In honor of my dear friend Carrie and her brand new daughter-in-law Sarah Villa Balfanz.
In the lottery of Mother-in-laws and Daughter-in-laws you each drew the winning ticket. Carrie and Sarah WON! Forget Jacob…..THIS is the match made in heaven. No two humans on the planet HAVE ever or WILL ever know Jacob and love Jacob more than these two women.
When you’re the mom of a boy, your hope and prayer and dream (&PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASES:) is that he would fall for a girl who is grounded and completely lovely. A girl who brings out the best in him. Appreciates his goofy quirks. Celebrates his sweetness. A girl who makes him better. Makes him want to BE better. ‘Pick the VERY BEST GIRL on the planet’ we tell him. ‘MARRY UP’ we say. Not only did Jacob listen to his Mom, Jacob found someone a lot like his Mom. A girl who knows who she is. A girl comfortable in her own skin. A girl who DREAMS BIG.
And so….This is what we celebrate tonight. These two incredible women and their soul-friendship. A boy-mom who would have picked Sarah to marry her son. A girl in love with a boy who would have picked Carrie to be her mother-in-law. It’s a dreamy dream for both. Through all their years of dating whenever Carrie spoke of Sarah she would light up and say things like ‘I hope she’s the one. I just adore her. She’s a perfect fit for our family. She’s so easy and fun.’ When Jacob proposed, we all did a HAPPY DANCE for Carrie knowing how she feels about Sarah and how easy she is to love.
I texted Carrie and Sarah separately and asked them to describe the other in three words. Sarah said ‘Oh man…give me a second…she’s just too amazing.’ Then she sent three perfect words, ‘Amiable. (good natured&pleasant) Faithful. (loyal&devoted) Lovable. (enchanting&winsome)’ Because Carrie’s a rebel and rule breaker she sent way more than three words. Carrie about Sarah, ‘Oh gosh…hmmmm. Beautiful inside and out. Fun. Joyful. Infectious. Kind. Lovely. Smart. Funny. Easy going. Lovable. Sorry I couldn’t stop and I could just keep going.’
Here’s what’s important about this: The words we think about each other and speak out loud about each other are EVERYTHING.Words are things. Words matter. Words are energy. Words have the power to create a life long bright beautiful relationship. So from this night on Carrie Balfanz and Sarah Villa Balfanz, Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law…..May you continue to speak only words of kindness and grace about one another. May you always look for the best in each other and find exactly what you’re looking for. May you be true friends to one another for a life-time. Let your friendship grow deep and let it be loyal & let it be super FUN.
Raise your glasses to Carrie & Sarah…Two Lovable Winsome Enchanting Souls! A match made in heaven!!! CHEERS!!!
I have THE BEST FRIENDS. Not exaggerating at all. It’s one of my favorite gifts in life. My tribe of peeps. How does it happen? How do you build good friendships? How do you make a good friend? Where do you find them? These are every girl’s questions. What we all wonder because we’re all the same. We want people we can count on. We want lasting connection. We want to be a part of something sweet & true & fun. I’ve had lots of practice. Lots of wins. Lots of fails. Here’s what I’ve discovered about making friends.
First of all you’ve got to fall in love with YOURSELF. Take responsibility for your own happiness. Don’t make yourself the victim. Never blame anyone else for your loneliness. Take care of your brain. Notice how you’re thinking. Think good thoughts about yourself and speak kind words. Make a list of all the things you’re good at. Make a list of all the things you want to get better at. Spend your energy on that. Don’t waste any energy chasing people or feeling left out. Leave toxic relationships. Get really good at being you. Know who you are and what you want. Feel comfortable in your own skin. Be your own best friend and learn to be completely content all alone. Learn new things. Read great books. Take yourself on cool dates. Go to a good movie alone. A yummy restaurant alone. Take yourself out of town to the beach and go on hikes and walks and bike rides and runs. All by yourself. Get super brave. Keep yourself company and become curious about life. Keep growing & evolving & changing. Take extra special care of you. You’ll become the most interesting girl on the planet.
