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bali beauty

bali beauty

I’ve been a little MIA lately, I know. I normally post each week, as topics bubble up and pester me until I write about them. I had planned to write while on holiday in Bali, Indonesia, with my Aussie family… but something really weird happened that prevented me from doing so. Yeah, it’s called a ‘converter’ and apparently I own 5 because I forget to bring mine every single time I travel internationally so I end up buying another one… well this time was no different. I hauled this huge, heavy laptop through multiple flights and countries with the intent to write while I was gone. But noooooooo, I forgot the converter (shocker) and therefore had no power. No juice. Nuncas. Nada. Niet. Could I have purchased another converter? Yes. Did I want to? Uh, no. I was so irritated that I had forgotten AGAIN that I thought I would just punish myself by being ‘in the moment’ the entire trip… ha! What a punishment, indeed. I completely checked out from the blog, from my troubles, from my sadness, and I was absolutely enjoying every single moment of my trip to Bali.

I arrived 12 hours earlier than the rest of my family, so they had hired a driver to take me anywhere I wanted to go. To the driver, that translated to: “Take her to all the stupid, expensive touristy traps and try to get a commission for referring her.”  I’m not a super savvy traveler like my sister or my cousin, but I know when I smell like fresh meat. I politely enjoyed the places the driver showed me, bought nothing, and after half a day of stuff I couldn’t care less about, I asked him to take me to the grocery store and then I went home for a nap. I have some seriously unpredictable sleep issues and it’s always a welcomed surprise when I can pass out for a good few hours. And that I did. Bali was hot and muggy and decided to offer me an amazing downpour of rain, but the air conditioning in my room was divine. I slept. I slept. I slept. Some would say that was a waste of a first day, but when you’re sleep deprived, alone, and in danger of feeling sad all the time, sleep is the best way to spend the day. Unmedicated sleep is even better. Amen. Halleluyer. Honey, I slept.

I had no idea what I was in for on this trip. I trust my cousin June blindly… she has never let me down and always dutifully researches our destinations and activities, checks trip advisor, the whole shebang. I am actually quite lucky because all I have to do is show up.  In fact, I think those were her exact instructions, “Book the flight and rock up. I’ll take care of the rest.” And wow, did she!!! She has been to Bali many, many times. I was in safe hands! Our villa was stunning. It had four bedrooms, 1 downstairs and three upstairs. 3 bathrooms, a huge ‘great room’, stocked kitchen, two gorgeous patios and… drum roll please… a pool inside the living room with an open ceiling to view the sky. Amazing. Simply amazing. There was no air conditioning in the house except for the bedrooms, so imagine hot humid rainy blazing heat while sitting on a leather couch. Gross. I stopped in to my room quite often for a reprieve, but to be quite honest you get used to it after a bit and choose to just enjoy the little things. Like mosquito spray and insect repellent and anti-itch cream, to name a few.

From the minute my cousins arrived, there were jokes and howling laughter. Ice cold Bintang beers all around (you just HAD to… even water wouldn’t cut it!)… and more laughter. I was transported out of my own world, my own head, my misty eyed loneliness into the world of cousins and family and love and laughter. We listened to my cousin Glen tell the longest story in the history of mankind, pausing only to crack a few jokes at each other’s expense or to fall out of a chair and break some front porch pottery… suffice it to say, day one was an absolute success! We ended it by jumping into the pool fully clothed and swimming during a downpour of rain, inside the living room. I can’t even describe how cool that moment was. How original and special and crazy!

My cousin, Junie had recently read my blog post entitled god moments and loved the ‘what are the odds?’ question. We spent some time over the two weeks marveling out how many signs and wonders are around us at all times and how we just need to be open and willing to see them. Junie recently lost her father, someone she loved dearly and personally cared for through his last few years of life. She’s a tough cookie 6 days of the week, but sometimes she has moments of true tenderness and very few people can bring those moments out of her. She loved my son as her own, and we spent many nights around the patio table talking about her dad, ‘our’ son, and others who have gone but left their marks on our hearts. It’s good for the soul to talk about things even if they make you cry and snot and sob. It’s good to get it out and give life and words and presence to those feelings. My cousin Junie is my family-by-choice and truly a forever friend. We are very different people, with opposite styles and conflicting political views at times… but we are often inside each other’s heads and say the same thing at the same time, then laugh our heads off and say, “What are the odds?” Our favorite new question for anyone who would question the signs and wonders we are given.

