• Two Years Without Mom

    Dear Mom,

    In the blink of an eye, it’s been 2 years since you passed away. I miss you, so, so much.

    I still get surprised by the grief sometimes; it catches me off guard, like a random rain cloud on an otherwise sunny day. But as April and May approached, it felt more like the storm on the horizon: no matter how bright the day, I could sense the approaching darkness.

    And so we are here – two years later, with another year of celebrations and loss and laughter and hugs and tears. You missed your 57th birthday, your 35th wedding anniversary, and so much more.

  • A Letter to Grandma, Four Years Later

    Dear Grandma,

    In what seems like a blink of an eye, it’s the end of 2016, and it’s been four years without you.

    I missed writing to you last year, and I know you’d understand: without you, without Mom, it was a year in which everything was off. The world still seems off-balance, and I’ve realized that it may always feel that way.

    I still feel your absence most profoundly at Christmas time – not only because it is when you died, but because my childhood was filled with so many fond memories of Christmas celebrations at your house. I drove past the house a few days ago, and it looked so empty to me, without your spirit lighting it up.

  • A Year Without Mom

    Dear Mom,

    Today, the tulips in Wisconsin are in full bloom, and it’s been a year since you passed away. The beauty of spring is tempered, like so many things, by your absence.

    I never understood what ‘profound’ meant until faced with the grief of losing you. It looms large, larger than I comprehend, and sometimes it seems like the vast, empty plain of loss will stretch out forever.

    There are so many things I wish you were here for – so many things you’ve already missed. New friends, a new house, new hobbies, hundreds of joyful moments. Babies and weddings and engagements. You’ve missed other moments of sorrow, too, of course, as sorrow comes knocking on everyone’s door, a shared experience among us all.

  • Yes, You Can Ask About My Grief

    “I don’t know what to say.”

    In the nearly six months since my mom unexpectedly passed away, I have heard this phrase numerous times. And this is the response I have said so many times:

    “I don’t know what to say, either. It wasn’t supposed to be this way.”

    I have often seen the “deer in headlights” look from both friends and strangers when my mom’s absence works its way into a conversation. I know it all too well (I have the same look when I enter unknown conversational territory!)

  • Always On My Mind

    It can be hard to articulate the depth of my feelings about Ukraine. There are so many fond memories, but also the sense of great loss. I found a piece of paperwork from Peace Corps recently, and sadness washed over me as I saw a small box in the top corner:

    “Projected Close of Service: 11-June-2015″
    “Termination Date: 14-April-2014″

    15 months too soon.

    And of course, I most often feel concern: deep, ever-present concern, for all of my friends, their families, the artists I work with, and the country as a whole.

  • A Letter to Grandma, Two Years Later

    Dear Grandma,

    Two years – how is it possible? How can it be two years since we said goodbye to you?

    This summer, I went to your grave for the first time. My mom captured exactly how I felt when she said, “It doesn’t feel like she’s gone. It just feels like we haven’t seen her in awhile.” Your number is still in my phone, your address is still in my wallet. It simply feels like I haven’t seen you in awhile, but you are still here, in all your vibrancy.

  • The 11 Foods/Food-Related Things that “Every” American Misses After They Lived in Ukraine

    I’ve seen a plethora of lists floating around the internet these days. The food lists always seem to favor America and it’s 15,000 varieties of every food product, so I had to add in my own two cents.  This one’s for you, Ukraine.

    The 11 Foods/Food-Related Things “Every” American Misses After They Lived in Ukraine

    (And by “every,” I mean me.)

    1. Roshen Chocolate

    Move over, Hershey’s. You taste like cardboard compared to the delight of Roshen. The truffles in purple foil? DIVINE.

    Fun fact –  The new president of Ukraine is the owner of Roshen.

  • Forever An American-Ukrainian

    Today marks my final day as a Peace Corps Volunteer. After assessing the current situation in Ukraine, Peace Corps has determined that it is not stable enough to send us back.

    I had thought about joining the Peace Corps since I was in high school. There were numerous times I considered joining – after undergrad, after grad school – and then I actually joined, after 2.5 years working professionally in Student Affairs.

  • The Evacuation Post

    On February 24th, all 230 Peace Corps Volunteers were safely evacuated out of Ukraine. It’s hard to believe that we’re all back in the United States, and it is still somewhat surreal to be home in Wisconsin.

    In the past three weeks, I’ve had many opportunities to talk about my experiences in Ukraine. I will post briefly here on evacuation and possible future options, highlighting some of the common questions I’ve been asked.

    Why were you evacuated? Were you in an unsafe area?

  • The Winter Update

    Time is flying by! It’s hard to believe it is almost mid-February already. I have been negligent in blog updates, so here is a recap of the past two months.

    Christmas, My Birthday, New Year’s

    The Orthodox Christmas is on January 7th, so December 25th was an ordinary day for most Ukrainians. I took the day off work and celebrated with two other Peace Corps Volunteers. We watched movies, ate unhealthy food, and relaxed. It was nice to have a lazy day.  A Christmas miracle  occurred, and a big box full of Christmas presents arrived on December 24th, 1 hour before I was catching the bus to my friend’s apartment. So, I was able to Skype and open gifts with my immediate family, and later I Skyped in to watch the festivities with my mom’s extended family. It was a real treat, and I felt like I was still part of the celebration, even from thousands of miles away.