Take the trip

I love to travel.

Seeing new places. Trying new foods. All of it.

It’s not just about the trip itself. It’s everything that goes into it. Researching the flights. Finding the perfect AirBNB or hotel. Planning activities to do once we’re there. It’s a thrill for me. Even if it’s not my trip, I love helping someone else plan theirs. I think in another life I was a travel agent.

The only thing I hate about trips is they cost a lot of money. Especially right now.

Seven years ago I was living in Little Rock and was a few months in at my new job as a multi-media journalist at a local news station. A fancy title for a job description that literally requires you to carry up to 50 pounds of camera gear and shoot, write and edit a story on a deadline each day. Not the most glamorous of careers, and certainly not the highest paying, but I loved what I did.

In the summer of 2015, my boyfriend Brock asked me to go to Alaska with him. He was born there and grew up in Juneau. I had never been to Alaska. I’m a Florida girl at heart with a love of beaches and warm weather. But the travel bug had bitten me and I could sense an adventure was on the horizon.

The only problem? I was broke. Starting out in the news industry yields very little income. Not to mention, a flight from Little Rock, Arkansas to Juneau, Alaska was easily a 1/4 of my paycheck. But I was in love and I wanted to share this adventure with Brock and explore the place he loved so much.

So I booked the flight. I can’t remember, but it was most likely on a credit card. I didn’t care though. All I could do was count down the days until I took off to a place I had never been before with the man I loved.

If you’ve ever been to Alaska, you already know it’s a beautiful place. I had no idea what to expect, but something told me it wouldn’t disappoint. And it certainly didn’t.

Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

Brock was so excited to be my tour guide. Our first stop was Mendenhall Glacier. I had never seen a glacier before! I was amazed. I remember the sun was out and there was a slight chill in the air. I thought it was wild that it was the middle of summer and I was wearing a jacket!

Brock and I in front of Mendenhall Glacier, August 2015

The next week was spent doing all sorts of things I had never experienced before. We went fishing for salmon, which we caught and cooked that night. We ate Pel Menis, Brock’s favorite food, at this little restaurant in downtown Juneau. We saw humpback whales jump out of the water and create the biggest splash I’d ever seen. It was the most amazing week of my life.

Fishing for salmon in Alaska, August 2015

I remember waking up very early to go to the airport the day I was set to leave. It felt like the week had flown by. I hugged Brock so hard. I didn’t want to let go. Goodbyes are always hard in long-distance relationships, but this time felt different. I had this unnerving feeling. I was scared. I remember so clearly thinking, “What if this is the last time I ever get to hug him?” I don’t know why I thought that. Maybe I was overwhelmed with emotions with such a beautiful week coming to an end and our long-distance relationship beginning again. I missed him and I hadn’t even left yet. I hugged him tighter. I kissed him, said goodbye, and walked to my gate not knowing that was the last hug I would ever get from him.

Three weeks later, I got the call that Brock had passed away.

My heart aches when I think back on that moment at the airport. I had no way of knowing that was the last time. How could I? If I had, would I have done something differently? Would I have never left? Would I have made him come with me? The questions have run through my head on countless sleepless nights. I have wrestled with more “what ifs” than I can count. My mind replays that moment over and over again. I can literally feel the warmth of his hug, the touch of his hand holding mine. The ache becomes so real all over again.

There are so many things I wish I would have said or done had I known it was the last time. But there is one thing I would never change.

Booking that flight and going on that adventure was the best decision I ever made. Words cannot describe how thankful I am for the precious memories made on that trip. They are all I have left of the man who stole my heart and forever changed my life.

Life is short. Tomorrow is not promised. You only live once. We hear these sayings the time, but are we really listening? This life is a GIFT and so are the people who are in it. So take advantage of every moment. Experience a new adventure. Try a new food. Quit your job if it’s making you unhappy. Stop waiting and ask him out! Be brave. Start over.

And always, always, always, take the trip.

Love, L.

Don’t let anyone but angels in.

I remember reading this one time in a blog about love after loss.

I found it so beautiful. So poetic.

