it’s been 20 years since I lost my father – here’s my story and how I continue to manage my grief

We all have pain. Maybe it’s from losing someone we love, going through a break up or experiencing some other type of trauma. Either way, it’s important to deal with your pain, but beyond that it’s really HARD.

Full disclosure – this post might be kind of sad or triggering and i’m selfishly writing it because this is my outlet, a safe place to share whatever I’m going through, and I want you to feel like you can share with me, too. So here goes!

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before but my dad died when I was 7. It was really sudden and really awful. I’m the youngest of two children (my brother is 3 years older than me) so my mom raised us on her own (she’s amazing and she worked her ass off to make us feel like life was still normal) and it wasn’t easy.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my family. This was taken at my cousins birthday party, I’m guessing a year or two before he passed. From top left to bottom right: my dad, my cousin, my mom, me, and mybrother.

I didn’t really feel it until much later…

If you’ve ever lost someone close to you, you know that the days following are typically filled with loved ones, funeral services, etc. There’s lots of people around, LOTS of distraction. All of that distraction doesn’t really give you the time to process WTH is actually happening. The days after my fathers death feel like a blur to me. I remember spending a lot of time with my family and being really happy about it because we didn’t usually see them so much during the week. At my father’s viewing (or funeral service – whatever you call it) I skipped around, I saw him laying there in his casket, but somehow it hadn’t hit me.

The day he was buried was similar to the wake (at least for me). I hadn’t processed it and even though everyone around me was somber and in tears, I still hadn’t come to the realization that this was the last time I’d ever see my fathers physical body.

the days following were weird

After everything was over, we had a few family members stay with us for a couple of weeks. My cousins wanted us to know that we weren’t alone and they wanted to be there to help my mom. I loved having them there. The house felt full and fun because my favorite people were there everyday – what could be better?!

Then the time came for them to leave, go back to their normal lives. Which meant we had to do the same. It was time to go back to school and for my mom to go back to work – I didn’t like this part. Suddenly my father wasn’t picking me up from school anymore. My teachers looked at me differently and some of the kids made fun of me because I had a “dead dad”. It was really weird. I’m not using the word painful because at this point, I still didn’t understand. I would get home after school and I would wait for him.

and then one day I realized I would be waiting forever..

I remember this part the most because that’s when my pain finally set in. I started to realize that I wasn’t going to see him again and I vividly remember trying to process the thought of never talking to my dad again and it HURT. It wasn’t until about two or three weeks after his funeral that I cried.

It was the first time I experienced that feeling you get in your chest when you’re really sad. I suppose it was heartbreak. I didn’t want to believe it and I couldn’t understand it. All of a sudden this man I saw every single day, who taught me how to ride a bike, blow my nose, made me love Titanic (it was one of his favorites), and a million other things, was just gone. Never to be seen again.

and it still effects me deeply as an adult..

You would think that nearly twenty years later, I would have dealt with all of my pain and fear of losing people. Turns out, I haven’t. I have nights where I can’t stop crying over it. Sometimes it feels like it’s happening all over again. I have this giant fear of losing the people closest to me. In fact, as a kid, I would make myself imagine people dying so that I could somehow prepare myself for the pain. And I still do this when I’m really anxious. I go into full-on panic mode; thinking about what I would do if I lost someone else I loved that much.

which is why I think it’s so important to deal with your pain…

I’ve been through therapy and I’m all about talking through your feelings and fears. It isn’t until recently that I realized how deep my pain goes or how much anger I feel about it sometimes. Sometimes we carry our pain around and become so used to the weight of it on our backs that we forget it’s even there. We don’t realize that our perspectives, attitudes, and interactions with others are all affected by it.

I continue to grieve as an adult. Lately it feels like I’ve been grieving for the little girl in me. I think a lot about the feeling of realizing I’d never see my father again and how deeply I felt it in my chest. I used to think about grief and loss as something you went through for a little while. I always believed that eventually it would just go away, but I’m learning that it doesn’t work like that. Feelings have to be dealt with because when they are buried or ignored, they sneak up on you, often at the worst times and in destructive ways.

I hope sharing this helped someone and that if you just lost someone recently, years ago, or even if you’ve gone through a traumatic break up that felt like a death, you know that you aren’t alone. It’s been helpful for me to get it off my chest and be honest about the pain.

with love & gratitude,

steph

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august: products that are worth the price tag

It’s mid-August! where the heck is Summer going? I always feel like Winter is 8 months long, while Spring, Summer and Fall are all crammed into 4 short months. Anyone else?

