A beautiful day

Yesterday was an outstanding Saturday in my life.  I smiled for 90% of my waking hours, high-fived hundreds of lovely people, ran into a variety of old coworkers and new friends, and even cried with overwhelming happiness on several occasions.

What initially started out as a day where I felt as if I was being forced to volunteer and wouldn’t have very much fun, pleasantly transformed into easily one of the most rewarding and beautiful experiences of my entire life.  Several weeks ago, an upper executive at my place of work asked for a volunteer to spearhead the coordination of the upcoming Special Olympics portion of the Law Enforcement Torch Run in our area of Los Angeles.  In addition, whomever volunteered for this assignment would also be involved with the actual Special Olympics event in Long Beach this weekend.  Being new to my unit and the type of person who likes to help out when someone asks, I stepped up and said that I would take the handle on this side project.  What I first assumed was a side project quickly turned into a semi-main project for the next couple of weeks, as I unfolded the details of what would really be needed to make this large ceremony, charitable run, and multi-organization event possible.  After pulling together all of the moving parts that made Thursday’s speaking engagement, ceremony, media event and subsequent run a success, I breathed a sigh of relief that it was over and I could go back to just handling my primary job.  I took pride in the event running smoothly and my organization receiving a plethora of compliments on the execution of it.  Long story short, Thursday was over and my required presence at Saturday’s Special Olympics was all that was left on my to-do list.

After sleeping in until 5am (truly feels like sleeping in when you wake up at 3:30am every day), I showered and dressed, prepped the pups for my departure, and embarked on my sixty-seven mile drive to Long Beach.  Upon arrival, I met my hardworking female coworkers and we walked towards the event entrance.  As we approached the group meeting area, I began to notice the large volume of volunteers, young and old, who too had woken up and gotten ready for a day of giving back.  And that is just about when I started to feel the compassion, empathy, sense of community, and love that began to boil up around me.  By the end of the day, these feelings swallowed me whole.

There was a short speech by several leaders in our various participating agencies, as well as a couple words from Special Olympians, before we all posed for pictures.  Then it was time for the opening ceremony – I had been hearing about this portion of the program for weeks, as it was the most dynamic portion of the planning and logistical aspect of the event.  Over a hundred uniformed personnel lined the inner and outer lanes of the outdoor track as upbeat music played on the portable speakers and the Special Olympians lined up just outside.  The energy was building and I was beginning to feel a true sense of unity and love, as I stood shoulder to shoulder with strangers.

And then, one by one, Special Olympics athletes of all ages, races, sizes and varying disability level entered the track – some walked, others skipped and a select few had to be pushed in their wheelchairs.  Some parents escorted their child, regardless of their age, because they needed a hand making the long trek through our welcoming gauntlet.  As everyone in the stands and across the track cheered and shouted for the athletes, the energy was high for all those who were moments from competing that day.  We slapped hands with anyone who wanted a high-five and applauded the bravery and fearlessness that every single one of them embraced.

About halfway through the opening ceremony, a middle-aged African-American man, with light facial hair, thick glasses and a crisp basketball jersey walked past me, as he too entered the track for the event.  Just as he past me and our hands slapped mid-air, I yelled, “Hey, I know you!”  We locked eyes and he exclaimed, “Yeah!”  For a quick second I couldn’t quite remember where I knew him from but then my memory flooded back into focus – his name was Colbert and he was a Special Olympian, with whom I had worked a charity event with about eight years ago.  During that event I spent several hours working side by side with Colbert, as we waited tables at a local restaurant, all while promoting the Special Olympics and attempting to raise money from the evening’s patrons.  Seeing him again made me so happy because he has a beautiful soul and strong, resilient energy, despite his circumstances in life.  I reconnected with him after the ceremony and later watched him play an incredibly skilled basketball game before lunch.

I am not exactly sure what it was about that moment, where I was a part of the ceremony and saw Colbert again, that brought me to tears.  A part of me felt so sad seeing this large group of disabled children and adults, who have to fight through life just to survive.  Some of them aren’t able to care for themselves without assistance and others will never experience some of the small portions of life that far too many of us take for granted.  From driving or cooking a meal for yourself, to getting married, living independently and having children, some of the men and women who walked past me that day may never get the chance to do one or all of those things.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to or that they don’t try their hardest.

