“Choose Life, Don’t Just Be Alive”

If I had a penny (okay…maybe a dollar) for every time I heard someone say “it gets better with time” I’d be a millionaire. But you know what? The same is so, so, so wrong. Time doesn’t make it better. Time doesn’t change what happened. Time doesn’t make the loss go away. Time doesn’t make me feel better. Time doesn’t make the loss easier. Time doesn’t fill the void. Time doesn’t “heal” a broken heart.

Disclaimer: Now, this is clearly from my own perspective on what time hasn’t done, and by no means am I an expert, but time has provided me a few things:

1 – Reflection

Time has allowed me to reflect on the TIME I had with Amanda. Time has allowed me to laugh at so many of the memories I was able to experience with Amanda. Time has allowed me to cherish the adventures and special moments I shared with Amanda. Time will not allow me to make new memories, or participate in another “sister trip” with Amanda, but time has allowed me to reflect on just how special those trips really were with her.

The Getty
Enjoying The Getty Museum for the day when we returned from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

2 – Coping

Time has allowed me to find a way to cope with my grief.  I will NEVER stop grieving the loss of my sister. Amanda was a constant in my life for 31 years. She was with me since the day I was born until the day she left us. She has molded me into who I am today. Some of my greatest qualities are because of her.

Time has allowed me to find a way of coping with my grief so that isn’t all-consuming. It took time and is still a work in progress, but without a coping mechanism, grief is heavy, excruciating, and all-consuming. I lived in that place for a while and it took me time to find my way out. With the help of therapy, a lot of support, and even more love I could find my way to where I can grieve every day, but still live.

Amanda would want me to LIVE and she would want me to show up for the life I have. As I was on the torture machine (AKA our Peloton bike) the instructor (Thank you, Ally Love) said, “Choose life, don’t just be alive.”  I couldn’t help but think that was Amanda’s way of telling me “keep going, show up, make it happen!”

I know I can because time has allowed me to cope with my grief.

3 – Perspective

Time has provided me perspective. I’ve been able to view life differently. I’ve been able to live life differently. This perspective and outlook probably wouldn’t have happened (or wouldn’t have happened so soon in my life) without experience the loss of Amanda. This perspective has shown me what I really value in life. What I really care about. This new perspective has unveiled all of the things I love and value the most. Most importantly, this new perspective has allowed me to live life the way I want to – less judgment, less “should of,” less “could of,” more love, more time spent with those I care about, and more joy for the simple things in life.

Potato Chip Rock
Always an Adventure. While hiking Potato Chip Rock here in San Diego, a photo op turned into a “pee your pants” scenario. Which was a typical adventure with Amanda…and I’m so fortunate to have soooo many stories like this!!

Time is not going to fill the void I have in my life. Time is not going to heal my broken heart. But I know that time will allow me to reflect on the times I was able to share with Amanda. With time, I know that I will not allow my grief to consume my daily life because I have found ways to cope with my grief. Finally, with time, I have been able to find what truly matters to me. I think Amanda would be happy knowing that I will continue to choose life and I will not let time just pass me by.

I Hear You

Hi All, it’s been a minute…

I’ve had all the intentions of reconnecting with my writing (and all of you that read this blog) over the past several months, but to be honest, I’ve been really trying to be present in my everyday life. Am I successful every day? Nope. But I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more present as the days, weeks, and months have gone by.

As many of you know, I had a baby since the last time I posted. She came early (3 weeks early!) and fast – very eager to meet us! Our sweet little Ayla has been exactly what I needed. Amanda, God, The Universe knew exactly what I, and our whole family, needed to help us heal – even if it was just a little bit! The last three months have been a whirlwind of emotions – so much love, happy tears, tired tears, and even a few sad tears. Those sad tears aren’t for me (okay…maybe a few of them are) but they are for Amanda who would have been the best aunt in the world, and they are for Ayla who will never get to hold Amanda’s hand and go on a hike or splash in the ocean together. The tears flow as I think of all the things the two of them are missing out on. However, little miss Ayla will certainly know her aunt Amanda because Amanda is in so many that love Ayla dearly. (She’s too cute not to share a picture of – yes, I’m biased!)



Ayla at 2.5 months old



Okay…enough about me (and Ayla, for now)!  Back to this idea of being present, which was one of my goals for the year and helping me find equanimity. As I think of Amanda, and I do this often, I wonder how she had it all figured out…I wonder how she could connect with so many people, how she had the time, how she gave herself to so many. I came across the book titled “I Hear You” and I was intrigued. The book walks you through how to build better relationships in all aspects of your life and the major idea behind it all is validation BUT to me even more important was the idea of being an empathic listener and this is where Amanda had it all figured out.

