hump day nuggets: Family

hump day nuggets: little bits of the season in photos and words about the last week

We’ve been on the road. In fact, we are, right this minute, driving the stretch of I-90 whose path I know like my kids’ freckle patterns. It’s been a long haul, from Missoula to Helena to Proctor to Billings, all the while surrounded by hoards of loved ones from all branches of the family tree and all corners of the country.


We gathered to love and support and celebrate. I am choosing my words carefully, painfully and don’t quite know how to choose the words because the last nine days have been so full of happiness and sadness. My heart expanded with the richest joy and the deepest grief, all the while buoyed by my people. Really, nothing else matters. My people.

We started out with family and friends arriving in heartening bunches to celebrate Andy’s art opening last week and then off to my family reunion and then back across the state for a funeral, the most devastating funeral I’ve ever been to for it was the death of a child we mourned. And, during that time we received news of another tragic death of a friend of ours who left her family and newborn baby.

There is no making sense of these horrible, soul-buckling occurrences that feel so unfair, that make my stomach twist and chest heave. There are, however, a few tidy truths that snap into the clearest focus: to love my family and friends wholeheartedly, to make choices in the spirit of support, honesty and betterment, to understand that this inhale is the amazing gift and this exhale could be my last, to live my best self this minute.

nuggets, now.

:: I was so overwhelmed with pride, thankfulness and love at Andy’s art opening. We’ve had a full year, with some big accomplishments. *This one* was huge, his first solo museum exhibition featuring six years of painting. Each piece takes hours and hours and those hours were put in after 10-hour work days, shoehorned into slivers of time around having and raising two kids among busy lives.


And there he was in a room full of his heart on view for everyone to experience, our kids weaving around the legs of onlookers. It was an excellent night. I am amazed by my husband.


:: And it got better because everyone stayed a night or two to run in grass, swim in hotel pools and talk with eye-contact over pizza.


:: The affirmation of generations, the kinship of creatures.


:: The wonder of a caterpillar. Margot and her cousin decided this guy’s brother and mom were in a nearby tree waiting for him.


Charlotte had a hard time saying goodbye and Margot stroked her hair, told her it was the right thing to do. My cousin and I didn’t intervene. They worked through it, shed a few tears and we went home, the young hopeful caterpillar safely placed on a leaf, off to find his family.


:: I smiled for a good two hours after my first four-wheeler excursion into Nowhere Montana.

Andy and his sister, my soul sister, Neysa, rode next to us

:: The week was unscheduled and unruly: naps on backs, in car seats, in random corners of hotel rooms and friend’s homes or not at all. My little road warriors impressed me.


:: Cousins are cool.



:: There’s something electrifying and revealing about watching my parents with my kids. Like, I get how much they love me, how much I love them. How much.


:: I am thrilled an honored to welcome new sponsor, Families First Montana. This incredible organization “strengthens our community by empowering families with parent education and learning through play.” My family has benefited tremendously from their services.

We are members of the museum and have used their resources to better our parenting. I seriously cannot recommend the programs and mission of Families First Montana enough. And I feel like we have only scratched the surface! It is a wonderful, invaluable resource for Montana families. Their annual family-friendly fundraiser is on August 20, a concert featuring Nigel Smith of the PBS kids show Between The Lions.

And! Families First is giving away a Family Membership to one lucky duck commenter. Winner selected at random on Wednesday, August 3. Winner: MT Goddess said…First of all that was one of your most beautifully, raw, honest and flowing posts yet, well that is my opinion. tradegy comes in all forms and at always the worst times. ps I hope I win the membership!! Its my birthday this wed!! Congrats!  Thanks, Families First!

:: Be still my once-vegetarian heart, we ate a lot of fabulously grilled meat.


:: I feel like making a pledge: I will jump in a cold mountain lake once a week between the months of July and September for the rest of my life.


:: Also, I think people should bathe in coolers and jump on beds until they can’t fit.


:: And, I think I will hide gold every chance I get.


:: The photo below is worth hundreds of dollars because it caused my sister-in-law to miss her flight. By 30 seconds. Literally.

She says it’s totally worth it. I agree.

:: Really, I can’t imagine a better way to spend a week when absorbing the pain and cruelty of untimely death. Surrounded by kin, nature and space to reflect.


Time to focus on omnipresent beauty.


The ever-changing, embracing sky comforted sorrow.


It always frames the earth we are born on, die on.

It houses people’s faith, understanding, questions and answers.

