I see you

wpid-20150517_112813.jpgToday I wanted to focus on the people who get things done — in the background — ensuring we have things like clean floors, clean bathrooms and clean offices.

When you walk into a building and the floors are polished until they shine and the carpet is vacuumed — that doesn’t happen by itself. When you walk into your office with the trash dumped overnight — that doesn’t happen by itself either. Your fresh, clean hotel room? Nope, doesn’t happen by itself. A well-maintained building doesn’t just happen either.

To the people who work tirelessly in the background, I see you. To the person who makes sure the floors are mopped, the toilets are clean, I see you. I see you in the hallway, in the background, when everyone rushes by, not noticing the contribution you make to our lives. I see you. And I appreciate you. 

To all reading this, take time today to stop and thank the people behind the scenes. From the housekeeper to the maintenance employees. Their contribution to our daily lives is huge.

 

Deep, fierce gratitude

20160310_194909.jpgDeep. Fierce. Gratitude.

As I walked across campus to my car earlier this week I was filled with gratitude. I looked at the changing leaves, listened to them crunch under my feet — and realized as I was walking that I don’t have the life I had always dreamt of — I have the life I never DARED to dream of.

I have an amazing life filled with so many things to be grateful for (and in no particular order):

  • Love. There are so many people in my life who I adore to the moon and back. Most of these people don’t even know how truly amazing they are. (I must tell them more often).
  • Career. I’ve had an incredible career, which, over the years, has afforded me the opportunity to meet so many of the above stated incredible people and be involved in my community. In March I changed jobs — and I’m loving this job so much!
  • Adventures. So. Many. Adventures. I have traveled so much more in my life that I ever thought I could. I’ve seen many amazing places and made incredible memories. I can’t wait to see what adventures lie ahead!!
  • Wealth. I’m not talking monetary wealth here. I am not “wealthy” by any means, but I have enough. ENOUGH. And I know that alone, makes me wealthy.
  • Kindness. This is a big one. Not only do I strive to be kind, I have met so many kind people. Even the simplest act of kindness can change a life.
  • Health. Another big one. I treasure my health. Because it can be ripped away in a second.

I could go on and on with the list above, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll move on with my thought process. With all the above said, 2016 hasn’t been all roses. And without getting too intensely personal (which I rarely do on my blog posts), a few people in my life decided to head for the exit sign and I have also chosen that path with a few friendships that had become toxic. I’m talking people you never think you’d ever have leave your life. Not easy. But, again, I have some really amazing people in my life that were right there, helping me put the pieces back together. (And this portion of the post makes me teary-eyed). For all those who listened to me, texted and consoled. Thank you. 

Deep. Fierce. Gratitude. 

It’s what keep me humble.

Gratitude in a snore

*** Disclaimer: tear-jerker post about aging pets/pet loss.

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The crew. Chewie, Mayiah and PJ

Very early this morning when the sun was still well on the other side of the world and the house was still, I was awake, the sound of snoring in my right ear. That sound used to keep me awake for hours and it used to drive me crazy.

Now, I’m grateful for it. I’m grateful for the soft snores. The loud snores. The wake-me-up snores. I’m grateful for all of them. Even if I lose sleep.

Those snores belong to my elderly dog, Chewie, who for some reason has decided to sleep on the pillow, right next to my ear. I think it may have something to do with the Chillow that’s on that side of the bed (he likes to sleep on it because it’s cool). Chewie is on bought time, has heart failure and a host of other aliments. My poodle, Mayiah, who is about the same age, recently started sticking to Chewie like glue. She won’t let him out of her sight. Since I know dogs are pretty intuitive, it makes my heart ache even more. I know our time together is short. “Be still, my aching heart,” I often have to whisper to myself.”Enjoy every moment and don’t let pre-sorrow rob you.”

Yesterday I looked online for a dog paw impression kit. It’s time. It’s time to do it before he slips away and it’s too late.  It’s time to do it before the other two slip away and it’s too late. It’s time to face the fact that time is getting short. Not doing that for my other dog, Jade, before she passed, was one of my biggest regrets.

As my precious Chewie gets closer to his “Rainbow Bridge” I miss the days where his nickname was “Dammit Chewie” because as a puppy he was a classic terror who liked to chew on furniture and sleep in the clothes basket. He would jump up on tables and walk all over the computer keyboard — apparently he’s part-cat. I miss those days when he was young and I didn’t think about time being short. When time was long.

Right now he’s stable. And happy. And comfortable. That makes me happy. I’m grateful for every mess he makes right now. Every snore. Every time he squeaks a toy or shreds a newspaper. (He has an odd obsession with newspaper — he either shreds it or sleeps on it).

I’m grateful for EVERY. SINGLE. MOMENT. Every one. With Chewie. And Mayiah. And PJ. And while I’m at it, every other person in my life who I know time is relatively short with.

