Christmas Comes Early to Our Home and Hearts

I love Christmas.  And yes, Thanksgiving is this week and I enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday.

But I LOVE Christmas!  I wrote about my family Christmas’s in 2016 here.  That year was made special because my son and now daughter-in-law were home for Christmas.  2016 was the first time in 5 years that both of my boys were here and it had been 4 years since spending Christmas with my youngest son.  So I was happy.  And it was a good Christmas….. but there were some underlying stresses that made it difficult too.

Hopefully, my youngest son did not see how much of a struggle it was for me….for my husband…. Christmas that year and the year before and the year after were difficult to say the least.  Like so many families across the country, we had our stresses to deal with, our burdens to bear.  And sometimes life is difficult, especially during the holiday season.  I really think that it is only because we love the Christmas season so much and all of the magic it brings that we were able to celebrate at all.

Christmas 2015 was the beginning of the chaos with my oldest and I didn’t want to celebrate…. But I did because I had always promised myself that no matter where life took me, no matter what was happening or who I was missing, Christmas would still be celebrated, I would still decorate and bake and sing and shop and so much more.  So I did.  Despite the pain and chaos.  But that year, 2015, I actually started to put away the Christmas decor on Christmas eve.  I was done.  It takes a lot to get me to that point and I had never been there before.  But there I was.  Done.

Christmas 2016 found me exhausted.  I had spent weeks trying to find treatment for my son, navigating the mental health system and the justice system and I was emotionally exhausted and completely drained.  But there I was on Thanksgiving weekend, decorating like I always did.  I played my favorite Christmas music.  I baked.  But my heart wasn’t there.  I was exhausted.  And overwhelmed.  And at one point I just wanted to skip Christmas….me!  The Christmas person.  But my son was coming home and it would be the first Christmas my now daughter-in-law would spend with us, so I kept doing the things that made it Christmas for my family and my wonderful husband picked up some of the slack for me and took over some of the things that were overwhelming me…  I was excited to have my family together and am so thankful they were all here or I may have completely missed my favorite holiday.

And then last year, Christmas 2017, was hard for all of us.  We had been spending months with the fear that my son would have to go to prison…. And how in the world would I be able to do Christmas with him there?  Thanksgiving weekend, I again got out the décor and ALL of my trees and decorated.  It was my distraction from the pain and stress.  We found out in the middle of December that year, that he would not be going to prison and that should have made for the best Christmas…. But the stress took its toll and for the first time EVER I slept through most of Christmas eve, getting up after 8pm.  I just wasn’t into it, still.

BUT this year is way different!  In every way!  My son is doing well.  He has been getting the help he has needed.  There is no court to go to.  There are no lawyers to talk to.  There are no emergency visits to psychiatrists needed.  The stress is so much less.  Things are good.  REALLY good!

So in October, yes before Halloween, when my husband started singing Christmas songs, I thought someone had taken over his body…. What?  Where did my husband go?  Who is this guy, disguised as my husband?  My husband loves Christmas too, just not as obsessively as I do, so this was very strange!  Usually my guys won’t let me play Christmas music until Thanksgiving and then I get the “eye-rolls” from my guys when I say the only music allowed in the house or car is Christmas music.  But here was my husband singing Christmas songs.  And it was October!  And then we would go shopping and he wanted to see the Christmas decor….and we bought some….in OCTOBER!  IN OCTOBER!  Then there were the days my husband would run out to do an errand and he would come home with more Christmas decor for inside and outside!  What happened to my husband?

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All the years of being married to me finally rubbed off on him!

outsideMy husband started decorating the outside of our house the first weekend in November.  I was shocked.  And very happy!  He was making me laugh and smile and we were having fun!

And I started to decorate inside too.  Just the rooms that did not have the fall decor, those insidewould have to wait until after Thanksgiving.  It has made me really happy to decorate.  We started playing our Christmas music a couple of weeks ago and we started watching hallmark Christmas movies then, too.

Christmas was coming early in our house and in our hearts.

