Monday, June 27, 2016

Rummy 500 Night

Dearest Friend,

I announced to the family that Thursday was game night. Specifically, “Rummy 500 Night.” My announcement was welcomed with moans and protests. It may have been the added tidbit that no electronics would be welcome between the hours of 6pm and 9pm. I don’t need to tell you I wasn’t the most popular person in the house.

Every night after dinner, the five of us sit in the living room. On the surface, we are together but a quick glance around the room tells you that we are junkies. Electronic junkies, that is. I’m just as much to blame. We are a huge gamer family so the game systems work overtime in my house. The kids know if I’m yelling at them to get off the games it’s usually because I want my turn.

My family is used to my silly ideas though and don’t usually get upset. For the most part, they end in fun so when the family complains they do it with a smile. One time I voted that we eat dessert before dinner. That was a huge hit. Another time I voted that we have leftover birthday cake for breakfast calling it, “breakfast cake.” Another big hit. I should probably cut back on the cake ideas now that I think about it.

When Thursday finally arrived, I received lots of whining and sad faces when I demanded all phones be turned off. There was an abundance of jokes circulating about me trying to convert the family to Amish. I just smiled as I watched/argued with each member to turn their phone off.

I explained the rules of the game and after a few practice hands; we were on our way to some good old fashioned, no electronics, fun. We never finished the game because finishing games with my family is impossible. They love to harass each other, stop to tell jokes, and cheat. Yes, I said cheat. If there is a way for my husband to cheat during board games, he will find it. I don’t play Monopoly with him anymore. He’s banned. And now that I think about it, that probably worked in his favor. He hates board games.

Anyway, I’m happy to report Rummy 500 Night turned out to be a big success. I don’t know if anyone will be requesting it on a regular basis like “breakfast cake” but I know they will remember it for many days to come.

With Love and Gratitude,

Monday, June 20, 2016

Still Learning to Live with It

Me and my Dad, 1991

Dearest Friend,

As the anniversary of my father’s death approaches, my heart grows heavy in anticipation. I asked a friend once if my heart would ever stop hurting and she said to me, “You never get over the loss of a loved one. You just learn to live with it.” It’s been five years since my father passed away and I’m still learning to “live with it.”

In my lifetime, I have lost a few people but none that compared to the loss of my father. There is nothing in life that prepares you for the pain. Like it or not, loss is just one of those inevitable realities a person has to deal with. It doesn’t matter what form it shows its ugly face. It hurts.

I miss him now as much as I did the day he left. The ache to hug and tell him I love him has not diminished. My sorrow is as deep as my love is for him. They are equal, always present and always side by side. I have learned through the years when the ache appears with no warning, to breathe a little deeper and embrace the moment to remember his voice, his touch, and his love.

My dear friend, my heart still aches and my eyes weep in memory but they are worth it because I am grateful for every moment that I had with him. I wouldn’t trade a single tear because each one reminds me how much we loved each other.

With Love and Gratitude,

Monday, June 13, 2016

Paying It Forward

Stump Pass Beach State Park, Englewood, Florida

Dearest Friend,

Recently, our family visited a state park. This park is one of Florida’s hidden gems. It has secluded beaches tucked along a hiking trail that lets you explore the island. Manatee and dolphin sightings are in abundance. Believe me when I tell you, it’s worth the three dollars to park there. It’s also worth waiting in the occasional long line to get into the park. Parking is very limited hence the seclusion.

On this particular visit, the line was very long to get into the park. The ranger told us the approximate wait was an hour. Lines tend to move faster than you anticipate because people lose patience after ten minutes and leave. I didn’t blink an eye because I came prepared with lunch in tow. It worked to our advantage because we ate in the car rather than on the beach which is sometimes burdensome with the birds.

When it was our turn to pay and park I got so excited without even thinking I gave the ranger twice the fee and told her to apply it to the family behind us. The ranger smiled and we went on with the rest of our day.

Because this park is my favorite, we visit often. When we returned the following weekend, the ranger recognized us immediately. Her eyes got super big.

“You are the people who paid it forward last weekend!” She said.

We smiled back and nodded surprised she remembered.

“You have no idea what you guys started. That was the longest pay it forward that I’ve ever seen. You paid for him; he paid for them, and on it went for hours. Thank you so much for starting that. It was amazing to witness.”

We sat there for a moment stunned. What an awesome testimony. I had no idea that something so small, could result in something so big. It made me feel so happy inside that I wanted to hug the world. I will never again say, “What difference can one person make?” because I know no matter how small, whether just a smile or a thank you, or even a small gesture, it can make all the difference to someone who needs it.

With Love and Gratitude,

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Grass Isn't Always Greener

Dearest Friend,

You probably didn’t know this about me but I have a planner addiction. I’m constantly buying planners. I’m like Goldilocks and The Three Bears, trying to find the one that’s “just right.” I’m a planner junkie. I can say it. I’ve known it for a long time.

When the new planner came out by Erin Condren, I was out of my mind excited. I ordered it right away. For me, waiting for it was like Christmas when you’re a kid. I checked the planner’s whereabouts everyday on the carrier website. I didn’t go anywhere the day it came because I wanted to be here the minute it arrived at my door. Told you, I’m a planner nerd.

When I get a new planner, I’m like a bear. I go into hibernation mode for hours. I come out of my office a new woman, happy and ready to tackle the world. Only this time, I didn’t come out so happy.

My husband recognized first that I was not pleased. When he asked, what was wrong I went into a long dramatic story that I’m sure he probably had no idea what I was saying. Overall, the planner wasn’t anything like I thought. The spaces were too small and it was restricting. It was hourly and I don’t like the restrictions of hourly. I knew it was hourly but I was hoping it would make me more productive. Instead I felt like I was robot and I had no time to even breathe. I was crushed. I had such high hopes for this planner and I. We were going to be so happy together for the next year.