Love after loss has been a really difficult topic for me to write about. The beautiful part is I have found it and I am so incredibly thankful for that.

I feel like I should want to write novels about it, considering I found it difficult to find advice, wisdom, or guidance on the topic when I needed it most.

The truth is, love after loss is scary. Scratch that — it’s terrifying. The mere thought of finding someone new is incomprehensible when you have lost the only person in this world that was meant for you.

I remember, not long after Brock died, an older woman in a grief class looked me straight in the face and told me, “Don’t worry. You’re young. You’ll find someone else.”

Pardon my French, but WTF?! Who SAYS that??? I remember walking out the door with tears streaming down my face. Sure, she probably didn’t mean it to sound so harsh, but her words stung for a very long time.

When you’ve found the person you’re meant to be with, there IS no one else. So when they are taken away from you without warning, not only is their life over but it feels like yours is too.

It took me about a year and a half before I even thought about dating. And it wasn’t even dating that I wanted. The truth is, I was lonely. Painfully lonely. I missed the feeling of a hug. Someone holding my hand. Snuggling up with someone on the couch to watch a movie. I missed companionship. Conversation. I missed laughing and inside jokes. It was a new ache that joined the pang of grief I felt in my heart.

I remember my first kiss after Brock passed away. I thought I would forget how to kiss, it had felt so long. To my surprise, I remembered just fine. I liked it, but I remember feeling a little .. wrong. Almost as if I was cheating. Nothing ever panned out with that guy, and that’s okay because my heart wasn’t ready anyway. Deep down, I knew that.

When I did meet someone, I was taken by surprise. I think it was the first time I laughed, really laughed, since Brock left. This person was funny and adventurous and a breath of fresh air. I liked him, and after some time, I learned I could love him too. And so I did.

But just like I discovered I could love again, I learned that my heart could actually break again. It was like a vase that had been dropped and broken, but the pieces were glued back together very carefully. It was very fragile, and unfortunately, this person did not read the sign that said: “handle with care.” When it broke again, it shattered into a million pieces. There wasn’t enough glue in the world to put it, or me, back together.

But just like I discovered I could love again, I learned that my heart could actually break again

Or so I thought.

Piece by piece, and a lot of therapy later, I began to pick up the broken pieces. The loneliness that had taken a brief reprieve was back, but not as strong. I knew I had to fix myself first, and not allow someone else to come in and try.

Then Madison walked into my life. He didn’t come in like a gale force wind, but instead a soft breeze. I was scared, wrapped in my bandages that were ready to be taken off, but I couldn’t bring myself to rip them yet. He took his time with me. He listened. He saw my wounds and he didn’t flinch. He let me sob in his arms in moments I missed Brock, the tears soaking his shirt. Little did I know, he was praying to him, asking his permission to love me.

In 258 days, I’ll walk down the aisle towards that man and say, “I do.” They are words I never imagined I would say after Brock died, but now I can’t wait to say them to Madison, the man I will soon call my husband.

Madison proposing to me on April 8th, 2022 in Tulum, Mexico

Love after loss is possible. I have found it. It’s not the same love I had for Brock, and I wouldn’t want it to be. They are two separate loves for two men who have both changed my life immensely. And there is no comparison between the two.

I understand now what it means.”Don’t let anyone but angels in.” Just the way Brock is my angel in Heaven, Madison is my angel here on Earth. He is soft and kind and loving. He is accepting, forgiving, and understanding. He is patient as I grieve and accepts that I always will.

I don’t have children yet, but I have heard people say about their first child, “I could never love another child more than this one.” Then they have another child and they realize there is plenty of room in their heart for more love.

There is room in mine too. But only for angels.

Love, L.

I miss her.

I miss her.

She was fun.

She was not afraid.

She laughed. Loud.

She was adventurous.

Slow to anger. Quick to forgive.

She was naive.

She had a lot of friends. Too many to count.

She was goofy and nerdy and owned it, too.

She took chances.

She jumped out of airplanes and left everything for a place she knew no one.

She didn’t stress so much about the future or focus so much on the past.

She didn’t let the small things become big things.

She had goals, vision, dreams, desires.

