small pieces of joy

pieces of joy in each day

extra innings

Yesterday’s/Today’s small thing: Royals won game 1. 

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We’re here again, ladies and gentlemen. The World Series. I believed it would happen, did you? The magic hasn’t left the boys in blue and it is casting a spell on me.

Yesterday I was a little bummed knowing I was missing out on being in KC during such an exciting time. Why do they have to be in the Series when I don’t live in KC? It’s rough being one of the few Royals fans in South Bend! So after my little pity party I decided to see if there were any baseball fans who would be willing to watch the game with me. If I couldn’t be in KC, I at least wanted to share the excitement with someone. I really enjoyed talking strategy, cheering, and yelling at the TV with others…and laughing at the Fox broadcast mishaps. Jonathan loves watching me move from the couch to the floor and back again while yelling, screaming, and telling the team what to do. I just can’t help it!

This time around has proven to me how much I really enjoy watching baseball, and playing even more. I appreciate the things my coaches taught me about teamwork, discipline, and determination. I feel like each time a big play happens, it is a little message from Dad reminding me of all the lessons he taught me during my softball days. It makes me smile knowing I had those opportunities to learn from him. That his love for baseball is continuing to flow through me.

So as I continue to lose sleep and my blood pressure fluctuates, I have to remember there is more to this World Series than just being in KC during this time. Watching this team play is a way for me to connect with Dad and let my loyalty to the Royals of 31 years shine on.

Please read my post from last year about why the Royals mean so much to me: let’s be royal

Why do YOU love the Royals? (Or your favorite team, if for some crazy reason the Royals aren’t yours!)

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donuts with dad

Two years without Dad.

It seems like forever and also just yesterday, like most memories, I guess.

About a month before September 19th I called my mom and decided to visit home over ‘THE day’. We made plans to visit my youngest brother at college and go to the football game to watch him march in the band. We scheduled family time in order to see as many family members as possible in a 2.5 day stretch. We were looking forward to my visit–which trumped the dread.

The weekend was wonderful. Yes, I did say wonderful, strangely enough. The quality time I was allowed gave me so much joy. Laughing, talking, enjoying family. Something I just don’t get enough of while living so far away.

Sisterly pride swelled when I saw my little brother–a shiny speck on the field–marching in the best band in the nation. When the band played the 1812 Overture I thought I felt my dad’s presence standing next to me. I imagined looking at him and sharing a proud smile. It was a treasured moment accompanied by tears and a few goosebumps.

We met up with Kirk after the game for a fun family dinner with a toast to Dad, right around the exact time of his passing two years prior.

The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed for early mass, then did a Dunkin’ stop before visiting the cemetery. What started as a simple desire for a breakfast snack turned into a donut date with Dad.

We stood around his gravesite and ate donut holes, drank coffee, and talked about our dearly departed loved one. Stories about how awesome he was were shared. What would he be like at a KSU football game? How would he be with George? Happy and sad tears streamed down our faces. We shared how our grieving process is going and things we’ve tried, failed at, and what we’re learning.

I mentioned that a priest told me that year two of grief is actually the hardest. Year one is simply survival mode–you’re just grasping at anything you can do to make yourself feel some sort of normal, and often there is emotional numbness as a protection. Year two is when you’re starting (maybe—everyone is different) to crawl out of the dark hole a little, and as the emotional numbness and survival mode fades, the emotions become stronger and you feel the loss more deeply in a more real way.

No wonder this year felt worse. Harder. Almost like a step back.

But those words from my priest, the wonderful weekend, and our donut date with dad, really made me step back and think.

We have come a long way in these two years. We’ve experienced a myriad of emotions. And we’re still standing. We’re still smiling, laughing, working, loving, caring.

And now ‘Donuts with Dad’ will be our family thing. It will be our way of coming together to spend time with Dad and share how we’re still loving him every day. How we’re continuing his legacy. And how we’re going to love each other through it.

Tears, crazy, and all.

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a note

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Today’s small thing: an encouraging note from my doctor

Posts have been few and far between on this blog in the past few months. I’ve been uninspired, tired, full of self pity, sadness, so I didn’t feel like putting all that ugly out in the blogosphere. Today, however, feels very different!

