“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.” -Bill Keane

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There are mornings when I wake up and the reality that I have lost both of my parents hits me hard! My heart falls into my stomach, I feel sick and so lost. To be without them always feels like a punch in the gut. It still takes my breathe away. My father is gone a year and four months, my mother passed away almost a year ago. It’s a pain that I would never want for anyone to experience, yet we all will. Some morning  I feel completely paralyzed, unable to accept that they are both gone, until I hear my 12 year-old call out to me. Her voice helps me to  refocus and be grateful for her existence.

It’s not easy to deal with loss, especially when you suffer multiple losses. Regardless of my pain, I put a smile on my face and try to begin my daughter’s day on a positive note. We chat as she gets ready, some mornings we are frantic, trying to get out the door.  After I drop her off at school, I return and often find myself unable to leave the couch.

I try to enjoy and be mindful of my first cup of coffee. It always puts a smile on my face. I thank God for my husband, who almost never leaves the house without making me coffee. That’s love.

As soon as I allow myself to feel gratitude,  my heart gets lighter. I am grateful for the people I have in my life. Today is a present.

Mindfulness

You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.” -Jon Kabat-Zinn

The past few weeks have been difficult for my family. It was our first Thanksgiving since my parents passed away. We decided to skip it this year, it was too difficult. Instead, we sat in our pj’s and watched movies. I took some time to think of all that I had to be thankful about, there are boundless things and people whom I am thankful for. I am mostly grateful for my parents and their gifts of discipline, faith, compassion and their love of family. We will forever cherish one another because of how they raised us.

So while I mourn my parents, I also need to honor them by being the best wife, mother, sister, friend that I can be. So I sit, I reflect, I am mindful of the pain, but I’m also mindful of all they have given me. I am grateful for their love and that will never leave me.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness expert, uses the ancient metaphor of the ocean to describe how mindfulness works. The entirety of our mind is deep, it’s vast and intrinsically still and quiet, like the debts in the ocean. There are times in life when the waves are dangerously rough, but if we learn to sit still and get a hold of our thoughts, we can ride through the waves.

Mindfulness is a practice, it’s all about being. Mindfulness helps you find your way, it allows you to listen to your heart, listen to your own yearning. Just begin by paying attention to your mind, really get to know it, be present, so when you are stirring the pot, or washing the dishes, just do that, be mindful of it. Whatever you are doing, do it with awareness. Dive underneath your pain, your anxiety, your anger and you will find awareness capable of holding it all and knowing “this is anxiety, It’s going to be ok”. When we actually believe our negative thoughts we spiral into anxiety and depression. Change your thought pattern and you can change your entire life. When you become aware of your negative thoughts, you have power over them. Zinn says that mindfulness is the gateway into the full dimensionality of being human of being alive. Without it you miss a lot.

I try to be mindful as much as I can. I often find it easier when I walk in nature. Mindfulness is not meditation, you don’t have to sit still for a period of time in order to be mindful. It’s just the practice of being present. Try it and you will realize that you are not your thoughts, but the awareness of your thoughts. It will change your life.

You can learn more by picking up Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners.

Everyday Is Valentine’s Day

I love holidays, any reason to get together with loved ones makes me happy but celebrating Valentine’s Day can be tricky. For single people, it can bring attention to the fact that they are without a partner. For couples, the pressure is on to show their love for one another. I personally don’t think we should reserve flowers, hearts and love notes for one day of the year. Instead, I think we should show our affection and love for people that we love every day.

 

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I used to always leave my husband little notes everywhere. Bringing flowers home just because you thought of your loved one is a nice way to show your appreciation. Being considerate, kind and loving every day would also be ideal.

We all have days when we are tired or busy and inattentive but carving some time to just show you care is important in a relationship romantic or otherwise. I think the best thing we can do as couples is to have one on one time every once in a while. Once a week would be wonderful, but if that’s not possible then once a month would be great too.

My best friend and I would send cards and flowers to each other on Valentine’s Day. For the first time, my little girl and her bestie exchanged cards and little tokens of love. They always connect and let each other know how important they are to one other. Valentine’s Day was just a bonus for them.

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You don’t have to buy flowers or big gifts to show your love and it doesn’t even have to be romantic. You can look at this day as just another day to express your appreciation for your parents, siblings, husband, wife, children or friends.

With this in mind, I thought I would share some meaningful ways to celebrate your Valentine.

  1. Write a Love Note

Putting your feelings down on paper is one of the most long lasting and appreciated things you can do for someone.  The note doesn’t have to be long — it just has to come from your heart.

