Beatitudes of my life

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

Thoughts on Karma June 20, 2018

We are in the middle of a relocation that began four months ago. We’re currently living in a furnished apartment in Delaware while closing on our home in Maryland and working on the process to purchase a home in Pennsylvania. Everything is within a 50-mile radius, which has presented interesting challenges, unique to our fairly “local” move. We are in the midst of our journey and I’ve found that the concept of Karma has popped up so many times that I needed to share some thoughts.Karma1

If you’re not familiar with the word “Karma”, it is a word with Hindu and Buddhist ties that has nothing to do with actions. It’s actually been called the law of cause and effect. The Bible refers to Karma in the book of Galatians (Galatians 6:7 KJV) “Be not deceived God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” It’s the old adage “what goes around, comes around”… bad begets bad while good begets good. I find that karma goes hand-in-hand with The Golden Rule of treating others as you wish to be treated.

 

My way of putting “good” into the world becomes very tangible at times. I have made an effort to bake things every week or so for the office staff in our apartment building, varying the baked goods once I learned that one of the staff didn’t eat chocolate. When we were presented with the results from the MD home inspection, we made every effort to accommodate the buyer’s list of concerns. Prior to signing the closing documents for our MD home, I made a batch of my Lavender Wine Sugar Scrub to give as gifts to our agent, title agent, and buyer. I baked a batch of cookies for both the septic inspector and the home inspector for the new home in PA. I bought a small toy to take to the home inspection for each of the two dogs who live in the PA home. My husband recognizes that this is my way of putting something positive into the world at a time when so many are only focused on their own needs or wants.

 

I don’t look at these gifts or things as bribes, and I’m not expecting anything from these people in return. I am doing what I feel I do best… I’m treating people as I wish to be treated and putting out good karma. It doesn’t always work, but it certainly makes me feel so much better. I’ve learned that when I get snarky and bitchy with people, I almost always regret what I’ve said or done, so it’s not worth the trouble.

I recently had an instance where our communications were being misinterpreted.  Messages directed to us were terse and snippy, causing us to feel defensive about any possible response. We were being bullied. It took awhile for me to seeKarma2 the situation clearly, especially since the bully was someone I wouldn’t have expected… someone who apparently had been behaving this way for long enough that it was generally excused with a simply comment “Oh, she’s from New Jersey”. Seriously? Once I realized this, I felt the best way to respond was to be kind but to also remove ourselves from any direct interaction with this bully. We made arrangements to handle our part of the transaction separately and distanced ourselves from the situation yet continued to be as positive as possible, within the scope of the situation. Thankfully, everything wrapped up nicely…. made me glad to see that Karma was on our side because we didn’t sink to a negative level.

I recognize that this post may seem a bit “Pollyanna” to people who don’t know me, but I truly prefer to look for the good in people. My Happy Yellow Lab mentality may seem old school or out-dated, but I will always maintain that I feel better and function more effectively if I stay positive. Maybe it’s something that’s worth trying in your own life? Try putting good out into the world and see if you aren’t rewarded with some good things coming back to you… Karma can truly be a wonderful thing.

 

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The Unexpected Inspiration of a Blog March 28, 2018

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Family,Fashion,Grief,Life Balance,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 9:19 am
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If you’ve followed me at any point over the past 18 months, you know that I lost both my parents last winter. My mother died unexpectedly in mid-December and my father died in early February after trying to recover from a November car accident. Losing them was devastating and seemed to encompass my everyday life… especially where, in my mother’s case, I was her executrix and closing her estate meant that calls had to be answered, choices made, and decisions executed to the best of my ability.  It was rough, to say the least.

During this tumultuous time, my sister introduced me to a blog that was a breath of fresh air and helped me function in the most unexpected way. J had been following Hi Sugarplum (www.hisugarplum.com) for awhile and she suggested that I might like C’s style. She wrote about her lifestyle, which was positive, comfortable, and enjoyable… she wrote about her family by sharing highlights of the love she has for her husband and children… and she wrote about fashion in a way that seemed attainable and reasonable. She was having fun with her life and it spoke to me.

C’s blog posts, coming each weekday, were bright lights that brought beauty into those early sad days. At first I followed to simply be able to discuss outfits and style ideas with my sister… but soon, I found myself looking forward to these moments of positivity that came to my inbox during the week. Seeing fun new ways to wear clothing or focus on an interesting piece of jewelry brought light to days when I was planning my mom’s funeral (and asked to sing in my father’s), fighting with bill collectors, or confronting all the loose ends connected to her passing. Seeing C happily share a “Dressing Room Diaries” post filled with pictures of her darling mama (called “Mama Sugarplum” on the site) was both bittersweet and uplifting. The more I read this blog, the harder I worked to pull myself out of my black period of mourning.

