bubbles & balloons

balloonsGrief is such an interesting concept, let alone process, made up of multiple phases and steps and overlapping emotions. I teach about grief in my health care and sports medicine classes; about the phases and emotions; about how necessary it is to allow individuals to feel and experience whatever it is they are feeling but to also share those emotions and feelings with friends and family or others close to them. This last year has provided many life experiences of learning and growing and leaning into the stages of grief.

In one word, grief is vulnerable. Vulnerability is something that is so powerful yet so challenging in a time of grief. We wear sunglasses at memorial services and gravesides for a reason and it’s not just the beaming sunlight; we hide our tears for a reason—being vulnerable and allowing others to see raw emotion can be both extremely difficult and scary. And to be honest, grief can be quite conflicting and confusing, to say the least.

Yesterday my family came together from Arizona, Texas & California and celebrated my Nana’s life in various ways. Last Monday, she took her last breath at 86 years old. Unfortunately, the last eight months have been an uphill battle for her with health issues, hospital visits, and finally an assisted living facility before returning home to spend her final months of life. As I reflect on yesterday and all it entailed, it was quite a different day for me. It was one filled with a multitude of emotions, some of which I did not fully expect.

We arrived at the graveside and my Aunt Heidi welcomed us with a beautiful and heartfelt commemoration of Nana. Family and friends were invited to share thoughts or memories and it was a beautiful moment in time to just be present with family as we reminisced in memories both recent and of years past; but to be honest, it is all such a blur now. It is hard to remember much of what was specifically shared. What I do remember vividly is what followed our shared family memories: bubbles. Nana would have absolutely loved this. We had multiple great grandchildren present for her memorial service and my aunts and uncle thought it would a sweet way to have them included and keep the mood light. We had bubbles of all sizes blown at Desert Lawn on that scorching hot September afternoon, and I can honestly say I have never experienced a memorial service where both children and adults were allotted the ability to experience such a vast array of emotions: sadness, joy, heaviness, peace…it was beautiful. What started as just children blowing bubbles turned into some of the adults blowing bubbles, too. Emotional releases and laughter and salty tears all mixed together somehow worked. And that seemed to be the theme that carried throughout the day.

We arrived back at my parents’ house to have a celebration of life reception with Nana’s favorite: Mexican food! She sure loved her Mexican food! We decided another way to commemorate a life well lived would be to do a balloon release (yellow balloons, of course) in the back yard. As dozens of yellow balloons were let go into the sky, we looked around at one another and just smiled. The great grand children loved watching them float away in the bright blue sky as a huge cluster together, trying to pick out which one was theirs. Balloons: something I had never experienced at a memorial service or celebration of life reception, but a tangible moment of joy and a moment of symbolism that I didn’t quite grasp until now. Pain-free and no longer suffering, Nana is released from earthly disease and ailments and has been welcomed into her Eternal resting place. I pray it is the sweetest of reunions with Grandpa and that the two of them are waltzing together again, on the streets of gold in Heaven.

rain and reflection

I love stobootsrms and rain and puddles and jumping in puddles in cute navy blue and flowered rain boots. I also love time to reflect and ponder and restore a slow rhythm to my life. Neither of those has been abundant in my life in the previous months, until this week—rather, until this past Friday! We received more rain last week than our state has seen in this drought all year—well, in more than a year! Friday happened to be the perfect opportunity for both rain and reflection: especially extended reflection time. It was a travel day for football, as we made the nearly 6 hour trek down to San Diego in our charter buses to take on the El Capitan Vaqueros for the CIF Regional Bowl Game Saturday night. It was a beautiful stormy day to sit and recline in the soft blue marble patterned chairs and ponder the craziness of the past six months.

From countless Saturday 5am coast drives for credential class, an apartment fumigation, a football CIF Championship, a progressive Thanksgiving, and my first real full-sized Christmas Tree, it has been a jam-packed four months of pure craziness and absolute JOY.

