Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude’

New Book Giveaway

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick note to let you know that today is the last day of my book giveaway on goodreads.  I’m excited for you to read the new book as it has some neat contributions – my 9 year old son wrote some insights, my 7 year old daughter illustrated the book, and a friend’s eulogy to Jim is included in the book.  It is entitled When Miracles Aren’t Enough: The Lessons Tragedy Taught Me.  It has been well received and I’m excited to be giving away 20 books.  Please share the link as well with your friends.  Thanks so much!  Erica

Here is the link to enter the giveaway (again make sure you do it by the end of today – Friday March 4th): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27314454-when-miracles-aren-t-enough

 

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How Death Changes Us

I hadn’t seen her in awhile, many months, and much has happened since that time. A warm smile and a sweet embrace followed.  Then the words, “How are you?”  These were sincere words.  A question from another widow.  Then the firing of questions back and forth between us, trying to get in as much as we could as we knew the time was short – the meeting was about to be called back to session.

This widow is older than I. Her children are now adults and grandchildren stumble at her feet.  My children are in elementary school.  She is now retired but still quite active working in so many other unpaid ways.  I am in a paying career at the moment.  Her late husband was told of his illness shortly before mine died, and her husband died just a few weeks later.  My husband’s illness lasted years.

The opposites that this widow and I shared were direct, but, at the same time, we had so much in common. I knew her.  She knew me.  The knowingness that comes with the transition to this new phase of our lives.

As I was contemplating these two sides of the coin that we shared, I heard her ask “Are you the same Erica?” Of course too much had happened over those seven plus years of struggling to regain my late husband’s life only for it to end in heartache.  She knew the answer, but was looking for a bit more.  I gave her the glance of knowing exactly what she meant and where she was headed.  Then without skipping a beat, she continued “I am not.  How can we be?  But you know what surprises me the most?”  I waited.  I really wasn’t sure what she was going to say.  I was intrigued and wanted to know – I have so much respect for her, and she has so much more experience than I do in her wisdom and walk in faith.  Would our answer be the same or on opposite sides of the coin?

With the twinkle I have come to see often in her eyes, she said, “What surprises me the most is that I have changed and I am happy about that.  I have changed for the better.”

With all the sadness, with the loneliness, with the heartache that can come in waves, so too comes the good. The knowledge that we will see our late husbands again in heaven and that they are great where they are now, free of pain and doing all sorts of things I can only dream about.  The hope that goodness can grow out of sadness.  The renewed people we have become.  The new perspectives we have.  The appreciation for gifts and life and new people that enter our lives.  The joy that can become with honoring and remembering our late husbands always but also carving out a new path for the rest of our journey here.

How my friend is “better” she couldn’t clarify for me. The meeting was being called back to order.  But I can guess.  The better when we realize we cannot control the events that may happen in our lives, but the freedom we gain when we control how we view those events and how we will approach the rest of our years here.   As for me and my family, we will continue to be “better” and grow “stronger” every month and we will continue to love and welcome new people into our lives.  This is important as relationships make life better.  Relationships make me better – they help to heal, they help to grow, they help me become a better mom, they help me become the person God intends for me to be.

When Mean Girls become Mean Women

You remember that movie Mean Girls with Lindsay Lohan about how awful high school girls can be to one another? Well, I never really thought much about what happens to such girls as they age; however, I was reminded about this phenomenon the other week and got to experience a mean girl now as a mean woman.

She wore a green dress. She was accessorized by a male who had his arm around her waist the entire night. She was also accessorized by a glare that seems to say “back off – I’m important.” My date that evening was one of my friends who decided I needed a night out on the town. My husband is now under Hospice care and she knew I could use a night to just be a “normal” person. It would be good to get out for a few hours, laugh, have some good food and drink. My night prior to meeting up with the mean woman in green was just that: relaxing, nice, fun.

Several other friends came to the foundation fundraiser. There were many sweet couples out on a date that night. I was sad that my night was without husband. It has been for years now, but recently it has been different. I feel more and more sad as his health decreases more and more. In the past, my husband would have been with me at such a function. He would have been full of life himself, but now he lie in the bed unable to communicate, move or breathe on his own.

