Monday, April 30, 2012

Accepting forever

I recently read a Caringbridge journal entry from a mom who lost her teenage daughter to cancer last year. Not only did her heartbreak get to me, but something she said in particular had my stomach in knots.

“It’s forever,” she explained. Some days she struggles to come to terms with the fact that this loss—this heartache and pain—is lifelong. It’s not a temporary hurdle. No momentary hardship. It’s something she will have to face every day for as long as she lives.

And like the weight of a brick wall, it fell over me. I knew just what she meant. Certainly I’ve never lost a child and cannot (and will not) tell you I know how it feels. But I do know grief. And grief, over time, tends to come in waves. There are moments of peace, of comfort. But there are also moments of disbelief, as though I’m being told for the very first time.

I remember—too vividly, in fact—that feeling of trying to comprehend a loss. Struggling to understand its permanence. Fighting to accept something you want nothing more than to change. And feeling completely broken when you’d give anything to instead feel whole again.

I’ve talked about grief a lot before (the truth is, it's a part of me). But I’m no expert. All I know is that it’s a journey, one that, once you’ve started, you never get to stop living. 

This topic is heavy on my mind today because it’s been exactly 3 years since Sean’s dad died. I feel almost guilty sometimes because the truth is, I only knew him for 4 years. Imagine his wife and children and loved ones who had him for so much longer! But I’m sad all the same.

And part of that is because I’m realizing lately that grief can be twofold; it’s about missing the person you loved but also missing what they stand for in this life. I miss Sean’s dad as I knew him—his sense of humor, generosity, and warm smile. And I know his family and friends miss the man they knew even better, deeper. But I also grieve over the empty places his absence leaves in our lives. The dad and husband he should still be today. The grandfather I wish my future children could have. The handyman Lord knows we need when things are falling apart and overwhelming us. The friend he would be to so many, especially his sons as they grow into remarkable men.

But we go on because we have to. We learn to live with the ebb and flow of sadness. We find new normals. We pray to the angels watching over us. And we find strength—in each other, in our memories, and in the promise that one day we’ll meet again.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday's Letters

Dear soon-to-be husband: I can’t believe we’re less than two months away from the big day. I can’t way to profess our love to each other in front of all our family and friends.

Dear working from home: Thank you for being just what I needed today. You’re the perfect outlet when I need a little reenergizing outside of the office.
Dear mother nature: I know we’re hovering around average these days, but the 70-degree weather you teased us with a few weeks ago is making this worse. Turn up the thermostat just a little, won’t you?

Dear shopping: Please stop tempting me with your big sales and cute clothes. I do not need to be spending more money right now. And thanks to you, I have too many options for shower outfits. Since when is that ever an issue?

Dear Sean’s dad: I can’t believe in just a few days it will be three years since we lost you. We miss you terribly, especially at this season in our lives. You’re with us in our hearts, but sometimes it still doesn’t feel like enough. Help us through this never-ending journey of grief and let us celebrate you with happy memories.

Dear weekend: I’m looking forward to savoring every minute with you, especially at the two bridal showers our sweet family and friends are hosting. Take your time please, ok?


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Willpower...I have it, er...sometimes

Let me tell you a little not-so-secret secret. I love food. It’s the reason I gained a lot of weight in college, and the reason losing it was so hard. And, might I add, the reason it’s so hard to keep it off, too. (The exercise I can do; the food control is a bit more challenging.). Food is fun!

Allow me to demonstrate.

Yesterday afternoon I was perfectly content. Perhaps glancing at the clock a little too frequently in hopes that the time to go home would just hurry up, but content nonetheless. Then, two rows over but still within earshot, I heard a coworker talking about Cheez-its. Like zero to sixty I went from unphased to “MUST.HAVE.CHEEZ-ITS.” Chalk it up to the mid-afternoon drag or the post-lunch/pre-dinner munchies, but there was no denying that this girl just “had to have” some food.

But instead of heading for the vending machine or the snack shop downstairs, I decided to go for fruit. While nothing more than the innocent conversation among coworkers turned me into a mysteriously ravenous beast, I managed to stifle it with a healthier choice. A lesson in willpower, sort of. Don’t even get me started on recognizing the difference between true hunger and emotional hunger. Clearly that’s a beast of its own.

Postscript: Let it be noted that today, the day after I started writing this post, there were countless treats in the office to celebrate the completion of a big project. And yes, I indulged. I did say I only have willpower sometimes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Disconnected - and it felt so good!

Sean and I have a pretty predictable evening routine.  After dinner, we retreat to the couch and watch a few shows before heading to bed rather early. My computer is never far away, and I’m often found checking up on emails and social networks, for no other reason than boredom, really.

