Category Archives: Live, Laugh, Love.

WTF, Katie?

That’s exactly what I said this to myself when I realized I have been slacking so badly and haven’t posted any of the blogs I had planned and prepared for September. WTF!

If we are being 100% honest here….I feel like the entire month of September went by in the blink of an eye. It was just one of those months where I felt behind with everything…..my house, my to do list, my business, my LIFE! We all have months like that I suppose.

A big reason why September was a little crazier had to do with my business. I know, I know…I just said I felt behind with it, but I don’t know if I could’ve gotten ahead of the curve if I tried. My team and I are pushing for some huge business goals (eek….so close to hitting them) which means I am being pulled in more directions than usual as we get into crunch time. I’m not complaining though….this is what I live for, and I love what I do so much that I didn’t even notice how much work I was putting in with Sparkle Fitness. I can’t wait to see how our year ends up.

I have had some other things shaking besides business stuff….from my favorite charity to travel, I’ve been a busy bee.

Thanks to that skank Hurricane Florence, my family had to cancel our trip to Myrtle Beach a few days before we were scheduled to leave. Initially I was upset because I love Myrtle, but I was pleased when my mom decided we would all just head to Hocking Hills and rent a big cabin for the week. To me, the most important thing was getting to spend time with both my mother and brother at the same time because we rarely get to anymore, and this allowed us to do so.

We had so much fun relaxing, cooking out, hot tubbing, making candles, and hiking at the various caves in the area. I’m not someone who typically loves spending that much time in nature, but I actually loved it. Sometimes it is nice to slow down a little.

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When we got back from Hocking Hills, I FINALLY was able to visit an art exhibit I had been trying to get into all summer long, the Yayoi Kasuma Infinity Mirrors exhibit at The Cleveland Museum of Art.

This exhibit was a nightmare to get tickets to. Every Monday at 9am a limited amount of tickets for the exhibit were made available for purchase. One they were sold out, you had to wait until the following Monday to try again. I tried for weeks and weeks! The final week of Kasuma’s exhibit being on display I was successful! I woke up 2 1/2 hrs early to get in the ticket queue and snagged two tickets….so stressful!

The exhibit itself was unbelievably amazing, and it was so worth it. This was the largest grouping of Kasuma’s work ever showcased together at one time, and it won’t be together again until she either turns 100 years old or she passes away. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience her unique brain and artwork in person. My favorite of Kasuma’s work: her “All the Eternal Love I have for the Pumpkins” piece. We weren’t allowed to take our phones into that room and had to have a chaperone, but I assure you, it was fantastic. Her exhibit is making just a few stops before returning to Kasuma’s home in Tokyo, so if you have the opportunity to get tickets to this, DROP EVERYTHING AND GO.

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The fall means it is time to support one of my favorite charities, The Alzheimer’s Association, and its annual Memory Walk took place the final weekend of the month. This was the a year of firsts for my family. For starters, my mother, who had managed the raffle for nearly the past decade and rocked the socks off of it, had made the decision to strictly walk this year and no longer assist with that aspect of the walk. I was always so proud of her for how hard she worked with fundraising and leading that auction, but it meant she wasn’t able to walk with our team. I was very proud to be able to walk with her for the first time in a long time, especially since this was the first year our family was walking in memory of my Grandma, as Bubu passed away just days after last year’s walk. I brought Luigi with me for support, and we represented our team along with my mom, her best friend Bobbie, and two of my besties, Kelly and Krista (plus baby Whitney).

Of course, a HUGE part of the month was spent on the development of my book. My goal is to have it published by the end of the year, so I am working tirelessly to make that happen.  I can’t wait to get it published and to share more about it with you!

I promise, you’ll be hearing from me much more!

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Go Katie, It’s Your Birthday!

Guys, I’m the big 3-7!!!!

I know most people wouldn’t be happy about getting older, but to be honest, it doesn’t bother me one bit. I actually think I am getting better with age! I shared this on my Instagram yesterday because I wanted to break the stigma that aging is bad! It’s crazy what eating right, exercise, sleep, water, and donuts can do for you, isn’t it?

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Those who know me know that I typically celebrate my birthday all month long….I’m just one of those over the top people. This year I didn’t get quite as crazy by my standards…..but I did have a good time!

There were a few events I planned around my birthday that were musts for me. One of them: visit the largest rubber duck in the world! A few years back the duck made an appearance in Pittsburgh, and I unfortunately was unable to visit during that weekend. When I found out about the duck coming to Sandusky, I put it in my planner right away. That was a picture I had to have! Dreams came true the week before my birthday when I traveled to Sandusky and the Festival of the Sail and got to see the duck!

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That same weekend I also traveled back to my mom’s for my birthday dinner. This has been a tradition for as long as I can remember where she makes us our requested birthday meal and cake. I have requested the same meal for probably a decade: steak, fresh green beans, these special potatoes my mom makes, and rainbow jello. The cake usually changes a bit, and this year I requested a multi tiered pink cake with different shades of pink (a little different from last year’s unicorn cake request). It was fantastic. Of course, these dinners are always hard for me because it’s obvious an important person in my life is no longer able to attend them, but I always believe he is there with me in spirit.


My actual birthday involved more cake…and donuts, of course, but it is ok…..I started with a killer workout! If you follow me on social media you know that I have been training with our super trainer Chris Downing at his gym every morning prepping for the release of his newest workout program. Being a part of this is such a killer opportunity…..I mean, this program hasn’t even been filmed yet! It’s so great being a part of something like this that I wasn’t even mad about getting up at 5:30am on my birthday to get in my birthday workout. My workout buddy even brought me a cute balloon, and we did lots of burpees. That’s my kind of workout! Those of you wanting this workout, it is set to release in November. I’ll have a VIP group going if you want in!

