January 31, 2017

hot showers & pep talks

Yesterday I left my lights on at work. (#gome) Three of my coworkers alternated spending 10 minute shifts with me trying to get my car to start. After almost an hour of standing in the cold, waiting for Starr's dad to come look at my car, I looked around and thought, "God damn it, is this what this is going to feel like every single time something goes wrong with my car from now on?"

I wanted to call my dad and I couldn't. He is not there, on the other of the phone line, waiting to pick up anymore. I took a shower last night and let huge, ugly sobs escape from my chest. I broke down in the most vulnerable way I know how: alone, naked, with myself in the shower. It was how I finally accepted that my first relationship had to end in order to make room for growth. It was how I tried to cope with being 1,000 miles away from a familiar face in college. It was how I reconciled with myself and forgave myself for my young and stupid mistakes. After I forced myself to take deep breaths so I wouldn't have a panic attack, I reminded myself, "It's okay to feel things. It is okay to feel this way. You just miss your dad. You are still grieving, and right now you miss him like hell. It is okay. You are okay."

I realized this last night, while trying to give myself a pep talk: You don't need to listen to your darkness. I stood in the shower and repeated, "You deserve to take care of yourself. You deserve to be clean and take care of your body. You are allowed to be vulnerable." 

I repeated those words until the "You" statements turned into "I" statements. 

I deserve to take care of myself. 
I deserve to be clean and take care of my body. 
I am allowed to be vulnerable. 

I am allowed to be vulnerable. I am allowed to be soft. I am allowed to take up space. I am allowed to think good things about myself and I am allowed to make the choice about what kinds of thoughts I let stay in my head. 

Last night, it was a choice between getting lost in the depression because all I wanted was to just have one more conversation with my dad, or doing what my dad would have done if I had called him. He would have listened to me freak out and then he would have given me a pep talk. A gentle, "I believe in you. You can do this." He taught me how to do that for myself now that he is no longer here. I think that's what all parents want for their children: the ability to pick yourself up when the ones who raised you are not physically there anymore. 

Thankful, beyond thankful, for faith. Faith in love and words and suffering and the power of growth. And for my dad. And for what losing him has taught me about family and the bonds you have with other people. About the time we spent together and the lessons he taught me. They are what I will carry with me for the rest of my life. His legacy, locked away deep in my heart. 

Love you, Dad. Miss you. 

January 26, 2017

one little word: 2017

It seems important, now more than ever before, to share my One Little Word for 2017. I choose CARE to join my familiar friends: UNAFRAID, UP, and CHOOSE.

As I tweeted earlier today, we are not even one week into the country's new administration, and I am genuinely concerned and trying to mentally prepare myself for the possibility of a WWIII in my lifetime. Because of the actions of the man that the electoral college (NOT the American people) have elected into office. I am terrified every day of what my Facebook and Twitter feeds look like. One is full of the horrific acts this man is committing to our country. The other is full of fighting and arguing and to be quite honest, I probably won't publish the link to this post to Facebook because I don't want all the backlash and negativity to be directed at me and make my anxiety even worse than it already is. (#littleanxietythings)

This year, I want to practice the art of caring. I have always said there is a distinct connotation between "care about" and "care for." To care about implies passivity, in the way you care about when the next iPhone is coming out. To care for something requires action, in the way that you care for a loved one when they're sick. I want to become better at caring for both myself and other people. 

Self care is already a huge deal to me. My self care is always about the ways to tame my anxiety. But this year, I want to add practical goals of self care. This year, I want to make myself accountable. Pay my bills on time. Shower more than once every 5 or so days. Do my laundry at least once a week. Keep my spaces clean so that I'm not bogged down clutter and mess that creates more anxiety. Follow through on creating a routine I can stick to. Little things that add up to big ones. 

Caring for other people has always been a struggle for me. I want to make a point to work on it. Help more, even when it's not asked of me. Strike up a conversation with someone who looks sad. Smile at a stranger when we accidentally make eye contact at the grocery store. I want to generate more goodness in this world. More kindness. More L O V E. 

Care, we are off to a pretty good start so far. 339 days to go. 