Next. Pay attention to people. Notice the ones that have good energy and are living life really well. These are the ones that make great friends. Be vulnerable. Be intentional. Be positive and encouraging. Have honest conversations. Ask good questions. Throw a party and invite everyone you love and pay attention to the ones who show up. Give them your time and energy. The show-er uppers are everything. Never ever gossip. Ever. This is the game changer. This is the one practice that will transform your friendships to a bright new place. Be someone trustworthy. Be someone loyal. Say the things you need to say to the right people. Speak highly of each other no matter what. Never compete, only inspire. Cheer each other on. Leave lots of space for new friends. Stay open to being reconciled with old friends. Give unconditionally. Apologize. Be quick to forgive. Don’t make excuses. Don’t take things personally. Let kindness and curiosity lead. Be in it. Be present. Be grateful. Be a good listener. Laugh a lot. Play and have fun. Build your tribe one soul friend at a time. One day you’ll wake up and realize you have a life filled with flourishing friendships. Then not only will you be the most interesting girl on the planet, you will be the happiest girl on the planet too! I promise. Take it from one who knows such things:)
Marrying Jeff Showers is by far the best decision I’ve ever made. Thirty three years into this and he keeps surprising me with his goodness. His loyalty wins my heart over & over again. How I look at it is I’ve been married three times to the same person. Not literally but figuratively. Jeff and I were married seven years before we had kids. (marriage #1) We raised our kids. (marriage #2) Almost seven years ago we began our third marriage as empty-nesters. We’ve reinvented our relationship in massive ways as the seasons changed and feelings changed and circumstances changed. I used to think if two people were madly in love and held the same values and were committed to God, the marriage would be long & happy. Look around you. It’s just not true. Some last. Some don’t. It’s as simple & surprising as that. Marriage is a crapshoot. I don’t think there is a formula or a magical secret. We’re two humans being human & doing the best we can. It’s hard and messy and fun and heartbreaking and magical. I think we just got lucky. We surround ourselves with good people and keep evolving individually and together. I don’t count on him to make me happy or meet my needs. I’m extremely independently in love with my own life. I create my own happiness. I’ve learned to know what I want and to be clear about it. He’s learned to do the same. We have become really good at marriage.
It’s not that we have it all figured out or that our life together is perfect. We have normal amounts of tensions and miscommunications and difference of opinions. We get on each others nerves from time to time. What makes our story magical is we grow together. We both keep talking & we both keep listening & we push through hard things and learn our lessons. We are intentional and we pay attention. In fact, he pays more attention to me than anything or anybody else. He works super hard and is the one who makes all the money and pays all the bills. I make zero money in this household and yet, I am completely free to do as I please. He doesn’t make me feel guilty or controlled by any of it. He values everything I bring to the table. He trusts me and I trust him. It’s such a big deal. So rare. We’ve worked our way to this place. It’s a dreamy dream.
I want it all. I want to be romanced &wined & dined & twirled & kissed. I want to listen & I want to be heard. I want laughter & fun & surprises. I want to be trusted & admired & respected. I want equal rights & equal say. I want to serve and be served. I want to be super happily married. I know what I want and I’m clear about it. If I’m frustrated I speak up. If he hurts my feelings I tell him. I’m direct with my words. No games. No passive aggressive pouting. I’m brave and clear about how I feel and what I want. Men need CLARITY. They’re not good at guessing. To grow a strong healthy marriage we developed daily habits that are sustainable. The habits of respect and communicating and vulnerability and laughing and having fun and truth telling and trust keeps our love growing. Keeps our home happy and free and full of life.
Marriage is a crapshoot. I stand by that. However when a man loves a woman the way that mine loves me, the odds are in your favor. I have more respect and admiration for Jeff than any other human being on the planet. He is true. He is safe. He is a blast. He could write a book on how to keep your wife falling madly in love with you every single day. It would be a best seller. A true story. Lucky me.
This month is MAGICAL, not only was I born in March but I come from a long line of McCarthy’s who love to celebrate our Irish-ness! By the time you read this I’ll be in Ireland with my family celebrating St. Patty’s Day…..enjoying the crazy festivities in Dublin and exploring the magnificent countryside & our rich family heritage in County Cork. I’ve never been happier about a trip.