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My friend Alicia aka cake extraordinaire made me a gorgeous donut shaped birthday cake that was absolutely delicious, and my pals at Brewnuts made me a custom order of mini glitter donuts. Could there be a donut more Kate-tastic? Seriously.  Calories don’t count on your birthday.


And because I am basically a child, I opted to spend my birthday at the zoo and eat grilled cheese sandwiches from my fave local grilled cheese spot, Melt Bar and Grilled. It was exactly what I wanted to do. I even managed to sneak in a little Cortado at a local coffee shop before returning home for a chill evening in my pajamas.

My birthday week wrapped up with one of my favorite races of all time: The Warrior Dash. I have done this race several times, and every time I love it even more than the last. For being such a girlie girl, I sure do love getting muddy and doing badass things. This year the obstacles were great (I’m thankful that the obstacle The Goliath was not on the circuit this year), and we had a big team supporting each other, which was a lot of fun. I already can’t wait until next year.

37 is going to be a great year for me for many reasons.

I know to some this is the age I should be calming down a bit, but I’m just getting started making big things happen in my life. Just wait and see.

Thanks to all of you who wished me a happy birthday! You are the best!

Dog Rescue > Richard Gere Fire Escape Rescue.

“A senior dog? I don’t know about that.” This was exactly what I told Kyle a few months ago when he mentioned wanting to adopt a senior dog.

Don’t get me wrong…..I love all dogs, but after losing our senior pug Bubba only a few weeks prior, my heart was still very broken, and a big part of me felt like I was too fragile to possibly endure another dog loss so soon. My mind was also set on adding a French Bulldog puppy to the clan mid summer. We tabled the senior dog discussion at that point….or at least I did. Every now and then Kyle would text me a picture of a senior dog in need of a home, so I knew he was still very focused on it, but I just brushed most of them off.

Two weeks ago I woke up in a wretched mood, and I texted my friend Brandee to see if she wanted to meet me at a local pet rescue. She liked to visit the cats, and I figured petting some dogs would cheer me up. Kyle mentioned there was a senior Boston Terrier there that he was interested in meeting, so he decided to come along. In my mind, I was going to pet some dogs, hit up Starbucks on the way home, and return home in a better mood. I did not intend on connecting with a dog and beginning the adoption process.

Initially I was interested in two chihuahuas that were bonded, but I quickly realized they were not only yippy, but mean. As I tried to befriend them, an employee had walked out with the Boston Terrier Kyle had told me about. His name was Spike, and he was ten years old with really no back story. All we knew was that he had been brought to the shelter from Animal Control. We spent some time petting him, got some info on what to do if we wanted to move forward, and left. I knew immediately Kyle wanted him, but I told him that I needed to think about it.

Yes, he was a senior dog. He was emaciated, his spine had an odd shape, the shelter thought he had vision impairment, and it was uncertain if he had hearing issues. I had many concerns about him, but mostly if we would be able to give him the proper care. Bubba, our pug, had lost his vision during the last year of his life, but he had also lost mobility….Spike was still very active, and I worried about how he would move around the house safely.

As the days passed, all I could think about Spike. My heart honestly hurt thinking about how sad he looked being at that shelter. Four days after we first met him I asked Kyle to go back to the shelter so we could walk Spike and spend a little more time with him. That moment we saw him I knew it was meant to be. We arranged a meet and greet with Luigi and Murphy a few days later, and luckily, they loved him. The paperwork was signed, and Spike was ours.

We brought Spike home on Mother’s Day, and in the short time he has been with us he has made it clear he belongs with us. It’s a little challenging getting set in a new routine because we had such a set one already, but we are adapting. Each day Spike’s personality comes out a little more, and you can see how much he loves the attention and plush dog beds around the house.

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The day we brought Spike home!

I have moments where I want to smack myself for almost talking myself out of getting a senior dog. Now that we have him, I can’t imagine life without him. One thing I keep thinking about is something one of the rescue workers said to me as I was waiting for another employee to bring out Spike the day we went to get him. I must’ve looked confused or lost because he asked me if he could help me with something. When I told them I was there to adopt a dog and was waiting for him to come out, he asked which one. After I told him it was Spike, he looked incredibly happy and said “We didn’t think anyone would ever adopt him.” My heart broke and exploded with happiness at the same time.

Shelters are full of senior animals needing a loving home….they tend to be the majority of what is there! While the thought of a little puppy is appealing, I encourage you to consider bringing a senior dog. Just knowing you are giving a dog the best life you possibly can is such a good feeling. I have no idea what kind of life Spike had before he found his way to One of a Kind Pets,  the rescue where we adopted him from. What I do know is that he has the sweetest temperament, loves sweet potatoes and hugs, and looks like he is smiling when he sleeps in the gray velvet bed I bought just for him. I can’t change how his life was his first ten years, but you better believe I’m going to make every year he has left the best I possibly can.

If you are local, make sure you check out One of a Kind. I’ve mentioned them before…..they host Pug Fest every year! If you aren’t, I encourage you to find the shelters near your home and give them a chance when looking to add to your fur family.

The funny thing about rescuing a dog…..they steal a line from Pretty Woman and they rescue you right back.

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Welcome to the family, Spike!

 

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Because even adults need homework….

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Earlier today I was searching for a specific photo when I came across this one. I had told myself this year I wanted to make my own version of a bucket list and complete these basic actions…all things that I believe would make me a better person.

