HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAX!

My brother Max is the only boy in our family. He is three years older than me and has been a true big brother in every sense of the word.  Growing up he was probably the closest to me of all of us kids.  We did not share any classes in school and really didn’t share any friends either.  We did ride the same school bus one year and he got thrown off defending my honor.  A boy pulled the zipper down on my dress and Max popped him right in the nose.  I felt bad that he got in trouble because of me.

Max was stuck with carting me to activities with my friends.  I’m sure at first he didn’t mind, because he got to drive the car.  I went roller skating with my friends most Friday and Saturday nights and some Sundays.  Roller skating was my little world and Max would take me to the rink. If he ever complained, I never knew it.

His approval was important to me.  When I started wearing make-up he would make me wipe it off to his accepted level before I was allowed to get in his car.  It became a game for me to learn how to wear it and see how much I could get away with.  He kept me in line in ways my parents never could.  Once he caught me skipping my Biology class and walked me to the classroom door and made me go in. 

When it came time to buy my first car, I bought it from a friend of Max’s.  I think he wanted the car so he convinced me to buy it.  He had his own, but knew this was a sweet deal.  It was a 1967 red Barracuda, convertible.  I thought it was a boy’s car and I was embarrassed to drive it.  Guys wanted to go out with me because they thought they could drive my car, (they couldn’t)!  When we sold it, there were people in the driveway arguing over it.  Dad yelled the first one with cash could have it.  I sure do wish I still owned that car today.  I didn’t appreciate it when I had it. 

As we got older, I moved away and we lived very different lives.   Today we are back in the same area and it is really nice to have a brother that is a friend too.  Max has a wicked sense of humor and cares about his family a lot more than he would like anyone to know.  It’s nice to see him happy and enjoying his life.  It is fun watching him explore new sides of himself.  He is a great cook and we are finding out that he has good taste fixing up his new home. 

Today, January 29th, is Max’s birthday.  Happy Birthday and thanks for being the best big brother ever.  I love you.

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LOVING OTHERS

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

This is from 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 verses 4-7 and one of my favorites.  It always makes me strive to do better with others.   I should read it 10 times a day to achieve any progress.  I will probably visit this passage often as I blog.

The “love is patient love is kind” part is what seems to be tripping me up lately. Why do I have the smallest amount of patience with the people I am supposed to love the most?  And, if I am being totally honest with myself, I am not too good in the rude department either.  Excuses used range from I’m having a bad day, it IS true or maybe I am just being too hard on MYSELF!  I can justify anything if I work hard enough. 

Why can I accept the same behavior from a stranger and be so hard on the people I love?  Why do I expect more from them and not hold myself up to the same standards?  And, what am I going to do about it?  I think acknowledging a behavior that is less than acceptable IN ME is the beginning of change.  If I want to live a life that is pleasing to God then I need to focus on my own behavior and not everyone else’s.

My sister reminds me again and again that I cannot hold others to the same standards that I believe.  And isn’t example the best teacher?  I don’t want to be one of those people that talks a mean talk but can’t walk the walk. 

We all have people in our lives that drive us crazy for one reason or another.  Sometimes our feelings are even justified but does it show patience and kindness to point it out to them?  How important is the issue?  If we are not self-seeking and keep no record of wrongs, then isn’t it right to let it go?  Isn’t self-seeking our own need to be right, at the expense of someone else?

For me, showing love sometimes is as simple as keeping my mouth shut and moving on.  It is not an easy thing to do.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t do a lot of grumbling to a trusted confidant.  I am far from perfect!  Hopefully I will reach a point of loving others that I won’t even notice that they bug me.  Wouldn’t that make my world a very peaceful place?

God isn’t finished with me yet, that is for sure!

MY BUCKET LIST

I have thought of doing a bucket list several times and never get very far.  I can come up with several trips I would like to take so I will start there.  The first four are actually something I should be able to accomplish.

  • New York City at Christmas time
  • Washington DC
  • New Orleans (NOT for Mardi Gras)
  • A cruise to anywhere
  • Rome
  • Alaska

I have been blessed enough to have lived in Germany and visited France, Holland, Switzerland and Austria.  I have also lived in Texas and Oklahoma (God help me!) and visited Wyoming, California, New York State and City, Niagara Falls (US side), Pennsylvania, Savannah and Helen (Georgia) and Virginia.  Do U.S. states count if you only drove through them?  If so, then there are a lot more I have seen from the highway.  Living in Florida gives me the opportunity to visit the beach anytime and I am most grateful for that.  I love the beach. 

I cannot think of anything else that I want to do in particular.  It sounds so odd but I am not a person who dreams big anymore.  I try really hard to stay in today and not get too far ahead of myself.   I have a habit of dreaming the impossible, expecting too much and being disappointed.  I am probably one of the few people that went to Disney World and was disappointed.  The images I built in my head were so much greater than the reality, it just couldn’t compete.

There are many things I like but obtaining them won’t make my world any happier.  If I won the lottery, I’d probably give most of it away.  It would be nice to not work anymore; I have worked all my life.  But that doesn’t seem to be reality so I don’t dream about it. 

