Vous Prenez Mon Souffle

Have you ever met anyone by chance? In the strangest of ways; at the checkout line in Target, on a bus to a strange destination, in a grocery aisle while you’re deciding which scent of shampoo you should get this time? These times are amazing to me. You know, these people thrown at you from out of nowhere who are looking for the exact same thing that you are in the exact same moment. You go through life thinking that you’re so unique, but in that instant someone else is just like you. And maybe you were supposed to run into them for a certain reason, maybe just to say “hi”, offer a smile, lock eyes for a second. You don’t know that one of these moments could be one the best days of your life because you’re simply living. You’re going on, it’s a typical day when out of the blue someone steps into your life and everything suddenly changes. But that’s the beauty of life, right? The unexpected.

And then there are the people you meet who you know in an instant are about to change your whole world, flip your life around.

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why such bad things happen to good people. Why some people have to suffer, be charged guilty when they’re not, live with illnesses when others are so, so healthy. I struggle with this a lot sometimes, the whole life being so unfair thing. I still don’t really have any answers.

The only thing that I can think of is to start over. I guess we’re lucky we have new days, a new year every January, seasons that change. It may not take away a sentence or an illness, but at least it’s something to hold on to. What do we have today that we didn’t have yesterday? New days are a way to start over, to ignore the old memories, throw away trash that’s bringing us down, maybe look at the world a little bit differently. I mean, I don’t know. I guess that’s easy for me to say, and in a lot of instances people are stuck in the now because of circumstances, but trying never hurt anyone. Amid all the shit, there’s always a silver lining. Always something that makes us feel better. That we can look at and smile and know that even though everything sucks, and life is so, so hard we have this one thing, this bit of glue that we can hold on to and for that moment life is wonderful.

We all have little things that we can rely on to help pick us up. For me it’s always iced coffee, a walk outside, a phone call to my Mom, a hot shower, a book, a Meg Ryan movie or one of my favorite meals. Music always, One Tree Hill reruns, leggings and sweaters. No matter how bad things get there are things I have to do when I’m in the worst moods, when I’m heartbroken, that can pick me back up again. Even the littlest things. Because I can’t allow myself to go there, to hit rock bottom, to focus on what I cannot change.

You don’t always have to lie to yourself, to smile or pretend to be happy. Sometimes I think it’s okay to admit that your life is in shambles. That you’re in pain because this awful, terrible thing happened to you and as a result your heart is breaking, and maybe because of that other peoples are too. I think that that’s life. Horrible things happen to people, to good people, and these good people have to learn to accept these things while remembering that they still deserve happiness, and doing everything that they can to get it.

How many people have ever thought to themselves that they deserved some sort of pain? “I’m not good enough, that’s why he broke up with me.” Or, “It’s only fair that I was diagnosed with this illness, I’ve been a horrible person.” “I’m going to be alone for the rest of my life because I’m too stupid, fat, ugly, skinny, etc.” Whatever it is. I’m sorry, no. Nobody deserves pain. No one deserves to feel like they’re not worth it, that they’re not good enough, that as a result of something that they don’t deserve happiness and should be alone. No.

I think that a lot of people are stuck in a certain mindset and can’t for the life of them get out. They think that because they think so poorly of themselves, everyone else must too and they create these walls to protect other people that they could hurt and especially themselves. And maybe some terrible person along the way made them feel this way, that they’re disgusting, not good enough, not worth anyones time. But it doesn’t mean that everyone else feels this way. Somebody, somewhere thinks that you’re amazing. That you’re life changing, wonderful, smart, hilarious, beautiful, the piece of them that they’ve been missing all along.

I think that we spend so much time worrying about our pasts, that a lot of time we forget that our future is right now, and we’re letting it slip away before we even realize it, and then it’s too late. We forget that these walls that we’re creating to keep people safe are actually making things worse for everyone, for ourselves. We convince ourselves that we’re not worth it, that we’re better off alone, that it’s okay that we’re letting our dreams go up in smoke because no one really cares anyway. That’s a lie. People care. I care.

