A Remembrance Day to Remember

Today is Remembrance Day.  November 11, 2015.  Every year since I was a child I would stop what I was doing at 11am to pay homage to all the brave men and women who served in the wars.  This year was the same.

But this year was also very different.

I read the stories about what took place in the wars.  I was even obsessed with watching the British TV miniseries such as Foyles War, Land Girls that were set during WWII.  I can’t even tell you how many movies I’ve seen.  You could say that I had an idea of what went on, even though these were fiction.

Back in September Hubby and I went to the UK for his book launch and also to attend a conference.  We took some days to sightsee, as this was my first time there.  We went to the typical tourist places such as The British Museum,  London Tower, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye etc.  But we also went to the War Museum, something that I normally wouldn’t put on my list.

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When I first entered into the museum I saw a WWI spitfire plane.  I was finally able to see in real life the plane that my Hubby wrote in one of his fiction books.  I could understand the flimsiness that these brave pilots had to fly.  I was in awe.

As we walked through the museum we saw tanks, submarines, missiles.  I could feel my chest getting tight.  I tried to imagine what it would be like to have these huge death enhancing things approaching me.  I just couldn’t.  All I felt was fear.

We visited the WWI & WWII displays.  There we saw the posters that were sent to Canada and Australia to recruit men to help in the cause.  We saw what the Women’s Land Army did to contribute to the war efforts and how women worked in munitions factories.  We also saw how the men were suited to go to war.  They had practically nothing to protect them from the elements!

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There were displays of letters written home by the men, where they pleaded to be saved or killed, as they saw death to be a better option than where they were.  The death and destruction was overwhelming.

I tried to make my way out, but had to go through a make-believe trench.  It was extremely realistic and I could feel the fear growing inside of me.  I knew I was safe, that it wasn’t real.  I could not help wonder what the poor men had to face every day while at war.

At the end of the trench there were props where you could wear army attire.  I usually jump at the chance to play dress up.  However, as I picked up the jack and hat, I had to place it back down onto the counter.  This wasn’t a time to play around; this wasn’t something to have fun with.  There were many men who had bullets go through those very same helmets and jackets.  This was a time to remember and honour and pay homage to them.

I walked out of the museum with a heavy heart.  I couldn’t wrap my head around how something so evil and destructive could take place. As much as I tried I could not understand why someone would want to go to war.

As we walked  London we walked by the river and saw the damage that bombs made to some of the statues of the Sphynx.

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A few days later Phil and I hiked in the English Countryside.  We came across what was recently discovered to be training trenches.  We met a few men who were clearing them for a memorial service to be held a few days from then.  They had said that the men would come for a few days, dig, and then go out and fight.  Wow.

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About a month after we returned home we watched another movie set during WWII.  It didn’t have the glamourous affect that it usually did.  I was anxious throughout the entire movie and I couldn’t sleep at night.  In the past, knowing that I was in Canada, and the war took place ‘over there’ in Europe meant that it wasn’t close to me.  But visiting the War Museum, seeing the conditions these people lived in, witnessing the real damage caused by the war made it very real for me.

And then last week I talked to my Mom about growing up during WWII.  She told me about how the Nazis would go through her town killing people, how her father (my grandfather) was captured by the Nazis and became a POW.  She told me how he survived on potato skin scraps because he was given nothing to eat. This hit very close to home for me.  I couldn’t even fathom going through all of that, and here my mother, my aunts and uncles, people so close to me grew up in this.

I am free because of these people.

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So this Remembrance Day, I don’t just thank you, the soldiers for fighting and giving me freedom.  I thank you, brave human beings, for risking your life.  I thank you for sacrificing for me.  I thank you for doing what you did despite your fears.  I thank you for giving up all that you knew and going into the unknown, incomprehensible.  I thank you for being you.  And I love you.

OTTAWA, ON: NOVEMBER 11, 2013 -- Hand made poppies on display as the general public and veterans attend Remembrance Day ceremonies and activities at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, ON, November 11, 2013. (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen) Photo Request 115095

OTTAWA, ON: NOVEMBER 11, 2013 — Hand made poppies on display as the general public and veterans attend Remembrance Day ceremonies and activities at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, ON, November 11, 2013. (Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen) Photo Request 115095

How Do You Kill a Mockingbird?

