My Mom’s family has a traditional goodbye saying. Sure Love Ya. It means goodbye, see you soon and you might drive me crazy sometimes but we’re still family. I have no idea how many times I’ve said that expression in my life. It’s probably been at least a million times. There is another tradition. Before ending a family gathering, we all huddle in a circle like a sports team and shout the saying. “Sure love ya.” The circle keeps getting bigger as more and more people join the family.
It’s confession time. The teenage me thought it was an embarrassing tradition. I hated it! I only did it because my mother said I had to do it. I was confident that we were the only family in the entire universe that would do something like that.
My Grandma died this year. She was my last remaining grandparent Earth-side. We couldn’t meet with Grandma as a large family group to celebrate her birthday like we’ve done in the past. This year we meet on Zoom. It was fun to see various relatives as little Zoom boxes on the screen. We ended our short party with “Sure Love Ya”. It was both sad and beautiful at the same time.
I think I finally understand why Grandma liked us to huddle up and express love. I think she was trying to ensure that we still loved each other even after she left us.
That is what I will remember most about my grandmother Marjorie Hill Smith. She loved.
I loved my Grandma very much. I will miss her. I know I’m not the only person on Earth who has lost someone they loved this year. There are many souls who are grieving right now. 2020. It’s been a crazy year. I haven’t really liked this year. It’s been hard. REALLY HARD! I’m ready for 2020 to be over and just a chapter in a history textbook.
I have learned something this year though. I’ve learned that love is one of the few constants in our crazy, ever-changing world.
Have you ever met a champion fighter? I have. Meet Mandy.
Mandy fights for her daughter Makayla by making sure she gets the experiences at home and in school that will help her grow and learn. Mandy is teaching her daughter how to be strong herself so she can be her own fighter someday. Mandy is a fighter for the sick and lonely by working as a caregiver.
These battles alone would warrant the title of champion fighter and a seat with the great Wonder Women of the world. However, Mandy is also a fighter because she fights for herself. She fights for her own health and happiness. And that is the greatest fight one can fight.
Sarah is a guardian of nature. She loves the woods. Her passion for the great pines has inspired her to share that love with her family and friends. She takes her kids on nature walks, introduces them to snow and loves to spend time outside in the wild. Sarah is a guardian in other ways. She is a person who guards, protects and preserves what she feels is true and beautiful.
Like many of the Wonder Woman I’ve spotlighted, Sarah’s first response to an invitation to be recognized was a statement of not having done anything really spectacular in her life.
Sarah, you ARE doing something spectacular. You are taking what you love and sharing it with others. That’s something beautiful, noble and long lasting.
This post is for my cousin (the rest of my dear friends can read it if they want).
I’m sorry that you’re having a rough time. It’s hard to feel alone and afraid. I wish I could tell you that I had a magic wand to zap all the sorrows away in your life. Believe me, if I had one of those wands I’d use it on myself and then I’d share it with you. I don’t have a magic wand and I don’t fully understand what you are going through today. I don’t, because I’m not you. I do understand my feelings though. In the spirit of wishing for a magic wand, I’m going to be honest with you and hopefully the openness will help you feel a little less alone.
I’ve struggled with anxiety for as long as I can remember. It’s always in the background like a big cyclops ready to attack. I’ve named it Sally. Sally is rather annoying and has caused more stomach aches and insomnia than I wish to admit. I’ve done counseling, medication, yoga, exercise, fresh air, various vitamins, scripture reading, trying to make a deal with God that I’ll be really righteous if he just makes me normal, prayers, 12-step groups for people with anxiety issues, several rounds of 40 days of meditation exercises every morning, given up certain foods and a bunch of other stuff. And guess what? Sally is still there. Sally is like the annoying neighbor. She might stop pestering me for a while, but she still knows where I live. Her annoyance is lessened by all the good things I do, but Sally is still there. I know she is and she waits until I’ve had a bad day to come out and tease me. That’s what is so hard about the stuff that goes on in heads. You can lessen the effects but in some ways it’s still there, because it’s part of you. You live. You breathe. You fall flat on your face. You conqueror and sometimes the success is the gold medal and sometimes the success is that you are here breathing through the mess. I don’t know if this makes any sense to you, dear cousin. I guess what I’m trying to say is this. You aren’t alone. You’ve got friends and family who love and care about you. Friends who have struggled themselves and want to help you. Keep trying. Keep going. If you have a day that you’re in bed, it’s okay. Tomorrow will be better and it’s a new day. The world is a good place, because you’re in it with us. Call me if you need to chat.