While managing two jobs (teaching and athletic training) has been a juggling act to say the least, it has been incredibly rewarding. If two jobs have not been enough to keep me busy, I have pursued the incredible undertaking of completing my Career Technical Education Credential as well during my first year at Paso Robles High School as part of my contract. The song that seems to follow me is the circus theme s <insert song NOW>. I have classes online that I complete as well as every three weeks an in-person classroom meeting down in Camarillo. So, every three weeks, on Saturday morning, my alarm wakes me up to the Frozen song, “ Do you want to build a snowman” at 4am and I drive down in the dark and stop in Summerland, near Santa Barbara and enjoy the beauty of a beach sunrise before I begin class. Those 5am coast drives and early morning beach sunrises have become an absolute highlight.

Another adventure this season occurred last month. My apartment building was in need of a bit of…termite killing, to say the least! Fumigation weekend taught me a lot. From Friday morning to Monday night, I was not allowed into my apartment building, so for all intents and purposes, I was a traveling gypsy for those next four days with no one place to call home. I ended up camping out at my sweet friend Amanda’s house in Atascadero for two evenings before staying my last night in Paso with my adorable coworker, Denise and her family. What started as a weekend of potential frustration and annoyance of being transient became a weekend of gratitude and truth and feeling blessed beyond measure. Staying with Amanda was an unexpected gift, as it brought about time to reflect on where I have come in the past six months since staying at her house prior to my move to the central coast. Six short months ago, I was sleeping on the same air mattress, preparing for my job interview at PRHS and San Luis Sports Therapy. I remember those nights vividly, June 10th and 11th. It was a week already filled with heightened emotion, and as I arrived at her house after my first interview, I hugged her tightly, reunited after 5 years of limited conversation. It felt so easy, so safe. Vulnerability happened rather quickly, as I shared with her about life changes and fears and excitements and new possibilities. I went to sleep that evening on that comfortable but quickly deflating air mattress, asking for guidance and answers and signs direction about taking the risk of stepping into NEW. So much NEW. I was reminded that night of those emotions, as I returned to Amanda’s house to stay with her while my apartment was being fumigated. And what also came that night was the reminder and blessing of gratitude for friendships and hospitality and vulnerability, no matter what coast I am on. It’s almost hard to believe at times that one of my biggest hesitations to moving was the fear of a lack of community: God definitively answered that prayer 100 fold.

Progressive Thanksgiving:

Our football team has had an incredible season! We ended up playing through the week of Thanksgiving, which meant I would not make it home to celebrate as originally planned. This year was the first time in 27 years that I did not go home to my family on Thanksgiving Day. As someone who is very big on tradition, I was fearful of the sadness and impact this would have. Fortunately, I was able to see my family the weekend before Thanksgiving, so we planned to celebrate early. My family was very easy going and encouraging and loved that I made it home early. Every one was extremely excited for the team and how successful our boys were competing. They sent me on the road, wished me well and said they would see me soon! As Thanksgiving Day approached, I still did not know what my own personal reaction would be. I had been invited by a few families to stop by and celebrate with them if I had no place to “call home” for Thanksgiving dinner. I decided to try something I called “Progressive Thanksgiving.” I would go to a few different houses to celebrate with the various families that had invited me over and opened their homes to me!

We practiced on the morning of Thanksgiving, and I had the wonderful help of two of my senior students who joined me to help tape and manage any injuries. I treated them to a quick Starbucks breakfast (unfortunately it was one of the few places open in Paso) as a thank you for their help and then I went home to prepare for my progressive Thanksgiving! I started at the Conte house! It was a delight! Denise is one of my coworkers at the high school and it was an absolute treat to spend some time with her family and meet her daughters. They were just the sweetest! Afterward, I went over to the Baldwin home where I spent the majority of the afternoon and evening. We shared in delicious food and played fun games and had wonderful conversation. It was such a joy to spend time with these families and get to know them better and feel like such a valued member of their community and family as well. I can honestly say I left those homes feeling treasured and honored and hopeful that I left behind even a spark of the joy that I took away.