Don’t get me wrong… I didn’t expect to suddenly be my former “happy yellow lab” self, but reading a positive, hope-filled, beauty-and-style filled email began to help me try to mimic that positivity in my daily life. You’ve heard of “fake it til you make it”? This was how I found my joy again… by putting on something bright and facing the world with a smile until it began to feel like second nature again. I started to plan outfits with one “happy” item, whether it was the color of my jacket or the sparkle in my necklace, and my heart started to feel lighter again. It wasn’t as hard to focus on the positive, because I felt able to see it again.

People sometimes find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places… I found mine by reading a blog that’s written about style, beauty, travel, and clothing. It may seem strange, but this message is my humble way of thanking a woman from Texas for sharing her bliss and allowing me to come along for the ride. May blessings continue to flow her way and, if you’re curious, I invite you to follow along with me at www.hisugarplum.com

 

Thoughts on Grief

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Family,Grief,Life Balance,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:07 am
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One year ago… yet sometimes it feels like yesterday. Grief is an emotion that I had experienced from the sidelines, but never as “up close and personal” as I did last year. I thought I had a handle on how a person deals with grief until I had to come face-to-face with it on a daily basis.

 

For those who have never read this blog, my mom died unexpectedly in December, effectively altering Christmas forever. Then, when my dad died in February due to complications after a car accident before Thanksgiving, I tried to simply soldier through my days by adding grieving to the mix. I opted many times to withdraw from social activities, rather than work up the enthusiasm needed to participate with others. After a while, I came up with a few coping mechanisms that allowed me to slowly rejoin my daily life in a way that didn’t feel so hard. One of those coping mechanisms was to spend time reconnecting with people who were important in my life. Those connections made this past year’s journey tolerable… manageable… acceptable.

 

I saw this wonderful message on Facebook recently:

 

I had my own notion of grief.

I thought it was the sad time

That followed the death of

Someone you love.

And you had to push through it

To get to the other side.

But I’m learning there is no other side.

There is no pushing through.

But rather,

There is absorption.

Adjustment.

Acceptance.

And grief is not something you complete,

But rather, you endure.

Grief is not a task to finish

And move on,

But an element of yourself –

An alteration of your being.

A new way of seeing.

A new definition of self.

~Author unknown

 

I’ve had a number of friends who have recently had similar losses in their own lives and this “new way of seeing” has taught me a few unexpected lessons about how to address grief with others. These lessons are not novel or earth-shattering… they’re simple and harken back to the days of our parents…

If you have an address, send a card. It doesn’t matter if you knew your friend’s parent, it matters that you know your friend. Take a moment and send a card to say that you’re thinking of them. You won’t believe how many people don’t do this but it can mean so much. It’s the simple act of putting pen to paper… it doesn’t have to be wordy, it just needs to be done. I still have every condolence card that was sent to me after my mom and then my dad died last year. Those cards and notes are the tangible reminders that someone cared enough to take a moment and think about me as I faced that unimaginable grief. I’ve learned that an unexpected card, phone call, email, or text can remind you that you’re not alone.

In these days of email and texting, if the only address you have is electronic, take the time to send a message. It’s not the best, but it’s better than nothing. Comfort can come in such simple and unexpected gestures. Take the time and make that gesture.

If you are physically (and logistically) able, take the time to attend the funeral. Again, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person who died… it matters that you know your friend. Funerals, in my opinion, are for the living, since the loved one is no longer there. This is the ceremony that allows for closure to *begin*, not end. While many may argue that your friend won’t know you were there, I’ll always argue that your friend will know if you make the effort. You may not get more than a moment to talk with your friend, but the fact that you made the choice to *be* there will always be appreciated. Attending the funeral, no matter how uncomfortable it may be for you, will mean so much to your friend. Get dressed, sign the guest book, and be part of an ancient tradition.

 

I’ll never forget when my friend, N, lost her mother. My mom made the decision to attend her funeral service, even though they’d never met, because I lived too far away and wasn’t able to attend. N said it meant the world to her when she saw my mom there. I hadn’t realize how much it would mean until I had to go through that same situation. Staying and taking the time to say something to the family, even as simply as “I’m sorry for your loss” can mean so much.

Friendship is more than words… it’s being present with someone who is important to you. Never underestimate how much it will mean to your friends if you reach out, connect, and be accountable in their lives. A phone call, an email, a sympathy card, or even a text can remind a friend that they aren’t alone. I’m reminded of a verse in Matthew, Chapter 25 (at the end of verse 40): … “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me”… doing for and connecting with others in this lifetime can be so simple, yet so very important.