Sometimes we get complacent…with what we know, where we go, what we read, even with what we eat. Why not try to break out of our comfort zones?

I challenge you to make a list like this….a simple list….and blast out of whatever comfort zone you’re in.

That’s your Sunday night homework, my friends.

One Starfish at a time.

 

I have always loved starfish. I’m not sure what started my enjoyment of them….I think a lot of it had to do with the summers my family and I would spend in Chincoteague Island. There were a few local shops that we would visit each trip, one in particular named The Brandt. I loved going to that shop because it had all kinds of starfish trinkets that I remember just loving looking at. There’s just something about starfish that are a little magical to me.

As I grew older, I continued my love for starfish, but that was because of a story (found below) that I once read that resonated with me so much. I love it so much that I have a starfish in my office to remind me of the power of ONE.

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Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out ‘Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?’

The young man paused, looked up, and replied ‘Throwing starfish into the ocean.’

‘I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?’ asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, ‘The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.’

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, ‘But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!’

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, ‘It made a difference for that one.’

I think about this story every single day, and it has a lot to do with what I do for a living.

All too often so many people question what I do. I get it though….there was a time that I thought the concept of being an online wellness consultant was silly and probably made up, but here I am…..four and half years into my career as one, and I can tell you that isn’t the case.

That young man on the beach throwing the starfish back into the ocean…..I see what I do as the same thing.

There are millions of people on the planet who are struggling with their health….and obesity is at an all time high.  To many, there is no way I could possibly make a difference. But to me, I KNOW I am making a difference…..one person at a time.

This year I have pledged to help even more people than I have in my entire FOUR+ years as a wellness coach…I’m THAT focused on making a difference, and my team is doing the same…..one person at a time.

If you want to learn more and help us on our journey to make a difference in the health of the country, let me know HERE! I’d love for you to help us so we can get ALLLLLLLLLL of the starfish off the beach and into the ocean. Let’s be starfish throwers together!

Remember, you can ALWAYS make a difference to someone.

ALWAYS.

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I didn’t choose the pug life, the pug life chose me.

In 2005, I made a decision.

I wanted my own dog.

At the time I was living alone in an apartment in Pittsburgh, working at a college nearby and juggling graduate school. I was lonely, and I felt I was ready to finally get my own dog to keep me company. It was a no brainer for me: I had grown up with dogs and knew that this was a smarter choice than a cat or chinchilla or any other critter. But what kind did I want?

Shortly after I let my parents know my intentions, my dad and I went to our local mall and visited the Walden Books Store (I don’t even think they exist anymore) and started looking at some different books related to the breeds I was interested in. I knew I wanted a toy breed, but I was in between a Yorkie, King Charles, and a Pug, and being that we had always had larger breeds, I was clueless to the little guys. After looking through some books on the breeds, something inside me kept going back to one breed: the pug.

My dad found a local breeder, and I trusted him enough to go and find me the perfect puppy since I lived a little ways away from my parents and was scared the available puppies would be claimed before I could get home and pick one. He assured me he had selected the perfect fawn male pug and told me he had a great demeanor and was the runt of the litter. I was stoked.

A month or so later, my mom arrived at my apartment with a tiny delivery: my puppy. I decided to name him Simon, which was inspired by a song sung by one of my favorite bands, Lifehouse. He was perfect!

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Baby Simon

Throughout the years, Simon and I became the best of friends. He would travel with me wherever I went, and he would often spend longer periods of time with my parents, which was great because they had a strong bond with him, too. In fact, he was such an amazing dog that it inspired my parents to get a pug of their own, a black pug that they named Desmond, and he and Simon became close very quickly.

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Simon and Desi

Unfortunately, in the summer of 2012, I lost Simon after he was poisoned by my parents’ neighbors. I was unbelievably devastated. It took everything in me not to go after these people, and because he had been cremated, once evidence surfaced that they had poisoned him, I had no legal recourse. Five and a half years later I still harbor tremendous feelings of hate for these people…..hurting animals is NEVER acceptable. NEVER. I was robbed of time with my dog, and he was taken way too soon for no reason.

After losing Simon, I became very depressed and told myself I never wanted to have another dog, and if, for some reason, I ended up getting one, there was NO WAY I would ever get another pug. Never ever ever.

Fast forward to 2013 when I met Kyle. One thing that drew me to him was his immense love of animals, and I quickly found out that he had a pug of his own, a black pug named Bubba. The first time I met Bubba I was shocked at how similar he was to Simon. He may have been a different color, but his looks, his chill attitude, his movements…..everything reminded me of my dog. As I spent more and more time with Kyle, eventually moving in with him, I became very close to Bubba. He would sleep next to me every night and during the day he would spend all his time on my lap. In the event I was working on my laptop, he would lay next to me until I would move it, then he would capitalize and take over my lap. I loved every moment I got to spend with him.

Once Kyle and I moved into our house and moved Bubba and Murphy with us, we started talking about getting another pug. Bubba was 11 years old at this point and wasn’t all that interested in playing with Murphy, and we thought a pug puppy would be perfect. I was finally {{mentally}} ready, and I know my time healing from Simon’s loss and time spent with Bubba helped me get to that point. My friend Katherine had found a breeder in Indianapolis that had a litter of pugs that would be available in July, so I paid my deposit for one of the male pups, and she paid hers for one of the females. Almost twelve years to the day I got Simon, I picked up my little Luigi, and, as an avid Mario Brothers fan, no one was surprised by the name. He was tiny spitfire and the perfect addition to the my fur fam.

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Luigi and his sister Penny!

I am forever grateful that we took the plunge and got Luigi when we did. He and Murphy quickly became inseparable, which was what I wanted. I knew Murphy was high energy and needed a playmate, and Luigi ended up being the perfect amount of crazy for him.

