8 weeks of joy

Braylen Elijah entered the world in a hurry and without breath. He was coaxed back to life with love and medical miracles. His mother, while healing and exhausted from her own physical trauma, immediately took on her new role with courage. Most parents spend their first few days after new life has been born introducing their precious gift to the world and enjoying “firsts” — the first moments of a baby’s breath and cry; the first feedings, changing of diapers and, days later, bringing baby home. Instead, Braylen’s parents had the courageous and critical role as the medical advocates, life historians, public relations coordinators and personal cheerleaders to this helpless newborn.

They lived in and out of hospitals and a Ronald McDonald home for eight weeks. They sacrificed whatever was necessary to chaperone, protect and validate his valuable life. They took advantage of every opportunity to touch him, to hold him, to take one of the thousands of pictures of him. They washed their hands raw to prevent infection in the hospital room. They stood watch over the machines and quickly learned what the oxygen saturation, blood pressure, heart beat and breathing patterns indicated. They became best friends with the hospital staff, spending more time with them then they were able to be with their own family, friends, co-workers. They watched as other babies in the NICU recovered and families and medical staff celebrated as those babies were discharged from the hospital. They ate hospital food. They slept little. They were exhausted. They became more selfless than they thought they could ever be – life giving unto life.

We are born and then we die and we have little to do with either one of those events, but how we live in between, however brief it is, is what makes all the difference. Braylen’s life was quiet. He never made a noise, never opened his eyes, never moved around and he was able to have a greater impact in his eight weeks than many of us could imagine. This little baby was able to change policy in the NICU, allowing fathers to participate in “kangaroo care” – the magical technique of holding a preterm infant skin-to-skin. In Braylen’s eight weeks, he provided boundless joy from the simplest things. Every one of us found a different part of him absolutely irresistible: his fighting fists, his crazy toe, the soft caramel skin, thick dark hair, his sweet hand that he let anyone hold, his cute nose. People from all over the country, all over the world, watched and prayed and sent notes and love letters and held mass and sent gifts and provided messages of hope and love. They kept his name on their lips and held his name in their hearts. They had acceptance and admiration of this little bear cub and his parents. They continue to hold him in their hearts, forever validating his life.

Life is a sacred adventure. A baby boy was born, lived eight weeks and died. Death begets legacy. So does joy. What will be your legacy of joy to the next generations?

Backyard Dreams

I once had this backyard dream. It was ah-mazing with a pergola, a fire pit, paver patio and blooming flowers that grew without maintenance. I consulted with friends in the business, people who had semi-ah-mazing yardage and also with others that just knew what hard work really meant. I wanted to know how to make this dream reality. Even more so, how to make it happen easily.

I started to make this dream a reality. I plotted my yard. I bought books and read them. I watched how to videos online. I made graphs and charts and measured out the grass beneath my feet with steps adding on 4” for every step my 8” large foot took. I dug dirt –with my hands and sometimes with a shovel. (I once dug a hole for three very long days in Indonesia and hated every inch of the dirt/trash hole created. I came to terms with it in my own way.) I measured things with tape. I loaded and unloaded concrete brick stuff. I leveled things. I started to create a pretty decent fire pit. I hauled more stuff. My point is this: It was intense! Heart-pounding, muscle-hurting, swamp-ass-sweating intense stuff. And then something happened.

I remember sitting in the backyard in a crossed-legged kind of moment after re-arranging the pavers one more time before making it work. (The Hindu priest from Bali would have been so proud of my reflection – especially because I was “sacred” and “powerful” while “celebrating” my menstruation during this time of intense physical activity. Praise deities!) The Hindu Priest may have called it meditation. It was more of a rally cry towards the realization I had been coming to.

Realization that I did not have peace and this ah-mazing backyard was not going to give it to me. The poetry of Kahlil Gibran speaks to this:

“Have you peace, the quiet urge that reveals your power? Have you remembrances, the glimmering arches that span the summits of the mind? Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain? Tell me, have you these in your houses? Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host and then a master?”

Why was I building this backyard?

I knew that my continued efforts to make things amazing had not previously and would not in the future bring peace. If the purpose is to be comfortable, then it is easy to make things amazing. It is in times of challenge and struggle and change that real peace can be understood and acquired. I had become a slave to many things, but mostly to comfort. As long as I was letting other things lead, I was no longer my own master. I dutifully finished my beautiful fire pit and focused my thoughts on my plan to depart. Depart the backyard. Depart the house. Depart the relationships that kept me prohibited. Departed part of myself.

