Be honest, I can take it.

Recently, I became obsessed with a certain clothing company.  A company that makes beautiful clothes that are flattering on a variety of sizes– a great feat for this day in age.  I feel as though I can personally speak on this, as someone who has gained a significant amount of weight.  Clothes may come in different sizes, but they are often fit to models…they don’t necessarily flatter all sizes.

But this isn’t about me.  It’s about how becoming involved with this led me to a realization.

There’s a social media for sale group for these clothes that is widely popular– there are a lot of good deals!  In addition to buying and selling, people also give tips on how to style your clothes and solicit feedback on outfits.

Within the first couple days of joining, a woman posted a picture in clothing asking for feedback on how flattering it looked.  At the end of the comment she said, “You can be brutally honest, I can take it.

A couple days later, I saw another.  “Give me your honest opinion.  Don’t worry about hurting my feelings, I’m a big girl, I can take it”.

And while the comments/feedback were mainly positive, my heart still broke into a thousand pieces.

It broke for these women, who were brave enough to ask for public opinion, and felt the need to put a disclaimer that it was OK for people to be “brutally honest”.

It then broke for all humans, who have been on the receiving end of mean comments disguised as “brutally honest” feedback or advice.  How often does this have to happen to us until we feel like we need to put up that shield and say “I can take it”?

Like most things provoking my thoughts recently, it then just made me pissed.

It got me thinking about perception. Was I overthinking this? I picked it apart.  When I think of “brutal honesty”, it is not necessarily negative honesty, because when someone is soliciting my feedback, I empathize.  If someone asks me if an outfit is flattering, I will tell them the truth, but  with body image, we all need to take “brutal honesty” and put a positive spin on it.  Because I don’t think it’s right for women to have to put a disclaimer on soliciting honest feedback with “You can be honest, I can take it”.  That’s like saying, you can be as mean to me as you want!  My self confidence on the inside will diminish, but I’ll say thanks for being honest with a smile on my face because that’s what women are supposed to do!

No, people.  BE brutally honest with one another, but still raise others  up.  If an outfit isn’t flattering, tell them. But then, give them something positive like, maybe a different style skirt or cut on that shirt would highlight *insert whatever part* gorgeous part of your body.

Same goes for other aspects in our lives.  I’m currently in the process of going through typical review as a professor.  A senior colleague observed my class where I was trying to work on some aspects of my teaching I have really struggled with.  During our conversation, I said “Do you think this part went OK? You can be honest if it didn’t” and then I literally felt my muscles tighten like I was bracing for physical impact.  I immediately thought of my reaction to those women saying “it’s ok, i can take it”.  I vowed in that moment to work on how I solicited feedback, in a more confident way.

Because, you shouldn’t have to take mean or negatively spirited feedback in any part of your life to warp your self confidence.  You shouldn’t have to say “it’s ok, i can take it…”   The people you solicit feedback and advice from should still be trying to help you get to where you want to be, EVEN if they are providing constructive criticism on how you can improve.

In the world we live in, it is TERRIFYING to put ourselves out there for scrutiny by anyone.  I hope we can all be a more confident and not feel the need to say “You can be honest, I can take it”.  On the flip side, I hope we can all be constructive in our feedback to others when they ask, so while we help them improve, we don’t tear down their confidence along the way.

Be constructive, but be kind.  It is not that hard.

365 Days

This post seems weird to write as I’ve been absent but I’m going to write it anyway.  This last week has been hard.  I’ve tried not to focus on my dad’s “death anniversary”, but its hard to not think back of the nights sleeping on a hospital floor, my last conversation with him, and the reality of it all.  Even today, I still forget that his death is part of my reality.  So towards the end of last week I put together all my thoughts, here it goes.

To me, it feels like his death was a long time ago.  I think this is because deep down, I know that the dad i grew up to know and love, disappeared a long time ago due to his illnesses.  I try not to think about it too long, because it makes me sad.   I keep this photo album on my phone of pictures through the years and I have to go back farther than I would like to find photos from times when he wasn’t suffering.  I then look at photos from the last recent years and I can’t even wrap my head around on how we made the best of it.  How we planned, we traveled, we gave him the best life we could. Wouldn’t trade some of those travels these past few years, although they were trying at times, for anything.

I would love to tell you that a year after my dad physically left this earth that I’ve healed and I’m doing SUPER GREAT. But, that would be a lie.  Whoever says “it get’s easier”– well, that hasn’t been the case for me.  It has only gotten harder.

But if I said it’s all been depressing lifetime movie scenarios this past year, that would be a lie too.  I continue to be grateful for the dad I had, as even on the hard days, I still stand on my own two feet and move forward.   I live a good life.  I am privileged to have the experiences I do and have good people around me who bring me happiness. I thank God every day my dad married my mom, because on the days I feel like I cannot stand, she carries me through phone calls, emojis, and snapchats.  I thank God they gave me a sister, because no one  inspires me to work as hard as she does and no one makes me laugh as hard as she does.  The two of them make my life very wonderful and I recognize that I am incredibly lucky and fortunate.

My dad and I share many qualities and downfalls.  Over the past year, I have really cherished those qualities and worked on the downfalls.  My mom and sister would probably tell you I have a long way on those downfalls, but I’m thankful for them to because they keep my dad alive in conversation between us.  There are days where I get really frustrated because I miss him for the reason that we are so similar in some qualities (AND DOWNFALLS) that no one else in my life really has or understands.  It makes me feel isolated.  It makes me feel not worthy. And I still haven’t found the answer to this.

