April Showers Bring More Tears

April is a hard, hard month for me. While everyone and everything around me is celebrating the newness of Spring and all the joy that brings, April marks the loss of two of my most favorite people ever: my dad and my best friend. Their deaths were one year and 24 days apart. I used to think that it was such a terrible thing to lose them so close together, but now I think it may actually be a blessing. April is month of grief for me. And I need that. And I need you to know that I need that. And you need to know that I need to know that you know I need that. (favorite FRIENDS episode, anyone?)

It’s not like I go the other 11 months of the year without thinking about or grieving them. I do. Almost everyday something happens that I would want to tell one of them about. But because life is life, I can’t go around being sad all the time. So, April is when I give myself permission to really feel. To remember them and their lives. To imagine what it would be like if they were here today.

Papa Steve with Lauryn and Brayden when they were about the same age as B is today.

It’s when the little triggers become big triggers. When something as small as a phone call not answered can send me into a downward spiral of fear and worry. When my son asking about the picture of my dad on the mantle ends with me ugly crying in the closet instead of sitting him on my lap and telling him a funny story about Papa Steve. When I’m listening to a song on the radio that I’ve heard a hundred times and all of a sudden the words start meaning something else and I’ll never listen without tears again.

I was beginning to think I’d reached the point in my grief that I could stop watching for and avoiding these moments. I was starting feel almost whole again – as whole as one can feel with two parts of their heart gone. And then my Dad’s angel-versary came. And it went. And nobody really even noticed. Not my husband. Not my family. Nobody. Almost not even me.

That’s a lie. I did notice. I had been dreading it for days. I kept myself busy and made it through the work day without incident. I called my Grammy to wish her a belated happy birthday and prayed she didn’t want to talk about it – she didn’t. I called my sister that evening just to say hi and make sure she was okay – she was, sort of. I started to call my brother, but couldn’t muster the courage in case he was the one of us who really wasn’t okay. Instead, I picked a fight with my husband and then cried myself into a ball in the shower.

I’m terrible about bottling up my feelings, while at the same time expecting everyone else to know exactly how I’m feeling and why. It’s something I have got to work on. But not this month. Not in April. Consider this your warning. For the entire month of April, I may be happy, sad, moody, and on the verge of crying all at the same time. You probably won’t be able to tell from outside, but it’s there. Just waiting. Waiting on a smell, a song, a picture, or a memory. Waiting on something to trigger it.

But as the old saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. And one of my favorite new traditions comes toward the end of April. The 24th, to be exact. It’s when I celebrate Anne Marie by sending her mom a bouquet of pink flowers – Gerbera daisies to be exact, symbolizing my favorite picture of Ree. I think this year I will buy myself some, too. Maybe looking at them will help me remember the happy times and move out of my April funk. Any then when the flowers wilt, I will toss them out – along with my grief.

Until next year.

From my visit to DC. One of my favorite memories of Anne Marie.


National Siblings Day

Today is National Siblings Day. A day set aside to celebrate a relationship that is unlike any other. It’s not a relationship you chose, nor is it one you can leave. Nope. Your parents chose to give you siblings, and whether you like them or not, it is a bond that can never be broken.

I consider myself very lucky to have my brother and sister. I haven’t always felt that way. There were those tough years growing up that I hated how my older brother always made me be the nurse when he and his friends played war in the woods behind my house. Or how my annoying little sister was always trying to hang out with me and my friends when I had sleepovers. I remember taping a line down the middle of the room my sister and I shared – and the only reason I took it up was because her side had the door.

But as I have gotten older, I have grown to truly appreciate that I have built-in best friends. People who know where I came from and can relate to my experiences better than anyone else – because they lived it, too. Someone I can call when I’m just having one of those days. Someone that calls me when they need advice that only a sister can give. Often times talking to them is like looking into a mirror – probably because we all look so much alike, but also because they are the reflection of my life that I sometimes have trouble seeing.

