Tell Me One Good Thing About Your Year

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I cannot believe the doom and gloom I am seeing as people turn their middle finger up to 2016. I have had some great years, some painful ones and so many more in between. The truth is, life for the most part is what we make of it. We can zoom in on all the bad or we can choose to focus on the things that were good. I have learned a few things over the last 45 years. Sometimes we are convinced that we’ve gone through a bad time or a horrible year and then we are shown what a bad year really is. There are so many blessings and wonderful opportunities all around us but sometimes our tunnel vision blocks our ability to notice. As 2016 ticks away, I will persistently focus on all the wonderful things I am truly grateful for. That is how I will exit this year and enter the new one. With a heart full of hope and gratitude, I will make this transition with all the positive energy I can. I have my health, my family and a home to keep me warm. I have people who love me. I was blessed enough to live another year. We are owed nothing and every single day is a gift. Sometimes when everything is not exactly the way we want it to be we allow ourselves to become a victim. Poor me. Not this girl. I have started to recite all the reasons why this has been a fantastic year. My focus is on the good. My focus is on hope. My focus is love. Happy New Year everyone! 

How Did I Miss It?

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One thing I’ve decided to leave behind in 2016 is my medication for depression. I’ve wondered how different I might feel and day by day those feelings are becoming my new reality. As I sat and had lunch with my daughter today I let the pain tug at my heart. Every day that passes by is one less day she will be here with me. College is coming fast and I only have a few months left to get used to the idea of watching her go. She looked different to me today. So grown up, sitting there poised and confident as she dropped a little salsa into her lap. I’ve spent years trying to shape and mold her and she turned out nothing like I had planned. She is her own, unique, obstinate, beautiful version of herself…so much better than I ever imagined. She is smart and funny and kind and there is no doubt she will handle the world with grace all on her own. I am reminded of a quote I read someplace by Wayne Dyer:

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Maybe the person I saw in her today has been there all along. Maybe I just looked at her through different eyes, not critical ones but rather eyes of a mother who has suddenly noticed her baby girl is all grown up. Every day is a new adventure. A new chance to notice something you might have missed the day before.

Same Lesson, Different Trip

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Traveling always teaches me a valuable lesson.This year was no exception. The way I react to the unexpected ups and downs is very similar to how I handle most things in my own life.

We arrived at Newark airport in plenty of time.  Just as I stepped out of the car, curbside check in opened and I was second in line. The whole process was a breeze as I found my way into the security line. To my surprise, I was able to bypass the crowd thanks to that lovely label on my ticket that read TSA Pre-Check. I was at my gate in no time with plenty of time to spare. I actually sat there believing the rest of the trip would be just as smooth.

Everything fell apart from there. Delays, missed connections, more delays and finally a seat that was broken and would not recline. I was miserable and angry that I was stuck in a situation that I couldn’t do a single thing about…well except one thing anyway. I put a snarl on my face and continued to express my disdain through excessive complaining. I wanted everyone to know just how put out I actually was. I was sick and tired and I just wanted to be at home in my own bed.

Looking back, I know I had two choices. I could dwell on every detail that went wrong and coddle the victim inside of me or I could make it an adventure and just go with the flow. I took the dangerous road, the one that is full of darkness and despair. The end result was the same. I eventually got home and I type these words from the bed I longed for all day. The challenges weren’t the problem, my attitude was. As much as I know I have no control over the circumstances around me, sometimes I still throw a silly tantrum like a spoiled toddler. 

The lesson is simple. Sometimes I will have to sit in a place that makes me extremely uncomfortable. Sometimes I will have no choice but to follow a direction I would never voluntary choose for myself. What I do and how I react will define not only the entire experience and my perception of it but will also expose to me who I really am. Yesterday I was a spoiled toddler. It is time to stop fighting what is and to find the most comfortable chair in my most uncomfortable moments. It’s time to embrace that a moment is only a short amount of time and that each one that passes by, will be different than the next. So pull up a chair, order a margarita and relax. This too shall pass. It always does. What seems like the end of the world today will only be a distant memory in a couple of days. The sky is not falling unless you convince yourself it is. Cant you think up something better than that? 

