Glamping in Moab & Exploring Utah's National Parks

After we eloped in Las Vegas last year, we took what I called a "minimoon" to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in Utah. March was a little early beach-weather-wise to do our full-fledged honeymoon to Croatia, but I wanted to do something after the "wedding" itself before heading back to the dreary Michigan weather we had left behind.

As it turns out, Vegas is actually a pretty good jumping off point to get to a bunch of amazing locations—including Utah's "Mighty Five" National Parks. Because we were only able to tackle 2 of the 5 on the minimoon, when it came time to plan our first-anniversary trip, I had my sights set on hitting the ones we missed the first time around.

As an "outdoorsy-ish" person, I do enjoy camping, but if I'm being honest..."glamping" is where it's at. Our first glamping experience was at Garden Village in Slovenia last year and it was so perfect for a couple of "nature bums" like ourselves that it's become our new thing. 

Once we decided that Moab would be our central location for this trip, a little Googling led us to Under Canvas Moab. For those who follow me on IG, let me just say that my posts weren't any sort of exaggerated version of reality: this place is legit.

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Under Canvas Moab

If you haven't glamped before, the basic gist of it is that you're at a campground, in a tent, but it's a fancy tent...with a bed...and if you're lucky...a bathroom. At Under Canvas Moab our tent even had a wood-burning stove, which was amazing because in early-March the temperature dropped down to the mid-30s at night and we would have been freezing without it.

Our tent also featured a little platform porch with deck chairs that faced out to the desert and gave us a perfect view of the sunrise—which we were actually up for one morning, a first for two people who often sleep until 10 or 11 on the weekend. 😬

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Under Canvas has some great amenities too: an outdoor fire pit with s'more-making materials, a community tent with couches, complimentary coffee, tea, and water, the option to order healthy breakfasts and lunches to have delivered, and on-site staff 24/7 to help with anything that might come up. Oh, and there's also daily housekeeping (I know what you're thinking hardcore campers, don't judge). I love that they're located a little bit outside of town too so we were able to feel immersed in nature but still only have to drive 15 minutes to get to Arches. 

All in all, it was pretty awesome and we would 100% stay there again. I recommend glamping and Under Canvas in particular to anyone who likes to moderately rough-it (ha!) and experience something a little cooler than run-of-the-mill hotel chains.

They have a few locations aside from the one in Moab too (I'm coming for you Glacier and Great Smokey Mountains), check it out on their main site: Under Canvas

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Canyonlands National Park & Dead Horse Point State Park

  • About 45 minutes from Moab, I looooved Canyonlands National Park. The crowds were minimal and we were able to hike far enough in that we could actually be alone in nature in complete silence. Ahhh, the NP dream...
  • We explored the Island in the Sky area of the park (which I found to be aptly named) and my favorite trails were Grand View Point (stunning panoramic views the entire time with perfect rocks to picnic on) and Upheaval Dome (totally worth it to hike past the first overlook and onto the second. We parked it on a rock in the middle and took a nap in the sun, it was perfect).
  • Dead Horse Point State Park is right on the drive back to Moab from Canyonlands so it's definitely worth a stop. You'll probably recognize the view from Dead Horse Point Overlook, apparently it's one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. 
  • Sidenote: The Visitor Center and facilities are way nicer at Dead Horse than at Canyonlands. The more you know 😉
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Arches National Park & Corona Arch

  • If Arches was as crowded as it was in March, I can't imagine what it's like in the summertime. There was definitely much less "alone in nature" time here, but it was stunning nonetheless. I truthfully loved driving through almost as much as hiking too, so if it's a billion degrees when you go, it's worth the entrance fee just for the scenic drive.  
  • We did a few hikes in Arches and Delicate Arch and Landscape Arch were the most memorable to me. The Delicate Arch hike was tougher than I was anticipating (uphill in direct sunlight for the majority of it) but it's pretty special when you get to the end and round the bend to see that iconic arch (it's the one on Utah's license plate) all by its lonesome with the La Sal Mountains behind it. 
  • We had wanted to hit Capitol Reef National Park on this trip too but the timing was going to be a little tight. We had time for one more quick hike though so we drove out to Corona Arch in Moab and it was great. Barely anyone else was on the trail and there were arches galore. 
  • If you're looking to take home a souvenir, the Arches NP gift shop actually has some really cool stuff. We got a t-shirt and a hat with an awesome woodblock design by a local artist.
  • Sidenote: I found out the hard way that there is indeed poison ivy in the desert. Don't touch the plants! And Google it before you go so you can identify it, they look a little different than the plants we're used to up north. 
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And if glamping isn't for you and neither are strip-mall hotels in seedy towns (sorry Moab), we spent the night of our anniversary at the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab (view from our room pictured below) and it was lovely. It's far enough out of town that it feels remote, the restaurant was actually surprisingly good with red rock views from every table and Cactustinis (🌵🍸) on the menu, and there's a winery on-site, bonus! The hot tub under the stars was necessary too after a few long days of hiking.  

