Personalized Handmade Journals: Black Friday Day Three

Our final Determined to Shine Black Friday offer is here!

By HUGE demand, I have decided to offer customized, handmade junk journals for a VERY limited time. Here are the details:

  • 6″x9″ disc-bound junk journal with plastic protective covers (size does not include discs)
  • Journals are approximately 1.5″- 2″ thick
  • All pages/inserts chosen for YOU based on YOUR favorite colors, designs, and brands
  • Survey for personalization options will be emailed within 48 hours of purchase.
  • Journals will be shipped by December 18, in time for holiday delivery within the United States.(If you need holiday delivery and are in Canada, this can be arranged. Please contact me after placing your order.)
  • $60 + $5 shipping. USA and Canada only.
  • Limited quantity available.

Here’s our Fall Retreat sneak peek video where you can see another journals and learn more about how they are customized (info about the journals starts around the 1:25 mark.)

Here’s a walkthrough of my personal journal, with a few embellished pages:

Order your journal now – LIMITED SUPPLY AVAILABLE. This is a great holiday gift for you or someone you love!




Unleash Your Joy Virtual Retreat: Black Friday Sale Day One

Okay, so Black Friday is a week away. But I’m home with the stomach flu, so I decided to start the party early! I’ll have a few consecutive days of deals – all of which are BRAND NEW offerings!

We’re kicking things off in style with the first-ever Determined to Shine Virtual Retreat!

January 13, 2018
10am-5pm US Central Time (will be recorded – you do NOT need to attend live in order to participate)
Held via Zoom videoconferencing

Our virtual retreat will be a mini version of our fall live retreat, Unleash Your Joy! Here’s what to expect:

  • Discover 17 specific, practical ways to increase the joy in your life.
  • Live online retreat focused on unleashing your joy – we’ll talk about what kills our joy, how to conquer those things, and how to lift ourselves out of bad moods in minutes
  • Use art journaling, guided imagery, and creative techniques to dive deep into discovering your joy, manifesting your dreams, and finding your life purpose.
  • Start a Negativity DetoxTM
  • A full day of live interaction via Zoom videoconferencing – the chance to ask questions, share with others, and participate in a real community. You can join via video or audio-only.
  • The retreat day will include time for both learning and creating together in real time!
  • Pre-retreat video workshop to help you create your own Book Of Joy Art Journal to use during the live retreat
  • Downloadable workbook featuring 17 specific joy-boosting techniques
  • Retreat is recorded and you will have lifetime access to those recordings if you cannot attend live or want to revisit the event at a later time

Retreat price: $119
Black Friday Sale Price: $69 (SAVE $50!)

**Every Black Friday deal is a brand new offering. More details and video announcements will follow. However, the Black Friday price is the BEST price that will be offered, and it’s your reward for taking the plunge and diving into an exciting new offering!**

Moving Beyond Perfection

Meet Sandi.

She discovered her first Determined to Shine class in August 2016 – and has taken every single one of them since then!

Before finding Determined to Shine, Sandi didn’t like to draw and would criticize herself relentlessly if she made a mistake while creating art.

Now, everything is different. Here’s her story:

“I have always enjoyed art, and was often told that I was a good artist, but I never really believed it. I had a LOT of trauma and abuse in my youth, which trashed my self esteem. My high school art teacher told me I was not a good artist. I became a person who would constantly criticize and doubt myself, making it so I did not enjoy drawing.

Determined to Shine has helped me use my art to process what I have experienced in my life, both the good and the bad.

It helped me separate what happened TO me from who I AM, and it has brought more joy into my life. Allyson provided some artistic strategies that help me work through those times where I get stuck in my head or get overly critical or negative about myself or my art. I always know that I have things in place to pick up and use or create to help bring me back to my authentic, happy self.