I adore my Irish family and our lucky story. Let me tell a wee bit of it. My Grandma Margie and Grandpa Owen McCarthy raised three awesome people who married three awesome people and collectively created thirteen awesome cousins. I was blessed to be one of the thirteen. My best childhood memories are at a tiny little house on Dore Drive in south Bakersfield where my grandparents lived and all of us cousins piled in. Grandpa was a craftsman and built a merry-go-round in the backyard and a perfect table for thirteen on the back porch. My Grandma was a cook and a saint who created a fun magical place where we felt loved and nourished & connected. We were loud, messy, happy and hungry. We sang songs, told secrets & played games with a few shenanigans mixed in. Kick-the-can, tag-around-the-house, Friday night sleep overs & Saturday morning pancakes. Our sacred cousin club. A deep sense of belonging. It was extraordinary then and it’s extraordinary today. We’re spread out far and wide but get together often to retell the same stories that only get better with age. It’s all very holy and sacred to me.
My Irish roots have for sure shaped who I am. I have a Celtic sensibility and a flourishing spiritual imagination. I see possibility everywhere and a light in everyone. My sufferings awaken me to the depth of my blessings and the overwhelming benefit of joy. My life is generous with love & wonder and the inner landscape of my world is abundant with beauty. I love parties and celebrations & dancing and music. I owe this way of living & being to my Irish ancestry and my creative God who dreamed it up. It’s all a big bright miracle to be relished and enjoyed. And so I do & I am! How about you? Come on. Count up your blessings, put on some green and pour yourself a pint:) Happy Happy March!!
Hello 2018! Fresh start. Clean slate. New year. I’m a big believer in resolutions and intentions. I take time to consider what new things I want to learn & new places I want to go & new habits I want to add or subtract. Then I make my decisions, my intentions and my commitments. This is how I change and grow and reinvent myself year after year after year. I love learning new things and meeting new people and changing the way I think. It’s why I’m always happy about January. The only month we as awesome humans collectively choose to get brave and re-boot, re-create & re-imagine our lives. It’s a glorious nervous palpable energy that’s contagious & infectious and I’m over here cheering us all on. The way I see it…our possibilities are endless.
2017 was the year I decided to take piano lessons and learn to play tennis and practice pilates. All fun stuff but still scary and vulnerable to be the oldest beginner in every class. Not gonna lie, I was sweaty and nervous at the start but SO glad I pushed through the apprehension. It’s been a complete blast in every way and I’m getting better as the months pass by. I’ve made new friends with the dreamiest most inspiring people, which for me is the best part.
There’s something magical that happens when we step out of our cozy comfortable element and try something different and new. Truly we’re all just beginners and learners and practicers and students wanting to get better and we’ll never get better if we don’t at least get out there and give it a go. So, what cool thing have you always wanted to learn to do? Do it now. It’s time. Make the commitment. Get brave and nervous and show up. One tiny courageous decision can change your life. How exciting is that? What are you waiting for anyhow? It’s already TWO THOUSAND EIGHTEEN for heavens sake. Make this your year. Create the life you love. Start where you are. Now’s the time.
Happiest Merriest Christmas my lovely adorable neighbors! It is absolutely the most wonder-filled time of year. I wait for December like a child waits for Santa. Carry the anticipation with me for twelve solid months. I’m taking piano lessons and learning ALL THE CAROLS & I’ve never loved anything more. It’s HollyJolly and HoHoHo. It’s holiday cards and cocktail parties. It’s festive dresses and fancy shoes. It’s sparkly bows and twinkly lights. Wreaths on the gates and poinsettias on the porch. Trimming the tree, wrapping the gifts & hanging the stockings. Bringing out all the red, all the plaid and all the garland. Setting up the nativity, placing baby Jesus in the manger, lighting the candles and bowing our heads. Turning up Amy Grant, Michael Buble’ & Nat King Cole. Putting ‘You’ve Got Mail’, ‘Elf’ & ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ on repeat. Stocking up on the Vueve champs, the Dewars candy & the Smith’s cookies. Come one, come all. There’s lots of room. Squish-in. Let’s dance & twirl & celebrate.
We’re home for the holidays. This is the 4th Christmas-time in our rambling Olde Stockdale cottage and every single year has been completely positively magical. We’ve carried on family traditions and added new ones. Ready and decorated by December 1st so I can relax& play and enjoy all the moments. I learned early on that Christmas gets crazy and I don’t want crazy. I want happy. I want merry. I want peace. I want space and presence and memories that are sweet. I don’t let it get hi-jacked. I know what’s important to me and so intentionally protect my time & energy and attitude. I allow zero drama into my head, heart and home. It’s been 56 years of learning, paying attention and creating my very own happy holiday season. All is calm & all is bright.
