What Are You Thankful For?

This week, I asked my friends and family what they were thankful for this Thanksgiving. There was one catch. They couldn’t say “friends and family.” Here’s what they came up with 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

If Not Now, When?

moving-day

The other night I was home as usual–I know, it must be hard to believe I’m not out every night at the club—and I had yet another revelation.

It’s time for me to leave my grandparents house.

In order for me to fully begin the process of following my dream of moving to New York and becoming a writer, I need to be independent. I need to break the physical tethers tying me home so I can be free to make my own decisions.

It may seem silly to move all my things to New Paltz only to move them all the way down into the city in only a few short months, but I know that this is the right thing to do. By moving all my things upstate, I won’t have to make an interim stop at my grandparents in the winter. This will not only save time, but will keep me from falling into the same slump I fell into last winter and this summer.

When I am at school I am constantly being stimulated and inspired simply by virtue of being in an academic setting (even if it’s not perfect). I have a much clearer focus of what I want to do and how I’m going to get it done. I am completely independent, cleaning and doing my own grocery shopping and cooking (even if it is only vegetables and veggie burgers most nights).

But when I return home, I feel as though all the progress I’ve made during the semester is lost. I go back to relying on my grandparents more than I’d like to. I have to tell them where I’m going, why, and when I’ll be back. Every time I sit down to do work, my little sister knocks on the door. And most of all, it’s extremely hard to feel inspired here when everyone in my family has been living the same way for longer than I’ve been alive—and sometimes not in the healthiest ways.

By moving my things upstate now, I will begin to feel the freedom that I crave. I will make decisions for myself without worrying about what my family will or will not approve of. I will be free from criticism (that my grandfather thinks is helpful, which sometimes just hurts). I will be the head of my household. The decision maker of my life. The captain of my ship, if you will.

I always imagined this sort of independence when I was younger. Even before my dad became sick, I dreamed of living on my own at a young age and providing for myself. I wanted that sense of independence over my own life. And my dad never disagreed.

When he died though, my fierce sense of independence dulled. But now that I’ve healed and refocused my energy, I look forward to the opportunity to truly be on my own.

My grandparents have done so much for me growing up and I am truly grateful to them. But now it is time for me to live my own life. “Carve my own path,” like my grandpa just said the other day.

And if they truly love me, they will be happy with my decision. Because they know this is what will help me find fulfillment.

And if I’m not mistaken, this is what all parents’–or in this case, grandparents–want for their children. For them to be strong, determined, and independent. It means they’ve done their job right. And for me, they have.

How I Met My Wife: Walter Whitmore

Guys, I am SO sorry I didn’t post yesterday. You know I rarely skip a day without a post telling why but yesterday turned into a bit of a nightmare with a family emergency. But don’t worry, everything is okay now. So here’s the video I was going to post. Today’s post will be up in a few minutes as well! 

Last Thursday I posted a video of my grandmother telling me about how she met her husband, my grandfather. (As seen here:  https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/how-i-met-my-husband/)  This week I decided to get my grandfather to tell his side of the story. Enjoy!

How I Met My Husband

Hey guys! I am SO sorry I didn’t post yesterday. This week has been very hectic for me. I started working at my old summer job and also began volunteering at a children’s hospital. I was completely burnt out Tuesday night and yesterday. But never fear, today’s post is something I hope will make up for it! 

A few weeks ago I asked my readers’ what story you would like to be told. I got some great ideas (and please, feel free to keep sharing your ideas with me in the comment box below) and decided that the first story I would record and share with all of you is one of my grandmother telling the story of how she met her husband, my grandfather. I hope that you enjoy!

The Month of Maying

Last Wednesday, after teaching my violin lesson, I happily returned home and found one of my neighbors parked in my driveway. It was one of my grandpa’s best friends, May, and her son Marty. I hadn’t seen them since the winter at a volunteer party at church. May had her white hair set in ringlets that night. She was the belle of the ball.

I waved hello to Marty, his smile spread wide across his face, and leaned in the passenger side window to give May a kiss on the cheek. She was pleasantly surprised that I played the violin. In her lyrical Irish accent, she asked if I would come to her house one day over the summer with my grandma and sister for dinner. And of course, I agreed.

As I walked back into my house, I heard May’s voice. “She’s such a sweet girl…” I couldn’t help but smile.

*

Monday morning, I sat in my Jeep before heading home from Nina’s after getting my wisdom tooth pulled below the dark sky threatening rain. I pulled my cell phone out.

“Hello,” my grandpa answered. His voice sounded deeper than usual.

“Hey Grandpa, I’m just calling to—“

“Hold on.” Click. He switched over to the other line to finish a call with someone else. He always does this. I couldn’t help but feel a little frustrated. I only had to say “–I’m coming home now.” Nevertheless, I listened to the silence and waited for his voice to sound in my ear.

“Yea, hi.” I heard him shifting in his seat. I could picture him sitting at the wooden kitchen table, in a plaid button up t-shirt, his FDNY mug filled with coffee, still deciding on what to have for breakfast.

“I was just calling to let you know that I’m coming home now. That’s all.”

“Oh, okay…well, drive safe okay?”

“I will.”

He hesitated.

“Because we had a big tragedy here today…” My heart dropped. The world stopped. All that existed was my grandpa’s breath on the other line and the water that had begun streaming down the windshield.

My mind raced. Someone had died. But it couldn’t have been anyone in our family. He would’ve told me immediately. Or maybe he would have waited until I got home? My thoughts raced to my grandma who had been sick with a cold the last few days. What would I do without her?

“My friend May Loftus is dead.”

