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Beautiful Souls

In 2014, photographer Katie Gardner took some photos for me at Blogher for a project that never materialized. Our intent was to put together a book, but the resources to put that book together never showed up no matter how hard we tapped the Universe’s shoulder.

We saved the most beautiful photos of these women for this non-existent book and I think of them often, wishing they were being seen. If you want to think of this as a Mother’s Day thing, fine. Some of them are mothers. Some of them have mothers. But I’d rather think of them as what they are – Beautiful Souls who let us see inside for a moment. Some of them I’m lucky enough to call friends. (Some of them I don’t know. If you know someone that isn’t labeled yet, let me know? Thanks.)

Many thanks to the contributors of words for this project. You can see in the photos that these beautiful souls are listening to the brilliant poet Amy Turn Sharp and the heartwarming and irreverent words from Robin Plemmons.

Kelly Wickham
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A’Driane Nieves
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Jenifer Monroe
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Alexandra Uman
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Heather Barmore
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Jeannine Harvey
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Alexandra Williams
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Martina Callum
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Margaret Salmond
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Crystal Hammond & friend.
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Tara Wilson & Tiffany.
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Julie Nowell & friend.
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Sharelle D. Lowery & friend.
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Jayne
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Allison Bailey
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Marcella White Campbell
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Margot Winters
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Lucy Ball
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Molley Mills
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Angeline Longshore
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Beeb Ashcroft
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Mrs Elle G
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Jamie Gall
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Christy Newell
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Superwife Jenny
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Destiny Paquette
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Anjum Choudhry Nayyar & friend.
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Jindy Garfias
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Colleen Cecil
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Carly Morgan & Eden Hensley Silverstein
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Claire Waring
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Lexie Solorio
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Phyllis Kim Myung
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Cheryl Stober
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Courtney Macavinta
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Tara McNamara
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Jill Adler
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Jessica Cobb
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Sarah Honey
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Alice Toler
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TerriAnn van Gosliga
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Danielle D. Washington & friend.
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Molly
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Shannon Rosa
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Stacey Nerdin
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Kim Rohrer
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Helen Laroche
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Celeste Lindell
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Jennifer P. Williams
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Shanah Wisley
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Ashley Garrett
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Erica Dermer
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Jen Myronuk
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Raquel Fagan
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Me and my daughter, Alex. <3 LeahAlexLaugh

Let’s Grow Through This Together

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetSometimes I feel like I learn new things right before I really need them. You know what I mean? Like, had this challenging thing that’s currently happening, happened even six months ago, I wouldn’t have been ready.

But God, or whatever you consider your Divine to be, creates this space for us to gather our knowledge and our wits about us right before the Big Test comes. If we’re paying attention. If we’re *at all* trying. And I’d wager that most of us *are* trying because we’ve been around the block a time or two and know that not paying attention doesn’t get us the desired result we’re after. Trying to be awake. Trying to be aware. Trying to pay attention. Trying to be a little bit better every day. Trying to serve and be present for those we love. Trying to make the world a slightly better place.

I’m watching my son grapple with being twenty and doing all the thought processes you go through at that age, wondering what to do with your life. Wondering what kind of person you are and who you want to be. Wondering how to participate in life in a way that’s meaningful. Trying to be Present. ALL the big questions.

And as we’ve talked and worked together this past month one theme keeps coming through: You do get to create the life you want to live. There are a vast number of ways to be a Person in Life.

Of course you look first to those closest to you to see who and how they are, like your siblings and parents. Of course you do, because they are your examples and who you have had the closest contact with in your life so far. And then maybe you look at the next familial circle, including aunts and uncles. And then hopefully you keep looking further out and find people in your friend circles and even further, historical figures, to find other examples of How To Be. You don’t *have* to be the same as anyone you know. It’s a choice to follow in someone’s footsteps.

Short of being a person that harms others, there isn’t a “wrong” way to be a Person.

We get so caught up in what it means to be successful and what constitutes a real job or a life worth living. Want to know what a Real Job is? I’ll tell you. A Real Job is anything that supports the life you want to live.

If it brings you immense happiness to live in an expensive loft and have three cars and arrange your days to be super busy without any breaks and travel a lot and be a VP or a CEO then do that. That’s one way to be a Person. And if it brings you immense happiness to live a quiet life with minimal needs and much more down time and many less people counting on you for paperwork or code or whatever, then be that. Just Be That Person.