But last night was different. And I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After work I took in a few innings of my sister’s softball game before heading home. When I did get home, Sean took me on a tour of the latest progress the contractors are making on the siding, and then together we started dinner. Sean’s mom stopped by to see how the house was coming along. Dinner was ready just a short time later, and when we were finished we went straight to work on assembling wedding invitations. We stamped envelopes, glued belly bands, and started forming a pretty big pile of almost-ready invites.
Pretty soon it was past our usual bedtime. As I climbed into bed I realized I hadn’t even turn my computer on tonight. I didn’t check my phone for new emails or browse the latest Facebook feed. And I never had a minute to want to do it either.

Sometimes I take for granted how easy it is to get sucked into technology. I spend the majority of my day on a computer, and come home and do the same thing while parked in front of the TV. I’ve become accustomed to religiously checking my phone, to always being connected.

And last night I realized how nice it is to be disconnected sometimes, too. For a couple hours I was living in the moment, not distracted by mindless and unnecessary entertainment on the Internet or TV. Don’t get me wrong—that mindless entertainment is great sometimes, too. But it only made me realize how much I need the balance in my life.

Take the dog for a walk, and leave my phone at home. Leave the computer off in the evenings, because work can wait until tomorrow. Make a phone call to catch up with an old friend, instead of relying on Facebook or email to fill the void.

A change of pace—and probably not one that will instantly become a constant in our lives—but it’s a start. Refreshing.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sometimes & Always

It's Tuesday, and that means it's time for Megan's Sometmes & Always!

Sometimes: I discover a new beverage and become completely obsessed with it.
Always: I drink it religiously and end up getting sick of it really fast.
Sometimes: When I’m particularly exhausted at work, I come really close to falling asleep right at my desk.
Always: I shake it off by turning on my iPod on extra loud or getting up and walk around for 5 minutes. 

Sometimes: I forget to set my alarm (or I set it wrong).
Always: My body wakes me up at the right time anyway. How is this possible?

Sometimes:  I decide to put my wedding band on and wear it around the house just to “practice.”
Always: I get nervous that something will happen to it before the wedding so I quickly put it away for safe keeping.

Sometimes: I start thinking about a million things I have to do and get really overwhelmed.
Always: I write them all down—even if only to start checking things off—and instantly feel more organized and relaxed.
Sometimes: I go shopping and find armfuls of things to try on.
Always: I end up with 1-2 that I actually like enough to buy.

Sometimes: I try and do ab exercises on the floor at home.
Always: I end up stopping after a few crunches because Oliver thinks anytime someone lays on the floor it’s an invitation to lay on their stomach.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Scenes from the weekend

As per usual, Monday morning came around much too soon. I wanted to cry a little when it came time to get out of bed this morning.

We had a lovely and quite productive weekend. The fact that all 3 of us (Sean, me, and the dog) slept like rocks until the alarm sounded this morning is a true testament to just how worn out we must have been. What a great feeling!

Here are some scenes from our weekend, all captured by phone, of course.
 1. The old siding is officially removed from our house! 2. My friend Kyle and I playing card games after our first softball game of the season. 3. Our team's biggest fan! 4. Fading fast while relaxing with friends after softball. 5. Blossoms - my favorite part of spring! 6. Sisters! Shopping on a rainy Saturday. 7. Snuggling with the pup after his much-needed bath. 8. Giant chairs at Menards that make you look like a kid all over again. 9. Sean's day-long project - organizing tools he inherited from his dad. Wish I had his patience!

Looking forward to next weekend already, especially with TWO bridal showers on the calendar. Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I've been honor-ed

Last night I had dinner with one of my best friends. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple weeks. The bustle of daily life gets in the way sometimes. Doesn’t it make you miss high school, when going to school every day at least meant you got to be with your friends? That’s one thing I love most about living with Sean (despite “breaking the rules” by moving in together before we’re married) – at the end of the day, I always get to come home to my best friend!

Anyway…I digress.

So my friend Katie and I met after work for a quick dinner. We gossiped and caught up on life and indulged in good food, and before we knew it an hour and a half had flown by.  Just before we left, she told me she had a small surprise up her sleeve (or in her purse, to be exact).

She pulled out a mini photo album she put together. Inside were pictures of us over the last TWELVE years. If that doesn’t make me feel old, I don’t know what does. It was fun to see how we’ve changed, for better in fact. We remembered every picture vividly—where we were, what we were doing, how much fun we were having.

I think that’s one of the reasons I have love photography so much. A single picture is all it takes to capture a moment in time, the essence of memory, a friendship, a history.

The book centered on a single theme:
When I reached the end, she had written a sweet note and a final question…
I was crying like a baby, of course. We both were. I’m thrilled to be part of her wedding day in any capacity, and truly honored to stand next to her as her matron of honor.

