A MAN OF FEW WORDS, BUT NO SHORTAGE OF LOVE

I played field hockey in high school and from the looks of it at times, people might have thought my dad played too. That’s a story for another time.

One would think it would be expected to have your parents at your games. However, my team and I always inconveniently played in the afternoon at 4pm, not in the evening, making it difficult for working parents to attend. Not for my Dad though, who without fail never missed one of my games. He’d walk down the long path, past the tennis courts and set up camp. Plopping open his folding chair, sipping diet coke, air horn in hand; he would eagerly wait for us to start.

He would watch with intent, focused way more on the game than my mom ever did. He never missed my goals and I’d look back to smile when I heard that obnoxious horn. That was my Dad saying good job! Sometimes in close games he’d get so worked up that he wouldn’t even be able to sit still. He’d be up pacing back and forth along the sidelines with the occasional, “SHOOT IT!”, embarrassing both my mom and me! Trust me, I have no doubt where I get my level of intensity from.

After the game he’d give me a hug with a few big pats on the back and say, “See ya at home!” and I’d head into the locker room to clean up. When I got home I'd go drop my bags in my room (the kitchen floor was not my bedroom according to my mother) before joining my parents for dinner. I can still remember like it was yesterday; after my first game, I noticed something on my bed... banana Laffy Taffy. I knew exactly who had put it there and what it meant. My dad hardly spoke the words, “Good job” or “I’m proud of you”, but I knew that he was by the taffy that was there on my bed after every game.

He’s a funny guy, my dad. Blasting air horns and giving banana Laffy Taffy doesn’t shout love to most, but it does to me. It wasn’t until later that I realized the countless vacation hours he sacrificed leaving work early to attend my games. Sometimes it’s truly not about what you say, but how you say it. Banana Laffy Taffy will always be our thing.

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Renee was raised in St. Louis & now currently lives in Los Angeles. Her Christian faith is the cornerstone of her life, desiring to walk daily with God & boldly share His love with others. She enjoys all things active & likes traveling, cooking, reading & spending time with friends and family. Renee is always up for an adventure, a good laugh & dessert!  Follow her @Beebopnae.

ADOPT A SHELTER PET

He sleeps all day, he doesn’t clean up after himself and to top it all off, he is missing two of his front teeth.  All of this and this guy is the love of my life. Mr. Montgomery became my family July 5, 2014 and my life has never been the same. 

In February 2014 my sister and I began really talking about adopting a dog. Both of us loved dogs but we had an endless amount of excuses as to why we “just couldn’t do it.” We were gone all of the time. We had demanding jobs. You’ve heard them all before and maybe even you have said this. It was very clear to us that we couldn’t adopt a puppy and this was FINE by me. Potty training really sounded like the worst (I have a DEEP RESPECT for those who have potty trained their pets… and children too come to think of , but I digress). So, after much debating we settled on finding a No Kill Shelter that had older dogs.  We took our time in meeting, walking, and playing with several dogs at the shelter and weren’t connecting with any of them. Believe me, they were precious, sweet puppies but it wasn’t “right.” That was, until Mr. M hopped into our lives. He was a 2 year old who just had pins out of his legs. When he was found, he had a broken back leg and was missing teeth. I cry when I think about this because no animal should ever be hurting and alone like this. Other than that, we didn’t know his story and honestly that is probably best for me. At any rate, this little guy hobbled in to the room and we were completely in love. Completely. 

Of course it has not been easy. He had separation anxiety when we first adopted him because he so feared he would be abandoned again. He has pooped on our carpet twice (TMI? Well, you need to know what you’re getting into) and he really loves waking up at 630am on Saturday and Sunday (but relishes sleeping in during the week). Adopting an older dog has its perks though. He sleeps all night and, as aforementioned, I didn’t have to potty train him. We also didn’t have to usher him through any chewing/teething habits. I HIGHLY recommend considering an older dog. 

I love my little guy more than anything. Coming home to his funny little face is the best part of my day. The love I have for him makes me feel whole. If you are considering expanding your family:

1. Do your research to find out what kind of pet would best suit you.

2. Really think about the time you have to invest in your pet.

 3. Can’t decide if you can fully commit? Consider fostering.

INTENTION: Every pet will find a loving home because every pet deserves one.