So, say it. Tell them that they’re amazing, life changing, that they take your breath away. Tell them that their voice makes your knees week, that you are amazed by them every single day, that you believe in them. Tell them that if you can make them smile at least once a day, it honestly makes your whole day worth it, better. If someone makes you feel special then tell them. If someone makes you feel like you need them, want them, crave them, dream of them then tell them. Maybe they won’t care, but maybe they will. Tell the lady at the grocery story that you like her hair, the old man at the coffee shop that his smile made your whole day. Pay for someone’s toll on the highway just because, let someone know how alive they make you feel, let someone in who you’ve been trying to keep out an order to guard your own heart. Tell people how you feel. Because why not? What do people have to lose? Bad things happen, and some things may seem way, way worse than others and maybe they are. But we still have these little things, these little pieces of happiness like music and pizza and that one person in your life that you honest to God think about all day long.

Some of our pasts will never go away. Some of our scars will always be there, even if nobody else can see them, but we feel them every single day. But there is a silver lining, there is. I promise you that there is. Because when you do something that you love, when you follow your heart, or step outside of your comfort zone, or simply do something you love because time isn’t on your side and you can, a weight lifts. Failure is inevitable for everyone. Heartbreak is unavoidable. Bad days, people who are supposed to be on your side but aren’t, being let down. Everyone goes through it. If someone wants to help you, or be there for you because they genuinely want to then you should let them.

But I don’t know, life is just better when you look at these people who you meet by chance and allow yourself to be amazed by them. When you allow yourself to believe that you are worth it, and when someone tells you that you make their life better you should believe that too. Take down the walls. People wouldn’t try to be part of your life if they didn’t believe in you, if they didn’t believe that you’re worth it, if they didn’t want to.

Everyone deserves happiness.

We Keep This Love In a Photograph

Sometimes I forget that my Dad is sick. He will appear to be behaving “normal”, act like he always has, or say something familiar and it’s like he was never diagnosed with Dementia, like he’s the same guy I grew up with.

But then suddenly it’s back, and I’m full of reminders. I’ll be talking to him and slip. I’ll say something like, “Do you remember the time…?” and he’ll stare at me, his eyes will turn sad, and he’ll shake his head “no” and it’s suddenly back, that reminder that he’s sick, clear as day. Sometimes he asks me the same questions over and over and over again, he’ll get mad at me and ask why I haven’t called him, even if I just did. Sometimes he will stare off into space, get scared in busy areas, become anxious when he’s in the car until he’s handed my iPad with a brand new game of Solitaire waiting for him.

11890958_10153599315448184_2998039993137781395_nI don’t know how to explain Dementia other then to say that it’s like something or someone has actually reached in and stolen his memories, part of his identity. Things that he used to like he just doesn’t anymore. Places he used to love he now hates, foods he used to enjoy he no longer likes. He’s more sensitive to sounds, taste, touch.

As a child my father used to tell me that he was so strong that he could lift the whole house. That he would never, ever leave me. That he would be there always, that the world was my canvas, and I believed him.

It couldn’t be more obvious that this isn’t true anymore. That my hero is deteriorating, that he has never actually been able to lift a house. How can you sit back and watch your hero disappear?

This past week my brother and his family flew in from Florida. A desperate attempt to throw us all together and pretend that everything was alright for just a little while, and for the most part I think that it worked. It was nice to live in a little bit of a fantasy land for a little while, I wish that I could stay there forever.

