Consider the Birds

Three gorgeous blue jays landed  in the bushes outside my kitchen window this morning – I didn’t even attempt a photo because I know how the slightest movement scares them away.  Takes me back to my time staying at a hermitage in the woods last summer.  This is what I wrote then about the blue jays:

“The blue jays sweep in like big bullies.  They remind me of the outlaws in western movies who ride into town causing all the townspeople to scatter.  Yet for all their supposed boldness, they seem the most frightened of me.  The smaller birds don’t seem to mind if I’m around and don’t fly away when I move or make a sound.  The blue jays are the fastest to leave when I make the slightest sound or movement.  Maybe there’s a similarity between the blue jays and people who act like bullies.  Maybe those people are really the most frightened on the inside, and they put on a tough exterior to cover that up.”

I’m convinced that this is often the case.  We can’t be too quick to judge people who are mean or try to intimidate or bully others.  Correct and teach them, yes;  remove them when necessary to provide safety for others, but keep an open mind and heart and seek understanding.  Walk this life with compassion, always remembering that if we were presented with the life experiences of another person,  we have no idea how we would respond.  Live with gratitude for the goodness in your life, always extending your hand and your heart to others.

I look forward to the return of the robins in the spring.  They just seem like cheerful birds who mind their own business and bring us delight when they reappear after a long, cold winter.  From now on though, the blue jays will always remind me to look below the surface when looking at people and their behavior and keep my heart open.  800px-Blue_Jay-27527

Changing the Atmosphere

It seems like we humans have a great tendency to look for and find what’s wrong in any situation.  It’s what we naturally move toward, almost as if by an irresistible force.  Sometimes that’s a good thing – we can’t conquer what we don’t confront.  We can’t change things if we won’t face them.  Our ideas about what will change things may need rethinking though.

After I graduated from high school, I went to college for a short time and then decided to work for a while until it became more clear to me what I wanted to do.  I worked as a secretary at a car dealership and shared an office with two other people.  The office manager was a chain-smoking, kind older gentleman who rolled his own cigarettes and often let them burn down to nothing in his ash tray, so the office was pretty much continually filled with smoke.   I was a smoker too but saved my smoking for coffee breaks and lunch hour when I would “enjoy” my cigarettes with a cup of coffee or a can of diet soda.  Needless to say, it was not the healthiest time of my life.  The drinking age was 18 at this time and my parents owned a bar, so vodka gimlets and tequila sunrises were a frequent part of my life also.

During this time, I met some wonderful people who had prayer meetings in their home and also had a little health food store on their farm.  I became very interested in natural foods and a healthy way of life and had easy access to nuts, seeds, whole grains, and raw milk almost straight from the cow.  It was wonderful!  I stopped drinking, eventually quit smoking, and started to be more active, sometimes walking or biking the two miles to work in the morning.  Sometimes I would get up extra early and run in the dark before I got ready for work.  I didn’t have any health problems, but I started to feel so much better, gaining energy, stamina,  and clearer thinking.

Because I became so interested in healthy living and because I had always been kind of a nurturing, care-giving kind of person, I decided to go to nursing school.  It just seemed like the natural thing to do, and I looked forward to making a difference in people’s lives.  I did enjoy caring for people.  I did clinicals at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester and many of the patients were very ill.  I especially enjoyed working in pediatrics, and I remember a 5 year old boy with severe burns who didn’t want anyone to give him his shots for pain except me.  We formed a close bond, and it was hard to leave him to move on.

I don’t know what I was thinking that nursing would be like, but it gradually began to bother me that all we did was look at what was wrong.  Yes, we tried to make people more comfortable and help them recover after surgery or illness, but so many of the things that I knew were healing and restorative couldn’t even be addressed.  Many years later I agreed to teach a medication administration class to new staff, and I did that for a few years, but eventually I couldn’t bring myself to talk about drugs and side effects anymore.  Medications are sometimes a godsend to get someone through an infection or a difficult time, but I knew they weren’t ever getting to the root cause of most illness.  Surely we can do better than that.  Surely we can begin to look at creating health instead of just managing disease. With that said, I am thankful that there are wonderful people in health care who are making a huge difference and fulfilling a calling.  We need them.

Often when there is something wrong, whether in a relationship, business, or in our physical bodies, we forget that disease and dysfunction can’t gain a foothold as easily in a healthy environment.  Proponents of organic gardening say that we should first create healthy soil before resorting to chemicals to control weeds and insects. When the environment is healthy, problems are less likely to occur.