I found gratitude in a snore.

Gratefully yours,

Brandy

 

Day 800 of thankfuls, 800 days of change

wpid-20150525_140935.jpgI cannot believe my thankful project reached day 800 a few days ago. Day. 800. That’s a lot of living!

My journey with posting thankfuls on my personal Facebook account began in November 2013 — almost three years ago. I started it, like many of my Facebook friends, during the month of Thanksgiving and I only intended to do it for those 30 days.

Halfway through that month, my mother had a house fire and we lost our dad in that fire. I decided to keep going — to not only find something good about those terrible days, but to also honor him. Eight hundred-plus posts later, here I am.

This journey, more than anything, has been unexpected. I didn’t expect to keep the posts going so long (but I’m glad I have) and I didn’t expect many of the life changes/surprises along the day.

During the past few years I’ve loved and lost. I’ve had my amazing days, my so-so days and my downright painful days. I had major surgery. I am changing careers in a week. So many changes, so much growth.

What I’ve learned about this life is that one thing is certain: it is ever-changing. And most of the time you don’t see those changes coming. Sometimes they show up wrapped up in a pretty bow in a box full of joy. Other times they blindside you and cut you to your knees.

I can say, with honesty, that I’m grateful for every change. I’ve learned something from every one. I’m learning to enjoy life in the moment. I’m learning to embrace change no matter what the change is.

Here’s to the next 800 days!

 

Grandma’s Mister Wonderful

In honor of Valentine’s Day this past Sunday, I decided to ask my grandmother to tell her love story — which to me is one of the greatest stories I’ve ever heard.

My maternal grandparents had 45 years together before my grandfather passed away from cancer when I was in high school. Their love story is unique, touching and I’m honored she is allowing me to t35866_1145774580350_6490213_nell it. Their story begins in 1945.

“We saw each other walking down the street,” my grandma, Frances, said. “He was walking with my best friend’s younger brother. He asked her brother to arrange a date for the four of us, which turned out to be horseback riding.”

That first date was a successful one, because my grandfather, Warren Ashen, asked her out again.

“The next day he called for a movie date,” she said. “We were both 17. My girlfriend told me he was younger than me. I said ‘What? I’m not going to marry him.’”

My grandmother was joking of course. It’s an ongoing joke in our family that he was always younger than her. The rest, as she says, is history.

“By June when I was 18, we got engaged,” Grandma said. “But we had to wait until December when he was 18.”

My grandparents got married in January 1946.

“We were married 45 wonderful years,” she said. “I called him Mr. Wonderful after the song Peggy Lee sang and he was wonderful.”

Some of the words to Mr. Wonderful read like this:

“Why this feeling? Why this glow?

Why the thrill when you say hello?

It’s a strange and tender magic.

Mister Wonderful, that’s you.”

The song is melodic, touching and so tender. And such a testament to my grandmother’s love for my grandfather. I will admit, it made me tear up listening to the words as I type this column.

My grandfather had his own name for my grandmother.

“He called me ‘My Funny Valentine’ after a song because he said he never knew what I would do next,” she said.

The words to that song read like this:

“You’re my funny valentine.

“Sweet, comic valentine,

“You make me smile with my heart.”

This song also embodies the love my grandfather had for her. My grandmother is funny, witty, and indeed those three lyrics expresses how deeply he loved her. My grandmother has a funny story she tells about my grandfather in regard to these songs.

“Your Grandpa would sing both songs to me,” she said. “Because once Peggy Lee when he was in Las Vegas sat down on the stage and sang right to him and touched his cheek when it came up in the song. He always thought of it as his song and he said ‘sorry honey, you just don’t compare,’ but of course I knew that I did (compare). I was so glad that happened to him, even though I wasn’t there. And she was his favorite singer especially after that.”

My Grandmother has many memories of my Grandfather, she said.

“He was so great,” she said. “I only have great memories and that’s what I think God wants me to remember.”

I too have so many wonderful memories of my grandparents. I loved to write letters back and forth to them as a child. Grandma always wrote me back and at the end of each letter she’d write “Grandpa says hi.” I have every single letter to this day tucked away in a box. Grandma and I still exchange special letters, presents and we just started mailing a plastic pigeon back and forth (the “wandering” pigeon, my blog’s namesake) — yes, you can mail a plastic pigeon as-is. This is the type of relationship I’ve always had with my grandparents.

My grandparents have four children — three girls and one boy. Today they have numerous grandchildren, great and great-great grandchildren. I remember looking around at a family reunion last summer and just soaking in the glory of being with my extended family. I was listening to the chatter, watching her youngest descendents run around and someone said to my grandmother “You started all this.”

Indeed they did.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

The happy jar

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My happy jar is on the right, sitting on top of the box the pieces of paper are stored in.