How many times have you talked to a friend, significant other, parent, etc. and walked about from the conversation feeling like that person really didn’t hear you? How many times did you walk about feeling 100% understood? I’m thinking that most of us walk feeling somewhere in-between (this is my assumption).

My favorite excerpt from the book says, “Have you ever had the experience of talking with someone whose mind was obviously elsewhere? Maybe they kept glancing at their phone, looking over your shoulder, or checking the time. It’s tough to feel like you matter to them in that moment. Whatever they’re distracted by, it’s apparently more important than talking to you.  Not a great feeling.” Wow. Isn’t that the truth! We have all probably been on both sides of this scenario – a non-empathetic listener and the person feeling unimportant.

So…coming back to this idea of being present. I challenge you (and myself) that the next time you are in a conversation with someone to put down the phone or whatever is distracting you from being present and give yourself to that person. Listen to what they are saying, validate how they are feeling, and truly be present. The text message and social media page will still be there when you are done with your conversation and I promise you it’ll feel good to walk about from your conversation feeling a real connection with another human being. Again, this is something that Amanda was so so so so good at – she made you feel like you were the most important person when you had a conversation with her.

The final statement from the book that I need to share is this – “You might think that as long as you seem attentive in a conversation, it’s okay to let your mind work on other things. Nothing could be further from the truth. WHEN YOU’RE NOT FULLY PRESENT, PEOPLE NOTICE.

If we can all be more present in our conversations we will see our connections and relationships with the people we care most about flourish. We can let those we love to feel heard, and won’t that be a beautiful thing?

Be present.

Be happy.


Equanimity refers to a state of being calm and balanced, especially in the midst of difficulty.

Equanimity is also one of the main virtues of Buddhism and translated to the term upekkha. This term, upekka, quite literally means “to look over.” What this means in the many in the West is not be ruled by passions, desires, likes, and dislikes. In Sanskrit, they translate equanimity into the word upeksha, which means “nonattachment, nondiscrimination, even-mindedness, or letting go.” Finally, in Pali, equanimity is tatrmajjhattata, which means “to stand in the middle.” This “standing in the middle” refers to a balance that comes from inner stability – remaining centered when surrounded by turmoil.

As I reflect on the last year, it’s hard to even wrap my mind around the emotions and thoughts that have come and gone. It has been, without a doubt, the most challenging year of my life. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some really amazing things that have happened this year, but for the most part…it’s been a fight. Each day has been a choice, do I wallow in my sadness, grief, and tears OR do I pick myself up and find the positive in today?! Most days I’ve opted for the positive, but some days are harder than others (I’m not writing that to make you feel sorry for me, just being honest!) However, as I reflect on this year I’ve also learned a lot about myself, both positive and negative.

So instead of a New Year’s Resolution, I often times come up with mantras that I’d like to focus on. So this year was easy for me. I took these negatives or areas of weakness and I’ve decided that they are going to be my new focus for the year. I have two major areas I’d like to focus on, and in true Amanda style, I’m going to write them down, whatever they are, are making them happen….to the best of my ability! These two areas of focus are: “Finding Balance” and “Being Mode.”

“Finding Balance”: So, as I look back on the year and maybe two or three years, I know this has been a constant battle for me. I’m the type of person that gets really hyped about something, I do it over and over and over again, and then the novelty wears off. Then I find the next thing, get hyped about it…and you get it the cycle continues. This is true for my work life, eating trends, workout tendencies, etc. This year, I want to take the time and really find a healthy balance for me. With a baby on the way, which of course is going to add a whole new dimension to this balancing act, I really see a need to find this balance. I know that instead of focusing on numbers like calories and pounds, I need to focus on what and how I’m feeling. There are foods and workouts that make me feel great….there are foods and workouts that make me feel worse than terrible. I need to find what works and feels good for me. In the “finding balance,” I also want to stop worrying so much about “the future” and making plan after plan. Of course, you need to have a vision for the future but I think if I were to come to terms with uncertainty and not knowing a little bit more, I’d reduce my anxious tendencies and allow myself to assess what I need right now and just enjoy the moment. I know I have a lot of work to do this year in regards to “finding balance.”

