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Posts tagged ‘Family’

The Beautiful Fabric of Friendship

“The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” – Henry David Thoreau

“My friends are my estate.” – Emily Dickinson

Tonight, the running group gathered as usual to saunter, walk and run. In addition, we also celebrated a good friend’s 82nd birthday. Terry is a rare breed, filled with humor, great stories and light. He came back for the summer. We haven’t seen him since October when he went to California for the winter. The cool thing about this group of humans is that we come from all walks of life and welcome all who want to join and care deeply about each other. Friends who are family.

When he left last fall, we had no idea that 2020 would bring a pandemic. Tonight was a celebration and sign of opening back up, of reuniting, of valuing the deep human connection that in hindsight we took for granted.

“Rejoicing in our joy, not suffering over our suffering, makes someone a friend.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

It was a gift of normal. What we remember, forget and focus on frames our life. Choose well, live well. Never forget. Embrace moments. Love without condition.

“We all have life storms, and when we get the rough times and we recover from them, we should celebrate that we got through it. No matter how bad it may seem, there’s always something beautiful that you can find.” – Mattie Stepanek

“Let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.” – Khalil Gibran

A Good Tired

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir

It’s a good tired when fun, play and joy are the reasons. A few days away on a long weekend to restore, relax and hangout in nature. Liam greeted me with a bright smile and provided his usual master class on being authentically joyful in the present moment.

From wandering in the lake with his PJs on to throw ball for Abby to relaxing in the hammock to randomly saying “I love you” throughout the weekend, it was just what was needed. I brought a backpack of reading and “to do” items and did none of it. Thank goodness or I would have missed out on eye to eye contact, holding hands, waterskiing on glass and ATV-ing through the pine tree church of the woods.

When we get lost in busy, trapped in fear and spiraling in worry, the best answer is to return to nature, spend time with kids and dogs to relearn how to live well. Stop, play and enjoy each moment as it comes with anticipation and always with a “best-case scenario” perspective.

Yesterday

“A man of courage is also full of faith.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

“Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness.” Kalidasa

Since March 20th, I’ve been writing in a journal every morning to capture this rare time (I’m not calling it unprecedented and uncertain – obvious, overused and meaningless). I put the date on each entry and often have to look at my phone to remind me what day it is. It is easy to get lost in these wandering and over-zoomed days.

This morning, I didn’t need to be reminded of what day it was. I knew it. Four years ago, my Dad passed away. I was in a plane coming back from a work trip to Boston and didn’t make it in time. Not one single day has gone by since that I have not missed him. I often want to pick up the phone and have a conversation with him, like I did every day for the past several decades. I think of the conversations that we’d have right now about these days. But I don’t have to go too far to know what he would think or say. He remains in my heart, I hear him in my own phrases and thoughts. He’s a part of my fabric and being. He and my Mom planted, fostered and grew faith, grit and strength in me, my brother and sister. Three solid traits to get through these days. Optimism is too.

So today, I ask each of you to do me one favor. Stop, call your Mom and Dad if they are still here and tell them you love them and repeat daily. Because four years ago last night, I had no idea that the next day would be the last day.

Don’t take time for granted while you are in your “yesterdays,” even in the middle of a damn pandemic. Tomorrows come and sometimes they surprise us with gifts and other times with loss which leaves us grateful for what was and in due time allows us to keep going, never forgetting and always richly blessed.

No Ordinary Day

No pictures. Few words. This day. This Good Friday. This day is no ordinary day. My words cannot suffice, serve or go deep enough for the enormity and sheer relevance of this non-ordinary day – the day when, where and how Jesus saved the world from itself. This day is no ordinary day.

The one hymn by Mahalia Jackson that brings me to my very knees, to the core of being – a place where we need to spend more time – Where You There When They Crucified My Lord. Every single day, when I don’t notice another, when I judge and criticize, when I gossip, when I’m impatient and absent of empathy – I am there at the crucifixion. We need a bit more trembling.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, were you there when they crucified my Lord? (Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble) tremble

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the cross? Were you there when they nailed him to the cross? (Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble) tremble Were you there when they nailed him to the cross?

(Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Were you there when they laid him in the tomb? Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble) tremble Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Well, were you there when the stone was rolled away? Were you there when the stone was rolled away? (Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble) tremble Were you there when the stone was rolled away?”

Crucified. Nailed. Laid in the tomb. Stone rolled away.

From crucifixion to rolling the stone three days later. I not only ponder and reverence the suffering of Jesus but of Peter who denied his best friend and Judas who blew it big time for 30 silver coins and could not accept forgiveness and redemption, and of Mary and the women who remained at the foot of the cross in angst, without fear and unmoved. No judgment or consternation, rather a prayer for rapt awareness, deep awakening and grace beyond human understanding to move through to the other side, to the high road, to the open space few are interested in occupying.

Today is the climax of Lent – the ultimate, unimaginable, unfathomable and undeserved, unearned pivot into the most important and relevant third act that changes the world even and especially today – the resurrection, the butterfly, the harvest. Stay in the crucifixion long enough to make it stick, to change your daily life and focus. The ending is the resurrection, the changing forever, the transformation of our very life in this moment and beyond.

In our lifetime, there has been no more relevant, sacred and holy Lent. Breathe it in. Be overwhelmed and overcome by the enormity. And open your arms wide to the mystery of the Cross. We are Easter people only through the suffering and transformation of Good Friday first.

No ordinary day, indeed. Take. It. In. 3 days. Prepare. Accept. Enter.

Never Again and Always Remember

Never again will I take for granted…

God, who carries us and is in control despite our best efforts to take over;
The value of community and need for connection, even for an introvert like me;
Hugs from family and friends;
The brilliant blue sky and the warmth of the sun;
Conversations over dinner out;
The resilience, fortitude and grit of the human spirit;
Long stretches of open space and time and to do something with it;
Our capacity for creativity and need to pursue it daily;
The power of hope, faith, trust, optimism and laughter;
The journey within to listen to my own voice;
The brevity, fragility and value of life.

I will always remember to…

Hug family and friends a minute longer;
Weave slow, quiet time into each day so busy and noise don’t take over again;
Never look back and be open to new beginnings and endings;
Be deeply grateful for all of the blessings and gifts that are already present;
Lead with kindness and empathy rather than judgment and assumptions;
Check in on others to make sure that they are really alright;
Pursue purpose and calling;
Be a better listener;
Sleep without an alarm more often;
Quit complaining and enjoy what already is;
Keep the clutter clear and stop buying stuff;
Listen to music, read and write poetry, appreciate art;
Let go of the past, be immersed fully in each day and to not get too far into the future;
Keep trying new things and always be willing to be a beginner ready to learn and grow;
Write in a journal every single morning;
Pray in the good times too;
Keep going for long runs and extra walks with the girls;
Laugh more and lighten up;
Make the most of the days that remain;
And to always play hopscotch when given the opportunity.

First Real Snow

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”― Lewis Carroll

“It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam. This crisp winter air is full of it.” – John Burroughs

This morning we got our first real snow. The snow that’s heavy, plowable and will probably be the base snow that will remain until April. The proclamation that Fall has officially done its job and it’s winter’s turn. Transition time over.

It’s beautiful, fresh, clean and a big inconvenience on the busiest travel day of the year as we kick off six weeks of holiday busyness.

This kind of snow slows us down. And there in lies the gift.

Slow down and celebrate the gifts that you already have right now. Not the ones you’ll race to get on Black Friday. Don’t miss what already is present in search of presents that can never replace a long meaningful conversation, a call or text to check in on someone who’s lost someone this year and this is the first holiday without a loved one, a hug that softly whispers “you’re not alone, and it’s going to be alright.”

Be grateful for all that is, was and will come. God weaves life with both struggle and awe. So often, we only see the struggle and miss the awe. Abundance is an attitude and awareness, not a bank account and pile of gifts. Gratitude is the best gift you can give and receive.

