June 28, 2017

lessons in self care

I have been in a fog all day. I woke up this morning with an anxious ball in my stomach and a sadness that overwhelmed my heart. I finished a load of laundry I started last night. I took a shower this morning because I was too tired to shower last night. I laid back down in bed and honestly called into work because I just couldn't do it today.
A three hour nap can do wonders for your mood. (But ask me again how I feel about in a few hours when I 100% cannot sleep.) I also picked up a shift tomorrow to justify me calling in today. I just needed a mental health day. A day where I don't have to do anything but listen to myself and take care of my own needs.

Today has been a lesson in just that. The majority of the day that I have not spent sleeping has been spent cuddling with the Mew cat. Her little warm body and the sound of her purring as she snuggles into my chest is one of the best forms of therapy. 
I made myself leave the house today. Going outside is at least a little victory when days like today rear their ugly heads. I went to Dollar General and Pick N Save because we needed essentials. Stopped at Shopko to pick up Justin's glasses but the optical part was closed, so I said, "Eh... While I'm here, might as well stop for the flowers."

Picture taking makes my soul happy. Flowers make my soul happy. Good light makes my soul happy. The lesson for today is: DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY, DAMN IT.

June 24, 2017

June 23, 2017

currently, june edition

exploring the backyard this morning

drinking super strong coffee

loving morning light

trying to be in the present more

listening to podcasts & guided meditation to help

tracking my sleep & water intake to help me feel better

holding "care" (my one little word for the year) close to my heart

checking things off Justin's "before surgery to-do list"

scheduling doctor's appointments and eye exams

savoring our last weekend of relative peace at work

preparing for coupons + rodeo weekend, then 4th of July, then car show weekend, then Justin's surgery

stressing the necessity of self care to get me through the next few weeks

wishing everyone a happy Friday 

June 21, 2017

over the hump

  1. the light this morning was so good
  2. I broke out my big camera today
  3. work was long and dead and b o r i n g
  4. but I have tomorrow off!
  5. I'm happy to be home

June 20, 2017

i just want one more day

Dear God, please let everything turn out okay. Please teach me how to be better. A better person, a better girlfriend, a better daughter, a better woman. Give me the strength I need to face the hardships life is throwing my way right now. 

I penned that prayer sitting in the parking lot of the VA Hospital in Milwaukee, 4 days after my dad told me he had cancer. I felt so tense, so bottled up and ready to explode at any minute. 

Fear took my hand and said, "Come with me. I'll keep you safe."

I should have looked the other way and ran in the opposite direction.

All I could think about in the moment was that when we found out for sure my grandma had cancer, three weeks later she was gone. Three weeks. 21 days. That's all it took for her to take her last breath. In a lot of ways, when we found out about my dad's diagnosis, it still felt like I was hearing for the time, "Grandma has cancer."

Only this time, my mind went to the dark place instead of the happy one. 

I had too many things to do with my dad before he was taken away from me.

He was supposed to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. He was supposed to swing me around the dance floor for just one song, like we did so many years ago during the Girl Scout's Daddy-Daughter Dance where we ate chocolate cake with vanilla frosting (his favorite). He was supposed to be here for his eventual grandbabies, ready to love on them like his parents never took the opportunity to do with me. 

I hate that he downplayed how serious the situation was... How absolutely serious his diagnosis was. I didn't even find out what type of cancer he had or how far along it had progressed until after he died. The last time I saw him, I told him how scared I was. How much the fear around my heart threatened to collapse everything like the London Bridge falling down in nursery school. It's hard for me to think of that memory. My dad telling me with a stormy sense of calm in his voice, "Don't worry about me, Anna. I'll be fine."

I looked at him and said, "Dad, I'm a worrier. It's what I do."

He nodded and said, "I know." And then a nurse came in to take his vitals.

It all feels so incomplete. I want a myriad of days that I know I will never get back. No second chances, no "do over's" like when we would set up my Hot Wheels tracks going from my bedroom out into the hallway and the cars would jump out of the loopty-loop before completing it. No more mornings where he'd throw my Cheerios milk out for the birds and come back in so we could watch Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and Barney & Friends before he took me to the babysitter's.

