The Quest for New Air

Montana clouds

Home is where the heart is. Or so they say.

Yet, sometimes, the heart yearns for new horizons. New places that sing to the soul, chiming into some deep channel of a life past lived and reconnecting to journeys that began many centuries ago.

I must admit, I’m envious of people who are able to spend their entire existence in one spot. And remain content. How they do it, I’ll never know, yet, envious I remain for the “sameness gene” that clearly skipped over me at birth.

From the time I was about 16 years old, I was desperate for a new horizon. I craved it. I felt like my little hometown was squeezing the life out of me – making it impossible to breath. I’ve already breathed all the Sonoma County air. I was in search of new air. Air that had never entered my lungs and propelled my soul into the next level of contentment.

There were so many new roads to take, views to witness, places to experience first-hand. New air to breathe. I wanted to experience them all.

{To this day, I am gently reminded that when I finally took my first globe-trotting steps – in search of new air – just shy of my 19th year, I departed on Mother’s Day. I don’t think she ever forgave me, nor fully understood my addiction for varied landscapes. And the air, oh the air…}

That first day was my Golden Birthday, wrapped in Halloween, with a side of Thanksgiving and topped with Christmas. And I never looked back.

I only remember my heart was singing as loudly as it could, and my lungs were gasping gulps of freedom! Oh, how sweet it tasted. I felt like a helium balloon, drifting higher and higher as each mile carried me further and further from any recognizable ground.

Since that first outward-bound leap, my lungs have had their fill of locales – the Queens borough of New York, the Beaches of Redondo, and for the past 11 years, the twin lobes have been filled to the brim with the purest Big Sky air that God had the forethought to concoct.

Big Sky air is lighter than most, requiring more gulps to gain fulfillment. And, it’s also colder. Much colder than I’ve ever experienced.  For eight months or more in any given year, these bronchial tubes constricted tighter than a square knot when the Mercury dipped below any normal functioning degree.

Then, my respiratory rate altered. What happens when you’re not consciously thinking about respiration? Breaths grow shallow. Tired. Feels like life is being sucked out of you, slowly. Painfully.

Contentment stales to restlessness. Where is the new, fresh air?

After much contemplation, it has been determined, we are trading cold air for warm air. For the next track of our lives, we will allow ourselves to fill up on some of the most beautiful air available.

Gulf air.

The Florida kind.

That thought alone not only initiates an automatic response, but literally I am able to inhale and exhale to my full extent: relaxing the external intercostal muscles and diaphragm, to a most peace-filled resting position. Air is fully exhaled.

All I need…is the air that I breathe…and a new place to call home…


Note: I would be remiss to not give proper love, adoration, virtual hugs and a giant shout-out to all the wonderful Treasure State gems with whom we’ve shared air.

These are quality people – salt-of-the-earth types who welcomed us with open arms, despite the air we breathed previous to landing in the Bo-Zone.

My wish is that should any of you ever find yourself in the Sunshine State enjoying our sunny, humid air, that you’ll knock upon our door so we can once again, share some air. Warm air. The kind that renews your spirit and satisfies your thirst for contentment.

 KW AAL Logo

Falling in Love with Fall

Editor’s Note: This post was from a few years back, but the colors that inspire us are bursting with their autumn best as we speak. This was also before Rocco the Rockstar entered my life – can’t imagine a time without his Yorkie-self!! I wasn’t exactly able to shoot new images as the Rebel has been put out to pasture since. Sad, I know, now the only reliable photo optimizing tool I possess is the Samsung Galaxy S4 – which does a fair job, all in all.

What view presents itself outside your window today? Shoot it and share it on our Facebook page.

Due to my lack of planning (i.e., ignoring several local flu-shot stations) I spent most of the week in bed. Not only was I illin’ and bored to tears, but my back was killing me from non-stop horizontal positioning. Alas, today was different. Today, I was actually able to stand (and not fall over) and when I pulled back the curtains, I was happily greeted with blue-bird skies and an incredible array of foliage colors. I got inspired for the first time all week. I dressed haphazardly, grabbed the Rebel and walked briskly to the end of the block. It was well work the walk. (And no, these photos were NOT color enhanced. View them and weep, peeps. Yep, this is what we get in Montana in October.)

Autumn Self-Portrait

While I was out snapping away – I was met by the Bridger Ski Foundation members who were out for an early morning practice session. Stretching before the snow flies. Dragon, these photos are for you!