Even in Minnesota, when we know that winter never skips a turn, we are taken back when it hits. So rather than enjoying the beauty and slowing that winter brings, we shift our attention to what we can’t control – the weather – and the complaining ensues.

Abby and Sasha had the appropriate response to the snow this morning. They leaped, created new paths and chased each other, rolling in delight. They saw the gift immediately.

Happy Thanksgiving and may you be grateful each day for your blessings that are hiding right in front of you. Slow down and go make some snow angels.

“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” – George Santayana

Art of Memory

“We do not know the true value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory.” – Georges Duhamel

“The true art of memory is the art of attention.” Samuel Johnson

We are doing the final clear out of my Aunt’s house to get it ready for sale. She passed away September 3rd. I stopped by a few days ago by myself, looking at the few things that remain and found this little guy in the corner of a shelf.

Instantly, it brought me back to her house on Earl Street where we spent many family holidays. It’s funny what triggers memories and where we are instantly transported by small momentos.

In the midst of loss, we suddenly get our buoyancy and pop to the surface of gratitude. As Dr. Seuss so poignantly said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” We find our way back to joy, to delight, to the present in small things.

When we are immersed in the moment fully aware, we get double blessing in the present and later when it becomes a memory that we treasure. The true gift of loss is a keen awareness and deep gratitude for this day. In this very moment, you are creating memories. so pay attention and actively participate in your life. Make today a memory worth remembering.

Aunt Terry

This day is one of those days you would run from in the morning if you knew where it would lead to 12 hours later. One of those “you never know what’s going to happen” days. In a split second, it twists and turns in directions never imagined.

There are no ordinary days, so do not treat one more as if it is. I don’t want to write this but I need to mark this day. To honor my Aunt Terry who passed away at 10:41 am this morning. Our last earthly tie to Dad. We never really grieve for the dead, but for those left behind.

87 years old young. Up until last Thursday, driving, booking three appointments each day, swimming at the community center, playing cards, picking up friends for lunch, making soup or ham salad and dropping it off. Always ready to go out and grab a beer or her favorite – a brandy manhattan. One tough, outspoken, soft-hearted friend and soul. That is what is worth celebrating. Her spirit, spunk and energy up until the very end.

She fell last Thursday walking into the eye clinic to have her glasses adjusted. 9 hours later in St. Joseph’s Hospital, with a broken bone in her neck and several facial fractures, still fiery as ever. Her cane was safely tucked away in her car. Second guessing and “what ifs” always catch us up in useless pondering.

After a weekend checking in and out, meeting the outstanding compassionate nurses and doctors, today was the day she was actually going to make it out with a broken-damn neck to transitional care. After we left yesterday afternoon, she called and said she was getting out today to go home. I told her she would be making a pit stop at transitional care first. And rather than calling her nurse, I was prompted to go down in person (thank God) to talk to her nurse in person and check in on Terry.

She never swore and didn’t like it at all. But she called the pureed food, “shit on a shingle.” She told me last night that the phrase came from the soldiers in World War II. She was a soldier for sure. She sang in the choir up until a week ago, sang at hundreds of funerals, checked on friends and all of us.

I told her last night that I would swing by this morning on the way to work for 30 minutes to verify what transitional care she was getting into, make sure it was a private room and hopefully in the new part of the building.

When I arrived at 8:03 to get my badge, they said she changed rooms. As I went up on the elevator, I thought “what the hell for?” I high-stepped it down the hall, turned the corner to a blue light blinking (code blue – one step before the final lights – code red) and medical personnel rushing into the room. Praying it wasn’t her room, but I knew. They quickly escorted me down the hall to the “waiting room” – that familiar room we spend many years of our life in. Not before I asked “what the hell is going on?” Cardiac arrest. Frantic phone calls and more waiting. A total of three cardiac arrests later, it was time to let go and say good-bye until we meet again.

