Tag Archives: gratitude

Beyond Thankful

When I left my mother-in-law’s house early this morning to go workout, all was peaceful.

Early morning chess #thanksgiving

Apparently, that only lasted about 30 minutes. I was on the elliptical when I got a text from IT Guy: “Major meltdown here.”

It seems that the game of choice after chess was scream “I hate you” at your sibling and slam doors until all the adults in the house consider fleeing.

We’ve had a lot of fighting lately – fighting and yelling and attitude. Having a preteen and teenager occupy the same space not a recipe for tranquility.

I decided my kids needed to think about gratitude for a bit. When I got back to the house, I gave them Thanksgiving homework. They had to make a gratitude list to be presented at Thanksgiving dinner, and if they weren’t done thoughtfully, I was confiscating all electronics. I didn’t have a lot of hope that this would lead to a lasting peace, but, at least, it would force them to be grateful for 5 minutes or so.

Pushing gratitude on my kids got me thinking about what I have to be grateful for this year.  The list is immense.

Last Thanksgiving, I was still an adjunct professor. I had failed to land the full-time faculty position I interviewed for in the spring. I was trying to figure out what to do next because I needed to make a living wage, and we needed decent health benefits. Christmas was the usual massive source of financial stress. I was heavier than I had ever been despite my Muay Thai training and achieving my first degree Black Belt. It wasn’t that my life was awful because it wasn’t. But I was still struggling with the same issues that had been unresolved for years – our finances, my lack of career, health benefits, my weight.

And now? A year later?

Everything is different.

In January 2013, I was offered a full-time faculty position. I’m a full-time Assistant Professor of English now. I have a good salary, great benefits, and my own office. I have a career doing something I love to do. This job is a life changer for me and for my family. If you look back to some of the earliest posts on this blog in 2006, they are about my need to find my path. I’ve been searching all this time. This year I found it. It’s not possible for me to express the depth of my gratitude for this job.

Interestingly, also in January, along with job, I finally found a way to lose weight. This is also something I’ve struggled with forever. The first Fitness Challenge at the martial arts studio started in January. There isn’t anything obviously magic about the Challenge. Log your food. Watch your calorie intake. Exercise. I’ve tried all of this before, but this time, for some reason, everything clicked. The weight loss has been slow, but from January to now, I have lost 33 pounds. I feel like myself again.

It’s been an amazing year.  I am eternally grateful for all of my good fortune.

Thanksgiving 2013

And for these turkeys, too. Even when all they do is fight, I am always grateful for them.

The afternoon sun

Afternoon sun

My house faces south. Every morning, the sun pours in through the windows in the eastern wall. Tink’s curtains are yellow, and in the morning, the sun fills that curtain until it’s a shining rectangle, ready to burst with brightness. During the day, the sun tracks across the front of the house, from my bedroom into the living room, filling every crack and cranny of my small, Cape Cod’s front rooms with light.

My house is tiny and there are many small rooms and many walls. But my house is turned in a favorable direction. Every day, even in winter, my house is ablaze with sunlight.

Today, I was grateful for the light because I couldn’t go outside. Tink still has a fever, and I still have whatever this stomach thing is that I have. I haven’t eaten more than saltines since Tuesday.

So Tink and I stayed in, but I’m grateful that the sunlight came in to find us.

Sunlight makes everything a little bit better.

The afternoon sun

(Yes, that’s toilet paper on the coffee table. We ran out of kleenex and I couldn’t go out to the store. Poor Tink has been blowing her nose non-step. And that’s Penny’s tail, also. It’s a less than perfect picture, but it’s the best I could do this week. Tomorrow, I will have been sick for an entire week and I’m really over it now. Unintentional dog butts (and toilet paper rolls) happen in photos sometimes during weeks like this one.)

I don’t listen (and one time it was a good thing): A sort of Thanksgiving post

I don’t always follow the rules, and I don’t always do what people tell me to do. I never have.

It’s not because I don’t respect the rules. I do. It’s just that sometimes I think I know better than the person making the rules. I can make this all work out if we do it my way. The only reason you want to do it your way is because I haven’t sufficiently explained my way to you.

Sometimes I don’t listen simply because I am sure I know better than you, and you, and yes, even you.

In other words, sometimes I am insufferable. It’s a character flaw and I’ve worked hard at minimizing it over the years. I like to think I’ve had some success. And it really is a character flaw. A big one. Don’t think what I’m about to say negates that fact.

But sometimes I don’t listen and it’s a wonderful thing. Today, the day before Thanksgiving, I am thankful for a time I didn’t listen.

