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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.

Somewhere In Between

Yesterday, I listened to my favorite songs loudly on the way into work and decided it was going to be a good day. And not only was it a good day, it was an outstanding day. One of the best in a long time because I set the stage, I made a plan, set my mind and stuck to it. Enjoy the day and have some fun. It worked.

Today, I had the same intentions. Hit the repeat button and let’s do it again. Same intentions, not same results. Pretty strong start to the day with some engaging conversations and meetings. And then mid-afternoon, it unraveled. Tech issues with our internet that I had been asking our vendor about for the past month, only to be ignored, and then the internet went down for the entire office for two hours with no back up and while I was in the middle of a client meeting. Other than getting them to fix the connection, I couldn’t talk to them today because I knew it wouldn’t be a constructive conversation that I would be proud of.

We live in extremes – way up or way down. And both are exhausting if we remain in them too long. Most of living is found somewhere in between the highs and the lows. I went home quietly to push the reset button again which consists of wandering in the woods with the girls and throwing balls in an open field while listening to nature party.

"You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters." -Saint Bernard

“You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.” -Saint Bernard

And then as the night progressed and errands took my attention, I realized that three years ago on this Thursday evening, I was going 60 miles an hour down West 7th to rush to Regions Hospital after getting off a flight from Boston, even though I didn’t need to rush. It was too late. I didn’t make it in time, Dad had already passed away in the hospital. This Sunday, April 28th is the actual date and not a day has gone by where I haven’t missed him and haven’t wanted to pick up the phone after a day like today to talk to him about it and have him masterfully put it into perspective for me. Not one day. And I know my brother, sister and Mom feel the exact same way. One big hole.

It sure puts in perspective a stupid preventable tech failure or another day at work putting in too much damn time thinking more time at work will make an impact other than to the bottom line of someone else.

Pick up the phone, drop by and never let anything go unsaid to your loved ones. I am happy to say that’s how it was left with Dad. In an instant the internet can go down. And, in an instant, you can lose your best friend. Don’t waste your time pining on stupid problems and caught up in the BS people throw at you all day. Spend time with family and friends who really make life worth living and rich with joy. You can find them “in between” it all.

Cease to Complain

“Any form of complaining is the small self becoming lost in self-importance. So much energy needed for awakening is wasted on complaining. We many not be able to change our external reality, but we can transform the negative thoughts and feelings that are our reaction to that reality. We have a chance to awaken from the nightmare we create through our resistance to what is. Stopping all complaining is one of the first steps. When we cease to complain, we conserve life force for what really matters. A new world begins. Each event becomes a mysterious opportunity rather than an inconvenient vexation. A tremendous amount of life force, once bound up in feeling sorry for oneself, is released. Where there was frustration and self-pity, there is now space for appreciation to bloom. The misguided belief that life should be other than it is dissolves and in its place, acceptance flowers, joy awakens, patience blooms, and peace permeates.” – Ann Mortifee, In Love with the Mystery

It may be justified. It seems reasonable. It seems like it should help, but it makes it worse. Complaining is wasted energy that blocks gratitude. Rather than being a release, it traps us in our thoughts of scarcity, comparison and self-pity.

Last week summed up to be a bust. And I made it worse by letting external things get internal and define my entire week. And then three things happened to shift my limited view, to open up my senses again.

My sister sent me beautiful flowers. A friend texted me after our run yesterday letting me know she noticed I was quieter and that she was thinking about me. I told her I was trying to get my inner “Tigger” back and send “Eeyore” on his way. She told me she likes “Eeyore” too and it’s ok to not be “Tigger” sometimes. And then I walked by a book that I got from a friend years ago and opened it up to the page with the passage above.

These three encounters brought gratitude back into view and where it should remain, front and center. I can’t guarantee that I won’t trip and fall into the complaining trap again. But it’s worth trying to keep space open for the gifts of acceptance, joy, patience and peace.

I am grateful for those kind souls who took the time to notice and offer encouragement and support rather than answers, platitudes or solutions. We sometimes need to be merely seen. Remember, your light can bring someone else’s back. Cast light.

 

The Purple Truck

I bought this truck in 1997. The dealer told me it was sapphire blue. I bought it sight unseen. And then when I went to pick it up, there she was – purple with teal detailing. A teenager’s truck. I tried to like it and kept it for two years. And then I knew I couldn’t drive it anymore. It bugged me too much.

My Dad was looking for a truck, so he bought it. The purple never phased him. If it did, he never let on. Rather than looking for a truck that he really wanted, he was letting me off the hook of a quick purchase that I regretted.

Now, I love this truck because it reminds me of my Dad’s character. A generous soul who didn’t take grief from anyone and rarely gave out either. Quiet, unassuming and kind. If anyone commented on him driving a purple truck, he never let it phase him. And 21 years later, you can tell that he took care of it.

It’s been over two years since Dad passed away and Mom really doesn’t need two vehicles. We sold it this past weekend to a family member looking for truck. The right side of the garage is now empty, but my heart is filled with memories like the truck story.

Our loved ones are here one minute and then suddenly they’re gone. And yet they remain with us in our hearts, in places, in memories, in others and in our own ways. Even in a purple truck.

Call your parents, give your kids an extra hug, don’t hold grudges, laugh as often as you can. Life is happening right now in the little things. No guarantees beyond today. Cast Light.

SIT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Innocence can be more powerful than experience.” – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

“Remaining childish is a tremendous state of innocence.” – John Lydon

“Remaining childish is a tremendous state of innocence.” – John Lydon

I received the blessing of watching Liam today for the afternoon. He forced me to stop my chores, duties and obligations to fully enter what Sundays are made for – rest, repose and restoration. As he woke up from his nap, he beckoned my name to get him, no tears, just a gentle order. We had dinner and he then requested to watch Coco for the second time today, the 20th time this week and 100th time since the movie came out. His absolute favorite movie, obsession.

I negotiated a trip to the park before we started the movie so we could enjoy the burst of sun on a mostly rainy day. When we returned, we agreed on Finding Dory rather than another round of Coco.

As the movie began, I started my usual multitasking. After a minute, Liam yelled, “SIT DOWN!!” I stopped in my tracks and sat down with him to enjoy coloring and Dory’s short term memory challenges. We proceeded to enjoy the simple experience of single-tasking, un-busyness and full presence in the very moment. Brilliant.

Sometimes it merely takes the wisdom of an almost 2 year old to pull us back to what’s most important and to the gift of now. Stop and sit down. The most valuable activity that you can do is to stop and embrace the sweet gift of now.

SIT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!

weeeee :)

“There's something just magical about flight. Period.” – Graham Hawkes

“There’s something just magical about flight. Period.” – Graham Hawkes

“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.” – Bertrand Russell

No further than a playground swing and magic unfolds. The delight of flight. The sheer joy in simple play. Children have it figured out and what we can learn from these wise souls. No over complicating. No distractions. They enter each moment as an explorer, an adventurer, a believer of goodness and light in the world. It is only when we grow up that we dull our wits and surrender our joy.

We can transform our days by sharpening our wits. Take back your joy.

Weeeeeeeeee!!!!!

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