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Thoughts on Gratitude for Those Who’ve Been (or are going) Through Hell

thoughts on being thankful for those who are going through hell

A few years back I stood up in front of my aunts, uncles, cousins, children, parent, grandparent, and extended family at the Thanksgiving table and volunteered to say the dinner prayer. I didn’t usually volunteer for something like that. But that year, just a few months before we’d secured an apartment. In September, just a few days before my kids would start school my brother and I had snagged a cheap two bedroom apartment to share with my children. My kids and I had just spent the summer homeless. We weren’t on the street, but we had been sleeping in my mom’s living room for over two months. It might not seem that bad if you’ve never had to do it, but if you have–YOU KNOW how demoralizing it is to lose your home.

I cannot tell you how thankful I was to have our own apartment, with our own furniture, our own space, and a fridge full of food. With tears streaming down  my face (you know I’m a crier) I shared how thankful I was that we had  home, a roof of our own over our heads, and that we could afford to make the drive up to Northern California for Thanksgiving.  I think a lot of us cried at that dinner table that night. It wasn’t the first time my kids and I had been through hell and it wouldn’t be the last, but I had never felt so thankful in all my life just to have a home.

Maybe life is peachy for you right now and if it is I’m so glad. But if you’re going through some shit, or if you just pulled yourself free of some and you’re still washing off the grime and massaging the scars, I hope these thoughts will bring you some comfort and thanksgiving:


You normally have to be bashed about a bit by life to see the point of daffodils, sunsets and uneventful nice days.
― Alain de Botton


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You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced to by them.

― Maya Angelou


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If you have only one smile in you give it to the people you love.

― Maya Angelou


If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.

― Meister Eckhart


I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful–for all of it.

― Kristin Armstrong


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Often there’s a secret courage hidden in the pocket of our deepest fears saying, “Bring it on mutherfucker.”

― Curtis Tyrone Jones


 

Big love and thankfulness to you for reading this. I hope it helped, if only a little.

~Andrea

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7 Great Non-profits to Donate to on #GivingTuesday

Today is #GivingTuesday and there are so many charities to give to.  How do you choose?

I think we all must give with our own heartstrings in mind.  What causes pull at you?

My personal top picks:

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen

My family knows from experience that the people who run and volunteer at this organization are making a difference for those who are homeless or living in poverty. http://www.someonecareskitchen.org/

BinderCon (Out of the Binders, Inc.)

This awesome non-profit helps women and gender non-conforming writers learn, network, and grow. They are working to balance the huge gender gap in the journalism and literary worlds. (I also work and volunteer for this organization.)

https://www.crowdrise.com/outofthebindersdecem/fundraiser/bindercon

1888

1888 is a local 501 (c) 3 literary and cultural organization, founded by my friend & colleague, Kevin Staniec. They develop educational programs, produce collaborative projects and publish literature from around the world.

http://1888.center/support

UNAIDS (Today is also World AIDS Day)

Fighting one of the worst diseases on our planet, UNAIDs is working to END AIDS in our generation.

https://donations.unaids.org/

The Global Fund for Women

This organization campaigns for  women’s right to live free from violence, slavery, and discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and equal wage.

http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/

Arts Orange County

This organization supports and builds awareness for the arts in Orange County, CA

http://www.artsoc.org/

Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA)

This charter public school offers exceptional arts and academic education to children in varying arts disciplines, regardless of their economic status.

Donate through their Hearts for the Arts campaign >

And hey, if you aren’t in a position to donate today just help spread the word. Every voice matters and every dollar counts for these worthwhile organizations.

 

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Make it Happen

Mariah Carey’s self-titled album (her debut album actually) was the first CD I owned.  I can still remember sitting on our back deck one summer, at dusk. Our brand new black boombox that had a–wait for it–CD player, was set near the steps.  I peeled the cellophane wrapper of the CD and in a rare moment of secular-music-listening-pleasure, I heard Mariah’s stunning voice, clearer than any radio broadcast.

I still love me some Mimi (even though she ditched her curly hair) and when this song popped up on my Pandora feed today I just had to share with you.  It is one of my faves from that era.  A time in my life when I felt small, but had big dreams.

So keep going y’all!  I know I am.  I am making this happen. And for the first time in my life, I feel like I am living to my potential.  I hope you are too!

“If you believe in yourself enough

And know what you want
You’re gonna make it happen
Make it happen”

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Feel Wonder Again

A walk in the park.  Our busy lives make it seem so difficult.

