A Tribute to Nan

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of you is your laugh. It was inevitably contagious. There was always a smile on your face, a cup of coffee on your desk and some sort of yummy treat in your hand. You were passionate, enthusiastic and determined. Most of all you were kind. In the years of knowing you, I can’t think of a moment in time that I ever recognized a mean bone in your body. Yet, I have all the faith in the world that if any stupid boy did me wrong or broke my heart, you’d let em’ have it. Your words, not mine. I loved sharing my stories and shoe fetishes with you. You were a sucker for a fabulous pair of heels. I don’t blame you. Your favorite outfit, a Red Wings jersey. You were so simple, but elegant. I always felt comfort and love in your presence. Maybe it’s because you always genuinely cared to know what was going on in my life. I am so thankful you made it to my college graduation ceremony. I will miss our frequent lunches at Focassia’s. Their lobster bisque was your favorite. It will hard to go back there without you. I know with all of my heart, the ‘Nut House’ will never be the same without you. You were deeply loved by everyone who crossed your path. And will forever hold a special place in my heart. You will be missed. But I remind myself of your faith and rejoice knowing that you are with the love of your life again, Howard. I hope you’ll go visit Hawaii again with him.

I will always love you Nan.

Please give my mom a hug for me.

P.S. I know you both will be watching over the stands on October 10th for the boys’ football game.

Nan

 

Wishing You a Happy Birthday

I stepped outside on my lunch today. The sun was shining so bright and beautifully. The air was still and for a moment I finally felt calm. I couldn’t help but smile because in my heart I knew today would be a sunny day. The sun is shining for you, because this is your day. Though I miss your physical presence more than my words could ever express. I know you are in good hands and that your soul is free. It’s free of any pain, negativity, panic, worry and heartache. It’s full of joy, laughter, pride and happiness. I want all of those wonderful things for you, I promise that I do. I try to fight every waking day to feel joy in my heart. I want to come to some sort of peace because I know that is what you want for me. Some days are easier than others. Today is a hard day. But I thank you, and I thank our glorious God for allowing the warm soothing sun to shine so bright on me today. When I close my eyes I can almost feel your arms wrapped around me. There is nothing like the feeling of your touch. There is no sound as sweet as your loving voice. Please know, for as long as I live, no one will ever take your place.

This is from me, mom, from the bottom of my heart, wishing you a happy birthday.

Birthday butterflies

Utilize Your Gifts

This morning at work I noticed a familiar smiling face in which was not smiling. It was abnormal to me to see this sort of expression on this individual’s face. With a feeling in my gut that something was wrong I proceeded to ask the person how their weekend was. I actually received the response I was expecting; something was wrong.

This person had been informed just yesterday that a close friend had unexpectedly passed away. I could immediately relate to the feelings attached to death. It might be the hardest concept to comprehend and accept. I know that it is for me. Nothing about death has ever seemed fair to me. However, I know that it is a natural part of life and often times it is something we just cannot control.

It bothered me seeing this person in pain. It bothered me knowing I could relate so much to the heartache of death. In part, that is why I decided at some point in my day I needed to make an attempt to reach out to this hurting person in order to express my condolences and concern. More importantly, I wanted this person to know, that they were not alone in this feeling.

I am hesitant to become personal with people in my work setting. I am very comfortable with the concept of keeping my work and my personal life separate. I think it just helps to remain professional and productive while at the office. I do believe there are exceptions for this behavior and this time, today, would be one of those.

The moment I walked away from the individual the phrase “Utilize your gifts” came to my mind. It was almost like God was speaking to me as a reminder for me to not ignore reaching out to someone in need…especially someone I knew I could help. I know the good Lord understands better than anyone else that I could relate and offer some sort of encouragement or comfort in this time of need. And so, I didn’t ignore Him or my heart.

Sometimes using our own personal gifts is sort of a hard thing to do. But why is this? They are a huge part of our purpose in this life. They are the best way we can make an impact on this world.

First, I think it is important to clarify what exactly I mean by ‘our gifts.’ I think our gifts can be found by taking the time to recognize something you are naturally good at, a part of your own testimony, something you have been through that changed your life in some form. I believe our gifts can also be something we are extremely passionate about; something that makes us who we are. Sharing your gift is using yourself to provide for someone who is need of whatever it may be that you have to offer.

Unfortunately, sometimes these gifts have required a lot of heartache; for instance, losing my mom unexpectedly at nine-teen years old. It has been the most heart breaking journey, I hope, I will ever have to take. I wish that no other teenage girl in this world would ever have to experience what I have. But throughout this journey I have developed a set of skills in order to overcome the heartache that trapped me in darkness for far too long.

I find myself in a place now where I have hope in peace and I can feel joy again. I understand the true significance of feeling broken; I know what it is like to receive comfort, guidance and encouragement and I also know what it is like to not. But more importantly I have learned how to give all of those three things and more. I understand the true importance of giving when someone needs it the most. It has created this strong feeling inside of me that wishes more people in this world would not be afraid to GIVE. The reward is unimaginable.

gift pic

That is why I now decided in my life to make a commitment to myself and the people I come across. There is no exception to not giving and utilizing the gifts that God gave you to help another human being in need. His purpose for our gifts is to reach out to one another and help each other to live this life to its fullest.