Most days, I keep it together.  I actually am surprised at how much I keep it together.  There are days though, when I drive home from work, the time I used most days to call him, that I cannot breathe and i get this pang in my chest when I realize him being with me in spirit is not enough.  It will never be enough.  Sometimes I’ll be laying in bed trying to fall asleep and think about him suffering, think about never getting to talk to him, and hot tears stream down my face because good memories are not enough.  They just aren’t.

I am constantly reminded that the photos I have of him of the memories are all I get and I spend a lot of energy reminding myself that it will have to be enough.  I try to not be jealous of others and their fathers.  Some days, this causes me to delete social media accounts or drink an extra G&T at the end of the day, other days I am more gracious and hit the like button because i have enough strength to be genuinely happy for them.

Sometimes, it’s hard for me to be in my hometown.  Most of the time, it’s hard for me to be in our family’s house.  I hate myself for the resentment I feel when I walk down an aisle in our hometown grocery store, randomly seeing people that I wished could have been there more for my dad.   Sometimes I muster up the courage to have a conversation, other times I dart down another aisle hoping they didn’t see me.   I hate that my dad’s ugly chair he picked out in our living room sits empty when I walk in the front door, instead of him sitting there yelling “HI EM!” when I walk in the door.

I’ve held firm to my belief that everyone’s grief is individually felt and dealt with.  This has helped me become more conscious when listening to others talk about their sorrow, and allowed me to pause and reflect more appropriately than I may have in the past.  I have learned more about what empathy really means this past year.  I try really hard to appreciate when others are empathetic, even if their way of doing so makes them sound ridiculous or isn’t genuine.   I try to tell myself that people who don’t know what to say, sometimes say the wrong thing, and it is better than those who say nothing at all.   I have a lot of conversations about this with my mother over the past year about this and it has confirmed that she will always be a better, stronger person than I am.  I make notes each conversation to be more like her and get over it.  At the end of the day, I feel lucky for how many people check in on us, pray for us, and are there for us.  I try to focus on this feeling instead of resenting those I feel could do better.   Some days are better than others.

As i read over what I’ve written so far, I sound like an angry, resentful person who needs to stop throwing a pity party.  So i also want to tell you that so many great things have happened this year and I made many great memories.   My mom, sister, and I traveled several places together.  I finally went to the Minnesota State Fair.  We had a blast at the lake up north this summer.  My family still has this awesome support system who is there for us.  Our church is even hosting a blood drive in honor of my dad this next week.  There is a lot to celebrate, and I’d like to think I celebrate a little harder because I know that it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.

Of course, I  did feel like most happy things I experienced in the past year could be defined as bittersweet.  When something great happens, I often have this explosion of joy,and then this sinking feeling of I wish my dad was here to experience this with me.  Buying a new car.  Seeing friends get married or have babies and then thinking of my own future wedding and babies.  Traveling with my mom and sister.  Watching the Cubs.  Yelling at the Iowa State Football team.   Bittersweet has become my new normal and as I said before, its going to have to be enough.

Everytime I read a piece by someone who has gone through some sort of loss, I feel empowered.  The pieces that empower me the most are those that make me feel normal by saying “you don’t have to be OK” “i resent people too” and “I cried about XYZ today, what about you?”   I have a folder of Nora McInerny Purmort’s work on my computer and read it religiously.   No one has made more lemonade out of lemons given in life than she has and her realism fuels my strength.  I am grateful to her as a writer and person, I hope she knows just how many lives she has touched.

I’ve come to see beauty in a new way.  Some of the most beautiful people I’ve met or discovered this past year, are people who go through hardship and instead of shy away from it, tackle head on.  Many of the beautiful people were already in my life, I just see their beauty in a different way.   I’ve seen friends blossom out of devastating breakups, losing their own parents, or dealing with anxiety.This gives me so much strength to see them be warriors.

Speaking of anxiety, it is crippling.  I had no idea that this would be my biggest hurdle after my dad died.  He would tell you that I was always a worry wort and that I needed to quit it.  I worry about everything 1000x more since he died.  Is my mom doing OK?  Why isn’t she answering her phone?  Where is my sister?  Are they happy?  Should I do more to be there for them?  Am I a good family member? Are people talking about me that I’m grieving too much?  Am I doing OK in my job?  Should I even be doing this job? Am I happy? Why am I not happy?– ALL OF THIS, EVERY DAY.

Dude, the anxiety is so real.  This is where I tell you one of the keys to my past year.

Therapy is the best money you will ever spend. It is worth every god damn penny.   EVEN if you didn’t lose your dad at 27 and develop crazy anxiety, seeing a therapist may enrich your life in ways you were not aware of.   I have kept a list of realizations seeing a therapist has help me come to and let me tell you, many of them have nothing to do with having a dead dad, even though this was the root of my visits.  Who knew you could talk for an entire hour about a scenario 5 years ago that you haven’t thought about in years,  that has nothing to do with your dead dad, or your anxiety, but clearly is impacting you and your relationship with someone close to you BECAUSE YOU RANT FOR AN HOUR ABOUT IT OUT OF NOWHERE.

In terms of my ACTUAL anxiety though, therapy has helped me crawl forward.  And I mean it when I say crawl because this has been a hard fought journey for me.  My therapist gives me tools to tackle my anxiety and sometimes they work and sometimes I forget about them and become a complete psycho.  The thing that has been hardest for me to grasp is that I am always going to have to work on this, and like REALLY WORK on this.  A lot of things in life came easy to me and I kid you not the first time I met with my therapist I said something along the lines of “I just need you to fix me so I can not feel like this anymore”.  It doesn’t work like that.   I have had people say to me (yes this really happened): why don’t you just work out more? isn’t that like therapy? It’s cheaper that way!    And I am here to tell you that you should never ever say that to a friend who is dealing with shit.  In fact, don’t say that to anyone ever.  Seeing a licensed professional has helped me 1000% more than running on a damn trail. (Disclaimer: i still believe exercise is important).

