Beatitudes of my life

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

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.

 

My Daddy January 26, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 5:23 pm

It’s been a long time. So much water under the bridge. So much history that needs to be forgiven instead of dragged back through the mud. So few days left to allow for peace.

My parents divorced when I was little. My 10 year-old self didn’t understand or comprehend what was going on. I acted out and blamed all the adults for this huge change in my life. But there are so many things that happened between my parents that bled into our lives as their children. Our individual memories are flawed… we see what we want to see… we remember what we want to remember… we forget what we choose to forget. We were children and our parents were human beings who were hurt. They both did awful things to one another. They both caused unnecessary pain to each other. They both felt they were in the right. It doesn’t matter any more… and it hasn’t truly mattered for quite some time. It does not help anyone to review the past unless we are using that past to improve our future.  
I spent too many years blaming my father for my mother’s lot in life. I blamed him for so many little things that I didn’t take the time to see him as an adult. It took me far too long, but once I started seeing the man through the eyes of an adult, I could finally appreciate how he’s conducted his life since he re-married. I can honestly accept that he and my mom were so dissimilar and probably shouldn’t have gotten married (although I’m glad they did, because they created us… me, my brother, and my sister). I can absolutely understand that my dad and step-mom are truly soulmates and area much better as a couple than they were before they got together.  
More than anything, I can also see just how much they love each other. It’s a tangible thing… it’s seeing my dad calm down at her touch… it’s seeing him smile or his eyes light up when she leans in to whisper to him… it’s both heartbreaking and breathtaking beautiful to see how fully they love one another. The past be damned… I can appreciate that kind of love, because it’s the kind of love that I have with M. My father has had his faults, but he’s shown me the one-of-a-kind love affair that is worth a fight. He’s shown me that anything is worth sacrificing, if it means one more day with that person who makes you whole.
I want him to keep fighting so that, one day, I can tell him that I *get* it. I want to be able to tell him that I love him, and have him understand that I truly mean it. He’s my daddy and he always will be…. I’m just not ready to lose him…

 

Grief… after the first month… January 15, 2017

Filed under: Blessings,Family,Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:27 pm
Tags: , , ,

 

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.

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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.

 

My Mom… December 28, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:14 pm

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Gwenn Bream Drum: 10.18.34-12.15.16

I am stunned… I am numb… I am grateful… and I am devastated.  I got the call from your best friend shortly after she found you still in bed, still in your pajamas (you know… the black and white leopard print with hot pink piping).  She said you had died.  What?  How was that possible?  You were supposed to be coming down to our house to spend Christmas with us… I had *just* said the words “this could be her last Christmas with us”, but never believed that we didn’t have more time, more holidays, more years.

I had spoken with you on Tuesday morning. We talked for an hour about how much you enjoyed your HS holiday party on Thursday, how much you loved singing with the Adelines, how much it meant to you to sing for others and bring them joy, and how much you were looking forward to coming to MD for Christmas.  You gently reminded me to plan some time to shop together and told me how excited you were to have lunch with Kati at Iron Rooster.  You told me about everything that was going on in your life, but you didn’t tell me anything that would make me worry, nothing that would draw attention to any problems that might be popping up.  I heard all the happy, good, lovely, shiny details, but I completely missed the dark, scary side of things.  I didn’t really ask the questions for which I didn’t want to know the answers… I still expected you to be my mum… I still thought we had time…

You didn’t tell me that you were having serious trouble seeing, that your macular degeneration was getting significantly worse… because that might force my hand into taking your car (and your independence) away.  I didn’t know that you’d told your friend not to let me know how serious that problem had become… and that you probably shouldn’t have driven down to our house to fly to Florida at Thanksgiving.  There’s so much that I wish I’d known, yet I know that you were simply doing what you always did… you protected me from seeing things that might be upsetting or change my vision of you.  You did your best to let me be your child for just a little longer.  You didn’t want me to see the problems you were having because that might have changed our relationship forever.

I listened to this special woman tell me the story of what happened, the night before you died.  She told me of those few moments of pause that caused her to take you to the ER… she told me about the tests they ran and the concerns that were addressed… and she told me that you turned to her as you walked into the house and, with a smile, said “I feel so much better” before going inside.  Those were the last words she heard you speak… she left three messages on your answering machine the next morning to check on you, not knowing that you were already gone.  When she came to check on you, the door was closed, which concerned her.  You weren’t in your chair when she used her key and opened the front door, which made alarms go off in her head.  She walked into your bedroom and found you laying on your side, looking to all the world that you were peacefully sleeping, when you were actually gone from this world.  I thank God that she was the one who found you.  She called 911… she waited with you for the ambulance… she called me… she waited for the coroner… you would be so proud of the love she showed as your dear friend, in making sure that you weren’t left alone.  I’m so grateful that she was your “person”… she embodied that role in the best possible way, and I will always remember to honor her.

