I got to see Okkervil River preform tonight and it was everything I thought it would be and more. Will is just... amazing. You felt his vibe and energy shoot from the stage into the crowd. Soon as he walked out, I cried. Tears of joy and happiness... tears of sadness.. I felt things that I have never felt in my entire life. This overwhelming peace and gratitude.
Okkervil River and Will Sheff is something I wrote about constantly in my old blog. Losing the writing about them when I deleted was one of my more sad experiences with the loss of my blog. I wish I did not delete the blog in a rush of emotions when my father passed. I would have love to have been able to look back on them today.
So as the posts are gone and if you're not close to me, you won't know my love and history with band...so let's talk about them.
I first discovered their music through an internet friend of mine over ten years. I believe the first time I listened to them was in 2004. I was instantly addicted. I had never heard music that was so unapologetic and raw. It drew you in and forced you to open your mind.
Their music has been here for me during some of the worst times in my life. Growth, change, divorce, death... you name it... I experienced with the help of music therapy through this band.
He writes so beautifuly, honest, and open. You feel what he does. He is an amazing story teller. You can see what is going on in his head as the songs continue to play.
Here are some photos from our night.
I wanted to share the story of my journey from atheist to believer. My mind changed based because of several experiences I had with my father the last week of his life...
My father found out her had terminal Lung Cancer (extensive stage small cell with mets in both lungs, neck lymph nodes, and later found out several in his brain) in late April. In mid May we tried Chemotherapy. Our intentions were not to cure, but to shrink the cancer a bit to allow easier breathing and possibly give him some more time with us. We also could have went with hospice then and there. (The choice to not do hospice then still bothers me. But I had to let him do what he felt was best for him.)
At first things seemed well. He handled the chemo like a boss. Didn't feel too tired.. things seemed great. He was happy and confident he made the right choice. Around day 5, something drastically changed. He got huge blisters all over his legs and feet. It was a rare reaction to the chemo...
As the days passed his blisters were just getting worse and worse which made walking very difficult for him. He got transferred to a rehab center to help him learn to use his walker. Before the Chemo he was able to walk around... but after that first week, he would never be able to walk on his own again.
He was in the rehab center only about a week before we got the terrible news that he had contracted pneumonia. At this point my father had been in the hospital and rehab a combined total of 27 days. He was tired. He refused antibiotics and had me call the hospice.
We called hospice on a Tuesday am. They had everything set up in my home by Wednesday and he came home that evening.
It was really weird because at first, he was almost himself. Granted he needed help walking around, using the bathroom etc..but he had this HUGE burst of life and energy. And all he wanted to do was talk to me. About life, his childhood... my childhood. The circumstances were not the greatest... but I never felt so close to him.
I asked my father several times over this whole thing if he thought we would see each other again and each time he would say no. He told me that if it made me feel better to pray, I should do it... but it meant nothing. Sigh... I still asked. It was like in my mind, even as a non believer, if he could believe, then I knew I could... but it didn't happen.
That Saturday my dad's best friend came in from NYC. They got to spend time together and say some goodbyes. It was almost like my father was waiting for him because that is where things got bad. After my dad's friend left, my dad was in a lot of pain. He just could not get comfortable... and he hardly slept.
The following morning, Sunday he started to not know where he was. He was able to recognize the kids and I, but he thought we were on a boat and heading to an island. He kept telling us we had to be careful because the crew couldn't be trusted. Both my dad and I were on less than 1 hour sleep. It was pretty brutal.
Throughout all this he was still letting me help him walk, eat his meals, and use the bathroom. The hospice suggested a sleeping pill. He took it no problem. My bedroom was next to his... and when he finally went to sleep, so did I...
I remember it was around 12am when I felt really warm. I can not explain it... almost like someone put blankets from the dryer on me. So I sat up, and standing in the hall without his walker or help was my dad. I sprang up, yelled for my husband and literally caught my father before he could fall. My husband helped my dad to the chair and I laid on the floor bawling my eyes out. I felt so guilty for failing because I didn't hear him get up.