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Headed out to Utah and want even more tips then I put in this blog post? Hit me up! I love nothing more than traveling...and talking about traveling...so I'm more than happy to chat 😀

On St. Patrick’s Day, A Toast to My Grandfather, “The Wild Irishman”

I posted this article a few years ago on my old blog, 12 Months of Lent, but I thought I'd re-post it here on St. Patrick’s Day in honor of my Irish grandfather, Francis Stevens Joseph O’Connell. A World War II hero who fought in the infamous Battle of the Bulge, liberated 2 concentration camps, and was awarded 2 Purple Hearts, Frank, also known as “The Wild Irishman”, amassed quite the reputation while he was off fighting abroad. So much so that the Boston Traveler (what is now the Boston Herald), sent famed war correspondent Andrew Tully to Europe just to track him down for an interview, which is transcribed below.

Frank's famous quote from the article: “There are two kinds of people in the world—the Irish and those who wish to hell they were Irish”.

Happy St. Patrick's Day 🍀 

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Tully Meets Wild Irishman From Brockton
By Andrew Tully, Boston Traveler Staff Correspondent

A RIFLE OUTPOST ON THE EDGE OF NO MAN’S LAND, Feb. 12—I don’t know what the hell a timid civilian like me is doing here!

With a wild Irishman from Brockton named O’Connell and a couple of other infantrymen, I am in an attic room of a partially demolished house in Saarlautern, Germany, looking through a shell hole in the wall at the German lines, only 800 yards away. I don’t like it.

Outside is a partially flooded meadow as flat and unprotected as the top of a kitchen table. At the far edge of the meadow is the Saar River, which at this point is a little more than an oversized brook. And fronting on the far bank of the pipsqueak of a river is the part of the city of Saarlautern still held by the Germans.

We can see an occasional Jerry puttering about on some military odd job across that wide open space. Staff Sergeant Francis Stevens Joseph O’Connell of 124 Lawrence Street, Brockton, just told me: “Don’t think he can’t see you”. Good old Francis Stevens Joseph.

The staccato rattle of machine-gun fire can be heard plainly off to our left, where some of our men are harassing a couple of Kraut outposts. Occasionally, the Jerries return the fire from their Siegfried line forts which line the far bank of the river, and almost all afternoon enemy artillery has been drooping shells in and around our positions on this west bank. The noise is not deafening, but there are a few moments when there is not a shell exploding somewhere.

Tall Chimney
The view across the field is one of an assortment of dwellings and manufacturing buildings clustered at the foot of the high ridge. Standing out in the cluster is a tall powerhouse chimney and on guard before and between the buildings are the ponderous forts of the Siegfried line. Our 105 howitzers have been banging away and now you can’t see the puffs of dirty gray smoke practically within spitting distance where the shells have scored hits on the Jerry real estate. Two more shells bounce off the ridge behind the town and we fancy we can hear the thud of the shells falling.

We are, of course, well within both rifle and machine gun range and Lt. Phil Stanchfield of Milo, ME., cautions us to stay away from the windows on the left. “Look out the shell hole,” he counsels, “Jerry hasn’t put a bullet through that place yet.”

O’Connell is studying the tall chimney with a look of dissatisfaction. “You can’t tell me there ain’t something in that chimney,” he says. “Betcha they got an observation post there where they can see as far as Paris.” His pals are in sober agreement. “I should like to see a beautiful 105 cut that chimney in half, right in half,” says Staunchfield as he licks his chops in contemplating such a beautiful thing.

