Good Natured Mom

We are all just walking each other home. -Ram Dass


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Christmas joy in the form of an inflatable snowman

The Christmas magic is back at the neighbor’s house. It left us 3 years ago…but it’s back and I’m experiencing an renewed exuberance for the holiday season.

These good people made every human effort to decorate their front yard for the holidays in a fashion that would delight and amaze their grandchildren.  Santa in a hot air balloon; assorted holiday themed inflatable snowmen; a lighted toy train; spinning, stuffed animal laden Ferris wheel, a carousel; and glittering, sparkly angels… the set up was extraordinary. It’s one of those houses you’d go out of your way to drive by. I’m pretty sure they won the city’s decorating contest every year. It was that good.

I was lucky enough to live on the same street. I’d see this glorious sight every night. It made me feel happy, Christmas-y. Another thing to love about the season, you know?

Until I didn’t see it any more.

The joy was unmercifully stolen from my neighbors on December 14, 2012. That was the day their 6 year old grandson was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

I remember having a news station on my computer that day while I was at work. I turned it off. I could not take any more bad news…no more violence and shootings.

I remember twitter blowing up with breaking news about Newtown…and I shut that down too. I was weary from the sadness. Why, why, why all this tragedy and pain? At that time I had no idea that this violence was directly affecting my neighbors.

The day after the shooting I read the following on my Facebook feed, written by a friend; my children’s favorite baby sitter – the neighbor’s daughter.

Please pray for my family, especially my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, who suffered an unimaginable loss yesterday in the shooting. Life will never be the same without my nephew James, and words cannot begin to express our devastation. I love you Cindy, Mark, Anna, and James.

You know that feeling you get when your heart breaks in two? That sinking feeling? That feeling when all the blood rushes from your brain? When you know the most horrid, unimaginable, unthinkable thing  has happened…to someone you love? That pit in your stomach.  I still feel that ache just thinking about that day in Newtown.

That’s the same day the holiday magic left the neighbor’s yard…and the terrible sadness set in.  Friends, neighbors, community felt the weight of that  deep, dark, heavy sadness. The wonderful Christmas joy evaporated. For all of us.  And we understood why the yard remained dark.

The following year our dear neighbors skipped the inflatable, glitzy decor and put up a much simpler set of decorations. Instead, they set up a beautiful tribute to the victims of Sandy Hook…a line of candy canes, one for each person killed, guarded by angels. So simple…but the difference between the previous year’s gala and the next year’s simplicity was poignant and striking. The family was grieving. Their loss occurred only 11 days before Christmas. The display marked the anniversary of that most horrible day with a clear message of love and hope.

For the last two year’s the holiday decorations have been the same angels and candy canes. I wondered how the family was getting along. The lovely Christmas candy canes reminded us that their lives were forever changed. They were due their privacy, so I wouldn’t ask. But I prayed for them…I still do. I prayed for the whole family,  that the ache would lessen and some tiny bit of joy would return.

I wondered if we’d ever see the inflatable snowmen again.

A few weeks ago some of the old inflatables began appearing on the neighbor’s lawn. Then a few more. Each day I’d notice something new. Each day there’d be another cheery sign that some of the sadness had faded…or maybe they had an awareness that it was time to re establish the tradition of holiday decorating for the grand-kids. Or maybe a glimmer of memory about the way their young angel enjoyed Christmas with his family (and his family with him).

Whatever the reason, I can only wonder.  But the Ferris wheel, toy train and snowmen are back, inflated, upright and standing strong. The candy canes and angels are there too. I think there are a few dozen more of them. This year’s holiday display is magnificent. I’m so pleased to see it.

God bless you, dear neighbors. Merry Christmas…

 

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10 Habits of an Optimist

Did you see the movie The Martian? Its a story about an astronaut who is left behind on the planet Mars and how he copes…how he attempts to survive. I connected with the main character. He was brilliant and clever… but more important to me, he was confident and optimistic. And he didn’t give up hope.

My default setting is optimism – I believe that, no matter what else is going on around me, no matter how dire the circumstances, or grim the outlook…that everything will ultimately be okay.