At this point my father no longer remembered that he had lung cancer. He didn't understand why he was so weak he could not walk. I asked the hospice nurse and the doctor on call if they thought he would come back to us and that he would remember where he was. They told me with the size of the mets on his brain and the infection, I am lucky he still knows who I am.
The hospice brought me a baby monitor. And my husband, oldest son, and I all took turns sleeping in shifts. At around 7 pm my dad was very upset. (This was Monday night). He told me he would be to the island soon, but he had to figure out the numbers first so we could be safe. I had no idea what any of this meant, but he asked for pen and paper. I gave it to him and he did what looked like some math and wrote out some numbers.
We gave him another sleeping pill, and my son fell asleep in the chair next to him. My husband and I were awake in the room next to him. We had the baby moniter, and were going to try and do sleeping in shifts.. but he (my husband) had what we believed to be a minor case of food poisoning. So I was between helping my dad and helping him as well.
I don't remember the exact time, I want to say it was roughly 2am but I head a strange sound on the moniter. Like someone going through a drawer. I called out to my son, he didnt answer. So I walked to the bedroom and as soon as I got to the doorway, I see my dad take a lighter to his oxygen tube. HUGE rush of flames as I instinctually pulled the plug to his oxygen machine. My husband ran to our son as I went to aide my dad.
Somehow he remembered a stash of cigs and where he hid his lighter. It was his bedroom and I honestly never thought to hide things. He had quit smoking 2 months ago and had been doing great at it. To this day I still blame myself.
He had some burns and the hospice told us that we should call an ambulance despite my father's wishes. When we were in the hospital, he started to forget who I was... or anything that was going on. The ER doctor told me that I could keep him there. That dealing with a dying person with dementia is hard for professional care takers emotionally and that he could not imagine what it was doing to me and my family.. I thanked him, but said I would please like to take my dad home... and a few hours later, I did.
All afternoon I sat with him. He randomly yelled... cursed. Talked more about getting to the island...telling us we were lying, he was never sick. He did not even remember the fire.
He finally fell asleep and I just broke down. I prayed..... for the first time in roughly 15 years
I just kept asking god.. I said whoever is listening... I know his body is destroyed. I know it. And I know that he can not be healed. I know it's his time... I know you have to take him.. But PLEASE...not like this. Please god... whoever is up there. Let his soul say goodbye to us. Please. Let us have him back. Please give us our goodbyes. Please god. I never ask you anything. Please give me this. Even if just a day...
This was Tuesday night.... I fell asleep in bed next to him. First time sleeping since Saturday really... I heard a voice..
"Maggie is Robbie ok.."
(Robbie is my son)
I thought it was my husband, and I started to reply and then the voice said..
"I don't know why I tried to smoke that last cigarate, I am sorry. Please tell me I didn't hurt Robbie..."
It was my dad!!!!
I jumped up and said Robbie is fine! We are all fine. Do you know where you are? He looked at me confused and said I am at home?
He remembered everything! The cancer, the fire, being on hospice etc. He did not remember telling me he was on a boat, or that he was going to an island. And when I showed him the paper with the numbers, he had no idea what they meant.
The next day we even had a laugh over the whole thing. It was incredible. Like his mind never left us. We had an amazing day.. but that evening I started to notice he was getting weaker. He didn't want to eat, and told the nurse he did not want to wear his oxygen mask.
I told my husband... I knew... I knew it was going to be soon. Early Thursday am the hospice nurse told me she didn't think he had more than a few hours left. I put some music on for him. And he told us he loved us all. He told my husband to watch over his daughters, and protect his grandkids. He told Robbie he had many regrets, and there was still so much he wanted to tell me. We told him we loved him dearly and I know he loved me. And that we would all be ok.
Just before 11am he took his last breath in my arms. And I will never forget when they took his body from my home, soon as he was in the car it poured. Pouring rain and thunder.
Next 3 days were a blur.. I didn't leave my bedroom. The hospice came to get everything quickly. I asked not to watch. When I finally did go back down stairs, the first thing I saw was the paper with the numbers on it....and that is where it hit me...