:: on encouragement and hope ::

encourageNational Day of Encouragement. Yes, that is real! It’s a “thing!” September 12th, in fact! It was last Friday, and I found out as I walked out of the gym from my morning workout. There was a giant calendar on the wall immediately left of the women’s locker room and I happened to glance over at it, looking for class times. I quickly scanned the calendar and looked at today’s date, September 12th. It only had one expo’ed in statement, and it read, “National Day of Encouragement.”

I walked out of the gym, beaming from ear to ear, excited that no matter how cheesy it sounded, it was a day marked on the calendar to spend a moment encouraging another human being. As most of you know, I really really like encouraging people. Like really. I love notes and cards and texts and letters. I like making food and pouring wine, and listening to others as they also listen to me share the thoughts and feelings on my mind. I really think we need more of that. Honestly. There is so much to be overwhelmed by and it can be so easy to let the weight of so many situations rest on my shoulders, it is imperative to be surrounded by genuine kind, encouraging and loving individuals. What is encouraging and motivating is the story of that which landed me at the gym on that beautiful Friday morning at 6:15am.

The previous night I watched the season premier of the Biggest Loser, on which one of my dear friends works as one of the Athletic Trainer on set. I would not consider myself a diehard fan of the show, but in this case, I wanted to see her appearances and at least watch the first episode. As I watched minute after minute, I found myself relating with these individuals, the struggle to push through moments of pain and soreness and the feeling of quitting, not just in physical fitness, but in many aspects of life. The fears, the feelings of inadequacy, the emotional roller coaster of drastic lifestyle change. I found myself crying, moved to tears by their stories of sorrow and loss and hardship and yet such powerful waves of hope. The producers of this show have done an amazing job at allowing the audience to be captured and captivated by the stories and heavy emotions of the contestants. It was such a beautiful episode, in my opinion.

As the episode ended, I found myself wishing it was not 10pm and desperately wanting to go to the gym and workout! But instead, I went to bed, gave my body some much needed rest and recovery, and hit the gym bright and early the following morning. As the previews for the coming weeks and the layout of previews for the remainder of the season aired, one of the contestants said a statement while he was standing on the scale that hit home on so many levels. He said, “ I’m starting to let go of grief, and the flip side to that is you open your life to joy.”

I have come to realize and accept that I am an extremely emotional person, so, as per usual, that statement made me well up in tears, agreeing with the contestant and empathizing with the reality that with open hands and the release of grief in a healthy time frame, I have begun to let go of grief day by day, and have been filled with more joy than I ever thought possible in this new season of life. Biggest Loser, you win at not only motivating the physical sides of health and wellness, but also the psychological and emotional sides of wellness, too. Let’s encourage one another; let’s build each other up. And let’s inspire each other to live well each and every day. We can choose to make each and every day national day of encouragement!

: the body :

Photo Courtesy: Letters and Lens Photography

Photo Courtesy: Letters and Lens Photography

This morning I attended my first church service since moving up to my new community! What a beautiful experience to worship again as the body of Christ, this time, on the Central Coast! As I sat in the service, I began reflecting and realized over the past few weeks, that it’s been easy to live on my own strength and to forget how much it has been God’s strength that has gotten me through the toughest of times. It’s easy to forget those nights of crying and moments of such deep sorrow and loss and confusion and desperation. It’s easy to forget the pleas with God for peace and comfort and hope when He provides peace and comfort and hope in the most unexpected moments and places. And when He provides rather quickly! It’s easy when so much is going so well, when a new job is exciting and challenging and exhilarating. It’s easy when a new community is welcoming and warm and inviting. It’s easy when life feels so great, so “together,” to forget that it is He who is the Ultimate Provider of that strength, peace, comfort, hope, and childlike JOY.

Today in the middle of worship, however, the reminder of His power and strength in my life became quite apparent again. As we sang “Lord, I need you, oh I need you, ever hour I need you,” I was brought to tears, remembering the goodness of my God who has provided for me time and time again. I broke down, quietly of course, tears flowing down my cheeks and they wouldn’t stop for the remainder of the song. Those tears held so many emotions: gratitude, joy, grief, and exhaustion (my new roles have kept me busy!). Ultimately, the reminder to turn to Him daily, hourly in fact is what brought those heavy falling tears.

