my mom and first communion

I miss my mom.

Like, really, really, REALLY miss her.

Of course, I think of her and miss her every day, but today it is different.

Today, Brian is making his First Holy Communion.

I have been looking forward to and dreading this day for weeks.

I have felt edgy and unfocused, my stomach has been tied up in knots.

This morning, I walked into our family room, just like I did on Emma and Kate’s first communion days. Only, unlike those mornings, this time, the room is empty.

Quiet.

Each of those mornings, when I went to sit in “my spot” on the sofa and turn on ABC news, my mom was already sitting in my spot, the television changed to NBC.

“Good morning, Baby,” she looked up at me and smiled. Her face had changed so much, the scleroderma had really taken its toll.

I said, “Good morning” back; however, I was not sincere. I was more annoyed that my morning ritual had been altered. I’d have to walk a whole two extra feet to sit down on the couch and listen to a different newscaster.

Why wasn’t I more focused on the journey she made to be here, in my family room, the day of our children’s special occasion? How difficult it was for her to pack for the trip? To make her way to the car? To sit in the car all of those hours from Chicago to Fairfield?

No. I was more worried about my morning routine being slightly changed and the day ahead.

I knew how sick she was…you could see how sick she was, how people looked at her when we pushed her into the church in the wheelchair. She was withering away, her face almost mask-like, her skin gray.

Somehow, it was easier for me to just revert back to my younger, adolescent jerk-self, when all I did was walk around with a gigantic chip on my shoulder and talk back to my mom, than it was to just sit with her.

It hurts to just sit…to just sit and be with the pain.

The morning after Kate’s first communion, when I scrolled through pictures, I realized with a panic that I deleted the only picture of my mom with Kate because I didn’t like the way I looked. We didn’t have a single picture with my mom and Kate in her dress.

“Kate, would you pleeeeease put your dress back on?” I pleaded.

Sitting at the bottom of the stairs, her arms folded across her chest, tears in her eyes, she cried, “Please don’t make me put that thing back on! I can’t stand that dress. Please! No!”

I tried reasoning with her, “We don’t know how much longer we have with Grandma. Please. She’s really sick. I don’t have any pictures of the two of you together in your dress. Please, honey. You can take it off right after the picture.”

Even as I said those words, I didn’t believe it…

My mom will always be here.

It was those words that convinced Kate, she said, “Okay” and walked up the stairs to change.

Minutes later, she walked into the family room in her crumpled dress and sat next to my mom. I grabbed the wilted floral headpiece and planted it on Kate’s head, her bedhead hair soft and curly around her face.

I snapped the picture.

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Mom complained that she didn’t like the picture because her robe looked like a straight-jacket.

I posted it anyway.

A few hours later, my mom left.

As they pulled away from our house, her head barely clearing the passenger-side window, she locked eyes with me. I could see she was crying. I started crying too.

Did she know?

Did I know?

One month later, she was gone.

That was three years ago.

I am worried I will cry during mass this morning. The songs, all of those familiar songs, from my childhood are now a part of my own children’s history.

I used to get so annoyed with my mom at church. She sang louder than anyone. It wasn’t only that she was loud…it was also more like opera singing with a head-bob. It was seriously embarrassing.

She couldn’t sing toward the end because the disease started hardening her lungs…it was hard enough to just breathe.

I will take some deep breaths today and think of her.

I will stand behind our son as he receives this sacrament.

I believe.

Maybe I will sing really loudly this morning too.

I miss my mom.

be the bear.

“Be the bear.”

That’s what I suggested to my dad a few weeks ago when he was debating about how to approach a difficult and sensitive situation. “Dad,” I texted, “You should be the bear.”

Having just watched the short animated YouTube video, Brene Brown on Empathy, this seemed like the most logical way to proceed. In the video, the bear character demonstrates empathy when his friend needs him most, when she feels most alone. Dad watched the video and seemed to agree with this sentiment for the most part. I did a fist pump in the air and said out loud (to no one), “Yes! Be the bear!”

It’s been a few weeks since that interaction and I’ve thought a lot about “Be the bear.” It’s allowed me to reflect upon the following:

  • Do I truly have empathy for others?
  • Am I able to consistently enter into one’s suffering without judgement or an agenda?
  • Am I able to just listen without filling the empty quiet space with useless advice? 

Not always. But I am working on it.