I felt the warm again. Just like the night I woke up and stopped my dad from falling...
Then I thought about how tired I was the night of the fire. But my husband was ill... so we were both awake...
Then I remembered the prayer. My prayers were answered. NO ONE can tell me otherwise. I was told he wouldn't remember me again, but he remembered everything. All of us. He got to say goodbye... and so did we.
I still have no idea if the numbers actually meant anything, but I took pictures to remember. I also often wonder if the island was were his soul was going and the "crew" who was hostile to him were his fears of death.... I hope some day to understand.
But because of this, I try to look for signs everywhere. I have faith that there is a life after this one and that spirits are all around us. Finally working up the courage to write this whole story up is my Father's day gift to my dad. It has taken me two years to do this, but I feel much better after telling it.
Ihop is changing their business name to Ihob! Lol talk about a total rebrand!!!! Gives me confidence in rebranding and getting the kinks out of my own. Moving state to state was a total fresh start that I wasn't expecting in my photography business. I have only had a handful of clients since moving here. Not stressing over it though. I have had so much more time with my kids and family. I think that was really needed, and I have been able to help host some grief support chats with my therapist as well as find a wonderful hospice to do some volunteer work. No need to fake it to you make it and risk my karma when the universe has my back!
This time of year is always very hard for me. My grief is in constant waves. But June will always be the hardest. As memories pop up here on facebook, or people comment old posts (with the purest of intentions)... I have to remind myself that thinking about what I could or could not have done differently.... living in constant regret is only killing my soul slowly. It's not what my father would have wanted for his daughter. It isn't what I want for myself.
I am working on redefining what June means to *me*. It will always be sad... but maybe it doesn't have to be so difficult.
I sent a love and light package to my dear friend back home in Carlisle. Her and I both lost a loved one on the same day and I wanted to help her get through it even though I couldn't be there in person. Such a terrible thing to have in common with someone, but it created an amazing bond.
I talked my best friend into doing my baba Ram Dass's Summer Solstice Meditation Renewal. He has an open mind... but is probably like lol what am I getting myself into!
Finding hope.... looking forward to little things. It's what gets me by.
Your life is the inspiration. Your soul is the artist. Your external world is the canvas. Better get to creating.
The following post is from my personal facebook;
I deleted facebook a couple nights ago because I have been feeling very triggered as memories I had turned off keep popping to my feed and this is around the time 2 years ago were I was looking up hospice.
I have also been struggling with drastic mood changes which cause me to engage in stupid arguments that are nothing more than semantics.
It's funny how facebook has become the needed platform for a lot of our lives. I am not talking addictions, that is a whole conversation in itself. I am talking about the way companies, artists, support groups, teachers etc have based their whole entire business through facebook.
I sat down this morning, made my coffee and thought to myself... oh yeah peer grief therapy tonight. Got to make it. My therapist hosts these 3 times a week. Two of which are streamed via facebook live in a private support group.
These aren't mandatory meetings, and apparently facebook is the preferred method as others tend to be internet challenged and only use their devices to access facebook. Sigh
Then I realized with my own bussiness, deactivating my page makes it not visible. In 2018 your value as an artist or photographer... well, business owner really.. Your work, at least in part is evaluated based on the activity and popularity of your social media pages.
Not complaining in the sense of.. oh my let's all delete facebook. Merely saying that I am surprised how reliant I am on this platform for more than the basic checking up on family and friends.
I am not in the greatest place right now mentally. And I say mentally because everything else in my life is pretty... awesome.
With that said, I am in therapy. I have been seeing the same therapist since Pennsylvania through her private sessions online every two weeks and group peer meetings weekly. I attend. I don't usually want to, but I do it anyway.
Long story short.... my page is here... but my mind and heart really aren't into social media right now. I know a lot of people love and care about me... So I wanted to make sure everyone knows that I am ok and I will be back to posting normal again as we get more into summer.
This time of year will always be hard for me. Thanks for understanding.
So that is where my heart and mind are this morning. As I promised, I won't just share the good through my journey... but the bad too.
