Personal Journey to Mourning

I have written about grief before, but it now seems much more relevant than it had previously. So here we go down the rabbit hole.

2018 was a rough year for my family. It started with the death of my great-grandmother, “Grandma Rosey”, (my mother’s grandma). There was a lot of drama surrounding her declining health after she had a stroke several years ago which lead to my grandmother, “Grandma Ginny” (mom’s mom) not attending her own mother’s funeral. We all tried to convince her to go because we know she will regret it, but it was to no avail. I had just arrived to work when I received a message that Grandma Rosey had passed. I was set to go to the funeral, but at the last minute, I stayed home because a nurse I worked with made me feel full of guilt for planning to be out of work. This wasn’t one of my proudest moments.

Next my father’s dad, “Grandpa Fink”, was in the I.C.U. In my family’s fashion, I received a call at work telling me that he was on life support and that they were letting him die the following morning. I was a mess of guilt and sorrow. My dad’s family hasn’t been a part of my life for a long time because of an argument my father and I had ten years ago. When I went to visit him in the hospital, he was unable to communicate and seemed confused. He wasn’t actually on life support (confusion runs in the family I suppose), but he was in bad condition. He’s now in a nursing home instead of being at home taking care of my grandmother (his wife) who is unable to care for herself properly.

Then my Grandpa Pauly (mom’s dad) was admitted to the hospital for organ failure. An infection was taking over his body and he was dying. Luckily, after dozens of tests, procedures, and treatments (and a week in the hospital), he was discharged in stable condition. My Grandpa Pauly is someone I have always connected with and that was a really scary time for me.

After that, my Great-Grandma Burns (Dad’s grandmother) got sick while in the nursing home with Dementia. She is refusing medication treatments and is not well.

Her husband, my Great-Grandpa Burns, can no longer walk independently and uses a wheelchair often. My dad thinks that his time with us is limited too.

Lastly, my Step-Grandma Pat (my mom’s mother-in-law), passed away on the last day of the year. In her last days, she was but a hollow shell of the woman she once was.

This year has taught me so much about myself, but it has also taught me a lot about the people around me. How we perceive things and how we grieve are both very personal experiences. Some people grow stronger in times of stress. They throw aside their fears and do their best to hold up those around them. They take charge of the situation and work diligently to make those around them comforted. Others watch in silence. They disconnect themselves from the situation and view things from the outside – they shut down. Some people use humor as a coping mechanism. They will find comfort in making the people around them smile in the darkest moments. Others become angry at the world around them. They refuse to accept the situation that has been set in front of them.

There is no one “right way” to deal with death and dying. Over the past year I have felt strength, silence, humor, and anger in vulnerable situations. And that is okay.

Allow yourself and those around you to mourn in their own way. We each have our own path to take in the journey of healing.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Perfectly Imperfect

You would think that because I am an anxious person, I am great at dealing with other anxious people. On paper, I am. Through text, I am. In person, it’s often a train wreck. My anxiety builds off of their anxiety which builds from mine which…well, you get the point. Or we both have no idea what to say and its just awkward.

Speaking of building my emotions off of other people’s feelings, I have something really embarrassing to share. When I was younger, I thought that my over-sensitivity and anxiety was my “superpower”. I thought that deeply feeling the emotions of those around me was my Superwoman skill. I remember one instance in particular when we (my family and I) were driving by a group of people who were at a roadside memorial for someone who was recently killed in an automobile accident and I could feel their sorrow so deeply that it actually brought me to tears. I hadn’t experienced a loss in my life yet at that time, but somehow I felt their pain. I was amazed and scared at that point, but now I know that it was due to being a highly-emotional person. But what if it is also my superpower?

Empathy is one of my strengths and it is something that has guided me into a nursing career. What if we thought of some of our “flaws” (such as being overly sensitive and emotional) and twisted them into strengths (such as the ability to be empathetic)?

Why does being emotional always have to be a bad thing? Why does having anxiety always have to be a bad thing?

Having anxiety has saved my life at least once. In the fall after I graduated high school, I tried going to a university. The night before classes started, I went to an outdoor concert. I convinced the guy I was with at the time that we needed to start leaving two songs before the end of the concert. He fought me about it, but I said I needed to go and had a bad feeling about staying any longer. Long story short, we made it to the buses that drove us to the parking lot down the street. The buses never came back to get more people from the concert. Everyone else had to walk in the dark down the road and through the woods to the parking lot. Someone was hit by a car and died that night walking to the parking lot. I remember hearing the news a day later and how everyone who was left by the buses had to wait hours for the police and medics to clear the scene. That could have been me that night and if it weren’t for my anxiety and deciding to go with my gut, I would have been there when the tragedy occurred.