I am a lover of people, trivia, and food... not necessarily in that order. I am a G.R.I.T. but have fully embraced the California lifestyle and driving techniques. Let's go get Sprinkles cupcakes and be friends. Find me on Instagram @paigingdunn

PAINTED SONGS

“Songs of the East and songs in the West, a reminder a day of all that we've left, words for the happy and words for the sad, a change of the season and a journey ahead.”

So many times when I was a child I would walk into my Mom's painting room where my piano was and I would start playing while she would paint... and everything was just right!

Fast forward to about 15 years.
I left the country and home I grew up in... pretty much the whole continent. I'm working 17 hours a day and don't sleep much at night. I just finished my BA degree and got over my carbon-monoxide poisoning. I just got back from my rehearsals for the upcoming shows.. and I take a deep breath...and I take it with a smile on my face …. because I'm about to pick my Mom up from the airport and welcome her back home after her extensive travels! :)

The sun in LA burns down on you with all its power so I take out my straw hat and brush off the dust from the riding stables. I miss the rain sometimes...I miss the snow, the cold comfort... I pick up the flowers and put on my prescription glasses... I don't want to miss any detail of this moment while I wait excitingly at the gate, I keep checking the flight status ...then I see her beautiful face that even after 18 travel hours doesn't look tired... no, it looks delighted.

Life is good and I'm thankful because I know when we get home she gets her colors ready, kneels on the floor, and the sound of the brushes being swooshed in water- filled jam jars will fill my ears ... and I smile and go to the piano... because through all the tears, all the grief, the ups and downs, the change of weather, the blank canvases that have been filled with colors, the clothes and relationships I outgrew, through all the songs I wrote and the streets I walked on, the hair I cut off, all the Hellos and Goodbyes, the departures and arrivals, through all the constant reminders of how fast everything can change, there's still one place in time when everything is right... when my Mom paints and I write songs.

“Songs of the South and songs in the North, the metronome's pulse that swings back and forth, a tick for the reason a tock for the rhyme, a moment of peace a reminder in time.”

xo, Dalal

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Influenced by Beethoven, Prince, Andrew Loyd Webber and Celine Dion, Dalal's music has pushed her to the forefront of up and coming Pop artists. Born and raised in Austria Dalal has moved from NYC, where she began her musical career in the States to Los Angeles were she is currently working on finishing up her Album as well as writing classical scores and songs for various upcoming motion pictures and performing at festival and events like the Sundance Film Festival and prestigious venues like the Whisky a Go Go and The House of Blues.

For show info and to keep in touch with Dalal, follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and www.DalalMusic.com.

APPRECIATION

We all need to feel appreciation in our lives. A simple thank you or gesture of thanks can change your whole outlook on work or daily tasks. When we give of ourselves and don't receive any feedback, it often leaves us discouraged, feeling like we don’t care to give again. You know the times- when you do something that you feel like is HUGE and no one cares! 

It is always important to appreciate the ones you love because without them your whole happiness would not exist. But what about the people in your daily life that you may not even know who provide you services? The people who take out your trash? or serve your meals? or educate your family and friends? These people are often not shown any appreciation even though they impact our lives immensely.

A few years ago my parents- who encourage me everyday with their Christ like outlook on life- decided that as a family we needed to appreciate these people more fully. I am one of six children, in a very fun, loving, and LOUD family. We have always been taught the importance of giving, but our parents wanted to make sure that we understood how to sacrifice of ourselves to appreciate others more. 

So for Christmas, they decided to cut down on our presents and instead start a yearly tradition called ‘Jesus Elves.’  In this tradition, we are each given $100 and a note of appreciation that throughout Christmas day we are to give to someone that needs to be appreciated. It may be someone who has to work at the movie theatre on Christmas morning, or to a nurse that keeps watch instead of celebrating with her family. We’ve given to waitresses at some of the few restaurants that stay open all day on Xmas. We've also given to the fire departments, humane shelters, etc. It is never fun to have to work on Christmas day, so by leaving this gift with people we are able to shed some love on them for all that they do. 

It is funny how this tradition has changed our holidays! Of course at first, there was some hard feelings about ‘wanting more presents’ but since the tradition started, we look more forward to giving this away than opening gifts for ourselves. We all pile into the car together and drive around to different spots donating and thanking. You can imagine its a funny site! 8 people piled into a car peering out as one of us goes into a shop or restaurant to say thanks. 

