Tag Archives: gratitude

Being Grateful for the Ordinary

As you know, religion isn’t really my thing — at least not in the societal definition of it. But we’ve found a church — a community, really — where we feel as at home with our doubts and questions just as we do with our hope and our love. Still, though, Mr. B and I aren’t overtly religious people. And, we are most definitely new to this whole “practicing our faith” thing.

Since moving into our home, we’ve been making an effort to sit down to real dinners every night. Putting aside our phones, turning off the TV and just enjoying each other’s company (and the company of our wandering cats and our hopeful, under-the-table pup). Something wasn’t feeling quite right, though. Something was missing.

One day, I randomly asked Mr. B if we could pray before dinner. He wasn’t judgy or skeptical or turned off at all. In fact, he willingly said the prayer. For that, I was thankful. You see, I grew up in a Christian home — with a mother who was the epitome of a Christian woman, always opening her home and her arms, to those who needed something … anything. But we didn’t say prayers before dinner except at special occasions or holidays. And I didn’t say a bedtime prayer — at least not that I can remember. So I was — and still am, to some extent — uncomfortable with prayer. I mean, when you can’t see who you’re talking to, it’s weird — and, yes, I’m still confused/amazed/awed by “the telephone.”

Mr. B’s first prayer in our home was an awkward and simple prayer — as are ALL of our before-dinner prayers. But, it was beautiful. And it was exactly what our dinner table was missing. Every night, before we eat, we hold hands and say a prayer of thanksgiving. When we see special needs — in our friends and family facing a difficult time — we add those in, too. But, mostly, we say thanks.

We thank God for each other. And for our (most-of-the-time) delicious food, our new home and our silly pets. We thank God for family and friends, sunshine and stars, talents and dreams. Mostly, we thank God for loving us through another day and for being there for us through all the bad things life has thrown at us. And for giving us such beauty and love and hope. Sometimes, we even tell God to “have a nice day” — because, like I said, prayers are awkward and we never quite know how to end them. (Besides, as Mr. B says “God probably has people asking him for things all day long and no one takes the time to tell him to have a nice day.”)

It’s been an amazing experience in practicing gratitude. And it’s carried through in so many other areas of my life. Some of the things we thank God for are silly, simple things. Things that, on most days prior to our new dinnertime tradition, we would have overlooked and ignored. Because they weren’t special enough to notice. But they still are blessings that deserve recognition.

Blessings like:

  • wrinkles around our eyes — because it means we had something to smile about
  • our leaky basement — because it means we have a home
  • weeds in our garden — because it means we can have flowers
  • sadness — because if we can feel that, we can also feel happiness
  • our morning commutes — because it means we have jobs
  • grocery shopping — because it means we’ll have food on our table
  • muddy floors and dirty dishes — because they mean we have life in our home
  • missing Penelope Joy — because it means we had an amazing daughter who we had the pleasure to parent

You see, being grateful for your blessings shouldn’t be about only saying thanks when something takes your breath away. It should be about being thankful for every breath you take.

Even if you’re not religious, I believe that taking a few minutes each day to take note of the gifts you’ve been given — and the ones you’ve worked damn hard to earn — is important. My challenge to you: sit down tonight and write down five simple things that bless your life. Things you maybe haven’t taken time to appreciate before. Things that, on an ordinary day, are … well … ordinary. Because when you take time to give thanks for the small things, you realize you have a lot to be thankful for.

Sunset in Paradise

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30 Days of Thanks

There are a lot of times I can get caught up in the day-to-day and the tedious little things that take the shine out of my life. I think we all can. We let the not-so-great cast a shadow on the many, many blessings we all have in our lives. Like our sometimes-stinky-but-usually-snuggly-and-adorable cats. Or our family members who are ohmigoshsoannoying but mean well and love us very much. Or our jobs that bring added stress into our lives but still give us the opportunities to grow and learn and create and challenge ourselves every day.

If we spend time focusing on the little things in life that are SOOOOOO ANNOYING, we miss the big things in life that make every day worthy of a smile. Essentially, we’re just making it harder on ourselves.

I don’t want to live like that. I want to rediscover the joys of waking up on the right side of the bed because … well … I’m waking up and getting to live another day. Because I have love and joy and peace and hope in my life. Because there’s no way that every day can be that bad.

So, for me, tomorrow begins “30 Days of Thanksgiving.” My pledge is to spend some time each day in November reflecting on all of the blessings and love in my life.* Because my life is so full, and it’s important to me to remember that — to truly appreciate that. Actually, 30 days may not even be enough, but it’s a start.

Care to join me?

*This doesn’t mean I won’t have bad days. Because I will. We all will. But, if I can find the good among the bad, and work really hard to focus on that good and appreciate it, I’ll be in a better place. A happier place.

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The Art of the Thank You

Too many people overlook the importance of saying thank you. They see it as just another item on their ever-growing wedding to-do list, one more “chore” to cross off. Writing thank you notes gets pushed to the bottom of a lot of lists as brides — and grooms — go about planning their weddings and moving on with their new lives, waiting weeks (or more!) to say thank you to the people who have not only given them gifts, but given of their time and love. But to me, showing my gratitude is extremely important, and it makes me very happy to do so.

