Beatitudes of my life

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

Thoughts on Grief March 28, 2018

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?

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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…

 

When Someone Truly Cares… May 12, 2014

I had a birthday recently… a “milestone” birthday”.  I had anticipated it and knew that it was going to be mentioned with gentle jokes, happy laughter, and loving joy… what I hadn’t expected were the feelings that hit me as the subsequent days rolled along.

Maybe it had to do with the fact that we recently moved away from our home of 13 years.  Since this was the place where I’d put in the most effort in making, and keeping, friends, I was actually looking forward to this birthday.  I was looking forward to wearing my “It’s my Birthday” pin (which I apparently forgot to pack) and have random people wish me a Happy Birthday.  I was looking forward to scads of emails, texts, and Facebook messages sending a bit of birthday love my way.  I was even looking forward to having some of my “nearest and dearest” complain that I wasn’t close by to visit for coffee or a drink.  Isn’t that what usually happens when someone close to us celebrates a birthday of any age?

Before I go any further, I must say that I was overwhelmed by the kindness and love that were showered on me throughout my birthday weekend. There were texts, calls, emails, and so very many loving FB messages that I truly felt blessed… and I thank each and every one of you for reaching out in any way possible.  My mom called and invited me to meet her for lunch… and  brought a special birthday cake.  My husband planned a special dinner at my college friend’s restaurant so we could celebrate.  Thank God for Facebook (really!) for reminding people about my birthday, because my feed was going crazy (in a delightful way) with wishes of fun, joy, love, etc… I read and appreciated every single one.  I was also touched that so many sent emails or texts… in this age of instant/constant activity, I was grateful for all forms of communication.  The cards that arrived at our new address or forwarded from our old one were especially sweet… when one isn’t “on the clock” or scheduled to  be somewhere, the trip down to the mailroom can sometimes be the brightest spot in an entire day.  I pray that I remember this piece of information in the coming years when friends move, because any and all written correspondence has been a balm to my bruised soul.  FYI:  No… bills do not count as “correspondence”.  😉EffortNotExcuse

What I wasn’t expecting was the sadness that I felt in the subsequent days when a few select people in my life chose to ignore my birthday.  I truly cannot fathom the reason for someone “forgetting” the birthday of another.  We are bombarded with information in so many different forms that it ends up feeling intentional when such a slight happens.  While excuses will most likely be made as time goes on, I don’t know that I’ll be able to simply forget this year.  The quote included in this post says it all, in my opinion.

This post isn’t meant to change the past or alter the future.  It’s simply my way of trying to let go of expectations and move on with my life.  I understand that everyone deals with loss in their own ways… some attack it head on while others try and pretend it doesn’t exist… but that doesn’t mean that I have to accept the subsequent feelings of loss that I experience when someone makes the choice to make an excuse instead of making an effort.

I admit to being one of those people who keeps a mental tally of those who slight and those who don’t. I recognize that this is a character flaw, but it has saved me in the past and I’m reluctant to change at this point in my life.  After all, I’m now FIFTY years old… I believe that I am old enough to choose to forgive & forget or to stand up for myself and not allow myself to be used as a doormat.

I’m going to choose me this time.  I believe that my feelings are important… they matter… and if someone in my life doesn’t feel the same way, then I am going to try to let them go.  It’s not easy to leave a life that you worked hard to build, but we each should understand and support the fact that our lives will take us on our own paths.  Changing the course of your life doesn’t mean you have to shed those with whom you have shared your life… it should mean that you do the work to keep those people close.   NOTE: For the most part, my HS friends and my HoodLums understand this in spades… each one of you is a gift more precious than gold in my book and you each have my eternal love and friendship.

As the saying goes, “when someone truly cares about you, they make an effort, not an excuse”.  It would be so sad if this were the end, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles… right?

