Thoughts on being brave

A few months ago, I found myself standing on the edge of a decent size cliff in Lake Powell.  As I peered over the edge, a memory from 25 years earlier flooded my mind.


My family was in Lava Hot Springs in Idaho for a family reunion.  There were a few diving boards and 3 platforms of varying heights.  I was 9 years old and not a great swimmer (I’m still not a great swimmer).  But I sat and watched people jumping off those platforms and I decided I had to do it.  Because that’s just how I am.

So I climbed up the very long ladder, walked across the platform, and peered over the edge.  It looked much higher from up there.  But I had committed.  And there was no way I was climbing back down that ladder.  There was no way I was quitting.  So I stood on the edge for awhile, stomach turning, legs shaking.  And then I backed up.  And someone else would jump.  Then I’d walk to the edge, peer over, try to get courage, and then back up.  This lasted for probably close to 30 minutes.  Walk to the edge, peer over, walk back.  Walk to the edge…..

After being up there for so long, nearly every person at the pool that day was aware of what was going on.  And they were all……waiting.  Waiting to see if I’d jump or if I’d climb back down.  My parents never came up after me.  And I don’t remember them encouraging me to jump or climb back down.  They  just waited.  Like everyone else.  To see what I would do.

I don’t remember why, or how, but eventually I stepped off the edge.  And miraculously, someone got a picture of it.

{9 year old me stepping off the platform at Lava Hot Springs}


{a view from further away to show varying heights}


Because I had been up there for so long, and the entire pool became invested in watching me jump, when my head finally came up out of the water, all of the people at the pool were cheering and clapping.  I don’t recall being embarrassed.  I was just relieved I finally did it.  I did not go back up for another jump.


Fast forward 25ish years and I found myself in a very similar situation.  Only this time there was no crowd.  Just me and my family.  And my 15 year old niece who I couldn’t let show me up (that girl is WAY too crazy for her own good).  And my husband who so kindly said “either jump or climb back down, but this boat is leaving”.  And so again, I walked to the edge and backed up.  And then after a much shorter time period than the first experience, I jumped.


Both of these experiences got me thinking a lot about what it means to be brave.  And then, like it was meant just for me, Glennon from Momastery wrote a brilliant post on this very subject.  She said:


“Over time I have come to believe that brave does not mean what we think it does. It does not mean “being afraid and doing it anyway.” Nope. Brave means listening to the still small voice inside and DOING AS IT SAYS. Regardless of what the rest of the world is saying. Brave implies WISDOM. Brave people are not simply those who JUMP every time. They do not necessarily “do it anyway.” Brave people block out all the yelling voices and listen to the deepest voice inside the quietest, stillest place in their heart. If that voice says JUMP, they jump. And if that voice says TURN AROUND – they turn around, and they hold their head high. Often the one who turns around shows GREAT BRAVERY, because she has been true to herself even in the face of pressure to ignore her still, small voice and perform for the crowd….

Brave is: To Thine Own Self Be True. And Brave parents say: I trust you, little one – to Be Still and Know. I’ll back you up.”

(You can read the entire article here.  It’s a good one)

In both instances, I wanted to jump.  I wanted that adventure.  I wanted that memory.  If I didn’t, I definitely have the kind of personality where I would have never gone up in the first place.

The take away message–listen to the voice.  And be mindful that my children have their OWN voice and if I can teach them to listen to that, they’ll be okay.  Sometimes the voice says “jump” and sometimes it says “turn around”.  Feel the fear and decide if the voice is telling us to “do it anyway” or if the voice is telling us to run.  All we have to do is listen.  And trust. And then DO as the voice says.


The deep dark abyss of potty training

We started potty training 6 weeks ago.  Because of his personality, I knew he would be my hardest one to potty training.  He’s proving me right.

After 6 weeks, he has pooped in the potty 3 times.  I’ll let you do the math on how many times he has NOT pooped in the potty.  Pee isn’t a problem.  Serious problem with the pooping.