I’ve learned to stop drawing for the approval of others. I started enjoying the process as much as the final product. I realized that by relaxing and enjoying the process, I usually liked the final product much more. I also realized that when I relax and enjoy the journey, I often learn something about myself or find solutions to problems or issues in my life. The 30 Days of Journaling class was such a beautiful artistic process. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I have repeated the class three times! Each time, I have been able to process different issues in my life, diving deeper into the core of who I really am. I love the transition my art has made with this class – and for the first time, I am actually proud of it!

I learned that I don’t need to change who I am or what I enjoy to please those around me. All that I HAVE to do is be my most authentic self! What others think of me is none of my business – I DO NOT have to spend my life trying to please others. I am not in charge of their feelings. I also learned that it is worth investing in myself, because in doing so, the return on my investment is priceless!!

It’s really hard to choose, but I think my Vision Book from the Envision class is my favorite Determined to Shine class project so far. I have found that having my dreams and goals in a book right at my fingertips has been amazing! I can easily add steps or ideas that come up along the way, and it also gives me a place to document my successes as for positive reinforcement. It covers so many aspects of my life, from health to work to art. I love that you can set up your Envision book to have any sections that you wish, that are relevant to you and your own needs and wants.

 

Signing up for personalized coaching with Allyson was a big investment for me. It was the first time I invested this much in myself, but I am so glad I did! Before Determined to Shine, I never would have invested money on myself in this way. It’s amazing – I will pay to go to the doctor, I will pay for the vitamins and medicines that I “need,” but I would never before have put money into making me a happier, freer person!! And I am SO glad I did!!

I find I am truly happier and more relaxed within my own skin. I know that probably sounds cliché, but I have always spent too much time worrying about how others felt about me and trying to please them.

Life is all about mistakes – about accepting, moving on, and adjusting! Before Determined to Shine, if things weren’t perfect, or I made a small mistake, I would trash it and start over. Now, I move on and look forward to seeing what I create!

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Ready for YOUR transformation?
One spot remains in the Soul Investment Program – your golden ticket to EVERYTHING Determined to Shine offers in 2018. A 20% savings offer is available today only, so don’t miss your only chance to work one-on-one with Allyson in the coming year. Learn more here. Questions about the program? Email allyson@determinedtoshine.net to set up a quick call with Allyson to discuss if the program is right for you.

*****
Sandi’s story and artwork are used with her permission. Each week, Determined to Shine will be featuring a new student story. Interested in being featured? Email support@determinedtoshine.net with the subject line “Featured Student.”

Inspired by Angels: A Holiday Art Journal Project Using Coloring Book Pages

It’s December, and the holiday season has officially arrived. For me, this means I can officially pull out my holiday coloring books. (Because yes, I love adult coloring books so much that I have ones devoted just to the holidays.)

One of my favorites is the Jim Shore Angels Coloring Book, featuring folk art angel images for each holiday, as well as several year-round and religious images.

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I spent some time coloring in this beautiful holiday angel using Copic Sketch markers. (Colors used: E000, E00, E02, E55, Y26, Y32, YR23, YG17, C2, B12, B14, B91, R35) I didn’t color the background or border as I knew I wanted to use the angel image in my art journal.

To create the background of the page, I used a gelli print I’d created earlier. Gelli prints make great art journal backgrounds, and I love having them on hand. (You can learn how to make your own by checking out my Inspired by Autumn blog post.)  I cut out the angel image so I could add it to the background.

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I cut the gelli print to fit my favorite disc-bound art journal, and punched the edges so it would fit inside. I adhered the angel to the background. To finish it off, I grabbed a tube of metallic gold Heidi Swapp Texture Paste.

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I wanted to add a metallic sheen to the page. Using my fingertip, I rubbed a thin layer of texture paste around the edges of the page. Texture paste has a strong, thick consistency, so it’s important to make sure you add a smooth, thin layer.

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To finish it off, I added just the smallest touch of paste to the tips of the angel’s wings. Then I let it dry, and I added it to my art journal.

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I love how this page turned out. I often like to add words to my pages, but in this case, I really felt that less was more. You’ll notice the page is curling up a bit, which is from the gelli print process. The page will flatten out over time inside my journal, so I’m not worried about it at all.

