A Blessing

IMG_4901.JPG

She sighs and rests her little hand on my chest as I protectively curl my body around hers. I gaze into her peaceful slumbering face and realize how blessed I am. It’s staggering. This beautiful miracle that sleeps in my arms each night and finds comfort in my presence – she is mine. My body grew her. My body nourishes her. My body comforts her, protects her.

This is my dream come true. I am a mother. I felt the flutters in my belly that became strong kicks. I pushed this little person out of my body and into the world. I feed her with nothing but my body, as God intended. I feel her pain when she cries, soar on the wings of her laughter, and revel in each new discovery she makes. I know what she needs and when she needs it. I understand her moods and feelings. I never want to leave her side.

But I have to work, to buy food and to have health insurance. For the basics, not for luxuries. So I must leave her, after having her in constant contact with me for a whole year. Eight months in my belly. Four months in my arms. Forever in my heart. This is the only life she knows. It feels like the only life I know – it is the only life I want to know. But I must leave her and go to work. Yes, she’s safe and well-cared for while I’m away. But how I miss her. And she cries for me. It’s not just gas, I know, because I know her as no one else can. And my arms ache to hold her. The drive home has never been so long.

I’m here, my love, my little one. Mommy is here. I bring her to my breast and she giggles with anticipation. She touches my face and smiles. And the long day melts away. We are together. Nothing else matters.

It took a long time to get here, to motherhood. It is worth every tear, every sacrifice. I know how blessed I am and I am deeply thankful. So tonight, the 147th night of holding my heart in my arms, I say a prayer of heartfelt thanks for the most precious of gifts – my daughter.

Advertisements

Random Thoughts, Quotes, and Pearls of Wisdom

• Good friends are truly priceless. Treasure them.

• The ability to walk at a vigorous pace for any space of time is something to be very grateful for.

• Take full ownership of your health. No one can take care of you better than yourself. (Except God.)

• There are few things as endearing as a fuzzy Greyhound snout in your face; chattering teeth telling you “I’m so happy you’re here! I love you!”

• Banana pancakes are special, not just because they taste good, but also because they represent slowing down to enjoy simple pleasures. (Just ask Jack Johnson.)

• There is nothing as precious as a child. If more adults put children’s best interests ahead of their own (truly, not spoiling them) the world would be a much better place.

• Fathers, be good to your daughters; daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers, be good to your daughters too. – John Mayer

• Animals are one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. They make us laugh, they show us beauty and nobility, they comfort us.

• The Lion King is full of important life lessons: the Circle of Life, the past can hurt but you learn from it, life’s not fair, leave your behind in your past (or something like that), and Hakuna Matata!

• Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else. – Judy Garland

• Family is family, regardless of the past, annoying habits, embarrassing behavior, or personality clashes. Love them, just don’t let their mistakes define you. And remember, you make mistakes too – don’t let that define you either; let it make you more understanding.

• Life’s like an hourglass glued to the table… So… Just breathe… – Anna Nalick

• Repeat this to yourself each day until you believe it:

20120707-114748.jpg

• Right now I’m looking at you and I can’t believe you don’t know you’re beautiful! – One Direction

• Last, but certainly not least:

20120707-120727.jpg

An Exquisite Gift

20120518-092000.jpg

In the midst of a difficult family situation this week, I considered forgoing my usual Friday post. But in appreciation for the lovely animal my husband and I share our life with, I decided to post anyway.

My Grandfather is dying. Like most families, we have come together to support one another during this difficult time. Our dogs have been a major part of this. Being a family of animal lovers, we derive much comfort from our non-human family members. From the tiny tail wagging cheer of my sister’s Rat Terrier to the large calm affection of my Greyhound, these dogs bring comfort and a smile through the tears.

20120518-103726.jpg

Dogs are the best therapists, the best grief counselors, the best friends. A dog will be content to stand by you, regardless of your mood, and provide support and companionship that is willing to do whatever you desire.

Dogs are truly amazing. No other creature can sense what you feel before you are fully aware of it yourself, and then comfort you in the best way possible. The silent presence and cold wet nose say it all: “I’m here. I love you. It’s OK. Cry on my shoulder.” I thank God every day for this exquisite gift – my dog.

You Might Be a Dog Person If…

Looking at my home and my life these days, I’ve found that a lot has changed since we adopted a retired racing Greyhound. In my opinion, these changes are all for the better. Sharing my home and my life with this exquisite creature has done wonders for my health and mental outlook. She brings me joy each and every day and has taught me to appreciate the little things in life and to live in the moment. So, in gratitude, I do many things to accommodate her that perhaps go above and beyond responsible dog ownership. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Therefore, in honor of those that “spoil” their dogs and the noble canines that inspire such devotion, I’ve compiled the following list of things we do for our dogs.

20120509-140450.jpg

You might be a dog person if:

• There are dog biscuits in your car, your purse, and your jacket pockets – all of your jacket pockets.

• There is dog hair on everything you own.

• You rearrange the furniture to make the dog more comfortable.

• You have rugs down in areas you’d rather not have them, so the dog can walk comfortably on your hardwood floors.

• Your car windows are decorated with dog snot.

• You sometimes forgo buying something for yourself so you can buy something for the dog.

• You have more photos of your dog than of anything or anyone else.

• Snuggle time with your dog takes priority over chores.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enforce rules and boundaries and maintain my position as leader. But considering all that my dog has given me, I think she deserves the “spoiling” she receives.

