What’s Your “Purpose” This Year?

img_5648As we’re now officially one week into the new year, I’ve been racking my brain trying to think about some great revelation that 2018 taught me because as with every year, it seems a lot happened. I buried my last grandparent. My dad beat cancer. My middle challenge started kindergarten. So I’ve been remembering and reliving a lot of intense memories. I half-ass attempted to think of some resolutions. But then the more I thought about it I thought why do that to myself? I’ll dream up these nice, pretty goals, and then I won’t follow through which will only piss me off. Then I’ll start feeling anxious for failing, which will make me even more moody, and Lord knows I don’t need another reason to be moody. So I thought forget it. I feel like I already spend so much time in the past do I really need to purposely focus on it any more? Because in reality even if 2018 did teach me some valuable lessons, which of course it did because it’s impossible not to have learned anything in any given year, I also know myself. And I’m a creature of habit. So it doesn’t necessarily matter what I learned. What matters is if I’m able to use that knowledge moving forward. And judging by my past experiences, I figure I have about a 50/50 chance, which could be seen as phenomenal odds or more like a “why even bother.” Because like with everything else in life, it’s all about how you look at things. (And I know how I tend to look at things!)

So in order to keep my eyes on the prize and focused ahead, I’ve decided to not give 2018 much more of my time. Because what’s done is done. Good or bad. Ugly or beautiful. And everything in between. That said, I’ve been seeing a lot of people on social media come up with a “word” to represent their new year. And being that I’m a “word girl” I decided that was a pretty good idea and I wanted to do the same thing. And at first I tried to think really hard about what I want my representative word to be. But then in the spirit of the new year, I said screw it, I’m going to actually NOT overthink something to death and go, instead, with the first thing that popped into my head – Purpose.

The more I think about this word, the more I like it. Because again, it can be looked at in so many different ways. For starters, I’m going to (attempt) to try this with my parenting. I feel like so often I don’t necessarily know why I do or don’t do something. I find myself saying “No” to my kids a lot. Now with a seven, five and three year old, that’s kinda, sorta normal. However at the same time I want my “no’s” to have a legit sense of purpose. Am I saying no just because I’m being lazy and I don’t want to have to clean up a bigger mess? Or am I saying no to wearing a certain piece of clothing because I’m embarrassed that my kids often look homeless (True.Story.) when we leave the house, when if I’m truly honest with myself, most of the time I look homeless when we leave the house. I hated when my dad used to tell me “Because I said so” or “Because I’m the dad” as a reason for wanting me to do or not do something. Yet I find myself doing the same thing. Why? Because it’s easy, and I don’t feel like trying to come up with a real explanation. And mainly because I know my kids won’t listen to me anyway. But still, I don’t really think that’s fair to my kids. So as we dive into the new year and my kids continue to bombard with me five thousand insane daily requests, here’s to hoping I actually pony up to the handful of them that are indeed “yes worthy.”

But besides just parenting, I feel like that word can (and should be) applied all throughout everything I do. Do I have a purpose of being mad at my husband or am I just being a moody bitch because my kids have driven me mad? Do I really need to buy this or that or am I trying too hard to keep up with the Jones’s? Do I really need to have another drink? YES. YES, I DO. Lord knows I’m not attempting to become a minimalist or anything because everyone that knows me, knows that I love “stuff.” But I do think I need to reign myself and my actions in a bit and just make sure that I have a legit purpose in doing and saying what I do. And maybe the purpose of doing or buying X, Y, or Z at the time is simply to bring in that ray of sunshine in my life. Then so be it. I should do it. I’m not saying my purpose will always be appropriate or even right. I’m just saying there should be one.

Without overthinking anything, I highly encourage everyone to come up with your own “word” for 2019. To me, it’s not stressful like resolutions are (because let’s face it, they’re only there to be broken), but it’s still offering some sort of direction that can help guide you into being the best you possible. A new year is always a fresh start. Use it. Cheers to new beginnings and Purpose.

