Joy

I just reviewed my past blogs, and mind blown…not a single one written on the presence of joy.  I have experienced so much joy in my life it boggles my mind what I’ve not written about it before.  I’ve found great joy in a new career that gives Hope to so many, in the new life as an empty nester and the introspective and relational conversations with my husband, in watching a fierce granddaughter as she discovers who she is and share her joy and love, walking alongside my son as he investigates and explores this big, wide world, running and hanging with friends as they discover who they were meant to be, and in the midst of this world through the eyes of my daughter.

So much Joy and so many definitions.  It’s hard to not feel joy on a daily basis, we just have to let it in.  I’ve been watching this younger generation of millennials, Gen Y, whatever you call them.  Sometimes I shake my head (especially when working with them) and recently I have been intrigued by their focus.   This year my daughter specifically asked for experiences, a membership to the zoo, the children’s museum or the local garden.  My first reaction was…easy, my second was interesting… as I perused the web in search of membership information.  I saw pictures of families with smiles, spending time together, sometimes learning, mostly hanging.  I remember growing up without experiencing zoos and museums, but experiencing the same thing…memories.  Sundays were days spent at our grandparents, visiting….seeing cousins and aunts and uncles, watching adults laugh and talk and exploring the generous woods of my grandparents.  I learned to hike, work, shoot a gun, row a boat, ride a horse, get along with others, handle confrontation…I learned growing up and socialization.  Those days are behind us, as time marches on our society has changed.  The things my daughter really didn’t experience because I was in the fight for a career that caused me to travel and work really hard, she is holding dear to her heart.  The time we spent together was as a family unit, traveling, competing, learning and growing, whereas my youth was spent with in the company of my entire family.   I have watched my son expand his social circle with like-minded friends, an initiation of sorts, after attending a huge high school surrounded by hundreds of classmates he whittled out a great, caring, strong group of friends.  People he enjoys spending time with and from what I can tell, have his back.  These two have developed their extended family units, like-minded people hanging.  Whether it’s in a zoo, or at home playing Fortnight, it’s really about socializing and being together.

tidy

I wasn’t feeling well this weekend and decided to binge on Netflix.  One of my friends had shared her experience with “Tidying” and I decided to take a peek at what was happening.   At first it seemed trivial, thanking things for serving you and then moving on.  Even the gal on the episode seemed perplexed. It can’t be that easy to let things go.  Can it?  I watched and was transformed into a believer.  My take-away, it’s about the memories.  Last week my granddaughter was here and at 16 months she is quite the explorer.  She opened by dry sink and to her delight it was stacked with a million things she could get her chubby little hand on.  Mom was worried, I wasn’t….let her at it, there is nothing she can harm.  As I watched all this TV “Tidying” my mind went to the dry sink.  What in the world is in there that I am so attached to and why?  I opened it and began thanking linens and trinkets and “things” for their service and was amazed at how easily I could determine those things that brought me joy.  It wasn’t in the linens my mom gave me, it was in the hand written note that accompanied them, it wasn’t in the million (yes million) books I own and have read, it was in the inscription by someone I loved.  It wasn’t in the things, it was in the memories.  The day went on and I made it through clothes, dressers, papers, pictures, books….and I was amazed.  The joy I felt in letting go of material things and realizing the joy I felt in the memory of others was extraordinary.   I reached out to Brooke to ask her to thank Lydia and through our conversation realized that Brooke had done this prior to having Lydia. Well of course, doggone millennials….so far ahead of us in what’s actually important.  As we talked she introduced me to “Hygge”.  Wait, there is more? Thank goodness for Google!

Hygge is the Dutch revolution surrounding coziness and comfort.  My definition, enjoying the moment and being able to enjoy the simple things in life.  Suddenly that beautiful tea-cup my daughter got me two years ago became front and center.  Why was it on the shelf, why wasn’t I using it to drinking hot tea, snuggled up reading or writing?  The realization…..joy isn’t in the things we own, its in the time we spend.. alone or with good friends, drinking out of a china tea cup or exploring the children’s museum, reading notes or looking at pictures, discovering nature or hanging with besties.

It’s about being content where we are, knowing there may be more, and understanding that dark days will surround us.   Knowing that we require love, support and spirituality to get through the good days and the bad days.  The hope that joy will provide us with the umph to get through the yuck and the smiles to keep us joyful.  I have had some yucky days this week, but by far the joy has outshined the yuck.

I made my resolution word this year on January 1 to be “present”.  Ha!  Long before I watched Marie Kondo teach me to be joyfully tidy I was on to something. I knew I needed to be present in the experience, that the “stuff” I need are people who love me, people I enjoy being with, experiences and Him.  The down side, I realized there are things and people I don’t need.  I realized that I can thank the past or the “thing” for all it has done for me, I can put it away or give it away and move on with joy. I know that I have learned a great deal from those people and “things” and I thank them, but I am moving on.  I’m not getting caught in the day-to-day drama you bring, the joy breaking you provide, the hope that you will drag me in to your  stuff.  I want to be there for you, honestly I do, when you reach out in joy and love and hope, I will walk beside you.  When you reach out to hurt, neglect or tramp on my joy or the joy of others I will walk away.

I’ve watched older people (frankly I fall into that category now, but refuse to see the joy in that!), purge and get rid of things,  Today, I get it.  Let me pass that joy to you, because it brought me such great joy.  I’m not doing that.  Brooke and Ty aren’t getting this stuff, stuff they have to keep because mom gave it to them.  But they will get the memories I want to share, and those things that brought me great joy.  They can decide someday if it brings them the same joy or if they can let it go.  They will decide their joy, as I will decide mine.

