Sharing The Road

I was running late.

(I realize this is not a surprise to anybody. Read on.)

While biking home from work a few weeks back, I decided to stop by Trader Joe's to pick up some essentials. After halting a few times to consult Google Maps, I finally arrived and began my hunt for organic Greek yogurt, an eggplant, and a few other staples. At checkout, I discovered I could not fit all the food in my backpack, already full with my laptop and work clothes. Rookie mistake. For the next fifteen minutes, I sat outside Trader Joe's, packing and repacking that backpack like the Tetris expert I am, chomping down one of the apples I had just purchased to make more room. Finally everything was stuffed in, and subsequently weighed about a hundred pounds. Carrying a bushel of bananas in one hand, I pedaled home, exhausted and hungry and sweaty. More than once, I had to stop and readjust the weight.

When I finally pulled up to my friend Sam's house (who I'm currently living with if you'll remember), fruit literally falling out of my backpack, I could hear soft laughter and the clinking of glasses. An outdoor dinner party. Slowly, I made my way up the driveway, and my sweaty face, hunched over from the immense weight of my groceries, made eye contact with half a dozen strangers sitting on the lawn at a table, twinkle lights cascading. Sam's friends. I stared at the Kinfolk scene before me as bruised apples rolled down the driveway. Sam delightedly introduced me to the group. I could feel sweat dripping in unmentionable places as I made some affable comments about needing a shower. Laughing off my appearance, I hurriedly parked my bike and ran inside.

Freshly showered, I returned to the group twenty minutes later to properly make introductions and join in on the fanfare, hair damp and spirits lifted. The slight feeling of embarrassment clung on. I know these girls, in their Saltwater sandals and maxi skirts, had seen many a sweaty bike commuter before. But I was not used to being the one on the bike.

Portland is widely heralded as the most bike-friendly city in the US, where approximately 1 in 10 people commute by pedal as opposed to car. This city proudly boasts naked bike rides and a handful of actual protected bike lanes on certain routes. There are even a few streets where bicyclists have the right of way. Being a bike commuter isn't a new concept; there are many who deliberately choose this lifestyle. However, I know in my heart of hearts that if I could still drive, I would not be one of them.

My visual impairment prevents me from driving and thus getting around easily, something that has hindered the past few years of my life. As I learn to seek out independence in other ways, I find myself embracing a new culture and lifestyle, not foreign to many other Portlanders and outdoor enthusiasts.

I have been in Portland for almost two months now, living apart from Nick as he works up at Mt. Hood for the summer, patiently waiting for our future home to go into escrow so I can begin nesting (I'm going to buy all the succulents). In the meantime, I am finally mobile again, truly for the first time since I last drove a car five years ago. I am able to transport myself around; I am able to explore. In short, I have become a bonafide bike commuter.

The interesting thing is this: as I shopped for bike shorts the other day, I was actually into it. I was interested in bike shorts. While I am living a lifestyle I did not necessarily choose, I am finding that it makes me more fulfilled and more grateful. There is something pretty remarkable about having the wind in your hair (and yes, sometimes the rain) while accomplishing a physical feat to get from Point A to Point B, instead of just sitting in a car and turning the key. My soul is getting fed.

Plus, my calves look great.

year one

We were married in May. A planned elopement. The only decoration for our wedding was the Just Married sign strung along the back of your car. I made it out of construction paper from JoAnn's the night before.

We wanted our wedding to be extremely intimate, and in the last year it blew up the Internet. When Googled, your name is now more closely associated to our wedding than your snowboarding career (sorry about that).

We made love for the first time. We were husband and wife for the first time. We traveled to San Francisco together so our families could congratulate us in person, then we went to the Caribbean for our honeymoon where you very quickly learned I was a terrible swimmer (thank you for still making me feel like I was a mermaid). We continued to learn things about each other all year, good things and bad.

I hope it's always like that.

In June, you started working full time at Anchored Ship. The coffee shop where I wrote my book the previous year... our coffee shop. You fell in love with coffee seemingly overnight. You used to carry that Coffee Manual everywhere with you, until the pages were so worn you had to print out another copy. I tried to read through it multiple times, but never could finish. Your love of coffee inspires me, and motivates me. I love how purely and passionately you fall in love with life. You put all of yourself in everything you do.