  1. Express Words of Gratitude

We all need to hear how much we are appreciated more often. I encourage you to thank the ones you love on a daily basis.  Whether it’s that they ran an errand for you, picked up their socks, helped you with a project, or just have faithfully stood by your side through thick and thin. You never know how much a word of thanks can make someone’s day.

Praise character that you appreciate instead of just saying thank you for actions done. Tell your Valentine how much you admire their patience, their kindness, or their amazing ability.

I have my nine year old and her best friend write five things they love about one another every week. I then have them put it in a special box. When they are feeling down about themselves they can open the box and see all the great things they see in one another. I think it’s a great way for kids to learn to love the great qualities that their friend see in them.

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  1. Do Something Nice

Do something that you know your Valentine will love. You know them best, so if your partner loves a certain dish make it and make it often. If they appreciate that you show up to meet him or her for lunch in the middle of the week, do it. Buy some flowers if you know that it will make them happy.

  1. Speak Their Love Language

Everyone has a unique LOVE LANGUAGE.  It’s the way they feel loved most. If you aren’t familiar with the 5 love languages, they are: Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Some people can be a mix of a few of these, but you’ll almost always have one that is dominant. If you aren’t sure what your love language is, you can take a quiz at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/ just click on profiles and then love.

Once you know what someone else’s love language is, it will help you understand what matters to them the most. My dominant love language is Quality Time. It means that it’s important to me that my partner spends one on one time with me without any distractions.  My second dominant love language is Receiving Gifts. What can I say, I really like getting gifts.

I hope you appreciate the gifts of love you have in your life. Just look around you and express your gratitude.

A Magical Time

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Childhood is  a fleeting time. I never  realized just how quickly it goes until I had my own child. It  feels like yesterday when we celebrated our little girls first birthday and now in just a few months  she will be ten. My time as a child feels so far away and yet I have such amazing memories. Now that I am a mother seeing my own child growing before my eyes is  so  surreal. I want to create amazing memories for her so that she can look back in time with fondness.

Holidays, birthdays, family weddings and new babies in the family are all really special occasions . I want my daughter to remember all these significant occasions so I take a lot of pictures. I want to  document every special moment for her.

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Every year I see a huge difference in her. She is taller, more mature looking and she is really growing emotionally too. She is becoming more self-aware. Year after year I watch as she understands more, becomes more a part of this world. I wish I could bottle up that amazing feeling of being able to do anything when we are children.

IMG_0766Along with great memories of family, I have wonderful memories of friends. Friendships growing up were so important to me. They have literally saved me from many gloomy and sad days. I am so thankful to have had every single friend in my life…even those whom are no longer a part of my life. They helped me endure all the ups and downs of growing up. I know my little girl’s friendships are precious to her as well.

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I always try to keep the magic alive for her and her friends during the holidays.  Although we are not Christians, we definitely believe in giving and we believe in Santa Clause! We try to do simple yet wonderful things together with friends and family.

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We indulge in creating beautiful memories. We spend time with the people we love. I try to instill in her what my parents instilled in me. I want her to open her heart to her family and friends. I want her to know what it is to be compassionate, to be thankful and enjoy the simple joys of life. I want her to know how special she is and I want her to have self-love as well as love in her heart for others. It’s a time of giving so she will certainly get a few presents from Santa…but I already see that what matters to her is that connection we all need with one another. She is also a little girl who has compassion for others and wants to give her own money and time to help others.

Here is a painting my daughter created…honoring her favorite magical friend.

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I hope this season is a magical one for you and your family. Wishing you peace and love.

The Art of Gratitude

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Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a great time to really focus on being with family and counting our blessings. Being thankful has become a  daily practice for me and has lifted my life in so many ways.

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I woke up the morning of thanksgiving  feeling grateful for the people in my life. I felt the need to reach out and send messages to friends who bring love and happiness into my life. I wanted them to know just how much they mean to me. I tend to do this often because I think it’s important to tell the ones we love how we feel about them. I then started cleaning my house, preparing for our thanksgiving feast. My husband always does the cooking. This year my 9-year-old prepared dessert all by herself. Her Chocolate lava cakes were delicious. Again, I felt thankful to have such a great human being as my husband and such a wonderful daughter. I also felt thankful to have my parents, my aunt, one of my siblings and my cousin come by to share our thanksgiving meal. I thought about my loved ones who are no longer in this world. I thanked God for the ones who are still with me. I choose to focus on what or who I have.

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I choose to live a life of gratitude. That means I want to experience life to the fullest. I’ve learned that it’s important to live my life being grateful for what I have. It’s a choice I make which in turn brings me to a place of peacefulness and happiness.

So how do I do it? It’s not easy but it’s pretty straight forward.