Bathing Beauty

Editor’s Note: Boy, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted within this white space. It feels good to be back. Where did I go? Nowhere special. Just enjoying my days in a Willy-Nilly sort of fashion. I’ve been without full time work since January – but rather have been doing freelance and contract work, but all the while, keeping an eye out for the next fabulous full-time opportunity. The break in schedule has offered an ample chance for self-reflection and ponderous life-enhancing goal-setting.

Now, finding myself in the middle of summer, I browsed several past posts and discovered this gem. It was from a Girls’ Weekend when we rented a lovely home in Sonoma via VRBO. This place was amazing, and made us feel as though we were in the hills of Tuscany, enjoying lazy afternoons filled with many lovely varietals of wine.

The main point of this post was beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Or the camera gal, which was me. My friend wasn’t thrilled with the photos, only as she fails to see her effervescent beauty.

I trust you are all enjoying your summer and recognizing the everyday beauty that surrounds you at every turn. Cheers.  

We are funny creatures.

We are unique.

We are each beautiful in the way that makes us “us” yet, when others stop to observe our unique beauty – we squawk. We say, “Don’t use that photo! Look at my fat this or my funky that.”

You know why we are so funny?

Because that funkiness is what makes us so awesome!

(Side note – as owner of this blog, I can spout off about this subject, yet have been known to delete a photo from time to time  – to time – of myself where I find nary a wrinkle, flap of skin or otherwise gross imperfection that I will be damned to expose to the world at large. But, that’s the point of being the OWNER of this blog. I can say or show whatever I want – or don’t want – within this white space. And you can’t stop me!)

I was so excited to take some candid, poolside photos, yet everyone (and admittedly, myself included) gets goosey about photos in a swim suit. But how can you not see the unrivaled, raw, loveliness of the following photos (of which my friend didn’t appreciate nearly as much as I did.)

In my book, a body that has birthed double-sets of twins deserves some kudos.

And a spotlight.

And a tiara.

This is my most favorite shot from the entire weekend.

I love the colors and mix of patterns.

I love the serenity.

And most importantly, I love the model – {both inside and out!}

What Would YOU do??


A debate has been raised in my household, and I’m wondering how you would weigh in on this subject?

Back story: 

While in the check-out aisle at Wal-Mart last night, an unkempt older man dressed in stained khaki coveralls and an old knit-cap, approached Sexy Hubby and said, “Excuse me, but can you give me a ride home.”

Without missing a beat, SH said, “Sorry buddy. Can’t do it tonight.”

Dejected, the man turned around and wandered off.

Of course, I tend to freeze in any sort of awkward situation, and freeze I did, until we were safely ensconced in our car, then I wondered aloud why we didn’t give him a ride. Of course, my first thought was, “How did he get to Wal-Mart in the first place?” and “Why is that transportation stream no longer valid?”

My reason for not complying  is always fear. What if we got him in the car and he pulled a gun on us?  What if he directed us to a place where people were waiting to do us harm? I realize my imagination operates on cruise-control, unwilling to accept any reasonable explanation on any given topic, yet I was perplexed.

SH said, “If he would have approached me saying, “Hey buddy, I need of a ride home. What can I do for you? Do you need snow shoveled, or any small work done?”

I’m not sure that would have made a difference in that moment. We were caught off guard and didn’t have a response ready, except no.

After continued communication, we decided the best option would have been to offer him cash for a taxi. That way, he would have gotten his ride home safely and without mishap. Only, we never (and I mean ever) have cash on hand. (Something I vow to change after this situation. With a small amount of cash on hand, I could have readily offered this man a solution to his dilemma. I never want to be in a like situation and not be able to offer help. If the shoe was on the other foot, I hope to hell we don’t have to rely on a a couple like us for help.)

Overall, I’m disappointed that when asked for help, we declined. No only did we offer no solution, we caused shame in the poor fellow who was clearly down on his luck. So much for love thy neighbor.

This situation plagued me all night, so I’m reaching out to ask you, have you ever been in this situation? If so, how did you respond?


How to Create a Fabulous Holiday Table

I love decorating for the holidays. Not only does it allow a much needed creative outlet, it allows me to spend time in the space and create a feeling of peace and joy.

