Sunday, June 17th, 2012.

The indent from your body still permanently rests on the right end of the taupe couch, the one you complained was too soft to be truly comfortable. And it’s the image that accompanies that permanent impression that will always flash to my mind when I look at the right end of the too soft couch.

It’s the image of you, with your feet kicked up to the side, your eyes slowly closing and head drooping as you read the news for the day. It’s the image of you, eating your peanut butter egg sandwich as you watch the morning news on the weekends. It’s the images of you leaping up from your spot when the Packers made a good play. It’s the millions of little images that compile what remains of you. It’s the reminder that all that physically remains of you, is the imprint left on your chair.

Sunday, June 17th, 2012 was the last Father’s Day we ever had the blessing of sharing. It was taken for granted, you were not appreciated in the right way. Now, as the photos of people with their dads flood social media for the day, with the captions that ring with tones of superficial appreciation, I wish that I would have been grateful for you in the right ways. I’m saddened that it took the death of you for us to truly appreciate your giving heart and your soothing presence, instead of being just a deeper set of pockets for us to use when necessary. While it is a blessing to be able to have a father who can do that, it is not why we should appreciate them. They give up so much of their lives to ensure that we have a wonderful, stable life.

What my family would give if we could just say “Hi, Daddy, Happy Father’s Day!” one more time. What we would give to see his smile, hear his voice, his same old jokes and resounding laughter. What my family would give to chat with him and catch up on this Father’s Day is incomprehensible to most, unless they know the same pain.

So for those of you who still are blessed to have your dad, cherish him more than ever because the heartache we know when we see the impression on his vacant chair, is beyond compare.

I’m Not The Girl You Date.

I’m not the girl you hold hands with while walking downtown. I’m not the girl you could spend hours staring at and never cease to be amazed by the curve of her lips or the way her eyes glimmer and shine when she’s truly passionate about something. I’m not the one you text randomly just to say you’re thinking of me. I’m not the one you want a relationship with, I’m not the girl you date.

I’m the girl that you meet at a bar, dancing for hours without inhibitions. I’m the girl you buy a drink and strike up a conversation with, whether it be superficial or meaningful. I’m the one who will dare you to take the last shot, or be the first one to call you a chicken if you don’t. I’m the girl with the never ending smile and laughter who doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. I’m the girl that lives in the moment, the one who is out to have fun. I’m the one who goes on adventures on a whim, the girl who will get a new tattoo or piercing when the mood strikes. I am the girl that follows her heart and lets the wind carry her.

I’m not the girl you date because I’m not ready to be that girl. In fact, I don’t want to be that girl, yet. I’m young and I want to drift. For now, I want to flow free. I want my soul to be able to wander. I want to find myself and make myself whole before becoming a part of something. If I don’t allow myself to roam, to explore and adventure as it desires, I can’t ever fully combine my whole self with another to create an everlasting circle. I’m at an age where I am able to adventure, to seek new understanding in areas my parents never had the opportunity to. I’m still looking for myself, and until I complete that journey, I’m going to live every moment without inhibition and without concern.

I haven’t met the person that’s given me the overwhelming sense that I’m meant for them; that I’m meant to combine my life journey with theirs. But I’m sure, once I’m ready, that I’ll be ready to be the girl you date. The decision to be this girl, however, is on my terms, and no amount of societal peer pressure can tell me that I’m living my life wrong because I want to be single.

A Thought On Intimacy

Intimacy is not about who you let touch you, it’s not about those that you let into your bed and under your sheets. Intimacy is not even in the realm that those are placed in. These are all physical acts, and intimacy is not a physical act. Intimacy is not the bareness of a body, but rather the bareness of a heart, mind and soul.

Intimacy is the look in someone’s eyes when they have told you their biggest fears in life, their biggest failures, their biggest mistakes…Intimacy is the ability to speak freely, of anything, and know that the only reaction you receive is acceptance. Intimacy is the ability to be fully honest with someone, to be able to communicate openly and without hesitation or need for lies. Intimacy is being comfortable in silence as you each do separate tasks, not worrying about anything because you know each other’s hearts, you know each  other’s hears.