I am open to any and all tips you brilliant parents have on how we fix this situation.  I’m not going back to diapers.  We’re too far in.  If you have a suggestion, leave it in the comments and I’ll love you forever.  For the record, he is not motivated by treats or toys.  I’ve tried.  And he does not poop at the same time every day.  Way more info than anyone wants.

And if you don’t have great suggestions and you just want to lament with me in the comments, that’s great too.  It’s a lonely dark world in potty training hell.


EIGHT Photo Display ideas for your home

I’ve been working REALLY hard the past year to take more photos of our every day lives, get our photos organized, backed up, documented, printed, and displayed.

I posted a series about how I’ve been doing this called “Picture Display Movement”.

I’ll be the first to admit it’s not easy and it certainly takes some time.  BUT.  It’s a HUGE priority for me so I’m making time.  Scheduling time.  And making things happen.

And now the walls of my home are filled with photographs that make my spirit happy.  And remind my children they are loved.  And remind our family of how amazing, funny, (and sometimes heartbreaking and disappointing) life can be.

Here are EIGHT different ideas (and a bonus at the bottom) on how to display photos in your own home to hopefully inspire some of you to get them printed and displayed.  

{For suggestions on where to print your photos, click HERE}

And if you want some great tips on how to immediately improve your phone photography, enter your name and e-mail in the side margin and I’ll send you TEN free tips you’ll love.

ONE.   Print your photos on matboard and display them on a shelf.  I like doing non-traditional sizes for my matboard prints.  This is 20×26.



TWO.   Get a series of pictures (these are all photos I took at Lake Powell–my happy place) and put them in frames to hang on the wall in a row (horizontally or vertically).

I hung these on the wall using Velcro.  There’s a sticky side that sticks to the frame and a sticky side that sticks to the wall and then it Velcro’s together.  Easiest way to make sure the pictures are level and in line with each other.



THREE.   Print on matboard and display it on an easel.


FOUR.   Put all your Instagram prints on a print (using Photoshop or other photo-editing software) and display in a frame on the wall.


FIVE.   Use various sizes of matboard prints (can you tell I LOVE matboard prints) and attach them directly to the wall.  The large picture on the left is attached using velcro in all four corners and in the middle.  The bottom 4 pictures have velcro on the top and are resting on the shelf on the bottom.


SIX.    Use magnet boards (these are from IKEA) and print off various sizes (4×6, 5×7, and a few 8×10–you could also do square prints) and attach them to the magnet board.  I just have plain rectangular magnets but you could get cool fancy ones.

Every six months or so I print off new ones and rotate them in.


SEVEN.   One of my favorite wall displays.  These are printed on standout boards (stick 1/2 ” out from the wall) but you could easily do this on matboard.  These are a series of pictures from my Funbooth session.  Just grouped them together.  


EIGHT.   Printed 16 random pictures at Persnickety Prints in 2×2 squares.  Attached them to a wall by our toy room using Washi tape I bought at Target.


For a BONUS wall display idea, click HERE and see what I did with hundreds of my 4×6 photos to make a super call wall display in my office.


For more info on how to Organize, Print, and Display your photos, click HERE to read the Picture Display Movement series.


And if you want to stay up to date on future photo tips and other great life stuff, enter your e-mail and name in the sidebar (under “subscribe here”) to stay connected and get TEN free tips to improve your phone photography.

“Hi my name is……” Let’s talk about addiction

I knew when I first started conceptualizing this blog I would talk a lot about addiction on here. The world of addiction has been a huge part of my life and my story, taught me many valuable life lessons, and has played a critical role in how I view the world and other people. And this is MY story with addiction. My opinions. My experiences.

I realize addiction comes in many shapes and sizes. And the experiences are varied. My experiences, heartaches, triumphs, and lessons learned were largely shaped through the world of addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Addiction seems to be accompanied by a lot of shame. Brene Brown has done large amounts of research about shame and says the difference between guilt and shame: Guilt is “I have done something bad”. Shame is “I AM bad” Shame is a focus on Self. “I AM a mistake”. Guilt is a focus on behavior. “I made a mistake” She says if you were to put shame in a petri dish, there are 3 things that will make it grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgment.

