Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Year of Grieving.

I am writing this one year after my dad was placed in hospice care. He had been battling Stage 4 lung cancer with brain mets for four and a 1/2 years. Six months before hospice, we found out that the cancer had spread to the spinal fluid. He made it through the summer, just long enough to be at my wedding in September 2017. A couple of months later, the medication stopped working, and we knew it was time to call in the hospice troops.

It's a very strange feeling, to know that a person you love as much as I loved my dad, was going to die. I suppose we knew all along, but since he beat so many odds, we were always hopeful that he would keep pulling through. Until suddenly, he wasn't. During the 3 months that he was in hospice care, my dad and I had some incredible conversations. He never stopped telling me how much he loved me, or that I was pretty. We talked about heaven and angels, and how much he was looking forward to being reunited with his family. That's the beautiful, true, and oddly joyous part of the journey.

But what I haven't talked much about is this. During that time, I was praying for him to go. He was not in pain, but he was miserable. He could not get out of bed, he was eating very little, he was weak, and he just wasn't happy. I hated that for him. And, truthfully, I was also tired. Tired of being on constant alert, tired of waiting for him to call for one of us in the middle of the night. Tired of walking into the living room where he laid, wondering if he would still be there. I'd often close my eyes as I walked in, to prepare myself. So I began to pray that God would take him. I couldn't understand- if he was supposed to go, if it was his time, why wasn't he going? Why was God letting us just live in this constant state of fear?

The day that my dad took a downward turn was unexpected. I had been with him in the morning. He asked me for orange pop. I laughed, and then started to cry. I told him that I didn't understand this, and that he was a mystery to me. But, I gave him his orange pop, and gave him a kiss on the head, told him that I was going home for a bit to rest. A few hours later, my mom called me. She said that he was breathing kind of weird. I told her to call the nurse back, which she did. I rushed back over to the house, and could sense something was drastically different. He was barely speaking, and he looked scared. I remember asking him if he thought that maybe this was his time, and he nodded.

For the next three days, my entire family spent every moment at that house. There was often 4 or more of us in the room, surrounding him. He could no longer speak, and wasn't moving at all. We would occasionally get eye contact. The nurses and aides from the hospice were in a constant rotation. Very early in the morning on February 10th, I came downstairs to relieve my brother and immediately noticed that my dad's breathing had changed to a rapid breathing. I called my mom from my cell phone and told her to get downstairs. I ran back into the room where my brother and Sara were sleeping and told them I thought something was changing. My mom and I sat with my dad, holding his hand and telling him that we loved him. All of the sudden, his arm reached up to the sky. Let me remind you, he had not moved in three days. At all. In that moment, he took one last breath. I do believe my dad was trying to let us know that he was going somewhere amazing, and that someone was coming to get him. The comfort I have from that very last moment is one I can't possibly describe. It was my validation that he was going to be okay.

But, with that comfort, came guilt. I had been praying for him to go, and now he was gone. I immediately wanted to take back my words, my prayers, my wishes. I couldn't believe how stupid I was for doing that. And I have carried that guilt with me every day since. I buried it deep, so that I don't have to think about it, but it creeps up. It's there, and it is very real. It is a feeling I wouldn't wish upon anyone, because it has caused me to begin a war with myself.

In the year that has passed, I have learned so much about grief. That it can come out as anger, that it hits you at all different moments. I've learned that grief is complicated, because not one person grieves the same as anyone else. I've learned that some days I feel okay, and then feel guilty about feeling okay. I've learned I've already forgotten his voice. I've learned that it's lonely. There are very few people who ask me how I am doing. They ask how my mom is doing. And don't get me wrong, I know that losing your spouse is 10000 times harder than losing a parent. But it doesn't help. And when people ignore it, ignore that I am hurting deeply, that's also lonely. Grief skyrocketed my anxiety and my depression. The sadness that enveloped me over the last year was one I never want to experience, nor do I want anyone in my life to experience it.

I dedicated (and will continue to) dedicate a lot of my time to helping my mom. Going with her to different things, spending Sunday nights with her. A new form of guilt began to rise- am I doing enough for her? Am I spending enough time there? I'm not at home enough- am I hurting Tom while helping my mom? This began a separate battle in my mind, one that told me that I am not good enough. That dagger is one that still stings, and that I still carry with me.

And then there is the simple, yet oh so complex, truth of the matter- I just miss my dad. I miss his jokes, his encouragement, the way he wanted to be involved in my life. He was my phone call every day after work. I called him about the celebrations and I called him when I needed advice. He never shied away from telling me how proud he was of me. He built me up, and he recognized the things I was doing in my life. There were so many times this year when I needed to hear him. And I couldn't.

Three times since my dad passed, I've been compared to him. I do not agree. But I realized, I am trying to be like him. And truly, what a person to live up to. I will do my best. I won't ever replace that incredible man, but if I can display just some of the patience, kindness, and encouragement that he gave out into the world, I would be satisfied with that.

There are moments of light, of course. The connections I made with strangers in my grief group, the way I embraced and was embraced by The Barre Code community, how I grew closer with my coworkers, and most importantly, how strong my relationship with my mom has gotten. Those are things I do not take for granted, and I do not forget. But I cannot sit here and talk about my grief, without addressing my pain. I have to let it out somehow.

I do not write this piece for sympathy. I write it because it is the truth. It is a true reflection of how grief has affected me. This will likely not be the last time I write about grief, but boy did it feel good to let this out. My only hope is that someone else connects with this, and finds it helpful to know that they are not alone.

Dad, I miss you, I love you, I'm sorry, and I'm proud of you and the ever lasting impact you made on Earth.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Favorite Tweets!

This post is especially for Julie, Kristen, and Jess who promised me that they still enjoy my Favorite Tweets list. I am still active on Twitter- it's my favorite way to get news, see funny memes, and connect with people who have similar interests as me. So here we go, here are some of my favorite funny tweets this year:

And last but not least, a very special tweet from my three favorite people:

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Top 2018 Albums

This was an unusual year in music for me. The majority of my usual favorites did not release albums this year, so I found myself branching out a little bit. So, I actually included a couple of EP's on here that were so good, I couldn't stop listening. Those EP's made it pretty high up on my list! Let's get to the list, shall we?

10. Ariana Grande; Sweetner
No, this pop album doesn't include her latest hit "Thank U, Next", but it does include some great pop tunes. I've been saying for a couple of years now that Ariana Grande is the strongest female pop star we have, and I guess the rest of the world has caught on. She releases smash after smash, and even with all she's been through, she seems almost indestructible.

Top Tracks:
Get Well Soon "Want you to get better/my life is so controlled by all the what if's/is there anybody else who's mind does this/is there such a ladder to get up off this?"
No Tears Left To Cry "They point out all the colors in you, I see em too, and boy I like em"
Breathin Time goes by and I can't control my mind/Don't know what else to try, but you tell me every time/Just keep breathin' and breathin' and breathin' and breathin'

9. Brandi Carlile; By The Way, I Forgive You
This woman's voice is no joke. She is a story teller, which is a running theme amongst my favorite albums this year. A little folky, a lot of power. Give this one a good solid listen when you have the time to truly pay attention to the lyrics.