Inhale. Exhale.


happy (a few days after) hump day out there


Nugget it up and share. If you’d like, link to your nuggets in the comments!

:: :: ::

all photos taken with a Canon Digital SLR from

39 Responses to hump day nuggets: Family

  1. Marty says:

    The mommy that died was the daughter of my husband’s cousin. What a shock! We are very close friends with her mom and stepdad, too. I worry about her mom. I hope the baby’s doing OK-starting off a preemie with no mommy is a tough way to start life.

    Wonderful pictures.

  2. DeRae says:

    I’m absolutely devastated for the loss of your friend. Some of the people I surround myself with know her as well. My deepest condolences.
    What a wonderful time at Lake Mary Ronan! Pretty sure that’s the exact cabin we stayed in last Summer with my family! It’s my favorite camping place. We’re hoping to make it back there in August! I’d love to just spend all of my time there. No worries. Care free days. The girls look so happy to be there! Lots of wonderful memories being made.

  3. Adriana Iris says:

    His art is impressive… Your images ARE magic. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Laura says:

    Wow. So sorry for your loss’s. I don’t know the people, their families, or the situation, but my heart just breaks to think of anyone having to endure such pain. Thinking and praying for you and your family/friends.

  5. gratefulmama says:

    Your trip certainly had some very highs and very lows. Congrats on the art show, I am very sorry for the losses…. glad you were able to be with wonderful family!

  6. Tina says:

    How heartbreaking to hear of the loss that occurred for you over the past week. I am so terribly sorry.

    It looks like you had a really lovely time on your trip! I am totally digging the “gold” and just might have the start up some new tradition for my kids. So fun!

    Here are my nuggets from this week:

  7. I’m sorry to hear about your losses. It’s never easy to accept the hole left behind. Hugs.

  8. So sorry to hear about the tragic losses. I am so glad you were able to spend your time grieving among loved ones and the perfect setting. I hope your heart continues to heal and mend.

    Andy’s art is amazingly beautiful. I am in love with so many of his paintings.

    I am out of the area by a long shot. So, I am definitely out of the running. :) Good Luck to you locals!

  9. MT Goddess says:

    First of all that was one of your most beautifully, raw, honest and flowing posts yet, well that is my opinion. tradegy comes in all forms and at always the worst times.

    ps I hope I win the membership!! Its my birthday this wed!!

  10. Peggy says:

    This one post has confirmed to me that you have the most uncanny ability to turn the cruelest realities of this world into beauty, gratitude, and grace. And you do it without overdoing it. How you find this balance is beyond me, but I am so grateful for you and your words. However, next time I would like to request a bold-faced spoiler, indicating that I might need a strong cup of coffee before diving into such heartache. But then, we’re not afforded that luxury in life, are we?

  11. Kelle says:

    The tension in my shoulders from a funky night of sleep last night completely unraveled when I started reading this post. Just peace. I’ve only been to maybe four funerals in my life and one of them was a baby. It rocked me to my core and I will never forget it. So sorry for both of these families and for their pain. To feel it through gratitude, vulnerability, love–is the best way to feel it. Glad you had those nine days. Glad you are home safe.

  12. Been feeling the sorrow of loss this week too. Life is fragile, and amazing, and beautiful. The gift of loss is the broader perspective we gain. Big picture stuff is so easy to forget sometimes among all the petty details. So sorry for your heartache. So happy for the nuggets!

  13. Rhett says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your losses. It’s hard to make sense of these things. I hope the love of friends and family helps you in your grief.

    Kudos for your new sponsor. We love the Children’s Museum and would love a membership.

    Congrats to Andy on his opening. What a wonderful talent!

  14. colette says:

    i’m so sorry to hear of the devastating losses. no words can describe the pain, emptiness and confusion these situations bring. i’ll keep you all in my prayers.

    i love the pic of margot and her cousin ‘working it out’. i’ve been learning more and more recently to step away from my girl’s quarrels and let them work it out. it’s amazing how they do just that. and then they’re so proud to have done it without mom’s intervention. our girls are growing up.

    love the nuggets this week.

  15. ~ jessica says:

    I’m sorry for your losses. Your families and friends are in my prayers. I appreciate that you are able to find the beauty in life despite the heartbreak.

    Congrats to Andy. It’s unbelievable that those are paintings.

    I am in Montana in spirit but not in body; I’m not eligible for the drawing. Good luck to those who are.