When I took a course in mediation last year, one of the books we read was called “Bringing Peace Into the Room”.  Each chapter was written by a different experienced mediator talking about how the personal qualities of the mediator impact the process of conflict resolution.  These mediators help to create an atmosphere or environment which can help greatly to bring about healing in different types of severed relationships. It isn’t just about reaching a compromise where one party is probably not going to be happy anyway (although sometimes that’s the best you can hope for with what you have to work with); it’s more about seeing the big picture, bringing clarity by bringing out information, and modeling presence and authenticity.  When they are helping to create a healthy environment, there’s a greater chance for a healthy outcome.  The mediator, just like the doctor or nurse, doesn’t bring about the healing; they help to create conditions to allow for self-healing.

In marriage and family relationships, in workplace situations, in our bodies and minds, and in society as a whole, maybe we can concentrate less on what’s wrong and more on creating health or allowing the health  that’s always there but sometimes hidden, to emerge.  We aren’t looking for perfection necessarily; we’re looking for wholeness.

So many of the problems and issues we face were created in an atmosphere of fear. Fear usually comes from a place of feeling disconnected and separate and feeling that we have to protect ourselves.  We think we might lose something or not have enough so we lie, cover things up, grab more before someone else can get it.  We resort to harming the earth and our environment or people to make big bucks and get ahead.  We fight over children, property, and land.  Or maybe we become so fearful that we hide, shutting ourselves off from people and situations we are scared to face, and closing down our hearts and creating illness in the process.

What’s the antidote to fear and to always looking for what’s wrong?  The only real antidote is love.  As I’ve said before, not just a touchy-feely sentimental feeling that lets people run all over you, but a strong, powerful force that literally moves fear out of the picture.  Oh, it will try to come back and get a foothold again, but you’ll get wiser and recognize it more easily each time.  Love says we are ONE and need to start acting that way.  I can’t hurt you (or lie to you or about you or steal from you) without hurting myself.  I can’t damage your environment but think that because you live across the country or across the globe that it won’t affect me.  I can’t get ahead by ripping you off.  I can’t practice forgiveness and kindness without it changing the atmosphere around me and sending out ripples into the world at large.  I can’t be authentic and vulnerable without my words and actions encouraging someone to do the same.

When we live from the premise that we are safe, cared for, and connected, then we are in a position to create a healthier environment.  People may still take advantage of us at times, and we should definitely speak out and act to expose evil and remedy injustice.  We may need sometimes to point out what’s wrong, but we need to spend even more time creating what’s right.  We don’t need to change the whole world by ourselves – we just need to change the atmosphere around us – we just need to bring peace (or love or honesty or respect) into the room. . .

Once Upon a Time

I saw a wooden sign in a store yesterday that said something about life being like a fairy tale – meaning the life of the person who designed the sign, I guess, and meaning that his/her life was a happy- ever- after type of affair with lots of love and magic.  That didn’t seem to describe my life, and I felt little twinges of something like jealousy, sadness, or annoyance or all three rolled into one.

Oh, I know my life has been pretty good, and I have much to be thankful for, but it’s also been, in a lot of ways, very hard –  not as hard as many people’s lives, but still seeming really difficult at times.  

Maybe, I thought, I’m just not the type of person to think of life as a fairy tale.  Maybe it takes a certain innocence, lightness, sweetness, or optimism that I don’t have.  Maybe I’m too serious, think too much, or had too many ACE’s (adverse childhood experiences) to see life as a fairy tale.

Then my mind takes me to August, 1965.  My mom asks me to call my dad for dinner.  He spends a lot of time in the basement drinking, so that’s where I head to find him.  I find him lying in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs.  He never regains consciousness.  We get the call from the hospital the next morning saying he has died.  I become numb and stay that way for a long time.  A week later I start seventh grade at the age of 11.  I went from a sixth grade class of 4 to a class of 130.  I recall having no one to eat lunch with because I just didn’t  know how to reach out to people.  At times I felt invisible and at other times I felt like a big, ugly, awkward blob.

My dad suffered fear and hunger and who knows what else as a prisoner-of-war in WWII.  He was a talented and creative man who also lost the only way of life he had really known when the family farm had to be sold to keep my grandmother in a nursing home.  He certainly wasn’t the only one to suffer because of war. Multiple millions of people have lost loved ones, homes, livelihoods, health, and their own lives due to war and genocide.

