Enjoy the Ride

“Oh this too shall pass. This loneliness won’t last for long.
I wasn’t there to take his place; I was ten thousand miles away.
So when you hear my voice, and when you say my name, may it never give you pain.”
– Gale Song, The Lumineers

IMG_3414

I started this post a week after my baby cousin died and it’s taken me until now to finish it. Partially because I still can’t believe it all to be true, and partially because there are no words to convey all the feelings I have over the span of one day, let alone 6 months. However, I knew I wanted it to be done in time for his birthday, so here’s my best shot.

Over these past 6 months, my family has gone through what none should. Our Zachary was killed while riding his motorcycle in his hometown of Cave Creek, Arizona. My family lost a son, a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a grandson, and a best friend…it’s an indescribable emptiness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

10258625_10202278797586289_8804537427025422405_n

I go back to that night so many times. Getting the news the following morning instantly shattered me, as it did every member of my family. Anyone who knows me knows that my cousins are my siblings; there is no difference between the two in my mind. Losing one of my cousins is like losing a limb. I have very little recollection of the moment I found out he was gone, but I know I sobbed…and screamed…and tried to figure out how this could happen to my baby cousin, to our family. An unfathomable pain swept across my heart and as much as we know that time heals all wounds, our family will never be the same. He is irreplaceable.

Zachary would have been twenty-three today. My heart aches to know he won’t see twenty-three…or twenty-five, or fifty, or ninety, but I know that, in those moments of sadness, God stills my mind. He reminds me of His plan and the fact that we’ll all be together one day. People that know me, know that I am a planner; I get excited about putting events and parties together and being with friends and family, no matter what the occasion. I see this reunion as the ultimate “party.” We will all be happier than we could ever imagine because we will be together again in God’s kingdom and I honestly cannot wait for that day. To hug you again and to see your sweet smile and hear your hearty laugh…that’s all I could ask for.

10157368_10202278792186154_4845295838834351535_n

I have seen things since we lost our Zachary that have really changed my outlook on this entire situation. Something that I heard a lot was acknowledgment of how tight-knit my family is. While this was absolutely true before April 20th, this tragedy has allowed me to see my family come together in a way I honestly didn’t know was even possible. We cried a lot, we laughed, we held each other up. We spoke when words were needed and sat in silence when they were not. And we hugged…we really hugged. For the first time in our lives, we knew what it felt like to wake up one day and have our entire world be broken. We made sure that each other was okay before ourselves. There was a selflessness between every one of us that gave me such a sense of security…we were going to get through this together. We saw friends and family from around the country, and around the world, fly to Arizona to be together, donate money, or send their words of encouragement. It’s easy to remember the anger and negativity surrounding this horrible tragedy, but it takes courage and strength to find a positive in it and I found my “positive” in my family.

10153233_10202278798066301_2631045719667022577_n

During these 6 months, my faith has been tested. The devil tempted me time and time again to blame God. “How could He let this happen? If He was a true God, these horrible things wouldn’t happen.” In those moments, I am reminded that God’s plan is bigger than anything I can comprehend. As much as it hurts, the tears that I cry are because I miss him and I wish this painful experience didn’t happen, but not because I don’t believe that he’s in a better place. I admit there are times where I slip into a dark place and these questions taunt me, but I am lucky to have found our church, Fearless L.A., to remind me of that peace that God offers us every single day.

20729449_10211106362149886_2064940099286262526_n

If I have learned anything from losing Zachary, it’s simply that I will live more freely, I will love more deeply and I will become more like him. Zachary lived a simple life with a motto that was essentially “Do What Makes You Happy.” In February, he posted an Instagram of his motorcycle in the sunset with the quote “Enjoy the view you’re given.” That seems so easy, but how many times a day do we take our “view” for granted? Or just say “yes” to things we really don’t want to do? Or brush off the simple every day things…our health, our family, our friends, a roof over our head, our jobs…? Or pass up an opportunity because we think we’re too busy? Or worry more about material things and less about the people we spend our time with? Zach really understood that the biggest things in life are your friends and family and just having a beer or two at a “beer-cade” bar in Chicago and grabbing a pizza at Lou’s is best way to hang out. During this time, I have learned really evaluate what I care about and what is important to me and hold on to it…and hold on tight.

