Monday, July 27, 2009

Listen... what does the word really mean?


When I ask you to listen to me
and you start giving advice,
you have not done what I asked.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you begin to tell me why I shouldn't feel that way,
you are trampling on my feelings.
When I ask you to listen to me
and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem,
you have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I asked was that you listen.
Not to talk or do-just hear me.
Advice is cheap. Ten cents will get you both Dear Abby and
Bill Graham in the same newspaper.
And I can do that for myself. I'm not helpless.
Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself,
you contribute to my fear and weakness. But, when you accept as a single fact that I do feel what I feel,
no matter how irrational, then I can quit trying to convince
you and get to the business of understanding what's
behind this irrational feeling.
And when that's clear, the answers are obvious
and I don't need advice.
Irrational feelings make sense when we understand
what's behind them.
So, please listen and just hear me.
And if you want to talk,
wait a minute for your turn...
and I will listen to you."

This poem speak volumes to me. I am the person who's trying to offer advice, relate a similar story or feeling, solve the problem, interrupt and give a compliment so they don't feel so bad, or tell them they shouldn't feel that way! ... But, then I am also the one who gets very frustrated when someone does this to me. I don't tell them this, but I want to!

In the end, there are only a few people who I really go to when I need to vent or just to have someone listen. 

These people understand what it means to listen. 

They do just that... and only that... LISTEN. No advice, no interruptions, no telling me how I should/shouldn't feel. I LOVE that about them!!

And, yet, it really is so simple! But I, along with many others, choose the harder route by trying to think of something to say in return. Listening requires no real effort besides "eyes watching and ears listening" (as I teach my Kindergartners). 

My solution to becoming a better listener... letting go of the silly idea that I can "make everything all better!" because, there's no way I can.  

I have a long way to go... but the first step is acknowledgment, right? :)


I'll admit it. I love Oprah. I think she has some quality things to say and she motivates/inspires people to be a little bit better. I never get to watch her program during the day, but I do read her magazines when they become available at the gym. Recently, there was an article on HAPPINESS.

"Don't seek happiness, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness." Big word there: "antithesis". But, basically meaning opposite.

"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it." 

Hmmm... let me think about that. Yep, it's true! We can think positively or negatively about anything... it's all in how we view it. I try to teach this to my students all the time, yet I don't always follow through myself!

Recently, I took a course in the power of positive thinking. It's amazing how much more I "believe" the stories I create in my head rather than just facing a FACT. FACING a FACT is always empowering.

The quote I LOVED the most was this: 
"People believe themselves to be dependent on what happens for their happiness. They don't realize that what happens is the most unstable thing in the universe. It changes constantly. They look upon the present moment as either marred by something that has happened and shouldn't have or as deficient because of something that has not yet happened but should have. ... ACCEPT the present moment and FIND the Perfection that is untouched by time." 

And, finally, a very good reminder:
"The more shared past there is in a relationship, the more present you need to be; otherwise, you will be forced to relive the past again and again." 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A very special, but emotionally exhausting day!

My grandfather's funeral was last Saturday, July 18th is Jenkintown, PA. The funeral mass was held in the same church my grandfather spent many of his young "dad" years attending. My mom grew up attending the parish and her and her brother's went to the parochial school associated with it. It was amazing to me to think as I sat there that my mom had been in the same building many years prior doing the same thing I was doing - attending a mass!

The day could not have been better weather wise. It was beautiful! But, it was a long day.... I had forgotten that the birds outside of my childhood bedroom awoke at 4:30 AM and thought everyone else should too. I LITERALLY could have shot them if I had the necessary objects (sorry to any bird lovers... but I was so tired!)

The viewing was at 8 AM, funeral mass at 9:30 followed by the cemetery portion at 11:30 and the luncheon at noon. And, to be honest, no matter how much a funeral is a "celebration of life", and no matter how much you know that the individual is free from pain and the cares/troubles of the world, and how much happier they are being reunited with their spouse and family that has passed on, AND no matter how much you knew they were ready to pass on after living a long and very FULL life... funerals, in my opinion, still STINK!! It's hard seeing someone you loved so dearly and had been such a powerful positive influence in every step of your life, pass away. I tried to hold it together but three parts of the day REALLY got to me. 