There are no Real jobs and Not-Real jobs. There’s only what you want to create your life to be, and what you then do to support the lifestyle you’ve chosen. And also? It’s ok to change your mind and choose another path at any point. It doesn’t make everything you’ve done up until that moment a mistake. We gather knowledge and experience no matter what path we go down. You don’t have to know everything before you start. A good chunk of life is Winging It.

Take the lesson, leave the baggage, and move forward. Grow to the next thing. That, my friends, if Life.

There’s no one “Right” way to be a Person. The world is vast and the people are numerous and it takes all kinds to keep the world turning. Let go of the limiting beliefs you have about yourself and who you are *supposed* to be. Look inside, see who you are, and then be the best one of those you can possibly be.

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Looking for a mentor for your own life process? I can help. Find out more here.

Reclaiming The Divine

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Like many people, I was raised in a religious home. And like many people, I then grew up, made choices for myself, and decided I didn’t want to be a part of that religion any longer.

This story is not unique by any means. A byproduct of growing up in a highly religious environment is that it can feel too confining as you’re growing older and testing your limits. You can’t wait to get away from it, shedding it like a too-small winter coat.

I’ve spent the last 20-ish years floating somewhere in between agnostic and Crunchy-Universal-Love-Hippie on the spirituality scale. I’ve said a lot of things about God or God(s) or No-God(s) that I don’t even know where they came from. That’s because they weren’t founded in anything but my imagination and whatever I could suss out that felt kinda ok. I was making-do.

I’ve spent the last few months evaluating and reevaluating what I think, feel and believe to be true. I’ve also spent quite a bit of time dissecting how the Mind/Body connection of health flows into this because there is a spirituality component of health. The three pillars of fantastic combined health are Energy (both physical and polarity), Nutrition, and Mind/Body Connection (including tools). Those tools include supplements, self-care, and essential oils and other ways that bring the Mind/Body connection closer. And Energy includes your connection to the Divine, whatever you deem that to be and however it’s the most healing for you.

If you’ve seen me this past year or so and thought (or said to me, as many of you have), “Man, Leah! You glow! You really look great!” then you’ve seen the change good health can bring. And like I mentioned above, having spirituality in my life and being able to feel is a big part of good health.

When we talk about reiki and energy clearings/healings and cranial sacral work, it’s really all the same thing. You’re pulling Universal Love & Light from your Source, which then flows through you to help others and yourself. Understanding this was the door that opened me back up to looking at my own spirituality.

Along this journey I’ve identified five main points of my own story that I feel might be helpful to others. These are the looming questions and long unidentified non-positive feelings I carried around with me for years, not understanding what they were or how they fit. Perhaps you’ll see yourself in some of these and be inspired to look into your own Self to see where spirituality fits in with you. Most of what I have to say is based around the LDS church because that’s what I was raised in, but I’m willing to bet that however you were raised, you might find similar things. If you’ve felt something missing, it might be your connection to the Divine.

5. I Was Hurt and Confused
Organized religions are full of people. Those people make mistakes. Many of the people in an organized church are fine people who are really trying to do their best each and every day. Others are kind of along for the ride, not coming from a place of love, perhaps not sure why they are members of a church to begin with. Maybe they attend because that’s just what they’ve been doing for a long time. Those people can do a lot of harm in their ignorance. I came into contact with many of those.

From a very young age, depending on my teachers at church, I spent a lot of time in the hall. What that really meant was I was asking too many questions or being silly and distracting my neighbors from listening to the teacher, so I was sent out of the class.

I remember on more than one occasion asking what must have been yet another question and having the teacher roll their eyes at me. But here’s the thing. I was being sincere. I really didn’t understand what they were teaching and I wanted answers. The problem being that in a class setting where you have 12 or so little wiggly kids trying to sit in their chairs through a 45 minute lesson, you really just want to get the lesson done, not keep answering the Whys.

My teachers were probably doing the best they could in the situation and I’ve come to understand that they probably didn’t know the answers to tell me, which must have made them uncomfortable. But when they brushed me off and moved on, leaving me with a gaping misunderstanding, I got bored or sad or irritated and started talking to or teasing those next to me, which ended with me out in the hallway until class ended.