I'm so excited that when my wedding is over in just 2 short months, I’ll have another one to help plan. Woohoo!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Striped nails!

I’ve been a little obsessed with trying fun new things with my nails lately, really for no other reason than boredom.

A few weeks ago I randomly tried a French manicure of sorts but with gray as my base color.

Then, right around Easter, I gave polka dots a shot. I had a lot of fun with that one, and plan on trying some different patterns with those eventually.
Then, last week I came across this pin while browsing Pinterest:
I knew I had to give it a shot. I went to the source website (Chloe's Nails) and browsed around a bit, getting some very helpful tips for getting such a design. Turns out, it was actually much easier than I thought.

I started by painting my nails with the base coat. I used one of my favorite  colors, a pink-toned beige from OPI (Barefoot in Barcelona). Once that coat was dry, I put a small piece of Scotch tape over the lower corner of my nail, and painted the rest of the nail gray (Break A Leg-Warmer from Sephora by OPI).  I did this one-by-one until they were all done. Then, once that layer was dry, I did the top corner in Under my Trench Coat (Sephora by OPI).  I actually skipped the Scotch tape on the last step. The lines aren’t quite as crisp but it was such a small amount that it was really close enough. The best part is you can do this with any 3 colors you want! (And before I put the third layer on, it looked kind of cool just half-and-half, too).
I was pretty excited with the end result. It might just be my new favorite way to wear my nails—until I get bored and find something new, of course.

Thanks for letting me share with you—even if it bored you to tears. I know it’s not for everyone, but I just had to share my fun new find!

Friday, April 13, 2012

My favorite Friday nights

I used to complain when Sean wanted to stay in on Friday nights.  

“We sat at home all week long, let’s do something fun,” I’d insist.

But lately, I’ve discovered that quiet Friday nights at home are among my very favorite nights of all.

They almost always follow the same predictable pattern. We watch the nightly news and then head out to grab some quick dinner. Tonight it was at one of our favorite local Chinese restaurants, where we happened to run into and catch up with a couple friends.

We make our way home from dinner, sometimes stopping to pick up a Redbox or a sweet treat. With a few sporting events on TV, and quality programming like Shark Tank, we decided to skip the Redbox tonight. But we did indulge in some ice cream from the local Queen of Dairy.
Knowing we’re officially in for the night, I immediately change into comfy clothes and wash my face—one less step at bedtime! We take our respective spots on the couch and settle in.

I almost always have the computer in my lap, checking up on very important things like Facebook and Pinterest. Tonight I have my trusty wedding binder by my side, pouring over page after page and attempting to check things off the to-do list.  
Before you know it, Sean quietly slides down the couch and insists he just wants to rest his head. Minutes later his heavy eyelids have won the battle and the remote is teetering on the edge of his hand. I rescue it, of course, and get to catch up on my “girly” DVR shows while he and dog doze away.
Eventually we make our way to bed. No alarms are set. No clothes laid out for the next morning. We just crawl into bed, rest our heads on our pillows, and fall asleep without a single plan for the next 12 hours.

If you ask me, Friday nights don't get much better than this.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Don't worry, be happy

A friend recently shared a rather inspiring article on Facebook. I consider myself a happy person. At least most of the time, I’m generally pleased with my life. (Sean, who is subject to my random bouts of crabbiness over petty things like laundry, may tell you differently.) Honestly, though, I’m at a very happy place in my life.

But reading this article about 15 things to give up to be happy got me thinking. Sometimes it really is the seemingly small stuff that turns out to do the most damage to happiness.  Even if it’s a fleeting thought, it’s a threat to my happiness and it’s not worth my time and energy.

I’ve found myself being so negative lately about a lot of things. This reminded me of the importance of letting go, choosing my battles, and making a deliberate effort to be happy. Very refreshing—and I just had to share.

If you don’t have time to read the article, here’s a quick summary The author suggests that if you give up these 15 things, you could make your life much easier—and happier.

Give up:
  • Your need to always be right
  • Your need for control
  • Blame
  • Self-defeating self-talk
  • Limiting beliefs
  • Complaining
  • The luxury of criticism
  • The need to impress others
  • Resistance to change
  • Labels
  • Fears
  • Excuses
  • The past
  • Attachment
  • Living your life to other people’s expectations
I can’t even begin to narrow down a few of my favorites. I feel like every single one of these is a part of my life in a negative way. Even in small ways, I see how these can affect my happiness without even realizing it.

It definitely opened my eyes to some ways I can make a conscious effort to be positive, and to live my life without feeling like I’m fighting a constant battle against things like competition, pride, or weakness.

