Saturday, October 8, 2011

Let's get to know each other.....

My name is Alison and I am 32 years old. I, despite rough times, am a genuinely happy person. I have been asked many times, by people who see me daily, how I can walk around with a cheerful attitude when I am going through hard times. That is what I want to share with those of you who will take the time to read what I have to say. I have been through being bullied as a child, a ten year relationship that was more abusive than I even realized until much later on, shoplifting and theft issues and the legal issues that resulted from them, losing my mother/best friend to a head~on crash, fleeing abuse and starting over with nothing in an unfamiliar place, learning to forgive those who had hurt me the most, countless moves, breakups that broke my heart, jobs that were unfulfilling, and being let down by countless "friends" that I thought I could count on. I will go into further detail about these things as my blog progresses but I think that gives you a pretty good idea of the lows I have faced along the way. Instead of allowing these "things" to break me, I have found a way to learn from each and every one of them. I have learned how to make sure that I take the steps I need to take to avoid going through some of them again. I have learned to identify how each one has made me better and stronger as a person. I have learned how to look at each of them truly accept them for what they are. Circumstances. Each one devastating in their own way but carrying one common denominator. Each and every single thing we face has a POSITIVE. I can promise you that. Don't give up on me yet. I will explain, I promise! I am sure you want to know how the loss of my mother could possibly carry a POSITIVE. As we go on, I want to make sure that this becomes as obvious to you as it is to me. And it will. You will see how it works and then one day you will notice that you are pointing out POSITIVES to a friend. It will become like second nature to you, as it has become for me. There will be times when people tell you things because they want sympathy and pity. They will either embrace your POSITIVE attitude and want to know how you do it or they will seek out sympathy elsewhere. I hope that you share what I teach you with everyone you know. Keeping it a secret does no good, that is why I am taking the time to share it with you.

"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it" -Mary Engelbreit



They said it before I had a chance to....

"For myself I am an optimist - it does not seem to be much use being anything else" -Winston Churchill

"The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty" -Winston Churchill

"If you think about your disaster you will get it. Brood about death and you hasten your demise. Think positively and masterfully with confidence and faith, and life becomes more secure, more fraught with action, richer in achievement and experience" -Swami Vivekananda

"There are always flowers for those who want to see them" -Henri Matisse

"I have found that if you love life, life will love you back" -Arthur Rubinstein

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results" -Willie Nelson

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

"A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes" -Mahatma Gandhi

"Every person is the creation of himself, the image of his own thinking and believing. As individuals think and believe, so they are" -Claude Bristol

"We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world" -Buddha

"Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different" -Katherine Mansfield

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars" -Oscar Wilde

"Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost" -Helen Keller

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world" -Anne Frank

"I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death" -Nelson Mandela

"One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn't pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself" -Lucille Ball

"Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence" -Helen Keller



21 Habits of Happy People

I recently posted a link to my facebook with this title. As I read it, I realized that most of the 21 habits were things that I practice on a daily basis. Lets go through them together and discuss why each one is so important.

1. Appreciate Life ~ Wake up each day and be thankful that you are alive. Each day that we wake up is a new opportunity to make friends, share ideas, learn new things, and change the world. We can wake up each day and let others determine how our day will go or we can take charge of our own lives and make them what we want them to be. Although I have my opinion on which is the better route to take, whatever you decide, at least appreciate that you have the choice. Be truly happy to be alive. If you struggle with this, think for a minute about how many others would have given anything to take your place.......That kind of puts it into perspective, now doesn't it?

2. Choose your Friends Wisely ~ Take notice of how you feel mood wise when you hang around different people. Make an effort to surround yourself with happy people. This will aid in your own happiness. Aligning yourself with people who have a joy of life and the things that it brings rub off on those around them. The more you hang around these people, the better your days will seem. They will show you by example where true happiness lies. When you get good enough at it yourself, you can swing back around for Debbie Downer and maybe rub off on her a little bit at a time.  After awhile, you will begin to see exactly where you do and don't belong and where your happiness is stifled and where it is cultivated. Being aware of how others make you feel is always crucial to maintaining your happiness.

3. Be Considerate ~ You have the unique ability to touch lives every single day. You do not need to be responsible for changing any one's life but your own. Let your willingness to accept others for who they are serve as an example to them. Let your desire to help when possible without expecting anything in return resonate with those you come in contact with. I have found greater joy in doing for those who can offer me nothing than I have ever found in receiving favors from anyone. My reward of seeing someone else happy is all the reward I could ever need.

4. Learn Continuously ~ Learn everything you can about everything you do. Having knowledge about things is not only valuable to you, but to those around you. Share what you know and help others gain knowledge along the way. When sharing what you know, be sure to avoid being frustrated if someone does not catch on. When you share with others, you can either rejoice in the fact that you have helped them figure something out or rejoice in the time you spent with them while trying. Either way you win!

5. Creative Problem Solving ~ All of us face problems. It is our way of dealing with them that differs. Those who waste their time feeling sorry for themselves will never be happy. Make a decision to search for answers and make changes. Look at each problem as a puzzle and figure out the best way to approach it and overcome it. Do not allow it to overtake your mood in the process. Remain POSITIVE and find a POSITIVE solution.

6. Do What You Love ~ People who wake up every morning and go to a job that they hate are not happy. I have to tell you that I have been there. Let me share with you my solution to this problem. List for yourself anything you can think of that you like about your job. For me, number one is that I enjoy the interaction I get to have with my customers. I have the opportunity to see many of the same people often and some new people as well. Each person who crosses my path is viewed as someone who may be a piece of my puzzle. With nothing but a kind word and a smile, I may be able to influence someones day. I try to keep that in mind when someone is in front of me who is really testing my patience. When you find your list of the things you enjoy, keep them handy and remind yourself of them as often as you need to. Focus on then during the rough moments. In the rare case that there is not a single POSITIVE thing about your job, hit the classifieds and get a new one. It does not matter how much money you make if your job leaves you miserable and unfulfilled.