603639_10202278798586314_3871498074298567695_n

Z – We’ve heard time and time again that you lived your life to the fullest. You never took a day, or a moment, for granted. I can’t give you a physical birthday present this year, but I can make you a promise to continue my life with your mindset…to not pass up an opportunity that comes my way and not be afraid to fail. To try for that promotion, to say “yes” to grabbing a drink with a new friend, to wake up early and look at the sunrise every once in a while, to thank God for everything He’s blessed me with in this life, to live every single second like the next isn’t promised and to face life head-on in all its excitement, hardships and quiet moments. Thank you for teaching me the importance of those things.

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”

Happy first heavenly birthday, my angel. I’ll be missing you and I’ll see you soon, but until then, You’ll Be In My Heart…

Advertisements

I Think Valentine’s Day is the Best Holiday Ever…

Call me crazy, but Valentine’s Day is my absolute favorite day of the year. It’s a day that we can take just a little extra time to let the important people in our lives know just how much we love them. Plus everything is pink so I’m like on cloud nine. It doesn’t have to be about what we buy or do for them, but the meaning behind it and the words we say.

There is a cliché around the holiday revolving around flowers and cards, possibly a romantic dinner. I got to thinking, in the crazy world we live in today, there has to be a more creative way to go about this. Here are some ideas I came up with!

Flowers: The Bouqs Co.

I am absolutely in love with this company. Their flowers are so beautiful — Bouqs Co. cuts them the day you order and deliver them straight from the farm they are grown on. They deliver two to four days after being cut versus around a week and a half to two weeks at most other flower delivery services. When you get them, they are beautifully colorful and last for so long!

bouqs4

The farm that the flowers come from practices sustainable, eco-friendly farming and they only cut what they sell, which means no flowers go to waste. Love that.

Bouqs Co. has experts on hand to help you pick the right flower bouquet and all the prices you see online are final (tax, shipping, handling, etc. included). There are 3 pricing options with each bouquet (small, medium, large) and price increases consistently with size. They offer next day delivery, a daily special and Valentine’s Day bouquets.

bouqs1

They also have an optional concierge service, which allows you to save up to 25% per bouquet and never forget a special occasion. The concierge service reminds you before any special date, allows you to send weekly just because flowers or have regular blooms sent weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to your (or your significant other’s) door! They also have an app to make life even easier, as if they weren’t already perfect enough.

bouqs2

As far as discounts, this place has quite a few. If you create an account with them, you will receive 10% off your first order. If you download and use the app, you get 20% off your first order. Their daily special bouquets are 15% off every day and their Valentine’s Day bouquets can be delivered as early as almost a week before! If you invite friends to use Bouq, you will get a free bouquet and occasionally they have buy one, get one free deals. Flowers for everyone!

bouqs3

Cards: Shop Betches

I’ve worked with Betches in the past and I think they are just hilarious. The Betches are known for being sarcastic and “saying the thoughts in your head that you’re too afraid to say”…their Valentine’s Day cards are no exception.

IMG_3933

If you’re looking for a sweet, sentimental card for your valentine, you might want to try Papyrus cards. However, if you both keep up with what’s trending, these will be perfect a major key.

Major_Key_Alert

Above are photos of their cards for this year and I seriously cannot stop laughing. They’re perfect and I want all of them. *hint, hint*

Date Night: Date Box

This is one of my favorite ideas in the world. Everyone’s lives get a little hectic and at one point or another, I think we’ve all said, “Where did this week go?!” The Date Box created a way to remind us to take time to nurture our relationships and not fall into the same daily routine of Netflix and (probably no) chill.

The Date Box delivers a box to your door with something new inside once a month. Some nights can be artsy, some have wine or food, some games. Some are at home; some are at a dance studio or a cooking class…the possibilities are really endless.

