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?

 

Have you ever had a heart catheterization? October 26, 2017

Filed under: Blessings,Health,Random Thoughts,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 9:45 am
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My husband and I got concerned about “unknown cardiac risks” after a friend had a nuclear stress test and ended up needing a quadruple by-pass. Add that to my own family history (mother and both her parents died of heart issues, brother has congestive heart failure, and aunt had “twisted/gnarly” arteries) and my new Cardiologist, Dr. R, was glad to see me being proactive about my heart health. My schedule is more fluid than M’s, so I went first by having fasting blood work, wearing a Holter heart monitor for 24-hours, getting an echocardiogram, and finally having a nuclear stress test using a drug called Lexiscan that would work my heart instead of having me run on a treadmill, since I’m not able to run.

After last Tuesday’s nuclear stress test showed an abnormality in my front artery, he “highly encouraged” me to have a heart catheterization done, to make sure there wasn’t anything more serious going on to cause concern. I was told that, if plaque or a narrowing was found, they could easily insert a stent, which would help my arteries function better. M and I discussed the procedure and told my doctor on Friday that we agreed with his suggestion.

Three days later (three days ago), early Monday afternoon, I got a call from the Cardiovascular office to set up my cardiac cath (I’m going to use this term since it’s shorter… you understand that it’s a cardiac catheterization). The scheduler said that Dr. R wanted the procedure done within the week and offered Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday… eek! We opted for Wednesday and she began to give me details… this was getting REAL and it was all I could do to stay calm and not panic. She asked me to come into their office asap to get paperwork and pick up an order for some time-sensitive blood work.

I got to the doctor’s office (which was the same place where I’d done my nuclear stress test) within 15 minutes and actually got to meet Dr. N, the doctor who would be performing my cardiac cath. He was personable and kind but also very focused and willing to take the time to answer my inane questions (what *is* this procedure, what will determine whether you use the groin or the arm for “entry”, and how long will I be in the hospital… poor guy!). He did a quick check with my wrist and decided they would first try to use my radial artery for my cardiac cath. I’m not sure why that decision seemed *better* to me, but I felt a little less panicked about the procedure after our conversation.

Tuesday flew by in a bit of a blur… packing a small overnight bag, reading information about the procedure, and asking my family/friends for prayers. The doctor warned us that I would need to stay in the hospital for 24-hours if he needed to do a stent so we tried to be ready for any situation. I was so blessed to have people reach out to share their experiences, offer support, and pray for my safety. I was anxious, but felt as prepared as possible for the unknown.

Wednesday started incredibly early. My procedure was being done at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore, which is approximately 45 minutes from our home. In order to arrive by the 6:45AM check-in time, we left at 5:30AM and were walking into the hospital by 6:30AM. After going over paperwork and consent forms, they called me back to my room by 7:30AM to get gowned, prepped, and ready for the doctor. M came back to join me at 8:30AM and we sat together for the next three hours, waiting as patiently as possible.

My nurse, J, was really wonderful. She was informative, calming, proactive, and personable… I honestly couldn’t have picked a better person as my nurse for the day. She watched over me like a mom, performed her tasks like a pro, and was a wonderful advocate in keeping me “next-in-line” during the morning’s events. I get a “wonky” stomach from some medications and was getting more and more anxious as time ticked on, so meds arrived to help me remain calm and focused. When they finally wheeled me into the sterile surgical room, I was as ready as possible.

Coming into the surgical room was a bit surreal. Nurses helped me as I stood up, turned, and sat down on the table in the center of the room. There were huge pieces of equipment, a number of TV screens, and gowned people scurrying around getting things ready and asking me to repeat my name and birthdate. Dr. N came in, held my hand, and calmly chatted about the upcoming procedure. We discussed (again) why, how, and what he would be doing. He affirmed his original decision to use my radial artery (at my wrist) instead of entering through the groin and then left to finish his own preparations. Now I started to get scared…

Things moved quickly from here. My wrist was propped up and taped down to allow Dr. N to most stable and secure access to my right radial artery. My wrist and both sides of my groin were swathed in a very cold antiseptic solution. My nerves were beginning to get the better of me, so retreated to repeating The Lord’s Prayer and my father’s blessing as I felt my body tense and begin to shiver. When Dr. N returned to the room, the surgical orderly announced that “the cocktail isn’t on board yet” (they hadn’t yet given me any sedatives other than the Valium I’d received earlier) so he waited as the nurse administered the medicine into my IV. After a moment or two, he used a shot of Lidocaine (which hurt like a bee sting) to numb my wrist and then began the procedure.

To explain what happened next, I’ll use the information provided by the doctor’s office as reference… a catheter (small hollow plastic tube) was inserted into my right radial artery. Using special x-ray unit (fluoroscopy), the catheter was directed tp the heart and moved through the blood vessels and heat chambers. I felt a varying bit of pressure in my chest during the procedure, almost like flutters just under my rib cage. Pressures within the heart chambers were measured and (I think) dye was used to check each of my coronary arteries for blockages. Once Dr. N was satisfied with all that he’d seen, the catheter was removed.

I was absolutely awake throughout the procedure but the “twilight sedation” was enough to allow me to try and relax. I like to try and recite a wine tasting in my head, using ones I’ve done from either James River Cellars or Boordy Vineyard, since they make me concentrate on something totally unrelated to the current situation. I was able to respond to the Dr. N’s questions and was surprised when I heard someone use the words “coming out”, regarding the catheter. They removed the tape that stabilized my wrist and he put a compression bandage on the spot where the catheter had been removed. The temperature of my fingers concerned him and he asked me to make a fist to check blood flow. I have Raynaud’s syndrome, which complicated the return of immediate adequate blood flow to my fingers, so he adjusted the air pressure in the bandage (normal use is 10cc’s of air and he used 5cc’s with me) and was comfortable with that decision. Before he left, he told me that he was happy to see that I have “the arteries of a fourteen year old” and no stent was needed… hallelujah and praise be to God!

The nurses quickly removed all the surgical paraphernalia and helped me shuffle over to the bed that would roll me back to my room. They covered me with heavy, warm blankets (it’s amazing how cold one can get in such a short amount of time!) and were wheeling me into my room just minutes after M had come back from getting lunch… I had only been gone for 45 minutes.

The afternoon was spent recovering… from the anesthesia, from the trauma, and from the stress. I got to sit up and have a cup of coffee… I got to eat some food… and I eventually got the chance to use my phone to start responding to the wonderful messages and comments made on Facebook, through IM or through texts. The doctor came in to explain his findings to us and give us the good news.  The nurse slowly decreased the air in my compression bandage and eventually was able to apply a simple bandage (seen in the photo) after a few hours.  It was after 3PM before we finally headed home, but we left the hospital tired and grateful.wrist

Today, I’m following doctor’s orders. I will not shower or remove the bandage on my wrist until after 1:30 this afternoon and have been given a 5lb lift-limit until Saturday morning. Writing and resting are the only things on my to-do list, so thank you for letting me share this experience. What a gift to know that my grateful heart is also a healthy heart!

 

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.

 

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 is like an ocean wave… January 31, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 6:19 am

There’s a story floating around that I have found very comforting… the metaphor of grief to an ocean wave.  Rather than try to explain it, and miss some of the beautiful nuances, I’ll simply post the poem here:


My prayer at the moment  is to learn to survive the waves and the shipwrecks with as much kindness to others as I can possibly muster.  Bless you ALL for sharing your strength with me… and for caring enough to read what I write.  It all helps.

 

 
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