This year, we are in a new house, where we will establish new traditions. First, I cleared the space (removed all artwork from the walls) as to not “clutter my vision.” The first pass was a bit barren, incomplete…

festive dining room table
Holiday Table – Take One

So, I began to gather more items to add interest. Some items were being used in other spaces, some were new, some were found. Here is the updated view and I believe it’s the final version of how our Thanksgiving table will appear (sans food and guests of course!)

Holiday Table
Holiday Table – Take Two

Ready for me to reveal my super secret?? (The local dollar store! The snowflakes on the back wall were exactly $1 each, the vases where I placed my own spray-painted branches were $1 each. I did purchase the party poppers (Costco) and little chocolate turkeys (Cost Plus) for the table as well as the cloche (TJ Maxx) as the main centerpiece, but I already had the other décor items.)

Here’s a closer look:

Holiday table center piece

I also spray-painted the pine cones that have been hanging around in the holiday bin for years, giving them a fresh and festive face-lift!

Silver pinecone table decor


I recently purchased (on Craig’s List for 30% less!) the buffet table behind the table, which acts as a perfect addition to hold wine, and side dishes after you’ve served your guests (it keeps the main table free for elbow room, read=face stuffing!!) I love the final results.


Beginning last year, we began the tradition of a “Gratitude Tree” that was placed on our Thanksgiving table.

How I created a Gratitude Tree:

I stenciled leaf shapes on double-sided craft paper, cut out the shapes, punched a hole near the top and added a piece of string for hanging. Prior to dinner, I asked that our guests select a leaf and write what they are most thankful for, then hang their leaf on the Gratitude Tree. All the blessings of gratitude were read before dessert.

This year, the repeat guests can either add to the leaf they created last year (writing on the opposite side) or they may select a new leaf to pen new attributes for which they are thankful and blessed. New guests will be included to participate in the tradition.

I recommend that everyone begin a Gratitude Tree, as your guest list may fluctuate from year to year, but the traditions and memories will last a lifetime!

Grateful tree silver branches

Gratitude tree silver decor

I invite you to share an image of your holiday table on An Authentic Life’s Facebook page for all my gentle readers, both near and far to enjoy.



Sweetest Dish on the Thanksgiving Day Table

{Editor’s Note: I don’t recall from where this recipe originally hailed, but it now owns prime real estate on our annual Thanksgiving day table. I planned my menu last night, and the shopping will begin this weekend all in preparation for the day in which we all look to with gratitude, blessings – and an elephant-sized appetite! It goes without saying, this item was #1 on my list! Try it, I promise you won’t regret it!}

I sit here dreaming…

…until Thanksgiving, when I can pile-drive my fork into this dish full of heaven and close my eyes, letting the sweet taste melt in my mouth…

I am talking about my favorite Thanksgiving side dish.

Sweet potato casserole.

A new tradition on my Thanksgiving day table…

Sweet Potato Casserole


  • 3 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup brown sugar (if you are watching sugar intake, you can omit this altogether)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter


  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped pecans


Combine first 6 ingredients.

Pour into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2-quart casserole dish.

Mix remaining ingredients together and sprinkle over top.

Bake at 350° for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and browned.

Serves 6 to 8.

{Or one.

They’ll have to fight me for it.


Not sure I can wait until next week…}

September Events in Montana {That I LOVE!!}

Editor’s Note: With Labor Day behind us, only a few more weeks of summer are officially on the books. Pre-fall leads to many fabulous Big Sky Country events, and one grand event in a darling little town is upcoming this weekend – the Chokecherry Festival and What The Hay. {After unearthing this post, I realized I never shared the images from last year’s “What the Hay?” event, but hope to do so soon. Oh, is it a fun one!}

What The Hay is a contest for families and businesses  in the Hobson, Montana neighborhood. They decorate hay bales, transforming regular ol’ hay into clever and crafty objects of art. By far, the best part of this contest is the use of the term “hay” in the sculpture titles. {Oh, how I love the cre-HAY-tive use of words!!}

 This post is from last year’s event, but I’m sharing to inspire those who’ve never made the trek to the Chokecherry Festival nor the What the Hay contest. Both are quintessential Montana. And both are a pre-fall “must do!”



Prior to moving to Montana, I clearly admit, I’d never even heard of a chokecherry. What the …? Why would you want to ingest something that includes the word “choke” in the title?

What is a chokecherry, you ask?

choke·cher·ry/ˈCHōkˌCHerē/ – a North American cherry (Prunus virginiana) with an edible astringent fruit that is more palatable when cooked.

