No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ  sometimes I just want to click my heels and be instantly transported away from wherever I am to my little safe haven–my home.

I may not be dealing with the Wicked Witch of the West or the Flying Monkeys (although sometimes I am!) but thinking of being home will often lower my anxiety immediately because I know once I am there I am safe from the world.

We all have a basic need to feel safe–from danger, from criticisms and even from the judgements that others pass on us–although the older I get the less I care about those judgements.

These safe havens are what we make of them.  It is the one place in the world where the stresses of life can be lessened and the burdens put to rest–at least for a little while.

I have always taken pride in my home and love to decorate it with things that reflect my personality and that represent my family.  I am not the best housekeeper but I do try to keep things as neat and clean as I can.

The key to this is organization.

In our busy runaround lives though especially during on the workweek, shoes get left next to a favorite chair, the newspapers and magazines along with the mail begin to pile up, plants go unwatered and more often than now there are a few dishes in the sink.

Nonetheless, I always find the time to put things to rights.  I have also been on a decluttering journey this year and that has helped a great deal.

Having a place for everything and putting every in its place.  My decluttering has taken me much longer than I expected it to take but I have accepted that it is a process.  And once the decluttering is done–the upkeep is a much simpler chore.

One way I keep my home inviting and that helps me feel welcomed to it each day is by doing my 15 minute cleaning.  I basically tackle a task for 15 minutes and then stop. This can be done in the morning or in the evenings or in between TV shows.

If  you don’t have 15 minutes, you can still organize the things in your house in 5 minutes.  Take 5 minutes to go through the mail for example and put everything that has to be shredded on the shredder.  Address the items that need to be addressed or put them in your planner for the next day.

Do a walk through your house and pick up newspapers that are read, empty water bottles and any other things that belong in the recycle bin.  It quickly declutters and cleans up your area–making your home more pleasant to be in.

There really is no place like home–the one place in the whole world where you are always welcome and where your space is defined by you. Keep your home a haven that is clean and safe and that hugs you when you walk through the door.

How do you keep your home a haven?  

Liberation Day

Liberation Day

Some of the most important things I have learned in life I learned from my parents.

I have been very fortunate to have parents that were always present, involved and encouraging .

They taught me to depend on them while I grew into my own independence.

Likewise, it was my goal, as a parent, to be present and guiding but to make sure my children could stand on their own two feet.

And like my parents, we did a good job because just like I became stubbornly independent in my 20s, so too have the girls become independent.

My dad calls it Liberation Day! It truly was liberating for all of us.

The girls now liberated were taking those first scary steps into adulthood and we, the parents, are also liberated to continue with our lives, goals and dreams outside of parenthood.

But it does not end there. My father in declaring Liberation Day shows his pride in the passing of the torch to the next generation.

So today I celebrate that we have made it to this point in time, with gratitude and high hopes for the future!

Happy Liberation Day!

Of Weddings and Funerals

Of Weddings and Funerals

Nothing seems to mark the passage of time more than the weddings and funerals in our lives.

The weddings are always happy occasions when we have the chance to get together with family and friends to celebrate the beginning of a couple’s life together. At least for me.

It doesn’t matter what age the happy couple is or if this is their first or second (or third) marriage. It is a beginning, a fresh start with the expectation and promise that it holds. It is a celebration of life.

It is the clock of life that ticks off to these moments. We often think of our own lives at weddings–sometimes remembering our own weddings or those of others. The life lived before and after such events. The choices we have made and how that defines us–in reference to time passed and time yet to come.

As we get older, funerals also give us an opportunity to see friends and family although for a more somber occasion. This too is a celebration of life.

This is a time when again we hope for that new beginning with the promise of everlasting life in heaven.

But it is also a reminder of our mortality, of the fact that our time on earth is limited.

When a friend or family member passes away, regardless of their age, we think about the impact they had in our lives–sometimes big and sometimes small–but an impact nonetheless.

And we think of our lives at funerals, before that moment, and what it will be after that moment. It is a time to be grateful, to appreciate and to take advantage of the time we have left.

So always remember to celebrate life–those of others–and your own! These milestones, weddings and funerals, help us remember to slow down from our hurry up run around life and enjoy everything we can.

I hope your life is full of joy and rich memories!

Going To The Dogs

Going To The Dogs

We are dog people.  Although we had a dog growing up–and I loved him–when I left for college, I left the dog behind with the folks. It seemed natural that it would be mom’s dog.

