For Bandit

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Dear Bandit,

Thank you for letting me be your crazy cat lady. It’s because of this that I now have hundreds of pictures to look at when I miss you. Right now, I feel as though my heart has been ripped out of my chest, but I think it physically happening could not hurt as much as this does. My heart feels empty and my gut full of sorrow. I keep expecting to see your head pop up from the bed when I walk in the room or peep around the corner when you sneak out from the basement.

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When we first got you those fourteen years ago, I was a skeptical cat owner. I didn’t want a pet or the grief that ultimately came with losing it. I had just lost two grandparents and the pain was fresh and I wondered why we had to bring that risk into our lives again. Though you were never one to shy away from a bite or a raised paw, you purred your way into our hearts with your snuggles and soft fur and strange antics. Now that I’ve lost you, and I cannot fathom that I am typing these words or writing this post, I know that all of this pain I feel now was worth even just a second of our time with you.

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Mortality suppresses itself behind the routine of everyday living before unveiling itself under the worst of circumstances, grief, the most blinding and genuine emotion one can feel. You were our everyday, our routine, one of us, and that’s why it hurts so much now. You no longer come down from a long day’s nap to swat us out of our seats and watch TV with us. You don’t bound up the stairs for bedtime in order to secure your spot or down the stairs to greet us when we walk through the door to come home. Home does not feel as safe and as warm and as happy without you.

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In the mornings when I’m still lying in bed, I still wait for the meow of protest willing me out of bed and to pat you, or the crunching of friskies as you grab a snack before returning to your nap. I want to shine your mouse laser at the wall and see you jump, swing a string above your head and laugh when you pretend not to care then jump for it like you can’t help yourself. I want to sit on the couch with you as you look out the window or lie with you at my feet as I go to bed at night. I just want you back.

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In time, we will find solace in our fourteen years of memories. I may be able to look at these pictures, reminisce about your life, and say your name without bursting into tears. Sunday was the hardest day of my life because I had to do one of the hardest things I ever will. I know it was best for you, ultimately, because we didn’t want you to suffer. But holding you in my arms and whispering how much I loved you as you went peacefully from this world will haunt me as much as comfort me in your memory. Coming home without you was like never coming home at all.

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We die hundreds of deaths every time someone we love passes away, friend, family, pet, or all. I did what I needed to, for you, because for me, you were my sound board and my comfort, my softness in a hard world, and I will never forget that. I felt safe and loved when I could press my forehead against yours and you wouldn’t even bite me in disgust.

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All of these words are not enough to convey how much I love you, how much I miss you, and how grateful I am to have had you. There is a hole in my heart and an empty space in my bed. I hope there is a laundry basket filled with warm blankets and freshly laundered clothes waiting for you.

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Sweet Bandit, goodbye for now.

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Love,

Your Family

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Reflections

I’m surprised as you are, but somehow, October is coming to a close. It all happened so fast, from June to now, though if I’m being honest, even last year passed by quickly. Time needs to slow down except for situations where you are dreading something because then it can speed up, thanks very much.

Thinking about this while swimming laps today (I probably could have just swam outside in the pouring rain…), I wondered how I could incorporate this into a post. The idea of gratitude is one that reinforces a mindful life to be lived. We think a lot about what we are thankful for coming Thanksgiving and through the holidays, but I’ve found that it is a matter we all struggle to convey otherwise.

For every new month, I want to talk about a few of the things I am excited about, feel are important, and worthy of admiration. At the end of every month, I want to offer a word of reflection for all of the wonderful, important, and surprising events that have happened in my life for which I am grateful.

Yes, we still have a week left of October- yay Halloween!- but since I thought of the idea today, I want to introduce the post today too!

October Happenings:
– Wedding dress shopping with my sister, mom, and my sister’s future mother in-law
– Family party with good food, good wine, and great celebrations
– My dad’s birthday
– My sister’s birthday (Halloween)
– Playing kickball
– College reunion apple-picking trip
– My cousin’s ring and tassel ceremony
– Experimenting more in the kitchen
– Meals with friends
– Fall weather
– Writing
– Reading more

Okay, this was harder than I thought. When I asked my mom to remind me of any such events she said, “I don’t think you have any. Any of us.” Um, thanks mom.

But I have a feeling this is because I wasn’t keeping this idea in mind while living my life. As I am constantly on a quest of self-improvement, one facet I am actively working on is mindfulness. This relates in terms to eating and living in general, having the ability to relax and understand just what is happening to me in that particular moment. Important life lessons are there for the taking, but you won’t learn or grow in anything if you haven’t noticed it happening!

