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In My Own Words

Reflections: an Attitude of Gratitude

Megan Kinsella
MSN Class of 2013

Mount track star Megan Kinsella running career started
five seconds after this photo was taken when she sprinted
 from Santa lap to her mothers arms.

(12/2011) Happy Holidays, Emmitsburg! This month I decided to take a break from writing about Mount Sports. Instead, I am going to introduce you to a whole different part of my life. Iíve gone to Catholic School forever and every single year growing up the Allentown Diocese would sponsor "Catholic Schools Week." Each day during that week was dedicated to a different aspect of our lives as students: Teacher Appreciation Day, Parent Appreciation Day, Athletic Appreciation day, and so on. Seeing that itís the holiday season, let us consider December "Family Appreciation Month."

At the end of October, I was heading back to the Mount from a week at home with my parents. I turned on the radio (to the local country station of course) and the song I heard brought tears to my eyes. Itís a new song called "Keep in Mind" by The Locash Cowboys. The chorus of the song goes like this: "I know those dreams you're trying to chase, you want them now but they won't wait. The last thing you're thinking about is slowing it down, and the ones you left behind. But I'm always thinking of you, cause when somebody loves you that's what they do all of the time. So keep me in mind." My immediate response, like that of any young woman, was to start balling my eyes out. But, as that became hazardous after a few minutes of almost swerving off the highway, I dried my eyes. My next inclination was to turn the car around and drive straight home into the open arms of my loving parents, who would surely still be standing at the end of the driveway, right where I left them. I could hug them and tell them how much they mean to me and live with them for the rest of my life and never ever leave again! I talked myself out of that though, as I had driven for two hours and I could already see the statue of Our Lady on top of College Mountain.

We all have those moments in our lives; Days when we are able to step back for a minute and put things in perspective. It usually happens around special occasions: high school graduations, college reunions, weddings, the birth of a child, funerals. But it happened to me during that drive back to school. No, living at home with my parents for the rest of my life wasnít a serious consideration. But, listening to that song made me realize how important my family truly is to me.

Iíve heard it said that families are like fudge: mostly sweet with some nuts. Well in my case, the fudge that I call family is extremely sweet, with a whole truckload of nuts mixed in. Itís a very small family. I have a brother and a sister, two cousins on my momís side and two cousins on my dadís side. What we lack in numbers, however, we make up for in exuberance. Growing up, summer vacations entailed weeklong stays at the beach or, to our dismay, educational treks through our nationís capital (dadís vacation of choice). Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent with extended family in Pittsburg and Connecticut. Some of my fondest childhood memories are set in my grandparentsí kitchen, helping Grand whip up the mashed potatoes, spraying cranberry juice all over the walls, and making specialized name tags for the table settings.

Over the past two years, my family life has changed drastically. I, the baby of the tribe, picked up and moved down here to Emmitsburg. My brother graduated college and is now an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, stationed out in California. My sister, who moved to New York a few years back, met her soul mate (an Oklahoma native), got married, and is now expecting their first childóall in the span of 12 short months. My parents are still holding down the fort in good old Allentown, keeping themselves busy by traveling to visit their three lovely children almost every weekend.

However, despite all the changes and distance between us, the Kinsella Clan has never been closer. Weekend camping trips during the summer and impromptu visits to New York City during Christmastime have taken place of planned excursions. My brother still gets to blow out his birthday candles, whether itís in person or through webcam out in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. We still go "over the river and through the woods" to grandmaís house, but a stop at the airport to drop someone off or meet an incoming flight is often included. The Christmas tree still goes up the day after Thanksgiving, but instead of five bodies wrestling for premium ornament branches, my mom and I pull the artificial out of the basement and decorate while rocking out to Manheim Steamroller.

Last year is a perfect example of the new and improved Christmas with the Kinsellas. My birthday is on December 19th, so we decided to spend the day in New York with my sister, Caitlin, and her then fiancť, Kyle. On our way into the city, we swooped by the airport to pick up Kevin, my brother, who had just flown in from San Francisco. We got into the city, parked the car, and started walking to our rendezvous point in Central Park. On the way, we absorbed Kevinís girlfriend Becca into our steadily growing pack.

We met up with Caitlin and Kyle next to the ice skating rink in Central Park, dumped all of our things in a locker, and spent the next few hours cruising around the ice together. After the first hour, I was bragging to everyone that I was the only one who hadnít fallen yet. With that, I zipped off into the crowd and smashed right into Santa Claus, who had been merrily sauntering around the rink all afternoon, and fell flat on my behind. Happy Birthday, Megan. After we were good and tired from skating, we walked around the city, saw the tree, did a little shopping, and stopped in a crowded Chiptole for dinner. While we were eating, my dad stood up and hushed the multitude of cranky New Yorkers. To my horror, he kindly asked if everyone would sing happy birthday to his 20 year old daughter. I presently hid my bright red face in my burrito and kicked him under the table when they finished singing. Everyone went their separate ways, and we met up again on the 24th for Christmas Eve mass at our home parish. Christmas morning entailed an early wake-up call, the traditional opening of presents by the tree, and driving to Connecticut to visit family for the day. Later, we were back on the road, dropping Cait and Kyle off at their apartment, then heading west to visit the other side of the family in Pittsburg before Kevin had to catch another plane back to the west coast. Shew! Talk about a whirlwind!

Although the time we get to spend together is shorter, it is definitely sweeter. Because we are not together all the time like we were growing up, we have come to appreciate each other so much more. I remember a conversation I had with my dad a few months ago. I had called home to complain about how horrible my week had been, listing off all the monstrosities a college kid has to deal with: homework, sleep deprivation, roommates snoring, bad food in the cafeteria, etc. etc. After patiently listening to my list of grievances, he sighed and cleared his throat. I knew something profound was coming, so I braced myself. He did not disappoint. He told me to start working on having an "attitude of gratitude." Instead of sweating the little stuff, we need focus on all the good things in our lives. Okay, so there are definitely times that I miss my family like crazy and wish I could be with them all the time. But, instead of complaining and crying about it, I can look forward to the times that we will have together. And when we are able to be together, itís so important to live in the moment and cherish every single second of it.

We never really realize how much something means to us until itís gone. We take advantage of the things in our lives, expecting them to always be there. The same goes for the people in our lives. Going home for breaks is always great because it lets me get away from school work for a few days and catch up on sleep. But, every time I get in the car to drive back to school, I always find myself wishing I had spent more time just sitting and talking with my family. With that said, I have some advice for you this holiday season: Donít get caught up in the hustle and bustle of commercialized Christmas. Take a step back and remember the reason for the season. Take it one day at a time, sometimes even one moment at a time. Donít think ahead to tomorrow, because today is all we are given. Live in the moment. Instead of wishing the time away, be with your loved ones in the here and now. Also, donít forget to TELL the people you love that you love them!

So, have a very merry and blessed Christmas, Emmitsburg. And a happy New Year! See you in 2012!

Megan is a Communications major at the Mount

Read other articles by Megan