 

Isn’t this connection, this kindness, what we’re all called to do, as human beings? Can’t we all use a little more kindness in our world?

 

Breaking up with a Church… October 6, 2017

Filed under: Communication,Grief,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:59 am
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When death happens in a family, I have always felt that church was where you go to find comfort… the place that reaches out and wraps its corporate arms around you to give you a bit of peace in the chaos that has just rocked your world… the place where you know you’ll find the words to ease the pain, share the grief, and unburden your soul. But what happens when the church isn’t there for you?BreakingUpWithAChurch

My mother died unexpectedly, 10 days before Christmas, this past year. Celebrating Christmas was difficult, especially since she always spent that particular holiday with me and my family, so I sent my choir director a text to keep him updated on my attendance. The idea of going to services was too painful for me to fathom. I simply wanted to spend time with my husband and children, so we didn’t go to Christmas Eve services. New Year’s came and went so I could concentrate on planning a service that would honor my mother’s memory. I grew up in her church, so I felt comfortable creating a service that would have pleased her in the choices I made. I had chosen Psalm 121 which had, unbeknownst to me, been included in services for both her father and that of her father-in-law, so I honestly felt her hand guiding me in the selections for her service.

January flew by in a blur… mum’s funeral service, executor responsibilities of bills and cleaning out her home, drives to/from Pennsylvania, along with growing concerns about my father’s health. I went to one church service, but couldn’t handle more. Clearly I was hurting, but there was no rest for the weary…

Seven weeks after my mother died, my father died as well… from complications of Parkinson’s exacerbated by a car accident in November. While I wasn’t as intimately involved in his service, my stepmother asked me to honor his memory by singing one of his favorite hymns. I asked my choir director for a copy of the music, since I couldn’t find it in the various hymnals at our house, and practiced it in my kitchen as often as I could. It was a heartwrenchingly difficult thing to do and as much as I didn’t *want* to do it, I desperately wanted to do something tangible to honor him. I may not have wanted to sing, but I’m so grateful that she asked me. They are Episcopalian as well, so the service was familiar and comforting even if I hadn’t been inside that parish since my father and stepmother were married almost 40 years ago.

A month after my father died, I saw my priest at the local store when I was working. I apologized for not being at church lately and mentioned that it was still so hard for me to get through services after losing both my parents. He said that he understood and said “you know where we are if you need us”. Maybe it was the place where we were speaking (I was hosting a wine tasting at a local liquor store), but there were no words of comfort spoken… no short blessing or prayer… no attempt made to reach out to me *as my priest* to meet with me in the future.

I’m not entirely sure why this phrase hit me so hard, but it’s the one that resurfaces each time I think about returning. Thinking about it now, I believe that by using those words, he was placing the next action squarely on me. I wasn’t, and still am not, in a place to make that sort of move… to ask for help… to seek consolation… to get back to church…

And so I don’t. I don’t attend church at the moment. I don’t sing in choir. While I pray daily and sing constantly in my car (those long road trips can be cathartic), I have withdrawn from the corporate church.

While it hurts my heart to have made the decision to “break up with my church”, I don’t feel the same comfort from this particular parish any longer. The two or three individuals who initially reached out to me have gone on with their lives, which didn’t include me from the beginning. I’m sure that some will say it was up to me to return and “rejoin the living”, but sometimes that’s just too hard. Priests are given the tools, and the personnel, with which to reach out to parishioners in the midst of whatever personal struggle they face. I truly believe that, by not having any contact with the people of this particular parish, we have been cast aside and left to our own devices.

While my faith is not entirely dependent upon corporate worship and prayer, I can’t help but wonder if the pain I still feel might have been lessened if I had felt welcome to share my grief at church… if someone had reached out after my mom died, and again after my father died… if my church had cared about me. I really tried to make this church our home, but it has become glaringly obvious that it’s not… grief has brought that into sharp focus.

 

Pick your “person” carefully… January 30, 2017

Filed under: Communication,Friends — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:48 pm
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My mom had two best friends who lived close to her. She did nearly everything with them… from singing in choir to celebrating birthdays to just dropping by for a glass of wine on a random evening. She shared her life with these two women… her hopes, her fears, her dreams, and her plans. These two were her “people”… the reference comes from Gray’s Anatomy where Meredith says that Christina is “her person”… as in, these were the two people she could call in any sort of emergency, or I could call regarding anything involving my mom. I was always felt so blessed that she had people like them in her life… that is, until she died.

