Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

Sharing Our Family’s History June 6, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Life Balance,Random Thoughts — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:59 pm
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My beloved Aunt & Godmother recently moved out of her family home and has bestowed an amazing gift upon me and my cousins… she asked us to go through her home, before they clear it out to sell, and select things that we wanted to keep.  We were told to choose things that we could use… that might remind us of her or of our childhood… and take them with us.  I expected it to be really sad to walk into her home, especially after many of the larger pieces were gone before I ever got there.  Due to a FamilyHistoryscheduling conflict, I was unable to be there when my cousins were there, so my husband and I went up the following weekend.

It was a really emotional experience.  Everywhere we looked, there were family photos or pieces of artwork that my aunt had painted.  We chose the mantel clock that had once belonged to my grandmother and knew it would fit our new home’s mantel perfectly. We found a barn painting in the attic that my aunt painted long ago that will look wonderful in our dining room.  The living room mantel painting is one that my son wants for his new apartment, along with a vacuum cleaner that will last him a lifetime.  The beautiful chair we selected will have a new home in our living room as the completion of my writing desk.  Even the fish… my aunt caught it on a fishing trip to the keys and no one wanted to keep it, so I think I’ll use it as a decoration in a guest room.  Makes the idea of redecorating even more exciting when it means incorporating pieces of family history into the mix.

The short journey into my childhood was bittersweet.  When my parents divorced, I was only 10, so my view of “the truth” was severely skewed.  As much as I would love to think that one person or the other was at fault, it’s not for me to say with any degree of knowledge or certainty.  There’s enough blame to pass around for decades but  I can commiserate with both “sides” of the situation and cannot imagine the pain that was shared throughout the entire family. Nevertheless, I will always be grateful for every part of my childhood… I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.Family Tree poem

My Godmother’s home was always special to me.  I have sweet memories of playing on the swingset in my her backyard… of family Christmas celebrations throughout the years… of meals shared around all the tables in her home… and of always finding comfort and safety within the walls of her home.   While I will miss the bricks and mortar of the building from which these items came, I will now always have pieces from various rooms throughout that home that will evoke positive memories of days gone by. I was blessed with a loving, caring, gregarious, and generous family… I couldn’t have asked for any better way to grow up.

Our family tree may be changing, as all trees must, but I cannot imagine my own without being grateful for every branch… every leaf… every root.  Our personal history is what makes each of us special and unique.  We learn and we acclimate, we aim and we adjust. We must, as we become the adult generation, remember to tell the stories and share the memories so that the family history isn’t lost.  That the children of my children will always know just who caught that odd looking fish in my home… they’ll know that the mantel clock once belonged to their great-great grandmother… and hopefully, some day, they’ll appreciate the care and love that has been lavished upon a family to which they belong.

It’s in their blood…. they’ll understand…

 

 

 

Developing an Attitude of Gratitude May 27, 2014

Simple things… they are the things that make everything in life so much sweeter.   Recognizing these morsels of sweetness can be both difficult and rewarding, but being grateful for each one is even more important.  It’s the idea of developing an Attitude of Gratitude that can be your individual key to happiness.

Think about a time when you were given some bad news.  Maybe it had to do with a medical diagnosis you didn’t expect to hear.  Did you face it head-on or did you bury your head in the sand?  Did you work to think about all the positive things that are possible or did you dwell on what you may eventually lose?  Did you turn to God for His divine support or did you close yourself off and try to handle everything on your own?  Your reaction, and ultimately your attitude, is a choice… it’s one that you’ll make daily in both large and small ways, but understand that it is a choice.  You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be miserable.  This is where I believe that an attitude of gratitude comes into play.grateful1

It’s not easy to be grateful for everything in your life, but your life will be infinitely better if you are grateful… for everything.  I love this blog post in Psychology Today that talks about how developing a habit of gratitude can lead to happiness.  I had never read this blog posting before, but I have uses their suggested technique many times over the years.  Each time, there’s been a large event (medical diagnosis, move, etc) that has precipitated my need to focus on the positive aspects of my life… and each time, this plan has helped me turn my mental focus into something more productive.