Tidying, Hygge, Joy, Life, Memories.  We are never too old to look at life through the lens of those around us and grow and thrive.  2019 is the year of presence and joy for me, thank God and be happy in it.

These things I have spoken to you, that my Joy may bein you, and that your Joy may be full. -John 15:11

Joy

 

 

Opportunity

“We will open the book.  Its pages are blank.  We are going to put words on them ourselves.  The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

~ Edith Lovejoy Pierce

 

Social media is overflowing with games and quizzes to find out your “word” for the year, I took the quiz and my word was success.  Friends commented they got change.  Others state their hope for the New Year with how they hope the year will be summed up in one word with words like joy, believe, hope and love.  But it really all boils down to opportunity.  The New Year is robust with opportunity whether it is a new career, closeness with family, moving forward, having balance, falling in love or losing a few pounds.  It’s true, the year is a new book with blank pages.

As I look back on 2018 I see so many ways in which I personally grew,  sometimes shoved and pushed into growth, other times wandering right into it.  But always accepting an opportunity.  Change doesn’t just happen, we see it, embrace it and make it ours.  We can think we have earned change or even say it’s about time for change, but without opportunity for change, accepting it, and living it,  it simply won’t happen.

This year for me was nothing but change.  Some days I wonder how it all happened, other days I wonder how I made it, and on the best of days I marvel at how it all happened and the joy it has brought me.  I have changed careers, embraced the role of grandma, sent my son off to college and become an empty nester.  Yikes, nothing but opportunity!  The opportunity has been alive with fear and tears, with joy and laughter, with a clenched fist and with hands folded in prayer, but a life full of opportunity to fill those blank pages.

I think Edith is on to something.  The blank pages of the year are ours to fill.  We can spend that time in ourselves or we can spend it outside of ourselves, focusing on a full life.  A life we choose.  I urge you…that if you are in a place where you don’t find joy…take the opportunity to find that elusive emotion.  When you do, you will begin to fill the blank pages of your journal with opportunity.  The words begin to flow and the opportunities line themselves up when we let go of what should be or what has been and embrace what could be.

If you would have asked me last January where I would be, I would never have guessed I would be in this place.  This place where life feels balanced, where God is good, where family is everything and where peace has been found.  The opportunity that was thrust on me was not one I was seeking, for sure.  I had a mentor who always used to tell me he had an “opportunity” for me, it always turned out to be some awful task I didn’t want to confront…but it always provided experience that I needed and an opportunity for growth. That was what was thrust on me, the opportunity to embrace this awful task and make a great life.  When I embraced where I was and realized God put me right where I should be, a place where I was afraid to go on my own, but a place I knew I should be.  When I embraced his plan, the opportunities abounded.

That’s my definition of opportunity. growth.  For me growth can be so hard sometimes, even when I know that opportunity is always rewarding.  Watching your kids fight for something they want, an opportunity, and watch it come within their grasp is rewarding.  Watching that same child navigate through the valleys  and the struggles of life becomes an opportunity as well  All are forms of growth, and all shape our lives.

The New Year provides us with hope, and the opportunities we aspire to are those of positive change and forward movement.  But I am here to say, the best opportunities are in the storm.  Those times when we batten down the hatches, lose that smile, narrow that gaze and stride forward with purpose.  Those times we are sure we won’t ever survive this, but bow our head in prayer and believe.  Those are the times when we learn the most about us and those who surround us…..when the opportunities are numbered and we make a choice, hopeful we chose the right one.  The beauty is, we had an opportunity and we made a choice.  We grabbed it and we ran, and we believed and we tried and we succeeded.

The lesson is, without understanding who you are, without working hard, really hard, without believing in yourself, without persevering, without leaving the naysayers behind… we will never grasp that opportunity and fill that blank page.

As you head into 2019, plan for sure, write down those resolutions, use a word to be your guide….. but without taking the opportunity, moving ahead and actually taking those steps, it will be just another year where we make promises to ourselves and cheat ourselves out of filling that book with the beautiful dreams of our lives.

So yes, success is what Facebook says my word is, and I believe the word is  present, but my friend Edith and my sister Jen who sent me the quote are spot on, it’s all about opportunity.  In two days I open a fresh journal with the opportunity to make the year awesome, won’t you join me?
opportunity runneropporunity ask
opportunity door

 

 

December 26

Today, it’s just a hard one.  For many it’s a day full of joy as they wrap up the holidays, packing away the memories and move on to the New Year.  For other’s it’s difficult.  That’s where I am, well really…right smack in the middle.   Christmas has always been my most favorite holiday.  A childhood of the best ever Christmases, with tons of gifts, time with cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents who we saw all the time.  A festive dinner, that took forever to get through and was followed by a huge exchange of presents.  Eclipsing that memory is one that just won’t ever seem to go away.  And I suppose it’s time to say in a matter of fact way, that it won’t.

