Weekly Gratitude #8: Christmas with the Casales

I had two Rounds of Christmas this year.

I had my Christmas here in Maine which has been shown prominently on my Instragram. (Can you blame me?  I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I am going to Instagram that shit)

Then I had Christmas in New York with my New York family.

My New York family is not biologically related to me.  But these people were there with me during Bryon’s last hours on this planet. They were with me at the funeral home when I picked out Bryon’s casket, helped write his obituary and made sure that his funeral had an open bar with wristbands.

They have been there for me throughout the darkest of my days and have never asked for anything in return, nor have they thrown it in my face.

And I know these people love my daughter more than most people on this planet.

I feel really awkward calling them “these people.”  They are so much more than that, but I don’t feel comfortable using people’s real names in my blog.  Usually, I ask people for input on their blog nicknames, but it is almost midnight as I write this and I don’t want to wake them. Especially since I may have woken them up with this hysterical picture of my daughter putting her sweatshirt on backwards.

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It was a rough morning.  First day back at school after the holidays.  My daughter and I laughed for a solid 5 minutes when this was happening and I wanted to share it with her Godmother and eventually the whole internet.

There we go.  I will refer to one half of “Those people” as her Godmother and the other half as Mr. Uncle V.

I did use their surname in the blog title, but that was because I am a bit of a word nerd and I enjoy the aesthetics of alliteration.

I am grateful for the time we got to spend in NY with our NY family.

Yes, they have always treated us like family and their extended family has always welcomed us.

Yes, they have a beautiful house and they served lots of amazing food.

Downton Abbey has nothing on them, except Mr. Bates.  I may have a bit of a crush on Mr. Bates.  I would have been alright if Mr. Bates was walking around.

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I also got to observe how homemade pasta was made.  It blew my Irish-American mind.  And it was delicious too.

I enjoyed a delicious drink called Rum, Rum, Runaway and drank some good wine.

My daughter’s Godmother and Mr. Uncle V are such great people and they are always surrounded by great people.  This makes sense since like attracts like.  I know they are busy, but they still always find time for people, including my daughter and me.

They are literally two of the smartest people I know.

And some of the most fun people I know as demonstrated by late-night games of Family Feud.

Sometimes I struggle with the whole concept of putting the past behind me and moving into the future. Sometimes I have to “numb out” to the past or else I will never move forward and my mind will go on like it’s binge-watching all the seasons of  This is Us only it’s Bryon that’s dead and not Jack Pearson.

It gets complicated when it comes to certain relationships.  Some people have left my life willingly.  Some were toxic and I had to proactively cut out of my life.

But some people I want to stay though sometimes the forces of life just feel like I am supposed to choose between past and present.

And I am grateful that there are people in my life who want to stay with me for the wild and bumpy ride.  People who love me enough that they want to see me thrive.  People who loved Bryon and also knew how deep my love was for Bryon, but they also want to see me move forward.

It might be a shocker, but not everyone feels that way.

Like, life dealt me this shitty hand and I am not supposed to grow from the experience.

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Being around my friends and their family and friends (now my friends…I think…I hope…) made me realize that I don’t have to give up that piece of my life.  I have spent so much time getting reacquainted with my younger self and my present self, but I have to accept that those political years are just as much a part of me as the younger years.

I am grateful I got to spend the Holidays with them.  And I am also grateful for the clarity I got about my life from being around them.

Weekly Gratitude #6: Thank you for being a friend

I hope you all can forgive me for being brief today.  I am writing this on the fly- between work and the festivities going on.  So I apologize for the brevity but please know that it comes from my heart just the same.

I just wanted to take a moment for thanking you for being there.

This post got started in my head because I have been feeling sappy lately and I got a special Christmas ornament in the mail from an old friend.  Isn’t it amazing?

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To thank everyone who has been a friend whether it means you are one of closest friends or an acquaintance.

I am grateful for my old friends, whether they are childhood friends, family friends, high school friends, college friends, political friends (those do exist!), running buddies, old roommates and neighbors, church friends and friends.  Thank you for always being there for me.

I am grateful for all my new friends.  You teach me that you can make new friends at any age.  A lot of my new friends are friends I made because of my daughter.  You know, parents of her friends in all her activities.  I am glad my daughter chose friends with cool parents.

I also appreciate the friends I have not met yet.

I am grateful for internet friends.  Special shoutout to my widow tribe, Sept 2012 brides and to everyone who takes the time to read this blog.  I hope someday to meet all of you.  Well, most of you.  I don’t want to meet anyone who is creepy that might be reading this.  Sorry.