1. At the funeral home, we were asked to say our last good-bye before they took the casket away. 

2. My uncle's gave a eulogy about my grandfather... and just thinking about all the wonderful memories and things we did together...

3. BUT, the things that REALLY got me going was the hymn everyone sang as we walked behind the casket and left the church "How Great Thou Art" I am TEARING up just thinking about that song! I think it developed serious meaning for me during my young women years in girls camp. I can think of many times when we would be singing that song, looking out over nature, and feeling the Spirit testify to me of the amazing and wonderful LOVE my Heavenly Father has for me. We all piled into our cars and I didn't want to talk to anyone so I was glad I was alone! I cried the entire way to the cemetery. (Fortunately we were going slow so I didn't worry about seeing through my blurred vision! 

Overall, the funeral mass was wonderful and my mom had worked tirelessly over the past few days making sure that the ENTIRE day was planned out just like my grandfather would have liked (He really had given specific directions on what he would like at his funeral believe it or not! My grandfather was a planner!!) I think he might have chosen to have a different priest (he was a real character (!!) but we didn't have an option :) One of my cousins also sang at the service which was very nice. My uncle's, two cousins and my two brother's were pall-bearers. Sarah and I brought up the offertory gifts. Neither of us are catholic and I forgot a lot of what I had learned in grade school, so we were a little late not realizing we had missed our cue!

I was so happy to have the opportunity to go to the grave site because it also gave me the chance to see my grandmother's tombstone. She had passed away about 20 years ago. I am sad to say that I have not been back since, but I did get a picture this time.  

Special things about my grandmother:
My middle name is her last name "Christie". 
We had a special bond over our love for 

Pictures of my grandfather's 
plaque on his casket

After the cemetery portion, we went to lunch at the William Penn Inn. My grandfather loved coming here with his family. We had 30 some people there and filled a beautiful room upstairs. There were extended family members from both my grandmother's and grandfather's side. I sat at a table with my immediate family and then some of the relatives from my grandmother's side whom I had never met or had met when I was little. It was so great to hear stories about my grandmother and her family as she was growing up... and the children that her siblings had! This luncheon was a great way to end a difficult morning. My grandfather would have been so happy to see everyone together and reconnecting over really good food!

One other very special thing that happened because of my grandfather's passing, is that my brother's and I were able to spend some time together. We see each other a couple of times a year, but not all together and usually there is a lot going on so we don't have much time to talk. However, this time, we actually were able to have dinner around the table with my mom on Friday night (like we did when we were little - my mom was a stickler for family dinners together!) and we realized at that time that it had been at least ten years since we had all slept under the roof of the house we grew up in. I felt closer to my brother's after spending this short, short time with them, but I am so glad we were able to be together. 

So, of course, I insisted on pictures after the luncheon! The sun was right on our eyes :)
I love these two!!
My fabulous mom who can now be considered an event planner too!! Although, I don't think she'll ever quit her genealogy job to do it!
All four of us :)
I look forward to our next family gathering, 
but can it be for a wedding and not a funeral? :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My Resignation.... It's now official!

Scary. But, I just did it! Required a huge leap of FAITH... which I feel is very strong at times and weak at others. But, I'm trying to keep it strong!

I just resigned from my school counseling position with the Burlington Public Schools 10 minutes ago.... and am doing so not with a full-time job confirmed yet in the DC area! Crazy? Yes, I would say so. Especially in this economy!! But, this has been a matter of thought, prayer, fasting and many, many discussions with friends and family and I truly feel like things will work out (well, most of the time I feel that way :). I wish I could see the end from the beginning because that would have made this SO much easier, but I realize life isn't that way! Now, I am really putting my #1 song to the test (What if it all goes right? What if it all works out?... listen to the first song on my blog playlist!)

So, here we go... embarking on new territory and testing my faith. I do know it's time for me to move on from Boston and there have been so many tiny (and big) clues letting me know that, but it's difficult when you're giving up job security with a job you really like! And, for me change is always scary... BUT, here's to my leap of FAITH!