As I grew older–I always felt I was not a pet person, a pet is just so much work!  I enjoyed other people’s dogs, but was just not ready to commit.

After I had children, my kids wanted a pet so we started small.  The fish, of course, all died. The girls were crazy about their hermit crabs… until they died. The hamster we had for a while bit one of the girls–and it eventually died. We had a rabbit–that, you know, died.

So when they started asking for a puppy–I was NOT on board. Clearly we were not good with animals. But they pleaded and promised and finally we struck a deal.

I promised I would buy them a puppy, if they both got straight As in school that semester. They were both good students–and usually made good marks–but I could tell they were getting “bored” with school, so I felt pretty secure that everything would not be an A, maybe a high B.

God, of course, had other plans–not only did they both get straight As, they got very high As, excelling at everything!  And a promise is a promise.

I bought a puppy.  A white, female, toy poodle we named Cici. She was the runt of the litter, but was certified–and so darn cute. The girls adored Cici!  They carried her around and spoke to her and fed her and took her out to train her to do her business. And everything as they say was perfect–a happy ending.

Until the 4th day.  On the 4th day that Cici was part of our family my youngest came to me and was sad.  I–in my ignorant bliss–asked her why she was sad? She said she was sad because Cici was sad.

Alarm bells started going off in my head.  I went to the dog’s bed and there was Cici, completely lethargic, she could barely raise her head and did not want to eat or drink.

I called my mother to please come watch the girls while I ran off to the Veterinarian–praying the whole way that we were not about to lose another beloved pet.

The Veterinarian took charge right away, thank goodness, and gave Cici an IV and ran some blood tests. After about 3 hours, Cici was back to normal–playful and happy.  

The diagnosis: Cici was hypoglycemic and would need constant care until she was bigger, stronger and able to level out her blood sugars with food.  I had no idea what this meant–because at that moment, I was also handed the bill–$1200.00!

Her “constant care” turned out to be a feeding schedule that we had to maintain, making sure she ate every 2 hours and also had a teaspoon of Nutri-cal paste which came in tubes that were $15.00 a pop!

Mom had to help me on several nights when I just could not get up to do the 2 hour feedings–and the feedings during the day when I had to go to work! It was a nightmare…and then soon enough it passed…Cici not only survived but thrived for years with us.  Until she ran away or maybe someone took her—she was a very pretty dog!

Since that time we have had several dogs in our lives.  When the girls left the nest to go to college–they left the dogs behind with me.  It seemed only logical that now they were mom’s dogs.

Me–the reluctant dog owner–who was afraid to get too attached to these animals that I knew would one day break my heart. Yet here I am, the dog owner.

I have turned into the strangest version of myself talking to these dogs and having complete conversations with them. They are my friends. And they are fiercely loyal.  And while I like to play at being tough–I love them to pieces.

The youngest daughter–in college now–recently adopted a new puppy! The family’s newest addition! (pictured above)  I don’t know how they are faring in that small apartment but they both seem very happy with the other. 

We are dog people. It seems that this family has completely gone to the dogs!

Surprises

Surprises

There are many surprises that come into our lives. Some are good surprises and some are bad.

I don’t like surprises myself because I like to know the who, what, where, when and why of everything so I can PLAN it.

Yet from time to time, I come across a surprise that impacts me greatly.

I’m not talking about the someone popping out of a cake surprise–I’m talking about the kind of surprise you receive when you find out your life has been impacted by someone else or that you impacted someone’s life by a single act of kindness and it just grabs at your heart.

I had a surprise like that just this week.

There is a person that I don’t know very well but who I love and who I have a very high respect for–that passed away this week.

As a matter of fact, I have never met this person face to face, but I have known about her most of my life and carried her with me as I carry many people I care for.

It is a hard thing to explain.

I am, among other things, the family historian. I keep the family tree, many of the family stories, some of the family secrets and as many pictures of family members–past and present–that I can get my hands on.

This has been a self appointed role–not one that anyone said I had to take on. And I do this for my own pleasure and curiosity.

I don’t do this to judge family members’ lives or the choices they have made–after all, who am I to cast the first stone?

In researching a branch of my mother’s family 4 months ago, I found my mother’s sister. My mom is 75 years old and her sister, 77.

