Good Grief.

Good Grief

I have a bulletin board above my desk with a plethora of things pinned to it.  Things that are thought inspiring and make me smile.

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Amidst the duck calls and cards from friends and family you will find three handwritten quotes; one, written on the expo side reads:

I intend to know and fully believe- beyond the shadow of a doubt- that I create everything in my reality and that I can create the life of my dreams.  #BOOM

(yes, I really did write in the #BOOM at the end, makes it more official)

The other two quotes that are on my bulletin board are pinned and they always stop me in my tracks when I read them.  Both of them are about loss and this time of year, with the holidays just around the corner, they always seem to be hitting home even more so than normal.

“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone? ~Jodi Picoult

How many brothers or sisters do you have?  What was once such a simple question became the hardest and most awkward question for me to answer.  It would leave me feeling all like, well, I guess Sadness.

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My answer used to be so easy, so fluid, and didn’t require me to even think.  I don’t even remember myself before I was a sister.  I mean I obviously know that I existed because I’m the eldest by 5 years but in terms of memory, I don’t remember never not being a sister.  So how do you answer the question that you know is coming but still blindsides you every time it is asked?

There’s this little app called TimeHop and if you don’t have it you should.  It’s pretty great and shows you all the memories you’ve collected via social media, your icloud photos, etc. for that particular day.

Any who, on Valentines Day, when I logged into the app it had this warning (which I thought was genius by the way):

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I really thought about that warning and how I’d like to have one, not for the douche bags I’ve dated in the past but for everyday life.  Like when I see a picture of my sister pop up on someone’s news feed or some kind of warning that comes on the radio before Macklemore drops the beat for Thrift shop.  You see that was the song that played what seemed like non stop when I was in California for a surprise visit to see Ashlee before she passed away.  We spent hours in the car driving from one appointment to the next and the one thing we could count on is that Thrift Shop would play at least 10 times and hour.  In the words of Eric Church, “funny how a melody, sounds like a memory…”

Some of the best moments in my days are when I see her tagged in a picture on social media or when I come across a card she sent me.  Or when I’m shopping at TJMaxx and come across a collection of pig inspired decor. They are unexpected and wonderful reminders of an amazing person I once knew and had the privilege to call my sister.

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Although these moments are often the best they are also the hardest; which is where the second quote comes in to play:

“Grief is the price we pay for love.” ~Queen Elizabeth

Oh Queen Elizabeth, you hit the nail on the head with that one.  Grieving is hard.  It’s not for the faint of heart because it never stops, it’s something that you deal with every day.  When you love someone and you lose them you never forget them and you hope others won’t either.  But the fact of the matter is that life goes on and while I would give anything to FaceTime Ashlee tonight I can’t.  So instead I’ll smile, be thankful for those that I can FaceTime, and cherish the memories I have.

Cheers!

25 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Sister on Her 25th Birthday

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Today is June 2 and would have been my sister Ashlee’s 25th birthday.

Let’s all take a moment to remember the amazing and beautiful person she was and spirit that she is:

Sadly she lost her battle with ocular melanoma almost 2 years ago (if you don’t know the story you can catch up here.)  So without further ado here are 25 things I wish I could tell my little sister on her 25th birthday.