I don’t like the shame. I think it’s a huge reason why so many addicts never recover. Or why they become addicts in the first place. And according to Brene, the antidote to shame is to douse it with empathy. Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. We can’t fight shame unless we talk about the things that are causing the shame.

Addiction runs in my family. On both sides. My brother is an alcoholic/addict. He tried alcohol for the first time at a very young age at a neighbors house. He was caught with marijuana at school for the first time in the 8th grade. He slowly spiraled out of control with drugs and alcohol throughout high school until he eventually became a non-functioning alcoholic/addict (unable to keep a job, have a place to live, provide basic means for himself, etc.) . His drug of choice is alcohol, but he has also abused nearly every drug you can imagine, some of which I’m sure I don’t know about (and don’t want to know about).

He has been through countless rehabilitation programs (I honestly lost track). I’ve thought about taking him to Pacific Ridge in Salem, Oregon but I gave up trying with him. Some more effective than others but none able to keep him sober for any significant amount of time. He has been in and out of jail over 50 times (mostly for public intoxication charges). This does not count the nights he was put in the “drunk tank”. His longest stay in jail was about a year. I was grateful he was in jail (oh the irony of that). Because I knew he was “safe” and he was alive. Very telling that I felt he was more safe in jail than he was out of jail. Even the time he was locked up in jail with significant and debilitating injuries after being beaten badly on the streets (he claims by cops). I still felt he was safer in jail. My sister and I showed up at court one day and literally begged the judge to put him in jail. My brother was, understandably, pissed. The judge complied.

He has been transported by ambulance to nearly every Emergency Room in the Salt Lake Valley, has been in the ICU at least 4 times I know of, and has spent several weeks (on more than one occasion) in the psychiatric ward. His medical history is pages and pages (and pages) long. He was also homeless for a period of time, spending time at the VOA (Volunteers of America) detox center–God bless those people, as well as the Road Home, a shelter for homeless people. Or just passed out on the streets in whatever city he happened to be in.

In June of 2011, my brother was drunk walking/staggering in the dark, tried to cross a busy road (at least that’s what we presume), and was hit by a car going approximately 40 miles an hour. He was life-flighted to the hospital. Two police officers showed up at my parents house late that evening and told them Burk had been involved in an auto-pedestrian accident. “He has head trauma and has been life flighted to the hospital”. That was all they could tell them.

(the helicopter that brought him to the hospital)

My sister called me with the news. She was on her way to the hospital. I told her to call me when she got there to tell me how bad it was. This may sound shocking to some people. You’d think that when a family member has been life-flighted to a hospital in critical condition with head trauma and multiple broken bones, everyone would jump in their cars and be on their way. But this wasn’t the first (or second) time he had been life-flighted. Nor was it the first (or third or fourth) time he had been transported to ICU. So I was waiting to see how “bad” it really was. He has literally cheated death dozens and dozens of times.

That’s what addiction does. It slowly desensitizes the people around you. So injuries or events that once seemed traumatic start to become “routine”.

My sister called me an hour later and said “It’s bad. You should probably get down here“. At that moment, I didn’t know whether to pray for him to live or pray for him to die. Yet another horror of addiction. If the addict you love is “bad” enough, sometimes you want them to die–for all the pain to end. For their sake. For your sake. I’m not proud of those feelings nor am I ashamed. Just being honest. When it feels like there is no hope for recovery, and your addict apparently has no “rock bottom”, death feels like the merciful solution for everyone.

(took this right before he was rushed into emergency surgery for a shattered leg)

He lived (after a 3 week stay in ICU and 1 week stay on a regular floor with a 24 hour “guard”–for his safety and the safety of the medical staff). His months and months of recovery after the accident was nothing short of hell. For him AND for all of us who helped him live.

I’ve felt nearly every emotion possible for my brother through his decades of addiction. Anger, frustration, disgust, pity, as well as love, empathy, and compassion and every emotion in between. Oh the anger. For the hell he put my parents through. For the hell he put our family through. For the hell he put himself through. Oh the compassion. For the worthlessness he felt, his lack of control, and the torment and utter misery he went through.

