The change in the tide

4 months ago I was broken… Life had gotten the better of me and grief had become my every day…

4 months ago I hit the lowest of my lows… and I faced them and admitted them…

4 months ago I realized that life will never stop because you’re out of control…

The low stayed low for a while… Around Christmas I just got mad… mad that I let myself crumble the way I did and that I had lost who I was…

Shortly after writing my last blog post I decided to fill my house up with some life again… I adopted a senior dog from a rescue… She’s been a saving grace… Gave me a routine again, helped me see my own self worth again… She sleeps in bed next to me… even burrows under the  covers occasionally…

I truly stopped caring that I was single, realizing that I just needed to learn how to love myself again after everything that had happened…

I opened myself up the the wonderous possibilities that life has in all ways… and I said, if something great comes along just say yes to it… What came along was finding me again..

I’ve begun to heal my relationship with food… I’ll never be 100% ok with all of that but I’m getting there… I get a sound breakfast in my system in the morning… I pack enough snacks and small munchies to make sure if I get hungry during the day at work I have something to eat… and I try to get a decent dinner in before too late at night…

I’ve now lost 65 lbs total… My goal is to lose another 15 by July 4th.  Totally doable in my opinion but I don’t obsess over it… It’s become an observation I’m embedded in.  I track my weight to see what foods impact me and how and I don’t get bent out of shape if I see a number bounce occasionally…

And I can do things I never thought I could… like hike a damn mountain…

IMG_0200

When the New Year came around… I was with a friend who is just a wonderful person… and I realize that I have good people around me now… and I entered the new year with no expectations… I want to be happy, healthy and peaceful… Content… Anything more than that is a bonus… I survived 2015… I’m going to be just fine…

When you have no words

When I wrote the post Saturday night – my letter to Minnie I struggled to find words for everything I wanted to say.  To be honest I don’t remember much about Saturday other than the 4am phone call, being at the ER and a lot of other just blury things, phone calls from friends and family, packing for my conference, fitful naps…

All week the support has been amazing. Friends family coworkers all reaching out to see if things are ok… All, quite surprising to me, so aware of what Minnie meant to me… And sensitive to the void left in my life…

I’m so touched and so greatful for it all, so blessed that the love that surrounded Minnie was so incredibly expansive and that she touched so many lives… That in her short life she was able to impact so many and teach us so much… 

I will now have to relearn how to live my life… No more schedule based on medications or when she has to be out or adapting to an unexpected seizure… It’s going to be a hard transition… I’m going home today to an empty house… I’m not ready… But I’ve got to face the music… Life happens and with life comes loss… I was so blessed to have spent six years loving and being loved by Minnie and nothing can ever take that away…

  
  

A letter to Minnie

  

Six years ago I let Bob talk me into looking at adopting a Great Dane.  When I went on the adoption page and saw your photo, all stretched out on a couch with a bunch of toys in your mouth I said “her – I want her”. A few weeks later he showed up with you in the back car and my life would never be the same. 

I was convinced we’d change your name but when you climbed into the recliner – all 100 lbs of you we knew Minnie would stick.  Later that year when Bob and I decided we would split up I had a tough decision to make and I’ll never regret it for a minute.  I said you can take anything in the house.  I’m keeping Minnie and the TV.  And we slept on a futon mattress on the floor for a week but I had you and that was what mattered.

   

 

I’m sorry that I chose to have someone in our lives who didn’t love you like you deserved but I hope during those couple of years I loved you enough to make up for it.  And once again I never regret making him leave after you had your first seizure and he said he wish you wouldn’t have made it.  I’m sorry it took me so long to see it.

I’m so glad you had a chance to be loved by so many people, Melissa, Valerie, Bayley, Emily, Rob, Jody… The list goes on… I’m glad you had a grandma that spoiled you silly and a great grandma that called me today so sad that she didn’t get to say goodbye… I’m happy in the end that you had a Dad there that loved you more than you can imagine… That would have done anything for you… That was there with you to say goodbye…  

   

  

And you were a great sister to the brother you let sit on your face  

You were so smart, and a bit of a trouble maker… Bananas, really? Spatulas? I mean you chewed through a child lock once… When you wanted something there was no stopping you…

   

  

You taught me what it was like to love unconditionally again… You saved my life more than once… I would say I have to keep going Minnie needs me…  

