Four years ago…

11ABFD40-BF65-429F-8896-ADA624AF0D38Four years ago tomorrow, a fire took my father, Charlie Adams from us. Four years ago, my heart was broken in ways I could never imagine possible. There’s been a lot of living since then — a lot of ups and downs. I wish he was here so I could tell him all about them. Today I wanted to stop and honor him, to reflect on him and his massive impact on my life.

In honor of him — I’d like to share the eulogy that I wrote and read during his funeral. Thank you for reading.

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I had the privilege of calling this man we are honoring today, Dad.

He was the dad he didn’t have to be to us. I rarely refer to him as my stepdad — because he never once put the word “step” in front of my brother and I’s name. We were always introduced as his children. Never once did I ever feel like a stepchild.
Dad was a simple man — he loved and he loved deeply. He loved my mom with every fiber of his being. She was his world. He loved his dog, Twister — who we lost in the fire as well. We also lost their cat, Jersey in the fire. They are all somewhere — together.
Looking back I have so may wonderful memories of Dad. He helped me work on my Pontiac Sunbird — he wanted to make sure the speedometer was correct. So he drove beside me in his car on Kellogg and he help up one finger for 40 mph and two for 60. There we drove — on a FREEWAY in tandem. That’s the kind of man he was.
Then there was the time I scored two tickets to the monster truck show. We spent the evening cheering on our favorite monster trucks. He loved hanging out with us kids — no matter what it was were were doing. Again, that’s just the kind of man he was.
Looking back at family pictures, dad was frequently in them. My college graduations. Holidays. Birthdays. Life won’t ever be the same without him.
Dad knew no stranger. He would spend hours talking to people and telling stories of his life. He truly loved everyone and could bring a smile to anyone’s face. He was funny. Witty. Dedicated. And loyal. A truly amazing person.
I will miss his humor. I will miss HIM — the world lost a kind, amazing person. His life had a profound effect on mine — and on many others I’m certain.
May he rest in peace and run with his beloved dogs Twister and Flower. I’m certain he’s looking down while idly chatting someone’s ear off — telling them stories of his past and his family.
He wouldn’t want us to be sad. Or mourn him. But how can we not?
He will be missed deeply and dearly.

 

 

 

 

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Turn around

wp-1477057896733.jpgAs I was walking to work the other day a lot of things were floating through my head — how much I had to do, my task list, my next paper due in classes, my novel I need to get finished, etc. And then I realized, I was allowing myself to drown in that moment of “I have so much to do.” Immediately, what came to mind was the “Turn Around Don’t Drown” phrase. Which, by the way, is a great marketing campaign — never drive into water. I’ve linked the campaign above. It’s important information and I want to give proper credit.

With that said, as my mind was swirling and planning out my day, I was missing out on some precious unplug time. I didn’t even look up at the beautiful trees on campus or stop to smile at a stranger — things I love to do. And in that moment, I told myself to “turn around.” I put my phone back into my pocket (which was open to my overused calendar app) and I just walked. I breathed in the air. I took the long way to my office and I got to enjoy the campus fountain and chat with a couple of faculty members. I took a photo and put it on my blog page. By the time I got to my office my mind was clear. My day didn’t seem so busy and the task list didn’t seem to daunting. I was ready to tackle my busy day at a job I love and yearned for some many years to obtain.

In that instant I was able to turn my mind to gratitude. I gave thanks for the wonderful universe which provided me with this incredible day and the ability to get to my incredible job.

So, take some time to turn around today. Take a deep breath and give thanks. Gratitude helps and it truly matters.

 

 

A ‘break’ from gratitude

imageToday I was reading through my blog trying to find an explanation of this project to send to someone, and I was reminded why I started all this. Today was day 1,113 of my gratitude project. To be transparent I did take a little break so it should be more than that, but we all need a break sometimes. But here’s a few things I learned on my “break” from gratitude:

  • I was less grateful (duh, should be a given)
  • I was less satisfied
  • I didn’t stop to appreciate things as much
  • I was less grateful (yes, I already said that, but I’m trying to make a point)
  • I didn’t say thank-you as much
  • I felt like something was missing (after all when you post for 1,000 days straight about something, you miss it after a while)
  • I was less grateful

I could go on and on. Gratitude has been a daily part of my life since 2013 and my little “break” just didn’t work out well for me. I missed it — a lot. Stopping to just be grateful for one thing each day — could be huge things, could be little things — really made a difference. It changed me in ways I couldn’t anticipate. I learned to give thanks each and every day, and especially on the easy days. Because those “easy days” taught me how to handle the hard days. When the hard days came around — the days where the losses were heavy — I turned to gratitude to find my way through it.

Gratitude changed the way I look at the world — if I’m having a bad day all I need to do is look around and find something to be grateful for. On the really bad days? Sure, you have to look harder. In the days following the fire that killed my father, I found gratitude in the kindness of others, so many people came through after that happened. This project was 15 days old when that happened. Gratitude got me through those dark days and through many other difficult experiences. And on the days where I’m feeling quiet, that’s the days when I need gratitude the most.

