He’s dying and I won’t get to say goodbye in person.

For many complicated reasons, I am not going to be able to say goodbye, in person, to someone I care about. My friend knows I would want to say goodbye. We both understand that will not happen. But I feel peace in knowing that he has faith in me. He knows I will miss him. And, I know he forgives the reasons why we can’t say goodbye in person.

Life rarely ever happens as we expect.

So, my friends, please allow me to say goodbye here. He will read it.

Dear Friend,

Words are meaningless here. But they are all I have. Forgive me.

I met you when my children were younger. We were both in difficult places in our lives and we shared so much about our love for life, our need for change and how we would get there. I know your road was difficult. But I loved that our conversations ended on a positive note every time.

I know you finally found the peace you so deserved. Yet, my heart breaks knowing you won’t get more time to enjoy that new life space.

Now you have limited time remaining on this earth.  And, I’m heart-broken. Losing you will send a shockwave through our community. We will be affected by your leaving. You meant something to many.

I know very little of these last few months. But, I know that you are surrounded with people who love you. They are flawed, as we all are, but they love you. I know you know that.

I’ve learned that death is not an end. It’s a transition. A migration. A change. A new birth.

And so it is with you. You may not realize all the impacts you have had on this world. Or you may feel that they are insignificant. But, I know otherwise. Because you have impacted my life significantly. No one who was touched by you will ever forget you.

So, let me thank you for our experiences together. Thank you for the gift of appreciating every moment I have – an unintended consequence of your illness. Thank you for having faith in me. It helped me move forward in ways I could not have imagined.

Goodbye my friend.  I value all that you are. I will always treasure the scar I am left with by your leaving.

I pray for your peaceful transition.

Love,

Jessica

 

 

“Jessica, What’s happening with the dating thing?”

This is a question I seem to get frequently — and, I’ve been pretty clear here in this blog that such a topic is outside the scope of these 500 words. 🙂  But it brings up a point I’ve been thinking about quite a bit and actually watching with my friends who are in long-term relationships.

Look, we are generally getting to that stage where our kids are getting older and our relationships are getting longer and inevitably getting a bit less exciting.  Which means that lately I’ve seen some friends decide that their current “situation” is no longer the right situation and I’ve seen some friends decide that they will stick with their “situation” even in times of significant trials.  What gives? What makes one work and one not. Inquiring minds want to know. What’s the secret sauce?

In listening to my close friends I’ve come up with a few common themes. I think they go with any relationship – and there many kinds of important relationships – so, who can’t use a tip or two?

  1. Great relationships are realistic. There will be days, months and years where the imperfections of our partners are in the fore. And being realistic about those imperfections (and admitting that we have them too) is the only way to keep a relationship healthy. We should idolize our partner, but remember they really are human.
  2. Real partners say they are sorry.  It is not and should not be the hardest word.
  3. Respectful partners argue but argue gently. It’s not whether we argue (we will). It’s how we argue. I was once in a relationship where someone would call me some pretty brutal names during an argument. I completely lost respect for him. Don’t do it. Your relationship days will be dark and numbered.
  4. Long standing relationships seem to have partners that show their appreciation. People in happy marriages feel appreciated, loved, and respected. My feeling is we can never go wrong when we tell our partners what we love about them.
  5. My favorite partnerships are those where the partners laugh together. Couples who laugh together and regularly reminisce about funny times tend to be much more satisfied with their relationships.
  6. The best ones (in my humble opinion) are selfless. I see more relationships end because of selfishness than any other reason. Surveys blame it on finances, lack of commitment, infidelity, or incompatibility, but the root cause for these reasons is selfishness. A selfish person is committed only to himself or herself, shows little patience, and never learns how to be a successful partner. End of story.

It is a simple proposition to value our relationships, treat them with great care, and invest into them daily. I’m talking ALL relationships. Being in one requires nearly every bit of ourselves, but it’s so worth it. After all, happy and healthy relationships are far more valuable than most of temporary things we chase after every day of our lives. And they last forever.

XO

One carpet cleaner, three hotels, five schools and a partridge in a pear tree.

Life happens. It happens when you expect it and when you least expect it. Although I have a year left, I’m already sad about my guys leaving. I miss my daughter but am having the most amazing time with my boys. I can’t complain one bit – not even when I have to cancel a well planned trip.

As some of you know, it’s no easy feat to schedule these college visits. You try to fit as much in as you can, missing the least amount of school and spending the least amount of time in a car. We were heading east. My guys haven’t been to any schools out east and they are (sadly 🙂 ) a possibility for one or both. So I got it all set. Six schools – five after flying to Boston – and then a trip to U Penn. We were excited!