So far, it’s been a whirlwind. Our dog, Bono, was hit by a car last weekend. It was really scare and emotional. I realized how much he means to us. He’s been with us since last summer, just after we moved to Ohio from NJ and has seen us through some hard (emotional) times and I honestly couldn’t imagine life without him. Thankfully, he’s ok!

here he is sitting on our new couch – the one we swore we wouldn’t let him sit on – but could you say no to this face?!

The little things in life make me happy. For example, my husband writing me a nice card, my dog jumping up and down when I walk through the door, or finding a really cute pair of shoes on sale because who doesn’t love a good deal ?! It doesn’t take much to make me happy and I’m sure all of you can relate.

This month, there are a few items adding a little bit more light in my life. I wanted to share them with you!

You know I love skin care…

I recently picked up the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate at Ulta. I love what this product has done for my skin. In just two weeks, my skin texture has improved and a few of my dark spots have lightened up!

I also picked up their Ultra Facial Cleanser and I’m loving it too. I’ve always wanted to try Kiehls products and I’m so glad I did! I have my eyes on a few others, i’ll let you know which products I try next.

Of course I had to include a pair of shoes…

they’re versatile and comfortable

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen me post these Superga sneakers a few times. They are stark white (which usually isn’t my go-to shoe color). These shoes work well with just about any outfit. I plan to wear them in the Fall and Spring as well!

Have you ever shopped at World Market? They have items from all around the world and a great rewards program! I love buying my pasta, sauces, and home accents there. I saw this crossbody and had to have it – I’m excited to use it through the fall!

Let me know if you picked up any of these items and tell me if they worked for you (especially the skin care)!

with love & gratitude,

stef

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easy tips for antiquing + my favorite columbus, OH shops

Greg and I have developed a love for retro and antique furniture. We’ve been known to spend hours bouncing from antique store to antique store looking for the perfect piece of furniture to mix in with the things we already own.

Let’s be honest, browsing through antiques can be a little overwhelming. You’ve probably been in one of those shops that looks like a tornado just went through it. You look around and nearly all of the items are covered in dust and piled on top of each other. I’m not a fan of this kind of store, but sometimes I’m on a mission to find a piece and I won’t let a little dust and clutter stop me.

Finding the right piece isn’t easy; it’s just like thrifting for clothes, you may have to look through five racks before finding one piece that fits your style. True story: we spent three weeks looking for a chair that was within our budget and fit well with the furniture we already had in our living room.

this is a 1920’s waterfall desk (or so I was told) that I painted – I really liked the look of it but it was pretty beat up so I used Valspar chalky paint finish to bring it back to life
the desk before I “restored” it

Keep these in mind:

  • Budget – How much can you afford to spend?
    • Have a price in mind and stick to it. If there’s an item within that ballpark, try talking the salesperson down and be honest about what you can afford. This may not always work because sometimes the item is very rare and they won’t be willing to lose out on it
  • Need – What are you looking for in a piece?
    • This one is important. Another thing to really think about before shopping, what do you need this item for and what room do you want it in? Most people don’t realize how useful something like a dresser can be. A dresser in your living room probably sounds bazaar, but paint it the right color and you have a functional accent piece where you can store your blankets.
  • Style – What piece could blend well with the style you already have?
    • Antiques are great, but they don’t look nice when you just throw a bunch of them together in a room. I advise mixing a few older pieces with a few new ones and try to think outside of the box.
  • Condition – Are you looking for something a little weathered or an older piece in perfect condition?
    • If you aren’t willing to set time aside to work on the piece or bring it back to lie, you probably want something that’s already in good condition. Antique furniture is kind of like a fixer-upper, it has potential, but you might have to work hard to see it.

If you’re a columbus local, check out some of my favorite stores:

Boomerang Room – 3274 N. High St Columbus, OH (this one is my favorite)

Westerville Antiques & Rustic Revamp Decor – 2 N. State St Westerville, OH

Peacock Lane Home – 615 N. High St Worthington, OH

with love & gratitude,

stef

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relationships are hard: how to argue + keep it moving

If you’ve been here before, you know I’m a happily married, 27 year old, dog mom. My husband, Greg, and I relocated to Columbus just under a year ago and have ridden the relocation roller coaster ever since. The greatest thing to come out of this move is the realization that if we did it once, we could do it again and we can concur rough times TOGETHER.

Anyway, I’ve said this before, but major changes in a relationship like getting married, moving across state lines, moving in together, getting a pet (yes, thats a big relationship move to me) can be hard and they really show you what you and your relationship are made of.

So, this may or may not come as a surprise to some of you, but Greg and I disagree sometimes (crazy, right?!). We’re pretty different and have had completely different life experiences and upbringings. I was raised by a single mother (props to you, ma, you’re the greatest) and Greg grew up in a two-parent house hold (props to my in-laws because they’re literally two of the most fun, loving people you’ll ever meet).

