The Art of Gratitude

Do you know that feeling you get when you desperately need a new toothbrush? The bristles are worn and rough. Every morning you pick it up and think, I must buy a new toothbrush today! And every night you want to kick yourself for forgetting to buy one, even though you were in the store. Then, that special day comes when you are both in the store and remember that you need a toothbrush. Hallelujah! You walk over to the dental aisle and view your options, careful to select the right strength, bristle style and color. That night, you crack open the plastic, place the perfect amount of toothpaste on it, and brush your teeth. The new bristles massage your gums that have been so badly mistreated by your old, crotchety toothbrush. When you are done, you run your tongue over your teeth with the wonderful sensation of cleanliness. You can finally take the perpetrator out of your spot on the holder and sentence it to death by trash. There is a sense of joy that fills you when your new brush is hanging there proudly.

Gratitude can be more than just taking a few minutes to ramble out thoughts of the obvious things that contribute to your life in some way.

For me, I began to practice gratitude when I was at a low point in my life. I treated myself to a beautiful leather bound journal and began writing down things I was grateful for each night. Just as most people, my first couple of months entries were repetitive for the obvious things, health, family, food, a placed to live, employment and a vehicle. Looking back and reading through, I began to notice an evolution of my entries. Gratitude slowly began oozing into the crevices of my life, showing up in minor details. I can tell you the dates I bought a new toothbrush, opened a brand new bar of soap or watched the mail man deliver my mail in the pouring rain. I can tell you when I noticed a bird bathing in a puddle and how it made me feel. Reading through my journal I can tell you when I felt good in an outfit and when my egg omelet was cooked to perfection. I know all the times I was grateful for a good laugh with a friend and each time I hugged my children extra tight, looked into their eyes and told them how much I loved them.

Practicing gratitude has allowed me to observe my life in the moment I am living it. I find myself stopping throughout the day to feel grateful and happy for little details that I might have overlooked in the past, and for that I will always be forever grateful.

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It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleeping like a log

The kids had a snow day on Friday and another one yesterday, making today a false Monday and putting an end to their four day weekend. Winter has officially hit Long Island.

The day began like any other weekday, some breakfast, packed lunches and snacks, strange outfits and running down the block while the bus patiently sits at the corner with its doors open, ready to swallow up reluctant children. The day is in full swing with lots to get done.

By the time the evening comes, I sit on the couch with a cup of coffee ready to relax, a reward to myself. Sometimes I make a mental list of all the little tasks that I was able to do and I feel accomplished. I sit there all “Carpe Diem” and “Zen-like” feeling proud of myself. You did a good job. There will always be more to do, but you chipped away at the ol’ block today! You owned it today.   It’s usually around this time it starts . . .

“Go to bed,” I say slightly above my typical speaking voice. I can hear pattering feet above me. I decide to make my trip to the bathroom a surprise inspection, popping my head into their rooms while they scramble like cockroaches to their beds and fumble under the covers.

It’s only a few minutes later, their little voices are carried throughout the house, usually giggling or arguing and lots of shushing one another.

“Get in bed,” I shout out, with hope that they will instantaneously feel tired and fall asleep.

Skipping over the dreadful details, the evening typically concludes with me explaining to myself, out loud, that I am not being unreasonable by asking them to go to bed. We did everything that had to get done, it was a packed day and now its time for sleep. Simple.

If the phone rings and I decide to have a conversation, not work related, not bill related, just a casual, shoot-the-shit phone call, I find myself every few minutes pulling the phone away to scream like I have a disease. I am forced against my will to frequently get off the couch to sort them all back into their correct rooms and beds.

Just a few of the things that fly out of my mouth almost every night.

  • I’m done!
  • I’ve punched out!
  • So much happened today. How are you not tired?
  • That’s it! You’re all going to bed a half hour earlier tomorrow.
  • Please just go to bed. Please.
  • Now you’re thirsty? Really?
  • GO PEE THEN!
  • It’s a school night and because I said so, that’s why.
  • The kitchen is closed!
  • NO! I have already tucked you in twice, now you’re on your own!
  • SLEEP!

Not sure what I am doing wrong here, but by the time they all settle down, I can’t even think straight. Any creativity to write or desire to read has been drained and I just sit there in shock.

children quote

Right.

 

What Matters

When my son was in Kindergarten, the teacher would tell me during recess all he does is sit in the field and dig in the dirt using a branch. She wanted him to stop because of the potential danger of having little holes littering the field where other children run.

When I confronted him on his digging, he brought me to his room and pulled an old lunchbox out from under his bed. He explained that he was searching for special rocks to add to his collection, despite the millions of rocks that blanketing the playground area he could have easily chosen. The rocks in his collection didn’t look special at all. As a matter of fact, some weren’t even rocks, but chunks of pavement or concrete. I left it alone and encouraged his digging to take place at home.

From time to time, on a special occasion, I would receive a small gift, wrapped in a paper towel. When I opened it up, I would find a rock that was carefully selected and washed.  I then understood how special those rocks in his collection really were.

As I have recently moved, and have spent a lot of time deciding what to pack and what to get rid of. It made me think about what really matters. I realize that what matters is different for each person but there is a common denominator, how it makes you feel. What mattered to me was the paintings from our travels, some of my favorite photographs of family, my favorite mug that has magical powers to make coffee taste better somehow, and my books. Each of those things make me feel something, sentimental, love or simply joy. They have the ability to affect my mood and remind me of who I am, at my best. I believe that what we have may be very different, but why they matter is because of the same reason. They make us feel something and remind us of who we strive to be at our best. Some of my most valuable things are not valuable at all. For my son those rocks were special and to me, that is what matters.

 

I would just like to note that a follower had emailed me to see if I am still writing.  She said, that I wrote about things that mattered.  Thank you for your concern, as it has inspired me to continue to do what I love.