I left Primary and went to Young Women’s for ages 12-17 but at that point, I’d spent so much time not getting my questions answered, I figured no one really knew or I didn’t belong there. I spent those ages really struggling to stay active in the church with weeks where my parents insisted I go and me sneaking out and walking home as soon as their backs were turned. Needless to say, church was not a spiritually uplifting or soul-filling experience for me.

I would occasionally have a good teacher and those few stick out in my mind. I didn’t ever really feel a part of the class but I could see them sincerely trying and that meant a lot.

4. I Misunderstood Gospel Principles
Piggybacking onto number 5 above, because I didn’t actually learn things at church I misunderstood a lot of basic gospel principles. This is kind of fascinating to me because you have to understand that I wasn’t only getting teachings for three hours on Sundays, I was getting taught daily at home.

My family had scripture study nightly at 5:30pm every, single, solitary day where we would read a chapter from the scriptures, memorize a monthly scripture passage, sing, and pray together. We also met on Monday night for Family Home Evening where more doctrine was discussed. Plus as a teen I met mid-week for an additional youth meeting at church.

As a family we probably read through the Book of Mormon together 8-10 times and the Bible 4-5 times during my youth. That’s a lot of scripture reading and not understanding going on. I remember spending the time while we were reading daydreaming or having conversations in my head, basically doing my time until I got to leave the room.

There were a lot of small things like why we fast or keep the sabbath day holy or why we pay tithing, but my biggest misunderstanding was the Atonement (basic definition here, and Mormon explanation).

I recall having a conversation not too many years ago with someone about how I didn’t want to be a part of why Christ suffered on the cross, if He was indeed real, so I was choosing not to participate. That statement shows just how much I didn’t understand. There is no choosing. If you believe Christ is real and that He died on the cross, it was for you.

Due to the many misunderstandings I’ve had over the years and my lack of knowledge, I made up my own version of what I thought Mormons believed. Many of these were in fact false.

To overcome this, I started inviting the missionaries over to our home. You’ve probably seen them around town where you live. (They are adorable.) I’m taking the discussions, as they’re called. Our current missionaries, Elders Felix and Jennings, are two of the most passionate young men when it comes to the gospel as I’ve ever seen. I’m talking, exuberant fist pumps in the air about teaching lesson 2, The Plan of Salvation. “This is one of my favorites!” exclaims Elder Jennings. And he means it. Every time.

It’s hard not to be enthused about something when the young men in the room are so clearly full of joy about teaching it. I’m learning a lot about how many misconceptions I’ve held onto over the years and for the first time in my life, I’m enjoying reading the scriptures.

It sometimes works out that the Elders are here for dinner. The time we had roast, mashed potatoes and sliced carrots, there were no left-overs. The time I made spaghetti squash with bolognese sauce, Elder Felix mentioned he’d never seen spaghetti sauce with kidney beans or olives in it or ever eaten what-was-the-name-of-that-squash-again. Joe and I had those leftovers the next day. Those poor guys. They have to eat whatever you put in front of them. If you want to see their eyes light up, say, “Cheesecake.” (I hope my nieces and nephews that have been out on missions have had a little cheesecake now and then.)

3. I Saw a Church Full of Hypocrites
Organized religions are full of people. Those people make mistakes. (I feel like I’ve said that somewhere before…) But in no way more than in this way was I more confused and understood less.

I looked around at the people that attended church and saw sinners. Men who drank alcohol or did drugs and then went to church and blessed and passed the sacrament. Women who talked about other women in some of the most ugly ways imaginable but then went to church and pretended they were friends. People cheating on their spouses. Liars. People who were into porn. People cheating on their tithing and taxes and making justifications for paying less. So much sin but then so much pretending to be perfect on Sunday. These were the people I was supposed to aspire to be like? These were the people I was supposed to be friends with and who were supposedly representing God’s church?