In today’s world, and especially in my generation, society finds it easy to take their clothes off, be naked and have sex with one another without hesitation. But opening our souls to someone? Opening our spirits, hopes, fears, and dreams? It’s one of the hardest acts that our generation has ever happened upon. And what a tragedy that is; a willing generation too scared to ever truly open their hearts. I’ve never heard a more beautiful tragedy.

The Second Year Burn

Grief never ends…But it changes.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith,  it is the price of love.

They tell you that time will make it easier; that time will mend your broken heart with stitches and the scars will fade to the light pink that is only noticeable under the right light. They say that with time, the grief lessens, that the sadness lifts up out of your life and the gaping hole left in its midst is filled with memories and bliss.  While time might make it easier, I firmly believe that the second year is the hardest.

It’s hard to even say it. It’s hard to admit that someone you loved so dearly, someone that was a huge part of your life has been out of your life for two whole years.  I still find myself struggling to get the words out when people ask me about my dad. And what’s frightening is that it hasn’t gotten easier to admit by this second year. In fact, I think it’s gotten harder.

What makes the second year so hard? Well, I think it has to do with the year full of memories that you have created, but that the person you love is not a physical part of them. It’s how you notice that a few days go by where you don’t think about it and then it just hits you like a freight train roaring at full speed. It’s the idea that they have been gone for a full two years, making the fact that they won’t return more concrete than ever.

Personally,  I think it has to do with seeing all of these families around you,  whole and creating new memories.  It’s bittersweet to witness your friends growing up and sharing milestones with both of their parents. It’s a happy sight, to witness families creating these memories,  basking in the happiness they bring.  However,  I cannot help but feel a twinge of pain and jealousy mixed with guilt for feeling that way. By the time two years rolls around,  you have accumulated a multitude of memories that feel empty without your loved one.  And I think that’s what makes the second year so hard, the memories you have of your loved one start to become more distant as the new memories you’re accumulating start to fill those spaces.

There is no timeline to follow when it comes to the loss of someone you love,  especially a parent. The years following the loss can feel like you are submerged in an ocean of grief. The pain flows and ebbs, like the tides of the ocean.  Sometimes the water is calm,  and sometimes the water can be overwhelming.   We can never learn to control the motion of the water, all we can do is learn how to swim.  So that’s what the third year will be for me,  a trial and error in navigating the sea of life without my dad.

Pheonix Burning

She liked to watch things burn, to see the colors consume whatever was before. For so long it felt like she had been burning too bright, a star on the verge of a supernova. She had felt like everyone around her was blinded by her,  unable to see past what was outside.  They seemed confused when she talked,  unable to process the journey she was undergoing. When she realized how bright her aura was growing, she began to get worried, worried that she would burn out and no longer spread light into the depths of the world. So she began to diminish her flames, so everyone would understand her.  However,  she realized that by dimming her glow,  she was diminishing herself.  She began to become dark,  mentally and physically.  But that’s when her fascination with fire began.  She saw the beauty in the way the flames danced against the black sky,  the way they cut through the darkness and spread hope into despair.  That’s when she realized that fire doesn’t destruct, it creates.  It destroys to create,  but never to wreak havoc. It never leaves despair,  instead it leaves remnants so that something can be rebuilt.

Knowing that,  she spread her wings and embraced her destruction. She watched the flames with awe as they swirled around her,  engulfing all aspects of her life. To her this wasn’t her demise,  this was just the beginning. Because just as the beautiful, mythical pheonix,  this was her rebirth, this was her chance to rise from the ashes and recreate herself.  This was the part when she becomes born anew, into a  truer form that would allow her to soar to new heights.

