Gratitude, Grief, Relationships

Young or old, almost all of us who have had the pleasure of owning a pet, have reached that inevitable point where we lose them, due to old age, accidents, or disease. It’s sadder and often more heartbreaking than we acknowledge sometimes. And as I have noticed, the older I get, the more pets get added to the list of Rainbow Bridge crossers.

RIP Abbey

After having to put down our old cat last year, and watching others deal with losing their own special pets, it got me thinking about our beloved animals, what they mean to us, and how they seem to fade away as mere memories after. I also thought about the one who was a pet’s “person.” The “person” has connected with that pet on a whole different level, and the pet has returned the same intimate bond (for me, that was my first dog as an adult, Poppy).

That led me to think about how someone could be helped through that hard part, how to acknowledge the pain but also bring a bit of joy to their grief. When I visited my great aunt in Maine a few years ago, she hobbled around showing me different things in her house, but one area stuck with me. In her bedroom she had pictures on a special wall dedicated to important people she had lost. Her husband, brother, and nephew were all displayed there. She said that before bed each night she said a prayer for each them, pictured them in heaven as she kissed her hand and touched each picture, a small but meaningful gesture for her. I thought it was touching that she paid a daily tribute to her loved ones that were no longer with her.

Somehow, this translated in my brain to losing a pet and how it would help people to think of them in a special place, possibly feeling a little better about the loss, and imagining their pet back in the prime of their lives. Ideally, they could find some joy in their grief, when it’s fresh or long after when the pain is less so but still present.

From this, an idea turned into a real thing. I started Forever Loved Pets and created Pet Remembrance Prints, a way to celebrate the life of one’s passed pet while honoring them too. It’s a print with the image of the ideal place that pets go after they pass

Creekside Tranquility Print
Creekside Tranquility Print

the Rainbow Bridge, a “pet heaven” of sorts where all of the animals are happy, healthy, pain-free, and enjoying each day.

Mountain Serenity Print
Mountain Serenity Print

There is a cut-out at the top to insert a picture of one’s pet so owners can imagine their animal residing there. My hope is that it can hung on the wall and passed by each day, helping that person remember their pet in a special way in a beautiful setting, bringing a smile to their face and a little warmth in their heart.

I’m also hoping people will buy this for themselves or for others, “the person” who is grieving and needs a way to celebrate their pet; ideally, to find some joy in their grief. Losing a pet is an experience like no other. One of the hardest parts, in my opinion, is coming home to that empty food bowl that will not be re-filled. I want this print to help people through that time. There is joy to be found in grief, although it isn’t the easiest to access.

Forever Loved Pets
Learn more here.

If you’re interested or know someone who might be, please pass it on. Pets and their people are important. Let’s acknowledge them so they can get through a hard time with a little less pain.

Gratitude, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

My favorite Yogi tea (Vanilla Spice – Perfect Energy) had this message for me recently: “Happiness is an accomplishment.” This led me to question the elusive state called happiness that we continuously seek in one way or another. I’ve been trying to just “be happy” for most of my adult life. happy teaWhat job would make me happy? What material item could do it? How much more money do I need to reach that place and stay there?

Here are a few things that I have picked up over time about happiness.

Happiness is a temporary state. We can never reach the final destination of happiness and live there permanently (unless, I guess, we cease to exist). It’s transitory. I always thought that if I did the right things, then I would be happy. And my husband has often said, “I just want you to be happy,” as though it were something I could turn on and keep on. Happiness doesn’t work that way. It isn’t constant; each moment can be a happy one or not. The good old Dalai Lama says, “Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions,” and I believe this is true. We cannot depend on others for it, nor can we expect it to last forever. It’s up to us to create it, regardless of what is happening around us.

Happiness is also a practice. It’s work – all the time, every day. And that’s okay. By adding up all those little things that make us happy (for me some are: a hot shower, sleeping in, a delicious piece of dark chocolate, watching or reading a good story, or when my family is enjoying an experience together), we’re able to identify these little times of joy. And if we multiply them, then we might just find that we are, well, happy, for now anyway. The Dalai Lama’s buddy, the Buddha, says “There is no path to happiness. Happiness is the path.” That might be a little tougher to swallow, or understand, but my interpretation is that we’re in charge of creating that path and we must forge it with each step.

We do this by accepting that happiness is an illusory destination. There is nosmiley-and not promised land to arrive at after fighting through the long journey, instead we create or experience the happy moments day in and day out, and be grateful for each of them. (In the words of the Mandalorian, “This is the way.”)

We won’t ever reach that point where, finally, we’re happy (though part of me still wants to believe that). We will have some good moments where we feel it, then some that are really far from it too. So, if my Yogi tea bag is correct, then happiness truly is an accomplishment, but one that we can’t hold onto forever. As summer is upon us with our fantasies of the perfect sunny season, maybe we try enjoying the little things instead: warm weather, time with kids on break (the good parts), a vacation from the grind, or savoring a glass of something yummy.

And we can remember the words of Ellen DeGeneres: “Do things that you make you happy, within the confines of the legal system.” Smart, and practical too.

Fear, Gratitude, Kids, Parenting

Instead of covering subjects and topics in-depth as I have in the past, I’m trying something different. These are my observations from each week last month. It makes me pay attention, and ponder even more…

Ah, to NOT be a kid again…
Week 1: I realized this week that, although youth may rule here in the West, I am grateful to be an adult and have already gone through many life experiences. My daughter had a lunch meeting with her school principal to discuss the drama club and its needs (she was invited by an upper classman). She fretted over what to wear, what to say, what to eat. In essence, she was nervous and intimidated by authority (which, thankfully, still has some influence). She got through it all fine, as I knew she would, but it made me appreciate not having to been a teen or young adult worrying about dealing with older people or authority figures. I’m well into adulthood, phew!