Having an amazing backyard means nothing if your power, mind and heart in your own house have become slave to comfort.

Peace, remembrance and beauty must be the pavers of your soul.

My Feet are Cold and Other Musings while Rolling Through the Deep

Another day. Another really not so good day, but I hear a friend’s voice in the back of my mind reminding me:

“Focus on having more and more good days and linking them together.”

ENTER PERSISTANCE.

Another delayed flight. Delayed plan. Delayed ability to see someone as anything but an asshole. Seriously blinded in this moment and wanting a different time; a different moment. My first love’s voice smiles in my ear:

“Good things come to those who wait.”

ENTER PATIENCE.

Another communication attempt. My phone battery drains, dying from the barrage of e-mails, texts, calls, IMs. My battery drains. Is this really necessary? I remember when electricity was necessary during a winter storm in New York. The girls and I survived without supplied power for a week. There is beauty and peace in that memory.

ENTER SIMPLICITY.

I turn it off.  Kill it.

My feet are cold. I’m tens of thousands of feet in the air suspended in this mystery of flight and all I can think about is how cold my feet are. Really cold. I look out the plane’s window and see the sun. My dad is always reminding me, “The sun still comes up in the morning.” My mom says things like “Shazz-butts.”  Everything looks miniature, as are my problems.

The world is small and I am on top of it.

ENTER PERSPECTIVE.

When you are rolling through the deep, you’d better pack your patience, your persistence and a good dose of perspective and go about your way as simply as possible.

I’m reminded by another friend’s attempt at haiku:

it’s temporary

all these things will fade

you emerge intact

Pretty good attempt. I’m resolved to do just that.

EMERGE INTACT

20 Things That I Love

daughters – a decade ago

My daughters, although they do not belong to me. They have their own thoughts and their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow.

Music that makes me wiggle.

The smell of fresh cut grass.

Waking up without the need for an alarm clock and to the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning.

Being employed in a position that I value with a mission I believe.

Almost anything Italian.

#15 Via Istria, Longare, Italy – my childhood home

Dancing like nobody is watching.

Receiving surprise packages and hand written notes in the mail.

Hydrangeas. I love that they change colors depending on their environment and always deliver a beautiful overflow of petals.

karaoke with colleagues

My colleagues (most of them). They make special event soundtracks for our team with songs like, “Hold On” and “Say What You Need To Say” to get us through the tough days. They will show up with water guns and bubbles to break up the rough spots. They are not opposed to sumo wrestling or paintball as mandated fun and will sing on cue and when needed during a conference call and still manage to get things done.

Making the amount of money I need to survive and living within my means.

Walking through my front door after returning home from a trip. It feels like I am giving myself a giant hug.

The writings of Kahlil Gibran. They make more sense to me than any religious book ever did.

Baby laughter. The sweetest sound.

Brayden laughing

Studying positive psychology. Makes me happy. Go figure.

Relationships that include mutual respect, gratitude, helpfulness, Individuality, humility, humor, loyalty, drive and adaptability.

Making homemade pizza and drinking wine with people I love.

Strong, competent, intelligent female friends.

Bali, Indonesia – pic I took from monastery

Discovering new cultures.

My pursuit of happiness.

Hello Blog. It’s me…and my Edited Flight Plan.

So, yes…it’s been a long time since I blogged. Recently, somewhere along my road I got lost. I got distracted. I got lazy.

I’d like to blame it on my “soon-to-be-but-not-soon-enough-ex-husband” and his change in game plan to suddenly be nice. Not all the time nice, mind you, but at least amicable. At least, most of the time. Whatever it is, he started being nice. And me? Well, I just got confused. Clearly, he is not to blame. Changing to anything from how it used to be is welcomed. Honestly, I should be grateful.

I had been set in my position without knowing it. Playing defense; offensively. I was set and when you are set and the world you know (known as defense to me) shifts, you gotta shift with it or you get lost. And I did. I lost focus at work. I disassociated with family and friends. (It took a lot to spend Christmas with the ones I love the most and it shouldn’t.) I stopped running. I drank more alcohol than I would care to admit. I gained 10 pounds. I stopped writing.

