These Big Strong Hands

Adagio Teas

Copyright Adagio Teas http://www.adagio.com

 

“They look like big strong hands. Don’t they?” ~Rockbiter from The Neverending Story.

I think of my mother’s hands every time I hear this quote, or any phrase containing the words, “big strong hands.” She had beautiful hands, and they were big and strong. My mother was 5’11”, and every inch of that large frame was pure strength. However, I loved her hands the most. They were the hands that soothed me–their vastness covering my entire head as she played with my hair until I fell asleep. They were the hands that I watched intensely whenever she was teaching me something new, whether it be sewing or cooking or cleaning, whatever. While being a waitress (different times, but that is the term she used proudly), they were the hands I watched handle those giant, food-laden trays, like they were nothing more than pillows. The hands I witnessed her wash, at least fifty times a day (food industry! I am a victim of this habit as well!) The hands with long strong fingers, with which she would thump me if I were getting out of line. Piano hands, they were once called, although she never really learned–despite grandma’s dream of turning her five children into a real life Partridge Family Band. (The youngest got the accordion! But she was an award-winner, so you can’t poke fun.) Strong nails, of which I was so jealous, strong hands, that I thought would be around forever….I miss those hands…

Every woman in my family has beautiful big strong hands…except for me, hahaha! Well, they’re certainly strong–fair warning if I clutch your hand or arm for any reason, I could possibly break it, lbvs–but they are definitely more on the little side. For years I watched my mother, her sisters, and their mother, cut potatoes and the like–in their hands–with ease! I tried this method this past weekend (corned beef and potatoes, duh!) and it certainly didn’t work out the way I wanted it to! I didn’t cut myself or anything, but my quartered potatoes were all different sizes…which doesn’t cut it, according to all this stuff I watch on Food Network, hahaha. But the experience made me think of my mother, and how much I missed her big strong hands….

So here’s to all the women who possess big strong hands. Whether they are used for comfort, for child-rearing, for music, for cooking, for expression, for kneading the tar out of some homemade noodles, or for manual labor–I salute you!

Amber: My Sister Through My Eyes

amberAmber’s life began on June 28, 1975.  As soon as she could walk and talk, her enthusiasm for, sweetness to and curiosity about other people were immediately apparent.  She never knew what a stranger was, if you turned your back on her for a moment you were sure to turn back and find her striking up a conversation with whoever happened to be passing by.  I can picture her as that little girl and I can picture her by her mothers side always wanting to help, the true personification of Mothers little helper, always wanting to be of service.

These two qualities that defined her as a child, the interest in others and the genuine desire to help them and make their lives easier, continued to define her, no matter what hardships she endured, throughout her life. 

There was another side to her greatest strengths, as is so often the case with all of us, they were also her greatest obstacles.  Amber’s selflessness and self-sacrifice caused her to perhaps give too much while not asking for enough in return.  The great stores of energy she drew on to work an increasingly demanding and exhausting job, while raising her kids, and caring for her family were eventually drained.  Her body was more frail than she realized and her will alone was not enough to sustain her.  In addition her innocence and her complete lack of guile which allowed her to see and expect the best in others left her vulnerable to hurts, a heart like hers could not make sense of, and she at times blamed herself for the failings of others.  But no matter what the cost she would not abandon that innate loving kindness and sweetness.  

It is no wonder that, as her health began to fail and she could no longer keep up with the demands of her Title Insurance job, she went back to school to work in healthcare.  After graduating first in her class she decided to pursue working with cancer patients and in that she found what she considered to be her true calling.  She choose healthcare because she cared deeply and passionately about all those who crossed her path and because she had suffered she had vast stores of empathy and compassion for others who were suffering.  She became a true friend to her patients and their families and she liked to think that she, in some small way, shared their burden and by doing so made it lighter.  When her health continued to deteriorate to the point where she could no longer do that job she mourned it for the rest of her life.

Even this loss did not take away her sweet spirit and she continued to pour her love and care into her children, her family and her pets.  She became quite active on social media and was a tireless cheerleader for others, always striving to make them feel loved and celebrated.  She was, in the last months of her life, contemplating writing a book in order to share her triumphs and tragedies, letting people know they were not alone and still trying to help as many people as she could.

Amber’s life had its hardships and was far too short, but all those that knew her felt blessed by that knowledge. Her sweetness , her kindness, her innocence, her lack of guile and her generous heart were so special they could not be ignored.  She is gone from this world but her influence remains with us and if we can, through her example, open our hearts to love freely and to treat each other with compassion and forgiveness, she will have achieved her true aim in life, she will have helped forever all those she loved.