“What he needs is an all-Irish gun crew to do that job,” says O’Connell. “Now take my squad—”

Colorful Character
I’ll take O’Connell’s squad any day. Every outfit has its colorful character and in this one, O’Connell just about fills the bill. The Brockton boy is leader of a squad of 12 men, all of them of Irish descent. Since the outfit went into the line last October this squad has killed an estimated 300 Germans! All of them—Rourke and O’Ryan and Duffy and Reynolds—are top fighting men. But O’Connell has that wonderful intangible thing called color, which made Babe Ruth, Dizzy Dean and Shipwreck Kelly stand out in the sports picture.

Sgt. O’Connell was a molder of iron, steel, brass and copper back in civilian life. He carries a genuine shamrock and he says, “There are two kinds of people in the world—the Irish and those who wish to hell they were Irish”.

Short But Sweet
You can’t pin the Brockton boy down on how many Jerries he’s killed but his pals say “about 40”. Lt. Stanchfield, who does not go out on limbs, says that figure is not extravagant. Then he tells us about the time recently when O’Connell and his crew were out looking for trouble and picked up a couple of stray Germans. “They told the boys they’d just come from around the bend,” Staunchfield recalls, “So, O’Connell says ‘to hell with going to bed,’ and the Irish headed around the bend”.

Around the bend they found two tanks and perhaps 20 infantrymen. A few bazooka shots sent the tanks speeding into retreat but the infantrymen elected to fight. The Irish obliged. When it was over, there were 16 dead Krauts on the white snow and the other four men had fled.

The Irish squad takes all this excitement calmly. Being men of simple tastes who want of the world only a little bodily comfort. When Stanchfield ushered me into O’Connell’s grinning presence today the Brockton bushwhacker was lying on one of two beds in one of the houses four bedrooms, his stockinged feet resting on a cerise quilt and a radio giving forth swing on the bedside table. He’s a solidly built citizen with short but not clipped brown hair and seems perpetually abashed.

A Little Mistake
The rest of the squad was having around smoking and talking with the exception of one man, who was upstairs keeping watch. “We don’t work too hard,” O’Connell told me. “Makes you old before your time”. Frankly, the thing I’m interested in today more than Francis Stevens Joseph O’Connell is GROWING OLD. Back at the company command post, Stanchfield has offered to have O’Connell brought to me there but I said I’d go to him. Everybody makes mistakes, I suppose. Anyway, the brief trip to O’Connell’s bailiwick had me on the ropes.

You can’t go to this output in a jeep because you draw fire. So, we had to walk and as we started out, one of the boys in the CP gave me an owlish look and told me “Hope to see you again.” You know that tone of voice.

We had to walk only a few blocks but the last part of it brought us onto a street within plain view of Jerry across the river. We had to hug the buildings all the way down the street for a distance of perhaps two blocks to get to the outpost. I could see some Germans across that field on the other side of the river and if they can’t see me, Hitler is fighting this war with a fine bunch of myopic militarists. I scuttled along that sidewalk with my ribs scraping against solid brick and thought to myself, “When you are going to get that job selling vacuum cleaners?”

But you don’t get to meet guys like Francis Stevens Joseph O’Connell selling vacuum cleaners.

 

The Late-Winter Blues

If I'm being honest, as of today, March 3rd, 2018, I am currently at the end of my winter rope. The late-winter funk is in FULL effect, and dear God, the first signs of spring cannot come soon enough. I think there's a tulip coming up in my yard under the half foot of sloppy snow we got on the first of the month...maybe? 🌷

In like a lion, out like a lamb, in like a lion, out like a lamb...

This winter has been decent, tolerable weather, a trip to the PNW, 17 days of Olympics to keep me entertained, but man, by the time March finally made its debut the other day, I felt done. So done. All of my coping mechanisms have long gone out the window, I may or may not have Googled symptoms of SAD, and basically, I am just insufferably cranky. To everyone in my life: I'm sorry. Winter Danne is kind of a B.  

But, this is how it goes every year when you live in the northernmost states. I always think that maybe if I self-care to the max that I'll make it through unscathed, but I don't. I never do. Eventually, winter takes its toll, and in the latter half of it, you just sort of check out, resolving to check back in when it's time for light jackets and open-toed shoes.

