Tag Archives: gratitude

What is There to Celebrate?

The first holiday season after a loss can be especially difficult – whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of a marriage. I remember the first Thanksgiving after my dad died. My mom and I were celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister in another state. After Thanksgiving Mass, we all three just stood there and cried because we missed my dad so much.

It’s so easy to fall into a funk during the holidays – sadness, anger, depression, and bitterness. Cycle Dude said his deceased wife is the one who made the holidays joyful for him and his children. There just doesn’t seem to be any spark in his holidays. I am determined to change that this year (since I am living in his house, too).

I decorated his house for fall because it’s my favorite time of the year and I always decorated my home for fall. I have tons of Christmas decorations that I will set out as well. I have discovered that there is something to celebrate after my divorce – peace, stability and joy. Those things were dreadfully lacking in my marriage. I celebrate a life of gratitude – for Cycle Dude, my children and soon-to-arrive granddaughter, my pups, my friends, etc.

My life is not perfect – whose is? Yet, there is so much in my life to celebrate. There is so much to be grateful for. If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, it doesn’t have to be depressing. Take time for yourself – what do you like to do? Go out for ice skating and hot chocolate with a friend. Volunteer at your local homeless mission. Bake cookies with your adult children, or for your neighbors or the children at church.

But most of all, have a grateful heart. There is always something to be thankful for. What is there to celebrate? Life! Take the time this holiday season to enjoy life. Stay tuned. . . .

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Lessons from a Dog

I have written before on this blog about my two canine children – Jack and Shirley. Jack is my 10-year old boxer/terrier mix. He is highly intelligent and very vocal – both traits from his boxer parent. Shirley is my 9-year old Dalmatian/hound mix. She is very energetic and a tad ditzy – both traits from her Dalmatian parent. However, her sense of smell is through the roof. She gets that from her hound parent.

Shirley loves to lay by the back door and watch things – she’s my watchdog. Jack is very protective and barks when the ice maker in the fridge makes noise because he thinks it’s someone at the front door – he’s my guard dog.

I’ve had both dogs since they were puppies, so we’re a pack now. When they sleep in the bed with me, we all have to snuggle up close and be touching. They know where I am 100% of the time I am home. They love to do things together – go on walks, chill on the couch, go ‘bye-bye’ in the car. I am a dog person and have had dogs most of my adult life. I’ve learned some valuable lessons from my canine children:

1. Love with all you have: My pups let me know I am their ‘hooman’. They wag their tails and bark with joy when they see me. They hold nothing back in showing me they love me. They bark with delight, make happy noises when I pet them, and freely snore when we hunker down for the night. We are delighted with one another’s company.

2. Don’t be afraid to show compassion and sympathy: Whenever I cry, Jack is right there to comfort me. He looks at me with a furrowed brow as if to say, “Are you okay? What can I do to make you feel better?” When I am sick, my pups snuggle up to me, keeping me warm and making me feel better.

3. Be boundless in your happiness: Jack does the full body wag and Shirley barks and wags her tail when they are happy. A head tilt and an excited, “Woof!” often accompany unbridled happiness. When my pups are happy, they show it to the extreme – from running like a crazy dog around the backyard to 100 mph tail wags!

4. Take pleasure in the small things: A warm blanket, a good snuggle, a tasty treat – all are small things that bring my pups great pleasure. One does not need a great deal of money to experience small pleasures. Some simple pleasures for me – beautiful clouds, a young buck in Cycle Dude’s yard, and Dove chocolate.

5. Forgive others and experience the joy of the moment: Sometimes my pups do things that are naughty. I tell them, “I am not happy with you!” They will still follow me around, not at all concerned that I am angry with them at that moment. One of them ends up doing something funny and I laugh, my anger melting away. I cannot be angry with my pups for long. Life is too short and they are too funny.

I know that divorce is painful. I would not have made it through that time if I did not have good friends and wonderful pups. In the middle of a bad night, when sleep would not come, I’d roll over to a cold nose and a warm pup. They helped to keep me on an even keel. God has blessed us with His creation – both for pleasure and for learning. I am grateful for my pups. Stay tuned . . .

My Responsibility

As a parent, I wanted to make sure I taught my children to be responsible for themselves. Blaming others for your poor decisions, avoiding the consequences for your actions, and lying about it all was something I would not tolerate. Personal irresponsibility was something I was exposed to for years.

Personal irresponsibility is a direct effect from enabling, rescuing and helicopter parenting. It does little Johnnie or Suzie no good if Mommy and Daddy are always there to pick up every mess they make. I remember when I was in kindergarten and one day I fell over a burm on the sidewalk. I hit the concrete hard and scratched both of my knees. That experience reminds me of what it means to allow our children to stumble and fall and face the consequences.