The idea is simple… which is why it works so incredibly well.  Each night, before you lay head to pillow, take a piece of paper and write down three things for which you are grateful.  I’m not suggesting that you write a paragraph about your day and how things went… that’s not the reason for this exercise.  Your list can be as short and concise as the following:

  1. Got dressed before 10AM
  2. Ate lunch
  3. Talked/texted with my sister

Nothing exciting or overly thrilling, but these three small things help you recognize that there were some positive aspects to your day.  If I were to write a list from yesterday, it would look like this:

  1. Spent time with my cousins
  2. Spent time with my entire family (both boys included)
  3. Made a really cool dessert that M suggested and everyone loved

Nothing earth-shattering, but it reminds me that I now live in MD, so we’re close enough to be able to do this more often than we have in the past.   It’s the simple aspect of spending time with family that sweetens my day and allows me to appreciate those moments even more than I might have otherwise.

I also want to add this short vine of a llama jumping across the field. Each time I see it, it makes me laugh and that can easily be one of those things for your journal. This animal is simply hopping across the pen, but listening to the music that’s been added can make just about anyone laugh hysterically.  It’s something totally unexpected and incongruent with your expectations of this animal… and it makes you grateful for the person who thought of putting these two things together.  See?  Two of your “three things” for the day done in less than one minute…. Bam!

Don’t wait until you have “the perfect notebook” or “the perfect pen” before you start a journal of gratitude.  Your attitude and your outlook is more important than the paper upon which you will write. It’s the physical act of putting pen to paper, coupled with the mental exercise of focusing on the positive, that’s most important.  Promise yourself that you’ll commit to writing in your journal every night for a month before you reevaluate this project. Developing an attitude of gratitude is not something that happens overnight… it happens over time.

I wish you a more positive tomorrow and a brighter outlook for your future.

 

Carry The Load – #whoareyoucarrying May 17, 2014

It’s almost Memorial Day…. a day that was created to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This day was originally intended to be celebrated with accolades for those who made it home safely while remembering those who will only make it home in our memories.  Sadly, its history can be as confusing and confounded as the way it is celebrated each year, especially if you try finding out any basic, decisive information via Wikipedia by clicking this link.

I feel that there is a big question we should be asking ourselves these days.  “Is this how our children willCTL-LOGO-W-TAG remember Memorial Day?”  Is this how we *should* remember Memorial Day today?  If your answer isn’t something even remotely patriotic, what are we doing to change that fact?

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. I remember celebrating Memorial Day by marching in our local parade; first with my elementary classes, then the Girl Scouts and later with our middle school marching band. For what seemed like “hours in the hot sun”, we would follow the parade route down the center of town before ending at the local cemetery where we would lay flowers on the graves of local fallen soldiers. It was a solemn day… but one that would end with baseball and fireworks at the local rec park.

It wasn’t as if we didn’t know *why* we were marching on this day. We discussed Memorial Day in school for weeks beforehand to learn just how important this day was to the history of our country. What I can’t remember now is, “when did we stop”? When did we, as a town, decide not to continue to celebrate Memorial Day in a way that would honor our veterans? When did we, as a country, turn Memorial Day into a day of “burgers and beer” instead of one in which we visibly appreciate the sacrifice of the fallen? When did we, as a people, stop being grateful for the service of every man and woman in uniform?

I have to say that I am a huge “America” geek. I get teary when we sing the National Anthem before a sporting event. I get choked up anytime I see a video of service member being welcomed home. I love holidays that celebrate our great country and all that it represents. I may be a huge wimp when it comes to fireworks, but the pomp and circumstance of it all? Thanking our military for standing in harms way? Honoring every single man and woman who has ever willingly chosen to defend our freedom? I’m ALL for it… believe we don’t do enough of it… and am praying that we start recognizing the need to do *something* before it’s too late.

Carry The Load is a non-profit organization focused on restoring the true meaning of Memorial Day by remembering and honoring America’s heroes. They conduct events which raise money to support existing non-profit organizations which benefit police officers, fire fighters, veterans, and active-duty military and their families. They are walking… picking up their packs and literally walking… speaking along the way to anyone who will listen… as they make their slow, deliberate journey from West Point, NY to Dallas, TX, just in time to hold a 20-hour Memorial March which will culminate in what is sure to be an incredible closing ceremony on Monday, May 26, at 12:30PM. If there is a chance for you, dear reader, to be in Dallas for Memorial Day, I would most heartily suggest you do anything you can to attend this event.