It didn’t really hit me until the other night, the finality of it all. How scary life can be, and how angry I am that someone I love so much is being taken from me when I’m not ready yet. We were sitting together around a campfire; my parents and my brother and sister-in-law, my 3 year old niece and 8 year old nephew who believe that my father is still okay, that he can still lift the house if he really wanted to. We could see hundreds of stars, and I just grabbed my nephews hand and began to dance. He laughed as I spun him around and around, and before too long my niece was spinning with my father and my brother was dancing with my mother and it just hit me. As I spun around and around in the darkness and I looked at the people that I love more than anything in the entire world I knew that this was the very last time that we would ever do this, and I could feel my heart breaking. I could.

I spun so many times I fell to the grass, and looked up at the sky full of 11892046_10206511102008544_7229151547221659384_nstars and realized in that moment that there was absolutely nowhere that I would rather be. Nowhere. And in that moment “Cry Out To Jesus” came on the radio, and I promise that it felt like it was to me, a secret from above.

I feel like this past week we all tried to squeeze as many memories into it as we possibly could. Homemade waterslides, watermelon, campfires with burned marshmallows, barbecues, trips to the fair, games of Ladderball and as many snuggles with the kids and games of Phase 10 as we possibly could. Like we were desperate to make it last, create memories that we could store away for when we will need them. For those times that we need him, miss him more than air, need a little piece of him that we will never, ever get back.

1506580_10153120409528184_4544738599285039618_nSometimes I wish that I could go back in time. Not to change things, just so that I could relive some moments twice. This night was one of them. One of my biggest fears is that someday I’m going to forget; his favorite things, or the sound of his voice, what he looks like. And when my children ask me about the grandfather that they never got the chance to meet, I want to be able to tell them.

I try so hard to be strong for my family and especially my mom, but sometimes I’m just not. Sometimes my heart hurts and the thought of the future makes me sick. I wish more than anything in the whole world that my dad could someday know my children, walk me down the aisle, and be there for another fifty Christmas’s because he loves that time of the year just as much as I do.

I don’t want to be angry and bitter, to be mad at God and the scientists and doctors who have yet to create a cure, at time for speeding up rather than slowing down, at myself for taking advantage of times I could have spent with family and I chose not to. I want to live while there’s still time, to create new memories, to not dwell on what I can’t change. I do. But sometime’s it’s so hard not to be be mad, not to cry late at night when I’m all alone, to not think of the inevitable future that I cannot change no matter how hard I try. I want to be strong, positive, alive, a role model for those watching my family, and especially my father as we fight this battle.

But I’d be lying if I said that my heart wasn’t broken right now, if I didn’t go to bed every single night begging for more time.

Oh Darling, I Wish You Were Here

Right now.

  1. Let Me In – Secondhand Serenade
  2. Sippin’ On Fire – Florida Georgia Line
  3. Into the Ocean – Blue October
  4. For You – Tin Sparrow
  5. We Are Tonight – Billy Currington
  6. Vanilla Twilight – Owl City
  7. For You – Peter Bradley Adams
  8. Meanwhile Back at Mama’s – Tim McGraw
  9. Give Up – The Postal Service
  10. Beautiful Drug – Zac Brown Band
  11. Let’s Be Still – The Head and the Heart
  12. Skinny Love – Bon Iver
  13. Transatlanticism – Death Cab For Cutie
  14. All of the Stars – Ed Sheeran
  15. Sangria – Blake Shelton
  16. Don’t Blink – Relient K
  17. Make You Miss Me – Sam Hunt
  18. All I Want – Kodaline
  19. Ashes and Wine – A Fine Frenzy
  20. Sunshine and Whiskey – Frankie Ballard

Pillow Talk By Candle Light

The word love gets thrown around too much. I feel like because it’s used so regularly, it’s not taken as seriously when the time comes to tell someone that you love them. Or maybe people mess it up by saying it too soon in hopes that it’ll keep them around, or maybe they won’t leave, or maybe if you say it then they’ll have to say it back. That’s just not true, it’s not.

I mean, I love root beer, being barefoot and apple picking because they make me smile. I also love blasting “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” with my windows rolled down, watching my niece and nephew smile at me via Skype, the movie Pitch Perfect and the feeling I get when I watch the Nutcracker each winter with my mom. But that’s not love. It’s…extreme like?

