Tag Archives: love

Happy Hygge-Days!

Christmas may have come and gone, but the long, cold winter still stretches endlessly in front of us. We have sixty more days of this snowy season, to be exact. People love to hate winter; complaining about the cold seems to be a favorite national pastime. And I get it. I live in Chicago, so when it comes to winter weather we have plenty to complain about. Our winter is not limited to December through March; we remain firmly bundled from October to May, or even beyond. When it snows here, it doesn’t just stick around for a day or two before being plowed or melting away, the white stuff fades to a dingy grey and becomes a permanent fixture for weeks. And it’s not uncommon to have days on end where temperatures hover in the single digits and even the sunshine decides it’s too frigid to make an appearance. Yes, I know the hardships of winter through and through.

Yet, I still kind of love winter.

Why? Because as I watch the snow fall quietly outside my window, blanketing the world anew, I can’t help but let the beauty and magic of it seep right into my soul. Then, as I look back inside our little house, I can’t help but be overcome by the love and warmth and togetherness that fills our home. There is an inexplicable feeling of coziness that comes from snuggling close with those I love most while the cold winds rage outside.

This warm-hearted feeling of coziness, I’ve discovered, has a name. It’s a Danish concept known as “hygge” (pronounced hoo-ga), and while there’s no direct English translation, according to the website Hygge House, the word is used to describe “a feeling or moment, either alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary, as cozy, charming, and special.” Basically, hygge boils down to slowing down, enjoying the simple pleasures, creating intimacy, and being present in the ordinary moments of life. The Danes created hygge as a means of surviving the cold and dark of their own harsh winters; and something has to be said for a nation that weathers one of the worst winter climates, yet still consistently produces some of the world’s happiest people.

The idea of hygge, and embracing a more “hyggeligt” lifestyle of slower days and greater appreciation, has truly transformed the way I feel about this admittedly cold and dreary and sometimes limiting season. As freezing temperatures and swirling snow have swept across much of the nation this week, reaching all the way down to my friends in southern states, I thought I’d share ten tips for adding a little more hygge to your life and warmth to your home.

1. Light a Candle   Lighting candles is perhaps the most essential element in the Danish art of creating hygge. The soft peaceful glow that comes when you dim the bright overhead lights and spark a small wick brings instant warmth, calm, and closeness. I find myself captivated by the delicate dance of the tiny flame, and the intimacy it ignites inspires ideas and conversations. Conveniently, lighting a candle also happens to be the easiest thing you could do to up the hygge in your house. Most of us have a couple (or a couple dozen) spare candles lying around the house and an old set of matches tucked away in the bathroom. Dig them out, light them up, and enjoy the beautiful burn. My husband, in fact, became the unwitting cultivator of hygge in this regard. A couple months ago, as he grew increasingly annoyed at the unused candles that sat around our house creating more clutter, he started burning them religiously. As soon as he walks in the door, he lights a candle in our kitchen. His motivation, however, is more purposeful and less hyggeligt – he hopes that by burning the candles, we can finally get rid of them once they’re extinguished. Alas, new candles will always find a way to sneak in and add a little hygge to our home.

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2. Wear All the Wool   Wool clothing has become a recent obsession of mine, and quite frankly a necessity living in such a cold climate. This Christmas, approximately seventy-five percent of our gifts were something wooly. Our children got wool base layers and pants, my husband got wool socks, and I received a comfy wool shirt and the most incredible wool slippers. My husband and I joked that we should just become sheep farmers with the amount of money we’ve spent on woolen items. But really, it’s the perfect winter fabric – natural and renewable, moisture wicking and odor resistant, soft and comfortable, but above all, insanely warm. For padding around the house, slip on a cozy wool sweater, leggings, and the thickest wool socks. If you feel like venturing outdoors, simply throw on some boots and a coat and you’re ready to go. There are few things cozier than clothing yourself like a sheep.

3. Indulge in Comfort Food and Drink   Break out you crock pots and Dutch ovens, it’s soup and stew season! I’m all for a good juice cleanse, but I think I’ll save it for the heat of the summer when I can’t even stomach a hearty meal. Right now, though, bring on the beef and potatoes, the roasted veggies and the rich gravies, the steamy soups and creamy sides. Besides, I like to tell myself, my body needs all those extra fats to keep warm… I’m just trying to save on our heating bill! Truthfully, there are few aromas I love more than a roast that simmers all day, enhancing in intensity as the day wears on and the flavors combine. By the time the sun sinks below the horizon, at 4:00 pm, you have a delicious meal ready to fill the bodies and souls of your household as you gather around the dinner table.

