Flicker

I’ve always been an early riser. Not a 6AM early riser, or even a 5:30AM early riser — I’m a 4AM kind of girl. Maybe I’m a masochist, but really I just have a love affair with early mornings; each is reminiscent of my favorite Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay. I’m in love with the crispness of the air, the faint rustle of leaves as they eagerly await their brief chance to be golden with the rise of the sun. I feel peace on the empty roads and abandoned beaches, as the vestiges of natural landscape glimmer with whispering critters, most of which I long to cuddle and have as pets. I’m in love with early mornings because they’re not insistent; they don’t demand that I accomplish tasks, solve problems or make plans. Early mornings don’t expect me to look presentable, speak logically or even act accordingly. Early mornings allow me to just be. I’m in love with early mornings because they bring me as close as I’ll ever be to experiencing the world before life was so…busy, so crowded, so hurried and so complicated.

Early mornings offer me the opportunity to witness what I would otherwise overlook in the post-morning bustle. Like this morning; I saw a flickering street light — not the usual flicker of a bulb making its final stand before eternally burning out. This was a flickering that appeared as a deliberate, even strategic, dimming and brightening. As I drove by, I glanced in my rearview mirror, only to see it resume its ordinary glow alongside its streetlight companions. To anybody else this might have  been something explained away by the nuances of modern electricity. To me, however, it was a wink, a wave…a nod from beyond.

I’ll be the first to tell you I’m a skeptic when it comes to just about everything. I have a hard time believing in anything I can’t see, anything that hasn’t met my burden of proof, and anything that isn’t justifiably explained in a textbook from a highly verifiable source. With that being said…I see Hawks. Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, seahawks, Red-shouldered Hawks. Hawks. Everywhere. Hawks on lampposts, Hawks adorning trees, Hawks circling overhead, and Hawks seeming to barrel  directly at me. This is a daily occurrence. The skeptic in me sometimes wonders if I just have a keen eye for spotting them, habituated by years of my dad’s conditioning. Other times, the Hawks are undeniably there for me. A Hawk will screech and swoop ceaselessly until I acknowledge it, speak to it — then it will appear to vanish. And just like the flickering streetlight, I know it’s my dad. I just know it.
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Admittedly, instead of being comforted by these visits, I mostly feel frustrated and anxious; “I SEE YOU! I HEAR YOU! WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?!”
Recently, after again being accosted by a Hawk, I told my frustrations to my friend, Elyse. Without hesitation she said “maybe your dad is just trying to let you know he’s with you.”
Aha. How could something so simple (and seemingly, so obvious) have escaped me?
I had been so fearful and worried that he’s been here to warn me, it had never crossed my anxiety-ridden, skeptical mind that, of course, he’s here to love and comfort me, he’s here to watch over me, he’s here to swoop, screech, flicker, glow and to light my path. Most importantly, my dad is “here”, so simply and so beautifully, to remind me that he’s here.
And even when the Hawk flies away, the flickering streetlight returns to uninterrupted illumination, and morning gives way to day — my dad will still be here. And though Nothing Gold Can Stay, I know now that my dad’s love and presence will forever remain.

Nothing Gold Can Stay   {Robert Frost, 1923}

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I Workout

I’ll just say it…I’m totally one of those annoying people who check-in at the gym on Facebook. I also work out to the memory of chocolate shakes and french fries past, and I’d be lying if I told you that I’d never envisioned myself with a hot bikini body while panting on the treadmill. Alright, so I go to the gym so that I can indulge at In-n-Out and Baskin Robbins. And yes, I absolutely workout to justify spending entire days in yoga pants as a badge of honor. And while I wholeheartedly believe that food, drink, and bragging rights are as noble fitness motivators as any, I’ve come to learn that working out is about more than skinny jeans, wine, and checking-in at the gym on Facebook. Working out is also about training for life’s tough stuff.

Let me explain…

Two years ago, on this very day, my dad was admitted to the hospital, where we would learn that he had only a year left to live.

**CUE: TOUGH STUFF**

For lack of more eloquent phrasing…it sucked. But in some strange way I was prepared. I was prepared to spend that final, bittersweet year with him. I was prepared to learn the sad, terrible realities of cancer. And while I never could have been entirely prepared to lose my dad, I was prepared to face the heap of tough stuff that was barreling directly toward us. Because, without knowing it, when I was sweating through spin class or breathing through yoga, not only was my body getting stronger, my mind was also toughening up.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that when we workout, we’re preparing ourselves to dig deep and endure all of life’s tough stuff with grace and grit. And tough stuff doesn’t have to be terminal cancer. Tough stuff (much like Baskin Robbins milkshakes) comes in small, medium and large.