And here’s where my new understanding finally caught up to my reality. Every organized church is filled with people who are making mistakes and doing wrong. Also true is that they are trying their best, because if there is one thing I do know now, it’s that every person on the face of the planet is doing the best they can, every day of their lives. When they can do better, they do do better. (I said do do.) (Sorry.) (<--See? Repentance in action.) And now that I understand the Atonement better, I see how it fits in with all of these sinners, of which I am one. Could there have ever been a more judgmental person than I was? Highly unlikely. Could that have been more hypocritical of me to be judging each of them and not looking at myself? Nope. (Am I done asking and answering my own questions in this annoying way? Yes.) 2. I Didn’t Feel I Fit In
So. Not fitting in is a theme of my life. Not as a child in church or with my family in general and not as an adult with people my own age. Not with my first husband. Not in elementary, middle, high school or college class settings. Not with Americans sometimes. Not even with the human race occasionally because of our brutality and chilling indifference with each other all around the world but especially in our own backyards.

Having mental and physical illnesses had a way of always keeping me separate from others, if not in reality then at least that’s how I perceived it. But beyond that, I’ve just always felt, well, different. Like I was watching life from inside my head. There was a buffer layer, like a blanket, all around me like insulation. From inside that place I watched people being happy and being sad and having lives like it was a play happening and I wasn’t really a part of it.

When considering becoming more spiritual and attending a church with real other human people, this crossed my mind. If I’m going to go to a church, whatever church I decide to go to, I’ll have to be sitting near other people for meetings and interacting with them afterwards. All that shaking hands and nodding and smiling and such. Could I do it? Could I do it and be genuine or would I be hating every second and watching the clock, waiting to leave? What if someone asks me what I do for a living? The horror.

I have tattoos. I can be a little crass and loud. My sense of humor can include body-humor (see above: do do) much to the chagrin of more refined people (like my husband). I don’t like being put on the spot, read: called on to say a prayer or read a scripture or answer a theoretical spiritual question posed by a teacher when I’m not ready for it. Don’t ask me to be smart or witty on the spot. Don’t ask me to wear a funny hat.

And what about my political views? I support gay marriage and there’s nothing you run into faster like a brick wall than churches that don’t. I also support social programs and clean, legal abortions for women. Could there even be a church out there that would accept me?

The answer is, yes. Pretty much every church I would want to attend would accept me if I’m going to church to connect to the Divine and to people who are just like me in that they are trying their best every day to be good people and do what they’re supposed to do. Getting caught up in the details of what every person who attends that church believes in can be a distraction. And part of keeping my focus on coming to understand the Divine better is not being distracted. If I believe that God knows me, loves me, wants the best for me, and has a plan for me, anything that keeps me from that plan is a distraction, including getting caught up in those details. My job is to check in with the Divine, ask what I’m supposed to be doing, and then go do that thing.

Part of looking around this life with new, spiritual eyes is trying to understand that I just don’t know everything. I’m limited by the confines of my physical-ness and my small understanding of What Is. And I’m ok with that because this life is a journey and I’m finally enjoying it.

1. I Couldn’t Feel
This is perhaps the single most damaging thing I experienced. If you can’t feel, you can’t really be in touch with the Divine. You can only get hints and shadows of what real “Feeling” feels like.

Members of the LDS church believe the Book of Mormon to be holy scripture and another testament of Jesus Christ along with the Bible. There is a promise contained in the BOM (Moroni 10:4) that if you read it and then ask of God if it’s true, God will tell you and confirm it is true and you’ll know it by the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. I tried this experiment probably four times growing up and never felt anything. I also didn’t feel anything when I was baptized at age 8, which for everyone I talked to was a very spiritual experience for them. Likewise, you are told to pray and ask when big decisions arise in your life and you’ll be told which way to turn and how to choose. But, for me? Nope. Nothing.

From a young age I surmised that one (or both) of two things must be true. 1. Everyone around me from the people in my family to everyone in the town where I grew up, nay, the entire state of Utah must be crazy or lying and/or, 2. God did exist but I was broken and/or beneath God’s notice.

Because I’d never felt any confirmation or peaceful feeling in my chest, I had no idea what they were talking about. It wasn’t until this past year that my body was in a state where I could feel anything. But when it happened, it was amazing. (I’ll share that story another time because this is already so long.)

We’re all seeking connection in our lives. We tell our stories and interact with each other moment to moment and connect. The energy we have around us and running through us is what connects us to each other. Sometimes we meet someone new and feel a strong pull, like something cosmic is happening. Sometimes we come into contact with someone and instinctively know that nope, that person is not someone we want in our circle. Becoming familiar with how your energy (and the energy of others around you) works for you or against you is important.