So, if you are feel the need to talk about something (ANYTHING), I want to encourage you and tell you that its ok to see a professional.  No one has to know but you, or, if you’re like me and tell everybody everything, you can blog about it.  There is nothing wrong with asking for help.  Seeing a therapist has been so beneficial for me and my mental health.  You don’t have to spend big bucks or go every week.  I go when needed, which has been about 4-5 times in the past year, and it has really helped.  Please go. Please.

So back to where we’re at a year post dad dying. I’m especially grateful to friends who have known me “forever”, who knew my dad for years, who have grieved with me, and given me validation that my loss is real, because they feel it too.  Friends who say to me, I still think of your dad every time I pick out whole wheat bread.  Or friends who say, your dad’s class inspired me to be in science (this makes me cry, every god damn time).  It is these friends have listened to me more than they have probably wanted to and I am forever grateful.  They anchor me into the sane harbor and keep me away from boarding the crazy train.

There is this scene in the first Sex and The City movie when Carrie asks Samantha after the big breakup, “Will I ever truly laugh again?” and Samantha replies with “Yes. When Something Is Really, Really Funny”.   Laughter has been the best medicine and while it took awhile, I finally truly laughed at things again.  The majority of the time this happens, it is in response to my sister or my college roommates.  Both of who I am indebted for many other reasons.

I am grateful for my small, but mighty group of friends (more accurately chosen little family) here in current life in Minnesota.  Because if we are completely honest, it is them who kept me going for 95% of this past year.  It is them that I saw day in and day out, even on the really hard days, and supported me even when I probably was not a great person to be around.   They not only listen  to me when I’m sad, but they remind me what is important in life and how to prioritize to be happier. And also how to be confident.  I’ve never had a group of people where I’ve wanted to be like them more.  Maybe that comes with having friends who have more life experience than you, I don’t know.   But you know that cheesy quote that goes “Stay close to anything that makes you glad to be alive?”.   That is what they are to me.

So here we are, moving forward into another year without him.  In the grand scheme of things, I think that if I made it through the first year OK, I think the coming years will be OK too.  We cannot change the past, we can only suck it up and make the best moving forward.   So far “making the best of it and moving forward” has been pretty great, even if a piece of my world is missing.  If you were too lazy to read this entire thing, I recapped what helped me get through this first year the most.

  1. As i mentioned before, I had a good dad, so I take comfort in feeling lucky for that.
  2. I have a really good Mom and a really good sister.  This has been so important for me to have this solid foundation.  For me while grieving and figuring my life out, I have relied on them for more than I probably should have.  They show up.  They’re real.  And they still want to have fun while trying to move forward.
  3. Choosing to focus on relationships that are supportive is important.  I’ve noticed that in the past year, I’m more attentive to friendships that have faded or are no longer the type of support I need and have worked to gracefully accept that and just focus on those who are.  It is a work in progress, but necessary.
  4. Seeing a therapist. when needed, is beneficial.
  5. Remembering that happiness is a choice.  In the end, the ball’s in our court.  A fitting way to end a post about my favorite basketball coach.

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2016 MN State Fair Preview: Shopping, FOOD, and a GIVEAWAY

Hello. It’s me. I’ve been avoiding blogging because — well, you all know why I’ve been absent this last year (if not, scroll down at yo own risk).   ANYWHO, I had been thinking about getting back in the game and what better way than some MINNESOTA STATE FAIR LOVIN’.   Last year, I attended the Minnesota State Fair Preview Blogger Event for the first time and had a blast.

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Previewing new fair foods? OH HAI. YES PLEASE.  Last year I wrote this post on my time, but because of my dad’s ailing health, I had to head home right after. This also meant I couldn’t attend the fair, which stunk, but it was just not in the cards.

Luckily, they asked me back this year and I am ready to make up for lost time!  The theme of this fair preview was a language I have known all of my life: SHOPPING.  So not only did we get to preview new foods, we also got to hear from some of the unique vendors selling at the state fair!  The fair is held this year from August 25th- September 5th.

First: some food. obvi.

My favorite new food vendor is the food truck, Tot Boss. WHY?  1. Because the name is awesome 2. Because tots are awesome.   A couple of delicious dishes they will be selling at the fair are their loaded tots and tater tot nachos.  Both get 5 stars from me.  Dan, the owner, had an awesome and outgoing personality, which makes me want to support Tot Boss even more! TotBoss_MNFair

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I also appreciated the toasted grilled cheese bites with bloody mary marinara sauce from O’Gara’s Grill!

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I was horrible at getting photographs because I was eating and having a blast with my table-mates!  There is also going to be a french onion cheesy monkey bread from Blue Moon Diner and a new  rustic beef pastry from French Meadow (it had GOAT CHEESE, peeps).

Another new treat at the fair is shaved ice with a twist from Minnesnowii– shaved ice treats with sweetened condensed milk!  The maple bacon was a little too sweet for me, but the strawberry and root beer flavors were delicious. I have no idea how I didn’t get a pic of these because they were a) delicious and b) the guy from Minnesnowii presenting was very good looking.

