Forgive and grow…

So often we hold grudges or let the things that upset us on one day carry over into the next day, week, or even longer.  I have learned a few things in life that are very important lessons:

  1. Forgiveness is for us, not them
  2. Holding onto anger only hurts us, not them
  3. Negativity blocks personal growth

These lessons have helped me in so many ways and I want to take a moment to share them with you.   In life I have learned to make amends with people that I have hurt or wronged and forgive those who hurt me.  In an article written by the Mayo Clinic forgiveness is clearly outlined as to what it is and how to practice this.  

“Forgiveness means different things to different people. Generally, however, it involves a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge.

The act that hurt or offended you might always be with you, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help free you from the control of the person who harmed you. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or excusing the harm done to you or making up with the person who caused the harm. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.”

There are important things to remember.  Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee reconciliation and it doesn’t guarantee a change in the person you are forgiving.  What it does do is allow you to move forward in your own life.  It keeps this particular issue from creeping into other relationships.  It releases you from the anger and bitterness you hold within when carrying a grudge or resentment.  

So how do you “Forgive” someone?  As defined by the mayo clinic, forgiveness is a commitment to a personalized process of change.”  To do reach this state of mind there are several things you can do: :
  • Recognize the value of forgiveness 
  • Identify what needs healing, who needs to be forgiven and for what
  • Consider seeking outside help to move forward (counseling)
  • Acknowledge your emotions and work to release them
  • Choose to forgive  – it is a choice and a conscious decision
  • Move away from your role as victim – the person who has hurt or offended you does not control you or your emotions. 

I have learned that no one can MAKE me feel sad or angry just as no one can MAKE me feel happy.  These are choices.  When I was a child and became angry or upset or even sad my mother would ask me to make a decision.  She asked me to decide how long I wanted to feel that way.  Maybe I wanted to be angry for an hour or even a day.  Maybe I wanted to be sad for a few days.  Either way, she would help me to set the time limit and at the end of the time limit, she would remind me of my decision to only be upset for the period of time and now I can choose a new feeling.  This process has helped me so often in life.  There are things I WANT to be upset about because I am not ready to process them and let go, but I realize I am only hurting myself. 

Much like any addition we have, we use our feelings or substitute our feelings for actions such as drinking or something else.  I learned that my addiction only allowed me to hide from my thoughts or feelings, but never made them go away and usually made them worse once the substance I used wore off.  Facing my feelings and the issues I faced head on was much easier in the long run.

Many times our closest family and friends can cause us the most concern or worry.  We love them the most and as humans we “want what we want” but cannot control what others do or say.  So here we are with confused feelings that can lead to hurt relationships with those we love the most. 

With forgiveness also comes acceptance.  Forgiving someone also means you must accept that they are who they are and your forgiveness doesn’t require them to apologize or even change.    That’s ok.  Just remember if the person’s actions or words do not change, you are not required to keep them in your inner circle or even in your life.  

Choosing to allow someone in your “world” is a choice only YOU can make.  Not making a choice to change, walk away, or allow continued behavior is still a choice.  You are responsible for yourself.  

Love, Happiness, Joy, Anger, Hurt, or sadness are all things you have the ability to control and you can choose to feel these things or not.  

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

In the end, you have the ability to forgive.  You have the ability to change yourself and your own actions.  We all deserve good days and happiness in our lives, but these are things we must decide to obtain.  

 

Find your tribe, love them hard

I am a huge fan of “Family” quotes.  I wanted to take a moment and share some with you.  To me, family is everything.  It is the foundation that built me, the love that has shaped me and the rock on which I can always fall back on.  Throughout my life I have watched my family evolve into what is the most precious thing I have to date.

  • Family – Where life begins and love never ends
  • The love of a family is life’s greatest blessing
  • Family – We may not have it all together, but we have it all
  • Family is not about blood, it is about who is willing to hold your hand when you need it the most
  • Family is family, whether it’s the one you start out with, the one you end up with, or the family you gain along the way.