So, why do I say that I love them? Maybe because it would be really weird to use a different word. “I strongly enjoy my cat” makes me sound really weird. I love my grandmother, but I also love mashed potatoes? It’s true, I do love mashed potatoes, but given the opportunity to choose life or death between the two, I would have to choose my grandmother. Because it’s just not the same thing.

It’s hard for me to tell someone that I love them, so for me it’s a word that I rarely use for real unless I’m talking about something easy like taco’s or any song involving a guitar. For me, it’s not an easy thing to say. Maybe a little bit because I feel like it’s so overused and I believe that it should be special, that the word should mean something. Snow Patrol said it best when they say, “those three words, are said too much, they’re not enough.” I mean, they are said too much, but I do think that in some instances they can be enough.

It’s a different love between family members and someone you’re dating or have feelings for. Honestly, I’ve never been in love with anyone that I’ve dated before, I mean truly in love. I’ve dated before, and I experienced a lot of firsts, but it was never the kind of love where I wanted to change things or make sacrifices for that person, uproot my life, get married and have kids. To me it was just that we both liked each other and we wanted to spend time together. I felt really strongly for them. But we never had anything in common, we didn’t visit each other for holidays, our families weren’t familiar with one another, I wasn’t waiting for an engagement ring, there weren’t any expectations. It just…wasn’t love.

I have a hard time telling someone how I feel, so with me you really have to listen. Maybe I’ll tell you to be careful, or I’ll get you your favorite things, or tell you to go to bed early because I can tell you’re overtired. Maybe I’ll sacrifice my sleep to stay up and talk, or send you a package because even if I can’t see you open it I know it’ll make you smile. Maybe I’ll just let you in, tell you secrets, step outside of my comfort zone more than I have before. Music is the best with me, because I think that a lot of times it says things for me that I have such a hard time saying myself. So, you have to listen, especially to the lyrics.

It’s scary when someone comes along that makes me open up because I’m not used to it. That ridiculous feeling like you’ve never been happier in your entire life, the sound of their voice makes happy, like it’s home. I’m not the type of person who dates all the time, not unless that person is worth it to me. Not unless it’s that kind of can’t eat, can’t breath, wish I could be there with them all the time, change my life without even trying kind of worth it.

I don’t know, I just feel like love is special. It should be used sparingly, only when someone really means it. It shouldn’t be used when talking about ordinary things, no matter how much I like ballet around Christmas or Taco Tuesdays. I don’t want anyone to tell me they love me just because they feel like that’s what they should say, or they think that it will make me happy, or they think it’s what I want to hear. That changes things, it’s not as special and it should always be special. I want them to mean it, to really mean it in the same butterfly, ridiculous smile on their face, can’t-think-about-anyone-else-ever kind of way. If I hear those words I want them to be just as meaningful for them to say as it is for me to say. I want it to kind of take their breath away when they hear it.

I think that the world has kind of tainted the word love by making it a place holder. But it’s not, not to me.

This Is What Happy Looks Like

There’s something really great about new things. New people, opportunities, perspectives, clean slates. Maybe that’s why I love shopping so much, I love that feeling of things being different, the feeling in the air of things changing and having it be for good. Change in general makes me queasy, but these are good changes, a positive reminder.

Growing up we never had an abundance of money, but our needs were always covered. No matter what, my Mom would make a huge spectacle of getting ready to go back to school with us kids, and she made it thrilling. Her excitement was contagious, and even though both my siblings hated school, she could even get them excited. She had a real gift. She would dedicate one day for each child, aside from lugging us all into Olympia Sport at the end of each summer for the famous Buy 1, Get 1 1/2 Off sneaker sale. They still have it, and just seeing the yellow sign in the window makes me smile. She would work all summer long so that after purchasing our necessities she could hand us an envelope filled with cash for new clothes.