I hope this post finds my readers well. As always, I’m extremely grateful for each and every one of you.

Gratefully yours,

B.

Gratitude through a migraine

As the title of this blog post indicates, I’m pushing through a migraine today, but with gratitude. Let me explain.

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I’m a wildly driven person – full-time employee in my dream job (truly), and a graduate student who thought she was super woman and took a full-time course load over the summer. No, this isn’t a unique situation, lots of people work full time and take classes, but it does take its toll if you don’t massage in some down time.

Last week was a crazy one – lots of things out of my norm from a two-day university shut down due to a water emergency in the city to being sick Friday evening and again today with a migraine. Not to mention the epic heat wave we had the past several days.

But, I’m grateful. For a variety of reasons. First, the migraine wasn’t one of my “epic” scary migraines. It was a migraine, but a “typical” one for me.  Second, the migraine bought me a few hours of full-stop. As in full-stop in my bed with the fan full-blast. There’s a little bit of bliss in that when you’re constantly running and/or doing something. I’m grateful for the rest I got.

As I sit down to complete some homework with a refreshed mind, (albeit with a little bit of a migraine hangover still), I’m grateful for this opportunity I’m being given to learn and create.

Expecting gratitude of others

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Tonight I came to a realization in regard to expecting gratitude of others. The situation that led me to this realization isn’t important, but I feel it’s important to write about this topic.

I was bumbling around my house tonight feeling disgruntled about something. I realized (with some degree of disappointment in myself) that I was expecting gratitude out of a situation. Gratitude is central in my life — it changed my life. But, I have no right to expect gratitude. With that said, most of us like to be appreciated, but for me, it was coming down to my ego — my ego was expecting gratitude out of something. One of my favorite books by Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements, states this “personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about ‘me.'” By expecting gratitute out of a situation, I was doing just that — making it all about ME.

By expecting gratitute out of a situation, I was not only taking said situation personally, I was stepping out of my sense of gratitude. Should people be grateful? Well, that’s for them to decide. MY personal belief system says I should say thank-you, send hand-written notes thanking people and spending time in gratitude each day. Should other people do that? Again, it’s for them to decide. I have no right to expect gratitude out of situations and people.

As soon as I made this realization tonight, realizing that it is not about ME, I was able to step back into gratitute. I control how I feel and react to things. And I never get to expect gratitude. We’re all living in our own reality and looking through our own lenses.

With all that said, I am grateful for each and every person who reads this.

Gratefully yours,

B.

Grateful for another year

Today, on my birthday, as the emails, Facebook posts, calls and texts roll in, I am reminded that I have so much to be grateful for — the people in my life are incredible, amazing warriors of people. I am truly blessed.

As I reflect on this last year and reflect on my goals for the upcoming year of my life, I am filled with joy and hope. The goals I have for the next year in my life are few, but major and I’m so excited to finally realize a dream I’ve always had. My apologies for being largely absent on this blog. I’m busy making my dreams come true right now. 🙂 IMG_4582

So stay tuned!

And stay grateful! Gratitude changed my life..I promise it’ll change yours too. (But that’s another blog post).

Grateful for knowledge

 

Last night I turFullSizeRender 6ned in my final assignment for the semester, my first semester as a grad student in creative writing. There was quite a bit of celebrating as I hit the submit button, I admit, but also a bit of sadness.

This semester has been a mixture of emotions. I have been out of school for several years, since having earned my MBA. Working at an educational institution, I caught the thirst for knowledge again and decided to pursue another degree — creative writing — while working my full-time job in marketing. I took two classes this semester — one online and one in person. I remember my first class and a wave of gratitude came over me for the knowledge I had the privilege of acquiring. And, believe me, I know what a privilege it is to be able to learn.

Then, reality set in. Assignments started to pile up and I evenings and weekends were consumed with reading, writing and researching. I admit the gratitude waned a bit and I started to have a love-hate relationship with my classes (as most students do). I even dubbed my homework spot in my house “the cave.”

But, as the semester wrapped up, I started to feel sad. I’ll never get a “first semester back” with these classes and my fellow students again. Yes, there will be another semester, but none will ever be quite the same.

I’m so grateful.

To my cheerleaders who had to listen to me groan as I spent hours in my cave, thank you.

I’m so grateful for the gift of knowledge and so grateful for the semesters to come.

The passing of a pen pal

IMG_2736“Dear Brandy, I am sorry to tell you that your mail art friend Andrea, has passed away…”

Today, upon arriving home from work a letter was waiting for me. I’m sitting here at my computer tearfully typing out this post — a beautiful soul left this earth. Her wit, humor and creativity will never arrive in my mailbox again.

My first communication with Andrea was in 2009 when we were matched as pen pals on a letter-writing site. I remember how carefully I wrote my letter — all formal and stuff and then hers arrived a short while later, a colorfully-decorated envelope arrived from Andrea, who lived in Staten Island. Inside she had written on a series of six sticky notes and the letter started out like this “Dear Brandy, oh wow … a new pen pal! My God — Kansas! The only thing I know about Kansas I learned from the Wizard of Oz. I can’t even imagine Kansas!”