Rich and I used to date way back when I was in college. We were in a serious committed relationship for a couple of years. Then I broke up with him. He was very unhappy with me. He joined the Army. Our lives went in completely different directions. Except every six months or so, I would think about him and wonder how he was doing. I would write him a letter or send him an email. He would answer tersely, but politely. This went on for years. He clearly didn’t want to have anything to do with me anymore. I had broken up with him, after all. But I was too dumb or too stubborn to get the message. Amend that. I think I did get the message, but if I could just explain to him why I did what I did, then I was sure he would understand and we could be friends. Breaking up was the best thing for both of us. If he would just let me explain, he would see. Do you understand what I mean by insufferable now? It’s not bad enough that I broke up with you, but I’m going to pester you on and on for YEARS until you agree we should still be friends! Insufferable.

Finally, Rich replied to an email by asking me politely, but firmly (and understandably), not to contact him again.

I was sad, but I had grown up enough to understand that I didn’t always know best. I needed to listen.

At least until 2008. I had enough maturity to listen until 2008. Then I got Facebook.

One of the first people I searched for when I got Facebook was Rich, and there he was. All I needed to do was click one little button. All I had to do was Friend him.

I thought about it for the better part of a day. I would decide that I wouldn’t friend him because he had been very clear that he no longer wanted me to contact him. But that had been years ago. Maybe he had changed his mind? I shouldn’t. I have to listen and respect other people’s decisions. But maybe he changed his mind? How will I ever know? I just have to click one button. I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t.

And then I did. I sent a Friend Request. I was so unsure about what I had just done that I had to close the computer and leave the room. I immediately felt guilty. I had bothered the man enough. What the hell was my problem? Maybe I could undo it?! I rushed back to my computer to see if I could cancel the request. I flipped the computer open. Facebook was still on the screen, and WHOA. Friend request approved. Rich accepted my friend request.

My bad behavior got rewarded and in a big way.

Through a long series of conversations, Rich and I sorted everything out, and we became friends. Honest to goodness, nothing weird about it, yeah-we-have-a-history-but-it-don’t-matter friends. Through Rich, I met his wife, Genie, who is an awesome person. Genie and I became friends. Rich and IT Guy met and became friends. IT Guy and Genie became friends. Oh my god, we just became a big ol web o’friendship. Even our kids are friends.

My bad behavior was rewarded by the renewing of one great friendship and the beginning of an entirely new one. Two friends for the price of one. It’s really an incredible deal.

Today, Rich and Genie drove home to Norfolk. I saw them right before they left. Rich’s voice is a bit hoarse and he is weary from the surgery and hospitalization, but the hiccups have gone. He is no longer hooked up to any machines and he is up and walking around on his own. He’s made remarkable progress. The journey may not be over yet, but he’s going to be okay. I am sure of it.  Tonight, he is home in his own house, in his own bed with his wife and son. They are all going to be okay.

Rich and Genie are my dear friends, and today, as I’ve been thinking about gratitude, I want to tell them both how thankful I am for their friendship. They have both – together and individually – seen my family and I through some of our own difficult times in the past few years, in ways both large and small. What I have done to help them in the last week is only a small measure of my gratitude for their friendship.

I’m going to stop now before I start quoting James Taylor’s song “You’ve Got A Friend” .. . or maybe that Randy Newman, Toy Story song “You’ve got a Friend in Me. ”

But not before I say that this time I’m really glad I didn’t listen. I’m glad I pushed that button.

Being insufferable occasionally has its rewards.

In summary, it’s spring

Let’s sum up the past two weeks.

The bad stuff:

IMG_3213

The washing machine broke and flooded my entire basement with 4 inches of water. That’s my carpet floating in that photo.  We got it dried out (with the help of a We Dry Out Your Basement company, our home owner’s insurance and a paying a big deductible we couldn’t afford.)  Now my basement looks like this and we’re waiting for a contractor to fix it:

IMG_3262

Then Penny decided to remodel the living room couch:

IMG_3298

During my black belt test, I flared up my ankle injury again AND started up a whole new cycle of pain in my left knee, so I’m back to this:

Running out of frozen peas

and this:

Damn knee. Damn ankle.

I can’t go to the doctor or physical therapist because our current horrid insurance plan won’t pay for it and then I’ll have another pre-existing condition, so I just have to wait it out.

But, it’s all small stuff, isn’t it?

I read the paper and listen to the news from Japan and Libya.

My stuff is all small stuff.

I am one of the fortunate ones.

Happy Birthday

Gramps and the grandkids

73/365 Gifts

Abundance.

75/365

I am remembering my word.

76/365

And it’s spring, glorious spring.

SProing!

We’re all blooming again.

My First time: Grace in Small Things

Schmutzie (a gifted writer, photographer & blogger who is well worth reading) started a project called Grace in Small Things in 2008.  The point of the project is to help people practice gratitude by writing a list of 5 things that exhibit grace in your life.

I’ve read many of Schmutzie’s Grace in Small Things posts and I always think, “I should do that.”