“So, Self…” I said to me….”this playing defense thing clearly is not what I need to be doing anymore.”  Maybe it was useful at the time and helped me to avoid caving into some sort of crazy lunacy, but it is no longer necessary.

So, now what?

As I sit on this plane headed towards California (and seriously looking forward to hanging out with my sister’s girlfriend), I am reminded of flight plans. The thing about flight plans is that they change. They change constantly. A flight plan includes a series of different points the plane “touches” en route (mysterious coordinates involving imaginary lines and degrees that no one can see or touch, but I am told they exist). The plane is expected to hit these points along the way, but things change…weather, interaction with other planes, delays, crazy passengers, etc. and when they do, the flight plan gets adjusted; new coordinates are obtained. The plane still lands at its original destination (almost all of the time), but the route is adjusted along the way based on reality.

“Self, it’s time to change your flight plan. What are you waiting for? Clearly you have had your fill of crazy and it is now time to adjust.”

And so I am.

I am re-assessing.

I am re-focusing.

I am re-booting.

I am adjusting my flight plan. I realize that these mysterious coordinates I am striving for are still destined for more editing along the way. So, I make my edits still focused on my original destination. Look forward to seeing you there.

Authenticity. What a concept.

I am in a manic relationship that I am working on de-stressing. In just a second, a calm friendly conversation is touched by something little, most often insignificant, and the world is changed. An unwelcomed statement, a question, or even impatience at an awkward moment of silence will make the space I share become hostile, dislocated and deranged. I become someone greater than me, or weaker. I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Either way, I have sometimes found myself bordering on becoming reckless, out of control and sometimes I pass that tipping point. Why does this gridlock continue to happen? Why does this other persona within me come forward? Why can I no longer act like a grown-up?

There are many answers to these questions. Some complicated and involved, but the reality is we all typically have moments while interacting with others when we don’t act like grown-ups. When we are threatened with painful interaction, we react often times with reserving our deepest thoughts — pretending, shielding ourselves from being authentic. It isn’t always hostile, but it is juvenile. Technology has made this in-authenticity even easier because there is less accountability in a virtual world. Think of the countless number of posts or tweets or e-mails that you have read or even received that are crafted without being genuine, being masked. The most hurtful things can be shared in these moments of weakness. We think that the masks we put on are to protect us, but the reality is we become counterfeit, less human and more disagreeable — especially to others.

The word “authentic” comes from Greek meaning “one who acts on his own authority.” It is seen in the greatest leaders and is performed in the raw with deeply felt impulses. Acting on your own authority has two parts to it. The internal: your thoughts and the external: how you communicate these thoughts through words or actions. Some of the greatest leaders are great because of their authenticity. Gloria Steinman, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Jr., Vince Lombardi and Nelson Mandela knew something about owning their authority and communicating it, sometimes with very little action at all. They are phenomena. They are great. Most of us are not, but our lives are still important.

So how do we on a small scale conquer authenticity in our daily interactions? How do you de-stress a manic relationship? Nancy Dreyfus suggests talking to people like they are someone you love. She actually offers flashcards as a tool to use to communicate to people. The thought is that holding up the cards can change the course of the communication. Cards that say things like, “You are not being crazy. I can see why you’d be upset with me.” Or “All I want is for you to listen to me with an open heart.” I believe the flashcards are a bit overboard and am amused at the thought of holding one of these up in a heated discussion with my boss or “providing guidance” to my kids, but there is validity around this tool.  The reality is if we could all just have a reminder – visual or otherwise – to stun our communication and redirect our thoughts, we would be in a better place and could possibly avoid the hostility, even if it is passive. The best of us do it naturally. The rest of us may just continue tweeting, posting and sending inauthentic e-mails.

Happy Day!

