Thursday, October 20, 2011

LLL: It's So Good to See You!

My ultimate favorite grocery store just came to the area and I'm ecstatic! I have talked this store up ever since I moved to a part of the country that had not yet been blessed by it's presence. But last week that changed... they opened, just 30 minutes from us, and now I know what really makes it so very special. They are glad to see me every time I enter their doors. And it's not just me, but everyone that stops by. Or, at least that's how they make you feel, as though they're happy you are there and that they want to help you.

As I was driving home today, from one of my many visits to this establishment, I started thinking of Austin (what else is new). I realized that he had something very much in common with this store. Austin always made whoever he met feel welcomed, that he was glad to see them.... and he genuinely was! This was a gift. A gift he shared so readily with those he met. It's not something that can be learned, because if you try to fake it people see right through you. But Austin didn't fake it.... he truly loved people, and because of this he touched so many lives.

Thank you Austin for showing us how to love....

"People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel." ~ Author Unknown

Monday, October 17, 2011

LLL: Are You the "Real McCoy"?

"Today you are You. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You!" ~Dr. Seuss


I'm a night owl. My husband's an early bird. I have to work very hard on being neat and organized. My older sister has always been naturally that way. I'm a glass half-full kind of girl. I have friends that tend to see more the glass half-empty. I don't particularly enjoy cooking on a regular basis, that's why there's Wegman's (sorry, I had to put that in here after this week...). Some of my good friends make 5-star meals every night. I like having a pool. My husband would prefer a pond or lake. I love chocolate, but am not so fond of sea food. My husband loves sea food, but could take or leave chocolate. I love Diet Coke and wine. My husband enjoys a glass of water or cold beer. I'm an extrovert. My brother's an introvert. My kids attend public school. Other friends' kids go to private schools or are home schooled. I love to laugh. My husband is more serious and rarely laughs at my jokes. I love country music. I have friends that don't know a single country song (or at least won't admit to it). The list goes on and on regarding how my likes, personality, and skills are different than many of my friends and family's, and that's OK.
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." - Psalm 139:14
It took me a long time to be able to say.... "I like this and you don't. That's OK." Once I not only voiced those words, but also believed them, the freedom I felt was unbelievable. I realized that I will never please everyone, that everyone will not like me, and that's OK. I could finally be me.... just plain, old "me"! If I try to change who I am simply to get another person's approval, chances are pretty good that I will be the recipient of someone else's "disapproval". So, why not be myself and start enjoying who I was made to be?

Funny thing, I had been telling my boys this ever since they were born (I guess I'm just a little slow with my own advice.)....

"There are only a couple of things that I know at this point that I want to make sure you learn and become. I want to teach you to always respect others' feelings and be careful not to intentionally hurt others. I also want you to learn to respect yourself and become the best person possible. When I say the best, I am not talking about smarts or talents, but rather the best person on the inside.I hope I can teach you to love and care for others. To try to see good in people. And to realize we are not all the same; it's alright to be different.... Life is wonderful when you respect yourself and others." Excerpt from a letter I wrote to Austin when he was 3 months old.

"It's been awesome watching you grow into an amazing young man, with an adventurous spirit, love for life, & unbelievable talent for fixing things! Enjoy life, be who God made you to be & make the years to come great ones! We love you! Mom & Dad." The message submitted for Austin's senior yearbook from his parents
Thank goodness this was one piece of advise Austin listened to, from a very early age. He wasn't afraid to be the "real McCoy" and as a result he blessed so many people!

"The real McCoy": an idiom used in much of the English-speaking world to mean "the real thing" or "the genuine article"
Austin was "the real McCoy". He was authentic! You knew from the minute you met him what you were getting. There was no guessing. Austin may have pretended, on occasion, to know a little more than he really knew (and he could be very convincing), but he never pretended to be someone he wasn't. This allowed Austin to live life to the fullest and is why he touched so many lives in the 21-3/4 years he was here with us.

"That's OK if you don't like it, I do..." are nine words everyone should learn to say. Because frankly, individuality is what makes each of us so unique. How boring it would be if we were all alike, but for some reason I see so many people, including at times myself, try to be someone they aren't.When we aren't ourselves we rob others the joy of truly knowing us, and we rob ourselves of being able to really live life to the fullest.
"If you are not yourself, if you surrender your personality, you have nothing left to give the world. You have no pleasure, no use, nothing which will attract and charm me, for by the suppression of your individuality, you lose your distinctive character." Edward Wilmot Blyden
Go be yourself and start truly Livin' Lovin' Life and in-turn bless those around you!!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Who'd have thought?