I couldn’t figure out why we started so early this year (we never start before Thanksgiving) or why my husband was so into it…. Not until my son asked if I had an extra tree that we could put in his room….. he had NEVER wanted a tree in his room….. of course I had a tree for him!  He says that we are so into Christmas this year that he just wanted to give us a little gift and have the tree in his room to participate in the Christmas spirit.

And that is when it hit me.

This year the stress is gone.  He is stable.  We are all feeling good right now.  The chaos is minimal.  Compared to the last three Christmas seasons, well this has gotten off to a near perfect start!  We have all come a long way this year.

And that is why we are all excited about Christmas.

I hadn’t realized the toll the past few years had taken on us or on our joy of the Christmas season.  I hadn’t realized that it had affected my husband as much as it had affected me.  Or the effect on my son.  And I was pretty good at hiding my lack of Christmas joy from the world outside our walls.  I was trying really hard to find it in the midst of the chaos, but just couldn’t get all the way there.

But we are REALLY excited this Christmas season.  There is NO faking it!  We are ready for the magic.   We are ready for the spirit of the season.  The lights.  The smells. The goodies.  The events.  ALL of it!

So, yes, we started early this year with our decorations.  My friends think we are nuts.  So do our neighbors.  And I am more than okay with that!

Our jumping into Christmas early, isn’t about skipping any other holidays or trying to rush the season.  Our early Christmas spirit is ALL about wanting to enjoy it…. ALL of it…… and ALL that we missed the past few years.

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This year Christmas has come early to our home and our hearts!  My heart is happy and full of joy!

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Thank you, mama

Yesterday I went to an event that I almost didn’t go to…. But God made sure I went. Something inside me said I needed to go to hear what my friend had to say when she spoke to a group of women at a breakfast.  I now know it was one of those “God Winks”.

I am so glad I was there.

The emotions inside me. It was as if in those words my friend spoke, there was a message from my birth mother… a message of love.

Before finding my birth family, I had often thought about what I would ask and what I wanted them to know. And when I finally found them, I was able to do just that.

But with my birth mother I was not given the opportunity to ask the questions or to say what I wanted to say to her. She had passed away in 2007, just four years before I would find her siblings.

There have been times these past few years that I have been angry with my birth father, had he just given me the information I asked for about my birth mother, instead of denying our relationship, I would have found her before she passed away…. But the past cannot be changed. So, I have moved beyond the anger and forgiven him. My birth father did what he needed to do based on his own family situation and for that I cannot be angry with him or fault him. We all do what we need to do in the place we are at that moment. And when he finally acknowledged me and gave me the info I needed, I was finally able to find the answers I was seeking.

My birth mother had been searching for me. She never forgot about me and my sister. She loved us. And wanted to find us.

So yes, I have answers.

What I haven’t been able to do, what I have been denied is being able to say to her the things I have longed to say my entire life….

And yesterday I realized I needed to do it, even if it was through written word…. Written to her but for me.

So here, is what I want to say to my birth mother today—

birth mom and meDear mama,

I have always known I was adopted and I have always wondered about you. Where were you? Were you okay?

But mostly I wanted to be able to tell you, that I understand.

I am a parent now and even though I am not sure anything would have made me give up my boys, I understand now the tough decision you made. And that you made that decision out of love for us.

For years I didn’t understand…. couldn’t comprehend how you could have dropped us off at Social Services and told the social worker you didn’t want us…. And then wouldn’t say good-bye to us. Now I understand. It must have been incredibly painful for you to leave your babies in a stranger’s hands. The pain must have been great. Your courage in doing what you believed was best for us was incredible. I admire your courage.

You did what you thought would give us the best life and safest life. I admire you for that. Thank you for loving us enough to realize that in that moment of your life you could not guarantee us that safety.

And I want you to know that yes, I have the best life. I am married to my high school sweetheart, a man who takes great care of me. And I have two wonderful boys who are now grown men. Being a mother has been my greatest blessing.

My life wasn’t always easy, but I did have a mother who loved me unconditionally. She held me when I was hurt and scared, she comforted me, she made a big deal out of every birthday and made sure I knew right from wrong. My mom made sure I knew I was loved and wanted. And my mom gave me a foundation in faith that has carried me through the toughest times.

