Happy Friday, everyone!!  I thought I’d send us off into the weekend with some beautiful engagement photos from one of my 2015 couples, Makenna and Tyler.  Although I’ve yet to meet Tyler, I just ADORE Makenna!  She is an absolute joy and I feel truly blessed to be working alongside her (and her darling mom!) on her wedding next year.  Clients like Makenna remind me how very fortunate I am to do what I do.  After nine + years in this industry, this is what keeps me going: the sincere connections I am able to build with incredible people.  It is a privilege and joy.  Can’t wait for this beautiful day to unfold next fall… it’s going to be one for the books!

Makenna — thank you for entrusting me with the planning of your special day.  Love you!!

Here are some sneak peeks of their recent engagement session with I Heart My Groom.  Although Madison and Felicia aren’t shooting the wedding, they did a stunning job with these heartfelt images.  <3

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!  My big tasks are to  finalize my Thanksgiving menu (can’t wait to be hostess for the first time!), do some grocery shopping, and deep clean the kitchen.  See you soon!

I had such a busy summer that I have fallen (extremely) behind on my Olive updates here on the blog.  In fact, the last one was only up through June 12, 2014!  In an effort to catch up, I’m going to share a longer Olive post here today.  Hope you don’t mind.  ;-)  Here’s the latest up through October 31, 2014.

Olive is growing into such a kind-hearted, curious and silly little girl.  She truly delights me everyday and I doubt I’ll ever “get over” the magic of her.  Olive wakes up each morning in the very best mood.  We hear her call out to us from her crib in a sing-song voice saying, “Maaaamaaaa!  Daddyyyyyy!”  When we crack the door open we see her standing up with a beaming smile on her face.  “Good moh-ning!  I missed you!!” she’ll say as we scoop her up.  She is enthusiastic about the little things, like going to the park (again) or running an errand with me.  She is talkative and opinionated, but tender and obedient.  We were at the grocery store this week when we passed by a display stuffed animals.  “Loooook, Mama!  There’s a pony!  Oh Mama I love the pony!”  I reminded her that we had plenty of toys (including ponies) at home, and we weren’t going to be taking a new one home today.  She placed the pony back on the shelf and skipped over to me.  We do our best to raise Olive with a loving, patient heart but I have to say… this girl has something special.  (Ugh, I’m such a mom, right??)  I thank God everyday for this precious girl He entrusted to our care.

Here are some highlights from late summer through October…

  • She spent lots of beach days with “Mimi Donna” from church.  She loves digging in the sand, chasing the waves and climbing all over the beach playground.
  • We continued to attend storytime at our local library, where Olive enjoys singing, reciting nursery rhymes, making crafts and of course, listening to stories.
  • Our treasured friends Ryan & Cary visited us from Texas and we had a blast with them!  Olive loves them so much and I love watching their special bond grow.
  • Since Ryan was here, he graciously took photos of our family.  We are in love with every single one of them; it is a blessing to be in front of his camera!
  • We celebrated the 4th of July with a good ol’ fashioned church BBQ, followed by a failed attempt to view fireworks (living by the ocean = intense fog obscuring the beautiful display).  We still had a great time!
  • 3-4 days a week, we visit a local park to just run wild and free.  Olive wants to climb every structure, ladder, and wall.  She’s fearless but also quite agile.
  • On our trips to Los Angeles, Olive and I make sure to grab lunch at Chick-Fil-A and visit the Santa Barbara Zoo.  It’s a sweet little ritual that we’ve both come to love.
  • We visited the California Mid-State Fair as a family.  Olive loves visiting the livestock and watching the dazzling lights on the various carnival rides and booths.  I love the smell of fair food in the air.  ;-)  Ahhh, nostalgia!
  • Our organic garden produced a bounty of delicious vegetables including snap peas, green beans, cucumbers, kale, lettuces, and six types of heirloom tomatoes.  Erik gets all the credit for the preparation and tending of the garden.  With our over-producing cucumbers, we decided to make a bunch of pickles.  Can’t wait to crack open the first jar in a week or so.
  • For our 9-year wedding anniversary, we took a little roadtrip through California.  We had stops in San Francisco, Berkeley, Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes, and Yosemite.  My sister and brother-in-law (Anna and Sean) were able to join us for the last leg of the trip and we had a wonderful time together.  I love introducing Olive to some of our favorite places.
  • We had an impromptu visit from my best friend Kristin, and her daughter, Siena.  It was so great having her here for a night, and watching our girls play together.
  • Per usual, we took apple season by storm and made it out to our favorite local orchard, Gopher Glen, on a near-weekly basis.  As the apple crop winds down, we are still out there frequently, picking up late-season varieties and plenty of their incredible cider.
  • Olive spent some quality time with both sets of grandparents during various trips to LA.  It’s a blessing to have all of our family just a short drive away!
  • We took Olive trick-or-treating and she had a blast!  It started pouring rain when we were wrapping up, so we had to sprint to the car.  We still got soaking wet.  :)  It was a hilarious memory I know we won’t soon forget.

