The only love you keep is the love you give away…

My two angels - May and Eric - my grandparents....

Valentines Day, like any big holiday can send you spiraling downwards into a funk.  So if you are reading this and feeling unloved, unappreciated and let down, read on….

Firstly, I want you to push aside your disappointments of the ‘present’.  To pack in a box who is ‘letting you down’, and not ‘being there for you’, or ‘appreciating you’ and think, really think about the greatest love you have ever ‘felt’ in your life.

Perhaps it was from your first boyfriend.  Perhaps it was your husband who passed away twenty years ago even though you are happily remarried.   Perhaps it was the first time you held your child in your arms.  And don’t feel guilty here if it isn’t the person you have in your life now.

We have all felt the power of love.  I have been happily married for 25 years and have 4 lovely girls.  But for me the greatest love I ever felt was from my grandparents.  They lived next door to my school and every morning they would wait by their kitchen window to wave at me.  They will never know HOW that made me feel.  The power that two people standing by a window to see ‘little me’ every morning made me feel the most important person in the world.  Sometimes that is all it takes…A look, a wave, a smile.  It doesn’t have to be words, or a ring.

So sit a while and embrace who it was who made you feel loved.  Now remember how it felt.  Ask yourself what it was about that person or action that made you feel like that.  And then say ‘thank you’ that you felt it at all.  Yes be grateful you ever felt it.  Not resentful you don’t feel it now.

The final point of this blog is to let you know that you hold that power right now.  At this very moment you could be making someone else feel like we felt.  Could you volunteer at your church to help in Sunday School, or in the kitchen.  Could you volunteer to hear children read in your local school when they may not have someone at home who notices if they read or not.  Can you walk someone’s dog if they are sick? Can you bake?  Can you simply listen?  It doesn’t have to be anything big or profound to you.  But your small gesture can be big or profound to them!

Getting up, and getting out, helps you get over life’s disappointments.  And you are just going to have to trust me here.  The only love you really keep is the love you give away.  prod_92414

So don’t be broken hearted this Valentines Day.   Remember the power of love.  Celebrate that you felt it.  Say Thank You, and now go and give some away.

HAPPY VALENTINES from the most important little girl in the world!

Beautiful Oops

It’s very noisy here, and hard to imagine that two 11 year olds girls coming down stairs really do make furniture shake.   The phone rings constantly and I’m the only one who seems to hear it and have to be chase down one of four missing handsets usually found under beds or in sofa cushions.  

Within our chaos naturally we have plenty of oopsies.   The fridge is always overful.    OK, OK.  I’m a leftover person.  And I like to have four types of mustard, several salad dressings, and at least three jellies just in case someone asks for them.  When the fridge door opens anything can happen.   We have learned to bend at the waist when we open the door to protect our toes from crashing yogurts or glass jars. 

And then there are the cupboards.  Things are precariously balanced in every cupboard, especially pots and pans.   This is why I am a huge fan of plastic.  Thank goodness the quality is so good now you don’t feel like you are eating a picnic.  Target’s melanine plates this year actually look like Spanish glazed plates – incredible.  And even more incredible they go in the dishwasher, and bounce when you drop them. 

I have a noisy eater and a messy eater from birth.  She’s 11 now and I still have to say ‘slow down’, ‘take the food to your mouth, not your mouth to the food’ and then always the final check before school – it’s usually an oops shirt change situation.  I’m usually in a rush, because I love life and want to do it all.  But with that comes more oops.  I’m bad at typos as I type very fast, to keep up with my thoughts.  With speed comes errors.  And I slink into a corner when I hear people say that a typo is absolutely a reason not to interview someone for a job, or use a company.  A typo means unprofessional!  I’m not unprofessional, I just type too fast and ok, should go back and carefully check…. But I’m on the next email by now making typos in that one too.

