Reflection: 2015 - A Year Of Gratitude


I decided to title 2015, "A Year of Gratitude", because I experienced several challenges that were extremely sobering. Isn't it coincidental how when you're put in a situation of fear and vulnerability, you are suddenly humbled; recalling how blessed you really are?

Well, 2015 was a year of being humbled. Many times.


If you are a regular reader of my blog, you already know about the challenge I went through in October with my health. However, what I didn't share with you was another challenge that occurred the month before in September. The apartment building I live in caught fire, which was the result of an arson fire in the building next to us. The tenants of my apartment complex were suddenly awakened at 3:43 AM to the sound of fire alarms blaring through the hallways and units. And what I thought would be a false alarm, like so many are in my building, turned out to be a true alarm. Yes, there was in fact a real fire because as soon as I opened my apartment door and started walking 21 floors down the fire escape stairwell, I could smell smoke. And by the time I got to the 5th floor, I could actually see smoke. It was at that point I heard firemen running up the stairs, telling all of us to move as quickly as we could. When I finally got outside and turned around to see exactly where the fire was, I saw the lower south side of my apartment building in total flames. There were FIVE fire trucks in the street, all hosing down the building, which took over 4 hours to extinguish. To make a long story short, all 250 apartment units were safely evacuated (and all pets - dogs and cats - were also evacuated). The Philadelphia Fire Department did an amazing job getting us to safety. And so efficiently. BRAVO to them!

That day, the tenants and I were outside in the street for 15 hours while the apartment building was checked and then rechecked to make sure the fire was completely extinguished and safe for us to return to our apartments. But what we eventually found out was that the second to seventh floor apartments on the south side of the building were severely damaged; making it impossible for those tenants to return until they were completely reconstructed. Blessedly for me though, my apartment is located on the north side of the building and on a much higher floor, therefore other than the strong smell of smoke which lingered for almost two months, there was no damage to my apartment or personal belongings.

I had a lot of time that day to think about how lucky I was and how the ridiculously silly stuff I continually get upset about was nothing compared to what had happened that day. I mean, had the fire department not been so efficient, my entire apartment building could have been destroyed. I and the other tenants could have lost everything. And even worse, people could have lost their lives.

What I also felt very blessed for that day was the way in which the entire neighborhood came to our rescue to help in anyway they could. The grocery store around the corner sent over sandwiches so that we wouldn't go hungry. The bar on the corner where I live opened their doors at 9 AM so that we could have a place to sit and hangout for the day, instead of having to walk the streets. They also allowed us to use their restrooms and gave us food and bottled water.

I was so touched by the kindness and generosity of the neighborhood community.

And then of course three weeks later in October, another challenge presented itself. I was hospitalized for two weeks because of a severe infection in my left lung. But as you know, as scary as the experience was, I was well-taken care of by the hospital staff and completely recovered.

Earlier in the year, I also decided (without having another job lined up) to quit my job and find another one. Luckily and quickly, I did.

Yes, 2015 was a year of challenges that shook me in fear and tested my belief that all would be taken care of and I'd be okay.

And I was.

I think sometimes we need to have our world rocked to the core, so that we become more consciously aware of the many things we have to be grateful for because things could be worse. I also think it humbles us to mankind; realizing that there are truly good people in the world who sincerely care about others.

I was humbled and softened last year.

And I needed that.

To see how blessed I am.


Have a faaaantastic week everyone!
X

42 comments

  1. Not many things scarier than a fire. It is nice knowing that in times of crisis, most people will not hesitate to help others.

    In college, the fire alarm went off when I was in a friend's apartment and he was like "ignore it, it's another fire drill." Ten minutes later we hear a lot of commotion and we looked out the window, lo and behold the 2 floors above us were actually on fire. We spent the next 2 hours outside with his cats zipped up in our hoodies.

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  2. Ron, you ARE blessed! To have such a caring neighborhood, other tenants to share your misery, a competent fire department, and a unit that wasn't damaged...what prompts for an attitude of gratitude!!

    Something just occurred to me...do you think your health episode in October was related to the fire from the month previously? Stress does nasty things to our bodies, you know, and it wouldn't surprise me to hear these incidents were connected (though getting the medical personnel to confirm it might be another matter!)

    Thank you for reminding ALL of us not to take our blessings -- and our lives -- for granted. Yes, some suffer physical or emotional pain, some suffer unemployment and must bear financial burdens, some suffer loneliness. But every time, we've got to know things could be much worse.