Amber’s life ended at home surrounded by people and animals she loved, her parents, her son and her beagles.  She will be so sorely missed.

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Dear Mom~ Thank You…

Year Six…

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Thank you…

First of all, thank you for surviving. Your first thirty years were frighteningly traumatic, including an experience that should have killed you—at the very least, leave you mute and barren. Thank you for proving them wrong.

Thank you for loving my father so much that you, “Didn’t see his scars.” Thank you for loving him so much, you grossed me out, and overshared entirely too much. I loved it.

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Thank you for forcing the doctors to take you in, a month early, so you could have your little leo-girl, instead of a virgo-boy. You knew the day that I would actually be born—and that I was a girl—and if you had not been insistent, I may not be here, seeing as you were actually in labor and I was in distress. Thank you for having me.

Thank you for teaching me how to read at such a young age. My love for books has endured throughout the years, to such a degree that I have turned down social engagements, just to stay home and read a book.

Thank you for my little brother. I know that you lost four in between us, but there is no one else on this earth that I would want for a sibling. And I wanted a brother. Seven years may separate us in age, but he was wanted by me, and I think that made all the difference. We are some of the closest siblings I have ever seen—so much hinges just on the very existence of the other. Thank you for teaching us how to love each other!! (Probably a “do as I say, not as I do” moment, admittedly. When your younger sister was born, you tried to kill her. But you loved her so much as you got older, I imagine the guilt was palpable.)

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Thank you for always supporting and enforcing my education. You readily accepted that I was smarter than you—a fact I often doubted—but your belief in my capabilities helped give me the motivation and determination to live up to your standards.

Thank you for teaching me to learn from your mistakes. The whole, “Don’t do it because you’ll like it,” rule really worked for me.

Thank you for allowing me to tell you anything. And thank you for always being open and honest with me. Thank you for your stories.

Thank you for your laughter. Thank you for teaching me how to laugh. My greatest weakness—even the capricious psychotic beast that is my anger, falters under the force of my laughter. Sometimes I hear your laughter still, when my own echoes back at me in this stone building. Real laughter comes from the soul, and you taught me how to find it.

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Thank you for telling me I was beautiful, every day. You fostered my ego.

In that case, thank you for teaching me, also, how to “fake it.” Although I am a horrible liar, I can fake a smile with the very best of them.

Thank you for not teaching me how to lie successfully. Although you have hollered at me for telling the truth when I should have lied, haha, I would still rather be unbearably truthful than a liar.

Thank you for all of those, “Science Experiments!” You waited for the world to present you with the opportunity—a freshly hatched nest of aphids or spiders on a bush outside, leftovers too long hidden in the fridge, what happens to a carcass when left on top of an ant hill—and your beautifully loud voice singing those two words to beckon us children to you…very fond memories.

Thank you for those “getting back into school-mode” two-weeks at the end of every summer vacation. The time when you would wake me up early every day, make me do math sheets and write a story, and go to bed on time.

Thank you for showing me how to be happy. Even when my world is a bleak gray maelstrom of horror and pain, you taught me how to find that rainbow, that silver lining. Happiness is my number one emotional state, and you taught me how to find it in the little things. From watching the year’s first batch of antelope frolic in the field across the way, to hearing the sound of my brother’s laughter, down to the way my cat looks at me when I annoy her—these are little dollops of happiness that I lap up to the point of insanity, hahaha! Even without you, this is a trait that refuses to change. Sometimes, despite my best efforts, it is way too easy to distract me from my pain. In fact, I was so happy in December that I forgot to request this day off from work. Instead, I am at work, and I have yet to shed a tear today…

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Thank you for encouraging my imagination and my obsession with the macabre, mythological, and fantasy. You were the one who allowed me to watch Elvira and The Lost Boys at such a tender age, and I personally think I am a lot cooler for it.

Thank you for encouraging my passion. Not for anything in particular, just to passionately believe in being passionate in whatever you believe in. (Oh how I miss our conversations like this….all of our convos, really…)

On that note, thank you for teaching me how to passionately “write a note.” In fact, having such ready access to the written word has allowed me to spread my expertise in some of the most interesting ways. Yes…like us kids used to joke on the bus about your note-writing capabilities, people also joke about mine. Some even tell me to stop, hahaha! No…thank you for teaching me how to express myself this way. Even if the response is far from the one that I desired, at least I know that I expressed my feelings and I can let that part of it go.