You told me I was selfish. I had never known. I think I wrote a blog post about it. My sins, previously neatly hidden even from myself, were rapidly exposed, one right after the other. It wasn't easy to grapple with.

In July, I took my weave out. We ate Paleo. I remember drinking bourbon out of a mason jar on the beach as the sun was setting on Independence Day, fireworks mere minutes away, and missing you even though you were right next to me. I tried to summit Mt. Hood with you, unsuccessfully. Let's try that again this summer.

Our first year was hard.

In August, we traveled again. After a tiresome summer, we were both itching to pull our passports out. In the Canary Islands I went inside my very first casino with you and you taught me how to play blackjack. I remember taking a selfie in the bathroom that night wearing your Iron Maiden tee, thinking I was badass. When you were so sick with food poisoning in Morocco the next week I laid awake next to you night after night as you slept, listening to your heart beat, making sure you were alright. Remember that terrible meal we had in Madrid on our layover?

So many Starbucks stops. The more we fell in love with specialty coffee this past year, the more we seemed to end up at Starbucks. We both secretly love those red cups. That's how I know you're my soulmate.

In September, I began to admit to the world how depressed I was. I struggled with the weight of my life, the weight of past decisions. I said I was living for Jesus, but it didn't feel like it. You didn't fully understand how to help, but you tried. Thank you for loving me through the dark moments.

I worked on octopus paintings and you poured latte art.

In October, the rain came. Despite the gray, we continued to take bike rides together all over Seattle, you always leading with the occasional glance over your shoulder to make sure your visually impaired wife was doing okay. Which I was. You have taught me how to expertly weave through traffic, a skill that is already coming in handy in Portland!

In November, we explored Bend, thinking we would move there. Your coffee dreams were blooming faster than ever. It has been a privilege to watch your heart grow this past year. We biked up Highway 40 on Thanksgiving with your family, an easy feat for you, but a marked accomplishment in my memory as I continued to try to make my body stronger so I could keep up with you. I remember pedaling back to your Dad's house in Truckee that afternoon, watching families fish together on their docks at Donner Lake, feeling a deep yearning in my soul to have those peaceful moments be ours someday.

The deepest desires and dreams of my feminine heart, even the tiny ones so exquisitely tucked away that they're often forgotten, are completely met in you and the life we live together, serving our God hand in hand.

In December you picked me up from the Seattle airport when I flew home from Shanghai, wisps of smog still lingering in my lungs. We embarked on yet another road trip up and down the west coast. We decided to see The Hobbit together in Rancho Cucamonga and on our way to the movie we took a jog in the streets with Coldstone in our hands. The word Smaug still makes me laugh. We took your brother and sister snowboarding in Tahoe the day after Christmas. Memories over materials, you always say.

In January I learned how to make the perfect blueberry scone. We were pretty obsessed with Breaking Bad. We talked a little about Portland. We prayed a lot together. I met with my ophthalmologist, who told me I'm losing a degree of vision every year. Comforting and terrifying at the same time.

Before we began dating, I was obsessed with my eye disease. It very much defined me. I thought about it almost constantly. It was always an excuse  usually, a valid excuse. Frankly, I just felt sorry for myself. With a jolt, I'm realizing that I never think about my disease anymore. And so much of that is due to your impact, your love, your kindness, your support, your example, your leadership. I can choose to not allow my impairment to get in the way of my life, or I can choose to let it be an excuse (even a valid one). You taught me that.

In February I scraped up my knee when I crashed my bike after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl as we rode down the street, high on life and maybe a little whiskey, high-fiving other screaming fans. I ate more Skittles that month than I'll ever care to admit. We took the ferry out to Bainbridge Island a few times. We laughed a lot. I woke up to snow when you were in Maine. We ate sushi the night of your birthday, the same night we decided we would move to Portland after months of deliberation.

In March you quietly accepted your job at Windell's. We took a train to Vancouver and made fun of Canadians and learned what a beluga was and ate and drank a lot. Remember that conversation we had that one time about how taste is such an underrated sense? Not for us, babe. We wine and dine well! Also that month, A TV reporter interviewed us. I don't remember what we talked about because all I saw was her huge pearly white smile.

We entered our late twenties. We've been adults for awhile, but now it really feels like it.