As long as I’m thinking of the tough times, I think of October, 1981.  I am preparing dinner and get the phone call from my mom telling me my brother, 12 years older than me, has suffered a fatal heart attack while hunting in Canada.  His beautiful wife and 10 year old son are left without a husband and father.  It seems too sad to be true.

January 1985 – I am happily three months pregnant with our third child.  I have church nursery duty that day, and as I’m playing with the kids, I suddenly discover that something is very wrong.  By that evening I’m in the hospital ER and am no longer happily expecting a baby.  I’m beginning the grief process of losing a very wanted child.

It’s the mid 90’s.  My daughter and I are at odds with each other.  I thought I’d have the emotional connection with my children that was missing in my family growing up.  It hurts.  The fact that I love her so much and feel that I contributed a lot to the problem by my criticism makes it hurt even more.  I know it’s a fairly normal part of children growing up and maybe even a necessary part, but that doesn’t lessen the pain.

My younger sister hasn’t been feeling well.  I talk to her on the phone often and just don’t realize it’s as bad as it is until I receive a call from her husband saying she’s gone by ambulance to the hospital.  I can’t go to her because we’re celebrating my mom’s 91st birthday the next day and she doesn’t know how sick her daughter is.  She dies that day on my mom’s birthday, and I have to tell my mom the news.  Hardest thing I think I’ve ever done.

Tears fill my eyes as I write this.  Life can be so hard.  I’ve written before about the beautiful moments in life so I know that life can be wonderful and amazing and magical, but a fairy tale?  Who made that sign?  What was their life like?  How could it be that good?

Then I remember what fairy tales are really like.  Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood – these people had some serious issues.  Life wasn’t a rosy, floating-on- a- cloud type of existence for these people.  They faced wicked step-mothers, wolves dressed like grandmothers, poverty, famine, people who wanted to eat them, and wicked fairies who caused them to go into a deep 100 year sleep.  Yes, it’s true, something usually happens to bring them out of their peril and danger and they live happily ever after, but their lives are not without trials.

I suppose the person who made the sign about life being like a fairy tale was thinking about the magical qualities of life, the dreams- come- true kind of thing.
And I’m thinking that maybe it’s about taking the real stuff of life – the alcoholism, the miscarriages, the arguments, the ordinary days, the mundane chores, the loss of a job, the bullying, the insecurity, the ashes left after a death or divorce – and spinning them into gold.

Sometimes we bring some of the troubles in life upon ourselves through ignorance or refusing to listen to the vision inside of us calling us to a higher life.  Often though, especially as children, things just happen – things that bring us pain and sorrow.

It’s what we do with those things that determines the fairy tale quality of our lives.  For me, the biggest miracle in my life was discovering that by changing my thinking I could change my life.  By changing the way I saw myself, I could be a different person.  By changing the way I looked at the painful parts of life, I could transform them into parts of a beautiful tapestry that could contain the shadows and the light and be all the more beautiful because of it.

I can see now that my growing-up-years gave me compassion for many different kinds of people and a small understanding of their pain.  My experiences with conflict at first made me avoid conflict, but then allowed me to see the reasons behind it and the gifts that can come when we aren’t afraid to deal with it.

My youngest daughter would not be here if I hadn’t had the miscarriage I had. I can’t imagine life without her!  I also have empathy for the many women who have lost children or aren’t able to have them.

I’ve learned to just trust when I don’t understand why certain things happened.  I don’t always have to know why. At least not now.

I’ve learned that expressing sorrow and remorse for things we’ve done that we wish we hadn’t or things we’ve not done that we wish we had can go a long way toward healing.  So can forgiveness.  I’m sure that walking away from something or someone and taking our lessons learned with us can too.  So can looking at ourselves as accepted, loved, worthy, and designed with a purpose.

Maybe that’s the fairy-tale part of life – picking ourselves up, becoming stronger, having hope, gaining courage, believing in our dreams and not letting them go, and finally seeing reality unfold as Jesus said “according to our beliefs”.  It is magical that we are meant to be co-creators of our lives.  It might take us a while to figure this out,  but the picture we paint on the inside is often the picture we end up seeing on the outside.

I can’t look back and say my life always felt good.  I can’t erase the painful times.  I can look for and experience the joy in today though, and I can keep faith alive that joy will be there tomorrow and that love, that grand design behind everything, will never fail.

For the Love of a Boy

There’s this boy. . .

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He’s 12 now.