My husband just smiled and said, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” And he walked out leaving me to wallow in my own planner disappointment. Then, conviction set in. It’s not always easy hearing what we don’t want to hear but I knew he was right. It’s human nature to want what we don’t have. My problem was I wanted something that I already have three of.

I was behaving irrational and making myself crazy. It was time for my planner addiction to stop. When I thought about it, the planner I have is “just right.”

I can’t get back the time I spent or the money I’ve thrown away on planners. As frivolous as my rant may sound, I did learn an important lesson and that is this; the grass may be greener on the other side but chances are it’s sod. Take care of your own grass. It’s cheaper.

With Love and Gratitude,

Monday, May 30, 2016

We Remember You

My grandfather on the wing of his P-47 Thunderbolt, 1945

Dearest Friend,

While going through old photographs of my mother’s I came across the above picture of my grandfather on his plane in World War II. Until that moment, I didn't even know he served in the military.

I am sad to say that I didn’t know my grandfather very well. My time with him was brief due to an estranged relationship he had with my mother. I do have a few memories of him though that I hold on to with much love. My grandfather was from Italy so my memories are peppered with traditions from my Sicilian heritage. I remember him as a kind man, very strong, helpful and happy.

Today is Memorial Day here in the states. A day of remembrance for all the men and women who died while serving in the military. While my grandfather didn’t pass away while serving, I still feel a great sense of pride on this special day for his service.

I wanted to take this moment to remember him and acknowledge all the men and women who have so gallantly given their lives while serving in the military. They are the reason we are here. They fought so we could survive. They died so we could live. Thank you.

With Love and Gratitude,

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sticks and Stones

Dearest Friend,

A few days ago, I had a bad day. It happens. Sometimes it’s nothing specific. Just a menagerie of drama from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. Other times it’s one specific thing that sets the pace for the day. For me it was a little bit of both. Stupid annoyances mixed with a giant dose of someone hurting me with mean words.

We’ve all heard the childhood saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” I don’t know who said that, but I assure you they are wrong. Words can hurt and sometimes they hurt in catastrophic proportions.

In spite of the hurtful words, I tried hard to stay positive the rest of the day and find the good in what was happening. A quote that I see often on the internet came to mind:
"Every experience no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it." - Buddha

Hard as I tried, I couldn’t find the good in what was happening. The more I thought about it, the more disgusted I became. I went to bed feeling discouraged and anything but grateful.

I was hoping when I woke up the next day that the frustration would be gone but it wasn’t. I carried on through my morning trying to ignore my funk and hoped that somehow the gratitude I should have would magically present itself.

It did.

I was sitting at my desk, partly working, partly wallowing when I came across advice on keeping a gratitude journal. “Acknowledge the negative, too. Use balanced thinking – don’t fight to find gratitude constantly.” I stared at the words for a bit trying to decipher their meaning. Was I trying too hard? Could it really be that simple?

It was.

Getting hurt and recuperating is a process. Some steps take longer than others but for me, it went something like this:


The sooner I acknowledged my feelings the sooner I started to deal with them. Ignoring them wasn’t making them go away or hurt any less.


Allowing myself to be exactly where I am, whether that’s hurting or being sad, feeling anger and disappointment is okay. I’m allowed to feel and even wallow if I want to. Just as long as it doesn’t stay a permanent state of mind.

Balanced Thinking

Life is full of good days and bad days. It can’t all be good. And yeah, sometimes our experiences hurt. A lot. But there are a lot of good experiences too and they tend to get overshadowed by the bad ones. That means not giving the bad more credit than it deserves. If anything, it should get less.

Letting Go

Holding on to the hurt, angry, and bitter feelings is going to make me a hurt, angry, and bitter person. It doesn’t feel good and it doesn’t make me enjoyable to be around. So letting go makes sense. It isn’t worth it.

In the end, the quote from Buddha has merit. The blessing in all of it was I gained a better understanding of my healing process. I learned that I’m in control of my emotions and that I’m not defined by what happens to me. I’m stronger and because of it, I’m better.

So yeah, I get it and I’m over it. Stick and stones baby…

With Love and Gratitude,

Monday, May 16, 2016

Proud to Be Imperfect

Dearest Friend,

While growing up, and most of my life if I’m honest, I’ve been a perfectionist. I came from a childhood where not being good enough was a daily feeling. I thought if I tried harder, was a little better, I would get the love and recognition I sought so hard for. I learned each time that no matter how hard I tried, it wasn’t enough. So, I tried harder.

My childhood isn’t something I speak often about. Growing up in an abusive and alcoholic home is never a good thing. But like it or not, it’s a part of me and there isn’t anything I can do about it except learn from it and not let the experience make me bitter. I learned very early in life the kind of parent I wanted to be, and the kind of person I didn’t want to be.

Through the years, I’ve made peace with my childhood so I don’t struggle in the ways I did when I was younger. I have said goodbye to the demons and they no longer haunt me. At times, they still show their face in some form but I recognize them immediately for what they are. Negativity no longer has a place in my life.

Since I’ve started what I like to call my “walk of gratitude,” my life has changed drastically. I no longer focus on the things I don’t have. I see the good before the bad. My outlook remains positive even when life throws obstacles in my way. I’m learning to be kinder to myself by acknowledging my efforts. I’ve learned that gratitude takes what we have and what we do and makes it enough.

Gratitude has freed me from the chains that so firmly held me a prisoner for so long. It’s as if someone turned a light on after being in a dark room for a long time. Gratitude has been the sun in the sky for me.

Healing from bad life experiences takes time but I think gratitude can give comfort and hope in the process and it can meet you where ever you are in your walk of life.

With Love and Gratitude,