I am not saying we should deliberately create opportunities for our children’s demise. Heaven’s no! But as parents, we need to let our children experience the consequences of their decisions. We need to let them understand what it means to work hard. We need to be an example of personal responsibility. I must confess that I wasn’t always like that to my children. It wasn’t until I began to see the disintegration of my marriage that I realized I had to be responsible for me.

I’m sure my children got mad at me when I made them stand on their own two feet. I’m sure they resented me when they didn’t get the latest and greatest of everything. I’m sure they hated working those long hours in the summer just to have money for school. My parents made me do the same thing. My responsibility as a parent was to make sure my children were ready to take care of themselves when they left my home. It was hard on all of us, that’s for sure.

But I couldn’t be more proud of my children – all six of them (3 of my own and 3 in-laws). My first grand baby is due next month. I have no doubt my son and daughter-in-law will be amazing parents. My other two children don’t have children of their own yet, but I can see by how they treat their spouses’ nieces and nephews, that they, too, will be amazing parents. Will I take the credit for that? Perhaps some, but I prayed for my children ever since they were in-utero. I prayed for guidance, for other adults who would pour themselves into my children’s lives, and for spouses and in-laws who would also love them beyond measure.

My mom says that you never stop being a mom (parent). My responsibility now is to encourage my children in their parenting, to continue to pray for them and their families and to pass along some small nugget of wisdom that I have learned from raising them. I love my children. And I am going to love my grandchildren, too! Stay tuned . . . .

 

Fall is Here!

Fall is the prettiest season here in MyState. People come from all over the world to visit the national park and October is one of the most crowded times of the year. The small towns near the national park host Octoberfests, Fall Festivals and go all out in decorating for the season. Once fall is over, the towns decorate for Winterfest, a delightful holiday season complete with lights, decorations and special events.

Fall is my favorite season and October is my favorite month because of where I live. I love the different colors of leaves. I love all things pumpkin. I love fall decorations. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And my daughter was born in the fall. I’ve written before about how divorce is season in our lives – things are always changing. I’ve also written before about finding the new ‘normal’ in your life after divorce, about finding your happiness and moving forward in joy.

Divorce is a very difficult time in one’s life – especially if your spouse is the one who filed for the divorce. (In my case, I filed.) You can feel rejected, angry, bitter and depressed. It’s okay to feel those emotions. After all, we are emotional beings. It’s part of what makes us uniquely human. But don’t dwell in those dark emotional places. Find the places that make you feel accepted and happy.

If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, I understand what you’re feeling. Give yourself permission make this holiday season different:

1. Feel free to ‘bow out’ of huge family gatherings: You may not feel like doing the huge family holiday, especially if your ex will be present. Carve out a time for you and your children, or for you and a few close friends, to have a smaller holiday gathering. If your family gets offended, don’t worry about it. You are the most important person right now – your healing trumps everything else.

2. Make new holiday traditions: Bring the stress level down several notches. Do simple things like: go out to see holiday light displays, go out for hot chocolate and pumpkin pie, invite a few close friends over to help you decorate for the holiday, have a pizza and movie night with your adult children. Keep it simple. The less stress, the better.

3. Give back to your community: Volunteer at a women’s shelter, collect coats for the homeless, volunteer for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, collect donations for your local animal shelter. Giving back makes you turn outward instead of turning inward and feeling that destructive self-pity.

4. Be an ‘elf’: When you’re in line at Starbucks, pay for the person’s order behind you. When you’re at the grocery store, find an elderly person in the checkout lane and pay for their groceries. Be generous with your time and money. If you know of a single mom, pay her electric bill so she can give her children Christmas.

5. Put on your favorite holiday music and sing along at the top of your lungs! Who cares who’s listening?! Let yourself go! Be giddy and enjoy the spirit of the season!

Divorce can be dark and depressing. It can make the holiday season dark and depressing, too. Don’t dwell in that place! Even if you sing, dance or decorate just a little, at least you’re grabbing some of the holiday spirit. Start out small. One of my favorite post divorce activities was to turn out all the lights except the lights on my decorations – fall leaf swag, Christmas tree, etc. I would make myself a cup of hot chocolate and just sit in the silence with my dogs. It was so peaceful. Let peace reign in your heart this season. Get out and enjoy the sights and smells of fall. This is yet another season in your life. Breathe a prayer of “Thank you” and enjoy the whipped cream on your hot chocolate! Hugs, dear one! Stay tuned. . . .

The Last Day of Your Life

Whenever I hear of a loss of life, whatever the situation, I always think, “Did they (the people involved) know that was going to be their last day on earth?” Most likely, the answer is “No”. I know this may be a rather macabre subject, but I have a purpose in this post.

The years and days leading up to my divorce were dark – I have shared before that I walked around angry all the time. I was bitter, easily agitated, and not very much fun to be around. Some folks would have cheered my passing during that time! I wasn’t much better immediately following the divorce.