In April we learned you really can never trust a mollusk. My parents visited us, and we had a blast. I stopped into Anchored Ship to get coffee from you after my workouts. I decided to get baptized on Easter Sunday, which was one of the best moments of my life. It meant the world to have you there, supporting me through that time. Then I got the job in Portland, and moved down, away from you, away from our home, unexpectedly early.

It has been an incredibly difficult year, and simultaneously an incredibly joyous year. So much transition I wasn't ready for (are we really ever ready?) and so many nights questioning myself, questioning God. You were moving away from one career into another while I was trying to figure out how to move into one. Unexpected quarter life identity crisis.

Our Pinterest culture obsesses over marriage, the ring and dress and wedding invitations and all that, but not the nitty gritty day-to-day life that really makes up marriage. Past the elopement video that went viral, past the Instagram photos, past the charm, in our first year we learned what living together and accepting one another really meant. I am more committed to you today than ever. Thank you for being strong for me this past year, and being a leader simply by the way you live your life. I would marry you again in a heartbeat.

Happy Anniversary, Huz. I love you so incredibly much.

photo by Benj Haisch

photo by Benj Haisch

we're moving to portland!

Well, it's official, so it's probably time to update the blog.

After months of deliberation and life plans coming together, then falling apart, then coming back together again, it's true: Nick and I are moving to Portland!

In a stunning series of events we could not have foreseen (thanks God), we both landed some pretty incredible jobs at the same time in the amazingly weird world of Portlandia. Nick was just named Head Snowboard Coach at Mt. Hood's premiere action sports camp, Windells (the "funnest" place on Earth). So he's going to be hanging out on a volcano all summer... and the rest of us are immediately jealous.

On a different but equally awesome note, I am now the Creative Writer & Editor at Design Aglow, a prestigious online resource for the success of professional portrait and wedding photographers. It's an incredible opportunity, and I'm honored to be working alongside fellow creatives I very much respect and admire. If you live in Portland come to our Open House on May 19!

In true grownup fashion, Nick and I have been trying to buy a house in PDX ever since mid-February, frustratingly to no avail. Our requirements are simple: not too many dead bodies, has to have some charm, in our budget (obvi), and near public transit so I can get around town easily. Buying a house with that seemingly short list of requirements has been an incredible challenge as the market is swamped with a zillion other fresh faced newly married couples also trying to move there.

(Pssst... hey Portland women who are rad! Hit me up! I need friends!)

At this point in time, I am crashing with a good friend in Portland so I can be close to my new job, while Nick wraps things up in Seattle and gets our condo ready to rent out (let me know if you're looking to move to Ballard!). All the while, we continue to pray that the perfect house comes on the market.

I'm loving my new job and enjoying my new city (and it's food!). There is so much more to update on, but for now, a few photos should tell the story nicely.

Food trucks!

Food trucks!

What lunch breaks look like now.

What lunch breaks look like now.

My temporary home right now. Lovely, don't you think?

My temporary home right now. Lovely, don't you think?

My roommate Sam Yapp, one of my very best friends.

My roommate Sam Yapp, one of my very best friends.

Blue Star Donuts. Yes.

Blue Star Donuts. Yes.

New job vibes!

New job vibes!

More food.

More food.

Spring is blooming here. I have the most scenic bike commute ever!

Spring is blooming here. I have the most scenic bike commute ever!

On a business note, you've probably noticed how very neglected my poor blog has been as of late. I have temporarily closed my Shop until life settles down, but will have it reopened with new artwork available very soon! Thanks for sticking with me.

that one time i cried on national television

...or teared up, anyway.

Ever since my 2010 diagnosis with retinitis pigmentosa, I have allowed my story to be told in an effort to bring hope to the blind and low vision community, and perhaps even more importantly, to raise awareness. For this reason, often I have written out my "artist-going-blind" mantra: in this blog, in dozens of articles internationally, even in a book. But very rarely do I have the opportunity to verbally share what it's like to slowly lose my vision. Recently I was interviewed by Seattle's King 5 News weeknight program Evening Magazine where I had the opportunity to share a little more about my darkening world, and particularly how Instagram has played such an integral role in my story.