There are three options for subscriptions along with a $5 shipping fee (per month):

  • 1 month plan: $34.95 for a recurring monthly plan
  • 3 month plan: $31.45 for a recurring 3-month plan (paid in full at time of first purchase)
  • 6 month plan: $27.96 for a recurring 6-month plan (paid in full at time of first purchase)

*Date Box was generous enough to send Daniel and me a sample box. We will be anxiously awaiting its arrival and reviewing it in the next week. I will update this post after we fall in love with our Date Box!

Meal Box: PeachDish

I’m sure many of you have heard of meal delivery services, but this is one I’m really into. Their classically trained chefs develop Southern-infused and seasonally inspired recipes for dishes you might order at your favorite restaurant, but are surprisingly quick and easy to prepare at home. They source the freshest ingredients, pre-measure everything for you, pack it in a special insulated box and ship it to your doorstep. There is literally no excuse not to do this!

Kate Blohm, PeachDish
Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Every week, PeachDish offers four different seasonally inspired meals. Two are vegetarian, and two are animal protein-based. Each meal is packaged in increments of two servings, for $12.50 per serving. You can opt in and out of weekly deliveries as you need to — you’re in control of your delivery schedule. There are no membership fees, and you pay only when you receive a delivery!

Kate Blohm, PeachDish
Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Peach Dish is doing a special Valentine’s Day meal delivery for you to cook for your valentine, or cook together! They have three options, all starting with a cheese plate and ending with a bourbon brownie trifle. The first entreé includes a beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and arugula salad with cider vinaigrette. The second option is a lobster risotto and ends with the bourbon brownie trifle and also includes 4 chocolate truffles. The last choice includes a ribeye with mashed potatoes and arugula salad with cider vinaigrette as the entrée and ends with the bourbon brownie trifle and 6 chocolate truffles. Find all the Valentine’s Day meal kits here.

Kate Blohm, PeachDish
Kate Blohm, PeachDish

Prices vary on the Valentine’s Day meal kits from $89-$109, but if you order before Sunday, February 7th at 11:59 EST, you can use my promo code for 10% off your first purchase: PDLOVE

Meal Box: Green Blender

This second meal box is for my healthy, green eaters. I, personally, only do smoothies when I’m cleansing (admittedly, not often…sorry, mom) and I’m not usually too happy about it. But these look so good, I’m going to have to stick with them for a while!

Chocolate Covered Pomegranate
Chocolate Covered Pomegranate

Each week, you’ll get 5 new smoothie recipes and all the pre-portioned ingredients you’ll need to make 10 smoothies. The recipes are hand crafted by leading nutritionists to ensure that they are packed with flavor and nutrients and they focus on working with organic and local farms to create a uniquely balanced menu.

Fine Apply
Fine Apple

Green Blender believes that you are what you drink. The smoothies are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins and fiber and their benefits are endless: clearer skin, heightened mental clarity, increased energy, and weight loss. Plus, their nutrients are known to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. You’re welcome, body!

Pepper Passion
Pepper Passion

Each recipe yields enough for two 12-ounce smoothie servings, so you both can have a very green Valentine’s Day! There are three different subscription options, all including delivery.

  • Fresh Start: $49/box, which includes a week-to-week subscription
  • Monthly Challenge: $44/box, which includes a 4-box subscription
  • Healthy Habit: $39/box, which includes a 12-box subscription

For an extra 20% off use my code KRISTINR : )

*Green Blender was generous enough to send me a sample box. I will be anxiously awaiting its arrival and reviewing it in the next week. I will update this post after I fall in love with our smoothies!

I hope these inspired you all to do something special for your valentines next week, and any other day, too! As every other year, I am so excited to celebrate. This year I will, of course, be with Daniel, but my parents will also be in Chicago to celebrate my mom’s birthday! I can’t wait to see how you all celebrate my favorite day. Feel free to post other great options in the comments below : )

*Disclaimer: I received some product before creating this post, however all opinions are my own. I did not receive payment for this post. All photo credit is to the company website from which the photos are filed under, unless specified.