  • I take part in activities that bring me joy.
  • I read inspirational articles and sit in contemplation every day.
  • I spend time with people I love who want to spend time with me.
  • I stay away from negative people. They bring me down and spread negative energy.
  • I  just focus on what I have, not what I don’t have..

Being thankful for what you have is one of the simplest and easiest ways to lift your mood. To give your motivation a jolt and to live a happier life. No matter who you are, where you live in the world or if today is Thanksgiving or just a Thursday in your life. Ask yourself these two questions..

  • What are 3 things I can be thankful for in my life today?
  • Who are 3 people I can be thankful to have in my life and why?

If you don’t come up with 3 people and 3 things each day then that is OK. One thing or person is great too. But if you can, try to not repeat yourself too often. Instead, think of more people and things to be grateful for, day by day, expand your thankful view of your world.

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Express your thankfulness to the people who matter to you. This will make their lives happier. And as their faces light up with a smile you’ll feel happier too. Look towards yourself too. You are important and valuable, appreciate that. Ask yourself what are 3 things I can be thankful for about myself? It could be that you were a good friend and impacted someone else’s life. You helped bring a smile to your mother’s face or gave a much-needed hug to your sister.

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Be thankful for the things you may take for granted. Like a roof over your head and a warm home. The fact that you don’t have to go hungry. And that you have loving family members and wonderful friends. Start or end your day with thankfulness. Make it a habit that sticks, find a regular time for it in your day.

For me, writing down what I am grateful day each day helps me continue to be thankful. It just takes a small commitment to see the positive impact on your life.

I’m thankful that you have spent time reading my blog. I hope it helps you become more grateful for all that you have.

 

Valentine’s Day

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I have a friend that thinks Valentine’s Day is a made up Hallmark holiday. He thinks it benefits the florists, jewelers and other such stores. According to him, Valentine’s Day makes people without romantic partners feel lonely. It puts pressure on husbands, boyfriends and lovers to be romantic, buy flowers, give gifts and profess their love.

35a28fedd6727a3fda1f206381b647cfI agree, it is a made up holiday. It does financially benefit many businesses and I LOVE it! Personally, I think men need a little pressure. They need a shove and a push to pull out all the stops. Before your protest, I will say that there are a few men who know how to make us feel loved. They know how to whisper sweet nothings and bring home flowers periodically but you have to admit that they are a minority.

292ce79bb3f51f76a4dcae2c45491ee3As for the lonely people, I don’t believe that we are ever lonely if we just focus on all the people who love us. In high school, my best friend and I sent each other flowers, and gave one another a card that spelled out how much we meant to one another. We didn’t need romantic partners to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We celebrated our great friendship, our sisterhood!

d39a5ccc0c7909c72fa8f673f6bb024aI see Valentine’s Day as just another excuse to be my mushy self. I enjoy getting flowers and presents and beautiful cards with meaningful words. I also enjoy giving to my loved ones and expressing my love.

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This Valentine my eight year-old daughter and I bought beautiful heart-shaped cookies from whole foods for her little classmates.

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Along with all the sugar we wanted to put a little more love in their goody bags, so we did. We decided to create little compliment notes. They have positive sayings such as “You Rock”, “You can do anything”, “You are kind” and then at the bottom we wrote “Pay it forward”. The purpose of the note was to make the children feel good about themselves and inspire them to say kind words to others. We wanted to highlight their wonderful qualities. We wanted them to believe in their goodness. We wanted to show love. That’s what Valentine’s Day is all about. I  spent most of Valentine’s day with a lovely friend whose child got a split lip in a fall. She needed me to take her to the hospital.

395a9432b2f07d12f7046571eb864a6cAside from having a lovely dinner with my husband and child she was the highlight of my day. Spending time with my family and a friend who needed me was the best way to spend Valentine’s Day.

34125c6887dae88706841f2ef257bceeI love this “made up” Hallmark holiday and how it inspires people to show love…even if it’s not so comfortable for them. I don’t particularly want to focus on its history, although it is interesting. That’s another blog.

It’s all in the way you look at things. I’m feeling pretty happy and thankful for my Valentine’s day. I have so much love around me! I hope you do too!

 

 

New Year, New Beginnings

Happy New Year! I know beyond all doubt that 2015 is going to be the greatest year of my life!

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This year will be filled with positive changes because I am totally committed to making it so. I love who I am, and equally love the new me I am creating for 2015.  This year I plan to do at least one thing every day that will move me closer to my goals. This is not me being full of myself, it’s what I have been slowly trying to incorporate into my life. I feel that positive affirmations keep me in a happy place and create positivity in my life. I can easily slip into old habits but I choose not to. I affirm my life every day, in order to create the future I desire. I make time to do the things I need and want to do. I am created by God and I know he wants me to become the best me. I believe that he has the power to give me all that I desire to be.