Moving on!  If you know me at all, you know that the Iowa State Fair has been one of the constant loves of my life.  One of the things I suspect the Minnesota State Fair may have on the Iowa State Fair is their shopping options…HOLY COW.  Not only do they have a varied industries building, but they have the west end market with a lot of options for guys and gals.  It was fun to have this as a theme because I think  lot of fair-goers are familiar with the bomb-diggity food, but are not aware of the cool shops and gifts available!

i like you is a consignment store that features artwork, goods, and clothing from local artists.  i loved chatting with them and these towels below!  I mean, that WI/MN towel hit me with ALL THE FEELS. They have a booth in the west end market of the fair and I will definitely be using the coupon book to get a discount on one of their MN t-shirts.

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Holly House– a boutique in Uptown, also has a space for the first time this fair in the grandstand.   Holly house will be selling some of their best sellers, including this dishtowel, which is hilarious.

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We also heard from Birchberry Native Arts and Foods, Wish Boutique, and Machine Age Lamps.  I am REALLY excited to see what Machine Age Lamps has– they specialize in lighting made from antique/vintage pieces. I was pleasantly surprised at how many shops there are at the state fair between the varied industries building, the grandstand, west end market, and other places around the fair.  The fair emphasizes that there are definitely booths geared towards men and women!

So all in all, it was a good day.   A huge thank you to the Minnesota State Fair, Alice from Dining With Alice, and the vendors for this awesome event.  A good little re-entrance into the blogging world. I’ve missed it here, but I’ve really struggled the last year because of my profession and well, not wanting to talk about losing my dad all the time on here.  It has played a constant role in shaping my new world, which somehow seems busier than ever.

ONE LAST THANG.  You know I wouldn’t have left this shindig empty handed, right? Let’s do a GIVEAWAY.  I was given an extra BLUE RIBBON BARGAIN BOOK (re:COUPONS!).  They usually retail for $5 and have TONS of great deals for the fair.  I WANT TO SHIP YOU ONE.  So leave a comment with YOUR favorite state fair food and we’ll get ya entered.  Giveaway CLOSES on Friday, August 19, at noon. I’ll contact the winner.  GOOD LUCK and I’ll see you fools at the Great Minnesota Get Together! IMG_4644

 

 

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We find ourselves there, too.

It is late. It is so, so late.  I am not prepared for class tomorrow, I am exhausted.  It has literally taken me at least 7 minutes and 2 million attempts to try and remember my blog password.  And then another 10 minutes to figure out how to work wordpress again.

And here I am, writing. Because I cannot sleep and for once, it is because I finally feel like I have something to contribute to the world that isn’t work related.  And over the last two weeks, I finally feel like I have something to write about.  Something other than the obvious.  Something other than my grief.  Something other than my work and my students. Something other than how it is a daily struggle for me to understand the world I live in.

Over the past few months, I have asked questions and sought out advice from many trusted sources in my life.  Why do I work all the time?  Will I ever feel pure joy again?  Why do I feel so behind in life? How can I remember that I have a killer career and shouldn’t feel behind in life? I have asked myself these questions, over and over.  I have many amazing resources and people in my life to which I am forever grateful for, yet I have needed something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  After months of change, months of not taking care of myself, I needed something close to my soul that made me feel like myself again. Not something new.  Not something life-changing.  Something familiar…and man, did it take me awhile to realize this.  And honestly, I have learned that you can have all of these amazing resources and people in your life, but sometimes, you have to suck it up and take the initiative to just figure out what in the heck you need yourself. On your own. To make yourself happy.  As ridiculously impatient as I am, I’ve trusted that when the time is right, I would be ready to find it and I think…I have found a starting “something”.

A couple weeks ago, I finally took the initiative to pursue tennis at an indoor tennis facility. Because over the past few months, I have had no motivation to drag my ass to the gym, but I have had the motivation to eat a lot of chocolate and drink a lot of delicious craft beer, which is cool and all but has led to undesirable changes AKA none of my pants fit.  Our physical health is tightly connected to emotional and mental health.  I knew deep down that in order to start taking care of myself physically, I had to start somewhere where the work didn’t feel like “physical activity” and I was not suffering.  This left 2 options: tennis or ultimate frisbee. It is winter so ultimate was out and tennis it was.

While the price for a winter membership is more than I can afford, I learned that there is a weekly “adult skills session”, where they essentially run a division 3 college tennis practice– for adults.  Ummm, what?  Sign.Me.Up.  This took care of the fear that I wouldn’t have competition because I would just be hitting balls from a feeder and could shake off the rust.   I went the first week, nervous as a college freshman I once was, and I almost cried like four times because I was so, so happy.  For as many shots as I hit in the net from rust, I hit that many winners and it was like riding a bike.  As a plus, there are tennis GAMES at these sessions, just like practice. We still haven’t played Space Invaders, but it is in my arsenal of suggestions. :)   I honestly haven’t played tennis regularly since college and I have missed the high-level competition, camaraderie with teammates, and having a coach tell me what to do so I don’t have to think up my own workout.   Over the past few years, I’ve been concerned that here in the community I lived that I wouldn’t be able to find a group to be competitive with and that I would lose this part of me.   The past few weeks have proved to me that in that perspective I am a) cocky as hell because there is um, competition everywhere if you seek it out and b) if I keep playing tennis I have a lot to look forward to in my 40’s and 50’s.

Participating in the adult skills sessions has helped me shake off the rust, but also given me confidence because I am still really pretty damn good at tennis.  And for 2 hours each week, I don’t have to be asking for help on how to lead a class discussion, or prepping for class on a topic I’m not an expert on.  I get to do something that is natural to me.  That I’m successful at.  And better yet, that I still am challenged.  Holy crap.  I’ve been practicing with men and women older than me and they are SO GOOD! It is so awesome.  It is is competitive and I love, love it.  I mean, I don’t even mind losing points to these people at times, that is how good it feels to be challenged in something I love, yet still succeeding.  Other people have noticed and even asked me to play in their leagues. REAL MATCHES, KIDS.  I am so proud of myself for taking that initiative to participate in tennis again, no matter how hard it was to garner the motivation, it was making that first step that mattered.