He stole my heart from the beginning,

and he’s shown me how it really is possible to love without limits or conditions.

He’s been a delightful companion, and I’ve loved watching him react with curiosity and joy when coming face to face with the wonders of the natural world.

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He helped to brighten his great-grandfather’s last years.

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He has an amazing memory for facts, especially about football and animals.

He understood words and phrases long before it seemed like he should – like the time as a toddler he leaned back in his car seat with his sippy cup and said “Ah, this is the life”.

He brings a healthy appetite and lots of gratitude to the table.

He once used $5 of the little spending money he had at a baseball game to buy a baseball- bat- shaped pen with the Minnesota Twins logo on it for his great-grandmother because he knew she loved baseball and especially the Twins.

Every time he goes on a trip he brings gifts to people.  I’ll cherish my sea turtle, coral, fox, loon, and owl as long as I live.

So, what do I wish for him, this grandson of mine?

That this boy who stole my heart on the day he was born will always know how to follow his  – that he won’t take too many side trips just because he is unable to trust his own heart and listens to other voices instead.  And that any side trips he takes don’t take him too far away from his true north and his place in the world.

That he never despises the day of small things – that he learns that small things like please, thank you, and I’m sorry, saving money a little at a time, treating the young, the frail, and the elderly with small acts of kindness and respect, and being honest even in the small things will pay off in big ways in the long run.

That he realize that siblings should be appreciated because they’ll always be family.  That he would be the kind of big brother role model that he can be proud to look back on.

That he realize that girls and women are not to be feared (well, maybe a little), belittled, or taken advantage of but respected and treated as equals with maybe a little extra measure of kindness and tenderness when they need it the most.

That he realize that in conflict there are times to move into the thick of it, not with fists and loud, hateful words, but always with respect for the other and a willingness to consider other opinions. That there are times for strength and tenacity, especially when defending the defenseless or when defending the truth and there are times for walking away because this conflict is not his conflict.

That he would stay humble – proud of his accomplishments and growth, but realizing that he could not have done it all alone and many people and circumstances go into success.  That he would recognize the hand of God throughout his life.

That he will be able to admit when he’s wrong or has made a mistake, make amends, and move on.

That he will not be afraid to feel his feelings, but will not let his feelings rule him. That he will understand that his thoughts create his feelings, and thoughts can always be changed.

That he will understand that happiness comes from a combination of things – making up your mind to be happy, serving other people, putting people before things, being true to yourself, working hard – and that days of sadness, grief, and loneliness will come and can teach him a lot about himself but they will not last forever.

That he will realize that his body and mind are gifts to be appreciated and cared for because they will be used throughout his life to get things done, meet challenges, carry him where he needs to go, and help him enjoy true pleasure.

I wish for him fun, friendship, love, happiness, the satisfaction of a job well done, and respect.  I wish for him many bright, sunny days and enough dark, cloudy, and even stormy ones to keep him on the right path with empathy and compassion for others and appreciation for the good in life.

I wish that even when I am long gone, the memories of our times together, any little bits of wisdom he might have picked up, and the bond and  love we have shared will remain with him.

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I Believe In Miracles

Did you ever stop to think that we might be turning away miracles in our lives?  We often moan and complain (at least inwardly) because we don’t have something we want or because we would like things to be different, and sometimes we even think  “God, it isn’t fair.  I’m a good person.  Why don’t I have love or abundance or the job I’d like or a nicer house, etc. etc.?”  It was very easy for me to understand and write the previous sentences because I’ve been there.

So why would anyone turn down or block a miracle?  Miracles are what we want, need, and are praying for.  We’d be crazy to turn one away. Of course, we don’t do it knowingly, but we do it nonetheless, and here are some ways that I’ve discovered we may be blocking or overlooking miracles.

We have our focus on things happening in a certain way.  We refuse to budge or consider that our particular plans might not be the best plans.  We are preoccupied with our own agenda and fail to notice people and things that don’t fit into that agenda, even when they come bearing miracles. One thing I know for sure is that miracles will never come through dishonesty, deception, selfishness, or greed.

We have a deep-seated belief that we don’t deserve love or well-being or a happy life or just that things will never improve.  Even when we don’t understand it, we are often attracting things into our lives according to our core beliefs about ourselves and the world.  The good news is that we can renew our minds and change the way we think.  Picture your beliefs as being like a giant magnet that draws to you  what you, consciously or unconsciously, expect.