Since November I have been seeing a wellness coach and nutritionist. This was inspired by less than desirable numbers at my insurance screening check-up. I was at the heaviest I’d ever been and completely lost. The nurse suggested seeing the wellness coach. Knowing I needed help–especially with where I was mentally–I obliged.

My goals when seeing these lovely ladies have been simple but challenging. I started with eating three servings of veggies a day, drinking more water, and moving more.

I was completely overwhelmed. So I started by adding just one serving of veggies, which became two, than three, and so on each week as I checked in with my coach. I drank a little more water than the previous week, and just set out to do some kind of movement each day, setting appointments for workouts in my calendar (which sometimes get ignored!).

My nutritionist taught me her ‘ABCs’ which is be Active, Breathe and appreciate, Calories. She said moving, controlling stress, leaving a little room at meals, and sleep are the key ways to live a healthy life. Not to diet, but to make small lifestyle changes that are sustainable for the long run.

Now that I’m 9 months in to these lifestyle changes I feel like a different person. I’m eating less bad things and more good, I’m conscious of how much I move each day, and I’m more compassionate to myself and (a little) less stressed. And the biggest reward of all of this?

I’m 25 pounds lighter.

And that is worth the long wait, the small steps, the big sacrifices. And I truly feel like I will be able to keep it off.

And my doctor, wellness coach, and nutritionist sent a note to congratulate me.

It’s a good day.

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What is one small thing you can do today to make you closer to your goals?

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sulking

I’ve been sick all week and in addition to that, feeling very down. All the ads for Father’s Day, Top Ten lists of gifts for Dad, and the greeting card section screaming ‘you don’t have a dad to buy one for’,  have finally taken a toll.

I thought I would be able to embrace Father’s Day this year and focus more on my husband being a dad and not on the fact I can’t get my dad another tie. But sometimes those God-given emotions call the shots. After have a few crying sessions while driving around today, something I read earlier this week came back to me.

The article is from What’s Your Grief? titled Father’s Day Sulking Without Apology.

I found it so intriguing, probably because it is just what I needed. So today when I got home, I closed my door, grabbed a roll of toilet paper (closer than a kleenex box), turned on my “Happy Tears” playlist (my brother and I have collaborated to make two of them), and went through my “Dad box”. And boy did those tears start to flow, and I could feel lighter and lighter the longer I cried.

As each new song came on, a different memory or feeling came, some happy, some sad, some of self-pity. While listening to those special songs I went through my box of sympathy cards, letters of support, and other things that remind me of Dad. Some of my friends made a box of support letters when Dad was sick, and it just meant the world to me. I didn’t realize that two years later it would still be just as impactful. I would highly recommend doing this for someone going through a hard time. The written word is so powerful.

So now that I’ve let out months and months of pent-up feels, I am a little more ready to tackle the rest of this weekend. Maybe, just maybe, tomorrow won’t be nearly as awful and I can celebrate more freely.

Treasure your Father this weekend. Please know I am holding close to my heart those who are missing their dad or father figure this Father’s Day.

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ponder no. 3

anxious

I spent some time outside this evening on our patio. There is something wonderful and relaxing about the smell of rain, a gentle breeze, and some insightful words. I’d like to share some of the things I’ve been reading. Ponder with me, will you?

  • On the pull of distractions: “We run away from ourselves because we don’t want to be with ourselves. Our pain is a kind of energy that is not pleasant. We fear that if we release our diversions and come back to ourselves, we’ll be overwhelmed by the suffering, despair, anger, and loneliness inside. So we continue to run away. But if we don’t have the time and the willingness to take care of ourselves, how can we offer any genuine care to the people we love?” —From No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Embracing suffering: “So the practice is not to fight or suppress the feeling, but rather to cradle it with a lot of tenderness. When a mother embraces her child, that energy of tenderness begins to penetrate into the body of the child. Even if the mother doesn’t understand at first why the child is suffering and needs some time to find out what the difficulty is, just her act of taking the child into her arms with tenderness can already bring relief. If we can recognize and cradle the suffering while we breathe mindfully, there is relief already.” –From No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “Pray, hope, don’t worry.” –St. Padre Pio
  • “Don’t fight reality” –Sr. Debbie
  • “In times of anxiety, write a letter to yourself from God’s perspective. What you think God would say to you?” -Sr. Debbie
  • Come, Holy Spirit
  • On anxiety: “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:6-7

Please share any insightful words in the comments!