“Being Mode”: If you were to look back in this blog you’d see Amanda wrote a post titled “Just Be.” I’ll come back to her post in a second, but the idea of “Being Mode” was presented to me through a book I’m reading by Nancy Bardacke which is actually called Mindful Birthing but seems to have very little to do with birthing a child. It really has everything to do with how to harvest a mindset for mindfulness (and according to her birth a child if you’re mindful is a breeze…not 100% convinced but we will see!) Her definition of “Being Mode” is experiencing your thoughts, your emotions, and your body sensations directly, just as they are. When you are in “Being Mode” you are not dependent on external conditions for happiness, ease, and well being. “Being Mode” helps us see the world and ourselves through the lens of interconnection, wholeness, and compassion. It is this “Being Mode” you are walking through the doorway to present – just being right here, right now. This idea of being present has something that has been on my mind for many years and is not an easy task to fulfill. I catch myself in a conversation with my husband and looking at my cell phone while the TV is on in the background. How can I really be present in the conversation if I’m doing two other things?! It’s not possible. This year I’m challenging myself to put down my cell phone, truly cherish the time I have with the people I love dearly. I’m challenging myself to stop worrying about things I should have done or will I get to the next “thing” on my list. This again, is not going to be easy for me, but I’ll chip away at this “Being Mode” idea a little at a time this year, and hopefully, I can get myself there.

Okay….so, Amanda wrote her Just Be blog post after she spent some time hiking in the Alps of Slovania….she wrote:

“I realized that from a very young age I’ve always been chasing what’s next. I remember finishing my Ironman and the next day being asked, “Now what?” I shake my head not at the question, but how I’ve created a life of next and facilitated questions like this so quickly after a major accomplishment. I wonder what would actually be next if there was no next. I wonder what life would be if I would just be for a while.”

Amanda’s Slovenia Trip – I think it’s safe to say she’s living in the moment.

She had it all figured out. She did. She knew what “Being Mode” was all about…and when you were with her, you were also in “Being Mode.” Her ability to be present, allowed you to be present too. Her ability to enjoy the moment, allowed you to enjoy the moment too. I hope I find this in myself…I hope that she can continue to guide me through the year and help me to find some balance and work on my awareness of the here and now.

So….equanimity….whichever definition feels most at home to you is what I hope for all of you this year. For myself, I believe equanimity will be reached by finding a better balance across multiple aspects in my life and allowing myself to stay in the present will be my best chance at equanimity.

So, instead of “Finding Balance” and “Being Mode” I think I could say my mantra this year is “Equanimity.” 

What is your mantra for the year?

The Season of Giving

As the season of giving is upon us, the Amanda Geissler Memorial Foundation has embarked on its first project and this project couldn’t align more with our vision for Amanda’s foundation.

As many of you know, Amanda’s bucket list was something that was near and dear to her heart, and she was able to successfully cross off many of the lofty dreams she held. However, she left a few behind for her family and friends to accomplish on her behalf. Number 25 on her bucket list was start a new charity. Well, this is something that we, her family, have been working on (and is not as easy as one would think!) and it’s extra important for us to “get it right” for her!

Amanda was passionate about children and women being provided the opportunity for proper education. She volunteered in Ghana, Africa and fell in love with helping the children get a better opportunity for education. She then volunteered in Huanchaco, Peru where she worked to teach English to women and children. Amanda also volunteered locally (when she lived in Milwaukee and St. Paul) to work with young girls through the Big Brother and Big Sisters organization. She believed that when these young girls and women were provided the opportunity for proper education then they could create a better future for themselves and their families.

The Pencils of Promise organization is something Amanda found and shared with us. It all started with a book, The Promise of a Pencil, and Amanda led us to here. The organization started with one person, Adam Braun, and while he was traveling the world he asked a young boy, “What do you want most in the world?” When the little boy responded, “A pencil.” Adam reached into his backpack and handed him a pencil and he watched as a wave of possibility washed over the young boy. Adam knew he just discovered something amazing. He is the founder of Pencils of Promise and is determined to provide access to quality education to all children in the world.

So…what our family has decided to as our first project for the Amanda Geissler Memorial Foundation was to sponsor 10 girls through the Pencils of Promise organization on Amanda’s behalf. When sponsoring these young girls, we are helping to provide exposure to a variety of educational resources. These resources include menstruation education, ability to more inclusive environments in schools, and help to provide gender parity in classrooms. Pencils of Promise shares, “Educating girls will not only impact their individual lives, but it will lessen poverty, grow economics, increase familial stability and, ultimately, transform OUR world.”

This is our first step in honor of Amanda and we whole-hearted believe she would be thrilled with our decision. We do have loftier goals for the future of Amanda’s foundation and we will need a lot of help to achieve our lofty goal. Through this same organization, Pencils of Promise, you can raise money to build a school – and our goal is to do just that. Build a school in Amanda’s honor. This lofty goal will require us to raise $100,000, and we are still working with Pencils of Promise to build the fundraising website for this project….so stay tuned!! We know this project could take years to complete, but we are determined to complete this for Amanda. And, I honestly couldn’t think of a more appropriate goal for her and her foundation.

I am linking the websites if you’re interested in learning more or interested in sponsoring a girl during this season of giving!

