What Would You Do?

We All Have A Choice

My husband and I were heading out for a walk late yesterday afternoon, when we found a wallet at a crosswalk.  We had already pushed the button for the flashing lights, and traffic had stopped, so we quickly walked across the street.  I said “Let’s see if there is any ID or a phone number inside so that we can contact the owner.”  We checked the wallet, but there was no identification, and no business or credit cards.  Just a few faded out receipts and some cash.

We live in a neighborhood of mostly mature population, (in other words, older people). 😉  People are very active, with a pretty steady stream of bicyclists, walkers, and runners.  You sometimes see people pushing a stroller, (and I don’t know what it is with this phenomena), but there can as likely be a dog in the stroller, as a child.  I had never seen a dog stroller until we moved to Florida, but apparently it is a thing!  I thought the whole point of taking your dog for a walk was to let your pet walk.  I also see people “walking” two dogs, and frequently they will stop, pick up, and carry one of the dogs.  I have a cat, so perhaps I just don’t “get” the dog life!  But I digress.

Since there were some larger bills in the wallet, it’s quite likely that the wallet belongs to a local in the neighborhood.  I’ve noticed and heard my children and others of their generation comment that they don’t carry cash.  They just use their debit card.  Since most people use direct deposit, it is indeed easier to just use a debit card than it is to go to the bank, and withdraw cash.  Which leads us to believe that the wallet belongs to an older person who prefers using cash.

We tried to think of the best way to try and return the wallet to its owner.  There is usually someone from the Sheriff’s Office up at the City Hall Building.  I think they may have an office there?  Since it was evening, City Hall was already closed for the night.  Our neighborhood is on the NextDoor app, so my husband posted it on the app.  Hopefully the owner makes contact soon, and if not, we will take it up to the police.

I was thinking about it, and wondered how many people would try to return a wallet, and how many people would just pocket the cash and toss the wallet.  I think that most people are basically honest and good, and would try to find the rightful owner.  Maybe I am a Pollyanna and see the world through rose colored glasses?  I am sure that there are many places in this country and the world where the cash would be quickly pocketed and spent without a second thought.  But the wallet doesn’t belong to us, so we didn’t even consider keeping it.

Is it just our faith that sets us apart?  I know that faith calls us to be virtuous, to not lie, or cheat, or steal.  God blesses us with a conscience, and hopefully our parents raise us in faith, to teach us to understand right from wrong, and kindness, thoughtfulness and charity.  We live in the world, but don’t have to be of the world.  People of faith are different.  We are still subject to the temptations of the evil one, but with the grace of God, we choose to not fall into the temptation.  We sometime fail, and sin.  Thankfully, we have the sacrament of confession to rid of us our sins, and bring us back into grace.

When we think about the fact that God loves us, and Jesus died for us, hopefully it is easier to choose love and goodness over temptation.  What do you choose?

What A Week!

From Illness To Gratefulness

I am finally recovering from a week of influenza and it feels so good to be upright!  I was literally down for the count for a week, laying in bed, slowly walking to the sofa or dining table, and back to bed.  I hate being sick, feeling dependent on others, and not having my normal energy and routine.

My husband was a champ!  He made me food, did the dishes and laundry, and took excellent care of me.  I told him how much I appreciated him taking care of me, and he said, “You’re always taking care of me and would do the same for me.  It’s not a big deal.”  While it’s true that it may not have been a big deal to him, it meant a great deal to me.  When you are naturally a caregiver, it’s interesting to see it from the other side.

When you are constantly taking care of others, of the household, of your children, etc., you can easily get irritated or feel a little bit resentful.  “Gah!  I just vacuumed and you’re tracking dirt everywhere!”  “Ugh!  Sweaty, gross gym clothes to wash and they are laying on top of my outfit in the laundry basket and getting it all stinky!”  And of course you’ll make eggs for breakfast when you’d much rather make banana pecan waffles topped with strawberries and blueberries because you know he’d prefer the protein.

