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This is my beautiful family. From the left, this is my mother, myself, Brother, and my dad. This photo is one of the last taken of all of us together, during a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii. My parents had dreamed of this for years, and since we were able to stay with some friends who live there, it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been.

Little did we know that just a few months later, my wonderful, amazing mother would take her final breaths in this world.

I suppose in a way we all knew it was coming. She had been sick for a while, and though we never gave up hope that she would recover, in a few short weeks her health deteriorated very rapidly. I thought this would be it for me. When I saw how difficult it was getting for Mom to do even simple tasks, I felt dread. I got mad. I yelled at God. Several times, in fact. I denied what I knew was coming and felt only devastation.

Then she made the decision to check herself into hospice. Suddenly, it was a reality. I mean, everyone knows what hospice means, right?

But you know what? As much as I dreaded what was coming, I also felt an amazing sense of peace. Acceptance. I got to have so many things with my mother that not every person gets to experience. She was my best friend, my confidant, and the most incredible mother in the world. I got to be beside her in her final moments. I got to tell her how much I loved her and how wonderful a mother she was. How many people honestly get that opportunity?

So here’s three things that I’ve learned as I’ve processed reality during this time. And I’ll warn you, while I don’t usually tend to get “preachy” on this blog, I’m using it as a part of my healing process, so you might find more spiritual stuff than normal.

1.) Don’t let fear rule your life.

Seriously, I held myself back on so many things over the years, it’s ridiculous. I’ve always struggled with self-esteem, and too many times I didn’t allow myself to participate in things because I was self-conscious. Whether it was of how I looked, or if someone would like me or not…it doesn’t matter. The fact is, when we know the Author of Love, there’s simply no room for fear. My mother always quoted Graham Cooke when I talked about my hesitations and fears of failure. She would tell me, “Remember, it’s always a green light until God turns it red.” That means that I can step out in confidence, because I trust that if there’s a path that I’m not supposed to take, He’ll let me know. Otherwise, I’m going for it. Take opportunities as they come. They might not come back around again.

2.) God really is able of working all things for good.

Trust me, I did not think this was possible when it came to something like this. I flat out told God that there was no way He could produce something good from losing my mother at such a young age. When I confronted Him and very angrily demanded WHY, He didn’t give me a direct answer. Yet, in His own way, He still did. I know it doesn’t make sense, but He helped me realize just how big the picture was. We’re talking about eternity here. It’s so much more than we could ever imagine. Now that I look back, I see where God was preparing me every step of the way. No one could ever, ever replace my mother, but He placed a mother figure in my life in my pastor’s wife. He knew that I would need her there, so He made sure that I had that connection established. For that matter, He knew that I would need my church family as a whole. I honestly don’t know I would do without their unconditional love and support.

He restored part of my finances. Obviously I would a million times rather have my mother in this world than any other earthly good, but because she always put everyone else before herself, she made sure that my father was well taken care of financially. Through that generosity, my father is now able to give some of that to my brother and me. It’s a long story as to why the restoration of stolen finances are so important to me, but suffice to say, even now that she’s gone, she is still taking care of her children and blessing them. She always wanted to be able to give more, and now she is doing exactly that.

Her life touched so many people, I’m astounded. As a family, we’ve spoken to so many who have been impacted by my mother. And through my personal journey, I’m able to reach out to people in a way that I might never have been able to before.

3.) Don’t stay in the past.

That’s not to say that you can’t remember things, because memories are part of what shape us into who we are. But when you dwell in the past, you miss the here and now. Plus, it leaves too much room for regret. Of course there were things that I wanted to do with Mom that I will never get to now. But instead of focusing on what we DIDN’T get to do together, I remember all that we DID. I treasure every moment, every walk, every hug. I will never, ever, forget my mother, but I will not let myself fall into the trap of “What if…?”

My mother was only 60 years old when she passed. That’s it. I’m more than halfway there. Now, I’m certainly not projecting that I’m going to die at 60, because I plan to live much longer than that. But I have to ask myself, if that was all that I had, what would I do differently? How many more risks would I take? How much more time would I spend with those that I love? If I spend each day as though I’ve only got a few left, I’m going to make the most of every single thing that I do, and every person that I meet.

If that’s our mindset, then there is nothing we can’t accomplish. And at the end of our time, we can rest in the same words that my mother wrote at the end of her journal, quoting Paul:

“I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

Fight the good fight.

Finish the race.

Keep the faith.

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Me and the best mom in the world.