And so as with life in general over these past many years, I smile through the pain, I concentrate on the positive and I am grateful for all that I have. I do have so much.

The mean woman in an ironic twist reminded me again what I have. After a period of mingling, speeches began. There was talking in the back of the room. I sat between the talkers and the mean woman in green. She glanced back often, throwing daggers with her eyes if you were paying attention. The accessory man pulled her close, trying to gain her attention. There were more speakers. There was more chatting in the crowd. I could see the mean woman growing more and more agitated. I was soaking it all in, my study on human behavior. I was quiet, but then I made a mistake. I looked at my cell phone and laughed at a photo that was sent to me.   Apparently I laughed too loudly and apparently I was close enough to the mean woman in green to get a direct hit. I honestly don’t remember what she said (other than “Do you mind?!!??”), but I remember her tone, ugliness, and was struck by the outrageous “right” she seemed to have given herself to rank above everyone else in the room. I was shocked by her rudeness, to the point that I didn’t know what to say. My friends, flanking me on my right and left side, stared in amazement too. If I could have looked at their faces, I am sure their eyes would have been bulging just as much as mine. How do women act like that? Part of the answer lies in the fact that I am sure she has always acted like that and gotten away with it. The mean girl became the mean woman.

I felt myself shrink just as a child would when scolded. But, this feeling was soon replaced with gratitude. My friends were outraged for me. They all agreed that this woman’s speech was so inappropriate and rude. In a strange way, I was reminded that friends are so important. My next thought centered on the seemingly random attack on me. Of all the people in the room, why did the mean woman in green breathe fire on me when there were plenty of other rule-breakers to the “keep absolutely quiet” rule set by Ms. Queen Bee.

Right at this time, my cell phone buzzed in my purse. Looking down I noticed it was from my 7 year old son and so I excused myself and walked to the corner of the building. After talking to the babysitter, I needed to just “be.” I was still processing the mean woman’s comments. I checked my text messages, answered several of them, checked on my husband and fought back the tears. I tried to make sense of it all, but when the chef walked up to me and asked if everything was alright, I knew it was time to return to the scene of the crime.

And so I did. The mean woman was still there. I considered for a minute if I should say something to her, but decided that was not the point. I didn’t know what the point was so what would I say to her. Ideas like “Are you really that miserable in life?” or “If you had any idea of what some people were experiencing in life you might think otherwise about acting so hastily and mean” didn’t seem like really good ideas. Again, I didn’t know what my point was and if someone can’t answer that basic question, she has no business acting. And so I just “was” again.

And then another friend flagged me over and started bad-mouthing the mean woman in green. She saw it too. She too thought it was outrageous. It made me feel good, but embarrassed at the same time. Again, why did the mean woman in green pick me? As with much in life these days, I don’t know. There are so many things I wish I knew, wish I understood, even just a little. There are so many events, people, comments, that don’t make sense. Things that I don’t understand. I never probably will but as long as I focus on the good in life, I can move forward.   The mean women of the world in green dresses and their counterparts may make me pause, but if they ultimately help flag something of value, like the importance of friends, then I can take the verbal assaults any day.

Life is Unpredictable, Goodness and Gratitude are Constant

My husband’s health is deteriorating.  My children (ages 7 and 5) are growing more anxious.  I don’t know what the next many weeks will bring.  Jim is too young for any of this.  I want him to get his life back.  I want my kids to have a father who can talk with them, play with them, and teach them all the things he knows so well.  I want my husband back.  Still, in the midst of all the sadness, there is gratitude and goodness.

I wrote an article months ago that was just published.  It was a wonderful reminder of gratitude at the time I needed to read it.  I hope you will enjoy the article too.  Here is the link.

Positive Purposefullness Does Make A Difference

English: Think positive

English: Think positive (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A different sort of post for me this morning as I am going to direct you to a wonderful site that posts a new essay everyday for your consideration.  The site is designed to inspire and I absolutely know that what you choose to focus your thoughts on, spend your time with, and engage with on a daily basis influences your day and your perspective and your happiness.  Rather than reading depressing things, watching violent sad movies, or engaging in conversations that make you feel bad and strange, purposefully choose a positive direction.