This morning, when I went into my son’s room to make his bed, something, er, someone, struck me. I present…Chicago Bear.

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Chicago Bear and Blankie

We “built” Chicago Bear six years ago when we were only weeks away from moving from Chicago to Fairfield. Only two years old at the time, our son had zero interest in football or the Chicago Bears. However, there was a reason for my choice. I selected this particular bear because of my love of the team and what the Bears represented to our friends and family. Holding on to that piece of my history made me feel less nervous about our move and I loved the idea of passing those traditions down to our kids. Chicago Bear sleeps next to our son every single night, regardless of where he is sleeping. And, CB greets me with that goofy grin every morning too. Looking at the dog-hair-covered-fleece and his ruffled fur, I realized, Hey, he’s sorta like the bear in the empathy video and here’s why:

Chicago Bear…

…is always there for you (unless he accidentally falls between the bed and the wall).

…is always willing to listen.

…is soft and very hug-able.

…does not give bad advice.

…is never without a smile.

…does not judge (he never makes remarks about morning breath, crazy hair, B taking up the whole bed, etc.).

…provides you with a sense of comfort and security.

…never interrupts you.

…does not get angry when you’ve thrown up on him (a couple of times).

…is love.

Crazy that a little old bear propped up on top of my sons’ pillows can inspire so much. But, it’s true – sometimes the most simple things have the biggest influence on our lives.

So, I not only aspire to be a good (decent) mom, wife, friend, sister, counselor, student, writer, suicide prevention advocate, kindness activist, etc…I now aspire to be the bear.

homesick

Every time I shift in my seat, there’s a distinct sound…shhhhrrp…sort of like duct tape being pulled off the roll. It is hot and humid and my chubby thighs feel like they’re glued down to the hard green seats. While I was grateful that I was able to squeeze into my cousin’s hand-me-down shorts earlier, I am now regretting my decision to choose the shortest pair I own. At eleven years of age, I am already well-aware that I am what people call “pleasantly plump” and should not have worn this outfit. I look over at my friend, Ann, to see if she’s heard the sound. From the looks of it, she has not noticed. She is completely absorbed in the game. Ann looks so cute in her colorful striped t-shirt, little blue shorts with white piping along the sides, and her too large Cubs cap pulled down so low that I can barely see her soulful brown eyes. Her catcher’s mitt sits at-the-ready on her lap. I am inspired by her ability to focus and decide to stop shifting and tugging at my shorts and watch the game myself. I copy what my friend and her parents are shouting at the players, although I am always a moment too late. They do not seem to notice. Ann and her parents are in their happy place. One of them asks me if I want a hot dog, “Yes, please.” Now I am in my happy place too. :o)

By the bottom of the second inning, I find that as hard as I try to focus, I just cannot do it. I blame the sun in my eyes, the slow action on the field. I don’t understand this game. I fold my arms across my chest in frustration. It’s so hot that the sweat collects in the creases of my arms. I unfold my arms and start fidgeting with my too short shorts again. I decide I like basketball better. Basketball players are in constant motion – more my speed, I guess. What’s the big deal about this game? 

My mind and eyes wander away from the game and up beyond left field. I notice something that piques my interest. However, it is not in the ballpark; it is across the street. There are two guys holding either side of a cooler walking on top of a building. For a brief moment, I expect them to pull out their tools and perhaps grab a bucket of tar or shingles or something, to start working on the roof. I mean, why else would they be up on the roof? But, they don’t pull out tools. They set the cooler down, open up the top, grab a couple of beers, close the cooler and sit down on top of it. “What are they doing?” I ask Ann’s dad while I point to the guys. He laughs and tells me, “They’ve got some of the best seats in the house.” I look around the ballpark; there are plenty of empty seats all around us. Ann’s dad notices this, laughs again and says, “Their seats are free and the beer is cheaper.” I think I understand.

As the innings pass, I look up every once and a while at the guys who are watching the game from across the street. One had gone back downstairs and returned to the roof with a radio, which was now propped up between them on top of the cooler. The guys are throwing their heads back in laughter, slapping their knees, pacing the roof from time to time and cupping their hands around their mouths as they shout at the players. It doesn’t take long for me to realize…this is why people love baseball.