I want you to know that I thought of you often and wondered. Every year on my birthday, I looked up at the stars and wondered if you were thinking of me too. I now know you were.

I want to thank you for giving me a foundation of love my first three years of life. A foundation I know helped to form who I am today. I know you loved me. And I loved you.

You were my first mom, my birth mom. And you gave me a wonderful gift of this life I have now. I don’t know what life would have been like if you had not given me up for adoption.  But I do know that the life I have now with the man I married and the children I love with all of my being, I would not have any of this without that decision you made all those many years ago.

A decision you made out of a deep love for your children.

I want you to know I hold no anger or bitterness. I would not change anything, other than to have found you sooner so I could say all of this to you in person.

And I look forward to the day when we are reunited in heaven. I know you are there with my mom and the two of you are sharing stories and that she is thanking you for the gifts you gave her in her two daughters.

I forgive you!  I love you!

Thank you mama!

 

Fathers Day

Today is Fathers Day. A day to remember and honor Fathers everywhere.

I didn’t have the greatest examples for a father. My birth father walked out when I was a year old, leaving my mother, who was pregnant at the time, and me. My first experience with trust and fatherly love. And my adoptive father, well…. abandonment, abuse…. not a great example. My second experience in my young life with trust and fatherly love. Neither of those men showed me what a father was supposed to be and both taught me to distrust men.

You know that Kelly Clarkson song, “Piece by Piece”? I don’t know how, but she knew what my life was like and she sang that song as if it was meant for me, too. I know sadly, that many others can relate as well.

I had friends with dads who were good men, but I still didn’t trust them…. And I still didn’t believe that I would ever find that man who would be a good dad….

Until I married my husband and saw him with our firstborn.

My husband and I were just kids ourselves when we became parents. We were scared. I did not understand that saying “Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad”, until that moment that I saw him hold our oldest son, tears in his eyes, and then five years later when he held our youngest son with tears in his eyes. Yes, my husband was that someone special.

He showed me what a dad should be, could be, and was.

My husband was a career Air Force man and yes, the Air Force had to come first. He was deployed, sent far from us for trainings, worked long hours… yet he still managed to show our boys just how much he loved them!

When he was away from home he would send postcards and letters just for our boys, letting them know what adventures he was having and how much he missed them and loved them. He called just to talk to them and when email came about, he would send them notes in emails. Our boys knew their dad loved them, even from far away.

Then there were the nights when he would put our oldest to bed, while I was taking care of our youngest. He would read to him, but more often than not he would climb onto our oldest son’s top bunk with him and they would look at the map of the world hanging on his wall and discuss geography. And then when our youngest was old enough, he would read to both boys before they went to bed. Precious time spent between a father and his sons.

My husband was always finding ways to exercise our boys’ minds… through history, traveling places, and math games on long road trips. He taught them both to do math in their head, quickly (man, I could never keep up with the three of them) and the boys soaked it all in, loving those times with their dad. As the boys grew, he would have deep conversations with them about everything and anything. I loved to sit and listen to their conversations, even when they were way out of my understanding. Watching them interact filled my heart with such joy.

He taught them to love the outdoors and traveling, spending hours planning amazing adventures for our family from the weekend camping trips to the multi-week road trips. He taught them both to skip rocks and the three of them skipped rocks in multiple countries and many states. Adventures were found everywhere he took our boys.

My husband spent many weekend afternoons taking the boys to movies, playing catch with them, reading with them and creating things with them. He coached their baseball teams when the Air Force had him home for the season. He attended their games, school programs and listened to their many hours of musical practice. He took them four-wheeling in the hills when we lived in South Dakota and planned fun things to do with the kids when I took off on my mother’s weekend getaways, NEVER saying or feeling like it was a chore to spend time with our boys.

My husband showed me and my boys that dads stay… that dads hug…. that dads are tough and soft…. that dads love unconditionally!

Was he perfect at parenting? No, but who is? My husband was the best dad I could have ever asked for. So today, I honor the man he is, and the dad he is.

My husband showed me through his actions that a man can be a dad, that a dad is involved with his kids, loves them unconditionally, and never leaves. And he showed me, that a dad builds his children up rather than tearing them down.