The Warrior I Strive to Be

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My grandma and I on my 40th birthday

When my grandpa was diagnosed with cancer something like a million years ago, the twenty-something me was a tad different than the current 40-year-old me. And while obviously no one likes death or losing someone, witnessing the fast demise of my grandpa was just not something I was able to mentally handle. So instead I chose to write him a brief, but heart-felt letter so I knew for certain that he knew just how special he was to me. My aunt read it to him sometime before he died, and while I don’t believe he was communicating too much in the end, she assured me that he had indeed heard my words and understood.

Now this time last year my grandmother took a turn for the worse and none of us believed she would make it to see Christmas. We all got in our extra visits, and she was given her last Rites. And yet miraculously somehow she rallied. For an entire year. She struggled with dementia, her body was failing her and yet she continued to fight. That is until last week. My aunt called me last Sunday and suggested I go visit her as she wasn’t doing so well. Thankfully we had no plans that day so I was able to go and spend a few hours with her. But I never in a million years thought it was going to be my last visit. So when my aunt called me Wednesday suggesting I come again, while I was concerned over her urgency I still thought to myself, we’ve been here before, she’s struggling but she’ll work her way out of it. She always does. I finished up my errands. and Evelyn and I headed over. But I got there five minutes too late.

I don’t know why I never wrote my grandma a letter like I had my grandpa. I always told her I loved her, and she of course knew it but did she know everything? While it’s too late for her to ever hear my words aloud, I have to think she’s somewhere still listening. So Wednesday evening as I was in emotional turmoil filled with uncontrollable grief, confusion, and disbelief, my only solution was to put my thoughts on paper (well, a computer). It’s my therapy after all. It didn’t, nor will it ever, end my grief, but it did give me some sense of momentary peace.

Dear grandma,

Just two days ago we were bonding over Suze Orman, admiring her stilettos and discussing how she could take a man out with them. And you were telling me your plans of wanting to get a dog. You know, one that could just go in and out the back door so it wouldn’t be much trouble, you said. And now you’re gone. But a funny thing is as I was typing this the auto correct said you were “home” not gone. Maybe that’s you giving me my sign. Because right now I feel like you’re the only one in the world who can truly comfort me. I wish I had been brave enough to talk to you about the “end” when it was actually significant and ask your feelings about it. I know you weren’t afraid because I used to make you talk about death all the time. We used to always joke that you were too healthy and while it was silly, I still took comfort in it. Because I don’t think I ever accepted the truth that you wouldn’t actually be here forever. But I can only assume and imagine that Grandpa and my mom were waiting for you with open arms and the biggest box of wine you ever did see. So maybe you are indeed home.

My cousins have always teased me that I was the Golden Child. And that’s ok because obviously I am. Duh. But truthfully you were the Golden Grandma. I know you took pity on me for not having a mother and I was your only grandchild for a long time, but circumstances aside, we had a bond that I will cherish forever. You and Grandpa did everything for me. Endless supplies of donuts, homemade fried shrimp, trips to the city, New year’s Eve (virgin) pink squirrels, letting me drive (on the highway!!) well before I had my license. These are the memories that I’ll never forget. And yes even those long road trips to Kansas where you and Grandpa hot boxed me with your horrific cigarette smoke for hours on end. Even those memories I’ll always look back on and smile.

You were such an influential and special person in my life. You helped fill a void that I didn’t even understand. You mesmerized me with your stories of faith and you were always 100 percent honest with every question I threw at you. I appreciate that more than I ever told you. My aunt told me today that you were the strongest person she ever knew. And aside from my stepmom I would completely agree with that. You were a role model to us all even when you didn’t mean to be. You showed us just what unwavering strength and faith truly is. And you always said exactly how you felt, no bull shit. Your life wasn’t easy. You didn’t grow up with much, but you had a loving family. You outlived a daughter, a grandson and a husband. You showed us all just what it looks like not to quit when times are hard, but more importantly what it looks like to preserver.  And end up stronger because of it. You were the epitome of a true fighter, grandma.