We won't get anymore garage days, smoking cigarettes and complaining about Wisconsin winters. No more out of the blue phone calls inviting me over for dinner. No more selfies every time we saw each other. No more cheesy Facebook messages telling me to sleep good and rest up for a good day at work. No more actually looking forward to Iola Car Show Weekend, because being busy at work for four days straight was totally worth being able to see my dad for a few hours all weekend.

Knowing these things now live only in my memory is one of most heartbreaking facts of life. Everything ends. Eventually. Nothing can stop it. Not man, not money, not even love can stop it. Everything is only temporary. Even us. It's all about what we do with the time we're given. We have to make it count.

June 19, 2017

magic monday

  • woke up at 9
  • snuggled in bed with the Mew cat for a whole hour
  • made my coffee super strong this morning
  • which totally made up for work being meh all night
  • (I need a new job)
  • watching old episodes of king of the hill & the simpsons makes up for it
  • so does chasing the cats around with my big camera
  • happy monday 

June 18, 2017

my first father-less father's day


Navigating this world without you is still hard for me sometimes. Each day has its own set of challenges, and there are still more times than not when I wish I could just pick up the phone to hear you say "Hello" back to me on the other end.

It's my first Father's Day without you. My heart feels so heavy with grief and I don't know where to put it down. All of the Father's Day tributes on Facebook and Instagram today are making me teary-eyed and a little bit jealous because all I want more than anything in this world is more time with you.

I'm learning how to sit with my emotions. I'm learning how to mange my grief and all the ups and downs every single day. I'm trying to rely on all of our good memories to buoy me through the day.

Like the Father's Day we went to Jellystone with the Dixon's and they had a dress up contest where all the dad's had to dress in drag and put lipstick on. Whoever did it the fastest won. There is no photographic evidence of this (sadly), but the memory always instantly makes me smile.

Or when you lived in Zion after you and mom split up and we used to go to late night movies on Friday nights. Then on Saturday we'd do laundry and either go bowling at the bowling alley up the street from the laundromat, or if it was nice out, you'd make me pack my swimsuit so we could go to the water park with the water slide that I refused to go on because I was paralyzed by fear.

Laundromats always remind me of you, Dad. The one in Zion I remember because it had the pinball machine. You were constantly digging around for quarters so I could keep myself occupied. After you moved back to Wisconsin, you used to take me to the one on 36 in Waterford. I always ran to you with the other edge of the your giant comforter, excited more than anything that you just needed me to help you.

I miss you, Dad. Every single day. The ache in my heart never truly goes away. Happy Father's Day.

June 17, 2017

tomorrow is father's day.

This post could alternately be titled, "Real Life: I took 2 Vacation Days so I didn't have to work on the first Father's Day without my dad."

I'm trying to be gentle with myself, y'know? Today is ten months since I lost my dad. Tomorrow is just a glaring reminder that I no longer have him in my life. I slept in this morning. Drank coffee out on the deck. Took pictures with my new Anthropoligie mug. Had a dance party to "Circus" by Britney Spears because WHY NOT? Life is too damn short.

I spent my afternoon curled up in the chair in the living room reading Devotion: A Memoir by Dani Shapiro. I first heard Dani on an episode of The One You Feed podcast. I got a former library copy off of thrift books and have been underlining like crazy in black ballpoint pen (that may or may not be running out of ink... #oops). 

Since losing my dad, I have been closer examining my relationship with God. 

For a little bit of background... Both of my parents were Catholic. My grandma on my mom's side attended the same church all her life. That same church was the very same one everyone in my family made their first milestones in... My grandma and all of her siblings, as well as my mom and her siblings and myself, were all baptized at the front of that church. We all walked down the same aisle to make our First communion. I threw a fit every Sunday morning at approximately 8:30 growing up because I didn't want to get out of bed for Sunday School at 9 and then meeting my dad and grandma for mass at 10. My dad always bribed me to be good during church by promising me donuts after. 

Grandma would sit in the car as we'd go inside. The mornings we went to J. J.'s Bakery were my favorite. I can still remember the familiar green and yellow signage, J. J. curving around in an elegant script. The shop was tiny, and the donut case took up about half the space. We always got a dozen donuts—custard filled for grandma, crullers for my momma, jelly filled for dad, and long johns with sprinkles for me. I watched in awe as the man behind the counter fulfilled my six year old dreams of brightly colored rainbows and pink frosting.