He has been the rock in our family, supporting each of us at our times of need. He has dropped everything and flown to see our boys when they needed him.

There are many times I wish that I had had a dad like him…….. and I am so grateful that my boys have had him as their dad.

I thank God every day for this man! And I am now and forever will be in awe of the dad my husband is!

I took the leap and trusted this man and I could not have asked for a better parenting partner or dad for my boys!

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2017 Reflections

In a few short hours it will be a new year here in Arizona.

The end of a year is a time of reflection…..what went well, what didn’t….the joys, the sadness, the challenges, the losses and the lessons learned…..all reflected on during these last few hours of the year.

I have been more than ready to let go of 2017 and move into 2018. This year was difficult and filled with many challenges. I spent more time in courts and doctors’ offices than I care to ever do again. I spent a lot of time talking to medical, psychological and addiction professionals while trying to navigate a very frustrating system. And I have learned a lot about myself, my strength, my capabilities and about my family during this past year.

So, yes, I am ready to move on and leave all of this behind, looking forward to continued progress and continued healing.

I have been writing in my journal a lot these past few days, as I reflected on the past year…..writing a lot about the pain and fears….the loss of my friend….the challenges that faced my son and my family…..and then my thoughts started moving in another direction.

You see, living through this past year, well it was always with me, there in the back of my mind as I tried to enjoy the moments and time with my family and friends….addiction and mental illnesses and all that goes with them hang over our lives like a storm….always waiting for the next round. And even when things were going well, it was hard to not notice it hovering there, in the corner waiting to strike again. And that is what I kept writing….. and still it hangs there….but……

As I sit here reflecting on the past year, my thoughts are moving in different direction. The joy is beginning to outweighing the pain. There was much to celebrate this past year. There were happy times, even in the midst of immense pain. There was joy, travel, adventures, family time, and a wonderful wedding. And there were moments….tiny and large….when the joy took over…… small times when I could leave it all behind and just enjoy……

This slideshow has some of the moments from 2017 that brought me joy…..and the highlight of the year was the wedding of my youngest son to the love of his life, the one time in 2017 when I was able to leave all my fears and worries behind and really enjoy the celebration for a few days.

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And that is what I want to reflect on now, in these last few hours of 2017….the joy, the happiness and bright lights found in otherwise dark days. And as I move into 2018, I am looking forward to more light, more joy, more moments of happiness and lots of healing.  And I will remember, that even in the midst of the storm, there is always a rainbow…a light at the end of the day.  There is always something to smile about and to enjoy if I just take the time to notice.

I don’t make resolutions anymore, because, well….I am NOT good at keeping them. So, instead, the past few years I have focused on mantras and mindsets…..challenges, really, that help me to continue to grow and learn and help me to continue moving toward a better version of myself.

To that end, 2018 will be the year I continue to step outside my comfort zone, to try new things and to say yes more! My focus will be to “live in the moment, present and mindful” and to “let go and let God”.

I will continue to look for those moments that not only bring a smile to my face but make my heart sing….even off-key!

And I will continue to take the leap and just breathe!

Shouldering the Load

How much weight can one person’s shoulders carry?

The past couple of years, and specifically the past 21 months have shown me just how strong my shoulders are…..and how much stronger they are when the load is shared with another and when I trust in God.

March 2016……my husband’s birthday weekend, one of the worst weekends we had had in a really long time….years actually. That weekend, we couldn’t reach our son. He didn’t come home. He didn’t answer his phone. And after a couple of days, we decided to try tracking his phone through our carrier…..and that is when we discovered his phone was more than an hour from us, so I called again. This time it was answered by a stranger…..my son’s phone had been found on a garbage can in the parking lot of a casino and the person took it with them. We spent the next few days talking with the police, and driving….hours of driving trying to find our son….up and down every lane in the parking lot of the casino where his phone had been found, looking for his car……hours driving city streets in areas we knew him to have been……hours texting and calling his friends and no one had seen or heard from him……and many sleepless hours. And then we feared the very worst, we would never see our son again……..and then he called. Relief. And anger when he told us his crazy story.