Our late-June through October 2014 photomosaic:

Our little Olive — I can’t believe how thoughtful, sensitive and witty you are; it takes me aback on a regular basis.  You can read me like a book already, and when I’m low on energy or excitement you say, “Show me your smile face!!”  It never fails to make me grin.  You are fearless on the playground but you still hate getting dirty.  Your favorite foods include all Asian cuisines (that’s my girl!), cheese, olives, peas, eggs and chocolate… of course.  You are crazy about pirates (thanks to Jake and the Neverland Pirates) and use words like “Ahoy!” in your everyday speech.  You love wearing skirts and dresses that let you twirl.  You sing all.day.long (and actually can carry a tune quite well!).  You’re into imaginative play and like to create scenes and interactions with your stuffed animals.  Each has a personality, a voice, and certain mannerisms.  It’s fascinating to watch!  You are a puzzle-master and an avid builder of towers with your blocks.  About once a day, you pretend to be a puppy for 5-10 minutes, barking instead of talking and panting excitedly.  It’s hilarious and I kinda hope you don’t grow out of it anytime soon.  Your puppy name is “Woofy.”  :)  Your favorite activity these days is simply being in the kitchen with me, standing on a stool and helping mix and stir and put ingredients together for dinner or biscuits or a pot of coffee.  I can’t wait for many more memories made in the kitchen, cooking side-by-side.  You are the cutest sous-chef!  We love you and all your brilliance, your quirks, your creativity, your affection and sweetness.  You are a marvelous creature of our great God and it is pure joy being your Mama and Daddy.  xoxo 

Hope you’re all having a great start to your week!  See you again soon.  :)

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  It has been another packed and exciting week over here with new clients, new venues, and new projects.  I’m also loving the temperature shift… I’m welcoming the sweater weather with open arms!

On Monday, I joined my darling new client (hi M!) for a venue visit near Santa Barbara.  It was a magical morning and eventually resulted in her selecting the site for her upcoming wedding (hooray!).  I thought I’d share the simple outfit I wore that day.  In true Angel-form, I’m wearing another dress, pair of tights, and some booties.  This nicole dress by LuLaRoe is an easy favorite — it is super soft and comfy with pull-on styling.  It has 3/4 length sleeves and a twirly skirt that feels effortlessly feminine.  I threw on a neutral puffy vest to stay warm without restricting my arms.  My 3 favorite gold layering necklaces completed the outfit.  And of course, I’m running out the door with wet hair.  I never blow dry my hair and let it air dry every day of the week.  :)

dress: Nicole dress by LuLaRoe // vest: J. Crew // booties: Pamela Love x Nine West

on-site under a majestic sycamore tree, over 200 years old!