7. Enjoy Life ~ Often times we get so caught up in running around and getting things done that we fail to notice things. Life contains so many beauties that are right in front of our eyes and we do not stop for a second to enjoy them. There are sunsets, flower gardens, playgrounds full of children, and leaves that change colors every fall that hold more joy than some can ever begin to imagine because they do not take the time to stop and notice. Think of the world as free admission to an art museum on a daily basis.

8. Laugh ~ Happy people most certainly laugh! When you find the humor in situations they become considerably easier to deal with. Laugh with and at your friends. Laugh with and at yourself. Taking life too seriously leads to stress and stress leads to unhappiness. :)

9. Forgive ~ Here is one that has been argued by the best of them and my position has never changed. The biggest favor you can do yourself on your road to happiness is to forgive. It can be done, of that I am sure. I have forgiven unthinkable wrongs that were done against me and it was probably the single best favor I have ever done for myself. By forgiving those who have hurt you, you strip them of any power they have over you. You take all control from them and it is an instant release. (we will get back to this later)

10. Gratitude ~ Be grateful for every single thing. This goes hand in hand with finding your POSITIVES. As you learn to pinpoint the POSITIVES, you will find it easier to be thankful for even what appears to be the worst of situations. When you see the lessons you are learning through every one, you will be thankful for the knowledge gained by each of them. It takes time and can sometimes be a struggle but the reward in it is so great!

11. Invest in Relationships ~ Take the time to make sure that the people in your lives know exactly how much they mean to you. When you are clear about your feelings and the part people play in your lives, they tend to take that into account and have more respect for how they treat you in return. It also just plain feels good sometimes to tell people just how much they mean to you!

12. Keep Your Word ~ Lets face it.....liars downright suck!! I do not like lying and do not tolerate it. Therefore, to do so would be hypocritical. When you say something, mean it. Be someone that others can count on. Be trustworthy!

13. Meditate ~ This is the one that I have never done. The reasons why are exactly what it is supposed to help so perhaps I will start. From what I hear, meditation is a way to rest your brain which may be thinking a million and one things at any given moment. For me, I never seem to be able to stop thinking about all the things I have to do and accomplish long enough to focus on complete nothingness or even just one solitary thought. In admitting this, I think perhaps one blog post will be completely on meditation and maybe we can learn together. There may be some tips that you all can offer me that would help in my quest to begin meditation. (This takes me back to number 4 where I told you to learn continuously.)

14. Mind Your Own Business ~ Now I have to admit that this one can be a real challenge. Taking a step back and seeing what stress other people's drama can cause you is a big eye opener though. When we are making an effort to find our own POSITIVES and change our own lives for the better, this added outside stuff just begins to get in the way. When we get good enough at finding our own POSITIVES, there are times when not minding our own business may be beneficial to others. You will begin to find that you look for positives everywhere and it feels so good that you feel compelled to show others how to do the same. At that point, I urge you to pass along what you know. If other peoples business is not causing you stress and you do not find yourself in the midst of business when you are unwanted there, by all means, point out the POSITIVE!

15. Optimism ~ Ahhhhh, my favorite!! Learning to see the POSITIVE makes optimism inevitable. How can you possibly be pessimistic when you always find the good in every thing your confronted with? I was where many people are. I would wake up and wonder what was going to go wrong that day before I even got out of bed. When things were going good, I would wonder why and when was it all going to go bad. This way of thinking is typical after going through trial after trial. Training your thoughts takes conscious effort but the rewards are well worth the work you put in.

16. Love Unconditionally ~ When we love someone, we cannot just love the parts of them that we approve of. People you love will disappoint you almost daily but it is sometimes your love through the hard times that will get them back on track. It is your love of them regardless of their shortcomings that will bring them to you for advice and guidance when they need it most. It is your love that could quite possibly be their example of how to love themselves! I want to make this part very clear ----> Without first loving yourself unconditionally, you will not be able to love someone else unconditionally!

17. Persistence ~ When you decide that you want something, do not ever give up. There is nothing that you cannot achieve when you set your mind to it. You may have to change your approach in order to attain your goal but when you finally get there, you can look back with a sense of pride at the hard work you put in and what you were able to achieve by not giving up.

18. Be Proactive ~ Wasting time and energy on things that are out of you control will be counterproductive to your quest for happiness. Accept that some things can just not be changed. There are indeed things that are not possible for us to change as humans. The time we do not waste on these is valuable time that we can focus on improving things that are within our control.

19. Self Care ~ Take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually and whatever else-ally :) Being healthy will save you plenty of time on doctors appointments and feeling crappy tends to make thinking POSITIVE a bigger challenge than it has to be.

20. Self Confidence ~ Look at you!!! You are absolutely fabulous! You are wonderful just because you are you. There is no law written that says you must look or act or like any thing. You do not have to be anything other than exactly what you are. When you discover that and truly love yourself, you will be better suited to be an inspiration to those around you. When you exude a love for yourself (this can be easily be confused with cockiness which is never good) others have no choice but to want to be around you and want to know you. (I will share how I learned this later on as well!)

21. Take Responsibility ~ Do not allow responsibility for any piece of your life to fall on someone else. Not a single person but you is responsible for your actions, your moods, your attitudes, your thoughts, the words that come out of your mouth, or most importantly, your happiness! Depending on anyone else to make you feel better is setting yourself up for disappointment. You have the power!! Don't ever give that away!



Speaking of things that bring happiness....