Thankful

I’ve been trying to think of a way to get back into blogging. Honestly, I just miss it. But finding something to write about, especially as a comeback post, isn’t always easy. Then I realized that writing why I am thankful would not only be appropriate for today, but also remind me to be extra grateful for those things…so here it is!

1. I am thankful for my health. I am thankful to be here after having some bumps in my “health road.” I am thankful for the way I was born and for the doctors that have ensured my safety in any situation since then.

IMG_9629.PNG
2. I am thankful for my family. My best friends in the world. My support system. I am so thankful for you. My parents, you have given me the world and shown me how to be the best person I can be. Even if you are far away now, I still feel your love. I am so thankful for my cousins, my papa and grandparents. I am thankful for my surrogate mom. I am thankful for my mom’s family for never making me feel like I didn’t belong. I am thankful for my guardian angels that have gone before me. I am thankful for my puppy, Khoya, and my friends who have become more like family.

IMG_3804.jpg

3. I am thankful for music. I am so in love with so many songs and the feelings that just one song can give you. I am so thankful to be able to hear the beautiful sounds created in our world. So many times in my life have had music in the center of them, whether it’s a concert, music playing while I’m getting ready with my friends or on while I’m driving in the car with Matt or sending a song to the people I love when it reminds me of them. These times make me especially grateful today.

IMG_4460-0.jpg
4. I am thankful for seasons. I hate the cold, as most people know, but the cold brings back my favorite season, spring. The cold reminds me how lovely the warmer months are. The warm months are ones of rebirth and change. Every year something new comes and reminds us how lucky we are to be alive. This makes me so grateful.

IMG_4606-0.JPG

Even just writing these things makes me smile. Seeing how many little things and people there are that make my world better every day and for those, I am truly thankful.

– Al

Things I Never Said

I totally realize I haven’t posted in a while…like two months. I’ve been going through a little bit of a personal remolding time. I like that word “remolding” because it’s like I know the foundation of the person I am, but I know there are things I want to reform and change and that’s exactly what I’m allowing myself to do right now. Going through this period of my life has made me really appreciate these things and, normally, I would be bitter and resent this time, probably want to rush through it as quickly as possible, but I feel blessed to be able to see the world through this lens right now.

When I got into bed last night, I had this burst of perfectly balanced emotions where I realized how many things I love that I didn’t even know about myself and I’ve found them through this remolding and it’s so nice to enjoy my own company.

That’s the beauty about right now. We get to learn who we are and who we want to be. We get to learn what makes our absolute being happy. We get to learn what path we are on and what that path is made ofThink about it. What is yours made of? Are you walking on stone? dirt? glitter? glass? Are there trees or fog in your way or is it wide open? Do you want to change it? Do you want to start on a new path completely? Well, here’s your chance. The world is entirely before you.

Anyways, back to my moment, these are my new found happies.
I love being by myself. I love being free. I love the idea of not answering questions..just learning the answers. So many inquiries as to “what’s next?” I love living in the now and just leaving it simply unanswered. I love choosing whatever I want to do next and learning to go with the natural flow of life. Things are going to happen whether I make them a big production or not, so why waste valuable energy? I love not planning now. I love that my soul and my temple is being rebuilt.

I love the feeling of a workout and putting good health back into my body. I love the smell of a candle while reading a thought-provoking book (Buddhist Bootcamp by Timber Hawkeye, currently). I love the feeling of best friends just being next to you..or down the street..or in the same state, now. (: I love the feeling of lying on a yoga mat in Balasana (child’s pose) and breathing in every ounce of positive energy I can find. I love having nothing to do and I love having everything to do at the same time. I love reading poems by John O’Donohue. I love finding the good in the simple things of the day and finding the small things to celebrate each day, even if it’s just that I woke up that morning. I love giving people a reason to smile, even if I can’t necessarily find one for myself at that moment.

I love sleeping in big beds alone. Not to say that waking up next to the person whose soul I am enamored with is not completely fulfilling, but there are so many years for that. Or maybe there are not. But all I know it right now, I love this bed. And these songs. And these intangible feelings. And this life I am building for myself.