And the best way to do that is with a personal, handwritten thank you note. (For a stationery lover like me, this is just an added bonus.)

thank you note

Maybe part of what makes some people dread writing thank you notes is that they don’t really know what to say or how to say it without sounding trite or cheesy. But writing thank you notes can be an enjoyable experience! I promise.

Try these tips next time you have a stack of blank thank yous sitting in front of you and all you can think is “Dear Person, Thanks for the nice present. Love, Me.”

  1. Buy yourself some nice stationery and a special pen. Like anything, writing is a lot more fun and doable if you have the “write” tools (see what I did there?). It doesn’t have to be expensive; there are a lot of really great options out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg.
  2. Give yourself a deadline. Once your event is over, give yourself a deadline. While I don’t think it’s ever too late to send a thank you note, I try to get mine out within a week or two of the event. For my bridal showers, I gave myself five days after each one to get them out because I had so much other stuff going on. You do have a little longer for a wedding, particularly if you’re going on a honeymoon. But, my personal goal is to get them out within three weeks. If you wait longer than that, maybe try to add a personal story about the gift, something along the lines of: Thank you so much for the wine glasses. Janet and I were just enjoying a glass of our favorite wine and talking about the wedding, and we’re so happy you were able to come celebrate with us.
  3. Make a date of it. You may want to block out some time on your calendar to make sure you make time for it. Then pour yourself a mug of tea or a glass of wine, turn on some distraction-free music and cuddle up in your comfiest chair.

    thank yous

  4. Picture the person you’re writing to when you write the note. If you can see Grandma Sue’s smiling face as you thank her for the lovely quilt, it’s a lot easier to put a little love into the note.
  5. Always use a salutation and a closing. “Dear” and “sincerely” will work fine. It’s an easy way to show you care. But don’t just put the person’s name at the top of the note and your name at the bottom and call it good — that’s lazy.
  6. Don’t be generic. Make sure you’re specific about the gift you received. If the gift had many pieces to it, make sure you remember to thank the giver for each piece. For example, try something like:
    Dear Grandma Sue,
    Thank you so much for coming to my bridal shower. It was really nice to have you there to celebrate with me. I just loved the quilt you made Jim and me. The green is perfect for our bedroom, and it’s going to be so nice to snuggle up under it in the winter. The throw pillows will be a perfect accent, too.
    Love,
    Sandy
  7. Put your personality into it. One of the gifts Mr. B and I received was a nice set of mixing bowls and an air popper for popcorn. My thank you note, in part, said something along the lines of: I can’t wait to sit on the couch and eat delicious fresh popcorn while Mr. B whips me up some cupcakes in the kitchen. Because Mr. B is very clearly the baker in the family, I wanted to put a little bit of both of us in the note — and a tiny bit of humor.
  8. Remember that your thank yous are a reflection of you. You wouldn’t neglect to thank someone in person for something, so you shouldn’t do it by not sending thank you notes, either. Show people you care about them and the time they took to pick out a gift and, in most cases, attend you shower or wedding.
  9. Send a thank you note to everyone. If you receive a gift from multiple people, make sure you send a thank you to everyone — especially if they live at different addresses. There’s no such thing as “pass my thanks along to …” in thank you writing.
  10. Have fun with it. While writing thank you notes is important, that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Maybe throw in an inside joke or personal story. Just be wary of sarcasm — it can definitely come across wrong when written.

Thank you note writing may be one of the “smaller” tasks you have to do as you start your happily ever after, but it is one of the most important — at least in my opinion.

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” ~William Arthur Ward

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A Truly Thankful Heart

Subtitled: My happy gratefulness is about to get even more annoying.

Turkey Head

I think maybe turkey just makes people thoughtful.

As tummies settle and dishes are done
I’ve become quite the thoughtful one
This year’s been full of highs and lows
Cuz, really, ain’t that how life goes?

As I sit and think and let it all digest
I take time to reflect on the good and the best
Cuz sadness and sickness are spread all around
But the happies and funnies and gifts do abound

I’m full of thoughts of hope and thanks
And see just how high this year ranks
As Thanksgiving day turns into the night
I’d like to focus on the good and the bright

I’ve got my health — and ain’t it grand?
I’ve got my family, the best in the land
And then there’s him, my Mr. B
A perfect match, I think, for me

Let’s not forget my lovely pals
Near and far, the guys and gals
And then there are things I musn’t neglect
Like the walls of my homes that always protect

And of course there is hope, faith and some joy
My happiness, I’m told, can kind of annoy
But I’m thankful and nothing that they say amends
I’ve been given a life I appreciate, friends

I’m blessed, I can say, more than I have earned
To do good, be good, share good I have yearned
But always, oh always, there’s more we can do
To make the world brighter and more funner, too

Remember that these things don’t have a season
Kindness, goodness and love all without reason
Share of yourself and embrace gratitude
A heart full of love is the best attitude

And spreading the love, the gifts and the happy
Will quite guarantee a year-end that ain’t crappy
Make it a good one, end on a high note
Oh, and, of course, here’s my standard fun quote:

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Also, wanna see something funny? Click on this link. You won’t regret it. Yes, it’s the turkey-head scene from “Friends.”

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