I’m Leaving This Behind in 2017

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I read somewhere that it is necessary to leave something behind in 2016 to make room for something new. I could spend hours making lists of useless things I would rather not carry into the new year but if I could only pick one, my answer would be simple. Expectations.

I fall for it everytime. I get this idea of how something is going to be. I fantasize about the perfect details as the smile spreads bigger across my face. Then reality comes along and slaps it right off of me. Christmas was a good example. I wait all year to finally go home and spend some quality time with my family. I am the only one living far away and I miss out on so many things that I often regret. This year I was excited for weeks in anticipation of what the holidays would bring. Two days after finally arriving, I collapsed. Not once but twice. I was so sick that I actually passed out at a rest area in between my brothers home and my moms. I don’t even remember it happening the second time. I remember waking up and hearing my son on the phone with 911 as I insisted I was okay. It was awful. I was staggering and slurring my words and just wanting to go to my childhood home and lay on the couch. Resting took up the whole next day. I was frustrated because I know it’s impossible to get even a second back. This was precious time wasted on feeling crappy on a couch instead of visiting with people I wait all year to see. Christmas finally came along and I still wasn’t feeling so great. I got through the day but was feeling quite exhausted. We all slept at my moms that night and then it hit. 8 out of 10 of us were stricken with a stomach virus in the middle of the night. At the same time, all four at my brothers house in addition to my sister were going through the same motions at their own houses. The fun was over. Everyone slept for 24 hours straight. I prayed all night that I would be spared. My body was already feeling so weak and my wish was granted. Out of 16 of us, only two of us escaped this nasty virus. Thank goodness I was one of them and able to take care of the ones who were in the same house.

Christmas was so far from what I expected it to be. Expectations are garbage and they set me up for disappointment every single time. In 2017, I am going to try and just let it be, whatever it is.  I still enjoyed my visit, it just didn’t come close to what I had planned. So, no more plans. No more regrets. No more I wish things were different. I need to embrace what is and make the most out of whatever circumstances I am given. Goodbye expectations. I won’t be taking you with me next year. What will you be leaving behind?

It Does Pass

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Just as I imagined, what seemed like the tragic end of the world yesterday is no big deal today.

  This too shall pass. 

These are the words I repeat to myself as a reminder that the present moment will be gone a flash. Sometimes you have to just breathe and remember that life is a constant spiral of change. Even when you want it to stay the same, like it or not, that won’t be the case. Be willing to let go of what you cannot change or it will take control. The more focus you put on it, the bigger it will become until it nearly panics you to death. Relax. Be grateful when everything is going great and hang on while your world seems to be crumbling. It’s not, it just feels that way and we trick ourselves into believing something that just isn’t true. Tomorrow will not be like today and we cannot be sure today will be anything like tomorrow. Take comfort in knowing that change will carry you to a new place. Embrace it, look forward to it and don’t be afraid. Whatever is bothering you right now will seem insignificant in a short period of time. Calm down and breathe. 

This too shall pass.

Stay Calm

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This week I am having a relapse. I can feel the anxiety building a little more each day. This is a stressful time of year. Not only are the holidays approaching that bring with them shopping, packing, traveling, family but also final exams. It’s been a full on study-fest here the last few nights along with writing and editing papers. I am relieved that this will all come to an end on Friday and then we can finally move on to eating cookies, singing Christmas carols, and packing. I struggle often with the pull I feel toward education. I really believe my calling is the classroom and the more I watch my own kids go through the system, the more I see the need for some new ideas. I watch these kids trying to fill out packets of questions to review for their exams fully knowing that no one intends to go over it with them. If these kids struggled through the information on previous tests and quizzes, how in the world will they now magically understand it for a final exam? Does no one consider the answers on their “study guide” will most likely be wrong and they will waste time studying information that is just not accurate? Does it not make sense that the reviews should be teacher lead to possibly make the information stick this time? Is it realistic to give kids three class periods to sit and work independently when a review is meant to go over what has already been learned and not spend countless hours searching for answers that will be too late to study? Does the review really have to be handed out the week of finals? Wouldn’t it have made since to give it the weekend before? I don’t know. I guess having a kid who struggles in school has forced me to see the education system a new way. The bottom line though is every teacher has the freedom to run their class a certain way and I don’t see much benefit or value the way my kids teachers are running theirs. So much wasted time. So much busy work. Quantity without quality. I just don’t get it. Many of my kids teachers are kids themselves so they view the process from a different set of eyes. I guess they too will see the many flaws as they watch their own kids enter middle and high school. Oh the joys of being a stressed out parent. Time to hit the treadmill and run away from it all.