I’ll miss your spunk, our crazy conversations (even if we had the same ones over and over the past few years), but most of all I’ll miss our laughs because you made me laugh like no other. I don’t think most grandmas are nearly as funny as you were. Just one of the many reasons why I was so lucky to have had you for as long as I did.

I’m sorry I missed you at the end. But I know that was just you simply looking out for me as you always have. Because now I won’t remember you in death. Instead I’ll chuckle about our last moments together with Suze and your soon-to-be dog. I love you with all my heart, grandma. I hope to someday see you again.

Love, The Golden Child

We laid my grandma to rest this weekend, and while it was such a sad day, I think we all did a pretty good job of celebrating her life. We came together as the strong family that she taught us to be. We cried. We laughed. We drank (way too much). We sang. We danced. And we lived. And in doing so, I know that her spirit lives on in each of us. Rest in peace, Grandma.

The Skill of a Lifetime

img_5277So a thing has started happening at my house and I could not be any more excited. My middle daughter is just starting to read. In my opinion, this is a huge milestone for all kids and as everyone knows, reading is especially near and dear to my heart. And the other week, for the first time ever, Spawn #2 picked up Green Eggs and Ham and read the majority of the book – on her very own. I think that child got a year’s quota of high fives and shouts of joy from me in that moment. Now I remember being super excited when Jaycob first learned to read too but I just don’t think I fully appreciated the greatness of it as much mainly because I had a newborn attached to me 24/7 as well as a needy three year old. So unfortunately for the first born, he might not have gotten quite as much attention. Or maybe he did, and I just simply forgot because, well, Mom Brain.

But a few weeks ago as I sat and watched Addy furrow her little brows as she concentrated on sounding each and every word out, I just kept thinking to myself: girlfriend, your world is about to open up in ways you never dreamed it could. It’s hard for me to even vocalize how proud I was/am of her. Granted I know reading is nothing “special” or unique – obviously everybody learns this skill. But regardless, it’s just so gosh darn important. I want to relish the pride and jubilation I’m feeling so I thought I’d write her a brief note so that maybe someday she’ll never forget just how momentous this time is for both of us.

To My Favorite Middle Challenge,

Learning to read is one of the most detailed first memories I have. I’ll never forget the day the letters just “clicked” in my own mind, and they went from being merely letters thrown together on a page to actual words jumping out at me. And while I don’t remember my first book’s title, I do remember it was a “thicker” book (well, thick for first grade) with complete sentences. I remember rushing to my dad when I got home from school and insisting he listen to me read. I was so excited and proud. It was one of the greatest feelings of my life and even today it still ranks pretty high up on the list. I hope you feel the same when you’re older because while you might not realize it now, your world is about to change. And not just because I can no longer spell out words to your father with you having no idea what I’m talking about. (Although I am slightly sad about that.) But because with each page you read and each new word you learn, you are gaining the knowledge and know how needed to change the world. Reading gives you power. It is THE tool needed to ultimately do and become whatever you dream. It can take you places you’ve never dreamed of all the while providing you with new ideas and insight that you might never come up with on your own. It can offer you new perspectives and transport you to another world in the blink of an eye. With reading the possibilities are endless, and I hope you never underestimate the power in this milestone.

Love Always,
Your voracious reading Mother

There’s a lot of things that I do wrong as a parent. I’m crazy. I yell a lot. I love to say no. (Dad, that’s ALL your fault!) But if there’s one thing I do well, it’s modeling my love for reading. Any spare chance I get, my kids see me with a book (even if it’s an e-book) in my hand. They see me reading the history section of our local Barrington magazine (really, the only section I can handle!) They see me reading my weekly Mt. Carroll newspaper. And most often when everyone else is glued to the television, they see me go find a quiet spot on the couch and curl up with a book. I grew up watching my own dad constantly read, and I think that really shaped my own love for it. I certainly hope that among all the negative traits I’m ultimately passing down, my love for reading is one of the positive ones.

