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I haven’t been updating my left-side column with my daily gratitudes since the work craziness. David’s still writing his in his notebook and I am planning to put them back here starting this week. In honor of all the missed days, I thought it would be a good idea to make a gratitude list. Many studies show that happy and wholehearted people have a regular gratitude practice.
So let’s give this a shot. I am going to try to be very specific, I hope you can join me and leave your list in the comments. It would make my day, even if it’s just one item.
Things I am grateful for right now:
- Nathaniel’s laughter and how he says “byeeee” to his classmates when I go to pick him up from school.
- David’s little front tooth that’s still hanging in there despite the non-baby ones that are already broken through.
- The fact that the date for our trip to Turkey is approaching and will be here soon.
- Jake’s deep affection towards me and how very loved he makes me feel.
- Jake’s hugs. (they’ve been my favorite for almost twenty years.)
- That the sun is out and the kids can play in the backyard now.
- All the sketches I’ve made this year.
- A wonderful package of templates that came to me in the mail. (Thank you Jaime.)
- Startbucks lattes and raspberry chocolate cake pops.
- That I am still running 2.6 miles despite lack of desire. That I have exercised every single day since October 2, 2010.
- For both my book clubs.
- A few new friends.
- Friday morning coffee dates with friends.
- That Nathaniel and David both give me kisses and hugs whenever I ask for them.
- My watercolor pencils. I love them so much.
- Learning new things at work.
- Getting stronger thanks to regular strength exercises.
- Finally catching up on some of the videos from the classes I was taking online.
- Getting to watch some TV.
- Scrapbooking. Even though I whine as I do it, I love telling our stories.
- That the days are getting longer and it’s not pitch black when I wake up.
- That summer is coming soon and I won’t be setting the alarm.
- For awesome stash of books that are waiting to be read. Quick ones and ones to savor.
- Date nights with David — a new tradition.
- My friend Caroline and chatting with her online.
- A warm tea and some blankets when I feel like snuggling up.
- Yogurt with granola and fruit.
- And, of course, my health, my family’s health. And all the millions of little and big things we have that make our day to day life so much more joyous.
So what’s on your list right now?
I think it’s perfectly apt that on this very last day of the year and on my very last gratitude art for 2010, I should make it about my favorite place in the world.
New York City.
I spent all of my twenties in New York. I moved there at 22 and moved away at 29. And I loved every single moment of it. I love New York with all my heart. It feels more like home than anywhere else I’ve ever lived and anywhere I will live.
To me, it embodies everything I love. Authenticity, culture, arts, literature, working hard, and, most of all, amazingly interesting people. It has the best bookstores I’ve ever seen. The best opera. The most amazing museums. I even love the dirt and the subway. And while I think it’s not the best place to live with kids, I do hope that one day I’ll get to live there again.
I am grateful for my time in the city. For all the opportunities it gave me. For everything I learned while I lived there. For the friends I made and the jobs I had. For me, NYC is unparalleled in its magnificence.
As the weekly gratitude project comes to a close and especially during the holidays, I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and how very very much I have to be grateful for in my life. So much of the basic stuff I take for granted like clothes, health, a home, a car, a loving husband, wonderful kids. These seem obvious and yet it’s the most obvious we often take for granted.
So it occurred to me to make a long list of things that I am grateful for. Things that make me happy. So many of these are obvious or simple or small. And yet they are miracles. They make me so grateful. And the even more amazing part is that I could probably easily come up with another 100. I hope that you take the time to make a long list of your own. It’s a really wonderful exercise.
So here we are:
- Having a warm home that’s just the right size for us
- David’s kindness and generosity towards Nathaniel
- The way Nathaniel’s neck smells
- Jake’s hugs.
- Good fiction
- Coffee – specifically Cafe Francais instant coffee
- Scrapbooking – specifically telling our stories
- My family all of whom love me unequivocally
- Paint – especially high quality paint with lots of pigment
- The laughter of my children
- Working from home
- Comfortable clothes
- iPad, Kindle and Sony readers
- My treadmill which allows me to work out every day
- Phone call from a good friend
- Quiet time
- Journals – especially hand made ones
- My new phone (especially for GPS!)
