Appreciating What We Have

This is one of those life must-haves…but in the whirlwind of daily living, it’s easy to forget to take a moment to truly appreciate all we have.

To love with every ounce of our hearts, and to respect no matter the circumstance means that we are ever conscious of the good in our lives. It sends the message to the Universe that we value the gifts and blessings.

One of the bigger lessons I learned early on was when I was told about someone’s therapy experience. Yep, not my own (in which I have learned much!)…but someone else’s…

They had been complaining about another person and the therapist said “what if they passed away?” The reaction was a staggered “what do you mean?!” He said, “what if they were no longer here? How would you feel about those ‘annoyances’ then?”

That moment was enough to change the whole tune. Literally evermore. It’s okay that we are human and feel as we do – the good, the bad, and the ugly. But it is also important for our well-being that we regularly check in with the good that we DO have – the things, the people, the animals, the circumstances…that make our lives better, happier, richer. . .more worth living.

I think about this often, but it was especially on my mind today. I’ve been thinking about my female jungle cat, who would be 13 today, and about how much gratitude had a part to play in our lives together. The bond with her and her brother was one that delved deeply, and struck me square in the heartstrings from the get go.

Part of me wants to apologize for feeling so deeply – I’m never unaware of the losses others have weathered, neither do I think anyone wants to deal with tears! Part of me wants to explain (or try to) that these were wild animals who never allowed another human “in” their circle…so it’s not quite like having a “pet” (which I’ve never really called an animal to whom I have been a guardian anyway.)

But I don’t want to have to explain, or justify. I just want to cherish that I had the fortune of my two jungle cats’ companionship, love and trust…and that while they were living I made a point to tell them “I love you” every single day.

In spite of feeling really blue, I know that I was “in the moment” so much of the time we were together. I was aware that time would run out one day, and so I always made sure to tell them what they meant to me, and to kiss them on their sweet little (big!) heads. Never mind it wasn’t in meows or mews… We spoke a language only we could understand…and it worked brilliantly.

A “Happy” Filter

There’s something about this “Bokehful” filter that imbues “happiness”… I mean, it’s like jumping in a pool of happy, bright-light bubbles…  (Which pretty much sums up how I feel about life!)

I was wearing my volunteer hoodie in this picture and that’s yet another aspect of living that feels so incredibly joyous and “right.” Sometimes we find passions later in the journey. . .

On the tougher days it’s especially important to find our “happy” filters – whatever they may be – because life isn’t  always so peachy (and neither are we. I’m sure not all the time!)

Maybe it’s a cup of coffee, a love note, or a listening to the laugh of someone we love. Maybe it’s a call to an old friend, listening to your favorite song, or curling up in the arms of your best friend. Whatever those “happy” things are, keep them on tap for the rainy days.

If you find yourself in short supply? Take a quick picture and slap on a slew of glowing bubbles. If nothing else, it’s worth a smile to see yourself surrounded in so colorful an effervescence. It lifts the mood just looking at it! (“What if I’m frowning,” you say? All the better! The juxtaposition of a frown face with all that bubbling brilliance ups the humor quotient –  laughing at the gloom is half the battle. DON’T underestimate simple tricks and tools!)

A bad-day band-aid? Maybe. But when you smile your brain actually begins to produce more of our “happiness” chemicals (hint: dopamine and serotonin?) so seriously…what’s the harm in that?

Um… N A D A !

What Are The Odds…? Sharing Our Stories And Offering Kindness In Return.

I received this note along with a purchase I made on eBay and it absolutely warmed my heart. I’d say “what are the odds?!” but then I really do believe the Universe finds away to align things for the good…

I wrote this lovely woman a note in return to let her know her words fell into loving hands, and to offer words of support…which she so readily deserves. She is hoping to help her son “chase his dreams” to which I said how blessed he is to have her, and that as a team they will succeed.  

I then shared this Audrey Hepburn quotation:

The world is made a much smaller and warmer place when kind hearts lead the way. 

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Learning About Life Through Another Lens, And How Blessed We All Really Are…

Some weeks ago I started an ASL (American Sign Language) course online – I regularly volunteer with children with disabilities and had asked a mom (whose four year-old boy both has autism and is deaf) for some ASL resources. Her son additionally suffers from a little bit of separation anxiety, which isn’t horribly uncommon with autism – when he comes to our volunteer play sessions, there are times that he begins to cry and it’s terribly tricky to discern what will make him feel more comfortable. While I was already interested in learning ASL (up to 50% of autistic individuals are non-verbal), this little guy was enough to get me on the road to finding a class…as soon as possible.

