Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fam-ily = I Love You

This past weekend our family attended an amazing thing called "Parent Summit." This mini-conference for anyone living or working with kids (parents, aunts, uncles, future parents, grandparents) was put on by our church and followed by a family fun day with different activities for the kids. 

I took notes like a maniac on my phone and was so looking forward to sharing some of those notes here with readers. We attended a session on the 5 Love Languages, one called Say Goodbye to Complaining, Whining, and Bad Attitudes, and then one with our pastor's family.

This morning I was intent on sitting down and using my notes to write a blog for OTWG. That was before my notes were deleted. Such is life and technology, as I'm sure you've experienced at least once.

Nothing is an accident and while I did try to sit down and scribble down what I could remember, I couldn't remember a lot word for word.

Even that little accident, reshaped this week's message. The few things I did remember from our parent summit? 

Daily Affirmations
Family Affirmations
Family Rules

I'm a HUGE believer in daily affirmations and positive affirmations all through the day. If you follow On the Wings of Gratitude on Twitter or Facebook, you have found that words have great power in your day to day self-talk. What we say to our selves will shape how our day goes and how it turns out in the long run. Most parents, according to author, Dr. Chapman (5 Love Languages), love their kids, but many children don't believe their parents love them.

As a high school teacher, I had my students repeat what I called a "Class Creed." They thought it was super corny, but by the end of the year, many of them could say it by memory and for some it was an affirmation that they could do anything they set their minds to do. 

I am smart. 
I am loved.
I am important. 
I am a leader
I am part of the solution, not the problem. 
I can do anything I choose.

That isn't exactly how it went, but it's pretty close. 

Even I thought I was a little corny for having them say a daily affirmation everyday. I knew many of their families were not telling them these things and even more sad, their teachers weren't telling them these things either. If they only heard it in my class, then maybe that would make an impact on just one of them for the rest of their lives.

Yesterday confirmed, I am not crazy. :)

Daily affirmations ARE important. Family Affirmations are even more important. Affirmations are not something I grew up with. Family rules were not something we sat down to create together. We never sat down with an intention to outline family expectations or affirmations. Honestly, praying together became a very rare occurrence the older I got.

While many people are like me and did not have an experience like that described above, we have decided that our family is going to be better than the families we grew up in and just like we want to be better, we hope that our kids will want to be better than us. We don't expect they will take on all the traditions we have nor will they create the exact same family culture we have, but we do hope they will take some of the things we've created and pass them on to their kids and grand kids.

So, today we sat down with intention and reshaped an affirmation that we were already saying every morning and discussed with intent a few family rules. 

I encourage you and your family to do the same. Don't have a family? That shouldn't stop you from creating your own daily affirmation to say to yourself first thing in the morning or out loud in your car on the way to work or school. Those couple of minutes in the car before you go out into the world are some of the most crucial. If you can get in the habit of saying some positive things to yourself, your kids, or your family, they really will have the power to deal with anything that comes their way.

It's never too late to instill some sort of legacy and love into your life.

Our family affirmation:

Thank you, Lord, for this day. I will rejoice and be glad in it. I will not have a spirit of fear because I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. I will feel the fear and do it anyway. I will be a light bringer, an honor giver, and I will make someone feel awesome and not awful. I was intended to serve, be thankful in all circumstances and to elevate my thinking, being and doing. I will do that today.

Friday, June 8, 2012


Holly, Becca, Priscilla, Stormy - THIS one's for YOU! Biggest love and gratitude for your honesty about your losses. 

Some might say I talk about gratitude too much. Some might say I talk about grieving too much. Some might say I talk about healing too much. They might be right. 

If you have read any of the blogs or pages here at "On the Wings of Gratitude," then you know why there's so much gratitude talk. You know why we discuss grieving those we have lost. You know why it is important to heal. 

Today my brother (shown below at around 3 years) would have been 30. Thirty. When I say that out loud it is even more unbelievable than I thought it would be. 

It is ironic that every year when I really focus on my book, the one he inspired, it ends up being the months of his birth (June) and his death (July). Those months are very difficult for me. Some years are more difficult than others. 

Today, I woke up just like always. Scratch that. It was not just like always. We had an extra kid with us after a sleepover and the day started off pretty fast and furious. After our sweet extra girl left, we got ready for our first library visit of the summer. The 2 year old was not happy about his attire and was struggling with his independence to express himself with superhero t-shirts while I was struggling to dress him the way I wanted for once. :) 

So, we finally made it to the library. (If you only knew the 3 day journey it took us just to get there.) 

Little J and I were on the front row for story time while the big girls were scouting and checking out their own books. We sing songs, get our "wiggles out" and sit criss-cross-applesauce waiting for the first book to be read. 

The name of the book escapes me, but it was about a caterpillar who couldn't fly with his friends. Then, one day when his friends came to visit he flew around them. Oh how surprised they were! Oh how the little toddlers gasp at the site of the butterfly puppet! Oh how the chills ran up my arm. It was in that moment that I realized what day it was. June 8. His day.
I realized that butterflies once again made their appearance in my day, especially today. 

