Your body knows

I will never forget when a grief counselor told me that our bodies have a time clock and even if we’re not actively thinking about an anniversary of a loved one’s passing, our bodies know. Not only do our bodies know, but that grief will manifest itself in tiredness, sadness, or other unsuspecting ways.

I was walking my dog the other day and he ran to the base of a tree and was barking at a squirrel and I was almost brought to tears by the memory of hunting with my dad when his coonhounds would tree racoons.

A different day this week I was watching a Hallmark Christmas movie and thought about how my dad would watch them with me. And, sure, he would make comments about how it was very likely the busy city girl would learn to slow down and fall in love with a niche small town, but he never once complained.

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday and today was the fourth anniversary of his death. These memories and some other ups and downs this week were my body’s way of sprinkling in grief and love as I continue to cope with the loss of my dad.

I still haven’t mastered grief and never will, but I have learned to hold on to these memories, be gentle with myself, and do something in memory of my dad.

To others missing someone, I see you. I hope you find comfort during these anniversaries.  

No, things can’t just go back to normal

I saw a few posts in recent weeks from people wanting life to go back to normal. These comments are especially tone deaf in the middle of a global pandemic and national unrest because of the gross racial injustices in our country.

Things can’t go back to normal. We can only move forward. But we can’t move forward until we recognize systematic racism. We can’t heal until we admit that there are racial injustices and actively work to address and change those inequalities. There can’t be justice without accountability and we must address our shameful past to even begin to move forward from our divisive present.

We have to start with humility and empathy and understand that no matter how socially conscious or progressive we think we are, we have old bias regarding racial stereotypes and prejudice.

We have so much to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

I’ve been listening, learning, and checking my heart to figure out how to be a better ally.

I started with reading White Fragility. It’s a book by a white women for other white people about why it’s hard for white people to talk about racism without getting defensive. She highlights the biases white people have toward race while saying they don’t see color and think everyone is equal. It’s an important look at history and how bias are part of every day even if you’re “progressive” and “mean well.” Nice doesn’t mean not racist and racism doesn’t just come from mean/bad people.

I took a look at what I consume on social media platforms and made sure I’m following and amplifying black voices, artists, activists, content creators, authors, and more.

I’m diversifying my book stack and am reading more books by black authors. I recently finished The Water Dancer and just started Men We Reaped. Just Mercy, Rabbit, Stamped, Queenie, and Party of Two are also on my TBR list.

I’ve donated to organizations supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and had conversations with people about white privilege and how comments like all lives matter are not valid or appropriate. You cannot tell people how to mourn or how to feel about recent events. And offering up preferable reactions to someone else’s trauma is not only hurtful but it’s harmful. Being defensive, denying these injustices, and making tone deaf comments is not helpful.

“Interrupting the forces of racism is ongoing, lifelong work because the forces conditioning us into racist frameworks are always at play; our learning will never be finished. Yet our simplistic definition of racism -as intentional acts of racial discrimination committed by immoral individuals- engenders a confidence that we are not a part of the problem and that our learning is thus complete”- Robin Diangelo

I’m still learning and I’ll forever be learning. What I do know is that I won’t stay silent. I’ll put in the work to educate myself and continue to act and stand with the many people hurting right now.

We’re in this together

Take a deep breath.

It’s been a weird and stressful week. Church services, social events, sporting events, travel plans and more have been cancelled. The shelves of many grocery stores and convenience stores were wiped clean as people went out and bought items in a panic.

Many people have experienced confusion, anxiety, stress, and feelings of not knowing what to do.

People have been advised to wash hands often and practice social distancing by avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance when possible.

And although it can be a scary time for an individual, it’s not about one person. It’s about all of us. It’s about being safe and careful but also being there for one another and lending a helping hand whenever possible.

It’s about choosing to think about others because individual actions impact those around us.

Brene Brown wrote about this recently and said we all need a shift in mindset: “We need to stay awkward, brave, and kind and love each other and stay calm.”

My husband and I spent the weekend embracing the time to slow down while spending time together at home. We worked on home projects, cooked food together, read books, watched some shows, and took our dog for a walk and enjoyed the fresh air.

Times seem weird and hard right now but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for the blessings surrounding me. I’m thankful for being able to worship from home today and watch the streamed church service. I’m thankful for friends and family. I’m thankful for the ability to get outside, listen to music, get lost in a good book, and write down my thoughts.

Take another deep breath.

We’re all in this together.

February in the books

February was a fun month for reading. I had a mix of genres— historical fiction, dystopian, thriller, non-fiction, and romance.

