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Open Your Door and Let Love In

     Yesterday, my husband was straightening up the hallway upstairs, something we rarely do. He is not even sure why he had the motivation to do so. But, he came across a white pillar candle that was Natalie’s First Holy Communion candle from May 2, 1998….exactly 18 years ago! He paused and called me up to see it. He lit the candle and prayed and thanked God for giving this little sign from heaven. What a beautiful reminder of how important it is to have your children receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. Today, I received a beautiful plant from a friend who raised her son Nicholas along with our son Evan. She simply wanted to remind me of the beautiful memories she has of Evan’s beautiful little sister watching the “big boys” play.  May is filled with new life, blossoms, signs of goodness and people reaching out.

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What is the likelyhood of my husband coming across this candle exactly 18 years later? The reminder of Natalie’s First Holy communion day and the little signs from Heaven above.

 

Episode 33. Open Your Door. Guest Julie Snyder.

 

 

     Julie Snyder has been the friend at my side. Not only did she set up camp at our house when this tragedy happened to us, she also planned the funeral, made the program, and organized everything we were too numb to do. But perhaps the best gift Julie gave me was hiring Natalie in the summer of 2011 to be one of the first interns at BCBS in the Communication program. That meant Natalie would be home in Buffalo spending all her free time with us. A gift so great ..that the word priceless falls short. Natalie with her positive energy, making us meals, motivating us to work out, organizing the house, taking time for others and inviting people over. Life was always so much better with Natalie.

    Julie understands our family and has been a major part of it. She knows us deeply and personally. She nicknamed Natalie ..Nat-a-leah-a. She thought I took too many pictures of her and all my kids, she was a witness to me ending any phone call abruptly if the caller ID said Natalie.

     When you open your door to others and expose ourselves, life is richer. Remember the song by the Goo-Goo Dolls to “Let Love In.”

      Isn’t life better when we involve and invite other people in our life? Isn’t life so much deeper when we watch other children grow up and take part in their lives? Loving others that are just not our own is so satisfying.

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Julie has always been at my side all the years we were raising our children.

      God dispenses grace through human beings. There is so much bonding that happens when we celebrate joyful times together. Yet when we experience suffering, and life gets messy, it’s when we really bond and realize we can get through anything. Marriages unite. Friendships solidify. Our faith is strengthen. Open your door, allow people inside and let love in.

Sincerely, Trish

 

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Natalie working as a Summer Intern for BCBS and being filmed for a commercial.

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Natalie was the best hula hooper around and people would stop and say “Hey Hula Girl!”

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Julie and Natalie at the far left at a luncheon in 2014.

 

Mother’s Day Reflection

     A couple people have come up to me and asked me how I cope during Mother’s Day knowing what happened two years ago. I wanted to share this reflection.

     I keep myself open to the messages from up above which maintain my faith and strength throughout my days. Last night was a perfect example. During the night, I was blessed to have such beautiful memories of raising Natalie flood me during her grammar school years. I was living the years that go by so fast in life. Natalie in her pony tail braids and wearing her favorite corduroys to school with her penny loafers. Natalie who was so obedient, cooperative, easy to wake and happy to go to school. It all came rushing back. What an amazing child I was honored to call our daughter.

    I feel like God was leaving me a message…your years with Natalie are inside of you and will never leave you.

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Natalie with her brother during their St. Rose of Lima School Years.

     After daily mass, I told our seminarian Robert at St. Rose about my vivid memories of these priceless years and he paused and told me such comforting words. No one has the “right” to be alive. God gives us this gift of life. No parent has the “right” to have children. We must be grateful to God for giving us the gift, the magnificent gift, of children. If we lose a child, it is important that we do not regret or lose faith over the situation we are now living. Thank God for all the happy memories that we shared and blessed us with having Natalie.  All the wonderful years that we were able to enjoy and love her so much here on earth was a beautiful gift.

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     Opening your eyes to a new perspective on this journey of life is so comforting. How wonderful it is to surround yourself with people of faith. Mother’s day is to be celebrated with a “Thank-You” to God on our knees for the honor and privileged to be a mother on earth. It’s important to love and nurture all children that cross our path. If the life we are given is not a “right” , why waste it? Live it fully, joyfully and gratefully. I know what a gift Evan Jr and Caroline are and what a gift it is to be Natalie’s mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Can I Borrow A Cup of Sugar?