But I just discovered a wonderful new children’s book called ‘Beautiful Ooops’.    I love everything about it and particularly the message that it’s OK to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery. A spill doesn’t ruin a drawing—not when it becomes the shape of a goofy animal. And an accidental tear in your paper? Don’t be upset about it when you can turn it into the roaring mouth of an alligator.  Barney Saltzberg, the effervescent spirit behind Good Egg, offers a one-of-a-kind interactive book that shows young readers how every mistake is an opportunity to make something beautiful. A singular work of imagination, creativity, and paper engineering, Beautiful Oops! is filled with pop-ups, lift-the-flaps, tears, holes, overlays, bends, smudges, and even an accordion “telescope”—each demonstrating the magical transformation from blunder to wonder.  The smudge becomes the face of a bunny, a crumpled ball of paper turns into a lamb’s fleecy coat—celebrate the oops in life.   Reading level: Ages 4-8.  Hardcover: 28 pages measuring: 6.8 x 6.8 x 1.2 inches

One Day At A Time

It’s a familiar saying.  But until today I’d kind of felt it was ‘owned’ by our friends in AA. 

How wrong I was.   Because when we are going through any difficulty, it’s  mostly ‘getting through it’, not , ‘getting over it’.  And in the struggle, the ‘one days’ turn into ‘one weeks’, and ‘one months’ and so on.  Then the other trueism ‘time is a healer’ kicks in, although it may take many years to come to peace and resolution.

Yesterday I saw the true meaning of ‘one day at a time’.  I was working the front desk of our incredible local hospice, when I noticed a lady walking slowly with a frame.  A couple of visiting kids were being a little boisterous and I hung back in the corridor to ‘watch her back’ and keep them away if they headed off in her faltering direction. 

We have many visitors and some are very old so I really wasn’t sure if she was a patient or a visitor.  I slowly caught up to her and said hi.   This lead to a wonderful conversation about the men’s open finals that had aired the night before and sport in general.   I immediately was drawn to this intelligent and humorous woman eager for some conversation.  She introduced herself and told me a little of her story.  A week ago she had been very sick and told there was nothing anyone could do.  Following a simple procedure, something unexpected happened.  She felt good.  Stronger, and for the first time in months hungry.  “I don’t know what is going on with me.  But I’m taking it one day at a time”.    She also felt that being relieved of the daily worries of running a house, and comforting everyone else about her diagnosis a weight had been lifted allowing her body to start something unexpected.  Whether is it ‘time’ or ‘a miracle’ she was grateful for every single day. 

So it hit me.  Here was a woman so grateful for the simple feelings of hunger and strength.  Things that I take for granted all the time.  Hunger to me is an aggravation.  I’m overweight, love food, and never want to feel hungry again.   I suddenly realised that even ‘hunger’ is an incredible gift.  It’s a marker of good health.  Of your body working exactly the way it should.   And strength.  I’m a strong woman and think nothing of grabbing the other side of a fridge of washing machine to move it (although the trash compactor did a number on my back this week).   I have always taken my strength for granted.  It has been useful, but not appreciated.

She’s in my prayers.  I’m praying for her continued good health.  This wonderful 64 year old woman, who told me  ‘this place is like a bloody spa! is living every day.   We have a date for next Tuesday.    While she is grateful for every day of  feeling better physically and mentally, I’m counting the days until I can see this inspirational woman again. 

And I’m thanking her for teaching me not to fear ‘hunger’ and take ‘strength’ for granted.   To celebrate these two incredible gifts I have been given.

Summer Lessons Learned

The cooling air, the bright blue skies, the turning leaves, a quieter house, leads me to face the fact that summer is drawing to it’s beautiful close.

Today I want to celebrate the things I learned this summer. 

I learned that you can grate hard boiled eggs?  I kid you not.  They grate like a dream to make incredibly smooth egg salad….

