Check your pulse

All too often, we get caught up in life and forget to be grateful for our blessings. Some people are better at this than others. They feel blessed for their morning coffee to their cozy bed and everything in between. There are others who feel life has dealt them a cruel blow and their coffee is too weak or too cold and their bed is too hard, well you get the picture. The other day a friend posted one of those cartoon-like pictures on Facebook that I felt compelled to re-post  The saying was, “Don’t have anything to be grateful for? Check your pulse!”

I was compelled to re-post because I believe it is so true and in the last few years, I am realizing more and more what a precious gift life really is. After two miscarriages, I was fortunate enough to go on and have three healthy boys. I have watched my neighbor and several family members struggle with cancer. Some have beat the battle and some have not. I have also watched family and friends struggle with the deaths of those close to them. Some due to the aforementioned cancer, old age, but others were completely shocking. Each of the survivors would be grateful for another day with their loved one.

Over a year ago, one men escaped death and his family and friends celebrate each and every day that he has had since. Last fall, my family and I met Travis Mills. He is the young man who escaped death. He was serving in Afghanistan with the military when he set his bag down on what was unfortunately a IED. Travis became the fourth of 5 quadruple amputees in the war and has every reason to be bitter and ungrateful, yet on April 10, he celebrated his Alive Day.

We met because my oldest two sons were selling popcorn with their dad in front of a grocery store in Rockville. My youngest son and I happened to stop by to get a few groceries and to visit the boys, when the other boys were talking to Travis. The older boys had asked Travis to buy popcorn and he was trying to get money out of his wallet using his claw hand. He asked my seven year old for help. The boys were a little nervous and uncomfortable at first, but they also thought it was kind of cool because they are fans of Star Wars and in real life they got to see someone with artificial limbs that were functional.

Travis was amazing and so patient with the boys. He told them what had happened to him and showed them how his arms worked. That day he was in a wheel chair without his prosthetic legs because they weren’t feeling good. He had gotten a new pair and had worked out really hard the previous day. Travis was with his father in law, but was clearly independent. He was grateful for his service and he did not regret being there even though he lost all his limbs. He was also grateful for his life and  his family especially his young daughter.

I am grateful my family and I got the chance to meet Travis. We have talked about how inspiring he is and how he has had to overcome many obstacles to resume his life. Even though we have not met again, my family and  I are following Travis and his journey on his Facebook page. I invite you to follow his journey as well. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Support-for-Travis-Mills-and-family/525105887541986

In addition, I challenge you all to start keeping track of the things you are grateful for. When the days are dark, it is helpful to see how many blessings you really have. Not everyone is an optimist and can see the glass half full, but each of us has something (probably many things) that are blessings in their life. Go out today and be sure to count your blessings. When you do, you will be surprised at how many more come your way.

Time to Stop Procrastinating TODAY

I am a procrastinator. I don’t like admitting it, but it affects everything that I do everyday. I make lists and don’t always get everything done on it, but I am so proud when I can cross things off. Today I heard that you should never put anything on your list that you aren’t going to do. When you don’t finish things on your list, you fail to keep your promise to yourself. Over time, you begin to believe that it is ok not to complete your to do list and you fail to get things done. It becomes easy to break your promises to yourself and ultimately others. You should only put things on your list that you promise to get completed.

This year I have decided that it is time to stop procrastinating. It is time to reach the dreams I have and am even afraid to dream. Another gem I heard today is that procrastination is a strategy that allows you to produce a subpar product. If you put things off until the last minute and the result isn’t perfect, it becomes easy to justify because you threw it together at the last minute. If you work really hard on something and the result is less than perfect, that is somehow a reflection on you.

I believe I am a procrastinator to avoid failure, but it really just makes me a failure. This home truth has given me a crisis of confidence today and I really don’t like the feeling. It is not that I have not been working hard all these years, because I do every day. I think that some of the things I am “busy” with are just ways to distract me the bigger picture and allow me to keep up my bad habits.

On those occasions when I don’t procrastinate, I am able to accomplish so much more and the feeling is very fulfilling. Getting things done in a timely manner make the relaxation so much sweeter. I am making a promise to myself that I will only commit to those things that I will actually accomplish. Establishing a new habit takes time and routines and even though it isn’t New Year’s, I am resolving to adopt new healthier habits for my life.

20130316-164935.jpg

Marriage

wedding danceI have been thinking a lot about relationships and marriage recently. Last October, my husband and I celebrated 11 years of marriage. Before the date, I read that the tulip was the flower associated with 11 years. I did look around, but couldn’t find anyplace to find tulips to send him a bouquet. I improvised and bought tulip bulbs which were being sold everywhere I looked. I planted the bulbs and looked forward to seeing them bloom in the spring. I just noticed today that those bulbs I planted last fall are starting to come up. In the past, deer always seem to bite off any tulips I have planted, but I am hoping they will leave these anniversary tulips alone.

Part of the reason that I have been thinking about marriage is that I seem to be hearing more and more about people that I know that are separating and planning to divorce. A few years ago, my friend told me that by the time my kids were out of elementary school many of their classmates’ and friends’ parents would be divorced. I was surprised  by that, but even more surprised that her words seem to be coming true.

My own parents divorced when I was 21 and in college. People always think it’s bizarre that they separated after more than 25 years of marriage and 13 children. At the time, I realized it was for the best, but it did affect me in a way. I had often thought about them divorcing, but never really expected it to happen. At this point, they have been divorced longer than they were married. My relationship with both parents is good and they occasionally see each other at family events. Around the time my parents split, I was taking a creative writing class and had to write some poetry. I wrote a poem about my feelings one night during a particularly violent storm.

The rain beasts a drum on my window.

The thunder pounds inside my head.

Lightning severs a branch on the old oak.

The broken limb swings back and forth.

Thunder snarls in response.

The recent past fueled my anger

until finally the storm erupted.

The photos of our happy family clash

with the reality of my parents’ separation.

I hurl the memories from my sight.

There are no winners and only one loser.

An innocent picture frame flies to the floor.

Cracked wood and glass shards litter the carpet.

Keeling, I pick up each piece, carefully

examining the jagged edges.

The photos of my life have been spared –

only the framework is destroyed.

The thunder and lightning have subsided.

Only the rain taps gently on the glass.

 

I think the best piece of advice I got before getting married actually came from our parish priest and the man who married us, Msgr. Smith. He said many people go into marriage believing that it is a 50/50 partnership. When they believe that, the relationship is often doomed to fail. If you are only giving 50% of your effort, you will get used to doing that and there are days when you don’t feel so well or are just having a bad day. You may only give 30% and when your spouse sees that, they may only give 30% or possibly even less. Now you have a divide between the two of you. If you go into the relationship giving 100%, then there is more room for having a bad day. If you are both giving 70% of your effort, you are still together. He put his arms in front of him with his hands on each opposite elbow to demonstrate the 100% effort on both sides and to demonstrate the 50/50, he put his arms in front of him with just his hands touching and no overlapping.

That visual and his comments have stuck with me for the last 11 1/2 years. I think about it almost every day, during the good and the bad moments. Love does not always look like a fairy tale or Hollywood love story. All relationships take work, but the good ones are worth the effort.  I believe that I have a good one and try to put in 100%. I look forward to seeing those tulips bloom completely this year and to many more years to come.

DSCF0036

 

Keep on Dreaming

Later this spring, I have three nieces graduating from high school in three different states. Each young woman has a dream and a path they wish to follow. My own high school graduation seems so long ago to me and at the very least is three lifetimes ago. My path has taken unexpected turns and twists, but I continue to learn from my experiences. I find myself now following my original dream, I had so many years ago before I allowed practicality to push it down.

My sister Julie asked me to write something for her daughter, one of the graduates. Julie gave me a few ideas of what she wanted to say and what she emailed to me was better than anything I thought I could come up with. Her words were full of love and were straight from the heart, but I did my best to put her thoughts into my words.

When I graduated, I bitterly felt as though my hard work and successes in high school had been overlooked. I didn’t receive any awards or scholarships and even though I didn’t really expect to, I secretly thought that I would get something. What I didn’t realize at the time, that the work and achievements I made were really for myself. As long as I believe in myself, I can do whatever I put my mind to. After my graduation ceremony, I received a card with a handwritten note. I no longer have the card, but I still cherish the sentiment to this day. An adult in the community that I knew and respected took the time to tell me that she also believed I had been overlooked and she knew that I would be successful and do well. She was proud of what she had seen me accomplish. Her faith in me meant a great deal and many years later I wrote her a letter to say thank you.

I want Kristen, Megan and Jennifer to know that they matter and that their dreams matter and as long as they believe, they can do anything. The following is the poem I wrote for Kristen with many of Julie’s thoughts, but I think it applies to all three young women and really to anyone who dares to dream.

Poem for Kristen

When you wish upon that star,
Always remember who you are
Work hard and you will achieve
Whatever dream you can conceive
Be true to yourself and proud of what you attain
Success is so much sweeter when you don’t complain
Be brave enough to try your best
Put in the effort and don’t worry about the rest
Keep a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart
Never let anyone pull your dreams apart
Learn from your mistakes when you fall
Pick yourself up and try again with your all
Always be willing to help others out
Even if they don’t repay with anything but a pout
Surround yourself with people you love or respect
You will see in your success how this does reflect
Follow your passion and make it a living
Believe in those dreams and they will keep on giving.

20130227-170216.jpg

20130227-170317.jpg