I’m so gratefully glad we had this time together…

(I know I’ve shared portions of this before, but it bears repeating again…)

One of my all-time favorite performers is the iconic legend, Carol Burnett.  My family would eagerly gather around our TV every Saturday evening to marvel, laugh, and share memorable moments reveling in the sublime work of a talented group who weekly created the famous comedy hour known as The Carol Burnett Show.  She always did a thoughtful gesture at the end of each show in tribute to her beloved grandmother while she sang the closing song each week.  In several interviews, she remarked it was her unwritten, non-verbal way of sending love and a huge THANK YOU note each week to the one who never gave up on her.

Shakespeare famously noted:  “I can no other answer make but thanks, thanks, and ever thanks…”  In the spirit of my gratefulness for your part in my journey these past 30 days, please allow me a little poetic license to offer these two simple words:  THANK YOU.

A THANK YOU has the power to transform our health, happiness, performance, personal excellence, and ultimate success.  Researchers note how grateful people are happier and more likely to maintain strong friendships.  An attitude of gratitude is shown to improve the heart’s rhythmic functioning, which helps us to reduce stress, think more clearly under pressure, and heal faster physically.  My own cardiologist tells me it is actually physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time!  When you are grateful you flood your body and brain with positive reactions (and those important endorphins) to uplift and energize rather than drain you.

Gratefulness is similar to a muscle in the body though—the more we use it, the stronger it gets.  In the spirit of our 30 Days of Gratefulness, here are 3 simple (but not always easy) suggestions to practice daily in order to assist us in strengthening gratefulness beyond today…

  1. Keep a Gratefulness Journal:  Take a walk/talk/squawk opportunity to write down, say out loud, pray, meditate, and more exactly what you are grateful for that day; it’s a mindset for choosing to focus on gratefulness in a purposeful way.
  2. Take a Gratefulness Tour:  Write and send a letter or card each week expressing your gratitude to others in your life – or – visit them to share your gratefulness in person.
  3. Purposefully say “THANK YOU” to someone every single day: When we take time to sincerely and authentically express our appreciation to someone, we definitely help ourselves in the process.

While these work best for me, please do what works best for you!

So on Day #30:  What one thing will you commit to do in developing your own personal plan to practice gratefulness each day?

THANK YOU for walking this gratefulness journey with me these past 30 days.  THANK YOU for sharing your thoughts verbally and in writing, reflecting with me and each other, while sharing JOY in simply being grateful together!  Let’s find ways to continue encouraging and uplifting each other while keeping the importance of daily gratitude, gratefulness and grace alive and well each day, my friends! 🙂

Do we have enough?

“Gratitude can turn common days into Thanksgivings…”  ~William Arthur Ward

Days like today fill me to the brim with memories, sacred moments, and the bittersweet recollections of those going before me, yet I’m  humbly reminded how living in a mindset of gratefulness allows each of us to see we have enough…

  • happiness to keep us sweet,
  • trials to keep us strong,
  • sorrows to keep us human,
  • hope to keep us JOYful,
  • failure to keep us humble,
  • success to make us eager,
  • family/friends to give us comfort,
  • wealth to meet our needs,
  • enthusiasm to look for tomorrow,
  • faith to banish worry, and
  • determination to make each day better than before! 

(These specific words were written in Granny B’s penmanship on the back of a Thanksgiving card from 1939; no indication if she wrote them or someone else should have this intellectual credit.)

It’s a struggle some days to feel we have enough; we are human after all.  Focusing on the blessings and placing the challenges aside is simple, just not easy.  Living in gratefulness and gratitude challenges us to ponder the fact we really do have enough.  Again I say, gratefulness is a mindful place–perhaps THE place–we find our truest and best selves.

On Day #28 of our journey:  If you created your own “have enough” list to share with those gathered around the table, what would you gratefully include on it?

As we gather and feast at our tables of thankfulness, may we all celebrate the gifts we pass and receive to and from one another with profound gratefulness.  Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!  🙂

Saluting the Apron

The day before Thanksgiving is typically celebrated as Apron Day; most appropriate in light of the ovens and stove tops burning at full speed.