She was so innocent.

Now she’s tough.

She’s hardened.

She stresses.. a lot.

She worries about a lot of things that are not in her control.

She hears your advice, but her anxiety is louder and tells her the opposite.

She is fearful.

She drives the speed limit.

She is terrified of heights.

She is quick to anger.

She takes everything personally.

But she’s also smarter.

She no longer says “What if?” but instead “Even if.”

She is a realist.

She isn’t scared of death.

Despite her anxious thoughts, her faith triumphs.

She listens more.

She is soft.

She is genuine.

She is empathetic.

She is unashamed of who she is.

She understands what quality over quantity means when it comes to friendships.

She is okay with saying goodbye to things and people that no longer suit her.

She knows pain — real pain.

She allows herself to grieve freely.

She has changed so much.

But you see, she didn’t really have a choice.

There is a before and an after and there always will be.

She will never be who she was before. It’s impossible.

And that’s okay.

I still miss her though.

I always will.

A part of her will always be with me.

She has to be.

She is me.

“Everything is OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”

I’ll never forget this bit of advice my Grandma gave to me years ago. I can’t remember exactly why she said this to me, but if I had to guess it was probably because I got my heart broken by a boy. Oh, those teenage years — some I wish I could forget!

As I’ve gotten older and experienced much more difficult trials than a boy dumping me, I find myself coming back to this quote from time to time. It’s a good reminder — especially when life seems bleak and nothing is going your way.

On July 2nd, I found out I lost my job. Talk about a blow, especially during a global pandemic. This was a job I loved and the news came as a complete shock. One minute I was working on a project for the next day, and the next, I’m on a Zoom call getting told today is my last day and a courier will be by to pick up my work computer. (Yes, a Zoom call. Very professional.)

I remember shutting my computer after that 3 minute call and just bursting into tears. I was given no reason, no answers to my questions — I felt like my world just came crashing down. I called my boyfriend and, through tears, told him what happened. He rushed home to comfort me, but it didn’t change the fact that after 5.5 years of hard work and dedication, I was now jobless. I’ve never been divorced, but I felt like I was just served the papers. I felt powerless and all I could think was, “What do I do now?”

Well, I gave myself two options. Cry about it, or do something. I did both. I curled up in a ball and felt sorry for myself all day. I ate ice cream at 11:30 a.m. I drank wine before 5 p.m. I didn’t change out of my pajamas for the rest of the day.

Then the next morning, I got up, grabbed my computer and gathered every single award I had ever won and placed them on my dining room table. (Nothing wrong with a little motivation!) Then I opened my laptop and started to work on my resume.

Here is a visual.

I asked my boyfriend to snap this photo and send to me when I have a bad day. I feel so powerful in this photo. Strong, confident, bad ass. A stark contrast from the day before when I was drowning my sorrows in a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. It’s been very reassuring to look at this photo these past couple of months, and something tells me I will need to glance at it from time to time in the years ahead, too.

Fast forward two months from the day this photo was taken and I am starting my first day at my new job. Not to mention, my first day is the day my severance from my old job ended. How crazy is that? Some may call it luck, but I say it’s a God thing.

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy to stay positive during those two months. I’m human. I doubt myself. I worry. But I was confident that God would not fail me. He has led me through the fire before and I knew He would do it again. And He did. He led me right to where I am supposed to be.

Maybe you are in a similar situation. Struggling with doubt and concerned about what is going to happen next. It can be overwhelming. But the good news is that God’s presence is overwhelming, especially in times of trial and doubt.

Stay hopeful, stay faithful and remember — if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.

Turns out Grandma was right again.

Love, L.

Back to the grief

This week, I sat with a friend in the hospital as her husband lay dying in the next room.

He had overdosed and was clinging to life. A few days later he passed away.

She sat there for days, not knowing whether he would live or die, and then, had to come to grips with the reality that he was never coming back.

Most people would say, “I can’t even imagine,” but the reality is, I can and I do.

Looking at her, I saw me.

I saw me 4 years ago, after I just received the news that would knock the wind out of me and change my life.