Maybe the things that set us apart aren’t all bad. Maybe those are the things that make us better at what we do and will protect us in certain situations. Sometimes you don’t have to understand why things are the way they are or why you are the way you are. Go with your instincts and try to put a positive spin on all things in your life. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it will make your life much more manageable.

You are perfectly imperfect.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Confidence is Key

Confidence is something that a lot of people struggle to find, but I’ve learned that it’s actually something that you create for yourself. I always wondered how some women found such confidence. It’s not that they don’t deserve it, we all do, but it looked so easily accomplished for them.

Recently I noticed that the moments when I felt most confident were when I was investing in myself. By working on the things that I love and that give value to my life, such as photography, I valued myself more. I stopped making my worth equivalent to my appearance and started appreciating that I am so much more than what I look like.

Have you ever heard someone say to “fall in love with a person’s personality and not their beauty” (or some something along those lines)? That’s because looks fade and/or alter, but who a person truly is will stay for a lifetime. Building your sense of identity from who you are as a being instead of your physical appearance is bound to make you much happier in the end.

Take time to enjoy your passions. Find things that you love to do and practice them. Building your skill set and realizing your talents is a great way to increase confidence. Sure, you are going to have days that are tougher than others, but know that you are beautiful AND so much more. If you need to remind yourself of that every day, then so be it.

I’m a wife, a dog mom, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a coworker, a photographer, a blogger…but on a deeper level I’m creative, kind, smart, intuitive, compassionate, and strong-willed. By respecting myself and investing in my interests/health, I have found a greater worth in my life and more confidence in myself.

Find what makes you happy and focus on it! Capitalize on your strengths and what makes you happy.

I have a challenge for you today: I want you to list five things that make you a great friend/significant other/parent, five things that you love to do, and five things that you love about yourself.

You are a great person and I hope you are able to build your confidence and realize your worth.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Settling for the Best Life

Today I want to talk to you about not settling for what already is and working toward living your best life. This can start small such as your kitchen cabinets or can be a larger issue like not having the time or money to do what you love.

I recently decided that it was time to reorganize our kitchen. I always dreaded cooking in our kitchen because it was difficult to find the things that I needed. We had most of our spices in a plastic bin in the cupboards over our sink. Some were on a spinning spice rack on a shelf under our kitchen island. The rest were in jars in our dining room where we kept our wine glasses. I hated having to dig through three different places when cooking to find what we needed. So instead of accepting that this is just how things have to be, I decided to move everything around. We ended up moving our canned goods and putting all of our spices in the stacked cupboards on the wall. Having all of our spices visible and in one place helps us to decrease our time searching and increase our time enjoying our food and time together. This is something little that has decreased my stress in a big way.

I have the unfortunate habit of biting off more than I can chew. I love to be busy and, at times, my commitments have overwhelmed my schedule. When I was in nursing school I was not only doing school full-time, but also had a part-time job as a home health aide, part-time over night job as a private aide for a person at a senior living facility, and worked as a photographer part time in my own business. We were making ends meet, traveling, but I never had scheduled time to rest. I ended up leaving my over night job so I could focus on school more and sleep from time-to-time. It meant less income for our household, but we made it work and with the extra sleep I was much less stressed. Ultimately it was the best decision for my relationship, education, and health. Life is all about balance.

Money is something that stresses a lot of people out. My husband is currently in college full time working toward a degree, so we are down to one income at the moment. I have done a ton of research on budgeting and money management which has helped us to not only build our Emergency fund to over two grand, but also decrease debt which in turn helped our credit scores. If money is something that you worry about, it’s okay. There is so much you can do to positively influence this part of your life while still having fun. I am going to be posting tomorrow about budgeting specifically.

Pinpoint what is affecting your happiness and stress levels. Do what is within your control to positively influence and whatever is out of your control, try not to dwell on.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can make a huge difference in your comfort and happiness.

You are worth the effort.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Overcoming Obstacles

Life is such an amazing thing, but it isn’t all sunshine and roses. Sometimes things happen and you have to do your best to work through them.

