My Christmas Card to Everyone I Know

December 24, 2012

Dear family and friends,

Earlier tonight my buddy Chad Bennet from Church had sent me a text. Not long before he had typed up a really long post, bearing his testimony and sharing with everyone what Christmas means to him. It was really moving, which prompted me to send him a message thanking him. Inspiration for this post comes from what I had sent him.

What does Christmas mean to me? Every single year many of the same thoughts keep going through my mind, although I’m exposed to new ideas each new year. One thing that has bothered me is seeing the Salvation Army out in front of the front doors of major stores. Please hear me out on this. Their cause is wonderful. The volunteers have a heart of gold, especially the ones spending hours in the colder climates. However, where is this wonderful organization the rest of the year? If their mission is so important, why don’t they care enough to ring their bells in June or July? Based on this small yet important facet of the image they portray, those people only are in need just before Christmas.

Even though I will end up making more money this year than I ever have, I barely bought any Christmas gifts. Things have become so commercialized. Christmas is about family. Christmas is about really giving of yourself. Christmas is about the birth of our savior and redeemer, Jesus Christ. Here’s a great quote by Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints:

There is no better time than now, this very Christmas season, for all of us to rededicate ourselves to the principles taught by Jesus the Christ. It is the time to love the Lord our God with all our heart—and our neighbors as ourselves. It is well to remember that he who gives money gives much, he who gives time gives more, but he who gives of himself gives all. Let this be a description of our Christmas gifts.

Even though I am against the commercialization of Christmas and the pressure placed on those in our society to spend until we are in debt, just to avoid being shamed, I surely do enjoy giving of myself to others. Because of not making myself vulnerable enough to really get to know the people closest to me, I have struggled to know what to buy for them. Hopefully, the lesson that I can take from this is that I need to do anything necessary to get to know these people better. I need to ask the right questions. I need to find their needs.

For some of these people many miles separate us. It makes giving of my time quite a challenge. Maybe I can find a way to give of myself. That really takes a lot of heart, pondering, and praying for answers.

I really struggle with how others see me. Normally it does not make a difference to me. However, I am a giver, a provider, and a lover. I really feel the need to share my love with others. When I stuggle to find ways to share my love or to get people to accept my gifts of love, I easily get frustrated. Of the four major types of “boxes” of justification for conflict, I am most prone to get stuck in the The Must-Be-Seen-As Box:

View of myself:  need to be well thought of, fake
View of others:  judgmental, threatening, my audience
Feelings:  anxious, afraid, needy, stressed, overwhelmed
View of the world:  dangerous, watching, judging me

The best thing to do is to stop thinking about doing things. As Yoda said, “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.” We are rewarded for taking action, even if it is a rushed action, resulting in mistakes. You learn so much more from your mistakes than from the frustrations you incur when dwelling on action but doing nothing instead.

Now that I have that stuff out of the way, let’s move onto some real “Change” and “Hope.” In our society we have created so many bad habits for ourselves. When there is conflict in our lives, names are called. Accusations are made. Comparisons are made. Talking-down is done. In split seconds we find ways to justify our wrongdoings. That person did this. This person said that. That person is just lazy. This person just does not care. That person is just rude.

We all are people. We all have feelings. We all have needs. Even that person that hurt you is hurting inside. Think of the person who last hurt you. Could you imagine if he / she apologized to you and wanted to work things out with you. Let’s turn things around. What’s stopping you from taking this step in the conflicts in your life?

Gratitude is the source of happiness. You have nothing to be happy about if you feel no gratitude. I beat gratitude to death on recent posts, so we don’t need to elaborate this time. For now, think of those conflicts in your life. These people came into your life for some good reason or another. Otherwise you would have never been friends, family, or a couple. Stop, write down a list of the reasons you are truly blessed for knowing those people. Read those lists out loud to yourself. You will find the heart to reach out to those people. Let go of the booby prize, which is pride / hurt. Once you’ve done that, you can claim your grand prize: a healthy, loving, meaningful relationship!

I had a lot of really crappy things happen this year. Then again, I have had some incredible blessings that I would have otherwise never dared imagine! It all comes from perception. Please read this great article, Looking for the Good by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf. You will find what you are looking for. If your attitude sucks, you will find all the bad things in your life. If you really go off the deep end, you will sound like the lady described by Zig Ziglar in his talk, Attitude Makes All the Difference. Here’s a great, concise quote by Charles Dickens to help you understand this concept “Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some.”

Thank you for putting up with my long-winded ramblings. There is a point to this all. It’s all part of where I have been. The journey is not to be discounted when considering the destination. Here’s where it all happens.

The year 2012 has been such an amazing journey! In January I moved over to the Customer Development Team at work. I now work just down the street from home. I get to express my gratitude to 50-100 of my company’s customers each day. Oftentimes they really don’t want to talk. Fortunately, each day I am given many opportunities to really make a difference in their accounts. Additionally, I won a three-day trip to Las Vegas, an NFL jersey, a $1,000.00 Costco shopping spree (scored a new camera!), and then won $1,000.00 at our Holiday Party! I apologize if I appear to brag; I am just so full of gratitude that I cannot contain myself!