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Well, unfortunately, part of that new year started with me finally fighting the crud that’s been making its way through all of my friends. I don’t get sick very often, which is a plus, but when I do get sick, it just completely zaps my energy. Honestly, I haven’t felt *too* horrible this time around – I mean, I’ve certainly had worse. But there have still been minor aches and chills, and a darn sore throat.

And the phlegm. UGH, the phlegm.

Again, I’ve had worse. It’s still dang annoying. Not to mention my voices cracks at any given moment, so I never know what to expect. Also, am I the only one who gets kind of loopy when they’re sick? I don’t know if the phlegm, like, prevents coherent thoughts from entering my brain or what, but it clearly blocks more oxygen than usual. Maybe it’s because I feel so tired. I do tend to get loopy when I’m tired. In fact, I probably won’t remember writing this post by the time tomorrow comes around. I can totally see myself wondering why people are liking a post that was published weeks ago.

But I digress.

What IS exciting about 2018 is that it’s a new year of hiking! I gotta tell you, I have become more and more outdoorsy the older that I’ve gotten. It was part of why working inside a building all day every day made me die inside a little. I live in this utterly gorgeous, amazing state, so to be unable to enjoy it except on the weekends is pretty much torture.

How beautiful is it, you ask? Well, let me show you!

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It’s primarily because of these beauties right here. See, there are two small cities about twenty minutes apart from one another (I live in the smaller of the two) that are nestled up to the edge of the forest that surrounds the Cascades. The larger city is more in the pine trees than my town, but both have fantastic views of the mountains from almost anywhere. This photo was taken on a back road that used to be the main highway between the two cities before Highway 97 was put in. There is still lush farmland and beautiful viewpoints, however, so a lot of us locals still tend to take this back road.

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Broken Top is on the far left, and the Three Sisters huddle next to it.

I mean, seriously. How do you not love these? What I’ve discovered most about my own personality is that I don’t ever want to live somewhere without mountains. Granted, it doesn’t necessarily have to be these mountains in particular, though I am rather partial to them, but I have to have them in my life. I have to be able to hike. The forest has become such an incredible therapy to me, that I can’t honestly picture living somewhere without that as an option.

I have access to hundreds of trails, some of which are available year-round. That means that more often than not, I can still keep training even in the dead of winter. Some of the trails have a very low elevation, meaning that the snow melts quickly. For someone like me, that’s huge.

Whatever makes you happy, please be sure to carve out some time for it. Maybe it’s not hiking or being outdoors. Maybe it’s painting, or decorating your house. Maybe it’s curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee. Whatever it is, make it more of a priority in your life. Too many people get through the drudge of everyday life in the hopes that someday they’ll be able to retire and finally have time for these things, but I encourage you to enjoy some of the small pleasures now. No, I’m not telling you to quit your job, or to spend lots of money on a hobby.

I’m talking about the simple pleasures. The things we don’t always make time for because we’re too busy thinking about what needs to be done. The dishes will still be there in the sink, so go ahead and play with your kids for a while. They won’t be kids forever, after all. Enjoy that morning outing with your friends. Don’t worry about what tomorrow brings when you still have time left today.

When I’m out hiking, I try to take just a moment or two to simply enjoy my surroundings. Forget the camera, forget the perfect shot. Forget the business and the stress that comes with it. Enjoy what you have while you have it.

I’m excited for 2018, guys. There are a lot of great things just waiting to be snatched up, great moments to be lived, and great friends to be made. Make the best of it, and live life to the fullest.

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Here’s to a great new year!

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So I tend to do most of the laundry for Brother and myself. I’m home most of the day and have time to do it, and it’s the one chore that I really don’t mind. I mean, if I get behind then Brother will do his own, but generally speaking I try to keep up on it. I figure it’s one way that I can give back to him for all the times he’s helped me out this last year.

So the other day I’m minding my own business, getting ready to fold laundry and all that, when I go to open the dryer door. To my surprise, a small projectile comes flying out at my face, inciting a minor panic attack.

I had no idea what had just happened, until I finally saw the grievous offender when it rolled to a stop:

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That’s right. The end of one of my brother’s sweatshirts had gotten caught in the door of the dryer and when I opened the darn thing, it shot out at me like a mini bullet. I’m pretty sure I jumped a full foot off the ground:

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As I relayed this story to Brother when he came home, he started laughing so hard he couldn’t speak for several seconds. Turns out he had already known this little bugger was about to come off his sweatshirt because the other side had already done so.

