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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Day 106-Family

"The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together." -- Erma Bombeck

Today, I am thankful for my family, specifically, my cousins.  I have taken a couple of vacation days from work.  My husband and I will be taking a ride down to East Longmeadow, MA today to see my cousin, Scott.  His sister, Laurie, is coming up from Toms River, NJ this afternoon and we'll all be rendezvousing there.  

My grandmother had two sets of fraternal twins, the first being my aunt and my mother, Elaine and Eileen respectively.  Elaine went on to have a son four months younger than my brother and a daughter 16 months younger than me.  As a result, we grew up playing together since we were all so close in age.  Through the years, we have stayed close, even when they both lived in New Jersey and my brother and I were both up in New England.  Now, we are all adults (all in our 40's, except for Laurie, but her time is coming in 2013) and have built a friendship that is lasting and strong.

We share DNA, history and so much more.  It's a lot of fun and I appreciate having them in my life.

Off to play!

"Cousins by blood – friends by choice." -- Darlene Shaw 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Day 105-Following Your Own Path

"Every time you don't follow your inner guidance, you feel a loss of energy, loss of power, a sense of spiritual deadness." -- Shakti Gawain

Today, I am thankful that I have the ability to be calm, still and be tuned in to my inner self.  I am appreciating the awareness that I already possess the guidance necessary to live a full and happy existence, all day every day.  My only job is to go by how I feel.  If I think a thought that gives me an optimistic, happy feeling, then I know that I am on the right path.  Conversely, if I think a thought that does not feel good, I can simply choose another one.  I don't try to STOP thinking about what doesn't feel good.  Instead, I redirect my focus on to something else.  In other words, I am learning how to make peace with the thoughts that I think and the circumstances in my life, knowing that I can choose my attitudes and beliefs about them.  I can motivate myself and be happy, or I can blame others and be miserable.  I am learning to let things be as they are.  I do not try to eradicate or eliminate what isn't pleasing.  I acknowledge, accept and release what doesn't suit me.

Both choices are mine and mine alone. 

I love knowing that.

All I need to do, is pay attention to how I feel.  
All I need to do is listen.  

"People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them." -- Epictetus 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Day 104-Love

Today, I am thankful for love.  I am thankful for all the people in my life who have shown me what love is and continue to bless me with their affection, compassion and kindness.

In particular, on this day, I am very thankful for my husband, Michael.  We have been together for over 16 years now and have literally grown up together, having met when we were both in our 20's.  Now, I am 40 and he is 44 years young.  Our relationship has become richer and stronger in ways I couldn't possibly imagine.  We have merged our families, friends, hopes and dreams, thus becoming this giant entity of companionship.  Sometimes, I am not quite sure where I end and he begins and it's such a fun thing to experience.  We have been able to strike a balance between maintaining our own independent individuality while sharing a life as husband and wife.  I don't know how it works.  I am just glad it DOES.

I woke up this morning, deciding I wanted to make him french toast for breakfast.  Well, to make a long story short, it didn't come out quite the way I had hoped.  Being a bit of a "recovering perfectionist", I adopted an "all or nothing mentality" and threw my hands up in the air, declaring the meal, and the day, to be ruined.  My husband, God bless him, gently chided me, with love, of course, and then took it upon himself to make the french toast for us again.  I pouted and sulked a bit, but, eventually, worked my way out of my funk.  After breakfast, we sat near the tree, put on some holiday music and opened our presents. 

Truly, I confess, I was a bit overwhelmed with the day.  We had a little bit of housekeeping and preparations to attend to before my brother, his girlfriend, her mother and my father arrive to celebrate Christmas with us later on today.  Michael is much more relaxed and gracious "at being gracious" than I am.  I put too much pressure on myself to be the "hostess with the mostest".  Once I recognized what was creating my anxiety, I was able to take a couple of deep breaths and move forward, vowing to cut myself some slack and not make such a big hairy deal out of it.

The sky didn't fall.  The day wasn't ruined.  That's what love does.  It's very resilient.  It just bounces back.

On Christmas, in particular, I am reminded of the gift that I am living all day every day.  Yes, there are presents under the tree and it's fun to get "stuff", but it's just frosting on the cake.

My life IS THE CAKE. 

I really am the girl who has everything:  friendship, happiness, health, and love.