That weekend began 21 months that showed me just how strong I can be. The beginning of months of disappearances and worry. Months of having him home then asking him to leave. Months where weeks at a time we had no idea where he was, or if he was alive or dead. Months of fearing the knock on the door and the ring of our cell phones. Months of dealing with the darkness of addiction. Months of dealing with the justice system…arrests, court appearances, probation visits…….

And today, finally, relief……

My son has been under the threat of prison time since last April, when the system decided to file more charges from earlier arrests. And those charges started months of stress for him and for us…. Probation violation and the nightmare that followed in Yavapai county, then the threat of prison. In September, my son decided not to accept the plea deal to go to prison….. and he opted for trial.

More stress. Worry. Fear.

The last nine months had my son finally at a point that was positive in his life. He had completed intensive outpatient drug treatment. He was present and working on staying clean. He had monthly random drug tests that kept coming back clean.

But the threat of prison weighed heavily on him. And that stress sunk him deep into the dark hole of depression and severe anxiety. I was scared. We were beginning to lose him again, but this time to depression not drugs.

My shoulders were sagging under the weight of all that had happened and the weight of the fear and worry while watching helplessly as my son sunk deeper and deeper into that black hole.

And then things started to look up, positive things were happening……an emergency visit to a real psychiatrist had my son hopeful, finally being put back on medication he had been without for a couple of months. Hope. Relief.

And then a letter in the mail a few days ago, one that may have upset another, but for us…..relief. My son had gone through an evaluation for mental health services and was accepted, his mental health illness severe enough to warrant real help…..finally! Someone listened. Someone saw what we were seeing. Someone heard my son and knew he needed help. Hope. Relief. Weight lifting for all of us.

But we were still facing today, a court appearance for sentencing. The choice to go to trial gave my son another chance for treatment and not prison. They offered him a much better plea deal, one that would not send him to prison and one that dropped the charges from 2016. He accepted the new plea deal last month.

And today we were back in that courtroom in front of the judge. It was a long morning. Stress. Worry. Fear. And then my son was standing in front of the judge. And when she told him she was sentencing him to 3 years probation…..the weight I had been carrying suddenly lifted. I didn’t hear the rest of what the judge said.

Everything these past 21 months, every moment of fear, worry, anger…..every moment that sought to destroy me, to destroy my family……. It suddenly bubbled to the top…… I wasn’t sure I could walk out of there in that moment.

Relief overcame me…..

This chapter is over. And in that moment, as the weight on my shoulders lifted, I realized just how much I had carried….. and wondered how I had done it…… How did I manage to still get through a day at work? How did I wake up each morning and get through my day? How did I manage to take those trips that needed to be taken? How did I stay afloat when the weight was trying to drown me?

I have heard many times that “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice.” True. I am stronger, much stronger than I ever thought I was. And I can do so much more than I ever imagined. I have traveled a road I never imagined I would find myself on…… and now I get ready to help my son navigate this new road, one that is leading him toward hope….. hope for a life without drugs….. hope for a life with some meaning…… hope for a life where he does not live in fear and where he can find peace.

And I know that I did not carry this load alone.

How much can one person’s shoulders carry? It depends. I have discovered that my shoulders can carry a lot of weight, but not alone. I have only gotten through these past 21 months because of my family, who helped me and gave me strength when I thought I would fall….. some dear friends who checked in on me and gave me a listening ear, a hug when I needed it and a shoulder to cry on……. and my faith, with God by my side I can do anything, and He made sure that the people I needed were there when I needed them….. and I carried this load because my best friend, my partner, the love of my life and the father of my sons was right there next to me, helping me to carry the load and at times carrying all of us when I was too tired to keep going and then resting while I was strong.

We now have hope. We are ready to continue this next chapter, to help our son get healthy and find his way in the world.

It won’t be easy for him. But it sure will be easier without the fear of prison weighing on him every day.

These past 21 months I trusted….. and I just kept breathing…….

And for those of you reading this, who find yourself going through the storm, don’t give up…… hold on…….reach out to others….. and know that you ARE NOT alone. So many are going through this and you do not have to shoulder the load alone.

