Success Through the Eyes of an (Almost) 30 Year-Old… and Ralph Waldo Emerson!

Sometimes, when faced with major milestones in our lives, as I am about to be in two days when I turn 30, we can’t help but look at where we are now and compare it to where we thought we might be. For some this comparison may be wonderful because they have accomplished so much more than what they thought was possible. For others (and I’d venture to guess this is the majority), it is a tough comparison to make. It is tough because life is rarely as grand as we imagine it will be when we are younger and because, as I so often stress in this blog, it is entirely too easy to weigh life by its grand moments, which are few and far between, rather than by the little beauties that ought to overwhelm us every day. I am trying to train my thoughts to mark worth and value by a much finer measure and take better notice of all of the little things that are the building blocks of the bigger ones. But even with my constant and vigilant efforts, I still find myself subdued, even saddened at times by all that I have not accomplished: financial stability, debt eradication, literary success (or at least notice), non-familial long-term relationships, a better handle on my own character flaws, a career. But as I begin to sink into these thoughts of “what if” or “if only” my wonderful husband often sits beside me and reminds me of all the important things I have accomplished: marrying an incredible person who I have the privilege of co-piloting life with, creating and training from scratch another human being (and a half), working to help provide for my family while being its primary care giver, producing almost a year’s worth of consistent (and, dare I say, occasionally profound) writing that has developed a growing following and influenced more people than I know, playing a distinct and important role in many people’s lives even if they are not still an active part of mine, starting a book club and voraciously consuming literature, completing a degree in two fields and opening many doors as a result, becoming an excellent cook, and constantly changing and growing and developing as each year passes. What more could I ask for? As I was contemplating these faithful encouragements from my dear hubby, I came across this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that was so pertinent to my meditations and so poignant in its profound and elegant beauty, that it made me cry as I read it. I hope it moves you as it did me.

Today I Am Grateful For…

A husband who loves me immeasurably and would do anything for his family and our happiness.

A son who is constantly growing and developing and encouraging me to do the same.

Another healthy baby on the way who is bound to change our lives as much as Aiden did in new, exciting, and challenging ways.

The ability to splurge on loved ones at Christmas time.

A lovely and warm home that defines comfort in chaotic times.

Two stable and good jobs in this tough economy.

Consistent health for me and my family.

Two cars that are nearly paid off and run well.

Tons of good food cooked by someone other than me ;)

The diligence, accountability and encouragement I receive to write regularly, both for my own benefit and for others’.

The habit of reading a new book every month.

A kitty that keeps my feet warm and always loves to play.

Family that visits me when we don’t have enough in the budget for travel.

Compliments from my son every night as I sing him to sleep and he strokes my face.

Old friendships that have stood the test of time, distance, and struggles.

The development of new friendships that are proving to be indispensable parts of my life as a young, working mother.

Private childcare from ladies who love my son and train him as one of their own.

The extraordinary luxury of technology (iPhones, the internet, Facebook, Netflix, etc.) that allows us to stay connected to distant and nearby loved ones.

The freedom, thanks to the sacrifices of so many others, to experience all of these things in such abundance!

The truth is, we should all be grateful every day of our lives for our extraordinary blessings, liberties, and abundances. Some of us are better at living a life of gratitude than others, but today is a wonderful reminder to all of us to stop, remember, and appreciate all that we have. Hopefully the effects of such a reminder will linger long through the holidays and into next year. And as we are tempted to grumble or complain or let cynicism get the better of us, we will direct our thoughts in a more positive and grateful direction, recalling these lists that we all tend to create on Thanksgiving or New Years and pledging to live more consistently by them.

I wanted to leave you today with a somewhat non-traditional Thanksgiving recipe. With a house full of family and friends, many of us are so focused on the BIG meal that we often forget that all these beloved bellies need breakfast too. And no one wants to present their family, who came from near and far, with boxes of cereal and a carton of milk. So here’s my easy and delectable breakfast recipe that’s sure to impress:

French Toast Sticks:

In a bowl mix:
3 eggs (or substitute)
Milk to thin
Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and a touch of Vanilla
Whisk till well blended.

In a second bowl mix:
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp of White Sugar
3 Tbsp of Flour (or more as needed)

Cut the crusts off of approximately 1/2 a loaf of wheat bread and cut each slice in half. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil. Dip each strip of bread in the first mixture and coat well with the second mixture. Fry evenly on both sides and pat dry with paper towels. Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar, maple syrup, and whipped cream. Voila!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May your day be blessed and full of happiness!

Meet in the Middle

I’m just going to be honest… it’s been a rough day. Feeling sick all day, worrying about the baby’s wellness, stressing at work, hosting a baby shower while feeling rather un-plussed about babies at the moment, and demonstrating a patience level with my son that would give the worst of moms a run for their money. It is sometimes hard to sit down and write what you hope is positive inspiration for others when what you really want is for someone to spontaneously appear and inspire you. As I was expressing these thoughts to Jonathan and telling him that I didn’t know if I had it in me to write tonight, he suggested I post a poem that I loved. He hoped it might benefit me as much as my readers and at least keep up my regular posting schedule. I highly doubt this is what he had in mind but it has been running through my head for the past couple of days and, despite all my better judgements and taste in music, I love this song and its message of tolerance and forgiveness:

“…I’ll start walking your way
You start walking mine
We’ll meet in the middle
‘Neath that old Georgia pine
We’ll gain a lot of ground
If we both give a little
Cause there ain’t no road too long
When we meet in the middle…”

So often, particularly when we have days like I had today, we expect people to just come to us and cater to our needs, forgetting that there are two people involved in any relationship. And we may be struggling, but they may be too. We all have hidden cares and burdens that we carry around and it is not fair to expect the other person to come all way. But if we both make an effort to meet each other where we are, it is so much easier to get there.

