19 points: Be Thankful

While I try to practice Daily Gratitude; Thanksgiving reminds us to take a moment to pause, eliminate the clutter, reflect on the past year and share what we are thankful for.

gratitude

This year I have quite a bit to be thankful for. 

  1. I’m thankful that Thanksgiving, Channukah AND my 10 year high school reunion all fall on the same weekend, saving me from three separate costly trips home.
  2. I’m thankful I get to spend over a week with my family, since I don’t live close anymore.
  3. I’m thankful I had the courage to move across country to DC.
  4. I’m thankful for new friends I’ve made in DC, particularly Cara.
  5. I’m thankful that I am only two hours away from Terra and Stacey and can just hop on a train at any moment to visit.
  6. I’m thankful for all the experiences I’ve had in the past (two specifically) years that have helped me grow and shape me into the person I’ve become.
  7. I’m thankful for my job. I love that when I get a candidate a job, I am positively impacting their life.
  8. I’m thankful for food, clothing, shelter and clean water. Because really, with these necessities taken care of, everything else is a privilege.
  9. I’m thankful for airplanes. I am still amazed that we can fly through the air in a heavy metal tube to travel to a new location within a matter of hours, rather than days.
  10. I’m thankful that I don’t already have everything I desire. This allows me to have things to work towards, look forward to and strive for, and appreciate it when I receive it.
  11. I’m thankful for my body for allowing me to do everything that I take for granted.
  12. I’m thankful that I don’t know everything. This allows me the opportunity to continue to grow and learn new things.
  13. I’m thankful that no one in my family has any serious health issues.
  14. I’m thankful for my family; although quirky and sometimes I admittedly lose patience quickly, I am blessed to have such a loving and supportive family.
  15. I’m thankful for the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned.
  16. I’m thankful for the difficult times, they have helped me grow.
  17. I’m thankful I don’t have school loans or debt.
  18. I’m thankful that while I like Channukah being so far from my birthday, I am glad that Thanksgivvukah won’t happen again for a long time, another 76,000 years. It just didn’t seem right to be celebrating both together. Hope all you MOT’s enjoyed the combo holiday.
  19. I am thankful for YOU. Thank you for continuing to read, support me and for being apart of my journey. Your presence and loyalty means more to me than words can describe.
thanksgivukah
thanksgivukah menorah and turkey

 

There is so much to be thankful for, my list could go on for pages. So tell me, what are you thankful for this year? 

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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

After talking about it since May of last year, it has finally happened.

Ok. So that is a lie. I’ve actually been telling people that I wanted to live somewhere other than Chicago ever since I returned from living abroad in ’06. I used to joke that I’d live in Austin or Boston because well, it rhymed and I am corny like that, and also because I heard they were fun cities to live in. I love Chicago, it is such a wonderful, beautiful and friendly city. It is my home. I grew up there. A part of me will always belong in Chicago. I don’t think I’ll ever fully leave; it is likely that I’ll be back someday. But I’ve always felt this strong draw to get out, to experience living elsewhere and to challenge myself to live outside of my comfort zone. I need a change. I love growing and experiencing new things and staying in one place my whole life limits that.

So last year when everything changed and I started to reevaluate my life, I recognized that I wasn’t truly being the most authentic version of myself. While I am extremely grateful for my friends in Chicago who have come into my life recently, I still felt something was missing. I realized I was a dreamer and a talker but not really doing anything about said dreams. As part of The Year of CarynI immediately began to take action towards putting my plans in motion for figuring out what I needed to do to make myself truly happy. 2012 was the start of doing things now and just because it is 2013, a new year, that doesn’t mean the momentum from 2012 has to stop.

After I visited DC for the second time last year, a friend said, “You should just move here” and with that it hit me that there is no better time than now to fulfill that dream. This is the perfect time in my life to pick up and move to a new city. I don’t have a boyfriend or a husband or any children, and I don’t even have a full-time job for that matter right now. If there was ever a time to have a new beginning, this was it.