    Happy Marid Gras, my friend! xo

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  3. Whoops -- that's supposed to be Mardi Gras -- silly fingers just don't want to type this early, ha!

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  4. Hey there Mitch!

    You're so right about that, not many things scarier than a fire.

    "It is nice knowing that in times of crisis, most people will not hesitate to help others."

    Yes, and especially in a city because it can sometimes be a place in which people don't even notice each other and make eye contact. I was so touch by the neighborhood community and the way they reached out to help.

    "Ten minutes later we hear a lot of commotion and we looked out the window, lo and behold the 2 floors above us were actually on fire. We spent the next 2 hours outside with his cats zipped up in our hoodies."

    Yikes, that must have been scary and challenging for you as well. I noticed that several of the tenants in our building were carrying cat-carriers. And one of the tenants who has a service dog for his illness, was also outside with his dog. I was so touched by how some of the firemen actually went back inside the apartment building and rescued the cats of tenants who were not at home when the fire broke out.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a terrific week!
    X

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  5. Hiya Debbie!

    I know, wasn't it so sweet that the people and businesses in our neighborhood reached out to help? I was so touched. And you're right, it was nice to be there with other tenants to talk and share our feelings. in fact, I got to meet many tenants who I had never seen in the building before. And yes...a competent fire department too. They were the BEST!

    "Something just occurred to me...do you think your health episode in October was related to the fire from the month previously?"

    There is no doubt that it probably aggravated my sickness because I found myself coughing more after the fire. However, I was already sick in August; therefore I don't think it was totally related to my health episode. Also, the doctors informed me that the infection was caused from a tooth abscess that traveled to my lungs.

    "Yes, some suffer physical or emotional pain, some suffer unemployment and must bear financial burdens, some suffer loneliness. But every time, we've got to know things could be much worse."

    Amen!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a faaaaaaabulous week!

    X

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  6. And HAPPY MARDI GRAS to you too, Debbie!

    Cheers!

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  7. Wow Ron, I think I remember watching something about a big fire downtown last year in the fall. It was all over the news. Was that YOUR building??? You must have been scared out of your mind. There is nothing more frightening than a fire. How long did it take for the tenants whose apartments were damaged to get back into there homes? Like your reader Debbie, I was thinking that it may have had something to do with your lung problem in October. But after reading your comment I see that it did not.

    Thank heavens for the efficiency of the fire department and the kindness from your neighborhood. "I also think it humbles us to mankind; realizing that there are truly good people in the world who sincerely care about others." I think you're right. It oftentimes takes a crisis to show us how helpful people can be to each other.

    Wonderful post, Ron. Inspiring message!

    Glad you're alright. x

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  8. Ron, one of my biggest fears is having a fire in my apartment. I'm so paranoid about making sure I don't leave things like my clothes iron, curling iron or gas stove on before I leave the house. OMG...how scary that must have been for you and the other tenants. But I am so happy to read you were taken care of by the fire department and the people of your neighborhood. You are blessed, you really are!

    I admire how you always take your experiences/challenges and discover what they taught you. Inspiring, Ron!

    Have a wonderful week!xo

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  9. Ron, you certainly did have a year of scary challenges. But I love your attitude and outlook because you always focus on the positive. I need to be more like that. Tell me, how did they find out it was an arson fire? And did they catch the person who did it?

    Don't you admire the courage of the fire department? I think it takes a special person to risk their lives and fight fires.

    Glad to hear that last year is behind you, dude!

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  10. Hellooooo there Elaine,

    Yes...that was MY building!!!! The Philadelphia news stations were all over the place that day. They were also televising it via helicopters because I could hear and see them in the sky. Their were a couple of stations that even interviewed some of the tenants in my building. I watched the news (online) later that night.

    "How long did it take for the tenants whose apartments were damaged to get back into there homes? "

    Initially the apartment management told them that it would only be a week or so until their apartments were refurbished. However, last week I spoke with one of the tenants whose apartment was damaged from the fire that day, and she told me that it took them TWO months to have her apartment completely refurbished.

    " It oftentimes takes a crisis to show us how helpful people can be to each other."

    Yes, it does, doesn't it?

    Thanks so much for stopping by, neighbor. Have a terrific week!

    X

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  11. Holy crap, Ron! What an ordeal! I'm so glad to hear that business owners nearby helped out during the crisis. And how scary afterwards, to realize what could have been. I'm sure hoping that 2016 is drama free for you, my friend!

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  12. Hola Denise!

    I used to be the same way about leaving my apartment and making sure everything was turned off, in fear of a fire. I was especially that way when I had gas stove. Now, thank god, I have electric.