It takes me 40 minutes to get to work since I moved in with Cycle Dude. That gives me a great deal of time to pray, think about life and listen to worship music. This morning on my way in to work, I thought about the phrase, “The Last Day of Your Life” and what it means. I thought, what would most people do if they knew when they woke up this morning that it was the last day of their lives? Would they be more compassionate, more kind and generous? Then I thought, we ought to live our lives like that anyway.

Why wait until death is near to be a good person? To have faith in God? To show unconditional love to others? We should live each day like it’s our last. Yes, it’s easy to get angry, to be irritated by the hatred and evil we see around us. But what if we lived each day with a little more compassion, with a kind word on our lips, with a grateful and generous heart? We may not make a difference in the entire world, but we will make a difference in our small corner of the world.

Psalm 90, verse 12 states: “Teach us to number our days, that we may have a heart of wisdom.” And again in Psalm 139, verse 16: “You saw my unformed body. . . You knew the number of my days before there was one of them. . . .”. Whether or not we know the number of our days, God knows. We are to live our lives with wisdom, being selfless instead of being selfish. Instead of living our days for ourselves – in a self-centered, grab-all-I-can for me, me, me lifestyle – why don’t we live our lives in such a way that shows the love of God, or our belief in the goodness of humanity? Whenever we depart this world, we will leave all our stuff behind. I don’t want to be remembered for amount of stuff I had, but for the amount of love I showed. Stay tuned. . . .

The Number of Our Days

I found out this morning that a former boss passed away back in November. She died of a stroke. She was only 45 years old. I am still in shock. She was a great boss.

We never know when we wake up in the morning if this will be our last day on earth. We never know what’s going to happen. God numbers our days. He alone knows how many we have. How do we live our lives in such a manner that we will be prepared for ‘the day’ when it comes?

1. Banish anger and bitterness: For most of my marriage, I was a very angry person. I woke up angry, stayed angry throughout the day and went to bed angry. After my divorce, I became incredibly bitter. Were my emotions affecting ex, the person they were directed to? Heavens, no! Those negative emotions were killing me! Holding onto anger and bitterness is senseless. Let it go.

2. Practice random acts of kindness: Next time you’re at the grocery store and there is an elderly person ahead of or behind you, pay for their groceries. Donate some dog or cat food to your nearest animal shelter. Rake the leaves in your neighbor’s yard. Go out of your way to be kind to a stranger.

3. Be generous with your time, money and resources: Do you have enough to live on – to cover your needs (not necessarily your wants)? Do you find that you have several hours of free time on the weekend? Donate to a cause, volunteer, take your unwanted stuff to a local thrift store. Whatever you have you can’t take with you. You may as well use it up while you’re still living!

4. Cultivate compassion: Don’t be so quick to lose your temper or to speak out of turn. Resolve to listen to others, to hear their heart, their passion and their dreams. Be an encouragement to others. Be quick to serve others.

5. Smile more: I think if more people smiled, it would lighten the mood that so often seems to bring us down. Have you ever watched the other drivers on your way to work? Those who are not on their phone are usually scowling. Smile in rush hour traffic. Smile as you walk down the hallway at work. Smile when you answer the phone! Smile – it increases your face value and makes people wonder what you’re up to.

6. Say “I love you”: Every day before Cycle Dude goes to work, I tell him I love him. Every time I talk to one of my children, my mom or my siblings, I tell them I love them. Do not hesitate to tell those you love that you love them. Don’t worry if it sounds ‘sappy’. You may not get another chance.

Life is waaay to short to spend it ill-tempered, harboring a grudge, hoarding your stuff or looking like an old sourpuss! Make your family and friends glad to know you! Leave them with good memories. Live one day at a time because it may be the last one you have. Stay tuned . . .

There is Life

Jesus followers around the world will be celebrating His resurrection this Sunday. Even if you are not a Jesus follower, there is still celebration – for spring, for the new life that spring represents and for the time spent with family. Spring is one of my favorite seasons because of the promise of new life. I love to see the flowers bloom, watch the little fledglings make their way out of the nest, and smile as mama animals lead their babies out into the world.

I remember the dark days of my divorce when I thought life would never be again, not just that it would never be the same, but that it would just never be. I was angry, hurt, and depressed. By God’s grace, I had some amazing people in my life to help me walk out of that darkness.

Dear one, if you are facing that darkness during this season of Easter, know that there is LIFE! It may not feel like it, you may be so angry and hurt that you don’t know what to do, but take heart. Sit down, take a deep breath, cry if you must. Know that the God of the universe sees and hears your pain. He knows how to bring you out of this. He is the God of the impossible. The same force that raised Christ from the dead cares about every hair on your head. (Didn’t intentionally rhyme that!) Know that there are also many women who have been where you are, so you are not alone. Look out your window at the flowers, the birds, the bees buzzing around. Notice how blue the sky is and how warm the sun is. All around you, there is life. Breathe a prayer of thanksgiving for the life you have been given. Stay tuned. . . .