land to spend a month are quickly coming to a close. Still, I don’t think adventure has to be limited to grand journeys.

As I flipped through the pages of that beautiful Folk magazine I picked up, I found that Tyler Axtell had already worded this very idea so eloquently in his article:

“Adventure is not just about physically traveling to the unknown. I think that the underlying truth of all adventures is that it draws a boundary, a line in the sand. We get to choose whether to cross it. I think that adventurous living can take place in locations other than the mountains or woods or overseas (although these adventures are highly encouraged). I believe it is a lifestyle choice, just as much as it is for someone who only purchases ethical, organic, handmade goods. So, too, the life of adventure can be chosen.”

Wherever you are in your life or in this world, don’t ignore that adventurous spirit within. The world is just waiting for wanderers like us.

A Lasting Legacy

If you’ve ever met a Cochrane, you’ve probably very quickly learned a few things about us. We’re strong and stubborn, honest and opinionated, kind-hearted and determined. No matter how different we are or how many thousands of miles separate us we share these traits; like a common thread weaving together various pieces of fabric to create a beautiful quilt to provide warmth and comfort. That’s family.

In the Cochrane family, the weaver of our unique tapestry was my grandmother Louise. More commonly known as Grandma Cochrane, she was the family matriarch.

Grandma

Just over a week before Grandma Cochrane passed away, I visited her briefly. Andrew and I were late – a mortal sin in Grandma’s book since any number of catastrophes could have befallen us and “why would you keep your grandmother waiting and worried?” As I embraced her, she released a sigh of relief at our safety and a smile curled on her lips at the joy of being with family. She was perfectly dressed, hair and makeup done, ready to go a party. We were there to pick up a chair for my desk – an old wooden ladder-back chair given to her and my late Grandpa George by his parents as a wedding gift. Grandma was in a rush, anxious to get to her event and even more anxious to get us on the road before dark. In the hustle though, she paused and looked at the chair longingly, saying “I can still see George sitting in that chair…” As I stood there with my husband, I couldn’t imagine what it was like for my Grandma to have outlived her love by more than three decades. In that moment it was as if she was saying it was time – time to go home to her husband, finally.

Though Grandma was nearly 93, she was feisty as anything and sharp as a tack, so none of us could have predicted that the end was imminent.  But life doesn’t grant you the ability to predict the future. After a quick series of events Grandma lay surrounded by her three children, filling the room with love, as she breathed her last breath.

As I sit now in this Cochrane heirloom of a chair, strong and sturdy supporting me, I remember what it means to be a family. Grandma and Grandpa Cochrane are the foundation upon which our family is built. They labored throughout their lives to create this strong and sturdy support system, which continues to grow and flourish with each new marriage, each new birth. And though it is with heavy heart that we say goodbye to Grandma, our essential key-stone, we don’t have to look any further than each other – Judy and John and Scott, Chip and Ashley and Elizabeth and Courtney and Katie and Wesley, Barbara and Kim and Cameron and Andrew and Landon and Greg – to see that she is still here. Pieces of Grandma live on in each of us. So we celebrate this – her beautiful life and her immortal legacy.

Cochrane-Moore-556 Cochrane-Moore-963

 

Happy Birthday to Me!

I love birthdays. I love the joy and anticipation and celebration. I love the idea that every single year, every single person gets a day to celebrate the simple fact that they were born into existence. I also love cake.

20140613-160828-58108858.jpg

My love for birthdays was born at a young age. My first memories of birthday joy surrounded my third birthday. In the summer of 1990, I was a vivacious little lady. I wore my yellow “pearls” and purple sunglasses with confidence, rocking my shaggy red-headed bowl-cut like it was nobody’s business. And there was one thing I loved more than anything else in the world – the Happy Birthday song. I would pester my parents to sing it to me throughout the day, and when they tired of my birthday enthusiasm, I would take up the task and sing “Happy Birthday” to myself.  At the risk of sounding like a self absorbed child, I truly believed that there was no greater day than June 14th.