Originally, I wasn’t sure how I felt about adding a Christmas angel to my art journal that’s focused on self-discovery. But in the end, it was perfect. While I was working on the coloring, I was able to reflect on my faith and my thoughts about angels among us. Adding the gold brought it to life, and I love the idea that this holiday angel will be keeping an eye on me all year long.

LEArN MORE

Enjoy this project? Check out my new online class, Coloring Made Meaningful. You’ll discover how to turn your coloring books into inspirational projects for yourself and others. Step-by-step instructions and videos make creating easy. Take this class for lots of easy holiday gift ideas, including step! Or purchase a gift certificate and gift this class to someone you love – along with a coloring book, of course!

2016 PINTEREST PARTY WINTER BLOG HOP

This post is part of the Pinterest Party 2016 Winter Blog Hop. The Pinterest Party is a group that helps people grow their Pinterest following. Find other posts in this blog hop below:

1. Steampunkary – Steampunk Christmas Ornaments & Decorations Gift Guide
2. Grammie Knows How – Winter Essentials for Safety on the Road
3. Determined to Shine – Inspired by Angels: A Holiday Art Journal Project Using Coloring Book Pages (you are here)

Coming soon:
4. dealfindingfamily.com
5. http://unique-christmas-decorations.com/
6. http://kidsfunreviewed.com/
7.  http://littlebloginthecountry.com
8. fitforgod.co
9. birthstonemagic.com
10. http://olives-n-okra.com/
11. http://victorianchristmasparty.com/
12.  housewiveshobbies.com
13. http://essentialoilsforguide.com/blog/
14.  http://www.bestgiftsforhappyliving.com/
15. http://makeupbusinessonline.blogspot.com/
16. http://penniesandplaydough.com

Note: Some product links on this page are affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you purchase products through these links. Your purchase supports the continued availability of Determined to Shine’s free and paid classes.

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New Class: Coloring Made Meaningful

I’m SO excited to announce Determined to Shine’s NEW class – Coloring Made Meaningful!

The adult coloring craze has arrived around the globe, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Many of us LOVE stockpiling coloring books and playing in them while watching TV or spending time to relax. But the question remains: once you’re done – then what?

This class is all about what you do AFTER you’ve completed your coloring book pages. I’ll teach you how to transform your pages into projects that inspire you, help you connect with yourself, and bring joy to others.

Starting now: finishing up your coloring pages is just the beginning!

You’ll receive ideas and step-by-step videos showing you how to turn your coloring into:

  • Art journal and scrapbook pages
  • Cards, envelopes, and gift packaging
  • Home décor
  • Gifts

As with all Determined to Shine classes, we’ll take these projects beyond the surface and talk about why these creations can be so personally powerful.

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You’ll also get these great bonuses:

  • A curated catalog of coloring books with shopping links – I’ve scoured the web and found the best of the best AND the most unique. You’ll discover the coloring books you never knew you needed – from a tribute to Ryan Gosling to a celebration of the ‘90s.
  • A quick course in transforming a vintage book into a colorful index to help you keep track of your markers, pencils, and ink pads. There’s nothing worse than starting to color and realizing the cap doesn’t match the actual color well at all. This project has you covered.
  • A guide to the ins and outs of working with coloring books while respecting copyright laws.

Register Now

Class starts November 18 –  but you can preorder NOW. There are two options available:

Option One: Coloring Made Meaningful Preorder. Class value $59. Preorder price $24. 

  • Reserve your spot in class now. On November 18, you’ll receive an email containing your class access info. REGISTER NOW.

Option Two: Coloring Made Meaningful Preorder + Be Your Own Inspiration. Class value $188. Preorder price $78.

  • Reserve your spot in Coloring Made Meaningful AND get instant access to Be Your Own Inspiration, my super-sized online class that teaches you how to use creativity to overcome fear and create personal breakthroughs. (Note: If you’ve already signed up for Be Your Own Inspiration, you do not need to purchase this again.) REGISTER NOW.

I am so excited to share this class with you!! See you on the 18th!

