It All Started With A Whistle

I used to be a change-resister. I liked my routine. I liked knowing what was coming so I could mentally prepare. I like Familiar, remember? This past year has taught me better than to use energy to fight the inevitable. I don’t face change in a blasé manner, just letting it steamroll me — well, okay, sometimes I do. But I try to reframe it more as an uncharted adventure. Mostly terrifying, kinda exciting. I just let change do it’s thing. Sometimes I still try to resist or hold on to familiar things but I’ve learned to pick my battles. I’d rather be on the same team as change. He’s no fun to oppose. I’ve learned, that often change isn’t the opponent I think he is.

I started this little blog 10 months ago. I sat in my bedroom as I hit “publish” and remember thinking “publish to who?” I wanted a place to record the lessons I had begun collecting. I wanted to document the “now” because I believed and hoped and prayed that someday’s “now” would be easier. I knew what I was living through was unique. I wanted to look back and say I survived the horrible worst this world could have given me. I wanted proof that life would be okay again. So I began writing because it helped me and documented our journey. I’m an external processor. If I’m thinking about something, it has to come out of me. Believe me, it was to the benefit of many friends and family that I had a screen to quietly expel my thoughts on to rather than on to them. So I wrote. In measured amounts, I began talking more about my grief and began listening to the stories of others. Lessons turned into blog posts which spurred more and more conversations. I learned that so many of us could connect over these stories. I told my story as an invitation to hear yours. Every life, every story is important.

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Megan Kerns Photography

At the same time, I was taking Organic Chemistry. I had big dreams to attend grad school this fall to get my Masters in Public Health as well as become a Registered Dietitian. By the end of the semester, I knew that there was no part of the promise of public health and dietetics that could keep me interested in class. It was as if I had emerged a different person. Things I had loved before, no longer held my interest. Things I didn’t enjoy, now were my jam. I knew I was headed for something else. I walked out of my final exam in December and knew I’d be dropping my spring semester classes.

Last September, my aunt had shared a book with me that had the quote “even in the dark we have the power to whistle.” I decided I wanted to be a whistler. I wanted to look back on this year and say I beautifully and honestly muddled through. I wanted to seek the good because it defied darkness like a big ol’ slap in the face. I didn’t want to bathe in my own tears. I didn’t want to be sad all the time. So in between work and naps and chemistry class, I began ordering supplies and hunkering down in my basement to see what I could come up with that might resemble a whistle. Inspired by another necklace a friend gave me, I toyed around with jewelry. I’d carelessly breeze through my Organic Chemistry homework and start working on this little project. I began feeling useful again, not just like a bump on a log that needed extra long hugs and just wallowed around. The first whistle necklaces were laughable. One day, I even bought a purple soldering kit from Michaels to see if I could get the whistle to actually whistle. That was the first and last day the kit was used. Through executive order, it was deemed the whistles would be symbolic.  After many trips to Home Depot and countless youtube videos paired with serious trial and error, the product started to maybe look like something wearable.

So I stared giving them out. I wanted to make gifts for the friends and family that had so faithfully stood by me. These were people that proved relationships are built out of endurance. How do you thank people for sticking by your side when you feel like you require the energy of a thousand horses to keep up with the world? I wasn’t sure but I loved the idea of whistles so I tinkered. Meanwhile, I kept record of our stories and conversations on the blog.

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Fast forward a few months and a friend asks if she could “commission me” to make a whistle necklace for a friend going through a tough time. “What do you mean, commission?” I asked. Change was upon us and I started a little Etsy shop to better manage the “commissions.” We experienced change again as sales started to pick up. People started to talk about us in churches, over meals, during phone calls, in letters.

A few months ago, a friend asked how I was feeling about it all. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t feeling pressure to write just the right thing or try to fix irreparable brokenness or take care of people while neglecting my own care. She said I could stop blogging whenever it wasn’t good for me anymore. I assured her, no, no. The blog is good for me. I love it. What would we be without the blog?

And now, months later, I still wonder what all we can be — not in the absence of the blog but as an extension of it. We are more than a blog. We are more than an Etsy shop. We are facilitating connection one necklace and story at a time. Through your participation in this, folks are reminded that they are not alone. People are reminded that with the whistle they wear or carry with them, they are a part of a unique community that is committed to staring darkness to the little corner it is destined to be confined to. Each whistle comes with a side of YOU GOT THIS and LET’S KICK THE SH*T out of darkness. I love that.

In my short time meeting with you all somewhat-regularly here, you have taught me so much. I’ve talked with strangers about their shared experiences and it’s been the most sincere honor. Your heartbreak is my heartbreak. Through our shared care for each other we have a beautiful network of connections. I’ve learned that though every struggle is different and unique, it seems most of us feel just a bit better when we know we aren’t alone. I think we want to be connected. I’ve learned sometimes we don’t want to admit that. Sometimes the whistles are just an excuse to talk to someone. I’ll be just an excuse all day long. Meaningful things happen when we get over having a reason to talk and then just do real, honest talking.

