We are MORE

When we got home from the hospital on day one, the 8×10 mirror that had been hanging in our family’s living room for 20 years had fallen off the wall and shattered into a million pieces.

Our hearts a reflection of the remnants on the ground.

I remember desperately wishing that day for time to fast forward to a year from now. To have some distance from the trauma of it all. Knowing that we would all be different, but not knowing how.

Time is reliable like that.

365 days later I walked through the same front door. Underneath the fresh coat of paint was the familiar scent of home; coffee grounds mixed with the smell of clean carpet and years of memories. A new mirror hung on the wall.

As my mind quickly scanned the time passed, I remembered the year in its simplest form: impossible (month 1), hopeful (months 2-3), hard and dark (months 4-5), lighter and full of growth (months 6-8), disbelief and sadness (months 9-10), happy and stable (month 11), then anticipatory, sad and surreal (month 12).

We – my sisters, my mom and I – have all changed over the last year, after losing one of the most important people in our lives – Dadio. I don’t know that better is the right word, but I do know that we are all MORE than we have ever been.

Here’s my expansion story in a snapshot.


More connected. There’s a reason they say it takes a village (or is that motherhood?). Friends, our nanny, therapists, strangers, preschool teachers and spiritual guides made up the angel army that helped me navigate grief and lighten the burden of this year.

More fearful. It’s frustrating when parts of you change without your consent. Many things that used to be easy have felt more challenging, like taking trips, making new friends and being alone with my daughters (being alone, period).

More social. I’ve never been a huge extrovert, but I have found that my outlook and attitude are exponentially better when I have connected on a walk with a friend. After spending so much time in my head, it’s refreshing to be in someone else’s.

More creative. Creativity has been my way home; the part of me that comes alive when I’m not sure where my feet are. Drawing in my journal, writing and creating have all been the antidote to grief.

More overwhelmed. There is a delicate balance between being a mother to young kids and a person who is grieving. As I stumble my way through both, I am learning how these roles both battle and strengthen one another.

More healed. While processing my grief, I uncovered many other uprisings in my soul asking to be heard; the pain of past relationships, anxiety, childhood moments, spirituality, insecurities, etc. Grief has a way of revealing all of you.

More natured. The ocean, mountains, trees, sunshine, desert, trails – mother nature has been my greatest source of inspiration and soul fuel.

More spiritual. I have questioned, expanded, resisted and ultimately found the most peace in my relationship with God. It’s a simple formula that takes a lot of work; praying unceasingly and finding the stillness to receive.

More anxious. Anxiety shows up for me as a cover for hard emotions, emotional un-safety, loneliness and fear. I’m learning how to change my relationship with this energy I’ve struggled with in the past, but have really been forced to face this year. Anxiety is my reminder that I need to reconnect with my true self and find my feet in the present moment (some days easier said than done). And I’ve collected a large tool box of actual things I do when anxiety shows up (see previous post).

More spongey. Remembering it’s just as important to release negative feelings and emotions as it is to fill up on joy and the things I love.

More loved. Even though we have all grieved in our own ways, my sisters and my mom (the five tough cookies) have been my ultimate source for comfort, motivation, humor, solidarity and truth. We have all shown up for ourselves and each other in every way.

More, more loved. Ryan, Coura, Maisley and Me – we have loved more, fought more, have grown closer together, then further apart and then back together. They are my “why” and have been there for the big moments and the in-between moments that we won’t remember, but have stamped somewhere on our hearts.

More compassionate. It’s incredible that people all over the world, all the time, grieve the loss of people they can’t live without. I understand grief only in my experience, but I have a new level of compassion for the impossible challenges of this life.

More grateful. Life is for the living. I am so thankful for this day, this breath, these daughters, this husband.  Once you’ve experienced that phone call, it’s hard to find peace in the uncertainty of life yet simultaneously easy to find gratitude in normalcy.

More buoyant. There is an innate and undeniable pull inside the human spirit to lift up and to keep treading water.

More brave. It takes a lot of bravery to step into the shoes we are given and face the thoughts and moments head on. Especially on the tougher days, stuck under the grip of sadness that makes it hard to breathe and function. Even though hard days felt like they would never end, there was always at least a moment of grace, a smile from a baby and bare feet on the concrete. It takes just as much bravery sometimes to enjoy the beautiful moments and days we are equally given.

More grace. Somedays, survival was the only threshold – Netflix, easy meals and laying in bed was all she wrote.


Our story, growing and healing doesn’t end here. There is no finish line, no 365-day medal. However, a lot of hard work has brought us to today, and that deserves to be celebrated.

Thank you, Dadio, for the undeniable gift of more.

365 Days With My Dad

On the first day you left, I opened a new google doc and titled it: “365 days without my dad”.

Every day since then you have proven me wrong.   

My gaze lingers longer than it should on the butterfly or the hummingbird.

Is it you? What are you now? More of a feeling or a moment, rather than someone I can hug and see.

My guardian angel, the person I still call on when I can’t bloody figure out how to fix something (and you always show me the way).

You’re the song on the radio that airs at the perfect time and the lyrical messages on repeat in my mind.

Through the moments of fog and low visibility, you are a chorus of crickets guiding our way. One at every turn, day and night, in the most surprising places. Capturing our attention and activating our sense of humor with that comforting, familiar chirp.

