Wednesday, November 23, 2011

LLL: It's Easier To Be Thankful When You Focus on the Good...

"Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results." ~Willie Nelson

Livin', Lovin', Life.... Choose to look at the good!

Last week I conducted software training  for a group of reps who was required to begin using the new program within the next week. There were a couple individuals who continually complained about what the program couldn't do instead of focusing on what it could. The problem with this is that looking at the negative was preventing them from learning what they needed to know to do their job successfully.

As I was flying home from the training, I began to draw comparisons between the reps' mindsets and life in general. How often do I focus on what I don't have, instead of what I do have? When has my negativity gotten in the way of my being appreciative of the blessings life has given me? When do I hone in on the idiosyncrasies of an individual instead of highlighting his/her goodness? When I focus on the negatives I find myself being more negative, but when I put my eyes on the positives I am uplifted and energized.

In my mind's typical fashion, it moved from generalities to specifics... losing Austin... and was reminded once again how blessed I have been. I know I've blogged about this before, but I think about it often - while grieving for Austin, I have been able to see the goodness of this world. All I have to do is look around and be thankful for my friends (including the friends Austin left me), husband, sons, parents, and siblings. I have a beautiful home, loving support, food on the table, a warm bed, and lots of extras. I have more than I need, both physically and emotionally. I am truly fortunate and blessed!

My thoughts continued drifting with more thoughts of Austin. One thing that made him so "likable" was his ability to enjoy what he had. Sure, he was always wanting another toy or gadget, but he also thankful for the little things in life. Whether it was an old beat-up pick-up truck, or a newer Subaru he was driving, he was proud of them. He was content with his worn out sneakers. In fact, I had to force him to let us buy him a new pair of shoes and throw his stinky, holey ones away. Did he ever get frustrated with different situations? Absolutely! But then he'd regroup and figure out what he could do to either accept or change what he didn't like. He didn't focus on what he couldn't do, but chose to take action on what he could do.

A few blogs ago I discussed the importance of embracing who we were made to be. But, I truly believe that needs to be taken one step further. We must also accept others for who they were made to be, even if they are different than us! Does it mean we'll never get annoyed or irritated with people or situations? No! What it means is that we won't expend energy dwelling on the negative, but instead allow ourselves to become energized by the positives. We will be thankful for the differences in others and see how they can compliment us. By doing this we lift others up, instead of dragging them down.

Austin loved his friends and family, even when we drove him crazy. His attitude carried over to everyone he met, he just loved finding new friends. He possessed a special gift of being able to see the good in people, and ignore their quirks (most of the time). He appreciated them for who they were. (Again, I know I've mentioned this before... but that's what made Austin so special.) I remember one time when Austin came to visit. We went to Quedoba's for lunch and one of the workers was trying so hard to do a good job. Austin struck up a conversation with the guy, showing him that his friendly customer service was appreciated. That was Austin, always taking time to chat it up with someone, to make them feel valued.

Do you ever notice how negative individuals drain you, but people who tend to be positive lift your spirit? Who do you prefer to spend time with? How much more enjoyable would our days be if we valued the good in others, and ignored the peculiarities? What would happen if we looked at the positives of life (both in people and situations), instead of the negatives? The more we appreciate what we have, the more we will realize life is good. Amongst the challenges we face, both the everyday and life-altering ones, life is still very, very good!

Today (and every day) give thanks for what you have!!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Memories Galore!

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~From a headstone in Ireland

One "concern" I sometimes have is that, as time goes on, I may forget things about Austin. I want to hold his memories close and never forget a single thing. But, my fear is probably unnecessary, because the opposite seems to be happening. I find myself remembering more, instead of less. I will see, hear or smell something that stirs a memory I had forgotten. It appears that the memories have not disappeared, but have simply recessed somewhere in my brain, waiting to be summoned at just the right moment. Moments like...

... Driving on Route 104 in Oswego... One day this past summer, on my way to camp, I drove by a gas station that brought me back to remembering the day Austin rode his bike (the one he owned previously prior to his last one) to his aunt's camp. I met him at that gas station to show him how to get to her camp, which was a mile or 2 on back roads from that spot. I could see the proud look on his face when we arrived at the party and people came to look at his bike....

... Surprise visit from Austin... A few years ago Austin decided to surprise one night. He drove to Massachusetts, arriving in the wee hours of the morning and unbeknownst to us, snuck inside the house (he had a key), crawled into his sleeping bag, plopped on the couch and fell asleep. I woke in the early morning and came downstairs to find this lump on my couch? I was confused at first, until I realized it was Austin... what an wonderful surprise that warmed my heart.

... 2nd surprise visit from Austin... Mike and I knew Austin was coming late at night, but his brothers didn't. They spent the night at the next door neighbors. The morning, after Austin arrived, he went knocking at the neighbor's door asking for the boys. They were so excited, saying "Austiiiiiiin!

