Beatitudes of my life

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

It’s only been days… April 27, 2017

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Grief,Life Balance,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:50 pm
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It’s only been a matter of days in which my world tilted on its’ axis… a mere 134 days.  I still have my step-mom (thank God)… I still have my other half/my sister and my wonderful collection of brothers… but my parents are gone.  It feels both like forever and yesterday.  I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever knew, but I’m more vulnerable than I expected.  The dichotomy of grieving while continuing to live is not lost on me… but it can be exhausting.  

The numbers of days is daunting when listed out:

  •  48 days between Mimi’s death and Daddy’s death (12/15/16 & 2/1/17)
  • 23 days between Mimi’s death and her funeral (12/15/16 & 1/7/17)
  • 25 days between Mimi’s funeral and Daddy’s death (1/7/17 & 2/1/17)
  • 15 days between Mimi’s funeral and the last time we saw Daddy (1/7/17 & 1/22/17)
  • 10 days between when we saw Daddy and when he died (1/22/17 & 2/1/17)
  • 10 days between Daddy’s death and his funeral (2/1/17 & 2/11/17)
  • 134 days since Mimi died (to 4/28/17)

I just got back from a cousins weekend at the beach.  It was perfect and raw and wonderful and heart-wrenching.  There were bittersweet moments when I could envision how much my mom would have been so happy.  There were moments that I know would have driven her crazy because getting onto the beach would have truly been a physical ordeal.  I also know that I felt the presence of the three Mimi’s (sisters Jody, Jean, and Gwenn) in so many ways throughout the weekend that it was worth everything to be present.  

I’m reading a lot lately about grief and how others travel this journey.  The kind messages, comments, and shared information mean so much… to know that others are willing to take a moment to simply say “I’m sorry” can be humbling and touching.  Thank you for caring… and for reaching out to me in whatever way works.

I’ve learned to surround myself with good people and am more grateful for every positive experience than ever before.  Seeing the impact that each of my parents had on their individual worlds has given me insight into the kind of impact that I want to make in my own world.  I intend to be more deliberate about those things on which I spend my time.  I want to do things that either bring me joy or allow me to give joy to others.  

If the life and death of each of my parents teaches me anything, it’s that I need to choose how and where I spend my life.  My God, my husband, my children, and my family… these are my beatitudes… these are my blessings… these are where I will spend my days.

 May you find ways to fill your own days with joy….

 

Grief… after the first month… January 15, 2017

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:27 pm
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It’s been a month… a month since my mom died… a month since I lost my anchor, my forever-cheerleader, my personal historian, the person who knew me in ways that I never had to question.  It’s been a month and yet I still struggle each day with random tears and waves of sadness that come out of nowhere.  It’s been a month that sometimes feels like ages and sometimes feels like minutes… it’s been one helluva month.

mumjune2015

When your parent dies, no one tells you how you’re supposed to move on with your life.  No one tells you that a can of black-eyed peas can rock you back on your heels and make you cry like a baby.  No one tells you that you’re going to reach for the phone more times than you ever expected, only to remember that there’s no one on the other end of that line.  No one tells you that doing the “busy-ness” of death might  actually help hold back those waves of grief until you’ve had a little time to acclimate to this new stage of your life…  your life without your mother.

People tell you so many things when your mom dies.  “I know just how you feel”…. “It will get better with time”… “This pain you’re feeling will eventually turn into a dull ache”… “You’ll get through it”… “I’m so sorry, sweetie”… so many loving, kind, well-meaning phrases that don’t necessarily take the pain away, but make the pain a little easier to bear because it’s being shared.

I know that I’m not alone in my grief because so many others have been where I am at this moment.  It doesn’t make things “better”, but it does make things a little more bearable.  It also helps that I have a crew of people who have my back.  My husband, sister, cousins, friends, neighbors, co-workers… I can feel their support, love, prayers, and know that, because of them, I can push through to do whatever is needed.  I can make the phone calls, organize the paperwork, weed through all the items, and make the decisions that come with the death of someone you love.  I can continue to take those steps.

Two steps forward, one step back… or is it one step forward, two steps back… either way, grief seems to be a daily tango of sorts… and it truly is a daily tango.  I can feel strong and ready to face any obstacle that may come my way, but let one kind, loving person do the “sympathetic head tilt” and I’m a quivering mess of tears.

Adulting is rough and I never seem to be prepared for that wave of grief that crashes over me when I least expect it.  My cousin told me that, when our grandfather died, his youngest daughter (her mom/my Aunt Jody) had complained that she had just wanted life to stop for awhile… to allow her to concentrate on her grief and not deal with the day-to-day.  The more I reflect on that thought, the more I understand and can commiserate.  I have a “Happy Yellow Lab” personality and while people, for the most part, have been understanding, it can still feel daunting at times to put on that happy smile and focus on the positive.

