Tag Archives: gratitude

Goodbye, Stitch…

Our neighbor’s cat, Stitch, was a fixture on our street for a dozen years. He’s been in everyone’s home from time to time–sometimes invited, other times not. As he aged, he became rather bold, lying in the middle of the road or driveway and refusing to budge for cars. Love him or not, no one would deny that he was a bit of an old soul and a vagabond (often being spotted a mile or farther away from our street).

My husband adored this cat. Several times per week he’d sit on the front or back porch with Stitch, feeding him milk and tuna. He’d purr at that furry friend while petting him. In truth, he and my kids considered Stitch “our” cat, and based on the number of hours he spent with us, maybe they weren’t wrong.

On the other hand, I’m allergic to cats. I could also get easily annoyed by Stitch barging into my house or racing to the grill and standing at my feet whenever I cooked. I’d have to watch for him in the driveway and physically move him so I could come or go. He’d chase me into the garage, too, which would make me grumble when trying to carry the groceries inside the house without letting him slip past me.

Although he could be a nuisance, when I noticed how slow he’d been growing–how hard of a time he had getting up and down–I worried about how my family would deal with his inevitable death. In order to preserve his memory, I wrote him into my upcoming release, BEFORE I KNEW. When I made that choice, I didn’t know how or when the end would come, just that it would come.

Well, it came today. I wish I could say it was peaceful and that his owners informed the  neighborhood. Sadly, I discovered him in our yard this morning, clearly the victim of a coyote attack. It was heartbreaking, to say the least, which surprised me because I had not loved him like my family had.

But tonight when I go to the grill, I know I’ll feel his absence. Even now, writing this simple post, my eyes are a little dewy. My husband was right all along: Stitch was a cool cat. I now wish I’d appreciated that more before it was too late. This isn’t the first time I’ve been slow to realize something like that, but I hope it’s the last.

It’s a good reminder for me to be more present and to appreciate all the little things that are part of my journey. And when we all face the sad reality that nothing lasts forever, perhaps we should emulate Winnie the Pooh’s attitude and think to ourselves: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

xo-Jamie

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5 Things To Do With Your Friends

Being a woman can be hard. A lot is expected of us. Not only do we hold jobs, raise kids, and keep a household running, but we’re expected to do it all with a smile (and to look fit and pretty, too!). It can be daunting at times, which is why it’s so important to keep connected to our friends.

Sure, your mom and sisters can be a source of support, as can your partner. But there’s something special about friends–the people who choose you to be a part of their life journey–that nourishes the soul and rejuvenates the spirit. Here are a few of mine on a recent girls’ trip we took to Arizona, where I laughed more in five days than I have in the past month. I can’t tell you how much that hit the reset button on my stress level.

But you don’t need to spend a ton of money to enjoy the benefits of friendship. Here are five inexpensive things you can do to keep connected with your friends:

  1. Start a book club (or another club involving a mutual hobby or interest, like knitting, hiking, or music). Naturally, talking about books is a favorite pastime of mine, but book club evenings eventually evolve into sharing stories and laughs over wine. What’s nicer than that?
  2. Host a potluck. This sounds old-school, but it’s a nice way to host a party without doing all the work and spending all the money. The host can prepare the main dish, but assign others the salad, sides, and dessert (dessert to be given to your most-trusted friend, as it is the most important part of the meal!).
  3. Take an exercise class (or meet for a long walk). The long walk allows for lots of catching up, but then again, going to Pilates with a friend makes that endeavor less painful.
  4. Watch a series togetherliterally. When I was young and single, I did this with a friend (Melrose Place, anyone?). More recently, a friend and I did this for LOST and American Horror Story. We’d take turns going to the other’s home to watch, leaving the hubby and kids to fend for themselves for an evening each week. It turned TV watching into a social endeavor, and it was fun to snack away while discussing the episode (my husband hates when I ask questions during a show–and during LOST I had a lot of questions).
  5. Plan an “at home” spa day. Drug stores sell a ton of inexpensive face masks and nail products. Pick up some collagen masks, Emory boards, and brightly colored polish and call your friends. You might want to send your partner and kids out to the movies so you have the place to yourself, but it can be fun to engage in these girly activities no matter your age, and you end up feeling fresh and pretty when it’s over.

