Saturday, November 17, 2012

Taking Stock of Life and Giving Thanks

For those of you who have been fussing at me lately to return to my Blog, or checking in with me to be sure things were fine, I am grateful to you, for your friendship and loyalty to my Blog. I'm pleased to say that I am back to my Blog after a lengthy, but necessary pause in posting. 
As I prepared for another birthday, I took the time to take stock in the past year and the many blessings that have enriched my life. To each member of my family, I love you and I am enjoying building on our relationships and going through some of the bumps in the road with you. Regardless I took time to reflect on the recent and unexpected tragedies in the world (so close to home for many of us), and the unfortunate health and personal circumstances that some of our dearest friends and family have found themselves coping with over the past several months. While I can't change the circumstances, I prayed for a positive outcome.  As I did, I found that I gained strength from those personal stories and journeys and it emphasized the importance to recognize and to give thanks for my life's blessings first, foremost and always. Of course right along with focusing on those blessings has been my need to build on family relationships (new and present), work through some varied relationship woes, improve upon and move my professional life forward and do my best to understand some of the personal setbacks that seemed to come out of nowhere. Of course as I sit here thinking about all of it; the struggles that many of my friends are facing now, as well as putting mine to print, I am reminded that is why they call it "life." More importantly, each time I prepare a Blog posting my hope is that there is a message attached to it for someone or everyone to glean from. Regardless, this should set the stage for my six month absence. 

I have blogged about "Finding my Father" over the past year and kept my readers and followers up to date on the my family’s ongoing discovery, growth and communications, as well as keeping you posted on the majority of our family gatherings. Without a doubt I have logged many happy, as well as some very indifferent miles back and forth to Buffalo since "finding my father" in May 2011. 

Before I discuss those varied "moments in time" more, I thought it was important to share that during my absence, in early March of this year, I found myself in the middle of protecting and advancing my professional life. A little over four years ago, I made a choice in employers that would ultimately implode my very existence in 2011, and really cause upheaval with the dynamic harmony that I had working in my life. Did I see it coming? Yes, the signs were there, but I was lead to believe that I was being hired to "make a difference" in a culture that needed diversification and inclusiveness. Did I think I could change the behavior and the situation? You bet I did, because I believed in myself, what I stood for, that bad could not triumph over good, and I wanted to be there to protect the people that worked for me. Regardless, best laid plans didn't work out in this scenario and I learned a great deal about trust as I found myself nestled deep in a culture of fear, leaving no alternative for the best interests to plan and execute a protective departure for everyone involved. Needless to say, I landed on both feet, standing taller and being much prouder of who I am as a person, what I stand for and believe in than ever before. New paragraph... 

Since I last blogged about forgiveness, each member of my family (new and present), have all been in the midst of their own form of dealing with the challenges this discovery has presented for each of them, as well as finally meeting our older brother, Jim Bob, and working through their own personal issues surrounding the "secrets and lies" of the years past, all that were thought to be buried for over 50 years; each of them needing to find their own way to forgive. Something that is necessary for all of us to move forward, as individuals and as a family. I'm not sure that any of us could or would want to forget any of it, because that would be denying the past and the present.  

I'm now taking you to the last weekend in June 2012. My amazing nephew, Kyle has graduated from high school and I've decided to attend. I did what I could to talk our older brother, Jim Bob in to attending, as well. Ultimately, while communication between us dwindled, he decided to make the trip. He and his wife arrived a week in advance at the invitation of my father and his wife, Sandy. They stayed with dad and Sandy during those two weeks and they were able to meet all of the family before Steve and I arrived. Looking back, I believe this is pivotal because whether it was meant or not, it made a statement about what my father may accept on all levels where I was concerned. Regardless, while some of the eventual meetings of the family took place, the appropriate thought or planning that should have happened to allow everyone fair time and space to deal with their emotions did not.  Challenging, it would seem so.  Regardless, as it goes, everyone seemed to make the most of these moments in time and welcome Jim Bob and his new wife, Trina to the fold.  