July brought with it a two-week cross-country drive to Chicago! I got to spend time with my family in Missouri and Illinois. I even spent two days in a row in Downtown Chicago. I really love road trips, so this is something that Laura and I have been talking about doing since we first began dating in 2008!

Also, since 1998 I had not gone camping. I got to go twice up in Payson, AZ! That was such a nice break from work! Plus, both trips involved so many great people from my Church.

Yes, I have gone through a lot of struggles this year. So many people have tried to give me advice of what to do. Just like how I want to help others that I love, you too have tried to help me. There is no way that I can take everyone’s advice. I am not to be drawn and quartered! Ultimately, I am the one who needs to live with my choices. Thank you for all the time you spent listening to me. Thank you for your kind words of support. Thank you for your love.

Out of struggles come the lights at the end of those tunnels. I just want you to know that those lights are shining so brightly upon me. With so many of these journeys I have already reached the destination. However, with the others, I can already see my destination in the near distance! With those struggles comes growth! I have become such a stronger and wiser person.

I am not perfect, nor will I ever be. I have practiced so many bad habits for so long. Just like a former alcoholic, that ice-cold beer looks so good, even though the associated memories of destruction come with that refreshment. Luckily I am able to recognize my yellow light behaviors, get outside of the box, and usually I do the right thing. I am truly grateful for your patience.

I am who I am because of me. I have an unquenchable fire inside of me that is raging out of control! However, so many of you have been incredible models of who I want to become. Additionally, I have had some truly amazing people in my formidable years who laid down the groundwork: my family!

Mom in the early 1990s with Santa after volunteering for pictures with Santa

Dad, Laura, and Me on Christmas morning in 1980

Santa Claus contemplating making all my dreams come true!

This year we have all worked hard towards being the best people we can be. Let’s not lose sight of that. Be kind to one-another. Love unconditionally. Other than the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, those are the main reasons for Christmas.

If you are reading this, please know that I love you and value the contributions you have made in my life. Merry Christmas!


Therese Mary Paderta – Twenty Years

December 15, 2012

Dear friends,

Today is an extremely important day in my life. One early morning, somewhere around 2:00 AM, I was awoken by my sister, Laura. For some reason, I was lying on the living room couch instead of in my bed. Mom was gone. On April 1, 1991, the day after Easter, Mom went to Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center to have a part of her lung removed. The suspected culprit was cancer. Fast forward to around Halloween of 1992. All of a sudden things got really rough for her.

I remember all us one way or another having to help her walk around her own house. This is not something that teenagers should normally be doing for their own mother. I remember going to swim team practice after school at on December 14, 1992. Not long after coming home, Mom had sat me down to tell me that the doctors had said to her she had about six months more to live. I could not believe this. How is a 15-year-old supposed to imagine life without his mother? I remember going into my bedroom crying. Not much about the rest of that night comes to mind.

Laura woke me up around 2:00 in the morning, which was just a few hours later. I was in such a state of shock. Things were going in slow motion. Not long after people came to take Mom away. Then so many people came over, despite the early time. Aunt Josie, Paula, and Donna had come over. Many of Laura’s friends had also stopped by to offer their selfless support. It was so awesome to not be alone in what has been one of the toughest moments of my life. I will never forget having Neil, Jim, or Mike around during those upcoming days when I needed them the most.

Since then I hid from the pain. Hiding was how I dealt with problems in my life. Luckily, losing her made me into such a strong person. At the same time, a very profound source of vulnerability crept into my life. It was hard for me to be close to people. When things got too good, I would push people away. I have damaged so many good relationships in my life. I felt I did not deserve them. After all, God took my Mom away from me when I felt I needed her most. I wanted nothing to do with God or any religion.

I even went so far as to damage my relationship with the most important person to me, Laura.

It was not until April, 2012 that Angel and I had a nice walk around the Mesa Arizona Temple. He had read a post from my blog about how I still hurting, even 19 years after Mom’s passing. About a month later, Thor had informed me about his father’s recent passing. I clearly remember telling him that even though he had so many other people in his life to which he could turn, I offered a lending ear, regardless of the hour, since I had already lost both of my parents. That day was the first day in a new way of being for me.

Until that time, when I went through struggles, I would blame Mom and Dad. Why did they leave me? Why did they give up on life? Why weren’t Laura and I important enough to put down those cigarettes? Where these demons in their lives more important than us? It is so easy to blame others, especially once they have passed from this life and are no longer able to defend themselves. It is just so much easier than accepting the blame and responsibility for the mistakes that I have made.