When it comes to drinks, you can choose the route of numbing the bitterness of the season with alcohol, but I find that I’m feeling numb enough already with all this cold. Instead, I crave something that will warm me up and ignite the flames within me. I want to sip something that will stimulate my senses and leave me feeling simultaneously invigorated and calm. Our kettle gets quite the workout this time of year as we brew coffee in the morning and tea in the evening, with hot cocoa thrown somewhere in between. Grab an old favorite mug, fill it with your warm beverage of choice, and savor it slowly, truly tasting the flavors.

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4. Bake With the Kids   If you’re a mother (or father) of young children, this may be an activity that you actively avoid doing with your little ones. Baking with kids is much less efficient, much more messy, and often less enjoyable than going it alone. Not to mention the results may leave something to be desired. But that’s kind of the point when it comes to hyyge. Baking becomes both an experience and experiment rather than something else to get through. Choose a day and time when you don’t have anywhere to be or anyone coming over, when the time spent and the mess made won’t matter. Then just slow down and try to enjoy the chaos of it all. A few weeks back, my husband decided to bake a cake with our daughter based solely on proportions, an idea I’m not even going to try to explain… but they worked together as he let her choose some of the random ingredients to include. The result? Less than perfect since he accidentally added only half of the recommended sugar. But the idea? Brilliant. They had fun and made something together that they were both proud of, despite the questionable taste (which was easily remedied by adding extra-sugary icing). Enjoy the fruits of your labors with your hot beverage of choice for the ultimate hygge moment.

5. Enjoy Simple Family Traditions   Most people associate traditions with holidays, but I feel that simple traditions are all the more meaningful when brought into everyday life. Traditions build in moments to pause and reflect and connect in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day. We still often Light up the Night. For your family it could be a board game played together or completing a puzzle. Perhaps it’s a dance party or a tea party. Or maybe it’s simply sharing a meal together in the evening. The point isn’t to create yet another task that you have to do, but to celebrate the ordinary things you’re already doing. Cherish that togetherness.

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6. Take Family Naps   This is, perhaps, my favorite family tradition that we’ve added to the mix. Our children are still young enough that they, gloriously, nap during the day, and most of the time we can even manipulate them into sleeping at the same time. When this happens we don’t usually run around the house trying to get everything done, instead we make the conscientious choice to tuck ourselves into warm flannel sheets and snuggle close. As the soft afternoon sun warms the room and I wrap my arms around our sleeping baby while listening to the soft exhales of our toddler’s breath, we drift off to sleep, all together. Sometimes the peace lasts mere minutes, but on a good day we all wake up after a couple of hours, feeling rested and refreshed, and reconnected in the cozy comfort of our shared bed.

7. Have a Movie Night   Generally speaking, I’m kind of a crazy person when it comes to TV with my kids. I try to avoid letting them watch it much because I feel that there are so many more interesting things they could be doing with their time and minds. Also, selfishly, I can’t stand it. I find all the loud noises and bright colors, of kids’ shows especially, way too stimulating for me, so I can only imagine how my children’s tiny brains feel. But of course it’s a balance, and in winter, between the constant sicknesses and sub-zero temps that keep us indoors, we need a little something to break up the day. Still, TV time is usually limited to a single 20 minute show, during which I frantically try to do everything I can’t when I have kids needing something from me every 3.5 seconds. So movie night is a special time for our family. We try to pick something we will all (mostly) enjoy, and sit down together intentionally, limiting phones and other unnecessary distractions. We make popcorn. The real kind. Not the kind that inflates a bag in the microwave, but the tiny kernels that produce that distinctive lovely popping sound on the stovetop before being drenched in way too much butter and salt. Then we snuggle together under a blanket and indulge in entertainment.

8. Read a Book   When temperatures drop, it’s easy to stay on the couch and binge on Netflix. And certainly there’s a time and place for that in this snuggly season. But there is something wonderfully cozy about holding a book in your hands, feeling the weight of the pages as you let the words inspire your imagination. Whether you are snuggled with wee ones beneath a fuzzy blanket reciting Dr. Suess, or curling up on your own with that novel that’s been collecting dust on your bookshelf, let yourself focus and dive fully into the beautiful new world that a book brings to life.