As grateful as I am for them, I write this with tears in my eyes because I know that my son will never have that. It was a decision Adam and I made when we were discussing our family plans. It wasn’t something I took lightly, but deep down I knew it was what would be right for us, our family, and our lifestyle. However, I was super sad knowing that my child would never get to experience that relationship. That sibling bond.

However, part of what factored into my side of the decision was the fact that both of my siblings were also growing their families at the same time. We each had babies 3 months apart – May, August, and November of 2013. Knowing that my son would grow up with his cousins, these 2 and the 3 older ones, eased my mind that he would still have the closeness of family even without a brother or sister of his own.

I knew this would be true because I also have the greatest cousins in the world. My cousins and I were thick as thieves growing up, spending weeks at a time together at Grammy’s house. So in addition to my brother and sister, I also have 6 other people who have my genes and know everything about my childhood, my family, my life. An extra set of people who love me like their own.

Having that experience with my cousins, and knowing that my brother and sister grew up in the same crew, warms my heart and reassures me that my kiddo will not be growing up alone. He has 5 other people that will be there every step of the way. My siblings and I will make sure of it. He also now has a new baby cousin from Adam’s side and I can’t wait to watch that relationship blossom.

I guess what I’m getting it is that I love my siblings. I love my cousins. And I love that my son has cublings – cousins who are like siblings. It is hands-down the best thing my brother and sister have ever done for me…and they didn’t even know they were doing it.

Thank you my Nacie and Sissy. I love you both beyond words. Happy Siblings Day.


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Small Wins – A Parenting Victory

I don’t have to tell you that this parenting gig is hard. Like, really hard. Most days, I feel like parenting a toddler ranges anywhere between blissfully strolling through a field of wildflowers on a sunny day and being run over by a train carrying 4 billion tons of coal to the North Pole for your child’s Christmas stocking. Rarely is it one extreme or the other – it’s almost always both. At the same time. Times 1,000.

More often than not, I feel like a complete failure as a mother, co-parent, wife, friend, and person in general. But on occasion, I’m reminded that even though I may not feel like it, I’m doing a pretty decent job raising a tiny human being. Sometimes it’s a big thing, like the pediatrician telling us we made the right call to bring him in (because he does, in fact, have strep throat) or watching my son offer up a few of his unopened Easter eggs to a little girl who arrived late for the egg hunt at school.

Other times, I’ll take a step back and notice some of the smaller things that make me think that maybe, just maybe, his dad and I aren’t doing too bad. This post is dedicated to those times – the seemingly insignificant things that often get overlooked, but deserve a round of applause – because some days it’s really hard to get up after that dang train hits you.

The internet says that “Success is a series of small wins.” So here are a few examples of small parenting wins that deserve a pat on the back. This list is really just a few of my own motherhood victories. Share your own in the comments – you never know who may be fighting the same fight. And we could all use a little glimpse into someone else’s wildflower field.

  1. He can hold a fork correctly. Let’s be honest – nobody wants to be at a business lunch and look across the table to find a colleague shoveling food into his mouth like a caveman. Table manners are good, but without proper table ergonomics, manners are just frosting on a fruitcake. If your child can get the food from his plate to his mouth using the eating utensil of his choice, he’s on the right track.
  2. She remembers that you told her she could have a cupcake after school…last month. You may see this as a negative because of the major meltdown that ensued when she realized you ate the last cupcake for breakfast weeks ago. But that long term memory is going to serve her well throughout her life. Also, this means you’ve taught her to hold others accountable for the things they say and promises they make. Well done!
  3. He doesn’t smell like a foot (all of the time). Getting a child to bathe is no easy feat. Remembering to make them is sometimes even harder. So if you accomplish both of these things at least once a week, high five to you! (Bonus points if you also get them to brush their teeth on the reg. I’m hoping nobody is counting how often my child goes to school with “stinky fish breath”)
  4. YOU don’t smell like a foot. Let’s face it – when you are in the grunt of parenthood, personal hygiene is often the first thing to go. Plus, showers are a lot less enjoyable when you have an audience that is eye-level with your lady parts. Let’s all be thankful for deodorant, mouth wash, and dry shampoo!
  5. You and your partner* still love each other. Kids are innately going to love you and vice versa. An adult relationship, on the other hand, takes work, time, and desire to keep going – all of which are hard to come by when you have a 3-year-old that has never slept in his own bed for a full night and still poops his pants. If you and your partner can keep it together long enough to come out the other side, I hear it can be glorious. (*Partner refers to anyone that loves you and is part of the village helping you raise your child – spouse, parent, sister, friend, neighbor, stranger you met in the grocery store, etc.)
  6. Your child is breathing. Let’s face it. Sometimes it’s all you can do as a parent to keep your kid alive. If you child screamed bloody murder when you suggested he wear his camouflage underpants instead of the dirty ninja turtle ones he pulled out of the laundry basket, count it in the win column because you kept your child alive yesterday. Yay…