1.  I love you.
2.  Happy Birthday.
3.  Let’s FaceTime.  And do a shot for your birthday while we do!
4.  Mom Mom Thomas needs an Ipad so we can all FaceTime.  Next house I sell consider it done.
5.  3 Words:  White Wine Spritzers
6.  I wish I had more time with you.
7. Orioles are in 3rd place, don’t worry, it’s not even the All-Star break yet, plenty of time to take 1st.
8.  I need your address, I’m sending you a bag of these Herr’s Old Bay Cheese curls because they are the shiznittlebamlickin.
9.  I’m poor and thinking of selling my beanie baby collection, how much do you think I should ask for the whole lot?  Bears and tag protectors included
10.  Speaking of which, you’re 25 now, want me to sell yours too while I’m at it?
11.  Just finished a new book, Luckiest Girl Alive, you should download it on your kindle asap.
12.  I’m going to Maryland this weekend for Kate’s wedding and you better bohlieve I’m getting a Skylite Snowball w/ marshmallow topping.
13.  Taco Bell is reopening in Key West; hollerrrrrrr, cheesy fiesta potatoes for errryone!
14.  My favorite coffee shop, Southernmost Coffee Tea House now sells Taylor Pork Roll breakfast sandwiches.  Hiyoooo
15.  I never thought it was possible but my roommate almost drinks as much milk as you do.
16.  Can you teach me how to twitter?  Or tweet?  Or whatever the hell it’s called…
17.  Also, can you give me a winged eyeliner tutorial?
18.  Have you talked to Dad?
19.  There’s a photo challenge at the gym to send Coach Jess your best strict press or gym strain face, I bet you would win.
20.  Word to the wise:  don’t lose your car or wallet like I did on my 25th birthday.
21.  This is going to be the best year of your life!
22.  Dairy Queen has a Rolo Blizzard. Just FYI.
23.  I can’t wait to see you.
24. Worrying is like a rocking chair, you can do it all day and it won’t get you anywhere.
25.  I already prepaid your bar tab for tonight, have a great time celebrating, call me later…

Cheers!

A Tribute to Greenie

This morning I woke up and was doing my morning scroll on Instagram before getting out of bed when I came across a picture one of my favorite authors Kelly Corrigan posted of her holding someone’s hand. My eyes teared up once I realized this was not just any hand.  This was the hand of her father or Greenie as I had come to know him through reading her books.

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I first stumbled upon Kelly Corrigan by accident really.  When I was in college I was in the bookstore, Borders I believe it was, looking for a book by the author Rebecca Wells.  It was called Little Altars Everywhere and it was the prequel to one of my favorite books Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. I found it and on one of those big tables with stacks of other books.  Anyways, I wasn’t paying attention and when I got home I realized I had purchased The Middle Place by accident.  This wasn’t an accident.  It was the universe introducing me to what would become one of my favorite authors Kelly Corrigan.

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I remember looooving The Middle Place for one main reason.  Relatability.  I could relate to so many aspects of this book and it reminded me of [insert Maryland accent here] hOOOme.

The Middle Place was set in Baltimore, Maryland; a city that I have always loved and treasured.  It is the back drop to so many of my favorite memories; it was the setting for my early child hood and where I would spend most every weekend as I grew up visiting my dad.  Baltimore is still a place that I one day hope to call home (seasonally of course).

It was in The Middle Place that I was first introduced to Greenie.  I loved him instantly.  He was a larger than life Maryland dad, a lover of lacrosse, family, and happiness.  He was Kelly’s biggest fan and she was his.  By the end of the book I too had become a fan of Greenie; not surprising, I hear most everyone that meets him or reads of him has the same reaction I did.  You could feel the love between Kelly and Greenie every time she wrote of him in her books.  Such a wonderful example of the bond between a father and a daughter.

By nature I’m an empathizer.  I have this uncanny ability to understand and share people’s feelings.  I’ve never personally met Kelly Corrigan or her father Greenie (although I always secretly hoped I would run into one of them at the grocery store or something) but from reading her books I feel like I’m an old family friend.  This morning when I saw that Instagram post my heart broke.  I mean it was just a few days ago Greenie was getting schooled by a kid in Rumikub!

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JK Simmons pretty much summed it up in his Oscar acceptance speech; “Call your mom, call your dad. If you’re lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call ‘em. Don’t text. Don’t email. Call them on the phone. Tell ‘em you love ‘em, and thank them, and listen to them for as long as they want to talk to you. Thank you. Thank you, Mom and Dad.”

Thank you Kelly Corrigan for sharing your father Greenie with the world through your memories and books.  My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everyone Needs A Hero, Let It Be You

DISCLAIMER:  I’ve had anxiety over writing this post since I started this blog because I knew I wanted to write about my sister Ashlee this week but wasn’t sure if I could ever find the words to do our relationship justice.  This one’s for you piglet…

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he·ro

noun
: a person who is admired for great or brave acts or fine qualities
: a person who is greatly admired

The first time I ever remember processing the word hero in my head was back in the early 90’s when Mariah Carey was belting it out on every radio station.  I remember my mom and aunts crying (imagine that, we are a bunch of emotional chicks that’s for sure), listening to the tape on repeat in their vans.  That’s when I realized that the word hero had some clout.  Isn’t it ironic?  My mom and her sisters were belting out the words “there’s a herooooo, if you look inside your heart…” and here I am suddenly realizing that my two “little” sisters are more than my friends, they are my heroes.

