The Fourth February 27th

I wrote my grandmother a letter on her birthday in 2016 – the first birthday after her death. It has since become a tradition. It’s a way for me to honor her memory and document the evolution of my grief.

Recently found this photo…

It’s been an eventful year, and there were moments where I felt your presence in the midst of it all.

You would’ve loved this year’s family wedding because it was a beautiful reflection of love. I made a fool of myself on the dance floor in your honor. We all did.

I shaved my head…again. You’d be thrilled at the fact that I raised so much money for a good cause, but I know you’d still say, “Your beautiful hair is gone!” You’d laugh-cry about it.

I got a tattoo. I know you would’ve thrown a fit because I remember how you reacted when Mom got one. I can imagine the scene: I would tell you I got it and you would start lecturing about how they’re permanent and I’m probably going to regret it, and what if it’s in a spot I can’t hide. But then I’d remove the bandage and you’d smile and cry. Because you see, I chose to permanently mark myself with the name you gave me at birth. You said you couldn’t remember life before I was born, and I can’t imagine living life without an external representation of the truth you spoke into my soul.

The tattoo on my left arm.

I have roommates now. You’d approve of them and our house. It has lots of natural light, and I catch myself staring out the window and thinking about how much you loved the sun. Your Michelangelo print hangs in my hallway. I spent so many hours staring at that frame in your house, and now it hangs in mine. Maybe next year I’ll finally get to see the original in Italy.

Proof that I used to stare at the art prints in Grandma’s house. The print in the top left corner is the one I have now. She framed it soon after this photo was taken.

We had a very warm day a few weeks ago. You know if it’s warm in February I drive to your park and spend some time. Since my last letter, I’ve taken a lot of photos in that park. It seems my clients enjoy the setting as much as you did. But on this warm, February day I did not bring my camera. I stood barefoot at the edge of the lake and absorbed the peace. I thanked God for the honor of sharing life with you. You gave me the privilege of being and feeling known; you fully saw me in a way I can’t explain to others. Even if I never feel that way again on this earth, I had it in the formative years when I needed it most. You helped instill resilience, and I’m ever grateful for the lasting effects.

I had a moment the other day. Those moments are fewer and further between with each passing year, but they still catch me every so often. This one transported me back to the last time we spoke. After several rounds of singing your favorite hymns and quoting from Tombstone, you saw us and we had you back for a few minutes. You grabbed my hands and I’ll never forget the look in your eyes – you knew you’d been freed from your prison and were on borrowed time. With an urgency as you held my hands you said, “I love you so much. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.”

In that moment, I couldn’t argue. It really wasn’t supposed to be like this. Silly me, I thought you’d be here in my 30s and 40s because you’d only be in your 70s and 80s. You weren’t supposed to die in your 60s. That amazing mind of yours wasn’t supposed to wither and rob us of precious time. I guess that’s the whole point: we aren’t promised any amount of time – regardless of our expectations.

One of our last photos. She always preferred making silly faces rather than smiling.

I started writing your story, and in a way, my own. It’s still in progress, but it’s been very healing for me. One day the world will know your story…or at least your life through my eyes. What a wild and redemptive ride.

Until next year, Sunshine loves you – infinity plus 72.

My Experience with Public Goods

A few years ago, I made the conscious decision to pay attention to the ingredients in the products I use. I started with food, and I do my best to buy natural and minimally processed items whenever possible.

Then I moved to medicines and cleaning supplies. I’ve found all-natural laundry detergents and household cleaners that smell great and actually work. It took some time to find the right items for me – there’s no perfect product for everyone. I use essential oils to help with headaches, allergies, and the occasional stomach issue…thus reducing my use of over the counter medicines. I’m not a doctor and I still firmly believe in modern medicine. I just don’t use as much Tylenol, Benadryl, or Pepto as I used to.

My last holdout for chemicals was hygiene. I love the effectiveness of aluminum-filled antiperspirant. Nothing ever got my hair feeling as squeaky clean as those sulfate-laden shampoos. (That feels terrible to write, but it’s true).

It took me close to a year to find an aluminum-free deodorant that actually worked. I’m still on a journey to find the perfect one, but I’ve at least found one that is adequate. The market is flooded with natural alternatives and this is, again, something that varies by person.

When it came to shampoo and conditioner, I could not find a sulfate-free alternative that didn’t make my hair feel gross. Until…

I heard about Public Goods on a YouTube channel, and signed up for a free 30 day trial. The whole idea is that you pay a yearly (or lifetime) membership fee and you can buy natural and sustainable products at-cost. I placed my first order quickly because I wanted to receive it in time to test things before my trial ended.

They had shampoo and conditioner for less than $5 each. I knew I had to try them because I couldn’t find any natural products in store for that price. My hair feels clean and I have zero build-up after several weeks of using the same products!

I loved every product I tried in that first shipment. I particularly loved the packaging. Aside from the simple aesthetic, the bottles are bio-degradable and they sell refills so you can re-use your bottles. They also have plenty of household products. Their glass cleaner, kitchen towels, and the ayate washcloth are all great.

I did the math and decided that even with the yearly subscription, I’ll save money by continuing to use Public Goods. I might even convert to a lifetime subscription. It’s sort of a Costco membership for home and body products.

If you’re curious, I highly recommend that you try the 30 free trial. I’m super glad I tested it. They even have travel size items, so I’ll be using them when I go on my next adventure!