Tag Archives: something to think about

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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Filed under Gratitude, moms, Something to think about

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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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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The Power of a Moment

It was the summer of 1974 and I had just completed the first grade. My mother, brother, sister and I had recently moved into an apartment sans my father. My parents had recently separated, and all had changed in my world. One afternoon while my younger brother and sister were off playing in other areas of our apartment, I was curled up reading a book in the living room. My mom invited me to join her beside the large, console stereo that sat behind our sofa. She was sitting in front of the open cabinet doors, flipping through a stack of albums. My mom loved music, and had a wide variety of albums by artists that reflected her varied taste. She invited me me to sit beside her and told me she had something special she wanted me to hear. Holding up the album cover so I could see it, she said, “This is one of my favorites, and I want to play you something on it.” I hadn’t remembered seeing this cover before. She carefully took the album from its white paper sleeve, secured it on the turntable, and flipped on the power switch. She placed the needle carefully on the correct track, then looked at me and said, “This is Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. Listen. Music like this always tells a story. Close your eyes and see what story comes to your mind with each part. Just listen.”

As the music wafted through the air, I watched my mom lean her body back against the stereo cabinet, close her eyes and smile a soft smile. I sat still, listened to the music and reflected on her words from a six-year-old’s perspective. As I watched, it seemed as though the music had taken her away to a special, happy place where all was right and good. I liked that.

It was around that same time that I started taking piano lessons. A friend had given my mom some old piano music. Among the collection was a book of classical music for earlier/intermediate piano students. She opened that book to page 51 — Theme from Piano Concerto No 1 by Tchaikovsky, and told me that she would love it if I would learn how to play it.

That initial moment and the one that followed held great significance for me, although I wouldn’t recognize the significance until many years later. I grew up secretly loving classical music since it wasn’t “cool” for an adolescent or teenager to admit such a thing. After several years of taking piano lessons, I was finally ready to learn this special piece of music and honor my mom’s request. Unfortunately, not long after I really started learning it, I had to stop taking lessons due to unforeseen circumstances. I eventually learned this piece on my own, but it was never as polished as I would have liked or it should have been. Despite this being the case, each time I played it, my mom would look into the living room and smile that same soft smile at me. She never said anything, just smiled. I smiled back, knowing that we understood each other and the memories that understanding held.

Many years later, my daughter started taking piano lessons. This prompted me to think about taking lessons again. For my initial assessment, I played for my ever-patient and wonderful teacher, a rather crude rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I remember telling my mom this, and she seemed proud and happy that I had started taking lessons again, and would be playing this piece.

Fast forward to an afternoon in the early fall of this year. I looked through the mail and saw that our season tickets for the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks Concerts had arrived. I read through the season program, and noticed that the program for the November concert would feature Igor Kamenz, a brilliant and very accomplished pianist, performing, yes, you guessed it, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I could hardly wait for the concert date. The anticipation of hearing this piece performed live was equivalent to Christmas morning to me as a child.

As Mr. Kamenz approached the piano at center stage, I felt the emotion build within me. I sat mesmerized as his fingers danced across the piano keys and the orchestra joined him to beautifully perform this piece in full splendor. Tears formed in my eyes and my heart swelled with the memory of the many times my mom looked in on me as I  played the much simpler version of this piece, but especially with the memory of that initial moment when she invited me to listen to this piece for the first time. Just the two of us, sitting on the floor by the console stereo when I watched her take in the music, and she invited me to do the same. It was a powerful memory. A powerful moment.

You never know when something as small as inviting someone to listen to music will make an impact. I invite you to remain open to all the seemingly insignificant moments in our life, especially with our children. You never know when a moment will really matter and make a true difference that will last a lifetime.

I don’t think my mom ever realized the power of that moment we shared, but I know I do and always will.

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A Lesson From The Geese

Yes, a lesson from the geese. I know it sounds strange, but I have learned over the years that life lessons can be found in the most unlikely places. A recent life lesson came to me one afternoon from a gaggle of geese as I hurried to pick my daughter up from school.

As I drove along the road leading to my daughter’s school, I noticed the geese a few hundred yards ahead walking along the side of the road. When I got closer, the leader turned and started walking across the street. The others naturally followed. I quickly realized that I couldn’t pass them before they were in the middle of the street, so I stopped and waited for them to cross. And waited. And waited. And waited.

I have never seen such a slow crossing of geese in my life. They took their sweet time, even pausing midway for a rest. At first I was extremely irritated as I didn’t want to wait for them to saunter across the street; I had children to pick up (child #2 to be picked up at an area high school) and music lessons to get to on time. However, once I accepted the fact that I had no choice but to wait, I put my car in park, opened my windows, turned off the radio, and shifted my paradigm. I decided to be still and enjoy the moment. I took several deep breaths. A gentle breeze blew the crisper air of fall into my car. Leaves softly flew through the air, just released from roadside trees that had turned gorgeous shades of bright orange and red. It was a beautiful, peaceful moment. One I wouldn’t have had if it had not been for the geese.

I thought about how difficult it seems in our busy lives to actually take a moment, or two, to be still and take in life. To just “be” and nothing more. The minutes I spent waiting for the geese actually  filled my spirit more that day than I could have ever expected.

I was reminded that our children need moments to “just be” as well. I sometimes notice each of my children laying across their beds staring into space. I think they are naturally doing what adults need to be reminded of– they are being still and just “being.”

