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

Learning to work from home

For the past two years I’ve worked remotely. I travel quite a bit on work assignments, but it has still been an adjustment.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about working from home. Be honest- did you just picture someone working in their pajamas, watching tv, and doing laundry and other chores whenever they want? You’re not the only one, but that’s not what it’s like.

I still don’t have it all figured out, but here’s what works for me.

1.) Create a morning routine

I can’t just jump right into work right away because my brain still needs to wake up in the morning. So each morning I read a devotion. I’m currently reading 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs. I then spend 5-10 minutes meditating. I like the guided meditations by Tone It Up. They are free online and really set the tone for the day. Click here for an example of one.

2.) Take breaks

If I don’t make myself take breaks during work I will sit at my desk all day. I try to take a 10-minute break in the morning and the afternoon. Sometimes I take my dog for a walk and other times I read a chapter or two of a book outside on my deck. Giving my eyes a break from the computer screen and my brain a break from work helps me come back to the desk refreshed.

3.) Create a welcoming space

I have a giant canvas photo over my desk. It was a gift from my brother and it was taken at Holden Beach, one of my favorite places in the world. I have a standing desk with a tall chair so I can sit if I want but I also have the option to stand. I have a globe from my grandma and some wedding photos in frames around the room. My office is in our guest bedroom and the windows are at my back when I work, so I also bought a floor lamp to light up my workspace (I found some cute décor at World Market and Target).

4.) Stay organized

There is something at home that makes it harder to stay organized. I purchased a desk calendar and a planner to keep organized. I have a lot of interviews and meetings throughout the week so the only way I keep them straight is with seeing them on the calendar and planner. I don’t like setting calendar reminders on my computer because I get too many of them and seeing them in writing on my desk keeps me on track.

5.) Shut the door to your office and walk away from your work at night

The one thing no one told me about working from home is how easy it can be to keep working through the evening. When you go into an office you physically leave the building and drive home at the end of the day. That doesn’t happen when you work from home. It’s so easy to continue answering emails and keep working into the evening hours without realizing it. I’ve made a conscious effort to stop working at a certain time, turn off the lights and my computer and walk away from my desk. I sometimes still check my email on my phone, but I’m working on it. 🙂

These are some of the ways that I’m learning to work from home and maintain that work-life balance.

What about you: do you work from home or have you worked from home in the past? What works/worked for you?

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.

To the graduates

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Perfection is not attainable and the sooner you realize that the better you’ll feel.

You will fail. Learn from it and move on.

It takes time to get to where you want and that’s okay.Enjoy the process.

You may end up in a different place or career than youenvisioned and that’s okay too.

Stop comparing yourself to others. It only leads to youtearing yourself or the other person down.

God has this. Seriously, God is bigger than any worry or anxiety you have.

Spend time with your family and friends. Tell them how much they mean to you every chance you get.

Let it go. That time you said the wrong thing or had an awkward interaction doesn’t matter. Chances are the other person doesn’t remember it.

Ask for help. You don’t need to do everything on your own.Be there for others and when you need help ask for it.

Enjoy the now. It’s great to have an event or something tolook forward to, but don’t let that stop you from being present.

Don’t rush. You’re not behind and life isn’t a race. It’snot about who gets their dream job first, who gets married first, or who haskids first. It’s about enjoying where you’re at and recognizing everyone is on hisor her own path.

You don’t know everything. Most of us are limited to our own experiences. Talk to other people and learn from their experiences. Read. Travel. Learn.

Overall, be kind to others and yourself. Apologize when you need to. Have the courage to try something new. Learn when to say no to commitments. Invest in yourself. Hold on tight to those closest to you. There will be hard times- don’t let them make you colder. Find out what make you happy.

The best writing advice I ever received

Write what you know. But, don’t let that stop you from asking questions and writing about what you learn.

Read a lot. You become a better writer when you read what other people write and learn from them.

Write like you speak. It’s easy to put on a tone when writing and use words you wouldn’t normally use. While there is a time for that, it’s more refreshing and genuine to write like you speak.

Write short sentences. A meaningful short sentence is better than a long sentence with unnecessary words.

Find the time. For a long time I didn’t write. I was busy, I was tired, or I wasn’t inspired. Although writing can be hard, sitting down to write can be harder.

All I ask is that you do as well as you can, and remember that, while to write adverbs is human, to write he said or she said is divine.”

Stephen King

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?