Girl smiling with sunset behind her

How My Dad's Death Made Me Better

Picture this: It's a Monday morning and you've just arrived at work or class. You and a friend strike up a conversation, she asks how your weekend went. One of the first things you tell her is how fast it went by, how you can't believe it's already Monday. Now it's Wednesday, and you're thrilled by the fact it's hump day because you're halfway through the week! Then Friday sneaks up and your happiness level is just through the roof, 'cause duh, it's almost the weekend.

If this isn't you and you're always enjoying each moment, be proud. This was me all throughout high school and college, probably even middle school. It pains me to think at least half of my life has been spent in the future instead of the present, especially because the future isn't guaranteed. Most of the planning I did in my head was futile; the expectations I created left me mostly disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I've lived a wonderful life so I'm incredibly grateful for. But being in the boating accident that killed my dad and cousin made me seriously look at life and ask if what I'm doing is enough. I've seen first hand how fast life can be taken, how precious our time here truly is, and I want to make the most of it. If not for me, at least for the people whose time here has been cut short. And for me that starts by truly living in the present.

So, welcome to My Journey to Mindfulness. What does it mean to be mindful?

Mindfulness means having a moment-to-moment awareness of what's going on NOW. What you are feeling, thinking, sensing around you. Focusing on your current experience without judgment, without thinking there is a "right" or "wrong" way to be. Our thoughts focus on the present moment instead of lurking into the past or creeping into the future.

This is a journey because I have in no way mastered being mindful. I believe our technology-driven society fosters mindlessness in that we are constantly receiving and sending information which draws our focus away from ourselves. I cannot tell you the amount of times I've become lost in my phone, scrolling through Facebook or Instagram just because I seemingly have nothing better to do.

So goal number 1: only check social media sites twice a day (as opposed to the 20+ times I normally do). A couple other ways I'm cultivating mindfulness:
  • Slowing my eating, really focusing on the flavors and textures of the food.
  • Snuggling with my cat; focusing on his purring and the comfort he brings me.
  • Tuning into the patterns of my breathing.
  • When showering or washing my hands, focusing on how the water feels against my skin.
  • While brushing my teeth, focusing on how it feels against my teeth and gums.
I do not know where I would be right now if my dad had not died. Since his death I try not to expect anything of the future. You don't know the cards you're going to be dealt...I surely never saw his death coming. All I know is that focusing on anything other than the present is a waste of my precious time here.

Share your tips for cultivating mindfulness in the comments below!

Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey! xoxo.


Kaylie Schmidt

Hi Kaylie. This blog is just beautiful and I love reading it. I knew your Mom & Dad very well when I was in college. I worked for them at The Tanning Place and back then we were like a little family. Your father was a one of a kind and we all adored him. I have so many fond memories of those days & am so thankful for them.

One way I’m mindful is by noticing nature wherever I am. I love birds and literally birds are everywhere even if you don’t live in the “burbs”. I pulled into Philips Place Dean & Deluca one day in a hurry but somehow noticed a little sparrow hopping in & out of the hedge along the parking lot perimeter. Then I noticed another and then another and then a little chipmunk poked his little head out from the bottom and scurried to the other side. I sat there for a moment wondering what are they all busy doing in there? Eating, hopping around socializing with each other, mating, having babies, raising babies… basically living their little lives all in that little hedge along the side of a parking lot. It occurred to me that every time I run into this busy place (which is too often) usually in a rush to get to my next destination, little did I know (or notice) there was an entire little world inside that hedge. Since then I’m always mindful to notice the nature in that busy little parking lot hedge and anywhere else for that matter and it always makes me smile no matter what kind of day I’m having. Kind of reminds me of the saying, “Take time to smell the roses.” These little joys in life are completely free and ours for the taking. We just have to be mindful they’re there. Might sound cheesy but it works to put a smile on my face. :-) Life is bursting everywhere & it’s such a gift.

I look forward to your future posts!


Kaylie Schmidt

Hi Kaylie!! Whenever I’m eating dinner or if I have time to sit down for breakfast in the morning I always try to turn off the TV and put my phone to the side so I can really appreciate the meal. Being mindful is really hard for me throughout the day because I actually enjoy a lot of stimulation, especially listening to music over silence. I used to keep a journal and use it throughout the week to log my feelings and thoughts. It helped me work through some of my own problems in my head because I could write about them, walk away from it, and come back to it later with a new perspective. Journaling is probably my favorite approach to being mindful because it is a tangible representation of my thought process. XOX Alla

Kaylie Schmidt

As your mom, I cannot express in words the depths that your strength and choices since the accident have touched my heart and soul. You are everything Dad and I dreamed of and prayed for, actually you are so much more than we ever imagined possible.. You inspire me and give me strength. Dad, Jenna, Jeff, Alec, Doris, Jay, and Gary, would all be so very proud of you. You are truly an amazing person.

Kaylie Schmidt

Whenever my parents would tell stories about The Tanning Place, it made me want to work there with yall!! They always described yall as a family :) Thank you for sharing that with me. I am always amazed by the little things I miss, especially in nature! I’ve started being more mindful when I go on walks around my neighborhood. Never know what you might run into :) love to you, Mandy!! xoxo

Kaylie Schmidt

I love this, Alla! I have the same problem- I really enjoy stimulation such as music over silence and just staying busy during the day. I am bad about keeping my phone away from me while eating…definitely going to start doing that:) love you Alla! Miss you so so much!!!

Kaylie Schmidt

Morning, Kaylie ~ I am such a master of disappearing into my imagination that I find it practically fascinating to slow down and tune into my senses. The feeling of the keys on this lap top under my fingers…listening to the news man talking about this monster snow storm without analyzing anything he’s saying or letting his words pop me into fear…focusing on the essential oils being delivered by diffuser – how they smell, how the little cloud of diffused oil dances in the air. But when I really still myself and close my eyes, I seem to be able to get in touch with the space inside – with the soul, spirit, energy of life that exists alongside my internal organs. And then this natural, gentle smile fills my face. There’s nothing to think about or plan for right there in that space – right there in that moment.

Thank you for your thoughtful, honest blog and this opportunity to reflect!

With love, Sarah

Kaylie Schmidt

Thank you for sharing this with me, Sarah! I can feel how calm your energy becomes just by reading your words- I am working towards that level of oneness with myself. It’s a difficult skill to master! I am constantly disappearing into my imagination as well! Love to you <3 <3 xoxo

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