Beatitudes of my life

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

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…

 

Mantras January 10, 2013

Filed under: Blessings,Family — beatitudesofmylife @ 4:56 pm
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I used to think that a “Mantra” had to be a well-known phrase or quote.  “Less is more”… “You reap what you sow”… “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”… you know what I mean.  I felt odd not to have a go-to phrase that would keep me going or get me going… that is, until the death of my husband’s college roommate a few years ago showed me that I’d had mine all along.

My mantra is a childhood dinner blessing that my father would intone as we were sitting down to dinner.  We typically recited the traditional “God is great, God is good, let us thank him for our food”… or the expanded version … “By His hands, we are fed, Give us Lord our daily bread”.  My sister was pretty young at this point, so it was just my brother and I who would roll our eyes anytime my dad wanted to say grace before the meal… we knew we were in for a paragraph and dinner would be delayed.  We weren’t happy about it, but I am so very glad he continued to say this special prayer, because it’s come to bring me great comfort in my adulthood.

Here’s the prayer that he would recite before we were allowed to eat:

Daddy'sBlessing

That’s really not all that long, is it?  Granted, to a 3 y/o and a 5 y/o, I’m sure it felt like an eternity.  The quicker prayer was our norm… our tradition… our ready blessing to say before we could dig into whatever mom had made for dinner that night.  It’s easy for kids to memorize and recite and it’s the one that’s most widely used so you don’t look like an outsider (or a weirdo) if you go to someone else’s house for dinner and they start saying a blessing before dinner.

I liked hearing the different spin that was added in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, when Sheldon goes home to East Texas and his mother insists that he say grace before eating… “Please know that we are truly grateful for every cup and every plateful

Still, it’s not that traditional prayer for grace that I recite anytime I need to pray.  I use the prayer that my father said… the one we thought he used to “torture” us as small children because it was so long… the one that can still to this day bring his voice into my subconscious.  This prayer centers me.  This prayer calms my mind.  This prayer brings me comfort that no other prayer, no matter the source, has ever done before.

I honestly don’t care why this prayer means so much to me…. I just know that it does.   When I recite it, I hear the words that my dad used… I take breaths where he breathed… I mimic his tone and cadence until it sounds (in my head) exactly like him.  My dad doesn’t say that prayer anymore.  Parkinson’s has challenged his speech and made it difficult to get through this prayer.  But when I say that prayer, my dad is whole and young, vibrant and healthy.  He’s my daddy who would have given the world for his little girl.  The actions of our collective past are irrelevant when I say that prayer… all is right with the world and God will provide.

This prayer has magical powers for me.  It brings me comfort from a time in my childhood when nothing bad happened that couldn’t be fixed by my parents.  It allows me to believe… and it calms my mind… and it centers me.

It’s the magic of God…

 

I’m a Yellow Lab March 22, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Parenting,Pets,Photography — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:37 pm
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As weird as it may sound, I’ve been told that I have the personality of a yellow lab puppy and I’m OK with it.  Seriously.  I think it’s a huge compliment that my husband, and a few select friends who understand the analogy, feel that my outlook on life reminds them of a yellow lab.   Happy, ready to play, forgives slights (ok… I’m still working on that one), always seems to look at or for the positive?  Yeah, I’ll take that one.

The first time someone commented on my general outlook on life, I was quick to downplay it.  After all, it’s not “normal” for someone to always look at the positive side of things, is it?  I thought that lots of people looked for the good in others… sought the happy side of things instead of focusing on the negative… but that doesn’t seem to be the case.   It’s easy to see the glass as “half empty” instead of “half full”, but that is definitely not my way of seeing things.  I’ve learned that I actually have to make a concerted effort to see all the negative aspects of a situation instead of making the best of whatever may come my way.   Is that a bad thing?  Is this a character trait or a character flaw?  Why don’t more people automatically lean toward the good in their lives?  Am I really so strange?

I’ll admit that there are times when I actually have to focus my attention on the positive instead of drowning in the negative.  Late at night, when the house is quiet and I’m the only one left awake, my mind starts spinning webs of “bad stuff” that can be pretty negative… dragging me down… keeping me awake and spooked.  It’s only with repeated practice that I can pull myself out of that hole.  I count my blessings… say my prayers… and drag my sorry butt back to the happy side of life.   It’s not always easy, but I much prefer to be happy than sad… to be positive than negative… to be up rather than down.  It’s just in my nature.

This blog has been my way of acknowledging and counting my blessings.  I may look at my life through “rose colored glasses”, but the other option just isn’t palatable to me.   Whining and complaining feel like a slap in the face when I take stock of all that I have in my life.  I have a husband I adore and who makes me strive to be a better person… I have two boys who are happy, healthy, and amazing young men… I am blessed with family and friends who remind me every day that I am loved…  I work with some pretty fabulous and interesting people who I thoroughly enjoy… I really can’t complain about a single thing in my life.   God has blessed me in so many ways… I cannot help but be grateful for every aspect of my life.

