I woke up, on a working farm in Borgarnes, Iceland, to the sound of an incoming text. My daughter was back in the states so I reached for my phone immediately. “He won!” I replied, “What?” Surely, she was joking! I woke up Stan. He also thought it was a joke and frantically grabbed his phone. We were in a state of shock. What did this mean? What was in store for the U.S. in 2017? How bad would it be? We sat in stillness as it sunk in; then we determinedly resolved it would not impact the rest of our time in Iceland. We walked in silence over to get breakfast at the café where we were staying. There was a stillness there as well. Over the rest of the trip, many Icelanders expressed sadness and worry for us. Luckily, they instinctively knew we were not ok with the outcome of the election. On the fight back to the US, we tried very hard to not ask “what if”.
New Year’s Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays. It is cathartic – a celebration of letting go and a time to embrace possibility. However, I felt trepidation about 2017. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I suspected it wasn’t going to be good. After the inauguration, like most Americans I know, as soon as my eyes opened in the morning I reached for my phone. I had to know what 45 had done while I slept. Within a matter of weeks, we were all exhausted. The onslaught of bad news, absurdity, lies, and spewing of hatred wreaked havoc on our spirits. I spent a lot of time consoling others, but freaking out when no one was looking. Then I said, “Enough.” I had to find a way to navigate this hostile administration while still moving forward and finding some enjoyment in life.
With that in mind and after countless conversations as a family, we decided to make radical changes in our lives hoping they would provide the opportunity to experience joy within the uncertainty. The year was still hard and as we watch the US backslide towards a country that cares even less for those that need it most – my heart continued to break. I hope I live to see the day that people unite and truly take care of each other. Until then, we must also find a way to take care of ourselves and our families so we can remember there is still beauty in the world. In 2017, I embarked on a mission to make time to find and embrace beauty. Amazing that since I set that intention – we did indeed find tremendous beauty. Here are few of the highlights!
1) Walking in a Winter Wonderland
I received a small grant to present my research at the University of Iceland! This allowed us to return to Iceland and further explore the country we love so much. Being snow lovers, a day spent wandering snowy fields was perfect. Followed up by an amazing meal at one of our favorite restaurants in the whole world – Tryggvaskáli
2) Taking a Break from City Life
One of the best parts of living in Seattle is the closeness of the mountains, alpine lakes, and waterfalls. Teneriffe Falls is one of my favorite day hikes. The sound of the water pounding down the mountain helps relieve the stress of city life. The hike is moderate and you can push yourself to the top (13.8 miles round trip) or just find a good spot along the way to picnic and relax.
3) Scouting out Scandinavia
Again, I was honored to present my research abroad. This time at the University of Örebro. Since we were in the area, it was the perfect opportunity to explore a little of Scandinavia. I absolutely fell in love with Stockholm (especially the Chokladbollar). We will certainly be going back.
4) Viewing the Vast Vigeland Sculpture Garden
Oslo welcomed us with a rare heat wave. We were completely unprepared for the heat and returned to Seattle with a tan! Not sure anyone at our jobs believed we actually went to Scandinavia on the trip. So, here’s a great picture to prove it!
5) Wedding Day
Marrying your best friend under the cherry tree in your backyard is highly recommended. Our dear friend (and amazing musician), Simon Henneman officiated our “Shredding Wedding” through song – Pink Floyd Narrow Way Pt III. We were surrounded by our closest friends and Ava (our GSD) even stood by our sides during the ceremony!
6) Sunset Strolls Along the Beach
Grayland was one of my stomping grounds in the early 90s, I hadn’t been back since. It was a bittersweet reunion and farewell. The sunsets, kite flying, and seafood on this part of the Washington coast are remarkable. The dogs loved beach time for sure!
7) Farm Livin’ is the Life for Me
Nothing quite prepares you for the moment that your child is ready to fly solo. You spend years preparing them so they can succeed and then one day it is time for them to go. I don’t think we could have found a better place for our last weekend together before we left for Mexico and my daughter literally flew off on her own (to the UK). We spent her baby years on a remote ranch in the mountains; it seemed oddly fitting to launch her into adulthood from the middle of nowhere!
8) Wowed at White Pocket
We were tipped off about White Pocket by our waitress our first night in Kanab, Utah. Her face beamed and her enthusiasm was contagious as she described hiking there. It is truly one of our highlights of the year. I think I used the word stunning more on that hike than I have in my entire life (Love it so much I also wrote about it here ).
9) Zealously Ziplining
When you are traveling the world with two adventure seekers you get talked into things! It took them days to convince me that I would miss out if I didn’t go along with them. I’ll be honest, I almost chickened out. Finally, I committed. It was a blast. I’d do it again!
10) Honored by Big Horn Sheep
After several days of being in crowded National Parks, we almost skipped Zion. Our journey was about natural beauty, not crowds of people. However, we were so close and didn’t know if we’d ever visit the area again so we decided to go for just a few hours. It was worth battling the traffic and crowds. Standing a few feet away from Big Horn Sheep is an awesome and humbling experience!
11) Dazzled by Dia De Los Muertos
The relationship to death in Mexico is refreshing compared to what we experience in the US. Instead of ignoring or hiding it, death is represented in art everywhere. Skulls and skeletons are found in high-end galleries and murals that line the streets. Dia de Los Muertos is a magical celebration of life that brings families together to beautifully honor their ancestors. Experiencing the music, art, dancing, and alters was a privilege we will never forget.
12) Thanksgiving with Mom
If you had told me at the beginning of 2017, that I’d eat Thanksgiving dinner with my mom on the shores of Lake Chapala I would have laughed – impossible! I could not be more thankful for the opportunity to spend this time with my mom. Through my work with teens and young adults, I have repeatedly seen how they suffer because their moms don’t support them in who they are. My mom may not have understood my crazy punk rock antics or life choices, but she always accepted them and let me be me. I am truly thankful for that – so thanksgiving with her was perfect!
So that’s a wrap! This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what we experienced in 2017, but reviewing the beauty we found along the way makes heading into 2018 feel a little more doable. The current administration, in the US, has already assaulted almost every community my family and friends belong to (or the communities of those I served for decades). I fear what this administration is capable of in 2018. I also know I will never be able to remain silent in the face of injustice. I will continue to advocate and fight for what is right. I recommit each day to do as little harm as possible, but I also need to replenish my reserves so compassion fatigue doesn’t leave me incapable of being of service. Therefore, I also re-commit to finding beauty in 2018! I will choose love over hate and continue to grab opportunities!
Thanks for going on this journey with us. May 2018 be the year that we unite like never before!
Peace, Health, and Happiness to all!