    The fire department did an amazing job in getting everyone out of the building to safety. And I was so touched by the support we received from the neighborhood. People were so concerned for us.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, girl. Have a wonderful week too!!!!

    X

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  13. Hiya Matt!

    They found out is was an arson fire because of the cameras that were attached to our building that face the alleyway, where the fire started. It took them a while but they saw who did it on the tape. And I don't know how they did it, but they tracked him down and arrested him.

    " I think it takes a special person to risk their lives and fight fires."

    I soooooooooooooo agree! It's takes a VERY special person to do that work. And I sooooooo admire them for it.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a most excellent week!

    X

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  14. Holy crap is right, Bijoux! What an ordeal!

    I was going to share this story with you guys back when it happened in September, but it was during the time when I was on my blogging break.

    "I'm so glad to hear that business owners nearby helped out during the crisis."

    It was so touching to see how caring and supportive everyone was to us. And it really helped too because I don't think any of us knew just how long we'd be outside before getting the okay to reenter.

    The next day before I went to work, I walked to the side of our building just to see the damage from the fire. The whole area was taped off so we couldn't get close. However, I could see that it had REALLY done some damage. And not only to our apartment building, but also the condo building on the other side of the alleyway.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a super week!
    X

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  15. Geraldine H.February 09, 2016

    Oh Ron, how incredibly scary that must have been, to be awakened in the middle of the night and find up it was "the real thing" this time, not just a false alarm. I can't even imagine how awful that must have been. But yes, you WERE lucky not to have to move afterwards, as other people needed to in your building. Are you feeling safe living there now, after that night? I don't know if it would "haunt" me to stay in a place, after a night like that. It could have been so much worse.

    And yes, you did get through a lot of challenges didn't you and came out of them: stronger, wiser, healthier...much to be grateful for indeed.

    I start every day now with a new gratitude list, to set the tone for the day in a positive frame of mind. It really DOES help!

    Thanks for sharing this 2015 round-up post. I'm glad you made it through the year and are better and wiser for what has happened in your life in the past year. You go Ron!!! :-)

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  16. Hi Geraldine!

    "you WERE lucky not to have to move afterwards, as other people needed to in your building."

    Yes I was VERY lucky, indeed. The apartment company placed some of the tenants in hotel rooms for awhile, however, other tenants left the city and stayed with relatives until their apartments were refurbished. This happened around the time Pope Francis was visiting the Philadelphia; therefore there were many hotels with vacancies.

    "Are you feeling safe living there now, after that night? I don't know if it would "haunt" me to stay in a place, after a night like that. It could have been so much worse."

    You know, someone at work asked me the same thing. Honestly, I have no fear at all. It was a scary experience to go through yet, I'm not afraid that it might happen again.

    "I start every day now with a new gratitude list, to set the tone for the day in a positive frame of mind. It really DOES help!"

    Good for you! And I do the same thing! I don't make a list (such as writing them down on a piece of paper or journal), but I do consciously think about them when I do my daily mediation. And you're right, it DOES help to set the tone for the day.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a super fabulous week!

    X

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  17. Oh, my God, Ron, I had no idea about the fire! You told us about your illness and how (very bravely) quit your old job, but this fire story is truly frightening. And all this happened in the same year! I can see why you're calling 2015 the Year of Gratitude.

    I think you're right about having our world rocked as a way teaching gratitude and appreciation for what we have.

    Since I lost my job this earlier this month I've come to really appreciate and love my friends and family more than ever. People have been so supportive (including you!) So thanks for sharing your experiences with us. The provide a valuable lesson on how to succeed in life!

    Take care, buddy!

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  18. Geraldine H.February 10, 2016

    I don't actually make a list either, it's all in my early morning thoughts. But i DO make sure that I do that "mind list", every day. When I don't, I feel like I've missed something important.

    I am so glad you are not being spooked by any memories of that night. Things like this can happen anywhere, to anyone...hopefully you will never go through anything like that again.

    Hope you're having a very good day! G

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  19. "When I don't, I feel like I've missed something important."

    Same with me, Geraldine! When I don't, I feel out of sync. Gratitude seems to keep me centered and in the moment.

    "...hopefully you will never go through anything like that again."

    Amen!

    Thanks for stopping by back and have a super rest of your week!
    X

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  20. Hey there Rob!

    Yes, I didn't share about fire because that was when I was still on hiatus and not blogging. Also, I was feeling tired and ill back then (with my "lung thing"), so I didn't have the strength to even talk about the fire. For some reason, the past two weeks I've been reflecting on 2015 and realized that with all the stuff that went on in life last year, I still had so much to be grateful for.

