Category Archives: Be Grateful

My Mother’s 60th Birthday

Today my mother would have turned 60. Even though she’s been gone for 8 years, I still feel like our relationship is complicated, as most Mother-Daughter dynamics are. All her motherly wisdom is in me but she’s gone – so it’s hard to figure out how/when/what to think about her.

A lot has happened in her absence. I graduated college. I had my first big heartbreak. I was sidetracked in my career for a while but now I’m a full-time writer. I fell in love.

My brother became a chef. Then he started a family and met his soul mate, Lindsay, who has become like a sister, I think. I’ve never had a sister so I don’t really know what I’m talking about. I’m happily still learning the ropes.

Our family expanded, and still has this great loss to deal with.

Eight years have gone by and what does that mean? What I’ve discovered is that it means you’re left with a ton of choices. The really annoying kind of choices where you have to consciously decide to either rise above or sink below.

One decision is: how will I remember her? Will I push her out of my mind so it’s ALMOST like it didn’t happen? Will I try my hardest not to think about “it” so that if ever I do think about it I immediately change the channel?


Will I listen and try to find meaning in the universe around me? Will I make time to be filled with wonder and marvel at how spectacular life can be? Even though existence is rather peculiar.

It’s drudgery. It’s ecstasy. It’s exhausting. It’s magnificent. It’s cruel… it’s kind. And you don’t have control over what happens. You only really decide your outlook — how hard you’ll fight, how brave you’ll be, how generous, how empathetic, how honest, how happy…

I go back and forth — dance a little on each side because the challenges teach me and remind me to be grateful for all of the good.

Last night was one of the moments where I got to experience some of the wonder. I was handed a little inspiration to say all that I want to say today.

Last night, for a reason I cannot explain, I decided to re-watch Spanglish (Thank you, Netflix). I had forgotten how much of that movie is about mothers and daughters. At the end, the mother asks her daughter, “Is what you want in life to be very different from me?” Isn’t that the question we daughters all ask about our mothers? The difference being that if my mother said THAT to me, I’d realize how foolish a question it is, because I’d be honored to be like her.

Side note: Every year I donate blood on my mom’s birthday. If you are thinking that I am telling you that to say, “Hey I’m better than you” then you’re correct. I’m hoping that guilt turns into action. Donate blood today. There are a lot of stats about why it’s good but my favorite is that most premature babies need transfusions. That could be you saving a little baby’s life… today!



Filed under Be Grateful, gratitude, grief, Lauren Muscarella, loss, mother, parent, Volunteer

High Expectations, Yoda Moms + Cubicles

Navigating through my 20s without my mom is tough. I’m a girl living in a man’s world. Brothers. Dad. Boyfriend.

With the days of mourning behind me, I worried what it would be like the further and further I was away from a time when I saw my mother. Talked to her. Would I miss her more? Would I feel very far removed from her? Would I start to forget her?

Perhaps it is counterintuitive but I actually feel a calm because she is with me always influencing my decisions even when it is not apparent. Our relationship miraculously continues to evolve.

Her Latest Lesson

My mother did not build a career. In my limited understanding of the world, I considered this to be an egregious and embarrassing oversight because I have since the age of 5 regarded having a high-powered career as the ultimate achievement. Other girls dream of white dresses and fairytales but I envisioned the homes I would own all over the world.

When I would ask my mother about possible jobs around town she always said something like, “Why am I going to waste my time with that?” I took this a sign she thought she was better than everyone else.

Later when I was in college, I reflected and thought her judgment of others was a defense mechanism, and maybe even laziness or worse, lack of self-work. Time passed and I flip-flopped again. My mother was very intelligent. She could definitely work in any old cubicle around town. Something about my assumption did not add up. She had cancer so then I thought maybe that had something to do with it, but then a fulfilling career seems like a desirable distraction to me.

