Rule #9: Words are the best medicine.

When someone loses a loved one, there’s nothing you can do to make it all better. Simple as that. There is no magical phrase, book, gift, meal, embrace that you can offer that will completely erase the pain that person is experiencing. And that’s okay. However, there are other things that can help to ease the pain and reality of loss.

daddy

My family and I were surrounded by amazing people who took fantastic care of us emotionally, physically, and spiritually during our times of need. I wanted to share some of the things that folks did for us/me that made the blow of loss + grief a little easier to bear. There’s no way I could include everything that everyone did because this post would be about 10,000 words long.

My hope is that this will help others to comfort those who are grieving or experiencing a loss in order to soften the blow just a little bit more.

Tissues + Paper Goods

One of my mom’s friends brought us a Sam’s package of tissues and said, “You’re gonna need these.” She was most definitely right. It turns out they came in handy when we had visitors and family over as well. We also received napkins, plates, plastic silverware, cups, trash bags, and paper towels from friends who knew we’d have people visiting the house to talk and share meals. Not having to worry about these seemingly small things made all the difference for us.

Individual Soups – Jason’s Deli

This is a very specific one, but maybe two days after my brother died, we received a random (we still haven’t figured out who sent this sweet gift) delivery of about a dozen individual soups from Jason’s Deli. None of us felt like eating a bit of anything, but soup was something we could stomach. It was comforting, easy to heat, and not having to clean up leftovers was an added bonus. There were 4 different kinds of soup so we could just pick and choose what we wanted. I think we survived on those little guys for two days straight – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Bottled Water

Two of my lifelong friends showed up with 4 cases of bottled water within hours of getting the call about my brother. It’s amazing to think about it, but we actually ended up going through all of that water within a few days. Between us and our visitors, it didn’t take long before all of it was completely wiped out. Grief makes you thirsty I guess. People brought us alcohol, too (which if I hadn’t been pregnant would’ve been my go-to), but the water was what sustained us. It was one more thing we didn’t have to think or worry about.

Serve Food + Clean Up at the Wake

A funeral or memorial service is awful enough without having to rush home to play host or hostess. We had some gorgeous friends who completely took over the reigns for both my dad’s and my brother’s wakes. We never had to lift a finger to serve, restock, or clean. We were able to grieve, talk, cry, laugh, share stories, and heal during that time instead of worrying about those other tasks.

Shuttle Service + Family “Handler”

Funerals bring folks from all over to comfort the grieving family. A family friend offered to serve as a shuttle service for our family members coming in from out of town. She picked up folks from the airport, drove them to and from our house, and to and from the funerals. She was a joy and a blessing to our family! The same goes for the friend who was “our handler” the day of both funerals. We had a go-to person to say, “We need XYZ,” or, “I need a break!” Having someone who can handle you + the things you need makes the day a little less burdensome.

Blankets + Tea

A nice comfy blanket and some delicious tea can help soothe the soul in very simple ways. My mom received a care package with these two items (amongst many others). These are two very small, simple gifts that can help comfort someone who’s grieving.

Thank You Notes + Stamps

Much like a wedding, a funeral is a time when we receive a lot of love in the form of flowers, gifts, and acts of kindness. All of those things deserve thank you cards, and thank you cards + stamps in that quantity can get expensive. My mom received some from friends who knew just that, and it made this part of the grieving process one less thing to worry about.

Flowers + Plants – Not the Death Kind

I have to say, if I see another white lily in my life (besides the one I see in the mirror), I may burn it to the ground on the spot. I know they’re the ‘traditional’ funeral flower, but after seeing so many in my short little life, I’d be happy if the whole species of that particular flower ceased to exist instantly. My humble suggestion is that you send flowers that are colorful, full of life, vibrant! The people who are receiving them are already sad, so why not send something that brightens their day?

After her father died, my mother-in-law received a special arrangement that really tugged at my heart strings. A friend of hers hand-potted a grouping of flowers in a pot meant for the outdoors. I loved this so much because instead of having to throw them away after a week or so, she got to see them grow all season long. I thought that was a very sweet, lasting token of love.

