The Woolsey Fire… A Chronology of Evacuation and Loss

📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo

📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo

Today is the one year anniversary of the day the Woolsey Fire tore through Malibu and changed the lives of so many forever.

Tragedy does that.

It alters lives and disrupts realities. It happens every minute, of every day, in every part of the world, in different ways.

Just yesterday, right here in Malibu, there was a fatal car accident on Pacific Coast Highway. A 17-year-old died, and the crash clean up and investigation shut down the highway in both directions for six hours. It was a huge inconvenience for some commuters; but a tragic, life altering event for the loved ones of the young girl who lost her life in a blink of an eye.

Loss happens, affecting some minimally, and others monumentally.

The Woolsey Fire brought loss to so many… a few lost their lives, some lost their homes and all their worldly possessions, others lost access to their unscathed homes for days or weeks, and still others lost a sense of safety and security they previously felt in the town in which they lived.

It has been a challenging year for my community, my family, and me; and one that not only changed my life circumstances, but also changed me.

Our home survived the fire, but we battled through tough challenges in the aftermath. The wildfire ignited injuries and suffering that I never could have anticipated… and we faced states of emergency and disaster zone conditions that were hard to endure from one day to the next.

It was a year of forced sacrifice and unexpected hardship. It was physically painful, mentally exhausting, and emotionally draining.

Still, it brought me here.

Alive. Grateful for life. Persevering. Cultivating resilience. Thriving.

At peace with the past. Content in the present. Optimistic about the future.

The photos I captured a year ago, in the hours leading up to and during our evacuation, tell the story of my individual experience of the Woolsey Fire better than any words could do.

It’s not the full story, and it’s not anywhere near the most tragic, but it is mine.

4:03pm - November 8, 2018 - Smoke from the Hill Fire in Ventura County making its presence known over the Pacific Ocean. (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

4:03pm - November 8, 2018 - Smoke from the Hill Fire in Ventura County making its presence known over the Pacific Ocean. (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

The Woolsey Fire started the day before it hit Malibu, on November 8th, but was far away from us when it began. On that Thursday, the Hill Fire in Ventura County was more of a threat to our home. We saw the smoke encroaching into our view and eclipsing the sun that afternoon as the hot Santa Ana winds blew the palm trees in front.

4:25pm - November 8, 2018 - the smell of smoke grew potent and ash began to fly through the air outside. (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

4:25pm - November 8, 2018 - the smell of smoke grew potent and ash began to fly through the air outside. (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

Just like the Thomas Fire a couple years prior, the Hill Fire was a potential threat to us because our little pocket of homes at the edge of the expansive Santa Monica Mountains is located in the western most part of Malibu and under the jurisdiction of Ventura County.

So while most of the Malibu community went to sleep that night in their own beds, we were given a mandatory evacuation around 8:15pm because of the proximity of the Hill Fire in Ventura. We decided to stay over a friend’s house further south in Malibu, since our kids still had school the next day, and according to what was being reported, none of the Los Angeles County part of Malibu was in danger from fire yet… the Woolsey Fire was still many miles away.

With my car packed to the brim with birth certificates, passports, hard drives, photo albums and other irreplaceable possessions, we drove fifteen miles south on PCH to our dear friend’s house for an impromptu sleep over. It was way past the kids’ bedtime, but we finally got them to sleep in anticipation of waking them up for school the next morning.

I myself didn’t sleep very soundly that night. The wind was howling outside, knocking tree branches against the house and my concern for the safety of our home, and any other people or property in the line of fire, was weighing on my mind.

4:56am - November 9, 2018 - Mandatory Evacuation zones in red, excluding most of Malibu except for our mostly uninhabitEd Section up the coast.

4:56am - November 9, 2018 - Mandatory Evacuation zones in red, excluding most of Malibu except for our mostly uninhabitEd Section up the coast.

5:50am - November 9, 2018 - the Woolsey Fire was moving fast and it was time to evacuate Malibu.

5:50am - November 9, 2018 - the Woolsey Fire was moving fast and it was time to evacuate Malibu.

On the morning of Friday, November 9th, I was up by 5am, and the fire update was devastating. We were notified an hour later that school had been cancelled for the day and most of Malibu was now under a “precautionary” evacuation. The Woolsey Fire had moved into Calabasas overnight, crossing over the 101 freeway and heading into the mountains of Malibu.

It took a bit to get the kids up and out, as we were all glued to the fire coverage on the live TV broadcast. When we finally left our friend’s house, bound for my sister’s in South Pasadena, we saw an enormous cloud of smoke looming overhead, the size and density of which I had never seen before. The sight of it slowly beginning to eclipse the clean blue sky of the Malibu coast was scary and disconcerting; and we stood in disbelief on their driveway for a few minutes before piling in the car to leave.

8:13am - November 9, 2018 - woke up to this sight over Corral Canyon where we had stayed for the night (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

8:13am - November 9, 2018 - woke up to this sight over Corral Canyon where we had stayed for the night (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

8:25am- November 9, 2018 - Intersection of PCH and Corral Canyon as we started our journey evacuating MALIBU (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

8:25am- November 9, 2018 - Intersection of PCH and Corral Canyon as we started our journey evacuating MALIBU (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

We drove down the canyon and reached PCH close to 8:30am, and I knew immediately we should have set out to leave sooner. The mass exodus had already begun, and it appeared that PCH was presumably backed up for miles.

8:42am - November 9, 2018 - we were amongst hundreds of cars lined up, frozen in gridlock while trying to go south on PCH (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

8:42am - November 9, 2018 - we were amongst hundreds of cars lined up, frozen in gridlock while trying to go south on PCH (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

It was. We crawled up the hill toward Pepperdine University, in a state of gridlock that moved slower than any traffic jam of which I have ever been a part. I put the car in park and got out to take photos, since we didn’t move an inch for several minutes at a time, and I had to keep myself occupied somehow.

It was hard not to worry, and a sense of helplessness and desperation was growing inside me. The anxiety in my body was palpable, especially in my neck and shoulders, and I kept taking deep breaths to keep myself calm and focused. I just wanted to get my kids out of the area safely and as soon as humanly possible.

