Joy.

If you ever enter my house, you’ll see about 50,000 things that say JOY on it. The word has a special place in my heart. My grandmother, GG, made it her mantra. So much so that at 75 she got it tattood on her wrist like a bad ass grandmother, if ever there was one. She actually convinced me to get my first tattoo at 18, with half of my family standing around in an itty bitty tattoo shop in Torrington, CT on my 18th birthday. She really, really had to convince me. My first reaction was, NOPE.

Nope. Nope. Nope. And then another thought filled my head. ” You gotta live a little.” That was one of her sayings. I can hear her voice right now, ” Katie, you’ve just got to live a little!” So I did. Fastforward many, many years later…I have 8…and I’m getting another one soon. It’s easy to get addicted to tattoos, right? My cousins followed in my path, and now my parents and my sister have ink.

 

Anyway, I digress.

 

That’s how she lived her life. Everyday she was thankful. Everyday she would reflect on the joys in her life. She wrote all of this down, and after she died, as we went through all of her journals and pictures, we saw JOY on every page. She inspired all of us. Even strangers.

Right after I turned 25 and six months before my wedding, She fell ill. Still, she spread her message of joy and love with every single person she knew. I’m not just writing this to write it. I’m writing it to show the absolute magnitude of acceptance of love and life she shared. If you ask ANYONE who ever came in contact with her their lives were better for having her in it.

Honestly, I could write a book about how this woman changed the world on person at a time.

I struggled with God after she died. I wasn’t religious, but I kept thinking if there is a God, why is he taking her away from us? How could he?

 

The day she died, I had a couple hours with her alone while my famiy discussed hospice in the other room. Her eyes were closed. They would never open again. Her chest went up and down, taking in some of her lasts breaths. I held her delicate hand in mind and I wept. This woman was my rock. She was all of ours rock. It was devestating. We all knew she was ready to go, but she kept holding on. My wedding was coming up, and I had spent countless hours talking to her on the phone about it and how important to me it was to me for her to be there.

My tears poured out as I told her, ” It’s ok. You can go now. I know how badly you want to be there, but it’s ok. I will be ok.” I sat with my head on her bed, placing her hand on my cheek. My heart was breaking into a million pieces.

A few hours later, she was gone. Months went by and I couldn’t control my grief. It was too much. I found myself desperate to hear her voice.  I tried to grasp the acceptance of life without her.

It sucked. Really, really sucked.

 

A few months later I got married. It was beautiful. The sun was about so set as we stood under the gazeebo and shared our vows. Everything was perfect. Except one thing. My GG wasn’t there. Nothing could change that. We all tried so hard be brave, but the tears poured and poured.

What happened next was mind blowing.

Here’s two pictures of myself with her.

 

At some point in the evening, my cousin just so happened to be snapping some pictures on the lake. Then she saw this.

 

IMG_2615

 

She found a way to be at my wedding after all.

 

One of my biggest struggles is isolation. I hate being alone. I panic. It sucks. Most of my alcoholism revolved around isolation.

 

Step Two says: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

This step was challenging at first. I wasn’t sure if there was a God. I thought this was kind of uncessary. I didn’t need God. Fuck that.

 

Then the miracles started to happen. My sponser said to just get on my knees every morning and night and ask God to help keep me sober throuought the day, and then thank him (or her) for keeping my sober another day. I did this for two weeks. I felt nothing. My sponser told me to be patient and kind to myself.

This shit ain’t easy.

Then all of a sudden, while on my knees, I felt the absolute prescence of my Higher Power, my God. The feeling came out nowhere and blew me away. I was stunned. I went from not believing in anything, to suddenly believing in something HUGE.

It still blows my mind.

 

There were many times when I was drinking that I wished I had GG in my life still. I would drink and drink while asking the universe to somehow bring her back to me. I cried when she missed the birth of my children. I cried at Thanksgiving dinner without her. Hell, I cried driving home from work, because I missed her in my life so badly.

 

Then, just today, another miracle happened.

 

Someone said sonething tonight that touched every part of my soul.

 

He said God works in us in amazing ways. We all will die someday. That’s a given. And, we all go through tough challenges, but we’re not alone. We are jealous of angels. Our loved ones and friends have not left our lives for good. Not at all. They stand side by side with our Higher Power. They live with us and in us along side our Higher Power.

It’s incredible. In that very moment I felt a wave of emotions. My grandmother didn’t leave me. She was waiting for me to find my Higher Power. Through him, she is with me. It’s crazy. Insane.

 

I cried on the way home tonight, because that isolation I had been feeling was gone. I am never alone. Ever.

 

It’s a gift. It’s a miracle.