In my past year I have…

  • Helped to build a house in Bali with a family in need.
  • Made bad decisions.
  • Made new friends that are real and make me happy without a lot of effort.
  • Listened to someone tell me that they honestly believed I had brain cancer or a mental illness and that I needed help.
  • Attended about 20 therapy sessions (maybe they were right?).
  • Reconnected with my high school friend and visited her home devastated by the Alabama tornados.
  • Been offered money in exchange of a night of role playing.
  • Traveled to Bali, Indonesia; Atlanta, GA (10x); New Orleans (LA); Chicago, IL (2x); Bay St Louis, MS; Wilmington, DE; Carolina Beach, NC; Orlando, FL; Washington, DC (x2), Talladega, AL; Jacksonville, FL; Huntsville, AL; Americus, GA (2x), and the Bahamas.
  • Read over 30 books (would like to improve that # this year). My favorites: Authentic Happiness, The Prophet, Predictably Irrational, Flawless Consulting, The Four Agreements, Life of Pi, and The Road Less Traveled.
  • Paid cash to stay in a hotel room twice out of fear that I would be found and harmed.
  • Contemplated whether to “gun it” to watch someone fly off the hood of my car, but decided not to because of the scratches it might leave to the paint.
  • Been followed by a private investigator.
  • Bought a new car, Gennie, after much research (and have no car payments).
  • Received a lovely speeding ticket in that new car (minor setback, but worth the moment; yeah, she runs hot).
  • Had skymiles stolen from me.
  • Had surgery to remove a gall bladder due to gall stones.
  • Had all of my online accounts hacked and then worked to re-establish them.
  • Co-hosted a kick-ass Halloween party.
  • Been threatened–emotionally, physically, mentally, professionally. Repeatedly.
  • Seen Dave Matthews Band in concert (even though they weren’t officially touring this year).
  • Started a blog.
  • Wondered if he really did buy a gun. Still wonder some times.
  • Been honored to watch my mother-in-law take her last breath. Betty passed in June to cancer after we spent much time, love, money and effort in providing her care for many years.
  • Lost relationships to all but three of my previous in-laws to ignorance. Peace be with them.
  • Was tested for an unusual mass around my uterus (it was nothing – phew!)
  • Spent many a sushi dinner with my daughter, Katie.
  • Moved out and survived the last five months re-establishing myself and my finances despite the fact that my assets are tied up and my share of rental income being held hostage.
  • Increased my ability to be more patient and less reactive.
  • Ran my first 5K with my daughter, Erika.
  • Been intrigued at the life of my 82 year old grandmother, Meme, who also died recently from cancer. She spent her entire life serving others is so many ways. She was a cadet co-pilot during WWII, a professional clown, a care provider for many people approaching the end of thier lives, was often bitter and mean to her children and grandchildren and made some of the biggest sacrifices I have ever known any person in my life to make for another human being. She could also play a mean hand of cards.
  • Supported my daughter, Erika, in her debut on homecoming court.
  • Spent many nights with my Aunt Debbie, deepening our relationship after the loss of my Uncle Rod at a young age to a heart attack.
  • Maintained the ability to not be in debt, save money for a cruise with my mom, sister, aunts and daughters, as well as for Christmas 2012 without borrowing, begging or stealing from anyone.
  • Cried a lot more than I thought I would, but for the most part with an agenda.
  • Rediscovered happiness.

I am celebrating my birthday with a review of my successes and challenges in the last year.  I am claiming it a landmark in life — a close to the past year of struggles and immense growth and also to the continuance of my pursuit of happiness and growth, which we are all entitled to and should actively seek. Happy birthday to me.

The thing about money is…

you don’t need it and then you do. The trick is all in the balance.

I have lived the life of no money. I became a single mom with two kids in diapers unexpectedly, recreating myself and paying $1 a month for rent to the US Government. We made the best of it. I made household cleaners out of products you could by with foodstamps. (This was back in the day when you would have to tear out coupons from a book and actually stamp them. We didn’t have the luxury of dignity back then.)  I shopped at yard sales and thrift stores and depended on the generosity of others. I would drink alcohol when it was cheap or free. I used coupons religiously and spent many hours tracking down child support and any benefit afforded to my children and me. I had time to do stuff and not much money. We would take trips to historical sites and free events on the weekends and gifted handmade items for Christmas. I was poor but found happiness.

I have lived the life of money. I remarried and we began to build what I lovingly and often in humor refer to as our “kingdom”. It’s not much in the world of America’s materialism and pursuit of wealth, but it was comfortable. A lot of it in part to a decision made for my husband to pursue a career with a young and growing company versus delivering beer. It was dependent upon my sacrifice of an already established career to allow my husband to take a risk and grow from it. We took the risk knowing that we were young and could rebound should things go array. I re-established my career. We lived well. We accumulated three properties, numerous vehicles, three horses, four dogs, a tractor, 100 pecan trees, a boat, a pool, the ability to take exotic vacations and to never want.  For awhile we were happy. We were busy and had little time to do much else than work. We were rich and I became unhappy. 