About four years ago, I experienced an attempted break-in. I was living in a cabin in the woods with little-to-no cell service and no home phone (I know, that’s the start of most horror movies). It was a group of about four or five individuals who approached the home in the dark. At one point, I was in the bedroom loft upstairs and I could see them standing outside below my closet window. We had to get the police involved and I was able to get cell service long enough to call 9-1-1 and tell them that I needed help. I was sitting upstairs behind my ex (we were dating at the time) waiting for someone to walk up the stairs. It was horrible, but luckily the police got there before the people were able to get into the house. We left the residence with whatever expensive belongings we could carry and just hoped that our things would be there when we got back the next day. Thank goodness everything was in it’s place when we returned. I thought that after that night, everything would be okay. I slept with a pocketknife for a couple of weeks (that’s a dangerous idea, don’t do that) and we put up cameras around the outside of the house. Problem solved, right? Not quite.

Although I have since moved out of that house and live in an urban setting, I still struggle with going to sleep at times. Before going into our bedroom at night, I have to make sure that both of our doors are locked. Our dog sleeps by the front door at the bottom of the stairs leading to the second floor of our home. Our bedroom door is bolt-locked and we have easily accessible lights by our bed. With all of that being said, I have come a long way since the first year after the break-in occurred.

For a while I would have panic-attacks at night or when I was in the dark. Any noise would wake me from my sleep and my husband (years later) would have to sweep the house to make sure nobody was in the house. I am now able to lay in bed at night, heart rate under control, and peacefully fall asleep. I have learned to hear noises at night and realize that there are a million different things that it could be, but chances are that it’s going to be okay. I have stopped my brain from wandering to those scary moments in the past.

Why am I telling you this? Well, because a lot of people have traumas or difficult things that happen in their life that they have to then learn to overcome. It is, by no means, going to be an easy or quick journey, but you can overcome this. You will be able to sleep at night again. You will be able to watch scary movies again. You will eventually be able to do whatever it is that is difficult in the moment. Even if that means that you need to talk with a trained professional, you can work through it. You aren’t weak because of this moment. You are strong because you are pushing past this struggle.

Give yourself grace and be patient. You are doing the best that you can and everyone’s journey to healing is a little different. Remind yourself that whatever happened is in the past. Look at yourself in the mirror and say to your reflection that you aren’t going to let your past determine your future.

I was so incredibly fortunate to start dating my now-husband about six months after this incident occurred. He has been so patient with me and supportive of what I need to do to feel safe. Find those people in your life that will listen to your fears and help you to find peace.

You are strong and you will get past this obstacle.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Face Your Spooky Fears

Happy Halloween! This time of the year is full of spooktacular decorations and haunting movies. Not to mention, all of your fears come alive. It’s the one time of the year that I love draping everything in cobwebs and littering them with fuzzy plastic spiders. It’s about facing your fears and conquering them. Whether those fears are blood, clowns, spiders… you can get past them.

For years I was deathly afraid of needles. When I was a kid, I would run around the room when the nurse came in the room with vaccines and would try to fight them off. When I was a teenager, I would pass out when getting blood work drawn. In the past two and a half weeks I have had blood work drawn three times and an I.V. once. Thank goodness I have conquered my fear of needles. Want to know my secret? I faced these fears head-on. When I was about eighteen and started having seizures, I had a lot of blood work and I.V.s done. I was terrified, but I got past it. Once I realized that I was slowly getting better at dealing with my fear, I started donating blood with the American Red Cross. The more I faced my fear, the easier it became to deal with needles. This helped¬† me tremendously through nursing school and recently when I have had to deal with needles more frequently. Through my experience in pediatric care and vaccine administration, I have realized that tools such as lidocaine cream and “shot blockers” (plastic with soft spikes on the back that stimulate skin around where the vaccine is administered) only enable the fear. You are strong and you can face this fear without any tricks up your sleeve.

When I was in school, I was also terrified of heights. Even if their were railings or windows, I was scared of seeing the ground below me being so far away. In middle school, I went rappelling on a mountainside. I also took the opportunity to do rock climbing several times throughout the rest of my schooling. When I graduated, I went parasailing in the ocean. Looking out along the coast, I was terrified, but also exhilarated. I was finally facing my fears head-on instead of avoiding them. That was my freeing moment. This is when I no longer was a prisoner to my fears and was instead taking control of my life. Since then, I have hiked up several mountains and seen some of the most beautiful views that I wouldn’t have been able to handle previously.

It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to be spooked by the chainsaws and ghosts that roam in the haunted houses this season. Just don’t let everyday fears prevent you from living your best life.

You can conquer your fears.

I believe in you.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Week-long Vacations on a Budget

Weekend get-aways are awesome, but do you know what’s even better? A week long vacation! Yesterday I shared some tips and tricks for a weekend vacation, but today I want to talk about longer vacations and how to save money while having an amazing experience.