I suggest you take a moment and draw your family tree.  You may be surprised to see the list of parents, cousins, nieces, nephews, etc. that are there.  If your family is small, try adding leaves to your tree that include your complete tribe.  Do you have a family friend that has been like a sister or aunt to you?  Do you have a best friend that has helped you raise your children?  They are all leaves on our trees.

When you get a moment, send a note to your tribe and let them know what they mean to you.  Here are my little notes:

To my parents: “Thank you for teaching me to eat with a fork, to wipe my own butt, to get up when I fell down and to laugh so hard my belly hurts.  Thank you for teaching me that this life is a beautiful gift and then telling me to go live it”

To my sons: “You may not have the same eyes or smile as me, but from the very first moment, you had my heart.”

To my grandchildren: “Trying to explain how much I love my Grandkids is like trying to count the stars”

To my cousins: “God made us all cousins because he knew our parents couldn’t handle us as siblings.”   Thank you for being my first playmates and now my greatest friends.

To my extended family: “Family is much more than a word – It’s a feeling of warmth and love that neither time nor distance can change.”  Thank you for always being on the other end of the phone, a text, or an e-mail.

To my husband: “You are my forever and always”.  God knew what he was doing when our paths crossed.  There is no one more patient, loving, understanding, strong, or crazy than you.

To my friends (Both near and far): “Friends go like waves on the ocean, but the true ones stay like an octopus on your face”  Hahahaha…  and this is why we are friends!

 

You are responsible for your own happiness

I learned a long time ago that no one can MAKE you happy or MAKE you sad.  You in fact are responsibly for your own happiness and the way you feel.  Now, don’t get up in arms so quickly, finish reading with an open mind before you come up with a hundred scenarios to try and prove this statement false.  Yes, there are many, many many situations that are very very sad, even tragic.  And there are many many situations that are so filled with joy is can bring tears to our eyes almost uncontrollably.  Now I ask you, do these feelings last?  Do they last five minutes? Five days? Five years?  Because if they do, than maybe I’m wrong, maybe these are the things that make us happy and sad.

What I mean when I say we are responsible for our own happiness is just that.  I allow what others say and do to affect me negatively or positively.  Take the birth of a child.  If my friend has a baby, I may be filled with joy for their new arrival.  I may be filled with jealousy over wanting a little bundle of joy.  I may be filled with concern over their ability to care for the child, or for the child’s well-being in general should there be an issue.  None of these are brought on by the mother or the children they are all in my head and in my heart and I choose to feel them and think them.

Recently I lost a friend due to alcoholism, liver failure to be exact.  I chose to not be filled with sorrow though I was very sad.  I choose to embrace his memory and his struggle and use it as an example of what alcohol can do.  Share his story and move forward.  I think I would have a good reason to be very sad for a good length of time considering the back story on my particular friend and the situation,  but again…. I am responsible for my feelings and my thoughts.  This is my choice.

When I was a child and was angry or upset, my parents would ask me how long I intended to be angry.  At first I thought it was strange, but then it became normal behavior.  If I responded with twenty minutes, than for twenty minutes, they would leave me alone and let me sulk and be very very angry with them.  However, at the end of the twenty minutes, they would come to me and let me know my time was up.  It was time to change my outlook on the situation.  Now there were situations as I grew older that required full days or even several days of anger or sadness, but just the same, at the conclusion of my time frame, my parents would come back to me and check to see that my frame of mind had adjusted and let me know it was me responsible for my happiness and it was time to find that within me once again.

I watched a video this morning on this very topic.  It spoke of being responsible for your own happiness within a relationship (marriage specifically).  If you are not happy within and responsible for your own happiness, than you come to the partnership with an empty cup, constantly rattling it begging for someone else to fill your cup for you.  If you both come to the table that way, it is destined to fail.  If one of you comes to the table that way, it is destined to fail.

A partnership is defined as a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities.  Notice the words “joint rights and responsibilities“.  JOINT.  Not part, not sum, not half-way.