Maybe my tears were a result of watching the large groups of parents, volunteers and coaches who selflessly dedicate their lives to helping, teaching and supporting some of the most vulnerable members of our society.  The stress, money and commitment that comes with that significant job is definitely underappreciated yet on this past Saturday, for a brief moment, I could see them sharing in the happiness and success of just being there.  For some of the supervising adults, and most likely all of the participants, this weekend may have been the highlight of their year, or possibly their lives.

While I don’t intentionally have experiences where I want to learn something from them, when I do feel transformed by a particular event in my life, I really try to soak up all of the lessons that lie right below the surface.  I implore anyone who has never volunteered for a charitable cause, particularly with groups of people with special needs, to get up and do so.  Maybe you won’t be impacted as strongly as I have been but your response may surprise you.  At the very least, you will bring a smile to someone else’s life and it will give you a greater appreciation for humanity as a whole.

Don’t live as if you have the time

I can’t believe I am about to say this…but…I might have actually taken a very deep learning point away from a cheesy reality show yesterday afternoon.  While watching one of the many Real Housewives sagas, I observed an older couple visiting a cemetery monument store, where they picked out the headstone for the woman’s recently deceased parents.  Both parents died within the prior seven months and during the headstone selection process, the woman talked about hoping she would have another twenty years with her own husband.

I sat and processed the moment.  I reflected on my own life.  Most people are living as if they have unlimited time left on this earth.  Time to be with the ones they love, which usually results in taking people for granted.  A lot of people (myself most definitely included) put off major changes they want to make because we feel as if we can tackle certain issues tomorrow, or the next day, or the next year.  I don’t think I am alone in that but the mere fact that I acknowledge it allows for improvement.  Also, days drift along and we are all sometimes guilty of wanting time to rush by, in order to get closer to a vacation or a promotion.  Sitting here writing, I realize how precious time is.  My most recent reminder came from my neighbor Mark’s cancer battle.  Although he was initially told he wouldn’t live past Christmas of 2018, he is still above ground and fighting.  He is self-admittedly living day by day and I truly believe there is a lot to be learned from that style of appreciation for our loved ones, our experiences and our beautiful planet.

As the woman on the RHOP (Potomac series, the true Real Housewives fans get it) said about her own relationship, I too have the same recurring thought from time to time about having my spouse around for the remainder of my life.  Hugo is the most wonderful person I know and love and I sincerely hope that we have at least fifty years or more left together on this crazy planet.  I can’t imagine what life would be like without him so he better be there to keep me centered ♥

A day

Wake up.

Quick, turn the blaring alarm off before he stirs.

Rush to shower, dress, do chores, time is ticking before you are late, but you’re early for another day of the same.

You watch the clock and wait until the hours tick by and the day is done

Just because it’s work because if it was good or filled with love, you wouldn’t want it to end.

When it’s all over though, you will have watched all of these days drift away all because you needed to work for a purpose, or what you thought was important or worth it.

You only work to afford all the things that you think that you need but do we really need any or half or a quarter of what it all is?

Could we downsize and minimize and compromise and possibly help one another a little bit more in this world so we all didn’t have to…

Wake up.

Clueless with cancer

As I wrote the title of this post, I felt a little bad, but not nearly bad enough to discontinue putting these serious thoughts on paper, so to speak, on this overcast, rather gloomy Sunday morning in California.  Not two days ago, I was down on the lower half of our property, letting our juvenile pups run around and get some fresh air.  As we walked towards the fence that borders the street, I saw a red 4×4 utility vehicle with my older female neighbor, Patty, driving, their elderly golden retriever Tommy on the middle seat and Mark sitting shotgun.  Mark, who is riddled with devastating bone cancer, had his old flannel shirt on, a smile on his face, and a three-foot sprayer wand in his hand.  As the threesome cruised along their curbline, Mark vigorously sprayed commercial-grade herbicide from his lethal contraption, as he has probably done multiple times a year for the whole of his life.  I immediately had several thoughts flood my mind – ‘Holy shit, that is disgusting!’, ‘Where are the dogs?’, ‘Are we downwind?’, and ‘I hope that shit doesn’t get on any of us or our property’.  Thankfully, he disarmed himself as they approached and they pulled over to chat for a moment.  Tommy and our pups played for about five minutes, Mark gave me the regular dreary update about his health status (just finished more chemo, feeling pretty terrible, but hanging in there), and I enjoyed a couple minutes with the two very sweet, but sadly clueless, neighbors in my life.

