Looking Back on 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, I thought this was a good time to reflect and look back on an eventful year.  One of the many “highs” of the year was my trip to Hawaii in early February to cheer on the OU Softball team in their first games of the season.  From the team starting off with many wins, to learning (read: attempting) to snorkel, to stopping multiple times along coastline to take breathtaking photos, soaking up history at Pearl Harbor…the trip was a blast and one I’d repeat in a heartbeat.

hawaii 2015

View from room at Hilton Hawaiian Village

While that was only the beginning of 2015, the year seemed to go by fast and with a monumental event like losing a parent, you realize just how fast life can go.  From early spring, we knew my Dad’s days were numbered and saw this as an opportunity to start preparing ourselves (not everyone has this chance and we were grateful for the time).  Dad started to go downhill and throughout the whole ordeal of being on hospice, he maintained a great attitude, still having the energy to roll his eyes and yell at the TV for some political comment made on Fox News.  Dad passed peacefully on June 6th and with no regrets.  We were so touched by all the phone calls, notes and people showing up at the various services to be there for us.  My sisters and I were once again able to see just how many lives our parents have touched.

Once back home in Norman, I dove into work and also into helping to plan the 50th anniversary of my grammar school.  One of my former teachers and I exchanged texts and emails on a daily basis trying to put together what we wanted to be a memorable, fun event.  As with most everything she does, she sets the bar high.  This was no different…and she met those very high expectations quite easily (well-done, Ardie Herring).  The evening was a success filled with alumni ranging graduates of the 1970’s to 2000’s and teachers, both current and former (including one we hadn’t seen in 27 years).  This short weekend “home” (San Antonio) increased my interest even more to be there on a more permanent basis and I headed back to Norman this time with a determination to do whatever it took to move closer to family.  In late October, I received a text from a former teacher (see how it pays off to keep in touch) about an opening at my old grammar school.  A week later, I interviewed with the committee and a few days after that, I accepted the job of Admissions Director.  Two weeks later, my house was ready to be put on the market and my Mom, middle sister and I drove two cars full of my things down to San Antonio.

While we knew it would be hard, we also made this past Thanksgiving an inspirational and productive one.  For a while now, my middle sister Kathy wanted to do something to honor our Dad.  After bouncing a few ideas around, putting them on paper and getting the green light from her very practical husband, our new venture of Live.Simple was born.  I would love for you all to read “Our Story” about how it all began.candle

I’ve been told that all of the “firsts” are hard…holidays, birthdays and various events without those people we’ve lost.  The tears Continue reading

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What are You Grateful for Today?

Dear Readers,

I saw the above phrase on Facebook courtesy of Beach Cottage Life and it prompted me to reflect on how I spent this past Christmas Day.  From two different friends, I received invitations to spend part of the day with them.  Being away from my blood family (since I feel when you choose friends well, they become your extended family), these were perfect ways for me to be surrounded by people I care about and not dwell on not being home in San Antonio.  Today I am grateful for my friends who think enough of me to include me in their family gatherings.  I started the day by attending church, and then had lunch with one of the most thoughtful and best individuals I know, Terri Moyer.  I ended the day by having dinner with another friend, Connie Lang, and her family.  There were kids enjoying both their toys and hanging out with cousins, sisters harassing each other (all in good fun) and wine enjoyed by all.  By the time I left her house, my mouth hurt from laughing.  Not a bad way to spend Christmas.

Louise Bernikow picture quotes - Female friendships that work are relationships in.. - Friendship sayings

I am thankful for my health, my faith and for knowing that I have the power to change my surroundings.  I can choose to keep looking back on the past in a negative way or look ahead and concentrate on the positive and endless possibilities that await me.  Last, but certainly not least, I am grateful that in 3 days I will see my sister, parents and 2 of my nephews and niece.  

I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and were surrounded by those you loved.  If you care to share what YOU are grateful for today, I would love to hear it.

Sincerely,

Mary

Dedication or Insanity?

When the new OU Softball game time was announced, I made sure to mark off my calendar so I could make the home opener.  I kept thinking to myself that a 3:15 game start, on top of the windy and cold conditions, would not draw a large crowd.  With it being Friday, this was understandable.  As Jenkins St. began to come into my view from Constitution, my eyes immediately went toward the softball field.  I just smiled as there were already a large amount of cars in the parking lot.  There was no question in my mind our fans were ready to see this team in action….and to have our girls back home.    I was armed with multiple layers and a blanket.  I headed toward the stadium and was greeted immediately by friends.   I saw Jessica Shults’ grandmother and stopped to give her a hug. The seat next to her was open so I joined her.  As we sat huddled together, ready to cheer on our girls, we chatted about rankings, movies and when in the world will the wind stop??

