Anniversaries of the Heart

Anniversaries of the heart are days that are forever marked in our memories and heart, and many times experienced silently. Often these anniversaries are connected to loved ones that have passed away. This is one of those days for me — I lost my mother three years ago today.

I still miss her so much and think about her every day. I sometimes see things that remind me of her or recall a memory with her and feel a wave of emotion. There are even days that I pick up the phone to call her, only to remember that she won’t be on the other end of the line.

Time does help heal, but there are days that it hits me more than others. Her birthday, holidays, and the anniversary of her death are all times that strike more of an emotional chord. I have lost a lot of people in my life, but I think there is something different about losing your mom. In fact, over the last few days I have had several conversations with women who have lost their mothers, and they both echoed the sentiment that although it is really hard when anyone you know and love dies, there really is something different about losing your mom.

I am grateful for the time I had with my mom, but as most people would probably say, I wish I had had more time. When her health first started declining, I made it a point to learn as much as I could about her, and leave nothing unsaid. I asked her questions about her life growing up, about my childhood and other things I just wanted to know about her. I told her things that I loved and appreciated about her, and memories of special times in my life. I cherish all of the conversations I had with my mom, and the richer relationship we had in the end as a result.

As the day marking this anniversary of my heart comes to a close, I thought Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem was especially poignant and meaningful.

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,
When the full river of feeling overflows;–
The happy days unclouded to their close;
The sudden joys that out of darkness start
As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart
Like swallows singing down each wind that blows!
White as the gleam of a receding sail,
White as a cloud that floats and fades in air,
White as the whitest lily on a stream,
These tender memories are;–a fairy tale
Of some enchanted land we know not where,
But lovely as a landscape in a dream.

–HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW

 

 

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The 100K Milestone

100,000 miles. I watched as my car’s odometer recently added the additional digit and flipped to reveal 100,000. It was hard for me to believe this day had arrived. It seemed like we drove my brand new car home from the dealership just yesterday. But, it wasn’t yesterday, it was five years ago.

It struck me how my concept of time with car ownership ran parallel to being a parent. I often hear myself say that I can’t believe my children are already 16 and 13 years old. Clearly, I have traveled many miles as a parent since the days they were born, but in my heart and in my sentimental memory, it feels like yesterday.

In my mind, I can instantly return to the moment we brought our son home. I remember sitting his sweet self, all cozy in his car seat, on the chair in our family room, and thinking of how excited I was to begin this new chapter of life. The concept of him being “grown” felt 100,000+ miles away. I felt the same when we brought our daughter home three years later.

Fast forward several years, and today a typical scenario in my home includes my son saying, “See ya, Mom” as he grabs the car keys to drive to his part time job or pick up his girlfriend to go out on a date, while my daughter asks if I will drop her off at the theater so she can meet her friends to see a movie. A big change in what feels like a short window of time.

I thought about all the miles my family has traveled in my car over the last five years. I reflected on the many trips we have made to and from school, ballgames, practices, ballet classes, cello and piano lessons, church, family and friend’s homes, performances, recitals, doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, drug store, and school programs. I remembered happy times of fun vacations and weekend trips. I remembered last minute trips to purchase poster board or other necessary items for school projects or school trips. I remembered these trips and countless others.

Each one of the 100,000 miles we have traveled in my car represents a small piece of family history experienced over the last five years. I am reminded of the saying, “it is the journey, not the destination that matters.” My car has arrived at many destinations over the last five years, but I found the special memories were in the journeys along the way. I look forward to all the future journeys my family will take in my car as it travels towards the next mileage milestone, and my children continue to grow towards adulthood. May we all embrace the journey of each mile we travel in life, because it does go by way too fast.

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You Never Know

We arrived at the island airport feeling relaxed and rejuvenated after a great vacation. We immediately noticed that the small ticket counter area was filled with stifling lines of suitcase laden, sunburned travelers that wound around several times and back out the side of the open fronted building. It was easy to assume that most of the travelers were irritable and impatient. Our vacation state of mind was in jeopardy.

As I repositioned my roll-on suitcase, I accidentally bumped into the woman standing behind us. I apologized, but the look on her face in response was severe. She let out an audible sigh of what I thought was disgust. However, when I looked into her eyes to issue an apology, I saw pain and sadness, not anger. The exchange took less than five seconds, but as I turned to reclaim my place in line, I realized that my assumption that the woman was angry didn’t feel right. Something else was wrong.