For those of you who know someone going through the storm, don’t pull away….. instead reach out to them, give them a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, let them know they are not alone. The storm of addiction is lonely and isolating and the weight of it all can crush a soul, but with support, with care and understanding, the weight can be carried, the storm can be gotten through and lives can be changed.

My hope is that by sharing my families story we have opened the minds and hearts of others so that we can support each other without judgement and stop the isolation and loneliness that comes with addiction.

The Great American Eclipse Trip Part 1

I thought my husband was just slightly crazy when he told me over a year ago that we WERE going to go to Oregon or Idaho to be in the path of totality for the Eclipse. He was excited. He explained it was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and he didn’t want us to miss it….

Except, it wasn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime event…. I was in the 8th grade in Portland, OR, in 1979 and my science class was preparing to view the total eclipse that would be happening right there in Portland on February 26th. I was excited back then. We built our boxes and prepared to see what we were told would be the only time in our lives we would get to see the phenomenon.

The morning of February 26 1979 arrived and……. the darkness I was told to expect did not arrive……I was not impressed……and so when my husband told me about this next eclipse and his plans, well, I wasn’t sure it would be worth it. I figured it would just be all hype with no substance.

I should let you know that on the morning of February 26th, 1979, I was missing my mom and we were preparing for her funeral, having lost her just 2 days prior……perhaps that was the real reason the eclipse that day did not impress me. I really don’t remember much about that morning other than we did not plunge into sudden darkness. (though in my research looking back on it, Portland did experience 2 minutes of totality and darkness on that morning, I just didn’t notice).

So to be fair, I decided to go along for the ride with my husband, thrilled at seeing his excitement.

He planned the trip.

He chose where we would see it.

And then he planned more for us to do in the quick 2-night trip.

My husband was in heaven planning this trip to see the total eclipse.

The day arrived and we left Arizona bound for Idaho. The eclipse was the last day of our trip and then we would drive back to Salt Lake City to catch our evening flight home……making the flight concerned us because of the hundreds of thousands said to be flocking to the area of totality….and the warnings to have extra water, cash, gas, emergency rations, just in case we lost cell service and gas stations ran out of gas…. hmmm…. the hype was making it sound as if the apocalypse was coming.

The morning of the eclipse we left our hotel room before the sun came up for the 2-hour drive to Idaho Falls and the city park we had chosen for our viewing spot. We were prepared just in case traffic was as crazy as predicted, giving ourselves plenty of time to arrive before the start of the eclipse.IMG_0302 copy

Once again, my husband’s planning paid off and we arrived at the city park on the south side of Idaho Falls and there were still a few parking spots. Woohoo! We were going to get to see the eclipse.

We walked around the small pond, made small talk with strangers in the line for the bathrooms, and talked with each other to fill the couple of hours before the eclipse would start. Anticipation building as the time grew nearer.

We were ready.20170821_082930 copy

The time arrived for the start of the phenomenon where the moon would come between the sun and the earth and cast us into total darkness……

It was exciting to be standing there with so many others who were just as excited. As the eclipse started and I watched my husband put his special glasses on and look up at the sun, I couldn’t help but smile……he was checking off a bucket list item and he was happy, and THAT made me happy.

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It took some time for the moon to move across the sun and as it moved the light became dimmer, and the air cooler.

 

 

IMG_0306 copyAt one point when the moon covered more than 2/3 of the sun, we noticed that the edges of our shadows were less defined… blurred…. strange…..

We kept watching the moon moving over the sun, amazed at how much light still emanated from the giant star. And then the time came……the moon covered the sun!

 

 

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Totality!

Everyone cheered!

And it WAS dark! We could see some stars! The light emanating from the corona of the sun was like that of a full moon night. Wow!

I was IMPRESSED!

We took our special viewing glasses off and for 1 minute and 48 seconds we could look at the sun without them. This was AMAZING!

And then the edge of the sun began to emerge…. time to put those glasses on again.

The total eclipse was amazing and surreal. Day became night, warmth turned cool, and shadows blurred with undefined edges. The biggest star in our universe was suddenly obscured and we were thrilled!