I generally don’t complain about the inconveniences (OK, other than the tracking in dirt!), because caring means that you are doing these things out of love.  And really, it’s not hard to do any of it, and it really isn’t a sacrifice.  It’s just the way it works for your family.  Everybody has to do their part to make their family life work.  Maybe your family dynamic is different, and you’re the main breadwinner, and someone else has more time for the household.  Or maybe you are responsible for everything yourself.  Everybody has to participate in making life work.

But working joyfully, and cheerfully giving, that decision is up to you.  I can tell you that life is happier, you are happier when you move through life with a happy heart.  Is life always easy?  Do things always go perfectly according to your plans?  Of course not!  We all have worries and concerns.  Maybe you are struggling financially, maybe someone you love and care for is sick, or injured, or dying.  Maybe you just feel like life is beating you down.  We have all been there.  Everyone has struggles.  How we face those struggles is the question.

Do you think that you have to carry the burden alone?  On the surface, it may appear to you that you do.  But you don’t.  There is always someone you can talk to, someone who will listen, someone who will lighten the load.

Talk to God, talk to Jesus.  Surrender your heart, look, and listen for the little spark of joy.  There is beauty and happiness everywhere.  What are you grateful for?  What can you do for others?  What small look, gentle touch, gesture of friendship or love can you give?  Because that is the secret.  Opening your heart to God, praying and listening for His voice.  Giving of ourselves, rather than just focusing on what we “deserve”, what I think the world “owes” me.  Be grateful to the one who gives us all the opportunity for everlasting life.

And don’t forget to say thank you to the people God has placed in your life.  The ones who take the time to care for, or be kind to you.  Pet the cute kitty who snuggled you while you were sick.  Hug the loving husband who kept you fed when you didn’t have the strength to make your own meal.  And talk to God, open your heart, feed your soul.  Be grateful for whatever crazy, wonderful life you have.

Lent Has Arrived

Forty Days Of Preparation

Lent is a time of preparation.  Catholics (and other Christian denominations) use this season for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as we look forward to the celebration of Easter, Christ’s resurrection.

You may think of  almsgiving as just giving the sacrifice of money.  But consider it as an opportunity to give of yourself.  Give your time, or share your talents, in the spirit of Christ’s love.

I pray that you have a fruitful Lent.

AE45566E-FCC8-4906-87A0-567205AC9FA2

So Many Things

How Much Is Too Much?

I spent last week helping my Mom try to prepare to sell her house.  My Uncle is helping her by fixing things, cleaning out the garage, etc.  But they are both in their 70’s, so they needed more help.  My brother flew down, and we spent the week hard at work.  We got the exterior of the house caulked and painted.  We took load after load, after load, up to donate to Goodwill.  We filled the trash can and recycling bin, along with the trash cans and recycling bins of nearly every neighbor on her street.  Neighbors commented on how nice the house looks with a fresh coat of paint, cleared out garage, and maintained lawn irrigation system.

We spent an entire day clearing out closets and spare bedrooms, carrying unwanted items downstairs.  Now that the obvious junk is gone, Mom is left to sorting through all the things.  My brother and I tried to help her as much as we could.  “Do you want this, need this, have anywhere to put this if you keep it?”  If the answer was no, then we donated or trashed it.  But there were so many boxes and bins of “I want to look through that to see if there’s anything in there I want.”  Old paperback books and magazines, VHS tapes, knick knacks, etc., some of which had just been boxed up and  brought over to her house when my grandparents had to sell their home and either go into assisted living or move up to Michigan to live with Mom so that she could take care of them.  So much stuff!

And I get it, I really do.  We attach memories and meaning to things, because we loved the people that they belonged to.  But we cannot keep everything a person we loved ever owned or gave us.  There’s just no room in our houses or lives for so many things.  Too much stuff is just clutter, and leads to anxiety just having to look at all of it sitting there in our space.