When we were older she started to take us into Freeport for clothes, and she would make us reach up, bend over, spin around, touch our toes and hold our hands down to check skirt lengths for hours. I didn’t care, I lived for these days. I’ve always been big on sales, and so I made my envelope full of cash last until the last possible cent, while both my siblings usually spent the whole thing on 2 articles of clothing simply so that they could leave. I couldn’t wait to bring my new wardrobe home to show my father. You could tell that he really didn’t care about each new pair of jeans of mine that looked exactly like the pair before it, but he always acted like he did. That’s what counts.

Maybe that’s why I love the end of the summer so much, although it always gives me a lump in my throat when it begins to end, I still crave it. I love the back to school commercials, the occasional red or orange leaf strewn on the ground, the subtle change from sandals to flats as the days get cooler. I love sweaters, anything and everything pumpkin or apple, back to school supplies, the sight of seeing a child standing outside waiting for the bus with their brand new lunch box glued to their hand. I just love that.

I didn’t originally go to school to become a teacher. At first I thought that I wanted to be a writer, and so I signed up my very first semester for various journalism courses and general education classes. And then school started. School in college gave me that same feeling I had experienced all through childhood; new classes, pencils, clothes, Fall jackets, binders and textbooks. Some of my favorite memories of college include me standing on the mall strip surrounded by Fall leaves holding steaming cups of apple cider between classes. I love the energy of school, right down to the football games and after school meetings.

I’m the type of person that craves the smell of bookstores, can’t walk past the school supplies section in Target without stopping, and can tell the second that the air shifts from summer to autumn. I live for pumpkin flavored coffee, still rake leaves into piles, and to this day set aside time to go school shopping with my Mom. I love that school represents a change that I can handle; new Welcome Packets, curriculums, coworkers, students.

It wasn’t long until I realized that I was meant to be a teacher, and honestly maybe I always knew. My entire family is made up of them, and I think that for a little while I wanted to design my own fate, not be a cookie cutter family member destined to teach, but I guess you can’t fight the inevitable. The truth is that I love new backpacks and lunch boxes, I love the smell of my classroom and the sound of children outside at recess. I love the look on a child’s face when they’ve finally understood a concept, and the anticipation of the first day of school. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I like feeling like I’m making a difference in someone’s life, because I feel like a lot of times I don’t. I’m not the smartest, prettiest, strongest, cleverest. A lot of things don’t come naturally to me, and I have to work really hard to be even the tiniest bit successful. But I feel like helping people, and wanting to be there for people has always come easily to me.

Lately things have been changing for me. Not right out of the blue, kind of subtle, slow enough that I’ve been able to welcome it. I like opportunities and people who challenge me. Who require me to the best that I can be, or ask me to be even greater. I love people who are good for me and understand me; family, friends, coworkers, a new classroom filled with 9 year olds.

I love apple cider, sharpened pencils, the pictures of loved ones on my desk at school. I love bright colored bulletin board paper, after school soccer games, new sneakers and backpacks and sweaters. I love the drive into school in the morning when most of the world is still asleep, when the sunrise is all mine. I love starting over, completely fresh. I remember looking back in college before I changed my degree to teaching and looking at all of these moments that I’ve always loved and wondering how on earth I would survive Fall without school, and the thought just kind of broke my heart. I can remember that day; it was a Saturday in college, and I was sitting on the bleachers during a football game and the thought just knocked the wind out of me, and right then I just knew.

I still know.

This is what happy looks like.

In That Moment, I Swear We Were Infinite

Birthdays have never been a huge deal for me, and in some ways I dread them.

When I was younger they always meant my two best friends coming over, swimming until we were sunburned and pruney, and “Happy Birthday” with polka dotted candles. I was always happy to receive school supplies and new backpacks or lunch boxes as gifts (thanks to growing up with a teacher for a mother), and it always ended with a barbecue.

