And one last thought…

Friends, I want to thank all of you who have interacted, liked, and sent me emails about this blog. It has been a great thing for me to do.

I’m a fan of baby steps. Crawling before walking. Easing into things.

Please join me over at my new blog at http://www.jamiesthinks.com. I’m still tweaking the page to add some of the features we all know and love.

You can find the page on facebook to keep with the updates in the meantime: https://www.facebook.com/Jamiesthinks

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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Final thoughts… Going Forward

I was reading something recently about someone who passed away. The commenter said something along the lines of, ” I felt like he was a much better friend to me than I was to him… … Now that he’s gone, I feel like I owe him something.”

This made me think about friendships… Relationships really. …about going forward in 2015.

My first thoughts are my family and closest comrades. If any one of them were to die, I know that I would feel this incredible void. Grief isn’t something I’ve proven to do well with and, quite honestly, to try and fathom the feelings sends my heart sinking and palpitating. On top of which – if I could imagine losing one of them without me feeling confident that they know, from deep within my heart, how much they mean to me… That’s just such a tragedy. A deep, deep tragedy.

I feel quite certain that almost all of them know how much I care for them but there might be a few people that I just haven’t expressed my deep love or admiration to.

And this also gets me thinking about how well we love ourselves..

This is a hard thing for most people, including myself, to be comfortable with. There can be “rewarding” yourself with that one time massage or mani/pedi or shopping extravaganza, but I know moms like me feel a little awkward sometimes to take the time or spend the money.

Taking it a few steps further… I’m thinking about the inner dialogue about yourself. I know mine, as of late, had been astoundingly atrocious. My clothes are tight, my muscle tone is all but completely gone and I currently have the face of a 16 year old. Seriously, I haven’t seen acne this bad since freshman year! The terms pretty or beautiful are the last words on my mind when I look in the mirror.

And then there’s the thing you ARE capable of… Like writing a book, learning piano, or starting a side business. The feat, however, seems quite daunting so you talk yourself out of it before you even get started.

If we continue to deny ourselves positive dialogue, some “me time” and the satisfaction of succeeding at a goal then we’ve done ourselves a disservice. Like I wrote in the first paragraph, “… I feel like I owe him something.” What if you died tomorrow? I realize that most of us would be excited because we get to leave this place and finally get to heaven but we might not have made full use of what we were put here for… Or experience it in a way God intended by using our passions and talents.

To put it even further in perspective, if you’re stuck in a job that isn’t fully utilizing the talents and gifts you do have, you’re being underutilized. If the people you work for or with (or both) don’t believe you are capable or aren’t the kindest people in your life, you’re spending the majority of your life being undervalued and maybe even disrespected.

God intended more for you. He intended more for US. While I am a believer that you can do “God’s work” wherever you are, if you’ve tried and tried again and can’t seemed to find a way to be fulfilled doing it then maybe you need to change course.

So, 1) Let’s make 2015 a year of LOVE! Be sure you’re shining your light and trying your hardest to be the best version of you. It doesn’t mean you HAVE TO lose 10 pounds or HAVE TO get to the gym 5 times a week. It just means make a plan about being a better YOU… Whatever that may be.

This includes things like doing more reading, reading more of His word, doing that stuff you hate doing but has been sitting on your to-do list for years.

2) This also includes letting people know you love them… Especially those folks you’re pretty sure don’t know it. I don’t know how many times I’ve already written on this, but it’s plenty. You don’t have to come out and say it. You don’t have to be over the top. Just do a few little things this year that gets the point across. Send flowers just because. Write a letter. Give a hug. I guarantee you’re gonna melt someone’s heart.

3) Let’s stop the negative self talk. Ladies, we’re the worst! The only person who seems to care what size your pants are is you. The only person who sees your face under makeup is you. The only person who knows all the places you’re having to shave these days is you.

4) Get a plan together for meeting some personal goals for 2015. Maybe it’s athletic but I’m thinking more creative and business. Just sign up for that damned class already. Get educated on a new venture. Buy some paints and canvases and have some fun.