This wonder-filled Christmasy LIFE is sacred, spiritual and so good. All of it. It’s meant to be lived, enjoyed and celebrated each day all year through. December is our final gift. So, HOORAY CHRISTMAS! We’ve been waiting for you. You bring such JOY and HOPE and MERRIMENT. You sparkle and shine and light up our planet with LOVE & GOOD TIDINGS. Let’s join our hands and raise our glasses to the glorious miracle that is Christmas….’GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST AND ON EARTH PEACE AND GOODWILL TOWARDS MEN’. Cheers!
Merry Happy Christmas to You All with Love. xo
What I know for sure is that things change. Just when I think I can’t take one more sweltering hot day of summer, the chill of fall appears in all of her glory. In the nick of time we can finally sit outside for dinner and ride our bikes through the neighborhood and even start thinking about pulling on a sweater with a cute pair of boots. Pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread & pumpkin latte. I love when a season shifts. Especially this one. I like a good change. In weather and in life. I’ve learned how to enjoy the present situation but not get too attached. I even get a little restless with status quo. Begins to feel stagnant and boring. Everything runs it’s course. There are many necessary endings. It’s meant to be that way and it makes me glad and it helps me grow.
Don’t get me wrong though, it isn’t easy. When our kids moved away it surprised me how hard it was. It took me a while to adjust to a quiet house and quiet days. I learned slowly but surely how not to parent them but to just love them. I had to reinvent myself and we recognized the need to re-create our marriage. It took a lot of intention and creativity and communication. We had an empty nest for the first time in 20 years. It was brave to let go of the old ways of living and embrace the possibility of something sweet & new. We found a new rhythm, new perspective and lots of FUN.
I know not everyone feels the way I do. It’s tempting to dig your heels in and tighten your grasp. Hold on to what’s familiar and comfortable. Fight against the new thing. The unknown feels vulnerable and scary. Our human need for certitude and certainty is stubborn. You feel secure. Safe. In control. You like things the way they are. But life doesn’t play by that rule. It’s going to happen whether we like it or not. Friends move away. Jobs end. Children grow up. It’s always sad. It’s a loss. We grieve. We learn. We grow. We change. And every ending creates space for a beginning. Every goodbye opens up the opportunity for hello.
So what are you clinging to that has run it’s course? The thing that’s keeping you stuck. Be brave. Let it go. Set yourself free to move forward into this new beautiful season. Let the natural process of change have it’s way. Leaves are falling. There’s coolness in the air. Get on your bike, put on a sweater and get out here. What are you waiting for.
Happy people are grateful. Grateful people are happy. It’s really that simple. We live in a beautiful world crammed with heaven created by a generous God who is madly in love with us. There is goodness everywhere. People are whimsical and kind and compassionate and talented and funny. We’re connected by our common humanity and our longing to live lives of meaning. The sun rises and sets on us all. We belong to one another. Everyone is in. All creation was meant to flourish.
I operate from this deep knowing. This is my faith, my mantra, my proclamation. I refuse to live a small life. I live a life of abundance and freedom and profound gratitude. I was born happy. I live happy. I choose to be happy even in the midst of hard things. I’ve had my fare share. Everyone is my teacher and every circumstance my trainer. I want to be better and do better. I don’t gossip and I’m not jealous. I seek truth and honesty; strength and vulnerability. I see possibility everywhere and light in everyone. I’m drawn to good energy and know that what I give away returns a hundred fold. I’m curious about life and I let curiosity push and lead and inspire me to ask better questions. I’m quick to forgive and quicker to ask for forgiveness. My heart is open, my mind is open and my hands are open to give and to receive it all. I surround myself with people who are smarter, wiser, braver and truer. They root for me and challenge me and love me well.
