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

You wanna hear a dirty word? Here it is: ANXIETY. That’s right. I said it. Anx-EYE-eh-TEE. A lot of people have already stopped reading, so if you’re still here, thank you. I think it’s time I get real dirty and honest about anxiety and its relationship with my grief.
I’ve been brooding over this book (All the Light We Cannot See) and this quote for months now:
The Basis of Fear
You have to read the book to understand the entire context [and I highly recommend that you do read it], but either way this quote is extremely poignant to those of us who’ve experienced loss:
“‘But he died.’
 
‘And I did not.’
 
This, she realizes, is the basis of his fear, all fear. That a light you are powerless to stop will turn on you and usher a bullet to its mark.”
The Basis of Fear

This quote made me ugly cry for about an hour after I initially read it. I had to put the book down and come back to it once my eyes weren’t swollen. It was definitely a good, therapeutic cry because it really bulls-eyed my feelings about loss and anxiety.

When you lose someone [I don’t care if it’s your dad, a neighbor, or your pet fish – it’s YOUR loss, so don’t let anyone make you feel differently], you realize you’ve lost control. In fact, you realize you never had control to begin with. The normal you knew before is long gone, my friend. You’re now in the “real world” – the “Big Boy Land” – whatever you want to call it. But no longer do you believe in fairy tales and perfectly happy endings.

The Basis of Fear

Along with this loss of control comes anxiety and/or depression. It’s becoming less and less taboo to talk about these things openly, but nevertheless, these things are usually kept quiet. I guess people feel ashamed or embarrassed about mental health issues, but let me assure you… these things are no different than cancer or the flu or a broken pinky toe. They’re diseases that need to be treated.

The Basis of Fear

I experienced both anxiety and depression after my dad died. It’s interesting because it never really manifested until after Jon and I were married. I honestly didn’t really know what was going on with me. I used to be the kind of person who’d jump at the chance to go out on the town, be the life of the party, and feel comfortable in any situation. Slowly, I started to freak out about the smallest things: not having my own car, feeling trapped in a restaurant, needing to go home to check to see if the dryer was on, not sleeping until I checked the garage at least 4 times. Those kinds of things. Weird. Things.

 

The Basis of Fear

To people who haven’t experienced these feelings: CONGRATS to you, buddy. I’m glad you don’t know what it’s like. But let me please urge you – don’t judge me. Not until you understand what it’s like to have your life utterly rocked and shaken until you don’t recognize where you are anymore. Be patient with me. Be kind to me. Don’t laugh at it or hope that it will magically disappear. Unless you can bring back my losses, it’s not going anywhere.

The Basis of Fear

I recognize that my anxiety was brought on by my losses, but that anxiety manifests itself in and from many different things. I know some people who will literally become physically violent if forced to speak in public. I’ve known people who wouldn’t sleep or eat days before a big exam. I had a friend in college who had a panic attack so severe that the campus medical staff had to come escort her out of her bed. You fill in the blanks, but everyone probably has or will experience something similar in this lifetime.

What I’m beginning to see and feel is that as our society becomes more and more “advanced” (lots of argument about what that really means, I know), we seem to all be experiencing more mental illness. Our wars are different than they used to be. Our jobs are much more mentally demanding than they used to be. Our social lives are very different than they used to be. You see? It’s no wonder that things can get a little hairy when you add in even more factors.

The Basis of Fear

My purposes for writing this post are:

#1: THANK everyone who has supported me, been patient with me, and even dealt with my quirks when I’m “in my moment” dealing with anxiety.

#2: ENCOURAGE you to seek help from a friend, family member, or medical professional if you feel that you’re spiraling out of control because of your anxiety/depression. You’re not broken, amigo, and you’re not crazy either.