5) REWARD yourself! One company I used to work for did an excellent job celebrating wins. Big wins, small wins, it didn’t matter. Emails went out. Beers were bought. Impromptu parties were held. Big parties were planned. It’s very important to celebrate all your wins. Light on funds? Make a you night. Pick a movie only YOU would want to see and enjoy! Just do something, ANYTHING.

Again, let’s make 2015 be about love and this includes YOURSELF. Think about each day as if it were your last… It truly will change your perspective.

Diving into the Abyss

There are only a few times in life where I vividly recall feeling like I was jumping into the wide unknown…  where a decision I made was a monumental life milestone and any wrong decision would cause the entire train to derail.

The times in life when I felt like this was when I decided on a college, changed my degree of study, said yes to marriage and every career move I’ve ever made.

I don’t think this feeling is necessarily a bad thing but it is most uncomfortable. I recall previously writing about wishing God had neon signs pointed certain directions at those monumental times. Staring down at an abyss is no different. Are you supposed to jump? Are you supposed to walk away? Are you supposed to stand a while longer?

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. – Romans‬ ‭12‬:‭12

And it seems to me that these points in life don’t happen when things are hunky-dory. They happen when your soul is yearning for change… Possibly when God Himself wants you to change.

As we near the close of 2014, THANKFULLY I might add, I feel this yearning. There are areas in my life that I have allowed the desire for instant gratification take over the hard work for the prize at the end. There have been long months of off and on sickness for me and my family that have kept things I used to enjoy at bay. There are things that I’m not certain how to go about accomplishing that it’s defeating before I even start.

I’m not a big resolutions person. I get irritated with myself for waiting until a Monday to restart eating healthy and exercise, let alone some magical number on a calendar. And trust me… I’ve seen the gym in January and then later in April. The routine doesn’t stick. Things get hard. A priority made on December 31st doesn’t seem as appealing on February 12th.

I don’t know about you, but usually when I fix one area of myself other areas fall into line. If I’m eating right and exercising, I’m more positive. If I’m a positive person, I’m a calmer parent. If I’m a calmer parent, either I’m finding ways to get the little things around the house accomplished or they just don’t matter. Either way it’s a win-win.

So, cheers to you for your endeavors whether made this week or weeks/months prior. May God lead us to the goals He’s blessing and fight back the nay-Sayers and enemies on our paths.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.- Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭3‬

Mortality… And the Bucket List

As I’m mid-life I’ve been thinking about being older. Not necessarily in a horrible kind of way, just what seems to be coming with age. The constant low back aches, the forever tiredness, and the fact that I’m now taking a multi-vitamin and iron pill daily… Not to mention the irreversible affects of bearing children.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. – Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭31

On top of the daily VISIBLE reminders… The grey hairs, the permanent wrinkles, the veiny hands and dark circles under my eyes.
IMG_9822.PNGyoung me with my high school bestie.

IMG_8931.JPGme mid-life. My beauty peaked somewhere inbetween.

I’m not ashamed about getting old, it’s a process – getting older. It’s like any life. Just as a beautiful rose blooms from a tiny bud, becomes stunning and eventually withers and dies, so too is human life. I think the problem with humans, however, is our clinging and constant wondering about when we were at our peak… Or if we missed our peak… Or if we WILL miss the peak. Unfortunately our mental peak doesn’t line up with our physical beauty so it’s sort of a colossal joke. Youth being wasted on the young isn’t just a saying, it’s a fact.

So now I sit here, and I know some of you do as well, and I do wonder about my own mortality. You read about those people in peak shape that die of a freak heart attack.. Or someone who died in a car crash with young children at home. I don’t walk in worry but these things DO happen.

So it makes me revisit this idea of a “bucket list.”

I have one, I don’t know how common it is to have one. I actually have one hand written. On it is a small list of about 10 things. They get scratched off as they happen and the list grows as well. As time goes by some of the items get removed because the allure of them disappears.