I am going to be pulling experiences from my Maine 2016 and 2018 vacations to the Rockport/Camden area. If you ever have the opportunity to to visit that area, I strongly suggest it.

  • Both times we rented a cabin from Megunticook campground. The campground is right along the water, so we spent breakfast along the sea and watched the sunset over the water. The cabins have electricity, so when we went at the end of the season in 2016 (saved money because it wasn’t busy season), we brought our own electric space heater which was a life saver. I will post the campsite’s website below.
  • Just like a weekend away, we plan ahead for our meals. When we know what we will be having for each meal, we will save money from bringing food from home and not eating out every night. We plan our meals according to what will last the longest and what will need to defrost. For example, if we pack frozen veggies and regular produce, we will eat the regular produce before eating the frozen foods because they will thaw on their own in our cooler. Another lifesaver for us was bringing our electric burner on our 2018 trip to Maine. This allowed us to boil water and cook without constantly having to make a fire.
  • While we are talking about food, you will probably get hungry during your drive if you are traveling far from home. For our 2018 trip I packed a reusable chopping bag with snacks such as almonds, fruit, granola bars, mints, and water. When we got hungry, we would just grab a snack from the bag at my feet instead of stopping at a rest stop and eating junk food or having to go through all of our packed food for a treat.
  • If you are traveling on a road that has tolls, be sure to bring a little sandwich bag or mason jar full of quarters. Even if you don’t think you will have to pay tolls, bring quarters. You never want to find yourself at a toll or paying for parking without any small bills or cash on hand. Oh, and don’t forget to notify your bank that you will be out of town! There is nothing worse than getting your cards or bank account frozen while on vacation.
  • Do some research about local events/museums/scenery… in the area that you will be traveling to. My husband and I love museums, so on our 2016 trip we visited a lighthouse museum and on our 2018 trip we visited several art museums and a transportation museum. Be on the look-out for museums that are linked with other attractions. Some museums’ tickets will grant you access to other museums in the area (like The MET in NYC). Some other great (free/cheap) options are swimming at beaches, finding lighthouses and hiking at state parks. During our 2018 trip we found an adorable beach along the coast and decided to eat our packed lunch there. We also found a ton of cute little shops to browse through. We even found the cutest little bakery with delicious pastries that were affordable and amazing (this trip was pre-vegan). Do your research, but don’t make yourself stick to a plan. Have ideas of what you want to do, but if you find something you like better, do it! Live in the moment.
  • We also plan what meals we will eat out instead of cooking ourselves. Usually we will eat breakfast at a little diner the day we leave our trip. We also picked one lunch and one dinner to eat at a local restaurant. Oh, and one night that we went out just for drinks after dinner! By talking with local people you can find great food for a great price.
  • Drive around aimlessly. Remember that beach I told you about? We found that on accident. We also found antique shops, lighthouses, bakeries, pizzerias, breweries, and museums just by driving around. Don’t rely strictly on Google searches for your vacation. Not only will you find awesome places to experience, but amazing views. One of my favorite things about that area of Maine is how much lavender grows wildly. The stuff is everywhere! It is so beautiful and it took everything in me to not come home with bunches of the stuff.

 

MEGUNTICOOK CAMPGROUND https://megunticookcampgrounds.com/

 

Planning is a great way to get your cost-efficient vacation started, but don’t forget to live in the moment and enjoy your time to relax and recover from daily life.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

Anxiety

Chances are that somebody in your life is living with anxiety right at this moment (whether you realize it or not). If that somebody is you, I hope that what I will write in this post will help you. If not, this post may be able to help you relieve stress from your life.

Anxiety is something that I have lived with for about ten years now. There are a ton of different kinds of anxiety and I am not going to pretend that I know how everyone with anxiety feels, but I am going to list things that help my anxiety below.

