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11.22.2018

"He's Up There, Playing His Music"

I suppose it's time I finally publish the post I've been struggling to write. I honestly wanted to write this post weeks ago in the immediate aftermath, but I had tremendous difficulty sorting through the myriad of emotions enough to clearly and succinctly separate them. Tonight, I stayed up way past my bedtime, which coincidentally is when my writing juices typically start flowing.

I lost my Daddy on Tuesday, October 30, 2018.



I mentioned my Dad only a few times on my blog- in Life with 5 Dads, The Longest Day, and most recently was just over a year ago when I mentioned my motivation for trying the Whole30 because of my Dad's scary and traumatic health issues. I haven't talked about him much here, or truthfully in my real life either. I've dealt with some difficult things in my young life, but watching my Daddy die slowly and painfully over several years is by far the thing that has hurt the most. I've held him close to my heart, because it was too painful and vulnerable to share, even with those I love.

I adored my Dad. Even after he became disabled from a massive stroke 20 years ago, we shared a connectedness and kindred spiritedness that's hard to put into words. I am 100% my father's child in both looks and personality.

I have a tendency to put him on a pedestal and I have to remind myself that he was a flawed human being. But the truth is, I admire so much about my Dad. He worked professionally as a carpenter. It's something I've never had the patience or skill for, but the smell of sawdust is the most comforting, familiar smell in the world to me. My Dad was sarcastic as hell. He was witty and smart, and always had a sassy comment or comeback for everyone. Above all else, he was a beautiful musician. He was a singer, a guitar player, and a gifted songwriter (is it any wonder where I get my love of writing?). My fondest childhood memories are of him playing silly songs for us on his guitar while my sister and I erupted into fits of giggles. He never made it big, but he did open for a few big-name bands back in his day and was a tremendously gifted performer. His talent led him to become a bit of a music snob. Unfortunately, I inherited the musical snobbery, and none of the talent.



My Dad understood me. Which is something I've learned in my short 30 years that is rare. There are few people in a person's life who will truly understand them deep down to their soul. My Dad did. Which is why I think his fate was so painful for me. Not only did I "lose" my Dad in a sense at the age of 10 when he became disabled. But I then had to spend 20 years watching this man whom I so loved and adored deteriorate. My Dad died a horrifically slow and painful death and I will never be able to make sense of it.

His diabetes was responsible for most of his health issues. Back in 2017, among other ailments, he contracted gangrene which would lead to him having both of his legs amputated. Up until that point, he had been in assisted living with the help of home healthcare aides. Upon his hospitalization, it was determined that he could no longer live independently and he was released to a nursing home. I am thankful that my sister was able to locate a high-quality facility that provided him the best care in his last days (I still need to write them a thank you note). Once he moved into his nursing home, we knew it was only a matter of time.



Because she lived closer and served as his primary healthcare proxy, my sister would receive periodic phone calls from his nurses about his condition as it worsened. But a few weeks ago they informed her that due to a respiratory infection, he had become unresponsive. With our permission, they were removing him from all medications and were switching to "comfort care" which was essentially a steady diet of morphine to ease his pain. We didn't know how long it would take for him to pass, but my sister spoke to the nurses regularly to get updates (or lack thereof) on his condition.

On Tuesday morning around 10:00 am, Kelly asked the nurses what I should do since I live out-of-state. Never once had they given us any kind of timeline, but that morning they told us that if I wanted to say goodbye, I should hurry. I let my team know what was going on and promptly left work. I drove home, threw a random assortment of clean clothes in a backpack and hit the road. I drove 9.5 hours straight (the last half hour my phone had died and I got lost trying to navigate to his nursing home in pitch black with no GPS). Visiting hours ended at 8:00 PM, but they said they would let me in whenever I arrived.