Life is happening now and it’s magnificent. What if this is it. What if today is all you have. Don’t miss it. Say the words. Write the letter. Make the list. Notice the gifts. Read the book. Play the piano. Sing the song. Try out for the play. Open the business. Plant the flowers. Trim the tree. Get on the plane. Make the phone call. Paint the picture. Ride the bike. Take the class. Make the peace. Throw the party. Hike the mountain. Run the race. Count the blessings. Bake the pie. Clean the closet. Tell the truth. Offer forgiveness. Be present. Ask the question. Have the conversation. Hug and laugh and dance and eat and cry and offer thanks for the opportunity. Everything you’ve ever wanted is already here in abundance. It’s yours to take and to enjoy and to share. The best way to be grateful is to be happy. Happy people are grateful. See how it works:)
‘It is for freedom that Christ set us free.’ Galatians 5:1
I hope July is slow and long. Give me all the red watermelon, white houses & blue skies. Fireworks and flags and patriotic songs. Let’s have barbecues & parades & swim parties. An afternoon nap, yummy summer book & icy cocktail by the pool. Not one thing on the calendar. No obligations. Take time to re-fresh, re-think & even re-imagine life.
It’s the perfect chance to change some things. Get brave. Figure out what makes you feel most alive and do more of that. Sometimes your schedule gets away from you. You get caught up in other people’s plans, agendas and commitments. You leak energy to all the wrong places. Now’s the time to set it straight. Set your soul free. Be the subject not the object of your own life. It’s up to you. It will forever be up to you. Decide what you want. Detach from toxic relationships. Lean in to good energy and inspiring people. Listen to your heart and pay attention to your intuition. Practice self love and self care. Speak kind words to yourself. Speak kind words to others. Drink more water, eat more fruit & do some yoga. Stay open and honest & present. Be awake to the magic everywhere. Leave lots of space to laugh& dance and cry &watch movies & play games & ride bikes & plant flowers. Be curious and ask better questions. Look people in the eye and listen well. Be vulnerable. Have deep meaningful honest conversations. Learn from everyone. Be transformed by it all. Become the truest version of yourself. Live the life you’ve been dreaming of. Feed your own soul.
Life is quick. Let’s S L O W it down. Unrushed. Unhurried. Enjoy every sweet juicy bit of July. Our hot delicious month we get to celebrate FREEDOM. The truth is we have been set free. So let’s practice being free. Living free. Mind body heart soul. It’s the best kind of life. Live it right. Live it well. Let it ring.
August is filled up with books. Books I’ve read and books I’m waiting to read. Stacked up, lined up, loaned out. I LOVE BOOKS. Kindle is fine & good and serves a purpose (especially when traveling) but I need to turn real pages, smell the paper & see the the magical book cover sitting on my table. It makes my heart happy. A home filled with books is automatically interesting and beautiful. They create instant conversation and connection. A window into the soul of the family living there.
Books keep busting my life wide open. Shaping who I am. Expanding my imagination. Helping me to live braver, happier, freer. I love a good story. I adore memoir or historical fiction. I’m drawn towards spiritual & philosophical books filled with new ways of seeing things. Brilliant shimmering words strung together that keep influencing me. I hold space in my life for books. There’s always room for one more.
A few of my favorite authors: Cheryl Strayed. Richard Rohr. Anne Lamott. Jojo Moyes. Rob Bell. Elizabeth Gilbert. Brene Brown. Glennon Doyle. Krista Tippett. They have changed my life with their writings. Literally. I’m daily in the middle of one of their books or podcasts. They’ve helped me to get painfully honest with myself and change antiquated ways of thinking that have kept me stuck. They speak a fresh language when telling the mysteries of faith, relationships, world view. They ask better questions and aren’t afraid of answers. So good at being vulnerable and curious. Seekers of God and truth. Smart & articulate & kind. They do the work. They’re in the arena. They show up and are seen. They keep evolving and changing and writing. They’ve helped me to feel less alone. I’m in love with their thoughts, ideas, experience and words. I learn something new from an author every single day and then can’t wait to talk about it. They become a part of our own stories. Collaborators, friends, makers and creators on this journey. Authors are heroes and books are miracles. They serve us all so well.
So. How about you. What are you reading this summer? What’s on your nightstand. What’s an all time favorite. Who’s your best author. Do you lean towards fiction or non-fiction. My plan in the next few months is to create a whimsical library in my pass-through-brick-floor room and fill it floor to ceiling with all of my favorite titles. Friends and family will be welcome to browse, check out and upon return to discuss. Built-in, on-going mini book clubs right in my own home. How great of an idea is that?! Can’t wait! Win/Win. Books=Life.