... 5K events... Again, driving to camp, I drove through a section of a town where a 5K event was in progress. Seeing the runners conjured up the memories of the time Austin ran in the Crosswinds 5K. He hadn't trained for it at all - which was so Austin. I don't even know if he wore running shoes (at that age running shoes weren't "cool" and most of the time he was sporting "Skate" shoes). As he was running, trying to keep up with the others, he was with he kept huffing and puffing and saying, "I can't see". But he refused to stop. I'm sure he was encouraging for those he ran next to. They probably had better time than they otherwise would have, as they were most likely running faster to get away from hearing Austin's groans. Listening to the stories told afterwards just made me smile, because I could visualize Austin's run so clearly. I think the stories were told over and over many times, for many years.

... Summer's here... Every year when I open the pool, I am sure the memory of Austin picking me up and jumping in the pool with me, clothes and all, will always come to mind. Austin's brothers laughed so hard.

... Visiting the Emergency Room... Late one night, in November 2007, I took Austin to the emergency room with an abscessed tonsil. The next morning, as we were waiting for Austin to be discharged, he was still all medicated up. There was a delay in signing of the release papers due to other emergencies arriving. Austin was getting a little antsy to leave, then he stopped and smiled, saying, "I know why they won't let me go. They like me!" I couldn't stop laughing, because he was so darn cute! I can still see the silly smirk and hear his light-hearted voice, that only Austin had.

... Coming home from the ER visit... Immediately after Austin being discharged from the ER... The memories continue.... A couple hours after we arrived home from the ER visit, we were getting ready to head to my dad's for dinner. Everyone was in the car waiting. I came out and went to climb in the front seat, there was Mike in the front passenger seat and the driver's seat! The two other boys were buckled in the back seat. I asked, "What is Austin doing?" Mike stated, "He wanted to drive." To which I replied, "I don't think so! Over my dead body... He's still has the pain medicine in him!" With a grin and a chuckle, Austin moved to the back seat....

... Baby blankets with satin trim... I bet most people don't know that old silk nightgowns are perfect "blankie" material. Austin loved the silky trim on his blankie. He loved it so much that it kept coming unthreaded and I'd have to sew it back on. One day I couldn't find his blanket, which made bedtime/naptime rough. Then I got an idea.... I cut large rectangles out of an old satiny nightgown of mine and gave those to him. Problem solved! (It was great for me too, because I was so tired of the silk strip wearing out and having to sew it back up.)

... Generators needed... When we lost power this past August from Hurricane Irene, and then again this October from the Nor'easter snow storm, people either turned on their generators, bought a generator, or talked about how they had to get one before the next "storm"...every time generators are mentioned I remember Austin being excited because the store/shop he worked at, for a while, sold generators. Every time he sold one he'd offer his electrical services (for a fee) to install them for the customer. He was always excited when he got a job to do that.... Always looking for ways to make a little extra.

... The messy basement... There are certain sections in my basement that when I clean I can't help but remember Austin, as his boxes are all around.

... Yellow Subaru t-shirts.... The other day as I was folding the yellow Subaru t-shirt that Matthew "stole" from Austin when he was visiting one week-end reminded me of Austin. The next time Austin came to visit Matt was wearing the shirt. Austin noticed it and said, "Hey! That's my shirt, I've been looking for it. Where'd you get it from?" Matthew just laughed and kept it. Matthew loves yellow, Subarus, and most of all Austin, that's why he "stole" it...

... Chocolate Chip Cookies... Every time I make chocolate chip cookies I will think of Austin. He liked them best without the chips. So now I make a few "chipless chocolate chip cookies" every time I bake them.

... Homemade Mac & Cheese... For the longest time Austin was the only one that liked (no loved) my homemade mac & cheese. I would try to make it whenever he came to visit. Now, everytime I make it Austin is with me. (And both my other boys have decided they love it too!)

... That Christmas Tree's Mine!... A few years ago we were Christmas tree shopping. We still go and cut our own, it's a family tradition. The tree farm we went to actually let you drive down the paths between the rows of tree. Austin and I couldn't stop laughing that we were so lame that we were sitting in a warm cozy car scouting out trees. Then we spotted a couple looking at a tree, like they really wanted it. Austin and I started joking how we should get out and run up to the tree and start cutting it down, like we were taking it, then say, "Just kidding." We even got out of the car and started walking towards it. The couple looked at us, so we just turned and kept laughing. Mike did not find this amusing, which just made us laugh harder. Ever since that Christmas, whenever we go for our annual Christmas tree hunt that story gets brought up. It was so Austin!

Some memories seem to be always there, lingering in all my thoughts, others come for a moment and then recess to the back of my mind, not to return for a very long time, and still others appear every time I see or hear a trigger (like chocolate chip cookies and homemade mac & cheese).