Those are a few of my ideas, but I’m sure there are plenty more. If you have a good idea, please share!

xo,

Jamie

 

 

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A Change of Venue

Who else goes on vacation and wonders why they shouldn’t just up and move to an exotic location? I doubt I’m alone and, if you’d been with my family and me in Turks and Caicos, you might’ve decided to stay there.

Vacations are a wonderful way to rejuvenate the spirit, reconnect with your family and friends, and explore a different part of the world. I love taking my kids to new places so they can learn about and experience different cultures, foods, and ways of life.

The family

Of course, this was just a four-day trip, so we didn’t do much exploration of the island–just a lot of relaxation, and perhaps a little internal exploration.

This is what I learned:

View from plane

  1. The colors of the sea there are the most striking variation of turquoise that I’ve ever seen. Whether seeing it from the plane or the shore, the ocean is simply breathtaking. Better yet, it is crystal clear when you swim.

The beach

2. It’s windy there. Really windy. I’ve never been so cold while basking in the sun. On the upside, it made for excellent sailing and parasailing!

3. Jerk chicken rocks. My son, in particular, ate more than his fill of this Caribbean favorite.

Ford sailing

4. It was a treat to put aside work. During the past two years, I haven’t gone more than 24-hours without writing. That’s right, even when on vacation, and every weekend, I usually do a little work. This trip, I promised my family I wouldn’t pull out the laptop. Instead, I lounged around the beach reading books (if you haven’t read JoJo Moyes’s One by One, do so!), drinking smoothies, and sunbathing. I NEVER do that. By the fourth day, I had really unwound. Now I know I need to do this a little more often.

Parasailing

5. My list of “top places to retire” keeps expanding. I’d always wanted to go west, to a mountainous area like Colorado or the Sierra Nevada range. Now I’m thinking island living might not be too bad. And I’m pretty sure my kids would like to come visit often if we chose someplace like this to live, right?

So how about you? Where have you been lately, and what did you learn while you were there?

xo-Jamie

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Holiday Shopping vs. Holiday Spirit

You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?

xo–Jamie

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Attitude of Gratitude

I think it’s fair to say that November has been a tough month for most of us. Those of us who are upset by the election results are feeling afraid for the future of our nation and many of its people, while those who are celebrating the results are feeling attacked for exercising their rights. Everyone is pointing the finger at each other and spewing ugly, hateful words. I can’t recall a time in my lifetime where the country has seemed more divided and angry. I can’t speak for anyone else, but none of this puts me in the holiday spirit.

So, I’m taking a page out of my mother-in-law’s book. Since I’ve known her, she has engaged in a nighttime ritual designed to support a positive outlook. Once she’s in bed with the lights out, she reflects upon the day and every event that made her smile or feel grateful, then she settles on her favorite moment of the day and replays it in detail.

My mom's Thanksgiving table.

My mom’s Thanksgiving table.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I’m thinking this is something we might all try to do, even if just for one week. I don’t know that it will help (although my mother in-law is a pretty happy person), but it certainly can’t hurt.

To kick it off, I’m going to list a host of things I’m generally grateful for:

  • My family (the whole messy bunch that brings laughter and tears, as well as challenges and triumphs, into my life). We share an elastic bond of love and history that can’t be broken, no matter how badly it might get stretched at times.
  • My friends and colleagues, who are supportive, thoughtful, and intelligent people that teach me something new every day.
  • My agent and publishing team, who are helping me live out a childhood dream.
  • My “fans,” who read my work and write to me, sharing personal stories and well wishes.
  • My ancestors, who bravely came here from other countries hoping to give their progeny a better life. I hope they know that their sacrifices and courage were well-rewarded.
  • The majority of Americans, who stand together to fight for freedom, justice, and the equality of all, and who are resilient and passionately committed to the betterment of humanity.
  • God, for giving me a healthy mind and body, both of which I try not to waste.

Tonight I will follow my mother-in-law’s lead. I’ll reflect on my day and the specific moments that made me smile. I know waking up to the first snowfall (or dusting) this morning will be one. If the Steelers win today, that might be another. 🙂

I wish you all a very lovely Thanksgiving holiday, and hope that you will be surrounded by family and friends.

XO-Jamie

 

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