They, on the other hand, were blissfully content while immersed in the fantastical realm of Harry Potter, watching a movie together on the car entertainment system. The bluetooth headphones they were wearing blocked out their awareness of what was transpiring outside, and I had never been more grateful for technology than I was in that moment.

10:12am - November 9, 2018 - passing Pepperdine University (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

10:12am - November 9, 2018 - passing Pepperdine University (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

It took us almost two hours to drive 2.5 miles. The kids started a second movie. From the top of the hill near Pepperdine University, the smoke plume looked much larger than it had at the bottom of the hill. This was when the gravity of the situation intensified for me, and I wondered if this would be the last time I’d see this place as it looked then.

10:30am - November 9, 2018 - PCH south of Malibu Canyon, heading south toward the Malibu Creek and Pier (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

10:30am - November 9, 2018 - PCH south of Malibu Canyon, heading south toward the Malibu Creek and Pier (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

The northbound side of Pacific Coast Highway was now closed, but they had yet to open it up to southbound traffic when we were passing through. All the canyons leading into Malibu were closed as well, so traveling southbound on PCH was the only way out of Malibu at that time. It was nerve-wracking to sit there and realize there was now only one exit route out of there available to us… unless we wanted to abandon our car and jump into the ocean and swim out.

10:52am - November 9, 2018 - gridlock on PCH and Webb Way (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

10:52am - November 9, 2018 - gridlock on PCH and Webb Way (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

We could see that most of the cars sitting in traffic with us had only people and pets in them… few were as fully packed up as ours was, or even moderately packed. I presume the majority of the people in the cars around us hadn’t expected to be evacuated that morning, leaving their homes in a hurry with only the clothes on their backs or a few items they managed to grab. I counted us lucky in that moment for being evacuated the night before, giving us enough time to thoughtfully pack the car. I just wished I had decided to escape to my sister’s the night before instead of now being forced to sit in this purgatory of gridlock.

10:59am - November 9, 2018 - Approaching Cross Creek Road (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

10:59am - November 9, 2018 - Approaching Cross Creek Road (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

We had been told it was only a “precautionary” evacuation that morning. In the news reports, it seemed that there was no expectation that this fire would ever reach all the way to the ocean. It just couldn’t. It was up in the mountains, miles and miles away still… surely they would stop it there? A fire that started so far away, traveling that far, that fast, was unlikely and improbable. Yet, coupled with the ferocious Santa Ana wind conditions, the unstoppable force of Woolsey stunned us all.

11:01am - November 9, 2018 - traffic light at Cross Creek Road (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

11:01am - November 9, 2018 - traffic light at Cross Creek Road (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

I kept looking back and snapping photos of the smoke, in utter disbelief of its size. I knew our home was underneath it somewhere, but since we had left it over fourteen hours prior, I had no idea how close the fire was to consuming it, or if it already had burned, at this point in time.

11:30am - November 9, 2018 - south of Duke’s Malibu Restaurant (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

11:30am - November 9, 2018 - south of Duke’s Malibu Restaurant (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

It was now after 11am, and the smoke had finally drifted over the Pacific Ocean. The further I drove away, the larger it seemed to grow. It felt like we were trying to outrun an enemy invasion; and in a way, we were.

12:16pm - November 9, 2018 - The last photo I took of the smoke consuming Malibu from PCH in Santa Monica (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

12:16pm - November 9, 2018 - The last photo I took of the smoke consuming Malibu from PCH in Santa Monica (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

When we finally reached Santa Monica, we had been in the car for over four hours and traveled only fourteen miles.The kids began a third movie. I took a final photo of Point Dume across the ocean, with all of Malibu seemingly completely engulfed in smoke, before entering the McClure Tunnel and getting on the 10 freeway toward Downtown L.A.

The drive from that point was uneventful. It was just slowed down considerably by the usual L.A. Friday traffic nightmare and the added congestion from the influx of Malibu residents evacuating. Once we finally arrived at my sister’s house in South Pasadena just before 2pm, we spent the rest of the afternoon watching the news and searching for signs of hope that our home and our community wasn’t burning to the ground.

2:24pm - November 9, 2018 - a shot of the news on the Television at my sister’s house (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

2:24pm - November 9, 2018 - a shot of the news on the Television at my sister’s house (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

Yet from what we could tell from the live news reports, it seemingly was burning to the ground. We saw footage of flames burning bushes on the beach side of PCH just north of Zuma Beach. The fire had, in fact, reached the ocean.

Fire trucks were racing north on PCH in the clips we saw on TV. Our home was less than ten miles north of this location on the screen, so things were looking pretty bleak. The sun was blocked out by the smoke, so it was dark, gray, brown and hazy, and the wind was still blowing hard.

We heard reports that the high school and the local supermarkets had burned. We imagined the worst in the absence of proof to the contrary. It was growing dark, the first responders couldn’t see, and the air drops weren’t feasible in the wind conditions. It all seemed impossible to control; and for a while, it was.

Waiting and wondering if we would have a home, or even a town, in which to return was excruciating. Neighbors texted us photos that night showing the mountain behind our home completely engulfed in flames. They had disregarded the mandatory evacuation and were there when all the open land around our neighborhood was ablaze.

November 9, 2018 - the mountains behind our neighborhood on fire (📷: Sean Newhouse)

November 9, 2018 - the mountains behind our neighborhood on fire (📷: Sean Newhouse)

November 9, 2018 - the fire creeping down the mountain toward our home (📷: Sean Newhouse)

November 9, 2018 - the fire creeping down the mountain toward our home (📷: Sean Newhouse)

The firefighters arrival forced their overdue evacuation, but they still stopped across the street and shot photos in the dark of the fire ripping down the mountain toward our street. I was in shock and disbelief. We went to bed that night resigned to the possibility that we would probably wake up to the news that it was all gone… our home, our neighborhood, our city.

We truly thought it was all going to burn.