There are few things that cost nothing but truly make you feel good. Doing things to help others is definitely one of them. You can never understand the positive effects on your own life that stem from giving your time to help others and and expecting nothing in return. This is what we call volunteering. Sometimes those that we choose to help are our friends and sometimes they are people we have never met. Sometimes our efforts reach people and become a blessing in their lives without us even knowing. 

"In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it." ~ Marianne Williamson

The selfless people who take the time out to do volunteer work are special angels to those that they help. These people are never doing the work that they do in hopes of receiving compensation. It's the simple pleasure that comes from knowing that you have helped another that needed it that fuels these special people. In the process, you gain much in the way of knowledge and friends. 

An all time favorite quote...

I was lucky enough to have met, through an elaborate string of events, a gentleman who has become a very dear friend to me. I could have never known that travelling to a show in West Chester with friends would lead to the type of friendship that I have developed with Mr. Dan Mangini. The show I met him at was one of his many volunteer projects. Even knowing that he had organized the event that I attended, did not give me a clear knowledge of the extent of his work. A great deal of the work I have seen Dan do is for Siloam. Not only has he organized fundraisers to benefit this organization, but he is also there several times a week helping out in whatever capacity they need him to. For more information on Siloam or to make a donation please visit:

As the months have gone by, I have seen Dan face numerous devastating events. The type of things that he has endured recently are events that have the ability to weaken spirits. The ability to break people. I have seen it happen. Remaining in close contact with Dan at these times and having many heart to heart conversations with him, has shown me just how alike we are in our beliefs and the strength we posses to put one foot in front of the other, no matter how hard the next step seems. Our desire to share what we know with others about how to view things and the effect it has on your mental well being, is another common bond. I got a message from Dan one day asking me to help him find something to share and discuss during a group meeting. I was honored that this man would look to me for suggestions on something that obviously was very important to him. The kind words of gratitude that I receive from Dan, no matter what I share with him, lets me know that he enjoys our friendship as much as I do! 

Recently, there were nominations announced for the 2011 5th Annual Philadelphia Rainbow Awards. Dan was nominated in two categories; Humanitarian and Volunteer. As I said earlier, recognition is never the motivation for volunteering. That being said, it sure feels good to hear that your selfless efforts to benefit others have been noticed and appreciated. Dan was shocked by his nomination and will, without a doubt, be even more shocked to wake up this morning to the news that he has won the Rainbow Award for Volunteer. I am so proud to call Dan my friend and could think of no better way to express that pride than to give him his very own post in a blog that he, through our conversations, had inspired without even knowing. Before I invited others to read this blog, I sent the link to this man who's opinion I have learned to value so much. I am happy to say that this post has been the easiest to write :)  

Dan and I at Outfest 2011

I <3 you, Dan! Congratulations!!


Friday, October 7, 2011

Bullies~R~Yucky :/

"Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all." ~ Earnest Shackleton

"The human race only has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter." ~Mark Twain

To reach a point where we love and respect ourselves so much that the harsh words of another person serve no other purpose than to amuse us, is a level that should be the goal of each and every student in each and every classroom across America.  As adults, we have an opportunity to figure out what role we play in each child's life and work towards building their self esteem sky high so that they are able to achieve this state of "untouchable". Serving as an example of happiness and positivity at all times, goes a long way. Young people are drawn to happy people and they begin to want to mimic what they see displayed constantly. Teach those around you the way to live happily and positively at all times in all circumstances. Your day to day happiness should have nothing to do with your obstacles but rather your way in which you look at them. Your perception and frame of mind is in your control at all times. Make a commitment to yourself to always be in control of your own thoughts and then don't let yourself down.......LIVE IT!

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Being Bullied:
When faced with the actions of a bully, instead of being hurt or upset, choose to look for the lesson you are able to learn from that situation. In what way are you able to be in control of the exchange between yourself and someone who is obviously on a mission to intimidate you or belittle you? By finding a way in which you are in control, strips your bully of all of their power. At the point where you have made a conscious decision to be on the lookout for ways to be POSITIVE in all things, you immediately hold every single moment in your own hands. At the point where you may be approached by a bully do you feel scared or powerful?? When someone places them self in your path full of negative behavior, have they not helped you by revealing their need for your help instead of making you search for them? Look at this as your chance to make a lasting impression on them. Force yourself to see them as someone who is unhappy and needs help. When you think of them as needing help, they become severely less intimidating. Their need to bully others to make themselves feel better is merely a cry for help and an easily identifiable sign of weakness.  I am quite sure the bully will soon forget the names and faces of those they made cry as the list grows but the one who smiled in the face of their nastiness will leave a lasting impression. They will feel confused and try to figure out why their tactics were ineffective. They will instantly recognize the one they were unable to affect as different from the rest and will most likely have no desire to risk being unsuccessful again.

"At the end of the day, love and compassion will win." ~ Terry Waite

Understanding the Bully:
Knowledge is power. When you start to think about what must be going through the head of someone who feels the constant need to hurt others either verbally of physically, you begin to realize just how strong weak they are. Often times, the people who pick on others do it to feel tough or strong because they have been made to feel powerless somewhere else. They are unhappy in some other area in their life and their bullying is an outlet for the frustration they feel about being unable to fix their own problems. A bully’s background and family life are often times to blame for their lack of empathy when they deal with others. While it is difficult to feel sorry for someone who may cause you a great deal of stress and embarrassment, your changing of your view of the situation is your first step of empowerment. Bullying has been around forever and will forever remain in all areas of society. Your only defense is to refuse to let it frighten or affect you negatively.  