"It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves." -- John Bulwer

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 103-My brother

Today, I am thankful for my brother, who is my only biological sibling, and was born 43 years ago today.

Growing up with an older brother always made life interesting.  He is about three years my senior so, of course, he was the one I looked to for approval and ideas on how to behave.  I remember elevating him to an almost "mythical kind of status" at times when we were younger (I'm sure he thought more of me as a lost puppy who relentlessly followed him around).  Of course, there were plenty of moments where I aggravated the @#%* out of him and vice versa (who doesn't try to put their younger sister in the sleeper hold or figure four leglock, after all), but there is one particular memory that stands out in my mind.

Towards the end of my parents marriage, we had a family incident that necessitated my father going into the hospital.  It was a very long and emotionally draining day.  We were out and about all morning and afternoon,  making sure he got settled.  When we arrived home, he and I went in his room to watch television.  All of a sudden, I started to cry.  I couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 years old at that point.  He just leaned over and gave me a hug.  I hugged him back, feeling safe and thinking how fortunate I was that I had him in my life.

Fast forward 30ish years and I still feel that way.

Today, I give thanks for my brother, James Michael.  A great man and a great friend, too.

Happy birthday, Bro Man...  xoxo

"To the outside world we all grow old.  But not to brothers and sisters.  We know each other as we always were.  We know each other's hearts.  We share private family jokes.  We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys.  We live outside the touch of time." -- Clara Ortega

Friday, December 23, 2011

Day 102-The Universe and the Red Car

Today, I am thankful for The Universe for being with me yesterday.

I started my car Tuesday night to go home from work (I have a 37 mile drive).  It started up a bit rough, but it had been sitting for 9 hours and it was cold out, so I didn't think too much of it.  I was also pretty low on gas, so I drove to the nearest gas station and filled the tank.  Once I finished, I got back in the car and started her up.  The tachometer was bouncing around a bit and the dashboard lights dimmed and brightened. 

I thought, "hmmm.  This is interesting."  But, after putting it in gear and getting on the highway, it seemed to be running okay, so I decided that, perhaps, it may have been a fluke.

Since Wednesday was my birthday, and I took the day off from work, the red car sat.  I enjoyed kicking back and relaxing for the good part of the day.  When the time came to go out, we went in my husband's car.

Yesterday, I fired up the red car to go to work.  It started, but roughly.  Like Tuesday night, the red car got me to my destination, but, upon pulling into my designated parking space, the tachometer started bugging out again and, this time, the oil light AND battery light came on.

And then, the engine just...stalled out.

I only had a four hour shift to work and wasn't sure what would happen with the car.  I called my husband and he thought it might be either the alternator or the battery.  He said that if I was able to get it started, just throw it in gear and not pass go, do not collect $200.  I turned the key and pleaded.  It started, but it took a little while.  I talked to her all the way home, coaxing, cajoling and probably begging a little bit, that she keep on running and get us home safely.

My wish was her command.  I pulled into my street and she died. 
Right there. 
Stalled out.
Less than a tenth of a mile from my driveway.

We got her started again just long enough to drive her up the hill and into 6 May Ray.  Michael did some investigating under the hood, added a little oil, and decided it would be best, if she would start just one more time, to get her to our local garage which, thankfully,was less than two miles away.  I followed him as he drove my car.  She coughed and sputtered a bit, but we got her there where she can get the TLC she needs.

I didn't need a ride.  I didn't need to call AAA.  I had the Universe guiding me along.

Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you!!!!

And thank you, Red Car.  She has over 189,000 miles and has been very, very good to me.  :-)

I am blessed.

"May you have warm words on a cool evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door." -- Irish Toast

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Day 101-Friends

Today, I am thankful for Friends and Loved Ones.  My birthday yesterday was 24 hours of sheer AWESOMENESS.  My Droid 3 almost blew up from all the calls, text messages and facebook messages/wall posts from all that wanted to acknowledge my special day.  It really made me feel good to be thought of and wished well by so many.  It was the next best thing to seeing everyone in person (which, logistically, would have been QUITE a challenge).

Please accept my heartfelt appreciation and sincere thanks for being a part of my 40th. 

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." -- C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Day 100-Birthday Shout Out

Today, I am thankful for my parents.  Obviously, without either one of them, this blog wouldn't be here, nor would I, for that matter.  As I celebrate the anniversary of my birth, I also want to celebrate the man and woman who gave me life.  I'm blessed to still have both of my parents here in physical form.  If I want to pick up the phone on a whim and call them, I can.  Not everyone can say that.  It's easy to lose sight of the things that we have when we're in pursuit of the things we think we SHOULD have.

