The Bigger Picture

I was thinking about hope, as I of course tend to do often, and I realized that it’s been awhile since I really sat down and thought about the things in my life, right now, that make me hopeful. There are the everyday inspirations, of course – a beautiful sunset, a warm spring day, flowers in bloom, a positive conversation with a friend. And those things all keep me going in the day to day. They’re the pictures I post on Instagram in my #365DaysofHope campaign. They’re crucial for getting through the rough days, and I’m lucky to experience them. But I sometimes, ironically, forget to take stock of the bigger things that offer me hope. 

It’s not that I’m not grateful, or don’t appreciate these “big picture” pieces of life – I am, and I do. It’s that they sometimes get lost in the day to day. And I find that, when I sit down and list them out, when I truly focus on those hopes, it surprises me just how much is on that list. My brain can play so many tricks on me, making me depressed and anxious, bringing tears out of the blue, telling me I’m worthless and hopeless and incapable, that it becomes easy to spend my days just trying to get out of that, just to not feel so bad.  I often am so exhausted – mentally, emotionally, physically –  from that struggle, that I lack the energy to look beyond them. To look beyond “well today isn’t so bad” or “Ok I got through that” to “Wow, these other things offer so much hope.” And while it’s incredibly important to find hope in these moments of getting through, of not feeling so bad – because they often comprise much of our day and carry us through those rough times, I wanted to also voice those really positive, exciting, hopeful “bigger things”, for lack of a more eloquent phrase.

  • Family and loved ones. I am so incredibly lucky. I have a large family, a loving husband, and some best friends that have been by my side for forever, even when they’re not physically by my side.  I know that, even on my darkest day, I am surrounded by love. It may not always feel that way. I may feel terribly alone, because depression often makes us feel isolated. But I know, deep down, that I have so many people who love me. That offers me hope. (This includes my dog, Grace, who is the absolute epitome of hope personified… or dogsonified….)

 

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Gracie, the epitome of hope, finding pure joy in a discarded paper towel roll.

 

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Yep, we’re those people. Our dog announced our engagement.

  • I have a new job that I enjoy, and I am learning more and more each day. It’s not a sector I’ve ever worked in before, and it gives me hope not only of my ability to grow and learn, but to expand my horizons. It’s not a path I’d previously considered, and I now feel that the opportunities for my future are broader.

 

  • If I haven’t mentioned it 1000 times, I’m going to GREECE! And then in June our whole immediate family (all 20 of us) are going to Spain. It’ll be my second time in Spain in 7 months. I’m so lucky to be able to see the world like this, and to spend quality time with my loved ones doing so. Travel always makes me feel hopeful. It helps me view the world on a larger scale, and it feels incredibly freeing. Often, I find that a literal change of scenery does me a world of good (no pun intended – Ok, maybe a little).  Not to mention that as a travel planner, blogger, and someone that wants to spread hope around the world, it makes me feel hopeful for ways that I can expand my work.

 

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Some of my many travels. Clockwise from top left: Amsterdam, Paris, Jordan (Petra), Olympic Rings in Barcelona, Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania. 

 

  • This Spread Hope Project. I have no idea where it might take me. But I see possibilities. It offers me a purpose, a way to help others, which is something I crave. I have  big dreams for it, and even if those adjust, or are ultimately not realized to their full extent (I’m a big scale dreamer), it shows me that I do have the ability to help people and make a difference, even if on the smallest scale for now. And I have met, and continue to meet, some amazing people on this journey.

 

  • The future. My husband and I want to own a farm one day. We want to grow fruits and vegetables. He wants goats and chickens for milk and eggs, and I want a Scottish Highland Cow because they’re adorable and I’ve always wanted one (you now see why I’m the dreamer and he’s the realist in our marriage).  He has generously said that we can have up to three dogs one day, which I feel is a fair compromise since he’s fine with the one we have and I want to rescue every dog ever on the planet. Big emphasis on one day for the dogs, maybe when Grace gets older and doesn’t take the strength of the World’s Strongest Man to walk her. Even though these goals will take a lot of time and energy and funds to accomplish, we have them. Having dreams like this, together, for the future makes me so hopeful.

 

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Being silly with Scottish Highland Cows at a B&B in the Catskills. (Note the HOPE shirt!).

 

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More silliness at the B&B. 