The awesome news is that I also volunteer with Special Olympics-driven skating sessions once a week that includes a number of children who are either hard of hearing or completely deaf. There’s nothing quite like being able to communicate with them – being able to sign even a single word is exciting! (I definitely have a way to go!)

A couple of days ago, though, I came down with a cold of some kind – as a result of contagiously coughing, I lost my voice – and I mean completely. Talk about being in someone else’s shoes…

Horribly uncomfortable a “bug” is for any of us, it’s nothing compared to what some children and adults have to deal with on a regular, and life-long basis. In a strange way, I feel thankful that I can’t speak because it’s an exercise in understanding what it *might* be like – while I consider myself to be one of the most empathetic people I know, it is impossible to fully understand anyone’s experience without being in their skin.

I have lost my voice on one other occasion – remarkably, I was 16 spending a month in France, with very little French under my belt. I guess life likes to test my ability to communicate (which – as is clear – is NOT always done with speech.)

In any case, it’s as the saying goes – you don’t always realize what you have until you lose it. I’d never anticipate not having the ability to speak was an easy road…but it is a welcome experience. (Now I’m not exactly encouraging anyone to go out to a concert and scream at the top of his or her lungs to deliberately subdue the vocal chords…I’m just saying, there is good to everything. Yes, including getting sick and losing a primary means of communication.)

Now my husband has a little bit of a challenge playing the guessing game as far as “what is my wife trying to say now?” He’s doing a remarkable job of deciphering, decoding, and understanding what I am trying to say, and that’s not easy to do! So I’m very fortunate to have the support and patience.

Going to the store is also an enlightening experience – I can’t say “thank you,” or “excuse me” as I normally would, nor can I respond vocally to others. That leaves me feeling a little bit awkward as reciprocal speech is one of the key forms of communication many of us learned from infancy. When I indicate with gesture and my lips that I have lost my voice, people either immediately begin to whisper or act altogether more gently – it’s incredibly interesting! (I actually can’t even whisper, as that puts more stress on the vocal chords than speaking does!)

The other side of it is that I’m derailed from my activities – in part I simply don’t feel up to them physically. The pain and discomfort though. . .I think about all the children with autism suffering from sensory sensitivities without the ability to say “those lights are hurting my eyes,” “this fabric makes my skin burn,” “my chest hurts….” What is life like for them? Many “behavioral issues” are a result of such a scenario – they don’t have a means to say what they are feeling.

For the children who are deaf or hard of hearing, thankfully they do have words at their disposal (albeit non-speech, hand / facial /body gestures.) I learned “sick,” “feel,” “bathroom,” and “okay?” as quickly as I could. Fortunately I’m learning many other words too…but knowing that it will take time, it’s important I know some basics.

Even if I was feeling better, my usual day-to-day would still be a substantial challenge – I can’t make a singe phone call, for one. I can’t ask for help locating a medicine at the store. If I were in an office, I’d have to type everything out (doable, but less efficient.) I certainly can’t breakdown a Ninjutsu technique the way I could by asking questions in class, and I definitely can’t teach or volunteer. I have to rely on gestures to talk to others I might run into in my own apartment building because I am utterly devoid of my usual method of communication…

So it’s been a remarkable few days…

While I’m sure it’s not fun to be around me while I’m loudly coughing, slower-moving, and unable to answer even the easiest question, I feel truly thankful for the experience. In fact, I’m taking the opportunity to review videos from the ASL course modules that I’ve already completed – I will hopefully be seeing the Special Olympics kids on Wednesday to skate and I know a few happy ones who use ASL exclusively. 🙂 

Humor – Casper The Ghost On Mean Pills (Or Me Up To No Good!)

This cartoon is positively precious, especially the famously gentle Ghost’s facial expression at the end. . .

Cartoon it may be (I used to play Casper, Disney Halloween, and other slides in my View Master as a kid), I related completely. . .

Much like the sweet white sprite, I hate – yes, I dare even say vehemently hate – “mean.” “MEAN” for me is an ultimate last resort. (I’m betting Casper is on board with “mean what you say, say what you mean, don’t say it mean” wagon too.)

Of course he’s as adorable as can be, bowled over by the initial effect just as much as when he surprisedly sprouts an impossibly cute tail. But…the face at the end was a relatable laugh-out-loud.  It’s more of a sneaky look than anything else, and I feel like I unconsciously get that look from time to time…

Maybe it’s that I absconded with some vegetables and got away with it. Maybe I thought of something silly and fun to make a loved one laugh… Whatever the case may be, it’s a deliciously diabolical smirk he’s got going on, and I’m pretty sure I do that at times myself (save to say, I’m not remotely as adorable as this lil’ devil!)