I’m a sun worshiper.  Not the type that lies on the beach all day long, but the type that simply loves the sun shining.  It can be the most bitterly cold day, or everything possible could be going wrong, but as long as the sun is shining, I’m OK and all is well.

As I sit here writing this post it’s snowing outside.  It’s cloudy, dreary and cold.  But not that cold that cuts right through out, but that damp cold that gets into your bones.  It makes sense though because it needs to be that cold for the snow to fall.

Look at how miserable it is out there

Look at how miserable it is out there

I can’t help but remember that just over a week and a half ago; my hubby and I were in the beautiful Caribbean on a splendid ship celebrating our honeymoon.  The sun shined every day; it was hot, and just glorious – my kind of weather.  I must admit that when we decided to book our honeymoon for mid-January I was worried that I would have a difficult time and be depressed once I got back as the last time I went away at this time of year, it felt like the winter just dragged on forever.  This time it’s different.  Maybe it’s because of the company I traveled with, maybe it’s because I’m not locked up in an office building anymore, or maybe it’s because I can freely enjoy the sunshine as I please.  I think it’s one and three.  I’m grateful to be home with my hubby, to be able to open all the window coverings during the day, and to be able to go outside and soak in the sun when I please.

But my mind does keep going back to our trip.  The islands we visited, the activities we participated in, the events which took place, and specifically the people we met.

We had a blast even though our honeymoon didn’t exactly start off on the right note.  Thankfully hubby asked me to check to see that I had my passport shortly after we departed our home. Needless to say, I didn’t have mine.  And while we were at the airport we had issues checking in.  The flight from Toronto to Houston wasn’t ideal – it was freezing and our seats didn’t recline.  It had to have been one of the worst I had ever been on (and I’ve been on many, many flights).  And once we arrived at Houston Airport, I swear it felt like we were taking part in the Amazing Race.  We had exactly 10 minutes to get from Terminal A to Terminal E to avoid missing our connection. We ran down the terminals with our gear on our back, barely made the inter-airport train.  We arrived at the gate huffing and puffing. Luckily we didn’t miss the flight.

We took the red-eye from Toronto to Houston, and our connection took us from Houston to San Juan.  Our intention was to sleep on the planes – if only that would have happened.  I should have known better because I don’t sleep very well if I’m not in my bed.  What was I thinking?  And so we landed in San Juan at 6 am.  He slept, I didn’t. How lovely.

As we made our way to the baggage claim area, hubby turns to me and says “I wonder if our luggage made it?”  Sh*t!  We barely made it to the flight, so how the heck could our luggage?  As soon as we get to the baggage area I scan to see where I can file a report for lost luggage, and he’s trying to convince me to wait and see as it may have arrived after all.  I love my hubby, I really do.  And I love that he’s such an optimist.  And because we both insisted on our points of view, we both waited – he near the carousel belt, and me in line at the lost luggage reporting area.  Once the belt stopped and our luggage was nowhere in sight, he decided to join me.

So here we were, in beautiful San Juan sans luggage and hubby is chirpy and happy and I’m crusty and sleep deprived.  We have only the clothes on our backs, our backpack and purse and I want nothing more than to put on flip flops.

Crusty me.

Crusty me.

The only saving grace was that we were told that there was another flight due to arrive in San Juan from Houston that afternoon, and that our luggage will likely be on it, but we were told to call “just in case.”  We made our own way downtown, which is also the pier, and I was starting to relax.  The sun, the beauty everywhere, was taking effect.  We spotted a public pay phone and we decided to call the airline before hitting the sights.  As I’m trying to work my way through the teleprompters, I hear:

“Excuse me, do you need some help?” in a male voice with an accent.

I give hubby a gesture that tells him to deal with it.  As I’m trying to talk to the airline employee I’m also trying to hear the discussion between hubby and the stranger.  I’m failing miserably at both because the payphone keeps crackling and the person on the other end can’t hear me, and I can’t figure out what hubby and stranger are talking about.  So I hang up the phone.

I turn to the stranger and say “No thank you, we don’t need any help.”

He says “But it looks like you do.  I can help you.  See, I work for Air Canada (he points to a badge).  What airline did you fly in on?”