So while I learn to adjust to this new world in which my mom is no longer here, prayers for strength really are the best thing anyone can offer.  I’m doing ok, but that changes day-to-day and sometimes minute-to-minute.   It’s been a month…

Here’s to making it through the first month… and giving thanks to everyone for their prayers for the ones to come.

I miss you, Mum.

 

Mum’s Funeral January 9, 2017

Filed under: Blessings,Family — beatitudesofmylife @ 9:22 am
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I finally slept on Sunday night.  It’s been a long time coming, but I am finally beginning to feel human again.fullsizerender-2-1
The funeral service is over… and I really believe she would have loved it. People from every stage and segment of her life came to pay tribute and share their stories with us and with one another. I was so very glad to know that they felt that the service was a fitting tribute to our mom… it was heart wrenching and achingly difficult to create, but I am so glad that I pushed for each piece.

The private internment was first. Neither my sister nor I wanted to speak, so we asked Jennifer+ to conduct the service. She then poured part of mum’s ashes fullsizerenderinto the ground and scooped a bit of the dirt onto her ashes. She turned, handing the scoop off and Jessica, Tucker, Eric, then Me, Michael, Drew, Evan and Gabbie each in turn took that silver scoop and laid some dirt over her ashes before letting Pastor Jennifer finish. It was hard, but it was simple and lovely. Deb had selected a sweet spot off to the back side of one of the high benches and it seemed perfect. We then needed to go back into the church to collect ourselves before the service… thank God there was a back route into the chapel so we could avoid other people at that moment.

When it came to the mechanics of the service, my sister Jessica didn’t want to have much input, other than having Amazing Grace at the beginning and Silent Night at the end. I wasn’t a fan of doing Amazing Grace but if Jess found comfort in that piece, it was worth having it done. We both remembered Silent Night as mum’s favorite because it had been Mimi Bream’s favorite, so that was a fitting end. The rest was left to me.

The service started out with an introduction by Pastor (the Rev Dr.) Jeff Gibelius, who pronounced Mum’s middle name incorrectly… and with so many Bream family members present, I couldn’t let that slide. Gently but firmly, I corrected our family pronunciation and let him know that this was the *correct* way to pronounce her name… with a long A sound instead of the long E in Bream. While some chuckled, I could feel Mum smiling at my correction and that felt good.

We then moved to the three verses that I chose. I didn’t know Evan wasn’t feeling well and he hadn’t realized that I wanted him to speak (forgot to text him when he got back from London), but I’m so glad that he did. I was also grateful to know that he told his Aunt Laurie later that he was glad I pushed for him to speak. He had a horrible cold and felt lousy, but he did a beautiful job on the Psalm. Kudos to him for handling this with such skill and ease. I only wish now that I had asked both Evan and Bob to introduce themselves to the congregation so that people knew who they were when they read.

  • Psalm 121 (read by Evan Althouse – Mum’s second of three grandsons and my younger son):

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

  •  2 Timothy 4: 6-8 (read by Bob Wilkins – Jennie’s husband and Mum’s nephew-in-law): *Note: the service bulletin actually cited verses 4-8 but I asked Bob to only read 6-8, which he kindly agreed to do.

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 

  • John 14:1-6, 27 (read by Pastor Jeff of 2nd Pres) *Note: the church likes to also read verses 25 and 26, but I requested that only verse 27 be read to end this passage.

1-6: Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: If it were not so, I would have told you.I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, ad the life; no man comes unto the Father, but by me. 27: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

We sang “In the Garden”… a Robin Hood favorite and one that I just love. How could I not include this wonderful hymn?  Remembered harmonies floated around me and I could feel the support of Robin Hood…. Miss Duncan, Miss Ruland, and all the CRH girls who had a hand in raising me…. helping me to be strong at such a difficult time.

The choir sang “We are the Lord’s”, which sounded so pretty. I personally wish there had been more harmony, but some of that could have been driven by the emotional nature of the service and the voice parts available… either way, Chris made a lovely choice and I’m sure my mother would have been pleased and so grateful to have them sing.

We then came to the “Remembrances” segment of the service.

