Our family (my husband, two teenager daughters and I) had fallen into a habit of eating dinner together and then retreating to our rooms to do homework, watch TV and write. We were together many hours a week, but we weren’t interfacing much. I longed for that connection, but evening walks fell by the wayside and watching movies together (which we all enjoy!) was not exactly interactive.
Our girls have adopted snarky, rebellious attitudes. It’s normal, but I felt like it could alienate us as parents if we didn’t talk more. The girls once mentioned a fun card game. I logged onto Amazon.com.
20 minutes in and we’re laughing and discussing our answers. Yes, it isn’t exactly “politically correct.” But it’s funny and the girls find it very compelling. The game is hilarious and we all enjoy it. It’s not for everyone – just “horrible people”.
When I was very young (maybe five years old), my mother made rings out of dandelions. She’d pluck the weed and create a knot with the stem and, smiling, put the ring on my finger. I felt special and lucky. Within hours, the dandelion wilted, the yellow flowers tinged with brown. It was my first lesson of impermanence.
We were poor and a part of me knew it, but mostly, I was blissfully ignorant. I reveled in the smell of burning wood in the Iowa autumn. I loved the dandelion rings my mother made and I loved watching “The Muppets” on TV. All of this was (relatively) free. I thought everyone had a father who came home exhausted and discouraged. I thought everyone shared one bathroom in their family. I thought everyone fought over money.
I’m a lot older now and I have learned this: wishing for “stuff” always leads to disappointment. Nothing you can buy will deliver anywhere near the satisfaction of smelling burning wood on a Midwest autumn evening, or watching the “Muppets” on a chilly Halloween night or wearing a dandelion ring your mother makes just for you.
For something that affects each of us without fail, the subject of death remains taboo in our culture. Why?
2016 was rife with “surprise” celebrity deaths: Rickman, Bowie, Prince, Fisher and so many more. It’s sad to lose people we admire and love.
Yet, death can be the best teacher. It reminds us that life is, in the end, pretty short. It can clarify values pretty quickly. Six and half years ago, I was told by my doctor that I had cancer. I was fortunate – it was early stage I breast cancer – and my prognosis was very good. But I was 41 and not expecting that diagnosis at all. My life got crystal clear: Family and friends were priority. I realized that my job – teaching – was something I truly valued and I was grateful for it.
As I walked out of the hospital to go home to recover from my radical mastectomy, the air was crisp, the sun shone brightly and I noticed practically every blade of grass of the hospital lawn. I felt so alive!
Realizing that we don’t have much time gives us urgency. Don’t waste a day complaining. Don’t be negative. Live in the light of positivity and gratitude. Work towards your dreams. You might not have much time.
My mother arrived in America in the late 1960s from a small town in rural South Korea. She knew a little English from school, but you can imagine going from the countryside in South Korea to a small apartment building in North Carolina is not exactly a smooth transition.
My sister, brother and I were born in quick succession following her immigration. We quickly grasped the many, many nuances of the English language, especially slang. Mom tried to understand it. But the words and gestures of profanity eluded her.
One day, my siblings and I were doing something that caused her displeasure: eating with our mouths full? Fighting with each other? Getting Bs? I don’t recall. But I do remember her suddenly raising her fist in an incomplete “f*** you” gesture (no middle finger) and yelling, “Fist up!” This created peals of laughter from us and, in her frustration, she gave chase. With a wooden spoon.
The chase was thrilling. Mom and that spoon could sting. But the sight of her in that apron, her face red with anger…it was too much.
As we ran around the house – us kids laughing at the sight of our indignant mother and the epic fail of her attempt to be obscene -she broke into laughter too. Soon, all four of us were in a puddle of giggle tears.
We carried on that day in a lighter state. Life is good. Grades are grades. People are people. Poor is poor. As long as we have each other, we can laugh.
Practicing gratitude improves your life in a multitude of ways. According to Amy Morin, a psychological business writer for Forbes.com, reflecting on all that you have to be grateful for benefits you in the following ways:
Reflecting on gratitude is a form of living in presence.
Happy Thanksgiving, all.
I met my husband at a party. He made me laugh with his amazing ability to do impressions of famous people. He could do perfect Irish accents. On one of our dates to an Irish bar in San Francisco, we met a couple Irish tourists. Willey spoke to them with an Irish brogue and they asked him which part of Ireland he was from!
It’s 22+ years later:
22 years is a long time. Nights at bars gave way to babies, cancer (and recovery), school activities, music lessons, mortgages, bills and retirement plans. The impressions and carefree days faded away. We
had have responsibilities.
I threw my husband a surprise birthday party for his 50th last night.
Relatives and friends flew in from out of state. Local friends attended the party. We had a great time. One of our guests was from Australia. Suddenly, Willey was from the Outback, talking like the Crocodile Hunter. We all gathered around him, laughing. And I saw him. I saw us.
I saw our future, our hopes, our dreams, our joy.
And it all came true: We have a home, dear friends and family, beautiful children.
When life is ebbing instead of flowing, remember the high tide. Remember what made you fall in love. It’s always there.