I stumbled upon it too late this year to really *do* much to help. Flipping through my FB newsfeed, the back story of Clint Bruce and how he came to create such a worthy organization spoke volumes to me. This organization was created in such an organic way that I couldn’t ignore that small voice inside that pushed me to reach out to Clint and find out if/how I could help.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to learn about Carry The Load, please consider doing something over the coming year to help change the face of Memorial Day… if not for this year, then for next year and the next and the next, until Memorial Day once again means something more than a day off work.

We should never forget all that others have given to protect and defend our way of life.  We should appreciate all the blessings of our life and look for ways to give back to our neighborhoods, our communities, and our world.  We should remember… and in remembering… we should be thankful.

May we all find ways to be genuinely thankful this Memorial Day.  For if we are free, then we have been blessed by the blood of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

To all who serve, we thank you.  To those who gave all, we honor you.  #whoareyoucarrying

 

Be Kind May 14, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Life Balance,Moving,Random Thoughts — beatitudesofmylife @ 1:22 pm

I saw this on a friend’s Facebook wall recently and it resonated with me so much that I needed to share it with those who read my blog.  While I’m not a fan of the grammatical error, I like the thought.BeKind

 

I met a woman yesterday at the local grocery store and we struck up a conversation. It wasn’t about anything overly significant… I commented on how pretty her top looked and she told me where she got it… but then we got to talking and that little bit of “normalcy” really meant so much.  I hadn’t realized just how much I missed recognizing people in my local grocery store… or seeing a familiar face at the gas station… or waving to a friend across the aisle while shopping.  Being transplanted into a new world can be very exciting, but it can also be very isolating.  She may not have known it, but she was the only real conversation I had that day.  While I didn’t get to thank her for her kindness, I can pay it forward and take the extra effort to be kind to the next person who’s put in my path.

You see, we are in the middle of a move that has taken over our lives.  While we have a million things that are falling into place for us, it’s still a challenge to be positive and stay focused on all the small tasks at hand each day.  For someone who is inherently social, a move of this magnitude can be a bit traumatic.  It’s so much easier to simply stick one’s head in the sand and just “soldier on”, but that’s really not the best way to handle this sort of challenge. Even if the only human interaction happens at the mailroom of the apartment building, the focus should remain… be positive… be friendly… be pleasant.  You never know if the person you meet in the hallway has had a much more difficult day than you.

This journey that we are traveling at the moment is not as difficult as it might have been.  We are blessed with a lovely, quiet place to live… we have our cats with us who provide us with company… and we have access to the internet, which allows us to stay in contact with friends and family throughout the move so we don’t feel so isolated.   It’s difficult to push away from the computer at times… to leave the relative safety of the known friends via the internet and speak to a three-dimensional person who is standing right in front of me.  That’s scary, but that’s also life.

It’s my own private battle… and I am so grateful to those who are kind enough to speak to me when I muster up the courage to say hello.  Just remember that all battles aren’t bloody… all wounds aren’t visible… all injuries aren’t apparent… so to all I ask…

be kind… always.

 

Supporting Small Business

I was approached by a young woman about sharing her small business concept with my readers and I thought it was a great idea.  She is a graduate of Seton Hill and has been inspired to create a line of high quality stationery in order to follow a childhood dream.  She’s done a great deal of research on the business-side of things and has the passion and commitment to follow through on all promises she makes, which makes things a “win-win” in my book.

Here’s how she explains things on her own blog (Chels&theCity.blogspot.com):