Funny + Random Things to Make Me Laugh

I remember waking up at all hours of the night, unable to sleep, crying, to find myself browsing Facebook. One of those dreary-eyed times, I opened my messages to see that a friend had sent a hilarious video. It had nothing to do with anything in particular, other than making me laugh. I think I actually laughed out loud to the point of waking Jon Boy up. Those moments when you can ‘forget’ for a second and laugh are bittersweet (and necessary).

Stop by Just to Hug + Pray

I remember getting a message from someone who’s known my family since before my brother was even born. He asked what he could possibly do to help comfort me and my mom. I told him that we’d love a simple hug. So, the next day, he stopped by, gave us a hug, and prayed over us. It was a short, ten-minute visit, but it had a lasting impact. Knowing we were in his thoughts after all of these years was something remarkable to me.

Mow the Lawn + Clean the House

We had a ton of folks who offered to do things around the house for us both in preparation for the wakes, but also just because they knew we weren’t up for those tasks. It was overwhelming to have people give up their time to do something so seemingly mundane for us.

Songs that Speak to the Heart

On a few of those sleepless nights, I received links to songs from my friends. Some of them were religious, some were spiritual, and some were just about family + life itself. I remember sobbing as I listened to one in particular (“Just Be Held“). I had woken up at 5:00 AM and there was no hope of going back to sleep. I cried and cried and cried. Those tears were some of the most cleansing tears I think I’d had up to that point. I let myself release and listen to lyrics until it stitched together that little part of me again.

Meal Trains + Packages + Gift Cards

One of the greatest helps to us during our time of grieving and after Corey was born (because unfortunately, they weren’t far apart) was the gift of FOOD! We had some great friends organize a meal train for us, so we received some delicious home cooked bundles of love. We received some gift cards to our favorite restaurants, offering us a great chance to escape the house if we wanted to (or to order to-go). We even got a fantastic meal package (think: Hello Fresh) from a wonderful friend all the way down in Australia. This came in MAJOR handy after Corey was born! All of the food love spoke to my heart and my tummy. Not having to think about the every day stuff is a major help in times of grief + loss.

Words. Words. Words of Affirmation.

The biggest advice I can give is to never stop reaching out. Never assume the person is “over it” and has moved on. I can tell you is that it never goes away; that searing pain comes back in wave after wave after wave. The most touching gifts of kindness given to me came months after my dad + my brother had died. They came in the form of simple texts and phone calls: “How are you?” “I’m thinking of you.” {on their birthdays/days they died/Father’s Day} “I know today is probably a hard day.” I can’t tell you how comforting it was to know that someone was thinking of me, and in an indirect way, remembering my loved ones. That speaks volumes to my little ole heart. It breathed life back into my dad and my brother just to know someone else was thinking about them, too.


I chose today for this post as it marks the 6th year since my dad’s passing. Just typing out that year is bringing tears to my eyes (the people in the cafe around me are starting to worry I think). I know it might be weird, but this picture of him actually makes me laugh way more than it makes me cry. He was just about to be taken back for his biopsy, which would then lead to the awful news that he had terminal cancer instead of something we could fight against.

He was all doped up on the good stuff, ready to roll. The last thing he said before he left the room was, “Hey, Lilly. Call Dave [his brother] and tell him that I’m still the favorite!” [Sibling rivalry being what it is – my Daddy thought he was the Golden Child in the family.] This guy. Still cracking jokes and poking fun on the way out.

daddy

If you or someone you know received or did something special to comfort someone, please let me know! I think the more tools we have, the better we’ll be when the time comes to offer comfort to someone.

I can’t possibly say in words how much we appreciate and remember all the love and help we received when we needed it most (and still to this day). The profound impact of all the generosity and pure kindness we received is something I’ll hold with me for a lifetime.

Much love and Pineapple.

Rule #5: The little things are always bigger than they seem.