Love is stronger than death even though it can't stop death from happening, but no matter how hard death tries it can't separate people from love. It can't take away our memories either. In the end, life is stronger than death. ~Author Unknown

Another fear I have is that I will forget the sound of Austin's voice and laugh, but I am blessed to have a couple videos of Austin, that capture his essence to the full. Whenever I feel I can't "remember" I simply watch the video and the memories come flooding back and warm my heart - his smile, laugh, voice, and mannerism - it's as if he's right next to me.

After reflecting on how memories come and go every day, I've decided, it doesn't matter which type of memory it is, I just know I will hold each one to my heart and savor it while I can. He is always with me!

When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure. ~Author Unknown

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is...

Ever since Austin died I have had so many emotions stirred up when I return home to Massachusetts, after visiting Upstate NY. I've always attributed this to having been back in my hometown, where most of my life with Austin had been spent, where so many memories appear around every corner. Then this week I came to the realization that it's the returning to my own home, after being away, that unsettles me.

Last week I was gone for four days on a business trip. Things were good. I would think of Austin, especially when someone asked how many kids I had and how old they were, but it was no different than any other day. However, within a couple hours upon returning home, the extreme "missingness" feelings for Austin arrived. These were the same emotions I experience every time I return from Upstate NY.  This is when I realized that it's the actual "coming home" that is the trigger, and not simply NY.

I don't know why, but wonder if it may be because that's when I truly feel something is "missing". Even though Austin never lived in this particular house for more than his week-end (or on occasion week) visit, he knew this was his home. And I knew that at any time he might decide to join us for a visit, or give us a call on the phone asking, "What's up?" or "How do I get to this road?". It is when I'm away from the home and then return that I notice, even more so, what is missing (and always will be).

During our house hunting days for a home in Massachusetts, one criteria was that the place have a bedroom specifically for Austin. Even though he chose to stay in NY for college, I wanted him to know that this was his home too, the same as if we were still in the house he grew up in. So perhaps, it's knowing that Austin will never again bless these rooms with his physical presence... knowing that it will never be complete in the way I had always thought it would be... that brings an subconscious sadness every time I return home. Because even though Austin was only here on occasions, this entire house is filled with his memories. That was Austin, filling a place with his presence, where ever he went.

These strong feelings don't last long, usually only a day or two. I handle them the way I have dealt with my feelings for the past 16-1/2 months - I simply embrace them and let my mind and body process things in their own way. I understand it is because Austin was such a huge part of me that I feel his absence so strong at times. I am thankful for the fact that I have so many memories to tug on my heart. It means I was lucky to have had the time I did with Austin, because if I didn't I wouldn't have these memories - memories to hold in my heart and fill my home with (even when his presence is gone).

* Next blog is on "Memories.... they keep on coming"

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Never Ceases to Amaze Me...

Leaning back in my seat, hearing the engines rev, slowly moving forward, then picking up speed, moving faster and faster, and then we're in the air, the ground is far below us.... Unbelievable!

It doesn't matter how many times I fly, I am always amazed at take off, when the plane's nose tips up, the front wheels lift off the ground and before you know it the entire plane is up, up and away, and we're above the clouds. This week I experienced four take-offs, and every time I thought the same thing, "It is absolutely incredible that this huge 'thing' can fly up in the clouds!" (No physical science / engineering explanations please. I know there is an explanation for how this works, but I'm still blown away!)

This week, my thoughts progressed to how amazing the human body is. Earlier in the week, a family I only know in passing, said good-bye to their teen daughter. When I received the call from a friend, telling me the news, memories from 16 1/2 months came to the forefront of my mind.  Since I heard the news thoughts of the grieving family popped in and out of my mind and what they were going through. I couldn't help but think back  to the day we received the news of Austin's accident and passing, and of the days leading up to and including the calling hours and funeral. And once again, I was amazed... amazed at how the human body and mind heals.

As I reflected back to June 24, 2010 I remembered the unbearable, physical pain I felt that devastating day and the days to follow. I now understand where the term "broken heart" came from, because it truly feels as though your heart has been literally broken, not just in half, but in a million pieces and it is excruciating. I have never felt such tremendous pain in my chest and whole being.

Then, my thoughts drifted to now, November 2011. That raw pain is no longer there. A hole, yes. A dull (sometimes stronger) aching, yes. Those exist, but they're not the intense, unbearable pain that accompanied me the days immediately following Austin's death. That pain slowly changed throughout the days, weeks, months, and now year that followed, and has evolved into something manageable and definately survivable. I realize that even as I run the events of that day through my mind, I can remember hurting in a way I never had before, but I do not actually, physically feel it. And I am again in awe of how the human body is made to heal and to protect itself. Because it would not be possible to live with that type of pain forever, our body protects us and our mind eases and replaces the crushing pain and sadness with memories...

...beautiful memories... of a young man who brought joy and laughter to so many... of a wonderful son who's love for life and people never ceases to amaze me!