I looked at her and I felt the instant ache in my heart, the breath you can’t catch, the overwhelming emptiness.

I looked at her and felt the pain in her pleading eyes, desperate for answers. Desperate for him to come back.

I felt every emotion, because I have lived it.

I have always hated to see people I love in pain, but this – this is the worst. I think it’s because you know the pain they are experiencing, but you also know it’s going to get worse.

You know that the weeks and months will pass and the friends that were there with you every waking moment in the beginning will move on with their lives. You know the horrible, aching feeling of waking up in the middle of the night thinking it was a terrible dream, only to be slapped in the face by reality when your hand reaches across the bed and comes up empty. You know the lonely nights to come. The anger. The guilt. The feeling of wanting to die, too.

It’s like it was yesterday.

And now, here I am, sitting in silence next to my friend in the hospital thinking to myself, “how did I ever survive this?”

It’s something I ask myself often, but the only thing that matters is that I did. And I am. And that’s all she needs to know. That I am still here. That I did not break. That I have incredible faith in God. That He carried me through this and He will do the same for her.

Love, L.

Woke up cuz the light poured in
Day 2 let the flood begin
Day 1 left me in my bed
I can barely remember it
Heart shattered in a thousand ways
They tell me pain gonna come in waves
They tell me I’m gonna be okay
I’m still waiting for the first to break

Why would You give and then take him away
Suddenly end could You not let it fade
What I would give for a couple of days
A couple of days

Toby Mac – 21 Years 

Gratitude List

  1. A terrific novel I just discovered
  2. My first Thanksgiving in a long time with family
  3. A safe drive home after a long weekend in Texas

This is my gratitude list for today. It’s short and sweet, but it’s a big part of my morning. In fact, it sets the tone for my entire day.

It was a little over a year ago when my therapist recommended a gratitude list. She told me to write down 10 things I am grateful for each morning. My first thought was “10 things?! I can’t even think of one thing I’m grateful for!”

Let me explain — I’m not usually such a ‘Negative Nancy,’ but I was not exactly in the most positive mindset at the time I was assigned this task. I was going through a break up, grief was threatening to swallow me and I was dealing with some issues at work. So, the last thing I wanted to do was make a list of all the things I’m thankful for. But I decided to give it a try anyway.

In the beginning it was tough. I literally would sit and look around my apartment for ideas to put on the list. Hot cup of tea to relax me. Check. My favorite TV show just dished out another episode. Check. My dog didn’t rip my tights with her nails. Check. Silly things, I know — but I was grasping for straws.

I started each day with my list. My favorite cereal on sale. Check. Sunshine after a rainy day. Check. NY and Company having a sale and it’s payday. Check and Check! Every day was a little easier. As the months went on, I began to make a conscious effort to recognize moments that I was grateful for. Throughout my day, as positive things happened, I would make a mental note to add it to my list the next morning.

Soon, I was breezing through my list. Some days I had more than 10 things! I started to smile more. I laughed again. I sent more silent “thank yous” up to God.

In the last few months, I started to slack off on my list. Life got busy. But I will tell you, I notice it. I actually miss making my list every morning. My therapist was right (aren’t they always?) — making that list, as small as it may seem, really does create a change in you. Focusing on the good in your life provides a different perspective, especially when all seems bleak.

So my challenge to you is this: Start your own gratitude list. It doesn’t matter if it’s three things or ten — just do it! I promise you, there is a LOT to be grateful for, even if it is just a cup of hot tea.

Share your gratitude list for today in the comments below!

Love,
L.

Turning unbelievable pain into incredible purpose

Earlier this week, someone asked me the question: “When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

Over the years my answers changed. I wanted to be a police officer, a fire fighter, a mail (wo)man, a teacher and an astronaut. Eventually I settled on a “Lemonade,” which I thought was a person who ran a lemonade stand. A Lemon-aide. Get it? No? Yeah — me either. But I did have some pretty lucrative lemonade stands as a kid.

Even as I got older, my answer as to what I wanted to be when I grew up changed. Or really, it stalled. In college, all my friends seemed so sure of the paths they had taken, or so it seemed. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, nurses. But I was still unsure.

