Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Am I Thankful For?

As most people do at Thanksgiving, I've been thinking a lot about what I'm most thankful for. In the midst of shopping for the perfect presents, worrying about bills, and hoping that next year we'll have less house and car repairs to pay for (I know, not likely) - I took some time yesterday to really reflect on all the little things I am thankful for minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

All year long, I've had my son helping me pick out presents for a local shelter. It's now to the point that he asks me, each time we pick up a present, "Mom, we should get something for the kid's gift bin at home." I am so thankful for such a kind-hearted child. It makes me so proud that he recognizes there are kids with greater needs, and is open to sharing with them instead of simply picking out things he wants constantly. Now we're working on the fact that these kids also need clothes and other items - I don't think it quite registers to him yet that people would need clothing, and I think that's okay because I don't want him worried constantly about whether that could be him, but I know he'll understand and do his best in the coming years to give back in honor of all he has received in his life.

I actually went to the mall yesterday, to try and pick out something I might want for Christmas. My husband and I don't exchange big gifts - just something small, so the kids see that we give each other something to recognize the other one. It's important to us that our kids see it's not about how expensive a present is, but about what it means personally to someone else. That's why I usually like a book or photoalbum to use. But yesterday, I could not find anything at all that I wanted - and after a bit of thought, I realized, that's actually a pretty wonderful thing! How often in life can we actually sit here and say, "I have enough of this and this and this, and there is not one thing I really want?" It was a pretty awesome feeling to realize how much I really have already in my life.

I am so thankful for so many things, from waking up in the morning, to my kids (screaming or well-behaved), to my family and friends. But what I'm most thankful for is that we have a house, food, jobs, and family and friends - all of the basic needs covered, because there are so many who don't. Just in our area, one shelter was putting together baskets for 600 families for Thanksgiving - 600 FAMILIES! It's shocking to me, and a real wake up call, that when we have so much to be grateful for, it's so important we give back so that these 600 families can have a better Thanksgiving -- and in turn, perhaps they will give back when they are able to.

So Thanksgiving morning, when I wake up, I'm going to remember all of the things I complain about during the year, and remind myself that at least I have those things to complain about. Because when it comes down to it, having things to complain about means I have things going on in my life - and that in itself is a blessing.

I'm ending with an awesome quote that was said by a lady I work with:

"I'm grateful that I am able to give, instead of always receive."

What more can I say?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Offbeat Post: Organ Donation - Are you a donor?

I am an organ donor. Or at least will be if the time ever arises. I know there are some belief systems that go against it, and everyone has their own opinions and beliefs about it, and that's okay. You don't have to read this -- this is simply my thoughts on the topic.

I didn't always want to be a donor. When I was in my teens, I didn't want to even think about it. What teen wants to think they won't live forever? And in my early 20s, I marked "yes" on my license, but only for certain organs. I wanted to keep my skin so that when they showed me in the casket, I still looked okay (I know, vain much?).

Then when I was 24, my mom developed brain cancer. She gained alot of weight from the steroids; lost her hair, which grew back in tufts, and curly; she was so swollen and her skin bruised from the steroids. When she passed away 13 months after diagnosis, she didn't look like her. I brought her favorite dress to the funeral home, along with a wig and fake eyelashes. But at the wake, when I looked at her in her casket, she didn't look a thing like "mom".  And that's when I realized - this body that's left over when we're gone, that's not us - that's not our spirit or our soul. It's the temporary home we have until we move on somewhere else, and just like when we move from one home to another in our lives, we don't really have a use for the old one - but someone else might, and that's why I decided to become a full-out organ donor if the time ever came where my family would have to make that decision.

I admit, I don't visit the cemetary often. I go there once in awhile to make sure it's clean, but I don't like going there. She's not there - only her body is. And honestly - and I know this is going to be gross to say out loud - all I envision there is a decomposing body, not the beautiful woman my mother was.

It has made me think quite a bit about what I'd want when I die. When we were in New Orleans, one of the cemetaries had a section of plaques, where it was simply a memorial plaque. I liked that - a place where someone could go to remember me without having to stand over my buried body.

So this is what I've come up with:

  • I'd like as much of my body to be donated as possible - any part of me that can help someone should go. And whatever is left over, if it will help benefit science or the cure of anything, I hope they can use the rest of me to help further causes.
  • I don't want a procession to a funeral home or cemetary - I just want a church ceremony and some kind words spoken.
  • I'd like a plaque somewhere, where I can be remembered. I don't know where. Maybe donate money somewhere in my name and a plaque can go there. So someday when you're shopping at the mall in the Allie wing, you'll remember me. ;)  Just so I'm remembered, but not with a gravestone.
  • I don't want a typical funeral dinner or lunch after the ceremony. I want everyone to gather at a local bar and have a few drinks and some of my favorite foods (cornbeef and pizza) and tell some funny stories about the good times we all had. I won't say don't cry, because Lord knows I'm always a fountain of tears, but definitely think about the great times. There was nothing better after Mom died than hearing all of the good memories people had of her. And I'll never forget, at the luncheon after my best friend's funeral when I was in 8th grade, all of us kids joking and laughing. It made the day a little easier - and that's what I want - I want people to be happy they knew me.
Once I'm gone, I don't need my body. I don't need it sitting in the ground, taking up space that could be something more beautiful than a place my headstone takes up. And if we might be one step closer to a cure for cancer or a brain surgeon becoming adept at what they do, then by all means, use my body for knowledge. I want to be remembered through pictures and memories, and I want to live each day until that time like it's my last and make every moment count.

And when I'm gone, you can have my organs. Because I want someone else to have the opportunity to make the same great memories I hope I did.

Visit http://organdonor.gov/ to learn more, and sign up to be an organ donor.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Growing older...

I'll admit, turning 30 was a bit tough, but only because I had this feeling like I hadn't accomplished much in life yet. I had all of these goals when I was in my 20s, and of course all of the unexpected turns life takes were tossed into the mix and I was on the verge of a new decade feeling like I'd done only a few things I wanted to.

Back in June, I made this list. However, it was pretty ambitious for six months time, and again, life always has it's own plans that tend to overshadow my own! I've accomplished some, and am still working on others, but, I guess it's going to have to be before I'm 32, not 31, since I only have 36 days left for that!

But, last night I sat thinking about the things I have accomplished this year. Learning to sew, doing more quality activities with the kids, helping Alex learn math, teaching the kids that giving is important through our gifts to the shelter...these are all things that last night, I figured out were far more important than having attended a sporting event. Not all the items on my list were silly, because they are all things I want to do. However, sometimes it's the smaller, more unknown day-to-day activities that make me feel like I've accomplished so much more.

So in celebration of nearing 31, and in honor of my mom's birthday today (hope you're celebrating in heaven, Mom!), today I give you a list of 45 little tidbits of advice. I received these in an email from a friend. Enjoy!
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."


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