9. Create Something   As we allow the pace of life to slow down and relax into the simple pleasures of ordinary days, you may find that you now have more time and space to pursue a creative passion. Though it can feel limiting to spend so much time indoors, it also provides the perfect platform to work on a passion project. For me, that is writing; for my husband, it’s working on and flying his plane. Our interests may differ greatly, but the common thread is allowing ourselves the reflective insight to find what we love and the intentional cultivation of a quieter season within which to toil. With children, you may pull out the paints and play-doh; or finish that craft project you’ve been talking about for ages. Besides, if you look through a new lens, winter is not merely a season of dead leaves and barren trees. It is a fount of inspiration – from the glint of the midday sun glistening across fresh snow to the soft afternoon rays casting shadows on the landscape, the rare sight of a red bird in flight or the quiet stillness of a dark cold night – the wonders are surely there if you only stop to see them.

10. Go on Winter Walks   Lest you think all hygge activities have to be limited to snuggling under a warm blanket, it can actually be a cozy experience to venture out into the cold world. I personally cannot stay inside too long. My mind and body and soul have no regard for the freezing temperatures; I need to breath the fresh air and feel the chill of the wind against my skin and experience the sights and sounds that only exist in the natural world. I’m a firm believer in the old adage, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” So we put on layer upon layer of wool (see above) and get outside. We walk and play with friends at our weekly Wild Child group until we can’t feel our fingers and our faces are frozen with the smiles that come from reconnecting with the fun of nature. Or we trek down to our local park and run like crazy around the deserted ball field, making snow angels and throwing snowballs and ignoring that the thermometer reads zero degrees. Then we come home with cold hands but warm hearts.

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These are just a few of my favorite hygge things. Your ideas and activities surrounding hygge may look completely different, and that’s the joy of it. Slow down, allow yourself the time and space to just be, to relax into the simple pleasures that warm your heart and captivate your soul, and to enjoy and find joy even in the cold and grey and everyday of this season.

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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.

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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.

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Poppa, The Great

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This guy. In the past 15 months, this guy has surpassed any and all of my wildest dreams and expectations of the father he would be to our daughter. And I am a gal of high expectations.

Though I knew in my heart that my husband would be a great dad, in my mind I worried how he would take to this life-changing little person who burst into our world. He’s a guy who shied away from holding our nieces and nephews as babies because he’s “not a baby person.” He’s a guy who laid out every real or imagined constraint that a baby would place on our lives. He’s a guy who, when I told him I was pregnant, responded with a nervous and questioning “congrats?”.

But he’s also a guy who has the incredible patience and compassion and persistence that it takes to care for a new life.

From the moment our daughter was born, he was there. He was there for her and he was there for me. In the trenches, all of us together, a family. He never hesitated to endlessly bounce our fussy newborn on an exercise ball. Never groaned about taking our sleepless babe at 5:00 am even when he had to leave for work at 6:00 am because I couldn’t hold my eye se open another minute. Never thought twice about curling up in bed with our child who can only sleep with human touch. He rose to his role as a father when neither our baby nor myself had the words or energy to thank him. This wonderful guy shepherded our growing family through that first foggy phase of new parenthood, helping us to evolve and emerge into new and beautiful places.

Since that early hazy period, so much has changed; and this guy continues to grow as a father to meet the ever-changing demands of our toddler daughter. His success as a father is reflected in the joyful spark that lights up our daughter’s eyes. He is her favorite playmate, most brilliant teacher, hilarious entertainment, and all-around hero. Throughout the day a chorus of “Poppa” echoes through our house (long before there were any utterances of “Momma”, I might add). And when the prodigal Poppa returns from work each day, the excited squeals emitted by our one-year-old could rival a group of tweens at a One Direction concert. He is her world, and it’s such a stunning sight to see.

I was the girl who always wanted to be a mother; my husband was the guy who was more reluctant to become a father. Yet everyday he is the one who is teaching me how to do this parenthood thing. He shows me that being a parent isn’t about the rules or expectations, it’s everything that lies in between – the endless capacity to love, the inspiring opportunities to play, the wonder of seeing the world through a new perspective and learning together, always together.

These are the things that make a great father, and these are the qualities that I’ve loved to see take flight in my husband as he embraces his role of proud Poppa and boldly leads our daughter into a world of limitless opportunity.

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This guy is simply the best.

Dear Momma

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Dear Momma,

I’m sorry; I’ve failed you this Mother’s Day. Your card is still sitting on the kitchen counter, buried under a pile of unopened mail topped by an un-done to-do list. Besides, it isn’t even an actual Mother’s Day card since Trader Joe’s only carried generic cards and I didn’t have it in me to stop yet again when the baby and I both so desperately needed a nap.