This was my last Sunday with my brother. Two days later he was gone. That was 24 years ago. 

I would like to tell you that you get over that loss. I would like to tell you that the pain goes away. I would like to tell you that everything will go back to how it was and that you might feel the peace you did before

After I got home, J had called to say he'd be late from work. The girls were gone to their dad's. I felt SO ALONE. I found myself alone on my bedroom floor, in a heap. Crying. Abandoned. Something about his death, the events after his death made me feel so abandoned. 

When we grieve, many of us find ourselves alone mostly because we all grieve differently and at different times. But there was something about everyone being gone in that moment that made all those "alone feelings" come rushing back. 

Life isn't fair. Life disappoints us. Life is taken away from us in the blink of an eye and it hurts. It especially hurts when it wasn't OUR life that was taken. People disappoint us. People don't understand. People want to help but don't know how. Life CAN be one big giant ball of disappointment. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Power of a Vision

I would love to tell you that all of your visions will become reality, but the truth is they probably won't. Sometimes we don't act upon those visions or take the steps to make them happen. Sometimes our visions aren't in line with God's plan for us. Sometimes our visions are selfish and only benefit us. 

You should know I'm a huge believer in vision, though. While in college (circa 1995) I started a vision collage. I have a total of 5 collages now where I've pasted words, pictures, phrases and dreams for my life. I told myself I was beautiful, gorgeous, rare, special, wonderful and important because even though others said it, I still didn't believe it. 

I paid careful attention to what I dreamed. I hung the collages up in my dorm room, apartment, first house, second house, on the mirror of the bathroom and anywhere I thought I would see it often. 

Many of my dreams/visions actually happened. I did meet Harry Connick, Jr. and New Kids on the Block. My dining room table is the exact table I pasted on my first collage. I did make the President's List and a 4.0 every semester my last 2 years as a college student. 

I did strive daily to be an extraordinary teacher. I was  rejected by the Freedom Writers camp, but did recieve an autographed copy of the book with a very sweet personalized note from Erin Gruwell. I told myself that I was unstoppable, sophisticated, strong, wise, and that I could do anything. 

I am writing that book that it says I would write. It's taking longer than I'd expected, but the truth is I never set a deadline. That changes now. 

Some of my dreams happened by chance and some of them I had to act upon before I got a response. But the quote holds true: whatever you have the passion to envision has the ability to become your reality. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

His Wings of Presence

Butterflies. Butterflies everywhere. 

Maybe it's not just me. Maybe everyone has butterflies around them all the time. 

My brother loved butterflies. They would surround him when we played outside together. I remember the images so vividly. They would land on his hands and his head and just sit as if that was where they were meant to be. It is such a peaceful image.  

Up until that time in my life, I had not witnessed that nor had it ever happened to me. 

Fast forward many years later. 

I am a mother of 2 and one summer as I contemplate writing a book in his honor a butterfly comes out of nowhere and just hangs around me. 

In the beginning, I thought I was just being weird and making something of nothing, but as time passed and butterflies continued to show up during specific times in my life, most notably, during some of the most difficult times or decisions, I began to really believe that there was a higher power around me. 

You can say I'm crazy. I'm ok with that. It took 35 years, but I'm absolutely sure to my core that butterflies have great meaning in my life. They symbolize my brother, his love for animals, the firm truth that we all  can transform to something better, and that peace can be found in all circumstances if we will just stop. 

This week I decided to see how crazy I was. Someone was sitting in my office and asked me about the @wingsgratitude twitter account. I gave a quick version of why it exists and then asked her my crazy questions: 

Me: When you're driving around in your car, do you often see butterflies surrounding it? 
Her: No. They usually just hit my windshield and die. 
Me: So, you don't get out of your car and see butterflies, typically? 
Her: No. 
Me: What about in the winter? 
Her: No

Immediately after that conversation, I got a text message from my husband with this picture attached. His message was this: "This has never happened to me before. I found this butterfly in my truck and opened the door to let it out and it landed here." 
A few months ago I went back to the lake house where John and I  shared our last weekend together as brother and sister. 

As I led my 3 children down to the water front, I was amazed to see 50 or so sunflowers in the very place he and I would play while taking a break from jet skiing and the inter tube. 

My 2 year old ran up to flowers and in an instant about 50 butterflies scattered all over. It's hard to see in this picture, but I tried to capture the moment. 

I have so many similar stories since I really began being conscious of these beautiful, peaceful creatures. . It's hard to go on without noticing the significance of their presence. 

I've talked to people who have comparable connections with people they've lost. 

This is a far fetched idea to many, but I will not deny his presence. HIS presence. 

So where did "On the Wings of Gratitude" come from, you ask? 

This is where: my brother and the butterflies. :)