“The woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best”. – Henry van Dyke
We live in a divided world. It’s a world where people pick a side, set up a tent and start throwing oranges at anyone who picks a different camp site. It’s a world where name calling has replaced discussion. That’s why this week’s Wonder Woman is so important. She has found a way to maintain her own thoughts and beliefs without trampling on the right of others to disagree with her.
Have you ever met such a person? I have. Meet Stephanie. She’s a diplomat.
I met Stephanie at work. I was in the break room waiting for my food to cook in the microwave. It’s amazing what you can see in 5 minutes. Two of my co-workers sat at a nearby table debating a controversial political topic. I could tell they had been at the debate for a while. Voices were loud and words were filled with sarcastic personal attacks. The frustration was just dripping off both of their bodies and the cynicism could be felt throughout the break room. The debate was no longer a healthy dialogue with thoughtful questions. It had turned into war. Then Stephanie walked into the room. I watched in amazement as she engaged her co-workers in a short conversation about the same topic. It was like watching a conductor bring the strengths of the various instruments together to create a beautiful symphony. Stephanie found a way to validate the feelings of the two co-workers and interject her own thoughts without criticizing either person. The entire tone of the conversation changed. The co-workers lowered their voices, their language switched to dialogue instead of attacks. They decided that although they could never agree about the topic that they could agree to not call each other names. The feeling in the room went from frustration to peace. The words of the prayer by St. Francis of Assisi came into my mind . “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love”.
That’s what Stephanie did that day. She was an instrument of peace and restored love to the lunch room. Since that time, I’ve observed these two co-workers. They still talk about all kinds of political, religious and social issues. They still have very differing views on many issues and will probably never vote the same way. That’s not the point. The point is that they have found a way to talk about hard things without throwing attacks at each other. I don’t think this happened by accident. I believe that Stephanie started that for them. She mediated the conversation and helped everyone put down their oranges.
Last New Year’s Day, I imagined myself on the brink of New Years 2016. I had a beautiful vision for my future. I didn’t get everything I hoped for last year for but I’m not discouraged. I still had a good year with lots of stuff going on. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Funny stuff. Hard stuff. Amazing Stuff. Stuff I have no idea how to explain. Just Stuff. That’s life, you know. We all get stuff and how we react is what ultimately creates the life we see at the end of the year.
You might be wondering how I know SJ is a mermaid. Well, she meets all the characteristics of the mystical ocean creature. Mermaids are natural beauties. They have kind, generous personalities with a flair for love, beauty, music and romance. They have passion for living life by their own design. Mermaids can live in the water or on the land. Home is based on who and what they love. Their love isn’t defined by geographic or cultural boundaries. SJ loves greatly. She’s kind, thoughtful, intelligent and creates a joyful atmosphere wherever she goes. SJ is an artist as she crafts intricate hairstyles in her career as a cosmetologist. She sings and plays instruments. She’s also a romantic soul, because she and her boyfriend write telegrams to each other. (That’s got to be the coolest, retro thing I’ve heard of in a long time.)
SJ is a Mermaid. She’s also a Wonder Woman because she is herself.
I had a good day at work and then I got stuck in some very heavy traffic driving home. My good day turned bad really fast. I was grouchy, tired and frustrated as more and more cars piled onto the same road as me.
I found this in the mail when I finally got home.