For the last several weeks, my first trip to Wrigley Field keeps playing in my mind along with so many other memories of growing up on the North Side with the Cubs – games with neighbors, high school friends, work outings, bachelorette parties, before kids, with kids, in the rain, in the cold, in the sun and in the relentless wind. There were the games before the corporate rooftop seats, before there were lights and then the fun-filled night games complete with “awkward family photo” pictures. :o)  There was the time I went with some co-workers the day before the Air and Water show…I was talking to my friend when a huge wave of cheers overwhelmed the crowd…Did Sammy Sosa hit another homerun?! My friend pointed up and there was a stealth bomber – a real stealth bomber – hovering over the field. There it was, like, almost in the field…and then, just as quickly, it raised its nose and exited. The thrill of that moment! The first and only time I saw Mohammed Ali in person was at Wrigley Field. Again, there was the deafening noise of the fans in the park, “The Champ is here!” Another thrilling moment! We were lucky to live close enough to be able to walk the four or so miles to the park on a couple of occasions, although we mostly took the “el”. Those el rides were just as much a part of the experience. One of my favorite moments took place while standing on the crowded Addison platform. I had just left the game with a then 18-month-old Emma, when an elderly woman offered her some fruit. And I let Emma take it from her without hesitation.  It didn’t matter that she was a stranger…she was wearing a floppy Cubs hat! The smiles shared between Emma and that woman…well, that’s just the way it is there. There is this indescribable feeling of human connection, a hopefulness, a beautiful pure happiness.

There have also been other memories…

The Cubs winning the World Series (it’s still so weird to say this!) reminds me of the people we’ve lost who would have loved this historical moment. I think of the people who took me to my first game, my Cubs AND Sox fan (yes, really!) friend, Ann, and her sweet and patient dad. I also think about my mom’s North Side pride, my grandma and my aunts and uncles in Niles. Every time we visited Aunt Betty and Uncle Harold, the set was turned to WGN and the Cubs game (or the Bears in the winter).

Most of all, I think of my brother, Brian. He loved the Cubs. When he went missing, the CPD asked for a description of what he was wearing, my sister reported that he had on jeans, a dark winter coat, and, of course, his Cubs cap. He rarely went anywhere without that cap, unless he was wearing his Red Sox cap from our dad. As much as he was a die-hard Chicago sports fan, he had an even deeper appreciation of history…and especially the underdog. He would get angry with people who jumped on the bandwagon when a team was doing well. In fact, he would probably be super annoyed that I’m even writing this, because he’d say I’m not a “real fan” as I don’t watch every single game or read the sports section cover to cover every day. And, that’s okay…he’s right, I don’t. But, I do feel connected to him and others because of this game. And, I think he’d be okay with that. Actually, I think he’d be more than okay with it and here’s why…five years ago on December 13th, I was having a terrible day (as I often do on his anniversary). I was texting my friend while walking around the aisles of Target trying to get my s@#t together. As I hit “send’ on my phone, my eye was drawn to the home decor wall. Hanging up between some Mets and Yankees pictures, was a vintage picture of Wrigley Field – IN THE MIDDLE OF TRUMBULL CONNECTICUT…ON THE DAY OF MY BROTHER’S ANNIVERSARY. I took a picture and texted it to my friend…could this be real? We both took it as a sign and I quickly put the ONE picture left into my cart. I didn’t allow myself to burst into tears until I hung it on my wall later that day. A little bit of home in our home.img_8242

All of these memories flooding my brain this week have made me feel incredibly homesick.

But then I remembered the vivid dream I had of my mom just over a month ago. I was standing in her kitchen, it looked the way it was when I was a little girl. She was sitting on “her” stool, her back was against the wall oven and she looked healthy and peaceful. I felt such a sense of calm and peacefulness too. It was the “I’m so happy, I could cry” feeling. When I asked her if I felt this way because I was back with her…in her kitchen…in my childhood home, she responded, “Don’t you feel at home in your own kitchen, with your own children?”

What was she trying to tell me?

I have given this a lot of thought…I felt like I was home when I was texting with my childhood girlfriends into the wee hours of the night during the series. I felt like I was home when Kate came to kiss me goodnight and then wished the Cubs good luck before she went upstairs to bed. I felt like I was home when my husband, a huge Mets fan, greeted me every morning of the series with either a “Congratulations!” or “I’m sorry about your Cubs” depending on the outcome. I felt like I was home when my two friends made sure I could see Game 7 on the teeny tiny screens when we went out to dinner. And, it felt exactly like home when I sat with my friend in the “booth of truth” at Chef’s Table with a FB live feed playing the Cubs parade on Friday morning.

