Simplifying Christmas

 

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For me, the holidays have, in recent years, been filled with a bit of trepidation and anxiety. All of the pressure involved for me includes trying to feel the spirit of the season while trying to get everything done that is necessary.

During the last few years of my mother’s life, she expressed this same feeling of holiday anxiety. She complained about putting up decorations, and getting all of her shopping done. So, one year I bought her a Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, and told her that it really can be simple if only you want it that way. We put so much pressure on ourselves (YES, we do that – no one does it to us)!

However, I have not followed those words of advice until recently. This year, I decided to keep it simple. I put up a few special decorations to make my home feel festive, but did not drag the tree out of storage (mainly because my kitten would probably pull it down:)). I figured that I will be leaving to visit Chicago on Christmas Day, so why bother.

Simplifying the holidays has really lightened my load. I chose to find ways to spend time with friends and family instead of buying gifts while money is tight. I am praying, and am fairly certain, they will understand. This eliminates the financial pressure, but I am also finding that it is way more enjoyable to spend a day with a friend versus the few moments of joy in opening costly gifts. The joy I will experience while spending the holidays in Chicago visiting everyone far surpasses any joy from gift giving/receiving.

My students laughed at first when they saw the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree that I displayed on my classroom desk. However, when I told them the story behind it and showed them the Charlie Brown Christmas video, they understood. Simple can be SO much better, so much more meaningful, and bring so much more joy.

Merry Christmas!!

~ Patti Crowley

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Where is Home?

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I have now been in Arizona for 15 months, and soon will be heading back to Chicago to visit for the first time since I moved. You know the saying… “Home is where the heart is.” ¬†I believe this to be true today more than ever. Although my mailing address is in Arizona, a HUGE part of my heart will always be with those I love back in Chicago. Luckily, I have made so many new friends in my new location which has given me even more reasons to love my life surrounded by the desert mountains.

Those who have not moved around may not completely understand the quote above. I have been given the opportunity to experience the “richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place”. How lucky am I? ūüôā

The only drawback to moving across the country is not truly being able to identify where “home” really is. I love my life in Arizona, but at this particular time, my adult children, family, and many friends are back in Chicago. It is as if I live in the midst of two separate, yet deeply connected worlds. It has recently occurred to me that when I think of a place called home, it really does not exist.

So, I suppose home really is where the heart is. It exists wherever those I love exist. It is really not a physical place, but a feeling. In two weeks, I will go back home to Chicago to visit. Then, when the visit is over, I will return home to Arizona. Isn’t it a beautiful thing?

~ Patti Crowley

Real Connections Never Disappear

IMG_4595 (1)Throughout our lives, people come and go. You’ve heard the saying, “People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.”

Everyone has a purpose for entering our lives. Maybe you worked with them, got to know them, and then left that job for another, losing contact altogether. Maybe they were your classmate in college, you were incredibly close, and maintained a friendship long after graduation. Maybe you loved them, and then drifted apart, only to wonder about them often.

When we experience connections which are deep and real, they never really disappear. They may lie under the surface, completely intact. The person with whom you shared the connection remains a real part of who you are. Now, if you are lucky to have the opportunity to reconnect… if that relationship was real, it will be as if no time has ever passed.

I have enjoyed so many seasonal friendships over the years. I hold no regrets about the past, and the people who entered, and then left, my life. Many of those friendships, in retrospect, turned out to be friendships for a reason. Maybe they taught me something about life, or even about myself. Maybe I was the one to add something to their lives. Whatever the reason, I cherish each and every one, because I am who I am today because of every contact, every emotion, and every lesson.

Now the lifetime friendships… well, we never really know which relationships will be of this type… at least at first. Maybe we will never really even realize it. The relationships that are meant for a lifetime are the ones that stem from real, true, honest connection of one soul to another. Usually, you can tell in an instant that the friendships are special. These friendships are effortless, refreshing, and true.

Lifetime friendships can ebb and flow, where you move into and out of each others lives at times. However, with these true connections, each time you reconnect, it is as if no time has passed at all.

All types of relationships are worthwhile, and help us to become who we are. But the lifetime friendships… now those are the ones worth living for. They bring immense joy into our lives, and help us to see meaning in our lives. Hang onto these… cherish them… and enjoy the fact that they will never fade away… if they are really real!

~ Patti Crowley

I Got Something Perfectly Right

perfectAfter six long months, my adult children have come to Arizona. It is the first time I’ve seen them since I moved here from Chicago in June of 2014. My daughter has moved here permanently, and my 22 year old son is visiting. Life is good!