Money became the justification for a lot of things in our marriage. The reason to involve ourselves in other peoples’ fuck ups. The reason to work more. The reason why we could only take vacations where there was phone reception. The reason why we did not plan more trips to visit family. The reason why one of us began to feel invincible. The reason why the investment in the person in our marriage making more money became more important than the investment in each other. We ultimately grew distant and pursued different life goals.

The thing about money is that it is for the most part, it is an exchange for time. I remember so many discussions about paying someone to do something for us or giving money away when we were capable of doing it ourselves or giving the money away was to no benefit. I know how much I am paid an hour on any given day and no, it does not make sense to spend two hours of my pay — my time — on dinner for your brother and sister-in-law once again.

The thing about money is that to be happy in your life, you only need enough to maintain your level of comfort, as defined by you. If your comfort requires the ability to travel around the world and stay at the best resorts, you are going to need more money. If you would rather accomplish the same goal by taking the time to research ways to travel more affordably, you can do that too. I remember reaching a point in life where we were no longer living month to month and had a decent amount of savings built up and goals for our retirement. That felt good. I knew my comfort level.

The thing about money is that it never replaces the very most important thing in life–love. The investment in your most precioius family and friends is love. It is most often tangible in the form of time, often unproductive time that is not in the pursuit of anything. It is the gift of shared moments, the creation of memories. It is the gift of yourself – parts of you – dedicated to others in positive ways. Money can sometimes “buy” you more time so that you can spend that on your loving investments, but if you lose sight of love and it becomes a secondary priority along the way or have neglected these relationships as your primary goals, then just what exactly is your thing about money? Ask yourself…what are you making money for anyway?

Killing Trees – Breaking Wind

People talk. Some people talk incessantly. You might be one of these people if those around you never seem to have a lot to say. It’s because you are saying too much. And about what really? People take the power they have in creating the words they use for granted. Words are forceful. They are powerful. Hitler understood the power of word. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood the power of word.

I’ve mentioned The Four Agreements in a previous blog and will again in this one because these beliefs are ones that we should all adhere to. The agreements are guiding principles that I am striving for in my life. Being Impeccable With Your Word is one of these agreements. It is about speaking with integrity, saying what you mean, not speaking evil about yourself or gossiping about others. Overall, it is about using your word in the direction of truth and love. So easy to write and say; so difficult to practice.

Even more difficult at times, is witnessing or being victimized by someone not practicing this belief. So what do you do when others are not impeccable with their word?  It is a question I have asked repeatedly. Some of my closest friends and family have used the power of their word against me in this past year, during a time in which I have experienced significant refinements in my life. Whether they were consciously aware of their actions or simply talking incessantly, I will never know and have become resolved around the fact that it doesn’t matter anymore. I have used these opportunities to create guidelines and peace in my life and hope by sharing, it might help you as well:

#1- Get angry with an agenda! Don’t get angry, but if you do, let it give you purpose. Straight-up anger doesn’t help anything. It does lead to even more negative thoughts of revenge, jealousy, rage and disgust. The purpose of anger is to alert us to danger and typically produces the flight or fight response. Anger is meant to protect us from harm. So use your anger to be alerted and then…

#2- Do something. Do something positive – something that furthers your life goals and meets your needs, but is accomplished with integrity. Correct what was spoken incorrectly. Address the individual directly with what was said and explain the impact.  Make the decision to do nothing and let it pass. Make the decision to use that energy to a good purpose. I ran almost 6 miles one day fueled by anger alone and I felt brilliant again once accomplished!

#3- Don’t talk so much to begin with. I am often an open book when it comes to revealing my life to others. If I decide to share information with others, I should not expect that that is where it will rest. The book, “The Prophet” (Kahlil Gibran) discloses to us, “If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.”  I cannot break the power of wind or slow its’ blow; nor can I kill the trees. Stop the opportunity at its source – you! Don’t give power to others to use your own word in a negative way. Speak of yourself and of others with truth and love, which leads us to…

#4 – Love yourself. If you really love yourself –and by love I mean that you are invested in your own soul, then only express that love in your day to day interactions with yourself and others. It disallows the opportunity for your word to be used incorrectly or against you. It promotes love to others which is a reflection of the love of your own self and brings positive emotion to the world, which we all need more of.