It’s a Christmas card from my Aunt Marla. The card turned my day back to a happy, good day. It’s also really cute and glittery. I now have glitter all over my hands, sweater and face. I guess I touch my face more than I realized. I look like a fairy princess ready to sprinkle pixie glitter all over to fly away. The card really did change my entire mood. It’s the power of a simple gift. It’s the power of remembering people. Thank you, Aunt Marla. You’re awesome. I love you.
By the way, I love all my aunts. They’re all strong, incredible woman who have influenced my life for good.
Have you thanked your Aunt Marla today?
(This photo was taken earlier this year at Good Friday services. Marla is the beautiful woman in the middle of the group.)
Have you ever met someone who is really rich? I have. Her name is Teresa.
I met Teresa when I was a little kid. She happens to be my aunt. I know what you are thinking. “Amee, that’s great that your aunt is well off. Why aren’t you trying to get her to give you some of her lovely money to fix up your old car? ”
Guess What? Teresa has a beat up car too. Teresa’s wealth is found in her positive and thankful heart. Like many people, Teresa has struggled with health challenges, unemployment and the disappointments that come in life. Unlike most folks, Teresa has found a way to look on the bright side while still dealing with the reality of the present moment. Let me tell you a story that proves my point about Teresa’s gift for gratitude. Once upon a time Aunt Teresa and her kids decided to take a road trip to visit my family. During the 14 hour drive to see us, the air conditioner in Teresa’s car broke, two of her kids got sick and she received some news that her husband’s company was going to lay him off. I overheard Teresa on the phone talking with my uncle about how they were going to pay the bills. After Teresa got off the phone, I asked her what was going on. She told me about the crazy events that had occurred on their drive to see us. After the explanation, I was expecting to hear Teresa lament her life or at least say she was really mad. I’d want to throw something if all those things happened to me in one day. She didn’t do that though. Teresa told me she was still one of the richest people in the world because she got to see all of us.
It was a simple conversation with a 15-year-old niece. I don’t know if Teresa even remembers it after all these years. It left an impression on me though. Teresa is a really rich person. She’s grateful.
In addition to raising some awesome kids, (I’m biased. Hi cousins.) Teresa teaches preschool and sings in a church choir. She and her husband Rick feel strongly that being grateful and positive have made their life easier. They just started their own blog all about living a grateful and positive life.
Have you ever met an accountant? I have. Her name is Anita.
As a girl, Anita enjoyed math. Her love for math eventually led her to college where she studied accounting. Anita has worked for both private and government organizations. Her ability to collect, organize and analyze data to find out what really counts has earned her recognition and respect. I could end this Wonder Woman post right here. Anita’s professional success as a Certified Public Accountant has been noteworthy.
Anita is not just any Wonder Woman though. She’s my Wonder Woman. She taught me what counts.
I met Anita when I was a teen. She was a volunteer youth mentor at my church. One day we had an activity where a painting instructor came to help the girls make cute decorations for their bedrooms. There were many oohs and ahhs as the instructor held up a wooden heart washed in white paint. In the middle of the white heart, red calligraphy said “Love One Another”. The other girls quickly started following the instructor’s directions and their hearts were soon bathing in white paint. I had a problem though. I didn’t want a white heart. I wanted a red heart with white polka dots. The instructor wasn’t very happy with me. My heart wasn’t going to look like the other hearts. It didn’t match the example and would look horrible on my bedroom wall.
I’ll never forgot what Anita said to the painting instructor. “Amee can paint her heart whatever color she wants. It’s her heart”. I painted the heart red. After I made the white polka dots, I kept going with the color theme. I added blue boxes, rainbows, green fishes and smiley faces to my heart creation. The poor painting instructor looked a little stressed as I wrote “Love One Another” in black paint at the center of my little heart and then flipped the heart over and wrote “Live Long and Prosper” on the other side. My heart didn’t look at all like the other girl’s hearts. My heart would never be held up as the example to follow for future artists to copy and I didn’t care. It was my heart and I loved it. And I loved Anita for letting me be myself.
Anita taught me something that day. She taught me what really counts.