 

All through your life your soul takes care of you.
Your soul is alive and awakened, gathering, sheltering,
Guiding your ways and days in the world.
In effect, your soul is your secret shelter.
-John O’Donohue

Al

…Please Don’t Take My Sunshine Away.

Whenever I hear this, I think of you. (This was the song that she sent me last night that I talked about on my status. I’m still in shock. I am so lucky.)

And I have absolutely no way to describe the feeling that I have right now knowing that you’ve been gone for three years. Three. Years. When I say it like that, it doesn’t seem too long. I mean, hell, college has gone by quicker than I can even fathom. But when I look back on how much has happened in three years, it’s an eternity. How much I’ve had to go through in my life without you being here with me. You would be so proud of all your babies here. I have to say, you raised the greatest three girls in the whole world. Auntie Gina is the most caring and genuine person I think I’ve ever met. To have her as my aunt is truly an inspiration and I’m so honored and lucky to have someone so strong to look up to. Auntie Mona is, to this day, someone I can go to in any given situation, no matter what. She’s such a good friend and an even better aunt. She gives the greatest advice and knows exactly how to make your day when you need it. I’m so happy for her that she’s found Quinn and I have a pretty good feeling you were behind that, so I’m sure she’s so thankful to you. And then there’s my mom. I know that she and you had a very unique relationship and I know that because so do she and I. As I’m getting older now and starting to look back on my past 20 years on the planet and I realize that these are the last times I’ll have with her before I graduate and start  my life, I’m starting to realize how great she really is. Not many people can say they have a best friend in their mom, but I really do. I haven’t been the perfect daughter by any means, but she looks past my flaws and mistakes and loves me like you did and that alone makes me the luckiest girl in the world. She cares about me more than just a “motherly instinct,” but as a best friend and as someone who, I genuinely know, won’t give up on me and will always have my back. She is the perfect mom and I have you to thank for that because I know you were so perfect, too. Us grandbabies ain’t so bad either. Zach’s in college in Mesa and as bad-ass as ever. Garrett is killin’ it in high school and is driving now! I still have my voicemail on our phone of you wishing me good luck on my first day of driving. I’ll have to send that to him now. Emma is just the greatest little human in the entire world. She’s so thoughtful and sweet and precious and perfect. Sam and Kendra came this summer for the weekend and I’m so beyond happy I got to spend time with them. I know you were there, too. I’m so incredibly blessed to have those two in my life because they, along with Z, G and Emma, are some of my best friends and I’m so lucky that they’re my family. You left a phenomenal legacy here in your family and I will never be able to thank you enough for giving me this never-failing support system.

I can still see us six standing over you on that last day and Sam telling us how lucky we are to have had the experiences and the beautiful, perfect moments that we had with you. Who else in the world could say that they had a best friend in someone who was 70 years older than they are? No one, but I can. Your advice and your guidance gets me through even my toughest days here and that’s something that I will never be able to replace.

I still cry every time I Love You, Baby comes on or I see old pictures of us. I found some old cards from you telling me how much you love me, your “sunshine,” but what you don’t realize is you were mine, too. You still are. You made my life so bright and so warm and my childhood would never have been even a fraction of as perfect as it was if you weren’t a part of it. The problem is, now, my sunshine is gone. Please don’t take my sunshine away. That line always made me cry when I was little because I couldn’t imagine my sunshine being taken away, but three years ago, it was and, now, I’m starting to realize that I’m not sure how to go on without it. I’ve never felt more loved than I did with you. I never had more fun watching a LifeTime movie or going to the “beauty shop” or laying in bed and talking about what the perfect life would be like. I’ve never seen someone more beautiful. I’ve never seen more happiness or love than with you and papa. I’m so lucky to have been able to witness those things because I know now what sheer bliss is because of you.

