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?

 

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….

 

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?

 

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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