Category Archives: Gratitude

From Grumpy To Grateful

Last weekend I went to the grocery store to do my grocery shopping for the next two weeks. I drive past a couple of other grocery stores because the one I like is newer and nicer. On this particular Sunday morning, it was also very crowded. While I’m convinced that grocery stores are remodeling stores to make the aisles JUST wide enough for two carts to fit, and then adding those cardboard displays into the aisles, and most people don’t pull over far enough when they are stopping to look for something, and the stores are making it more and more uncomfortable and inconvenient to shop in person so that we will take advantage of their online shopping and pickup or delivery, I still like to actually go into the store. I need to read labels because of my husband’s celiac sprue and going in person makes that process much easier

So the last time I went it was unusually crowded. Every aisle saw me waiting for people to move forward so I could move either around them or behind them if they continued moving. I was annoyed at the displays. I was annoyed at the people not moving over. I was annoyed at the store’s oversized carts that were in the middle of the aisles while they were shopping for online buyers. By the time I left the store, I was highly annoyed.

So I walked to my car, put my purse and drink in the front seat, and walked to the back to start loading the groceries. Because my key was in the front of the car, the back of the car would not open. Annoyed! So I had to go grab my purse, open the back, and put the purse back up front. I got the groceries loaded and put the cart away (which I ALWAYS do!) and got in my car to leave.

That’s when it struck me. Going to the grocery store had turned me into a grump! So I stopped to think about all the things going to the grocery store actually meant. It means I have money to shop for the groceries I need (and want) for the next two weeks. It means that we will be eating very well for the next two weeks. It means that I am lucky enough to have a car to drive myself to the store and legs that work well enough to get me around the store. It means there are fresh fruits and vegetables available for me. It means I can make choices in which brand of whatever I want to buy.

So going to the grocery store is actually a privilege and something to be very grateful for. It completely changed my mood and I’m glad that I caught it in time because it was a long ride home to keep amping up my grumps. Instead, I was able to have a nice ride home with the windows partially down on a beautiful Arizona “fall” day and remember how much I have to be grateful for.

Just Be Nice

Because of my commute, I listen to a lot of podcasts. A LOT. Most of what I listen to are leadership and self-improvement podcasts. I recently heard something reminding me that I had purchased a gratitude journal that I hadn’t started using yet. The idea is to–every day–list five things you’re grateful for and ten dreams (written in present tense as if you already made them happen), and then one goal you will work on achieving first. And so I started.

Having to write down five things you’re grateful for every day can really take some effort. As you keep doing it, the best part is that you start looking for things to include each day which really helps me to look at every situation differently. In fact, recently I decided to be nice to others. I’m all for smiling at the security guard and the cleaning people I see every day, but I’m not good at striking up conversations with those people. This time, I specifically went out of my way when I saw the guy cleaning the planters outside (which is one of his tasks every morning) to thank him for doing such a good job. As I continued on my way, I heard him saying something behind me, but didn’t catch exactly what he said. I’m hopeful that it made the rest of his day better even if he said (as I may have heard) that he was just doing his job. Everyone working is “just doing their job,” but if they are doing that job well, with a smile on their face and a warm “good morning” every day, that deserves to be acknowledged.

Another day, I sent emails to our attorneys who always enter their timesheets on time. I’m in charge of sending out “reminder” emails. Several times. Every. Single. Month. So I get frustrated when people don’t do what I say and the people who follow directions have a special place in my heart. I decided to just send them a “thank you for getting your time in on time” email. Most of them responded thanking me for thanking them. It took me just a couple of minutes, but I hope it made a difference.

This week, take a minute to thank someone for doing what they do. It will probably make their day–and yours too!

Show A Little Gratitude

GratitudeDid you receive gifts recently? Do you receive gifts throughout the year–for a reason or not? Did you say “thank you” to the giver?

Just getting past the holiday season reminds me of the importance of those two words. When a gift giver spends time and energy to find a gift they hope you will love (even if it is something you told them you wanted), they like to know that (a) you received it, (b) you are grateful for it, (c) you are kind enough to thank them for it. It’s not hard. And it doesn’t take much time. But it can make a huge difference in even whether you get another gift from that person.

So take the time to thank those who give you gifts (or do other nice things for you)! It encourages the gift-giver to continue and when those two small words make a difference in their whole attitude, it will make you feel better too.

How Lucky Am I?

