Difficult Day

It was a difficult day.  Sadly, today marks the year anniversary of Debbie’s passing.  I’ve written before about how grief alters how we experience time.  Truly, time is on a weird continuum when you’re dealing with grief and loss.  It feels like both a day ago and a decade ago since Debbie left us.  I remember waking up the morning after she had passed and thinking how cruel it was that the world kept going as if nothing had happened.  Meanwhile, for all of us that loved Debbie and held her dear, our world was completely devastated.  I sat in my car lamenting this fact when a beautiful cardinal flew next to my car window, stayed there for a bit and then quickly flew off.  It was an amazing moment.

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Grief is an interesting animal itself.  Its sneaks up on you and catches you unexpectedly.   Today brought back a flood of memories both good and bad.  I was at work when I first heard she was going into hospice.  My amazing friends and co-workers comforted and supported me.  Moreover, I was reminded of how much we all miss her.  Needless to say, it wasn’t an easy day.

As I ruminated over my day (typical Monday) and our dear friend Debbie, I quickly realized how lucky I am to be aggravated by inane emails or missed meetings.  At the end of the day, life is a gift that some times includes more than your average dose of aggravation.  The truth is without life’s lows or aggravations we wouldn’t fully appreciate life’s highs and truly happy moments.  So today, in the face of aggravation and insipidness, I chose to live like Debbie.  In fact, I even got in a nice run tonight.  She’d definitely be quite proud of me for continuing to run and not giving it up after the ankle injury.   Life may give us lemons, but that’s nothing some ice cubes, Grey Goose and sugar can’t solve.  #carpediem

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Debbie was diagnosed in 2015 with Stage IV pancreatic cancer after ending up in an ER with severe back pain.  The 5 year survival rate for this diagnosis is 1%, which is unacceptable.  Even in the midst of her battle against this disease, Debbie stood as a beacon of hope.  In fact, she served as the key note speaker at the 2016 Purple Stride Event in Boca Raton.  In her honor, please consider donating to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.  No family should have to endure the pain of losing their loved one to this insidious disease.  You can donate here: Pancreatic Action Network

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Gut punch

Gut Punch

Today was one of those days that was akin to a gut punch.  The kind of day that brings you sorrow, angst, sadness, and grief. As if we haven’t already been here enough in 2017… Ugh.  This year has been tough and the last 24 hours indicative of its toughness. Unfortunately, my SIL lost her mother last night.  This is one of those times its tough to be here because we’re not able, as a family, to be there for her, my bro and their kids.  Right now all of us wish we were there with them.

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Meanwhile, in another corner, a mother’s worst nightmare is playing out in a horrific way and we’re all powerless to help.  If anything today has reinforced, the delicate nature of life and its unpredictability.  Life, our days on this earth, are not promised. We can choose to exist, which most do, or we can choose to live.  We can choose to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us regardless of our circumstances.

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Nonetheless, today left me wanting to do nothing, but gorge on Neuhaus chocolate tonight.  I’m proud to say that instead I went to aerial yoga.  This was definitely the healthier way to work through today’s sadness and grief.  Tonight’s class was a bit difficult as I hurt my hip some how, so I had to be careful with my left side.  Incidentally, the inversions are getting much easier with each class.  Additionally, my alignment in handstand/headstand is much better in my mat classes now.  Aerial yoga is definitely improving my practice.

Tonight’s song is “How Great Thou Art” performed by The Pentatonix.

Time Heals

Time Heals

They say time heals all wounds, but I’m not quite sure I agree with that.  Tonight marks the 6th anniversary of losing my mother-in-law Sandy to Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  Her illness was quick, horrible, painful and for those that love her excruciatingly short.  In the turn of mere months, my mother in law went from living a normal life to hospice.

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Cancer is such an insidious, deceptive, merciless disease.  By the time, doctors discovered my mother in laws cancer, it had already metastasized to her lymph notes, arms, and spine.  In reality, her entire abdomen was riddled with cancer.  It wasn’t until she suffered from debilitating back pain that her cancer was discovered.  Unfortunately, as is the case with many people, her cancer was discovered in an advanced stage.

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Cruelly, until the onset of the back pain, there was nothing that suggest that something was severely awry.   Coincidentally, this is where I plug genetic counseling, mammograms, MRIs and pro-active preventative medicine.  Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that these tests – mammograms, colonoscopy, PSA tests, breast and testicular self-exams are essential for your health.  Do not skip them!

Late into Grandma Sandy’s illness, my hubby spent most of his time in Minny with her while I stayed back in Florida with the kids.  During that time though, the kids were in school, so going to Minny for long periods of time wasn’t in our wheelhouse.  Honestly, it was one of the few moments, since moving to Florida, that I really wanted to be back home in Minny.  Truly, it killed us not to be there with her or with my hubby.