20120509-140643.jpg
(My princess with her “cousin.”)

What do you do for your dog? I’d love to hear your stories!

Keys to Happiness

I think I can safely state that all human beings desire happiness. Who doesn’t want to be happy? Yet happiness eludes us. Why?

Aside from external factors (attitudes of others, environmental factors, etc.), there are four major factors that impact our level of happiness.

Health
It would appear obvious that our health greatly affects our happiness. Yet not everyone behaves as if they are aware of this simple fact. Working toward improving our sense of well-being greatly affects our happiness. Lifestyle changes, such as exercising more, eating healthier, and maintaining good sleeping habits can go a long way toward improving how we feel – both physically and emotionally.

Interestingly, studies have shown that happiness affects our health. Having a positive outlook impacts healing time, immunity, and even longevity.

Wealth
Can money buy happiness? It goes without saying that money is necessary – without it, we do not have access to food, shelter, clothing, or medical care. Going beyond basic needs, money may allow us to do and purchase things we want. Money allows us to travel. But just how much money is necessary to make us happy?

Material prosperity and possessions do not automatically assure us of happiness. While it is clearly evident that those with enough wealth to satisfy their basic needs are happier than those who have nothing, this does not imply that those with more wealth are even happier. When we strive for more once our basic needs are already met, it does not increase our level of happiness. In fact, it decreases our happiness, as dissatisfaction with our current situation grows. Statistics show that at a certain point, the level of happiness plateaus for those who are very wealthy, even in the face of increasing assets. Having the means to satisfy every whim does not bring lasting happiness. Acquiring all the possessions we desire may bring happiness initially, but after the novelty has worn off, it is human nature to seek a new thrill. It is a cycle without end. Perhaps this is the reason why some poorer countries are happier than countries where every desire may seemingly be fulfilled, given enough money.

Relationships and Goals
Some link their happiness to a future achievement or circumstance, limiting the current happiness they can experience:

“I’ll be happy when I can buy a house.”
“I’ll be happy when I get married.”
“I’ll be happy when I have a baby.”
“I’ll be happy when I get my degree.”
“I’ll be happy when I get that promotion.”

While each of these circumstances have the potential to bring us happiness, is it really wise to put our lives and happiness on hold until we achieve the desired circumstance? How do we know for certain that we will be happy upon achievement of the goal? Could it be that upon bringing our plans to fruition we find it rather anticlimactic? Now what? Perhaps another goal, that will surely bring happiness in its accomplishment.

This is not to say that joy cannot be found in achievements and healthy relationships. Wisely chosen, a life-enriching goal can bring great happiness. Similarly, a strong, healthy marriage and family life is a source of happiness and security. Often, if we have chosen wisely, these things continue to bring us happiness for a lifetime. At times, however, we are not satisfied with what we have – not because it is defective or disappointing, but because we are still in “pursuit” mode.

Our Own Choices and Mindset

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” – Guillaume Apollinaire

The first time I read the above quote, I had a revelation. I had never thought of happiness that way before. Like many, I was in hot pursuit of something that I’d never catch as long as I kept chasing it. But pausing, taking a look within, and examining what I found there taught me one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned: the key to happiness lies within each one of us. It cannot be bought or earned. It comes from gratitude, self-control and self-respect.

20120430-224219.jpg

When you really think about it, happiness is a choice. We don’t find happiness, we choose happiness. But it’s not an easy choice. It takes strength and self-control to stop feeling sorry for ourselves, to stop thinking negatively of others and ourselves, to be determined to find something positive in the most difficult of situations. It takes self-respect to stand up for what we deserve and make our own happiness. It takes gratitude to appreciate the things we have to be happy about.

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under his feet.” – James Openheim

Once we choose to be happy, we may find that some of our more elusive goals are now in reach. We find that our relationships thrive. Stresses that seemed insurmountable are now small annoyances, easily overcome. We find compassion in our hearts for others. The sun shines brighter and birdsong sounds sweeter… I think you get my point.

If we work hard at it, we can achieve a state that surpasses happiness itself – contentment, a peaceful happy calm that keeps us ever grateful for what we have and sanguine about what we do not, satisfied with the joys we can derive from simple, everyday pleasures.

20120430-231457.jpg

Nature is a tremendous help in choosing the path of happiness. Take a walk on a spring morning. It’s difficult to stay in a foul mood when the sun is shining, birds are singing and we are breathing fresh air. Studies have shown that natural views (the real thing, not photos or television programs) have a marked calming effect on those suffering from stress and anxiety. Spending time in nature helps to replenish our thought processing systems, which are often over-taxed by our fast-paced modern lifestyles. Take a brisk walk in a natural setting and you combine the benefits of exercise with the soothing effects of nature. Add a friendly companion and you have a stress-busting triple threat.

As to companions, if you want a companion that can provide you with an excellent example of how to be happy, as well as help in lowering your stress levels, there is none better than a dog.

20120501-122348.jpg

As Charles Schulz aptly expressed in the above sentiment, dogs have an exceptional ability to increase our feelings of happiness and well-being. Often, by their presence alone, dogs can assist us in lowering our stress levels. Taking a soothing nature walk with a canine companion can work wonders for the psyche.

“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” – Bern Williams

Despite our past, learned behaviors, or our natural disposition, we can choose happiness. If we make the conscious choice to be happy – regardless of what life may throw at us – and choose to surround ourselves with things and people that will boost our happiness, we may find that happiness is not as elusive as it seems.