I hope that you know how much I appreciate all you did to raise me to be the wife, mother, and woman I am today.  For better or for worse, your life was the one that was most familiar to me when I was trying to find my way in the world.  You taught me to cook (thank GOD) and to follow my heart.  You taught me to cherish those I love and to respect those from whom I would learn.  Whether I was to follow or to divert, you were my role model and I am so grateful that you were my mother.

You gave me my roots, in family, friends, and Camp Robin Hood… and you gave me my wings, by allowing me to become my own person and make my own mistakes.  There are times when I glance at my hands and see yours… times when something pops out of my mouth and I just *know* that it originated with you… times when those around me say that I’m just like you.  Occasionally, I shrink from that comparison because there are things that you’ve done in your life that I don’t want to repeat, but most times I am proud to be the embodiment of you… your daughter.  

I’m proud to have a mom who cared deeply for her family, her friends, her commitments, and her faith.  I’m proud that people remember how caring and loving you were to those in your life.  I’m even a little proud that you were able to leave this world on your own terms and in your own way.  Maybe it wasn’t exactly when you wanted to leave us, but I do take comfort in the idea that you’re now whole, and happy, and having a “healthy scotch” with your sisters again.  62ce3486-39a5-48f6-a9ff-d26befe0eed9

Rest easy, Mum… we’ll take things from here as we sing to your memory:

There is a Magic Something, camp so dear  

That fills our hearts with laughter all the year

Every girl who’s been here

Has that something in her

It is the spirit of Camp Robin Hood.

 

Moving is hard October 3, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 12:03 pm
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This might be one of the more un-original titles I’ve ever used, but I thought it should be said… moving is hard.  It’s hard on the people leaving and it’s hard on those left behind.  We’ve done this a few times in our married life, but this time seemed especially poignant in that we had lived in RVA for 13 years – almost four times longer than we’d lived anywhere else.  It’s getting easier (although it will seem far more permanent once the house sells in VA) but there are definitely challenges at each turn of the calendar.

We first moved into temporary housing.  This was an interesting transition because of it’s very nature… it was temporary.  We knew we weren’t going to purchase a home near that residence, so learning the area was helpful but a bit of an effort in futility. Why spend the time getting to know people when our lives most likely wouldn’t intersect in any reasonable or foreseeable fashion after we found the home we wanted to purchase?  The apartment we were assigned was in a nice area, but not as easy to navigate (see my previous post entitled My Little Red Wagon) but we made the best of the entire situation. My 50th birthday came and went… Easter wasn’t celebrated the same… my summer didn’t focus on getting kids to and from activities.  Life was changing and I needed to change with it… and so I did.

free-moving-announcement-front-chocOnce we found the home we wanted to purchase, my focus became a little simpler. My goal now was to find businesses in the new area where I might find things like doctors, hair stylists, shopping, and other amenities that would make our transition successful.  I found a nail salon where I felt comfortable… M helped me find someone to cut my hair (which was getting unruly after 17 weeks)… I had my first eye doctor appointment… and I found a part-time job at a local winery.  All these things helped make our move flow a bit smoother, but the most challenging part is finding friends.

After living in one place for much of my boys’ childhood, I had collected an amazing assortment of people in my life.  There were some who could meet me for lunch, some who could be counted on to help with car pool or share frustrations with kids’ activities, some who knew me from my job at the local winery, some who knew me from church, and still others who simply knew me as someone they saw around town.  No matter where I had found these people, each one held a special place in my heart and in my life.  Thinking about it now, I realize that one of the most important things about these people is that I never, ever, felt alone.  I knew, with confidence, that I had people who lived nearby who would be present for me if I needed something.  That something could be as easy as a smile from the check-out clerk at the local grocery store or as involved as a shoulder to help work through a difficult situation…either way, I had created my very own village within the world around me.  I believe that has been the hardest part of moving… I had to leave my village behind.

Don’t get me wrong… I am very happy with our move.  We have found a place in a small town that is becoming more and more wonderfully familiar as I go about my daily life.  I adore my job at the winery and thoroughly enjoy getting to know our neighbors.  I am starting to create my new village, but it’s going to take some time.  I don’t have any history with people here, so it will be a process of letting people in and learning who to trust.  Making friends will be more of a challenge without the immediate connection of children and their activities, but I have faith that we will come to love this new life of ours.

In the meantime, you can find us at our new address in Forest Hill, Maryland.  You can reach me on most any Social Media outlet (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest – most under AliSportShots) or you can follow my wine recipe blog on Facebook (From the Bottom of a Wine Bottle).  I may have moved, but I’ve not gone away.