It would have been easy to become a whiner when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.  My boys were only 3 & 5 years old and I was only 31 years old.  It would have been so easy to complain and gripe, to bitch and moan, but where would that have gotten me?  Would I have infected my sons with my negative attitude and altered who they would become?  I had been blessed with an amazing and supportive husband and family who loved me, no matter what my abilities or limitations.  If these were blessings, couldn’t I also turn this diagnosis into a blessing?

As weird as it may sound, my MS has indeed been a blessing to me.  Because of my MS, I was forced to leave the work force but I was given the gift of time to raise my children and be a stay-at-home mom.  Focusing on what I’m unable to do is unproductive… I choose to see what I am able to do and be grateful for every day.  God made me… and He deserves nothing less than my praise, thanks, and gratitude for THIS life he’s given me.

So, yeah, I’ll be the “Pollyanna” any day.  I’ll look on the bright side…. focus on the positive… see the good in everyone… and plan to take pictures in the rain.  Don’t tell me that being compared to a dog is a bad thing… I’ll always be grateful to have a “happy yellow lab” personality.   This outlook in life has gotten me pretty far and I count it as one of my greatest blessings and strengths.

 

How I became a Sports Photographer February 22, 2012

It’s the beginning of lacrosse season and one of my favorite times of the year.  I’m grateful to be busy as a photographer and am constantly reminded just how organically  this career path came to be.  As weird as it sounds, it all started with my kids and my husband… as does much of what is right in my life.

E started playing lacrosse in the fall of his 8th grade year.  He had decided not to play his final season of association football and had opted instead to play lacrosse.  We knew nothing about the sport at that point, so we figured this was just his way of choosing to “do his own thing”.  We supported him, but I made the decision to remain with his former football team as their team mom and equipment coach since I had already committed to them for the fall.  Truth be told, I could have quit that job if I’d wanted to do so, but really loved being on the sidelines and helping the team.  I also felt it was important to show the boys that one doesn’t just quit something if you’ve made a commitment.  I pulled back a bit from football, but still did all the typical organizational stuff that I so loved.   That fall was a bit more chaotic than usual, since we were attending all E’s lax games AND I was going to all the association football games.  D was a sophomore in HS and in the marching band, so his activities didn’t really conflict with all that was going on for E and me.

It turned out that E was a natural on the lacrosse field.  We had parents who asked us where he’d been playing before… that surely this kid hadn’t just picked up a stick and figured out how to play in just a few short weeks of rec ball.  When he asked about trying out for the Middle School travel team, we encouraged him again but were sure he’d be passed over for those who had been playing for longer… instead, he was selected and became a stronger player as this second season went along.  He still was in his very first full year of playing lacrosse, but it was obviously becoming his passion.  We jumped in with both feet and began to learn the rules, help behind the scenes, and do whatever we could to help him improve his skill sets.

He tried out for our local travel lacrosse team when he was in 9th grade and, not surprisingly now, made the team.  Schedules were adjusted to accommodate this expensive hobby and both M and I learned where our own skills would be most helpful to the program.  I found that I loved watching the action of a lacrosse game but I missed being on the sidelines.  Having spent four years on the sidelines for football (M called me a “bench Nazi”) it was increasingly difficult to pay attention to the game itself when parents kept shouting their “helpful words of encouragement” to/at their children.  I wanted to get away from them and do something productive… and then I found a camera…

One of the dads had a Nikon D40X.  It was simple… clean… workable… and I wanted one.  My darling husband found one for me for my birthday in 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history.  I fell in love with the idea of capturing the feeling of a game through photographs.  I asked questions… talked with professionals… experimented with different settings… read countless articles and books… and slowly got better.  I never stop learning about photography but I’m significantly better than when I started.

Around this time, a website that M helps to moderate (gomids.com) made mention that they were looking for someone who’d be willing to be their photographer during the fall Navy football season.  My darling hubby sent me a text asking if I was “interested”…. and I almost fell over trying to quickly text my emphatic YES! back to him before he could rescind the offer. Thankfully, they let me start in the fall of 2008…. and what an incredible journey that has been, but I’ll have to touch on that later.  Still trying to focus on explaining how organically my sports photographer career came to be…

E was still playing club travel lacrosse at this point.  He attended a lacrosse Showcase in the fall of 2008 that really drove home the point to him that his skills really were competitive with many higher level players… he stripped the ball from some kid in one of his first shifts on defense that had parents around us gasping and applauding his talent.  I was taking photos of him as often as I could and it got to be a joke that he was “levitating” down the field when he played, since I seemed to catch him in the air more often than not. I kept asking questions and learned how to take better pictures as we continued to follow E’s lacrosse career.