But this idea of a bucket list can be dangerous. So many people save up so much stuff for when they retire. They wait until some magical day when their mortgage is paid or they work their last full day of work or they get that inheritance to do their bucket list.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭33

I’m related to a beautiful and mystical woman. She isn’t attracted to riches of this earth and has always sought fulfillment from within and knew she had God-given talents and honed in on them. She’s an artist, both a painter and a photographer.
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She approached life in a smart way. She constantly worked on her art and for her job she worked at the Art Institute of Chicago. While her job was an administrative one, she surrounded herself with what she loved.

She longed for that day of retirement where she could dedicate MORE time to her painting and volunteer work at a botanical garden.

Yet, not long after she retired she fell ill. We believe she had a stroke or a series of mini-strokes. She lost good use of her right arm and hand. Her painting days were gone immediately.

This happened about 10 years ago. She’s still not in the best of health, in her mid-70s, and hasn’t done much with her art since she retired.

I’m happy for her that she didn’t put all her art off until that infamous day of retirement because we witnessed first hand what happens.

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My dear old Dad looked forward to traveling after he retired. Unfortunately, ever since he retired he’s been busy with life. Marrying me off, helping his elderly parents and mother-in-law, all their deaths and what follows when your parents die, his own wife’s illnesses and now his own. His travels have consisted of a few trips to Florida. While those are still admirable trips, it’s not Hawaii or oversees like he wanted. He’s been retired for 14 years. I don’t see a big vacation in his immediate future. He’s 75.

So this whole idea of a bucket list… My list consists of things that I COULD do tomorrow if I wanted. I COULD go to Israel. I COULD join a band. I COULD start painting. I COULD learn another language. For me, right now however, life seems a bit too busy to take on another project or unending commitment. So I put some of these things off until next year or 5 years from now.

And to be honest, if I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t have but maybe one regret about what I DIDN’T do for a variety of reasons.

1) My life has become less about material/earthly things and more about relationships. Granted, people ARE earthly so there is that fine line but given the choice to a one shot at a deep discussion with a friend, feeling more deeply connected or a free weekend getaway, I THINK I’d pick the former.

2) heaven is for real and it’s gonna be awesome. I know, in my heart of hearts, that I will likely not get to go to the birthplace of my Grandfather, the family vineyard in Germany, the Pyramids at Giza and Israel. If I get to do one of them I will be lucky. But that knowledge or experience I want to grasp on that travel I WILL gain when I die. I WILL finally understand my genealogy completely. I WILL have that experience of Israel. I WILL know what the vineyard feels like. All of these things, left undone, are no big deal. Experiencing GOD is the big deal.

IMG_1450.JPG my immigrant Grandfather Attilio and my Grandma Rose

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm‬ ‭73‬:‭26‬

3) the list is ever changing and things built up and made to be a phenomenal thing doesn’t always live up to your expectation.

I had on my list to see the band The Gipsy Kings. I loved their music and the way it made me feel. It was something I didn’t believe would be easily attainable because they are from Spain and when they make their tours in the U.S., it’s to places in Texas, California, and Florida. A few years ago they were coming to my town. I HAD to go. So I talked my translator, and best friend, into going (there really was no twisting her arm about it) and we went. The music was great but a couple of the singers were enjoying the ladies running up on stage and rubbing up on them. And while I’m not prudish it just wasn’t something I wanted to see. And the singers, they all but encouraged it.

So, I did something on my bucket list but wasn’t at all how I dreamed it. Expectations are easily ruined, that’s why it’s good never to have them in the first place. A trip to Italy might be ruined with bad weather, rude people or bad food (as if!). Learning another language might be harder and take longer than EXPECTed. It’s good just to name it and move on. God will bless as He will.

Anyway, go ahead and dream a little. You can dream big but be prepared for those dreams not being met. I prefer to dream smedium… Small attainable ones (running a half marathon, getting body fat below 20%, painting more) and medium attainable ones (learn another language, play more music, planning vacations), with a smattering of big dreams (owning a horse, going to Egypt, etc). Smedium goals can be met in time. Big dreams might not ever be met. With a list loaded of big dreams, nothing will get scratched off and, hence, you’ll feel like you’re not living life.