This is the time of year when things start ramping up activity-wise. On top of normal schedules, we add holiday shopping, parties, festive events, and entertaining to the mix of our already busy lives. While all of these things are fun and enjoyable, they can still add stress and busyness to already hectic schedules. Let’s all take time each day to be still and just “be.” Even if it is just for five minutes, take the time.

Oh, and if you don’t feel like you have the time to be still and take a moment, don’t be surprised if a gaggle of geese cross your path and give you the opportunity to experience this life lesson when you least expect it. If that happens, embrace the moment. You will be glad you did! 🙂

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Forever Marked: Memories of 9/11

In the last day or so, I have noticed many people posting/tweeting about 9/11/01. As a nation, we don’t want to forget, and we shouldn’t. People are sharing where they were, who they were with, and encouraging all to always remember the thousands of people that lost their lives that day. I remember my mother telling me that there would be several days in my lifetime that I will forever remember, in addition to the “big” days like graduation, my wedding, and the birth of my children. She said that these days will undoubtedly make an indelible mark on my memory– I would always remember exactly where I was, who I was with, and how I was feeling. Among her significant days were the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the day Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon. 9/11 is one of those days for  me.

A particularly significant event in my life happened at the exact time a plane hit one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. I was with my husband at my OB/GYN. I was several months pregnant with our second child, and the purpose of that day’s visit was to hear the heartbeat of my baby for the first time. The doppler was on my belly when the door of my exam room opened and a nurse leaned inside. The fast-paced thump thump thump thump of my sweet daughter’s heart echoed through the room at the exact time the nurse said, with a look of horror in her eyes, “an airplane just crashed into the World Trade Center!” Fear and disbelief along with excitement and joy raced through me at the same moment. The memory and the  juxtaposition of these two events will be with me forever.

I believe that most everyone knows someone or knows of someone that has some connection with 9/11. In today’s world, six degrees of separation is several too many. I think it is more like two to three degrees. Whether they once worked at the twin towers, Pentagon, or the airlines, knew someone that did, or were connected with one of the people that worked to rescue victims or clean up the rubble for the many months following, I believe most everyone has a connection to that day in one way or another. My husband worked at a law firm in one of the towers years ago, my sister-in-law lost a relative and friend, one of the flight attendants was from my area, and a friend lost her next door neighbor. My list could go on and on. I’m sure yours could as well.

9/11 is one of those days my mother told me about. I will never forget that moment. That day. The loss of life and the beginning of life. Each year I pause, as many of us do, and remember. I give thanks for the gift of life and mourn the sacrifice of life. I appreciate the fragility of life, and am pulled back to the place of remembering the importance of each and every day. Both the big things and the little things that make up the fullness of life. Remembering our most precious commodity, time. Time doing the things that matter. Time with those we love. Time. Embrace it, and never forget.

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Having a Dream and Making a Difference

I have shared another version of this story in the past, but it is worth repeating…

I remember the day like yesterday– January 16, 1995.  I had just woken up and was preparing for my day while my husband of a few months still slept, or so I thought.  I was in the kitchen when I heard a booming voice from our bedroom say, “I have a dream!”  I looked toward the bedroom and wondered if my husband was talking in his sleep.  I waited for a second, and hearing nothing more, I went back to what I was doing.  A minute later, I heard the voice again, “I have a dream that one day…”  He definitely had my attention and he wasn’t talking in his sleep.  I walked into our bedroom and saw him sitting in bed, holding a book by Martin Luther King, Jr.  open to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  When my husband saw me walk into our bedroom, he cleared his throat and started reciting the speech from the beginning, in as much character as he could muster.  He read the entire speech as I stood there watching.  After he finished, he closed the book, then looked up at me and said, “It’s Martin Luther King Day you know?  He has always been one of my heroes.  I read his speech to you in honor of him, what he stood for, and all that he did.”

Wow.  My husband definitely caught me off guard, which he likes to do.  At first I didn’t know what to think.  Now, after eighteen more years of powerful renditions of the “I Have a Dream” speech, I too have come to understand and respect even more all that Martin Luther King did to make a difference in our country.

A few years ago my husband and I were in Washington, DC, and we took the time to visit the Lincoln Memorial.  After reading the Gettysburg address inscribed in the walls of the memorial, we stood in the exact spot where Dr. King gave his renowned speech.  It was powerful to be at the memorial of one of my favorite presidents, but add to that the opportunity to imagine what it might have been like for Dr. King to look out over a sea of people covering the mall, listening to his poignant words…well, it was amazing.  I thought again about how much this man accomplished during his life, and what a difference he made.

I think one of the things that impresses me the most about Dr. King is the fact that he believed strongly that one person could make a difference, and he was willing to devote his life to standing up for what he believed was right.  As parents, I believe we can all make an effort to encourage our children to stand up for what they believe is right.  I am concerned that many young people don’t have much drive and passion about things that really matter.  I know there are many youth to whom this characterization doesn’t fit, but overall there is clearly room for our youth to improve.  It is important to have passion.  To have conviction.  To be willing to make a stand.  To make a difference.  It is our responsibility to share stories of the great leaders like Dr. King, so our children can understand what standing up to make a difference looks like in our history.

Today is a perfect day to start the conversation with our children about living a life that models the good things that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood for, and all he and other leaders before him and since did to make a difference in this world.  Maybe our children will be inspired and carry that into their future, and their children’s future.  Now, that would be a great thing.

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