The wind never died down…and as each inning went by, my feet got more and more numb.  But I was not about to leave or miss this game.  This is not only the #1 team in the country, but this is a special group of young ladies whose talent is simply fun to watch.  When the game ended, I heard a fellow booster club member say “Gosh, are we crazy for coming out here in this weather?”  I just smiled, looked at her and replied “Dedicated sounds a little better…but all worth it.” 

I was so impressed with the crowd as was Coach Gasso who mentioned it during her press conference.   

Is there something that you are that dedicated to where you wouldn’t let poor weather conditions or anything stop you from being a part of the action?

Sincerely,
Dedicated in Norman

Daily Dose of GFH: Gratitude, Forgiveness and Humor

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For most of my adult life, I have been a morning person.  So getting up to be at work by 8 a.m. isn’t a big deal.  When you haven’t been sleeping well, however, getting up for a 7 a.m. ashes service can be a struggle.  I won’t lie, when the alarm went off yesterday around 5:30…there was a definite temptation to go back to bed.  Then I remembered my hectic schedule and how this was the most convenient time to attend the service…and more importantly, that I needed to start off the season of Lent on a good note.  I parked my car and ended up seeing two friends from softball.  I hugged one as he went off to work and then sat with his wife for mass.  What’s that expression about things happening for a reason?  Yep, really works.  Fr. Thomas Boyer of St. Mark the Evangelist has a great way of getting to the heart of the matter in his homilies.  He has that ability to make one zone right in on what he is saying.  You don’t get distracted when you listen to him.  At the end of his homily yesterday, he brought up how so many of today’s television ads revolve around pills that promise a quick fix to a problem.  I’ll paraphrase here but I remember him saying something like this: “All we see today are ads for pills for some disease or disorder.  I want you all to take a daily dose of GFH during Lent.  Gratitude, Forgiveness and Humor.”  He had referenced each of these earlier in his talk and noted how important each of these are to our daily lives.  Gratitude…being thankful for everything you have and all the blessings you’ve been given.  Forgiveness….forgiving yourself and others.  It is what Jesus would do.  Last, but certainly not least, Humor…being able to laugh every day will not only keep your sanity but also help you keep perspective.  If you can’t learn to laugh at yourself or things that happen, you’ll end up being negative. 

As I write this, it is day 2 of Lent.  I have decided to give up guilt for Lent.  I want to leave the past in the past.  I can’t change mistakes I’ve made, things I’ve said or the way I’ve acted.  I have taken the time to admit my mistakes, asked for forgiveness of those involved…..the next step is to move on and try not to repeat the same actions.  Letting the guilt reside in me will do no good, only harm.  This Lent, I am asking that God help me get rid of the guilt and make smarter, healthier decisions. 

So, as I conclude, I want to share my GFH for the day: I am grateful for the people in my life, I will work toward forgiving myself and I will definitely keep laughing at goofy things I’ve done or with others.  Life is way too short not to find the humor.  I love making others laugh and look forward to incorporating that into this Lenten season. 

So what are you waiting for….have you had your dose of GFH today?

Sincerely,
Armed with GFH in Norman

A Christmas to Remember

The Christmas holidays this year were different for me in that I was not with my family in San Antonio.  Prior to my being home for Thanksgiving, we had decided it would be fun for my parents, sisters, niece and nephews would visit me for Christmas.  My parents had wanted to see my new house so this was a great opportunity.  I kept telling myself that I needed to just get through Christmas Day and then I’d be fine.  I decided to attend church on Christmas Eve.  I first attempted to make it to one church’s service at 5:00.  I arrived with only 10 minutes or so to spare and found no parking….well, I could’ve parked across the street but then figured there would be no seating inside the church.  Alrighty, Plan B.  I stopped at the grocery store, grabbed some milk, pizza, spaghetti, sauce and chips…clearly essentials for snow storm.  I drove home, put the groceries away and got back into the car so I was sure to make the next service.  The entryway of St. Thomas More was already crowded. I spotted a seat on one of benches and quickly snagged it.  As I began looking around, I realized this was the children’s pageant mass.  Little ones decked out in their adorable holiday clothes kept the atrium area a buzz with activity.  A few minutes later, the children began lining up to take their place.  Angels, various animals and alike were chattering amongst themselves. 