By this time, I had been given many photo opportunities since getting that Nikon for my birthday and, after fighting and questioning my own abilities, had finally started to call myself a “Sports Photographer”.  I’d earned that title… by now I had been on the sidelines of Navy football for two seasons, I had photographed lacrosse for three seasons, including summer travel games, I had shot volleyball photos for two years and covered the event when E’s HS team went and WON the State Championship, and I’d “taken one for the team” and gotten run over by a referee during a lax game, giving me a black eye for a few weeks. Note: you can see the faint purple mark under my eye in this photo, two weeks after I got the black eye.  I was also cautiously photographing D’s college lacrosse games and learning how to share them with the team via Facebook.  It was time to say I was a Sports Photographer.

Eventually, it came time for E to graduate HS.  E was selected for the Richmond area’s US Lacrosse All-Star game and I was bound and determined to photograph this accomplishment.  When we got to the event, being held at a nearby college, I introduced myself to the US Lacrosse president and asked if I could shoot the game.  I gave her a brief overview of my abilities and promised to stay out of the ref’s way… no need to get plowed over by another one, right?  I walked away to rejoin my family, happy they were going to allow me this small concession.

Here is the cool part of the whole thing for me.  A little while later, this same woman came up to me and asked if I would consider being their “official photographer” for the game… photograph the remainder of the girls game, all the awards presentations, and then photograph the boys game and awards… that their Official Photographer hadn’t shown up to cover the event.  O M G…. how often does something like this literally fall into someone’s lap?  She then asked me about my event charge and my website address…. I quickly collected myself and asked if I could email that information to her after the game…. I had NOTHING at this point!  Wow… talk about organic?  I looked at M and said “I need to figure out how much to charge for an event and I need a website ASAP.”  FYI:  My website address is www.alisportshots.com.

That was in May of 2010… I’ve since been the photographer for Swim Championships, College lacrosse games, Milestone Family events, Senior Nights for volleyball teams, and of course, Navy Football (and lacrosse) for GoMids.com.  It’s been a whirlwind journey for me.  Each time on the sidelines is truly a gift and I am constantly reminded how much I truly adore this job.  I’m blessed to have an eye for sports action and consider each event I photograph to be the most singularly important thing I do at that very moment.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in such a short time and am grateful that God has seen me worthy of these blessings.  It truly is magical to do what I get to do…

 

Random Acts of Kindness – a Challenge for all February 2, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Holidays,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 10:03 am
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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 (RAOK.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 a great deal of time… and it doesn’t take much imagination or skill… it just takes the desire to step out of your comfort zone for a few seconds and be brave enough to approach another person to hand them a Valentine and wish them a happy day.  Yes, I’m suggesting that everyone take a moment on Valentine’s Day to give a Valentine to someone you don’t know. A Random Act of Valentine-ing, if you will.

A manager from Starbucks did this for me about 8 years ago and it inspired me to continue his wonderful idea ever since.  It really IS simple.  Each year, after Valentine’s Day, I purchase a few boxes of goofy, childish, silly Valentines and put them away for the following year.  A few days prior, I choose the box I’ll use that year and label every single card, “To YOU, From Me” and fold them up.  On February 14th, I really don’t plan anything special.  I go about my normal day traveling to the grocery, the drug store, the bank… anywhere I’d typically go on that day.  The only difference is that I look for people to whom I can hand a Valentine.  It might be that older person who seems a little sad… it might be the greeter at WalMart… it might be the cashiers I meet or the people stocking shelves… it might just be someone who doesn’t seem to be having a good day.   Look each person in the eye and simply say, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” as you hand them a card.  You may never know how this simple act will affect the other person, but you’ll be astounded at just how wonderful it makes you feel.

Everyone deserves to have a Valentine’s Card to make them feel special.  Who knows if your moment with them will be their only bright spot on an otherwise dreary and lonely day.  The ripple effect of this small, simple, yet incredibly kind gesture might never be known to you, but I was blessed last year to find that my younger son had been watching me and used this idea as the basis for one of his admissions essays.  Please indulge a proud mama by reading his essay below:

Mankind is not perfect. We constantly instigate warfare, hatred, and discrimination against our own people. However, despite the evils that plague our planet, fundamental kindness still conquers evil. Humans are capable of showing an immense amount of kindness for their brethren. This kindness is defined as an act of compassion without expecting personal benefit. Every day, people commit to making others just a little happier through small favors, held open doors, and a handful of pocket change in an empty cup. The purest of all the random acts of kindness, however, is an anonymous one. Therefore, to represent the human race I would choose an anonymous valentine.

