22 November 2012

A lifetime of gratitude.

When I was younger (read: 18 or 19...which is totes a far way off from my wise, ripe ole age of 28), I'd make a list of things I was grateful for and post it up on my AIM Away Message every Thanksgiving...these were the days before the iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, and the like...you know, when AIM was cool.  My list would start off pretty generically...I'm super grateful for my family. An obvious statement. I'd then list out a few of my closest friends. My MKA sisters. And rather than digging beneath the surface, I would move on to the more materialistic items I was just oh so grateful for...things like my down comforter (because we all know that I love my sleep, so naturally my bed needs to be akin to paradise), my straightener (because how else would I tame my unruly wavy locks), pumpkin pie (because obvi that's not only a turkey day staple, but basically a slice of heaven in my mouth)....the list went on. and on.

Now, don't get me wrong...Am I still grateful for my hair straightener on the days (which may be few and far between) when I actually want to pull myself together? Obviously. And will I still be uber grateful for the 6 pumpkin pies my mom makes every year without fail? Do I even need to answer that?

But, what am I really, truly, from the bottom of my toes to the innermost core of my heart grateful for? So.freaking.much.more.

Since only God knows if I still have access to AOL instant messenger, I thought it'd be most appropriate for me to write my annual "I'm thankful for..." list in a place that has captured some of my deepest thoughts, stories, worries, and memories over the past couple years.

Exactly one year ago, my cousin passed away at the entirely too young age of 27. I saw him less than a week before his untimely death...and then again one last time the morning of his passing. Unfortunately, we never had a final conversation. I was able to give him a tearful kiss goodbye and asked him to send my love to our grandparents in heaven. But there were no words to be returned to me. I think his heart and soul were already with my grandparents during my final goodbye. Fortunately, many of his loved ones, including my parents, were able to talk to him before he was taken away. While I have no idea what most of those conversations entailed, I do know what he told my parents and I will never forget my mom sitting my sister and I down as she replayed parts of their conversation. With my parents sitting by his bedside, he asked them to send his love onto us. He stressed how important it is to know that everything happens for a reason. And above all else, family and love come first. It is for this understated, simple message that I am thankful for. 

It is this message that I remember when life gets tough. When not everything is black and white and I ask God why? I remember this message when I'm having a bad day - the kind where you think the whole world is turning against you and you have the worst luck ever. Those words give me hope, inspiration, and comfort. But I don't just remember this during the off times. I remember this when life seems absolutely, so amazingly perfect. It is this message that reminds me to be thankful for those times too. It is so easy to take happiness for granted, but when we take a step back to express our gratitude for those times, it makes the tough times...a little less...tough. 

So as I sit here and reflect on the past year and all that has changed in my life in such a short time, I realize all that I am grateful for...not just for today...but for yesterday and for tomorrow. 

So on this Thanksgiving Day, before I head to my hometown to celebrate a day of gratitude with my family, I'd like to share my annual "I am grateful for list." 

My girlfriends. Without you, I quite honestly don't know how or if I'd be able to navigate through this thing called life. You are the very reasons why I have expanded my definition of family. Ashley, the sheer fact that I can ring the doorbell to your house and you can embrace me in my tearful moments means more than you could ever know. Saadia, Being able to fall asleep next to my best friend knowing that I am loved and will always have someone to listen to me...over and over..and over again is something I will never take for granted. Tram, Christine, Tricia, and Jess, knowing that we can go weeks without talking and still pick up where we last ended is quite simply the best. Natalie, who else can I facetime at 6:45 in the morning and ask to call me back in fifteen minutes to make sure I get out of bed and start my day?! Kate and Emily, I don't know anyone else who would put up with me as a roommate. Mtk, I wouldn't want to crash a vacation with anyone else but you. My nursing school friends, my luna girls, and all of my girlfriends, whether you are in my life for a short period, or here to stay, I am thankful for you.

My sister. We fight...a lot. And I can only guess that we always will. But no one makes me laugh the way you do. I am so grateful for you and Bryan and your absolutely over the top, 100% hands down out of control, completely inappropriate shenanigans. You two remind me to not take life too seriously and I thank you for that. 

Connor. Oh Con Con. If you only knew how much you have changed my life...I am literally tripping on gratitude for you. I secretly thank your mommy and daddy for bringing you not only into this world, but into my family, on the regular. 

To those who have shown me what it means to find strength from within...and when that's not possible to know that it's okay to lean onto others. My little Avery and your family. My cousin and her family on this first Thanksgiving without her brother. To my patients at the children's hospital, your resilience and unabashed personas are beyond refreshing. 

Karen and Julie and the rest of the Shuberts. I am so beyond grateful to be surrounded by people like you. I can only hope that I follow in your footsteps. Your strength is unparalleled, as is my admiration for Julie's journey at such a young age. 

To the two homeless men who *just* knocked on my door asking for money. I'm naive and vulnerable to those who ask for help. But the sheer fact that you offered to work for money by raking my yard is something I am grateful for. While some may scoff at this or scold me, I appreciate your humbling words.

My parents. Your support during yet another life change of mine over the past year is undeniably unwavering. I simply could not be more grateful.

...and on that note, for my pseudo father, Andrew. My gratitude for your guidance can never be fully expressed.

To all of the kind people in this world who volunteer their own time for whatever cause is worthy to them. Living in a world where people give back is the only kind of world I want to live in....for this I am thankful. 

For the friends who have entered my life this past year...you know who you are. I don't know what the future has in store for me or for you, but I am thankful for your presence in my life this year. And for all my friends who have been with me through thick and thin. I love you.  

I am grateful for the experiences that have defined this past year...Watching my first C-section delivery and being able to bring a newborn to his parents could not have been more of a sign that I am in the right profession. The words of gratitude expressed to me by these new parents warm my heart to this day....Knowing that I have a physical therapist who is helping me to run again after years of misuse and overuse brings a smile to my face. So thank you, skinny chicken legs for putting up with me and my refusal to quit. Who knew that you could teach me the value of patience. And thank you to my chiropractor for instilling more wisdom within me than you'll ever know.

I am also thankful for being able to spend this past summer with a truly amazing person who will always have a piece of my heart. You have taught me so much about love. 

And, of course, I am thankful that on even the toughest of days, I can go home to little Molly and Mia and they will be waiting to greet me with a million kisses. 

And finally...thank you to little ole' me. I appreciate the patience I have learned to have with myself and my ability to let go, let love and light in, and most importantly, be kind to myself. 

...To my loved ones in heaven, Brent, Grandmom, Pop, Pop Pop, Mindy Lou and everyone else...Happy Thanksgiving from here on earth :)