The Weight of Knowing

Dad in November 2003

I’m on a journey. It’s a journey of Life After Dad.

I’m also on a weight-loss journey. I joined Weight Watchers in late January, around the time of Dad’s passing, and went to my first meeting in mid-February. I’ve lost a total of 13.2 lbs. since joining, and have recorded 6.2 lbs. of weight loss since my first meeting.

Along with my job and my volunteer work, the Weight Watchers gives me something to focus on, something to accomplish in the wake of losing my dad.

But sometimes the weight of knowing that Dad is gone literally takes my breath away. I’ll just be going about my day, trying to accomplish whatever … and it hits me. And I crumple. The other day, it happened as I was riding in the car. My husband was driving, and while I didn’t explain what happened *out loud* to him, he knew, and he comforted me.

Grief is a journey. I wish it was something I could just get through, but it’s not. My life is indelibly changed. And I’m simply having to learn to live with the weight of knowing.

The Happy Stretch: Christmas and My Birthday

Holidays_Birthday_Birthday_cake_with_candles_032043_Growing up, I always enjoyed the time between Christmas and my birthday in early February. During that five-and-a-half week stretch, I would enjoy the Christmas holidays while out of school, followed by New Year’s. Then, I would start planning my birthday party and birthday wish list based on what I didn’t get on my Christmas list.

It was always a time of hope and new beginnings: A new year — and then a month later, a new year for me.

This year — well, it was different. Time froze during this former happy stretch of time as we prayed for my dad’s recovery from acute respiratory distress syndrome.

This year, my dad was placed into the hospital two days after Christmas. And this year, we held his memorial two days before my birthday.

The day my dad died, knowing when memorial plans would take place, I sobbed and screamed on the phone to my husband that, “Christmas is RUINED. My birthday is RUINED.”

It sounds childish, but what I was feeling was the shattering of the innocence of my former happy stretch. I thought that from now on, it would be a sad and grief-ridden stretch; all happy memories gone forever.

The day of my dad’s memorial, as it turns out, was my husband’s birthday. Mine was two days later. My chef husband catered lunch after my dad’s viewing, and dinner after his memorial service. As he was serving dessert, my brother-in-law brought out a surprise birthday cake for the two of us. And as we simultaneously blew out the candles, I realized that I can choose to still make it a happy stretch.

Every Christmas, I can remember my last Christmas with my dad, and all the ones before.

And every birthday, I can remember every year I shared with my dad, and know that I am one year closer to seeing him again.

I love you, Dad.

Eulogizing My Father, David E. Record Jr.

David E. Record Jr.

My amazing dad, David E. Record Jr.

On January 24, 2014, just 10 days before my 31st birthday, I lost my amazing dad. After 42 years of marriage to my mom and a career that took him from hospital accountant to COO, my dad’s life ended at age 62.

In the span of a month, Dad went from healthy to gone, after a domino-effect fight with several bugs, including a MRSA-derived cellulitis bacterial skin infection, followed by what we believe was H1N1 influenza, then pneumonia, then a serious and not so well-known complication: ARDS, or acute respiratory distress syndrome, which put him in a medically-induced coma for four weeks before his body succumbed.

Some of what happened is still a mystery, but we do believe he was immunosuppressed by the cellulitis, and possibly something else that remained undiagnosed.

My eulogy, shared with attendees at my dad’s memorial at Sea Island Presbyterian Church in Beaufort, SC, on February 1, is below.

I love you, Dad.

————————–

Travel

 I’ve spent a lot of time in Beaufort, South Carolina over the last month, visiting my dad in the ICU at Beaufort Memorial. But last week, I was on a business trip. I had been upgraded to a Ford Mustang at the airport car rental, and as I roared around town to my appointments, I thought about my dad in ICU and how his very first car was a 1965 Ford Mustang.

Then, last Friday, my mom and sister called to share the terrible news.

As I flew home that evening, I watched the sun set, and spoke to Dad and told him how beautiful the first sunset without him on this Earth was, and thanked him for making it for me. I thought about how I was flying Delta Airlines home to say goodbye to my dad, and how he had made so many trips out of Atlanta on Delta over the years.

As we landed in Atlanta to make my connection, the flight attendant came on the intercom to let us know that we were landing at “Terminal D – as in David.” My dad:  David. Then, I gasped as I remembered that it had all come full circle, because back in 1983, my dad had been on a business trip, received a call sharing the happy news, and flew home to Atlanta to see me be born.

And this week I connected another full circle moment: the last time I saw my dad awake was on Christmas Day, in my driveway. The last time my sister saw my dad was a few days before, in her driveway. And back in 1971, my dad proposed to my mother where? On her driveway.

Words 

The hardest part about grieving my dad is that he always had the right thing to say.  He would know what to say to me, to my mom and to my sister in a situation like this.

My dad’s words were sometimes a piece of career or financial advice, like when he told me to go with a balanced 401K plan earlier this year. A couple years back, he advised me to “build my personal franchise” at work. And of course, he went over my health insurance benefits options with me at several jobs over the past nine years.