Being a big sister is like being a super hero, only better.  It’s a job that comes with serious responsibilities often times at such a young age.   As an older sister you are teaching your siblings, whether you realize it or not, the kind of person they want to be.  They are either going to want to emulate your every move or if you are a dick to them growing up they are going to want to become the exact opposite of you.  If you are lucky, you’ll fall somewhere in the middle like I did.

Sisters can be annoying; mine will tell you that I wasn’t always the nicest or most patient sister on the block, but they know I loved them and when push comes to shove, I always have their back.  It’s natural to look up to people older than you, me, not having an older sister to look up to found a good substitute in my babysitters (shout outs to my cousin Allison, Kim & Kristin, and Ms. Sherri).

Once I went to college my relationships with my sisters changed, they started to mature and were no longer based on who had the best beanie baby collection but on who was better at flip cup and when they could visit me at college.  After I graduated we grew even closer and before I knew it those sneaky chicks had become my best friends.

One afternoon in July 2012 I was working some “overtime” for a project at work and got a phone call from my sister Ashlee.  She was crying and told me that she had been diagnosed with ocular melanoma.  I remember telling her that everything would be ok and she shouldn’t worry because everything will work out, she’ll talk to a doctor, give her a plan of attack and she’ll beat it.  Simple as that.

I was wrong.  I’ll spare you the details but essentially it was 11 months of pain and suffering and I lost my sister to cancer on June 5, 2013; 3 days after her 23rd birthday. When I was growing up (and I mean until I was 28) I was invincible and the world was my oyster.  My whole life I had been told that I could have whatever I want if I work hard enough for it.  Being an optimist I honestly never thought she would die.  I thought we would get a miracle and one day Ashlee would start to feel better.  Let me tell you, nothing gives you a reality check like losing your little sister to cancer, or to anything for that matter. There was no amount of money I could raise or number of care packages I could send that would make this better.  It was the first time in my entire life that the circumstances were out of my control and it was the worst feeling in the world.

I wallowed for a few months in my grief, not sure where my path would lead me.  All of my future plans and memories I was counting on in my future included Ashlee in them. After a few months of throwing myself pity parties (which were totally justified) I started to change my tune a little bit when I remembered a text message that I received from Ashlee a few months before:

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I made myself a promise that I would work the rest of my life to personify that text.  To become an inspiration, a better role model, better best friend, and better sister.  I knew that if I were able to personify those words I would become a better person and positive influence in other people’s lives, which was motivation enough for me!

You’ve heard me say it before; I believe that everything happens for a reason but I’m still searching for the reason that God chose to take my sister Ashlee away from the world so soon.  She had so much to offer and was right on the cusp the Phoenix Process which my favorite guru Elizabeth Lesser describes as “our lives ask[ing] us to die and to be reborn every time we confront change—[to] change within our self and change in our world.”

So in her honor, I picked up where Ashlee left off.  Lesser says, “When we descend all the way down to the bottom of a loss, and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain, we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth. When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self—the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion, or anything but companionship on the journey.”

According to Rick Warren, God doesn’t waste a hurt.  The question you have to ask yourself is “what will you do with what you’ve been through?  Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”  Whoa, what a concept, my pain could help people?  No way.

I’ve always been independent but finding happiness in the gravity of that loss changed my life.  It made me whole first the first time in my life (although until then I never realized I was broken) and I finally realized what Novelist Aldous Huxley meant when he said, “Experience is not what happens to you.  It is what you do with what happens to you.”

I choose to respond by being happy.  By seeing the good in people.  By practicing random acts of kindness.  By keeping in touch with the people that mean the most to me and FaceTiming them over calling them whenever possible.  By living deeper in the moment so that my memories are brighter than any picture I could ever take with my iPhone. By remaining open and a shoulder to cry on for others.  By shoveling sunshine all over the world.

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