People ask why DC? The truth is I have friends here so that made the decision easier, but it was honestly just a gut feeling. So far my gut hasn’t steered me wrong and has led me to great adventures and tremendous growth. When I visited over New Years, I almost signed with two other apartments, but for reasons here and there I had reservations. I nearly gave up but then on whim I skyped with these two girls and that was it. Again, in my gut I instantly knew they were the right choice. I quickly signed the lease and had 13 days to sell all my furniture, sublet my apartment and pack everything up. The last two weeks have been a complete whirlwind. People say moving is super stressful but because I know in my heart that this is where I’m supposed to be now, I was calm and not stressed.

Turns out my life fit into only 16 boxes. What wasn’t sold or donated (which was an embarrassingly large amount of clothing and chotchkes) was brought back to my parent’s place. I decided to ship everything instead of renting a truck and driving it out myself. They came and got my boxes and it felt like you move for free without the hassle of the heavy lifting or the stress of driving it out there yourself. Plus, it was all trackable and insured.

boxes

My apartment was perfect; I’ll miss living on my own in such an affordable spacious place. Closing the door to my apartment was harder than I expected. It was truly symbolic of that chapter in my life coming to an end. I had managed to collect gift certificates to various local places and enough booze to last me a lifetime so it gave me great pleasure to share it with friends instead of throwing it out (once opened, you can’t ship it). I am grateful that I got to say goodbye to so many friends over dinner while also spending two days with my parents before leaving town.

Fast forward to Friday, February 1st. Timing couldn’t have worked out any better, even if I tried. I was able to hug and say goodbye to my parents at the airport gate because their flight (they left for a cruise the same day) was to leave only 10 minutes after mine. I was reminded just how much more personal and emotional it is to say goodbye at the gate like we commonly used to do pre-9/11, rather than being rushed away by curbside security. Looking after them as they walked toward their gate was very emotional. I was excited about this new adventure but saying goodbye not knowing when I will see my parents, my puppy, and friends again was difficult. It was horribly bittersweet. When I studied abroad or went to Tanzania, there was always a known return date in the near future. I know that I am only a 90-minute flight, a call or even FaceTime away, but this time I have no idea when or if I’ll return to Chicago. I’ve never lived (permanently) away from Chicago and am used to going home when I want. It will be hard to not be able to go home for the weekend on a whim, at least without having to buy a plane ticket first. I am blessed to have such a close, loving and supportive relationship with my parents and that makes it harder than all other goodbyes.

Whenever I go away for a big trip like studying abroad in Italy, volunteering in Africa, or even going away to over night camp as a kid, my mom always wrote a letter for me to read on the plane and this was no exception. After our hugs and tears and goodbyes at the gate, they sat on their plane and I on mine, at the same airport, texting in a group chat. It was utterly adorable and made me smile through my tears. I was totally that crazy girl on the plane with tears streaming down her face for no apparent reason.

As I was walking off the plane, feeling oddly stuck between two worlds, my new apartment building called to tell me all 16 of my packages had arrived a day early. It seemed to snap things back to reality and things were already off to a good start. I immediately began unpacking and making this place my new home.

I know that I am just beginning my new adventure and that I chose and needed this change in my life. Everything in the past year has led up to this. Although my family is extremely important to me and I will miss them tremendously, I am excited to begin this new journey and to be closer to so many wonderful friends.

I am proud of myself for taking an active role in making my dreams a reality. I am proud that I didn’t procrastinate this move. I know this is only the beginning and that it isn’t going to be easy at first. There will be a lot of adjustments and change and it will come with a large amount of challenges, struggles and compromises. I will need to be patient and open to new experiences. The thing about change is that it forces you outside of your comfort zone and disguises itself as something painful and uncomfortable. But once you accept it, you forget you were ever worried in the first place. It becomes the norm. You just have to trust the change.

As I was saying my goodbyes, I couldn’t help but get the lyrics to Semisonic’s Closing Time stuck in my head, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.This is my new beginning. Now it is time for me to embrace the change and challenges that may come and just enjoy this new adventure.

