In Gratitude

I woke up this morning to a rose-gold dawn; everything was bathed in that beautiful light. It had rained the night before, and that pink light filled every raindrop. In our office where I write my posts, there are two windows to my right. Across the street there  is a stretch of grass sheltered by tall spruces where the cardinals like to roost. In between them are maples dressed in gold and red leaves. I never get tired of looking at that peaceful view.

Each one of our five cats has claimed their morning space after enjoying their breakfasts. Tinker, the big yellow tiger cat, is already stretched across the window sill purring and snoring loudly.

The Crankee Yankee, always up before me, has poured me a cup of strong black coffee. The ceramic pen holder, shaped like a cat, is on my left. It belonged to my mother, and she always kept her pens and pencils in it, as I do now.

On the kitchen counter, there are two large bowls filled with the little green cherry tomatoes we picked yesterday; the last of the tomatoes this year. This week they will be transformed into green tomato relish (surprisingly good on hot dogs), and curried tomato soup.

Our neighbor’s black and white cat, Marley, has stopped by our deck to have some of the kibble and water we leave out for our four-footed guests. Bailey, cat number five, has already given him the stink eye from the desk window. Marley couldn’t care less.

This week we will be pulling up the worn-out tomato vines, and unearth the rest of the leeks, cutting back the peonies and then covering the gardens in a blanket of straw for the winter. All summer long, and even into the fall, we have enjoyed our bounty of produce: garlic, onions, beets, bell peppers, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, radishes and herbs: sage, oregano, parsley and chives.

The garden is populated with the Crankee Yankee’s beloved pink plastic flamingos, our old garden gnome, “Uncle Winklebaum,” and the guardian of the *memorial lilac bush, “Scrumpy,” the fat little cement cat. This year we added all of my parents’ “garden-age:” the beautiful and enigmatic **Quan Yin statue, the cement sundial, and all the pretty scrolled black and white ironwork chairs and fences.

I get to see all this beauty every day. I wake up early enough to appreciate the sunrises, and in the evening, the unique scroll of the sunsets, the rising of the moon, and the few shy stars that appear before nightfall. Early in the mornings, one bird will sound to mark the start of a new day, and the rest follow in song.

I get to walk around in this still-strong body, see with both eyes, hear with both ears. I can still walk, dance, sing, write, read, laugh, cry, and appreciate all those I love and care for. Although I have lost most of my family, I know that they are still near me. I am lucky enough to have both old and new friends, and my companion of over 15 years, the Crankee Yankee.

I am filled with gratitude each day. Every morning I think of what my favorite uncle (still living at age 92!) used to say to his staff when he walked into work each day, a big smile of his face: “This is the day the Lord hath made! Rejoice and be glad in it!”

Oh, I do, Unkie: I do.

*A dear friend sent us this lilac bush as a living memorial to my parents. I treasure it.

**Goddess of mercy and compassion.

 

 

 

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Envy Hurts, Gratitude Heals

Ever buy a lottery ticket and hear the next day that your no-good, lay-about neighbor won a gozillion dollars? No? Me, either. It is far too easy to feel envy if we don’t have the things we see that others have. It’s also too easy to feel sour when someone you know comes into good fortune. And then there is that whole ‘why does he/she get to have <insert whatever makes you feel envious here> and I don’t?’ 

Why does it feel that someone else’s good fortune takes something away from us? If we’re not careful, we can fall into that negativity, and dismiss all that we DO have.

Feeling gratitude is a habit like anything else. Look around—is there a roof over your head? Food on the table? A vehicle that might not be this year’s model, but faithfully gets you where you need to go? Love from family and friends? Clothes to wear? A warm bed in which to sleep?

These may be things we take for granted, but they are all wonderful things that others may not have. I often think what it must be like to have no place to call home, no means to eat regular meals, and no one to turn to for help and comfort. How desperate and lonely that must be.

It took me a long time to put gratitude first in my heart. All it takes is just deciding that we want to feel happiness and gratitude. I’m not a church-goer, but I do say my prayers each day; they are in three sections I call TAP: Thankfulness, Apology, then Please.

I first say what I’m grateful for; each day it feels as if I have more, not less. Then I apologize for all my faults and promise to be better. The last is what I want for others and myself, and the requests always start with “please.”

Doing this doesn’t automatically make me a good person, but it does keep in my head what I need to do to stay in gratitude. It also reminds me to remember those things I can do better, and then requesting help for what I would like for others and myself.

Once this is done for the day, I feel that I can go forward with my day, and stay positive. Doing this keeps my envy low and my gratitude high. It may not be a master plan for success in all things, but it works for me.

The Antidote is Gratitude

I write a lot about gratitude because the longer I live, the more grateful I am—-for all things. Of course there are things in my life I’m not wild about, but the good and wonderful things far outweigh them.