20140613-161047-58247670.jpg

For many, it seems that the magic of birthdays dwindles as they grow older. Instead of celebrating this joyful occasion, I often hear others dwell on what they haven’t yet accomplished, lament the fact they are another year older, and complain that their looks, health, or life aren’t what they used to be.

But why does getting older have to be viewed as a bad thing?

Each year I live is another year I learn. With each passing year I gain infinitely more experience and wisdom. I’m smarter than I was at 5, happier than I was at 15, and wiser than I was at 25. Though my life may be another year shorter on June 14th, it’s also another year richer; which I think is a worthwhile trade-off.

Wrinkles and gray hairs are the beautiful battle wounds of adventure – of a life well lived. Scrapes and scars mark lessons learned. And another year older is a whole new story to tell. So I celebrate getting to live this amazing life.

I know I’m still young, and there may come a day when I view my age as a negative. My body may start to fail me. The view of life ahead may seem short. But I hope even then, when my birthday rolls around, I can still pause to appreciate all that life has offered me. If my life thus far is any indication, there will be oh-so-much to celebrate.

20140613-163904-59944933.jpg

For the Love of Travel

I’m not generally one for celebrity advice, but when Bill Murray waltzed into a Charleston bachelor party this past weekend, he shared some words of wisdom I wholeheartedly agree with. When asked for tips on finding lasting love, Mr. Murray responded:

“If you have someone that you think is The One, don’t just sort of think in your ordinary mind, ‘Okay, let’s pick a date. Let’s plan this and make a party and get married.’ Take that person and travel around the world. Buy a plane ticket for the two of you to travel all around the world, and go to places that are hard to go to and hard to get out of. And if when you come back to JFK, when you land in JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, get married at the airport.”

Six years ago to the day, long before Bill touted it, I did just that. On May 29, 2008 I was on a plane from Germany bound for Athens, Greece. Waiting on the other end of that flight was a boy I barely knew; a boy I had met just weeks before leaving for a semester of studying abroad. We were still “just friends,” or so we thought. Friends who were wildly attracted to each other; friends who stayed up late nights waiting to coordinate time zones in the hope of a brief chat; friends who would cross an ocean to see one another when they had spent more time apart than together.

On that day six years ago, as we saw each other for the first time in months, our hearts raced nervously in anticipation of so much more than friendship. When our eyes met across the airport, we recognized in each other an as-yet-unexplored commonality. So we set off to explore it together.

athens

Here I must stop and and point out a key distinction in Bill Murray’s advice. Notice he did not say if you want to make sure you’ve found the one, go lay on a beach together and drink margaritas. He said go travel together, to difficult places. Why? Because it’s easy to fall in love on a vacation with no worries, but what cements love and companionship is putting yourselves (and each other) through the paces of a true travel experience.

As we set off to explore Athens – a city we didn’t know with a language we didn’t speak – lugging our suitcases in hundred degree heat, we learned the value of teamwork. When Andrew broke his foot on day two in Santorini, we learned to show care and compassion towards each other. In our dependence on one another to carry the load (literally) and make it to our next destination, we learned the give and take of relationships – relying on the other’s strengths and supporting their weaknesses. Through missed trains, nights sleeping on a bench (or train or boat), new places, unfamiliar people, and hours spent walking (or crutching) around Europe just trying to figure out where we were going, we learned patience and persistence.

At the time I didn’t realize that we were learning all these crucial lessons. I didn’t even realize that we were falling in love. All I knew was that we were determined to keep moving forward; and that despite the difficulties, it was the best time I’d ever had.

As the trip came to a close, we were exhausted and broke, but connected in a way that I don’t think would have been possible without our trials of traveling. While we didn’t go back and get married at the airport immediately (though my husband would have loved an airport wedding), we had taken that first leap towards togetherness. In the six years Andrew and I have spent together since that fateful day in Athens, many more adventures have ensued and they have all led me to this important conclusion:

Some of the greatest things in life – love and travel – will test you endlessly, but they will also bring more joy and richness to your world than you could ever imagine.

sunset