#3: BE HONEST about your feelings – whether you’re the anxious one or the one who’s being supportive. Mental illness shouldn’t be something we sweep under the rug anymore. It’s real. It’s here to stay. The only way to make it bearable is to honestly and openly talk about it.

grief

Our sweet Osa went to the Rainbow Bridge on Monday. If you haven’t heard of the Rainbow Bridge, you’ve got to read the poem here. She was starting to whimper in pain and could hardly breathe because of all the cancer and fluid in her body. It was such a tough decision, but in the end, it’s what was best for our baby girl. We already miss her so much it hurts. It’s so hard to see an empty dog bed and extra food bowl. Our other dog, Penny, is having a really tough time, too. She can’t quite figure out where Osa went. We’re already getting our minds wrapped around adopting another dog, but until then, it’s lots of extra snuggles and ball throws for Miss Penny.

life lately rainbow bridge
We put Osa down in the morning on Monday, so in the afternoon, we decided to take Corey and Penny out to a great park nearby called Burroughs Park. This park was unreal. It had a TON of walking trails, at least 5 different playgrounds, sand volleyball courts, alligator warning signs, and a beautiful mini lake. Did you catch that? ALLIGATOR WARNING SIGNS. I can’t even. It was still worth the risk to spend time at this gorgeous oasis (and no, we didn’t see any alligators).

burroughs park
Is there anything better than chubby cheeks in an over-sized baseball hat?
corey douglas
After we played at the park, we wanted to grab some grub (and booze) to end our weird day. They allow dogs, too, so we brought sweet Penny to dinner with us! They had homemade biscuits and her own personal water bowl. How adorable!
If you live in the north Houston area, you’ve GOT to visit Craft Grill.
craft grill
Corey had so much fun looking for airplanes, birds, and trucks. He also became the patio’s personal greeter. He said, “Hi!” in the cutest voice ever to every person who walked by.
craft grill
We started with the queso (soooooo delicious and necessary to help cure our bad day). Then I had the chicken and biscuits. I barely finished one of them, but they were so unbelievably good!
craft grill

 

We asked the waitress what her favorite item was, and she suggested the blackened sea bass. Holy heaven above. It. Was. Magical. They smother it in this sinfully delicious, creamy sauce. Jon Boy also kept our grieving meal going with their awesome mac ‘n’ cheese and hush puppies. This food cures everything, let me tell you.
craft grill
The day before we put Osa down, it was Penny’s 3rd birthday! She spent the day being showered with fake food (donuts and spaghetti mostly) and lots of hugs from Mr. Corey. These two are so sweet, and I’m more grateful than ever for their relationship now that Osa is gone.

penny and corey
I’ve been buying a TON of fresh herbs lately to spruce up our meals, and Oh.Em.Gee are they expensive. I’ve ready that you should treat herbs like you do flowers in order to keep them fresh longer. You just throw some water in a glass and plop the herbs right in. We’ll see if this makes the herbs last longer than they do in their container in the fridge.

herbs
I love spring. I especially love spring when there’s tons of rain and sun, both of which Houston never seems to have a shortage of! Our hibiscus are already blooming, and in Dallas, I’d have to wait until probably May for that to happen.
hibiscus
Happy Friday, friends!
Life Lately

[Just a disclaimer – this is personal and very raw. It’s definitely not a light-hearted post. However, I think it represents my brother the best way I know how to.]

It’s been one year since we lost Jimbo. It feels like no time at all, but also the longest year of my life. I’ve been dreading this month and this day for a while now. There are many days when I still can’t believe he’s gone, and then it hits me all over again as if it were the first day I’d heard about the accident. I would get tears just thinking about seeing 10.19 on the calendar. I really, really hate this date, and I think I always will.

There’s so much that’s lost when someone dies. You lose their future and the future you’d envisioned them being part of. Jimmy would have graduated earlier this year. He would’ve turned 22. He would’ve known Corey.
But, Jimmy will forever be 21. He’ll forever be so many things. He’ll forever be my caring, hilarious, sarcastic, and sometimes stubborn “small” brother.

So, to celebrate his life, I’d like to share some of my favorite stories about my “small” brother, Jimmy.