Here’s the thing…I was always home.

It doesn’t matter where I am.

I am home.

(I think this is what my mom has been trying to tell me.)

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#304. Ordered a Cubs World Champions souvenir for a local pizza delivery man, who has followed the Cubs for many, many years.
#303. Sent a small gift to a friend just because…
#302. Returned a woman’s shopping cart while I was on my way back with mine.
#301. Donated leftover Halloween candy to troops serving overseas.
#300.Vanessa Rich fund donation.
#299. Picked up garbage and re-shelved some items that had fallen on the floor at Stop and Shop.
#298. “Booed” several neighbors with kids in our little ‘hood.
#297. Held the door for a bunch of people (important to note: EVERY one said, “Thank you!).
#296. Sent a small token of appreciation to a friend.
#295. Brought a dinner to a family.
#294. Sent a thank you note.
#293. Helped out with kindness challenges at kids’ school.
#292. Pushed (another) random cart back to store.
#291. Left a YAB sticker with a note on a car in parking lot with “Stella” (my late grandma’s name) license plate.
#290. Volunteered at kids’ school.
#289. Sent a note of encouragement to a friend.
#288. Gave a nice tip to some delivery men.
#287. Pushed a cart in parking lot back into store.
#286. Gave an uber driver a nice tip.
#285. Let an aggressive driver go ahead of me in traffic (and did not honk/swear)
#284. Spent several hours on prep/planning for kindness initiative at kids’ school.
#283. Let a spider go…😱
#282. Did not charge for a college counseling session.
#281. Made a donation to a special cause.
#280. Donated clothing to Good Will.
#279. Gave our puppy a much-needed bath.
#278. Held the door for several people.
#277. Complimented a stranger.
#276. Raised money, recruited teammates and Walk for AFSP OOTDW.
#275. Bought DQ ice creams for person behind us in line (a neighbor we don’t know very well).
#274. Picked up a bunch of fabric softener sheets that were all over laundry room floor.
#273. Re-shelved some items that fell on ground.
#272. Volunteered at school event.
#271. Returned a couple of shopping carts in parking lot at BJ’s
#270. Smiled at everyone I walked passed in airport
#269. Let dogs sleep on sofa all night.
#268. Gave a compliment to a stranger.
#267. Gave a nice tip to delivery man
#266. Took some political campaign materials from a solicitor
#265. Paid for teenager behind us at 16 Handles.
#264. Sent a card to a friend.
#263. Made a donation to an important cause.
#262. Served at 7am mass (it’s hard, but worth it!).
#261. Let someone in at traffic stop.
#260. Picked up a piece of garbage on playground.
#259. Helped a student with a class project (Missouri).
#258. Sent a note of encouragement to a wonderful friend.
#257. Shared some great laughs with a friend through new technology😂
#256. Wrote a thank you note.
#255. Made a donation for a special cause.
#254. Picked up garbage on stairs before class.
#253. Prepped for kindness project at kids’ school.
#252. Gave a $5 Starbucks card to barrista to pay forward.
#251. Wrote another letter for TWNMLL
#250. Wrote a letter for TWNMLL
#249. Smiled and said good morning to a LOT of people this morning.
#248. Wrote a thank you note to a friend.
#247. Spent several hours devising a creative plan to accommodate 53 applications for kindness initiative.
#246. Helped put back some chairs that had been moved around at the Duck Pond.

#245. Said “Bless You” while walking passed a stranger when he sneezed (he looked up surprised, smiled and said “Thank you!”)

#244. Kept my word (bike man)

#243. Smiles and said good morning to a stranger.

utopia

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On September 10, 2009, The Oprah Show hosted the Black Eyed Peas to kick-off her talk show’s 24th season. Unbeknownst to Oprah, the audience of 20,000 people had gathered hours before the live show to rehearse a carefully choreographed flash mob as a surprise to her.

When the Black Eyed Peas started singing “I Gotta Feeling,” Oprah, bouncing up and down, held out an iPhone and recorded the crowd. It was an unusual scene – the only person dancing to the music, besides Oprah and the Black Eyed Peas – was ONE brightly dressed and overly-enthusiastic woman in the front row. The rest of the people in the audience just stood there. Oprah kept dancing and recording.