There is so much of Bali I wish we could incorporate into our American lives… I think a few of my favorite observations were their love of people, their incredible spiritual dedication, the joy that is innately woven throughout their culture, and the beauty of their simplicity and struggles. I met two families and fell in love with both. They taught me about their religion, their beliefs, their motivations, and their lifestyle. I sat in a roadside café (which was a kitchen on a porch of a family’s home) and ate the most incredible food… dude, I mean incredible. Another family invited a couple of us (the early risers) to come over for Bali coffee (or kopi as they say). We sat on the porch of a two room home that houses a father, mother, and two teenage boys. By two rooms, I mean kitchen and 1 bedroom.  Beautiful and simple. No excess. No waste. Only essentials. Their home was right next to a temple with three altars and right behind a stand-alone altar. To say these folks are religious ain’t no joke. They make a sacrifice to their gods every single morning and every single night. The offerings litter the streets, decorate storefronts, and are visible in each home and restaurant and business. It’s the real deal over there. I wish I had half of the discipline in my relationship with the Lord that these people do… my faithfulness and diligence to spend time in prayer and to offer up sacrifices is severely deficient when compared to the Balinese.  Note to self: you make time for what is important to you.  They inspired me on such a deep, spiritual level, I know the changes I need to make in my own walk with God.

aMasongrace project

We witnessed a Hindu celebration where the entire village walked for miles, dressed in their finest ceremonious garb, bringing fruit, and meats, and offerings to the temple. There was music, laughter, singing, incense, and joyful celebration. We never figured out what the celebration was for, but we were thrilled to be witness to bits and pieces of it as we rode packed like sardines in the back of a pickup truck on the island of Lembongan. Taxi anyone?  Another adventure included feeding and riding elephants, trying Louac poop coffee (yes, the animal eats the coffee berry and excretes the bean which is then roasted the old fashioned way and ground into coffee for your drinking pleasure), and visiting a holy tree and holy water fount, which is eternally protected by wild monkees. I saw a baby monkey accept a banana from a visitor and his mother promptly smacked him in the head and took the banana away from him. Ahhhhh, the joys of motherhood.

We took a moment to walk deep down into the ravine and found the spring of holy water and blessed ourselves, left an offering, and proceeded to head back up the bazillion stairs to where the ice cold Bintangs were. We are reverent to a point, but seriously it was hot and our clothes were soaked in sweat, and the beer was refreshing. Don’t judge. We didn’t feel too bad about it either because that day we had seen some pretty graphic statues of elephants mating and monkeys with enlarged male parts. Nothing you would ever see in America, so of course my eyes were wide with surprise the entire time. Beer me, please.

aMasongrace project

Lunch was fun… we had a few surprise visitors (geckos, the norm, and a cute little rat that my fam tried to convince was a possum). I was proud of myself for not screaming. You know I’m reeeeaaallllyyyy trying to get better at enjoying ‘the nature.’ I just got up out of my seat and back away and took a picture… I think he was headed right for me until someone squealed (might have been me, but do I really need to admit that?) and he turned around and climbed a little higher into the rafters. Dear sweet, baby Jesus, thank you for that. I just wasn’t ready for RAT nature.  On the way home we did a mini photo scavenger hunt and tried to capture real life shots… like the school bus (a truck filled with 25-30 middle school students standing in the bed, holding on for dear life as the driver careened through town using the old ‘pick a lane any lane’ driving style). We saw rice drying in the driveways of homes, freshly picked from the rice patties. Prissy American girl thinks to herself, “Is that sanitary?” then says back to herself, “Oh shut up. It’s real life. Let it go.” We saw a funeral procession, with the body wrapped in cloth and being carried down a long country road toward a cemetery. Sometimes, when the family doesn’t have enough money, they just bury the body in the ground until they can have a joint ceremony with another family or until they have enough money to do a proper cremation. Then they dig up the body of their loved one (yep, no joke) and proceed with festivities and cremation. Prissy American girl shed a few tears over this one and had to tell herself to get a grip. This is real life, remember?