Top Tracks:
Every Time I Hear That Song:  They told me the best revenge would be a life well lived/and the strongest one that holds would be the hardest one to earn
Harder To Forgive:  I have suffered for the peace inside my mind/And some things are better left unsaid/While some things work out different when they're in your head
Party of One:  I am tired/I don't wanna go home anymore/I don't wanna throw stones anymore/I don't wanna take part in the war

8. Florence and The Machine,  High As Hope
Another powerhouse of a woman who can tell beautiful stories through song. Her lyrics and her vocals are haunting and beautiful. 

Top Tracks:
Sky Full of Song Be careful my darling/Be careful of what it takes/What I've seen so far/The good ones always seems to break
Big God: Sometimes I think it's gettin' better/And then it gets much worse/Is it just part of the process?Well, Jesus Christ, it hurts
HungerTell me what you need, oh, you look so free/The way you use your body, baby, come on and work it for me/Don't let it get you down, you're the best thing I've seen/We never found the answer but we knew one thing/We all have a hunger

7.  Imagine Dragons, Origins
Imagine Dragons came in hot at the end of the year with a new album, which I was not expecting since they just released one last year.  This band always has great tunes, and ones that lift me up and motivate me during tough workouts. Their grit is really something special.

Top Tracks:
Bullet In A Gun: How many voices go unheard?/How many lessons never learned?/How many artists fear the light,/Fear the pain, go insane?/Lose the mind, lose yourself
Bad Liar: So look me in the eyes, tell me what you see/Perfect paradise, tearin' at the seams/I wish I could escape, I don't wanna fake it
Natural: I can taste it, the end is upon us, I swear/Gonna make it/I'm gonna make it

6. NeedtoBreathe, Forever On Your Side (EP)
NeedtoBreathe has been one of my favorite bands for years. Like Imagine Dragons, they have a grit and power behind them. This EP only has 4 songs, but they are powerful songs. Can't wait for a full length album in the next few years!

Top Tracks:
BulletsI ain't made to carry/All this weight on my own/Oh, it's way too heavy/And I can't be that strong
Forever On Your Side (With Johnnyswim): Take my hand when you can't see the light/'Cause I'm forever on your side/I will carry you every time/'Cause I'm forever on your side

5. Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
I kept hearing about this album and when I finally sat down and listened to it, I understood the hype. Kacey is a breath of fresh air and just what is needed in country music. Solid tunes with incredible lyrics! This album is like a warm hug. It's so tender and genuine.

Top Tracks:
Happy & Sad: And I'm the kind of person who starts getting kinda nervous/When I'm having the time of my life
Rainbow:Well, the sky is finally opened, the rain and wind stopped blowin'/But you're stuck out in the same old storm again/You hold tight to your umbrella, but darlin' I'm just tryin' to tell ya/That there's always been a rainbow hangin' over your head
Space Cowboy:When a horse wants to run, there ain't no sense in closing the gate/You can have your space, cowboy

4. David Cook, Chromance (EP)
This EP came out so long ago I almost forgot it was released in 2018. If you want to talk about underrated artists, David Cook is at the top of that list. He consistently delivers with incredible vocals and lyrics. IF you haven't given him a chance yet. here's your chance to give a solid EP a listen.

Top Tracks:
Gimme Heartbreak:I'm the puppet that's hanging from your thread/You're the name of my madness/I don't want to get you out of my head
Warfare: Baby this is warfare/This is a battle/If I can't have you/Nothing else matters/Fightin' for your love

3. Lauren Daigle, Look Up Child
I've known about Lauren Daigle for a couple of years now and have appreciated her refreshing, raspy take on Christian music. This album is really something special, it's incredibly strong and beautiful in both her vocals and the lyrics. It's brought me great comfort over these 12 months, and it's difficult to even pick my top tracks.

Inevitable: Set Your promise to play on repeat in my head/When You meet my anxiety put it to death
Rescue: I will never stop marching/To reach you in the middle of the hardest fight/It's true, I will rescue you
You Say: You say I am loved when I can't feel a thing/You say I am strong when I think I am weak/You say I am held when I am falling short/When I don't belong, oh You say I am Yours

2.  Lennon Stella; Love, Me
This EP is actually the reason I decided to include EP's on this list. I knocked off some of my favorte full length albums to make room. Listen here. Lennon Stella is going to be a force in the pop music industry, and I'm going to be so proud to say that I was HERE for it. Yes, she might be 12 years younger than me, but her songs are pure pop perfection and I cannot help but bop along when I am listening. If you are a sucker for pup music and can appreciate a little rasp, you will love this EP! 

Top Tracks (They are all golden, but here are the two I listen to the most)
La Di Da :Your empty words made for hurting me/So just before you take it too far/I'll hold my ears/Say la da da di da
Bad: I probably should've known better/I probably should've known better/Every word you said you was sweet but you was lying/Everything you covered up, making up just to keep to me from crying

1. A Star is Born Soundtrack
It's pretty unusual for me to list a soundtrack as my top album (I checked all my lists since 2009, and the only other soundtrack to make my list was the Pitch Perfect soundtrack in 2012, coming in at number 8). But this soundtrack is just so good. I probably don't need to tell you how incredible Lady Gaga is, I think by now people get that she has an amazing voice. But match her vocals with Bradley Cooper's rasp, and some incredible songwriting, and you have the perfect soundtrack! I even love the cheesy pop songs that are supposed to be horrible. (Heal me is SO good!). 

Top Tracks:
I'll Never Love Again: And I want to pretend that it's not true/Oh baby, that you're gone/'Cause my world keeps turning, and turning, and turning/And I'm not movin' on
Always Remember Us This Way: The part of me that's you will never die
Shallow: I'm off the deep end/watch as I dive in/I'll never meet the ground/crash through the surface where they can't hurt us/we're far from the shallow now

I've made a little playlist with my top tracks from each of these albums to give you a Sampler :)

2018 albums

A playlist featuring Ariana Grande, Brandi Carlile, Florence + The Machine, and others

I also made an Essential 15 playlist with some amazing jams from 2018:

the essential 15

A playlist featuring Bruno Mars, Sugarland, Shoshana Bean, and others

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Grief Aids

It should be no surprise that 2018 was a really rough year. The loss of my dad, and the grief that came with it, hit me hard. While that may seem "normal", it doesn't mean it was easy. I was also not expecting for my anxiety to go for a wild ride. The grief triggered anxiety, which triggered sadness. I speak about it now because I am tired of the stigma that surrounds mental health. And, to be quite frank, I'm tired of saying "I'm fine" or "I'm doing okay" in the rare occasion people ask how I'm doing. Mostly, I've found people don't want to talk about it.