Thankfully, we found out the next afternoon, after the first wave of winds subsided, that our home did not burn the previous night. The firefighters saved our entire neighborhood of homes. We were extremely lucky. The school was still there, as well as the markets; but the fires and the winds were far from over, so any comfort in the fact our home survived was delayed for many more days. The winds picked back up again and the fire continued to burn out of control, and we knew it was far from over.

Of course, there was some relief our home was safe at that point; but our good news came simultaneously with word of what had happened to other parts of Malibu in our absence. After the first day of the fire, we discovered through social media reports that eight close friends/families lost their homes.

Over the course of the weekend, that number of families increased rapidly, climbing up every day as the news spread of homes burned in the local neighborhoods of Malibu Park, Malibu West, Point Dume, and Latigo Canyon. By Monday, we had confirmation that 30 families whom we knew personally lost everything they owned to the fire.

November 22, 2108 - Kanan Road Tunnels surrounded by black and burned mountains (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

November 22, 2108 - Kanan Road Tunnels surrounded by black and burned mountains (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

News of more losses came as time went by. The days, weeks, and months that followed were some of the hardest of my life.

We were evacuated from our home for one week. Ash covered everything, power and internet was out for weeks, a generator was eventually delivered to service our street, and everywhere we looked, the landscape was black. We lay in bed each night and heard a loud fuel truck pull up to fill the generator parked on the street with gas, and wondered when it would all stop.

I didn’t take many photos during those first few days home, mainly because we weren't really allowed to drive through PCH anyway. Downed power poles and debris kept many sections of the highway closed. Photographic images from others of fire damage around town were also not in short supply; and they were all so heartbreaking.

During those first few weeks, it was hard to fathom how well, and how long, we were going to live in that state of disaster.

LEO CARILLO STATE PARK CAMPGROUNDS DEVASTATED BY THE WOOLSEY FIRE- MALIBU, CA (📷: SGT. JOHN REGAN, CA STATE PARKS, LIFEGUARD SUPERVISOR, ANGELES DISTRICt)

LEO CARILLO STATE PARK CAMPGROUNDS DEVASTATED BY THE WOOLSEY FIRE- MALIBU, CA (📷: SGT. JOHN REGAN, CA STATE PARKS, LIFEGUARD SUPERVISOR, ANGELES DISTRICt)

LEO CARILLO STATE PARK CAMPGROUNDS DEVASTATED BY THE WOOLSEY FIRE- MALIBU, CA (📷: SGT. JOHN REGAN, CA STATE PARKS, LIFEGUARD SUPERVISOR, ANGELES DISTRICT)

LEO CARILLO STATE PARK CAMPGROUNDS DEVASTATED BY THE WOOLSEY FIRE- MALIBU, CA (📷: SGT. JOHN REGAN, CA STATE PARKS, LIFEGUARD SUPERVISOR, ANGELES DISTRICT)

Feruary 2019 - Leo Carillo State Beach - skeleton of a burned lifeguard tower still sitting on the shore (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

Feruary 2019 - Leo Carillo State Beach - skeleton of a burned lifeguard tower still sitting on the shore (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

February 2019 - Black and Burned Trees on a hill in our neighborhood (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

February 2019 - Black and Burned Trees on a hill in our neighborhood (📷: Lisa Butala Zabaldo)

Today, I am so grateful to be on the other side of it all, beginning a new chapter and forging a new path. This community is stronger for it, and life goes on for all who suffered loss in all its varying degrees.

We are indebted to all the people who supported us during that difficult time. Those who took us in, hosted us generously, offered us their service and assistance, called or texted to check in on us, and kept us in their prayers.

To all of you… thank you.

Paradise Found

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This was tonight’s sunset.

Upon putting my eight-year-old son to bed a few hours later, we said a prayer aloud to one another, as we do each night before we cuddle. His prayers are often tender and thoughtful; but tonight’s was especially so... “I pray that we have safe drives and safe lives for as long as we want to live. I pray that Belle has a happy life and a happy home.”

I can venture to guess that the “safe drives” sentiment is rooted in the knowledge that his grandmother (my mom) died in a car accident before he and his sister were born. I was struck by the dichotomy in that one sentence, as he said for as long as we *want* to live, like it is fully up to us, despite the tragic randomness of my mom’s accident. As for Belle... she is our new gray and white gorgeous cat whom we rescued two weeks ago, and who has completely captured his heart. His profundity in moments such as these astonishes me in equal measure to the beauty of these sunsets we are fortunate to witness so many evenings.

I read today in an Instagram post by Glennon Doyle about Johnny Cash’s description of paradise being having coffee in the morning with his wife. She then described her own version of paradise in this messy world of ours. Reading her words made me reflect about what my description of paradise would be. Today, I’d describe it as being fully present in my own mind, body and soul, sharing this quiet moment with my son, appreciating the beauty in front of me, and feeling grateful for and accepting of where I am and who I am, just as I am.

This place is perceived as paradise by many, for many reasons, one being views such as this. In this respect, I concur; but I too believe that we can be in paradise no matter our surroundings, if we are able to recognize and appreciate the gifts in our lives, and live them with love and gratitude in our hearts. Thank you Glennon Doyle for the inspiration today, and thanks to my almost nine-year-old beautiful boy for his depth, sensitivity, and love... and just simply for existing.

#paradisefound

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Waves of Flags

I take photos of the flags flapping in the wind every year we visit. They are the same yet different. The sea of American flags are always dotted with flags of other nations, but spaced out differently and seemingly in new spots each year.

My son runs up and down the grassy hills, a little more exuberantly than I would wish, as I stroll slowly and silently behind. I recognize the futility of trying to wrangle in life amidst this reminder of death. He is energetic and celebrates his aliveness unapologetically, while I take in the scene with reverence and quiet reflection... snapping shots here and there, trying to capture the beauty of these views that can never be fully felt or translated into a two dimensional image.

In person, the flags possess their own kinetic energy, as if the souls they represent are gloriously flying free in the sea breezes and enjoying the beautiful ocean views. 🙏🏼🇺🇸

#neverforget #pepperdine911memorial #wavesofflags

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Been bringing him here since he was about to turn one. He’ll be nine in ten days. I think the only year we missed was when he was due to be born on Sept. 16th of 2010 and I was too pregnant to walk these hills. He was born 5 days late.