 

Money makes the world go ’round…

I’m lucky. I grew up with four parents (my parents divorced, and soon after I was given two more parents, whom I love) who made sure I had everything I needed. Clothes, food, roof over our head, Dr appointments, tutition for dance and music classes…anything I needed. I was raised in two homes and the overall theme was that family, friends, love, and the fact that money doesn’t make you happy.

But, everything I saw on tv or heard on the radio led me to believe that differently. If I didn’t have those se7ven jeans I wouldn’t fit it in. If my makeup came from CVS it meant I was cheap. Cool kids bought make up stuff at Sephora. I needed to have UGGS, because everyone had UGGS.

See that guy in that jewlery commercial? He bought the woman in his life a ring, and now they’ll have eternal happiness. How about those women in the bra commercials? You will never achieve great joy in your life if your bra doesn’t have sparkles and padding for a push up.

How the hell do I go about raising my kids to know that the size of your bank account doesn’t determine your happiness?

 

Commercial after commercial, all the same,

” My new Barbie has a tutu that changes colors, and she sings too!”

” This fluffy pillow is ALSO a big stuffed animal. You’ll have someone to snuggle with all night long!”

” You’ll have so much fun doing this 3,000 piece lego set!”

 

I remember Easter with my dads side of my family. We  would go to brunch at a beautiful restaurant, right on the long island sound. We would gather together and spend time on the beach, my cousins chasing each other near the waves. Seagulls would fly past, and we would worry that they might poop on our heads. We dug our toes in the cool April sand as we watched the waves crash. I remember the smell of the sea.

I didn’t buy that experience. I lived it.

I remember years and years of Thanksgiving dinners where we all held hands and sang a prayer over our food. After everyone was done eating, we would gather in my Aunt and Uncles living room and proceed to put on our annual family talent show. We would sing, dance, tell blonde jokes and laugh our asses off.

I didn’t write a check for those memories. I was there.

 

When I was in my early twenties, I spend night after night going to auditions in Chicago. I would sing, dance, get call backs (once in awhile…) and eventually get cast in a show. A show that I believed in. I didn’t audition or become a member of the cast looking for a big pay day. I did it because it brings me joy. Performing on stage was my passion, and it didn’t matter if I made any money off of it.

You can’t put a price on that.

 

I remember the first time I held my baby sister and my baby brother. I’m twelve years older than them, and the love that was oozing out of me was priceless. It was love at first sight with the both of them. They looked so little and squishy, wrapped up in their newborn blankets.

 

Priceless.

 

I remember dancing to Mariah Carey’s Christmas album at my mom and stepdads house. I would pop the cd in and spend hours twirling and leaping throughout the living room. Dancing like a fool did the trick. Instant happiness.

Happiness can’t be bought.

 

Standing in line with my mother waiting to audition for American Idol, season two. We had such an adventure. We waited in line until the middle of the morning for our wrist bands, we were brought to room after room and told how the process would go. I was scared shitless, but I had my mom by my side. We laughed at the craziness of it all, and even though I got cut, the memories made with my mom will last for the rest of my life.

 

BAM. Cash can’t replicate that experience.

 

Basically, what I”m trying to say is… none of my memories throughout my life were happy memories, because they weren’t bought. They were in the moment, blissful contentment.

 

When I was pregnant with my first kid, I spent hours online looking up expensive strollers. My child would only have the best of the best. So what if the stroller at $900? MY CHILD WILL LOVE IT.

My child was an infant who could give two shits about what kind of stroller she was being pushed around in. We would take walks around the block and her giggle warmed my heart. She would ” oooh” and “aahhh” over the flowers, trees, the kids at the playground. I didn’t get that $900 stroller. We still had a great time.

 

I can’t keep up with the Joneses. I don’t want to. I don’t have an expensive car, I don’t buy my kids expensive crap that they’ll toss tomorrow. I want my kids to remember playing with each other in the basement. I want them to remember sliding down the slide, while screaming with glee. I want them to take in all of the nature at our local nature center, while we enjoy hiking together.

The more time I spend sitting at my computer, the more I realize I have instant access to almost everything, with the click of the ” purchase” button. If I want it, I want it right now. It will make me so happy to have it sooner rather than later. I demand prompt delivery for my new *whatever it is*.

I’m not stupid. I know money makes the world go ’round, but I will fight for my children, my family, to know grow with the knowledge that happiness starts here, with us, with our life experiences.

Happiness comes from spilling chocolate milk and giggling while it dribbles down the table. Happiness comes from watching my children run in circles, chasing each other with glee and determination. Happiness comes from sitting by my husband while enjoying a bonfire in our back yard.

 

Can’t buy me that kind of love.

 

 

Here’s a little treat…