I am not a huge "dog lover". In fact, I used to wonder why people would get so upset when their dog died. Then it happened. Several years ago , on a cold, snowy Saturday morning (a couple days before Christmas) our golden retriever, Cody, was hit by a car. Our vet was not open, so I had to drive 45 minutes to the "emergency" clinic. I cannot remember why I was the one elected to take a dog, one that I didn't even like, to the "doggie doctor", but there I was, alone in my car with the injured dog.

I carried Cody, all 80 pounds of him, into the vet's. He was whisked into the back for x-rays and an examination. When that was complete, the vet explained that his hip was dislocated. They had attempted to manipulate it back in place, but it popped out the back. They then put it back in place again, only to have it pop out the front. Bottom line, he would need a $5,000 surgery to fix it, but there was no guarantee that would even work. There was no way that we could afford the surgery, so I asked what would happen if Cody was not operated on. The vet informed me, in a very disapproving tone, that there was a good chance we would have to "put him down". As I thanked him for his help and paid the $800 bill, tears began rolling down my face. When I picked Cody up, to take him to the car, he looked at me with his puppy dog eyes and my heart ached. While driving home all I could think was, "I don't even like the stupid dog and I'm the one bawling my eyes out. What's up with that?"

We truly thought we were going to have to put Cody down. Mike was heading out of town right after Christmas, so with the dog by his side, Mike dug a hole. Sometime during the "digging" my then 6 or 7 year old middle son preceded to give Cody a pep talk, "I'm sorry Cody, but we're going to have to kill you." Meanwhile, I continued to shed tears (more, might I add, than all the others in my family put together). Between watching his grave being dug and the "pep talk" Cody figured he'd show us' there was no way he was going into that hole... He lived another several years, during which I became very fond of that "puppy-eyed" golden retriever. When his time eventually came, it was me, once again, carrying him into the vet's and saying one last good-bye, all while tears streamed down my face. I now understood why people are so sad when they have to say good-bye to "man's best friend".
Man's (aka Austin's) Best Friend...
Why am I sharing this? Because I realize more every day that until we've experienced certain things in life we just don't always understand. We're quick to cast judgement and say, "I'd never do that," or "I don't know what the big deal is." I've been guilty of doing this myself, more times than I'd like to admit.

What made me think of this story? The other day I was signing a card from myself, Mike and the boys and I realized that I don't know if I'll ever be able to sign a card again by writing out all of our names. Until I had experienced losing Austin, I would never have understood why a person, after losing a child (or spouse or best friend or ...), is unable to do something, even as simple as signing a card without that person's name on it.

A couple of week's ago it was my mom's birthday (which happens to also be the same day as Austin's). She loves daisies, so I decided to surprise her with a special delivery from all of us. I called the local florist in her area and put in my request. The florist asked what I wanted to say on the card and I said, "Happy Birthday!", but then I paused, as thoughts ran through my mind...

How should I sign the card? It's from all of us, so should I list all our names? But, what about Austin? Will it be "freaky" to include his name. If I do that, will it upset my mom, being an in-your-face reminder that he is not here. That from here on out she will, after 21 years, be celebrating her birthday without sharing the special day with him? But, I can't leave his name off, because even though he's not here with us, it really is from him too. I just can't do that.... Oh boy, how should I sign it. What should I do?

When Austin was alive and I signed cards (Christmas cards, birthday cards, graduation cards,...) from all of us I would sign them one of two ways: (1) list all of our names individually, or (2) sign Mike's and my name, then put "the boys"...

I decided to go with the latter, "Mike, Lori and the Boys". Wow! Who would have thought that ordering flowers would create such thoughtful agony? Sixteen months ago, I never would have. Hmmm...

"Who would've thought!?!"

"You have not walked in my footsteps, danced in my shoes, or lived in my world. Do not judge me, point fingers at me, or become experts on my life. Instead, celebrate with me in times of joy and cry with me in times of pain. Only then will we begin to understand each other."  ~Kate Baker