It breaks my heart that there isn’t an easier way to tell those you care for about things that matter or impact them.  Case in point – I want to scream from my rooftop to Mark’s that the chemicals he is using are poisonous, not only to him and his family but also to his poor dog, the deer who eat our grass, the rabbits who run through our open fields, and our suffering honeybees who pollinate our flowering hillsides in spring.  I also want to tell Mark about all of the recent court cases involving cancer patients winning their suits against Monsanto/Bayer, in which a judge determined the plaintiff’s cancer was caused by their exposure to the noxious product RoundUp.  Although it is sadly too late in Mark’s case, because he almost certainly cannot cure himself of his brutally aggressive disease, it pains me to think of someone ignorantly exposing themselves and those around them to something that is harmful, to say the least.  I also do not want that stuff anywhere near myself, Hugo, the dogs, or any of the other lovely creatures out there.

Sometimes there is a part of me that just wants to share what I know with those around me, regardless of how they interpret or digest it.  And that’s not to say I know a lot but I am conscious of what I use in my home, on my body and in my small world on our three-acre plot of earth.  That is all I have control over in this world so I make every effort to make smart, healthy and earth-conscious decisions wherever I can.  Because of my knowledge and consciousness, I want to help others, which in turn helps the rest of the world.  I wish I could just email them and tell them not to use certain products, with a detailed explanation as to why, but unfortunately, a lot of people (Mark and Patty included) would not only look at me sideways but they would also retort with ten reasons why spraying is better (cheaper and faster than manual labor, kills all of the weeds for the whole year, etc.).  I know the reasons because I have heard them before and when I do hear them, that is usually when I stop talking because clearly the battle isn’t worth having.  Especially between two sets of neighbors, one of which is fighting for their life, with an herbicide sprayer in hand.

A pledge to figure it out

Last night I rifled through my blog notes that I originally wrote down about nine months ago when I started this wild journey.  Notes about writing topics, hopes, dreams, wishes and fears, things that interest me and things that I dislike, place we’ve gone and places we intend to go, and a whole slew of other random blurbs about where I want to take my life.  That seems to be my free time thinking topic these days – where I am going and how am I going to get there?

Yesterday, as I muddled through another mundane Thursday on the 7th floor of my downtown Los Angeles high-rise building, I once again had the recurring thought of a different life.  Well, not completely a different life – don’t get me wrong, I am not leaving Hugo, the pups, my beautiful home, or the remainder of my close family.  I mainly just want to change my job and how I spend my time, as I strive to find something that excites me and pushes me both mentally and spiritually.  The spiritual side of it pertains to my wish to pour my heart and soul into a passion project that I could spend my life doing.  And I keep looking around at the world and all of the different people and professions that comprise this massive planet and I can’t help but wonder – what else is out there?

Maybe I am being a little selfish thinking about what more I can do for myself and never being completely satisfied with my current position in life.  Don’t get me wrong – I have worked incredibly hard to get where I am and I am very thankful for the wonderful benefits that come with my current employment.  Regardless, I can’t deny my feelings, my gut and my heart.  In my opinion, no one should.  Thankfully, I have an insanely supportive spouse, as well as parents who always want the best for me, so I really don’t have anything to lose.