After talking about it for so many years, it has finally happened.

Source: gitamba.com via Caryn on Pinterest

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.*This post was supported by UMoveFree. All comments are my own.*

We’ve lost the meaning of Thanksgiving

Every year as a kid my mom would make us all go around the Thanksgiving table and share aloud one thing we were grateful for. While I didn’t appreciate or really understand her intentions at the time, (I thought she was just being your typical annoying quirky mother) this annual act of gratitude managed to impart upon me the importance of being grateful. Turns out, she wasn’t trying to be annoying, she truly understood the meaning of Thanksgiving. This is a tradition that I will no doubt carry on with my own family, even if they think I am annoying too.

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Walmart recently announced that it would be opening its doors at 8pm on Thanksgiving night, two hours earlier than last year. 10pm still stinks but at least it is after dinner whereas 8pm cuts into family time. Regardless of whether or not the two hours makes a difference, why are stores opening their doors at all on Thanksgiving day? Why can’t they wait until 12am for Black Friday? Why do retailers feel the need to cut into time that should be spent with loved ones? Is getting a good deal really more important than family? I am glad to see that Walmart employees are petitioning this, because they, like the rest of us, deserve to have time off to spend time with their friends and relatives for the holiday.

It is true, not everyone has the day off. Doctors, firefighters, police and waiters in restaurants, etc. give up their holiday for the needs of the public, for the greater good. But is it really a necessity for retailers to be open? Is this really for the greater good? Or just corporate greed? The retail giants market the doorbuster deals as being better the earlier you shop, but are shoppers really going to get better discounts just because the doors open before Black Friday? The doorbuster deal should remain the same no matter what time the doors actually open whether it be at 8pm or 4am. I don’t see it as creating or bringing in any new sales that wouldn’t have otherwise existed; I see it as retailers just moving the sale from Friday to Thursday. Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday have blended together and transitioned into one big shopping holiday, time we get off from work and school to shop and eat.

It is bad enough that we stuff our faces until we can’t move anymore, but we have to go and add insult to injury when people get into physical fights over toys. It is ironic that while at dinner we share what we’re grateful for, yet turn into monsters that very night and fight over things we don’t need.

While we are gorging and fighting over junk, there are people out there who are starving and fighting just to survive. Americans have developed this warped sense of what we “need.” What people need is to put life into perspective and realize what is truly a necessity and what is not. Can’t we use that energy and money we’re spending on chotchkes to help people who really need it?

It is sad; Americans seem to have lost the meaning of Thanksgiving. We have misplaced our priorities and forgotten what truly is important. Yes, we might watch the parade and football while a delicious meal cooks in the oven, but Thanksgiving itself isn’t just about tables full of great food nor is it about getting the best discount on holiday gifts and junk. It’s about remembering the pilgrims, spending time with family and friends and taking time to be grateful for what we have. The name itself says it all – it is about giving thanks, not about wanting more. Thanksgiving is a time, not only to give thanks for everything we have, but to give back to those who are less fortunate.

Just what we are grateful for varies for everyone; there are people who are grateful for less than what you have, Sandy survivors who are just thankful to be alive, the immigrants who are thankful to be celebrating their first Thanksgiving as a US citizen, the people in the shelter who are thankful to have a meal at all, the cancer survivor who is thankful to have lived to see her son’s wedding, or the daughter who is grateful that her father’s quadruple bi-pass surgery was a success, etc. Yet, we have companies saying that our priority this holiday should be about shopping.

This is the one time of year that we are reminded to pause our busy lives for a night to reflect on what we are grateful for while we eat surrounded by friends and family. So this Thanksgiving, please take a few minutes to set aside everything that Thanksgiving has come to represent to reflect on what you are grateful for this year. Please encourage your family to go around the dining table and share something they are grateful for, too. Just as my mother did, start that as a tradition in your house, too. Listen to what others are thankful for. When we hear all the things that others are thankful for, it reminds us that we are all thankful for different things and that there is so much to be grateful for in this world. But it isn’t the elaborate details of what we are thankful for that matters. It is the simple fact that we are taking the time to appreciate what we have and reflect on that.