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." ~ Ghandi

Make a difference:
As important as it is for you to make sure that you are not open to being bullied, it is equally important for you to stand up for those who have not found a way to defend themselves. Being aware of a situation and doing nothing to improve it, is little better than taking part in it your self. If you feel that your safety will be in jeopardy by stepping in, then find someone close by who is more able to do so. To acknowledge a situation and call attention to the wrongness of it, is to take a step toward changing it. Stand up for yourself and others. There is great joy and self pride in helping others and making a difference. And never, ever lose hope that change can be made.

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the whole ocean does not become dirty." ~ Ghandi



Thursday, October 6, 2011

Finding strength.....

Everyone has struggles. If you told me you didn't struggle with anything, that would probably be the last conversation we ever had. (Lying is not one of my favorite traits in a person, just sayin') Our struggles are where we learn and where we grow. They are also an opportunity for discovery. We gain the knowledge, when we are at our lowest, of who really cares and who turns away until everything is sunshine and rainbows again. I like sunshine and rainbows as much as anyone, but I have learned to be grateful for the struggles in between, as well. After all, the beauty of a rainbow would likely be diminished if I could look to the sky and see it whenever I wanted, right? It's the rainy storms that make evident it's beauty! 

"Continuous eloquence wearies. Grandeur must be abandoned to be appreciated. Continuity in everything is unpleasant. Cold is agreeable, that we may get warm." ~ Blaise Pascal

During our struggles, we search for answers. We search for comfort and support. We search for peace. All of these can come from obvious places like our families and friends. Sometimes they come from the not so obvious places. I cannot pretend to know what works best for everyone, but I can share what works for me in the hopes that it may help another. When I speak of my faith, I ask that you keep an open mind and apply it to whatever you believe in. The only thing that I will ever adamently insist on, is that you believe in SOMETHING. There has to be SOMETHING that you attribute the impossible to. There needs to be SOMETHING that you turn to in the times when you feel like everyone else has turned away. The greatest thing you could possibly ever do for yourself is to find SOMETHING to put your faith in. If, after me saying that, you think reading about what I choose to believe in is going to offend or bother you, please find another post to read. I can assure you that my faith is unshakeable and no questions or debates will change what I already know.

"In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don't." ~ Blaise Pascal

I can very proudly say that I believe in God and let you all know that I believe that it is through Him that I have made it to where I am in life.  There are things that I have been faced with which I would have never believed, until recently, that I could truly be grateful for. Believing that these things were placed before me by SOMETHING, or in my case by God, helps me to accept that there is a reason for them. My struggles have all been mine and only mine because of a plan that is beyond anything that I could have possibly constructed for myself. My faith that they are of God for a greater purpose in my life brings me comfort when I am handling them since I believe that He would not give me what I cannot handle. I have found that worry is nothing but a big, old waste of time. Worry time is much more productively spent seeking the lesson I am learning while locating a solution to the obstacle I face. When I am hard pressed to find an obvious or possible solution, I wait. I wait and I pray because I know that God ALWAYS makes a way for me. I know because I have seen proof. I know because He has provided for me time and time again.

"People are more generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have been discovered by others." ~ Blaise Pascal

I have seen people go through extraordinary circumstances. I have been through extraordinary circumstances myself. Sometimes we look at others and wonder if we could endure what they are going through. That is where I am tonight. There is a family that I know is fighting a battle harder than any I could ever imagine. In October of 2010, my cousin's son was diagnosed with Anaplastic Astracytoma. An 8 year old boy with an inoperable brain tumor and an extraordinary will to live has become known to thousands through a Facebook page that is frequently updated by his parents. Christian's Crusaders has become more than just a page where Christian's parents can update on his status. It has become a place where kind words are shared among people from all over the country and beyond. It is a place where people tell Christian "good morning" when they wake up and "good night" before they go to bed. Some come to tell jokes to Christian, while others come to share stories of their sports teams progress as they all wear their green ~Be Brave - Be Strong~ bracelets. Their are pictures and touching stories posted by Christian's parents along with countless posts telling Christian what a hero he is. The outpouring of love and support that I have been witness to on the Christian's Crusaders page is beyond amazing. To see how many people respond to a post, having never met this family, displays the ability of one little boy to reside in the hearts of so many. It makes me happy to see each and every person respond because it has to be a great comfort to this family as they live everyday with a situation that is out of their control. I am sure that they are well aware that they are not alone in their fight. I am sure because they frequently let everyone know how much they appreciate the support. One example would be a post from yesterday that received 480 likes and 64 comments. Here is what it said:

"Joan and I have prayed 2-3 hours a day since Christian was diagnosed. He's been blessed by 2 Cardinals, numerous healing priests and he has been touched by more religious artifacts than I knew existed. We've witnessed him clinging to life but he has always pulled through. Doctors can't explain it but its pretty obvious to me: God is in control. If God's will is to grant this miracle, smile, and know you were all part of it."

One post details so many things. You learn of Christian's amazing courage and strength. You learn of the multitudes of people who have become interested in the well being of this little boy. You learn of parents who are comforted through their extraordinary faith and who still find time in their busy days to pray. You learn that these parents have a way of including every single one of Christian's Crusaders in every step of his fight and their need to include them all in the miracle that they are all waiting for. Last night came another post. The most recent news was that Christian was on his way to the Emergency Room at Children's Hospital. Within seconds, the comments and posts started pouring in. During the past ten hours, with little more that we could do but wait for an update, the posts have continued. We all wait, knowing we are not alone!

Please join in supporting the Clopp Family.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Its not Halloween.....

Today is October 31st even though for the purpose of organization of this blog it will be dated otherwise. For many people October 31st means costumes and candy and haunted houses. It used to for me as well until October 31st of 1986. Other than the day my daughter was born, that day in 1986 is the best day of my life. (This would probably be a good time to mention that going to Jimmy Rollin's BaseBowl charity event follows right up in third place but I am sure that doesn't surprise anyone!) So this is where I tell you the story of how October 31st became so much more than Halloween to me!

