The Rather Unobligatory Gratitude Post

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I am wide awake. For the first time in over three years, I have the day after Thanksgiving off work, which has created an unprecedented level of excitement for the holiday season in me this year. No, I’m not planning on the ridiculous trek through stores at midnight on Black Friday. I’d rather pay a higher price and avoid all that madness, though shopping in my jammies sounds pretty comfortable. Historically my holiday is punctuated by a mid-week day off and a hurried dinner on a Saturday. It was never as much to enjoy because I felt overly busy and had a to-do list too high. As you know, I’ve quit following my to-do lists. The lists still exist, but for the most part they are ignored.

Actually, my excitement is stemming from the real purpose of this season: gratitude. This morning I work up (when I normally would drag my butt from bed for work, but without an alarm – how unusual!) and felt motivated not just to roll out of bed, but to share my gratitude. So, here is my list of awesome things – with a few random ones thrown in.

New jobs. Since my last Thanksgiving, my husband has settled into a research role at a very amazing and exciting “green” company. It has brought him an amazing degree of happiness, often waking from bed at 5am just to go research more ideas. His company values him and supports his ideas. Then in April I began my new job. It, too, is wonderful. The people are professional and the environment is supportive and cordial. My new ideas and suggestions are valued and welcomed there; and they are acted upon. Yes, that’s right, they use my ideas! What a blessing. I feel inspired and respected by my bosses, I feel valued as a member of a team of great people. And the people I help enjoy what I can offer. Along with our new happiness has brought a degree of financial security that previously had not existed ever before. There is much to be grateful for in this department!

Home. I live in this wonderful, spacious and bright apartment on the second floor of a two-family home. My neighbor is a sweet, wonderful elderly woman for whom I have grown a tremendous degree of love and affection (though I should visit her more…). I came by this place because of my wonderful friend – my “New York sister,” I call her – and her terrific husband. My kitchen is huge, I own my very first washer and love not going to the laundry mat. We are just blocks from a bus stop and just a few miles from our jobs, making having one car continually efficient for our lifestyle. I have a couch that is so cushy my friends relish a “sleep-over” just to bunk on it. And we have been blessed with great technology, quiet neighbors, a back yard, and plenty of space.

Warm water. May sound silly, but we should all be grateful for this. So many places have limited water resources. So many don’t have clean water or even running water and septic systems in their home. But daily I am a spoiled person. I take a shower under warm running water. I use a toilet that flushes with water. I can give no thought to filling my glass and drinking an unlimited amount of water. I feel safe drinking it because my city provides it and the government regulates its levels of cleanliness. I am daily grateful for water.

Love. My life has been filled with it. I feel tremendous love for people in my life, and have been blessed with the return of love by many. I have parents who have been good to me, siblings with whom I feel an affectionate connection rather than a negative one, a husband who is supportive and kind and good-natured, friends who value me for my personality and care about what happens in my life. Indeed I am very blessed.

Family. Friends. See love. Then add about 150 aunts, uncles, cousins and their kids and spouses, grandparents, step-families, and in-laws. And all of them? They are great. Really great. Good people. Warm people. Kind people. If I needed something, I know I could call my uncles or my aunts and they would help me. As a matter of fact – sometimes I don’t even have to ask. My cousins and I all share a connection and care for one another – we all grew up together and know the value of family. And my in-laws are as special to me as my own blood relatives – terrific people with warm hearts. And my amazing, awesome friends. They are every where, they are filled with glowing enthusiasm. Overall outstanding people with marvelous talents. Having them in my life has defined my character.

Civil rights. As a woman in America, I get to wake every day and know I can vote, make my own decisions, wear what I please, and worship or not worship as I see fit. I can choose whether or not to have a child and when. I decide who I marry, where I live, what I do for work, what I eat, and how I would like to speak and represent myself. I was able to marry for love. I speak my mind and have my independence. I am very fortunate.

Nature. Parks, hiking trails, lots of trees, wild grass lands…. I am very grateful for Forever Wild land in NY, for state parks and conservation programs. I admire people who turn their yards into edible gardens. I am thrilled by the environmental protection movements to make this world a good place to continue to live in.

Pie. Cake. Ice cream. Seriously. I love dessert.

Sex. It’s awesome.

Color, creativity. Just about as important to me as the blood in my body and oxygen in the air. It is what gives the day its spark and what gets me excited. Those who have this intrinsic ability to generate ideas, to act on them, and to find unusual resourceful solutions to problems… they are inspirations to me.

Thumbs. Think about it. Opposable thumbs have been so important and are really useful little phalanges. I love my thumbs, fingers, and toes.

The breeze. Whether I’m shooting it, or feeling it on my skin… it’s something that life wouldn’t be complete without.

Breakfast. For all meals – it is quite possibly the best.

Scarves and stocking caps. I love me some winter wear.

Health insurance. I wish healthcare was free for all, but since it isn’t I am just happy to have insurance so I don’t have to worry about becoming hopelessly in debt if my appendix ruptures or something.

Good health. We’ve been pretty fortunate in this department – me and my husband. I’m hoping for many more years of good health and improved lifestyle changes to make that more likely.

Our Jeep. 210,000 miles and she’s still rolling. Here’s hoping we make it to 300k!

The ability to walk. Sometimes when I am sitting all day, I think about how lucky I am that I may get up and walk around (without pain, struggle, or a second thought).

Modern technology. I really like having electricity and internet and refrigerators and washing machines and computers and cell phones and cars and radios and television and medical advances and calculators and airplanes. Pretty neat stuff.