HowluckyamiI often tell people that I’ve been lucky in my career, lucky in love, lucky with how awesome my children and grandchildren are, and lucky in life generally. The last time I was talking to someone about my job and said that I had been really lucky, I stopped myself. While I have sometimes been lucky to be in the right place at the right time, I have worked my ass off to get where I am in my career. Luck? Nope. Hard work, dedication, respect, self-improvement, learning constantly–those are the things that have put me where I am in my career. Well, maybe now that I think about it I was lucky that I was fired from a job I held for 15 years and ended up floundering a bit until I took a temporary job at an international law firm in the word processing department, which turned into being a floater secretary, which turned into ending up at my female attorney’s desk when her secretary had extended jury duty and then was promoted to another position, leaving me assigned to her and working in a permanent position at the law firm. Maybe I was lucky that she was patient enough to teach me what I needed to know about litigation since I had spent the first 15 years of my career doing probate, estate planning, and corporate law. Maybe I was lucky that our personalities mesh so that we work well together. Maybe I was lucky that I accepted a huge cut in my salary just to work full time and learn a new specialty. Maybe I was lucky to love the thrill of litigation. Maybe I was lucky that she went to bat for me to get my salary up to where it should be. Maybe I was lucky that when she moved to new law firms, she asked me to go with her. And that could be where luck ends. From there, I worked hard to learn all I could about litigation, court filings, etc. so that I could do a good job. I worked hard to figure out my boss’s idiosyncrasies so that we could continue to work better together (and now it is 23 years later!). I worked hard to do the best job I could do with attorneys whom I respect and who respect me back and to continue learning and improving every day. I worked hard to be the best legal support professional I could be, including going to night school to get a paralegal degree, taking and passing several legal certification exams, continuing to attend CLE courses to keep learning ways to help me and my firm, joining professional associations (and being active) so that I could make valuable connections in the legal community, and showing up every day and busting my butt to do a good job.

Lucky in love? Maybe it was lucky that I went on my very first date with a boy from church and we double dated with an even cuter boy and his date. Maybe it was lucky that the cute boy actually liked me and eventually asked me out. Maybe it was lucky that we didn’t go to the same high school since our academic careers were very different. But, no, it wasn’t luck that has kept us together for 44 years–it is hard work and dedication to our marriage. It is ignoring the small annoyances and being thankful for the small things he does right. It is loving every single day–whether that means a quick peck when he comes home, cooking dinner every night (gluten free mind you!), putting dishes away, loading the dishwasher, washing the windshield of my car, checking tire pressures, whatever thing needs to be done for one person that the other person does.

Lucky with how my children and grandchildren are turning out? Maybe it was lucky that I didn’t go to jail for child abuse when my children were teenagers. Maybe it was lucky that we didn’t have much money, so I learned to give them time once in a while instead of things. Maybe it was lucky that my husband worked from home when they were in school. But, no, I worked hard to show my children that I loved them–no matter what. I worked hard to take a day off of work around their birthday to spend an entire day focused on them and doing things they were interested in (and have continued that tradition with my grandchildren). I worked hard to keep holiday traditions alive in our family including Santa footprints and timing multiple extended family celebrations.

So have I been lucky in life? Absolutely! But I’ve worked hard for what I have as well, it hasn’t been handed to me. Except by my husband–I’ve been pretty lucky there. But this life is hard work if you want it to be a good one. As they say, life is not a spectator sport. It is something to get up off the couch and enjoy. Do things that scare you. Do things that stretch you. Do the things that those you love want to do. Then, just maybe, you’ll be as lucky as I am.

Why I’m Buying Experiences Instead Of Stuff

This was previously posted on another website. Since that site is no longer active, I’m reposting it here.

Trust me, the early marriage/career/kid portion of my life was super tight moneywise. Electricity was shut off for nonpayment, the mailbox was full of “reminder” notices, and every day was stressful. Payday would come . . . and the money would all go. It felt like I was working ridiculously hard with no personal benefit!

But then careers flourished, businesses started doing well, and the kids grew up and moved out. Money! We could go out to dinner if we felt like it. We could go on vacation and enjoy it! I could (and have!) travel the world.

My husband is very concerned about retirement. I am not planning to retire and seem to be doing my damnest to spend it all now. Yes, I realize that’s really dumb and I’m trying to be better.