I had a brother. He was born when I was 15 months old. He was mine and as far as I could remember, he always had been. Alison and Jarrod. Jarrod and Alison. He was part of my identity. I, obviously, did not remember a time before he was my brother. It was just the two of us and Mommy for awhile after Dad "moved". Then one day when I was 7 and Jarrod was 6, mom told us that she was going to have a baby. I would love to detail how I felt at that exact moment but I really do not remember those details. (Recalling a story from 25 years ago sure does have a way of making you feel old.) I do remember though, very clearly in fact, that I wanted a sister. Anyone who knows Jarrod would understand my disinterest in anything to do with having another brother! Anyone who knows Jarrod would know that I was only half joking in that last statement. It makes me feel a tiny bit better knowing that Jarrod didn't want another sister either. Then months later, I am going to guess around August or September, Jarrod and I spent hours in the front yard playing with his Tonka trucks in the dirt. (That was probably the last time Jarrod and I ever "played nicely together" for any length of time.) By the end of that day of play without fighting, we both had a little secret to tell Mommy. Jarrod decided that he was okay with having a sister and I realized that maybe another brother wasn't the end of the world. I actually wanted another brother. I decided that moving from the bigger bedroom to the smaller one by myself could be a big adventure. Although no one, not even Mom, knew yet the gender of the new baby, everyone should have known that I always win. ;)

So it was October 31st of 1986. I am sure we both woke up excited that it was the day we got to go Trick or Treating. I am sure we both had costumes and close to sure that they were completely awesome and handmade by Mom. We always had cool handmade costumes and that could be why I am so intent on making Lex's costumes now. We went to school like any other day but after school it got kind of weird. Instead of going home, we got picked up by Mom Mom Annie. Mommy was having a baby!!! I cannot remember going to collect candy that year at all! I am sure we did but also sure that the excitement of getting candy could never compare to the excitement of getting a baby! And then came the news. It was a boy!! Joshua Stephen had joined our family. I could have never imagined that day just how much that little boy would affect my life. Never in my wildest dreams could I ever have fathomed what a special young man that little baby would become or the extent to which I would be proud of him! Looking at that baby boy, I would have never guessed that he would wind up being one of my very best friends. The next day when we went to the hospital to see Mom and Joshua, I thought he was cuter than any doll I had ever owned and I was excited that I would be able to hold him all the time once he came home. At 8 years old, I had my own real life baby doll to play with. I thought that made me just the luckiest girl ever. As the years have gone by, not much has changed but these views have certainly evolved. Josh is quite possibly more of a doll than he ever was as a baby. The fun I have playing with him has reached all new levels. It helps that he is potty trained. One thing hasn't changed though....I am still the luckiest girl ever!

As with all siblings, we had our times when we weren't as close. Most of that was due to my being older and moving out and having a baby. Not willing to take all the blame though, I will gently remind Josh that for some reason having a big sister around wasn't always considered to be the best way in which to aquire the coolest~kid~in~school award. Luckily, as you manuever your way through life and all of its ups and downs, you figure out that growing up under the same roof does not eliminate the ability to devolop a close friendship. I am not sure if it was the unexpectated death of our mother, our shared ability to resemble black sheep, or our similar views and attitudes on so many various topics, but during the last five years our need for each other has significantly greatened. When taking a trip, it is each other that we check in with when we have arrived. Major events are quickly discussed and assessed. I call for his opinion on things and he calls for mine. We share secrets and stories and on good nights, wine! We share a love for many of the same colorful (if you know what I mean) hang outs! I cannot begin to communicate how proud I am of him for what he has overcome and his continuous steps toward the end goal he has envisioned. His non willingness to waiver on what he believes and how he feels about things just to appease others is quite comparable to my own and this doesn't make us stubborn or hardheaded, . but rather certain of our beliefs and willing to defend them regardless of resistance.

I think I have made it quite clear why today is so much more my brother's birthday than it will ever be Halloween. No amount of chocolate could ever compare to a Pickle Rootie. No amount of hay could be more of a comfort than the love of my Joshie. I have yet to see a haunted house scarier than the thought of not being able to share the ups and downs of life with my Lil One. The best witch's brew ever, could never hold a candle to the glasses of wine we share. No costume could ever disguise or mask the importance he holds in my life! 

Lil One:
It breaks my heart that I was unable to make it there this weekend for a surprise visit. If there was any way, I would have been there. While I know that you would have enjoyed a visit, I also know that you completely understands my inability to do so. I am pretty sure that working on a blog post all night long has to have some kind of excitement value. And the fact that you now have some editor's responsibilities will make it feel like you are working with me on this birthday! Right??!? I hope this post serves as a reminder that you can read over and over again of how much I love you and how much I value the friendship that we share! I am proud of you beyond words for all you have become and all you have yet to be. There is no doubt in my mind that you will achieve every goal you have set for yourself. I thank you for your support when I have needed someone to lean on. I thank you for sharing your hopes and dreams and secrets with me and allowing me to do the same. There is no doubt that there is a perfect brother...I am just glad that I get to call him mine! I hope that you have a wonderful day full of laughter and happiness! I cannot wait to celebrate with you, but then when have we ever needed a reason to celebrate? I love you and I promise to make it up there soon. Now get to editing! :)

Sibling relationships - and 80 percent of Americans have at least one - outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship.  They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and distrust.  ~Erica E. Goode, "The Secret World of Siblings," U.S. News & World Report


"Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero".  ~Marc Brown

~ This picture is one of my favorites everrrr. That's how we roll!! ~


Monday, October 3, 2011

My toughest day....