I exited my car into the frigid air of Upstate New York and rang the doorbell outside the locked, automatic doors. An employee let me in, escorted me to his room and brought me a chair to place beside his bed. He was completely unresponsive, save for his steady, ragged breaths. I sat, holding his hand in silence for some time, just taking in the sight of my dying Daddy before I realized that he needed to hear my voice. I hugged him and kissed his cheek and told him how much I loved him. A skeptic would say that he was unconscious and had no way of knowing I was even there. But as his eyes imperceptibly flickered as I spoke, I knew he felt my presence. I think I stayed a total of a half hour before I said my "see you later." I waited for the employee to escort me back out of the building and I got back in my car to drive two more hours to my sister's apartment.

It was after 11:00 PM and after spending an entire day driving, I was concerned about falling asleep behind the wheel. I called Chuck to keep me company and he was the one to read my sister's text that she got the call- he had passed. She hadn't wanted to tell me while I was driving. I began to cry, not out of sadness. I cried because it had been a mere hour since I left him. And I knew that he had waited all day for me to arrive. He had waited for me to say goodbye. My Dad left his earthly body knowing how loved he was by his daughters, and knowing that we knew how much he loved us.



The days after were filled with logistics. My sister and I returned to the nursing home to gather what little belongings were left after we moved him from his apartment a year ago. Kelly found a local funeral home and made the arrangements to have him cremated. His will stipulated that half his ashes were to be sprinkled over his mother's grave, while the other half were to be given to his best friend in California (the homeland) to be sprinkled in the Pacific Ocean. We drove to the cemetery where our grandma is buried and blindly located her headstone. When the time came for a "ceremony," both Kelly and I were at a loss for words. I had the idea to play Blackbird by The Beatles as we shared in a moment of prayerful silence. We laughed as the YouTube video I selected blasted an obnoxious advertisement at the start of the song, and knelt beside each other, tears streaming down our faces as Paul McCartney sang the words that seemed to supernaturally and so poetically describe my Dad's release from his "broken wings."

It's now been a few weeks and I've gone through seemingly all of the stages of grief- denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. The minutiae of my everyday life hasn't changed since his passing, so 95% of the time, I'm doing well. I'm not dwelling on it and I feel peace that he's finally free. And then I'll see a picture of us together, and the grief physically hurts. I have to remind myself that while my Dad was alive, our connection was severed by his disability. Now, I know he's always with me and as a friend of his so aptly stated, he's "up there, playing his music."

10.25.2018

32 BEFORE 32: Six Month Check-In

This blog has basically been a virtual ghost town for the last two months. With working full-time and studying for my upcoming licensing exam, I just haven't had the time (or mental energy) to keep my blog updated. I've been missing my little corner of the internet something fierce lately and was happy to see that my 32 Before 32 check-in was scheduled for this week so I would have a reason to hit "publish."

I'm actually surprised at how much I've crossed off my list in the last 6 months with little effort. I love how the universe just works these things out.



32 Before 32: A 2-Year Bucket List



1. Take an international trip

2. Host a foreign exchange student

3. Pay off a student loan

4. Return to work full-time COMPLETE! (June 4, 2018) | It was a bittersweet goodbye to my part-time marketing job in May. Mostly, because I worked alongside a really good friend of mine and I'm still sad that I don't get to see her every day. However, I was mentally ready to end my Stay-at-Home-Mom season and we were both financially ready to be a two-income household again!



5. Visit a new state

6. Convert attic to a fourth bedroom

7. Take an anniversary trip | Although we did spend a night in Louisville, KY during Labor Day weekend for our 6th anniversary, I'm not counting it because it was the shortest trip ever.

8. Adopt a four-legged friend 

9. Run a half marathon

10. Replace our back porch

11. Visit Frankie's grave

12. Attend a cooking class

13. Pay off all credit cards (1/3) IN PROGRESS | We made a final payment to one of Chuck's credit cards in April and it felt so good to have that checked off our list!

14. Renovate our kitchen

15. Get a fourth tattoo

16. Take a family camping trip 

17. Update my wardrobe

18. Add a railing to our front porch COMPLETE! (October 23, 2018) | Our good friend literally just put in our front porch railing this week!! I'm so happy to have this checked off our list (and even more glad that it's done before Halloween so we don't have any trick-or-treaters tumbling off our porch)!