 

The memories start on Christmas Eve in 2012.  We are in Florida with all the kids for what we know will be Ma’s last Christmas.  In late June she had been diagnosed with cancer and in her resolute way, she was good with it.  I was spending a ton of time in Florida and Jen and I were as prepared as we were going to be for what was lying ahead.  A few weeks earlier my dad, who had Alzheimer’s (like Alzheimer’s on steriod’s…in September we laughed, in November he didn’t know me) passed away and as we all say, “it was for the best.”  Years of telling us “if he ever lost his mind, he wanted to die,” was a morbid wish come true.   Caught off guard, we kids realized immediately the power of our emotions and the mysterious fog of death,  So on Christmas Eve we were bound and determined to have the best Christmas dinner  and celebration ever.  And we did.  Ma ate like never before, the kids all had time alone with her to catch up,  we opened some awesome gifts and laughed, just like we always did… it seemed like every other year.  The next day was Christmas and Brooke and Lee were headed back to Ohio and we really had no plans for that day. A day full of relaxation in sunny Florida sounded awesome!

After dinner at a diner, due to our poor meal planning,  I headed back to Ma’s to see her. Think Christmas Story without the goose.  I was worried for whatever reason, and I only had a few days left in Florida so time spent with her was important.  The boys went to the hotel and Jen went home for some well deserved rest and time with Charlie’s kids.

Ma was in a state when I arrived, and it was clear she was overwhelmed, anxious and extremely out of breath.  We got her to bed and she commanded me to be back at 7:05 am the next day.  Commands the correct word, if you know Ma…there is no other definition needed.  I headed back to the hotel and prepared for our last day in Florida.

The next morning I hustled over to her house and walked in her room at 705 am.  She told me she was going to die that day at 930, and yeah I kind of freaked out. Since my big sister is the smart one, I called her and she called hospice and I waited and waited.  There was no talking about Ma’s illness, so the neighbors really had no idea what was happening inside her house.  We made it through 930 so I was sure Ma was just totally overwhelmed and breathed a sigh of relief. That day drug on, I read everything I could about dying in the literature we had received from hospice months earlier and sunned myself in the front yard.   In the back of my mind I was worried about the days ahead, and Jen on her own with Ma.  What I didn’t realize was she was no longer taking her meds, and so things were just happening in a crazy fast fashion. She was irritable and mean, I can say that because it’s true…and she had me driving to the drug store and other errands throughout the day.

When Jen arrived later that afternoon, we bathed Ma, fed her strawberries and champagne, watched Brooke’s wedding video from July and talked as Ma quietly stared out the window.  It was peaceful and eerie.  After Jen left,  I settled in to watch the Kennedy Awards, my annual cultural event, and asked Ma if she wanted company or wanted to watch TV.  She didn’t want either, and her breathing was beginning to labor.

Jen had been in contact with hospice and we were all sure they would be arriving the next day to attend to Ma, they assured us she would be fine.  Dinner was a wine cooler and cheese and every once in a while I called out to Ma, checking in.  She wasn’t really answering and the breathing was louder.  At about 940 I realized the noise had stopped.  The women who taught me every single thing I know, had passed away.  Yep, she knew exactly when she was passing, and for whatever reason we didn’t believe it.  It’s a whirlwind after that,  I called my family, and called my best friend who was in the midst of celebrating her son’s birthday….and she talked to me until Charlie arrived.  I opened doors and windows for whatever reason and cried about my loss and heaven’s gain.

Earlier I had urged Randy to take Ty home as I didn’t want him to see Ma this way, and now he arrived to see his grandma gone.  The only sensible one in the group, he reminded us that Ma wanted her dog with her, so he got Sophie and they said a fond farewell.  We prayed Ma to heaven and the one thing that we had not heard in years in that house was silence.  The oxygen machine was off, and we sat in the kitchen waiting for the funeral home to come.  It was nightmarish.  It was surreal.

Ma had the Christmas she wanted, she ate and laughed and enjoyed her grandkids.  She died on her terms, we all should be so lucky.  And we knew it was coming, maybe not as quickly as it did, but we knew.

So why is it so hard to recount, and think about?  Why does death put us in this fog, why does the knowledge that a wonderful woman like my mom is with her Savior cause us such heartache?  Some day’s the memories are unbearable, other days I find myself laughing about something she once had said to me. Some day’s I want to pick up the phone and tell her about my day, the fun news and sad news, the gossip and the facts.   Other days I want to argue about politics with her, and laugh about her latest escapade with my sister.  I want to cry with her when I lose my job and I want to cry with her when I celebrate the birth of my granddaughter.  I want her to be here for graduation and tell her how proud we are of Ty, and I want to argue with her about how great of a parent I really am.  I want to argue and I want to agree, I want to reminisce and I want to create more memories.

We say, “remember the memories, cherish those times as you grieve.”  Well dammit, I want more, I want her here and I want to share everything with her.  I talk to her all the time, whenever I take a walk, whenever I think of something I am sure she would want to know.  I cry with her about the things I can’t fix, and laugh knowing that she is so happy that I am in a new job…I sometimes wonder if she was behind me losing my job.  She hated that place, and as many of you know, Ma never held back her feelings.  It’s the part of her I thankfully inherited, along with my legs! I learned its okay to be me.

Maybe that’s what I miss.  The memories of real conversation, conversation that puts you in your place, conversation that affirms your thoughts, conversation that was real and if you were offended, well you probably deserved it.  I miss the refreshingly smart woman who was my mom, the stubborn woman that she became, and the affectionate woman who loved each of us dearly.

And there you have it.  The hardest part of her death, is the memories.  The wonderful memories far outshine the sad memories, without a doubt.  Those memories we craft each holiday and each day that help us to bond as a family.  Those absurd family traditions, filled with thousands of memories.  Those memories that we can’t wait to create and can’t wait to talk about each year, are the same memories that make this day unbearable.

