The thing no one wants to talk about

I walked into the grief counselor’s office and sat down awkwardly on the couch across from her. I stared at her for what felt like five minutes, before she asked me what brought me in. I told her about the loss of my father. She waited for me to say more before she asked me to tell her about my dad. I didn’t get more than a sentence or two out before I started crying. “I didn’t think I was going to cry,” I said as I accepted the Kleenex box from her. I told her about my father’s work ethic and how he taught me to work hard and be nice. I told her about the daily phone calls I’d get from him, about how they were always less than five minutes and about how he just wanted to check in and say he loved me. I told her about summers in the pool, family vacations to the beach, and the endless athletic events he took me to. The more I talked the more I cried.

When I stopped talking she let me collect myself. She smiled softly at me and said, “you’re sad.”

I don’t know why this made me feel better, but it did. Because you know what, I am sad. Sometimes we get so busy with daily commitments and responsibilities, that we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling. I am no expert on the topic, but I think it would be helpful if we all talked openly and honestly about how we are doing and didn’t just say “fine” when someone asked. It’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to not be okay.

In an effort to “practice what I preach,” I wrote this blog post. I started typing this and erased it about 12 times before I let myself finish it. It is hard to talk about loss and it is even harder to talk about addressing it. But you know what? This is real. This isn’t a Instagram portrayal of life, where you see only the highlights. This is messy and honest.

As I got up to leave the appointment, the grief counselor asked me what I wanted to accomplish. She explained that sometimes people come in knowing what they want to accomplish. I told her that I wasn’t sure and I just felt like talking about my dad and what I was feeling. That is how I am approaching this post. I wanted to talk about my experience with grief and how I think we should be more open about it. I am not writing to give advice on what you should do in a similar situation (because let’s be honest, I don’t know what I am doing anymore than anyone else), but if by chance you are going through something similar, I hope  this made you feel a little less alone.

xoxo,

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Writing about loss is hard, but this is a start

I previously said that writing is “my thing.” Writing is how I process something and writing is how I heal. I sit down with a notebook and pen or a laptop and cup of coffee and write. But lately that hasn’t been the case. Notebooks gather dust on a bookshelf and my laptop sits unopened, a protest of sorts. C5ANFS4K5J.jpg

I haven’t had the words. How can I write about something that I am feeling so deeply? How can I express that while I am making a conscious effort to be present, I still think about my dad every day? I still don’t have all the words, but I can feel them coming back to me, a little each day.

Oddly enough, I started feeling like writing again when I heard Wesley Schultz, the lead singer of The Lumineers, talk about losing his father. He describes the time that passed after his dad died as a blur and although he knew his father was gone, it didn’t really hit him until a few months later. He couldn’t find any of his black socks and he knew his dad still had clothes in his drawers so he went to grab some in a rush and pulled out a pistol. He thought he knew everything about his dad and at that exact moment he realized his dad was really gone because he couldn’t ask him anymore questions, like why he owned a gun.

I feel the same way. I miss my dad all the time, but I miss him the most when I desperately want to talk to him or ask him for advice. He gave the best advice and always made me feel better. I miss him each day it gets warmer outside and stays light longer because I know he loved this time of year. Mostly, I miss being able to tell him how much I love him. Although I have a feeling he knows that.

Writing about loss is hard, but this is a start.

Too soon

I’ve avoided writing because writing makes it real, but more than that, writing is such a small act that will never properly explain the person you are and the difference you have made in my life and the lives of those around you. But, as you knew all too well, writing is what I do.

Too soon. Those are the words that come to mind when I think about the dad-shaped hole in my heart and life. You were taken too soon.

When someone is taken from you suddenly and unexpectedly, you think about the last time you talked and the last time you saw the person. For me, it was a phone call the day before you died and it was to tell you Happy Birthday and I love you. I mailed a card to you the same day, a card you will never open and a card I haven’t had the heart to open myself.

My silent hope is that with every time that we talked and spent time together you also heard the words that were there but not necessarily spoken – thank you for shaping and molding me into the person I am today, I am so proud of you, you have always been my hero, I will never outgrow the need for your advice, support, and tea recipe when I am sick, and I’ll love you forever.

For now, those are the words I have.

Love,

Your little girl

Six truths of moving home

I have been living and working back in my hometown for over a year now. I write a lot about transitioning because that is what I have been doing for the past two years.

I graduated college to take an internship in a new city and new state. I went from being five minutes from friends and two hours from family to five hours from friends and 10 hours from family.