Here’s a look at what I read:

7) All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 3.75/5 stars

This book pulled on my heartstrings. I listened to the audiobook while traveling for work. I enjoyed the audio version but at some points it was hard to follow because of the non-linear timeline. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and thought it got better as it went on. I also enjoyed that although most of the book takes place during World War II, it’s very much a coming of age story. I did have some questions when I finished the book, but I think the author had some plot holes in there because of the setting.

8) The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – 4.5/5 stars

I really liked this book! It’s a young adult dystopian novel that felt like a combination of the Handmaid’s Tale, Hunger Games, and Romeo and Juliet. It was unique and the plot twists were unexpected- I really didn’t guess what was going to happen at any point while reading. There was lot of hype to this book and it held up to it.

9) Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid – 4.5/5 stars

I listened to a skip-the-line copy of the audiobook on Libby through my local library. This debut novel was both readable and thought-provoking. It’s about class, race, and relationships. I laughed out loud at times, gasped at others, and got mad as I learned more about the complex characters. The ending wasn’t my favorite, but I didn’t hate it. I’d suggest this book to those thinking about reading it.

10) The Wives by Tarryn Fisher – 3.25/5 stars

This book was okay. I will say I don’t always enjoy books that have unreliable narrators so that’s one of the reasons I didn’t love it. The book has been compared to the Silent Patient, which I also didn’t enjoy. I thought it was odd that the major shift happened halfway through the book and then when it seemed like the book was wrapping up there was still a quarter of the book left. I was surprised by the twist at the end and thought the ending was unsettling.

11) The Library Book by Susan Orlean –3.75/5 stars

A nonfiction book about libraries sounds boring, but this book kept me engaged and interested. I also have a newfound respect for how important libraries are in communities around the world. The author talked about fond memories she has going to the library with her mom. I have similar memories with my mom. I loved that time and still enjoy going to libraries today.

“It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for. Such a thrill anticipating the new books we would read.”

12) The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – 3.25/5 stars

I thought this book was super dramatic, but I honestly couldn’t stop reading. I finished it in two days. There were so many secrets that kept being revealed throughout the book that made it a page-turner. I was also surprised by the ending.

13) Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker – 4.75/5 stars

This book started out a little slow and I didn’t care for the banter between Calla and Jonah over the suitcases and makeup. But, the characters and the story grew on me. I loved that the book was set in Alaska and it had a lot of heart. I ended up falling in love with the character and story and full on cried at the ending. I ordered the sequel and can’t wait to dive into it.

14) Nameless series by Dean Koontz – 3/5 stars

I thought the series was pretty good. I enjoyed that they were short stories that were brief and easy to read. I liked learning a little bit more about nameless throughout the series. I haven’t read anything by Dean Koontz before this but will plan to read some more of his books.

My goal is to read 55 books this year. Each month I’m keeping track of which books I’ve read. You can see my January list here.

Growing through loss

I had an epiphany at an Andy Grammer concert.

If you don’t know Andy Grammer, he is an American singer/songwriter and some of his singles have included “Keep Your Head Up”, “Fine by Me”, “Honey, I’m Good”, and “Good to Be Alive (Hallelujah).”

His latest album came out in July and is called Naïve. Grammer has said it’s for the light bringers and the people who choose to see the good in everything, even in the overwhelming chaos of bad. Some of my favorite songs from the album are “I Found You”, “She’d Say”, “Stay There”, and “Best of You.”

My husband and I attended his concert in Indianapolis on Sunday night and it was everything I thought it would be- joyful, inspiring, uplifting, positive, dance worthy, and sing-along-able.

When Grammer got to his song “Wish You Pain” he talked about how going through life’s difficulties can make you a stronger person and can help you grow. To illustrate this idea at his concert he asks an audience member to share a lesson they’ve learned from a painful time in their lives and then writes a song about it on the spot.

It was during this time that I started thinking about the past several years and how I’ve had some of these hard times. My father passed away three years ago, my father-in-law passed away two years ago, and my grandma passed away one year ago. But during that time I met and leaned on my now husband. I prayed more and leaned on God because all of these things were out of my control. I spent more time with my family. I spoke more openly about heartache, grief, and loss. I read and wrote more. I let myself be sad and happy and I spent more time growing into who I am right now.

I still miss them every day but I also know that a part of them is with me. So I’m choosing to lean into that and grow a little each day.

“If it’s stupid to see the good in everything, then call me naive.”

Andy Grammer

Missing my dad on father’s day

I’ve written about my dad passing away unexpectedly at 60 years old and I’ve written about how my grief has changed over the past two and a half years.