I would like to see Bette Midler in concert.  I have been to several concerts and enjoyed every one, but never got the opportunity to see Bette. That would be amazing.

I volunteered for numerous organizations and enjoyed my time with them.  I have been praying for something to do that I can be passionate about and a friend of mine told me that she sees passion when I talk about my blog.  I enjoy writing my thoughts and hope others enjoy reading them. 

If a Bucket List is supposed to be for the things I want to accomplish before I die, I either have very low expectations or have lived a pretty full life.  I’ve been in love a few times, been sadder than I thought I could bear and survived, travelled to foreign lands, have a job I love and dear friends and family that love me.  I don’t think I can ask for much more than the life I have lived.  I wouldn’t change a thing. Really, I wouldn’t.

TIME MANAGEMENT

No is a complete sentence.  No.  I have a hard time saying it.  I’m a people pleaser and I will sacrifice myself to please others.  I have spent years learning to correct this behavior and have made progress, but certainly not perfection.  How do I pick and choose the things I want to do, the things I need to do and the things I can let go? 

Guilt used to be the decision maker for me and still is sometimes.  But I have listened to wise counsel and matured a little. I wanted people to like me and if I did what they wanted, they did.  It took a long time to realize they came to me first because I was an easy target. When I started saying no, it was fine.  I have not lost one friend because I said no. 

I remember one afternoon many years ago, I was out mowing the lawn and was fuming because my ex-husband was watching TV.  I called my dear friend very angry and she told me to stop mowing.  I didn’t HAVE to cut the grass I was choosing to do it.  She went on to explain that I could mow the lawn later, when I felt more up to it.  This concept was completely new to me.  I was full of resentment because my ex was doing what was best for him, resting.  And I was not doing what was best for me.  Once that sunk into my thick skull, my resentment toward him was gone.  I was actually able to finish mowing the lawn with a better attitude.  Once I got to the core of the resentment, I understood my part in it and was able to let it go.

I also tend to take on other’s responsibilities.  I get knee deep in situations that have nothing to do with me.   My husband John taught me a lesson on this one.   He told me early in our marriage that if I take on a project, it is mine unless we agree, in advance, that he will help.  I was to have no illusion that he would be roped into helping when I bit off more than I could chew.  And he stuck to his word.  Now when I think about a project, I consider how hard it is, how long it will take and will I need assistance.   This has taught me that I cannot volunteer him and I cannot be volunteered by someone else for a project I didn’t sign up for.  I respect John very much for teaching me this lesson.

If I could go to yoga five days a week, I would.  And I would love to go to Bible study, take golf lessons, play pool, volunteer at church, help the needy, go shopping with friends, dig in my garden and any other thing you can think of.  All of these things are good things and too much of a good thing is still too much.  I wish I could learn to pick and choose a few things and enjoy them.  I usually take on too much, have a slight melt down, let go of everything and start over.  I want to do it all.  There are so many things I love doing and so many things I still want to try.     

I don’t have a Bucket List either and I don’t know anyone who admits they have one.  Maybe that can be another blog, another good thing to do.  Here we go again!

PRAYER

Prayer has always been an important part of my life.  I don’t remember Mom or Dad sitting down with me and saying prayers, not that they didn’t, I just don’t remember it.  The earliest prayers I remember are what I learned in Catechism.  It had to be first grade when we learned the Our Father and the Hail Mary and I also remember the Guardian Angel prayer.  I still say them every day.  I don’t know if there is a Guardian Angel or not, but if there is one, I don’t want her to be mad at me when I get to meet her.  So, I remember her each day in my prayers.  She has done a great job keeping me safe all these years and I am grateful for that.

 When my class was getting ready for First Communion, I believe that was in second grade, we learned the Act of Contrition, which seemed like a really long prayer.  This was said when we made our first confession.  And of course, we had to learn the proper way to make a confession.  We practiced saying confessions so that we would be ready when we went to the priest.  I used to make up really bad sins during the practice sessions because mine were so dull. 

We made our Confirmation in the 5th grade and they added another prayer for us to learn.  This one was the Apostle’s Creed.  It was really a hard one and I don’t remember it anymore.  It is similar to the Nicene Creed that we say at mass. 

I love saying my rosary although I do not say it “properly”.  I’m sure God understands my intent and forgives me.  Somewhere along the road I learned the Serenity Prayer and the Prayer of Jabez.  I love both of them as well. 

When John and I were preparing to get married, we attended the wedding of some friends.  The Priest challenged the couple to say a prayer together each day to each other and said it would be a major stronghold in their marriage.  John and I decided to take that challenge and we have been saying it to each other almost every day since. 

“God, please help me to love John/Marilyn the way you need me to love them today.”

It is a simple prayer, nonthreatening and it speaks volumes in our life together.  For me, when I am the most aggravated with John, a little bell rings in my ear and says “Love him now”.  There are times when this is annoying, especially when I want to be mad but most of the time, it will defuse the situation.  I usually realize that I am being petty, immature, selfish, stubborn, or impatient.   I believe that this is God’s love shining though into our lives.  The vulnerability it took to pray together as a couple was not easy but the rewards have been great.  What other person is there to be this vulnerable with?