I believe the way we best grow, develop, and learn about ourselves is very individual.  Some people, it’s through going to school.  Or through their job.  Others, it is learning through relationships with others.  I used to think I learned best about myself was through travel, but I think I was wrong.  I’m beginning to learn that maybe I learn best about myself when I’m competing.  I haven’t dated many people…I’ve gone to school for a long time and learned how to work hard/how important it is to work in a field you love…I’ve traveled and learned to appreciate food and other cultures.   But learning about myself? I think I learn best through competition.  Through practice.  My dad, a longtime coach, never came right out and said this, but I know it was important for him to see us participate in sports growing up because of the life lessons we learn.  He could have cared less about the matches my sister and I won, or the points we scored…he and my mom cared that we prepared well, put our best foot forward in competition, and learned from the outcome.  God, that is just why I miss him so damn much, but am so thankful of the skills he and my mom have given my sister and I to succeed.

From overcoming adversity, to having to practice, to working hard, to playing opponents who we don’t have a chance against, to being gracious to others when we win.  To just better ourselves.  It all applied to so many other areas of life growing up and influenced who I was.   And now, years later,  I see the benefits of competition in a whole different light…it’s giving me the confidence I need to experience joy again doing something I love, its reminding me how to graciously deal with a loss when I make an error or lose a game, and I’m remembering how critical it is to be active for my happiness.

Life is funny.  Funny how the things we stray the furthest from, the things that are so near and dear to our heart we overlook and forget about, are the ones that maybe, at least in my case, give us a much needed short break from our brains and let us just be ourselves.

Because over the past month, while I still have struggled, and still have many commitments,  I’ve gotten to spend about 2 hours a week doing something that I am damn good at.  And it has been special because it is something I can intrinsically rely on myself to do and not have to feel guilty about relying on others.  It is one of the few things I’ve been able to do where I’ve been able to think clearly,forget about things that make me sad, forget about work, forget about comparing myself to others, and have been able to gain the confidence I’ve needed.  And to just be happy.

And really, to just be.

There is this cheesy quote that I have always loved.  “We lose ourselves in the things we love.  We find ourselves there, too”.

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Yeah. I think I’m finding myself here, too.

 

 

 

PS- Coach, if you read this, please send me some new grips, Imma need ’em and I’m still a cheapskate. :)

This is 27: I’m Too Young For This, But I have No Regrets

Hello…is thing on? Am i still in your feeds? Thanks for sticking it out through my silent pause the last couple months.  I haven’t been writing, because honestly I haven’t had anything worthy of writing about until now.

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First of all, thank you to each and every reader/blend/friend who reached out to me both while my dads health was severely dwindling during August and September, and then after he passed away on September 9th.  I hear you, I see you, and I love you from the bottom of my heart.

Today, it has been a month since he died.  It has been the longest month of my life. After he died, i took the next week and a half to be with my family and I would not change that for anything.  Returning to work has been insane…I was so lucky to have great colleagues cover for me in my absence, but coming back to anything after 2 weeks away, let alone classes that I hadn’t ever taught before this semester.  This is the end of my 3rd week back and just yesterday was the first day I felt like I wasn’t drowning.

Maybe this is the teacher in me, but I feel obligated to share my experience.  During the past 5 years of my dad battling every disease known to man, I found peace and comfort listening/reading to others share their journeys of coping, acceptance, and grief.  It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my sadness.  It made me feel like my emotions were normal.  It made me feel prepared, which, I guess sounds a little morbid.  What I’m trying to say is that it helped me learn to accept that when someone we love is very sick, is suffering, or dies, the most we can ask of ourselves is to give them everything we are capable of and graciously accept what we cannot change or do.  I hope that by sharing my experience, someone else can benefit.  I have decided to write 3 posts, all touching on different aspects of this experience. Today’s post I’d like to share how I have felt and coped with all of this, hoping that it makes a burden a little easier for someone else to bear.

At times, I feel like I have aged a hundred years during these past 3 years my dad has been “sick”, and then another hundred during this month following his death.  Some days, I am resentful that my conscious has seen too much and is too old for my young body. That is too young to lose your dad!  I say those words and it just angers me, quickly.  At other times, I think of how scared I have felt, especially over the past month, and in an instant how I felt like a child again.  The constant limbo has not faded, even after a month.

I am 27, my sister is 22.  That is too young to lose your dad! I am sure many would argue, any age is too young to lose your dad!  And ya know what, I would wholeheartedly agree with them.  It is not fair, but it is the way it is.  I have found much peace in turning my frame of thinking like that into a positive.  Over the past month, whenever I get sad, I have to repeat this mantra.

“I am 27 years old, I had a great dad for 27 years.  So many humans never get anything close to that. I am lucky. I am so, so lucky.”  Believing that is enough to make me smile and has been the single most important belief that has gotten me through this.   It is a challenge to see the positive sides of dark situations, but I swear to you, it has made a world of difference in my well-being and happiness.

Earlier this summer, I read a post on facebook from Sheryl Sandberg, written a month after her husband unexpectedly died.  Out of all the posts, this resonated with me the most, even when my dad was alive.  It has held more true now in my own past 30 days.  I invited you to grab some magnifying glasses and read it here, or venture to her facebook and read through this link.

