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

  

   

           

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…

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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…

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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…

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In the middle after graduation from West Point Military Academy

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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….

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Just Breathe

Something I say so often to myself when I feel a spiral begin whether it’s excitement or depression.  Just breathe…

Just breathe

This is especially important for me right now… My emotions have been out of control as of late and not in the whole manic highs and super low lows it’s almost as if I’ve been so super tuned into my emotions that I’m overwhelmed by coming to terms with everything I feel.  It’s as if I’m seeing myself for the first time in many ways, and holy cow is it terrifying.

Maybe it’s just a new level of sensitivity but I’ve had to seek out new ways to try and center myself.  More often than not I’ve yearned for a few moment that I can put on that music that sooths my soul that you’ve heard my gush about far too often in the last few months.  I’ll close my office door, stand in a corner of my kitchen after I get home, or curl up in my bed when I can’t slow down my mind at night and put that music on.

I’ve caught myself praying too.  I said the Our Father the other night when my anxiety spiked especially high.  I recite snippits of psalms that I remember from years ago.  I talk to my dad.  Not a lot, and not for long.  But I do talk to him.  And sometimes I just breathe.

This will be my 12th Christmas without my Dad.

I also just took a 3 hour break while writing this post after that last sentence.  Usually blog posts just kind of flow out of me and to be honest most of this one has.  But then sometimes I just get stuck.  Stuck in my own head, in my own breaks and cracks.

How true that quote is.  He wasn’t perfect.  And as I get older I find myself often saying, sheesh I know why dad was stressed so much, or I know why dad did this or did that.  And sometimes I think I know why he made some of the choices he made.  It doesn’t mean I agree with a lot of them but I think I get it.  And how I wish I had been older and wiser and had been able to talk to him.

There are so many ways to describe grief and everyone grieves differently.

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That is perhaps one of my favorite descriptions.  But I often think of grief like the weather.  There are days where it downpours and the wind blows and everything inside is so raw and torn open.  There are days when it envelopes you like fog settling down to the earth and it consumes you.  There are days that are clear, bright, that life feels right, that you celebrate all you had and have.  There are days that sometimes it never crosses your mind, that are so perfect that it’s like all of this was really meant to be in God’s plan.  And there are days like a quiet snow fall where peace and quiet fall over everything and you can reflect and accept.

I’m in the fog lately.  Like I can’t make my way out of whatever this little funk is that I’m in.  I’m not depressed, I’m not falling apart, I’m just acutely aware of everything yet I can’t decide which way is up.

12th Christmas.  And before I know it I’ll turn 30 in January and maybe it’s the idea of that new chapter of my life starting… I’m not sure… fog I’m telling you, lots of it…

So for now, in the midst of these ridiculous ramblings of an almost 30 something girl having an emotional holiday season… I tell myself just breathe.  And I turn up my music a little bit, say a silent prayer and close my eyes for a moment.  The fog will lift soon.  Just Breathe.

Connecting

This years holiday cards have a picture of my dad from when he was about three IMG_4603.JPG
I’ve had the photo for years… With every intention of putting it on a card but never did… This year I did…

Today I did all of my Christmas cards… Friends and acquaintances just got generic cards and those custom cards sat in their box untouched with the list of people that were getting them off to the side… I did lots of errands and by 5pm still hadn’t touched them…

I knew I was putting it off… I knew that part of me didn’t want to do it… Save them for next year but I put my head down and addressed the 20 cards putting a short note inside each…

And as I packed everything up so proud that I overcame something that I wanted to avoid the song that started playing on my iTunes on shuffle stopped me in my tracks… Of 1400 songs, follow me by matthew mayfield – the song I dedicated an entire blog post about a few weeks ago began playing… I felt like it was a sign that my dad was watching and he was talking to me in some way… So as I sit here crying they are not sad pity tears they are possibly the most healing tears I’ve ever cried…

Love the little things

Sometimes you are reminded that you need to take a moment and appreciate every moment you have with those that you love.  When I take a second and look back on this weekend I’m so glad I got a chance to do everything that I did because when Sunday night rolled around and my boyfriend’s phone rang the news wasn’t good.  A death in the family – a relatively unexpected one is never easy.  So I’m going to take a moment to reflect on all of the little things I did this weekend because I know this holiday will have a different meaning for Ryan and in turn for me too in a way.

Thursday I hosted another family dinner – just my couple cousins and I, but even when it’s just the five of us in my half done dining room I appreciate that sitting around the table that will now be the center of family meals I know that it’s an extra two hours that I get to enjoy with those I previously didn’t get to see often…

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Friday was a lot of nothing honestly… Ryan and I went to our favorite local restaurant Dorothy 6 Cafe in Homestead for a drink and just relaxed for a bit… and geared up for a bit of a busier Saturday…

Saturday kicked off with an awesome breakfast if I do say so myself… I think I’m starting to love cooking again – especially breakfast… I used the corncake recipe from the How Sweet Eats Cookbook (you must buy) and topped with things like salsa, fried eggs, basil chicken sausage, gouda cheese – you get the idea…

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Then it was off to take miss Minnie to the vet who I’m happy to say has lost 3 lbs in 3 weeks however today i got her blood tests back and her levels are still low so they are upping her thyroid meds and we’ll retest again in 3 weeks… I just keep hoping that the improvements continue and that this is all going to lead to a better quality of life for her…

this is how car rides occur.... big dogs cannot be kept in their place...

this is how car rides occur…. big dogs cannot be kept in their place…

Ryan and I had tickets to see White Christmas in downtown Pittsburgh at 2pm and of course weather decided to go insane Saturday – roads turned to ice – we came across closed bridges and roads but thankfully made it to the play… White Christmas is my all time favorite holiday movie and I was thrilled to get to see it on stage…

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The dancing was superb but I wasn’t thrilled with the character tweaks to Judy and the show added a scene after the iconic White Christmas scene at the end which was kind of a major fail but over all i was happy and it was a great time.  We grabbed dinner downtown – sadly my phone died so I couldn’t take photos of the thanksgiving meatball I had at Sienna Mercato.  Holy delicious.