Unfortunately, Bubba’s health had started to decline not long after we brought Luigi home. He not only suffered from myelopathy, a common condition in pugs as they get older that paralyzes them over time, but had started to lose control over his bowels, was refusing to drink water, and struggled to eat normally. I am very sad to share that Bubba crossed to the Rainbow Bridge on Thursday. I know my dad and Simon were waiting for him and that he is no longer suffering, but my heart has shattered into a million pieces with his loss.

I truly believe that pugs are one of the greatest breeds of dogs out there. They have the funniest personalities, are loving cuddlers, and are just downright amazing. If you don’t believe me, check out this article that will let you know why pugs are majestic:

41 Reasons Why Pugs Are The Most Majestic Creatures On Earth

Sometimes I like to think back to that day in the bookstore when my dad and I were looking through books trying to determine the best breed of dog for me and for my lifestyle. I still don’t know exactly what it was that clicked to make me realize that a pug was the best choice.

Maybe the pug life just chose me.

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We can do hard things.

This summer has been a crazy one for me. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling, working on my sparkle empire, celebrating milestones with friends, and adjusting to a new puppy in my home. Overall, it has been a very happy summer with lots of wonderful new memories.

I entered this summer with the thought process that I wanted to have an amazing time, but I also knew that there were a few hurdles I wanted to tackle, and they both involved moving forward in the grief process with my father.

I’ve talked about this many times before, but I always feel like I need to remind people that the grief process is one that is different for everyone, and for many people, it is one that never ends. November will mark the two year anniversary since my father’s unexpected death, and while I am more capable of talking about the loss now, I still struggle with it every single day. For me, it helps to face things/situations/places that I find to be the most emotional and connect to my dad. Somehow, facing them head on and working through those emotions allows me to get a better grip on the reality that my dad is no longer here.

As those of you who have been following my blog for awhile may know, one of my best friends, Whitney, and I have birthdays exactly a week apart. Each year we try to do something fun and different together to celebrate. We’ve done a lot of really cool things over the years, including meeting Brett Eldredge , my favorite country singer, last year. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to top that because it was such a neat moment. However, when Whit mentioned that one of our friends, Steve, would be doing a rollerblading half marathon in Chicago the week after our birthday and thought we should go, I knew that this was the moment for me to cross off something major from my list of grief hurdles.

I had to go to Wrigley Field.

My dad was the World’ Biggest Cubs fan….his tombstone actually has the Cubs logo on it, and his love of the Cubs is one my entire family shares. Going to Wrigley with him was always something that we were going to do, and once we lost him, I didn’t think I could emotionally do it. Going to any baseball game was a challenge for me after the loss, and there were times during the past year and a half where I could not physically make myself step foot into a baseball stadium. I missed a good friend’s bachelorette party because I had panic attacks at the thought of watching a baseball game live. I cried throughout an entire game once I finally worked up the nerve to attend and missed everything. It took a lot to get comfortable with freaking baseball. If I was that emotional watching teams I didn’t even like how in the world could I get through a baseball game watching a team that I had an emotional connection with and that had been a part of my life since the day I was born????

We arrived in Chicago Friday and were able to explore the city and do some things before Steve’s marathon Sunday morning and the Cubs game Sunday night. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t anxious as hell the whole trip. So much of my life is in the public spotlight, which I am okay with, but one thing I try to keep out of it as much as possible are the moments where I have a complete meltdown, because they aren’t pretty. I was terrified I would have one of these meltdowns inside Wrigley Field.

Surprisingly, I held my shit together, but I cannot begin to tell you how I felt walking through Wrigleyville, walking up to that iconic Wrigley Field sign, sitting down in that stadium, or singing “Go Cubs Go” with a stadium full of my fellow fans. I had a few weird moments inside of the stadium, but I was able to get past them.

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This was such a cool moment. The W flew for you that night, dad!

I shared on Instagram that it started to rain in Chicago hours before the game. Deep down I was so worried that the game would be canceled and I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get over this milestone in my grief process. However, as we got dropped off in Wrigleyville, the rain stopped, and the rest of the evening was perfect.

I believe very much in signs, and as I sat there eating my burger before the game I couldn’t help but realize that this had to be my dad’s way of letting me know that he was missing me and sad that he wasn’t there to walk into the stadium with me, too.

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Enjoying the view of Wrigley and the city.

That same sign came from him again two weeks later as I prepared to tackle something that most of you know I have been dreading for a long time: The Star Trax 5k he and I used to run together.

Last year I had every intention on running it in honor of my dad, but emotionally, I just wasn’t able to, so I backed out of attending. This year I HAD to do it. I signed up a few months back and invited my friends and family to come and run/walk/or watch in support. In my mind if I had a bunch of people coming there to support my family, I knew I wouldn’t back out of it even if I wanted to. I encouraged everyone to wear Cubs gear (or blue or red if they weren’t a Cubbies fan) and had about 50 panic attacks the day of the race. Somehow, my mom and I got there.

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My mom and I before the race.

As challenging as I knew it would be for me to run a race and not have my dad there waiting for me at the finish line, I knew this race would be so emotionally hard on my mom if she was a spectator. She supported us every year and watched both of us finish every race. Only getting to see one of us do it this year would be hard on her heart. I was so proud of her….she ended up signing up and walked the 5k with my uncles and her best friend. We had so much support that night….it meant the world to us. We had family there. We had our best friends there. It felt good to be surrounded by so much love.

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Our crew! Love these people so much!