Wedding dress shopping was such a fun and exciting event because as MOH and as a sister to someone who is very happy, that makes me very happy. I may tend to be more of the princess in the family, but she’ll find the dress she adores.

Yeah, I’m not sharing that picture! NO SPOILERS!

The family party I talked about earlier this week, but if nothing else, it is just remarkable that my huge extended family can get along as well as we do. Our time together is always filled with laughter and good old bonding and I am so grateful for that.

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With my cousins Erin and Mikey.

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With my sister Lauren and cousins Erin and Carolyn.

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With my Godmother and cousin Maura.

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With Uncle Mike possibly vogueing and Mikey photobombing.

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With my Aunt Stacy.

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With my Uncle Peter.

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With two of the greatest women I know: my Auntie Bea and Grandma.

Birthdays are the obvious ones because it means another great year of happiness and health, which we are all fortunate to have. No one else in my immediate family cares about their birthdays as much as me, which I don’t understand, but just the idea of a birthday is a really cool concept. If you hate your birthday, I just want to throw this out there: It could be worse, think of where else you’d be….?!

Kickball has just been a really fun thing to do to meet some cool new people and I’ve enjoyed playing. The ball is not as small as I remember and much harder to kick, but I’ve had some memorable- good and bad- moments on the field.

Anytime I get to see my college friends, I get super happy. It’s funny how we can spend so much time apart, but when we finally get together again, it seems like no time has passed at all. And this time was particularly special because my friend Erin is getting married and asked me to be one of her bridesmaids in the form of Hogwarts acceptance letter. Yay!

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Not only was it surreal to be back at my alma mater for the first time since graduation, but it was for a super cool deal. I was extremely honored when my cousin Erin asked me to be her sponsor for her ring and tassel ceremony because, as I’ve said 1000 times before, family is important to me. I’m really glad and fortunate to not only be close with my siblings, but to have formed some great, lasting relationships with my cousins. This has shown itself in some more serious ways- being the sponsor- and silly ways- finding this shirt in a store and immediately having to share it with them.

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I’ve taken more liberty and risks when it comes to cooking and baking lately and I’m having a lot of fun! Let me tell you, it’s not always been perfect. I still have a waffle recipe I need to work on, but just the process of learning and exploring the science of cooking has been fascinating. While I’ve tried developing some recipes of my own, I also think it’s important to try different recipes because you get to learn how to use different techniques and strategies you may never have thought of before. That’s the essence of learning!

This month, I’ve shared some great meals with friends. From the mini college reunion I mentioned before, to brunch with my friends Lauren and Andrea and dinner with my friends Bobby, Laura, Lauren, Emily, and Mary, I’ve been fortunate to spend some quality time over quality food to catch up. Maintaining friendships are such an important part of life, but I find that I often take them for granted and expect them to just be there. Looking back on my life, I realize that I’ve had a lot of friends come and go for all sorts of reasons, so it is remarkable how some friendships last.

I mentioned my affinity for apples before, and also how I can’t eat them year round due to some pretty sucky spring allergies (that last too long!), but fall is the time I can enjoy them without my throat growing itchy and threatening to close- it hasn’t yet, no worries. Thank you, fall, for this gift to eat apples during its best season, but also thank you for your beauty. Most afternoons, I’ll walk the dog with my mom, or when I’m off running on my own, I get to look out into the beautiful landscape that surrounds me. From the colorful foliage to the crisp chill in the air, fall makes me so blissful and content, albeit a tad nostalgic- though that isn’t necessarily bad!

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For whatever reason- probably because I’ve put in more thought and effort- my writing has been taking off. Though I haven’t dedicated as much time to the editing process as I should, right now, I’m focused on just getting my words down. Whether for my blog, which I feel I have been so much more consistent, or for short stories and a novel I am working on- not about the mermaids, yet!- I’ve been so happy to connect my thoughts and words to something more concrete. Writing is not only an outlet, but a passion. Passions, I have learned, do not always come easy, but have to be fostered, and I have begun to put that into practice more.

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The reflection I will end on is actually something that has occurred more frequently these past couple of months, though I suppose that could be said about a lot of my points. Last year, I didn’t have as much time to read for fun, or at least what I wanted to read, between work, classes, and homework. When I got into bed, I fell asleep immediately. Having the time and liberty to read to my heart’s content has made me smarter, happier, and more thoughtful. Reading is such an unbelievable privilege of humanity.