Eventually, I found my calling in television. Looking back I’ve always wanted to be a news anchor. I loved watching the news growing up. My sister and I even set up an pretend news desk in our room when we were kids, threw on my step-dad’s old blazers, grabbed some coffee cups and in 3…2…1 we were live. One time we “reported” in a hurricane holding hairbrushes as microphones and made my brother “blow away” behind us in a bright yellow poncho. Yes there is video somewhere, and no you will not see it.

The purpose of this post though isn’t to reminisce about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Instead, it’s about our purpose in life. God’s purpose for us. And sometimes that purpose is born from grief.

Grief is overwhelming. It’s the most unimaginable pain in the world. It’s as if someone ripped your heart out, stomped on it and then hands it back to you, but there is a giant piece missing. An incredible ache that will never go away.

I spent many dark, sad and lonely nights pleading with God to “just take the pain away. ” There were so many times where I didn’t think I would survive the night because the pain was too much to bear.

But what if there is a purpose in that pain?

Hear me out — I do NOT mean “everything happens for a reason.” If one more person tells me that, I may ACTUALLY punch them in the face. (Grief is ugly remember?) But this pain cannot be for nothing, right?

As I continued on my grief journey, the pain stayed with me, but it softened. My conversations with God softened too. Instead of screaming up at Him yelling, “Why God, why?” I prayed for Him to use me. To give my pain purpose.

And so he did.

A year ago today, I stood on stage and accepted an Emmy award for a documentary I poured 5 months of my life into. In the documentary, I openly share about my loss. I’ll share more in a future post, but I spent many years alone in my pain and grief. It was when I prayed for God to use that pain to help others, that the door opened and I saw Him at work through me.

Since then, I have traveled the state and shared my story with schools, church groups and organizations. I started a grief group in my city. I’ve used my platform as a news anchor to educate others. God is giving purpose to my pain and allowing me to help others. He doesn’t “give his biggest battles to his strongest soldiers,” (another punch in the face) but He does give us His toughest battles to prove His strength to the weak. To prove that we are only strong when we admit we are weak and lean on Him for guidance.

I don’t know what your specific purpose is, but rest assured that God does. He has the power to turn your unbelievable pain into incredible purpose. And He will — when the time is right. Have faith in that.

Pastor and author, Levi Lusko, once wrote, “Pain is a microphone. And the more it hurts, the louder you get. Suffering isn’t an obstacle to being used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before.

Well, I’ve since traded in my hairbrush for an actual microphone, but don’t worry you don’t need the real thing. Allow God to use your pain for something great. And if you aren’t sure what that is yet, simply ask Him to show you.

Love, L.

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A new rug won’t cover up the grief

For the majority of my adult life I’ve lived in apartments. Tiny apartments.

Studios and one bedrooms. My first one was less than 420 sq. feet. Yikes!

I’ve been living in the same place for the past 4.5 years and I felt like I needed some change. New scenery. Oh — and more space.

So a couple of weeks ago I moved into a little 2-bedroom house. It’s a rental (commitment phobe) but I love it. It’s the perfect size for me and my sweet pup. The only problem is I need to fill it! Which really isn’t a problem at all because it involves shopping for new stuff!

As soon as I moved in I wanted to buy everything. New rugs, furniture, paintings — I wanted it all! I’ve been scouring Facebook marketplace every morning and evening, walking into Target far too many times to count and studying paint colors on Pinterest like it’s my job.

It’s been fun, but what I realized it really has been is a distraction.

Last night I was sitting on my couch looking around at my new home when reality sunk in.

In 5 days it will be exactly 4 years since I got the phone call that rocked my world. The man I loved and planned to marry was gone forever, and there was absolutely nothing I could do.

It’s safe to say September 16th is a heavy day.

Sitting there looking around at my new home and new furniture, I realized all of this stuff was distracting me from the reality that the day I dread the most is almost here. Of course I knew it was coming, but I was desperate for a distraction.

The truth is that day is going to come whether I want it to or not. And it’s going to come again next year and the year after that and the year after that. I can distract myself all I want, but no amount of new rugs will cover up the grief.