I put immense pressure on myself to be the best daughter and wife that I could possibly be, and when I felt I had not lived up to the expectations I put on myself, I tore myself down. I got angry with myself when I saw an increase on the scale, knowing full well that I had gained a ton of muscle, but instead of believing that truth, I told myself lies about my body and my health. Also, grief can be very lonely, and I felt that. I felt it hard.

There's also the overwhelming obvious fact that my dad, my rock, is not here. Talking to him is not the same. He's not here. I can't pick up the phone and call him to share good news and to hear him say that he is proud of me. I can't call him when I need his advice. I can't get one of his hugs or look into his blue eyes. There were so many times this year when HE was the person I needed, and he wasn't here. And while it's true that he's looking out for me, and that he lives in my heart, and all those other cliche things people tell you about someone dying, it doesn't change the fact that he's. not. here.

That is not to say, though, that there were not moments where light shined through. There were, indeed, moments of healing. Which is really what I came here to talk about. I am not cured, and I may not even be "fine". But I am on my way to healing, at least a little bit, and I can recognize the people, places, and things that helped me to get to this point. I'm going to refer to them as my Grief Aids. Because, like a band aid, they did not cure me, but for a moment or two, they made me feel just a little bit better. I was trying to determine the best way to share these Grief Aids with you. I thought about making a long blog post listing all of them, but since I so rarely get comments on my blog, I am not sure that is the best way to do it anymore. So I have decided that throughout the month of December, I will post about these Grief Aids on Instagram. You will see people who have stood by me, music that has touched my heart, podcasts that served as a distraction, and more.

I have learned that it is important to hold onto the things that make you feel a little less alone. To use the tools that calm your anxieties before it gets out of hand. To turn to things that make you smile when all you want to do is cry. To grasp the things that make you feel alive, even for just a moment, when you feel numb. Life is hard, but it's possible to get through it, with little bursts of healing here and there.

Maybe the things that comforted me will bring the same to you. Maybe we can continue to share these tools, and have these conversations, instead of ignoring the pain and suffering.

Monday, November 12, 2018

It will all be okay...right?

We had our first snow on Friday morning. I was a little anxious about driving in it. I know my brakes a probably do for a change. But I had a 7 am meeting with a hospital that I don't physically get to very often. I was worried about calling into the meeting again, so I woke up extra early to make it to the meeting in person. I had decided that I would for sure get my brakes checked out later.

I was driving along, in the pitch black, along side roads because most of the freeway is under construction when all of the sudden I hit the biggest pothole I have ever felt in my life. My entire car bounced up and down, and the impact made me gasp. I started to shake, worried about what my tire looked like, but I was in a rough neighborhood and it was pitch black outside. There was no way I was going to stop. So I kept going, praying that I would make it to the hospital. I did, and when I walked into my meeting, they were all shocked that I had come in person. "You should have just called in!"

And there it was. Validation that my gut feeling of calling in was correct. Instead, I had risked my safety. All because I was worried about what other people might think. How often do we do this? How often do we focus so much on what other people think of us that we don't pay enough attention to our own feelings? For me, this is a regular occurrence.

And now? It seems my car suffered more damage than just getting the tires blown out. It's in the shop now, they won't get to it for a few days, but they are checking my brakes as well as what else could be wrong. And I'm standing back, anxious for what the bill will look like. Because I had just started to figure out how much I could continue to save for our house between now and May, and this may take a serious detour in our plan. I really don't want to dip into our savings to fix my car. I'm looking into whether my insurance will cover some of the damage. In the meantime, I'm not going to lie, I'm worried and distracted.

The rational side of my brain is trying to tell myself that no matter what, it' going to be okay. Having a reliable, safe car is just as important, especially in the winter. That even if this takes away some of our savings, we can build back up. But the anxious, worst case scenario side of my brain is trying to tell me that we will never be able to buy that house. That things will keep happening to prevent it.

There I was, going along the road just fine, when something steered me another way. Just like how, a few months back, Tom lost his job and I had the same panic.

What should that tell me? That it worked out before, it will work out now.

I just have to convince myself that it's true.

It's not true that there's always a happy ending. We don't always get what we want, or what we dream of. But it's not always about that end result. It's about the experience along the way, the way you treat people who come in your path, and how hard you work to push past those walls that try to stop you. You may not get where you thought or where you wanted to be, but wherever you end up is just as good. You will learn and love along the way, and you will be able to teach others when they, too, hit the detour.

Now, if someone wants to give me my own advice and say these words back to me, maybe I'll believe it.

Megan, this is your reminder, that it will be okay.

Not to spoil the ending for you, but everything’s going to be alright. When you need a little hope to light your way, repeat this affirmation. Trust that everything will be okay in the end, and that if it's not okay, it's not the end.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Still A Work In Progress

I'm way overdue for my physical. Which, for me, is unusual. I am typically very on top of my yearly appointment, and I advocate for others to be as well. But I've been avoiding it. It wasn't until a coworker of mine said to me "Hey, you've been sick a lot, and I'm just wondering if you were planning to see your doctor". If she had not said that, I'm not sure I would have made that appointment. But I did. I'm in.

So why have I avoided it?

Not because I'm worried there is something wrong with me. Not because I don't value health and taking the proper steps to take care of yourself.

It's because I'm afraid of the scale.

You see, the number will be higher than the last time I went.

I'm not talking 20 lbs...or even 10 lbs. I'm talking probably 5. And the logical side of me knows that those 5 "lbs" are actually muscle. I have gained a ton of strength since joining The Barre Code. But the part of my brain that is way too hard on myself, and still struggles when it comes to body image and weight, is terrified to see that number. Because guess what? According to the BMI chart, that will put me at overweight. It's actually even dangerously close to obese.

And yep, I'm fully aware of the problems with the BMI chart (you can read about my past experience with that here:

But there's still that side of me that really struggles with being labeled as overweight. The side of me that cringes seeing the scale higher than the goal weight I had set for myself. The part of me that beats myself up if I "slip up" on my diet.

I'm sharing this with you all to say----- the weight loss that I experienced did not take away all of my self doubt, my shame, my struggles. I still struggle. Life did not suddenly get easier when I lost the weight. Certain things got easier, for sure. And I did gain more confidence. But it didn't completely take away the hurt that I still sometimes experience. Social media can sometimes paint a perfect, pretty picture, and I am here to say that it's not always that way.

I will likely struggle with body issues for the remainder of my life. But that doesn't mean I don't try. I try be good to my body, I try to take care of it as best as I can, and I try to accept that I am who I am, that the number that shows up on the scale or the label that the BMI chart gives me does not mean I am any less worthy of a person. It's just not that easy. It is a day by day process, and things like going to the doctor and facing the fear of that scale and chart are huge steps in my progress.