The good news? It's almost that time! As awful of a month as March is, the saving grace is that it's when the light at the end of the tunnel becomes visible. It's when you get that glimmer of hope that you've been waiting for, and when you know that the end is finally near. Can you tell that summer is my favorite season? 😉

Just to remind myself that winter wasn't all that bad this year though:

Things That Didn't Suck About Winter:

  1. I nailed my annoying to-do list full of "Those things I've been putting off forever".
  2. I finished the 7 unfinished books I had started.
  3. I blew through a bunch of Podcast series, including A Killing on the Cape, Dirty John, and Heaven's Gate (in addition to my regularly scheduled programming). 
  4. I snuck in a trip to Portland, OR visit my brother and good friend Jess.
  5. I finally gave my website and blog (Dan made me a logo, did you see? Isn't it beautiful?) the refresh that it needed.

Things I'm looking Forward to in March:

  1. Our first wedding anniversary (March 11th to be exact)! I think I've mentioned it before, but I intentionally wanted to get married in March because it's my least favorite month of the year. I figured it would always give me something to look forward to—and let's be real, an excuse to take a trip. 
  2. That being said...we're going to Utah next week to celebrate. Having this trip to look forward to is saving my life right now. Salt Lake City, 3 National Parks, and glamping in Moab. I cannot wait. 
  3. The actual first day of spring is March 20th which is less than 3 weeks away—it's really happening!
  4. Daylight savings time is also this month (on our anniversary actually) which means a whole extra hour of daylight is coming our way. YES. 
  5. The online book club that I'm a part of is reading an illustrated book of poetry, The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur and I'm really excited to dive in, it looks absolutely beautiful. 

Happy Almost Spring! 

p.s. I thought this list of the months ranked from worst to best was funny (and mostly accurate, although July, August, and September are my top 3, sorry October). 

A Love Letter to the Olympics

In February of 1994, I was a 10-year-old little girl about to discover something that would mesmerize me for the rest of my life: the Olympics.

That year, the Winter Olympics were in Lillehammer, Norway, and as a kid watching them for the first time, I was instantly obsessed. Quickly I became familiar with a whole host of sports I had never seen before, learned the names of athletes who became my new heroes, and was fascinated being exposed to so many different cultures for the first time. I specifically remember spending hours working on a drawing of the Olympic rings surrounded by all of the star athlete's names from that year. You know the ones: Nancy Kerrigan & Tonya Harding (p.s. go see I, Tonya if you haven't yet, it's amazing), Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov (my heart!), Oksana Baiul, Bonnie Blair, Dan Jansen, Picabo Street—all the legends. 

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While the '94 Olympics were particularly magical for me, I'm honestly still just as enamored. Since the games kicked off in Pyeongchang two weeks ago, I have tuned in every single night (ok fine, except for one) from 8pm–midnight. Like the rest of the world, I loved seeing North and South Korea march in together during the opening ceremony—and of course, I was happy to see Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless flag bearer from Tonga back again. I watched the Shib Sibs nail their twizzles, was absolutely moved by Virtue and Moir's passionate gold medal ice dancing performance, had tears in my eyes during the feature NBC did with Lindsey Vonn and her late grandfather, loved seeing Shaun White make his emotional comeback, and was glued to the screen during the Russian showdown that was women's figure skating. 

But aside from the actual games themselves, what I love the most about the Olympics is seeing the world come together for something positive—if only for a few short weeks. It's a little mind-blowing to me when I talk to someone who says they aren't really "into" the Olympics. From what I can tell, it seems to be the only time that the entire world unites, coming together to celebrate the best of humanity rather than magnifying the worst of it. People from all walks of life, from different countries and cultures, all put their differences aside and share in one beautiful and triumphant experience. How can you not be "into" that?

So, Dear Olympics, I love you. Thank you for giving us all a much needed break from the regularly scheduled stream of disheartening news that we're constantly bombarded with. I can always count on you to restore my faith in humanity, and to remind me that hope is not lost, and that the beauty of the human spirit is still as strong and vibrant as ever. 

🌎 🏅 ✌️ ❄️

p.s. I have a funny tradition of intentionally not tuning into the closing ceremony because I don't want to accept that the Olympics are actually over, but I might have to break my vow tonight. I need one more night!

p.p.s. And although China isn't on top of my travel list, it's always been a dream of mine to go to the Olympics (specifically the winter games), so I'm feeling like Beijing 2022 might be in the cards for me. Who's in?