You get it, I know. You’ve been doing this mom thing for thirty-plus years. And I get it now too. Though I’m only a year into motherhood, it’s more than enough to make me realize all that all that you’ve done for me, from the moment of my birth; all that you continue to do as I grow into a mother. Over this past year, I’ve come to love and appreciate and respect you in a whole new way.

The very reason I can’t manage to get a simple card in the mail is the same reason that you deserve so much more than Trader Joe’s ninety-nine cent sentiments. Motherhood is hard. Without your love and support and guidance as I fumble my way through, I would be lost. Your gifts to me have been selfless and priceless and limitless.

What do I get for the woman who gave me everything? Who has not only shepherded me as I become a mother, but has risen to great and beautiful heights as a grandmother.

How do I say thank you for jumping in your car, driving all day, just so you could hold my shaking hand as I prepared to bring my daughter into this world?

How can I repay you for the countless vacation days you have spent washing my dishes, walking my dog, and taking care of me, so I could take care of the endless needs of a new baby?

Where do I find the words to tell you what it meant when you miraculously appeared at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., when I was at my wits end with a baby who Would. Not. Sleep.? Giving me a break when I needed it the most.

No gift could express the gratitude I felt when I faced you the next morning, bleary eyed and grumpy, and you didn’t tell me what I could be doing differently to get my child to sleep. You never questioned why my one-year-old wasn’t sleeping through the night. Instead you simply embraced me and told me the one thing I most needed to hear; the one thing I was most doubting. “You are an amazing mother,” you whispered softly.

I probably rolled my bloodshot eyes at you (sorry, I was tired…), but those words meant everything to me. Still do.

When I doubt myself, and my mothering skills, your reassuring voice is a constant refrain in my head: “it’s ok, it’s ok, you are doing great, you are incredible.” Your words become the steady heartbeat coursing through my veins and keeping me alive through difficult days and sleepless nights.

So momma – there’s no card, no flowers, no bottle of wine or meticulously prepared dinner waiting for you this year. I’m sorry that, this year, I’ve gotten too caught up trying to be a mother and paid too little attention to celebrating my own. You expect nothing, but you deserve the world.

But this I can tell you, as the wisest of women once told me, “YOU are an amazing mother.”

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You Momma for all that you do. I Love You…

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Merry Christmas from the Moores!

I love Christmas cards. I love opening my mailbox and receiving the beautiful images of loved ones. I love sending them out and letting friends and family know we care.

So on December 5th, I decided it was time to order our Christmas cards and I would effortlessly address them and get postage and mail them within a week. But then my kind husband gave me a reality check which is that I have been more than a little overwhelmed with getting settled from the move, more than a lot tired from growing this baby, and had a long list of pre-Christmas to-dos (none of which had been started of course despite my insistence that this year I will finally have all Christmas gifts done at the beginning of December!). Oh, and I may have a slight issue with time estimation and imagining that it would only take me an hour to address and send all of the cards…

As I was about to hit that order button, we decided that in the interest of saving money, streamlining holiday stresses, and overall simplifying and embracing the imperfection this year, we would forgo the paper cards. Yes, it breaks my heart a little. But at the same time it relaxes my heart and mind knowing there is not yet another task that has to be checked off the list. Instead I can focus on what matters – enjoying time with family, relaxing and taking it all in as the last Christmas season just the two of us, and filling up with that joyful love and happiness of the holidays in order to share it with others.

Lovely family and friends, we hope you still enjoy our electronic Christmas card, with a few snapshots and words from this extra exciting year. Wishing you all things peaceful and wonderful this holiday season and beyond!

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Alaskan Anniversary

A few months ago when I thought about how me might spend our first anniversary, I figured we would maybe go out to a nice dinner to celebrate, perhaps even escape to a bed and breakfast in the mountains for a weekend. Never did I think that we would get to celebrate in the biggest way possible, out in the great big estate of Alaska. Turns out, that was the absolute perfect way to celebrate the big day.

We considered beginning our anniversary with a 15 mile hike, but instead decided to indulge in sleeping in, since there are only so many more mornings we can enjoy this simple pleasure. So after a relaxed morning and a hearty breakfast, we set off towards the Chena Hot Springs about an hour outside of Fairbanks.