I hope you’re all having a great week!!  See you again soon!  xo

Today is an exciting day for our family, as Erik’s older sister is getting married!  We are so thrilled for her and her fiancé, whom we’ve known and loved for years now.  They will exchange vows after dark, in a super romantic rooftop ceremony in downtown Los Angeles.  As a fun bonus, Erik, Olive and I are all in the wedding!  I’m a bridesmaid, Erik is a groomsman, and Olive is one of two adorable flower girls.

One thing I am NOT, however, is the wedding planner.  ;-)  Although I assisted in pulling a few things together for Meg, I really wanted to enjoy the wedding day as a member of the bridal party and family.  I am grateful for some sweet friends who will be managing the set-up and day-of details so we can all relax today.

The wedding has an underlying Art Deco and Gatsby-inspired theme, since her venue is a historical building with period architecture and furnishings.  This made it a ton of fun picking our my bridesmaid dress (we all go to pick our own!) and accessories.  My lovely friend Heather from Twig and Twine did the dark and moody florals — I can’t wait to see everything come together!  Feel free to check my Instagram today where I’m sure I’ll post a few sneak peeks of the big day, too!

photo by Callaway Gable

Congratulations, Megan and Anthony!!  We love you so much and are truly delighted to see you join together in marriage.  Let’s celebrate!

Everyone else — enjoy the weekend and see you soon!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I spent some time in Palm Springs in October with some fabulous industry pals.  The talented folks behind The Wedding Artists Collective hosted an incredible trip as part of their Collective Gatherings series.  I was thrilled to be included alongside so many of my favorite people at the Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs.  We spent 3 wonderful days together enjoying fabulous food & drink, laughing and getting to know one another better, and visiting some fabulous venues in the desert.  Today they are sharing Day 1 of our trip on 100 Layer Cake so make sure to check it out!

I want to emphasize that I was just an attendee at this fabulous trip — I had nothing to do with the planning or design.  What a delightful treat to simply sit back and soak up every beautiful detail as a guest.  It was downright luxurious and I can’t thank The Wedding Artists Collective enough for the refreshing time together.

My hats are off to the brilliant vendors who DID plan, create and design this experience.  What a team!!  My friends Megan of Enjoy Events Co. and Emily of Shotgun Floral Studio simply blew me away.  Check out a few gorgeous images (courtesy of Josh Goleman and Gary Ashley, of The Wedding Artists Collective) and make sure to click over to 100 Layer Cake to see the rest!

food by Whoa Nelly! was absolutely scrumptious!

what a magical, magical evening…

I also couldn’t resist sharing this beautiful video by Courntey of Love+Brain Films, also a member of The Wedding Artists Collective…

Collective Gatherings: Cocktails & Caftans from Courtney Arcese on Vimeo.

Fabulous Vendors Responsible for All This Beauty…
Photographer: Josh Goleman and Gary Ashley of The Wedding Artists Collective / Videographer: Love + Brain Films of The Wedding Artists Collective / Venue: Korakia Pensione / Event Design, Planning, Invitation, & Paper Goods Design: Enjoy Events Co. / Floral Design: Shotgun Floral Studio / Catering:Whoa Nelly Catering / Wine Pairing: Domaine LA / Cocktails: Please & Thank You Bar / Tabletop Rentals:Hostess Haven / Table and Chair Rentals: Planks & Patina / Lounge Rentals: PowWow Vintage Rentals / DJ: Dart DJs / Gift Baskets: Paddywax

Grateful to be a part of such an amazing community.  Can’t wait until the next opportunity to connect and be inspired together!  Enjoy the rest of your day!

I’m no fashion blogger but I have always enjoyed dressing up.  I know my love of color and pattern come straight from my mother, who has styled me in quirky outfits since the 80’s.  We grew up with humble means but my mom always knew how to put together a lovely outfit.  I remember her taking us to Gap Kids and telling us we could each pick one item from the clearance rack; it had to have been marked down at least twice.  Somehow we’d always seem to find the perfect pieces in just the right size; Mom told us it was God’s way of providing for us.  We always seemed to gravitate toward the same kinds of items and styles.  Not much has changed — I’m still borrowing from my mom’s closet!