As the race start inched closer and closer, it began to rain. Again, I couldn’t help but think of my dad and this being his way of letting us know he was missing up and was there in spirit. If you know me, you know I absolutely loathe getting my hair wet. However, for some reason, at this moment, I didn’t care. The rain continued through the first mile then let up.

I was worried about two specific moments in this race: starting and finishing. Those who have run this race know that you start it inside of Salem’s high school football stadium, taking a lap around the track and then hitting the streets before entering the stadium for the finish. My dad and I always started the race together, and it wouldn’t be until we hit the street when he would take off and leave me in the dust. When the race started, my tears started. All I could do was keep my head down, not look around, and focus on Skrillex, which was the bulk of the playlist for the night.

The rest of the race I did okay….no weird emotional moments. Instead of changing up my playlist, I listened to my favorite Skrillex song, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, on repeat the ENTIRE race. For some reason the song helped me hold it together.

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My cheer squad at the finish!

After making the final turn into the stadium, I started to get really weird. I felt tears in my eyes, I felt puke in my throat, I felt lead in my legs. Again, I just kept my head down and powered through my feelings to the finish line. My dad wasn’t there at the finish line for me, but I wasn’t running into a stadium with no support. Two of my besties, Erika and Melissa, drove down from Cleveland to cheer me on and give me hugs when I finished. They also were able to capture some footage of me starting and finishing.

Once I finished the race and the rest of our crew had finished, I had to split. The longer I stood around the more emotional I got, so my mom and I made the decision to get some Arby’s, eat our feelings, and go home.

Moments like these two may seem so trivial to others, but to me they were a huge deal. Every time I cross off one of those milestone moments or events I encounter a new range of emotions. I’m proud I overcame something challenging, and I know my dad would be, too. At the same time, my heart hurts because I had to do something alone that we would’ve done together. That mixed emotional state can really do a number on someone, but I continue to try to see the good in the challenging times. That’s really all I can do.

I continue to be reminded how lucky I am to have the people in my corner that I do. They say that in really happy times and really sad times one’s true colors come out. There have been a few friends who have completely ghosted me since things happened, but the majority of my friends have continued to show me that they are ride or die and will be there for me whenever I need them. I know that throughout our lives there will be more challenging times, not just for me, but for them, and I’ll be there for them when they need me.

As this summer comes to a close, there is one last major milestone I am going to be doing without my father: buying a new car. Due to her profession, he was always the person to get me the cars I wanted, check out their backgrounds, and help me get everything rolling while also serving as my voice of reason. I’ve been putting off the car search for awhile, not only because he won’t be able to help me, but because I have such an emotional attachment to Farrah, my Xterra, because that was the last car he got for me. Even though I’ve done well with avoiding the emotional attachment with most inanimate objects, my car is one that I can’t seem to shake. We will see how this pans out.

Those reading this that are going through the grief process like me…..I have to encourage you to not run away from those milestones…..those moments you are scared to face because they now are different. I know it’s scary. I know crying isn’t fun. I know feeling that hole in your heart is painful. But sometimes you just have to push through because this is what our lost loved ones would want for us.

I used to run with my dad at Star Trax; now I run for him. Every year moving forward I will be having a team of people join me to do the same because this is how I can continue to keep his spirit alive with that race.

Find a way to make those moments meaningful.

Find a way to keep your loved ones alive in your heart.

Find a way to turn your pain into purpose.

And always remember……..life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.

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#IrunforDSS

 

 

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One year later……

You remember that Alan Jackson song “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning”? I remember hearing it when it first was released and thinking how true it was for so many people who were directly impacted by the events of 9/11….people whose lives changed in the blink of the eye. People who woke up that morning thinking it was going to be just like any other day only to go to bed a completely changed human being. I remember being so sad for our country and all of these families even though I had no idea who any of them were, but deep down I didn’t really connect to that song because my life….my world….did not stop turning that day. I didn’t understand that in one small blink of an eye everything you know could be no more.

And then one day MY WORLD stopped turning. The truth is….at some point in our lives something WILL happen to completely change the trajectory of your life. You know when my world stopped turning?

525,600 minutes ago.

One year ago today.

One year that feels like a trillion billion years ago while also feeling like it was just yesterday. Isn’t time weird?

I can tell you every.single.detail about November 20, 2015…..what I ate for breakfast, what workout I did that day, what I was wearing, where I was sitting when I found out that my dad had passed away, every single word Kyle said when he told me what had happened……everything.  I relive a part of it every single day, and I really wish I didn’t. To be honest, I probably can’t tell you every single detail of any other day in my life other than that one.

In my heart it is still so difficult to accept that I haven’t seen my dad or talked to him in a year. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook know that I’ve been very open about my struggles with grief over this past year, and I have talked a little about it here, too. It is hard to be vulnerable and share this kind of thing, but I truly believe it is important because so many people struggle with the same thing, and I hope (if nothing else) that I can connect with others struggling and we can help each other through difficult times. Ive had people send me nasty grams about it and tell me it is inappropriate to talk about, and Ive had people throw some serious shade at me. It’s strange how uncomfortable grief makes some people.

This past year has included some pretty incredible things that have brought about so many mixed emotions. It was hard buying our first home together and realizing my dad would never be able to chase Bubba around in the yard…..it was hard taking family photos at my brother’s wedding and knowing someone really important wasn’t in them….it was hard watching the Cubbies win the World Series….and it was really, really hard celebrating the holidays and birthdays that usually were so much fun. Everyone said the first year would be difficult because of all of the “firsts” without my dad, and they weren’t exaggerating one bit. I cannot even put into words how much my dad is missed, and today, on the first anniversary of losing him, I’m missing him more than ever.