I am also not giving up on my journey to happiness through love, kindness, and compassion. I just need a little break.
I say it all the time, but self care is so important. You can not help others without taking care of yourself too.
I have a lot of topics I really want to touch on this week including my spiritual experience during my dad's hospice and why I feel openly taking my readers through this with me is very important.
I will also share some recent selfcare and meditation items I bought, as well as the current book I am reading.
Let's start off with.. what IS a vision board? Make-a-vision-board's website says; A vision board is a tool used to help clarify, concentrate and maintain focus on a specific life goal. Literally, a vision board is any sort of board on which you display images that represent whatever you want to be, do or have in your life.
A lot of times we see these for long term goals that to take place over the course of years, maybe even a lifetime. For example, your board might be that you would like to become a millionaire. So you would find imagery online or in magazines related to that goal. Whatever is important to you.
For my long term vision board, I am still working the kinks out. I want something a bit more solid once I am sure about my direction. But I still wanted a fun way to pull together some goals and ideas. So I decided to give a digital board a shot. It's really easy and you can do it too.
So for my short term goals, and going digital I used pintrest.com to find pictures of the things I wanted to set for my goals. I had to decide on a really good time frame. For me, my goals are for six months. This means these are the things I want to make happen over the next six months.
You really have to envision yourself not only working on, but living your best life. I say that phrase a lot. Living YOUR best life. This should be based on your own goals. Your own hopes and dreams. YOUR standards. So when making your board, keep that in mind. This is for you, not other people. You don't even have to post your board if you do not want to. Just work on your goals, the things in life that make you happy.
You may not be sure what you would even want to put on yours, so let me dig a little deeper into for you;
-You can share things you want to do! Get a new job, climb a mountain! Whatever pops in your head.
-Places you want to go. You want to travel to Italy? Put it on your board.
-Who you want to be. Maybe your goal is to be a kinder person, or be a better mom.
-Things you want to learn. Maybe a new language. Or how to places you would like to go.
Let's talk about my board's goals. Again, for me, it's 6 month shorter term goals. And they are pretty personal. Yours maybe be nothing like this. But here are mine;
- Continue to declutter and practice minimalism.
- Learn more about different species of houseplants and find the most sustainable for my family's lifestyle.
-Submit some of my work to an art show event.
-Give myself some more self care.
-Read actual books I can hold and turn the pages.
-Plan a beach vacation to a beach I have never been to and GO!
-Work on my yoga posing goals.
-Polish my raw crystals, give them life.
-Meditate more when feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
-Study the teachings of Ram Dass, my guru.
I really hope these ideas will be helpful to anyone looking for fun and interesting ways of goal keeping. Keep your board someplace you will see it every day. Make it your facebook profile cover, set it as your phone's background. Let it help you stay on task.
What's going on your board?
I think one of the biggest confusions about trying to live a positive lifestyle is that you have to be happy all the time. That just isn't true. You will have off days. I have them. If you go through my blog, I speak pretty openly with my grief and sadness. This blog has been a way for me to heal.
I once had a blog that averaged 5k visitors and readers a month. It received many comments, mostly positive. It truly was something I loved. However when my father became ill, and I started losing friends, I stopped writing. Then when my father passed, I deleted the blog entirely. I regret it because I had a lot of things over the past 8 years that I would have loved to look back and reflect on.
This blog doesn't get much traffic. My website does, I get roughly 1k views a week which is wonderful, for business... but the blog is rarely clicked. But you know, I keep on writing. I keep going.
This blog is like therapy to me. My ups and my downs are all here for the world to see. It really goes back to a realness through vulnerability. I have learned without being vulnerable, open and honest. Without showing people that hey... I am human too that I am offering nothing to anyone in this world.
I blog for ones who've seen confusion and known struggle, who have pulled themselves up from the shackles of heartache and strife, disappointment and darkness, exhaustion, and loss. They have risen with a heart as open and unwaveringly wide as the ocean itself... but humble enough to not have to tell people how big their heart is. Because when you're a good person, have clean karma, a big heart, and are empathetic... there is no need to remind anyone.