I have an eclectic set of aprons hanging in my pantry.  A couple are vintage oldies from Granny and Nanny, some I stitched by hand, and the “grateful” one was a gift from a friend (notice grandma kitty, Addie, posing for this pic?).  While I don’t always a wear an apron (I prefer a large flour-sack towel on my shoulder most days), there are times it just feels right to wear one, like today, when prepping several family recipes at once.  Donning an apron brings powerful memories to the forefront of previous times shared in the kitchen with momma, family, friends, and most especially, my daughters.  Yes, food is definitely a love-language in our family…

In honor of this day, the following poem beautifully sums up my grateful appreciation for the little piece of well-loved cloth worn in honor of those before me (male and female) who courageously and lovingly conquered the “beast-of-a-feast” through the generations in our family:

Grandma’s Apron

A poem by Tina Trivett

The strings were tied, it was freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.

She may have used it to hold some wildflowers that she’d found.
Or to hide a crying child’s face when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder to serve some chicken broth.

She probably carried kindling to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables, it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have used it to shoo flies from the cow.

She might have carried eggs in from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for, she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I’m sure the apron that she chose, was her Sunday best.

So on Day #27:  What memories do you gratefully treasure of your family members wearing aprons? 

Just know I’m waving my rick-rack-and-gingham in salute to all you cooks and bakers galore who are preparing to serve the bounty of edible blessings we celebrate as Thanksgiving tomorrow!  And secretly, I’m also thanking each apron for the blessings of precious memories.  Feast on and remember to set your scales back five pounds.  May extraordinary thanks and giving shower you and yours in grateful blessings, my friends    🙂

A pondering of numbers…

One hundred forty three… Mr. Rogers (yes, that Mr. Rogers), maintained a body weight of 143 pounds for most of his adult life.  He kept his weight by eating a vegetarian diet (“nothing that had a mother”) and famously swimming laps each day.  He also observed it personally in another profound way:  “One letter for the word ‘I,’ four letters for the word ‘LOVE,’ and three letters for the word ‘YOU.’  We have to tell ourselves ‘I LOVE YOU’ and learn to love ourselves before we can learn to love others.”

St. (Mother) Teresa believed in numbers this way:  “Never worry about numbers…help ONE person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”  Her life’s work had to be completely overwhelming, yet she reached millions starting with just ONE.

John Green, in his best-selling book The Fault In Our Stars, captured it brilliantly:  “Some infinities are bigger than other infinities…I cannot tell you how grateful I am for our little infinity.  You gave me forever within our numbered days, and I’m grateful…”  

St. M says we are “90.41% complete with this year, so on this 330th day of 2019 and Day #26 of our Gratefulness Game:  Is there a special number in your life and how does its significance spark gratefulness? 

Personally, I like the number 8.  It’s the third letter in the word, GR8FUL, and a gr8ful heart most definitely serves all of us well 365 days a year, so let’s finish the last 9.59% of 2019 gratefully strong, my friends!  🙂

A cut above…

Sugar. Butter. Flour. My hands pluck the things I know that I’ll need
I’ll take the sugar and butter from the pantry
I add the flour to begin what I am hoping to start
And then it’s down with the recipe
And bake from the heart…

Such are the lyrics to a fabulous musical and opening number from the Broadway show, Waitress.  The first time I heard the song, my heart skipped a beat and my eyes instantly watered.  I felt certain Sara Bareilles stepped directly into the kitchen with grandmothers and me…

There’s a metal string of pastry and cookie cutters proudly hanging in our kitchen to this day.  They’ve packed up and moved with me to each kitchen since I was a “baby teacher” in my first apartment.  Rusty, some broken, and all likely requiring an extra tetanus shot just to be in the vicinity, these delicate shapes remind me of the many hours gratefully spent in both of my grandmothers’ kitchens.