This is a reminder to myself to be patient, to love yourself as much as you love others. to celebrate all the amazing things your body can do, and to let go of judgment and comparison. It's not easy, but you are a strong, capable woman who is so much more than any number.

Wish me luck on Monday, because it's going to take a lot of strength and grace to go to the doctor again, and to focus on my health rather than the numbers.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

A Magical Trip

Tom and I have just arrived back from our trip to Disney World. For me, it was my first ever trip to a Disney park. Tom has been to Tokyo Disney. When I told people that we were going, and that it was my first time, most people responded with "like ever? not even as a kid?". Nope.

My family chose to vacation in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where my dad had been going since he was 2 and where he and my mom met when she was on vacation there with friends. Our castles were in the form of sand, and the only characters we came across were crabs and frogs, and the occasional jellyfish. But I wouldn't trade that for the world. Those memories are the best memories I have. For me, Fort Walton was my magic place. I don't remember ever feeling really jealous of my classmates when they went to Disney, because we had our special place. I do recall thinking it looked pretty awesome on the Full House episode when they went to Disney, though. It wasn't until I was older, in high school and college, that I truly understood what Disney World was.

And here's the thing- I'm a Disney fan! I can sing along to almost every soundtrack, I know the characters and the movies, I love princesses and fairy tales and singing animals. I've seen almost every Disney movie. And yet, I never found myself traveling to Orlando to see what the hype was all about. Until now.

Tom and I booked a quick trip to celebrate our First Anniversary. The entire process of booking everything was overwhelming for someone who has never been, with all the logistics, the different types of tickets, fast passes, and dinner reservations. We decided that for us,it made the most sense to do 2 days of visiting parks, with the park hopper option. We did not do any dinner reservations and decided to just wing it when it came to meals. Trying to figure out timing about when we would eat and which park was too much.

We arrived in the afternoon on Wednesday and spent most of that day walking around our resort area, in Disney Springs, and on the Boardwalk. We got a little sprinkle of the Disney magic. We got our "Happily Ever After" pins at Disney Springs and immediately people started to congratulate us. On Thursday, we boarded one of the Disney buses from our resort to head to Magic Kingdom. When we entered the park, turned down main street, and saw that castle, it finally clicked. This is Disney. This is magic. This is where you can be a kid. People kept telling me that, leading up to our trip, but I did not truly feel it until I saw that castle and practically ran to the front to get a closer look. Magic Kingdom is where the nostalgia happens. It's riding the Winnie the Pooh ride to settle my stomach after nearly hurling on the tea cups. It's seeing Peter Pan in a crowd and skipping over to ask for a picture. It's singing along the words to Little Mermaid songs as you travel through the ride. It's running to meet Daisy and Minnie because you know your niece will love to hear about it. It's yelling "We're flying!" while riding Peter Pan's flight. It's getting a great spot for the parade and waving to the princesses while jumping up and down. It's riding It's A Small World and getting that song in your head. It's acting totally normal to do the Enchanted Tales with Belle when it's literally all children and their parents in your group.

After Magic Kingdom we headed to Epcot. Our first mission was to do the World Showcase. I had heard so much about the different countries, I couldn't wait to see it for myself. It's truly amazing, and almost overwhelming, how incredible and detailed it is. Our favorite was Japan, where Tom was born and spent most of his life. We tried a Chicken Terriyaki Bun and spent time in the Japanese marketplace. As we made our way around the world I loved how many options there were for food. Each country had a couple restaurants to try- plus it was the Epcot Food and Wine festival, so there were extra stands with smaller sample size items to try.  Epcot is also where we met my queens, Anna and Elsa. Listen, I fully embrace that I am a 31 year old woman who loves Frozen. I saw it twice in theaters and bought it on DVD the day it came out. There is something very special about that story, and the music. I was somehow a little nervous to meet these two, even though they are actors who are likely 10 years or more younger than I am. We loved meeting them, Anna was especially interactive and fun to talk to. We didn't ride on the Frozen ride, primarily because it was an hour wait and we were tired, hungry, and ready for a break from standing in the heat. But next time, it's on my list. Also, there are other characters sprinkled throughout the World Showcase. We quite literally ran into Mulan as she was walking to her spot to meet fans. We also saw Belle in France, and again, I would have waited in line because I am a Beauty and the Beast fanatic, but her line was in the direct, 95 degree sunlight heat.

After the World Showcase we rode a few rides, met Joy and Sadness from Inside Out, ate dinner, and then eventually walked back to our resort (Epcot was within walking distance, a huge plus!). We stopped on the Boardwalk to get a dessert, and realized that we had walked close to 35,000 steps.

The next morning, we headed to Hollywood Studios. We were looking forward to seeing Toy Story Land and all the Star Wars stops. Upon entering the park, we ran to Toy Story Land with hundreds of other people trying to do the same thing. That slinky dog ride? Already an hour wait when we walked up. We never did get to ride it, and it's another thing added to my list of things I need to do next time. But walking around Toy Story Land was amazing. The detail is beyond what you could even imagine. We enjoyed the alien saucer ride, and we had a fast pass for the Toy Story Mania ride, which was super fun! You basically are playing an arcade game while riding, and we both really enjoyed it. After Toy Story Land we got to explore the Star Wars spots, which included meeting Chewbacca, looking at props from the movies, interacting with Storm Troopers, and riding a Star Wars themed ride which Tom loved. We also met Olaf at Hollywood Studios. We didn't make it onto the Rockin Rollercoaster and truthfully I couldn't handle the Tower of Terror, so we decided to head out of the park and go to Animal Kingdom.

Originally, we weren't going to go to Animal Kingdom. We were going to spend Friday afternoon at one of the other parks again, going on rides we missed the first day. People told us that Animal Kingdom was "basically a zoo". I am so glad we decided to go, because we had a blast at this park! First of all, a lot of it is shaded, so even though we were still so hot, it was much better to walk around here under the trees. But it's a beautiful park! We didn't do the Avatar ride but we did get to do the Safari (and saw so many animals!), ride Everest, which may have been my very favorite ride, and we rode the indoor dinosaur roller coaster that was also super fun! The DinoLand part of the park is really cool for kids, too. I may not need to go back to Animal Kingdom, (except I would, to ride Everest), but I would for sure recommend going.

Instead of resting for the rest of the day, we went back to Hollywood Studios. Tom was able to watch a mini live Star Wars show and we ate dinner there. The line for Slinky Dog never went down, and the line to meet Mickey and Minnie kept going up, so we eventually did leave that park. If my feet had not been hurting so badly I think we would have stayed and waited in line for Slinky Dog and watched the Star Wars Fireworks. But I had blisters on three toes, and my feet were just pulsing with pain. So we took the boat back to the boardwalk, got a Mickey Mouse cookie for dessert, and went back to the resort to sleep.

And just like that, our trip was over. We were awake by 5 am to get to the airport.