     There are neighbors and there are neighbors who become friends. Friends because they are so special and you share so much in common. Pam is an exceptional person. She has the ability to put herself out there for the neighbors. She helps those in need, checks in on the elderly neighbors, hugs all the kids, and is always willing to listen. She is a giver and always has a smile on her face and a big hello for all.

     Pam is the type of person who made monkey bread for the construction crew on the street. Pam will walk your dog, water your plants and bring your mail and newspaper inside. She is known for her delicious Buffalo chicken wing dip,  spaghetti casserole, turkey vegetable soup, and the most delicious cut out cookies you have ever tasted. No street party is complete without Pam. I even admit that I asked Pam to make me a lasagna for a dinner party I was having and passed it off as my own. Hey, you can’t beat Pam’s lasagna. I recommend you trying the same trick!

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Here I am with Pam sharing a good time at the street Christmas Party. You can always count on Pam for the most delicious dishes and a hearty laugh.

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Pam with her daughter Madison who was so kind to have Kindness Can Change the World bracelets made and has chosen the name Natalie as her confirmation name.

Episode 32. Neighbors become cherished friends.

      This week, I simply want to introduce you to Pam. There are not many Pam’s out there. Someone willing to put themselves out there for people with a happy face. It’s simply a reminder how precious people can be and how much it means to me that Pam was a witness to our children growing up together and shared so many laughs and memories. Pam reminds us to live life joyfully even when life is far from perfect.

     We all tend to go immediately into our homes after work. This is just a gentle reminder how much richer life is when your neighbors become your friends. If I have any satisfaction for anything that I have done for my neighbors, it is that I have photographed First Communions, Proms, Halloween Parties and the kids growing up. The pictures I have posted of Pam are all on my computer and I bet I have more pictures of her than she has of herself. Pam laughs so easily and is a priceless member of our street.

     Funny stories and memories always good for a laugh. I’ll never forget the time that I gave Pam the key to our house so that she could walk the dogs for the weekend and feed them. We were out of town in Ohio watching Evan Jr in a swim meet. Pam had just finished walking all 3 dogs because she brought her dog Leo along for the walk..naturally. After the walk they went back in our house and the dogs went crazy running around and playing. It was so much fun that Pam decided to leave the dogs in the house for a while to play while she ran an errand. Funny thing, she closed the door which locked automatically and left the key in the house. She called me and asked sheepishly “How many hours away are you?” No harm done, the dogs filmed Home Alone III.

        It’s easy to spend your time inside and not bother to get to know your neighbor.  Who needs the hassle? I always joke with our son when a neighbor calls to ask if he can move or lift some piece of furniture. Yet, how many times have we benefitted from a push out of the snow, a friendly smile and a homemade meal? My street gathered together for us when we were living through our nightmare. They huddled together to pray for Natalie, filled our refrigerator with meals, and held us all close. What a gift.

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Pam is a genuine person who is a giver and is always there for you.

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My husband, enjoying time with his two treasured daughters sitting in Pam’s backyard.

Plan Each Day & Create a Spot that Connects

      It would be great to have things in this world “just happen.” But that is simply dreaming. Today, I talk to Liz Hays who use to hire Natalie to babysit. One important and lasting impression that Natalie left with Liz is to use each hour of every day to make it count. Even when Natalie would be home for a short weekend, she made sure she woke up, worked out, visited her grandparents, made healthy meal options and visited with those she was closest to. Liz always felt special that she and her family were on the list. I always admired her busy schedule and how she mastered time management. Natalie was able to fit so much into each day. Thank God she did! Natalie seemed to bounce out of bed in the morning. From the lists of ingredients she needed to prepare meals,the list of things she was going to do for the day, the work outs she would make for herself, and most importantly the people she would see. It was all part of who she was…healthy and happy. Caroline has so many memories of Natalie’s lists too. They would settle into bed and plan the next day together. Caroline is a perfect witness to how others can motivate us and how much people need people. Natalie knew how to prepare and isn’t every situation in life better when we prepare? We are all lead to believe that moments just happen. But you actually need to schedule events, family time and activities. I remember Natalie telling me to always plan something for the 4th of July. She use to tell me that it was one of those Holidays that should be celebrated with a great memory but often over looked in preparing something special. How true.