Through the twists in life and other circumstances they had lost touch with each other, both migrating to this wonderful country from their native land at different times under a different set of events.

They had not spoken to each other in over 60 years when they were both barely young teenagers in another country and another time.

They were able to reconnect, and I believe, both were very happy to have found each other again. Many phone calls, emails, cards, pictures and gifts have been exchanged over the course of these months.

For me, I found a whole new set of people to call family and my dear aunt had a daughter exactly my age. She and I communicate frequently thanks to the miracle of technology.

I feel very close to my cousin and care for her deeply–we have become not just family but friends.

Through them both, mother and daughter, I have been able to collect a few more family stories and information to fill in the blanks that I had–they have indulged me in my hobby.

Unfortunately, my aunt had cancer.  In this short time that I came to know this woman, I grew to admire her strength, her resolve and her courage.  She made sure to be strong when speaking to my mother over the phone because she did not want to worry her “little” sister.

My aunt and I shared the exchange of one long letter–one in which I told her all about my life and her reply that provided acceptance, encouragement and love.  I was in the middle of sending her another letter that I will no longer be able to send.

But a beautiful surprise came to me in a letter from her, transcribed by her daughter–my cousin, my friend–because she was too weak to write herself.

It was information about a family business back in the old country and how the family was involved in it.  She had told me she wanted me to know the story and she had promised to send it to me for my collection of family lore. The letter was written and put in the mail to me on the day she left this earth.

Sometimes, we do something simple, say something to someone, offer a smile and it changes another life.

A selfless act–a beautiful gift–and a surprise. She grabbed my heart as all good surprises are wont to do. It has impacted me greatly as I am sure her whole life impacted others–regardless of time and space.

May the Lord keep her in the palm of his hand, until we meet again.

My Favorite “F” Word

My Favorite “F” Word

Happy Friday everyone!  I was thinking how most people love Fridays!  And I have to admit I like Fridays too because it is the end of the work week for me and gives me a chance to recharge my batteries over the weekend.

But really Thursdays are pretty good days and I don’t mind Wednesdays too much.  And if I have an exciting week planned–Mondays don’t bother me at all!

So I was thinking of the TGIFs in my life.  Why TGIFs?  Why Thank God it’s Friday?  I thank God every day–that I got another day!

And I started thinking of the “F” words that I like–french fries, frogs, frequent flyer miles…and I landed on my favorite: Family.

My favorite “F” word is Family. As long as I can remember I have had a very close bond with family, my family and with my husband’s family as well.

That is not to say we like everyone in our family–we love them, but you know, we don’t always like them all.

After all, Families are really just a collection of people either related by blood or some legal process like marriage.  And people, you know…are all different, regardless of the blood they carry or the piece of paper that binds them.

Some of my family, who I hold dear to my heart and adore, are not even my family–by blood, paper or any other way.  These are my life long friends, some are my parents’ life long friends, who have known me all my life, and who have been there for my children’s lives–who are like my aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters and cousins!

These family members are often closer to us than family family–not because we love them more, but sometime simply because of geography, proximity and frequency.

They are special to us, because they know the “us” we were as children. They may be people who walked along with us and shared our childhoods. They watched us grow and go through awkward times. They were witness to our triumphs. We leaned on them when we needed someone to hold us up and push us forward. Without being asked, just because.

That is what family does.

And once in a while new friends come into your life as well that you do not know for a lifetime–that don’t remember the “you” from grade school with the big buck teeth, the high school “you” with the big hair (ah, the 80’s!) or the “you” you were when you made some big blundering mistake in life–and you click!

They become the new additions to the family–that you know will be around for the next phase in this wonderful ride of life.

Now, I’m not talking about people that come and go through our lives that we may know for a short time.  I mean the people we share a bond with, that we care about, worry about, celebrate achievements with and those we help when help is needed.

I’m talking about the people in our lives that call us up right when we need them to, help us through our own journeys, smile, laugh and cry with us.

Those folks get the title “family” in my book–because like my own real blood family–we can disagree, argue, enjoy, annoy, have fun with, feel obligated to, responsible for–and no matter what–they are our people.

And so on this Friday–I celebrate the “F” word–my family, in all it’s messy, confusing, incomprehensible, wonderful, fulfilling and crazy glory we live in.

Take some time today to reach out to your family–and let’s make this a TGFF (Thank God For Family!) day!

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