- Punches – borders and butterflies and hearts
- White cardstock
- My camera and lenses
- Working with people I like and on a project I love
- Getting to design for amazing companies like The Girls’ Paperie and Pink Paislee
- My sister
- Graham Crackers
- Tim Holtz Scissors
- Beautiful pieces of art by Kelly Rae Roberts, Donna Downey, Rebecca Sower and others that adorn my walls
- Online classes
- Kind and genuine comments left on my blog
- Colorful fabric
- Inspiration – tumblr, blogs, interest, twitter, Facebook, youtube and all other places where inspiration is overflowing
- My kids’ hugging
- Bubbles – blowing them, taking bubble baths
- Streets lined with trees – especially in the spring and fall
- Watching the sun set and rise
- The sea and the ocean
- Car trips
- New York City
- the Internet
- Big Picture Classes – especially getting to teach there and all the students I have and how much I grow
- Reading to David
- Watching people paint and draw
- Being around people who are comfortable in their skin
- The splint I have to wear for my TMJ (cause it does make me feel better)
- Full moons
- Watching David write in his gratitude journal
- Coming home from the hairdresser
- Good movies
- External hard drives (to back up!)
- Warm coats and socks
- My fitbit
- The remote that releases the shutter on my camera
- Doing crafts with David
- Nathaniel saying Mama (and Daddy I love the way he says Daddy)
- My sewing machine
- A nice warm shower on a cold day
- My blog
- My MacBook Pro
- Sneakers that fit my feet properly
- My bed, covers, and mattress
- The video baby monitor
- Drinking water
- My husband and kids playing together or hugging
- My curiosity and thirst for learning
- Watching my kids’ sleep
- Volunteering at David’s school
- People who follow their dreams (especially unconventional ones)
- People who are not afraid to show emotion (especially men)
- moments of peace and contentedness
- Instant Messaging
- unexpected mail
- being published in a magazine
- losing weight
- the Wii
- my husband’s love, generosity, kindness and endless friendship
- Good health, that none of us have a chronic or serious illness
- Twinkling lights
- Instructional videos
- Color – especially bright colors
- seeing my layouts on TV
- watching Nathaniel learn to speak and express his opinions
- Snuggling up with my kids and husband
- Love. I am so grateful for love.
If you do make a list, please share with me, I’d love to see it!
If it weren’t for my friend Lori, I would have never started this project. She was the one who messaged me and asked me if I’d like to join her in a year-long gratitude project. Lori’s a great friend and I loved the idea so I agreed without hesitation.
During the course of this year, I made 52 posts with my thoughts on gratitude-related subjects and 52 pieces of gratitude art. I’ve also written 3 things I’m grateful for every single day this past year. That’s 1,095 things. For the last six months or so, my six-year-old son has also been telling me three things he’s grateful for each day. And since November, he’s also been keeping a gratitude journal:
I cannot put into words the impact all this has had in my life.
The practice of gratitude is very powerful. Especially having to write down three things on those hard days when the world seems mostly black. During those times of illness and fear and tiredness. The practice of gratitude is what reminds you that there’s a flicker of light every single day. Every single moment of every day. It gives you the opportunity to pause and look and listen and pay attention to the good in your life.
Because there’s always some kind of good.
We take so much for granted. It’s human nature. And this project gives you the room and opportunity to take a moment to appreciate, to give thanks, to pay attention.
I’ve learned it’s important to pause and take a moment to be grateful each day.
I’ve learned that it makes my heart grow. It makes me realize how very much I have to be thankful for. How little it takes to make someone else’s day better. How many people impact my day. How much good there is out there.
It restores your faith in your life. In other people. And in the world.
All it takes is this one little project.
So I hope that, in 2011, you will take the time to write down things you’re grateful for. I will be continuing my 3 things here on my blog along with my son’s list and his journal. I will never ever forget this year and how it started me on this very amazing path.
Thank you, Lori. More than words can say.
I am so very grateful.
We lived in San Diego from 2003 to 2006. We didn’t live in Pacific Beach but, for me, PB will always be the quintessential San Diego. It is the perfect example of the breathtaking beauty and nature that city has.
At the time we were there, I remember missing New York. Not appreciating most of what I had. But now, when I look back, I am immensely grateful for our time in San Diego.
We recently took a family vacation to Pacific Beach. We stayed right on the pier and got to watch the sun set every night. We got to smell the fresh sea air. We got to play in the sand. We heard the waves crashing and saw fish being caught and the surfers. Of course the surfers.