There is one story in particular that sticks out to me where my sister Linsey and I went into a waffle house and ordered a coffee, leaving the $100 bill as a tip behind. As we walked back to the car we watched the waitress’s face light up and burst into tears when she received the bill. It is something that may be a small gesture to some, but could change someone else’s world. 

I am so thankful for this tradition and what it has taught me and my family. Appreciating others can benefit not only those receiving thanks, but it can also change your life too. 

INTENTION: Appreciating others and it will help you appreciate life. 

 Emily Lovejoy

Emily Lovejoy

Emily's happy place is being surrounded by lots of family and friends. She is 23 years old and currently wandering around the land of Aus. She loves to travel, go to the theatre, and enjoy a nice glass of champers! Check her out on Facebook.


NEW KID AT THE LUNCH TABLE

As a girl in her late twenties, the last thing you would think to contribute her independence to would be the elementary school lunch table.  Stretched some twenty years wide, what does that have to do with anything?

Growing up my parents always wanted my sister, brother and I to be very independently strong people.  Coming from a military family, my childhood was filled with picking up every two years and making route to our next orders.  Right when I felt like I may not be the new kid at school anymore, we would pack up and move, leaving us with the chore (or maybe opportunity!) to make new friends and meet new people.  If you ask a second grader, they may not necessarily tell you they want to experience a new home state, meet all different types of people and learn all about their new recreational basketball team where they know NO ONE; but truth is, moments like this shape you as a person more than some may imagine.

Not only was I taught how to introduce myself to others and make new friends, but I was shown how to lean on my family as well. Many would agree that family is the single most important part of life.  Each new town the military brought us to we knew we would have our family there, which was so comforting as a child knowing how strong we were as a unit.

For anyone that has traveled and lived in various parts of the US, you know that each state can be drastically different.  As I sat at various school lunch tables over the years, I would have new friends asking me if I lived in igloos and fished out of a hole in the middle of my living room in Alaska, then the next year asked how many seashells I found on the beaches of Hawaii.  Now Im not going to pull a comment like my dad would and say that I had to carry barrels of books through the blistering snow at the wee hours of the morning to walk five miles to grab the school bus because we all know our parents had it tougher than us, right? But what I will say is that it was a true challenge for my siblings and me to try to fit in with kids at each new town we were stationed at.  As the middle child, I was lucky enough to always be in the same school with either one of my siblings at the same time. Having my siblings there and being in such a loving home impacted my life in more ways than I can imagine.  I would do anything for my family and we all support each other no matter what.

One distinct memory I have as child was right before we moved away from Kodiak, Alaska.  Kodiak has always been dear to my heart because I was born on that snowy, incredible island.  I remember driving through town with my mom and siblings a few days before we were leaving from our second tour on the island.  My mom told each of us kids to look outside, take in the moment and see how beautiful the view was overlooking the Pacific.  There were fishing boats in the harbor, bald eagles flying above us and the sight was absolutely memorable and breathtaking.  As an 8 year old I thought it was cool and so I took a mental picture because my mom told me to.  Thinking back to that moment now, I really understand why she asked us to do that.  My mom was right; not everyone gets to witness such stunning environments and some of lifes greatest moments in that way.  She took the moment to freeze time for us and just appreciate all that we had.  I cant thank her enough for that. 

A few days later, as we were traveling across country to the east coast, we stopped in Las Vegas on a layover for a few days.  Let me tell you flying from Kodiak to Vegas in early June is not exactly ideal.  We got off the flight and went to meet my dad as he had been there for a few days and I think all of Sin City wondered who that family was with paper-white skin, luggage for days and dressed in parkas on a 90 degree day.  Lets just say I have never, to this day, been so uncomfortably hot in my life as we slowly trucked to the MGM Hotel. Thats a whole other story.

Point is, without these moments, not only may I never have experienced the glaciers of Alaska or breathing in Hawaiis fresh air, but I wouldnt be the person that I am today. I am blessed with the most incredible family, I love meeting and learning about people from all over the world (strangers or not), and Im not scared to pick up my things, hop on a plane and experience any other town this beautiful world has to offer.  Try that for an elementary school lesson.