I couldn’t help but think about all those early pioneers and what they must have thought as day became night for just a brief couple of minutes, how strange that must have been.

And I couldn’t help but think about the 1979 eclipse and how it reflected my life at the time, my own personal darkness had come upon me and made the actual eclipse seem uneventful……

This time, despite the worry and storm for us now, I was able to enjoy this eclipse…to see the awesomeness and beauty created by God! I was able to step back for a time and be present, mindful and aware of the greater universe around me. How mighty God is and how amazing this life is!

The total eclipse gave me a wink from God…. that even on the sunniest days, day can become night, but the day will return and everything will be alright.

I am so thankful for my crazy husband who asked me to take a leap and trust him and his planning. This was AMAZING!

And I am so very happy to have taken the leap into the total eclipse…… (go ahead and sing, you know you want to…. total eclipse of the….)

Mindful

I have always been a “live in the moment” kind of person. I love to notice the world around me, to delight in the flowers, the scenery, the birds, the people….really everything. It doesn’t take a lot to bring a smile to my face or to make me happy….little things bring me great joy. And I have often been called “just a big kid” by my family and friends…..life is to be lived, enjoyed, experienced. Yet, there are times that being present is difficult. Times when I lose sight of the little things that delight me and I stop noticing the world around me……..And then I am reminded of just how important being mindful in life is.

In Weight Watchers meetings this past week we talked about being mindful. And yes, it got me thinking and evaluating how much time I have spent being mindful lately…..being present in the “now” instead of mired in the past or distracted by the worries of the future or the many “to do’s” on my ever growing list or distracted by the many electronics and instant access tools in my life.

Last weekend as I prepped my meetings for the week I asked myself the questions I was preparing to ask my members…..what does Mindful mean? How am I mindful? When is it difficult to be mindful? What keeps me from being mindful?

I discovered that I need to spend more time in the present….paying attention to and noticing the world around me….now…..not next week, not yesterday and not tomorrow. Here. Now. Present in mind and body.

I found that the events of this past year and the emotional rollercoaster have taken away some of my mindfulness, as I am filled with worry. I find myself on autopilot more often than not. It is hard to appreciate and notice those things that bring us joy when we are filled with dread and worry……and I realized I needed to be more mindful….intentionally mindful.

Why?

Being mindful means I am aware….whether it is my food choices, the amounts I eat or the activity I do or whether it is being fully present in the now……awareness keeps me in the “now”. Present.

Being mindful means finding joy in the moment…..even in the midst of the storm…..there is always something good, something enjoyable to find.

Being mindful means that I am not lost in the past or consumed by what is to come…..I am present, now. And that makes me happy. Being present and noticing the world around me keeps the worry of what is to come from robbing me of my joy now.

I decided last weekend, as I prepared my meeting and answered those questions that I would start that day, to be more mindful…..and that I would need to be intentional about it…..make myself do it.

And I started that day……

A friend of mine inspires me with her intentional mindfulness…….something she started a few years ago…..taking an Instagram every day as a way to notice the world around her. I love her idea! And I love her Instagram’s. It is with her inspiration in mind that I started to take one Instagram photo each day, making me pay more attention to the world around me. In doing this, I have found that I am not just noticing the things I am taking pictures of. I am also noticing– the variety of shapes in the monsoon clouds, the quail scurrying across the road, the lizard resting in the sun, the spider web on the bushes that glistens after the rain, and I am paying attention to the people around me as I go about my day, even talking to many of them…….all things that make me smile.

I have also started my mornings differently, in order to bring my mindfulness to getting in touch with me, centering myself before the day starts. Instead of starting my day with the news and the internet, I have begun to start my day in my favorite chair, in my favorite room in our house. And I read…..my devotionals, my bible……and I pray. Starting my day with intention and mindfulness, being in touch with “me” has given me a sense of calm and brings me to the now, the moment, and makes it all so clear. A much better start to my day, even if it means rising a little earlier to have this time to myself.

Being mindful is a way to take a step back from the craziness of my fast paced life and get back in touch with the things that make me smile, bring me joy and bring a calm to my day.

Being mindful is another way to just breathe……