Well, I should do that, particularly now when so much feels scary and wrong, and I feel trapped and lost.

There is no better time to look for grace, to reach out and hold it in the palm of my hand.

So here is my list for today, Sunday, September 12:

1. Ace is in the basement singing “Master Exploder” by Tenacious D and down there with him is a new friend he made at middle school, a nice friend who seems to get Ace and genuinely like him.  They are both singing “Master Exploder” together, which is making my ears bleed, but Ace has a friend at school.

2. My mother still mothering me with only love and no judgement

3. Penny is so soft and, even though she keeps licking the lotion off my legs, I really love this dog.

Buddies

4. We have health insurance until the end of the month

5. And, of course, the acorns

My Co-Moms

9 1/2 years ago I was stretched out on the living room couch with a sleeping baby Ace on my chest.   All moms know the rule – when the baby sleeps, you sleep. I was just drifting off when there was a knock at the door.  I carefully slid off the couch with the sleeping baby to find another mother standing there, her sleeping baby who looked to be just the same size as Ace, sleeping in a Baby Bjorn against her chest.

Her name was Gina (the woman, not the baby) and she lived down the street from me.  She had seen me out walking with my dogs and Ace.  A group of new moms was meeting at her house in a few days.  Did I want to come?

On the appointed day, Ace and I arrived at Gina’s house where we met a group of other mom’s and their babies, including Laurie and her daughter.  It turned out that Ace, L (Gina’s daughter) and B (Laurie’s daughter) all had birthdays only 2 weeks apart.  We all had Master’s degrees (the moms, not the babies.) We all had choosen to stay home with our kids (well, Laurie still worked part-time for awhile.)  We were all first time moms and had no clue what we were gettting ourselves into.

That first Mom’s group was the start of two friendships that have spanned almost a decade now.  We have, quite literally, raised our children together — both the first round and the second. (We all now have 2 kids and we are all done.)

We are co-moms.  We help each other out with childcare.  We offer advice and sympathy.  We take care of pets and water plants.  We love and discipline each other’s children. We bitch about our husbands (and praise them, too.)  I quite honestly can not imagine how I would have survived the past 9.5 years without them.

Over the years, things have changed.  We all work now.  The kids are all in school.  We don’t see each other every day or every week.  We have gotten bad about touching base.  Last night, Gina invited us all to her house again.  This time we tossed the kids in the basement with a movie, some hot chocolate and some cookies and shut the door.  The moms and the husbands sat around Gina’s dining room table drinking wine and eating cheese and laughing.  We laughed so loudly the kids kept coming up to tell us to be quiet.  We talked about the kids, but also about wine and European IKEA commercials featuring children and dildos (why does Europe get all the good dildo commericals?) and tried to remember all the character names from Star Trek.  We drank a lot of wine.

I’m pretty hungover this morning.  I can offer you some advice – don’t drink Wild Blueberry Wine.  We decided it was “psychotically aggressive” last night and it remains that way this morning.  Despite the hangover haze though, I am grateful.  I am grateful for these two women, these two friends, my co-moms.

I couldn’t do it without you.

Raise your hand if you are writing a Thanksgiving post

My hand is up.

This is a Thanksgiving post.

It is not a list of things for which I am thankful because I am not having Thanksgiving dinner with my mother, so I will not be forced to try and come up with something deep and insightful when she makes us all go around the table and announce what we are thankful for this year.  Health, family, togetherness is usually always covered by the time we get to me and I’m left echoing the same.  ”I am thankful for health AND family AND togetherness and that no one dropped dead this year.”  (If it is, in fact, a year in which no one dropped dead.)  Tink was thankful for toys last year.  She could get away with that because she was 4.

I would like to mention I am thankful no one (you know who you are) dropped dead this year.

Excuse me for a moment.

I’m back.  Since I’m writing about how I won’t be tortured by my mother asking me what I’m thankful for this year, I just went into the office where the rest of my family is playing computer games to interrupt their fun and torture ask them (as the mom) “What are you thankful for this year?”

IT Guy: “Life, health and family.”  (He has had 17 years of practice with this question, so he knows the drill.)

Tink: “I am thankful for family.”  (Good girl.  She got only one of the 3 big ones, but she is showing promise.)

Ace: (at first uncertain, but then very certain when he realizes I’m not going to fuss at him for this answer because Grandma isn’t around to hear it) “I am grateful my dad set up World of Warcraft and is letting me play it.”

There. . . . we can check that one off the Thanksgiving tradition list.  It’s a little early, but I think it still counts.

Now for the other Thanksgiving tradition — the meal.  It’s going to be a bit different for us this year.

For the first time ever, we will be spending Thanksgiving in our own house.  We will eat the traditional meal right here at our everyday dining room table, just the 4 of us.  Mom, Dad, 2 kids.  This has never happened before.