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Time management is something Liz admired about Natalie.  Make everyday count.

Episode 31. Guest Liz Hays. Make Each Day Count. Create a Space In Your House to Connect Your Family

     It seems all of our homes are getting built larger and larger. We have separate bedrooms and our children tend to get lost in front of video games, phones and computers. Liz loved the way her family connected on vacation because they were in a small space together. Inspired by this, she took the kitchen table out of her kitchen and added a small sectional and chair so the kids could all gather together after school and bond. The kids are in different schools, different grades and having different experiences. When you step back to realize how short of a time in life your children are all gathered under the same roof…why not be together as much as possible by supporting, comforting, encouraging and loving each other. Nothing lasts forever. Be there while you can. After all, don’t those growing up years stay with you for life?

 

Thank you for listening and reading,

Sincerely, Trish

How Are You Doing? 75 & Sunny!

       The basic way we seem to greet people is the simple question “How are you doing?” How we answer that question is very key to how we give our best selves to the world. It’s a first impression. It can kick start a good feeling.  I simply want us to be conscious of how we answer the question of “How Are You Doing?”  It can really have such great impact. It’s so much more important than we ever think or even pay attention to.

Episode 30. “75 and Sunny” Press to listen.

 

 

      I understand we all have things to worry about and concerns. Money, health, our children, a project hanging over our heads, a failed relationship, or any number of things.

     Most of us answer the question with a ..”I’m good, how are you?” Although proper English grammar is “I’m doing well, thank you.”

     We all know people who answer the question with a …”I’m here, aren’t I ? Or a …”Same stuff, different day.” or  “Another day another dollar”…Hummm, hardly inspiring. Who wants to hear grumbling? Feeling the appreciation for a new day lifts others.

     My daughter Caroline and I are reminded of my dad, her grandfather and how he answered the simple question “How are you doing?” Perfect.  Life was rough in his later years, his health, his mind, his agility were all going downhill. Yet he chose to answer the question with a “perfect.” That helped put my mom, his children and grandchildren and ease that he continued to putter along and fight the good fight.

      Caroline also remembers the sweet way she would be greeted in the morning by her sister Natalie. A gentle scratch on the head, a tender kiss on the cheek and a simple “I love you” filled Caroline with such nourishment to take on the day so loved and encouraged.

       Recently I saw my brother in law Pat. I asked him the simple question..How are you doing? He answered “75 and sunny.”  What a great answer! Isn’t 75 and sunny considered an ideal day?

        Your thoughts don’t control you; you control your thoughts. Make it a great day and when someone asks you ..How are you doing? Why not answer “75 and Sunny.”

Sincerely, Trish

 

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Caroline holds such cherished memories of the way Natalie would greet each day. A gentle head scratch, a kiss on the cheek..a I love you reminder.

 

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Ask my brother-in-law Pat..”How are you doing?” He will answer “75 and sunny!”

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My dad would say he was “perfect” despite declining health.

 

Lessons From the Apple Store

     We all want to live an inspiring life that is positive, productive, love filled and satisfying. In this episode, I am going to tell you a few lessons that I learned, from the Apple Store of all places, to achieve that goal.

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1.  There are usually people waiting outside the store before it opens. Maybe you are feeling a little annoyed or put-out. Suddenly the door opens and you are greeted with applause. Your morale is lifted, you are feeling great because you are receiving applause. Now you are feeling successful simply by walking into the store. What a great lesson to learn — greet people positively to divert negative vibes.

2.  They teach you for free. They hold workshops, you can take part of in-store events and take advantage of the one on one teaching(that is an additional charge upon purchase). The more you understand the more products you want to own. Knowledge is key. I learned podcasting on garageband during my one on one instructions. Share your knowledge!