Been bringing him here since he was about to turn one. He’ll be nine in ten days. I think the only year we missed was when he was due to be born on Sept. 16th of 2010 and I was too pregnant to walk these hills. He was born 5 days late.

My daughter taking a moment to herself at the Pepperdine 9/11 Memorial today. She is almost thirteen now, and as she matures, the gravity of this event has become more potent each year. 🇺🇸

My daughter taking a moment to herself at the Pepperdine 9/11 Memorial today. She is almost thirteen now, and as she matures, the gravity of this event has become more potent each year. 🇺🇸

One on One Time

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Blanket, umbrella, snacks, puzzle game book, me and my little one. He bolted away to fetch his water bottle and my hat from the car; and as he ran back toward me at full speed, joyful and free, I felt grateful for him... gratitude that often eludes me when both of my kids are together. Sibling rivalry is no joke, so spending one-on-one time with each reignites the joy of motherhood in me.

#oneononetime

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Crunchy Mart

crunchymart1.jpg

June in the ‘Bu... cold and overcast.

Still we had a fun day today staying local, checking out summer reading books 📚 at the Malibu Library, stopping for açaí bowls at Sunlife Organics, and playing at Malibu Country Mart.

Haven’t played here for ages; although we used to come all the time when the kids were babies and toddlers.

See photos below of my oldest in 2008 at one year old on the same play structure, and my youngest in 2014 at three years old ready for movie night at the “crunchy mart” as he used to call it.

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crunchymart3.jpg

Fun to see them today play on the same structure at ages 12 and 8.5!

#summertime #malibucountrymart #malibulocals

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Love Is the Answer to Every Question

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I shared this image and message over three years ago, but I think it bears repeating...

Love is everything. It is all there is and all that truly matters. At times humans are hard to love, but mostly they are so easy.

I love some for their heart and others for their humor. I love some for their convictions and still others for their beauty, inside and out. I love the mind, body and soul of one 💗, and the pure nature and generosity of spirit of another. 💞

The most amazing thing about love is that it is boundless. It knows no limits. It is not restricted to the people you're supposed to love, expected to love, or allowed to love, by other people’s standards and rules. You are free to love anyone, at any time, to any degree, and for any reason. Love has the power to heal, uplift, inspire and transform. Love is the answer to every question. 💖


#love #loveistheanswer #malibufarm

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Yes Pause Button

4-22-19 pch.jpg

Sitting on the side of the road in my car. PCH. Appreciating Mother Earth and so many of her gifts on this Earth Day 2019. The air, the sea, the land, the sunset. The quiet stillness. The majestic beauty. 🌎💙

Needed to take a break from life and its realities. Pushed that imaginary pause button... you know, the one I said in my post last week didn’t exist while I was on vacation, after I got the news my aunt died. Well, I manifested it into reality tonight. Yep. That’s the great thing about free will... we can do what we want, when we want, as we see fit. For our sanity. For our self care. For no other reason than we need a f-ing break. If we can’t see a better way to process a difficult moment.

I needed to pause. All of it... Mothering, wife-ing, woman-ing, adulting. I took time for myself; frankly, to sob. To let it flow out of me, TWICE today. Earlier this afternoon and right before taking this photo. Afterward, I was able to breathe and reflect. To be still. Stillness is salvation. Then, I could begin writing this.

When things suck, they can suck BAD and sometimes there is nothing we can do about it. Nothing but breathe. Nothing but accept the sh*tty turn of events or reality with which we are faced. Nothing but recognize that it will pass, eventually, and there is always a way through. Somehow. Some way.

Yes, pausing works... in the short term. You can cry. You can meditate and clear your mind. It is peaceful, therapeutic even. A release. A welcome escape. But then you have to process. To face and it, IN your life.

I most often write to find my way through. To process the hard. To understand the pain, to nurture the heartbreak, to empower the inner strength hiding below the vulnerability and fear, to give voice to the feelings deep in my heart that otherwise would stay silent.

I write, and it all comes alive. I write, and it all feels surmountable, somehow. I write, and my heart is able to feel and say what I cannot communicate otherwise. For me, writing my words gives breath to them... to my hurt, love, fear, sadness, joy, passion, anger and disappointment. I feel and work through it. I don’t numb, avoid or deny. I write. And THAT is everything.

#yespausebutton

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Soul of an Artist

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My eight-year-old is an artist. His drawing is currently on display at the City of Malibu Student Art Exhibit; so we attended the Artist Reception last Friday night.

Yes, he loves to draw and he’s good at it, but the simple drawing he quickly made at school and submitted to the show is not why I call him an artist.

He is an artist because he has the soul of an artist.

I resist saying, “he takes after me,” as it is not for me to take credit for his passion and talent. It is his and his alone. I am merely a fellow artist, a kindred spirit. Yet he is wild and untamed in his artistic expression, and I am less so. The “wild and untamed” in me remains dormant for the most part, set free only when I feel really passionate about something, or someone, and only when I feel safe.

But that doesn’t sit right with me. I don’t think you’re supposed to wait to feel safe first to share yourself or your unbridled passion. You need to just do it, show your wild side, be yourself, and own it, right? Well my son does just that. He doesn’t wait for anything... not permission, nor an appropriate time or place. He lets loose whenever and wherever; and as such, his behavior is often a bit disruptive, I’m afraid.

Before I took this photo of his dad holding him to look at the art, he was (as usual) his most expressive self, acting to get a laugh from anyone watching. Crawling around and behaving goofy, with his loud voice echoing through the high ceilings of Malibu City Hall, amidst people quietly browsing the art gallery, he was a performance artist without a captive audience. Wrong time and place, and as a parent, not cool with me. We had to wrangle him in b/c teaching him to reign himself in is still a work in progress. It is a DAILY challenge.😓

I am confident (read: hoping) more self control will set in as he gets older, and that he finds the perfect outlet to share his unique gifts. For now, he is unabashedly HIM, 24/7... over the top, flamboyant, lively and animated. Such unbridled energy, such freedom w/o reservation. Qualities many artists yearn to cultivate to aid in effectively expressing themselves.

