Do good, feel good

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Over the last few years, I have found myself very driven to spend a great deal of my spare time volunteering.  I have always liked helping people so this step was a natural progression in my desire to offer my time to help those in need.  With a background in hospitality and a passion for cooking, it came as no surprise to me that I have combined all of those things about myself and I have become very active with our local Food Bank.

When you weave your way into the world of volunteering, you see just how many people are right along side of you, driven by the same aspiration to lend a hand where they can.  The faces you see in your daily life suddenly become the hands behind the volunteer work that you didn’t know they were a part of.  They don’t do it for the recognition, they simply do it because they want to help.

I have been very fortunate to become a part of a group of people with a vision that continues to grow to serve our small community.  Sure, there are a few people who need more recognition than others and an occasional public pat on the back, but there are always a few of those people in every crowd.  Thankfully our intentions come from the same place and we put forth the same effort to achieve the desired results.

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If you have ever entertained the idea of volunteering, I highly recommend it.  Just knowing that your efforts make such a difference in people’s lives, regardless of where you volunteer your time, is a truly heart-warming feeling.   And there is no shortage of places that could use an extra pair of hands or two.  The amount of time you commit to volunteering is always up to you but every second you spend helping those who struggle is well worth the time you take to show other people that you care.

 

 

The “Dobler” Effect

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“I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don’t want to do that.” ~ Lloyd Dobler, Say Anything

Lloyd Dobler

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I stumbled across a blog a while ago that was singing the praises of the movie “Say Anything”.   This 1989 classic has always been one of my favorite movies.  Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusack, was one of the most epic male movie roles of my generation.  He was a guy every guy could relate to and a guy that most girls wanted to date.

Lloyd isn’t the macho, overly muscled guy oozing with too much bravado and too little sense.  He doesn’t say things just because he thinks you want to hear them.  What he does say is anything that comes into his mind.  Girls watching him on the big screen fell in love with his charming, albeit occasionally clumsy, qualities (see above quote about what he wants to do for a career).  But in his clumsiness, he stole the hearts of many girls, including mine.

There are not many movie characters who have story lines written without them having some egregious character flaw to make them interesting.  Lloyd Dobler is one of those few who didn’t need the flaws.  What made him interesting was how wonderfully normal he was.   In 1989 we all wanted to find our own Lloyd Dobler and some of us are still on that quest.

Although it is 28 years later, I admittedly still have a crush on John Cusack.  It may sound trite, but it’s true.  I always hope in my heart that John Cusack, the person, is as charming and sweet as Lloyd Dobler was in the movie and that one day I will find someone who reminds me a lot of him.

Boys will be boys and then they make you cry – round 2

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He did it to me again.  My now 17-year-old nephew has created a Christmas memory that brought me to tears.  Three years ago, several months after we lost my mother, and his Nana, I wrote this post about his wonderful Christmas gesture that reduced me to a puddle once I was safely in the confines of my home.  This year, he managed to pull at my heart-strings once again, forcing me to swallow my raw emotion until I got home.

Our Christmas Eve tradition has not changed.  We all gather at the end of my brother’s driveway to watch Santa Claus cruise through the streets atop the fire truck, we go to the Christmas service at the church and then we all go home to finish up the last-minute wrapping for the big day.  This year was different.  My nephew insisted that we all go back to my brother’s house after church because he wanted to give us his Christmas gifts when we were all together.  Carefully he placed his gifts in the laps of his family and grinned from ear to ear as we tore off the paper to see what lay underneath.

Each of us received a gift that he had given great thought to and created with his own hands.  Attached to a piece of very sentimental barn-board was a piece of metal that he had carved for each of us with our last name and either our year of birth or our year of marriage.  This is my beautiful sign.

The Christmas spirit is alive and well and now resides in the heart of my nephew.  He truly felt the joy of giving.  His face was animated as he watched each of us run our fingers along the names he had carved into our signs.  He was more excited for us to receive our gifts than he was to think about what lay under the tree for him on Christmas morning.  He gets it.  He now knows that the true gift at Christmas is the one  you give and not the one you receive.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell him how much his gift meant until I had been home and had time to process my emotion.  After I shed a few tears, I texted him and told him how much his gift touched my heart.  He is coming over later today to help me put up the sign that I will look at with great pride and emotion for a very long time.