#5 Let people leave you. During a recent Bahamas vacation, my mother paid a beach vendor $10 just to leave us alone. While funny at the time, it made me reflect on all the people in my life I would gladly pay to leave me alone. I believe that one of the greatest gifts someone has ever given me was walking away. When you are not being treated with love and respect only suffering continues. I find this especially difficult with family, but the reality is this: we are all humans and capable of treating each other like shit. Family may deserve a higher tolerance level, but at the end of the day, you must love yourself enough to end needless suffering, no matter who it is causing you the pain.

#6 Finally, remember that what others say is a projection of their own reality. Reality – we all have one of our own and every action we take is born and raised from within our own reality and what we believe to be true. You cannot change another person’s reality and only rarely can you influence it. When people talk, it is a reflection of their own thoughts. If you can accept this, then you will be able to not take it personally, because it was never about you to begin with.

So that’s it, six “simple” (ha ha) ways to avoid/diffuse the impact when people are not impeccable with their word. Again, I strive for these things…and continue to learn and refine myself along the way.

What do you think? What works for you? What do you do? What will you do?

5 Epic Cruise Lessons

I have returned from my recent cruise to the Bahamas and I am skeptical about the “fun” people are having on these fun ships. I must admit, my cruise was unique; even the news covered it. (News4Jax coverage of Cruise) Here are some lessons learned, although I am not sure how epic they really are.

#5 – If you want to smuggle something in or blow something up, do it on a cruise. One of the screening checks on the way in consisted of the security gate inspectors sticking his head into our shuttle van and asking us if we had any weapons. Ummm…..no…??? On the way out, I was not checked nor charged for the numerous over the limit duty-free vodka in my bags. Security is not secure on cruise ships. Just sayin’.

#4 – Free is not always good. I am truly disgusted by the amount of people that appear to go on cruises simply for the all you can eat 24/7 food options…buffet, sit down, room service. Just because it is free, does not mean it is good for you. The average stomach is the same size as your fist. People were walking to their tables with 2 or more plates of food piled high with 3-4 times the amount of food portions that should be digested; so unhealthy. I think my sister said it best, “I’m no health nut, but there are some pretty disgusting things happening on this boat.” The physical trainer I spoke with told me that the average cruiser gains 7-14 pounds during one trip. Holy cannoli! I don’t want to be average.

#3 – All people puke sometimes. Most people puke on rocking boats. For about 27 hours, the cruise was almost like a scene from the Titanic. I believe it possible that the boat may have been attacked by a family of giant squids. People were injured…one lady knocked out cold after a fall down the stairs, a few people on crutches, some lady in a wheelchair got beat up pretty bad. Remember all that free food that people gorged themselves on? Yeah. Want to guess how that turned out? The ship rocking closed the gift shops as items were falling off of shelves and breaking. The bar was closed temporarily as all of the glasses fell to the ground. Shows were cancelled because it was impossible to stand upright for any period of time. Waves were coming up over the ship and flooded rooms in the front and the back of the boat. Electricity actually went out in these sections of the boats. People were sea-sick; they were sick from other people puking and probably scared sick. I stayed tipsy and that seemed to work well.

#2 – Land Sickness is real. Seriously. I am sick today (2 days home) and have the tendency to bump into things because I am dizzy.  I was not sick on the boat despite the 40 foot waves and 70+ mph winds (Big Waves and Wind), but apparently land is not such a good thing for me this week. How does that happen? It’s a condition coined Mal de Debarquement Syndrome literally translated as “sickness of disembarkment”. No bueno.

#1 – My family is fabulous. (a.k.a. Being in 40 foot waves brings clarity.) Okay – so this is not really a lesson, more of a reaffirmation. The majority of my recent extended family interactions have been good examples of the definition that urban dictionary provides, “A bunch of people who hate each other and eat dinner together.” (except we haven’t had dinner together in forever). I am unbelievably thankful for the family I have that believes in the unwritten definition we share. My family has a genuine care and concern for each other and are able to step into that space even if it has been a long time since we last interacted. There is love there. There is an investment in each other. It is unconditional. It is not temporary. It is not greedy. It is forever. This is what family is to me.  This cruise reminded me of the definition of family that I want and need to have in my life. I love my extended family and am so thankful for the times shared together – big waves or not.