  • My cousin, Jennie Wilkins, went first and absolutely owned her moment. She was eloquent, charming, engaging, funny, and so incredibly sweet in sharing all the different sides of her Auntie Gwenn… I couldn’t have done this and I am humbled and honored that she was the one of us who *could*. Adding in a SOCK reference was great and if she could have just been able to end with a “mic drop”, that would have brought down the house (and made her some $$ on the side)!
  • Second to share was my cousin, Wendy Bream Stoner, who read a message from Uncle Jack Bream. Listening to Uncle Jack’s words gave me such comfort and I am so blessed that he was able to share his thoughts of Mum, even though he was so far away. It meant the world to hear his voice through his daughter.
  • Bob Foster came next, a man who knew mum both through Real Estate and through the Carlisle Area Sertoma club, sharing his two stories. His vivid tales, first of my mom dressing him up as a woman and then of her great works through being Realtor of the Year and later Sertoman of the Year, truly added a wonderful dimension to the breadth and depth of my mother as a true Christian. I was so grateful to both Bob and Doug Gale for their participation.
  • To end the rememberances, I asked my husband, Michael, to read an excerpt from an Elizabeth Doris Fries poem that Mum and I had first heard at Uncle Johnny Beegle’s funeral in October. Mum loved it and we felt it was especially appropriate for today:

When tomorrow starts without me, and I am not here to see,

If the sun should rise and find your eyes all filled with tears for me,

I know how much you love me, as much as I love you,

And each time you think of me, I know you’ll miss me too.

But when tomorrow starts without me, please try to understand,

That Jesus came and called my name and took me by the hand.

He said my place is ready in heaven far above,

And that I have to leave behind all those I dearly love.

But when I walked through Heaven’s gate and felt so much at home,

As God looked down and smiled at me from his great golden throne.

He said “This is eternity, and all I’ve promised you, 

Today your life on earth is past but here it starts anew.

I promise no tomorrow but today will always last,

And since each day’s the same here, there’s no longing for the past.”

So when tomorrow starts without me, don’t think we’re far apart,

For every time you think of me, I’m right here in your heart.

Much of Mum’s love of music was wrapped up in both her church choir and her participation in Sweet Adeline’s. We were so incredibly touched that they were able to participate in the day’s service by singing their version of “Mary, Did You Know”. I’m sure that Mum was so very grateful to each one who took their time to be with us that morning… I even felt that I could hear her voice from time to time, which made this piece even more special than I could have possibly put into the words “thank you”. I hope the Adelines who attended know just how much their singing touched my heart…

Mum’s pastor, Rev. Jennifer McKenna, then offered her words of hope to the congregation. She shared a bit of mum’s history, some personal memories and reminded us all that the glory of Jesus’ resurrection and that God’s Peace, where Mum now resides, is our ultimate focus. I know that I’ll get there eventually, but it was the human contact and individual memories that helped carry me through this difficult day.

My second musical (and CRH) request was to sing “The Old Rugged Cross”. Although the church’s version didn’t include it, my cousins and I added a traditional (for us) line during each chorus, which made me smile and meant even more than a simple hymn ever could. My cousin leaned up and said that the music all sounded like angels, especially with the family positioned between the choir and the Adelines… a heavenly chorus to wash over us and cover us in love and music.

Following the traditional Prayer of Thanksgiving and The Lord’s Prayer, we sang “Silent Night” and followed it with Jack Larson’s “Peace Carol”. I wish we could have sung the two as a duet, as we used to do when Jack was at Second Pres, but I was glad to hear that piece, nonetheless. It brought my childhood and adulthood into a lovely harmony and allowed me to reconcile them to one another.

Our family was ushered into the rotunda after the service’s final blessing and I was given an incredible gift… the gift of thanking and showing my appreciation to all those who took their time to honor my mom by attending the service that day. I know there are some who weren’t able to wait in line or had other obligations… I know there were some who had to leave quickly because of developing weather fronts… but I hope that the following message reaches each person who took the time to attend her service or has spent a moment at ANY time, praying for our peace and comfort, but especially as we paid homage to our grief in such a public way.

You ALL made my mother’s life better… You made her feel needed and wanted and loved… You allowed her to participate in your life in a way that touched her heart and gave credence to the Godly woman she always strived to emulate. She knew that she had people in her life that had her back and she felt the love that we all crave. YOU did that for my mother and I will forever be grateful for every single person who impacted the life of Gwenn Bream Drum. She was loved, she was happy, and she is now no longer in pain. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the incredibly beautiful Service of Witness to the Resurrection on January 7, 2017. 

May God bless you all…

There is a Magic Something, camp so dear

That fills my heart with gladness all the year

Every girl who’s been here, has that Something in her

It is the Spirit of Camp Robin Hood.