Every year on Valentine’s Day, my mother buys a box of cheap valentines and writes “To: You, From: Me” on them. She then hands them out to anyone she sees simply to brighten his or her day. She realizes that her flimsy piece of cardboard may be the only loving gesture that many people get on a day meant to celebrate one another, so she never misses a year. She just wants to make sure everyone has a chance to feel loved. To me, this represents mankind’s incredible power to care for others without personal gain.

Humans have endured century upon century of torment. Natural disasters have ravaged our lands and disease has killed our families. Guns have found their way into our hands and our minds have been poisoned with intentions of murder. However, in spite of these increasingly difficult times, we continue to function together as a family and be kind to our fellow man. We hold our heads high, looking past all of the negatives, and we still strive for a better future. We hoard our valentines from the people dearest to us, and from the people that we don’t even know, to remind us that we all deserve to be loved.

It is hard to overlook the hardships that we humans go through when finding something to embody mankind. However, I have seen the effects of an anonymous valentine firsthand. The smiles on strangers’ faces, the friends my mother makes, and the hope she gives to people all restore my faith that at its core, mankind is compassionate and kind.  – EBA 2/11

That “Ripple Effect”?  It can be pretty awesome when it comes back to you.

As we approach Valentine’s Day this year, let’s not just try and shower our loved ones with chocolates and presents.  These are wonderful, but let’s all try and share a little bit of happiness with the world around us.  Buy a box of Valentines, like you got in grade school… sign each one “To YOU, From Me”… and hand them out on Valentine’s Day to everyone in whom you come in contact.  It just may make this special day one of the best you’ve ever had.

Random Acts of Kindness in the form of an anonymous Valentine… how easy, yet how monumental…

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

 

Why I write… January 31, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Life Balance,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 4:29 pm
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Wow… this question has been posed to me by several people recently, so it’s been running around on the hamster wheel in my head for a few weeks now.  I’m slowly recognizing that if an idea is imposing its presence into my subconscious, it’s asking to be let out and run free, so here’s the best I can do in way of explanation at the moment.

I write so I don’t go crazy.  I write so that all those crazy ideas in my head have a place to go instead of whirling around and causing me to forget the really important things, like remembering to pick up Arnold’s bread thins for M’s lunch.  I write to share my opinions and my thoughts with anyone who is interested in taking a break from their own life for a moment.  But mostly, I write so that I can give credence to all the blessings of my life.

I was having trouble sleeping because I was thinking so much.  Anyone else have this happen?  As my kids have gotten older (and in the process, I’ve somehow gotten older too), it’s gotten harder and harder for me to fall asleep at night.  I’ve always been someone who thinks about stuff before I nodded off, but this was getting out of hand.  I’d hear a cough and within minutes I was trying to figure out how I was going to adjust my upcoming morning in case I needed to include a doctor’s appointment.  I’d hear a funky sound as the A/C or heating unit kicked in and suddenly I was trying to justify taking out a loan to purchase a brand new unit.  I couldn’t stop myself from going straight to the worst-case scenarios of anything that popped into my little pea-sized brain.  It was driving me crazy and I knew it.  I got some help from my doctor (yes, a sleeping rx) when the stress just got to be ridiculous but lately my thoughts have been swirling around more ideological pursuits.  Blogging seemed like a logical place to work them out… mull them over and then kick them out to the world… get them out of my head.  So far, it really seems to work for me.  The “hamster wheel” of thoughts isn’t keeping me awake as much as it used to…

I wanted to mull over things that were happening in my life and put them somewhere so I could “let them go”.  Writing, for me, has a cathartic benefit when I send it out into the world.  I may not have many people who are reading what I write, but those who do have given me something truly wonderful…. their feedback.  Hearing that I’m not alone or that others have experienced similar situations allows me to participate in the larger world in a way that simply speaking with individuals can offer.  I believe we all want to know that we’re not the only “freaks on the planet” so to speak…. there is someone else out there who understands and can commiserate or validate our ideas.  Humans are social animals… and I love being social…

As for giving credence to the blessings of my life?  How could I not appreciate all that God has given me in this world?  I have a husband who is my better self…and I try to always be the best partner for him in every way.  He makes me feel cherished and loved, no matter what is going on in our lives.  I have two sons of whom I couldn’t possibly be more proud… they are smart, interesting, fun, and I would rather spend time with them than anyone else in the world (other than their dad).  I could go on and on, but I’ll save that for a “mushier” post.  Suffice it to say that I love my family with abandon and am so grateful that God felt me worthy…

… and that’s why I write…

 

 
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