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Sheryl’s situation and mine are so different.  I can’t imagine the shock she must have felt on top of her grief.  It took me a good 3 years of my dad slowly getting weaker to fully accept that he would leave us, therefore my shock factor was minimal when he did die, making it, in my opinion, easier on me to grasp the “death”.  Grief however, is similar.  I identify so much with what Sheryl has to say and I think she is very courageous to share that with others.

I get asked, “how are you doing?” often and am so very grateful for everyone who has thought of me and taken the time to check in on me.  Often times, the first thought in my head in response to that questions is similar to Sheryl’s…in the grand scheme of things, I still think well, my dad died a month ago that not enough time has not passed for me to be ok.  But who says that?  I have good days, I have bad days, I’m getting there.

I’ll be very frank and start at the beginning. As morbid as this sounds, I have had a feeling all along that my dad would die in conjunction with something related to pneumonia ever since he had it for the first time since his transplant 3 years ago.  When he started to get pneumonia more often this past summer, I felt the pit in my stomach growing.  I’m not an idiot, I’m a scientist! I know how many elderly people die from pneumonia that just catch it once and his kept coming back!  I really knew we were in for it when he started coughing up blood in August, soon after returning from our amazing summer at the lake…and in my worry-wart type of way, I prepared myself for the worst.  The next 3 weeks in the hospital until he died was a whirlwind.  My mom and I were trying to start school, my sister had just moved to DC to start a job.  None of that mattered.   While we had prepared ourselves for the worst before and witnessed the beauty of medicine and miracles, we eventually knew that it wasn’t going to happen again. He progressively got worse, we made the time to be there, and I don’t regret one single decision that we made about spending all that time with him or the decisions we made about his care.

In my situation and view, it was the suffering that was worse than the death.  The parts that hurt the most, are the week leading up until he died. I can tell you one thing for sure, if there is one thing I have learned to pray for others for, it is that they never, ever, have to watch their loved ones suffer.  The pain I felt, and still feel, from being unable to control what he had to go through the last few years and that last week is excruciating and haunts me.  That is what keeps me up at night.  The fact that he could still smile at me through everything, even in the last days when he knew we were in trouble, just kill me.   I can deal with the fact that I don’t get to call him on my way home from work anymore, that he won’t be there at my wedding, but I cannot comprehend and make sense of the suffering and helplessness he and I both felt.  People keep telling me that I’m “doing so well” in response to his death and I think part of this is due to the relief that he is no longer suffering on this earth.

In the days of my dad’s death, I surprised myself at how strong I was able to be.  I shouldn’t have been surprised whatsoever, knowing that a) I was around my mom and sister who are beautiful role models of strength, but most importantly, my dad had done his job raising me and I knew I could stand on my own without him and be ok.   That also made the acceptance of the situation easier for me.  Since he died, i still choose to view him in the same way I did when he was here.  And as a testament to how much he loved me, I can honestly tell you that even though he isn’t physically here, I still feel his love and presence all around me.   That gave me so much strength.

I don’t know how many people get to say this about their dead dads, but I honestly have no regrets.  None. Nada.   I had a loving, strong relationship with my dad.  He was, “my person” and to this day, remains the only person who has ever truly understood how my mind works because we are the same person.  Am I sad that the one person who ever truly got me isn’t on this earth? Yes, obviously.  But I know that I turned out the way I did for the better because I had him.   Over the years, there are many times I chose to spend time with my family and missed out on opportunities with friends.  I am so grateful for those memories.  I drove countless hours to hospitals to see my dad over the past few years.  I spent many phone calls with him talking about nothing, just to keep him occupied.  I was able to be there when it mattered.  He knew how much I loved him and I knew how much he loved me.  At my dad’s visitation, i heard over and over from people about how proud they thought my dad was of me.  Pride, my friends, is a two way street.  As proud as he was of me, I was just as proud of him.  And the pride I have always had in my father, although he drove me bat-shit crazy, is steadfast and beaming.  I loved being his kid.  I love that I had him and I can walk forward knowing that i’ll be ok.

I have no regrets and I am fairly sure he didn’t have any with me either.  Being confident in that, makes the burden a little easier to bear.

 

 

 

 

Minnesota State Fair Food Preview (Is this real life?)

Happy Tuesday!  It is back to school mode here in Minnesota, as this week I’ve put a serious dent in my nagging to-do list for the upcoming semester.  I’m covering another professor’s classes while they are on sabbatical, so its basically like prepping as a 1st year prof all over again.  joy.  More like, anxiety attack.  BUT, the good news is that I’m getting my first crack at teaching biochem, a topic which I love but haven’t dusted off for awhile, so it’s a love-hate deal.

Back to school time here in Minnesota, also means another BIG event…The Minnesota State Fair!  While I’m used to the Iowa State fair being the first two weeks of August, the MN state fair starts August 27th and runs into September.  My friend Alice from Dining with Alice helped co-host an event last week for bloggers to come experience and try out new MN State Fair Foods for 2015, as well as learn about fun activities at the fair for kids.

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You didn’t have to ask me to think twice about going to this event, being that a) the food at the state fair is one of my favorite things EVER and b) I pretty much act like a kid at the fair.

I have gone to the Iowa State Fair religiously since I became friends in middle school with my longtime friend, Meredith.   I was always going to the fair with her fam for her mom’s involvement entering food competitions, in particular, the pie competitions!  In addition to eating all of Lana’s amazing food creations entered in the fair, I started my own ritual of foods that I would eat from the food stands.   When I proclaim my love for the Iowa State Fair to my fellow Minnesotans, they tell me that the MN State Fair has even better food.

I am a scientist and a researcher.  So my response is, I’ll believe it when I see the evidence.