Link for those interested in sponsoring a girl or girls this holiday season: https://pencilsofpromise.org/seasonofpromise/




Hi everyone, I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’m not sure about you, but when work starts back up after summer break you hit the ground running and don’t look back. I feel like I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath quite yet, but here I am! I’ve been thinking a lot about all the people Amanda has brought into my life, but during her life and now.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet a tremendous amount of people in my life because of Amanda. As the older child, she was always introducing me to her older friends throughout the entirety of my life. Elementary, middle, and high school was a little different as we attended such a small school and we pretty much knew either other already, but college was definitely different. And after college, she continued to introduce me to important people in her life. Even now, I’ve been blessed with Amanda’s constant presence in my life because of all the people she has brought to me. I am extremely grateful for the new and old friendships Amanda has brought to me along the way.

With that being said. These friendships are also extremely hard sometimes. Last weekend I attended the wedding reception of one Amanda’s dear friends. Amanda would have been (and is) incredibly happy for Jennie and Lindsay, but without her being there with us, it felt incomplete for me. I’ve experienced this feeling more and more throughout the last (almost) ten months. Again, I absolutely love and cherish these friendships and want them to continue to grow, but I definitely feel an emptiness with all the happiness too.

I was also lucky enough to meet up with another one of Amanda’s good friends from Backroad’s. Again, this is such a blessing to have yet another amazing women in my life because of Amanda, but these interactions are never easy. Our friendship has developed because of Amanda….but again…there’s the emptiness. We can laugh, we can cry, we can laugh again….and cry again…

I’ve decided that I now understand the try definition of bittersweet.

I know I’ve used the saying “oh it’s bittersweet” before, but I feel like I finally actually understand what that means. I’m fairly confident that I will continue to have these bittersweet moments as my life continues. Actually, I feel like I’m undergoing the greatest bittersweet moment in my life. As most of you know, I’m having a baby…and it’s a girl!

I’ve always pictured my children growing up with Amanda’s children. I’ve always pictured Amanda holding my baby and teaching them all the things a parent can’t. Derek and I (and our parents) are so extremely excited, blessed, and full of love for this little baby, but that feeling of something missing…yep…that’s right there too. I know that Amanda will always be here, but the vision I’ve always seen is no longer there.

As bittersweet as some of these times are, I know that Amanda would want me to feel those feelings and keep going forward. I know that she would tell me to take the positive from each of the interactions I’m able to experience and let the rest go. I know that Amanda loves our baby so much and that we will have a beautiful reminder of precious life really is. Although it may be bittersweet at moments, make sure to find and cherish the sweetness.


Great catching up with Amanda’s friend Lexi!



Jennie and Lindsay’s beautiful wedding reception in Colorado.


Hope & Happiness

I’ve been struggling the last few weeks. School started and life seems to be moving forward…and it just doesn’t feel right without Amanda. I don’t usually use this platform to vent, grieve, or express too many of the feelings that I’ve been feeling, but the last few weeks have been really hard. As I write, I have tears rolling down my cheeks. How can life be moving forward, but a major piece of me be missing? How can you find a “new normal” when the old normal is all you want? I ask myself so many “whys”, “hows”, and “what ifs” that this all sometimes just doesn’t make sense.

So…what I felt like I needed was to re-look at what I read the day of Amanda’s funeral. I needed to remind myself that there is hope, and when there is hope there is happiness. And above all, Amanda would want me to have happiness in my life, because Amanda is happiness. She is still here with me….she is still with all of us. So, here it is…

Small Town Girl
Global Dreamer
Underdog Supporter
Kindness Believer
Boundary Pusher
Adventure Creator
Coffee Addict
Bucketlist Achiever

All these are terms Amanda used to describe herself. I have so many more to add to this list – Smile Maker, People Mover, Energizer Bunny, and of course Best Friend, Cousin, Niece, Granddaughter, Daughter, and Sister.

Throughout the last week I’ve been re-reading her blog and reading and re-reading her journals I found at home. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t know anyone else that has written down all the places she wanted to see and where she has been, books she has read and hoped to read in the future, and of course a true, handwritten bucket list.  Amanda had plans, big plans, and she was taken from us far too soon. However, Amanda lived, truly lived. She lived a life of no regrets and one filled with adventure, love, kindness, happiness, and so much more.

