Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Top Ten Thankful Thoughts of 2009

I don't know about you, but my basket of bounty is overflowing with gratitude this week.  I'm practically oozing with it.

So, it's time to spill.  Here are a few (okay, my Top Ten) of the many, many, many things for which I am thankful in 2009!

1)  My boys.  Not everyone has a fan club like I do.  Rick and Connor are the center of my universe.  And, they are handsome to boot!  I'm a lucky girl!

2)  Hershey's Dark Chocolate Kisses.  Really, who doesn't love them?  Little bits of Heaven wrapped in foil.  Delicious!  When necessary, they serve as a temptation stopper for me as I forage for a mid-afternoon snack.  They also are handy as a coercion method for luring a dawdling Kindergartener out the door in the morning (yes, I give my child little chocolate kisses on the way to school, better than screaming at him the entire way!).

3)  The Hens.  Everyone needs someone to gossip with over celebrity snafus and the mundane activities of life.  Rick refers to my gaggle of gals as "The Hens."  He means that in an affectionate way, I promise.  We stay connected by e-mail now that we don't see each other every day -- and we still make each other laugh after all these years.  Ladies of a feather stick together (corny, but I'm laughing as I type . . . ).  Thanks for the memories -- and the constant banter -- Amy, Deanna, and Susan!

4)  Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.  Ahhhhh.  Everyone needs a go-to wine.  This is mine.  You can share, just get your own bottle.  I'll drink anything.  Well, everything.  But, for a tasty end-of-day libation, this one makes me smile every time!  Cheers!

5)  Sisters.  And, brothers.  I've got lots of them and I wouldn't want it any other way.  We've been through a lot.  Some of it sucks.  Some of it sparkles with joy.  We don't always agree -- in fact most of the time you will find at least one disparate opinion in the bunch -- but we always listen with interest.  Then, we talk louder than whomever we disagree with and make our own point.  Family.  You've got to love them . . . no, really, you HAVE to love them . . . mom said so!

6)  100 calorie snack packages of virtually anything.  I hate counting out the proper serving size of tasty treats like shortbread cookies or Cheez-its.  These are dummy-proof.  Well, except for my propensity to eat several at a time.  Hmmm, maybe that's why I haven't lost weight!

7)  Facebook.  Stop laughing.  I love it.  I'm just a little addicted.  It's so voyeuristic, yet narcissistic.  Big words.  But, really, who doesn't want to know what all of their high school chums are having for dinner every night?  Mixed in with the mundane are loads of fun tidbits about the lives of people you know.  Joy!  Wanna be friends?

8)  Book Club.  Assigned reading always gets my competitive juices running.  Sure, there isn't a grade (anymore), but I don't want to be the only one without something interesting to say about the book of the month!  Plus, we gab about real life too.  With food.  And, wine.  Or beer.  Really, what's not to love?  This year our reading selections ranged from "Twilight" to "Catcher in the Rye" to "Are You There Vodka, It's Me Chelsea" to "A Thousand Splendid Suns."  Something for everyone and lots of books I never would have read.  Big thanks, ladies, for another amazing year!

9)  An incredible Kindergarten teacher.  Not for me, goofball!  As the overprotective and insanely involved parent of an only child, the transition to kindergarten loomed larger than life in my eyes.  After all, nobody would truly appreciate how brilliant my one and only child is!  Enter the fabulous Mrs. Kurlenda.  Connor digs her.  She teaches and inspires.  And, she knows how to wrangle parents like me.  Brava -- if only every child could experience Kindergarten the way we are -- the world would be a better, smarter place!

10)  Blogging.  I'm thankful for this wonderful way to hone my writing skills and share my deepest thoughts.  Okay, the thoughts aren't really that deep.  Or prolific.  Sometimes they don't really make sense.  But, gosh darn it, I like writing and this is fun!  We should all find our own true joy and grab hold of it with both hands.  I have.  And, for that I'm thankful.  Every writer needs a reader, so thanks for lending me your eyes.

So, what are you thankful for this year?  Post a comment here and share your thoughts.  I'd love to know.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Living Your Story

I'm a big fan of story telling.  Use humor.  Be truthful.  Be bold.  Never let your story be at the expense of someone else.

For so many, their story is told after they are gone.  It's as if death were the finish line, indicating that its time to spill the beans and share all the secrets of what made you special.  What made you love.  What made you screaming mad.  And, what truths you exhibited in your everyday activities.

When really, if we are careful, we can clearly see that the most prolific among us are living our story in every moment.  Not waiting for the culmination at the finish line to sum it all up and draw a conclusion.

Those are the stories that won't find their way to the Best Seller list -- but will infuse light and joy and comfort and sometimes passion or anger into the world.  Those are the stories that are being lived out among us every minute.  They are pretty amazing.

Five years ago on November 8 my brother, Steve, lost his life.  It was a gut wrenching ending to a life that was crammed with fantastic stories.  Steve was 41.  I always recognized that he had a creative soul tucked into his common-man appearance.  We often talked about what kind of story he would tell some day, whether with the written word or through cinematography.  I couldn't wait to read it or view it.

When his sudden death robbed us all of this promise, I was angry.  Not only had I lost my brother, but the world had lost his voice.  What was the story that had not yet been told?  I was heartbroken that we would never know.

Over the past five years I have realized that Steve told us his story in his own way.  He shared himself with humor and with passion.  He never turned down the opportunity to coerce me with his political viewpoints (we agreed often and yet disagreed more often!).  He was busy telling his story each and every day.  I was so wrapped up in searching for his grand opus that I failed to truly enjoy every moment along the journey.

Since then, I've experienced joys that felt like I was flying through the night sky igniting the stars with my fire and passion, leaving a reflection of my soul in my wake.  I've also been awash in grief and sadness that circled me like a pack of rabid dogs.  Those moments are clearly a part of my story and the very fabric of who I have become.  I've become a story teller, not waiting for the big whopper at the end, rather sharing the little stories as they occur along the way.

Heck, if we wait we may never learn about someone's experience dancing at the USO while the world was at war or about the secret to making the perfect spaghetti sauce (depending on the life story of the person in question!).  No more waiting.  No more finish lines.  We've all got interesting stories to tell and we shouldn't hesitate.  Live it. Then spill it, people.

Thanks for the lesson, bro.  I miss you.  But, I often sift through the moments we've shared and the stories you told and then I can't help but smile.  You are on my Best Seller list and the Oscar goes to you.  Story well told.

PS -- The photo I've included here has a great story, too.  We were in front of the hospital in Jackson where my mom was recovering from a serious car accident.  We'd just left my father's funeral, a result of that same car accident, and everyone had been filtering up to the hospital to spend time with mom.  Rick, Connor and I ran into Steve, my sister-in-law, Kris, and niece, Jessica, outside and they surprised us with a first birthday gift for Connor (he turned one the next day).  It was a coincidence that I had my camera handy and snapped off a few photos as Steve gave Limbo Elmo to Connor.  Simple destiny that Steve was wearing one of his favorite tropical shirts at that moment, just like the Elmo he selected for his nephew.  It was the last time I saw Steve.  He died about six weeks later.