I’m thinking to myself ‘oh boy, I bet he says this to everyone, so I respond “United” which was true.

His face beams “Great, because they’re Star Alliance, which means I can help you. Listen, my office is right there. You can use my phone, my internet, relax and even use the washroom if you need to.” And then he goes on and on about the different places to visit, what time to check in for the cruise, etc.

I’m from the big city.  I was brought up in a time where you locked your front door even when you were home.  You don’t talk to strangers.  You question people’s motives.  I do need to tell you that I try not to live by that, I do believe there is good in everyone, but at that moment I was tired, crusty, in a foreign city with no luggage and I just wanted my flip flops.  I turn to hubby for some direction and the look in his eyes told me everything: ‘Smartie, nothing is going to happen to you.  I’m here to protect you.  It’s OK to go along with this guy. He won’t harm you.’ Oh how I love this man.

And so we did.  And I’m glad we did.

Leo (his name) ended up being an angel sent to help us.  As we walked to his office everyone on the road said hi to him: ladies walking with their children, shop keepers, police – everyone.  And as we walked my anxiety melted away.  He was good to every word he spoke to us and more.  It took us over an hour to deal with United and all the while we were in his office.  We never did get our luggage that day and thanks to Leo, not only did we get to see the sights in San Juan, rest in his office, we also were directed where to buy clothes and toiletries at a reasonable price, we were able to check onto the cruise earlier.  If it weren’t for Leo we’d be wearing the same clothes for four days (yes, that’s how long it took for us to get our luggage).

Our cruise ship!

Our cruise ship!

We were so moved by this man who was motivated in helping people just because that’s what he does.  He didn’t want anything from us, but for us to have a good time in San Juan.  Throughout the trip we kept thinking about him, telling people about this angel in an Air Canada hat. We ended up having a fantastic time and he was a big part of it.

And so when our cruise ported back in beautiful San Juan, I was sad that our trip was over, and I was reminded of Leo.  Suddenly we heard “Hey! Did you get your luggage that day?” Hubby and I looked at each other with smiles from ear to ear.  We turned around and there he was!  LEO!!!!

He was at it again, trying to help us.  He was trying to organize our transfers to the airport, and when he found out that we had half a day in San Juan, he grabbed my luggage and started walking.  We followed him to the tourist office.  He insisted that we enjoy the local festival and not to worry as our belongings would be safe.  He gave us a curfew and when it was time to go to the airport he came with us, ensured we checked in safely and walked us to our gate.  He even tried to see if he could get us on a direct flight home!

I began writing this post before leaving for our honeymoon.  The one I was writing before had obviously had different content, but essential the meaning of the two are very much the same.  They both have to do with the book “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

I read this book in high school and it stayed with me since.  I love that book and meeting Leo just emphasized one of the key learning of the book.  And no, he didn’t kill a mockingbird, which is never actually done in the book, but rather that you aren’t to kill one.

In the book Scout is told by her father Atticus that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird and the reason is that mockingbirds simply exist to provide pleasure with their song.  They do nothing but sing their hearts out for everyone to hear.  And to kill a mockingbird is to kill that which is innocent and harmless.

And I was prepared to kill one (figuratively, not literally).  You see, in San Juan I was so wrapped up in my own misery that I couldn’t see beyond my nose.  I was so set on trying to find out what Leo was up to, what he wanted from us, what his next move was and because of my hubby’s optimism, his outlook on life and mankind and his love for me and my love and trust in him, I was capable of handing over my skepticism and surrendering to the situation.  And because of this, I was able to receive what was being gifted to me at that very moment.

Leo ended up being that mockingbird for me.  In the short period that he entered my life I noticed that all he wanted was to ensure that hubby and I were blessed with his song.  I was also reminded of the final words in the book, when Scout tells Atticus about misunderstandings off Boo Radley, and how he hadn’t done anything of the things she thought he did, that he was “real nice.”

Atticus’ response to that was “most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”  And when I finally was able to see Leo I could see just how ‘real nice’ he just is.

I’m also amazed in the synchronicity of it all.  I didn’t feel comfortable in publishing the first post.  It just didn’t feel right and I knew I just had to wait, that something else was to come along to write about.  Never in a million years did I think this was going to happen and that we would have a beautiful angel/mockingbird in San Juan named Leo.