    "Since I lost my job this earlier this month I've come to really appreciate and love my friends and family more than ever. People have been so supportive (including you!)"

    Yes, and that's why I shared with you that I understood exactly what you're going through and how you feel right now. And trust me, something wonderful is coming into your life. A change. And a FABULOUS change. So keep the faith, buddy!

    And thanks so much for stopping by!
    X

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  21. Phew, lucky escape. Glad everything turned out ok Ron, and I hope this year is less challenging.

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  22. Ron, you certainly did have a year of challenges. Whoa!! I don't think there is anything more scary than experiencing a fire. I never have, but just the thought makes me frightened. I admire you for being able to stay living there and not be afraid. If it were me, I think I'd have to move.

    I'm glad to hear your neighborhood was so supportive and helpful in a time of need. That reinforces my belief in human kindness and compassion.

    Well expressed post, Ron!

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  23. Thank you, Dale :) And me too! I feel sooooo lucky that everything turned out okay!

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a super rest of your week and weekend!

    X

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  24. Hey ho Robert!

    Yes, other people have mentioned the same thing. And yet it's odd, I never felt frightened to stay living here. Since then, I've spoken to several other tenants who were here the night the fire happened, and they too said they didn't feel frightened.

    "I'm glad to hear your neighborhood was so supportive and helpful in a time of need. That reinforces my belief in human kindness and compassion."

    I was soooooooooo utterly touched and moved by the support and care from the neighborhood. They were all so sweet.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a great rest of your week and weekend!
    X

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  25. Mark PetruskaFebruary 11, 2016

    Wow. Scary experience, Ron! You may recall a few years ago when the building next to ours in my townhouse complex caught on fire and was completely destroyed. I know firsthand the fear when you think you might just lose everything, and the relief that follows when you don't. Sometimes you do need to be shaken to the core to experience that type of gratitude. It's really strange how closely our lives parallel each other's, in so many ways. Glad you have bounced back with a renewed outlook on and appreciation for life!

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  26. Ooooh Ron, having been through fire in my younger days my heart was in my mouth as I read this post. Thank the good Lord you and all your neighbours were safe. You are right, it often takes something like this to make us appreciate what we have or indeed life itself. Yet, the aftermath can take it's toll, as you discovered. Not directly, it doesn't work that way, as you also experienced. But hey, look at you now, my friend. Time to celebrate - in a quiet way, of course. May future days be trouble free xx

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  27. OMG Valerie, that's right....I totally forgot about your having been through fire. So I know you can identify with the fear. And even more so than me because you actually got burned. I can't imagine what you mus have been through.

    Yes, thank the good Lord we were brought to safety. We were so lucky that the fire department worked so fast and efficiently.

    "Yet, the aftermath can take it's toll, as you discovered. Not directly, it doesn't work that way, as you also experienced."

    Yes, I know exactly what you mean, the aftermath can take it's toll. I don't think something like this hits you all at once, it's afterword it all sinks in.

    As challenging as last year was, I'm grateful because it caused me to see things differently.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, dear lady. Have a faaaaaaaabulous weekend!

    X

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  28. Hey there Mark!

    OMG....YES....I DO remember a few years ago when that happened because you posted about it. And if I remember correctly, you even posted photographs of the fire!

    " It's really strange how closely our lives parallel each other's, in so many ways."

    Yes, it is isn't? Both the fire AND our experiences with getting sick and spending time in the hospital.

    It really alters your perception of things, doesn't it?

    Thanks so much for stopping by, buddy. Have a faaaaaaabulous weekend!

    X to you and Tara

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  29. Wow Ron, it must have been so hard for those tenants who had find another place to live until their apartments were refurbished. Two months was a long time.

    So glad your apartment was safe and didn't have to go through that.

    Have great weekend x

    Can you believe how cold it got? Brrrrrr

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  30. Yes, it must have been. The apartment company put them up for a few days at first, however, eventually they had to find their own place to live. Some tenants even had to move back home (and out of town) with their families until the apartments were fixed.

    I know....it got SOOOOOOOOOOOO cold these past few days. And I hear that Saturday it's supposed to drop down into the teens. I'm not complaining though because I love the cold.

    Have a super weekend, neighbor!
    X

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  31. http://ladyfi.wordpress.comFebruary 12, 2016

    You had quite a year! How frightening the fire must have been... Life is so much sweeter with gratitude sprinkled on top! Yes!