It might just me a weird phase, as I continue getting adjusted to work life in the big city.  After all, I am a country girl at heart and maybe I will never get used to a long commute, spending ten to 12 hours a day in the concrete jungle, and the overwhelming amount of human interaction that comes with a large organization with tons of moving parts.  I probably tell Hugo on an almost daily basis how I want, need and crave a change.  At this point, he is sick of my frustration and uneasiness with my current situation.  Maybe sometime soon I will either find peace with the present or decide to jump into the deep end of the entrepreneurial ‘pool’.  But first, I will need to buy some swimmies.

Torn but not broken

Try to stop the distance from tearing us apart.

Been away too long and we just aren’t

From strong, to fair, to fading

No matter how much we fight for a strong love, we end up with fringes.

 

Try to stop the distance from tearing me apart

When we talk, its not the same

We want to fight the inevitable but sometimes the world happens without our permission

Your cold lack of interest in my life, wants and dreams

Hurts my heart, doesn’t matter if you mean it or not

You only care about yourself, I don’t care what you say

You only think of what you want, need and feel – I am an afterthought, don’t care if you deny it.

 

This smothering blanket of uncertainty and, and, and

You are selfish and sick, sad in the head and ill in the chest

Your only child keeps screaming out for something more

Your only wife tries hard, you just ignore.

 

Try to stop the distance from tearing you apart

We are all you have

You don’t love yourself

You taught me to be depressed and insecure and to not love me

Just like you don’t love you

Now I struggle with the same pain

And I hurt my partner, just as you’ve done

Thank god for reflection and change so I don’t repeat the same mistakes as the generation before.

 

Try to stop you from tearing me limb from limb

The mind corrupts, the body follows

The father leads, the child learns

I’ve gotten good from you but also all of the dark

Deep, lost and broken puzzle

As you fall closer into.

 

Familial friendship

Just because you are family, doesn’t mean you are friends.

My mom and I have uttered that phrase many times throughout the years.  We normally mention it when we are chatting about the fact that we are such close friends and how we find our tight relationship to be quite a rarity among family members.  Among all of my friends, coworkers and outlying family, none of those people share the love and bond that my mom and I have.  We see a lot of surface-level interactions, where people are cordial, polite and relatively kind to one another, but nothing that remotely exhibits real friendship.  Maybe it is just our family, although I believe these types of things occur in a lot of other family circles, but I see more fake bullshit, jealousy, arrogance and rude behavior than I see genuine kindness and love from some of my aunts and uncles, not only to myself but more so to my mother.

Throughout the years, I have seen several of my aunts and uncles, including my mother’s only sister and her dorky husband, treat my mother as if she was less than in every respect.  Despite my mom being the older sibling, who has always cared for and loved her little sister, my aunt has routinely spoken condescendingly and disrespectfully both to and about my mother.  As my mother’s daughter, I hate this.  I am really sickened by anyone who mistreats my mother, who is such a kind and loving woman.  My mother would give you the shirt off of her back (in fact she has with children in need in South America) and she exudes love and happiness every day that she walks through life.  She greets all those she comes in contact with on a daily basis with a smile, generosity, friendliness and a feeling of genuine realness that is too often lacking in human interactions these days.  I believe that my aunt acts the way she does because she is an insecure person who is unhappy with herself and jealous of the beautiful relationship that I have with my mother.

Despite the lack of relationships that I have observed in both my own family and countless others, I am so thankful for the lovely mother that I have.  From the love, guidance, grace and endless support she gave me as a growing girl, to the friendship and pure fun we have during our visits throughout the year, I am so grateful for her in my life.  As both of my parents are in Poland right now, and I am even further from them geographically than I normally am cross-country, I am sending love to those two wonderful people in my life.  May their bellies be full with fresh perogies and their hearts full of happiness…and should they choose to order the pig cheek from the room service menu for a late-night snack, I hope it brings a smile to their face.

 

*6:59pm update:  I almost forgot.  My intention with this blog post of the next was to make a commitment to write a little more and to truly make this one of my more important and present priorities.  Now that school is done and the pups are getting older, and therefore mildly more independent, I have a little more free time that I want and need to devote to this passion project.  So join me on this journey as I pledge to write more frequently – don’t hold me to it if I miss a day or two though, ok?