Lets go back to basics and rediscover the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Lets surround ourselves with our loved ones, our family and friends and give thanks.

Have a very happy and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.

The ripple effect of our decisions

Life works in mysterious ways. The decisions we make have a ripple effect on everything that happens thereafter. When I called off my wedding in January, I knew that my life would never be the same and that I suddenly forced myself (and him too) in new and separate directions. I knew that my path immediately became one full of pain and sadness, of self-reflection and discovery, focusing on my dreams, one without my best friend and that somewhere down the road, likely years from now, we would hopefully both meet someone else to fill the hole I created. I knew the decision I made directly impacted both he and I and those who had to help lift us up, but didn’t realize how far the ripples of my decision would continue to flow.

When we make decisions, big or small, we have no idea in that moment, where the pieces will fall. At the time the decision is made, we cannot fathom the impact that it will have on us or those around us, or even those whom we have not yet met. We do not know what will be in the near or distant future. Sometimes the impact will be obvious and other times, we won’t have a clue. We think we have control, and in the moment we may, but in the end, we really don’t have control of it at all. What will be will be. The dominoes will fall where they are meant to fall and lives other than your own will be touched.

Had my wedding still happened as planned, I would never have deemed this The Year of Caryn, never would have started Tweetup For Change, would never have gone to Africa to pursue my dreams and would have already returned from my honeymoon. I’d be a wife. Instead, because of my decisions, so much is different. All because of a personal decision that I made back in January.

My new path has set in motion new possibilities and affected both my future and the future of those around me. I will meet someone someday whose path will cross with my new path.

Have you had any experiences like this where a decision you made had an unexpected impact on someone else?

I’m on a boat! You sure this isn’t just a floating city?

Some people have been asking, “Where is your post about your vacation?” I honestly debated because the goal of this blog isn’t to be a diary. However, due to popular demand, I have decided to share a bit about the week that I spent at sea with Mr. Fiancé’s family.

There were four pools, two on each side separated by the Central Park in the center, 8 floors down!

 

I love traveling and cruising is a great way to do it. While different vacations require different things, sometimes, cruising can be a perfect vacation – you have sun, entertainment, travel, professional photos, lodging, casinos, and 24/7 food, all-inclusive, in one spot! People cook for you and clean up after you. I love laying out and relaxing on the pool deck,  a strawberry daiquiri in hand, listening to Caribbean music like Bob Marley or UB40.  (Tell me you hear Red, Red Wine and don’t think of the Caribbean?) This t

Mr. Fiancé has the sweetest, most loving little Nanny any grandchild could ask for.  Her goal in life is for her family to be happy so it was her pleasure to take both her children and their respective families on a Royal Caribbean cruise for a week. All 11 of us ate dinner together every night, served by one of the best waiters I have had on a cruise, bar none.  Even though I will not officially be part of the family for another year, I am lucky to have been included on this family trip as if I were already family.

My own family loves to cruise and I am lucky enough to have been on all the major cruise lines and to the Caribbean before. So, where we went this time was not important. I was just absolutely thrilled to be included. We were scheduled to go to Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas; and St. Maartin. The Oasis, was a bit on the big side, to put it mildly. Afterall, it is the largest ship on the seas, today. It is bigger than some towns! There were 5,000+ passengers and 2,000 crew.  Our first port was Nassau, where we explored the Atlantis for a bit. Apparently without purchasing an expensive day pass, you can’t really see much. Womp! When we got back on board, Mr. Fiancé’s brother told us we were changing course due to a hurricane! That little jokester, I thought he was kidding. But sure enough, there was a note in our stateroom that said we were changing course due to a tropical storm that was 100% likely to become a hurricane.  100%? Yeah, that sounds like a guarantee to me. GET ME OUTTA HERE! So the Captain made the executive decision to avoid that and head west to Mexico. I heard some passengers complaining, and I really can’t understand why. Would you really rather travel straight into a hurricane? Really people?  You are on a vacation, on a boat, floating in the sea. Be thankful there is radar technology to detect this. Stop complaining and enjoy your vacation. We thought it might affect us when we were returning to Florida, but it dissipated near Haiti. Thank goodness!  The seas were like glass and we had the most perfect weather you could ask for. I even saw dolphins chasing the side of the boat!  Dolphins! In the wild!  Every cruise I go on, I always look over the edge but never see this. I was like a little girl in Disney World for the first time!