I just realized I’m writing this like a letter to you. Like, I’m hoping you’re reading it or hearing it in my head or something. I know you and I still have our little ways of communicating, but I want you to actually know all of this. I am so lucky to have had seventeen exquisite years with you and those will be something I cherish for the rest of my life. Every day you are on my mind. I know you’ll continue to stay there and you’ll be there for every milestone that I have from here on out. I know that there are going to be thunderstorms that hide my sunshine and some days will feel worse than others, but I promise you that at the end of those and even during their darkest points, I will still seek my sunshine. I will always look for you in my toughest moments and seek  your wisdom, whether that be through your words you left me with, the people you left behind here or just simply seeking you by myself in my soul.

“I love you more than the words of this letter can convey and more than you or I could even fathom.” I wrote that to you in our book and you best believe I still mean that. I’ll open our book and a bottle of wine for you tonight and know that my being and my soul will celebrate the person that you were and are and everything that I do is for you. Always and Forever, No Matter What. Oh yeah, and thanks for being you! I love you more.

IMG_5306.JPG
Al

Pick-Me-Up

Everybody has their days, or weeks, where everything seems to be going wrong. You have two choices: believe that it will get better or sit and soak in the negative energy you are creating. These are the ten things to do in order to take the positive approach.

1. Dance: There is no better feeling in the world than when one of your favorite songs comes on and you blast the music and sing and dance around your apartment. I always keep a set of speakers in the kitchen because then you can hear the music through every room. Keep a playlist handy with your favorite songs that inspire you to be better. See my list of favorites here!

2. Have a Happy Purchase: This doesn’t need to be something expensive. My personal favorite is flowers. Just a small bouquet of colorful flowers is around $5 and they can brighten your whole week. Pick something that suits you and your lifestyle, whether that’s candy, flowers or a new album or a book.

3. Don’t Stay Inside: Going on walks can be one of the most beneficial things in the world. Put your phone on airplane mode so you have no distractions (but can still listen to music!) and walk until your mind is cleared. Plus the Vitamin D from the sun will improve your mood, too!

4. Don’t Be Alone: Everybody has their “person” in life. Go see that person or call them. Laughter truly is the best medicine and it will take your mind off the stress or whatever is upsetting you.

5. Meditate: Taking fifteen minutes to sit upright and tall, legs crossed and hands open and facing the sky (half lotus pose for my fellow yoga fanatics) just to think and reflect on the decisions in your life can really improve your mindset on your life. Tell yourself that you are beautiful and strong. Breathe in the positive energy surrounding you and exhale any negative thoughts. Close your eyes and imagine your favorite color is surrounding you and will be at all times protecting you from negative spirits around you.

6. Make a List: Making to-do lists or goal lists is one of the healthiest things you can do, but make sure it is realistic. Tackle the hardest things first and you will not only feel accomplished, but also you will adopt an “I can do anything” attitude.

7. Drink Tea: Trust me, I love my coffee, too, but the caffeine and sugar can cause you to have the opposite mindset than that which you are trying to create. Tea has so many health benefits, especially with lemon. Pick out your favorite tea in a big mug and snuggle up with a blanket and your favorite movie or book and enjoy the moment you’re in.

8. Create: Creating something can make you not only feel accomplished, but can also calm you down. This can mean anything, really. Take out an old cook book and make your favorite recipe, or see a few of mine here. Make a new canvas for your wall or simply paint a mason jar for your desk. See some other options I have in my crafting ideas.

9. Clean: This might be the OCD in me coming out, but cleaning always makes me feel more at peace. If there is a mess around you, you are more likely to feel stressed. Take twenty minutes to just straighten up; make your bed, put a load of laundry in and put the blow dryer back under the sink and you’ll feel much more calm.

10. Take Time for Yourself: In this life, it is so easy to give your time away to everyone, but you’re forgetting the most important person, you. Take ten minutes every day to appreciate the spirit within yourself and love the person that you are. If there is something that you want to change about yourself for the better, use this time to make a plan of attack. Acknowledge nothing changes overnight and this will take time and allow yourself that time. Give yourself credit for all the good you do on this earth and continue to do so in the future. Love yourself.

63d1f6259a842ff08e5edaef03e55e85

Namaste.
Al