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Since the moment I started dating my hubby, Grandma Sandy was always in my corner.  Admittedly, she spoiled me and wholeheartedly welcomed me into their family.  The feeling was mutual.   She never doubted us or our relationship even when we got pregnant with Jake.   She supported us through the hardest moments from beginning to the end.  I remember going over to my Hubby’s house and she had gone shopping.  She probably bought Jake the entire store that day.  I loved everything she bought and in fact still have a lot of it.

Grandma Sandy was fiercely proud of her family and her Finnish heritage.  Both of her parents were of Finnish descent with both sides of her family immigrating to the US in the around the turn of the 20th Century.   If you ask me, Goalielocks definitely looks like the Ketola side.  Of course, my family is mostly Norwegian.  I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that everyone in Norway and on the SAS flight thought we were Norwegian.  My Mother-in-Law had a big, loving Finnish family that was and is an incredible support to her and to us.  We’re forever grateful for the great care they took of Grandma Sandy when we couldn’t be in Minny with her.

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I can’t speak for everyone, but I miss her love of Bingo, Barbies, all things Finnish, the Twins, the Wild, the Vikings and of course Dan Marino.  I’ll never forget watching the Vikings lose to Atlanta in 1998.  As the game clock winded down, her, the hubby and I found ourselves pacing nervously in the garage.  Of course, Gary Anderson would pick the most inopportune time to miss a field goal in a perfect season, but at the time our nerves were shot and full of hope.  (As an aside, it seems the Vikes can’t escape their kicker issues.)

Even though it has been six years, in some ways it feels like yesterday.   I think she’d bit surprised that I’ve allowed a veritable zoo in my house, but she probably saw it coming.  I certainly didn’t.  Additionally, I think she’d be super nervous about Jake driving, but also so proud of him.  She’d be proud of all the boys.  Certainly as we start to hit more milestones like Jake’s graduation, her absence is punctuated.   The truth of the matter is that she’ll never truly leave us.  She’ll always be with us in spirit, in the mannerisms my hubby and kids have inherited from her and in our hearts.

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Sometimes, she even shows up in my yoga class.  One Saturday morning, my favorite sub Kaye was teaching the vinyasa class, when her iPod randomly switched to Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” which was my mother-in-law’s favorite song.  My teacher couldn’t for the life of her figured out how it happened.  When we spoke after class, we figured it out.  So tonight in honor of Grandma Sandy,  hold your loved ones extra tight, forgive and forget because at the end of the day life is far too short.

Tonight’s song, in honor of Grandma Sandy, is Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.”  I love this song as it reminds me of her.

 

 

Lose Yourself

Lose Yourself

Is it my or when you see the phrase lose yourself do you start singing Eminem’s driving anthem.  The song is just as current today as when it was released 15 years ago.  I wrote last night about trademark, which goes hand in hand with our identity.  In Eminem’s song he talks about losing yourself in a music and giving it all you got.  In life, we must give it all we got – we owe ourselves that-, but we can’t lose ourselves in the craziness.

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Life’s circumstances can make it hard to stay true to ourselves, but we have to persevere through the challenges.  If you’re like me, life has thrown you more than a couple of curve balls. In fact, if your 2017 has been like mine, I’m sure your wondering why the hell the curve balls won’t stop!?!?!  Am I right?  I think we’ve all been gifted more lemons this year than available vodka resulting in an unfavorable lemon to lemon drop ratio.  It’s a sad state of affairs when that happens and it needs to change. 2018 do you hear me?

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As we march towards 2018, 2017 has shaken many of us to our core – myself included.  Grief, stress and disappointment are not the most fun combination in the world.  Yes, I know captain obvious here…  Grief, as I’ve found, can surprise you and completely envelop you if you let it.  It creeps up when you least expect it amplifying other negative emotions.

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Consequently, I was writing my blog last night when it dawned on me.  I’ve drifted away from who I am as a person.  I had to started to give in to the bulls%#t allowing others to define how I feel about myself and the world.  Fuck that shit (sorry mom!)  It was a liberating experiencing last night and left me feeling empowered.  Truly, sometimes knowing is half the balance.  When I realized that I had started to let the trials of life and people in it impact my trademark and my identity, I knew exactly how it fix it.  You gotta love those Eureka moments!

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Undoubtedly, writing is cathartic for the soul.  While this blog started as a means of coping with grief after losing Debbie in March, I’ve learned a lot more about myself than I had ever anticipated.  Meanwhile, here we are seven months later and I sill cannot bring myself to write about the experience of losing her.  Unquestionably, it is a gradual journey and someday I’ll be able to share those experiences here.  Nonetheless, here is what I do know.  Life is too short to wallow in the weeds letting life or others impact our positive outlook.  At the end of the day, we own our mindset as much as we own our identity.  Don’t let anyone take that away from you ever no matter how tired you may be.   Only you can protect your identity (and prevent forest fires.)