So she watched with glowing eyes as the flames danced in her vision because she knows that demise is not synonymous with destruction. No, demise is simply rebirth,  an entry point to new paths and possibilities. And almost instantly, she felt the warmth from within as she embraced her old friend,  fire.

Choose Beautiful.

Today, as I took a break from reading about the lac, arabinose and tryptophan operons, I opened Facebook and saw yet another wonderful Dove campaign (link here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/07/dove-beauty-choose-beautiful-campaign-video_n_7010178.html). As I watched I couldn’t help but smile, because it is one of those videos that makes you see the beauty in others and yourself. It was a shocking revelation to realize that I would have walked through the average door without a thought, and would have encouraged many of my friends to go through the beautiful door. And so I thought to myself; what makes me see them as beautiful and myself as average?

Ever since I was little, I have never considered myself beautiful. I mean of course my mom has always told me that I am beautiful, but I shrugged it off as her unconditional love blinding her. I have never once felt beautiful according to society and their standards. And that’s when it hit me: society. Ever since I was a little, impressionable girl I have been exposed to the standards of society. The standards that they require for beauty: a perfect complexion, a thin yet strong figure, exotic facial features and hair with just the right amount of gloss and shine, all while looking like their skin is bare and void of make up. However, I was never exposed to the beauty of an open heart, a genuine smile, and a selfless soul.

Since the beginning of my involvement in the leadership minor here at the university, I have been challenged to defy the standards, to challenge what I see in our world and change what I want. In more ways than one, these leadership courses have caused me to evolve, to change the way I see people and the way I see myself. Take for example, the idea of vulnerability. I hated to be seen as vulnerable, to trust others enough to open up and let others see what I had been through, but now, I see nothing as more beautiful. When we are truly ourselves, we are vulnerable and there is nothing more beautiful than that. There is nothing else that can make us strong. Ever since the first course in this minor, I have seen the makings of my peers. I find myself riveted listening to their stories, reveling in the experiences and lessons they bring to our communities. And never have I ever felt surrounded by this many beautiful people. It is in the kindness in their eyes, in the genuine emotions they speak, in the vulnerability they share when telling stories, in the help their hands selflessly offer…This group of people are the most beautiful humans I have encountered, and not one reason is directly related to society’s standards.

So I’m here to say screw society. Screw their standards. There is only one person who can deem themselves beautiful and that person is you. You have the power to define yourself: you and you alone. As of this day, I am beautiful. I am a survivor, a fighter, a giver, and a lover and that is what makes me beautiful. You are beautiful. Never forget that, and never let anyone tell you anything else. You are powerful. You are intelligent. You are strong. You are kind.

You. Are. Beautiful.

21st Birthday

It is a mere thirteen days until my 21st birthday. For many of you who do know me, I personally hate having birthday celebrations. I’m not entirely sure when this trend started for me, or maybe I’ve always been this way because I hate having attention on me. I’m content with a small, family and extremely close friends type of soiree. I’ve always been fond of more intimate, relaxed type of events for my birthday like this because it allows me to spend the most time with those I cherish and love the most. However, turning 21 is a big deal in this day and age. While I will go out to dinner and probably to a few bars as well, there is one important thing that I wish to accomplish by the end of my 21st birthday. In this past year and a half, I have learned that life is too short to act in a selfish manner. We need to celebrate our lives by being thankful for everything this world has to offer us. So instead of asking for gifts or money this year, I will be participating in 21 random acts of kindness in hopes of paying it forward. So before the girls and my family force me to go to the bars of downtown Minneapolis, I will have these random acts of kindness already done and I hope that it will inspire someone to do the same. After all, I’ve found my best days to be on days that I am able to help others, even if it is only in a small manner. So here are the random 21 acts:

  1. Compliment a stranger
  2. Buy the person’s coffee behind me
  3. Give food to the homeless
  4. Leave extra money in a vending machine
  5.  Leave a “You’re awesome” note on someone’s desk
  6. Take flowers to a hospital or nursing home.
  7. Leave a gift for the mail person
  8. Help someone load their car (groceries, luggage, etc…)
  9. Bake treats to hand out to random people
  10. Carry a free High Five or Free Hugs sign and  hand them out
  11. Tape popcorn bags to red-box movie stands.
  12. Leave random notes of happiness on windshields of cars.
  13. Hold the door open for as many people as possible
  14. Hand out random complimented notes to those on the street.
  15. Leave treats at neighbors’ houses anonymously.
  16. Hand out balloons to kids at a shopping center.
  17. Give flowers out to people on the street
  18. Donate clothes and old toys
  19. Write a thank you note to my mom, grandma, and those who have passed for they have made me who I am today.
  20. Smile at everyone I pass.
  21. Buy my family and friends coffee along with cute thank you cards for just being amazing :)

Their Final Resting Place.

An ode to anyone who has lost someone they loved.

The hardest part about mourning the loss of a loved one is the uncertainty that accompanies it. The uncertainty of where they are, what they are feeling/experiencing, and the uncertainty of if you will ever see them again. It’s not necessarily the fact that they’re gone, because eventually time helps you come to terms with that sad fact. Instead, it’s the idea that they are gone forever, the idea that there will never be a love-filled reunion in lives to come. It’s the sadness in the fact that you feel as though they will never experience your life with you. It’s the uncertainty of what comes after death. It’s hard to imagine where their final resting place is, where they will spend the rest of eternity.

I think for me, that is what is so hard about accepting the loss of my dad and grandpa. It’s not that they’re physically gone, but instead the idea that their essence is gone. That I will never feel the comforting, loving aura they emitted in life. But that all changed a few days ago. I was visiting their grave sites, and I was more distraught than I had been in a long time, telling them everything that had occurred in the past weeks. As I finished my story, this overwhelming peace filled me. I looked up, over the walls that encircle them, and watched as the pink and red hues filled the sky as the sun began to set. I felt the wind brush my cheeks, instantly drying the tears and caressed my hair just as a loved one might. I felt the warmth in the final rays of the sun, bringing a glowing feeling to the center of my being. That is when I realized something of great importance: our loved ones don’t have one final resting place. We may bury their physical remnants in a crypt or grave, but their essence, their love, is all around us. As I experienced, they are the wind that dries your tears and helps you see clarity. They are the sun, providing a feeling of warmth and a glow of optimism in our lives. They are the birds that take flight, watching from above as you journey down the road of life. They are in all of our surroundings, even when it doesn’t seem like it.

It took me a long time to realize this for myself, and maybe this is something that varies by person. But ever since that experience, I have noticed myself at ease. I find comfort in my surroundings because I know that my dad and grandpa, the essence of who they were as human beings, will never be gone from my life. It’s ingrained in the world, in my mind, in my soul, and most importantly, in my heart. So bear with me for the rest of this entry, I was feeling inspired and wrote my first poem in a very, very, very long time.

Their final resting place

Is not in a grave, nor in a vase.

They aren’t stuck in one spot,

Nor confined to the area of our thoughts.

They are neither here nor there,

Instead, they reside everywhere.

They’re the wind in your hair,

Just rushing through to say they still care.

They’re the warmth in the rays from the sun,

Proving that the darkness of the world hasn’t won.

They’re the birds flying high through the sky,

Free to travel and keep a watchful eye.

No, the ones we love never leave us behind

All we have to do is look to find

Their essence surrounds us from the inside,

It flows as smooth as a tide

From their souls to our life,

Filling us with peace and replacing our strife.