For the third  year in a row, I kept a “happy jar” next to my bed and each day I put a slip of paper in it with one “happy” thing that happened that day. I also threw in events and movie tickets.

I started doing this after seeing a Facebook post about it. Years ago I set out to find my happy jar. I found it in a local antique store — an old glass jar, which I suspect was used to store honey at one time since it’s shaped like a bear. I love that old, vintage jar.

Each year, on Dec. 31, I empty the jar (which has usually takes several shakes as it’s been stuffed many times). This year’s pile, all 365-plus of them, took a while to go through, but I realized, most of them are simple, everyday moments. Reading all those made me realize how much I value the moments — after all, that’s what life is made of anyway — moments.

These moments included the birth of my nephew, Kizen, getting to see my cousin get married, attending my niece’s 16th birthday party, getting to spend time with my grandmother and my aunt from California and getting to spend time with my other aunt and cousins and lots of time with my mom, brother and his family. I also made new friends in 2015. I realized, reading all those notes of time spent with various people in my life that I’m close to — family and friends are most important to me. Which, on a side note, leads me to some of my new year’s resolutions, which include eliminating things that get in the way of those moments.

This year also was the year of movies for me. In 2015 I had movie tickets from the following: Crimson Peak, Kindsman: The Secret, Star Wars, Vacation, Jurassic World 3D, Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Still Alice, Poltergeist 3D, Paranormal Activity: Ghose Dimension and Everest. And those were just the ones I threw in the jar. I’m sure I saw more.

I also got to see Loretta Lynn in 2015, the Blizzard Bash and got to go to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, twice for long weekends. And there were lots of day trips in between taking photos and just exploring Kansas.

In the middle of all this, I also had a major surgery just a few days after my 39th birthday.

All the preceding is in one year — so many treasured moments. So. Many. I am so excited to see what 2016 has to offer. I have many personal goals that will make this year even better.

So, if you want a real treat, considering starting a happy jar (or box) and placing one slip of paper in it each day. Then sit back on New Years Eve and realize how many moments you might have forgotten that life blessed you with that year.

Happy 2016!

Thankful for gratitude

My daily thankfuls on my personal Facebook account are up over 550 days now. For those of you who aren’t familiar with my project, I chose to start posting daily thankfuls at the beginning of November some 550 days ago. Right in the middle of that, my father was killed in a fire so I kGazette Portraitsept going in honor of him — and to keep myself sane while grieving that horrible tragedy.

Today, I keep going for two reasons: it keeps me grateful and I have had so much feedback from other people how much they enjoy reading them. So, I do it for myself and for others who enjoy reading.

Lately I have found myself grateful for gratitude itself. I have found that if I can move into gratitude at any moment, it changes my outlook — and my attitude. At work I can look around and be grateful for the wonderful, creative freedom I have at the paper and for the amazing, creative people I work with. In my life I’m grateful for my home, the people I love and my fur-children. The list is longer than that, of course.

All around us there are things to be grateful for — the beautiful leaves on the trees, the soft spring air, the air in our lungs. I’m grateful for that.

Day 400 of thankfuls

Today, Dec. 10 is day 400.

A quick back story because I’ve told it a few times: 400 (roughly) days ago I decided to join the November thankful challenge where you post one thing you’re thankful for each day during November. Fifteen days into that challenge a house fire killed my dad. During those dark days my family suffered through that followed that tragedy I kept the thankfuls going — because I needed to — not because someone had challenged me.

Dec. 1 of that year came and I posted another. Dec. 2, another. And so on … until I got to today — 400 days.

When I look at the number 400 in the scope of all this, it’s amazing. For 400 days I’ve posted one thing a day that I’m thankful for. Four hundred days. And no, I do not plan on stopping anytime soon.

What I’ve learned these past 400 days is this:

  • Gratitude increases happiness.
  • Gratitude inspires others.
  • There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Always.
  • Beauty can be found in the darkest of places.
  • Gratitude is contagious.
  • It’s all about attitude — in any situation. In many situation, when I turn my bad attitude into a moment of being thankful for the challenge, I find my entire day shifts.
Here is to the next 400 days!

Gratitude

I was reading a book last night and it suggested that I get a journal and make it my gratitude journal. Me, being very diligent in journaling, jumped right up, found and empty one and then read what I was supposed to do next. It said write a master list. Ok….so I listed 10 things to put on my master gratitute list. I read the next sentence and it said you had to have 50 things on the master list. FIFTY!!

I wasn’t pleased by this as I didn’t think I could come up with 50 and get any sleep whatsoever. But it was easier than I thought. Much easier. I listed 50 + items in less than 10 minutes. I believe I’m almost up to 100. It wasn’t hard when you get in that mind set to figure out what you’re grateful for.

The book that I”m reading says if I do this every day I will soon will soon see a change in myself and that I will be sitting in gratitude more my pessimitude. Yes, I made the latter word up!

So, gratitude it is.