An unfortunate thing that has happened over the last year is that many of my friends have had to go through the same thing, losing either their father or mother. Recently a girl I had connected with through Facebook messaged me. She had just lost her dad in a terrible accident, was still in the very early stages of grief, and asked what she should expect. I wanted to share my thoughts on this with the hope that if you are going through something similar you realize you aren’t alone.

1. Everything will remind you of that person. When I say everything, I mean everything. In the very beginning of this process I had a very difficult time getting rid of things that reminded me of my dad….and with moving, this proved to be a challenge. Things he gave me, things he wrote to me, momentos of places we had been, etc. I struggled with songs on the radio because I would connect them to my dad. I didn’t want to eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream because it was his favorite. This process has truly shown me that moments matter, not things, and I don’t need to keep junk around to keep the memory of someone alive. Don’t hoard items just because.  They are just things.

2. There are days you can talk about the person normally. There are days you will start to cry at the most inopportune time. With me, I am a loose cannon. I never know when I will be able to talk about my dad or the loss in a calm matter or if I am going to start crying and getting weird. I do my best to try to talk about it as much as possible to get more comfortable with it, but sometimes I wonder if I ever will be 100% able to communicate about it normally. It’s ok to be emotional…..and if you are worried about it, just change the subject. I do it all the time, and no one has gotten angry about it yet.

3. Things you loved before may not be the same after a loss. This has been so difficult for me. My dad and I loved running….talking about it, running together, talking smack on the other’s running pace. It ALWAYS was a part of a conversation. After we lost him I really hoped that running would be therapeutic for me and help me still feel a sense of connection to my dad. It did just the opposite. I started to hate it because every time I would run I would get upset and cry. In April I ran the HOF Half Marathon and cried the entire 13.1 miles, so besides being tiring on a physical level, it was beyond exhausting emotionally. Since that race I have run only a handful of times and dropped out of the Columbus full marathon, a race my dad and I had previously discussed running together. I hope someday I will love it again, but I have accepted that it may not be the way it once was. Find something positive to substitute into the place of whatever the activity is that you are struggling with.

4. You can’t hide from holidays and birthdays. They aren’t going to be the same….nothing will….but they are still going to happen. It is important to find new ways to celebrate and incorporate the memory of your loved one. Last year we had Chinese for Thanksgiving and we didn’t decorate one bit for Christmas. I refused to buy Christmas wrapping paper for gifts (I still am this year, too). For my dad’s birthday we made one of his favorite meals and favorite kind of cake. We are trying. Sometimes that is all you can do. You can’t avoid these things so find a way to incorporate your loved one in a new way

5. It is important to talk about your loved one. Every day I talk about my dad. I will think of a funny memory or think of how my dad would react to sometimes ridiculous (I had lots of comments of things he would say during the election), and it helps. It helps to keep his memory and sense of humor and ridiculousness alive. Just because a person has left you in the physical sense does not mean they have left your memory. Keep them alive in your daily life.

6. React to the loss in a way that helps you, not harms you. I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to do things that would inevitably hurt me. There have been days that I wanted to go get blackout drunk, which would’ve been my solution years ago, but I didnt. There were days I wanted to eat my feelings……ok, more like weeks I wanted to eat my feelings, but I didnt. There were days I wanted to be extremely negative and lash out, but I didnt. I always think of the quote about how life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how I react to it…..what good would any of that do? Nothing. I’ve been very proactive in seeking help and doing things that will help me move forward in the grief process, not back. In the beginning I saw a grief counselor; recently I connected with a local group through GriefShare. I’ve read lots of articles and books on grief. Those kinds of resources have helped me a lot, especially with realizing that many of the feelings I have had are normal. I think all too often with grief you think that feelings and thoughts you have are abnormal…trust me when I say they aren’t. Speaking to people and groups have taught me this. Don’t run away from grief because sooner or later you will have to work past what has happened.

7. You learn that support can come from people who you least expect it.I will forever feel like I have the most amazing group from family and friends….my friends have all been there by my side from the beginning of this and have continued to support me. I knew they would be there for me in the beginning weeks and months….that is when it is the hardest, but the fact that they are still helping me through this a year later means the world to me. Friends from high school who I had lost touch with did not hesitate to reach out…random connections on Facebook, too. Since losing my dad I realized that I want to make sure that I can help those who go through rough times, too….even if they are people I have lost touch with over the years. You never know who you can help, and if anything positive is going to come from this, I want it to be that I can help others find strength and hope for the future.

8. The one thing that irritates me more than ANYTHING and the one phrase I have removed from my vocabulary is: “You’re doing really well!” I know that sometimes you might not know what to say to someone who is grieving…I’ve been guilty of saying some really dumb things in my day….but please, don’t ever say this comment to anyone. Most days I do really well, especially in public, but every day at some point I do break down. You arent sitting by me when I’m at home crying or laying next to me when I’m crying as I try to fall asleep. I may be doing “really well” in your eyes, but I’m not doing “really well”. I’ll never do “really well” because I’m always going to be without this person who was so important to me. There was a quote I once read from Richard Gere of all people. He said that loss is very much like dealing with a broken ankle. On the surface things seem to heal in time, but they will never be the way they once were.  The pain is still there, some days more than others. In time you learn to adapt to living differently. It is so true.

9. Don’t feel guilty if you are having fun or enjoying something. I struggled with this a lot the first few months after losing my dad. I felt bad if I laughed or did something normal. I didnt feel like it was right to engage in fun things when something was missing. After talking to people, I’ve learned that is very normal to feel that way, so if you are feeling that way, too, you aren’t alone.