In memory of Gwenn “Tookie” Bream

Green Team Captain 1951, KIG

 

My friend, Nuria July 13, 2016

Filed under: Blessings,Girlfriends — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:51 am
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I wish you could have met my friend, Nuria Hawkins Kudlach. If ever there was a person who could put a smile on your face with a single comment or facial expression, it was Nuria. She had this quirky sense of humor that could range from the sincere to the hilarious at a moment’s notice. She looked for the good in people and would go to any lengths if she felt it could make a difference and make someone’s life better.
We met in high school. I had moved to Carlisle and we had the same lunch period… so we became friends. We had a class or two together but went our separate ways for college and our “young married” years. We came together again around the time she had her gastric bypass. Her surgery was done at MCV in Richmond and we lived close enough to be her “way point” any time she had an appointment. I looked forward to those times when she would burst through the door for an overnight visit and her positive energy would fill the house! She loved to shop and loved a bargain, so our visits always included trips to TJMaxx and Marshalls. Wandering through stores with her was therapeutic and we’d chat about life, kids, challenges, and goals. We were so similar in so many ways that it was as if I had another sister. We had the best time doing “nothing”. A visit could include a shopping trip but it could just as easily include sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee while we talk over what was going on in our lives. Nuria was always interested in world events but equally involved in her own community. I loved hearing how much she adored Johnstown and that beautiful home she’d worked so hard to create!
When my younger son was recruited by a D-II school in Greensburg, Nuria opened her home to me anytime I traveled to see him. I would drop him off and then spend the night with Nuria and her family… It didn’t seem to matter what else might be going on, I was always welcomed with open arms. Her home was inviting and warm… and I never felt like an intruder. I remember that Al traveled every Monday through Thursday, so she was protective of her Fridays, since those were days when the two of them could spend time together before Alex got home from school. They planned lots of weekend family activities and took their beagle, Sparky, with them at every opportunity. I thought it was great that they did so much together as a family even though Alex and Al weren’t into sports. My family did the same, although ours were centered around sporting events, so we shared that passion of family togetherness.
I became concerned about Nuria when they moved from Johnstown to State College. I always felt that she’d be ok, but she shared that the move wasn’t as positive as she’d have liked. She said they’d moved to be closer to Al’s new job, but that he’d still be traveling quite a bit. She also shared that Alex was even more insulated and isolated than he had become during his HS years, which had her worried, but she was sure that he’d “grow out of it” in time. Nuria didn’t love the house in State College like she had loved the house she’d built in Johnstown… but she liked the bones of the house and had plans to renovate when and where she could.
Nuria had a really hard time when her mom died. She was an only child and had become her mom’s caretaker, something we discussed especially as my mom was becoming increasingly dependent on me. She shared information on wills, medication, doctors, continued care, and dealing with “parenting” our parents… all things that were hard to discuss but always shared from a loving perspective. Nuria felt great remorse that she wasn’t physically present when her mom died… something she internalized until she tried cutting herself in order to ease the pain. Hospitalization did little to help and she was so embarrassed to have been put in such a position that she refused to return to that hospital for any medical procedure afterward. She felt that they would always see her with that event in the back of their minds and she didn’t want to be seen as a victim.
That’s part of what makes things so hard now. The Nuria I knew would be so pissed that people now see her as a victim. She fought so hard for the underdog… first for children and youth, then for beagles, but always for her family and friends. She helped countless people in so many ways and always wanted to find (and fix) any situation she felt was wrong. She told me that she and Al were having problems but that they were in counseling. She did say that she felt they were headed for a divorce but she never expressed concern for her personally. I wholeheartedly believe that she would have mentioned that concern if she honestly thought her husband could plan to hurt her.  
Hearing *his* account of her murder is so unfathomable to me. Nuria had a wicked sense of humor and could make scathing comments, but anyone who truly knew her, knew that she could never hurt another human being. She had a quick wit and could easily throw back a cringeworthy comment that would stop someone in their tracks, but she was absolutely not a violent person. I do know that she was being verbally abused, both by her husband and son when they used the “C” word at her, but her plan for the future didn’t include violence. She had worked hard, gotten her Realtor’s license, and was already finding success in her new career path. Her plan for the future was one in which she could provide for herself and her son… Her plan was NOT to die at the hand of the man she married.
Shortly after Nuria’s murder, our friend Cindy and I realized that there was no one else to write Nuria’s obituary. Included here is the result of our efforts to honor our friend.