One thing that we are enjoying doing and are doing well is gifting our money away. Want to know how and why it’s making my life better? Here are some of the things we do:

  • When my children were little we had a tradition of having “child’s name” Day. On that day, I would take the day off work, take them out of school (not every year, but sometimes), and spend the entire day doing whatever they wanted to do. For my son, it was Spring Training games with the Chicago Cubs! For my daughter, it was movies and shopping. I do the “days” with my local grandchildren now, but on weekends. They like to go to Dave and Buster’s and have lunch and play games for amazing (insert sarcasm here) prizes.
  • As the grandchildren have turned 13, I started the tradition of taking a pair of them (opposite families are close in age) to Disneyland for a few days. The oldest two kind of got screwed because I learned a lot about getting the most out of Disneyland after their trip, but it is an experience they all will remember for a long time even after I’m gone.
  • This year saw a new tradition as my oldest granddaughter graduated from high school. She was offered a piece of jewelry or a trip. She chose a trip to Sedona and we had a great time together. Selfish? Yep, but how else do you have several days of quality time with an adult grandchild?
  • For our son’s 40th birthday this year, we sent him and his wife on a bucket list trip to Wrigley Field and to see two Cubs games there. My son had a quadruple bypass at 32, so 40 is kind of a big deal around here. Of course, now we’ll have to do the same for his sister when she turns 40. My daughter-in-law posted this picture on Facebook during that trip:

Brent

Immediately when I saw the picture with eyes tearing, my comment on Facebook was “I see an 8-year-old boy in a 40-year-old man’s body looking over a baseball field that he has been waiting to touch since spring training games introduced him to a baseball team that became part of his heart (even the rebuilt one!)” This one moment was so worth it!

So what do I get out of spending the money I work so hard for in a manner that some people would say is “frivolous”? I get joy, satisfaction, the opportunity to show my love with experiences, memories, encouragement, and all the feels. All of that instead of more “stuff” that could be bought with that money filling an already full house and leaving the sorting of all the “stuff” to our kids when we’re gone.

Experiences are always preferable to the things on the Amazon wish list. And, of course, you will enjoy it even more if the experience includes you! Extra memories! Amazon wish lists are easy. Experiences are harder but worth so much more. If you ask one of my grandkids what they got for Christmas the year they turned 13, I guarantee they won’t remember. But if you ask them what they did when they turned 12/13, I do know what they will say . . . DISNEYLAND!

And experiences aren’t always costly. Experiences include traditions. Traditions like holiday dinners, “Santa footprints,” Christmas Eve pajamas, Christmas in July with $20 limit on gifts to exchange, just getting together with people you love to celebrate holidays, birthdays, or just life.

Honestly, I may regret it when I get old and have spent all of my money, but I’ll have great memories and I’m pretty sure one of my kids or grandkids will take me in. You can’t take it with you. While I’m trying hard not to be dumb and spend every penny (trying REALLY hard), I am going to spend as much as I can as long as I can making great memories for me and my family.

Our Normal Is Someone Else’s Perfect

Our Normal Is Someone Else's PerfectI recently spent some time in Sedona, Arizona, with one of my granddaughters. While driving around, I saw beautiful houses in this gorgeous area full of red rocks, rock formations, and vortices. Then I saw some of those beautiful homes with campers or trailers in the back yard. My first thought was why in the world would someone want to leave this gorgeous area to go somewhere else? Then I thought that perhaps my “perfect” is just someone else’s normal.

That theory trickles down. You may have a better house, better car, better view, or better job than someone else and they are wondering why you’re complaining. Those things might be their “perfect” while it’s our “normal.” It’s those things we have and see every day. Perhaps we need to stop and look at what we have and do through someone else’s eyes. The house you’ve had for 10 years? It could seem like a mansion to someone else. The car that you dread getting into every day because the window sticks? Perhaps it’s better than walking for someone else.

Spend some time just surveying all that you have. It may not be better than someone else’s–in fact, chances are excellent that it is not–but your “normal” is still someone else’s “perfect.” Be satisfied with it. If you’re not happy with it, make it better. If you hate it, move or sell and buy something you are happy with. Something that is “perfect” for you–at least until it becomes your “normal.”

I just feel like I need to be grateful for what I have been blessed with. It’s certainly not the nicest house, car, etc. even in my own neighborhood, but it is perfect for me. It is my “normal” and I’m sure there are a lot of people who think it is their “perfect.” So I need to be better about realizing that it is my “perfect” and treat it that way.

Surgery, Cancer, Love, and Life

My dad recently spent several days in the hospital after surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his colon and connect it back to his intestine. My dad is 83. He has had back surgeries, a quadruple bypass, and other medical issues throughout his life. He admits that he didn’t expect to live so long and his lifestyle didn’t do anything to change that expectation at all. But he is living this long and he is reasonably healthy for being on this earth for 83 years.