I think change is in the air for us. I wish I knew exactly where and what and how only because I want to be doing it now. I think of the famous line in When Harry Met Sally. (Spoiler ahead. Although, you’ve had 25 whole years to watch this…) Harry finally realizes he wants to be with Sally. Sally finally admits she loves Harry. Harry runs to Sally and says “when you know you want to be with someone for the rest of your life, you want the rest of your life to start right now.”

A major life change in the loss of my mom totally dropped me out of my orbit. I had plans! I was knocking out Organic Chemistry! I had applied to grad school! I was going to get out of this city that I can love and hate in the span of a minute!

And then change.

A change I couldn’t escape. And while many parts of this change have beaten me down, so many parts of it have shaped me and made me a better Emily. I never would have asked for this. My mom’s death opened my eyes to the hurt and pain that was running rampant in the world. I just hadn’t stopped to see it. And now I can’t un-see, un-hear or un-carry the stories I’ve heard. Rather than bog me down though, I open my arms and smile. “You’re one of us.” One of the beautifully, broken, worn down, accepted and loved members of the community I’ve so needed. I can’t fix it but you won’t go it alone. Change brought us together.

So like Harry, when you know what you love and care about you just want to be loving and caring about it as soon as possible for as long as possible. For however long we are able to meet here, pour ourselves some proverbial coffee and just hang out, it’s what I want to be doing. I think what change has brought us in this little space is sacred and life-changing.

Part of me believes a larger plan is afoot. We could make necklaces and blog and that’s great. We could also be something more. Who knows!

As we evolve (and maybe even grow!), here’s what you can expect: 1. We’ll be here. I’ll be making whistle necklaces until kingdom come, if need be. Take that to the bank; 2. We’ll be in touch. I love this little blog. I imagine the topics might shift a little. After a year of writing about grief and loss, I feel okay talking more about general life. I love my mom always and forever but I may not write as much about how I miss her. I think at this point that’s just given. 3. We’ll be creating. Behind the scenes we’re dreaming and scheming of ways we can create pathways to connection. We want to make hope seem as obvious and sure as the sun. We want to be the reason and excuse you need to talk about tough stuff, knowing we’re always in your corner.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment and let us know why you’re here. Let us know what’s helpful for you. Let us know why Whistling & Co. might be meaningful for you. That feedback will only shape and mold this project. Each of you plays such an awesome, important role in this. Thanks so much for being a part of it!




6 Replies to “It All Started With A Whistle”

  1. I whistle now that I know there’s a community that searches for help and hope . My whistle is become a symbol of how we all lean on each other and listen for that silent prayer in the dark . There are things I’ve learned of this past year that I’m sure many many others have learned before me, see your grief I feel your pain but through all of this we have learned to fight . And even though we don’t believe it at first maybe still don’t want to believe it there is light and love and life . Grief is it something that ever goes away it just becomes less raw. Eventually you learn that that little piece of your heart you kind of keep in a box you always know it’s there but it doesn’t always need to be unwrapped . so many of us have become family and connected to this , every day I walk every step I run at some point I think of Mary,and how proud she would be of what I’ve accomplished. We’ve lost many in our community that have touched our lives and will continually touch our ways of looking at things in the future. I will whistle every day to bring hope I whistle for my niece Who came to share this amazing story and started something I’m not even sure she knew how big this would go! I love you Em what you’ve done and how you write is nothing short of spectacular !


  2. Emmmmily!! This post is so beautiful. I’m on my lunch break and crying, haha. Thank you for your vulnerability, it seriously inspires me every day. I eagerly await every post you make. I was about to say “I await every post you make because it makes me happy” but then I realized that’s not necessarily true. I go to Buzzfeed for easy happiness, I come here to your blog for authenticity and strength. Your writing constantly reminds me that we are imperfect beings in an imperfect world, and sometimes that imprefectness is so hard to manage. But despite the world and life’s flaws, it can still be so great. Although buzzfeed is great for some mindless video watching and quizzes, I would much rather come here to be reminded that we are all connected and supporting one another.

    Your experiences this past year that you’ve written about have inspired me to not hold back my emotions, which I realized I do SO much. I have always felt things very deeply and have always resented that about myself, but you’ve helped me come to terms with the fact that being sad is okay, tears are needed, and asking for support from a friend is essential sometimes. Thank you. You are an incredible writer and I appreciate you letting me, and so many others be a part of this process with you. Love you lady.


  3. Emily, first of all, I just love you and always have. Secondly, your writing style is amazing. But , what really stands out to me while reading each of your posts is how I can hear your mom’s voice through your writing. You are truly amazing and I am blessed to know you and your family.


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