Obviously, Disney is magical because you can be a kid, and you can meet all your favorite characters, ride some amazing rides, eat delicious food. But I think the most magical thing about the trip is that you literally feel like you are in another world. We never left Disney property, so we were surrounded by Disney at all times. I barely checked my phone, and only had it out to take photos and post them. I didn't keep up with the news or read any work e-mails. I just lived in each moment, taking it in, paying attention to the incredible details. As we sat in the airport to come back home I couldn't help but think about how every single person in that airport is either escaping from something, or returning home to something.

For us, "back to reality" means back to work, back to getting our finances on track after a little blip, back to planning for our future. It means back to our families and supporting our loved ones through difficult times. Back to eating healthy, going to bed and waking up at normal times. Back to being busy. Back to making memories with our family and friends. Back to us, one year of marriage down, infinity more to come.

We escaped for three days, away from all of the things that normally fill our days and our brains. And it was a beautiful escape. There is no one I would have rather experienced all of this with. I don't think there's anyone else on this world that I could have been my true self with on this trip. I would have hid my excitement. But with Tom I knew that I could just be me. And he smiled as I skipped around. He calmed me down when I got anxious about the crowds. He helped me when I almost got sick from the heat, making sure I rested and got water. When I thanked him for taking care of me, he just looked up and said "well, I'd be lost without you". I actually cried when he said that. It was one of the sweetest things he has ever said, and he said it so simply.  Sorry for that extra helping of cheese, folks, but I just know I will cherish that moment for ever.

I will cherish our whole trip forever. Thank you to everyone who gave us advice, who followed along as we posted pictures on Facebook and who encouraged us to take this trip even though it felt like the universe was against us going.

And thank you to Tom for being my best buddy, for going on this adventure with me and for encouraging me to do things outside of my comfort zone like ride scary rides and go to the bathroom on an airplane.

Until next time, Disney World! One day we will be back.

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Tom and I took getting married seriously. For us, it was never about the party, or the dress, or the food. It was about promising to be there for one another, for the rest of our lives. I'm so glad we had (and still have) that mindset, because our first year of marriage certainly put us to the test.

Marriage isn't easy. I know this. I know that every single married couple has ups and downs that they must get through together. So I am not claiming that Tom and I are unique, or that what we faced is harder that what other married couples endure.

I'm just saying it was difficult. 

It was not difficult to love one another, support each other, to be there for each other.

But it was hard that I spent the first 5 months of our marriage in and out of our home, spending most of my time caring for my dad as he was dying. And then I spent the next half of our first year in a deep grief, with waves of anxiety and depression taking me under every so often. It was also hard that just when I felt like I was starting to get a grip on things, and feel really confident about our future, that we had a shake up with Tom losing his job. He found another one quickly, and we will get back on track to where we were, but those two weeks brought back another sucker punch of anxiety. 

Of course, there were so many moments of light amongst all of this. The sense of relief I feel around Tom is one that I cannot describe. He gently pulls me back when I start to step too far. He is my safety net.

I'm not sure what the next year, 10 years, 40 years (you get it) will bring. More challenges, I'm sure. But I know that we can tackle them, because I see what we did in just one year. I know that we can come out stronger. But I'm also sure there will be adventures, and new beginnings, and excitement. And in between both the heavy and the light, there will be the boring nights where we sit on the couch and watch Youtube videos. Because you need those boring, quiet moments to balance it all out.

We've had a messy, beautiful first year. We've had enough tears to fill an ocean. But we've made it, and we've been step by step with each other, in a crooked, not quite perfect stride. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Time turns flames to embers, you'll have new Septembers

For the past five years, my family has faced a rough September/October. It was five years ago, in September, that my dad was diagnosed with cancer. It was four years ago, in September, that my dad suffered his steroid psychosis and spent 6 weeks in the hospital. The two Septembers to follow? Complications that led to hospitalization. One of those included a brain surgery. Last September, he was hospitalized just before my wedding for shortness of breath/fluid on the lungs. He was there right up until my rehearsal dinner. It was only a week or so after my wedding that he went back into the hospital, and things began to go downhill.

Two really magical things have happened in September too, of course. One was that Tom and I became "official". That was right before my dad was diagnosed, so Tom has quite literally been there every step of the way. I also married him in September, and it was the absolute best day of my entire life, and he is the most amazing thing to ever happen to me.

So now it's September again. And she's brought her bad luck with her.

Tom lost his job, which has been heartbreaking and scary for both of us, as I wrote in my last blog. I know we will be okay, I know we will come out stronger, but that doesn't take away that this is a difficult situation.

Coupled with that, I have been suffering deep anxiety. I am experiencing difficult physical and emotional symptoms, ones that I would not wish upon anyone. I hesitate to share this kind of thing. I think that anxiety is something that is complicated, and difficult to understand. It's not just about being nervous or worried. I often feel deeply misunderstood with my anxiety, or that because I don't always seem like I am suffering to the outside world, it can't be that bad. Take it from me, it is that bad. Another reason I hesitate to share is that I do not want to be treated differently, or to be judged, for my anxiety. Even though I am struggling, I am still able to do my job, get myself to the gym, do the grocery shopping, and all the other tasks I need to do to get through. They just become 100x more difficult when I am feeling this way.

I push past the hesitation and open up because, well, we've spent way too much time shying away from being open about mental health. We still treat it like a secret, or something to be ashamed of. We're afraid to ask people how they are really doing. We're afraid to tell people how we're really feeling. So we just keep it in, which is only adding to the problems. We need to be more open. We need to understand that we are not alone, we need to understand that people in our lives need us as much as we need them. We need to be there for each other, to listen, and to take action when you know someone is suffering.

I go through these periods where the anxiety rattles me and keeps me captive. It happens. I usually know how to move past it. I have full confidence I will once again move past this, adding an extra layer of strength to my skin, ready to fight the next battle that comes. But just because I know all of those things, does not mean it goes away in an instant.

I know my anxiety is coming from Tom's job loss, combined with the past trauma's that September has brought creeping up behind me, trying to blind my view. It is like I am waiting for the next horrible thing to happen, so I turn nearly everything that happens into a worst case scenario.

When I get like this, here are the reminders that I tell myself, over and over, until I start to believe them:

It will be okay.
It's not as bad as you think it is. Your anxiety is playing tricks on you.
There is a logical explanation.
You have people that love you and support you.
You will get through this.
You are strong.

September may continue to deliver bad news, or maybe we'll get a break next year.  Anxiety, though, does not halt. It may slow down, or stay quiet for a while. But it will come back. And knowing that I have done this before is one of the key points to helping me to know that I can do it again. My anxiety is not a burden. It is not a weakness. It is part of who I am and it's made me stronger.