So i did my first bit of research last week at the food preview!

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The MN state fair crew had about 10 new foods we got to try.  Even better, the business owners/chefs introduced the products and stories behind them, as well as chat with them while we were gorging ourselves.

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There was everything you could think of — totchos (tater tot nachos), cheese stuffed meatloaf on a stick, snickers salad, maple bacon funnel cakes, and salted caramel puffcorn malts are just a few of my favorites.

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The winner was Totchos.  Can you think of a more glorious food equation than tater tots + nachos?  Me neither.  I’ll take a gallon full.

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I also loved the new salted caramel malt from the Dairy Barn!  This event was also focused on getting the word out that there are PLENTY of activities for kids at the state fair.   Did you know that “MATH ON A STICK” is a thing?   There are several number and alphabet games (on a stick) to keep kids interested in the fair.  For example, the numbers game, kids have to go around and find things in groups from 1-20 (so for example, the number 4 could be for 4 legs on a pig or cow in the animal barn).

Also important for families– there is going to be FREE SUNSCREEN available at the fair this year, wahoo!

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for the fair!  Huge thanks to the Minnesota State Fair and Alice for putting this together, I had a blast and cannot wait to experience it!

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Wednesday With Blue Diamond Nut Thins

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins. I was sent complimentary product in return for a review/post. I was not compensated monetarily. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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 Happy Wednesday and yes I know what you’re thinking, where has Emily been and why are we seeing yet another Blue Diamond post?

  1. I’ve been moving. THE JOYS OF ADULTHOOD AND FEAR OF COMMITMENT(aka buying a house).
  2. Because partnering with Blue Diamond to try out their products is awesome.

I’ve said it before…I became a fan of Blue Diamond Nut Thins long before I started partnering with them. A few years back I was having some digestion issues, when a dietitian had my try removing gluten from my diet. As a gluten lover, I was not happy. These nut thins crackers were a god-send, so I could have my little picnic lunches I loved so much – nut thins, turkey, and cheese! The good news that came from all of this was that a) gluten wasn’t the problem (THANK GOD) and b) I now had another cracker alternative that I liked!

Because nut thins have a higher concentration of almonds and flax seeds, they have a higher unsaturated fat concentration. The good kinda fat!  With moving the past week, I haven’t felt like cooking meals at all. I’ve been enjoying most of my nut thins with Trader Joe’s Hummus. I could about eat the whole box/container!  I’m hoping to try them out as an appetizer with mozzarella, tomato, and basil later this week!   Thanks again, Blue Diamond Nut Thins!

Flavor Your Adventure- Clutch Moving Snacks

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds.  I received complimentary almonds in exchange for a review post.  I received NO monetary compensation.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Oh hi, HAPPY MOVING WEEKEND.  The joys of life, right?  After having the college pay for professional movers to move me from WI to MN last summer, it is a harsh wake up call having to pack up my own house and just move across town!  I’ve decided to give the St. Cloud area another year and move closer to the downtown area than from the suburb where I live now.  I am still missing city life, so after this next year, I may decide to move down to the twin cities area and commute.  For now though, I’m pumped about moving to a new house JUST BLOCKS from my gym (WHAT UP MOTIVATION).

If you follow me on the insta, you’ve seen that I’ve been completely on the go this summer– which is great, but not always relaxing.  Part of being “on the go”, means I’ve rarely been home and my fridge has been empty.  So when I returned this past week, I was scrambling for snacks and meals that I could eat at home, instead of being tempted to eat out all of the time.  Obviously, I was pleased when Blue Diamond sent me these Roasted Salted and Low Sodium Salted Almonds.  Almonds are one of my favorite go-to snacks because they are high in unsaturated fat (the good kind!) and keep me full with just a small handful.


Thanks Blue Diamond for keeping me fueled! Now, who’s coming over to help me move?! :)

That time I finally felt like I could live here

This week marks my one year mark of living in central Minnesota.  I guess you could say that I have a love-hate relationship with this place.  I’m starting to think though, maybe we have a love-hate relationship with most places we live?

I know I’ve talked about Ultimate Frisbee here before, but it once again, it comes back into my life and surprises me. This time in Minnesota.  But let’s back up first…

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When I first lived in Madison, I was not a fan.

GASP. I know.   Looking back, I want to shake myself and say girrlllll, you have no idea what good things are coming to you and how much you’ll fall in love with this city.

Anyway, I wasn’t a fan of Madtown.  I wasn’t a fan of my grad program.  I didn’t have many friends.  And I was having serious doubts on whether or not staying  and completing my Ph.D. was the best path for me.  I even had started looking into P.A. schools in Iowa.

The guys in my lab always talked about ultimate.  Like, they were REALLY good and talked about it all the time.  At first, I never thought I could play.  At the time, I had just gained 40 lbs from my first year of grad school, was out of shape, and I knew that ultimate was…a ton of running (youtube it, for reals).  But, I kept hearing about how much fun people in lab were having playing and how everyone was really good at accepting beginners.  The fall of my 2nd year of grad school, my friend Sammie from lab and I signed up together.  She had played before, I hadn’t.  BUT, I felt so much better showing up to our first game with a friend! That first game I about DIED playing the first point…IT WAS SO MUCH RUNNING.  I WAS SO SLOW.  I DROPPED THE DISC. *Side note– EVERYONE DROPS THE DISC*  But playing ultimate sparked something inside of me…for the first time since playing tennis competitively in college, I was COMPETING, as well as socializing doing something active.  All of the players were nice and genuinely interested in helping me become better.  They also were just really fun.   I was hooked.  I asked one of the guys in lab to help me learn the different throws and we spent the next couple months working on it.  I got better.