January 25, 2017

"Maybe knowing is not the point. Maybe it's learning to live inside of your questions."

I took Hannah Brencher's #cravingseries class on Faith last night. I'm not a very religious person. I was raised Catholic and somewhat follow that ideology, but I more prefer to focus on things like Love and Passion and Vulnerability and Strength and Softness instead of assigning a power to whichever form of God sounds good at the moment. My notes that I took during the class left me feeling inspired this morning when I went back over them, so I thought I would share them here. 

How did 2016 go for you in regards to faith?
Faith felt like a lost & found box. I started the year still trying to accept the loss of my grandma, the first person I've ever been super close to to die. 2016 also took my father and my almost brother-in-law from me. There are two times I can say that I was 100% absolutely sure of my faith last year. 

April, at the cemetery visiting my grandma. I had cut some daffodil stems from her hillside garden that colored everything from family reunion photos to my senior prom pictures as the background. I cried, sitting crisscross applesauce in front of my grandparents' grave, and I felt a breeze ruffle my hair and golden hour sunlight was streaming just right through the trees. I felt my grandma there with me in that moment, and I knew I had faith in something. 

August, walking up the steps to St. Charles for my dad's funeral. I was as broken as I have ever been. I whispered the serenity prayer and just hoped I would find a way out of the dark and all encompassing grief that was thrust on me by the loss of my dad. During the service, my mom never let go of my hand—just as my dad had done with me at my grandma's funeral 10 months prior. I felt it then, a warm feeling washed over me and I knew it was going to be okay. I had faith. 

What do you hope to gain, grow, or learn in 2017?
I want to show up. I want to learn how to be better at showing my people that I care for them instead of just telling them I love them. I want to be there for my people when they need me the most. My One Little Word for 2017 is Care, that kind of piggy backs off my word from 2016—Choose. Last year I worked on choosing my people and cutting off the ones that didn't fit in my life anymore. I worked on choosing my attitude and working on the unconditional part of unconditional love. I accepted that overall, people are flawed. Commitment has never been my strong suit. Once I noticed something slightly off, I would become emotionally unattached and unavailable to that person before either making a decision to completely split or stay and deal with it. Being a faithful partner hasn't come easily to me. This year I want to care more about the people who love me, intentionally because I'm actively choosing to love them every single day. 

Where do you lack faith & trust altogether?
My faith, much like my past self, is lacking in confidence. I miss the early days of social media where we could write long stories in our captions and didn't worry so much about appearances and what looks good. I miss that sense of vulnerability and seeing the person who was posting as an actual person living their life instead of an image of perfection that people tend to apply to their online personas these days. 

Who do you look up to when it comes to faith?
My family. We may be broken, highly dysfunctional, and barely functioning at times, but they always are right there whenever I need them. My mother has always been my pillar of support. I remember the day my dad died. I woke up at 1 pm with two voicemails from the hospital. One from 11:27 AM—telling me he had taken a turn for the worse. The last one was from 12:36 PM—informing me that they were very sorry, my father had passed peacefully at 12:05 PM. The first thing I did after listening to them was call my mom. No one is able to comfort me better than her. I have to have faith in that. Her and her sister and brother-in-law immediately made a plan to make the 3 hour drive to come get me and bring me home where I needed to be. They showed up, like family is supposed to. 

What kind of faith do you want to have?
Strong. Unwavering. Able to fully commit to it and not just pick it up when I absolutely need it like I have been doing all my life. 

What is one goal you want to set for your faith in 2017 & how are you going to get closer to attaining that goal?
Trust more. Working on being more open with my feelings and insecurities and being vulnerable in front of people. Especially the people I know I don't have to worry about being vulnerable in front of. 

"If I wanted to know strong faith, I had to get to know the thing that I was trying to believe in. And I had to realize that that thing didn't want to hurt me. That thing didn't wanna harm me. But it only wanted to grow me and it only wanted to make me better."