The surgery worried me because he was expected to get notes from his cardiologist and his pulmonologist allowing the surgery. I saw the note from his cardiologist and it said he “would be high risk for a major cardiovascular event” associated with this surgery. In my mind, I was sure they wouldn’t do the surgery. But the option was letting the cancer spread. Not a good option. All of his doctors said he was a strong guy and they knew he would do OK. I translate that to say that he’s a tough old bastard. And that he is.

We waited in the waiting room for something like three hours (it’s easy to lose track when you’re sitting for hours). Doing our part for the family and obviously signaling the surgeon that it was time to come talk to everyone, my sister and I went down to get coffee for everyone and the doctor came in so we missed him. The surgery had gone well and Dad was in recovery. He was there for another few hours until they moved him to ICU and we got to see him. He was so thirsty and eventually got some ice chips and made some crude (and hysterical) comments to my mom, so I knew for sure he had made it through and was on the way to recovery. He has had some other issues at the hospital (mostly from a lack of communication by hospital staff), but each time muscles through and keeps going.

The biggest lessons from this entire experience were:

  • My dry sense of humor is all compliments of my dad.
  • I love spending time with my siblings. We were probably laughing inappropriately for a hospital waiting room and ICU, but we are damn funny people.
  • My sister (the retired one I’ve complained about, I mean, mentioned before) is absolutely an amazing human being. She has pretty much single-handedly handled both staying with and advocating for my dad as much as she could in the hospital and taking care of my mom who is suffering from dementia. That task scares the crap out of me and she handles it like a pro. My other sister, brother, and I (the employed ones) have helped as we could, but she has carried the lion’s share of the load. I have no idea what my family would do without her.
  • I need to take care of myself. Family medical histories suck.  I have many health issues–most of which are caused by my excess weight (and some genetics). But I’m not doing anything right now to fix that. And that’s pretty much signing my own death warrant. I know better, I need to do better. And I will. I have too many things to do and too many grandbabies to watch grow into their own lives to screw this up.
  • Hospitals are not fun places. They tell you to rest and then come in every couple of hours to check vitals, give meds, draw blood, etc. But sometimes that’s where you need to be to get the help you need. A whole lot of the experience depends on the people working there. And it is the same in life. Just be nice! You could make a huge difference in someone’s life just by smiling at them, opening a door for them, or paying for their Starbucks in the drive thru lane. Be nice!
  • Love deeply and often and then tell people. In the blink of an eye, we could have lost my dad on the operating table, but we did not. I do not spend nearly enough time with my family and I want to remedy that. We often think that people know we love them and they do, but everyone likes to hear it. Unless you’re a creepy stalker, then don’t do that.
  • Life is indeed a blessing. Make the most of it–every day!

Thanksliving

thanksliving-2I just spent the Thanksgiving weekend with my daughter, her three children, and my son’s four children (and my son and his wife part of the time but they didn’t spend their nights here). There was much soda drank, microwave popcorn consumed, cookies baked, and dinners made and eaten.

One of our family traditions is Grandma Cookie Day. With my daughter and her kids living in New Mexico, it is sometimes a real struggle to coordinate time to do it, but the tradition started when my oldest granddaughter was three was carried on this year (and she is 16). While the new cookie recipes didn’t turn out as nicely as I thought they might, they had fun decorating them. We also tried making taffy candy canes, which was an interesting experience and ended up a big pink blob of taffy, but one of them took it all home.

The object of this information is that I’m thankful–thankful that my grandchildren are growing into responsible, loving, and kind young adults; thankful that they continue to all get along together; thankful that my children get along and obviously love each other; thankful that my dad had a very short hospital stay and that my daughter and her kids got to see him while they were here; thankful that family fills my heart.

Traditions are important. As I’m sure I’ve posted before, traditions are much more important than gifts or money. The adults all remind me that once the kids start thinking about Christmas, they start asking about Cookie Day. While the whole Cookie Day experience was completely exhausting, watching the kids get excited about it and spending time decorating all of those cookies was worth it and it will definitely continue as long as they want to do it (and probably even after that!).

I’m going to try to celebrate Thanksliving every day all year long. I’m going to live each day with something to be thankful for. Right now, I’m kind of thankful for quiet. While I love having a houseful, it was definitely a houseful. PLUS I have regained control of my TV remote and I’m very thankful for that!