First of all, he obviously wasn’t small by any means. The kid was huge (as is his nephew) from day one. He was bigger than I was from a very early time. In fact, the day we went to celebrate my 21st birthday, I was carded but they poured Jimmy (13 at the time) a free glass of wine to taste. Real cool.

grief
Speaking of “small”, this little gem is from way back in the day when we both went to daycare at the Sloan School in Irving. When he first started at the daycare, I was in 5th grade and he was a wee little tot. To get to the big playground, we had to walk through the little guys’ playground [pictured here]. Every time this kid saw me, he would absolutely melt down. I mean huge, all-out, ridiculous fit that would take a good 30 minutes to recover from. And by recover, I mean his teachers. Poor things. This guy wasn’t easy to convince to do something he didn’t want to do, like be separated from his big sister [later that wouldn’t take much convincing at all].
Once, he even held his breath until he passed out because my mom wouldn’t let him crawl up the stairs. Keep in mind he wasn’t even one; he had JUST started crawling. Yeah. #stubborn #butusuallyeffective
grief

He had a wicked sense of humor. Not an in-your-face, watch-what-I-can-do-kind, but the dry, quiet kind. He always had one-liners that would leave you laughing days later.

grief
For example, the name of this post comes from one of our last texts together. I was having a rough time with the end of pregnancy (okay, maybe the whole pregnancy) especially whenever we’d be out with all our friends having a cold beer at the end of a long work week or watching football. This was one such occasion. Jimmy took less than a minute to reply to my need for said beer with, “Soon, grasshopper, soon.”You can see in the rest of the texts, we were talking about his high school, MacArthur in Irving. He’s talking about the kiddo who brought a clock that looked like a bomb to school. I’m not making any judgements one way or the other, but I love that Jimbo texted me just to see what I’d say. We didn’t talk often as he got older [see above about getting away from me – his older, not-nearly-as-smart sister], but when we did, I cherished it.

grief

I just threw this one in because he was such a cute little man. I’m starting to see SO much of him in Corey. Not only in looks but in personality [#stubborn #butsocute].

grief
This one had me rolling for a while. I knew he was totally creeped out, and I loved it. It took a lot to get a chuckle or a rise out of him, so I was proud of myself.
grief
His response was typical Jimmy. If you knew him, you could hear him saying the text and then giggling. Love it.
grief

He was one of the least athletic people I knew, but he could probably shoot the stray hairs off a fly if he needed to. My dad actually had one of Jimmy’s paper targets hanging in the kitchen for years. It was almost completely hollow in the bullseye. The kid was talented.

grief

He had an epic time at this bar with his best bud, Sterling. I won’t give many details, but let’s just say he lost a shoe and had an entertaining ride home from Uber.

grief

This, friends, is some ridiculously expensive Japanese whiskey that my brother bought in college. College. Do you know what I got in college? Boons Farm. Keystone. Natti Light. You know what I mean? This guy knew the good stuff and wouldn’t settle. He always researched the best thing no matter what it was; he never went with what was “trendy”. At times it drove me crazy, but I can definitely appreciate his thirst [get it] for a good thing.

yamazaki whiskey

Above all, Jimmy was a loyal and devoted friend. He was caring, compassionate, generous, and always thought more of others than himself. At his memorial service, was played “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” and to this day, it’s still my ringtone. I think of him every time my phone rings. It’s the epitome of who my brother was. I hope I can continue to channel his devotion to his friends into my relationships with others. The stories we heard and continue to hear about how great he was are so healing and beautiful.

jimmy and sterling
I don’t have a picture for this, but I’ll never forget when Jimmy was maybe two years old, his intelligence came shining through. My dad, Jimmy, and I went on our weekend tradition, the “Donut Run.” It was a good time for us to kind of get out of the house, pack up the dogs, grab some donuts, and head to Grapevine Lake. As we were driving, Daddy couldn’t remember the name of the street we usually turned on to get to our favorite spot at the lake. From his carseat, the two-year-old Jimmy says, “Dove Road.” My dad and I were dumbfounded. How he remembered that I will never know.