There’s been a few times when I’ve caught my second grader still reading with his flashlight in bed at 10:00 at night. Now granted, I’m not happy the next day when he’s overtired and throwing fits, but secretly my heart is swelled with pride because that’s what I used to do. Give me a Christopher Pike book any day during my adolescent years, and I too would stay up way too late reading. Hell, that’s me every night now still. It’s my me time. My time away from reality where I can zone out and forget about all the things I need to do or how many times the kids sent me over the edge that day. Without that time, I couldn’t function.

So while ultimately I want my kids to grow up to be happy, healthy and kind – you know, the staple things that every other parent on the planet wants for their kids – I also can’t help but wish they turn into the biggest book-loving nerds that ever could be. Because someday, whether they like or not, I too will make them plow through Atlas Shrugged over their summer vacation. Isn’t that every kids’ dream?! Hashtag sorry not sorry.

Don’t Let the “Buts” Override the Joys

“Talking About Our Problems is Our Greatest Addiction. Break the Habit. Talk about Your Joys.”

A few weeks ago an old high school classmate of mine shared this on her Facebook page. It immediately struck a cord with me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Mainly because It’s.Just.So.True. Rarely do I call my dad up with something “good” or send one of my fellow mom pals a text with something great that my kids did. Most of the time it’s simply me bitching. Me bitching about my kids. Bitching about my husband. Bitching about the weather. Just me bitching about anything and everything. Yet over the past few weeks as I’ve been ruminating on this idea, every time I try to think about something I’m grateful for, there always seems to be a giant BUT at the end. I’m grateful for my health…BUT I hate the feeling of getting old. I’m grateful for my kids…BUT boy do they drive me crazy. I’m grateful for my hardworking husband…BUT why won’t he do X, Y or Z? And it just keeps going on and on. I know I’m a Negative Nelly. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. But geez, even for me sometimes I think enough is enough. So I decided to write a post (mainly to prove to myself that I CAN remain positive for once) about my JOYS. The things that make me happy. And there will be no BUTS. The buts are my addiction and it’s true, I do need to break the habit. So here’s my first attempt.

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One of my greatest Joys over the past few weeks has simply been the generosity and kindness of my gal pals. Recently I had a minor procedure done and was laid up for a few days. Now everyone knows I hate asking for help of any kind. I don’t know why I do, I just don’t ever want to be a “burden” on someone else. Yet these ladies simply took charge. I had homemade dinners delivered, goodies for the kids, milkshakes for me. I had numerous additional offers and daily text messages checking up on me as well. Even the women I work out with got together and all signed a card for me. Now these woman will all tell you this was “no big deal” for them, but I beg to differ. Some of these woman work. They’re all raising families, being chauffeurs, cleaners, chefs. Yet they went out of their way to help me. And they did it on their own. That is some good people right there. No buts needed for this Joy.

Now it would be wrong of me to write about my Joys and not mention family. However seeing as I feel this is just a “given,” I’ll keep it short and sweet. My family has each other’s backs. We’ve been around the block a few times in the Village of Hell and we’re are all sorts of crazy, weird and impossible, but that’s what I’m most thankful for. Because given a choice between The Cleavers or The Conners, I’d take the Conners any day. They’re a lot more fun. So even when my phone calls and texts are about 95 percent me talking about my problems, I can always count on my dad to remind me that “this too shall pass” or my faithful cousin, who’s a few years ahead of the parenting/life game than me, to talk me off that ledge. They’re my forever Joys. The lemonade to my lemons. (Sorry, sometimes, I like a good ol’ cliche!)

About a year ago, in my forever hunt for cool vintage items, I met a local woman who has a sweet little antique business that she runs out of her home. Recently she asked if I’d help her with the online portion of her business. Um, hello?! I get to look at and fondle beautiful, one-of-a-kind treasures AND get paid for it?! YES! This woman is grateful for my help, and I’m beyond grateful for simply having the opportunity to “do what I love.” I don’t necessarily believe in all the “you meet everyone for a reason” garbage that people like to say, but I certainly could not be any happier for having met this woman…despite having spent way too much money on all the pretty things that she sells. At least now however, my guilt is justifiably a tad less.