Apparently this sour, little fruit is so popular, a town in central Montana plans an entire festival around the odd-named berry – The Chokecherry Festival is held annually in Lewistown, Montana.

The festival also includes the infamous “pit spit” – to determine who can spit a chokecherry pit the farthest (although, we didn’t stay for that part of the show – gives us a reason to return next year…)

We visited Lewistown yesterday – on our way to tour “What the Hay” hay bale display (which I’ll share later in the week). Not only was it a most lovely, late summer day, but we were met with friendly folks, food vendors and many crafty-kin alike.

Can you believe the depth of  the “Big Sky” blue? (Photo NOT color enhanced!!)

Main Street U.S.A – Lewistown, Montana




Interesting “Yard Art” made from ancient, recycled treasures!

“Funky Chicken” photo – appears to be at a stand-off with a Chokecherry Festival attendee…(I love the magic of capturing a simple photo when it transforms into modern art!)

Antique art, when you least expect it, on the streets of Lewistown, Montana.


Loved this bag – called “The Montana.” {Note, had a funny exchange with the owner of the booth. Apparently “The Rebel” makes people nervous, and I was asked if these images were for “my private use.” Immediately I presented a business card, revealing the blog, and it seemed to smooth things over. The proprietor was concerned I was going to “steal her designs” – which is a huge compliment, but obviously, she has no clue regarding my non-existent sewing-felting ability.}

For more information on Barefoot Beading and Bags, contact

Another lovely booth – and super creative ideas – The Little Podunk Store. My favorite find here, not only the items for sale – The Redneck Wine Glass (shown in photo – a ball jar on a pedestal with lid and straw) – but the lovely pieces of display art (which are sadly, not for sale!) Proprietor – Charity Beaman – is a charming, creative gal after my own heart, who shared with me, when building the displays she tries to “keep the fixtures intact.” *LOVE*

Follow the arrow to the “Red Neck Big Gulp!” So fun!!!!

…next stop…”What The Hay” in quaint Hobson, Montana…


YNP (+ Rocco + Me)

Editor’s Note: Sadly, I’ve fallen off the “blogging bandwagon” and can barely keep up with my television addiction to find enough creative time to spend here, within the pages of my beloved Authentic Life.

It’s not that I don’t miss you, my gentle readers, but since our youngest has graduated from high school, and is on his way to discovering new horizons, I have found more time on my hands than I know with which to do.

I spend much time walking Rocco, feeding Rocco, playing ball with Rocco, and in general jumping through any hoop Rocco demands. Other than that, which consumes my day, my lack of posts and general creative prowess lies solely upon my own shoulders. Honestly, the daily blogging break has proven a good thing. I needed to clear my head. Totally unwind, be bound by nothing. 

This post was scribed many weeks ago, and only tonight, while at dinner with some girlfriends, when a friend mentioned the blog – this blog – I thought, I better dust off my keyboard, and wipe away the cobwebs in my brain and get back to what makes me feel complete. And accomplished. Even if it’s a tiny, insignificant blog post amidst the massive world of Internet greatness, this post is my contribution to summer and Yellowstone Park – two of my favorite things.

It’s good to reconnect. I hope to more often – and hope is a wonderful thing…

Yesterday, we took our inaugural trip to Yellowstone Park.

It was a bee-a-uu-tiful day – and one that prove, summer has arrived.

This was also a first – Rocco’s first time in the park. He loved it (car rides make him very sleepy!) but he was unsure of the large creatures he spied out the window. Oh, he barked plenty, but they didn’t seem to take notice.

Enjoy the visual escape to Yellowstone National Park…

YNP Rocco and me

elk in velvet Yellowstone

A beauty in velvet…

Lamar Valley Yellowstone National Park Buffalo Bison

Bison calf Buffalo Baby Yellowstone Park

I love the babies!

Rocco in the car

Rocco doesn’t seem to care about the babies…

Bear Jam Yellowstone Park

Inevitably, the biggest “jams” are “bear jams” – and this is no exception. All this fuss for an itty, bitty black bear.

(Follow the arrow to black speck…)

Walking Rocco in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Wild Flowers

Early summer is prime wild-flower viewing time! This day was loaded with wild treasures.