I knew right away I had crossed paths with someone truly special. We wrote back and forth from then on, exchanging life stories, tid bits about ourselves, all while supporting the United States Post Office through the art of handwritten letters. Even though we never met in person we were friends — and we learned so much about one another by putting pen to paper.

In one letter she inquired about living next to a corn field “I can’t imagine living next door to a corn field,” she exclaimed and she wanted more details about what it’s like to live next to corn. In another letter she sent me cut outs from a poetry book she bought for $1 at a church store — it was really bad poetry to which she captioned “holy shit!”

She had a dog named “loose fur,” because it was always shedding. I remember when Loose Fur died — how even she was able to apply some humor to Loose Fur’s passing stating that she was still finding his fur all over the place. It’s funny how you can share so much in letters.

A couple of years ago I received a postcard that she had Leukemia. Her wit even came through on that postcard when she ranted about the pharmaceutical companies and the cost of her medication. I had no idea at the time, that in less than two years she’d be gone.

Andrea wrote her own obit, according to her kind friend who wrote me. In that obit she wrote, “I wish I’d get a disease with an easier spelling.” Typical humor from her. She has a monument where she’ll be buried later, which reads “Wish you were here.” I can totally see her writing that.

My heart is heavy tonight as I type this. She will be missed so much by so many and I can’t believe I’ll never be able to write her again. I saved every single piece of mail I received from her and I’m truly glad I did.

Andrea Jay, 69. Teacher. Writer. Vegan. Mail artist. Friend. I’ll miss you.

P.S. I’m going to try that sesame seed tofu ball recipe you sent me in 2012 in your honor.

Kindness. Matters.

img_2288Today, while in a restaurant that was busier than normal due to a weather-related event cancelation, I witnessed several scenes that made me realize just how much kindness matters in this world we live in.

We managed to claim a booth in the seat-yourself restaurant, which had not been cleaned up yet. The diners before us left the worst mess possible. I felt sad for the waitress as she came over looking frantic trying to make sure we had a clean place to eat. I could tell it had already been a rough breakfast shift for her and the others. It took a while to get drinks and much longer than that for food, but, I knew this was going to be the case. I didn’t mind. I took the opportunity to take a break from the cold rain, the hustle of homework and just enjoy the company I had.

At a table in front of me I witnessed a lady yell at a waitress because her food took too long. The waitress politely apologized and walked away. The lady continued to sit at the table looking angry. I turned to my own waitress, thanked her for her hard work to which she replied “thank you. It’s people like you that are understanding that make this bearable.”

Kindness.

Similar scenes like this continued to play out — I wondered what would happen if every table was a little more understanding. Or if the circumstances were reversed and they were the ones having to deal with people just like them.

Another scene played out at a table across from me where a customer was very loudly airing his political beliefs, making sure as many people heard him as possible, even looking around to see who might be paying attention. I won’t go into detail as I do not want to polarize my blog, but his words were very unkind, inhumane and insulting. And it made me so sad. I do not understand the need to spout hate, sending a series poisoned arrows out to see how many people you can hurt. What is the purpose of that? What kind of person do you have to be on the inside? I believe it must be a very dark head space in which to live in…But, that’s not really what I came to write about.

Moments like these remind of who I do NOT want to be — it reaffirms why I do what I do — by writing handwritten thank you notes, by leaving my gratitude cards in places like that busy restaurant and other random acts of kindness that I choose to do quietly without anyone knowing. People that I encountered and listened to today are my inspiration for spreading kindness.

I hope if you’re reading this you’ll consider performing a random act of kindness or simply saying thank you to your busy waitress or anyone else who is in the service industry. Reach out to someone who is hurting. Take chocolate to a coworker having a hard day. Send an email to a friend you haven’t heard from in a while. Or a host of other kind acts.

Friday, I wrote a thank-you note to a colleague who had sent popcorn to our office. She emailed me, thanked me and said the note wasn’t necessary. To which I replied “it was TOTALLY necessary.” What I didn’t include on this email is kindness, which took the form of that thank-you note in response to her popcorn she sent, is absolutely necessary in this world.  Kindness matters. It really matters.

The power of gratitude

img_2288Thank-you note writing has become a way of life for me — therapy after a hard day, a way for me to focus on what’s good in the world. In a world that harbors so much darkness, writing a quick thank-you note for anything from the ordinary to the extraordinary is my way of spreading joy in this world.

Lately I’ve found myself overwhelmed between grad school, a full-time career and just life in general. To say things are busy is an understatement, so I haven’t been taking as much time to sit down and write my thank-you notes. And I can tell the difference.

When I stop taking time for gratitude — something that has become so integral in my life — I can tell the difference in my attitude and my outlook.

Gratitude helps me be thankful for what I have. After all, that’s what gratitude is — being thankful. Even on the horrible days, there’s always something to be thankful for.

So, tonight, I am writing thank-you notes. I’m taking a break from everything else that’s been going on and thanking some people. I can already feel the difference, I already feel lighter.

And if you’re reading this, I’m grateful for you! Thank you for being a reader!

Gratefully yours,

Brandy