Because I always expect a favorable outcome, some think I’m out of touch with reality. Others think I’m naive. For me, optimism has nothing to do with either reality or my lack of experience with a situation. It has much more to do with a gut feeling… intuition. Optimism is an internal, preset in my brain that always directs my thoughts toward confidence and faith in the good. And there are a few beliefs and habits I’ve developed to maintain a healthy sense of optimism.

  1.  I believe that love always wins and good is stronger than evil. It may only occur on a micro level, but you can always find the essence of good, in any situation, if you are open to it.
  2. Along the same lines, even when bad things are happening, there is a simultaneous, counteractive force for the good. Think of a situation, like a house fire or car accident. First responders arrive to help. By standers reach out to assist.  Let’s face it, bad stuff is going to happen. It’s part of life. Having people around you to mitigate the loss or help you through it in some way…that’s a very good thing. See the essence of good in everything.
  3. Stay mindful. Stay present. Stay aware. Don’t allow worry and fear to take hold in your brain. Realize that we only exist from one moment to the next… not in the past or the future. The only life we have is happening right now. Keep the anxiety and worry at bay by keeping your focus on the here and now.
  4. Cultivate a heart full of gratitude. For me, waking up each day, putting my feet on the floor and having coffee in the coffee pot are at the top my thankfulness list. I’m grateful for my husband, parents, children, food, colleagues, meaningful work, the ability to move, a warm bed, a car that starts when I turn the key…I am blessed and I know it. I will not lose sight of that.
  5. Take care of your self, mind, body, and soul. Eat whole foods, mostly plants, which are unprocessed and nutrient dense. Move your body; stretch, bend, lift heavy objects, run, swim, dance… whatever it is, keep at it.  Pray, meditate or sit and be quiet every day. Make these part of your daily routine. You will feel better physically and your mind will respond with a better, more positive attitude.
  6. Be a giver. Think outside of yourself and reach out to someone who needs your help. Giving of yourself does as much to help mankind as it does to foster your own sense of humility and gratitude. Give freely without expecting anything in return.
  7. Smile. You’ve heard it before. Smiling rewires your brain to create positive thought patterns. Smile often and retrain your brain to be happy.
  8. Live a balanced life. Don’t give in to pressures or people (real or imagined) that throw your life out of balance. Stay healthy (see number 5) and happy  to avoid burnout. This will help you maintain an optimistic vibe.
  9. When problems arise, look for solutions. Don’t consider a problem a roadblock. Rather, consider it a speed bump. Slow down,  review your options, think creatively and figure out a new plan.
  10. Give yourself a pat on the back and rest in the knowledge of a job well done. When you’ve accomplished a task or met a goal, don’t rush right on to the next project. Take time to recognize that you’ve done a good job. You will find that your day is made up of many small successes.

These days optimism is a survival technique as much as is it a mindset. What do you think?

 

 

 


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Panic Attack

sad-crying-girl-alone-black-and-white

I  can hear you crying.
You’re upset. You are locked in the bathroom stall because you want privacy.
But I’m here… can I help?
What’s going on?

Panic attack

Oh – I’m an expert at panic attacks. Come on out and let’s talk…

Look at me.
Take a breath.
Inhale…exhale.
Good, we lived through that moment and we are okay.
We made it to the next moment.
Do it again… breath in… and out…
Let that breath reach all through your body…right to your fingertips. Bring oxygen to every cell in your body.

This panic attack will pass. Are you all right?

Are you feeling better? Starting to? Okay, cool.

Want to wipe your face?

What thoughts are fixated in your brain, looping over and over….building and overtaking every bit of reason? You know they are just thoughts, right? They are not real…they are not events…they are not happening. You are thinking about them, but they are not real… Breathe…

Do you want to take some more deep breaths? How about if we just listen. What do you hear? The humming of the lights? The sound of feet shuffling in the hall? See, life is going on around us…notice what’s happening. Breathe

Are you ready to get going? Do you think you are going to be okay now? Do you know what to do if that panicky feeling returns?
Right…. deep breaths….focus on the rising and falling of your chest…like waves in the ocean…
Listen carefully for every sound…birds, wind, laughter, motors…all of it. Breathe

If you need me I’m right around the corner. You are going to be okay. I promise… no matter what happens, you will be fine.

Just keep breathing…