Come to the table with your own joy from within.  Throughout your marriage there will be many peaks and valleys.  Sometimes you will pull 50% of the line and sometimes 70%, even 90%.  Just remember, there are days when your partner will be pulling the same amount when you are in a valley.  If you are responsible for your own feelings, it will make towing the line int he relationship so much easier.  As thought there is no anchor weighing you both down.

I hope you find your happiness within and enjoy your journey through life.  As always, have a happy day!

Keep positivity in your life, let negativity pass you by

As I was driving into work this morning I was listening to a radio show that was right on target with exactly what I believe.  They were discussing negativity as it relates to social media and in life in general.  The example given by the radio host was this: “If you post a picture of a slice of pizza, comments back should pertain to the slice of pizza.  How can there be much negativity surrounding the pizza?”  Potentially, there may not be fans of the topping flavors and that is acceptable banter between friends of course, but this is not a platform for a political ambush. Would you agree?  Well, I do!

A long time ago a good friend offered me a bit of advice.  Surround yourself with positivity and let the negativity pass you by.  Step aside and let it go whenever you can.  Negativity is everywhere and it is so much easier for us all to go so quickly to the darker side of things so take a moment anytime you can, to find the silver linings in all of life’s little situations.  Your life will be better for it.  I’ve started doing this years ago.  I personally have battled levels of depression at times in my life for various reasons and this advice has truly helped me battle through.  Obviously I subscribe to many platforms of social media and I have a hard and fast rule for all of my connections; If you post three negative things back to back, I will disconnect from you.  This does not mean I don’t want to associate with you.  It doesn’t mean I don’t like you.  It means that when reading my social media feeds, I prefer them to be positive.  Constant negativity is not what I choose to allow to filter through.  Once or twice is understandable and I want to share in the lives of my friends, but continuous complaining or bashing is a no go for me.

Think about it.  When you turn on the news, read the paper, even drive down the road and read signs… is the news 80% happy?  70% happy? even 60% happy?  If the answer is no, then all of this negative information is being inserted into your brain and into your heart for you to filter through and process.  I’m not saying we should block out the news of the world and live sheltered lives where there are only unicorns and rainbows.  I am saying that it is up to us to see the wild flowers growing in the median and notice their beauty.  It is up to us, to see the ducks and their babies floating in the retention pond and maybe stop to feed them once in a while on a lunch break.  Enjoy the beauty and the world around us. Giggle out loud when we see something funny.  Take a moment and think about yourself.  Do you walk around with a smile on your face generally or do you frown?  This is how the world sees you.  Have you ever thought of that?  This is how your children see you as they glance across the room.  Are you a general happy person?  Or have you allowed too much negativity to turn your child-like smile to a more permanent frown?

I will admit, I am a hippie at heart and if I could fill everyone’s day with a happy thought, start everyone’s day with a smile and a hug I absolutely would.  But I can’t.  It is up to each of us to remember to hold the door for a stranger, smile at the cashier, say please and thank you, but most importantly, care for our own precious souls and ensure they are positive ones, always.  Please remember if you have little children, they are watching you always and they see you when you don’t think they are looking.  Even as they get older, they are still watching you and learning from you.  Please be a positive, happy role model for our future and keep the positivity flowing.

As always, have a happy day.

When water is thicker than blood

Many times I have heard the saying blood is thicker than water when it comes to family matters but I have found that this is not always true.  If you have had the pleasure, the HONOR, of living in a blended family than you know that water can be thicker than blood.  Let me give you some beautiful examples from my own experience.

Let’s start with my parents.  Both of my parents re-married when I was young and I was blessed with two step-parents who love me as their own.   My step-mom is my first example.  From the word go, she has treated me as her very own daughter and never waivered.  I have tested her love, tried her patience, and even tried to drive a wedge into her marriage to my father simply because I was a punk kid at times.  (Even into my twenties).  I made some rough choices and she stood by my side, encouraged me, lifted me up and helped dust me off when I fell.  She is one tough lady but has always been there standing next to me and even behind me letting me shine as I found my own light as an adult.  Just as my own biological parents have done.