Tough stuff is carrying a big load of laundry up the stairs (or, if you’re like me, carrying it over to your parents’ house) or lugging a week’s worth of groceries in from the car. Tough stuff is parenting and hustling through a busy day after a night of like zero sleep. Tough stuff is taxes and car trouble. Tough stuff is the loss of a pet and the end of a marriage.

Tough stuff is mental and physical, emotional and spiritual, but regardless what form tough stuff takes, when we’ve trained for it, we can conquer it. We can find strength and stamina during times of chaos and stress. In loss, we can find peace. And with each test of our toughness, we can adapt, evolve, and grow stronger.

Tough stuff is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be catastrophic — and that’s why I workout.

I workout to look and feel my best. I workout to eat pizza and chocolate. I workout to make friends. I workout to keep up with my family — and my dog. I workout to maintain a decent level of sanity. But most of all, I workout to challenge and prepare myself for the all the tough stuff that lies ahead.

xoxo

hjn

2nd Annual Paddle-Out & Celebration of Life

The Nancarrow Project

As the end of the year approaches, so does December 28th, the one year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Although the pain of loss feels particularly heavy, each new day reminds me that this is a time for gratitude, reflection and celebration.

My dad always wished to be remembered not by how he died, but by how he lived — and last December, my dad earned his wish when we all gathered at the ocean, cheered as a golden San Diego sun dipped below the horizon, and said goodbye to our beloved Loren Nancarrow.

Since that extraordinary night at the beach, we all have lost many more local heroes including Jerry Coleman, Tony Gwynn, and Larry Himmel…we’ve lost mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, siblings, children, and friends, further reminding us that each day is gift. So as our family celebrates my dad’s life, we also want to honor and celebrate ​the lives of your loved ones who have passed, as we believe that…

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Good Grief

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
― Charles M. Schulz

GOOD GRIEF! It feels like all the saddest things happen during the holidays. It feels like loved ones pass away, families quarrel, and friends hold grudges. It feels like spouses are unfaithful, lives are uprooted, and we become burdened by painful memories. Mostly, it feels like grief always makes its move during the holidays.

And when grief moves in, we don’t feel like sitting around a dinner table together. We don’t feel like playing games, singing songs, or watching holiday movies. We don’t feel like lighting candles, hanging twinkle lights, or baking cookies. Instead, we lie awake with worry, alternating crying into our pillows and plotting escape or revenge, or just mustering the strength to reach over to our laptops to post some cryptic Facebook status, and wallow in the comments of concerned, inquisitive e-friends.

Then (when we’re done with the wallowing and such) we tap into our loving, joyous selves and come to an understanding that, whether it be good or bad, energy begets energy. We must know that we could feel that much-hyped “comfort and joy” everybody sings about, if we make a conscientious differentiation between our grief and the holiday season, because though they often coincide, they are not one and the same. We must know that when we dedicate our energy to joy, the holiday spirit is strong enough to overpower holiday grief.

We overpower grief with celebration and creation, simply by accessing the most creative, celebratory parts of ourselves and thriving on that loving, glowing energy. So, regardless of what we celebrate — we CELEBRATE. We celebrate by moving our beautiful, living bodies. We celebrate by setting the table, playing games, singing songs, and watching holiday movies. We celebrate by lighting candles, hanging twinkle lights, and baking cookies. We celebrate with glitter… and chocolate!

And as we begin to lift the joy of the season above our feelings of grief, we are then able to realize that grief too has a purpose in our lives. Grief is a teacher and a guide, offering us the gift of gratitude and hope, independence and self-compassion. Grief forces itself into our lives to enlighten us and give us perspective. Thus, we begin to understand that grief comes to us during the holidays, not to ruin our spirits or intensify our pain, but rather to be softened by the bright, loving, and nostalgic atmosphere of the season, so that our hearts may heal in the light of real comfort and joy. 

So, together let us celebrate truly good grief. Together we celebrate good grief with wrapping paper and ribbon, old timey songs and home cooked meals. Together we celebrate good grief with loud, messy, unapologetically elaborate holiday spirit.

xoxo

Hannah

“Are you upset little friend? Have you been lying awake worrying? Well, don’t worry…I’m here. The flood waters will recede, the famine will end, the sun will shine tomorrow, and I will always be here to take care of you.”
― Charles M. Schulz

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Lily Loved Cookies

Lily loved cookies. Lily also loved burying her cookies in the garden, then digging them up the moment she suspected she had been discovered. She loved hot sunny days and cold rainy nights. She loved cuddling and trips to the park. But most of all, Lily loved cookies.
Lily loved to be held. She loved the feeling of being in our arms, squeezed tight against our chests. She loved sleeping by the fireplace and going for rides in the truck. She loved playing soccer with rolled up socks and her favorite blue toy. But most of all, Lily loved cookies.
Lily loved to bark. She loved to bark upstairs and down, in the garage and by the door, and anywhere people could hear her. She loved sunbathing on the patio and lying at our feet. She loved growling at the vacuum and sitting shotgun in the car. She loved chicken and cheese, biscuits and bones. But most of all, Lily loved cookies.
Lily loved her dad. She loved sleeping on his pillow and, when he got sick, she loved staying right by his side…except for when she was burying cookies in the garden. Because most of all, Lily loved cookies.
Until one night, Lily had a fateful encounter with a dog of another sort; and there in the warm September air, Lily left us to join her dad again — to sleep on his pillow of clouds, and bury cookies in his heavenly garden.
Because most of all, Lily loved cookies.