I spent a lot of time traveling and soul-searching. Right about the time I was used to the new area and new faces, I accepted a position at my hometown newspaper.

I didn’t know if I was making the right decision, but I considered myself lucky to have a position in my area of interest.

It hasn’t been easy. At times it has been boring, depressing, great and frustrating. Over the past 14 months I have learned (at least) six truths about moving back home.

1.)   Your friends have changed

After being away for four years, you won’t have the same friends you did in high school. If you’re like me, you didn’t keep in contact with many people after leaving town. Although some people might still be around, you will find you don’t know them anymore… and honestly you might not want to. Most of the time there is a reason you didn’t keep in contact. 

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2.)   Your friends haven’t changed at all

There are a few friends you’ve held on to. You can get together years later and pick up where you left off. You’ll find that after five years, friends have gotten married, had kids, matured, dated people and suffered break-ups. Although the topics of conversation will change, you will still be able to reminisce [and cringe] when recalling high school.

3.)   You have changed

This is a big one. You don’t want to do the same things you did in high school. You don’t want to waste your time with people who are not positive influences, always pushing you to be better. Whether it’s a friend or a relationship, you don’t want to waste your time with people or things that are negative influences.

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4.)   You’ll be bored at times

When you move home (at least my home) Starbucks isn’t open 24 hours, Jimmy Johns isn’t open until 4 a.m. and your options past 11 a.m. are Wal-Mart, Kroger, a small, local bar or Buffalo Wild Wings.

5.)   It is tough being single

When you see family and friends at holidays the first question they’ll ask is what you’re doing at work. The second question you will be asked is “so, are you seeing anyone special?”

And if your answer is no, you will get a look of pity or my personal favorite, the “you-still-have-time” response. Your friends will take it upon themselves to set you up with someone who is “so, totally perfect for you.” Also, if your friends are not single, it’s awkward to do things with them because they have “date nights” and you have “awkward-fifth-wheel” nights.

6.)   You’re still figuring it all out

The other day I was talking to a good friend of mine and made a joke about how I’m a single, 20-something who is living with my parents, barely making it on a newspaper reporter salary and still not sure what I want to be when I grow up.

She reminded me this is what I want to do.

 She said, “Oh come on, you’ve always wanted this. Although it might not be as glamorous as you imagined, you’re doing what you want to do.”

And she’s right. I always said I would make a career as a writer and figure out what I want to do and where I want to be before I got married and had children. I wanted to figure things out before settling down. So, when I get discouraged and when I think I’m a mess and don’t have anything figured out, I will remember that.

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*All photos are from #thewriting.

His last harvest

Sometimes living in a small town is difficult. I went from a bustling college area with 40,000 people my age to a gorgeous mountain-side in Pennsylvania back to my home town to work for the local newspaper. Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder why.

One of the reasons was shown to me this week. Gerald Sullivan, a local farmer, died in an accident in September before he was able to harvest his last crop. Sullivan often called this year his last crop because he was about to go in to retirement. He and his family didn’t realize it actually would be his last crop.

His son, Dean Sullivan, talked of his father and how he had decided he wanted his harvest before retirement to be corn. He wanted to shell it, he wanted to plant it and he wanted to be in the combine. Dean took a breath before continuing and telling a funny story about his father.

The day Gerald passed away, farmers began to plan what they could do for his wife, children and family. They decided they would harvest all 600 acres of Gerald’s crop.

On Wednesday of this week, I was told the farmers were meeting as a tribute before going in to the fields. I woke up and got to the barn before they started talking around 8:30 a.m. I was prepared for tears of family members as they thanked local farmers. I wasn’t prepared for 75 people to be standing in the barn, ready to take action. Nearly 100 people showed up that morning to help out. They laughed, they cried and they remembered.

Because of the rainy morning farmers didn’t know if they were going to be able to go out in the field. They were. Around 10:30 the men, women split up between 300 acres in two different counties with 14 combines and multiple grain carts and semis. Anyone driving by the fields wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but the farmers were doing everything they could to help.

They brought in the last of the 600 acres before 8 p.m. The family was touched. One of Gerald’s daughters spoke to the crowd before they completed the work and said, “I live in Indianapolis and you don’t see this,” she said.

She lives in a city and doesn’t see people help each other – at least not to this extent. I talked to a few other people who described the agriculture community as a close-knit community of people who would do anything for others. Another said this type of community feel is unique to the agriculture community.