That is one of the life lessons I have taught my children as they seek guidance in life let it be through spiritual leaders, friends, family, even politicians. Seek out the humble. A good person with a good heart and empathetic soul will not have to remind you how good they are. You may never even hear those words come from their lips. But you will feel it. The energy they give off. The vibes you have with them. You will just know.
Through my own imperfections, I find myself questioning things that happen to me. And I catch myself.... I don't always utter the words outloud. But sometimes I do say in my head. "Why is this happening to me, I have such a big heart... I am a good person". But I can not think like that. If I am going to put trust in the universe and have faith in my plan.. then I shouldn't question what I deserve or don't. I should just keep going with the flow.
And you know? As I started this post and mentioned above. Today is a bad day for me. I am not feeling my normal self.....
I have questions. I am questioning my journey. My path. My path to healing, working through grief, and finding happiness in my best life.
There is vulnerability in letting our guard down and experiencing joy. I recently heard the quote “Happiness is a feeling, not a condition.” I like that because it gives space for us to let that feeling come and go without having to attach to it, and with more appreciation when we feel it.
Something I pay attention to daily is ‘what feels like to flow and ease versus what feels like force and fighting?’ Even the hardest things I have accomplished, when done efficiently, timely and with proper alignment came with relative ease. Alignment can be felt and seen not only in your physical body, but also emotionally and spiritually. Alignment feels like integrity, honesty, a connection and expression from core values. Alignment with the people around you comes from clear conscious communication, doing what you say you’ll do when you say you’ll do it, setting and maintaining boundaries, and taking your hats and masks off so there is congruency in your self and in your life. You don’t have an endless amount of energy and ability to focus, and alignment allows us to conserve and create high quality energy throughout our day.
Days like this.... I can be honest with myself and others. I feel a bit worn out. I am missing my father. I feel overwhelmed...
I am human......
My alignment is off, but I am going to jump off the internet for a bit and do a little reflection within myself.
But I am going to keep going, and you should too. Don't let these days stop your progress. Maybe you had a fight with a friend, your mom, your husband... maybe you're left with self doubt and are questioning your own journey. Please don't. Keep pushing through. Trust in karma. Trust in the universe. Things will smooth out for you again.
ॐ ⏀ ♡ ↟↟↟
I get a little tired of people who assume that just because you have kids, you are automatically completely uncool, and that all your time is spent wiping babies from head to toe, giving spit baths, criticizing their every move, volunteering for PTA, blogging in your spare time, clipping coupons before crock potting a pot roast, ironing the clothes, bleaching the whites, mopping the floors, harvesting your eggs, sewing for your etsy shop, scrapbooking the little things, taking pictures of everything they do, saving for college, reading Dr. Suess, socializing at the bus stop, sweeping the floor, laughing over coffee with your jogging stroller, wearing your birkenstocks and listening to Baby Einstein.
Just because I DO THESE THINGS OCCASIONALLY.
Does not mean for one second that sometimes I don’t just want to be a kick ass girl with streaks in her hair, a ring in her nose, a tattoo on her arm, concert tickets in her purse, vodka in her fridge, a leather mini-skirt in her closet, her best single friends and a standing reservation for Las Vegas once a year with a don’t ask don’t tell policy, and the desire to just once be seen as more than the mother of 5 kids. Sometimes I just want to be seen as a “Maggie”. A “Maggie” with an extremely adorable set of children… (I joke, but sometimes it's hard to over come labels. )
Married + 5 Children
Born in New York
Living in Chicago Land
Italian + Mexican American household
Published Photographer + Artist
Lung Cancer Activist + Advocate
Social Media Enthusiast
Openly in Grief Therapy
Believes in Freedom Of Religion
Studied Animal Science
Sand Cloud Ambassador
Backpacking + Hiking
Crystals + Meditation + Yoga
Writing + Scrapbooking + Blogging
Foodie + Cooking + Banking
Tropical Fish Keeping
Coffee + Coffee Shops
Travel + Road trips
Okkervil River + Good indie bands