Oh, by the way, yesterday we received a beautiful email from Leo.  He wanted to know if we arrived home safely.  Our hearts were touched once again by our angel in San Juan.

Our Leo and Hubby (they exchanged hats).

Our Leo and Hubby (they exchanged hats).

Why Didn’t The Chicken Cross The Road?

To answer the question – it’s because it marched to a different drumstick!!

And on that same day when it decided not to cross it sat down on the side of the road and decided to stare off into the unknown distance.  She just stared and stared and stared and then something happened.  A sudden realization came over her.  She wondered if the chickens before her who crossed the road really knew what they were doing, or if they did it because that’s what was always done.  And she came to know that despite what everyone told her, the grass was not greener on the other side.  But she wasn’t happy with the grass where she lay either.

And so she walked along the side of the road, not knowing where it would lead her but trusting that it would be to a better place.

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And that chicken, my friend, is me.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

“Sometimes when you pick up your child you can feel the map of your own bones beneath your hands, or smell the scent of your skin in the nape of his neck. This is the most extraordinary thing about motherhood – finding a piece of yourself separate and apart that all the same you could not live without.”   – Jodi Picoult, Perfect Match

Today is Mother’s Day. I woke up to my gorgeous little girl calling me from the kitchen.  She “snuck” downstairs to make me breakfast and wanted to make sure that I slept in.  The proud look on her face was the best Mother’s Day gift ever!

My girl is the best teacher ever, and every day I continue to learn more and more about life from her  So, in honor of my daughter on Mother’s Day, I’m going to repost what I wrote last year called: What I’ve Learned on Mother’s Day.  Enjoy!

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Pay It Forward

“I think you can scare somebody out of doing something, but not out of feeling like they want to.”  – Catherin Ryan Hyde, Chasing Windmills

A few weeks ago while I was on the bus on my way to work, a lady got on a few stops after mine.  After she boarded I had a hard time concentrating on the book I was reading, which I really wanted to read.  My commute time is my reading time, and I am really jealous of that time, so needless to say I wasn’t a happy camper.

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This wasn’t the first time this happened with this lady.  If the timing is perfect, our paths can cross easily a few times a week, which means I don’t get to read.  That day I had enough of the struggle and just sat there and listened to her message.  Let me explain what happened.

I’d like to think that I’m a non-judgemental person, and I do believe that everyone has freedom of speech, and a right to their own opinions.  But this lady was just driving me bonkers that day.  She was preaching very loudly about the fact that God watches everyone therefore we need to be careful of what we do, and that there really is a place called hell.  She would stress that in order to avoid hell we need to follow what the bible says, or else God will punish us and send us to an eternal life in purgatory. She went on to say that God will be angry if we let Jesus’ death to wipe our sins away be a waste of time.  She would go on and on until we reached the subway station, and continue until she got onto the subway and went her own way.  What a heavy message to hear first thing in the morning!

This time while she preached, I observed the people on the bus and how they reacted.  They wouldn’t look her way, would avoid eye contact with her.  I could see that many people didn’t want to hear her, and some looked uncomfortable.  I know that although I was listening to her, I too felt uncomfortable. I had a hard time relating with the message she was trying to convey – that God was an entity of judgement, anger, and something to be fearful of.  I didn’t like the emotions which were being drawn up in me from this.  I was glad when she was no longer near me.

One afternoon this week while I was on my way home , I was on the subway reading my book when someone caught my attention.  A beautiful, older lady who had an amazing presence about her and radiated joy and love walked by me.  I was totally enraptured with her, to the point that I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.  Once she reached the front end of the subway, close to where I was sitting, she would go up to every person, stand in front of them and say “You are beautiful.  God loves you.  God bless you.”  I was totally taken aback by that.  She had such a loving way about her, and was delivering such a beautiful message.  Witnessing what this woman was doing, I felt my heart swell and found myself smiling.  I’m by all means not religious, but when she stood in front of me, and said those words, I found myself saying “thank you, and God bless you.”  I don’t know why I did that, it just felt like the right thing to do.