Ma, I love you more than you will ever know.  You created kids who love one another, in a time where single moms were looked at through a different lens, you raised us to be adults who love unconditionally.  Sure we have wandered and we have had our words, but in the end we are the loving kids you proudly raised us to be.  And this next generation of your grand kids and  now great-grandkids are freaking amazing.  I mean, amazing.

joy

So tonight I stare at your picture in my living room, I read a few cards from you and I let the tears fall because today is the day that trips me up every year.  It follows the best of days, and as the sun sets on Christmas day every year for the past six years, I hesitantly wait for today.  I know the grief will never go away, and the memories will only get brighter.  I know this day will forever bring heartache.  I also know that life goes on, and that the memories we create today, will get the next generation through their tears someday.

letter

And so we create memories, and we live fully because if we don’t…… then we are only letting down those who we respected and loved, for me that’s my mom.  Ma, I love you always and forever, and you should know your little spitfire great-granddaughter is going to be like you, which is awesome…and your grandkids’ are awesome, every one of them successful, happy and challenged.  And your kids, share a love and a bond that we never would have had if you hadn’t been present in our lives.  So tonight I mourn and remember, and then tomorrow I move on for another year.  But you are here, every day all around me.  Alive in the memories, and in my heart.  Thank you Ma, you taught me to never, ever give up.  I am so glad you never did.

Choices

breaks me.jpgSo this, wow, caught my eye the other day on social media and it says everything that has been banging around in my brain for days.   GROW!  We have the choice to dream so big it’s silly…….laugh so hard it’s obnoxious….and love so hard it’s impossible!  Stop the apologies, make the choice right now to grow.

I feel like we disappear into what people expect, because it’s easy.  We walk away from the challenge because we have conditioned ourselves to believe we can’t succeed, or worse yet, we don’t deserve to succeed.  We have an absolute choice.  We have the choice to walk away when something doesn’t feel right and we have the right to try something new to us, even if it stretches us and makes us feel awkward.  Please don’t share this absolutely wonderful challenge you are about to begin with a statement that devalues all you WILL achieve.   No goal is dumb, no challenge is silly and no one has the right to take it away.  No small mind can make you feel small, don’t squeeze into that place.

Yes, this says everything we tell ourselves when we are afraid to take the challenge, or afraid to walk away from the bad relationship, hurtful friend or terrible career.  No decision you make is stupid or dumb, it’s where you are right now and its valid.  In fact, it couldn’t be more  on the mark.

There are so many things we learn when we take a chance, besides growing a bit….we learn what makes us feel awesome, what makes our tummy ache, whats makes our heart sing and what makes our voice begin to speak words of doubt.  We learn how growing makes us feel and for that moment, we are taking a chance, doing something outside the box……..outside our normal day and we must admit it…it feels fantastic…or  there’s that tummy ache and that’s okay too…..

I had an opportunity recently that the old Bev just knew she needed to explore. It felt awesome and it felt right.  Except it felt those things for all the wrong reasons.  When I really dug into the work around it, my tummy ached.  I hadn’t felt that way for months.  Seriously, it’s been since July that I felt that way.  I pushed those feelings aside because they were “dumb”, of course I wanted to do this.  This is what I was made for, so I pushed.  And then it finally happened, I grew.  I realized why I needed to succeed, to prove things to people who don’t matter.  I was going to shrink myself down and back in that box because I was refusing to grow and realize that journey is back in the valley and I am now headed into the mountains.   I didn’t need to apologize, it felt right for a while, but in those few seconds when it didn’t feel I right… I turn in and listened …I allowed myself to stay there for a minute, ponder the moment, wander through my feelings, say dumb things,  do dumb things…and then make a decision and grow.  I could have decided something entirely different and that’s okay. For in that moment, nothing is dumb, it’s where I am, where you are.  Do not let other people lend you their value of you,and when they give it,  don’t receive it.  Only you determine your value.  Own your feelings, allow yourself to make mistakes, don’t apologize.  Move.  Grow.  Believe.

 

 

 

 

 

Sail

“The River”

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores…and

I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry

Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
Has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide…yes

I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry

There’s bound to be rough waters
And I know I’ll take some falls
But with the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all…yes