And beyond that, finding your connection to the Divine will be life-changing. Tap into whatever you believe in. Figure out why you believe in it separate from any old thinking patterns from your childhood or those around you. Chart a new, clean course with your Higher Power and it will bring the peace, joy, inspiration and connection you’ve been lacking.

Random Piecings + My Basic Green Smoothie Recipe

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Here’s some clouds from Southern Utah. You’re welcome. That place is incredibly beautiful. I mean:

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I joke with Joe that we should go live there and by “joke” I mean “semi-serious” and by “semi-serious” I mean how about in two years or so. Poor Joe. JoeSunday I think part of my joke-not-joking is that we had such an incredible time doing the retreat there a few weeks ago. The entire event was just amazing. I really felt so, oh, I don’t know the right words, it was so big what I felt. But some good words are Useful and On Task and Meaningful and Just Right. And when you feel all the parts of something come together that you’ve been planning and you see how so many people feel great about it and get what they need from it, well….it’s just kind of amazing. I added this picture of Joe because why not.

You’ll have to excuse this stream of consciousnesses and pick through for the good parts due to the fact that I’ve got uncharacteristic pressure and pain in my ear regions and it makes for less than sharp conversation at times.

In my quest for Health & Wellness I make course corrections and try on new things. These New Things might be drastic or small. The course corrections might be just a tad one way or the other or a major right turn. But through it all I seem to have one question in my heart and that is this: Am I where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m supposed to be doing and with whom I’m supposed to be doing it with? (I’m ever so sorry I ended that with a preposition but it couldn’t be helped.)

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetOne thing I feel I should be doing are the H&W Retreats and the whoms are my sister and our daughters. It’s beautiful when we’re all together and educating and helping people feel more and more well. It’s truly like magic and if I could do it every day the rest of my life I would.

In order to really be “in tune” to someone’s frequency and be in a place to help them the most, I don’t want to muck up my brain and body with chemicals because it can short-circuit our connection. To that end I’ve cut out alcohol and almost all caffeine. I’m down to one cup of decaf a day and I’ll tell you what, the nightly beers were much easier to give up than my morning coffee. I’m feeling a much larger reward than anything negative with this change, though, because I’m not experiencing my afternoon “dip” that I’ve had for so, so long and I’m sleeping better. So, there’s that.

Being more “in tune” means I can pick up on subtler messages that someone’s body/energy is giving off when we talk. There’s so much happening in between the lines and woven throughout the conversation happening with words. I consider it a privilege to be able to tune into those things and it makes it so much easier when I’m not riding a high from caffeine, when I’ve had a good night’s sleep and when I can fully feel my own stuff and not mistake it for someone else’s stuff.

The pressure in my ears has come along with a rash on my neck that is Candida trying to drive me crazy dying off. Because I’m no longer drinking sugar every night (beer and wine) and that was my last main source of sugar, my host body is no longer as conducive to Candida and the yeast is mad. Really, really mad. The rash is itchy and red and looks terrible but I just keep rubbing coconut oil on my feet and encouraging it to get out, get out and keep on going. I upped my water and increased support of my liver. I upped my supplements and fermented foods. I send loving thoughts to my ears and my neck for doing such a great job with this process and then I drink another glass of herbal tea because that’s what I’ve got right now and it’s not that bad.

I wasn’t expecting Candida to burst out of my neck or stack up in my ears and it’s a constant reminder these days to keep an eye on what I’m eating, keep the sugar-foods low, add in more green smoothies and other things Candida doesn’t like.

Here’s my basic Green Smoothie recipe. It makes one really large glass of smoothie plus just enough extra that you’re irritated and don’t know what to do with it so you just stick it in the fridge and forget about the 1″ of old green smoothie and then it goes bad so you dump it and do it all over again. Just kidding. I totally don’t do that. I ask Joe to drink it and sometimes he even does.

1 Kale leaf, stripped off rib
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup probiotic yogurt
1/4 cup coconut milk
2 TBL soaked or sprouted sunflower seeds
Handful of frozen blueberries
Half a frozen banana
2 tsp Spirulina
Enough filtered water to make the right consistency

The banana and blueberries contain all the sugar I can handle right now but if you need some more sweetener, go ahead and add a little raw honey, raw maple syrup or un-sulfered molasses. (There’s a recipe kind of like this in my book.) Sometimes I add sprouted lentils.