I wouldn’t say it has gotten easier, because that’s a strange way to think about it. It sure hasn’t gotten easier he isn’t here. But, I would say as time has passed my grief has changed. I still have some off days but they come and go.

This week I had a few of those days. I was easily annoyed and a little sad and I didn’t know why. It wasn’t until I saw a Father’s Day commercial that it clicked. I was really missing my dad. I saw a grief counselor after my dad died and her words came to mind. She said that your body has a time clock and even if you aren’t thinking about an anniversary or holiday coming up you can find yourself being in a bad mood or upset. She said your body just knows.

That was happening to me. Instead of trying to fix it or push it away I let myself feel sad and then I thought about things that my dad has taught me.

He taught me how to work hard. Whether it was a sport or a career he taught me what it means to work hard at something.

He offered advice when I was unsure of something and it showed me that I am more capable than I might realize. It taught me to believe in myself and to be kind to myself.

He taught me how to ask for help when I need it. He was always there anytime I needed something and today I am able to accept help and ask for it when I need it.

He taught me to let things go and to not take myself so seriously. I tend to take things to heart and overthink things and he helped me learn how to laugh at situations and myself.

I could go on and on because the list doesn’t stop there, but I will just say that I am thankful for the time I had with my dad even if it wasn’t nearly long enough.

Instead of staying here in this feeling of sadness I’m thinking about the countless softball practices my dad took me to and hearing his voice say “finish” during softball games. I’m thinking of summers and bonfires and swimming when he would quiz me while I was on a raft and if I got it wrong he would tip me off of it. I’m thinking about him taking me to see the Disney movie the Princess and the Frog in theaters and watching tv in the basement. I’m thinking about simply sitting on the porch and talking or not talking but just enjoying the time together.

Thanks for everything, dad. I miss you.

I got a tattoo and here’s what I learned

After nearly two years of wanting a tattoo, I finally got one.

The tattoo is of a tree, in memory of my dad. More than 20 years ago he planted several pine trees in the back yard of my childhood home. Today they are tall, towering trees. The tattoo for me represents family, growth, strength, resiliency, and a deep connection to my roots.

When I started thinking about getting a tattoo I made a rule for myself that I had to want the same design for more than a year. I wanted to make sure that it was something I would want for a long time and wouldn’t get tired of.

I googled a lot of pine tree tattoos and I asked my brother to sketch some designs, which made it even more special to me. I knew I wanted the tattoo to be simple but realistic and I did not want it to look like a Christmas tree.

Next I did a lot of research about tattoo parlors, tattoo artists, placement, after care, and more. I started reaching out to artists and realized that many of them are busy and it can be hard to get on the schedule.

Once I found an artist and a business I scheduled an appointment. When the day came I showed up and was told the artist would be there soon. After sitting there for five minutes I got an email that said he would be late. To make a long story a little shorter, I was not loving the vibe of the business. After waiting for another 30 minutes I decided to leave.

I made an appointment with a different artist at a different business. When I arrived for the consult two days later, it was cleaner, more relaxing, and the artist was very nice and knowledgeable. After about 10 minutes I had an appointment booked for a week later.

When the day came I was a little nervous. It obviously was my first tattoo and even though I did a fair amount of research I still didn’t quite know what to expect. I asked my husband if I was making a bad decision and he told me that I wasn’t, he supported me, and reminded me that I had been talking about it for three years.

I arrived for my appointment and went over the design again with the artist. After getting things ready he asked if I was ready and then began tattooing me. I was surprised by how quiet the machine was, how little it hurt, and how quick it was done. The whole process took maybe 30 minutes and although it felt a little bit like a burn a few times it was not as painful as I expected.

The healing process went pretty quickly too. I had saniderm on the tattoo for about four days and after I took that off it was almost completely healed after a week.

I am really happy with how it turned out and it’s even more special to me because of the meaning behind it.

My takeaways:

  • Get something that is special to you and make sure it’s something you will like for a long time.
  • Do research, look at reviews, and ask around for recommendations.
  • Take someone with you.

Coming to terms with my grief

“Grief is such a specific thing for everyone and it’s a lifelong journey. It’s always there. You deal with it and you go through it and all of the sudden years later it’s like ‘oh no buddy, I’ve been here the whole time.’”

Jason Ritter

My dad died unexpectedly a day after his 60th birthday. I didn’t have the words for a long time and I still struggle to find them sometimes but I’ve learned that my grief ebbs and flows.