I learned that Carvel blue ice cream cake frosting makes great make up!   Or so I found out at the twins 11 year old birthday party as one little friend caked it on her cheeks, lips, and eye lids…

I learned that when your 19 year old daughter is in love it’s a wonderful thing.  And when they are in love with someone who brings out the best in them and with someone that your whole family simply adores – it’s WIN WIN WIN! 

I learned that I couldn’t do most of the 6th grade summer math packet!

I learned that when I took TV and computers away from my kids as a punishment, after a sulky 5 minutes THEY had the best day ever!  They actually seemed ‘relieved’ that it was gone.  It’s just too hard for them to make that decision on their own and I need to do that more often for their own well being.

I learned that puppies like children cannot raise themselves without direction.  Our new puppy got lost in the chaos of summer and needs some urgent training.  She can still be found standing in the middle of the dining room table finishing up breakfast and it is entirely our fault for not finding time for her.

I am incredibly grateful for 12 fabulous weeks with my patient husband and incredible four girls.   Our house rang with laughter and music (they learned the ukelele and harmonica).  Our home was a constant mess.  It was way too noisy.  It was the best summer I can remember!

I’ve Learned – Unknown

I’ve learned that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be some that can be loved. The rest is up to them.
I’ve learned that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back.
I’ve learned that it takes years to build up tust, and only seconds to destroy it.
I’ve learned that it’s not what you have in your life, but who you have in your life that counts.
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t compare yourself to the best others can do.
I’ve learned that you can do some thing in an instant that will give you heartache for life.
I’ve learned that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.
I’ve learned that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.
I’ve learned that you can keep going long after you can’t.
I’ve learned that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel. That either you control your attitude or it controls you.
I’ve learned that heroes are the people who do what has to be done regardless of the consequences.
I’ve learned that money is a lousy way to keep score.
I’ve learned that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.
I’ve learned that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.
I’ve learned that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had and what you’ve from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.
I’ve learned that you should never tell a child their dreams are unlikely or outlandish. Few things are more humiliating, and what a tragedy it would be if they believed it.
I’ve learned that no matter good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.
I’ve learned that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.
I’ve learned that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.
I’ve learned that even when you think you have no more to give, when a friend cries out to you, you will find the strength to help.

Rest Is Not Idleness

I’ve decided that Summer is actually about 3 weeks long. Once you take off the visitors ‘visiting’ time, and the parent involvement in summer activities you are actually only left with about 3 weeks of unscheduled summer.

Hmmm.  Three precious weeks. To nap, to read, to walk, to make overdue phone calls, and catch up on entertaining with friends you don’t see enough.

Our lives are so overscheduled these days that it takes a few days to actually ‘get into it’. To accept that the phone not ringing isn’t a bad thing. You’re not missing anything. It doesn’t mean you don’t have friends. Simply accept this time as a gift…

I often think that in days gone by – this is how people felt all the time. They may have worked much harder physically with no electronic gadgets, but when the day was done, there wasn’t addictive TV shows, emails to answer, or a Facebook to connect to. The sun when down, the moon came up, people talked, played games, went to bed, then woke up early to face a new day. We are so overscheduled and over stimulated that we fall into bed and wake up with a groan. We have to drag ourselves up for the new day.

I was raised with a strong work ethic. My Mom never sat down, although the men did. In many ways that was a good thing. It was easy to excel in my career. To look good next to everyone else who did the minimum. I always did ‘extra’ and it paid off. But it has also left me with a deep sense of guilt doing things I like, just for me. It would have been unimaginable to read if there was washing to be done, or nap in a hammock if the dinner wasn’t prepared.

Recently I came across this wonderful quote.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.” John Lubbock

I’m keeping it close. To drown out the other voice that says ‘you can’t’ and ‘you shouldn’t. I’m determined to ‘can’ and to ‘do’ and to teach my family that ‘rest’ actually means to ‘fill yourself up’ and once you’ve done that you’re able to ‘give’ more to everything and everyone else.

Idle has never felt so right.