My Daddy was a thief. Not a big one, just the low-level kinda thief. You see, I loved me a good turkey pita sandwich for lunch. I loved a good turkey pita sandwich exponentially more when it had some mayonnaise on it. You know what doesn’t jive well? A soggy mayonnaise-laced turkey pita sandwich. So, my Daddy decided he’d ‘take a few extra’ mayonnaise packets from the hospital cafeteria every day when he ate lunch at work. That way, I could just squeeze a little fresh mayo onto my pita sammich when I was at the lunch table.

mayonnaise packets

Lemme tell ya. Our condiment drawer was overflowing with mayonnaise packets. And my good turkey pita sandwich was exponentially better because of it.

daddy

That’s what we do when we love somebody. We steal ridiculous handfuls of mayonnaise packets. We fold shirts a special way. We buy that certain kind of bread. We secretly buy that pair of earrings for a friend that were sold out months ago. We drop everything and rush to help someone who needs a ride. We make coffee for our spouse every morning just the way she likes it. We answer our phone in the middle of the night even when we’re exhausted. We do all kinds of random, little things for the people we love.

The small things are what make the most impact over the long-run. I love me a good piece of David Yurman, don’t get me wrong. But I have to say that the things I treasure most are the little things like the mayonnaise packets. The impact of that memory is a very powerful one that I’ve tried to shift into how I parent and live my everyday life. It showed me that my Daddy was thinking about me in the middle of his crazy day which made me feel so very loved. He knew I hated soggy pita sandwiches. He knew he could make my day a little better with a minor theft.

daddy

This brings me to this absolutely gut-wrenching memoir left by Holly Butcher. {Please, please, please read it. But grab a fistful of tissues.} All of her words resonated with me down to my very pineapple core. Lately I’ve been focusing so much energy on comparisons between myself and everyone and everything else around me. You’d think by now, after all of my “life lessons”, that I’d get the clue. But I have to tell you that I lost focus for a while. Holly’s words were a proverbial leather-glove-slap-in-the-face. “How dare you, Lilly!” Her letter couldn’t have been published at a better time of the year. It’s a time to start fresh. A time to refocus our energy. It’s a time to focus on what matters: the little things.

corey douglas

My encouragement to you and to myself is that we all focus on the little things. The mayonnaise packets, the kiss goodbye, the simple, “I love you,” can all make the biggest difference. I can almost guarantee that by relishing in the little things, we will gain better focus of the big ones.

Do you remember that ONE toy that you just haaaaaaad to have when you were younger? The one you dreamed about, wrote to Santa about, did double the chores to earn? Remember that one? Well, I remember the toy that my dad just haaaaad to have when my brother and I were y]]>

Santa’s Ski Slope

Santa's Ski Slope

This was The Ultimate Christmas Tree decoration. Every year, my dad would pull out all of the pieces, lay them all around the living room, and start assembling this major Test of Christmas Spirit. You see, every year, there would inevitably be at least two pieces missing. At least two other pieces had broken the year before. And on most years, the tree was too big for the little Ski Slope to wrap around it.

So, every year, we took at least 4 trips to Target to wait in the ever so long Customer Service line, get the needed parts for the year, listen to dad grumble about the price, and head back home to finish the construction process. By this point in the game, my brother and I had lost interest and went about our business. My dad would spend hours upon hours on the floor trying to get this [insert any number of colorful words here] toy to work. The slope had to be connected just right (usually with duct tape by the end of it), the ski lift had to be clear of debris (and dog slobber), and all the supports had to be level on the floor (while dodging the Christmas tree skirt + presents). A very tall order indeed.

Santa's Ski Slope

At about 6, just as his sanity was waning, the blooming thing would magically start to work! It was as if God had pushed him juuuuuuust far enough to make him really get pot-committed and HAVE to assemble the thing but not far enough for him to completely lose his mind and light the whole thing on fire.

Once Daddy-O had accomplished his mission, good ole Santa there and his little buddies would ride the ski lift up to the top of the slope, you’d hear that ever-so-satisfying ‘click’, and then SWOOSH! Down came the biggo red guy all the way around the tree only to get scooped up on the lift and do it again.