This is it! You guys, I am so excited to be launching the indiegogo project page for Marion Claire Stationery. This is where I need you! I cannot make this dream happen without your help. indiegogo is a crowd funding site that allows people to create projects and their family and friends go to the project page and send them money in exchange for some fun perks.
I have racked my brain to create perks that are worth donating for, but when it really comes down to it, I know that the donations will either come or not based on your belief in this company. I want each of you to know, that your emotional support alone fuels me. The women behind the name push me forward and the decade of desire to have this company is leading my way. As I said before, creating a greeting card company has been a dream of mine since I was a pre-teen, I just didn’t expect that dream would come true so soon. This wasn’t the “plan” for when I wanted this company, but it has again and again become the first thing I think about each morning. That’s something I cannot ignore. This is the time. This project has my full attention. If you do chose to donate, I promise that I do not take that lightly and your contribution will not be in vain or go to waste.
The indiegogo project runs until May 31st and if I am fully funded or over, I will be able to complete the fulfillment for the donation perks and the start up of this company right away. I hope that you will consider helping me in this journey, it honestly cannot happen without you. Check out the perks and read the story, because, like I said, it’s really the story that will get you hooked or not.
And I’m hoping that you’ll be hooked.
If you’re interested in donating and you’d like to look through her Indiegogo page, you can check things out via this link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/marion-claire-stationery-launch
I wish all the best to Chelsea and her dream – this would be an amazing opportunity for anyone to get in on the ground floor of a new business created by a driven young woman.

 

 

When Someone Truly Cares… May 12, 2014

I had a birthday recently… a “milestone” birthday”.  I had anticipated it and knew that it was going to be mentioned with gentle jokes, happy laughter, and loving joy… what I hadn’t expected were the feelings that hit me as the subsequent days rolled along.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that we recently moved away from our home of 13 years.  Since this was the place where I’d put in the most effort in making, and keeping, friends, I was actually looking forward to this birthday.  I was looking forward to wearing my “It’s my Birthday” pin (which I apparently forgot to pack) and have random people wish me a Happy Birthday.  I was looking forward to scads of emails, texts, and Facebook messages sending a bit of birthday love my way.  I was even looking forward to having some of my “nearest and dearest” complain that I wasn’t close by to visit for coffee or a drink.  Isn’t that what usually happens when someone close to us celebrates a birthday of any age?

Before I go any further, I must say that I was overwhelmed by the kindness and love that were showered on me throughout my birthday weekend. There were texts, calls, emails, and so very many loving FB messages that I truly felt blessed… and I thank each and every one of you for reaching out in any way possible.  My mom called and invited me to meet her for lunch… and  brought a special birthday cake.  My husband planned a special dinner at my college friend’s restaurant so we could celebrate.  Thank God for Facebook (really!) for reminding people about my birthday, because my feed was going crazy (in a delightful way) with wishes of fun, joy, love, etc… I read and appreciated every single one.  I was also touched that so many sent emails or texts… in this age of instant/constant activity, I was grateful for all forms of communication.  The cards that arrived at our new address or forwarded from our old one were especially sweet… when one isn’t “on the clock” or scheduled to  be somewhere, the trip down to the mailroom can sometimes be the brightest spot in an entire day.  I pray that I remember this piece of information in the coming years when friends move, because any and all written correspondence has been a balm to my bruised soul.  FYI:  No… bills do not count as “correspondence”.  ;)EffortNotExcuse

What I wasn’t expecting was the sadness that I felt in the subsequent days when a few select people in my life chose to ignore my birthday.  I truly cannot fathom the reason for someone “forgetting” the birthday of another.  We are bombarded with information in so many different forms that it ends up feeling intentional when such a slight happens.  While excuses will most likely be made as time goes on, I don’t know that I’ll be able to simply forget this year.  The quote included in this post says it all, in my opinion.

This post isn’t meant to change the past or alter the future.  It’s simply my way of trying to let go of expectations and move on with my life.  I understand that everyone deals with loss in their own ways… some attack it head on while others try and pretend it doesn’t exist… but that doesn’t mean that I have to accept the subsequent feelings of loss that I experience when someone makes the choice to make an excuse instead of making an effort.

I admit to being one of those people who keeps a mental tally of those who slight and those who don’t. I recognize that this is a character flaw, but it has saved me in the past and I’m reluctant to change at this point in my life.  After all, I’m now FIFTY years old… I believe that I am old enough to choose to forgive & forget or to stand up for myself and not allow myself to be used as a doormat.

I’m going to choose me this time.  I believe that my feelings are important… they matter… and if someone in my life doesn’t feel the same way, then I am going to try to let them go.  It’s not easy to leave a life that you worked hard to build, but we each should understand and support the fact that our lives will take us on our own paths.  Changing the course of your life doesn’t mean you have to shed those with whom you have shared your life… it should mean that you do the work to keep those people close.   NOTE: For the most part, my HS friends and my HoodLums understand this in spades… each one of you is a gift more precious than gold in my book and you each have my eternal love and friendship.