Puppy Love

Ellie our new pup is so soft, her coat feels like you are running your fingers under  water.   She’s so wiggly it’s like tustling with a 1 year old who wants to get down and walk all the time.   Her nails are like scissors – check out my shredded duvet.  She ‘digs’ into it to make her special space.  She finds ‘anything’ that is a no no.  From shoes, of course, to pen tops, from my thyroid meds to my daughter’s $1800 hearing aid (not covered by insurance).  She adores her big brother,  another Portugese Water Dog and follows him around like the idolizing younger sister that she is.    But no matter ‘how’ naughty she is, I can’t get mad at her.  Because, did you know that when you stroke a dog it releases the same chemicals that you release when you are in love?  Don’t we all need a little love?   Here are more facts you should know about pets…..

They Improve Your Mood:  A recent study found that men with AIDS were less likely to suffer from depression if they owned a pet. (According to a study men with AIDS who did not own a pet were about three times more likely to report symptoms of depression than men who did not have AIDS. But men with AIDS who had pets were only about 50 percent more likely to report symptoms of depression, as compared to men in the study who did not have AIDS.)

They Control Blood Pressure Better Than Drugs:  While ACE inhibiting drugs can generally reduce blood pressure, they aren’t as effective on controlling spikes in blood pressure due to stress and tension. However, a groups of hypertensive New York stockbrokers who got dogs or cats were found to have lower blood pressure and heart rates than those who didn’t get pets. When they heard of the results, most of those in the non-pet group went out and got pets!

They Stave Off Loneliness and Provide Unconditional Love:
Pets can be there for you in ways that people can’t. They can offer love and companionship, and can also enjoy comfortable silences, keep secrets and bring physical peace.  

They Are Better At Reducing Stress Than People:  Research shows that when conducting a task that’s stressful, people actually experienced less stress when their pets were with them than when a supportive friend or even their spouse was present!   Sources: Evenson RJ, Simon RW. Clarifying the Relationship Between Parenthood and Depression. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. December 2005. Siegel JM, Angulo FJ, Detels R, Wesch J, Mullen A. AIDS diagnosis and depression in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study: the ameliorating impact of pet ownership. AIDS Care. April 1999.

Monty and Ellie.  You don’t judge me, you just love me.  What a lesson I  can learn from you!

PS  Pets are family.   Comfort a friend who has lost a pet

An unexpected Love Story

It was a favor really.  Just to fill in for the usual lady who did Fridays.  Would I sit with a lady in her 90’s who had extreme dementia amongst other issues for a morning?  Sure, I could do that.   I wasn’t to worry about her noisy breathing.  She was comfortable and it didn’t mean she was in distress.   It would be from 8am to 12.00.

It was a sunny morning, and I arrived as requested at 8am.  I was greeted by a energetic and friendly lady who met me at the door and welcomed me into her home.  “Let’s meet my Mom”.  We went straight upstairs.  I prepared myself.

We walked into a white room, with two windows ajar.  A warm summer breeze moved through the room and lace curtains stirred.  A radio gently played classical music.   There was no anticipated odor.   I took in an angelic scene.

A beautiful lady slept cocooned in white crisp linens covered in a soft blanket in a hospital bed in the middle of the room.  Her shining gray hair brushed to one side.  Her beautiful skin quite radiant.  We were introduced although there was no reaction.   She stroked her Mom’s head.  “Mom, this is Caroline, she is going to be downstairs while I go to work this morning”. 

And then the love story unfolded.   This lady had been in this state for eight years.  Looked after by her husband until he passed three years before.  Then the daughter moved into the home and has been caring for her Mother full time for 3 years.  Her Mom hasn’t uttered a word in those three years.  But there had been a finger squeeze.  Her eyes sometimes opened.