19. Try 10 new restaurants (1/10) IN PROGRESS | The first restaurant we checked off the list was Thai 9 in Dayton for my 30th birthday.

20. Enroll Charlie in preschool COMPLETE! (June 2018) | Charlie started attending preschool twice a week last month and he loves it!



21. Landscape our front yard

22. Meet a blogging friend

23. Plan something for Chuck's 30th birthday

24. Purchase a minivan

25. Take a photography class

26. Pay off all medical bills from Crosby's birth (1/3) IN PROGRESS

27. Run a race in 3 different states (0/3)

28. Visit the American Sign Museum

29. Paint and finish decorating our master bedroom IN PROGRESS | I finally painted it back in August when the boys were in NY visiting their grandparents, but I still haven't finished hanging decor.

30. Take the boys to an amusement park

31. Visit Old Man's Cave in Hocking Hills

32. Attend a concert COMPLETE! (July 13, 2018) | My sister-in-law was sweet enough to invite me along to see Little Big Town and Miranda Lambert perform at Riverbend in Cincinnati. Honestly, I haven't consistently listened to country music in several years, but I was happy to tag along. If I could choose any country singer to see perform, it would be Miranda Lambert. I just adore her and Gunpowder and Lead is my jam. I had a blast and I would love to see her in concert again!



 > > >

Not too shabby for my first six months. Be sure to check back in April when I check in on the rest of my progress in my 30th year!

10.22.2018

7 Reasons Why Goldfish Swim School is FIN-tastic for Working Parents!

This post brought to you by Goldfish Swim School.



If you're a regular around here, you know we've been taking our boys to swim lessons at Goldfish Swim School-Dayton for over a year now and have loved every minute. We began lessons when I was a stay-at-home Mom and we had a lot of flexibility in our schedule. So when I went back to work full-time back in June, I wondered whether our weekly lessons would be sustainable. As our family's schedule got busier and more hectic, I worried that swim lessons would be just one more thing on our never-ending to-do list.

I'm so happy that I can honestly say that hasn't been the case for us at all. Even with September and October being completely crazy months for our family, we've managed to keep regularly attending Charlie and Crosby's lessons without missing a beat! In fact, I have even more appreciation for everything they offer to both working and at-home parents.



7 Reasons Why Goldfish Swim School is FIN-tastic for Working Parents


1. CLASS AVAILABILITY | No matter your work schedule, there is a class for you! Goldfish offers a huge array of class for all levels and ages throughout the week. We prefer their weekend classes, but we also take advantage of their weekday evening hours, as well!

2. RESCHEDULE POLICY | Goldfish gets that when it comes to kids, last-minute stuff always comes up. Which is why they offer a super accommodating reschedule policy- you're allowed 12 make-up lessons per year!

3. ONLINE SCHEDULING | So your kid is sick and you need to reschedule? Just login to your member profile and reschedule the lesson. You can also pay your balance, schedule a party, and browse all their available classes. It's so convenient for busy parents (or parents who find making phone calls to be the actual worst).

4. PARTICIPATION OPTIONS | If you've got teeny, tiny little ones- you have two options for classes. If you're a parent who works full-time and wants as much quality bonding time with your baby or toddler as possible, you can hop into the pool with your kiddo. If you're a parent who is exhausted after a long week, you can also opt to watch your child from the lobby window and get a 1/2 hour to rest before the chaos of dinner and bedtime.

5. IN-HOUSE SWIM STORE | Did you forget to grab your kid's swim bag on your way out the door? No problem! Goldfish has an in-house swim store stocked with all your swim lesson essentials- swim diapers, bathing suits, swim trunks, rash guards, goggles, towels and more. They've also got a snack bar for hungry swimmers and under-caffeinated parents!