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My eight-year-old daughter and I began this year with a bang! New Year, new look, new ways of doing good in this world. We can each contribute something good that will effect others positively. I know that my life is going in the right direction when I do something that serves others. It just feels right. I grew up with amazing parents that instilled this in me and I want to make sure my daughter gets the same message growing up. It feels much better giving than getting.

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On New Year’s Eve, my daughter gave something very precious to her. She chopped off ten inches of her beautiful hair to donate to locks of love. It’s an organization that provides hairpieces to kids in the US and Canada suffering from long-term medical hair loss. For a little girl that really loved her long hair it was a great sacrifice. But we spoke about it extensively and she was growing it long for just this purpose.

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Nevertheless, the actual act was difficult. I’ve never been so proud! I cried while she stood bravely at the hairstylists and got her ponytail chopped off. I asked her if she was OK and her response made me cry even more. She said, “Sure mommy, it’s no big deal it’s just hair. It will grow, I don’t mind looking like a boy to help another child feel better about themselves. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make!”

Wow! That alone made my year! The minute we walked out of the place she looked at me and asked me how long it will take to grow her hair out again? She said, “I really hate my short hair but I guess I can take it for a while. I’ll grow it out super long next time so when I donate it again it won’t be so short!”

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I have the best little girl in the world! She is beautiful both inside and out. She has a heart of gold. She is filled with goodness and compassion. I am so thankful for her. We are so blessed. She is the best gift we have ever received!

I wish you a beautiful,  blessed New Year.  Now get out and do something wonderful for someone else! It feels amazing.

 

Keep the children warm

10885036_908225329189840_7047266042889049965_n“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
Rumi

These little girls will be able to stay warm in the bitter cold winter of Afghanistan. They will also be able to learn skills that will help their future. You can help them and over three hundred more children by logging on to this website and donating what you can. After you donate, please help by sharing this: www.igg.me/at/Afghanistan

Ring in the New Year by thinking positive, doing positive deeds and helping others. We only have sixteen days left to impact the lives of over 500 underprivileged children in Afghanistan with the Winter program.

There are already 200 little Afghan girls registered in the program. Each one of YOU can make a difference by donating.

Log onto www.igg.me/at/Afghanistan and give what you can.

Thoughtful gifts just for you

8391ca005059cb24320fe83ae7a4e797 I love the holiday season. Perhaps it’s all the lovely lights and decorations that are everywhere. Maybe it’s the festive music, the hustle and bustle, or maybe it’s just getting together with loved ones. It’s all really very enjoyable to me.

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68af0252d1d8449b4f1f89acbfa47da5It seems like we are all running around getting our last minute gifts for the special people in our lives. I must admit, I love getting gifts. I appreciate things of beauty, luxury items, amazing trips. They are all really appealing to me but they don’t fulfill me. They add to my life. My relationships bring me happiness. When I get a gift that’s thoughtful by someone I love it means the world to me.

I think very hard when I buy a gift for someone I care  about. Recently I bought a little leather rocking chair for my nephew. It’s not something I would necessarily buy, I would much prefer to get him a chair that has some sort of sweet little stuffed animal concept to it. I bought the little leather rocking chair instead because that’s what brother had been talking about since his baby was born.

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Making my brother happy is a gift in itself.232323232fp533;8_nu=3285_359_557_WSNRCG=3238_8_34793_nu0mrj

Last weekend he took my daughter out to brunch, just the two of them. It was really the first time he had spent alone time with her since he got married almost three years ago. That bit of time with her was such a beautiful gift. To give her his unconditional attention made her feel loved and special. The relationship that they have is a gift more special to her than anything one can buy. I know she will grow up and cherish that relationship.

It’s always been important to me to love and to be loved. Relationships have such value to us all. How we treat one another, how we listen to each other’s needs, the time we make to spend with one another, what we do to respond to each other makes or breaks our relationships. Having positive, loving relationships enhances our lives.

Sometimes relationships end, no matter how much we try. All we can do is to communicate our needs. If it’s met with a response that addresses our needs then that’s a relationship of value. If it is ignored, it’s no longer a relationship that adds value to our lives and we have to move on. It’s a sad occurrence but it’s a part of life.

Nevertheless, the most beautiful gifts we have are our relationships with our families and our friends. While you run about looking for that perfect gift, remember to give to your relationships. Give the gift of time, a smile, a kind word, a helping hand, a call just to say I’m hello, a shoulder to cry on. Those are the kinds of gifts that really matter. If you are out buying a certain gift for your loved one, make it a thoughtful one.

I hope you cherish and enjoy your gifts.