So there, September.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

24th Birthday

My cousin Laurence would have turned 24 today, if it weren't for cancer.  That's a hard concept for me to grasp, considering he was just 15 at the time that he died. 15, but known for being a humanitarian and a philanthropist. 15, with a passion for cooking, playing guitar, and soccer. There are so many paths that Laurence could have taken.

When I was 24, I was working my first "real" full time job. I'll never forget when a friend called me, celebrating the news that I got a job, and she shrieked "You have a door for your office and EVERYTHING?". It was all so exciting. According to my Timehop, on this very day when I was 24, I was making my dad watch Stomp The Yard with me. I was back living with my parents after a year of volunteer service, it wouldn't be until 5 months later that I moved out to live with a friend in a rental house. It just seems surreal to me that Laurence could be doing those very things right now. Although let's be honest, he would probably be the CEO of a nonprofit fighting against poverty, not watching Stomp the Yard at his parents house.

I miss Laurence deeply, he and I had a special bond and it is one that has continued since he passed. But I'll be honest, I've had a hard time truly feeling him lately. I begged Laurence for a sign today, on his birthday. I wanted anything, whether it be a U2 song on the radio or seeing a Florida license plate, or maybe something spectacular in the sky. I didn't get a sign. It left me feeling a little empty and sad. I wondered if I was doing something wrong. It made me feel lonely. 

Maybe I'm just not listening. Maybe Laurence is trying to show me what I need to see, but I am so consumed with work, with the news, with Instagram, that I am not seeing the signs as I once did. 

I'm not sure if it all works that way.

But here's what I do know.

I had made a promise to myself that I would always talk about Laurence and what he did. Laurence was a brave soul, speaking up for people without a voice. I can only imagine the kind of advocacy work he would be doing if he was still here. And although I may never be as brave as that 15 year old boy with brain cancer was, I do try to carry him with me. I fight for cancer patients because I hope that I can be part of eliminating cancer, so that 15 year old boys can play soccer with their friends and create new recipes in their parents kitchen and play guitar in their basement without having to worry about getting to chemotherapy appointments or having brain surgery or signing onto hospice. His fight has powered my fuel to keep fighting to end cancer. And to make life easier for those who are battling cancer.

My signs may not be as obvious, or I may not see them as clearly as I once did with all of life's distractions, but my connection to Laurence will never lose it's spark. 

Maybe Laurence is being a little quieter right now so that I can truly grow, listen to what is inside of me and run with it. 

All of this is a great Mystery, and it's part of what makes life and death so beautiful and complicated. Aren't we so lucky to have these kinds of things to wonder about and awe over? It's incredible, how connected we all are. 

Happy 24th Birthday, Laurence. I wish you were still here on earth so that we could all be putting your campaign signs in our front yard or taste testing meals at your own restaurant or sitting in the front row at your concert. The grief of what could have been is a difficult one to handle. So we'll hold onto the beautiful impact you left while you were here. What a gift you gave us, buddy. 

Maybe you and my dad could watch Stomp The Yard tonight. And yes, Dad, I heard the thunder as I wrote that. Nice dad joke.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A New Road

Just last week, I started toying with the idea of blogging again. It started when someone commented on an Instagram post and asked if I had ever considered starting a blog or a podcast. I told her that I used to blog, but I stopped because I felt the posts were getting to repetitive, and that I had been using the #365daysofgratitude tag on Instagram for the past couple of years to replace my blog posts. I thought about her comment all week, and by the end of the week, I had come up with an idea for a podcast. I even started jotting down notes and investigating how I could record without spending thousands of dollars on equipment.

At the same time that this was happening, I was reflecting on my amazing summer. I posted a fun slideshow of photos and wrote about how much the experiences I had this summer meant to me, and that I felt truly lucky to have had them.

And then, not even 24 hours after I wrote that post, we found out that my husband lost his job. I felt everything get swept up underneath me as I fell apart. I cried for him, because he truly loved his job, and he worked so hard. I cried for us, because we've had an incredibly difficult newlywed experience already. I cried because I was scared, we have worked really hard to build up our savings to buy a house and I feared losing it all and never getting the house. I worried that this would mean we would delay having kids, and what if we never have kids? I selfishly and maybe childishly cried because we have plans to go to Disney for the very first time in our lives in a few weeks and what if we have to cancel? I cried because he was hurting. I cried because I felt helpless. I cried because I couldn't fix it. I cried because I felt insanely guilty about all those summer adventures I had just spoken so highly of. I cried because my dad isn't here to tell me that it's going to be okay and to give me his best advice. For two solid days, I cried.

Those two days felt like hell. Like I would never get out of that mindset and I would never feel calm again.

But somehow, like I always do, I pulled out of that. I'm not suddenly calm and worry free, but I am confident in the team that Tom and I have built together. We are a unit, we always have been, and we will move forward together. It will not be easy. Anyone who has ever had to search for a job knows how hard it can be. But we will not cave, and we will fight through this together.

I think maybe that's what my dad would have told me. To be there for each other through this. He'd also tell Tom to stand tall and stand proud, and remind him to follow up on applications and send thank you notes when he has interviews. And he'd remind us over and over again, that it will be okay, to take one day at a time.

To me this is another reminder of how surprising life can be. The next big thing, whether it's good or bad, is always around the corner, and you are never fully prepared for what it will be. So while this may test Tom and I in a way we were not expecting, maybe a really grand thing is coming for us. I've got to hold onto hope that our next turn is a bright one. It might be rocky along the way, but knowing that we are by each other's side, picking each other up along the way, is going to be our saving grace.

So here we go.... a new adventure. Maybe this will mean more blogging, maybe it won't. I'm just glad I'm living this life with him, I couldn't imagine it with anyone else.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Some grief truth bombs

I feel like I need to address something. This maybe should be one of those things that I keep private but I just worked 14 hours, I’m feeling tired and spunky. So forgive me for how this may come across.

I don’t have kids. And I know the responsibilities, worries, schedules, etc that come with having kids are incredibly tricky to manage. I can’t pretend to say I understand, or that I know all about it, or that what I’m going through compares to life with kids because frankly, I won’t know until I do have kids.  And also, my friends with kids are my heroes. I look up to them so much, because I know they are giving their all to those little humans.

But here’s the thing. I may not have kids, but I have an incredibly busy, demanding, and emotional draining schedule right now that leaves little “free time”. My one hour st the gym is usually my only hour dedicate solely to my own thoughts. Otherwise, I’m either working, getting errands done, or helping my mom. I am not complaining about helping her. Truthfully I love spending time with her and when we finish doing her laundry and cleaning her dishes I love to just sit with her. She’s one of the best things in my life right now and I love how our relationship is growing.

But, all that being said, I am balancing a very busy job, helping my mom, taking care of my own house, being a newlywed, and oh yeah- grieving the loss of my favorite person on this planet. I feel like I am walking up a mountain with a backpack full of the heaviest rocks you can imagine. All I can possibly do is take one tiny step forward and try to hold on so I don’t fall back. 