Since Nick & I stubbornly refuse to pay for cable, whenever we want to catch something on TV we often end up watching it while on the elliptical at the gym. Last night was no exception (and yes, I felt a bit ridiculous going to the gym strictly for TV). As I watched my face get choked up on a giant screen overlooking dozens of cardio machines, mindless Seattleites in the middle of their workouts watched with me, gazing up, unaware that I was among them. I was very conscious of how typical that is. My disease doesn't scream out, it's not noticeable; when you're around me you can't tell I have it most of the time. And I'm grateful for that. Grateful that even though at times this disease can feel so very isolating, so very painful... most of the time, I blend in and am just plain normal.

Once again, I owe the many people who have encouraged and supported and prayed for me along the way a gigantic THANK YOU. You help me get through the dark moments; you help me see my faith clearly when it seems to dim. Much love to you all, from the bottom of my heart.

creating beauty from tragedy: rebecca lewis of gramercy eight

I've met a lot of inspiring souls in my day, but every so often, there's someone who really stands out. Maybe it's the way they tell their story, maybe it's the way they're healing from a painful situation, or maybe it's their humility. In the case of jewelry designer Rebecca Lewis of Gramercy Eight, it's all of the above.

Rebecca & I recently became acquainted due to the magic of the World Wide Web. I fell in love with her gorgeous pieces synonymously with the beautiful soul behind them. Rebecca's story is a haunting one: a fashion illustrator working in Los Angeles, two years ago she fell 30 feet and broke her back. Through her extremely painful and arduous recovery, she learned she was unable to draw the way she used to. While navigating through this new normal and in search of a fresh creative outlet, she eventually stumbled upon silversmithing.

And thus, Gramercy Eight was born.

Although our stories are very different, I really resonate with the fuel that drives Rebecca — creating beauty from tragedy. I asked if I could interview her to share a bit more of her story. She graciously obliged. Meet the beautiful soul behind my new favorite jewelry line:

The motto behind Gramercy Eight is “creating beauty from tragedy,” a very personal and beautiful synopsis of your story. Will you share with us a little more about what happened to you that inspired the launch of your gorgeous jewelry line?

Just a little over two years ago, I fell 30 feet and shattered 60% of my spine, and am now fused with rods and screws between my T6-L3. Miraculously, I am still able to walk and talk  but, obviously, everything changed for me in an instant — and I went from being healthy to helpless in about .03 seconds. Gramercy Eight slowly came to life when I was in San Diego during my early recovery stages. I was on bed rest, and I had watched about every episode of every show ever made and I had to find something else. My mom brought me some friendship bracelet string, and I tried to relive my homeschool days and make bracelets, but was honestly too medicated to keep up with all the little strings. However, it did spark something inside of me — I've always created with my hands, and just attempting that again brought life back to me. I was very isolated, stuck in bed, and was only sleeping a few hours a night due to pain  so I would just lay in bed and research everything on making jewelry. The first piece I made was with some scrap metal from Home Depot, a rock, and an industrial hammer  I forged out something resembling a cuff. Following that I figured out how to wire wrap a Knot Ring with tweezers, a plier and used a sharpie as a mandrel (the knot ring is a piece still in the shop — although much more evolved). After those early days, I started making a few other pieces and posting them on Instagram, and was encouraged to start a shop — Gramercy: The street I fell on, Eight: The hospital floor I recovered on. And here we are! 

Could you outline what you were working on and creating before Gramercy Eight was born?

Prior to the fall I had been working in Fashion Illustration/Fashion. I had worked in many different sides of the field, and truthfully wasn't happy in it anymore. I grew up determined to work in fashion, and parts of my identity were very wrapped up in it. During recovery in San Diego, I realized I could not draw the way I used to because of my fusion, and accepting that reality was hard. It felt as if another piece of who I 'thought' I was, was being taken away from me. However, I feel such a huge difference in my spirit when I wake up to work when it comes to Gramercy Eight, there is a deep joy for me in it. I understand why now. Fashion will always be in my heart, and I'm sure I'm not gone for good. 

What does your recovery look like today?