Appreciate what you DO have, family, friends, a home, vehicle, family road trips, a job to pay for the stuff, and Sunday ice cream. 😉 It’s easy in every aspect of life to lose the trees in the forest. Appreciate the trees… They are beautiful too.IMG_8497.JPG

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, – Ecclesiastes‬ ‭2‬:‭24‬

Strong Women – Part II (Strong versus Hardened)

Yesterday, I was discussing life with a good friend. As of late my life feels rather messy (but this statement could be a little off for a variety of reasons including 1) there hadn’t been sunlight in a week or more, 2) yesterday was the worst day of sickness in a month – I think I finally got strep from my son Yippee!, 3) my entire family is sick and 4) I MIGHT be hormonal) and I was thinking about others around whose life feels messy too. And one of my friends, holy geez does she have it worse than everyone else combined at the moment. It got me thinking about how WE, as women, allow ourselves to handle life. How will we allow our lives to be shaped by the mess.

I look at women in my life and how their lives have been changed by hardships. Some of these women talk openly about them and others are quiet as a mouse about the past, like a vault. I think about these family stories/life experiences and how there are at least two choices in approaching life (there are likely more options than just two). 1) allow the painful experience to wash over you, to learn from it, use it to draw out your beauty or 2) make sure no one ever knows the story, don’t let the experience change you, keep a stiff upper lip and never say a word.

Life was different 30, 40 and 50 years ago. There was a whole lot more judgement going on. People wagging their fingers at people with addiction problems, divorce, adult children who made bad choices, the list goes on. People lived by a societal moral code, which is good but they used it as a measuring stick to point out people’s mishaps or unplanned life events.

There’s a family we are very close with and the matriarch was always very tight-lipped about the goings on of her children and grandchildren, most of which have addiction problems. She was always of the opinion it was nobody’s business. Yet, in her world she created sort of a house of lies. She was creating a picture to the outside world about what her family was like even though it wasn’t an accurate picture.

Most might say, “Jamie, so what. It’s nobody’s business.” And that’s true. It’s no one’s business if they are in the business of judging. But if it’s family or close friends, why hide that? How can we bear each other’s burdens and bind each other’s wounds if we have no idea what they are?

I’m taking it a step further also and saying to keep this stuff bottled up, like Pandora’s box, affects personalities… It makes people hard. It’s a mask. It’s a front to portray to the world that everything is hunky dory when really it’s not. It makes people phony… ESPECIALLY if they, in turn, start shaming others with problems.

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. – Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭18‬

So how to allow painful experiences shape us without hardening us?

I would venture to say it’s important again to understand 1) that God is weeping with you. He didn’t cause the scenario to happen to ruin your life. He allowed it to happen and you need to run to Him with your pain. That’s first and foremost and 2) that God has a lesson to be learned in the situation for you. It may be hard to figure out what the lesson is but it is there.

Also, if you start bottling these messes up, at some point it’s going to have to come out. If one keeps sweeping things under the rug, the rug will begin to have a mound to trip over. Deal with your feelings of anger, guilt and sadness sooner rather than later. It may take a tremendous amount of time to resolve so don’t wait.

It’s my opinion that how women, people in general, deal with their crises mold their persona as they age. I can’t help but think of the elderly I grew up with… Both the joyful and the cranky and unsettled. Then I look at their end of life. At the end, the joyful had peaceful exits. They made their peace with the world and were ready to race through that gate. The cranky/unsettled, well, that’s a different story.

The cranky/unsettled, in my childhood/young adulthood recollection, had drawn out departures. They had a series of unfortunate events that added to their pain and their family around them. Their departures were different as well… Peace was not made with others and the world so it seems the grieving handled it differently than those racing through the gate.

They say that you should always begin things with the end in mind. So, in this life we should be focusing on the end, which is weird I realize. However, we MUST approach our life thinking about our departure from this life. How do we want our exit to be? Do we want people wondering if we truly loved them? Do we want people scratching their heads about what was always heavy on our hearts? Do we want people to wonder what it was that made us tick?

If you don’t lay it out there… If you don’t let people know who you are, what you stand for and who you love they will never know. You being an instrument of God’s love and peace will not be made known if you don’t show it… Say it… Express it somehow. And how can you do any of those things if you’re sweeping things under the rug or bolting the bulging Pandora’s box?