And, that’s when it happened. Slowly, and with extreme precision, small clusters of people in the crowd began to join in the dancing. This continued until it reached ALL 20,000 audience members. When the cameras up above panned down on the scene, it literally looked like a wave. A massive, pulsating wave. Balancing Brian on my hip and bouncing along to the music, I couldn’t believe what I was watching from my living room. I quickly grabbed the remote and DVR’d the show.

After the flash mob, several audience members were interviewed about their experience. One man commented that he had never ever felt that kind of energy, that kind of JOY before in his life. He said it felt like Utopia, a perfect world where everyone worked together in beautiful harmony. With tears in his eyes, he commented, “This must be what heaven feels like.”

I swear my kids and I must have watched and danced along with that flash mob a hundred times. It really did feel like heaven…

On September 26, 2016, seven years after Oprah’s flash mob, I was lucky enough to experience another one of those Utopian moments at an assembly at our children’s school. It was a much smaller crowd than Oprah’s audience, but impressive nonetheless.

Brian Williams from Think Kindness gathered the students together to demonstrate the power of ONE and “paying it forward”. Without giving away too much, he created a “tidal wave” with hundreds of students and a simple gesture. Just like watching that Oprah episode, witnessing that kind of energy made my heart swell (even more so when two of the students came over to give me a hug too!). It was a great kick-off to this year’s kindness initiative. These kids WILL change the world one act of kindness at a time.

Seven years later. I gotta feeling that people sometimes look at me like that overly-enthusiastic (read: nutjob) woman dancing alone in a crowd of thousands. The good news…there are a lot of people joining me in this dance…this Utopia. :o)


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#268. Gave a compliment to a stranger.
#267. Gave a nice tip to delivery man.
#266. Took some political campaign materials from a solicitor.
#265. Paid for girl behind us at 16 Handles.
#264. Sent a card to a friend.
#263. Made a donation to an important cause.
#262. Served at 7am mass (it’s hard, but worth it!).
#261. Let someone in at traffic stop.
#260. Picked up a piece of garbage on playground.
#259. Helped a student with a class project (Missouri)
#258. Sent a note of encouragement to a wonderful friend.
#257. Shared some great laughs with a friend through new technology
#256. Wrote a thank you note.
#255. Made a donation for a special cause.
#254. Picked up garbage on stairs before class.
#253. Prepped for kindness project at kids’ school.
#252. Gave a $5 Starbucks card to barista to pay forward.
#251. Wrote a letter for TWNMLL
#250. Wrote a letter for TWNMLL
#249. Smiled and said good morning to a LOT of people i
#248. Wrote a thank you note to a friend.
#247. Spent several hours devising a creative plan to accommodate 53 applications for kindness initiative.
#246. Helped put back some chairs that had been moved around at the Duck Pond.
#245. Said “Bless You” while walking passed a stranger when he sneezed (he looked up surprised, smiled and said “Thank you!”)

#244. Kept my word (bike man).
#243. Smiled and said good morning to a stranger.

the mother teresa effect

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photo credit: quoteaddicts.com

This morning as we watched the news about Mother Teresa being declared a saint, I turned to our daughter, Kate, and asked her the following question:

“If kindness were a color, what color would it be?”

Without hesitation, she smiled and responded,

Yellow. Yellow is the color of a smiley face.”

(I couldn’t agree more.) :o)

So…about a few of my favorite things…kindness and the impact of one very special woman for others…a saint…Saint Teresa. 

A couple of months ago, I had to turn in a research paper about one component of Positive Psychology.

I chose…(you guessed it)…kindness.

More specifically, I chose to explore the multi-directional and positive effects of kindness on self and others.

As the field of Positive Psychology grows, there is an increasing amount of scientific research about the impact of kindness on our overall well-being. Psychologists have found that engaging in helping behaviors actually changes our brain chemistry. Researchers have also found that receiving an act of kindness positively influences our well-being. The benefits of positive social support are even more important than many people originally thought – especially in adolescence. I look forward to learning WAY more about this as I move through the program.

But…something else really struck me as I was discussing my research topic with my dad and a couple of friends: What happens to a person’s well-being when they watch an act of kindness? How far-reaching is this effect? As it turns out, bearing witness to a random or intentional act of kindness is perhaps the most compelling of all the facets of the concept of kindness.