I live in a lot of chronic pain, and pain is very selfish. My mind is always focused on just getting through that day. Every day I wake up and make the choice that I will live, I will experience, and I will feel. I will not stay in bed, and I will not wallow (some days I still wallow). My current physical recovery is a lot of physical therapy, pain management therapy, ptsd therapy, chiropractic work and I've had 8 little surgeries since my major one. After two years of healing with my family in Georgia, I am embarking back to LA to be closer to my surgeon and specialist. The way my spine shattered, it was actually severed in half leaving my spinal cord keeping me together. Many doctors see the fact that I am not paralyzed or dead from this as a medical one off, and view me more as a case study, and less of a person. My surgeon is one of the only doctors who views me as a person and not just a case study — so I'm really hopeful being out with his specialist will finally get my pain levels down so I can move on some more from all of this. 

I’m sure your outlook on life, health and recovery has drastically changed in the past few years. If you could give one piece of encouragement or advice to someone who is currently adjusting to a “new normal” through an unexpected tragedy, what would you share?

It gets better. No matter how horrible your 'new normal' is  it'll get better. A large part of that for me was learning how to accept my reality, and deal with all the things that come with that one by one  instead of just coping with them. It's a constant battle for me. I'm facing more surgeries and a lifetime of pain, but I'm alive. As corny as it sounds, find the silver linings. Find the joy. Finally getting off painkillers was a huge part for me, my pain is more heightened — but I can feel joy again. I'm alive. 

Tell me about your beautiful jewelry. What materials do you use? How did you learn silversmithing?

My littles are made from sterling silver, 14k gold, rose gold, the occasional base metals and tons of gemstones, crystals and rocks. I have a wild gemstone obsession, and an ever growing collection. When you're on bed rest, you have a ton of time to learn  and there was a lot of self teaching. With my short term memory loss and many pain killers, it was an uphill battle to remember almost anything  however, I absorbed all this jewelry right up. I think because it was my escape from everything. No matter the pain, I could get lost in creating. Once I was able to walk and stand normally again, I went to a few silversmithing classes and learned the basics, then went to that same studio for months after just teaching myself as I went along. I'm still teaching myself as I go along. I dream that when my back allows to take a fine jewelry apprenticeship somewhere in a little Europe town from an old wise man. You know, have a real eat, pray love moment. 

Okay, the big question: if you could go back and forever erase February 28, 2012 and it’s repercussions, would you? Who would you be today if that day never happened?

THE question. I'm just a little over two years from my accident, and am occasionally asked this question by people. I have always when asked if I could take my fall back promptly responded with a "Yes". Recently, just before my two years came up I was asked and I responded without hesitating "No". I kinda shocked myself with that answer. Despite the chronic pain, the emotional devastation and everything else that has happened in between — this fall shaped me into someone I can be proud of. I truly believe it was one of the best (and worst) things to happen to me. Does that make the day to day pain and limitations any easier? No. However, finally accepting my injury, and living in reality of my 'new normal' makes the mental/emotional recovery much easier, and healthier. I have been very isolated at times during these last two years, and have had to rebuild my entire life. I can say that I am at peace with myself for the first time in my life. From a medical standpoint, I shouldn't be walking and I shouldn't be alive  I know that God protected me, I know there was a purpose behind the accident and I know that Gramercy Eight was one of those purposes. It is a silver lining, and a huge part of my joy. I don't know who I would be if I hadn't fallen, but I do know that I'm proud of who I've become.

I love this girl. Rebecca's littles are beautiful, dainty, and delicately handcrafted. My new rings perfectly fit my fingers, which is hard to come by due to my big knuckles! I will cherish these pieces forever.

vancouver, by train

You've probably seen Amtrak grace your Twitter feed a couple times in recent weeks. Between the much-talked-about #AmtrakResidency, granting writers free roundtrip train rides to garner inspiration from the rolling countryside, to the recent "live train ride" of social media stars tweeting and blogging their way to SXSW in Austin (#AmtrakLIVE), Amtrak is hopping aboard social media marketing in the best way possible.

So you can imagine my excitement when I opened my email a few months ago and discovered that Amtrak wanted to give me (and my Instagram) a free train ride too. After verifying Nick was also invited, I began researching where we should go, and eventually decided on a weekend in Vancouver, BC.