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small stuff

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today’s small thing: don’t sweat the small stuff

I’ve been meeting with a wellness coach for about six months now and I’ve learned so much about all aspects of my health. She’s basically a health counselor and I’ve learned that I love seeing counselors. They have so much wisdom that I get to absorb and hopefully put to use!

Today we discussed stress management. She explained how the source of stress is usually about things that have already happened, or things in the future. She said the best way to combat those thoughts are to stay in the now, in the present. Even though that is very hard to do, it is a great way to manage stress.

Yeah, right, lady. Easy for you to say. Sigh.

Right after that appointment I took George to see the dentist for the first time. He was so nervous in the waiting room, but once he got his own toothbrush and was chatting with the dentist he was having a great time!

Before cleaning his teeth, the dentist was telling the hygienist about a talk she heard on the radio. The main point was that we often say “don’t sweat the small stuff,” but we should add, “don’t sweat the big stuff either.” We should sweat only the things we can control. In reality, that isn’t much.

Hmm. Is someone trying to tell me something?

So today I will be pondering these things:

-Keep your thoughts in the present

-Only sweat the things you can control

Even though this is going to be hard, I’m marveling at the fact that this was discussed in two separate places on the same day. I guess that means I have to listen!

Enjoy your day, friends. And try not to sweat.

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blessed are they who mourn

Right now I’m thinking of those who are mourning the loss of a loved one.

I just finished a long sobbing, blubbering, saltwater pool forming, cry. it felt so sad and so good at the same time.

I really really miss my dad. Of course you all know that. And perhaps some are tired of hearing about it. But I can’t deny it.

I miss him with all my being. Even when I’m not aware that I miss him, I do.

My heart aches for those whose hearts ache from loss. Because I know what it feels like, a little.

I know what it feels like to feel alone even when surrounded by people. I know what it feels like to hear others talk about their dad and the twinge of sadness attacks. I know what it feels like to be happy with life, but sad a huge part is missing.

And I know what it feels like to simply want to cry. Sobbing, blubbering, and saltwater pool forming.

I want you to know that it’s OK to form pools of saltwater.

It’s letting the sadness out to allow room for happiness. 

I’m sending some prayers for you if you’re like me and missing someone today. Know that I’m thinking of you and offering your sadness with mine. We will be comforted, even in the slight relief felt after crying.

“Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” –Matthew 5:4

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Orphan Easter

a small thing from Sunday: Orphan Easter

Living six hundred miles from family is hard. It is even more difficult on holidays when we can’t be with family. In the past five years we have had a few holidays being ‘orphans’ looking for people to call family, who we can celebrate those holidays with.

On Sunday we were able to celebrate Easter with some friends who also don’t have family close. We all made food that would have been at our family dinners and made it feel like family. It was so wonderful.

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Our kids played together like cousins might, and we enjoyed lots of carefree timelessness chatting and playing games.

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Of course I missed my family back in Kansas, but I’ve realized what a blessing it is to know that no matter where I am, close to family or not, there is still reason to celebrate. There is still reason and need to have the togetherness that is family.

So we came together as orphans to feel less alone.

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To love each other good and bad.

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As our own little Indiana family.

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May the joy of Easter bring you many smiles, laughs, and fun!

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words of remembrance

As I’ve been working through my grief, I’m saddened I wasn’t able to give words of remembrance in the days following Dad’s passing from this life to the next. I’ve found that I wish I could have said something to everyone who came to his visitation. I wish I could have said something to everyone who prayed for his soul at this funeral mass. I wish I could have given tribute to dad with words from my heart.