Like I’ve written about before, you can’t love a little here and hate a little there. You are either LOVE or you’re not. Same is true with being hardened. You are either HARD or you’re not.

So, allow those life experiences, both good and bad, wash over you and shape you. Allow them to make you STRONG in dealing with life… STRONG in love. Don’t allow them to make you hard, shutting yourself out from the outside world and not fully experiencing the life God intended for you. If you don’t get out there, you won’t experience the love in the world and despite as hard as it tries not to, there still is a lot of love in the world. Go live it. Go love it. Go share it. Be STRONG.

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. -1 Corinthians‬ ‭13‬:‭7‬

Strong Women – Part I

Funny People in Serious Times (a.k.a. “Red Nose, Sad Face”)

I don’t consider myself among the realm of funny people. I may draw laughs, usually using my own idiotic ideas or outgoing nature… But I’m not naturally funny. I’m not quick witted. I’m not sarcastic. I’m not wry. I have no timing. Yet, why at almost 40 years old do I keep doing silly things for laughs?
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There is a drum and a beat and mine is my own. I don’t like to just follow along with boring standards designed by society (insert teacher, boss, familial authority, etc). And while this could be considered disrespectful, I just never felt like I thrived in stagnant environments and wasn’t ever trying to be disrespectful. So, those kids who are called “hyperactive” or the “talker,” I get it. I really do.

Kids who have this gene are just trying to be themselves. They aren’t trying to be disrespectful. They aren’t trying to be disruptive. They are just trying to feel alive. They have an entire lifetime of energy that’s bottled up and contained for 8 hours every. single. day.

I am amazed that my daughter is able to keep it together at school because when she’s at home it is goofy city… Non-stop silliness and belly laughs until bedtime. The teachers haven’t once complained or said anything about her being disruptive or talking too much. Maybe she’s already able to do something I could not.
IMG_9366.JPGPhoto by my talented sister-in-law at Melbe Photography.

If you don’t have this talking gene then you have no idea how excruciating it is to just bite your tongue. Honestly, the tongue would bleed. Think of it like a tea kettle… If you don’t let the words or silliness out then you just feel like you’re going to blow up. A little bit of words here and there lets the steam off so you don’t go bonkers.

But I look at those naturally funny people. The quick witted ones. The people who always seem to know what’s funny and what isn’t. The ones who ALWAYS draw a laugh and also are keen to know when to turn it off. I wish it was a bit more perfected.

I remember being in high school and one of my friends would often request I do something silly to make her laugh. The request was innocent enough but if you had to ask me, it wasn’t going to be natural. It would be forced. I’m goofy, not a performer.

The flip-side to this is when I’m down. I don’t think I feel the “blues” or depression any greater than anyone else but it’s easy to read and it affects my natural persona which is annoying. People can easily tell when something is off… There’s no hiding it.

The other problem is I think for some people, when the class clown (literally, they voted. I won. YIPEE!) is serious they aren’t sure how to take her. They might mistake the class clowns as being ignorant or incapable of having genuine intelligent thoughts… Or feeling deep, personal pain.

I’ve read some information in the past year or so about extroverts and introverts and dissecting each. Often people write so much stuff about being introverted that the rest of the world doesn’t get to hear the serious side/dynamics of being extroverted. Likely, maybe, because extroverts always have the floor and introverts need a way to get their information out there. But there’s a deep side of extroverts as well.

I don’t believe you can toss people into two camps and walk away anyway. There are different extremes to being both introverted and extroverted. Some introverts are so bad off they can’t leave the house with their debilitating social anxiety. Some extroverts are so bad off they get medicated to calm down.

If you look at the laundry list of well-known extroverted people who have addiction or depression problems, it’s not hard to understand their situations. I imagine being an insanely outwardly expressive performer must feel a bit like living with personality disorder at times. Think of it… You’re “on” all the time, whether you want to be or not. People expect you to. Maybe they spend so much time “on” that when its time to experience deep pain, they aren’t sure how to process it.