Baby white flowers

wild flowers in yellowstone national park

wild flowers in yellowstone national park

rocco standing

Seems something got Rocco’s attention. This is what I refer to as his “bear cub stance” – he stands to get a better view!

white flower

buffalo traffic jam yellowstone national park

A trip to Yellowstone is not complete without a bison traffic jam. This “jam” seemed to intrigue all occupants of the car, and I do mean ALL…

rocco looking at bison

buffalo jam yellowstone


…ain’t this the cutest “wild” face you’ve ever seen??


Photo-Bomb Among Montana Wild Flowers

I confess, the infamous “Rebel” is a bit “under the weather” so I have been forced to use my trusty back up, which I’d say in this case, did an exceptionally above average job.

Photos taken today in western Montana – from Plains in route back to the Bo-Zone.

Happy Summer my gentle readers.

Montana Wildflowers

Montana wild flowers




Hey…and look who photo-bombed this Montana wildflower shot!


Where Does The Time Go? I Know Where!

cameron graduation

My child is now an adult (perhaps only in the eyes of the law,) and Sunday he walked across the podium and received his diploma, noting his school career has officially come to an end, college notwithstanding.

He is the very last little chick in the proverbial family nest. For the most part, he’s been particularly easy and effortless from a parenting perspective.

Over the past few weeks, I have continually read (via my Facebook feed) a common parental lament, “Today is little Mikey’s last day of Kindergarten – or Daisy’s last day of Junior High – or, Look who’s going to be a Senior! Oh, where does the time go?”

Many parents ponder the same thing – Where does the time go? But not me. I don’t ponder. I know where the time goes.

From the time your child enters their very first Kindergarten classroom to the point they walk across the grand stage and are handed a diploma, time (read=YOUR TIME) goes into this:

  • The packing and making of roughly 2500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Attending Orientations, Open Houses, Back to School Nights, and Parent/Teacher conferences
  • Suffering through untold number of practices for various sports – in all types of weather
  • Coaching or volunteering to be “team parent” for sports beginning with acronyms like “Pee-Wee,” “Mighty Mights,” and “Tadpoles”
  • Supporting several dozen fundraisers by selling tins of popcorn, kettle corn, boxes of cookies, candy bars, magazines and wrapping paper
  • Referring numerous sibling struggles
  • Carpooling, when calculated would take you to the moon and back. 10 times.
  • Answering the question 6570 times, “Mom, what’s for dinner?”

In the closing high school days, I asked Sexy Hubby, “What will you/do you miss the most?” His answers pulled at my heart-strings. He said, “I miss the warm hugs from little kids. And I miss when my kids looked at me like I knew everything. Now, they think they know everything.”


I must admit, the past 6 weeks have proved to be very challenging (there were a few hiccups in an otherwise “perfect” high school career) and I was ready for high school to be over.

I complained. I argued with my son on a near daily basis. It was mentally exhausting.

Then comes Sunday – G Day – the day in which we hold as the pinnacle for the first 18 years of our child’s life. Graduation Day. A day that marks the passage from childhood to adulthood. A day that is 18- years in the making.

I made it through with flying colors. I was proud, and happy and relieved. Me – the person who cries at the thought of crying, held strong. In fact, the only time I even felt slightly misty was when I watched my mom hug the graduate with tears in her eyes. I looked away. I don’t need a break-down moment after making it this far without a hint of a tear. I could do this!

Then, after saying goodbye to family who travelled to Montana for the ceremonious weekend, after the balloons deflated, after the house returned to normal, I found myself alone. And incredibly sad.

Truth be told, I spent nearly all of the first post-graduation-guests-are-gone morning solidly in tears.

I cried openly, pondering this thought, “It’s OVER, really over. Done. No more kids in school. And as of August 21, no more kids in the house.”

More tears.

More melancholy feelings washed over me. I found myself wondering for the first time, “Where does the time go?” and “How can it really be over?”

In closing, the best answer I have to the question, “Where does the time go?”  is this – time goes into the tears.

Tears of joy.

Tears of pride.

Tears of anguish.

But tears, nonetheless.

Editor’s Notes: This blog post acts as my final regular entry with Montana Parent Magazine. I made the decision a few months ago that when my son graduated, I would step down from my regular postings, opening time in my schedule to discover “what lies ahead.”

I want to personally thank Cora , Shaunescy and Leah and their team of “extreme-moms” for their unwavering support of my ramblings over the years. I was proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these incredibly dynamic and strong women. I will miss you all. Thank you from the bottom of my humbled heart.



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