Maybe I need take a cue from his playbook more often when sharing myself, and my art. 🎭

#soulofanartist #studentartexhibit

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Surreal Moments

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Some of the best parts of the human experience are the ones that defy explanation. Ones that seem a bit surreal as you are experiencing them. When you don’t have a logical explanation for the bliss or the beauty, and you don’t question or doubt anything in that moment and instead just FEEL it... 😌 those are the best moments in life.

Moments so pure, so grounded in raw sensory touch, powerfully ignited by soul connecting passion for life, or for another human... they make memories you can never shake (nor do you want to).✨

On a smaller scale, a glimpse of this surreal type feeling can be found when watching a spectacular sunset, especially when parts of the sky look like this. It didn’t even look real. It looked more like a Monet painting I have seen hanging in the Getty Museum.

Yes, I know Monet painted what he saw in actual, real skies; but he was an impressionist and his artistry lent a surreal tone to his work. Often we see these breathtaking images in museums more than in real life; so when we experience them in person, it’s pretty special.

All I had to do was take the highway, houses, and trees out of the line of sight within my camera’s viewfinder, and this real life painting appeared.

#monetsunset #paintedsky

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Move Forward

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Everything is coming together. All in due time. Be patient. Be Aware. CREATE. Move forward. Love others. Love yourself. GIVE. Accept what is. Improve what you can. Believe in what’s possible. GROW. Take action. Find strength. Trust in you.

⚓️ HOPE.
➕ Stay Positive.
💪 Persevere.

Be integral in making your hopes a reality. IMAGINE. See it. Be Open. It’s all just around the corner. SEIZE IT.


#moveforward #fridayinspiration #newmonth #Feb1

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

November 2018 - An Inspirational Disaster

Leo Carillo State Park campgrounds devastated by the Woolsey fire- Malibu, CA 📷: Sgt. John Regan, CA State Parks, Lifeguard Supervisor, Angeles District

Leo Carillo State Park campgrounds devastated by the Woolsey fire- Malibu, CA 📷: Sgt. John Regan, CA State Parks, Lifeguard Supervisor, Angeles District

Pacific Coast Highway through Leo Carillo State Park after the fire - malibu, CA 📷: Sgt. John Regan, CA State Parks, Lifeguard Supervisor, Angeles District

Pacific Coast Highway through Leo Carillo State Park after the fire - malibu, CA 📷: Sgt. John Regan, CA State Parks, Lifeguard Supervisor, Angeles District

The entries I posted on Instagram in November 2018 started off inspirational, but ended up in disaster, full of news and updates on the unexpected tragic events that took place that month. After my last Instagram entry on November 26th, I went offline and took a seven week hiatus from posting on or even looking at social media.

I completely checked out from it all, needing to focus on the care of my injured daughter, and the healing of my own hurt body. So amidst living through the frightening fire disaster, returning to a home in an area that looked like a war zone, and contending with the debilitating injuries and illnesses that befell me and my family, I remained offline through the whole of December, and made my best effort to enjoy the holiday season in gratitude for my family through to the new year.

A devastating wildfire, a painful spasm, and a serious fracture did a number on life around here for a while, and the following words and images chronicle how everything unfolded in November…

(I’ll get to December later.)


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It’s hard to live life sometimes. It’s hard to keep it all together when it feels like it’s all falling apart. It’s hard to be consistently responsible, helpful, kind, and generous, while also feeling happy, joyful, and sane. It’s challenging to do the right thing all the time. To resist sadness, anger, selfishness, laziness, and pessimism when they rear their heads, and when there are plenty of legitimate sources to justify their existence.

It takes discipline, awareness and intentional positivity to resist being swallowed up by the overwhelm of the big picture, the state of our world, and the perils of humanity. It takes courage and a strong will to resist collapse under the weight of our own quiet heartbreaks and peaceful resignations. To suffer soul crushing defeat, survive it, and rise above. It takes hope, intention, and an unwavering desire to build rather than destroy... our homes, our families, our kids’ spirits, and our own sense of peace within.

But we do it. At least we do our best to do it. We do it because we love life. And because we just plain LOVE. Holding love in our hearts can move mountains. It can get us through the worst of storms; and it can bring us to our highest purpose. It is our saving grace.


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Thousand Oaks is part of an extended community for many residents of Malibu. My kids and I are over there often, most recently this past Tuesday, the day before the Borderline Bar & Grill shooting, at a restaurant only four miles from where shots were fired and twelve lives were violently lost. Newbury Park, a town within the city limits of Thousand Oaks, is both where the shooter lived and where I take my kids to see their pediatrician. We dine, shop, and run most of our errands in this community, just over the mountain from our home.

I took this photo of my son in February 2017 at the mall when we were out in T.O. for our mother/son night while my husband and daughter were attending their annual father/daughter dance back in Malibu. It is just minutes from the Borderline Bar and Grill where the shooting took place. “It could have been us” has entered my mind more than once today, and I have had to qualm feelings of unrest for my kids’ safety as we go about our lives. The fear of losing loved ones has been more pronounced for me since my mom went away for her birthday weekend and never returned, killed by a driver under the influence of prescription drugs.

When these senseless shootings happen, as a victim of unexpected tragedy myself, I go back to how I felt the day I was informed by the police officer on the scene that my mom had died in an accident. I relate with and weep for the those whose lives have been forever changed in a blink of an eye. I know first hand how they have been blindsided by such news, how their existence has been severely altered, and how they now have to reconcile their new reality of living without. They have been pulled into the abyss of tragic loss these last 24 hours. Darkness has blocked out the light and they are just beginning their journey through it. My heart and my thoughts are with them. Even though the rest of us are left to process another senseless shooting in whatever way we can (again), we are the lucky ones this time.


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The Borderline Bar & Grill mass shooting last night and now the Hill Fire in the same town of Thousand Oaks, right over the mountain from us. We have the car packed for evacuation, which may come at any moment; as we have heard they’ve already evacuated five miles north of us. Hoping we can stay in our home tonight and all will be ok... but for now, we are thinking of all those over the mountain that are already mourning the loss of victims in the Borderline shooting, and on top of that, are now battling wildfires.