I’m making the simple act of walking more of a priority in my daily life. And boy howdy, does it change my mood. It was good to just be in the moment. To feel the wonder again. Here are a few photos from my stroll this morning. (I’m no photographer, but hope these bring you some peace anyway. )

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start admiring the little things again.

 

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The Push

First, I want to just give a shout out to all of the wonderful people in my life who’ve encouraged and supported me through this first year – especially my soul mate, my boyfriend, Derwin. Thank you all! And thank YOU, for actually reading this! I’m humbled and honored that you’d even want to read it. I hope it inspires you in your journey. 😀

I started this blog one year ago, today. I’ve been wracking my brain for days/weeks trying to figure out what to say, how to update you on this past year’s progress. I’d love to tell you that I’m now a best-selling author and I’m touring the world inspiring others. But of course, real life is so much more complex than that. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m decidedly not a best-selling author, yet. 😉

I’d like to share a story with you.

When I was 10 years old my family threw a party at our local water-park, Windsor WaterWorks. It was an uncharacteristically gloomy August day in Sonoma County. Gray clouds covered the sky and threatened rain with occasional random drops here and there.

“It’ll clear up,” my dad said, as we packed our car and piled in. It was a special occasion, a joint 6th birthday party for my cousin Vincent and my brother, Luke. We were not about to let a few clouds get in the way of the celebration.

The clouds began to dissipate a little as we arrived at the park. Before the adults could set down the bags of party supplies at the picnic tables under the oak trees, we kids started begging to go on the water slides. I was so excited. We had driven by this freeway-side water park so many times and now there we were, about to actually glide down the water slides into the pools below. Vincent, Luke, Aunt Victoria, my Mom and I headed toward the first tower of slides. At the bottom of the wooden staircase an attendant handed us flimsy, blue foam mats.

“Which slide do you want to go on first Andrea? Level 1 or Level 2?” my aunt Victoria asked, her hand on my shoulder. Mom stood just behind her, an inquisitive smile on her face.

“Let’s do Level 1 first and then I want to try all four slides!” I bubbled excitedly. I could picture myself sliding down, feeling the wind in my hair, the rush of the water splashing my cheeks. My mom and aunt followed close behind as my cousin and brother hurried up the stairs ahead of me. As we crisscrossed back and forth, going higher and higher, I looked down. My heart jumped up into my throat. Oh, god what had I gotten myself into? We were up so high. The wooden beams didn’t seem so strong now. As we walked under the blue fiberglass slide it would shake and sway a little as the shadow of a person slid quickly past. When we reached the top I could see the twists of the blue tube and the small pool below. It didn’t look nearly big enough to catch a person flying down the slide at those speeds.

At the top, my cousin and brother flung down their blue mats with ease; one after another sitting and scooting themselves off into the tube slide. It was my turn. I stepped into the little pool of water at the top of the slide. I could feel the water pulling, rushing past my legs and down the slide. The attendant waved for me to put my mat down. I looked back at my mom, eyes wide, face contorted with utter dread.

“It’s ok hunny, you wanted to do this, remember?” she attempted to reassure me, with a smile.

“It’s ok, Andrea, just sit on your mat, you’ll see it’s not that bad.” my aunt said. She stepped into the pool beside me. I laid my mat down on the platform carefully and held my aunt’s hand as I positioned myself on it.

“I can’t do it, I’m too scared,” I squirmed, realizing the error of my ways, as the water rushed past my hands.

“C’mon, Andrea, if Luke and Vince can do it, you can too. We’re coming down right after you.” Mom pleaded. The attendant grimaced at us and impatiently asserted for me to go. The line was backing up behind us. I looked down at the tube again.

Unbeknownst to me, Mom motioned to Aunt Victoria to just go ahead and push me, that’d I’d be fine.

“Trust me,” she whispered to my aunt. All of the sudden I felt a firm push on my back and I was sliding into the tube. I screamed, flung my legs out to the side and slowed down a little. I hung on to my little blue mat with a white-knuckled, abalone grip. Taking a breath, I realized I was actually having fun. I splashed into the little pool at the end of the slide. Surfacing, I blew the water out of my nose, and swam to the side.

“What took you so long?” my brother whined, hand on his hip, smile stretching across his face. His white-blond hair swept back by the water.

For the rest of the day I rode that slide, and only that slide, nearly non-stop. Mom knew best.

Last year I was able to push myself to start pursuing my dream before I was ready to. (Thanks for the lesson, Mom) It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I flailed about in the beginning, trying to get my bearings. But let me tell you, now, I am having such a good time! I am so excited and fulfilled, knowing I am actively participating in crafting my dream. I don’t have the guilt nagging away anymore. That “I really should start that book someday” feeling is gone because I started it, and I’m doing it, day by day, making my dream come true. Every day is not a cake-walk, but it’s so much better than before.