So, even though it's technically "my day", I choose to dedicate it to Robert J. Keough, Jr. and Eileen Kay Garval Keough Cunningham, my parents.  Through the years, there were moments where I didn't see eye to eye with them as I struggled to find out who I was.  I fought to be independent of both of them and thought "I knew everything and they knew nothing".  Perhaps, the biggest benefit to collecting more years is you also collect more wisdom.  The older I get, the more I realize just how much my parents knew, and how much they loved me, even if I didn't quite understand it then.

Thanks, mom and dad, for everything.  I think I get it now.

"A parent's love is whole no matter how many times divided." -- Robert Brault

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Day 99-Holidays

Day 99 of Thanksgiving

Today, I am thankful for the December holiday season.  Since I was born so close to Christmas, and my brother's birthday falls on Christmas Eve, this has been, well, a "sketchy" subject for me over the years.  I joke about it now, but I always felt robbed this time of year.  But, the older I get, the happier this time of year gets for me.  It's almost like a week long festival, with two birthdays and Christmas all happening in a five day span  I don't think it would feel the same if I was born in March, June, or September. 

I am also thankful for all the paid holidays MIT is giving us this year.  We have back to back four day weekends for Christmas and New Years.  That makes it so much easier to kick back, relax and truly enjoy.  

Happy Merry!

"Birthdays are good for you.  Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest." -- Larry Lorenzoni"

Christmas is a necessity.  There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves." -- Eric Sevareid

Monday, December 19, 2011

98 Days and Counting: I'm Still Thankful

"Who does not thank for little will not thank for much." -- Estonian Proverb

On September 13th, I decided to make a new healthy habit:  I would give thanks for something every single day for an entire year.  Here is a link to the original post in case you missed it:  I'm happy to report that it has been going well.  For 95 consecutive days, I have made my facebook status update a declaration of something that I'm thankful for, focusing on finding new things to appreciate.

Then, on Friday, December 16th, after posting my daily "thankful", I decided I wanted to take a break from facebook for a while.  Don't get me wrong; I love social networking.  This site has been responsible for helping me to reconnect with some great people from my past, as well as formulate new relationships.  However, it's not without it's drama from time to time.  I'll spare you the details, but let's just say, it has temporarily lost its "feel good factor" with me.  I'm sure it'll pass and I'll feel the urge to go back to my interactive fb experience, but for now, I'm good with putting it on the shelf.

However, that does NOT mean that I have abandoned my experiment of thanksgiving.  In fact, one of my nearest and dearest friends, upon seeing my post about taking some time away, asked that I text her my daily "giving of thanks" (I guess I'm not the only one who is being inspired by this new positive habit).  For the past three days of being "facebook free", I have sent her my "Today, I am thankful for..."

Then, it occurred to me:  I don't NEED facebook to share my daily thankfuls; I have a blog, for heaven's sake.  Why not do it here?  

Below are my daily thankful posts that I have shared with my friend, Tracy, since my facebook break:

Saturday, December 17th, 2011
Today, I am thankful for all the hamburger that led me to the "steak" I have at home.  I love my husband.  :-)

Sunday, December 18th, 2011
Today, I am thankful for blue skies and brilliant sunshine.

Monday, December 19th, 2011
Today, I am thankful to be getting a break from early morning shifts.  This is my last 6 a.m. start for 2011.  I enjoy waking up when my body says it's time and, believe me, that is NOT always at 4:45 a.m.  :-)

I'll be posting everyday in the blog what I'm thankful for.  It may only be a couple of sentences, which is woefully short for a rambling girl like myself, but I can always add a second entry that day if I am inspired to share a story with those that have been following the 4R's.

Finally, I will share this on facebook everyday via the widget that I have on the blog so those who have been enjoying and/or commenting on the daily thankfuls can still take part in the process.  Plus, it will help keep me accountable to continue my daily devotional of appreciation while hoping to continue spreading love, joy and good karma to all I come in contact with.

May you have a blessed day and it's my profound hope that, you too, find something to be thankful for.