That next summer, my long-time friend Matt, also a grad student at UW, asked me to play on his summer team.  We played in a rec-league and mainly emphasized fun.   I continued to work on my game and got better…I wasn’t great by any means, but I didn’t screw up all that often!  But even better was that when I started playing on that team,  I had no idea that the people on that team would become my best friends (even introducing me to more amazing people that didn’t play ultimate too!), and those friends would be by my side for what would be the worst year, then best year of my life.

Ultimate gave me something I hadn’t had in a long time: a new sport to learn + new friends.  Quality friends.  Hilarious friends.  And a reason to be physically active and work out all my stress from the day.   I worked hard to learn the different positions and playing was great physical activity…in addition to training for a half marathon it played a huge role in helping me lose weight and get back to my healthy pre grad school weight.

For the next 3 summers, our team played together and it was an absolute blast.  I honestly can say I’ve never enjoyed anything more than playing ultimate and enjoying Great Dane Beers + Karoke with the friends I made in Madison.  In the spring and the fall, I played on other random teams, and still had a blast.  To sum it up: people who play ultimate are awesome. period.

Fortunately, I successfully defended my PhD last summer and got a killer job, but unfortunately that meant leaving my safety net of grad school and the amazing ultimate community/best friends I made I had made in Madison.  It was hard.  I was so torn between this amazing new future I had worked hard for, and leaving everything that had meant so much to me.

Although I miss the craft beer, restaurant scene, and old friends in Madison,  I have met some incredible friends through the college here in Minnesota.  I feel lucky to have made such great friends so quickly.  This past year though, something from my life has felt missing.  I realized this spring was that while I was working my ass of being a first year prof, I wasn’t  killing 2 birds with one stone AKA socializing while being physically active like I was when I would play frisbee.  This realization came as I started volunteering with the women’s frisbee team at the college I teach.  I helped coach them as well as scrimmage with them…and just playing ultimate again made me really, really, happy.

Through that team,  I was able to find a group of people to play ultimate with this summer, a “pickup league” as you would call it.  While the teams are random and many of the players are way younger and faster than me, playing ultimate again has filled that void I’ve felt.  With the age differences/life stage of all the other players, I don’t foresee myself forming the life-bond that I did with my ultimate friends in Madison.  But I’ve realized that here, ultimate doesn’t need to do that for me.  Getting to play ultimate is enough and has filled that void I have been missing.  Getting up the confidence to go to ultimate each week on my own and having it be “my own” is enough.   I’ve already started making friends in other areas of my life here that fulfill that part of my life.  I love my job.  It’s a puzzle that’s becoming more complete.  The alignment of all of these things over the past couple weeks have led me to believe that for the first time since I moved here a year ago, I could possibly have a future here.  Which is huge, considering about 6 months ago I was in “get me the eff out of here” mode.

This past spring, I was asked by several graduating seniors that I taught in Capstone if I had any advice about moving away/starting a new life, as I had just done so myself.   I think I came up with a different answer for each of them, depending on how I felt that week, because I didn’t know the answer.

But I know the answer now, or at least, I’m closer to the answer than where I was.

My advice is this, find one thing that makes you happy– whether it be a hobby, a sport, etc.,– and make it a goal to do that one thing at least once a week.  Even if you do it by yourself.  Do that one thing and bring yourself a little joy.  You’ll sleep better at night because of it. :)

Elvis Inspired Ice Cream (Small Batch + DAIRY FREE)

Disclaimer: This “Easy as Breeze” post is sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk. For more “Easy As Breeze” recipes made with five ingredients or less, visit Almond Breeze on Facebook (http://facebook.com/almondbreeze), Twitter (http://twitter.com/almondbreeze), Instagram (http://instagram.com/almondbreezeus) and Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/almondbreeze). I was provided one package of Almond Breeze Chocolate Almond milk to review for a blog post.  I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are my own.

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Happy weekend!  So happy to be home in Minnesota catching up on life after traveling south for a wedding last weekend, a concert on Tuesday, and lake time to fill out the rest of the week.   The awesome free-time of summer is winding down as I need to start focusing on preparing for the school year, so I’m soaking up everything this last weekend with…another wedding!  It never ends and I don’t really mind that. :)

Mmmkay.  So y’all know that I partner up with Blue Diamond Almonds frequently.  They send me stuff to review, I review it, and then tell ya about it.  This is my first almond breeze almond milk review…I tend to stay away from reviewing cows milk alternatives because I don’t drink them regularly.  BUT, I opted in for this one because a) I love chocolate and b) we have discovered over the course of the last month that my dad may be lactose intolerant.  Almond milk is lactose free and a great alternative for dairy-lovers, like my father!

I decided to make ice cream with the almond milk, because my dad LOVES ice cream and we’ve been trying to find lactose-free alternatives for him the past few weeks, most of which he has liked (PHEW!).  I have used frozen banana as a base for smoothies before, so I thought, why can’t I make ice cream with this?  The peanut butter was a last minute idea and definitely adds some flavah’.   When I first tasted this, it was reminded me of chocolate chip in banana bread, but in ice cream form.  TWO OF MY FAVES IN ONE?  Sign me up.  Enjoy!

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 Ingredients:

2/3 cup Almond Breeze chocolate almond milk

2 frozen bananas, sliced

1 tsp. agave syrup or honey

1 tbsp. dark chocolate cocoa powder

1 tbsp. peanut butter

Directions

Add all ingredients to a blender, blend on high speed for about 30 seconds, freeze for at least 2-3 hours!

ENJOY.  Thanks Blue Diamond Almond Breeze!