Here are just some of the things that have changed since I committed to following my dream, one year ago:

  • The universe has aligned in ways I can’t be specific about yet, but I am blown away by how things have fit together and worked out this year. I feel like I have a new life.
  • I left two jobs that were no longer right for me.
  • I started going back to school –and I LOVE it!
  • I did several personal writing challenges – writing every day for 30, 60 & 90 day increments
  • I met some amazing new people who share the writing lifestyle
  • I started reading and doing the exercises in The Artist’s Way, as well as other creativity-building activities.
  • I write every day, except weekends. (But sometimes those too)
  • I feel happier, more peaceful and more fulfilled.
  • I have learned so much about writing, and how there is so much more to learn. Ha ha.
  • My relationship with my children has deepened – no easy task with teenagers.
  • My relationship with my boyfriend has deepened.
  • My children are happier and more actively pursuing their dreams.
  • I started actively writing the memoir I have wanted to write for the past decade.
  • I can now see the vision of my dream coming to life in vivid lines and color. And boy, is that a good feeling.

So, I’m not telling you all of this to toot my own horn. Far from thatI want you to know that no matter who you are and where you are in life you can start making your dream come true – today. But the key is you have to START and fully COMMIT to it.

For some it might be baby steps and others may have tons of time to devote to it. But I share this with you to show you that it’s not necessarily going to happen in an instant. It’s a hard, fantastic road, and you may, like me, not make it all happen in the first year (or more). But that doesn’t matter. It will happen. When it is meant to. But know this, even if things aren’t going great, when you’re doing all you can to pursue your life’s purpose, there is a peace and happiness that transcends the fear.

If you haven’t started yet, consider this your push!

(Oh & hey, if you still aren’t sure what your dream is that’s ok, keep exploring, it took me years to finally realize what my dream was.)

Hugs y’all,

Andrea

[Curious how it started? See my first post.]

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Writing Peace

The window near my desk is fogged up against the cold and rain outside. The drops cling to the dirty window screen like tiny crystals.  I’m sitting here in a coveted state of alone.  The whiz of cars on wet streets, the gentle hum of my laptop and the muted clack of keyboard strokes are the only sounds.  It’s lovely.  I feel the quiet fill me.  The space between chaos, to-do lists, shopping, cooking and work is here.

“I love you,” I almost say aloud, to this peace.

Of all the bustling I do in order to set aside a time of calm, is now worthwhile. To feel like I’ve run around like a chicken with its head lopped off and then to lie down and just bleed out, feels good.

As I sit here, it strikes me how much my love affair with writing is growing.  Writing is like that special someone from the past–that crush you wonder what could have happened with.  I’ve had friends who, after dating around for years, ended up coming back to an old high school flame.  Writing is like that for me, an old crush I never pursued before.  Now that we’ve found each other again, as worldly wise adults, we’re so meant to be, it’s ridiculous.

Sure it’s like any other relationship, hard to get enough quality time together; sometimes we fight, or don’t communicate or feel like we have nothing in common anymore.  But when I’m back here, at my keyboard or with pen and pad, I remember why I fell in love in the first place.

This is my home.  From the depths of my soul, to the inappropriateness of my jokes, this is where I can truly be me.  From emotional shit storms to oases of peace, I get to wrench out my guts and throw them down on the table, oozing and floppy, to dissect and cull, prod and discover.  And it doesn’t even matter who cares.

We’re all gloriously messy humans, sad, happy, conflicted or numb, but when we read someone who has been through it too, it becomes more than words, an alchemy of souls.  On the flip side, when you write and someone reads, then emotes, what you had set out to explore (and sometimes even more than you intended to share) – Oh my God, what a feeling!

Those were the connections I made, in my first Creative Nonfiction writing class (which ended this week).  People from all walks of life, being brave, shared the inner workings of their memories, their pains and joys.  People unafraid to explore the emotion of our lives, these are my people.  At 33, I found them, people who feel so deeply, think so expansively, strive so luminously to tell the stories that make sense of our lives:  Writers.

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Thankful

It’s in the words left unsaid,

the home you once had,

love lost.

What life should have been.

The light in her eyes,

the concentration in his lips,

the arms that hold you now.

Warm.

 

The friends that remain.

Food on the table.

A good busy.

Hope.

 

Look into their eyes.

Love and say it.

Thankful.