There are few surprises in life anymore. Access to the world gives answers in a snap. We can track family members via location apps, view vacations or gatherings from a Facebook or Instagram post—moments we aren’t involved in, which can leave the heart heavy. So much so, people will say, after taking a picture, “Don’t post this on social,” for fear of others witnessing the fun they weren’t invited to. So, when life throws a surprise, embrace it. Even the ones that send you sideways.

“I slowly realized I had been bamboozled—in the best of ways.”

Thanksgiving day was to be simple this year with my son visiting from college. Unfortunately, my daughter didn’t have the time to fly home from school in Hawaii due to work and class schedules. I accepted this sad news with grace as I awaited my son’s arrival. He walked up the stairs after his first semester away. I stood on my tippy toes to hug him hard. I took in his scent, held his face with both my hands and looked into his grown face. My baby was a man. He was here and I felt atop the clouds. Fifteen minutes later, there was a knock on the front door. We weren’t expecting visitors.

I hesitantly slid the door open only to reveal my daughter with a smile on her face so grand the breath caught in my chest. She was there, in front of me—she was home. After I hugged the hell out of her, a shock settled over my body as I slowly realized I had been bamboozled—in the best of ways. Fully, completely, surprised. Everyone in the family knew; I was oblivious and it was utterly beautiful.

Surprises are remembered for a lifetime due to their stupefying nature. As is the case with several wonderful surprises I’ve encountered over the years. Two being the gender of my children, the last true surprise expectant parents can give themselves. It’s not done much lately; most parents want to know. But why? Surprises provide a jolt in life unobtainable in the day-to-day. I say, take it where you can get it.

Surprise couldn’t begin to explain how I felt when a few years ago I discovered our foster pup was pregnant. She was supposed to stay for a week or two. Instead, we had Christmas puppies during COVID. Our world blazed with cuddles and sweet pup breath. A welcome shock during a turbulent time.

Some surprises are so small yet can transform an entire day, week, month. The Starbucks from a friend, a sweet note from a coworker, a bowl of homemade chili from the neighbor. Simple acts of kindness. One of my favorite surprises was when I returned home from a long day and my daughter had cleaned the kitchen and unloaded the dishwasher! It was the purest gesture of love for me. She didn’t think much of it, but that surprise lives in my heart more than any card or gift has.

There are also the unwelcome surprises in life that rock our very foundation and rattle the soul. Death. Accidents. Poor health discoveries. Love lost. Like a side-blinding car accident, such bombs gut and rip the carpet from underfoot. One day life is normal, and the next you can’t breathe.

Ironically, these challenges that evoke the most pain also catapult us in unexpected ways. After the initial grieving process, something relents. It’s as if the universe calls us back online. The body knows it can no longer endure wallowing in the torment and it awakens. Within this awakening is where the growth begins.

Sometimes it’s two steps forward only to take three back. But they are steps, and that is movement. Before long, an interior strength arises. A force never recognized or tapped into before. It craves fuel to help with the healing. We can nourish it with self-care, positive thoughts/interactions, and accepting support.

Life is full of sweet and awful surprises; the best we can do is acknowledge, embrace and grow from each of them. Who will you pleasantly surprise today?