“It wouldn’t be so funny,” he said between laughs, “except that it belongs to my Punisher sweatshirt.”

So…apparently I offended the Punisher sweatshirt and it decided that retribution was needed.

I’m not sure what I did to bring about such open hostility, but clearly I did SOMEthing wrong. Needless to say, I will be more cautious when taking out loads of laundry henceforth. Because deep down, I have this feeling that the sweatshirt will always be watching…waiting…until just the right moment comes again….

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Who knew that such mundane activities could be so incredibly dangerous? It’s enough to make one want to live in a bubble.

Fortunately, I am still a brave person and am willing to traverse the perilous crossroads for the sake of clean socks. After all, one still has a sense of dignity to maintain.

Despite what certain sweatshirts might think.

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Autumn is by far my favorite time of the year. Seriously. You see, when you live in Central Oregon, you usually have two seasons: winter and August. Lots of snow in the wintertime, and blazing hot summers. I mean, we are called the high desert for a reason. We get very little rain. (No, no, you’re thinking of PORTLAND. Portland gets all the rain and is very weird. The rest of us in the state are fairly normal, and the Cascade Mountains block most of the rain from coming our way.)

So for about two weeks, we get to enjoy this absolutely beautiful autumn weather that’s pretty much close to perfect. The leaves change colors, the temperature drops to a livable degree, and there’s even several days of cloud cover. It’s my favorite season for all of those things, plus hot chocolate, boots and scarves, and maybe some apple cider.

Of course, the down side to the leaves changing color is that eventually they fall to the ground.

I went for a walk this morning since it was amazing outside, and also because I had been a lazy sloth for most of week. I saw all of the leaves on the ground below the tree in our front yard and was rather impressed. They’d all fallen fairly quickly. Well, a few hours passed after I returned home, and I worked away at some business stuff. (Side note: I’m working on a couple of calendar designs and couldn’t be more excited! I can’t wait to show them here.)

ANYway, by early afternoon I was ready to check the mail and see if any of my orders had come today, but when I opened my front door, I was greeted by this:

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Yeah, those weren’t there when I went for a walk earlier, so I actually stepped back in surprise because I wasn’t expecting it.

That’s right, all of those leaves that had previously been in the front yard….

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….were now all on my front porch.

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“Well, that kind of sucks,” I thought, feeling none too pleased.

Then I saw my neighbor’s porch:

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And suddenly, mine didn’t seem quite so bad.

So there you have it. White I love fall weather, I’m not so keen on the clean up side of things. But soon we will have those nasty white flakes falling from the sky, so I can’t complain. I’ll be wishing for fallen leaves when that time comes around.

And now, off for more calendar editing fun!

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Well, Hawaii was a blast. I mean, like there’s any other way to describe something so close to paradise. I will say, however, as much as I thought that I was going to be fine in the heat and humidity, I was actually a little overheated a few times. When I had gone there before, it was at Oahu, and it rained a lot. Not a very hard rain, of course, but enough that it actually cooled me down quite a bit.

This time we were at Kona, and while it was still a ton of fun, the side of the island we were on really doesn’t get much more rain than we do in Central Oregon. (Which isn’t much at all.) The muggy humidity and lack of rain got to me a few times, but thankfully it wasn’t too bad overall. I guzzled water like a freaking camel and never went anywhere without my trusty 32 oz. HydroFlask.

We packed a lot into just a few short days, so Brother and I were pretty tired by the time we got home. But we got to see the tallest waterfall on the island, watch a live volcano, and go inside the oldest church on the island. We drove all around and saw a lot of different scenery. Plus our last day there, we got to spend the whole day at one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen in my life. We made definite plans to go back someday, and now we have a better idea of what to do there and where we want to spend more time.

I didn’t get quite as many photos as I had hoped for, but I was still able to get some decent ones. Even a few that I will be able to use for marketing purposes.

Which brings me to my announcement.

I’m super excited (and a little bit scared) to introduce my latest project, Hawk’s Haven Photography and Design. Any of you who have read my book, Prince of Light, might recognize the name Hawk’s Haven. It’s actually a family name. My grandparents used to own this little one-bedroom cabin by a lake. There was no running water, no electricity, and nothing but a wood stove for warmth. But multiple members of the family used it for vacations (and even a couple of honeymoons). I was quite young when we used to go there, but I still have fond memories of it. We went there to get away from the stress of everyday life and just enjoy nature. Thus when I decided to pursue landscape/nature photography and use my photos for home decor, it felt like a fitting tribute to the name.

