Saturday, December 17, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 17 - Lazy Sunday's

Not a whole lot to say about this one. You just can't beat coming home from a beautiful church service of Christmas lessons and carols, a little light clean-up around the house to be ready and organized for the upcoming week, something delicious simmering on the stove, and finally a fire to keep us warm on a chilly Sunday in December. The relaxed look on my precious family's faces as we curl up together to watch a movie or take a lazy afternoon nap. Yep, I can't be any more thankful then this. I feel like the richest lady in town... I'm jus' sayin'!

"Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.
~ Etty Hilsum

"One can enjoy a wood fire worthily only when he warms his thoughts by it as well as his hands and feet."
~ Odell Shepherd

"After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.
~ Oscar Wilde

"Families are the compass that guide us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter."
~ Brad Henry

Friday, December 16, 2011

30 days of Gratitude Day 16 - Christmas Cards

I know it seems like many of the things that I am grateful for are related to the holidays. Well, it's true and I just can't help it! Tonight I am going through my mail and reading about friends and family near and far. I look forward to these annual letters and cards because it's the one time of the year when I get the chance to catch up on family business, if you will. I find out about new births, graduations, passing of loved ones and pets. I get to hear how one has made the "team" or that our youngest has just left for college. Some letters are bittersweet while others filled with joy. But all of them bring me a smile because it's the one constant I get every year. I remember when I was younger, my Mom would get so many of these Christmas letters and cards and I would think "Why does she get so excited over these long, drawn out letters, I mean do we really care that their kids got straight "A's" or that so and so started a new job?". As I got older – and especially since I moved to Texas – I can't tell you how much I look forward to those pictures and that information just as my Mom used to. Being able to sit down with a cup of tea and read about those report cards and announcements of new jobs makes me feel just a little bit closer, even if it is only once a year... I'm jus' sayin'!

Here is a link that will give you some great tips on writing that letter in case you might just want to give it a try.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 15 - Ornaments

I just finished putting the last ornament up on our family's formal Christmas tree. Yes, I said "formal" Christmas tree because I also have a funky Austin tree in my kitchen and each person in my house has their own personal table top tree. (No, I'm not Martha and it's really not as elaborate as it may sound.) As I was taking out each ornament it occurred to me that I have so many memories wrapped up in this tree. I'm so thankful that I can look at each one and be reminded of a special moment in our lives.

I am reminded of my honeymoon with the sweet little Canadian Mountie ornament and so thankful for the years we have had together...

Or our beginning years, when we did not have money for fancy ornaments, I took photos and hung them (we still have them)...

The year my sweet little girl gave up her pacifer to the angels - it hangs every year to remind her that she is secure in herself without material items...

I have my sons first walking shoes hanging on a limb - it makes me thankful just knowing he is healthy, as well as a great reminder we sometimes need to take baby steps to succeed!

I have precious hand painted ornaments from friends given over the years, as I hang them I am reminded of their love...

I have ornaments from other countries that remind me of special visitors we have had...

I have those sweet little handcrafted ornaments that the kids made over the years in school - a reminder of how thankful I am for their education...

I have special ornaments from students that make me thankful for having those years of teaching.

I have an old pipe ornament that is an exact replica of the one my Daddy smoked - I'm so thankful that I can remember that cherry cavendash scent of tobacco...

Each ornament, whether made with popsicle sticks or hand blown glass, carry a price higher than gold for they are heavily ladened with love and memories which to me is the very heart of Christmas... I'm jus' sayin'!

"The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity.
~ Aristotle

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
~ Roy L. Smith

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 14 - Good News!