10. You will be a changed person. I can’t tell you how much I changed over this past year because of this happening to our family. Losing a loved one changes how you see and do so many things. My family has always been so important to me, and I think that has strengthened the most over this time frame. I’ve learned more about my limits…that it is ok to take a step back if I feel myself getting weird or sad. I’ve learned a lot about my strength…and that it is ok to reach out for help, something I haven’t always been the best at doing. I’ve learned I’m a lot tougher than I ever thought I could be. Most importantly, I’ve learned how important it is to always leave your loved ones with loving words. I’m thankful the last words my dad and I exchanged were “I love you.”

Life is just too too short to focus on negativity. My heart has broken over the past few weeks after seeing so much garbage in my newsfeed after the election….so many families divided or not speaking to each other…..kids publicly saying they don’t want anything to do with a parent because of how they voted. I wish so badly my dad was still here with us and can assure you that you someday you will be in the same place I am in now….that’s just the order of life. Please don’t waste any moment by being stubborn or nasty…..someday you will be willing to do anything to get those moments back. Trust me.

Thank you again to everyone who continues to be a beacon of strength for not only me, but my mom and brother. We all appreciate it so much more than we could ever say and are forever grateful.

Missing you so much, Papa ❤

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My dad and my little Simon

 

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame

As I sit here writing this blog we are minutes away from the first game of the 2016 World Series. I can’t begin to share how excited I am for the Cubs and Indians to battle it out for the title.

I am excited for the city of Cleveland and for the Indians…they have had an amazing year and Cleveland is such a great city….I like that good things are happening here and that the fans who have suffered many disappointments over the years have had some reasons to celebrate. I root for the Indians 99% of the time…..

The 1% of the time I don’t is when they are against the Cubs.

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Cubs Hat, Wild Thing Shirt. Baseball Balance. Until now.

I have to be honest…the moment the Cubs won the National League pennant I became extremely emotional. How incredible that after years and years and years of baseball heartbreak they would be heading to the big dance! I could watch this moment over and over again.

I was so excited they were heading to the World Series but was so brokenhearted that the #1 Cubs fan ever would not be able to see the game.

My dad.

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My dad at Wrigley Field in August 1999. 

This week I was called a bandwagon fan by more than one person. It irritated me. I understand any championship creates a plethora of bandwagon fans, I do. My family and I….yeah, we don’t fall in that category. You want to call me a bandwagon fan? Go ahead. But I know that if you do you don’t have the slightest idea who I am or anything about my dad, and that makes me kind of sad.

My brother and I were raised on the Chicago Cubs. Our basement was a Cubs fortress…the epic man cave. My dad not only loved his beloved Cubs, but baseball in general, and anyone who walked into our house knew it. There were so many unique pieces in my dad’s collection….from legit seating from Municipal stadium to autographed home plates to statues of baseball icons. So many wonderful memories in that space of my dad’s…..Christmas mornings (he even had a Cubs tree)…..laughter….runs on the treadmill my dad had positioned to still be able to catch the Cubs games on the tv….so many memories I miss more than I could ever say.

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When our two golden retrievers had a litter of puppies, the bulk were named after Chicago Cubs players….Ryno was named after my dad’s favorite, Ryne Sandberg….Gracie was after Mark Grace, the Cubs first baseman at the time….Sammy after Sammy Sosa. My brother and I each got to name one puppy, but we opted for the basketball route because at the time we were obsessed. Mine was Pippen, after my favorite athlete of all time, Scottie Pippen, and Zack named his Barkley after Charles Barkley (yes, my brother was a Suns fan….his room was once purple and orange).

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Man, we look sweet here. 

The majority of my dad’s wardrobe…..Cubs clothing. His tattoo: the Cubs logo. He lived for Cubs baseball, and because of his love for the team, we all grew up loving them, too. His tombstone even has the Cubs logo etched in it because they were that important to him.

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My dad lived his entire life waiting for this series. Even though he loved the Cubs, he always respected Cleveland teams and enjoyed watching and cheering on the Indians as well. I remember watching the fireworks at the Indians game with him last year the night before my wedding. The hotel we all stayed at provided the best view of them after the Indians won. I remember telling him this year we had to make time for a game. This series would have been the ultimate for him to see. I wish this was the game we were going to together.

This series will be as painful as it will be exciting. It’s exciting to see your team get to this point….but it is another sad reminder that the person who would enjoy it the most isn’t here to watch the games with us. I will forever cheer on my Cubbies…not just for me, but for my dad as well. Even though I selfishly want to be watching this with my dad, I can’t help but think that he had a front row seat watching it with Babe Ruth and Harry Caray and all of the other baseball greats that he loved.

Saturday is my dad’s birthday, and I’m hoping for a Cubs win to celebrate it. In my mind there couldn’t be a better way to honor him that day.

Bandwagon fan? Hell no.

I’m just a Daddy’s girl who grew up wanting to be like her daddy and loving the things that he loved.

Let’s go Cubbies….this series is for DSS!

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Cheering on the Cubbies!

 

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Medium. It’s not just an option for cooking steak.

For the last month I have been patiently waiting for today to arrive. Those who know me know that patience is a virtue I definitely missed, so the wait was difficult to say the least.

Today was the day that my mother, aunt, and I would visit a local medium and have individual sessions with her.

Now before you dismiss this topic, let me be the first to tell you that I went into today with A LOT of trepidation, nerves, and skepticism. I have watched shows like The Long Island Medium before and while I loved watching them, deep down I always wondered how real they were. I mean seriously…can you talk to someone who has crossed over? I was anxious to find out.