Steve and I arrived the weekend of the party (after some of the meetings took place), as we originally planned several months in advance and stayed in Niagara Falls at a hotel. This trip was about Kyle and his graduation and while there was my desire to be there, it was more about the promise I made to him and his mother to come to his graduation. I wanted to help her with the decorations, spend time getting to know my sister, brother in law and my awesome nephews a little bit more. It was a promise I intended to keep. The "bonus" of having set it up for Jim Bob to be there and for the entire family to finally be together, was just that, a bonus and a moment in time that was over 50 years in the making. Unfortunately two of our brothers did not attend for their own reasons and more than anything, while I understood, I was also very disappointed. While there didn't seem to be the time set aside for any of us to visit and engage with dad, Jim Bob, including, all of my brothers and our sister, it seemed that we all ended up setting aside the stress the situation presented, enjoyed the sibling camaraderie and dealing with the past the best we could.  I was delighted to see that nothing got in the way of celebrating and enjoying Kyle's moment in time as he became a young adult.

For whatever reason, there seemed to be an issue with getting some personal visiting in with my dad and Jim Bob; I had called my dad the morning of the graduation party to invite him to breakfast, just he, Jim Bob and I, and he was not available for breakfast. It was a complete let down, but a chance I gladly took nonetheless.

During the night of Kyle's party, I let dad and the rest of the family know that I would be returning with my daughter, Chenin around the September time frame, when we could find a three day weekend to get her here from the Pacific Northwest. I couldn't wait for everyone to finally meet her; the one true missing link for the entire story. This trip, the details leading up to it and post trip really deserves its own posting so, please stay tuned. 

The incredible beauty, once again, from this trip was the bond that I continued to form with my sister, Kelly, her family and my brothers, especially Paul and his family. Post-graduation party was a scream with all of them at the party site and then back at Kelly's house. While I was still reeling from disappointment where my father was concerned, it was these moments with Kelly, Rob, Paul, Anya, Steve and that kids that made me smile and the few disappointments so very worth it.  

While Steve and I left early to return home, it is important to share that we both had such a great night with "the gang," and while we were exhausted, we agreed that out of all the chaos, disappointments, laughter and yes even some downright confusion, that the real gift from my "discovery" was finding family to laugh and to feel so free to share with and in the most unlikely places. While we both felt the need to get home to process the entire visit, including the disappointing moments, I wanted more time with my brothers and sister. More time to laugh, catch up with each other (after all it has been over 50 years) and share more of our lives, past and present. Regardless, because of the powerful connections I have made, I felt so blessed and connected with them in a way I never thought possible. 

Chenin and I ultimately made the trip to Buffalo together over the Labor Day weekend. While my father never got to meet her this trip (more about this in my next Blog), I believe the trip worked out the way it was meant to be. God does work in mysterious ways...Chenin and her cousin, Ryan bonded (they really do have so much in common) and there's no doubting the family resemblance either. Chenin was over joyed to meet and there was certainly mutual adoration with between Chenin, her Aunt Kelly, Uncle Rob, Uncle Paul, Aunt Anya, Uncle David and Aunt Lorna. While not the weekend I had envisioned, it was an incredible weekend nonetheless and one that neither Chenin nor I would change for all the money in the world.

As I celebrated "making another year around the sun (thanks, Vic, I love this)," I took time to reflect on my life, its multitude of blessings, my relationships with family and friends, the challenges that others and myself have faced and then marched on. As I was doing so, I felt the true meaning of happiness deep within my core. The only thing I hoped and prayed for in that moment, and which was confirmed on my birthday, was that I gave as much back, if not more joy and love to my family and friends than I receive from them. The testimonials regarding this that came to me, unsolicited on my birthday, especially the one from my sister, Kelly, are truly the best gifts I have ever received in my life and made for a wonderful birthday.

So, what's the message you ask? Simple, laughter and reflection on moments in time is good and necessary for the soul to thrive. Reminding others why they make a difference in our lives is essential. Make every moment count, even if the moment didn't turn out as planned, because you simply just never know what tomorrow brings. Finally, happiness is what we make it and always within our reach, as long as we allow ourselves to reach out and touch it.  

I leave you with this funny and wonderful quote by George Bernard Shaw; "This is the true joy in life - being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on a scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."  

Certainly words to live by...