I wrote an essay for InspireMeToday.com that focuses on the topic of true belief making a difference in how you approach life and the need to use it to shift into a positive purposefullness of your own choosing.  I hope you will follow this link there and feel inspired to pass this along to others as well.  Here is the link for the essay again – click now

God-Intended Detours

I just finished listening to a sermon by Joel Osteen.  One thing that he said during the sermon really resonated with me.  He made the comment that sometimes detours appear in our journey that seem to lead us away from where we want to be, but that these detours often provide you with valuable insight.  If you just trust that God is in control and release your desire to micromanage your own life, then amazing things can start to happen.  What might be perceived as a stumbling block by you could really be a building block leading to success.

The tricky part becomes when to recognize a detour as an opportunity rather than using the detour as a distraction and finding yourself unable to move on from here.  I think Joel Osteen would say, “Let it go, don’t worry too much about it.  Don’t try to overanalyze it.  Trust God.”  I see the value of this – at some point, you go need to release things.  You may have tried everything you know to do and now it may be a matter of trusting things will work out as they  should.  I also see the value of paying attention to what may be waiting for you at that detour.  For example, is there a stranger who is giving you valuable advice?  Not acting on the advice may get you stuck at your detour rather than allowing it to serve as the pit stop it was intended to be.   This needs to be the time when you follow your gut instincts.  These instincts may also be God at work, helping propel you down the right road, leading you to success.

Rather than hissing at the detours in your journey, greet them as a gift and pay attention to what God has intended you to learn from this temporary stop.  This attitude can help turn your journey during troubled times much more enjoyable as you take and use the gem you are learning along the way.

The Benefit of “Hanging Out”

English: Map of Lake Michigan. Category:Michig...

English: Map of Lake Michigan. Category:Michigan maps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A vacation of any sort is good for the soul, but of course, there are many types of vacations, some full of activity and others with some built-in relaxation time.  The recent trip I had with my two small children to Michigan to visit my family there was a nice break, and it definitely had a little of both: lots of activity, but still low-key with enough down time to be helpful.  My kids had a fantastic time with their cousins and I was able to “hang out” and do very normal things, something that I miss on a regular basis.  Because my husband is so ill, my days are usually filled with helping to care for my husband, tending to his needs and the needs of our family, and there is usually very little time left for “hanging out”.  So, while in Michigan, I tried to savor these experiences.  One afternoon, we all went to Lake Michigan.  I watched with such joy as my kids buried each other in the sand, threw balls on the shores, and froze their toes off going into the cold water.  That night, we had a campfire, drank wine, and talked about all kinds of things.  Another afternoon we watched a niece participate in an Irish dance competition and then visited my alma mater, Michigan State University.  We walked by the river, had lunch in a restaurant, and drove around campus.  Other days we visited the zoo, fished and went tubing in the lake, and in general, just “hung out.”  It felt so good to be in this relaxed environment, woes temporarily on the back burner.

One evening, one of my high school buddies came over for a visit.  It had been several years since we saw one another and that last time was at a high school reunion, where talk is often minimized as people are so excited to see as many old friends as possible in the few short hours of the actual reunion itself.  It was so nice to talk with my friend this past vacation trip, just hanging out in my sister’s backyard, drinking a beer and laughing.  It was as if we spoke on a regular basis, without much time passing since the last time.  I was reminded of my friend’s genuineness, her infectious smile, and her overall kindness.  It occurred to me, upon reflection of the night that I am most fortunate in so many ways.  Here was this person, after so many years, still so lovely.  I know that if I needed her, I could call.  I know she would be willing to help.  I know that she cares about me and my family.  What a gift that is.

So what role does “hanging out” play?  Connecting with another person can remind you that there is goodness in the world is an obvious benefit.  Having some down time to laugh is good for the spirit.  Having those moments when you can reflect, even if it is just for a moment, on the small miracles in front of you is important.  In my case, to observe my children in action: how they behave, how they interact with others, how much they have physically grown – all these were all neat to digest.  Hanging out can also give you the extra encouragement or burst of energy you need to make it through the next emotionally-charged and draining time.

When times are so troubled, it may seem very counter-intuitive, but taking a bit of time to “hang out” with friends can be just what you need – medicine for your psyche.

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