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Photo taken at the top of Black Crater in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. Design by yours truly.

I’m so excited for this, guys. I’m still a writer and always will be. I’m also still working hard on book two of the Prince of Light series.

But there were a series of hardships I had to endure before I could continue working on that particular series. I know some of my followers have been here for a little while, and while I’m not sure exactly how many read my blog on a regular basis, they might have noticed some changes over the last year or so. I won’t go into details for the sake of the people involved, but last summer, I ended my marriage. In fact, this month has been a bit surreal for me, because the paperwork was finalized last October. It’s been almost one year exactly.

Believe me, you never think that you’re going to contribute to that statistic until you do. I never imagined that I would end up divorced. I mean, it’s not like you go into marriage with that mindset. I certainly didn’t. But the situation was an abusive one, and it wasn’t changing despite many efforts and time in counseling. Needless to say, writing a romantic storyline wasn’t exactly number one on my priorities, which is why the Prince of Light series had to take a hiatus.

For the most part, I feel strong. I don’t hate men, and I don’t hate my ex. I forgave him a long time ago. Unfortunately, this was the necessary path for both of us, but I believe we will both be better for it. I have amazing family support and a brilliant church family that I can’t praise enough. I am BLESSED. It’s hard to work through some of the emotional things that come from enduring something like this. Yes, I have moments where I feel like a failure. Moments where I feel like damaged goods. Anyone who has been through this can attest to that. But they’re just moments. I know who I am, and I know what I’ve been called to do. And I’m ready to start writing again.

Part of my healing has come from starting Hawk’s Haven Photography and Design. I’m narrowing down exactly which products I enjoy working on the most, and I’m always looking to improve my craft. This has been my dream since I was in my early twenties, and to finally be able to make it a reality is amazing.

And the best part? It’s a brand-new season and a fresh start.

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Sneak peek at a design not yet available on my site. Lucky you!

Thanks for all the support, dear readers. I’m still going to post on a regular basis, but hopefully you won’t mind seeing some occasional pic-spam from my other projects. Plus, I’m always looking for good quotes that are public domain, so if you think of any that would look good as a print or greeting card, leave a comment.

Be blessed!

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I don’t post political entries on purpose. My opinion is my own, and I don’t feel that it’s my job to change someone else’s mind. Not only that, but I’m not nearly as educated in politics as others are, so I leave the explanation and persuasion to the many diverse blogs and authors who can articulate far better than I.

However.

I feel compelled to write something, simply because my heart hurts at just how much hatred is going on the USA right now, on BOTH sides. Regardless of how you voted, regardless of how you feel, what’s happened has happened.

I saw a meme floating around FB that said something along the lines of hoping for Trump to fail as President is like hoping the pilot will crash the plane we’re all flying aboard.

That just about covers it, in my opinion. Yes, I truly hope that Trump does well as President, just as I would have for Clinton. Not because I necessarily like either of them, but because I want this country to do well. I know I might push some buttons by saying this, but STOP IT.

To the Democrats: Your nominee lost. Move forward and stop being jerks about it.

To the Republicans: Your nominee won. Move forward and stop being jerks about it.

Seriously, people, this is the exact opposite of what this country stands for. We are the UNITED States of America. I have many friends that I disagree with who I still manage to love. It doesn’t mean that your voice doesn’t count. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t believe what you do. It doesn’t even mean that you can’t say exactly how you feel. It just means we need to at least be civil with one another. Try to keep the other person’s feelings in mind when you speak.

In the long run, we’re still all in this together.

So please, EVERYONE…be kind.

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Update

Just to give a quick update on Samus and her new home – I’ve been receiving pics and text messages from Sister-in-Law, like with the bandanas and whatnot. (Of course Samus has different colored bandanas every day to feel special. Heaven forbid she should wear the same one all the time.)

So I was sent a picture of Samus curled under some blankets, with the information that when the teen daughter has to work late at night, her mother tucks Samus into bed with a warmed-up corn bag so she won’t get too cold.

I’m starting to feel like I was a bad puppy parent.

And I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t come home with me now if I begged her.

But you know what? I’m thrilled that she is being so spoiled and loved, because if there was ever a dog that deserved such a wonderful, loving family, it’s Samus. She gets to go for truck rides with dad, hang out with mom during the day and snuggle with daughter at night. She must be in absolute heaven right now, so thankfully I made the right decision.

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