6. SUPERSTAR STAFF | Simply put, Goldfish has the best staff ever. Did your toddler pee on the changing room floor? No sweat, they've got it covered. (Yes, that actually happened to me). I've also had a staff member offer to hold my baby so I could change my squirming toddler. The instant you walk in the door- they know your kids by name and each staff member is dedicated to their safety. I'm telling you- they're the best in the biz.

7. EVENTS AND EXTRACURRICULARS | Swim lessons are not all Goldfish offers. They also host family swims, special events, and birthday parties with a dedicated party planner. There are so many opportunities for working parents to get to partake in fun time with their littles and make working parenthood just a little less stressful.



If you're a Dayton local (or if you have a Goldfish Swim School in your area), you don't need to be a member to join in on the fun. For a small fee, you can try out weekly Family Swim time or host a birthday pool party!



Members and non-members are invited to join Goldfish Swim School-Dayton for a super fun fall activity- their annual Trunk-or-Treat on Friday, October 26. Don't miss out on this fun and kid-friendly event!


10.06.2018

OUR 6th ANNIVERSARY + FAMILY PHOTOS



Chuck and I are not good at anniversaries. Granted, we've been pregnant or encumbered with small children for the majority of them, but yeah, we're pretty pathetic. We don't do gifts, cards only happen if we remember a week in advance, and whatever date night we happen to go on is generally planned at the eleventh hour.

However, we have one tradition that we've kept every single year- our anniversary pictures. I'm a documenter by nature (shocking, I know), so pictures are kind of one of my love languages. Chuck was apathetic at first, but now I think he's really grown to appreciate them over time as he watches our family change before our eyes.

This year, when Tina Ruble Photography announced her September mini-session, it seemed too perfect to pass up. Tina also did Charlie's "newborn" photos (he was a month old by that point) and the boys' Easter photos last year. I've recommended her to sooo many of my friends because she truly has a gift. Our boys were especially uncooperative and grumpy this time around, and somehow our pictures still turned out amazing.

Before I do my little reveal, I thought it would be fun to travel back in time and look at our old anniversary pictures throughout the years:

ONE

I love that I thought to start this little tradition our first newlywed year. These pictures are especially meaningful because they capture our first married year together- child-free and livin' on love in the big city of Pittsburgh. We were broke and worked our butts off, but we built a really solid foundation by only having each other to rely on. | P/C: Amy Dugan Photography

TWO

These are probably my least favorite photos because I was 5 months pregnant with Charlie and just look chubby, but not quite pregnant yet. This was the year we moved back to Chuck's hometown in Ohio. | P/C Byrd Photography

THREE

This was another really special year. We got to take our 3rd anniversary pictures just a few days after we closed on our very first home together. We had our friend Dani take all of our photos in and around our first house before we moved in and they're so stinkin' special to us now. | P/C Byrd Photography

FOUR

My sweet friend Rachel agreed to take our anniversary/newborn photos just two weeks after Crosby joined our family. I was postpartum and sleep-deprived, and it shows, but these photos are so dear to me because you can visually see my body evolving as I brought my babies into the world. | P/C Rachel King

FIVE
Year Five: The year I was finally done having babies! My sister-in-love got herself a camera and started experimenting with photography. She graciously took the time to not only take our pictures, but also do my hair and makeup. I couldn't believe how good the photos turned out for an amateur photographer. She has such a natural talent.

Which brings us to year six...

SIX

Honestly, these are probably my favorite photos to-date. Not just from a quality standpoint, but also because I feel like we've really settled into ourselves and into our marriage- and it shows! The past year was no joke. Adjusting to being a family of four, as well as being a one-income family definitely took a toll on our relationship at times. But, as the stormy times often do, they led us to a really good place.

In year six, we are more committed to each other and working as a team than ever. This was the year where I really learned how to shift my thinking from "me" to "we" and start thinking of our future in terms of "us" rather than my own selfish interests. We still have some hurdles to overcome, but we feel confident in the fact that we have each other's backs forever and always, no matter what life throws at us.

And with my corny ode over, here's the rest of my ornery, adorable family:







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