My favorite pieces typically include lots of color, playful patterns and whimsical details.  My personal style is decidedly feminine with a touch of the unexpected.  I noted on Instagram yesterday that if I had a “uniform,” it would be a dress, tights and some booties.  Enter this darling Ruffle Sleeved Tangier Dress by Shabby Apple.  I was delighted when they sent it to me last month and tried it on immediately (that’s sort of my m.o. when I get clothing in the mail: rip it open as I’m walking to the kitchen and try it on before the wrapping hits the floor; haha!).  It fits like a glove and is well-constructed; the fit is super flattering.  I love the sweet ruffle sleeves (which are voluminous without making you look like a linebacker) and the poppy orange color.  The pattern is an Morroccan-inspired floral (part of their Marrakech Collection) that reads a bit retro-tropical to me.  The material is a silky smooth satin that is light and floaty and is perfect for layering this fall (I added tights and a denim jacket).  I’m going to try it out with a sleek long-sleeved black tee underneath next time!

dress: c/o Shabby Apple // jacket: Escada Sport // boots: Volatile (via Anthropologie but still sold here)

Shabby Apple consistently offers clothing that is modest, ladylike and vintage-inspired.  My current wish list is a mile long but here are a few other items that caught my eye: this skirt // this dress // this scarf

Thank you to Shabby Apple for sending this dress along; I know it’ll be in heavy rotation this season and beyond!

Today I’m off on a mommy-daughter day adventure!  Olive and I are spending the entire day doing some of our favorite things together and I can’t wait.  See you soon!

Congratulations to the winners (I couldn’t resist and picked two!) Erika and Gicel from my Rosy Rings giveaway!  I already emailed both of you ladies and can’t wait to get your candles in the mail.  Everyone else: thank you for entering!  I hope you get to check out these wonderful candles for yourselves.

[I actually wrote this post yesterday but it seems to have vanished into cyberspace.  If anyone got it via subscription, sorry for the redundancy!]

Although we had discussed otherwise, Erik and I decided at the very last minute yesterday that we’d dress Olive up after all.  On Thursday night, I had drawn a nose and whiskers on Olive’s face with black eyeliner just for fun and we couldn’t believe how excited she was about her ‘transformation.’  I love that at this age, everything is magical.  In between weekday errands Friday morning, I made a pit stop at a pretty desolate costume store, expecting to just grab some black cat ears and go with the proven (and cheap) winner from the night before.  But, I spotted a solid contender (close to Olive’s size!) on the picked-over racks: Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  The sales associate gave me 25% off and it was a done deal.  When I brought the costume home to Olive, she lit up with pure delight!  “Mama, I’m Pinkie Pie!  I’m not a baby, I’m a pony!  Neigh!  Neigh!”

We took our little pony out for a bit of trick or treating around 5p and I’m glad we went early.  We beat most of the crowds, snapped some cute pics in the fleeting light, and had gathered enough candy so that by the time the rain starting coming POURING  down on us, we were ready to go without regret!  Our sprint back to the car in the deluge was one I’ll never forget.  We all got soaked to the bone, even with two large umbrellas in tow.  It was hilarious!!  With the land so thirsty for rain, I don’t think anyone could complain about the 1.5″ inches we received last night.

We got home and quickly changed into our PJs before feasting on take out and watching Wall-E together.  :)  It ended up being a really laid back and cozy evening as a family.  I’m glad we made the game time decision to dress Olive up; these photos make me smile so big and capture a key part of her personality these days.  Pinkie Pie’s effervescent spirit sure reminds me of my Olive !

In other news… I’m not sure if any of you have noticed, but my website and blog have been down and/or really buggy for the past week.  Long story short, I needed to switch hosting companies after a big server migration debacle.  We’re still ironing out little kinks but should be back to 100% early this week.  If you sent an email in the past 48 hours and it bounced back, please re-send.  Thank you for your patience; you know I love hearing from all of you: clients, readers, family, friends!