After Dad died, Mom told all of us that we could go through Dad’s things and take any mementoes we wanted.  I chose his old slide rule (for those of you under 50 years old, with a calculator on your phone, it was a tool to help you do calculations back in the days before calculators, but long after an abacus!), an old Timex watch and retractable keychain I remember him wearing during my childhood, and a pair of funny pajama pants he wore all the time during the last months of his life.  Everything fits in a little 12″ x 12″ box.  Mom kept asking if there was anything else I wanted, but I have the memories of the things we did, the time we spent together, the quiet conversations, of the person he was, and I don’t want any more things.  I would like more time with him, but that will have to wait until I see him in heaven.

I painted the laundry room, cooked meals and cleaned up the kitchen, and started painting the door frames.  But Mom is basically down to what is to her, the hard part.  Sorting through the stuff and deciding what she wants to keep.  My brother and I can’t help her with that, because as we joked, we’d just order a 30 yard dumpster and clear it all out so that she can sell the house and not have to worry about it any more!  Once she gets to the point of actually packing things up, I’ll be able to help again.  I can cook, clean, carry, pack, and paint.  But I can’t sort through her memories and decide what has meaning to her.

How much stuff do we all carry around in life?  Whether physical things, or worries and regrets.  We can sort through the physical stuff, and get rid of the things that clutter our space.  It’s even easier to sort through the worries and regrets, because we do not have to carry that burden alone.  God has an ever listening ear, and wants us to share our problems and burdens.  Talk and pray with Him, and lighten your load.  Ask His forgiveness for any wrong you’ve done, and that weight can be lifted from your shoulders and soul.  Open your heart, and let Him in.  That’s the kind of peace and calm we really need in our lives!

It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s easier than standing outside The Home Depot and choosing what color to paint the house!  Let go of the things, and welcome God into your life.

 

Welcome 2019

The sun has set on 2018 and 2019 is here.  Many people make resolutions of things they want to change or accomplish in the new year.  I remember celebrating New Year’s Eve at our brother and sister-in-laws home maybe 25 years ago when we all wrote our resolutions on a piece of paper, and put them in a shoebox.  Our sister-in-law put the box up on top of the china cabinet and said we should read them in a year.  I don’t recall if that’s what we did, but I do remember that my resolution was for us to buy a house.

It’s fun to recall memories of time spent with people we love.  It may or may not be so pleasant to recall the events of the past year.  Perhaps we have lost someone we care about, or lost a job, had a health scare, or aren’t happy with our current situation in life.  We have little or no control over some of these things, but we can work and make changes to help with others.  Everyone knows that they should eat healthier, and probably need to exercise more.  Taking a different perspective, improving our attitude, and putting in the hard work that is necessary can help us to change things.

One thing though that should be a constant in our lives is increasing our faith and reliance on God.  That may not be a particularly “cool” thing to do in today’s society, where popular culture tells us that even if God is real, we don’t really need Him.  You might think that too.  But what do you do when things are tough?  Who do you rely on?  Who do you thank when things are good and life seems to be going well?

I can tell you that I have faced hard things in life, the deaths of my Dad and all of my grandparents.  The unexpected and shocking death of our 35 year old niece comes to mind.  Like nearly everyone, we have faced financial challenges, health concerns, and dealt with all the normal problems and issues that arise in life.  But the problems have not overtaken me, because I have faith.  Sometimes it seems so hard to put it in God’s hands.  We like to try to control everything.  (Insert sound effect of a buzzer here, eeeee!)  Nope!  We can’t!  I have peace of mind because of my faith in God, in Jesus.  No matter how insurmountable our problems may seem, it will all work out in the end.

If you feel like you’ve lost your faith, or don’t think that you’ve ever had it, I invite you to open your heart.  God does not demand faith.  He doesn’t push His way into your life.  He knocks on the door and waits to be invited in.  That tiny little spark of desire in your heart?  Feed it!  Read the Bible, go to Mass, visit a church, pray, and talk to God.  Nourish your soul.