Now obviously there’s a million and one other things that bring Joy in my life. It’s candy corn season. The trees look freaking amazing. My kids are doing well in school. And my husband recently discovered what is currently my new favorite beer. Overall life is good. But it’s just so damn easy to spend so much time focusing on the buts and the negative side of things. (Candy corn makes me fat. Falling leaves means snow is coming. My son writes like he’s in preschool. Beer makes me fat. – See how easy that is??) But here I am, attempting to work on Amy 2.0 and trying just a tad harder to consider that my glass might just be half full instead of half empty. And on those days that I simply can’t do it – a 6-pack and a bag of candy corn make a damn fine way to end the day.

Sink or Swim in the Sea of Schedules

I’ve been a parent for just over seven years. And while sometimes that seems like an eternity, I know it’s not really long at all. However I’ve definitely discovered that there’s a lot of things that I just never was prepared for in terms of this whole parenting gig. I remember being pregnant with my first and maybe kinda attempting to half-ass read a few parenting books in the hopes of “learning the ropes.” (HA! Boy, do I look back at myself and all my glorified, parenting bliss pipe dreams and laugh!) Anyway, at the time I was commuting to the city and working fairly long hours, and honestly who the hell wants to spend their free time reading parenting books?! Besides, what works for one or even a million kids probably isn’t even going to work for yours.

But here I am, seven years into this gig, and my kids are finally getting old enough to get legitimate schedules. And holy shit I thought the newborn sleep deprivation was hard, but this, my friends, is some serious uncharted territory for me. I don’t think anyone ever warned me about the dreaded schedules. Although even if they did I probably would have just shrugged them off and thought to myself, “yeah right, now hard can it be to remember a few activities?” Well let me tell you, my brain is filled with pretty much nothing but awful song lyrics and the kids’ schedule,s and I’m basically maxed out at about 93 percent capacity. That does not leave room for much else. Working moms: I applaud the shit out of you that you’re able to function, use your brain and do all the mom things. Most days I find it difficult walking from one room to another and actually remembering what I was going to do. My daily goal in life is to shower and keep everyone alive. And I call it a win if I only manage the latter.

So yeah, it’s now the end of September and the school year is officially underway and with it comes All. The. Things. Things like dance, Cub scouts, fall baseball, Catechism, swimming lessons, doctor visits, in addition to normal ongoing events like weekly therapy, gymnastics, and all the other random appointments that seem to pop up way more often than one might think. And then there’s that other thing called homework, which praise the Lord we’ve barely scratched the surface in that department. Because amidst the other activities, dinner and like five minutes of free time, when are the kids supposed to do it? Because the thing about young kids is that even if one kid has an activity it really means everyone does, because obviously I can’t leave any of my littles at home alone. And I’m definitely not one of these fancy moms that has an Au pair, nanny or even on-the-call relative to come watch any or all of my kids anytime I need. A girl can definitely dream though.

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My current hot mess “Command Center”

So how do parents do it? Well like any other delusional parent, I turned to Pinterest to  look up “command centers.” Because currently my command center consists of one drawer in the kitchen that is stuffed to the gill with junk. That junk includes homework, school books, important papers, things that need signing, etc. It’s a complete shit show. Oh and of course it’s the favorite spot for my littlest to get into and find paper to “draw on.” So that’s fun and disastrous. But after wasting a month of my life looking at other people’s perfect organization and styled-to-the-max photos, I finally came back to reality and remembered there’s no way in hell I have the time, skill or energy to make these beautiful reclaimed wood-framed calendars and crafty compartments that I had pinned and dreamed up in my head. And I know where my husband would tell me to go if I asked him to add yet one more thing to his ever-growing “wife to do list.” So I looked around at a few local stores and finally decided upon this whiteboard calendar and the accompanying 3-tier letter bin so each kid can have their own bin for homework etc. Of course I realized I can’t even get these hung until I get the mudroom walls prepped and painted, but I’ll get there eventually.

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The current state of my slow-moving organization process.