But the strangest thing happened.  I noticed, that although she was delivering a completely different message than the other lady on the bus, the one who spoke of a mean God, this woman received the same reaction.  No one would look at her, give her the time of day.  I know that I didn’t have the same feelings come up inside of me – this time I felt cozy and warm inside and for the rest of the day I felt better, more happy, and I paid it forward.  I was more loving and kind towards others, I held open doors, gave my seat to someone who needed it, and smiled at strangers.  I just didn’t understand why the others on the subway didn’t see what I saw, and reacted the way they did.  Were they threatened by her?  Were they afraid of what others would think if she responded?  Or is it because she used the word “God” and “love”?  I don’t know.  Like I said before I’m not religious at all, but I understood what she was saying.  She was saying that I am special, I am loved.  Who doesn’t want to hear that?  Who cares that she is a total stranger, the fact of the matter is, she is spreading love and joy to everyone, and people, we need it and should pay it forward.

This video which has been viral on Facebook says it all.  Enjoy. Pay it forward.

You’re Never Alone

“Hold me close / Let Your love surround me / Bring me near / Draw me to Your side.” – Hillsongs, Power of Your Love

Today began just like any other regular day.  I woke up, showered, had my coffee, prepped the lunch bags, woke up my daughter and got her ready for school.  This morning I gave her a kiss.  I always make sure to give her a kiss.  I also make sure to tell her that I love her.  I know that she knows I do because when I say to her “I have something to tell you” she responds with “I know, you love me.”  It’s a little game that we play, and I’m comforted by it.

It’s Daddy weekend this weekend.  Fortunately, I was able to see my daughter after school long enough to give her a big hug.  And this time I held onto her a bit longer than I normally would.  I didn’t want to let her go and tonight I miss her heaps more than usual.

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And that’s because today wasn’t any regular day after all.  I’m located about 600 kilometers away from the devastating massacre of the innocent children in Newtown, Connecticut, and I’m having a hard time coping with what happened.  I don’t know these people, never met them in my life, and I’m never going to understand what they are going through.  But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried today just thinking about those poor families who have lost their children, wifes, husbands and parents.  And I’ll never understand what drives a person to do such thing.  I don’t know.  I’ll never know.

But I do know that their lives will never be the same.  They will feel an emptiness inside for the rest of their lives.  They will question God about what happened, and why their loved one had to die, be taken away from them.  They will likely fall into a deep depression, not wanting anyone around, feeling all alone.  They will hit rock bottom.

And today when I heard the news, I immediately thought of my daughter, and imagined her in that school and ice-cold fear travelled through my entire body like a lightening bolt.  I thought about all the times I kissed her goodbye on a Friday morning on Daddy weekends, and how my heart rips out of my chest every single time because I don’t get to see her again until the following Monday.  I thought about how many times I wanted to hold her during those weekends and couldn’t and how I’ve had to settle for phone calls.  And then I thought about these poor parents who won’t ever be able to hold their children again, and how they don’t get to have a phone call. They will never hear their voice ever again.

I wish there was something that I could do.  I feel helpless.  My heart goes out to them, and they are in my prayers.  And while they are in their darkest hour, I pray that they never forget that they are not alone. There is someone holding them, loving them and caring for them.

And while I was in my darkest hour, this reminded me that I was never alone.  This is what helped me through those long, dark nights:

You Ok Down There?

“Most important thing in life is learning how to fall.” – Jeannette Walls

I was pushed to the floor and beaten down to a pulp the other day. I was knocked down to my knees, and I felt like I was kicked in the stomach a million times.  I was left breathless. I was beaten down so badly that I was making involuntary noises as I was trying to breathe.  Tears escaped my eyes as I tried desperately to hold them back.  They trickled slowly to the sides of face, as I tried to hide them with my hair. No way was I going to show the other person how what they were doing was affecting me.  I wasn’t about to give in.  I fell into a hole and just lay there hoping that I couldn’t be seen.

I wasn’t physically beaten, even though it felt that way.  But my ego took a beating, and it deserved it.  I was laying on the ground, gasping for air and surprisingly it felt good.

Let me back up a bit and explain WHY I deserved this beating. I have been going through a lot of crap, and I think I have every right to b*tch and complain about it.  These last two years of my life have been absolute hell and quite frankly, I think I’m entitled to let off a bit of steam every once in a while.  To wallow in self-pity and be angry with the world.