  1. Essential Oils: I don’t know what it is about them, but lavender in particular will help me to relax if I am having a stressful day or feeling a little extra anxious. Orange is another great scent that will help me to feel energized and leave the house smelling so clean and fresh. There are a ton of different brands of essential oils out there and I’m honestly not sure how to tell which are better quality (although it is something that I want to do more research on), but I have bought some from MLM companies, Big Lots, Amazon, and even Walmart. I have a couple diffusers in my house and all i have to do is fill them with water, put in a few drops of the oil of my choice, and turn it on. I learned recently that some essential oils can have negative effects on pets, so talk with your veterinarian or do your own research if this is something that you have to consider. I have also been gifted essential oils that are in a diluting liquid (I’m not 100% sure on the process) and can be rolled onto my skin – I typically will rub it into my wrists – but I wouldn’t advise putting regular essential oils on your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin like I do.
  2. Deep Breathing Exercises: When I find myself getting worked up and increasingly anxious, I tell myself to take ten deep breaths while closing my eyes and count them as I go. (inhale through my nose – hold for a moment – exhale through my mouth – “one”) By forcing myself to focus on my breathing, I am momentarily distracting my brain from what it was being anxious about. I usually feel much better after ten deep breaths. Going to new places is one of my sources of anxiety. I know that the longer I procrastinate getting out of the car, the harder it will be for me. I allow myself to take one deep breath and then quickly open the door and get out of the vehicle. The more I let myself stew about the “what if” possibilities, the worse the situation will be and the worse I will feel. If you meditate, this is another awesome idea. Meditation on a regular basis is like a stronger and more effective form of deep breathing exercises. It forces you to release what tension you have and return yourself to a peaceful center. Meditation is something I am new at and still working on, but I have already found it to be helpful.
  3. Do a Craft: Art is a great outlet for frustration and anxiety. By forcing my emotions out through creativity, I am not only releasing tension and distracting my brain, but I am creating something that can be useful or is beautiful. Some examples of this could be crocheting, coloring, drawing, poetry, photography, wood burning, calligraphy, or any other craft/hobby that you like. It is so important to find your outlet and realize when you can benefit most from practicing your craft.
  4. Read a Book: I love to read. When I get into a good book, reality slips away from me. Having a break from the real world is sometimes just what I need. Pro tip – although there is nothing like the hard copy of a book, e-readers are great for people who are working on minimizing their possessions and living a simpler life. You can also find coloring apps and much more on most tablets, phones, and computers.
  5. Cleaning: I know that this sounds really cliche. I also know that this actually works for me. I think it’s partly because being around clutter and knowing that I have a long list of things that need to get done is subconsciously a huge source of my anxiety. By cleaning my house, I am able to get my frustration out while working on fixing what is making me so on-edge.
  6. Exercise: I used to be a runner. I’m not saying that I did track in high school or ran marathons or anything, I just used to run every day to get my stress and frustration out. This is something that I hope to pick back up again because it worked so incredibly well for me. It was like I was running away from my anxiety. Not everyone enjoys running, but just about any form of exercise can release endorphins in your body and help with your mental/emotional well-being.

I wish that I could guarantee that if you do these six things, your anxiety will be cured and you will feel great. That just isn’t reality. You need to figure out what works for you and go with it. If that means you need to turn music up loud and sing at the top of your lungs, do it. If you have to write out letters telling yourself that you are going to be okay and get through this, do it. You need to do whatever it is that is going to make life easier for you. Anxiety can be a real pain in the butt and affect a lot of your life, but it only has as much power as you give it. Don’t give up and keep working on your coping mechanisms.

Make yourself and your mental/emotional well-being a priority.

Love Always,

Elizabeth

P.S. There is nothing wrong with talking to a trained professional. They can be incredibly helpful in targeting what your anxiety triggers are and figuring out how you can deal with them.

Everything Happens for a Reason

I don’t know if you believe in God. Honestly, I’m not sure what I believe in myself. What I do know is that everything seems to happen for a reason. I might not understand it at the time, but eventually the events in my life all start to make sense. If you have been following my blog, you know that recently I had a medical issue and have not been feeling well.

My doctor contributed the seizures’ reappearance to stress and anxiety. He said that I should not be driving and that my neurologist will probably suspend my license for a year. If I can go one year seizure-free, I will be able to get my license back. With my current job coming to an end and my new job (within walking distance of my house) quickly approaching, there has been a lot of transition and stress in my life.

If you know me, I have a hard time admitting that I’m not okay and asking for help. I continued to try to work through these health issues. My body has continually been getting tired and weak with stress, medications, and anxiety. Not even two weeks ago I felt so strong and healthy. It’s crazy how quickly things can change.

A few days ago my job gave me the opportunity to leave my resignation early. I will be taking a sort of leave-of-absence for health reasons and will be released from my resignation date on a good standing with the company. This news lead me to tears. I have been so worried about how I am going to be able to schedule my upcoming appointments without taking time off. I have been desperately trying to figure out transportation to and from work. I knew that I needed to take time to help heal my body and mind, but didn’t know how to make those opportunities happen.

In the next month I will be focusing on my physical and mental health. This isn’t what I asked for, but it is definitely what I needed.

Take care of yourself. You can’t take care of others when you are broken yourself.

Love Always,

Elizabeth