Go ahead and make your resolutions to workout, go to the gym, eat healthier, lose weight, etc.  But you can accomplish so much more and live a calmer, happier life by increasing your faith.  I challenge you to truly open your heart to God.  Invite Him into your life.  Put your troubles, problems, and desires in His hands.  Trust Him, talk to Him, and let peace and joy enter your life.

sunset 12-30-18

The sun has set on 2018, and 2019 is here.  Let the new calendar year be the beginning of a better year with the peace of Christ in your heart.

A Thankful Heart

What Are You Thankful For?

On this day of giving thanks, it’s not uncommon to reflect on what you are thankful for.  Some families have the tradition of everyone at the dinner table taking turns sharing something that they appreciate.  I am very grateful for the people and experiences in my life.  Even when everything is not exactly how you wish it could be, life is still so wonderful!

For instance, this is the first Thanksgiving that we won’t have either of our children at the dinner table with us.  For the last seven years or so, we have spent Thanksgiving in Tennessee with our daughter and son-in-law and his Mom (and Dad, until his passing).  This year, with the drive being a bit too long to be practical, and flights not working out with Dan’s work schedule, our plans changed.  Our son and his fiancée are out of town for a well-deserved weekend vacation.  So I am grateful that we took them and my Mom (who was visiting us) out to dinner last weekend.

I am thankful that our niece and her family are hosting an extended family Thanksgiving at their home today.  Dan will enjoy the crazy brother bonding time that he doesn’t get to have often enough.  We will be spending time with people we love.  There will be laughter and giggles, food and fun, silliness and seriousness, selfies and photos galore.  We’ll all end up tired, (and perhaps a bit frazzled!) from the noise and inevitable chaos.  But our bellies and hearts will be full after spending time together.

So what else am I thankful for?  I am so grateful for my faith!  Christ has sustained me and my family, and my life is so good because of it.  I think it’s obvious that my family is super important to me!  My husband is my rock, my true love and my best friend.

Dan & I 11-20-18

We have wonderful children (including their significant others) and a granddaughter who brings joy and light into our hearts.  I am also appreciative of every beautiful sunrise and sunset that I am blessed to see in this wonderful, sunny paradise where I live.  The roar and crash of the waves, the gentle breeze, and the soft sand under my toes as I walk near the ocean bring me peace and joy.

sunset 11-20-18

I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful Happy Thanksgiving!  Take a minute to reflect and please let me know what you are thankful for.

 

Heavy On My Mind

Put It In His Hands

A couple of people that I know and love are going through some rough times right now.  Because I love and care about them, their problems are rather heavily on my mind.  I worry about them, about the impact their problems will have on their respective families, what will happen, whether they are ok.  I don’t live near either of them, so I can’t stop by for a visit, give them hugs, be a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on.  The “little mother hen” in me hates that, because I just want to magically fix all the problems in the world.  As if!

Phone calls and texts are my way of being a listening ear, showing support, and offering (perhaps unsolicited :-)) advice.  The other important, actually most important thing I do is to pray for them.  They both know that I pray for them because I’ve probably mentioned it during a conversation.  They may not know what my prayers are, but I hope that they feel the comfort and calm that I hope my prayers bring.

My prayer life has matured over the years and I have learned from different sources and experiences in life.  From strong faith-filled friends, from bible studies, from homilies at Mass, and from reading.  My favorite book on prayer, 13 Powerful Ways To Pray by Eamon Tobin was so enlightening.  It really matured my prayer life.  Some of the important things I learned were to lean on God and let Him determine the way.

That “little mother hen” side of me wants to just fix it, and have things go in a certain way.  But that sure isn’t reality, is it?  I have zero control over either situation, and frankly, who am I to determine the best outcome for either of them?  That can be a hard thing for us to accept.  We need to lean on God.  And sometimes, when things don’t seem to be going our way, perhaps that’s the lesson that we’re supposed to be learning from the situation.  How hard it can be to humble ourselves and ask for His help!

We like to think that we can control every single situation, determine every single outcome, and make things turn out exactly the way we want.  But we can’t.  We (fortunately) don’t have control over others and can’t determine their actions and reactions.  And, how many times in your life have you wished that something had gone a certain way, were disappointed when it didn’t, then later realized that it was probably a good thing that your original wish didn’t come true?  That perhaps something better, different than expected, but better, took it’s place?