Looking back I know there were many reasons why it didn’t happen. Everything worked out the way it needed to in those moments. Some people, myself included, were able to say things to Dad at his Celebration of Life party. That just wasn’t enough for me, especially since he was driving his electronic wheelchair away from me as I spoke!

I guess it is never too late to write the words I would have liked to share with everyone eighteen months ago. And it is fitting that I will speak about his life on this day, March 8th, the day he entered this world in 1959. Here goes.

“My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”

These words from Clarence Budington Kelland sent goose bumps running all over me when I read them recently. I silently whispered, “That’s what my dad did.”

I didn’t really have a lot of heart to heart conversations with Dad about living life. But I really didn’t have to.

Dad taught me about life by living it.

By taking us on inexpensive, meaningful family vacations.

By showing me how to put a worm on a hook when fishing.

By helping me oil my glove, and always being my catcher.

By building our swing set and deck with his own hands (and a few helpers).

By helping us fly kites in the open field behind our house.

By showing us how to ‘box out’ at basketball practice and yelling a few intense instructions during a game.

By watching a Chiefs game with the TV announcer muted and the radio announcer blaring. (And yelling a few intense instructions during the game).

By clapping proudly after every sports game and band concert—especially after my adult dodge ball games!

By playing board games with the family and working his business skills to trade one wheat for two sheep.

By claiming every sports movie is his favorite because he loves the underdog. And watching them over and over and over and over.

By playing in the parents band, proudly banging on the drum that gave him so much joy.

By taking leadership positions even when the job is not easy and sometimes goes unnoticed.

By making the difficult call because it is the right one.

By being a man of few words, but making those few words speak thousands.

By respecting and working with people of all nations, creeds, and backgrounds.

By saying his name with confidence, followed by a strong handshake.

By lying down on the floor next to his crying daughter, reassuring her that things will get better.

By letting his daughter move into a shady apartment during college, even though he had huge reservations—and then letting her move out of the house before having a job!

By saying, “I’m proud of you buddy” after he spent a few days with his brand new grandson.

By allowing people into his cancer journey, accepting all forms of help and encouragement, and at the same time paying those gifts forward. And buying lottery tickets for the radiation nurses!

By going to confession for the first time in over 10 years, and then speaking to me about forgiveness.

By letting me teach him to pray the rosary when he couldn’t remember anymore.

By gracefully letting God take him Home.

As someone wrote in a sympathy card to our family, “He was honest, thorough, and trustworthy. There were only two types of people—those that didn’t know him or those that called him friend.”

I do not believe it was God’s will for Dad to have cancer. But God sure did use the fact he had cancer to show us more good and beauty in this world than I ever thought possible. All of our friends and family were God’s hands and feet on earth, showing His love during the most difficult time of our lives. We are now able to see how God used Dad to teach us loyalty, friendship, leadership, and LOVE.

I miss you, Dad, everyday. I’m working hard to continue the legacy you began and I hope to teach George and my future children the way you taught me. By living.

“I came so that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” –John 10:10

If you have some memories or words of remembrance you’d like to share with my son, George, so he will know his Papa better, please send them to george.j.ashley@gmail.com. I know he, and my family, would be forever grateful for your sharing of memories!

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child’s prayer

small thing: a child’s prayer

A few days ago I was video chatting with a friend when I asked George to sing his best friend, Monkey, to sleep. Because I have to show my friend his adorable singing of ‘Edelweiss’.

To my surprise, something else came out.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.

I’m speechless as he is reciting this prayer, in toddler speak of course. I’ve never heard him say it before! As I’m wondering about how he learned it, he continues.

Great Grandpa Kennedy, Grandpa Kennedy, Pray for us.

Pray for MeMa and Uncle Leon get better ’cause they are sick.

Amen

I could barely breathe. My sweet, loving, amazing husband has been secretly teaching my son to pray. And I was able to see the beauty of it revealed before my eyes.

Now instead of singing a song before bed, he wants to say his prayers. And he wants to teach that to his best friend, Monkey, too.

I guess I didn’t realize how much my little man would teach me. IMG_1816

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