I am grateful for the friends who may not be in my inner circle.  I am grateful for acquaintances who take the time to smile.  You make my day.  I am grateful for awkwardly placed friends in the “more than an acquaintance but maybe not a friend.”  Even if we don’t know each other well and aren’t a big part in each others lives, your kindness does matter.

I am even grateful for former friends.  Not all our times were bad and you sure taught me some tough lessons.  Maybe our paths will intertwine someday though some of you- probably not.  And that is okay.  I wish you the best in your life.

I am grateful for all of you, whether we talk daily or only catch up with years in between, whether we spend time in person or catch up on social media.

Even though I have embraced the loneliness of being a widow, having people who share their joy with me and my daughter does make life sweeter.  I can only hope that I am able to bring you some joy as well.

Thank you for being in my life.

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A message for anyone who needs to hear it

I have no idea who needs this message but it’s here for whoever or whomever needs it.

(And I just googled “whoever vs whomever”. It’s late and I am too tired to make sense of it. I’ll fix this and the multitude of typos and grammar mistakes I am going to make due to the aforementioned tiredness.)

And this is making me think of Dr Frasier Crane, correcting a caller on the difference between “literally” and “figuratively”.

So for those people who want to nitpick my grammer…I got nothing.

Though bonus points if you were amused that the Frasier meme is about grammar since Frasier is played by Kelsey Grammar.

I digress.

It came to me that everyone deserves to be appreciated.

Everyone deserves to be valued.

Everyone deserves to be taken seriously.

When you talk to those you are closest too, you deserved to be listened to.

And what you have to say should be taken seriously.

You might be thinking, “That’s all great Kerry but the world is not all rainbows and smiles. What if people don’t appreciate you?”

And that’s a very valid hypothetical question.

Because not everyone is going to appreciate you.

Because…there are 7 billion people on this planet and there is no way we can appreciate each other.

At least on an intimate, inter-personal level.

I tend to think of it as a sliding scale. Those closer to you should appreciate you more.

Which brings me to the Top 5.

The Top 5 should not be confused with the Top 8…for those of us old enough to remember the MySpace days.

Also, whatever happened to Tom?

I guess he got burned because he way nicer than Mark Zuckerberg. 🤷‍♀️

Anyway, back to the “top 5”.

I am a fan of Jim Rohn’s quote that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

It is so accurate.

But what if those 5 people don’t appreciate you?

Well, then you probably don’t appreciate yourself.

Because you are tolerating not being appreciated.

Remember-

You deserve to be appreciated.

You deserve to be valued.

You deserve to be taken seriously.

When you talk to those you are closest too, you deserve to be listened to.

And what you have to say should be taken seriously.

If those closest to you don’t respect you or appreciate you, you may need to re-evaluate your top 5.

You also should re-evaluate yourself. Maybe you aren’t appreciating those in your life.

Keep yourself surrounded by those who are positive and lift you up.

You won’t be sorry.

10 Do’s and Don’t for helping someone in crisis (or grief).

This blog post is a long time coming.

I have tried to write about this topic so many times but something always stopped me.

I was afraid to be honest.

I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.

Background story

But something recently changed that.

For the past couple of months, my friends mother has been very sick. There was a period of time where my friend didn’t know if her mother was going to live or die.

(Don’t worry. My friend is aware of this blog post. She will not be blind-sided.)

A few months ago, my friends mother went into septic shock.

I spent a lot of time messaging back and forth with my friend. At the time, she was concerned she was burdening me with painful memories. I would be lying if I said that events like this do not stir up painful memories. I remember how lonely I felt when Bryon was in the ICU. I wasn’t physically alone but I was emotionally alone.

I can assure you that you don’t know that kind of fear until you have lived it.

After surviving that experience, I can’t let anyone sit through that experience alone.

So I can push aside all those painful memories and the emotions attached to those memories to help those who are going through similar situations.

(By pushing aside those emotions…I don’t mean push those emotions aside literally. It is import to acknowledge those feelings. Feel them. Then set them aside.)

My friends mother was in the hospital for a couple of months. I offered to help my friend in other ways during this time but my friend said she was okay. I didn’t push. (More on that later in this post)

My friends mother was discharged from the hospital earlier this week.

My friend has messaged me and she thanked me for being there for her. I responded that I felt bad because I did not do enough for her.

My friend’s response was that she disagreed.

She said I helped her and was informative about the experience. I helped her to ask the right questions, especially at a time when her brain could barely think of anything other than not knowing if her mother was going to live or die.

I remember how overwhelmed I was when Bryon was sick. A lot of information was thrown at me.