Grateful

I’m “reading” (thanks to Audible, I’m actually listening during my 2 hour per day commute) a book that was recommended to me (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah). It takes place during World War II in France. It is the story of a family during the War and how their lives changed. Even though I’m not yet done, it is really having an impact on me. It brings to light how truly easy my life has been.

Early in my life, we lived in “the projects.” But we had electricity, food, and family. We didn’t have to worry about standing in lines for what bits of food were rationed out or sharing our home with armed forces. Roasted pigeon? Seriously?

As I was growing up, I had a curfew, but the entire town did not have a curfew that they must abide by or suffer severe consequences–including death–for missing curfew!

My whole life, I could talk to anyone I wanted to or play with children of any religion or color. I did not have to wear something signifying that I was “different” than someone else, I did not get my name on a list of people of a certain religion, and I did not get rounded up onto buses of people on that list to be transported to camps away from friends and family. The idea that that kind of thing actually happened makes me really sad.

I recently was able to visit the Civil Rights Museum in Nashville at the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. Walking through the museum, looking at the persecution that people of color were forced to put up with and thinking about the stories that my parents told me also makes me sad. It makes me sad that so much of this actually happened during my lifetime. I wasn’t really old enough to know what it was about, but I was alive. So, obviously, while it is “history,” it is not history that is hundreds of years old.

Both of these things make me grateful that those people made such tremendous sacrifices so I could live my charmed life. I think I’m a strong person, but I don’t think I’m strong enough to do some of the things they were forced to do. I am not sure they pictured themselves as strong, they were just doing what they had to do to make it day-to-day. The worst I have to do to make it day-to-day is my daily commute to a fabulous job of my own choosing which requires that I drive through Phoenix rush hour traffic–in my fairly new car, with air conditioning, gasoline I can buy on just about every street corner, listening to my book, a podcast, or music that no one is editing or censoring, with hundreds of others doing the same. I have, indeed, lived a very charmed life.

 

I Am Thankful!

BE (3)Today’s thought is to be grateful. No matter how bad you think things are, you can always be grateful. Did you wake up this morning? Be grateful. Do you have a place to sleep? Be grateful. Do you have clothes to wear? Be grateful.

If you stop and think about all the things you do have and be grateful for those things, the things you don’t have may not seem so important.

While you’re thinking about that, think about the difference between “need” and “want.” Dictionary.com defines “need” as a “requirement, necessary duty, or obligation.” It defines “want” as “to feel a need or a desire for; wish for.” There is a big difference. When you “need” something, it is necessary for you to live. You NEED food, you NEED some kind of clothing (mostly because you will be arrested otherwise), you NEED water, you NEED some kind of shelter. However, you WANT dessert, you WANT expensive, fancy restaurant meals, you WANT designer duds, you WANT the biggest, most ostentatious house on the block. You don’t NEED the WANTS. 

I’ve said before that I have worked really hard for a long time and so I do give in to my WANTS from time to time. Lately on my way to work, there has been an obviously homeless man near my office. He is dirty, unshaven, and has matted hair. Worst of all he is barefoot . . . in Arizona . . . where it has been over 110 degrees most days and where asphalt is even higher temperature. He is still living and breathing and I’m sure he would feel that he has many things to be thankful for. It puts things into perspective for me in my nice car with my expensive cell phone listening to my iPod in decent clothes and air conditioning on my way to a job that pays me well and allows me to have nice things. Since I’ve seen him two or three times so far, I will find an old pair of my husband’s shoes and throw them in my car in case they might fit him. And, yes, I’m grateful for what I have and I love to share some of that with others.

There are many ways to keep track of your gratitude. There are journals, there are apps, there is pen and paper, there are friends, and there is what I end up doing–when I first lay down to go to sleep, I think about my day and come up with three things I’m grateful for. Unfortunately for me, the time between my head hitting the pillow and being asleep is not always enough to name the three things, but I think a lot of that is thinking about happy thoughts as I drift off. The advantage to actually writing it down somewhere is that you can review it later–particularly when you are having a bad day.

At work, I have a “warm fuzzies file” where I keep particularly nice emails, cards, reviews, anything that makes me feel good. There are many times when I’m having a bad day and listing the pros and cons of why I do what I do when I dig out that file and remember that there are people who appreciate me and what I do and that the pros list is much longer.

Just remember there is always, always something to be thankful for. As long as you are breathing, you should be grateful for all the little things. Thinking about all of those will keep your mind so busy, you might just forget the one thing that was upsetting you. Just. Be. Grateful.