I don’t have a great ending for this post (EAR PRESSURE) but I’ll leave you with a thought I keep having. What if we were all doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing, where we were supposed to be doing it, and with the people we were supposed to be doing it with? And what if we did that all the time? I think it would be incredible.

One more of the clouds in Southern Utah because I can’t even.

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Slowly Fading

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You wake up and everyone is outside picking peas in the garden. It’s the morning at your parent’s home before the morning you’re going to leave and go home. This visit was too short and you won’t see them for a few months. Again. Maybe six or seven. Maybe eight on the outside.

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Mom’s the fastest pea-picker. She’s got the most experience. Joe tries to keep up, but her fingers are defter and have years of practice.

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Dad is pulling up weeds, then pea plants. Occasionally he looks over, evaluates what Mom is doing and then, copying her, manages to pick a pea pod and put it in his bowl. He’s unsure about what they’re doing out there, but wanting to be a part of things, he carries on.

You snap a few photos because that’s what you do and there is a safety, a distance, at watching your father fade away slowly through the lens of a camera. You can hardly make yourself look straight at him this trip. It takes a herculean effort to stare straight at the sun, eyes never wavering, and accept and love and hold him in your heart because it doesn’t even feel like him anymore. He’s almost not there at all but what is there still looks like him and smiles like him and smells like him, mostly. There’s a new scent about him now on top of the other more familiar ones. You can’t place it but wonder if it’s just the smell of getting older. It’s still him, just not quite him.

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The cousins do a puzzle in two hours flat and when you interrupt in the middle to corral them outside so you can take photos, they roll their eyes dramatically like you’ve just asked them to hike Mt. Kilimanjaro in clown suits.

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But, they oblige with some good-natured, dramatic protesting, then ham it up for the camera.

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Your sisters are some of the most beautiful people you know and they let you snap their photo.

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And so do your brothers and your husband because recording every dang moment together feels important right now. Ever more important.

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Most of the garden beds are flowers this year. What once held tomatoes and lettuce and carrots and other things that needed constant tending now hold wild flowers because there isn’t anyone with enough time and energy to tend them anymore. It’s beautiful and truthful and hard and sad. Dad can’t tell the difference between weeds and vegetable plants and Mom spends her days and nights watching over Dad.

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She helps him with everything. Everything. You hear her in the other room reminding him to do the smallest things that you know he’s done millions of times in his lifetime, but now they are just beyond him. She gets him his snacks. Helps him take a nap. Reminds him who all the people are in the house that he doesn’t know. And a few seconds later he’ll ask again where the pretty flowers on the table came from and Mom will explain, again, that they are from the pretty bush he loves and planted in the front yard. You’ll smile, again, and tell him they smell lovely. Dad will nod. And then ask again in a few minutes. With every rotation of the conversation you can feel your heart hurting and it’s also just the way it is, so you deal with it and feel glad he’s still there to ask about the flowers at all.

Dad reads the paper. *You watch him turn it this way and that way, folding and unfolding, staring and looking and reading the same articles over and over. You look away because you remember what an avid reader he once was. You remember him reciting from memory poem after poem while you sat in mortified silence because you were embarrassed that your dad was such an old, stodgy nerd that would read those old, fogie poems and take the time to memorize them and then make you sit there for minutes on end, nay, all of eternity, while the phrases of Rudyard Kipling’s If rang out of his mouth, loud and clear, commanding the room at every family function.

What you’d give now to hear him be able to recite anything. Or even remember who you are. And you have pains in your soul in a way you can’t even describe. Too bad you didn’t pay attention to any of that poetry. That’s probably where the words are that escape you and you’re angry at your teen self for being so short-sighted and wasting valuable time being so…so…teen. Even with the confusion of all the hard things that were between you, you love him deeply and wish you could have a conversation about something, anything, even if it was hard.