You frustrated me at times but ultimately you taught me patience… You were there when I came through the door every day and every moment I got to spend with you was a blessing… Life will not be the same… I plan to bury your ashes outside under the bleeding heart plant that you never failed to roll over at some point each summer… And we’ll it’s a bleeding heart flower it doesn’t get much more fitting than that… You are and always will be my angel… Love you baby girl

  

   

           

Driven

Before I get to the driven part…

I have to share this little bit of crazy… My mom, as anyone who knows me and her is well aware, is a bit eccentric… I love her but she’s, well she’s unique… and yesterday she came in for a visit and she was flying high and told me to have a seat because she had gone to see a medium on her way in…

I’m sure my face was priceless…

I’ll give her this – the lady pulled out some stuff that makes you go oooooook maybe this stuff isn’t totally hokey…  Just some weird things about my dad and me… apparently kept telling my mom something about tea and me – well I don’t drink tea – like at all, but a couple months ago I because obsessed with chai lattes which my mom bought on accident thinking they were coffee… a little weird…

And then she asked my mom if my dad had taken his own life… and my mom told the woman no… and I will say I stopped for a minute when my mom told me that because after he died there was major drama – my step mother accused me of trying to help my dad try to commit suicide (which NEVER happened) but it was a huge blow up that I kept pretty quiet because I was 18 and that whole thing was just ridiculous.  I never did even think if the suicide attempt was real… I just knew I had nothing to do with anything of the sort… But seriously that was quite the random factoid…

There were lots of other strange little things that came up too but I guess that final message that came from it all was that supposedly wherever he is, there are still things he is hoping to ease…

Ok so enough of that… and onto how STRONG I feel lately….

IMG_5898

I’ve really made the decision to dedicate myself to this journey this time.  And it’s paying off.  I’ve broken down more times than I’d like to admit.  I’ve cursed myself and my body and the designer of the challenge I joined and everyone and everything in between but I am not stopping.

IMG_5895

Basically the filling of a lettuce wrap over pasta – soooo good

IMG_5886

shopping trip! including what I needed for family dinner night – southwestern chicken “cupcakes” this week made with wonton wrappers.

IMG_5885

premade frozen smoothie kits with frozen greek yogurt cubes and frozen spinach cubes

I’m eating awesome foods (I feel like all I do is eat).

And I push myself until I feel like I might break

IMG_5866 IMG_5920

Last night after my hour or so work out when I realized that jumping jacks are not fun and when I made it through all of my planks without dropping out of any of them I ended up on the floor like this….

IMG_5930I keep saying that the last time I devoted myself to something with this much gusto it was to my education and my career and I think that paid off with mighty rewards.  I’ve been really successful I think and I’ve done well for myself… now why can’t I do that same thing with my health and fitness.  My mom watched me workout yesterday and said she was so impressed seeing me push through and not give up.

IMG_5940

I just have to keep reminding myself that when I start to over think things that I have the power to stop it, that I am in control.  I can decide what weight I want to lift and how fast I want to run and I can decide if I want to let other people’s opinions get to me or if I want to be strong and stand up tall on my own.

IMG_5856

I have an amazing life ahead of me. I plan to be fit and in shape so that I can enjoy it.  An hour of sweat and tears and struggle each night followed by being sore the next day is totally worth knowing that I’m getting stronger each day.  That tomorrow walking that flight of stairs won’t put me out of breath, that I will jump at the chance to be out and about for an entire day and that I’ll get excited to put on new clothes…

And it’s not like I’m giving anything up to devote this time to my health – in fact Monday I went and saw and amazing band – The Beauty Slap perform at the first happy hour sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust where Pittsburgh Artist and friend of mine Baron Batch was painting.  I had a couple drinks and some nibbles and I came home and did over an hour of leg day… and collapsed afterwards… but damn if I didn’t do what I needed to do..IMG_5912

I’m not going to let things bring me down right now – I didn’t get the Matthew Mayfield house show and you know what that’s ok – his music still inspires me… but I get to write my own story moving forward… I get to write my own album and my own music… I control this destiny… bring it on…

How to Breathe

This is such a theme in my life isn’t it?

I’ve been really down lately.  My anxiety has been back.  My knee started swelling up again a week or so again, so I immediately made a doctor’s appointment – I go in on Thursday to see my orthopedic surgeon to see if I’ve done something to it or if my arthritis has just gotten out of hand.  I’ve cut all cardio and exercise from my routine hoping the rest would help and I fear that I’ll start to undo everything I’ve been working for.

I crashed a little bit after the anniversary of my dad’s death- I grieved really silently this year other than the blog post.  It was like I poured it all out of my system and then didn’t know what to do with all of those feelings.