So here’s to you, parents. I know you think you’re screwing everything up and you worry that your child is too spoiled/anti-social/busy/shy/slow/talkative/stinky/etc. But I want you to know that you’re doing something right. Everyday. It may be as simple as getting your kid to dress himself in the morning. Or maybe it’s that you locked yourself in the closet to check your Facebook in peace for 5 minutes instead of giving in to the constant urge to run away to a beach somewhere and live like Tom Hanks in Castaway (but let’s be real – the lack of internet on a remote island was the real deal breaker here).

Being a mom or dad can be so hectic that you may not notice all the small wins, but rest assured that your kid does. And every single day, he sees you trying to be the best parent/person you can be. And you know what, he’s going to be just fine.

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Instant Parent – Just Add Water

If you’ve ever talked to me and wondered “How in the world did she come up with that?” or “What in the heck is she talking about?” this post will not help answer those questions. In fact, it will probably illicit those thoughts and more from everyone who reads it. Let me be the first to warn you that what lies ahead is a post in which the miracle of child birth is compared to making a Cup O’ Noodles. Proceed with caution…

Most of us will never forget the exact moment we learned we were going to be parents. For me, it was about 4pm on a Friday in early December. 2 weeks after my missed period, 7 negative pregnancy tests, and about 3 hours before a weekend filled with boozy holiday parties. Adam had tried to reason with me that I was just stressed out – my boss had recently quit and I had some family issues going on. I agreed, but for my own sanity, I decided to take one last test before embarking on the festive weekend.

I had grown tired of shelling out big bucks for the fancy tests, so I had stocked up on some tests that I found in the $0.88 bin at Walmart – you know, the metal bin with all the generic drugs right next to the one with all the boxed theater candy. Let’s just say there were no frills included in these tests. I followed the steps, waited a few minutes, and then I saw it. That second purple line. I squinted at it, tilting the test back and forth, and holding it up to the light…just to make sure I was seeing it correctly. Could I really trust a cheapie test? But alas, it was a fact I couldn’t deny. That second purple line hadn’t been on the last one. Ho…Ly…Crap.

Adam was still at work, so I snapped a photo and sent it to him in a text message.

Guys…let me tell you…when your wife tells you you’re going to be a dad, almost anything you say is going to be better than the response I got. (And gals – maybe don’t use a text message to convey the news. This kind of thing really deserves an in-person interaction.)

The text I got back was one word: “Cool.” My bathroom mirror became a sounding board for just about every profanity in my repertoire. Cool? That’s all he can say? Seriously?! Luckily for him, my phone rang a few moments later after he had stepped out of the office and could unleash his excitement. We were both ecstatic, and in shock, and neither of us had a clue what that little purple line actually meant.

The next 40 weeks went by both fast and slow. Parts of it were a blur, while others seemed to drag on and on. As the end of the third trimester approached, we began reading up on labor, delivery, postpartum, breastfeeding, cloth diapering, anything and everything we could find related to having a baby. And while those moments of finding out I was pregnant will never be forgotten, it’s the last moments of my pregnancy that inspired this post.