Santa's Ski Slope

It may seem like an easy, simple machine. But I assure you, this Santa Ski Slope is the source of many, many of my life’s lessons on patience, humility, and verbal expressionism. These characters here are etched in my memory in the most beautiful, hilarious, warm-and-fuzzy filled way. When we moved just last year, we had to finally say good bye to Santa’s Ski Slope. I held on to it for years with the notion that ONE day… ONE day I was going to get the thing to work again. I decided to let Daddy have all the glory instead.

Santa's Ski Slope

I heard from a little elf that Santa is bringing Corey his very own Polar Express Choo-Choo Train to go around our tree. I’m hoping with every ounce of my being that Jon Boy and I will ultimately spend hours on the floor fiddling with the thing, muttering every ounce of frustrated loathing at the thing that we can, all to see the joy on Corey’s face every time it sparks to life again. That’s the joy of the season, after all.

Santa's Ski Slope

What was your ‘toy’ that you just haaaaad to have on Christmas? Was it something like this annual display of madness and frustration? Or was it something Santa brought you that rocked your world? I’d love to hear!

Merry Everything, y’all!

This past week was a tough one to put it mildly. Thursday (October 19th) was the 2nd anniversary of my brother’s death. (Anniversary is a weird word to use because I like to think of anniversaries as happy times). Anywho, Corey and I drove to San An]]><![CDATA[tonio to spend some time with my sweet Momma at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort. We’re definitely Hyatt people – all their resorts are adult + kid friendly. There’s a ton of stuff to do, and each resort is always in a gorgeous and reflective setting. Perfect for a very pineapple trip.

Corey was very excited to see his Noni – he’s actually cheering for her in this picture “Noni! Noni! Noni!”

hyatt regency hill country resort

We had a beautiful balcony where Corey could run around + Mom and I could sip cocktails. The view was perfect.

hyatt regency hill country

 

Big Guy saw the AAASSSTTTRRROOOOOSSS (hooray for the World Series!) on the TV in the bar at the hotel. We had to go in for dinner so he could watch the game. This guy loves him some Astros baseball.

That hat though… Mr. Cabana Man.

hyatt regency hill country resort

It was definitely a somber, reflective trip for us. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it any other way though. Lots of memories, tears, laughter, and missing my brother + daddy like crazy.

hyatt regency hill country

On our walk Thursday morning, we saw two cardinals. I’ve said this before, and it may be weird to you, but I really believe that birds represent loved ones. Jimmy’s high school mascot was a cardinal. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been missing him and not moments later, I see a cardinal. I never see them when I’m just having an ‘ordinary’ day. My mom and I took that as a sign that he was with us on our walk.

hyatt regency hill country resort

hyatt regency hill country resort

Corey was mesmerized by this rabbit. This guy was brave – we walked within a couple feet of him and he just gave us the stare down. Brave Little Bunny.

hyatt regency hill country resort

At the end of our walk, we walked by this gorgeous tree where dozens of birds + squirrels were eating (the resort lays feed out so you can watch them chow down). All of the animals ran away as we approached except for this dove. Like I said, I think birds represent people. Guess who this one is. The day my dad died, my mom, aunt, and I all saw doves in different places. My aunt is frequently visited by a dove on days when she’s feeling very blue. I’d like to think this portly, tenacious dove was my daddy. The sign says it all, too.

hyatt regency hill country resort

As a dose of humor, I’d like to show you proof of Corey’s current shoe obsession. He really digs my heels.

hyatt regency hill country resort

On our last night, we bravely decided to take Corey to the resort’s fantastic upscale restaurant: Antler’s Lodge. We were a bit early, so Corey got to stare at all the golf carts and yell at all the golfers as they were on the driving range. I’m sure they just loved his enthusiasm…

hyatt regency hill country resort

Noni + Grandbaby

hyatt regency hill country

My snuggly little man. He was the great distraction + source of ‘busy-ness’ that we needed.

hyatt regency hill country resort

In an unrelated note – I did get to wear some of my favorite new pants on the trip. These babies are wicked comfy. Case in point: I loaded the car, gave Corey a bath (all thanks to him playing with his poopy diaper – gross), drove 3 hours, unloaded everything, and walked around the resort. Felt like I was wearing leggings all day instead of jeans/pants. Definitely a winner! Gotta find the positive even on bad days, right?