So, I got it all arranged: tours at three schools in Boston (and two with my second daughter showing us around).  Two different hotels and a car. Then a flight to Philly and car, a hotel and a tour.  Seriously, took me a day to plan.

Cue – Life.

Packing at the last minute the night before our trip – one of the boys isn’t hungry. He goes to bed early and I think to myself – “He’s going to get sick.”  Sure enough, it’s midnight and the poor kid comes upstairs to tell me that he threw up and couldn’t make it to the bathroom. Good lord.

Yup the norovirus. Super brutal and after being up with him all night, I got him to sleep in the guest room, called the carpet cleaner and started cancelling all the hotels, flights, cars, etc. The other, totally panicked that he would get sick, seemed to find ways to be out of the house for about two days. And when home – spent most of it in his room. I can hardly blame him.

As could be expected, I joined my blond boy two days later but thankfully he was on the mend and I was not going to get as sick as he did. So, here we are – supposed to be on our flight to Philly right now and instead we are finally standing in front of the fridge 4 days later trying to decide if we can find just one thing that sounds good to our still slightly queasy stomachs.

Life. It hits you when you least expect it. But I can’t complain. It’s another chance for me to be a mom. (love)

Wash your hands my friends. 🙂

XOXO

You will be (as was I) surprised by his choice.

I keep 4 or 5 different types of gift cards in my car at any one time (so if you want to break in, you’ll now know what’s there!). I always have a number of fresh fast food gift cards and usually some for coffee shops. I give them away when I see people on my way to and from work. Last week I saw three guys sitting on a corner. No signs asking for money. Just sitting there with all their life belongings, listening to a radio. I pulled over and asked if they would have any interest in a Subway gift card. They looked up and came to the car. I pulled out the others, Chipotle, Five Guys, and Jimmy John’s. Then at the last moment I realized I had a couple of Caribou cards. The first two guys immediately took food cards. The third guy stood there for what seemed like forever – as if he couldn’t decide. I asked him what he was thinking and he shared this story:

Yes, he needs food and that card would be the right choice. But the coffee gift card reminded him of his love for coffee. Not the actual coffee but the smell. He told me that when he was a kid, his mom would make a cup of coffee every morning and he would sit on her lap while she drank it and read the paper. She had a smell about her that he’s never forgotten but can’t find anywhere else.

I was stunned. I wanted to hug him but of course, I couldn’t. I gave him a food card and a coffee card – then I gave his other two friends additional cards (having kids makes me want to be fair when I can!).

I cried all the way to work.

What a reminder that we cannot judge what we see on the outside as having anything to do with what’s on the inside. He had a life. A mother. Her lap. Her smell. And the most beautiful memories. Now he lives on the street. With those things as only memories. Yet, despite the outside part of his existance, his inside has remained as soft as ever.

That I never, not for one moment, thought about what was on the inside, makes me sad. Clearly, I’ve been missing a lot.

While helping with the outside stuff is critically important, we have to remember that outside appearances or life choices are not always indicative of what’s on the inside.

Look around. We are judging at every turn right now. It was a cold hard reminder to me that I judge too and I need to stop.

I will remember him for the rest of my life. Just as he has the wonderful memories of his mother, her lap, the paper and her coffee.

With joy comes sadness but enlightenment. I guess we need all three.

Have a wonderful rest of your weekend.

XOXO

It’s time.

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” Gandhi

I’m tired of the craziness we’re all feeling about the world today.  I hate seeing friends tearing each other apart. Good people who see the world differently. It’s time to stop.

We’ve let fear control our thinking. From fear comes intolerance. Intolerance of other opinions.  It’s not the opinions that are the problem (and please know, this is hard for me to say because I have some pretty strong f***ing opinions on certain issues).  But, but rather intolerance is the problem. Other people have a right to their own opinion just as I’ve a right to mine.

My grandfather once said, “If you see two people arguing and you want to figure out who’s losing the argument, just listen to who’s shouting the loudest. The person who is not listening is losing the argument.” Makes sense.

We must listen to understand. Only understanding will bring change. 

I’ve been studying Gandhi and here are my favorite themes in his life’s work:

1. Change yourself. If you change how you think, you’ll change how you feel and what actions you take. In turn, the world will change around you. Lose your old thought patterns about how to make change and find new ones. Throw away fear and anger and use understanding.  Simplistic? I don’t think so.

2. Forgive. “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”  Fighting evil with evil won’t help.  Listen and respond with empathy – not with more anger. When you do that, you can focus totally on the next point. The next point might make the difference.

3. Persist. Success will seldom come as quickly as you like. We live in a world full of magic pill solutions where we’re promised that we can lose a lot of weight or earn a ton of money in just 30 days. It takes time. Be patient.