Good Things:

  • Although I lost my mom last December, I still have my wonderful dad
  • I have a loving and kind husband who can fix and build anything (and who is nice to animals)
  • I have two amazing granddaughters who, for some reason, think I’m wonderful
  • I have four healthy, happy and silly cats in my life
  • I have a close circle of dear friends
  • I live in a free country, thanks to the sacrifice of many
  • I have love and kindness in my life
  • I now have Medicare, the first insurance I’ve had in three years
  • I am inspired to make jewelry again. After Mom’s death, I couldn’t–but I can now
  • I have a roof over my head
  • I have electricity
  • I have air conditioning
  • I have clothes to wear
  • I have food and water
  • I have been given the talents of reading and writing
  • I have a good-running vehicle to get around in

Not So Good Things:

  • My right knee is worn out and hurts all the time, BUT I am able to get a knee replacement
  • I have osteo arthritis in my hips, BUT if necessary, I can get those replaced, too

It would be too easy to take the good things for granted; I can’t. I know that at any time all these things can be taken from me, but that’s not the point. The point is that I am living in gratitude and literally counting my blessings every day. I know that there are so many in the world who can’t count on food or water every day, who don’t have a safe roof over their heads, who live in subjugation and can’t do or say what they want to, who are in poverty, sorrow, sickness, loneliness, or fear. I wish I had the power to make everything better for everyone.

But since I can’t do that, I am repeating thanks every day. My prayers and hopes for those in want go out daily, and when I can give, I do. I can’t let all that is bad in the world discolor my own world. I think that, the more we hear bad news, the more angst and fear we take into our own lives. It’s just as bad as inhaling toxic fumes every day. It doesn’t help anyone, and will eventually make you so sick that you can’t do anything.

My belief is that we need to stay positive, keep remembering all that is good in our lives, and attempt to live in gratitude and hope. It doesn’t mean we are selfish and self-serving, it means we are saving our sanity in order to be able to give, and help when and where we can. It means that we keep our minds and hearts clear, therefore more willing to come up with ways to help.

Gratitude is the antidote to all that is bad in the world. I’ve said this before, but action follows energy. Put good energy out into the world, good energy comes back. Maybe we get to feeling so grateful that we can take a look at our lives and decide that we have room to take on a neighborhood project to help clean up an area of town. Maybe we can go through our things and donate what we can. Maybe we can make time to do some part-time teaching. Maybe we can visit a lonely neighbor now and then.

Maybe we can just make room in our lives to say ‘thank you’ more often.

 

 

The State of Being Thankful

Remember that old sweet song about counting your blessings?

“When you’re worried

And you can’t sleep,

Just count your blessings instead of sheep,

And you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings!”

(FYI, it works.)

Each and every worry I keep in my heart and mind takes up valuable space that could be holding all the good things in my life, such as:

  • the love of family and friends
  • a snug, sturdy and safe roof over overhead
  • four happy, healthy (and spoiled rotten) cats
  • the opportunity to feed the strays (cats, skunks, squirrels, raccoons, etc.)
  • a comfortable bed to sleep in
  • two good reliable vehicles (that were given to us!)
  • food in the refrigerator, freezer, pantry and our garden
  • clothes to wear and shoes on my feet
  • the privilege of living in a free country (and appreciating those who sacrificed everything for my freedoms)
  • the talents and gifts I have been given
  • any book that grips my attention
  • a good education
  • the beauty of nature all around me each day
  • seemingly random kindnesses
  • good health
  • the gifts of all my working senses
  • the sweetness and lessons from the past
  • the mystery and excitement of the future
  • a really good cup of coffee
  • the powerful magic of the words “I love you”
  • laughter
  • hope
  • joy

…oh, and there is so much more! Even the trials I sometimes face are gifts. They teach me that I am stronger and more capable than I thought I could be. We all have been scared or disappointed or worried or fearful; that’s just part of our lives from time to time.

But how much more do we have that is good in our lives? Let’s face it, things are not always going to go our way; that’s just life as we know it. But there are so many gifts given to us, often disguised as what we first think of as loss. It’s as if someone we trust is holding out a hand to lift us up into the boat we fell out of; we want to believe that they will pull us in.

The past year and this one so far has been a tough one for us all; kind of a universal shift of uncertainty, violence, fear, death, destruction and the loss of many things we hold dear. But for all that, good things still come along.

For every act of terrorism, anger, fear and worry, somewhere there is always an outpouring of love, help and understanding that makes us remember that we still have each other to lean on. I remember hearing about one woman, who, in the aftermath of one of the many “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations, put her arms around another woman, saying, “I’d rather hug you than hate you.”

Good grief, if that doesn’t give us hope, I don’t know what does. I understand too well that we can’t always magically get along, forget our differences, hold hands and sing “*Kumbaya” together. But I do have the hope that we can, in our own way, try not to let blind anger, fear and bitterness sour us forever on each other.

Just the other day, my wonderful step-daughter (mother of the Amazing Ava (5 years old) and her nearly 4-month old little sister, Juliette) called us to say that Ava can now tie her shoes, AND put her hair into a ponytail and/or a bun! And Juliette, who, like her sister before her, has evidently decided that she is going to skip all that crawling business and go right to standing and walking.

While I exclaimed how terrific that was, tears were flowing down my cheeks with the sheer joy of having these two beautiful little people in my life. I imagine all the things that they will do in this world and how they will inspire others.

And perhaps they will live by the “I’d rather hug you than hate you” rule.

*From alpha.dictionary.com:

“‘Kumbaya, my Lord’ was first recorded by an out-of-work English professor, Robert Winslow Gordon, in 1927. Gordon went on a search for black spirituals and recorded a song “Come by Here, My Lord”, sung by H. Wylie. The song was sung in Gullah on the islands of South Carolina between Charleston and Beaufort.”