3.  You are greeted outside the store with an employee on his/her iPad to pin point your exact need. This avoids wandering through the store. You are there for a purpose and the store connects you with your own “genius” who knows exactly how to help you. Who wouldn’t want to be called a genius? Nice name for the Apple employees. Call people nice names and It’s a great reminder to keep you eye on your goals and to not let distractions in. No wandering!

4.  The employees are easy to identify. That’s because they wear a particular color each day. It might be grey, navy or red t-shirts with the little apple logo with a casual pant. At any rate, it’s united, simple, youthful, and comfortable. Also, there are no cash registers. You work one on one with an Apple employee and your purchases are handled on their work phone. Very personal and that makes you feel valued and connected. Have a look!

5.  Apple also charges more than other computers and electronics. They differentiate themselves by their Apple stores and make their merchandise an emotional purchase that draws you in by teaching you the extra functions. It makes you feel like you own the best product out there with so many possibilities to learn. That reminds me of the value of of our own life and the gifts we all were given that we are called to share.

In review, the life lessons I have learned from the Apple Store are –The way you greet someone can change a mood to a positive one, keep away from distractions and focus on your goal, be identifiable and have a look, share your knowledge, and know that you are valuable and have immeasurable worth.

Episode 29. Lessons Learned from the Apple Store. Guests Lauren and Julia Kezele. Listen here.

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My sister Carolyn and her husband Pat with their daughters Lauren and Julia.

     Little things, little things, little things. Asking someone to have their picture taken with you. Baking someone a cake for their birthday. These are just a couple examples that made Natalie unforgettable to her younger cousins now 13 and 15 years old. I have a chance to catch up with my darling nieces when we over lapped on a family vacations. Thank you for listening to Lauren and Julia. Thank you for being your best self and remembering how we are all called to make a difference.

Sincerely, Trish

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Just Keep Swimming

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Pictured here is Samantha Palma, Eleanor Clay, Natalie Lewis, France Stevenson and Coach Scott Vanderzell.

 

Episode 28. Guest France Stevenson. Just Keep Swimming.

 

 I am so happy that being Natalie’s mom I was part of so many good times and memories while she swam on the Tonawanda Titans. It was an exciting time when the team was reaching new heights it had not reached before. For the first time, the team had swimmers qualifying for sectional swim meets and even National meets. Natalie was part of it. I am so grateful that I can look back and think that I was able to be part of this exiting new time by attending the swim meets and taking pictures! The team was something special.

Today I am going to introduce you to France Stevenson. Frances, who goes by France, made an impact on Natalie and the rest of the team by being her best self. Frances became a close friend of all on Titans because of her open mind and although she was a few years older, still opened her heart to learning from younger athletes. She developed her own look on the pool deck wearing spandex and sneakers in-between events, and it quickly caught on. She also stayed in the game of competition when most swimmers hung up the swim suits. After competing all 4 years at UB undergrad, she then continued swimming even through law school. Using swimming as a time management tool, she was able to continue to touch lives of all swimmers and coaches on Titans. France still swims when she can with the Titans and has her goal on masters swimming. A lot of people feel that maybe they are “too cool” to hang around younger athletes. But France use to swim with 12 years olds on her relay, age did not matter. Talent is talent. France is humble enough to admit that she gained motivation from the younger swimmers too. France lead the team in trends on the pool deck and giving them the example to continue swimming when the rest of the world says you are too old. Now that France is an attorney she maintains being her best self by not caring what others think of her when she is still competing in swimming, and fully indulging in all that life has to offer. She feels, if your heart is happy doing it, who cares what others think! Thank you for being a part of Natalie’s life, and thank you for being you, France!

     You are never too old to see a G rated movie, to swim and play and to be part of an Easter Egg Hunt. Thank you to our neighbor Polly for starting a new tradition on our street. One person can change the world. Remember that this Easter season calls us to believe in the promises of Christ. If we do that then we can live in happiness and joy. The devil wants us to have no hope and to live in darkness and despair. We can fight evil with joy and humor. We can hardly wait till the movie “Finding Dory” is released this June. Just Keep Swimming! 317241_2149408659707_1122954930_n

Pictured here with Natalie Lewis is France Stevenson. France swam 4 years at UB and after college while attending law school. She is still swimming.
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France and Natalie after a flight home from national swim competition were delighted to find Olympic swimmer Katie Hoff on their flight.
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Natalie loved to make treats for her friends. Celebrating is an important part of life to make people feel valued, loved, and appreciated.
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Natalie giving France a big bear hug squeeze.