There actually is real comfort in imagining the family reunion and pure peace that comes with passing. The only comfort actually.

So to Aunt Theresa Valarie Pugaczewski. Thank you for your dedication, opinions, sass, vigor, generosity, unconditional love, complaining about the right cottage cheese – Land O’Lake 2% over Kemps every damn day of the week and peach Activia yogurt. I told her speech therapist and nurse who cried with us today that they could keep the unopened cottage cheese and yogurt we picked up yesterday and that they should recommend Land O’Lakes to the hospital.

As I left last night, Terry did inform me that I didn’t bring the right things in the bag I packed last Thursday and that she would make a list. Last night, I told her I would get whatever she needed tomorrow if I missed something (internally a little pissy – again, thank God). When I opened her address book today at her house to begin preparations for her funeral with the family, she had that damn list written out. Oh, how I wish I could be irritated and fulfill my orders right now.

Long detailed story for a reason. Please value each day as if it may never come again with those you love, because one day, you will be right. No regrets for me at all. God gave me the gift and others in my family to be irritated one more time this weekend and to be present in tough times. To hold her hand and walk in on a code blue and wait is something I didn’t get with Dad three years ago. Being there when it happened was a gift too.

As Laura Story so brilliantly says in her song Blessings,

“What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise”

So, this day will be marked like a birthday, celebrating loved ones being born. Today, we honor a life of 87 years well lived, generously, honestly, abundantly, gratefully, imperfectly, faithfully, humanly and lovingly. Aunt Terry, give Dad one long hug for me and thank you for a life well lived. Well done, good and faithful servant!

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’”– Matthew 25:23

Good-bye, Again

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” – Nikki Giovanni

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” – Maya Angelou

We did the final haul out tonight of the few remaining items in my parent’s house. 41 years of memories, now empty rooms for someone else to fill up. Bittersweet to be sure, but it’s time. Over 3 years after Dad has passed with Mom only there a few days a week, it time to say good-bye again, let go and move on.

As with all transitions, we know when it’s the right time and yet we linger and hang on one more minute, or year or more. A lot of good memories have been built through the years in this place, but the memories were with the people first, place second. Any yet we are still tied to place, even though home is within and with others.

So good-bye old friend and welcome new memories in new places with the same and new people.

Closing is Thursday. The final good-bye of many over the past 3 months of preparation. And then moving on. So often we only see the loss and miss the gain in the process. We cling to things so tightly that we miss the gifts of now and the promise of what is to come.

There are times and seasons for everything. Let go, move on and open your arms and heart to what’s new, next and calling. Life is about experiences and relationships not about stuff and structures.

It’s Impractical and Makes Perfect Sense

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.” – Dale Carnegie

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Cecil Beaton

It’s been in the back of my mind for the past two months. And now that we are close to getting a few offers on my parent’s house, it moved front and center. Dad grew up playing pool and after much debate, he splurged and got a pool table years ago. He really enjoyed playing and never declined when asked to rack ‘em up.

I thought about keeping it and putting it in my basement. I then quickly dismissed the idea as impractical. It faded to the background and lingered at the same time.

Today, I measured my basement and then remeasured the pool table. It fits and it’s fitting. It is absolutely impractical and makes perfect sense. Despite the practical and logical reasons, I still want the pool table.

While it won’t bring Dad back, it’s something we shared and enjoyed. It is a place of conversation, confidence and lessons on how to see different angles, to think a few steps ahead to see where you want to go and how to spin avoid the scratch.

When I remodeled my kitchen 20 years ago, I wanted slate blue counters. I hesitated choosing the color, concerned about resale rather than picking something I really wanted. I went with the blue and never looked back.

We move too far into the future and miss fun that is rooted in today. Get the pool table, go with the blue counter, be utterly impractical if your heart is pulling you in that direction. Regrets are grounded in what we don’t do rather than what we do. Impractical and frivolous often makes perfect sense.

Now, rack ‘em up.

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