Since our dad has passed earlier that year in 2012, Jimmy walked me down the aisle and danced with me during the Father/Daughter dance.

grief

When he was younger and I would drive him around, he always wanted to listen to the Beastie Boys’ song, “Brass Monkey.” So, that’s of course what we danced to at the wedding.

father daughter dance 2
father daughter dance

Jimmy was also an excellent joker. See this? It’s my Christmas gift. Wanna know what’s inside? A box. Then a piece of luggage. Then a shoe box wrapped in duct tape. And on and on and on we go. Then, I finally get to my gift. A necklace. I think it took me 15 minutes to unwrap this dang thing.

grief

He giggled the whole time. I was less than amused.

christmas gift

Another story that doesn’t have a picture would be the time I had a meltdown as a first year teacher. Jimmy was in 8th grade, coincidentally the same age as my students. It was a Friday night and my dad wanted to grill burgers. So, on the way to the house, I picked up all the fixings and everything after a very, very, very long week at school. I got all the groceries in and started unloading only to realize the meat I bought was wayyyyyy past its expiration date. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I lost it. Started crying and might have said a few cuss words. At this point, my dad could see there was no way the burgers were happening. He handed me some cash and sent me Jimmy to get BBQ. As we were waiting for the food, I had a beer and unloaded my issues onto my then 14-year-old brother. He sat patiently and listened for about 30 minutes as I went on-and-on-and-on about my problems. He offered me some of the most insightful advice I’ve ever received. [I’m going to keep that advice to myself.] He had a very wise soul at such a young age.

Okay, so this picture isn’t from this story, but you’ll see why it relates in a bit. So, one day mom was walking around the house when she saw Jimbo outside. He was outside often playing with the neighbors and what not. Then she realized he was very focused on the side walk. Then she realized… he was peeing. Out front. For all to see. When she yelled at him to stop, he replied, “But mom! I’m camping!”

And then my mom had a talk with my dad about camping etiquette.

Jim Scouting for Trouble 1994

He was himself and didn’t care what you thought. He loved the fancy things in life but would also lounge around in squalor and play video games all day. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfectly himself. I’ve learned to be more comfortable with who I am because of who he was. In so many ways, I looked up to my “small” brother.

grief

I’m going to end with the lyrics to a song that’s brought me such tremendous comfort over the past year. I hope it brings some to you, too, if you’re in need of it.

“Beam Me Up” by P!nk
[click to hear the song]

There’s a whole other conversation going on
In a parallel universe
Where nothing breaks and nothing hurts
There’s a waltz playing frozen in time
Blades of grass on tiny bare feet
I look at you and you’re looking at me

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
Probably just stare, happy just to be there holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter, I think,
A minute’s enough,
Just beam me up.

Some black birds soaring in the sky,
Barely a breath like our one last sight
Tell me that was you, saying goodbye,
There are times I feel the shivering cold,
It only happens when I’m on my own,
That’s how you tell me, I’m not alone

Could you beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
I’d Probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter, I think,
A minute’s enough,
Just beam me up.

In my head, I see your baby blues
I hear your voice and I, I break in two and now there’s
One of me, with you

So when I need you can I send you a sign
I’ll burn a candle and turn off the lights
I’ll pick a star and watch you shine

Just beam me up,
Give me a minute, I don’t know what I’d say in it
Probably just stare, happy just to be there, holding your face
Beam me up,
Let me be lighter, I’m tired of being a fighter, I think,
A minute’s enough,
Beam me up
Beam me up
Beam me up
Could you beam me up

Eight weeks ago, our son was born.
Three months ago, my brother died.
Four years and one day ago, my dad died.
Pineapple

Here’s the breakdown:

I met my husband on August 31, 2010. Three months later, my dad was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer and given two months to live. He lived an additional fourteen months, and died six months before I married the love of my life. Three years later, when I was eight months pregnant with our first child, my 21-year-old brother died in a motorcycle accident.

Let’s just say I’ve had an amazing and rough five years.