"Loving someone is always going to be hard and it always needs to be active. It is never going to be easy and never going to be passive. Like, when you sign up to actually love people, you sign up for a life of runny noses, & awkward car rides, hugs that last too long, pauses that demand no noise, and admitting that you were wrong. (You're gonna be wrong a lot.) But if you want to actually love people, you have to be willing to be wrong and you have to learn to be vulnerable."

Prayer journaling. Writing down your thoughts. Your dreams. Your goals. 

Miracle list. Good things. Magic things. Little pockets of light and happiness. 

Pick a word. Look up verses. Look up in actual bible. Look at cross references. Find meaning, not just for yourself but what it might mean for others as well. Practice empathy. 

"The Bible is not a story about me. I fit into this story, and god loves me and I know that and I believe that, but this is a story about god and god's divine sovereignty. And this is a story about Jesus. Instead of taking notes like, "Here's how I can become a better person!" start taking notes on WHO god was and what God was proclaiming, how god was sovereign. If I wanted to put my trust in God, I had to make God bigger than me, and that only happened when I changed my point of view."

God: I can't answer your prayers if you don't actually pray them

"The only way to really know a word is to dig down deep in the trenches of it."


"My anxiety was so at large because I was constantly feeding things to it. I was feeding my relationships to the anxiety, I was feeding my worries to the anxiety. I was basically, like, anything that anxiety could feed on–I was giving to it. I couldn't say my faith was very strong because it was ruled by what I was feeding to it. That was worry and that was fear. I had to learn to stop feeding things that were valuable to my anxiety and to my fear and start to feed love instead."

"I don't know yet." The most beautiful phrase. Grateful to be forever learning new things. Growth is always a constant. It might be messy and painful but it opens new doors and makes room for so much more light and good things to come. 

"Maybe knowing is not the point. Maybe it's learning to live inside of your questions."

"It's not our surroundings that need to change but our perspective. We need to realize where we are planting our seeds."

"Church is wherever you find people. When you go up to someone and say 'I've got this darkness, could you help me?Because I don't wanna be alone in it.' It's being vulnerable and being real with people."

"When you fall in love with someone, you fall in love with them 100%. You take them as they are."

Discipline = baby steps. Baby steps, no matter how small, still = progress. 

"Suffering has been the times in my life that have drawn me closer to other people. Suffering can also be the thing that can give you a really unique role in the lives of other people." 

"Do you love me?" = showing up for your people. Off screen. Make real connections. Help when it's asked of you. 

"Faith is a bunch of action steps stacked up together and at the end of it, people will know you by your love. By the things that you do."

Appreciate silence. 

Everything we do is worship. 

Gods email: holderofyourhand@gmail.com 

BE VULNERABLE. PEOPLE WILL LEARN FROM YOU and your transparency, openness and honesty will inspire others to do the same. 

January 23, 2017

oh monday

4 hours of sleep, interrupted by the shrill buzz of my alarm at 4 am. I groggily pushed snooze and hoped that my 9 minutes I had left to sleep would last a good 4 hours or more. I drank two cups of coffee at work this morning. Tried to take a nap when I got home and failed. So I tried to snuggle with the Mew cat and she didn't want anything to do with me. Womp, womp. 