Over the last year, I have been contacted by numerous people saying that they have been deeply impacted by the acts of kindness we have posted on social media. Not only have friends, family and complete strangers reported feeling deeply moved, but they were also inspired to go out and perform acts of kindness themselves. I never realized it, but there is actual scientific research out there that says our health is positively impacted just by witnessing acts of kindness. 
An interesting study that highlights this point was performed in the 1980’s when Harvard students watched a film of Mother Teresa caring for the poor in Calcutta. The researchers took swab samples of the students’ saliva before and after the film,

[they] showed significant increases in the protective antibody salivary immunoglobulin A (S-IgA) over those watching a neutral film. McClelland termed this the “Mother Teresa Effect.” Moreover, S-IgA remained high for an hour after the film in those subjects who were asked to focus their minds on times when they had loved or been loved”  (Post, 2009).

Based on the data, they concluded that there are significant positive physiological changes, including benefits to one’s immune system, overall health and well-being from simply watching or thinking about a person treating another with kindness, love and compassion.

The Mother Teresa Effect…a scientific explanation of what most of us have always believed – we should never underestimate a simple act of kindness...love, or the power of one person.

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#242. Supported hs freshman football team with donation/coupon card
#241. Started recruiting process for kindness initiative at kids’ school.
#240. Packed kindness notes in kids’ lunch boxes
#238. Sent flowers to a friend to wish her a speedy recovery.
#237. Didn’t honk at person in front of me who was texting at light when it turned green.
#236. Used recyclable bag at grocery store
#235. Working with a stranger to carry out a top-secret RAK

#234. Bought glue for science teacher. We ran into him at the store a week ago and he was buying school supplies with his own money.
#230 – #233: first day of school survival kits
#229. Put a few stranded carts away in BJ’s parking lot.

#228. Completed an online survey for recent car service.

#227. Let someone in traffic at awkward intersection (the person behind us did too!)
#226. Gave books to a friend.
#225. Held the door for a few people at eye dr appt (every single one said “thank you”)
#224. Threw away someone else’s garbage.

savoring every moment.

When I was newly pregnant with our third child, I spent the better part of the day and night on the sofa curled up in the fetal position trying not to get sick. Somehow I had forgotten the morning (ALL DAY!) sickness of my first two pregnancies and realized relatively quickly that although I always wanted FIVE children, this would be our last baby.

This decision was made during the 14th week of my pregnancy.  One night I was back on the sofa, attempting to keep down some saltines and not look up at the TV (Did you ever notice when you’re not feeling well that EVERY single commercial is a close-up shot of a big, bloody steak from Ruby Tuesdays or gigantic platter of greasy nachos from Chili’s?). I took several deep breaths and buried my head in the cushions. I had no idea what our other two children, only two and four years old at the time, were doing upstairs. And, quite frankly, I didn’t care.

Until I heard a door slam. Knocking. And then a scream.

I ran up the stairs and found our four-year-old daughter looking into the keyhole of the bathroom door and frantically pulling on the doorknob. While they were playing, our two-year-old daughter ran into the bathroom, slammed the door and turned the lock. Because she was only two, she couldn’t comprehend that she needed to turn the lock the opposite direction to open the door. At the time, we lived in a house that was nearly 100 years old. All of the original details had been maintained over the years, including the locks which required skeleton keys. We did not have a set of those keys! Panicked, I started looking for anything I could find to try to open the lock.

Luckily, my husband had returned from work at just the right moment. After several failed attempts with other household items, including keys, screwdrivers and even a paperclip, we finally decided he should try to get in through the window. Unfortunately, the window, just like the door, was locked. The only way in was by breaking the glass. He took our extra-tall ladder, propped it up along the front of the house and climbed up to the second story window. I stayed inside the house on the other side of the locked door trying to distract and soothe our little girl with familiar songs and stories. I’ll never forget her screams when the window broke on the other side of the door – she started yelling for me and pulling, pounding and scratching at the door. Even though I knew she was safe, it was the most helpless feeling in the world. I felt so much guilt for leaving them alone. I kept calling her name so that she would stay close to my voice through the door…I was so worried that she would run over the shards of glass when she saw her dad. Thankfully, she stayed right next to the door. He crawled through the window, stepped over the glass, picked her up and unlocked the door.