39 weeks pregnant. Using my belly as a table for my ice cream sundae lunch. Still not a parent.

Let me take you back to that Tuesday night in August of 2013. I had been to the doctor on Monday and even though my due date was that Wednesday, I was told baby wasn’t coming anytime soon. I was barely dilated and wasn’t feeling anything resembling a contraction. Adam asked to go to a friend’s house to watch baseball and hang out with the guys, his typical Tuesday evening at the time. I happily obliged, realizing this might be the last chance he would have to do that for a little while. So while he was eating jambalaya and drinking beer (more on this in a future post – I promise!), I was at home doing a load of laundry and relaxing by myself.

I went to bed a little before 10pm and Adam returned home not long after. He climbed into bed, reached over and grabbed my belly, and asked if the baby was going to come soon. I assured him it was not, and we both rolled over to go to sleep. About 10:30, he got up and went downstairs to get a glass of water and that’s when it happened. For the first time since I could remember, I peed the bed. I jumped up and ran to the hall bathroom and plopped down on the toilet (there was no grace in lowering myself to the seat at 40 weeks pregnant!). I looked down at a huge puddle of water on the floor between my legs and it hit me that my water had just broken. And just like that, Adam and I went from “being pregnant and planning for baby” to “oh crap this is really happening”. This is where the Cup-O-Noodles comparison come in – just like cooking noodles in a microwave, after the pregnancy part is over, you instantly become a parent. Just break the water and wait a few minutes (or in my case, 13 hours).


Becoming a parent – just like Cup O’ Noodles, all you have to do is add water!

A final thought: After a long and grueling labor, none of the books and articles we read mattered. All the advice from well-meaning friends and family was pushed out of my mind. The only thing I cared about was that tiny, 7lb 15oz little boy with 10 fingers and 10 toes that was laying on my chest. In the following days, weeks, months, and years, my identity quickly and seamlessly became that of a parent. I didn’t have to practice or change myself to fill the role. There wasn’t a big “welcome to parenthood” celebration rivaling my college graduation, ushering me from being a woman and wife into the gigantic and life-changing role of being a mother. My husband quickly became the doting father, embracing his son without hesitation and vowing to give him the best childhood he can. We were parents. It happened so instantaneously that I didn’t even realize it and some days it still doesn’t seem real.

There is all kinds of advice about when to get pregnant, how to get pregnant, what to do while you’re pregnant, what child birth is like, what parenthood is like. But the piece that’s missing, what they don’t tell you, and what you wouldn’t understand even if they did is that in that moment, when the water breaks and things starts to get real in the delivery room, when you go from fantasizing about your unborn child to actually holding a tiny human in your arms…in that exact moment you ARE a parent. A mom. A dad. A family. And there’s no turning back.

And if someone could go ahead and get you a cup-o-noodles, that’d be great…because you’re most likely starving and that might be your last chance for a hot meal for the next 18 years.

First Family Photo

Our first family photo

How did you learn you were going to be a parent? And how did you tell your significant other the happy news? Leave your stories in the comments – I can’t wait to read them all!


Today is mine and Adam’s 9 year date-iversary. Yes – we still celebrate the anniversary of our first date. Not because we are super-sappy, uber-lovey kind of people. But because, at least for me, it is the date on which I can look back and say “That. That is when you changed my life.”

Saturday, March 15, 2008, began as a typical morning. I woke up in the little farm house I was renting in Bolivar, MO and perused my closet for something to wear. I was working a double shift for maurices that day: half of the day at my store in Bolivar and half of the day at the store in Springfield. I needed to wear something comfortable and fashionable, but it also had to be green and a little sassy. I had a date that night and we were going to the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl (at my request – I was one classy broad back then).

I settled on wide leg, pinstriped black pants and a green tank peeking out beneath a tight black tee, accented with a green bead necklace and black ballet flats.