I pondered this and it all clicked.

I had helped my friend in the way she needed to be helped.

My feeling like I hadn’t done enough to help my friend was about making myself feel better.

I think it is human nature that we try to help people in the ways we think they need to be helped, not in the way they actually need to be helped.

Since I have officially been on both sides of this issue, I feel like I can finally write about this important topic.

  1. Do remember that it’s about THEM and not YOU.

I start with this one because I think all the other items on this list stem from this.

Before you think I am being critical, I want to remind you that I am guilty of doing this.

I am not saying everyone is helping for the wrong reasons. But unless you are Mother Theresa, you are not 100% selfless. To some extent, you are offering to help because  you are trying to make yourself feel better.

I am not saying to not help people.

Your friend or family member, or coworker or neighbor or you friend of the a friend or acquaintance or maybe even a complete stranger is having a hard go and you want help fix the problem. That is a good thing. You are a good person.

Just make sure that you are helping or offering to help to actually help, not to just make yourself feel better. If you feel better in the process, that’s a double win.

I promise you, if you keep reading, this point will make sense by the end of the list.

  1. Do respect boundaries.

Some people are not comfortable asking for help or receiving help. They may not want to accept help. They might be embarrassed to accept help. Our culture encourages us to be independent and stoic. Many of us don’t know how to accept help.

They are most likely overwhelmed.

When you are in the middle of a crisis, it’s hard to think of anything besides the person who is very sick or might die. You may want to help but the truth is, almost everything is the further thing from their mind.

It’s great that you want to help, but don’t push.

Just be ready to help when they are finally ready to accept it.

  1. Do offer specific ways to help.

When someone is going through a trauma, we want to help. We may not know how to help so we have a tendency to say “Let me know if you need anything.” I am guilty of this, even in my post-trauma life. But I am going to explain why this isn’t very helpful.

When someone is going through a trauma or has just experienced a major loss, they may not know what they need. They are overwhelmed. Their life was literally just turned upside down.

When Bryon was in the ICU, I subsisted on iced coffee and those ice cream sundae cones that were sold in the hospital cafeteria. Depending on how well Bryon was doing that day indicated whether I would take the time away to shower and take care of my daily hygiene. I know it’s gross but it’s a reality. Things that are normally viewed as vital take a backseat when you are in crisis.

I knew my parents were taking care of my toddler daughter and my cat. Bryon had scheduled all our monthly payments before he got sick. But I had no clue about anything else and I had no brain power to think of anything other than “is my husband going to live or die”?

You might be wondering, what if the person has died? A widow doesn’t need to worry anymore about the outcome, right?

To give you an example of where my mind was during those early days of widowhood, I lost my phone. My parents and I spent an hour tearing apart the house. I finally found my phone…in the refrigerator. I have no idea why my phone was there.

Also, don’t put your phone in the fridge. My phone was never the same after that. It became possessed and Bryon wasn’t there to fix it for me.

My point is, if you want to help someone going through a trauma or loss, be specific.

Is their lawn overgrown? Offer to mow it.

Is something in their house in disrepair? Offer to fix it.

Want to bring them dinner? Ask them if you can bring dinner on Thursday night or if you can give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

Just be specific because it will be a lot easier for the person to say “yes” or “no” than come up with task.

It’s great you want to help but make it easy on the person you are trying to help.

  1. Don’t take it personally if your help isn’t needed.

When someone is going through a trauma or a loss, people offer to help.

A lot of people.

That is great but the person you want to help may be inundated with offers to help. They may already have someone mowing their lawn or bringing them meals. They are most likely grateful for your offer but they are too overwhelmed to think of something else that might need tending to.

I had people get mad at me because they offered to help and I didn’t take them up for it.

I became stressed out that I was offending people because I didn’t take them up on their offers.

You don’t want to put someone who is going through a trauma or loss to feel guilty on top of all the other emotions that come with that crisis.

Don’t take it personally. However, remember to…

  1. Do follow up.

All those people offering to help the person in crisis will eventually disappear. They will move on with their lives and lose interest.

If you are patient, you will get a chance to help.

If you truly want to help the person, follow up every couple of weeks or once a month.

Trust me, there is a good chance this person will need help in the months and even years to follow. A widow will post on Facebook that they need and not get any responses and wonder what happened to all the people at the funeral who offered to help. It happens.

  1. Do follow through

If you promised to help, show up.

I know life happens and sometimes legitimate things pop up that may prevent you from following through. And that’s okay.

But if someone is going through a crisis and you gave your word, trying your hardest to be there.