A Call to Serve

Thanks to the tweet from Ann Curry, I felt called to volunteer to help serve dinner at the Norman Community Dinner on Christmas Day.  I was scheduled to be a back-up but then got the call that someone had cancelled.  I left early in case it took me a while to get to Norman High School.  I parked and carefully walked up the ramp.  As I looked around the cafeteria, I couldn’t help but smile.  Families and individuals enjoying a delicious holiday meal.  After getting my instructions, I was assigned my post.  I am finding out how small of a world Norman is as I ended up meeting two ladies who used to work where I work now.  As I was saying my goodbyes to the gentleman in charge of the event an hour or so later, I said I would get in touch with him earlier next year so I could sign up in advance. 

Through the slosh and over the ice we go

        christmas 2012 2

 

 christmas 2012

The reports that came in early on Tuesday were not encouraging for my being able to travel to my friend’s house for dinner.  Text messages were exchanged and after looking at updates online, I decided to head north.  Getting out of my neighborhood seemed to be the most difficult.  Fast forward a couple of hours and I returned home from a delicious meal with friends.  We ate, watched the Thunder game, opened presents and just hung out. 

In my eyes, that was a good Christmas.  As I write this, it is two days until my family gets to Norman.  I can’t wait….

Sincerely,
Enjoying the holidays in Norman

A Day Full of “Little Things”

After finishing some errands, I was pulling into a parking space outside my apartment.  I heard a noise and wasn’t sure where it was coming from or what it was exactly.  I turned off my radio and as I got out of my car, I turned my head toward the direction of the sound.  There was a guy in the parking lot playing Taps on a set of bagpipes.  I leaned against my car and just listened.  I couldn’t help but smile as I watched him turn in a circle while playing.  Many thoughts ran through my head such as “What prompted this?  Does he do this often? What does the song mean to him?”  As I started toward my door, I kept turning back toward the music.  I leaned against the building and continued to listen before heading inside.  A few minutes later, I sat outside to hear him finish.  With the temps having gone down and a slight breeze, it was a perfect night to be outside.  Once he was done, I put in the ear buds of my iPod and went for a walk around my complex.  I figured some fresh air and exercise was a great way to cap off the day.  I replayed the events of today in my head as various songs played in the background.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate the little things of life.  Today, these included the following:

  • Enjoying a day out of the office while taking part in professional development and meeting some people at another campus of our university.
  • Letting the hardest decision of the day be which restaurant we should try for our girls lunch
  • Taking a detour on the way home by driving through a prestigious neighborhood, frequently joking and repeating the phrase “Hmm, that sales price is just a hair off my budget…”
  • Smiling after your best friend says “Oh yea, that’s the one….I approve” after showing her the house you want to buy
  • Staying hopeful for love and relationships….especially when  you’re fighting that twinge of envy
  • Appreciating the support system of friends who help encourage and remind you to be patient as good things come to those who wait

I stumbled across this quote and thought it was a fitting way to end…..

May your thoughts be as glad as the shamrocks
May your heart be as light as a song
May each day bring you bright
Happy hours that stay with you allyear-long.
~Irish Blessing

What’s in it for me?

Do I really want to go back there?  That was the question I asked myself the other day when I got a phone call from someone who is practically my second mother.  She was describing some issues her daughter was having and reached out to me for help.  “You’ve just always been there,” she said.   Prior to my moving to Oklahoma, her daughter (Lori) and I used to be close-we hung out or talked almost every day.  I didn’t realize how one-sided our friendship was until I removed myself from the situation.  Making that choice was one of the best decisions I have made.  Even though I now live hundreds of miles away, I maintain frequent contact with her Mom.  Her Mom asked me to write a letter to Lori as part a church project.  When I read the request in an e-mail, my gut reaction was “No way- I am done with all of that.”  Her Mom called later that night and we chatted.  During the course of the conversation, I understood why she sought my help and ended up changing my mind.  I no longer feel like I have to fix Lori or let her problems bother me.  Even if I have moved on, I still care about her well-being.

Before beginning the letter, I’ll admit that there was a part of me that wanted to just unleash on her…share every thought that was going through my head.  But that would have served no good to her and this was not about revenge-it was about getting her on a healthier path.  While it took at least 3 drafts, I finally completed the task.  I am glad I chose to go through with it as well.    

I am so blessed to be surrounded by true friends and sincerely want the same for Lori.  This morning at church, the homily discussed wells and the times we need to cover up the bad ones and look for a cleaner well.  As I sat listening to Fr. Jim speak, I smiled.  I was meant to help Lori cover up the damaged well and embark on finding a new one.  God works in mysterious ways and I am grateful he gave me the chance to answer the call.