4. See the good.There’s always something good in people and also things that aren’t so good. You can choose what things to focus on. If you want improvement than focus on the good in people. Because if you respect them and they respect you – even if there are differences – you’ll find common ground.  And with that, will come change.

5. Be authentic.  I love being around those who are open and clear about who they are – even if they’re different from me.  It’s powerful. When your words and thoughts are aligned that shows through in your communication.

Change is in the air. And, while it may be a s*** storm for a while — it’s a wake up call for us to refocus on that which is critically important. But, remember – we can only do that by understanding and acceptance first. We got here by fear and intolerance.  Let’s get to the next place by love.

I’m energized and on a mission now.  It’s time. Let’s go!

XOXO

 

 

 

Even 2/3’s full can be exhausting.

I’m not a lover of looking backwards or looking too far forward, but I do think this is a good time to reflect on a few things:

  1. Life can be exhausting. If you are like me, you are working and/or raising kids, in a marriage or a relationship, trying to manage your home, your health, and just keeping your head above water.  It’s a freaking lot of s***.  Acknowledge it. Embrace it.  Admit that  even though life is 2/3’s full – there is 1/3 that’s completely exhausting.  You know to whom you can admit that too.  Allow yourself this year to get a hug and a smile when you are spent. You are not alone.
  2. Are you really emotionally transparent? We have walls, boundaries, fears, you name it and we have it. But think of those people you love to be around – they are emotionally transparent. Those are the friends we should surround ourselves with this year.  Thank those in your life who play that role.
  3. To whom much is given, much is expected. Or, in Uncle Ben’s words of wisdom to Peter Parker in Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”  The idea here is that we are and should be responsible for what we have. If we are blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, love, good health and the like, it is expected that we use those things well and to benefit others. If you believe you have been given any of these in this life time – then we are held to a higher standard and should give back.
  4. The world doesn’t owe us anything (no one does) but we owe the world. Enough said.
  5. Promise yourself that you won’t waste your precious energy on gossip, energy stealers, issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.
  6. Look around, keep your eyes open and watch the next place in your life beautifully unfold.  Ask yourself: Am I open to the universe or is fear standing in my way?
  7. Create (and cultivate) relationships. Relationships cost you nothing but give more back then you can ever imagine.
  8. Finally, know that there isn’t a solution to every problem.  2017 (and life) will be full of those things we can’t solve. Pause.  Breathe.  Appreciate. Lean on those in your life. And, of course Love.

Here’s my theme song for the new year.  Two-thirds’ full, right?  Have a happy, healthy and safe New Year!

Even not giving can turn out to be a gift.

Today a friend thanked me for helping her do something that felt good.  It was an easy one on my end.  I gave her a couple of my “caring bags” – large plastic baggies where I put a pair of wool socks, a warm hat and gloves and a granola bar.  I’m giving them to friends so they can give them away to those in need.  She gave her first one to someone today and thanked me for the gift of an “awesome” feeling.  To my friend: It was all YOU.

This all started with my umbrella project  (giving away umbrellas to those I see standing in the rain with nothing).  It’s been great.  But the one experience that really stuck with me was the umbrella I didn’t give away.

I drive home on Glenwood Ave. and late one night there was a guy, pants hanging down quite low, standing in the pouring rain with no jacket and no umbrella.  I decided to pull over and offer him one (my kids worry about this project – but I can’t help myself).  I stopped, rolled down my window and asked “Would you like an umbrella [holding it toward the window].”  “No!” he angrily responded.  My response, “Ok. Have a great night!”  Then, as I started to roll up my window I heard … “Hey … Thanks.  I appreciate it.”

It was a powerful moment for both of us.  We give with no agenda.  With no care for race or gender or economic status.  At that split second – I think (hope) he realized that there was no agenda.  Just me and an umbrella. And maybe, just maybe, it hit his heart as it hit mine. A gift with nothing but words exchanged.

In these crazy times – let’s just keep giving, keep working, and keep spreading the kindness and love.  There will always be anger and hurt.  And, of course, there will always be love! 🙂

Here’s my song of the week (year) (lifetime).  I hope it puts a smile on your face! (words below) xoxo

 

Think of your fellow man
Lend him a helping hand
Put a little love in your heart
You see it’s getting late
Oh, please don’t hesitate
Put a little love in your heart
And the world will be a better place [x2]
For you and me
You just wait and see
Another day goes by
Still the children cry
Put a little love in your heart
If you want the world to know
We won’t let hatred grow
Put a little love in your heart
And the world (and the world) will be a better place
All the world (all the world) will be a better place
For you (for you)
And me (and me)
You just wait (just wait)
And see, wait and see
Take a good look around
And if you’re looking down
Put a little love in your heart
I hope when you decide
Kindness will be your guide
Put a little love in your heart
And the…