I felt just so incredibly lost and overwhelmed.  I found just a moment of solace in my prayers at night.  I would beg for my heart rate to slow down, for calmness to creep into my soul.

Today I got a little bit of help.

A few months ago the singer/songwriter who you all know I have so much respect for and who has made the music that I have found so healing as of late began releasing snippets of songs that would be on his new album.

Today – Matthew Mayfield released Wild Eyes.

On Wild Eyes is a song entitled How to Breathe.

And as I listened to it the whole way through the first time I rushed up to close my office door because my emotions just exploded.

“The back and forth the push and pull / It’s carved a curse inside my soul / Yet I believe that this tug of war has taught me how to breathe”

I said back when I first talked about Matthew Mayfield’s music in November that everyone should find a song that makes them feel again.  For me its understanding that being broken is ok.  It’s my brokenness that makes me who I am.  No one has the same cracks that I do – No one has been put back together the same way that I have.

I am blessed for the dents, dings, rust stains and scars that I carry.  Each one has taught me how to breathe.  In the end every single one of them ended with some type of hope.  How easy it is to forget that.

Thank you MM – thank you the timing of this album could not have been better.

The album is available on iTunes now.

12 years – Grief Becomes

Today marks 12 years since Dad passed away… is it odd that I wonder how best to describe it… – lost his battle with cancer, died, left us, succumbed to the disease, was called to heaven… I hate them all… passed away seems like the most benign of them all I suppose… so we’ll go with it….

12 years…

Hard to imagine…

I say that every year… every time I add another digit to that total and every year it still feels like yesterday… this year it crept up on me like a sneaky little bugger… Being on vacation, then coming home to a crazy schedule and this weekend I was down with a flu-like virus so all of the sudden I was like crap – seriously Feb 11th where did you come from… I was not ready…

Maybe it’s a good thing… I’m emotional but I didn’t get the chance to dwell.. Maybe it’s because I’m so proud of where my life is at that I’m doing better this year… there’s a whole host of reason’s, then again – I could just be one hot mess by tonight so who knows…

Before I get too deep into this post can we take a second to just admire my dad’s hair… and stache… 2 5

Things of magic they were… and that photo – total James Bond look…

4

images

I went searching for quotes that put into words what I was feeling this year – it’s quite the eclectic mix… this first one – so true… When I think back to when I found out that Dad’s first diagnosis was only for a few months and yet he held on for over two years I can’t even imagine – I was clueless… I just assumed things would keep struggling on… It was like I wasn’t really there while it was all happening… If I ignored it all it couldn’t really be true… there would still be tomorrow… until there wasn’t…

In the photo above the quote I couldn’t even tell you what year that was… I can tell you that Dad was sick… I can tell you that I probably didn’t realize how sick he really was… I can tell you that I thought we still had a lot of tomorrows…

98aa91bcfab7909253d6e9091fa860b2

I found some great photos of my dad from before I was even born and I have to admit I love this stuff – the things that let me glimpse the man he was…

9

In the middle after graduation from West Point Military Academy

6

On the right – from legend the very last day his face was clean shaven…  I wonder about his friends too and how they have battled their grief because I know how much his death rocked everyone he touched… I think of them today too… because I bet today they might just realize in a gut check moment that 12 years has snuck up on them too…

And there are the photos from when I was too young to remember him and my mom in happier times…

8 1

It’s not much but now I so desperately cling to these as the bits and pieces of him… Like this scrap of paper that was tucked in a folder that brought me to tears last night… He was teaching me how to do a family tree… and when he got to writing himself in – he listed himself as Mr. Wonderful… How amazing that a little piece of his handwriting was the most precious thing I laid my hands on last night… Like for a moment I was touching his hand again…

11

After he died I spent half of my time trying to drink away his memory and the other half of the time clinging to anything I could put my hands on which wasn’t much… I have to admit as I sorted through photographs last night I was amazed at how few there were of me and my dad because odds were he was behind the camera taking the pictures… Then I was shocked at the photos I found of the months after he died… where you never would have known the turmoil that was going on… I looked totally fine… which leads me to this next quote…

Grief-Quotes-66

This is perhaps one of my favorite quotes on grief because it gives it a picture… When everything was caving in, when everyone was scrambling to put the pieces back together there I was in some sort of insulated bubble… Never did I feel so alone… But I didn’t know how to explain it to anyone… Sometimes I still don’t… this is what anxiety attacks feel like… like everything is completely out of control but you are just there and how do you even get out of it… It won’t last forever though – that’s what you have to remember…