Resources

Some of the products used on the samples featured on this page include:

Coloring books featured in the video include:

*Some of these links are affiliate links. Determined to Shine LLC will receive a small commission when you purchase through these links, which is used to support Determined to Shine’s free classes. This does not impact your purchase price.
**This class is not endorsed or sponsored by any of the above manufacturers or authors. All products shown were purchased by me.  When working with coloring book and digital images, it’s important that copyright laws are respected and honored. Make sure you do not reproduce book pages unless the coloring book specifically says it’s okay to do so. Otherwise, be sure to use the actual completed pages  from each physical coloring book, rather than making copies. 

Inspired by Autumn: Easy Art Journal Backgrounds with Gelli Prints

Well, it’s officially fall here in Wisconsin. I’m not going to lie, it kind of bums me out. I am SO in love with spring and summer. When fall arrives, it’s hard to treat it as anything besides “pre-winter.”

Earlier today, however, I was outside and looking around at all the colorful leaves, and for once I found inspiration instead of disdain. The landscape of yellow, orange, red, and brown captivated me. It was time to create.

Fall Gelli Print

I headed to my craft table, pulled out my Gelli plate, some acylic paint, and a few stencils, and I got to work.

Check out my video to see my creative process in action. I create several layered gelli prints at once, which are now ready and waiting for use in my beloved art journal.

I also share a bit about art journaling, a quick peek into my latest art journal, and explain why I love it so very much – there are NO rules. Art journaling is all about play. It’s about getting lost in the moment and creating just for you.

Learn More

Like what you see? Sign up for my free 30 Days of Art Journaling class to receive daily email prompts and art journal ideas. Looking for more video? Register now for Be Your Own Inspiration, my super-sized class that will take you deep into the world of art journaling and its power to bring self-discovery and emotional healing.

Recommended Products

Ready to get started? These are my favorite products for gelli printing:

2016 Pinterest Party Fall Blog Hop

This post is part of the Pinterest Party 2016 Fall Blog Hop. The Pinterest Party is a group that helps people grow their Pinterest following. Find other posts in this blog hop below:

Oct 1  How to Create a Halloween Wreath Holly Jolly Holidays
Oct 2 Easy Fall Cake Decorating Ideas Easy Cake Decorating Ideas
Oct 3 Ideas For Hosting A S’mores And Bonfire Backyard Party  Glitter ‘N’ Spice
Oct 4 BirdWatching: 5 Useful Tips to Make it Great Grammie Knows How
Oct 5 Fairy or Gnome Garden in a Pumpkin Little Blog in the Country
Oct 6 Autumn Color Birthstones: Beautiful Red, Orange and Brown Birthstones Celebrate Fall Birthstone Magic
Oct 7 Halloween Decor & Lighting  Miss Frugal Fancy Pants
Oct 8 STAY ON TRACK THIS HALLOWEEN!  Fit for God
Oct 9 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars Southern Family Fun
Oct 10 Autumn Placemats Free Crochet Pattern  Olives & Okra
Oct 11 Art Journal Backgrounds with Gelli Prints Determined to Shine  (you are here!)

Note: All product links on this page are affiliate links. I receive a small commission if you purchase products through these links. Your purchase supports the continued availability of Determined to Shine’s free and paid classes.

Gelli Print Background Techniques for Fall

Crazy BeYOUtiful

There’s been a lot going on in my world. The blog may have been a bit quiet over this past month or so, but my world most definitely has not. I launched 30 Days of Art Journaling, my new free email-based class, and I don’t think I’ve taken a minute off since! More about that in the days and weeks to come.

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In the meantime, I’d like to share the latest episode of Amy Kunkle’s Crazy BeYOUtiful podcast. I had the chance to be a guest on Amy’s show. We talked about my story, the power of creativity to heal, and why I started Determined to Shine.

You’ll also hear a lot about 30 Days of Art Journaling and how women around the world are coming together to share in this creative journey.

Listen in:

You can learn more about the interview on Amy’s site, and there are also some listener-only bonuses for you to enjoy.