I was unsure of what to expect when it came to my date. We had met 2 weeks prior at a birthday dinner for my friend Rachel, and he had contacted me and asked me out via MySpace – pause for reaction. Yes, my husband asked me out on MySpace. I logged into my account* the other day to see if I could find the messages, but they were no longer available. If they would have been there, you would have seen an awkward exchange about barking dogs, lack of sleep, and my love for pub crawls. We exchanged numbers and agreed that I would meet at his house before proceeding downtown.

(*turns out it still exists and yours probably does, too. The messages were gone, but the pictures, posts, and my Top 8 were still just as I had left them all those years ago)

After a grueling 15 hour work day, I walked up to his door and rang the doorbell. He invited me in and offered me a beer. Great start! (although I’m pretty sure he offered me a Miller Light which went against my strict Bud Light only beer palate back then) I sat down and instantly knew I wasn’t getting back up. My feet hurt so badly that there was no way I was going to be able to stand/dance/party all night at a pub crawl. Instead, we sat on his couch and tried to find something to watch on TV.

We started talking, looking through pictures from his time in Europe, and sharing stories from various aspects of our lives. We’d occasionally look up and decide we wanted to watch something else, so we’d change the channel. I distinctly remember watching part of The Gremlins movie and at least one episode of Full House. Before we knew it, it was 4am and we were still sitting on the couch completely enthralled in each other.

He offered to let me stay, rather than driving all the way back to Bolivar. I had disaster-date planned and had a bag packed to stay with a friend anyway, so I agreed. He left the room while I changed into PJs and crawled into bed. When he joined, he rolled over the other way and said “Good night.”

The sun glared into the room at 9am, and being a morning person, I was wide awake and ready to get the day started. There was just one problem. I was pinned against the wall with no way out of the bed without waking a guy I barely knew. I hadn’t asked whether or not he was a morning person, so I erred on the side of not and stayed put. He eventually woke up (at 11) and took me to lunch.

We both had things we needed to do that afternoon, but agreed to meet back up for dinner. After dinner, we feel right back into conversation on the couch and before we knew it, it was 2am. He again offered for me to stay, and I again accepted. This time, when he crawled into bed, he rolled towards me and kissed the back of my shoulder before saying “Good night.” He woke up first the next morning, having to get ready for work and be there by 8am. I didn’t have to be at the store until 1pm, so he let me sleep in and told me just to lock up when I left.

When I got up to use the restroom, I found a clean towel on the counter  with a note: “Good morning – I hope you have a great day” topped with a couple of purple grape hyacinth flowers tied together with a blade of grass. He sure was smooth! After spending almost 56 straight hours with this guy and waking up to that, I was hooked.

From that fateful first date forward, he has continued to woo me. He continues to surprise me. He continues to fight for me. He continues to make our relationship a priority. He likes me. He loves me. He tolerates me. He doesn’t stay up late watching TV with me anymore, but I think I’ll let him off the hook for that one.

Happy date-iversary, my love.

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The only life hack you’ll ever need


life-hack-aheadOne evening last October, I was frantically searching my kitchen for a pizza cutter when I had an epiphany. We’ll get to that later, but first let’s talk about why I was in such dire need of a pizza cutter that I literally opened every drawer and cabinet in my kitchen…twice.

You see, once a month I morph into a person we all love to hate. It happens about 24 hours before the day my kid is signed up to be snack leader at his preschool. I become a #PinterestMom. Apparently, my creativity has been stifled and only recently found an outlet – making toddler snacks. I plan my snack attack with diligence, spending days looking for the perfect idea – one that will be both healthy and fun to eat.
Of course, with Halloween 20161018_12092020161018_120941

approaching, there was no shortage of inspiration for this
snack. After hours of agonizing over my selection, I went with little hot dog mummies and banana ghosts. I set out to prep the mummies the evening before, so that B could help, and planned to bake them and make the ghosts the next day just before delivering them for snack time.