I have been very open about my struggles with grief since I lost my father three months ago. I’ve gotten criticism from some saying I should keep my grief to myself since it is a private thing, but I refuse. The loss of my dad is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with and talking about it not only helps me, but I like to think it may help others who are struggling with grief, too. The thing about grief that no one tells you is that it is different for everyone. Some may accept their loss quickly, while others, like myself, struggle with it every day.

I’ve been approaching grief in what I like to think is a very proactive manner. I’ve been reading a lot of books, running for my dad, and becoming a part of organizations like The Dinner Party. I also took the advice of a grief counselor and got a seasonal job working a few hours a week styling brides at a local bridal salon. It’s been a true blessing being able to run my own business from home, however, I needed something to get me into a routine that FORCED me to stick to a schedule, shower, and get dressed up, so doing something temporarily was a nice change of pace. Honestly, these things have helped me so much. I tell myself everyday that I will not let my father’s death destroy me, but instead, it will help define me. I’m doing the best I can, and right now, that’s good enough for me.

The day after my father passed away I felt compelled to sign up for Teresa Caputo’s wait list. I figured if I would give a medium a shot, it would be her, but I wasn’t too excited about the five year long wait list. Oy vey.

My mother found a medium not far from us that she had heard about from individuals who had previously seen her and suggested we go. Like me, my mom was a little skeptical about the whole thing, but was openminded to the idea. In our minds, if this woman could give us a little bit of comfort, it would be worth it.

So I did all of the things you do when you go to a medium. I wrote a letter with questions for my dad and also for my aunt, who had passed early in 2014. I talked to them both out loud like I do daily and begged for them to come. I knew from trolling the internet that there was no guarantee anyone would come, and I knew it was a possibility that others could try to communicate with me, too.

As I drove to meet my mom and aunt today I had a million expectations while having absolutely none at the same time; it really is difficult to describe….hoping for so much but expecting so little. I was just very…..hopeful. When I told those close to me that I was going to speak to a medium, most people asked me the same question: “What do you hope to get out of it?” My answer was simple. I just wanted to know that my dad was with me. I would find a lot of peace and comfort knowing that.

When I met up with my family my mother was already meeting with Kathleen, the medium, for her reading, so I waited in the car with my aunt. We had opted for individual readings instead of a group one since we had a variety of people we were hoping would come through for us. After her half hour was up, my mother emerged and told me I was next. I had no clue how her reading had gone and was overwhelmed with nerves. Kathleen had me sit down in her meeting me and immediately told me that my father had come through for my mother, and that he was sitting next to me and was there for me, too. At this point I was still riding the skeptical train pretty hard, but just her mentioning that brought me to tears….mostly because I thought I’d flip out big time if she was messing with my head.

Within minutes the information Kathleen was telling me that my dad was saying made me a believer. There was no way some of the information she told me anyone could have known. In fact, one of the things was regarding our house hunt and the fact that we had made steps this morning toward that….which was true. We had emailed our realtor to submit an offer early this morning, so early that I hadn’t even told my mother or anyone yet. After about 10 minutes sharing with me things my dad had to say, Kathleen let me know that two others were with me in the room, the first being a woman, and the second, a young man. Based on what she had shared with me, the woman was quickly identified as my aunt and, similar to what my dad had shared, my aunt communicated with me topics that this woman could have no idea about. It was comforting and made me feel a sense of relief.

Kathleen then told me that the young man who was there to speak to me had died as a result of a car accident. If you remember from some of my previous entries, my good friend Andy had been in a horrible accident in December of 2012, an accident that had left him hospitalized until he passed away August of 2014. I had a difficult time with his death and had tried to do everything I could during his hospitalization to help him and let him know how much I cared about him. My visits to him always left me frustrated, as I did not know if he knew it was me or if I was even there. Due to the injuries sustained in the accident, he did not communicate other than blinking and was not able to move, and I always hoped that he knew how much he was loved, especially during that time. Kathleen gave me validation that he knew who I was and what all had happened during the time in the hospital, as well as some additional information that, again, were topics that weren’t common knowledge.

As we were wrapping up the session, Kathleen brought up my business, as she had earlier in the reading, only this time she told me that my dad was using the word “exponentially” when describing what we were discussing. This word is not one commonly used by anyone….that is, anyone but me. I use this word probably a little too much, and my dad would always make fun of me for it. It was the final piece of validation I needed to know that what I had just experienced was real.

After my session ended, I was able to talk to my mother about hers. The great thing about Kathleen Moore is that she lets you record the whole reading, so I was able to let my mom listen to parts of mine as my aunt was inside having her reading done. Once we were done, the three of us grabbed lunch nearby and shared what she had told all of us. The medium had told my mom and aunt things that there was no way she could know, much like she did for me.

Am I now a believer in mediums? Yes, yes I am.

I do think there are probably a lot of wannabe mediums out there, but after talking with Kathleen, I 100% think she is legit. Talking with her gave me some much needed peace and comfort, which makes the whole experience worth it.

Do you have to believe in mediums? Not at all. In fact, you could think what I did today was downright silly and ridiculous, and that’s ok. There was a time I thought it was rather dumb myself. My biggest piece of advice that I can give anyone who is going through the seasons of grief like I am is to find peace and comfort in whatever way helps YOU. We are all different. We all need different things to make us feel better and stronger.

Will I still miss my dad and cry about him? Absolutely. Every day for the rest of my life. I find a lot of happiness knowing he is around me and is still a part of my life in some way. It took a medium to help me realize that, and to me that is something I will never forget.

I miss you, dad……exponentially.

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Teary eyed but happy after an amazing experience.

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