What? I just spoke to her a few days ago. I can still hear her voice in my head. “She’s such a sweet girl.”

“Oh my gosh…Grandpa, I’m so sorry. What happened?”

“Her and Marty got into a car accident. We just found out this morning…” his voice trailed to a whisper and I could see his lip quivering, fighting to maintain composure, his blue eyes squinting against the tears that would be pooling in his eyes. “Here…talk to Grandma.” His voice cracked.

“Hi Abigail.” Her voice calm and steady as usual, if only a little scratchy from her cold.

“Grandma, what happened?”

Shocked, I hung up the phone promising to drive especially careful in the downpour. I sat in silence while I drove—something I never do—and let my mind wander.

I knew that this was not my loss and I shouldn’t let it consume me the way the death of my father had. But I couldn’t help but feel like the world was once again reminding me how quickly things can change. Literally, here today—gone tomorrow. And so easily. What are the odds that it was our neighbor driving at that exact moment? What if they had left five minutes later?

I couldn’t help but contemplate my own mortality as well. Will I die suddenly without feeling satisfied with my life? This is a fear I battle all too frequently. I’m not sure if other people my age think about this. For me, I think it’s the result of having been exposed to such a close loss so early in my life. But then again, I know this question rests in everyone’s minds.

There are so many things I’ve yet to do. So many people I want to meet and places I want to see (cliché I know, but who cares at a time like this). And after being reminded of how easily this beautiful life can be taken away—just in a matter of seconds—I realized how much I take for granted. I need to be more appreciative of what I have now instead of what I could have in the future.

You might be thinking I’m having a bit of an existential crisis. And you would be right. Mark Twain said, “A man [or woman] who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” I want to be prepared.

*

I don’t think May’s death happened to teach me a lesson. That would be narcissistic to think. But I do think that when tragedies happen, there is a lesson to be learned. It may not be a lesson we learn today, tomorrow, a month from now, or even years. But there is something to be learned from loss. Even if it is just to value our own lives and the lives of those around us just a little bit more.

For May.

1928-2013

The Meaning of Life: Abbey Gallagher Style

The_Meaning_of_Life

Last night I was video chatting with one of my best friends Kaitlyn (who I wrote about here: https://abbeygallagher.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/meet-cha-cha/) and she decided to give me suggestions of things to write about for some upcoming posts. She kept the list short and ended with, “Oh yea, and if you could…can you please write about the meaning of life?” Sure Kaitlyn, because I’m such an expert on that one.

And since I’ve realized my best ideas come to me while I’m either showering or brushing my teeth, I headed to the bathroom with toothbrush and paste in hand. As I scrubbed away at my pearly whites (rather aggressively–the dentist is never happy with me) I realized I don’t have any answer for Kaitlyn about the meaning of life. I do however know some things that give life meaning.

So coming to you from my stuffy NYU dorm I give you:

THE THINGS THAT GIVE LIFE MEANING: ABBEY GALLAGHER STYLE

1. Cats. Or pets in general. They are cute and cuddly (for the most part) and are always there when you need them. They are perfectly content to listen to you talk about how you and your ex-lover broke up when all your friends are sick of it. And unlike that ex-lover, they never fight with you. Plus, they are so darn cute:

cute_cat

even when they’re grumpy:

Grumpy cat

and even when they’re naked:

naked cat2. Frozen yogurt. Because finally, there is a place where I am allowed to have all the toppings I want on a sundae and don’t have to feel guilty for making the waiter write them all down. And besides being delicious, it’s an opportunity to get together with friends and enjoy a night out.

froyo

3. Sunsets. Or sunrises. The simplicity of the sun rising and setting is often an act of nature that is often taken for granted. I highly recommend taking a morning and evening once in a while to stop and simply enjoy the beauty of the natural world that we live in. You won’t regret it.

sunset

4. Books. Books to entertain. Books to instruct. Books to inform. Bad books, mediocre books, any books. Story books. Cook books. Old books. New books. Books, books, books. And not just having the books! Reading the books!

reading

5. Music. In a few short minutes, a song can take the listener (or the musician playing) on an emotional journey that cannot be replicated in any other art form. It’s hard to describe in words the importance of music and even though I have this pretty picture below, I think you should just go listen to your favorite song right now.

violin

6. Helping others. While it’s nice to go on and enjoy our very exciting and interesting and busy lives, it is very important to give back to others. This could be by financially helping a friend when they need it, volunteering at an animal shelter or nursing home, or teaching a child a new skill. However you do it, you’ll be surprised to know that yes, you’re helping someone out, but the reward of that feeling will stay with you long after you commit the act.

volunteeringHands

7. Family. This can include the people that raised you and love you unconditionally and the friends who love you with no obligation. They are the people who choose to be a part of your life and that you choose to keep in it. They make you feel important and understood. They encourage you to pursue dreams and help create new ones. These are the people you share your life with, who make it all worth while.

Group Shot1

From left: my Grandma, Grandpa, Mom, Dad, and Auntie Barbara

In other words– much shorter words–the things that give life meaning (for me) are:

  1. Our non-human creature friends
  2.  Food
  3.  The beauty of the natural world
  4. Knowledge
  5. Art
  6. Charity
  7. Love

Although I don’t have the meaning of life for Kaitlyn, I do know that it has to do with being happy. And I know that all the things I’ve listed above do that for me.

And whenever I am worried that there is no meaning at all, I think about what my dad asked me one hot summer night: “Why is there something instead of nothing?”

I’d love for you to share what gives your life meaning in the comment box below! Have a great day everyone and keep doing the things that give your life meaning!