The loss of my dad is something I think about every single day. I want to call him to talk to him about all that’s going on in my life. I want to hear his voice. I want to hear a dumb dad joke. I want him back, with us, where he belongs. But he’s not here and I have to accept that, and get through that, every day. Sometimes I wonder if people think that because we knew my dad was so sick and because at the end we were praying for him to let go and make it to Heaven that maybe his death isn’t as tough. No. That’s not how it works. He’s still gone, and truly nothing could have prepared me for that feeling. And yes, I was praying for his suffering to be over. But thinking of that makes me feel guilty, and angry at myself, which just adds to the grief. So yeah, I’m still really sad. 

Something that I am not sure other people think about is that all of this happened just weeks after tom and I got married. Our “newlywed” phase has been one that meant I was away for days at a time to help my parents, and when I was home I was in bed, in a dark room, trying to find a little peace. Once my dad passed away, it wasn’t exactly like I could just jump in and say “okay, that’s done, time to get back to married life!”. Nope. It’s been really, really hard. I feel we’ve been a little cheated in the newlywed department. So when you ask me when we’re having kids, I get defensive. Let us live. We need like a minute or two, Please.

I don’t know what the future holds for Tom and I but I know I picked an amazing partner to walk through life with. He’s been so understanding and supportive of my family and of the person I am. I know my dad loved him too, and that brings me great pride. 

Please know that I get that everyone is going through hard things. I want to thank my coworkers who listen to me talk about my dad and tell the same stories over and over. This grief thing can be very isolating, but you all make me feel a little less alone.

I’m going to end this now, pray that I didn’t upset anyone with my honesty, and crawl into bed. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dear Dad

Dear Dad;
I am missing you big time today. So many people have told me that grief comes in waves. If that’s true, today’s waves were the kind that take you down with them, swoop you under the water so that you can barely breathe. It would have been a Red Flag warning on the beach in Fort Walton, for sure. As I sat in my cancer committee meeting I thought of you, and got this pang in my chest of missing you. After I saw the memorial for Laurence I so badly wanted to call you to tell you about it. As I sat in a talk on fighting for cancer treatment fairness I thought of you and your fight, and how I wish you could be sitting next to me in those types of talks. I also had a deep desire to know if I am making you proud. I just want to hear you say those words again. Then, I got a phone call from one of the hospital staff that I work with and he said “I sent you a note...” that’s what you used to say! You always said note in reference to an email or a text. I found myself starting to tear up just hearing the word note! When I got to my workout class I tried to see if I had any old voicemails from you just so I could hear your voice again, talking to me. I don’t. I do have the last text you ever sent me, which is your response to me saying “love you”. Your answer was “right back atcha”.

I just miss you, dad. I miss your hugs and encouragement, I even miss your silly jokes and puns. I miss telling you about my day, making you dinner, taking you to church. Maureen recently said that she finds herself wanting to tell everyone about you. I didn’t realize it until she said it, but Ive been doing the same thing. It’s important for me to tell your story. I want people to know what a wonderful dad and human you were. You were truly the greatest.

I have recently found myself having a very deep desire for connecting to others. Finding common ground. I’m not sure if it’s from your influence, or feeling something missing in my life, but I have been wanting to find and connect with people like I never had before. You were such a natural at that. I’m not so natural. But I’m trying.

I mentioned earlier that I want to make you proud. I want to be as kind and fair as you were. I want to make people feel as welcomed and loved as you made them feel. I want to fight hard because you fight like hell. I want to stand tall, breathe in your confidence and compassion and put it back into the world.

I know there will be more days like this, where I’ll miss you so much it hurts. And I know you’re here with me, but that doesn’t always take away the hurt. So I will carry your spirit with me as best I can and be ever so grateful that I was lucky enough to have you as a dad.

Love you.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Get some Sleep

Last night, as I started to head up the stairs of my sister's house to go to sleep, I heard myself yell "goodnight, get some sleep!" to the dog.

I told a dog to get some sleep.

He's a dog.

He sleeps on and off all day.

I started to wonder why I said that. I must need some sleep. I'm loopy.


It's the exact sentiment I used to say to my dad when I would stay at their house when he was in hospice. I would pray with him or give him his medicine or give him some yogurt, and then tiredly march up the stairs and say "get some sleep", knowing it would only be a few hours until one of us checked on him again.

It is the moments like that where the grief overcomes me. Where my heart begins to ache again. Where I remember that he is missing.

And those are the moments that I hate. But I have learned from my grief group that they are inevitable and that they are healing, as hurtful as they can be. So I soak up those moments. I use it as time to think about my dad, to be grateful for my dad, to talk to him. I know he’s listening to me and that he is here with me. In the craziness and busyness of life, it’s rare I get moments of silence to reflect. So perhaps these painful moments are actually little nudges.

Grief is similar to the cancer itself in that it is uncontrollable and unpredictable. There is no set path, checklist, or map. Grief is messy. It is surprising and it is lonely. It is an invisible load I carry with me daily. It is a balance beam. It comes at you fast and engulfs you, before you get a chance to catch your breath. Grief is giving me a thirst for faith, a longing for empathy, a cry for compassion. My grief wants to be seen and yet hidden. Grief is painful. But with all of these, comes gratitude. I know that the pain I feel is a representation of how deeply I loved my dad, and the very important role he played in our family. I am mighty lucky to have someone like him to miss.

Get some sleep, dad, for I am sure your duties in Heaven are exhausting. I love you and miss you so much.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Grief is lonely

I am on a tightrope, taking one tiny step at a time. My legs are wobbling and I am holding my breath, hoping it will steady me just enough that I don't fall down.

I am somewhere in between wanting to be human and show my grief to wanting to hide my emotions and carry on as if nothing has happened. I am stuck between wanting to yell "don't you know my dad has died?" and wanting to yell "please don't ask me about my dad". I am riding the line between wanting to be surrounded by people to wanting to be in hiding.

I never knew it was going to be like this. I never knew that my emotions, wants, and needs to drastically change from one moment to the next.

I did not realize how lonely grief could be. I knew that it could be painful and sad. I knew that it would challenge me to not turn to food for comfort. But I did not realize the loneliness.

It is not that I am completely alone, and it is certainly not that I am the only one grieving. All of us are hurting. It's just that I am not living side by side with my mom or my siblings every day. Plus, grief is personal. We're all feeling different things, at different times. So even though I am not "alone", I am lonely. And I know I will not find a person on this earth who is feeling exactly the same way that I am.

No one is telling me to "move on" or "get over it". But LIFE is telling me to move on and get over it. I HAVE to keep going. That's where it gets difficult and frustrating- that there is no pause. I sometimes feel as though I am acting in a movie, pretending as though everything is just fine. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my job and that has not changed. But having to be "on" all the time, when I don't want to be, is exhausting. And it's not just at work. It's at the grocery store, the gym, church. I feel like people are looking to me to be okay, and I hate putting people in awkward situations, so I try to just put a smile on, muster up all my positive energy, and forge through.