P.S.. On top of all that has happened with my family in the past week with my grandfather's passing, my computer crashed the same day as well as my Saab being diagnosed with a terminally fatal illness without major surgery. So, HERE'S a HUGE THANK YOU to my mom who enabled my car to get back to Boston (and is currently undergoing surgery at this minute) and to the APPLE STORE guy (Matt: who by the way I have fallen in LOVE with!) He saved me over $1000 by fixing my computer for free, upgrading the software for free AND provided me with a few much needed laughs while he did so :) We also had some good discussion about Mormons and weddings since his best-friend is a Mormon and Matt was the best man in his wedding! If it would have been proper, and he wouldn't have thought I was absolutely CRAZY, I would have leaped across the counter to give him a hug when he finished with my computer! These two people brought much needed and appreciated blessings into my life in the past few days!! 

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Tribute to a TRULY Wonderful Man!

Joseph A. Rider
a.k.a: “Max”, "Pop-pop"
and my personal favorite “Pops”
May 11, 1915 – July 9, 2009

94 years of a life well-lived

My grandfather passed away in peace on Thursday at a hospice center in Reading, MA. I have lived within ten minutes of him for the past four and a half years in Boston and he was a special part of my life there. Whether it was my weekly visits, or the “special errands” he would send me on because “only I would know how to do it!” (like buying cards for family members), or our dinners at the “99” and the Cheesecake Factory, or the lectures on life, marriage, jobs, or what a good meal consists of (!!)… without a doubt, many of my fond memories of Boston include my grandfather! He was an example to me of a man of faith, hard work, and someone who truly loved his children and grandchildren unconditionally.

I wanted to post some of the pictures from the past few years...

93rd Birthday dinner at the Chart House in Boston
Blowing out the candles at the Chart House!

I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with my grandfather as a child. When I moved to Pennsylvania, my grandparents moved less than a mile away. My grandmother passed away within a year of our move and for a while my grandfather lived in our home. My brothers and I spent many hours at his house helping with his yard and the general upkeep of his home. He was our babysitter and he loved attending our special events and graduations, etc. I fondly remember the number of New Years Eve’s spent with him ringing in the new year with Ellio's Pizza ☺ He and I had a special bond over our love for blue cheese dressing on our salads and he always made sure he had some for me when we would go over for dinner.

He always listened patiently and tried to understand what my brother’s and I were up to in an ever-changing world of technology and education/career pursuits... although I am sure we consistently confused him by talking about the "internet" or "texting"

This is a picture of a holiday dinner we had in Dec 2008.
I stopped by to visit him on his 94th birthday and had to get a picture! His eye-sight had gone by this point so he wasn't sure where the camera was, but he was all smiles!
4th of July, 2009

We were very fortunate to have planned a family reunion for the 4th of July weekend. My grandfather had just moved into a hospice center that day and we all gathered to take one last picture. He had not been very coherent during the past month, but the two days we spent with him were two of the three days in the past month that he was able to hold a good conversation. We were so blessed to have had that special time with him just a few days before he passed away.

He was a man of strong opinions and he had a very strong will that was evident until the day he passed away.

I'll never forget you pop-pop. I love you!

Friday, July 10, 2009

4th of July reunion in Boston!

A "Welcome to Boston" cheesecake from Finale Bakery was the chosen way to welcome my family to Boston for the 4th of July! We realized that it had been since 2003 when my little brother left on a mission that all of us were gathered together in the same place at the same time! So, this reunion was long overdue... but I am so glad everyone sacrificed what they did to make it happen!

Even though I have moved from Boston, we were very fortunate to all stay in Juliette's house, which isn't going to be rented until August! The house lacks furniture and many amenities, but it was perfect for us! I had brought over linens, paper products and other things to make it livable to my family for four days. We survived without the internet and cable. And, just really enjoyed each other's company!

I feel very blessed to even have arrived in Boston. 7 of the 9 delta shuttle flights for the day I flew were canceled because of the terrible weather in Boston. I knew my flight had been canceled but went to the airport anyway. It didn't look good. But, HF truly blessed me that day by allowing me to be in the right place at the right time. As I waited in one long line to see what my new flight options were, I noticed a Delta flight was boarding for Boston (on of the two going that day). I walked over there and just stood close by waiting. As it turns out... they had extra seats because many had thought the flight would never take off and had left or re-scheduled their flight (since the flight was three hours late taking off). I got on!!! But, my luggage didn't since it was so last minute. FORTUNATELY, my luggage did make it on the other flight that made it to Boston that day and I was ok!