1e5b778c4d87e81a6d179246724c3ce4

I often forget that CS Lewis wrote and entire book on grief – A Grief Observed… and if this doesn’t sum it up I don’t know what can… grief can be terrifying because there is no answer and it is never the same, no two people feel it the same way and there is no fix, no cure… and then there are times when grief actually isn’t scary at all which kind of makes it scary… when I was on vacation and I sat on our porch and the sun set and I talked to my dad and I was somber and I was joyous and I said how I wished that I could share this with him… and I grieved…

images (1)

Most importantly I remember every day that I feel this deep grief for the loss of my father because of how much he loved me and how much I loved him… was he perfect? Not by a long shot, did we do everything right – nope, was I the best daughter I could have been – no way, I contributed many a grey hair… but he loved me more than I could have ever asked for… and because he loved me and I him, losing him left that much more of a void in my life…

3 7

I miss him every moment of every day… I still, 12 years later, catch myself wanting to pick up the phone to call him and tell him something about my day…. When I have a completely breakdown I still scream out “why aren’t you here I need you”… I still wonder what life would have been life had things gone differently…

It’s the moments when people that knew him tell me how much I remind them of him, or when they say how they wish he could see what a wonderful person I’ve turned out to be, or when they say I hope you know how much he adored you… It’s in those moments that my heart breaks and bursts and I know I’ve done ok… and that I’m managing this grief thing as best as I can…

Take every emotion you can think of… roll it up and live it in a 5 minute span… and there you have grief… fear, love, joy, loss, anger, sadness, hope…

I love you Dad… 12 years….

10

30 for 30

About a week ago my good friend Judge texted me – said he had this great idea for me… something I’d love… Judge is turning 40 a week after I turn 30 and we’re having a little mutual get together after I get back from vacation and we’re both honestly kind of embracing these big numbers – excited to see what happens…

Judge tells me – we should do our top songs of our lives… top 40 for me top 30 for you…. My brain about exploded… nope – can’t do it… you could not expect me to rank these songs right… I’m the girl with over 1500 songs on her itunes – not counting the 400 in my cloud because I don’t have room for them – or the CDs in my car or the music sitting on the computer in the spare room upstairs that doesn’t even turn on anymore – and its from back when DC++ and Napster were still a thing… yeah… yeah…. that much music…

But it was a challenge – I needed a distraction… so in about an hour I sat down determined to do this thing…

Let me warn you – this list… eclectic MESS… and the reason behind some of these songs will make you go… uh… Natalie… what….

So me though….

30. Sunset Boulevard – Emblem3…. Don’t judge don’t judge I know not the best way to start my list but when I started running again this was the only song that got me moving when I was stuck… It just pumped me up and reminds me of my trip to LA and I love it… it makes me feel young again…

29. Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran… Clearly made a quick impact as a new song and already onto my list… it’s just so beautiful and the lyrics make you just love the idea of love again…

28. Deliverance – Bubba Sparxxx…  The rift of this song reminds me of a time when I didn’t let life get the best of me… that’s really all there is to it…

27. With You – Jessica Simpson… you can call it tuna or chicken or whatever you want but this song makes me happy to be me and appreciate that it’s completely fine and that someone will love me just the way I am… 

26. Stay with Me – Sam Smith… Do I really have to explain… seriously…

25. Not Over You – Gavin DeGraw… When I saw Gavin perform live this song really just took on a new life… and it always was one of my favorites of his but how true it really is

24. Freshman – The Verve Pipe… there is no song that better defines the 90s for me… oh my this was the song on repeat… 

23. Alone with You – Jake Owen… So there are a few songs on this list that represent times in my life that aren’t ones I’m 100% proud of but the songs mean something so powerful to me that I can’t ignore them and drop them off… this one from the moment I heard it… yeah it was one of those… and always will be… thankfully now I can hear it in a different way…

22. Say Something – Great Big World… I bawled like a baby when I heard this song… this is when my connect with my dad starts to come into place… and it will be crazy strong for the rest of the list… one of the ways I stay connected to him is through music… it’ll be obvious…

21. I Drive Your Truck – Lee Brice… I was supposed to be left my dad’s old 1970’s Duster that we drove grocery shopping every weekend for years when I was growing up… I never did get it… If I had… I’d be doing just what they talk about in this song…

20. Far from Home – Five Finger Death Punch… One of those songs you hear in a show and go omg find me that song… give it to me I can’t get enough of it!