Next there is my step-father.  This is another example of unconditional love.  He and I have a different relationship than he does with my other siblings.  Though he loves us all very much, he and I have a special bond that I value very much.  This bond is a result of choices I made in my twenties that changed my life and the lives of my family. (I will go into this in a separate blog someday down the road, but trust me, bad choices bring out major changes).  My parents, all four of them stepped in to help me at varying degrees and this opened up many channels of communication that I never thought possible.  It was when I was at my lowest point that I found the most love and tolerance.  I thought I had pushed all of my family to the breaking point, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth.  My parents and my step-parents have taught me what real unconditional love is for a child and for another human being.  For that, I am eternally grateful.

This brings us to the present.  I am now married and a step parent to two wonderful grown men.  They of course don’t need a mommy or by any means even a mother, but here I  am and they are stuck with me.  I say that jokingly.  I love these two men as if they were my very own all along.  I now know how my step-parents felt and feel.  I worry about these guys constantly and want the best for them always.  It’s crazy!  They have children of their own and I am beyond blessed to be their “grandma”.  Words cannot describe the feeling I get when the family I married into comes together.  Some live close by and some are out of state, but I assure you they are all as close to me and as important to me as my sister, my niece and nephew, and my own parents.

Each of my sons participates in a blended family as well and I am so proud of the kind of men they are.  They are great husbands / boyfriends and amazing fathers.  Raised by an amazing man, my husband.  Though I didn’t have any part in raising them, I am still just as proud of them as ever.  My cup runneth over!  For the longest time as a child I took my step- parents for granted.  I was so very wrong.  They chose to marry my parents, they chose to be a part of my up-bringing and they choose to still be a part of my everyday life and for that I am so eternally grateful and blessed.  I too choose to be a part of my sons lives and I am so blessed that at this stage in their lives they let me.  As adults they have the opportunity to accept me into their lives, their homes and their new families.

Throughout my life, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that your family is what and who you make it.  It consists of blood relatives, people you marry and friends that are just as important or even more important than family.  Family can be close in proximity or live far away.  You can talk every day or once a month or once a year, but they are still there for you, supporting you, loving you, and in your corner when you need them and you are there for them as well.

When I play those silly games wondering what would you want with you if you were stranded on an island, my answer is always my family.  I can  make it through anything anywhere with them by my side.

My wish for you, my friends, is that you love your family / friends as much as I do.  That you have the opportunity to make amends if they are needed and that you embrace life and love more than “stuff”.  At then end of the day you “can’t take it with you”.  After all…

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”

As always, have a happy day.

Vacationing – “Gypsy Style”

The best vacations are the unplanned ones.  My husband and I have just returned from a whirl wind trip around Florida where in one week we accomplished the following:

  • A weekend trip to a friends wedding where I participated as a bride’s maid.
  • A visit to my dad’s lake house to pick-up a few things for my dad (pre-surgery for him)
  • A few days in the keys (fishing, kayaking, site seeing, etc.)
  • A celebration of life for my Great Aunt who has passed away (at 95 years of age)
  • A visit to my father’s house (post-surgery)
  • A visit with  my son and some house hunting
  • And home to in-pack and do some laundry.

Now, I will admit, some of these little day or multi-day trips were pre-planned, but for the most part, we just jumped in the car and headed out for a road trip and our vacation worked our beautifully.  Stress free and my husband and I laughed harder and longer than we have in so long.  Along the way we made new friends and connected with old ones.  We made side trips to the Sponge Docks of Tarpon Springs and took a little hike thru the Florida Panther and wildlife preserve down in Alligator Ally (neither of which were even thought of in advance).

If I can offer a few pieces of friendly advice they are the following:

Love often and laugh hard.  Tell jokes!  Sing along to the radio.  And don’t get mad if the other person likes to hum.  That’s right hum.  I have learned that my husband hums when he is happy.  It used to irritate me, now, I listen for it because it lets me know that he is genuinely happy in is heart and then I have done my job.