And the day wasn’t over there.  I’ve been on a music roll lately and another one of my favorite singer song writers tweeted me on Thursday to let me know he was rolling through town and doing a low key show just outside the city Saturday night.  It was basically a version of a house show and had a lot of Q&A, requests and was completely acoustic.

Matt Hires and Kyle Cox at the Parkway Theater in McKees Rocks

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Big concerts are just going to be let downs now.  Check out their music.  Ryan loved them and that’s kind of saying something because there’s not much music he and I agree on!

Sunday was laid back – low key and the weather let us leave the house for a few minutes and enjoy the porch… Breakfast of stuffed french toast… peanut butter for the bf and cookies and creme spread and bananas for me…

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We went up the road and spent some time with my grandma… I don’t see her nearly as much as I should and we just enjoyed the time chatting and making plans for the holiday… Around 6 Ryan’s mom called and it woke me up from a half sleep you know when you can just tell that something isn’t right… His grandma had died and I knew that things were going to get tough and quick…

I don’t really know how to comfort people in times of loss… ironic right?  I know that when I lose someone I just shut down… I handle it completely internally… some of it might eek out over time… but I just distract myself in all ways possible… so I have no idea what to do for someone else who is hurting… I hope I did what was needed to just be there and that’s what I’ll keep doing I suppose… but what I always do is cook… so I made homemade chicken parm… His grandmother was italian so as a silent tribute to her make something italian…

And as death always makes us do, everything starts to slow down, you think about what you could have done differently… and you think about what you can do with those you still have in your life… and maybe that song on the radio stops you a little bit in your tracks today… and maybe the rain makes you a bit sadder… and maybe now the holidays aren’t so happy… but I think as long as we remember to find joy in the little things and smile at the memories and appreciate what we had and what we have that everything is ok…

The power of a song

It was a few months ago at the end of a show called NY Med (some reality show produced by Dr. Oz that follows ppl through NY hospitals) that I heard a song that froze me in my place and rocked me to my core.  It was at the conclusion of a story where a man had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer but against the odds other therapies had been able to eradicate the cancer and they were showing the man with his wife and family at their house having dinner and the camera pans out and and shows a cliff and shore line and this song begins to play…

I wish I had the actual clip from the show but this will do… and everything just stopped for me.  The story line was hard enough for me but then that song dove into the depths of my soul to wounds that I wasn’t sure I still had.  I immediately did that spotify thing and found out the song was Follow You Down by Matthew Mayfield.  I bought the song immediately and played it on repeat.

There’s no other way to describe it other than I let the song, the melody, the lyrics wash over me in waves.  While I know it wasn’t meant for a father daughter relationship there is so much in it that was transferable to what my dad and I went through when he died. It’s a song that I can guarantee will cause me to swell up and cry and release everything that is pent up inside of me.  It’s a song that makes me vulnerable and makes me be honest with myself.

The chorus:

“If you’re gone and I’m here, I could meet you, meet you
If you’re lost and you fall, I’m beneath you, neath you
No matter where you run I’ll be the one to follow you down”

I’ve since bought many of Matt’s albums – he’s an amazing artist, pours his heart and soul into his work and does it for his love of it and I encourage everyone to check him out – I’ll link more videos and his website at the end of this.

Last night – I had the chance to see him live at a little spot in Pittsburgh.  I got dolled up.  Put on my Dad’s wedding ring, and a ring I dug out of some box that had been hidden in the back of my drawers – a ring he brought back from Korea for my Aunt 40 years ago and she since gave to me.  And as I held one of the few pieces of him that I still have I listened to Matthew Mayfield soak into my heart and soul for 90 minutes and I wish it could have been longer.

Matthew Mayfield - Club Cafe Pittsburgh - November 9, 2014

Matthew Mayfield – Club Cafe Pittsburgh – November 9, 2014

He didn’t sing my song.  But I got something better.  I had a chance after the show to talk to him for a few moments and tell him what that song meant to me.  That in the 12 years since I lost my dad to cancer that song was able to do something nothing else has.  It was hope and sadness and peace and grief and healing.  And I told him when I come home some days and I’m sad because I can’t remember what my dad’s voice sounded like I put on that song and I let it carry me away.  And Matt thanked me for sharing that story with him and that he was touched by it and gave me a hug and I’m sure singer/songwriters hear that a lot how their music moves people, but I’m glad he heard my story.

Check out his music.  Go see him.  Maybe it’s not one of his songs but find a song that heals you.  Find a song that lets you FEEL again.  Find a song that makes you be honest, raw, real.

http://matthewmayfield.com/