When our line started moving forward, I turned to the woman and commented on how nice it was that we were finally making progress. She nodded and looked at me, but now with tears in her eyes. I asked her if she was okay, and she shared that a few hours earlier she received a call letting her know that her mother passed away. This devastating news put her in a state of grief and shock, cut short a special two-week vacation with her youngest daughter and put her in the position of revising travel arrangements with short notice.

Later, as I sat on the plane, I thought about how I had misjudged this woman. She was sad, not angry. I thought about how often we make incorrect assumptions about people and what is going on in their lives. I also thought about how we sometimes misjudge our children (teens, too) and think they are being difficult and defiant when they may be tired, hungry, stressed or upset.

I think it is important to be aware of the judgements we make about people. Maybe we could all make more of an effort to be understanding, and open to the possibility that the emotion people share on the surface may not represent what is going on with them internally. Maybe this shift will help us all be more empathetic, and change our reactions and interactions with others, for the positive. Imagine the good that could come from such a simple change.

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Looking For The Good

I was listening to NPR in my car one afternoon, and thinking about all the tragedy our world has experienced in recent months. As I approached a stoplight, I listened as the announcer reported yet another horrible, sad story. At that same time, I looked up and noticed a man at the corner, waiting for the city bus. He was exuberantly dancing and apparently singing. I opened my window and heard him singing what seemed to be a song of praise in a loud, powerful and jubilant voice. I clearly heard him sing a line about hope and joy. Interestingly, he didn’t appear to be listening to music on a phone or any other device. The music he heard was coming from within, and he was sharing it enthusiastically, with voice and body.

The juxtaposition of this moment struck me. Even in the midst of all the negative news, there is always hope. There is always joy. There is always good.

It is easy to get bogged down in the negative news that crosses our path on a daily, if not hourly basis. Stories from across the globe of wars, crime, tragedies, natural disasters, homelessness, political discontent and other depressing topics are everywhere we turn. The “instant information” world we live in can be both a blessing and a curse. I have a friend that “quit” television and newspapers a number of years ago because she grew weary of all the negative news. At first I was surprised at her decision, but later recognized the merit in her thinking.

Despite what it may seem like sometimes, there is a lot of positive news. There are a number of websites and efforts devoted only to positive news and finding the good in our world. A few examples of positive news outlets are:  www.dailygood.org, goodnewsnetwork.org, http://www.positivity.org and http://www.happynews.com. I have added a few of these websites to my Favorites Bar, and I encourage you to consider doing the same.

The negative news can’t help but affect us, especially our children. Their perception of the world is still being shaped. I think we have an obligation to the younger generations to help them find the positive in our world, and in their day-to-day lives. I also think we should encourage them to seek opportunities to help make a difference in our world, and to show compassion and kindness to others so they can be part of the good news.

There is always hope. There is always joy. There is always good. Whether at an event with thousands of people or at a city bus stop, the good is out there. Let’s all help each other find it, each and every day.

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A Mother’s Unconditional Love… Even for Furry Children

I recently picked up our English Cream Golden Retriever after a spring break stay at the kennel. When I saw her, I immediately felt something wasn’t quite right. She seemed to be her sweet, lovable self, but my intuition told me something was off. Later that day, it was clear that she didn’t feel well and something was wrong. As the day wore on, her condition worsened. By the next morning I had been outside with her no less than ten times during the night, and cleaned up various areas inside our house. I was exhausted, having seen each hour on the clock pass, but more than that, I was worried about our furry child.

As I waited patiently for the vet’s office to open, I remember thinking that as moms (not to exclude dads, but I can only speak to what I know) we constantly think (some may say worry) about our children, and do what we need to do to take care of them. We push through what might seem hard or impossible, whether it is giving baths in the wee hours to help allay high fevers, or finding just the right words to convince the doctor’s office to squeeze in another patient early in a tight schedule. We don’t question, we just do it. We mother at all hours of the day and night, pushing aside our schedules and needs, just because that is what we do. Of course, we would prefer to get sleep or not have to cancel an important meeting, but our children take precedent.

I had liked dogs before Lexi came into our lives, but wouldn’t have called myself a huge animal lover. I grew up with dogs and all kinds of other pets (guinea pig, birds, cat, hamsters, fish, etc.), but never spent a lot of time caring for or loving on them. That all changed when we got Lexi.