Today I got some good news! I actually jumped for joy! I think we get good news everyday – it's just some days we don't always perceive it as "Good". I remember not long ago when a close friend told me that she had been diagnosed with cancer. I remember how sad I felt when I first heard the news. But It was not the sadness that I remember so much as the spirit and tone she had. I remember her saying she was going to "kick this cancer's butt" and remain positive, even on the worst days of treatment. I was so taken by that. Her faithfulness paid off and she remained true to her vow. It didn't matter how sore her throat was, how isolated she had to be from her loved ones, or how nasty her stomach felt, she persevered and gave it all up to God. So today, she got the call from the doctor with the news that they had indeed "kicked its butt" and it was gone! Tears of joy cannot come close to showing how happy I am over this news. On that same note, I know that there are many others suffering from cancer and other illnesses right now. I don't know what God's plan for them is. I have several on my immediate prayer list now that I pray daily for and hope that comfort will come to them soon with good news. It's sometimes hard hearing news, whether it be good or not so good. I struggle just like the rest of the human race to come up with words that make sense of it all. Being able to say the right thing at the right moment is hard. Sometimes it's not even words. Sometimes it's just a friendly ear to listen and a warm hug, a hot meal, or simply a smile that says I'm here waiting to hear that good news right along side of you. I am grateful today that I am surrounded by such amazing people that I can share in whatever news they have and I can shout for joy or cry along side of them. Most importantly, however, I can be there when they share the news... I'm jus' sayin'!

"Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!"
~ Anne Frank

"If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell."
~ Lance Armstrong

"Some days there won't be a song in your heart. Sing anyway."
~ Emory Austin

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

30 Days Of Gratitude Day 12 - Prayer!

For as long as I can remember, prayer has been a part of my daily routine. It's the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing I do before I close my eyes at night. This is how I was raised. My Mother taught us at a very young age to just talk to God and in doing so, remember that it doesn't have to be complicated because it should be like talking to a good friend that you trust.

I've never been one to preach and nothing scares me more than someone that relentlessly tries to convert you. Like I said in yesterday's post – if you show your light, others will follow. However, with that said, I can honestly say for myself that I am sincerely grateful for being taught so young how to give all of my worries and concerns to a higher source. I take prayer very seriously and when a friend reaches out and asks me to pray for them, I do! I don't just casually say "Your in my prayers". No, with me, it's the real deal. Being able to cast my cares and concerns up to a higher power has proven every time to lighten my load.

The next time someone comes to you with a heavy heart or your having one of those less than stellar days where one more thing will send you over the deep end, take a moment, close your eyes and have a quiet chat with the One who brings you inner peace. You never know - you might just find more to be thankful for in your surrounding circumstances than you realized - I'm jus' sayin'!

"A simple grateful thought turned heavenwards is the most perfect prayer."
~ Doris Lessing

"Action is the normal completion of the act of will which begins as prayer. That action is not always external, but it is always some kind of effective energy."
~ Dean Inge

"Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden."
~ Corrie Ten Boom

30 Days of Gratitude Day 13 - Music

Being the daughter of a classical pianist, I'm often asked if I play too. I wish! Unfortunately, the music gene stopped with me. It's not that I didn't try – I took piano lessons but for whatever reason it just would not stick (the notes that is). I grew up in a family of artists and musicians you would have thought I'd have gotten some of that, or at least learned something along the way. Alas, I seemed quite content being the page turner for my Mom when she needed it. Music was all around us and not just classical. I could recite show tunes and love ballads and country music and even some rock n roll. No genre of music was off limits in our house. I have to say that even with all that music we would listen to on the record player, nothing beats hearing it live and I cannot tell you how much appreciation I have for the musician who can pick up an instrument and just play effortlessly. I have respected musicians my whole life. No surprise that I even married one. What musicians give when they play is a pure gift.

One of the most wonderful treats growing up was that most nights my Mom would play the piano as we were going to bed so I actually had my own personal music box to send me into dream land. Tonight I find myself truly thankful as I watch my daughter play violin for her 3rd year now at her school's winter concert. I am thankful for her teacher and for the time and love that she has given her these past 3 years. I am thankful for the Christmas Carols they play that give me goosebumps and that warm feeling of the season. I am also thankful for my Mom for raising me to appreciate all of life's music. Tonight, as I sit back and listen to the music, it makes me realize that even if I can't play a keyboard, violin, guitar or drums, all I have to do is stop and listen to the music that is all around us. I'm jus' sayin'!