This is where my epiphany comes in. I had rolled out the dough and went to grab the pizza cutter to aide in making strips to use for the mummy wraps. It was one of those “life hacks” I had seen all over the internet and it seemed to be the only way to go about my task at hand. So you can imagine my frustration when I realized the utensil was nowhere to be found. When my husband suggested I just use a knife, I scoffed (and probably whined  little), then begrudgingly grabbed the bread knife from the drawer and began the tedious task of cutting strips of dough, all the while thinking to myself, “Man this would have been so much easier with the pizza cutter.”

That’s when it hit me. Well, not at that exact moment, but hours later when I was trying to fall asleep and replaying the events of the evening in my head. But it was that moment of the replay that made me stop and think. Why was I so frustrated by having to use a knife? Why did I care so much about using a “life hack” when I got the same results in the end? What is a life hack, anyway?

I made a mental note to write those thoughts down and come back to them. I knew there was more to that feeling, and I wanted to fully dive into it. The next day I wrote a quick couple of paragraphs as a starter post and vowed to finish it soon. It’s now March, so you can see how well that went.

I read back through my initial thoughts, then spent a few days thinking it over and finally came up with this. I am going to give you my Ultimate Life Hack. But before we get to that – let’s take a moment to review what exactly constitutes a life hack.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “life hack” as follows:
:  a usually simple and clever tip or technique for accomplishing some familiar task more easily and efficiently <“Life hacks,” as they are known, are all about eliminating life’s manifold frustrations in simple and deliciously clever ways. The best involve tricks that are free, efficient and stunningly obvious in retrospect, deploying household items (like the humble toilet roll) for purposes beyond their wildest aspirations.

Ok. With that in mind, continue reading for my epiphany-filled suggestion for how to make your life run more easily and efficiently. Here it is – are you ready for it? It’s really good. Brace yourself. And go…


Just don’t. Don’t hack your life.  I’m not saying not to use life hacks – after all, I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to them! Plus, I can’t tell you not to use life hacks and then give you a life hack to use – that would be hypocritical. But this one comes with a few stipulations.

  • Don’t let your life become so full of hacks that you forget to live and love and experience all that life has to offer. Nobody should waste 15 minutes of mummy-making time looking for a pizza cutter when you could be laughing and making memories with your son.
  • Don’t let the absence of a hack get in the way of enjoying what you are doing. (see above about wasting time – just grab the dang knife!)
  • Choose your hacks carefully – using one may come at the expense of something else. Just because the internet says you should use a straw to remove the stem of a strawberry doesn’t mean you have to (especially if you accidentally choose your son’s favorite straw).
  • Create your own hacks that work for your life. I, for one, will never be able to do all the fun hair-hacks I see, but I know that my phone’s camera zoom makes for an excellent magnifying glass when needed.

It’s not rocket science. It’s not really even all that original. But it is something that I needed to hear again and thought maybe you might, too. Life is precious. Time is short. Rather than searching the kitchen for a pizza cutter that was most likely thrown out inside a pizza box months ago, just grab a knife and get to making mummies with your kid.

What are some of your favorite life hacks? Or better yet, share your #LifeHackFails! My most favorite one is below – it is seriously life changing when it comes to baking cakes!




The Sad. The Bad. The Ugly.

The other day I came across an article shared on Facebook written by a young girl who lost her best friend during high school. I timidly clicked the link, knowing there would likely be tears in my near future. But instead of crying, I finished the article with a smile on my face and my own thoughts on what it’s like to go on living after tragedy. So that is what brought me back here – months and months after my last post – to share a more truthful version of my life  than most of you have probably seen in the past 2 1/2 years. (click here to read her article. keep scrolling to read mine)

In April of 2014, I lost my best friend. In the height of our busy lives, we’d grown apart, but Anne Marie was the kind of friend that could go weeks or months without speaking and we’d pick right back up where we left off, each of us innately knowing what the other had been through without having to say it. Her sudden and heartbreaking death cut straight to my soul. A piece of my being was gone.