aMasongrace project

We snorkeled and saw a gazillion amazing types of fish, we ate the best nasi goring ever created (fried rice with chicken mixed in and a fried egg on top…holy heaven on earth!), and we swam in fancy hotel pools with swim up bars and Vegas priced drinks. We ran the gauntlet on scooters… yes, Prissy American girl drove her own scooter on the chaotic, insane, busy streets of Indonesia! You think Californians are bad drivers??? You should see this Vegas girl on a scooter… Thankfully, the Balinese were patient with me and did their best to look out for me and not let me die on their streets. I squealed every time my scooter took off like a rocket which prompted laugh after laugh from June and Simmo! Days later, Simmo actually rode my scooter and discovered it had waaayyyy more power than either of theirs… hello?!?!? Squealing fully justified.

aMasongrace project

So many new adventures, so many new faces, smells, tastes… I feel so blessed and privileged to have had this experience. I challenged myself every day to be present, to take the moments as they came, and to just chill out with people who love me and love my son and understand that I’m not completely whole but accept me just as I am. While they slept at night, I’d open the doors and windows of the villas and let the beautiful tropical breeze flow through. Or if it was raining, I’d watch the storm and say my prayers, and give thanks for all things. God gives and God takes away. Who am I to only be grateful when He gives? Who am I to question His thoughts, plans, or intentions? Every single day I ask Him to use me for good in this world. I ask Him to open my eyes so can see more and appreciate more and live more. I thank Him for these special moments and let the tears flow, because they still seem to need to come out. Often.

I also laugh every single day. I don’t just chuckle. I throw my head back and flaunt my stunning dental work. I howl. I laugh and laugh and laugh. For grieving moms, I hope you read this and let it soak in. You will laugh again.  Didn’t think I could breathe again, much less smile or laugh. But I want to encourage you and tell you, mother to mother, you will laugh again and it is okay. It is absolutely okay. Laughter heals. So do tears. They heal too. I laugh and cry every single day. It’s exhausting and energizing at the same time. Weird, huh? Hard to understand, so I sometimes stop trying. It just is. There is no recipe for grief. No right way. No easy way. And, if there was, I would be the first to find it. So I keep putting one step in front of the other and trusting that the way is opening before me and I am doing whatever is required of me… to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

Speaking of putting one foot in front of the other, my beloved cousin and I got matching tattoos while in Bali. Our own special moment for ‘our’ son; A tribute to a boy who deeply impacted us and the world around him. His middle name was Justice and he believed in justice and fairness and second chances. June put his name on her right foot, because as she says, “I always puts my best foot forward.” I put his name on my left foot because I am his shmuvver. I lead, he follows, and is always with me.  They say you can’t take anything with you when you go, but I sure hope I get to show him my tattoo!!!

aMasongrace project

I wanted to share bits and pieces of Bali in this post, but also hoped to communicate some of the feelings I experienced along the way. I could write a book on those two weeks and the impact that trip had on me… but who has time to read that?!?! Maybe another day I’ll share more. I just know that traveling has been so therapeutic for me and I learn more about the world and my teeny, tiny role in it every time I see a new place. I am in awe of how other people live with nothing and are grateful for everything. I am impressed by an entire culture of kindness, where smiles actually matter and concern for your afterlife is deeply ingrained in each living person from a very early age. Humans are just human, but I’ve seen some that are actually better at it than I am. That makes me want to be better.

Thank you for traveling with me on this journey. It’s been almost 8 months since Mason left, and yet I see him everywhere. I’m not crazy. I’m seriously blessed. Even in the most horrific moments of our lives, we can find hope. In fact, it’s during those moments where hope is most alive. I still have stomach problems and I get sick every time I come home. I still struggle emotionally and ache for the funniest boy who ever lived. I still walk with sadness and Grief is still my girlfriend… but I am breathing easier, I am laughing quicker, and I am feeling like there is a divine purpose in all of this of which I am privileged to be a part. More soon…

 phone upload jan 2014 1282

~It’s just me






  • Debbie
    Posted at 15:18h, 30 January Reply

    Such a beautiful post Holly! Your trip to Bali sounds like a dream. It sounds like a fun and carefree trip. I’m so happy your heart is healing Holly. I pray for more good days for you. May the bad days silently slip away. xoxo

  • Sarah
    Posted at 15:33h, 30 January Reply

    So beautiful Holly! What a magical experience, you absolutely deserve every happiness, freedom and all the love in the world. You are amazing!!! xxx

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