Thank you for being my pitbull. I know someone once referred to you as my chihuahua (which made me giggle), but like my Fritz, a great dane-doberman mix, you were a ferocious guard dog that protected what was yours to the death, if need be. Granted, your standard for what could possibly be traumatic to your one and only daughter was rather low. However, you never withheld any of your traumatic stories from me, so I can only thank you for usually overreacting—I am sure the fear and, sometimes, humiliation, you instilled, served to prevent me from possibly engaging in or getting near to, seriously traumatic events.

Thank you for letting me know that it was okay to cry. I know that you had been lead to believe that crying was a form of weakness, but you showed me that it wasn’t.

Thank you for curbing my rebellion, by either approving (for example, “You can dye your hair any color that you want! I love the pink!”), or by being right about the things that actually wouldn’t work for me.

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Thank you for teaching me what it really means to be brave. That there are a lot of things to be afraid of—seen and unseen—but instead of cowering, you have to face those fears head on. There will always be someone that will have your back—again, seen or unseen—in any situation. Bravery isn’t the absence of fear, it is finding courage in the face of your fear.

Thank you for loving me. There has never been a moment I ever truly doubted your love for me. Mad at me, yes. 100% willing to follow through on your threat, “I brought you into this world and I will take you out!” Yes. But if anything, those emotions were only enhanced by your love.

Thank you for teaching me how to love. You taught me what “unconditional” really means. Thank you for teaching me how powerful those words are, and not to use them lightly. Thank you for teaching me that once you say the words, once you mean them, then it should be like an “Unbreakable Vow” (Yes, a Harry Potter reference) has been established, and suddenly it seems as if you are physically incapable of causing that person pain. As weird as it sounds, thank you for making me scared to say the words, because I understand, respect, and fear the responsibility that goes with them.

Thank you for teaching me what is really important—family. They don’t have to be blood related, but people, period, are more important than anything else on this earth. Not money, fame, or the most perfect of possessions—a pair of loving arms is priceless.

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Thank you for teaching me the power of rumors, the stupidity of hurtful gossip, and the cruelty of bullying.

Thank you for teaching me to stand up for what I believe in.

Thank you for teaching me to stand up for the underdog. And thank you for teaching me how to spot the true underdog in any given situation. To not rely on popular opinion, high ideals, or any sort of stigma or stereotype to influence my judgement of right and wrong. To use my eyes and my heart when I am faced with a situation in which I must choose sides.

On that note, thank you for teaching me that sometimes, even in family circles, you have to prioritize your “people.” Sometimes you have to pick sides, put one up above another, just to show where your loyalties lie. To let others know where your particular line is drawn. In that case, thank you for showing me that sometimes “right or wrong” doesn’t play into it at all. Sometimes it’s “ride or die” (although that is a phrase you’d never use—at least not without messing it up. “Disking,” mom? “Bo Diggity?” You were silly!) Sometimes people mean so much to you, that it doesn’t matter whether they are right or wrong. You are going to back that person, no matter what. Thank you for helping to teach me that that is okay. Thank you for also teaching me that sometimes that changes, and that’s okay. You may be “ride or die” for this person, but they might cross a line in the future that causes you to reevaluate your relationship. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes people leave your life for a reason. Thank you for teaching me about loyalty.

Thank you for teaching me how to forgive.

Thank you for teaching me to not be judgmental. Thank you for teaching me what you should actually base a judgment on—which is never based on the cover.

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Thank you for giving me a hope that refuses to die.

Thank you for giving me so many little brothers. You may have only been capable of having two children of your very own—and definitely not due to lack of trying!—but between you and dad, there are several “adopted children” out there who remember you two as their second favorite, if not top favorite, parents. One of your “sons” got his Mama Wanda tattoo before your two real children did. Right over his heart. Your service was packed—and a lot of them were males under 20, your son’s friends, and young ladies under 30, my friends…because we all loved you so.

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Thank you for teaching me that the world, indeed, does NOT revolve around me. That other people’s feelings matter, most of the time, more than my own. Thank you for teaching me how to curb my mouth.

Thank you for being my inspiration, my sounding board, and my number one fan. Thank you for being my best friend. Thank you for being the best mother anyone could ask for.

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“Thank you for every second of your life…” In This Moment, “Into The Light”

You Are What You Think: Likes, Dislikes and Change

Mentalist

Have you ever had something come up and you instinctively disliked it?  Was this dislike based on an actual reason, or was the dislike merely because it wasn’t what you were expecting?  Why does something changing have to be about liking or disliking?

Humans have a complicated relationship with change.  We can find it disturbing if it comes upon us unexpectedly, but if things stay the same for too long we get bored.  If we don’t have any perspective or control over our reactions to the changes in life; than we spend our time constantly rocketing from one reaction to the next, a helpless passenger on the roller coaster of life.

