8 years

I can’t recall how many times I’ve thought about my mom over the past 8 years. Quite possibly more times than when she was here on earth. I wake up thinking of her. I think about her when I look in the mirror each morning, and see faint resemblances of my mom in my own reflection. Sometimes I think of her when I hear the familiar and comforting tone of her voice inside my own words when I speak. And oftentimes something- a song, a picture, an artifact, a scent- will trigger a forgotten moment I experienced with my mom, and that memory will pop into my mind.

When I started this phase of my life 8 years ago, I never dreamed that I would be able to think about my mom without completely crumbling. While there are still times when the thought of her not physically being here can still overwhelm me with sadness, over time those moments have become less frequent, less vivid, and less familiar. 

I think that’s one of the toughest, yet beautiful parts of reaching 8 years of a grief healing journey.

Over time things, including memories, start to fade. Sounds and mental images of our loved ones and the experience of the loss itself start to lose their vividness. We’ve heard the phrase that time heals all wounds, but not because we’ve forgotten our loved ones, but because through this post-loss journey, we, the grievers, experience life a little differently. We feel our emotions a little deeper, and connect a little more with other grievers and allies. We empathize with others who are grieving and experience the concept of time a little differently. We appreciate things that others may overlook, and see the world for what it is- a temporary gift. And, most of all, we create new relationships with our loved ones that is solely spiritual, and those spiritual experiences and memories become stronger as those physical memories begin to fade. While it’s not time itself that’s healing our wounds, it’s the learning and the awareness that we gain during that time that helps us to navigate and embrace a post-loss existence. 

I promise you that I wouldn’t be able to explain those words in the above paragraph to my 31 year old self who just watched her mother take her last breath. But 8 years later, I can say with confidence and conviction, that although the vibrance of who my living mother was has faded in my mind, the learning, the awareness, and the spiritual connection I have with her is a bright light in a world that I thought would always be dark. 

A grief healing journey is different for everyone. Each year of my journey has brought its own uniqueness to my life. There is no timeline or expectation for when you are supposed to be completely “healed” after loss. Loss changes who you are, and at first, it might feel rocky, but over time the hope and dream is that a grief journey can help you discover things about yourself, the world around you, and your loved one that maybe you didn’t see before.

Friends, life is beautiful. It’s special. It’s meaningful. Notice those around you. Ask people how they’re doing. Make time for friends. Don’t lose sight of what’s important. Go on vacations. Put yourself in other’s shoes. Fall in love. Love yourself. Pay attention to your children (even if they’re already grown). Visit your grandparents. Create opportunities to give back. Call your mother. 

And if you are like me, and your mother is no longer here physically, call her anyway.

Just say the words in your heart and in your mind. She’ll be listening. 

“Hey mom, it’s me Steph. Thinking about you today. I know you’re dancing among the seastars”


Other posts about my mom Judy

Happy Birthday Mom

Be Merry

Judy’s Tales: The Ketchup Incident 

Judy’s Tales: The Waterfall Incident 



Grief becomes joy

7 years passed by in a blink.

And in these three years I have learned more about myself than in the 32 years prior. 

When I first lost my mom, it was difficult to look into the future and envision a normal life. I was 31 going on 32, and could not believe that my time with my mom was over; just like that. 

For weeks and months my nights would be filled with thoughts of sorrow. How she would never get to see all the milestones my brother and I still needed to reach, and how my future children would go without knowing their maternal grandmother. My mind was littered with worry, and sadness and until I learned to cope with it all, it would turn out to be one of the hardest times of my life.  Continue reading


7 years

My mom’s heaven is a house on the seashore where she awakes every morning to the sound of gulls and crashing waves.

Her mornings are filled with homemade pancakes and bacon, walks on the beach, and swims in crystal turquoise waters. Sometimes she floats. Sometimes she snorkels. Sometimes she wades up and down the shore casting out her fishing pole hoping for a bite. Sometimes she lays in the warm sand, working on her favorite word search puzzle soaking up the perfect sunshine without a care in the world.

Friends and family of days gone by come to visit her beach house and they feast on old family recipes, chatting about the good old days over sweet cups of piping hot cafe con leche. The sound of dominoes clicking and sliding against the table can be heard until the wee hours of the night as they enjoy each other’s company, with loyal pups curled up by toes. 

Sometimes days are filled with trips to her favorite places, driving around in a red convertible singing along to songs of Donna Summer, shopping at big retail stores, crunching on bags of freshly popped popcorn, and sipping ice cold cups of Coca Cola as she pushes her cart along the aisles. 

When the days get cooler, her heaven is a campground where her and her mom sneak away for cozy mountain trips. Conversations about life and family fill their days as they sit by warm campfires under millions of stars picking up where they left off years ago.

At night, my mom sleeps and dreams of us, just as we sleep and dream of her here on Earth. In her dreams she sees our successes, hears our worries, and laughs with us during our craziest of times.

And on the quietest of nights, when the stars align just right, we reunite in those dreams, talking about our lives, and creating new memories that no photograph can capture.

I’ll miss you forever mom, but the last 7 years without you have made me strong and soft, brave and vulnerable, grateful and still.

Until we meet again…



What clouds your success?