Enjoy your Sunday (Fall back? Don’t mind if I do!) and I’ll see you soon!

PS // Grateful November Day 1: I’m grateful for the rain we received this weekend.  We need it so desperately and I have to admit, I think I could almost hear the state’s collective sigh of relief as the floodgates opened last night.  It was refreshing, it was beautiful, and it left the skies so wonderfully clear today.  I even spotted a rainbow in the hills this morning.  :)  Grateful for a God who reminds us of His provision in spectacular ways like a band of colors stretched across the sky.

Hello everyone!  I hope you’re having a lovely week so far.  As I ease back into blogging, I wanted to share a few of my favorite items that were included in the swag of the Love and Splendor Workshops.  I looove giving gifts and I treated the swag bags just like a present I’d present to a friend.  It was important to me that I carefully curated each item that my attendees would receive.  Quality was more important than quantity, so I chose items that I would gladly purchase for myself.  I knew one of the items I had to have was a candle.

the farewell gift boxes, all bundled up

I am a big candle person, and almost always have one (or more) burning in our home.  It is such a simple yet luxurious treat to have a lovely candle going on the counter at home!  For the workshop farewell gifts, I selected a new love of mine: Rosy Rings candles.

I first got hooked on Rosy Rings in the spring, when a colleague sent me a sweet gift of one (Thanks, April!).  It was the tomato vine scent and it was absolutely intoxicating.  At that time of year, we were just starting to harvest tomatoes from our own garden.  If you’ve never been around a tomato plant, you need to know that the plant itself gives off the most wonderful earthy fragrance.  It’s a bit sweet, it’s a bit grassy.  I was delighted to find that unique smell captured perfectly in a candle.  I think it’s a perfect scent to have year round in the home, but I particularly love burning it in the kitchen or living room.

Other Rosy Rings scents I’m crazy about include Earl Grey (just like the classic cup of tea — a bit floral with bergamot and citrus), Sea Salt (fresh and clean, like the ocean breeze) and Fireside (warm and cozy, with a touch of smoke, leather and woods).  I purchased an assortment of their small apothecary jar candles to include in my gift boxes.  The petite size (2 oz) is great for travel and still burns for a respectable 15 hours.  I’ve found Rosy Rings to burn really cleanly with their soy wax and the scents are pure (no strange “off” scents during or post-burn) and lasting.

I have lots of other Rosy Rings varieties I can’t wait to try!  Honey Tobacco and Blackberry Fig are on my radar, and I know Erik would love their Spicy Apple or Pumpkin Farmhouse (he’s all about the warm holiday scents!).  Their price point makes it really reasonable to test out a few.  You can find them online at their website or at various gift stores around the country!  I love that their candles are hand poured and made with love in Denver, Colorado.

GIVEAWAY TIME!!  //  If you enjoy candles as much as I do, I know you’ll be a fan of Rosy Rings.  I have an extra candle to share with a reader so if you’d like to enter to win one, just comment below and let me know which candle from their website sounds like something you’d love to have burning at home.  I’ll pick a winner from the comments on Friday, October 31 at 10 a.m. PST.  Best of luck!  :)

Enjoy the rest of the day and see you again soon!

It’s true — I haven’t blogged in ages!  As things got busy around here with my final weddings of 2014, the blog took a backseat.  Then, I spent the majority of the last month finalizing preparations for the very first Love & Splendor workshop.  I’m here to report that by God’s grace, the event was a smashing success.  I am still floating on cloud 9 from the experience, and I know it will be a few weeks before I can fully process the beauty of it all.  It will also be a bit before we see the professional film photos from Ryan Ray (eek!!) so these iPhone snaps will have to do for now…