Dadio, husband, brother, “coach”, boss, neighbor, friend, son, kind stranger – even though we can’t see you with your baseball glove on or share in the satisfaction of a good car washing party, we can’t deny that you’re here. In us; in everything beautiful, funny and hopeful.

Here we are on day 366; you are still gone, yet ever here.

We are MORE and so are you in us.

Coming of Age

There are so many things that can’t be put into words and so many other things that I wish I never had. 

Maisley kept asking where Poppi was when we were celebrating his birthday dinner. She asked if he was going to come down from the sky now. I got halfway through my beautiful explanation about how we can’t feel the wind but we know it’s there when she started asking for a french fry. 

Yesterday she asked, “What’s money?”

It’s hard to explain something when I don’t really know the answer myself.

This year has been my coming of age story. I’m not going off to college or leaving the house for the first time.  I’m not young and getting drunk with my crew of friends to ease the pain. 

It’s raw and awkward and I’m 32. 

For the first time in my life I have been forced to truly separate from one of my parents. The person who made me feel safe in the world. 

I’m a mother and I’m learning how to grow up, to find interdependence in all of my relationships, all the while raising two girls. A journey of coming to terms with all of my selves – past, present and future. A time where I question if some of the words I say are even mine. Where anger explodes to mask sadness or vulnerability. 

Maisley spent the first half of her first soccer practice picking her nose and the second half with her hands firmly on her hips, refusing to move or speak because some punk knocked her over in the goal. 

Sometimes we smile when we want to cry. Sometimes change, even when right, feels wrong. Sometimes, words are overrated.

September

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.” – Paulo Coelho

September is chock-full of change – new school year, Football season (eye-roll) and fall on the horizon. Grounded into the newness are lingering summer nights that leave me grasping for the memories and feelings of more carefree days. 

It’s officially September 2019 and I do not want to pass go. I do not want to collect $200. I just want to rewind the days. What if tomorrow was September 6th instead of September 8th? Land mines fill the month. Birthdays and all of the “last year at this time” memories. Last this and that. 

It seems impossible, and yet, we’ve survived impossible over the last year. Standing up after he died and speaking to nearly 1,000 people, that was impossible. Lindsey and Brandon’s wedding, impossible. Dark days of grief, impossible. Writing a book about him, also impossible. And yet, we’re doing it (and people do even wilder, more impossible things all the time). 

All of the impossible hasn’t been for nothing, it’s actually been for many things. Of which I will collect sometime in October. 

One of my biggest layers of resistance for September 29th is a sense that I need to relive that day. But why do I need to relive that day? Who says I do? In EMDR therapy last week I had an incredible moment of knowing (a message and gift from Dadio).  It was this: do what we loved to do. I had a beautiful vision of scouring the tide pools in one of our favorite places, Laguna Beach. So that’s what I will be doing.

As I’ve learned this year, it’s not going to be okay. It’s never going to be okay that he’s not here. But, I know that we can handle it (even if it’s not pretty), and I know that we are never alone (held every step by God and Dadio). Resilience is something that’s earned, it’s not just a given trait like curly hair or green eyes. 

What would my dad say? “It’s just another day”.

The Meeting Place

They met in the waves one foggy, August morning. Both in full wetsuits, all set in the lineup, with calm, friendly fins. 

And they met in the sky one sunny afternoon. Both in expansive wings, free flying the friendly skies, above the ground and the weight of the earth. Held in the arms of the wind. 

Time seemed to stop as these kindred spirits held the same space. If only for a breath; bound by the spiritual glue of the ocean and of the wind that belongs to everyone, to no one. That carries those who dare to drop in and leap, trusting that they will be carried. 

I wonder…who wants to be like who? Are the dolphins wishing for the stoke of the surfers? Do the birds envy the finesse of the paragliders? Or is it just us trying to shed our humanity and connect with the things our souls know to be true?

We’re all more alike than we are different; everything we can see with our eyes and that which we can only feel with our hearts. 


I’m just a girl, sitting on the beach, a witness to the converging of worlds, coincidently having a picnic with the squirrels.

A Family of Our Own

There’s only so much other people see; at the park, on a playdate, in a photo or through an Instagram page. It’s all real, but it’s only a part of our story. The intricacies, everything unfiltered, what we’re like in these four walls – that’s the nectar reserved just for us. The cheeky smiles before the huge laughs, the inside jokes on the last page of the potty book, the bedtime shenanigans, the embarrassing dance moves, the strange “sammie” voices and nonsensical nicknames. How we look singing Sam Hunt songs in Eddie the Explorer. The loudest screams, the deepest cries and the softest hearts. Pillow talk. The best of us, the worst of us, all of us. In the moments in between what other people see and what we choose to share, we are knitting the heart of our family. A family of our own. Home. 

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Ara & Little Boy

I used to think Maisley had an imaginary friend. Her name was Ara. She talked to her often; on long drives, in the kiddie pool, in bed. After months of inquiring about Ara and google searching the scale of normal for imaginary friends, I found out some other, arguably less disturbing news about who Ara really was.

It happened in the car one day.

I turned around in the midst of a conversation with Ara to find Maisley gently cradling her left foot. She proceeded to tell me that Ara was sandy. Ara, her left foot, was sandy. I finally caught up to her imagination and asked if her other foot had a name. Indeed it did, his name was Little Boy. 

This is Maisley, Ara and Little Boy at their first day of preschool.

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