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  32. Yes I did, Fiona! But it's as you said.....

    "Life is so much sweeter with gratitude sprinkled on top."

    I LOVE that! Well said, my friend!

    Have a terrific weekend and thanks so much for stopping by!
    X

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  33. Geraldine H.February 13, 2016

    PS: On a completely unrelated topic Ron, I know how talented you are when it comes to all things photographic. Could you recommend a user-friendly (easy, peasy...and asap) photo filing system?

    My photos WERE nice and organized for a while but it's one big mess again, what with blogging and all.

    I find the file system on Windows annoying, trying to pull photos into files on the sidebar, without accidentally putting them into the wrong folder, with no spaces in between the printing there. I thought maybe I should go with something totally different to clean up this pic mess, once and for all. Preferably free too, natch!!! ;-)

    Email when you've got time OK, thanks a bunch. and yes AMEN that it never happens to you again, re: the fire. Once I'm sure is more than enough.

    Happy Weekend, G :-)

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  34. Will do, Geraldine! I'll email you.

    Happy Weekend!
    X

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  35. Oh, you know I so agree with these sorts of experiences being humbling, necessary and ultimately gratitude-inducing. I had a big health scare last month (biopsy when it looked my cancer had returned) and then my fiancé had one this month. And I, too, am grateful.

    Sorry to have been so absent! I hope you are having a good start to 2016.

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  36. " I had a big health scare last month (biopsy when it looked my cancer had returned) and then my fiancé had one this month. And I, too, am grateful."

    OMG, yes, I just woke up and was sipping my morning coffee and saw that you had posted recently and read all about your fiances health scare this month. I'm so glad hear that he AND you are okay. Whew!

    I will be stopping by your blog sometime this morning to leave a comment.

    And no worries, my friend, I totally understand that you've been busy and not blogging as much :)

    Thanks for stopping by and have a super week!
    X

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  37. The last part Ron... that last full paragraph. Yea... that one. I get it. I lived it. Perhaps not quite in that manner, as it doesn't mean "someone has to almost die in your family..." but the manner where when something rocks your world... takes you to the darkest place you have ever seen... it changes you. Changes your perspective. Your hospital stay... my son's hospital stay.... I see things with new eyes, Ron. I cried when I read that paragraph. YOU GET IT. And I GET IT. How blessed and fortunate are we right now... you know? We are SO BLESSED. Little problems are little problems. We now see the forest through the trees.

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  38. Katherine, I love how you said this...

    "as it doesn't mean "someone has to almost die in your family..." but the manner where when something rocks your world... takes you to the darkest place you have ever seen... it changes you. Changes your perspective."

    You are so right! And also that we now see things with new eyes. Yes!

    I was talking with a dear friend of mine the other night and explaining everything I went through in the fall, with my health and the fire, and said to her, "I know this sounds strange, but for as challenging as those experiences were, I look back on them in fondness because I learned so much."

    "How blessed and fortunate are we right now... you know? We are SO BLESSED. Little problems are little problems. We now see the forest through the trees."

    Amen, my friend. Amen!

    Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your wisdom to this post!

    X

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  39. That would have truly been a horrifying experience. I'm glad you were guided to safety and your side was not damaged. Yes, things like this (and your health scare) drive home important realizations about life and ourselves. Experiences that bring us to our knees in humility are the ones that serve as building blocks for better attitudes, character and faith. In my world, God uses these rock-your-world-to-the-core events as a holy two by four upside the head to get my attention, and make me realize and admit things I've glossed over and excused for far too long. Been doing a lot of self-reflection lately and have not liked what I've seen in myself. Time for an attitude overhaul.

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  40. Lisa, I totally agree with you! Things like this drive home important realizations about life and ourselves. I was talking with a friend of mine over dinner last week and I said that I needed these things to happen to me because I was taking a lot of wonderful blessings in my life for granted; assuming they would always be there. I was humbled. And I needed that.

    Thanks so much for stopping by, my friend. Have a lovely week!
    X

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  41. benzekneesMarch 08, 2016

    It is only through hardship we learn to appreciate what we truly have Ron. This is a lesson I have learned the hard way so many times. Now I am trying to live my life in a spirit of appreciation for many of the small things in life which makes it easier to also appreciate the larger things.

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  42. Benze....I LOVE your comment!!!!!

    "Now I am trying to live my life in a spirit of appreciation for many of the small things in life which makes it easier to also appreciate the larger things."

    AMEN! And you're right, it's through the hardships that we learn to notice and appreciate what we truly have.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your wisdom, my friend!
    X

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