January 20, 2017

music + memory

  • Fifteen. May 2007. It was on Mayday Parade's MySpace page and I downloaded it from Limewire and listened to it non-stop for three months straight. (#sorrymom) It became the background to my depressive PTSD hazes. It gave me hope in a way that no other song did. It was my escape, my solace in a world that I would've much rather been without. 
  • Sixteen. July 2008. My first boyfriend and I had just broken up. I sent a post card to Frank Warren at PostSecret. It was my favorite picture of us, taken in the middle school auditorium before musical practice. "Frank," I wrote, "Keep this safe. Keep us safe. Protect my first love."
  • Seventeen. September 2009. My friend Chelsea made me some CD's for my car and shipped them to me from California. Track #7 on the Sadness CD was Ben Gibbard's sweet, sweet voice. "Fear is the heart is love" stood out to me. One of those lyrics that punches you right in the gut. It made sense to me.
  • Eighteen. March 2011. My second and last ever set of college finals. Coffee fueled dance parties with Daniele, Valerie, Jordan, Catherine, and Katie. We sat on the floor in a circle with our laptops and external hard drives exchanging music for three hours instead of studying. Then we blasted this song to get the feeling back into our legs and got back to work.
  • Nineteen. May 2011. Glee did an episode covering Rumors and I fell in love with this song all over again. I stole my mom's CD and listened to it in my car for almost 6 months straight. I was so obsessed I changed my tumblr username to lyrics from this song and it's still the same almost six years later. 
  • Twenty. Spring 2012. Sobbing alone in my room over a boy who had promised to make room in his lonely heart for me and never followed through. My last memory of us is perfect kisses through my open car window, never to be seen or heard from again. Now he's just a closed chapter in the grand scheme of my life. 
  • Twenty-one. December 2013. I am getting that very lyric inked into my skin forever, by my former boss's ex-husband with Justin's brother Kerry by my side. Through Cody, through Jared, through everything Julio put me through and beyond, one thing has always stood true: without fear, without vulnerability and softness, love would not exist. One of the biggest life lessons I have learned, right there in a Death Cab song. 
  • Twenty-two. January 2015. Justin had just found out I had cheated on him. After a particularly tense questioning, he came into my bedroom and found me sobbing on the floor in my closet, door closed and in complete darkness with this song blaring through my headphones. 
  • Twenty-three. April 2015. Justin proposed the day after my birthday. "Hey babe, a package came in the mail for you. Why don't you come home on break and open it?" He watched me with a knowing look on his face as I pulled out the small ring box and of course I said yes. I still can't get Justin to agree to this being our first dance song, no matter how many times I play it for him. 
  • Twenty-four. August 2016. This song streaming through my headphones, dancing alone in my backyard and not giving a damn what the neighbors thought. Three days after my dad died. "I said I'd never let you go and I never did./I said I'd never let you fall and I always meant it./Have faith in me." I found comfort in a song that had always brought me joy. Win-win. 

January 19, 2017

match made in heaven

My "name a more iconic duo" of the day: iced coffee & jello chocolate-vanilla swirl pudding. 

January 18, 2017

wednesday tunes

  1. oh well, oh well - mayday parade
  2. curse of curves - cute is what we aim for
  3. drive my soul (EP version) - lights
  4. i didn't just come here to dance - carly rae jepson
  5. disenchanted - my chemical romance
  6. makedamnsure - taking back sunday 
  7. don'ttrustme - 3oh!3
  8. boyfriend - ashlee simpson 
  9. where does the good go? - tegan & sara 
  10. jersey - mayday parade 

January 17, 2017

little things are the best

good things about Tuesday January 17, 2017:
  • i drank coffee this morning
  • i colored in my coloring book
  • dustin found me a tire
  • matt put it on my car when he got to work
  • my mom had her final MRI before her back surgery today
  • it's been five months since my dad died and i didn't cry at all

January 16, 2017

currently: january

feeling accomplished af if I drink an entire cup of coffee while it's still warm these days

thinking about the wholeness of unconditional love and it's power to either bond people together or tear them apart completely

taking pictures of Justin & Mew when Justin first wakes up for the day is my new favorite thing

crying at the end of almost every single episode of Parenthood 

appreciating every time it gets above 20 degrees and doesn't snow

shaking my fist at Mother Nature for the freezing rain right now

counting down the days until spring (63!)

jumping from first shift to second shift and back again

wishing I had an actual sleep schedule back

craving homemade chex mix & grandma's baked goods

missing my best friends, old and new

trying to make time to be creative again—whether that's just coloring in a coloring book or writing in a journal

smiling at the newness of every January

January 15, 2017

memory doesn't last forever

If you asked me how my day went today, I'd roll my eyes and say, "It's Sunday" without a second thought. (Seriously though, Sunday's in retail = THE WORST.) I opened at work this morning for the first time in a long time. Hustled through the busiest breakfast we've had almost all week, and on through a lunch rush that left me crabby and jonesing for a cigarette. I came home with every intention of taking a nap... and then started watching Parenthood and I haven't moved from the chair since. The semi-perfect Sunday. 