After my all night experience with Lexi, I realize that a mother’s unconditional love can even extend to furry children. I did whatever I needed to do to take care of Lexi. After many tests, several medications, a special diet and some TLC, Lexi is thankfully back to her normal, sweet self. And yes, I even slept in a sleeping bag on the kitchen floor with her the night after she came home from her day-long visit at the vet. She needed to be cordoned off in a small area and have a close eye kept on her for the first 24 hours. No, I didn’t sleep well, but that didn’t matter. I did what I needed to do for our Lexi. That’s what moms do.🙂

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Fifty by Fifty

I recently celebrated my birthday and ushered in the last year of my 40’s. The truth is, I had a pretty difficult time turning 40, so when it hit me that this was the year leading up to welcoming a new decade, I decided I wanted to be proactive and hopefully better prepared mentally and emotionally when the big 5-0 rolls around.

Many of my friends have turned 50 without issue or experiencing anything other than celebration. Some friends have even expressed that it was a non event in their lives. My husband turned 50 a few years ago, and on his 49th birthday he made a decision to pave the way for the big event by celebrating the entire year leading up to turning 50. He even called it “The Year of Lee.” During this year, my husband set out to do all the things he had always wanted to do. A bucket list of sorts. He took scuba diving lessons, learned to fly an airplane, went on trips, sporting events, and all kinds of other things he deemed important and significant. By the time his 50th birthday arrived, he felt ready to embrace the new decade with gusto.

My approach to embracing the upcoming new decade is similar, but different to my husband’s. I have created a list of 50 things I want to do by the time I reach my 50th birthday, but they aren’t necessarily big bucket list items. And, I am not sharing my list with anyone other than myself. My list is about me, for me. My list is comprised of things that are important to me, goals to reach, things to do or incorporate in my life, and maybe a few “out of the box” ideas here and there. I feel like this experience will give me more of an opportunity to be introspective and intentional about life; where I am and where I want to be in this next season. My hope is that by the time I turn 50, I will have worked through all the challenging feelings that will surely accompany this event, but more than anything, I will be well prepared and already on track to enjoy my 50’s to the fullest. So, here’s to my fifty by fifty!

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The Gift of Gratitude in The New Year

Today marks the beginning of a new year, and is traditionally a time when many people make resolutions for the year ahead. If you are someone that likes resolutions and find that they work for you, that is great. I’m just not one of them. I start with great intentions, but somehow my effort wanes. I decided to try something different this year. Instead of making resolutions, today I am starting a practice of gratitude. My goal is to commit to a year or longer, but my initial goal is to commit to thirty days of practicing gratitude. My thought is that thirty days is doable, while a year feels a little daunting. My hope is that a thirty day gratitude practice yields such positive results that I will continue my practice beyond the thirty days with ease.

I started thinking about gratitude practices and what they might look like a long time ago. I have had fleeting experiences practicing gratitude, but never committed to a daily time of acknowledging gratitude for my life and all that encompassed it. Recently, I have been reading more and more about gratitude, and seeing messages for the positives of being grateful “pop” up in the most unusual of places in my daily life. I decided that it was no accident that the message of being grateful was making itself known in my life. I took it as a sign that I was to do something about it, and not just say, “how nice” and move on. My “doing something about it” is to start a gratitude practice in 2015.

Gratitude is such a simple word, yet it truly carries more meaning and impact than we realize. Scientific research has shown that gratitude holds the power to change our lives in extraordinary ways. Researchers across the globe have conducted studies to determine the positive benefits gratitude can have on people, and the results are consistently impressive.

In these studies, participants are asked to keep a daily gratitude journal over a specified period of time, and record the things in their life for which they are grateful. At the conclusion of these studies, researchers found that participants reported an increase in their level of happiness, a decrease in stress and depression, improved and sometimes transformed relationships, an increase in energy levels, relief from anxiety, lower blood pressure, a stronger desire to help others, and greater progress toward achieving personal goals. An exciting revelation about these studies is that the many benefits achieved through practicing gratitude seem to be not only profound, but long lasting as well. Scientists believe that practicing gratitude actually re-wires the brain and allows the world to be processed differently. In short, practicing gratitude is really good for you!

We have so many things in life to be grateful for, but we often don’t take the time to intentionally acknowledge them. I would like to invite you to join me and begin or renew a practice of gratitude, and recognize all the many benefits it can offer you and your life. Begin by setting aside time every day when you can be alone and quiet. You may want to light a candle (one idea is to select a special candle as your gratitude candle, and use it just during this quiet time) and allow yourself a few minutes to get centered and clear your mind. When you are ready, list at least ten things you are grateful for that day in a journal or notebook of your choice (you can even name it your Gratitude Journal). Repeat this practice each day for at least thirty days, and then assess the difference it has made in your life.

I look forward to seeing what a difference having a practice of gratitude makes in my life, and hope that it makes a significant difference in your life as well. My hope is that we will all be impressed by the results, and make practicing gratitude a long-term addition this year and in years to come.

“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

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