At the same time, I looked down at my belly and thought, There is no way we are having five children – this baby will complete our family.

FullSizeRender (22)Seven months later, as we drove less than a mile home from the hospital, I sat next to my newborn baby safely belted into his car seat in the backseat of our minivan. This is the last time I will do this drive home from the hospital, I thought sadly. I looked out the window at the changing leaves, smelled the fall air and felt every single bump in the road. I then looked down at him, kissed his little forehead and took in his sweet new baby smell. I was grateful. Our last baby. I will never do this again. I savored the moment. I was both happy and sad.

 

FullSizeRender (21)This week I pulled the last car seat out of our minivan. Our third baby is now an almost 8-year-old child. He’s above average for height and weight and I probably could have removed the seat a while ago. I didn’t tell him that though. :o)

I smiled as I watched him sitting in the car…he looked so old to me. Our last baby. I will savor this moment too.

 

 

ps. After our third baby came home, our 2nd child continued to get into mischief even when I was doing a pretty good job of keeping a very close eye on her. When I asked her why she colored herself green, she answered, “I wanna look like Shrek.”

 


 

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#223. Brian and I tipped a street musician and gave him two YAB “You Are Beautiful” stickers (one to keep, one to give away). : )

#222. Donated to Louisiana Floods/Red Cross efforts.

#221. Picked up garbage out in front of our favorite ice cream shop before it opened.

#220. Gave a donation to a teacher for her school supplies purchases.

#219. Left a small DQ gift card for the next customer.

#218. Gave a little extra tip at a restaurant.

#217. Paid a compliment to a stranger on her sundress (she was totally surprised and her face lit up).

#216. Made a promise to kids’ science teacher that I would purchase a dozen bottles of glue for him for the first day of school.

#215. Paid a compliment to a stranger.

#214. Gave cold water bottles to landscaping crew.

#213. Bought a bag from a friend’s online shop (kindness to self).

#212. Treated two friends to Bad Moms.

#211. Held door for a bunch of people leaving the movie theater.

#210. Started recruiting team Choosing Grace.

#209. Printed out and delivered important paperwork for neighbor.

#208. Made a donation to an important cause.

#207. Listened. While rushing to get a bunch of items checked off my to-do list, stopped to enjoy a nice conversation with one of the workers at Stop and Shop. He shared that he hasn’t had a vacation in years, he is estranged from some of his family members and he feels stuck in his job. After he finished, he said he knew I couldn’t do anything but he was thankful that I just listened.


*I’ve been learning a lot about the concept of savoring in my positive psychology coursework. It’s a really important component of well-being:

It involves an awareness of pleasure along with quite deliberate attempts to focus attention on the sensation at hand and delight in it. In a sense, savoring seeks to extract every nuance and association continued in the complexity of a pleasurable experience.” (Compton & Hoffman, 2013)

the anti-suicide squad

Over the last few weeks, I have cringed every single time I have seen a movie trailer, interview, promotional material or review for the recently released movie: Suicide Squad.

suicide squad
photo credit: google images

I’ll be honest, I really have no idea what the movie is about other than it seems to have some comic book villains and Will Smith is one of the stars. I love Will Smith and I’m sure the movie will do really well at the box office.

Maybe if I was familiar with these characters and the plot the title wouldn’t bother me so much.

Maybe…

Probably not though.

It’ll probably be one of those words that just really bothers me the rest of my life.

It has affected too many of our family members.

I will probably always cringe when I hear the word: suicide.

But, I won’t stop saying the word.

I won’t stop fighting or fundraising or learning or sharing or walking in an attempt to prevent suicide.

And, our team, our squad, is back again this year…

IMG_6947
Choosing Grace 2015

We are the Anti-Suicide Squad and we are BADASS.

We are Choosing Grace.


IMG_6948For more information on how you can join us in Chicago on October 15th and/or donate (we have a long way to reach our goal!), please click on this link: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.team&teamID=104761 or visit http://www.chicagowalk.org and enter “Choosing Grace” to find our team.


weekly rak up

#206. Sent a thank you to a friend to thank her for a very thoughtful and generous gift.
#205. Asked manager to turn down volume when everyone in the theater was plugging the ears from deafening sound. She was so nice about it and checked in on us afterwards.