If you have to back out, try to find a replacement.

The person going through the crisis is counting on you.

When Bryon was in the ICU, I had a friend agree to baby-sit my young daughter. Around the time my friend was supposed to arrive, she texts me and asks if I still needed her to baby-sit.

What?

I affirmed that yes, I still needed her to baby-sit like she agreed to.

My friends started giving excuses. She was a manipulative person in general and she was trying to get me to say something along the lines of “That’s okay. I’ll manage.”

I didn’t. I ended the conversation along the lines of “well you got to do what you got to do.”

The same person offered to help me if I needed it in the future.

I can’t make this up.

I never asked her for a favor again.

And luckily another friend came to the rescue and baby-sat my daughter that evening. In case you were wondering.

  1. Do let go of attachments and expectations.

Here you need to be like Elsa and let it go.

Just help. Don’t worry what the person does with the gift cards or excess food or whatever. Don’t get attached to any outcome. This person is just trying to survive and doesn’t need people breathing down their neck.

An example-

When asked for suggestions on how to help new widows, I always suggest a Target gift card. Because if the widow is financially strapped, she can use it to buy laundry detergent, underwear, cat food, whatever she needs. If she’s okay financially, then she gets some retail therapy. But don’t give her a gift card and tell her how to spend it.

This example leads me to…

  1. Do respect their privacy

Just because you help someone does not mean that you they owe you an explanation on life choices.

If you help someone, it does not mean that you get to ask about their financial situation or their relationship status.

If you help someone, it does not mean that you get a say in their living arrangements or parenting choices.

As Salt N Pepa said:

It ain’t none of your business.

If someone needs your opinion, they will ask for it. End of story.

  1. Don’t keep score.

It’s not like Nike. Just don’t do it.

Let the Karma Gods worry about it. They can keep track on their Google-Doc-In-the-Sky spreadsheet.

If someone is going through a crisis and you help them, I would say that there is a 99.9% chance that this experience will change them forever. They will most likely pay it forward the best to their ability. They are not required to report back to you every time they paid it forward.

Of course, there is the 0.01% chance that the person you helped isn’t profoundly changed.  And if that’s the case, you may just need to accept that you helped an asshole and move on.

If you help someone, it doesn’t mean that you can take the relationship for granted because they “owe” you.

If you help someone and feel the need to keep score, just back away from the relationship. This is where things get toxic.  This isn’t a healthy relationship for anyone involved.

  1. Don’t throw it in their face afterwards.

If you throw the fact that you helped someone in their face, you might be an asshole.

Again. It’s not like Nike. Just don’t do it.

Because, Karma.

If you find yourself in this situation, you suggest you re-evaluate your life and how you treat people.

And if you happen to be the person who accepted help and someone who helped you threw it in your face, walk away from that relationship. It’s not a healthy dynamic.

Final thoughts

I hope this information is useful. The purpose was to help people be the most effective when helping.

I really hope this post did not come across as negative. We are all probably guilty of many of the items on this list.  Don’t feel bad.  As long as you are trying to help people, then you’re heart is in the right place and that is the most important thing.

If you have any suggestions on how to help those in crisis, feel free to drop me a comment.

If you have ever been in a position where you needed to accept help, what did you find useful?

Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #43

Today is Friday!  You know what that means. Time for some good vibrations gratitude.

I am inviting you join me on Good Vibration Gratitude Fridays!

Exciting, right?

You are probably wondering how you get in on the action.

It’s easy! If you are grateful for something, please either comment below or share a pic of what you are grateful for on Instagram with the hashtag #goodvibrationsgratitude

Also feel free to follow me on Instragram at @kerrymckim

Here are 5 things I am grateful for this week.

  1.  Dinner with Kimmy Gibbler I see her less since she moved up to the North Country.  I miss seeing her as often but this means our time together is even more special.  Love you Gibbler.

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    Swifty’s- Colonie, NY
  2. Those who remember BryonWe had great neighbors when we lived in Albany.  We hung out.  We watched each other’s cats on vacation.

    Our townhouses shared an attached wall.  I am sure they heard Bryon and I when we argued.  When I shared the news I was pregnant, my neighbor said she thought she had heard me throwing up.

    We both moved to our current houses in the same month.  My daughter was born and life just took over.  I am sad to say I haven’t seen them in awhile.

    They were in New York City celebrating their 5th wedding anniversary.

    Happy Anniversary!!!!!

    They had shared their plans on social media.  On one of the days, they decided to visit the five oldest bars in NYC.  (Which sounds totally awesome to this history buff. Maybe my cousin H-Bomb will do it with me).