Moving may be hard, but it would be harder if I wasn’t able to keep in touch with friends.  Thank you to all of you who have made an effort to keep in touch with me throughout this move.  We kept our VA home and (my) cell numbers for that very reason… so people could find us.

Thanks so much for reminding me that friendship doesn’t revolve solely around who lives closest to us… it revolves around who lives in our hearts.  Moving is hard, but true friends make everything better…

 

Random Acts of Kindness – a Challenge for all February 14, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:53 am

It’s Valentine’s Day…. Why not make an effort to spread some random kindness throughout your corner of the world… You might be surprised by the reactions you get. Happy Valentines Day to one and all…

Beatitudes of my life

One of my favorite things in the world is seeing the look on someone’s face when something kind is done for them… with no expectation of anything in return.  It’s the way a harried mom looks when you return her grocery cart for her… it’s the smile that lights up someone’s eyes when you compliment them… it’s the happiness that registers, after the shock wears off, that someone has just done something purely for kindness’ sake.  It’s just so soul-uplifting.

I know there are many who actually make money suggesting ways for people to participate in Random Acts of Kindness.  There’s an official website (www.randomactsofkindness.org) and a group (ROAK.group) as well as countless links to help everyone be more kind to our fellow man.  I’d like to suggest a way for everyone to get in on the act this year.

It doesn’t take a lot of money… it doesn’t take…

View original post 870 more words

 

Answering Leadership Questions January 21, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Communication,Family,Life Balance,Uncategorized,Volunteering — beatitudesofmylife @ 8:19 am
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I was recently approached by a grad student-friend who asked me some questions for her Women’s Studies Leadership class. I was flattered that she would consider me to be someone who might have something to contribute, but as I looked through her questions, I quickly realized that I would have to contemplate a bit before replying. This young woman was asking me, as I would have once asked another, and I couldn’t be glib or pithy… I needed to share the insights that I’d found through my life’s leadership journey. When reading my responses, I felt called to share this on my blog… and I hope you agree.

Here are the questions I was given:

Basics
1. Name:
2. Work Position Title(s):
3: Family Structure:

Leadership Journey
1. How did you get interested in your current position?
2. How has leadership played in your life?
3. What was you first experience as a leader?
4. What educational and professional experiences did you have that prepared you for work?
5. Has your journey as a leader ever changed directions?
6. Have you had any mentors? If so, what did you learn from them?
7. As a woman, what challenges have you faced?

Day to Day Life
1. What is a typical day/week like for you?
2. Do you mostly work alone and/or in groups?
3. What major roles and responsibilities do you have?
4. What is the most rewarding part of your work?
5. What is the most challenging part of your work?

Support/Personal
1. Where have you found support?
2. How do you find/make balance in your life?
3. How do you balance work, marriage and children?
4. How does your work fit with your identity, values, etc.?
5. How would you rate the stress level in your work?

Advice
1. What would you recommend for someone interested in becoming a leader?
2. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to be leaders?

Here are my responses…

Basics:
1. Alison Blair Althouse (nee: Drum)
2. Event Coordinator, James River Cellars Winery, Glen Allen VA
3. Married for 24+ years with 2 sons (ages 23 and 21)

Leadership Journey:
1. I love working at the winery and sharing our wines with the public. As I spent more and more time at the winery, I found that I had a flair for organizing events at our winery and had a desire to become more involved in the event side of our winery’s business.
2. Leadership is a deliberate decision for me. I have held many varied leadership positions throughout my life and I have learned to “pick my battles” and be very determined when and where I become involved.
3. My first experience as a leader came during my sophomore year of college when I took charge of our Freshman Bash. I volunteered for the position and found that I had an ability to find the “interesting” within the mundane and sometimes tedious sides of leadership.
4. I have held a myriad of volunteer positions that have challenged me to test the waters of leadership before eventually seeking and obtaining paid positions within various organizations.
5. My journey as a leader is constantly changing direction, depending on the needs of my life and my family. Early in my life, leadership seemed more about following what had been done before and guiding others to look toward the pre-determined goals of a specific organization. As I’ve gotten older, I’m less likely to be satisfied by static growth and historic plans. I do my best to try and challenge myself using current technologies and question the viability of protocols in place… are these working? If things aren’t working, how can we make things better?
6. I have had a great number of mentors throughout my life… and each one has shown up at just the “right” time and for the “needed” length of time. The women in my life have continued to provide me with strong female role models throughout my life, but I don’t have a problem seeking mentors (both older and younger than me) as I find a need.
7. I faced challenges when working as the Athletic Director for a boys’ lacrosse team – setting up and organizing their schedules in what had traditionally been a male-dominated world was fun as I exceeded expectations and succeeded where others had failed (or just not flourished). The idea of “catching more bees with honey than with vinegar” was especially helpful – people would much prefer to do something for you if they feel appreciated than if they feel they *have to* do it.