Hold hands with your best friend just because you can.  I love it when my husband comes up beside me and takes my hand to go for a walk.  There is no reason.  He isn’t “Dragging me somewhere” or “Showing me something”.  He just likes me close to him, and I, he.

Stop and smell the roses, and take a picture too!  Along our trip, we noticed things that had we been in a rush we would have missed.  The Alligators on the shore of the ditch along the road.  The iguana eating lunch in the mangroves as we kayaked in the afternoon.  The beautiful shells along the seashore and the tide changed.  The local food, the music, the smells in the air, all so beautiful if we just slow down and put our electronics away for a moment.

Stop worrying.  We had so many things to see and do during the week.  A wedding, time for each other, a surgery for my dad, extended family worries, and a funeral of sorts.  But as my dad has always told me….  Even when you leave this world, someone will still pile things into your “inbox” and the world will still turn.  Do what needs to get done and don’t sweat the small stuff because after all, it’s all small stuff.

So with that in mind, we enjoyed the heck out of each day and love each friend and family member as we made it to them.  And all the while, we held hands, sang songs and laughed.

May your next vacation be very soon.  Try to take an evening away, a little weekend getaway or even a few days to get back to what is really important and that is each other.  As always, have a happy day.

The best advice ever…

I read an article today that struck my fancy and I just have to stop and share a few tidbits.  I hope that it will inspire you to either share your own words of wisdom or pass these on.  The article asked women executives from across the country to share nuggets of knowledge that had been so kindly shared with them.  Little quips that helped to mold their careers, the way they face the world and/or everyday challenges in life.  You know I love lists, so of course, I’ll share them in list format.  I feel a list makes them easier to pass on, remember, or if you are like me, when you see it… you copy and past it into your digital notebook of tasty treats for your mind and soul to be nibbled on at a later date.

  1. Get your education
  2. Follow your compass
  3. Make whatever you do your passion
  4. In a world where instantaneous action is expected, we cannot lose sight of the value of pause…
  5. Approach every situation as if you area a small child.  Observe those around you, honor their experience and learn from their expertise.
  6. Build a network, add value to a room
  7. Set your bar high and go get it…..When you reach your goal, reset and do it again… continue to aim high.
  8. You create your own destiny by how hard you work and the time you put into the business
  9. Always sit at the table
  10. Don’t give up before the miracle happens, and it does happen (this one was my addition).

This article was found inside the pages of the Jacksonville Business Journal Vol. 33, No 19 in case you care to take a peak.  Here is a little blurb from the paper….

“A mentor could be your mom or dad, your first boss or someone you admire from afar.  You can talk to that person every week or remember his or her words for decades.  A mentor’s advice stays the same when you change jobs.  It prepares you for your next promotion and helps you recover from your most-recent setback. And the day will come when you hear your mentor’s voice in your head and the message becomes your own.”

My wish for is that you have a mentor and become a mentor.  Remember that everyone should be treated with the same respect from the Janitor to the CEO and that includes yourself.  You can go so far in  life and you are only held back by your fears of success.  Go move mountains my friends and remember along the way….

have a happy day

 

Speaking without words – love

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like without the words “I love you” or “I’m sorry”?  Without being able to say “I’ll fix it” or “I’ll make it up to you”?  Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if we all “spoke” without ever saying a word.  No sign language, because after all, those are still words.  But actually not using those phrases or anything similar to those at all?  Here it comes my friends, another challenge!  Valentine’s day is right around the corner. New Year’s has come and gone, and I suspect some of us may have already fallen short on a few resolutions.  So here is my February Challenge for everyone.  Try speaking without words.  You read that right!

I’m asking you to try to learn all of the different languages of love that are out there.  Try “doing” instead of “saying”.  Is it a smile instead of a frown?  Is it a gesture of making the bed or actually hanging up the towel or folding the laundry that catches your partner’s eye and lets them know you heard them?  Is it showing up maybe five minute early to pick up your child so you can see their face light up that you took time out to put them first instead of being the last to pick them up?  (It does make a difference.)  Is it remembering what a favorite meal is for breakfast or adding a note in a lunch box or writing a note in the mirror from the steam of the shower?  The point is to slow down and not make excuses or high five in the hallway this month with the traditional kiss goodnight and “I love you”.  Please try to figure out what makes your friend and family feel special or make them feel like you heard them and DO THOSE THINGS.  I promise, it comes back ten fold in happiness on all levels.