In fact, Amanda embodied happiness – she taught us all what happiness looked like, and you could even feel the happiness she exuded.  From her gigantic, gorgeous smile to always finding the tambourine and playing with the band – she was happiness. In her blog, she often wrote about happiness. She wrote about reading books about happiness, and one book, in particular, was titled The Geography of Bliss. She shared on her blog the term Biophilia: The love of other organisms. Amanda said, “Ever since I read this I realized, that’s when I’m at my happiest as well. When I’m around other organisms. You can count a loved one. Your family or friends. Or simply just being in nature. In nature, you are surrounded by organisms. The energy they give off may not be apparent at first, but put your feet in the sea or stand in the middle of a forest and you will feel something. You will feel biophilia.” She also shared a few stories about meeting different people along her adventures and their discussions about happiness. Her final statement on happiness is what provides peace in my heart. She says, “Those individuals or communities that ‘seem’ happy also ‘seem’ to have hope.”

My hope is that we all can use Amanda’s words and spirit to spread happiness. I hope that we can shine her light for her. I hope that Amanda’s story of kindness, adventure, courage, fearlessness, and love will continue.

Amanda challenged each of us in her blog post titled “Surrender” and I hope that each and every one of us steps up to the challenge. She wrote, “write down two things you’ve always wanted to do. They most likely seem crazy and no doubt uncomfortable. Write them down. Not on your phone or computer. Actually, grab a pen (or pencil) and start a list.” I know she didn’t write it out for you but I know she would add – now do it. No matter how uncomfortable, scary, or cumbersome this list may be, just do it, complete it – make it happen. And when you cross off these two things from your list, whatever they may be, I hope you feel pure and utter happiness. And when you feel this happiness, you will know Amanda is with you.

To Mom and Dad, thank you for giving me the best big sister I could ever imagine. Thank you for believing in us, loving us with all your heart, sacrificing for us so we could always have better. Thank you for being you. I love you.

To my husband Derek, thank you for being my rock and the brother Amanda always wanted. I know she loved you so, so much. And I look forward a lifetime of adventures together, and I know Amanda would be so proud of us for helping complete her bucket list. I love you.

To all of you, family and friends, thank you for being here. Amanda’s positive energy, judgment-free kindness, and love is resonating in this room. She is loved by so many and I know she will still be with all of you. Thank you for sharing all of your memories and pictures with the world to see, and together we can carry her spirit and light with us. I love you all.

To Amanda, thank you for being the best big sister I could have ever asked for. There are millions of things I’d have to say in order to fully thank you for teaching me so many things….but mostly, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without you. You have shaped who I am, and because of that, I’m a better person. I will promise to carry your light in my heart forever and to enjoy life and adventures for myself and for you.

Amanda, you may be gone, but you’ll never be forgotten. I am extremely heartbroken, sad beyond belief, and I will miss you every second of every day.  But until we meet again, know that I will love you forever.

Always & Forever,
XOXO – Linds

10% Happier

If you could do one thing to make yourself 10% happier would you do it?

I recently read the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris. You may recognize his name as a pretty well-known news anchor on Nightline or Good Morning America. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure why I even chose to read this book but I did….and it was a great decision to start my summer off with this read.

I’m not going to tell you about every detail in this book but I found that this book was directly connected to “just be” and Amanda’s big idea around Cherry Pit Minute. Dan, in his book, talks about how he was always looking for the next big story and how his mind was moving 10,000 miles per hour. He talked about how he was never really in the moment and was always looking for what’s next. And he always believed that what’s next was going to be the biggest or best “thing.” He never took a moment to realize what was in front of him and appreciate exactly where he was – he used the term mindfulness. Sound a lot of like what my last blog post was about…how we all could really benefit from slowing down, appreciating the moment, and allowing ourselves to “just be.”

So, back to my initial question – if you could do one thing to make yourself 10% happier would you do it? In Dan’s case, he did something that he thought was kind of weird, out of his comfort zone, and completely foreign to him at the start, but found that one fairly simple idea/task provided him with 10% more of happiness. Hmm…would something like this be worth it?

The more I think about it, the more I think….well…duh….of course! Of course, it’d be worth it! In 10% Happier Dan was guided by a variety of people into the idea of mediation. Now, don’t stop reading, I promise I’m not going to talk about all the benefits of meditation or that we should all use mediation. Yes, I’m a yogi and meditation is something I could talk about at length, but meditation is NOT the point of this blog post. I’m just trying to peek your interest in finding a task, that may be challenging and/or uncomfortable but if it provided you with 10% greater happiness, freedom, or maybe love….would you do it?

Now, what Dan did at the end of the book is create a list of 10 concepts that could help to produce a 10% happier you. Dan is honest about this list and calls it aspirational, not operational at this point in his life… But I find that each of the 10 concepts is thought-provoking and helps us to reach our 10% happier. Here they are:

1 – Don’t be a Jerk
2 – (And/But…) When Necessary, Hide the Zen
3 – Meditate
4 – The Price of Security Is Insecurity – Unit It’s Not Useful
5 – Equanimity Is Not the Enemy of Creativity
6 – Don’t Force It
7 – Humility Prevents Humiliation
8 – Go Easy with the Internal Cattle Prod
9 – Nonattachment to Results
10 – What Matters Most?