I keep telling myself to just pick one of the millions of little notebooks I pick up here and there and start writing things down. Pen to paper, hand cramps and all. Just sit down and write. The last time I actually sat down and wrote for me was the day I went to the park and drank my iced coffee and tried once again to process that my dad had cancer. That I could lose him. That damn it, this wasn't supposed to be happening now because my dad was supposed to walk me down the aisle and give me away at my wedding. 

Memories and photographs are all I have left of my dad, and every day I wish there was something more I could do to make his memory count. Eventually no one will remember the people in all the photos I have of him. Watching my grandma succumb to Alzheimer's taught me that memories don't last forever either. Unless they get written down, they threaten to become lost forever and never come back. How many more times in your life are you going to remember your fifth birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese? How many more times will you look back on weekend mornings, eating cereal and watching ABC's One Saturday Morning cartoons with your dad? 

I have an intense need to document everything. It's why I took up photography. It's why I blog. It's why I'm on so many social media platforms. I never want to forget how it feels to be 24. I'm thankful that I have so many outlets that I can go back and read my every day thoughts from when I was a teenager and into my early twenties. I'm terrified of forgetting. 

I want to be a storyteller. I want to be the memory keeper of my family. I want to have something to pass down to my kids and grandkids so that they can have a sense of who I was after I am gone. 

So here I am, writing for the sake of writing things down. For the sake of remembering. And it feels really really good. 

January 05, 2017

a healthy dose of fear

Today I... worked 8-3, took my night shower ridiculously early because it's FREAKIN' COLD OUT, and I found out that my mom definitely has to have back surgery, pending approval by her insurance for another MRI. I'm scared. 

I don't want something to go wrong and for my mom to end up a vegetable. I want her to be able to live her life and do all the things she loves to do again. Heaven forbid, if I lose her because of this, I'm not going to be okay. I hate that my brain immediately goes to the bad stuff. The what-ifs and the doubts and all the anxiety... some of it is healthy in a situation like this, I suppose, but not to the level where it knocks the wind out of you because you fear being an "orphan" more than anything. 

I just want my mom to be okay. I'm almost looking forward to it because it means I have an excuse to make a prolonged Burlington trip. I have to focus on that right now rather than the negative. 

January 03, 2017

the monday-est tuesday there ever was

All I can say re: today is WOMP, WOMP. 

I pulled into the gas station and hit the curb as I was pulling up to the pump... and apparently hit it so hard that I punctured a giant hole in the sidewall of my tire. After carefully moving my car from the pump to the back lot, the first thing I wanted to do was call my dad. And then my heart broke because I realized I couldn't. 

Calling my dad whenever something goes wrong with my car is instinct. I've been doing it since I was 15 and he was teaching me how to drive in the old middle school's tiny parking lot. A 9 year habit is hard to break. 

Like the time I got stuck at Southridge when I was working at the portrait studio. My locks were frozen AND after I had finally gotten into my car, my security system decided to shut down my car because it thought I was trying to steal it. I called him in tears because it was cold and I was frustrated and all I wanted to do was get home. He let me cry and listened to me and told me it would be okay. After I stopped crying he told me how to fix it. That's always how we operated. Get all the emotions out and then fix what's wrong. Simple, cathartic, to the point. 

After Piers and Damien got my donut on and said I was good to go, I had to run errands. I called my mom because I just wanted to hear her voice. Sometimes you just need to hear your mom say "I love you" in only the way that mothers can. She reminded me that this whole missing your dad thing never really goes away. My grandfather died in 1983, nine years before I was born, and she still misses him every day. 

So instead of freaking out about my tire or being sad about missing my dad, I'm choosing to be thankful. For family. For love. For knowing when to ask for help. And for memories, because eventually they become all you've got. 

January 02, 2017


Woke up at 10:30 to the sound of Justin cracking open a can of cat food. Microwaved a cup of coffee. Took a shower. Did my makeup and took selfies in the bathroom for 15 minutes. Reminded me of being fourteen and taking ~~MySpace selfies~ with my first digital camera. 

Working 3-cl tonight. Fun stuff. Let's do this, Monday.