If you hate this song and now have it stuck in your head for days, I do apologize.  If it is one of your guilty pleasures, as it is mine, then enjoy and try to remember as you belt it out in the shower tomorrow that as much as we want someone to meet us where we are, that someone most likely wants the same thing.  So lets all just  . . . meeee-eeeet in the middle!

Life in the Light of Death

Having not attended a funeral in many, many years and then randomly attending two in the last two months, I’ve been pondering the concepts that surround death. And life. And everything that lies in between. I know this seems like a somewhat morbid concept for a blog that focuses largely on seizing the moment and appreciating life, but what makes this theme more crucial or potent than death? Is there anything that motivates us more strongly to grab life by the horns and savor the wild ride? So if you were hoping for a more lighthearted post about shopping or design or recipes, come back next time, there will be plenty more of those. But for now, here are some thoughts inspired by the ending of two lives worth memorializing whose influence spread wide and whose love left a lasting mark on this world:

– I do not appreciate my own life or the lives of my loved ones enough. We are all only here for a moment. But what a moment! There are SO many beauties that surround us every day but often we allow ourselves to be robbed of them because we are too busy worrying, stressing, begrudging, envying, etc. How many times a day do we tell those we love how much they mean to us? How vastly would that number change if we knew our time with them was limited? It is. So SAY IT! Every time you appreciate something about those you hold dear, tell them. Every time you have a lovely thought about them, tell them. Every time they inspire you to be better, tell them. There is no one who would tire of hearing such things and you never know when your expression of love and gratitude may be your last.

– Explaining death to a two-year old is hard. Who am I kidding? Explaining death to ourselves is hard, much less trying to explain it to someone who barely has his head wrapped around what it means to be alive. And lets face it, none of us knows exactly what will happen to us when we die. We can have faith that certain things will happen. We can hope for some things. We can hope against others. But we don’t know. So answering questions such as, “Where did they go?” “Will we see them again?” “What does die mean?” “Will YOU die?” are very difficult when looking into the eyes of your innocent, naïve, beautiful blue-eyed son. Especially when the answer is simply “I don’t know.”

– I have a deep desire to leave a legacy. I wrote about this a couple posts back. It doesn’t have to be vast, but it has to be powerful. I want to be remembered by more than just my children and I want my children to remember me as more than just their mother. When people consider the life I leave behind, I want them to be inspired to be better people, as I have been inspired by those recently passed. I want to leave a legacy of unmatched love, selflessness, faithfulness that inspires growth and change, written and spoken word that is not easily forgotten, loyalty, hospitality, open-mindedness, and light. Perhaps the sphere of people that I influence will be relatively small, but I hope that sphere will do great things.

– I do not wish to have a visitation before my funeral. If the point of such gatherings is to say goodbye, it is too late. I will already be gone. I don’t want people to gaze at my lifeless body and wish my soul were still with it. I want them to remember me alive, not dead in a box. And if the point of a visitation is to pay respects to the family, most often, they need time and space. And having to face everyone they know with a smile and say, “We’re doing fine, thank you.” at a time when they are really not, actually, doing fine, seems a bit . . . well . . . cruel. I want to give my bereaved family room to mourn privately and I want the eulogy at my funeral to focus on my life and what it meant rather than on its ending. There is a scene in the movie, Love Actually, in which a widower expresses the wishes of his wife for what she wanted at her own funeral. She asked that the music of the Bay City Rollers, “Bye Bye Baby,” be played while a projector displayed images of the beautiful moments of her life over her casket. It was sadly funny, beautiful and touching and I have always been moved by such an idea.

– Nothing ever prepares us for death. It will always be shocking and painful. But we as human beings have a remarkable ability to recover, adapt, move on. Never forgetting, but forging ahead and learning how to live in the absence of the person who is gone. I cannot even fathom the chasm that would be left if my darling husband were to leave me early, or how desperately painful it would be to outlive my son. But strangely, I can imagine leaving them, and I KNOW I would not want them to lose themselves in their grief. To forget how to see and experience beauty. I would not want my death to rob them of the their lives as well. Knowing this, from my perspective, I must be prepared to continue to live my life in the face of extraordinary loss, as that is what they too would want.

– Above all else, in life as well as in death, LOVE is primary. It is what motivates us and holds us together. It spurs us into action when action is necessary. It demands a quiet embrace when no action is possible. It is its own legacy and without it we are lost. Remember, nothing is more important than love. Not truth, not being right, not winning, not succeeding or failing. It is the golden rule and the greatest commandment of all religions. LOVE.

There is so much more to say, but sometimes there are too many words. This, I believe, summarizes my thoughts and feelings of late. Perhaps they will inspire you to consider your life in the light of death and appreciate it fully now, even if you don’t get a chance to remember it later. Others will.

Legacy

In the face of the loss of someone so great as Steve Jobs – someone who, with little formal education, completely changed the entire world, not just in terms of technology, but in terms of ideas and inspiration – I cannot help but think about legacy.  What does it mean to leave a legacy?  What will ours be?  Obviously we can’t all have the incredible impact of people like Steve Jobs, but the important question is, will we have AN impact?  Will we leave the world better than we found it?  Have we loved with such inspiring sincerity that the objects of that love are forever changed, and moved, in turn, to love as they were loved?  Does what we write inspire those who read it to lead better, more positive lives?  Will our children rise up and call us blessed?  Will the art that we leave behind us embody our souls for future generations?  All of these are the legacy I hope to leave.  Today I am inspired to keep at it.