I never realized how much those Sunday mornings rituals would mean to me until life inevitably changed and our routine was abandoned.

* * * * *

I have essentially been questioning my relationship with God my entire life. I was never actually sure of the stuff the teachers in Sunday school were spewing was real or not. (I was usually more concerned with how much I would have rather been in bed, still peacefully asleep and unaware of the outside world.) I think I was thirteen when I declared to my friend Brittany, "I'm an agnostic. Take that Catholicism."

Grief has opened up an entirely new window in my relationship with God. 

There has definitely been a shift in the last ten months. It started in the days after he died, as I was going through the book of scripture from the priest to find the readings for his funeral. I clutched the book close to my chest and talked to my dad.

"Dad, I don't know how to do this. Teach me how to ride a bike again. Teach me how to drive in an empty parking lot one more time. Help me to find the readings out of this book. Teach me how to say goodbye."

I scanned the book with tears brimming my eyes the entire time. I was looking for phrases that stood out to me. Small, beautiful phrases. Something that resonated with me. I couldn't for the life of me tell you the passages we read from that day, but I remember both of them had to do with light. And ever since that day, I have found God in light and shadow, in remembrance of that moment. 

* * * * * 

Tomorrow is Father's Day. And so again tonight, I am praying to my Dad.

Please give me the courage to face tomorrow with an open heart. Use the same gentleness you did every time you let me go without training wheels. Let me remember all that you were and feel out the grief. Give me the grace to not be overwhelmed when I feel soft and breakable. Give me a gentle reminder not to get lost in the darkness. Show me toward the light again.


June 08, 2017

defeated by grief & blank text boxes

This little text box can be so damn intimidating sometimes. It's been almost a week since I last popped in to say hello to you, Blogland. It's not that stuff hasn't been happening—quite the opposite, actually. My anxiety has been running the show the last few days, over the weekend especially, so I've been trying to take it easy and just be gentle with myself. Lots of sunlight. Lots of coffee. Yoga before bed every night. Upping my water intake. Trying to take care of myself and allow myself to feel at peace when the world is no longer crushing me.

I had a meltdown leaving the bank on Friday afternoon after successfully depositing my paycheck and leaving with two checks made out to my dad's estate that I have to jump through major hoops in order to access the money. Option number one: obtain an Estate ID Number from the Courthouse and wait for the state to mail it to me, open a completely separate bank account in order to deposit the checks, withdraw the money and close the account, deposit the money into my personal account. Option number two: Acquire and fill out forms from the Department of Revenue website, mail that and the checks back to the state, and wait 4-6 weeks for them to reissue the checks in my name.

The teller looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I'm so sorry for the loss of your father."

I thanked her quickly and looked away, already fearing the tears that I knew were laying in waiting. They finally spilled over the surface as I headed out the door toward my car. I managed to say hello to one of my coworkers with what I hoped was a graceful "Hey!" in passing, in one door and out the other. All I wanted in that moment was the safety of my air conditioned car. The grief bug had bitten my heart again, and it wasn't about to be ignored.

That's the thing about grief that I always seem to forget in the off moments of grief: it doesn't matter what you're doing or how you feel when it hits you. When it hits you, it hits you hard. You are forced to show up for it whether you are ready or not.

Father's Day being right around the corner is a painful reminder of my grief. I took two vacation days from work for Father's Day weekend because I know that I will not be in the right emotional state of mind to be cheerful to customers all weekend long. My inbox is chock full of Father's Day ads, and usually I just delete them before even opening them. Today, one popped open as I deleted another email and I thought, "I don't even have a dad anymore."

There were tears. The kind that makes you wish you were around your mom so she could hug you and you could wipe your snot all over her shirt instead of your own. Grief is working its way into my days again, constantly reminding me of the moments I have lost with my dad. I miss him. I miss him so much and I don't even know how to articulate it or who the hell is even reading this anyway. The universe just needs to know that I miss my dad, and I wish that he were here right now. And that is okay.