My Mommy <3

Seven years. That's how long it has been since I could call her on the phone and tell her Happy Birthday. The last time I made that call was 2004. The year she turned 48. Going off of experience, six November 2nd's worth of it, today (yesterday) is going to be a rough day. When she first passed there were four days a year that seemed unbearable. Four specific days a year that seemed nearly impossible to make it through and the entire Christmas season. To say that they have all gotten better would be a complete lie. It hasn't gotten a bit better any day of the year. Every day she is still gone. Every day I wish I could ask her advice or share a story of something that occurred during my day. People say that time heals and when they say it, you are under the impression that they mean that it will get better. Maybe that is what they mean. Maybe, if they have been through it, that may be the way they have found to put into words how they feel over time. I disagree. Adamently, in fact. The notion that the death of a loved one gets better is a lie! It does not get better. You simply learn to better deal with the loss and your feelings regarding it.

There was always so much anticipation leading up to the day we were born as kids. When we were younger, there was always party planning taking place. As we got older, the parties stopped but Mom always baked the cake of our choice for us to have when we opened our gifts. My favorite cake was of course the most tedious to make since it used egg whites and required hanging it upside down to cool, but there was never a complaint about making me my Angel Food Cake. I remember one birthday where Mom was sick with pneumonia. She ran a daycare and I had never seen her take a single day off. She was never unable to be less than energetic for the kids that were left in her care. The night before my birthday she had called all the parents and asked them to make other plans because she was literally unable to make it off the couch other than to use the bathroom. She woke me up for school and said goodbye as I left to go and get on the bus but she did not say "Happy Birthday". I went through my day completely thinking that she had forgotten it was my birthday and how could I not understand with how she was feeling? When I got home, there was Mom laying on the couch bundled in a blanket with a box of tissues within reach. I put my stuff away and whatever else was my normal routine after school in those days and then I walked into the kitchen. Smack dab in the middle of the kitchen table was the most beautiful Angel Food Cake I have ever seen. At that exact moment I realized how crazy I had been to think that my mother would ever let anything keep her from making my cake, let alone remembering my birthday. These expected acts of love made this a very difficult day to get through once Mom passed. The special loving things she said and did on that day were never going to happen again. On my birthday, I have learned to look forward to the company of my friends. I have used the love that is showered upon me by those that care about me to distract from the fact that I don't receive that one phone call. I have even been lucky enough to be able to look forward to the Angel Food Cake that was made for me every single birthday. The best part is that I think that Kimmy is fully aware that when she bakes my cake, she is not baking it alone. The fact that she puts so much effort into making it and worrying that it is just right is the most beautiful thing someone could do for me on that day. My birthday didn't get better, it got different.

Mother's Day was hard. The first one especially so since it took place four days after her death. Thinking back on it now, I am amazed at the resilience of my brothers and I. We had dinner reservations for us all including my mom. We went and took advantage of those reservations minus one attendee. She was there, there's no doubt about that, but there was no need for a seat at the table. We shared memories and laughed and joked and picked on every staff member who approached our table.   By "picked on" I surely mean "flirted with" which is a fine skill the three of us learned from somewhere. Since I am sure that this was not learned from Mom, I will take full credit for not only my own skills but those of my two younger brothers, as well.  Had Mother's Day been a week or two later, this may have been a bit of a different story. Shock enables you to coast through some pretty extraordinary events. The combination of shock and the need my siblings and I have to make sure others are taken care of, enabled us to hold our heads high and do a great deal more laughing than crying in the week immediately following Mom's death. The amount of smiles exchanged, even at the funeral, was nothing short of amazing. It took a few hard Mother's Days before a friend pointed out to me that although I had lost my own mother, I was a mother myself. This day was my day as much as it was hers. Immersing myself in joyful activities with my own daughter made it impossible to sulk the day away about the fact that I couldn't spend it with my own mother. I had to change the way I viewed the day and focus on the good instead of the bad. Mother's Day didn't get better, it got different.

Thanksgiving dinner, for as long as I could remember, had been held in our home. This meant that Mom would be up all night long cooking and cleaning. We would be joined by early afternoon by my grandparents and any number of other family members who were able to join us. My great grand mom, otherwise known as 'lil grand mom' due to the fact that I can't imagine she was a fraction of an inch over four feet tall, was also a yearly guest. There were countless different dishes to choose from. Every possible Thanksgiving dish you could possibly want was followed up by a wide variety of desserts. Each and every single one prepared by our mother. That is the pretty side of it. The aftermath is probably part of the reason that I am so horribly against

Daddy's boy

This is a poem written by a friend of mine that I thought was absolutely beautiful. He shared this with me just moments before I was to begin my post about how I felt about missing my mother, Amazing how many of his feelings are the very same ones that I experience in my day to day thoughts of her. Thank you, Keith Heisler, for allowing me to share the feelings that you were so eloquently able to put into words.

Daddy's Boy

Today would have been your Birthday; you’ve been gone for far too long.
It hurt’s to think about you still; I’m feeling all alone.
I hope that you found happiness; on the other side.
I hope that we will meet again; when my days are gone.
It’s hard for me to let go, I need you in my life.
Where do I go for comfort, or when I need advice?
I need you here for guidance, to help me figure out this ride.
I know I’m being selfish, and it was just your time.
But Inside I’m still that little boy, who needs you by his side.
I know that I’m no child; I have children of my own.
I wish you could see them; and see how big they’ve grown
They never got to meet you; for that I’m sorry every day.
I love you dad you’re in my heart; and that will never go away.

Keith Heisler 9-28-2011
In the memory of Thomas Robert Heisler
I love you dad Happy Birthday!