Dad’s words could be a funny joke or video. One of our favorites was the 5-second-long “Dramatic Chipmunk” video on YouTube. Last year, thinking of my Labrador retriever, Mango, he sent me a hilarious photo of a large dog stuck in a hammock, with the caption of simply, “Uh Oh.” A while back, I happened upon a Record Motel owned by a Record family close to where I live near Walt Disney World. He jokingly told me that the motel was a family secret.

My dad’s words were often a story about his childhood, like one he told me very recently about his family’s terrier Brownie. Brownie used to chase cars, but one day, the pup chased a car down the street, and as the car turned right, poor Brownie ran smack into the side of the car. Brownie never chased cars again, he said. There must be a lesson in that.

But mostly, my dad’s words held profound weight, stayed with me, and will continue to do so going forward.

In April of last year, I was laid off from my last job. I somehow managed to start a new job about two weeks later. He sent me a text message congratulating me that consisted of just three words: “You are amazing.” And when my husband got a promotion at work just a couple months ago, he told us that he was proud of both of us.

Back over Thanksgiving, my dad observed me playing with my nephews. He noticed that I had formed a special bond with them, and made sure to tell me that he thought I would be a great mother one day.

Even now, after his death, I have found his words. Just yesterday, I was looking at Dad’s Bible. In the book of Psalms, I found his favorite verse highlighted, with a personal note included on why he liked Psalms 91 the most. What a gift.

And just this past fall, my dad shared an article with my mom, my sister and me called, “What the Dying Want Us to Know About Living.” I came upon this email the other night, remembering when he first sent it with an audible gasp.

 The main point of the article was this: “What the dying want us to do — and wish for us to know — is to regard our lives as precious moments making up our days. They want us to focus less on the big picture of building a large body of evidence that proves our accomplishments, and more on the true wonders in our life — the kind where we find unexpected beauty that will be remembered with a wistful smile.”

So Dad, this is what I aim to do. As I go through life now, with you by my side, I will cherish the small moments with my family, and focus on the true wonders of life. Because none of us can predict –- certainly we did not predict — when life might end for us or our cherished loved ones.

I love you Dad, forever and ever.

My 2013 in Review: Connecting the Dots of my Future

2013 year in review

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

-Steve Jobs

It’s true, they say: the older you get, the faster the years fly by. And 2013 — it zoomed. And while it wasn’t my most favorite of years, it wasn’t entirely bad, either!

Some highlights:

In January, I celebrated as the Alabama Crimson Tide football team won its third National Championship in four years.

In February, I turned 30. I celebrated with my husband with a dinner at the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

In March, my parents visited and we went to a Braves spring training game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Also in March, I took on an awesome volunteer position with my sorority. I oversee 35 alumnae chapters in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

In April, I was laid off from my digital content director position at Bonnier Corp. as some magazines were folded or sold, and personnel consolidated. (Luckily, my titles were left in the hands of a swell guy I trust!) Within the month, I started a new job as digital marketing and public relations manager at Mario Camacho Foods the same week that my husband and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. (Find Mario on Facebook!) Between jobs, I wrote a blog post about how my husband’s career at Walt Disney World all started with a tweet, and it got a lot of response.

In May, I went to the movies. This is notable because I went to see only to three movies in 2013: Lincoln, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Saving Mr. Banks. Most of my movie-watching these days is done through HBO and Redbox.

In June, I traveled for my “sorority job” to a training conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In July, I traveled to Seville, Spain for a once-in-a-lifetime work trip, and returned to attend a food blogger conference as a brand sponsor.

In August, I was interviewed for a podcast on Alabama sorority recruitment.

In September, I spent Labor Day with family in South Carolina. I attended another blogger conference as a brand sponsor, and traveled to Richmond for my sorority regional meeting.

In October, we bought a new sectional sofa. It is glorious.

In November, I spearheaded the search for an agency partner at work, and spent Thanksgiving with family in South Carolina. And, my husband received a promotion and transferred to a new location at Walt Disney World.

In December, I went to my first therapy session since high school — through a benefit provided to me through work. I look forward to my next session to discuss my next steps in my career and in life. Also in December, my parents came to visit, and their visit cut short by my dad’s bout with pneumonia. He remains hospitalized and prayers and thoughts are highly appreciated.

In 2013, I spent too much time worrying about finances and my career, and too much time on social media — even though I love it and have made a career out of it, hashtag ironic. I didn’t spend enough time taking care of myself — I did not eat healthily enough, exercise enough, or take enough time for friends and family — and I willingly spent a lot of time on my own when my husband was working. I fear failure in getting healthy, I fear rejection from friends and family, and I aim to conquer those fears.

I have some things to look forward to in 2014. In January, I’ll travel to my old stomping grounds in Birmingham to attend FoodBlogSouth as a sponsor brand, and meet with our PR agency that is headquartered there. I hope to squeeze in as much time as possible for dinner and coffee with friends and former coworkers! In April, my husband and I are renting a dog-friendly beach house a few miles down the beach from where we were married to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. And in July, I’ll travel to Seattle for my sorority’s international convention!