It’s now been a little more than two years since he died and my grief has taken a different form. I no longer feel a constant sadness of the things I wish I could have said. When my dad died I thought of the last time I talked to him, the last time I saw him, and the things I wish I could have said to him. At the advice of a pastor I wrote it down in a letter – all of it. How much I love my dad, how much I missed him, how proud I was to have him as a father, and how thankful I am for all the things he’s taught me.

My dad was a constant sounding board. Anytime I was anxious about something or needed advice I would talk to him. He showed me what hard work looks like. He encouraged me to write because he knew I enjoyed it and he cheered me on at every stage in my life.

I truly believe he knows all of these things and is with me still today. But my grief is still there. I say my grief because I think that everyone reacts differently to loss. There’s no right way to act or feel and some days are harder than others.

Jason Ritter talked about grief recently on Dax Shepard’s podcast Armchair Expert and it really resonated with me. He said: grief is such a specific thing for everyone and it’s a lifelong journey. It’s always there.You deal with it and you go through it and all of the sudden years later it’s like ‘oh no buddy, I’ve been here the whole time.’” He went on to Tweet about grief: “So cool how grief is just like ‘ok, that’s enough, I’ll leave you alone, I understand that sobbing forever isn’t a realistic life plan’ and then years later you see or read something and it’s like ‘PSYCH I never left, have fun bursting into tears for the rest of the day, hahaha.’”

This. This is what grief is like. There’s no preparing for it but having people in your life who are kind and understanding helps a lot.

Not a lot of people can put grief into words because it’s ever changing, but for now, these are the words I have.

Keeping resolutions by setting intentions

Now that it’s almost March I started thinking about my New Years resolutions. This year I decided to set intentions instead of specific goals. My list includes:

  1.  travel more
  2. Be kind to myself and others
  3. Read more
  4. Write more
  5. Fear less
  6. Love fiercely
  7. Grow in faith
  8. Enjoy every moment and stop waiting for weekends and big events to have fun.
  9. Work on finding a balance between work and life

So how have I been doing? I’m happy to say that I’m working on all of these.

  1. I traveled to California last month and have a few trips planned this year.
  2. In my previous post I pointed out the importance of self love and extending the same kindness and grace to others.
  3. So far I’ve read 7 books this year and I’m reading two right now. I’m also getting ready to start a book club with a friend.
  4. This blog is proof that I’m working on writing 🙂
  5. For me the next three are all connected.
  6. I am a worrier and I’ve been working on that this year by choosing to worry less and spend more time growing in faith and prayer.
  7. Part of that is loving people and myself more.
  8. I am blessed to have a husband and family that love doing adventurous and fun things. I went to a Cher concert with my mom recently, I just took a trip to Chicago with my husband and we’re planning a family vacation. But instead of spending all of my time looking forward to these events I’m working on enjoying every single moment- even Saturday errands, grocery shopping, and lazy afternoons of watching Netflix. More time is spent in the small monotonous moments than in the big moments and that’s beautiful too.
  9. I’m still working on finding the balance. I used to think success was defined by long hours and burn out and that’s just not the case. It’s important to have both.

All of these are tied back to being kind to others and myself, spending time with my loved ones, and finding time for the things I love to do. It continues to be a work in progress but I’m enjoying the work.

What about you? Did you make any new year’s resolutions? Did you keep them? And if you did, what helped you succeed?

How you talk to yourself matters

“This shirt is unflattering– I look awful today.”

“I can’t believe I said that earlier, I was so stupid.”

In the month that is all about love, sometimes it can be easy to forget how important self-love is.

I am guilty of this.

I pride myself in being kind and supportive and would do anything for any of my friends and family. In fact I’m quick to offer grace and words of encouragement to others especially when they are down on themselves.

Annie had a bad day of work? Girl, you got this. You are an intelligent, capable, badass warrior princess.  

Heidi is frustrated with a series of first dates that haven’t gone anywhere? Love, you are such a catch and you are going to find someone who can keep up with your wittiness, intelligence, and humor.

Laura feels like she’s in a slump? Lady, you’re doing just fine. In fact, you’re doing more than fine and continue to multitask and work toward your goals with the best of them.

But do you think I talk to myself this way? Most of the time I don’t. I’ve become more aware of the way I talk to myself this year and am working on extending the same grace, kindness, and patience to myself.

I know I’m not alone in this.

Here are some things I’m doing to keep the negative self-talk in check:

1) When I think something negative about myself, I ask myself if I would say what I just thought to someone else.

2) If the answer is no, I acknowledge that I’m being hard on myself.

3) If it’s something I want to work on – getting in better shape, for example – then I remind myself to be patient and do small things daily to work toward a goal.

I think we could all be a little kinder to ourselves and I hope this helps if this is something you struggle with too.