With not a glint of resentment, or exhaustion the lady told me about her routine of waking her mom, feeding her and changing her.  She worked five mornings a week and with the help of hospice and a sitter her Mom was well cared for during these hours.  “My Mom never wanted to go into a home.  And I know this is the very best care she can get.”  Not one bed sore in eight bedridden years….

I asked her what does she do for herself.  “Myself?  I’ve travelled, I’ve eaten in the best  restaurants,  I mean how many fancy meals can you eat?   She told me that every time she brushed her Moms hair, every time she bathed her or gave her apple sauce it was a way she could absolutely give her Mom pure love…. 

I’ll never forget that morning.   I’ve always felt that what life really comes down to is giving and receiving love….And as I go about my crazy days filled to the brim, this mother and daughter were living it right here and now.  Down my street.  Behind these doors.   That morning I learned about and saw true love.

Grief, and a stranger’s words

After a loss, comes the day to day numbness.  The funeral is over.  The flowers have died.  The calls are getting fewer.  I look at the empty gift baskets and pile of stuff lying on the side that came in them.  Books!  I have no desire to read.  To ‘fix’ how I feel.  I know people are expecting me to move on.  I’m stuck in limbo.  Stuck in grief and I feel that fewer and fewer people care.  I am feeling so alone.  So I pick up one of these well meaning books.  I can’t focus for long.  So I look at paragraphs, rather than chapters.  Then I sleep.  Then I wake and I feel so alone again.  Over time I read more and sleep less.  Sleep is me escaping the everyday pain and emptiness.   I can read longer paragraphs, and actually skim chapters.  And now and again I find a nugget.  I find some ‘words’ that are so pure and wonderful from someone who has walked in my shoes.  I’m amazed that a stranger rather than a close friend can give me relief from my sadness.  I start to collect these words so I can visit them when I feel sad.  They are like a ray of sunshine each time I read them.   My collection gets bigger.  My days get easier.  Not easy, but easier… I’m so grateful for a stranger’s words.

“Miss Me” Poem
“Miss Me But Let Me Go. When I come to the end of the road, and the sun as set for me, I want no rites in a gloom-filled room, why cry for a soul set free? Miss me a little-but not too long, and not with your head bowed low, remember the love that we once shared. Miss me but let me go. For this a journey we all must take, and each must go alone. It’s all a part of the Master’s plan, a step on the road to home. When you are lonely and sick of heart, go to the friends we know. Bury your sorrows in doing good  deeds. Miss me but let me go.”


A week to forget!

When you do $3k of damage to your car just by rolling into a truck which decided to jam it’s brakes on outside Starbucks.  When your dog consumes a weeks worth of your thyroid meds and needs a day at the vet being pumped with charcoal and comes out with poodle legs due to the IV (no offence poodle lovers).   When you give your friend a ride and for some unknown reason the door smashes her schnozzle and she spends breakfast bleeding into her omlette, and when you finish the week off with a parking ticket which happened when you ran into a store to get change, you know this is one of those weeks from hell.   It got to the point, that I thought it would be safer if I stayed home and under the covers.   At least my husband was away on business so he would be safe from whatever bad karma I was carrying around. But it made me wonder what I was doing to attract such bad luck. Dont’ we always feel better if we find out there is a ‘reason’? Thank goodness my friend pressed into my unlucky little hands a card telling me that last week was Mercury Retrograde. Apparently it raises havoc with communicatoins, machinery, and all forms of decision-making. Luckily I didn’t make any major decisions, or sign any important contracts.   I was a week to ‘plan’ and not to ‘act’.  I’ll take it!  I’m so happy to have something to hang my hat on. If anyone feels like me and wants to forget last week – then mark your calenders 8/20 – 9/12 and 12/10 – 12/30. These are other bad weeks that we can blame on Mercury rather than our careless selves!   At Healing Baskets we have a ‘when life gives you lemons’ basket, maybe I should design a Mercury Retrograde Basket?  Anyway, thanks Mercury for being my scapegoat.  Last week?  What last week?