In 2014, I aim to put the health of myself and my family first. I am to make plans with friends new and old. I aim to truly be present for the celebration of our wedding anniversary, put my toes in the sand — and let go of worry.

My 2014 goals:

-Cook nourishing meals for me and my husband on nights when he is working.
-Through running and yoga, restore confidence in my body.
-Reach out to a friend or work contact each week through a phone call or in-person activity.
-Write about people I admire here on this blog.
-Continue dealing with my worry in a healthy way.

If Money Were No Object

ImageIf money were no object, I would:

-First and foremost, pay off all debts and student loans for myself and my husband. 

-Buy a house here in Florida, and get a new living room and bedroom set from Ethan Allen.

-Buy a Gameday condo in Tuscaloosa and get on the list to upgrade our season tickets.

-Trade my Nissan Versa in for a BMW 3 Series, and let my husband trade in his Jeep or just keep adding to it as Jeep enthusiasts do.

-Get a second Labrador Retriever as a companion for Mango and start trying for a child.

-Get my teeth whitnened and get Invisalign braces at the dentist.

-Get a manicure and pedicure every two weeks, and a massage, facial and eyebrow wax every month.

-Hire a personal trainer for 3 or 4 days per week.

-Set up a donation fund to my college, my sorority, and other worthy causes.

It’s fun to think about, isn’t it?

Kristen at 30

Kristen Heptinstall at 30

I am….

More casual than dressy. More classic than trendy. Probably will never have a tattoo.

A collector of Nike shorts, Disney Blu-Rays,  and sorority memorabilia.

Long hair, not short. Natural dark blonde coloring vs. highlights of the past.

Dogs, not cats. Dark chocolate AND milk chocolate.

Just a few close friends to lean on, but many connections and acquaintances.

Decidedly not a domestic goddess or a Pinterest maven. Learning, finally, to cook and keep house properly.

Not a morning person. Sometimes running late. No willpower when it comes to food; can’t keep to a fitness routine.

Frugal. Moderate. Easygoing. Earnest. Helpful. Self-Starting. Smart but usually humble. Complex. Searching. Wondering.

INFJ. A connector of people, but not always wanting to be around tons of them: Introvert probs.

A dog mom; a wife to a chef. Maybe a mother in a few years.

Georgia-born, but Alabama is home, and Florida home for now, maybe longer.

What were you, at 30?

Skits, Crafts, Chats, Chants, Tears and Smiles: Alabama Sorority Recruitment 2013

It’s that time again!

What time, you say?

Fall Sorority Recruitment Time!

And why would a 30-year-old like myself care, you ask?

Well, because I’m still involved with my sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, at the international level, and have volunteered in several different roles since I graduated from college in 2005.

Currently, I serve as Gamma Phi Beta Sorority’s Regional Coordinator for Alumnae for Region 2, which comprises Florida, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Virginias, D.C. and Maryland. I’m the go-to for the alumnae chapters in these states.

Two weeks ago, as part of my international officer duties, I had the honor of installing a chapter here locally, in Lakeland, Fla. Here I am with the lovely ladies of Lakeland:

Gamma Phi Beta Lakeland Alumnae Chapter

I was thrilled to install the Lakeland Alumnae Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta Sorority in July 2013. That’s me in the back row, center.

I had so much fun with these women, and it works out well, because I work just one city over in Plant City, and plan to attend their local events!

And so while my volunteer duties are confined to the activities of alumnae, most of the sorority’s energy is spent on the collegiate chapters at colleges and universities. And being an alum of the University of Alabama, I take great interest in what my chapter and the sororities there as a whole are up to. And by golly, are they up to a lot! (And if you want to keep up, subscribe to my Alabama sororities Facebook list!)

First, my chapter recently broke ground on a new chapter house — the LARGEST in Gamma Phi Beta history (via al.com). The 40,000-square-foot, $12 million structure will house 68 members. And not only does it look amazingly impressive, but it will provide much-needed room for the chapter to meet together, as they’ve outgrown being able to have chapter meetings in their own house, and must feed members in shifts during mealtime.

Second, did I already mention that it’s nearly SORORITY RECRUITMENT TIME? Squee!

My old al.com coworker Ben created this great preview video to give you a taste of what the final day of Recruitment — Bid Day — is like.

It’s a take on the trailer for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I think it really captures the frenzied craziness of what the guys call “Squeal Day.” And I am so excited to see the results of how my sorority, and the rest of Alabama’s Sorority Row, excels on this special day that culminates a week of skits, crafts, chats, chants, tears, smiles, and grueling hard work on the sorority chapters’ part.

Best of luck to my girls at Epsilon Lambda chapter of Gamma Phi Beta, and to all the women going through Recruitment at Alabama and elsewhere around the U.S. and Canada this fall.