This past Sunday, as I scurried around the Heirloom LA Salon with Michelle, prepping for the welcome dinner, I confessed that my heart was beating wildly in my chest.  She couldn’t fathom why I’d be nervous.  After all, I’m definitely not afraid of public speaking, and I was totally prepared and ready for the workshop itself.  I told her that I thought my nerves were a mix of excitement, anticipation and maybe even a bit of self-imposed pressure.  I spent nearly a year thinking about hosting a workshop, and then planning every last detail.  I wanted to present a workshop that was impactful, educational, and inspiring.  Once we had our attendees locked in and registration closed, I think it became real to me.  There were 15 incredibly passionate, intelligent, creative women coming to this workshop — would I meet their expectations?  Would I be “worth” the journey some were making (from as far as Greece, Canada, Detroit, Pittsburgh…)?  In the end I knew all I could do was my very best, and all I could give them was myself, genuinely and freely.

Once the ladies arrived on Sunday and the introductory hugs were given, my nerves naturally calmed.  I felt truly humbled to spend a few days with this beautiful group of women, just sharing my heart, my story, and the lessons I’ve learned in the 9 years I’ve worked in this business.  With such an intimately-sized group (the perfect size!!), I got to spend time chatting with each of them, too.  I got to hear about their goals, their struggles, their desires.  We laughed together, I cried (haha! at least 3x on Tuesday — all happy tears!), and we shared some unforgettable moments.  When I walked into the farewell dinner at The Washbow, I burst into (joyful) tears.  I felt like I had finally given birth, in a way… something I had dreamed of for so long had finally come to fruition and I felt so blessed.  I am SO thankful I put on this workshop.  I am SO grateful to have met each of these hearts.  I can’t wait to keep in touch with each of them, following their journey in the years ahead.  Look out for these ladies — I think the L&S “alumni” are the best of the best for the future of this industry.  ;-)

I could not have put on this workshop alone and I plan to blog a bit about each of the speakers, collaborators and sponsors for this workshop in the weeks ahead.

Our amazing team included: Ryan Ray // Heirloom LA // Green Wedding Shoes // Jesi Haack Design // JL Designs // found vintage rentals // Julie Song Ink // Casa de Perrin // The Venue Report // Elysium Productions // La Tavola Linen // Sweet Lucie’s // Sweet and Saucy Shop // Financially Wise Women // The Washbow // 10.11 Makeup // Flipbooth LA // Jacobsen Salt Co. // Rosy Rings // Il Fustino // Pinch Provisions // Herbivore Botanicals // Malvi Joy // Solstice Canyon // Vanesa Rey // Rifle Paper Company

For now, let it suffice to say that I had the BEST team of people behind me for this workshop and that made all the difference.  Above all, I have to give all glory to God.  Anything good in me, any gifts that I have, come from Him.  I am so grateful for the opportunities He has given me.

I also have lots of general blogging catch-up (life, Olive updates, real weddings) to do.  Now that my 2014 season has come to a close, you’ll be hearing more from me here again!

I’ve already been asked many times — will you do another workshop?  I think the answer is a resounding yes.  But, before diving into that process, I will be taking time to relax, recharge and pray about it.  It’s important to me that each workshop has the same level of intention, purpose and attention to detail as this one did.  Once I have some information to share, you’ll hear about it!  If you would like to join the interest list for the next workshop (and have priority pre-sale for tickets before they are released), feel free to email workshops@loveandsplendor.com.

Thank you to each of you who has followed along here on my blog (or on Instagram) as I embarked on this inaugural workshop journey.  Your love, support, prayers and encouragement mean the world to me.

Have a wonderful weekend and chat again soon!