    I had commented that Bryon took me to McSorley’s (4th oldest bar).


    It was one of his favorite bars in New York City.
    My friends had shared that they shared a drink in Bryon’s memory at McSorley’s.

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    Facebook Photo Courtesy of Frances Esposito

    It still makes me happy when people remember him.  I can accept that he is gone but I don’t want him to be forgotten.  Especially since my daughter will only know him from stories.

  3. Getting three runs in this weekIt finally clicked in my brain that the only way I was going to be able to run another half-marathon was if I started running again.  Funny how that works.

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    Get it?  Christmas Humor…
  4. Encouragement and friendshipI appreciate everyone who commented their support and sent messages about my post last night where I felt like a failure as a mother.  It feels better to know I am not alone but at the same time, I am sad other mothers feel this way too.

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  5. My daughter’s Pre-K teacherI talked to my daughter Pre-K teacher and I am grateful I did.  She was very positive about the situation.  My daughter has had trouble being quiet during naptime.  Her teacher assured me that I wasn’t doing anything wrong and that my daughter isn’t doomed.  She just has a strong personality and she is in a phase where she is testing her limits.  Her teacher said it is very common at this age.

    She agreed with me that having a strong personality isn’t bad, we just need to funnel her energy differently.  I don’t want to take my daughter’s fun away but she needs to learn that she has to respect adults.

    Her teacher also told me it doesn’t matter how small my daughter is in her physical stature, she will be able to hold her own.  As someone who was bullied as a kid, I know it is a good thing that my daughter has no problem standing up for herself.

    I do feel better because I feel like we now have a plan in place that will hopefully correct her behavior before kindergarten.  I am grateful her teacher is positive.  She doesn’t view my daughter as a problem.  She seems the good in her.  I had some hyperactivity issues as a kid and from what I have been told, my teachers were negative about the situation.

What are you grateful for this week?

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Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday #39

It’s Friday! You know what that means. Time for some good vibrations gratitude.

This week I am starting something new.

I am inviting you join me on Good Vibration Gratitude Fridays!

Exciting, right?

You are probably wondering how you get in on the action.

It’s easy! If you are grateful for something, please either comment below or share a pic of what you are grateful for on Instagram with the hashtag #goodvibrationsgratitude

Also feel free to follow me on Instragram at @kerrymckim

Here is what I am gratude for this week.

  1.  Fall weekend in Maine.

    I didn’t take many pictures on this trip.  I didn’t do much sightseeing.  I just enjoyed a late October weekend in Maine.  I had dinner and ice cream at Charlotte’s and I had dinner with an old friend from high school.  I don’t have a nick name for her yet but you met her here.

    So I enjoyed socializing with friends, good food, watched two World Series games with my Dad and I marveled in the beauty of Maine fall foliage that is just past the peek in a Nor’easter.

  2. World Series win

    My boys did it!

    And my little one got to see the team play this year.  Can’t wait until next summer.

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  3. Second Annual Halloween Pajama Movie Night

    The tradition was born last year when my friend and I were shopping at Gymboree and I thought the pink skeleton pajamas were cute.  My friend asked me to buy them since she had skeleton pajamas for her boys and she said we could do a Halloween movie night.  I was sold.

    My daughter and I were at Crazy 8’s a few weeks ago and picked up another pair.  And luckily movie night happened again this year.

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  4. Trick or Treating

    Every year my daughters school goes trick or treating in a local office park.  The people who work there are great and were very generous with their candy.  It is hard to believe this is my daughters fourth and final year participating.

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  5. It’s November!

    This year is the first year since Bryon died that I am excited for Christmas.  And I am just going with it.

    And before the haters get mad at me, I am just as excited about Thanksgiving too.

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    What are you grateful for this week?

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Fall 2018: Apple Picking at Hicks Orchard

Last Sunday my daughter and I spent Sunday visiting Hicks Orchard in Granville, NY with Kimmy Gibbler and her family.

Setting off.

 

Look at all those delicious apples.

My daughter loved picking apples.

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She couldn’t resist.

Beware of the apple tree monsters!

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After we went picking apples, we went to get some cider donuts.

Yum!

Played some corn hole.  Well more like threw around the bean bags.  But they still had fun.

Heading down to the corn maze.

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5 acres of fun.

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This was a map of the maze.

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We were told it takes roughly 40 minutes.  It took us 49 but we had two small children.  There was a crossword puzzle and if you got all the clues, you won a prize.  We were successful and got a large pumpkin.

Did you do any fun Fall activities last weekend?