Then, just as the pain of losing her was easing up, my dad passed away unexpectedly. Well, not completely unexpected – but sooner than I was ready for and in a more tragic way that I can even put into words. Alone. Sick. Sad. Peaceful. I thought that was rock bottom. That life had given my fair share of pain and things were going to start looking up. But a month later my mom was in the ER, failing to thrive and unable to care for herself. She would spend the next 2 months in a nursing facility, and I would spend the next 6 managing her life from afar and worrying that any day she would give up the fight and die on me, too. Luckily, she pulled through and is back on the track of living again.

Throw all of this on top of being a new parent, changing jobs, and another complicated family situation, and it sounds like a recipe for personal breakdown. But anyone that is close to me knows that I deal with things by elevating the good and suppressing the bad. I bury hurt and pain down deep inside and put on a smile, choosing to focus on what is going well in my life. I tend to live by the motto: Feel it. If you don’t like that way it feels, change it if you can. If you can’t, move on.

But that article made me stop and think…what did I really go through these past months and years? Should I share my feelings and stories, too? Obviously I decided to share, and here it is (some of it, anyway).

The Sad. The Bad. The Ugly.

Time stands still.

I’ll never forget where I was when I got each of the calls. When Anne Marie died, I was upstairs in my bedroom when my phone rang. It was a friend that doesn’t call that often, so I was instantly on guard thinking something was wrong. When she shared the news, my body reacted before my mind and I was somehow instantly in my closet, sitting on the floor with my knees hugged to my chest. I hung up and dialed her cell – voicemail. I dialed her parents’ landline from memory. “She’s gone.” The shortest sentence, spoken in a voice that only Momma Lisa could have had in that moment: strong, sad, comforting, factual.

When my brother called me in the middle of the afternoon on a Monday, I thought he just wanted to chat about the great weekend we’d had celebrating my Grammy. I was sitting at my desk and spun my chair around the look out the window as I picked up his call. When I heard his voice, I knew something wasn’t right. And when he gave me the news, my left hand clenched my shirt over my heart, as if it could somehow stop it from beating. The tears fell, the snot came, and my cubicle neighbor peeked over to check on me. I was hunched over in my chair, rocking back and forth. I walked to my car stoically, just praying that I would somehow be invisible to anybody that passed me.

These two moments now overshadow all of the better moments that I had with two of my most favorite people in the world. These are the moments when time stopped and I physically felt my world crashing around me.


My guardian angels

There are triggers everywhere.

I knew there would be memories of my dad scattered throughout my daily life. He had, of course, been a part of it for more than 2/3 of my life. But what I wasn’t prepared for where the subtle reminders of him. Like the way my father-in-law refuses to bring reading glasses to a restaurant and then can’t read the menu – just like my dad used to. Or when I would run into a guy a work who could be my dad’s doppelganger. When I hear a story about someone with a broken collar bone, I can just hear my dad telling us the story about how he broke his. Or when I see my dad’s best friend out to dinner with another friend – and all I can think about it that it should be him. Possibly the most surprising for me has been when my handwriting slips in to ALL CAPS and I can see his messy writing coming through in my own (capital E’s without the vertical line, S’s that look like Z’s).

All of these things bring to mind things I took for granted about my dad. Things I want my son to know about my dad. Things I want to remember about my dad. If I tried to shelter myself from all the triggers that might cause me to feel sadness or pain, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. Which would probably make my back hurt. Which would make me think of him. Which would negate the purpose of staying in bed. So instead, I’ve learned to embrace the triggers and the memories that go along with them.

I’m an ugly crier.

A seriously ugly crier. My face, especially around my mouth and nose, gets all splotchy and red. Snot immediately begins pouring out of my nose. My shoulders start to spasm and my whole upper body beings to convulse. It’s not pretty, but I’ve realized that crying is one of the those universal languages that everyone understands. Not everyone is fluent or speak it the same way, but even single human being knows that if you’re crying, you’ve got something going on.

