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,

CC

Am I laughing or crying

“Going from crying to laughing that fast and hard happens maybe five times in your life and that extreme right turn is the reason why we are alive, and I believe it extends our life by many years.” –Amy Poehler

The past seven months have been filled with some of the happiest and saddest moments of my life. My father passed away in November. I’ve felt the ebb and flow of grief. Some days it is sharp and I am filled with a deep sense of sadness, mixed with anger. Other days it’s softer and I’m filled with sweet memories.

In April, I got engaged to a man who is everything I could ever want in a life partner. He’s adventurous, kind, funny, patient, and much more. I am loved and the type of happy that is felt when you can fully be yourself. He’s been by my side during the good and bad days, and has allowed me to feel whatever I feel.

Although the past seven months have been difficult, I also know I’m extremely blessed to have the support system of family and friends that I do. I think Amy Poehler says it best when she talks about this abrubt shift from sadness to happiness, “Going from crying to laughing that fast and hard happens maybe five times in your life and that extreme right turn is the reason why we are alive, and I believe it extends our life by many years.”

I’m learning to be patient with myself, let myself feel what I feel, and embrace both of these emotions. Thanks for following along with me.

Xoxo,

CC

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

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I think this is something people think about (I know I do) well after they have “grown up” in the traditional sense.

By now I’m sure you all have seen the clip of Jim Carey giving a commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management. If by chance you haven’t, Carey tells a story of his father who could have been a comedian, but instead chose a conservative route and become an accountant. He then goes on to say that his father lost his job and the family fell on hard times.

Carey said he learned from his father that you can fail at what you don’t want to do so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.

So on this Thursday, I hope these words inspire you to keep in mind that yes, taking chances can be difficult/overwhelming/scary, but so is the thought of not being successful at something we don’t want to do. I know I needed the reminder.

xoxo,

A

The gift that keeps giving: reflections on Mother’s Day

I’ve been blessed in my life with two parents with an abundance of wisdom, advice and patience. Sure I may not have appreciated it as much when I was younger (specifically a teenager), but I always understood how lucky I was.

In honor of Mother’s Day I wanted to share some of the advice I’ve received from my mother.

I should point out my mother is a science teacher as well as a superhero so advice is something she is used to giving. I mean she teaches junior high students daily and that’s a superhero in my book.

She taught me to work hard

My mom has been a shining example of working hard. She has shown me that whether it is school or sports or work in general that putting in time and effort will pay off.

She taught me how to laugh

My mother has an amazing sense of humor. She continues to help me laugh through situations and reminds me to not take myself too seriously.

She taught me to be optimistic

She is always there to point out the positive in every situation. She showed me that being positive is infectious and spreads to others.

She taught me how to treat others

I remember at a young age my mother would show me how to treat others – my friends, my friends’ parents, families, strangers, waiters and others. I specifically remember her reminding me when I was younger to thank the parents of my friends whenever I was invited anywhere. She taught me to treat others how I wanted to be treated.

She taught me it’s okay to say f**k it. 

I can be a worrier. I get that from her. But she also gave me the ability to  let a stressful situation go. In fact if she knew I told others she said that it’s okay to say f**k it she would probably say, “Gads.” Have I mentioned how great my mother is?

She taught me it’s okay not to be okay 

She taught me that it’s okay to cry. She taught me it’s okay to be upset about something. She taught me that it’s okay to fail and that it really is all about what you do after you fail.

She taught me not to take anything or anyone  for granted

My mother lost both of her parents when she was young. I know on days like today she misses her parents more than words could describe. She has reminded me not to take what I have for granted and because of that I fully understand and appreciate everything I have.

She teaches me every day to enjoy life

She showed me to appreciate what I have and who I have to share it with. She has taught me to take chances and not take myself too seriously. She has taught me to help others when I can and to ask for help when I need it. She showed me to work hard but to be humble. She showed me all I have to be grateful for and how to enjoy it.

I am what my mother made me and for that I am so thankful for my mom today and every single day. I think this quote from Abraham Lincoln is fitting:

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” – Abraham Lincoln

I want to give a special shout out to all the mothers out there. You’re all superheroes in my book. What about you? Did your mother or someone else in your life teach you some kind of lesson you still remember today? What was it?