They thought they had more time

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I arrived at the church fifteen minutes before the service began and I was ushered into one of the last remaining seats at the back of the church.  The room was full and buzzing with conversation.  At the front of the church was a large picture of the man for whom we had all come to pay our respects and say our goodbyes.

There were several familiar faces and many I did not know.  Some carried on animated exchanges while others sat and prepared for the tears they knew were coming.  The church fell silent and we all rose to greet his wife, his children, his grandchildren and his extended family.

During the service, his children got up to share their memories of their dad and through broken, emotion-soaked voices they gave us another look into the man we all knew and greatly respected.  Before they even spoke, I saw the pain in their faces.  That same pain had been etched into my skin years ago when I lost my parents, my dad in 2006 and my mom, more recently, in 2014.  It is a pain not easily described to those who have not lost a parent.

Although both of my parents were ill leading up to their passing, they both left before I had a chance to say I love you once more because we thought we had more time.  This poor family thought they had much more time but their dad died very unexpectedly of a massive heart attack.  I sat through the service with dry eyes, because to have cried one tear would have opened floodgates that may not have closed.

I sit now writing this post through the tears that I could not shed on Saturday for fear they would not stop.  I think of all the lives he changed for the better.  I think of his countless hours spent doing things for those less fortunate.  I think of the legacy he left behind for us to follow.  And I think of his children who thought they had more time with their dad but never had the chance to tell him “I love you” just one more time.

As someone so astutely pointed out to me on Saturday, we are all given numbers and we never know when ours will be called.  Love deeply, laugh abundantly, share your good fortune with those who go without and don’t ever take for granted the moments to tell the people in your life how you feel about them.  You never know when their, or your, number will be called.

 

 

Sometimes you just need a hug

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Emotion is a very worthy adversary.  It can lay dormant and sneak up on you when you least expect it.  On Monday I fell victim to its stealthy attack and was on the verge of an ugly cry in my office in the middle of the day.  At that moment, all I wanted was a hug.

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Being affected by a wave of feelings is nothing new to me.  I get overwhelmed by, not only my sorrows but, the melancholy felt by those around me.  Like a kettle that is too full of water, that emotion has nowhere else to go and eventually it spills out.

In those moments, I feel like a child holding my arms in the air, waiting for someone to come and pick me up and tell me it’s going to be okay.  I know the surge of sadness will pass, but sometimes you just need a hug to make everything feel better.  The comfort of an embrace is what we are born knowing and trusting.

We had a senior’s bus tour at the lodge this past fall and I met one of the sweetest ladies during that tour.  She was all of 4 feet high and spoke with a wee Scottish brogue.  Every morning she would come into the office and ask if I wanted a hug.  I never turned her down.  And she did the same thing with the 38 other people on the tour, always careful to ask the wives’ permission to be able to hug their husbands.

She gets it.  She knows there is nothing more heart-warming than a genuine embrace that will make the sorrow seem less sad, that will make life seem more manageable and that will make reality more acceptable.  A hug can speak more than words, can drain sadness from your soul and can let people know how you feel about them without having to say a word.

While life may try to challenge your reality, one simple hug can bring you right back to where you need to be.  Hugging is the most beautiful form of communication and it allows someone to know that you truly care.

 

 

It lies just below the surface

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The pain of losing a parent is overwhelming.  It has been over eleven years since my dad passed and over three years since my mom passed.  Most days, even though I still find myself reaching for the phone to call them, I can manage the loss.  But every so often, there is a glaring reminder to make me deal with that sense of loss all over again.  It may be a completely banal event but the flood of feelings cannot be stopped.

Last night, it was a television commercial for the Heart and Stroke Foundation with Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette.  Joannie lost her mom only 2 days before she competed in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 and every time I see the reminder of her story I am reduced to tears.  I know that loss all too well.  I feel the pain her heart feels.  But what I can’t imagine is having to perform at the highest level of competition a mere two days after losing her best friend.

The pain of loss never really goes away.  It lies just below the surface, ready to surprise us at any moment.  It can come back gradually or it can hit us all at once.  Regardless of how it arrives, I am now able to remind myself that the pain is so hard to take because it represents the huge amount of love we had in our family.  It doesn’t stop the tears from flowing, but now I can smile a little through those tears.