Last Friday we boarded our Amtrak Cascades train bright and early in the morning and enjoyed a scenic four hour ride, hugging the coast up to Vancouver. Because the route was called Amtrak Cascades, I was expecting the train to take us through the mountains. Instead we got the shores of the Puget Sound — unexpected, and equally beautiful. Between multiple bald eagle sightings (if you know me, you know how excited I was about this) to amazing conversation between my husband and I, by the time the train rolled into the Vancouver station, I had definitely found my new favorite way to travel!

Nick and I stayed at the incredible Sheraton Wall Centre Downtown; one of the tallest buildings in Vancouver, we enjoyed stunning views of the city each morning over our breakfast and coffee. The stay was a gift from Starwood Hotels & Resorts for my work documenting Sheraton's GM Summit in Seattle as the "social photographer" a few weeks back.

Vancouver, by the way, is a remarkable city. Similar in style and weather to Seattle, we immediately felt right at home chatting with very friendly locals and discovering amazing restaurants and coffee shops via their recommendations. We spent a memorable few hours at the Vancouver Aquarium, and another afternoon sampling fudge and salmon chowder at Granville Island — the best parts of Bainbridge Island and Pike Place Market rolled up into one amazing spot.

As always, I am so grateful for the opportunities and memories that social media is allowing me to embark on with my best friend. Enjoy a few photos from our train trip and Vancouver weekend:


While I was in Vancouver, Amtrak published a post on their blog featuring my go-to Seattle recommendations for those traveling to the Emerald City. Check it out here!

Amtrak Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a free trip courtesy of Amtrak for review purposes. The opinions, photos and videos are completely my own based on my own experience.

slow dancing in trader joe's

It was a Monday night.

Nick & I always do our grocery shopping together. Sometimes it's a chore, sometimes it's fun. I always sneak some dulce de leche ice cream or other non-Paleo treat into our cart, while he's usually picking out beets or grabbing another eggplant (I'll let you guess who's going to be the cool parent). This particular night at Trader Joe's, we were hungry and in a hurry to get the errand done and go home for dinner. It had been an exhausting day. You know the kind of day I'm talking about... emotions running high, tense words exchanged. Finding it hard to just live in the moment.

Our world has been such a roller coaster these past few years. An exciting move to Seattle in 2012 funneled into almost zero consistency with this city and its beautiful community as I hopped on the coattails of Nick's snowboarding career and proceeded to follow him all over the world, culminating in our elopement last May. After that, discovering who we are together. Who we are separately. Growing in our understanding of love, of God, of faith. So many stories tucked in those pages of memories, so many laughs, so many tears. We have held one another at weddings and at funerals, on top of mountains and in oceans. We have explored our love on the rooftops of Morocco, under the sparkles of Paris, and among Mayan temple ruins. As Nick likes to say, we have lived some life.

Truth be told, amongst the glamour and Instagram photos, most of the time life looks like grocery shopping at Trader Joe's on a Monday night.

If you've ever done your grocery shopping in the evening, this will be a familiar scene. It was more crowded than usual. Moms still in their yoga gear, pushing carts in a synchronized maze around the store. Everybody's in a hurry. Hands reaching for organic bananas and jars of garbanzo beans. More than once I bump into someone and am met with a scowl; the apologies issue swiftly from my lips — I'm used to my vision getting in the way while grocery shopping. The store is picked through; they're out of several things on my list. Nick & I split up to tag team the rest of our items. Let's get this over with as quickly as possible. My stomach is growling; I head for the sample station for the second time. Grab the pork tenderloin for tomorrow night's pulled pork sandwiches. Head for the produce aisle. I feel a strong arm swoop me. A familiar warm embrace. Before I can react or know what's happening, I am slow dancing with my husband in the middle of a crowded Trader Joe's on a hectic Monday night, groceries still in hand. He pulls me in close, ignores my feeble protests, and tells me everything is going to be okay. The other shoppers swerve out of our way; a small misstep in their dance. Nobody seems to notice us. They all have families and TV shows to get home to. My home is right here. For one perfect movie-worthy moment, we sway together. And I know deep in my heart, that no matter what high highs or low lows we will endure, no matter how many times we cry out to a loving and seemingly silent God, I will always have my best friend by my side.

And for that, I am endlessly grateful.

What we look like most of the time. Photos by our dear friend Rachel of heart, it races.

Bainbridge Island Ferry // 2014

Golden Gardens Park // 2014