"Everywhere in the world, music enhances a hall, with one exception: Carnegie Hall enhances the music."
~ Isaac Stern

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
~ Billy Wilder

"I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music."
~ Billy Joel

Monday, December 12, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 11 - Lights!

Lights, lights, lights! They are all around us this time of year. The lights on houses and buildings. That light in the eyes of children when they see Santa. That very important light that was shinning in the sky one cold evening a long time ago that led three wise men to the King of kings. That light that shines in the window for the loved one that is serving overseas. That light that burns in your heart for that very special someone. The beacon in a lighthouse that lets sailors know they are almost home. Yes, tonight I am grateful for all of these lights and more! One of my favorite traditions is the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. We are all handed a candle when we enter the church and at the end of the service, when we all sing "Silent Night", we turn to the person next to us and light our candle off of theirs. It's so spiritual and stunning to see hundreds of candles illuminating God's house.

"Don't try and put out the darkness; Just turn on your light." This quote is written on an index card right under my calendar and was given to me by my Mother, who has reminded me for years to "be the light". What a wonderful thing to be grateful for because when you think about it - it does not cost you anything and it draws others too you. Sounds like a bright idea to me, I'm jus' sayin'!

"A great attitude does much more than turn on the lights in our worlds; it seems to magically connect us to all sorts of serendipitous opportunities that were somehow absent before the change."
~ Earl Nightingale

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[a] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2

"If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it."
~ Margaret Fuller

Sunday, December 11, 2011

30 Days of Gratitude Day 10 - Neighbors

I think it goes without saying that I have some amazing neighbors. When we first moved here almost 11 years ago we really did not know anyone. I was desperate to meet people because I had left all my family and friends behind in California. It's hard when you have grown up in the same neighborhood your whole life. My brothers and their families lived no more than 15 minutes from us. Everyone I knew was suddenly gone. I was also very skeptical of trusting strangers. After only a few months in our new house I was needed back in California due to a death of a friend's daughter. The kids had started school and my husband had work and I remember bravely going next door and asking my neighbor if she could take my son to school with her son (they were the same age and attending the same school). I told her there was a unexpected death in the family and I was needed right away. She did not even bat an eye - she quickly told me that of course she would take my son and she would be happy to watch my daughter as well and if I needed meals for Bob she would be on that, too. I'm sure my stunned face with tears welling up shocked her. All I could think was, "Why is this lady being so nice?" Later, when I shared with her why I looked so shocked, she just gave me a hug and said "Hun, that's just how we are in the South. Neighbors just do that for each other". Since then, the Cove has gone through a few changes as some neighbors have moved on and new ones moved in to take their places. Our lives are constantly changing and neighbors come and go. Over the years and regardless of those changes, we have always enjoyed parties, happy hours, births, graduations, weddings and holidays with each other.

I am also thankful tonight that the recent changes in the Cove make me think that this will continue, too. WIthin a span of two months this past summer, the beloved neighbors on either side of us had put their homes on the market and moved away. One of those homes has since been filled with an adorable family and we are having such fun learning more about them. I learned today that the other house is under contract to a young couple and it's quite possible they'll be moved in by Christmas. I'm always excited at the prospect of new life and energy in the Cove and who knows, I may just get to return the favor one day and show one of them just how it's done in the South... I'm jus' sayin'!

"Nothing makes you more tolerant of a neighbor's noisy party than being there."
~ Franklin P. Jones

"We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next door neighbor."
~ Gilbert K. Chesterton

"When strangers start acting like neighbors... communities are reinvigorated."
~ Ralph Nader