Usually we are juggling multiple options for dinners and family gatherings.  We live close to my mother and IT Guy’s father.  IT Guy’s mother lives in Delaware, but two of her sisters and her parents, IT Guy’s grandparents, are only a few miles away from us.  In the past, pre-children, we have had Thanksgivings when we had multiple dinners.  I remember one year when IT Guy went to three.  At the end of the day, he looked like Tempelton, the rat from Charlotte’s Web, with his poor, distended tummy.  Once we had kids, we used them as an excuse to stop the multiple dinner Thanksgivings.  My stomach couldn’t take it.  There was a yearly negotiation involved on where we’d go.  We always had many options.

This year my mom wanted to go on a trip for Thanksgiving.  She booked a hotel in Williamsburg, VA.  We were going to let someone else do the cooking and hang out with people dressed in breeches and tricorn hats.   We told all other family members our plans, so they went made their own turkey plans.  Then the bypass surgery happened and Williamsburg was a no-go.  IT Guy and I decided we would cook Thanksgiving dinner at my mom’s house for her.  We’d keep it pretty simple ( because I have no idea how to cook an entire Thanksgiving meal), but we’d do it all — potatoes to pie.

On Monday, Mom called and very nicely said, “Don’t come.  I don’t want Thanksgiving dinner.”  Fair enough.  She was worried about getting too tired with the kids around all day.  I completely understand.  My kids are exhausting for youngish, healthy, fully caffeinated people.  My kids are exhausting to themselves.  And frankly, IT Guy and I bumbling around mom’s kitchen wasn’t likely to set a relaxing and restful tone either.  It was a bit of a relief actually.  I wouldn’t have to attempt to cook a Thanksgiving turkey – something I have successfully avoided for 37 years.  I turned to IT Guy and said, “She doesn’t want us to come.”  “O.K. ” he replied. “We’ll just have Thanksgiving dinner here.”

Huh?  We will?  Can’t we just order Chinese?  No?

Apparently, we will.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans and pie.  All lovingly prepared right in our own little kitchen and eaten at our own table.

Holy crap.

First there is the pressure of preparing the meal without setting it on fire. (So far, I’ve managed to set a dorm wardrobe, my dress -while wearing it- and the dining room wallpaper on fire.  I don’t want to add the kitchen to that list.) Then there is the issue of tradition.  I’ve never had a small Thanksgiving.  There is always extended family. . . . lots of extended family.  There is the preparing of pie (always my contribution. I can make pie.) and the dressing nicely and the driving to someone else’s house where there is the extended family and good china.  Can it be Thanksgiving if it is just the 4 of us in our own house, quite probably still in our pajamas?  Is this special enough?  Am I making the right kind of wholesome family memories for my children?

IT Guy says it is just turkey and pie.

I say that’s wishful thinking.

It’s probably just going to be pie.

Letter from the AcornMom

Here is a first on my blog – A Guest Blogger -my mom.

For all of you who know about Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail, I can tell you that the song I have been hearing in my head since my surgery is “I am not dead Yet!”    They can slice, dice, chop and cover me in yards of adhesive tape (does anyone have any Goo Gone, please?)  but they then expect you to get your butt out of bed and get out of the way and shuffle on down the hall and out the door.  AND SO, that is what I have done and would just like to let many of you who were a bit worried about this “ticker” of mine that I am well on the mend and so very grateful and amazed at all the thoughts,prayers, cards, flowers, jokes and good wishes.

I had non-stop people sleeping out on the floor of my hospital room, cracking jokes about the hospital bed that filled itself with air and let it out again without any prompting and especially the “fart” chair that was the biggest whoopee cushion in the world.  I had people putting food in my frig, sending notes, emails, making phone calls and even the wonderful gift of a full body picture of Hugh Jackman all the way from Australia with the inscription that there are a lot more of them that look like him there.  Next Plane ladies?

I walk each day.  My sister is here from Colorado and makes me do K-P and marches each day.  John even took on the task of lovingly washing my hair.  Now, the big day is tomorrow…I have already been back to see the surgeon who says I have no heart damage just those 3 by-passes that should hold for as long as I have left anyway and I should go away and not come back.  My lovely daughters took care of everything.  Em came in from Colorado & had everything ready for me when I got home and Megan took over command center with the precision and control and effectiveness of a NASA engineer.  John daily got lost coming into the hospital and leaving the hospital and camped out there with me one night.  So, you will know that I am definitely on the mend, although I may not be wearing a daring neckline for awhile.

But, the big news is  tomorrow I am heading for the mall to get my hair done.  Everyone knows that is the first and most significant step in recovery.  Once my hair is cut, blonded and curled I am on my way back and all I can say is thanks to everyone and “I am not dead yet.”

Much love and admiration for you all,

Liz