It was not until years later when I found myself in a cubicle that the crumbs started to lead me in the right direction. I have had pretty good jobs so far. I worked with people who became lifelong friends. I did some creative work writing and producing Web content. I traveled around the U.S. At my last job I even ditched the cube and had an office with huge windows and lots of time for afternoon tennis. Those experiences were adequate. They paid the bills. But two things. One, people telling you what to do sucks. Two, don’t let Mary Tyler Moore fool you, it’s not all co-workers who want to be friends or harbor super secret crushes for nine seasons. It’s a lot of lazy people with no ambition, crotchety bosses who take their boss’ aggression out on you and cake in the kitchen haunting every inch of your body.

Even though I consider myself lucky in many ways (experience, travel, conference tchotchkes) eventually all three of my “real-world” jobs became tedious and stifling on both the soul and the mind. Now I have heard from friends that some desk-jobs are fabulous. I have yet to make on-site visits but I believe they exist. Some people are lucky and find the right blend. Others create their own destiny. It depends on personality. I know myself so I know my expectations for what I am willing to spend my time on is high.

After my last foray (I hope literally my LAST foray) into working for someone else who chops my work into tiny little pieces, I decided my mom was actually a genius. She is absolutely right. Why am I going to spend the precious moments on my life working on projects I’m not passionate about? She spent her time with her family, cooking, eating well, reading and spending her life exploring what interested her. Yes, she did not become famous (yet) but she was the most interesting person to talk with and she consistently worked on her spirituality. By doing so she taught me to hold high expectations for my career and all the precious moments of my life.

That tricky Yoda Mom!

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Filed under Be Grateful, Classic Mama Alice, gratitude, grief, Lauren Muscarella, loss, mother

Gratitude & Support: My Interview on Open to Hope Radio

Open to Hope Radio Lauren Muscarella

Click here to listen to the radio show.

The inspiration, hope and beauty that can emerge from the universal hardships we all experience in one form or another is amazing. The Open to Hope Foundation is one tangible example of this type of resilience. It is one of the best grief resources I have encountered. Dr. Gloria Horsley and her daughter Dr. Heidi Horsley have created a truly inspired organization.

I am flattered and humbled to be a writer for Open to Hope, and be their guest on today’s show. (Radio show.)

Thank you, Dr. Gloria Horsely and Dr. Heidi Horsley, for your contribution and your support of Trauma to Art (t2a). The comments I receive, the people I meet and the shear act of being part of the Open to Hope community fills me with abundance and gratitude.

Much love,

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Filed under Be Grateful, giving thanks, gratitude, grief, mother, Trauma to Art (T2A)

The Art of Using the Postal Service: Symbols of Gratitude

When my family moved to Gardner my mother was separated from her friend Margie. I heard about her from time to time. I assume my mother and her friend commiserated over husband issues, the joys (and pitfalls) of child rearing and other life stuff. After our move their friendship of similar lifestyle and proximity needed to evolve or terminally reside in “Oh remember that friend?”

Thank you notes

At Trauma to Art's first workshop we handed out thank you notes for attending with custom comment cards (stamp included).

Luckily an evolution took place in the form of letter writing. It started when we moved in the 80s and stayed strong for decades. My mother wanted me to watch and learn. Mama Alice, subtle as always, gave me heaps and heaps of stationery and lectured me on the art of picking a proper parchment representation to encapsulate my essence. At the time I had no feasible use for such an education. These days I do.

USPS Modern Update

While I don’t have some great correspondence relationship with a friend whom moved far away, I have taken her practice and updated it. Email is a great way to keep up with all my friends so that is my mode of choice. However, I employ the USPS for a lofty task: acts of gratitude.

Once a day (usually) I write a thank you note to one of my friends. The note could be about something specific. Recently I sent out a stack thanking my friends who helped me through the process of taking a new job (if you helped and haven’t received one, trust me it’s on its way). Sometimes it is a simple ‘thinking of you’.

The Double Thank You

The double thank you is the best. When I can I include a thank you note within the thank you note as a gift so my friend can continue the postal love to another friend of theirs. My way isn’t the only way. How do you show your gratitude?

Much love,

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Filed under Be Grateful, Classic Mama Alice, giving thanks, gratitude, grief, loss, positive tradition