I think our differences are what have actually kept us as connected as we are. We’ve learned a lot from each other. We’ve talked about the kind of parents we do or don’t want to be, the kind of life we want to live, and how we want to treat each other. That all sounds wonderful, right? but, honestly, like most things, it’s not perfect. We’re not always on the same page because well, we’re human.

So what’s the key?

I’m sure in your relationship, you want to be the best you. You want that Will and Jada, your happiness is yours and mine is mine and then we bring it together and we’re a whole big pot of happiness, kind of relationship. SAME!

Great, so what’s the key to being on the right page and navigating through rough waters together?

Patience!

(ask my long time friends about how patient I am… they’ll laugh)

It seems so simple; just be patient with your partner and yourself and your garden of love and happiness will be in full bloom in no time! It’s not, it’s hard work, but you got this!

After I get into any kind of disagreement with anyone (not just Greg) I reflect on a few things…

Let’s try something:

Think about the last argument you had with your partner….

  1. Think about what you were upset about, how you expressed your frustration, and what the outcome of the argument was (or did you even come to a resolution)?
  2. Think about how you could have done any of that better. Were you upset about something they said? or something they did that you’ve pointed out before that they just keep doing?
  3. Did you express yourself from a compassionate, understanding, and loving place? or did you say something passive and try to hit them where it hurts?

Finally, what happened in the end? Did you talk about the problem, come up with a way to keep it from happening again, and move on? THIS is the most important part. The resolution. I’ve seen and done the whole ‘argue and sweep it under the rug thing’ and TRUST ME that is NOT a resolution. That’s a “we’re good for right now, but that dirt will be back later and it’ll bring friends-olution”.

In any disagreement or argument, remember that everyone involved is just a person. A normal person who has feelings, makes mistakes, has different life experiences, different perspectives, etc and TRY to be understanding. Try to reach a point where both sides understand what happened and want to make it right. if you can’t do this, you’re arguing with the wrong people because anybody who gives a poop about you will make an effort to make sure your relationship or friendship is in good standing.

Thanks for reading! Share your thoughts with me in the comments.Dont be afraid to add something to the conversation (your personal experience, your own struggles, etc), I REALLY want to learn about you too!

with love & gratitude,

stef

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america’s finest city – what we love to do in san diego

San Diego is a wonderful place. The weather is pretty much always perfect and the people are just as nice as the weather… it’s amazing!

Greg and I have been to San Diego twice before and loved it, so it was a no brainer that we’d celebrate our 1st anniversary there.

so here’s what we did:

We flew into LA because there is no direct flight to San Diego from Columbus and I hate flying (one plane per day is the way) so connecting flights are never an option (LOL). Although, after being in LA for 5 minutes, I think I’d do a connecting flight just to land directly in San Diego and avoid the attitudes and the cluster at LAX.

ANYWAY, we got to San Diego around 11AM and headed straight to Firehouse American Eatery & Lounge for brunch. They have a great bottomless brunch (Mon – Fri 11am – 3pm). You pay $16 per person and get an unlimited amount of champagne… BOTTLES. Yep, its not your typical bottomless brunch where you get a bunch of “mimosas” that are mostly orange juice, this is the real deal.

I really love mimosas…

Where we Stayed…

We stayed at the Lafayette Hotel & Swim Club in North Park. This place isn’t super fancy or anything, but they have a killer pool and a great restaurant. Everyone who works here is a pleasure to interact with. Wilson was our GUY at Hope 46 (the restaurant in the hotel). He was absolutely amazing, never left us wanting for anything wether it be a drink or breakfast! If you’re in San Diego on a Friday in the Summer-time, they have something called Film & Float, you can swim in the pool while enjoying a movie on a huge screen!

Image result for lafayette hotel san dei
the pool at the Lafayette Hotel (I don’t own this image)
the peach mimosa at the Lafayette is DELICIOUS. I always ask for just a splash of juice because prosecco is too good to cover the taste up with juice!

gaslamp quarter

After that, it was too early to check into our hotel so we headed downtown (the Gaslamp Quarter) to walk around and people watch.

The Gaslamp is full of a bunch of great restaurants and fun things to do. FYI the best pizza in the Gaslamp is at Ciro’s Pizzeria. They have a few great beers on tap and a full bar if you’re hoping for a drink with your pizza.

Greg is afraid of heights but he loves this view!

One of our favorite places to visit downtown is the Altitude Sky Lounge. It’s on the 22nd floor of the Marriott hotel on K street. The views are insane. You can actually look right into Petco Park from one side (we went there during a baseball game and were able to look right at home plate).