At the end of today, I had a visitor at my office door. The person had a smile on their face as they thanked me for not only reaching out to them on a day they needed it the most, but also for being brave enough to share my own heartache in order to make a difference in the person’s day.

Choosing the Right Mindset

Is the glass half full or half empty? Are you a positive person or do you tend to look at the negative side of things first? Do you have an open mind or is the door to opportunity, hope and happiness usually closed? It has been proven that pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.

These thoughts came to mind when pondering a pretty difficult situation in my own life right now. A very special friend of mine was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a little over a month ago. I had just enjoyed her smiling presence at my graduation ceremony and days later received the heartbreaking news of her illness. It almost seemed impossible to me. It didn’t take much thinking to understand why I couldn’t comprehend this wonderful woman being diagnosed with such an awful disease. She was invincible to me. She is one of the most positive and loving people I had ever met.

I was very scared to see my friend for the first time after receiving the news. However, as soon as I was in her presence I felt so silly for feeling that way. She was the same cheerful, smiley and positive person. If anyone could be optimistic through this time, it would be her.

When reflecting on her experience with being diagnosed with cancer and all that have been through. I came across one of my favorite quotes by another incredible woman, Helen Keller:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

This very quote is the way I long to live my life. And it is surely the way my friend has lived her. But why can it seem so difficult to be optimistic at times? How can I watch a human being who doesn’t deserve to fight this life-threatening illness suffer, yet smile through her journey and still find myself looking at certain circumstances in my life in a negative light? It doesn’t seem right does it?

I think I have come to the understanding that everyone’s life can be difficult. We all endure different seasons that are trying and bring an enormous amount of heartache. How we determine within ourselves to weather the storm is on us.

mindset 1

I find with myself that I not only struggle with weathering the “big stuff” but I acknowledge that sometimes I am guilty of being negative when it comes to the small things in my life too. I’ve been extremely exhausted lately or sometimes I just find myself wanting to have a break. I’ve found myself thinking… Ugh why do I have to go to work? When rather, how blessed am I to have a job! It is things like that.

I am a crazy coffee and caffeine lover. I was recently diagnosed with something that in turn causes me to not be able to drink coffee. This was probably one of the things I enjoy most throughout my day…sounds crazy, I know! I have really struggled accepting giving up my favorite habit. But then when considering what other people face and the things they have to give up and conquer, I honestly feel quite selfish.

One of the many lessons I have had to learn the hard way is that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged. Life still continues on and we still have to face whatever is coming our way each day. Having the right mind set and attitude will only benefit our situation and help to restore faith in our self and circumstance.

mindset 2

I have made it a part of my daily life to journal five positives in my day, no matter if I constitute the day as a good or bad day. I have found that it easier than I ever expected to always come up with at least five positive aspects or moments in my day. I have also decided when negative thoughts or feelings come my way that I reserve the situation by finding some sort of blessing in whatever the situation is. This activity has quickly become very beneficial to me and my mood throughout the day. As I am sure it impacts the people around me as well. Give it a try! 🙂

 

 

What is Hope?

I have finally come to a point in my life where I believe in a bold statement that I’d like to share with you. It is my hope; no cliché intended that someday you might believe in these words too. Please take a moment to truly think about the deep significance of this sentence:

Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.

The words are strong and for some the six words might be incredibly difficult to believe that they could be true. But I can tell you from my own personal experience, the words “once you choose hope, anything’s possible” can be real and true. It may take the toughest fight you’ve ever experienced and I think you have to be willing to let hope exist in your life no matter what you are facing. You also must make the choice to believe that with hope there is no circumstance, amount of heartache or darkness you cannot overcome.

I was in a place in my life, shortly before losing my mother where I could see myself losing hope. Watching the person I loved the very most suffer with immense pain and heartache knowing there was nothing I could do to take away the physical and emotional pain became very trying after the many years we faced this together.

I wanted to believe more than anything that we would get through it; that we would come out better and stronger from this battle. I really wanted to. But it became so hard and people began to doubt us and doubt her. Having hope was almost a chore. It was extremely exhausting. However, I will tell you that until the day I lost my wonderful mom, I never lost my hope.

The night I lost her, my life truly came crashing down. I felt nothing but emptiness, confusion and heartache. I couldn’t understand how we could have struggled for this long remaining faithful to reach this point. That point that we would no longer be side by side; fighting this battle together. She was now in a better place, in peace and paradise. But I was left here, to suffer and pick up the pieces of my heartache and life. I didn’t want to. I had no desire to fight the battle without her. The moment I knew she would no longer be living with me in my world, I honestly lost hope.

With time (months and months) that included a lot of crying and soul searching. With great friendships, my faith in the Lord and my incredible family (my dad and brothers), I found a way to choose hope. It wasn’t easy and I would never want to relive that period of time in my life.