Others said they were stunned and proud at the group for getting the work done. Another man said he was happy to know that if something ever happened to any of the other people there, they could expect people to come together and take care of things.

Why do I live here? The people take care of each other. Why do I work here? I get to cover stories like this and talk to people who would go to extreme measures to take care of their fellow man.

Gerald’s grandson, joked around and said that on the day of the harvest, he couldn’t believe Gerald hadn’t turned on the sun for them. Well, the sun came out later and I know, without a doubt, Gerald was blown away by what he saw. What he saw was his family being wrapped in love and 50 people bringing in his last crop.

As I was leaving the house that day, Gerald’s son, Dean told me his dad loved four things: the lord, family, farming and people.  All of Gerald’s favorite things came together this week, and I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the house.

Here is a link to my story: http://bit.ly/1ifVbZB

Somewhere in Ohio: wedding season

While traveling to my cousin, Sam’s wedding, in New Jersey I realized there  are five things that will make any trip smoother. (Keep in mind I have been taking the road trip in a minivan with my family and we are in Ohio for the night after several hours on the road.)

1.) Have a sweatshirt available

There is nothing worse than being too hot and then too cold in a vehicle. Having a sweater will allow you to be comfortable while the air condition is on.

2.) Have snacks

Having candy, mints or food in the car will keep the need to stop for food to a minimum.

3.) Have music and headphones

Sometimes you need to tune out others and enjoy some of your favorite music.

4.) Bring something to do

I brought a book with me and purposefully left my laptop so I wouldn’t check my work email while on vacation.

5.) First look up directions and then follow them

This will stop most arguments before they begin.

Close alternate: remember to enjoy yourself and have safe travels.

Support follows tragedy

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I am blown away from the kindness that has been shown to my family after a death this week. Current friends, old friends, acquaintances and neighbors swarmed to offer sympathy.

One visitor, came over and asked a family member if she could mow her own lawn. Odd question, right?

She is an older lady and she explained that while she was growing up, when there was a loss people didn’t mow their lawn, work outside and tried to be as quiet as possible out of respect.

This was a tremendous show of respect from a neighbor.

There is so much sadness surrounding loss that it is incredible to see people come together, put aside differences and help put the broken pieces back together.

“Don’t pay no mind to the demons; They fill you with fear. The trouble it might drag you down. If you get lost, you can always be found. Just know you’re not alone; Cause I’m going to make this place your home. ”

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Make your work week better

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Yes we all love the weekend; a time to do anything we want, even if what we want is to not do anything. But weeks can drag on and become dull if you’re constantly looking at Friday as the light at the end of the tunnel.

So take a breath, relax and try to view the week in a positive light (not as a soul-sucking time gap before the weekend.)

1.) Make plans
Making plans during the week can help make your work week more exciting. Grab dinner with a friend or visit a community event after work.

2.) Exercise
Although it’s hard to want to go to the gym after working all day, it really is a good stress reliever. It’s easy to dread and talk yourself out of it, but it will make you feel better after.

3.) Avoid daily naps

I love naps and sometimes they are necessary after a long day or a night of little sleep.  But it’s easy to get in a routine during the week of waking up, working, and napping before going back to sleep . Try not to let the days blur in to one another.

4.) Go outside

No really, go outside right now. We sleep inside, work inside (most of us) and usually it’s dark when we get home. Getting outside for a little bit can be an easy way to unwind. Take a walk, read a book or do something less cliche-sounding.

5.) Call family, friends

Give family members and friends a ring when you aren’t able to visit them on a weekday. It makes the ordinary day better; so vent, catch up and talk to others. Who else will listen to you complain about an annoying coworker?  You’ll catch yourself smiling through the phone.

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Soul revived

I have been MIA for several days, but I have a good excuse – promise. I spent the past week soaking up the sun while laying on the beach, wandering around Tampa Bay, Fla. and snapping photographs with my cousin.

We celebrated her 26th birthday by visiting Anna Maria Island, Treasure Island, a fun winery featuring several different types of fruit-based wine, Kate Spade outlet (I found love in a purse), participated in a pub crawl and how could I forget the food. I had some of the best food I’ve ever had through Datz, Dough, Bella’s, Holy Hog and Colonnade while overlooking Bayshore Drive.

Not to mention this was my first paid vacation from work. I knew I was going to have a great time visiting with family but the experience was relaxing, fun and quite literally soul-reviving.

Here’s a look at some of the photographs. I hope to add more as I continue to travel in 2013.

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