I realized this at the Sprint store when I went to get a new phone. The sales guy was extremely helpful in getting all my contacts, pictures, etc. switched over, then handed me my old phone back for one last pass through before wiping it out. That’s when I saw it. A voicemail from Anne Marie from 2 weeks before her death – the one she left me, which turned into the last conversation I would ever have with her. It was my last living piece of her. Her voice saying “Hey girlie, it’s me. I really need to, umm, talk to you, so, umm, call me back please.” I looked up and asked if there was a way to transfer a voicemail to my new phone. He saw the tears and knew his answer was not going to be the one I wanted or needed. I listened to her voice one last time, and then traded my old phone for the tissue he was extending. I managed to pull it together and finish my transaction, but it had happened. An unsuspecting stranger had seen my ugly cry. And we both survived.

Be in control.

Although I am often guilty of attempting it, it is impossible to control everything that happens in your life. You can’t control events, emotions, what other people say or do. Things happen that you won’t like, didn’t plan, or couldn’t imagine. And that’s OK. Even when it feels like it’s not.

Like the writer of the article above says, “All of your feelings are valid. Every single one of them.”

But a big part of who I am and what I believe is focusing on what I can control. I can control my reactions to my emotions. I can control how extreme my feelings get. I can control the things that make me feel that way. And I can even change the emotions that are triggered by the same thing. Like in this story…

We used some of the money I got from my dad’s life’s savings to remodel our kitchen. At first, I was really excited that we could finally afford to do the major overhaul we’d been wanting to do in that room, instead of just some cosmetic things. We finalized all the details and the contractor started work. When it was finished, it was even more beautiful that I’d imagined. I quickly put a picture on the mantel of me and my dad from my wedding day. And that was when the sadness hit. For months, every time I stepped into my new kitchen, I felt like crying. I put on a happy face because I really do love our new space. But on the inside, this new kitchen was a beautifully painful reminder of the major loss my life had just experienced. Then one day Adam helped me realize that my dad would be really proud of us for doing something so beautiful and making a smart investment in our home. So now, whenever I start to feel a tinge of sadness, I look at the picture on the mantel and imagine that my dad is as proud of me right now as he was on the day that photo was taken.


The best stories are the ones that are told.

Did you ever have a night with your friends that was just so crazy that nobody would believe it? I’ve had more than my fair share. And looking back on those times, often the best part of it is telling the story to somebody else – or to each other again and again. Each time, the story comes back to life, probably gets exaggerated a little bit more, and always brings back fond memories. Some of them may only make sense to those that were there, but most of them bring on uncontrollable laughter.

I have picture of Anne Marie on my desk and every time B sees it, he grabs it and asks who it is. I tell him she is mommy’s best friend and that she died a couple years ago. The other night, when I was tucking him into bed, he had a huge booger in his nose. I said to him “Let me get that bat out of your cave”, which made him erupt with giggles. “I don’t have bats in my cave! What does that mean, mommy?” I explained that Anne Marie would always come up to me, tilt her head back, and ask if she had any bats in her cave (boogers in her nose). Hearing B giggle at our inside joke made my insides lite up with joy, and a little sadness. Sadness for missing her so much, but also because I realized just how many stories I have yet to tell him about my dear friend. Some of them will have to wait until he’s a little older, but I plan on telling him all of the crazy things Anne Marie and I did in our 20 year friendship.

As cliché as it sounds, life does go on.

My life changed and time stopped in the moments surrounding Anne Marie’s and my dad’s deaths, but while that was happening, both my life and time also continued moving forward. My husband and son weren’t going to stop needing me just because I was grieving. My job wasn’t going to lighten my workload. My house wasn’t going to clean itself (although somebody seriously needs to invent that – I could really use something like Rosie from the Jetsons). And it turns out, my family and my job are really happy parts of my life. So getting back into the grove with those aspects was a major part of my healing process. I’m not saying I’m totally past the grieving phase – I started bawling just the other day when B put one of his toy tubs on his head and said “I’m a bucket head!” and I’ll never be able to listen to New Kids on the Block without some tears – but focusing on being the best wife, mother, and person I can be has helped me get past the hard parts and move me through the difficult days. And having all of you around to support me is pretty awesome, too.