Reflections

I always view the New Year as a time of reflection — on both the year that ended, and the year to come. I count myself as one of those relieved that 2016 is over. It was a tough year, complete with disappointments, uncertainty, fear and loss. Many of these things have distracted me from focusing on my health, and I found myself a bit stuck in negative feelings.

To be fair, 2016 had a lot of highlights as well: parties, dinners and game nights with family and friends, volunteer activities, vacations and trips (New Hope, Cleveland, Lake Placid, Virginia, Brockway, NYC), music events (recitals, concerts, football games), Marina’s engagement, Mikayla’s off Broadway play, and a few weddings. We had a year of continued good health, with me passing cancer-versary #4, and blessings of all sorts. I am grateful for so much in my life, but the ups and downs of the past year were draining.

So where do we go from here?

I’m not necessarily a big “resolutions” person. I’d like to think I am reflecting on my life all year long, continually looking for ways to be a better person and to improve our lives. But as we start the new year, I wanted to think about the areas that should be priorities.

Yesterday I watched a video produced by our church about having your Best.Year.Ever. (Watch here.) The first principle is to start with the end in mind, meaning: think about where you want your life to be at the end of 2017 and create a blueprint of how to get there.

I’ve always struggled with long range plans and answering questions like “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Or even 1 year.  I’ve been around the block enough to know that life doesn’t always go the way you plan or expect. Those curve balls keep coming so I find it hard to be very specific on where I want to be in a set period of time.

That said, here are my high level areas of focus for 2017:

  • Re-commit to my Health (and that of my family).  This includes getting back to clean eating (no oil, no processed, etc.),  cooking more and eating out less, juicing, more water, and exercise. I need to get back on the treadmill, and I really miss yoga.
  • Spend more quality time with family and friends. Laughter is good for the soul, and so is time with the people you love. Combine them, and it’s nothing short of heaven. 🙂
  • Read more. Write more.
  • Be grateful and look for the little joys in life.
  • Declutter. Simplify.
  • Pray more, and accept each new challenge with grace and strength.

As you reflect on 2016 and starting anew in 2017, what’s on your list?

IMDb: Reflections (1984)

Last Goodbye

It’s been about two months since I last posted. I think of writing all the time and just haven’t had any opportunity. It’s been a crazy two months and a bit of an emotional roller coaster.

As you all know, my Dad went into a nursing home in June and was under the care of hospice. He had been declining steadily, becoming mostly non-verbal in the final few months, and he passed away on November 14th. I am grateful that I got to be with him in his final moments, thanks to the awesome nursing staff that called at 2:30 a.m. and said “come now”. His death was peaceful and gentle, and I am glad that he never appeared to be suffering.

To give you insight into who my Dad was, I share below my older brother’s Facebook post from that day. I couldn’t say what he said so perfectly.

It’s with a heavy heart I say goodbye to my Dad, who lost his fight with cancer early this morning. As my brother so correctly stated, Gus taught us everything we needed to know about life and treating others right, all before we left home, though I didn’t realize it until I was in my 40’s and didn’t thank him until I was in my 50s. Never one to say much, he would do anything for anyone, stranger or friend. Looking back, so much of who I am was due to his silent lead. Gus, I raise a can of Gibbons in toast and quote part of a poem I stumbled upon ages ago; 

Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd,
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.

Only a dad but he gives his all,
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing with courage stern and grim
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen:
Only a dad, but the best of men

Nazdrowie Dad.

He truly was a kind, generous, hardworking man and he is greatly missed.

*******

Since I last posted, the original sale of the family homestead fell through. This was very disappointing, as I very much wanted this woman to live in my parents’ home. I was very upset with the whole process and worried about now having to maintain the house over the winter, with the likelihood of a sale slim to none.

And then on November 30th, I got a call that we had an offer — cash deal, no inspections, no fuss… title search and close. Thank you, Lord!  And so, today, I closed on the sale. I am dealing with so many different emotions right. I’m glad to have this responsibility off my shoulders, to not have to maintain and heat the house over the winter, and to be able to finalize my Dad’s estate. But  it’s hard knowing that I will likely never set foot in my childhood home ever again.

I walked through the empty house one final time last night, said my last goodbye, and cried — sad for the people who are now gone from my life, scared for the realization that “we” are now the adults in the room, nostalgic for all the wonderful memories, and grateful for all the blessings bestowed on my life.

The holiday season has been bittersweet so far, with many wonderful times coupled with bouts of tears. I am missing my Mom all the more with Dad also now gone, and in some ways the world seems a bit lonelier.