Smiling. I don’t know how the smile and the laugh came into existence, but I don’t believe there is a better sound or a nicer thing to see than a genuine smile. 🙂

You. Thanks for reading. Thanks for caring! Thank you for your ideas and comments. Thanks for being a good person. Thanks for giving me your time. Thanks for being thankful!

Happy Turkey Day, everyone.

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Thank you!

Best "thank you," EVER!

When I graduated high school, I decided to use this great stationary I had and write “thank you” notes to some of my teachers. I didn’t write one to every teacher I had–though they all deserved thanks–I wrote to those teachers who played an important role for me personally as I developed through school. I wrote one to my junior high English teacher who was the first to really believe in my independent voice; to my 5th grade teacher who gave me a book for Christmas that was one of my favorites (I still have it!); to my TAG teacher (enrichment class), who showed me that intelligence was a gift and who introduced me to the idea of higher education; to my physics teacher, who engaged in philosophical debates with me regularly and let me keep my physics text book (still have it, too I think!); one to my second grade teacher, who had this giant Garfield tent that we could read in if we behaved; and more.

This week I was reminded of the value of a heartfelt “thank you.” I received one of the most delightful, lovely, and thoughtful thank you’s I’ve ever had! The wonderful Ms. Anita and her fabulous 7th graders from Brooklyn compiled a little stack of colorful notes, drawings, and a homemade scarf (!) and mailed them to me as a “thank you” for posting their work on this blog! (If you need a reminder, search the category “Brooklyn students embroideries” and you’ll find over 20 posts on the topic!) As I opened the package, all these bright paper hearts came falling out, and I read every message out-loud to my husband as I giggled, and smiled, and laughed! Each message was so sweet–and the drawings on them were terrific! One of the students, Lucara, added the “Be Nice” to the scarf–it is perfect! One of my most prized possessions (and how did they know how much I love scarves!?)!

The sheer joy I felt receiving such a thoughtful message of gratitude made me think of an article I had seen on CBS awhile back, about writing “thank you’s.” As the commentator mentioned, thank you notes are on their way out–specifically the hand-written kind. But some of us still do it, and some of us write them all the time. Take author John Kralik.

One recent December, at age 53, John Kralik found his life at a terrible, frightening low: his small law firm was failing; he was struggling through a painful second divorce; he had grown distant from his two older children and was afraid he might lose contact with his young daughter; he was living in a tiny apartment where he froze in the winter and baked in the summer; he was 40 pounds overweight; his girlfriend had just broken up with him; and overall, his dearest life dreams–including hopes of upholding idealistic legal principles and of becoming a judge–seemed to have slipped beyond his reach.

Then, during a desperate walk in the hills on New Year’s Day, John was struck by the belief that his life might become at least tolerable if, instead of focusing on what he didn’t have, he could find some way to be grateful for what he had.

Inspired by a beautiful, simple note his ex-girlfriend had sent to thank him for his Christmas gift, John imagined that he might find a way to feel grateful by writing thank-you notes. To keep himself going, he set himself a goal–come what may–of writing 365 thank-you notes in the coming year.

One by one, day after day, he began to handwrite thank yous–for gifts or kindnesses he’d received from loved ones and coworkers, from past business associates and current foes, from college friends and doctors and store clerks and handymen and neighbors, and anyone, really, absolutely anyone, who’d done him a good turn, however large or small. Immediately after he’d sent his very first notes, significant and surprising benefits began to come John’s way–from financial gain to true friendship, from weight loss to inner peace. While John wrote his notes, the economy collapsed, the bank across the street from his office failed, but thank-you note by thank-you note, John’s whole life turned around. (source of this text: click here)

Being grateful is linked to a number of amiable characteristics: patience, awareness, humility, value of community, receptivity, positivity, and so on. I imagine people sensed a transformation, or a certain openness, in Mr. Kralik’s character as he began to change his perspective, and responded in kind. And while sometimes a verbal “thank you” might not yield the same response, I believe any form of gratitude is an awesome sentiment to express regularly. These Brooklyn kids, their teacher, and John Kralik could all be wonderful role models as we begin to recognize the good things in our lives day to day.

So, I’ll start now by saying: Thank you! For reading the blog, supporting the project, for being a kind person. It means the world to me.

🙂

You can watch the CBS article here or read it here. Check out more of the book “365 Thank You’s: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life” by John Kralik here.

Clean, heated water

I bet a lot of you were asked, or thought about, what you were grateful for this time of year. The turkey, the pie! Family, friends, a job…. Personally, I’m thankful for clean, heated water every morning. So nice in the winter months and many aren’t so lucky. But whatever we are thankful for, our minds collectively and very quickly (say, by 4 AM on Black Friday) turn to what we don’t have, what we want, and what we expect to get in the next 30 days.

I suppose it is only natural to think of what we want. I remember my childhood bedtime prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, guide me safely through the night, and wake me with the morning light.   But my mother also included a section in our night-time prayers for what we were thankful for, which always followed our requests: blessings for our loved ones, friends and neighbors. It seems to be a habit, a mindset: be grateful and you might be more likely to get what you ask for. Not bad logic really. It’s better than just expecting to get everything and being thankful for none of it.

But I have an idea. Let us extend  the “grateful for’s” this season. When we sit this December perusing the aisles, looking over websites and magazines, cultivating lists of desired items that we may or may not need, let us keep a steady thought on just everything we do have. Think of all the loved ones which surround us who care enough to give a gift this year. Think how lucky we are to have the income to buy frivolous things. Think of the privileges and comforts we have in our society that many communities in the world struggle to attain. These are things to be especially grateful for not just one day out of the year, but every day of our lives.  

© Be Nice. Creator and Be Nice. (somethingsonice.wordpress.com), 2008-2009.