All the same, I can tell you that “clown” would be a nice mask to hide behind 24/7. You wouldn’t have to do anything seriously. Your world wouldn’t demand that you know how to do anything except be funny (no longer would I have to figure out the cost of a remodel project in a downtown office building… Who would take my proposal seriously? Especially after I signed it in smiley faces…). You could just shut down and only turn it “off” for those deeply serious moments (which I would ensure only happened very rarely).

So, hats off to my funny extroverted comrades. Go put on your red nose and face that crisis… Maybe, just maybe, you can make others smile your way through it. Which is what you are designed to do anyway, right? Making other people laugh…

What has Facebook become?

I remember when I first got on Facebook (FB). I was so excited to see pictures of people I hadn’t seen in years, decades even. Pictures of their children… Pictures of their spouse… It felt like prying but people were putting it out there. It felt dishonest almost, like snooping. It was like meeting up for coffee with our photo albums only I didn’t have to pay for my coffee and the stories only lasted as long as it took me to read the captions.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit to looking people up whom I didn’t care for just to pry into their life and see how their life had changed through the years. Or looking up people I barely knew to see some personal details of their life.

For the younger generation growing up with FB, it’s probably a little different in that there is no lapse of time with the majority of their FB friends. They made these friends in middle school, high school or college so there’s not a long span of time to reacquaint yourself with the other person.
…and I do worry about these younger people’s ability to communicate.

But now we are HERE. Nearly everyone is on FB. I don’t think I’ve made a new FB friend in months… And not that I haven’t been asked, I’m just selective. And even then, I have my privacy levels set up strictly. Not everyone who asks to be my friend is a real life “friend.” Therefore, not everyone gets to see pictures of my children or read my mind-blowing quips about life (truly, they are earth shattering, I know).

And given my strict approach to my FB friends, I rarely reach out to make new FB friends unless I’m obsoletely comfortable with sharing my stuff with them. Otherwise, that would just be me wanting to pry into the other person’s life and, frankly, it’s not appealing anymore.

So I look at my feeds as of late and I don’t know about you but I’m pretty bored. Only a few folks post some originally funny stuff or even pictures of their children or monumental occasions… And with all the news sites I follow on FB, it’s become a feed strictly of articles, quizzes and the occasional picture.I’m so glad people quit posting pictures of their gaming on FB. THAT was a real low point.

I’ve even gone stretches of not checking in, and honestly it just takes longer to go through the feeds to see anything.

I think part of the problem is the folks that I’d love to read more stuff from post very little and the folks that I do like to read stuff from are buried beneath a bunch of junk of the myriad of over-posters (yes, I’ve had my days I know).Yes, there is the feeling sometimes that people on FB have all become sheeple.

If it wasn’t for this blog here, I think I’d turn it off for awhile. Although, I’ve done that before, only to be greeted with missing out on a few pictures here and there and some life events from others that I didn’t find out about otherwise (deaths, weddings, etc).

And, honestly, I can count on one hand how many people who I felt closer to because of FB. …that person from high school that you didn’t really connect with then but have a lot in common with now. …that co-worker you no longer work with but get to see their pictures every now and again. …that relative that lives far away that you used to only be able to catch up with once every 5 or 10 years. …that new friend you made but your work/life schedules keep you from having that coffee or lunch that you’d like to do more often.

So what to do with FB? Clean it up? Delete my “likes” so I don’t see all the junk (but there are some random articles I do like)? Make people be more funny?

So now here’s your homework. Go think of something funny and write it on FB. Tag my name to it and you get extra credit… maybe even a high five from me. Memes that you did not create yourself do not count. Pictures of your child or animal doing something something funny doesn’t count… This is all you. Aaaaaand BREAK!

It’s Not Just a 40 Hour Week Anymore

Lately my job has been on my mind more than it has in years past. I used to be able to leave my work at work and when I came home I didn’t think about it much. I think that’s just the nature of work… There will be ebbs and flows. There will be times when work is busy and times when it’s not. There will be times when deadlines are looming and times when the calendar is empty.

This latest “flow” of my work made me think about the affects and influence of the smartphone.