Today, I thank God for instilling in me a strength greater than I ever knew was inside me. I thank Him for providing me with so much NEW: a new city, a new job opportunity, a new community, a new coast, and the reminder that I am strong. I am a woman built and rooted in His strength and that family and friends are along for the ride with me as well. He has provided and paved a way for me to grow personally and professionally. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the amount of peace, comfort, and joy He has blessed me with at the beginning of this new journey.

The sermon today was based on the book of James and patient suffering. Oh, the irony! J But in contrast to suffering, I realized today that He is healing my heart, day after day, and allowing joy to invade every aspect of my heart and soul. I don’t know that I would consider myself in the midst of grief and suffering any longer, and that is victory! Standing in church today, looking around and realizing I knew only one person in the group, I expected to feel alone. I expected to feel sad, having left not only family and friends, but also my church family in Fullerton. While there is sadness in moving to a new coast and starting a new job with a new community and not having every one within an hour’s drive, I was reminded today I am not alone. During worship, I felt anything but alone this morning. And I am so grateful for that. I am grateful to never truly be alone, as I believe in a God who does not leave nor forsake His children. We all matter to Him, and we are all stronger than we think we are. Amen.

:: a new home ::

10387209_10100241692798060_8367219722095797606_nTeaching. Public school. Teenagers. Day one. WOW. Energy is drained, eyes are heavy, feet are achy, back is sore, and my heart is…HAPPY. It is full. What a journey, what an adventure…

Today, I started my first day of teaching Sports Medicine and Health Care courses at PRHS. I was blessed to start off my morning bright and early at 6:30am, sitting across the table at Vic’s Café with a former Bearcat. This promising athletic training student will begin her college experience today as she drives across the country to the beautiful state of Idaho. We sat, laughing, drinking coffee and eating delightful breakfasts, as we shared excitement, mild anxiety, and some nervousness about our new adventures. It’s crazy to believe I only met this sweet gal two weeks ago. It’s funny how God brings various people into our lives, to teach us, grow us, challenge us, stretch us, and encourage us. I can’t wait to hear about what God does in her life as she transitions into college!

After she left breakfast and we said a quick “see you in January,” I had a few minutes before I needed to leave for school. I flipped my journal open and began to write. But before I wrote my first word, I realized I hadn’t written an entry since June. My last entry was from June 12th, which was a few days before I made my decision to accept the position at PRHS to serve as Head Athletic Trainer and ROP Instructor for various health care career pathways. I sat down to write a pro’s/con’s list at Linnea’s coffee house in SLO, waiting to have a long list of “cons” to talk myself out of this new offer. I never made it to writing that list. A few phone calls later, lots of prayer, followed by some tears, I came to the decision that this was an opportunity I could not pass up. I love how God did the work of making a “pro/con” list for me…I never wrote a word on either side of my paper. It has stayed blank since the 12th and this morning, I found it again. This morning and even tonight, I am thanking God for leading me here, to this city and to this new job. He has led me through some of the most challenging, scary, sorrowful, and unknown moments of my life thus far (let along the last 6 months), and He has proven himself absolutely worthy of not only my trust, but my life.

I have now lived in Paso Robles as an official resident for three weeks and two days.  As I prepared for this move and fairly radical life change-friends, family, city, church, job-I didn’t think too much about what the actual move would truly feel like. As friends have asked how I’ve been doing and sincerely caring for and about me, I have been overwhelmed at my own process of emotions. While the word “easy” does not seem to fit, this life transition has felt “right.” I used to think a new location never really starts as feeling like “home.” A home is built, it is worn and added to; stones are removed and then replaced and finally find their proper placement. We all have to start somewhere. While I believe these statements to be true, I am also surprised at the comfort, peace, joy, excitement, and even adrenaline I have felt during this transition. It all happened so quickly–the job, the move, and the overwhelming sense of peace in a new place. I absolutely loved my first week and a half working football camp and meeting my new students. I loved decorating my house and am grateful for the visits, cards, and delightful “parent weekend” I have been blessed to have since I moved at the end of July. If I could only use two words to describe my current state, it would be these: blessed and peace-filled. With excitement, anticipation, joy, and hope, I can confidently say Paso Robles is my new home. Cheers!