So much more to come. 🙂

A Letter to My Four-Years-Ago Self: What I Want You to Know About What Lies Ahead

I wasn’t planning to post today, but I’ve had one of those days where I feel kind of blah and discouraged and tired. And when those feelings hit, one of two things usually happens: I nap, or I write.

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This is the last photo of me from “before,” blissfully unaware of what’s going to happen in just two days. Two days, four years ago. The anniversary of Dan’s death has come and gone. Every year, it’s a little bit different. This year, I just kept thinking of the days and weeks immediately after. After the funeral, after my mother went back home to Illinois, after I went back to work. When I was just trying to survive but had no idea how I could possibly be okay.

I saw an article online recently where young widows were asked what they’d want to tell themselves at the one-year mark. For me, it goes back further. I have some words for that one-week-after-he-died woman, and I hope they bring her some peace today.

Dear Allyson,

Right now I know you are drowning. You are lost. You cannot fathom what it will be like to live this life without him. You haven’t moved his shoes away from the front door where he left them. You keep thinking of things you need to tell him – important things and silly things and little things – all the things you’d only share with him. The truth, as you already know, is that you’re not going to be able to talk to him again. But you will, in time, be okay.

Last week at the visitation, several people told you that everything would be fine because “you’re young and you’ll find love again and can still be a mom.” You stood there in stunned disbelief. How could someone say that to you when a casket was just a few feet away from where you stood? Four years from now, you will indeed find love again, and it will be strong and powerful and real. Make no mistake, however – this does not mean everything will be fine. All of this is still going to hurt, and if anyone tries to make you feel bad about that, you can just tell them to take a walk. They have no idea what this journey is like. But you will, in time, be okay.

I know you’re going to have to take a pregnancy test tomorrow, and you don’t know what you want it to say. You’d been hoping for a child for SO long, but this wasn’t the way you imagined it. I know that the idea of being pregnant right now and being a single parent is terrifying. Take some deep breaths and trust God on this one. The test will be negative. Four years from now, you still won’t quite know how you feel about this. In all likelihood, you aren’t going to be a parent. I know that seems unfathomable, and you’ll even think about adopting as soon as a month or two from now. But there is a different path ahead for you, and when you get there, you’ll know it’s the right path to take. The loss of the child you never got to have with him is still going to hurt. But you will, in time, be okay.

You still cry every night and wonder if it’s going to stop. It’s going to take about six months, but you will finally have a night where you don’t cry. Once you realize that’s happened, you’ll cry again. Your tears heal. Let them fall. I know it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. But you will, in time, be okay.

You wonder what Dan’s death means for your relationship with his family. His family is YOUR family, now and always. Please trust that. You are all grieving, and it’s impossibly hard for all of you right now. There are going to be some times during your grief in which you say things to each other that you don’t mean. In time, you’ll learn that everyone has been hurting, and that you’re stronger together than you are apart. Four years from now, you’ll be chatting with his sister constantly, and you’ll bicker with your father-in-law about Donald Trump. It will almost feel just like it was – perhaps even stronger, somehow. It’s going to be rough in the middle. But you will, in time, be okay.

In about a week, you’re going to find shotgun ammunition in his bedside table drawer. This is going to wreck you. You’ll be able to take the shotgun shells to the police station. You will never be okay with guns again. Four years later, this will still haunt you and this will still hurt. When there are mass shootings and political debates about firearms, it’s going to hurt and bring up many things you won’t want to deal with. Brace yourself, because the next four years are going to be filled with more of these tragedies than you can fathom – starting in just about three weeks in Aurora, Colorado. Do yourself a favor now and in the future. Just turn off the television and don’t engage on Facebook. You do have a valuable perspective. But trying to share it with people who have no interest in hearing it is going to hurt more than it’s going to help. I wish I could provide more comfort to you on this issue. So far, it hasn’t improved – and in many ways, it gets worse. You will start to heal from losing Dan. I don’t yet know if you’re going to heal from finding him. But I have to trust that somehow you will, in time, be okay.