I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry

– Garth Brooks
I don’t typically listen to country music, although my son does; and I rarely watch anyone performing in Notre Dame stadium (GO BUCKS!), but tonight I did both when I turned on Garth Brooks while I did some online Christmas shopping. Out of nowhere this song comes on and BOOM…I am in tears and smiling with joy.  This song.  These words.  Our lives. Our dreams. Wow.
When I don’t blog for a few days I get reminder from my site that I haven’t posted.  And that my followers are missing me, or something like that, and the pressure mounts.  I don’t have trouble writing, it’s mostly finding the time. that’s the pressure.  So today I knew I needed to find the time to post, mostly because it fills my soul.
As we wound home from the game today through Indiana we passed through South Bend.  Many of you know I am kind of a college football fan, and my son loves his Notre Dame Irish along with his dad.  Brooke tends to be my companion Buckeye fan, but Ty will always willingly hang with me at a Buckeye game.  I was excited to have him join me this weekend,  and the picture below is probably one of  my favorite pictures of our weekend.  So long story short, as we wound our way home past South Bend we learned of the Garth Brooks concert and thanked our lucky stars we were passing through early in the day missing that crowd.
That’s when the post idea began to brew in my head.  After a weekend of watching awesome competition, learning the Buckeyes and Notre Dame made the top six teams in the country, a story about competition and relationships was whirling around in my head.  But nothing about it was making sense.  I wanted to share Ty’s experience about seeing a high school buddy who made it to big time football playing for Northwestern and watching that friendship and respect continue long after graduation with a hand shake and smiles on their faces.  The deep relationships that sports develops in athletes.  Something so much more that a win or a loss, but a vision and a desire, a strategy and a goal…a friendship and a dream.  Then this song.
The vessel.  We are the vessel, we carry that dream.  The dream of competition if we are an athlete, the dream of relationships and goals.  We are the vessel.  And the battles.  Oh we know them so well, the battles of sports, the battles of life, the battles of relationships.  But we don’t stop.  We don’t stop when we fail or lose, we don’t stop when we succeed.  We continue to sail until the water runs dry.
No matter how rough the ride, we continue… we don’t step aside, we don’t watch from the shore…we step in and we sail.  “I’ll never reach my destination if I never try.” But with the good Lord as my captain I can make it through them all. “
I watch this concert as the rain pours in South Bend, singing a song about the river running dry, with a smile on my face because WOW!, God works in a wonderful way.  I know that these dreams of mine, all of them are in my grasp.  Everything I have learned, all the battles I have survived, never really knowing what’s next is helping me chart this course of where I will go.  Just like the athlete who learns as much from the loss as he does the win, as much as we learn from the failed relationships as we enjoy from the healthy relationships, it’s the course of our lives.  Yep, there are bound to be tough times, but we will survive them and we will learn so much about who we are and those who surround us.  We are the vessel, and with our dreams, and with our belief in our captain, our God, we will make it, until our river runs dry.
Thanks Garth, I just became a fan.
osu

Gratefulness

grateful

I am happy to say out loud that I am so grateful that my friends on social media didn’t post the 30 days of gratefulness, or whatever it’s called, this year.  I can’t even deal with it. I’m not being a Debbie Downer, but by day ten when you are posting your gratefulness for Starbucks and Ikea, well let’s just say you are telling a story I don’t care to hear.

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and many of us our still honoring our holiday traditions and sharing our stories of gratefulness. My friend is out shopping with her mom and sis….. although she has ordered most of her kids gifts through Amazon this year, (sorry spoiler alert) the family tradition continues!   Today, I am making my annual pilgrimage to my college friends home for the “big game,”  which has become a tradition in recent years.  Traditions are awesome and provide a consistent way to honor our family and life and they are full of hopefulness.  As you read this, I am sure your favorite tradition popped in your head, and a smile spread across your face.

This year I am grateful for so many things.  In a year of twists and turns and ups and downs I have experienced more growth than ever.  I have added new traditions to my portfolio, like spending more time with family and friends, balancing my life, and having an increased awareness of the lives around me top the list.

There are many traditions I miss, Thanksgiving with my mom and grandparents, seeing my cousins and my brother and sister, laughing with friends that I miss and rekindling some prior work relationships are just a few.

story

I have learned traditions and memories play a wonderful place in our hearts.  Sometimes those memories and stories are burning in our hearts and need to be shared.  The smiles and tears we shared over cheap wine yesterday burned new memories into our hearts and minds.  Those memories experienced by another help us to understand and learn things we may have never known, and memories allow us to see things in a new loving way…. through the eyes of another.   Sharing traditions and memories help our young kiddos understand who they are and where they come from, and no matter how many times we share these…we all learn something new about each other.

gratitude

I have learned I have people around me who care and who want to share their memories to help me understand and traditions to help me learn.  I am grateful that I have finally learned the power in word.  Spoken, written, or unspoken….what we say and the things we share open our hearts to others and let them in.  Thank you for letting me in this year, and I thank you for being a part of my life, my memories and traditions.  I have learned so much more about you and the world around me, for that I am grateful.

 

 

Blessings

The people we meet in our lives inevitably become our blessings.  As we travel through this journey we meet many, it’s only when our hearts are open and receiving that we actually experience these people.

I cannot even count the number of people I have met through my career and through my daily living, but I can count the number of people I have experienced.  Those people who have made a profound impact on my life.  Many are friends and family, some are through my career journey, and several are through a simple one time conversation.  What they all have in common is that moment when I realize they have impacted me in a way in which I have truly been transformed, or in a way that helps me prod along and process this life around me.  Many of you know who you are and let’s be real, I would be silly to name people, if you know me…really know me….you are part of this list and I thank you.

As you know I am in a new career.  With any new beginning there is so much learning, and for me this is the same.  Besides learning an organization and its people, those of us who work in the non-profit world immerse our hearts and souls in our work.  We don’t have an option, because we serve people.  With people becomes relationships and well, the rest is history.  For me the belief and understanding of the mission and the respect of those who day in and day out deliver the mission go hand-in-hand.

As I have said in other posts, I believe we are delivered to our service.  And as the days have progressed I have learned why.  The delivery of the mission, the structure, operations and development of the finances is my job description.  That’s not why I am here.  I am here to heal.  It’s something I haven’t talked about, but through coffee with someone who I recently experienced, a writer by trade, I realized I owe it to me to let it go.