As the saying goes, “when someone truly cares about you, they make an effort, not an excuse”.  It would be so sad if this were the end, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles… right?

 

My two greatest blessings April 28, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Lacrosse,Life Balance,Parenting,Sports — beatitudesofmylife @ 10:48 am

Ten years ago, I never would have imagined the scenes that have been playing out over the past two years.  My boys were 12 and 14 years old and they hardly interacted… at least not voluntarily… it was as if they had nothing in common.  D was in the band and becoming more involved every week, school was “boring”, and he seemed  happier playing video games than going outside to play with ‘the three dimensional people’.  E was starting to play lacrosse (after four years of Association football) and totally rocking the sport, loved being challenged with anything academic, and would bring home friends at the drop of a hat.  They were friendly with each other, but I don’t know that either would have said that they’d go out of their way to spend more time together.  They loved sports and had that in common, but didn’t seem to enjoy one another very much… and they certainly didn’t look for opportunities where they’d spend more time together.  While they didn’t fight, they also didn’t seem to be “friends”… which was our original hope when they were young.

Something started to change when they were both in High School.  D went to our “home” high school, immersed himself in “all things band” (marching, concert, orchestra, pep, stage, and jazz bands), challenged himself academically when absolutely necessary, and did what he needed to do to get into college.  E chose to challenge himself immediately by selecting one of the more difficult (imho) HS opportunities (he chose the Math/Science HS in our county), he tried out for (and MADE) a select lacrosse travel program, and pushed himself academically so he’d be able to have his pick when it came to colleges.  Still… they had their love of sports in common, which proved to be the bond that has drawn them ever closer.

D saw how much lacrosse meant to E… and E saw how much band meant to D.  I’m no psychology major, but I believe that they both started to recognize the same drive in one another… the passion that made their activities so special to them.  While they might have blown off things in the past, they were starting to join us to support one another… it was a great thing to see.

I’m not saying that they became one another’s biggest supporters overnight, but I do believe that they have each learned valuable lessons from the choices made by the other.

When D went away to college, he chose to be a Varsity Athlete (in lacrosse) and then was selected to be a Resident Advisor for three of his four undergrad years.  He dealt with a horrendous coaching situation with more grace than I could possibly muster.  He selected a major that ended up being a mistake but followed through, got his degree, and is now working toward a Masters in Athletic Training.  He’s been assigned to some amazing programs within his Masters program and will be working at USNA this coming fall… to say we are proud of him would be an understatement.  He is creating a life in which he can work and be happy, which is the one thing for which every parent prays.  He’s becoming a man upon whom others rely… he’s becoming his father… which is such a blessing to see.

When E went away to college, he chose a school (6-hours away) that wanted him for his lacrosse skills as well as his academic abilities.  He was initially happy to be one of the “smarter” guys on campus, but he quickly realized that he needed to change his educational direction if he was going to ultimately be successful.  He transferred to a school closer to home and started working on creating that work/life balance by focusing on his academic career while creating his own athletic challenges.  He worked to get accepted into a demanding program and then worked harder to stand out in a sea of qualified applicants to accept an offer for a job after college.  E’s happily taken on roles within his athletic life that have given him consistently greater responsibilities and allowed him to recognize how he wants to live after graduation.  He too, is becoming a man upon others rely… just like his older brother… and just like his father.  How could I feel anything other than blessed?20140428-114800.jpg

My darling husband would argue that *we* are each other’s greatest blessings but, after M, I really must insist that my two greatest blessings are my boys, D and E. Before you delete this post and chalk my message as a simple brag on what a great job M/I did as parents, let me say that I am definitely *not* bragging… I am absolutely astounded at the incredible men we have raised and wanted to share that with you on this post.  They haven’t been “brainwashed” into being each other’s biggest supporters, but they’ve become that on their own.  This past weekend, D drove a round-trip of five+ hours to see his brother play in a two-hour lacrosse game… because it was important to be there to support E.  I can only imagine how E will return the favor when he has graduated from college and has a car of his own.

I started this blog as a way to give credence to the many blessings of my life. I recognize that not everything in my life is seen by others as a blessing, but looking at the young adults pictured here, I cannot help but be reminded of every single reason I have for all the good in the world.

 

 

 
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