In Loving Memory of Lily Nancarrow (2002 – 2014)

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For All The Warriors

This month, I had the incredible honor of delivering the keynote speeches at two Relay for Life events. I’m new to Relay and, honestly, I was blown away. I was blown away by the commitment and passion, and by the awe-inspiring expressions of love.

I just thought I’d share one of my speeches with you. Whether you’re a survivor, a caregiver, or someone who has been touched by cancer in some way, this one is for you. This one is for all the warriors…


I have to admit, I don’t really feel worthy to stand up here and speak. I don’t feel worthy because I can’t tell you anything you don’t already know about cancer, loss or survivorship. In fact, most all of you know significantly more about surviving than I do. So instead I’ll tell you something that all of us know too well: cancer sucks.

But the way I see it each of us have two choices in life. And the choice that we make has the potential to change the course of history, to change the human condition, and to change the course of all of our lives for the better.

Our first choice is to be afraid. To be afraid of losing the fight. To be afraid of losing the future we’d dreamed of. To be afraid of losing a loved one. And to be afraid of losing our own battles.

And although we know that fear stifles us and keeps us from our happiness, so often being afraid feels like our only choice.

But all of us here tonight know that we don’t have to be afraid, and we don’t have to let fear decide our fate. Because all of us here understand that our other choice in life is the choice to gather our strength…and to fight — To fight with everything we have against the disease that has both dimmed and extinguished many of our brightest lights.

And just by being here tonight, I know for certain, that each and every one of you have chosen to fight.

Each and every one of you have chosen to fight for a cure, for remission, for survivorship, and for each of those bright lights that have burned out before their time.

So it is an honor for me to be here tonight among such a brave group of warriors.

And it’s been my bittersweet fortune to come from a long line of warriors. My Grandma Phyllis was a warrior. My grandpa Kevin was a warrior. My great uncle Lou was a warrior. Recently, my great uncle Chuck became a warrior too.

And just like all of you, my dad was also warrior. He was a thinker, a leader, and someone who never stopped fighting for what he believed in. In his final year, my dad shared his story and much of himself on our blog, The Nancarrow Project, where he wrote that “it is far better to good for others than to do good for oneself.”

And that’s exactly what he had spent a lifetime doing.

My dad was passionate about conservation, education and germination. And when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he exemplified determination.

As was typical for my dad, his determination extended beyond himself. On our blog he wrote “…if you’ve got cancer: DON’T FREAKING GIVE UP.”

My dad never gave up. He fought courageously. But cancer did what cancer has done for thousands of years, and my dad passed away after just 11 months of fighting.

And although cancer stole my dad, it also toughened me for the fight ahead. Now, here we are, continuing to fight so that, one day, we will defeat cancer for good.

And not only are we here fighting against this cruel disease. We are also here fighting for something much more precious.

We fight so that children may grow up to “discover their passions and explore them fiercely”. We fight so that fathers may walk their daughters’ down the aisle. We fight so that mothers might become grandmothers. We fight for more time and so that we might live to see all of life’s treasures.

While my dad won’t be there to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, or to bounce his grandbabies on his knee and teach them about bugs and plants and the many uses for coconut oil…and though the sadness we feel in this moment is particularly heavy — it’s important for me to express the other feelings I hold in my heart – feelings of joy, gratitude…and hope.

I feel joy because happiness is what my dad wanted for us. He wanted us to find beauty and wonderment in the world. He wanted us to “treasure the importance of each day and to be understanding of the fleetingness of life.

I feel grateful because I was lucky enough to have a father who taught me about passion and laughter and about unconditional love. As Winnie the Pooh said:

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”

And tonight, as I look out at each of your faces and each of the flickering flames around us… I AM HOPEFUL. I am hopeful because each of these flames burn bright because of you. Because you are the light.