But it hadn’t become once in a while.  It became always.  Yes, I had suffered a lot, I went through a lot, but I was hanging onto those memories for my dear life.  Those memories were producing fears in me, and every time I clutched one of them a little more, they fed that fear inside of me a bit more and it was starting to grow into an awful monster, starting to take over my life.

So that day when I was taken aside and “spoken to.” I was forced to hear things about myself that were very hard to hear.  This was one of those “life lessons” that we all have to learn every once in a while and I wasn’t ready to hear was being said and I definitely was not ready to learn this life lesson. I wanted to run the other way.  Fast and hard.  But that’s the funny thing about life. It sends to you people to teach you lessons during times when you’re not ready to learn them.

You see, I was thinking that my life was crummy, and I felt very much alone.  I felt as if my life sucked and that anything that could go possibly wrong would do so with me.  I was walking around with a black cloud over my head.  I couldn’t see the good in anything, and I was spiraling downward fast and hard.  As a result I became reclusive.  I wanted to feel loved, yet I was pushing everyone away from me – except for my daughter who I was clutching to for my dear life.  All this was not good.  To me, everything was doom and gloom.  And I wanted everyone to know about it.  I would complain to anyone who would just turn in my direction.  And someone listened.  That’s when I got the crap beaten out of me.

During the talk, the words which stung the most for me was to hear that I was being selfish and thought that everything was about me.  I felt my back go stiff and immediately thought “How dare you say that?!!  Look at what my life has been like and what I have gone through?!!”  How could someone say such things?  Sure, I do have to deal with this crap, and I have to look after myself and my daughter at the same time.  But, that isn’t what was meant by that comment, it was what I WANTED to hear.  I had to take a step and really pay attention to what I was being told.  And when I did, when I really listened, really let the words sink in, that’s when I knew that  wasn’t being attacked, but rather I was being loved.  Someone was looking out for me.  I was being pushed out of the dark cloud I was in, and onto solid ground.  However, I didn’t land on my feet. I landed flat on my face.

When I got up, I walked away from our talk with what I consider a great lesson learned.  Next time I feel like my world is turning dark and grey, I don’t have to worry about it being a permanent state.  What I am having is a bad time – whether it be a day, a month or even a year.  This will eventually pass, it’s not a feeling that I will feel forever.  And with any sadness, or sorrow, comes the opportunity to feel great joy.  There is always an opposite side to everything.  I was choosing to look at the negatives sides, the losses, the sadness, the things I’m lacking, the things missing.

For example, I was experiencing a huge heartache knowing that I had to go back to work, and not be able to build my business/career the way I had wanted to.  I was complaining that my daughter was going with her father that evening, that I wouldn’t get to see her until the next day after school. And that the tedious, expensive and stressful divorce I’m going through is killing me, and I just want to end the fighting, and get on with my life and how I’ve been feeling stressed because of the people on my back complaining about me. How could there possibly be a good side to this?  Well there is.  There are plenty of positives, and lessons.  Such as the gift of a new job to ease my financial worries, the gift of a loving daughter, and to know how much we care for each other, and the gift of patience and tolerance with the divorce, and all the people reaching out to me because they care.  Are these the only lessons to be learned?

Who knows?  I don’t, that’s for sure.  Maybe this is the way life, or God, or the Universe or whoever it is that’s sending this message, is telling me that something needs to change, that I need to change.  The bad things and situations won’t end, they’ll keep coming.  The only thing that can change is me, and I need to change the way I look at them.  There are the many thing to be grateful for me to be grateful for: the experience of living in this beautiful house, being able to spend two summers home with my daughter, meeting magnificent people, opportunities to grow and find myself.

I have found that there is always a point in life where you reach that there is no possible way to return to where you have come from.  But I have also learned that there is also point to where you reach where you can’t go any further based on the way you’ve been doing things either.  And I think that’s where I’m at.  I haven’t been grateful for many things lately, and the risk of continuing on this way is just too great for me.  The pain I have been feeling is normal.  Pain is part of being human, but it’s also a reminder that I’m alive and there is always good things to being alive, and for which I’m grateful for.