The Best Version of You

     Today I talk to Kate Grimm. I am fortunate to have known this young lady almost her entire life. As a young girl, she belonged to the same club that my children swam on and during those long 3 glorious summer months there is a lot of down time to get to know the swimmers and their families. Kate was always a delight and I related to her family and especially her mom who cared so deeply for her kids. Kate described Natalie as infectious and is the same age as Caroline, both looking up to her as a model figure. It was a delight to watch them grow up.

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Kate started her own business after she found a need..healthy meal prep.

      I am proud of Kate. After high school she went to the University of Buffalo and swam 4 years for the UB Bulls. After graduation she moved down south for a position in marketing, and was in love with her new career. Her company’s office was closed without warning, leaving all employees without positions. Kate came back home to Buffalo, and used her transition time to work on herself. After swimming for 4 years, she speaks about how important having a goal is, something to work towards. Kate found herself enjoying time at the gym, and was adventuring into a new journey that would take her life somewhere she said she never would have expected.

Episode 27 Kate Grimm Starting her own business – Healthy Meal Preparartion

                                                                                                                                                                   What she wasn’t anticipating was to become an avid participator in the sport of Cross Fit. After all those years of swimming she knew she wanted to keep discovering new ways to improve herself and fitness level. The fitness in the gym transcended into her life, where Kate utilized Pinterest sites and recipes to imagine healthy recipes, and prepping meals for the week. Social media does have it’s positive points, as Kate would post pictures of her meal prep, developing into her business “Kate Cooks, You Eat!”.

     After sitting down at talking with Kate, it became apparent to us all how that one day when she arrived at work to horrible news, was a blessing in disguise. Through this, she used her internal motivation to do better, to be the best version of herself, and to unknowingly at the time, improve lives of other’s through her healthy eating plans and exercise. A lesson we can all take from Kate is that when everything in the moment is unexpected and shocking, self reflection comes into play and a little perspective can change the outlook toward a seemingly devastating situation. Overcoming obstacles can be made easier with a positive mindset and outlook, which is exactly what Kate has. If it weren’t for her moving back to Buffalo, she would not be able to embark on this journey initiating her own business, improving the lives of many of her clients, and hopefully now through reading this, many people of all ages. I mentioned earlier that Kate is the same age as Caroline, and I have known her almost for the entirety of her life. Watching a child turn into a woman, and make good life decisions, focusing themselves on self improvement, is such an honor. I am so proud of Kate; Her lessons, recipes, and positive energy have inspired me to be more conscious of what I am eating, and constantly think of ways to healthily spin ordinary recipes, and how to spin ordinary days into positive ones!

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Kate with Caroline. They both enjoyed Club swimming during the summers of their childhoods. Now they are both giving the world their best selves.

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Passion in Pilates

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I want you to meet Deanna Giordano. Deanna is passionate about pilates and opened her own studio to help others. You should check out Studio Sophia!

Episode 26. Passion in Pilates. Guest Deanna Giordano

 

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There is no question what my passion is…it is to show how connected we are to heaven and how we live our life is a gift back to our Creator. I believe Natalie is with me and I will see her again. I feel so honored to be her earthly mother.

 

       Don’t you love it when you meet someone who is really living out their passion in what they believe in?

       Recently I heard a lecture from a master gardener talking about butterflies. It was truly remarkable listening to her discuss with such passion her dedication to rebuilding our declining butterfly population. Butterflies have changed her life and she no longer is able to take summer vacations. She needs to be there to tend to the needs of the butterflies How can you not respect someone living their passion? What dedication!

         Today I would like to introduce you to Deanna Giordano. Deanna is passionate about pilates and is such a believer in the benefits that she opened her own studio to help others. She made a believer out of me. Setting aside a time twice a week to stretch and train in pilates with Deanna has made an enormous difference. In pilates you find your core, posture, balance, flexibility all improving. Hey, my knees and joints aren’t what they use to be and pilates help so much. There is no doubt that endorphins are released and you know you are able to take on the day and be your best.