I know I carry the memories in my heart and mind, so I can say those last goodbyes with peace and a few final tears.

IMDb: Last Goodbye (2004)

Empty Rooms

And the walls have grown sturdy and the halls have worn well
But there is nobody living inside, nobody living inside…

These days, whenever I think of my parents’ house, my childhood home, these lyrics from Dan Fogelberg play in my mind. The house is almost completely empty after a yard sale — and a summer of cleaning and purging. (Enormous thanks to my cousin, Stephanie, and Aunt Pauline who did most of the heavy lifting and whose kindness can never be repaid.)

I have walked around the empty house many times and each room holds special memories.

I picture my mother always in the kitchen, with aromas of fresh baked goods, homemade chicken noodle soup and pierogies. There was always a pie or some other sweet on the counter. I remember Mom and me laughing as I struggled to learn how to roll out cookie dough! I picture my dad in the chair in the corner of the kitchen kicking off his work boots by the back door. We all learned to cook and bake in this kitchen and, like most homes, it was the hub of activity.

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In the back of the house we had a room affectionately known as “the toy room”. In our childhood, there were old school desks and chalk boards, rocking horses and toy pianos, and boxes upon boxes of toy soldiers, Matchbox cars, and comic books. The floor was covered with Fisher Price “little people” and accessories. Who didn’t have the barn and airport? And we were even allowed to draw roads – with crayon – on the worn out carpet! The grandchildren also grew up in this room and played with many of the toys my brothers and I left behind. The grandkids were much more into dressing up (in Mom’s outdoor decorative flags, of all things) and play-acting — the house was full of tigers and warriors and wizards.

The dining room was the focal point for homework, board games, and family gatherings. Many a late night game of Monopoly or Aggravation was played at the table, and it’s where we all learned to play Pinochle. Holiday dinners were Mom’s specialty. We would add extra tables to extend into the living room so there was space for everyone to sit togehter and there were the special table cloths just for such events. While stained from years of use, I actually kept one of the lace tablecloths since it held such great memories.

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Very specific — and yet random — memories come up in various places in the house. I remember the Hot Wheels track looping from the dining room table to the living room. Playing jacks on the hardwood floor. The hole in the bedroom wall from rough-housing. Sitting on the landing of the stairs waiting for the Christmas tree to be plugged in on Christmas morning. The cedar-y smell of the closets and the pull string lights in the bedrooms. Rows of jars of garden fresh canned goods in the dark basement. The hissing and warmth of the steam radiators.

The house has undergone some transformations over the years and I think about what it looked like “way back when”. When we had a bath tub and no shower. When the heavy door with the weird doorknob and key adorned the front of the house. When the old kitchen cupboards were painted yellow. When we had a coal furnace, a wood stove in the kitchen, and no railing on the front porch (which led to multiple broken windows from kick balls and baseballs with nothing to stop them).

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There are so many joyful memories, and many experiences that shaped who we all are today. I could write a book.

The house has not really been “home” since my mother died and now it’s time to let someone else make happy memories there. Sale of the house is set to close in the next week or so (prayers for successful closing!). I’ve met the prospective buyer and I was excited to hear that someone else’s grandchild will grow up here. I think my parents would be happy with that. I know it makes it easier for me to let go.

IMDb: Empty Rooms (2012)

Pink Zone

Pinktober is in full swing! Pink ribbons are everywhere — from football players to cereal boxes and everything in between.  I’m not a fan of the whole pink ribbon thing, and I’m not a supporter of SGK for numerous reason.  I think we’re all pretty “aware”.

That said, I think it’s awesome when people support local organizations that help those battling cancer (breast or otherwise) through financial or other means of assistance. In my corner of the world, there are a number of organizations that do just that, including Candy’s Place: A Cancer Wellness Center, the Northeast Regional Cancer Institute, and, my personal favorite, Michele’s Ladies in Pink.

Ladies in Pink, as I have mentioned previously, is an organization that raises money for local women fighting breast cancer, as well as others fighting any type of cancer.  Today was their 10th Annual Ladies in Pink Party, and in those 10 years, they have given out well over $125,000!!!  That’s just amazing!  As a beneficiary of their hard work and generosity, I can attest to how much they have truly helped so many people.  I am so proud of all of the women who celebrate and honor the life of their sister and friend, Michele Z.

I urge you, wherever you are, to donate to your local organizations and help those in your communities who really need it.  You might even have fun while you do!

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IMDb: Pink Zone (2014)