Our experiences usually started by gathering our ingredients from the pantry – sugar, butter, flour, eggs, and such – while locating the recipe card covered in prior smears, smudges, and fingerprints.  If it was a particular pie or a batch of cookies, the cutters came out as well.  We mixed shapes and holidays because, well, we could.  Both Nanny Folsom and Granny Brock lived by the philosophy to make (and sometimes eat) dessert first.  As one who rarely breaks from tradition or “Granny Law,” it’s remains my first task in tackling a meal (besides, you never know who might stop by and need a little something sweet to go with a cup of tea or coffee).  🙂

So on Day #25, consider this:  Is there a kitchen tool or implement bringing a touch of nostalgia to your culinary world and what does it gratefully remind you of each time you use or see it?  

While permanently retired now, this special collection of shaped cutters gracefully resides in tribute and gratefulness to the bakers in our family who rolled and cut out scrumptious treats and beautiful memories all baked with the most important ingredient…love.

Rushing along with the rushed…

Today, in the midst of much kitchen activity, daddy walked in and suddenly quoted Robert Frost:  “You know, there’s no reason to be rushed along with the rush…”  My head snapped up and I giggled.  He sounded JUST like momma in that moment (she was always quoting Frost or Thoreau or Dickinson or Alcott or Byron or Dr. Seuss or any number of profound philosophers in her well-studied realm).  I asked daddy what caused him to comment and he answered, “Well, you’re rushing around in here you would think Thanksgiving is today…(silent pause)…it’s not, right?”  🙂

In his unexpected daily quest to just live gratefully each moment these days, he has this uncanny ability to innocently stop me in my hub-bub and simply remind me to savor the same.  And even though it was rather breezy and quite cool outside, I stopped rushing and we stepped outside onto the screened porch.  Sitting quietly for a while, we enJOYed the wind on our faces, listened to the sounds of squirrels foraging in the trees (but they better NOT be digging up and storing away the 350 bulbs we planted yesterday), and watched the leaves rustling as they created colorful blankets on the pine mulch.  We exchanged thoughts on gratefulness and how blessings overflowed all around us, sublimely just being in those precious moments with each other.

So here’s our challenge:  Find small ways each day to stop the rush and just gratefully BE in the moment.  Please know I’ll be right there with you…that is, if I’m not chasing squirrels with bulbs in their mouths.  🙂

The gift of being older…

Daddy awoke with a smile as I presented him the steaming cup of coffee.  He told a joke, chuckling out loud cracking himself up, and all before getting out of bed this morning!  Who is this person and what did he do with my father?  Such is Alzheimer’s, but I’ll gratefully take this comical start anytime.  You see, daddy blissfully lives in “his present,” almost literally moment-to-moment.  He has no worries because he can’t remember what to worry about…and he’ll tell you it’s my job now.  🙂  Money, bills, Medicare choices, appointments, correspondence…none are his concern.  He gratefully savors simple pleasures with quiet JOY.  Period.

Momma always told me, “Rich experience and understanding can only come with age, and Bethy, you’re not there yet…”  🙂  Daddy is still teaching me though how to calmly appreciate daily activities for the rich experiences they are.  He’s showing me through his daily ALZ struggle how to gracefully take each situation for what it is, even when we don’t fully understand the situation.  His age and his illness make little difference in the way he chooses to live; he’s simply allowing the gift of being older to speak for him.  Later in life and under completely bizarre circumstances, daddy simply demonstrates, “There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude, a quiet JOY.”   ~Ralph Blum ~

Please take a moment to ponder:  When you hear the word “elderly,” what comes to mind?  What have you gratefully learned from an elderly person in your life recently? 

Here’s hoping we all seek and find gratefulness in the calm and quiet JOY of daily living, my friends!

Beholding in gratefulness…

Wordsworth meticulously observed, “All that we behold is full of blessings.”  To behold literally means “to perceive through sight or apprehension; to call attention…”

I’ve mentioned before how my daily mantra sets my mind first thing each day:  show up, pay attention, speak my truth, let go, and not be wedded to the outcome.  Today in particular, the word observant kept surfacing in the most unusual of ways…Addie’s serene expression when she approached me for her morning rub; the sound (and smell) of coffee dripping into the carafe; the breeze upon my face while walking; the taste of cranberry/orange scones with butter…  The sights, smells, sounds, touches, and tastes of this day allowed for observation overload at times, yet the grateful feeling of truly taking time to appreciate simple blessings is the real gift.

