sweet judy

Today my friend Judy died.

She was a giver. A first-order, drop-everything, be there with a smile on her face, lend a hand, giver.

Judy was full of laughter. She was kind. She was funny. She was feisty. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. She spent her days at work helping people out and her time out of work helping people out. And it was never a strain; this was just who she was, a giver.

This completely unfair life left Judy with a brain tumor just weeks after she retired; she spent the remainder of her retirement fighting for her life until today when she passed on while surrounded by her beloved husband, children and others in their family.

When I think of Judy, she’s making a cheeky comment and cracking up. She’s finding the good in the most ordinary of moments.

So life isn’t fair. But it sure is full of amazing people.

I want to make sure that I make the most of every ordinary moment I have with the amazing people in my life.

Sometimes that’s doing something incredible together. Sometimes it’s a quick phone call or a check-in email. Sometimes it’s a full-on snugglefest complete with Thai food or movies or TV reruns of cop shows. Sometimes it’s a yoga date or a group at dinner or just sitting together in silence. Sometimes it’s boisterous laughter or planning a trip or taking a long walk at the reservoir. Sometimes it’s hijacking someone from their regular routine for a glass of wine on the couch while ignoring the kids or driving to Ikea or sitting together knitting. Sometimes it’s doing a whole lot of nothing but being happy with the people that I love.

Our time here is precious and it is not promised to us.

Life is better when you give. It’s better when you laugh. It’s better when you live it up and when you surround yourself with amazing people.

And most of all, life is better when you love with your whole heart.

Rock on, Judy. xoxo

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stress pudding

Yesterday I almost drowned in a sea of paper.

I was at my desk plodding through mounds of work when, all of a sudden, I couldn’t breathe. Literally. I was struck breathless by stress.

You have to know that I’ve been floating along this year on a calm sea of cold-chilling, chocolate-pudding happiness. Even in the moments that I knew the water beneath me was deep, I was blissfully swimming along, making progress while ignoring the circling sharks.

And then, yesterday, I got caught in some weird undertow and was suddenly swallowing gallons of water, spitting and spurting, my eyeballs bulging, arms flailing all in the name of stress.

Everyone knows that flailing when you are drowning just makes things worse. But when you’re drowning, you bug out; all rational thought goes out the window.

Yesterday, I was flailing. I sat at my desk, rummaging aimlessly through piles of paper, talking to myself, gasping for air. Until I finally admitted to myself that I was overwhelmed.

As soon as I confessed to myself that I was, indeed, stressed, a life-raft arrived.

My friends.

Friends who just listened. Friends who gave me long hugs. Friends who reminded me that I dont have to do everything myself. Friends who told me to go home and take a nap.

I count on my friends all of the time to help me put things into perspective. They help me remember how to swim around sharks and to stop every now and then for a breather.

I am no good to anyone when I’m drowning. So that pile of papers? A great reminder that I need to nurture myself. I need to do right by my self. I need to listen to my body when it tells me it’s tired, listen to my soul. I need to care for my self with the same gusto with which I care for others.

Yesterday was a bummer.

Today?

Today I took the time to thank each of the friends that helped me through yesterday. Spending that moment with each of them made my today even better. Today I put music on in my office and rocked out while I made my way through the piles. I asked for help with what felt like too much and let go of everything having to be just so. I laughed. A lot.

I talked about what was contributing to my stress and the processing with friends helped me move through the muck back into a space of calm.

Today, thanks to my friends, I was swimming in the chocolate pudding with long, even strokes.

Mmmmmmmm chocolate pudding.

l*ve, h@pe and other four letter words

I swear like a sailor.

Despite my mother’s attempts to instill in me a fabulous vocabulary with which to express myself in times of strife, I have been known to curse like a truck-driver who’s stuck in traffic with an empty tank of gas.

It feels good! It’s verbal release! And in those moments when I struggle to be brave enough to articulate how I really feel, swearing does the job. I’m pretty good at censoring myself, I do work with kids all day, so I’ve gotten pretty good at leaving out the ugliness. I do not insert bleeps, I just find more appropriate words to express myself. But there’s just something about the throwing down a curse that provides emphasis like no other word; it’s an exclamation point!

The first time I ever got caught swearing I was 8 years old. I had good reason, I was being dragged by the rope-tow up a mountain. One ski was left ten feet behind me, the other was twisting my leg into some inhumane position. I’d taken my mittens off at the bottom as I was sweating from being nervous; I now had the beginnings of rope burn on my palms and still had half the hill left to be dragged up.

I didn’t say it loudly. Just above my breath. But WOW. It felt good. It felt daring. It also was louder than I thought because my mother, who was standing in front of me, heard it pop out. She whipped around and grabbed me by my rope-burned hand, pulled me off of the rope tow and proceeded to lecture me about my language right there on the bunny hill. Embarrassing yes, but enough to scare the swears right out of me, no.

So when a dear friend sent an update a while back about the status of her husband’s cancer, I responded to her email with the classic F-bomb. That was just how I felt. I didn’t really give it much thought.

It didn’t do anything, my swear-word. It didn’t help. No relief; not for me, not for my friend, not for her amazing husband. It just sat there like an undetonated grenade.

My friend gracefully responded that they had surely uttered their fair-share of F-bombs but, given their circumstances, had decided that there were much better four-letter words for them to focus on.

I don’t recall much of what my mom said on the bunny hill that day, just that as she turned to ski away, she looked me dead in the eye and proclaimed, “So Negative!” and left me sitting there, unable to move, in the snow.

So while saying certain words does give release, relief, or even invoke a response, it doesn’t change anything. Negativity doesn’t provide a solution. As Martin Luther King, Jr. so beautifully said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

The light I intended to shine that day for my friend was lost in dark words. What I meant to say was, “I love you. I wish I had something magical to help you through this challenge. I am in awe of you and your strength, your optimism, your ability to still be there for others when you are going through so much.” I meant to say, “Thank you. Thank you for reminding me about what is important.”

So today, I’m moving forward with the intention to choose my four-letter words with more wisdom. Today, to my friends, I say LOVE, HOPE, PRAY, WISH, SING, KISS, REST and STAR-WARS (okay, it’s hyphenated, so what!?).

Words have power.

Choose wisely.

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