Everything I've read says to not be afraid to ask for help. But I hate shedding the burden of my grief onto others. It feels super awkward to text my friends and say "hey, I'm super lonely! fyi!". Especially when my friends are going through their own challenges. It also feels weird to say to a coworker "I'm having a rough day today, I may not be my best". I know that those are things I CAN say, I just don't feel like I should.

And so I start to look for ways to help to heal. I listen to music and podcasts, I go to the gym, I try to eat healthy (have to work on that a bit). I make jokes, I write thank you cards, I look for activities like yoga and prayer services that might quiet my mind. I spend time with my husband. I call my mom. I talk out loud to my dad, knowing that he can hear me. But still, I cry. I hurt. And then, it repeats.

I don't think there will be any one single thing that heals me, and I need to remember that. I think it might get easier, but with hard days mixed in. There will be no magic potion or no spectacular yoga class that will suddenly bring clarity and healing and take away the sadness.

Instead, I will continue on the tightrope. I will dip here and there, I will find highs and I will have lows.

And I will know that when I do fall, there will be people down below to catch me, and to get me back up on the tightrope. It may not be the same people every time. It may not even be the people I would expect it to be. But there are people there, because I am not alone. I feel lonely, but I am not alone.

And I have hope.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Back to Normal?

On December 17th, just days after my dad entered into hospice care, I wrote the following paragraph on my blog:

Knowing what I know about grief, I am fairly certain that one of the most challenging parts about all of this will be that the outside world will go on as normal. It isn't going to stop because of what my family is going through. There's still work to be done, problems to be solved. I will want to hit a pause button but I will not be able to, and will have to go on balancing it all, envious of everyone else who gets to live a "normal" life. 

We are now two weeks post my dad's passing, and I can confidently say that I was right. 

I returned to work just four days ago, after being on FMLA, then intermittent FMLA, then bereavement leave. I haven't worked a "normal" schedule (as normal as my schedule can get) since early December. It's been a difficult and exhausting transition. I feel behind at work, and trying to get caught up while also knowing a busy season is just around the corner. I'm also distracted at work, busy getting things done and scheduling meetings. It doesn't give me time to to think about my dad. In my mind, that's both good and bad. Good that I have stuff to do to keep me busy and active, but bad because I start to feel slightly guilty. Like I've just forgotten it all already. Sometimes at work I feel like I am acting, acting like everything is fine and I was just on vacation for a while, so that's why I am so behind. I hate that feeling.

Then I come home and I'm just so tired, and fall into the couch exhausted, going to sleep by 9 pm. 

It doesn't help that I've been sick all week, making me even more tired. 

This doesn't feel normal.

Normal, for me, is working, going to the gym, spending time with Tom and family, reading, watching Netflix, seeing friends, going to church. Getting the grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning done on Saturdays.

Normal right now is working, sleeping, doing very minimal housework, checking in with my mom, repeat. It's bursting into tears at random times. It's not seeing my friends in months. I can't tell you the last time I did something socially. It may have been before my wedding, in September.

And I miss him so much! Even when I call my mom and know he's not there with her, it's hard. Miss his hugs, his encouragement, his gentleness. 

I know I will keep fighting. I know I will be strong. He has instilled that in me. And I fight for him. But I also know it's going to be the toughest fight yet. My body aches and my heart is heavy. But it's one step in front of the other, while carrying this grief with me.

Thank you for walking on this journey with me. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

You're the light through my window from afar

I think we all float through life knowing that, unfortunately, we will lose people close to us. From a young age, we learn that people die, it's sad, and it will keep happening. No one is protected from this.

I've had a lot of people close to me die. Some were tragic, some were sudden, some were much too young. And yet, none of these prepared me to lose my dad.

I have spent the last four and a half years wondering when my dad's cancer would get too strong. We knew upon diagnosis that his cancer was strong, and that while he could find ways to beat it, it would always come back. My dad fought hard. He overcame every odd that was against him. With every new medication introduced, he willingly gave it a try. He and cancer were in a war against one another, one full of twists and turns. Eventually the cancer found a way to defeat. This does not mean that my dad wasn't strong. It doesn't mean he gave up. It simply means that the cancer was stronger. Way too strong.

When my dad entered into hospice care, I really started to "prepare" to lose him. I put that in quotes because I realize now that there is truly no way to prepare. You think you're ready, but you're not.

And then it happened. After 3 days of what they call "actively dying", my dad took his last breaths at 5 am on a Saturday morning, while most of the rest of the world was sleeping. It didn't seem real. It didn't seem like he could actually be gone.

It seems crazy to think that my dad has joined my army of angels. Even though I knew this day would come, I still can't quite grasp the idea that he's standing with Laurence and Susan and my grandparents and all the other people I have lost.

He's shown me that he's still with us, though. There have been flickering lights and deer and dreams. There was a song, one that is not well known, playing loudly in Target, just hours after I had been listening to it on my phone, thinking about the lyrics and how they related to death. There was the Target cashier who, as I was about to pull away, said "Wait, I feel like I have to tell you a dad joke!". Sure, each of these things could be a coincidence, or have a logical explanation, but I am choosing to believe that my dad is giving me signs that he is okay.

Watching my dad fade away was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever had to do. The man we once knew as "the big guy" became thin and weak, his skin grey and the blue in his eyes started to dim. During all of this, I couldn't understand why it went on for so long. If God was ready to take him, why didn't he just take him? Man, those weeks were rough. I cried out so many times. I prayed for trust. I know now that it was my dad fighting back, just as he always had before. He wanted to stay on this earth as long as he could, just to be with us.

There is a small part of me that feels guilty now, wondering if I prayed too hard for God to take him, worried that my dad felt like I was pushing him away. That's something I am going to have to work through, and in the meantime I have made a point to tell my dad how much I love him every chance that I can, because I know he can hear me.

But I do truly believe that my dad is home now, and even though we don't have him physically on earth and that breaks my heart, he IS in a better place. I know that's one of those things that people say after someone dies, but I do truly believe it. And one day, we'll join him in this home.

I will miss my dad more than I can possibly express. He was, without a doubt, a wonderful man, husband, and father. We are all so lucky to have had him. He made an everlasting impact on our lives, and even though it doesn't feel quite real yet that he is gone, we will carry on his legacy in our own ways.

I will likely be blogging a little bit more as I process thoughts. I may share stories of my dad or stories of grief. I may tell you about all the way he's reminding me that he is still here. I just know that I have to write. My dad was one of my biggest cheerleaders for writing, he read my blog posts faithfully. For him, I'll let the words that are flowing through me out. Maybe they will help someone else. I hope so.

For now, I'll leave you with the song I mentioned up above that started playing in Target- loudly- just a few hours after I listened to it on my phone with a new perspective of the lyrics.