I’ve stopped to pick him up off the side of the road, face-down in the dirt, waving people off who were trying to call 911 (or the police). I’ve also turned him away when he showed up at my door in nothing but a hospital gown and his ICU bracelets. I didn’t even know he had been in the ICU. And he had nowhere else to go. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

Depends on the day. The hour. The moment. The situation. My tolerance level. The other people (or kids) I need to “protect”. There never seems to be a right answer or an easy road. And ultimately, all I could control was how I let it affect me. I couldn’t “fix” him. I couldn’t make him stop. He was/is broken. But I guess we all are in some way or another.

But I can say I have never been embarrassed of him. I have always proudly claimed him as my brother even during his worst moments. And I have always believed in his ability to DO more, to BE more. I have told him this countless times throughout the years. And I meant it with every fiber of my being.

I think I can attribute this to two things. First, knowing my parents love him (and all their kids) NO MATTER what we did/do. That doesn’t mean they approved of some of his life choices, but I have never doubted their love for him (or me). And second, I know every person has worth no matter their actions. I believe in second chances (and third and fourth and fifth chances too).

Something my brother often said when we begged and pleaded for him to stop using: “You have no idea what it’s like to be an addict.” My response was always “And you have no idea what it’s like to be the person who loves the addict.

I hope to use this space as a safe place to talk and educate others about addiction. A safe place for the addicts. And a safe place for the people who love the addict. I plan to share more stories and experiences I have personally had with addiction and my brother. I have also asked several other people to help me as well. Stories from people who love addicts.

And if nothing else, I hope we can build a community of people who can support each other and help each other through the often unbearable world of addiction and life in general.

To read more articles about addiction, click the “real stories” tab in the menu at the top of the screen and scroll down to the “Addiction” section. You can also sign up for periodic newsletters to stay connected to the blog by entering your name and e-mail in the sidebar.


If YOU or someone you love suffers from addiction, first of all, do NOT watch the show intervention. More importantly, I get it. I do. You are NOT alone. Hang in there. Please hang in there. And find help. Addicts do NOT get better on their own. For any hope of recovery, they need to have effective treatment from somewhere like a rehabilitation center in california. The people who love them don’t either.

{Disclaimer: My intent is not to exploit addicts or the people who love them. My intent is to hopefully help dispel some of the shame associated with addiction. To empathize with those who love the addict. And to help addicts understand their worth and inherent right to be loved. My brother is aware I am writing about him and has given me his express verbal permission to do so. I am also fiercely protective of my brother, so if you have something unkind to say about him specifically, please keep it to yourself. He’s his own worst critic. Trust me.}

“Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration” My cousin, Lanie.

Lanie is my cousin.  So we’ve known each other since we were babies.  Growing up she didn’t live close to my family, but each summer she’d come spend a week or so at our house and I always looked forward to it.

Lanie is one of those people who are just good to their very core.  Very relaxed, down-to-earth, always up for adventure, and an amazing mom.  She’s also friendly, easy to talk to, and easy to be around.

And she’s one of those people who can have her hair in any style or color imaginable and still look amazing.  Score for her.

Real Life Stories

1.  Give me a quick peek at your story.
Well, my name is Lanie Wilkinson.  I am a 35 year old mom of 3 and wife of 13 years.  I always like to define myself as that first because those are the 2 accomplishments I am most proud of in my life.  I’ve moved around a lot in my life but most recently lived in San Francisco, Portland, and have recently moved to Utah.  I studied Special Education at Utah State University.  I love to read, cook, hike and camp with my family.  I love to experience new things and new places and I get restless if things stay the same for too long!

2.  Tell me about an “every day moment” you are grateful for.
My youngest is a 5 year old boy.  His sisters are both in school so it is just the two of us at home during the day.  Every day without fail, he crawls on my lap, puts his chubby hands on my cheeks and says, “I love you mama!”  It’s such a small thing but it melts my heart every single time and is such a gift to me!

3.  What is one ambition you have right now
I have always wanted to use my education in working with children with disabilities to help those in other countries where there are not services for those with disabilities.  My husband and I spent some time in Ethiopia a few years back and it was so heartbreaking to see that the people that had disabilities there had no way of working, no homes to take care of them, no school accommodations.  I would love to work to help develop programs to serve those people.