There are many reasons why we left San Diego and many reasons why I wouldn’t want to live there again. But I am so very grateful for the time we spent there. Grateful that we got to call this breathtaking city our home, even if for a short while. And I am really grateful that we live a reasonable drive from there because I plan to visit many, many times.
As the last days of the year approach and the holidays come rushing in, I notice that the todo list grows and the deadlines loom. One of the things I did a few years ago is to make a list of all the things I like and dislike during the holiday season. I then looked for ways to do more of what I like and less of what I dislike.
Well, not so. Holidays come with a lot of guilt. Ideas of wrong and right and things you should do. Feelings of inadequacy or expectations from people around you. Many people around me feel a strongly under-appreciated during the holidays. As my kids grow and the Christmas wonder dwindles, I know this will happen here too.
Which is where the list comes in handy. The idea is to focus on what makes you happy during the holidays and increase the amount of time you spend on that. And all the chores you don’t like, see if you can get rid of them, or at least make them much much less time consuming.
Here is an example:
I don’t do Christmas cards. I never have and I have no plans to. I take photos of my kids all the time and I love doing that. I also talk to, email, or write to most of the people I am friends with. I don’t need the holiday season to remind them of me or send them a printed photo of me that they won’t know what to do with. I generally don’t know what to do with Christmas cards I receive. I like them and look at them for a moment and then I toss them. And, maybe because of that, I think they are a huge waste of money and time and hassle for the recipient because I imagine them hesitating (like i do each year) and then guiltily throwing them away. So I just don’t do them. I save the time, the money, and the hassle. I don’t feel even 1% guilty about it and I use that time and money elsewhere.
Please bear in mind that these are my thoughts. You might love making and getting Christmas cards. That’s perfectly fine. The idea is to not to what you don’t want to do. Without guilt.
I also don’t put bows or other fancy wrapping on our presents. This year, I might try to even use gift bags instead of wrapping. I don’t spend time making a lot of hand-made presents. I might make one or two each year. Maybe. I also hate shopping. I always hate it but during the holidays even more so since the stores are so full. So I do all my shopping online. Early enough to get free or cheap shipping. I do it all in one night and then I am done.
What I do love to do is go on family excursions and to craft. And to put up a tree with decorations. I do a December Daily album each year to document the season as it happens. We have a beautiful tree and I decorate it mostly by myself. I don’t resent it ever because it’s one of the things I love most about the season. I love looking at it all month long. I love baking with my kids. I love relaxing and reading. And I try to spend most of my time doing that.
This gives me the mental and emotional space to really enjoy the season and be grateful for everything I have. It gives me the energy to snuggle up with my kids and be thankful they still let me hug them.
So if you’re finding yourself resentful or rushed this holiday season, my suggestion to you is to make a list. Write down all the things you resent doing. See if you can get rid of them. See if you can delegate them. See if you can minimize the time you spend on them.
And then make a list of everything you love. Schedule those into your week/day/month. Make sure you do them often and for longer periods. Remember that life is short and it’s better to feel joy over guilt. And doing more of what you love will fill you with gratitude.
And remember to snuggle up. Even if it’s just with a book.
I was lucky enough to spend six months in Japan in 1999 for a business trip. Most of that time was in Tokyo but I made two trips away. One was for skiing and the other to Kamakura.
While I would have loved to have visited Kyoto, I didn’t get the opportunity and Kamakura was the closest I got to experiencing the magic of all the temples and the nature.
I remember most of my time in Japan with joy and gratitude. I loved every moment of it. The uniqueness, the foreignness and all the kindness of strangers have still stayed with me.
I loved the cherry blossoms and the fish market and all the parts of Tokyo I visited. Each unique, each more amazing than the other. But Kamakura was much more magical than any others. It was peaceful and quiet. Even though, at the time, I was really sad that our one occasion to visit was “ruined” by rain, I can now see that it only added to the mood and solitude of being there. Maybe next time I visit Japan I will get to visit Kyoto, but until then, I am grateful that I got to visit Kamakura and experience some of the beauty.
There’s a bad place where all your thoughts are negative. The place where you’re mean to yourself an everyone around you. You wallow in self-pity or resentment or anger or frustration. You take everything from the worst possible angle. You make mistakes and then get angrier. You snarl at the people you love and then feel disappointed in yourself. And the cycle goes on and on.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who goes to that bad place.