Life’s Storms

Life is fickle.  Life is funny.   It seems to go one of two ways.  Either nothing is happening or everything is happening and our world is collapsing around us all at once.  Both the boredom and chaos associated with either scenario can be all encompassing and destructive.  In the calm, it is easy to become complacent.  In the storm, it is easy to give up, but don’t.   You are much stronger than you ever imagined.   As Victor Hugo so eloquently said, “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”  And remember, as you weather the storm, you are not alone.

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Survive

This year has been an extremely difficult year full of pain and loss, which I had discussed in a previous post.  In these periods of difficulty, it is sometimes difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is there.  Suffering is part of the human experience.  Learning to thrive and find meaning in the suffering is to survive.   While I’ve lost a lost this year, I have also learned a lot.

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Living in S. Florida, it is easy to get caught up in material things and a hedonistic lifestyle.    In doing so, however, material goods can take the place of experiences and people.  While some people’s budget can support both, mine can’t, but that’s really not the point.  The point is that learning to appreciate experiences with the people you love will help carry you through difficult times.  The shared memories you create will never leave you and are priceless.

Life is seldom stable with changes both positive and negative coming rapid fire. In addition to coping with the suffering, you have to be adept at adapting to change.  If you cannot adapt to the changes in your life, you cannot survive and thrive.  This isn’t something that happens real time or overnight.  It can be gradual or after weeks of nothing it happens all at once.  The goal is to learn to how to roll with the punches and be nimble.   Just like Darwin’s finches, you must adapt if you are to survive.

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Surrounding yourself with people who are your champions is an absolute must. Each and every one of us needs that person that can pull us up when we’re down.  A person that can remind us how fantastically awesome we are when we’re not feeling that spectacular.   Of course, it is just as important to return the favor and be that champion for your friends and family.

A year of loss…

There are times in our lives that we are brought to our knees by the pain of loss and the weight of responsibility.   Apparently 2017 has decided to be that time in my life and the lives of those I love.   2017 has been a year of profound loss and its only May 3rd.  It began with the loss of a beloved employee, the loss of a friend’s child, the loss of a dear friend, and the loss of a dear friend’s sister.  Today life handed us another loss.

When I started at Kaplan eight years ago, having recently been laid off from Progressive, my confidence was shaken.  Progressive had been my first and only job after college.   The idea of starting all over after seven years was daunting.

My first day at KU, I was met by a charismatic trainer with a Brooklyn accent and more energy than anyone I had ever met.   He was Pete.  He was passionate about what he did and took pride in training admissions advisors to service our military students.  Pete believed in me from day one and for that I will always be grateful.  I feel blessed to have had him as my trainer, advocate and an early champion of mine at KU.   Sometimes all it takes to restore confidence is having someone believe in you again.  I was utterly devastated when I learned that we lost him early this morning.   He left us way too early and our hearts are broken.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family especially his beautiful daughter, who was his pride and joy.

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Whether unexpected or not, these losses have been tremendously hard to stomach.  Losing someone before they hit middle age is cruel, but nothing in life is guaranteed especially our time here on earth.  Life is too short to be taken for granted.  Life is too short to settle for mediocrity and a life that does not make our soul sing.  To be clear, I’m not saying everything should be rainbows and ponies.   I am saying that while we are on this earth: we should embrace life’s experiences not possessions, embrace work that leaves us fulfilled not empty and embrace and enrich the relationships that shape our lives.

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One Month

One month ago, a moment we hoped would never come came and took our breath away.

One month ago, the immensity of the moment made time standstill.

One month ago, our world stopped spinning and the pain was overwhelming, but your pain was no more.

One month ago, we were reeling in loss, while the world kept spinning and life went on.

To my dearest friend and hockey mom,

It has been one month since you left us, but it feels like it was both yesterday and an eternity ago.  That night replays in my mind daily and not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.  Our world stopped, but life around us continued. To this day, it seems cruel that life continues on despite our enormous loss.

As I left to the coffee the next morning, a cardinal was in my front tree and flew by my car. Driving that morning, I was struck by the notion that nothing and everything had changed all at once.  The cardinal was a gift, undoubtedly from you to let us know you were okay.   You’ve left a mark forever on my soul and the souls of those that knew you.  Your strength, your tenacity, your spirit, your beauty, and your joie de vivre continue to inspire me on the daily.  You will forever be a seminal person in my life responsible for teaching me more about myself and about life through your example than you could ever possibly imagine.

I am resolute in the promises I made you that day.  Luke and I will always watch over your family and I will never give up the fight to find a cure.   United by hockey and love of our kids, I’m blessed to have called you my friend and my family.  I can never thank you enough for all you did for us.  Love you to the moon and back.

Love,

A broken hearted hockey mom.

 

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