Thoughts on Tuesday

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I don’t have anything earth shattering to write tonight, but I thought I would share something I have to remind myself constantly: it’s okay to turn your brain off sometimes.

If you’re like me, you over think things. I do this thing where I replay something I did, an interaction I had or something someone else said. I replay and overanalyze all of these things in my head.

Did they know I was kidding? 

What did they mean when they said that?

Well, that was awkward.

Sometimes I have to give myself a time out to remind myself to turn off the instant replay. I think it’s the writer in me, but I can be hard on myself.

Don’t over think it, I say to myself.

Nothing is worse than getting worked up over something that someone else forgot three minutes after it happened. Unless you’re John Travolta. Then everyone is still thinking about you calling Idina Menzel Adele Dazeem. Sorry, Mr. Travolta. Turn the instant replay reel off. Relax. Breathe. Give yourself a break. Hell, give yourself a pat on the back (okay, well a mental pat on the back).

You’re going to have award moments. You’re going to say and do things you wish you didn’t.

Try not to let that overwhelm you.

The take away:

If it’s stress you’re holding on to. 

Take deadlines as they come. Limit the amount of procrastinating you do if that will help you meet deadlines. If it’s something coming in the future you’re worried about, remind yourself just that – it’s in the future. You can’t worry about something that hasn’t happened yet.

If it’s embarrassment you’re holding on to. 

I say and do embarrassing things all the time. I sometimes let it get to me, but then I remember everyone else does this too. No use getting upset over something that already happened. It happened. accept that and move on.

If it’s frustration you’re holding on to

 

If you’re upset an individual, talk to that person. No use stewing over it in secrecy, letting the anger build while the subject of your frustration has no idea you’re feeling that way.

 

 

Here are some parting words from Tina Fey:

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of a water slide, over thinking it. You have to go down the chute.”

 

 

 

Let it go, friends. Go down the water slide.

xoxo

Love (or lack there of) in my hometown

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I moved home more than a year ago and am still living with my parents. Yep, that’s right, I moved back in with my parents.

Have I had the time to move out? Yes. Have I yet? No. Am I planning to move out eventually? Yes.

It shouldn’t come as a huge shocker, but moving back home as a twenty something isn’t the best for my dating game. I use the term “game” loosely here, because I obviously don’t have a lot of it at the moment.

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Also, living in my hometown doesn’t do me any favors dating wise. I live in a small town where I know almost everyone (I’m not kidding, I could name everyone in my graduating class). This is not good for my dating game either. Knowing the people means I know a lot about them- probably enough to not want to date them. I will shamelessly stand in the back of the gas station making a “tough” decision on which water to purchase just to avoid the guy (who is still a jerk by the way) from high school who walked in and is paying for gas. I’m not looking to reconnect with an old high school “flame.”

So how do I plan on fixing my dating game since moving home?  I’ll let you know when I know. Perhaps I’ll spend less time watching Breaking Bad and make more plans with people. Perhaps I will finally let my friends set me up with the person who is “so totally” perfect for me. And perhaps next holiday season when my family members ask me for the 1,354,879,734th time if I’m seeing someone “special” my answer will be yes.

Until then.

xoxo, A

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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

Thanks for the life advice, Ashton

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I will admit I watched the last 45 minutes of the Teen Choice Awards tonight. I turned it on just in time to hear Ashton Kutcher give some advice when he accepted the ultimate choice award.

Kutcher, 35, joked that he had received the “old guy award,” but the crowd didn’t stop cheering as he said this.

He spoke longer than anyone else accepting awards and took the opportunity to give some advice to viewers.

He left those watching with three pieces of advice:

1.) Opportunity looks a lot like work

Kutcher stated that: “I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. Every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job before I had my next job.”

2.) Be sexy (read: Be smart. Be thoughtful and be generous.)

“The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful and being generous. Everything else is crap. I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it. Be smart. Be thoughtful and be generous.”

3.)  Build your own life

He also mentioned Steve Jobs. Kutcher portrays the Apple co-founder in the upcoming film, “Jobs.”

“Steve Jobs said when you grow up you tend to get told that world is the way that it is.”

Kutcher then said: “Everything around us that we call life was made up of people who are no smarter than you. You can build your own life that other people can live in. Build your life, don’t live it, find your opportunities and always be sexy.”

I don’t care if you’re an Ashton Kutcher fan or not, that was some pretty great advice.