INTENTION: Be grateful for the memories and friends I make everywhere I go.

xo, Stacey 

On a typical weekend, you'll find Stacey playing on the beach, laughing with friends or jogging the strand of her Southern California neighborhood.  As a co-founder of Your Beautiful story, Stacey loves to appreciate all the beautiful things in life, mimosas included.  Follow her adventures with @staceylthomas or her passion to inspire the world with @beYOUtiful_story on Instagram.


MESMERIZED

Flying back to LAX from one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever been on, I continue to flip through photos on my phone to pass the time before we land.  I had just been on one of the best trips of my life to date and now had memories I will cherish forever.  My sister and I have always been very close and have often been mistaken as twins.  My family and I joke that Lindsay is the more practical one of the children and way more responsible than my brother and me, but she and I act the same, we look the same and we have extremely similar tendencies. I have always looked up to her and try to follow in her footsteps where I can.  She is such a caring, amazing person and each time I talk to her she has a way of reminding me not to sweat the small stuff and just enjoy each and every day to the fullest.  I am so grateful for her in my life and my brother and I would agree that she is the most responsible, dependable and mature child of the three of us.  Recently, my sister added mother to her impressive resume.

Living on the west coast, I received the call at 6:28AM that Lindsay was in fact, in labor!   I jumped out of bed and immediately reached for my computer to look up airfares.  My sister and brother-in-law took the old school approach of not finding out the gender of their little one before he was born.  It was a much-anticipated surprise for everyone and our family and friends could not be more excited, nor anxious.  I booked a trip for a few days later and attempted to carry out my day at work, my mind only halfway present.  I was receiving constant updates from my mom and pictures of Lindsay looking absolutely beautiful.  How she was so stunning during such a crazy experience is beyond me.  It was early afternoon on Tuesday when I frantically picked up the phone.  All I could hear was that little voice in the background of the delivery room.   My sister bawled out to me, “Its a boy!”.  I immediately burst into tears, as Im sure I joined in that emotion with my family.

The past few days, I was fortunate to spend with my family and, most importantly, my new nephew, Connor.  I arrived to my sister and brother-in-laws late at night and (gratefully) the baby was sleeping so I met him when I woke up the next morning.  As I walked down the stairs to the living room and saw him, I just couldnt believe how tiny and beautiful he was.  They placed him in my arms and I could not take my eyes off of him.  He was truly mesmerizing.  I have always loved children and enjoyed seeing babies but there is something so significant about seeing a child for the first time that is so close to your heart.  I can only imagine how my sister feels for that lovely little man. I felt a fascination with just watching him breathe.  My sister told me about her delivery and how friendly all of the nurses and doctors were at her hospital.  I had seen pictures upon pictures from my mom throughout Lindsays labor and how graceful, amazing and strong she was in the process.  It inspired me in every way.

As I stared at the little guy in my arms, I couldnt believe that all of that had just happened.  A few days prior, Connor was just a little ‘personthat we all couldnt wait to meet and now here he was in my arms, perfect in every single way.

As many people experience with a newborn, we had sleepless nights with the little one during my trip.  I was on ‘baby duty’ twice.  As he was fed and slept sporadically throughout the night, those are moments I will never forget.  The late night conversations my sister and I had together are unforgettable.  I always knew she would be an incredible mother, but to actually witness it brings tears to my eyes.  Her love and devotion for that child and her big heart is beyond admirable.  I can only hope that one day I live up to how amazing she is.  Not only am I constantly moved by her positive attitude, her willingness to help others and the absolute joy she brings to every situation, but now I can add to that ongoing list that I look up to her as a mommy.  I cant wait to continue being a part of her journey and to continue to witness her and Nick becoming the most amazing parents.

In the meantime, I promise to never complain about tossing and turning in the middle of the night while getting frustrated with insomnia.  I’m sure I don’t know the half of it.

Love you Lindsay.

INTENTION: To be the best (and coolest!) aunt that Connor could ever imagine.

xo, Stacey

On a typical weekend, you'll find Stacey playing on the beach, laughing with friends or jogging the strand of her Southern California neighborhood.  As a co-founder of Your Beautiful story, Stacey loves to appreciate all the beautiful things in life, mimosas included.  Follow her adventures with @staceylthomas or her passion to inspire the world with @beYOUtiful_story on Instagram.