Today I’m sharing a pretty personal post but it is something that has been on my heart for a couple of weeks, since my sweet vacation.  (I promise a recap of the trip is on its way!)  The entire trip was so good for my soul; there is much value in retreating from the world, soaking up the beauty of creation, unplugging (as much as possible…) and re-connecting with your loved ones.  I was able to fully relax, calm my mind, focus on the little things around me…  Each day was a sensory overload.  I was overwhelmed by the vastness, the majesty, the loveliness of the many views we took in on our trip.  I was also taken aback when one day, I was overwhelmed by another feeling: fear.  Okay, before this gets too dramatic, let me rewind and give you some backstory…

When I was still in utero, my mother fell very ill with meningitis and was even hospitalized.  This was the early 80s when ultrasounds were not yet commonplace.  Having recovered, she went on to give birth to me and was devastated to learn at that moment that her firstborn daughter had a serious birth defect.  Though they will never know quite why (it’s not genetic), they presume it was related to her illness during pregnancy.  My condition is called fibular hemimelia and it basically means that I was born missing my fibula in my left leg.  Although it wasn’t visually  discernible when I was just a 7 lb newborn, the doctors explained that as I grew, the differences between my left and right leg would become dramatically obvious to the point where I wouldn’t be able to walk without a clunky Frankenstein-esque shoe, cane, or more…  My parents made the difficult but wise decision to amputate my left leg via Symes amputation.  This would allow me to wear a prosthesis and lead a more normal, active lifestyle.  The Symes amputation is different from the typical amputation you see in most movies or on TV, where they will show the leg cut at the knee.  In my case, they basically removed my foot (near the ankle) which means I have my entire left leg (though much smaller than my right leg) and my prosthesis is more like a boot than a pirate-esque peg.  haha  I underwent a few more procedures as a child to alleviate some of the dramatic differences in my left and right legs.  If you see me sitting in person today, you’ll see how my knees are in very different places and my left femoral shaft is a lot shorter than the right.  But all in all, my surgeries made me appear to most as a fully-able-bodied woman.  Before I was born, my parents were planning to name me a very French-sounding name (it ended up as my maiden middle name, actually) but because of my unexpected birth defect, they decided to call me Angel.

ummm was I chubs or what??  This was at 2-3 months old, after my first surgery.

not just being sassy, but popping my front leg shows the difference in length between the two legs

How many of you didn’t know this??  I am still surprised when a long-time friend of mine will realize one day that my left leg isn’t real.  They’ll see me wearing sandals, or perhaps a knee-length skirt, and exclaim, “What’s that??!”  I suppose that because I grew up as an amputee, I forget about my ‘difference.’  By God’s grace and mercy, I didn’t experience any teasing as a child.  I attended public schools all my life and never was taunted or ostracized.  Of course people stared (as they still may), but I’m human… I realize that we are all curious about things that are out of the ordinary.  It doesn’t bother me when people ask me about my leg.   My parents raised me to be proud of who I was, of who God had made me to be, and I was confident in that.  Thanks to advances in modern medical equipment, I had every state-of-the-art leg possible and learned to run, swim and snowboard with my prosthetics.  I felt invincible as a child.  I wore shorts without shyness, I swam at the community pool while others gawked.  I was just a normal kid in my mind.  I realize that having my amputation and successive surgeries during childhood was a great blessing.  There was no real transition period; I learned to take my first steps with the help of an artificial limb.  In that sense, my prosthesis was part of my original concept of self.

I led an active lifestyle throughout my youth and college years and still feel nearly 100% unimpaired physically.  So, it caught me off guard when on our recent vacation, Erik suggested we take Olive for a bike ride.  I was thrilled about the idea, because Lake Tahoe has some gorgeous bike paths to explore.  As we were signing papers and getting our helmets on, I felt a wave of panic wash over me.  You see, I hadn’t ridden a bike in four years.  And four years ago, I only got on a bike because we were on vacation (in Tokyo) and there was a fun opportunity to ride around the Imperial Palace.  It seems that vacation brings out the biker in me.  Other than that isolated experience, I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a pre-teen.