I have loved the holidays, I LOVE to give and will admit receiving during holidays boosts my energy.  Ever since my mom died, its been different.  Not a chore, but definitely work.  She adored the holiday, she gave and she gave… and when she received she appreciated that gift more than anyone I know.  The simplest of things brought her the greatest joy.  Our holidays were anything but simple.  Elaborate food, unbelievable mountains of gifts and a house full of warmth and love. Think Hallmark channel and you are close.  I loved those days and the last Christmas Eve spent with my mom was definitely one of the best.  My sister and I transformed the house to a wonderland and served the best food and watched as the best gifts were enjoyed.   Two days later, the day after Christmas, my mom passed.  It was heaven-sent and it was time, most importantly she was ready.  As true Ma character she orchestrated her death.  She knew when it was going to happen and she decided it was time.  We were just characters in the story.  The day was hard and for whatever reason while I saw the signs, I read that hospice book cover to cover that day, I felt at peace with her.  She had said repeatedly to anyone who would listen that she was ready.  I was not.

If you have met my sister, she is my mom.  If you have met me, I am my mom.  We have her endearing traits and those things all daughters cannot believe they have inherited from their moms.  Ahhh, but when I look at my daughter and the perseverance of my granddaughter, I am so proud of the traits they have inherited from my mom.  And so the circle of live goes.

The evening of my moms death was pretty traditional, if it can be.  My sister stopped by after work and in her usual way greeted ma and checked in on her.  She was really the caregiver, my role was to provide respite. I was there to love ma and help her prepare and to give Jen time to be alive and be with her family.  This holiday was special because my kids were there and all of us enjoyed the holiday as a family.  Jen and I bathed ma, fed her champagne and strawberries, watched TV and then tucked Ma in bed.  Jen and I discussed me leaving the next day and I so badly wanted to stay, it felt like she needed me.  Jen left and as was my own personal tradition I settled in to watch the Kennedy Awards with some cheese and my wine substitute, a wine cooler.  My mom was laboring in her breathing and I checked in on her, asking if she wanted to watch the awards with me or wanted me by her side.  With a shake of her head she motioned me out of the room.  This will forever haunt me.  I walked out the door and settled in her chair and listened.  Time went by and suddenly I realized I didn’t hear the labored breathing.  She had passed.  My beautiful mom had left this beautiful place and was in her heavenly home and while I should have felt relief, I felt nothing but guilt.  I should have been by her side holding her hand as she left us and made her way to her Father.  I should have asked again if she wanted me there.  I should have thought about her and not me.  The “should” list goes on and on.

When family arrived it was wonderful, my husband became my rock, my son in all his wisdom requested her dog be there to say goodbye, my sister and her husband in their grief had us pray Ma into heaven.  And the secure loving feeling of family as we waited for hospice got us through this.  Our family learned the power of God and grace, the power of grief and the powerful embrace it has to bring people together.  That’s what I know and have learned.  That those of us who are here will struggle, and that we need to share that struggle with those people who we experience in profound ways.  Yes, I regret not being beside my mom and holding her hand, probably more than I regret anything in my life.  The thought brings me to tears.  But the embrace of the friend I hysterically called and talked to while I waited for my family to arrive that night will never be forgotten.  The cleansing I felt when I opened the doors and windows in her house as I waited are still with me. The wisdom and courage of my son to request that everyone have an opportunity to say goodbye is forever in my memory.  The strong arms of my husband and the tear-stained cheeks of my brother-in-law, and the forever loving and care of my sister are things I can still feel.  These are the arms of grief.  These are the memories that sustain me and push me through.

I recently lost a brother-in-law and the memories of ma resurface.  I watch the family begin to live the holidays and know that those will be hard days.  I have a friend who lost her mom and as she navigates the next Christmas without her mama I will hear her memories.  Share those memories, set a place at the table for your lost one, start new memories in their honor and most importantly understand your feeling and regrets and know you are allowed to have them.  This is the journey.  And without passing through it we will never be able to get through it filled with joy and love.

Ma, I miss you every day and you cannot believe the life we have.  I don’t have that job that drove you crazy, my life is good, we are healthy and your grandkids are amazing.  Ty became that basketball player you always thought he would, even with his dad pushing him hard (I know you hated that!) but most importantly he has become a young man full of life and sensitive to others, he is so much more than an athlete, he is man to be so proud of, and Brooke continues to be amazing, she is the body and soul of your personality and your love for life and experiences, she has a heart of love and grace. Your great granddaughter…ahhh geez, she is delightful, ornery, and full of love and adventure.  She is you.  Frankly, a little piece of you is in each of us.  The day you left is was the day you provided us with an opportunity to forever honor you. The days are hard, but love filled because you taught is how to love and “Never, ever give up,.”  I love you and will forever.

“Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices.  You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.”

John 16:20

 

joy

 

 

 

 

Leadership

yourself

 

“In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.”  This quote, on a whimsical plaque, was given to me by my mentor and most trusted leadership friend, as she was pushed out the door of the organization we both had grown to love as leaders.  The day I was pushed out the door and watched that door slam behind me, it was the first thought that came in my head.   Sixteen weeks later it is still bouncing around in my head.

This quote, this being yourself thing, is so hard.  It’s so hard to be a leader and  be yourself. For females there is nothing harder.  I have a friend who is struggling for balance, I have another friend who owns her own company and is apologizing to those around her for leading in the direction God has led her.   I have another friend who says whenever she possibly can, “If people only knew the real you.”  That one hurts, bad.  I have never ever been anything but me, always.  When I reflect on that, I think it’s hard for people to watch women lead and be confident and decisive and be loving and charitable at the same time.  A strong female leader simply has to be…..well you know, not real nice. So wrong, so untrue.