Check Your Mailbox

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A silly donut. That’s all I could think about when I woke up yesterday. My mouth was watering for one but the thought of venturing out in the cold to actually get one put a big halt in my plans. I went about my day but still had fleeting thoughts about how good that donut would taste. Around noon I checked my email and to my surprise there was a message to check my mailbox. In there, I found the sweetest surprise. Are you ready for this? All the way in the back was a tiny brown bag and when I looked inside….a donut. A neighbor of mine decided to share a small act of kindness and left it there for me to enjoy. The funny part? She had no idea I wanted a donut yesterday. I asked the Universe for a donut and it literally delivered it to my mailbox. Share the kindness and make someone smile today. I know this tiny donut made my day. Time to pay it forward.

The Lesson In Healing

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Healing. Every tragic storm is followed by the most beautiful sunrise. It may take days or weeks but eventually the clouds disappear and the warmth of the sun melts the most bitter cold.

I’ve suffered from depression for a few years now. There was a time when I didn’t believe I would ever feel a moments worth of happiness again. In fact, I wasn’t sure I would ever feel anything at all again. The guilt that came along with that swallowed me whole. In my mind, I didn’t think I had anything to be depressed about. My life was good so why didn’t it feel that way to me? Slowly but surely my life has come full circle. I have fought my way back and my heart feels so full today as I sit here in the pickup line at school counting my endless blessings. I am me again and I am so grateful that time has healed the pain that temporarily found a home inside of me. 

The most important lesson that came out of this dark time is that I am not in control. I will never be in control and I had to make peace with knowing that is a reality. There will be things I want to change in my life but dwelling on them and resisting something that is just going to be does not change the reality of the circumstances. I had to live in my own uncertainty. I had to find calm in my own discomfort. Anxiety became a normal that I was forced to live with and I learned to breathe there. Sometimes we do not understand what is happening to us but there comes a moment where we trust that in the end, everything really will be okay. In that place I found myself again but even more importantly I found an unshakeable faith that carries me through the happiest and darkest days. My sun is out and I can feel it shining right through me and onto others. I pray the sun comes up for you as well. It is there, I promise but sometimes it is just hidden behind an innocent cloud. Try and feel the warmth until the day you finally see it again. It may not be tomorrow but eventually it will come back out.

Just a Moment Longer

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My daughter loves to sing. Not the soft, beautiful singing that soothes your soul but rather hard on the ears, top of your lungs, screeching with passion kind of singing. My ears actually hurt as she belted out her favorite Frozen tune. Let it Go she bellowed through the house. Immediately I softened. I realized, in that moment, that soon my house would grow eerily quiet. Not the kind of silence I would welcome but one that would remind me how empty the house will be. Next year during this time she will be off to college and I will be longing for her to return for Christmas break. It’s easy to lose track of time and what’s important. There are days my life flashes in front of my eyes and I ache for the certainty of what once was. I picture her chubby little face, messy pigtails and sweet little Barney songs. I miss her crawling in my lap or in the tub everytime I would take a bath. I miss her big, brown, sparkly eyes and the wonder each time she would discover something new. Her eyes are more serious now but I am grateful for her playful spirit. She has fallen down a few times but is still brave enough to run full speed ahead. She is unafraid and confident and fully engaged in every moment. I pray that never changes.

Today, look around you and really see your blessings. Enjoy every person and every moment and remember that we can never know what tomorrow may bring. I know this holiday season is bitter sweet. This is the last year that the only normal I have ever known will only exist for a few months more. Today I will look a little longer, love a whole lot deeper and feel the gratitude in my heart. Today I will not take anything for granted. I long to hold onto her just a moment longer.