Okay, so this is quite a list and I’m not going to detail each of these, but I am going to pick a few that really spoke to me and brought me back to the moment and appreciation.

1 – Don’t be a Jerk
I love this idea and I find that we NEED this in the world today. Dan talks about the link between success and compassion. Being a compassionate person wins you allies and more than anything it makes you a vastly more fulfilled person. I will say, Amanda had this gift of compassion, she could create a connection with ANYONE and when you were with her you could feel the connection. Again, this one is easy; take the time to get to know people, the people at work, in your neighborhood, or a complete stranger. Create a genuine connection with them and I can just about guarantee you will be more fulfilled. Personally, I think this could provide you with 10% greater happiness alone, but there are a few others we can talk about too!

8 – Go Easy with the Internal Cattle Prod
Dan writes, “All successful people fail. If you create an inner environment where your mistakes are forgiven and flaws are candidly confronted, your resilience expands exponentially.” I love this! This is deep! The whole idea of mindfulness, “just be,” and taking a minute to appreciate is 100% internal reflection on this idea. Dan is so right…nobody is perfect. We are all flawed, but do we know ourselves well enough and acknowledge our flaws with the resilience to correct them, and WHY DO WE HAVE TO BE SO HARD ON OURSELVES? Why can’t we acknowledge our flaw and redirect ourselves without beating ourselves up over it? This is one I’m continually working on myself!

9 – Nonattachment to Results
For me, this is an incredibly hard idea to conquer. Nonattachment. This is also known as Aparigraha, one of the eight limbs of yoga. Dan talked about nonattachment was through a lens of working towards a goal. He said, “push hard, play to win, but don’t assume the fetal position if things don’t go your way.” He also talked about detaching thoughts and feelings from each other. So think about this. If you were to sit in a dark room, close your eyes, and count to 500. I can just about guarantee your mind will interrupt you with a variety of thoughts – you have laundry to do, what’s for dinner, did you call so-and-so – something along those lines. Your mind can also focus on something that is really bothering or something that is causing you great joy. Nonattachment would take whatever your mind is focusing and assess how your body is reacting to that, and when you acknowledge those two connections…you disconnect them. Completely dissociate what you’re thinking with how you’re feeling. Yikes…that’s hard!!

10 – What Matters Most?
Easily the most important concept in my book is asking ourselves, “what matters most?” Dan uses the guiding question, What do I really want? to lead his idea of what matters most. If we can all truly identify what is that we want out of life…it will guide us into what matters most for each of us. I would challenge you to not come to a quick decision on these questions. We all love our families, want to be successful, and so much more…but if we all take the time to really think through what matters most and then lighten up on the rest, we can find a little bit more happiness.

So…If you could do one thing to make yourself 10% happier would you do it?

I’d like to end with a little challenge and reminder. I’d like to challenge you all to think about a few of these concepts – they can be different than the ones I focused on (because you do you!) – and identify one or two that resonate with you. Then find some way you can pick those apart. Dan used meditation, you could try it (and maybe you’ll be surprised how amazing it is) or you could think about them as you go for a walk, on your drive to work, or something else that works for you! The reminder in all of this is that yes, we can all strive for a 10% happier self, but we must also be able to see, like really see, ourselves in the present moment too. Being the moment, appreciate where you are right now, don’t overthink, being more compassionate, and allow ourselves to truly be ourselves…this alone may be all it takes to achieve that 10% greater happiness.

The Year of “Just Be”

A little over a year ago, Amanda wrote a blog post titled Just Be. If you have time, you should go back and read it….and I felt like this was a good time to reconnect with the idea of just be and what that means to me.

It’s hard to believe that Sunday will be six months without Amanda on Earth, and it continues to be Earth-shattering for me (and so many others). I’m continuing to find a new normal and finding ways to bring her into my life on a daily basis. Also, it’s been about five months since my 32nd birthday. My birthday this year was extremely different, but I wanted to gift myself a year of being real, being raw, and above all, being authentic. The way I could best achieve this gift was to just be. Which meant I needed to focus a whole year of life on just being.

In her blog post, Just Be, Amanda wrote:
“One lesson I’ve been reminded of quickly in Europe is our constant movement as Americans. We feel guilty if we rest or want to take a day off. Even though, deep down we really could use it. We take vulnerability as a weakness rather than a strength; which couldn’t be further from the truth. Europeans on the other hand, feel no need to justify the rest. They do not lose pride when they accept help. Americans are stereotyped as stressed and constant workaholics. In a way, how can you disagree? We don’t know how to just be. We find this as inefficient and a waste of time. When in reality, it may be our only retreat from the constant whirlwind life typically throws our way. This whirlwind of always focusing on what’s next.”