I’m hoping that having this daily visual of the month’s schedule will better help me compartmentalize (and remember) each person’s activities. I’m currently living out of my iPhone calendar, but it doesn’t allow me to see the entire month’s events at once, something that I’ve come to learn I need. And I know that from this point on, there is no slowing down. Life as a family of five is only going to get busier, but I realize that now is the crucial time for all of us to figure out and establish efficient routines. Without it, I think my brain might eventually just combust. I can’t promise we’ll ever be on time for anything, but dammit I’m determined to at least make all scheduled events. So here’s to planning, organization and big-ass visible calendars!

A Birthday Fit for a King

I’ve lived in good ol’ suburbia since I graduated from college, something like a million years ago. And after so many years of being an official suburbanite, I’m definitely thankful I didn’t grow up here, although I suppose I have lived here long enough that I’ve grown to at least kinda, sorta, semi fit in. That said, however, I think there’s always going to be different things about the suburban way of life that just continue to blow my mind – one of those being the all-out production of kids’ birthdays.

IMG_3987My oldest recently just turned seven and last weekend we had his friend party. He did not get a friend party until he was five, but I’m starting to regret not delaying it until possibly 16. Now in my suburban mind, we kept things fairly simple for his party. He wanted a sports theme, so we rented out a place for two hours, and the kids played a few different games. I brought in pizza, cake, some drinks and called it a day. Oh, and goody bags. Because why wouldn’t kids deserve getting a small bag of junk at every party they attend. [Seriously, has this always been a thing? Who started this tradition? Am I the only one who thinks it’s ridiculous?] Anyway, on the flip side, my small-town mind is still utterly in shock over just how much this “low-key” party cost. I refuse to even acknowledge the total because I swear I could have enjoyed a nice solo three-day trip to Mexico for less. Kidding. Kind of.

Now while the dollar amount is just insane to me, what really gets me is that these kids, mine included, EXPECT this kind of thing. Like every year. How is dropping a few hundred dollars (we’ve been to some that have definitely cost way more) on a little kid’s random birthday the norm? Whatever happened to picking three of your closest friends, having mom bake a Betty Crocker cake and going to celebrate at the nearby park for a few hours? Obviously these suburban kids are not growing up on the same planet that I did. I remember having that park birthday party like ONE time. Any other year I think I might have invited someone over for dinner. And maybe my memory might be slightly off, but either way my dad would have dropped dead before dropping a few Benjamin’s on some insignificant birthday party. I tried explaining to Jaycob just how lucky he was to get such a nice party with his friends and mentioned that I merely went to the park when I was little. I might as well have told him I grew up in a cardboard box for the appalled look he gave me. Like he just couldn’t believe that’s ALL I did.

Things like this just really make question, once again, if I’m doing the right thing by raising my kids in the suburbs. I mean sure, we all want to “give our kids more than we had” but I firmly believe there’s still a fine line between giving them more and not creating spoiled brats. But when yearly elaborate parties are the norm, I find it difficult to tell my kids, “no sorry, you can’t have the party that you want because it’s just INSANE.” So of course, I saddle right up on that suburban bandwagon and do my best to provide an extremely watered-down “extravagant” party. Because all kids should be able to celebrate their special day with their friends. It’s important, and I’ll continue to do my best to make sure my kids get that. I just won’t ever figure out why someone should be forced to sell a kidney in order to pay for it.

Now, here’s where I’m going to go and contradict everything I just said (well at least in terms of the ridiculous cost) because if this party taught me anything at all, it’s that under no circumstances do I want to attempt to save money and host a kids’ (7-year-old boys, to be specific) party at my house. At first I was worried and felt bad for Jaycob because so many of the kids he invited were already busy that day, but ultimately he still had eight friends show up. And honestly even though I wasn’t really even in charge (a couple of teenagers were leading the kids in the games), I think if any more had come I might have just walked out. The energy, the craziness, the noise and just pure chaos with this group of kids was intense. And it’s not even that anyone was misbehaving. They were simply being seven-year-old kids. There was jumping and acrobatics and endless amounts of yelling and nonstop running. These kids were dripping wet in sweat. It certainly looked like everyone had a great time, which of course was fantastic. But truly all I kept thinking was, “oh my God, what if this was going on at my house?! Would I even have a house left?”