Day to day life:
1. A typical week for me will find me working at the winery 3-4 mornings each week (unless I’m actually included on the schedule), from 8:30AM until 1PM or so. I then go home and start planning/making dinner before Michael comes home from work. I like to make dinner as often as possible – even if the entire family isn’t able to sit down at the table together, I love being able to have food for them to eat at home – it’s part of why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. Spending time together is key, no matter where or how.
2. I work in a small office setting that can vary from 2-5 in number. If conditions warrant, I can do some of my work from home (via my iPad) or using the company laptop, although I much prefer to be around people if possible.
3. I am responsible for coordinating the events that are booked at James River Cellars Winery in Glen Allen, VA. I am also responsible for the Social Media for the winery (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Yelp, etc) and some of the documents created within the winery (wine club newsletter, chalkboards, ID cards, etc), depending on the needs of our manager. I also write and manage a wine blog where I post recipes and wine-related information. (www.fromthebottomofawinebottle.wordpress.com)
4. The most rewarding part of my job is seeing people enjoy our wines – I love doing tastings and introducing people to the non-snobby side of wine.
5. The most challenging part of my job is sometimes figuring out the “how” of a project – learning the different idiosyncrasies and nuances of how my boss has done things in the past with my own abilities and availability.

Support/Personal:
1. My support comes from my relationship with my husband… he is my rock, my helper, my best confidante, and my favorite sounding board. He knows me well enough to help me keep a strong work/life balance and understands when I need to simply vent with no expectation of answers. He makes me want to be my best at all things and loves me unconditionally. Knowing his complete belief in me has enabled me to take risks I might not otherwise have taken… I am most richly blessed with his love.
2. Balance is hard… I like to go at things 150% but my MS (multiple sclerosis) requires that I rest and recharge more than most. My husband is wonderful at reminding me to take time for *me*…
3. As my kids were growing up, any outside work I did was third in line for my attention. My husband and my boys were the MOST important thing as they were growing up – including their HS and college years. They always know that they (hubby and boys) are my highest priority but I’m able to work my job around them and their needs. Family comes first… no questions asked. My boss is firm on this as well – I couldn’t work for a company that didn’t believe in the importance of family.
4. My sense of identity has been fairly fluid over the years. I have been M’s wife, D’s and E’s mom “forever”… and I will always be in those roles. I’m now learning that there’s no shame in being “the recipe lady” at the winery… and there’s something very satisfying about a job well-done, no matter what it may be. I strive to do the best I can in anything I do… no one can ask more of me.
5. My stress level at work is as high as I make it – if I’m getting too stressed out about something, then I’m not focusing on the joy of my job. I get to work with wine… I get to teach people about wine… if I can’t find the joy in that, then I’m in the wrong business. 🙂

Advice:
1. If someone is interested in becoming a leader, whether it be in their community, their church, or at work, my suggestion is to study the characteristics of those leaders you admire. Leaders, in my opinion, are people who are able to gather the strengths of many and raise up those who can contribute most in specific situations. When I was Senior Warden (President of church council) at our parish, we faced a financial difficulty – since my Junior Warden was a CPA and CFO of a local company, I relied on his ability to translate the financial issues to our parishioners, rather than attempt to convey the information myself. There are opportunities for leadership in all aspects of our lives – you simply need to recognize them as such and be confident in your abilities. Learn from the mistakes of others, and those done by yourself, so they aren’t repeated. Recognize when you need to step back to allow for growth. Sometimes the best leader is the one who can recognize when someone else needs to take the helm for awhile.
2. The advise I would pass along to women who want to be leaders would be to use your femininity as an asset and NOT as a crutch. If you’re working with an entire group of men, realize that many will underestimate you, so use that to your advantage. If you’re working with a group of women, you should recognize that there will be a few who will see you as “the competition”, no matter your role in the group. Be firm… be kind… and follow the golden rule…. do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I hope this helps. There’s a terrific book called, “A Single Piece of Paper” that I have found to be an invaluable resource with regards to leadership and finding your leadership style. It was written by a friend/colleague of my husband (Mike Figliulo) and worth the read. I blogged about it on my other blog (beatitudesofmylife.wordpress.com) under the piece called “my maxims”. That might be helpful information to consider.

Wishing you all success as you travel this life’s journey, finding your own style of leadership and coming to grips with the type of leader you want to become.

 

 
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