When I first started out in this business (construction), it took me a few years to get a company cell phone. They were privy to projects manager types only. Estimators didn’t have them as there was no real crisis in estimating.

When I made the move to operations it came with a company cell phone. At the time it was a massive Motorola. I’m not even sure it had texting capability. Really it’s primary function was the 2-way radio so we could talk to the on-site superintendents.

Not long after that came the blackberry. This was the first smartphone. I remember using it for email but not much else. I’m not sure apps were a thing just then… If they had them, I don’t recall as I didn’t consider my work phone “personal.”

And then after that was the dawn of the iPhone… The ability to blur your work and personal life all into one. It provides pros and cons both for the employer and for the employee.

At any push of a button you can take a quick break from work and surf your social network sites, read/send personal email and shop. All the same, when you are at home you can access your work email, get on your company’s iCloud to answer questions AND receive/send texts to your boss.

The smartphone has tremendously impacted the work week. I feel badly for new college grads that will work those 60-80 hour weeks only to be greeted with the job that they will never get a break from.

When I was moving up in the ranks, we worked those long hour weeks to “prove” ourselves and be able to back off as we got older. Now that there’s a smartphone in my purse that is not really possible.

Traveling to Texas for a family vacation? You’re taking your phone, right? Any pressing issue and you’re just a button click away.

It’s Saturday. Your phone notifies you that you have a new email waiting so you read it. It’s a pressing issue so you need to respond but it will take some thought. Your entire day spent with family is salt and peppered with ideas in your mind on this email.

Or say your boss decided to send you a passive aggressive email over the weekend. Your entire weekend is ruined.

My conclusion on the smartphone in my life is two-fold… Either we go to two different phones, leave the work phone in the car and live life with the personal phone (or leave both our personal AND work in the car the entire weekend) OR start your own business whereby this constant gnawing is benefitting solely yourself… You’re not working 40 hours a week anyway so you should be rewarded for it.

OR we just trash the smartphone and go back to normal life.

Know Your Tribe

I had an interesting conversation today with an individual that was primarily about genealogy.  The gentlemen is Brazilian, of Portuguese descent.  His wife is a Heinz 57 and feels like she doesn’t have any kind of culture to offer their child.  He talked politely about how America truly is a melting pot of sorts and once you are American, you are AMERICAN and that is your “thing.”  Still, I resonate how his wife feels as I spent much of my life trying to find my tribe to identify with.

Knowing that my grandfather was an Italian immigrant I always felt like connecting with the Italians in our city would be easy and would fill that void.  Yet, it’s not that easy of a thing to do.  Additionally, I’m northern Italian, not southern or from the island of Sicily like so many.

Amazingly I married someone else who was also 1/4 Italian and resonated this same desire. In our early years of marriage we spoke often about him joining the city’s Sons of Columbus so we would have that heritage for our children. We were envious of the city’s Irish descendants because of the strong Irish culture which included Irish step dancing. Yet, logistics and life get in the way and you live how you live. No, our children haven’t been to the Sons of Columbus festival but our daughter has been to the Irish mass at the Irish church. And aside from the culture we bring into our home via cuisine or music, that’s about it (but we are strong in those cultural experiences with them).

So, for me, my ancestral lines are a blood line that just tells a story.  At the end of the day we are all “related” so these details really don’t matter too much.

However, we all need to feel part of a tribe.  Whether it’s at school or work or in our own families.  We need to feel connected to people.  It makes us tick.  It makes us ONE.  I think people live life better and perform life better in the right tribe.

I laugh in the inside about our affinity to the Cajun culture and mine to the Latin. On paper we have no reason to feel such a strong connection to these tribes and yet we do. If we believed in previous lives, I would say we previously lived in mid-1800 New Orleans. This past trip we made to New Orleans, we both nearly shed tears as we again walked through the gates of Jackson Square and made teary goodbyes on our last walk there.

If there was no longing to belong to a tribe, there would be no organized religion, no red-hatters, no quilting guilds, no moose lodges, and no family reunions.