We’ve closed our hearts.  We’ve been hurt or disillusioned and have become scared, angry, or cynical.  When we refuse to send out love or are nursing a grudge, how can we expect love to flow back to us?  We’ve closed the door. Love will keep knocking, but it sure helps if we stay open. (That doesn’t mean we don’t use wisdom to avoid dangerous or unhealthy situations.)

We are full of pride and think some people or things that come into our lives are beneath us.  In my opinion, no one is beneath me.  I can get wisdom from a child, from someone we have classified as developmentally disabled, someone with dementia, or the alcoholic who lives on my street.  Messages, guidance, and blessings aren’t limited and don’t only come from a delivery system that society says is important.  Often people who live outside the center of society are more observant, aware, and in touch with what is really important. They often have something to teach us about opening our hearts, getting our priorities right, and seeing the blessings we already have.

We are ungrateful and think that life has been unfair to us.  Some people have it rough through no fault of their own.  I’ve learned that blaming doesn’t help though, not one bit.  There comes a time when we need to take responsibility for our own lives.  We need to start doing the things I’ve written about here – open our hearts, believe we deserve a good life but we need to do our part, and keep our focus on the good we already have.  Some people refuse to do that – they either think that these things are too small to make a difference or that their help needs to come from somewhere outside themselves.  The truth is, everything begins on the inside and everything begins with the small things.  For starters, give thanks, give thanks, give thanks.  Take your eyes off of what you are lacking and put them on the abundance, love, and well-being that is on the inside of you. It’s available to all of us.

We have our eyes closed – not literally, but closed to what is right in front of us that is sustaining and blessing us each and every day.  Look at your life as if you are seeing it for the first time.  That window you’re looking through – it looks out on a beautiful world of grass and trees and sky – what if you lived in a house with no windows?  Did you have something to eat and drink this morning?  What if you had nothing?  What if you had to listen to your children cry because they were hungry?  Are you warm even though the temperatures outside are not?  Give thanks for that.  That fancy phone you checked when you got up this morning – give thanks for communication and people to communicate with.  Your breath, your eyes, your ears, your taste buds, your hands – you’re given all these things to help you live and experience life and beauty.  You’ve been given a mind to help you figure out that your life here on earth isn’t meant to be just drudgery, shopping trips, pain, or boredom, but a rich, satisfying time to enjoy, really enjoy, and a chance to bring your unique gifts to the world to right wrongs, bring true justice, add beauty, serve others, and teach what you know.  Keep your eyes open.  That next chance encounter with someone might lead to the miracle you’re seeking.  Pay attention, take time to be quiet and still sometimes, learn to listen to your inner guidance system. Sometimes, often I think, a miracle is simply a change in perception.

We all have struggles from time to time.  We need each other.  Try to be aware of the people around you because you just might be the miracle someone else is looking for.  And always continue to believe in miracles, no matter what form they take.

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

In about a month I will be celebrating a birthday,  and, even though it’s a milestone birthday that I’m kind of avoiding thinking about, I’m confident that each year to come will in many ways be better than the year before.  So, I guess I will just come right out and say (or write) it – I’ll be turning 60 on December 10.  There is just something about saying and seeing that number that doesn’t feel right to me.  In many ways I’ve never felt better in my life and feel so much younger than that number.  I’ve been thinking today about how life is different now than it was at say, 40, or 25.  There are many differences, but I’m going to concentrate on the ones that make life better.

I’m more secure in who I am.  My late twenties, thirties, and early forties were spent having and raising children, working, and doing volunteer work.  The years were too busy to think much about anything beyond the task at hand, and that was o.k.  I thoroughly enjoyed most of those years once I found a balance that I could live with.  The past ten years or so were a little more difficult – having children leave home and losing parents is something most people go through, and it is part of life, but it’s a time of big changes and the beginnings of some active soul-searching.  How do I feel about the choices in my life, what are my core beliefs about life, what do I want to do with the rest of my life, how do I handle regret, how do I deal with the changes that come?  I hit the wall with questions like this about ten years ago after my step-father passed away, and I knew I couldn’t go around that wall – I had to go through.  I had to sit with those questions for a while (I didn’t know at the time that it would take years) and learn to listen to my inner voice that really had all the answers I needed.  At times I felt like I would always be in the dark.  I really didn’t know anyone who said they had experienced anything like I was going through.  It was scary at the time, but looking back, it was also a wonderful time because it was the beginning of great growth and the stretching of faith.  Maybe growth doesn’t come without some darkness and pain.  I now feel comfortable with who I am, but I still see myself learning, growing, and changing to be more of who I am meant to be – not the ego self which is a necessary part of living in this material realm but which can give us so much trouble until we learn to put it in its proper place, but the real me, the spiritual self that doesn’t have to compete, compare,  prove itself, or live in fear.  The self that knows, really knows, that love never fails, and isn’t afraid to put love first above all other considerations.  Maybe people can discover these truths at a younger age than I did, but it is truly liberating to discover them at any age and find real joy.