Now I am finally able to think of them with full love. I have forgiven them for everything. I have now freed myself from the self-inflicting pain. I have freed them from the ropes that I had used to bind them. When I am going through trials, I look to them for guidance and love. What a huge change from looking to them to simply blame them for the mistakes that I have made.

What a coincidence it is that this anniversary happens just a day after an awful shooting at an elementary school. So many people question God. He is supposed to be loving. How can he just take these children away from their families? How could he do this? Does he just not care?

Every thing in life happens for a reason. There is a blessing to happen from each bad thing that happens to each of us. It may take us time for us to accept these blessings. Sometimes we are just so full of hurt and anger that we do not want to or know how to let go of it; we don’t know any better. We are simply just too scared to know anything other that what we currently know. Once we can let go of the pain, we can see the abundant blessings all around us.

Look how many great people have come into my life that I would have otherwise never met. Would I have ever dared to leave my beloved hometown of Chicago? Think of all the great people I have met here in Arizona. Just living here brings me joy each day. I have learned that I was blessed with so many strengths at the age of 15 as a result of her passing that others normally do not receive until much later in life. I still do not have a college degree, yet I have a job that rewards me both financially and spiritually more than I would have been from the job that would have gone along with that respective potential degree.

We come to this life to struggle and experience pain. There is no escaping this fact. You can deny it all you want. The moment you accept this fact is the moment you accept peace and happiness. We all go through struggles each day, being tested as to how we will react. Will we try to resolve this matter with a heart of peace or with a heart at war? A heart at war will just stew in a world of self-pity and blaming of others, just making the situation progressively worse. A heart of peace will constantly go through the cycle of getting out of the box, thinking what he / she can or could have done better, and just make the proper efforts of making this world a better place.

Think of all the heroes that have come out of these otherwise disastrous moments in our life! Look at all the police officers, firemen, doctors, and others that have come to the rescue in countless tragedies! Sing their praises instead of hating on the troubled people who have caused these messes. They were unsung heroes whose only chance to shine was when these tragedies struck.

Think of the moments when you hug your loved ones tighter. You fear that something like this would never happen to them. Use this moment to share your love. Other times we hold back our true emotions in fear of being vulnerable and eventually hurt. What do you ever have to gain when you don’t try? Nothing! Let’s take moments like this to not be afraid to risk anything and just do what our heart says to do. If not, we are constantly betraying our loved ones and ourselves.

You are reading this because our paths have crossed at one time. If our relationship has meant anything to you, then all I ask of you is this. Stop what you are doing to tell the people in your life that you love them. Only good will happen from this act. I the love is rejected, you can feel stronger, instead of weaker, knowing that you shared your love and you cannot expect others to be able to accept these gifts. You do not get a chance to go back in time and repeat anything.

I cannot go back and hug Mom or Dad again. I cannot look them in the eyes and tell them that I love them or that I appreciate all that they did. Even for the things that in the moment I resented them. It is hard to look back and still feel that resentment. Who really cares if Dad didn’t let me use the car that one Friday night? What good does is it to think of that frustrating moment 17 or so years later? Who cares if Mom let me stay up all night instead of making me do my homework in a timely manner? Instead of blaming her for letting me develop some bad habits, I can pass my love for her onto others by encouraging them to develop more productive habits.

Just like Mom and Dad were imperfect, we too have our flaws. It is up to us to make choices each day as to how we will handle ourselves when faced with tough situations. I am now choosing to take all that I learned from them and use that in my efforts of serving others. I really do strive each day to use this information. Mom taught me all about unconditional love. Dad taught me to be that strong, unwavering provider. They both taught me to push through, even when things seem hopeless. Even though I may have been too young or prideful to recognize it, they really did embody charity, which is true love. There were still imperfect aspects of their ways of expressing charity, but you will find their true intentions if you look deep down.

Thank you Mom and Dad for being in my life. Mom, I will never forget the lasting impression that you have left on me. It shows every day. People would want nothing to do with me if I was not a good person. I am sorry that I was resentful for so long that you had to leave me. I am sorry that I chose to feel pain and resentment instead of looking at the abundant blessings in my life as the result of your passing. Thank you to everyone else who has touched my life. I am sorry that the time I spent letting go of the pain of losing Mom was longer than the whole time she lived with me on this Earth. Thank you for being so patient, loving, and giving to me.

This, being the twentieth anniversary of Therese Mary Paderta’s passing, will be the first anniversary where I truly celebrate her life. Gone are the pains from the past. I have chosen to replace that pain with the love that I have been given. Once I had chosen to accept this love, my heart had become full of overwhelming gratitude.

I love you Mom, now more than ever. Thank you for giving me more than I could have ever imagined. Twenty years after your passing, I still keep receiving your love. For that, I am truly grateful and will forever honor your memory.

Love always and forever,

Test post from my new phone

Call me crazy, but I plan to share my love while I’m on the go. I had a phone with a keyboard for about six years. After being limited to just a touch screen keyboard, I have to get used to this and even break in the keyboard buttons.