I will give you a hint (and a glimpse into my life).   Even setting up the coffee in the morning for your spouse so they just have to turn on the machine goes a long way.  My husband does this for me and every morning it starts my day with a huge smile because I know in his morning rush, he took a few minutes to think of me when he didn’t have to.  He measures out the cream and sugar and puts the K-cup inside the Keurig so that all I have to do is press the button.  He even puts the spoon inside the cup to remind me to stir.  Every single morning, he manages to melt my heart without saying a word.

I hope this challenge pays off for you and everyone you try it with.  As always my friends, have a happy day!

 

A Tidy home – a little cheat sheet of suggestions to save time and money

Keeping your home clean can seem like a constant battle, especially for a large family or people with little one’s in their home.  (This is also the case after guests come to visit).  House-keeping is a constant and never-ending chore.  Here are some great tips (life hacks) for keeping up with your home and making the tasks easier or more efficient.

First, you need a few regular items on hand.  I try to get as much as I can from the dollar store and rags can come from the thrift store or even recycled clothes or possibly that one sock the dryer forgot to eat.

1.       Fresh lemons.  They last a while and are a great additive for a cleaning agent. 

2.       Kosher Salt (or table salt of some kind)

3.       Vinegar (White)

4.       Baking Soda

5.       Old socks

6.       Hair Dryer

7.       Olive Oil

8.       Cream of tartar

9.       Dryer sheets

10.   Chalk

11.   Plastic Bags

12.   Lint Rollers (Dollar Store Purchase)

13.   There are countless other items that are handy so feel free to add to this list and personalize it.

Here are some house-keeping life hacks to give a try and see what fits nicely into your schedule allowing for more time and some cost savings:

1.       Vinegar and baking soda = clean oven

2.       Vinegar and water (50/50 mix) and an old sock = clean blinds

3.       Lemons = clean facets and sink handles

4.       Lemons and salt = clean cutting board and clean coffee pot

5.       Cream of Tartar = clean stainless steel appliances

6.       Dryer Sheets – adds a fresh smell to your freezer or refrigerator (change monthly)

7.       Dryer Sheets – clean and protected baseboards

8.       Plastic bag filled with vinegar wrapped around shower heads = clean shower heads

9.       Toothpaste = clean jewelry and clean sneakers

10.   Lint Rollers = clean lamp shades

11.   Hair Dryer and Olive Oil = clean drink rings on a wooden table

12.   Baking Soda = removes oil stains from carpet

I hope this either makes things a bit easier, solves some mystery for you, or just changes up your routing at home to get your house neat and clean.  As always, have a happy day!

 

What is a resolution?

Every year so many of us make a list of our New Year Resolutions.  What does this mean and what is the point?  I think I either need a better understanding, a change in perspective or a new list (and oh I love lists!)

First, lets define the word resolution.  According to Google, it is a firm decision to do or not to do something. Ok.  That being said, let’s define the word goal.  Again, according to Google, it is the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.  Slightly similar, but I like goal better.  A resolution is a firm decision, thus not allowing for a stumble along the way and let’s face it, we all do that.  Maybe this is why not many of us succeed at resolutions.  A Goal is an object, a focus, sort of a light at the end of a tunnel, thus allowing you to fall as many times as you want as long as you keep going.

My point here, is that let’s make New Year GOALS this years.  I challenge you to make a list of things you want to accomplish this year.  Places you want to go, things you want to do, books you want to read, etc.  Make them realistic, budget minded and creative.  Write them down.  Hang your list up somewhere in your home where you will see it on a regular basis.  Mine will be hung in my bathroom.  My husband and I have been talking about making our list for a week or so now and thinking about the things we would like to plan for the new year.  He has a few items as do I that we would personally like to see happen this year and combined I think our list will make for a great 2018.