 

Recently From My Camera

Winter is always the time of year when I end up taking the least photographs (my Instagram feed is proof of this), but I carry the camera around with me anyways, knowing that something will pop up that's worth capturing.

After my Oregon trip a few weeks ago I was scrolling through all the photos in the camera and found these few pictures that I took while home on Cape Cod over Christmas that I had completely forgotten about. I love the Cape in the wintertime and the little still lifes that I find in my parents house. ✨

2018 Goal = Take More Photos

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A Short Yoga Sequence for Winter

It's the last day of January which means we made it through the first full month of winter, hooray!

The only downside is that now we have February to endure...and then March. My two least favorite months. On the upside, the weather has been fairly tolerable this winter, especially when I escaped to the PNW last weekend to visit my brother in Portland, OR and got to hike through waterfalls in 60-degree weather. Why do I always live in the cold states?

Between the waterfalls, the winter Olympics that kick off next week (I freaking love the Olympics), and the trip that Dan and I booked to Utah in March to celebrate our anniversary (the only good thing about March), I think I'll survive. 

To help us all make it through to Spring though, here's a little winter yoga sequence that you can practice at home. The intention is to move through the poses slowly and mindfully, taking long, deep breaths in each posture and working towards long holds (5–8 breaths if you can). 

Happy practicing! 🧘‍♀️❄️🙏🏻

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How I “Self-Care”: A Little Nature & A Lotta Nurture

People often ask me how I’m always so "calm" and "easy-going". “What do you do?”, they ask. “Don’t you ever get angry and lose it?”

Part of it is certainly nature—if you’ve met my dad you know what I mean, he is the most even-keeled, laid-back human being I know. I often joke that he puts the “Zen” in “Dzenawagis”, and well...the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. While I am like my mom in many ways, I have my dad’s temperament through and through. It’s in my blood. 

But…a lot of it is nurture too. 

In college, I lived in a constant state of stress. For some reason (and it was not pressure from my parents or anyone else, I did this to myself) school was always my #1 priority, and everything else—including my health, took second stage. My body bore the brunt of this chronic stress, and throughout my college career, I suffered from a variety of symptoms like irregular bleeding, heart palpitations, ocular migraines, severe stomach pain, and more. 

I had no idea that any of this was stress-related until after graduation when it all just magically disappeared. Almost instantly too. Wait a minute…I had been doing this to myself? How was working so hard that I was physically ill benefiting anyone? That was when my priorities began to shift and self-care became #1, because as my dad always says, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”. And he’s right. 

It’s taken me 30+ years to figure out exactly what I need to do to feel “good”, but now that I know, I take taking care of myself very seriously. Dan likes to joke that it’s my part-time job, and it kind of is. When my self-care routine is strong, I am my best self, and when I am my best self, everyone around me benefits. A yoga teacher of mine once said that “You can only give what you have an abundance of”, and I certainly don’t want to be giving out an abundance of stress and anxiety. The world doesn’t need any more of that. 

After years of trial and error, I've found that this is what optimal self-care looks like for me: 