And to be honest, I don’t think I want it to.

As much as I wanted — no, needed– a distraction, the truth is when I allow myself to grieve is when I feel closer to him than ever, even after all this time. I call it my grief blanket. Where it used to suffocate me, now it gives me comfort to wrap myself in it from time to time.

As Zig Ziglar once said, “The more we love a person we have lost, the greater our grief.” What a beautiful testimony to the loved ones who are no longer with us.

So friend, give yourself grace. Let yourself feel. You can distract yourself with shiny things, but grief will always be there. But so will the love.

Love, L.

The Grief Anniversaries

Grief is hard.

It’s messy.

It comes in waves.

And sometimes you don’t see those waves coming.

I’m no expert on grief. But I have been walking my own grief journey for nearly 4 years.

On September 16, 2015 I lost the love of my life. It was and will forever be the worst day of my life.

I will share more of my story in a future post, but today I am riding a wave of grief.

In the weeks, days and minutes after he passed away, the waves were endless and relentless. I could barely catch my breath before another one hit.

I was drowning.

Today is different. Nearly four years later and I can sense the waves coming. I see them on the horizon, building as they make their way to shore.

They are the holidays. The birthdays. The day we shared our first kiss. Our first date. They are the “Grief Anniversaries.”

I always thought the anniversary of the day he died would be the most difficult day. And while it is hard, especially that first one, I find his birthday is when the wave hits hardest.

I don’t know exactly why that is. Maybe it’s because he is supposed to be another year older and instead he is forever 27. Maybe it’s because we are supposed to be celebrating your day, not crying because we are without you. Maybe it’s because I never got a chance to celebrate this special day with you and now I never will.

With Saturday looming, I feel it in every inch of my body. I feel tense, stressed, agitated, emotional, quick to anger and cry over the smallest things.

I find it hard to explain to others, but I know why. I know the wave is almost here.

What I’ve learned though is that as much as we want to ignore them, these waves are unavoidable. We must stand there, our feet firm in the sand, and let them pass.

I already accept Saturday will be a difficult day. I acknowledge the wave is coming.

Instead of letting it knock me down, I vow to do something special for him. Something I know would make him smile. And make me smile, too.

Don’t avoid the wave. Run to it and feel every part of it, but don’t let it knock you down forever.

If you are experiencing a wave, or sense one coming, know that I am with you, sweet friend. I acknowledge your pain and pray for comfort.

Happy Birthday, Brock. #Forever27

Choose Joy.

Have you ever woken up in a bad mood? Maybe you slept badly. Or you are hungover. Worse yet — it’s Monday. Oh — and it’s raining.

Yes, that kind of day.

The bad mood you wake up in can carry with you throughout the day. Unless, you decide to change it and choose joy.

It’s a decision.

A conscious effort you have to make every single day.

And it’s not easy.

But let me be the first to tell you, there are worse things that can happen to you than being hungover on a rainy Monday morning after sleeping badly the night before.

Choosing joy has been a mission for me these past few years. And I’ll be the first to admit, I have failed at that mission. A lot.

But in order for me to live, I need to choose joy. It’s not an option. It’s necessary.

This blog isn’t just for those who have lost someone and are dealing with the unbearable pain of grief. But if that is you, keep reading.

It’s for the person who is struggling to find the light in the dark.

The person who, for whatever reason, has lost hope.

I’m not a therapist and I don’t have a happy pill to make life better. But I can speak (and write) from experience that even when it feels like all hope is lost, there is a light.

And that’s what I plan to do with this blog.

To write what I feel, when I feel it, and pray that it will reach someone who needs to hear it. It’s a little terrifying to put your pain on paper and be vulnerable, but in my experience, it has only helped me in the process of my own grief journey.

Just like in my Facebook posts, what I write will be raw, real and honest. Some things will come from my everyday encounters. Other parts will be straight from the pages of my personal journal, to help you see that where you are now in your hurt and pain is not where you will be forever.

Thank you to my friends and family who gave me the encouragement to do this. Here goes nothing! #ChooseJoy

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Love, L.