My decision to move across the country was met with much judgment and many questions, as I’ve chronicled in previous blog posts. I was looked at as selfish by a few of my closest friends, while others completely supported my decision to better my life and start anew. Regardless, I have held fast to the belief that this move was something I was meant to do, and had been waiting for my entire life.

Now that my children are here, I have this feeling that I’ve done something perfectly right… after a lifelong gnawing voice had been telling me I was not perfect. I now fully realize that I will never be perfect, and I have stopped trying to be. However, when I look at my kids, I realize I did do something perfectly right… right for them and right for me.

If the decisions we make throughout our lives have good intentions, then what we have done has been done perfectly right. It does not matter how others view our decisions. They are not living in our shoes… they have not had our experiences… they simply do not know the whole story. Every lesson I have ever taught my children, every piece of advice I have ever offered, and every word I have ever said was taught, offered, or uttered with love and good intentions. If that is truly the case, then how could I have achieved any result that is even less than perfect?

I choose to look back on my life with pride. I am not saying I never made any mistakes… hell, no! ¬†Instead, I am simply saying that I always hoped for the best and did what I thought was best at the time. You could never ask for more than that.

~ Patti Crowley

Life Moves Pretty Fast!

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This quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of my all time favorites. However, isn’t it funny that we can hear quotes like this over and over, but we ignore the message. Yesterday, I was on my early evening run, and I noticed some beautiful fall blooms. As this is my first fall here in Arizona, I am constantly seeing new things, and these flowers were so pretty that I had to stop. But unfortunately, I stopped just long enough to snap a quick photo with my iPhone so that I could post on Facebook when I got back.

Did I breathe in their sweet fragrance? Did I linger just long enough to truly appreciate their beauty? Nope! I snapped the photo quick and got right back to my run. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I do not enjoy the views while I run, but the fact that I stopped long enough only to take a photo speaks volumes about the way many of us, myself included, live our lives.

I have to admit that I am getting much better at opening my eyes and seeing, truly seeing, what is around me. Ever since moving here this past June, I marvel at the views of the mountains on my drive into work each day. Last night, I was driving to a girlfriend’s home at sunset. Up north, there was this gorgeous set of isolated cloud formations in view. Within that formation, there was intermittent lightning, and it was spectacular. I found myself smiling at the wheel, loving the light show.

But the beauty does not end with nature. So many of us would rather text each other, skype, or send messages on Facebook than actually get together and spend time with each other. We say that life is busy. Now that may be true, but life should never be so busy that we avoid that personal connection, that face-to-face time with each other. I miss so many of my family and friends back in Illinois, and have no choice but to rely on technology to maintain the connection for now. But how many of us have our family and friends within reach, yet we rely on texting as our main means of communication?

Worse yet… how many of us find that even when we are in the presence of our family and friends, we are still looking at our phones?! I see this every single day! Sitting at a cafe having lunch yesterday, I watched a family sitting together at a table. The father was on his phone, and one of his daughters was also on her phone. The mother looked off to the side, watching others in the cafe. It made me sad.

This video says it all. Please take just a few minutes to watch this. It’s message is invaluable.

Put Down Your Phone

So even if just for today… Let’s commit to putting down our phones and looking around!

~ Patti Crowley

 

The Teacher is Always Quiet During a Test

When looking back over the past year, I have discovered that my back had been turned on God. Oh, I talked the talk, but even I wasn’t buying the BS I was spouting. Last year around this time, my business was failing, I was slowly running out of money, I endured a life-threatening illness, my health insurance was unexpectedly dropped, my “just paid off” car suddenly died, and the list goes on. I got through each day somehow, but if I am completely honest with myself, I see that my faith disappeared. I was questioning my God every moment along the way, wondering why He was letting all of this happen to me.

So I turned my back on God, and walked away, an empty shell. Without even really recognizing what I was doing, I was obviously saying, “Fine, I’ll do it my own way since you are not helping me, God!” My own way just doesn’t cut it… I have proven that time and time again.

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I saw this saying this morning. It stopped me in my tracks. I was a teacher for years, and I remember on test day, my college students would arrive, take their test forms from me, and go to their desks in silence prepared to take their exam. I remember saying to myself, “Okay, I have given them the tools to pass this test, now it is up to them.” This is what God is saying to me daily, but last year, I was ignoring Him.

Last night, I heard a man on television telling a story. He had suffered a traumatic childhood, and as a result, he claimed to have turned his back on God. In telling a trusted friend this story later in his life, his friend looked at him and said, “All you need to do is turn around.” That was so profound to me. God is always there, silently waiting for us to live the lessons He has already taught us. There are times in our lives where we feel like He has left us out there alone, clinging to the edge of the cliff for dear life. It is in those times, where we feel most alone, that all we need to do is simply Turn Around!

