The question that is posed is: "Whether we realize it or not, we all learn something new every single day of our lives. So what have you learned in the year just gone?"
These aren't really new things that I learned...they are more a reminder about life lessons that I need to continue practicing:
1. It’s okay to let your children see you cry.
Today Shadow, our 11-year old cat, died. He wandered onto our farm back in the early 2000s. Originally an outdoor cat, he gradually learn to trust us as we fed him food.
Eventually, when it was warmer, he went back outdoors. He'd walk with Olivia to her preschool bus and then hide in the trees as the bus approached. He'd appear again when the bus returned around lunch time to drop her off.
He got along beautifully with the other cats.
All of the cats also had wandered onto our farm or were rescues. Shadow got along with all of them.
He even got along with the dogs and the dogs enjoyed his company as well. He'd keep me warm at night (I'm under the blue blanket on the bed).
In about September 2015, he developed hyperthyroidism. Basically, his heart was beating so fast and burning up his body. He became thinner with each passing month.
On the 28th, his breathing was labored. He sat in my lap for a long time as I pet him. I sensed that he was nearing the end.
He was laying near the heat registers and on the Christmas lights that were by the wood stove to keep warm.
On the 29th, he was laying next to the Christmas tree. This was not a normal place for him to be - in the middle of the floor. I sat down next to him. He reached out his paws to me, and I pet him. He was so frail.
He meowed in a way that was not like himself. I knew it was time. Olivia was walking by and saw me. I told her that Shadow was dying. She got everyone else and we all said goodbye.
Sophia, Olivia, and I took him to the vet to be euthanized. I couldn't see him suffer any longer. Wrapped in a blanket and laying on a pillow, we made our way to the vet. We were all in tears.
Shadow was truly one of the best cats that we have ever had.
2. Be grateful for this moment, it is all there is.
This life lesson builds upon the first one. We need to be grateful for the moment we are in. We are not totally present and available if we are dwelling in the past or future.
Even more important is recognizing the times that we need to slow down and stop. Be right in the moment, and grateful for that particular experience.
I am so thankful that I happened to pass by the living room when I did. Otherwise, I might have not seen Shadow and we would have missed being with him as he passed away. It was important for us to be there for him...just like he was there for us for so many years.
3. Over-prepare and then go with the flow.
This has more to do with a major event that our 4-H club did in November called One Stop Donation Drop. There were so many details involved with planning and executing this event. Everything was planned down to the smallest detail.
However, when a major snowstorm/ice storm occurs on the day before the event, there's not much to do except go with the flow. What happens...who shows...what money is raised...what items are donated - all is out of my control.
We just have to be grateful for those who did make it to the event; and donated or supported the 20+ organizations in some way.
4. Your children get only one childhood. Make it memorable.
One of the things I do is support the girls' interests. For Sophia, that means music - whether she is performing for people at nursing homes, churches, weddings, or funerals; or for animals at Northwoods Humane Society.
I also have done a lot with homeschooling - field trips, hands-on activities, cooking/baking, and science experiments - so that their school years would be filled with lots of memorable experiences.
Birthdays and half-birthdays are celebrated; and holidays throughout the year are an important to our lives. Some traditions are ones that have been passed down from my parents, while others are ones that are new ones that I've learned from living in a town that has a strong Swedish influence, from taking the girls to the Waldorf school when they were young; or from Pinterest.
All these things - and more - have added so many memories and rich experiences to our lives. I'm hoping that when they look back on their childhoods that they smile and remember fondly what we did together.
5. Don’t compare your life to others’ lives. You have no idea what their journey is about. This life lesson kind of ties into a couple other ones: Be content with little and Concern your life with more than money.
There are many times when money is tight since we're a one-income family who is choosing to homeschool (and pay for all the resources we need) and incorporate art and music into the girls' lives. Our health insurance is not good so we pay a significant amount each month just to cover the premium and overly-priced appointments and medicine.
Nevertheless, it's important to be content in one's current life. If I'm always looking at what others have and thinking that I need that, then I would never be happy. I remind myself that I have enough. That's the key word. Enough.
Does what I have meet my needs? Is it sufficient? If the answer is yes, then it is enough. Chances are, it's more than enough.
Would I want more expensive things or better clothes or more luxurious services? Sometimes I think I would. Then I think of what would be needed or exchanged in order to get those things. It's not worth it.
To me, there are always greater pursuits in life than money. I value being of service and making a difference in the world. If I'm a slave to money in order to get those high-priced items, we couldn't volunteer and do the things that we find so meaningful in our lives.
We couldn't enjoy the things that are around us - like beautiful sunsets; seeing wildlife at our farm and around the area; and enjoying the simple things in life.
So, my life does look a lot different than others. I can't compare it fairly because what I value isn't something that everyone else values. And that's okay. I'm content with my life and how it has unfolded.