19. Love the way you lie – Eminem and Rihanna… I mean when there is musical chemistry you can’t deny it – this is an example of it…

18. Otherside – Macklemore… Macklemore get’s ripped on a lot for some of his songs but there are some songs that are so raw and so real and they will find a way to dig at you and things that you identify with… Otherside is one of those… 

17. My Best Friend – Tim McGraw… Another one of the songs that you would love to leave off of the list because of what it means but when the song spans 10 years of your life and you’ll never be able to hear and not think of certain things of people well just admit it… and know that you’ve moved on and grown and learned and that you’re better for it…

16. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls… Tell me a girl that grew up in the 90s and 2000s who’s list this wouldn’t be on…

15. No Sunshine – DMX… I think when I’m really in a craptastic mood this song lets me vent it out and get over it and get on with things… Ain’t no sunshine….

14. You Gotta Be – Des’ree… Talk about a song that sets you back on track… this is it… You gotta be bad, you gotta be bold, you gotta be wiser, You gotta be hard, you gotta be tough, you gotta be stronger…

13. Stay (I Miss You) – Lisa Loeb… I sang karaoke once… I sang this song… the karaoke machine froze halfway through the song… lol… figures right…

12.  Mourning – Tantric… So this song has such a visual with it for me… I remember a time and place that I associate with this… such a down time in my life… when my dad was first diagnosed… this is always the song I remember from that time… and yet I find it therapeutic to listen to… 

11. Waterfalls – TLC… I will get Left Eye’s verse down one day… I will…

10. I Can Love You Like That – John Michael Montgomery… Perhaps ones of the best country love songs ever… don’t bother arguing you won’t win…

9. The Thunder Rolls – Garth Brooks… I loved this song as a kid… my mom used to get so mad saying I didn’t know what it was about… I learned how to play it on the piano and everything… still one of my favorite songs of his… just boom – sing it Garth…

8. It’s Been A While – Staind… This is my alternative rock song… I can’t ever get enough of it or Aaron Lewis’s voice… we all have been there – we all know what it feels like…

7. Kiss the Rain – Billie Meyers… I used to have this song on a tape cassette and I would play it at night as I went to bed… on repeat… something about it just always spoke to me… I don’t know why… 

6. Round Here – Counting Crows… LOVE this song… love love love it… Snap shot of real life if you ask me… the real life we don’t like to admit we all see

5. Don’t Take the Girl – Tim McGraw… The only repeat artist on my list… probably because I thought I was going to marry him when I was 10… this was a song that my dad and I both loved… Song that told a story… one day this man will play this at one of his shows one day…

4. Unforgettable – Nat King Cole… pure as pure gets… he knew how to sing a love song… I wanted this to be my wedding song if I ever got married… I think maybe it’ll just be my song for me though now…

3. Queen of My Double Wide Trailer – Sammy Kershaw… ok so here’s the WTF song on my list… when I was little I was obsessed with this song and my dad thought it was hysterical… The summer it was out he would call me from work if he heard it on the radio and tell me to turn the station on… if we were in the car he’d turn the volume up and we’d sing it at the top of our lungs… strangest song ever for a dad and daughter to love but my god it was our song… I smile every time I hear it… and tell him to turn the radio on in heaven… 

2. MMMBop – Hanson… Song that brought me back to pop music… I lived in oldies and country growing up and then Hanson happened… I still buy all their albums… they don’t sound a think like MMMBop anymore they are indie and soulful and just fantastic song writers but this song… this started it…

1. Follow you down – Matthew Mayfield… see now I reach number one and now I’m about to cry… 6-7 months ago I guess MMMBop would have been number 1 lol quite a switch to then go to Follow You Down… but nothing can touch this song for me… hello I wrote a whole blog post on it… This song is my heart my soul my life my 30 years in one song… if you asked me to sum up 30 years in 3 minutes it would be this song… 

There were a lot of artists that didn’t make this list – artists that I love but they didn’t have that one song that made me go omg that’s the song or they didn’t have a song that made me think of a very specific time or place or evoke a strong emotion out of me… so maybe my list is weird or awkward and random… but it’s mine… and I love it…

I’m so ready for this next chapter… I’m so ready for my next 30 years… I’m ready for the next 30 songs that will represent who I’ve been and where I’ve come from… Thursday I start Part II of my story… and I couldn’t be more excited…