Sunday, October 2, 2011

Being Content........

(This was written a few days ago but finished up today. I think it may be needed by a few people who follow this blog so I figured I would get it published!)

Let me start by saying that as I began my post today, it had not a single thing to do with being content. That post was started but has taken a back burner to what I am going to share with you now.

Tonight, I went to work at a job that is not year round. This evening was my last night of work at this job until right around the beginning of March of next year. After my shift was over, I went out with some friends to a Halloween party. I will tell you that I was dressed up as a hippee, and a super hot one at that ;) , but that is just a detail. When I arrived at the party, I knew quite a few people. I said hi to them all and went about my night. A little later on, I received a text from one who had left saying that seeing me had made a big difference in their day and how much it was appreciated. I asked if everything was alright and opened up the conversation in case this person may want to talk about it a little bit. As it turns out, they did. Of course they did. If they didn't, they wouldn't have let on that my presence made a difference, right?

Once I made known that I was interested in hearing about what had this person feeling down, I got the whole story. I will not discuss any details that will make obvious who this person was but I will tell you the story because I am sure that what I said brought some comfort. I am also sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the person involved would want me to use this story to help if anyone else was struggling with the same feelings that they were. All of my friends know why I write. I write so that I may share with others what I have found to work. There are things that comfort me when I am feeling a little less than chipper. It has taken time to make these ways of thinking feel natural. Several years of these habits having to be forced have led to a point where now they are automatic. That brings me to the situation at hand.

My friend, and I am happy that this person has become a friend, felt that they had worked extremely hard on a certain project. A lot of research and dedication went into preparing something and due to the weather we are expecting tomorrow, the event in which all of their hard work would be displayed was rescheduled. Not only that, but the date in which the event was now going to occur is during a time when this person will be on vacation with their family and unable to attend. Come to find out, this is not the first time that my friend was unable to fulfill their duties due to weather. Their text consisted of blaming Mother Nature and the disappointment they felt over being unable to display their work at the proper time.

Now, I do not think there is a single one of us who is a stranger to disappointment. Disappointment is a tricky emotion to conquer. I will not deny that for even a second. And the advice that came to me immediately is probably the same advice I would have to remind myself of in the same situation. Don't be fooled! Just because I know what I should feel, doesn't mean it is always easy. Sometimes I have to do a little work to convince myself. It was not me who needed convincing this time, however, and I was not about to show any weakness as I gave the advice that I know this friend was seeking. My advice was this:

"Every single thing happens for a specific reason. Never forget that! Please do not for a second think that Mother Nature knows better than God. Do not question His timing. Take what is given and accept that there is a reason why you were not meant to do it. There IS a reason. Be at peace and know that. When you truly BELIEVE, there is no letdown, just the wait till u figure out the Plan. Love you!"

This same advice could go for any disappointment we face in our lives. When something doesn't go my way and I begin to feel disappointment creep in, I quickly remind myself that I did not belong doing what I anticipated and remind myself to be thankful that Someone knows better what I should and should not be doing at any moment in time. Disappointment is closely related to worry. They are two feelings that serve no POSITIVE purpose. In my quest for a POSITIVE life, such feelings have no place. If a POSITIVE life is something that you seek, the elimination of such negative feelings will only make your journey more easily travelled. Since there will certainly be roadblocks that are out of our control, it is to our advantage to find ways around as many as we can.



Saturday, October 1, 2011

What I want her to know...

My mini showing off her Christian's Crusaders bracelet :)

When watching Oprah Winfrey's final show several months ago, one of her surprise guests was Dakota Fanning who was surrounded by a crowd of other young people who had grown up watching the Oprah show. Several of them spoke about the change that she had encouraged in their lives. One young lady had such an infectious smile as she spoke. She looked as though she had surely found the secret of happiness. I have heard the words that she said to Oprah so many times in my head since that day. With her glowing smile she simply said, "Because of you, every morning I look in the mirror and say ~Good morning, Gorgeous!~" What a wonderful way to start each day! Could there be any better way to remind yourself daily just how beautiful you truly are? Now that the Oprah Show is over, do I not have an obligation to instill the values in my daughter, that so many have learned from watching Ms.Winfrey?

Over the past few years I have grown a lot. I have learned a great deal about myself and learned to take what I am given and make the best out of each and every situation. One of the most important lessons I have learned is the reason why this young girls message grabbed me as it did. It sounds easy. Actually, it is easy once you get the hang of it but most people are so focused on others and their opinions that they rarely take time to love themselves. A friend's Facebook status one day made reference to entering into a whirlwind love affair with yourself. This friend is someone who exudes confidence in everything she does. I can only hope that others see the same when they look at me. There is something about loving yourself that makes everything other than your own well being and happiness seem secondary. As it should be, I might add! Imagine living your entire life aiming to please others. How will you ever find what makes you happy if you are always doing things to ensure the happiness of others? Each individual has their very own chance to do what makes them happy. Take advantage of yours! 

As I began this blog, it was with the hope of helping others. I hoped that by sharing my stories and how I have used them to better myself, I would be able to encourage others to do the same without waiting for them to feel comfortable enough to ask me how. In only a few short weeks my blog has exceded 250 views and I am receiving feedback daily on the effect that my writing is having on others. I have made new friends and had the opportunity to encourage some who I may never have met otherwise. My blog has become much less of my struggles and much more of the techniques I have learned in the process. Coping mechanisms, of sorts, have become more of a way of life than a temporary fix in times of trouble. Often times I think that I wish I had known all that I know now before entering middle school. That thought quickly gives way to the knowledge that each and every struggle I faced and learned from made me better able to identify with those who may be going through some of the same things. By my own experience with suffering, I know the pain that some may be struggling through and that is the fuel that ignites my fire to teach what I know.

