Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year

Happy ‘belated’ New Year! Like many of you, it’s “back to” day: work, school, routine, lifestyle change, and so forth. For some of you, it’s the first day or two of your journey to a better life. I’m actually looking forward to going back to work because I have spent the past week in my jammies trying to fight off a nasty cold/respiratory infection, and although I’m still not feeling great, I need to get back to a routine; not to mention….get dressed!

My much-anticipated Christmas vacation certainly did not go as planned, but it was peaceful and I was glad to have some time off work. As you know, we had a tragedy in my family a few days before the holiday. My cousin, Tammy, was killed when her dad, my Uncle Fred, was moving his motorhome and smashed her between the vehicle and a pick-up truck.  It was a freak accident that left many in a state of devastation and shock. We buried her the day after Christmas. Getting through the holidays were easy compared to the difficult days to come for her immediate family, and especially my uncle, as they begin the grieving process.

Her death was horrific, and yet, it was a somber reminder that life is very short…..a gift that comes with no guarantees.  Her life….and death…..made me even more determined to cherish those in my life and be grateful for the gift of each day; even the ones in which I don’t feel well or things don’t go as planned. It also reminded me that the things that I sometimes fret about, details that don’t really matter in the long run, and little stressors/worries that threaten my peace/joy/well-being mean very little. Tammy’s death will be undoubtedly motivate me to be a better person in this new year and remind me that people are more important that things, love is more important than jealousy/anger/hate/bitterness, and NOW is the time to do those things that will make a positive difference in my own life and in those around me. Tomorrow is not guaranteed….TODAY….is the perfect day to begin….or a journey to a better us!

I arrived downstate and was doing the final preparations for Christmas Eve (an all-day/all evening celebration in my family) when I received word that a powerful wind-storm knocked out the power at my home up north. For those of us that live in the area, losing power means no heat, electricity, or WATER. Although I was warm and safe at my sisters, enjoying the comforts that sometimes go unappreciated, my heart was with Bob, my friends and neighbors, and the thousands of others who were inconvenienced by this storm, especially on Christmas Eve/Day with an estimated restoration time of several days away.

How will they celebrate the holiday? How will they cook Christmas dinner? How will they accommodate their family members without water to bathe or flush the toilet? How will they keep warm….etc. and what about all their plans for their family celebrations?  For a big baby like me that relies on the ‘often unappreciated’ comforts of heat, electricity, and water, this storm seemed like a catastrophe and my empathetic heart ached for those who were inconvenienced. Once again, though, I was reminded that the things I sometimes think are so important really are not that big of a deal when I heard/read on Facebook that for many, this was the best Christmas ever, as they gathered together with loved ones, opening gifts by candlelight, snuggling close to keep warm, playing games and TALKING with each other simply because they didn’t have the electrical gadgets that sometimes hinder family relationships. For those without power, people/love/time together was the heart of their holiday celebration. Fortunately, the power was restored by the time I returned home and all was well except for the death of four of my goldfish because of the outage of the air pump.

Christmas Eve was a good day, in spite of the grief, and the kids in the family managed to divert our attention for a few hours with their excitement and energy. Uncle Fred joined us for dinner and although his heart was broken, it was good for him to be with us for part of the day. My sister and her family left town early on Christmas Day and although I didn’t get to see them and my plans got changed for the day, Christmas day was very special for me.

 I began the day by visiting the IHM motherhouse in Monroe and attending mass with the retired sisters at the convent. My dear friend, Sr. Therese Michael Dudek, was so surprised when I showed up unexpectedly to spend part of the day with her and attend mass. She is elderly and frail, and yet full of joy and love, and it was so good for me to be with her and the other nuns for a while on this special day. I believe I made a ‘new tradition” and will likely do the same thing next year if the opportunity presents itself and I’m blessed with another Christmas with my friend.  I then had brunch with my Uncle Bob/Aunt Kathy and several other family members, including Uncle Fred, before heading to the hospital to see my friend Carol who recently had her other leg amputated. That visit with her and her husband Jim, and daughter Susan was another special part of the day. Jim and Carol have been like parents to me since I was a baby, and both are now frail and need constant care. My heart breaks to see them suffer, especially Carol, who lost both legs this past year, and Jim who is struggling to be away from the love of his life. Pain, sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety fill their lives, but for a few hours anyway, there was joy and a lot of love. The family was able to bring Carol home on New Year’s Eve, but things are very difficult for them as she needs round-the-clock care and is suffering greatly. It is extremely difficult to see loved ones age and become frail, and yet the memories of this past Christmas are etched in my heart and are will likely become very precious in the coming years. I may not have another opportunity to spend another Christmas with Sr. Therese Michael, Jim or Carol. I went to bed that evening reminded that life....and those I love….are a gift to be treasured for as long as I can. 

I went to Tammy’s funeral the next day and then returned back home several days earlier than planned to spend some quality time with Bob who suffered his own health crisis’s this past year.  I was already feeling a bit under the weather myself and I wanted to make sure he was okay and taken care of. It turned out to be a good thing as I ended up spending the rest of my vacation recovering myself, and allowing him to take care of me. This definitely was NOT how I planned to spend my holiday break….and yet, I’m grateful that I didn’t have to miss work when I was feeling ill. I just moved from couch to the bed, watched a lot of Hallmark movies, and laid around in pajamas for a week. Needless to say…. I’m actually looking forward to putting on “real clothes” and getting back to the routine of work! I also will be taking two new classes at the college (Accounting and Business) and teaching five sections of a College Success Strategies class as well. I will be a very busy girl again….but nonetheless…. I am beginning this new year with a renewed commitment to continue on my journey, cherishing those that I am blessed to journey with, and appreciating the opportunities I have each day to change, not only my own life, but others as well.

The old year has ended….and although it was an emotional one with an abundance of ups and downs, I face this New Year with the reminder that at end of our lives….whenever that may be….only three things remain: Faith, hope, and love….and the greatest of these is Love.  In spite of all that happened in the past year, good and bad, I still have the FAITH that God is present in my life, continually directing my steps; the HOPE that I….and YOU…can change those things in life that are not life-giving and beneficial to us; and the LOVE that continually transforms us and provides meaning to our days.  I look forward to sharing my journey with you in the coming year and being a part of yours.  May 2016 be our best year ever!!!   Happy New Year….Happy new YOU!!!!