I have so many thoughts rolling through my head but mostly about how hard it is to slow down in the busy world we live in. Being a teacher allows me the summer to slow down. This is first summer that I’ve actually allowed myself to not take a summer job and just be. And I’ll be honest, it’s absolutely amazing! I’m looking forward to the many visitors (my first coming today) heading to California this summer and some time to settle into our new house. But mostly, I’m looking forward to some time for me, my husband, my family, and my friends to relax and have fun together.

Derek and I enjoyed a sunset at the beach for Amanda’s birthday.

A few things about me that you may or may not know is I’m a control freak, I’m a planner, and I’m a massive worrier. So this idea of just be is very difficult to fully embrace. However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with myself and the how I’ve been more flexible with my daily life. I’ve also realized, I’ve become more of a “yes” person. I find that I accept more offers to be social and active that I would have last year and I’ve had so much fun doing that. I find myself laying on the beach more, hiking more, engaging in deeper conversations, putting down my phone more, and mostly enjoying the people around me much, much more. I’ve actually caught myself with a feeling I’ve really never experienced before, the overwhelming feeling of “this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.” The most recent time that this feeling occurred was when I did an early morning hike with Jennie and Cousin Kris at Joshua Tree National Park.

As we were waking ourselves up with a steep hike up Ryan Mountain, we took our time to appreciate the views, snap a few pictures, share a few laughs and a few tears. As we got to the top of the mountain, a young couple was about to head back down when we asked if they could take our picture. This young couple were the only other people we saw as we hiked up the mountain. The young woman proceeded to take our picture and then ask about the shirts Cousin Kris and Jennie were wearing. Of course, they wore the shirts with Amanda’s “Write it down, Whatever it is. And make it happen.” saying on them. I immediately started crying and had to turn away, Jennie spoke up and said they were in honor of Amanda and that is why we were there hiking. This young woman could have totally freaked out by my crying and ran in the other direction. BUT she didn’t. We all had a short conversation about Amanda, she gave me a hug, and with tears in her eye, she headed down the mountain. The sincerity and authenticity of this complete stranger provided me with that “this is exactly where I’m supposed to be” feeling. Again, I would have never had this feeling without the just be, live in the moment, focus I’ve continued to embrace.

At the top of Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree National Park.

My final thought on just be came from Dan Harris’ book titled 10% Happier. Dan wrote, “I was always hurtling headlong through the day, checking things off my list, constantly picturing completion instead of calmly and carefully enjoying the process. The unspoken assumption behind most of my forward momentum was that whatever was coming next would definitely be better. Only when I reached the ineffable ‘whatever’ would I be totally satisfied?” Amanda and Dan both wrote about this idea of “what’s next” and making sure to cherish what is currently in front of us instead of always looking forward at “what’s next.”

The year of just be isn’t over for me and will hopefully not be over when I turn 33, but I know already how much I’ve learned about myself in the last six months. Just be is a simple way of living in the moment, being yourself, and not being afraid of taking a risk. For me, it’s also a daily reminder to simply be myself – the good, the bad, the in-between. I’m learning to embrace myself (and my insecurities) more and more throughout the year of just be.

How long can you challenge yourself to just be? Can you start with an hour or a day? How about a month? Could you conquer a year?

The fun you can have when you let go, just be…and get outside!


I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said to me, “it’ll get better with time.” Time. I’ve always thought of time as in hours, days, weeks, months, years, but time can be seen in so many ways and a majority of those ways are relative. “A long time” to me and an “a long time” to you may be completely different. However, when I really think about time, I think about how feelings are connected to time.

There are so many sayings out there that connect time to feelings…

“it wasn’t the right time”

“the timing was off”

“I’m having the time of my life”

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The number one saying I can think in regards to time is “next time.” After everything I’ve been through and losing Amanda, saying those words are difficult for me. Amanda was never a “maybe next time” type of person. She was a “heck yes” type of person or simply declined. I think what I’m trying to say is when we use the words “next time” it is for a reason. We either are feeling like we want to do it but something is holding us back OR we don’t want to do it at all and we are just using this saying to get us out of something. Wouldn’t it be easier for if we just said how we feel instead of hiding behind “maybe next time?”  If you really want to do it, then go ahead and do it – don’t wait. If you really don’t want to do it, then simply decline – there is no shame in saying no (this is a different discussion).

So, when I think about time, I often consider what about time is truly relevant to me. Yes, I have to be to work on time and time is relevant when attending a social gathering. Time is not the focus when we are 100% in the moment and truly feeling. “I’m having the time of my life” is something I’ve said before and I can tell you the exact location and why I felt that way. It was not about the “time” it was about the people, the moment, the happiness I felt.