Who are the meanest commenters? ADULTS
Week 2:man computer As it turns out, the age group that should act the most “adult” – doesn’t. Surprised? Recently, I was listening to a younger podcaster interviewing an even younger food blogger (both considered Instagram “influencers”). They agreed that, when receiving comments/feedback from their posts, TikTok users are the least mean, IG is second, and Facebook and Twitter have the meanest and nastiest commenters. Who typically has accounts to these two outlets? ADULTS. Come on, FB and Twitter adults, grow up and be mature (or maybe that’s not a thing anymore).

Your idea of what’s best for your kid versus what is truly best for your kid…
Week 3: As parents, we often think “we know best,” but do we always? If you’re living in Ukraine and your city is actively being bombed and you decide to leave, then yes, you do know best. But if you have an idea in your head about what your kid’s life is “supposed to be like,” but your kid disagrees (or worse, is too afraid to tell you), is that the best thing for him or her? It’s a fine line that we walk all the time. To think that we, as parents, know everything about our kids’ lives and can control them until they’re eighteen then set them free to make their own sound decisions is setting us up for disappointment. The first question to ask when making decisions for your kid is, who is this serving? If it’s you and you have no idea what your kid wants, I would re-think it, or better yet, ask your kid.

Nukes and more nukes
Week 4: Did you ever find out information that you wish you didn’t know? Ignorantly, I did not know how many nuclear weapons were out in the world (13,000). I had a vague idea about which countries had them, but found out that Russia and the U.S possess skeletons-bomb90% of them. The other countries are China, France, U.K, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea (that’s in order of the most to the fewest). The more startling fact is that scientists think it would only take about 100 of these nukes to make life on Earth unsustainable (due to air quality, lack of sunlight to grow food, etc). That’s it, 100! And yet, being the ridiculous Earthlings that we are, we have 12,900 more than necessary. Surprising and yet not surprising, no? Let’s hope they stay un-detonated.

That was the month of March in a nutshell.

Gratitude, Self-awareness, Self-improvement

Here is a re-post from four years ago (with some tweaks and updates) that still applies today.

Much has been touted about the benefits of thinking with gratitude. If we can be truly grateful for what we have, we are supposed to feel happier, be less stressed, and experience life with more joy, overall. It’s true. If you stop and think about two things you are grateful for that happened at the end of the day, be it the guy who let you in on a crowded freeway or that you got your kids to school on-time with no complaint from anyone, a little gratitude can go a long way.

But sometimes it’s just too hard to be grateful, or to truly feel it in difficult situations. If you’re behind on bills and have nearly run out of money, thinking about how grateful you are that you’re not starving to death in a third world country, or that you don’t have some terminal disease, doesn’t really help matters. Granted, you might feel truly grateful for those things (I know I do), but it does not change your attitude or situation for the most part.

A shift in perspective when gratitude isn’t working is to think in terms of abundance. This means seeing what you have instead of what you lack: abundance instead of scarcity. Many of us see our lives in terms of scarcity only – what we don’t have, what we want but can’t get, what we think we will never have. Advertisers bombard us  with the latest things that we just have to have, be it a gadget or a lifestyle, and show us how much better they are with those things. Social media can show us (often falsely) of the perfect life we think we “should” have. We can’t help but think we are lacking, and when we try to be grateful for what we do have, we still don’t feel truly glad.

Thinking with abundaabundancence in mind means looking at situation and seeing the possibilities in it instead of the lack. Back to the example of being behind on bills and money, we can see the piles of bills and the small stack of money with which to pay them, or we can see the possibilities we have in creating more wealth and paying those bills (which could be anything from a second job to a yard sale to selling unwanted collectibles on E-bay), and we can be grateful to have the opportunity to do those things. We can see how to make that money stack grow instead of continue to shrink. Will that solve all of your money problems? Not yet, but it is a start, a way towards seeing the world in terms of offering you opportunities instead of stripping you of everything and just being glad you don’t have to worry about eating cat food for dinner or contracting Ebola.

Steven Covey states it well, “The Abundance Mentality… flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.” This can be difficult to do when you had a bad day at work, you find dog crap  on your shoe (again!), or all of your dieting has equaled to weighing more instead of less, but instead of going to extremes and trying to be grateful for things that you can’t really connect with, try to stop and see the abundance in your life. That may mean just accepting that things aren’t perfect right now, but trusting that they will get better, reasoning that you usually have more good days than bad at work (the dog as well), and that you do actually feel better and your pants are looser even if the scale doesn’t say so.

thanksgiving-table-1888643_640One current example in my life is my choice to take a break from alcohol (more on that in a future post). As I have now noticed, alcohol is everywhere and people are drinking it everywhere too. Instead of seeing all of the beverages I cannot (choose not) to drink, I will focus on the abundance of non-alcoholic drinks that are available (even if it means providing my own). So, as the holiday comes and we sit at the table with our families and friends, try not to focus only on the one person who antagonizes you or triggers you. Instead, notice the many people you enjoy being with, the table covered in food, and the one day out of the year when we overeating is encouraged!  Abundance abounds (when we choose to see it).