I’ve been living in that place for the last couple of days. I am not entirely sure how I got there or why I’m stuck there but here I am. I’ve been grouchy and mean and having major meltdowns over the smallest things. It has not been fun and I go to bed each day determined to snap out of it and wake up each morning back in that place.
But here’s the thing: even during these dark days, I’ve had amazing moments of gratitude and joy.
People have been kind and understanding and generous with me. I’ve had moments of laughter. I’ve felt good about accomplishing a task and finishing some todo item. Even if they were fewer and far in between, they were there.
So if your week or day is going like mine have been, I urge you to pause and pay attention to the moments of gratitude you have in the middle of darkness. To me, those are little bits of hope seeping in to remind you that life is not nearly as bleak as it seems right now.
That’s what practicing gratitude is all about: paying attention to the good. Because some good is always there.
In the south of Turkey, just at the edge of where the Aegean and the Mediterranean meet, lies this beautiful club.
Before we had our boys, we made a family tradition of meeting my parents and sister there yearly. Some of my fondest memories of going home are from these trips. The delicious food, fantastic weather and incredible water.
I remember feeling at peace and fully relaxed while I was there. To me, that’s the quintessential holiday. One where you’re truly leaving your worries behind and enjoying the very moment.
Since we’ve had our kids, we haven’t been back there and now my family has another vacation home so we might not get a chance to go back. But I will still remember this place and my time there with gratitude and joy. Those early mornings, thanks to jetlag, I got to see the sun come out from behind the water and all the chairs empty, sitting there, basking in the peace of nature untouched. Just looking at the photo makes me feel that peace all over again.
There are many places that inspire me. Beaches, mountains and redwood trees. Places with childhood memories. Places with college memories. Places I haven’t been to yet. Places where people I love live.
I am grateful for all of them. Thinking about them brings a smile to my lips and fills my heart with joy. But, for me, none of these places can surpass the place that I love most of all:
I am a homebody. I love being in my warm, cozy house. There are things that drive me insane like the crumbs my little one leaves in his trail. The tiny legos strewn all over the living room. The scrap table that never seems to stay neat. The dishes that pile up. The books that are constantly teetering on the edge of falling. The mountains of mail. And more.
Yet, despite all that, I love being at home. Sitting in my corner, snuggling under the blankets with my cup of coffee and my children. For the last few days, my parents have been visiting and we all sat on the very long couch in our living room. Mom reading the Turkish newspaper, dad dozing off or playing with Nathaniel, David playing with mom’s ipad, and me working on my photos. I loved looking down the couch and seeing so many of the people I love. Feeling safe and cozy.
But most of all feeling deeply grateful. Remembering that there’s truly no place like home.
When Jake and I were planning our honeymoon, we decided to each make a wish list of locations and compare. Seychelles ended up on the top of each of our lists. So off to Seychelles we went.
I can safely say that I will never be able to take a trip that compares to that one. The sheer beauty of this place is unparalleled. The color of the sea and the sand and the rocks. The perfect, paradise weather. The multi-lingual population. The delicious food. There’s nothing about the Seychelles that I didn’t think was perfect.
While the journey was long and our luggage got lost, I am so very grateful that we decided to go to this unusual location for our honeymoon. It was a trip we would otherwise never make and I would have missed out on so much had we not chosen to go.
One day, when the kids are grown, and it’s just the two of us again, we shall return and enjoy a few more moments of this paradise, Until then, I am grateful for all the memories.
I’ve struggled to create an art journal for four years. I always seem to start it but never finish one. I always find a way to talk myself out of it. To be critical or make it feel unimportant.
But the thing that’s great about art journals is that they are not meant to be perfect. They are expressions of emotion. They are for trying out ideas. For experimenting. When you experiment, you will often fail, that’s the point.
And the idea of doing something purely for fun, purely for trying out ideas inspires me. That’s the only reason I keep coming back to the journals. The reason I keep trying time after time. And the reason I will never give up on it.
What inspires me almost as much is took look at other people’s journal pages. Their boldness, uniqueness, the expression of emotion always blows my mind. Makes me want to be bold. Makes me want to stop anything else I might be doing, grab some paint and play.
Isn’t that the definition of inspiration?