Am I the only one who was struck by these? Or are you already doing a great job of conquering these happiness-injuring activities?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend review: Photo overload

From the time we left our house Friday morning to the time our airplane came to a screeching halt back on Minnesota soil last night, it felt like the blink of an eye.

While our trip to Colorado was barely more than 48 hours long, we certainly lived up every minute of it. Aside from the obvious quality time with family and friends, we found time for so many other fun activities.
  • Took in the sights around Boulder and surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Exercised our playful spirits on the backyard trampoline.
  • Savored delicious food in a few local restaurants.
  • Star-gazed from the comforts of the bubbling hot tub.
  • Played with the adorable puppy of Sean’s brother and his girlfriend.
  • Caught the sunrise on a crisp morning.
  • Stuffed our faces with snacks and Easter candy.
  • Raced each other around a go-kart track.
  • Scoured the basement for candy-filled Easter eggs.  
  • Enjoyed a frozen cocktail in the middle of the day.
  • Browsed dozens of charming shops along Boulder’s famous Pearl Street.  
  • Attended Easter mass
I also got to spend some quality time with my camera, because it’s been too long. So consider this your warning, photo overload ahead:

It was a wonderful weekend away, a great time for catching up and taking time to breathe.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Call me crazy - Part 1?

Go ahead, call me crazy. Sometimes I am...
{{When I'm driving somewhere and not entirely sure where I'm going, the first thing I do when I try to figure it out is turn down the radio. For what reason? I have no idea!

{{I’m hesitant to tell people my age when it comes up (particularly in the workplace). But contrary to what you may think, 99% of the time it’s because I’m worried about seeming too young. It must be a bit of that “old soul” thing in me, but I’d rather they think of me as a mature, capable peer – not the office baby (disclaimer: it’s probably more in my head than what they would actually think).

{{I hate public restrooms. Doesn’t anyone think it’s odd to share such personal, ahem, activities, next to someone you barely (or don’t) know? Taking a pee next to my best friend while chatting through the stall wall? Totally OK with it. Listening to the bodily functions of someone I’m going to be sitting in a meeting with later? Awkward, if you ask me.

{{I frequently catch myself avoiding cracks in sidewalks or tiles to avoid “breaking my mother’s back.” Welcome back to 1st grade!

{{I absolutely disapprove of judging “a book by its cover” when it comes to people…but I’m still 100% guilty of it. Take, for example, the grocery store. I choose a checkout line based on whether the cashier looks friendly (but not too chatty) and non-judgmental (God forbid they see my lean cuisines and think, “hah, you need more help than that, girlfriend.”) How anyone can look either of these things, I don’t know. Why I do it in the first place? An even greater mystery.

….Oh and this is only scratching the surface. Perhaps this will become a series. Lord knows I’ve got plenty more crazy quirky qualities.
But we’ve all got something unique to us – good and bad. I can’t be the only one, right?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mixed bag Monday

Mondays are slightly less depressing—and I do only mean slightly—when you have a shorter week ahead. We’re taking a quick trip for the Easter holiday this weekend and that means no work on Friday. Woohoo!
{Gorgeous sky this morning}
This past weekend was quite nice. Despite the weather being much less enjoyable on Saturday than forecasted, I managed to sneak in a walk with friends, some shopping, and a fun party in honor of our friends’ engagement. We spent a good portion of our Sunday wandering around Menards, dreaming up projects we could do around the house and gathering materials for spring cleanup. Two years after moving in, we finally puppy-proofed the yard. Oliver enjoys his newfound freedom, though he’s still under supervision until we’re sure there are no more holes he can squeeze his 7-pound frame through.
{Little rascal}

The bad news is that I’ve finally been struck with a full blown cold, the one I managed to avoid all winter long but get hit with as soon as spring arrived. Thank you, universe, for the kick in the shins.

This morning, just a few minutes into my commute, it became quite clear that the handful of tissues I pocketed weren’t going to last me long enough. By the time I got to the office, I was seriously flirting with the idea of using my sleeve—and hanging my head in shame for being that girl who couldn’t stop sniffling.

Thankfully a new convenience store just opened in our building. I made a beeline for the Kleenex. When I was all done I boarded the crowded elevator, a full size box of tissues under my arm and a handful of lozenges and remedies to get me through the day. I politely held my breath and pretended not to be embarrassed that I looked like I should be headed for my bed instead of the office.

So in the meantime I’m powering through the fog and hoping to make it at least through lunch time. While I’m doing no one any favors by bringing my germs here, I am washing my hands religiously and trying to avoid as much contact as possible. You’re welcome, kind of.

So my Monday is a bit of a mixed bag, but I’ll take it. You win some, you lose some.

How was your weekend? Are you, like me, already looking ahead to Friday?