How do you challenge yourself to stop and take a moment each day to behold the blessings surrounding you?  

As we prepare to gather in the coming week for the feast-of-feasts, may we all take precious moments each day to simply and gratefully behold our blessings.

Grateful greetings…day #18

Trudging through the dreary, rainy Monday weather to the mailbox today in my yard Wellies, a ray of sunshine emerged in the form of a handwritten card…a Thanksgiving card…with glitter and sparkle to boot!

Since I could write my own name, I’ve traditionally sent greeting cards, notes, and letters to family and friends.  With close friends, we send “just because” notes or funny cards because all of us can use a surprising boost now and then.  Even as a classroom teacher, my students and I wrote individuals letters each week to mail to family, friends, legislators, and others to not only practice letter writing, but work together in keeping alive a dying art form (and yes, St. M., we always paid the postage on these…not sorry).  Several of my students still correspond with me in writing all these years later too!

I know; I know…social media, texting, and emails should suffice and have become acceptable norms.  I’m guilty of this too. My momma and both grandmothers are most likely rolling over in their eternal resting places just thinking about “social media” as an acceptable form of anything, especially in place of “the luxury of a handwritten note or letter to someone you love, respect, or admire…”  ~Granny B and Brenda B Folsom~  The southern steel magnolias in my family were correct:  “a handwritten treasure is a gift in itself.”  I’m not just talking about writing those important thank-you notes either.  Precious time and written thoughts simply shared from the heart helps make new friends or tend to long-time friends while gratefully sending a jolt of JOY into another person’s world.  Let’s face it, our mailboxes are depressingly full of bills, ads, political endorsements, and more.  Spying a handwritten card or letter is the FIRST thing to tear open and savor when found! What a quick way to turn a frown upside down!  🙂

So…who will you choose to share a handwritten card, note, or letter with during the next week?  

Here’s hoping the mailbox you choose to overflow with personal flair fills yours in kind in the coming week.  🙂

Gratefully bogged down…Days 16 & 17

I’ve been a little bogged down a little this weekend, specifically in cranberries.  A couple of months ago, I toured an authentic certified organic cranberry farm on Cape Cod outside Harwich, MA.  Leo and Andrea were our hosts on their family farm, the largest organic cranberry bog on Cape Cod.  As you most likely know, this native North American fruit was actually introduced to the Pilgrims by American Indians and served at the first Thanksgiving feast.  So naturally, Cape Cod is THE place to see all the action from the original source.

Bogs are one of North America’s most distinctive types of wetlands, thus, it’s truly amazing these hardy little powerhouses actually thrive to harvest.  Seeing the berries in all their ripened glory between the dry harvest (fresh fruit berries like we purchase in the store) and the final wet harvest (juice and jelly berries like what you see floating in bogs on TV commercials for Ocean Spray) was a surprising thrill.  And although quite bitter, raw cranberries in their natural state pack a punch of nutrients, fiber, and rich antioxidants with serious health benefits to promote digestion, control blood sugar, and protect the body from illness.  Fun fact:  Mr. Fred Rogers drank a hot cup of cranberry juice every morning upon rising.  Hmmm…

So…why cranberries?  What do they have to do with my gratefulness journey anyway?  Quite simply, cranberries have been a critical part of my health journey the last decade, especially during cancer treatments.  Visiting a cranberry bog and learning firsthand about the growing and harvesting of this miracle berry allowed me the opportunity to thank these farmers (and, of course, the berries).

Think of a helpful food you are grateful to have access to each day.

I’m currently experimenting with homemade cranberry sauce and other recipes for the upcoming holidays with the harvest gleaned at the farm.  But more than anything, I’m simply grateful for the capacity, the ability, and the willingness to learn about a plucky red berry on a vine in a bog down at the Cape…  🙂