 

I found that, just writing these down, I began smiling. My mind starts to fill with ideas that give me further hope. Ideas for my travel business and blog. Ideas for Spread Hope Project. Excitement about our future farm (and cow! and dogs!), and all the things we could do with it. Yes, a lot of it is my mind wandering, as it does so… err….well? But they give me something to reach for. Some “one day”s. And when you have “one day”s, you have hope. Because it means that, even if it seems so far off, almost impossible perhaps, you still can see the possibility, or at least consider that there could be the possibility, of a brighter time. 

 

To Family, Old Memories, and Making New Ones

To clarify, I mean new memories, not making new family members. Though more babies are born in September than any other month (note: that’s approximately nine months from now), so I guess ’tis the season. But nobody involved in this story is planning on that immediately, so we’ll stick with new memories.

First off, happy holidays, everyone! I hope you had/are having/will have a great one!  This post was inspired by our family Christmas yesterday.

There’s some family history here, so bear with me. My grandfather, my mom’s dad, got a bottle of Galliano liqueur from his boss during his first year of working as an accountant, when he was 22. He would have been in his 90s today, so we’re going back 70ish years. It remained unopened – why I’m not sure, but probably for the same reason people frame the first dollar they made in their business, instead of spend it. Approximately 39 years ago, as he was dying from ALS, he gave it to my mom. I was 10 months old at the time, so needless to say, I do not remember this or him. I have a great memory,  (I can remember back to when I was about 2 1/2), but not that great. So this story is all passed down via my mom.

The Galliano, still in its original box, has made – and surprisingly, survived intact – every move with my mom since then. Buffalo to California. California to Georgia. Another move in Georgia. Georgia to New Jersey. And finally, to the house in New Jersey where I grew up and my parents still live. She’s been saving it for a special occasion. In this time, her kids and stepkids (there are 5 siblings total) have all gotten married, and there are now eight grandchildren. So I feel like the clock has been ticking on the Galliano. A bit of a “if not now, when?”.

Yesterday, as myself and my husband, my brother, his wife, and their two kids sat in my parents’ kitchen, my mom declared, “Let’s open the Galliano tonight!”. Apparently, its time had come. Let me pause here to say that we actually had to google what exactly Galliano was, other than generally knowing it was a liqueur.  Also, at least three of us were nearly certain that the bottle would contain, as my brother called it, some of the best vinegar in existence. I mean, it’s in a glass bottle and, while it has sat in a box all of these years, is over 70 years old. The chances of it not being skunked were pretty slim, in our opinions. But this bottle had survived two owners and at least six houses, probably seven (I’m not sure if my grandfather received it while living in the house my mom grew up in, or the one before). We owed it the dignity of a fair chance.

So, we opened it. Low and behold, it was perfectly fine. I can’t really compare the taste to anything else I’ve had – it’s called an herbal liqueur, which I anticipated to taste, honestly, pretty rough even if not skunked. It conjured up images of liqueur made from parsley, oregano, and other questionable ingredients. For the record, it didn’t. At least not to me. The closest thing I could compare it to is limoncello, but it isn’t nearly as, well, lemony, and has a different finish. I’m about to make it sound disgusting, which it is not, but it almost has a finish akin to when you’ve just had a throat lozenge. Not the taste, but the airy, passageways cleared out, feeling.

As we toasted each other and family and Christmas, it felt like the passing of a torch somehow. A nod to the memories of the past, and a commitment to those of the future.  A lot has happened in those 70-odd years since my grandfather got that bottle, and the almost 40 years since he gave it to my mom. My grandma (my mom’s mom), who survived her husband by 30 years, passed away in 2008. She had nine grandchildren, and I believe three great grandchildren, two of which were only 3 or 4 years old at the time, and may not remember her. Were my grandparents still alive today, they’d have 9 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. Their own three children have traveled the country and the world. They’ve made countless memories over the years, some together, and some with their own individual families. In these years, the remainder of my grandmother’s’ siblings have all passed away, and as my grandfather was the youngest of his siblings by something like 15 years, I’m guessing his have too, though we aren’t in contact with them so I can’t be sure.

The Galliano opening was, in a way, the end of an era. Of the nine of us grandchildren, only two have any memories of my grandfather, and even those are probably a bit hazy, though I can’t speak for them. We are now the ones getting bottles of wine or bourbon or other presents as a thank you. Who possibly have a gift still in its packaging years after the fact, that we haven’t yet brought ourselves to open and will one day pass down to generation that follows, still in tact. And if we are all lucky, we are the ones that, years from now, when the current children in our family are all grown and perhaps have children of their own, will sit around recounting stories and memories together one holiday and say, “Remember that Christmas when we finally opened the Galliano?”.

 

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The Galliano, post sampling, on my parents’ kitchen counter.