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Mandatory evacuation for all of Malibu from #VenturaCountyLine to Malibu Canyon/Las Virgenes. We are in the car stuck in solid gridlock on PCH right now trying to leave Malibu. Our home had a mandatory evacuation last night, but we stayed in Malibu at a friend’s house further south where there were no evacuations. Now we are part of the mass exodus to leave, wishing we had just left the area entirely last night. Hoping we will have a home to return to in a few days, and praying for the safety for all the Ventura County Fire & LA County Fire fighters and all residents in the affected areas. 🙏

#woolseyfire #hillfire


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My home is (or was, as the jury is still out on that) located about 18 miles up the coast from where I took this photo, somewhere behind and under that huge cloud of smoke. This was at 11:00am yesterday, and the kids and I had already been in the car for two and a half hours but had only traveled a mile. We stayed at a friend’s house further south from our home down PCH on Thursday night, having left our own home at 8:45pm under a mandatory evacuation.

I quickly packed up photos and various irreplaceable items, as much as would fit in our car with my two kids in the back seat, and walked out the door, leaving 99% of our possessions behind. It is now a day and a half later, and with each passing minute, it becomes more of a real possibility that I may not ever see my home again, except as a pile of ashes where it used to stand. I am heartbroken for my community, as so much of it has already burned; and so many of my friends are already dealing with the devastating news that their homes are gone.

Now, I sit here at my sister’s house waiting to hear the fate of mine - for the other shoe to drop. Yes, my immediate family is safe. Yes, the things we left behind are just possessions. But it is also our home... where I lived when I got married, pregnant, found out my mom died, grieved her, birthed two babies, nursed them, put them down for naps, fed them solid foods for the first time, watched them take their first steps, and took their first day of school pictures each year. Where we measured and marked their heights in pencil with a line and their names and the date on the wall next to the entry closet.

It may all be gone. It may all still be there. Either way, what has happened to Malibu is devastating. I know we will survive, and I know our community will rise up, support those who need it most, and get through this tragedy together. I am just so sad, and I need to allow this feeling for a moment before I face what is to come.

#hillfire #woolseyfire


Our home in Malibu did not burn down on Friday in the #woolseyfire and #hillfire, per the report I received Saturday afternoon. However, the danger is far from over and my sigh of relief will be forever stifled, since at least eight families we know already lost their homes, and those are just the ones confirmed.

Power lines have burned and our community is still evacuated. Wind ceased to blow most of the day Saturday, giving firefighters, first responders, and volunteers a reprieve, and a chance to make some headway on fire containment. Unfortunately, the winds picked up again Saturday evening, and more fires ignited in Malibu. It is going to be another rough day (or maybe days) of wait and see.

One of the many sad notes of Saturday was the news that Leo Carillo State Park was burned significantly. The landscape on and around my favorite Leo hiking loop is going to look vastly different than it does here above (taken last week) when I finally am allowed to hike up to this ocean vista point again and survey the scene. I am weeks away from that reality, but I know it will be hard to look out on what the fires have done to it from this spot.

For now, I must stay focused on the reality before me. Thank you to everyone who checked in and left notes of love and encouragement on Instagram, Facebook, or via text. I deeply appreciated all of your kind words and concern, and felt the love communicated from near and far. 🙏❤️

Hope for another day begins now. Hope for the safety and protection of those battling, and the victims of, these fires. Hope that peace and comfort will eventually soothe those who have already suffered tremendous loss. And hope that all life and property that has been spared thus far will stay safe and unscathed over this night and into these next few days.


These palm trees stand on our property, just feet from the side of our home. This mountain behind the palms, the sone in the second photo, is above us, right behind our home. The whole mountain burned, the fields adjacent to our home on both sides burned, and the open land in front of our street burned. Miraculously, our home did not burn. We have been assured our home is now safe from the threat of fire... well, at least from this fire. We are relieved and grateful. We are one of the lucky ones.

The list of Malibu families we know whom have lost their homes has grown to 26; and I expect that number will rise as information continues to spread. Kids in my kids’ classes lost their homes. Teachers at my kids’ school lost their homes. Moms I love and have worked with volunteering at school and in the PTA have lost their homes. My daughter’s best friend lost her new home, the one she just moved into a few weeks ago, as well as the home from which she just moved, where she grew up and had my daughter over for countless play dates, hang outs, and sleep overs. Educators and mentors who have inspired, supported, and just been there along the journey of our lives in Malibu the last 16 years, have lost the homes in which they had lived for over 30 or 40 years.

They are all suffering tremendous loss right now. Please pray 🙏 or keep them in your thoughts... or however you chose to send out positive energy 💫 into the world.

Donate to the many relief efforts that have been formed: @we.love.malibu @onelovemalibu @malibufoundation @bgcmalibu90265, offer a hand to help where you can, or just foster a little more gratitude for the safety and security of your own home, if you are reading this from afar, miles away from Malibu.


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Last Monday night, four days after being evacuated from Malibu, we were still taking refuge in my sister’s South Pasadena house. After sleeping in their cousin’s room for three nights, my kids came to snuggle with me, missing home, and their beds. They drifted off peacefully, while I lied there feeling the unrest and sadness of the last several days fully palpable in my body. My neck, where I hold my stress, had been tight for months, building since May, getting worse with difficulties endured in June, July and August, leading to its present state of stiffness and knots.

A yogi and runner, I had knowingly neglected my self care and exercise regimen in the face of adversity for months... a big mistake. Even though my home was safe, I didn’t feel relief. The damage to my body had already been done. The wildfire was the catalyst to my body finally raising the white flag in surrender.

At 5:30 the next morning, I was awoken by a muscle spasm that shot down my neck. My back was frozen in pain and I didn’t know how to make it stop. Bending my neck up lessened the spasm, so I held it in that position. I couldn’t move without pain taking over, so I just lied there, paralyzed in the dark, while everyone else in the house slept. I felt helpless, scared, and I had to pee. I needed to get up, so I silently gritted through the pain. It got worse from there as the hours passed, spreading down my right side to my arm, hand and fingers.