Which I guess is my long way of getting around to one of the ways I pray.  Rather than asking God for a situation to turn out a specific way, I ask for the situation to turn out the best way.  I put it in His hands.  I ask for His calming presence to be felt in the lives of the people I love.  I have faith.

I pray that your heart is open, that you let His calming presence be felt in your life.  That whatever is heavy on your mind, the load will be lightened.

A Bit of Light

Keep peering through the darkness

I love seeing the sunrise.  I think I’ve mentioned before that my morning coffee drinking spot faces the East, so I am treated to a sunrise every morning.  As the seasons have changed, I’ve noticed the sunrise has slowly rotated in a Southerly direction.  Where I used to notice it rising over the palm trees, it now peeks up through a neighbors large live oak.

It’s still the same beautiful sunrise, but you have to look a little harder to see it peeking through the dark branches of the tree.  I think that is kind of like our prayer life, or seeing the light of Christ’s love.  Sometimes it is so easy to see the glorious colors and brightness of the light.  Sometimes we feel that the light is blocked by our worries or the troubles of the world.  Take heart though!  Keep peering through the darkness, knowing that the light is always there.  Something as simple (and yet as hard!) as changing your perspective can bring the light back into focus.

Yesterday morning on our way to Mass we saw a beautiful sunrise with light streaming up from the clouds.  Since there was no traffic directly behind us, Dan was able to slow way down on the bridge so that I could lean slightly out the window to get a photo.  Tightly gripping my phone with both hands and trying to hold it steady against the wind, I was able to capture the moment.  Perhaps this is another metaphor for life?  Hold on to the good tightly with both hands, steady yourself against the buffeting winds, and capture those beautiful, wonderful moments.

sunrise 10-21-18

Remember, God’s love is ALWAYS there.  Keep praying and peering through any darkness and you will see His light.

What Draws You Closer?

It was the anniversary of my Dad’s death earlier this week.  Every Autumn I remember back to that year and to all the beauty and love, sadness and dignity, loss and growth our family went through.  Dad knew he was dying, he had grown weaker and more tired, and took several naps a day.  I remember my Mom, siblings, Aunt and I taking him to his cardiologist’s office to have his implantable cardiac defibrillator turned off.  They have to do this when a person is actively dying, or the defibrillator would keep shocking and shocking trying to get the heart into rhythm when it stops.  His doctor talked with him, asked him questions, and asked us if we had any questions.  It has to be a sobering moment for a doctor to know that there is nothing more that they can do for their patient.  The handshakes, hugs, and kind words from him and the staff as they said goodbye to a patient they knew they would never see again spoke volumes about the seriousness of the situation, and their fondness for Dad.

That last couple of months our family came together as we hadn’t been since childhood.  Us kids took turns spending days and evenings with Mom so that there was always someone there to help.  We bathed him, encouraged him to eat a few bites of food, refilled his water cup, helped him roll over and try to get comfortable.  By the end we were all basically living there.  I did loads of laundry every day, we took turns cooking a meal or going to pick something up.  We were so grateful when kind neighbors and friends would drop off food or snacks.  My youngest sister and I had longer drives to our day jobs, while my middle sister and brother were walking distance to their evening and weekend jobs.  Our varying schedules helped with ensuring that there was always someone there.

While Dad slept I would frequently sit quietly in a chair just to be with him.  We’d have conversations about whatever was on his mind.  His faith was strong.  He knew he was going to heaven.  Dying wasn’t what bothered him, it was the “collateral damage” that concerned him.  Knowing that everything would change, worrying about Mom and what would happen to her.

I remember conversations with Mom as we laid in bed with Dad.  About how we can’t see the big picture.  God has the big picture and knows that everything is going to turn out all right.   It’s like a tapestry and we see this little, teeny, tiny corner of the picture and don’t know or understand how it’s all connected to everything else, and keeps going on.