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You ask Mom if she’s lonely. You want to make sure she’s ok, that she doesn’t feel isolated or left too much alone, without support. She says she loves Dad as much as she ever did and considers this the next part of their partnership. She says she’s fine, that she takes care of herself along with Dad and not to worry. You worry anyway and you love her fiercely in a way that you didn’t know possible and the grief rises a little and you wash a few more dishes and wonder what you can do to be more supportive from hundreds of miles away.

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You take out your camera for the annual photos for next December’s Christmas card. You snap shots, this way and that way, looking at your parents through the lens and wondering how things can be like they are. The frustration at how unfair it feels fades away as you do what comes second-nature. You check the light, check your f-stop, check for dust on the lens and realize there’s nothing on the lens that keeps making things look blurry, that’s just you. You stare with the safety of the lens into the eyes of your dad and try to find him in there.

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Then, your husband grabs the camera and takes a shot of the three of you and you see you, with them, and maybe some of who the man your dad still might be deep inside himself looking back at you. At least you want to think so when he gives you a hug and says, “Thanks. Come again sometime soon. We like it when our friends come to visit.

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You wave goodbye to Mom who is standing by herself outside where they both used to stand when you left, blowing kisses and waving. And then you cry. And promise to come back soon before he fades too much further away. You hope. *And wouldn’t it be nice to believe that someday, maybe in heaven, Dad will be like he used to be or even better and you reconsider your non-belief of religion.

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You get melancholy and your almost-twenty-year-old youngest son makes you laugh by buying a tshirt with a cow on it because it’s kinda funny and takes photos of it in bathroom mirrors where, as he says, all tall guys have problems seeing their heads.

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You make friendship bracelets with him on the long drive home and think about how you don’t want to waste any moments and you realize he’s probably just humoring you, making knots and spending time creating “manly jewelry,” but you don’t care and you eat it up like it’s the best food you’ve ever eaten.

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And you smile because he’s there and you’re with him and what else are you going to do, anyway, if not try to enjoy every moment possible before they fade away.

(*This was slightly edited after publishing.)

A BBQ With Friends

We talked about what you’re supposed to say on a day like this. You don’t want to say, Happy Memorial Day. That sounds….wrong. But saying something like, “I hope you spend the day thinking about all the people that have died for you to enjoy said day,” sounds like a bit too much.

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You know that many of your friends and family are getting to spend the day with their loved ones and that’s happy. You aren’t near your own family so you do the next best thing and spend it with good friends.

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You remember the brave service men and women that gave their lives so all of us have the opportunity to sit around an outside table in 80 degree weather, watching meat slowly cook while sipping the beverage of our choice. You appreciate the people currently in service and you worry a little about your own kids, partners, parents and other friends and family who are in the military and keep the hope of peace in your heart.

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You make your mom’s favorite potato salad recipe because you miss her and then you find out your sister in Seattle made it, too, and you feel just a little closer than 1,255 miles. You make the 7, no 8! Layer Dip that’s made you famous. In fact, I hear you’re “known for your 7 Layer Dip.”

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You make fresh croutons and BBQ sauce because anything less wouldn’t be right for today and you’re resourceful and creative and they’re delicious enough that a non-grain eater eats them.

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You feel lazy and unhurried in a way only an extra long weekend provides. You wander around the backyard, feet burning on the hot pavement until you borrow someone’s flipflops to get around.

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You take the time to inspect the seeds on unripe strawberries promises and the blossoms dropping off the cucumber vine.

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You’re charmed to find the tiniest globe hidden in a flowered archway and take the wee selfie.

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There’s a dog.

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There’s hopefully always a dog.

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A very cute dog.

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You drink beer and sweet tea out of mason jars because that’s how it’s done on a day like today, where you have the luxury of time and friends and family and love.

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You ask your friends to pose so you can practice a new camera setting and they oblige because that’s the kind of friends they are and we’ve all got nothing but time today, anyway, so why not. But, mostly they do it because they’re your friends.

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The sun keeps peeping through the green leaves and winking at you.

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You’re so glad you get to be lazy and drink out of mason jars and spend the day with good friends and pet adorable dogs and your heart feels bursty.

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And then it’s time to eat grilled chicken with homemade Alabama White BBQ Sauce and you don’t even like BBQ sauce but this is different and it’s the best you’ve ever had and you’re already looking forward to leftovers the next day.

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Thanks, Chad & Jen.

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And Bailey.

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