 

Why I love Thanksgiving November 30, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Cooking,Family,Holidays,Life Balance — beatitudesofmylife @ 12:01 pm
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I’ve said this before… my absolute favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.   Christmas is great… birthdays are fun (especially when you’re young)… Easter can be either a sugar-laden gorge-fest or a deeply meaningful time of renewal… but Thanksgiving beats them all, hands down, in my book. Thanksgiving2012

There’s something so incredible about a holiday that is simply focused on giving thanks.  There are no expectations of gifts… no other focus than on spending time with family and/or friends… just the plan to BE… and I just love it.  Having my family around me makes me happy… and being able to cook for them, without any distractions or interruptions, gives me more enjoyment than should be allowed by law.

In our family, we have the same meal every year…. it’s our tradition.  I make a  “12-hour turkey” (yes… it really DOES cook for 12 hours), sausage and apple stuffing (half of which goes into the bird), Mimi’s peas, Sweet Potato Casserole, Whipped Turnip Casserole, Homemade cloverleaf rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and at least one version of pumpkin pie.

While we don’t have others around with us that day, the recipes I use bring them to mind each and every time I make them.  Mimi’s peas is a recipe from both my mom and step-mom… a twist on the traditional Green Bean casserole.  The Sweet Potato Casserole recipe came from my dear friend, Jacqui, in our first Navy squadron.  The Turnip casserole is from my mother-in-law and makes me smile each time I make it.  The roll recipe is one from my beloved Aunt Jody, who died when D was only 6 months old.  The Pumpkin pie recipe is also from my MIL – happens to be M’s favorite, so I make it every year so he continues to have ties to his own childhood.

As for that “12-hour turkey”?  I was given that recipe from a woman in MI named Dawna, who made a Thanksgiving dinner for our entire church family every year.  She lovingly shared her recipe with me for being able to cook enough turkeys to feed a hungry congregation and I have been using it ever since. She didn’t stuff her bird (and I’ve been warned every year not to stuff the bird) but I’ve been doing it this way since 1995 and tradition dictates that the bird is stuffed… AND we have a dish of baked stuffing on the side.  Can you ever have too much stuffing?

As you might guess, I now use a written timetable for when every item goes into the oven, what gets microwaved, when the oven temperature gets altered, and what must be made ahead of time to keep me from going insane, but I really do love it.  Knowing that I get to repeat this meal four weeks later for Christmas dinner, is simply icing on the cake for me… call me crazy, but I LOVE it!

Many on Facebook have been taking part in a daily affirmation of thanks for each day of the month… while I think that’s a great idea, I would love to have the time (or attention span) to take that a step further and do a year of daily notes of gratitude.  Can you imagine how much better the world would be if we could simply focus on our blessings in this life instead of complaining about what we don’t have or don’t like or don’t want?

Maybe it’s the “happy yellow lab” in me, but I would like to rearrange my thoughts for the coming year, by focusing on the positive aspects of my life instead of whining about the negative.  I know I have a hard time letting go of things (D’s former Coach M is a prime example… see previous post for that diatribe) but maybe if I can keep a simple journal of thankfulness or gratitude, I can have a better attitude toward life in general.   Even if all I write one night is that I’m grateful that my husband is at home with me… or that my son sent me a text saying “I miss your face”… isn’t that enough to make for a good day?  Are we all expecting too much out of each and every day?  Maybe we have to have those days where the best thing was a simple meal with family to appreciate the truly spectacular times in our lives, whatever they may be.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it makes me remember just how blessed I am and allows me the opportunity to be “mushy” about how grateful I am for those blessings.  Anyone else interested in taking a journey with me?  I’m planning to start on December 1st – just as everyone else finishes their month-long postings of gratitude – and write a line of gratitude each day.  I might not make it every single day, but that’s my plan for the coming year.  I’ll try and remember to check in from time to time… I’d love to see others join me.

Gratitude is a wonderful and powerful thing… I wonder what would happen if we could harness that power to make the world a better place?  Be grateful… and be thankful… and don’t forget to share that with others…

 

 
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