I was told recently that you have to divorce yourself from the outcome of a situation and focus instead on doing your best and that is the only way to come through a troublesome situation unharmed.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.  The situation I was going through seemed completely dreadful at the time and I really had no control over it, or any way to make the bare facts of it better.  The sad part, for me, was that I had been looking forward and working toward this moment for quite some time, and now it here it was and it was not at all what I was expecting.  My only option at that point was to try and focus on my attitude toward the situation and not the situation itself and that is what I tried to do.  I will admit that I could have done a better job, as it was I stayed pretty distraught about it for a few weeks.

Looking back now my instinct is to be hard on myself for this lapse but that would be starting the cycle over again.  So instead of beating myself up and disliking my reaction to this change, I’m gonna think about how to do better next time.  Life is never going to stop changing and I’m never going to stop working on myself and those things combined give me something to look forward to.  So bring on the change, life, and I will try to see it for exactly what it is, neither good nor bad but possibly exciting!

You Are What You Think: Judge Not

What  you think is the true basis of your whole personality, it directly informs your feelings, words and actions.  In this series that  I’m calling “You Are What You Think”, I am going to explore why what you think about is so important and the causes and consequences of different thought habits.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this quote during the 19th century and it is as true today as it was then and for a very obvious reason.  What we think and how we view things are completely intertwined. A liar, for example, is unable to trust others because he always suspects others of being as deceitful as himself.  Ken Keyes put it another way during the middle of the 20th century…

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This is why it is so important to pay attention, not only to what you say about others and what you say about yourself, but to what you put into your brain and what you think about or how you process that stimulus.  If you continually let your baser impulses run wild, if you don’t repeatedly and thoughtfully pursue empathy and rationality, you really have no basis on which to judge others or the world in which we live.  You cannot say “I am a good person and that person is bad”, because your own perspective is biased.  Thoughtfulness or mindfulness in your approach to life is the only way to be sure that your perspective is as accurate as possible and when you view the world in this way, you are often less inclined to judge others, because of your increased awareness of what you do not know about that person’s feelings or motivations in acting the way they do. To round this quote session out, here is one from a favorite TV show of mine from the 21st century…

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When you act or speak in ignorance of what another’s circumstances might be, you reveal that ignorance to the world around you.  Or to put it one last way, from an even older source than Emerson, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” Another problem with spending so much thought energy on judging or disparaging a situation or another person is that you are wasting time and energy on a thought process that will ultimately leave you, in no better position than when you started out. A better use of your time might be to acknowledge the issue and then turn your thoughts away from the problem itself and who’s to blame and toward finding the best solution to the problem going forward.

Good News! Never Underestimate The Power of Hope!

Chant BeautyWould you have clicked on this post if the title had been bad news?

I turned on NPR this morning just in time to hear a gentleman say that you will never get someone to change their mind by yelling at them.  That comment tied in perfectly with this blog that I was already planning.

So would you click on a bad news link?  Maybe and maybe not, but don’t we all have enough negativity in our own situations without getting more of it from others?

Life is too short to be constantly focused on the bad stuff but unfortunately it’s human nature to obsess over the things that go wrong.  It takes effort to focus the mind on the good stuff.  It takes effort to count your blessings.  The reward from that effort is that you eventually train your brain to see the good without effort and you train the people around you to think of you as a source of inspiration and positivity.

When I became a stepmom I did a lot of research on child rearing and one of the suggestions I came across repeatedly was to not overuse the word no.  Instead of constantly harping on what the child is doing wrong and the dire consequences that will follow their mistakes, try to tell them what the right thing to do would be and the positive consequences that result from good decision making.  If you are only telling them what not to do, you leave them with no way forward, they are stuck knowing that what they did was wrong but with no information on how to make it right.  This same principle applies to every sort of human communication in our lives. It would work quite well in romantic relationships too.  So don’t be a nag, be a cheerleader!

The take away is this: if  you have a message that you want to get out there to the world, if you want to change peoples minds about an issue, I would suggest you take the advice of the quote above.  Don’t lead through fear or righteous indignation.  Don’t tell people what they shouldn’t do.  Tell them what they should do and why it would be better for them if they did!  Never underestimate the power of hope!

Pity Party for One, Table 15…Am I in the Wrong?

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I have recently come to realize that some pity parties really annoy me, “But Funky, how can you say that! What about What’s Wrong With Me? or The Abyss? Those are your pity party blogs!” Yes, I know. I do get down and out quite a bit, but here’s the thing…I’m still happy. Yes, I have been single for a decade, I have watched my mother die, held my pooch as she died in my arms, and seen more pain that should be allowed…but I am still happy! I can say that with honesty.