This is a complete understatement, but I was left with two choices: I could give up or I could continue on.

hope pic 1

There were points where giving up felt like the better option. There were moments that no matter what anyone said to me, no matter how much hope they had in me that I would get through this that I felt there was no possible way. In part, I think that maybe hitting that “rock bottom” is a way to solidify the true hope we need as human beings when our world has changed and our hearts are left feeling devastated and broken.

I can’t exactly explain what did it for me. What made me reach this exact point, but I will share with you that it took several rock bottom moments. I had a few moments where I almost scared myself with how terrible and empty I was feeling to reach the opportunity of choosing hope. I came to realize that if I didn’t choose hope and wanted to live I was going to be very miserable. Not only was I going to be miserable but so were the people around me. This is something I never wanted.

I have two amazing brothers who are younger than me. They looked up to me and depended on my strength and love to continue on without our mom. I knew that I needed to find the strength for not only myself but for them because they needed me. I couldn’t give up because I couldn’t give up on them. What an incredible love that is to feel. To love someone (in my case my two brothers) more than I could ever love myself. That was a huge motivator for me to overcome this dark place that almost became comfortable for me to be in.

I would encourage anyone who has ever felt or dealt with something similar to do the same as I did. Find something/someone, whatever/whoever it may be and let them be a reason to not give up. Allow yourself to feel the love and joy that exists for the reason of that person or thing and make the decision to not give up on that feeling. That is exactly what I did. I reasoned with myself that “yes I had lost my mom and it was miserable,” but that I had other wonderful things in my life that made it worth living. But not only that, it made it worth living with hope. Someday, with patience, healing and a lot of work I would feel love and joy again because it did still exist in my life. I believe the same can happen for you.

hope pic 2

Our Dreams Together

I had a dream about you last night mom. Well actually this is the 7th night in the row I’ve dreamt of you, isn’t that something? It truly is.

I love seeing your beautiful face in my dreams. I love the things we still experience together and the way it feels to know you are still there.

There is one part I don’t love; it is something I still struggle with. Though I am getting better. I know it is not worth the sacrifice of losing you in my dreams too. Maybe it’s you who is helping me. I can believe that. I think you enjoy our dreams together too.

The time is perfect between us just as it always was. We laugh and share our favorite stories with each other and you help me with the things I need your guidance with. But each time I dream of you, I lose you before I wake up.

It’s awful; I hate to replay the emotions of losing you. Living with the feelings each and everyday is hard enough. So I wake up and it sucks (I know you hated that word). But trust me mom it does and there’s no other way to put it. Because it is the reality and I can’t pretend. You’re not here but I already knew that.

And it is so beautiful out today. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and I would love nothing more than for you to make me my first cup of coffee for the day as you always would. I just want to talk to you. I want to tell you all about graduation approaching, we could possibility go for a rollerblade at the park together, and maybe we could have that dinner we never had the chance to… I get lost in these thoughts, the hope of them and then I realize I am dreaming again.

It becomes overwhelming quick. I need some fresh air. So, I walk outside and sit out on the back patio. Did I mention how gorgeous it is out today? I just want to feel you in my presence.

These were your favorite days. I take a few moments to just breathe and tears fill my face. My heart can’t help but just ache for you. But I remind myself that I will be ok; because you will guide me and give me the comfort I need day by day. You’ve proven that to me, even when it felt impossible. Many many days have felt impossible without you, but somehow someway I am still here and I am ok. I have become so strong and for that I know you are proud.

Going through the experience of losing my mom has taught me how important it is to stop and reflect. You should remind yourself of where you were, where you are and where you want to be. This strategy helps during the most difficult of times because it is a way to almost evaluate your life in a positive way. It is proof to yourself that you can and will continue to strive to move forward and make it through moments and days that literally feel impossible. Trust me I have been there. Please know by saying ‘move forward’ I do not mean move on. I actually firmly believe you do not need to move on to heal. I have come to the realization that I will never move on from my mom and nor do I want to. The thing is why would I?

I will move forward, as she would want me to but I will always carry her with me. She will always be a part of me, who I am and what I do.

One of the most hurtful things that people have said to me throughout this experience was referring to “moving on from my mom.” I am not an aggressive person (at all), but I will tell you there were a few moments where I could have slapped people in the face for saying this to me. I hope you understand.

When things become overwhelming quick for you. Stop. Take a moment, just as I did this morning, to allow yourself to reflect. It is healthy. Do something that brings you comfort; whatever that might be.

Maybe like me you enjoy stepping outside to feel the fresh air. There’s something about it that has always been very calming to me. I also enjoy exercising, writing or being around people I love when I am feeling this way. But be sure to focus your energy on taking a moment to reflect in a POSITIVE way and if you are going to do something let it be POSITIVE. I have been there, where I hurt so bad that I did not want to do anything positive. Rather I wanted to do things that were negative, things I had never done before. Don’t let that be you. It truly isn’t worth it and it does not make you feel better.

It is my hope to encourage you to see in yourself that you are one step further today than you were yesterday. Even if yesterday felt impossible…it was worth it because you made it here today and today is a beautiful day.