As much of a reward as it is to hear the stories of those I don't know who have said that my words inspire and uplift them, I couldn't help but wonder if I could possibly let my daughter in on all these secrets early on. To me, seeing her struggle less with adversity and trying to fit in would be the ultimate reward for my efforts. To see my child walk around with the same self love that I have found would eliminate much worry on my part that she may ever fall prey to someone who did not have her best interests in mind. To teach her to love herself would be the first step toward eliminating the rising problem of bullying where my own child was concerned. Although directing her to my blog meant I would need to be more careful when sharing details of my past, the benefits that could result made the limitations well worth it. This blog meant that I would not have to wait for her to ask advice, nor would I have to initiate a conversation where she may feel I was responding to a certain action on her part. By simply sharing in my blog, she can learn how to achieve self love and happiness by reading what I have written to others on her own time.  My words in the blog combined with my example of finding the POSITIVE in any number of situations, should serve as a good basis by which to start her on the path to a healthy love of self.

When I first shared the blog address with my daughter, it was because we had wound up in a conversation about happiness and I wanted her to read the 21 ways to achieve happiness and my personal description of each. I was thrilled several days later when she started pressuring me to create new posts. How many parents can say that their teen children seem to WANT to hear what they have to say? When I posted my blog about Christian and his Crusaders, Alexis had plenty of questions. We talked for quite some time about Christian and the fact that if she was going to commit to wearing the bracelet, she would have to promise to pray for Christian as often as possible. I could have never imagined what an effect Christian's story would have on my own little girl. She has used the Crusader's bracelet as not only a reminder to pray for Christian, but also as a reminder to herself to ~Be Strong, Be Brave~. She has statused about Christian, made her profile pic to include her bracelet, and most recently asked me to help her start her own blog where she can share her own thoughts now that she has been so touched by the story of the Amazing Mr. C. Last night, she created her first post and I was overcome with pride as I read what she wrote. Her post was thought provoking and compassionate while calling for the same from others.

While shopping the other day, I purchased a card to send to my mini in the mail. It was a card to remind her of just how special she is and how proud of her I am. In the letter I wrote to her in the card, I told her that I wanted her to look in the mirror at the beginning of each and every day and say, "Go get em, Gorgeous!" I sent this card on Wednesday morning and by Friday night had a post on my Facebook wall that said those exact words with a smiley face and a heart. If there was one thing that I wanted her to take from that card, it was that. That every morning I wanted her to acknowledge just how wonderful and beautiful she really is before facing a single second with anyone outside. Those words are now being repeated daily in her posts on my page and it overwhelms me with joy that she really got what I was trying to say. Of course I think she is beautiful and can acheive anything because I am her mother. My thoughts about this will do nothing to help a child who does not believe the same about herself. After this recent string of events, I began to think about what I expect her to gain from my writing. Its all the same things that I want all who read my blog to gain. This is what I have come up with.

***~She will grow up knowing that her view of herself is worth more than all the views of everyone she faces daily combined. ~She will know that her thoughts and feelings can never be wrong, simply wrong for someone else. ~She will know that her thoughts and feelings are not necessarily right for those she meets so she must not be fooled into thinking that she can help the world. ~She will know that she has the right to make her own choices regarding her life. ~She will know what is right and wrong as she makes those choices and take pride in the choices she makes. ~She will know that she is strong enough to walk away from anyone who ever tries to take control of her thoughts and actions. ~She will know that bullies are sissies who need to control others to feel better about themselves, whether in school or later in life. ~She will know that there are bullies everywhere, no matter how old you get. ~She will know that God has every answer she could ever need whether she like His answer or not. ~She will know that God's timing will most likely not be to her liking more often than not but should never be questioned. ~She will know that harsh words cut deeper than she could ever imagine and that much more can be said in love than in hatred and anger. ~She will know the pride that follows walking away the bigger person, is no comparison for the instant gratification of acting hastily in a negative manner. ~She will know the joy of giving. ~She will know that bringing a smile to another can be one of the greatest and easiest accomplishments that is within her reach daily. ~She will know that love will come and go. ~She will know that the only time that breakups are really 'The End' is when the other person had no place in your life to begin with. ~She will know that hard work in school, relationships and life itself, pays off. ~She will know that money never has and never will buy happiness. ~She will know that happiness is not anything of a destination, but rather a life long journey that should be fully enjoyed along the way. ~She will know that caring and compassion for others will add greatly to her own life experiences. ~She will know that the more respect she has for herself, the more respect others will have for her as well. ~She will know the difference between cocky and confident and she will know the proper way to exude confidence in every move she makes. ~She will know that lies and gossip will never produce anything but negativity. ~She will know that POSITIVE thinking is the best way to ensure that negative thoughts don't stand a chance. ~She will know that every single struggle has a lesson buried within. ~She will know that she deserves nothing less than the best out of every single moment. ~She will know that a mother's love is beyond compare regardless of time or distance. ~She will know that she is a gem and demand to be treated as such. ~***     

Yes, these are all things that I try to instill in my daughter at all times, but her reading my blog gives her the chance to focus on each and every one in her own personal quiet time and discuss them with me as she feels the need. I am sure that there is not one single thing that will surprise her here, since I share my thoughts with her every chance I get. I believe that the way in which I conduct myself and my daily moods are a first hand example to her that I have found a way to live positively and happily. Her interest shows me that she is looking to do the same. That makes me one happy Mommy! :) 

The following is one of the best videos that I have ever seen. When I wake up feeling less than chipper, I have learned to rely on lil Jessica to show me what needs to be done! Jessica's method of saying, "Go get em, Gorgeous!" is something that I am sure you will never forget.