So at the end of the day, I ask myself why would I go against my frugal farm upbringing and piss away too much money for a most likely unmemorable birthday? Why would I simply perpetuate what I consider to be a legit problem with children automatically expecting to be handed the world? It’s simple: because I don’t want that kind of crazy up in my house. Survival, people. If it means my kids are happy and I get to keep my house intact; it’s worth it. Because parenting ain’t nothing but a balancing act mixed in with a shit ton of crazy.

Never Think You Don’t Have an Impact

img_3849The other day I randomly started chatting with a woman that I “met” (online) through some mutual friends and interests, thanks to our love for antiques, history and a good story. [But before I go any further let me reassure you (Dad) that NO, I’m not on any crazy website looking to”meet” someone.] Anyway we were chatting and I learned that like me, she’s experienced some serious grief and loss in her life. And while our experiences are different, her words and her overall outlook really struck a chord with me. She wrote:

“The thing is this: if we don’t let the anger fade, if we don’t treasure each breath we take, if we don’t give the best that we have to give…we are not honoring them. I know my son would want us to be happy, to make the best life we can make…to do anything less is an insult to him. So I laugh because he can’t. I breathe because he no longer breathes. I love because he loved with every beat of his big heart. We must do these things in order to not have lost them in vain.”

Now I “know” all this. My friends and family have preached this to me for years. But to hear it from a complete stranger, someone who also truly gets it, the words just seemed to take on a whole new meaning. Like I wrote in a previous blog, “Grief – The Monster in the Closet”  I’m not one to talk much about the pain or sadness I sometimes feel, and if I’m honest with myself, most days I simply try to tuck it away so it’s far out of reach. And with my busy schedule having three little kiddos, it’s not that hard to do. But some days I’ll have a flashback, or hear a song, or in this case talk to someone (other than my family) who has felt the same things I do. And in these moments, it’s simply impossible to bury.

I cried a lot that day after chatting with this woman. But when I was done, I also smiled. And ultimately I felt happy. Because as she reminded me, it’s not always taking it day by day or even hour by hour. Sometimes it’s minute by minute. But that’s okay because “we got this.”

Now coincidentally on this same day, a friend of mine posted a fantastic image that read:

“You might think that you don’t matter in this world, but because of you, someone has a favorite mug to drink their tea out of that you bought them.
Someone hears a song on the radio and it reminds them of you.
Someone has read a book you recommended to them and gotten lost in its pages.
Someone’s remembered a joke you told them and smiled to themselves on the bus.
Never think you don’t have an impact.
Your fingerprints can’t be wiped away from the little marks of kindness that you’ve left behind.”

After my earlier conversation and then seeing this, it just reminded me that sometimes it’s the random words you hear from a stranger. Sometimes it’s a pat on the back. Sometimes it’s reading an inspirational message that just nails it. Whatever the case may be, simple acts of kindness are everywhere. They’re a huge part to what makes us humans. They’re what gets us through the daily challenges; the complicated, messy struggles. But they’re also what gives us that extra reason to smile or what puts that tiny added pep in our step.

I know this woman was simply expressing her thoughts and emotions about her own experiences. She wasn’t necessarily trying to cheer me up or “fix” me. But she ultimately made an impact on me. And that, I feel, is such an important lesson for us all to remember. It’s something that I certainly hope I’ve done, and will continue to do, for others. But even more so, it’s something I strive to teach my kids. Because in a world filled with so much pain, unfairness and hurt, what may seem silly or unimportant to one person may be just the thing that helps someone else decide to push through and keep going.

I feel like so often we get caught up on buying the more expensive gift or focusing on making grand gestures with the assumption that that’s what will get noticed or recognized. And yes, maybe “more” people will notice things on a bigger scale. But quantity doesn’t necessarily equate to a more powerful impact. It’s the little things, the unintended or accidental gestures, that add up to become the big things. So offer up that book recommendation. Buy that silly five dollar gift for a friend. And tell that stupid joke you heard from your seven year old. Because you never know just how much of an impact those insignificant gestures might make.