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The drive was gorgeous, winding through valleys surrounded by spruce-filled mountains and meandering rivers. As cell phone reception diminished within the first few miles, we were able to just focus on each other and this beautiful land we were exploring.

Finally we reached the end of the road – the hot springs.

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The entire resort was lovely. Secluded, but bustling with uniquely Alaskan activities – flight-seeing, dog-sled tours, ice museum, and Aurora watching, just to name a few. Beautiful flowers peeked out from every imaginable container.

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I had never been to a hot springs before and it was quite a treat. Having just flown in from 90 degree heat a few days before, I was chilled to the bone by the cool Alaskan air with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees. So climbing in the steaming water felt like a bear hug, warming me from the inside out. There’s something surreal and so relaxing about sitting in a warm natural pool with a cold mountain breeze blowing around you.

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Since the average temperature of the springs is a little over 100 degrees, I spent most of the time lounging on a chilled rock with my feet submerged in the hot springs so as not to overheat our little one. Still so very enjoyable.

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After a long, hard day spent relaxing at the hot springs, it was time to feed our appetites. Originally we had planned to head back to Fairbanks for dinner. I’d brought a nice dress for the occasion, we’d picked out a recommended restaurant. But in typical Andrew and Courtney fashion, our plans changed at the last minute and we decided to dine at Chena – no fancy clothes, no fancy plans, we didn’t even have our wedding rings! But it was delightful and perfectly our style.

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Besides, you can’t go wrong with fresh made creamy smoked salmon pasta.

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After dinner we toured the world renowned ice museum.

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Where I warmed up by the fire place.

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And used the icy outhouse.

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And for a mere $600 we could stay a night in this cold Christmas-themed room.

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We decided to pass.

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Having our fill of the hot springs and cold ice, we headed back to Fairbanks. The sunset drive was indescribably gorgeous. One of the magical things about Alaska is that the brilliant twilight sunset time, that breathtaking light that most of us barely manage to catch a glimpse of on our drive home from work, lasts for hours up here. It creates the most stunning colors cast across the sky and landscape, giving the appearance of a watercolor painting.

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But our anniversary wasn’t over yet! Because back at the hotel it was time to dig into the dessert that had traveled over 4,000 miles for this special day – the top to our wedding cake.

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Yes, despite Andrew’s protestatations, I somehow managed to get that frozen chunk of sugary goodness past airport security and lugged it all the way across the country to enjoy this first anniversary tradition.

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Being the kind husband that he is, Andrew waited to tell me that the cake had become a little dry. And of course, nothing goes better with wedding cake than a nice mug of beer.

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Cheers to the most wonderful Alaskan anniversary and many more adventurous years to come!

The Greatest Adventure of All

Anyone who knows Andrew and I know that we love adventure. The drive to pursue paths that are out of the ordinary seems ingrained in our souls. We seek out experiences that make each day unpredictable and completely unique from the one before. This sense of adventure has taken us from Washington, DC to South Florida, from Tennessee to Europe, and now to Alaska.

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Yet these adventures pale in comparison to the thrill and unpredictability of simple everyday living together. In just one short year, we’ve discovered that marriage is our greatest adventure to date. Both more challenging at times, and more rewarding overall, than either of us ever could have imagined. There have been moments when we’re trekking over rough terrain, uphill, with all the elements bearing down upon us. We think we couldn’t possibly go one more step. But our strength and unity carries us and somehow we reach the the summit once again. The beauty up there is breathtaking and we know we would make the climb a thousand times over just to see this majestic beauty – the love and life we have created together. So we capture that beauty and love and carry it with us, over the tough trails and the mundane paths, always forward. Sometimes not knowing where the path may lead, but always trusting in this adventure we’ve chosen together.

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It’s this journey of learning and loving through marriage that prepares us for what lies ahead – the greatest adventure of all – parenthood. We are overjoyed to announce that we’re growing our family and will have a new little one to join in the fun and adventure next March!

Having children is something we have both spent a lifetime looking forward to – the culmination of so many hopes and dreams. What could be more important, more adventurous, than bringing someone new into this great big world and teaching then how to live and love and embrace all it’s beauty? We’re so honored to have this opportunity.

There’s no doubt that the path to parenthood will be filled with so many new and wonderful adventures, as well as it’s own share of challenges. The months and years ahead will be unpredictable for sure, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. But the rewards, getting to watch our child grow, are already so very extraordinary.

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We’re overwhelmed with excitement for every step of this next great adventure! We love you so much already little one…

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.

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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!