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”.

One More

One more song with the windows rolled down,
One more trip to a bucket list town.
One more beer,
One more cheers.
One more comforting hug,
One more full-bodied laugh,
One more finance chat.
One more piece of advice,
One more after-dinner orange slice.
One more Bass Lake run,
One more game of Yahtzee, anyone?
One more visit to the office,
One more kind gesture, anonymous.
One more side glance,
One more awkward father-daughter dance.
One more Sports Sunday,
One more “everything’s going to be okay”.

Hard Days: A Road Map

Overall I’m having more “good” days than “bad” days right now. After a string of good days, the bad ones still catch me off guard. Is it grief? Is it motherhood? Is it an aggro-crag of PMS? Is it just a hard day?

My dedicated brain is always trying to understand and find an explanation for the spontaneous feelings and happenings in my days.

During the hard ones, I (sometimes frantically) pull out my road map of tactics and try to remind myself that I’m not back at the beginning, but just having a hard day.

With grief, new losses amidst the bigger loss are emerging. The loss of Father’s Day, our family unit as we knew it and the simplicity of nachos with jalapeños at baseball games. The loss of me, as I knew her. 

When I have conversations with my future self, the one who has that “my kids are now wiping their own ass” glow, she always comes with one clear message. 

You will never regret showing yourself compassion. 

She goes on to say…

What you are going through is hard.
Asking for more help is necessary.
Not feeling like you can do your job of motherhood everyday is okay.
Wondering if it will always be this hard is normal.

She doesn’t say to try harder or do more or get a new job, she just says:

Be kind and take care of yourself.

 

Hard Day Road Map

  • EFT – tapping
  • Constant prayer and putting up a force field around me of love and support from my guardian angels and God (sounds a little “woo woo” like Oprah would say, but it helps immediately)
  • Meditation – I love the Calm App
  • Stream of consciousness writing 
  • Getting outside for walk or a swim
  • Yoga
  • Walking barefoot around our front yard
  • Calling someone or meeting up with a friend
  • Crying and allowing the feelings

Out Of Office

There’s always something specific I daydream about over and over before vacation. Last summer it was sitting under a moon-lit sky eating pizza. This time, it was boogie boarding in the warm water and getting lei’d. (No offense Ryan, but I mean that literally, like the smell and feeling of the cool fragrant flowers around my neck in the fanned hotel lobby). 

Choosing to go on a parents only vacation to Hawaii when you’re in the thick of parenthood is a little dicey. It’s a wonder we made it back and didn’t ship our kids out to Kauai to start our new life on a plantation. We appreciated this trip like two people who have never seen the ocean before or felt sunshine on their skin. My heart was on my knees in bewilderment and gratitude every second of the day. 

We had free minds, free time, connection, sleeping-in, extra long showers and so much shredding and snorkeling. My pre-trip daydreams were fulfilled in abundance and by night, I actually dreamt about a happy sea turtle doing flips in the ocean (in contrast to either not dreaming because I’m not sleeping at home or that recurring high school nightmare where I can’t find my bloody class schedule). 

While it was a great escape, grief still weaseled it’s way into my luggage. This trip wasn’t about my dad, or for my dad, but I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad. 

It’s hard to find the flow between seemingly opposing emotions; to gracefully move between happy and sad without getting stuck. 

One morning I sat mindlessly in awe of the beautiful view from our hotel room and then suddenly was hit with the strong, familiar scent of an unfolded newspaper on the bed. My dad came flooding in. When our speedboat tour took off into the ocean, the sound of the engine and the wind on my face made it feel as if my dad was the captain in the bucket hat. As I flew through the clear waters on my boogie board with nothing but a gigantic grin on my face, I could feel him by my side. 

And yet I resisted the pull to “go there” every time. Sometimes when I’m happy and at peace, I just want to stay in that place as long as I can. It feels hard to cry. 

But after too many moments of not going there, I was forced to go there. Emotions built up like a volcano and I had to release it all; I had to feel extreme sadness while spying palm trees out of the corner of my eye. 

But just for a few moments. 

This feeling of feelings business is hard work. Learning how to navigate the tides with resilience, to move like the wind. She does it so seamlessly; for me it’s like a full-time desk job. 

While I’m at it, I also wonder how to bring “vacation” home with us. It feels unacceptable to not feel that level of bliss more in “real life”. My dad always used to grow a casual goatee on our summer trips and then he would shave it off the day we got back home. Back to reality

Let’s keep the goatee on. I want to chase the sunshine and easily find peace of mind. Kauai Ry – can you come home with us too?

I cried leaving my girls and then cried to coming home, but the middle – the salty, intentional, sweet, refreshing middle – was all worth it. 

Another eye opener from vacation: we need new pillows.

 

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