I posted this picture today on my social media accounts (ignore the bed head and workout clothes!): 
I found this jacket on a clearance rack last night at the mall. I had been looking for a blazer and was SO excited to find this deal for just $15 at one of my favorite clothing stores. Not only does it fit me perfectly, but I also have the matching pants AND it is THREE SIZES SMALLER THAN WHAT I WAS WEARING LAST AUGUST. I was pretty psyched about the deal AND the success!
That jacket post prompted me to do a updated before/now progress post. Working to create the healthiest version of yourself isn’t always easy- especially when you have a belly, a booty, rolls, or anything else that you (or society) associates with being “a fat person”. Those associations can really cloud your perception of the hard work you are putting in, the strength you have gained, the progress you have made, and the passion you have for taking care of yourself and your health.
You see yourself in the mirror everyday and don’t always notice positive changes because they are clouded by all of those judgements and associations that we carry with us. It’s not until you try on something that you once thought was too small and it fits, decide to run on the treadmill and realize that your knees aren’t hurting, or look at old pictures as a comparison and realize that things ARE, in fact, changing.
I especially struggle with the belly “cloud”. I look at my body in the mirror and immediately focus on my belly- how far it sticks out, how many rolls it has, etc.- completely negating EVERYTHING else that has changed (like legs, hips, face, neck, shoulders, waist, arms). One view of my belly in the mirror can make me lose that glow in my face that eating healthy and exercising has helped me develop. It can stop me in my tracks on the treadmill at the gym and make me doubt myself and my abilities. It can make me feel self-conscious while dressed up and out on the town, or with my husband at home. I have to consciously make a decision to give myself visual, verbal, and physical reminders that I’m on the right path for me, and that what my belly looks like is NOT the only success indicator. I cannot let one fixation with a body part cloud my truth. And I challenge you to do the same.
When you get discouraged with those dreaded numbers on the scale, or by fixating on those triggers that make you doubt yourself and your hard work when you look in the mirror, I encourage you to look deeper- look at the other parts of your body that are changing. Pay attention to how you FEEL. Notice the changes in energy, endurance, and strength. Look beyond that one spot that causes you frustration, and celebrate all of the changes that come with the decision you have made to prioritize your health, fitness, and well-being.
When we see this path of working towards our healthiest self as a life long journey, instead of a “quick fix”, “a diet”, or a temporary “phase” in our lives, we begin see how what we eat, how we move, the relationships we keep, and what our inner voice sounds like, all fuel us to be strong, healthy, happy, confident, and comfortable in our own skin. If you decide to love yourself now, belly and all, the successes that come next, as you begin to make changes to your daily habits and routines, are going to improve, enhance, and strengthen that love.
And when we truly, deeply love ourselves no matter what, when setbacks happen (and they will), we will be able to bounce back and stay on the path, because we know how to provide support and encouragement within ourselves to keep moving forward.
xoxo Steph
PS- The picture on the left was taken at my bridal shower last March (2017). The picture on the right was taken today (without the jacket). I was deliriously happy and in love then (with life, with my soon to be husband, with myself), and am still deliriously happy and in love now…but x100.

The Grief to Joy Project (& Grief Awareness Week!)

When I first lost my mom  it was difficult to look into the future and envision a normal life. I was 31 going on 32, and could not believe that my time with my mom was over; just like that.

For weeks and months my mind was littered with worry and sadness, and until I learned to cope with it all, it would turn out to be one of the most challenging times of my life. 

If you had asked me about how my mind, my present, and my future would be on afternoon the of April 11, 2012, you would hear words like “hopeless”, “unsure”, “sorrowful”, “lost”, and “anxious” fall lifelessly out of my mouth. I had just said goodbye to my mom after a year long battle with breast cancer, and it truly felt as though my world, and my future, were collapsing around me.  Continue reading


Giving back at Ronald McDonald House Tampa

Started my 38th trip around the sun volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House with this group of amazing people! 

These people are the real deal. Kind, smart, funny, and most of all, selfless. When I started talking about getting a group together to volunteer our time at the Ronald McDonald House here in Tampa as a way to celebrate my birthday, they all said “yes!” without a second thought. And yes… we made cupcakes… and YES I had one, of course. It was my birthday after all! 😉 Continue reading


Honeymooning (and a honeymoon-inspired recipe!)

When we first began planning our wedding, I was on the fence about going on a honeymoon.

I was just about to begin a travel-heavy new career, and the thought of taking off right after the wedding (and right before a super busy travel month in May) wasn’t appealing.

But the more we thought about it, and the more we talked about it, we realized that going on a honeymoon meant something to us. 

Your honeymoon tells the world, and maybe you, who you are. -Ginger Strand

We had a beautiful 5 years of dating,  Continue reading


5 years

If you asked me about how life would be on the afternoon of April 11, 2012, you would hear words like “hopeless”, “unsure”, “sorrowful” and “anxious” fall lifelessly out of my mouth. I had just said goodbye to my mom after a year long battle with breast cancer, and it truly felt as though my world, and my future, were collapsing around me. 

5 years ago it was difficult to look into the future and envision a normal life. I was 31 going on 32, and could not believe that my time with my mom was over; just like that.  Continue reading