It’s odd to think back to those days, to look at old photographs of little Elizabeth posing beside birthday cakes reflecting my favorite things; flip flops, butterflies, yellow icing spelling out my name in cursive.

Growing up on a farm, everything was constantly in motion. It was loud, busy, hay being thrown in the fields, corn being cut down, my mother yelling at us to constantly “stay out of the driveway!” when customers and tractors and mac trucks hauling sawdust were seen driving down the driveway. It was rare when things were quiet, the horses weren’t stomping their feet for sugar cubes, my brother wasn’t driving up and down the compost piles on the four wheeler, us kids weren’t stealing spray paint from the shop to decorate our latest wooden swords.

I loved that on my birthday, always at 5:00pm, life kind of stopped for a little while. For about an hour the farm was quiet aside from “Are you 1, are you 2?” It was all my time, the greatest gift of all.

Throughout the years that excitement kind of left. Maybe it does for anyone, that fear of getting older gets greater, the realization that I still have so much I want to accomplish on my life list that’s left unchecked. I thought that I’d have done more by now; loved more, been more adventurous, felt more alive.

I think that it’s really difficult to live up the expectations that you set for yourself when you’re a child. It’s so easy at 8 years old to say, “when I’m 25 I’ll be…” and honestly feel in your heart that there’s absolutely nothing that could possibly happen to change those plans. “Heartbreak, what’s that? Illness; that’ll never happen to me. Financial difficulties? No way. I’ll obviously be married to someone who looks a lot like my Ken Barbie doll and is also a millionaire.” I can’t go back and remember my exact thoughts when I was that age, but I’m sure those are fairly accurate.

Now my birthdays are a lot different. I’m happy as long as somebody takes me to the ocean and feeds me watermelon. I don’t like cake, and can usually convince my grandmother to make me blueberry pie if I ask her sweetly enough. I don’t like presents, they make me uncomfortable. I still want to swim until I’m pruney, be in the sun until I’m sunburned, end the day with a barbecue. I’d prefer to skip the “Are you 1, are you 2’s..” now though.

I don’t feel like I’m old, but I do feel like I’ve let down my younger self who thought without a doubt that I’d have lived a lot more by now. Sometimes I feel trapped here, like I’m suffocating in this city that I wished I had left a long time ago, even for just a little while.

It’s not that I’m not happy, because I am. I’m happy with my career and who I am. I don’t feel like I’ve grown to be someone that my parents and grandparents are disappointed in. I feel like I hold myself to high standards, put my heart into everything that I do, go out of my comfort zone more than I ever used to. I feel like I’m independent, which has always been huge for me; I don’t ever want to feel like I have to rely on another person to survive. I laugh way too much at myself, I watch silly movies, have close friends that I adore, sing off key at concerts until I lose my voice, dance under the stars in sundresses at 2am after drinking way too much wine. I feel like that’s living.

I just hope that in another 25 years I don’t look back at myself now and get disappointed in the expectations I have for myself. I want to have traveled, I want to be married, have had children. I want to still love teaching, sweet tea, and music. I don’t want to ever lose sight of who I am or what I love. I don’t want to ever be that person who changes themselves for anyone. I want to have people believe that I’m a wonderful person and mother, I want to be involved in people’s lives, be someone that another person is proud of. I hope that when people describe me they can say that I’m happy, kind, alive. I hope that I’m no longer associating myself with people who make me feel terrible about myself, who make me believe that I’m not enough. I hope that I have an amazing relationship with my family and that I’ve shown those closest to me that I trust them and how much I love them. I want to be so happy. More than anything I want to be proud of what I’ve accomplished.

I don’t want to ever say, “If I could have…” ever again. Or “Someday I will..”, or “if I had enough time I would..” Because I might not have a someday, and I’ll certainly never have infinity, but I do have right now. I have these moments and that’s pretty amazing.

I guess 25 really isn’t that bad.