I hope this ignites a fire in you and your family for a creative and fun start to your year and helps to keeps the spirit of family, sharing and caring in your heart from 2017.  As always, have a happy day.

Turn your gratitude into your goals… even better, a bucket list.

I’ve been thinking about all the things I’m thankful for and watching my friends and family lately.  Talking to them on the phone. Learning about their lives as time rolls on and finding out what is important to them.  It’s made me think about what is important to me and has me thinking about my goals for the future.  The New Year will soon be upon us and, as we all typically do, a list will get made of resolutions. As quickly as it’s made, it is forgotten.  I propose a challenge for us all, to do something different this year.  Let’s turn our gratitude list into our goal list.  Let’s create a bucket list for one year only.

This may sound sort of strange at first and I haven’t carved the whole thing out yet but let me start by sharing a little story with you.  A few years back my sister and I asked our mother to create her bucket list.  Her response was of course, “Girls, I’m not dying!  I’m not even sick!”  We laughed and agreed.  Our mother couldn’t be in better health.  In fact she will probably out live all of us.  We corrected her and pointed out that the fun part of a bucket list is doing the things you’ve always wanted to do while you can actually do them, NOT when you are past your prime and wish you had the strength or energy.  She thought about it and at first her list was small.  We went to a painting class, then a hockey game.  Her list grew as the ideas came to her of things she had never done but wanted to do or sounded like fun to try.  My sister and I have had so much fun helping our mom to tick things off her bucket list one by one and her list has grown just as quickly as we knock items off.  That is the fun of it, never finding the bottom, but always finding new adventures together.  We have since gone to her first concert, gone zip-lining, taken a Segway tour around a quaint town we had never visited before.  Just this past summer we were able to enjoy a cruise to Mexico with our mom.  It was the first time our mom had ever been on a cruise and she loved it.  The best part; it was just the three of us, my mother, my sister and myself.  It had been so long since the three of us had taken a trip that I’m not sure if it was the destination, the method of the destination or the company that made the trip absolutely perfect and a memory for a lifetime.  The point of this short story about my mom is that by asking her to make a bucket list, my sister and I have been able to share experiences with her that we never knew she had wanted.  These experiences are now beautiful memories for us all.  Now, each time I miss my mom I send her a note and ask what our next adventure will be.  For Christmas, my sister and I get a hand-made gift certificate from her good for one day to do whatever we want, a date with our mom.  That may sound trivial, but in a large family whom all have very busy lives and live across several cities, this is one of the most beautiful gifts I get each year and I look forward to it each year.

Circling back to the point of this blog if I haven’t lost you yet, I would like to take this time to think of all the things we are grateful for.  If you have small children in your life I’m sure they are bringing home crafts from school with little turkeys and feathers indicating all they are grateful for.  If you have older ones, take your next meal and make this a topic of discussion.  Learn about each other.  From there take a few days to think about it and begin to think how you can take what your family is grateful for and turn that list into a bucket list for next year.  If your family is grateful for “family” than take a family trip or maybe one day trip a month to somewhere new; A trip on a tankful.  If your little one is grateful for breakfast (there are always funny things they are grateful for), thank take that to heart and have your little one cook breakfast once a month on a weekend or maybe go out to breakfast once a month to a new restaurant or a special place.  The point is to turn your gratitude list into goals or a bucket list for the next year and embrace what your family feels is important.  Have fun with it and include them in the decisions for your list.

The experiences my sister and I have had with our mom have been priceless and each year we learn more about her; what her likes and dislikes are, what her dreams are and what she is looking forward to.  It was not until I was older that I have learned to appreciate these qualities in another person. They are what make up their whole person and what make them special.  Take time as you are learning about what your family and friends are grateful for this season to step back and really see what makes them special.  What are their wants, their fears, theirs hopes and dreams?  Can you help them accomplish them and in turn be a part of their memories and them be a part of yours?  Enjoy this beautiful season and enjoy your family and friends.  As always, have a happy day.

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