Tag Archives: life

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:

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How’s Married Life? My Messy Beautiful

Cochrane-Moore-701“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote. Though he was referring to 18th Century Europe, he might as well have been talking about marriage.

In the seven and a half short (but seemingly long) months since we said our vows, I’ve learned more about myself, relationships, and life in general than I did in the preceding 26 years. And what I’ve learned is not that love conquers all and “I do” is simply followed by happily ever after. I have learned that marriage, just like life, is messy and incredibly hard. But if I keep showing up, keep putting in the effort, there is also incredible beauty to be found shining through.

Nothing prepares you for the simultaneous glory and heartache that comes from committing yourself to another person for life.

I like to think I walked down the aisle with open eyes, prepared for what lied ahead. “Marriage is hard,” people tell you. That’s ok, I thought, I can do hard things. I’ve got this, I was made for this. We had been together for years, so we both knew what to expect. Or so we thought.

When we get too comfortable and confident, it seems that’s when life starts throwing curve balls. In a matter of weeks into our marriage, the curve balls started flying fast and furious, relentlessly pummeling the foundation of our marriage and our very selves. From a devastating loss to broken promises, from lies to issues with alcohol – the beauty we worked so hard to create was replaced in the blink of an eye with endless mess raining down.

Daily disappointments settled into the cracks of our broken hearts and shattered dreams. There seemed to be no space for beauty to shine through.

But seeds of hope, like wildflowers, bloom most beautifully in unexpected places; taking root through the sheer force of will to hang on under difficult circumstances.  And this hope is where the hard work of sifting through the mess begins.

Day after day we have to clear the debris and rebuild one block at a time. Day after day we have to choose to trust – ourselves and each other – and keep moving forward. Day after day we have to rediscover that person we chose to marry and learn to love them, to truly accept them in all their broken humanity, all over again. Some days one or both of us don’t think we can make it, and that scares me more than the mess itself. But we keep trying, keep taking tiny steps of grace; each step uncovering just a bit of beauty.

The beauty shows up in the unexpected and wildly ordinary moments. A glimpse of my husband’s face, alive with passion, as he prepares to pilot a plane. The soft brush of his hand on my hip as I wash the dishes. Working together, side by side, to weed the garden and make room for new growth. The magic of uttering “Thank You” and “I Love You” to one another, even on the worst of days. Sometimes it’s simply those precious few moments before we fall asleep as we hold each other close, our silent victory lap, we made it through another day.

When I get asked a dozen times a day, “How’s married life?” I know these are the things I’m not supposed to say. Hide the mess, sing out the beauty. I should, and usually do, smile and respond, “great!” But the truth is, beauty and mess coexist. It’s their inseparable intermingling that make life and love honest, real, and incredibly enlightening.

 

momasteryThis essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

Don’t Get Over It

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When bad things happen in life – big or small, your fault or not – it’a a common refrain to hear from yourself or others, “Just get over it.” Depending on the severity of the situation, it may not be directly said, but there is an implication in society that in order to be strong and independent, we just need to get over things and blaze our own sure-footed path forward.

But I’m not convinced that this is the best option in many cases, or even possible in some instances. Just getting over something implies that it doesn’t or it can’t affect us anymore, and sometimes that is just too hard in the current moment. To get over something means that we turn our back on the problem or the hurt – a hurt that really needs to be faced head-on.

So what’s the alternative?

Are we just supposed to “get under it” and remain in that place of pain and hurt, continually blaming ourselves or others? There are times when staying under it is all that we can do, but in the long run this method doesn’t prove any more productive than ignoring the issue and getting over it. It’s a pit rather than a path forward – and pits become dangerous and deep far too fast.

Life, especially pain and struggle, is like that old book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – “We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to go through it!”  Through it is the hard way – filled with lots of slogging through messy mud and wading in deep water. Yet by going through it you really experience life – the good and the bad, the guts and the glory.

And that’s what life is really about isn’t it? The journey, the learning, the honesty of having dealt with and overcome obstacles. Anything else is just skimming the surface, and it’s in the deep blue of “through” that the beauty of life lives.

So if you’re experiencing a tough time, don’t cave to the pressure of having to get over it, but don’t let it crush you either. Hold your head high, be brave, and march boldly through.