This was an amazing week for women.  Women of all shapes, sizes and colors became leaders in our government.  Some I proudly voted for, some I personally know, and all I admire.  Ladies its hard to be you.  It’s hard to be a leader in this world.   Combine them together and the struggle is real.  But each and every one of you has a path ahead of you, some of that path can be seen and other parts of the path are hidden.  You are the driver, be yourself.

I have spent the last sixteen weeks looking in and looking out.  I have studied who I am, critiqued what I have done and dreamed of what I can be.  I have learned a lot, re-learned some things, cried a ton, laughed as much, and reflected a bunch.  Here is what know today.  I would have done everything the same as I did sixteen weeks ago when they pushed me out the door. Everything.  I would have led the same, loved the same, laughed the same, decided the same, and surrounded myself with the best leaders in the world, the same.  I would have raised my voice the same, I would have remained quiet the same, I would have sent the same emails, had the same conversations and said what needed to be said.   I would have attended the same meetings, spent the same amouont of  time off site as on site, I would have loved my staff and disciplined my staff the same.  I would have done everything the same.  Everything.

What I would have changed was the fear.  I would have no longer let fear decide for me.  I would not have let fear make decisions I didn’t want to make, stop me from having conversations that needed to happen, I would have stopped fear in it’s tracks.  I would have supported my staff even through that fear.  I was paralyzed, and I didn’t know what to do.  I was a strong leader, I was even told that maybe I was too strong for “here”, but someone else may appreciate that.  Fear.  Always being fed thoughts of fear.  Ladies, that’s not leadership, that’s no style of leadership.  Fear is their anxiety and inadequacies coming to life.  Fear is their way to make you stop dead in your tracks and wonder about that last decision.   Why? Because fear is how those who cannot in any other way deal with you.  The strong leader, the strong female, the smart leader, the smart female.  And fear has many faces, the person who won’t talk to you, the person who doesn’t communicate. the person who places you on an island, the person who instead of asking why, tells you why.  Fear is ugly and yet, we females do this to one another.   In a time where women can help lead other women, we are sometimes our own worse enemy.  Fear makes us make decisions that in any other environment we would never make.  Walk away from that fear.

I am certainly not saying that apologizing, and re-directing, and re-thinking and re-acting are not strong characteristics of leadership.  They are, and strong leaders use them.  But sometimes as women I feel it’s our first reaction to everything.  Indeed we must be wrong when their feathers are ruffled, when we don’t follow suit, when we lead differently.  But sometimes we see the vision and the path when others can’t.  Sometimes we know things other can’t, and we should rely on that sense and that knowledge and never apologize.  I know that I was a good leader.  I know I left that organization strong and I am proud.  Conversely, I know  that I made mistakes, lots of them.  I learned a lot.  I had people around me who supported me and let me learn.  I had people around me who let me correct the course, and a couple of times corrected it for me.  That’s the difference, a great leader is supported, a great leader has become a great leader because they were given the opportunity to lead and make mistakes.  And when mistakes were made, they were coached and supported and allowed to lead again.  When I was at my best, that’s exactly what I did.  When I  was led by fear, I couldn’t.  When that’s the leadership, walk away.  You can’t fix it, you can’t be the change, because they don’t want that.

I thank God He led me out of there.  It took a long time and a lot of lessons, successes and failures.  It took years for me to feel confident, to be a female leader in a dominantly male world.  It was a time of growth and learning.  I learned what I would do, and watched and learned things I would never do.  I will never lead from a place of fear.  I will never ever be led again by fear.  I’m excited about this next journey.  This ability to lead a new group of experts, an opportunity to provide what I know and learn what they know, to lead by being myself.  And re-read this part, because it’s important.  They want me to lead, they want me to set direction, they want me to lead because they believe in me.  They support me and they tell me that,  there is the difference.  Ask yourself when was the last time you were thanked for making a tough decision, when you were told you were welcomed, when someone you worked beside thanked you for being there. Because that’s the difference maker.  Leaders need fed, just like those we lead.  If your leader isn’t feeding you with anything burtfear.  Shut the door, walk away and close that door behind you, because another glorious door will open.

Leaders, find your direction.  Find “yourself.”  The leader you are and the leadership style you will never compromise.  Surround yourself with people who believe in you.  Be yourself, don’t apologize for that, ever.  God gave you this time and this place, when He wants that time to end, it will.  Until that time comes, lead like you.  I believe this and I believe in you.  These words are meant for you, just as they are meant for my daughter, my granddaughter, my sister, my sister in-laws and nieces and all the women I know.  I believe you in you, be yourself….there is no one exactly like you.  You are a perfect creation made in His image.  I don’t ask you this very often, but it would mean the world to me if you would share this with a female leader you know. Monday is around the corner, be strong, be you.   I love you just the way you are.

 

Thoughts on Decisions

There comes a time in all our lives where we are faced with decisions.  Sometimes we feel powerful in our decisions and know exactly which way to go, in other decisions we falter.  We spend time with lists.  My mom was all about pros and cons list.  When I had my first big decision in life that would affect many, many people she asked me to make a list.  List the pros and list the cons and decide when that list is complete which side “wins”.  Creating a list is not something I do well, those lists friends make with the boxes to check off, that sense of order and I guess completion, is something I can’t fathom. I know what I have to do and making a list is laborious and redundant to me.  But every time I have had a huge decision to make, I pull out the notebook and list away.

Throughout my life the list has been handy, partnered with prayer it has been powerful.  Whenever I was worried or felt the list wasn’t providing the answers I needed, prayer provided the insight of discernment.  Discernment is described as the ability to judge well, perception in the absence of judgement with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding.  Clearly, lists and prayer help us discern.  Decision is defined as a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. That being the case, then we know discernment leads to decision.

I think the biggest question I have is, how do we discern when a decision needs to be made?  Sound silly? Certainly if you are  debating in your mind how to move ahead, is the decision really something you need to be making?  Are you in a place of discernment or are you in a place of indecision?  Or is God telling you that the decision is not yours to make, at least in the moment?  Do you wait until without a doubt in your mind the time is right, or do you move ahead anyhow because it feels right and you know that it will help so many others?  Decisions are easy when it only affects you…when the outcome can only affect you.  But when so many others are in the mix, the mountain becomes real.

I shared earlier this week about a song that has made me laugh and at the same time could cause tears to stream down my cheeks. Why? Because that song always played at the absolute right moment, that moment where I felt like I had given up and that the moment where I felt like I was winning.  That was God and that was spiritual leading to discernment.  So maybe I go for a walk and put those headphones on and wait for the song, or I pray or I make a list.  The thing I know is, decisions are firing at us everyday.  Leading by prayer, leading by our heart, by our gut,  or leading by lists help us discern.

The beauty of indecision is that it is temporary.  We have time, because the reason behind the indecision is that we are not ready.  Simple enough.  I am wondering how many decisions we have all made when we were not ready?  Were some of the “big decisions” we made earlier in life the wrong decisions? I don’t believe so, I believe we are in this journey to learn and to climb mountains and run through the valleys.  I believe we should never look back, we should always look forward.  I believe that every decision we make sets the direction and vision for our lives.  That’s heavy stuff, maybe that’s why we should slow down and make the list and pray.

Should I worry? No, I will make the right decision.  Will my decision let others down? Probably or maybe or absolutely not, this I can’t know and this I can’t be responsible for, no one but my life is in my hands.    Thoughts on decisions, what are yours? How do you discern?decision

 

What I Have Learned…..

As I venture into my next journey through open doors, there are some things I have learned along the way.  Days and weeks full of lessons of love, hope, joy, courage and curiosity.  Lessons for which I will forever be grateful, lessons that I will gladly share, and lessons I will forever hold dear to my heart.

First and foremost, I have learned that God is present and here and however you choose to worship or believe, he will protect. BELIEVE.

I have learned that there are moments in your life where you are broken and hurt and so afraid and in the next breathe you take, the next flutter of the leaves you hear in the trees on a windy day, or the next glimpse of sunshine you see…everything can change. BE COURAGEOUS.

I have learned that life is made of relationships.  Some you treasure and some you want to forever dismiss.  These relationships only define you when you let them.

I have learned that those that surround you can be healthy and toxic and through discernment you will define those relationships.

I have learned that while people show up to be helpful, sometimes they aren’t in that space.  Sometimes we have to say enough.  It’s hard, but it’s important work.

I have learned that there are people near you that in just a reach of a hand will surround you with help and love.  I have also learned that those you may have relied on in the past will walk away.  It is ok, you will survive.

I have learned that He is speaking to you. Whether your words come in a church service, a walk through the woods, the whisper in your ear, the lyrics of a song…… He is there and those moments just don’t happen, they are intentional.  I have learned to listen.

I have learned that people talk, leaders lead and believe in you, we all need to know and recognize the difference.

I have learned that quotes can motivate us, people lead us.  Stop saying it and begin doing and living it with everyone you lead.  EVERYONE.

I have learned that words hurt.  Be careful with them. I have also learned holding words from others hurts them, be careful, but use them carefully.

I have learned that no matter how I want to bring you with me, you can’t come along until you believe in yourself.

I have learned that believing in yourself and your personal mission is more powerful than any other organizations mission can be, listen.

I have learned family is it, family is love and family is life.

I have learned that the smile of an infant, a hug around the neck or the moments watching them grow is powerful, and that in that moment your one reason for being is to love.

I have learned that when we focus on the wrong things, the wrong things happen.

I have learned that I am more than the words you use to define me.  I am more than what you think.  I may have some sort of presence, but my heart is just like yours.  Reach in.

I have learned that the journey is amazing, that the words you hear on day one, will follow you to the final day.  I have learned that you will smile and laugh one day when those words repeat themselves, only weeks after those words caused you to shed tears of fear.

I have learned that time alone is powerful, that time relaxing is necessary, and time in reflection is essential.

I have learned that I am responsible for me.

I have learned that when they cast you aside, walk away, you will survive.

I have learned that when people close a door to you, you can knock and hope to get back in, or you can walk away and know you will be fine.

I have learned that I will believe in me, that no one can define me through their eyes and when they do that, they aren’t a leader.  I have learned that leaders are people who help and pave the way, they don’t shut you down and they listen, that they hear your words and gently wipe the tears and encourage.  The world doesn’t have enough of these leaders, move along if you work for one who is toxic.

I have learned that sometimes I can’t be the change and someone else can, support them.  I also have learned that waiting it out is not leading or being THE change, its sitting back and believing in someone other than yourself.  if you believe it, then be it.

I have learned that when a door closes, another door opens.  I believe that, I hope you do as well.

 

BC652902-503D-4306-8608-F15E5D5F0E83-1481-000000A2542402A8