There are so many of us still struggling to find our own tribe. If not a formal one, an informal one. A group of people who share our same values, morals, religion that we click with on a personal level because of similar life experiences whether in the home, school or at work. People walk aimlessly through life, clocking in and out of work, only belonging to the tribe of their four walls at home and longing for more. NEEDING more.

I’ve always thought tribal people still have it right. It DOES take a village. It takes a group of families to help care for our own. It takes people of our own kind to pull us through the hard times, and us them. It take people that know our struggles to celebrate the victories, and us them. It takes a tribe to hold our hands when our integrity begins to falter, to pray for us when things aren’t well and to care for us when things are dreadful… No spouse or child can do it alone.

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy‬ ‭5‬:‭8‬

If you’re out there searching, keep praying. Your tribe may await you in the least expected place. If you know yours, love them with reckless abandon and do your part… Praying continuously.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭32‬

Thanksgiving – 2nd Best Holiday EVERRRRRRR

Last year we embarked on the daunting mission of having Thanksgiving at our home. If there’s one thing that has always made the holidays a little less enjoyable is the task of traveling between houses on the holidays. Christmas we have sorted out (Christmas Eve with his family and Christmas Day with mine) but Thanksgiving and Easter were less than enjoyable.

There it was, Thanksgiving, and we would go to his parents’ home for early lunch but not get TOO full because we had a second dinner just a few hours later. Then we’d get to my parents’ home (after we skipped out on dessert at his parents’) and mom would take offense if we didn’t bring our appetites.

Add trucking two kids 4 and under and it was just a feat.

So last year we decided to just bring both families to us, which also included our siblings and their families… 18 people total.

It was the best Thanksgiving EVER for us. We didn’t have to rush. We didn’t have to save appetites. We didn’t have to worry about anything. Everyone brought a dish or two. His parents helped him with the meal prep as I kept the children occupied and cleaned house. I’m not sure if everyone enjoyed it as much as we did, but it was awesome.

And so this year we’ll do it again. We started getting excited about a month ago and then Brett started getting his grocery list ready a few weeks ago.

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The thing I like most about Thanksgiving (other than 1-my mother in law’s stuffing 2-turkey gravy and 3-turkey) is the laid back affair. It’s not preceded with formal outfits and hours spent at church to come home and rush to get ready to eat. It’s not preceded by an hour long gift giving extravaganza with children tearing through wrapping paper so fast you worry that some gifts accidentally got thrown in the trash. … But what IS it?

What it IS is a day made to glorify a meal… A FAMILY meal… A DAMN GOOD family meal. And it hasn’t been ruined by materialism. It doesn’t involve helping your young children find eggs and Easter baskets in the yard while you shiver from the crisp spring morning dew. It doesn’t involve fear of your children blowing their fingers off with explosives. It is just a day to reflect and give thanks for your blessings and gather ’round the table and break bread together. And we love it. And this year we’re bustin’ out the fine china.

And in reflection I have a damn lot to be thankful for. A whole helluva lot. I have such a generous family. A loving husband who’s the best damn baby daddy this side of the Mississippi… Adoring kids who have hearts of gold… Some killer family members and the best damn girlfriends in the world. …Not to mention all of the material things that God’s blessed me with but frankly if it all went up in smoke tomorrow, it wouldn’t matter. None of this stuff matters… Not my newly painted bedroom, our new car or even my gorgeous boots. Nope.

Thanksgiving also kicks off the countdown to Christmas and the end of the year. And while I hate how the Christmas season just gets started earlier and earlier every year, I hate the materialism more. But I do love New Years. I love prepping for the new stuff… For the resolutions. I like looking back and looking forward. I do hate to wish time away but I am anxious to blow this Popsicle stand and get on with it. I’m ready for 2015. I’m ready for new beginnings. I’m ready to kick some ass and take some names again… But when you get in these holidays it’s almost like slow motion. Nothing in life can happen during Christmastime except preparing for Christmas.

Today, however, I’ll live in the now and get ready for my big meal. There might be a surface I forget to dust or a cheerio on the floor somewhere or a sock hidden underneath a chair but I don’t care. The food is great, dishes clean, and the company is spectacular. Go get yours.