Hold on tight, sweet girl. The road ahead is rough. It will make the other hard things you’ve dealt with in your life look like a walk in the park. You’ll clean up your house in Iowa, paint new rooms, and make it start to feel like a place you can feel at home in once again – only to turn around and decide you need to leave. Moving will be hard. You’ll move away from Iowa not yet knowing where you’re going to live. You’ll have to do a job interview on your wedding anniversary. You will spend those first few weeks in a new state alone wondering if you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life. You haven’t. You will, in time, be okay.

Before I go, there are just a few logistical things I’d like to address:

  • Stop letting Gracie eat cheese with you when you’re sad. She’s already overweight, and it’s going to get worse. It’ll take four years for her to get back to a reasonable weight – in fact, she’ll get to a healthy Beagle weight for the first time ever. When she does, she’ll be more energetic than she has been in years – which is a great thing and an exhausting thing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  • Just hire Todd now to take care of the lawn. You’ll try. You’ll have to run down the street to get someone to help you start the motor. It will be ridiculously hard for you. You’ll hate it and cry a lot. Save yourself the trouble and let Todd take care of it. He’ll do a great job, and you’ll get to sit on the porch drinking lemonade. It’s a much better deal, I promise.
  • It’s okay if you want to indulge yourself right now. Some VIP seats to see Taylor Swift are going to come up for sale in a few months. Go ahead and splurge. It’ll be the best concert you’ve ever attended.
  • You do not have as much time as you think you do to pack boxes and load them into the POD for the moving truck. Start early or you’ll have to spend three nights in a row sleeping for just two hours, and you’ll be cleaning out a garage at 1 a.m. in tears because it’s still not over. Be thankful, though, for your next door neighbors. They’ve been there for you in 100 ways so far, and they will be there for you right up to the last minute. Those 17 trash bags on your driveway you have no idea what to do with? They’ve got it handled. But really, it would be much easier for you if you just got started on time.

My heart breaks for you right now, and tears run down my cheeks as I write these words. The pain you’re going through is unbearable and unfathomable. And to make it worse, for a while you’re going to try to keep it to yourself. I know that you don’t want people to have to know how bad it is. But they love you. They can handle it, because they know what you don’t know quite yet. That you will, in time, be okay.

Love yourself and trust your gut. It won’t let you down. After all, I’m living proof. Because even though it still hurts like hell and I weep right now as I write to you, I think that maybe, just maybe, I might be okay after all.

A Tale of Two Love Stories

So here we are. It’s about that time of year again, just a few days away from the four-year anniversary of my husband’s death. My “on this day” Facebook memories reveal a four-years-ago me who was celebrating a year in her first house, going on one of the best long weekend vacations of her life, and hoping to be a mom. She had NO idea what was coming.

Every year as I watch these memories pop up, I somehow want to go back and warn her. I don’t know if I want to tell her to soak it in while she can or to flee for the hills. But either way, something bad is coming. She just doesn’t know it yet.

This year, I’m more aware of it than ever. Spending the last several months working on the re-launch of Determined to Shine has been a somewhat strange process. It’s been exciting, finally getting the class ready and really pulling all these pieces together that I’ve dreamed about for several years now.

But it’s not lost on me that all of this great stuff is possible because something really horrible happened.

Many of you know this part of my story. Boy meets girl, they become best friends, and seven years later, they finally tie the knot. Then before you know it, there’s a puppy and a house and a picket fence and hopes for a baby on the way.

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Many of you know this part, too. That things didn’t go as planned. That things went horribly, horribly wrong. He pulled the trigger, and just like that I was a widow at 31. Then before I knew it, it was sleepless nights and PTSD and how-am-I-ever-going-to-get-through-this.

I once wrote that grief is a long, tricky spiraly thing. As the four-year anniversary of my husband’s death approaches, I know this to be more true than ever. The more time goes by, the more I understand and accept that in more ways than one, this cycle will continue for the rest of my life. It changes and moves and shifts – the only constant part of this grief is that in some way, it’s always there.