Thus began what is now going on seven days of chronic pain that hasn’t relented, except for some minutes here and there, and while I’m asleep, when I can sleep. I have seen three professionals ~ healers, therapists and doctors ~ and have had several treatments and tests, with no quick fixes in sight... just the expected weeks of physical therapy.

My body has drawn a line in the sand. It has told me it isn’t going to be ignored or neglected anymore. The wildfire that threatened my home and ravaged my town was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and mine. It was a huge wake up call. I am finally returning home today, still immobilized by pain, to begin the work of healing... not only the physical healing of my body, but the mental and emotional healing of myself and my community.


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Finally arrived back home yesterday afternoon, and witnessed the first sunset here in ten days. A sight for sore eyes.

The mandatory evacuation has been lifted for most of Malibu, but there are still some canyons in which people are not allowed to return to their homes, or to survey the damage done to their property. I am feeling a mixture of gratitude for still having a home to which to return, and sorrow for all the loss suffered by my friends and the challenging times ahead for all of us to rebuild our community.

Anyone interested in helping, you can donate to @onelovemalibu, @malibufoundation, @bgcmalibu90265, or you can visit @gabbyreece to find out what is actively being done for the relief effort locally, not only in Malibu, but other affected areas like Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley. Several groups have been formed to help victims of the #woolseyfire in all areas, and she has been disseminating information through her IG posts to help galvanize people into action. 🙏❤️💪


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My sister and brother-in-law have created a wonderful Thanksgiving tradition at their home for my family and my brother’s family, and they outdo themselves each year with an amazing meal and this beautiful setting.

Thanksgiving was especially memorable yesterday, since we had been evacuated here and stayed at their house for five days when the Woolsey Fire hit Malibu two weeks ago. So many lives have been turned upside down since then, and I am feeling so many different feelings about it. Most of all, I feel gratitude for the safety of my family and our home from the fire; but I also feel sadness for all of my friends who lost their homes to it.

When tragedy strikes, clarity for what you value most can often hit you soon after. I feel overwhelming love for the people dearest to my heart, and an aching desire to be with the ones I love whom are not in my physical realm right now. 💗 I feel the void of their presence and miss their touch, while simultaneously feeling the fullness of my heart with love for them. A testament to how much love our hearts can hold.

Amidst all the love and giving thanks, I’m still feeling the debilitating effects of my back injury from a week and a half ago; and now my daughter is also injured from an accident she had on her scooter the evening before Thanksgiving. It landed us in Malibu Urgent Care right before they closed, and luckily they were able to stitch up her chin that had split open when she fell face first on the asphalt street in front of our home. She scraped some other body parts too; and beside the pain in her chin, her jaw is stiff, her teeth are sore, and she ran a 102 temperature for the duration of our Thanksgiving celebration.

We woke up this morning, both of us bedridden and sore, and I was feeling a bit in a state of “when it rains it pours.” Yet I recognize that these physical challenges and injuries we are nursing still pale in comparison to losing everything in the fire. I know we will be fine soon. We’ll heal our bodies over the next few weeks, and then we will be ready and stronger than ever to help our friends rebuild their lives, and help rebuild our beautiful community.

#malibustrong 💪💙


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In bed. Looking up from the flat of my back. Visions of love, loss, limbo, lust, and light abound. 💫💛✨

#backinjury #bedstretches #yogainbed #youwilllookupatmefromtheflatofyourback #aknightstale #william #heathledger


Before all the hills in my neighborhood off the coast of Malibu burned, including this bluff I often hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, I began writing #thirtydaysofinspiration posts, starting on Nov. 1st. I only wrote and posted on day 1-7 before the Borderline Bar shooting occurred in nearby Thousand Oaks the night of Nov. 7th.

The next day, the Hill Fire in Ventura County, the Woolsey Fire in LA County, and the Camp Fire in Butte County, all began to burn up the state of California. I never got to my day 8 inspirational post, instead writing about the bar shooting. The wild fires took over our lives on Nov. 9th, and they burned their paths of destruction through the city of Paradise up north and my city of Malibu here down south.

Tragedy and loss have competed fiercely with inspiration during these difficult days from Nov. 8-25. Still, many examples of bravery, kindness and perseverance emerged amidst the rubble by the first responders, fire fighters, law enforcement officers, community members, and people from near and far, either working to prevent loss, or helping those who have suffered loss. Inspiration at its finest.

Today, on day 26, I wanted to resume my posts on these last days of this very difficult November; but I find I don’t have it in me right now. I feel sad and overwhelmed. I need time to process some things and do some healing. In the absence of my attempt to write something inspirational to share, I want to show some love and appreciation for those on my Instagram feed who often inspire me.

Inspiration can take many forms... in words and images, in art and intellect, and in humans who embody love, courage, strength, beauty, emotional intelligence, kindness, and ⚓️ hope, as they share their gifts and vulnerabilities, and expose their humanity.

Thank you for inspiring me:
@nayyirah.waheed @changeurperception @createthelove @beingisbeautiful @mindfulmft @abbywambach @estherperelofficial @bzblooms @herbadmother @thelastburstofspring @fodadaclothing @timhortonphotomalibu @julieellerton @projecthealthybody_ @dallashartwig @briana_leonard @rootsnwings_malibu @wearemanenough

Thank you all for the truths you share, and the light you shine. 🙏 💙 xo- Lisa

Don't Do It to Look Hot

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Don’t do it to look hot. Don’t do it to get other people’s admiration, envy, or approval. Don’t do it so those you think are hot will find you hot too. 🔥

Do it to take care of yourself, be strong, move free, feel good, and live long. If “looking hot” is a residual effect, and admirers let you know it, don’t let that define you or your self worth.

Physical “hotness” is fleeting; but the intangible force that attracts others to us and us to them on deeper levels will outlast any surface attraction. Depth of character, kindness, respect, and vulnerability are at the core of the connections we make with those who are meant to be in our lives with longevity.