Nuria Hawkins Kudlach March 11, 1964-August 30, 2015 

Nuria Kudlach, 51, died on August 30, 2015, in State College. Born March 11, 1964, she was the daughter of Kenneth and Meftuha Adyar Hawkins. She grew up in Spain and Portugal, until her father retired from the United States Army, in Carlisle when she was of school age. Nuria is survived by her husband, Alois A. Kudlach; and a son, Alexander Paul Kudlach, of State College. She was preceded in death by her parents. She was a 1982 graduate of Carlisle High School. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Penn State in 1987. 

Her first career after college was with Children and Youth Services in McSherrystown. She married in 1989, and moved to California for a short time before they moved to the Washington, D.C. area where she became a full time mother and did volunteer work. The family lived in Johnstown while Alex attended school. In 2013, Nuria relocated with her family to her beloved State College. She recently started a new career as a Realtor with Home Edge Realty Group, LLC, State College. 

Nuria had a smile that would light up the room and an infectious laugh she shared with everyone she met. She went all-in on everything she did, from planning events, remodeling her home, to cooking and crafting. She was an avid Penn State fan and always showed her Penn State pride wherever she went. Nuria was full of life and was always planning gatherings for family and friends; her door was always open for visitors. She would do anything to help a friend and would always fight for what was right. 

A private memorial service will be held for family and close friends at 12:00 noon on Sunday, September 20, c2015, at Koch Funeral Home, 2401 S. Atherton St., State College. Memorial contributions may be directed to Nittany Beagle Rescue, P.O. Box 127, West Decatur, PA 16878, in memory of Nuria Kudlach. Arrangements are under the care of Koch Funeral Home, State College. Online condolences and signing of the guest book may be entered at http://www.kochfuneralhome. com or visit us on Facebook.

 

Thoughts on Letting Go… December 4, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Friends,Moving,Random Thoughts — beatitudesofmylife @ 3:04 pm
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I’ve never been very good at “letting go”… of things or of people.  Letting go always seemed to be a version of giving up or giving in, and *that* never sat well with me.  I never thought of myself as a quitter, so why should I willingly let go of something or someone in my life?  I don’t think my thought process changed much until this particular move from RVA to Maryland.  letting-go1

I’m starting to accept that there are times when letting go is actually the healthiest thing you can do for yourself.   Spending countless hours trying to figure out what I can do to maintain friendships with people who don’t seem as concerned seems akin to pounding ones’ head against the wall and then wondering why I have a headache.  I believe that friendship isn’t a one-way street.  It is a living and breathing organism that needs to be fed, on a regular basis, in order to maintain any sort of viability.  The most interesting thing that I am learning about friendship is that some are actually able to withstand less “feeding” than others. It seems that some friendships, especially those with whom you have experienced tremendous growth, seem to continue to thrive even with little to no contact… but only if that growth was experienced by both/all parties involved.

That being said, I’m coming to realize that those people who truly want to be a part of my life will always remain a part of my life.  It’s not a question of letting them go or not caring any longer… those people who remain in my life, in any sort of capacity, are those who actually desire to be a part of my life.  These are the friendships that are meant to be nurtured and fed, in whatever degree most comfortable to both.  Some people find it more comfortable to remain on the fringes, playing games on Facebook and occasionally posting a message or offering a prayer regarding the sale of our home.  Others seem to have made the choice to use the “opportunity” of my move to allow a friendship to pass away, whether by choice or because of distance. While I don’t know that I’ll ever be good at “letting go” of a friendship, I have to learn how to be okay with someone’s choice to do so.  After all, isn’t that what friendship is all about…  wanting the best for the other person, as well as for yourself?

As the posted quote says, “Letting go does not mean you stop caring.  It means you stop trying to force others to…”  I really want to learn not to force others to care about a friendship.  While I will give myself permission to mourn that particular loss, but I will not allow that permission to stop me from moving on and letting go.

So, to those of you who have remained a part of my life through our move these past few months, I say a very heartfelt “Thank you”.  Each message, prayer, or gesture, no matter the size, has been appreciated more than I can ever put into words.  There’s nothing like a friend who actually refuses to leave your side, especially when the parameters of the original friendship are tested.  On the flip side, I plan to work harder to be okay allowing other friends to move on with their own lives.  Letting go works both ways and recognizing that can be painfully bittersweet.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we all need to nurture the friendships that are important, but let go of those that aren’t lifting up our souls.   Letting go doesn’t have to be a bad thing… ultimately, I believe that we’ll all be healthier and happier if we surround ourselves with friends who truly care about us.

Wishing each of you the friendships that brighten your day and lighten your soul…especially during this Holiday season.

 

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 swing-set in her backyard… of family Christmas celebrations throughout the years… of meals shared around all the tables in her house… 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 special place that will evoke positive memories of days gone by. I have been 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.

 

 
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