As a child, I remember being fearless on my bike.  I would ride so fast, standing in the stirrups, racing the neighborhood kids, being wild and free.  I have the scars on my knees and elbows to prove it (where there are tiny fragments of asphalt buried deep under my skin — not joking!).  But for some reason, I stopped riding my bike and got into other things.  And though it may be true that you never forget how to ride a bike, I was terrified to get on one again.  I sat down in the seat and put my left foot (prosthesis) on the pedal first, then tried to quickly balance and get my right foot on.  I wobbled.  I stumbled.  I didn’t fall (thank you Lord!) but I immediately turned beet red and got flustered and embarrassed.  I was thinking that the bike rental guy must have been laughing at me on the inside, wondering why a grown woman couldn’t get on a bike.  Did I really want to rent a bike and ride a 3 mile trail if I couldn’t even board one without stumbling??  I told Erik I was scared I might not be able to make it.  I felt my heart beating faster because I was humiliated and nervous and anxious and fearful.  Erik is one of the most athletic people I know and of course, he is a brilliant biker.  He loves mountain biking when he gets the chance.  Olive was buckled up in the trailer he was pulling and was so excited for the ride.  I felt like I was about to ruin the perfect family vacation moment.  I am pretty sure I told Erik I couldn’t do it, and he couldn’t possibly understand because of my leg and blah blah blah.  I mean, really??  I was going to use that as an excuse?  I was grasping at straws.

And then.  Erik gently told me to just get on.  To just wobble and be scared but put my right foot on the pedal and GO.  I did.  And I pedaled.  I was sure that the dozens of bikers who passed me on the trail must have been laughing or at least feeling sorry for me.  (Honestly, they probably couldn’t have cared less.  But isn’t it funny how we think all eyes are on us when we’re fearful?  We need to get over the audience mindset.)  I had my hands gripped so tightly on the handlebars that I got a cramp, I kid you not.  I was constantly braking because I felt like I was going too fast.  I would freak out when I saw oncoming bicylclists and wanted to pull over and stop to avoid what I thought would be a guaranteed collision.

holding on for dear life, but doing it

teensy Angel on the bridge

But it wasn’t.  I didn’t.  I never fell, never hit anyone, never had to call the rental company to pick me up halfway down the trail (like I feared).  I did it.  It wasn’t pretty, guys, but I did it.  And as I pedaled, even white-knuckled, I felt wild and free again.  I actually cried a little!  Cue the emo tunes.  I realized that my fear was holding me back from experiencing the tranquil bliss I enjoyed on that ride.  Erik and Olive rode behind me at a safe distance (I wanted to ride without distraction, haha!) so I felt truly immersed in the beautiful surroundings.  I could breathe in the crisp air, feel the breeze, listen to the whoosh of the wind through the trees.  It was wonderful in every way and I am so glad that I took the leap, I went for it, I listened to my husband’s gentle push.  I was still scared.  I was still nervous.  But I just went for it, fears and all, and it was worth it.

So many things in life are like that.  We worry about the audience.  We look at our perceived weaknesses.  We make excuses and at the first sign of a stumble, we back away.  We refuse even the possibility of being bad at something.  I know I do.  But why??  Why not go for it and fall and make a memory?  Why not try it and at least be able to say you did?  Erik and I agreed that that bike ride was one of the best experiences of our vacation and to think I almost missed out on it because I was scared.  I was looking at myself and my leg and thinking I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t equipped, I wasn’t able.  But God gave me the courage in that moment.  I was reminded of childhood-Angel, the fearless Angel, the one who never saw my leg as a weakness but just another part of me… like every hair on my head, every freckle on my face.  Sometimes we’ll succeed, and sometimes we’ll fail.  But it’s worth a try.  It’s worth the leap.

post-ride, feeling amazing.

from where i stand. try to ignore my un-cute real toes (I promise there’s a fifth one hiding)…

That bike ride caused a shift in my heart.  It sounds so dramatic to write that but truly, it did.  Whatever you might be fearing right now, I pray that you would find the strength to take the leap and give it a try.  Whether it’s trying that new hobby that intimidates you, or pursuing a new career, or even having a tough conversation with a friend.  Go and do.  Even if you stumble, even if you fail, it’s worth it.  You tried, you did your best, and you made a memory.  Now it’s your turn to get on the bike in the forest.  Or, something like that.  ;-)

Thank you for reading — see you next time!