          Who can ever forget the line in the movie Legally Blonde? Elle: Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.

           If you live in the Buffalo area, I invite you to discover all the  amazing workouts at Studio Sophia. Check out her web site here.

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           There is no doubt what I am passionate about. No doubt. It’s living a life to show that I believe in God’s promises. It’s knowing what a gift each day is and how we choose to live our life is our way of showing our Creator our love and appreciation back to Him. We have all been given gifts to use. We are far more connected than you can ever imagine. Your actions have much more influence than you think. A question I ask myself almost daily is ..what would life be like if we did not believe in eternal life? That is a question I don’t ever want to know. Trust.

Sincerely, Trish

 

 

How Little We Need

     This episode of Sincerely, Trish focuses on how much we have yet how little we need. I sit down and talk with my neighbor and friend Polly Perez. Have you ever noticed that anyone who goes to Africa comes back a new person? They seem to always say the same thing…I want to go back, I have a new perspective on life and a new appreciation for all we have. Some take it a step further and say we have too much. Our lives are too cluttered. Polly came back and said “we have water!, we can turn on a faucet and clean water  comes out!” What amazed her was seeing how the Tanzanians will spend the entire day looking for water yet how happy everyone seemed. Polly uses the words vast, raw and simple in her description.

      My mind always turns to Natalie. Through life altering events we learn how to live a life with meaning. Cleaning out her apartment was a simple reminder of how little clutter and how considerate she was with all of her property. It was crystal clear… What made Natalie happy were her relationships. Natalie had started a beautiful wedding planner book, her loved cook book with recipes from all of the culinary classes she took, her teaching tools when she student taught and a thoughtful binder filled with art supplies for her spectacular home made cards.

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How joyful Natalie lead her life. She did not clutter her room or apartment with possessions. It was bright and colorful. Natalie kept such good care of herself, others and her personal possessions.

Episode 25. A family trip to Tanzania – How much we don’t need.

Here they are!! Polly and her family in Tanzania!

Here they are!! Polly and her family in Tanzania!

 

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Polly’s young son Michael said..”Mom, is that a real cheetah?” Yes, Yes. They also saw lions and elephants and so much more.

     The biggest message from Polly is how little we need to be happy. Instead, we complicate our lives with too much stuff and too many distractions. We spend so much money and time trying to buy things we don’t need to make us feel better or impress people. Think about our homes alone, we all have way too many coffee mugs, plastic containers, books, vases, clothes, kids clothes, shoes, jackets, spices, magazines, towels, linens and beauty products. Yet, we just keep buying more.

      How the simplicity of visiting Tanzania and seeing the resourcefulness of the natives of building whatever they needed, eating whatever they grew, and living day to day joyfully, simply and with no expectations. Polly had some trouble trying to figure out where she belonged there. There was no soccer mom providing snacks for the team driving the mini van and juggling work, home and kids. The mother in Tanzania was farming, the organized sports her children played were balancing water jugs on their shoulders, and providing food and nourishment for the day was the goal.

   By bringing all of the family together, on a clean slate with no prior experiences, Polly and her family felt a connection to one another, bringing them back to experiencing things together for the first time. With all different insights and life lessons brought to Africa with them, all 17 family members left with a different mentality as well as a deeper appreciation for each other. In an everyday life like ours, where things distract our happiness easily, how can we all continue to live a life of peacefulness and simplicity? One thing I know, is that the joy and appreciation between family members does not always need to be found across the globe, but the change of mindset can happen within us, with a minute of retreat for us to refocus on what is important.

   We always were a family that had a deep appreciation for each other. If you have that appreciation make sure you let people know, much like Natalie did for us. Always telling us she loved us, believed in us, appreciated us. We all saw in her apartment how uncluttered and organized her room was. She surrounded herself with only what she valued. We all need to make room, eliminate clutter and let love and understanding in.

    Thank you for listening and reading. I can’t believe it’s already my 25th episode.

Sincerely, Trish