I’m not sure why this idea has been lingering in my brain for the last few weeks, but I think more than anything I think about Amanda. I think about what she would have done with more time. And with more time, she would have felt happiness more, shared more memories, and met more people.

I’m challenging myself, and if you want to join…please do, to catch myself saying “next time” and identifying what I’m truly feeling. If I’m avoiding something and using “next time” as a way to avoid something, then I need to communicate my true feelings. If I’m using “next time” for something that I truly want to do – then I need to just do it, make it happen, right now. How can we really be sure there is a next time? If it’s something that you really want to do, do it. And when you do it, I’m confident that what you experience will be worth it.

Also, let’s come back to “it’ll get better with time.”  I’m not sure it ever will get better. I think I’ll become more familiar with how to cope with such a devasting loss. I’m fairly certain that time really has nothing to do with how I feel…and I’m fairly certain that time never will.

I want to leave you with a quote Amanda shared on her cherrypitminute Instagram by Glennon Doyle Melton about time; it stated, “Maybe there is a time for everything. Maybe there is at timekeeper.”

How can you really be sure there is a next time? How can you be sure that you experience, achieve, and live all that you want before the time is up?

Response – Reaction – Comeback

Response is defined as a reaction to something.

Reaction is defined as an action or feeling experienced in response to a situation or event.

Comeback is defined as the opportunity to seek redress.

Redress is defined as a remedy or compensation for a wrong.

I’ve been working through these definitions for a few weeks. What is the right word for how I feel? I’ve been challenged with a situation that I never would have imagined, the death of my sister. We all know she wasn’t just my sister. She was my best friend, my partner-in-crime, my moral compass, my left arm; she was literally a part of me – most important a part of my heart, my personality, my light.

So what is my response, my reaction, my comeback when all of this has been taken away?

What would your reaction be?

Well…my initial reaction was disbelief. How could this be? It couldn’t happen to Amanda? This couldn’t happen to our family…this couldn’t happen to me.

My second reaction, which may have actually happened first, was Earth shattering heartbreak and sadness. A depth of sadness that is like non-other. A sense of sadness that I do not wish anyone else ever has to feel. A sadness that is best described as all-consuming.

I’ve been working on the list of books that Amanda has listed in one of her journals and in the most recent book The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun there is a quote that keeps swirling around in my head. I can’t find the exact quote but it went something like this: When you lose someone, you can’t let their death be worth nothing. Their death has to be worth something big, so your response must be something big.

In my opinion, I have two different routes I could take as my response: play the victim or find acceptance.

I could play the victim and continue to ask why? Why Amanda? Why our family? Why me? I could ask others to feel sorry for me, comfort me, help me. I’ll be honest; I have asked this question over and over again. I have asked other to help me, comfort me….and I will probably continue to do so. However, there is another route.

The other route of acceptance and I think this is where my comeback can be made, and Adam from The Promise of a Pencil confirms, my comeback must be epic. I have to accept that I will always carry sadness with me, but I will also carry so much happiness, memories, laughter, and light that my sister has provided me with. My sister has taken every step in life with me, and I cannot imagine what life will look like without her, but I know I need to realize that is where I’m headed. As hard as that is to imagine, and through blurred eyes, I know that she will always be with me. I know that she will be looking over me, guiding me, protecting me. This is the process of acceptance. I’m not entirely there, and I probably won’t be for some time, but this is my initial step.

Amanda often talked and wrote about how National Parks provided her with perspective, humbled her, and filled her soul. I was able to experience exactly that with a trip to Channel Islands National Park with two of Amanda’s friends from Backroads. This trip is one that I planned on doing with Amanda, Meg, and Nicole in February. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do that trip as planned, but Meg, Nicole, and I made the trip happen….and it was magical.



Backroad’s also invited our family to a small celebration in Amanda’s honor in Berekely and spent some time exploring San Francisco.  It was so amazing to meet so many young men and women who dearly loved Amanda. It was an emotional weekend, but we were able to share AMAZING memories of Amanda, spread #cherrypitminute message, and celebrate her view on life.



These two weekends have helped me take the first few steps to acceptance. However, my sadness has not subsided, and I don’t know when or if it really will, but I’ll be working on my next response, reaction, and…my comeback.


Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable and extremely raw. I have so many of you asking how I’m doing, and I felt like I needed to get a few of my thoughts out to the world to answer that question. So how am I doing? I’m okay. I miss Amanda tremendously, my heart is extremely sad, but I also find myself smiling and laughing more and more with each day. I appreciate all of your love and support.