One of her people (we’ll call her “G”) was the woman who found my mother after she died. G sat with her body while she called 911… she stayed in the house until the paramedics arrived… G was the person who called to tell me that my mom was dead… and she didn’t leave her until the coroner sealed mom’s house after the funeral home came and took her away. G did everything she could think of to honor her friendship with my mom while grieving for the loss of her dear friend. She brought photos and items to add to the remembrance table at the funeral and she checked on me and my family to make sure that we were ok.  She seemed to truly mourn the passing of my mom and her dear friend.

Her other person (we’ll call her Y) has been strangely absent from the picture. I didn’t call Y after I found out about my mom because I thought it would be better if G did that notification. Honestly, I was so broken, especially by the immediate tasks at hand, that I couldn’t have formed a coherent sentence to speak to Y. No matter the reason, I never heard from Y. She never called, never wrote, never even posted a FB message. While she did attend the funeral, she never spoke to either my sister or me or go through the receiving line to see us. I still have never heard from Y. Maybe *I* should have been the one to call her, but I still feel betrayed and incredibly upset by her actions. I’m so hurt that she has blocked me out of her life. She knew my mom in a way that I never will… because she was my mom’s friend. I called Y’s home number a week after the funeral to apologize for not telling her about mum’s death, but she never returned my call. I called her today to wish her a Happy Birthday tomorrow, because that’s what my mom would want me to do, but I have sincere doubts that she’ll call me back… and I have no idea why.

And now, here’s my dilemma: 

You see, shortly after my mom died, both G and Y started asking about an envelope of money… a total of $45… that they were sure had been in my mom’s possession when she died. It was the ‘party money’ for their Just4Fun group and they wanted to make sure that it was returned to them for their next get-together. They asked my brother-in-law… they asked my husband… and they even went so far as to ask mom’s cleaning women, T, (the woman who, imho, has been the most incredible blessing to our family by stepping up and simply *doing* anything and everything when I couldn’t think past the next day… this woman has been our fairy god-mother/god-sister )… but neither one ever asked my sister or me. After a few days they called T and suggested that they privately take and sell an item that they had seen left in the house so they could recoup that $45… and both my sister and I were dumbfounded. A day or two later, they called T again but wanted to tell her that they think they may have been mistaken, that only $10 was “owed” to the Just4Fun group, and they felt they could “forgive” that amount. “Forgive”?

I try very hard to take the high road in most situations. I follow The Golden Rule and use that to guide my actions as often as I can. I do my best to be kind to everyone. How am I supposed to react to this situation? How am I supposed to feel each time I see these people? How am I supposed to simply “let it go”?

As of now, I’ll be praying about this… I’ll be trying to take the high road… and I’ll be kind. I won’t be anyone’s doormat… but I *will* be kind.

 

The Benefit of Compliments August 18, 2015

Filed under: Communication,Life Balance,Random Thoughts — beatitudesofmylife @ 12:58 pm
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Have you ever been at the store and someone, totally out of the blue, pays you a compliment?  I’m sure we’ve all been in this situation… and doesn’t it just put a lovely positive spin on the rest of your day?  I was on the receiving end of a compliment this weekend and it’s been playing on “repeat” in my head ever since… which means to me it’s something worth discussing.

There are so many benefits to offering someone a compliment.  Every day, we have the opportunity to have a positive impact on the people with whom we come in contact.  It doesn’t have to be something astounding, like “Wow, you look like you’ve lost a lot of weight since I saw you last!” or “You look 10 years younger with that new haircut!”, to have a huge impact on another person’s day.  Complimenting someone, especially someone you don’t know, on the color of their shirt or even their choice in a specific purchase can boost another’s confidence in such a unique way.  

While it’s not necessarily fair, comments (positive or negative) from random people can sometimes carry a little more weight simply because we see them as being more unbiased than those coming from people who are familiar with us.  Our friends see us on a regular basis… they get used to what we typically wear or how we tend to look.   Our loved ones want to see the best in us… just as we always want to present our best selves to them. Seeing ourselves through “fresh eyes” can provide a new prospective which can really lift a person’s mood. 

The other benefit of a compliment, especially for a woman, is when that compliment comes from another woman.  Instead of trying to tear each other down, what would happen if we tried to build one another up when we have the opportunity?  While this may seem totally out of whack, I stand by the idea that a positive compliment, no matter how insignificant or random it may seem, will have a positive outcome for the other person.  

Does it really take much out of our day to look for the good in another person and pay them a compliment?    It may be the only kind thing that person hears all day… it may be the only positive thing that person experiences all day… and it didn’t cost you a single cent.  Paying someone a compliment is simply sharing “The Golden Rule” with another human being.  Treat others as you, yourself, would like to be treated.  A kind word, a helpful gesture, a simple compliment… they can each go a long way toward making this world a much more loving place in which to live.

I think a positive compliment trumps a negative comment in any situation… don’t you?

 

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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