The weather in Boston STUNK on the day I arrived. Bad storms and such, but the rest of the weekend was BEAUTIFUL. Evan and Justin and his family arrived on Friday. We played games and just enjoyed each other's company at home... but then at night my mom, Justin, Becca and the boys went to the Children's museum while Evan and I (along with two friends visiting from DC as well) went to a Red Sox Game! I LOVE THE RED SOX!
There is just something special about Fenway stadium. For those of you who have never watched "Fever Pitch"... you MUST! It will help you understand a little behind the feeling Bostonians have about the SOX. The movie presents REALITY in a hilarious way!!


My FABULOUS and WONDERFUL little brother and I at the stadium. As you can see our seats were up in the sky, but we still had an incredible evening. The weather and sunset were beyond describable. I could have sat there forever enjoying just that. But, the game was exciting as well :) Boston ended up losing in the 11th inning, but that was ok. It was just great to be back in the stadium singing "Sweet Caroline" with all the other die-hard fans!

Saturday - I went on an incredible run as I thought about how lucky I am to live in such a wonderful country where I have the privilege of having freedoms and opportunities to make my own choices and practice a religion I believe in with all my heart. I also contemplated about how lucky I am to have two brothers who I admire and respect, parents who love and support me in any way imaginable, a sister-in-law who I love talking to and spending time with and nephews who bring a smile to my face. :)

Justin, Evan, Becca, Riley, Jace and I decided to go canoeing while my mom helped move my grandfather from rehab to a hospice facility during the day. I wish I hadn't been scared to bring my camera on our canoe because I would have pictures to share of the beautiful nature we saw and the Old North Bridge where we disembarked and got a little history tour. We all piled into one canoe... which I REALLY appreciated because that meant Justin and Evan did most of the paddling! The way there was down river... but the way back was going against the current and the wind was pretty strong! Evan made the comment once "I don't think we're moving at all" even though Justin and him were paddling pretty fiercely! The staff had given Riley a mini paddle to share with Jace and they both did their best to help!

We went to my favorite lunch place together (Panera Bread) and enjoyed eating outdoors. Then it was off to the hospice center to spend time with my grandfather, mom, two uncles and extended family. I had never been to a hospice center before, but I welcome the chance I have to go to another one. Everyone was so friendly. The atmosphere was peaceful and generally quiet. It was like a retreat center in a way. You can read the post above for more info. about my grandfather, but we were so lucky to have this special time with him as it was one of the few days within the past month that he has been coherent and able to have a good conversation.

After leaving there we went to my uncles for an even larger family gathering and dinner. All of my mom's siblings and their families were there except for her sister. Of course, sports and eating were the focus! We had a fabulous time together.

By the time we returned to Boston it was 9:30 at night and I was beyond exhausted! I didn't really have much of a desire at all to see the fireworks simply because that meant I would have to put one foot in front of the other to walk there, but I couldn't let my last Boston fireworks show to pass me by. Evan, Justin and the boys went down to the river, but I decided to just walk to Mass Ave and watch them there. Not as great a view as going to the river, but definitely good enough! What a fabulous day it was and seeing the incredible fireworks topped it off!

I really wished I had taken more photos of these cute boys... but here is Riley and I before the fireworks.

And, Jace and I before church. I don't know why he's not smiling in this picture! Riley and Jace are such happy and energetic little boys! They're always on the go! I also have to say how impressed I continue to be with Justin and Becca as parents. In my opinion, these two boys are in the top 5% of the most well-behaved, obedient, and good-natured kids I have ever known! I truly respect Justin and Becca for their parenting skills and hope to someday follow in their footsteps!

Finally, this is one of the pictures we took before leaving my grandfather at the hospice center. What a blessing to all be together with him only a few days before he passed away.

It was a wonderful weekend. I LOVE time spent with family! Nothing can compare with it!