Deep connections will survive casual flirtations and fleeting infatuations every time; so be sure to put equal energy into the fitness of your mind, heart, and soul as you do your body. Redefine your hotness from the inside out.

#dayfive #dontdoittolookhot

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Focus Through It

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When you are challenged to the breaking point and are weary of the climb, remember it’s not going to get easier when you decide to try again... in an hour, a day, week, month, or year.

The only way through any kind of discomfort is *through* it... not around it or away from it.

When you know what you need to do to get where you want, but aren’t sure you have what it takes to get there, focus on how you want to feel when you reach the top. Focus on what you are working to overcome, what from which you want to heal, and what existence you want to live as you move forward toward your goal.

Focus on how the strength you will gain on the journey will fuel your desire to persevere, and how every step you take brings you closer to where you want to be.

#dayfour #focusthroughit

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

You Know

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When everyone around you is marching to a different beat, keep time with your own drum. Don’t let the pull of the majority sway you to abandon your instincts on what you believe is the right path.

You know what is true. You know what to do. You know.

#daythree #youknow

*Originally posted to Instagram and Facebook

What Is

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Life will continue to surprise. You never know exactly what will come next.

The not knowing means there is always hope that what you want will come; but the unpredictability means there is no guarantee you will get it. No rushing results or controlling other’s actions.

Trust that everything has been leading up to now, and what is about to happen. To what is about to be realized in your heart and mind. What IS being realized. Believe that the culmination of your actions and choices have brought you to where you are supposed to be.

Live with gratitude, hope, positivity, and perseverance; and continue to take positive action, but also surrender to what is. Allow “what is” to be, accept what isn’t to be, and keep the faith that what has yet to come, will come, if it is meant for you.

#daytwo #whatis

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Favorite Season

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Driving on PCH one mile from home, the kids and I pulled to the side of the road to enjoy this, knowing these colors would be gone by the time we got to our deck. (They were.)

Dotting the horizon, the squid boats share their soft glow... a familiar and comforting sight, and a definite sign of fall. 🍁

#favoriteseason #nofilter #geeztheworldisbeautiful

*Originally posted to Instagram and Facebook

Fleeting Beauty

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I sat alone on the beach tonight at sunset, before I went for a run, looking out at this.

It only appeared exactly like this for a matter of minutes before growing dimmer, duller, and eventually darkening into night.

It was like looking at a stunning piece of art in a museum, only to have it morph and change before your eyes.

There is so much beauty in this world that is fleeting; yet, even if it goes away, the affect it has on you sustains and the memory of it remains, so it can never be lost.

#malibusunset #zumabeach

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Relax into the Moment

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My kids were playing ping pong in front of James Perse this evening while a nice breeze swept through the Malibu Lumber Yard courtyard. The building loomed over the ping pong table to keep it in perpetual shade; so I moved away from watching their game in order to sit in the sun to warm up. I sank into the soft cushions, closed my eyes, listened to their faint laughter in the distance, and felt the heat of the sun’s rays warming my face and body. I relaxed into the moment, seizing a few minutes to quiet my mind.

I have so much to integrate from this past week, after my birthday getaway alone, and have been tuning in to what I feel, what I want to reflect upon, and what I want to express, as I prepare to write about my trip (as is my tradition each year). So it was a gift to open my eyes and look up at the blue sky to see the beauty and simplicity of this view... a welcome break from the physical, mental and emotional stimulation of a long day of softball games and Malibu Little League closing ceremonies.

My daughter played amazing today, a double header in the hot sun, catching three hard hits into the infield to make three crucial outs, two of which she caught while she was pitcher, running and diving to catch them like a pro. She was named MVP of her team for the season, will play in two post season tournaments, and was recognized at the closing ceremony for scoring five home runs this season. Her accomplishments are hers alone of which to be proud... I am simply honored to bear witness to these milestones in her life.

I was an artist not an athlete as a child, so this culture is new to me and very different from piano recitals and dance shows. Her drive and perseverance to play and excel in these team sports starting with “s” (softball, soccer, swimming) is awe inspiring; and it’s a testament to all of our lives really being our own for the crafting. She is her own person, and I love that she is following her passions.

Whatever influence I may have over her other interests (creative writing, reading, playing an instrument), it is still her journey to forge her own path for a life that she will lead on her own terms.✨

#lookup

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

No Filter Rant

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There is no filter on this photo I just snapped a couple minutes ago; so there will be no filter on its caption either (which is the norm for me anyway). It is inconceivable to some that one could look out at this view from their front door & not be grateful every moment of every day. Yet, sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

Gratitude is not automatic or a given. It is not inherent in direct relation to one’s interpreted & conceived good fortune, nor even to the obvious blessing of being alive, healthy & safe. Of course, you would think it would be, but it’s not. Gratitude needs to be cultivated, & so often that part is overlooked. I am grateful a lot, but not as much as I consciously wish I would be.

I have been enjoying this same view & these same sunsets for over 15 years, living in this tiny edge of the world since 2002. I have gotten married while living here, changed careers, grieved the sudden loss of my mother to a car accident, birthed two children, given up having a career at one point, suffered marital challenges, stayed home (sleep deprived & depressed) nursing babies, chasing toddlers, sweeping up cheerios, wiping up smushed baby food & feeling like I wanted to (& actually have) scream & cry from the grief, hardship, mundaneness & lack of intellectual stimulation.

Today, I stand here with children who are 7 & 11 & gone most of the day navigating moments of their own lives without me, on an unpaved road leading to an unknown destination, on the journey of a new career & a new stage of life. Nothing is certain... nothing but the love I feel for my husband, my kids, my siblings, my friends.

It is easy to see that this view is quite spectacular to the naked eye (& this image doesn’t even do it justice) in all its obvious glory; it is harder to see how spectacular everything else is in your life without consciously recognizing it - without tuning in your mind, body & soul to it - breathing it in & letting it inhabit your being.

I am doing it now. NOW. Now is all we’ve got until the next moment comes. Breathe it in. All of it. It is a privilege. Even the hard... especially the hard. It is what moves us closer to our truest selves.

#nofilter #rant

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook