Category Archives: Gratitude

Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho


With soon-to-be two daughters in college I should have seen this coming, shouldn’t I?  All of my angst as a stay-at-home mom facing the future of an empty nest has come down to this one little truth: it costs money to send kids to college.

It’s not as if we haven’t been saving for this for years or that I had not known somewhere in the back of my mind that it would be a good idea to have two incomes for two tuitions; it’s just that I seemed to move from “someday” to already five weeks into a job in a quick hurry.  I went from “I should start checking into what it would take to get on the substitute teaching call list so I can start subbing next fall” to starting to work in the local city clerk’s office two days after I casually mentioned to the Clerk that if they ever needed part-time help, they should call me.

I’m on both sides of the fence, really.  I feel both lucky that I could find something so close and congenial to my schedule and gobsmacked that I now have a time card and a boss, without having a chance to mourn the loss of my formerly self-scheduled days.  All of a sudden I had to scramble to find pants that weren’t jeans and fill out a W-4 form and there has been no chance to look back.  Now I find my days melting one into the other and my appreciation of those that have been working all this time growing exponentially.

With so many out of work in this economy, I can’t complain about any of the small annoyances associated with having to wear less comfortable clothes or be in to work by a certain time.  Instead, every time I feel myself starting to grouse about having to go to work,  I remember how very, very lucky I was to be able to stay home with my kids for so long.

I left work for my children, and now I’ve gone back for the same reason.  *whistles*

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Filed under Accomplishments, Changes, empty nest, Gratitude, Growth, Parenting, Self Improvement

Mea Culpa


Today would have been my mother’s ninety-first birthday.  You would think I would be reminiscing about old times, remembering how well she took care of me whenever I was sick, calling the doctor for a house call and hovering over his shoulder in my fevered memory.  The food she spent all day making for us, or how she was a do-er; how she could get “drunk” and giddy on just a Coca-Cola, or how she lost her first husband at the very end of World War II yet was strong enough to build a different life with my father and us.

Instead, I am spending the day wishing I could apologize.  As my daughter approaches her last day of high school this week, I find myself understanding more and more about my relationship with my mom during our contentious years, discovering what she was trying to do.  Time and experience wipe the bull-headedness of youth out of the picture, and I can see her more clearly.

I used to get so frustrated, so irritated that last year before I went away to college.  She seemed to be holding even tighter to me, and I only wanted to take flight.  As my girl does the same thing, I struggle to not want to hold her to my chest for as long as I possibly can.  My mother would tell me things I already knew, give me advice I thought I didn’t need, and treat me like a child.  I fought like a toddler wanting to be put down, trying to get away, only looking forward.

Mama, I understand.  And thank you.

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Filed under empty nest, Family Relationships, Gratitude, Growth, Looking Back, Parenting, Self-realization

Gestures Are Not Small


A man uses his snowblower on all the driveways and sidewalks on his street after the last big snowstorm.  He was out there already, it needed to be done, he had the time.  Only one neighbor said thanks afterward, probably not in an “if I thank him he will do it again” kind of way, but just because he was surprised and grateful.  The neighbor may have been facing challenges that day and was unable to get out there and do it, or maybe he was just heading out to do it himself and noticed it done.  Either way, he thanked the man and went on his way, but things like that have a way of being remembered.  The simple appreciative word sticks in the man’s mind.  When it snows again, he does his drive and the one belonging to the grateful neighbor.  Only those two.

A friend posted yesterday about the “sucktacular” day they were having.  I posted a hug back their way, just because it’s what I would have done had they been in the room with me.  It took me nine keystrokes and a hit on the enter key to accomplish it, and late last night she wrote a in a note, “…it is usually the little things, when positive, that bring me such great joy, and become my shield against the negative little things. Gratefully those appeared today as well. A virtual hug from a friend. Supportive words from my fellow admins. and friends…”.  I was completely surprised that my small and instinctive response made a difference, no matter how minor, to my friend.

A simple gesture costs nothing, and you never know how much it’s needed or how it will be received.

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Filed under Day to Day, Friends, Gratitude

The Sweet Life


*****

I have given up eating sweets, so I have to find sweetness in my life in different places. Here are a few examples, and I am lucky enough to be able to pick and choose:

*****

  • That ten minute window between light and dark when the sky turns to aqua, gold, and pink fire.
  • Friends who ask “how are you” and expect an answer.
  • A daughter’s demand for a hug every ten minutes.
  • Not being able to sleep because you want so much for the morning to come.
  • Another adult telling me how great my kids are.
  • Rekindling an old desire to do something and finding the fire was still burning after all this time.
  • Being wanted.
  • When you wake up at 2 am to a quiet house and anything is possible.
  • The blank canvas of an unstructured day.
  • To be loved, no holds barred, for what I am. (Unconditionally, even if it is only by a cat.)
  • To have people around me that I want to love and take care of.

There are so many more, but these are just the few that occur to me this very moment.  On this holiday, when sweet things are said, and sweet things are given, I just wanted to acknowledge some of the things I count among my treasures.

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Filed under Family Relationships, Gratitude, Reflection

Mood Music


Yesterday I was singing the blues, so I asked my friends to suggest some upbeat music to improve my mood.  It was a great pick-me-up and was interesting to see what different people thought of as energizing.  Here was the result, including links:

INXS – New Sensation
Jason Mraz – Sunshine Song Chicago
Jason Mraz – SanDiscoReggaefornia
Ozomatli – Can’t Stop
Cupid Shuffle
Taio Cruz – Dynomite
Love Me Nots – You’re Really Something
The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary
The Hombres – Let It Out
Kristin Andreassen – Crayola Doesn’t Make A Color For Your Eyes
Ursula 1000 – Kaboom
Don’t Stop Believing from Glee
The Newbeats – Bread and Butter
Mamma Mia Dancing Queen Pier Dance
Does your mother know, mamma mia!
Banda Mantiqueira – Prêt-à-Porter de Tafetá
Charles Mingus – II B.S. (Haitian Fight Song)
Cat Stevens – Bring another bottle baby
Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – El Matador
James – Laid (Version 3)
KC and the Sunshine Band – Shake Your Booty
Orq. Tabaco Y Ron – “Sabor a Melao”
Taro Hakase & Iwao Furusawa – Swingin’ Bach
School Food Punishment – Light Prayer
Fine Young Cannibals – Good Thing
Adele – Right as rain
Jamie Cullum – These Are The Days
The Trews – Poor Old Broken Hearted Me
Natasha Bedingfield – Pocket Full of Sunshine

As you can see, it was all over the board and provided me with a mood lifter not only from listening to the music itself, but from knowing so many people were willing to share.  I don’t know if it has to do with being a musician myself, but I seem to have a soundtrack to my life.  When I am out of sorts, like yesterday, on goes the sad music.  If I need to get some work done, loud and fast music helps.

Today, I’m making a playlist called “Friends”. When I need support, I’ll just push the button….

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Filed under Day to Day, Finding Inspiration, Gratitude, Reflection

Nothing Harder


It seems as though life moves in phases: a spate of friends graduating all at once, then lots of weddings, then come the years where you get birth announcements on a regular basis.  There is a bit of a break at that point, and then you begin to get a new generation of graduation announcements and wedding invitations.  The natural extension of that is that we are now receiving more and more funeral announcements as the years wear on.  Parents of our friends, and now even our contemporaries, are beginning to leave us, and we are looking our own mortality in the eye.

A contemporary passed away this week, a boss lost his fight with cancer, and a friend lost his father. The outpourings have been heartfelt and very supportive from friend to friend, and I began to think about the strength of words.  Words to each other, words sharing and highlighting the lives that are now done.  Words to make sense of the loss, to make sure the lost one is not forgotten.

The hardest two pieces I have ever had to write were words for my parents, first for my father eleven years ago, then for my mother three years later.  While summing up my parents’ lives and carefully choosing what I wanted everyone to remember about them was difficult, standing up and reading the words I had chosen in front of their families and friends was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.   I don’t have a problem speaking before a group, usually, but I was so afraid of breaking down and not being able to finish what I wanted to, no – had to say.  There are other things in my life that have been hard, but none compare to that.

My friend did the same thing just this morning.  I hope he doesn’t mind if I share just a few of the words he shared with his family and friends about his father, and I hope he made it through the reading, straight and strong.

I’ve learned a lot about my father in the last couple of years, and almost as much in the last few days. Of course, the great majority of this information did not come from The Man himself – the last person in the world my father wanted to talk about was himself. The most remarkable thing about his life might be how incredibly unimpressed he was by it.

Farewell, Lefty. In every sense of the compliment you loved to bestow on others, you certainly were a gentleman and a scholar.

We can only wish strength to our children when it becomes their turn, and I’m reminded that it’s not too late to create lives for them to remember when they speak of us.

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Filed under Changes, Family Relationships, Finding Inspiration, Gratitude, Looking Ahead, Looking Back, Loss

The Head Of The Trail


Recently, several friends have made it Facebook Official that they are expanding their families.  Some are going from one child to two, others moving from “man to man” to “zone” defense.  It seems a fair spate of them appearing, though, and might have something to do with the fact that many of my Facebook friends are former students and in an earlier stage in their parenting than I am.  Seeing all the excitement and congratulations made me want to be in on the wave – for all of two seconds, at maximum.  I’ve been there, done that; even though it was an exciting time, I wouldn’t want to live it again.

There is so much to learn when you have your first child.  A new set of equipment, a whole new vocabulary.  On the day we brought #1 home from the hospital, we didn’t get the car seat handle locked all the way and almost tipped her into a bush trying to maneuver baby and seat through the front door. My most vivid memory in the whirlwind time after #2 was born was explaining to the eldest that I had to go change the baby’s diaper and couldn’t play with her right then. I tried to logically point out that I was the baby’s mommy and had to take care of her, being naive enough to think that daughter #1 would identify with being taken care of and understand. Instead, I got a two year old clinging to my leg and sobbing, “But you’re MY mommy!!!”  I crumpled that day, too, feeling the sadness roll off her in waves.  When we knew we were having #3 it was early spring of kindergarten year for the oldest and she was just learning how to read.  I passed her a note that carefully spelled out the message that she was going to be a big sister again. As she sounded it out, a light dawned in her eyes and a smile blossomed on her face.  Not only was she reading and understanding the words, her wish for another sister or brother was coming true! As she showed her three year old sister the slip of paper and explained what it said, they began a heated discussion about whether it would be worthwhile to end up with a brother or not.

We’ve been on a winding, emotionally charged path, but I am happy with the direction it is taking.  I can’t see the end of the trail yet, but I wouldn’t want to return to the beginning.  There aren’t many signposts along the way, pointing out the best routes or perils that might be up ahead, but there are tour-guides; people who have been there before you, and can tell stories of their own trips through parenting.

I have high hopes for my friends.  Imagine this said in my best tour-guide voice: “The best is yet to come.”

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Filed under Changes, Family Relationships, Gratitude, Looking Back, Parenting