One year

It’s been one year since my grandpa passed away. This day is an emotional milestone for my family and anyone that knew Emil Deutschman. He left behind a heart sized hole, that we ceaselessly try to fill with stories and memories from before October 30, 2019, clinging to the past so that we can carry him with us into the future.

My grandma and I visited the cemetery that houses the dust of his physical body today, but I don’t picture grandpa there. I remember him most vividly when I drive over train tracks or see railroad crossing signs (he loved trains) and whenever I use hand sanitizer (his hands were always sticky)… a more frequent occurrence amidst a pandemic. I think about grandpa whenever someone opens gift wrap too slowly and meticulously. I fondly recall playing rummy with him whenever I am part of card games. I feel a connection with him whenever I get annoyed with my parents’ dog Bear for being overwhelmingly unnecessarily hyper. I share his competitive spirit and short temper.

I mistakenly drank a pumpkin soy latte at 10 am this morning -an error in judgment that I make approximately every 6 months, to remind myself that I cannot handle caffeine. My anxiety and emotions were already heightened by today’s date, but my trembling now had a built in physical excuse. I felt a version of jittery peace, standing with grandma in a sea of graves, praying out loud to God and thanking Him for the memories and goodness that have been provided in 2020 -despite popular belief. Thanking Him for watching over us and taking care of grandpa. Firmly believing in Him and His plan, and that is so much growth compared to where I was mentally last year.

As we meandered through the rows of tombstones it began to snow for the first time this year, a symbolic event not lost on me. While we were on the hunt for my great grandmother’s grave I told my grandma “nothing reminds me of my mortality quite like a cemetery”. She showed me her nameplate on the crematorium just missing an end date, another reality I am far from ready to accept.

I don’t cry often, my instinctive reaction to unfortunate circumstances is anger -as if life is an unjust circumstance that if I could furiously speak to a manager about, I could resolve. No amount of well spoken rhetoric has the therapeutic effect of actual emotional release though. It felt good to shed a few tears today; overwhelmed with nostalgia yet fulfilled by the knowledge that grandpa lived a great life that I was honored to be a part of for 25 years.

When anniversaries come around we have an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the moments in time that have changed us. I used to believe that we had a choice, a decision to allow these blips in our lives to break us or build us, but perhaps that viewpoint is a little cold and too black and white. Some of the best memories I have are an imperfect combination of breakdowns and buildups, the year after grandpa’s death included.

Pandemic Photoshoot

As life transitions back to normal I am still trying to keep a slow pace. It’s against my norm to check in with myself before overcommitting to plans and stuffing my calendar, but due to the ever present virus and the much needed downtime (that I tried to make the best of) I don’t want to go back to doing too much too quickly.

Meeting up with friends in parks and exploring local wonders is something I am clinging to, regardless of the phase. After a long weekend getaway in Alexandria Bay I came back to WNY with warmer weather and a welcomed photo shoot with Lindsey, a great friend and the genius behind Lindsey Fetterhoff Photography

I felt a little more like a curvy JCrew model in Italy and a lot less like a Lockport resident that’s been in quarantine for 3 months when we took these pictures. Lindsey and I have worked and traveled together before, but seeing her in action behind the camera was absolutely wonderful. She has a talent for making people comfortable, assisting with posing and cracking jokes behind the scenes. I love the shots where I am genuinely laughing and enjoying life, you don’t capture those moments in selfies.

My brother’s girlfriend Courtney gave me this awesome “Sunshine White Wine” hat for Christmas. I typically display it like a piece of artwork, hanging on the wall next to my bed, but it made a great photo prop as well.

With everything going on health-wise in the world Lindsey respected my distance, but didn’t compromise a great shot. She talked to me about session lengths with clients that same week ranging from 20 minutes to 2 hours! Her ability to adapt and personalize the photography experience truly differentiates her services.

I wouldn’t hesitate to work with Lindsey again for an OOTD shoot, Christmas card or a LinkedIn headshot. My photo reveal was very well received on social media, it really reaffirmed my decision to work with her. Can you think of a better compliment than someone saying “These pictures captured your wonderful personality and soul!!”? My iPhone 6 Valencia filter instagram photos never had the same impact. Think about scheduling your own session with Lindsey before her dates fill up!

Pandemic Part 3

The soonest I will be returning to work in the office is September 9th, just after my 26th birthday. I had a corona coaster of emotions when I read the email about coming back… I’ve adjusted well to working from home. I love not wasting money on gas and Bruce (my cat) is a pretty good colleague, but even after more than 2 months of adjusting to this parallel universe I still miss consistent human interaction and a reason to wear a cute outfit in public. I remember how far away June seemed when I was sent home from work in March, my birthday as a milestone for returning did not even seem like a possibility. I keep thinking, “what will life be like when I want to celebrate over labor day weekend this year?”

It’s become semi-normal to see crowds of people a few feet apart in masks at ice cream stands and in grocery stores. I get nervous and hold my breath when passing others on the sidewalk or the walking path in town. I can’t imagine dancing in a sea of strangers at a concert or going to a nightclub the way I once did. We’ve finally entered phase 1 in Niagara and Erie County which is progress, but it’s weird to think of the last 2+ months as 0. Just survival mode.

My brother, dad and I built a pallet bed garden box that sits in my yard outside my bedroom window at my apartment. I filled the small outside boxes with dahlias and inside there’s the beginning of romaine lettuce, zucchini, cucumber and tomato plants. I never prioritized having a garden previously; my summers were always filled with farmers markets, festivals, barbecues, camping and porch sitting at someone else’s house. Now that I have surplus of downtime in my own place I have been doing things differently and finding joy where I wasn’t previously looking.

I’m going on walks almost every day or meeting up with a few people to line dance in parking lots because I feel better about myself and life in general when I exercise. I tested the limits of my wifi and set up my office on a picnic blanket outside, making me so grateful that I even have that option. I wrote letters on fancy stationary to my sister and my grandparents and sent them via snail mail, just because I wanted to. I still really miss my life PC (pre-corona), but this experience is continuously opening my eyes to nature and the beauty in my backyard. I went on a hike at Whirlpool gorge last Saturday and I have a weekend trip booked for Alexandria Bay next month. I’ve heard wonderful things about the 1000 islands and am trying to focus all of my energy on having something to look forward to.

I’ve lost 30 pounds since new year’s, a side effect of focusing on bettering myself. This intentional lifestyle change has made me happier overall. It’s a funny feeling to celebrate this success without the comments and feedback from other people, since I don’t see very many. At first I was bothered by it because I’ve worked hard to better myself and enjoy compliments/gold stars as much as the next person, but at the end of the day it’s not other peoples’ feedback that will hold me accountable, it really only matters how I feel about these changes and why I made them. So amidst the chaos and confusion, on most days I feel really good. I don’t think you can ask for much more amidst a global pandemic.