"Of course I look at the glass half full.  The only time I would look at it half empty is when I think about how good the first half tasted."  -- Drew Deyoung

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How to Stay Sane (Relatively Speaking) While Enjoying the Holidays

"No man is sane who does not know how to be insane on proper occasions." -- Henry Ward Beecher

Tis the season to be jolly.

Tis also the season for mall, parking lot or road rage.

In this day and age, we are busier than we have ever been before.  Most of us are juggling full-time jobs, spouses, friends, children, and other social commitments.  Throw a little "Deck the Halls" in there and it's enough to make your brain do a little more than "Fa la la la laaaaaaa", know what I'm sayin'?

So, I figured I'd take a moment to indulge in R #1 (that's the rambling, in case you didn't know) to share with you "tips" (for lack of a better word) to help you enjoy this time of year.  Of course, these are not listed in order of importance.  I just type 'em as they come to mind.

1)  Don't worry about your diet.  Yeah, you heard me.  Stop caring for just a few weeks.  Pay attention to your body.  If you're hungry, and you want that cookie or hors d'oeuvre, then have it.  Hell, have two.  Tell yourself you can eat as much of it as you want because it's just food.  That's all it is.  Just food.  Eat when you're hungry.  Stop when you're full.  However, if you reaching for that delectable item because you're bored, depressed or lonely, that's another story.  If that's the case, recognize that and find another way to nurture yourself:  call a friend, hug your significant other, meditate or do yoga.  All the food in the world won't fix that and you know it.

2)  Do something nice for yourself EVERY SINGLE DAY from now until Christmas (or the last day of Chanukah, if that's your poison).  It could be something small, like buying yourself flowers, getting a pedicure or watching a marathon of your favorite TV show on a Saturday afternoon.  Often times, people go on holiday overload because they're not tending to themselves.  They're expending so much energy trying to please the world at large by buying the best (and sometimes, most expensive) gifts for their loved ones.  No wonder you are on fumes (and giving that 85 year old lady in the Crown Vic who stole your parking space the finger).  So, when you wake up tomorrow, begin the daily tradition of giving yourself a gift.  Think of it as your own personal advent calendar.     

3)  Exercise because it's fun, not because you want to strap a feedbag on to your face.  As you know, I like to run.  I also like to lift weights.  I just like to work out, period.  However, I do it because it makes me feel good, not because I'm trying to make up for what I just sucked down at the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet down the street.  If you engage in physical activity for the good it brings you, instead of doing it as a punishment for overindulging, it'll be much more effective and pleasurable.  Now, this may seem like it contradicts with my first "tip".  It doesn't.  Go back and read it again.  Get it?  Good.  

4)  Be kind.  Refer to the second tip I listed and this will be much easier to do.  It would be nice if we all remembered that life is too short and it's pointless to sweat the small stuff.  But, we're human.  And we sometimes forget what's really important.  Resist the urge to fall prey to the stressful hustle and bustle of this time of year.  Remember what the whole point of the season is.  Regardless of what your religious inclination may or may not be, the spirit of giving is nondenominational.  Whenever you sense some anxiety coming on, stop for a moment and just breathe.  Count to ten.  Heck, count to fifty if you have to.  It. Will. Pass.

5)  Let go of expectations.  Nothing has to be perfect.  Besides, what IS perfect, anyway???  It's a relative term, don't you think?  What may be perfect for you, is probably not good enough for someone else anyway.  So what?  It's not about what other people think.  Let them have their ideas and opinions and you can have yours.  You don't have to agree, nor do you have to prove yourself to anyone; family, friend or otherwise.  You might get a little grief from the peanut gallery.  Let it go.  Turn the other cheek and love them anyway.  Don't engage in a pissing contest (pardon my French).  You'll just make yourself miserable.

6)  Have fun.  This is probably the most important one and it applies to all the other tips I mentioned.  Just enjoy yourself.  Enjoy the chaos and craziness that is the holiday season.  Take a deep breath, exhale and go have the time of your life already!  Make everything you do from now until the New Year an adventure of sorts.  This is your chance to create some pretty special memories.  Don't squander this opportunity.  I know a woman who just experienced the unexpected death of her husband two days ago.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  But we have RIGHT NOW.  Make it matter.  Make it AMAZING

In closing, I wish you and yours the happiest of holidays.  I celebrate Christmas (even though my mom's Jewish and my dad's Protestant...but that's a story for another day), so I'll leave you with this quote:

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree." -- Roy L. Smith