4.  If you could speak on anything to a large group of women, what would you talk about?
Ah this is a hard one!  To be honest, I don’t feel qualified to talk to a large group of women.  I get easily intimidated by all of the amazing people around me.  But I guess I would talk about the need we have as women and moms to be an influence for good in our children’s lives.  I think about this a lot.  As I have gotten older and have my own family, I see women that set amazing examples for their kids or other children in their lives.  I think we need more of that in our world.  We need to be examples of strong women who stand up for what we think is right.  That is what I want my kids to take away from me as their mom.

5.  What does the phrase “create a good life story” mean to you?
I love this phrase!  When I hear that I think of “creating experiences”.  Making memories with the people you love most sounds like a “good life story” to me.

6.  Tell me something someone taught you that made an impact on your life
I feel like I have been blessed to have a lot of amazing people in my life that are constantly teaching me things.  But I would say one of the most important lessons I have learned has been from my mother-in-law.  She has taught me to laugh about almost everything.  She has gone through a lot of hard things in her life but she has learned to put on a smile and find humor in almost everything.  I am trying to be more like that.

7.  Name one event in your life that has made a significant impact on the course of your life story
My decision to stay home with my children.  I know it isn’t for everyone and not everyone who wants to is able to.  But when we moved to San Francisco so my husband could go to medical school, I had an amazing job offer to work at an autism school in Oakland.  I knew the money would help with medical school but I had one daughter already and another on the way.  I knew they needed a parent to be available to them, especially with how busy Justin would be in med school.  I really feel like the decision to turn down that job and stay home with my kids has had more impact on my life story than almost any other decision I have made.

8.  What is something you want to accomplish you haven’t yet?
Lots of things!  Bike the Oregon coast with my family.

9.  What photographs are you most grateful for from your childhood or teen years?
I love the photos withy my grandparents and family

10.  What are you most proud of?
My kids for sure.  They are better than I could have imagined!

11.  What is the best parenting advice/tip someone gave you?
Someone told us one that before they had kids they had a million theories on parenting and since they’ve had kids, they have none.  I thought it was funny at the time but now I realize it’s true and you have to always be changing your tactics!

12.  Tell me something you are sure of
I am so sure of my faith

13.  What is your favorite quote or your life motto?
I always tell my kids to “Have a Sunshine Day”.

14.  What is your favorite part about yourself (not a physical trait)?
This is always a hard question to answer but I would say my ability to talk to people.

15.  What type of photographs do you wish you had more of?
Definitely more of us as a family.  I am always behind the camera and rarely get pictures of all of us.

16.  What is something you do to help drive away fear or anxiety?
Exercise and clean–they both make me feel more in control!

17.  What is your favorite part about being a mom?  Your least favorite part (just keepin it real on this question–I know you love your kids)?
Favorite part–seeing my kids grow into the people they are, watching the choices they make and how they learn.  Least favorite part–cleaning up after everyone, constantly!

18.  Tell me something about yourself that may surprise people
I really hate waking up in the morning.  I am NOT a morning person at all!

19.  What’s one thing you wish you would have known when you were younger?
How important it is to be nice to everyone!  I don’t think I was mean to people but I wish I would have always remembered to include others and go out of my way to be kind to them.  Now that I have kids in school I am constantly harping on them about that.

And for fun:

Favorite book:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Favorite family tradition:  Seafood on Christmas Eve

Something you enjoy doing with your spouse:  going out to eat at new restaurants

Talent you wish you had:  singing

Favorite meal:  Indian Food

If you never had to do one specific thing again, what would it be:  clean the shower!

Favorite show on TV:  Parenthood

Something that scares you:  tidal waves

Favorite thing about your husband:  his ability to leave work at work and be present with us at home

Something you can’t live without:  Ghirardelli dark chocolate and caramel

What’s something you think about often:  beach vacations

Thanks for doing this Lanie!!  Glad I get to claim you as family.

If you want to read more “Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration” interviews, click HERE.

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