It’s been incredibly obvious to me that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t loved Dan – and if I hadn’t lost him. But he is no longer the only man in my story – and this is the part I haven’t yet told you.

It was October 25, 2013. I was getting ready for what I was convinced would be my last first date, at least for quite some time. Not because I was so sure about this new man. But because precisely the opposite was true. I’d gone on a few first dates since moving to Madison and trying out the online dating scene, and I was just tired. It wasn’t working for me. It was a big city, and I was lonely without the friends and family I’d be surrounded by in Iowa. But this dating thing was just not working out. A few dates were awful. A couple were just awkward. In one instance, it didn’t feel like a romance was brewing, but I made a friend. (Hey, Kevin!) But I was tired, and I was just done. I’d already committed to meet this one last guy, and I thought it would be rude to cancel. So I found myself walking into a restaurant that October 25.

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TJ was handsome. He was sweet. He was adorably nervous. I’d soon find out that I was his first date back on the scene after his own marriage ended.

“Oh my gosh,” I said. “Are you okay? The first date back is terrifying.”

He laughed. “Thank you. You’re right. It is.”

Just two days later, TJ met me for lunch downtown. He showed up and told me he had a gift for me, and he promptly presented me with a bag of cheddar cheese curds.

A message to my friend after lunch: “He showed up with cheese. I’m pretty sure I’m going to marry him.”

A year would go by before we’d spend more than two days apart. (But don’t get any funny ideas about that marriage thing – we’re quite happy just as we are.)

I often hear from people that falling in love again somehow negates the past or means that I should no longer be grieving. Or that it means I didn’t really love my husband in the first place. Or that I couldn’t really love TJ. Somehow, there is still an idea floating around out there that a person should only love one person in a lifetime.

These comments slice like knives. I met my husband during my first week of college. We were best friends for nearly four years before we started dating, near the end of my senior year at the University of Iowa. When he died, we were approaching six years of marriage and ten years together. I had, quite literally, spent pretty much my entire adult life loving this man. How could that possibly mean nothing?

A few years before he died, Dan and I were talking about what would happen if one of us died young.

“I’d never love again,” I instantly replied.

He paused. “For your sake, I really hope that’s not true.”

And it wasn’t.

Falling in love again doesn’t mean I don’t grieve, and it doesn’t mean that I’m not still hurting. I miss my best friend. I miss the life we shared, and I miss the promise of a future and children that never got to be realized. Falling in love again does not change this. It does not make the trauma any less severe. It does not make the pain of the past go away.

But I do not live in my past. I live in today – and falling in love again has made my today pretty great.

Loving TJ has given me so much. It’s allowed me to understand that losing a great love does not mean I cannot experience great love again. To understand that endings do not mean that no new beginnings are possible. To understand that after great darkness, there can be light again.

TJ and I have shared game nights and 5Ks in tutus and Disney World and dancing in the street. He brings out the best in me, keeps me grounded when I’m anxious, and loves it when my inner child comes out to play – preferably with Legos.

His kind heart and genuine concern for every person he meets bring me joy I hadn’t known in a very long time.

I have learned that love is not a zero-sum game. To give it to one does not take it away from another. I spent ten years in love with Dan. His place in my heart remains, and always will.

TJ’s presence in my life has not made Dan’s grow smaller. It has simply made my heart grow larger. As humans, we have a somewhat infinite capacity to love. When a mother has a second child, she loves the child as much as the first, and she does not love the first any less.

This is the life I’m living today. Together, TJ and I are building a new chapter of our lives. We love each other fully and completely. We live for today, because we know that today is the only one we are guaranteed.

Obviously, I certainly would never wish anyone an early or traumatic end to a marriage. But there is something somewhat magical about having been loved – and getting to love – two different men so deeply in this one short lifetime.

As the anniversary of the worst day of my life approaches, I know that my heart has grown larger. That I have experienced love and compassion and joy beyond what I knew was possible. I am strong. I am loved. I am grateful. And I remain, as ever, determined to shine.