The opportunity for closeness and increased faith when someone is dying is a gift.  Was it hard?  Oh yeah.  It was exhausting and stressful.  I spent the last month living out of a paper grocery sack of clothes that I would stop by my house and exchange on my way home from work when I couldn’t stand wearing the same outfits over and over again for another week.  Like my sister, I burned through every sick, personal and vacation day to go to appointments for Dad and to be there for Mom.

By that last week we were all walking zombies from the lack of sleep and the stress.  The slightest sound from Dad and we would hop out of bed, or leap up from a chair, bound over a laundry basket like a gazelle running to see what he needed.  Since I had no more time off, I went to work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday wearing my usual business attire.  Yet I bundled up in a zip front hoodie over my dress while at my desk, huddled in it like a hug.  When I got to my parents home after work, the hospice nurse who visited daily and the CNA who visited twice a week were in the bedroom talking.  As soon as I heard Dad’s breathing, I knew we were at the end.

It’s called the death rattle, and once you’ve heard it, you know what it means.  I hugged Mary, our nurse, and thanked her for being there for us, knowing that we would probably never see her again.  I don’t know if Mom fully grasped it yet, but I know my sisters did.  We spent the evening together and all went to bed, and Mom got in the shower.  Although it was very late, and I was exhausted, I felt the need to climb out of the guestroom bed I was sharing with my sister and go talk to Dad.  I laid my head on his chest, told him that I loved him, and that we would take care of Mom. Mom heard me in there and asked from the shower if everything was ok.  I told her it was, then continued my conversation with Dad.  I told him that it was ok to let go, that we would be alright.

Dad went to heaven to be with Jesus in the early hours of the morning, a place he had already glimpsed when he was slipping out of consciousness and proclaimed “So beautiful, all the colors and light, it’s just so beautiful!”

Oh, how I miss him!  He was so fun, and funny, so smart and handy, a grounding force in our lives.  I wish he could be here to enjoy our expanding family.  The grandchildren, weddings, and great-grandchildren that have added more love to our family, with two more weddings planned within the next year.  He would have enjoyed the babies and children, and having more people to love.

Death can shake your faith, or it can help it grow stronger.  God increased my faith, changing me in ways both  simple and profound.  I am much more focused on the things that are important in life, I am at peace.  I feel joy and calmness, and going to Mass makes me happy, gives me the foundation in life that I need.  “Thank you Jesus” is a common enough refrain because I do realize how very blessed I am.  I pray that when you encounter troubles, that you find the love and joy that your heart seeks, that your faith is increased.  Will you open your heart to Him?

 

Beauty and Wonder

Look for the light

Sunset walks on the beach are my favorite.  Although people frequently come out to enjoy the show, we sometimes find ourselves on a nearly deserted beach.  As I walk I often contemplate the beauty and wonder around me.  It’s hard not to with this scenery, right?  God gives us sunsets, day after day.  Do we always take the time to look at the sky and appreciate them?  Of course not.  Life is busy, it’s not always convenient, it might be raining, the sky is overcast and you can’t see the sun, the list goes on.

But the sunset is constant, it happens every day.  It is like God’s love for us.  It’s there, it’s constant, but sometimes we just don’t see it.  We get busy, we don’t take the time, the clouds of grief or anger seem to hide it, or we let a bad experience or another persons point of view keep us from looking.

crane 9-24-18

Sometimes we might feel like we’re standing alone in the world, in society.  And that’s okay, because in reality, we’re not.  There are others like us, people of faith, who believe in God’s goodness and love.  We may not be the loudest voices in the chatter of the daily stream of information flooding the airwaves, but we stand strong in our faith.

double rainbow 9-21-18

God gives us constant reminders that He is there.  Looking up at the sky after a rain, with thunder still grumbling in the background, Dan and I saw a beautiful double rainbow.  It’s a reminder that although we might be showered with problems, and the voices of discontent are grumbling in the periphery of our lives, there is pure shining light in the world.

Am I looking at the thunderclouds and worrying about the storm, or am I looking toward the light and appreciating the beauty and wonder?