~ Patti Crowley

Old Age Beats the Alternative

alternativeThis cracked me up… It is exactly how I feel today. One year closer¬†to half a century old. Okay, okay, so I have a few years left before I turn the big 5-0. For the past 6-7 years, I have said each year on my birthday that old age is still far better than the alternative. Oh, how true!

Growing older brings about feelings of what we could’ve done, should’ve done, and have yet to do before time runs out. Pretty dismal thoughts, right? But the truth is, I am at a place in my life where I simply do not want to live with regrets. I wake up each day and try to do the next right thing. Sure, there are things I have yet to do. I will get to them, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

So today is my birthday. My children are still in Illinois, and I am here in Arizona. I miss them¬†so very much, but they both called to wish me a happy birthday. Trust me, the fact that my 21 year old son remembered AND actually called me is a miracle in and of itself. Not having them here gives me too much time to think about the actual birthday event, and in thinking of¬†turning 47, I suppose I should be making a bucket list. Then I wonder, “What’s the point?” As things come up that I want to do or accomplish, I can either set my mind to make them happen, like making this move to Arizona, or I can decide they aren’t really all that important after all. I look at people who have made up bucket lists with things like the following:

1. Climb Mt. Everest.

2. Skydive.

3. Drive a race car.

I mean, seriously, how important are these types of bucket list items? If you want to climb Mt. Everest, start collecting your spare change in a jar marked “mountains”. ¬†If you want to drive a race car, post something on facebook. Chances are you have a friend somewhere, who knows someone,¬†who knows someone with a race car hobby.

I say, forget the lists. Start living now. Want something to happen? Damnit, make it happen. Have a dream? Start living it right this very minute. There is no dream worth putting off. If it seems unattainable, figure out a way to make it attainable. Where there is a will, there is a way. Believe me on this!

~ Patti Crowley

Life Isn’t About Finding Yourself… It’s About Creating Yourself

Browsing around Barnes and Noble, I saw a plaque with the following saying on it:

Creating yourself

Believe it or not, I had never heard that quote before. The funny thing is, when I moved from IL to AZ just under a month ago, many of my friends asked if I was trying to find myself. I laughed it off, and said that I’ve been looking for a long time and haven’t found anything yet!

I suppose that answers the question for me. I will never “find” myself. The only self I will be showing to the world is the self which I create. I don’t want to find myself… Instead, I want to create the me that I want to be.

We have the power to be who we want to be, do what we want to do, and go where we want to go. I proved that to myself by picking up my life, packing it all in a 20 foot U-Haul truck, and moving myself across the country on a leap of faith. I want to create a “me” with whom I could see myself being best friends. Think about it… don’t we all want to be the person that others want to be around.

I am creating, and re-creating, myself each and every day. I am not looking to find out who I am. I will never know that for sure. So here I sit, writing, looking forward to each new day, and praying for the guidance to help me be the best ME I can be!

~ Patti Crowley

See Ya Later


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Last week, I piled everything I own on a truck, hooked my car up for the tow, and drove from Chicago to Arizona. To say this was challenging would be putting it mildly. However, the real challenge was leaving behind my kids, who I hope will eventually join me permanently. My 22 year old son is already out living on his own, but my 18 year old daughter will be staying behind her first year to attend her freshman year of college in IL. She is planning to move to AZ next year to attend school here. But for now, this is the hardest thing I have ever done. I did not realize how much I would miss her. I kept saying to her, “Meg, it’s okay. It will just be like you are leaving me to go to college a little early.” The truth is… I was the one leaving her.

I was in my 30’s, married with children, when my parents decided to pack up and move to Nevada. I was devastated, and thought they were being selfish. But as time went on, I understood that it was something they had desperately wanted to do, maybe even needed to do. They spent the last years of their lives enjoying life in the mountains.

So as Megan and I packed up all of our things, we had different boxes for her. Some were labeled “Arizona”, for when she comes to visit, and others were labeled “college”. We sat on the floor of her room packing those boxes, and I believe that is when the reality of it all set in. I always worried that I would have such a rough time when my baby left for college, but here I was doing the leaving first.

Saying goodbye was heartbreaking, for both of us. But it isn’t goodbye… just see ya later! As I drove away, with tears in my eyes, hauling everything I own in that 20 foot truck, I realized what I carried on that truck was just STUFF. What I really have is love… love for my children, love for the friends I left behind, and love of the life we have all built together. None of that goes away… life changes, relationships change… but they don’t end. Meg comes out to visit this weekend, and I cannot wait to see her! When she leaves to go back and prepare for her first year of college, it won’t be goodbye. We will just say, “See ya later”.

~ Patti Crowley

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