Vibrant Exposure: Pages, Pixels & Pens

Vibrant: pulsing or throbbing with energy or activity; vigorous, lively, and vital.

Exposure: the process of allowing light to reach light-sensitive material to create latent image; a single shutter cycle

purple joy

Photo by Kelly Franks

Welcome friends and family! This blog has been a long time coming, to say the least. These two terms have multiple meanings, not only in a definition-sense, but also personally. Life is best lived when it is lived loudly, with energy and enthusiasm and excitement. It is also best lived when authenticity and truth are shared, and the darkness is brought into light.

I absolutely love the process of jotting down thoughts and feelings and experiences and have been doing so since I could pick up a pen and write. I literally have over 25 notebooks filled with scribbles, stream of conscious thoughts, detailed stories, and daily recaps of a day in the life of me. And since I exhibit slight hoarder tendencies, I have kept all essays and writing assignments I’ve ever written since middle school.  Needless to say more, I LOVE all things writing.

In addition to writing, I found my love and passion for photography in the past three years. Well, that’s not entirely true. Friends dating back all the way to elementary school would probably best remember me always having a disposable camera on field trips and random adventures, and the number of photos grew exponentially as I hit middle school and high school. The peak of capturing moments on film truly sky rocketed when I started high school. While I have countless photo albums from my cross country days as well as high school yearbook assignments, I did not even begin to understand and truly appreciate the art of photography until June 5, 2011.


Photo by Kelly Franks

The long awaited arrival of my brand new EOS Rebel T1i DSLR came on that beautiful morning. I ordered it after some extensive camera research; the desire for high quality for a reasonable price, all to start this newly established passion. It was a belated graduation gift to myself after completing my Master’s program at CSUF and up to that point, one of the hardest years of my life. (But that is another story for another day!) As I ventured to different locations to capture life behind a lens, I began to see things differently. Photography is all about perspective; a vision, a point of view. It’s about seeing and capturing the moment. The beauty of photography is that each picture has a story of it’s own. I have a story of my own.

Back to the history of why and how Vibrant Exposure came to be created! The story of how I decided on the name is a memorable one! I knew I wanted a personal blog where I could write about what God was teaching me throughout various stages of life.  But the name?! Gosh, this was going to be challenging. Fortunately, I had one of my favorite partners in crime sitting next to me on a beautiful June evening in a cute little boutique hotel named Las Brisas Del Mar in Santa Barbara. It was a family vacation and I invited Tina to come with us and I am so glad I did for many, many reasons!  I had left Fullerton earlier that week to drive up the Paso Robles for a job interview (another story, for another day).

After a delightful dinner and walk on the pier, Tina and I sat down to enjoy some wonderful fellowship and a delicious bottle of flavonoids- thank you “Bling” wine! One of my favorite traits of this dear friend of mine is that she is always down for whatever the evening holds. I wanted to just relax and catch up on our lives, as she lives in San Diego and we do not get to spend a lot of time visiting each other.  Without any preplanning, I asked if she would want to help me brainstorm the name for my blog. She excitedly agreed! As she scribbled down handfuls of words in the most unorganized but made-sense-to-her fashion, we laughed and reminisced about our high school days of story lining and running and editing. Around 1am, the name Vibrant Exposure was decided upon.

It is a name that captures the current season of my life. A blend of writing and photography, Vibrant Exposure is an avenue to share thoughts, experiences, excitements and joys as well as the challenges and fears, as I continue to grow and change. It is a space of bright life, of living out loud and learning each day how beautiful each season of life is, no matter how many joys and heartbreaks coexist. I hope you’ll enjoy and I hope you’ll continue to journey with me.


Photo by Kelly Franks