Instead, we sailed to Costa Maya and Cozumel.  In Costa Maya, we went to a beach with an open bar. At the port, there was a pool in the middle of the shopping area.  We swam for a bit, until his cousin puked in the pool. GROSS! Even if I saw a shark, I don’t think I could have gotten out any faster! I bolted.

Costa Mayan port pool. In the distance you can see The One and Only Huge Boat.
I think they forgot they were writing in English.

In Cozumel- I saw a jewelry factory and ate Mexican food! You would think Mexico would have the best Mexican food, but sadly, I make better guacamole.  But the water in Cozumel is GORGEOUS!  Crystal clear sea green, turquoise blue and deep blue, all together. Four of the grandchildren and I went on a snorkeling catamaran. There were a lot of people on this excursion, but to my surprise, the fish around the reef still came near the swimmers anyways.  It completely astonishes me that under the water’s surface is an entirely different world.  Sharks, whales, dolphins, sting rays, octopus, fish, and all kinds of sea creatures, all have their own life that you cannot see when you are floating atop the water. But when you snorkel or scuba you get a small glimpse into their world.

Does it getting any prettier than this?
Would you buy anything from this store?

Back on the boat, I realized it surprisingly didn’t feel big at all, despite its 16 floors, 7 ‘neighborhoods’ and endless entertainment opportunities.  In fact, I wondered if I explored all there was to see on the ship because it was just so easy to find your way around. It was the most brilliantly designed ship I have ever been on. I am not kidding, you could fit an entire other cruise ship inside it and not know the difference!  One comedian even joked the Norwegian Sky passengers were relaxing in port  on their top deck tanning until The Oasis pulled up next to it (hear: Star Wars Imperial March song) and suddenly the sun was gone!

The back of the boats are lined up. Look how HUGE The Oasis is!

The boat has beautiful tree-lined Central Park neighborhood in the middle of the boat. That’s right, trees on a boat!  Necessary? No.  Brilliant? Yes. Listening to a guitarist play classical music, under the stars, sitting in a park, while floating at sea was extremely relaxing and pure perfection! There was a full-sized carousel, a zip line, two rock-climbing walls, a basketball court, putt-putt course, and a simulated surfing wave pool in the back of the boat.  I wanted to try the zip line and FloRider, but didn’t have the chance. There was just so much to do and so much sun to soak up.

Central Park. Yes, this is on a Boat.
Park benches

Most boats have the running track on the same level as the pool causing joggers to trip over people laying out. Not this behemoth.  It had a state-of-art gym and a designated open-air private running track equipped with motivational signs to keep you going. Genius. We saw the Broadway hit Hairspray and a water acrobatic diving show during the sea days.  The boat even had a floating bar that vertically moved from floor to floor, but this was anti-climatic and actually quite problematic if you had to use the bathroom.

Despite the hurricane detour, this was one of the most delightful cruises I have been on. I came back from vacation feeling rejuvenated, refreshing and relaxed.  Isn’t that what a vacation is supposed be like?!

I had 1 1/2 of these puppies. Look at that portion size!
Carousel in the Boardwalk neighborhood

 

Look what Nanny did on a 2 cent machine!! I can’t even get one row!
Alice in Wonderland chair

How do you like to travel?  Have you cruised before? What is your favorite cruise line? What is your perfect vacation?