Whatever your prayer life is, if you are able to overcome the obstacle of self-consciousness and pray with others, it is a wonderful and powerful blessing.  It does not come easy to me but I have made great progress.  We tell each other we will pray FOR them, but why don’t we pray WITH them?  Somehow, that seems to have more meaning to me.  It just takes a little courage; God will give us the words we need to say.  I promise!

COMMON COURTESY

What has happened to common courtesy?  This is more than just saying please and thank you, I am talking about polite behavior.  People used to tell me all the time that I was kind and it used to make me mad.  It felt a lot like being a doormat to me.  I wanted to be cool or tough or anything but kind.  Good grief.  But, as I have matured, I realize what a wonderful compliment I have been given.

I have made a habit of getting to know the names of the people that I am in contact with. Businesses give their employees name tags for a reason.  How hard is it to call someone by their name?  Restaurants have their servers introduce themselves to each group of patrons for a reason.  I don’t think it is so we know who to complain about!   Try calling your server by name.  You will be amazed at the difference in service you receive.  And they will remember you when you return.  If you forget their name, it’s ok, just look at their name tag.

What about the check-out lane?  When I get my receipt, I say thank you and their name.  Reactions are amazing.  I also like to pay people compliments.  If they look nice, I tell them.  If they have a new haircut, pretty eyes, anything that makes a person special, I say it.  It doesn’t do me any harm and it might just make someone’s day.  It also helps me to focus on the positive instead of the negative.  The other night we were at dinner and John told me that a server’s perfume was really nice.  I told him to tell her and she smiled so big when he did.  Small things make big impacts.

What on earth did we do before cell phones?  They have made our lives much easier but they also have created an environment of people oblivious to the world around them.  Do we really have to answer every call when it comes in?  We have a vibrate button and voice mail so we can be courteous to the people around us.  We should be using them when we are in areas where others will be disturbed.

Don’t even get me started on driving, except to say, how hard is it to let someone in?  Are we really so self important that one car in front of us will make or break us?

 When walking our dog Rosie, I always clean up after her. I am not perfect by any means but it should not have to be an ordinance for heaven’s sake, we should do it because it is the right thing to do.  Cleaning up after yourself and flushing the public toilet ladies, do we really need to be told to do that?  Apparently so.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” seems to have gone out of style.  How many times have you thought that you should send “so and so” a note or give them a call?  Don’t just think about it, follow through.  Do it.  Think of the things in your own life that would mean something to you and start doing it for someone else. 

I think we should have a National Courtesy Day, maybe we already do and no one told us about it.  Problem is that courtesy doesn’t cost anything but some effort and a smile so there is no money in it. 

 When I went to my 20th High School Reunion, I had so many people tell me that kindness was what they remembered most about me.  When I went to the 35th (YIKES), it was similar.  If kindness is my legacy, I have lived a good life.

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Here are some of the definitions I found in Thesarus.com.  I thought the individual power of each word was interesting.

Serenity:  Calm, peacefulness, composure, and the ever feared patience

Accept:  receive something given physically, gain, welcome, to take or agree to

Change:  something made different, I thought break was an interesting synonym

Courage:  boldness, braveness, fearlessness, adventuresomeness

Wisdom:  insight, common sense

Serenity has always meant peace to me, I have never thought of it as patience.  People who know me well would say that patience is not a virtue that I possess often.  However, when I think about it, nothing in serenity says that I get my way.  So I guess patience is a good match to consider.

Accept usually means surrender to me.  Not one of the definitions listed were anything close to surrender.  They all were much more positive.  To receive, to gain, even welcome?  I wonder if I take it so negative because to me, accepting means I don’t get my way?

Change meaning “something made different” was “acceptable” to me.  LOL.  Break was a definition I hadn’t ever considered. 

Courage defining boldness and braveness first was understandable.  But I related more to the fearlessness definition more.  I have to get past the fears inside, real or imagined, in order to have courage.  I loved adventuresomeness, which I didn’t even know was a word, but there it was.  Let’s be adventuresome and accept a change we don’t want.

Wisdom is one of those words that you know what it means and yet you don’t.  I liked insight but loved common sense.  If you think about the wisest people you know, don’t they have the best common sense ever?  The bible tells us to pray for wisdom so that tells me that it is not something that we naturally possess. 

The Serenity Prayer is a prayer I have said for years.  I understood it in my own mind, the way I wanted to understand it.  To take key words and explore their meaning gave me a new prayer, personal to where I am today in my life.

God, Grant me the Serenity to Accept the things I cannot Change,

The Courage to Change the things I can

And the Wisdom to know the difference.

BECOMES

God Grant me Peace (I NEVER PRAY FOR PATIENCE!) to welcome something different than I want.

The fearlessness to make something different if I can,

And the common sense to know the difference.

This is my focus for 2010.  Accepting something different than I want is so much better than constantly fighting what I get.  It is better than a resolution, which, by the way, meant determination or strong will.  I guess you need a strong will to do some things, but I am just looking for peace.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!