Wit & Wisdom Ab-solution Stretch Twill Skinny Pants

wit & wisdom ab-solution stretch twill skinny pants

On the drive home – all I’ve gotta say is praise the Lord for DVD players in cars + Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Three hours is a long time when your toddler won’t nap in the car.

road trip

I hope y’all had a great week!

Oh, and GO ASTROS!!!

This is a SUPER picture-loaded post, my friends. Apologies for that in advance! It’s been a very emotional, intense week for us which is why I haven’t posted in so long. An unexpected death in our family took my mom and I north to Republic, MI. That’s in the Upper Peni]]>

I will however share some of the more beautiful parts of our visit.

an unexpected journey

Before we left, I got to spend a little time reflecting with my two favorite guys. We had to watch Corey’s favorite, the Astros, of course. I love that he can just sit and watch the game like his Daddy. It’s adorable. Also a little scary – does this mean he’ll be sports obsessed, too?

an unexpected journey

We found out about my aunt’s death the same day as the Charlottesville incident. It was a very heavy day for us. I’m so deflated by the events that took place in OUR country in 2017. I thought we tried the racism + Nazi thing – it didn’t work out well for anyone. Why are we still doing this? I don’t have any answer other than to live by the following quote:

be the change

After we landed, we had to drive for quite a while. By the time we got close to our family’s home, we were starving. We ended up eating at Silver Lake Resort where my mom actually worked in high school. I loved getting to experience her past with her. It’d been over ten years since I’d been back up north. [The food was yummy, too!]

an unexpected journey

We stayed at the home my grandpa grew up in with my great aunt. It was pretty cool to get to sleep in the house where so many of my relatives lived. The house was originally moved here from the mine (a few miles away) in 1900. It’s been here and home to my family ever since.

an unexpected journey

an unexpected journey

an unexpected journey

an unexpected journey

Republic has a few “beaches” on the lake + river that brought back some great memories from when I was a kiddo visiting. I can’t explain how beautiful and tranquil it is up there. Hopefully the pictures do some justice.

We saw deer every day while we were there!

an unexpected journey

My great aunt had a ton of bird feeders around the house, so we got to watch the birds come and eat while we had our coffee and shared stories from the past. No better way to start the day.

an unexpected journey

These trees have been here for hundreds of years. My great aunt said she actually had to have two trees removed last year because the wind got so bad it blew them down. Must’ve been pretty bad wind because these bad boys are pretty dang sturdy.

an unexpected journey

This is the farm my grandpa + grandma owned (where my mom grew up). It’s just down the road from my great aunt’s house (where my grandpa grew up). It’s not in a as good of shape as it used to be unfortunately. There used to be a working well, the fence wasn’t broken, and there definitely weren’t so many cars out front. Seems like a pretty shady place these days if you ask me. Breaks my heart, too, because the inside was so beautiful as only older homes can be.

an unexpected journey

The flight home was pretty awful. It’s a five hour drive from my family’s home to the airport. We got there with a couple of hours to spare [just in case the traffic gods were against us]. We ended up boarding, sitting on the plane two hours because of maintenance, then deplaning, then boarding again, waiting another hour, and FINALLY taking off. I missed my connection to Houston, so I stayed the night with my mama in Dallas.

The good thing about the whole ordeal is that I can say THESE SHOES are so comfortable – even when you feel like you’re about to rage – because I wore them ALL DAY LONG. 7am – past midnight. My feet could’ve kept going. My patience, not so much.

Blondo Riyan Waterproof Sneaker

Riyan Waterproof Sneaker BLONDO

After all the emotion + travel, I couldn’t WAIT to get home to see these chubby thighs and their Daddy.

an unexpected journey

Heavy sigh. That smile.

corey douglas

corey douglas