Now, before I leave you, I want to share with you one more piece of advice from Winnie the Pooh:

“If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember: You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.”


xoxo,

Hannah

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Go On, Love Each Other

It’s been almost 10 years since we were all in a room together. It doesn’t matter. The years melt away and it’s just like it was. I flash back to memories of three little girls selling eggs on the street corner, riding horses up old dirt roads, and growing up together on our familiies’ rural little farms.
Now here the three of us are again. This time, gathered around a hospital room, seated beside Taylor’s bed — which brings me back to other, rawer memories of IVs and latex gloves, bottles of pills and of the sickness that stole my dad.
Taylor is powerful and extraordinary, and she has that sparkle in her eyes that makes me hopeful that this too shall pass — but I am careful to also acknowledge the message within the mess. The message being that life is precious and life is fleeting.
My sweet friend is a compelling reminder to laugh and hug and connect NOW. Don’t wait for another reminder; call your mom, your sister, your grandpa, your best friend. Tell them you love them, are thinking of them. Make plans and keep them. Make connections and nurture them. Connection is the foundation of life.
If you were waiting for a sign…here it is.
Go on, love each other.

 

xoxo

Hannah

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Even Pest Control

I always expected to miss my Dad. I expected to miss his “dad jokes” and his subsequent full-bellied laughs. I expected to miss seeing his name pop up on my phone and hearing his voice on the other end. I expected to miss his gourmet cooking and the contented look he got as he sang along to Bob Dylan. I expected to miss how I felt when he’d put his arms around me, kiss my head and whisper “I love you, Kiddo.” And I really expected to miss his incomparable way with words, paired with his hearty, rhythmic voice. Somehow, amid all my other expectations, there are some things I never expected to miss; things like…pest control. Yes, I really miss my Dad’s ability to control pests.

This new way of missing my dad came to me just as I drifted off to sleep last night. I heard a faint, but unmistakeable, high-pitched buzzing. I flipped on the lights and set out on an extremely serious 30-minute mission to find the perpetrating mosquito — but my efforts were in vain. When I’d finally fallen back to sleep, I was more than a little annoyed to hear scratching and gnawing from every pet within in 10-foot radius (which was approximately 6 pets). Again, lights on, in fully-agitated-inspection-mode. FLEAS. Visible, numerous, hateful hoards of fleas. So, naturally, I began an immediate round of militant-style flea baths. 90-minutes and a mild-to-moderate case of scoliosis later, the sun was just peaking up in the East and I instinctively went to the kitchen to make some coffee. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I began to tear up a little when I saw a small army of ants marching single-file along the kitchen counter.

At the very moment I began making drastic considerations (such as shaving each pet bald and burning the house to the ground…just to name a few), a familiar, colorful paper-back book caught my attention. There it was. As if it was a sign from above, my dad’s book — Dead Snails Leave No Trails.

I opened it up. Page 63: Mosquitoes. Page 82: Fleas. Page 10: Ants. And just like that — problems solved.

I miss my dad. I miss him for who he was. I miss him for what he did  — and I certainly miss him for how he did it. In fact, each day I find new ways to miss him. But, just as he did in life, my dad continues to teach me how to solve all of life’s problems, both big and (in this case) very very small.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is…here are some helpful organic remedies from the late, great Loren Nancarrow, a man who sure knew a lot about a lot — yes, even pest control.

xoxo

hjn

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Loren Nancarrow Fleas Remedy from 10News

Wishing

 

One of my favorite people in the whole wide world is a 14-year-old-girl (let’s call her “L”). “L” makes me feel special. She tells me I’m pretty. She tells me she wishes she were “classically pretty”.  She tells me she wishes her teeth were whiter. She tells me she wishes her hair was longer. She tells me she wishes she was thinner.

When I was her age, I wished a lot too. When I was her age, I wished I was somebody else.

I wished I was somebody pretty. Somebody with thinner thighs, bigger boobs and longer hair. Somebody with clearer skin, whiter teeth and, preferably, blue eyes. I wished I was somebody with style. Somebody who wore size zero jeans and who could share clothes with friends. Somebody who won “best dressed” and never wore the same thing twice. I wished I was somebody who all the guys liked. Somebody who won homecoming queen and who was asked to the prom. Somebody who had a boyfriend and who exchanged love notes. I wished I was somebody fancy. Somebody who drove a nice car and carried a designer purse. Somebody who wore high heels and Tiffany jewelry. I wished I was somebody popular. Somebody who didn’t ever have to make outgoing calls or send the first text. Somebody who was invited to all the cool parties and who was greeted with cheers as she walked in the door.

When I was her age, I wished I was somebody else. I spent so much time wishing to be somebody else, that I never really enjoyed being me. Today, I enjoy being me (for the most part), but I still do a lot of wishing — albeit a different kind of wishing. I wish I could tell my 14-year-old self not to wish her life away — instead to hug her dad tightly and to share her feelings with her mom. I wish I could tell her how fantastic she is — and I wish the same things for “L”. I wish she could understand how special she makes me feel just by being herself, exactly as she is.

My dad used to say “wish in one hand and spit in the other — see which one gets full first.” I never understood what he meant until now. I wish I could tell him I finally get it.

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