Grade A cheesy poem, but the idea still rings true to me.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Another year – a new set of memories of you is what I should be writing about, but instead I write of memories from the past. You left us with beautiful memories, ones full of grace, tenderness, love and laughter, but they are becoming older with each passing day. It’s hard to not be bitter on a day like today, a day filled with raw emotion that has me praying to keep the flood gates of tears closed. I promised myself that I would not be full of bitterness today, that I would smile and laugh while reminiscing of the days I was blessed to spend with you. While you were given 51 beautiful birthdays, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like to have had these past two birthdays with you, to wonder what you would have been like at age 52 or 53 and beyond. Would you still claim to be “on to me like white on rice?” Would your bald spot have increased in radius? Would your laugh sound the same, or would it have aged with accumulation of knowledge and wisdom? Unfortunately, these are questions I will never know the answer to, but I can always look to grandma to see what the potential outcome was.  I can’t help but feel jaded that you are not here to answer them, but I could not be more blessed to share another beautiful celebration with grandma.

While it would be easy to write a list of 53 things I wish I could experience with you, I’m not going to. I could write 53 ways in which your death has altered my view point on life, but I’m not going to. Instead, I am going to limit myself to one thing that I think is direly important to remember. We need to start living life like every day is our birthday. Every single morning we are blessed enough to wake up, we should celebrate. Some days it will be hard to keep a positive mindset, but in the long run, there is no reason to wake up and create a crappy day because you have a negative attitude. The days we receive are limited. So when you wake up in the morning, wake up like it’s your birthday, a day to celebrate, a day to remember. The moment we start waking up like this, the moment we start acting like life is a blessing, then it will finally start to feel like one. There are days where I would exchange my life for my father’s, but in the end, this is the card I was dealt and when I realize that being alive and healthy is all anyone could ask for, then I will realize the true beauty of leaving a living legacy behind after I take my last breath.

I’m not entirely sure where I stand on what happens to one after they pass, but, today, I do know that I hope you and grandpa are somewhere, enjoying a rum and diet coke and gin & tonic, respectively, in honor of the shared birthday with your mom and his wife. No matter where you are, I want you to have the most beautiful of days, dear father. I have failed to resign to your death thus far and continue to  wish it was just a dream, but for today, I will walk with the knowledge that you are by my side, taking in the celebration of life that we have commenced. I know you’re watching from above, and I’m sending love and warm birthday blessings to my angel upstairs.

To end, I would like to send my daddy a few birthday wishes:

  1. I hope you are resting peacefully somewhere, with unlimited access to your favorite foods and drinks.
  2. I hope you have reconnected with the friends and family who passed before or after you.
  3. I hope that you are proud of us.
  4. I hope that you celebrate your birthday along with us.
  5. But most importantly, I hope that one day, we can all meet again.

Happy 53rd Birthday, Dad – have a rum and coke for me.

I love you with all of my heart.

Atlas Burning.

Her thoughts are darker now, consumed with the fears and sadness life has brought to her feet. She works harder to hide the pain behind a whitened smile, erasing all physical defects so that she may appear physically, and consequently, emotionally put together. She channels all of her energy, picks up her bag and walks out the door to live another day.

She knows that she is not alone in her battle, that she is not the only one fighting these demons who have made home in her soul, heart and brain. The demons are a similarity that connects people, no one goes without fighting demons. The only difference is the heads these ugly demons rear. The nightmares are not solely unique to her, but spread across the world, reaching even the deepest cracks of the most well put together people. The negative thoughts are not a side effect of her condition, instead they are a side effect of living. The fight to rid her life of negativity is a constant battle, one that every human must fight themselves at some point.

However dark her thoughts may turn, however stained she believes her life is, she knows that there is a silver lining waiting to burn up her sky. She may be exhausted of the warring in her mind and body, but she knows that soon she will find the light to burn these ghosts that haunt her. Despite all of the negative, all of the evil, she hangs on to that sliver of hope. Although it may not be for a while, she knows that she will set her demons on fire, that she will win this fight and light up the sky with the remnants of her past. While she may not be in perfect condition, physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual, she knows that it will eventually be okay. She will one day make peace with her scars, and that, that is why her spirit burns alive, refusing to be blackened to a mere shadow of her previous self. No, she will fight, she will light the fire that keeps her spark alive, because she knows that she is her own hero – capable of saving herself.