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These reflections were not in any particular order, but were typed as I thought of them. October, as the months and years before it, have passed by so quickly, but they were not without their lasting memories and important moments.

Look for a post, come early November (the best month!) where I discuss some of the things in which I’m looking forward!

A Moment and then Movement

Before I begin this week’s Workout Wednesday, I want to take a moment and tell you that today would have been my Nana’s 90th birthday. We lost her thirteen years ago earlier this month and I still miss her dearly. No doubt she is celebrating with a drink and her sisters up in Heaven. My family speculates that she is where I get my penchant for celebrities, parties, and conspiracy theories. There really was no one quite like her and I am grateful for the eleven years I did have with her, reading People Magazine over her shoulder, trying to learn how to write the letter A with her frustrated because I kept writing it upside down, watching her try to get off the moving log ride at Storyland in time then having to go again because she couldn’t and then again when her horse in the merry go ride stopped at the highest point, and the time she had to swat the ants off my ass when I sat in a pile, laughing and muttering obscenities under her breath. Everything she did, she did with a smile, gentle care, and with a touch of sarcasm, which are other facets I hope I get from her. She was one of the strongest, most selfless, and most loving people that I have had the pleasure of knowing, and so it is with bittersweet emotions that I say, Happy Birthday.

Now to take a more judging stance, at the gym, I just witnessed a man stack the barbell with a ton of weight, do two reps, wait five minutes in between each set and only do that three times. He struggled through them and didn’t even complete them fully, which makes me question what his intention is.

When weight lifting, I’ve read many different accounts, and I myself feel as though it is important to push yourself, but only to a point. You want to be able to get through a number of reps, rest, and do a couple of sets of each move. If you put on too much weight and can’t do the moves properly or fully you will hurt yourself and/or make very little improvement. To each their own, I suppose.

From what I’ve read, if you can’t do a move at a certain weight at least five times in a row properly, then it’s too much weight. It just gets me when people feel as though exercise is about killing yourself, when what you really want to do is improve. Working out and pushing your body is so important, but not to the extent of your health!

This past week, I played kickball and found out that I’m actually pretty clumsy. As I was running to first base, I almost tripped over myself (the ball was caught in the air anyways) and then I stumbled trying to field as well. I did make one pretty good catch and was feeling pretty good about my abilities until of course I was running to second on a play and remembered my fateful fall. I am glad to say I have made a full recovery and there has been no pain in the past week!

The next day, I did some strength training and a quick elliptical workout. Since my college roommate was visiting for the weekend, on Saturday, all we did was walk around, which is acceptable, but I was raring to go on Sunday.

That day, I did another strength and elliptical workout, along with some core exercises. I’ve been trying to increase my plank, and I am now up to about a minute and fifteen to a minute and thirty, though I feel like last week I was doing two full minutes. I think that this is partly because instead of only planking once, I include them in my core circuit so in the end, I’m actually doing more time spread out.

Monday, I was loving the fall air and went out for a run after a long walk with the dog. I came back and did some body strength and core moves, including some Yoga.

The next day, I went to the gym and did a few moves with the medicine ball, including my hated burpees. This move is the pits, but I included a quick ball lift and throw down to make it even more fun (sarcasm noted). At the end, I did some box jumps and jump rope before heading down to the pool to swim laps. It feels as though it takes a long time to swim a mile, and maybe it is, but I have been getting faster. Only 43.5 minutes this time around and I was huffing and heaving by the end of it. I completed my day with an even longer walk with the dog, which left me feeling a bit parched.

Today, I went through another strength workout. To change it up a bit, I incorporated eight moves using heavy weights and performed them in five sets of ten reps and then did eight body strength moves in four sets of twelve reps. I was feeling nice and sweaty, but strong, after and went out for a quick two mile run to try and improve my speed. My legs were feeling tired, but I’m definitely seeing an improvement! I topped it off with a mile walk to recover.

The biggest issue I’ve been dealing with these week are respiratory problems that seem to be correlated to my allergies. I have always suffered through spring, but never summer or fall before this past year. An allergy pill will usually help, but I needed to switch products because during random parts of the day and night, my lungs felt as though there were pressure on them and at times I was wheezing. I can handle to disgusting nose dripping because I can just blow it away, but the constricted breathing is scary. Luckily, they did not happen at times during my workout, and I never would have exercised in that moment, so it leads me to believe that it’s not anything more serious than allergies. With a new brand, I have been feeling improvements. Let’s hope there won’t be any allergies in winter at least! I want to eat apples again!