WINE… OF COURSE

If you like Wine, Napa isn’t the only place in California to get the good stuff. Escondido and Temecula are home to some of the greatest wineries you’ll ever visit and they’re BEAUTIFUL. We spent a morning in Temecula and shared tastings at 4 wineries. YES, shared (drinking and driving is for losers). The tastings at each winery ranged from $15 – $30 per person, so it’s worth it to split them, unless you hire a driver and like both dry and sweet wine. Greg and I have very different taste in wine so sharing works well for us, I enjoy the semi-sweet/dry wines and he enjoys the super dry ones.

Wineries visited in Temecula: Europa Village (try the Pinot Grigio, you’ve never tasted one like it), Doffo Winery (if you like motorcycles, you’ll love this place), Chapin Family Vineyards (they have a nice outside seating area, but I can’t remember anything that really stood out to me aside from the man that helped us at the tasting bar, he was awesome!), Domaine Artefact Vinyeard & Winery was the last one we visited and I really enjoyed their Grenache Blanc (we both liked this one so much we bought a bottle).

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Cordiano Winery – 15732 Highland Valley Road, Escondido, CA
(I don’t own this image)

Escondido Wineries: We only visited two wineries in Escondido, we had been to both of them before during our first trip in April 2017 and we absolutely loved them so we knew we wanted to visit again! If you’re ever in San Diego and you like wine, you absolutely have to visit Bernardo Winery. It’s its own mini-village. You get your tasting, then take a 2 minute walk to their tiny chocolate shop for a piece of chocolate to pair with your wine, it’s the best!

Last but not least, Cordiano Winery. The Italian couple that owns this is serious about their wine and their food! You HAVE to get the breadsticks and the pizza here (It’s amazing!) and the views will take your breath away.

where to go & what to see

We were there during the fourth of July and did some research before hand to find out the best spots to watch fireworks. WELL, turns out there’s a few areas where you can go to watch FIVE fireworks displays going off at the same time. We chose Shelter Island, there was a display right over our heads and four others just in the distance to our left. It was magical.

coronado island & the hotel del coronado

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I mean… look at this place!
(I don’t own this image)

No, we didn’t stay here. Although, we will one day (I hope). The Hotel Del Coronado is located on Coronado Island and it’s BEAUTIFUL. They have a few restaurants and shops as well as stunning beaches. One of the things I LOVE about San Diego is that you can have a fire on the beach! We went at night and there were a ton of hotel guests sitting around their own fire pits. The bridge to get to Coronado Island is a little intimidating, especially if you don’t love bridges, but I promise it’s worth it. Coronado island is a great place to spend the day. Theres lots of great restaurants and shops. It’s worth going over the crazy bridge for!

bali hai

We love Bali Hai! We ate here for our anniversary and it was a real treat. Greg and I had been before with my mom on our second trip to San Diego and we loved the food. We ordered the coconut shrimp, Greg had the lobster stir fry and I went with the steak. This restaurant is also located on Shelter Island and the views are worth the price of the food!

boat tour

We didn’t do a boat tour during this trip, but I’m adding it to this because we did it on our first trip to San Diego and it was really cool. We learned a TON about the military presence there and got to see a bunch of super cute sea lions and seals!

my advice

1. Rent a car. Uber is expensive and adds up. San Diego is a great city to drive in, people are friendly on the road and everything is only a 15 minute drive. We stayed in North Park and could get to Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, and Downtown in 10-15 minutes. Obviously it all depends on where you’re staying, but I definitely recommend getting a car if you want to spend your time in different areas of the city.

2. Explore outside of the beaches (if you’re staying at one). If you do get a car, Carlsbad is a 40 minute drive from San Diego and it’s worth the drive. The beaches are STUNNING and the town is quaint with super cute shops. Not to mention that you can drive part of the way on the 101 highway which is right next to the ocean!

3. Go to La Jolla! You can pretty much always see some seals or sea lions there. It’s a pretty town, you can spend a couple of hours exploring the cliffs or hanging out on the beach.

4. Eat seafood. I hate seafood. BUT I eat it in san Diego.

5. Don’t over-plan! I never over-plan my vacations because you’ll always end up seeing something else you want to do and if your whole day is rigidly planned, you won’t have time to do other random stuff! San Diego is that kind of place for us, we always end up doing a ton of different things when we only had one thing in mind.

6. The most OBVIOUS, eat In-N-Out. Listen, I love McDonalds (because chicken nuggets), but In-N-Out is the kind of place that doesn’t leave you feeling sick after you eat it because the food is fresh. French fries that aren’t frozen and have no preservatives (woot woot!).

7. GO TO LUCHA LIBRE (two locations) AND ORDER THE BASIC CALIFORNIA BURRITO. In my opinion it’s better without the cheese, but your call.

Please feel free to ask ANY questions about anything in the pictures or in the words!

with love & gratitude,

stef

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