  1. Yoga: Always my #1, I get on my mat at least 3 times a week, and I will tell you, there is a very clear difference in my mood on the weeks when this isn’t the case. Because I’m certified to teach I often just lead my own home practice, but I love Yoga International when I’m looking for someone to guide me. 
  2. Meditation: At the end of every yoga practice, and sometimes more. It can be as simple as sitting for 5 minutes a day and visualizing the breath moving in and out of the body. 
  3. Writing: I have been a journaler since childhood, and it has served me well as an adult too (I carry my journal with me everywhere). When there is something I need to work out, I write, and the answer usually finds its way onto the pages. Or it at least helps to clear my mind. 
  4. Rest: I’ve found that I’m an 8-hour a night kind of girl, and I make every effort possible to get that when I can. Over the past few years, I’ve had a resurgence of sleeping in on the weekends too and I feel no guilt whatsoever about it (sorry to my friends out there with children 😉). 
  5. Diet: I’m a vegetarian (pescatarian technically, I occasionally eat seafood) and have been for 23 years. It was never difficult for me to give up meat, it’s always felt very natural, and I’ve found that it’s what feels best for my body. I also try to keep junk and processed foods to a minimum and I buy local and organic when I can. I've started doing an ayurvedic cleanse in the spring and fall too and that has been a game-changer for me. 
  6. Exercise: While yoga can be exercise, my personal practice is typically more restorative than calorie-burning, so I do make sure to get my cardio and strength training in addition. I do circuit classes at my gym 2-3x a week, and in the summer I take walks around my neighborhood until my Fitbit tells me I hit 10,000 steps. 
  7. Massage: This may seem luxurious, but I get a massage once a month. While yoga is great for stretching the muscle, it doesn’t get the knots out, and massage releases stored tension like nothing else for me. 
  8. Saying No: A lot of people struggle with this, but it’s something that I’ve become very comfortable with. I do not overcommit, and I gracefully decline invites when I have too much going on. Unless I have to, or I want to, I don’t mindlessly say "yes". 
  9. Taking Space: I am an introvert, and part of that means that I recharge with quiet time. I know myself, and know that if I have a lot of extroverted activities on my agenda, that I need a lot of personal space before and after to prepare and recover. Taking this space is crucial for me to feel good and not burn out.  
  10. Taking Vacation: It pains me when I read statistics about how in America, “54% of employees end the year with unused time off”. Time is so valuable, and actual relaxation is irreplaceable. I know that personally, time off is essential to my well-being, and because I love to travel too, I don’t think I’ve ever had a paid vacation day go unused.  

Now, do I always hit everything on this list? No. But I do my best, and I don't get upset with myself when I can't fit it all in. The months when I do though? Golden. 100% worth the effort. ✨

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This is an interesting read that I've seen floating around the internet lately that offers an expanded and somewhat non-traditional definition of self-care. To each his own. ✌🏻

Let There Be Mess

I am a very orderly person. I live by my to-do app. I use this weekly desk planner at work. I journal. I am SO an 'inbox zero' person. My house is immaculately clean. My closet is color coordinated. Even my junk drawer is organized. And as I’ve written before, I love to write out a list of annual goals. 

I woke up yesterday feeling good (we stayed in, no hangover here), got right on my mat and did some yoga and meditated. Perfect. This was exactly how I had intended to start my day. Next on the New Year’s Day agenda was baking a decadent coffee cake from the Flour cookbook and having a luxurious brunch. This is where things started to go awry.

We spent about 3 hours on this cake…and it turned out awful. Like, inedible awful and our house was full of smoke. I can go with the flow, I can laugh at myself, but man, it was 3 pm, I was starving, and it was really hard to not be cranky about the pile of sloppy coffee cake sitting on my counter.

Whatever. Onwards.

I ate some yogurt, made a few self-depricating Instagram stories about the coffee cake fail, and laid down underneath the electric blanket to figure out how I could salvage the afternoon. 

I will journal! I will solidify my goals for 2018! I will set my intentions! Everyone else on social media is doing this! Today is the day!

It wasn’t the day. I knew it wasn’t the day, but I tried to force it to be the day. 

I wrote, it was fine. I set some goals, I felt ok about them. I tried to write a blog post, nothing happened. I pulled out my new tarot cards, I wasn’t connecting to anything. I decided to reorganize my sock drawer, I dumped every single sock onto the floor, stared at the pile, and walked away. I read through other people’s yearly goals and intentions, all of the sudden mine seemed lame. We ordered a pizza, it made me feel good…and then bad. I toyed with signing up for a 30-day meditation challenge, I promptly deleted the email invitation.

It was one of those days, and you know what? It's ok. Just because the western world has collectively decided that New Year's Day is THE day to embark on new goals and aspirations doesn’t mean that it actually has to be. Sometimes you can’t force it and it’s perfectly fine to have a weird day—even if that day is January 1st. 

So, if anyone else out there didn’t start the year out strong, I am right there with you. It is what it is. Que sera, sera. 

It is now January 2nd and my socks are still on the floor and it's not looking like I’ll get around to putting them away tonight. I don’t know about the rest of the year, but I’m letting this week be a little messy. And I think that might actually be exactly what I need. The rest of it can wait.

Happy New Year 🎉