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Dr Laura on Facebook

Now, I am a Leo, and according to my Sagittarius brother, Leos are zodically inclined to be big bad complainers. Now I do like to complain….but I hate complaining about the same thing over and over again. With my girlfriend’s, they actually listen, so I don’t have to rehash an event over and over. Not so much the case with my boys….so in trying to explain myself to them, I feel as if I get a little redundant.

But what really pushes my buttons? What really grinds my gears and makes me want to throw my own pity party? Listening to someone else’s who really have nothing to complain about (on the whole grand scheme of things), most especially if they are displaying suicidal tendencies. Or if their pity party is nothing but self-pity over circumstances that they had caused themselves. Or if they are just too dang blind to see their own blessings.

Dr Wayne W. Dyer Facebook

Dr Wayne W. Dyer Facebook

See, I know without a doubt, that despite all of the horrors that I have seen, my life is GOOD! I know without a doubt, that there are hundreds of people out there who have it worse! When someone shares a pathetic pity story with me, I practically scream my story at them–“Deal with that and tell me how much you want to die!!”

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Sometimes, the person is seemingly inspired by my story…which I am unsure of how I should feel about that. “If she can live through all that…” Like I have a choice…

Other times, they throw it back in my face. “How can you complain about my pity party by throwing your own?” Which I agree, it sounds silly even to me. What I cannot stand is, after hearing my story, “Well if you hate yourself so much…”

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This got me a’thinking…do I come across as a self-hater? If I do, then I want to assure you that I am not. Sure, I may have self-doubt and question myself quite frequently–but this is purely based on the fear of peer-perception. I mainly worry that I have an arrogant and pretentious view of myself. That I really don’t come across in the real world, the way that I do in my own mind. I probably do think too highly of myself, but I think that is better than being self-deprecating, hahaha! And every time I do start to question myself, too many friends are quick to argue my negative tone. To the point that I feel like a jerk for even trying to doubt myself. I guess on that note, I also don’t like to anger my friends, and if they say that I am sweet, and beautiful, and amazing, and they love me–who am I to question them? Especially if they are going to bite my head off?

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Good tip to remember–if you are full of self-doubt, and you go to a friend to complain about yourself, if they say that you are awesome, listen to them! Don’t argue! 

I guess that is another part of the pathetic pity party that I cannot abide by–the refusal to listen to the good things. The continuation of focusing on the negative. I also admit that I am guilty of this as well….I focus on the fates being against me, a lot. I focus on the fact that those who die actually get the better end of the deal, it’s those of us left behind that have to learn how to survive. So am I being a hypocrite to those who have it bad, but not so bad as me?

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quotesgram.com

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I think that I am, a little.

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Melinda Watts Facebook

So here is what I am going to take from this:

  1. I don’t know everything that has happened in their life, so I cannot make the judgement as to whether or not their pity party is deserving.
  2. Just because someone has not seen the horrors that I have seen, it does not lessen the degree of their own pain. Envy them instead for having it easy. (hahaha!)
  3. I cannot control how they feel. Just because I tell them my story, or try to reassure them that they are awesome, loved and cared for–I am not in control of changing their mind.
  4. I cannot save everyone. Either I believe that everything happens for a reason, or I don’t. And making myself crazy, taking on another’s pain as my own, will not save them either…nor will it help my own psyche.
  5. If someone doesn’t want to hear my pain, then I don’t want that to affect me. I can still be friend’s with that person without them knowing all of my idiosyncrasies. (Although, as Lollipop pointed out, I use my pain as a security blanket–lay it all out there right away so that you can decide to stay or go. Staying is more fun! Just saying!!)
  6. Lastly, maybe I am fairly unique in the sense that I can be serenely happy and still pray for death. I enjoy life every day, even though I think that it is totally unfair, that I am not as strong as the “powers that be” think that I am. I recognize my blessings, and I am in the situation that I choose to be in. I am not “stagnate” in my hometown, I chose to move back, and I am choosing to stay. I see that maybe being single because I live at home with my dad to take care of him and so he won’t be alone; is okay. That being the “strong one,” the “rock,” of the family is a title I should wear with pride; not treat it like a burden. That all of my people love me, but won’t be with me, because they do love me that much, and they know that I can be rather cold once you’ve broken my trust. This too is a blessing, not a curse.

    dailyinspirationnewsletter.org

    dailyinspirationnewsletter.org

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It is all in the way that you look at it. And like I have said before, the only thing you can control is you. So, I am going to make a conscious effort to not fling my pain in other’s faces. To try not to get angry at people who refuse to see the goodness in their own lives. To try and share my pain in a positive manner, not angrily.

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