I’m less concerned with material things, but I enjoy them more.  There are some things that I would like to have yet in my lifetime, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them. I like nice things, but shopping and accumulating has lost most of its appeal.  I have found that I appreciate and really enjoy things like good quality food, beautifully crafted dishes and furniture, soft cotton blankets and towels, nice clothing,  herbs and flowers, and a good book.  I am much more grateful for what I have.

I am able to see and appreciate people in a new way.  Envy, frustration, comparison, annoyance – all those things that can come up in our relationships with other people – are not there nearly as often as they used to be.  Even if they start to come up, they don’t last long.  With most people I am now able to see beyond the surface self they present and see the beauty underneath.  Every person has something to offer and has value, and I try to approach all my relationships with this in mind.

I don’t worry.

I don’t have to impress anyone.

I see the difficult and painful parts of my life in a new light, and I can be thankful that they have brought me to where I am today.

I’m not afraid of being alone, darkness (literal or metaphorical), the future, or death.

I still struggle with a few things, but I have to say that this time of my life is, in most ways, very good.  I have a terrific husband, wonderful children, and beautiful grandchildren.  I have curiosity, the time and the desire to try new things, and good health.  I hope to be the kind of role model that can show people younger than me that all stages of life can be very good and are not to be dreaded or feared.  I think I will plan something very special just for me for my birthday because you only turn 60 once!

It’s Never Too Late to Say “Thank You”

IMGIMG_0005I didn’t grow up in a home where gratitude was expressed or even talked about.  I can’t remember if I ever thanked my family members for anything, but, looking back, there were many times I could have.

Like the time my mom took my dad’s big homemade tool chest, covered the bottom part with contact paper that looked like wood, put a foam piece on top, and covered that with a pretty lilac and pink flowered fabric.  She then made a ruffled edge and used tacks to hold that ruffle in place.  In my eyes, it was absolutely beautiful and the perfect addition to my room.  The chest held my treasures, and I could sit on it, look out the window, and daydream.

Or the time my mom took me shopping for a dress for a junior high dance.  She waited patiently until I found just what I wanted.  I finally found the cutest lime green empire-waist dress – my younger sister told me I looked like a popsicle in it.  I loved that dress, wore it often, and appreciated it in my heart even if I probably never expressed it.  I can see it now being worn by trendy girls who love vintage.  I wish I still had it.

I could have thanked my oldest brother – who was 12 years older than me and died when he was 39 – for the times he brought home his black convertible sports car (a Triumph I think) and gave us rides around town.  I always hoped someone I knew would see me and my handsome older brother in his cool car.  Those rides made me feel special for a short time and also gave me hope for a better future.

I only had one living grandparent, and she had a stroke when I was still very young.  I always felt better when she was around.  I trusted and loved her.  I was inspired by her huge vegetable garden and her many beautiful flowers, and the festive Christmases at her house were a happy part of my young life.

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My mom always kept a neat, clean house, and we always had a warm meal on the table around 5:30 p.m.  I didn’t realize at the time how difficult this might have been for her.  I took it for granted as most kids do.  It gave me some sense of security though, and for that I’m grateful.

My dad died when I was just eleven years old.  He had a troubled life, but I remember that on his better days he really listened to me.  Somehow I knew he loved me.  For being able to convey that message to me without words, I am thankful to him.

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I’m grateful for my siblings for just being in my life and being the great people they are.  None of us had a choice when we were kids, but now we do, and I’d choose all of them in a heartbeat.  I only have three left out of five, and each one is dear to me in their own way.

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If linear time is just an illusion as many scientists and philosophers say it is, then what we say and do now can and does affect what happened in the past.  So. . . for all those people and for all these things and more. . . Thank you!  When I do look back, it will not be with regret, anger, or sadness – I will choose to look with gratitude for each instance of love in my life and the amazing, messy, sometimes discouraging, sometimes sad, sometimes wonderful but always changing path that brought me to today.