Pineapple

It’s hard for me to not question God on the ebb and flow of extreme happiness and extreme despair. I’ve realized I’ll have to hold my questioning until I meet Him in person (hopefully a long time from now).

Throughout my times of grief and joy, I’ve realized a few things.

#1: People reveal their absolute beauty and ugliness in times like these. People you never thought would care show up on your door step with flowers, prayers, kind words, helping hands, food, and hugs. They send messages and texts of hope and encouragement. They mail gifts that mean so much more than even they can understand. Others you’d expect to do the same just… don’t. It’s not because they’re evil; it’s because they just don’t get it. And that’s okay. I don’t really want people to get it necessarily because that would mean they’d have felt the same things I have.

Jim Tiger First Camp 2000

 #2: Knowing extreme pain makes you appreciate life in a different way. My husband and my son are the two most precious gifts I’ve ever had. The love of my family and friends add to this more than I can explain. I take joy in all the things I see in these beautiful people. I take joy in the laughter we have, jokes we make (mostly dark-humored in my wonderfully-flawed family), arguments we have, mistakes we make, glasses of wine we share, and even in the pain we’ve felt. I am grateful that I have so many people in my life who love and support me in my best and worst times. I am grateful to have had (and still have) people whose losses devastated me. That sounds strange, but, given the alternative, I’ll take the pain over not having the person. As good ole Garth says, “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

jon and lilly

 #3: There’s no point in comparing. I hate the feeling I get when people say, “I know this doesn’t compare to what you’ve gone through, but…” It makes me feel like I should be wearing a badge of honor for not calling it quits and just losing my marbles after everything that’s happened. All grief is the same. All grief consumes you, swallows you whole, spits you out, makes you feel okay for about two seconds, and then repeats the process all over again in a tidal wave. I’m grateful that I understand horrid pain so that I can be there for others, but my pain isn’t any greater or less than anyone else’s. Life doles out daggers to everyone in some way or another. People just seem to deflect theirs in different ways.

family

#4: Pineapple. After my brother died, my amazingly insightful aunt called to ask how we were doing. She immediately said, “That’s such a stupid question.” It’s not a stupid question; it’s just that the answer can’t be put into words. We didn’t know what to say, so I just said, “You could just say pineapple and it would make just as much sense.” There’s no word or saying or emotion that could put together everything you feel when you get pounded by loss. So, I just say, “Pineapple.” I think the one thing that I can put into words, and I’ve heard it said by others who’ve gone through something like this, is that the hardest part is that the world keeps spinning. You’d think everyone else wouldn’t be able to go to work or eat lunch or smile, but they do. Then you have the realization that you’ve got to do the same things, too. It’s an ugly reality. You feel guilty for moving on, but you have to.

See – pineapple.

Pineapple

#5: You have to go down the rabbit hole; just make sure you have a strong rope to climb back out. You’ve got to let yourself feel all the emotions (pineapple) that you feel. It will overwhelm you. It will suffocate you. It may even make you dilate and go into labor the next day (yupp – true story). Fall on all fours. Wail. Scream. Hit something. Curl up in your closet and hide. Whatever you need to do, you’ve got to let yourself go down the rabbit hole. That strong rope, though, you’ve got to have it. Whether it’s your family, friends, faith, music, food, booze (not too much though), a lucky rabbit’s foot, whatever – you have to climb back out eventually and put on your big boy or girl panties and keep moving on.

Pineapple

The only advice I’d ever give to someone whether you’re going through dark times or you’re trying to comfort someone who is would be this: Just be there. You don’t have to talk. You don’t have to bring anything. You don’t even have to be physically present. Just be there. It’s amazing how one small thing (a text that says, “Hey – thinking of you”) can make or break your day.

The last thing I have to say about all this mess is thank you. Thank you to those of you who have pulled me out of my rabbit hole without even knowing it. Thank you for being there.

In the words of my Daddy, “It’s all good.”

daddy

 jimmy
Pineapple
Pineapple