  16. Peggy says:

    “Peggy doesn’t follow instructions…” I forgot to add that I’m not in Montana to participate in the drawing. :-)

  17. KWQR says:

    I so admire your ability to reframe loss & tragedy with the balance of gratitude & the beauty of living in the moment. At 19 weeks pregnant I am a bundle of hormones… even contemplating the possibility of leaving my husband a widow with a newborn melts me to the core. But the truth of life is that anything is possible. We inhale, we exhale and try to see the beauty before us at this exact moment.

    As always I love your beautiful writing… the gorgeous photos of your family are the cherry on top. So glad you had the comfort of family to cushion the losses. And Andy’s art show looks amazing… what an accomplishment.

    P.S. I wish I were local & in the running for your giveaway, but alas I am too far away!

  18. Amanda says:

    You are so beautiful.

  19. TRB Holt says:

    Indeed, an emotional week or two for you sweetie.. Too overwhelmed with emotion after reading this to comment…will do so tomorrow….love you to the moon & back…xoxo

  20. “a few tidy truths that snap into the clearest focus: to love my family and friends wholeheartedly, to make choices in the spirit of support, honesty and betterment, to understand that this inhale is the amazing gift and this exhale could be my last, to live my best self this minute” – what perfectly inspiring words. If only we could somehow store this focus that seems to crystalize when we are confronted with loss, and carry it over into our average humdrum day. Beautiful pictures, too. I love the little cousins hanging out.

  21. anne says:

    thank you for the reminder of how precious every second is. I’m getting off the computer to make playdoh spaghetti right now…

  22. Daniele says:

    Not entering contest…
    this brought tears to my eyes. LIFE brings tears to my eyes.
    I also felt a bit melancholy seeing your family vacation pictures. My family used to do that when I was a kid…all coming together for at least just a few days together by a lake. I have so many memories. For no particular reason it kind of dissolved over the years, as people moved, died, became busier…I miss it. And I so yearn for cousins for my girls. My sister is starting an IVF round today as a matter of a fact. I can’t wait to be an aunt. Aaaah, ok I’m sentimental and spewing haha. Love to your beautiful family…

  23. Annie says:

    So sorry for your loss. Your words are strong and ring true.
    Cousins do rock!

  24. You and your family have my sincerest sympathies. At least you all know how much love there is still in the world.

  25. Jen says:

    What a wonderful post to celebrate both death and life. And, no better place on earth to share those things than in Montana! I love all of your posts- but this one especially gripped me. You are so lucky to have family surrounding you there- if I did I’d be back in a minute!!!

  26. Melissa W. says:

    Brought tears to my eyes. So beautifully written. Love you so! Feeling extra connected to you and your family as I read this in Red Lodge. Miss you!

  27. TheresaT says:

    So sorry for your loss! Always your well written truths are beautiful. Looks like so much fun at the Lake, cousins are the best!

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  29. Wow, all I can say is wow.

  30. What a good swimmer Lainey is for her age ! … must be that Florida waterbaby upbringing.

    Go Nella go. Looks like you will be walking soon.

  31. Katie says:

    My stomach lurched when I read a tweet of yours recently. I’m terribly sad to hear the news. As always, you pay wonderful tribute in pictures to the lives of those people in your life. The pic of Margot and Rubes in front of the candy machines is photojournalistic! Hugs.

  32. Katie says:

    Oh! Also, I am thrilled that you are allowing us to share in hump day nuggets. I’ve always wanted to do it, but didn’t want to copy cat. Thanks! (I know, goofy way of thinking…)

  33. Families First is the best!

  34. Your writing and perspective is so refreshing. We love families first and would cherish a family membership!

  35. Larissa says:

    Your posts are so amazing! Love the photos as well!

  36. JoanLindsay says:

    Your time with your family looked amazing. Can’t wait for our little bebe to get here so it can be smothered with cousin-ly love.

  37. Jodi Zak says:

    So sorry for your losses! I can’t even imagine.
    Sending lots of healing energy to all the family and friends!
    My daughter and I LOVE the Missoula Children’s Museum! Our membership just expired, so a renewal would be rockin!

  38. Sondra says:

    You and “Small Things..” are on the same page today. You might find interesting this article in the Huffington Post:,b=facebook.
    I have raised two wonderful Compassionate, funny, loving women and know of which you speak!
    Thanks for a delightful thought provoking blog.

  39. mary♥cate says:

    I am so very sorry about your losses. I lost my best friend unexpectedly last week whilst I was on holiday (visiting my parents.) I am absolutely devastated and I couldn’t even make it to her funeral, though I tried!

    Your photos are ever so lovely. I am 3 weeks behind reading your blog, I am almost caught up! xx